I Just Want to Celebrate

…because it’s finally fucking Friday!

Yesterday was…not a great day, really. I was physically tired, but not mentally tired, if that makes sense? The problem is that the physical tired makes it hard for the not-tired brain to focus on anything, and I get kind of punchy, which isn’t really the face I like to show to the world. But my day was okay for the most part. I think the tired primarily came about because of the early return of summer weather to New Orleans. Yes, I know to those of you who do not live here New Orleans always seems brutally hot all of the time, but there are degrees to New Orleans heat, and yes, it usually starts getting hotter in May and yes, the humidity usually is back in May. But it was ninety-five degrees on Wednesday; and even at the hottest part of the dog days of August it rarely gets to that. Usually it hovers somewhere between 88 and 93, but it’s the humidity that makes it so awful. Also, I’ve been more active this week than usual. I did Ellen’s book launch on Sunday evening, I had that ZOOM meeting on Wednesday night, and I had drinks with a friend in from out of town before the ZOOM meeting. So, that was a lot more of social interaction than I am accustomed to, and instead of going home from work Wednesday night (the way I usually do) and collapsing into my chair while going into a Youtube wormhole of some sort, I didn’t get to relax until after nine pm.

That is not my norm.

I stopped on the way home last night to get some things at the grocery store, and then spent some time doing some kitchen chores (since I had drinks with a friend before the ZOOM meeting, I had to move everything off the kitchen counters, shove it all in the laundry room, and then closed the doors so no one could see it; and the dishes in the sink had to be organized so nothing could be seen from the camera on the computer; I never realized having my work station in the kitchen would turn out to be so problematic, but I couldn’t have foreseen ZOOM in the summer of 2005 when we moved into the Lost Apartment, either) before collapsing into my easy chair to wait for Paul to get home.

So, there I was, minding my own business, watching first Superman and Lois before The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (I have tuned back in for this season, I have thoughts) and occasionally checking social media and my emails when…I got a notification on Twitter. I clicked to see this tweet from Katrina Niidas Holm:

GREG HERREN!!! You wrote a book so damn good, it got nominated twice! Congratulations, @scottynola! Hope you’ll remember us Pogues when…

(‘Pogues’ being an Outer Banks reference, a show she and her husband Chris–buy his Child Zero, available now and amazing–convinced me to watch with the result Paul and I fell in love with the show, too)

I literally had no idea what she was talking about and gave my usual intelligent response of wait what? at which point she linked to this year’s Anthony Award nominees. Bury Me in Shadows was nominated not only for Best Paperback/Ebook/Audio Original, but also for Best Children’s/Young Adult.

TWO NOMINATIONS FOR THE SAME BOOK IN DIFFERENT CATEGORIES.

I am still in shock this morning–a delighted shock, to be sure, but it’s still shock. It still hasn’t completely sunken in yet, either. It’s going to take me a hot minute to thank everyone who has tweeted or posted on Facebook their congratulations, as well as to congratulate the ridiculously amazing amount of friends that are also nominated in one of the categories–it really is, overall, a remarkable list with a lot of books nominated that I read and loved loved loved–but what a lovely chore to have, you know? And talk about turning your mood and your day around! So, this morning–needless to say I slept very well last night–I am sipping my coffee and riding the high a bit still. At some point I’ll need to make sure I thank everyone and congratulate everyone else nominated and get through my social media, but right now I am just sitting here at my desk feeling very proud and happy and content while I sip my coffee. Wow. I mean, wow.

I’ve not been in a very good place about my career lately, honestly–any number of things; the problems with getting myself to actually write, not feeling great about what I write when I do write, all the little doubts and insecurities that have built up over a lifetime of wanting to be a writer but getting little to no encouragement from anyone, really. It all kinds of builds up sometimes, and anything–no matter how small or inconsequential–will trigger it and send me spiraling down into the Pit of Despair. As I struggle with my schedule and all the things I need and want to get done, with a to-do list that seems to grow like the Hydra, with two new things to do replacing every single task that gets scratched off the list, this was precisely the right time to get this kind of reassurance from my community, my wonderful crime fiction world, and I’ll always be grateful for this. Bury Me in Shadows was a very hard book for me to write, emotionally; but digging deep into the issues I dealt with in the book–and that emotional difficulty–made it a better book, I think.

Wow. I mean, wow.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a wonderful Friday, Constant Reader.

If You Let Me Down Let Me Down Slow

One of my favorite lines from All About Eve is not, actually, one of the more popular or famous (infamous?) ones. It comes when Margo and Karen are stranded in the car on the way to the train station so Margo can make her curtain; they’ve run out of gas and Lloyd has gone for help (Margo doesn’t know Karen has drained the tank deliberately to punish Margo for–well, for being right about Eve all along), and they start talking. Margo turns on the car radio and music plays, and Bette Davis makes a patented Bette Davis sneer-face and turns it off, snapping, “I despise cheap sentiment.” I love that line, and use it whenever it feels appropriate.

I do feel it important to say that I don’t despise all sentiment, just the cheap, sappy kind. I used to love It’s a Wonderful Life, frankly, until I started really thinking about its message and how truly dark it actually is; now I love to fuck with people who still love it by called it the darkest Christmas noir ever put on film. But The Princess Bride and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are still two of my favorite movies; and earned sentimentality, that arises from strong character development and a good story, still moves my heart and can make me cry a little bit.

Yes, I cry at movies and television shows; there are even songs that make me tear up a little bit, too. I know I project that I am deeply cynical–probably because, well, I am deeply cynical. People and systems have disappointed me far too many times for me to have a glowing opinion of humanity as a rule; my friend Victoria often accuses me of being a misanthrope–to which I always reply, “And I’m not wrong to be.” I do prefer to believe that most people are decent at heart, but there are just so many examples on the other side of the scales that it’s very hard to keep believing in the kindness of random strangers. (Just look at our current society and what is going on in the world even as I type this.)

So, I went into Heartstopper not expecting an awful lot. It looked cute from the brief previews I’d seen, and so I knew already it was about two teenaged boys falling in love and their friend group. I’ve often been disappointed by queer representation in films, television shows, and sometimes in books as well; I figured, despite the enormous popularity of the graphic novels this show was based on, that this would yet again be the case.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I was so completely charmed by a television series with gay characters–if ever. I have always been harshly critical of fictions targeted toward queer youth for any number of reasons; the primary one being a serious lack of authenticity in the ones I’ve read and/or watched. Some of them were so blatantly unrealistic I couldn’t even get past the third page, and even the ones I managed to hold my nose and get through were incredibly problematic and disappointing. I never got into Love, Victor because it seemed…well, phony to me. I can’t give any examples of why I reacted that way to the show, and believe me, I wish I could have watched more of it so I could (I may go back and do so at some point). So when I saw the first previews for Netflix’ Heartstopper, it looked adorable…but as I said, didn’t get my hopes up. I checked into it before watching and learned that it was based on a series of graphic novels that started as web cartoons, written by Alice Oseman, and I thought, well, be supportive and give it a chance. We were just coming off season 5 of Elite, which had thoroughly shocked and surprised me with the amazing storyline and arc they’d given the character of gay Patrick (who literally stole the entire season out from under the rest of the cast; it was a stunning performance by Manu Rios), and the thought that I might have another terrific show with gay characters and a romance was too much to pass up on. So, the Saturday before we went to New York, Paul and I queued up Heartstopper and…

We were both enchanted.

Heartstopper is just so sweet and lovely I felt my Grinch heart grow three sizes while watching it.

I even happy-cried several times per episode; so it’s like Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek in that way, but it also touched me deeply. I kept thinking, over and over again, how marvelous this show was; how beautifully written and acted and produced–and how lovely this would have been for fifteen year old me to have seen.

It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore.

It really is just so damned sweet and charming.

The queer rep I’ve seen in y/a novels–romance or not–has generally not been satisfying or engaging; I tend to raise my eyebrows and roll my eyes a lot–if I can even make it all the way through. But this….this was different somehow. Maybe because the actors playing the roles were the actual age they were playing? They just looked so young and innocent and sweet….which was perfect for this kind of show, really. It does make a difference when teenagers are played by teenagers, as opposed to actors in their twenties.

Charlie is the main character, who was accidentally outed by one of his friends the previous year and has suffered some bullying, which has left a few marks on his psyche. But it’s a new school year, some older boys put an end to the bullying, and he’s starting over in a way. On the first day of class he finds himself sharing a table in Form (what I guess we would call homeroom) with Nick, the big star of the school’s (Truham) rugby team. As they continue sitting next to each other, they slowly but surely start becoming more and more friendly with each other; enjoying each other’s company, etc. Charlie is also involved in a toxic relationship with Ben–who will meet him privately to make out, but only on his terms and when he wants it, and is also seeing a girl–that Charlie is trying to get out of. Ben tries to force himself on Charlie one day… Nick stops it, and then their friendship blossoms even more, with more texts and Nick proving himself to be a really good friend to Charlie, who is also developing a crush on Nick.

Nick is also starting to have feelings for Charlie that go deeper than “being mates”–so we see him looking stuff up on line about being gay.

Kit Conner, who plays Nick, plays the role so pitch-perfectly–the confusion of having feelings you’ve never had before, which upsets your entire worldview and everything you think you know about yourself (it wasn’t my experience, personally, but I’ve heard this from countless others) and being terrified to express it; afraid of what will happen when you admit it to yourself and start admitting it to others, and what it all means. He’s falling in love with Charlie, but what precisely does that mean?

His mother is brilliantly played by Olivia Colman, who is just such a treasure. One of the sweetest scenes in the entire show is after she’s met Charlie, and she comments on the friendship, “You’re more you when you’re around him. You’re different around your other friends. With Charlie, you’re you.”

Yes, it brought tears to my eyes–especially watching the emotions of what she means being processed in Nick’s mind and the lovely smile when he realizes that Charlie really sees him…and what THAT means.

It was also lovely seeing their relationship develop and blossom and grow–and that everyone is supportive and excited for them for the most part (yes, there’s some homophobic bullying, but not as much as one would expect, but it’s also dealt with strongly and doesn’t really hang over the show, either). There’s a young lesbian couple as well whose development and growth mirrors that of Nick and Charlie; a wonderful young trans character who has left the boys’ school and is now at the girls’ school, and a burgeoning romance for her as well–which I hope develops more in the next season.

But most importantly, the show is about acceptance and the sweetness of falling in love for the first time–and the usual obstacles that keep our adorable young couple apart aren’t heavy drama, and their suffering is more along the line of does he really like me? Am I his boyfriend?

It’s sweet, and adorable, and charming. As I said, I happy cried any number of times throughout the show…and the soundtrack is fantastic.

In fact, I am so obsessed with Heartstopper that the day after we watched I bought all four graphic novels and read them the following afternoon.

The show follows the books pretty closely, but they are just as adorable in the graphic novels as they are on the show. The graphic novels take a bit of a darker turn in the last couple of volumes than I would have liked, but the dark stuff is handled not only optimistically but in the same charming, loving, kind way the rest of the story is told.

Highly recommended. I am probably going to rewatch, too. It made me all warm inside, and shows like that–Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso and now Heartstopper–are necessary, especially in these dark times in which we live. Thank you, Alice Oseman, for the books, the story, and the characters. Highly recommended.

I could write about this show and the books forever, and may write more later…but I am going to go ahead and post this now.

Never Can Say Goodbye

Today is the day: New York bound in a few hours for the Edgars. I dread the traveling part–the drive to the airport, the waiting for boarding at the gate, claiming luggage and finding the car service, the ride into Manhattan–but later today I will be in the city for something truly exciting. Paul’s birthday is the night of the Edgars, and then we are flying back home on Saturday. Last night wasn’t bad. At first I was stressed and anxious and freaking out a little bit–the norm the night before a trip–but at some point I decided to stop being ridiculous and relax. I made a list of what I needed to pack, and gathered everything and then packed the suitcases. When Paul got home he packed. And I just relaxed, didn’t stress about anything, and then went to bed. I didn’t sleep well last night–of course, which I assumed was excitement about the trip as well as my mind punishing me for not getting anxious and letting my anxiety take over and make me completely miserable. It was actually lovely to not be stressed about the trip; likewise this morning I am relaxed and calm and not allowing myself to get stressed about getting to the airport and taking Scooter to the kitty spa and so forth.

I wonder how long this will last…but it’s lovely, frankly.

I am still obsessing about Heartstopper; I am not prepared quite yet to blog about both the show and the graphic novels (both of which I absolutely adored) as I am still processing it all. I may watch the show again once we get back from New York; it really was that good and enjoyable, and all eight episodes add up to about four hours of television. I’ve also fallen in love with Heartstopper Mixtape playlist on Spotify, which is essentially the soundtrack of the show (which really used music perfectly; I particularly love the song “What’s It Gonna Be” by Shura; it’s the song that plays during the rain scene–and there’s a lyric that keeps running through my head: if you let me down let me down slow. I suspect that’s going to wind up being a story title or the theme of something I write in the near future; there’s just something about the heartbreak in that line that touches something inside of me the same way the lyric “promises in every star” from ’til Tuesday’s song “Coming Up Close” haunted me for years before I wrote a story with that title). I mean, it really is the sweetest show; it even moved my bitter brittle heart, and I happy cried a few times watching it–no small feat to pull off, right?

I did finish my CV yesterday and it wound up being eleven pages long. I’ve written more novels than I’ve been giving myself credit for, as well as more short stories. The articles/columns/essays section is underreported; it ends in 2001, and I know I’ve written a lot more pieces than what I’ve recorded in the CV; someday when I get a wild hair (or want to avoid writing) I’ll go up into the attic and get the file box with all my copies of the articles/columns etc. and get it filled in, which will be kind of fun. It’s just nice to have the damned thing finally caught up with the fiction, frankly (eleven pages! JFC!) and it’s nice to have on hand. I should update it every once in a while when I think about it; but I certainly am never going to let it go fifteen years between updates (and to be fair, when I originally started putting it together back in 2007, I never completed it in the first place, so having it in some sort of order now is enormously satisfying) again.

I’ll take my victories where I can get them, you know?

I feel very calm this morning, which is unusual, and I think it’s because I am not letting myself get freaked out or anxious or stressed about this trip. It’s kind of nice, actually.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will probably check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Rainy Days and Mondays

Tomorrow we leave for New York.

I’m both excited and nervous for the trip, to be honest; nervous about having to speak at the banquet for one thing, excited to be in New York and to see friends for another. Today is going to be, around clients, last minute attempts to get ready for the trip, making a packing list to make sure I don’t run off tomorrow morning to the airport without things packed that i will need once I am there (I forgot something rather important for Alburquerque), and hoping, always hoping, that I will be able to sleep once I am there. I’ve slept well for the last few days, which has been really nice, and fingers crossed that will continue once I travel. The flight is nonstop on the way there; we have to change planes in Nashville on the way back. I always am hopeful that things will go smoothly whenever I travel; there was some delays involved on my last trip but I think everything ran on time the last time I went to New York.

I continue to obsess about both season 5 of Elité as well as Heartstopper. I actually went ahead and got the graphic novels the show (Heartstopper) is based on (more on that to come), and really enjoyed reading them yesterday. I guess I never realized how much I needed to see a sweet young love story between teenagers? I’ve tried reading the big gay y/a novels over the last few years without much luck; I never was able to really connect with the characters or the stories I was trying to read (without much luck) and even some of the films/TV shows based on them, but they didn’t really engage me. I am happy these books and stories and their adaptations exist–representation matters, believe me, it does–but there’s nothing wrong with my not being able to enjoy them, either. I didn’t like much y/a fiction when I was an actual young adult, and maybe I do somewhat try to write the stories that I would have liked to have read when I was that age with my own work–I don’t know if I succeed with that or not; the jury remains out and probably will remain out until long after I die–but I also enjoy writing them. (Not that I am enjoying writing anything these days, but you know what I mean.)

I also continued to work on my CV yesterday–it’s close enough to complete now to turn over to my friend for the favor they asked for, needing a bit of editing and moving things around–but it’s now eleven or twelve pages long, and I could easily (well, not easily; it would require digging through boxes in storage to get all the fitness columns and book reviews and author interviews out that I wrote over the early years in my career) fill up probably another three to four pages. That’s pretty fucking long, really; I am now up to almost forty novels (there, if you count novellas as novels) and I think I need to count my short stories again as well. I also know I have a lot more essays out there somewhere…but as I said, a twelve page CV more than meets the requirements necessary for this current purpose.

Jesus Christ, I’ve written a lot since 1996–and this doesn’t even count all the drafts, unpublished stories, false starts on books that only got a few chapters in before running out of steam, essays, and most important of all–this fucking BLOG. Even if these only average 500 words per (and many of them run much longer), I’ve been doing this almost every day since December 2004. Eighteen fucking years. Assuming that I miss at least forty-five entries per year, I’ve written 103, 680 words (assuming the blogs are all 500 words). That’s fucking insane.

But I think I am going to read Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not next; I picked it up and opened to the first page yesterday and kind of actually got sucked into it. So I will read that at the airport and on the flight tomorrow and have a back-up in my backpack. I picked out other books to take with me on the trip, of course–and of course, there will be giveaways after the banquet on Thursday night to bring home–so I am all set on that score. And we watched some more of Severance last night (after a really bad gay movie called The Pass with Russell Tovey; I do not recommend it. It’s full of self-loathing and toxic masculinity and while the actors are good… yeah, the story leaves a lot to be desired), which I am really enjoying. I don’t know what’s going on yet–and I doubt very seriously that any of the questions I have are going to be answered in one season (we’re three seasons in on Servant and still have no fucking clue what is really going on in that household).

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Monday of Edgar week, Constant Reader!

Amos Moses

Sunday morning and I slept in again, which was marvelous. I fell asleep in my chair last night while watching television, which makes me think that no matter what time I arise, ten is now my bedtime, and I am not really sure how I feel about that, to be completely honest. I welcome the good sleep, though, and the rested and refreshed feeling I’ve been experiencing in the mornings. Yesterday was a good day; I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted, but c’est la vie; such is life, and I did get things done. I worked on the kitchen, did some cleaning, working on my CV a bit more (more on that later), and laundered the bed linens (clean bed sheets and blankets always make sleep feel better for some reason I choose not to question). I did a load of dishes, cleaned some things out of the refrigerator that needed cleaning out, and organized some.

We rented Spider-Man: No Way Home yesterday and yes, I do think it was the best live action Spider-Man film (barring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which was animated). The young cast (Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalan) are absolutely pitch-perfect; the concept of the story was actually good; and it was a sweeping epic that caught us up in the narrative. I hate to think this might be Tom Holland’s last go round as Spidey, frankly; I adore the kid, and have ever since his Lip-Sync Battle performance doing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (that was what got me into the theater to see Spider-Man Homecoming, which I didn’t care much about seeing before that clip won me over, and these three Tom Holland outings as my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man are my favorite Spidey live-action movies), and I hope this isn’t the end of this cast in these roles. I don’t know how the franchise can go on now, given the events of the movie, but in some ways it’s very true to the original comic books–Peter being alone and friendless. Tom Holland is also one of our best young actors; I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, even if the film itself was flawed. I’m sure he’s destined for a long and successful career, and he certainly has the money and success to focus only on projects that interest him as an actor; kind of like Daniel Radcliffe and the other kids from Harry Potter.

It would be a lovely place to be in as an actor, I would think.

After that, we switched over to Netflix to watch Heartstopper, a young adult gay romance series from Britain (with Olivia Colman in a very small party) and coming on the heels of season 5 of Elité, it was marvelous to see a love story between gay teens actually played by teens who weren’t perfect looking and beautiful. We deeply enjoyed this show, which was just incredibly sweet and adorable; how can you not fall in love with main character Charlie? How can you not empathize with him being mocked and bullied, yet despite this remaining first and foremost an incredibly kind and caring young man who loves his friends and wants to protect the people he loves from suffering the way he has suffered? It was apparently a graphic novel first, which was a bit of a surprise (I may have to go looking for it now; I definitely would read the novel if there was one) but a very pleasant one. It didn’t have any of the falseness or inauthenticity of other queer young adult fictions I’ve read and/or seen before; there was also lesbian representation as well as a very well rounded and developed trans character. It was so remarkably well done…I cried a couple of times. Rugby star Nick’s struggle to understand what he was feeling, and how to express himself in ways he’d never learned or thought about was also remarkably touching to see. I defy anyone to watch Heartstopper and these wonderful teens and not want to do everything in their power to protect them from hate and bullies–of which there is far too fucking much in the world, and has roared back lately thanks to the right wing hate machine. (It’s also been horrific watching people who consider themselves “allies” betraying us at every opportunity and turn…I’d forgotten how that felt, and frankly, I’ve cut people out of my life for far less than this…more on that later; I have been trying to compose a Julia Sugarbaker entry for several weeks now about the vicious political attacks on my community lately, but it’s not easy to do so without swearing vociferously and shredding people–mind you, they deserve it with both fucking barrels, but reason and logic is the best way to battle bigotry and hatred and garbage human beings.

I reserve the right to experience righteous anger and express it, though, because sometimes it is absolutely fucking necessary.

It’s weird that we’ve spent the weekend with superhero films, watching The Batman on Friday night and Spider-Man last night; we also started watching Severance last night, which I was also enjoying–my falling asleep during the second episode was more a result of my being tired more than anything else; I am going to rewatch it this morning while Paul sleeps–and there are several other shows I want us to get watching. We leave for New York on Tuesday, though–tonight and tomorrow night will be more about me packing and getting ready to head for the airport on Tuesday more than anything else; our flight is around noonish, I think–I need to double check, especially since I have to check us both in tomorrow–so we have time to drop Scooter off at the kitty spa before we have to head for the airport. (One of the things I need to do today is make sure I have everything I need, paperwork wise, for the trip–the car service from LaGuardia, the discount parking coupon for USPark, the confirmation number for the flights and the hotel)

Today I need to work on my story some more, do some more things, and get everything together that I need to get together before we leave town.

I’ve been updating my CV lately (something I’ve not done since 2009, and it wasn’t even really complete then) because I am doing a favor for a colleague (whom I also consider to be, at the very least, a friendly acquaintance) which requires me having an updated CV. As I was adding short stories, essays, articles, books and anthologies to the list, I began to realize why precisely people refer to me as prolific (which I always just smile and shrug off). The damned thing is already seven pages long, and I’ve not included everything–old books reviews, author interviews, columns, etc.–and there are some things I wrote for websites that I am no longer able to locate or remember (if it’s not in print, the chances I won’t remember it expand exponentially) and really, it doesn’t need to be that exact for this purpose; but it does make me think I really do need to, at some point, make sure every single thing I’ve ever written is included in my CV. I mean, it already looks impressive; I can only imagine how long it will be once it is as complete as I can make it. I mean, I wrote a fitness column every two weeks for IMPACT News and later for Window Media, for at least four years. That’s well over a hundred columns right there…not to mention all the book reviews I used to do. I think I have produced millions of words over the course of when I first started writing professionally all the way back in 1996 in Minneapolis, which was really when my writing career began; so I’ve been at this now for over twenty-six years, which is kind of amazing, really.

And perhaps it’s best for me to head into the spice mines now, so I can get a jump on the day. Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

And what a fucking glorious night THAT must have been, seriously. I’ve always found it interesting that Joan Baez of all people recorded that song and made it a hit. Maybe I should take a look at the lyrics to see how they look from a modern perspective? That’s a thought. There’s so many things we didn’t even notice were problematic back in the day in our comfortable privilege. (I don’t think I can ever watch Sixteen Candles again, honestly, and it was one of my favorite movies. I’m not so sure what that says about me, either.)

Today is another day in the office; I am not sure but I think I have to help out with testing during the needle exchange program today–like I said, I don’t know, but I will be there if they need me. I have other things to do at the office–most of which feels a bit like ‘make-work,’ if I am going to be completely honest, but it’s also tedious little chores that need to be done, and so I might as well do it to fill my day otherwise it may not get done after all. This has been a very weird week for me; I’ve been tired most of the week when I get off work so I’ve not really been getting as much done as I need to be getting done, which means I really need to get motivated for this weekend. I can do that, of course…it’s not always easy, but I can do it. I just have to work on not getting distracted.

Which isn’t as easy as it may sound on paper. (SQUIRREL!!!)

We watched The Batman last night on HBO MAX and I have to say, I really thought it was outstanding. It was nice seeing Gotham City looking like, you know, an actual city as opposed to the dystopic nightmare it has been in almost every Batman film since Tim Burton first brought the Dark Knight to the silver screen back in the 80’s. I also am very impressed with Robert Pattinson, who might be the most interesting iteration of the character yet–and seriously, how did the sparkly vampire from Twilight turn into one of the most interesting and talented young actors of our time? Zoe Kravitz can also be added to the list of well-cast Catwomen from over the years, and there was actually a plot to follow that involved Batman using his investigative skills to solve the mystery and find the Riddler–another excellent take I’d given up on seeing on the big screen–and overall, I didn’t really notice that the movie was nearly three hours long because I could follow the plot, it made sense, and the character arcs were well developed. I think we’re going to rent the most recent Spider-Man (No Way Home) this weekend–I do love Tom Holland–and then we need to figure out something else to watch. A lot of good stuff dropped during the Festival and its aftermath–so we can have our choices of things to watch for quite some time, methinks, which will be really nice. BUT I HAVE TO GET WORK DONE THIS WEEKEND BEFORE I LEAVE FOR NEW YORK OTHERWISE IT WON’T GET DONE UNTIL I GET BACK AND THAT IS SIMPLY UNACCEPTABLE.

Most of all, I need to get that fucking short story written.

I really need to get motivated to get writing again–and I need to start going back to the gym as well. My weight hasn’t fluctuated very much since I went down to 200 and ballooned back up to 212 again; I’ve been a pretty steady 210-212 since then, and while I always thought that 200 would probably be the best weight for me, maybe my body is telling me 210 is where it prefers to be? I know I could, with discipline and hard work and proper eating, maybe get back to below 200 but my word, what a lot of work that would be and since I really no longer obsess about how my body looks (one way in which getting older has been beneficial; I really do not miss those days of body dysmorphia and constantly berating myself for not looking like a Calvin Klein underwear model), I don’t think I have the dedication anymore to do that again. It’s hard enough finding the time to go to the gym in the first place, let alone start eating in a different way and counting carbs and all of that nonsense. No thanks, not for me this time around, thank you very much. I suspect that the mild depression I’ve been dealing with over this last month or so has a lot to do with the not-writing and not-working out aspects of my life. That loss of serotonin probably has everything to do with it. I really need to focus.

I also still haven’t picked out my next read. I am thinking about rereading something–or maybe I am going to give Hemingway another try (Don’t Know Tough had a whole thing about the main character reading The Old Man and the Sea–which, along with A Farewell to Arms, I was forced to read in high school which gave me a deep and abiding distaste for Hemingway). I have a copy of To Have and Have Not, which is, in theory, Hemingway’s only crime novel–it was certainly made into a classic Bogart/Bacall movie–but every time I think about Hemingway I groan inside. But maybe now I am old enough to appreciate Hemingway–I also read Fitzgerald when I was too young, but I’ve always enjoyed Faulkner, which is weird. Maybe because he writes about the rural South? I’ve wanted to give Sanctuary another go for quite some time now as well.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy Friday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Signs

It feels very weird this morning to be getting up so early after having a work-at-home day yesterday. I slept really well last night–I did have a martini with a friend late afternoon yesterday, which was absolutely marvelous. Paul got home late last night–another grant, as always–and so after I got home after my martini (which are really quite marvelous drinks, frankly) I collapsed into my easy chair and started watching Young Justice again, after getting caught up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which has replaced The Daily Show as my source of news served up with a touch of humor. His piece on the buying and selling of our online data was superb–scary, yet superb.

But I entered data yesterday and made condom packs while watching some gay cultural history videos on Youtube, which I am enjoying. I’ve also been thinking a lot about writing and what I need to get done–thinking about it counts as writing, by the way, and if you don’t think so, don’t make me come for you BECAUSE OH FUCKING HELL YES IT DOES. I need to get to work on that story when I have time this week–it has to be finished before Edgar Week, which is coming up pretty quickly in the sideview mirror–and I want to start writing a first draft of a manuscript. I think I am going to push Chlorine back another month–sorry, Nikki–and try to get the first draft of another gay noir thriller written; whether or not I will remains to be seen, but I’d really like to get a first draft of the three books done over the next three months. Is it potentially overly ambitious? Of course it is, we’re talking writing, at minimum, at least one hundred and twenty thousand words in three months, but it’s also eminently do-able, as long as I stay focused and don’t allow other things to interfere or distract me; which is always an issue for me. (Look! a squirrel!) But I am starting to feel rested again… which is really nice. I have to go into the office again tomorrow–four days a week now–but at least I don’t have to get up at six to go in tomorrow. Yay? And I do think I am going to stay at home Monday of next week–decisions, decisions; which is the best day of the week for me to work from home, Monday or Friday? Heavy heaving sigh.

I hope to finish Catriona McPherson’s A Gingerbread House this evening; so I can be prepared to move on to the next one. Please don’t think I’m not enjoying this book–I am–simply because I’ve not finished it yet. It’s quite good, and you really should be reading Catriona’s work if you aren’t already, Constant Reader, and if you ever get the opportunity to listen to her speak, jump at it. She’s quite amusing, and her Scots accent is something I could listen to all day. Her Guest of Honor speech at the Lefty Awards banquet was quite epic and enjoyable; and she’s also a very talented (and hard working) writer. I’ve certainly enjoyed everything of hers that I’ve read….the good news is also that she’s incredibly prolific; at least two books a year. I hope I live long enough to retire because I hope that once I do, I can get caught up on all of the books I am so far behind on reading.

Oh my GOD, that TBR stack is terrifying.

I’m trying to decide what time to come into the office for my final in-the-office day of the week, There is something to be said for getting up early, coming in and getting it over with–as well as beating traffic on the way home, and coming in early means it’s easier to find a place to park, always a plus, you know. (There are few things I despise more than trying to find a place to park.) I am really looking forward to this weekend, to be honest; I keep finding more chores around the house and there’s also this strange mentality I have that I will actually write this weekend around everything else I have to do. Is it possible? Anything is possible, really. Is it likely? That remains to be seen.

It rained last night–heavily; we had some massive thunderstorms sometime during the night after I went to bed,. The thunder woke me up very briefly, and then I just went back to sleep. I don’t think there were any tornadoes or anything–my phone’s warning system certainly didn’t go off, or I slept through it, one or the other. But I am not seeing any doom-and-gloom on local news websites this morning, so I guess we dodged another one last night. It was humid AF yesterday–it’s amazing to me how every year, like clockwork, the humidity returns and every single time it catches me off guard. (To be fair, the real humidity doesn’t really clock in until late May, but the heat starts much sooner, and it’s already getting there.) I am not looking forward to the higher power bills of the dog days of summer (and why are they called that? Dog days? I mean, I know three dog night is an old Aussie saying for nights so cold you need three dogs in the bed to keep you warm, but where did ‘dog days of summer’ come from?) and the steaming humidity, but there are, indeed worse things. And I think our new system kept the bills down pretty well last summer, which was quite nice indeed. So, here’s to a sort of bearable summer if I don’t spend much time outside? Huzzah?

And on that note, it is off to the spice mines for me. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

This is Todd Sanfield, former fitness model who now has his own underwear/swimwear business! Check it out at https://www.toddsanfield.com/–he’s also the model for his website.

I Feel the Earth Move

I indulged myself by staying in bed until almost nine this morning–I know, right? I woke up at three and again at five (like every other night this week; this is a trend in my sleep that I am not liking all that much), but stayed in bed. Now that I am up, it’s gray and wet and gloomy outside; maybe it was rain that kept me in bed. What is it about rain and being safe and dry and warm that feels so comforting? I wish I knew. I am also trying to decide this morning over my coffee whether I want to leave the house today. I should swing by the mail and maybe make some groceries and get gas for the car; I also need to get my taxes together, work on my short story, and some other things. I also want to spend some time with Chris Holm’s Child Zero today (and this weekend). I should also brainstorm some more plot ideas for the two books I’ll be working on this year, and once I get this story in some sort of shape I want to go back to “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Festival of the Redeemer” and some other stories. I had pretty much decided to use April to do clean-up on some things–finishing stories etc–and now it is April; how delightful is that? I can hear thunder, which makes leaving the house seem even more undesirable; I’ve not checked today’s weather. Paul is seeing his trainer today, and instead of going to the office immediately after he’ll be coming home. I think we might (I might) rent Spiderman No Way Home today; we started watching Death on the Nile last night on Hulu but bailed on it when the first ads popped up in mid-scene; at least on a broadcast network, they plan where the commercials will go so a character won’t get cut off in mid-sentence. I am really starting to dislike Hulu’s services for streaming; I remember trying Youtube TV and hating it because it’s interface was useless and difficult to navigate. I really would prefer not to go back to cable under any circumstance; I despise Cox with every fiber of my being. The great irony was the reason I chose Hulu in the first place for a streaming service was because their interface was intuitive and incredibly easy; so naturally they keep changing it and making it less user friendly. (Although to be honest, I was only interested in watching Death on the Nile in order to see Egypt; there’s no way this newer version can possibly top the original with Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, and Maggie Smith.) Instead we turned over to Netflix and dove into the second season of Dark Desire, which got us caught up in the story immediately.

We wound up going to Costco last night after Paul got home from work to get it out of the way. I also had to take Scooter to the vet for his biannual senior kitty workup–dropping him off and picking him back up later–and I think the Costco trip wore me out. Why is Costco so tiring for me? I hope someday to have a better understanding of that. And we spent a lot of money but it didn’t seem to me like we got as much stuff as we usually do? I don’t understand–will probably never understand that, but I suppose it’s prices going up everywhere that is to blame.

Ooh, it just got darker, which means storm a coming. Ah, there’s the thunder. And it lasted quite a while, too….I suppose I should check the weather.

Ah, rain all morning and then sunny the rest of the day. That I can live with. It also solves the problem of what to do about the errands–run them today or wait? The mail can wait until Monday; there’s no rush to getting it, after all, and I could always just run to the Rouse’s in the CBD to pick up the few things I do actually need. Decisions, decisions.

Ah, there’s the lightning and the rain and even more thunder. I may have to turn on a light, it’s gotten so dark.

I do love New Orleans rain; I’ve never lived any place where it rains the way it does here. I mean, it fucking pours down here, coming down so hard and fast that the drains (and pumps) take a good while to catch up with it. I own about twenty umbrellas as a result of being caught in the rain unexpectedly; it can also go from hot, humid and not a cloud in the sky to a torrential downpour with street flooding in a matter of minutes. Although this doesn’t seem like one of those street-flooding monster storms; this seems more like a oh the greenery needs watering kind of rains. Doesn’t mean it can’t turn even uglier as I sit here typing, but hey. It’s still one of those chill damp mornings where curling up under a blanket with my coffee sounds vastly more appealing than any of the other dreadful things I need to do today–dreadful might be a bit harsh, but unpleasant certainly doesn’t miss the mark nearly as much.

So on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and head over to my easy chair to spend an hour with Child Zero–I’ll figure out the rest of the day when that hour is up.

Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

A Reason to Believe

Work at home Friday, and I actually slept in till seven! A whole extra hour! (Don’t think I didn’t wake up right at six in the morning, though…) It looks like a sunny April first out there–cannot believe it’s actually April already. It’s very strange to wake up on Friday morning and look at a normal weekend for the first time in a long time–one where there’s not a looming deadline hanging over my head, the Festivals are done for a year, and I can actually relax and try to get those odds-and-ends that have been hanging around that I never seem to be able to get around to taken care of–if I am lucky. We need to make a Costco run, and Scooter has to go in for bi-annual “senior kitty” check-up. I need to get my story worked on a bit too this weekend, and maybe I can shoehorn in some other writing as well. I also want to spend some time with that Chris Holm novel, knowing I will most likely be sucked into it and won’t get anything else done over the course of the weekend.

It happens.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was in a good mood and had energy most of the day–petering out as the day come to a close, as always–and left the office later than I usually do, resulting in the horror and frustration of being caught in rush hour CBD traffic on the way home. My office really is in probably one of the most inconvenient places in the city for me to get to; the old office on Frenchmen Street was only slightly easier to get to–but it still involved driving through both the CBD and the Quarter. Now that we’re further downtown, you’d think it would be easier–I live near an on-ramp to the highway system, and the office is right off the Claiborne exit on I-10 East; it can take me as little as five minutes to get there in the mornings (if I hit the lights properly, which never happens). But I can’t take the highway on the way home–because I have to use the I-10 interchange with Highway 90 to the West Bank (the twin spans) and the traffic is usually backed up almost all the way to the on-ramp at Claiborne Avenue), which is a nightmare all day every day, but is especially horrible in the later afternoon when everyone is getting off work. So I either take Claiborne Avenue all the way uptown to get the mail and make groceries on my way home, or I just take Claiborne to Orleans, head through Treme to the CBD on Loyola, turn onto Howard Avenue and that leads me to Tivoli Circle and St. Charles and BOOM I am home. Unfortunately, yesterday Loyola had a lane blocked by three streetcars that were just parked at the Poydras intersection (the absolute worst place, traffic wise) and as such, it was after five when I got home. I did some laundry, unpacked my backpack, and sank into my easy chair. Scooter climbed into my lap, cuddled and purred and fell asleep, and that was the end of that for all intents and purposes. I watched this week’s Superman and Lois–it really is a good show–and then switched over to Young Justice, which is incredibly well done; with each new episode I not only marvel at the storylines they’ve devised but the strong character building the writers manage, eventually going to bed around ten.

I am also hoping to return to the gym for the first time in a while. Yes, I will be heading out to Albuquerque next week, but I also can make it to the gym a few times before I do. I need to remember that I enjoy working out and that it feels good when I do. Plus, it’s lighter out later now, so I don’t have to walk there and back in the dark anymore. It’s not that I feel unsafe or anything, but walking around back streets in the neighborhood can sometimes be a bit on the creepy side; the problem of having a vivid imagination is that you can never really turn it off. Which is why I have files and files and files of book and novella and short story ideas…and keep having more every damned day. I had another great idea yesterday, in fact–well, I do like to believe all my ideas are brilliant, let’s be completely honest–which I dutifully made note of in my journal at work and expanded on it a bit for a couple of pages, but even as I closed the journal I thought, well, when precisely are you going to write this book, Gregalicious? Heavy heaving sigh. I do want to get a lot of writing done this year….and I need to stop beating myself up because my writing “muscles” are tired and need to rest for a bit.

It happens.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Where Do I Go From Here

The earliest years of my childhood–with a few minor exceptions–are lost in the foggy distant parts of my memories, unable to be summoned at will but sometimes resurfacing at the oddest moments. I don’t, for example, really remember much of how I started reading. I remember being fascinated by dinosaurs and getting dinosaur books from the library; I remember Scholastic Books Fairs and going to the library, both the Chicago Public Library’s nearest branch as well as the one inside my elementary school. I remember, vaguely, comic books: Richie Rich, Caspar, Wendy, Dot, Little Lotta and anything Disney before moving on to the world of Archie and Millie the Model before discovering, and loving, the world of DC super hero comics accidentally. Comic books were only a dime or twelve cents when I was a kid with an allowance of a dollar per week, so I could get quite a few comics with my allowance every week rather than trying to save it for another week so I could spend $1.50 on a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew (by the time I discovered them, of course). I would not, nor would I ever, consider myself to be an expert on comics; I was a fan, and not a rabid one, either. I never learned the names of writers or artists (I do, however, remember Denny O’Neil from the 1970’s) until one of my returns to comics (I often went years without feeding my super-hero addiction); the 1980’s return got me learning names like John Byrne and Tim McFarlane. It’s always been a dream–one I don’t return to very often–to actually write for a comic title (I really really really want to write for Nightwing) someday but the older I get the less likely that item will be scratched off my lengthy bucket list (someday I might blog about the bucket-list things I am slowly becoming aware that I will never ever be able to accomplish).

Naturally, I’ve been looking forward to reading Alex Segura’s Secret Identity ever since the title was announced: comic books? The 1970’s? A crime story? COUNT ME IN.

And I am pleased to report it did not disappoint in the slightest.

Her eyes fluttered open at the sound.

Carmen Valdez rolled out of her small twin bed with ease, the muscle memory kicking in–even now, in the middle of the night. The shrill scream was familiar, too.

She tiptoed across her small bedroom, avoiding the toys strewn on the floor, as she made her way to the door.

Another scream.

Mami.

The screaming and arguing were routine. Carmen found that she’d become numb to it. She could almost predict it, in the hours before bed. If Mami and Papi were drinking–drinking that stuff–it was a bad sign. It meant they were changing. Becoming meaner. Darker. Something else. She would rush through her routine, rush to get to the relative safety of her room, her closed door, her darkness.

But she also knew the darkness could only shield her from so much. It hid her, but it didn’t silence then. She knew the screams would come. Carmen would just pray she could sleep through them.

I turned fourteen in 1975, and the entire world seemed to be, I don’t know, in some kind of transition that most people in my sheltered world believed would wind up not being good. We were already looking back; American Graffiti had struck gold with a nostalgia craze driven by the memory of “how much simpler (better) things had been back then” (despite the fact American Graffiti is actually a really bleak, dark movie) that was only further amplified by a resurfacing of the Beach Boys and the airing of Happy Days. My high school had “sock hops” (of all things) and my sister played the double album of the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer endlessly. It was easy, of course, to look at the sanitized world of television shows like Happy Days and repeats of Leave it to Beaver and wistfully wish for a simpler time…particularly when impressions we were getting of New York City wasn’t the pristine, clean city of Doris Day movies like Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back but the dirty, gritty noir sensibilities of movies like The French Connection, Shaft, and Serpico. I was already a reader, reading fiction for adults but still occasionally grabbing a comic book or two from the spinner rack at the Jewel Osco, or Mad from the magazine rck at the 7/11 on Briarcliff Road in Bolingbrook, the extremely white suburb my family had escaped to from Chicago and its desegregated schools.

It was also a weird time for comics, to be honest.

So, revisiting that time in Alex Segura’s new novel, Secret Identity, was interesting.

Alex’ book focuses on Carmen Valdez, a young Cuban-American woman living in New York and working as secretary to the publisher at Triumph Comics, a company much lower on the food chain than either Marvel or DC–the ones everyone knows–and hoping to get her own break into the business as a writer. She learned to speak English reading comics (mostly Archie and Betty and Veronica), but eventually moved on to caped crusaders. She gets an opportunity when another writer at Triumph asks for her help in putting together a new hero, the Legendary Lynx–even as a more experienced person in the business tells her not to trust Harvey Stern, the writer. But with all the hope and idealism that a hardscrabble life in New York with a dead-end job in a dying comics company has somehow not stomped out of her yet (ah, to be in my twenties again…), she takes the plunge and collaborates with Harvey–who winds up dead, shot in the forehead. No one knows the new comic Harvey had delivered six scripts for (under only his name) had any input from Carmen–who did the yeoman’s share of the work. Now she has to figure out how to reclaim her character and her work. To do so, she has to find out more about who Harvey was…and that means getting mixed up in a police investigation and eventually into the crosshairs of the killer.

I also appreciated the fact that “stolen work/characters” was the driving force in this book; comic book history is riddled with these kinds of situations, and it was fun seeing it from an insider’s point of view.

The story’s greatest strength is the character of Carmen. Within a few chapters of the story I felt like she was someone I actually knew, had talked to, maybe even had wine or drinks with; she felt like a friend…definitely someone I’d want to know in the real world. Another strength is Segura’s knowledge of the world behind the scenes of a comic book company and the industry itself. (I couldn’t help but grin periodically whenever someone referred to comics as a dying form; the 70’s slump was followed by a renaissance no one could have seen coming, and they are still going strong today.) Carmen’s relationships with the people in her orbit are also realistic and strongly drawn.

An added bonus inside the book are actual pages of art from The Legendary Lynx–which are strong enough to make a good comic book on their own (something we might be looking for in the future, Alex?).

Quickly paced with strong, believable characters, this was a terrific read. Thanks, Alex!