Love Comes Quickly

And we’ve made it, yet again, to another Monday somehow; good for me, good for you, good for every single one of us. I am working in the clinic today, which is absolutely wonderful; I was really happy when we reopened last Tuesday because helping people is a large part of why I love my job and what keeps me in it. (Well, that and the health insurance.)

I was sick again yesterday; I was fine when I woke up, but after cleaning the kitchen and taking out the trash fatigue set in again and I had a touch of fever. I immediately went to my easy chair–I was able to read for a while on my Woolrich before even that became too much for me–and started watching movies. I watched Katharine Hepburn in Summertime (sigh, Venice), and then we watched a new show on Prime, Upload, which seemed kind of interesting, but after two episodes we moved on to an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse, which was nothing like the novel except for a few things, which is really annoying. Why do screenwriters and producers think they can tell a better story than AGATHA CHRISTIE? The arrogance is staggering…some Christies, of course, can’t really transition to film; Endless Night, which is one of my favorites, certainly can’t because it’s primarily internal. But I don’t remember The Pale Horse as one that was so tricky that filming the story as written by Christie–who was just one of the most successful writers of all time and certainly the biggest selling mystery writer of all time–was so damned impossible.

I am convinced that I am still not properly hydrated; for example, this morning when I woke up my mouth was completely dry and so were my lips. I drank coffee both Saturday and Sunday morning before the exhaustion/fever kicked back in, and that was a huge mistake, I think. I am going to try to go without caffeine for the next few days to see if I am able to make headway on the dehydration; I’m also calling my doctor today because something is clearly going on with me that needs checking out. In a worst case scenario, I may wind up going to the emergency room to get an IV. I think it could also be a combination of things–the dehydration makes me have no appetite, and my blood sugar might drop as a result of not eating as much. I made an effort to eat yesterday, and after eating I did feel better, but still–something is wrong with me and I need to get to the bottom of it.

I also lost yesterday as a writing day, which was the last thing in the world I needed to do, but there you have it. I am hoping to get caught up on some of the writing I am behind on this week, but we shall have to wait and see how that goes.

I’m hearing thunder out there this morning and it’s grayish and gloomy outside the windows, which isn’t promising. I haven’t checked to see if we have any weather alerts–so maybe the potential for flooding isn’t there, but who knows? I stand corrected; I just looked at my email and there’s a severe weather alert there, although I don’t understand why I didn’t get a text on my phone? The storm was located out in the East, near Lake Catherine, at the time the email was sent.

And on that note, I need to eat something and drink something and get ready for working in the clinic today. Hopefully the lack of caffeine won’t be an issue, and the lack of caffeine will result in feeling better most of the day.

Have a great day, Constant Reader.

Only the Wind

While the official first day of the summer season isn’t here quite yet, it’s already summertime in New Orleans–with everything that means. The thick heavy wet air that clings to you like a warm wet wool blanket; the beautifully bright and yellow sunlight that burns your skin red as it pierces through the windows of your car; and the climbing electric bills as your air conditioning unit desperately tries–and only occasionally succeeds–to keep the temperature livable and breathable inside your home. Tourists who come to New Orleans often complain about the extreme difference in temperature from going inside to out and back inside again; how cold it is everywhere in doors; that the shorts and tank tops, soggy and wet from sweat, aren’t enough covering as the they dry in the cold frigid inside air. It is really impossible to know how to dress in New Orleans when it’s hot; but those of us who live here are used to it, but you never get used to how just existing and moving around outside sucks the energy right out of you, and sometimes–like when you’re lugging all the shit you bought at Costco in from the car–you have to just sit for a spell, chug some cold water or Gatorade (or a daiquiri if you planned ahead), and collect yourself.

That was my yesterday. As you may have noticed had you paid close attention, I had been unwell for a while; primarily from forgetting that I have to be more cautious dealing with heat and more careful and mindful of the maintenance required for my older body. This whole thing started with me being unable to sleep for several nights in a row, and the moved on to severe dehydration and exhaustion and stomach issues. This led to another COVID-19 test, being sent home from work, and a slow recovery. But after days of drinking lots of water, avoiding caffeine (much to my own detriment when it comes to productivity), and good sleep–as well as staying inside as much as possible–I am finally, this morning, feeling like myself once again; energetic and creative and ready to go. I took two more vacation days this week–Wednesday and Thursday–to continue my rest and recovery, and it seems to have done the trick (I was really worried about the Costco trip being a setback; but I am stubborn and I wanted to get it out of the way; but I downed lots of water before I went, took a Gatorade with me, and had another after I got home).

And this morning, yes, I feel like me again for the first time in what seems like an incredibly long time.

I’m working from home today, which means data entry and making condom packs while streaming things on the television; I should finish the first season of Jonny Quest today, since the episodes are only about twenty-four minutes long; which makes me wonder if that’s why it had such a short run on Saturday mornings when I was a child–not enough time left for commercials. Scooby Doo Where Are You? episodes are 21-22 minutes. Money is key, and despite some problematic issues with the show (it was produced in the 1960’s, after all) it still holds up pretty well. It did put me in mind of another kids’ book series I read when I was younger–the Rick Brant Science Adventures by John Blaine, which was yet another one of the many Grosset & Dunlap series. Like the Ken Holt series I talked about recently, the Rick Brant series was never as popular as the Hardy Boys (nothing ever achieved the popularity of Nancy Drew), but were much more interesting, more action-packed, involved actual detective work, and were far better written. The similarities between Jonny Quest and Rick Brant are staggering; the Quests live on an island; Rick and his family also lived on Spindrift Island, separated by tidal flats from the coast on New Jersey. The Quests sort of adopted Hadji, who became Jonny’s best friend; Rick’s best friend is Don Scott (Scotty), and the Brants unofficially adopt him into their family. Jonny and his family go all over the world having adventures and solving mysteries having to do with science, for the most part; Rick and Scotty do the same. Jonny’s father is world-famous scientific genius Benton Quest; Rick’s father is world-famous scientific genius Hartson Brant.

The first few Rick Brants I read, like Ken Holt, I obtained off the sales table in the bargain basement at Goldblatt’s in Chicago: The Rocket’s Shadow, The Egyptian Cat Mystery, The Flying Stingaree, and The Flaming Mountain. Over the years, I found more of them at swap meets and flea markets and used bookstores; I think I met have an almost complete set of them now (I did acquire some via eBay after Katrina). Some of the books are now available for download on Project Gutenberg; several volumes from a variety of those old kids’ series–including Ken Holt, Judy Bolton, and Biff Brewster–are there (and yes, I downloaded all of them). I want to start revisiting some of these series, since they influenced me into becoming a mystery writer, and while scientific knowledge has proceeded incredibly rapidly since the Brant series were published and went out of print, it’s kind of fun to go back and revisit the world of cutting-edge science (or what was seen as futuristic science) at the time; The Rocket’s Shadow was basically about how the Spindrift Island scientists (other scientists and their families also lived on the island) were racing to build and launch a moon rocket–the case involved Rick trying to solve the mystery of who on the island was a traitor and leaking secret information about the rocket project to a competitor; Scotty rescues him from the bad guys in the first chapter. Scotty was a military veteran who lied about his age to enlist and fight in the war (World War II; the book was originally published in 1947)–which was glossed over and ignored as time passed and the series continued, which would have aged him. This was twenty-two years before the actual moon landing, so to kids reading this in 1947 and the years after, it was kind of science fiction.

We will finish the final two episodes of Elite that are available tonight, and then will have to wait for season four. They had started filming before the world shut down, alas, so there’s no telling how long it will be before we get another season to binge and love. I also am not sure how the show is going to continue; this season has them all graduating and the crime this season is focusing on occurs at the graduation party. I can’t praise this show enough; it’s completely addicting, and there are never any slow parts. The way they have developed the characters and their relationships with each other make total sense and are completely believable, despite the sometimes completely over-the-top situations they find themselves in. Once we finish watching, I will devote an entire entry to discussing the show. But seriously–you won’t be sorry if you watch.

And now back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, everyone.

More Than A Dream

Tuesday and our STI clinic is reopening on a limited schedule again, so I get to spend the day trying to remember how to draw blood from people efficiently and how to do paperwork I haven’t really thought about much at all since sometime in March. It’s hard to believe this has been going on since March–but on the other hand it seems like pre-pick-your-crisis was a million years ago.

My stomach is still messed up, but I’m trying to take in as much clear liquid as I can. I’ve pretty much concluded that I am dealing with dehydration-related exhaustion, and the answer to all my ails is hydration. I am also hopeful that this slow and gradual return to what I actually do for work during the day will help me stay centered and on course; I’ve felt very unanchored these last few months. We shall see, won’t we?

Yesterday as I worked from home I had Jonny Quest streaming on the television while I sat in my easy chair and worked. I loved this show when I was a kid, and it still holds up relatively all these years later–it’s also weird that Tim Matheson was Johnny’s voice–and it also was a formative part of my childhood; getting me interested in mysteries and the supernatural and espionage, and there’s also the complete absence of females. The family unit on Johnny Quest reads queer, queer, queer: the parents in Dr. Benton Quest, scientific genius and obviously wealthy beyond belief (like Tony Stark) and Race Bannon, former spy and world class athlete who is both bodyguard and tutor to the two boys; Benton’s son Johnny, and the Indian child they adopt off the streets of Calcutta, Hadji. (I also became extremely painfully aware as I watched at just how big of a stereotype Hadji was; and there are other problematic issues on the show…reminding me of that time period, the 1960’s, very viscerally). There’s also Jonny’s dog, Bandit, who is the comic relief on the show; but unlike Scooby Doo Where Are You?, Jonny Quest was serious–people were actually killed on this show. What humor there is, is fitted into little asides that literally serve as comic relief to the serious tone of the show (and yes, it was plenty serious for kids–as I said, there are any number of times in the episodes I watched where bad guys were killed when their car/boat/airplane crashed and exploded right in front of Jonny and Hadji, who nonchalantly just shrug off the deaths they’ve just witnesses). Dr. Quest is totally Tony Stark, the genius who knows everything–he literally is one of only two white men who speak the language of a remote indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest—and Race is a hot muscle daddy if I’ve ever seen one.

As I said earlier, it’s kind of problematic in some ways–the afore-mentioned indigenous tribe is described as “savages” repeatedly in that episode–but it’s still fairly entertaining, and it’s one of my earliest cartoons on Saturday morning memories; undoubtedly it helped push me along my path as a mystery fan and eventually a mystery writer.

Elite continues to enthrall us; the second season is even crazier than the first, with three new characters added: a party-hearty half-brother of one of the main characters who has a very weird relationship, bordering on incest, with his half-sister; a girl who works as a maid and whose mother is on the janitorial staff who is working very hard to convince the other kids she is just as rich as they are; and a gangster’s daughter. Paul and I are completely fascinated by Carla, whose mother is a marchioness and owns a wine company; she’s extremely manipulative, so much so that it’s difficult to figure out what she really wants and what she is really after. She’s fascinating. There’s also all kinds of queer characters and relationships on the show, and while the whole point of the show is star-crossed lovers…it’s nice seeing the queer storylines given equal importance to the straight ones. And it moves so fast! So much is constantly happening! It’s excellent.

And now I have to get ready for work, without having any coffee. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Two Divided by Zero

My COVID test came back negative again, so I was right, I guess; dehydration and exhaustion combined in a 1-2 punch to send me reeling and off my game. My stomach is still messed up–sometimes stuff doesn’t go right through me, but most of the time it absolutely does–but that’s just how it is and we have to get on with life somehow. I am really sick of this, and I am going to be calling my doctor’s office later today. My doctor moved away, and I’ve been delaying dealing with contacting their office to get a new one, so now I guess I am in a position where I have to–in other words, moved to action because I have no other choice.

That happens a lot more than one might think, since my usual default is lethargy.

I revised my Sherlock story yesterday, so yes, I actually did get some writing done, and it wasn’t as easy as I might have liked but on the other hand, it also could have been much harder. There were a couple of times I was ready to throw in the towel and say hey I got something done at least, but forced myself to keep going. Now I’m going to let it sit for a few days before I polish it, and hopefully in the meantime i can get some other writing done. I know part of the weird emotional state I find myself in these days has more to do with the not writing than anything else; when I am not working on some form of writing, I’m always down. After I finished working on the story yesterday I felt fantastic; that adrenaline rush only matched by the one that comes from endorphins after a good workout. I’ve not been to the gym in over a week, either–I’ve neither had the energy nor felt well enough to actually go, plus not wanting to put people at risk…but I am going to have to start thinking about when I can go back again.

As a result of remembering a story I’d started a few weeks ago and completely forgotten about, I decided to make a list of all the stories and things I have in progress at the current time. It was quite eye-opening; eighty nine short stories in some degree of completion; seven novellas in the same situation; and two novels. This is what I mean by my creative ADHD; many of the stories are no more than 500 words (I made a point of not counting the ones that are just a title and an opening sentence or paragraph) but some of them have been through multiple drafts and still others have a first draft completed. I posted about it on social media, and based on the reactions I received, I realized two things: one, that I now understand why people call me prolific and two, the reason I think I am lazy and don’t ever get anything done is precisely because I have so many works in progress that are not completed. Add to that the reality that I constantly get new ideas for stories, novellas, and novels all the time, and you begin to see why I am so rough on myself when it comes to this sort of thing. I am trying to be better about being hard on myself–there’s a strong sense, though, that without being hard on myself I wouldn’t get as much done; but at the same time, I’m not getting much done these days…but I think this shift is necessary in order to delete negativity out of my life. There’s already so much negativity in the world I don’t need to create more for my life and career. But I need to get moving on the Secret Project, and now that this revision is behind me, I have some time to work on it now.

We finished season one of Elite last night and started season two, and I have to say–if you’ve not watched this show, you absolutely must. The story moves like a runaway freight train, the plot is incredibly intricate, intertwined, and complicated. The writing is stellar and the acting–the gorgeous young actors who make up the cast–is also topnotch. It’s so much better than 13 Reasons Why, and its approach to alternate sexualities is much better–considering this is a Spanish show, and I’ve always considered Spain to be conservative and Catholic, again shows how wrong you can be when you make assumptions about values and beliefs. It’s even hard to encapsulate the ongoing storylines on the show because so much happens and it moves so fast. It’s less like Edge of Night in terms of crime/soap hybrids than it is a Spanish, prep school version of How to Get Away With Murder–which we never finished watching the final season of, because it’s plot is so complicated we lost track and literally had no idea what was going on anymore.

And on that note, time to get back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, one and all.

Miserabilism

Sunday morning. I slept really well again last night, but my stomach is still quirky this morning; I am not enjoying this in the least and it really needs to stop sometime soon, thank you very much. I do appreciate the deep sleep I’ve been getting these last few nights, but there’s still fatigue in my muscles and joints and it might be dehydration still; I am going to have to drink more fluids today than I have been before and see if that improves things at all. I still haven’t gotten my test results back yet–then again, my phone expired last night and I forgot to charge it, so there may be a missed call or something there. I’ll check when I finish writing this, I suppose.

I also started writing up my detailed critique of 13 Reasons Why last night and it’s failures; which were made all the more evident when Paul and I moved on to yet another show from Netflix Spain called Elite, which is precisely what 13 Reasons Why could have been. Elite is more soapy, but they actually lean into it unashamedly, and it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining and better written. The cast is also spectacularly good in their roles, and we are unashamedly addicted to it–and there are three glorious seasons to indulge in thus far. That should get us through until next weekend, right? And I am looking forward to it! We truly enjoyed Toy Boy, and even White Lines, uneven as it was. Shows from Spanish Netflix are truly amazing; and I’m also really glad I got over my aversion to subtitles, which opens up a whole new world of film and television for us.

I took it easy yesterday, reading my emails and reorganizing the books while i could and straightening up a bit around the Lost Apartment. I also took a folder of partial stories to my easy chair and started reading through them. A lot of them of course are story fragments, just the opening paragraphs, and while they were sketchy and not particularly in depth; I could see the potential in them. I am very pleased with how “Closing Time” starts and rereading those paragraphs tipped me off on how to continue with the story; the same goes with “One Night at Brandi’s Lounge” and “Please Die Soon.” Today I am going to–once I finish some things here on-line that I need to get done today–close my Internet browser and focus on writing; the things I had planned to get done this weekend I haven’t, and that’s in part due to this disorientation feeling that comes from not being at 100% physically, which I rather dislike.

Then again, I don’t know anyone who enjoys being sick, other than those with Munchhausen’s Syndrome.

I also was thinking about the Kansas book yesterday and making notes; both shows were making me think more about it, and I do think it’s a great idea and has the potential to be a terrific book, if I can ever get back to work on it. But I’m never going to get back to either it or Bury Me in Shadows until I get this other stuff finished…so I really need to try to focus today and get to work on it.

I also was reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower yesterday when I didn’t have the energy to do anything else–the energy drains is the worst part of this whole thing, quite frankly–and I really do love Tuchman. I’ve never read The Guns of August, which I really should, and would love to eventually would like to work my way through her entire catalogue. Oh, how I wish I’d majored in History and Creative Writing in college! I generally don’t waste my time with regrets about anything, and as I am extremely happy with my life right now any change to my past would have altered my life completely and I wouldn’t be where I am today. But oh, to have learned how to comb through research and find the proper materials to write about history intelligently and responsibly! I think I could have written history the way Tuchman did–compellingly, by being entertaining as well as educating at the same time. As I have mentioned many times before, I’d love to do the sixteenth century much the same as Tuchman did the fourteenth in A Different Mirror; but focusing on the rise of women to power. I do think that century had more women in power than any other century before or since (perhaps the eighteenth might compare); Isabella f Castile; England had three regnant queens (Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I); Scotland had Mary Queen of Scots and her mother, the regent Marie de Guise; France of course had Catherine de Medici pulling the strings of power; and there were any number of Habsburg women who ruled as regents in the vast array of their Imperial lands. Women in that century also were responsible for shifts of power–Juana of Castile brought the Spanish empire into the Habsburg realms; the struggle between Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn changed England forever; Margaret Tudor brought the Scots royal family eventually to power in England through her descendants; and there were powerful women lurking everywhere, from Jeanne d’Albret to Margaret of Austria to Marie of Hungary to Marguerite de Valois–and of course, the great mistress of Henri II–Diane de Poitiers. These women influenced the shape of the history that came after them, and changed the world.

All right, on that note I am going to close this and head back into the spice mines for the day. Wish me luck with my work and my stomach, Constant Reader! Have a lovely Sunday.

King of Rome

It’s Saturday, and I am feeling better. Yesterday was much better than Thursday; I drank a lot of fluids and didn’t seem to have any stomach issues; the headache came and went, and I coughed what probably was a normal every day amount of coughs–something in my throat that needed clearing–and while I did still have some fatigue and chest tightness, I was able to do some things as long as I took a break after. I did the dishes, and watched The 39 Steps. I did some laundry, and spent some time on Youtube. I moved necessary information from my old journal (now full) into my new one. We also watched Knives Out last night before retiring to bed, which we also enjoyed.

I did try to read, but it was tiring–awful, really, when you are required to stream for entertainment because it’s less taxing mentally–so I wasn’t able to do much of that. So, I put my fiction novel aside–Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich, and took down The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman, which is quite good; it’s her study of Europe in the generation/decades leading up to World War I. I had started it years ago and never finished–I don’t remember why, quite frankly–but was able to pick up again and read it here and there while I could focus. The lovely thing about non-fiction, and history in particular, is that you don’t have to worry too much about what came before where you’re reading if you pick it up again years later…history is history.

I also downloaded a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I have never read, and thought perhaps that I should; how does the book that many historians consider partly responsible for the outbreak of the Civil War because it so enflamed abolitionist sentiments in its readers (never, ever doubt the power of fiction to help bring needed change) hold up today? I’ve read some interesting pieces on Gone with the Wind–book and movie, both for and against lately–and that put me in mind of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I had reread a novel about the Civil Rights movement a few years ago that I read when quite young (The Klansman, by William Bradford Huie, a native Alabaman who taught at the University in Tuscaloosa; and the title was definitely a play on The Clansman, the novel Birth of a Nation was based on) and thought it even more powerful now than I did when I was a child; I saw the justifications of the horrific racist white people for what they were and it was plain to me, even as a child, that they weren’t the heroes of the story, even though they were the central characters of the book. So, I went to Project Gutenberg and downloaded a PDF of the book, and as I started reading the first few paragraphs…well, let’s just say the writing style is very dated and leave it at that. There’s also the use of the N word right there on Page One–which of course was common usage in the 1850’s and pretty much up until the 1950’s or 1960’s…and I started thinking that maybe someone should–since the book is now in the public domain–rewrite it and update for modern times? Or perhaps someone could do something like Alice Randall/The Wind Done Gone with it? Or perhaps it should best be left alone? The debate over these old books, primarily focused on Gone with the Wind lately, (and really, it’s mostly about the movie, not the book) and what should be done with and about them, is one I cannot make up my mind about. There’s probably a blog entry on that coming as well.

So far so good this morning. I don’t know if the fatigue is gone, but I slept for a very long time and very deeply. I still have a headache and my stomach is still bothering me this morning, so I am going to try keep putting in fluids since the dehydration issue seems to still be going on as well. There really are fewer things I loathe more than not feeling well, quite frankly. The weird issue with my stomach is that it literally feels tight and sore, like I did some kind of way too intense, way too long abdominal workout, and everything feels kind of bloated and gross? I’m not making that as clear as I should–use your words, writer boy!–but I’m not really sure what’s going on with it. I keep hoping it’s not anything serious, but…it’s still quite strange. The headache is coming and going; I’ll feel it for about fifteen minutes, and then it goes away before coming back. It’s not excruciating, more of a throb than anything else, and then it’s gone. Not enough to even take Tylenol over, frankly, but maybe I should; it might control it and keep it from coming back.

I’m hoping to have both the energy and the focus to write today; failing that, to at least read for a bit. When I finish this I have some emails to address–when do I not have an absurd amount of emails to answer–and hopefully can get most of that resolved before moving on to a highly productive day. One can dream, can’t one?

I have to say, I was really impressed with The 39 Steps. Yes, it was filmed in 1935 and yes, it’s rather dated now; but you can see how masterful Hitchcock was as a director. There’s not as much suspense in it–primarily due to the datedness of the movie–but it’s interesting, and I’ve always wanted to read the novel. I also found it interesting that Madeleine Carroll, who played the lead, was also the kind of icy beautiful blonde heroine Hitchcock gravitated towards for most of his career. But the concepts of the film–a man (played by Robert Donat) who unknowingly stumbles onto an espionage ring, and a female agent is murdered in his apartment, he is blamed and no one will believe the story he is telling; which she told him when he basically rescued her, and so he has to unmask the conspiracy in order to clear himself of the murder, is also Hitchcock’s favorite kind of story: what I call the “right man in the wrong place at the wrong time” kind of thing. Bourbon Street Blues was originally conceived that way, and let’s face it, almost all of the Scotty books really boil down to that simple concept–Scotty keeps accidentally stumbling into trouble. I do recommend it; other than being incredibly dated it’s quite fun to watch.

And if you haven’t seen Knives Out, you absolutely must. The crime is so amazingly Agatha Christie-like and complex that it’s like she wrote it herself, and the cast is magnificent–like those wonderful all-star film adaptations of Christie they started making in the 1970’s, like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile (which I want to rewatch but can’t find it streaming anywhere). The cast is absolutely perfect–every last one of them–and I do hope this signals the return of these kinds of films.

And now, I am going to go to my easy chair and wrestle with Woolrich for a bit before answering emails and writing.

Jealousy

Jealousy is an interesting emotion, or feeling, or whatever the hell it actually is; certainly one of the deadly sins. I’ve been accused of being jealous of other people plenty of times in my life, which is kind of funny. Maybe when I was a kid I experienced jealousy of other people and their accomplishments, but not so much the older I got. I’ve never been jealous of other writers; I’ve never envied them their successes or big contracts or movie rights sales. I may want those things, but I certainly am not jealous of those who have them or are getting them or will get them in the future. I’m usually happy to see writers succeed, or win awards, or get nominated for awards, or get selected to best of lists, and so forth.

It’s not for me to decide who deserves what, nor is it for me to question anyone’s success. It’s counterproductive, and I’d rather not spend my time seething because someone else got a bigger piece of cake than I did. I just write what I write and hope people think it’s interesting or intriguing enough to read, and that those who do, enjoy themselves.

SIDEBAR: I do, however, reserve the right to say what the actual living fuck when I see things like I saw yesterday on Twitter; tweets and links to articles about how straight white male debut authors got ridiculous amounts of money upfront, after which the book proceeded to tank, and the writer disappeared into some sort of oblivion afterward. I have seen that happen quite a bit during my years in this business, and it’s almost always, inevitably, some straight white dude with a few short story sales to prestigious literary magazines and the right educational pedigree, inevitably writing something not particularly new. I’m not jealous; I just don’t understand the mentality behind those business decisions. I also feel sorry for the writer; I cannot imagine how horrible it would feel to have all these expectations placed on you (soothed, undoubtedly, by that insane amount of filthy lucre) only to have your career come to a screeching halt suddenly. Oh, I’m sure they’ll publish another book sometime for a more modest advance, or write reviews for important newspapers and magazines, the occasional short story; but for me, it would have been hellish to write one book and then never publish another.

So, sometimes there are times when I think oh you should push to get an agent much harder–keep trying or I would really like to land a nice two-book deal with one of the Big 5–and then I think, I don’t like like stress and pressure; writing and publishing the books I do, on the smaller end of the publishing scale causes me enough stress and the pressure is horrific and I cannot imagine being able to handle it on a much grander scale.

I mean, I’m already crazy; do I need to add things to make me crazier?

I purchased these two lovely little portable desktop air conditioners of a sort; they’re from Arctic Air and you put water in them and turn them on and they somehow blow very cold air on you. They are small, of course; one is currently sitting on my desk and keeping me very cool (my office/kitchen is probably the most miserably hot place in the Lost Apartment; the upstairs bathroom running a close second), and I have the other on the counter next to the stove, and the two are creating a lovely cool area at my desk, with the ceiling fan turning overhead that is actually rather delightful; I haven’t really felt comfortable at my desk in quite some time–and that hasn’t helped me with either focus or dedication to stay with the writing. Hopefully this will help me, going forward.

Now I want to get one of the floor units.

We continue to watch 13 Reasons Why, but I am not quite sure why. This season is all over the map, story-wise; and show anchor Clay, who has to basically carry the show, has become very uninteresting to watch. I can’t decide if it’s because the young actor (Dylan Minnette, whom I’ve enjoyed the previous three seasons) is so very good at playing the out of control teenager whose mind and life has spun so wildly off course, and whose mental stability is crumbling. The others young actors are performing quite well, despite the awkwardness and forced story sometimes; I think that’s why we continue to watch–the cast is quite good, and we do end up caring about them and their massively fucked-up lives. If you would call the show a soap, I’d say it’s more in the Edge of Night vein, because it’s about crime and trauma.

It also makes me think of the two manuscripts I have sitting in limbo, waiting for me to finish the Secret Project so I can get back to them.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is June; that less than six months ago on a snowy night I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant much too nice for the likes of me (and there was lots of wine) with a lot of mystery writers and much fun was had. I didn’t know that was the last time I would participate in such a gathering for I don’t know how long. I assumed there would be the Williams Festival and the Edgars and Malice Domestic as there always was in the months to come after January. I remember walking across the street with Meg Gardiner as the snow fell, and everyone being amazed that I wasn’t freaking out about the snow; it’s really not the snow, as I sometimes forget to point out, that I mind so much as the weather conditions–the cold and damp–that create it that I actually mind. And that night wasn’t cold but it was damp; and the flakes were big and fat and wet and beautiful and hadn’t turned yet into slush on the sidewalks and the gutters. The city lights were lit, some Christmas decorations were still up, and there were cars and taxis crowding in the streets and lots of people in their winter clothes going about their business on a snowy January Saturday night in Manhattan. I miss those nights, and the company I sometimes am lucky enough to get to keep; connecting and spending time with other writers, in the company of other writers, always inspires me when I listen to them talk. I’m never bored around other writers, and sometimes, when I get the nerve up to actually talk and interact, they don’t look at me like I’ve a third eye or I am quite literally the stupidest person they’ve ever met. I miss that. I miss the company of other writers, because other writers remind me how much I love doing this, remind me that it’s central to who I am, and that I am never happy if I’m not writing.

Sometimes you need to be reminded of the things you love, and how much you love them.

It’s not a bad thing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Nervously

I didn’t get as much writing done yesterday as I would have liked; but I get some of it done. Yesterday was one of those days where I questioned everything I wrote–which is annoying, because it’s part and parcel with imposter syndrome. I hate doubting myself, but at the same time I think I want this to be good so badly that I am being much harsher with myself than I usually am; I guess being in the midst of a tropical storm didn’t help matters much, either.

I finally gave up–I did make some progress, which I’ll settle for–and retired to my easy chair to read around three. I made some good progress on Night Has a Thousand Eyes–Woolrich was a master at setting mood–and then last night we started watching the final season of 13 Reasons Why–which is kind of silly, as the actors playing the teenagers have all aged over the course of the series but haven’t on the show, and, as I said to Paul last night, “they should have called this season 13 Reasons Why: Grad School.” Not to mention the fact that over the course of the show’s run these kids have been involved in first, covering up a sexual assault; proceeding with charges for the sexual assault; another sexual assault; stopping a mass shooting and covering that up; a murder; and on and on and on….it seems to me like all of their parents would be a lot more deeply concerned about their mental health and their response to the trauma they faced; college is going to be an interesting experience for them all. But it’s entertaining–they certainly have dealt with a lot of issues for teens, including coming out; bullying; sexual assault; bodily autonomy; and suicide–which is what kicked the show off to begin with.

Tropical Storm Cristobal passed over us last night as well; it wasn’t so bad here around the Lost Apartment as we had feared it could be; it rained pretty steadily all day, and we certainly had off-and-on rain all day, but the walk and yard never filled up with water (we’ve had more rain from just a regular thunderstorm) and I don’t think any streets in our neighborhood flooded at all; I’ve not checked the news to see how bad it was in the city. I know the coastal parishes got some storm surge flooding, and I do hope those folks are all okay. That’s the thing about tropical storms, depressions and hurricanes–the mix of relief and guilt; relief that where you live didn’t get hit that hard; guilt because somewhere else did and you kind of wished it on by wishing it away from you.

Incidentally, it just started raining again, which will make the trip to and from work a lot of fun, he typed sarcastically.

I was tired pretty much the entire weekend; I’m not really sure what that is all about, but I didn’t sleep well any of the three nights of this past weekend, nor did I sleep well last night or most of last week, which is making me very tired and punchy, and also is contributing to my general sense of exhaustion, I think. I slept well last night–I only woke up a few times–and am a bit lethargic this morning (the endless cycle of ‘didn’t sleep-need caffeine to wake up–can’t sleep–more caffeine is draining, frankly); but am hopeful to be able to kick it into a relatively high gear soon.

And on that note, best to get to it, I suppose. Have a lovely Monday wherever you are–and stay safe.

KDX 125

In case you’ve been wondering, Constant Reader, my blog titles are usually song titles; back when I first started doing that, I just used whatever song was playing on the stereo or my iPod (remember those?) when I started writing the entry. I’ve tried not to use the same title twice, but after fifteen years or so it’s kind of hard not to. I started using the Top 100 lists from certain years, but those got exhausted after a few years, and now I’ve moved on to singles by the Pet Shop Boys….many of their titles are awesome and wry and witty; today’s, I am not so sure about, hence my decision to explain.

It’s been a very exhausting week, and I am bone tired. I’ve not been to the gym this week at all; I will assess how I feel tomorrow about going; I can certainly, in a worst case, go on Saturday. There’s a tropical storm out in the Gulf heading our way, the country has seemingly gone mad, and sometimes I just feel so completely overwhelmed I don’t even want to get out of bed, let alone check social media or my emails.

But I persist.

Today wasn’t quite so bad as I feared when I started writing this post this morning; it was actually rather pleasant. The sad thing is I am starting to adjust physically to the heat and humidity; they did get us an enormous fan and a couple of smaller ones–but when I had to go into the building to do my timesheet and send my activity log to my supervisor I thought it was freezing inside the building–and had the same experience when I stopped at the grocery store. Naturally, the first floor of the Lost Apartment and my kitchen/office is miserable, even with the ceiling fans on, but I ordered two of those small, portable Arctic air conditioners–a co-worker highly recommended them–and when they arrive, we’ll see how they work.

I do think I am going to be able to sleep tonight. I am feeling sleepy–my mind is still going strong though–but I guess we will see. We started watching a show called London Kills on Acorn, and are enjoying it–we gave up on Dead Still after two episodes because it was, while very well acted and produced, kind of slow and not as interesting or engaging as I would have hoped.

Well, it’s now Friday morning and I’ve actually skipped a blog day. Shortly after I wrote the above I got so sleepy I barely managed to make it upstairs and into bed before sleepwalking, seriously, and I slept very well last night. I could have stayed in bed easily for another hour or so, but I have things to do and work to get to and so forth. But it feels absolutely lovely to have rested–perhaps tonight I will rest again–and maybe I can make some progress on work i have to do.

I got some glorious short story feedback on a submission I’d sent out, and am really looking forward to revising it. This is “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” for those of you keeping track; the Sherlock story which was very far outside my comfort zone. I do think the notes I got will make it a much better, and stronger, story; and I am going to trust my instincts–as I read the notes, ideas began to form in my head on how to make this story stronger and better, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

And on that note, with the Gulf Coast now under a hurricane warning, I shall head back into the spice mines.

Jack the Lad

And now it’s Tuesday.

Yesterday was a strangely low-energy day for me; it was kind of overcast all day and I never really did seem to kick into a higher gear at all.

I did manage to rewatch Body Heat last night, one of my all-time favorite movies, and am delighted to report that it does, indeed, hold up after forty years. And what a film. I saw it originally in the theater; drawn in by a great review I read in the paper that compared it to Double Indemnity, or said that it was loosely based on it, or something like that. I went by myself–I trained myself to go to see movies alone in my late teens–and it was a matinee so there weren’t many people there. I remember that opening shot, of William Hurt’s bare, sweaty back as he watched a fire in the distance from his bedroom window while his hook-up dressed behind him, sitting on the edge of the bed. I remember thinking how sexy he was, and once the character of Kathleen Turner appeared on screen, I also remember thinking how gorgeous she was, as well. I knew who she was–I knew her from her role as Nola on The Doctors, and I also knew she’d been fired from the show for being overweight….which was incredibly hard to believe as I watched her slink across the screen, saying my favorite line ever from a movie: “You’re not very smart, are you? I like that in a man.” I also knew she’d been replaced by Kim Zimmer–I knew all of this because flipping through the channels one day I stopped on The Doctors because Kim Zimmer was on screen and I thought to myself, she’s really pretty and kind of reminds me of Jane Elliott–who’d played my favorite character on General Hospital, Tracy Quartermaine–and at first I did think it was Jane Elliott. I used to read Soap Opera Digest in those days, and shortly thereafter they did a piece on Kim Zimmer, which was when I learned about Kathleen Turner. (Interestingly enough, there was a strong physical resemblance between Zimmer and Turner as well; Zimmer appeared in the film in a supporting role as well)

Body Heat blew me away that first time I saw it; I watched it again when it debuted on HBO, and I try to watch it again periodically. It showed up when I was searching through HBO MAX, and last night I thought, as I waited for Paul to come home, why not? It was very tightly written as well; although last night I spotted a couple of holes in the plot–but the cast was fantastic an it moves so quickly and inevitably to its climax that you don’t really have time to catch those holes until you’ve watched it numerous times. You also have a pre-Cheers Ted Danson as the assistant prosecutor who is a friend of Ned Racine, the low-rent shitty lawyer played by William Hurt, and a very young and beautiful Mickey Rourke as Freddy, the arsonist client of his who holds several keys to the plot in his sexy hands, and of course, both Hurt and Turner at the peak of their youth and beauty.

As I watched Body Heat again last night, something else about the film struck me: it was the first time I can recall seeing a film where the camera sexualized a man in the same way it usually sexualized a woman. Hurt was shirtless or naked at least half of the time he appeared on screen, and his body–which was, for the time, quite spectacular–was shot lovingly by the camera. One of the sexiest sequences I’ve ever seen on film was one shot, where Hurt’s hook up for the night is getting dressed and he is lying in bed, naked, with a sheet draped over his groin but his left leg is uncovered, and you can actually see his naked hip, and the curve of his ass on the bed; it’s an incredibly sexy shot, and not the kind of thing that was standard for a male in a film of the time. He was meant to be seen as sexy and hot; and I don’t remember ever seeing that before in a movie; men were usually considered to be hot and sexy by dint of just being male in movies…I could, of course, be wrong, but at least that’s how I remember it. And as the 80’s progressed, what I call the “gay male gaze” began to be used to shoot beautiful actors more regularly–think about how Rob Lowe was sexualized in almost every movie he made, and it became more of a regular thing.

Body Heat inspired me to start writing noir, quite frankly. I had already read some James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Love’s Lovely Counterfeit), but as much as I loved his books it never occurred to me to start writing in that style. Body Heat, on the other hand, inspired a story I started writing called Sunburn (which was used by Laura Lippman as a title for her own noir homage to Cain a few years ago and is one of my favorite noirs), which eventually was retitled Spontaneous Combustion, and now sits in my files, waiting to be written. When I first moved to Tampa, and went for a drive along Bay Shore Boulevard, the big beautiful houses lining the road also inspired me; one in particular seemed the perfect locale for the story of the middle-aged wealthy widow who falls for a hot young man, which kicks off the story.

I’m reminded of that idea every time I watch Body Heat, and as I watched it last night, I thought about the noirs I want to write–a queer noir quintet–and as I write this I realize Spontaneous Combustion isn’t one of them.

Interesting. And on that note, I am off to the spice mines.