That’s My Impression

Wednesday morning and we’ve somehow survived to the midpoint of yet another week; another hellaciously hot week in July, for those of us here in New Orleans.

I rewatched Mildred Pierce the other night for the first time in years (how much do I love the TCM app on HBO MAX? A LOT) and as I watched–Crawford really was terrific in the part, and the movie is so well done it actually is an enjoyable experience (although I really wish, at the end, as Bert and Mildred walk out of the police station, he would have said to her,”Let’s get stinko!” the way he did in the book; it would have made for a better ending) and it could have easily lapsed into melodrama; in the hands of a lesser writer and director, it undoubtedly would have. But it also struck me, as I watched the film, how markedly different it is from its source material, James M. Cain’s masterful novel, and that most people remember the film more so than the book. Also, it’s incredibly rare for the film version of a novel to veer so drastically from the source material, while both book and film are considered classics (perhaps the other, and best, example of this is Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place, and the marvelous film version directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame; again, enormous changes but both are excellent in and of themselves.)

The most interesting thing to me, at least in recent years, about Mildred Pierce is the character of Veda. Veda is fascinating; the daughter as noir femme fatale, which is a fascinating turn on noir. Ann Blythe does a great job playing her in the film, and it’s been a hot minute since I’ve read the book (in the To Be Reread pile), so I don’t know or remember if in the book there are any explanations as to why Veda was so awful; and I worry that in my mind I’m conflating the film with the book. When I do get around to rereading the book, I am going to pay more attention to Veda. In the movie Bert comments in the beginning, that Mildred puts the children ahead of him as well as complains that Veda is spoiled…the younger daughter, Kay–soon to die tragically from pneumonia–is “worth more than Veda will ever be.” As I have pondered about Veda, I’ve wondered if in the book Mildred favored Kay and Bert favored Veda–which would of course cause resentment in Veda, towards both Mildred and Kay.

I really need to reread that book.

I went to the doctor yesterday–actually, I saw a nurse practitioner, as the new doctor I was assigned to when my old doctor moved to Utah didn’t stay with the practice when it was recently sold (it’s very complicated; I supposedly was sent a letter alerting me to these changes, but I never received it) and when I finally called them last week to try to get the mess straightened out (one of my 2020 goals was to get all my medical stuff handled and under control and to continue, moving forward, staying on top of this and my health–ha ha ha ha, as the old saying goes; man plans and God laughs)–but I was able to see a nurse practitioner yesterday and can I just say, damn? It was the most thorough examination I’ve ever had, she was asked lots of questions, and we talked about a lot of things. Usually, they’d take my vitals, “how you doing” and then boom, out the door. The nurse practitioner actually discussed things–my lengthy illness that came and went, starting at Carnival and ending recently–she had X-rays of my lungs and chest done; got the process started for both my colonoscopy and a mammogram (I have a lump in both pecs; they’ve been there for a long time and have never grown at all–the doctors always just said, “it’s a fatty cyst” and left alone; she was the first to say “well, why don’t we make sure that’s all it is”); I had an EKG done to make sure my heart is operating properly: she felt everywhere for lumps–underarms, groin, throat; checked out ears and nose–I mean, I actually felt like I got my money’s worth out of an exam for once. But my blood pressure was good for once, which was lovely, and after the lengthy discussion about my lengthy illness, she added a different test to my regular bloodwork, to check for septicemia; as some of the symptoms I experienced could have been from an infection of some sort that could still be lurking around.

Hey, I’m all for it. Like I said, my main goal for this year it to take better care of myself and take my health more seriously.

Last night we lost the wifi with eight minutes left of the season two finale of Dark, which, as you can imagine, was enormously frustrating. I cannot rave about this show enough; but the primary problem with talking about it is that it is hard to explain how intricately clever it is without giving away spoilers–and believe me, going in blind and knowing very little about the story is WAY fun. The writing is pinpoint, and as I said, I cannot imagine how much work it is keeping the relationships, the characters, and the storylines all straight because it’s very hard as a viewer. The one thing I can say–without spoiling anything–is there’s a cycle of disappearances of children; every thirty-three years–and so while the show begins primarily set in the present, like Stephen King’s It, eventually it begins to also show what happened thirty-three years before….and you have to remember, everything is always connected. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and smart. We’re really enjoying it.

I also took Cottonmouths with me to read while I was waiting at the doctor’s–you inevitably always have to wait, and I prefer to read rather than play on my phone–and it really is quite a wonderfully written novel. Kelly. J. Ford is an excellent writer with a very strong sense of place; and place is always important to me as a reader.

And now back to the spice mines.

We Came from Outer Space

Tuesday morning, and I am feeling human still–which is such a vast improvement over how I felt most of this year, quite frankly. I cannot believe how shitty I felt, and for how long, and somehow managed to operate and continue my life somehow. It’s so wonderful to feel like a human being again. I was telling a co-worker yesterday that part of it was the worry of it was just from getting older and it had happened so gradually I hadn’t noticed until it was so impossible to miss; and quite frankly the thought that the rest of my life was going to be just that low energy level of exhaustion where my muscles were so tired they were listless and all of my joints ached was almost enough to make me sob about the future and the rest of my life.

I worked on the Secret Project last night some more, although I am beginning to suspect that I will never be completely satisfied and will continue to fiddle with it ad nauseum ad finitum. It’s a lovely method of self-destruction I’ve managed to work into my brain that feels creative and like I’m working, when what I am actually doing is perpetually doubting myself and second-guessing everything I am doing with it.

But at least now that I’ve realized I’m self-sabotaging again, perhaps I can move on?

One would hope, at any rate.

Dark continues to be quite marvelous. It is absolutely riveting to watch, and it’s such a German show, with how it intertwines philosophy and science and grafts it onto an incredibly compelling (and tragic) human drama on quite a scale–which seems to grow even larger with every episode, particularly as all the secrets, long held and terrible, of the personal lives of the residents of the small town–secrets and lies and resentments–going back in some cases generations and decades, are slowly exposed. It’s quite good, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

As Paul said last night, “leave it to the Germans to come up with a show based in philosophy and science that is compelling.”

I have a doctor’s appointment, long postponed due to the virus, this afternoon; it’s a regular check-up thing and it is also tied to rescheduling my colonoscopy, which was supposed to take place in early April but again, was postponed. I need my prescriptions refilled, of course, and so that is an important part of my visit, and I am meeting with a nurse practitioner in the practice (my doctor is no longer there) who will also help me get reassigned to another doctor there. I was supposedly notified of all these changes by letter–I was not–and it took a while to get this all figured out and straightened out, but today I have an appointment that is another step in the right direction and I am quite pleased about it, frankly.

I am taking Cottonmouths with me to the doctor’s office to read during the interminable waits one must always endure when at the doctor’s office–which is one of the reasons I am so anal and resistant to making my clients wait at the day-job, frankly; it always feels like time wasted, and I hate wasting time when it’s not my personal choice to waste said time. At least having the book with me will help make me feel like the time is being spent productively, as reading is never a waste of time. I am disappointed in myself for taking so long to read this book–my TBR pile is far too large, and continuing to grow–which I want to emphasize has nothing to do with the quality of the book but everything to do with my inability to focus and concentrate (which is also why I am not being productive with my writing, either). S. A Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is on its way to me now, and I want to be able to read it as soon as I can–I read his first novel and greatly enjoyed it; this new one is getting a lot of buzz this summer, which indicates to me that it’s even better than the first, which was phenomenally good for a first novel–and of course, there are any number of other books in my TBR pile that are calling my name every day, begging to be read.

There’s also a part of me (that I am resisting) that keeps telling me I should sign contracts for the two in-progress manuscripts I have on hand, otherwise I shall never finish writing them. I have been thus far successful in resisting this urge, which would inevitably become the cause of great stress for me; but not having them finished and hanging over my head is also a stressor for me as well, so I suppose the question becomes, which stress would be greater? Inevitably, I am self-aware enough that each would be equally stressful, but whichever stress I choose I will eventually come to decide is greater than the other, unchosen one, would be.

Sometimes, self-awareness isn’t that terrific, quite frankly.

And now off to the spice mines. Enjoy your Tuesday, Constant Reader.

This Must Be The Place I Waited Years to Leave

Ah, Sunday morning, how are you doing out there, Constant Reader?

I spent some time, as I threatened yesterday morning, with the bottom drawer of my file cabinet. I found all kinds of interesting things in there–as well as a lot of junk. I also found something interesting–something I’d completely forgotten about; an episodic soap I wrote to entertain my friends in college that I called The Young and the Pointless. There were three seasons of four page episodes containing several scenes that would last about three paragraphs each; and while I’m not sure that’s necessarily as entertaining as it was back then–my friends used to hound me for new episodes, probably because I used them as the characters by using the metric “If so-and-so was a character on an actual soap, what kind of character would they be?” and it actually worked–seeing it reminded me of something I learned as a writing lesson from actually doing it: basically, that soap characters are basically archetypes (hero, heroine, bitch, bastard, anti-hero, etc etc etc) and that Agatha Christie was also right in her Miss Marple books about being able to recognize behavior from observing human behavior in the past. (Miss Marple’s shrewd and keen-eyes observations about human behavior was almost always spot on, and when I read the books as a teenager I didn’t believe this could be true–that it was a poetic, literary license Christie took. Marple would always starts off by giving some anecdote about someone she knew in the past, “She reminds me of the Fielding girl…” and compare how the Fielding girl’s behavior was something she recognized in someone current, and was inevitably right. The older I’ve gotten, the more I find that to be true.)

It’s funny, but I always think that I never really started writing until about 1998 or so; when I started Murder in the Rue Dauphine, but the truth is I was always writing, my entire life. And I have the ancient files to prove it.

I also kind of had the ambition to be a soap writer back then. Apparently, at some point in my life I’ve wanted to write everything, it seems. You name it, at some point I wanted to write it.

Yesterday was lovely; while it is very tempting to spend today working on the top drawer of the filing cabinet, I decided that is a one-day-per-weekend chore, and so I am saving the top drawer for next week. The end goal is to get rid of duplicate files–they are legion–as well as get rid of things I no longer have any need for. The organizing of the files is, of course, key; my goal is to get rid of almost all of these files cluttered around my desk and free up my inbox by moving things into an easily accessible system. I probably also should go through my files quarterly as a reminder of things that I don’t want to forget about; plus I found all kinds of things that could prove incredibly useful for current projects…and that is, quite frankly, lovely.

We finished watching the first season of Dark last night, and I must say, this show is quite extraordinary. The cliff-hanger at the end was pretty amazing, as well. We then watched Netflix’ Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga, which we really enjoyed for a silly movie about Eurovision–and the original music was fantastic. There was also an enormous production number at a party where several songs were mashed up together–“Believe” by Cher, “Ray of Light” by Madonna, “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson, and “Waterloo” by ABBA, if not more–which also featured former Eurovision winners and contestants that was quite marvelous. It’s not very deep, and sometimes it’s just silly (it is a Will Farrell movie, after all) but Rachel McAdams is quite exceptional. If she does her own singing, I am even more impressed–and there’s also a terrific cameo by Demi Lovato.

We are in a heat advisory this morning in New Orleans–hurray for July!–so I had planned on barbecuing later this afternoon, but am not sure it would be advisable for me to be outside in the heat around more heat, given the Dehydration Sickness of last month. Then again, I know how to handle that now, so there is that.

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

Was It Worth It?

I’ve always been a reader; my earliest (and most of the happiest) memories of my early years is of reading books that I deeply loved. I think it was the 4th grade where I really began to read series books of mysteries for kids; I’m not sure which was the first one, but it was either The Three Investigators’ The Mystery of the Moaning Cave or Trixie Belden’s The Read Trailer Mystery. When I discovered Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the rest, I decided I not only wanted to be a writer when I grew up but wanted to write a similar type series. I wrote my very first “book” in the fifth grade, called The Mystery of the Haunted Mansion, and of course it was really derivative and more of a pastiche; I don’t remember the name of my main character, but I had a friend type it up for me, and then I bound it inside cardboard and drew a cover for it (which I still remember; it was basically a rip off of the original cover for Nancy Drew’s The Ghost of Blackwood Hall). The concept of a mystery series for kids has never really left me, and always periodically came up again throughout my life…until I actually started writing seriously. About fourteen years ago I thought about it again; going so far as to actually come up with a series character…and it came up again in conversation with a friend who actually writes middle grade the other day (That Bitch Ford, to be exact) and the idea has continued to swirl in my head ever since. Yesterday morning, I went through my horribly disorganized file cabinet, looking for the file folder labeled KIDS’ SERIES and took it out of the file. Inside are yellowed pages of book synopses, lists of possible titles, characters, different series…and as I paged through it, I also found traces of things that eventually showed up in my work since I actually became a published writer: the name of a town, character names, etc.

But I moved the file from the cabinet and put it in my inbox; at some point, perhaps this weekend, I’ll start going through it and seeing what might actually be of use to me. It’s not something I’m going to work on now–heavens no, there’s still too much else I have to write that I am already behind on–but it’s something to think about for the future, for sure.

And as I glanced over some of the titles, some of them were clearly “inspired/influenced” by Scooby Doo Where Are You and Jonny Quest. One–The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost–may have even been used in the Ken Holt series; I’d have to check to be certain, but I definitely think so. (And yes, I know titles cannot be copyrighted; both Ken Holt and The Three Investigators uncovered The Secret of Skeleton Island, for example) And I literally just watched the Jonny Quest episode with the gargoyle last week (on my list of titles is The Mystery of the Stone Gargoyle), and there’s also one called The Mystery of the Lost Crusade–I have thought, for many years, about writing a Colin stand alone called The Lost Crusade–and now I see that I had come up with that very title at least fifteen years earlier, before it swam up to my consciousness again. And surely The Witch of the Swamp was inspired by a Scooby Doo Where Are You episode I rewatched lately, about a witch in a swamp. And there’s The Mystery of the Crying Nun–I currently have a short story in progress called “The Crying Nun” (it’s a New Orleans ghost story). And The Mystery of the Haunted Airport was definitely a rip-off of a Scooby gang adventure.

There’s even detailed character descriptions, and plot summaries for more than ten of the “books.”

Something worth exploring, since I have nothing else to do.

We watched another episode of Dark last night, and boy, you have to hand it to the Germans when it comes to atmosphere and creepiness. They are slowly but surely explaining what is actually going on in this little German town–we’re only two episodes in–and the lovely thing is it’s most likely, based on last night’s episode, nothing we were thinking it was going to be. I love shows that surprise you like this; Orphan Black was really good at this, and I love having no idea where the story is going or what could possibly happen next. Those shows inevitably end up being my favorites to watch.

I slept very well again last night, and am working from home today with a lot of things to get done for the day job as well as a lot of things to get done for various things this weekend–both writing wise and volunteer wise–and I also have to make groceries at some point this weekend as well. The summer weather has finally kicked into it’s usual high gear–I don’t know why it always blindsides me every year, but there you have it–and so going out into the heat to do anything is always an energy-suck and exhausting. I also want to get deeper into my reading of Kelly Ford’s wonderful Cottonmouths–I’m not sure why I am having so much trouble focusing on reading this summer, but there it is–and think next will be a reread of Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree. I’m also going to spend some time culling the books again this weekend, even though there’s no place for me to take them to donate because of the pandemic. I also need to take some bags of beads to the donation drop for those as well–which will also be a lot of fun in the heat, yay–but it’s just clutter, you know.

And the thing is I want to declutter, and it’s not like we’ll go the rest of our lives never getting more beads. Catching them is more fun than keeping them, anyway.

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

To Step Aside

AH, hello, Thursday, how are you doing?

Yesterday was a good day, despite paying the bills. I worked from home, made a lot of condom packs, and had some lovely, lovely phone calls. I also remembered why I stopped talking on the phone–I can talk for hours, and now that I used the headphones and can actually hear, yes, well, pity the poor fools I called to talk to yesterday. I talked endlessly.

The telephone–cell phone, whatever–is really a marvelous invention, truly.

See? Even a tired old Luddite like me can adapt and change and learn some new tricks.

We started watching a German series, Dark, last night on Netflix. It’s really quite good, even if we’re really not sure after one episode what it’s about. I suspected Germans would be particularly good with dark suspense shows, and the German language, as I said to Paul last night, is perfect for that creepiness because it’s such a guttural language. My German is so rusty as to be non-existent anymore, despite the years spent studying and learning it, but I was able to pick up a word every now and then. I was reading an article the other day that said the easiest way to learn another language was to watch a show in that language with English subtitles–that way you learn pronunciations and the rhythm of the language, and then watch shows in English with subtitles in that language–so you read the words in German while hearing them in English. It’s an interesting idea, and I’ve always regretted losing my German, so maybe I’ll give it a try. I tried learning Italian last year with Duolingo, and was doing their short lessons one per day, but then got behind during Carnival and never caught up. I’d love to be able to at least understand some Italian or German, in case we ever go to Europe ever again, but laziness and a lack of time will undoubtedly hold me back.

I’ve also slept well every night this week, which is lovely and undoubtedly a product of the lower levels of caffeine in my system every day. (I’ve probably jinxed it and that bitch Insomnia will probably return this evening.) But it’s lovely, and feeling actually rested this many days in a row has been wonderful. The Lost Apartment is also looking better, as I am trying to get the clutter decluttered and the house better organized. I’ve also decided to slowly begin to cull the books; it’s not easy and frequently, far too frequently, I will pull a book off the shelves, put it back, take it down, and so on and so forth for much longer than it needs to go on. But it’s also silly to keep hard copies of books I have electronically, no matter how much I may cherish the actual physical copy (it’s so much easier to take a book down off the shelf and page through it, find a scene I enjoy, and reread it; but I am also not doing that nearly as much as I used to and really, these books can find better, more deserving homes).

And the older I get, the far less likely it is that I will ever write the exploratory essays or non-fiction books to study a particular style of book/subgenre/writing. I’ve always wanted to do an in-depth look at the style and themes frequently explored in Gothics/romantic suspense novels; beginning with the Bronte sisters, Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. But the truth is there isn’t a market for that, really, and while it may be interesting to me, I don’t know that it would be interesting to readers. I’m also not an academic writer in any way shape or form; a bunch of literary writers did a live watch of the Anthony Minghella film of The Talented Mr. Ripley and while following it was interesting, a lot of the commentary was about things I never noticed in my many viewings of the film; themes and symbolism and so forth. Which, of course, is why I don’t write criticism; I always rolled my eyes in Lit classes when we studied these things and the professor would so condescendingly ‘explain’ the work to us; I’ve always rebelled against the academy and its mindset and how it tried to teach us how to re-learn how to read. Sure, I could play the game once I intuited what the professor was looking for in our essays and get good grades–I am, after all, a writer at heart and always have been–but as an adult and one who no longer needs to suck up to a professor and toe the line they’ve set for a grade, I have no desire to revisit that methodology and ruin the reading experience for myself–I don’t need to write lengthy articles delving into the themes and symbolism and so forth in fiction to publish for free in academic journals in order to get tenure; so why on earth would I waste my time doing so?

I write enough for free as it is, and every year I make the determination that I will stop–but inevitably, it always seems to happen anyway.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines for me. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, be safe and may all your dreams come true.

Silver Age

Well, that’s that; the Sherlock story is finished. I have turned in my author bio, an author’s note to go along with the story, and now just have to wait for the rest of the process to be completed. Over all, other than my initial stress over whether I could actually write a Sherlockian tale and my usual self-doubt that always comes up whenever I write anything, it was an overall terrific experience, and in fact, might even try my hand at another Sherlock story set in that same world–pre-World War I New Orleans. It really was quite fun, and I am even now thinking that perhaps more Sherlockian style stories could work very well in my Monsters of New Orleans collection I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time now.

Things to ponder. But often when something goes really well for me I tend to dip into the well again, with unpleasant and/or disappointing results. Perhaps it’s best to just take the win and be done with it.

Facebook memories showed me the cover of Murder in the Rue Dauphine (or rather, the original cover; it’s had three) yesterday along with my post that the book was 15 years old at the time of the cover posting. It rather staggered me to realize that my first novel would now be able to vote, were it an actual person…and I actually started writing the book in 1998; which is twenty-two years ago. That’s kind of staggering–and yet another reminder that yes, Greg, you’re old.

I’m already worn out and it’s only Tuesday, which certainly doesn’t bode week, does it? Heavy sigh. We’re still watching The Club, which only has two episodes left–we’ll undoubtedly finish that tonight and then get caught up on Perry Mason, leaving the decision of what to watch next till Wednesday night–and I’m kind of hopeful that today will be a better, less draining day than yesterday was; hope does, as I often say, spring eternal. The heat and humidity, missing over the weekend, also returned with a bit of a vengeance yesterday–which could have been a significant part of the feeling drained last night. We’re still in a flash flood watch until 7 pm tonight, so maybe it’ll rain a lot and cool things down briefly again. We did have rain yesterday, but it didn’t seem that bad at the office–which is not, as anyone who lives here knows, an indicator of how the rain is going in the rest of the city. It could be raining at the office and the sun shining at the Lost Apartment, for example.

I need to find the time and energy to write, quite frankly. I think part of my malaise in life–and why my temper is so short lately–has everything to do with not having the time or energy to write more. The only joy I’ve had in the last few weeks has been the editorial notes on “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and the overwhelmingly positive response from the editor to “Night Follows Night.” Writing is my happiness, really, even when it’s frustrating and going well; when I’m writing I am happy, usually–and happier when it’s going badly than I am when I am not writing. Whenever I am having a bad day–as yesterday was–whenever I am tired and angry and drained, what I really need to do is open something I’m writing that isn’t finished and work on it. It will always calm me, take me out of the bad mood, and put me back into a better place. My creativity needs an outlet, and when I deny that outlet and keep it inside of me, my moods and everything else always seem to suffer for it.

So, with that in mind, as I head into the spice mines for today, here are the opening paragraphs of my first-ever Sherlock pastiche.

In those first few years during which I shared the upper floors at 821 B Royal Street with Mr Sherlock Holmes, it was my custom to rise early in the mornings and take a walk on the earthen levee containing the mighty river. Holmes was by habit a late riser, rarely springing out of bed before the noon-time whistle rang along the waterfront, but taking such exercise was good for the damage to my leg caused by the wound – a souvenir of the Spanish War.

I enjoyed those quiet, early mornings, watching the ships sailing up the river to the docks from foreign ports, and the barges floating down the currents from points as far north as Cincinnati, St. Louis and Memphis, all while I strolled with my walking stick along the levee. Seeing the large bales of cotton being unloaded as the morning mists arose from the dark muddy water, the unloading of crates of coffee and bananas from the central American republics, I marveled each morning at the hubbub of activity that created and maintained this most curious of American cities, rising from the swamps like something from a forgotten myth.

After, I would adjourn to my favorite café, the Aquitaine, mere blocks from my home, where I would read the morning papers while enjoying coffee and Italian pastries.

This particular morning in early December, I cut my morning walk short. The temperature had dropped most precipitously overnight, and I had not chosen a heavy enough jacket. My leg ached terribly from the damp and the cold, and I limped along the banquettes to the café. My usual table was in the back, away from the hustle and bustle and smells of Royal Street. In those days, the French Quarter stank to high heaven, malignant odors hanging in the thick wet air from breweries and sugar refineries and, of course, seafood. Holmes often burned heavily scented candles in the various rooms of our apartments, particularly the parlor whose windows opened out onto our third-floor balcony facing Royal Street.

You Know Where You Went Wrong

Monday morning, and the weekend–well, I did manage to go over my edits on the Sherlock story (huzzah! And there were some absolutely lovely, ego-boosting comments in there from the editor as well) and so that was something, at any rate. I didn’t do much else of anything all weekend, other some volunteer work and a lot of nothing. But I am hopeful that this will be a productive week for one Gregalicious–hope always does spring eternal–and I do have some ideas for how to move forward on some things, so there is that.

I slept decently last night, and feel okay this morning–I suspect I’ll feel more tired later on, as it wasn’t a very deep sleep and I was awake before my seven o’clock alarm went off–and I am not groggy this morning, and let’s be honest–not groggy is always a plus around here.

I feel rested and ready to face the work week, which isn’t my usual Monday morning feeling, and I suppose that is an improvement over the usual Monday morning doldrums, frankly.

I did manage to get the edits on my Sherlock story finished and sent back last night–and to my delight, woke up to a lovely email from the editor this morning. Quick turnarounds from editors are not the norm, believe you me (typed the former editor apologetically), and it’s delightful to know that I can review the manuscript today over my lunch hour. And maybe–just maybe–I can get some writing and reading done every night when I get home from the office, or when I go off duty on the days I am working from home. I am starting to adjust to this reality–which means, of course, that undoubtedly it’s going to change and/or shift again at some point in the future. From what I am seeing on the news–which I try to avoid as much as possible; there’s only so much terrible news I can stand at a time–it appears that infections are rising and spreading rapidly again; and even in states whose governors were in denial for so long about the realities of a pandemic (pesky science anyway) are starting to wake up to the reality that they were wrong and are even admitting they were wrong; will wonders never cease?

I’m kind of disturbed at the interruption of my reading schedule, more so than anything else. I did go on a nice reread streak with the Kindle app on my iPad a month or so ago (time literally has no meaning anymore to me; it still is staggering that we are only going on month four of the pandemic) or whenever that was; I am having more trouble reading new-to-me fiction than I am rereading novels I’ve completely forgotten everything about (it was lovely rereading those Mary Stewart novels as though for the first time). Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths is actually quite marvelous, and the slowness of my reading of it has more to do with my inability to focus than any authorial fault of hers. The sense of place is very strong and real, and I am definitely already vested in her main character, and her unrequited love for her former best friend from high school. It’s a very timeless and real story–and I am really curious to see where it goes from these early chapters I’ve managed to focus on enough to read.

We’re still watching the lengthy first season of the Mexican show The Club, and are very close to the end–the first season has 23 or 24 episodes, and we finished episode 17 last night. These later episodes are also shorter–clocking in closer to half an hour than three quarters of an hour, as the earlier ones did.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines and send off some emails and delete some others before it’s time to hop in the shower.

One of the Crowd

And it’s now the fifth of July, and so far–at least for me–the second half of this annus horribilis is off to an okay start. Yesterday was oddly not humid or hot; there wasn’t much direct sunlight and even by noon I hadn’t been forced to turn on the portable Arctic Air coolers that have so far made life in the kitchen/office bearable; I remain, as ever, buried and behind in all of my work, which is to be expected, of course–par for it, actually. I am always behind and scrambling to catch up, and since my personality is this peculiar combination of Type A mixed in with almost chronic laziness, this will most likely always be my state of being.

The sun is out, however, this morning, and while it remains cool here in the Lost Apartment, there’s no telling how hot it perhaps might get in here later this afternoon. I accomplished very little yesterday, truth be told; I started working on “You Won’t See Me” and didn’t get very far, because it was wandering off into a different direction than where it was originally intended to go–it wasn’t until I quit writing in disgust and adjourned to my easy chair that I realized (or remembered)where I’d wanted to go with the story in the first place, so I made some notes and went back to reading Cottonmouths. Later we streamed a lot more of The Club, which has a rather lengthy first season–it’s been a while since I’ve seen a season of anything recent that runs for over twenty episodes–and an awful lot has happened. We’re finally into the mid-teens, and halfway finished with the show, which we are still enjoying. And Cottonmouths remains quite delightful.

I refuse to allow myself to give into despair this fair morning over what I wasn’t able to get accomplished over the last two days. This morning I feel, for want of better terms, not only vivacious but alive and rested. The clouds of exhaustion that have made my thinking not as clear have lifted, or so it seems at this very moment, and we shall see how this day turns out, won’t we? I hope to get quite a bit accomplished today–we have the clinic open the next two days–and I have been sleeping well lately. I’m actually feeling close to normal for the first time in months, and while mentioning it also has me concerned that I might be jinxing it in some way, it’s actually been quite lovely.

It is very difficult to not fall into the ease of despair with the news every day–hell, every day for the last few years, quite frankly. The pandemic is raging out of control and might not get better for a while; Florida, for example, has reported more new cases over the last eight days than Louisiana has had since it first arrived here (um, where are all those people claiming it was irresponsible for us to have Carnival NOW? Cavorting on the beaches in Florida?), and as the crisis seems to continue to deepen rather than get better, the return to normality everyone seems to want gets pushed further and further back because of selfishness, frankly. As I joked to Paul yesterday about not getting much writing done yesterday, “What’s the point of writing anything new when who knows if there will even be a publishing industry next year?”

I’ve not, to be honest, thought much about my writing career this year, or at least since March. It was lovely being nominated for a Lambda Award–it’s been years since the last time–but I also knew once I saw Michael Nava’s name on the short-list I didn’t have a prayer of winning. But the nominations are always nice. I have thought about writing more Scotty books–I did leave their personal story on a cliffhanger in Royal Street Reveillon, after all–but there are two manuscripts in the hopper I need to finish first, and I want to work on Chlorine next. I need to get this Secret Project finished and out of my hair in order to get back to the two manuscripts–I’ve solved the issues with Bury Me in Shadows over the course of the pandemic–and I’ve also solved the plot issues with the Kansas book while I’ve essentially been too distracted and too exhausted and too ill to actually do any actual writing. My goal for this week–and yes, the week, not today–is to get that proposal finished; get a couple more of these stories under control and/or closer to finished; and if I have a highly productive week, to take next weekend off again to rest and recharge while trying to make some progress in the TBR pile. I want to reread another Perry Mason novel–I have The Case of the Calendar Girl in a hardcover I found in a used bookstore sometime during my travels over the past few years, and watching the new HBO Perry Mason has made me want to reconnect with the original character again–and I also want to get back into reading through both the John D. MacDonald and Ross MacDonald and Margaret Millar canons; which will help me get into a place where I will be able to get Chlorine written sooner rather than later. I also have some Dorothy B. Hughes novels on hand I’ve not read as well…and of course, there’s the Diversity Project to get back to at some point, in addition to the Short Story Project. I have Sara Paretsky’s short story collection on its way, as well as the latest Lawrence Block anthology, which I think is called In the Darkling Halls of Ivy (I could be wrong but it’s something like that), and of course, I still have his previous anthology on my side table, untouched.

So much to read, so much to watch, so little free time in which to do it all–and that includes, I might add, so little time to write everything I want to write before I die.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I certainly hope that I do.

Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

And a happy 4th of July to you, too, Constant Reader.

It’s always bothered me that people consider this our national birthday, when it’s really not. July 4th is actually Independence Day; when the Declaration of Independence began to be signed and we officially shrugged off the yoke of the British Empire. Independence was, of course, qualified; it was independence for white men, naturally; women still were second-class, and no slaves were freed with this declaration. It would take almost another hundred years before the abolition of slavery; 150 for women to get the right to vote; and full equality with the straight white man is still a dream to be fought for in our laws and courts and hearts. But we can celebrate the ideal that was established by the flawed founding fathers, who were, as are all men, imperfect–no matter what the mythology we are taught from birth claims.

And it cannot be denied that our country was built over the bones and blood of the indigenous people whose land was taken from them.

So, there will be political speeches, and fireworks displays, and firecrackers going off and scaring pets pretty much the entire day. There will be picnics and barbecues and no mail delivered. Flags and parades and patriotism on display wherever you look. Hell, even I’m going to light some charcoal and cook out later today. But the United States is generally incapable, as a nation, of self-reflection and critical analysis of its past, present, and future; such is seen by a segment of the population as a lack of patriotism (because somehow blind allegiance to a party and its members, as well as slavish devotion to the symbols of democracy, rather than to the democracy itself, is somehow seen as true patriotism) and derided. But it is only through self-criticism, critique, and reflection that the democracy grows stronger with mistakes corrected and the course reset.

For no one is truly free and equal until all are free and equal.

I took yesterday as a day of rest; I answered some pressing emails in the morning and then walked away from my computer. I watched Hamilton (see other blog post) which was truly delightful; we finished Season Two of Titans, which was also marvelous, and Dick Grayson finally emerged from the shadow of Robin and donned the Nightwing costume in the finale (Season 2 was so much better than Season 1, and I liked Season 1; cannot wait for Season 3); and then we moved onto a Mexican series called The Club, which was highly entertaining and fun. We’re not even halfway finished with it, either, so we have several more nights of cheesy fun as our heroes establish themselves as Ecstasy dealers to the upper class of Mexico City–and the lead, Pablo, is absolutely gorgeous.

It was lovely having a relaxing day, as it always is; one in which I cast aside my cares and worries, and simply get lost in being entertained. I slept well again last night–I have quite a streak of that going now, which is absolutely lovely–and so now today, I am going to spend the day the way I usually spend my second day of the weekend–reading, writing and cleaning. The sink is filled with dirty dishes, and the dishwasher is also full (of clean dishes, that must be put away) and at some point this weekend I need to buy a new broom, clean the filter in the vacuum cleaner, and actually clean the floors. Today I am going to work on some in-progress short stories, while tomorrow I am going to work on the Secret Project (it would be lovely to get it finished tomorrow, and sent off to the publisher, but you know how that usually winds up). I also want to spend some time with Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, perhaps even finishing it, which would be lovely; I really need to get back into the swing of reading every day, else I have no prayer of ever getting caught up on the always-growing TBR pile.

I’m not sure what stories I am going to work on today, to be honest. There are several which are finished in the first draft form and need to be revised, things added and changed; still others are incomplete and need to have a first draft finished in order to get things worked on a bit. I was thinking about trying to take on “Please Die Soon,” “Gossip,” and “You Won’t See Me”; but there are any number of others that are simply begging to be finished. I’ve also got those novellas in progress–four or five, at last count–and it would be lovely to make some sort of progress on some of those as well. I also am quite aware I am most likely being overly ambitious here; laziness will inevitably seep into my bones at some point and I’ll just say the hell with it and walk away from my computer.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Wish me luck.

The Night I Fell in Love

And now begins the three day weekend. Yay!

It’s also July now, as one can tell by the tropical weather experience New Orleans is currently enjoying; heat index averaging high nineties over a hundred everyday, your occasional heat advisory (“stay indoors if at all possible”), thunderstorms and flash flood warnings out of nowhere and some Sahara sand storm dust thrown in for shits and giggles.

I finished watching the only season of the original Jonny Quest yesterday while making condom packs, and I have to say, the original writers of this show had some serious issues with Asians, and most especially the Chinese. It’s unusual that in a decade and time period when the Cold War was particularly chilly–it originally aired only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and in prime time that single season–the Russians were never the villains. Dr. Quest’s arch enemy was the evil Chinese scientist Dr. Sun; and in several episodes the villains were Chinese. They also had a remarkable number of adventures in Asia–China, Taiwan, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Nepal; and the natives were always either evil or horrible stereotypes (as were any jungle natives they encountered in either South America or Africa). Hadji, a series regular, was a particularly stereotypical magical Indian youth–who managed to charm snakes, levitate others, and numerous other magic tricks while chanting “Heem, heem, salabeem” or some such nonsensical thing. He was always in a turban and Nehru jacket, and even in beach scenes, when the others wore swim trunks, he wore a Gandhi loincloth. Why?

I also watched a couple of episodes of Scooby Doo Where Are You, and despite the simplistic, casual racism of Jonny Quest, it’s still the superior show. I’ve not watched any of the later reboots of Jonny Quest–the one from 1986 shows up on HBO MAX as the second season, and in the mid-nineties The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest launched, with the boys aged to teenagers from eleven year olds, and Race’s daughter added to the mix (I guess to deflect the deep queerness of the original); the animation in this version is perhaps the best of all three versions–with Race finally achieving his full muscle-god bodyguard perfection–but whenever I’ve tried to watch, the “it’s not really Jonny Quest” disappointment always sets in and I stop watching.

We also got deeper into Season 2 of Titans, and it gets better and better with every episode, frankly. The Jericho story is particularly heartbreaking; and I love that they are using the second season (with some continuity errors) to explore how the team came to break apart in the first place (the show begins with the Titans already broken up, and them coming back together to confront the big bad of Season One) and how, essentially, all the action of Season One really was set into motion. It’s very exceptional story-telling, frankly, and the plotting and pacing is, for the most part, superb. Also superb is the addition of several new cast members: Rose Slade, Conner Kent, and Deathstroke as the big bad, with Aqualad appearing briefly as set up for the original conflict between the Titans and Deathstroke. We only have two episodes left, and I was glad to see the show was renewed for a third season already…although, given the pandemic, who knows when it will ever be filmed or when it will actually air.

Today, as I already mentioned earlier this week, is the day I am taking off. I have some emails to respond to, and some other things I need to get done this morning, but as soon as I get all of that done I am going on sabbatical for the rest of the weekend. I want to get a lot of writing done this weekend–the Secret Project must be finished, and there’s a couple more short stories in progress I want to work on and develop, but today for the most part I’m planning on mostly cleaning and reading and chilling out, so I can just let my brain relax and recuperate and my body to rest, so that the rest of the weekend I can get the writing I need to get done finished. I am looking forward to getting back into Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths–the first chapter was blistering–and getting through all the emails in my inbox. I also have my edits for the Sherlock story, which I’ll also have to get through this weekend–perhaps today–I am giving myself until one to deal with the Internet and emails and so forth before shutting down for the holiday weekend.

It’s very strange outside this morning, neither light nor dark but sort of grim-looking and hazy. The trees aren’t moving so there’s no wind of any kind out there. I’m not sure what the weather is supposed to be like today–there’s usually not much point in checking the forecast as it’s inevitably always the same–hot humid chance of rain–and usually, after June, we surrender to it and don’t bother with daily updates and just start paying attention to tropical formations and depressions coming across the Atlantic or forming deep in the Gulf. It isn’t hot in the kitchen/office this morning yet–the absence of the blindingly brilliant morning sun has helped, and I haven’t had to turn on the portable Arctic Air coolers yet (but I know it’s inevitable), but it actually feels pleasantly cool down here this morning thus far, which is rather nice, quite frankly.

I still have three stories out for submission (“The Snow Globe”, “Moves in the Field,” and “This Thing of Darkness”), but I do want to spend the summer trying to get more out there. One of the biggest disappointments I’ve found as a writer is the continual drying up of short story markets that actually pay, and while others have sprung up in their place they either don’t pay, or pay so little as to just be a token (and might as well be unpaid, for that matter). I’ve always been concerned about the decline of the short story market, because I do think the form is important to literature, and to crime fiction in particular. I personally love the short form–despite my constant struggle with it–and I also know I am just as guilty as anyone in its decline, because I don’t read them as much as I should. I do buy anthologies and short story collections–Sara Paretsky’s is winging its way to me even as I type this, along with the new one edited by Lawrence Block–and I am probably going to be putting together another one of my own at some point over the next year or so (provided the world doesn’t burn to the ground in the meantime). I was calling it Once a Tiger and Other Stories, but I have to completely rethink the title story, “Once a Tiger,” and so I may need to rename it. I would also like to include some of these stories I’ve recently sold–which will delay the collection more, as the original publications have to occur first, but I was thinking perhaps The Carriage House and Other Stories, or Night Follows Night and Other Stories. I also would love to collect all my love story/romance short stories into an edition–I’ve published three or four, but have a lot more just sitting in files needing to be revised or rewritten or finished.

And on that note, I am going to head back down into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, everyone.