Send One Your Love

Monday morning and the living is sort of easy….but wait–that’s not how the song goes, is it?

Whatever.

I worked very hard yesterday on the Scotty revision, and it’s coming along quite well, if I do say so myself. It always feels good to dive into the work and make it better–one would think by now I would remember that, other than seeing it as an odious chore–and I am feeling quite pleased with myself. If I keep this up, it’ll be done in no time. GEAUX GREG!

And speaking of GEAUX, New Orleans had an enormous celebration all over the city for the Saints, honoring them for a terrific season. We made national news…and got some snark from trash that just doesn’t get it. New Orleans is the Saints, the Saints are New Orleans. Not only do we love our team here, they love us back. Why else would former Saints players sign a one-day contract in order to retire as Saints? Just as LSU is Forever LSU, once a Saint, you’re always a Saint. The year of the Super Bowl, that Saints Parade before Carnival? We were going to have it, win or lose. If the Colts won, we’d celebrate the Saints’ terrific season and making the Super Bowl. Winning the Super Bowl made the celebration that much sweeter. Unlike other fans, we support our team and are grateful for great seasons no matter how they end…and there’s always a crowd at the airport to greet them when they return from away games. Always. Win or lose, there’s a crowd at the airport.

Can other fandoms say that?

Don’t hate us because you ain’t us.

I slept fairly well last night, and so am doing okay this morning…I am learning the value of going to bed early at long last. We watched Hereditary last night, which was…interesting. I can see why people like it, but I can also see why people don’t.

I am also still reading Devil in a Blue Dress, and savoring it.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Brass in Pocket

Sometimes I wonder if the Internet is a good thing.

I find that I waste more time on it than I probably should, and it often sucks me in when I have other, more pressing things to do…but then I can’t tear myself away and when I finally can, I’m no longer in the mood for the writing or editing or whatever it is that I need to do. This used to happen back in the day when I had to use AOL to even log onto the Internet through my dial-up modem, and I’d wind up wasting hours chatting with friends through instant messages. I finally had to ban myself from chatting on-line, but then of course the Internet changed and turned into social media and now it’s the same thing, over and over again–Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I get lost in there for hours.

So today, after I share this on Facebook and Twitter, I am closing down my social media for the rest of the day–or at least until I get everything done that I want to get done today. Paul’s working at the office so I am home alone. I did the laundry last night, went to the grocery store (seriously, getting up early and putting my hours in at the office in the morning is clearly the way to go in the future; I went to the library, picked up the mail, and went to the grocery store. Then I came home, put everything away, cleaned the kitchen, and started the laundry…all by five thirty. How lovely is that?

Pretty damned lovely, I think.

So, today I am going to put together the proof corrections and send them off. After that, I am going to revise the new Scotty. I’ve really been dragging my feet on this, and I really just need to get it together and get it done. If I keep my head down and stay focused, I can get this finished in practically no time.

Why is it so hard for me to get started?

More of that self-defeating thing, methinks.

I’ve also started reading Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, and might I just say, wow. Yes, I am loving it, and can’t wait to get back to it. It’s very hard-boiled in its writing style–think both MacDonalds (John D. and Ross) and also very Chandler-esque. I couldn’t be more pleased. I met Walter when he gave the keynote at SinC Into Good Writing in New Orleans a few years ago; a very nice man. I was also there the night he was named a Grand Master at the Edgars by the Mystery Writers of America. I can’t believe–and am more than a little ashamed–that it’s taken me this long to get around to reading him….and there’s an enormous backlist to enjoy as well.

I also got an advanced reading copy of Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister yesterday in the mail; part of my Tennessee Williams Festival homework. I’ll start reading those works in March, as I start preparing for the panel, and am also truly looking forward to this. Moderating panels is usually an excruciating experience for me; I am always shaking and sweating and looking at my watch to try to estimate how much time is left and wondering how I am ever going to fill that time. But I shall persevere.

I’m almost finished with watching the first season of Titans, and am really enjoying it. It’s getting better as the season progresses, and it started out pretty well. I was right, this season is about the evolution of Dick Grayson from Robin to Nightwing, and I’m really looking forward to that final transformation. Nightwing has always been one of my favorite superheroes…and I can’t wait to see the costume finally arrive in live action. Last night’s episode introduced us to Donna Troy aka Wonder Girl (which was also pretty fucking awesome) and the next episode is the origin story for Hawk and Dove, before the story goes back to the one the season has followed. I’ll probably watch that tonight in fact–as a treat should I get all the things done that I need to get done today….I’m already feeling lazy which is not a good thing.

Ah well.

And on that note it is back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Pop Muzik

Friday, and a new month. Rabbit, rabbit, and all that, you know.

Or did I mess that up by typing something else first?

I’m so bad at these things.

Anyway, it is now February, and Carnival is just over the horizon. Parades literally start three weeks from today. #madness

I am taking vacation during most of the parade season; the new office is too far for me to walk to and from, so I decided to simply take vacation and actually enjoy parade season for a change. I should also be able to get a lot done during those days–kind of like a mini-staycation (although I loathe that not-a-word and can’t believe I still use it from time to time). I also can’t believe the first night of the parades is in three weeks. THREE WEEKS.

Of course, as Facebook seems to remind me on an almost daily basis, Carnival is late this year. Usually at this time parades are rolling and the city is full of tourists and I am exhausted from walking and working and going to parades. So, yes, Carnival is later this year than usual and yet somehow…it still snuck up on me? Go figure.

I finished reading The Klansman last night, but as I did some things occurred to me–namely, for a book about the Civil Rights struggle and racism in Alabama, there sure weren’t many characters that were people of color. Yes, a book about civil rights and racism placed the white people at the center of the story. Admittedly, the book wasn’t aimed at or written for people of color; the audience was white people…but I can’t see racist white people in the 1960’s reading the book and not being outraged by its “sympathetic” depictions of people of color. The book also sports the trope of the white savior–the “good white man” who stands up for the people of color and therefore becomes a target of the Klan.

There’s a really good essay–and one I might try to write–about the arc from The Clansman (the horribly offensive novel that Birth of a Nation was based on; it’s actually available for free from Google Books) to Gone with the Wind to The Klansman and how Southern people and authors rewrote history to not just romanticize and glorify the Southern Cause in the Civil War, but also the Ku Klux Klan; and how those narratives have changed perceptions not only of the war and racism, and the South itself. The Klansman is an attempt to reverse that trend, but to expose racism in the Jim Crow South not as something romantic and necessary, but as an evil on par with the original sin of slavery itself.

William Bradford Huie (who also wrote The Americanization of Emily, The Revolt of Mamie Stover, and The Execution of Private Slovik) deserves a lot of credit for writing this book, despite its flaws. He was born and raised in Alabama, and still lived there when he wrote and published this book–which couldn’t have earned him a lot of fans in the state. I’ve read any number of books by white people that have attempted to talk about the Civil Rights movement–and there are always these heroic white Southern people who stood up to the Klan and fought for the rights of people of color at great risk to themselves and to their families; as well as pushing the narrative that the real racists in the South were the working class and poor whites, while the middle and upper classes wrung their  hands with dismay but didn’t try to do anything. I think that narrative is false; white people aren’t the heroes of the Civil Rights movement by any means. And while class certainly played a huge part in Jim Crow and the codification of segregation and racism into law; I find it really hard to believe that more financially stable white Southern people weren’t racists. I first encountered the class discussion in David Halberstam’s The Fifties (which I do highly recommend); but while I do believe the class discussion has merit–and discussion of class/caste in America is way overdue–I don’t think it completely holds water, or holds up under close scrutiny.

Ironically, Jim Crow and codified racism is part of the reason the South lags so far behind the rest of the country economically.

We continue to ignore class in this country at our own peril, quite frankly.

I am going into the office early today to get my four hours out of the way, and then I am going to go run errands so hopefully I won’t have to leave the Lost Apartment this weekend. I hope to get all the cleaning and organizing done today, and then I am most likely going to either read Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress or Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, which I am picking up at the library today. I also am going to tackle some Stephen King short stories this weekend, rereading Skeleton Crew. I need to get back to work on both the Scotty book and the WIP this weekend; I also want to do some short story revisions so I can send some more stories out for submission. I also have some other projects in the beginning stages I’d like to organize and plan out.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines. Have a terrific Friday, Constant Reader!

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Coward of the County

Thursday! Didn’t think we’d make it this far, did you, Constant Reader?

Yesterday was cold–not as cold as it is pretty much everywhere north of I-10–but today’s not so bad. Forecast to be in the fifties with a high of 61, the sun is out and the sky is blue and full of puffy white clouds. I only have to work a half-day today and tomorrow, so I’ll be sliding into the weekend relatively casually.

I finished proofing Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories last night, and now just have to fill out the corrections form to turn in. I also watched another episode of Titans, which introduced us to Jason Todd, aka Robin 2.0, and the show has done an excellent job of casting and writing this character. The young actor who plays him–I didn’t take the time to look up who he is–is pitch-perfect; even more so than the actor playing Dick Grayson. Titans is so well-done that DC Universe really needs to use it as a guide for any other super-hero team shows it might do; so much better than Legends of Tomorrow, which I was very excited about but lost interest in very quickly; I think I only watched two episodes.

I really do miss Agent Carter.

I also read more of The Klansman yesterday, and while it is still wince-inducing, it’s actually really good–or so I think. The horror of the racism and sexism of 1965 Alabama is incredibly difficult to read, but it is in-your-face, pull-no-punches honest….a lot more honest, frankly, than To Kill a Mockingbird, which I also read for the first time the same summer I read The Klansman. One of the things the author, William Bradford Huie (who was from Alabama and lived there) does really well is pull aside the pleasant mask most racists were and expose the ugliness underneath, while also showing their humanity; a humanity that exists despite their malignant beliefs and values.

Take, for example, this paragraph:

The Atoka Hospital was the most visited institution in Atoka County. This was because the people of the county were friendly. Each day the local radio station broadcast the names of the patients admitted the previous day, so whenever a person remained in the hospital for several days he could count on being visited by most of his relatives, many of his friends, even a few of his casual acquaintances. But this visiting was not interracial. Whites visited whites; Negroes visited Negroes. In the first twenty years of the hospital’s existence, from 1945 to 1965, no white man, unless he was a doctor or a policeman, visited a Negro patient. A few white women visited their Negro cooks. But certainly no white man ever visited a Negro girl. So when Breck Stancill, after hearing Dr. Parker’s report, visited the private room occupied by Loretta Sykes at 11:20 pm, he gained invidious distinction and caused ugly talk.

(aside: I am really glad the word negro has passed out of usage; as you can see from the above paragraph, it was commonly accepted in the 1960’s and was preferred to the n word and colored. Huie also used the n word liberally throughout the book, but it’s always used in dialogue by racist characters and never in the prose, unless the prose is going inside the character’s head.)

This is the kind of world that racists want us to return to; one where ‘whites’ are superior and separated (above) from other ‘races.’ This book is set in 1965 Alabama; and I was four years old at the time. This was the world I was born into, this existed and changed during the course of my lifetime. Huie perhaps does one of the best jobs I’ve ever read of writing about the reality of racism and segregation; and by humanizing his racists he makes them all the more horrible to contemplate; the three-dimensional monster is always more frightening than the one-dimensional.

I’ll probably finish reading the book tonight, since I get off work early, and I am taking voluminous notes…but probably won’t review the book until this weekend.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Too Hot

Tuesday and the world has gone mad.

Polar vortexes and wind chills around fifty below! New Orleans in a freeze warning with the possibility of snow! Madness, sheer madness.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. It was so lovely, and I’m so happy, that Susanna Calkins was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Short Story for her contribution to Florida Happens, “A Postcard for the Dead.” It’s an absolutely wonderful story, too, an I couldn’t be happier for Susanna, who was an absolute delight to work with and whom I finally met at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg this past year. One of the things I love about being a part of the mystery or crime writing community is how many truly wonderful people are also a part of it, which always makes Bouchercon a wonderful experience for me. I always see old friends, meet new people and make new friends, and I always have the best time. For someone who is used to hiding out in his apartment most of the time being antisocial, Bouchercon and the Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners weekend are seriously over-stimulating; I have a blast but when it’s all over I am drained and exhausted. Happy and still aglow, usually inspired to write, but drained and exhausted nonetheless. All of the Agatha nominees are terrific writers I admire; congrats to everyone.

I managed to proof read the first fifty pages of Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories; remember talking the other day about much I hate reading my own work? What’s interesting–let’s face it, I find myself fascinating–is that I often find myself using the same phrase, or turn of phrase, in more than one short story; which is something I wouldn’t be aware of writing them at different times over the years, and I would never sit down and reread all my short stories all at once. I know that I have a tendency to write about men with black hair, tanned olive skin, and green eyes; dimples also show up often in male characters in my work (Colin in the Scotty series hits all that criteria, and so did Paul in the first two Chanse novels). I also write about my neighborhood, the Lower Garden District, a lot in my short stories (in the novels, Chanse and Paige live in this neighborhood; Scotty lives in the Quarter); in fact, two of the first five stories are set less than three blocks apart. I also tend to use similar names a lot–David is a particular favorite of mine to call my characters; I also use Gary and Tony a lot.

I probably should pay more attention to this than I do.

I also started reading  The Klansman on Sunday night; and it’s not an easy thing to read. I only read a single chapter, and it took me a while. I kept getting memories, memories of the time period the book is set in as well as the summer I read it; a hot, damp Alabama summer with no air conditioning. It’s interesting because that is the setting for the WIP, and so I kept putting the book down so I could scribble down some memories in my journal, things to use for the WIP should I ever get to the point where I can work on it again. What the book is about you can pretty much guess given the title, and it’s hard to read. I don’t remember much of the book; I remember reading it, and I do remember it making me think about the things the book talked about; thinking about them in a different way than I had before. I’ve remembered the book my entire life, but have never gone back and reread it; the copy I read wasn’t mine and I never thought to look for a copy whenever I haunted any bookstore. I’m interested in the period, and I am interested in the pop culture of the period; a short story I am currently working on, “Burning Crosses,” made me think of this book again–and of course, the Internet makes everything easy. I got a first edition hardcover from Ebay for less than five dollars, and my decision to read it again now, as part of the Diversity Project, is because I want to know if the book will make me think as much as it did when I was nine or ten….or if my own values and morality have changed enough from then that I won’t view it in the same way.

But…it’s difficult to read. Not that it isn’t well written; it’s too well-written, if you get what I mean.

And now, back to the spice mines. Stay warm, Constant Reader!

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Longer

There are few things more excruciating than being forced to reread one’s own work.

Seriously.

 I think that’s part of my resistance to editing my own writing; I hate to reread my own work. There’s nothing that quite makes you feel like a failure than reading your own work. I think it’s another reason I have so much anxiety about doing public readings, and it’s probably why I’ve never made my Scotty or Chanse Bibles–which would require me rereading all the books. Sometimes, sure, I will reread something I’ve written  and think, damn, this is better than I remember but most of the time I cringe and wish I  had a chance to revise it again.

So, yes, if you’re wondering, this means I spent some time trying to revise things yesterday.

Yesterday was a good day. I ran my errands successfully in the late morning/early afternoon; came home and made potato leek soup in the slow cooker (do we no longer call them crockpots anymore?); and then did some cleaning and organizing (there’s still some more filing to do this morning–never fear, it’s an endless task) before sitting down in my easy chair to watch the figure skating championships. I have a special soft spot for the ice dancing team of Joe Johnson and Karina Marta–she recently came out, so they are the first queer team of ice dancers to skate as openly queer, and their number was spectacular.

I also watched another episode of Titans last night, and was pleased to see it end with the appearance of Jason Todd, aka new Robin. This of course means old Robin, Dick Grayson, will probably be soon transforming into Nightwing sometime in this series. This is a storyline turn I can completely endorse; Dick was dull as Robin and didn’t become interesting to me as a character until he became Nightwing, after which he was one of my favorite DC Universe characters. I am also hoping they’re going to add Wonder Girl/Donna Troy to the cast soon….but this season seems to be about the creation of the team, so my fingers are indeed crossed.

I continue to read  Last Seen Leaving, and it’s a charming book; Caleb Roehrig does an excellent job of capturing the main character’s voice; the confusion and fear of realizing you’re gay as a teenager but not wanting to tell anyone–or rather, being afraid to tell anyone, that deathly terror that someone might figure it out, that you’ll lose all your friends and your life will go down the toilet. This might be the first time I’ve read something that captures that so perfectly–taking me back forty years to when I was a terrified, closeted teen afraid to trust anyone. I hope to finish reading it today before moving on to The Klansman.

This morning I plan to clean out my email inbox at long last–I don’t know why I am so resistant lately to answering emails and so forth; it makes little to no sense to me. It’s more, I suppose, along the lines of I really don’t want to deal with this but after I clean up the mess left from making the potato leek soup last night, I am going to dive into my multiple inboxes to clear all this shit out. I also want to make a to-do list of what absolutely has to get done this week; my brake tag, for example, expires on Thursday so I need to go get a new one, and I keep forgetting that needs to be done. Heavy heaving sigh.

It feels cold again this morning, and the sun is hidden behind clouds. I get so tired of this weather here….and Facebook memories keeps reminding that in past years Carnival was going on during this time. It’s so weird to see old pictures of me in T-shirts and shorts out on the parade route in the sun when it’s cold now. But I guess, given the fact that many parts of the country are colder than Alaska and the Arctic, I shouldn’t complain because it could be so very much worse.

My streak of sleeping well continued again last night, which was lovely. I feel very rested today, just in time to have my two long days in a row. Huzzah? Ah, well, as long as I get a good night’s sleep on Tuesday night for Wednesday I can muddle through somehow.

And now, Constant Reader, I thank you, but it’s time to return to the spice mines.

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No More Tears (Enough is Enough)

Good morning, and welcome to another cold January morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have some errands to run later today–later this morning, to be exact–and then I am spending the rest of the day holed up inside reading, cleaning, and probably watching figure skating on the television. We did watch the ladies’s final last night, which was quite fun, and am looking forward to seeing the competitions today. The European championships have also been going on this past week, so it’s all saved on Hulu for us to watch at our leisure. The Australian Open is also still happening–so much sport!–and so there’s that as well. I do want to finish reading my book today, and I want to read a short story, and start reading my next book as well.

And tomorrow I am cleaning out my email inbox if it kills me, and it just might.

I slept really well again last night–that’s three consecutive nights of good sleep, which is amazingly lovely.

Yesterday was also kind of a crazy day in the world, although it’s pretty safe to say that everyday has been kind of a crazy day for a while now. As I said to Paul the other night, “it’s like world politics has turned into Game of Thrones, only much scarier because it’s real.” And I know, world politics has always been very Game of Thrones, it’s just never been so obvious and apparent.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost February already, but there you have it and there it is. Carnival hovers on the horizon, and the Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners is just behind it. I am moderating a panel this year with Alafair Burke, Samantha Downing (My Lovely Wife) and Kristien Hemmerechts (The Woman Who Fed The Dogs) so I have some homework for that as well.

So much good reading to look forward to! Art Taylor also very graciously, along with Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, made a pdf of his Edgar nominated short story “English 398: Fiction Workshop” available on-line, which I downloaded and look forward to reading. Art’s a terrific writer and a master of the short story (when I was nominated for the Macavity for “Survivor’s Guilt”, Art was the winner, and his story was amazing), and it’s always terrific to read one of his stories. (Hint hint: Art, how about a short story collection? Hint hint.)

I’m also going to dissect some short stories I am in the process of editing–unless I get lazy again. I rarely do this when I am editing/revising short stories, which makes my short stories actually kind of hit or miss; if the story works, it’s because I simply got lucky with it. But I think if I actually break the story down into what it’s about, and who the characters are and why they are the people they are, more of my stories would probably work. It’s a theory, at any rate, and there’s nothing I love to do more than break down my work and put it back together again (I’m being sarcastic, if you couldn’t tell).

And on that note, I am heading out into the frigid cold to get my errands out of the way before coming home to mine spice.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

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