Songbird

Thursday!

My back, while still a little tight, is more irritating than painful; it’s at that stage where it is so close to not hurting at all anymore that it’s annoying that it hasn’t stopped, if that makes sense at all? I ran errands on my way home from work yesterday–mail and a prescription–and then came home, did a load of dishes, and then collapsed into my chair with the heating pad. I am taking it to work again with me this morning–more heat can’t hurt, after all, and the office is cold–and hopefully will wake up tomorrow morning feeling ever so much better. We got caught up on House of the Dragon last night–it’s getting better, but man was it ever getting off to a slow start–and it’s not as big and epic as Game of Thrones was; it’s more contained, with fewer characters and fewer story-lines, for one thing–and then we watched Archer (it really misses Jessica Walter; Mallory Archer was too great of a character for the show to do without) before calling it a night and heading for bed. I slept well again last night–only woke up a few times–and my back felt better when I got up…but it is slowly starting to make itself known, so yes, definitely bringing the heating pad to the office with me this morning.

I was thinking, last night as I waited for Paul to finish working (whenever he comes home earlier than usual, he inevitably spends a few hours making calls and sending emails once he’s home), about something that has been sticking in my mind for quite a while–and last night it hit me between the eyes.

People talk a lot about crime in New Orleans–it’s usually code for people to be racist without being outright racist; I always laugh at people in the comments section of the local news stations or newspapers, talking about crime in New Orleans and ‘that’s why they left New Orleans’ for the suburbs/West Bank/North Shore, etc. I laugh at this because they will always claim to other people Not From Here that they are, indeed, from New Orleans (bitch, you’re from Metairie) and I always want to ask them, “was it really crime in New Orleans that drove you out of the city, or was it the desegregation of the schools, hmmm?” Every neighborhood in New Orleans, you see, is mixed; the Garden District neighborhood at one time also included the St. Thomas Housing Projects. And sure, crime has been on the rise here lately. But I have lived in New Orleans since 1996, and white people are always talking about crime here and shaking their heads about how the city “has gone downhill.” Um, if you study the history of New Orleans, the city has always been filled with crime; IT’S A GODDAMNED PORT CITY.

Anyway, as I was standing in line waiting to board my flight out of Minneapolis, the woman in front of me turned out to also be from New Orleans (River Ridge). She was absolutely lovely, and we chatted the entire time we waited and as we went down the jetway to the plane–which, for someone whose default is always social awkwardness, was something–and ironically, she was the person in front of me in line for the flight from Chicago to New Orleans. She began talking to me about the crime and I did my usual shrug “there’s always been crime in New Orleans” and when she asked me if I wasn’t afraid, I just shook my head and said “no–no more than usual.”

That, of course, started a thread in my head about why are you not afraid of the rising crime in New Orleans and I realized, as I had also said to the nice lady, “I’m just always hyper-aware of my surroundings and what’s going on around me.” And then last night it hit me: as opposed to the nice straight white people of New Orleans, the rising crime rate doesn’t really bother me because I have never felt completely safe anywhere or anytime in my life–that’s what life is like for queers in this country.

I had to train myself as a kid to always keep my eyes moving and always be aware of what’s going on around me–I look ahead, I look behind, I always am looking from one side to the other and am always on hyper-alert because you never know when the gay bashers are going to come for you. I’m no more afraid now than I have ever been throughout the course of my life, and I had decided a long time ago that I would not live my life in fear anymore–but to always be vigilant.

Straight white people aren’t used to not feeling safe and they don’t like it when they don’t.

Welcome to what it feels like to be a minority in this country–and let’s face it, I still have white male privilege; I can’t imagine what it’s like to navigate this world as a black lesbian or transwoman.

But straight white people? This is their world and it is the world they made. While straight white women are oppressed terribly by straight white men, many of them have been gaslit into thinking they are less than straight white men and it is simply their lot in life, and they accept that in exchange for protection by the patriarchy. So while it is true that for women, car-jackings and muggings are just one more thing to add to their backpack of oppressive fears–usually sexual assaults (physical or verbal) or harassment. Interesting, right?

But for those Stockholm Syndrome suffering straight white women, crime is outrageous and horrifying to them because the system is theoretically set up to protect them from crime.

And what’s a little sexual harassment if it means you won’t get mugged or carjacked by that scary Black man? Boys will be boys, after all; they’re just wired that way.

I’ve always wanted to write from the perspective of someone like Brock Turner, the Stanford swimming rapist–but I don’t think I can. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so blind about your own child, especially since I don’t (and never wanted) any of my own.

And yes, this is yet another subject for an essay.

But the fog of exhaustion seems to finally be lifting from my head–hallelujah–and so I think–if I am not too tired when I get home tonight, that is–I am going to be able to get back to work on my writing either today or tomorrow. I also want to start reading my new Donna Andrews novel, and I want to read Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side before October, when I have to turn my attention to the horror genre again for Halloween.

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

Don’t Stop

Back to life, back to reality…

I am sooooo tired.

But what an incredible trip that was.

Someone–I wish I could remember who, so I could give them credit–said that Bouchercon was like going to Crime Writer’s Camp, and it was actually so spot on that I decided to go ahead and say it without being able to give the proper credit where it’s due (whomever that was, my apologies). I slept extremely well last night (there’s nothing like your own bed), yet despite that I feel achy, sore and exhausted still this morning. My voice has recovered somewhat–it still is raspy and hoarse, but nevertheless yesterday it hurt to talk–and my ribs and abs still hurt from laughing so much and so long and so hard (in some ways, it felt like I’d forgotten how to enjoy myself and only started remembering this past weekend). I had some great meals, some great drinks, reconnected and tightened bonds with old friends; got to know acquaintances better; and met some marvelous new people! All of my books that the bookseller had in stock on Thursday (and quite a few copies of each of my last three books–usually I count myself lucky if they have more than one copy of one book) were gone by noon on Friday, which was an incredible shock.

A pleasant one, to be sure, but still a shock.

My panels went really well, too. The only real hiccup was my bag got lost on the way up there. Our connecting flight out of Midway was a half hour delayed, yet…my bag didn’t get on the plane in New Orleans and didn’t arrive at the airport until after one. It was delivered the following morning…right at the end of my panel. Yes, I had to borrow clothes from Paul. Yes, he is smaller than me. No, it wasn’t the first time I went out in public in clothes that were two sizes too small. Yes, I talked about it on the panel. And yes, people asked me about whether my bag arrived or not all weekend, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and nice…and then yesterday on the way home Paul reminded me that–to save myself time–I’d packed five identical black T-shirts and of course, three pairs of jeans that all look the same. I wore the pants I wore on the flight to the panel that morning, and Paul had loaned me–yes, you guessed it–a dark T-shirt.

PAUL: People didn’t think your bag arrived all weekend because you were always wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans! They didn’t know it was your Bouchercon Uniform and thought you had to keep wearing the same clothes!

It still makes me laugh to think about it.

I also read Gabino Iglesias’ extraordinary The Devil Takes You Home on the way up (more on that later) and read most of Laurie R. King’s new, stellar novel Back to the Garden, which is just marvelous. Our flight coming back was also delayed out Midway–two hours rather than a half this time–but reading Laurie’s book made the time fly. We also arrived at Midway just in time to see the final minute of the Saints-Falcons game (marvelous). (I have to say, I am a little bummed I wasn’t home to watch college football on Saturday, and now am REALLY looking forward to seeing how this college football season goes!)

AND SO MANY QUEER WRITERS!

But, oh, if nothing else, the one thing I learned from this trip is I am waaaaaaaaay out of shape and far too old not to be going to the gym regularly. All the walking, all the standing, not sleeping in my own bed–my back hurts, my hips and ankles are sore, my shoulders are tight, and my quads are tighter than piano wire. I need to start going back to the gym even if not to lift weights so much as to get a good stretch every now and again. That was actually the best parts of my all-too-brief patches of regular gym attendance since the start of the pandemic–how great it felt to stretch two to three times a week. I am literally running on accessory today, and am dreading tomorrow morning’s alarm going off at six to drag me out of the clutches of Morpheus. I will undoubtedly be tired all week (and oh dear God my emails) but as long as I can limp along till Friday, I should be okay.

Should.

I don’t even want to think about how behind I am.

But for now, I am going to sit in my easy chair and finish Laurie’s brilliant book while Scooter purrs in my lap and just have a nice relaxing evening at home. Until tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Street Angel

Ugh, another toxic Tuesday.

I mean, if Monday is manic, Tuesday can be toxic; Wednesday can be woeful; and Thursday can be…something. Regardless, I am awake at the usual Tuesday morning godawful toxic time, swilling coffee and getting ready to head into the office. Huzzah.

I didn’t feel well this morning when I got up, but I took my weekly return-to-work COVID test and it was negative. I am not really sure why or how I ‘ve managed to go this entire pandemic without getting infected (particularly when you take into consideration how many possible exposures I have had with my job since this all began), but I also managed to get through the entire (and ongoing) HIV/AIDS pandemic without getting infected, either. Just one of the lucky ones, I guess? But as my coffee sinks in and courses through my veins–and the Claritin-D kicks in–I am feeling a lot better. Still a bit tired, but can definitely make it through the day, which was questionable when I first got up this morning. I’m not sure what that was about, but am glad it is passing (or is past).

I have so much to do it’s a bit overwhelming, but when I got up this morning I didn’t have the strength and/or energy to even face up to everything that I have to do, but I am starting to get that necessary second wind and maybe–just maybe–the strength and brain focus necessary to start plowing through this massive to-do list, which also needs to be updated. SO much to do this week, but I also have a three day weekend looming so maybe I’ll be able to actually get some things done this weekend rather than trying to recover from an exhausting week? My energy levels is something that I’ve been very concerned about for quite some time; by the time I generally get home from work the day–from getting up early to being out in the heat to running errands–I am so tired that I have trouble working on my writing and my to-do list, and giving into Scooter’s demands that I sit in my easy chair and provide a lap for him in which to sleep while I watch documentaries or go down Youtube wormholes is way too easy and tempting to avoid–and once I am in that chair, it’s game over for the night.

Paul didn’t get home until late last evening so I watched some documentaries, including Scream Queen, about Mark Patton, the closeted gay lead of what is considered the gayest horror movie of all time–A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge. I remember seeing it and not liking it when it first was available to rent–I rented a lot of movies back in the day–but primarily because the connecting thread from the first movie wasn’t there other than Elm Street and Freddy. Now that I’m hearing about all the gay subtext–some of which was apparently overt–I kind of want to see it again; I’ve never wanted to watch it again because I didn’t enjoy it when I was in my twenties (a foul, horrible decade and probably one of the worst of the seven–yes, seven, this is my seventh decade on the planet–decades of my life. I do have fond memories of the 1980’s, but I also have a lot of horrific memories of that same decade) but now I am thinking I’d kind of like to see it one more time, looking at it with a fresher perspective than I had in my twenties.

And I really need to finish reading John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind. I’ve agreed to read a friend’s manuscript with a gay character in it, but I can’t read two new-to-me pieces of fiction at the same time. (This is not true for non-fiction; I am reading both Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and The Great Betrayal now, and I am trying not to start reading Paul Monette’s Becoming a Man) I need to work some more on all my various writing projects; there are some short stories coming due, deadline-wise, relatively soon that I’d like to write something for, and so I can’t just not be writing in the evenings consistently the way I have not been doing since the summer weather arrived.

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, tis off to the spice mines I go. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Edge of Seventeen

Just like the white winged dove….

Sing it, Stevie!

So I managed to get some writing done yesterday–not only did I get some writing done yesterday but it actually flowed; it wasn’t nearly as painful or forced as it has been when I’ve been writing lately, which is lovely. I also read for a little while yesterday; I am moving into the final act of The Savage Kind and am really enjoying it; I hated put it aside yesterday when my allotted reading time had finally run out. I slept very well last night–didn’t want to get up this morning, or more precisely, didn’t want to get out of bed which felt unusually comfortable to me this morning–but I do feel well rested. I am working at home today, which is nice–I really don’t want to go out into the heat–but things change. We watched the first few episodes of Condor last night–it’s not bad, a more modern-day version of Three Days of the Condor, which was one of my Cynical 70’s Film Festival movies during the pandemic–and I do feel relaxed this morning….probably because I am still in denial about everything I have to do and get done.It just keeps building….

My anger has finally cooled over the so-called “supreme court” rulings of last week; but I still have a lot of righteous indignation and outrage left that can easily be fanned into red-hot flames. Louisiana, of course, had just passed its very own trigger law, which our piece-of-shit governor signed. Of course, my own rights will soon be overturned by this joke of a court; as I tweeted on Friday, “Somewhere in hell Roger Taney is smiling because his supreme court may no longer be the worst in our history.” I mean, when you are passing out rulings that are about on the same level as Dred Scott, you really should sit back and reflect on your life choices. It’s bad enough we have four perjurers on the court along with a sexual harasser, a probable rapist, and a woman whose religion has brainwashed her into a Stepford wife–someone on Twitter said yesterday “if the founding fathers could see us now they’d say ‘You let Catholics on the court?'” I love to point out that despite all evangelical claims that this is a Christian country, they never specify which brand of Christianity they mean. Pentecostal? Quaker? Lutheran? Catholic? Missouri Synod? Latter Day Saints? No two sects of Christianity agree on anything; it was precisely this division of belief within the same theoretical faith that led to centuries of war and oppression in Europe, and the very American standard of the separation of church and state. You also have to remember that originally nearly every colony since the Europeans decided they were taking over this continent from its natives followed a different sect: Maryland was Catholic; Massachusetts Puritan; Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams upon the very principle of religious freedom and became a haven for persecuted religious minorities; Virginia was Episcopal; and so on. Christianity isn’t a monolith where everyone believes the same thing–they can’t even agree on the basic principles of their religion or how to pray or who can preach or teach.

Although they do all have the symbolic cannibalism ritual–but again, all different versions.

But the “supreme court” has a long and tragic history of incredibly bad and damaging rulings–see Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Citizens United, etc.

There’s another Alabama story brewing inside my head–you know, that non-stop creative ADHD thing I have going–about a small town in Corinth County trapped and controlled by it’s radical fundamentalist religion. I know I had the idea for the town years ago–it’s called Star of Bethlehem–but this idea for using that town is vastly different than the original one I had (in which the town’s water supply was deliberately tampered with as a corporate experiment in which the townspeople began developing strange abilities; I can still make that work into this–imagine a small remote town in the grips of a maniacal controlling religious sect where this happens; are these miraculous abilities a gift from God or the work of the devil? Which, really, was kind of the point of the superb mini-series Midnight Mass) but it keeps nagging at me as I sit down to work on other things. I scribbled some notes in my journal last night while watching Condor–again, it’s an interesting modern take on the original story–and so we’ll see how it goes.

I also started writing Mississippi River Mischief yesterday. I was going back and forth, wondering how to open the book, and finally just decided to say fuck it and start writing it. I wrote 173 words on it, which while not much is certainly something. Hopefully after work today I can work on it some more. I’ve started figuring it out a bit more–I already know who the victim is, I already know what’s going to be going on in Scotty’s life during the course of this book–but there’s all kinds of things left for me to get figured out. But–as with every Scotty book–I usually tend to just jump into it headfirst and see what happens.

So, all in all, a relatively productive weekend and very few regrets. I still have a ridiculous amount of work to do, but…progress is all that matters and I refuse to allow myself to get stressed out.

And on that note, it’s Data Entry time. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader. Hope we all have a better week this time around.

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

Thursday and my last day in the office this week. Huzzah! Which means I do not have to get up at six tomorrow morning, which is lovely, and next week my work at home day is Monday, so I don’t have to be back in the office until Tuesday, which is kind of nice. I need to do a couple of errands tomorrow–brake tag and wash the car–but I am also kind of hoping against hope that I can make it to the gym tomorrow in the early evening as well. I hate that the first thing to go out the window whenever I am overwhelmed with work are the two things I enjoy most in life and are, really, things that are just for me: working out and writing.

I entered #shedeservedit for the Thriller Award for Best Children’s/Young Adult this week; I am not sure if there’s any point, really, but you cannot complain about queer books not making award shortlists if you don’t enter your own and encourage every other queer writer to do so as well. I am also entering it for the Edgars. Dream big, Gregalicious.

I have to admit I’ve not really been promoting #shedeservedit the way I should be, and I am not entirely sure why that is. Every step of the way of writing that book I was worried about whether I was the right person to tell that story or not…something I would have never even thought about ten years ago. I still don’t think I would have been the right person to tell the story had the main pov character been a girl; making it a guy, seeing everything that was going on in Liberty Center from a male teenager who is also on the football team, for me, made it more palatable–and it’s not just the story of the toxic masculinity and the rape culture permeating the town of Liberty Center: there’s a whole lot of just plain wrong going on in that town, and my main character, Alex, was affected and damaged by all of it, even as (sometimes) merely a witness to the shenanigans. Everything has a ripple effect, after all. But at the same time, the book has a content warning–which, I am ashamed to admit, never crossed my mind that it would need when I was writing it. How would a young woman who has experienced this, or knows someone who has, react to reading this story? That thought also kind of made me pull back a bit from the promotional stuff. Even with a content warning, is what happens in the book–even though it’s all already happened, and is seen only through flashbacks–going to be too difficult for a young woman (or a young man, for that matter) who has experienced something similar to read? The book has been out in the world now for over five months, it has a four and a half star rating on Amazon (I will not look at Goodreads, and no one can make me go to that barren hellscape for authors)…but at the same time there hasn’t been any pushback thus far on the book–which also doesn’t mean it won’t eventually happen, either.

But this week, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed (I honestly don’t know why I do this. Sometimes I have fun joking around with my friends there, and I’ve seen posts about books that I went on to read and enjoy, but for far too large a percentage of the time I have to step away from it in revulsion when I see how truly terrible so many people are willing to be behind the anonymity of a computer screen, a cartoon avatar, and a fake name…and how many more are unashamed to reveal their monstrous true selves with their actual names and images proudly on display for everyone to see) and I came across a piece from The Cut, which is a part of New York magazine and Vulture and I am not sure what all other websites and so forth are involved in that tangled mess of on-line and print publications. It purported to be about a high school teenager who “made a mistake” and “got canceled by his school.”

Ah, another story about the evils of cancel culture, I thought to myself, should I bother?

Reader, I bothered. And dear God in heaven, I am so sorry I did. If you want to read the nauseating swill for yourself, if it is still up, it can be found here: https://www.thecut.com/article/cancel-culture-high-school-teens.html. If you have high blood pressure, I would advise against it.

What makes the entire thing worse, in my opinion, is of course they assigned this piece to a woman. There’s a reason why men accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault will inevitably hire a female defense attorney–it subliminally communicates to the jury would a woman defend this person if he were a rapist? No woman would take on such a case! But when I was doing my research for #shedeservedit, one of the things I noted was how many women didn’t believe the girls, how many of their peers didn’t believe the girls, and that the nastiest and most vicious critics of the victims were other women/girls. I remember reading about Brock Turner’s mother, weeping and sobbing about how her son’s life was being ruined (implied: by that drunk slut!); the former girlfriend who wrote a character reference letter for him to the judge, and on and on. (I always wonder–as I did with Brock Turner–does he have any sisters or female first cousins? What do they think about this?)

Anyway, the author of this piece–whose sympathies are entirely with this boy whose only regret for sharing nude pictures of his girlfriend with his friends (when he was “drunk,” because I guess that makes it okay) is that he was shunned by his entire high school–misses the lede in this article so many times. She is so desperate to make us all feel bad for this kid for being made to feel the absolute least amount of consequence possible for his actions that she misses that the girls at this school felt so betrayed and dismissed by the system–which is supposed to protect them–that they took action on their own. That is the story here–what the students had to step up to do because THE ADULTS and the SCHOOL SYSTEM failed them.

But no, we get another “oh this poor boy”. (Who went to four proms and is leaving for college in the fall, where none of this will follow him.) By a woman writer who, per Wikipedia, has teenaged daughters of their own. How must THEY feel when reading their mother’s latest work?

Not even ten years ago the victims in Steubenville and Marysville were the ones shunned; not the guys who got them wasted and took advantage of them. (At least the Steubenville victim got some justice, as two of the boys were convicted; the poor girl in Marysville got nothing but slut-shamed and eventually she committed suicide.)

My original inspiration for writing this book honestly came back in the early 1990’s. Remember the Spur Posse at Lakewood High School? (No less an august literary figure than Joan Didion herself wrote about the Spur Posse, in her New Yorker piece “Trouble in Lakewood.”) I thought I had read about the Spur Posse in Rolling Stone–which, let’s face it, I was more likely to read at the time than the New Yorker–and was completely appalled…I sat down and started writing an idea for a book based on it, where the girls of the school, getting nowhere with the police and the school administration and so forth, become ‘avenging angels’ to publicly shame and embarrass the boys…and then they start dying. I wrote a couple of chapters, created some characters, and titled it When Stallions Die (stallions, obviously, a stand-in for Spur Posse); I always meant to swing back around to it at some point because it was an interesting idea (if you agree, you should read Lisa Lutz’ brilliant The Swallows from a few years’ back) and I still might–one never knows. But it was the Spur Posse situation that made me start thinking–long and hard–about sexual assault and sexual misconduct, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and the weird need that some women have to protect men at any cost: “boys will be boys,” “any red-blooded American boy”…”locker room talk.”

And since I had been wanting to write a Kansas book, and had been playing around with a story for a small city in Kansas, its teens, and its high school football team, #shedeservedit kind of evolved from there.

I don’t know why I am so reluctant and/or nervous to promote the book. It was a deeply personal book for me to write (as was Bury Me in Shadows), and yes, I put a lot of my teenaged self into that book–not the surface Greg everyone saw and knew, but the interior Greg, the one who was so deeply miserable and unhappy and alone on the inside.

Wow, this rambled on for a lot longer than I expected it to! That article clearly pissed me off, did it not?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Enchanted

Thursday and I am really looking forward to the three day weekend.

And yes, I am well aware of how lazy that makes me sound but I don’t care.

I slept relatively well last night. Paul got home late, so we watched an episode of Why Are You Like This? which is funny and interesting at the same time–I’m also not entirely comfortable with finding it funny, to be honest; the characters are all so blatantly awful in so many different ways that I am sure I would not be amused by them in reality–but there you have it. Guilty as charged. It was also incredibly hot yesterday; the heat index was well over a hundred for most of the day, and when I got in the car after work, it was 100 degrees, according to the temperature gauge in the car. I went to get the mail (my copy of the Fire Island book arrived) and stopped at the bank before heading home. I was, as expected, rather tired when I got home and Scooter demanded a lap to sleep in, so I collapsed into my easy chair and took the evening off for most of the night. I did write for a little bit on “Never Kiss a Stranger”–which I am starting to develop imposter syndrome about (how I’ve missed that!)–and I am actually hoping to get it finished this weekend over the course of those lovely three days off, and maybe even get started on Scotty #8.

Number Eight. Wow. Who knew?

I really need to focus.

The heat hasn’t really helped much in that regard, and yes, I know New Orleans is always hot and humid, but this year it’s much hotter and more humid earlier than it usually is–or else my memory is completely shot. I don’t ever remember having heat advisories in June before, or it getting to be 100 degrees this early–remember, summer doesn’t even start until June 21st, so yeah, it’s still spring with the heat index hitting over 100 daily for the past week.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I was thinking last night (always dangerous) while Scooter slept in my lap about how much queer rep there has been on my streaming services lately, and it has definitely been a mixed bag. I kind of want to watch Fire Island again, to see what I missed the first time (a second viewing of anything like this is practically de rigeur for me, especially if I want to write about it) and that led me to thinking about Elite and Heartstopper again, as well as Young Royals, Sex Education, and Bonding, to name just a few. I was thinking about Heartstopper last night–which is how this entire line of thought began–and how adorable the show was; and part of that was because the actors were actually age-appropriate for the roles; and that changed how I perceived the show–I kept thinking oh these kids are so cute, whereas in shows where the teenagers are played by actors in their early to late twenties–which always seems to be the case, so that the drinking and drugs and sex in shows like Elite or Gossip Girl doesn’t seem as distasteful or wrong as it would be if they were actually using kids (one of the few times in television/film history where an actual teenager played a teenager who was having sex and getting into all kinds of trouble was Genie Francis as teenaged Laura Webber on General Hospital back in the 1970s) who were age appropriate; there’s an entire essay about older young adults playing sexualized teenagers and “who’s grooming who” in our culture that it struggling to take form in my mind…which is yet another reason I want to rewatch some of these shows.

I’ve also been thinking about Queer as Folk’s reboot since we binged it last weekend, and I am still not decided on what I think about the show; it might bear a rewatch as well so I can be certain that I am remembering things correctly and/or didn’t miss things that were relevant to the characters and the story being told…but I will say again–New Orleans looks beautiful on the show.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Thursday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Sweet Mary

Preparing for a workshop on writing sex scenes is not as easy as one might think. And of course, I have to do it today since the workshop is tomorrow morning, but I am going to have to do it around appointments and driving all over the metropolitan area of the city and it looks like we’re going to be having a shitty weather day on top of it all. Huzzah. I did sleep in this morning–I suspect my Fitbit, which I am not so sure I trust anymore is going to tell me that I didn’t sleep well (oh, there was some thunder!) and in just now checking the weather I see we are going to be having thunderstorms during the entire time I will be out dashing around the city. Huzzah.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Last night after Paul and I got home, I finished (I’d started the night before while I was waiting for Paul to come home) watching the first episode of The Real World New Orleans: Homecoming, or whatever it’s called. We used to watch The Real World religiously; I think we stopped watching during the Austin season, and never went back. But we were very excited back in the day when the New Orleans show was announced, and of course, even in those pre-Internet days stories about the cast and the filming used to break in the newspaper. They also were living in the Belfort mansion, which isn’t far from where we lived then (and now), but in the years since it’s turned into a boutique hotel. (The owner–mentioned but not by name–used to work out at my gym.) I am not sure where the house they are living in for this taping is, but I think it’s on Esplanade Avenue; I don’t recognize it from the exteriors. I never really had put a lot of thought into the shows before it filmed here–but once it started, I started to understand that “reality television” wasn’t really reality. They weren’t on camera 24/7, like the show claimed, and they also set up shots and maybe there wasn’t a script, per se, but it wasn’t “real”–we used to see the cast walking around the neighborhood, followed by a film crew that wasn’t filming them. They also filmed in places we knew; Danny the gay one worked as a bartender in one of the gay bars (I want to say Oz? I could be wrong, it’s been over twenty-odd years), and of course we used to see them and the signs on the doors of businesses announcing that the show would be filming there, the time they would be filming, and being present inside during those times meant consent to being filmed unless you advised the crew otherwise (those people who are pixilated out in background scenes didn’t give consent). The “job” the cast did while here was to produce a talk-type television show on local public access which began airing while they were still filming; Paul and I actually caught it by mistake flipping through the channels, and as we watched it, we both said, “Oh, this isn’t going to go over well here”–they were being hypercritical of the city, and yes, as you can imagine, it didn’t go over well. Places began denying them the right to film there, they were criticized everywhere–from all the local newspapers to all the local media–and they eventually had to apologize in order to get places to let them film. (I actually kind of felt sorry for them–they were kids, for Christ’s sake.) The reunion show is weird to watch–again, they were going to places I recognized (the drag show was at the Bourbon Parade, the dance club above the Pub), but it’s also weird to see how they look now, who they’ve become, and hear their stories about the impact being on the show had on their lives.

Then Paul came back downstairs and we watched the first two episodes of the new Queer as Folk, which was filmed here and is also set here. New Orleans is a beautiful city, and that’s one thing the producers and editors decided to play off; the show is beautifully filmed, and they made sure they showed off the city’s beauty at every opportunity they had. It was kind of choppy at the start–uneven, but first episodes when you’re launching a new series often are; it is the rare show that pulls off the first episode perfectly, especially when there’s a large ensemble cast. I love the cast, by the way; it’s mixed and diverse and displays a broad spectrum of the community, as opposed to the original (with its focus on white cisgender men, with the token lesbian couple thrown in just for fun). Paul and I watched the original primarily to be supportive; we knew it was a groundbreaking show and we needed to support it so networks would see there was value in queer programming, but neither of us were really fans of the show itself. It was very earnest, very ABC Afterschool Special and preachy when it came to important topics; and then would veer off into the ridiculous. For me, it was this weird mix of a Very Special Episode and silliness, and it is virtually impossible to do both. Daytime soaps make it look easy, but it’s not that easy to do–we always kept saying, “they need to either decide if they want to be a serious drama or gay Melrose Place” (obviously, we were hoping they’d go the Melrose Place route), but it seems like this reboot–despite the shaky opening–is off to a good start. We will continue watching, and hoping for the best (my supervisor at my day job filmed with the show; he does drag as Debbie with a “D”–his outfits and lewks are fucking amazing, so I am also hoping to see Debbie on the show)–and as Paul said, (and is why I’ll keep watching that awful Homecoming show) “at the very least, the city looks beautiful.” Babylon, the queer bar in the show, was actually in the neighborhood of my old office; it sits on the corner of Frenchmen Street and Chartres, and that neighborhood you see in the show isn’t the Quarter but the Marigny (I miss my old office on Frenchmen Street). We will probably continue watching it tonight, and I am kind of oddly looking forward to it. I am definitely here for all the queer rep on television lately, even as the trash continues to come for us and our rights.

Yes, I said trash, even though the word hardly expresses my deep, abiding, and utter contempt for those who hate me and my community and wish us dead.

And there’s the rain.

AND the obligatory flash flood warning came right after it started, of course.

Heavy sigh.

I did work on “Never Kiss a Stranger” yesterday some; it’s now about twenty-four thousand words, for those who are keeping track. I am really liking the story and I am really enjoying working on it, for those who were wondering. It’s nice to be writing again and enjoying it–it’s been weird this past year how that has gone; but I’ve also come to recognize that I have had periods of my life where I was going through depression and didn’t realize its extent until it had passed. I feel like I’ve been experiencing at the very least low-key depression since March 2020–the kind where I am tired all the time, not sleeping well, and even when I look back at that period, I’ve either forgotten everything and what I actually can remember…it’s through a bit of fog, with darkness around the edges…and I’ve not really been enjoying writing since March 2020, if I’m going to be honest. I am enjoying it again–good thing, since it’s compulsive for me and I always will do it, regardless of how I feel about it–but my writing has always been a source of joy for me, and having that not be the case has been very unpleasant. I’ve really not been finding much joy in anything since March 2020, but I also feel like I’ve kind of turned a corner, somehow–my brain snapped or something and it snapped back into the place where it should have been all along.

And on that note, best get ready to head out to Metairie in a thunderstorm in flash flood conditions. Woo-hoo!

Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader.

It Don’t Come Easy

The future’s so bright, we have to wear shades.

I’m referring to the crime fiction world. I’ve been having a marvelous time reading debut authors lately–Mia P. Manansala, Wanda M. Morris, just to name two–and I have to say, the debut authors are simply killing it lately. I am glad I’ve not been asked to sit on any judging panels for best firsts lately, because while it would be amazing to read all of these exceptional debuts for an entire year, having to winnow them down first to five and then to pick a winner would be incredibly difficult. It’s hard enough participating in fan-voted awards, like the Leftys and the Anthonys.

That is also particularly true when it comes to queer crime. Some of the queer crime novels I’ve been reading over the last year or so have been exceptional–and Marco Carocari’s Blackout fits right in with the premise of this post: an exceptional debut novel, and with gay characters, issues and themes front and center; and written by a gay man. Blackout was a Lefty finalist for Best First Novel (a truly packed category, seriously) and I couldn’t have been prouder of Marco–especially once I finished reading the book.

Franco couldn’t deny it any longer. This had been a mistake. “I’m sorry…hold on a second,” he said, gripping the rooftop’s metal railing to keep his balance, his blue gym shorts around his ankles. All around him low hanging pinkish clouds held back SoHo’s city lights, dousing the neighborhood in a muted glow.

The half-naked man behind him grunted and stepped back. “Dude, this isn’t working for me.”

Franco detected frustration in his voice, but found it hard to care. Wiping sweat from his forehead, he scratched the blond stubble on his cheek, his naked skin damp from from the sultry air. “Sorry, I…need a moment. I don’t feel so hot,” he said over his shoulder, straightening up. He spat on the ground, but the strange metallic taste lingered in his dry mouth. He swayed and saw double. “What the hell was in that thing?”

He got no answer and glanced at his bare chested hunk of a date standing there, zipping up.

Okay, considering this had barely taken ten minutes, date was probably grossly overstated. Franco eyed the ripped, olive-skinned stud who went by Pitcher9 on the MeatUp app, but whose real name he’d already forgotten. Pressed, he’d go with Hey since that was an intimate an introduction the situation warranted. A fading, crudely drawn mermaid tattoo on the man’s left oblique, possibly a blast from his youthful past, only increased his bad boy vibe.

Well, that’s an opening, isn’t it?

When I discovered that not only was queer fiction a thing, but that queer crime fiction was a strong and vital force in the genre, I was in heaven. I devoured queer fiction, and especially queer crime fiction of any kind. I discovered the rich history of queer fiction by reading writers like Joseph Hanson, Barbara Wilson, Richard Stevenson, Michael Nava, Ellen Hart, and Katherine Forrest–and any number of others. I was a queer book reviewer for years. I was editor of Lambda Book Report and served as a Lambda judge any number of times. I kind of burned out on it, to be honest…but I kept reading it and I certainly was paying attention. There has been any number of ups and downs in queer crime over the decades, but the flourishing we’re seeing now is pretty amazing for me to witness.

First of all, Marco’s book begins with the above scene (there’s a set-up introduction chapter, that dates back to the New York blackout of 1977), and it’s from a crime fiction small press. Not a small press that is queer owned and operated, but a crime fiction small press. That’s some serious in-your-face gay sexuality going on in those opening paragraphs; a hook-up gone bad on a rooftop in Manhattan. It is both blunt and frank and right there, in your face–and I cannot even begin to express how exciting it is for me, not just as a gay author but as a gay man of a certain age, to see gay sexuality expressed so bluntly and openly from a small crime press. Just as it amazed me that PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus was published (and promoted heavily) by one of the big presses in New York, it’s also lovely to see that small crime fiction publishers are embracing this kind of content.

It’s lovely, frankly.

The book itself is a strong debut novel from someone who will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with in the years to come. Franco smokes a joint with his trick, but the joint is laced with something so Franco becomes what we call an unreliable narrator/unreliable witness. He thinks he sees a murder happen in the window across the street–but the police find nothing to corroborate or back up his story. Did he really see something? Was it the drugs? And slowly, as Franco and his friends try to figure out what is going on and what is happening to Franco, it all seems to lead back in time to that night when the lights went out in New York…

Franco is a terrific character–likable if frustrating from time to time–but how would anyone react in this kind of situation? The trope of “I think I saw a murder but I may not have” isn’t original–Agatha Christie’s brilliant What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw is one of the best of these types of stories, but Carocari giving it a gay twist–and what a gay twist it was, indeed!–made it fresh and original and new. I don’t know if Carocari plans on writing more books with Franco as his protagonist–or if what he writes next will be a crime thriller or gay at all; but whatever it is, I am looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

I am a fan. Well done, Marco, and welcome to the queer crime fiction club!

If You Let Me Down Let Me Down Slow

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

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

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

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

Boy, was I ever wrong.

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

We were both enchanted.

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

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

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

It really is just so damned sweet and charming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Day

Sunday morning and I slept really well again. I woke up, as always, at just before seven, but stayed in bed lazily until nearly eight–when nature’s call became too much to be ignored for longer. But I have a nice fresh hot cup of coffee, a long Sunday with a lot to do and/or get done today (I also need to run to the grocery store this morning, which is always so exhausting) but I suspect that i can get everything I need to get done, done. Yesterday morning I spent some time with the Carol Goodman novel (which is really and truly spectacularly well done), went to do my self-care (which was lovely) and then picked up the mail and headed home to spend some time doing things. I did the bed linens, emptied the dishwasher and did another load (that needs to be emptied this morning) and also got some things organized for my next writing project. I did the Spirit of Ink interview at 2, as scheduled, and then when I was finished with that I was drained, as I knew I would be, so I did some more file organizing before retiring to my easy chair with my journal to make notes for Mississippi River Mischief, which I am also starting to get excited about writing (which is a lovely change from the usual, where I dread writing any and every thing).

So, overall, I was quite pleased with my Friday. Since we’d finished or gotten caught up on everything else we had started watching, we decided to binge through season two of The Hardy Boys on Hulu, which I am enjoying. Is it the Hardy Boys of my childhood? No, but neither was the 1970’s show with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy. I belong to several kids’ series groups on Facebook (they are very interesting people; I’ve always wanted to write a book about kids’ series fandom) and they were, of course, quite unhappy with this adaptation (but not NEARLY as up-in-arms as they were about the Nancy Drew television series, in which Nancy actually has sex with Ned–who’s Black in the show–in the very first episode). Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I don’t expect adaptations to match us precisely to the source material, and whether people in their fifties and sixties want to admit to it or not, both series in their original forms are horribly dated today. I did enjoy the show’s nods to the canon series throughout–one of the villains was named McFarlane (Leslie McFarlane ghost-wrote many of the original books) and the bad company is Stratemeyer Global (the Stratemeyer Syndicate created and owned both series, among many others), and there was also a single throwaway line at one point about “what happened at midnight” (which is one of the titles of the original canonical series); so that was all a bit fun for me. Even as I watched, I kept remembering all the dog-whistles of the fan group–disguised as “dedication to the original canon” of course–but when you use words like woke and so forth, your bigotry and personal biases are kind of put right out there on display.

And I can only imagine how upset they are that Aunt Gertrude (Trudy on the show) is a lesbian…which actually makes canonical sense, to be honest.

But it was a very pleasant way to waste the rest of the day, frankly, and I felt pretty marvelous when I went to bed last evening. I am really enjoying my sleep lately, which is marvelous, and lately I am feeling very–I don’t know, optimistic?–about my career and my future as a writer, which is always a plus. I am still waiting for my edits on A Streetcar Named Murder, and to hear back about my short story, but I am feeling pretty good about myself this morning (let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?) and tomorrow evening i am going to make a semi-triumphant return to the gym. This morning I am going to spend some time with The Lake of Dead Languages, and then I am going to head out to the grocery store, probably around elevenish, so I can come home and do some more writing and organizing and so forth. I am going to try to bang out a draft of a new manuscript by mid-June, and then I want to spend until August 1 finishing a first draft of Chlorine, at which point I will most likely have to start really working on Mississippi River Mischief. That’s a pretty good schedule, if I can stick to it–and then of course there are any number of short stories I want to get written in the meantime. There are two submission calls I saw recently (with very tight deadlines) I’d like to get something submitted to–but then it always comes down to time and motivation–both of which I am good at failing at–so it’s all going to depend, I suppose. But I am going to get organized here in my office space before retiring to read for the rest of the morning, which hopefully will mean productivity. We also need something new to watch, since we’ve binged our way through everything already–but there are any number of shows that dropped since the beginning of the year that we’d like to see that we never got around to, and more are coming out all the time.

I also want to rewatch Heartstopper at some point, so I can finish my post about it at some point. I really need to get those old unfinished posts finished and posted at some point, don’t I? I also have a bad review of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not to finish as well as a review of Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout, as well as some ruminations about the resurgence of anti-queer political homophobia which hs reared its ugly head again.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!