World in Motion

Ah, Sunday.

Last night I kept waking up, even though it felt like I was getting good rest, if that makes any sense. I finally got tired of trying to get some more sleep and went ahead and got up before eight–around quarter till, to be precise–because I have work to do and the deadline is ticking. I made some excellent progress yesterday, and have a lot more to do today. I am hoping to get the final chapters of the book completely refinished and rewritten today; so I can do mop up the rest of the week–and there will be lots of mopping up to do. This is maybe the ninth draft of the book since I wrote the first draft in 2015–but in complete fairness, all those revisions were of the first half of the book rather than the second; this is the third draft of the second half–I was struggling to find the right voice, to find the correct tense, and really, trying to figure out who my main character is or was. Most of this work has been, since I first wrote the first draft six years ago, scattered and disorganized and, in retrospect, primarily a case of me not trusting myself or my abilities and be intimidated by what I was writing about–with the occasional dose of imposter syndrome thrown in for good measure.

We watched the ice dancing final last night, and remain completely mystified by the results. Perhaps we’re partisan, but we simply failed to see the same magic in the routine by the Canadian team that resulted in them placing second in the free dance, and capturing the bronze medal somehow. But ice dance has always been controversial, and the judging has never made much sense. The Russian team that won was clearly the best in the competition; no question about that–but I also felt the second place Russian team, that finished fifth, was also better, more athletic, and more artistic, than the Canadians. But yesterday afternoon I also took some time to watch the men’s final, and it was delightful to see Nathan Chen make a comeback from a fall in the short program to win it all, his third world title in a row–the first American to do so since Scott Hamilton–and if he wins the Olympics and a fourth world title next year, he’ll be in even more elite company. The women also managed to earn the US three Olympic spots, which I wasn’t expecting to happen, so at least we’ll have as full a team as possible; I think Nathan winning automatically earns us three men for the team–but the rules may have changed, and I must confess I don’t pay nearly as much attention to figure skating as I used to. I hate this new points system; always have since it was implemented, and I don’t believe it forestalls arrangements between judges the way the old system did–not to mention the guarantee of anonymity so no one knows how any judge scored any competitor; I fail to see how this will stop collusion, but I am not the ISU.

The humidity has been ruinous on my sinuses lately; it’s so weird for it to be so hot and humid already this year. My windows are covered in condensation this morning, which is unusual for this time of year–that new HVAC system clearly works extremely well–an I am going to head to the gym later this morning for my weekend workout. The rain kept me from going earlier in the week, so for the last two weeks I’ve only had two workouts per week; not goo, but better than one and much better than not going at all. I need to get some new workout clothes, though; I haven’t bought workout shorts in well over ten years and thus they not only don’t fit properly but are also a little on the worn out side, and the more hot and humid it gets the less likely I am to want to wear sweat pants to the gym. I found some T-shirts in my T-shirt drawer back from the days when I could squeeze into a medium (I now wear extra large) and so I disposed of them as well. I really would like to get this book finished and turned in on Thursday the 1st (this week!) so I can spend my three day Easter weekend cleaning out books and going through my clothes.

I’d also like to spend some time finishing The Russia House. I read another chapter yesterday and greatly enjoyed it; I am really looking forward to spending more time with LeCarré. I also want to start reading more of these books that I keep buying and adding to my TBR pile, which is mostly out of control these days–I also need to recognize that many essays I have wanted to write about books and authors I enjoyed won’t ever happen because I will never have the time to write them, nor will I ever have the time to go back and reread the books; there simply isn’t enough time for all the reading I want to do, and I have to be more realistic. Some are simply too long–much as I loved Anya Seton’s Green Darkness, Arthur Hailey’s Airport, and Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke, there’s simply no way I can (or will) ever find the time to reread those books; let alone anything by Michener (I’ve been wanting to reread my favorite Michener, Centennial, for quite some time, but probably will never happen).

And once I have this book finished and turned in, I have to do some revisions of Bury Me in Shadows by May 1; I don’t think it’s anything major, really; a much more thorough copy edit, an additional clarifying sentence here and there, and then it will be finished, and then comes the first draft of Chlorine….at long last. There are also some submission calls I want to write for as well; we’ll see how that turns out, won’t we? But I think my stories “Death and the Handmaidens”, “The Blues Before Dawn”, and “Le Feu Follet” might actually have homes I can try to get them into; and there’s another call for a humorous mystery I’d like to take a shot at as well; my stories always seem to turn out to be darkly comic anyway.

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

Vanishing Point

Tuesday morning and I’m doing okay this morning, how are you, Constant Reader? (I ask very sincerely.)

I feel a little sleepy still this morning; not sure how that’s going to play out over the course of my day but it frankly does not bode well. I thought I had slept pretty well–I did wake up a few times–but this morning I am questioning it. I made it through almost the entire day yesterday without feeling tired at all; I did go to bed earlier on Sunday than I usually do, but come on. A half an hour can make that significant of a difference the next morning? I suppose it’s possibly, even if it seems terribly unlikely. I did manage to get a lot done yesterday–maybe not as much as I would have liked, but I did get it done–and same for today; I have a lot to get done, the deadline is pressing, and I actually may have to take my work-at-home days off this week in order to try to get everything done. I don’t think I will have to go anywhere or run any errands other than perhaps a mail run on Saturday, so other than that and going to the gym (I have to do that tonight as well) I should be able to do nothing other than write and work and clean up around here and maybe fill a few more boxes with books (my OCD brain is just itching to start going through the boxes of books in my storage attic and some of the ones I have in the living room, covered by a blanket, that sort of pass for tables). I would also like to finish reading The Russia House at some point and move on to my next read.

I did get some work done on the book last night–not as much as I needed to, so I am going to be playing catch up for a while, hence the consideration of needing to use vacation time this weekend (it’s not a big deal, and I’ve not used much vacation time over this past year thanks to COVID-19; not nearly as much as I would have used otherwise–no Edgar week trip to New York last year and this; no board meeting in New York in January; no trip to Bouchercon in Sacramento last fall, etc.) so maybe taking another couple of days here to get my book done isn’t such a bad idea, and if it’s done–I can enjoy my three day Easter weekend by being lazy and reading and cleaning….and Paul will be free for that weekend as well with my Festival widowhood officially ending this coming Sunday evening. There are also some calls for submissions I’d like to get some short stories written or revised for, and as I have said any number of times, it would be lovely to get some more short stories out there on submission.

Last night I finished watching Visible on Apple Plus, and I have to say I really enjoyed it–and even though it was about queer representation on television–it was also educational for me in ways I hadn’t anticipated it being. The series pulled no punches about representation–pointing out that the growth in queer rep on television for many years was incredibly limited, and primarily to white gay men at that; no lesbians, no bisexuals, no transpeople, no other races or melanin; it also made me realize that I myself had always lumped all queers together without respect to race or even the differences between the letters in our alphabet soup community; it was also incredibly educational on gender issues, particularly those of people who identify as non-binary. And that’s really the thing about our world, isn’t it? We never know everything, and we have to be open-minded about learning about new things, especially when they help broaden our understanding of humanity, what it means to be human, and how every human deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and empathy (until they prove unworthy, through their own actions as an individual and not consider that representative of others like them; i.e. “well, I worked with a trans-woman who was an awful person, so therefore all transpeople must be awful”). I found it overly simplistic in some places, of course–“women and gay men are natural allies” negates the awful truth that many anti-gay organizations were led by women (looking at you, Anita Bryant and Maggie Gallagher) and there are any number of right-wing women today who are not allies to the queer community, and are actually actively hostile to it.

But it was lovely being reminded of how much I’d loved My So-Called Life, and how much that love was due to Wilson Cruz and Rickey. I did think they glossed over HBO’s Angels in America, which certainly deserved as much attention as other shows they talked about, but it seemed to only be a very quick segment about how AIDS was being depicted and moved on very quickly from it….but nothing can cover everything with the depth one would prefer; hence the Planet Egypt series that jumped from King Narmer and Dynasty Zero in episode ahead a couple of thousand years to the 18th Dynasty for episode 2. It was also interesting being reminded of how the American Family Association and others of its ilk hounded Tales of the City off PBS–something I am sure PBS regrets to this day, given how successful it was as well as its follow-ups–and of course, I also remembered (having never forgotten) how seventeen-year-old Ryan Philippe launched his career playing gay teenager Billy Douglas on One Life to Live (I will always be a fan of his forever for this; it could have easily ended his nascent career), but I wish the docuseries had explored that story-line more in depth–it wasn’t just about a gay teenager being rejected by his family and trying to deal with homophobia and being out at that time; the show also tackled HIV/AIDS in a compelling story about how Father Andrew’s gay brother had died from it which was why he was so open and understanding with Billy; how Andrew’s homophobic father had to be brought around to mourn his son instead of being ashamed of his life; and how Andrew was also accused of molesting Billy by a vengeful young woman whose advances Andrew had scorned….and it all concluded with a visit to the AIDS Quilt. It was powerful and moving and must-see TV for me back then–in the early to mid-90’s One Life to Live was the fucking bomb, y’all. (They also covered consent, and the gang rape of a girl at a fraternity party when she’d had too much to drink–decades before we addressed this as a society, and still haven’t resolved the issue, frankly.)

If and when I ever do my book of essays, I may do one on One Life to Live during this time.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow.

The Beach

Tuesday!

Yesterday was not nearly as productive as it could have been. Generally, on mornings when I have to get up at six, will invariably have a cappuccino at home while I wake up, and then make another to take with me, which I sip at all morning. This gets me through the day pretty well, and through into my evening when I go home and write or edit or read or do chores. So, Constant Reader, you can only imagine my horror when I got to the office and my travel mug was not in its side holder on my back pack. (It turned out to be in the in the car–it fell out of its pocket when I got my backpack out of the car yesterday morning when I arrived at the office…) So yes, I ran out of steam yesterday afternoon, and was very tired by the time I got home from work. In other words, last night all I managed to do was a load of dishes, and quite frankly, this morning I’m not even sure what I watched last night, other than the final episode of It’s a Sin with Paul; turned out he did want to finish watching. Oh yes, now I remember; I watched this week’s episodes of Allen v. Farrow and John Oliver’s show. Allen V. Farrow continues to be a harrowing watch; this week’s episode was about the custody battle–which ended with Allen getting a massive bitchslap by both the court and the judge; in other words, the judge believed Mia to be a fit mother and Dylan a credible witness, and Allen didn’t prove himself to be a fit parent–in fact, his visitation rights with the two other children he shared with Farrow were limited by the court and had to be supervised. If the goal was to punish Farrow, it failed massively–other than making her miserable for a period of time. Interestingly enough, one of the main takeaways from the show is being blown away by how beautiful Mia still is, today. I never understood the desire to have so many children–not, of course, that my understanding was ever needed or necessary or required; my mentality was always “I don’t get the need for so many kids, but if it makes her happy, more power to her and she is adopting kids, which is terrific.” I don’t think Farrow has worked much since the break-up with Allen; her career was mostly starring in his movies after they became a couple…the real shame is I’d like to watch some of those films now (I’ve never seen many Allen films, not being a fan) but I’m not sure if I should. It’s another one of those Roman Polanski things–ironically, one of my favorite Polanski films also stars Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby–I think, but some of those Allen/Farrow films are considered classics.

In other welcome news, I discovered yesterday that I now weigh 203 pounds; the lowest since around 2011/2012, and just three pounds away from my goal weight. I managed to get down to around 212 last year or the year before, as a process, from the 225 I had ballooned up to about a decade or so ago; I set 200 as my goal weight for the year, but I’d be stuck at 212 for so long I didn’t think I was ever going to break through. A few weeks ago I was delighted to see I’d managed to break through that plateau and had dropped to 208; someone gave me a compliment yesterday which drove me to the scale in the (unused) nurse’s office and to my delight, I discovered that I had somehow dropped another five pounds–whether it’s the working out, the change in diet (which was neither extreme nor dramatic), or the walking to the gym and back and always using the stairs at the office, I am not sure–but it has happened, and it is most pleasing to our eyes. I also made some progress on my emails yesterday, which was a very pleasant development.

This weekend is the virtual Saints and Sinners Festival; I taped a panel about mystery and romance with four amazing writers (Carrie Smith, Carsen Taite, J. M. Redmann, and Cheryl Head), which I think is scheduled to air on Sunday, March 14th, at 3 pm CDT; I am not really sure where, so I will have to find out and post it later. I know that after its original air date it will be available for viewing on the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Youtube channel. I was woefully unprepared, but I also had a group of very smart, savvy, and talented women to give me great answers to simple questions and it was a lovely experience for me–I’m not so sure it was for them, but I didn’t see any eye-rolling on screen to my inane questions so they are also incredibly professional as well.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here either, but I also have an essay in the upcoming book from Mystery Writers of America Presents, How to Write a Mystery, edited by Lee Child and Laurie R. King. I know, right? I still have to pinch myself whenever I think about it. I got an ARC recently, and the book looks simply beautiful. And how awesome to be in a collection with some of the top writers in the field? I can now cross “be in an MWA anthology” off my bucket list–but “get selected for an MWA anthology through the blind read process” remains on the list. My essay is called “Writing the Talk” and is about dialogue, and it owes a heavy debt to editor Laurie R. King, who whipped it (and me) into publishable shape after a couple of rewrites and revisions.

And yes, there will be more about that later. 🙂

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be bright and fun and wonderful.

Academic

And just like that, it’s Saturday again, and huzzah to everyone for making it through another week. It’s another beautiful morning here in New Orleans; the sun already high and shining bright, the sky bright blue. I have errands to run and the gym to get to, and then I am planning on spending the rest of the day reading the manuscript and editing it. It will be a full day here in the Lost Apartment, and I relish getting back to work on my book. I hate being behind–this was the month I was supposed to spend getting caught up on everything else and finishing short stories so next month I could focus on Chlorine–but delays and things happen, as always, and sure, I am in that time of life where one is acutely aware of how quickly the sand is slipping through the hourglass–but I have also learned to not beat myself up over things I have little control over. I have no control over whether I sleep well, for example, and I have no control over my energy levels. I can do the best that I can, but I exert only so much control over any of those things.

Not allowing myself to get upset or stressed over things I cannot control is a lesson I am still learning, alas.

I often feel pulled in many directions (and am fully aware that this is probably the case for everyone; it seems as though everyone is having a rough time since the pandemic shut down the world last year–almost a full year ago; we closed down services at my day job on March 16th) with an inevitable amount of endless tasks for everything I am involved in, and usually every day I have an idea of what I want and/or need to get done with every day; and yet I never achieve those goals because inevitably something new pops in and/or pops up that requires attention of some sort from me, and this inevitably results in me not getting to everything that needs getting to, which then makes the to-do list seem even more endless, and on and on. Part of the problem I’ve been having since the pandemic altered everything is my inability to sit down and make an actual to-do list–because the to-do list would inevitably require me to get through all of my emails, and I sometimes have neither the strength nor the patience to work my way through them all. Right now in my primary in-box I have 56 unread emails–I’ve already deleted the trek–and there’s about another 100 or so in there I’ve already read that probably need a response, or an addition to my to-do list.

I also remembered last night, as Paul and I watched the LSU gymnastics team defeat Missouri, that I’ve never finished watching two shows I really liked and was enjoying that he didn’t–Perry Mason on HBO Max and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels on Showtime. So those, along with a rewatch binge of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, should go on my list of things to watch while I am making condom packs–or when I am done with work for the day and Paul’s not home. I was quite delighted that he came home from the office so we could watch the gymnastics; I am not really seeing a lot of him these days and so those moments when he is home are more to be cherished and enjoyed because of their rarity. I am a Festival widow every March, really; but this year more so than any other I am really looking forward to the Festival being over.

I also would like to get back into reading some more…I’m not sure what in my brain is broken, but for some reason I can’t read anything other than the chapter of so of Gore Vidal’s Lincoln that I get through every morning. I think it’s a combination of all the things I have hanging over my head, quite frankly, that keeps me from reading–and as I’ve also said, watching television or a movie or even just Youtube videos is much more passive than active and requires little to no brain power. I did come up with a couple of great titles yesterday for short stories as I made my condom packs and continued watching videos about queer representation in films and television from the 1960’s through the 1990’s; there was a lovely little video yesterday of how the Queer Cruise videos guy was helped to come out by viewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show when he was in high school; and that got me thinking about my own history with Rocky Horror, and what it meant to me; perhaps yet another essay someday. Is that still shown as a midnight movie? I would imagine not, given the pandemic and the fact that’s been on television and available to purchase on tape or download now for decades; I remember thinking the first time it aired on television well, that’s the end of that and it honestly did feel like the end of an era. I imagine many freaks and weirdos and queer kids no longer need something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a gateway to their own worlds and the possibilities that life holds for them…there’s more and more queer rep all the time, in books, movies, plays, and television; although I would imagine in more repressive parts of the country Rocky Horror would still be a revelation.

And now I am thinking about writing a short story or a book about a murder built around a midnight showing of the movie. Oy, it really never ends…

I also like this other idea for a story I came up with yesterday: “The Rites of False Spring.” I scribbled down a lot of notes about that one.

And on that note, the spice won’t mine itself, so I should probably head on into the mines.

Restless

And now it is Friday, the end of a week that was a bit of a slog, but ultimately I am glad it’s Friday. Paul got his vaccination yesterday (I am expecting the side effects for him today), I recorded a panel for Saints and Sinners–“Crimes of the Heart”, with me moderating Carsen Taite, J. M. Redmann, Carrie Smith, and Cheryl Head, and then came home to work-at-home for the rest of the day. (I also did that in the morning; I was very drained by the time my work-at-home hours were finished.) We also got our new HVAC system yesterday–rather, the electrical guys my landlady has used since time immemorial finished installing it; and much to my surprise, it made an enormous difference. The downstairs floor vents, which barely ever had a trickle of air coming out of them on the best of times, were blowing enough air to make paper held to the refrigerator with magnets fly up, restrained only by their magnets. It was about 78 outside yesterday, and the guys had set it to about 72 downstairs, and it was cold in here, and get cold quickly. The downstairs never cools as much as the upstairs…and now we have different temperature controls upstairs and down.

Game changer, for sure.

While I was working yesterday I watched the premiere of Superman and Lois, the take on Superman from Greg Berlanti, the CW, and what they call the Arrowverse. And while I gradually tired of Arrow and stopped watching about five seasons in (The Flash didn’t last as long; I just got fed up with “Okay, I am going to go back in time and change the time-line despite the fact that I’ve already done this before twice and fucked up my life completely, but this time will be different”) and never really got into any of the other shows–I really should; until Arrow began retreading plots and all the third time of fucking with the timeline on The Flash I greatly enjoyed both shows, so I am sure there others are terrific as well, at least for a while….but this was Superman, and Superman has always been my favorite of all (Batman and Spider-Man running a close race for second favorite), and I wanted to give it a shot. Tyler Hoechlin is an actor I enjoyed on Teen Wolf, and I liked the concept behind Clark and Lois having teenaged sons. When I first started watching, it took me a minute to get used to this new Lois, and I wasn’t sure she was the right actress for the part, but Elizabeth Tulloch definitely proved me wrong during the course of the show. I highly recommend it; the CW has captured the right spirit of Superman–which the film, much as I love the cast and Henry Cavill, who is also perfect for the part, did not. Superman is about hope, and has always been; a human-like alien from another planet with extraordinary powers who rather than taking over the world and making everyone bow to him, chooses to use his powers to protect and save, for the common good. Superman is aspirational–an alien raised in the United States by good people who taught him right and wrong, and who is, at heart, a decent human being who applies that morality, that sense of “I have these gifts and I need to use them for the betterment of mankind”, to his life, both in his Clark Kent secret identity and as the most powerful being on earth. Hope is what was missing from the DCUniverse Superman films–Superman always puts everyone else ahead of his own issues, his own pain, his own suffering–because it’s the right thing to do. There is serious chemistry between the characters, the actress who plays Lois is perfect, and so are the kids playing their fraternal twin sons, Jonathan and Jordan. The first episode really focuses on the family in crisis: Clark loses his job at the Daily Planet (kudos to the show for addressing the ongoing crisis in journalism); Jordan has social anxiety disorder; Martha Kent dies; and there’s some super villain going around trying to get nuclear power plants to melt down. Clark and Lois have never told the boys their father is Superman; they find out in this episode and one of the boys begins to exhibit powers, which leads to not only a crisis within the family but between the brothers as well.

Seriously, Tyler Hoechlin is possibly the best Superman since Christopher Reeve, which is high praise indeed.

The weather in New Orleans has turned back into something more like normal; it was in the high seventies yesterday, with bright sunshine and a gorgeous clear blue sky. This morning appears to be somewhat similar, and of course, the Lost Apartment is a disaster area and I have at least four hundred new emails to read through, deleting trash but reading the ones that aren’t trash and deciding which ones need responding to. I slept extremely well last night, and am hopeful the malaise of the last few weeks might be on the way out–or at least I am getting a temporary respite from it, at any rate.

It’s been very difficult for me to get It’s a Sin out of my head, and I suspect I am going to have to watch again. My initial reaction to it was so visceral and deeply felt (the power of seeing yourself represented on a show cannot ever be underestimated) that I want to view it again–knowing what’s coming might lessen the emotional impact on me, or so I hope–so that I can evaluate it more critically and objectively. Ever since watching the first episode I have been going through these weird flashbacks to the past, MY past, and how things were for me back then…and I also think I’ve never given myself the time to properly grieve, ever, if that makes sense. Whenever I am going through something terrible I don’t allow myself to react. I tend to turn inward and go completely numb, thinking okay this is the hand I’ve been dealt so now I need to handle this and get through it–essentially, “I’ll cry tomorrow.” But tomorrow never comes, and I move on and try not to ever think about the something terrible I experienced or even look back. This mentality or ability or skill or whatever you want to call it has served me sort of well throughout my life; I have been told I am very good in a crisis…but is that good for me and my mental and emotional stability, to never stop and look back, to not sit down and have a good cry? Writing Murder in the Rue Chartres and the essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” proved to be, while incredibly difficult and painful to write, cathartic. And if that was cathartic, maybe I should have written from my experiences in the 1980’s and early 1990’s years ago rather than locking it all away in a deep recessed corner of my brain. I don’t know. I will never know, really; by the time I started writing and publishing gay fiction was already moving away from HIV/AIDS narratives; I distinctly remember wanting to write about Scotty because I wanted to write joyful stories where his sexuality was absolutely not a factor in his life; he had never had any issues about being gay and always had the love and support of parents and siblings, even if it took a little longer for him to realize his grandparents were also supportive. It’s one of the reasons, I suppose, why I continue to write about him all these years later…because I love him and have so much fun writing about him because when I write about him I get to pretend to be him.

And it’s fun being him for a little while.

And on that note, it is time to begin my work day. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Temptation

A very cold Monday morning in New Orleans, and the sun has yet to peek its head out from under the blankets this morning. I slept deeply and well last night also, which made the getting up even more difficult this morning. My space heater is going on HIGH right now, and my cappuccino feels wonderful to my incredibly cold hands. This morning’s shower is going to be quite the challenge, though. But I do feel rested this morning, which is lovely, and while dealing with today’s cold temperatures will indeed suck, I feel like I am somehow up for the challenge.

Walking to the gym tonight after work will be a considerably different tale, I fear.

We started watching Bridgerton last night (that’s us, always on the cusp and cutting edge of what’s new and exciting) and as I watched, I found the word charming popping up in my head when thinking about the show, which is a word that has fallen out of favor and use as a descriptor for fictions, but I think needs to come back. (Ted Lasso, for example, is also a charming show.) As I watched, I began to understand the pull of romance novels again. It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a romance, and I think this has been a grave disservice, not just to the romance genre in general but to me as a critical thinker and writer. I loved romances when I was younger, with a particular appeal for those novels and authors who carried the label romantic suspense–because those combined my two favorite genres, romance and mystery. I also read an awful lot of historical romances–mostly ones based on true history; romance of queens and empresses and princesses and royal mistresses (one of my all time favorites is Anya Seton’s Katherine, which told of the great love story of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, and his commoner mistress, Katherine Swynford; whom he had an entire brood of children with and married after the death of his second wife, raising her to be the highest ranking women in England, second only to the Queen herself), and as I watched the show last night, I thought to myself in an alternate universe you would have been a romance writer. The Regency period has never interested me much in England–although the clothes were quite marvelous, and any number of women today would benefit from the Empire style high-waisted dress–primarily because it wasn’t, to me, a particularly interesting period, what with the mad King and his awful sons, who created a succession crisis as they refused royal marriages while living with their commoner mistresses and having hordes of bastard children by them. The show is sumptuous and the attention to details of the period exact; it has the look and feel of care and money, and we were, as I said, quite charmed by it–and we certainly weren’t expecting that.

There is an interesting essay about how Americans enjoy watching rich people suffer as entertainment formulating in my brain as I type this–going back to the 1980’s prime time soaps and mini-series.

I tried working on my short story yesterday, and I did manage to get the 1600 words I’d originally written revised and polished and in better working order, but I did not write into the second act of the story, which is the part I always struggle with on everything, from short stories to essays to novels to novellas. The story is due on Thursday, so I think I am going to have to buckle down, avoid Twitter (yes, I continued trolling right wing politicians and Trump administration appointees yesterday. It’s so endlessly satisfying calling Sarah Huckabee Sanders a fake Christian, a liar, and a traitor to her face…or asking trash like Tomi Lahren why she hates the Constitution, reminding Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio they are cucks and traitors…but effective today I am banning myself from anything other than bantering with friends on there anymore–I have too much to do to bother with stating the obvious to treasonous traitor trash.)

The sun is now rising over the West Bank, and the light is very gray. The sky is covered with clouds–it may even rain today, if I am not mistaken–and this cold spell is supposed to last most of the week, dipping into the low forties after sundown.

I also read a marvelous short story yesterday called “The Fixer”, a collaborative work by Edgar winners Laura Lippman and Alison Gaylin, which was in the Mystery Writers of America anthology Deadly Anniversaries, edited by Grand Masters Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller–released in the midst of the lockdown last spring, so it didn’t get the attention it truly deserved. The story is quite marvelous–you can never go wrong in the hands of either Lippman or Gaylin, let alone when they collaborate–and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s kind of a “#metoo” story in some ways; it tells the story of a faded child star who appeared in a science fiction television series who now makes most of her living selling signed photos of herself at Comic Cons, who in the present day runs into someone who was her ‘handler’ some years earlier when she was making a movie that eventually was shut done and never finished–ending her career with it–and what happened back then. It’s quite chilling, and a very hard look at how women’s bodies, regardless of age, are seen as property by men in the industry–property those same men have a right to use and abuse how they see fit. There have long been rumors about pedophilia in Hollywood–both Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson wrote mystery novels around that very subject, which were two of their best books, I might add–and I highly recommend this story, and this anthology; every story in it was written by an Edgar winner, and I will be posting more about the stories as I read them.

The Saints also won yesterday, beating the Bears 21-10 (hey Bears fans, finished what Katrina started yet? Yeah. I have a looooooong ass memory) in an underwhelming game I had on while I cleaned the kitchen and made dinner. Next up are the Buccaneers, whom we’ve already beaten twice; will the third time be the charm for Tom Brady and his new team? Tonight is the Alabama-Ohio State game for the national title in college football, and I don’t find myself caring too terribly about that, to be honest. I might have it on? We’ll probably watch Bridgerton instead, and I’ll see who won when I get up tomorrow morning.

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

White Horse

Monday and another week has begun.

Christmas draws ever closer; but it doesn’t seem quite real. No holidays have actually seemed real this year, and this is going to continue, methinks, deep into 2021. No Carnival parades, no in-person literary events all spring (Saints and Sinners, Tennessee Williams Festival, Edgars, probably no Malice Domestic or Left Coast Crime) and even summer is questionable. Heavy heaving sigh.

Yesterday was lovely. The Saints hung on to beat the hated Falcons in Atlanta, which was nice, and I spent some time with The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. I’m not as in to it as I would have hoped, but I suspect once the story kicks into gear that will change. It’s exceptionally well written–I can see why it won so many awards, and LeCarre is held in such high esteem–and of course, there’s that whole disconnect with the Cold War. Can you believe there are people in their early thirties now who have no memory of the Cold War? The USSR officially collapsed and began breaking up, and the Berlin Wall came done, about thirty years ago. There are, for that matter, kids in high school who weren’t born yet when 9/11 happened; tweens are too young to remember Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans directly after. That’s kind of staggering, in many ways, to imagine that seminal life-changing paradigm shifting events occurred so long ago that the young of today aren’t old enough to remember. I, of course, don’t remember the JFK assassination–I was only two when it happened–so I myself was too young for some seminal, life-changing, paradigm shifting moments myself.

We finished the new season of Big Mouth last night–it’s so funny and filthy and brutally honest about the awful age when you go through puberty (it’s a wonder more people aren’t horribly scarred)–and we also caught the finale of Murder on Middle Beach, which ended without a resolution. I looked at Paul–the episode pretty much closed with the documentarian winning his Freedom of Information lawsuit to gain access to the ten year old police files about his mother’s murder–and said, “Um, I think they finished the documentary too soon–what did they find out?” This was annoying in some ways–but I also didn’t expect the series to solve the murder, either. It was like an incredibly unsatisfying crime novel–a murder divides a family, the kids grow up and try to solve their mother’s murder which has aversely affected their lives, only to have the book close without resolution?

Not nearly as disappointing an end as The Undoing, frankly–we’ll go a long time before we see another series that ends so badly and disappointingly as that.

But now we have to find something new to watch, heavy sigh.

I didn’t write this weekend nearly as much as I should have, but I reread all my notes from the entire writing process, and reread the final fourteen chapters, so I have an idea where I need to go and what I need to do from now on, so that’s a win, methinks. I also went over the copy edits on an essay, and got that finished. I also went to the gym yesterday, which was lovely. My body seems to be adjusting to exercising again–and it’s starting to respond to it. My muscles are getting firm again, and starting to get bigger again. I suspect this is going to wind up being yet another repeat of every other time I’ve gotten into the swing of working out my entire life–I am never going to feel sufficiently lean, will always think I’m carrying too much fat weight, etc etc etc ad nauseum ad finitum, and I am preparing myself for that particular neuroses. Plus, I am sixty–time to let go of the extreme vanity and the need for reassurance from other people.

I’ve also had some second thoughts about Bury Me in Shadows, but they are quite literally the same ones I’ve had almost this entire time since I started writing the damned thing. I spent most of the weekend in the weeds on this book–rereading chapters, rereading notes, looking at things I’ve deleted, trying to figure out if I am doing a good job telling this story or if I’m being too lecturing in places…I don’t think I can remember the last time I’s second guessed and doubted myself as much on a book as I have with this one. But that’s, I hope, a good thing? We shall see. I can’t wait to see the final cover.

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

Invisible

Sunday morning and a lot to get done today. I was horribly lazy yesterday; I wound up doing very little other than reading–I finished The Bad Seed and then moved on to The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (I’ve never read John LeCarre, and am trying to get better read in my. genre’s classics, both titles and authors) and got some chores done, but other than that–not a goddamned thing. So today I I have to play catch up as well as go to the gym and somehow pay some attention to the Saints game, which is at noon. (I’ll most likely do some things around here, go to the gym around elevenish, and then come home and do things while the game is on.) The LSU game went about the way I expected it to last night–55-17 final score–so congratulations to Alabama’s players and coaching staff; I can’t imagine there’s a better team in the country this season, so it’ll be fun watching y’all go all the way again. LSU has to play Florida next weekend, which will most likely be another horror show like yesterday’s, but at least at that point the season will be over.

This football season is yet another gift the year 2020 has given me. Thanks, 2020, thank you.

It feels cold again this morning in the Lost Apartment–I have my space heater on and a cap on my bald scalp–but it doesn’t look so bad outside, really. Lots of clouds hiding the sky and the sun, but this week is supposed to be warmer than last, so I think I’ll be able to hang this week after last week’s cold spell.

Once I finish this I am going to make a to-do list for this week–I really need to make a point of doing that every Sunday, so I have a roadmap for my week–and also so that things won’t slip through the cracks and be forgotten. This has been a really bad year for me to try to remember everything I have to get done–I keep forgetting things, which isn’t good–so I am trying to be ever so much better about this. The whole year I’ve felt like I’ve been in this weird state of limbo, just drifting and trying to get by, keep dog-paddling and keeping my head above water, and it’s not been easy. (It’s not really been an easy year for most people, I suspect.)

Last night as we binged Big Mouth after the LSU game, I was trying to remember the highlights of the year–the good things that happened that I am grateful for, and realized that, sadly, most of the things I was thinking of was television or movies I’d watched, or books I’d read and greatly enjoyed. I had a pretty good year at the beginning of the year in selling short stories–I sold quite a few this year, continuing a trend from last year, to the point where I keep forgetting story sales I made, which is so weird–but also means that in 2021 I am going to have some stories appear in anthologies or publications, which is terribly cool. I know I stretched myself as a writer–hell, I wrote a Sherlock Holmes story this year, and created a Sherlockian world in 1916 New Orleans–and while there were anthologies and things I tried (and failed) to submit to, I have some terrific stories now that are in some state of writing that could turn out to be something interesting. I am looking forward to spending some more time with both “The Sound of Snow Falling” and “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–and there are any number of others I’d love to dive back into. The problem being, of course, that I have limited writing time, and for the rest of this month I have to focus on finishing the one book and then the first two months of 2021 finishing the other. I’m not really sure what I want to spend the rest of 2021 doing; I know I am co-editing the Minneapolis Bouchercon anthology and that’s going to take a chunk of time to read all those submissions and make decisions and then edit them all, but let’s face it, it’s also not my first time at the anthology rodeo. I want to try to write another Scotty at some point in 2021, and I know I also have Chlorine to work on, but…I guess we’ll just have to see how the year pans out.

I know I want to pull another short story collection together, too, and of course there’s the novellas…

I also polished off a journal last night, so I get to start a new one this morning, which is kind of fun. I’ve been blasting through journals at a pretty good pace since I started using them again, and while I cannot say that they’ve been enormously helpful in keeping my act together and keeping me on track with any of the writing I’ve been doing, they’ve been wonderful for me to jot notes and ideas in, and I’ve been doing much better about going back into them and rereading them and getting the unpolished jewels out of them. I have a really nice one that has a magnetic clasp that I got at Garden District Books, and then got a pack of three the last time I went to Costco, so I am certainly set for journals for the year.

I’ve also got to get the copy edits on my essay finished.

I also spent some time yesterday slowly but surely pruning the books. I’ve done a great job of pruning them already, so much so that there’s slim pickings for getting rid of things I will most likely never read–I always stop myself and have to think, long and hard, about whether I should get rid of an unread book–but I also need to keep making room for more–because at some point I’ll start buying books again. Not sure when that will be financially feasible–right now, books are filed in the “luxury item” column, especially when I already have so many on hand that I’ve not read–but I have quite a list of books that I want to get when I can.

There are never enough books, frankly.

And on that note, I need some more coffee as well as fold some laundry. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader!

Treacherous

And it’s Saturday, and my vacation is slowly but surely drawing to a close. Heavy heaving sigh,

It’s been lovely, actually, even if I haven’t been particularly inspired to do a whole lot this entire time. It’s always easy–and kind of a cop-out–to say, well, you needed the physical, intellectual, and emotional rest, but I really need to cut myself a break every now and again. The endless struggle between “feeling lazy” and “everyone needs a break” is an endless war inside my head; inevitably, the things I need to get done will get done and at some point, I’ll forgive myself for the rest.

I had a very strange inspiration for a short story the other day, which I scribbled down and have some vague idea of where the story will go; it’s called “The Sound of Snow Falling” and the first line is: It was the ice storm that finally broke him. I love that first line; whether it will wind up being a good story remains to be seen. But one thing I’ve never mined in my fiction is my utter hatred for cold weather; perhaps it’s time.

I actually worked on the book yesterday afternoon! It was lovely, and while it still needs polishing up some, I am confident that now that I’ve gotten past whatever the fuck it was that kept me holding back from working on it, I am certain I am going to get this done sooner rather than later–which is a very good thing, as time is running out very quickly. Today I have to run some errands, so I am planning on working on the book before I do that. The Iron Bowl (Auburn-Alabama) is today, and LSU plays Texas A&M tonight, so I need to try to get as much done as I can before the 2:30 kick off.

I did go to the gym yesterday and today my back muscles are sore and tight, so I am going to need to use the heating pad at some point today–probably while I drink more coffee and read some more of Night of Camp David, which is kind of scarily prophetic, given it was published originally in 1965. We also watched this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, which did a marvelous job of tying the show into the the original trilogy, the prequels, and the final trilogy–apparently, it also tied the show into The Clone Wars, which I’ve never watched (and perhaps should). We also found out the Child’s name–Gorgu–and as always, the show was enormously entertaining (also: a guest spot by Michael Biehn, of The Terminator and Aliens fame!) and visually stunning and splendid. It did occur to me last night that the show–in which the Mandalorian’s quest is to find Gorgu’s people–can’t ever really separate them, as their relationship is at the beating heart of the show.

The show is really one of the highlights of my every weekend, frankly.

We weren’t ready for bed yet, and were trying to find some stand-up comedian special to watch before hand–to no avail–when Amazon Prime suggested Porky’s to us. I had actually run across the movie when looking for things to add to my watchlist, and the film–from 1981–was a watershed moment in “teen movies”–when they turned from the unrealistic fluff from Disney or message movies to sex comedies. I assumed the movie wouldn’t hold up–I remember thinking it was really funny when I was twenty and saw it in the theater–and I was correct; the humor falls very flat in almost every case; the way women are treated–and the way they are expected to simply put up with it (and do) is horrifying, It’s a comedy predicated on the idea that high school boys are always horny and always trying to get laid–none of the boys have a relationship of any kind with any women–and the only female cast members exist only as potential sex partners–Wendy is the female equivalent of the boys, and despite her easy way with her own favors, (basically the boys see her as a willing sex partner who can be persuaded to have sex with just about anyone) she is actually popular and has a lot of friends. (This struck me as wrong when I originally saw it–she would have had a bad reputation-and none of the girls would have been friends with her) The other women in the cast are Miss Honeywell (a very young Kim Cattrall)–again, everyone calls her Lassie because she gets very aroused by the smell of the equipment room and howls loudly as she gets laid–and an uptight, overweight, gym teacher known as Beulah Ballbricker, that they all call Ball-breaker and I suppose her sexual repression and determination to keep the girl students safe from the lusts and perversions of the boys is played for laughs. She represents the sexual frustration and repression of the time, I suppose, that all the kids are rebelling against; but you also can’t help feel sorry for her in some ways.

The movie clearly doesn’t hold up–there are still some moments that are funny–but it depends entirely too much on very low sex humor for laughs, and its very vulgarity was what made it funny; it was shocking, and you would laugh back then because you couldn’t believe they were doing these things in a movie for laughs. Some forty years later, it’s no longer shocking, so it’s not funny anymore and it’s just plain vulgar. They also tacked on a subplot about prejudice and anti-semitism to, I suppose, give the movie a “serious” message about how stupid bigotry actually is in reality. And yet it–along with Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Animal House of a few years earlier–changed the teen movie forever, and paved the way for other movies of the 1980’s like Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, and The Last American Virgin. With the enormous success of this low-budget indie film, along with Ridgemont High and Animal House, Hollywood finally got the message that you can’t go wrong with sex comedies for teens–and teen movies, while still kind of extreme in some ways, began to more accurately reflect what life was like for teenagers, as opposed to the Frankie-Annette movies of the 1960’s and the Kurt Russell films for Disney in the 1970’s; or began developing films in which the teens were actually fully realized characters–I’m not sure how realistic the notion of running a brothel from your parents’ home in a wealthy suburb is. (Although now that I’ve said that, Risky Business was probably based on something that actually happened.)

There’s a really interesting essay or dissertation or even book there, methinks, but I’m not enough of a film expert to do such a thing–although it would make for interesting reading.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. The caffeine is beginning to kick in, which is most lovely, and I am most anxious to get functional and to work on the book as quickly as I can. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

How You Get The Girl

Friday morning and all is right in my world–at least so far so good, one would think.

The weather has been truly spectacular here these past few weeks–despite dipping into the “almost too cold for Gregalicious” category after the sun goes down–and I’ve been really enjoying it. LSU is playing tomorrow–although I don’t have very high hopes for the game, since the program is now in turmoil, not only from having a surprisingly bad season but from allegations of sexual assault from players and ensuing cover-ups, which is despicable, frankly–and of course the Drew Brees injury has things looking rather bleak for the Saints as well. Ah, 2020 football season–so much worse than I’d ever thought it could be for fans in Louisiana. Heavy heaving sigh.

I reluctantly came to the conclusion yesterday that I am not going to try to get my story finished for that “monsters of Christmas” anthology. Much as it would be fun to be in the book if accepted, while the pay would certainly be lovely and welcomed, and I also loved the idea of trying to get a story written and publishable (maybe) in such a short period of time–despite all of those things, I really shouldn’t take time away from either the book or the other story already in progress that is developing nicely. It’s not the smartest thing in the world to do, and can I really spare the necessary time to get it done? Probably not, so while I am not crossing it off my to-do list entirely, I am not going to pressure or push myself to get it done.

My back is still sore this morning–but sitting in my easy chair with the heating pad while making condom packs certainly helped dramatically. I’m still not entirely sure what I did at the gym to cause this soreness, and the last time I went to the gym I didn’t feel it getting worse as I went through my workout, so who the hell knows? More heating pad today, and hopefully when I go to the gym later it’ll be okay.

Yesterday I watched two films while making condom packs, and while both fit squarely into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, the other also crossed over, theoretically, into the Halloween Horror Film Festival–or would have, had it not been so incredibly terrible.

The first was Deliverance, which was an enormous hit on its first release, made Burt Reynolds a bonafide movie star, and has added so much to the common vernacular that people probably quote it without knowing the source material. While I knew the whole “squeal like a pig” thing came from Deliverance, I did NOT know “he’s sure got a pretty mouth” also came from the film. My parents took my sister and I to see it at the drive-in (and in retrospect, what in the name of God were they thinking? That movie is definitely inappropriate for junior high school students), and while I do not recall the other movie that played with it (which might have explained the choice better), I was pleasantly surprised in some ways by Deliverance. For one thing, it’s beautifully shot in the back woods/mountains of Georgia–breathtakingly beautiful. James Dickey wrote the screenplay based on his only novel–he was primarily known as a poet, and was also an alcoholic–and I’ve tried several times to read the book; I have a copy on my shelves somewhere right now. The film definitely fits in that paranoid 1970’s sub-genre of city people discovering how truly terrifying the country can be, despite the entire American mythology of the country and rural communities being the real America (which still rears its ugly head from time to time today). I could write an entire essay debunking that myth, frankly, as I am rather surprised no one has ever written (doesn’t mean someone hasn’t) an essay or a treatise about this entire sub-genre of film and fiction novels.

Deliverance is also an interesting exploration of 1970’s masculinity; the concept of masculinity, and what is traditionally masculine, was already starting to change and shift around the time the book was written and the film made; in its four characters we see the four masculine archetypes of the time, and how they compare/contrast with each other. The basic premise of the story–a river is being dammed to create a lake, and the dam will provide hydroelectric power for Atlanta, while the lake will flood towns and force communities to relocate away from land held in their families for generations, so these four men decide to canoe down the river one last time in a kind of “back to nature” type weekend thing that was becoming more and more popular with city-dwelling men whose city lives were beginning to make them think they were soft. Burt Reynolds, with his rubber zip up sleeveless vest, with the zipper strategically unzipped enough to show off the thick black pelt of hair on his chest, stood in for the masculine ideal; a strong man who, despite living in the city, only truly comes alive when pitting himself against nature in a game of survival; he is also the only member of the party who understands the dangers of the wilderness–the other three men in the party all think of it as a fun lark. He keeps referring to the Ned Beatty character as Chubby–he’s out of shape and not as fit; out of his element in the wilderness and often complaining and unable to meet the physical demands of the trip. Jon Voight, still at the height of his blonde youthful beauty, is prettily masculine–overshadowed by Reynolds’ machismo, but able to rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done. The fourth member of the trip–played by Ronny Cox–is yet another soft city type, definitely out of his element; while not seen as useless as the Ned Beatty type, also not as useful in a crisis as he could have been. The film’s bottom line is ultimately about survival, and who will survive when a fun weekend goes wrong. Deliverance also plays into a lot of the stereotypes about poor rural Southern white people–in fact, I would go so far as to say that Deliverance is responsible for cementing a lot of those stereotypes into the public consciousness. It’s a very good, if slightly bizarre, film; it certainly has to be one of the first films to depict male-on-male rape (and that’s one of the flaws in the film; why on earth did that happen? Why did the two rednecks attack them? Maybe it makes more sense in the book), and one of the reasons I always wanted to read the book was to see if there was more information, more explanation, to make the story work better. But I never have been able to get past the first chapter–Dickey was also one of those hard-drinking macho bullshit Hemingway-type writers, oozing with toxic masculinity, and that really comes through in the first chapter of the book, which is as far as I’ve ever gotten without putting it aside with a wince. But there’s an interesting essay to be written about masculinity and how it is portrayed in the film; reading the book and including it, with a comparison/contrast, could be enlightening.

The second half of my double header was Damien: Omen II, which is now available on Amazon Prime–but wasn’t back when I rewatched The Omen and The Final Conflict, the third part of the trilogy. Damien is just a bad movie, from beginning to end; it opens shortly after the conclusion of the first film, and the archaeologist in the Holy Land, Bugenhagen, telling a friend that Damien Thorn is the anti-Christ, proving it by showing him a newly excavated wall where a medieval monk who was visited by the devil and went mad, painted the images the devil showed him; amongst those images are the anti-Christ at numerous stages of his life–and he looks like Damien Thorn. Bugenhagen also has the ritual daggers that must be used to kill Damien…which is interesting, since he gave them to the Gregory Peck character in the first film, who was trying to use them at the end when he was killed; how did the old man get the daggers back? Was there more than one set? The rest of the movie is about Damien slowly learning who he is, while people continue to die around him, including his cousin/best friend. Damien was taken in by his father’s brother and his second wife, played by William Holden and Lee Grant (and just like in the first film, they are way too old to have thirteen year old sons), and the movie makes no sense, isn’t scary in anyway, and just really comes across as a pale imitation of the first, which wasn’t very good to begin with.

I also read a short story last night, from The Darkling Halls of Ivy, and while I did enjoy reading the story, “Einstein’s Sabbath,” by David Levien, in which a Princeton student after the second world war, one who was on the ship that sent the planes with the atomic bombs to Japan, comes to Professor Einstein’s home to blame him for the use of the bombs, and their creation. It’s an interesting story, but like the Jane Hamilton, not really a crime story per se; which is the only real problem I had with it.

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