Can’t Fight This Feeling

Saturday! Yesterday was so obnoxiously humid that I was completely exhausted when I finished all the running around I had to do yesterday; it was all I could do to stay awake. Regardless, I cleaned the kitchen–even doing the floors–and started work on the living room before collapsing into my easy chair with a book in the early evening and dozed off while reading Carson McCullers’ Reflections in a Golden Eye.

Not that it’s not a good book, but I was simply tired.

I often talk about how, despite my voracious habit that goes back as long as I can remember, that there are many classics of literature I’ve not read (including Huckleberry Finn). I was thinking about that this week, because I’d ordered two sets of books–a set of Hemingway and a set of Fitzgerald–that my dad owned, having gotten them from a book club, when I was a kid (I’d already found the Faulkner set on ebay; which is where I found these others as well). I don’t remember if it was the Literary Guild or the Doubleday Book Club or what, but my dad joined one of those mail-order book clubs and got those three sets of books–I suppose thinking that we needed nice copies of classic books by three of American literature’s most shining (straight white male) lights (I think he later added a set of Steinbeck, but I could be wrong; that might have been me in my teens.)

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I took an American Lit class my sophomore year in high school, and it’s from that class–as well as the American Lit class I took in college–that my antipathy to many classic writers was born. I think reading The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Babbitt, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms in high school, when I was too young to really appreciate them kind of ruined them, and those authors, for me. I’ve not reread the books, so I don’t know if I still wouldn’t care for them; but I do know that I’ve gone on to read other books by some of those authors and liked them (Steinbeck’s East of Eden is one of my favorite books of all time; Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry and It Can’t Happen Here are terrific; and I really enjoyed This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald). I’ve never revisited Hemingway, as my visceral response to the two books of his I did actually read was so strong. But I am going to give it another go; I am going to read The Sun Also Rises (my father thinks For Whom the Bell Tolls is the greatest American novel; but Dad and I rarely agree on anything cultural), and I am also going to reread The Great Gatsby at some point. I may even give The Grapes of Wrath another go; it actually kind of bothers me that there are ‘American classics’ that I didn’t like and may not have because I wasn’t old enough or mature enough, as either a human or a reader, to have enjoyed and appreciated.

But Christ, there is so little time to read everything!

Which is one of the reasons I am reading this McCullers novel (although calling it a novel is quite generous; it’s only 127 pages so it’s really a novella) is because I’ve not read much of McCullers (The Member of the Wedding in college, didn’t like it–but there is, I think, something about being forced to read something that makes me dislike what I am being forced to read; I should probably revisit Flannery O’Connor as well), and I am thinking that I probably should.

Ah, today’s storm is about to break, so I shall take that as indication that I should put on my helmet and get back to the spice mines.

 

(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long

Saturday morning. After my morning coffee,  I’m going to run some errands, and then I am going to figure out what time to drive out to Elmwood to see Wonder Woman–shooting for late afternoon/early evening; that way I can get some cleaning and revising done. I’ve not done much revising this week–which is shameful (there is some harsh and ugly truths there about the need for actual contractual deadlines, isn’t there?), and so my goal is to get back on track with all of that for this weekend. I want to get another three or four chapters revised, as well as the second draft of “Quiet Desperation” finished this weekend, so I can move on to revising another short story. I’ve also started a new draft of the eighth Scotty novel, Crescent City Charade, which I am hoping to get finished by the end of the summer (Labor Day is the goal). I absolutely HAVE to get these revisions finished by the end of June, because I want to spend the summer querying agents. I honestly believe this WIP is my best work, and could be an important book.

Whether that proves to be the case or not remains to be seen, of course, but here’s hoping.

The Lost Apartment is a mess, and has been for quite some time. I can’t remember the last time I did the floors, quite frankly, and it’s getting kind of ugly down there, honestly. I mean, our kitchen floor needs to be redone–tiles have come up–which kind of makes it hard to make it look nice anyway, but that’s no excuse for not cleaning, you know? My mother would be so ashamed.

So ashamed.

So, I am going to, as soon as I finish this cup of coffee, start straightening and cleaning up down here. It looks like it’s going to rain all weekend, so I am not going to bother with the windows (which are also long overdue for a cleaning; although I could do the inside. Hmmmm, that could be a plan, actually) and definitely work on these floors. There’s some filing to do–isn’t there always–and some other organizing I need to do, but if I buckle down and stay focused (and make a fucking list) I should be able to get through everything before it’s time to go see Wonder Woman.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie. Wonder Woman was always one of my favorite comic book superheroes (although when I started reading DC Comics, she’d given up her powers somehow and was running a clothing boutique and dealing with social issues and was a modern feminist; in retrospect, it was one of the stupidest reboots in DC’s long history of rebooting their characters); I loved the historic Amazon character, and the rebooted non-powered Wonder Woman/Diana Prince character was more of a detective, solving crimes and trained in martial arts. Around the time the television series starring Lynda Carter started, the DC rebooted her again and made her an Amazon princess with her powers again. And the TV show was amazing. Rewatching it now shows it up for its low-budget special effects and bad writing, but Lynda Carter embodied the part so beautifully that she became iconic–and I’ve been a lifelong fan of Ms. Carter. Paul and I stopped watching Supergirl during its first season, before Lynda Carter joined the cast as the president, so I’m sure at some point I’ll go back and binge the series. (I’ve also always been a fan of Supergirl–who also went through an incredibly stupid reboot in the 1970’s; complete with new costumes and a loss of some of her powers–sometimes she had them, sometimes she didn’t; they came and went because of some kind of Kryptonite poisoned drink she was tricked into imbibing; then was killed off during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then was brought back as something completely different after Superman was killed off in the early 1990’s. It’s really hard to keep track of all these shifts and changes in DC continuity/universes.)

Interestingly enough, now as I reflect on my fandom of both Wonder Woman and Supergirl, I realize how I’ve always been drawn to fictional depictions of strong women–from Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden to the Dana Girls to Cherry Ames to Vicki Barr to Wonder Woman to Supergirl to Lois Lane (who used to have her own comic book, detailing her adventures as an investigative reporter, which I also loved), to real life women who defied the traditional role of women in our society, like Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’ve certainly always enjoyed reading fiction by and about women; from Charlotte Armstrong to Phyllis Whitney to Victoria Holt to Mary Stewart to Judith Krantz and so on and so forth. Do people still read Rona Jaffe? She was another favorite of mine from the 1970’s. Taylor Caldwell, Evelyn Anthony, Jean Plaidy, Helen MacInnes, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson–I’ve always read and enjoyed books written by women. (This is not to say I don’t enjoy books by men; I always have, but at the same time there is a certain style of testosterone driven male novel, complete with angst, that I simply cannot abide, and the crime genre is riddled with them. I recently joked that I wanted to write a noir set in the strip clubs in the Quarter and call it Girls Girls Girls…you get the idea.)

And there are so many wonderful women writers publishing today: Sara Paretsky, Laura Lippman, Sue Grafton, Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Alafair Burke, Alex Marwood, Lisa Unger, Jamie Mason, Wendy Corsi Staub, J. M. Redmann, Kristi Belcamino, Carrie Smith, Sara Henry, Ellen Hart, Donna Andrews, Dana Cameron, Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry), Carolyn Haines, Catriona McPherson, Lori Rader-Day, and Rebecca Chance–just off the top of my head; my TBR pile is filled with books by women, and there are so many wonderful women writers I’ve not gotten to yet, like Lisa Lutz and Shannon Baker and Jennifer MacMahon and Karin Slaughter–the list goes on and on forever and ever, amen. And this is just crime fiction/thrillers…I’ve not even touched on horror or scifi or fantasy or so-called ‘chick-lit.’ (Which reminds me, I really want to read some more Liane Moriarty, and I’ve not read any Jennifer Weiner…sigh.)

There’s just never enough time….and speaking of which, it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines.

Here’s a Saturday hunk for you:

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Deacon Blues

Hump day. I am trying to adjust to being rested; I had no idea before how tired I was all the time. This new sleep-assisting pillow spray is da bomb, yo. I’ve not yet reached the point where I am brave enough to try to sleep only using the pillow spray as an aid, but the day when I am going to try it is rapidly approaching. I’ve been weaning myself off everything else gradually–last night I only took melatonin, which would have never been enough to help me sleep before–and only woke up twice, but was able to fall back asleep without a problem within a matter of minutes.

Game changer, seriously.

The problem with short weeks after three day holiday weekends, for me at least, is readjusting. I keep thinking it’s Tuesday, for example, but it’s not, and this is sort of one of those things like trying to adjust to walking on dry land again after being at sea for a while; something just seems off. I need to get some revising done this week; I am due for the final read-through of a pseudonymous manuscript after final edit, which has to be turned quickly–in less than twenty-four hours–so I don’t want to get myself too wound up going into that, because I will need to focus in order to get it finished on time so we can get the production of the book back on schedule (and yes, I turned the manuscript in late…this is what happens, people, when you turn your work in late: you fuck up the production schedule.) Heavy sigh.

We watched another episode of London Spy last night, which is amazing. (Bar testing was canceled.) It’s just so smart about being gay; I need to look up to see if the writers/producers are gay because if they aren’t, they did an amazing job about dealing with and looking at not just gay life, but gay sexuality: the scene where Danny tells Alex’s mother that ‘you can’t fake being a virgin’ was so fucking spot-on I almost gave it a standing ovation. Last night’s episode had probably the most horrifying–and accurate–depiction of getting an HIV test and having it come back reactive that I’ve ever seen; particularly when you know you’ve been safe, not been at rest, and your test comes back reactive. (They used an INSTI test, which is our back-up test at the day job–although I called shenanigans on some of the things in the scene–but then, the London protocol for HIV testing could simply be different than ours in Louisiana; though I find it really odd that ours would be more stringent than London’s…)

Okay, I should probably get back to the spice mines. Spice, after all, will not mine itself.

Today’s Hump Day Hunk is fitness trainer/model Danny Jones–whom I discovered randomly yesterday by scrolling thru Instagram.

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Stoned Soul Picnic

In a bizarre blog twist, my entire entry about Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, other than the opening paragraph, has completely disappeared from here, which is very strange. I don’t know how that could have happened; and it’s disappointing, as I made some very strong points about racism and the erasure of the brutality of slavery from our history. I did wonder why it, as opposed to so many of my other entries, wasn’t getting ‘likes’ by anyone, and now I know why–it’s not that it offended people, but rather that the entry is now simply, mostly gone.

How fucking annoying. And, of course, I always write the blog directly here, rather than using Word and cutting and pasting. So, it’s simply vanished into the ether, gone forever. Heavy heaving sigh. As for as writing losses go, it’s pretty low on the scale but at the same time…it hurts to lose any writing. Ever.

Heavy sigh.

I spent some more time reading Stephen King’s Finders Keepers yesterday between doing some cleaning (I never did get to the windows, but will today) and relaxing. I got caught up on Riverdale, ran some errands, cleaned the living room thoroughly (although I needed the ladder to do the ceiling fans and the windows, it was upstairs and so when I moved upstairs to I cleaned up there before bringing the ladder down, and by then I just wanted to relax and read), and did sit in my easy chair thinking about things I am working on. Today, I am going to do some straightening up around here, the windows and the ceiling fans in the living room, and I may finish cleaning upstairs. I don’t know, quite frankly; I am also feeling the lure of Finders Keepers, which I am really enjoying. It’s the middle book of his Bill Hodges trilogy, which began with the Edgar-winning Mr. Mercedes, which I also greatly enjoyed. I am almost halfway finished with the book, and King’s ability to create great characters the reader can understand and even empathize with, no matter how awful the characters may actually be, is on display here.

I also cleaned out some books for the donation pile, which is always a lovely start. I need to stop buying books, really, is what I need to do, but it’s a lifelong problem, and at almost fifty-six, I’m not sure I can effect behavior change anymore, but it’s certainly worth a try. I am also going to go to the gym later on today as well; and lift weights. If I go back to the old system–let’s face it, I am never going to motivate myself to do cardio–of what I did when I lost weight originally–go to the gym, do a full-body workout with more reps and lighter weights, and do some stretching–in addition to eating healthier, I should be able to get rid of that pesky fifteen pounds and get back down to 200. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back to 180–my oddly shaped frame would make finding clothes that fit properly an issue (the ten pounds or so I’ve already lost has made all my pants too big in the waist, but they are still tight in the legs, and the small waist and big quads/hamstrings has always been an issue for me with pants), so I don’t know that I’d want to get back down that far. A flatter stomach and more definition is all I really want, anyway, so that I can at least get to the point where I don’t mind going to the beach, as I would really like to get tanned again. And going to the beach is always lovely, anyway.

Apparently it’s going to rain today, so doing the windows is out. Heavy sigh. It does look gloomy out there. There’s always next weekend.

Friday I am driving up to Montgomery for an appearance at the Alabama Book Festival, and driving back to New Orleans for a day before heading up to an event at the Sarah Isom Center for Women at Ole Miss in Oxford. I am very excited, if a bit nervous, to do both events. It’s so lovely having a new car so that I don’t have to worry about the driving, though. I love my new car; and almost three months after I bought it, it still has the new car smell.

I’ve also figured out how to revise “Quiet Desperation”, which is something I’d like to get to work on this week. My work schedule is sort of normal for the week, despite a late night on Thursday. As I start getting back into the groove of writing and rewriting, I am hoping to get a lot more done from now on. I also no longer have to get up ridiculously early for work on Tuesdays anymore–I don’t have to be at the office until 11 henceforth–which makes the week a bit more palatable for me; I won’t be tired and sleepy from Tuesday on anymore. Here’s hoping.

I want to kick my writing up a notch or two, push myself harder. Fingers crossed.

Here’s an Easter Sunday hunk for y’all.

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I Wish It Would Rain

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and it looks lovely outside. I may clean the windows today. I have to get the mail, pick up some prescriptions, make a grocery run, and I also want to get the car washed, and of course, as always, there is laundry to do. I also want to spend some time reading today, and cleaning the kitchen and living room. Yes, I am feeling rather ambitious today; we shall see how it turns out.

I forgot my book (The Nest) at the office on Thursday night; I worked at the other office yesterday and it’s French Quarter Fest, so getting down to Frenchmen Street would be a nightmare and would make me tired and cranky, so I decided to just start reading another book–Ben H. Winters’ Underground Airlines, recently named a Thriller Award nominee for Best Novel. I’d always intended to read The Underground Railroad and Underground Airlines back-to-back for comparison sake; I forgot and started reading something else when I finished reading the Whitehead. The Winters book was controversial when it was released; it, like the Whitehead, is sort of magical realism/alternate history; Winters’ premise is that the Civil War was never fought as yet another slave-owner appeasement compromise was reached in 1860 that prevented secession and the war; and other compromises were reached over the years since. It’s an interesting concept, and at the time the book was released there was some controversy; the main character is a free man of color who works as a slave-catcher. I’m not very far into it, but it’s well-written and I’m enjoying it thus far.

I also got a lot of work done on “Quiet Desperation” this week; the story is now well over four thousand words. I stopped working on it the other day (Thursday, to be exact) because I felt that I was getting impatient and rushing the ending, so I decided to pull back from it for a few days and then get back to it over this weekend. I also think the story may have meandered a bit. The goal is to finish it and the chapter of the new Scotty I’ve been working on, so I can really get going on both the Scotty book and another short story next week. Ambitious goals, yes, but do-able.

And I want to get to the gym tomorrow morning.

A truly ambitious plan for the weekend, no?

We’ll see how it all works out, won’t we?

Here’s a hunk to see you through your Saturday.

Perfect Illusion

Hello, Monday.

I feel rested from a lovely weekend of sleeping late and reorganizing, which is absolutely lovely. The parades, of course, start this weekend, which means getting things done over the next two weekends is going to be complicated, to say the least. Friday night Oshun and Cleopatra roll, which means I’ll have to take a streetcar named St. Charles to work and walk home, and there are five parades Saturday (Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta, Pygmalion) and four on Sunday: Femme Fatale, Carrollton, King Arthur, and Alla.

Madness.

But I love Carnival. I just hope this lovely weather maintains all the way through.

We started watching Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix last night; as always, Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant are appealing and likable; they have the sort of charisma that shines off the screen. The concept of the show is also funny, not to mention how they try to accept and rationalize their new normal. The conceit of the show is they are a married couple with a daughter living in a suburban cul-de-sac when something happens to the Drew Barrymore character in the first episode and she becomes what we, as a culture, wrongly call a zombie; no longer alive but still living somehow, and in need of first, raw meat, and then human flesh. It’s funny, but it’s also satire–how very American that her need for human flesh to stay alive means they have to rationalize killing people; their need for her to stay alive justifies them crossing a line. Very sly and clever there, Netflix!

Because, as I so often say, you can rationalize anything if you try hard enough.

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do next, which is kind of fun. I’ve been note-taking a cozy series which I think would be a fun thing to write–not to mention an enormous challenge– and I also have a stand alone idea I’m looking at, and of course I intend on doing another Scotty at some point this year. But right now I get to play around with things, maybe work on some of my short stories, write an essay, figure out what the hell I want to do next.

Maybe I’ll take some more time off. Who knows? SO many options.

Here’s a hunk for today:

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

So I turned in the essay yesterday, and now I have nothing hanging over my head as far as deadlines are concerned, which is kind of lovely. Oh, sure, there are edits and revisions that are bound to come; and then page proofs and all of that, but this is the first time Ive not had a deadline in I don’t know how long. Seriously. I am visiting my family this week preparatory to doing Murder in the Magic City this weekend in Birmingham and Wetumpka, so I may or may not be around much until I am safely back in New Orleans Sunday evening.

The drive took about eleven hours–maybe about ten minutes over, and considering that Google Maps said the drive would take eleven and a half hours, I think I made great time, stopping a total of three times (twice for gas, once to eat). The car handles wonderfully, and the ride is very smooth as well. All in all, I am very pleased with my purchase–which, given how much I spent (and will spend) on it, is an enormous relief. It would be terrible to spend that kind of money on something and not like it, you know?

As I was packing and going through my bookcase, looking for books to bring along to read on the trip, I realized, much to my shock, that my bookcase contained a Laura Lippman novel I hadn’t read; it must have come out in a year when I was judging a book award or something, and so it went onto the shelf and by the time I was able to read again, she must have published another book–or something like that. It is inexplicable to me, otherwise. But what a find! Here I was thinking I was going to have do without a new Lippman to read until 2018.

They throw him out when he falls off the barstool. Although it wasn’t a fall, exactly, he only stumbled a bit coming back from the bathroom and lurched against the bar, yet they said he had to leave because he was drunk. He finds that hilarious. He’s too drunk to be in a bar. He makes a joke about a fall from grace. At least, he thinks he does. Maybe the joke was one of those things that stays in his head, for his personal amusement. For a long time, for fucking forever, Gordon’s mind has been split by a thick, dark line, a line that divides and defines his life as well. What stays in, what is allowed out. But when he drinks, the line gets a little fuzzy.

Which might be why he drinks. Drank. Drinks. No, drank. He’s done. Again. One night, one slip. He didn’t even enjoy it that much.

“You driving?” the bartender asks, piloting him to the door, his arm firm yet kind around Gordon’s waist.

Laura Lippman is one of those authors who never disappoints. I always say that the best authors are the ones who write books that make me think, make me reevaluate how I write and create, and make me want to do better. One of the reasons I decided to go off contract and no longer have deadlines was a sense that I was rushing too much; that my work might be better if I wasn’t pressured to do it in a set amount of time, and that I could explore doing different things if I had more time to polish and rewrite and think about the book at hand; and part of the reason I think that way is because of reading amazing writers like Lippman.

The Most Dangerous Thing is a fine novel, and while there is a core crime at the heart of the book, Lippman uses that crime to explore her characters, and how that crime affects and changes the course of their lives, how they interact with each other and how people can become locked into perceptions, not only of themselves but of other people–and how reality can be so very different from what you perceive it to be.

HIGHLY recommended.