We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Saturday morning in New Orleans and all is right–for now–in the world. I slept in this morning, which felt great, and while I have some errands to run–mail, drop off a return, make groceries, take books to the library sale–overall I pretty much have the day free. The LSU-Kentucky game isn’t until six thirty, and I don’t have any need to actually watch any of the other games today–although I will undoubtedly have the television on and tuned into said games–but I want to work on cleaning today, getting organized, and potentially doing some writing. I started writing another Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) post for Bury Me in Shadows the other night, and I really would like to get that finished and posted (I had hoped to write a post a day to try to sway you, Constant Reader, into opening your wallet and buying the book, but there’s only so much time in a day and I do need to rest and refresh both body and brain) at some point either today or tomorrow. But the book–and therefore the self-promotion–walk a line that I have to be very careful with, which always makes me nervous. It’s never my intent to ever offend or upset anyone, but my books are my books and my personal politics, values, and beliefs do affect what I choose to write about–and if you’re looking for a conservative point of view (or a white supremacist one) you are definitely buying the wrong books should you buy one of mine.

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I did some work, I made some condom packs, and I rewatched a film from the 1970’s that fits both into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival as well as the Halloween Horror Film Festival: Brian de Palma’s The Fury, based on a book by John Farris, which I read at the time (I eventually originally saw the film on HBO; I never rented it nor saw it in the theater). Horror fiction and films made an enormous comeback in the 1970’s; one could see the genre actually achieved never before see heights in that decade. Part of this, naturally, was the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, and the enormously successful, Oscar-nominated film adaptation of it a few years later (still one of the best King adaptations of all time). Both publishing and film responded accordingly, and also in the late 1970’s the one-two punch of Halloween and Friday the 13th took the slasher film to new heights, taking the horror genre along with them. The 1970’s also saw the debut of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which wound up spawning an enormously successful series of books that completely changed the vampire dynamic in fiction–following the lead of Dark Shadows and making vampires into deeply flawed, romantic heroes. But horror was everywhere in the latter part of the decade (you should really check out Grady Hendrix’ marvelous Paperbacks from Hell, which examines the proliferation of horror titles in the 1970’s and 1980’s, through the window of their cover art), and so, naturally, The Fury–with the same director as Carrie, Brian de Palma–was primarily viewed as a rip-off trying to cash in on the success of Carrie.

But if The Fury is similar to Carrie in some ways, it is much more like Firestarter than any other King work; as I rewatched I kept being reminded of Firestarter and thinking about it (and thinking it, too, was due for a reread). The premise of the film/book is that there is a secret government agency (1970’s paranoia again) tasked with exploring and examining the potential of young people with some psychic gifts, whether it’s ESP, telekinesis, etc., with an eye to weaponizing them as well as advancing science (the government will turn anything into a weapon of war; this moral debate is mentioned very briefly during the film but to no great degree). Kirk Douglas plays the father of an extremely gifted young man, played by Andrew Stevens (which may or may not have been my first exposure to the handsome son of Stella Stevens; he also appeared in a two-part television adaptation of John Jakes’ The Bastard, and I don’t remember which came first. Nevertheless, he was quite handsome and had a terrific, sexy body). The very first scene of the film shows them on the beach somewhere in the Middle East; there’s a terrorist attack and Douglas is the target, but Stevens is kidnapped by the bad guys and Douglas manages to escape, embarking on a lifelong quest to find and rescue his son from these bad guys operating under the aegis of the government (I cannot emphasize how deeply distrust of the government ran in this time, in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, there was a definite shift in public perception). The movie then switches over to Amy Irving, daughter of wealthy parents attending an extremely exclusive girls’ school in Chicago. Amy (another tie to Carrie) also has powers she doesn’t understand and can’t control; a bully starts harassing her in the cafeteria, and Amy blurts out the girl is pregnant–and the girl starts bleeding from her nose profusely, causing a panic, etc. Amy is then recruited to a school to test her talents–the same people who kidnapped Andrew Stevens, but their end game is never really explained; they’re all just bad guys who work amorphously for the government. Amy and Andrew are somehow connected; being able to see each other’s thoughts and so forth, so Douglas helps her escape from the school and they go looking for Stevens. SPOILERS: Stevens and Douglas finally end up dead, basically killed by the government people–not really, but they are definitely the reason they do–and in the final scene Amy uses her powers to punish the bad guys (again, very similar to Firestarter, which The Fury predates by several years). It’s not a bad movie, per se, but it’s also not a great one; it’s certainly not as engaging as Carrie–and I remember thinking that about the book as well; that it was just a quickly written attempt to cash in on King’s success.

What was interesting–what is always interesting–about watching these old movies is seeing actors who have not yet made it big in bit roles. There were three I picked out in this one: Melody Thomas, yet to become Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless for decades; Daryl Hannah as one of the bitchy mean girls at the private school Irving attends; and Dennis Franz, playing a cop years before NYPD Blue.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso (oh, Nate, you poor broken man) which made us both laugh and cry, as it always does; the show really is a joy and I am rather distraught we have to wait now for the next season, and then a new show on Apple TV called Acapulco. This show is interesting; a wealthy older Latino man is explaining to his nephew his life story; how he came up from nothing to become wealthy, and how it all began with him getting his first job at a ritzy resort hotel in Acapulco called Las Casinas when he was a teenager. The parts with the older man talking to his young nephew are not engaging at all; there’s a mimicry of The Princess Bride with just a hint of the story-telling structure of How I Met Your Mother as well; it didn’t work for me in this instance. But the teenagers working at Las Casinas back in the 1980’s? Very charming, engaging, and likable. We’ll keep watching, but I want to see less of the present and more of the past, which is the show’s true strength.

That’s about it here from the spice mines. I think I’ll have some more coffee and try to get that BSP post finished. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader!

As Long As You’re There

And now it’s Friday.

I slept very well again last night, which was lovely–I’ve really been getting excellent sleep ever since The Power Came Back On, which is delightful–and I am looking ahead to this lovely weekend with great excitement and joy. The LSU game tomorrow is a night game, at undefeated Kentucky (when was the last time the teams played and KENTUCKY was the undefeated and ranked team of the two? Probably never), so I have tomorrow’s entirety free to get things done, run errands, go to the gym, and essentially do as I please until the game. I also am working at home today, and thus trying to find some horror to watch while I make the condom packs.

I started watching Friday the 13th Part II yesterday, and wasn’t far along into it before it started seeming familiar, like I’d seen it before–and I soon realized that I probably had, last year in October, so I switched it off in disappointment (not really; it was actually quite terrible) and switched over to the final episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I had not been watching because I was sick to death of Erika Girardi using the show to try to gain sympathy for herself as one of her husband’s “victims.” But I had read a piece somewhere about the show being the “best thing on television right now”, and then I read a piece run recently in the Los Angeles Times, an interview with the three ‘outsiders’ on the show (Garcelle, Sutton, and Crystal) talking about the season and the filming of the lengthy finale, and I thought, swallow your disgust at the behavior of this criminal accomplice and watch. Interestingly enough, the cringe-aspect of watching I was experiencing before taking a break was now gone; and while I still felt a bit squeamish about watching–de facto condoning her behavior by giving them ratings, which will lead to her getting signed for another season, which is again a reward for her terrible behavior–I found myself actually enjoying watching again. I still loathe two members of the cast completely–looking at you, Kyle and Lisa Rinna, and will continue to hope to see them humbled, humiliated and (best case) let go–but I think I can watch again. The show, which the cast had been overly producing for quite some time, kind of had that rigid artifice stripped away from it with the Girardi criminal case; there really was no way they could escape the litigation or comment on the investigations of the growing scandal.

Or maybe I’m not in a really dark place anymore? There’s still something that seems wrong about watching this…but I can’t get to the bottom of it, frankly. I guess I’ll just keeping discussing it here until i get to the bottom of why it feels so wrong.

Who knows? I may never get to the bottom of it.

We got caught up on some of our shows last night–Only Murders in the Building, American Horror Story: Double Feature, and Archer–which was lovely and relaxing. I think it was the last episode of Archer ever; it ended with a tribute to Jessica Walter, and I can’t imagine having the show without her character, so it most likely was. Archer has never been as funny in its later seasons as it was in its earlier ones, alas; and while I appreciated the show’s attempts to keep it fresh by changing things up with seasons devoted to a theme–outer space, becoming a drug cartel, doing a noir Hollywood story–they never quite equalled the humor of the original seasons. Pity. I am also kind of intrigued by the second half of this AHS season; the alien stuff is very strange and weird, even by AHS standards, and I am not really sure where this is going, but it’s holding our interest. Only Murders continues to hold its charm; I had assumed it was rushing to a conclusion, only to have a twist at the end of the latest episode that ensure that no, indeed, the season is not finished quite yet. And we have our other shows to watch this weekend, as well as some movies–Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the very top of the list, of course–and perhaps there are some other shows we can look into on the streaming services. (I really want to check out Stephen Amell’s new wrestling show on Showtime, Heels–which looks like it could be pretty good.)

So, I have some nice plans for the weekend–catching up on things, cleaning, organizing, writing, dropping off books to the library sale–and am really excited about possibly doing the writing part of the to-do list this weekend. I also want to fucking finally finish the book I am reading–which I am not going to name; my inability to stay focused and read lately has been really annoying and I no longer want to even hint at the possibility that I am not finishing the book because it isn’t good because it it very excellent; I may have to finish and then move on to short stories again. Short stories could also work very well for Halloween Horror Month; it never can hurt to dig into Stephen King or Shirley Jackson short stories, and of course Daphne du Maurier’s are often macabre and haunting. So, we shall see. I am going to try to finish the book I’m reading now, possibly reread The Haunting of Hill House, and if my reading focus remains fucked up, move on to short stories.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow.

Friend and a Lover

Thursday and working at home on this glorious morning. Huzzah! (I really hate leaving the house–something I battle with almost daily; my desire to be an anchorite or a shut-in; which makes it a really good thing that I work outside the home. If I could work at home, I’d have everything delivered and would never leave the house except for the gym. Seriously.)

I was tired yesterday–as I always am on Wednesdays; I’m not sure why the getting-up-at-six thing is such an issue when I go to bed at ten, but I also suppose it has to do with the quality level of the sleep. I am trying not to look at my Fitbit to get the breakdown of deep vs. light vs. awake, to be honest, as I don’t need another thing to obsess about. But I don’t think being tired on my third consecutive morning of getting up early is unusual, and I wasn’t nearly as tired as I remember being on Wednesdays. It’s more that it’s harder for me to stay focused when I am tired, and therefore harder for me to complete tasks.

And man, was it ever hard to make myself go to the gym last night when I got home from work. BUT I DID IT, AND IT WAS LEG DAY, AND MAN OH MAN HOW MUCH DO I HATE LEG DAY? With the white hot intensity of a dozen burning suns, that’s how much. (Leg Day is always rough for everyone, because your legs are half of your body, and while yes, of course, your upper body is the other half, but Upper Body can isolate actual muscle groups, whereas most leg exercises inevitably require usage of the entire leg; even calf raises require your entire legs’ muscles to be engaged, plus you don’t walk on your arms…) This morning my legs feel good tired, which means the initiation into Leg Day after so long was the right amount of work–I always worry about overdoing it, and it was Leg Day, in fact, where I injured my back all those years ago, which forced me out of the gym, and I’ve never really had a consistent workout program ever since. I also fell asleep in my chair around eight thirty, eventually crawling into bed before ten and sleeping like a stone, which was marvelous.

So, overall a good day. I managed to get the revision of my short story done (“The Sound of Snow Falling”), and it needs probably one more coat of gloss on it; I started writing another short story (“He Seemed Fine”) but didn’t get very far into it, and also started planning the revision of the first few chapters of A Streetcar Named Murder, which I need to work on adapting to the new backdrop of the series. I was too tired after the gym to focus on reading, so hopefully today after my work-at-home time I can finally finish reading it. Paul was working on another grant proposal last night when he got home from the gym, so I was watching Youtube videos on French history–the 16th and 17th centuries in France are like catnip to me–so we weren’t able to watch anything last night.

Today, I am going to watch some horror films while I do my work-at-home chores; it’s October and Halloween season, after all. I was really pleased to get some watched last year during October–horror classics I’d never seen before, as well as some I had and rewatched–and I think this week I am going to focus on sequels; namely Friday the 13th. I’ve seen the first a couple of times–rewatched it last year–but I’ve never watched any of the sequels. I think when I’ve made it through all the myriad of Friday the 13th movies, I may try Halloween. I think I’ve seen most of these movies at some point or another, but it would be interesting, I think, to watch them all in order.

Or perhaps…perhaps a John Carpenter film festival is in order. It could be fun to watch Prince of Darkness again, which I saw in the theater and was terrified; I’ve always enjoyed it on rewatches–but the fact that all the college students are played by actors well into their thirties is always a bit amusing. (I also think the score for that film is terrifying; Carpenter’s scores are always pitch perfect for his movies.)

I am feeling like myself again these days–like some dark cloud has lifted out of my brain; I’m not sure how or why, but I am glad it’s gone, even if it’s merely a temporary thing. The house is a mess, of course–as always–but I am going to try to work on getting it all cleaned up this weekend. The LSU game is Saturday night, so I have all day–if I can avoid the easy temptation of the other games airing–to clean. Or I can clean with the television on–or (gasp) I can have the games playing on my computer while I clean the kitchen.

Stop the insanity!

And on that note, I am going to finish this coffee and start a load of laundry. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Every Song Is You

Wednesday morning!

Yesterday was a really good day. I was productive again–not as much as the previous two days, but still, I’m counting it as a win. I even wrote. I worked on a short story and an essay–granted, the short story was a revision, so somewhat easier than actually writing something from scratch on a blank page–but it was still pretty awesome to be flexing some creative muscles again. I also think my editorial eye has become a lot more clear than it’s been in over twenty-one months; I definitely think I am going to be tweaking this story perhaps one more time. But it felt amazing to be writing again–rewriting, as it were–and so my new plan is to try to get this three short stories I’ve been trying to revise forever revised this week, and start working on A Streetcar Named Murder in earnest this weekend.

Tonight after work I am going to go to the gym for Leg Day, and try to get some more editing done. I also want to finish reading Velvet Was the Night so I can start my Horror for Halloween reading, beginning with the annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House. I had also planned to read one of the Stephen Kings I have on hand but not yet read–probably The Institute–and another Paul Tremblay at the very least; but I’ve got to finish what I am already reading before I can move on to anything else. I think this decommitment to watching college football all day on Saturday will help, and just the occasional check-in on the Saints on Sunday should also help free up some of my time. I think today’s lower energy mode is probably just the usual oh I’ve gotten up at six for three straight mornings tired; even now as the coffee kicks into gear I am starting to feel more alert and more on top of things–which is pretty fucking cool. Yay!

I’ve also been writing blog posts to promote Bury Me in Shadows; I wrote a rather lengthy one about the backstory behind the book–where the Civil War ghost story aspect of the book came from, and why it was kind of difficult to write such a thing in the present time, knowing that the rebel side was wrong and problematic–and the underlying root cause of all the racial tension and problems we still face as a country today (I’ve preordered The 1619 Project, and can’t wait to read it). One of my primary worries/concerns with writing this book was how easy it would be to step wrong and write something offensive. I still worry from time to time that I did exactly that, and when the book is released there will be controversy. But if I got something wrong, or wrote something that is offensive, I will own my mistakes, apologize for them, and try to do better going forward.

I don’t understand when admitting you were wrong or made a mistake became a sign of weakness in this country. I also don’t understand it. I don’t like being wrong, but I am also not going to double down on being wrong. Not meaning any offense doesn’t mean you won’t offend someone, and for the record, I’m sorry you were offended is not the same thing as I’m sorry I offended you. The first is a non-apology, and the speaker isn’t really sorry for what they said, they are only sorry you were offended by it. The second takes ownership of the situation and doesn’t let the original speaker off the hook, and personalizes the apology. I also don’t understand why this is so hard for people to understand.

Yesterday Twitter was all abuzz about the Kidney Woman story in the New York Times, which tried to stir up the whole argument about drawing inspiration from someone else’s life or story. I’ve always believed that it’s impossible for any writer to create either a character or situation lifted from real life; if anything, it’s only a starting place, because a writer cannot know everything about any real life person–you don’t know their every experience, you don’t know what the seminal experiences that created who they are and how they react to things, you don’t know how their mind works or how they even think; at best, all you really see if how they outwardly react to a person or a situation–you don’t know what they are thinking, you don’t know their triggers, you don’t know anything, really–so you have to make up a lot of it, and you base it on your observations of how that person behaves and reacts. Observation is very key, yes, and an understanding of psychology, but again, everyone is different and no one can predict how anyone else will think or react or behave in any given situation. Which is why we are always surprised by the behavior of people we know; we don’t really know them at any great depth so of course we are always going to be surprised and caught off guard by their actions. Nobody likes to think people talk about them behind their back; no one really wants to know what people that dislike say about them. But you have to understand that it’s very human–friends tell each other things, and everyone talks about everyone else (it always amazes me that this salient fact of life is always addresses so insanely on reality televisions shows–“don’t talk about me behind my back!” Um, everyone does it, hello? And most of the time it means nothing. If someone has pissed me off, I will inevitably talk about it to a mutual friend–just to get it off my chest and out of my system. Usually, I am over it once I talk it through with another person–everyone needs to vent, why is this so hard to understand? And it doesn’t have to mean anything more than that…”yes, I was mad at you, but once I talked it through with X I realized it wasn’t anything, I was over it, and why hurt your feelings or start a fight with you when it really wasn’t anything?”). I certainly don’t want to know what people say about me when I’ve irritated them or pissed them off; I’m perfectly happy being oblivious.

With the caveat that if I behave in a way that really gets on someone’s nerves regularly, I would like to know so I can decide to change the behavior or not.

Then again, I’ve never understood the rules of friendship, either.

We finished Midnight Mass last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mike Flanagan, who also did The Haunting of Hill House (which I was able to enjoy as I merely viewed as fan fiction rather than a straightforward adaptation of the classic novel–one of my favorites), did an excellent job here. It’s a deep meditation on religion and the power of belief, juxtaposed with some serious horror. The acting is superb; the characters deeply drawn and compelling, and it’s hard to look away. I prefer this kind of creepy, unsettling horror to jump scares and gore, frankly. I do recommend the show, but prepared to think some heavy thoughts about the power of religion and its potential for abuse–as well as how easy it is to misinterpret something as holy when it most certainly is not.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Walking in the Rain

And we’ll make it to Wednesday.

So, in less than one week Bury Me in Shadows will officially be out into the world. I’m not sure which book of mine this is—somewhere between thirty-five and forty, I think; I am so tired of counting and I inevitably forget something—and I suppose I should qualify that by book I mean novel; there are also twenty-two anthologies, and I am working on the twenty-third, Land of 10000 Crimes,even as we speak. So, in all, there are close to sixty books with either my name, or that of a pseudonym, on the spine; not bad for the last twenty years.

That said, I should probably talk a bit about Bury Me in Shadows, so you, my very dear Constant Reader, can decide whether or not you wish to bite on this opportunity to read it or not. As I have mentioned before, this story began as a short story called “Ruins” that I wrote while I was in college, on an IBM Selectric with corrective ribbon; remember those? I still have the original draft I typed…(sidebar: I hated typewriters, and freely admit that had computers not evolved and become common place, I’d still be a wannabe writer and unpublished)…but anyway, as I said the other day, I always knew there was more story there than could be contained in a short story, so I put it aside and figured I’d eventually come back to it at some point when I had the time and mind-space to turn it into a novel. It was always there in the back of my head—maybe this year I’ll do the Alabama ghost story—and I’m not sure what finally drove it to the forefront of my mind to start writing the book; I know it happened sometime after the pandemic shutdown, and I had a deadline in January of this year to get it finished. (My memory has become so terribly faulty, you see.)

I really like my main character, Jake Chapman—I know, I know, I always like my main characters, and they usually, inevitably, always have a lot of similarities to each other, in temperament and attitude and intelligence; what differentiates them all is their back stories. When I originally started writing this as a book, Jake was still in high school, attending a fictional Chicago Catholic high school, with plans to work at the school pool over the summer because a boy he had a huge crush on was also going to be working there. (Actually, scratch that; it originally was set in a suburb and he had gotten a job at a fast food place for the summer to be closer to his crush; how could I forget that? And then I moved him into the city when I couldn’t get that story to work; I kept the suburban component but for his father’s second family) Originally I had him flying to Birmingham from Chicago, and being picked up at the airport by Kelly (another one of the characters)…but those original chapters felt very fake to me or something. It just didn’t work. It felt very much like something I had read before many times, and while I originally made Jake very strong and secure in who he is, I also thought it might not work—he needed to have insecurities, he needed to have flaws. And while I know things have changed, I still think an openly gay kid at a Jesuit high school, even in Chicago, would have issues…but am willing to admit I could be wrong about that. But my Jake does, so there.

So, I decided to advance his age a bit and have him attending Tulane here in New Orleans, and I needed a stronger trigger for his mother to send him to Alabama for the summer—especially given her feelings about her past and her family and its history. And that, I realized, was what I needed to establish with the back story; if she kept him away from there since he was a child, why would she send him there now? He couldn’t be a well-adjusted young man, completely secure in himself and his sexuality…and then he started forming in my head. He doesn’t remember his parents being married; they divorced when he was too young to remember. He doesn’t fit into his father’s second family and their suburban life. His mother has been through several husbands—including the most recent, whom she is shedding as the book opens, and he is much younger, a tennis pro. His mother is the only real stability in his life, and she, as a hugely successful lawyer who also teaches law, wouldn’t be around very much. He loves his mother, admires and respects her, but also doesn’t feel as close to her as he thinks he should. Then being a lonely out gay kid at the Catholic school, socially awkward because he isn’t used to having friends, becomes the lonely gay kid at Tulane—shy and awkward and not sure how to meet someone, make friends, even how to be gay. (And yes, I am aware of the Internet and apps and so forth so he could easily educate himself that way, even have encounters with strangers…I do address this a little bit; he does use apps to get laid, but always feels cheap and empty when it’s over.) At Tulane he gets picked up by a gay guy at a party, and lonely, he latches onto him (Tradd) and thinks they have more of a relationship than they really do; it makes him very unhappy and miserable, and one final fight between them with Tradd walking out on him sends Jake out drinking and doing drugs on a binge that ends, finally, with him collapsing in a gay bar and being rushed to the hospital. His mother’s concerns about him—he tried suicide in high school—is what overrides her aversion to Alabama and her home place, and she decides to send him there for the summer. His grandmother has come home from the hospital to die in her own bed—she’s had a massive series of strokes and is bedridden, mostly—and his mother, Glynis, figures someone from the family should be there in the house with her. A distant relative, an orphan named Kelly, who is a senior in high school, has been living there since his own mother died the previous year; Glynis doesn’t quite trust the kid, and once the old woman dies—well, there needs to be an inventory of everything in the house done, so why not pay Jake to do that while spending the summer there?

That, to me, was a much more interesting back story and set up for the book, and so when I started working on it in earnest, that was what I went with.

So, we have a young man who has spent most of his life in cities—Chicago and New Orleans—coming to rural Alabama for the summer. He has faint memories of his grandmother and the old house; the ruins of the original plantation house are still on the property, but over the years as the family lost their money and had to begin selling off all the land, the woods have grown back up so the ruins are actually hidden from the road and from the main house by trees. Jake is recovering from a broken heart and from an overdose.

I like the set-up, and it worked, at least for me, in terms of writing the story. As I said, I really became vested in Jake; I wanted to get to the root of who he is, the traumas he’s endured, and wanted him to learn things about himself now that he has the distance from his life to reexamine the things that have held him back from becoming the best Jake he can be. I really wanted to show his emotional growth and development over the course of the summer.

I guess we’ll see how well I succeeded, won’t we?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.

Maybe Someday

Well, we managed to survive Monday, did we not, Constant Reader?

Always a plus, don’t you think?

Yesterday morning I got up without much of a problem—but I really need to stop checking my Fitbit every morning to see how well I slept; it’s rather silly, actually, and doesn’t change whether I feel rested or not when I do get up. I went to the gym Sunday afternoon (why do I always forget how good it feels to stretch and work out?) and am hoping to have the energy to go for Leg Day after work tonight. This month—looking ahead—is going to be a bit on the crazy side: I have an on-line training for work; I’m doing a library event in the evening this coming Monday; my book drops officially next week; I’m doing an event with David Slayton (author of White Trash Warlock) with Murder by the Book on the 13th; and I am having a colonoscopy on the 21st. Woo-hoo! That’s me, living large everywhere I turn around. And then it’s Halloween, and then it’s November, and I am taking two trips: one to New York/Boston (for Crime Bake), and to visit my family for Thanksgiving (note to self: buy plane tickets and make arrangements for New York/Boston trip). After that, it’s pretty much just Christmas and New Year’s, and suddenly it’s Carnival again—not sure what it’s going to look like, to be completely honest, or how much I plan to be involved or participate with it. I will also be doing some traveling in the new year—New York again in January, Birmingham in February, Albuquerque for Left Coast, whenever that is—and here’s hoping the pandemic has calmed down and/or finally ended by then. PLEASE? Is it too much to ask?

There really is something to be said for doing things that were normal before the pandemic again. I do think going to the football game Saturday night, which I was so concerned about—and I wasn’t entirely comfortable around all those people—helped reset my brain a bit; I felt so much better about the world and life and everything in general when I woke up Sunday morning—after the first cup of coffee cleared some of the bleariness away—and Sunday night, after watching two more episodes of Midnight Mass (which is extraordinary, by the way; you should watch, Constant Reader—the writing and acting and production values are truly stellar—I had no problem going to bed and sleep. I did hit snooze a few times yesterday morning, as always—the alarm is set fifteen minutes ahead; which may seem kind of dumb to me at times (what good does it do you if you always remember its fifteen minutes fast?) but I do like to gradually wake up and acclimate a bit before I throw aside the covers and put on my morning pre-shower attire of LSU sweats, socks and house slippers. (Note to self: need a new pair of LSU moccasins to wear around the house)

I was also fairly productive yesterday, which was most pleasing to me. I did start getting sleepy and tired in the afternoon while at work, but powered through. I got a lot of emails taken care of, paid some bills, and spent a lot more time than I probably should have on Twitter being amused about the Facebook crash. (although I did find myself more than slightly amused at how often I would automatically start to go to the Facebook tab on my browser before thinking sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that right now)

Old habits die hard, and it does kind of bother me that it’s become so habitual for me to check Facebook. (We pause briefly now to look back and remember the days of MySpace, with a bit of nostalgic fondness)

Honestly.

But I am getting better organized, and working more efficiently these days than I have for, oh, say about the last two years, give or take? I am also—now that I no longer feel the need to spend all day Saturday glued to the television watching college football—going to start cleaning projects, weekend by weekend, until I have gradually cleaned the entire apartment. Ambitious plans, to be sure, but it’s not like I haven’t done it before. And included in this is cleaning out the crawlspace above the laundry room; there’s a lot of stuff up there that can probably be donated—boxes and boxes and boxes of books that I most likely will never look at again because they are in boxes in the crawlspace. The ultimate goal for me would be to not only clean out the crawlspace but clean out the storage unit—there’s room in there now, but there could be a lot more. (There’s also a chance that things in there got ruined during Ida as well—I know at some point since I rented the unit some water got in there somehow, because a couple of boxes had gotten wet and were thus ruined and needed to be thrown out.) I was also thinking about the whole “keeping my papers to have them archived somewhere”—which I really need to either do, or throw them in the garbage because they take up so much space—because what really is going to be interesting is the electronic files; those may not show the notes I’ve made on manuscripts themselves for edits and so forth, but you can trace the progression of the writing and rewriting through each different version of the story/book/file. (And of course, I am rolling my eyes at myself for thinking any future scholar of queer mysteries from this time period would be interested in me and my work. Ten years after I am dead, cremated and my ashes scattered in the various places I want them scattered, I won’t be remembered, and I am perfectly fine with that.) I mean, it’s interesting to me to look through because it triggers memories long dormant in a corner of my brain, but I honestly cannot imagine being the subject of anyone’s dissertation or thesis; unless someone wants to look at my stuff as a reference to gay white male life in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina.

Ah, well.

I also realized I’ve been writing this for quite some time and haven’t mentioned Bury Me in Shadows yet, and I was going to try to talk about this book a bit every day as a bit of a tease to encourage people to buy it. It really is a wonder I have a career, isn’t it?

So, if you’ve stuck with this entry so far, let me promise you this: tomorrow I will talk about Bury Me in Shadows. You’ve been warned.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Together We’re Better

Yesterday actually turned out to be quite lovely.

I was a little bleary when I got up yesterday morning (my Fitbit advises me I only slept deeply for 3 hours, 48 minutes; the rest was “light sleep” and I woke up three times), but for whatever reason, I decided to start getting to work on things. I started answering emails (I am very careful with email. I refuse to let it control my life, which it easily can; so I answer emails over the weekends and in the mornings, save my responses as drafts, and send them all after lunch. I do not send emails after five pm CST; I do not read them, either. Email at one point took over my life, which made getting anything done impossible and raised my stress levels to unbelievable heights. I realized anyone who absolutely, positively needs to reach me has my cell phone number…and if I don’t trust you with my cell phone number…you don’t really need an answer right away. And guess what? The world didn’t end, I didn’t miss out on anything, and nothing became harder) while reading coverage of the LSU debacle from Saturday night (one thing I did mean to mention and didn’t yesterday; I try not to be overly critical of college athletes because they are basically kids. It’s easy to forget that when you’re watching on television, but when you see them on the sidelines with their helmets off, or while walking down Victory Hill to the stadium in their suits and ties…you see a bunch of teenagers and young men in their early twenties. They are kids—and those baby faces on those big muscular bodies is a very strange juxtaposition sometimes). I decided on the way home from Baton Rouge that while I do, indeed, love football, I really shouldn’t give up my weekends to it all fall. Now that LSU is definitely out of the running for anything, I’ll probably not watch as much football as I would if they were still in contention for anything. I’ll still watch LSU, and occasionally I may spend an afternoon watching a big game—the SEC title game, the play-offs—I am not going to spend every Saturday pretty much glued to the television all day, flipping between games all day. And I also rarely enjoy watching the Saints—I love them, they’re my guys, my team, my heart—but their games are so damned stressful it’s hard to enjoy them, and when the games is over I am always, win or lose, emotionally and physically and mentally exhausted. So, I decided it made more sense to get things done, check in on the score periodically, and not sweat it too much. (Good thing. Like LSU, the Saints led the entire game, folded like a newspaper in the fourth quarter and wound up losing.) I made groceries, filled the car’s gas tank, and before going, I started weeding shit out of my iCloud and saving it all to my back-up hard drive.  I wound up freeing up over four hundred and seven gigabytes in my flash storage, and suddenly my computer was running very quickly again.

And yes, it’s my fault.* I have a gazillion pictures files, going back to digital camera days. I used to back up my hard drive and my flash drives regularly to the cloud—and those folders are enormous. I don’t probably need all of it—I was weeding through bits here and there as I moved the files over to the back-up hard drive (eventually planning on copying them up to Dropbox), and started finding all kinds of interesting things. Story fragments I’d forgotten, book ideas and anthology ideas and essays I’d started; some of these things are in very rough, first draft form—and got left behind as my addled, AHDH-like brain moved on to the next thirty or forty ideas for all of the above. I also was kind of amused to see how I often I plagiarize myself; I had a completely different idea for the book I wanted to call A Streetcar Named Murder fifteen years ago—which I can still use at some point, just have to come up with a new title. I’d forgotten that all the way through the process Need was called A Vampire’s Heart; my editor suggested changing it after I turned the book it. It was a wise choice; my title was very romance sounding and Need was hardly that. It was also interesting seeing, over the years, how many different ideas I’ve had for a gay noir set in the world of ballet (damn you, Megan Abbott!). I discovered that Murder in the Garden District actually began as Murder on the Avenue (a title I can repurpose for an idea I had last week); I found the original files for Hollywood South Hustle, the Scotty book that turned into a Chanse MacLeod, Murder in the Rue Ursulines; I found the files for the Colin book that tells us what he was doing and where he was between Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo; I found the original Paige novel I started writing in 2004, in which an Ann Coulter-like pundit from New Orleans is murdered; I found the first three chapters of the Scotty Katrina book, Hurricane Party High,  in which they don’t evacuate during a fictional hurricane, and the chapters where I rewrote it, had the, evacuate to Frank’s sister’s in rural Alabama (and we meet Frank’s nephew Taylor for the first time—and I also remembered that they belonged to some weird kind of religious cult and that Taylor was going to come to New Orleans in the future to visit during their version of rumspringa, but eventually abandoned the idea completely and never did a Scotty/Katrina book; was reminded that Dark Tide began as Mermaid Inn; that I wrote the first chapter of Timothy during the summer of 2003; and if I even tried to list all the iterations that wound up being #shedeservedit, we would be here all day (Sins of Omission, I think, was my favorite earlier title; again, a completely different book with some slight similarities…I may have to take a longer look at some of those iterations because being reminded of them all, I also remembered that I really liked all the versions).

I also found many, many nonfiction pieces I’ve written over the years—many of which I’d long since forgotten about—so maybe that essay collection won’t take quite as long to pull together as I had originally thought. Huzzah!

And I also discovered something else that I knew but had slipped out of my consciousness: that Bury Me in Shadows was called, for the first and second drafts, Bury Me in Satin—which gives off an entirely different vibe, doesn’t it? I wrote a very early version of it as a short story while in college, called it “Ruins,” but never wrote a second draft because I knew it wasn’t a short story; it needed to be a book, and one day I would write it. I was never completely comfortable with the story, to be honest; I wasn’t sure how I could write a modern novel built around a Civil War legend in rural Alabama. I absolutely didn’t want to write a fucking Lost Cause narrative—which is what this easily could have become, and people might come to it thinking it is, and are going to be very angry when they find out it is not that—but I really wasn’t sure how to tell the story…and in my mind, I thought of it as Ruins—which I freely admit is not a great title, and has been over-used.

As luck would have it, I was watching some awards show—I can’t begin to try to remember what year—and one of the nominated groups performed. I’d never heard of The Band Perry before; and the song they performed, “If I Die Young,” absolutely blew me away. (I just remembered, I kind of used the title as guidance when writing Need—always trying to remember he became undead very young) The first two lines of the chorus are this:

If I die young,

Bury me in satin

And I thought to myself, Bury Me in Satin is a perfect title for the Civil War ghost story! Melancholy and sort of romantic; I’ve always thought of hauntings as more about loss than being terrifying (you do not have to go full out jump scare, use gore or blood or violence to scare the reader, and if you doubt me, read Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home), which is why I’ve always loved the Barbara Michaels novels that were ghost stories. That was the feeling I wanted to convey, that sad creepiness, and longing—I wanted a Gothic feel to the book, and I felt that line captured what I wanted perfectly. But as I wrote it, it didn’t quite feel as right as it did in that moment (I still love the song—and the video is interesting and kind of Gothic, doing a Tennyson Lady of Shalott thing), and then one day it hit me: changed ‘satin’ to ‘shadows’, and there’s your perfect title.

And so it was.

Oh dear, look at the time. Till tomorrow, Constant Reader! I am off to the spice mines! Have a lovely Monday!

*I will add the caveat to this that anything stored in the Cloud should not affect the flash storage in the actual computer and its operating system, and yes, I am prepared and more than willing to die on that hill.

Am I Losing You

Good morning, Sunday. I am not as worn out and tired as I thought I would be, to be honest.

The game last night was disappointing–it always is when LSU uses–but I wouldn’t have even minded that so much had it seemed like they were trying to win the game, if that makes sense? As I sat in a crowded (not full) stadium for the first time in two years, in and itself a novelty from the before times, it occurred to me as I watched that the problem this entire season with LSU is both sides of the ball (offense or defense), whichever is out on the field at the time, is playing not to lose, rather than to win. They play cautiously. The defense’s tackling was embarrassing for a team playing at the elitest level of college football; I don’t think they sacked the Auburn quarterback even once, and they don’t aggressively play pass defense in the backfield, either. It’s just weird that LSU has a quarterback now who has flashes of potential greatness–but no run game, no offensive line to speak of, and probably the worst defense to play for LSU since the 1990’s. Auburn didn’t play much better, either–so War Eagle fans shouldn’t put too much stock in this “big win” for them either. We barely beat Mississippi State, and UCLA–our other loss–keeps losing, too. Paul and I had never seen LSU lose in Tiger Stadium since we started attending games in 2010; that streak came to an end last night, as did Auburn’s losing streak in Baton Rouge; they hadn’t won in Tiger Stadium this century.

I always thought it would suck to drive all the way back to New Orleans after a loss–and especially one that at night–we didn’t get back to the car until well past twelve, yet somehow managed to get home before one thirty (a miracle in and of itself). There was hardly any traffic, even in Baton Rouge; but there was a cop directing traffic on Highland Avenue so maybe that helped, I don’t know.

The sting of the LSU loss, however, was made a bit more palatable by others scores from other games: Florida lost to Kentucky (Dan Mullen’s job is definitely in jeopardy–with Georgia and LSU still on their schedule, it’s entirely possible they could lose four games, although I wouldn’t be too concerned about the LSU game were I them) and Mississippi State beat Texas A&M (which means Jimbo Fisher should be worrying about his job–they haven’t played Alabama or Auburn yet, and they already have two losses in the conference). Arkansas’ bubble was popped by Georgia decisively last night, and Stanford knocked off Oregon. This is a crazy year for college football, reminding me of 2007 and 2014 (although 2014 sorted itself in the end), and come to think of it, that’s a seven year cycle.

Maybe 2021 is going to be just as crazy.

As Paul said in the car, “I think really this year there’s just Alabama and Georgia, and then everyone else at a level below.” I think he’s right.

But I slept fairly well, and there was no need to yell or scream, so I am not hoarse this morning. The stadium never really got rocking, either, so my ears aren’t ringing the way they were after the last time we went to a game in Baton Rouge. I’m not tired, but I am also not feeling particularly high energy this morning either. I have to make groceries and get gas for the car (I can apparently make it to Baton Rouge and back on a quarter tank of gas, which ain’t bad, really), and there’s also a lot of other things I’d like to do today–the gym, write for a while, do some editing, clean and organize. I started clearing out files from the Cloud yesterday because once again–a problem I have had with every Mac I’ve owned ever since they developed the cloud and stopped putting large amounts of storage in their computers, even to operate programs–my computer wasn’t working properly. It was enormously frustrating and it took me hours to move big files out of there and onto my back-up hard drive. I wasted most of yesterday doing this, in fact, until it was time to get ready to go to the game. The entire point of buying a new Mac computer two months ago was to alleviate these issues and have a functional desktop; the Cloud was a huge mistake on their part–I am certainly not a fan of it–and I do think it’s absurd that every time they upgrade their operating systems you have to learn how to use your computer all over again. It’s bullshit, a cashgrab from an already excessively greedy corporation, and yes, this will be the last Mac I own. When it finally dies from an operating system upgrade–I’d say probably two years, max–I’ll be buying a Dell, much as I hate Windows, and moving everything in the Cloud over to Dropbox….which will not affect the operating memory of my fucking computer thank you very much.

So. Fucking. Frustrating.

And on that note, I need to get rolling on my day. You have a lovely and restful (or productive, if that’s your preference) Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Something New Got Old

Saturday and tonight we will be in Death Valley, watching the LSU-Auburn game. Huzzah!

But that means a really long day ahead. The game isn’t until eight pm, which means we may not get out of the stadium and into the car before midnight, which will get me home around one thirty in the morning at the earliest. That is way past my bedtime, and could also prove incredibly problematic when it comes to having a productive day tomorrow, which is absolutely necessary. I slept deeply and well last night–Scooter woke me up for water around three, and for food again around six (and yes, I should have filled the food bowl at three but I was barely conscious; I’m surprised I even remember getting up to get him water at three)–and feel pretty rested this morning. I am debating as to whether I should make a grocery run today–I doubt I will feel up to it tomorrow–but looking at my grocery list, there’s really nothing that makes such a trip necessary, really; but I should probably go looking through my cabinets to be thorough before making any decision. For some reason lately running errands makes me tired; but that could be a combination of any number of other things, not just being sixty. It’s also not like the month of September (with the end of August added in for good measure) was an easy one, after all.

I had to get up really early yesterday to take my car to the West Bank for servicing–new air filters, and the tire with a slow, steady leak became the tire with a regular pretty quick leak–and it got all patched up and everything. I had ordered a new lap desk so I can use the laptop in my easy chair–the old one I bought while we were still living in the carriage house the first time; so it was pretty old–and the new one is pretty fancy–pockets and so forth, as well as a built in mousepad on the surface. Whether or not that means I will actually start using the laptop in my easy chair remains to be seen. I also want to move the ratty old one upstairs for use in bed; we do have a television in the bedroom we never use, and maybe having the lap desk will encourage me to work from the comfort of said bed. Anyway, I love my new lap desk, and can’t wait to try it out this morning (once I post this I am planning on moving to the easy chair).

I think I am going to have to make that grocery run today; might as well, and then I can get the mail and I also need to fill the tank with gas for the drive to Baton Rouge. And since I have to go out into the world today anyway…might as well get that odious chore out of the way.

I also made that “Mississippi roast” in the slow cooker yesterday; that recipe that keeps popping up everywhere you turn around, with people raving about it–the one that calls for a packet of au jus and a packet of ranch, with a stick of butter added to the top of the roast and no liquids added. I will fully confess I assumed it would be terribly bland (living in New Orleans and learning to cook Louisiana style has certainly spoiled me when it comes to flavor and spices and so forth–everywhere else’s food always seems terribly bland to me now) but I always follow the recipe the first time I make anything so I can see how it turns out, before starting to experiment every time after (I generally never make the same recipe the same way twice; I am always tweaking recipes but ironically never track the changes and adaptations, which means I can never repeat it if I find a perfect way to make something by experimenting). I am pleased to report that it actually tasted quite good as written; the only thing I might change the next time is to add mushrooms or perhaps small potatoes (although there really isn’t a lot of gravy; I think the potatoes would have to be added about half-way through, and the mushrooms with an hour left to go), and maybe–maybe–some white pepper and basil.

I really do love to cook.

I did read some more Velvet Was the Night while I was waiting at the dealership for the work on my car to be finished. I hope I’m not giving the impression that the book isn’t good, given how long it is taking me to finish it. That has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with an inability to focus. Yesterday at the dealership, I was really getting caught up in the story when they came to let me know the car was ready. I meant to get back to it last night after work, but Paul was home early and so we started watching our shows–getting caught up on Only Murders in the Building, Titans, Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and American Horror Story: Double Feature–and since there’s game all day today, we probably won’t get to Midnight Mass again until tomorrow. AHS wrapped up it’s odd story about the talent vampires in Provincetown, and so the second half of this season is the second feature, which apparently has to do with aliens in the Southern California desert, near Joshua Tree/Palm Springs area (I guess the Salton Sea was too much to hope for). It’s strange–with all four of the college student leads (including the guys, who are a young gay couple) winding up pregnant after an alien experience none of them remember; they just remember a bright light and all of them waking up in the car in different seats–but intriguing. I will be interested to see how this plays out, and if it goes off the rails as so many plots on this show tend to do.

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

If You Ever Go

Thursday, Thursday. A work at home day, hurray!

It rained again yesterday, which was more than a little bit irritating (in theory, it’s going to rain every day for a while now; including scattered thunderstorms in Baton Rouge Saturday night DURING THE GAME), but it’s okay. Rain makes me sleepy and I was tired yesterday from Tuesday night’s weird sleep, so the combination of the two helped me run out of steam by the afternoon. It kind of sucked, because I wanted to go to the gym and do some things last night, but by the time my shift ended and it was time to go home…all I wanted to do was go home, get under the blanket in my easy chair with a purring kitty in my lap, and mindlessly zone out while falling into some insane Youtube wormhole. However, I had advance warning that Paul would be late getting home (the grant he’s been working on was due at midnight), so after a few times around with history videos, I decided to watch a movie. I opened the TCM app on my AppleTV, and started looking through the vast riches there. I was delighted to see Pillow Talk was available to stream–a few weeks ago I’d looked for it, settling for the follow up, Lover Come Back, instead; which isn’t settling because it’s also a fun, if dated movie–and so queued it up. I’ve always loved Pillow Talk, and it always has made me laugh; but I’ve also not seen it in years, and I am a lot more aware about things that can be seen today as problematic. A sex comedy from the days of the Hays Code, made in 1959? Yes, all kinds of things were played for comedy back then that are not only no longer funny, but absolutely cringey today. And yes–there were parts that really made me cringe a bit; the entire “Rex Stetson” deception, which is actually quite cruel, being at the top of the list. But the only reason it even works in the first place is because Rock Hudson is so utterly likable, charismatic, and charming; even though he’s a complete cad, you can’t help but like him. Doris Day is stunningly beautiful, and that singing voice! The chemistry between the two is also powerful; you know from the beginning they’re going to wind up together (it’s a romantic comedy, after all), and Hudson–dismissed as just being handsome rather than actually having any talent–deserved an Oscar. Knowing Hudson is a gay man, playing a straight man with a steady parade of women through his life and is so completely convincing that he not only is falling for Doris Day but you actually believe he wants to fuck her.

That–given his reality–was definitely Oscar worthy. The film absolutely couldn’t be made today–the idea that a woman in her late twenties/early thirties would be an almost prudish virgin would never fly today–but it holds up better than Lover Come Back, in that Day’s character has some great scenes with other characters about how she wants to be in love, wants to fall in love, and dreams of finding the right man who will sweep her off her feet and romance her and love her; the relationship between her character and the neurotic millionaire who loves her (Tony Randall) is so incredibly sweet–she doesn’t love him but she likes him a lot, and how she gently lets him down after his umpteenth wedding proposal–and how he accepts the defeat gracefully, saying he just wants her to be happy above-all, was lovely; there was some great chemistry between Day and Randall as well. And that apartment she has! And New York just looks marvelous and wonderful and exciting and fun and everything you could ever imagine it could be. It’s a fantasy, of course, but that’s what movies were back then; and of course, the movie never shames Day for being a single career-woman in the big city–Lover Come Back’s message was a lot cruder–“she just needs a good fuck”–but it doesn’t play that way in Pillow Talk, which remains somewhat charming, if unrealistic.

And it’s actually a rather clever window into that time period.

As always, I have lots to do today. I am working at home, as per the usual, on a Thursday; which is nice. I slept well last night, which was also lovely; I don’t even think I got up once during the night. Paul had a meeting this evening but will be home shortly thereafter, so we can get caught up on our shows and actually spend some time together. I am getting excited and nervous about the game this weekend; I am delighted that we are returning to Tiger Stadium for the first time since the 2019 season, but at the same time I am a bit nervous about being in a stadium with over a hundred thousand people crammed into it; with thousands more partying on the university grounds around the stadium. This will be a sort of trial run for a return to normal after the pandemic is completely over, but at the same time I can’t get that voice in my head whispering super spreader event to stop. The game is at eight, which means not getting home until after midnight–not optimal–but I can sleep in on Sunday and get rested. (But I also need to check to see what time the Saints play on Sunday as well.)

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