Yesterday was…not a great day, really. I was physically tired, but not mentally tired, if that makes sense? The problem is that the physical tired makes it hard for the not-tired brain to focus on anything, and I get kind of punchy, which isn’t really the face I like to show to the world. But my day was okay for the most part. I think the tired primarily came about because of the early return of summer weather to New Orleans. Yes, I know to those of you who do not live here New Orleans always seems brutally hot all of the time, but there are degrees to New Orleans heat, and yes, it usually starts getting hotter in May and yes, the humidity usually is back in May. But it was ninety-five degrees on Wednesday; and even at the hottest part of the dog days of August it rarely gets to that. Usually it hovers somewhere between 88 and 93, but it’s the humidity that makes it so awful. Also, I’ve been more active this week than usual. I did Ellen’s book launch on Sunday evening, I had that ZOOM meeting on Wednesday night, and I had drinks with a friend in from out of town before the ZOOM meeting. So, that was a lot more of social interaction than I am accustomed to, and instead of going home from work Wednesday night (the way I usually do) and collapsing into my chair while going into a Youtube wormhole of some sort, I didn’t get to relax until after nine pm.
That is not my norm.
I stopped on the way home last night to get some things at the grocery store, and then spent some time doing some kitchen chores (since I had drinks with a friend before the ZOOM meeting, I had to move everything off the kitchen counters, shove it all in the laundry room, and then closed the doors so no one could see it; and the dishes in the sink had to be organized so nothing could be seen from the camera on the computer; I never realized having my work station in the kitchen would turn out to be so problematic, but I couldn’t have foreseen ZOOM in the summer of 2005 when we moved into the Lost Apartment, either) before collapsing into my easy chair to wait for Paul to get home.
So, there I was, minding my own business, watching first Superman and Lois before The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (I have tuned back in for this season, I have thoughts) and occasionally checking social media and my emails when…I got a notification on Twitter. I clicked to see this tweet from Katrina Niidas Holm:
GREG HERREN!!! You wrote a book so damn good, it got nominated twice! Congratulations, @scottynola! Hope you’ll remember us Pogues when…
(‘Pogues’ being an Outer Banks reference, a show she and her husband Chris–buy his Child Zero, available now and amazing–convinced me to watch with the result Paul and I fell in love with the show, too)
I literally had no idea what she was talking about and gave my usual intelligent response of wait what? at which point she linked to this year’s Anthony Award nominees. Bury Me in Shadows was nominated not only for Best Paperback/Ebook/Audio Original, but also for Best Children’s/Young Adult.
TWO NOMINATIONS FOR THE SAME BOOK IN DIFFERENT CATEGORIES.
I am still in shock this morning–a delighted shock, to be sure, but it’s still shock. It still hasn’t completely sunken in yet, either. It’s going to take me a hot minute to thank everyone who has tweeted or posted on Facebook their congratulations, as well as to congratulate the ridiculously amazing amount of friends that are also nominated in one of the categories–it really is, overall, a remarkable list with a lot of books nominated that I read and loved loved loved–but what a lovely chore to have, you know? And talk about turning your mood and your day around! So, this morning–needless to say I slept very well last night–I am sipping my coffee and riding the high a bit still. At some point I’ll need to make sure I thank everyone and congratulate everyone else nominated and get through my social media, but right now I am just sitting here at my desk feeling very proud and happy and content while I sip my coffee. Wow. I mean, wow.
I’ve not been in a very good place about my career lately, honestly–any number of things; the problems with getting myself to actually write, not feeling great about what I write when I do write, all the little doubts and insecurities that have built up over a lifetime of wanting to be a writer but getting little to no encouragement from anyone, really. It all kinds of builds up sometimes, and anything–no matter how small or inconsequential–will trigger it and send me spiraling down into the Pit of Despair. As I struggle with my schedule and all the things I need and want to get done, with a to-do list that seems to grow like the Hydra, with two new things to do replacing every single task that gets scratched off the list, this was precisely the right time to get this kind of reassurance from my community, my wonderful crime fiction world, and I’ll always be grateful for this. Bury Me in Shadows was a very hard book for me to write, emotionally; but digging deep into the issues I dealt with in the book–and that emotional difficulty–made it a better book, I think.
Wow. I mean, wow.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a wonderful Friday, Constant Reader.
Sunday morning and I slept in again, which was marvelous. I fell asleep in my chair last night while watching television, which makes me think that no matter what time I arise, ten is now my bedtime, and I am not really sure how I feel about that, to be completely honest. I welcome the good sleep, though, and the rested and refreshed feeling I’ve been experiencing in the mornings. Yesterday was a good day; I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted, but c’est la vie; such is life, and I did get things done. I worked on the kitchen, did some cleaning, working on my CV a bit more (more on that later), and laundered the bed linens (clean bed sheets and blankets always make sleep feel better for some reason I choose not to question). I did a load of dishes, cleaned some things out of the refrigerator that needed cleaning out, and organized some.
We rented Spider-Man: No Way Home yesterday and yes, I do think it was the best live action Spider-Man film (barring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which was animated). The young cast (Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalan) are absolutely pitch-perfect; the concept of the story was actually good; and it was a sweeping epic that caught us up in the narrative. I hate to think this might be Tom Holland’s last go round as Spidey, frankly; I adore the kid, and have ever since his Lip-Sync Battle performance doing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (that was what got me into the theater to see Spider-Man Homecoming, whichI didn’t care much about seeing before that clip won me over, and these three Tom Holland outings as my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man are my favorite Spidey live-action movies), and I hope this isn’t the end of this cast in these roles. I don’t know how the franchise can go on now, given the events of the movie, but in some ways it’s very true to the original comic books–Peter being alone and friendless. Tom Holland is also one of our best young actors; I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, even if the film itself was flawed. I’m sure he’s destined for a long and successful career, and he certainly has the money and success to focus only on projects that interest him as an actor; kind of like Daniel Radcliffe and the other kids from Harry Potter.
It would be a lovely place to be in as an actor, I would think.
After that, we switched over to Netflix to watch Heartstopper, a young adult gay romance series from Britain (with Olivia Colman in a very small party) and coming on the heels of season 5 of Elité, it was marvelous to see a love story between gay teens actually played by teens who weren’t perfect looking and beautiful. We deeply enjoyed this show, which was just incredibly sweet and adorable; how can you not fall in love with main character Charlie? How can you not empathize with him being mocked and bullied, yet despite this remaining first and foremost an incredibly kind and caring young man who loves his friends and wants to protect the people he loves from suffering the way he has suffered? It was apparently a graphic novel first, which was a bit of a surprise (I may have to go looking for it now; I definitely would read the novel if there was one) but a very pleasant one. It didn’t have any of the falseness or inauthenticity of other queer young adult fictions I’ve read and/or seen before; there was also lesbian representation as well as a very well rounded and developed trans character. It was so remarkably well done…I cried a couple of times. Rugby star Nick’s struggle to understand what he was feeling, and how to express himself in ways he’d never learned or thought about was also remarkably touching to see. I defy anyone to watch Heartstopper and these wonderful teens and not want to do everything in their power to protect them from hate and bullies–of which there is far too fucking much in the world, and has roared back lately thanks to the right wing hate machine. (It’s also been horrific watching people who consider themselves “allies” betraying us at every opportunity and turn…I’d forgotten how that felt, and frankly, I’ve cut people out of my life for far less than this…more on that later; I have been trying to compose a Julia Sugarbaker entry for several weeks now about the vicious political attacks on my community lately, but it’s not easy to do so without swearing vociferously and shredding people–mind you, they deserve it with both fucking barrels, but reason and logic is the best way to battle bigotry and hatred and garbage human beings.
I reserve the right to experience righteous anger and express it, though, because sometimes it is absolutely fucking necessary.
It’s weird that we’ve spent the weekend with superhero films, watching The Batman on Friday night and Spider-Man last night; we also started watching Severance last night, which I was also enjoying–my falling asleep during the second episode was more a result of my being tired more than anything else; I am going to rewatch it this morning while Paul sleeps–and there are several other shows I want us to get watching. We leave for New York on Tuesday, though–tonight and tomorrow night will be more about me packing and getting ready to head for the airport on Tuesday more than anything else; our flight is around noonish, I think–I need to double check, especially since I have to check us both in tomorrow–so we have time to drop Scooter off at the kitty spa before we have to head for the airport. (One of the things I need to do today is make sure I have everything I need, paperwork wise, for the trip–the car service from LaGuardia, the discount parking coupon for USPark, the confirmation number for the flights and the hotel)
Today I need to work on my story some more, do some more things, and get everything together that I need to get together before we leave town.
I’ve been updating my CV lately (something I’ve not done since 2009, and it wasn’t even really complete then) because I am doing a favor for a colleague (whom I also consider to be, at the very least, a friendly acquaintance) which requires me having an updated CV. As I was adding short stories, essays, articles, books and anthologies to the list, I began to realize why precisely people refer to me as prolific (which I always just smile and shrug off). The damned thing is already seven pages long, and I’ve not included everything–old books reviews, author interviews, columns, etc.–and there are some things I wrote for websites that I am no longer able to locate or remember (if it’s not in print, the chances I won’t remember it expand exponentially) and really, it doesn’t need to be that exact for this purpose; but it does make me think I really do need to, at some point, make sure every single thing I’ve ever written is included in my CV. I mean, it already looks impressive; I can only imagine how long it will be once it is as complete as I can make it. I mean, I wrote a fitness column every two weeks for IMPACT News and later for Window Media, for at least four years. That’s well over a hundred columns right there…not to mention all the book reviews I used to do. I think I have produced millions of words over the course of when I first started writing professionally all the way back in 1996 in Minneapolis, which was really when my writing career began; so I’ve been at this now for over twenty-six years, which is kind of amazing, really.
And perhaps it’s best for me to head into the spice mines now, so I can get a jump on the day. Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EVERY SEASON OF ELITE.
One of the most moving moments during Left Coast Crime came during Raquel V. Reyes’ acceptance speech for Best Humorous Mystery for Mango, Mambo, and Murder. Raquel spoke very eloquently about her love for the crime fiction genre, and why it was so important for her to write a Latina sleuth heroine in her series: “Representation matters,” she emphasized, her voice breaking a little bit. This naturally got me to thinking about representation and its importance. It reminded me of the weird little boy in Chicago (and later, in the suburbs and on the plains of Kansas) who believed he was so weird, unnatural, and anything but normal; and how those rare appearances of gay men in fiction–scattered here and there in paperbacks–meant so much to me and made me feel, even if just for a moment, that I wasn’t strange and weird and an outsider. There were people like me out there somewhere, and maybe, just maybe, someday I’d find them and my community and feel like, finally, I belonged somewhere.
I was thinking about this very thing as Paul and I binged our way through Season 5 of our favorite show, Elité, on Netflix recently (the new season dropped while I was in Albuquerque).
I don’t remember how, when, or why Paul and I started watching Elité, but I am so glad we did. I know it was pre-pandemic, because I do remember both of us being concerned about when the fourth season would drop and whether it would be delayed because of the pandemic. But regardless of when we started watching, this Spanish-language Gossip Girl type show (far, far superior to Gossip Girl, sorry, stans, don’t @ me) really captured our imaginations and we became full fledged addicts. (The best way to describe the show is as a terrific hybrid of Gossip Girl and How to Get Away with Murder, yet better than both). I think part of it was the great cast–everyone was not only gorgeous, but they were remarkably talented as well, and the writing/plotting/story construction was superb; take note, American television series. I also greatly enjoyed the Ander/Omar romance, which began with both deeply closeted and meeting guys on hook-up apps, which is how they met. They began building a relationship, coming out to friends and family–it didn’t go well with Omar’s Palestinian parents–and their romance was given equal weight to that of their straight cast members; I don’t recall many shows where that happens. It was handled very well, and they literally became one of the show’s “super couples”, to borrow a daytime soap term. Fans loved them, and their romance was handled so beautifully that I was impressed, all the way from the terrors of the closet to fears about acceptance to actually coming out and developing a romance, with all the drama and upheavals young straight couples usually have to deal with. Omar and Ander were no different from any other romantic couple on the show; their story was just as important as the others, and there was never any sense of “oh they’re just pandering because we’ll always watch something with gay representation on it.”
And it wasn’t just Omar and Ander, either. Polo and Carla were in a long-term relationship since they were children; deeply in love and yet somehow bored with each other, both found themselves attracted to sexy new student Cristian; and that progressed from Polo watching Cristian and Carla together to joining them! Polo’s sexuality became a bit more murky than it was at the beginning. Is he bisexual, pan, or are they all three polyamorous? Carla and Polo end up breaking up and Cristian left the show after a tragic accident; but the intricacies and intrigues from their long-term relationship continued to play out and affect their storylines as well as others along the way. A lesbian romance was introduced into season 4, as well as a new villainous gay character, whose entire purpose was simply to be rebellious against his father and try to come between Omar and Ander. Played by the strikingly beautiful Manu Rios, I liked the idea of a manipulative gay villain (think Erica Kane as a gay man), but hoped they would flesh him out more. I felt Manu Rios was more talented than the material they were giving him, and hoped that in Season 5 we’d get to know him better.
(There are many other reasons I love the show–the other characters are also incredibly well developed, and their behavior fits their characters as they’ve developed along the way; no one ever acts in a way that doesn’t feel realistic simply to suit a story-line, something else American show runners should pay attention to.)
Season 5 literally dropped the Friday night I was in Albuquerque, and as soon as I got back to New Orleans, Paul and I started watching, and binged the entire season in like two nights. Season 4 wasn’t as good as the first three seasons (the bar was set high, to be fair), but it was also a transitional season; at least half of the cast graduated at the end of season three and thus left the show–which I thought was probably a good thing, despite losing some absolute favorite characters from those earlier seasons. Season 4 transitioned the story as the show added new cast members to replace those who’d left; so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have (more original cast members departed at the end of season 4) and so I was worried that Season 5 wouldn’t be as good, either…but I am delighted to report I was totally wrong on that score. -With Season 5, the show is back at the incredibly high level/standard it set for itself in those first three seasons, and while it is very hard to compare the one season with the interconnected stories of those first three, I don’t know. Season 5 might just be my favorite.
And of course, now that we’ve seen Season 5, the stage has been set for a very strong new, sixth season, and I literally cannot wait.
But the primary strength of this most-recent season comes from the further development of the character of Patrick, played by the stunningly beautiful young actor Manu Rios, through a truly terrific storyline that let us see sides of Patrick we’ve not seen before.
I mean, look at that stunning face.
The body isn’t too shabby, either.
Patrick joined the cast of characters, as I mentioned, in season 4. The openly gay character was primarily brought in as an agent of chaos: self-absorbed, narcissistic and rebelling against his strict father (the new principal), his role in season 4 was primarily to cause drama and disruption between the long-running gay romance storyline between Omar and Ander (again, and it can’t be said enough, how lovely was the Omar/Ander storyline, where a gay couple in a soapy show got the kind of story usually reserved for opposite sex teen couples?), so he was kind of a villain character–striking out angrily whenever he was hurt but inevitably causing more trouble for himself than for others, but the role was played with such sensitivity and style by Manu Rios that we as viewers couldn’t hate him the way we should have, the way we wanted to; since he was really “the other guy” and causing trouble between the already fraught Ander/Omar relationship we were all rooting for. Patrick was really nothing more than the latest obstacle to their happily ever after; but when Ander also left the show after season four, I wondered if Patrick and Omar would pick back up–it didn’t seem likely, but they were the gay characters, so…
And even I didn’t fully appreciate how talented Manu Rios was during season four–but that changed in a matter of moments in Season 5. I mean, I could see he was beautiful–anyone with eyes can see that–but could he turn what was essentially a one-note character into someone who seemed perfectly real to the viewers?
The answer was yes yes a thousand times yes.
You see, there’s a new student at Las Encinas in season 5, who catches Patrick’s eye on his first day: Ivan Carvalho, played by André Lamoglia.
This picture doesn’t do him justice in the least, either. He’s beautiful. And the way his face lights up when he smiles–utterly irresistible. (Lamoglia is also a remarkably good actor.) His father is a world-famous soccer player, Cruz Catalho, and there’s no sign or mention of Ivan’s mother. But Cruz lives the good life of the hard-partying rich superstar, often telling his uptight son–who’s moved around the world following his father’s career, unable to make lasting friends or set down roots anywhere as a result–to loosen up. Ivan just wants a normal life–with Cruz always telling him to relax and enjoy the great life Cruz is able to provide for him.
And the character is so kind and loving and understanding…it’s easy to see why Patrick would not only be attracted to him for his looks but drawn to him as a person. He sees Patrick in a way no one else ever has before. It’s impossible not to root for them to fall in love with each other.
Ivan first comes to Patrick’s attention when he is looking for directions to the high school locker room–which, at the time, didn’t strike me as odd but now looking back, it kind of does; he was in his gym clothes and in need of a shower, but I SUPPOSE that it’s entirely possible he could have gotten turned around–new school and all, I guess. Immediately interested and attracted to this handsome stranger, Patrick not only gives him directions but offers to take him there “since I was on my way there anyway.” They talk as they shower–but Ivan is onto Patrick; after the shower he points out with a smile, “you just wanted to shower with me to see me naked” he teases, pointing out Patrick’s arousal. As I mentioned, Ivan is breathtakingly gorgeous. When he smiles, you can’t do anything but melt. And yet, the two boys have undeniable chemistry.
But Ivan is straight. He keeps telling Patrick this, over and over again, but…
We actually first meet Ivan as he is getting ready for school, climbing over the passed out bodies in the living room to see if his father will drive him to school. Instead, Cruz winds up hugging the toilet and telling Ivan to take the car. During his first initial meeting with Patrick, Ivan definitely points out that he isn’t gay, but he’s not put off by Patrick’s sexuality, either. They can be friends–but that’s all it’s going to be. He knows Patrick is attracted to him, and he’s a bit of a tease; sending mixed signals that confuse and anger Patrick.
This, too, is an old trope of a story, and I was really not overly thrilled with it; it’s clichéd and one of the tired old reasons the homophobes trot out whenever they want to deny us our rightful place in society and culture: we want to convert everyone.
Because it’s just that easy.
But at the same time, Patrick’s desperate crush on his new straight best friend isn’t played as exploitative. There’s more there than just him being a cocktease, really; Ivan clearly cares very deeply for Patrick, and their friendship means a lot to him. He cares, and this is a new experience for Patrick; he isn’t used to anyone genuinely caring for him. He’s a disappointment to his father, he loves his sisters but those relationships are very tense, and he really just wants to be loved. So the fact that he has found someone who genuinely loves him is confusing; he loves being loved, but he is also strongly attracted to Ivan, in love with him (at one point Ivan teases him, “you’ve fallen for me”) and isn’t sure how to react or behave or what. Ivan is attracted also to Patrick’s sister Ari–and the heartbreak when Patrick sees them together is completely believable; and it’s all done in his incredibly expressive face. After seeing Ivan and Ari having sex on a boat on the lake…heartbroken Patrick goes back to the dock and sits there, hating himself and hating his life. While he’s sitting there, Ivan’s father Cruz comes out there–they’ve already had a couple of run ins already, and Patrick is on to the fact that Cruz isn’t as straight as he acts–and as Cruz comforts Patrick–they begin to kiss!
Did. Not. See. That. Coming.
At the time, I was rather impressed with the writing, frankly. What better set-up for drama than having Patrick, in love with Ivan, wind up in a relationship with Ivan’s dad? (Yes, aware of the creepiness of an adult man sleeping with a high school student; yet I still thought it make an interesting story.) But the writers are even more clever than that.
Patrick winds up comforting Ivan after his brief little fling on the water with Ari–who no longer wants to even speak to him–and the two boys go back to the Carvalho household. Cruz isn’t happy with this–he has his own developing feelings for Patrick, so he acts homophobic, but privately he invites Patrick to join him later after Ivan falls asleep. Later, when Patrick cleans up before bed and walks into Ivan’s room, he sees Ivan watching porn and they come oh-so-close again to something physical happening…but Ivan pulls aways again. Frustrated and hurt AGAIN, Patrick goes to the guest room. While watching porn on his phone and masturbating, he gets a text from Cruz asking is Ivan asleep yet? Hating himself but hurt AND horny, Patrick gets up to go join Cruz–but when he walks out of the guest room Ivan is there in the hallway.
IVAN: I can’t sleep.
PATRICK: Count sheep.
IVAN: No, no, I want you to come back to my room with me.
PATRICK: You need to stop. I am going to get really angry with you.
IVAN: I can’t stop thinking that…what if…because of prejudice or fear or something…what if I am missing out on something amazing…with someone amazing…who makes me feel amazing.
Ivan then tries to kiss Patrick, but awkwardly. Patrick pushes him away, and Ivan apologizes. “I’m sorry, I’m just really nervous but I want this.”
The look on Patrick’s face literally made me tear up as he said, “No, let me.” And then they kiss. When Patrick pulls away he says, “Are you okay?”
Ivan smiles and just nods, and the two boys go back to Ivan’s room.
What followed was the most amazing slightly longer than five minutes gay sex scene I’ve ever seen outside of gay porn. But it wasn’t raunchy (it’s definitely not gay porn); it was sensual and beautiful and erotic; an expression of love between two young men who’ve never been really in love before. It wasn’t all candlelight and roses; it was Ivan’s first time (at one point, he’s doing oral on Patrick for the first time, and Patrick stops him–“watch the teeth!” I defy anyone to find a gay man who has never said that or had that said to him once in his life. ) and while i know rimming scenes have become more commonplace on cable shows, I’ve never seen two males do it as realistically as it was done here. Patrick allows Ivan to top him, and even that was realistic, honest, authentic. The entire thing was beautifully shot and scored (EDIT: the song playing in the background is Brian Eno’s “By the River,” which is beautiful and perfect for this scene), and the acting was fucking fantastic (the pun was deliberate). I literally got tears in my eyes.
There were three more episodes in the season after this–with ups and downs and more pain and heartache for the two–but it all comes together in the incredible season finale, which again left me in tears.
This entire season could have simply focused on Patrick and Ivan’s story, and I would have been happy. But the other storylines of the season–which didn’t seem all that great in the first half–coalesced in the second half of the season, with twists and surprises and suspense; this show is fantastic at surprise twists that make you gasp.
But this story…wow. How much of a difference would it have made in my life to have seen something like this play out on a television series when I was a teenager? Even in my early twenties? Both young actors are fantastic. The acting is stellar, and I have to admit it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a gay storyline play out like this where I was absolutely 100% convinced they were in love with each other, was rooting for them, wanted them to end up together against all the odds.
Manu Rios and André Lamoglia steal the fifth season right out from under the rest of the cast–which is no small feat, as Elité’s biggest strength has always been its incredibly talented cast.
I loved this show already, but I love it all the more now. I have no idea what they are going to do with Ivan and Patrick for the next season; but whatever it is, I am here for it…and so are the rest of the fans of the show around the world. (Yes, I did a deep dive the other day on-line; Patrick and Ivan and their story are the breakout stars of season 5…as they should be.)
Saturday morning and I have errands to run today and chores to do; writing to get done and emails to write. I also want to spend some time today reading as well. I was a lolly-gag this morning, leisurely remaining in bed far longer than is my norm. It felt lovely, frankly, and I think it was exactly what I needed to get my body and my mind back in the order it needs to be in for me to function properly.
In other words, I think I have finally recovered from my trip to Left Coast Crime, which is marvelous.
Last evening I finished reading Catriona McPherson’s A Gingerbread House (more on that later), I actually wrote for a bit (more on that later) and then once Paul got home we binged through the rest of season 2 of Bridgerton, which I think I enjoyed much more than the first (despite the absence of gorgeous charismatic Regé-Jean Page, whom I stopped missing once the story really began going). I think I actually preferred the plot of season two more than the one for season one, and it was absolutely lovely seeing an openly gay actor (Jonathan Bailey) so brilliant and convincing in a traditional male romantic leading role. Is that homophobic of me, or a commentary on show business’ homophobia and fear of casting openly gay male actors in those types of roles? I am not sure.
So last evening was quite an accomplished one, and I was most pleased to see that going into work on Friday was actually helpful. I did manage to get a lot done in the office yesterday as well, which was lovely, and that carried over into my evening here at the Lost Apartment. Today, as I mentioned, I have errands to run (prescriptions, mail, groceries) and chores to do (dishes, floors, organizing) and I would love nothing more than to get some writing and reading done today as well. One can dream, can’t one? I want to get through the first draft of my story this afternoon, and I’d like to work some more on something else I started working on yesterday; nothing of import, really, simply a novel idea I’ve had for a very long time that, for some reason yesterday I couldn’t get out of my head, so I just went ahead, found the existing files, and started writing my way through the first chapter. It actually flowed pretty well, and before I knew it–and it was time to call it quits for the evening–I’d written well over a thousand words, which was marvelous, and had also done no less than a thousand or so on my story. This was pleasing, as Constant Reader is no doubt aware of how I always worry that the ability to write is a skill that I might lose at some point in my life, and it always, always, terrifies me.
I am absolutely delighted to let you know that my story “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, originally published in The Beat of Black Wings, edited by the incomparable Josh Pachter, has been selected as this week’s “Barb Goffman Presents” by Wildside Press in this week’s Black Cat Weekly. I am not the most secure short story writer in the world (many thanks to both Josh and Barb for their keen editorial eye that helped improve the story dramatically from the terrible first draft I wrote years ago), so these little victories help a lot with my Imposter Syndrome issues–which inevitably raise their ugly Cerberus-like heads all the time but especially when I am in the malaise period after finishing a novel manuscript, and especially if I am trying to work on something else and it simply isn’t coming. I am confident now that I will not only finish an initial draft of my story this weekend but perhaps even finish that first chapter I started writing last night and maybe even an outline/synopsis of said book project, which has been languishing in my head for at least a dozen years now, if not more. I mean, it’s not Chlorine, obviously; but that book is becoming even more complicated for me the more I research it–not a bad thing, but indicative of how much work the book is going to be. I was paging through William J. Mann’s Behind the Screen the other night, and I once again was amazed at how tunnel-like my vision was in my initial conception of the book and who the characters needed to be; but I also think the more research I do and the more fears I have of writing it making it all the more necessary for me to actually go ahead and do so.
I really need to work on my focus. I don’t know what it’s actually like to be able to simply write a book and block everything else out of my life in order to solely focus on the writing; my ADHD certainly makes it more difficult and I am inevitably always juggling a million things at once. What must it be like to be able to laser focus all of my attention and energy on a book? It will be interesting to see how retirement, should I ever reach that place, will change and/or make a difference in my writing, won’t it?
I imagine I won’t know what to do with all the extra time. I’ve gotten so used to being scattered in my approach to everything I write that I don’t know what being singularly focused that way would be like, or if it’s even possible for me.
On that somber note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!
Muses Thursday! Will our streak of getting at least one shoe per year continue? Watch this space!
I signed a contract for Scotty IX yesterday; Mississippi River Mischief, to be due on December 1st. Within two minutes of signing said contract I began doubting myself and the Imposter Syndrome kicked in–not really a big surprise, it always happens and is lurking in the back of my mind somewhere. What will I write this about? Another homophobe who is a closet case? AGAIN? But the story I want to write is based on something that actually did happen here; only I am moving it from the New Orleans suburbs to my stand-by fictional parish, Redemption Parish, out on the bayou lower river area. I do need to come up with some other plots–there’s some Colin stuff left over from the last one that I kind of need to delve into this time around–and no, this is not a pandemic book. There will be a pandemic book at some point–I think the shutdown/home quarantining times makes for an interesting situation for a murder mystery; kind of a locked room kind of thing–but I am not there yet. There are at least two more books for Scotty I want to write before Quarter Quarantine Quadrille–and of course, the story of the death of the Krewe of Nyx is simply too good of one to pass up. (Their “parade” was last night.)
Naturally, I didn’t attend the White Supremacy Lady Klan parade last night, and apparently neither did many other people. It was fun following NOLA Twitter as the entire city dragged the racist skanks and their joke of a parade for filth last night. When I got home from work last night, there were hardly any people out on the route–which was unusual, and I was able to find a parking place right in front of my house–a half block off the parade route, without a problem less than two hours before the streets closed. (Tonight is Muses, and I will probably be able to park no closer to my house than Coliseum Square if I am lucky) If you are unaware of the KKKrewe of Nyx, two years ago after George Floyd’s murder their captain posted “All Lives Matter” bullshit on their social media. (She’s also a grifter, and the creation of the krewe–which was created because the waiting list to get into Muses is years–was really a way for her to make money; there are any number of lawsuits and embezzlement investigations going on too) Some of their riders proudly threw Confederate flag beads in 2020; and there was a push for them to throw “Forever Lee Circle” beads with medallions featuring the image of the Traitor Lee on them this year to protest the removal of the statue that never should have been put up in the first place, and despite the fact that the only people supporting them (“the majority,” as they regularly claimed) were racist garbage, refused to apologize, refused to back down, and then screwed over the women who left the KKKrewe in droves after the racism scandal, literally going from 3400 members to 240; a loss of over 90%.
Yes, you fucking bitches, you also suck at math because if over 90% of your krewe quits then you can be relatively certain your opinion isn’t the majority. Imagine, in this day and time, being that unrepentantly racist and thinking you can parade in New Orleans and people will turn out. (Not that there isn’t racism here–there is–but the city is also majority progressive, and majority Black.)
Just the thought of them polluting St. Charles Avenue with their presence makes me angry.
But that shit is over, and we can go back to enjoying Carnival while hopefully, those bitches are spending today thinking about how an entire city turned their backs on them and their hateful messages. I rather doubt it, but I’d love to hear how they rationalize an abandoned parade route somehow meant they represent the majority opinion. And for the record, that statue is gone for fucking good and is never fucking coming back, bitches–because it’s our city and we don’t want to keep honoring treason. Especially after 1/6/21.
So, yes, lots of material there for French Quarter Flambeaux, isn’t there?
And on that note, probably time for me to go into the spice mines. Fingers crossed we get a shoe tonight!
Friday morning and working at home. My new in-office schedule, if you haven’t been paying attention, has been shifted to Tuesdays thru Thursdays, so now I work at home on the bookends of the weekend, Fridays and Mondays. I have data to enter and condoms to pack, ZOOM work meetings (no offense, day job, but ZOOM is the bane of my existence and has been since March 2020)–technically it’s Microsoft Teams, which is kind of the same thing, and then later, chapters to write and clothes to launder and filing to do. It’s non-stop glamour around here at the Lost Apartment, right?
I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday–just routine maintenance to get my prescriptions refilled–and then came home to work on the book. I am very pleased with how it’s shaping up so far (of course, as always, I go back and forth constantly between this isn’t terrible and this is going to ruin my career, which is essentially what I do with every manuscript, so everything is normal. Realizing that I am going through my usual emotional journey with this one eased my mind significantly). We watched the first episode of the new season of Resident Alien last night, which was rather fun, and then the new Peacemaker, which I am glad we stuck with. The first episode was okay, but we weren’t sold completely on the show; I love John Cena, so obviously we were going to keep going but I didn’t have high hopes; the show seems to be hitting its stride and this week’s episode was probably one of the best. I went to bed early and then slept deeply and beautifully; so whatever it was that was bothering me earlier in the week and keeping me from sleeping apparently eased off yesterday, which is always a plus.
I also got a copy of Lisa Lutz’ The Apprentice this week; I can’t wait to dig into it. One of the primary reasons I am looking forward to finishing this manuscript is because, as always when I am going into the final stretch, I am too nervous to read another writer’s work, particularly Lutz’, because I will inevitably feel like why do I bother when there are authors like this putting work out into the world? How can I possibly compete with these incredibly smart and literate writers? Then I have to stop feeling sorry for myself and sulking to get back into the right mindset for writing my new book; which is a process and I can’t spare the time for that right now, so the books continue to pile up (this is exactly what happened when I took a break for “just an hour” to indulge myself in Alafair Burke’s Find Me and then couldn’t put the book down until next thing I knew the book was done, and I’d (I can’t say wasted; reading Alafair is never a waste of time) lost an entire day of work. I know the new Lutz will have the same effect on me; so I need to not give into temptation and even crack the book open. (I may allow myself a Laura Lippman short story later on today, as a reward after the writing is done and before I crack open the wine.)
I also have a lot of other work to do over the course of the weekend; I have emails to answer as well as some writing to do for my friend’s website, which should be a lovely distraction from all of the other things I am (always) doing. I can’t wait for you all to see the cover for A Streetcar Named Murder;it’s absolutely gorgeous (I may have to get it made into a poster). It looks like I will be doing a “cover reveal” with a book blogger, which is a new thing for me. But this is actually a mainstream book (which is an offensive term on its face; but more on that later); my main character is a straight woman who lives in the Irish Channel, is widowed, and her twin sons have just gone away to college (LSU, of course) and suddenly finds herself (and the twins) as the beneficiary of a bequest from a relative of her husband’s that she didn’t know existed; and this is the heart of a mystery she (Valerie) finds herself in the middle of trying to figure out…and of course, it eventually leads to murder. I am doing something different here–I don’t think I’ve ever done something that could be called a cozy before; although in some ways the Scotty series is precisely that (but that can be a topic for another time)–and so am not sure if I am following the established rules for the sub-genre; but I also have to tell the story that I want to tell within that framework. It was a challenge to me as a writer; and one of the things I had been feeling as a writer over the last few years was that I was getting stale; that my work was in a state of stasis and I wasn’t growing within my work. In 2015 I felt that way, too, and so I took some time away from the writing and the grindstone I’d been pushing my nose against steadily for the preceding five or six years. This was when I wrote the first draft of #shedeservedit; this was when I decided to start taking more risks with the Scotty series, and when I decided to not continue the Chanse series. I am kind of looking at 2022 through that same lens; I decided to write this novel (possible first in a series) as a challenge to push myself to do something different, take a chance, and force myself to stretch my abilities and skills.
I think Chlorine is another step forward for me as a writer; writing a historical novel set in the recent past (although I suppose the 1950’s isn’t that recent past, really–which really makes me feel horrifically old) is going to push my talents and ability as a writer, and will require a lot more focus and research (which, while I love really history and reading it, the problem is that I can never really focus my interests in solely reading and researching what I actually need to look into for what I am working on–that ADHD problem) as well as writing in a different style than what I usually do; that rat-a-tat-tat pacing and use of language that keeps the story moving and says something about the times, the culture, and the characters themselves and how systemic homophobia can affect the lives of those with same-sex attractions; in addition to the toxic culture of sexual harassment and assault that was so prevalent in old Hollywood; the 1950’s were a transitional period for Hollywood as the old studio system began to crumble in the face of a new, changed society and the challenge of television.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.
Sunday morning and reality again looms on the horizon. No more long weekends, no more extra days off from work for a while, and back to the regular grind of living this life, which is–you know, fine, as a general rule, but don’t mind me if I whine a bit about it, you know?
I mean, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t whine, would I?
I got some work done on the book yesterday, and I plan to do even more today. I also need to spend some time reading what’s already written and trying to figure out how to fix the mess that the manuscript has become–it’s really all over the place, but everything I want the book to say and do it does; it’s just going to need some serious editing. The deadline looms to get it all fixed and decent and publishable; which means I am going to be revising and editing my ass off next weekend. Which is fine, and do-able, just an enormous pain in the ass, but as long as I am sleeping well and getting rested, that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?
I spent yesterday afternoon writing my book, and then spent some time doing what I usually do; puttering around and trying to get organized, which will also encapsulate most of today as well. I also have an article to write, and a short story to revise/edit…it’s really endless, isn’t it? And of course this week is a work week, and I have other things on the agenda to get done as well. We also watched Landscapers on HBO MAX last night, which was interesting. Olivia Colman and her co-stars are amazing, as always, but at the same time the producers/directors made some interesting artistic choices that didn’t always, at least in my mind, pay off completely. We then moved on to the second season of Control Z, a Spanish language show whose first season we greatly enjoyed, and this second season is also pretty interesting, once you get the hang of what’s going on again; the problem with bingeing so many shows over the course of time is that it’s impossible to remember the plots and subplots when the show comes back around for another season….supporting actor Andres Baida is also incredibly good looking. But finishing Gossip Girl means needing to find new things to watch regularly, and this is quite the pain in the ass now…maybe we need to find another show from that same period that ran for years so there’s plenty for us to watch without having to think too hard or make a false start with watching something else. (I do want to watch the new John Cena super-hero show, if and when it finally premieres; also, there’s all those Marvel shows over on Disney to watch; we’ve never seen WandaVision, for one, and of course there are others now, too; I greatly enjoyed Loki, despite its slow start, and I think there are other shows coming back that we enjoyed as well.)
I also watched bits and pieces of some of the college football games that were on yesterday, many of which were highly entertaining.
Right now, of course, I feel a bit groggy from the sleep hangover; I slept late again this morning and so am a bit behind on the waking up thing. The coffee, as always, is helping enormously, which is a good thing–as a general rule–and as my brain slowly but certainly comes back to life again, and into consciousness, I am beginning to think I am going to be able to get a lot done today as long as I stay focused. I’ve been mostly ignoring my emails since this long weekend began; deleting spam and junk, of course, and noting bill reminders on my calendar. I am also kind of excited because Paul bought me a datebook–the first one I’ve had in an eternity–because using the digital calendar–while it works perfectly for paying the bills, it’s not so great for to-do lists and deadlines. (note to self: make notes on everything you’ve agreed to write and revise and put it in the date book for now) I know I have some stories to get done, and I’ve got to get this book done, and yes, I need to stop saying yes to things.
But the new book is dropping next week too–yeesh, how quickly this seems to happen!–and I’ve not been doing any Blatant Self-Promotion, have I? Seriously, it’s a wonder how I still manage to have a career; imagine were I to focus my inconsiderable energies directly on my career–then again I could do that and have it turn out to make not the slightest bit of difference whatsoever. That is this kind of life, where it is so incredibly easy to feel defeated and give up without trying very hard. I’ve been thinking about retirement–still five years into the future–and yes, well aware that I am late getting started on retirement planning (when a sprightly young girl, fresh out of college and doing one of those benefits fairs at the office said “well, you’ve certainly waited much too long to start this!”–and yes, I know it’s awful, and yes, I should NOT have said it–but I really couldn’t resist replying, “I didn’t think I’d live to see my retirement”) but I think writing was always intended to be a part of my retirement; I’ll keep writing as long as someone will keep publishing me, and as long as my brain continues to function properly in order for me to do so. My career has always been, from the very first, about writing the kind of books I want to write with no thought as to whether it would become a huge seller or not; I’ve always felt that’s kind of a fool’s game. No one really knows what will sell, no one knows what makes a book climb the bestseller lists or capture lightning in a bottle otherwise everyone would be doing it, you know? Who knows what will capture the imagination of the public? I’m always amazed when another writer will say something like, “So I looked at what was selling and decided, ‘okay I’ll write this’.” I like to think I’m not cantankerous when it comes to writing, but I know when I agree to write something for money, I always struggle more writing that than something I came up with on my own, that I wanted to write about.
#shdeservedit was written because I wanted to take a stand against societal misogyny and the notion that boys’ lives are of more value to society than girls’. Sexual assault and sexual harassment, while hand in glove with each other, aren’t the same thing–but they do accomplish the same thing; the devaluing of female lives, making women feel like they are less than; that they don’t enjoy the same rights and privileges that males do in our culture and our society. I’ve spent most of my writing career writing about homophobia–no real surprise, as it directly impacts me and my life on a daily basis and has for most of my life–but now that I am getting older, I am wanting to expand my writing out to address societal issues that may not directly affect me (although the argument can be made that toxic masculinity is the common denominator in all oppression in this country) but injustice for one is injustice for all, which is something I firmly believe.
And on that note, I have a kitchen to clean, floors to vacuum and some filing to do before I get to work on the short story, the chapter I need to write, and that pesky article I need to get written.
Have a lovely first Sunday of 2022, Constant Reader!
Wednesday morning and I am having no small bit of trouble shaking off the shackles of Morpheus this morning. First I didn’t want to get out of bed (even considered hitting snooze a third time) and now as I sit here with the dark pressing against my windows and my first cup of coffee not really doing it for me the way I would have hoped, I do worry about waking up and getting out of the house and on my way to the office this morning. Traffic has been light to non-existent this week (last week as well; the holidays thing, without a doubt), so my blood pressure hasn’t gone up at all on the drives into the office recently. I know I should probably do some Blatant Self-Promotion this morning but it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow, methinks; I am not sure if my mind is clear and unfogged enough to talk about rape and/or sexual assault this morning, let alone toxic masculinity–about which I have oh so many thoughts. Instead, I will freeform this morning’s entry while I keep swilling my coffee, hoping the cobwebs will clear and I can get a clear and present grasp of my reality this morning.
We’ll see how that goes, won’t we?
We are finally on the final season of Gossip Girl–I’ll have to go back and check to see when precisely we embarked on this binge journey, but it feels like it’s been most of the month of December, if not longer; probably longer, because we got started watching the sequel series and only turned on the original when it took a break and we had to wait for new episodes; and I think that was back in November, if I am not mistaken. (And yes, a quick search of my Facebook page shows that we were, indeed, already watching the OG Gossip Girl before Thanksgiving, so we’ve been watching for well over a month, which is wonderful. I miss the days when television shows had over twenty episodes per season.) The show is winding down–the final season is only ten episodes (!)–but I also think this final season’s entire purpose was to wrap everything up and end the show. I’ll miss it when it’s finished, but it’s also time to get back into watching everything else we were watching–we still need to finish The Sinner–and I suspect we will be done with Gossip Girl this weekend so we will need to find new things to watch, as well as remembering the things we’d started but not finished in the meantime.
Such an exciting post today, am I right?
It rained overnight–it actually started raining shortly after Paul left the house for the gym–and so this morning it’s cool and humid, which is weird and causes condensation and the fogging up of car windows. I’ve been working pretty consistently on the book every day–it’s a mess, but it’s getting done, which means the clean-up work before it’s turned in is going to be mind-numbing, stressful and exhausting, if exhilarating at the same time. I do enjoy writing every day–I don’t know why it, like going to the gym, is always viewed as an odious chore that I have to force myself to do every day; it really makes little to no sense. It does make one tend to wonder–I love going to the gym, I love writing; they are two of my favorite things to do (reading and sleeping being the other two) and yet I always have to make myself do it. I don’t know why I resist doing things that give me pleasure–lately, I’ve also been having to make myself read, which I never thought would happen.
But work on the book is proceeding apace–editing and revising is going to be an incredibly stressful nightmare, but I can worry about that later–and I am pleased, very pleased. I am being highly productive, which is nice to know that I can still do, and i just wish I could remember that if I was this productive every step of the way, I could get a lot more done. But then the lazies set in and all bets are off.
So, what can I say that would be blatant self-promotion? Not really sure, to be honest. This is probably one of the darkest books I’ve ever written, although I am sure there are parts in it that are funny that I didn’t plan (I rarely intend to be funny; it’s always unintentional, but at least I am laughed with for the most part rather than laughed at) that way.
Liberty Center is, as I have often mentioned, based geographically on Emporia, the county seat of Lyon County, Kansas, which is where we lived from 1976-1981. We didn’t actually live in Emporia; we lived seven miles northwest of Emporia–I don’t remember what the road was that led to our little town was officially called, but I know we called it the Americus Road and the road was where the old Katy Railroad line used to run; that may also be incorrect but that was what I was told. Americus was one of the larger towns in Lyon County (Emporia had over twenty-five thousand, I believe; Americus was 952), and I used to catch the school bus at the Americus Grade School (which had previously served as the high school until it was closed and folded into consolidated high school sixteen miles northeast, Northern Heights High School) and it seemed to always take forever to get to school every morning. This was a significant cultural shock for me, as we had lived in a rather populous suburb of Chicago the previous four years and before that, in the city itself on the south side, near Lawndale. We also went from having three networks and several locals on the television to only having CBS from the Kansas City affiliate (we were able to get cable within the first year we lived there; so we went back to having access to the networks and other cable channels–CNN, ESPN, etc. in their early days–while everyone else I went to school with still only had access to that CBS station….this was the period when my mom watched the CBS soaps; once the cable came on she switched to ABC in the mid-to-late 70’s heydays of General Hospital/All My Children (which were the soaps I watched when on break from school in Illinois). It was weird and uncomfortable switching high schools between my sophomore and junior years, but at the same time I saw it as getting a new start, where no one knew that I had been bullied, belittled, and mocked for the last four years for being (choose one) queer fairy faggot homo queen girly-boy femme etc. (This did eventually happen at my small high school but not really in any significant way until the second semester of my senior year.)
And it was actually a good experience for me, in all honesty. I did much better in school there, got started writing actual fiction, had my mind opened to a lot of new authors and genres in my English classes, and learned a lot–my suburban high school was simply not structured to work well for a student like me, with my attention deficit disorders and so forth. There’s really not been anywhere I lived that didn’t benefit me in some way–there was good and bad everywhere–but when the time and opportunity to move away came, it was past time. I needed to get out of Kansas, I needed to get away from there…and while the next chapter of my life was to become dramatically changed and reshaped into something other than what I was expecting when we moved, there was no way of knowing that was going to happen. In February 1981 when I boarded a night train to California, I had no access to the New York Times or anywhere I could get anything remotely considered news of interest for not straight people, and so I didn’t see the small pieces about the “strange cancer” that was only affecting gay men in New York…but it would be on my radar soon enough.
Well, I am officially on Christmas holiday. No working at home this Thursday; I do have some errands to run and I am hoping–really hoping–that once I return from these errands I won’t have to go outside for anything other than going to the gym over the next few days. I also am hoping to be incredibly productive: to get some writing, cleaning and organizing done; and some serious and intense reading. Here’s hoping!
This cold snap (go ahead and sneer, all those who live north of I-10) has been wonderful for my sleep. I slept well again last night and thus feel very well-rested this morning. There’s just something about a warm, comfortable bed and piles of blankets that make sleeping much better for me. (The problem in places that get super cold is that I never want to get out of the bed–well, one of many problems I have with cold weather.) As I mentioned, I have some errands to run today and other than that, this is a free day at home for me, and I hope to use my time wisely. I never did pay the bills yesterday–they aren’t due until next week at any rate–so I should probably go ahead and get that out of the way at some point today or tomorrow; I also need to get some things from the store and pick up the mail, and let’s face it; today will be better to do that than any other day this weekend. The book continues apace; it’s halfway done now and hopefully by the end of the weekend will be much deeper into it and closer to being finished. Huzzah!
So, back to the blatant self-promotion. Part of the reason I am so bad at self-promotion is because promotion, in theory, is about beating the drum and shouting your name from the rooftops and trying to engage people into being interested in buying, or at least thinking about buying, your latest book. I tend to constantly question myself about everything–was this my place to write this book; could I have done a better job of it; and so on. I hate begging people to review my books, let alone read them; and of course I am never comfortable bragging about myself or feeling secure in myself and with my work (that “humility” part of my upbringing) that I inevitably always default to self-deprecation, which is also self-defeating, which is also a part of my own personal psychosis that I need to either control or cure myself from–it’s hard to be successful when you are constantly undermining yourself.
One of the major difficulties about writing for teenagers is that, well, I don’t really know any. I do remember being a teenager–the best advice someone gave me while writing my first y/a many years ago was “just remember everything is the end of the world to them”–but the world is dramatically different for teens today than it was back in the Pleistocene era when I was one. (So much for “write what you know,” right?) But I don’t think the emotional lives of teenagers are any different than they used to be; sure, they grew up with the Internet and smart phones and communicating through apps become obsolete and passé between first and second drafts–and trying to decipher the abbreviations and emojis and so forth would need Champollion and the Rosetta Stone–but being a teenager today, with it’s technological differences, doesn’t mean their interior lives have changed that much. Sure, the bullying and it happening on-line are significantly different than it was when I was a teenager–I am so glad we didn’t have social media and smart phones when I was in high school–but like I said, trying to be accurate about the apps they use to communicate can quickly date your book, so I try to leave as much of that out of them as possible. One of the things I absolutely hated about young adult/juvenile fiction when I actually was one myself was it never seemed real to me; the characters weren’t anyone I actually knew–I remember one book where the teenagers were into Gilbert & Sullivan and this was completely alien to me. There also seemed to be a sort of Hayes-like code for these books; and while I know that the 1970’s was also a period of change and more explosive topics for books for kids (Judy Blume, anyone?), the vast majority of books targeted at me didn’t interest me. I also always hated preachy books; and so avoided ones that dealt with “controversial” topics because they inevitably had A Very Valuable Lesson to Teach, something I try to avoid when I myself am writing about something controversial.
Following the stories of what happened in Steubenville and Marysville, and other stories like the Stanford Rapist and this recent one about the kid who was drugging and raping girls on Long Island and will serve no time, deeply offended my own personal sense of justice, fairness, and equality. As a gay man who has been directly discriminated against as well as passively (the micro-aggressions and daily reminders from a culture and society riddled with systemic homophobia are endless), I never like to see other people treated unfairly, either individually or as a group. For many years, I was so focused on homophobia and concern about HIV/AIDS that I basically had tunnel vision and was unable to see how what I experienced personally and as a part of a minority group extrapolated to other marginalized groups. This was partly because I was raised in a society where that marginalization was the norm; my gender and skin shielded me from it for the most part and the loss of privilege experienced as a result of my own sexuality was outrageous in some ways to my sense of justice and fairness, therefore that was the priority of any and all activism from me.
But as I slowly undid the conditioning and lessons of my childhood, and given the reckoning triggered by the aforementioned cases as well as the #metoo and #timesup movements, I felt toxic masculinity and its companion rape culture needed to be something I addressed in my writing. I started with some short stories–“The Silky Veils of Ardor” for one, and “This Town” for another–all the while the Kansas book was being developed and worked on in the background and around other contacted manuscripts. Homophobia is, after all, deeply rooted in toxic masculinity; and I began to realize how interconnected all forms of discrimination are; what theorists refer to as ‘Intersectionality.’ I’ve always, after all, written about homophobia and discrimination of some sort, so why not expand myself and where I am mentally, extrapolate everything I’ve experienced to other similar situations and issues involving other marginalized groups? The Diversity Project I’ve embarked on over the past few years, reading other voices that are non-white, has broadened my mind in so many ways that I wish had not been necessary, and I am rather resentful that my own education was so narrow and so exclusionary. But at least I am aware of its failures, and my own that resulted from this lack; although it can be frustrating from time to time to see something much more clearly that I should have always been conditioned to see clearly; and I hate that I had on blinders that I wasn’t aware I was wearing.
I am trying to do better. I am trying to be better. And I am getting better at noticing defaults that are problematic, that are a result of the cultural and societal conditioning of my childhood and most of the first half of my life that it took me far too long to start questioning.
And you now see why I am so shitty at self-promotion.
Saturday morning and it looks kind of gray outside the windows this morning as I look out at the world blearily and drink my first cup of coffee. I slept very well last night–which is always welcome–but woke up feeling a bit groggy this morning. I am sure the caffeine will work–it generally does–but as I glance around at the chaos of my office/kitchen my inclination is to pour the coffee out and go back to bed and sleep the rest of the day away, hoping magical elves or something else will show up whilst I sleep to finish organizing and arranging this mess into something resembling workable order. On the other hand, I don’t think that’s going to happen, so I am going to need to wake up, buckle up, and put my nose to the proverbial grindstone. I’ve got to contain this mess–and do it properly, no more sweeping things under proverbial rugs to get mess out of sight–and I’ve got to work on the book today and I need to run some errands. I also have to go to the gym today, so I will most likely follow football championship games today by periodically looking on-line to check scores only. Paul is going into his office this afternoon to do some work as well, and I need to update my to-do list and…yes, it’s a very busy day for a Gregalicious.
I finished reading Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews last night–charming, as always, delightful and witty and funny–and decided, since I was talking about how much I preferred Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot the other day, that I should revisit one of the Marple stories. I have a hardcover copy of A Caribbean Mystery–I don’t recall where it came from–but it has some sentimental value for me in that it was the first Marple novel of Christie’s I had read all those many moons ago when I was a child, holing up in my room on Saturdays with a book and a bag of Bar-B-Q Fritos. (My first Poirot was actually Halloween Party, which I also have a hardcover copy of and again, do not recall where I got it or how long I have had it; I read most Christies in paperbacks purchased at the Bolingbrook Zayre’s off their wire paperback racks) In those first few pages of the book, it spelled out exactly what I loved about the Marple stories–about how living in a small village actually exposes one to almost every kind of human behavior there is in a smaller ecosystem, and the great irony that the smallness and rural aspects of the small community are all too frequently seen as provincial and inexperienced in the world (why Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place was so shocking when it was originally published some seventy years ago; that placid, idyllic on the surface looking village/small town/rural community has a lot more going on than one would think at first glance). This is an excellent set-up, really, for the story Christie is writing about this fictional resort on a fictional West Indies island; her nephew, the successful novelist Raymond West, has paid for this trip for her to get some sun and recover from an illness…and when she originally protested about the expense and “who will watch out for my home in St. Mary Mead”–this response (which I hadn’t remembered) hit me right between the eyes:
Raymond had dealt with everything. A friend who was writing a book wanted a quiet place in the country. “He’ll look after the house all right. He’s very house proud. He’s a queer. I mean–“
He had paused, slightly embarrassed–but surely even dear old Aunt Jane had must have heard of queers.
Now, what is one to make of that? It was a jolt, certainly. It put me in mind of something I came across on Twitter the other day, written by Wil Wheaton, in which he had answered at a con somewhere a question regarding the current debate of “can you separate the art from the artist?” This is something I’ve pondered about quite a bit–most recently, the feeling of guilt I experienced in rewatching Chinatown, knowing now what I–we all–know about Roman Polanski. I enjoyed Chinatown every time I’ve seen it, and I was now watching–rewatching–through a different lens than I had before; I was watching in terms of my own Cynical 70’s Film Festival, to see how a 70’s film that actually harkened back to old-style crime/hard-boiled/noir styles, but with a more modern (at the time) sensibility fit into that 70’s cynicism and darkness about humanity and human behavior. But the discomfort kept popping up, particularly because Polanski himself appears in the film…and I eventually decided not to rewatch another favorite, Rosemary’s Baby, because of it.
I am not going to consign Agatha Christie to the trash heap of history; she was an extraordinary writer, and one of the most influential in the field in which I myself write. Nor do I think a simple throwaway line or two in a book originally published in 1964 is enough to dismiss Christie and her canon as homophobic and never revisit her work. In fact, given the time period in which the book was written, I am surprised the two sentences weren’t, frankly, much worse. Reading the sentences didn’t offend or outrage me; it was just a surprise, primarily because I didn’t remember them at all in a book I’ve read multiple times over the years–and I think when this hardcover came into my possession (I won’t swear to it, but I think I got it during one of my many eBay buying frenzies after Hurricane Katrina, when I felt it necessary to get copies of books with some sentimental value to me) I did actually read it again because I didn’t remember the plot–and this either went right past me or I noticed and didn’t think much of it.
Revisiting this book and viewing it through a modern lens is going to be interesting. And like I said, the reference could easily have been worse–but seeing queer used in this way reminds me of how it used to be used. The younger generations are reclaiming the word, and I myself have been advocating for it as a generic term for the non-straight community for eons…but I also can see why there are people of my generation/the one before me/the one after me who object to its use and why.
But I would a thousand times rather see the word queer used in an Agatha Christie novel than faggot. And I also remember the sympathetic depiction of a lesbian couple in my favorite Marple, A Murder is Announced.
Interesting thoughts on a Saturday morning. The sun has come out now and it’s not quite so gray outside; the second cup of coffee is certainly hitting the spot right now and the grogginess is beginning to leave from not only my head but from my body. I still don’t want to straighten up this mess, but there’s no choice, really, and I want to get some good work on the book done today and tomorrow. I need to go to the gym either today or tomorrow as well; perhaps later this afternoon once I get some writing/cleaning/organizing completed. I cannot be completely lazy this weekend, much as I would like to be; I have to get things done, and the more things I get done now the fewer things I will have to do later this month (I am not, for example, going to want to write on Christmas). But once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.
And now it occurs to me that perhaps I am procrastinating here, so I am going to bring this to a close. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and will talk to you soon.