Tired of Toein’ the Line

Friday! I’m in love!

Heh heh. Well, it’s true; I have been for almost twenty four years. It’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how long that is…it’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how old I am. But sometimes…when I have to get up ridiculously early (like today) I feel every minute of those fifty-seven years.

Heavy sigh.

But today is a short day and I’ll be off work at one this afternoon, and then it’s off to run my errands and come home to clean and revise the Scotty. The goal for today is to get somewhat caught up on the revision and to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress, which I am really enjoying. I also want to read another one of Norah Lofts’ ghost stories from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I really like that her ghost stories are more Gothic and quietly creepy than anything else; that’s kind of the vibe I’m trying to go for in the WIP, so choosing to read her stories was probably a rather wise move on my part–unintentional, of course, but no less wise in any case.

And is it just me, or has the world gone crazy? Last night I saw the perfect tweet, one that perfectly encapsulated this week: If you didn’t predict that ‘politicians in blackface’ would get upstaged by ‘dick pics of billionaires’ by the end of the week, I don’t know what to tell you.

This brave new world in which we all live.

I made Swedish meatballs for dinner last night and they were most delicious, thank you very much. I don’t really follow a recipe anymore; I just kind of do it from memory, which means they taste different every time I make them. I have a slightly messy kitchen as a result, but it won’t take long to get it cleaned and set to rights again. And two weeks from today the first parades of Carnival roll down St. Charles Avenue. It’s hard to believe that the parades are nigh; I am kind of looking forward to them, to be honest. With the move to the new office and the realization that I simply can’t walk to work anymore during parade season, this will be the first time in years I’ll actually be able to enjoy the parades without having to deal with walking to and from work almost every day. I may actually make it through the season without the bone-tired exhaustion I’ve become accustomed to–madness.

The temperature dropped about twenty degrees overnight, and it’s supposedly going to drop a little further. Of course, that means it’s in the fifties, which is still much more tolerable than the bitter cold in many parts of the country; I think there’s a hundred degree difference between the weather here and in Montana, per a post I saw on Facebook this morning from a friend who lives up there. A hundred degree difference. How insane is that?

Pretty fucking insane, I’d say.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. I’m hoping to get the revision of Chapter 4 finished this morning before i head to the office…fingers crossed, Constant Reader.

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Better Love Next Time

Hello, Thursday morning, how are you doing?

This week went by pretty fast, I am thinking, and this is the first time in a long time I can recall not being worn out and tired. Usually Monday night I start dragging, Tuesday night I’m exhausted, Wednesday I am a little regenerated but still tired, and by the time Thursday morning rolls around I am pretty much the walking dead. But last night I stopped on the way home from work at the grocery store–where I ran into Jean Redmann AND Wacky Russian–then came home and did the laundry. I also wasn’t all that tired last night. Mentally fatigued, sure–but not physically. And I can deal with mental fatigue much easier than I can with physical.

I feel pretty decent this morning as well, which is lovely. I only have to work half a day today and tomorrow at the office, and so when I get home this afternoon I should be able to get some things done before Paul gets home. I am in the midst of some chores–the dishwasher is full and needs to be emptied; I am in the midst of two loads of laundry, and of course the filing has piled up again, which is ridiculous. I did manage to get some revising done yesterday; not much, but I do feel I am doing a really good job on this round, and Scotty’s voice is starting to emerge at last. I am hoping to get caught up this evening and tomorrow, and really get moving on it this weekend.

Fingers crossed! I also want to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress this weekend…and since there has been so much recent publicity about it, maybe I’ll read A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window next.

Yesterday I got a copy of Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I read Lofts when I was a teenager, and mostly read her fictional biographies of queens and historical women–The Concubine, The King’s Pleasure, A Rose for Virtue, Eleanor the Queen, Crown of Aloes, How Far to Bethlehem?–and some of her ‘romances’ (I would hardly call them romances, but that was how they were marketed…I defy anyone to read Nethergate and tell me it’s a romance). She also wrote a witchcraft novel called The Little Wax Doll, which I don’t remember much about but I did enjoy reading. Somewhere recently I read an article or something on Lofts and her ghost stories…so started tracking down a copy of her collection. I read the first story yesterday between clients, and it’s called “Mr. Edward”:

If I’d been in the habit of bothering God about trivial, material things, I should have said that Miss Gould’s suggestion came as an answer to prayer. Ever since the Easter holiday I had been worried about the long one in the summer. When Tom died and I found a post as school matron and David went to boarding school, my father had said that we must spend all holidays with him. At first, though dull, they were pleasant enough; but as David grew older Father grew more critical, making outspoken remarks about the behavior of the young nowadays and accusing me of spoiling. I confess I am inclined to be indulgent during the holidays; David’s school is pretty Spartan, I don’t see him often, and I am very fond of him.

This is how the story starts, and our main character agrees to house sit and oversee renovation work being done on Miss Gould’s house for the summer. And once she and her son arrive…she begins having odd experiences around the house; small things, nothing absolutely terrifying, but very Gothic in their smallness…and Lofts shows that the little things can be just as terrifying as the BIG ones horror/supernatural tales seem to favor of late. I love the old Gothic style of scary stories, to be honest, and Lofts’ Gothic, formal writing style, reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw, is very quiet and very unsettling.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Biggest Part of Me

WHO DAT! GEAUX SAINTS!

The temperature took a dramatic nosedive last night. It’s about forty degrees and gray in New Orleans this morning…but the city is full of nervous energy. The NFC Championship game is today, with our Saints taking on the Los Angeles Rams for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

WHO DAT!

I slept well last night, which was absolutely lovely. I also allowed myself to go back to sleep after I woke up at just before seven; the bed felt comfortable and warm, and I managed to fall back to sleep for a bit before I finally got up.

I am glad I took the time to reread Pet Sematary, a book of Stephen King’s I didn’t care for on the first read, and had never reread. I understand the book a lot better, as I said, as a fifty-eight year old than I did when I was twenty-two. Mortality and death are difficult things to deal with, particularly when you’re younger; despite reading a lot of crime novels and horror I was clearly not emotionally equipped at that age to deal with these kinds of questions; this was one of those books where, almost every step along the way, I was pleading with Louis, the main character, don’t do this don’t do this are you crazy don’t do this you know this won’t end well. And Louis continued making those bad, wrong decisions…the book is an epic masterpiece, almost a Greek tragedy, about hubris, life, death, and loss. Incredibly well-constructed, and the characters are so perfectly delineated with so many little truths imbedded in them that you can’t help but care about them and what happens to them.

Now I’m wondering if I should reread other Kings I didn’t like on first read, like The Tommyknockers and Dreamcatcher. I still have others of his I haven’t read yet, like The Outsider, 11/22/63, Bronco Billy, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Black House, and Doctor Sleep, so maybe I should just go on and finish reading the other Kings I have on hand.

But next up for my reading is something for The Diversity Project–a queer y/a by Caleb Roehrig–and after that, I think I’m going to move on to either Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress or Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide or something by Chester Himes. I am also moderating a panel at the Tennessee Williams Festival and so will have some reading homework for that as well.

Before the game today I am going to do some straightening up around here and I am going to try to do some writing–put this nervous energy to good use. And of course, tomorrow I have the holiday off (yay for three day weekends!) and am hoping I’ll be able to get a lot of writing done then as well.

One can hope, at any rate.

We also started watching a new show last night on Netflix, Sex Education, which is actually quite charming. I think it’s a British show, and Gillian Anderson plays the main character’s mother, a sex and relationship therapist, which is rather challenging for her son, a sixteen year old virgin with his own sexual issues. But he makes a new friend, Maeve, the class bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and they start a business–where he gives relationship and sex advice to other students with issues. The relationships between the characters are refreshingly real and honest, the show also dabbles a bit in class and gender issues, and over all, it’s quite charming and funny. I do recommend it–we watched almost all of it last night, and will probably polish off the final two episodes tonight after the game.

And now back to the spice mines.

GEAUX SAINTS!

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Lost in Love

Good morning, weekend.

I worked my usual half-day Friday yesterday and came home full of energy and ready to clean and straighten. I got the living room done and did a bit of a book purge. I did numerous loads of laundry, put clothes away, and worked on the kitchen a little bit, but didn’t finish. I’ll do that this morning before reading those pesky five chapters I’ve been avoiding all fucking week. Later on I am going to run errands, and then we’re going to go see The Favourite at the AMC Palace in Elmwood. I am looking forward to it; I love Olivia Colman, and I do like Emma Stone. I also enjoy seeing the sets and costumes and make-up from other periods, and this is a period I am not as familiar with as others in British history. I know about Queen Anne, of course; she was dull and lazy and indolent, the last Stuart to reign over the burgeoning British empire, and had seventeen pregnancies. She was never supposed to be queen; she was the second daughter of the second son of Charles I, and her mother was a commoner, Anne Hyde. But as the years passed and her uncle Charles II continued to have no legitimate heir, her importance–and that of her older sister, Mary, rose. After her mother died, her father the Duke of York married a Catholic princess, Mary-Beatrice of Modena, and converted himself. This, naturally, was not well-received by the very anti-Catholic English, and when his second wife gave him a son three years into his reign, Parliament said bitch please and invited his eldest daughter, Mary, and her husband to take the throne. James II went into exile, and William III and Mary II took the crown. Mary died about six years later, but William remained king until he died in 1702, when Anne took the throne. Anne actually wanted her half-brother to succeed her as James III; instead Parliament invited a very distant cousin to reign as George I. The current royals are his direct descendants, tracing their Stuart heritage back to James I. Anne was queen during the War of the Spanish Succession, pitting all Europe against France and Spain; it was called Queen Anne’s War in North America.

I’ve read no biographies of Queen Anne, and fiction about her is also relatively scarce. I know Jean Plaidy wrote a novel about her, but it’s one of the few Plaidy novels I’ve not read. So, I doubt I’ll know enough of the story to spot glaring historical inaccuracies, but those are to be expected in films of this sort. Her reign was pretty unremarkable other than the war; and her longest-running “favourite”, Sarah Churchill, was married to one of her most able generals and became Duke of Marlborough–Winston Churchill is one of their descendants.

Oh, that went on for quite a bit, did it not? My apologies, Constant Reader! But my initial awareness of Queen Anne was, of course, because of Queen Anne’s War.

I feel pretty good this morning; well-rested and all that. I’ve been sleeping pretty well these last few days, which gives me hope. Tomorrow of course is the Saints’ first play-off game, which will make things pretty tense around here; I am going to have to run to the grocery store in the morning, methinks, in order to get what I need for the week and be done with things. I was hoping to go to the gym to start over with exercise this year. I’ve lost another few pounds–the other morning I was shaving and noticed in the mirror that, without flexing, I could see the faint outline of my abs again–and when flexed they were very apparent. So another eleven pounds to my goal weight of 200 should do the trick, and regular exercise focused on weight-loss should do the trick. I also want to start stretching regularly; I did the other day and it felt so good…I also would like to get a massage at some point as well. I want the theme of this year to be self-care. This is more important the older I get, and let’s face it, exercise–while always a challenge and sometimes quite tedious–is the best way for me to stay strong and healthy and feel good.

I read some more of Pet Sematary yesterday, and will probably read more of it tonight after the movie. I am greatly enjoying this book this time around; I suppose maybe because I know what’s going to happen so it isn’t quite as disturbing this time around as it was the first. Now, I can instead focus on the marriage and the family dynamic/relationships, how well this is all crafted and constructed…it really is quite a marvelous gem of a novel.

And maybe, just maybe, if I get what I want to get done on the Scotty I can work on the WIP a little bit this weekend, too. Maybe.

And I am thinking it’s time to get back to the Short Story Project. I also think I am going to probably start the Diversity Project when I finish the King. I am most likely going to alternate–a diverse book, then a crime novel, etc. I also want to read outside the crime genre this year–more nonfiction, more of other genres–and in some cases they will overlap. I also want to reread some other Stephen Kings I’ve not reread in a while–The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, The Eyes of the Dragon–as well as read the Kings I have on hand that I’ve not read. As I said before, I can’t just push for diversity in books and publishing and so forth if I myself aren’t diversifying my reading. I have always read and been supportive of women writers, and I am going to keep going with that as well this year–I really do think women are writing some of the best crime fiction of our time–but I need to read outside of my own experience and outside of my own genre more….and I need to expand my horror reading to include more authors than Stephen King. I’d like to reread Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (there’s actually a really good essay to write about frozen horror, since The Shining and Ghost Story were of a time) and Floating Dragon; maybe give some of my favorite Dean Koontz’ another twirl to see if they still hold up, and of course there are any number of horror novels in my TBR pile. I also need to read the next book in A Song of Fire and Ice, and there are any number of others books I would like to read and get out of the TBR pile.

Heavy heaving sigh. There’s so much to read, and so little time to read.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Cruisin

FRIDAY.

It was an interesting week, as I try to readjust to the new realities of my life. The older I get the longer it seems to take to make those necessary adjustments, but I eventually do make them. Change is good, for the most part; I often find myself in a comfortable rut that makes things seem easier–but ultimately hinders creativity and adaptability. And for a writer, things that hinder creativity and adaptability are not good things.

It’s funny,  my career has gone on so long now that I can barely remember the time before I was a published author, and my memories of those pre-Katrina years as a new author are hazy and scant. For some reason, last night I was thinking about those days for some reason–I think it had to do with the Saints being the number one seed in the play-offs, and the first game coming up this weekend; I started reading old blog entries from the season the Saints won the Super Bowl, and I started remembering back then…like how we watched the Return to the Dome Game on Monday night football while we were living back in the carriage house on a tiny little black and white television while the Lost Apartment was under construction, and how I used to always say Life is material for your writing.

It’s kind of crazy. This month–January 20th, to be exact–is the anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and it’s been sixteen years since it came out. It is no longer in physical print, but sixteen years later the ebook still sells. It was a completely different world back then…my first book will be eligible for a driver’s license in nine days! Madness.

I am hoping to somehow be productive this weekend, around going to see a movie tomorrow and the Saints game on Sunday. Regardless of whether the Saints win or not, it’s been a great football season for us here in the Lost Apartment; LSU was only projected to win six games at most yet wound up 10-3 and in a New Year’s 6 Bowl game, and ended up ranked Number 6 in the final polls. The Saints are currently 13-3 and had some absolutely amazing, heart-stopping wins (kind of like the season when they won the Super Bowl); and, as I said, hold the Number One seed so all their play-off games will be in the Dome. We also need to finish watching Homecoming, and I want to start watching Titans on DC Universe.

The reread of Pet Sematary is coming along nicely; it’s really a well-written book, and there are some amazingly keen insights into relationships and marriage in these first 100 pages. I remember hazily that the book’s primary theme is about death and how to face it, how to deal with it; one of the reasons it bothered me on so many levels. I know, I know, I always hold that mystery and horror fiction are two sides of the same coin; that both genres are about death, but Pet Sematary deals with it on such a micro-level, worming its way into the reader’s thoughts and memories. The death of a pet, the death of a sibling, the death of a child; King takes on all of these horribly human experiences, confronts them, and puts an all-too-very-human face on all of them. I am glad to reread it, because I am really appreciating the genius of it this time through.

And now, back to the spice mines. Today is only a half-day for me, as was yesterday, and while yesterday I’d intended to get a lot done last night, I procrastinated and didn’t get anything done; I cannot allow that to be the story of this day.

Have a great Friday!

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The Rose

Good morning, first Saturday of the new year, how you doing?

It was cold yesterday in New Orleans; in the forties when I woke up, and I felt ill pretty much most of the morning. I ate breakfast and felt somewhat better, but the rest of the day was pretty much the same–one minute I’d feel fine, then the next I’d feel bad again. This was unfortunate because our office holiday party (delayed) was also last evening; I wasn’t able to have anything to drink because I didn’t trust my stomach and I wound up leaving early to come home. I was also very tired all day; my sleep was restless and wretched, which undoubtedly had a large part in the not feeling well. Last night I managed to sleep for almost eleven hours…so yes, I must have been terribly tired, and this morning, while it is cold again in the Lost Apartment, I feel rested and much better than I did yesterday.

My blood sugar–which I was concerned about yesterday as well–seems to be okay this morning as well. I guess the blood sugar thing–which was a concern yesterday–wasn’t really anything to be concerned about. It’s so lovely getting old; such a myriad of things to run through your head when you don’t feel well, you know?

As such, when I got home from the holiday party I gratefully sank down into my easy chair and finished watching Great Greek Myths on Prime; the Oedipus myth in particular is gruesome and horrible and grim. Poor dude; and none of it was his fault. The episode filled in the back story of his parents, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, and all the horror that happens to Oedipus is because of something his father did before he was even born. Truly horrible, right? Those Greek gods…now I want to find my copy of Edith Hamilton and reread it; it’s been years. (Shameless Greek mythology plug: read Madeline Miller’s Circe! It was one of the best–if not the best–book I read last year. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

Today I am mostly going to hang around the house and clean/write/edit. I’m going to go to get groceries tomorrow; Paul has errands and appointments today, so I am going to take advantage of the quiet and still around the house to get things done as well as be productive with my own stuff. I also want to finish my reread of The Shining, which I am enjoying and appreciating more than I did before. I am also figuring out why I didn’t care for it as much as I did before–which I always assumed was based on the holes in the plot (why would anyone build a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that can’t be used for winter sports and is closed for the winter season? AND WHAT PARENTS WOULD TAKE THEIR SMALL CHILD SOMEWHERE SO REMOTE AND CUT OFF FROM MEDICAL HELP?) but I am also starting to understand that it triggered some things in my subconscious that made me predisposed to not enjoy it; I am not a big fan of small children in peril, particularly if the peril is from one of his/her parents. But it’s terrifically written and structured; the shifting POV from all three members of the Torrance family is particularly ingenious as it helps create a strong sense of claustrophobia within the enormous hotel. The book also serves as a marvelous kind of time capsule; The Shining probably couldn’t be published today because readers would have little-to-no sympathy for Wendy. But in the 1970’s, while certainly becoming more common-place, divorce was still enough of a taboo that women wanted to avoid it and make their marriages work no matter what the cost–even after her husband breaks her son’s arm. (The story would end there today; corporal punishment and spankings and so forth were still considered fairly normal in the 1970’s….but today Jack would have been talking to the police after Danny’s arm was set.)

But one thing that is particularly stellar about the book is that sense of impending doom. The reader knows, obviously, that the Overlook is a bad place and going there for the winter is an enormous mistake for the Torrances; but King also does a really good job of showing their desperation and that this winter job is the last chance for them to make it as a family. But you can’t help but hope they’ll somehow survive the winter, and one thing I think the film missed out on completely was how the book showed Jack. Yes, he is a terribly flawed human being with a horrible temper and an alcoholic, and a lesser writer would have simply allowed Jack to become the villain of the story, which he kind of is…but King creates him as a complex character and shows all sides of him; and he clearly loves his wife and son even if he is a fuck-up. The real villain in King’s novel is the hotel itself, a bad place, and how it exploits Jack’s weaknesses. The way King shows his psychological collapse, and how the hotel’s evil influence slowly starts to take control of him, is masterful…particularly given how early in his career he wrote this book.

And so, once I post this, I am going to get cleaned up and start laundering the bed linens. I want to also clean out some of the books–another purge–and perhaps some light cleaning while I read and edit and get the things done today that I need to get done today. I feel very rested (thank you, long night’s sleep) and use this day to get organized once and for all. I started getting things organized that I am working on yesterday morning, despite feeling like shit, and I feel much better about things, quite frankly. But organized is always better than disorganized, and it’s unfortunate and sad how often I allow laziness to let me slip into disorganization and being scattered.

It’s just wrong.

And something I should work on.

But then again, what isn’t?

And now into the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, all, and Happy Epiphany Eve!

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You Make Me Feel Brand New

As you are well aware, Constant Reader, I am a huge Stephen King fan, and have been since I read Carrie I was fourteen all those years ago. I don’t have the same urgency I used to have with King, when I would buy the books on their release date in hardcover and then put everything aside so I could read it from beginning to end; there are numerous King novels on my shelves that I’ve yet to read–11/22/63 and Doctor Sleep, among others–and along with them, for a very long time, was End of Watch.

End of Watch is the third in what is called the Bill Hodges trilogy, following Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed (Mr. Mercedes deservedly won the Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America). I would occasionally glance at the shelf of unread King novels from my easy chair and think, “I really need to read End of Watch” but never got around to it.

So, given my discovery that most audiobooks are too long for the twelve hour trip home, I decided that I would listen to End of Watch (thirteen hours) on my way home; then I could just get the book down from the shelf and finish reading it at home. So, I got in the car Friday morning, opened the app, and linked my phone to the stereo in my car. I pulled out of the driveway, and as I was pulling onto the highway I suddenly remembered, Oh no! The reason I haven’t read this is because it’s the last Bill Hodges book, and I love the characters so much I didn’t want to finish and say goodbye to Bill, Holly and Jerome for good!

But it was too late, so I soldiered on.

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It’s always darkest before the dawn.

This elderly chestnut occurred to Rob Martin as the ambulance he drove rolled slowly along Upper Marlborough Street toward home base, which was Firehouse 3. It seemed to him that whoever thought that one up really got hold of something, because it was darker than a woodchuck’s asshole this morning, and dawn wasn’t far away.

Not that this daybreak would be up to much even when it finally got rolling; call it dawn with a hangover. The fog was heavy and smelled of the nearby not-so-great Great Lake. A fine cold drizzle had begun to fall through it, just to add to the fun. Rob clicked the wiper control from intermittent to slow. Not far up ahead, two unmistakable yellow arches rose from the murk.

“The Golden Tits of America!” Jason Rapsis cried from the shotgun seat. Rob had worked with any number of paramedics over his fifteen years as an EMT, and Jace Rapsis was the best: easygoing when nothing was happening, unflappable and sharply focused when everything was happening at once. “We shall be fed! God bless capitalism! Pull in, pull in!”

The opening chapter of this book is a perfect example of King at his best. The two EMT’s in this opening aren’t characters pertinent to the story nor do they appear again (one of them actually does, but very briefly, much later); they are simply the framing device King uses to get the story rolling. They are the ones called to the scene of the murder/suicide the opens the book, and King exquisitely captures their personalities and lives, vividly making them real and alive in their brief pages; he does this throughout the book, introducing a cameo character and bringing that person vividly to life.

Retired cop and now private eye Bill Hodges and his business partner (and friend/family) Holly Gibney are brought into the case because one of the two victims was paralyzed from the chest down by the monstrous Mercedes Killer, Brady Hartsfield, whom Holly put into a coma before he could detonate a bomb at a boy-band concert filled with screaming tweens (the very thrilling conclusion to Mr. Mercedes). And before long, some very strange things keep happening, and all the evidence, the only connection, is that everyone involved has some connection to Brady Hartsfield…who is still in a coma.

Or is he?

End of Watch takes the series, in a brilliant finale, into King’s world, of experimental drugs that can develop telekinesis (back to Firestarter), and also the psychology of  ‘herd mentality’; Brady has been given experimental drugs that have somehow given him horrible abilities…and he uses those abilities to infiltrate the minds of others, using a hand-held gaming device, and pushing them to suicide. Again, King’s genius is seriously involved here, as we go into those teen minds and see how the descent into suicidal depression works…and how easy it is to trigger that spiral. It’s absolutely terrifying, and absolutely real. And once the story gets going, it’s the usual fast-moving train that King always writes, and when I got home from the trip Friday night I couldn’t wait to get my copy down from the shelf and read the stunning, brilliant, utterly satisfying conclusion.

And immediately became sad. I love the characters of Bill, Holly and Jerome, and was deeply sad to realize I had indeed, reached the end of the watch with them.

Highly recommended.

(one caveat: I did struggle with the depiction of one of the suicide victims–a gay teen–but finally decided that it was okay because he was depicted sympathetically, if stereotypically, and King is making an effort to diversify his work. So, I gave him a pass on the gay teen character.)