2000 Light Years from Home

Tuesday morning and back to the office.

I slept incredibly well on Sunday night–there really is nothing like your own bed–but despite feeling rested, my body was still exhausted and tired. I had to run some errands and make groceries, which us always tiring, but i also managed to get some other blog posts done yesterday morning. (After all, I didn’t post on either Saturday or Sunday, so had to catch up and make up for lost time.) I got the laundry caught up, and did some chores around the Lost Apartment–dishes, filing, organizing–and reread the manuscript to get a handle on where I am at so I could plan the next stages of finishing this sucker.

But yesterday was about re-acclimatization into my reality, and I think I did a nice job. I picked up my prescription and the mail, and made groceries. I was very tired still–exhausted, really–but managed to get some things done around the house; little things that are nevertheless time-consuming but need to be done. I think another project for the overall year will be to organize my picture files. They are a mess, always have been, and none of them are actually labeled or have been renamed; they all sit in my back-up drive as IMG-number, and only in a few instances have they been grouped into a labelled folder for ease of discovery. I also went to bed relatively early last night and finally slept through almost the entire night in a good, relaxing sleep. My legs still ache from soreness, a result of all that walking I wasn’t used to (I really do need to start going for walks–even if short–in the evening after work) over the weekend but not to the point of such exhaustion that I want to cry when I have to get up, thank God.

My voice is still raspy, too. But I feel much better this morning, which is a good thing as I have to not only go into the office but I also have to get back to writing the book this week and I can’t afford a single day off from writing or I won’t be finished by 1/31, which is the original plan. But I had suspected that my not feeling 100% and slightly flu-ey was a result of not enough rest, and now that I’ve slept well for an entire night, my suspicions have apparently been correct all along. I was too mentally fatigued still yesterday to do much beyond simple, menial tasks–my mind was too tired to handle any reading, so I won’t be getting back to Other Terrors until tonight after work. We also watched a documentary on Netflix called The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, which was interesting–I’d never heard of this story, but apparently it went viral in 2013–particularly on how some people in the entertainment field tried to cash in on his viral story and success without doing any due diligence or any looking into his past or who he was at all. That was the most interesting part of the story to me–the way people saw him as a way to make money and didn’t care about anything beyond that, and so it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them when the truth–(no spoilers here)did finally come out.

It inevitably does.

I’ve still not completely wrapped my head around the end of my volunteer work. I spent some time yesterday archiving all the emails from the last three years and deleting the folders they were originally filed away in–which made me realize that my email folders need to be overhauled, as there are any number of them that are no longer needed or necessary, or are actually duplicated–and of course, organizing always makes me incredibly happy. I have a lot of work to do in this first quarter of 2023 (!!!! I still can’t believe it’s this far into the third decade of this century…) and I want to make this a good year for me productivity wise; I am going to start looking for an agent probably come March or April. Nothing ventured, after all, and let’s face it, I’ve never really made much of an effort into finding one, and maybe send out a couple of proposals before giving up and pulling back and hoping for the best. I need to make a blanket effort–going after all of them at the same time–but I am always afraid that they’ll all say no and that’s the end of it. Honestly, the way this business is so brutal on your ego while at the same time requiring you to actually have one (you have to believe in yourself to some degree otherwise you’ll never get going on it and that’s the end of that).

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

We Love You

I got home last night around seven, exhausted, bone-tired, and delighted to be able to sleep in my own bed after four nights of insomnia. I got some sleep while in New York, but not much–and I also exerted myself a lot more than I have in, well, years. Mt Fitbit would let me know every day that I’d reached the goal of ten thousand steps (which never happens, but I do need to start taking walks more regularly, as it’s disturbing how physically out of condition I am–my legs are achy and sore from all the walking), and of course I had cut my heel accidentally the morning I left, so it’s kind of achy and painful. But I slept deeply and well last night, the sleep of the exhausted, and I actually feel rather rested and awake as I re-acclimate to my normal reality. As I expected, I didn’t write hardly anything while I was gone, so I need to climb back up on that horse today. It’s a work holiday–there’s no way I could be functional at the office today (I always take an extra day off to recover from the trip upon my return home), and now I have to figure out what I need to get done to get back in control of my life.

First thing on the list is to get back on track with my writing–so hallelujah for a day off! I don’t even want to think about the horror that is my email inbox just yet, and I may avoid it for another day so I can get my proverbial shit together (oh, my OWN coffee that I made myself just is so much nicer than buying it somewhere). I am most likely going to have to hit the grocery store today, as well as pick up the mail and a prescription and put gas in the car. There’s some filing and sorting that needs to be done this morning, and of course I need to think about what to take for lunch to the office for the rest of the week. So much to think about, so much to do, so much to remember. I believe this may even call for a to-do list. Yay!

I did have a lovely time in New York; it’s always invigorating to spend time in the company of other writers. It was a bit cold for my liking, but I think I walked all over Manhattan, had some amazing food, got to reconnect with friends (some I hadn’t seen in years in person), and of course, the highlight was seeing Hadestown. I’ve already downloaded the cast recording to Spotify; it may be different to listen to than when watching it performed live, but I am looking forward to listening to it on walks–because I’ve decided that walks are de rigeur in my future–and maybe, just maybe, i could also start listening to audiobooks when I am taking my walks. I want my heel to heal first, of course–all that walking in New York probably wasn’t optimal for that, but one of my goals this year to become more physically active, and what better way to get that going than by taking walks? I can also, you know, take pictures with my phone, too, of my neighborhood and the Garden District or wherever I may go for a walk. It also occurs to me that one of these weekends I should spend a day exploring the World War II museum (which could help with some backstory for Chlorine).

As you can see, the trip has rather invigorated me, even as I am physically worn out as I type out these ambitious plans.

I started reading the Horror Writers Association’s latest anthology, Other Horrors (edited by Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason) on my flight home, and am quite enjoying it. The premise of the anthology is for it to be inclusive and to highlight diverse authors and voices; and so far it’s been fun. There are stories I like better than others, of course, but that’s any anthology and it’s very fun to discover new authors and voices that I wasn’t aware of–again, the point of the anthology–and there’s nothing I love more than discovering new voices, you know? Plus, reading it has me itching to write some more short stories–which of course I really can’t do because I’ve got to get this book finished–but I also want to map out the rest of my writing year and come up with a plan for my future. I think I am going to take the plunge and write that romance I was thinking about the second half of last year–just for something different to do and something to sharpen my skills; I think we should always try to write outside of our comfort zone as often as we can, which is why I dabble in horror sometimes. And why not give romance a try? I’ve always liked romance, even if I don’t read very much of it (I can’t keep up with my crime and horror reading, let alone anything else), so why not give a whirl?

And on that note, I need to go fold some laundry and start organizing my life and kitchen and office space again. Have a lovely Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Dandelion

I am soon to depart for the airport, where I am catching a flight to LaGuardia for a weekend in New York; I am flying back home on Sunday. It’s going to be a short but busy trip, where I will get to see all kinds of people i really like and run all over the island and do all sorts of things. I also need to carve out time to write while there as well–I have gotten really bad about writing when on trips over the years, but I really can’t go without writing the entire time. I made quota again yesterday–it was a little harder to get motivated and not quite as easy to get into a proper rhythm, but it was also a transitional chapter and my first goes at those are always stilted and awkward and people don’t really talk like that, do they? But I got through it, the transition was made, and the stage has been set. Now we move on to act 2, which is why it really cannot wait. Hopefully, if I am not too tired when I get to the hotel, I can spend a few hours working.

My flight is already delayed, I see–so I don’t have to leave quite as early for the airport as I had originally thought, which is fine. Our Internet was spotty last night, going in and out, so we ended up not finishing watching the Golden Globes and I went to bed early. It seems to be working fine this morning, so I am not going to worry about it–I’m the one who always has to deal with it, the Cox bill is in my name, etc. etc. etc. It would suck for Paul to have no Internet for the weekend, but I am going to assume that last night was an aberration. Our cable box is also so old they can’t even service it anymore, so I need to go get a new one at some point; the Cox office is near my office, so I can run by there during lunch someday when I get back. Sigh, it’s always something.

I am taking A Walk on the Wild Side with me to read on the plane and at the airport, along with a rather short book by Harry M. Benshoff, Dark Shadows, which is a kind of academic breakdown of the original show that I am kind of looking forward to reading. Dark Shadows probably had a much bigger impact on me than almost anything else–my preference for Gothics, supernatural stories, murders–and I should probably do an entire entry about Dark Shadows and its influences and impact on me creatively. I am also trying to decide what other books to take on the trip with me–I need at least one more for the flight home–and am kind of torn as to what to read next. I’ve got some great cozies stacked up in the TBR pile, but I also have some books by other favorite authors and some other books that have gotten some high praise from either reviewers or friends on social media. Maybe someday I can get the TBR pile under control but it won’t be anytime soon, I can promise you that. I am really looking forward to reading more this year than I have in past ones.

I’m also looking forward to writing a lot more this year, too. I can’t believe what a roll I’ve been on since Christmas (or just before); I’ve written at least three thousand words a day on average ever since (some days I skipped, others I did from four to six thousand words), which is quite a bit, really–somewhere between forty-five and fifty thousand words, which is kind of impressive, I must say. It’s also not been wearing me out, or making me very tired. I think some of that has to do with the lessening of outside pressures and stressors–I’ve been sleeping very well (well, last night was kind of spotty) for the most part, feeling rested, and not letting things get to me the way they always seem to have been doing for the last three or four years. I really hate stress and anxiety, and I really need to make sure I continue to focus on reducing those thing. Staying off social media more has done a good job of that, too–nothing can quite raise the blood pressure the way reading something racist or homophobic or misogynist or transphobic from people who should know better, and I’ve started unfollowing and/or blocking people who are, for wont of a better word, assholes. And it actually feels good to hit unfollow or block, knowing you never have to interact with that person or read their shitty screeds ever again.

And it’s not required that I follow every crime writer on social media, either.

I went to a lot of events last year, and will be scaling back dramatically on that this year. Probably Bouchercon in San Diego is all I am going to do involving air travel, and yes, I’ve been offering my short stories and books up for Lefty and Agatha consideration, but I won’t be attending either event so even were I to score a nod, not being present doesn’t help your odds of winning. (For me, being present isn’t enough, either.) It’s weird to think that after this weekend’s trip I probably won’t be flying anywhere again until Labor Day weekend for Bouchercon, and I’m actually feeling kind of iffy about that, to be honest. I hate the thought of traveling over Labor Day weekend, but at least if I fly home on Sunday I’ll have Monday off to recalibrate and recenter and recover from the conference.

I just hope I can sleep this weekend. Let’s focus on getting through that first, shall we? LOL.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start packing. I made a list of everything I need for the trip, and I got the big black suitcase out last night so everything is in place and ready to go. I may check in with you tonight from the hotel–stranger things have happened–but one never knows. I was actually thinking the other day that I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut with this; I always write it in the morning with coffee and maybe, just maybe, sometime during the day I may write another entry, usually about a book I’ve just finished reading or something–and there’s really no reason for that other than habit. Maybe the blog entries that require a more awake brain, for logic and reasoning and making a rational argument either for or against something, can be worked on during the day or in the early evening or around my writing for the day. I have any number of entries I’ve started over the years–dealing with things like racism and homophobia and all the other, irrational bigotries and prejudices that run rampant in our modern world, and it would be nice to finish them all, get them out there into the world to be read by the two or three people who actually check in with me every day and read these meanderings of my mind.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.

I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.

I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.

Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.

I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!

College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.

As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.

I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.

Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.

Play with Fire

Well, I met quota again last night which was marvelous. It’s still a bit chilly this morning. By the weekend it should be back into the seventies (it was yesterday as I ran my errands after work; it’s sixty-one this morning but it does feel colder outside of my bed and blankets), as the Alabama and Kansas State fans start arriving for the Sugar Bowl. LSU is also playing on New Years’ Day in the Citrus Bowl against Purdue, which will probably be the only game I actually watch that day.

There’s been a conversation going on over at Book Twitter lately that doesn’t really impact me in any way, but it’s been kind of interesting to follow. The conversation has to do with concerns about what is and isn’t considered y/a fiction as well as what is, or should be, considered age-appropriate reading material for teenagers and pre-teens. It doesn’t impact me because no one considers me a young adult writer, for one thing; despite having written numerous books with younger and/or teenaged characters (Sorceress, Sleeping Angel, Sara, Lake Thirteen, Dark Tide, Bury Me in Shadows, #shedeservedit), most people think of me as a gay mystery writer. Everything published under my own name is a mystery novel of some sort, whether it’s one of the series books or one of the stand-alones. I’ve never really marketed myself as a writer of young adult fiction, really; I shy away from that, I think, because of The Virginia Incident and the subconscious fear that one day that controversy might resurrect itself (which is ludicrous, and I know that; it certainly would have by now and it hasn’t, which further proves my belief that The Incident had nothing to do with me or my writing or my career and everything to do with systemic homophobia and othering used for political gain). It just seems weird to me that in less than five years after that happened–when I was deemed a menace to America’s youth–I could publish books for teenagers without a single whiff of complaint or scandal or even the raise of a single eyebrow.

Interesting, isn’t it? Almost like the whole thing was just more smoke and mirrors whose sole intent was to rile the homophobic base.

I just love that my existence is considered by some as a constant and continued threat to children.

One of the things that has always mystified me over the years is what is and isn’t considered age-appropriate. Intellectually I was far more advanced that most of my classmates (my emotional and personal maturity being an entire other subject–I’d say I am still behind on that score) and I started reading early. The library and the Scholastic Book Fairs were my best friends as a child, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I loved history, from which grew an appreciation and love for historical fiction (which I really don’t read much of anymore, which is odd. I really want to read Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books…) and of course, my grandmother got me interested in “scary” movies and mysteries.

You’d think I’d be a huge fan of historical mysteries, but I actually don’t read many of them. I did love Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, and I’ve become a huge fan of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series…I think exploring historical mysteries might be a project for 2023.

But the point was I was reading books far too advanced for most people my age when I was young. I freely will admit that in my first read of Gone with the Wind at age ten I didn’t know Rhett raped Scarlett the night of Ashley’s surprise birthday party–it wasn’t until a reread in my late teens where I thought oh, this isn’t right–let alone that she enjoyed being overpowered and forced. I also read The Godfather when I was ten, and there was no mistaking anything about Sonny Corleone and Lucy Mancini. He had a cock the size of a horse’s and her vagina was apparently the Lincoln Tunnel. (Although the she felt something burning pass between her thighs still mystifies me to this day.) I also read The Exorcist when I was ten and I was also very well aware of what was going on in the crucifix masturbation scene. As a kid, I was fascinated by these sex scenes (aka “the dirty parts”), and it wasn’t until I was older than I began to question the entire Sonny-Lucy thing (and why it was even in the book in the first place); and while the crucifix scene was gross, shocking and basically icky to me at ten–when I reread the book sometime in the past decade it seemed prurient, to be honest–used primarily for shock value and to get people to talk about it.

So, yes, I started reading books for adults when I was around ten. I also read Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots and Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra that same year–I remember doing a book report on Mary Queen of Scots and my teacher not believing that I had read the thick volume; he started opening the book at random and asking me questions–which I was able to answer, so he grudgingly accepted the book report and gave me an A. (Teachers have doubted me all of my life; can’t imagine why I am insecure about my intelligence…)

Over the course of my teens I also read books by Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susann and Gordon Merrick-every last one of them crammed to the gills with racy sex scenes. I was also reading Stephen King, Irving Wallace, Herman Wouk, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney and any number of authors who wrote for adult audiences not teens. Were there things in the books I didn’t understand? Sure there were. Were there things in those books that were probably inappropriate for teenagers? Undoubtedly. (I’ve also never forgotten the scene in Joyce Haber’s The Users where a Liza Minnelli-based character fucked herself with her own Oscar; some images are simply too vivid to forget methinks.)

This is one reason I shy away from calling some of my books with teenagers “young adult” novels. Megan Abbott’s Dare Me centered teenagers, but I would never consider Dare Me a young adult novel. I was thinking about this the other night while watching Sex Lives of College Girls (it’s hilarious, you really should be watching); can I authentically write about teenagers anymore? Have I ever been able to? I don’t speak their language anymore, and I haven’t been one in over forty years (!!!!); I don’t know the technology they use or their slang or what they watch or listen to. I don’t know what today’s teens think about virginity and sexuality these days; do the tired old tropes still exist? Does that whole “good girl/bad girl” dynamic still exist, or are today’s teenaged girls a bit more sophisticated than they were when I was in high school when it comes to sex and sexuality? (Contrasting two high school shows with queer content makes you wonder–there’s the jaded cynicism of the rich kids in Elite vs the wholesome purity and innocence and sweetness of Heartstopper, which also had me wondering–although I feel certain Heartstopper might be closer to reality than Elite…or that’s just my hope?) Of course I have other ideas for more books about young people–I have another in-progress one that’s been sitting around for a very long time that I need to repurpose–and I’d kind of like to write more at some point, but I don’t know. My suburban 70’s serial killer preying on teenaged boys book would be told from the perspective of a twelve year old, but it would definitely not be a young adult novel–but will probably be marketed and sold as one.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines on my last day in the office for 2022. Check back in with you later, Constant Reader.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Oh, seriously, sometimes I wonder how I manage to still have a career. I did a list of great New Orleans crime novels–a place to get started, because there are a lot of them–for Crime Reads; you can click here to read it. It wasn’t easy narrowing it down to the few I selected, but I also wanted to be certain that the ones I chose were ones I absolutely, positively loved. (The one exception is Dinner at Antoine’s; I read that one as a teenager when I went through a Frances Parkinson Keyes phase–I the King is my absolute favorite) and of course, I didn’t mention James Lee Burke because really, does anyone really need to mention him when it comes to New Orleans and Louisiana crime novels? He’s the uncrowned king of Louisiana crime fiction, plus not picking him relieved me of the duty to figure out which book to choose. (Although I would have undoubtedly gone with The Tin Roof Blowdown, his post Katrina novel, which made me cry several times.)

After making groceries yesterday morning–yes, it’s always smart to go to the Rouses in the CBD on a Saints home-game day, seriously–I came home and relaxed a bit before digging back into the book. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have preferred; yesterday was one of those pulling hen’s teeth days. But the Saints managed to hang on to sweep Atlanta for the season, which is the highlight of their terrible season thus far (but we never lost to the Falcons this season), and then we finished watching Smiley (which is absolutely delightful) and then started Wednesday, which I’d been nervous about starting. I watched the original television version of The Addams Family, and Addams Family Values is one of my top three comedy movies of all time. I am still annoyed that Christina Ricci wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for either film; I’ve been a fan ever since and Wednesday, who didn’t really have much of a role on the original show, became my favorite character. I’d been putting it off, despite the great reviews, because I was worried I’d be disappointed. Constant Reader, I was not. Wednesday is terrific, and Jenna Ortega really nails the part. Catherine Zeta-Jones is fine as Morticia, but it’s hard to replace Anjelica Huston, who was sublime. We wound up bingeing almost the entire first season. Absolutely loving it.

It’s hard to believe this is it, the final countdown to Christmas. It’s this coming weekend, and while we still don’t have a refrigerator–out Christmas gift to ourselves this year–maybe we can get a great deal on one after Christmas. The ones with the freezer on the bottom are apparently all about an inch or two too tall to fit into the cubby where ours goes; it’s the damned unusable cabinets about it that are the problem. I don’t know if the cabinet needs to be torn out or if it can be raised a few inches and remounted on the wall; probably the easiest thing to do is just get the freezer-on-top size that fits and be done with it. It certainly would be the easiest thing to do, really. I just had my heart set on one with the freezer on the bottom–another disappointment I’ll need to learn to live with, apparently.

It’s cold again this morning, still sub-fifty degrees. The new heating system in the Lost Apartment works incredibly well–the only reason I even had the slightest clue that the it was cold outside was how cold the downstairs floor is beneath my socks. It’s supposed to freeze this weekend with a slight potential of snow–SNOW IN NEW ORLEANS (which I really need to write about sometime; the way the city reacts to snow always amuses me in a mean sort of way. Most people down here have no idea how to drive in snow or deal with it in any way, and why would they? It doesn’t snow enough for them to ever get used to driving in it. I don’t think it’s snowed here since before 2010? I don’t remember the last time it snowed here, but I remember the only really big snow we ever had; I just don’t remember what year it was. 2007? 2008? Something like that. But my goal for the holiday weekend is to get everything done that I need to get done on the way home from work on Thursday, so I don’t have to go outside for another four days in the cold. I’ll probably spend a lot of time working feverishly on finishing the book, of course, but will take Christmas day as a holiday from everything.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Monday, okay? I’ll be back in the dark tomorrow morning.

Not Fade Away

And here it is, Sunday morning already, and where did my weekend go? I am not sure, but somehow yesterday managed to get away from me somehow, and I didn’t get nearly what I had hoped done–or at least looked at, at any rate. I allowed myself to sleep in yesterday–today too–and it felt really nice. I got some things done around the house and then ran my errands. When I returned, I realized I had something to do that I’d forgotten about–I remembered right when I was leaving to run the errands (okay, I saw the reminder email before I left to run those errands)–and so I had to prepare something to eat. A friend had offered to let me guest blog at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, where you promote yourself and your new book by sharing a recipe. No problem, I thought, forgetting that I don’t really use recipes after the first or second time I make something, and then I never ever make it the same way twice again. I love cooking, I really do, and I think I’m good at it. I’m not a chef by any means–I cannot identify flavors by taste, and I am not familiar enough with tastes and textures to think of combinations that would work together into something delicious without a reference or a starting place. And truth be told, I subscribe very heavily to the notion that if you base your cooking in the basics of Louisiana-style food, it’s always going to be delicious. You can never go wrong with anything that starts with a roux as the base, let’s be honest. Many years ago I had a recipe in the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, which was way fun; it was a recipe I’d been making for years and years and years and tinkered with a lot, going through many delicious and delightful variations–so I knew I had it written down somewhere. But after I got the reminder email I looked at what was required–and saw to my horror that I also needed pictures. I am not one of those people who regularly documents their food preparation, so I realized that I was going to have to actually make it so I could take the needed pictures; and there were things I would need from the market as I didn’t have them on hand. I also found the recipe and realized I’d improved on it quite a bit since I wrote it down for the cookbook, and I had to rewrite and revise it.

Constant Reader, those meatballs were goddamned delicious.

And I documented their making, as well as took a photo of the plated end product.

LSU got beaten yesterday, 50-30, in the SEC championship game. Georgia was better, as I expected, and none of the breaks really went LSU’s way; and for them to win, they needed all the breaks they could get, Georgia to not play well, and the Tigers needed to play out of their ass. Back-up quarterback Garrett Nussmeier looked amazing, frankly–the future of LSU football clearly on display; a little more control and better chemistry with his receivers and he could become Joey Burrow 2.0. Am I disappointed? Sure, a little, but mostly I am proud of this team and have far they have come since last January and that bowl game, or how far they’ve come since the start of the season. But they won the toughest division in college football, and did some things no one could have predicted. The future looks bright, and LSU is going to be elite again, very soon. (And a shout out to Tulane for winning their conference and winning a trip to the Cotton Bowl. No one saw that coming, either.) TCU lost, which, along with USC’s loss, will cause enough of the chaos I was hoping to see this weekend…although I do think Georgia and Michigan are without question the two best teams in the country, and there’s really no need for a third or fourth place seed. Now we just have to see which bowl game LSU ends up in, and the season is over–far better than anything I had any reason to expect back in August, so thanks again, Tigers. It was an interesting, up and down and exciting season, with some amazing games.

Today I have to go pick up the groceries I ordered; I think the meatballs will get me through the week for lunches, and so I don’t think I need to cook anything else today. I’ll probably have to stop at the market on the way home from work on Monday, after I get a better sense of what we need after putting everything away today (don’t ask, it makes sense in my fevered brain)–I may want to get a salad, or the produce necessary to make one.

As I have been writing my Blatant Self-Promotion posts for A Streetcar Named Murder I have also been realizing that a feeling I’ve been having for quite some time isn’t actually accurate. I have posted a few times over the last few years about feeling disconnected from New Orleans in some weird way, that something had changed and I wasn’t sure what it was, if it was the city itself–which has changed–or something in me or some combination of the two. But in writing these posts about New Orleans, I find myself smiling as I write them–I certainly was smiling when I was writing that guest post the other day for the Wickeds blog, “The Orange Cone” (which could also be the seeds of a longer comic essay about life in New Orleans)–that what has actually shifted is that I’ve kind of gone native. For years, I wrote about the wackiness and silliness and delicious little ironies of life in New Orleans, the eccentricities and oddities, because they stood out to me. They no longer do. I take that stuff for granted now, and it doesn’t even register with me anymore because I’ve become so accustomed to it. Writing about potholes and orange cones, and how they are easily not only in the Top 5 for conversation material between total strangers in the city made me laugh, made me shake my head at the wackiness and strangeness, and well–the whole New Orleans of it. That’s the thing. I never thought I would get to the point where the oddities of New Orleans life would become so commonplace as for me to pay it no mind, but here I proverbially am.

And I kind of love that for me. I love this city. I am by no means an expert on New Orleans; what I do not know about this city, its people, its history and its legends and lore could fill the Great Library at Alexandria. I continue to learn more every day, and with the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know and that I will never become expert, no matter how much I learn and read and absorb and experience. I always kind of smile to myself when people say that I am an expert on all things New Orleans because I am all too aware of how little I actually do know. I don’t know that I will ever stop writing about New Orleans. Writing that historical Sherlock Holmes story set here was so much fun to write and research–and I’ve also discovered an enormous flaw in my research and writing for that story since writing it, which serves as yet another example of the limits of my knowledge and how much deeper you have to go when researching a period of history here (one of the biggest hurricanes to ever hit New Orleans came through the year before the story’s setting; no commentary on rebuilding or about the disaster is a glaring omission). I want to write about Madame La Laurie; I want to write about the Sultan’s Palace and the trunk murders and the kidnapping of that little boy back in the late nineteenth century. I want to write about Storyville and musicians and Prohibition and bootleggers. I want to write about the Axeman, and the grinch, and other legends and lore; every time I find something new in a history or an a New Orleans history website, I immediately start thinking of ways to write about it. I will never run out of material to write about here, never.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. I am going to read for a little while as I drink coffee and wake up, and then I am going to write until it’s time to go get the groceries…and then come home to write some more. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Black and White

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I saw Robert Wise’s film The Haunting; all I do remember was it was late at night–in Chicago, one (maybe more) of the local affiliates always ran films after the news at 10:30; they also ran afternoon movies at 3:30 Monday thru Friday–which is where I got most of my education in classic Hollywood movies. But The Haunting was probably the most terrifying movie I’d ever seen; it wasn’t until a rewatch later in my life that I realized that perhaps the most terrifying and unsettling thing about the movie was you never saw whatever it was that was creating the happenings at Hill House–and they were never really explained, either. I had nightmares after watching it the first time, and those nightmares became recurring. To this day I am not comfortable climbing a metal spiral staircase…

One afternoon when we were at Zayre’s for whatever reason–we went there almost weekly, although I am not sure why–I found a copy of Hell House by Richard Matheson on the paperback racks. It sounded, from reading the back, similar to the movie that had scared me so when I was younger, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the movie was taken from the book? I bought it and read it–loved it, in fact–but while it was similar to the story of The Haunting, it was also different enough for me to be certain they weren’t the same. (Hell House was filmed actually as The Legend of Hell House, which was also a terrifying film–more on that later). It wasn’t until years later, when I was in a used bookstore in Emporia, that I stumbled across this:

It was only a quarter, and looking at the back I recognized the characters–Nell, Theo, Dr. Montague, Luke–and of course, the name of the haunted house–Hill House. I bought it and a couple of others, and I started reading at the first opportunity, and was completely mesmerized. It quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time–I already knew Jackson’s story “The Lottery”, because at some point in school I’d been shown the film (why was this appropriate school viewing? Imagine trying to show it to students today!) and in a Drama class we’d actually read the stage adaptation and even put it on for the school (I think I had one line in our production?). Reading Stephen King’s Danse Macabre also told me more about both Jackson’s writing and the Robert Wise directed film, which was my first exposure to Julie Harris; I also remembered that the opening of Jackson’s novel was used by King as an epigram in ‘salem’s Lot; he also dedicated a book to her “because she never had to raise her voice,” which is a very poetic way to describe the softly macabre writing style and voice she used in her works. I lost my original copy at some point during moves over the years, and I acquired another copy after we returned to New Orleans in 2001 from our brief, preferably forgotten interlude in Washington DC–and have made a point to reread it every year since.

And no matter how many times I reread it, I never tire of its haunting, terrifying beauty.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

Dr. John Montague was a doctor of philosophy; he had taken his degree in anthropology, feeling obscurely that in this field he might come closest to his truest vocation, the analysis of supernatural manifestations. He was scrupulous about the use of his title because, his investigations being so utterly unscientific, he hoped to borrow an air of respectability, even scholarly authority, from his education. It had cost him a good deal, in money and pride, since he was not a begging man, to rent Hill House for three months, but he expected to be compensated for his pains by the sensation following upon the publication of his definitive work on the causes and effects of psychic disturbances in a house commonly known as “haunted.” He had been looking for an honestly haunted house all his life. When he heard of Hill House he had been at first doubtful, then hopeful, then indefatigable; he was not the man to let go of Hill House once he had found it.

Dr. Montague’s intentions with regard to Hill House derived from the methods of the intrepid nineteenth-century ghost hunters; he was going to go and live in Hill House and see what happened there. It was his intention, at first, to follow the example of the anonymous Lady who went to stay at Ballechin House and ran a summer-long house party for skeptics and believers, with croquet and ghost-watching as the outstanding attractions, but skeptics, believers, and good croquet players are harder to come by today; Dr. Montague was forced to engage assistants. Perhaps the leisurely ways of Victorian life lent themselves more agreeably to the devices of psychic investigation, or perhaps the painstaking documentation of phenomena had largely gone out as a means of determining actuality; at any rate, Dr. Montague had not only to engage assistants but to search for them.

That opening paragraph alone is a masterpiece.

I parodied it for the beginning of one of my Scotty books–it gave me great pleasure to write the words New Orleans, not sane, stood by itself within its levees–and of course, this book was a pretty heavy influence on Bury Me in Shadows. The book reads almost like a fever dream, with its rhythms and poetries of language, and the story itself is as mysterious as one could possibly hope. The genius of Jackson is knowing that the biggest fear of all is the unknown; so we never know what is actually going on at Hill House–is the house actually bad, or just unlucky? The house’s history is bad and tragic from the very beginning, as we are told in Jackson’s spellbinding voice; who precisely was Hugh Crain, who built the house for his wife and family but never knew any kind of peace within its walls? What went wrong? Jackson never lets us know anything other than that the house is bad. Her primary point of view character is perhaps the must untrustworthy and unreliable of narrators, Eleanor Vance, Nell. Dr. Montague invited Nell because of a strange occurrence that happened when she was a small child; stones rained down on their house out of clear blue sky; her mother darkly blamed it on the neighbors (this also happened to Carrie White’s house when she was a little girl in Stephen King’s Carrie–in the newspaper write-up included in the book Mrs. White also blamed it on “the neighbors”), but other than that, Nell is pretty ordinary and small. She’s wasted most of her adult life taking care of her invalid mother; she’s now in her early thirties and living with her sister’s family, sleeping on the couch. She’s meek but capable of anger–she has a lot of anger and rage buried deep inside of herself–anger at the world, at the injustice of her wasted life, at the lack of a viable future; she has no prospects, no job, no friends, no nothing. The invitation to Hill House awakens a joy in her that she’s never known–she’s wanted somewhere. Her sister and brother-in-law refuse to let her take their mutual car; she gets up early and rebelliously takes the car anyway and heads to Hill House. As she drives she daydreams and observes everything along the road, making up a lovely fantasy for herself about living in a house with stone lions at the foot of the driveway; she stops for lunch and observes a little girl who refuses to drink her milk because she doesn’t have her special cup with stars on the bottom she can she as she drinks. Mentally, Nell urges the little girl not to give in, to not surrender to the injustice of not having her proper cup–as it will be the first of many surrenders of herself she’ll end up making throughout her life until she, like Nell, becomes invisible.

And then, hopeful and happy and excited, she arrives and gets her first look at Hill House:

The house was vile. She shivered and thought, the words coming freely into her mind, Hill House is vile, it is diseased; get away from here at once.

Which then gives Jackson the opportunity, as the next chapter opens, to describe Hill House:

No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice. Almost any house, caught unexpectedly or at an odd angle, can turn a deeply humorous look on a watching person; even a mischievous little chimney, or a dormer like a dimple, can catch up a beholder with a sense of fellowship; but a house arrogant and hating, never off guard, can only be evil. This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern under the hands of its builders, fitting itself into its own construction of lines and angles, reared its great head back against the sky without concession to humanity. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope. Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until was destroyed.

Nell’s sanity, never the strongest, is affected deeply by the house–she both hates and loves it, separate parts of her nature begging her to flee while the other telling her she’s come home, to stay. The other three in the party–Dr. Montague, Theo the lesbian with some psychic ability, and Luke, due to inherit the house one day–become aware very quickly that the house is having an odd effect on her; they also hate and fear the house, but that welcoming feeling Nell experiences, that desire to never leave, is for her and her only. The rest of the book is quietly terrifying–the noises in the night, the realization that whatever is going on in the house has a sly intelligence of a sort–and the scene where Nell is terrified in the night and holds Theo’s hand…until Theo turns on the lights and Nell realizes she was across the room so whose hand was I holding? is one of the most horrifying moments in horror fiction. And then, the chilling, tragic end.

I also always see the house the way it was shown in the movie.

I also rewatched the movie while I was rereading the novel–not the execrable remake but the original–and it holds up just as terrifying and unsettling as it was the first time. Julie Harris is fantastic as Nell, fragile and frayed and slowly unraveling; in the movie isn’t not quite as left to the viewer as it is to the reader the notion that Nell herself is the one haunting Hill House; the house gains its power through her. (This was done beautifully in the Netflix adaptation, The Haunting of Hill House, which is loosely based on the book but updated and adapted and changed significantly; I thought the series was fucking fantastic and an excellent homage to both the book and the original film. You can’t improve on what came before, so why not reinterpret it? I know Jackson purists were outraged, but having seen the dreadful 1999 remake…yeah, this wasn’t that, for sure.)

Also, because of the movie, whenever I read the book I see it in my mind in black and white. The film wouldn’t work in color, either.

If you’ve not read the book, you really should. It’s a masterpiece on every level.

Do You Know

Tuesday and all is well again this morning–at least so far.

Yesterday was very productive. I got some day job things taken care of that needed taking care of, I worked on the book and wrote a chapter, and I managed to get some emails cleaned out of my inbox. I did start feeling a bit fatigued in the later afternoon, so decided to try to take it easy once I got home from the office but managed to plant my ass in my desk chair and get the fucking chapter written. I also managed to read three short stories by Paul Tremblay from his collection Growing Things over the weekend–he’s such a good writer, seriously, you should be reading him–which was nice, and perfect reading for Halloween times.

I had insomnia again last night–which I can’t help but wonder wasn’t tied to the cappuccino I made yesterday morning, but that’s nonsense; I’ve had cappuccinos in the morning and slept well that night, so I don’t know. I guess I was just due for another night of it at some point, and last night just happened to be the lucky night. I don’t feel physically or mentally fatigued this morning, but then again you never know. I have to work in clinic today, face to face with people, and that is usually draining on several levels. Hopefully when I get home tonight I’ll have the energy to write more on the book. But like I said, so far so good this morning. I feel physically rested, at any rate, or no more tired and fatigued than usual when I get up, at any rate.

I can’t believe it’s November already, and there are only two months left in 2022. I am going to Kentucky for Thanksgiving, so I have a lot to get done this month before I leave–I also have to have the heater in my car looked at, because it no longer blows warm air and I cannot drive up there without a working heater in the car because cold–and who knows how much that is going to cost me? Yay. You got to love these out of nowhere extra expenses–I just got a raise so of course now instead of paying down debt I’ll have to add some more, hurray. But it’s necessary, and of course the car is now at that age–almost six–where things might start to go a little wrong here and there. I’ve already had to replace the battery, and I also need a new windshield wiper for the back window.

The good news is I started solving some issues within the book last night after I gave in to Scooter’s demands for a lap to sleep in (he never stays there for longer than half an hour, which makes it even more frustrating to give in to him; he sleeps in my lap long enough to make me lethargic and remove the desire to do anything, which can be a problem. I also did some dishes and am trying to stay on top of the kitchen; I had to stop to make groceries last night on the way home (out of bread, among other things) and will have to again tonight–the store in the CBD didn’t have everything I needed, which was extremely irritating–but I have to go uptown and get the mail after work anyway. I’m still hoping my box o’books of A Streetcar Named Murder are going to arrive soon–I know it seems early since the pub date isn’t until 12/6, but they told me they’d come before the end of the month and….yesterday was the end of the month, and I am nothing if not a completely literal person.

So, anyway, as I was saying, I started solving some issues within the book last night as Scooter purred and slept in my lap and I let my playlist of music videos run on the television, and for the first time in a while I am starting to feel like this book will not be a complete disaster and may actually turn out to be fairly decent. One never knows, does one? And no matter how many books you’ve written in your career, you always fear that somehow the ability to do this is magically going to disappear from your brain overnight, and everything is going to blow up in your face. I literally was considering that very thing this past weekend, thinking that what I really needed to do was just tear up the contract and asked to be released from it and just hibernate in the apartment for a few months. But that was probably chemical–there are so many chemical issues in my brain–and an unconscious or subconscious reaction to Paul not being home, which probably depressed me and imbalanced the delicate balance of everything in my brain, which is why I wasn’t able to get very much done over the weekend the way I had hoped and planned to. Paul won’t get home until Saturday evening, and while yes, this Saturday is the double-header of Georgia-Tennessee followed by LSU-Alabama, I should be able to get up in the morning and get things done before it’s time to start watching the games–and of course, I can always just have the game on while I clean and so forth. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the morning. Have a great day, Constant Reader and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning, as always.

In the Back of My Mind

Here we are back on another Monday morning with another work week staring us in the face and not blinking. Great, right? It was a lovely weekend around the Lost Apartment, if a bit lonely; Scooter was definitely needy all weekend and it’s weird to have the bed almost entirely to myself (not including Scooter). I felt well rested both weekend mornings when I arose; yet after running my errands on Saturday and doing some cleaning I became extremely fatigued, which sent me to my chair. I did manage to get some things done once the fatigue set in–I think low blood sugar had an awful lot to do with it, to be honest–and it’s irritating, frankly. I had wanted to be a lot more productive on Saturday than I actually was; but c’est la vie and all that nonsense. I do think I am going to need to do some restructuring of the opening chapters on my book, but that’s cool; it certainly makes more sense for me to order it the way that I am going to restructure it all. And no, I didn’t get a lot done this weekend. Maybe a restful weekend of recharging my batteries was just what the doctor ordered; who knows? I am trying not to get overly stressed out about everything that is pending for me.

Stress is the mindkiller.

I’ve oddly enough been sleeping better and more restfully recently, despite the addition of cappuccino to my morning routine every morning–but maybe the caffeine crash is why I am so tired in the afternoons. Maybe, but I was also tired in the afternoons before I got the new espresso machine (which I love, if I’ve not made that clear enough already) so who knows what the new normal/Greg’s reality is anymore? I certainly don’t know.

And it’s Halloween, of course. Happy Halloween!

I was going to rewatch the original Halloween last night, but instead I rewatched Robert Wise’s 1962 adaptation of The Haunting, based on the novel by Shirley Jackson. I originally saw this movie when I was a kid, staying up late one night to catch it on the late movie, and it was absolutely terrifying. It’s exceptionally well done, and Julie Harris is so definitive as Nell–the cast is all so definitive in their roles, really–that I can’t help but see them every time I reread the book. It really is a stunning performance by Harris–she really embodies Nell–and the entire thing is so claustrophobic and terrifying, really; the concept of what you cannot see being more terrifying than what you can played up perfectly by Wise’s incredibly capable direction and camera shots–and the editing ratchets up the suspense and terror perfectly. It follows the book incredibly closely–one of the most faithful adaptations of book-to-film; up there with Rosemary’s Baby, really–and as I watched, not terrified because I’ve seen it so many times so thus able to watch for the direction and the editing, which were superb, as was the black and white cinematography, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a great job Wise did with the cast and the film. The remake was terrible, absolutely terrible–unwatchably bad; which remake a classic in the first place, especially when you’re just going to go crazy with the CGI budget, which takes away the most important suspense/terror aspect of the book and the original film: you don’t see the monsters, you don’t see whatever it is that is haunting Hill House and it is never explained. I also don’t usually like movies that have voiceovers to show a character’s thoughts, but the book itself is so intimately from Nell’s point of view that it would be hard to translate that on film and get the same feeling–and the emotive way Julie Harris does the line reading makes it work, draws the viewer in, and makes the viewing experience incredibly intimate and claustrophobic at the same time, which is exactly how Jackson wrote the book.

I also recorded Alexia Gordon’s Cozy Corner podcast yesterday, and it was a lot of fun. We talked for a very very long time–we both lost track of the time, really–and talked about a lot of things. It was seven by the time I got off the ZOOM call, and when I got up to make myself something to eat was when the fatigue hit me. Was it related to the podcast and social intercourse, which also required me to think and be smart and actually put thought into my answers? I don’t know, maybe it was but I was pretty tired by the time I made my grilled-cheese-and-bacon sandwich for dinner and repaired to the living room to watch the movie. I didn’t stay up much longer after I finished watching either; I was watching some documentary on Youtube about the Hapsburgs and started nodding off, so I decided to just go on up and go to bed early–more sleep never hurt me, after all.

I may even go to bed at nine tonight. Perish the thought!

But I think my restful weekend did the trick, and it was clearly what I needed. I do feel refreshed and alive and rested, both physically and mentally, this morning–or it could be the cappuccino. I guess we’ll find out this afternoon when the caffeine wears off.

So on that note, without further ado, I am heading into the spice mines on this lovely cool Monday morning in New Orleans. And may your day be lovely and bright, Constant Reader–I will talk to you again tomorrow morning.