Whatcha See is Whatcha Get

Good morning, Constant Reader, and a happy Thursday to you. I am a bit groggy this morning as I swill my first cup of coffee, but Scooter has already been fed and so at least the cat cries have stopped.

For now, at least.

I slept pretty well last night again, and maybe my body has readjusted to my work schedule already, which is nice and I was a bit concerned that it might take a while for that to happen. But I seem to have slipped right back into the routine I was in before I left for New York, and that is, of course, quite lovely. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office yesterday and picked up a few things, then once I was home I retired to my easy chair to edit “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which actually is a much better story than I thought it was. In fairness to me, expecting the story to need a great deal of work really isn’t a case of Imposter Syndrome, as one might have expected (it so often is just that), but rather because it was so hard for me to write and took me so long to get into the story groove. It’s actually not bad at all, and just needs some tweaking here and there; which I should be able to do tonight and get turned in by the end of the day. This is actually rather nice, and I am most pleased about it, in all honesty. By the time I’d finished, Scooter was in my lap and I tuned in to get caught up on Superman and Lois; Paul came home while I was watching and we switched to the new Jane Seymour mystery series on Acorn, which is quite good. I’ve always appreciated Jane Seymour and thought she was more talented than she often received credit for; I suppose being a Mini-series Queen during the 1980s didn’t really help all that much–but I thought she was exceptional in the adaptation of East of Eden that was done in the 80’s, in which she played Steinbeck’s perhaps most evil creation, Cathy Ames. (She was also good as Natalie in War and Remembrance, having a remarkably long career for someone who started as a Bond girl in Live and Let Die.) The show is Harry Wild, and we quite enjoyed it; although it’s hard to think of a British crime series we haven’t enjoyed.

I also didn’t get an opportunity to read any more of my Carol Goodman novel, either, which didn’t please me. Perhaps tonight I can relax with my book and the Gothic story of what is going on at that boarding school on the lake. Really, y’all, if you’ve not read anything by Carol Goodman, you really should. But tonight I am coming straight home from the office–no detours, no stops to make–and so hopefully that means I can spend some good quality time reading tonight. Fingers crossed, at any rate, especially since Saturday I have an appointment in the late morning and a ZOOM appearance to make in the mid-afternoon, which means I won’t have a lot of time to do much of anything on Saturday other than making the kitchen background to my computer camera neat and tidy.

I was also delighted to see that the Saints signed former LSU and Kansas City Chiefs standout (and local high school star from St. Augustine’s) TYRANN MATHIEU. The Honey Badger is finally coming home to New Orleans (HUZZAH!) and I think this was an incredibly smart move by the Saints. Mathieu has already proven himself to be a leader who is interested in helping and giving back to the community (he helped fund the new state-of-the-art training center for the LSU football team, for example, despite the fact that he was kicked off the team and out of school for infractions after his sophomore year), and what better brand ambassador in the city of New Orleans for the Saints than a local kid who made good? I’ve never really understood why the Saints never signed anyone from LSU over the many years since Sean Payton took over–especially since so many of those stars were from either New Orleans or Louisiana–but maybe it was a “local hero ego” kind of thing. Who knows? (Paul and I dreamed that Joey Burrow would end up playing for the Saints, but that would have been too much to hope for, really.) I’ll be actually curious to see how LSU and the Saints will do this year; I remember the last time new coaches came in to both around the same time was 2005 at LSU (Les Miles) and 2006 with the Saints (Sean Payton)–both of those turned out well, so here’s hoping the new coaches at both for 2022 will also turn out well.

As always with football season, hope springs eternal.

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

Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)

I love football.

I know, it catches people off-guard that a sixty year old gay man is a massive football fan, but I’ve never subscribed to stereotypes. I love football, with an especial love for the college game (I used to only watch the Saints in the NFL, but have started rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals because, well, Joe fucking Burrow); I think everyone knows I am a massive LSU fan. (GEAUX TIGERS!)

There really isn’t anything else in the world like a Saturday night in Death Valley. I will remember the 2019 night game against Florida probably for the rest of my life. God, what a great game, and it was so much fun. I am aware that I am digressing.

Anyway, I grew up in a Southern football family (even if we didn’t live in the South, we were from the South and that’s all that matters), so it was inevitable that I should become both a football fan and a football player. I played all four years in high school, all of my cousins also played, and I have close relatives who played at both the college and professional levels (and I don’t mean some small college in the middle of nowhere; I mean in the SEC–Auburn and Alabama, and there may be even more that I don’t know about). I have relatives who were successful coaches. Every fall Saturday the television was tuned into whatever college game was playing–even if we weren’t fans of either team; it’s hard to imagine now with the 24/7 college football coverage, but when I was growing up ABC had a monopoly on all NCAA football games. They would usually play one game of national significance, and then the second game was regional–important to that region. As we did not live in the South, we rarely got to see SEC games other than Alabama–Alabama was almost inevitably the only Southern team of “national interest” throughout the 1970’s (I really don’t remember the 1960’s much, but we lived in Chicago so I imagine we saw a lot of Big Ten and Notre Dame games; I don’t really remember a lot of my life before the suburbs, really–some things, yes, but most things not so much)

I’ve never really read a lot of fiction about football, though; it inevitably winds up being something cliched and tired. I loved North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent; hated Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins; but do remember enjoying End Zone by Don DeLillo (I was going to reread this recently; but there’s so much to read. I did try to to reread Semi-Tough–but when I opened the book there were racial slurs and other mess on page one, so I threw it in the trash; no thanks). And I’ve also enjoyed other books with football involved, even if it wasn’t necessarily what the book was about. (The Hardy Boys were on the Bayport High football team in The Crisscross Shadow–the only time football is mentioned in the series.) There’s also a tendency, in books about high school and football to make the football players and cheerleaders the villains of the story, which has never really sat right with me. I was never bullied by anyone on the football team, and maybe the cheerleaders weren’t bitches to me because I was on the team and my sister was a cheerleader, but that wasn’t my experience (one thing I truly appreciated about Stephen King’s Christine was the horrible bullies at Libertyville High weren’t the football players but the hard-case kids–which was also my experience; which is probably yet another reason the book is one of my favorites of the King canon, methinks).

But…I can also see why it’s so attractive to make the jocks and cheerleaders the villains of high school dramas. And I sort of did something similar in #shedeservedit, didn’t I? Those boys on the Marysville and Steubenville high school teams certainly fit the bill of villainy.

So, when people started recommending Eli Cranor’s debut Dont Know Tough to me, I wasn’t so sure. I just published a book of my own about high school football and the toxicity it can engender in a small town (#shedeservedit), and revisiting my memories of high school and football was harder than I had thought it would be; I thought I could be dispassionate about it all while writing about it (I often write about things to try to distance myself from them and gain some perspective) but I was wrong. It was hard to write that book, much harder than I thought it would be–and it took years (first draft was written in 2015; published in 2022).

But enough people whose opinions I respect were raving about the book, so I got a copy and once I started reading it, there was no way I could stop.

Still feel the burn on my neck. Told Coach it was a ringworm this morning when he pick me up, but it ain’t. It a cigarette, or at least what a lit cigarette do when it stuck in your neck. Just stared at Him when He did it. No way I’s gonna let Him see me hurt. No way. bit a hole through the side of my cheek, swallowed blood, and just stared at Him. Tasted blood all day.

Tasted it while I saw in Ms. Miller’s class. Woke up in Algebra tasting it. Drank milk from a cardboard box at lunch and still, I tasted it. But now it eighth period football. Coach already got the boys lined up on either side of the fifty, a crease in between, a small space for running and tackling, for pain.

This my favorite drill.

I just been standing back here, watching the other boys go at it. The sound of pads popping like sheet metal flapping in a storm.

“Who want next?” holler Bull. Bull ain’t the head coach. Bull coach the defense. He as mean as they come.

One of my favorite books of all time about small towns is Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show (I also love the film, which is extraordinary and one of, in my opinion, the best films made during the 1970’s). I did try to reread it recently–I was interested in refreshing my memory of its gay subplots and the mental breakdown of poor Joe Bob Blanton, but I’d also forgotten the part about the bored teenaged boys decided to fuck some calves, so when I got to that part I put the book down in distaste. But now that I’ve finished Don’t Know Tough, I kind of want to go back and reread The Last Picture Show again (I can skip that distasteful part…weird that I didn’t remember it).

Don’t Know Tough is yet another incredibly impressive debut, further confirming the truth of what I said at the Lefty Award banquet–the last few years have seen so many amazing and diverse and extraordinary debuts that the future of our genre is in very good hands. I won’t lie–when I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it; I was worried that the entire book would be written in that grammatically garbled first-person voice but as I kept reading that first chapter I got into the rhythm of the language and started seeing the beauty and fluidity of the style choice–which is no small feat to pull off, and pull off consistently, throughout the entire book…to the point I was also a little disappointed that the entire book wasn’t done in that same style. Billy Lowe is the character whose voice this is; and the story of the novel revolves around him and the horrific Shakespearean tragedy that his life actually is. His mother is an alcoholic, and lives with an abusive piece of shit who obviously directs violence at Billy. He has a younger half-brother who was fathered by this POS; he also has an older brother who lives elsewhere. Billy’s situation has turned him into a wild beast of rage with an exceptional gift for channeling that rage into playing football. He’s not big enough in size to go major college, but his coach feels like there’s a chance he could get a football scholarship to a smaller college, and break the cycle of poverty he is trapped in at the moment. Billy is exceptionally compelling–it’s hard to read his first person point of view and not have your heart break for this kid; and hope that it’s all going to work out for him in the end, despite the disturbing pattern of violence in both his life and behavior.

Denton High has made the Arkansas state play-offs, but without Billy in the backfield their chances of advancing are practically nil. It’s important for Denton to do well in the post season because their coach’s job depends on it. Trent Powers is a born-again Christian, whose last coaching job in California crapped out–winning only three games in his final three seasons before being fired. This job is another chance for him, even though his wife and daughters hate relocating to a small town in Arkansas from California (much is made throughout the book of Coach Powers’ Prius, seen by the locals are weird and strange and almost otherworldly and unmanly). Coach Powers also has a very soft spot for his star player, and not just because he’s a star player–he actually feels compassion for the horror the young player’s life has been up to that point, and he wants to help–even if Billy doesn’t want any help from anyone. Billy’s future, to Billy at any rate, is already set, and he’s not going to end up going anywhere or doing anything or having a good life and decent future. He doesn’t see himself being worthy of anything or of doing better than his assigned lot in life.

The Powers family is a direct contrast to Billy’s; loving and nurturing couple, raising two daughters and trying to do right by them. How far is too far to go when helping someone in Billy’s situation, is the question. Coach’s wife–the daughter of a successful football coach who took Trent in when he was a kid from a similar background as Billy’s…and yes, he slept with his coach’s daughter and got her pregnant. So both Coach and his wife have the fear that the same thing will happen to their daughter and Billy–especially when the daughter starts opening up to Billy.

But one night Billy’s abuser is murdered. No one would blame Billy for killing the abusive bastard–well, the law would. But the story of what happened that night is far more complicated, and far more surprising, than the reader can imagine.

The pacing is also exceptional, and I love the contrasts between the third person point of view we see much of the novel in, with the Billy point of view chapters mixed in. The language choices and imagery are spare and tight yet full and rich and immersive–reminding me not only of Megan Abbott and her brilliant Dare Me, but also with a healthy dash of Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, S. A. Cosby, and Kelly J. Ford (all masters of Southern Gothic) mixed in. The little touches of how claustrophobic small Southern towns can be, the class disparities between the haves and the have nots, and what teenagers in those types of environments was simply masterful.

I was completely blown away by this amazing work, and suspect that you will be as well. Highly recommended. I cannot wait to see what Eli Cranor does next.

Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)

Another good night’s sleep here in the Lost Apartment, which was lovely. I woke up before six again this morning, but stayed in bed a while longer. It’s cold in New Orleans this morning; currently it’s thirty nine degrees with a predicted high in the low fifties, probably later this afternoon. It is also the day of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in uptown, so I am not leaving the house. Errands would be impossible with streets closed and blocked off anyway. I guess a horrible snowstorm is heading to the northeast, so I hope everyone up there is prepared and ready and stays safe. I have to say I do not miss living in that kind of weather. It may be cold here but at least the sun is out and we have a clear azure sky overhead.

Today I have a lot to do (surprise, right?). I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday as I needed to as the day kind of blew up around me–it happens sometimes and can’t be helped–with the end result that I didn’t get everything finished, or worked on at least, the way I had planned. Which is fine–no sense crying over spilt milk, the only thing to do is clean it up and get on with it. We had a massive thunderstorm last night (poor Paul had to walk home through it) and then we watched the LSU Gymnastics meet against Utah (LSU triumphed, despite some absurd high-scoring of the Ute gymnasts), and then I kind of relaxed for a bit before going to bed. The latest Scream movie is now available to stream, so I am kind of hoping Paul comes home tonight early enough so we can watch it (yes, I know I could watch it without him and then watch it again, but…) I also managed to get a lot of my chores done last night while I waited for Paul to come home, so I don’t have as many to do today, which means hopefully I can do some new chores that I never get around to (those shutter doors to the laundry room! Those ceiling fan blades!) usually.

The mystery of the banning of The Postman Always Rings Twice continues. I reached out to another friend with a lot of knowledge of the history of crime fiction, with an emphasis on both hard-boiled and noir, and she didn’t think it had been banned in Boston; although it was banned in Canada. And yet, right there on it’s Amazon sales page is this:

First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America’s bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger.”

It really would be interesting if that turned out to simply be a marketing gimmick with absolutely no basis in fact, wouldn’t it? I spend some more time skimming through the Hoopes biography and still have found nothing about the banning or an obscenity trial for the book; it does make me wonder somewhat if the banning of Serenade somehow became conflated with Postman over the years; Cain was banned in Boston, just for a different book. A bold claim, to be sure, but it’s beginning to look that way…and I do think it’s an interesting perspective for an article or an essay. As I become more and more obsessed with finding out about this, I also realize I bet this is how a lot of non-fiction writing gets started, isn’t it?

And anything I find on-line listing “books banned in Boston” does not include Postman. Like I said, interesting.

My heel feels better this morning, but I think it’s best to keep letting it rest before over-exerting it again. I am going to try to return to the gym on Monday, depending on how my foot feels, but I’m not even aware of it this morning as I walk back and forth between my desk and the coffee maker. (Okay I was paying attention just now as I got another cup, and there’s still a bit of discomfort but unnoticeable unless I am paying attention, so that means it’s getting better and I probably shouldn’t push my luck.)

And I think on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe from inclement weather.

I’ll Try Something New

Yesterday was not only Work-at-Home Friday, but also one of the rare days where I never finished my blog entry for the day. I got up earlier than usual–part of my plan for days when I don’t have to go into the office early is to get up early anyway, with the weekend (like this morning) designated as sleep-in days where it doesn’t matter. I had to do a visit with a college fiction class–I’m not sure whether it was a writing class or a short fiction class, to be honest–over ZOOM about my story in Josh Pachter’s anthology The Beat of Black Wings, which was themed as crime stories based on Joni Mitchell songs. (My story was “The Silky Veils of Ardor”, for the record) That was nice, and then I did some condom packing before I had to go into the office for a meeting with the new head of my department at the office (another transition I have to get used to, not easy for someone who easily falls into routines and ruts) before returning home for some data entry work before Paul got home. I was drained last night from unusual Friday activities, so I just settled in to wait for him to come home while starting to watch this season of Real Housewives of Orange County (I’ve become ambivalent about these shows which I used to love; but that’s a topic for another time). Paul got home in time for the LSU-Alabama gymnastics meet (LSU won, GEAUX TIGERS!), after which we watched the season finale for Peacemaker (which was terrific) and then watched the first episode of Reacher, which we both loved (Alan Ritchson is perfect, an excellent cast, great production values, and good writing; what more can one ask for? We’re all in on Reacher). There were parades last night, but I was tired and worn out and I am also kind of iffy about parade attendance….but I do have at home COVID tests, so I can at least self-test if I do go to the parades before I go into the office as Typhoid Mary. There are parades all day today, starting at one.

So, this means St. Charles Avenue will be closed by noon, and I will be trapped inside my neighborhood essentially until King Arthur passes tomorrow.

Today I intend to work on stuff and clean the house. It feels cold and chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, and it’s not as sunny as I would like for a day of parades (clouds everywhere) but by Wednesday it will be 81 degrees in New Orleans. Yikes! Talk about unseasonal weather…sure, sometimes we do have gorgeous and warm weather during Carnival–I remember any number of gorgeous weather Fat Tuesdays over the years–but it’s been a hot minute since we’ve had that kind of weather on the last weekend of Carnival, which means the corner will be INSANE for all the big parades. I didn’t go out there myself last night, but Paul walked up the parade route to come home from work and eventually detoured off St. Charles because it was so crowded and insane. He did go look at our corner to see how big the crowds were here–not too bad, certainly not as bad as further down river, but still more people than usual for the first weekend of parades with not terribly pleasant weather–but if it’s sunny and warm next weekend it will literally be insane out there.

I had also intended to go to the gym yesterday but that never happened; as I said, when I got home from my meeting I was exhausted and it just didn’t seem like the smartest decision. I will probably go later this morning/early afternoon most likely; after getting some things done around here. I hate that I was so tired yesterday, but in retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised. Doing events where I have to be “on” are always debilitating to me and wear me out; even if it is on ZOOM and not in person. I don’t know why I always forget that…but it was a wonderful experience–those sorts of things always are, really, I just wish I weren’t so damned introverted and shy that putting forth the effort to not be introverted and shy is inevitably so exhausting. I really felt drained the rest of the day–I still have a bit of residual hangover this morning from it, despite not getting up until after eight. But I am having coffee and king cake–if caffeine and a plate full of sugar doesn’t revive me completely, it’s really a hopeless case–and hope to really kick it up a notch. I need to finish the first draft of “Condos for Sale or Rent”, and I would also like to start editing my manuscript. Reading would also be nice–I’ve not read a novel in a while, and I really do need to get back into the reading habit. I’m hoping we can watch more Reacher tonight…but I have to get a lot done today in order to watch and enjoy without guilt.

I’ve not commented on the Olympics in a few days, but seriously–I am so utterly appalled by the disgusting exhibit put on by the Russians, particularly when it comes to those young girls. The entire world got to see child abuse put on full display in all of its ugly callousness this week, and my heart breaks for all three of those girls, but especially poor Kamila. Shame on the Court of Arbitration for Sport– which really needs to be investigated itself and perhaps recalibrated–because what they did in allowing that poor girl to skate has psychologically damaged her for the rest of her life. I doubt seriously we will ever see or hear anything from or about her again after she returns to the hell her life will now be in Russia, and those disgusting abusers will not be punished and this torture and abuse of young girls will continue for the greater glory of Mother Russia. I refused to watch the ladies’ final, and I am now incredibly glad that I didn’t–I won’t even watch highlights (or lowlights, as it were) because I have no desire to see abused children suffer more. The CAS destroyed these Olympics, and perhaps it’s time for there to be serious consideration of ending the entire Olympic movement. If ever there was a time when the world needed to come together to celebrate athletic accomplishment, it was this year–and boy, were we ever let down. If this is what we are going to have to witness in future Olympics, count me out–and I am a lifelong fan.

And on that note, these dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, the floors aren’t going to vacuum themselves, and my stories aren’t going to write themselves, either. Have a lovely first Saturday of Carnival, Constant Reader, and I will shout at you again tomorrow.

A Place in the Sun

Tuesday morning and I could have easily stayed in bed another three or four hours. I slept very well again last night–the alarm was quite vicious and cruel this morning–and I am blearily drinking coffee and hoping to wake up completely before getting in the shower. I have a lot of work to do this week–and so many emails that have piled up in the meantime that I am not certain I will ever get it under control–and so must sally forth into the week, regardless of how much I would rather just get back in bed and slip under the blankets and go back to sleep, really. My batteries need recharging in a serious way.

I wanted to stay up last night to watch the men’s Olympic figure skating–but by the time ten pm rolled around the skaters I wanted to watch and see–the top ones–still hadn’t gotten on the ice and I rather sadly went to bed. I was glad to see Nathan Chen broke the world record for points in the short program–and disappointed that two defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu had made a colossal mistake in his to wind up in eighth, with probably no shot at the podium. I wanted Nathan to win–still do–but I was looking forward to their showdown as two of the greatest male skaters of all time. AT least I can stay up later on Thursday to watch their free skates.

Man, I am still a shadow of my usual self this morning. I feel, I don’t know, removed from my day, somehow, if that makes sense? Like I’m experiencing my day from a distance? Hopefully the caffeine will kick into gear relatively soon because, as always, I am behind on everything.

I turned in the short story I had due yesterday this morning; it’s not, I fear, as good as it could be or could have been; I am not, despite the marvelous high I got over the course of the weekend about my writing and career, feeling terribly confident about the work I’ve recently turned in. Then again I am not the best judge of my own work, and while I am sort of hoping I am wrong, I don’t think I am this time, either. I like the title, and I like the concept behind the story; I am not sure it fires on every cylinder and I am also not sure that it necessarily works. But I don’t know that rereading it or looking it over today will do me any good; I am still a little fried from finishing the book and then traveling this past weekend. I also have to work in the office on Monday–so four days in the office next week (AIEEEEE) which means four days of six am waking up to an alarm, heavy heaving sigh.

I’ve also got to take the car into the dealership this weekend–I have a tire leaking air (again) and it’s due for an oil change, which means I’ll need to get up early either Friday or Saturday. But…I do have another story due at the end of this month, and another due at the end of the next–and at some point all these rewrites and revisions are going to hit my inbox. Heavy heaving sigh–but at least there’s no football to distract me all day Saturday and Sunday anymore–although I may tune into the Super Bowl to keep an eye on Joey B and Ja’Marr Chase (GEAUX TIGERS!).

And on that note, I am bringing this to an end and heading back into the spice mines. Here’s hoping for some more coherency tomorrow.

You Can’t Hurry Love

No, you’ll just have to wait.

Friday morning and working at home. My new in-office schedule, if you haven’t been paying attention, has been shifted to Tuesdays thru Thursdays, so now I work at home on the bookends of the weekend, Fridays and Mondays. I have data to enter and condoms to pack, ZOOM work meetings (no offense, day job, but ZOOM is the bane of my existence and has been since March 2020)–technically it’s Microsoft Teams, which is kind of the same thing, and then later, chapters to write and clothes to launder and filing to do. It’s non-stop glamour around here at the Lost Apartment, right?

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday–just routine maintenance to get my prescriptions refilled–and then came home to work on the book. I am very pleased with how it’s shaping up so far (of course, as always, I go back and forth constantly between this isn’t terrible and this is going to ruin my career, which is essentially what I do with every manuscript, so everything is normal. Realizing that I am going through my usual emotional journey with this one eased my mind significantly). We watched the first episode of the new season of Resident Alien last night, which was rather fun, and then the new Peacemaker, which I am glad we stuck with. The first episode was okay, but we weren’t sold completely on the show; I love John Cena, so obviously we were going to keep going but I didn’t have high hopes; the show seems to be hitting its stride and this week’s episode was probably one of the best. I went to bed early and then slept deeply and beautifully; so whatever it was that was bothering me earlier in the week and keeping me from sleeping apparently eased off yesterday, which is always a plus.

I also got a copy of Lisa Lutz’ The Apprentice this week; I can’t wait to dig into it. One of the primary reasons I am looking forward to finishing this manuscript is because, as always when I am going into the final stretch, I am too nervous to read another writer’s work, particularly Lutz’, because I will inevitably feel like why do I bother when there are authors like this putting work out into the world? How can I possibly compete with these incredibly smart and literate writers? Then I have to stop feeling sorry for myself and sulking to get back into the right mindset for writing my new book; which is a process and I can’t spare the time for that right now, so the books continue to pile up (this is exactly what happened when I took a break for “just an hour” to indulge myself in Alafair Burke’s Find Me and then couldn’t put the book down until next thing I knew the book was done, and I’d (I can’t say wasted; reading Alafair is never a waste of time) lost an entire day of work. I know the new Lutz will have the same effect on me; so I need to not give into temptation and even crack the book open. (I may allow myself a Laura Lippman short story later on today, as a reward after the writing is done and before I crack open the wine.)

I also have a lot of other work to do over the course of the weekend; I have emails to answer as well as some writing to do for my friend’s website, which should be a lovely distraction from all of the other things I am (always) doing. I can’t wait for you all to see the cover for A Streetcar Named Murder; it’s absolutely gorgeous (I may have to get it made into a poster). It looks like I will be doing a “cover reveal” with a book blogger, which is a new thing for me. But this is actually a mainstream book (which is an offensive term on its face; but more on that later); my main character is a straight woman who lives in the Irish Channel, is widowed, and her twin sons have just gone away to college (LSU, of course) and suddenly finds herself (and the twins) as the beneficiary of a bequest from a relative of her husband’s that she didn’t know existed; and this is the heart of a mystery she (Valerie) finds herself in the middle of trying to figure out…and of course, it eventually leads to murder. I am doing something different here–I don’t think I’ve ever done something that could be called a cozy before; although in some ways the Scotty series is precisely that (but that can be a topic for another time)–and so am not sure if I am following the established rules for the sub-genre; but I also have to tell the story that I want to tell within that framework. It was a challenge to me as a writer; and one of the things I had been feeling as a writer over the last few years was that I was getting stale; that my work was in a state of stasis and I wasn’t growing within my work. In 2015 I felt that way, too, and so I took some time away from the writing and the grindstone I’d been pushing my nose against steadily for the preceding five or six years. This was when I wrote the first draft of #shedeservedit; this was when I decided to start taking more risks with the Scotty series, and when I decided to not continue the Chanse series. I am kind of looking at 2022 through that same lens; I decided to write this novel (possible first in a series) as a challenge to push myself to do something different, take a chance, and force myself to stretch my abilities and skills.

I think Chlorine is another step forward for me as a writer; writing a historical novel set in the recent past (although I suppose the 1950’s isn’t that recent past, really–which really makes me feel horrifically old) is going to push my talents and ability as a writer, and will require a lot more focus and research (which, while I love really history and reading it, the problem is that I can never really focus my interests in solely reading and researching what I actually need to look into for what I am working on–that ADHD problem) as well as writing in a different style than what I usually do; that rat-a-tat-tat pacing and use of language that keeps the story moving and says something about the times, the culture, and the characters themselves and how systemic homophobia can affect the lives of those with same-sex attractions; in addition to the toxic culture of sexual harassment and assault that was so prevalent in old Hollywood; the 1950’s were a transitional period for Hollywood as the old studio system began to crumble in the face of a new, changed society and the challenge of television.

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

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Set me free, why don’t you, babe?

I cannot get used to having the house at a moderate temperature. It’s so weird to get up and not freeze as I come downstairs and make my first cup of coffee, while I get ready for work, anything. I also had insomnia last night, alas–but again, first time in a very long time that’s happened, so I guess I can live with it, really. I had a very good and productive day yesterday–I got caught up some on the book (still behind, but nothing that can’t be defeated by some good work getting done every day) and I also made progress on my emails. I doubt I will get the inbox emptied today, but stranger things have happened before, and could even happen again.

We finished Ozark last night, and now have to wait until the second half of the season drops before finding out what happens to the members of the cast. I can’t imagine this having a happy ending–they just keep going from bad situations to worse ones, and I can’t help but feel that Marty and Wendy are not going to have a happy ending where they escape from the criminal world and go back to having some semblance of a normal family life again; unless they get into witness protection or something like that. Julia Garner also continues to kill it as Ruth Langmore–I see another Emmy in her future–and overall, it’s really been a terrific show from the beginning. We also got caught up on Peacemaker, and started the new season of Servant, which is even weirder than the first two seasons–which is actually saying a great deal.

Apparently the NFL had some great play-off games this weekend; as I’ve noted before, outside of the Saints I generally don’t follow (and don’t care) very much about pro football; now that so many LSU players are in the NFL I pay a little more attention to them because–well, LSU players; and how could I not pay attention to the professional success of the kids from that great 2019 season, especially Joe Burrow, who still wears an LSU wrist band in every game he plays for the Bengals? I can’t root against Tyrann Mathieu or Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs) or Justin Jefferson (Vikings), or whenever I hear a former LSU player’s name called in a game it becomes very difficult for me to root against them (unless, of course, they play for the Falcons, in which case all bets are off). It’s weird–it’s been a while since the post-season continued without the Saints, so I could stop paying attention to football on the weekends and get things done.

The weekend was good, over all. I did manage to get what I planned to get done with the book–didn’t quite finish the filing, organizing and cleaning, though–and I did brainstorm for a bit about two stories I am writing and are due soon (yikes) while I was waiting for Paul to finish whatever it was he was doing (work no doubt) and come downstairs to watch television last evening. It’s very strange how bipolar being a writer can make one; Saturday I was struggling with the work, which was why I only did one chapter instead of the planned two. I was certain Saturday that the book was garbage, unfixable, and was going to be the end of my career. Yesterday I zipped through three chapters, thinking this isn’t bad at all, really and occasionally this is actually working and I am enjoying myself. Seriously, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown multiple times since I started working in this literally insane industry.

But fortunately I do enjoy writing. I do enjoy doing the work–even when I hate doing the work, which is usually when it just won’t come for whatever reason and I am forcing it–and I actually enjoy editing and revising because you are making it better, which is always a pleasant feeling. And that’s how I was feeling with it yesterday–I am making this better–and why I had so much fun with it. Hopefully that same sense of joy will resurface tonight–although every once in a while I will get to a part that has to be completely redone because I changed something earlier in the book and then I sob internally before I start screaming internally.

But it’s always up and down, and if anything, my mood swings and chemical imbalances make me perfect for being a writer; because it has proven to be a rollercoaster ride of its own (kind of like the chemical imbalances) and if anything, I’ve gotten used to my life feeling like a rollercoaster; slow climbs to heights, speedy descents into lows, and the ever popular stomach-churning loop-de-loops. But I write because I love to write, and after learning how to edit and revise, I love the process of making the work better than it originally was–much as I would love to believe I can write a perfect first draft I no longer make myself crazy trying to get it all right the first time. And there are times I have stories that I don’t know how to fix (usually short stories; I still have many from college writing classes that have potential but have to actually be revised or edited in some way to make them publishable; I did finally figure out how to make “Whim of the Wind” work–after almost forty years–and that’s one of the stories I plan to revisit when I am finished with this manuscript. I do enjoy writing, even if the business of writing makes me crazy; I also like writing what I want to write. Sure, every now and then I think to myself “hey this is a really great commercial idea”–but usually it’s more along the lines of “I think this is an interesting story and I want to take a shot at writing it.”

And sometimes…sometimes the final book doesn’t feel as complete and finished as I would like, even if it sells and gets nice reviews and award recognition; in which case I will always revisit the base idea but with different characters, different location, and different styles of writing. I know I have a tendency to always use the same type of structure with my short stories–which I need to stop doing, because when you do a collection it becomes rather obvious, which I noticed (even if no one else did) with Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories…

Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines on a chilly morning. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader.

Ask Any Girl

Sunday morning and I wish I was coming down.

But a cold spell has descended upon New Orleans overnight, and its chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning. I overslept–much later than ever–and didn’t rise until ten this morning; obviously, all that “outgoing energy” I spent on the MWA ZOOM board orientation drained my batteries completely. That, and the cold, I suspect, combined to make me not want to get out of bed this morning–in fact, I could just as easily go straight back to bed and probably could fall asleep for a while. I am sure that has more to do with the cold than anything else; all I really want to do is get underneath a blanket and stay warm–so when I finish this I am going to go sit in my easy chair under a blanket and read some more of the new Alafair Burke novel before diving into this morning’s writing. I am going to do my best to pretend my email inbox doesn’t exist today and solely focus on resting, reading, and writing.

We finished watching Murders at Starved Rock last night, which was actually kind of annoying; the entire premise of the documentary is the man who served over forty years for the murders might be innocent, and yet they finished filming before the DNA tests came back (due in 2022)? I mean, sure, they can always do one more episode later, but come on–you left the audience hanging? Why put the documentary together and release it now? Paul and I found this to be terribly irritating and annoying. We then moved on to Season 2 of Cheer–I had wondered if they would do another season, given how incredibly popular the original was back in those early days of the pandemic; I actually think it may have come out before the pandemic–it’s so hard to remember these things now. I had wondered how they would do the second season–given how successful the first was–and I have to say, the decision to focus on how the sudden fame has affected everyone there at Navarro College and the town, while still trying to get prepared for the next Nationals–and taking a look at their arch-rival from Trinity Valley as well–was a very wise choice. The Trinity Valley coach also makes a good villain, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. So far so good; will keep you posted as we get further into the season.

We haven’t even gotten to the part where one of the breakout stars is arrested for inappropriate behavior with an underaged boy yet–although I am not sure I am all that keen on watching how that plays out, really, other than in a “can’t look away from the train wreck” kind of way. And isn’t that really the allure of reality television in the first place? The opportunity to be voyeurs without judgment? (Hmmm, that would be an excellent jumping off point for an essay, wouldn’t it? Hmmm.)

But I need to write today; reshaping and revising my manuscript so that it’s ready to go to the editor, and everything else I have to do is going onto the back-burner to simmer for a little while longer. I have been thinking also a lot about a couple of stories I need to get finished, “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “Solace in a Dying Hour,” and I need to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” one more time. I was also very pleased to see the Cincinnati Bengals won their play-off game yesterday (I don’t really care about the NFL outside of the Saints, but I, as an LSU fan, am also a huge fan of both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who are now killing it at the professional level so I follow the Bengals a bit; I also pay attention to the Chiefs more than I ordinarily would because two favorite LSU players are also on their roster.)

And on that note, I am getting another cup of coffee and retiring to my chair to read some more of Alafair’s new book before diving back into mine.

Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader!

Come See About Me

Tuesday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment, if a little tired/tiring.

Georgia won the national championship last night! I had to go to bed at the start of the fourth quarter, when the score was 13-12 (Alabama had first and goal inside the five, and had to kick a field goal to pull within one) and I thought to myself, Georgia might actually win this–something I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to, quite frankly–Alabama being, well, Alabama–but I can only imagine how wonderful it felt last night for the Dawg fans to finally beat Alabama and win a title–of any kind (and yes, I can completely relate–I still savor memories of LSU’s win over the Tide in 2019 for the first time in eight long years). This is the third time in the last decade an SEC team has won the national title without winning the conference (Alabama has done it twice already); the third straight year a different SEC team has won the national championship (LSU, Alabama, Georgia); and the first time a team from the SEC East has won a national title since 2008 (Florida)–as well as Georgia’s first since 1980 (!). FIVE SEC teams have won national titles since the turn of the century (LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and now Georgia)–which should definitely bring the SEC haters out of the woodwork for sure.

And for the record, haters, only Alabama has won more national titles this century than LSU.

I was tired last night by the time the game actually started–I had the time wrong, and tuned in at the end of the first quarter, just before Georgia tied it 3-3–because I’d been doing the Bold Strokes Book-a-thon promotional reading with four other writers with new books out this month, which was a lot of fun…but coming as it did after an hour-and-a-half television interview that came on top of rushing home from work to get there in time for the call…yeah, by the time I settled into the easy chair and opened up Hulu I was worn out. I managed to revise/edit a short story yesterday during my lunch break and while the other authors were reading–I am nothing if not a multi-tasker–and also finished another blog post for the Bold Strokes website. I also managed to get most of my email answered yesterday; there’s no telling what’s in there this morning as I haven’t really had the heart to look, to be frank. (I just did–nothing really other than spam, huzzah! At least for now.) It’s also only 41 degrees this morning–small wonder I didn’t want to get out of bed, really–so that means a sweatshirt under my T-shirt for work this morning and a lot of bitterness on my part. But at least I am on vacation starting tomorrow (this would have been my travel day to New York) which means I don’t have to get up tomorrow and I can dive into the final revision of the book. It’s technically due on Saturday and Monday is a holiday, so I’ll be checking with them to make sure it’s okay if I send it in on Monday (probably really late that night), but I am assuming it will be since most publishers don’t work on weekends or holidays).

Fingers crossed!

I am kind of looking forward to this staycation, despite the enormous disappointment in not going to New York. I have a lot to do–as long as I stay focused–and I am hopeful I will be able to get most of it taken care of since I have been so productive lately. Last night’s interview went well, as did the ZOOM reading, even if that much extroversion exhausted me. I want to get back to reading again–I stalled out on the last book I was reading, and have decided to alas cast it aside and choose another; returning that one to the TBR pile for another shot later…sometimes a book just doesn’t click with me when i try to read it, so I always try to give said book a second chance later. If it doesn’t take on the second try…that’s when it goes into the donate pile. I probably shouldn’t give books a second chance–given the status of the tottering stacks of books in the living room–but there have been any number of books that really grabbed me the second time I tried (The Stand is actually one of these, and there was another one in the pandemic times that I picked up and tried again with the end result that I absolutely LOVED it; I wish I could remember which one it was…) and so I am hesitant to deny myself even the possibility of missing out on a chance to read something fantastic.

But I also need to do something about the books. I also need to stop buying more until and unless I actually get rid of some that I have on hand–or at least until I can clear out some space in the storage attic to move some of these to…but that again shows the hoarder mentality–I will never go digging through boxes in the attic to find a book that’s stored up there; I would just buy another copy. So…maybe just clear them out and if I want to read them at some point in the future just suck it up and buy another copy, or get it from the library?

I don’t know.

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

A Breathtaking Guy

It’s very strange to be writing blog posts that are Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) about a book that is about toxic masculinity, while including photos of hot men in the post and giving the posts titles that are questionable at best (my titles are always song titles; for those who are unaware of how I do this–if you don’t care skip ahead to the end parenthesis–I am now going down the discography of hits/recordings by the Supremes in all of their iterations; my OCD kicks in and refuses to allow me to vary from this routine no matter what; it’s one of those things I fear will end up being the string you wind up pulling that eventually unravels the entire fabric of modern civilization. I never said it makes sense to anyone outside of my brain, really; which is a good thing because I am quite sure this is one of those weird things that get you side-eye from strangers as they slowly and carefully back away from you).

I mean, yes, the Supremes have great song titles, but are they appropriate titles for blog posts about a book centering toxic masculinity? Am I sending a mixed message here, which is always possible?

Anyway, this had been a week. I started writing this yesterday morning but since I’d overslept, other stuff had to take priority. I was exhausted last night–this fucking week, seriously–but now it’s Saturday and that week is in the past and my work is done. I took last evening off after working on the book for a little bit and started writing a new short story with an old title (“The Rosary of Broken Promises,” which was a story I had already started but changed the name of already, so this one was available…but it’s going to be tricky keeping the version straight and renaming files, which I will have to do today and should do today so it won’t be tricky keeping the versions straight) and then took the rest of the evening off, to watch the LSU Gymnastics team and the the US Figure Skating Championships (I’ll be watching more of that today as well, whenever it is on). Today I need to work on my email inbox, I need to write write write, and there are, as always, chores to be done around the Lost Apartment. My kitchen is an utter disaster area yet again, and of course it needs to be gotten under control before I can focus on writing, of course.

As always. Like always.

I try to always “clean as you go” (my first job was McDonalds, after all), but as the week progresses and I become more and more tired and less and less energetic, I tend to let things begin to pile up around the kitchen thinking meh I’ll get to that later when I’m not so tired. Needless to say, it generally takes until Saturday for me to stop feeling so tired that I have the energy to do any of it. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed about getting older that is truly the only thing about it I truly regret–the loss of energy, the needing to ration what energy remains in my battered old body. I inevitably get about eight hours of sleep on the nights when I have to get up early the next morning; on the nights I do not have to get up early I generally sleep for nine hours. Yesterday morning I literally slept until almost ten, which never happens, and I stumbled up to bed between ten thirty and eleven. I was clearly exhausted; Thursday was a draining emotional rollercoaster of a day, and by the time I was finally able to get through it all–and a few episodes of the quite marvelous Yellowjackets–I went to bed completely drained and exhausted.

And probably the biggest disaster I need to clean up is my email inbox. I’m not sure precisely when it got so out of control, but it is definitely that now. (My back-up hard drive files are also an enormous mess, but I worry if I try to get into that before I do my writing, I’ll get sucked into a black hole of reorganizing files and photos and before I know it I have wasted yet another day.) So the goal for today is to write this, clean the kitchen, get cleaned up myself, and then settle in for a lengthy afternoon of writing before the skating starts–although with the magic of streaming services, we no longer have to watch it live or try to DVR it; we can watch it whenever we feel like it. I’m not sure if Paul is going into the office today or not; he usually does after seeing his trainer, which leaves me home alone all day, which is quite lovely and helpful when it comes to productivity. I think I am going to start trying to go workout again either today or tomorrow; it’s time to kickstart my working out again now that I know I am not going to New York next week after all (heavy heaving sigh) so that trip won’t throw me off the schedule. I know it will make me feel physically better, and will help me sleep better, and who knows? At some point my muscles might even start growing again and I might even drop some fat weight.

I know, right? STOP THE INSANITY.

So, yes, I must write today to try to get caught up on things. I need to clean and organize and listen to music and do all kinds of things. At some point this afternoon I am going to make potato-leek soup in my crockpot–it’s the right weather in New Orleans now for hot soup–and try to make it through my emails in some kind of way that isn’t distracting but gets the inbox cleaned out.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines for me. May your Saturday be lovely and charming, Constant Reader.