Never Grow Up

Being an adult is seriously overrated.

I was never really one to look ahead when I was younger; I don’t ever remember wishing I was older when I was a kid, or wanting time to go by faster so I could become an adult more quickly. I generally tend to remember my pre-adult life as miserable and unhappy, and while that’s an over-exaggeration to be sure–I often had fun when I was young, even if it was overlaying sadness–but as a queer kid who knew he didn’t fit in anywhere and never truly belonged (part of this was also being a child drawn to artistic pursuits and interests as opposed to everyone else; it wasn’t just the gay thing), I kind of didn‘t want to grow up and become an adult–I didn’t want to get married, I had no interest in having children, and any career options or choices that were being presented to me as desirable by the adults in my family all sounded horrific to me; the only thing that even seemed remotely possible was teaching, and even that was fraught (I have never been fond of standing up in front of a room full of people and speaking–although it wasn’t until later in life that it became such a horrific source of anxiety for me).

And while I may have turned fifty-nine in this most bizarre year of my life thus far, I still don’t feel like I’ve ever completely become a grown-up; God knows I’m certainly not the most mature person you’re ever going to meet.

And if I am the most mature person you ever meet, God help you.

So here it is Wednesday, mid-week, and we’re chugging right along. I got blindsided by a family crisis late Monday evening, which took most of my emotional energy yesterday, but while it is still in process the situation was somewhat better last night–still serious, but not as potentially terrifying as it was originally. Needless to say, by the time I was finished with work and came home yesterday I was exhausted, but I kept up this new routine I started on Monday night–when I get home from work, I take a shower and wash the day off me, and this gives me a boost of energy to get some things done. It is rather nice to get laundry done and getting the kitchen under control each evening, you know, and I’m sleeping better, which is always a lovely plus. I didn’t want to get up this morning–which was to be expected; it’s my first week of getting up early three days in a row, and of course this week has already worn me down to a bit of a nub. I get to work from home on Thursday and Friday, so it’s all okay, but it’s going to take me a while to get used to this new schedule.

They never tell you that being an adult is really just moving from one crisis to another.

I must stay flexible, must keep bending to the wind rather than breaking.

As far as mantras go, it’s the one that seems to be working–at least so far.

And I also realized last night that we’re actually almost midway through October already–yikes! This is what comes from wishing your life away, really; you keep pushing to get through every week and you’re not really paying attention to dates and suddenly it’s the 14th, which really leaves you with only slightly less than three weeks before the month ends, which is when you need to get things done by. YIKES. But I think it will be okay, everything is going to work out and be all right, but damn–there are times when it feels like getting caught up is a completely hopeless, Sisyphus-with-the-rock sort of task. But that’s why I make lists, why I try to pay attention to those lists, and today’s goal is to try to get back to work on this week’s list, all the while trying to monitor and keep tabs on the family crisis.

If it’s not one thing, it is most definitely another.

It’s also Payday this morning; or as I call it, Pay-the-Bills day. While it’s always delightful to see the amount of money still owed on the car slowly but surely getting lower and lower–at the rate I am going it will be paid off sometime around next summer, which is earlier than the loan’s end, but Christ it is so hard to get that damned thing paid off–and I can see financial daylight again; an end to this constant worry about paying the bills and buying groceries. And hopefully, this car will last me for the rest of my life so I never have to buy another one or go this far into debt ever again.

One can hope, at any rate.

The sun is rising in the east–which is always weird here in the Lost Apartment, because it always seems like the sun is coming up over the West Bank, but in my neighborhood the west bank (which simply means the west bank of the river) is actually due south of New Orleans; trying to untangle directions here is something I’ve written about any number of times. Part of the off-balance feeling New Orleans gives you subconsciously is from the lack of sense of direction; the North Shore means the north shore of the lake but the south shore–New Orleans/Metairie/Kenner–is also crescent-shaped, just like how the original city was nestled inside a crescent-shaped curve of the river (hence Crescent City)…so to get to the North Shore on I-10, for example, to Slidell and Mississippi, you have to head east on the highway–and west is how you get to Baton Rouge, not the West Bank. It looks like it’s going to be a sunny day with a cerulean sky with some cloud scattered across its expanse; I’ll take sunny over gloomy any day of the week. I’ve not had the heart to look at the tropical weather forecast yet this week, so if there’s anything struggling to form out there somewhere, it has yet to appear on my radar and I’m not terribly sorry about that, either. We still have a month and a half left of hurricane season; while it’s not that common for storms to form in November it’s also not outside the realm of possibilities.

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for work. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–Lord knows I am going to try.

The Truck Driver and His Mate

And somehow here we are at Friday again. Christ, these weeks seem to last forever, and yet somehow I still manage to get so very little fucking done. It seems as though every Friday morning I find myself staring into the gaping maw of my email inbox, with so many emails to answer and some not only need to be answered by require me to do something; to look something up; to verify something; or make some sort of decision. I’m trying very hard not to make myself crazy (crazier, at any rate) and yet…and other emails are getting pushed down further into my inbox, and I know what I really need to do is reverse the order so that the oldest ones are at the top, but I shudder at the very thought of that. And yet, realistically, I know I have to do that one morning and deal with those emails, because with every day they become that much older.

Yesterday was exhausting. By the time I got home–after making works bags all afternoon for the needle exchange and gathering today’s supplies for condom packing (I have calls to make today, so rather than watching my next selected films–Alien and Aliens back to back on HBO MAX–I will be talking on the telephone as I make my condom packs, at least for part of the day; multi-tasking, as it were). And when quitting time rolls around later this afternoon, rather than curling up with Blacktop Wasteland, as I would much rather prefer, I am going to have to start the heavy lifting on the revisions of chapters one thru ten of Bury Me in Shadows, because in order to remain on schedule with it I need to have that finished by Sunday evening in order to begin work on chapters eleven through twenty.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I wonder if I will ever reach a point in my life where I don’t feel crushing guilt for not responding to emails within five minutes of their reception; for not having the energy after a lengthy day at the office or of doing day-job activities at home to work on my writing or read a book; for not having the drive to get things done, for not always being in motion, for not being, basically, a Stepford wife. My apartment is a disaster area, there’s another load of dishes to be done, and its Friday, the day I usually launder the bed linens. The car has a tire with a slow leak in it, so at some point I need to find the time to head over to a gas station to refill the tire with air, and also need to find the time to take it back into the dealership to have the tire dealt with, as well as have routine maintenance done. I am sleeping deeply and well every night, but so deeply that every morning I could probably, if I could, sleep several hours more and my body harbors a resentment towards my brain for forcing my body out of the bed and pouring coffee down its throat and trying to get some kind of grip on the day ahead. Even as I sit here typing I can see the number changing on the tab where my email inbox is opened; possibly more junk to simply be deleted, but there will inevitably be something in there I need to read, that will need to be responded to, will perhaps require me to think or take some kind of further action.

Partly this malaise I feel this morning is inevitably connected to the relief that the lumps in my pectorals are nothing more than genetic fatty deposits hardening into cysts that do not endanger my health nor require any further action or activity on my part; while I was doing my best to repress those worries and push them down deep into my brain and consciousness, the worry and stress wasn’t gone, and the feeling of relief has released a lot stress I wasn’t aware I was carrying. There’s probably some other sort of cathartic release of pent-up stress and energy I could and should be doing; that might help me get motivated and stop feeling so defeated every day.

And I probably should get back into therapy, if I only could carve that time out in my weeks.

Part of it has to do, I am certain, with the sense that I am not organized; but I am also very well aware that even should I carve a day out to get organized it won’t help at all with the sense of drowning and being overwhelmed; the feeling that I have that each limb and appendage is tied to a horse facing a different direction and someone is about to fire the starting pistol. And yet, even now, as the coffee and caffeine from my first cup courses through my veins and my mind begins to throw off its sluggishness and that melted feeling begins to fade from my muscles, I am aware that all the things that I allow to frustrate me (I wish I had a place where I could spread the manuscript out and piece it back together after tearing it all apart and I wish I had enough space for all my books and I wish I could rearrange my time so that I had time for everything I need to get done and I wish I could stop being so lazy or at least stop imagining and believing that I am lazy and I wish I had more self-confidence and I wish I could I wish I wish I wish) can neither be helped nor changed by simply wishing it to be so, and therefore allowing these immutable, unchangeable facts about my current situation in life to defeat or frustrate me is, ultimately, self-destructive (a regular pattern in my life deeply rooted in my consciousness from being told repeatedly that I was a loser so I started believing it, believed it for years, and revert to that mentality frequently whenever under stress or pressure) and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, instead I should be looking back at this past year and what I have accomplished. I have had any number of successes with short stories, giving the lie to the insidious belief that I am not a good short story writer. Just this week I sold another one, “The Snow Globe”; I had two come out in anthologies around the same time (“The Silky Veils of Ardor” in The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Joni Mitchell and “The Dreadful Scott Decision” in The Faking of the President); I sold “The Carriage House” to Mystery Tribune and Night Follows Night” to an anthology titled Buried; I pushed myself by writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” to The Only One in the World anthology; and my story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” was sold to an anthology I really need to follow up with, as I’ve not heard anything about it in quite some time. I still have two out on submission, but those are both long shots I don’t have a lot of confidence will land–and that is not self-deprecation; both are fine stories, but are undoubtedly buried in piles of hundreds of submissions, hence the strong possibility they won’t be sold. Both stories are works I am pleased with, “Moves in the Field” and “This Thing of Darkness,” and while the short story market has certainly dried up dramatically since I started publishing, I enjoy writing stories and would love to publish more of them.

But I need to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and turned in, so I can get the Kansas book worked on one more time and turned in as well, and then I can get going on Chlorine. I can get everything done that I need to get done, and need to stop allowing negativity to creep into my brain; there’s enough negativity in life already that I don’t need to create my own.

And so I am going to go get my second cup of coffee, and I am going to start digging through the emails. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and remember–don’t let anyone, especially yourself, hold you back.

He Stopped Loving Her Today

I put off making a grocery run from Saturday to Sunday, like a fool, only to discover the Baronne Street Rouse’s closed for Easter this year; I decided not to go to the one in Uptown because I didn’t feel like driving all the way down there only to find out the drive had been in vain. I did stop at the gas station–filled it up for slightly more than fifteen dollars, something that’s never happened since I bought the thing–and then at Walgreens to get a few things I could get there. It was weird navigating the empty streets of New Orleans; I was reminded very much of that time post-Katrina when I came back and most of the city was empty. I itched to turn stop lights into stop signs–and at one point did stop at a stop sign and wait for it to change. It was weird, very weird–the vast emptiness of streets that are usually filled with cars and seeing more people than the beggars at the intersections. Had the stop lights not have been working, the similarities would have been even eerier.

And of course, people were going through red lights and ignoring all rules of traffic, because they clearly were the only people our driving. #cantfixtrash

I managed to eke out another thousand words on the Sherlock story,  and I was enormously pleased to make some sort of progress.  It’s very weird because I am trying out the Doyle voice and style–which I am neither familiar with nor used to–which makes the going perhaps slower than it ordinarily would be. At least I hope that’s the case, at any rate; it’s been so long since I’ve actually written anything or worked on anything and gotten anywhere with it, I sometimes fear that I’ve fallen out of the habit and practice of writing. (I always worry the ability to write–the ability to create–is going to go away and leave me, particularly in time of crisis; my reaction to the Time of Troubles, sadly, wasn’t to retreat into my writing but rather to stop almost entirely.)

Yesterday was rather delightful; the entire weekend was lovely. It’s always nice to get rest, to sleep well, to be able to read and occasionally do some writing. I am very deep into Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting and, while I do distinctly remember enjoying the book when I read it, I am loving it more than I would have thought (as I have with the other recent Stewart rereads); perhaps as a writer myself and an older person, it resonates more? I can appreciate the artistry more? I don’t know, but I am really glad I decided to revisit Stewart novels I’ve not read in decades again. I just can’t get over how she brilliantly she undercuts the governess/Jane Eyre trope, and how easily she does it. Truly remarkable. I also finished it before bed, and it’s marvelous, simply marvelous–and will be the subject of another blog post.

We started watching Devs on Hulu last night, which people have been raving about, and while I give it a lot of props for production values…it moved so slowly I kept checking my social media on my iPad. It was vaguely interesting, sort of, but we just couldn’t get vested in it–there was a bit of a show-offy nature to it; like they were going overboard in saying see how good we are? We’re an important show and we’re going to win all the Emmys. I doubt we’ll go back to it, especially since Killing Eve is back, and Dead to Me is coming back for its second season; something else we watch was also returning relatively soon, too–and of course, I just remembered I pay for CBS All Access; not sure why, but there are some shows on there I’d like to watch, like the new Star Trek shows and Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone. (But you see what I’m saying about paying too much for too many streaming services? I really need to pay more attention to that, and one of these days I’m going to need to sit down, figure out what we need and what we don’t need, and cut some of these services off once and for all.

I think my next reread for the Reread Project is going to be the first in Elizabeth Peters’ amazing Amelia Peabody series, Crocodile on the Sandbank. There’s an Amelia Peabody fan account on Twitter (@teamramses) that I follow; they usually post quotes from the books and occasionally run polls, and they also reminded me of how I discovered the series. I originally found it on the wire rack (when I replied to the tweet, I got it wrong; I said I found it on the paperback rack at Walgreens; wrong drug store chain) of paperbacks at a Long’s drugstore in Fresno. I was still deep in the thrall of Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Mary Stewart at the time, and here was another romantic suspense novel SET IN EGYPT, by an author I didn’t know. I absolutely loved the book, and looked for more books by Elizabeth Peters the next time I went to Waldenbooks at the mall–but they didn’t have any, and eventually I forgot about her. Flash forward many years, and a title of a new paperback on the new releases rack at Waldenbooks and More jumped out at me: The Last Camel Died at Noon. What a great title! I had to buy it, took it home, and started reading it….and you can imagine my delight, and joy, to discover that Crocodile on the Sandbank was not, in fact, a stand alone, but rather the first in a series I was bound to love. I went back and started the series over from the beginning, collecting them all, and I also started buying them as new releases in hardcover because I couldn’t wait for the paperback. It might not actually be a bad idea to revisit the entire series…I also think The Last Camel Died at Noon (it’s still one of my favorite titles of all time) was when I discovered Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels were both the pseudonyms of archaeologist Dr. Barbara Mertz, and I went on a delightful period of reading all of their backlists as well.

One of my biggest regrets of my writing career–in which I’ve met so many of my writing heroes–is that I was never able to meet Dr. Mertz before she died. She was going to be the guest of honor at the first Malice Domestic I attended, but she was too ill and she died shortly thereafter. But one thing I learned, from reading all of her books–but especially the Peters novels–was that humor can work in a suspense/mystery novel, and can make a reader engage even more with it. Dr. Mertz was also a master of the great opening line. In one of the Vicky Bliss novels, for example–I think Silhouette in Scarlet–opens with this treasure: “I swear, this time it was not my fault.”

And while I have been cleared to return to work today, my failure in deciding to wait until Easter to go to the grocery store, as well as forgetting an integral and necessary part to my working at home today at the office over a week ago means that I decided to use today as a vacation day, and try to get all the remaining loose odds and ends (mail, groceries) taken care of today, and return to the actual office tomorrow. (I am going to do the windows today if it kills me.) Yesterday we were supposed to have bad thunderstorms, and while the air got thick and heavy, it never actually rained here–although the rest of Louisiana was blasted with these same storms that somehow chose to avoid New Orleans–there were even tornadoes in Monroe.

The weirdest thing to come out of this whole experience has been my sudden, new addiction to my Kindle app on my iPad, which has me thinking that I can do a massive purge/cull  of my books now, keeping only the ones I can’t replace, if needed, as ebooks. I’ve avoided reading electronically for so long, but I find with my Kindle app I can just put the iPad to the side for a little while and pick it up again when I have a moment or so to read. I tore through all the Mary Stewart novels I’ve reread recently on the Kindle app, and that’s where my copy of Crocodile on the Sandbank is. I doubt that I’m going to get rid of all my books any time soon–there are still some I want to keep, obviously, and it’s not like I can afford right now to go to the Amazon website or the iBooks one and replace everything right now anyway…but then again, I think, you’d only need replace them when you’re ready to read them, right?

I am literally torn here.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. I made some great progress on the Sherlock story–it now clocks in at over two thousand words, and I’d like to get a working first draft finished, if not today, then before the weekend so I can edit it and the other story that’s due by the end of the month as well over the course of the weekend. April is beginning to slip through my fingers, and while I am still not completely certain of what day it is every day, I’m getting better about figuring it all out.

Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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Desperado

Sunday morning, and a restful Saturday was had by everyone, I hope?

Who had Greg won’t get everything done he wanted to get done yesterday on their Bingo cards? Congratulations, you just may be Sunday morning’s big winner!

I did finish reading Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death, which was a lot of fun and a nice, fun read. I greatly enjoyed the main character, Darla, and the cast and characters around her Brooklyn bookstore, that she inherited from her great-aunt Dee. I also see that  building a mystery series around a bookstore is a good way to gently make fun of publishing and authors and crazy fans; perhaps that’s something I should think about doing? LOL. But it’s a very well-written, well developed novel, and an excellent start to a series. I will undoubtedly read more of Brandon’s series, as well as the books written by her alter-ego.

I also started reading Carol Goodman’s The Sea of Lost Girls, and got sucked in immediately. I was enormously reluctant to put it aside in order to get back to cleaning, and wish I could devote the entirety of today to reading it; alas, I have to get a lot done today that i didn’t get done yesterday. More writing, more emails, and more cleaning; I also have to get that tire aired up that is low, get gas, and go to the gym. I slept deeply and well again last night–I woke originally at seven, but the bed was entirely too comfortable and since I could, I stayed in for slightly more than an another hour this morning; what can I say? I did walk over to Office Depot to get file folders and a new check register (I use small spiral notebooks; my handwriting is too big and sprawling to use the ones banks provide) and I need to get my checkbook balanced again today. It’s also the first of a new month; how terrifying that it’s already March again. The weather was quite beautiful yesterday–sunny and in the 70’s–and it looks as though that will be the weather again today, which will be nice. I am going to work on my emails this morning and getting organized, then I’ll go take care of the car and go to the gym, and then come home to see if I can get some more writing done. I have a short story due at the end of the month; it finally came to me last night how I can actually write the story and have it make sense (thanks in part to reading the Ali Brandon novel; so thanks, Ali. Seriously, many times the solution to problems with my own writing is solved by reading that of others; the Brandon novel bears no resemblance to my story whatsoever, but reading it made me think about plot and structure, and that led to the breakthrough on my short story; so much of writing is reading, really).

I did write some more on some of the stories I currently have in progress–not very much, mind you, and not nearly enough–but it counts as work, so I am going to take it.

I also finally recognized that the primary problem (again, thank you, Ali Brandon) I was having with the Secret Project was (besides a singular lack of imagination) the old problem I always have with writing: I hadn’t really settled on a name for the main character that I was completely okay with. I went back and forth on several names, first and last, and then yesterday the perfect name for her came to me, and things started clicking into place. Naturally, I made a note of it, and to be honest, writing the short story “Gossip”–which was one of the ones I made some progress on yesterday–also clicked into place how to work on the Secret Project and how to make it work. There are also any number of other reasons this hasn’t worked and clicked into place yet–not the least of which is that I haven’t really done the back work necessary to write. I just started writing, thinking I could make it work as I go…but the thing kept stalling because there were things I didn’t know. My goal for this month now has shifted; now not only do I want to get that one particular story finished by the end of the month (which is when it’s due) but I want to get this finished as well. I am going to spend this week writing that story that is due, while doing the necessary back work on the Secret Project. Next weekend I will revise what I’ve already written, based on the back work, and then I’ll go ahead and get the next two chapters finished while building an outline. That’s a lot of work to get done this month–particularly since the Festivals are at the end of the month–but I think if I stay focused and don’t allow other things to distract me, there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t get this all finished.

Other than the usual Gregalicious reasons, of course.

So, perhaps it’s time for me to get back to it. There’s a load of dishes to put away with another waiting to go in; an enormous pile of stuff in my inbox that needs sorting and filing; and a whole  hell of a lot of emails that need responses. Heavy sigh. Lots of spice to mine today, folks, so enjoy your Sunday and think of me toiling away….

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Seven Year Ache

SATURDAY and the first weekend of parades! There are a ridiculous amount of them today: (Pontchartrain, Choctaw, and Freret this afternoon; Pygmalion and Sparta tonight), starting at one and following each other. Theoretically, there’s a break between afternoon and evening parades, but since they rarely start on time and are frequently delayed, I suspect there will be no such break today; or if there is one, it won’t be for very long.

Yesterday, despite getting off work early, the traffic home was horrendous. I had to run uptown to get the mail and had intended to get groceries as well, but I guess the parades were already started lining up on Tchoupitoulas, which forced all uptown/downtown traffic onto Magazine, Prytania, and St. Charles. I was unable to get to the grocery store–I’m going to try again this morning, despite the very real possibility I won’t be able to park anywhere near the Lost Apartment once I get back–but the first parade isn’t until one this afternoon, so I’m hopeful it won’t be an impossible task. I did get home, got started on the laundry and put a load into the dishwasher before heading to the gym–yes, that’s right; I made it to the gym during parade season and no, I don’t want a cookie. In the past my workouts always got derailed during Carnival–in fact, the last time I started going to the gym regularly Carnival broke the habit and I didn’t go back. So I am determined this year–no matter how difficult it might be–to get to the gym during Carnival this year. It will require some finesse, but I think I can manage to get it handled this year. I am really liking the way the working out is making me feel–and I’m sleeping better than I have in years. That, alone, makes it worthwhile. So, in a little bit I’m going to head uptown to get the mail–a package was delivered yesterday–and then I am heading to the grocery store; I only need a few things, so the entire trip–including the mail–shouldn’t be more than an hour, max.

I also got some more writing done yesterday–just a smidge, not very much–but I am hoping to get some more done today before the parades arrive. If the first starts at one, it probably won’t be here to the Neighborhood of the Nine Muses until around two-ish (which is why I think there really won’t be much of a break today between parades).

It was cold out on the parade route last night–it’s still chilly today, with a high in the low sixties–but it will be sunny, so all I need is a sweatshirt rather than a jacket, and of course a cap to cover my baldness, which feels the cold so much faster than the rest of me. We only were out there last night for about half an hour at most; we wandered up during Cleopatra (I was finishing the laundry during Oshun), caught some beads, and wandered back home, choosing to skip Alla and rest up for today’s insanity. It was much more crowded than I thought it would be–it’s never very crowded on the first night, but then it also usually rains on the first night–and everyone was having a good time and was very friendly. I think that’s one of the major parts of parade season no one thinks about or talks about–the fact that the entire stretch of the parade route is crowded with people and there’s never any problems or issues; if there are, they are few and far between and you don’t really hear about them. Everyone is in a good mood; people share their liquor with strangers; and it’s just a big genial party. That is almost as much fun as catching things.

Yeah, right. No, catching things is the BEST part.

At first, too, I wasn’t doing very well–I was misjudging throws and missing things. Someone from one of the floats threw a purple and gold LSU football at me–I was bedecked in LSU gear from head to toe–and it glanced off my fingers and bounced off a different direction. But I didn’t even have time to feel bad about missing the football because a handful of beads were coming right for my hand–and in true Wonder Woman bullets-and-bracelets fashion, my hand darted up and grabbed them.

I may start out rusty, but once I’m warmed up, I am plucking things from the air left and right.

So, I am hoping to finish the laundry that’s currently in the dryer, then I am going to get a cup of coffee to go and head uptown to get my package and then swing by the grocery store on the way home. I hope to have time to get some writing done this morning, and then of course it’s parades parades parades all day long.

I also started writing yet another short story this week with the working title “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop” (I will most likely shorten it at some point to “Rest Stop,” I don’t know. Maybe I’ll leave it the same.). I don’t know where it came from; I was busy doing data entry and work and happily listening to Spotify (I created a GAY DANCE MIX playlist on there, and it’s quite delightful, actually) when the idea came to me. I just envisioned a woman, driving from Chattanooga north on I-75, going somewhere she doesn’t want to, and  needing to stop because she has to use the bathroom–urgently. Incidentally, she isn’t from Chattanooga, but the story is set on the highway heading north between Chattanooga and Knoxville, through the Smoky Mountains. I am very familiar with that drive, as I have made it any number of times in the past twenty years since my parents moved to Kentucky; it’s a gorgeous stretch of road–the views are spectacular; the Smoky Mountains are quite beautiful–but it’s also extremely terrifying as well. The highway clings to the side of mountains and sometimes the climb is difficult, and then of course you have to be careful going down the other side because if you don’t pay attention suddenly you’re doing more than a hundred miles an hour and you don’t want to be doing that because of sharp curves and bastard eighteen-wheelers. It’s also very dark once the sun goes down, which makes it even scarier. I don’t know what the story is going to be–some amorphous form of it came to me last night as I relaxed in my easy chair with a glass of wine and mindlessly allowing Youtube autoplay keep showing me music videos. I’m not sure, as I said, which direction I want the story to go in, or where it’s going to go, but I have a very strong sense of my main character (Aimee), and that’s a good thing.

And on that note, I hear that the dryer has stopped, so it’s time to fold some laundry before I run those pesky errands. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Have I Told You Lately That I Love You

Wednesday, and Hump Day; whatever you prefer to call it. It’s the midway point of the week, at any rate, and it’s all downhill from here into the weekend.

I always regret the loss of Mondays and Tuesdays to twelve hour work days, to be completely honest; I generally can’t get anything done on either day rather than going into the office. I have to be in bed by ten on Sunday and Monday nights, and there’s also never a guarantee I’m going to sleep well, which is a terrifying prospect, particularly on Sunday nights as I head into the long stretch of the week. I slept extremely well last night–so much so that I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning; I could have easily slept another few hours or so, and as I drink my first cup of coffee, still feel a little bit on the foggy side. We’re also supposed to have terrible weather this morning–thunderstorms, etc; I got one of those damned bad weather notices on my phone last night–which is, of course, still possible. The ground is wet so it may have rained during the night, and it’s cloudy and grayish outside. Hopefully the rain will hold off until after I go to the gym later this morning

I decided yesterday that I didn’t care for the work I’d done on the Secret Project already–although it was an admirable attempt–so I decided to start over, at a different place, and change the opening completely. I wish I could explain in more detail, but then it wouldn’t be a secret, would it? But one thing that is frequently true about me–and my work, all too frequently–is that I am very stubborn about openings. I envision an opening for a story or a book, and that’s where I start…and even though it may soon become readily apparent that isn’t the right place to start the story, I stubbornly cling to it because that’s the idea I originally had…despite knowing that I often start the story in the wrong place and changing the opening would most likely make the writing flow better. If you will recall, I have had a lot of trouble with writing this lately–I was lucky to get five hundred words a day for the longest time, until finally I was able to get about 1200 down in a day to get the first chapter finished. But it still dissatisfied me, and I began to wonder if maybe the problem was writing it in the first person rather than the third; perhaps a tight third point-of-view was what was actually called for. So, I exhaled a heavy sigh and decided to give that a try. I started last night–despite my exhaustion–and as I thought about it in the third person, I realized that if I was doing it in the third person, I should start it somewhere else…and as I thought about the words, decided to try it in the first with the new starting place, and it clicked. Which is helpful, I think? We shall see. But I am rather pleased with this new starting place, and I can get some good progress made on this now, methinks.

One would hope, anyway.

The fog in my own brain is beginning to clear a bit this morning, as I now have moved on to my second cup of coffee, and I am going to need to get started on activities that simply must be done; it’s Pay Day and thus Pay-the-Bills-Day, which is always a fun delight to see how little I have left to live on for the next two weeks or so. It can be depressing at times, or stressful at others, but what else can I do rather than try to figure out how to increase my income? Obviously, buying the car and taking on a car payment (and a tripling of the monthly car insurance bill) at the same time as taking a step back from my writing career to assess and think and decide what to do was probably poor timing; but I love having my car despite the enormous hole its blown in my budget, and if I could just get past all the various forms of whatever-it-is  that seem to preclude me from actually writing– this would cease to be a problem, you know?

Imposter Syndrome is probably the biggest contributor to this; and it’s very easy to get triggered into a downward spiral of it: a short story rejection, a one-star review, not being included in a list of gay writers, etc. etc. etc. This spiral generally comes to the fore with a message running through my brain: why do I bother, no one cares. (And for the record, I’m not bringing this up to get affirmation from people; I know all too well that affirmation doesn’t help much in these situations; you always think oh, I have such lovely and supportive friends rather than having some kind of self-worth renewal. It’s very, very true that belief in yourself has to start within you; and I’d love to know the reason why I am so self-defeating–which, for the record, is an entirely different thing from self-destructing.) It’s very easy to get into the mindset that the world is against you, that everyone is conspiring to bring or keep you down; when the real truth is the vast majority of people don’t think about you at all.

It’s kind of like that rampant insecurity I used to feel when I first started venturing into gay bars, hesitantly and nervous, absolutely certain that everyone was looking at me and judging me, not finding me attractive or interesting or worthy of even making eye contact with. It was all stuff and nonsense, of course. Nobody spends that much time looking at and judging total strangers, or laughing at them in gay bars; and if they do, they’re not worth knowing anyway. I finally reached the point where I neither cared what strangers thought–which was incredibly freeing–nor concerned myself with what other people do. I had no control over either, so why concern myself with it?

I saw the other day, for example, that someone had collected all the one and two star reviews from Amazon and Goodreads for Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was kind of serendipitous; I had just finished rereading and enjoying the book for the Reread Project, and Highsmith is one of my favorite authors. It was kind of an eye-opening moment about writing and publishing: for fuck’s sake, if people are giving HIGHSMITH and probably one of her best titles one and two star reviews…why the fuck do worry about bad reviews? We all get them, and really, it doesn’t ever mean why do you bother (no matter how vitriolic), it just means your books and your writing and your story and your voice didn’t connect with that person. That’s really all it means, and should be viewed as such.

It’s getting gloomier outside, which means the predicted rain is coming. Ah, well, I shall simply have to take an umbrella with me to the gym. I’m actually not dreading the gym this morning, and I don’t think I’m going to have to make myself go. I have felt so much better physically just from going on Sunday; I’ve realized that my muscles are tired from the work, which is actually a good feeling. My goal is to go again today and Friday, and then again on Sunday. It won’t be easy maintaining this schedule during Parade Season–Parade Season is what finished me off and knocked me out of my routine the last time I started trying to get back into the gym, and that was last year? The year before? I don’t recall, but it ultimately doesn’t matter; I stopped going and I need to learn from that mistake this year.

And on that note, I should start paying the bills and getting things done. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Sunday morning and it’s cold again this morning. My space heater is warming my legs nicely–it’s amazing how much heat that thing can put out–and I am going to try to get some things done this morning. My desk area is a mess and there’s a load of clothes in the dryer to fold, and another load of dishes in the sink to be washed and put in the dishwasher. I didn’t write yesterday; after braving the grocery store on the Saturday before Christmas I was pretty worn out and over-stimulated, so I spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching some documentaries on television about professional wrestling–there’s a terrific Vice series available on Hulu called The Dark Side of the Ring. I’ve been wanting to write a noir set in a small wrestling promotion in a fictional, highly corrupt Southern coastal city (which I call Bay City whenever I think about it); seeing the dark stories behind the public image was interesting. I watched the episodes about the Fabulous Moolah and the Von Erich family; I just read an old piece in Texas Monthly about them, and so this seemed timely. I loved the Von Erichs back in the day, and I always had a crush on sexy Kevin Von Erich–although I kind of liked them all, frankly. Kevin is the only surviving brother (of six), and they did talk to him on-camera for the documentary, and he was interviewed for the Texas Monthly piece. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose all of your brothers–almost all of your children for the Von Erich parents–but Kevin’s two sons are now working in professional wrestling, carrying on the family name, and they are also carrying on the “hot as fuck” family tradition as well.

After that, I invested three hours in finally watching Avengers Endgame, which was entertaining enough. There were elements of Days of Future Past in it–no surprise, since they came from the same company–and it did have some terrific moments. Visually it was also stunning, but I always have problems with time travel because of the paradoxes (although I did laugh out loud when someone–I think it was Paul Rudd as Antman–said, “SO you’re saying Back to the Future is bullshit?”), and I also figured out, at the end of Infinity War, that they’d have to go back in time to erase what Thanos had done. This created a lot more questions in my head than were answered by the movie, but I can also see why it was such a huge success and why people loved it so much. It’s quite the star-studded spectacle, everyone is well cast, and visually it’s quite epic.

And then I went to bed–a lovely, relaxing day. I may not watch the Saints game–too stressful–but will definitely have it on in the living room while I do other things. Tonight there won’t be a new episode of Watchmen, which makes me sad (and yes, I still miss Game of Thrones) but there should be a new episode of Dublin Murders dropping tonight, and Paul has expressed an interest in watching Titans, so I’ll probably revisit the first season, primarily because I won’t remember enough of it to explain it to Paul is we just start on season two. I’m also trying to figure out how to watch the DIRECTV-only series of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. There are becoming too many streaming services, and we’re getting to the point where it’s almost as much as the cable bill used to be. One thing I need to do is sit down and figure out what all I am paying for and what I actually don’t need, that I am paying for and can be cancelled.

Also, the first episode of Megan Abbott’s series based on her novel Dare Me is available, if I can figure out a way to stream it onto the television.

I also need to write today. I’ve successfully managed to avoid it for two days now, but today I kind of should do some. I don’t know why I always have to force myself to do things I enjoy, but that’s the paradox of my life. I’m also going to spend some time with Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside. I don’t know why I am taking so long to read this book, it’s fantastic and incredibly well done; it has more to do with me not being in the mood to read or something, rather than anything negative about the book.

I’m also trying to decide whether or not I want to do one–or several–of those my favorite things of the year posts. Obviously, I didn’t read or watch everything, so I can only write about what I’ve actually experienced; but I also worry that I won’t remember something. There were so many amazing new books this year that I read, and some amazing books from previous years I also read…it’s hard to remember a better year for books, or television–Chernobyl, Unbelievable, Fosse/Verdon–and that’s just off the top of my head. The Emmys are going to be incredibly competitive yet again.

And on that note, I am going to retire to my easy chair with my book for a little while before I start cleaning and writing and doing whatever it is I should be doing on this late December lazy Sunday.

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Point of No Return

So, what did we learn from our first Monday back at work? One, that it’s very important to get physical and mental rest from the day in, day out of full time employment, and that if I can stay focused and motivated…well, there’s really nothing I can’t do if I want to do it.

But that has always been true. It has always astounded me how much I can do–and what I can do–if I put my mind to it and ignore those horrible voice in my head (depending on what it is, they alternate between my parents, really–every so often a former teacher will pop into my head, working on my confidence and trying to paralyze me into useless futility). All that stuff I’d been dreading, and putting off? Handled yesterday with aplomb, minimal irritation or embarrassment, and now completely out of the way.

What have we learned from this? Probably nothing.

Last night, for the first time in over a month–since I was sick at Halloween, actually–I sat down, opened the latest version of Chapter One, and started revising. And while it wasn’t as easy as I would like–I deleted about a thousand words and added a thousand new ones, that make better sense and work better; certainly the voice of my main character is better defined and sounds more realistic–I still managed to get some work done, and it was good work. Very good work, with which I am very pleased. I was truly worried, frankly, that this book was never going to get kicked into gear; now it has, and now it’s possible that I might–just might–get this book finished this month and ready to do something with in January.

What a glorious feeling.

I slept really well again last night–going to bed earlier on the nights before these early mornings really does make all the difference–and since Paul was out to dinner with some friends, I came home and cleaned the kitchen, preparatory to getting some writing done, and so this morning my kitchen is pretty clean–there’s still a load of laundry in the dryer that needs to be folded, but I doubt I’ll get to that this morning–and so I am pretty pleased with that as well. I am pretty certain I’ll start feeling run down and tired by the end of the week again, but as long as I keep getting good sleep at night, I should be okay.

Or so I hope, at any rate.

It’s hard to believe it’s December already. Where did this year go? Football season can’t be almost over already, can it? Heavy heaving sigh. I was just thinking yesterday that the next few months are going to be nothing but madness, sheer madness. There’s Christmas, then New Year’s; and then of course it’s Twelfth Night and Carnival has started. There’s college football bowl games and play-offs; the Saints will be in the play-offs as well, and then after the parades are all over, at the end of March is the Williams Festival. Heavy heaving sigh. I am also heading up to New York in the middle of January; it’s been years, and that should be a lot of fun–exhausting, but fun.

And 2020! A sparkling new decade, exciting and new. That will be the decade I hit sixty at long last, and should I live that long, the decade where I finally am able to retire from the day job. Sooner would be better than later, of course; I am considering my options for going early–but that would also mean paying off most of my debt and the car. I think the car will be finished being paid off towards the end of next year or early 2021; I am on track to get it paid for in less than the five years of the loan, and who knows? I may, if there’s a windfall of some sort, even be able to get it paid for even sooner. And if I can make that Honda last twenty years–which I should be able to–I hopefully won’t ever have to buy another car before I die.

And on that cheery note, tis time to get back to the mines of spice. I want to get some more reading of Laura Benedict’s book, The Stranger Inside, done today, and obviously, it would be amazing to get more progress done on the book.

But I’m writing again, am excited about the book (as it goes into yet another draft), and feeling pretty good. Yay, Gregalicious!

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Nothing’s Going to Change My Love For You

It’s gloomy and gray outside my windows this morning. I slept late–we stayed up late watching Unbelievable, which is so fantastic, and the performances of Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette are amazing–and a little later on I must run out to pick up some prescriptions and the mail. I’m still a bit groggy this morning as I sip my first cup of coffee, so here’s hoping the next cup or two will clear the cobwebs inside my brain and get me going.

I was terribly lazy (again) yesterday; I did get the car serviced (if you’re going to buy a Honda in the New Orleans area, you cannot go wrong with Superior Honda on the West Bank), after which I made groceries, hit the Sonic, and drove back across the river. I did the laundry (still not finished) and started cleaning and organizing, but also got sucked into a really bizarre true crime documentary on Hulu, The Turpin 13: Family Secrets Revealed, which left more questions behind in its wake than it answered. The Turpins were a family of Pentecostal Christians who eventually had thirteen children, whom they isolated and controlled in their various homes over the years, including such traumas as chaining them to their beds; starving them; not allowing them to bathe; and not allowing them to go outside during the day, in fact turning them into nocturnal beings who went to bed at 5 am, slept all day, and got up when the sun went down. It’s an interesting, albeit fascinating, story, but as I said, the couple are still awaiting trial so there aren’t any real answers there. I also watched the start of another World War II documentary of colorized footage on Netflix–very similar to the one I just watched yet different; I mean, obviously World War II documentaries are going to be similar as it’s history and history doesn’t–rarely–change.

Although watching the other colorized one, produced by the British and therefore not quite so interested in maintaining and upholding American mythology was very interesting.

I am also moving along in The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead’s latest, and am truly enjoying it. I like the way Whitehead writes, and I am all in for his main character, Elwood, growing up in Tallahassee during the Civil Rights era. As I do like to occasionally remind people, the Civil Rights era was my childhood; it really wasn’t that long ago. (The Second World War was also during my parents’ lifetimes, although they were too young at the time to remember any of it.) One of the many reasons to read diverse, non-white American authors is to see the country, its history, culture and society, through the eyes of the outsider, which challenges the narrative so often put forth, of American exceptionalism…and as I said earlier, those narratives also prop up and perpetuate American mythology. (This is, I think, one of the many reasons I so greatly enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods when I read it all those years ago–the concept of an American mythology, along with the identities and creation of gods through an American lens of what precisely we do worship in this country makes one start to question our collective societal values, as well as the mythology we are taught as truth.)

I’m also still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is quite fun and educational, as part of my continued study of New Orleans history. I still have quite a few volumes to get through, and then I plan to move on to general Louisiana history.

But as I said above, the question of what is real and what is American mythology often colors the history we read and study. Reading Robert Tallant’s work, for example, clearly shows that white supremacy colors any of his writings about New Orleans and Louisiana history, and the same goes for Harnett Kane, and probably many other historical writers of the past. And when you consider that most reference materials from our own history are often newspapers–which weren’t exactly beacons of journalistic morality and integrity in the past–one has to wonder what the actual truth of our shared American history actually is.

Which is more than a little disturbing, really.

There’s an essay or a non-fiction book on American mythology–probably not one I will ever write, but it’s something that strikes me as needing to be written; although I would imagine Howard Zinn’s works of “people’s histories” of the United States would certainly qualify. (I do highly recommend Howard Zinn; all Americans should read him, and his People’s History of the United States should be taught, if not at the lower levels than certainly in college.)

And now it is time for me to get on with my day. There are some interesting football games on today, but nothing really strikes my fancy until this evening’s LSU-Arkansas game (GEAUX TIGERS!) and so will most likely will have the television on in the background as I read, write, and clean the rest of the day.

Have a lovely Saturday,  Constant Reader.

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Who Will You Run To

Vacation all I ever wanted….

Yes, I am off now for about nine days, which is incredibly lovely. Today I am getting the car serviced on the West Bank, and will most likely go ahead and make groceries while I am over there. After that, it’s home and chores; I’d love to get all the cleaning and organizing done today so I don’t have to worry about doing any of that over the next nine days–and possibly do some writing while I am at it. My writing muscles are horribly, disgustingly, rusty; almost as rusty as my actual muscles which haven’t exercised since earlier in the year. I am going to try to get back into a regular workout routine during this vacation period; I miss the endorphins, and I miss the feeling of genuine tiredness one gets from forcing one’s muscles to do work. I also need to stretch regularly and do the dreaded, hated cardio; I’m very disappointed in myself for letting my regular workouts fall by the wayside.

I also want to read The Nickel Boys, and get that out of the way.

We watched two more episodes of Netfix’ Unbelievable last night, and Toni Collette and Merritt Weaver are absolutely killing it. I do think this is a must-watch mini-series; the difference with which the two women treat the rape victims in their cases is such a 180 from the way the men treated poor young Marie in the first episode; and of course Marie’s entire life and experience has turned into garbage not just because she was raped but because of how she was treated, and not believed. I have a lot of thoughts about men and rape/sexual assault; I’ve had them for quite some time but have never truly articulated any of them–who am I to talk about these things?–but there’s a lot more complexity buried there that is never truly talked about or explored; as though there’s a third rail one cannot touch. I’m looking forward to finishing it, and getting caught up on Castle Rock, which is killing it this season.

Which of course always comes down, as ever, to Imposter Syndrome; the fear that I am not intelligent, smart or articulate enough to talk about sensitive things or subjects or topics; which is what holds me back from writing personal essays. Laura Lippman recently announced that her essays are being collected into a book called My Life As a Villainess, which will be released next year, and I can’t wait for it. Her essays are amazing and smart and well-thought out, articulated beautifully; but then again, she is one of our finest writers publishing today, so why wouldn’t they be? Laura once told me, when I said that I am not a strong essay writer and am not very good at them, “Um, you write a personal essay every day on your blog.” It was very kind, and meant a lot to me, and there’s possibly some truth there; but I always see the blog as a kind of free-form rambling, stream of consciousness thing that I do every morning over my first few cups of coffee as I shake off the cobwebs of my sleep–which was glorious again last night, by the way–and try to prepare to face a day of who knows what being thrown at me.

I’m also looking forward to the LSU-Arkansas game this Saturday night on ESPN. The Tigers, despite the dismal defensive showing in Oxford last Saturday, remain the Number One team the country–I still can’t believe this season and how it’s turned out–and of course the Saints game Sunday at noon. The Saints bounced back from that disgraceful outing against Atlanta two weeks ago, and we’ll see how it goes from here. It’s weird to have the top ranked team in college football at the same time as one of the top teams in the NFL; how crazy would it be if LSU won the national championship in the same year that the Saints won their second Super Bowl? Magical indeed; as well as unlikely, but my God, would that ever be cool, and the entire state would lose its collective mind.

As I have said a lot lately, I’ve felt disconnected from my writing life lately–my reading life, too–and I’m not sure what that is. I am hesitant to say “writer’s block,” because it’s not something I truly believe in; I do believe writers can go through fallow periods when they have nothing to say, or can’t think of anything to say; not being able to put words to page. But I don’t believe that–which I often refer to as a ‘malaise’–is the actual problem; I’ve always believed writer’s block is a symptom of depression. One thing I’ve often noted when reading up on writers of the past is how many of them had drinking problems, or certainly drank to excess fairly regularly; so regularly that I’ve sometimes wondered whether there’s a connection between creativity and addiction. I do think creative types are more emotionally volatile than their fellow citizens; more susceptible to vulnerability and emotional instability, which can lead to depression, which can lead to not being able to write, which then turns around in a vicious cycle to make the depression worse, and some people deal with that by using alcohol. I myself have a medicine cabinet filled with medications to help me navigate the fast-flowing, submerged danger everywhere river of my life, and they’ve helped with my own particular brand of crazy.

So, in a little bit I’m going to take a shower and head across the river to the dealership; and hopefully when I come home I’ll be able to get some clear-headed thoughts down on the page as well as some seriously deep-cleaning done on the Lost Apartment.

So it’s off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

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