I Can’t Tell You Why

Wednesday morning, and it’s also pay day–on which I pay the bills and watch all the money I worked so hard for vanish in the blink of an eye. I cannot believe in two days the first parades will roll down St. Charles Avenue…which means when I get off work on Friday I need to run all my errands, because making groceries will be an impossibility over the course of the weekend–at least until Sunday night. But then…I only have to work two days next week, and then I am on vacation until Ash Wednesday.

Woo-hoo! Vacation!

I only got halfway through yesterday’s chapter; I was tired last night after a second long day at the office–I didn’t even watch another episode of Versailles, and was also too tired to read. My short days are coming up, though, and I should be able to get caught up on my reading and my revising over the course of the rest of the week…bearing in mind there are parades this weekend. Oshun and Cleopatra are Friday night, and there are five on Saturday–Ponchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta and Pygmalion. Sunday there are four: Femme Fatale, Carrollton, King Arthur, and Alla.

There will be beads.

But the true madness begins next week.

I seem to be having some trouble this morning getting motivated; I am feeling lazy this morning. Perhaps it is a lack of caffeine, perhaps it’s just a holdover from the last two length work days, I don’t know. The weather took a strange turn yesterday. It was chilly and wet in the morning before raining all afternoon. Usually, this means another drop in temperature at this time of year…yet the fog rolled in and when I left the office last night it was extremely humid and warm. My car windows were all fogged up, as were my windows here at the Lost Apartment…and the sweater I’d worn because it was chilly was too heavy and hot. I have no idea what I should wear to work today…maybe a sweater over a T-shirt, so I can remove the sweater if it gets too warm. My windows are covered in condensation, which means it’s much warmer outside than in.

So, I just looked at the weather. It’s 72 degrees right now and the low is 63. Yeah, probably no sweater today after all.

All right, I am going to try to finish revising that chapter before work. Back to the spice mines!

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Cool Change

Saturday morning and I slept late, which felt positively marvelous. I feel rested and ready to kick some ass and take some names–at least for now, at any rate. Paul is going to be out of the house most of the day–appointments and going to the office–and therefore I have the Lost Apartment to myself for most of the day and no excuse not to get a lot of things done. I am still planning on walking over to the AT&T store to replace my phone–who knows how that is going to go?–but other than that, my day is pretty much set for cleaning, revising, and reading.

Last night, we started watching the new Netflix show The Umbrella Academy, based on the Dark Horse comic series–and while I didn’t madly love it, I am curious enough to continue watching. For one thing, it has both Ellen Page and Tom Hopper (who I’ve been crushing madly on since his days as Billy Bones on Black Sails), and it has an interesting premise. We will be continuing with it tonight, I think. I had just started reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long when Paul got home last night, and then was distracted by getting caught up on How to Get Away with Murder and then The Umbrella Academy.

And I’ve been dealing with yet another Apple upgrade issue that has fucked with my desktop, laptop, phone and iPad since last night. Now the cloud drive is missing from both my desktop and my laptop (I managed to resolve the handheld device issues last night) and so am trying to get that resolved this morning. Seriously, Apple–when you update/upgrade your systems, is it absolutely necessary to fuck up everything for your customers? 

Seriously, Apple. Do better.

So I am trying to resolve all this before scheduling a call from Apple Support…which I also don’t understand; you used to be able to do this in an on-line chat, but now of course they make you take a phone call. Why, precisely? And how able-ist is this? What about those of us who are hard of hearing, or those who are deaf? Seriously, fuck you in the ass without lubrication, Apple. HARD.

Thank you for allowing me to vent about these issues, Constant Reader. It’s helping me reduce the future body count.

This week I got a copy of Kyle Onstott’s bestselling Mandingo from the 1950’s. As Constant Reader is aware, I’ve been trying to diversify not only my fiction reading but to learn more about the horrible history of race in North America. Part of this has taking an amorphous shape in my head around a lengthy essay, tracing revisionism of slavery and the Old South and civil rights from such novels as The Clansman (which was filmed as Birth of a Nation) to Gone with the Wind to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Klansman, which I recently reread. As I was scrolling through Amazon Prime looking for something to watch the other night, I came across the late 1970’s film Mandingo, and remembered that it was also a novel. I bought a copy from eBay which arrived this week (I wasn’t able to get far in the movie because it was just incredibly bad; not even campy bad, like Showgirls, just bad.) The book arrived this week and….just looking at the note from the publisher in the beginning was horrifying. Yet Mandingo might just be the only novel about slavery and the Old South that actually tears the veneer of respectability and gentility away and exposes the true horror of what the “peculiar institution” was actually like. (Even John Jakes’ dreadful North and South series never delved deeply into the actual horrors; Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad was one of the first novels to truly explore this that I’ve read.) Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series, set in New Orleans before the Civil War, also does a terrific job of exploring how deeply entrenched and horrible racism/slavery were.

This essay I am thinking about would probably wind up, should I ever have the time to read the books and write it (it would, for example, require a reread of Gone with the Wind and it’s over eleven hundred pages, as well as some in depth reading of actual history) would probably be a part of Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life…which is a project I really do want to work on someday.  Mandingo takes on an aspect of slavery and the South that is rarely, if ever, touched on in fictions: the sexual abuse of the female slaves by their masters (come on, like it never happened. Really?) as well as the breeding of actual slaves for better, more valuable stock, as well as raising them for fighting–kind of a human version of cock-fighting or dog-fighting. Is it more likely that never happened, or that it did? Slavery, as Harriet Beecher Stowe repeatedly explained in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, debases both slave and master; are we really supposed to believe that slave-owners didn’t abuse their ‘property’?

Given how people of color–theoretically free and equal in the eyes of the law in the twenty-first century–are treated in the present day, I’m not buying the notion of the kind, gracious slave owner.

Take, for example, this passage from the Publisher’s Note to the movie tie-in paperback edition which I just received in the mail:

From today’s vantage point,, almost a hundred years after the cataclysm, the developing situation may be viewed objectively. Actually, the finger of blame should be pointed at no one geographical group of people. Although the factions that promoted the abolition of slavery were ethically in the right (emphasis: mine), Southern planters in general are shown to have been victims of circumstance rather than diabolical tyrants as they have sometimes been painted. (again, emphasis mine.)

Doesn’t get more apologetic than that, does it? Those poor planters. (massive eye roll)

And is it any wonder that we still have so many societal problems of racial injustice today?

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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All Out of Love

Wednesday, feelin’ fine.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to get out of bed–but not really out of a sense of being tired or not getting enough sleep; rather, it was more along the lines of it was raining and in those situations, I would always prefer to stay in bed with my blankets. Here’s hoping it rains this weekend, when I can stay in bed.

I’ve decided to go with my library book as my next Diversity read, White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig. It’s due next Friday, the first day of parades (!!!) on the St. Charles Avenue route, and so it makes more sense to go ahead and read it now and get it out of the way. That makes it sound like more of an odious chore than I intended it to sound, quite frankly; it isn’t an odious chore at all. I had a lovely time reading his first novel, and I am quite certain I’ll enjoy this one as well. There’s no reason I wouldn’t; but I also need to steer myself into reading short stories. My collection is coming out on April 1, and around that same time the anthology I’m in, Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is also coming out…so I am going to start talking about the stories in both, and I should probably get a jump on that.

The best-laid plans of mice and men…

Yesterday during the revising I was stopped cold by an enormous hole in the plot that threw me off my game. I blinked at the computer screen three times slowly, and as how to fill the hole, or patch it up, as it were, started coming to mind and I began filling said plot-hole with new words, I got exhausted suddenly, very tired and drained…so I stepped away from the manuscript, knowing that trying to force it when I’m tired would just mean having to redo it anyway, so why not just think about it, solve the problem thoroughly in my head, and reserve the energy? A good night’s sleep and a fresh start in the morning would be the most wise course to follow. And I did have a good night’s sleep last night! I feel amazing this morning–rested, awake, energized and ready to go. So, hopefully I can resolve this plot problem this morning, and get another chapter done, as well. Huzzah! I also have to pick up a prescription this morning on the way to work, so I’ll need to leave earlier than I usually do.

I also got an ARC of Lori Roy’s new book, Gone Too Long, in the mail yesterday, so I am most likely going to shunt the Diversity Project aside momentarily in order to read it. Every new book by Lori is kind of an event; her resume of awards and great reviews rather speaks for itself. And the cover copy makes this one sound terrific…and her books usually surpass the cover copy. Huzzah!

I’m in a pretty good mood this morning, no doubt due to the terrific night’s sleep I just enjoyed, and feeling better about my manuscript–despite the plot hole. I’m still on-target to get it finished by the end of the month, and I really am looking forward to getting back to work on the WIP…I may even start doing some revision work/rereading of it this weekend; we shall see. I would really like to get the Scotty done long before the end of the month, but again–we’ll just have to see how it goes, won’t we?

And of course, one of my favorite reality shows, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, returned last night, so I spent a rather blissful hour last night watching rich women setting up ridiculous drama that will carry the show through this season. My enjoyment of these shows is starting to wane a little; so a good season of this one and New York is really necessary or else I may stop watching entirely.

We started watching PEN15 on Hulu the other night, and it has potential. We’ll have to give it another episode or two before we decide whether we want to continue with it–but it currently looks very promising.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Send One Your Love

Monday morning and the living is sort of easy….but wait–that’s not how the song goes, is it?

Whatever.

I worked very hard yesterday on the Scotty revision, and it’s coming along quite well, if I do say so myself. It always feels good to dive into the work and make it better–one would think by now I would remember that, other than seeing it as an odious chore–and I am feeling quite pleased with myself. If I keep this up, it’ll be done in no time. GEAUX GREG!

And speaking of GEAUX, New Orleans had an enormous celebration all over the city for the Saints, honoring them for a terrific season. We made national news…and got some snark from trash that just doesn’t get it. New Orleans is the Saints, the Saints are New Orleans. Not only do we love our team here, they love us back. Why else would former Saints players sign a one-day contract in order to retire as Saints? Just as LSU is Forever LSU, once a Saint, you’re always a Saint. The year of the Super Bowl, that Saints Parade before Carnival? We were going to have it, win or lose. If the Colts won, we’d celebrate the Saints’ terrific season and making the Super Bowl. Winning the Super Bowl made the celebration that much sweeter. Unlike other fans, we support our team and are grateful for great seasons no matter how they end…and there’s always a crowd at the airport to greet them when they return from away games. Always. Win or lose, there’s a crowd at the airport.

Can other fandoms say that?

Don’t hate us because you ain’t us.

I slept fairly well last night, and so am doing okay this morning…I am learning the value of going to bed early at long last. We watched Hereditary last night, which was…interesting. I can see why people like it, but I can also see why people don’t.

I am also still reading Devil in a Blue Dress, and savoring it.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Too Hot

Tuesday and the world has gone mad.

Polar vortexes and wind chills around fifty below! New Orleans in a freeze warning with the possibility of snow! Madness, sheer madness.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. It was so lovely, and I’m so happy, that Susanna Calkins was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Short Story for her contribution to Florida Happens, “A Postcard for the Dead.” It’s an absolutely wonderful story, too, an I couldn’t be happier for Susanna, who was an absolute delight to work with and whom I finally met at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg this past year. One of the things I love about being a part of the mystery or crime writing community is how many truly wonderful people are also a part of it, which always makes Bouchercon a wonderful experience for me. I always see old friends, meet new people and make new friends, and I always have the best time. For someone who is used to hiding out in his apartment most of the time being antisocial, Bouchercon and the Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners weekend are seriously over-stimulating; I have a blast but when it’s all over I am drained and exhausted. Happy and still aglow, usually inspired to write, but drained and exhausted nonetheless. All of the Agatha nominees are terrific writers I admire; congrats to everyone.

I managed to proof read the first fifty pages of Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories; remember talking the other day about much I hate reading my own work? What’s interesting–let’s face it, I find myself fascinating–is that I often find myself using the same phrase, or turn of phrase, in more than one short story; which is something I wouldn’t be aware of writing them at different times over the years, and I would never sit down and reread all my short stories all at once. I know that I have a tendency to write about men with black hair, tanned olive skin, and green eyes; dimples also show up often in male characters in my work (Colin in the Scotty series hits all that criteria, and so did Paul in the first two Chanse novels). I also write about my neighborhood, the Lower Garden District, a lot in my short stories (in the novels, Chanse and Paige live in this neighborhood; Scotty lives in the Quarter); in fact, two of the first five stories are set less than three blocks apart. I also tend to use similar names a lot–David is a particular favorite of mine to call my characters; I also use Gary and Tony a lot.

I probably should pay more attention to this than I do.

I also started reading  The Klansman on Sunday night; and it’s not an easy thing to read. I only read a single chapter, and it took me a while. I kept getting memories, memories of the time period the book is set in as well as the summer I read it; a hot, damp Alabama summer with no air conditioning. It’s interesting because that is the setting for the WIP, and so I kept putting the book down so I could scribble down some memories in my journal, things to use for the WIP should I ever get to the point where I can work on it again. What the book is about you can pretty much guess given the title, and it’s hard to read. I don’t remember much of the book; I remember reading it, and I do remember it making me think about the things the book talked about; thinking about them in a different way than I had before. I’ve remembered the book my entire life, but have never gone back and reread it; the copy I read wasn’t mine and I never thought to look for a copy whenever I haunted any bookstore. I’m interested in the period, and I am interested in the pop culture of the period; a short story I am currently working on, “Burning Crosses,” made me think of this book again–and of course, the Internet makes everything easy. I got a first edition hardcover from Ebay for less than five dollars, and my decision to read it again now, as part of the Diversity Project, is because I want to know if the book will make me think as much as it did when I was nine or ten….or if my own values and morality have changed enough from then that I won’t view it in the same way.

But…it’s difficult to read. Not that it isn’t well written; it’s too well-written, if you get what I mean.

And now, back to the spice mines. Stay warm, Constant Reader!

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No More Tears (Enough is Enough)

Good morning, and welcome to another cold January morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have some errands to run later today–later this morning, to be exact–and then I am spending the rest of the day holed up inside reading, cleaning, and probably watching figure skating on the television. We did watch the ladies’s final last night, which was quite fun, and am looking forward to seeing the competitions today. The European championships have also been going on this past week, so it’s all saved on Hulu for us to watch at our leisure. The Australian Open is also still happening–so much sport!–and so there’s that as well. I do want to finish reading my book today, and I want to read a short story, and start reading my next book as well.

And tomorrow I am cleaning out my email inbox if it kills me, and it just might.

I slept really well again last night–that’s three consecutive nights of good sleep, which is amazingly lovely.

Yesterday was also kind of a crazy day in the world, although it’s pretty safe to say that everyday has been kind of a crazy day for a while now. As I said to Paul the other night, “it’s like world politics has turned into Game of Thrones, only much scarier because it’s real.” And I know, world politics has always been very Game of Thrones, it’s just never been so obvious and apparent.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost February already, but there you have it and there it is. Carnival hovers on the horizon, and the Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners is just behind it. I am moderating a panel this year with Alafair Burke, Samantha Downing (My Lovely Wife) and Kristien Hemmerechts (The Woman Who Fed The Dogs) so I have some homework for that as well.

So much good reading to look forward to! Art Taylor also very graciously, along with Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, made a pdf of his Edgar nominated short story “English 398: Fiction Workshop” available on-line, which I downloaded and look forward to reading. Art’s a terrific writer and a master of the short story (when I was nominated for the Macavity for “Survivor’s Guilt”, Art was the winner, and his story was amazing), and it’s always terrific to read one of his stories. (Hint hint: Art, how about a short story collection? Hint hint.)

I’m also going to dissect some short stories I am in the process of editing–unless I get lazy again. I rarely do this when I am editing/revising short stories, which makes my short stories actually kind of hit or miss; if the story works, it’s because I simply got lucky with it. But I think if I actually break the story down into what it’s about, and who the characters are and why they are the people they are, more of my stories would probably work. It’s a theory, at any rate, and there’s nothing I love to do more than break down my work and put it back together again (I’m being sarcastic, if you couldn’t tell).

And on that note, I am heading out into the frigid cold to get my errands out of the way before coming home to mine spice.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

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More Love

So, yesterday I went to pick up the mail–I’d ordered some sleepy-time tea on line, and they’d arrived on Wednesday, and yes, this tea actually works–and discovered FOUND MONEY in the mail. Back when I worked for that Unnamed Airline (Continental), in my last year there they gave us stock–something I would imagine they continued doing–but it was Class B or something; whatever it was, we couldn’t sell it. Flash forward and they merged with United. Fine, it was only ten shares, whatever, I always get the notice every year and just toss it in a drawer.

Yesterday, I actually read the thing and discovered that–wait, it’s now the kind of stock you can sell. It took me five minutes, but I signed into the stock website and sold that. It only took another five minutes for it to actually sell. How cool! I love when found money suddenly shows up, you know? It makes me quite happy.

I knew when I woke up yesterday was going to be a marquee day for the week, and it was. Huzzah! Part of it was after feeling so low energy all week, despite being rested, was waking up with batteries recharged; that happened again this morning in time for my short day this week. I have some errands to run this morning before I go in this afternoon; and some other things I need to get done around the Lost Apartment.

I’m still reading Last Seen Leaving  by Caleb Roehrig, which I am enjoying. I hope to finish reading it today, and then I am moving on to another Diversity Project book (after reading some short stories), and I think I’ve decided to read The Klansman by William Bradford Huie. I read this book when I was about nine or ten originally; I know the book belonged to my uncle, and I read it one lazy summer I was spending in Alabama (the same summer I read To Kill a Mockingbird.) Huie isn’t really talked about much anymore–at least not that I’m aware of–and The Klansman was a look at the violence and horror of the Civil Rights Era from the perspective of a white sheriff in a small county in Alabama who’s trying to keep the peace. Huie also wrote The Execution of Private Slovik, and other books illustrating social justice issues. I liked the book a lot, and it was, I think, the first time in my life I was ever given a different perspective on civil rights other than what I was hearing at home or at school, so I am curious to see how it holds up. I can’t remember when I remembered the book and tracked down a used copy on line; but am pretty certain it was after some tragedy involving racism in the last few years–unfortunately I can’t be more specific than that because there have been so many.

So, I have a nice busy weekend ahead of me–reading, cleaning, reading page proofs, and perhaps working on the Scotty revision. I’d also like to go to the gym both days as well; it never hurts to get the working out monkey off my back and start making time for the self-care and self-improvement I desperately need to make this year a winner.

Our Internet was out last night, so we couldn’t watch anything on television–no Australian Open, no US Figure Skating championships, none of the shows we watch regularly, nothing–so I spent the night doing some cleaning and some more reading. The good news, of course, is that it back this morning and a lot faster than it was before the crash last night (or of the last few weeks or so), which is lovely.

And on that note, probably should get back to the spice mines. Happy Friday, everyone.

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