Friday I’m in Love

Well, Constant Reader, we did it. We’ve made it through yet another week of work, and the weekend looms, with big games on deck for both the Saints and LSU.

The weather change has come at long last; with cooler temperatures, and now when I wake up early in the morning, it’s still dark outside. I dislike immensely rising when it’s still dark–or at least murky–outside; it feels like I am getting up in the middle of the night, and rightly or wrongly, my body rebels against that. One has to hate that.

Last night I finished revising Chapter 15, which puts me at three-fifths of the way finished with the revision. Once you’re over that midway hump, it always seems to go much faster. I do think I’ll be able to get this finished by the end of the month and turned in, which is lovely, after which I can focus on Bury Me in Satin as well as deconstructing the WIP. I am itching to get back to that as well as get started on the new y/a, so that makes the revising of Royal Street Reveillon even more tedious for me. I’m also gathering all kinds of research materials I’m going to need to get through relatively soon, so I can get started on those projects as soon as I finish with Scotty.

I am really liking the idea of putting together a collection called Monsters of New Orleans. I’ve done very little horror; and a lot of what I do write probably wouldn’t be considered true horror, but like mystery there are many shades of horror. I do have some stories already that would fit into this collection, but the point is also to fictionalize true stories as well–and there are many murderers and ghosts and horrible people in the city’s history to write about…and putting a modern, fictional spin on them would be all kinds of awesome.

So much to write, so much to read, so little time.

I’m still working my way through Empire of Sin, which is really terrific.  I am now at the part of the book where jazz is being born in New Orleans; and in all honesty, it’s really interesting to me. This surprises me. I like jazz, but I don’t love jazz; and I’ve never written about the New Orleans music scene primarily because I don’t know much about it and it’s a kind of music–jazz–that’s never resonated with me. I also fully accept that this probably makes me seem like a barbarian or a philistine to some; this is also perfectly fine with me. But if I am going to write about a gay prostitute in the days of Storyville, this is stuff I need to know…and I should probably start listening to the music, so I can get a grasp of how it sounds and how it makes people feel.

I am also almost finished with The Man in the High Castle; I’ll probably finish watching Season 3 tonight. It brings up a lot of interesting questions.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Have a lovely Friday.

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When a Man Loves a Woman

I am still basking in the afterglow of last night’s breakthrough on the WIP.

I also managed to get another couple of chapters of the Scotty revised; I may even be back on schedule by this weekend at this pace. Huzzah!

When the writing goes well, when things fall into place, writing is probably the most wonderful and magical thing. This is, frankly, when I remember why I love doing this, why I identify so strongly as a writer more so than anything else. I get so much pleasure out of writing, out of creating characters and telling stories that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do anything else. I can’t imagine not writing; even if my publishing career should crash and burn and come to a complete halt, I would always keep writing.

Always.

I continue to watch The Man in the High Castle, which kind of drags in places but overall is extremely well done. The murky and messy second season–which I may need to rewatch, if I ever have the time—notwithstanding, this third season is quite excellent…although I suddenly saw, as I watched last night, striking similarities between this season and Dean Koontz’ novel Lightning, which is one of my favorites of his.

I’m also finding, as I write and read and research, that I am going to probably have two other books that I can slowly piece together–collections of personal essays for one; Monsters of New Orleans being the other.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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The Way I Feel About You

Well, my plans on how to stay calm during an LSU game most emphatically did not work yesterday.

I do, however, have a very clean apartment.

It was, on the whole, a most exciting game–if you’re an LSU fan, but it also had a lot of stressful moments, momentum swings, and tension. And yet, when the smoke cleared and the game clock ran down, LSU upset the second ranked team in the country and the national championship runners-up from last year decisively, 36-16. Hardly anyone gave LSU a chance, and even those who only made Georgia a seven-point favorite were doing so half-heartedly; as I watched the pre-game show it was so clear no one really thought LSU had a chance, or would even meet that seven-point margin; they were trying to hype up the ratings–if they said what they really believed, that Georgia was going to humiliate LSU–only die-hard fans would watch.

Which would have been a pity. LSU was dominant in retrospect–at the time it didn’t feel that way. We went up 3-0, stopped a fake field goal attempt on fourth down by the Bulldogs, and then drove down the field to go up 10-0. Two more field goals followed, along with some lights-out, tenacious defense, and the score at half-time was 16-0, LSU. Georgia had never trailed this season for more than fifteen seconds, and had not been held scoreless in a half in God knows how long. But it was really only a two-score game, and I was concerned about having to kick three field goals instead of touchdowns…then again, LSU had four scoring drives in the first half; it could have been 28-0. I worried those field goals might come back to haunt us in the second half. And I was wrong. LSU scored twenty more points in the second half to put the game away–although Georgia scored 16 points of their own–but the final score was 36-16, and the biggest win for LSU since the Alabama game in 2011; certainly one for the history books, and one that will go down in LSU lore as one of the great Death Valley wins.

Suddenly, after the Florida loss, with LSU looking slow and lackadaisical and almost mediocre, now LSU looks like a championship team who can compete with anyone. And while I don’t want to get my hopes up–Alabama looks completely unbeatable–how exciting would it be if we got to play Florida again for the SEC championship game? Florida has already lost to Kentucky; Georgia already has a conference loss with both Florida and Kentucky yet to play; all the contenders in the East have a loss already (Kentucky to Texas A&M; Georgia to LSU; Florida to Kentucky) so the stakes for the Florida-Georgia game are really, really high in two weeks.

Yes, it was a very exciting day around the Lost Apartment yesterday. GEAUX TIGERS!

I also watched another two episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, which is probably one of the best horror television shows I’ve seen in a while. I am quite frankly loving this television horror renaissance, which is producing such amazing programs. The Haunting of Hill House, of course, still can–and might–go off the rails, but so far it is terrifying, eerie, and mesmerizing; the call-backs to the original source material are enormously satisfying, and yet it could stand entirely on its own with a different title; it’s almost like a revisitation of the Lutz family twenty or so years after the original story of The Amityville Horror–how do you experience something supernatural and terrifying, particularly if you’re not really sure what it was you were experiencing, and deal with that trauma for the rest of your life? The Crain children, now adults, have dealt with this in varying ways, but they are definitely all suffering from PTSD and trauma. The first four episodes told the same story from different points of view of the adult Crains, their present reality juxtaposed with their memories of their stay at Hill House. All the characters are compelling, well-written and defined, and the acting is absolutely stellar. I said in a previous entry it’s reminiscent of the best of Stephen King’s It and Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts; I am also going to throw in the first season of the television adaptation of The Exorcist as well–an excellent show that only lasted two seasons but I wish it could have gone on for longer. This is some excellent story-telling, and it is astonishing how true to the mood of the novel this show is.

I won’t deny it–at first I thought, when I heard of this and how it was going to be done, I rolled my eyes. You can’t do this better than Shirley Jackson, I thought dismissively, remembering the horrible 1999 film version (the original film version, in black and white, directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Harris–who should have at least gotten an Oscar nomination–was superb and terrifying). But I was absolutely, positively, completely wrong. The show is amazing and fantastic, and I can’t wait to watch more; I might even do so today before getting started on writing–since there’s no Saints game today, and of course being sick last week put me desperately behind.

I also read some more in Empire of Sin yesterday–Storyville is now up and operational. I’ve always avoided reading about Storyville, or even considering writing about it; for me, I was thinking it was almost cliche to do so. David Fulmer has already done a series set in that time–Chasing the Devil’s Tail, Jass, Rampart Street, Lost River–with his detective, Valentin St. Cyr; he also had a story in New Orleans Noir, and since he has done so well with the period and the area I didn’t really see any need to cover that same ground. But now….now I am thinking I could, and differently. “The Blues Before Dawn” might actually turn into a novel rather than a short story, and it’s a great title, if I do say so myself. But once I get this revision under control, I’ll have some more time to play around with the story and see where it goes.

I’m particularly interested in Tom Anderson, the unofficial mayor of Storyville.

I’m also thinking I should watch Pretty Baby again; it’s been decades.

And on that note, I think I am going to take my coffee into the living room, ensconce myself in my easy chair, and watch the next episode of The Haunting of Hill House preparatory to heading into the spice mines.

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

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One

GEAUX TIGERS!

Yes, second ranked Georgia rolls into Tiger Stadium today to take on the twelfth-ranked Tigers, reeling from the first loss last week at Florida. I’m trying not to get to invested in the stakes of the game; I just want the Tigers to play better than they did last week and be competitive. I want them to win, I will be rooting them on–but I will also likely be cleaning and keeping myself occupied to handle the nerves.

Sigh.

I slept in this morning–I did wake up around seven, but chose to stay in bed for another hour, before finally getting up and getting a load of laundry started. I feel extremely well-rested this morning; which is absolutely lovely. I have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do today in order to clear my plate so tomorrow can be all about writing and editing and reading. I am greatly enjoying Empire of Sin; it’s giving me all kinds of ideas about stories to write and maybe even a novel or two…I’ll probably read Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter next.

Lisa Morton once suggested that I do a New Orleans version of her book Monsters of LA. I am thinking that might just be something I can do, now that I’m reading all this New Orleans history.

I also started streaming the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House last night; I got through the first two episodes, which I greatly enjoyed. I was tempted to watch  yet a third but stopped myself as it was getting late. There’s been, since the trailers for the show dropped, a lot of anger and disgust from Shirley Jackson fans as well as horror fans, since obviously the show was going to be different from the novel, and why does this even need to be? Well, I am a huge fan of both Jackson AND this particular novel; one of my proudest moments was when Night Shadows was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist. (I love the rock I got for being a finalist.) The show is good. It didn’t have to be Hill House; it didn’t have to be The Haunting of Hill House, but that’s what it is, and it is inevitable, as such, that it’s going to be compared to the original. Jackson’s structure is there; Hill House, the Crain family, the Dudleys; even some of the things that happen in the book happen in the show. It’s being told in a parallel structure; when the Crains moved into Hill House, a young couple with five children, ostensibly to renovate the house and flip it. Something horrible happened while they lived there, and the parallel story being told in modern times is about the Crains today; all five of the kids grown up into severely damaged adults. The children are Steve, Shirley, Theo, Nell, and Luke–the names of the characters from the novels plus the novelist’s name–and the parallel story structure works. The performances are good, and I also like the concept–it’s very Stephen King’s It, because clearly they are all going to have to return to Hill House and face not only the house but their own demons. As I watched and began to understand the story structure, I also thought to myself, ah, this is a great direction modern horror is going in; not only dealing with the paranormal elements but the also dealing with the psychological aspects of having dealt with something so traumatic as a child. It reminded me somewhat of Paul Tremblay’s novel A Head Full of Ghosts in that way. I am really looking forward to continuing to watch and see how it plays out. I don’t see how this can become a regular series…but then again Netflix turned Thirteen Reasons Why into a multi-season show and the second season just wasn’t very good.

I’m also still watching season three of The Man in the High Castle, which is sooooo good. The first season was terrific, the second kind of mess, but they’ve really hit their stride in Season 3.

And now, I have laundry to fold, dishes to put away, spice to mine.

Have a lovely lovely Saturday, everyone.

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All I Want

Today is the first time I’ve felt human all week.

I don’t know if I am completely over being sick yet, but I don’t feel bad and I don’t feel faverish and nothing aches, so I am considering this a win and that I’ve weathered whatever flu-ey type thing this was that descended, unwanted and uninvited, on me last Sunday. I am also hoping that I can make it through this day without getting sick again, and of course, now it’s the weekend and I can recover over the next two days and catch up on everything that’s lingered and slid this week.

Here’s hoping, at any rate.

LSU plays second-ranked Georgia this weekend in Death Valley; I imagine I am going to get a lot of cleaning done Saturday afternoon. Ceiling fans, windows, baseboards…maybe even sweeping dust off the walls.  There is no Saints game on Sunday–this is the bye week–so I should be able to spend the day writing, reading, editing and perhaps doing some cleaning; and maybe even make an appearance at the gym. Now that my sleep has returned to what I used to consider normal–waking up every morning just before seven–there’s no reason I can’t go back to what I used to do; answer email, write blog entries, do some writing, go to the gym–on the days when I don’t come to the office until later in the day; and on the days when I get off work early I can also go to the gym in the evening. The key is to not give in to the laziness and the inertia of doing nothing and once I get things moving, and get into a more regular routine, I can make a habit of it. I also need to focus on eating better; I think I lost a few pounds while I was sick.

I’ve also not worked on anything the last few days while sick, so I also need to start getting caught back up on everything again, since I am now behind. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I started reading Gary Krist’s wonderful Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle of Modern New Orleans. I just finished reading about the murder of Police Chief Hennessy and the lynching of the accused Italians–horrific, and horrifying–and have just gotten to the part where, in an effort to clean up New Orleans, the city decided to restrict prostitution to a small area–Storyville.

Seriously. I could get lost in New Orleans history research for the rest of my life and die there, happy.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Hazard

Thursday morning and I am still feeling unwell.

And winter has arrived in New Orleans; a cold front that of course would be considered spring or fall most everywhere else north of I-10 arrived overnight. It is amusing that our local weather people are talking about a cold front when it is seventy-four degrees outside. But that’s at least a ten degree difference from yesterday, and it is getting close to mid-October, so the colder weather is fairly overdue.

Colder, not cold.

I’m hoping that today is the last day of this lingering whatever-the-hell-it-is; that one more day of soup and vitamin C and juice and DayQuil will not only make today bearable but will also cure whatever it is that ails me. I really loathe being sick–not, of course, that anyone else really likes being sick. Although I suppose there are some who do.

Yesterday as I spent the day covered in blankets in my easy chair I finished reading Circe by Madeline Miller (already wrote about it, but buy it–it’s fantastic), and then fell into some New Orleans history worm-holes on the Internet on my iPad. The history of New Orleans is so rich and vibrant; bloody and filled with not only death but defiance. It started with me seeing a post from the Historic New Orleans Collection of an article about Prohibition in New Orleans–which was pretty much ignored and not really enforced as much as it should or could have been, perhaps–and I thought to myself, self, there’s probably a really good novel that could be set in this time period dealing with Prohibition and everything else going on in the city at the time. Was it James Sallis’ Lew Griffin series that was set in the past? Which reminds me, I need to revisit that series anyway.

I am kind of amazed, really, how little of New Orleans history I actually do know. I mean, I know who founded the city and when, when it became Spanish rather than French, when it was sold to the United States, the Battle of New Orleans…but there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I do know some about the uglier parts of the city’s history–the homophobia and racism, Delphine LaLaurie, how I-10 was deliberately routed to destroy prospering African-American neighborhoods and of course, the hideousness of the Upstairs Lounge fire and aftermath–but there are so many gaps, as I said before. I know about the murder of the police commissioner that led to the mob violence against the Italian immigrants, and the horror of the battle of Monument Place; I know about the Axeman murders and Storyville and Bellocq and his photos of Storyville prostitutes.

But there’s so much more, and so much I don’t know. This is why I always laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert.” I am far from that. I know neighborhoods and streets, houses and the Quarter. But there are entire populations of the city I don’t know much about; the Greeks and the Islenos, the Vietnamese in New Orleans East, and the growing Latin/Hispanic populations. There are neighborhoods I don’t know, and the West Bank is, for the most part, completely unknown to me.

In other words, I need to explore. I need to read more New Orleans history, and I need to get out in my car on weekends and drive around, exploring and visiting and sight-seeing. I do feel that my next series will most likely be set in New Orleans’ past; it’s just that I don’t know when or where or what it will be. I’ve experimented with the past in short story form; “The Weight of a Feather” (included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories) may not be set in New Orleans, but the main character is from here. “The Blues Before Dawn”, an in-progress story, is also set in the past…and I think it’s an interesting time/subject to take up. (I don’t know how to end the story or even what the middle is, if I am to be completely honest; but it has a terrific opening and I am sure the story will come to me someday.)

I think one of the primary problems I’ve had over the past few years, that sense of feeling disconnected from the city that I’ve mentioned before, comes from, in all honesty, not reading the newspapers here. When the Times-Picayune became the Sometimes Picayune I stopped reading it; I will only visit their website to read write-ups on the Saints and LSU games. The New Orleans Advocate is doing a great job of picking up the slack, but I never think to pick it up and read it. I need to be better about that; I need to be better informed on what is going on in the city. There’s currently a scandal brewing–or it’s already brewed–about the Archdiocese and one of the Catholic boys’ schools in town; it’s what you would expect–sexual abuse and a cover-up; which has happened so many times now in other cities as to be almost a cliche. There’s a novel there as well, even though when I had the idea a long time ago–years before this scandal brewed up and made it onto the public radar–I was told it wasn’t an interesting topic and no one would want to read it.

I disagreed then, and I disagree now. I think it’s not only timely, but people would read it. It would have to not be a cliche, and it would have to be cleverly done, but I think it would work quite well.

And now, I feel the fever returning and I need to go lie down again for a moment.

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Too Funky

Well, last night’s Saints game was quite lovely, and more than made up for the disappointing LSU loss this weekend. Drew Brees broke the record for most yards passing in NFL history, which was very cool, and the Saints won, as well, defeating Washington handily. 40-23? And he’s still going. The weird love affair between New Orleans and the Saints, New Orleans and Drew Brees. As I watched the game last night, I realized that there are a lot of people living here now who didn’t live here when the Saints were, for wont of a better word, lackluster. For that matter, who didn’t live here when the Saints won the Super Bowl. That saddened me, because that was all such a lovely bonding experience for the city after Hurricane Katrina and the flood; how much the Saints meant to all of us as we rebuilt our lives and the Saints rebuilt themselves. And Drew Brees, rebuilding his career when there were plenty of doubters and naysayers, came to symbolize our city, down but not quite out.

It all seems so long ago now, but how nice that he is still playing, the Saints are doing great yet again, and now he is on his way to holding practically every individual record a quarterback can have; how nice to hear the rousing ovation from the fans in the Superdome when he broke the record.

Absolutely lovely.

The revision is swimming along nicely. I fell behind again, and need to get caught up sooner rather than later, but I am happy with how it’s going and how well things are turning out. I still think I can make the November 1 goal for submission, and then I can figure out what I am going to work on next. More short stories, perhaps? A new y/a? The WIP? We shall see.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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