The Warrior

Wednesday, and I finished the first draft of my short story yesterday. It’s quite dark, and I quite love it, but it needs some serious polishing and editing. I changed my mind about the ending while i was writing it, you see, and that changes some things back at the beginning. I want to have that finished by the end of the weekend, as well as another story I’ve worked on recently. Huzzah!

I am also thoroughly enjoying Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire. I do highly recommend it, even though I am not even halfway finished with it, it’s that engaging. Sure, the plot could go off the rails, but I rather like the main character and the story she is telling–both the crime itself as well as the main character’s story in confronting her past–is quite enjoyable.

This weekend, I have to work Saturday and we are going to a Christmas party that evening; Sunday we have tickets for The Last Jedi and I am very excited. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, of course, and I wisely chose to buy tickets in IMAX during the Saints game, so I am assuming the theater won’t be full. Hoping, at any rate, and since we live close to the Superdome the traffic will be going the other way in both instances as we head out to Harahan to see the movie. It’s a much more busy weekend for me than I would ordinarily prefer, but the next weekend is a four day weekend for Christmas and of course, the next is the three day weekend for New Year’s. So…not really having a full day at home this weekend isn’t going to be nearly as traumatizing as it could be.

Anyway, I am really happy with my story. I was asked to write a story for an anthology of crime stories inspired by the work of Joni Mitchell, and when I chose my song, read the lyrics and listened to it again, I really went down a rabbit hole and man, did it ever get dark. Really dark. But what was also fun about it was having to research malls in the early 1990’s; research can be a bit of a drag sometimes, but for me, most of the time it’s so much fun because it triggers a lot of memories, or inspires me even more if it’s from before my time. (note to self: do some research on Washington DC in the early 1950’s; I’ve written a story set during that time but I’ve never done the back-up research, which could be incredibly fun.) Usually, when I write a story that’s set during a time I lived through, I depend on my memory–which ain’t what it used to be, but priming the pump by looking up things on-line triggered memories; memories of stores and displays, the way malls smelled, the parking lots and so forth.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines.

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Union of the Snake

So, I braved Costco AND the grocery store on a frigid Saturday two weeks before Christmas; but I did manage to get a lovely space heater at Costco which has already changed everything in the frigid kitchen.  I also forgot to turn the heat off when I went to bed last night, but it wasn’t obnoxiously hot upstairs–which makes me tend to think that it must have been really cold outside last night. But whatever. I am up this morning, my kitchen is getting warmer thanks to the space heater, and I have some things I need to get done today so I am going to buckle down and try to get it all done as much as possible. Next weekend I have to work on Saturday, so it’s a very short weekend for me, but I can hang with it.

Pual went to a gallery opening last night for the guy who donated his art for the cover of the Saints and Sinners Anthology, and so while Scooter dealt with his abandonment issues by sleeping in my lap I got caught up on this season of Riverdale; I hadn’t realized they hadn’t gone on midseason break and had missed two episodes, with the midseason finale coming up this week. I am pleased to report that KJ Apa was shirtless a lot in last week’s episode (finally), and this season’s mystery is deepening nicely. It really is a good show, probably the best young actors on a teen soap-style show I’ve ever watched, and visually it’s just stunning. I also got our tickets to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi for next Sunday at one, which is also incredibly exciting. I only have to avoid spoilers for a week.

I also watched two episodes of Soundtracks last night, the CNN series about how cultural and societal events influenced the popular music of the time. I watched the episodes about gay rights and Hurricane Katrina; each one made me unexpectedly tear up at moments as I remembered things. I recommend the series; I’m going to keep watching it. CNN series are really quite good; I’ve enjoyed their Decades series and their History of Comedy; and when I am not in the mood to write (or finished for the day) and not in the mood to read, they’re an excellent way to pass some time.

I think I’m going to read Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire next. It’s gotten some excellent reviews, and I’m a fan of hers; Jessica Jones was terrific, and Paul and I both enjoyed Don’t Trust the B, her one season sitcom. I actually think I may spend the rest of the year focusing on reading y/a fiction, to be honest. I have a lot of amazing books in my TBR pile, but…I want to get the WIP whipped into shape to start the agent hunt again in earnest next year; and I have two more y/a manuscripts to whip into shape as well as the Scotty to completely redo. I hate having to throw out eight chapters worth of work–and maybe some editing can get them into decent shape and usable again. As I said, in talking to my friend Susan last week I realized the plot I was developing for the book simply doesn’t work; primarily because New Orleans is such a small town, and New Orleans society is an even smaller one. There’s no way Scotty wouldn’t have known something before he was surprised with it; just given both sides of his family he would have met the person any number of times and would have heard about him; that kind of throws that plot right out the window. Maybe the entire thing should just be scrapped and I should start over completely. I don’t know.

But so yes, there’s a lot I need to get done. I also have a short story due by the end of the month I need to work on, another project is also calling my name, and I have a grant application I need to get ready. I’ve decided to start applying for grants, long shots that they are; but you cannot get one without applying, and while I may not have an MFA or a Ph.D. behind my name I do have an awful lot of publications; my c.v. is at least fifteen pages long–and it hasn’t been updated in years. But I think I have proven that I can write. And I think perhaps a collection of personal essays, of experiences and observations I’ve made throughout my life, studying our culture and the deep flaws in our society and culture, could actually be rather interesting. I have years of diaries and blog entries to cull from; and I often find writing personal essays, on those rare occasions when I’ve had the opportunity to write them, quite rewarding. My favorite essay is “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”, which was in Love Bourbon Street, and was edited down to be included in another collection, and I could possibly make that the lynchpin of the collection. I also want to pull together my horror and crime short stories into a collection, which will undoubtedly have to be self-published. So many projects, so little time.

And yes, reading Joan Didion has inspired me a bit on that front.

And on that note, I am going to dive back into the spice mines this cold morning in New Orleans. Here’s a lovely hunk to get your week off to a lovely start:

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Twist of Fate

It snowed yesterday in New Orleans, and it is still cold today–albeit sunny. I am sitting at my desk this morning wearing fingerless gloves so I can type, a  knit LSU cap on my head, and a blanket wrapped around my legs. I also have to go to Costco at some point today, and I also have to get some things done. Needless to say, a temperature around fifty at my computer doesn’t make that more likely. I may check into space heaters at Costco today–although I may check the attic. There should be another one around here somewhere.

When I got home last night I turned on the heat and cleaned the upstairs, then grabbed a blanket and headed for my easy chair.I stopped reading The Last Picture Show when I got to the bestiality part (which I’d completely forgotten about) and even though there’s an even more important part of the story after the cow-rape (seriously), I just couldn’t pick the book up again. I know I can skip over that part, but honestly. I didn’t remember it, or the relatively nonchalant way McMurtry talked about it in the book–like it’s very common place amongst farm boys (literally, “every farm boy has done it”)–and I don’t know…I still have fond memories of the book, but despite the fact that it’s still really well written, I don’t know if I’m going to keep reading it; although I suppose if I continue reading it as an example of toxic masculinity…and the homophobia in it–what would toxic masculinity be without some good old homophobia?–is also not easy to read; because it’s so casual. 

Then again, that was the thing about the culture back then (it’s set in the 1950’s); the hate was so casual and matter-of-fact. It’s a short book, I may go back to it later today. (And interestingly enough, Larry McMurtry also co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, so there’s that.)

Speaking of homophobia, I was scrolling through HBO Now last night looking for something to watch, and noticed they had American Gigolo available. I had watched that movie only once, years ago on videotape, when a female friend had rented it. I didn’t remember much about it, other than Richard Gere was so incredibly beautiful and at the end Lauren Hutton came through for him at the end, and Blondie’s “Call Me” played over the opening credits and it was criminal that the didn’t at least get an Oscar nomination for Best Song. It should have WON, damn it. It’s a great song and it still holds up today.

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I also remembered that it wasn’t very good.

That memory was correct, but watching it again…so much wasted potential in this movie. It could have been a noir classic.

Gere plays Julian, or Jules, who basically is a gigolo, and not cheap. He works for several different pimps–one a blonde woman with a great beach house, the other a black gay man–but Jules is so in demand and so good at what he does-and let’s face it, Gere smolders. You can see why he catches everyone’s eye when he walks into a room, and no one wears an expensive suit like he does–but he’s also become incredibly arrogant because he is so good. Both of his pimps argue with him about the split on jobs they get for him–but he’s so good he always gets his way, but both warn him that his attitude and ingratitude to them is going to bite him in the ass one day. The gay pimp sets him up with a kinky job in Palm Springs–he has to be abusive to the woman while the husband watches–which makes him incredibly uncomfortable but he does the job well because the pimp tells him they want him back. Jules throws the word ‘fag’ around a lot–“I don’t do fags” etc., which, as someone who is paid for sex, I can certainly see why he would want to be clear on what he does and what he doesn’t, but again–casual homophobia. He meets and falls for Lauren Hutton in a restaurant at a posh hotel, who turns out to be an unhappy politician’s wife. They embark on a secret affair, but she turns out to be his alibi for the night the Palm Springs wife is murdered…and he can’t tell the police about her. This is also kind of where the movie goes off the rails. The crime itself is treated as an afterthought, and Jules being suspected and investigated–and he is being framed–are all secondary to his development as a character; all of this is just a moral lesson for him about being humble and how you shouldn’t treat people badly because they won’t stand by you when you need him, all the while he’s making this incredible noble sacrifice for the woman he loves.

A woman is brutally murdered as a plot point and pivot so Jules can learn humility.

Whoa. And wow.

And even the resolution doesn’t make sense. Turns out the gay pimp pulled off this elaborate ruse and frame just to teach Jules a lesson in humility? I wasn’t really clear on this at the end; it didn’t make sense to  me the first time I watched and it still didn’t make sense this time. The confrontation with the pimp ends with him accidentally knocking him off the balcony, but Jules tries to save him, but he can’t hold him. He falls to his death with Jules literally left holding his boots. He is taken in by the police and arrested, refuses to speak to his lawyer, but then Lauren Hutton comes forward and alibis him for the original murder, because she loves him…and they speak to each other through glass in the prison’s visiting room when she tells him she’s cleared him because she loves him. The end. And my first thought was, well, your alibi isn’t going to do him any good NOW that he’s killed the pimp, even if it was an accident. So you just blew up your own life for no reason because he’s still going to jail.

None of that was resolved. It’s really a shame, because it could have been a great noir classic. And it many ways it is actually a good film, and highly original: it was one of the first movies to ever focus so heavily on male beauty, and Gere is often in underwear or naked (full frontal, at that) or shirtless; the camera lingers over him lovingly the way it previously only did for women; the soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder was excellent and also the first time electronica music was used for a film score; and the entire film is beautifully shot. But the writer/director didn’t see it as a film noir or a crime film; he saw it as a character study with a redemptive arc, and that was where the film fell flat.

Pity.

And now back to the spice mines.

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

My brake light came on in my car yesterday, so I have to take today off to take it in to the dealer for an inspection at eleven this morning. Hardly thrilling, and not how I wanted to spend my day–but Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley will make the trip with me, so there’s that. The book continues to enthrall me; it really is quite remarkable, and I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it before, either.

That is quite an accomplishment.

Writing/working on that short story the other day seems to have shaken me out of the glumness about writing/career that I’ve been experiencing lately; there will obviously continue to be peaks and valleys, but I am thinking more about being pushed, and pushing myself to do better work. I watched the Joan Didion documentary last night, The Center Will Not Hold, and that, too, was inspirational. Writing should always be about your quest to find the truth, whether it’s about a situation or your characters or your work or your life; a way of learning,  not only about the world but primarily about yourself. I am going to finish that story today–after the car dealership–and then I am going to work on some other things. I am also going to clean the Lost Apartment a bit, possibly run to the gym for a light workout–something I’ve been putting off for quite a while–and get organized, with a plan to get me through the rest of the year.

I am most likely going to read Donna Andrews’ latest, How the Finch Stole Christmas, when I finish reading Ivy’s wonderful book, but I may read Joan Didion’s Miami soon as well; I’ve never read any Didion. I’m aware of her, and her body of work, but I could have sworn I had a copy of Play It as It Lays around her somewhere, but I looked for it last night and couldn’t find it. It also required me to look in a vastly neglected bookcase, the one nestled in the corner where the staircase makes its first ninety degree turn on its way upstairs, and I noticed a lot of books that I’ve not only been meaning to read but others that I’ve forgotten that I owned. It’s always fun, for me, to look at a book and try to remember it’s provenance, how it founds its way into my collection: oh, yes, I met him at a conference and he was lovely; oh, someone mentioned this book on a panel I was on and I was intrigued by it; oh, I was wondering what happened to this book, I remember going to the signing and enjoying the talk immensely; and so on The only Didion I can lay my hands on right now is Miami, which seems like a perfect time for me to read since I am getting ready to start working on the Florida Bouchercon anthology. Didion may just be my muse; I’ve been thinking about writing a sort of memoir lately (because that is what the world needs; another memoir from a writer), but it’s something I’ve unknowingly been gathering material on for many years, and rediscovering my journals will be an immense help in that regard as well. We shall see.

And on that note, it is perhaps time to return to the spice mines; I have many emails to answer and generate before I depart for the dealership on the West Bank this morning.

Here’s a Calvin Klein underwear ad:

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Oh Sherrie

Wednesday morning. I just paid the bills, so the glow of seeing my post-electronic-paycheck-deposit swollen bank account has worn off more than a little bit, but hey, what can you do? Bills must be paid–the little mundanities of life, you know? Bills must be paid, floors must be cleaned, dishes must be washed, laundry must be folded, faces and scalps must be shaven, and so it goes, every morning, every few weeks, every month, every year, ad nauseum.

I slept fitfully last night but at least I feel rested this morning and not foggy; yesterday was one of those dreadful morns where I was tired and sluggish and wasn’t really able to shake it off, the kind of tired that aches. That was partly because, of course, of working in storage Monday and moving boxes around; my back muscles are still achy this morning and my legs feel a bit tired, but nothing that I can’t handle and nothing I can’t get through. I am, of course, behind on everything, but I am taking Paul to the airport tomorrow since I don’t have to go to work until later–he was surprised when I offered, but I had to remind him (and myself) that part of the reason I wouldn’t take him to the airport had everything to do with hating driving and not the drive itself; now that I have the new car and no longer hate driving…rides aren’t really an issue for me anymore.

It’s amazing what a difference a reliable, lovely new car can make in one’s life; which is something I have to remind myself of every time I make that substantial payment every month.

The MWA anthology deadline is Friday, and it’s kind of a relief to know that I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t make it. The second story, or even revising the first one, aren’t an option and I have some other things I need to get done that are more pressing. Having Paul gone means I’ll have a needy cat to deal with, but I will also be incredibly bored; and what better way to deal with boredom than getting things done?

Also, I am editing the St. Peterburg Bouchercon anthology, Sunny Places Shady People, and the submission call went out yesterday. Here’s the link: one click here and there you are!

And on that note, I am back to the spice mines.

Here’s today’s Calvin Klein ad.

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Dancing in the Dark

Well, I finished Alafair Burke’s The Wife last night, and wow. Just….wow.

That is three, count ’em, three, amazing novels by women I’ve read recently; all of whom–Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke–were already writing fantastic novels, and yet somehow manage to get better with each new one.  As a writer myself, reading these fantastic novels is a bit daunting–it puts me in mind of why do I bother I will never be this good–but as a reader who loves books, they make me want to send off fireworks.

I also started reading Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds last night, and it’s also exceptional. I’d read his Edgar Award nominated debut, Shovel Ready, which was amazing, but somehow had missed his second novel; but got a free copy of The Blinds at Bouchercon (thank you, Harper Collins author signing party!) and have heard raves about it, so I decided to tackle it next. And yes, wow. I am also still processing The Wife, and Lippman’s Sunburn, and Gaylin’s If I Die Tonight. I will of course discuss all of these books closer to their release dates, in great detail, on here. But if you love great books, Constant Reader, you need to go pre-order these right the fuck now. You will not be sorry.

You’ll only be sorry if you don’t.

I don’t have to go into the office until late; which is lovely as I have about a gazillion things to do around the house this morning. I also have several errands to run: I have to stop at Garden District Books to pick up a book about the New Orleans Jewish community (more on that later); CVS to pick up a prescription; and of course, as always, I have to get the mail. I need to spend the morning outlining some short stories–one is due at the end of the month, and I am going to have to really get moving if I intend to get it finished–and I also seriously need to get some Scotty stuff finished. I also need, this week, to tear apart the WIP so I can figure out how to restructure it and add in the things that need to be added. I’d like to get that finished by the end of the year, and I think going about doing all of this in an organized fashion makes the most sense. It’s weird how disorganized I am about writing, when I try–almost to the point of being obsessive–I am about everything else in my life. I also need to start restricting my access to social media; that doesn’t help me with my attention span, which seems to be getting shorter and shorter as I get older. I’ve always had trouble focussing and maintaining that focus; I’ve got to be more laser-like in my focus if I’m going to get all of this stuff done by the end of the year.

I know I can do it, and I am actually feeling a lot more confident than I should be. But the busier I am, the more I have to do–the more likely I am to get things done.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines.

Here’s a Tuesday hunk for you, Constant Reader. Enjoy.

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Jump

Sunday morning and the end of Daylight Savings Time. I woke up at the usual time, reset the clock to the correct time, and stayed in bed for another hour…but still got up early. It’s fine, I don’t mind, and I am actually awake rather than groggy. I need to get groceries–a minor run for some staples and a few things I need for dinner tonight–and I also need to get to the gym today. (I did not, in fact, go yesterday as planned.) I also managed to destroy my ancient iPod Nano. I took it out of my car (where it’s my music source) and put it in my jeans pocket Friday so I could take it with me to the gym, forgot about it, and yes, put it through both washer and dryer. Sigh. Now the screen is dead–the memory in it still works, if I connect it to my computer–but the controls don’t work, and they don’t make Nanos anymore, which totally sucks. I had that damned thing for almost seven years…so I guess I’ll have to use my iPod Touch, which is nine years old, for the gym instead until I can swing getting a new one, I suppose. So annoying. Then again, if it costs less than a new iPod Touch, it might be worth seeing if it can be fixed.

I suppose I could just use my phone, I suppose, but I hate how the music cuts off if you get an email or a text or something. It’s jarring.

First world problems, I know.

I am reading an advance copy of Laura Lippman’s Sunburn, and it’s really quite exceptional. It’s very different than anything she’s done before, and I have to say, it’s quite the ballsy move. It’s very easy to just write the same style and the same type of book over and over again, but Lippman has really stretched herself and grown in her stand alone novels; this, coming after the sublime Wilde Lake, is yet another gamble that is paying off big time. And as I said yesterday, reading amazing work by amazing writers is inspirational; I actually sat down at the computer yesterday and made myself write two thousand words; and they were good words. They took me longer to write than usual–my attention span is so shortened because of social media and everything else these days; I need to remember that the best thing for me to do when I get stuck is to get up and do something away from the computer; even if it is something as simple as rearranging a cabinet shelf; putting things in order and organizing, for some reason, always works as a writing trigger for me. But it’s more than I’ve written in a long time, and I am kind of excited about it, to be honest. I still have an essay to write, and there’s a short story I need to write, but I want to get some more of this Scotty done before I sidetrack myself again.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines. Here’s a Sunday hunk for you, Constant Reader:

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