Everything About You

Saturday morning. A good night’s sleep had me up earlier than I would have thought this morning, but I feel rested and good; I was exhausted last night for some reason; Friday, perhaps? I don’t know. But I feel good this morning, I only have one errand to run–which is the grocery store, and I’ll try to get that out of the way momentarily–and some cleaning and organizing needs to be done. I also need to do some writing and editing today; yesterday I was too tired to work on the Scotty revision when I got home, so I need to get caught up on that today.

GEAUX TIGERS!

LSU plays their fifth ranked opponent today, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs roll into Tiger Stadium tonight ranked 22nd in the country. They have some nice wins under their belt, and some losses to quality teams–last week they surprised Auburn–and so this is by no means going to be an easy game for LSU. There could be a let down after last week’s huge, physical win over Georgia; Mississippi State is going to come in hungry; and LSU has to be careful not to be over-confident, must stay focused, and try not to look ahead to the big Alabama game in two weeks–which won’t be as important should LSU lose to Mississippi State. I will undoubtedly be extremely tense during the game, but am going to try my best not to get overwrought and overly involved in the game. It’s supposed to be fun to watch for Christ’s sake.

I also have some reading to do, and some editing that needs to get done, and an author interview I need to get started. My intent is to clean out my email inbox before leaving for the grocery store, as well as get some morning cleaning done here in the kitchen/office. My day job is moving at the end of this month, and I will no longer, in the new building, have my own office; I shall be in a cubicle like everyone else–and so have had to empty the bookcases in my office as well as take down all the pictures from my walls. I do not have the wall-space here in the Lost Apartment to adorn my walls with these pictures–mostly of our trip to Italy–and I’ve been trying to squeeze the books in wherever I can, which for obvious reasons has not been easy to do.

I’m still reading Empire of Sin, and am hoping to get further along in that this weekend as well; it may be in my lap during the game tonight. My reading has slowed down dramatically; and I still haven’t done a blog entry about Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls. Maybe later today.

I finished watching season three of The Man in the High Castle last night, and by far and away, this third season is the best of the show so far. It is interesting to me how well they’ve done with the character of John Smith, an American who fought against the Axis during the lost war and has switched sides, climbing the ladder in the American nazi hierarchy and also being groomed for leadership by Himmler himself. Underplayed beautifully by Rufus Sewell, the personal journey of this monster has sort of humanized him–which is, in and of itself, terrifying; this man is a monster and the antithesis of a patriotic American; everything a true American patriot would despise–and yet, those personal problems and tragedies and little heartbreaks in his family life make him almost win the audience’s sympathies…then he does something monstrous and you remember, there are no good Nazis. This show, and its message, are particularly real and powerful and important, given these times in which we live.

In the early 1990’s, I has an idea for a dystopian series of novels, built around the collapse of the American republic and the rise of a totalitarian state in its place; which I was going to call There Comes a Tide. I have all my notes and ideas in a folder somewhere, which means I might take a look at them sometime soon and see if it’s something I want to write in the next year or so. I have a y/a on deck to write after I finish the Scotty revision, and I am also going to be working on the WIP in the meantime as well; I kind of wanted to try writing a cozy after the first of the year and I also have a noir I want to write, in addition to a paranormal suspense thriller I’ve been toying with the last few months. There’s simply never enough time to write everything I want to write, and all the procrastination doesn’t help.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I’ve also decided to pull a long story from my collection and replace it with two shorter stories; the longer story will probably go up as a Kindle single at some point, and I also am in the midst of another long story that will probably turn into a Kindle single as well: “Never Kiss a Stranger.” I’ve recognized that story needs to be longer but it’s not enough of a story to be a novel…and there’s always Kindle single.

And now, back to the spice mines. I need to wash the bed linens, put some dishes away, get these floors cleaned, organize and file….and stop procrastinating.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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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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Beauty and the Beast

Thursday and the work week approaches its end.

Yesterday was Payday, or rather, Pay the Bills Day, which is always an odious chore. Ironically, the one bill I never mind paying is my car payment; don’t get me wrong, I deeply hate making that payment every month, but I love having a newer car (I guess I can’t really call it new anymore) with all of the lovely bells and whistles and the ability to not worry every time I get in the car if it’s going to break down–not that I don’t always worry about that, it’s just not as present as it was in the Buick.

I have to say, American Horror Story has been a rollercoaster for me to watch over its many seasons; some seasons–“Murder House,” “Cult”–are fantastic, others a little disappointing, others such an enormous mess that I never bothered to finish watching. This season, “Apocalypse,” has been teetering on the edge of probably one more episode and I’m done. The storytelling has just been all over the map; the performances have been entertaining, and the first episode’s opening was pretty intense…but most of the time I’ve just been sitting in my easy chair, rolling my eyes and saying really? This makes no sense. But this week…they returned to “Murder House,” along with Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and most importantly, JESSICA FUCKING LANGE, and the episode was amazing. It also firmly reestablished in my mind that 1) “Murder House” was, by far and away, the best season of the show; and 2) I don’t care what you have to pay her, Jessica Lange is worth every penny and needs to come back once and for all. If she doesn’t get an Emmy for last night’s episode, they need to stop giving them out. Period. The episode was also directed by Sarah Paulson, had some extraordinarily beautiful shots, and wrapped up so much of the “Murder House” story…it may have been my favorite episode of American Horror Story ever.

My own writing continues apace; I worked on the Scotty revision a bit more last night, and I am also thinking about how to structure the final revision of the WIP; I also tried to work a bit on my short story “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which is going to be the lead off story in Monsters of New Orleans. I still plan on writing Bury Me in Satin next; my mind is currently swimming in ideas and thoughts and plans. The fact that my sleep schedule has become somewhat consistent at long last is an enormous help in that regard; it makes a huge difference when you feel rested every day.

I’m also looking forward, with a little trepidation, to LSU’s game with Mississippi State on Saturday evening. One of the lovely things I’ve noted about switching from cable to Hulu Streaming Live TV is that I don’t spend all day Saturday in my easy chair watching college football games all day; I literally used to spend the entire day with my eyes glued to the television watching games that don’t matter to me in the least, usually, to be fair to myself, while I was reading a book or scribbling notes. I don’t do that anymore; not that Hulu TV isn’t easy to negotiate–it is, just in a different way than cable was–but the beauty of Hulu TV is that what tyranny cable television had left on me has been broken; case in point–last night’s American Horror Story episode. It is one of the few shows that Paul and I would make a point of watching live as it aired; Paul had a board meeting last night and didn’t get home until about nine fifteen; fifteen minutes after it had started. But because Hulu TV sort of works as a kind of DVR, I could queue it up and it started at the beginning. This is marvelous, and now it’s weird to think that we ever scheduled our lives around the airdate and time of some television show. This means I don’t ever have to rush home from work, or think rats, can’t stop at Rouses on the way home because our show is starting.

This was amazingly helpful during this last season of Real Housewives of New York.

And now I am going to jump back into the spice mines for a bit before I head into the office. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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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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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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Make It Happen

Friday! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Yesterday I did something I’ve not done in a long time: posted a Throwback Thursday picture. I have a folder of pictures I got from my family and scanned from my childhood, and I picked one from there.

This one, to be more precise:

Scan 18

As you can see, it was developed in February of 1974, which means it was taken on my sister’s little Kodak pocket camera in the summer of 1973. I also know that beach–Panama City Beach, Florida, where my aunt and uncle had a cabin about three blocks or so from the water they rented out and we often stayed at when we went south in the summertime.

As I posted the picture, I smiled fondly; I’ve never really written an awful lot about the Gulf Coast of Florida–there’s a couple of short stories I’ve never published, and ideas for more–but the most amazing thing about this picture, to me, is how empty the beach is for a July afternoon. I can’t even imagine that being possible today. Back then, there were no resorts, hotels, or luxury condos built on the beach side of the shore road; and there were no high rise buildings in Panama City Beach, either. Just little beach houses, very few year round residents in the area. The shore road wasn’t exactly lined with chain restaurants and fast food, either; mostly little mom-and-pop souvenir shops that also sold gasoline and cold soda and beer. Scattered along the shore road were family-owned seafood diners–I remember some amazing meals at these places. On the beach side of the road I remember there were these enormous ditches, with worn, weather-beaten wooden footbridges leading over them to the dunes–covered with sea grass and sea oats–and then on the other side you could climb down some weather-beaten gray wooden stairs to the actual sugar powder white sand. It was so beautiful there…the beautiful panhandle beaches spoiled me for all beaches I’ve been to ever since; setting a standard that is hard to beat. We used to go to Miracle Strip Amusement Park; the adults would sometimes go to the dog races at Ebro. The cabin had a big screen porch with a tin roof where all the kids would sleep in front; with just one of those little hooks to keep the screen door closed.

I can’t imagine parents letting their children sleep in such an unsecured location now; it seems like a recipe for children disappearing, doesn’t it?

Someday I suppose I will write about the panhandle of Florida back in the 1970’s; the only thing I’ve done thus far is an unpublished horror short story that is kind of cliche and will probably never be published anywhere (I am not a horror writer, but I keep trying. Or maybe I’m just not a good short story writer in general; or some combination of the two, I don’t know).

And now, back to the spice mines.

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