Hey, Western Union Man

We continue to watch Thirteen Reasons Why, and last night we got through Episode 10, which was heartbreaking. Tonight when I get home from work we’ll watch Episode 11–spoiler! It’s when Clay listens to his own tape, and while I am absolutely riveted, I am also dreading the episode. I also am getting further in the book, which is different in some ways from the show.  At one point watching last night, I said to Paul, “I’m so glad I’m not a teenager now,” even though I feel relatively certain that the things that happen in the book/show probably happened when I was a teenager–I, like Clay, was probably unaware/oblivious to it all–which is a horrifying thought. I find that I am often unpacking a lot of things from my past, recognizing behaviors that were no big deal back then but now are horrifying.

I’ve been processing a lot of that lately, to be honest, and in no small part because of the manuscript. I didn’t do any reading/outlining yesterday, nor did I touch “Quiet Desperation,” primarily because I felt kind of tired and out of it yesterday (another wretched night’s sleep  Tuesday, followed by Wacky Russian on Wednesday morning), and while I certainly slept better last night, Paul’s alarm and his constant smacking of the snooze button this morning got me up earlier than I would have preferred. Tonight is yet another late night of bar testing, and tomorrow is the drive to Montgomery and the Author Welcome Party. Heavy heaving sigh. But I’ve pretty much decided not to spend the extra Saturday night in Montgomery; Saturday morning I’ll check out and head over to the Book Festival, spend the day there, and then drive back to New Orleans. That way I have Sunday here to run errands and do things, before driving up to Oxford on Monday. After all this travel I am going to get into a regular workout schedule upon my return, as well.

That’s the plan, at any rate.

So, this morning I am going to pack for the trip, clean the kitchen and get some laundry done, do some writing, and maybe read a bit. I am having lunch with a former intern of mine from a million years and several jobs ago–she’s now a lawyer, how bad-ass is that?–before I head to work. We are lunching at the Irish House, a pub-style restaurant whose chef won Chopped  many years ago, and they have pretty awesome fish-and-chips, and it’s a short walk from the Lost Apartment (I’ll take the car, though, so I can take my time and then drive to work from there). So the dryer is spinning, the washer is agitating, and I am sitting here with my second cup of coffee listening to a playlist on my iHome stereo waiting for the clouds to clear out of my head completely before I get up and unload the dishwasher and get the day going.

This morning I also picked out the story I’m going to revise/rewrite for an anthology I want to submit to–getting into it (it’s annual) is on my bucket list and I will keep trying until I do get in. I’ve submitted three or four times so far–failing every time–but two of the rejected stories ended up somewhere else, so that’s always a good thing. I am really taking my short story writing a lot more seriously than I used to; I am no longer allowing myself to think I am not good at it because that is self-defeating (another one of my daily affirmations, which really, as weird as it seems and as ‘new agey/touchy-feely/mumbo-jumbo’ as it feels and I’ve always dismissed it as, actually is seeming to work. 

I just wish I had thought this way twenty years ago. Ah, well, no regrets.

Live and learn.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you, Grant Aleksander, who played Philip Spaulding on Guiding Light:

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Stoned Soul Picnic

In a bizarre blog twist, my entire entry about Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, other than the opening paragraph, has completely disappeared from here, which is very strange. I don’t know how that could have happened; and it’s disappointing, as I made some very strong points about racism and the erasure of the brutality of slavery from our history. I did wonder why it, as opposed to so many of my other entries, wasn’t getting ‘likes’ by anyone, and now I know why–it’s not that it offended people, but rather that the entry is now simply, mostly gone.

How fucking annoying. And, of course, I always write the blog directly here, rather than using Word and cutting and pasting. So, it’s simply vanished into the ether, gone forever. Heavy heaving sigh. As for as writing losses go, it’s pretty low on the scale but at the same time…it hurts to lose any writing. Ever.

Heavy sigh.

I spent some more time reading Stephen King’s Finders Keepers yesterday between doing some cleaning (I never did get to the windows, but will today) and relaxing. I got caught up on Riverdale, ran some errands, cleaned the living room thoroughly (although I needed the ladder to do the ceiling fans and the windows, it was upstairs and so when I moved upstairs to I cleaned up there before bringing the ladder down, and by then I just wanted to relax and read), and did sit in my easy chair thinking about things I am working on. Today, I am going to do some straightening up around here, the windows and the ceiling fans in the living room, and I may finish cleaning upstairs. I don’t know, quite frankly; I am also feeling the lure of Finders Keepers, which I am really enjoying. It’s the middle book of his Bill Hodges trilogy, which began with the Edgar-winning Mr. Mercedes, which I also greatly enjoyed. I am almost halfway finished with the book, and King’s ability to create great characters the reader can understand and even empathize with, no matter how awful the characters may actually be, is on display here.

I also cleaned out some books for the donation pile, which is always a lovely start. I need to stop buying books, really, is what I need to do, but it’s a lifelong problem, and at almost fifty-six, I’m not sure I can effect behavior change anymore, but it’s certainly worth a try. I am also going to go to the gym later on today as well; and lift weights. If I go back to the old system–let’s face it, I am never going to motivate myself to do cardio–of what I did when I lost weight originally–go to the gym, do a full-body workout with more reps and lighter weights, and do some stretching–in addition to eating healthier, I should be able to get rid of that pesky fifteen pounds and get back down to 200. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back to 180–my oddly shaped frame would make finding clothes that fit properly an issue (the ten pounds or so I’ve already lost has made all my pants too big in the waist, but they are still tight in the legs, and the small waist and big quads/hamstrings has always been an issue for me with pants), so I don’t know that I’d want to get back down that far. A flatter stomach and more definition is all I really want, anyway, so that I can at least get to the point where I don’t mind going to the beach, as I would really like to get tanned again. And going to the beach is always lovely, anyway.

Apparently it’s going to rain today, so doing the windows is out. Heavy sigh. It does look gloomy out there. There’s always next weekend.

Friday I am driving up to Montgomery for an appearance at the Alabama Book Festival, and driving back to New Orleans for a day before heading up to an event at the Sarah Isom Center for Women at Ole Miss in Oxford. I am very excited, if a bit nervous, to do both events. It’s so lovely having a new car so that I don’t have to worry about the driving, though. I love my new car; and almost three months after I bought it, it still has the new car smell.

I’ve also figured out how to revise “Quiet Desperation”, which is something I’d like to get to work on this week. My work schedule is sort of normal for the week, despite a late night on Thursday. As I start getting back into the groove of writing and rewriting, I am hoping to get a lot more done from now on. I also no longer have to get up ridiculously early for work on Tuesdays anymore–I don’t have to be at the office until 11 henceforth–which makes the week a bit more palatable for me; I won’t be tired and sleepy from Tuesday on anymore. Here’s hoping.

I want to kick my writing up a notch or two, push myself harder. Fingers crossed.

Here’s an Easter Sunday hunk for y’all.

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A Beautiful Morning

I belong to a Facebook group devoted to collectors and fans of children’s mysteries, either the series (i.e. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, etc.) and the ones that stood alone, like Phyllis A. Whitney’s and Mary C. Jane. The stand alones you generally got from either the public library, the school library, or the Scholastic book catalogue. The subject of the Scholastic catalogue came up on that thread, with some of the collectors posting their copies of the books. I recently ordered, from ebay, some of the ones I remembered from my childhood–The Ghost of Dibble Hollow, The Ghost Rock Mystery, and some other Mary C. Janes–because the one thing I am sentimental about is books/TV shows/comic books/movies that I loved when I was a kid. My favorite day of school at Eli Whitney Elementary was the day the Scholastic catalogue came, and I got to go home and my parents would let me pick out two or three books to order. Remembering that also made me remember how my mom used to always deposit my sister and I at the Tomen Branch of the Chicago Public Library while she ran errands, like to Walgreens and other places, like going to the dentist, and would retrieve us when she was finished with my big stack of books. The first Phyllis Whitney book I read was checked out of the library–The Mystery of the Hidden Hand–which was set in Greece and had to do with a long lost statue of Apollo, thus combining my love of mysteries, mythology, and history. I loved to read when I was a kid because the world was such a strange place to me, and I didn’t really fit into it. I didn’t like to do the things that boys supposedly were into–baseball and other sports, playing outside, fishing, etc. All I ever really wanted to do was curl up somewhere with a book, or make up my own stories.

I’ve been questioning my writing lately, more along the lines of my career rather than the actual writing. Yesterday was quite a lovely day; I slept late and Paul went into the office, and I started cleaning the kitchen while listening to music on my iPod. (I still haven’t done the windows yet.) I started reading Finders Keepers, am about a chapter in, and am enjoying it. I’ll get back to it today, of course, at some point. Paul’s going to run errands with our friend Lisa today–they like to haunt second hand stores, and he wants to get another individual small dresser and small bookcase–which means I’ll pretty much be home alone again for most of the day. I intend to finish the living room today, run to the grocery store and post office, and then maybe work on the upstairs. I also want to get another three to four chapters of the secret manuscript reread and outlined; I am very pleased with the quality of it, for a first draft, and I think I can really turn it into something good. Letting it sit for so long the way I did has really helped me with it; I now have the proper distance to get back to it and read it/edit it/revise it, rather than being so deeply immersed in it. I am, Constant Reader, rather excited about this turn of events–and it’s been awhile since I’ve been this excited about something I’m writing. I am also going to critique some short stories I’ve written today, see if I can whip them into submission shape….the market for short stories is, alas, so limited these days.

I may even go to the gym today. We’ll see how the day plays out. I am kind of planning out the day, while accepting that it may not go the way I am planning, and I am also fine with that. Yesterday was such a lovely day–I got to have drinks with my friend Laura, who is in town for the weekend, and we had a lovely chat about books and writing–and it was perfectly timed; sometimes the things I think or even write about on here, need to be SAID ALOUD TO SOMEONE to attain their full power.

There’s something about saying things out loud. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there you have it. Bearing this in mind, I’ve come with some daily affirmations to say to myself in the bathroom mirror every morning. Feel free to mock me for this; I did it this morning and saying the words aloud, I don’t know, made it seem real, made it seem possible.

A lack of belief in myself has often been my downfall throughout my life. It’s the one piece of the puzzle that’s missing, so I am going to work on that.

And now, off to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk for Easter Eve for you, Constant Reader.

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Angel of the Morning

Last night was a late night of bar testing at the Pub, so this morning I am a little groggy. I also haven’t yet had my second cup of coffee, either, so there is that. I am feeling a little out of sorts emotionally, too–nothing major, just some sincere dissatisfaction with a lot of things–and while I can, of course, blame that on Mercury being in retrograde, I am also choosing to look at it as a good thing: it’s time to shake things up a bit.

I decided to stop reading The Nest last night. I am about a little over a third into the book, and with no disrespect intended to the author, I am not her intended audience because none of it was resonating with me. I am going to move on to something else; I shall, once I am finished here, go peruse the stacks and shelves to find something juicy I can really sink my teeth into and get lost in the story. I’m not really sure what I am in the mood for reading right now, to be honest, and may make a false start on a novel or two until I find something that sweeps me away–although I am thinking I may read Stephen King’s Finders Keepers next; I loved Mr. Mercedes, and King so rarely disappoints…that might be just the thing for me tomorrow around running errands and cleaning this filthy, filthy apartment.

I’ve also decided to focus on editing and writing the second draft of the secret manuscript. Trying to edit/rewrite it while writing another Scotty and other short stories as well is scattering my creativity and my energy; and I’m just not feeling the Scotty novel right now, so it’s time to put it aside and move on. If the revisions go as easily as the writing of the first draft does, I’ll be finished with it in a month or two anyway. I don’t, however, want to go through it quickly, though; I want to take my time and really do a good job on it. The most important thing now is to go through and edit, while also writing up an outline and making a list of characters and so forth. Yes, that sounds like a plan, and to accomplish everything I want to get done this weekend once I’m showered and fully awake I am going to make a to-do list. (At least my taxes are done and filed; I also owed Louisiana state tax–BASTARDS–but have already paid it.)

And on that note, I am going to get ready for work.

For Throwback Thursday, here’s a hunk from the past: Steve Bond, from his days as Jimmy Lee Holt, the bastard Quartermaine, on General Hospital.

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Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)

Monday morning in New Orleans.

I’ve been awake for an hour, yet don’t feel awake yet. Second cup of coffee is helping, though; I can almost feel the caffeine moving through my body inside my veins. I have a short day today; only five and a half hours, and am having dinner with my friend Stuart this evening. Tomorrow and Wednesday are both twelve hour days at the office, complicated still further by meeting with Wacky Russian early on Wednesday morning. I don’t have to go in until late on Thursday, which will also be rather lovely; I am sure I am going to need the extra sleep to get over the preceding days. And of course, Friday is Good Friday, so—three day weekend! I am hoping that if I spend about three hours on each day of that weekend cleaning I can get the Lost Apartment back under control. It’s a horrifying mess, quite frankly, and it’s more than a little appalling. The ceiling fans, for example, are disgusting.

I’ve gotten further along in Underground Airlines, and I am really enjoying it. With the three day weekend coming, I hope to get it finished this week, finish The Nest over the weekend, and maybe move on to something else. I didn’t get any writing done this weekend, but I did do some brainstorming–which, to me, counts, and if you don’t think it does FUCK YOU–and came up with some new characters. The problem I am having with Chapter One of Crescent City Charade (which I really want to finish this week) is that already the chapter is too long and it’s not even finished yet. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, and rather than resisting how long the chapter is I should just make it as long as it needs to be to get to the transition into Chapter 2 and worry about editing it down–or splitting it into two chapters, if necessary–later, rather than worrying so much about it now; similar to how I have almost five thousand words of “Quiet Desperation” already written and haven’t even gotten to the meat of the story yet. (That story, obviously, is going to require a ridiculous amount of editing.)

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate editing myself? The only thing worse is rewriting. Heavy heaving sigh.

Friday night I finished watching a television show on Hulu; Faking It, which originally aired on MTV. It only lasted three seasons, and it’s actually kind of clever (the second season was twenty episodes; the third and final was only ten, which makes me wonder how that played out). MTV has long been a progressive force, yet we really no longer hear about MTV being controversial. MTV ran the first HIV/AIDS PSA’s to air, and continued to do so for years before other networks caught up. MTV also originated reality television–The Real World model is still copied and imitated to this day; any reality show where everyone has to share a living environment is copying it–and also put a face on HIV/AIDS with Pedro Zamora back in the early 1990’s. I often have held that a lot of the shift in public/social perceptions of the LGBTQ community had a lot to do with MTV’s influence on youth; I also think MTV has shifted public perceptions on many social issues by exposing young people to them and helping them to see the systemic unfairness in so much of American society. But that’s an essay for another time.

Faking It has a ridiculous premise, but it’s actually kind of clever at the same time: Hester High School, in Austin, Texas, is every conservative’s nightmare about political correctness raging out of control in public education. The show could have easily been called Politically Correct High; because Hester High School is just that: sensitivity to other races and cultures are foremost. The most popular kid at Hester is the openly gay kid, whose best friend is the high school lothario; but the primary focus of the show is the friendship of Karma and Amy, two best friends who accidentally get outed as a lesbian couple. Amy wants to correct the record, but Karma enjoys the corresponding rise in their popularity and she wants to ride that wave; plus, the school lothario–played by Gregg Sulkin–is now interested in her because he’s never had sex with a lesbian before. The show frankly and honestly takes on a lot of social issues–everything from intersex to transgender to sexual fluidity–and the catch to the ‘pretending to be lesbians’ schtick is that Amy actually is in love with her best friend Karma–who doesn’t return the feelings. The young cast is quite appealing, and while some of the adventures they have strain credulity, the show’s message of tolerance, acceptance, and understanding is handled very well.

Gregg  Sulkin also has achieved teen heartthrob status.

 

gregg sulkin

Not hard to see why.

But young, out actor Michael J. Willett as Shane Harvey pretty much steals the show. Shane is depicted as a scheming. snarky, but funny kid with a lot of insecurities who really just wants to find a boyfriend, and Willett plays the part to perfection. He also played gay in the movie GBF, which was actually a lot better than I thought it would be (think a John Hughes teen comedy with a gay main character instead of Molly Ringwald), and the two characters couldn’t be any more different–showing that there are a range of gay characters; we aren’t this monolithic ‘all the same’ that some people seem to think we are–which goes along with the concept of inclusion: we’re not all finger-snapping sidekicks with a great sense of snark, fashion sense, and with our fingers on the pulse of pop culture. Just as it would be cool for books, TV shows, and movies to include gay characters for the sake of diversity; within the gay community there’s a huge range of diverse characters. The key to writing gay characters is to make them human.

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Here’s hoping Willett can find more work as an out gay actor.

And now, back to the spice mines.

I Wish It Would Rain

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and it looks lovely outside. I may clean the windows today. I have to get the mail, pick up some prescriptions, make a grocery run, and I also want to get the car washed, and of course, as always, there is laundry to do. I also want to spend some time reading today, and cleaning the kitchen and living room. Yes, I am feeling rather ambitious today; we shall see how it turns out.

I forgot my book (The Nest) at the office on Thursday night; I worked at the other office yesterday and it’s French Quarter Fest, so getting down to Frenchmen Street would be a nightmare and would make me tired and cranky, so I decided to just start reading another book–Ben H. Winters’ Underground Airlines, recently named a Thriller Award nominee for Best Novel. I’d always intended to read The Underground Railroad and Underground Airlines back-to-back for comparison sake; I forgot and started reading something else when I finished reading the Whitehead. The Winters book was controversial when it was released; it, like the Whitehead, is sort of magical realism/alternate history; Winters’ premise is that the Civil War was never fought as yet another slave-owner appeasement compromise was reached in 1860 that prevented secession and the war; and other compromises were reached over the years since. It’s an interesting concept, and at the time the book was released there was some controversy; the main character is a free man of color who works as a slave-catcher. I’m not very far into it, but it’s well-written and I’m enjoying it thus far.

I also got a lot of work done on “Quiet Desperation” this week; the story is now well over four thousand words. I stopped working on it the other day (Thursday, to be exact) because I felt that I was getting impatient and rushing the ending, so I decided to pull back from it for a few days and then get back to it over this weekend. I also think the story may have meandered a bit. The goal is to finish it and the chapter of the new Scotty I’ve been working on, so I can really get going on both the Scotty book and another short story next week. Ambitious goals, yes, but do-able.

And I want to get to the gym tomorrow morning.

A truly ambitious plan for the weekend, no?

We’ll see how it all works out, won’t we?

Here’s a hunk to see you through your Saturday.

Born to Be Wild

Apparently, a nasty storm will be buffeting New Orleans most of the day; at this moment the sun is still shining but there’s also that creepy, weird, pre-storm quiet/stillness outside of my windows this morning, which means it will be particularly nasty.

Yesterday I did chores; the bed linens are all clean now, two loads of dishes, and two loads of clothing were also run through the washing/drying cycles; I still have some dishes to put away this morning but at a glance, the kitchen is clean. We also watched the World Figure Skating championships yesterday, and got caught up on Big Little Lies, Supernatural, and Riverdale. We also are about five episodes behind on Bates Motel, but having now seen the first two episodes of this final season…well, wow, they are really knocking it out of the park on this season. Today I am going to answer emails, read, and do some writing while also doing some organizing of my work station–as always, there is filing to be done, which is incredibly annoying.

I’ve been doing some scattershot research lately; as I have mentioned before my mind is all over the place right now. I am reading up on the seventeenth century, to get a better knowledge of the politics of the time (I am pretty up on them, but getting better informed is never a bad idea, especially if you’re planning on writing about the period at some point); I am also researching Alabama history because of another project I am thinking about; and I am also reading up on New Orleans history and Louisiana politics. My knowledge in regards to both, considering how much I write about both New Orleans and Louisiana, is not as up to snuff as it should be. I know basics about it, of course–the city was founded by the French; became Spanish after the French and Indian/Seven Years’ War; was given back to the French and then sold to the US in 1803; fell to the Union army/navy in 1862; and so forth. Lots of gaps there, though, and more knowledge is always crucial in writing, even if most of it remains off the page.

Later this month, of course, I am off to both Alabama and Mississippi for events; I’m hoping that the trip to Alabama, in particular, will help in some ways for the Alabama project–which will probably result in a trip to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to do research at their library and archive. Paul and I are also considering a trip to the beach at some point; a lovely, relaxing long weekend would be absolutely lovely, methinks. I am thinking it’s about time I got a tan again–although some basic research in tanning salons in Uptown New Orleans slapped me in the face with the knowledge that tanning beds apparently are no longer in vogue and people seem to prefer spray tans…which doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I don’t want my skin dyed, I want an actual tan, which apparently means going to beaches now. Although I suppose now going to the beach and getting sun is much worse for the skin than it used to be.

Heavy heaving sigh…but I think it’s a good sign that my vanity is starting to resurface, which means I will be taking better care of myself. Paul and I have both decided to start eating more healthy, with a treat on the weekends–yesterday we got shrimp po’boys from the Please U; next week it will be deep dish pizza from That’s Amore, which has now conveniently opened a location in our neighborhood.

I also want to get some reading done today….in fact, I’m probably going to do that before trying to write. I can’t help but think reading Colson Whitehead will help in some ways. Or maybe I’ll dive back into Mississippi Noir again. The day is rife with possibility.

Or…I may end up doing nothing today at all. It happens sometimes.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hot guy to liven up your Sunday.