Evil Dust

The sun is actually out today and there aren’t many–if any–clouds in our beautiful blue sky this morning, which is lovely. It’s rained pretty constantly ever since Tuesday afternoon, and everything outside is still wet from nearly a week of rain. I love rain–especially thunderstorms–but even I thought five straight days of them was a bit extreme. I wound up running my errands in the rain yesterday–I dropped off another five boxes of books to the Ladder Library sale yesterday (you actually can tell now that I’ve gotten rid of books)–and made groceries and got the mail. It was pouring while I did all of this, so my plans to go to the gym yesterday were finally scrapped. I also wound up taking the day off from almost everything yesterday–I think I needed a brain-free day, frankly–and so we watched a lot of television–we binged all the way through a delightful comedy called The Other Two, watched the Tom Holland movie Cherry on Apple Plus, and then switched over to Acorn for a riveting crime show called The Cry.

Yes, I was a slug all day and I am not a bit ashamed of it.

Oh, sure, I had my journal with me and scribbled notes freeform all day–my favorite is that I came up with a short story title I now HAVE to use, “To Live and Die in La.”, while having absolutely no idea what the story would actually be, but I laughed at the title and now want to. use it–so I did do something. But today I have to start revising/copy editing/making notes on Bury Me in Shadows–due to be returned to my editor no later than the first of May–and so, if I do go to the gym today (leaning towards it, since it’s sunny out) I can curl up in my easy chair to do it, so that’s a start. I really need to work on my story–the deadline for that submission call is May 15, I believe–and so I need to kick everything up a notch this week. I am getting caught up on a lot of other things as well–it’s never-ending, and have also accepted that I only have so much bandwidth for things. The emails, for example…I’ll never get caught up on those, ever…so I need to prioritize and so forth in order to get through everything that absolutely needs to be responded to immediately.

I also need to spend some time getting organized and cleaning a bit this morning. There’s filing to be done, of course–always–and somehow the kitchen looks like a tornado ripped through here (not completely an exaggeration, to be honest) and I need to get that taken care of this morning. I have a load of laundry to do, and there’s always dishes–always. I also want to organize the refrigerator a bit more this morning. Since the sun is out, I’ll probably grill hamburgers later on this afternoon, which is always an absolute treat (I really prefer all meat to be cooked over hot charcoal, frankly–or at least, most). I am also a bit excited that the next step of book decluttering (and yes, I am aware I am completely Marie Kondo-ing my apartment) is to go up into the storage attic and start clearing the boxes up there. This will, of course, be more complicated than the bookcases and the hidden boxes in the living room, since I’ll have to bring them down and go through them, combining the ones to keep (I can’t imagine there will be many of those) while putting aside the ones to donate. The goal is to clear out enough space in the storage attic so I can clean out my storage rental and close that account; most of the books in the storage are copies of my own books (and my kids’ series collection) along with some other things–mostly papers–and it would be nice to either no longer have that bill every month, or to use that space for other things…but at the moment I can’t think of anything that we’d need to keep it for.

But it would be great to lose that bill by the end of the summer.

Not as great as paying off the car, but still pretty good.

I think I’m going to add Semi-Tough to the donate pile. The first three pages are nothing but racial slurs as well as justifications for using them, and how the main character–it’s a first person narrative–isn’t really racist and the slurs are just words that don’t mean offense and so on–and yeah, I really don’t feel like spending any of my time with that kind of character. I certainly wouldn’t in real life–imagine being at dinner or a cocktail party and the person you are talking to says, and this is a direct quote from page one: Just because I may happen to say (the n-word) doesn’t mean I’m a racist.

Um, actually it does. It says a lot about you, who you are, and how you were raised, as well as how you see people and the world.

And I really have no desire to read a book filled with racial slurs…because you KNOW its also full of gay slurs, too–and most likely without the caveat justifying the racial slurs: Now listen, just because I say “faggot” doesn’t mean I’m homophobic.

Sure, Jan.

There are so many other good books to read, why reread something I originally read as a teen that plays on racism and homophobia and misogyny for humor? I stopped rereading The Last Picture Show, a book I absolutely loved, a few years ago when it got to the part about bestiality, and how it was perfectly normal for the teen boys to fuck animals…I closed the book and put it away. I may go back and reread the entire thing at some point–the reason I was rereading it in the first place was to examine how it handles homosexuality–which I distinctly remembered it doing–but I don’t think I was able to get far enough into it to get to that part. I know that Coach Popper–long-suffering Ruth’s awful husband–was a deeply repressed one, who favored one of the more athletic boys primarily because of his attraction to him; that the preacher’s son Billy Bob Blanton was often mocked and teased and bullied and humiliated for being a “four-eyed queer” (before he molests a little girl, after which he’s taken away as a pervert); and that the heterosexual English teacher, who was cultured and sensitive and kind, was accused by the coach of impure thoughts and fired (everyone, of course, would never suspect the manly football coach of anything, or question him); and I remembered a particular poignant scene between the fired English teacher–who’s been fired, whose wife has left him and taken their daughters and filed for divorce–and Ruth, where he’s just so beaten down and defeated that it’s heartbreaking. But yeah–that whole “boys will be boys” attitude towards bestiality was too much for me to get through again.

The Last Two is a terrific show, and quite funny. Paul and I really enjoyed it; the premise of the show is the two older children are in their late twenties–one is a struggling actor whose most recent audition was for a commercial in which he would play “Party-goer who smells a fart”; the daughter had wanted to become a dancer until she broke her ankle and dropped out of dance school and cannot figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life–when suddenly, their thirteen year old brother puts up a video of him singing a ridiculous song (“Marry Me at Recess”) and becomes an overnight viral sensation with a record deal and a manager under the name “Chase Dreams”; which makes them feel even more like losers. The older brother, Cary, is also gay and in a weird relationship with his straight roommate; the daughter has broken up with her boyfriend and is now homeless at the beginning of the show. I thought it was terrific, frankly, and look forward to season two.

My primary takeaway from Cherry is that Tom Holland is an amazingly talented actor–he really gives a stunning performance as a poor young man who falls in love, gets his heart broken and joins the military, serves as a medic in Iraq and comes home to nothing but PTSD and drug addiction, which leads him to a life of crime. It’s a very dark story–but also weirdly a love story at the same time–and I don’t think the film, worked overall; the Russo Brothers, who directed, turned it into this big grand opera style thing in the way they shot it; to the point where the beautiful imagery is almost intrusive. It’s a very real story–based on a true story–and it highlights, very powerfully, how we abandon our troops completely after their service is over (since they’re no longer the troops….”support the troops” makes me angry because it is used primarily as a political prop and the actual soldiers themselves suffer in silence and neglect while we give billionaires and corporations every break in the world), but it’s worth watching for Tom Holland’s performance–he was also fantastic in The Devil All The Time–and it’s really nice to see him pushing himself in his non-superhero roles (he’s also the best, in my opinion, Spider-Man).

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

Ecstasy

It’s gray again this morning in New Orleans, and I have about six boxes of books to take to the library sale today. I also have five or six boxes of condom packs that will have to go back to the office on Monday; which, I suppose, is the easiest way to say that my living room currently looks incredibly cluttered and desperately in need of organizing and cleaning and so forth. I also have a lot of errands to do–the mail, groceries, etc. and need together to the gym today as well. I would also like to get some writing done today–at least a revision of a short story or something–so tomorrow I can primarily focus on the edits of Bury Me in Shadows….and maybe do a bit on Chlorine as well.

I was ridiculously productive yesterday–as mentioned before, I really did a great job of paring down the books last night while laundering the bed linens; Paul was out having dinner with a roommate for college (who was indirectly responsible for our meeting, actually) and so while I watched Smithsonian documentaries on World War II (The Battle of Midway, The Battle of Okinawa, The Fall of Japan, Normandy: 85 Days After D-Day) Started going through the boxes of books I have cleverly concealed beneath blankets so they sort of look like tables, in way, with more books and decor on top of them (we have far too much bric-a-brac in this house, seriously), and when Paul got home we watched the second part of the Aaron Hernandez documentary. (I think perhaps the saddest thing–other than the victims, of course–was how exploited he was for his ability; he was clearly trouble at the University of Florida, so they covered for him for three years and once they’d gotten their use out of him, told him he wasn’t welcome back on the team for his senior year and to enter the draft early; as soon as he was arrested and charged the Patriots–and their fans–turned their backs on him immediately as did their fans…which tells me everything I needed to know about how his coaching staff and teammates felt about him–that was an almost lightning like 180, and considering how many other players have committed crimes and not been abandoned….and while murder is pretty extreme, of course, they clearly knew there were issues there and yet no one did anything.)

I also watched two movies yesterday while making condom packs, and both were kind of terrible. The first, The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, was so unbelievably bad I came very close to turning it off numerous times, but figured you finished Carnal Knowledge, you can finish this. Directed by Sam Peckinpah, known for his violent and bloody films, and based on the novel by Jim Thompson (whom I’ve never read, and I need to correct that at some point), it basically is a dark story about a criminal whose wife gets him paroled by appealing to a corrupt businessman (with her body), so that they can commit a bank robbery and share the money with the businessman. Of course, there are all kinds of double crosses, and the bad guys are after them, as are the cops as well as one of their other accomplices they assumed was dead; there’s a weird subplot with him taking a veterinarian and his wife along with him on the chase for no reason (other than he’s banging the wife); interestingly enough, the vet is played by Howard fro The Andy Griffith Show and the wife/girlfriend (never clear) by Sally Struthers. It’s a mess, really; its only saving grace the chemistry between McQueen and MacGraw (who became involved) and that they are both ridiculously good looking; neither can act their way out of a paper bag (if they can. there’s no evidence of it here), and the score is also terrible and jarring. I know it was remade in the 90’s, I think; but as a noir film, or Neo-noir, it fails. I didn’t care about any of the characters and breathed a sigh of relief when the credits rolled. It’s a definite Cynical 70’s Film Festival entry; that was the time of the anti-hero and anti-establishment thinking…but I couldn’t help but think how much better the film would have been had it starred, say, Paul Newman and Ellen Burstyn, or Clint Eastwood and Natalie Wood, or even Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

In fairness, they were done no favors by the script.

The second part of my double feature was John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye, based on the Carson McCullers novel and boasting a cast including Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Julie Harris and Brian Keith. I read the book several years ago and didn’t much care for it, to be honest–again, maybe I simply missed the point, but I didn’t care about any of the characters and that also translated into the film. There’s never any sense of why they do the things they do, and it’s kind of just a story about sexual hang-ups and frustrations, set around a military base somewhere in the South. Both Taylor and Brando sport really bad Southern accents, and Julie Harris is the only one who really pulls off her role–that of a sad woman who never got over the death of a child and has formed an unnatural attachment to her (incredibly racist and homophobic depiction of a) Filipino houseboy. She also apparently cut off her nipples with garden shears; she’s clearly not well, and yet all around her no one, especially her husband (Brian Keith), who’s sleeping with Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor is married to Brando, who chews the scenery at every opportunity (as I watched I couldn’t stop thinking considered the greatest actor of his generation, wow) who is an extremely repressed gay man who becomes obsessed with a young enlisted man who likes to ride horseback in the nude as well as lay out in the sun in the nude. The enlisted man is obsessed, in his turn, with Taylor, breaking into their house at night and watching her sleep while he paws through her underwear and nightgowns, sniffing them but never touching her. Brando becomes convinced the young man feels the same attraction to him, and at the end, sees the young man sneaking up to the house in the dark out a window. Thinking the young man is coming to him, he becomes enraged when he sees the young man–Elgee–sneak into his wife’s room, so he gets a gun and shoots him dead. The credits roll as Elizabeth Taylor screams. The movie is pretty true to the book, which kind of goes to show how not every book needs to be made into a movie. Most of the book is internal, which doesn’t translate to film very well–and I didn’t much care for the book. The movie could have been good–great cast after all–but overall, it fall flat for much the same reasons The Getaway did; I couldn’t muster up even a little bit of investment in any of the characters, other than Julie Harris, who is the only one who comes across well in the film. It did make me want to revisit the novel again, though, so that’s something. And while this is from 1968 or 1969, I do include it in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival–as there were many films in the late 1960’s that actually began what I consider the cynical period in American film, where the heroes were now who would have been the villains under the old Hays Code–neither Bonnie and Clyde nor The Graduate (both from 1967) could have been made under the code; certainly Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) couldn’t have been.

I may have to take a break from the Cynical 70’s Film Festival for a bit. The last three films were terrible, and while I am kind of glad I saw them–always wanted to–I don’t know if I can stand watching another dated bad movie.

Maybe it’s time to go back to the Halloween Horror Film Festival.

And since I finished The Man with the Candy, now it’s time to pick something new to read. I came across a copy of Dan Jenkins’ Semi-Tough, of all things, while pruning the books. I read it when I was a teenager, along with Peter Gent’s North Dallas Forty, which are two completely different books about the same subject: pro football. Semi-Tough is comic; North Dallas Forty (which I preferred) is dark and almost noirish; the two books came up in conversation on Twitter recently; someone tweeted asking for people’s favorite sports film. I responded with Brian’s Song, and Laura Lippman professed her love for North Dallas Forty. I would really like to revisit the Gent novel and was also thinking I should reread the Jenkins; so having it turn up while pruning the books seemed to me like a sign. I’ll probably hate it–just looking at the first page there are some racial slurs already, and there’s nothing I hate more than the contract sumbitch, which was prevalent in the 1970’s; in theory, it’s how Southern people say “son of a bitch” with their accent. It annoyed me because everyone in my family, excepting my sister (and her children and grandchildren) and I, has a very thick accent…and not one of them ever says sumbitch. It became extremely popular in the 1970’s because Jackie Gleason, playing a corrupt Southern sheriff, says it all the time in Smoky and the Bandit…and I’ve always hated it, and never minded that it went gently into that dark night and no one bothers with it anymore. Being reminded of it sets my teeth on edge, frankly.

I may not, in fact, be able to get through the book. I know it’s meant to be funny and satirical, but….I just opened it at random and the narrator was talking about how it’s very important that we understand that he’s white because most running backs aren’t and….

Yeah.

I can only imagine the misogyny. Sigh.

All right, I need to get this mess under control so I can get everything done. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Too Late

Hey there, Friday, how you doing?

A thunderstorm woke me up around six this morning, as one has the last three days or so, as well as a downpour. It has since stopped raining since I got up–well, at least it’s not a deluge as it was when it woke me up; now it’s just kind of sprinkling–and again, this makes me rather happy that I don’t have to leave the house today. I do need to make groceries and get the mail, but this can wait until tomorrow if need be; or after I finish working today if the weather has cleared up.

Last night I finished reading The Man With the Candy, and the story continues to fascinate me–and the dead boys haunt me. It’s amazing to me also how little there is out there about the case–John Wayne Gacy, being caught alive and tried, essentially erased Corll from the public imagination. Had there been 24 hour news channels in 1974, there would have been so much coverage it would be impossible for the Candyman story to so utterly and completely disappear from the public consciousness; I only know the story because I lived in Houston about fifteen years after Corll was killed, and people in the city still remembered. The book will get its own review post at some point–it’s very well done–but I also can’t help but wonder if all those boys would have been murdered had society not been so homophobic at the time….but I suppose I can talk about that when I write about the book.

We also started watching an Oxygen documentary series about Aaron Hernandez last night, another case that has long fascinated me. While I always tend to reserve my sympathies for the victims, Hernandez never really had a chance, given his abusive childhood, his sexual molestation as a child, his homophobic father and then becoming a professional athlete in an incredibly homophobic sport (well, almost all the professional and amateur sports have a certain level of homophobia built into them as part of the toxic masculinity so rampant in our country as well as the systemic homophobia we still fight to this very day); not to mention all the brain damage he sustained playing football. It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for him, despite his crimes; how different would his life have been had his father not been an abusive homophobe, had he not been sexually molested, and had the society and culture he was raised in been so horrifically homophobic, forcing him to play the toxically masculine role of the stud athlete?

I suppose that’s the case with so many criminals, though–had it not been for this or that, perhaps they would have had a productive life that benefited society.

Speaking of toxic masculinity, yesterday while making condom packs I watched a Mike Nichols film from 1970, Carnal Knowledge, starring Jack Nicholson and Arthur Garfunkel (of all people; I’m curious how he wound up being cast in this). The opening sequences, with the two men playing roommates and best friends named Jonathan and Sandy respectively, was kind of amusing; it’s easy to forget that as recently as the 1970’s it wasn’t uncommon for actors to play high school or college students when they were clearly way too old (see The Way We Were); but it’s also difficult to find actors young enough to play them as college students while looking enough like them to be believable as well as being able to act as well as the stars. My prime away takeaway from this movie was, well, anyone who ever wonders why the Women’s Movement was necessary and needed should just watch this movie. To say that it hasn’t aged well is a MAJOR understatement; and while it seems the entire point of the movie (and this may just be my modern reading of it) is to point out how societal expectations and sexual mores of the time not only punished women but also poisoned men with toxicity. The movie opens with the two men at a mixer when an incredibly beautiful young Candace Bergen arrives; both are interested, but since Sandy “saw her first” she’s his for the taking (boom! not even five minutes in and we are already exposed to the sexist, misogynist notion that a young woman belongs to a man she’s not even met because he saw her first…no consideration whatsoever to what she may want or need) and she reluctantly begins to date him, although it’s fairly obvious she doesn’t really feel anything for him. We never get any understanding of her or who she is, nor do we get any sense of why Jonathan pursues his best friend’s girlfriend or why she sleeps with him. He eventually demands that she choose, and she chooses Sandy. We then follow the two friends through the years, as Jonathan becomes even more toxic and distant, unwilling to get married and unwilling to commit to any woman; Sandy’s marriage ends in divorce and he begins seeing another woman whom Jonathan also pursues, eventually convincing Sandy to “swap” with him; at this point Jonathan is living with Bobbie (played by Ann-Margret; a really terrific performance) a model/actress who moves in with him and quits working and slowly begins to crumble emotionally–he’s also abusive; we never actually see him strike her, but the verbal and emotional abuse is horrific. Sandy goes into the bedroom only to find Bobbie has overdosed on pills…which finally gets Jonathan to marry her. The next scene we see, they are already divorced and he is living alone; Sandy is visiting him with his new girlfriend (a very young Carol Kane), who is horrified by who Jonathan is and his attitude towards women–he shows them a slideshow of every woman he’s been involved with, calling it the Ballbuster Show; Susan (Candace Bergen) briefly appears on the screen and he quickly clicks past her. Appalled by him, the Kane character leaves, and the two old friends go for a walk. Sandy talks about how she is teaching him how to love and how to love himself, and that he hopes cynical Jonathan can find someone who will teach him the same lessons. Jonathan scoffs, and the final scene of the movie shows him going to a prostitute, Rita Moreno, with the hopes that she’ll enable him to get hard this time–impotence has been an issue for him going back to college, which is apparently caused–the script infers–by his inability to be vulnerable or to connect emotionally with women. And that’s all, folks; credits roll.

This definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival; it’s probably one of the darkest films I’ve ever seen when it comes to relationships between men and women. Perhaps that’s what Nichols and screenwriter Jules Pfeiffer were trying for; I certainly hope so, as that was the end result. There were several times while watching that I couldn’t help but think, this is a Rona Jaffe novel only from the men’s perspective rather than the women’s, which just goes to show how fucked up we were as a society back in those “good old days” of the 1950’s conservatives keep wanting us to go back to–no fucking thanks, for the record.

And on THAT note, tis off to the spice mines with ME. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Mesh

Day three of heavy weather in New Orleans; there was a marvelous downpour around six this morning or so that lasted over an hour, complete with lightning and thunder. It’s still gray outside, not currently raining–but there’s a thunderstorm somewhere nearby, as there’s still lightning flashing but with a nice little break before the thunderclap, the kind that lasts for several seconds or more. I didn’t go to the gym last night because the rain was so heavy and had planned to go today–perhaps when I am done with my work-at-home duties today there will be enough of a break in storm bands for me to get over there. I could drive, of course, but that just really seems kind of silly to me since it’s so close. Why yes, I drove the four or five blocks to the gym to work out my body. Granted, rain changes everything, especially New Orleans’ kind of drenching rain, and since we are going into day three of it, the ground is already saturated and can’t absorb it so there’s more standing water than there usually is–and there’s inevitably a lot of standing water any time it rains here.

It just started raining again.

I came home last night fully intending to get a lot done, since the rain precluded the walk to the gym, and while I did do some piecework on Chlorine, I didn’t really do a lot. I was feeling tired, the way I usually do on Wednesday nights anyway, and I also didn’t even bother to unpack my backpack last night, which is not a good sign. I read some more of The Man with the Candy, which is so well-written! I’m really enjoying the book–it reminds me a lot, in how well it’s written, of my favorite true crime books of all time, Blood and Money, and not just because they are both set in Houston–it’s about how well the two different writers wrote about Houston itself, turning the city into a character in the books. This is what I always try to do when writing about New Orleans–giving the reader a strong enough sense of place that the city itself is almost a character in and of itself in my books. This is also triggering the memory that Blood and Money was part of the reason (besides living there) I wanted to set the Chanse series there originally–don’t get me wrong, I am not in the least bit regretful that the Chanse series exists in my own personal New Orleans fictional universe, but there’s always a bit of a pang for me that I have never written about Houston and probably never will, other than as an aside or something in a book. I have several ideas that begin with the character either living in, or being from, Houston; but nothing actually set there.

We also finished the second season of Very Scary People, with the two episodes on Dr. Swango, aka Dr. Death; I’d actually never heard of him before, so he was obviously new to me. We skipped the Bobby Durst episodes–after watching all six or so episodes of The Jinx I didn’t see any real need to spend another hour and a half with Bobby Durst–who, while interesting enough, doesn’t really deserve any more of my attention than he’s already had, frankly. There’s also a new limited series on Netflix, The Serpent (it may be HBO; it’s hard for me to keep track of whichever streaming service these days since there are so many), which is about Charles Sobhraj, a criminal and murderer who operated in Southeast Asia mostly. I read a book about him many years ago called Serpentine, which was also written by Thomas Thompson, who also wrote Blood and Money. It was interesting, and clearly I’ve never completely forgotten it–as soon as I saw The Serpent‘s trailer and its lead actor, I knew exactly who and what it was about–which we may be diving into tonight. There’s also a new mini-series on HBO with Kate Winslet that looks interesting, so there are a lot of options for us to choose from….maybe too many, really.

I’m not really sure why I am having so much trouble getting started on my day–although I suspect the weather has a lot to do with it. When it’s like this I really would much prefer being under a blanket and reading–there’s no better reading weather than rain, is there? It’s just so comforting to be inside and warm and dry while the house is being battered with rain and wind and the sky is rent with lightning and loud thunder….and even though it sometimes means flash flooding and so forth, one of the many things I love about living in New Orleans is the rain (Houston also has marvelous thunderstorms, as did Tampa). I lived for eight years in San Joaquin Valley in California, where it rarely, if ever rained–and we certainly never had this kind of amazing thunderstorm there.

All right, I’ve procrastinated quite long enough. Onward and upward into the spice mines, Constant Reader!

Leave Me Alone

Wednesday morning and it’s pay the bills day–which I actually keep forgetting about. Yesterday the weather took a turn; it started raining around eleven and we went into a flash flood alert/high wind advisory that is lasting until Thursday morning (!!!)–at least that was the case; I’ve not checked the weather yet this morning. It didn’t seem to rain all that hard, all things considered, at any one point but it was pretty consistent for most of the day, at any rate, and it was pouring when poor Paul got home from work last night. It doesn’t appear to be raining currently–but everything outside looks wet in the gray light prior to the sun coming up. But it seems like it’s not going to rain anytime soon, which is cool–hopefully it won’t be raining when I get off work so I can head to the gym.

I am sleeping well now that most of my stress has been lifted–it’s amazing how much deadline pressure gets to me these days, not to mention having so many things going wrong in the Lost Apartment at the same time. But since the house has been sort of put back together again, and I am not on deadline anymore, I am sleeping well; my evenings are nice and relaxing, and I can work on other things without that sense of impending doom and time running out on me.

I have to say I am having the most lovely time writing Chlorine, or rather, working on it. This is the fun part of writing a book, before the drudgery sets in and you have to do the tedious chore of taking what’s in your head and typing it into a document, editing it and fixing it and correcting it. (Actually, not true–I do like revisions and editing. It’s the deadlines involved that I dislike…but the typing out the first draft is the worst part, yes.) I do love coming up with the story and the characters and the scenes, the setting and what their homes look like and their interior lives and their pasts….I live for that shit. So, last night I was working on character bios and making adjustments (with name changes and background changes) to a first draft of the first chapter I wrote sometime (last year? two years ago?) to see if I could get the feel of the story down. It went well for a first draft–in fact, I was able to get about 2500 words (give or take) down in a little over half an hour; always a good sign. I even have the next three chapters already written in my head…of course I still need to transcribe them, but I also want to revise and rework that first chapter before I move on to the next ones.

I also really need to get back to the short stories. That deadline for submission is looming kind of large.

Paul and I watched the second part of the Ed Kemper/Coed Killer episodes on Very Scary People last night after he got home (soaking wet from the storm); Kemper was a main player in the Netflix series Mindhunter, and of course, they talked about how cooperative Kemper was after he turned himself in and how he helped the FBI develop serial killer profiling by articulating his motivations, how he felt, why he was the way he was, and etc. It’s also very weird to think of him working recording books for the blind–imagine listening to an audio book and then finding out the Coed Killer was the voice you’d been listening to–and the part that was so chilling about him in MIndhunter–how reasonable, smart, and actually helpful he seemed, was apparently the case in real life as well.

Yikes.

I also read some more of The Man with the Candy last night; the idea for the book loosely inspired by that true story is also nagging away at the core of my brain, and with the more I read about those mass murders, the more I want to write that story. I wanted to do another Scotty book this year–this isn’t a Scotty story, alas–so I may just go ahead and put off this particular story until I have the Scotty done; I’d really like to have another Scotty come out next year, and I think Twelfth Night Knavery is a good, strong story that I would really like to write, but this Corll-inspired story just won’t let me be…

Sigh. And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me!

Turn My Way

Last night I made it to the gym for the first time in forever, and it felt marvelous. Since it had been a few weeks, an my muscles are old (everything is old, frankly), I only did one set of everything at the weight I was doing the last time I went to the gym. (Never go full tilt when you go back after a break; that results in the kind of muscle fatigue and soreness no one wants, and isn’t good for you, either) Tomorrow night I’ll do two sets, and Friday I’ll be back to three, with Sunday beginning a new week of full workouts. Huzzah!

I actually did some work on Chlorine last night as well; and I am feeling pretty good about the whole thing. For once I know how a book is going to end when I started writing it; it’s the middle and how to get to that desired end that is going to be the problem here. But I love my not-so-heroic hero already, and and it’s really coming together remarkably well. I am also trying to edit and pull together my story “Death and the Handmaidens” for an anthology call that ends in the middle of next month; it’s been through so many iterations already and I really do think my original version–all the rewrites were to try to get it to a place where it would fit the submission call I was sending it to–and so today at some point I am going to read the original and most recent versions and figure out how to make it work. (I used the basic structure of the story, and its original opening, for “The Silky Veils of Ardor.”) I watched some videos on YouTube last night about old Hollywood (and the closet), while I scribbled in my journal while Scooter slept in my lap. I also did a load of dishes and a load of laundry last night–I was pretty motivated and efficient last night; obviously, I wasn’t tired when I got home from work the way I usually am on Mondays, meaning I slept well and am over-all well rested.

Hell, I feel well rested again this morning. Go figure. I woke up before my alarm (4:30, to be exact, just like yesterday) but stayed in bed until it was time to rise. My muscles and body feel relaxed, stretched, and worked, which is a lovely feeling–the stretching before the workout always feels so fucking good–and I am looking forward to a relatively pleasant day. The sun is rising outside as I swill my first of two cappuccinos this morning–the new machine is most excellent, as is my new washing machine (although it’s much more complicated and fancy than it needs to be, which of course makes me nervous), and I continue to make progress on cleaning up and out the apartment. I think tonight–after putting away the laundry and the dishes–I may start breaking into some of the living room boxes to shed more books. The primary reason I’ve not already done this is because it will require disassembling a lot of the living room, but having taken the laundry room apart and put it back together lately, I don’t really see that as the enormous challenge I was seeing it as being, and if it gets more books out of the house that are superfluous, more power to the disassembly. Paul was working on a grant last night, which is why we didn’t continue our viewing of Very Scary People (we are probably going to skip the Bobby Durst episodes, having watched the HBO mini-series on him and his “alleged” crimes already, The Jinx), and perhaps if Paul is working on the grant again tonight I can get caught up on Superman and Lois. There’s also those marvelous Marvel superhero series on Disney Plus we haven’t watched–WandaVision and the new Falcon and the Winter Soldier–and Loki is also coming, which should be a lot of fun; there’s really so much content nowadays it’s more of I can’t decide WHAT to watch rather than there being nothing to watch. I also want to watch that new Kate Winslet crime series on HBO, too.

The weather was absolutely lovely yesterday, too–but we are going into a lengthy period of flash flood warning, beginning this afternoon and running through Thursday, so getting home this afternoon after work should be a good time. Yay? Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Sorry to be so short and dull, today, Constant Reader–but it’s Tuesday. Perhaps tomorrow I can be more entertaining.

Vicious Circle

Ugh, Monday morning. I slept really well again last night–woke up before the alarm, in fact–and feel relatively well rested, if not completely mentally awake yet. I am sort of feeling like myself again; like my batteries have finally recharged, even if it meant putting some things off for a few days and just allowing myself to relax completely. The Lost Apartment is all pulled back together again; I’ve made some terrific progress with my writing, and my creativity is firing on almost all of its cylinders again, which is more than I ever thought would happen for me again. I finished reading The Russia House yesterday–it’s quite good, if unexciting; the writing itself is so marvelous the coldness of the story itself doesn’t matter, really–and we started watching season two of Very Scary People, getting through the Son of Sam and Night Stalker cases, and then part one of the Coed Killer (honest takeaway from this series: California sure has a lot of mass murderers and serial killers/rapists) before retiring for the evening. I also started reading Jack Olsen’s The Man with the Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders (interesting title, because the term “serial killer” hadn’t really been coined yet), which is extremely well written, and also paints an interesting picture of Houston; coupled with Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money–I’ve always wanted to write about Houston. I lived there for two years, and then six months again a few years later, and it’s an interesting, complicated city that no crime writer, at least that I am aware of, has set a crime series in, or written a crime novel set there….which is something I find interesting. I think it’s also true of Dallas.

Interesting trivia Greg fact: the Chanse series was originally set in Houston, and the first book was called The Body in the Bayou. I later, when I started writing it seriously (and got beyond two chapters) I moved the series to New Orleans and the story evolved into Murder in the Rue Dauphine, which is the real reason why Chanse was from Texas: he was originally supposed to have lived in Houston, playing for the (at the time) Oilers after attending Texas A&M before getting injured and becoming a private eye. (In the published series, Chanse went to LSU instead of A&M, and was injured in his final college game, which kept him from playing in the pros.)

I still think someone should write a cop or private eye series set in Houston. As wild and crazy as these true crime books set there make Houston seem, I doubt very seriously that the city isn’t wild and crazy still. I remember going to see the stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) there, the very first time it was publicly performed (little known Greg fact), and the audience was interesting….I loved the guys in their formal jackets, ties, Wranglers and boots escorting women in evening gowns and furs and dripping with diamonds ( needless to say, I was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt, but I spent the intermissions and the pre-performance time in the lobby literally just staring at the fascinating fashion choices for Houston’s moneyed class).

Oddly enough, there were not many children there; considering it was the stage production of a Disney animated film, you’d think there would be more kids there…but it was a world premiere, and more about Houston’s higher class showing off jewels, furs, and gowns more than anything else.

I also had fun brainstorming the background work for Chlorine over the weekend; naming characters and loosely sketching out bios for them, as well as trying to figure out how to pull off the plot and how to make it work. This is the really fun part of a book–figuring out everything–before the drudgery of actually writing it starts. I am very excited about writing this book, though, and it’s been a hot minute since I was excited about writing a book–in fact, so long that I can’t remember the last time I was actually excited to write a book–it may have been Lake Thirteen, all those years ago–which is different than being happy to write a book. I also have to be careful not to worry about expectations of other people, too–Chlorine began its life as just a vague idea I had one morning while writing my blog, which somehow caught on with some of my friends on Twitter who started tweeting at me (some of them still, periodically, will bring up Chlorine on social media, wondering where it is and when I am going to write it), excited about the idea.

I also spent some time yesterday coming up with a to-do list, which I always enjoy doing when I’m not stressed and worn out. When I am stressed and worn out (hello, first three months of this year), to-do lists simply make things worse more than anything else; emphasizing how far behind I am and how much I have to get done and sometimes–not always, just sometimes–the to-do list defeats me once it’s written. Just looking at it causes me stress. I’m not sure how long I am going to be able to hold off stress at the moment–it’s always just lurking there, in my peripheral vision, waiting to pounce on my like a tiger and hold me down–but I am hoping that having the apartment back together and having the two deadlines in my rearview mirror will help stave off it’s inevitable return for a little while, at least.

Tonight I am planning–we’ll see how that goes–to return to the gym for the first time in a couple of weeks, which means basically starting over with one set of everything, which means I won’t be there for terribly long, which for a Monday night is a good thing, most likely. Here’s hoping this will also help me fall asleep tonight; insomnia so frequently derails me. The office is also on track to going back to full staffing and regular open hours, possibly as early as May; I am curious to see how that winds up going. I’ve gotten used to the tumbleweeds blowing through our mostly empty department, and it will seem weird having other people around when they actually starts to happen.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, all, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Touched by the Hand of God

Sunday morning, and I am swilling coffee and eating coffee cake and trying to wake up. I slept very well again last night, and am starting to feel more…normal, whatever that means for me, since I am anything but normal. I have things to get done today, but the apartment is starting to feel like home again for the first time in a while (since everything went haywire week before last). The laundry room is mostly reassembled, and the book shelves in there look neat and tidy and organized, which rather pleases me. The living room is….well, the living room. I am always going to have too many books in my house (even typing that a voice inside my head was shrieking you can never have too many books what are you talking about?); but I am developing a certain heartlessness as I continue to fill boxes with books for the library sale. At some point, I am going to have to start going through the boxes of books on top of the kitchen cabinets and the ones in the storage attic, and my goal is to have cleaned out not only the attic but the storage unit I’ve rented for far too long.

We finished the first season of Very Scary People on HBO last night, concluding with the two-parter on Jim Jones (we skipped Gacy–have seen enough of him lately already–and Aileen Wuornos, because we watched one on her already recently) and will be moving on to season two probably this evening. I am way behind on Superman and Lois–mainly because it’s something I started watching without Paul and so, rather than trying to get him caught up, I am just going to continue watching without him (I always, inevitably, have to fill him in on super-hero backstory and so forth anyway in most cases, though I think he knows enough Superman lore–doesn’t everyone, really–that he wouldn’t need explanations in this case).

I’ve started–sort of–working on Chlorine this weekend, mostly free hand and mostly in my journal, mapping out backstory and so forth for the main character, and I’ve also started working on the backstory for the body in the surf, and the plot–which was kind of amorphously planned in my head, but yesterday I started nailing down specifics in the plot. It’s going to be kind of fun to write, I think–I always think that going into a manuscript; ever the optimist–and while it’s very tempting to use real people as characters, I think I will make the ones who actually are on the page and participating in the story fictional, but mention others–Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, etc.–in passing. I know the studio is going to be fictional–tempted as I am to use Fox or MGM–and I also know I need to sprinkle in some of the conservatism that reigned then, as everyone was afraid of Communists and having to testify in front of HUAC in Washington; it was the time of ‘the lavender scare” (also the title of a terrific history of the period and this very thing, by David Johnson; I highly recommend it) and so homosexuality was also driven even further underground because we were seen as security risks, particularly if we worked in government since it put us at risk for blackmail by Communists (I touched on this briefly in my story “The Weight of a Feather”, collected in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories).

I also worked on getting organized yesterday. I did a lot of filing, and took a lot of books off my desk and replaced them with ones I’ll be using for research and background for this book. I kind of feel like I already know my main character (even though I couldn’t remember his name yesterday as I wrote notes in my journal); he grew up in Kansas, was caught by his father in a “compromising position” with his high school basketball coach in the tiny little town he grew up in and was forced to enter the military at age 17–going into the Navy and serving in the South Pacific, where he found other men like himself, and thus became familiar with the underground gay community within the military, as well as in Honolulu and Los Angeles (on leaves). After mustering out in 1946 he comes to LA to become a movie star, is discovered by a Henry Willson type agent, and at the start of the story his seven year control with Pacific Pictures is coming to an end, they aren’t going to renew his contract, and he is in fact being sacrificed to a tabloid in order to protect another client, a rising star the tabloid was going to out–loosely based on how Henry Willson sold out Rory Calhoun and Tab Hunter to Confidential to save Rock Hudson; but unlike them, my character’s agent has a plan for him: a long-term contract to work with an Italian film company making sword-and-sandal epics.

It’s a great set-up, and one that I hope to not let down…right now I am feeling confident that I can write this and it will be amazing; of course, once I start the doubts and imposter syndrome will start creeping in and I will spend most of my time wondering what the hell I was thinking to try to write such a thing in the first place.

I couldn’t have picked a better career path for a neurotic, could I?

I also lined up all the potential short story calls I am interested in submitting to, matched them up with an in-progress story that fits their call (or at least what does in my mind; I am really not that great a judge of these things, in all honesty) and need to plan out when to reread and when to rewrite. It’s very strange; now that I am coming out of the exhaustion from the writing of the two books back to back I am amazed at how light I feel; I don’t feel that oppressive burden nor the stress that comes from carrying it. I know both manuscripts need work and I need to revise and rework and edit one last time with each, and there’s a deadline for the first for sure–but I am going to put that off until next weekend, when I have the time to sit and go through Bury Me in Shadows from beginning to end, making notes, making corrections, and so on and so forth to get it polished into a diamond…or as close to one as I can get one of my books.

So, I am going to spend the rest of this morning swilling coffee and trying to finish reading The Russia House. I love LeCarré; he is such a terrific writer I can get lost in his sentences and paragraphs forever–but I find myself not loving the plot or the characters in this one, which is why it’s taking me so long to get through this one, I think. He also does an excellent job of taking me back into that 1980’s world/mentality of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union–that halcyon time when the fear of nuclear annihilation began to fade somewhat but at the same time the worry of what would fill the vacuum created by that collapse was almost nearly as intense (it didn’t take long for conservatives to replace Communists with Muslims as the scary other from another part of the world determined to destroy us); not to mention the wondering if glasnost and perestroika weren’t real or sincerely meant; LeCarré does an absolutely amazing job with that cold intelligence paranoia.

And then, for something similar yet completely different, I am going to reread Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I also would like to get back to the gym today; it looks absolutely lovely outside, and the walk will be lovely.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Sunday!

Sabotage

So, yesterday was new washing machine day. Thursday evening I took the laundry room apart, went outside and measured the places that looked like they may be too tight for the washer to get through, etc. I also had to move some things around outside as well. But it was finally delivered and installed–right at the end of the window I was given–and then I ran a few errands before coming home to get caught up on laundry and, well, reassemble the laundry room. It didn’t take long, for example, for me to realize that rehanging the doors was a two person job, so the doors will stay down until there’s a day when the handyman is here and I see him outside; he’s very nice, so I can’t imagine he wouldn’t come in and screw the bolts back in while I hold the doors in place.

The new washer is lovely, really; but it is also computer-operated (the dreaded motherboard–which always makes me think, “oh yay, something else that can break”) and it is much more complex and complicated to operate. It also doesn’t have a traditional agitator inside; it’s hard to explain how it actually agitates the laundry, but it does somehow–and the spinning is so strong that the clothes feel merely damp rather than wet when they come out. I also have to get used to the new and different noises it makes–its sounds are vastly different than its predecessor’s, and since the flood when its predecessor broke last week, I am paranoid about washing machine noises.

It’s going to take some getting used to–as well as learning how to use it. My old washer was relatively simple–you chose the water-load size and then selected what kind of cycle and what kind of water temperature you wanted, pulled the dial out, and were done with it until it was finished. This one you choose the water temperature you want, the kind of load (at least eight options) and then the kind of cycle–again, eight options. The basket will spin one direction and then back the other a few times for the sensor to determine how big the load is and how much water it needs–you can also manually ask it to add more water, once the sensor has determined how much to use–and well, yeah, it’s complicated. It’s also “green”–it conserves energy and water, based on those afore-mentioned sensors. (And yes, every time I think “sensors” in the back of my head something whispers something else that can break….)

It also made me curious–when the old washer was taken out and the new one put in, I was able to retrieve some things that had fallen behind it or been knocked underneath it by one cat or the other over the years–we had it for sixteen years and two cats, after all, it was a miracle there weren’t more things underneath it–but the floor was filthy beneath, just disgusting–and of course the delivery guys were on a timetable so I could hardly ask them to wait while I cleaned the floor beneath; which makes me wonder, do people clean regularly beneath their washer and dryer? Considering, in my case, I would have to disconnect them completely and move them out, neither of which would be easy, I am resigned to having a disgustingly filthy floor beneath the two appliances (now I am also wondering about beneath the refrigerator). I would imagine most people probably don’t regularly clean beneath their washer/dryer sets; but I am willing to go out on a limb here and say that my mother probably does.

While reassembling the laundry room I also picked out books to donate to the library, and found lots of books, buried behind stacks of others, that I’d forgotten I even owned. “Oh, yes, I did buy Gloria Steinem’s essay collection, didn’t I? Oh, there’s Rabbit, Run, and that biography of Cardinal Richelieu I was wondering about a few months ago.” So many books–and of course, one of the delivery guys was like, after looking at the shelves in there, the stacks of books on the living room floor and the book cases, with books crammed into the shelves and stacked on top, in a voice of clear wonder, have you read ALL these books?

The answer, of course, is no–one of the things I’ve reluctantly been doing is donating the books I’ve already read to the library sale; figuring that I will never have time to reread them and if I do need to reread them, well, The Reread Project definitely taught me I can certainly reread books in Digital form, even if I may not necessarily want to read them that way originally.

It’s gloomy and raining outside this morning; thunder woke me in the midst of a downpour around four this morning, but the rain lulled me back into a very deep and comfortable sleep, and I suspect it’s going to rain all day–at least it looks that way right now. I haven’t gotten any emergency alerts, so flooding isn’t happening–it’s steady now, not torrential, which usually means the drains and pumps can handle it–but it is indeed a gray morning; perfect for curling up with a book. My emails–ignored yesterday–have gotten a bit out of control (as they always do) and so I am going to have to go through there today. The emails are an endless nightmare for me from which I never seem to be able to either wake up from or get caught up on…but I also kind of snapped this week about them; as always, the stress builds to the point where something in my brain just snaps and I think to myself, it is what it is and I can only do so much per day.

Like, right now I am thinking, go sit in your chair and read for a whileface it all later when you’ve had more coffee and are more awake, and it actually sounds like the plan for the morning. I have to do a ZOOM thing later today for the Northwest chapter of MWA–a question and answer thing for like half an hour about MWA–and I am also going to need some time to prepare for that. There’s also more organizing and cleaning to get done today, and I also started wanting to map out/work on Chlorine this weekend as well as some short stories, and I am going to get back to the gym tomorrow–no desire to walk there today in the rain, frankly–and I also need to start working on the edits for Bury Me in Shadows at some point this weekend. Heavy heaving sigh.

It truly never ends, does it?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Vicious Streak

I skipped posting yesterday because we had to have Paul at the hospital for his colonoscopy by 6:45 am. We were home by nine, but I was completely exhausted–undoubtedly in no small part by turning in the manuscript on Monday–so I decided to just kind of take the day off from everything. I read for a while, Paul and I finished season 3 of Mr. Mercedes, and then a Jeffrey Dahmer documentary, which was creepy as hell and then we found a weird docuseries on ID network in which convicted killers talk about their crimes….also creepy as hell.

Which could explain last night’s insomnia. I slept for about four hours straight through before waking up, and just kind of drifting the rest of the night before the alarm went off. I imagine I am going to be incredibly tired after work tonight; I was thinking about heading to the gym, but I am going to see how I feel when I get home tonight. I’ve not been to the gym in over a week–I correctly recognized going to the gym inevitably wears me out and unable to write (the voice of experience speaking in my head) and so I skipped until the book was finished. I should have gone yesterday, but again–was very worn out and tired for most of the day.

Sunday night as we finished watching The Clown and the Candyman, I kept thinking, some of these neighborhoods and suburbs sound familiar. Constant Reader may remember that I grew up in Chicago, and moved out to the suburbs when I was ten, where we remained for another four and a half years. I grabbed my iPad and typed in the name of our suburb, then asked for the distance between it and Des Plaines, which was Gacy’s stalking ground….and he was thirty miles away from where we lived. I don’t think he and his recruiters ever ventured that far outside their area, but it was still kind of scary and chilling.

I would have been the right age and the right type they were hunting for during the time they were killing.

I think subconsciously that’s why Gacy–and by extension Dean Corll (I’ve been spelling it wrong) in Houston–have always been so interesting in a macabre way to me; if we had lived in that neighborhood in Houston when Corll and his recruiters were killing, again, I was a bit on the young side for Corll when he started killing but would have just squeaked in before he was killed and the spree came to an end.

Yikes.

I also found my copy of Jack Olsen’s The Man with the Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders, and there’s an idea about this story forming in my head for a future book…because of course. It’s been nagging at me since we started watching the Gacy/Corll documentaries; today between clients I will probably scribble down some notes for it.

My new espresso machine arrived yesterday, and I was able to use it this morning. It’s much simpler and easier to use than the previous one, and it works just fine. Huzzah! (It also takes up less space on the counter.) I also got an email that our new washer shipped yesterday, so it should be arriving on Friday. I am really looking forward to having everything in the apartment operational again–the electricians still haven’t come out about the fuse that keeps tripping, though. But the new washing machine will make me feel less like I’ve lost a limb, which is kind of how I feel about it now.

And now, back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!