Drama!

Monday morning never gives me a warning, you know what I mean?

But that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? Weekends are never quite long enough to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone get in the rest and relaxation necessary to get through another week. I don’t have to go into the office every day this week, because of the procedure on Thursday; I get to work at home on Wednesday my procedure prep day, yet have to get up insanely and ridiculously early for the procedure, so that’s not exactly a win. But I am glad to get this needed and necessary part of getting older out of the way once and for all; and here’s hoping the scope finds nothing untoward inside of me.

Ugh, how…icky that last sentence sounds!

Yesterday LSU announced that Coach Orgeron (Coach O) will be finished at the end of this season. This saddened me–it still does–because I love Coach O and was all about the Coach O train when he stepped in as interim coach after Les Miles was fired in 2016. I thought he deserved a shot at the job, I love that he so perfectly embodies Louisiana Cajun country, and he loves LSU as much as anyone. There have been times I’ve not been pleased with him–just as there were times when I wasn’t pleased with Coach Miles–but the news didn’t make me happy. I wanted him to continue to succeed. He gave us the best season of LSU football in over sixty years, possibly one of the greatest football seasons of all time, and to see him ousted a mere two years later doesn’t make me happy. I know it was necessary–after the shock of the UCLA game, followed by the embarrassing losses to Auburn and Kentucky, it was clear some shake-up was needed, but I don’t know. Maybe give him and his new assistants another season to right the ship? I can see why the big donors and the administration didn’t want to wait–the rest of the SEC West alone is catching up, if not already passing us, and the longer it dragged out the more painful it could become (let’s be honest, Miles should have really been let go after the enormously disappointing 2014 season; but he’d succeeded and there was loyalty there–clearly misplaced, given everything that’s come out recently–but LSU is too big of a brand and a marquee name to allow anyone more than one season of mediocrity. Coach O will always be a beloved legend in Louisiana, and that, while small consolation for what he and his family must be feeling this morning, is more than many coaches get when they are let go.

I started reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock yesterday rather than a Stephen King; I started to reach for The Institute, but pulled back when I realized just how thick the book is. I mean, it took me over six weeks to read a 240 page noir novel; how long would it take for me to get through something that enormous? It was disheartening to turn down a book to read simply because of its length–I used to love long books, and the longer the better; poor James Michener could never get published today, let alone an agent, because I can’t imagine anyone looking at the length of Hawaii and thinking, yeah, can’t wait to get through THIS! But Tremblay is a terrific writer, and soon I was very much sucked into the book. I picked it up to spend a little time with while i was taking a break from my chores and working on a revision of Never Kiss a Stranger–which of course is the last thing I should be working on right now, but it’s in my head and I can’t stop until I get through this revision, which has already made it a lot better than it was in the first draft–and had to force myself to put the book down and get back to revising and cleaning, which inevitably makes me always feel better anyway. It was very strange to break the routine of a Saints game on a Sunday–which made the entire day open with possibility, and of course then made me feel as though the entire day was being wasted because I was unfocused for most of it.

We watched a Polish film last night on Netflix, Operation Hyacinth, based on a true story about a police investigation/crackdown on gay men in the 1980’s, including murders covered up by the police, which was deeply sad and tragic and somewhat hard to watch–also bearing in mind this happened during my lifetime, which is constantly sobering (an issue for writing Never Kiss a Stranger–having to remember how much more homophobic American society was in the 1990’s than it is now; also a sobering thought, and the chilling reminder that there are a lot of people want us to go back even further to the time where homosexuality was considered a mental illness as well as a crime). It was good and thought provoking, and then we got caught up on The Morning Show before turning in for the night so I can get up this early.

Of course I am behind–I didn’t get nearly as caught up as I would have liked to this past weekend, as always–and now am trying to get my to-do list for the week caught up. I have an event tonight for Sisters in Crime for a library–a diversity discussion–which is going to wear me out (I’ll already be tired from my work day) and make it much easier for me to go to bed this evening and fall asleep. I feel relatively well rested this morning; we’ll see how the day goes, shan’t we?

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for work. I didn’t even pack my backpack last night! Tis off to the mines of spice for me now, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Girl, You Make My Day

One of the things I’ve greatly enjoyed over the last few years has been the sea change in how publishing views works by non-white and non-straight authors; the push for more diverse voices in the publishing community has already borne wonderful fruit. I’ve been saying for years that the world of crime fiction was in danger of getting stale again, much as it did in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; particularly the private eye novel. The arrival of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller on the scene shook things up and shook things out; the private eye novel got a much-needed shot in the arm of adrenaline with these three women and the others their work inspired; I strongly believe the move toward diversity is going to bear fruit in much the same manner–and it already has, frankly; the works of diverse writers like S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Alex Segura, Tracy Clark, Cheryl Head, and so many others have joined the great pioneers like Walter Mosley and the wonderful Barbara Neely to open up new perspectives on crime and crime fiction; our society and world; and again, this was desperately needed–and is necessary every so often, for our genre to refresh and expand and become more inclusive. We’re also seeing more queer books being sent out into the world from the big houses in New York, which is also incredibly exciting (another shout out to Yes Daddy By Jonathan Parks-Ramage and A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen).

It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of crime fiction.

Noir has always been one of my favorite sub-genres of crime fiction, and I always enjoy reading modern takes on it. I want to write more noir, quite frankly; Chlorine would be the first of at least four I want to write, if not more (for now, I have ideas for four of them, with Chlorine being the most full formed). I always enjoy modern takes on noir–Laura Lippman’s Sunburn was quite marvelous, as was Christa Faust’s Money Shot and Choke Hold)–and of course, S. A. Cosby is a master of rural Southern noir; both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears are destined to be considered classics, I think.

So, I was very curious to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s take on modern noir, Velvet Was the Night. It took me a very long time to finish–which is not indicative of the quality of the book, I hasten to add–because after I read so much during the post-Ida power outage, I kind of broke my brain and thus haven’t been able to really focus as much on reading as I would like; yesterday after the LSU game I sat down and finished it with Georgia-Kentucky on as background noise.

And what a fun ride it was.

He didn’t like beating people.

El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the stupidest possible way.

Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess. That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.

No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.

He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El Güero had been at him again.

The recent rise of Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been meteoric, although I am sure to her it has seemed anything but. I read her terrific vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, a while back, loved it, and have been following her career ever since as she has turned out novels at a terrific rate–Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, Mexican Gothic–all of which have been critically acclaimed and sold very well; I love that she bounces from genre to genre–horror to fantasy to crime; even bouncing around in the sub-categories of the crime genre. This is only my second read of her work–I have them all, of course–and had been meaning to get around to her take on noir with a Mexican flourish for quite some time. (I am really sorry I broke my brain with all the reading I did after the power went out; I greatly enjoyed this book, but it was so hard for me to focus for some reason…but am glad I sat down yesterday with the book, determined to finish it at last.)

One of the things that strikes me about Moreno-Garcia’s work is that I am seeing Mexico, a place I greatly love, through a fresh new perspective; like all Yanquis, I always view Mexico through the prism of a tourist. I’ve always wanted to write about Mexico, and have several short stories in the files that are set there (I did write one erotica story as Todd Gregory set in Acapulco; from the perspective of a tourist, of course: “Oh, What A Friend I Have in Jesus”)…but reading Moreno-Garcia makes me aware of how scant my knowledge of our Southern neighbor is–all of the counties south of the Rio Grande, frankly–which is a stinging indictment of our education system. (Don’t even get me started on the concept of Latin America vs. “America”) I know very little of Mexican history after the Spanish conquest, other than the Mexican War and the French empire set up under a Hapsburg by Napoleon III during our civil war. I know very little history of any of the countries that make up the rest of the American continents, really–and isn’t that more than a little bit disgraceful? I also know very little about their cultures, their politics, and what goes on there; a quick glance through the news also will show very little information or news being reported about those non-United States/Canada American countries, which is really a shame.

Velvet Was the Night is set un 1971, a particularly politically rife period in Mexico. The US was terribly concerned about communism being spread by the Soviets in what has always been considered the American soft underbelly–I mean, look at our reaction to Cuba–and there’s no question that CIA operatives and money were working to subvert Communism while supporting borderline Fascist governments because that was preferable to Washington than another potential Soviet satellite state in our hemisphere. The vast paranoia of that time–which really lasted from 1945-1990, really–cannot be underestimated or understated. By rooting her story in actual events of 1971–the crackdown of the Mexican government on dissidents–Moreno-Garcia slyly gives us a taste of how American foreign policy of the time affected everyone in Mexico, as well as a history lesson. (One of the great modern deceptions of our society is this idea that we always act benevolently as a nation; we’re doing this for your own good.) The book has two point of view characters; one, depicted in the opening above, is “Elvis”, a very young man who works as a thug, basically, for an oppressive group of anti-Communists that try to infiltrate dissident groups and haunt protests in order to make them turn violent, so the military can intervene on behalf of the “people.” Elvis grew up very poor and sometimes imagines what his life would be like if he were able to pursue his primary interests–educating himself and music. He doesn’t know what his future holds but is vaguely aware the path he is on–violence and more violence–will not end well. Over the course of the book he begins to question the values he’s been taught to believe in his gang, and begins to aspire to get out of it.

The other main character is Maite, a legal secretary barely getting by on her low salary and barely able to afford food. Her car has been in the shop unclaimed because she cannot afford the mechanics’ bill. She leads a lonely and solitary life, has a very vivid imagination and fantasy world she prefers to inhabit, colored strongly by her love of romance comic books and the music she likes to listen to. Maite’s lovely neighbor, Leonora, asks her to feed her cat while she is away, and when she agreed, Maite unknowingly enters the world of political struggle and upheaval. The riot depicted in the first chapter, that Elvis helps engineer? A friend of Leonora’s has taken pictures that prove that the riot was started by government forces, and those two rolls of film are the McGuffin everyone in the book is after–except poor innocent Maite, who, like any main character in a great Hitchcock film, becomes involved in something life threatening by simply agreeing to feed a neighbor’s cat–something she resents agreeing to do. When Leonora doesn’t come back, Maite starts looking for her–primarily motivated by the fact she can’t afford to keep feeding the car, and Leonora promised her money for feeding it–money she needs to get her car back. Motivated by her own poverty, Maite finds herself getting involved more and more in this clandestine world, and her own life is in danger soon.

The true strength of the book lies in the careful characterizations of both Elvis and Maite; two desperate people trapped by poverty in lives they want to escape, and the parallel journeys they both follow that lead their paths to cross; and the richness of the reality of what life in Mexico City was like during the turbulent time when the book is set. Moreno-Garcia shows us, as she did in Certain Dark Things, what the reality of life is like in one of the world’s largest cities, the reality the tourists rarely, if ever, get a chance to see. And while the hopelessness of both their situations seem unresolvable at times, the pacing is strong and the story construction so tight, and you the readers finds yourself rooting for them both to get out safely.

I really loved this book, and am sorry my inability to focus forced me to take so long to finish reading it. It’s extraordinary, and I recommend it highly.

Ship of Fools

G’morning, Sunday. How’s everyone doing today?

Yesterday was a weird one, beginning with the stunning LSU 49-42 upset of Florida. For the second year in a row, an underachieving LSU team riddled and depleted by injuries, somehow managed to outscore and upset Florida (a third consecutive win over the Gators, no less) that will quiet the complaints about the coaching staff and the team for at least a week–until the Mississippi game on the road this week, followed by a trip to Alabama two weeks later. The game was also ridiculously early–11 am start time–so the game was well over by two thirty, but I was too worn down from the rollercoaster of the game to have much energy to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. Being an LSU fan is a rollercoaster, and sometimes it’s not very fun; but no matter how bad of a season the Tigers might be having, they always manage to somehow beat someone they shouldn’t–for the last two seasons, that has been Florida. As I said to Paul as time ran out yesterday and the Tigers managed to wreck yet another season for the Gators, “No wonder they hate us so much.” That’s three losses for a Gator team that everyone thought would challenge Georgia for the East title, and might even have a shot at beating Alabama during the regular season (they lost by two points)…and they still have yet to play Georgia, who remained undefeated by shellacking an also undefeated Kentucky team yesterday.

I finished reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night at long last (I cannot reiterate how much that has to do with my inability to focus rather than the quality of the book; the book is quite marvelous; a modern take on a historical noir built around events that actually happened) and then moved on to finish watching the rest of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, (I skipped the episodes on body horror and torture porn–no thanks!) before tuning in to see the ridiculous and insane end of the Tennessee-Mississippi game–which people are still talking about today. There were some extremely questionable calls in the LSU game; while there’s no excuse for the way the fans in Neyland Stadium reacted, they were also reacting to an incredibly bad call that was upheld under review (!) that essentially took their chance to win the game away from them. After the incident was over and they were able to finish the final 54 seconds of the game, Tennessee managed to get the ball back with another shot at winning, only to fail in the end.

Today is one of those days where I get to play catch-up. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday–once I am ensconced in my easy chair, with the cat in my lap and college football on the television, it’s hard for me to get back up out of it to do anything. I did get the dishes done–still have some to put away–and I didn’t get around to the floors or anything else that I wanted to get done yesterday, which means I have to get to it today. I also need to get some serious writing done today–I am much too far behind, and the clock is ticking on everything–so I also need, once I am finished here and after I write my entry about Velvet Was the Night, to make a to-do list. I still have a lot of filing and organizing to get done as well; which I am hoping to do while I wake up and drink my coffee this morning. I need to make it to the gym at some point today, and I should see what time the Saints game is; oh, look at that, it’s the BYE WEEK, so there’s no reason to turn on the television at all; they also don’t play next Sunday–the next game is on Monday Night Football. So that’s two free Sundays I have ahead of me on the agenda, and this is a lovely, very lovely, thing. In fact, that weekend of the Saints on Monday night is also LSU’s bye week, so again–no need to turn on the television at all that weekend….so I should make that my most productive weekend of the month.

This week is also going to be weird because I have a procedure scheduled for Thursday morning; a way overdue colonoscopy. The saga of the colonoscopy is a long messy one, having to do with insurance issues, out of network charges, and so on. I finally had everything finally sorted and it scheduled last spring…only to have it canceled because of COVID-19 and then the endless attempts to get it rescheduled and out of the way. In a way, my colonoscopy feels almost like a quest for the Holy Grail–alway unattainable, so close sometimes you can almost touch it, but then it skitters away again, out of reach. I’m nervous about it, of course; any kind of medical testing can lead to bad news; any procedure can take am unexpected left turn at any time–not pleasant to consider or think about, really. But it’s always better to know something’s wrong than to go on like nothing is…until you can’t pretend anymore because your health takes a particularly nasty turn. But I am sixty, and I have to stop playing groundhog with my health. My body isn’t young anymore, and while I still feel good and go to the gym on a (fairly) regular basis, I’ve also eaten crap most of my life and have really beaten and battered my body during my younger years. (Teaching aerobics 7-21 hours a week wreaks havoc on your leg joints–and mine weren’t so great to begin with.)

The weather also turned cooler this weekend; dropping into the high sixties over night. The time change is coming soon, as well…autumn is here, clearly, and soon I’ll be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, which I hate because it feels like your day has been completely used up and is over by the time you get home. I also have to pick out my next book to read; since my reading has been so off lately I am going to pick out one of my unread Stephen Kings (if someone would have told me thirty years ago that I would have King novels on my shelves I hadn’t read, I would have laughed hysterically in their face) to read in honor of Halloween season; I try to read horror every October. There’s also a Paul Tremblay or two I’ve not gotten to yet as well; if I can get through whichever King I choose before the end of the month (and with a football free weekend coming up shortly, it’s possible) then I will move on to another Tremblay, who’s becoming my current favorite contemporary horror writer very rapidly; the books of his I’ve read still haunt me.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. You have a great Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in with you again later with my thoughts on the Moreno-Garcia novel, and then will check in again on the morrow.

The Circus

GEAUX TIGERS!

Today–actually later this morning–is the LSU-Florida game in Baton Rouge. It’s a rivalry game, and generally is kind of exciting most of the time, but I suspect this year that will not be the case. Both teams always seem to play a level higher than usual when they play each other; who can forget 3-5 LSU going into Gainesville last year, Florida’s shot at the play-offs on the line, and LSU pulling off a major upset, thanks to the notorious shoe throwing incident? I have to admit I only watched the game last year as a courtesy, with every intention of turning it off once it got out of hand…only it never did. Somehow LSU kept plugging away in the fog, and in the end, the Florida kicker missed the last second, tying field goal and their play-off chances circled the drain. I’m sure they have vengeance on their minds, particularly since this season has them already out of play-off contention and struggling to stay relevant in the East division of the SEC; they’ve already lost to both Alabama and Kentucky, so even if they manage to run the table the rest of the season, they have to hope not only to beat Georgia, but that someone else beats them AND Kentucky as well. (Kentucky-Georgia is also today; the winner will be in control of the division; a Kentucky win almost guarantees them a spot in the conference championship as they have already beaten Florida.) This was supposed to be a big year for Florida, so they already have ashes in their mouths. LSU has lost a number of players to injury and academic ineligibility, just like last year…but I doubt this year will go like last. Paul and I have been to the Florida game twice–2015 and 2019–and both times both teams were unbeaten and ranked in the Top Ten. LSU won both games–both were very exciting; the 2019 probably the most fun I’ve ever had in Tiger Stadium–but again, I don’t hold out much hope for my Tigers this year.

Stranger things, however, have happened, and have been known to happen in this game (we can never, ever forget the shoe-throw last year).

Yesterday I rewatched the original Halloween, and marveled at how vastly superior–despite the low budget–it was to anything Friday the 13th related. It was weird to think this was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first movie, and the one that really kicked off the slasher film craze of the late 1970s/early 1980’s. They literally were everywhere, and with my youthful distaste for gore and blood and horrific and violent death, I avoided them like the plague (Paul, in fact, was the person who got me to start watching the Halloween films; last year I moved on to the other slasher movies in October for my first Halloween Horror Film Festival–and in most cases, I didn’t really miss anything). But I have come to appreciate the Halloween movies–primarily due to Jamie Lee Curtis, who single-handedly makes the films worth watching. (I’ve also never understood why P. J. Soles, so terrific in this, in Carrie, and Rock and Rock High School, never became a bigger star.) Donald Pleasance is also wonderful in this original movie, which is very basic. We never know why Michael Myers is a homicidal maniac–we don’t really need to–and what Carpenter does, with the use of the score (which he wrote), camera angles, tracking shots and so forth, is ratchet up the menace and suspense until it’s almost unbearable. After it was over, my Apple TV moved on–the remote had fallen off the table and under my chair, out of reach–to Eli Roth’s History of Horror series, and believe you me, I was glued to the television. I sat through the first season, and even through the first episode of the second season before Paul got home from the gym and we switched over to Halloween Kills, which….was disappointing, to say the least. It wasn’t anything new, really…and if you have nothing new to say or add to the franchise, well, it just comes across to the audience as “cash grab” and…it didn’t even work on a camp aspect. Over the years the franchise has been rebooted and there are lots of sequels; (confession: I’ve not seen any of the originals past part 2; I did watch the Halloween H2O and its follow up (I will never not watch a Michael Myers movie with Jamie Lee Curtis) but the original reboot and sequel from the aughts? Not so much.

I do highly recommend Eli Roth’s History of Horror. It’s not very deep or scholarly, but it’s a very good overview for people who are interested in horror film and television. Roth also interviews a lot of directors, horror writers, and stars for the series; I greatly enjoyed it and look forward to getting back to it this week, if not this weekend.

I slept deeply and well last night and feel fairly rested this morning. One of the things I really want to do this morning (before turning on the LSU game at eleven) is get some more cleaning and organizing do. There’s a load of dishes that needs to be put away and another sinkful that needs washing. I need to vacuum and clean around the living room, too…and as always, there’s a shit ton of filing that needs to be done. I also need to make a new to-do list for next week; I have this sense that things are getting away from me again, and that’s not a feeling I particularly enjoy. (Especially hits home when I look at the date and think what the fuck happened to October? Where did it go already?) In fact, the feeling is quite unpleasant.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

It Doesn’t Have To Be

Friday, Friday, gotta get down it’s Friday.

I find myself now in the post-launch haze; it’s been awhile since I’ve actually promoted a book–and usually so much else is going on the launch date might get some social media posts from me and not much else (it really is a wonder I still have any career to speak of)–but I actually feel a bit hungover from what little I did. (I admire other writers who hit it so hard; how do they do it? I sure as hell can’t.) I have nothing but the utmost respect for authors who can do the public appearance/promotion stuff and make it look easy and make it seem like they’re enjoying themselves; because that is not my experience with such things. I am always incredibly self-conscious, and inevitably my fallback response to being nervous and feeling uncomfortable is to try to be funny–which is, of course, completely subjective, and amps up the anxiety: what if no one thinks you’re funny? And with these on-line appearance (as opposed to in-person ones) I do not know if anyone laughs and that makes me even more anxious to the point that when it’s over I am a completely nervous wreck, emotionally, physically and emotionally exhausted; and the hangover from that carries over into the next day. I felt very drained and hollowed out yesterday. Today I feel better–I don’t think I slept that great, to be honest, but this morning I feel fairly well rested. Not I can conquer the world rested, but rested. This is a good thing. I don’t have to do anything outside of the apartment today other than go to the gym after I am finished working at home, and I am going to relish that. I have some data entry to do, condom packs to make, and there are also some other on-line trainings for the day job coming due–annual things we are required as a health clinic to take, like HIPAA, blood borne pathogens, biohazard, etc. (In all honesty, my favorite is the emergency training one–what do you do if there’s an electrical fire? What do you do if there’s a regular fire? What do you do if a patient collapses? I don’t know why that’s my favorite, but for some reason it is.)

Yesterday was spent mostly with on-line trainings for the day job; there was time, however, for some condom packing duties before LEG DAY at the gym (and yes, my legs are tired today. But good tired, not bad sore). I decided to keep going with my attempts at a Halloween Horror Film Festival, moving on to Friday the 13th, Part III. (turned out I must have watched the second part last October and completely forgot; my memory has now moved from sieve to a garbage disposal that clearly eats and grinds up each memory before spitting it out, forgotten) What. A. Shitty. Movie. The first one had a kind of “so-cheaply-made-it’s-kind-of-charming” feel to it, but each film cost more money…but the quality didn’t improve. The acting and writing is so incredibly bad, it’s easy to see why audiences started rooting for Jason as a kind of anti-hero; those who are about to die are such shitty, one-dimensional characters, played by actors who’d be lucky to get a supporting role in a bad dinner theater in Sarasota, Florida, you kind of enjoy watching them die horribly. I don’t know that I have the stomach to handle yet another entry in that endless series of sequels; maybe I’ll switch to the Halloween movies. Those, while equally small budget at first, are at least better acted, written, produced, and directed than their counterparts about Jason Voorhees. Paul came home rather late and had some work to do, so we watched the latest episode of Titans, which I really enjoy but this season, while interesting, is dragging a bit.

It also makes me terribly sad that this is a Friday without a new Ted Lasso.

I also need to get back to work on my writing; I got distracted with all the book promo stuff and so forth and well, now I am behind yet again. What else is new, right? When am I not behind on everything? Yes, it makes me crazy, which is partly why I am alway teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown, without question. I’ve been feeling very good about myself lately–which always makes me suspicious. My piece on Gothics for Crime Reads was well received, so was my piece on Superman posted here the other day, and Bury Me in Shadows also appears to be getting a good reception. My royalty statement came the other day and was significantly higher than I was expecting, which is always welcome news…and of course, I need to make a new to-do list. I also have some filing that needs to be done, and the apartment always needs cleaning. I do think our mouse is gone, though. Last week he was very noisy one night–Paul thought it sounded like death throes–and we haven’t heard him since. Scooter also doesn’t stare at the cabinet under the sink and the dishwasher anymore, either, which is the more likely sign that the mouse is gone at last. It’ll take me a while before I am comfortable turning the dishwasher on without putting a towel across the floor in front of it, though–the little bastard chewing through the hose is going to take me a while to get past.

I may also prune the books a little bit this weekend; the books can always be pruned, and I may even get a box of them down from the storage crawlspace today to go through–I really do need to clean out the crawlspace–and the night time lows this weekend may even dip in the high fifties; it’s definitely October in New Orleans. I think next weekend I may drive around taking pictures of Halloween decorations. One of the many things I love about this city is how so many people go all out decorating for holidays–I love the mansion on St. Charles with the annual skeleton theme–plus, A Streetcar Named Murder is set in early October. LSU plays Florida tomorrow at eleven in the morning (!), and I’ll have the game on but I doubt I will watch it from beginning to end. This has been a horribly disappointing season for LSU football–people are calling for the coach to be fired, as it looks like they’ll have their first losing season this century (!)–the last time that happened was 1999, which led to the firing of then coach DiNardo and the hiring of Nick Saban, which rescued and turned the program around to the point they won the SEC in his second season and a national title in his fourth. LSU fans have become very spoiled this century, but it’s been a very good run these last twenty or so years: four SEC titles and three national championships; only Alabama has done better during this run, and that’s a pretty high standard.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Data ain’t gonna enter itself and the condoms won’t pack themselves, either. Have a lovely Friday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Chains of Love

Thursday morning coming at you like a burning ball of pitch hurled at the city walls from a catapult by the invading Huns.

I did two entries yesterday, neither of which was blatant self-promotion (I know, right?); one was my regular entry for the day and the other was…well, it was a really old entry I started writing a long time ago, about my love for Superman and how that actually began when I was a kid. I never finished the post–there are about thirty post drafts that I will someday finish, even though some of them are now YEARS old–but when the news broke about Superman’s bisexuality this week, I knew it was time to finish it and put it out into the world. I also knew when I read that piece of shit’s post on Medium that I was going to conclude by mentioning it, and taking a few nasty digs at his sorry, pathetic, will-die-alone-and-unmourned self. Was I perhaps more petty and mean-spirited, even perhaps nastier, than I usually allow myself to be on here over the last twelve or so years? Probably. Am I sorry? Not in the fucking least.

I woke up this morning at five, as I am wont to do every morning, and moaned a little softly to myself, well, at least I have another hour before I have to get up and then it hit me: It’s Thursday, fuckwit, you don’t have to get up before the sun comes up today, and thus happily burrowed back into my blankets and went back to sleep for a bit. It was lovely, frankly; I feel very good this morning and very alive and ready to get to it. I have a bunch of trainings I have to do on-line today around the condom packing and the data entry (the data entry website was updated, one of the trainings is on that); there’s laundry to do; files to file and an inbox to empty; Leg Day to get through; and of course the apartment is, as always, an utter disaster area. Typical Thursday, really, when you think about it. Yesterday was actually relatively lovely, for the most part; my piece on my favorite Gothic inspirations went live on Crime Reads’ website yesterday, and received an absolutely lovely response–and the afore-mentioned Superman blog piece I did yesterday also got a lot of attention and shares, which was also very nice. The event with Murder by the Book went well for the wonderful John McDougall, our wonderful host and moderator, and I really enjoyed listening to David R. Slayton talk. (I am reading his White Trash Warlock and really, it’s quite marvelous; do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.) Paul had dinner plans last night with friends, so I had the apartment to myself for most of the evening; by the time he got home we were both already exhausted–doing public things always drains me on all three levels (physical, emotional, intellectual) and so we both went to bed relatively early.

So, Bury Me in Shadows is out into the world, and it really was a nice, somewhat soft, release; one of the things I hate about the business side of being a writer is the self-promotion. I was raised in the worst possible way when you want to become a writer; I don’t know if my reluctance to promote myself and push myself on people is inherent, or if it was something I was trained from childhood to have. I was always told if you do good work, let others decide rather than telling them; if the work is good it will speak for itself. That doesn’t really work in this business, and while I am always comfortable to talk about books and writing publicly, I am not very comfortable with talking about myself or my own work or trying to convince people to read/buy it; I can sort of do that kind of thing on here because, well, it’s written and I am not speaking in front of an audience or for a camera. It’s always difficult, and I never think quickly enough to come up with good answers for the questions. I also tend to ramble and get sidetracked and go off on tangents when I talk–as anyone who has ever had a conversation with me in person can easily and happily attest to–which, when you are sharing the stage with another writer, isn’t a good thing. So, with much thanks to John and Murder by the Book for setting the entire thing up and for hosting, and to David for being so gracious and fun to chat with; and I will add my deepest apologies for my feral self and my incompetence at presenting myself as a competent publishing professional.

I also suppose I am far too old to get better at it, as well.

I also got my copy of Best American Mystery and Suspense Stories 2021, edited by Steph Cha and guest editor Alafair Burke–you know, the one where I am mentioned in the back for my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision” from The Faking of the President, as “other distinguished work”, which is still an enormous thrill (I may still be picking up the book and opening to that page and marveling at the appearance of my name there)–which I am very excited to start dipping into again. My Halloween Horror Month hasn’t exactly worked out the way I had planned; too much other stuff going on, the release of a book, so on and so on and so on–but that’s okay. Things happen, life happens, and things get thrown off track, but I do always believe things work out the way they are supposed to in the end.

And on that note, I am going to get some things done before it’s time for me to start the endless rounds of training courses and meetings I have to attend virtually today. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again on the morrow.

Who Needs Love Like That

One final blast of Blatant Self-Promotion for Bury Me in Shadows. (Or is it?)

And I thank you, Constant Reader, for your patience while I do this. Soon we’ll be back to our normal daily programming only; and there will be no more of those navel-gazing posts about writing this book; just navel-gazing posts about whatever strikes my fancy at the moment, I guess.

(Warning: I will be having to do more Blatant Self-Promotion in and around January when #shedeservedit drops. You’ve been warned!)

The first line of the first draft of Bury Me in Shadows was “My mother ruined my life the summer before my senior year of high school.” I liked this opening line, as it seemed a good place to start; for me, it should have struck the interest of the reader: who is this speaking? Surely this is an exaggeration? What did she do?

The problem was—and I can be horribly stubborn when it comes to these sorts of things—that I loved that opening line and tried to keep it even after I realized it wouldn’t work, and didn’t on several levels; it implies, very strongly, that this story is being told in flashback—the entire sentence makes it sound like he’s looking back and remembering that summer from a vantage point in the future—and that wasn’t what I wanted with the story. It even set the wrong tone. In my original vision of the story, my Jake had gotten a summer job at a fast food place in his suburb of Chicago, mainly because he has a huge crush on a guy who works there. His mother sending him away for the summer ruins his plans to get close to Hunter (who still appears in the book, but very briefly), and then he meets a love interest in Alabama while he’s dealing with all the family secrets and what may or not be a haunting of some sort. Originally, Jake was very well-balanced and smart; his mother has always treated him like an adult so he’s more mature than most seventeen-year-old’s, but still has that strong narcissistic streak that so many teenagers share (I’ll never forget Nancy Garden—angel that she was—telling me, when asked for advice, “Just remember that for teenagers everything is the end of the world.”). But…would she send a seventeen-year-old down there? And once I realized that the moonshiners in the holler over the ridge would probably now also have a meth lab (or replaced the still with one), I thought, there’s no way this intelligent, capable, and successful woman would send a teenager down there on his own for the summer and I realized I needed to shift his age, make him older; it also eliminated the need for him to be picked up at the Birmingham airport or borrow a car from his uncle. I also realized if Jake were older, he could be in college in New Orleans—where he would, of course, have a car—and could just drive up there.  And as the story continued to flesh out in my head as I conceptualized it and started writing, I began to understand how dangerous it was at the Donelson place; and given the reasons why Glynis has kept her son away from where she grew up, she would have to be completely reassured that she wasn’t putting her son in any danger.

Which led me into a deep dive into who Jake was a character—and he was not the confident, borderline-cocky openly gay high school senior whom I’d envisioned originally. I also needed a reason why Glynis would decide to send her son there for the summer, when she’s clearly kept him away for most of his life. That meant he would have to do something—I wasn’t sure what it was yet, but there had to be something—and I already had her working in Los Angeles for the summer so she couldn’t take him with her or keep an eye on him at their home in Chicago. I debated: a car accident, or an accident of some sort? And then it hit me right between the eyes: he’s the son of a very successful, kind of cold mother; he’s openly gay and went to a private Catholic school in Chicago; and his mother has been married multiple times. He doesn’t feel at home with his father’s second family in the suburbs, so he always feels out of place, with the inherent insecurities and self-doubt and self-loathing that comes with that. Shy and nervous and not sure of himself, he would be easy prey for a narcissistic gay, who would see in him a ‘project’: “let’s teach Jake how to be a gay man!’ And, of course Jake falls for the guy, who is completely the wrong person for him, and the more the guy pulls away the harder he clings, until the guy finally has enough and pulls away. This causes Jake to spiral, badly, mixing drugs and alcohol and who knows what else as he goes on a three day binge, most of which he doesn’t remember, and he ends up in the hospital after collapsing on the dance floor of a gay bar at four in the morning. The hospital contacts his mother, she tells them he tried to kill himself in high school, and he gets put on a 72 psychiatric hold. It is then she comes up with the great idea of what to do with him for the summer: her mother is dying, and the house is full of junk. Someone from the family should be there, and since he is there, he can start doing an inventory of everything in the house, getting it ready to be cleared out once the old woman does finally die. Jake doesn’t really like the idea but Glynis gives him no choice; and he is off to summer in glorious Corinth County, Alabama.

Of course, once he arrives there, he starts having strange memories, weird feelings, and seeing things he shouldn’t be seeing. Having just overdosed, naturally he isn’t certain he can completely trust his own brain; has he somehow fucked up his brain function? But the longer he stays there, the more certain he becomes that what he is experiencing is actually real; and that’s even more disturbing than thinking his brain has rewired. There are a LOT of family secrets and dysfunction to uncover, and of course, there’s that family of criminals with a meth lab just over the ridge, and those archaeologists digging out at the ruins of the old Blackwood Hall; and all those terrible family secrets start coming out…which puts his own life at risk.

If you do decide to take a chance and read Bury Me in Shadows, I hope you enjoy it. It was fun to write–once I figured out how to fix all the problems–and I hope it’s fun for you to read.

Sometimes

Tuesday morning and so far so good. Yesterday was a relatively easy day at the office, really; a lovely way to start off the week, actually. I felt rested for most of the day, and had a relatively easy time getting home as well, which I wasn’t expecting; traffic lights in the Central Business District are still out or blinking, including the one at Poydras, which is the main artery of the district–which makes the drive a bit challenging. There wasn’t much traffic yesterday on my way home, so that intersection where I cross Poydras (Loyola) wasn’t as horrific as it has been in the past.

And tomorrow is payday; I had quite literally forgotten! Paying off the car has changed my life so dramatically for the better, Constant Reader, you have no idea. Before paying off the car, I would have been counting down the days to pay day, wondering how much I’d have left to buy food with, wondering if I would have enough to pay for everything. Not having that kind of extreme financial stress, like I’ve been experiencing for the last four years plus, has been literally absolutely lovely for me. I don’t know how people do it–and then buy another car right on top of paying off the old one, or trading one in before its completely paid for and…yeah, I will never understand the joys of having all that extra debt hanging over my head. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to buy a house or a condo or anything; the thought of being saddled with debt for the rest of my life like that absolutely curdles my blood.

And yes, I am quite aware that I still have to pay for housing anyway, that I am essentially throwing the rent money away every month that I could be “investing” in property, and all the rest of those financial security memes I’ve been told since I was a child. But I am not a fan of debt of any kind, quite frankly. I hate debt, hate it hate it hate it, and my next financial goal is to pay off the rest of the debt I am still carrying, which has become a bit easier since the car has been paid for. I don’t regret buying the car–I still love the car, and will for a long time, no doubt–but I am not sorry the debt is gone.

I didn’t think I slept very well last night–it seemed to take forever for me to fall asleep–and yet I still feel rested this morning. My Fitbit tells me that the majority of my sleep last night was “light” sleep, and I didn’t get the correct percentages of “REM sleep” or “deep sleep”. I imagine what this means is this afternoon I will run out of steam and get tired; that seems to be the case once the caffeine wears off. Ah, caffeine; such a harsh mistress you are.

Today is the official release day for Bury Me in Shadows (or it was yesterday; I’m really not sure how I still have a career, honestly) so there’s one more Blatant Self-Promotion post to come; I’ve been working on it since the weekend, and I hope to get it right and posted today. Tomorrow night I have the launch event at Murder by the Book in Houston (virtual), and I am doing a diversity panel for a library through Sisters in Crime (chessie chapter) this coming Monday. I know, two virtual events in less than a week, who am I? I also realized yesterday I had never posted the BSP post I’d written Sunday morning, so it went up yesterday instead.

I’m really not very good at this blatant self-promotion thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a mental thing; defeating myself before I have a chance to be defeated by the rest of the world. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?

I rewatched Scream 2 last night while I was waiting for Paul to finish working and come downstairs, and rather than switching to something else when he came down about halfway through the movie he was fine with just watching it through to the end–we’re both big Scream fans–and oddly enough, no matter how many times I’ve seen these movies they still work and are enjoyable. Greater horror minds than mine have dissected these films, how meta they are, and so forth to death; nothing I could say could possibly lend anything to the discourse already. But I do enjoy them more than most slasher/horror movies, it seemed fairly appropriate for Halloween, and since I have Peacock, which has all the Halloween movies streaming available, I may spend the rest of the month watching every Halloween movie; there are actually some I’ve not seen. And what better films for the Halloween Horror Film Festival than the Halloween series? (And if I can squeeze in a Scream or two, why not?) I didn’t write very much of anything yesterday and am not terribly happy about that, to be honest. I felt a bit tired when I came home from work yesterday–I stopped to pick up a few things on the way home–and tonight I have to go to the gym, since I can’t tomorrow. I did pull up Never Kiss a Stranger and started revising and re-ordering the story somewhat–beginning with the removal of about 2000 words at the beginning that might not be as necessary as I had originally thought; they can go further back in the manuscript than where they were originally placed, if used at all–so that was something, but I was tired and Scooter really wanted to nap in my lap in the easy chair and it was all so much easier to just give into the tired and relax with a purring kitty in my lap…yeah, it’s a wonder I get anything done around here at all.

And yesterday the current Superman–Jonathon Kent, son of Clark and Lois–came OUT. Superman is gay! * (That sound you just heard was any number of homophobes screaming about their childhoods being ruined.) I didn’t see it yesterday–I just saw the piece in the New York Times shared on Twitter–and will read it later this morning between clients. But this is quite thrilling, and that they timed the announcement for National Coming Out Day? Thank you thank you thank you, DC Comics.

Yesterday I also got a PDF file from an anthology I contributed a reprint story to; I had literally completely forgotten about it (my memory is completely worthless these days) and I never recorded it on my “out for submission” spreadsheet either; so my system completely failed. It happens, of course, and more regularly than I would prefer, to be completely honest. Anyway, it’s a gay erotic vampire anthology from Lethe Press called Blood on His Hands, and the story I gave them to reprint is my old “Bloodletting” story; which was originally written as a sequel story to my novella Blood on the Moon, and eventually became the first chapter of my Todd Gregory novel Need. I’ve not reread any of my vampire stuff over the years, and so last night, while I was trying to figure out to watch before settling on Scream 2 I spent some time revisiting this story. It isn’t bad, actually; I was very pleasantly surprised. (I often am pleasantly surprised to read something old of mine and see that it’s not terrible, or a steaming pile of shit…I really do need to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to writing; even as I started moving bits and pieces of Never Kiss a Stranger around last night I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good” or “this needs to be punched up some”–but “this is good” thoughts far outnumbered “fix this”, which was most pleasing to me. I have another story in another anthology coming out later this year–the story is “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” but I cannot think of the name of the anthology; I think it’s Pink Triangle Rhapsody? It really is a wonder I have a career of any kind in this business….

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow on Pay-the-Bills-Day.

*Well, bisexual anyway, but he has sex with men and that’s more than enough for me. It’s a huge step for DC Comics and super-heroes in general; it’s fucking Superman, not some supporting cast super-hero most people have never heard of who only appears in some team-up books; it’s SUPERMAN!

Heavenly Action

I’ve always been—undoubtedly in part because I love history so much—an enormous fan of books where secrets from the past (even the far distant past) play an enormous part in the present lives of the characters in the story, and that solving those mysteries, learning the truth about the past, is necessary in the present for conflict resolution. As a history buff, the lack of a lengthy history as a nation is something I’ve always thought unfortunate; without ancient buildings and the way that history isn’t sort of always there in our faces the way it is in Italy or other older nations, it’s difficult for many Americans to either grasp, be interested in, or give a shit about our history—we have as a nation the attention span of a goldfish (thanks, Ted Lasso, for that reference).

To make a side by side historical comparison, for example, the Habsburg dynasty dominated central Europe for almost six hundred years, whereas the first European to actually arrive and establish a colony were under the aegis and flag of the Habsburg king of Spain—and that was in the early sixteenth century.

Secrets of the past casting a shadow over the lives of the living is often a theme in Gothics, my favorite style of novel/writing (noir is a close second). Rebecca is of course the master class in secrets of the past; the first Mrs. deWinter might not actually be haunting the halls of Manderley literally, but her ghost is definitely there. Victoria Holt’s romantic suspense novels inevitably were set in some enormous old mansion or castle, with potential ghosts a-plenty everywhere you turn. Phyllis A. Whitney’s one novel set in Britain—Hunter’s Green—also has a classic old British mansion with a potential ghost in it. Maybe it was the childhood interest in kids’ series, with the reliance on secret passages, hidden rooms, and proving that ghosts were frauds; every episode of Scooby Doo Where Are You? had the gang proving something supernatural was quite human in origin.

One of my favorite Nancy Drew books when I was a kid was The Ghost of Blackwood Hall; I don’t really remember much of the story now, other than a fraudulent haunting was involved and a woman—Mrs. Putney—was being swindled by a medium? (Reading the synopses on a Nancy Drew website, apparently part of the story involves Nancy and the gang coming to New Orleans, which I absolutely do not remember; my only Nancy Drew-New Orleans memory is The Haunted Showboat—involving yet another haunting. Interesting.) When I was writing the original short story (“Ruins”) I needed a name for the old burned-out plantation house; I decided to pay homage to Nancy Drew by naming it Blackwood Hall, and naming Jake’s maternal ancestor’s family Blackwood (his grandmother was a Blackwood, married a Donelson; Jake has his father’s last name, which is Chapman). I did think about changing this from time to time during the drafting of Bury Me in Shadows, but finally decided to leave it as it was. It might make Nancy Drew readers smile and wonder, and those who didn’t read Nancy Drew, obviously won’t catch it.

Hey, at least I didn’t call it Hill House.

But writing about ghosts inevitably makes one wonder about the afterlife and how it all works; if there is such a thing as ghosts, ergo it means that we all have souls and spirits that can remain behind or move on after we die. So what does writing about ghosts—or writing a ghost story—mean for the writer as far as their beliefs are concerned?

Religion primarily came into existence because ignorant humans needed an explanation for the world around them, combined with a terror about dying. It is impossible for a human mind to comprehend nothingness (whenever I try, I can’t get past “there has to be something in order for there to be nothing, you cannot have nothing unless you have something” and that just bounces around in my head until it starts to hurt); likewise, whenever I try to imagine even the Big Bang Theory, I can’t get past “but there had to be something to explode” and yeah, my head starts to hurt. Even as a kid in church, studying the Old Testament and Genesis, I could never get past “but where did God come from?” I don’t begrudge anyone anything that gives them comfort—unless it starts to impede on me. I’ve studied religions and myths on my own since I was a kid; the commonalities between them all speak to a common experience and need in humanity, regardless of where in the world those humans evolved; a fear of the unknown, and an attempt to explain those fears away by coming up with a mythology that explains how everything exists, why things happen, and what happens when you die. (I am hardly an expert, but theology is an amateur interest of mine, along with Biblical history, the history of the development of Christianity, and end-times beliefs.)

Ghosts, and spirits, have been used since humanity drew art on cave walls with charcoal to explain mysterious happenings that couldn’t be otherwise explained. I am not as interested in malevolent spirits—ghosts that do harm—as I am in those who, for whatever reason, are trapped on this plane and need to be freed. This was a common theme in Barbara Michaels’ ghost stories (see: Ammie Come Home, House of Many Shadows, Witch, Be Buried in the Rain, The Crying Child) in which the present-day characters must solve the mystery from the past; why is the ghost haunting this house and what happened to them that caused them to remain behind? I used this theme—spirits trapped by violent deaths in this plane whose truth must be uncovered in so they can be put to rest—in Lake Thirteen and returned to it with Bury Me in Shadows. I did, of course, worry that I was simply writing the same book over again; repeating myself is one of my biggest fears (how many car accidents has Scotty been in?), but the two books, I think, are different enough that it’s not the same story.

At least I can convince myself of that, at any rate.

There’s a few more ghost stories I want to write, actually; (it also just occurred to me that there was a ghost in Jackson Square Jazz, the second Scotty book) any number of which come from those legends my grandmother used to tell me as a child. I have this great idea for one I’ve been wanting to write set here in New Orleans for a very long time called “The Weeping Nun;” I have the entire ghost’s story written in my head, I just don’t have a modern story to wrap around it (same issue I have with my New Orleans ghost story book, Voices in an Empty Room) and of course there’s “The Scent of Lilacs in the Rain,” a short story about another Corinth County ghost I started writing and got to about five thousand words before the ghost even made an appearance. That great length is why I shelved the story—and now, of course, I realize I can do it as a novella, which is amazing news and life-changing, really. “Whim of the Wind,” the very first Corinth County story I ever wrote, is also kind of a ghost story, and maybe someday I’ll find the key to making it publishable (although I think I already did figure it out, thanks to the brilliance of an Art Taylor short story).

I’ve always believed part of the reason I was drawn so strongly to New Orleans is because the past is still very much a part of the present here—though not so much as we New Orleanians would like to believe, as several Facebook groups I belong to about the history of New Orleans often show how often and rapidly the cityscape has changed over the years—and you can sometimes even feel here, at times, under the right conditions (fog and/or mist are usually involved) like you’ve gone back in time, through a rip in the time/space continuum; which is something I’d actually like to write someday here—but that’s just an amorphous idea skittering through my brain.

And of course, I have an idea for a paranormal series set in a fictional parish here in Louisiana. I think about it every now and again, but am really not sure how I want to do it. I know doing a paranormal Louisiana town series will get me accused of ripping off Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, but that’s fine. I don’t think I would be doing vampire kings or queens or any of the directions Ms. Harris went with her series. (Monsters of Louisiana and Monsters of New Orleans—paranormal/crime short story collections—may also still happen; one never knows, really.)

As hard as it was sometimes to write, I think Bury Me in Shadows turned out better than I could have hoped. I think it captured the mood and atmosphere I was going for; I think I made my narrator just unreliable enough to keep the reader unsure of what’s going on in the story; and I think I managed to tell a Civil War ghost story (it’s more than just that, but that’s how I’ve always thought of it and that’s a very hard, apparently, habit for me to break.

I hope people do read and like it. We shall see how it goes, shall we not?

Love Must Be The Answer

And here we are on Monday again. It was overall a pleasant weekend, really; I love being able to get up without an alarm, whenever I simply decide I’ve had enough of being lazy and lolling about beneath the covers and so forth. I was deeply asleep when the alarm woke up–I was charging the Fitbit, so have on report on how the sleep actually was, but I think it was deep for most of the night. The alarm was definitely invasive and jarring this morning. But I do feel very well rested and awake–even though I do think I could very easily fall right back asleep if I got back into my bed–and that’s a very good sign for a day in which I have a lot of things to get done.

(Incidentally, I did look up what the normal stages of sleep are at night for a good sleep, and I am hitting the percentages properly every night per my Fitbit–who knew you only needed about two hours of DEEP SLEEP and ninety minutes of REM to be and feel perfectly rested the next day, and that those hours of light sleep aren’t, in fact, a bad thing at all? The more you know…)

I went to the gym during the Saints game–it really is much easier on my stress levels and blood pressure to just periodically check in on the score, or to have the game on while I do other things. AND THEY WON! YAY! GEAUX SAINTS! I’m also following Joey Burrow and Cincinnati–I will always be a fan of Joey B–and they lost in overtime, but they don’t seem like the Bengals of old anymore. I think they will be in the Super Bowl within a very few years.

The gym felt marvelous, as it always does once you get past that deeply painful “back-to-the-gym-after-a-break” workout. For the first time in a while yesterday, I noticed in the gym mirrors that my muscles were responding to the working out and were getting pumped up, which was a shock and a pleasant surprise at the same time; as always an extremist, I think my muscles shrink and fade away if I don’t work them out regularly and I forget sometimes that I am actually fairly big in muscle mass…but all I see, of course, is spaghetti arms, drooping moobs, love handles a gang can grasp, and a big belly. I also am enjoying seeing my flexibility slowly coming back from the abyss; I was able to stretch more deeply yesterday than I have in a very long time. Once I get going again and am doing three sets with added weights for several weeks in a row, I am going to add some more exercises and increase the difficulty of the workouts. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, frankly–although I am going to be missing two weeks in November (two trips planned!).

And yes, I am very excited to be traveling again. I am going to New York for MWA business for a few days, then taking the train to Boston for Crime Bake, a joint event sponsored by MWA’s New England chapter and the local Sisters in Crime chapter. I’ll be going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, so that will be quite the lengthy drive to and fro; I believe I will listen to books on tape that I will get from the library; and who better to while a lengthy drive away with than Stephen King? I think I’ll listen to Black House on the way up and Dr. Sleep on the way home. That definitely sounds like a plan, does it not?

I’m also going to have to be very careful and keep an eye on my schedule so my writing schedule doesn’t get fucked up by these trips. Deadline is 1/15 for A Streetcar Named Murder; definitely need to keep my eyes on that prize; I am going to start revising the first four chapters this week and hopefully will get the ball going again on that.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate for Nate the Great from Ted Lasso recently on Twitter, and while I can certainly understand the turn of the audience–what a terrific job they did on this villain origin story–I also kind of understand where Nate is coming from, if that makes sense? Yes, his behavior is shocking, but it’s not unearned and it didn’t come from left field, and kudos of all kinds to the writers for not taking the easy way out with this character. It would have been very easy for Nate, who was so shy and reticent and cowed by being bullied by everyone on the team and his father, to slowly bloom under Ted and Beard’s belief in him, and how the team has not only stopped bullying him but come to accept him as one of them….as I said, that story was easy; all that was left for the icing on the cake was for Nate’s confidence to keep growing and for him to fall in love and so on and so forth; a nice easy audience-pleasing character arc for the poor bullied boy everyone felt sorry for in the beginning. But the underdog we always want to root for isn’t always this nice person being held down by others. Bullying, and being bullied, isn’t really that simple, nor are all the bullied kids lonely and desperate for just a chance, any chance, and once given that chance, blossom into great people and achieve the potential they’ve always had. Being bullied–and I am speaking as someone here who has been bullied, for most of my childhood and some of my early adulthood–has a very toxic effect on the victim. You often wind up hating yourself intensely; after all, they have a reason for bullying you, don’t they? You must deserve what’s happening to you. And when people cut you down and insult you, you always respond in your head, hating them, wishing you had the courage to say something nasty right back to them. You spend your alone time reliving the humiliations and embarrassments, practicing the vicious and nasty things you should have said in response. There’s a lot of anger there, and often, in the narratives we are used to seeing in fiction, that anger never gets resolved; it just magically dissolves away once the bullying ends. I think that the show writers are doing an excellent job of showing how Nate’s character development/arc has run; remember, he has always lashed out angrily when he felt safe enough to do so; and people who are bullied often become bullies themselves; it’s really the only interpersonal interaction they are most familiar with. Nate began coming out of his shell with the encouragement of Ted and Beard and the acceptance from the team; the promotion to coach; and actually being good at soccer. When he began to see Ted and the others no longer applauding him, giving him the attention he believes he has earned and now deserved, that anger that was always there began to curdle within him. The final episode turn didn’t come as a terrible surprise to me; I saw it building all season, really. I applaud them for taking Nate–obviously a fan favorite–and turning him into the antagonist for Season Three.

Although it must be a strange ride for actor Nick Mohammed, who went from being beloved to reviled over the course of twelve episodes.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.