We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Saturday morning in New Orleans and all is right–for now–in the world. I slept in this morning, which felt great, and while I have some errands to run–mail, drop off a return, make groceries, take books to the library sale–overall I pretty much have the day free. The LSU-Kentucky game isn’t until six thirty, and I don’t have any need to actually watch any of the other games today–although I will undoubtedly have the television on and tuned into said games–but I want to work on cleaning today, getting organized, and potentially doing some writing. I started writing another Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) post for Bury Me in Shadows the other night, and I really would like to get that finished and posted (I had hoped to write a post a day to try to sway you, Constant Reader, into opening your wallet and buying the book, but there’s only so much time in a day and I do need to rest and refresh both body and brain) at some point either today or tomorrow. But the book–and therefore the self-promotion–walk a line that I have to be very careful with, which always makes me nervous. It’s never my intent to ever offend or upset anyone, but my books are my books and my personal politics, values, and beliefs do affect what I choose to write about–and if you’re looking for a conservative point of view (or a white supremacist one) you are definitely buying the wrong books should you buy one of mine.

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I did some work, I made some condom packs, and I rewatched a film from the 1970’s that fits both into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival as well as the Halloween Horror Film Festival: Brian de Palma’s The Fury, based on a book by John Farris, which I read at the time (I eventually originally saw the film on HBO; I never rented it nor saw it in the theater). Horror fiction and films made an enormous comeback in the 1970’s; one could see the genre actually achieved never before see heights in that decade. Part of this, naturally, was the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, and the enormously successful, Oscar-nominated film adaptation of it a few years later (still one of the best King adaptations of all time). Both publishing and film responded accordingly, and also in the late 1970’s the one-two punch of Halloween and Friday the 13th took the slasher film to new heights, taking the horror genre along with them. The 1970’s also saw the debut of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which wound up spawning an enormously successful series of books that completely changed the vampire dynamic in fiction–following the lead of Dark Shadows and making vampires into deeply flawed, romantic heroes. But horror was everywhere in the latter part of the decade (you should really check out Grady Hendrix’ marvelous Paperbacks from Hell, which examines the proliferation of horror titles in the 1970’s and 1980’s, through the window of their cover art), and so, naturally, The Fury–with the same director as Carrie, Brian de Palma–was primarily viewed as a rip-off trying to cash in on the success of Carrie.

But if The Fury is similar to Carrie in some ways, it is much more like Firestarter than any other King work; as I rewatched I kept being reminded of Firestarter and thinking about it (and thinking it, too, was due for a reread). The premise of the film/book is that there is a secret government agency (1970’s paranoia again) tasked with exploring and examining the potential of young people with some psychic gifts, whether it’s ESP, telekinesis, etc., with an eye to weaponizing them as well as advancing science (the government will turn anything into a weapon of war; this moral debate is mentioned very briefly during the film but to no great degree). Kirk Douglas plays the father of an extremely gifted young man, played by Andrew Stevens (which may or may not have been my first exposure to the handsome son of Stella Stevens; he also appeared in a two-part television adaptation of John Jakes’ The Bastard, and I don’t remember which came first. Nevertheless, he was quite handsome and had a terrific, sexy body). The very first scene of the film shows them on the beach somewhere in the Middle East; there’s a terrorist attack and Douglas is the target, but Stevens is kidnapped by the bad guys and Douglas manages to escape, embarking on a lifelong quest to find and rescue his son from these bad guys operating under the aegis of the government (I cannot emphasize how deeply distrust of the government ran in this time, in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, there was a definite shift in public perception). The movie then switches over to Amy Irving, daughter of wealthy parents attending an extremely exclusive girls’ school in Chicago. Amy (another tie to Carrie) also has powers she doesn’t understand and can’t control; a bully starts harassing her in the cafeteria, and Amy blurts out the girl is pregnant–and the girl starts bleeding from her nose profusely, causing a panic, etc. Amy is then recruited to a school to test her talents–the same people who kidnapped Andrew Stevens, but their end game is never really explained; they’re all just bad guys who work amorphously for the government. Amy and Andrew are somehow connected; being able to see each other’s thoughts and so forth, so Douglas helps her escape from the school and they go looking for Stevens. SPOILERS: Stevens and Douglas finally end up dead, basically killed by the government people–not really, but they are definitely the reason they do–and in the final scene Amy uses her powers to punish the bad guys (again, very similar to Firestarter, which The Fury predates by several years). It’s not a bad movie, per se, but it’s also not a great one; it’s certainly not as engaging as Carrie–and I remember thinking that about the book as well; that it was just a quickly written attempt to cash in on King’s success.

What was interesting–what is always interesting–about watching these old movies is seeing actors who have not yet made it big in bit roles. There were three I picked out in this one: Melody Thomas, yet to become Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless for decades; Daryl Hannah as one of the bitchy mean girls at the private school Irving attends; and Dennis Franz, playing a cop years before NYPD Blue.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso (oh, Nate, you poor broken man) which made us both laugh and cry, as it always does; the show really is a joy and I am rather distraught we have to wait now for the next season, and then a new show on Apple TV called Acapulco. This show is interesting; a wealthy older Latino man is explaining to his nephew his life story; how he came up from nothing to become wealthy, and how it all began with him getting his first job at a ritzy resort hotel in Acapulco called Las Casinas when he was a teenager. The parts with the older man talking to his young nephew are not engaging at all; there’s a mimicry of The Princess Bride with just a hint of the story-telling structure of How I Met Your Mother as well; it didn’t work for me in this instance. But the teenagers working at Las Casinas back in the 1980’s? Very charming, engaging, and likable. We’ll keep watching, but I want to see less of the present and more of the past, which is the show’s true strength.

That’s about it here from the spice mines. I think I’ll have some more coffee and try to get that BSP post finished. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader!

As Long As You’re There

And now it’s Friday.

I slept very well again last night, which was lovely–I’ve really been getting excellent sleep ever since The Power Came Back On, which is delightful–and I am looking ahead to this lovely weekend with great excitement and joy. The LSU game tomorrow is a night game, at undefeated Kentucky (when was the last time the teams played and KENTUCKY was the undefeated and ranked team of the two? Probably never), so I have tomorrow’s entirety free to get things done, run errands, go to the gym, and essentially do as I please until the game. I also am working at home today, and thus trying to find some horror to watch while I make the condom packs.

I started watching Friday the 13th Part II yesterday, and wasn’t far along into it before it started seeming familiar, like I’d seen it before–and I soon realized that I probably had, last year in October, so I switched it off in disappointment (not really; it was actually quite terrible) and switched over to the final episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I had not been watching because I was sick to death of Erika Girardi using the show to try to gain sympathy for herself as one of her husband’s “victims.” But I had read a piece somewhere about the show being the “best thing on television right now”, and then I read a piece run recently in the Los Angeles Times, an interview with the three ‘outsiders’ on the show (Garcelle, Sutton, and Crystal) talking about the season and the filming of the lengthy finale, and I thought, swallow your disgust at the behavior of this criminal accomplice and watch. Interestingly enough, the cringe-aspect of watching I was experiencing before taking a break was now gone; and while I still felt a bit squeamish about watching–de facto condoning her behavior by giving them ratings, which will lead to her getting signed for another season, which is again a reward for her terrible behavior–I found myself actually enjoying watching again. I still loathe two members of the cast completely–looking at you, Kyle and Lisa Rinna, and will continue to hope to see them humbled, humiliated and (best case) let go–but I think I can watch again. The show, which the cast had been overly producing for quite some time, kind of had that rigid artifice stripped away from it with the Girardi criminal case; there really was no way they could escape the litigation or comment on the investigations of the growing scandal.

Or maybe I’m not in a really dark place anymore? There’s still something that seems wrong about watching this…but I can’t get to the bottom of it, frankly. I guess I’ll just keeping discussing it here until i get to the bottom of why it feels so wrong.

Who knows? I may never get to the bottom of it.

We got caught up on some of our shows last night–Only Murders in the Building, American Horror Story: Double Feature, and Archer–which was lovely and relaxing. I think it was the last episode of Archer ever; it ended with a tribute to Jessica Walter, and I can’t imagine having the show without her character, so it most likely was. Archer has never been as funny in its later seasons as it was in its earlier ones, alas; and while I appreciated the show’s attempts to keep it fresh by changing things up with seasons devoted to a theme–outer space, becoming a drug cartel, doing a noir Hollywood story–they never quite equalled the humor of the original seasons. Pity. I am also kind of intrigued by the second half of this AHS season; the alien stuff is very strange and weird, even by AHS standards, and I am not really sure where this is going, but it’s holding our interest. Only Murders continues to hold its charm; I had assumed it was rushing to a conclusion, only to have a twist at the end of the latest episode that ensure that no, indeed, the season is not finished quite yet. And we have our other shows to watch this weekend, as well as some movies–Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the very top of the list, of course–and perhaps there are some other shows we can look into on the streaming services. (I really want to check out Stephen Amell’s new wrestling show on Showtime, Heels–which looks like it could be pretty good.)

So, I have some nice plans for the weekend–catching up on things, cleaning, organizing, writing, dropping off books to the library sale–and am really excited about possibly doing the writing part of the to-do list this weekend. I also want to fucking finally finish the book I am reading–which I am not going to name; my inability to stay focused and read lately has been really annoying and I no longer want to even hint at the possibility that I am not finishing the book because it isn’t good because it it very excellent; I may have to finish and then move on to short stories again. Short stories could also work very well for Halloween Horror Month; it never can hurt to dig into Stephen King or Shirley Jackson short stories, and of course Daphne du Maurier’s are often macabre and haunting. So, we shall see. I am going to try to finish the book I’m reading now, possibly reread The Haunting of Hill House, and if my reading focus remains fucked up, move on to short stories.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow.

Friend and a Lover

Thursday and working at home on this glorious morning. Huzzah! (I really hate leaving the house–something I battle with almost daily; my desire to be an anchorite or a shut-in; which makes it a really good thing that I work outside the home. If I could work at home, I’d have everything delivered and would never leave the house except for the gym. Seriously.)

I was tired yesterday–as I always am on Wednesdays; I’m not sure why the getting-up-at-six thing is such an issue when I go to bed at ten, but I also suppose it has to do with the quality level of the sleep. I am trying not to look at my Fitbit to get the breakdown of deep vs. light vs. awake, to be honest, as I don’t need another thing to obsess about. But I don’t think being tired on my third consecutive morning of getting up early is unusual, and I wasn’t nearly as tired as I remember being on Wednesdays. It’s more that it’s harder for me to stay focused when I am tired, and therefore harder for me to complete tasks.

And man, was it ever hard to make myself go to the gym last night when I got home from work. BUT I DID IT, AND IT WAS LEG DAY, AND MAN OH MAN HOW MUCH DO I HATE LEG DAY? With the white hot intensity of a dozen burning suns, that’s how much. (Leg Day is always rough for everyone, because your legs are half of your body, and while yes, of course, your upper body is the other half, but Upper Body can isolate actual muscle groups, whereas most leg exercises inevitably require usage of the entire leg; even calf raises require your entire legs’ muscles to be engaged, plus you don’t walk on your arms…) This morning my legs feel good tired, which means the initiation into Leg Day after so long was the right amount of work–I always worry about overdoing it, and it was Leg Day, in fact, where I injured my back all those years ago, which forced me out of the gym, and I’ve never really had a consistent workout program ever since. I also fell asleep in my chair around eight thirty, eventually crawling into bed before ten and sleeping like a stone, which was marvelous.

So, overall a good day. I managed to get the revision of my short story done (“The Sound of Snow Falling”), and it needs probably one more coat of gloss on it; I started writing another short story (“He Seemed Fine”) but didn’t get very far into it, and also started planning the revision of the first few chapters of A Streetcar Named Murder, which I need to work on adapting to the new backdrop of the series. I was too tired after the gym to focus on reading, so hopefully today after my work-at-home time I can finally finish reading it. Paul was working on another grant proposal last night when he got home from the gym, so I was watching Youtube videos on French history–the 16th and 17th centuries in France are like catnip to me–so we weren’t able to watch anything last night.

Today, I am going to watch some horror films while I do my work-at-home chores; it’s October and Halloween season, after all. I was really pleased to get some watched last year during October–horror classics I’d never seen before, as well as some I had and rewatched–and I think this week I am going to focus on sequels; namely Friday the 13th. I’ve seen the first a couple of times–rewatched it last year–but I’ve never watched any of the sequels. I think when I’ve made it through all the myriad of Friday the 13th movies, I may try Halloween. I think I’ve seen most of these movies at some point or another, but it would be interesting, I think, to watch them all in order.

Or perhaps…perhaps a John Carpenter film festival is in order. It could be fun to watch Prince of Darkness again, which I saw in the theater and was terrified; I’ve always enjoyed it on rewatches–but the fact that all the college students are played by actors well into their thirties is always a bit amusing. (I also think the score for that film is terrifying; Carpenter’s scores are always pitch perfect for his movies.)

I am feeling like myself again these days–like some dark cloud has lifted out of my brain; I’m not sure how or why, but I am glad it’s gone, even if it’s merely a temporary thing. The house is a mess, of course–as always–but I am going to try to work on getting it all cleaned up this weekend. The LSU game is Saturday night, so I have all day–if I can avoid the easy temptation of the other games airing–to clean. Or I can clean with the television on–or (gasp) I can have the games playing on my computer while I clean the kitchen.

Stop the insanity!

And on that note, I am going to finish this coffee and start a load of laundry. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

It’s One of Those Nights (Yes Love)

So, for today’s BSP about Bury Me in Shadows, I am going to talk about where the actual story that goes to the heart of the plot came from.

My grandmother was probably one of the biggest influences in my life, for both good and bad. I won’t talk about the bad—I was raised to believe you never bleed in public—and there was quite a bit of it; I didn’t speak to her the last thirteen or so years of her life. But the good was good, really. She loved old movies and passed that love of the glory days of Hollywood on to me; she always encouraged me to read and to be a writer; and she was the one who instilled in me my love for crime films and (to a lesser degree) horror ones—what she used to call “scary movies”; I watched The Haunting for the first time with her, and sometimes when I rewatch an old classic, like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers or The Letter, I remember watching it with her on the couch. She was also the one who introduced me to some authors I love, Victoria Holt (The Secret Woman) and Mary Stewart (The Ivy Tree), and she also encouraged my interest in history, which she also really enjoyed. She used to tell me stories about the past all the time when I was young—stories that at the time, and for most of my life, I remembered as being “family history” and was very surprised as an adult to find out they were fairly common legends and stories from all over the South, as well as from books and movies. In other words, none of the stories were true…but when I was thinking about this again the other day it occurred to me that it was entirely possible I was remembering it wrong—it was a long fucking time ago, after all, and my memory has been wrong before. It’s entirely possible she was just telling me stories, that I assumed were family histories…anyway, there were a lot of them, and when I was in college I started writing a lot of the ones I remembered down. They were often tales of blood and murder and crime; sometimes ghost stories.

The Lost Boys, the legend I used as the basis for the book’s background, is one of those stories.

And yes, bits and pieces of the story are apocryphal; sewn together by my grandmother into one story to entertain me.

Long story short: before the Civil War the county where my family comes from (again, not sure if this is true or not; the histories of the area I’ve read indicate that it’s not; so she either was weaving a story for me or I misunderstood the story or altered it in my memory as I got older) used to mostly belong entirely to one family—from which I am theoretically descended from (my grandmother also had a lot of delusions of grandeur)—and after the war, they lost nearly everything, except for a small tract of land that still remains in the family to this day. Anyway, the father and the oldest son went off to war, leaving his wife and two younger sons behind. The father was killed in the war. When the son came home after the war was over, the house had burned to the ground and there was no sign of wife or the two youngest sons anywhere; they’d vanished without a trace. No one ever knew what became of them; and the story, according to my grandmother, was that a deserting Union soldier burned the house and killed them (yes, the same story as appeared in Gone with the Wind, among others; my grandmother also told me another story about a Union deserter committing murder of a defenseless Southern woman—which I also turned into a short story that collects dust in my files), and that on or around the anniversary of their deaths, you could hear the younger boy calling for his mother in the woods near where the old house had been. Good stuff, right? I certainly thought so, and what a great basis for a story.

Of course, when I started researching the history of the county, none of this appeared to be true—the Union army never came any closer to the county than Tuscaloosa, for one, so the odds of a deserter making it all the way there on foot are pretty slim, and especially if no one else saw him—and of course, none of my ancestors owned most of the county. But it was a good story, even if not true, and I felt that writing about it could make for an interesting tale. My main character, Jake, is aware of the old family legend; he wrote a paper about it in high school, but doesn’t believe it’s anything more than a legend. I thought it would be cool to leave the ruins of the original house there, deep in the woods, far from the county road and the current domicile of the family, the crumbling house on the dirt road just off the county road. I also brought in a team of archaeologists from the University of Alabama, excavating the ruins—one of the few sites left that haven’t been excavated—and the professor leading the team, Dr. Brady (named after a historian friend), while intrigued and interested in the legend, isn’t trying to find proof one way or the other; he’s simply interested in what information about how the family lived can be unearthed.

The book is more than this, of course; but the Lost Boys legend was the starting point from which the rest of the book grew. I have a very complicated relationship with Alabama, to be honest; it’s my homeplace and I love the state. It’s stunningly beautiful. Even the poor rural county we came from is beautiful, with rolling hills and small mountains covered in pine forest, hollows filled with kudzu, muddy orange streams and rivers, riotously colored flowering bushes, and the air…oh, how wonderfully clean and fresh and pure the air smells. I love the orange dirt, and how round and smooth the gravel can be. The sky is a gorgeous cerulean, and of course, when it rains, it really rains. I can remember how still and heavy and damp the hot summer air was, the gnats and mosquitoes and dirt daubers and wasps and hornets and bees and horseflies. Whenever I stop as I drive through on my way somewhere else (usually Kentucky or Atlanta), I am always amazed at how lovely the young people are working in the small highway-side town’s fast food places. I remember screen doors with a coil so they’d always shut (or slam, if you just let go), and the big red Coca-Cola coolers with the bottle opener on the side in the general stores—and of course, the big old style Dr Pepper signs, that looked like a clock with only the numbers 10, 2 and 4—because that was the time for a Dr Pepper. (I also remember it was considered a cure-all when you were sick; just heat some Dr Pepper on the stove and add lemon; just like 7-Up was a cure for an upset stomach.)

But the state’s history– enslaved people, what happened to the indigenous tribes, Jim Crow, Selma, the institutionalized racism–is also deeply problematic. How does one write about the problematic history of the state? How do you point out how wrong all of that is without becoming preachy? I’ve often taken issue with white-written narratives about the pre-Civil Rights era in the South, as well as those set during that era and after; I remember reading one book where the heroine was doing research about the history of an incredibly racist town where a race-related murder had occurred, driven by the Klan–but focusing on the good, non-racist, non-Klan members of the town–what I call the see? We aren’t all bad take. I definitely didn’t want to write one of those stories. A few years back, I found a copy of a book I read when I was fairly young–it belonged to my uncle, actually–about the Civil Rights era in Alabama, called The Klansman by William Bradford Huie, whom I believe was actually a journalism professor at the University of Alabama…and it was different than I remembered, yet still chilling. I’m not sure what Huie was trying to do with the book, to be honest; the Klan sympathizers really came across badly, and even those who weren’t out and out members of the Klan were still racists who saw the Klan as a necessary “evil”–the sheriff couldn’t get elected without the support of the Klan, and he spends the book trying to walk the line between pleasing the Klan and not doing anything illegal…but you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. (I read it the same summer as I read To Kill a Mockingbird, which also belonged to my uncle; the two books are forever linked in my mind.)

Bury Me in Shadows may be many things, but it’s not a Lost Cause narrative, nor is it a “look at the nice white saviors” novel, either.

And I think that’s enough about that for today.

Together We’re Better

Yesterday actually turned out to be quite lovely.

I was a little bleary when I got up yesterday morning (my Fitbit advises me I only slept deeply for 3 hours, 48 minutes; the rest was “light sleep” and I woke up three times), but for whatever reason, I decided to start getting to work on things. I started answering emails (I am very careful with email. I refuse to let it control my life, which it easily can; so I answer emails over the weekends and in the mornings, save my responses as drafts, and send them all after lunch. I do not send emails after five pm CST; I do not read them, either. Email at one point took over my life, which made getting anything done impossible and raised my stress levels to unbelievable heights. I realized anyone who absolutely, positively needs to reach me has my cell phone number…and if I don’t trust you with my cell phone number…you don’t really need an answer right away. And guess what? The world didn’t end, I didn’t miss out on anything, and nothing became harder) while reading coverage of the LSU debacle from Saturday night (one thing I did mean to mention and didn’t yesterday; I try not to be overly critical of college athletes because they are basically kids. It’s easy to forget that when you’re watching on television, but when you see them on the sidelines with their helmets off, or while walking down Victory Hill to the stadium in their suits and ties…you see a bunch of teenagers and young men in their early twenties. They are kids—and those baby faces on those big muscular bodies is a very strange juxtaposition sometimes). I decided on the way home from Baton Rouge that while I do, indeed, love football, I really shouldn’t give up my weekends to it all fall. Now that LSU is definitely out of the running for anything, I’ll probably not watch as much football as I would if they were still in contention for anything. I’ll still watch LSU, and occasionally I may spend an afternoon watching a big game—the SEC title game, the play-offs—I am not going to spend every Saturday pretty much glued to the television all day, flipping between games all day. And I also rarely enjoy watching the Saints—I love them, they’re my guys, my team, my heart—but their games are so damned stressful it’s hard to enjoy them, and when the games is over I am always, win or lose, emotionally and physically and mentally exhausted. So, I decided it made more sense to get things done, check in on the score periodically, and not sweat it too much. (Good thing. Like LSU, the Saints led the entire game, folded like a newspaper in the fourth quarter and wound up losing.) I made groceries, filled the car’s gas tank, and before going, I started weeding shit out of my iCloud and saving it all to my back-up hard drive.  I wound up freeing up over four hundred and seven gigabytes in my flash storage, and suddenly my computer was running very quickly again.

And yes, it’s my fault.* I have a gazillion pictures files, going back to digital camera days. I used to back up my hard drive and my flash drives regularly to the cloud—and those folders are enormous. I don’t probably need all of it—I was weeding through bits here and there as I moved the files over to the back-up hard drive (eventually planning on copying them up to Dropbox), and started finding all kinds of interesting things. Story fragments I’d forgotten, book ideas and anthology ideas and essays I’d started; some of these things are in very rough, first draft form—and got left behind as my addled, AHDH-like brain moved on to the next thirty or forty ideas for all of the above. I also was kind of amused to see how I often I plagiarize myself; I had a completely different idea for the book I wanted to call A Streetcar Named Murder fifteen years ago—which I can still use at some point, just have to come up with a new title. I’d forgotten that all the way through the process Need was called A Vampire’s Heart; my editor suggested changing it after I turned the book it. It was a wise choice; my title was very romance sounding and Need was hardly that. It was also interesting seeing, over the years, how many different ideas I’ve had for a gay noir set in the world of ballet (damn you, Megan Abbott!). I discovered that Murder in the Garden District actually began as Murder on the Avenue (a title I can repurpose for an idea I had last week); I found the original files for Hollywood South Hustle, the Scotty book that turned into a Chanse MacLeod, Murder in the Rue Ursulines; I found the files for the Colin book that tells us what he was doing and where he was between Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo; I found the original Paige novel I started writing in 2004, in which an Ann Coulter-like pundit from New Orleans is murdered; I found the first three chapters of the Scotty Katrina book, Hurricane Party High,  in which they don’t evacuate during a fictional hurricane, and the chapters where I rewrote it, had the, evacuate to Frank’s sister’s in rural Alabama (and we meet Frank’s nephew Taylor for the first time—and I also remembered that they belonged to some weird kind of religious cult and that Taylor was going to come to New Orleans in the future to visit during their version of rumspringa, but eventually abandoned the idea completely and never did a Scotty/Katrina book; was reminded that Dark Tide began as Mermaid Inn; that I wrote the first chapter of Timothy during the summer of 2003; and if I even tried to list all the iterations that wound up being #shedeservedit, we would be here all day (Sins of Omission, I think, was my favorite earlier title; again, a completely different book with some slight similarities…I may have to take a longer look at some of those iterations because being reminded of them all, I also remembered that I really liked all the versions).

I also found many, many nonfiction pieces I’ve written over the years—many of which I’d long since forgotten about—so maybe that essay collection won’t take quite as long to pull together as I had originally thought. Huzzah!

And I also discovered something else that I knew but had slipped out of my consciousness: that Bury Me in Shadows was called, for the first and second drafts, Bury Me in Satin—which gives off an entirely different vibe, doesn’t it? I wrote a very early version of it as a short story while in college, called it “Ruins,” but never wrote a second draft because I knew it wasn’t a short story; it needed to be a book, and one day I would write it. I was never completely comfortable with the story, to be honest; I wasn’t sure how I could write a modern novel built around a Civil War legend in rural Alabama. I absolutely didn’t want to write a fucking Lost Cause narrative—which is what this easily could have become, and people might come to it thinking it is, and are going to be very angry when they find out it is not that—but I really wasn’t sure how to tell the story…and in my mind, I thought of it as Ruins—which I freely admit is not a great title, and has been over-used.

As luck would have it, I was watching some awards show—I can’t begin to try to remember what year—and one of the nominated groups performed. I’d never heard of The Band Perry before; and the song they performed, “If I Die Young,” absolutely blew me away. (I just remembered, I kind of used the title as guidance when writing Need—always trying to remember he became undead very young) The first two lines of the chorus are this:

If I die young,

Bury me in satin

And I thought to myself, Bury Me in Satin is a perfect title for the Civil War ghost story! Melancholy and sort of romantic; I’ve always thought of hauntings as more about loss than being terrifying (you do not have to go full out jump scare, use gore or blood or violence to scare the reader, and if you doubt me, read Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home), which is why I’ve always loved the Barbara Michaels novels that were ghost stories. That was the feeling I wanted to convey, that sad creepiness, and longing—I wanted a Gothic feel to the book, and I felt that line captured what I wanted perfectly. But as I wrote it, it didn’t quite feel as right as it did in that moment (I still love the song—and the video is interesting and kind of Gothic, doing a Tennyson Lady of Shalott thing), and then one day it hit me: changed ‘satin’ to ‘shadows’, and there’s your perfect title.

And so it was.

Oh dear, look at the time. Till tomorrow, Constant Reader! I am off to the spice mines! Have a lovely Monday!

*I will add the caveat to this that anything stored in the Cloud should not affect the flash storage in the actual computer and its operating system, and yes, I am prepared and more than willing to die on that hill.

Am I Losing You

Good morning, Sunday. I am not as worn out and tired as I thought I would be, to be honest.

The game last night was disappointing–it always is when LSU uses–but I wouldn’t have even minded that so much had it seemed like they were trying to win the game, if that makes sense? As I sat in a crowded (not full) stadium for the first time in two years, in and itself a novelty from the before times, it occurred to me as I watched that the problem this entire season with LSU is both sides of the ball (offense or defense), whichever is out on the field at the time, is playing not to lose, rather than to win. They play cautiously. The defense’s tackling was embarrassing for a team playing at the elitest level of college football; I don’t think they sacked the Auburn quarterback even once, and they don’t aggressively play pass defense in the backfield, either. It’s just weird that LSU has a quarterback now who has flashes of potential greatness–but no run game, no offensive line to speak of, and probably the worst defense to play for LSU since the 1990’s. Auburn didn’t play much better, either–so War Eagle fans shouldn’t put too much stock in this “big win” for them either. We barely beat Mississippi State, and UCLA–our other loss–keeps losing, too. Paul and I had never seen LSU lose in Tiger Stadium since we started attending games in 2010; that streak came to an end last night, as did Auburn’s losing streak in Baton Rouge; they hadn’t won in Tiger Stadium this century.

I always thought it would suck to drive all the way back to New Orleans after a loss–and especially one that at night–we didn’t get back to the car until well past twelve, yet somehow managed to get home before one thirty (a miracle in and of itself). There was hardly any traffic, even in Baton Rouge; but there was a cop directing traffic on Highland Avenue so maybe that helped, I don’t know.

The sting of the LSU loss, however, was made a bit more palatable by others scores from other games: Florida lost to Kentucky (Dan Mullen’s job is definitely in jeopardy–with Georgia and LSU still on their schedule, it’s entirely possible they could lose four games, although I wouldn’t be too concerned about the LSU game were I them) and Mississippi State beat Texas A&M (which means Jimbo Fisher should be worrying about his job–they haven’t played Alabama or Auburn yet, and they already have two losses in the conference). Arkansas’ bubble was popped by Georgia decisively last night, and Stanford knocked off Oregon. This is a crazy year for college football, reminding me of 2007 and 2014 (although 2014 sorted itself in the end), and come to think of it, that’s a seven year cycle.

Maybe 2021 is going to be just as crazy.

As Paul said in the car, “I think really this year there’s just Alabama and Georgia, and then everyone else at a level below.” I think he’s right.

But I slept fairly well, and there was no need to yell or scream, so I am not hoarse this morning. The stadium never really got rocking, either, so my ears aren’t ringing the way they were after the last time we went to a game in Baton Rouge. I’m not tired, but I am also not feeling particularly high energy this morning either. I have to make groceries and get gas for the car (I can apparently make it to Baton Rouge and back on a quarter tank of gas, which ain’t bad, really), and there’s also a lot of other things I’d like to do today–the gym, write for a while, do some editing, clean and organize. I started clearing out files from the Cloud yesterday because once again–a problem I have had with every Mac I’ve owned ever since they developed the cloud and stopped putting large amounts of storage in their computers, even to operate programs–my computer wasn’t working properly. It was enormously frustrating and it took me hours to move big files out of there and onto my back-up hard drive. I wasted most of yesterday doing this, in fact, until it was time to get ready to go to the game. The entire point of buying a new Mac computer two months ago was to alleviate these issues and have a functional desktop; the Cloud was a huge mistake on their part–I am certainly not a fan of it–and I do think it’s absurd that every time they upgrade their operating systems you have to learn how to use your computer all over again. It’s bullshit, a cashgrab from an already excessively greedy corporation, and yes, this will be the last Mac I own. When it finally dies from an operating system upgrade–I’d say probably two years, max–I’ll be buying a Dell, much as I hate Windows, and moving everything in the Cloud over to Dropbox….which will not affect the operating memory of my fucking computer thank you very much.

So. Fucking. Frustrating.

And on that note, I need to get rolling on my day. You have a lovely and restful (or productive, if that’s your preference) Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Something New Got Old

Saturday and tonight we will be in Death Valley, watching the LSU-Auburn game. Huzzah!

But that means a really long day ahead. The game isn’t until eight pm, which means we may not get out of the stadium and into the car before midnight, which will get me home around one thirty in the morning at the earliest. That is way past my bedtime, and could also prove incredibly problematic when it comes to having a productive day tomorrow, which is absolutely necessary. I slept deeply and well last night–Scooter woke me up for water around three, and for food again around six (and yes, I should have filled the food bowl at three but I was barely conscious; I’m surprised I even remember getting up to get him water at three)–and feel pretty rested this morning. I am debating as to whether I should make a grocery run today–I doubt I will feel up to it tomorrow–but looking at my grocery list, there’s really nothing that makes such a trip necessary, really; but I should probably go looking through my cabinets to be thorough before making any decision. For some reason lately running errands makes me tired; but that could be a combination of any number of other things, not just being sixty. It’s also not like the month of September (with the end of August added in for good measure) was an easy one, after all.

I had to get up really early yesterday to take my car to the West Bank for servicing–new air filters, and the tire with a slow, steady leak became the tire with a regular pretty quick leak–and it got all patched up and everything. I had ordered a new lap desk so I can use the laptop in my easy chair–the old one I bought while we were still living in the carriage house the first time; so it was pretty old–and the new one is pretty fancy–pockets and so forth, as well as a built in mousepad on the surface. Whether or not that means I will actually start using the laptop in my easy chair remains to be seen. I also want to move the ratty old one upstairs for use in bed; we do have a television in the bedroom we never use, and maybe having the lap desk will encourage me to work from the comfort of said bed. Anyway, I love my new lap desk, and can’t wait to try it out this morning (once I post this I am planning on moving to the easy chair).

I think I am going to have to make that grocery run today; might as well, and then I can get the mail and I also need to fill the tank with gas for the drive to Baton Rouge. And since I have to go out into the world today anyway…might as well get that odious chore out of the way.

I also made that “Mississippi roast” in the slow cooker yesterday; that recipe that keeps popping up everywhere you turn around, with people raving about it–the one that calls for a packet of au jus and a packet of ranch, with a stick of butter added to the top of the roast and no liquids added. I will fully confess I assumed it would be terribly bland (living in New Orleans and learning to cook Louisiana style has certainly spoiled me when it comes to flavor and spices and so forth–everywhere else’s food always seems terribly bland to me now) but I always follow the recipe the first time I make anything so I can see how it turns out, before starting to experiment every time after (I generally never make the same recipe the same way twice; I am always tweaking recipes but ironically never track the changes and adaptations, which means I can never repeat it if I find a perfect way to make something by experimenting). I am pleased to report that it actually tasted quite good as written; the only thing I might change the next time is to add mushrooms or perhaps small potatoes (although there really isn’t a lot of gravy; I think the potatoes would have to be added about half-way through, and the mushrooms with an hour left to go), and maybe–maybe–some white pepper and basil.

I really do love to cook.

I did read some more Velvet Was the Night while I was waiting at the dealership for the work on my car to be finished. I hope I’m not giving the impression that the book isn’t good, given how long it is taking me to finish it. That has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with an inability to focus. Yesterday at the dealership, I was really getting caught up in the story when they came to let me know the car was ready. I meant to get back to it last night after work, but Paul was home early and so we started watching our shows–getting caught up on Only Murders in the Building, Titans, Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and American Horror Story: Double Feature–and since there’s game all day today, we probably won’t get to Midnight Mass again until tomorrow. AHS wrapped up it’s odd story about the talent vampires in Provincetown, and so the second half of this season is the second feature, which apparently has to do with aliens in the Southern California desert, near Joshua Tree/Palm Springs area (I guess the Salton Sea was too much to hope for). It’s strange–with all four of the college student leads (including the guys, who are a young gay couple) winding up pregnant after an alien experience none of them remember; they just remember a bright light and all of them waking up in the car in different seats–but intriguing. I will be interested to see how this plays out, and if it goes off the rails as so many plots on this show tend to do.

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

If You Ever Go

Thursday, Thursday. A work at home day, hurray!

It rained again yesterday, which was more than a little bit irritating (in theory, it’s going to rain every day for a while now; including scattered thunderstorms in Baton Rouge Saturday night DURING THE GAME), but it’s okay. Rain makes me sleepy and I was tired yesterday from Tuesday night’s weird sleep, so the combination of the two helped me run out of steam by the afternoon. It kind of sucked, because I wanted to go to the gym and do some things last night, but by the time my shift ended and it was time to go home…all I wanted to do was go home, get under the blanket in my easy chair with a purring kitty in my lap, and mindlessly zone out while falling into some insane Youtube wormhole. However, I had advance warning that Paul would be late getting home (the grant he’s been working on was due at midnight), so after a few times around with history videos, I decided to watch a movie. I opened the TCM app on my AppleTV, and started looking through the vast riches there. I was delighted to see Pillow Talk was available to stream–a few weeks ago I’d looked for it, settling for the follow up, Lover Come Back, instead; which isn’t settling because it’s also a fun, if dated movie–and so queued it up. I’ve always loved Pillow Talk, and it always has made me laugh; but I’ve also not seen it in years, and I am a lot more aware about things that can be seen today as problematic. A sex comedy from the days of the Hays Code, made in 1959? Yes, all kinds of things were played for comedy back then that are not only no longer funny, but absolutely cringey today. And yes–there were parts that really made me cringe a bit; the entire “Rex Stetson” deception, which is actually quite cruel, being at the top of the list. But the only reason it even works in the first place is because Rock Hudson is so utterly likable, charismatic, and charming; even though he’s a complete cad, you can’t help but like him. Doris Day is stunningly beautiful, and that singing voice! The chemistry between the two is also powerful; you know from the beginning they’re going to wind up together (it’s a romantic comedy, after all), and Hudson–dismissed as just being handsome rather than actually having any talent–deserved an Oscar. Knowing Hudson is a gay man, playing a straight man with a steady parade of women through his life and is so completely convincing that he not only is falling for Doris Day but you actually believe he wants to fuck her.

That–given his reality–was definitely Oscar worthy. The film absolutely couldn’t be made today–the idea that a woman in her late twenties/early thirties would be an almost prudish virgin would never fly today–but it holds up better than Lover Come Back, in that Day’s character has some great scenes with other characters about how she wants to be in love, wants to fall in love, and dreams of finding the right man who will sweep her off her feet and romance her and love her; the relationship between her character and the neurotic millionaire who loves her (Tony Randall) is so incredibly sweet–she doesn’t love him but she likes him a lot, and how she gently lets him down after his umpteenth wedding proposal–and how he accepts the defeat gracefully, saying he just wants her to be happy above-all, was lovely; there was some great chemistry between Day and Randall as well. And that apartment she has! And New York just looks marvelous and wonderful and exciting and fun and everything you could ever imagine it could be. It’s a fantasy, of course, but that’s what movies were back then; and of course, the movie never shames Day for being a single career-woman in the big city–Lover Come Back’s message was a lot cruder–“she just needs a good fuck”–but it doesn’t play that way in Pillow Talk, which remains somewhat charming, if unrealistic.

And it’s actually a rather clever window into that time period.

As always, I have lots to do today. I am working at home, as per the usual, on a Thursday; which is nice. I slept well last night, which was also lovely; I don’t even think I got up once during the night. Paul had a meeting this evening but will be home shortly thereafter, so we can get caught up on our shows and actually spend some time together. I am getting excited and nervous about the game this weekend; I am delighted that we are returning to Tiger Stadium for the first time since the 2019 season, but at the same time I am a bit nervous about being in a stadium with over a hundred thousand people crammed into it; with thousands more partying on the university grounds around the stadium. This will be a sort of trial run for a return to normal after the pandemic is completely over, but at the same time I can’t get that voice in my head whispering super spreader event to stop. The game is at eight, which means not getting home until after midnight–not optimal–but I can sleep in on Sunday and get rested. (But I also need to check to see what time the Saints play on Sunday as well.)

And on that note, I am putting on my helmet and heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

It’s All In Your Mind

Wednesday, which is also Pay Day, which means it is also Pay the Bills Day. Huzzah! (That, in case you were wondering, Constant Reader, was sarcasm.) At least I can pay the bills without bankrupting myself, so that’s a plus.

I just booked my hotel room for Bouchercon Minneapolis. I am, needless to say, very excited about the possibility of actually going to Bouchercon this year–I’ve not been in years; the last one held in person was Dallas and I got an inner ear infection the week of that prohibited me from flying, which kind of sucked; I would have driven had I known it would be four years between attendances for me. Paul will be coming with me, methinks; we did use to live up there (he was there much longer than my eight months) after all, and I am thrilled at the thought of traveling again. I still am hoping to get to New York and Boston for Crime Bake in November; we’ll see how that turns out.

It rained yesterday afternoon, and my final client was a bit late so I ended up staying much later than I normally do–and by much, I mean a half-hour (in fairness, the difference in traffic between 4:30 and 5 pm is significant)–but it was also pouring rain as I drove home. I had considered stopping at the grocery store AND going to the gym last night after work, but the rain put the kibosh on that. I was a little tired last night also, so I didn’t get as much done as I probably should have. There’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away, for example, but at least I got the laundry done. I also spent quite a bit of time organizing. My computer files are an absolute disaster, frankly; but I am getting there. I also need to stop downloading images and articles that *may* come in handy later at some point (I am constantly seeing something and thinking oh this would be the good basis for a story at some point and then I need to have it available to me at some point, so I download it and save it; this includes photographs and images (my Chlorine folder is filled with images of men being intimate in some way, going back over a hundred years, so whenever I get the “I don’t know how they would have looked or dressed or whatever” I can just scroll through the images and think, “ah, yes, here we are”); I am also worried about transferring files from computer to computer and am always worried I am going to wind up deleting something I’ll need later, so I will end up with, for example, five copies of the same word document. It does make finding things a challenge, and this is also helping me. Organizing and filing are always a pain in the ass to do, but I always find it soothing in some way; like when I am folding clothes or doing the dishes.

I did do some editing yesterday; not much of anything, really, but progress was made and it was good. I should be able to finish that listicle article thingamabob today and get it sent off to the website it’s for; which will be lovely. I’m going to push to get some things edited and revised over the next two days, and of course, once it’s October first, I have to get to work on the new mystery, A Streetcar Named Murder. I also have to figure out what name to use for it. Also beginning on October 1, I have to start really pushing and promoting Bury Me in Shadows, which officially drops on October 12–and I’ve done very little on this front in quite some time. Seriously, I really do wonder sometimes how I have managed to have a writing career for as long as I have…

I am a bit tired this morning. I woke up several times throughout the night, sadly, and it took me a while to fall asleep as well. I wouldn’t call last night’s sleep insomnia, but it wasn’t as restful or as relaxing as it could have been (I should have gone to the gym; that would have tired me out enough to sleep, surely) so I am sure sometime around three this afternoon I will undoubtedly run out of energy and just drag through the rest of the work day. It’s also supposed to rain all day, which will inevitably also make me sleepier. Great.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a happy Wednesday, Constant Reader, and will chat with you again tomorrow undoubtedly.

Last Night

I can’t stop thinking about that Chippendales documentary I watched this past weekend.

I felt better yesterday than I have in a long time, even as I was making a list of all the things I need to get done in the meantime. (The list, by the way, is quite extensive.) Paul was working last night and I was tired when I got home. I tried to read for a little while but my mind was too tired to focus, so I put the book aside and watched some history documentary videos on Youtube, which really is quite addicting. (Youtube has become quite fascinating overall to me; and it’s very easy to fall into a video wormhole almost impossible to climb out from…I’m undoubtedly very late to this party, but it’s interesting what you can come across while digging around on there.) I also slept pretty well last night; I feel rested this morning and good, the way I did yesterday morning, and I think a lot of this has to do with being back on schedule; with going into the office Monday thru Wednesday and getting my schedule back in order the way it’s supposed to be. Normality, I suppose, is what it’s called, and getting back into a normal-seeming routine is what truly matters in trying to feel normal again.

My dishwasher was repaired yesterday, so last night I was able to get the most recent stack of dirty dishes cleaned and run through it without incident, which was also quite lovely. (It really takes so very little to make me happy, seriously.)

September is almost finished, as hard as that is to believe. The weather was simply stunningly gorgeous yesterday, too. And we have tickets for the LSU-Auburn game this Saturday! (Way to bury the lede.) It’s a night game, which means we won’t get home until midnight or so from Baton Rouge, but it’s also been two years since we’ve been to a game (the last time was the Florida game in 2019), and I am very excited. LSU isn’t playing great this year, but neither is Auburn (despite their almost-win at Penn State); so fingers crossed the Tigers will get their act together this week and be able to pull off the upset win at home. It’ll also be a beautiful night for a football game. And I can wear my new cap Paul got me for my birthday! Very exciting!

So, things are slowly starting to get back to what passes for normalcy around here, and I am slowly starting to feel like I am getting a handle on everything I should and need to be doing. I spent a very little time yesterday writing the first few paragraphs of “Condos for Sale or Rent”; I had already started the story sometime last year but didn’t like where it was going or what I was doing so I decided to start over, and there I was, writing fiction again. Maybe not anything I should have been working on (naturally) but it felt good to flex those writerly brain muscles again and start writing something again.

I also realized last night (while watching a video about the sad life of Elisabeth of France, sister of Louis XVI) that I’ve felt scattered and disorganized ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018; which has been three fucking years since my desktop computer went on the fritz and I started having to develop work-arounds, and also right around the same time that our work computers stopped reading flash drives plugged into them, which started the horrible period on which my work was always spread over three different computers and I had to teach myself how to use the Cloud–which wasn’t easy, given the issues I was having with my desktop computer on top of everything else. I did somehow manage to write a couple of books and some short stories during those three years, but I’ve never really felt on top of things since that mess all began. I was actually starting to feel caught up and back on top of things again When The Power Went Out, and so for the last month it was back to flailing and the sad, defeatist attitude that everyone whose always told me I was a loser was correct and I was never going to be able to get everything done that I needed to get done–and that I was barely keeping my head above water this entire time. Being organized is the only way you can ever be truly efficient and highly-functioning, and I’ve not felt organized since December 2018. I am starting to feel better about being organized, and while the process is ongoing, I also feel like I’ve already made some great strides in getting better, holistically, with everything.

Tonight, I am hoping to have the energy to go to the gym for Leg Day (sobs softly to self) as well as stop and make some groceries on the way home–just to pick up a few little things–and then would love to spend some time reading Velvet Was the Night after the shower and so forth. I think Paul still has a grant to work on, so my evening is free; perhaps I can also get some writing done after the gym and shower. We shall see.

At any rate, tis time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.