Two Divided by Zero

My COVID test came back negative again, so I was right, I guess; dehydration and exhaustion combined in a 1-2 punch to send me reeling and off my game. My stomach is still messed up–sometimes stuff doesn’t go right through me, but most of the time it absolutely does–but that’s just how it is and we have to get on with life somehow. I am really sick of this, and I am going to be calling my doctor’s office later today. My doctor moved away, and I’ve been delaying dealing with contacting their office to get a new one, so now I guess I am in a position where I have to–in other words, moved to action because I have no other choice.

That happens a lot more than one might think, since my usual default is lethargy.

I revised my Sherlock story yesterday, so yes, I actually did get some writing done, and it wasn’t as easy as I might have liked but on the other hand, it also could have been much harder. There were a couple of times I was ready to throw in the towel and say hey I got something done at least, but forced myself to keep going. Now I’m going to let it sit for a few days before I polish it, and hopefully in the meantime i can get some other writing done. I know part of the weird emotional state I find myself in these days has more to do with the not writing than anything else; when I am not working on some form of writing, I’m always down. After I finished working on the story yesterday I felt fantastic; that adrenaline rush only matched by the one that comes from endorphins after a good workout. I’ve not been to the gym in over a week, either–I’ve neither had the energy nor felt well enough to actually go, plus not wanting to put people at risk…but I am going to have to start thinking about when I can go back again.

As a result of remembering a story I’d started a few weeks ago and completely forgotten about, I decided to make a list of all the stories and things I have in progress at the current time. It was quite eye-opening; eighty nine short stories in some degree of completion; seven novellas in the same situation; and two novels. This is what I mean by my creative ADHD; many of the stories are no more than 500 words (I made a point of not counting the ones that are just a title and an opening sentence or paragraph) but some of them have been through multiple drafts and still others have a first draft completed. I posted about it on social media, and based on the reactions I received, I realized two things: one, that I now understand why people call me prolific and two, the reason I think I am lazy and don’t ever get anything done is precisely because I have so many works in progress that are not completed. Add to that the reality that I constantly get new ideas for stories, novellas, and novels all the time, and you begin to see why I am so rough on myself when it comes to this sort of thing. I am trying to be better about being hard on myself–there’s a strong sense, though, that without being hard on myself I wouldn’t get as much done; but at the same time, I’m not getting much done these days…but I think this shift is necessary in order to delete negativity out of my life. There’s already so much negativity in the world I don’t need to create more for my life and career. But I need to get moving on the Secret Project, and now that this revision is behind me, I have some time to work on it now.

We finished season one of Elite last night and started season two, and I have to say–if you’ve not watched this show, you absolutely must. The story moves like a runaway freight train, the plot is incredibly intricate, intertwined, and complicated. The writing is stellar and the acting–the gorgeous young actors who make up the cast–is also topnotch. It’s so much better than 13 Reasons Why, and its approach to alternate sexualities is much better–considering this is a Spanish show, and I’ve always considered Spain to be conservative and Catholic, again shows how wrong you can be when you make assumptions about values and beliefs. It’s even hard to encapsulate the ongoing storylines on the show because so much happens and it moves so fast. It’s less like Edge of Night in terms of crime/soap hybrids than it is a Spanish, prep school version of How to Get Away With Murder–which we never finished watching the final season of, because it’s plot is so complicated we lost track and literally had no idea what was going on anymore.

And on that note, time to get back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, one and all.

The Survivors

So, let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why, shall we? Especially now that I’ve discovered the amazing treasure Netflix had waiting for me that is the Spanish show Elite. (There will be much, more more on its magnificence to come, rest assured.)

If you’ve not watched the show–its final season or any of its previous, or still might want to read the book–you should move away at this instant because there are spoilers a-plenty a-coming. You’ve been warned.

I got sucked into this show in its initial season, and even then, it was problematic to me on several levels. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed watching–even as I rolled my eyes from time to time and hated myself for not switching it off (Really? A box of cassette tapes the kids passed around between each other without anyone outside the group finding out? I also read the book after I watched the first season–and the cassettes were archaic and a jarring note in it, and it was old by the time the show aired). But the young actors were all appealing, it was pretty well written if a bit contrived at times (see box of cassette tapes–oh, and a thirty year old Walkman that still works. Please. I was lucky if one of mine lasted a year), and there were some surprises that caught me off guard, and its sentimentality was actually earned. The show began going off the rails in the second season, sort of redeemed itself (while still off the rails) in its third, and in its fourth–well, let’s just say it was time for the show, its cast, and its viewers to be put out of our collective misery.

Ani, the annoying and insufferable new character they inexplicably wove into the third season to humanize their monstrous rapist/serial assaulter, Bryce, for some unknowable reason, was left out of a lot of the fourth season, and wasn’t a major player at all; so what was the whole point of her character in the first place? Oh, yes, she served as a plot device; the incredibly smart stranger who came into this messy high school, got to know everyone, and somehow got all of them–keeping deep, dark, criminal secrets–to not only confide in her but allowed her to use her intelligence to help them cover up everything and frame a dead kid. To add insult to injury, they bring in yet another almost complete stranger in the fourth season to essentially to play the same role of plot device. This is Winston, the pretty, artistic, dreamy-looking gay boy from Hillcrest–the school Bryce transferred to after his rape trial. If you will recall, Winston hooked up with one of Bryce’s asshole football buddies at a Hillcrest party–this would be Monty, who came to the party looking for Bryce–and then, after the hook-up, beat the shit out of Winston in front of the entire party. Winston and Monty somehow after that became a thing–because yes, I agree; the closet is a terrible place but to self-loathingly beat the shit out of a kid you just hooked up with–and then the kid doesn’t hate and loathe his basher but sleeps with you again?

How is this different from the romance novels where a rape victim falls in love with her rapist?

And falls in love with him, to the point that he decides to give up his education at elite Hillcrest and transfer to Liberty-a much shittier school–to find out who actually did kill Bryce–the murder pinned on Monty, WHO WAS JAILED FOR SEXUALLY ASSAULTING ANOTHER MALE STUDENT WITH A BROOM–since he knows Monty’s innocent. Because he was with Monty when Bryce was murdered.

Sorry, I get that Monty’s situation was terrible. But apparently, in season 4, no one at Liberty has an issue with gay students anymore.

Charlie, Bryce’s nice football player friend, who eventually sees and understand what monsters Bryce and Monty are, is apparently bisexual–although we never saw this before, but apparently everyone knows. Alex, whose story arc of being so in love with Jessica that the thought of everything that happened to her in Season One drove him to try to take his own life? Also is now apparently bisexual–kissing first Zack (but Zack is so gay-friendly it doesn’t affect their friendship at all), then getting involved with Winston, and finally, Charlie woos him against his will and they become a couple–and not only that, they are elected Prom Royalty because nobody at Liberty is a nasty homophobe.

So why the fuck was Monty so deep in the closet and hate himself, and his own desires, so much that he would sexually assault one boy and then physically assault another? IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. Yes, his dad is an abusive asshole and probably homophobic, but truly if no one at Liberty has a problem with it…even Diego, the new football star who came out of nowhere but was also supposedly so close to Monty that he’s willing to try to “date” Jessica to get her to tell him the truth, IS FINE WITH IT WHEN WINSTON EXPLAINS HOW HE KNOWS MONTY DID’T KILL BRYCE. He just shrugs it off as nothing.

And remember–the peeping tom photo of Hannah kissing another girl which was one of the reasons why in season one? If it was not a big deal to anyone, why was Hannah so humiliated? She was mocked; it was yet another major “Hannah is a slut” moment. I guess we’re all supposed to believe that after Hannah killed herself, all these kids at Liberty grew? The ones who never heard the tapes and didn’t know any of the truth about what was happening, or what had happened?

Contrived, contrived, contrived.

Even writing out these brief sketches of things that have happened over the years on this show makes me realize just how ridiculous any of this. But that was part of the problem. The show was this insane, improbable storyline that just kept getting more and more melodramatic and tragic, trying to outdo previous seasons, but with a slightly moralistic tone to it; always pulling back, become a “very special show” like when sitcoms in the 1980’s would try to tackle a current issue and teach a valuable lesson, that inevitably included some inane guest star in an insane attempt to boost ratings and win Emmy nominations. (They rarely, if ever, did.)

And Winston falling in love with his gay-basher wasn’t even the craziest, most contrived part of season four (nor was Alex’s out of nowhere bisexuality; and let me be clear here: I don’t have a problem with bisexuality. But bisexual representation deserves better than what they got here). That would be the sudden discovery that Justin–poor old hard luck, heroin addicted Justin, who had finally gotten his shit together, gotten adopted into a family that loves and accepts him (the Jensen), and even got accepted into Berkeley–has HIV/AIDS after he collapses at the prom, and is dead within a few days.

Yes, as a sex worker and drug addict he was at high risk. Yes, drug abuse can weaken the immune system and the disease can progress even faster as a result. He could have gotten infected from one of his sex-work clients, or from sharing a needle–although it seemed whenever he was using he did it by himself–but even so, in this day and age, a young white teenager with access to health care, even if he was undiagnosed and his HIV had progressed to an AIDS diagnosis, will most likely not die, nor would the hospital and the doctors just shrugged and given him up for dead so quickly. (And don’t think I didn’t notice the lesions that started showing up on his neck and hands and so forth several episodes before; living through the 1980s’s fucking trained me to notice that shit, so I kept thinking, as we went through the last few episodes they better not be giving him AIDS, they better not be giving him AIDS…and guess what? They not only gave him AIDS, but they let him die from it.

And that kind of pissed me off.

Rather than go with a good message for the mostly young audience of the show (get tested! It’s important! Use condoms!) they chose to use this storyline as a scare tactic instead, and further stigmatize HIV/AIDS and those who live with it. They didn’t even emphasize the need for testing to catch it early. Nope, just “you can’t get tested without giving consent” (it’s true still in most of the country),and nothing else.

It just felt…contrived. Let’s kill off one of the main cast as a tearjerker to close out the show and somehow let everyone heal! Bitch, please.

And of course, when Jessica–who may have been exposed–and Diego–whom she slept with and might have put at risk, get tested…they talk about how she and Justin “always used protection.” WHY is so fucking hard to say condoms? It is fucking 2020, call it what it is. CONDOMS. It sounds so forced, so unrealistic, so jarringly wrong to hear a teenager–anyone, really–say “we used protection” when they would say “We used condoms.”

And for the record, condoms aren’t 100% at blocking HIV infection, either.

We deserved better than what we got with this show, and yes, I should have stopped watching. But come on.

Watch Elite instead.

Miserabilism

Sunday morning. I slept really well again last night, but my stomach is still quirky this morning; I am not enjoying this in the least and it really needs to stop sometime soon, thank you very much. I do appreciate the deep sleep I’ve been getting these last few nights, but there’s still fatigue in my muscles and joints and it might be dehydration still; I am going to have to drink more fluids today than I have been before and see if that improves things at all. I still haven’t gotten my test results back yet–then again, my phone expired last night and I forgot to charge it, so there may be a missed call or something there. I’ll check when I finish writing this, I suppose.

I also started writing up my detailed critique of 13 Reasons Why last night and it’s failures; which were made all the more evident when Paul and I moved on to yet another show from Netflix Spain called Elite, which is precisely what 13 Reasons Why could have been. Elite is more soapy, but they actually lean into it unashamedly, and it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining and better written. The cast is also spectacularly good in their roles, and we are unashamedly addicted to it–and there are three glorious seasons to indulge in thus far. That should get us through until next weekend, right? And I am looking forward to it! We truly enjoyed Toy Boy, and even White Lines, uneven as it was. Shows from Spanish Netflix are truly amazing; and I’m also really glad I got over my aversion to subtitles, which opens up a whole new world of film and television for us.

I took it easy yesterday, reading my emails and reorganizing the books while i could and straightening up a bit around the Lost Apartment. I also took a folder of partial stories to my easy chair and started reading through them. A lot of them of course are story fragments, just the opening paragraphs, and while they were sketchy and not particularly in depth; I could see the potential in them. I am very pleased with how “Closing Time” starts and rereading those paragraphs tipped me off on how to continue with the story; the same goes with “One Night at Brandi’s Lounge” and “Please Die Soon.” Today I am going to–once I finish some things here on-line that I need to get done today–close my Internet browser and focus on writing; the things I had planned to get done this weekend I haven’t, and that’s in part due to this disorientation feeling that comes from not being at 100% physically, which I rather dislike.

Then again, I don’t know anyone who enjoys being sick, other than those with Munchhausen’s Syndrome.

I also was thinking about the Kansas book yesterday and making notes; both shows were making me think more about it, and I do think it’s a great idea and has the potential to be a terrific book, if I can ever get back to work on it. But I’m never going to get back to either it or Bury Me in Shadows until I get this other stuff finished…so I really need to try to focus today and get to work on it.

I also was reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower yesterday when I didn’t have the energy to do anything else–the energy drains is the worst part of this whole thing, quite frankly–and I really do love Tuchman. I’ve never read The Guns of August, which I really should, and would love to eventually would like to work my way through her entire catalogue. Oh, how I wish I’d majored in History and Creative Writing in college! I generally don’t waste my time with regrets about anything, and as I am extremely happy with my life right now any change to my past would have altered my life completely and I wouldn’t be where I am today. But oh, to have learned how to comb through research and find the proper materials to write about history intelligently and responsibly! I think I could have written history the way Tuchman did–compellingly, by being entertaining as well as educating at the same time. As I have mentioned many times before, I’d love to do the sixteenth century much the same as Tuchman did the fourteenth in A Different Mirror; but focusing on the rise of women to power. I do think that century had more women in power than any other century before or since (perhaps the eighteenth might compare); Isabella f Castile; England had three regnant queens (Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I); Scotland had Mary Queen of Scots and her mother, the regent Marie de Guise; France of course had Catherine de Medici pulling the strings of power; and there were any number of Habsburg women who ruled as regents in the vast array of their Imperial lands. Women in that century also were responsible for shifts of power–Juana of Castile brought the Spanish empire into the Habsburg realms; the struggle between Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn changed England forever; Margaret Tudor brought the Scots royal family eventually to power in England through her descendants; and there were powerful women lurking everywhere, from Jeanne d’Albret to Margaret of Austria to Marie of Hungary to Marguerite de Valois–and of course, the great mistress of Henri II–Diane de Poitiers. These women influenced the shape of the history that came after them, and changed the world.

All right, on that note I am going to close this and head back into the spice mines for the day. Wish me luck with my work and my stomach, Constant Reader! Have a lovely Sunday.

Love is a Catastrophe

Friday morning and I am home from work.

I got sent home yesterday; I started feeling bad on Tuesday afternoon, took a vacation day on Wednesday and got up yesterday morning to go to work. I felt terrible; dehydrated, exhausted, and some stomach issues I’d really rather not explain. I didn’t see how I was going to make it through the entire day, but of course, once I got to work they recognized that some of what I was experiencing could be COVID-19; so I was sent to get tested and then sent home to wait for the results to come back. This morning I am not as exhausted; I slept really well last night, but going up and down the stairs makes my leg muscles ache, and my joints are all achy, so today I am going to continue to try to take in as many fluids as I can–still dehydrated this morning–and rest.

Since I was so tired I decided to just sit in my easy chair yesterday and watch movies–the streaming services to the rescue! I watched the film version of Mary Stewart’s The Moon-spinners on Disney; they adapted it as a starring vehicle for a teenaged Hayley Mills, and thus had to make changes to the plot and story that didn’t really work as well as the original plot, plus having her be a teenager took away one of the main strengths of every Stewart story; the agency of the heroine. She was still pretty capable, but it came across as a watered down version of the kick-ass heroine I remembered from the book. But Crete looked absolutely beautiful.

I then moved on to a rewatch of Cabaret, which holds up really well. It’s a really chilling film, and visually it’s stunning; but the more times I watch the film the more I appreciate Michael York and Joel Grey, and the less impressed I am with Liza. Don’t get me wrong–she’s fantastic, and the musical numbers showcase what a powerful performer she is, but I don’t think she really brings as much depth and sadness to the character as is warranted; but she certainly has star power. I think that Sally is actually a rather sad character, and while Minnelli beautifully captures the vulnerability, the sadness isn’t really there…and I found myself not wondering, at the movie’s end, what happened to her from there on; which isn’t usually a good sign. But she probably didn’t wind up happily married with a brood of children, did she, and who wants to think about that?

From there I moved on to a rewatch of How the West Was Won, one of those sprawling epic pictures from the time when that was what the Hollywood studios churned out to compete with television. Even small parts have stars in it, and I remember watching this movie when I was a kid and being impressed by its sprawl and sweep. I decided to watch it again, partly because of the recent discussion about Gone with the Wind and its problematic depictions of the slave owning South, the Civil War, and its aftermath; so I wanted to rewatch this picture through a modern lens and as an adult. I remembered in the second half of the film there was a scene where a US Army officer, who negotiated with the natives (Indians, of course, in the film) being angry because the railroads kept breaking their promises–which was pretty progressive for the early 1960’s, and to see how that could be viewed through the modern lens. The movie doesn’t really hold up, plot-wise; it’s very cheesy and corny, but there are some good performances–particularly Debbie Reynolds–and Spencer Tracy’s narration is quite excellent. The scene I remembered was there, and plays very well through a modern lens; George Peppard in all his youthful beauty plays the officer. Just the title itself is problematic though; but this, you must remember, was how the white settlement of the western part of the continent was viewed: the west was won by white people. I suppose How the West Was Conquered doesn’t have the same ring, but “won” is essentially the same thing. Anyway, the story hinges on the Prescott family–Karl Malden, Agnes Moorhead, Carroll Baker, and Debbie Reynolds–setting out for the west and encountering the problems of the frontier as they go; mostly white people who prey on those moving west. The parents are drowned when their boat encounters rapids; Carroll Baker has fallen for James Stewart, playing a mountain trapper, and they decide to settle on the land where the parents are buried while Debbie Reynolds keeps going west, winding up in St. Louis, where she becomes an entertainer and eventually winds up in San Francisco. As an older, bankrupt widow she moves to a ranch she owns in Arizona, and invites her nephew (the George Peppard character) and his family to join her there…and so on. I think it was nominated for a lot of Oscars, primarily for its high production values and it was a big hit at the time…but yes, definitely doesn’t hold up.

Paul came home shortly thereafter, and we watched the finale of 13 Reasons Why, and the less said about that the better. The cast is appealing and talented, but the finale was so manipulative emotionally–it does work, by the way, because of the cast; I was teary–as was the entire season that it’s hard not to be angry. Plus there was some serious misinformation included…maybe I will post about it, but it needs its own entry.

And now I am going to go lie back down again because I am not feeling so hot again.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Jealousy

Jealousy is an interesting emotion, or feeling, or whatever the hell it actually is; certainly one of the deadly sins. I’ve been accused of being jealous of other people plenty of times in my life, which is kind of funny. Maybe when I was a kid I experienced jealousy of other people and their accomplishments, but not so much the older I got. I’ve never been jealous of other writers; I’ve never envied them their successes or big contracts or movie rights sales. I may want those things, but I certainly am not jealous of those who have them or are getting them or will get them in the future. I’m usually happy to see writers succeed, or win awards, or get nominated for awards, or get selected to best of lists, and so forth.

It’s not for me to decide who deserves what, nor is it for me to question anyone’s success. It’s counterproductive, and I’d rather not spend my time seething because someone else got a bigger piece of cake than I did. I just write what I write and hope people think it’s interesting or intriguing enough to read, and that those who do, enjoy themselves.

SIDEBAR: I do, however, reserve the right to say what the actual living fuck when I see things like I saw yesterday on Twitter; tweets and links to articles about how straight white male debut authors got ridiculous amounts of money upfront, after which the book proceeded to tank, and the writer disappeared into some sort of oblivion afterward. I have seen that happen quite a bit during my years in this business, and it’s almost always, inevitably, some straight white dude with a few short story sales to prestigious literary magazines and the right educational pedigree, inevitably writing something not particularly new. I’m not jealous; I just don’t understand the mentality behind those business decisions. I also feel sorry for the writer; I cannot imagine how horrible it would feel to have all these expectations placed on you (soothed, undoubtedly, by that insane amount of filthy lucre) only to have your career come to a screeching halt suddenly. Oh, I’m sure they’ll publish another book sometime for a more modest advance, or write reviews for important newspapers and magazines, the occasional short story; but for me, it would have been hellish to write one book and then never publish another.

So, sometimes there are times when I think oh you should push to get an agent much harder–keep trying or I would really like to land a nice two-book deal with one of the Big 5–and then I think, I don’t like like stress and pressure; writing and publishing the books I do, on the smaller end of the publishing scale causes me enough stress and the pressure is horrific and I cannot imagine being able to handle it on a much grander scale.

I mean, I’m already crazy; do I need to add things to make me crazier?

I purchased these two lovely little portable desktop air conditioners of a sort; they’re from Arctic Air and you put water in them and turn them on and they somehow blow very cold air on you. They are small, of course; one is currently sitting on my desk and keeping me very cool (my office/kitchen is probably the most miserably hot place in the Lost Apartment; the upstairs bathroom running a close second), and I have the other on the counter next to the stove, and the two are creating a lovely cool area at my desk, with the ceiling fan turning overhead that is actually rather delightful; I haven’t really felt comfortable at my desk in quite some time–and that hasn’t helped me with either focus or dedication to stay with the writing. Hopefully this will help me, going forward.

Now I want to get one of the floor units.

We continue to watch 13 Reasons Why, but I am not quite sure why. This season is all over the map, story-wise; and show anchor Clay, who has to basically carry the show, has become very uninteresting to watch. I can’t decide if it’s because the young actor (Dylan Minnette, whom I’ve enjoyed the previous three seasons) is so very good at playing the out of control teenager whose mind and life has spun so wildly off course, and whose mental stability is crumbling. The others young actors are performing quite well, despite the awkwardness and forced story sometimes; I think that’s why we continue to watch–the cast is quite good, and we do end up caring about them and their massively fucked-up lives. If you would call the show a soap, I’d say it’s more in the Edge of Night vein, because it’s about crime and trauma.

It also makes me think of the two manuscripts I have sitting in limbo, waiting for me to finish the Secret Project so I can get back to them.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is June; that less than six months ago on a snowy night I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant much too nice for the likes of me (and there was lots of wine) with a lot of mystery writers and much fun was had. I didn’t know that was the last time I would participate in such a gathering for I don’t know how long. I assumed there would be the Williams Festival and the Edgars and Malice Domestic as there always was in the months to come after January. I remember walking across the street with Meg Gardiner as the snow fell, and everyone being amazed that I wasn’t freaking out about the snow; it’s really not the snow, as I sometimes forget to point out, that I mind so much as the weather conditions–the cold and damp–that create it that I actually mind. And that night wasn’t cold but it was damp; and the flakes were big and fat and wet and beautiful and hadn’t turned yet into slush on the sidewalks and the gutters. The city lights were lit, some Christmas decorations were still up, and there were cars and taxis crowding in the streets and lots of people in their winter clothes going about their business on a snowy January Saturday night in Manhattan. I miss those nights, and the company I sometimes am lucky enough to get to keep; connecting and spending time with other writers, in the company of other writers, always inspires me when I listen to them talk. I’m never bored around other writers, and sometimes, when I get the nerve up to actually talk and interact, they don’t look at me like I’ve a third eye or I am quite literally the stupidest person they’ve ever met. I miss that. I miss the company of other writers, because other writers remind me how much I love doing this, remind me that it’s central to who I am, and that I am never happy if I’m not writing.

Sometimes you need to be reminded of the things you love, and how much you love them.

It’s not a bad thing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

The Man Who Has Everything

Tuesday morning and it looks like the rain has finally passed us; we actually got more rain all day yesterday than we did from Cristobal on Sunday. I know other places got slammed much harder than we did, but at least it was relatively minor and damage from the storm wasn’t nearly as bad as it was from previous storms.

The Anthony Award nominations were released yesterday, and sure, I was a little disappointed for a brief moment that I wasn’t among their number; but the nominations are chock full of diversity; lots of women, lots of people of color, and a wide variety of nominations. This is one year that is going to be incredibly difficult for me to pick winners because there are so many good books and stories nominated that I’ve actually read and loved. I’m still surprised that I’ve actually won an Anthony and been nominated another time, to be completely honest.

Awards are lovely, and everyone wants to win one–even if they don’t want to admit it; I do admit it. I like being nominated and I like winning even more. I tend to lose more than I win, which is actually kind of nice–I always figure I’m going to lose again, so it’s always a pleasant surprise on those rare occasions when I actually do win.

We’re still watching 13 Reasons Why, but I’m not really sure why. As we get deeper into the season it’s getting more and more off the rails–what the fuck with that camping trip episode, seriously–and while the story kind of makes sense, so much of it doesn’t. If they had simply chosen to explore the mental trauma the kids experience from everything they’ve been through–including violent sexual assaults and murder, which would definitely create mental issues, breakdowns, and behavioral problems–I think I would be enjoying this more; the concept of another kid who knows the truth trying to get them all to confess by playing torturous games with them is basically ripping off Pretty Little Liars and really speaks to a lack of creativity and originality; I could be wrong, and we’re vested enough in the show to keep watching, since we know it’s the final season.

I’m kind of looking forward to the new Perry Mason, too.

Oh, I’m so tired, too, this morning. I’ve not really had a good restful night’s sleep in a while now, and exhaustion is wearing me down. My kitchen is a mess yet again, and I still haven’t done the floors; but I just don’t have the energy to get any of this stuff taken care of–let alone the writing I need to get done.

Heavy sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

Nervously

I didn’t get as much writing done yesterday as I would have liked; but I get some of it done. Yesterday was one of those days where I questioned everything I wrote–which is annoying, because it’s part and parcel with imposter syndrome. I hate doubting myself, but at the same time I think I want this to be good so badly that I am being much harsher with myself than I usually am; I guess being in the midst of a tropical storm didn’t help matters much, either.

I finally gave up–I did make some progress, which I’ll settle for–and retired to my easy chair to read around three. I made some good progress on Night Has a Thousand Eyes–Woolrich was a master at setting mood–and then last night we started watching the final season of 13 Reasons Why–which is kind of silly, as the actors playing the teenagers have all aged over the course of the series but haven’t on the show, and, as I said to Paul last night, “they should have called this season 13 Reasons Why: Grad School.” Not to mention the fact that over the course of the show’s run these kids have been involved in first, covering up a sexual assault; proceeding with charges for the sexual assault; another sexual assault; stopping a mass shooting and covering that up; a murder; and on and on and on….it seems to me like all of their parents would be a lot more deeply concerned about their mental health and their response to the trauma they faced; college is going to be an interesting experience for them all. But it’s entertaining–they certainly have dealt with a lot of issues for teens, including coming out; bullying; sexual assault; bodily autonomy; and suicide–which is what kicked the show off to begin with.

Tropical Storm Cristobal passed over us last night as well; it wasn’t so bad here around the Lost Apartment as we had feared it could be; it rained pretty steadily all day, and we certainly had off-and-on rain all day, but the walk and yard never filled up with water (we’ve had more rain from just a regular thunderstorm) and I don’t think any streets in our neighborhood flooded at all; I’ve not checked the news to see how bad it was in the city. I know the coastal parishes got some storm surge flooding, and I do hope those folks are all okay. That’s the thing about tropical storms, depressions and hurricanes–the mix of relief and guilt; relief that where you live didn’t get hit that hard; guilt because somewhere else did and you kind of wished it on by wishing it away from you.

Incidentally, it just started raining again, which will make the trip to and from work a lot of fun, he typed sarcastically.

I was tired pretty much the entire weekend; I’m not really sure what that is all about, but I didn’t sleep well any of the three nights of this past weekend, nor did I sleep well last night or most of last week, which is making me very tired and punchy, and also is contributing to my general sense of exhaustion, I think. I slept well last night–I only woke up a few times–and am a bit lethargic this morning (the endless cycle of ‘didn’t sleep-need caffeine to wake up–can’t sleep–more caffeine is draining, frankly); but am hopeful to be able to kick it into a relatively high gear soon.

And on that note, best to get to it, I suppose. Have a lovely Monday wherever you are–and stay safe.

There’ll Be Sad Songs To Make You Cry

Another Monday morning here at my desk in the Lost Apartment. I submitted a short story to a market yesterday, and today I am submitting my short story collection.

PROGRESS.

Last night, as I watched Thirteen Reasons Why (only three episodes left; it definitely has picked up since those slow initial episodes), I thought about and made notes on not only the WIP but some other short stories I am working on. It would be lovely to make notes on the Scotty book, but you know what? I am trying not to force creativity–which is why I’ve no contracts and no deadlines–and making notes on what pops into my head at the time. The changes I’ve decided to make to the WIP aren’t as simple as one might think–a lesson I am definitely learning; no changes to a manuscript, no matter how small they may seem, are ever simple–but it’s going to make the book/manuscript much stronger, and that’s always a good thing. I am also trying to strip the book of as much cliche as I can; which is not that easy when you’re writing about a high school. As I said before, the second chapter needs some serious restructuring as well as revision, but I am feeling a lot more confident about that now.

The Scotty book? Yes, I need to get back to that and the sooner the better. I have already decided that in order to move forward, I need to go back and revise the last chapter I wrote, which not only isn’t any good but is fucking terrible, even more terrible than my usual first draft of a chapter. It totally derails, and characters behave in ways they ordinarily wouldn’t; plus having them behave that way was completely lazy on my part because I didn’t want to deal with it. Which is beyond lazy on my part; it’s borderline shameful laziness. But at least I know it already–I knew it when I was writing it, and it shouldn’t be hard to go back and fix before I move forward onto Chapter 15. I still want to get this done before July 1; I think I can manage it.

I am also trying to take a long weekend this weekend; a couple of vacation days in addition to the Memorial Day holiday, with big plans to get a lot accomplished. I always have big plans, but even if I only manage some of it, that will be a huge step in the right direction. And huzzah for huge steps in the right direction!

I also took notes on some short stories that are in process, and I think one of them is particularly going to turn out to be really amazing.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.


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Glory of Love

Saturday morning and it’s chilly in the Lost Apartment; the sun is out and there’s condensation on the windows. Scooter is perched next to my keyboard, staring out the window, watching Kitty TV; I’m not sure what’s on, but he’s fascinated. It rained brutally yesterday with flash floods and so forth throughout the city. It had been a few weeks since it had rained, but there it was; a long overdue downpour. I managed to get home before it got too terribly bad, and spent the evening organizing and cleaning out files, rather than actually writing. I just didn’t feel like I was in a writing place, and so I decided to go with that but demanded of myself to complete this tedious chore that I hate doing so much.

Essentially, it meant cleaning out old files that no longer need accessibility–old book contracts, royalty statements, and even file folders of old short stories now published, etc.–out of the file cabinet and boxing them up to put in storage. This, naturally, has freed up space in the file cabinet for files to be moved into from the ACTIVE files. (Yes, I am aware how insane this all sounds; but I have two small file holders on the small bookcase next to  my desk, where I file new ideas, articles that might lead somewhere, and new stories that I have started or are not immediately working on; on my desk itself I have a metal file rack that contains the folders of what I am immediately working on. I know, I know, but it makes sense to me, and it works for me.) I also gathered all my non-fiction research on being queer in America, as well as my journal (materials for my memoirs, should I ever write them, or at least personal essays about being gay)  to collect in one place: a lovely box that is currently sitting on my kitchen counter, preparatory to going into the storage space. While doing all of this I ran across several of my old journals.

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These are some of my journals–I suspect some of them have been lost to time, through moves and so forth–but the oldest is from 1994; the most recent of these is from 2003. I started my blog in late 2004, and I suspect that’s approximately also when I stopped writing in these. It was an interesting experience, idly paging through these before placing them in the box; some of the earlier ones are from, of course, when I worked at the airport. That’s when I started carrying one with me at all times; I always had a pen, my journal, and whatever book I was reading at the time with me when I was at the airport, on an airplane traveling, etc. The ones from my time at the airport are all written in green ink; because we used green pens at the airport for everything. I wrote on my breaks, I wrote when I was in between flights at the gates, I wrote while I was waiting to board an airplane, I wrote while on airplanes. Later, I wrote between clients at the gym, or while waiting for it to be time for an aerobics class I was teaching; I wrote in coffee shops. There are scenes in these journals, that eventually made it into Murder in the Rue Dauphine or Bourbon Street Blues; there are the openings of short stories I’ve written, scrawled in long hand on these pages. I’ve even found things like when I first had the idea for the book that became Dark Tide many years later; places where I worked on developing characters or plots of themes for the book or story I was currently trying to work on and/or finish; there are also personal moments, moments of frustration or joy or happiness, all recorded in my neat, broadly looping handwriting. Starting to keep another one of these this year has been enormously helpful for me in many ways; it was lovely to reconnect with the bound journal format. (I actually need to buy a new one; I am hoping they have some at Tubby and Coo’s, where I am going this afternoon for Bryan Camp’s book-signing for his brilliant debut novel The City of Lost Fortunes)

This morning I need to finish packing up these boxes, and perhaps work on getting some of the other files moved; it is literally astonishing how much paper I have. One entire file cabinet drawer is filled with short stories and novels-in-progress that I stopped working on at some point, folders with ideas jotted down, characters and names and ideas for stories and books. All this effort, besides keeping me from actually writing anything, is an attempt to declutter my workspace as well as to make it more organized; I had an idea for a story for an anthology call I saw recently, and I knew I’d written a draft of an appropriate story (possibly) years ago–which meant it was probably in the file cabinet and I should probably drag it out to see if there was anything written in it that was usable. The need for this file made me see how desperately flawed and out of control my filing system had actually been allowed to become so as it thundered and lightning lit up the sky and the yard filled with rushing water I started working grimly on fixing this mess.

I did find the file, by the way.

I need to go to the grocery store at some point this morning as well; I could wait to do it tomorrow,  but between the cleaning and the filing and the going to the book signing I don’t see any window for actually writing, so rather than putting it off till the morrow I should probably do it today, since today is going to be shot on that score. Or maybe it won’t be; I may be able to get some things done today on the writing. My writing/editing goal for the weekend is to read “Burning Crosses” aloud and be finished with it; to finish revising Chapter Two of the WIP, and possibly read all fourteen chapters of the Scotty book and see where things sit with it, preparatory to getting back to work on it as well.

I also want to dive into Alex Segura’s Blackout, which is getting rave reviews everywhere.

We started watching the second season of Thirteen Reasons Why last night, and I have to say, I am not overly impressed with it. The first two episodes were terribly uneven–the third began to pick up steam again–but the device of having Hannah appearing as a sort of ghost to Clay isn’t working for me and is something that I hope is used either sparingly as the show moves on, or is eradicated completely. We don’t need Hannah appearing as Clay’s conscience, nor do we need her at all. It derails the show, frankly; them having conversations is, to quote youth culture of some time ago, kinda whack.

So far, we’re disappointed with it. but not so much so that we will stop watching.

That, however, could change.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Magic Carpet Ride

I got up early this morning to take a friend to a doctor’s appointment, and so, having finished Finders Keepers, dug out my copy of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why to take along to read while I waited for her.  We watched another three episodes last night–it really is compulsively watchable, if more than slightly annoying (Paul and I have a tendency to yell at the television periodically “JUST LISTEN TO THE REST OF THE TAPES DUMBASS!” but other than that, we are really enjoying it, despite some plot holes). I managed to read almost 100 pages during the hour or so I waited–it’s a quick read, the book isn’t as long as it looks–double spaced, big font, lots of short, one sentence paragraphs–and again, despite some plot holes, it’s compulsively readable; I want to know all the reasons. The book is also different than the show, in that Clay apparently does what Paul and I want him to do in the show–he listens to the tapes all in one night. I can see why that isn’t possible in the show; you probably couldn’t get thirteen one hour episodes out of the story if it all took place in one night, but on the other hand…does it really need to be thirteen hours? But the young actors are all incredibly appealing and are quite good in their roles, as I said before, and it’s compulsively watchable.

The show also pushes buttons from time to time for me; “wow, are they really showing the kids getting high? Drinking beer? Getting drunk? How incredibly irresponsible!” and then I have to snap out of it. Teenagers deal with these things, they did when I was in high school, and one of the things that annoyed me about entertainment aimed at teens when I was one is that it was so unrealistic.

Then again, Judy Blume was just getting published and writing frankly about teens, and scandalizing the country and getting banned everywhere, when I was a teen–and I always see Judy Blume as the person who changed the world of young adult fiction, and for the better.

Ironically, I just checked the schedule for the Alabama Book Festival this weekend and see that Jay Asher is speaking there. Synchronicity, or serendipity, or both?

I think one of the reasons I’m enjoying Riverdale as much as I am (the young actor who plays Reggie on that show is also on 13 Reasons Why; the first time he turned up on screen I said out loud, “Reggie!” He and the character are being under-utilized on Riverdale, which I hope changes) is seeing the squeaky clean, highly sanitized comic books I read when I was very young made more realistic. Riverdale is a dark teen soap, owing debts not only to Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills 90210, but also a big one to Pretty Little Liars–which in turn owes a debt to The Edge of Night, the long running daytime soap whose story-lines were based not only in romance but in crime and suspense. 13 Reasons Why is another teen soap built around a mystery; while Riverdale‘s main driving story is”who killed Jason Blossom, and why” this one’s is “why did Hannah kill herself, and why the tapes?”

I’ve also been thinking about my own young adult fiction a lot lately, probably because of what I am currently working on. I’ve put the Scotty book aside for the time being, because I just wasn’t feeling it, to be honest, and writing it felt like I was forcing it and the story itself didn’t work for me. So, I am going to take a break from it for a bit, work on some short stories, and forge forward with this manuscript I am intent on revising. I’m actually enjoying myself doing all this editing and revising because there is no pressure of a deadline. I can take my time, think things through, rather than trusting my instincts and hoping for the best while the clock inexorably continues to tick as time slips through my fingers. (There really is something to be said for no deadlines.)

Sorceress began as a short story of slightly less than ten thousand words, and I originally wrote it in 1989, long hand, on notebook paper. I remember paying someone to type it for me, and as a lengthy short story it didn’t work–it was too rushed, too much happened in too short a period of time on the page. When I reread the story, it occurred to me that it was really just a lengthy synopsis, and might make a book. It was the third novel I completed a first draft of (in 1993!), and it eventually made it to publication in 2010. I know I wrote it originally as an homage to Jane Eyre, Victoria Holt, and other gothic writers I had long admired; I gave it more of a supernatural edge, though, but it was really the same premise that even Dark Shadows began with: a young orphaned girl comes to live in a big, spooky house where mysterious things happen. (I wonder why so many books/stories of this type start this way? Is it because it’s a voyage to the unknown, or a fresh start in a new place? 13 Reasons Why kind of fits into this as well, since part of Hannah’s problems begin with her being the new girl in town.)

Hmmmm.

All right, it’s back to the spice mines with me.