Cheaper Than Free

Friday and my last day as a sixty year old.

I am working at home today, which is kind of nice. I do have an errand to run this morning–or rather, on my lunch break–but have lots of data to enter and so forth, so I will be ensconced in the home workspace for most of the day. I am also laundering the bed linens–an every Friday chore–and have some odds and ends to clean up around here. I am going to try to get the chores done today so I don’t have to do a damned thing tomorrow; I think I’m allowed on my birthday to take an entire day off–not wash a dish or do any laundry or run any errands or do anything I don’t want to do. I want to spend all day tomorrow reading and relaxing and just chilling out; that’s my favorite kind of birthday. Paul is going to get us Chinese food for a birthday dinner treat, which we haven’t had in an extremely long time..one of my favorite things to do whenever I go to New York is to get good Chinese food. (I know it’s Americanized, don’t @ me.)

I was tired yesterday, the usual Thursday “I’ve gotten up at six a.m. four mornings in a row” thing more than anything else. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have hoped, but as I said, I felt tired all day–both body and brain fatigue–so when I got home from work yesterday I just kind of allowed myself the evening off. I finished rereading the first two Sandman graphic novels–Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House–which the first season of the show covered, and they were just as marvelous and well-done as I remembered. Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get back into reading–which is my entire plan for my birthday; I want to finish reading the book I started two weeks (!!!) ago, and move on to the next book on my list. Sunday I will write and edit; and then of course Monday is another work-at-home day as August slowly but surely slides back into September. Whew. At some point–Sunday, most likely–I will need to run some errands, but I’m not going to worry about that today…although I do need to update ye Olde To-Do List.

Last night we couldn’t decide what to watch. I started watching a documentary series about British cinema while I was waiting for Paul to finish working, and when he came downstairs we just started chatting while the documentary continued streaming–and when it got to the part about James Bond, Paul remembered seeing something about the young woman who played Rosie Carver, the first Black Bond girl (who also turned out to be a double agent) and as we chatted, we both confessed that we had a special soft spot for that Bond film (Live and Let Die), which led to me remembering that watching that movie (the first Bond I saw in the theater, and why Roger Moore was always my favorite Bond–although I’ve really come to appreciate Connery’s a lot more and of course, DANIEL CRAIG) and I said, “I bet that movie doesn’t hold up anymore–I watched it a couple of years ago while making condom packs and I was a little surprised at how racist it actually was; why don’t we watch it again and see what we think?” I had also read the book when I was a teenager–very very little in common with the film, I might add–and had reread it sometime in the last decade and, like rewatching the film, more than a little taken aback about how racist it was. (Live and Let Die will probably be an essay I’ll write at some point, both book and movie.) There are some funny moments in the movie–Moore had a much lighter take on Bond than Connery, and the switch in actors resulted in a dramatic switch in tone for the films–and it’s highly entertaining…but yes, it definitely traffics in the worst 70’s stereotypes of Black people and the voodoo aspects of the story on the fictional island of San Monique are pretty bad, as well. Live and Let Die was also filmed and released during the “blaxploitation” period of film, which saw movies like Superfly, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Cleopatra Jones, Shaft, and Coffy being made and released–the time when the incredibly marvelous Pam Grier’s career took off. Was it an attempt to be relevant and possibly try to reach the audience for blaxploitation movies? Probably, but one of the few things that carried over from the book to the movie was that the villains were Black.

And yes, when we finished watching we agreed that the depiction of Black characters were, at the very least, problematic. The movie does have one of the best theme songs of the entire series of films, though (probably the best song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded, for that matter).

I had always kind of envisioned Colin from the Scotty books as a kind of cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones–one of the reasons I originally decided to never really talk about what Colin was doing when he wasn’t in New Orleans is yes, even back then I was thinking about spinning Colin off into his own action/adventure series before realizing can you write an action/adventure novel, Greg? I still would like to try–part of the reason my career is so strange and all-over-the-place is me trying new things to see if I could actually, you know, do it–but action has always been difficult for me to write (and now that little voice in my head is saying which is precisely why you should try to write one, jackass) and of course, an international intrigue plot would require a lot more planning than what I am used to doing. I might still do it, you never know–I have a plot in mind that involves the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople; one that’s been in my mind now for several decades–but there are so many things I want to write, and time is running out…

Which, of course, is why I think I’m lazy and am taken aback when people say I’m prolific. My novels and short stories published are maybe about a fifth (if that much) of all the ideas I’ve had or things that are in some sort of progress; that’s what I think about when someone calls me prolific–the files and files of incomplete stories and ideas and characters and scenes languishing on the back burner and collecting dust.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Greg’s Birthday Eve, everyone!

If I Were Your Woman

Today’s emergency weather situation in New Orleans is an air quality alert; per the email I received this morning, people with breathing issues are encouraged to not go outside unless absolutely necessary; our air quality is at an “orange” level–not sure what that means precisely, but suspect it has something to do with a color-coded charted that I kind of don’t want to go look up, just in case. There was a heat advisory yesterday (IN JUNE); it’s clearly going to be one of those summers here in New Orleans.

I wound up taking the entire weekend off for the most part–no writing, no emails, no stress or anxiety. I finished reading Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Other Mother yesterday afternoon; I kept reading my 4th Crusade/sack of Constantinople book; and then last night we finished off Gaslit (Julia Roberts was amazing; and yes, Martha Mitchell was right from the very beginning) and started watching a new show (for us) on Acorn, The Victim, which is actually quite interesting and has a great concept and a truly terrific cast. We watched the first episode, and I am rather curious to see where this is going to go. One way in which British crime series are superior to the American counterparts is in that there are always so many layers to the British ones, and they often tackle complex situations that made you wonder, who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, or is the entire system bad and in need of overhauling?

I also have to decide what to read next, and there’s such a plethora of good things to read in my TBR pile I am not sure where to go next. I am torn right now between John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind (which just won the Lammy for Best Mystery this weekend–go John go!), Curtis Ippolite’s Burying the Newspaper Man, Rob Osler’s The Devil’s Chewtoy, or another Carol Goodman. I’ve also been wanting to revisit some classics I’ve not reread in a while–anything by Mary Stewart, really; or du Maurier’s Rebecca or Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, or maybe one of the du Mauriers I’ve not already read before.

Taking the weekend off felt absolutely lovely, if I am going to be completely honest. I did do some minor chores around the Lost Apartment–laundry, dishes, etc.–but nothing major; the place is a bit of a mess this morning. I do have to run some errands later today–prescriptions, mostly, and I need to put air in a tire–and I am going to swing by Office Depot as well to get some file organizational items so I have place to put all these files that are piled up all over the place around my desk area. After I am done with the day’s data entry (always a happy chore for me) and am free for the evening, I will spend it doing some cleaning up/organizing around here. I had hoped to start going to the gym again today, but I suspect I am not going to wind up making it over there after all. I also need to start getting binders together for the new book projects; I think I will make one for the novellas as well as one for the other three books that are currently in progress (yes, I am a glutton for punishment) but I do find that the binders are helpful for also editing and making notes and so forth.

And of course as always I need to make a to-do list for the rest of the month.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But one thing that is true after this weekend is that I feel refreshed, rested and recharged. I don’t know how long that will actually last or not–it’s always a crap shoot, let’s be honest–but fingers crossed it lasts for a long enough time to make a serious dent in the weekend. We have a paid holiday coming up on Monday, which is lovely–three days weekends are always nice, and July 4th also falls on a Monday so that’s another lovely three day weekend coming up in a few weeks–and of course, later that week I am off to Fort Lauderdale. Woo-hoo? Woo-hoo!

Paul and I also booked our plane tickets for Bouchercon last week, so that’s a go for me as well. Woo-hoo!

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Academic

Friday morning, and I slept well again last night. The washing machine arrives this morning (between 9:15 and 11:15) so I am up earlier than I would be ordinarily, but despite using an alarm to get up (I need to be sufficiently caffeinated when they get here to remove the old one and install the new one) and then it will be “catch up on the laundry day” while I do my home data entry today–which means the new one will be getting quite a workout today. I also had to remove the doors to the laundry room last night–it’s going to take some serious maneuvering to get the old one out and the new one in, and I figured the doors would be in the way–which made me feel quite butch and masculine. The feeling didn’t last.

The electricians came and replaced the fuse yesterday as well–so now I can use my dishwasher and the coffee maker can be on the proper counter where it belongs again. Slowly returning to a sense of normality here at long last, and starting to not feel quite so fried and exhausted, which is actually lovely.

I also have to do a conference tomorrow, which I need to prepare for, and honestly–my brain is so fried I keep forgetting that it’s happening and that I agreed to do it. I cannot remember being this discombobulated and fried before when I finished writing a book–but then again, it’s also been quite a while since the last time I finished two books in such quick succession without a break in between. Having everything around the apartment go on the fritz almost immediately thereafter was also not much of a help in that regard, and of course, that created more stress and insomnia…I’m really surprised I was able to sleep so well the last two nights, to be completely honest; but that was probably a result of exhaustion from the stress of things.

And of course, I also had to take down one of the laundry room shelves, just in case, and will have to put that back together once the washing machine is installed again.

So yeah, pretty big day around the lost apartment this morning….hopefully I can get going on my data entry before they come, and it’s probably what I am going to be doing for most of the day today. I make condom packs for hours yesterday–and ran out of condoms, so I don’t have that to do today, unless I run by the office to take these others and drop them off, and pick up some more…but I don’t really see that happening today…although….hmmm. Something to ponder before the washing machine gets here. (Of course, it would also depend on when the washing machine gets here as well…if they get here early I could run over to pick up my prescription, then head to the office, drop off the finished condom packs and pick up at least one more box….never mind, I shouldn’t think out loud on here. Suffice to say I have options.)

I actually don’t remember what all I watched yesterday while I was making the condom packs, but I am proud and happy to say that I broke the streak of serial killer documentaries at long last. I know I watched some interesting documentaries about queer horror movies, or why horror appeals to gay men (I honestly have no memory of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which apparently is the gayest non-gay horror movie ever made?) as well as some documentaries about apocryphal books on the Bible, including Enoch–which led me down a rabbit hole into videos about the nephilim and pre-Flood Biblical history, as well as some interesting discussion about how things get mis-translated from the original archaic Hebrew into other languages over the years and then became stuc–like how “Lucifer” wasn’t really a reference to the devil (or Satan, or whatever) but a literal mistranslation of a verse probably referring to the recent fall of the Assyrian kind and his empire, rather than a reference to angels being cast own from heaven and sent to Hell to have dominion. I’ve always found that sort of thing to be interesting–potentially lost books of the Bible and prophecy, etc.–have always wanted to write a book about a missing or secret book of the Bible that was smuggled out of Constantinople before it fell to the Crusaders in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, to keep it out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, only to disappear for centuries; a lost book that would revolutionize and change Christianity forever (not really an original thought–this sort of thing has been done before, most notably–for me, anyway–in Irving Wallace’s The Word); I’ve always seen it–since 2001, anyway, as a Colin novel (yes, the Colin stand alone novel I’ve been thinking about for twenty years; I’ve always kind of wanted to spin him off into his own espionage thriller series–think gay Dirk Pitt/Indiana Jones/James Bond hybrid), but again–when will I ever have the time to write such a book?

So, in a moment I am going to start doing my data entry for the day; while I wait for the washer to arrive and be installed. When I am done working for the day I intend to get down my Henry Willson biography and start mapping out Chlorine–yes, world, I am finally ready to start writing Chlorine, or at least work on it, anyway–and I also am going to start figuring out what to do with these short stories and so forth that I want to get out for submission. So, the goals for this weekend–after getting my work done and the laundry room reassembled–is to finish reading The Russia House, get some work on short stories done, and fill up another box to donate to the library sale (maybe two), and get the outline/character bios for Chlorine started. (I’m very excited about this….although I am getting a little more excited about the next book I want to write, Where the Boys Die.)

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the day. Have yourself a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Starlight

And so now it’s Sunday.

I won’t lie; I’ve lost my sense of time and date and day already this weekend and I’m perfectly fine with it. I hope everyone who has the good fortune to have the weekend off–I know there are many who do not–are in the same state of what day is this that I found myself in most of yesterday and when i woke up this morning–I overslept again, which was amazingly lovely, but i really need to stop indulging myself this way–and am now awake, on my first cup of coffee, and ready to get shit done today. I did get shit done yesterday–I cleaned and organized quite a bit (not enough, it’s never enough) and while I do have some little bit of cleaning and a lot of organizing left to get done, at least I made a start on it yesterday. My desk, for example, this morning is clean and clear; which will make writing later much easier.

I finished Little Fires Everywhere yesterday–I blogged about it already, so I won’t repeat anything other than that it’s a fantastic book I encourage you all to read–and started reading The Coyotes of Carthage, which was originally recommended to me by my friend Laura, who was lucky enough to receive an advance copy. It, too, is fantastic and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I am really looking forward to getting more into it–I will undoubtedly take a reading break or two at some point today. It seems to be a political thriller about dark money and political consultants in a very rural county in South Carolina, with a Black male protagonist, so I am sure it’s going to be quite interesting to read.

But I really also need to write today; I’ve not looked at the manuscript since last weekend, and this “only writing on the weekends for one day” simply cannot continue to stand, really. I have too much to write, and I need to stop giving into the laziness or the tiredness or self-destructive patterns or whatever the hell it is that keeps me from finishing this damned book. Heavy sigh. I also have any number of short stories I need to wade through to pick out some to work on for submission calls.

Again, I think there’s something to that I am so overwhelmed believing I’ll never get everything done so why bother doing any of it thing.

Repeat after me: SELF-DEFEATING.

While I waited for Paul to finish working on a grant last night I watched, or rather, rewatched (although I didn’t really remember watching it before, and I figured, meh, if I’ve already seen it I can do stuff on my iPad while it’s on in the background) a documentary called Master of Dark Shadows, about Dan Curtis and how the show came about, and its legacy (I’m sure most people don’t remember Curtis also produced and directed the mini-series based on Herman Wouk’s novels The Winds of War and War and Remembrance). I was one of those kids who watched Dark Shadows only in the summertime, because my elementary school didn’t get out until 3:15; even though we lived only a block away from the school I couldn’t ever get home fast enough to watch even the end. I did love Dark Shadows–our sitter/caregiver, Mrs. Harris, also watched One Life to Live and General Hospital, which were my first exposures to soaps–and it always stuck in my mind; I always give it credit for my interest in horror and the supernatural. I enjoyed watching the documentary (and for the record, I loved the NBC reboot of the series in prime time in the early 1990’s, and was crushed when it was canceled; I rewatched it with Paul and he too was disappointed it ended on its cliff-hanger) and then we started watching a documentary about a double murder in India called Behind Closed Doors, in which the investigation was so incredibly fucked up–I mean, if the primary take-away from all the other true crime documentaries we’ve been watching has been man is our system seriously fucked up, the takeaway from this one is yeah, but ours is clearly better than others.

Which is kind of scary, really.

While I was also bored yesterday waiting for Paul–and only really sort of watching Master of Dark Shadows–I was right, I’d seen it before–I started looking things up on-line; which was an absolutely lovely example of how one can fall into a wormhole on the Internet. As you know, I’ve been having this Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and thinking about the rise, and proliferation of, conspiracy theories in that suspicious, paranoid decade, and one that I hadn’t remembered until yesterday sprang up into my min, completely unbidden, while I was reading about the Bermuda Triangle: Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken. Does anyone else remember von Daniken and his theories, which were based in nothing scientific or archaeological? Von Daniken believed that ancient texts–the Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, etc.–all contained evidence that in Ancient Times the Earth was visited by space aliens–Alien Astronauts, as he called them–who brought knowledge and information with them to the primitive creatures of our planet at the time, and also assisted them in the massive building projects that modern man cannot conceive of them building back then–the pyramids, for one thing, and the lines on the plains of Nazca (which I first read about in the Nancy Drew volume The Clue in the Crossword Cipher)–and those aliens with their vastly superior technology, were seen as gods by the primitives and those visits have come down to us in the form of mythology. It’s an interesting idea for sure–but it was all conjecture, with no proof. I read all of von Daniken’s books back in the day; others included The Gold of the Gods, and were simply further conjectures, but he developed quite a following, and set the stage for what is called the pseudo-science of Graham Hancock, his modern day successor. (I’ve also read some of Hancock’s work; his theory that the Sphinx is far older than we suspect based on water wear on its base is interesting, as is his other theory that the Ark of the Covenant’s final resting place is in Ethiopia; before reading that book I had no idea that Christianity was so firmly entrenched there) So, I spent some time looking up von Daniken’s theories yesterday, as well as some other conspiracy theories of the time–I also did a deep dive into the entire Holy Grail Holy Blood thing which provided the basis for The Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown’s entire career; and of course we certainly cannot forget the apocryphal writings of Hal Lindsay and The Late Great Planet Earth–which, really, is where The Omen came from; we forget how “end times” theory truly began flourishing in the 1970’s.

I’ve always been interested in stories about lost books of the Bible, or lost Biblical theory, along with the end-times prophecies Lindsay wrote about; Irving Wallace’s The Word, which was built around the rediscovery of a lost testament of Jesus which would revolutionize and make-over the Christian theology was one of the first novels of this type I read; it was also made into a mini-series, which made me aware of it in the first place (Irving Wallace isn’t really remembered much today, but he was a huge bestseller back in the day, and he wrote incredibly thick novels, mostly about international conspiracies or legal issues–The Seven Minutes, for example, was about censorship and “blue laws”; The Second Lady was about a Soviet conspiracy to replace the First Lady with a lookalike imposter who was a Soviet spy; The Prize was about the machinations around how the Nobel Prize was given out; etc etc etc). The Da Vinci Code fits clearly into this category, as does The Gemini Contenders by Robert Ludlum and The Fourth Secret by Steve Berry (which is about the fourth secret Our Lady of Lourdes–or was it Fatima?–revealed to either Bernadette or the peasant children; Irving Wallace also covered this in The Miracle); Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade also kind of fit here, as both films are about the search for Biblical relics. I’ve always, always, wanted to write one of these. Years ago I had the idea for one, in which there was a secret document or testament hidden in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople for years, and that part of the reason the 4th Crusade sacked the city was the Pope’s desire to get his hands on those documents, which were thus smuggled out of the city by the Patriarch and lost forever…this is the idea I always come around to for a Colin stand-alone (I also realize I could do Colin stand-alones set at various times throughout the last twenty years or so of Scotty books, as he is gone a lot of the time on missions), and the working title for it always is Star of Irene, because the Byzantine Empress Irene–contemporary of Charlemagne–has always fascinated me.

But I will never write a Colin stand-alone, or series, unless I get this fucking book finished, so I suppose it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

It Only Hurts for a Little While

Thursday morning and pay the bills day; I keep hearing about this booming economy I should be grateful for–but all I see is my paycheck staying the same and the cost of everything else going up, so yeah, I’m just not seeing it anywhere. Your mileage might vary, of course, but as for me? Yeah, not seeing it. At all.

If anything, based on my own personal finances, I’d say the economy isn’t really working for me.

Honestly, there’s nothing like paying the bills to send you spiraling down into an endless cycle of stress and anxiety and depression.

But I can’t let anything get me down and slow me in any way; there’s too much work I need to be doing and too many things to get done–and stress and anxiety aren’t going to make anything better or improve anything. I cannot allow myself to go down that path. I deal with enough stress, anxiety and depression as it is, you know?

Paul and I started watching Messiah on Netflix last night; the only reason I’d even heard of this show is because I saw somewhere on-line that it pissed off evangelicals, who wanted to boycott Netflix–so naturally I had to watch it. Apparently they are upset because the show depicts someone who might be Jesus come again to the earth, only he’s Palestinian…because everyone knows that if Jesus returned he’d be blond and blue-eyes and of course he would come to the United States. Honestly, the arrogance of American evangelicals really has no limits, does it? One of these days I’m going to write an essay about that very thing; I was raised that way myself, and it took a long time to deprogram myself–rarely a day goes by when I don’t catch myself automatically reverting to something I learned as an evangelical child and think, whoa, that needs to go. It’s kind of like how we are trained by culture and society and public education to make American exceptionalism our default…it’s insidious and it’s always there, inside our heads, lurking and ready to pounce out to our horror and shock.

But Messiah is a very good show; interesting, I suppose, to those of us who find religion and its impact on culture, history and society fascinating. One of my favorite plots for books always has to do with Biblical history–you know, things the church hid from the world and so forth; dating back to Irving Wallace’s The Word and Robert Ludlum’s The Gemini Contenders and Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade all the way through Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, I’ve always enjoyed those kinds of stories–and let’s face it, outside of Nazis, who makes better villains than the Catholic Church and the Vatican? The concept that the Church hid things that might have altered the course of history or church development in order to maintain and strengthen their own power is something I’ve always believed to be true, and something I’ve always wanted to explore in my own writing. The Colin book I’ve always wanted to write, for example, would be one of these. I’ve always, as Constant Reader is aware, have wanted to write a Colin stand-alone book, or to even develop a series around his adventures when he isn’t in New Orleans with Scotty and Frank. I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind now for over thirty years–having to do with the 4th Crusade, the sack of Constantinople, and something that had been kept secret and hidden in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia that the Pope wanted to get his hands on, which led to the sack of Constantinople as cover for what the Pope wanted. What that artifact might actually be I was never able to brainstorm out, and as such, the story never truly developed the way I would have wanted to in order for me to actually plan it and start writing.

But it’s always there in the back of my mind.

Anyway, the plot of Messiah goes something like this: it opens in Damascus, with a young Syrian or Palestinian boy (they never really make the distinction) talking to his mother about seeing his father being shot down in the streets–Syria has of course been wracked by a civil war for years now–and then flashes forward to him, slightly older, burying his mother after another attack on the city. The city is about to fall to ISIL, and there’s a man preaching in an open area as the final assault on the city is about to begin. The preacher claims that God will save them all from ISIL–and as people jeer and rockets start hitting the area, an enormous sandstorm blows in from the desert. The storm lasts weeks, ultimately burying the ISIL forces and forcing them into retreat–the storm basically wipes them out and ends the war. The preacher than leads 2000 Palestinians into the desert and to the Israeli border; but he also has caught the attention of a CIA operative i DC who starts monitoring the situation, which becomes fraught when the refugees actually reach the border and Israeli forces take the preacher into custody. We then meet an Israeli intelligence agent, whose marriage has ended badly and he and his ex do not agree on anything. The preacher knows things about this tough man and his past that he cannot possibly know; which is obviously unsettling to the agent. The  episode ends with the preacher having vanished from inside his cell…and we chose to not continue until tonight. The hour sped past, which is a good sign for a show always, and I am intrigued enough to continue.

And on that note, I have emails to answer before I get ready to go to work. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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