A Walk on the Wild Side

When I was a kid, my grandmother got me started watching the 3:30 afternoon movies on WGN (I think); most of them were classic old Hollywood movies (where my affections for Stanwyck, Crawford, Davis and Hepburn began) but essentially, they were usually older films or ones that had already been shown once or twice in prime time before being relegated to afternoon and late night. They were also edited for content and for “appropriate” viewing for kids–since we were all home to watch–and housewives. I remember watching A Walk on the Wild Side with Barbara Stanwyck and Jane Fonda, but it didn’t make a lot of sense–primarily because it was a racy film and they’d shredded it to get it past television censors; every once in a while I think oh you should watch it again because you can probably get the unedited theatrical version through some service or another but never get around to it. A friend recently posted that he was going to watch it that evening, which led me down a rabbit hole which ended with me discovering that it was based on a novel (which I hadn’t known), and that the author was the same man who also wrote The Man with the Golden Arm, which was made into a rather good film with Frank Sinatra, Nelson Algren. Algren was one of those literary lions who was championed and respected by critics and literature professors–The Man with the Golden Arm won the very first National Book Award–but seems to be relatively forgotten today. My pompous and condescending Lit professors in college certainly never assigned us any Algren; so it made me rather curious. I had also forgotten that a significant part of the story is actually set in New Orleans–which was all it took for me to get a copy.

I finished reading it as my flight to New York was taxiing to the gate.

“He’s just a pore lonesome wife-left feller,” the more understanding said of Fitz Linkhorn, “losin’ his old lady is what crazied him.”

“That man in so contrary,” the less understanding said, “if you throwed him in the river he’d float upstream.

For what had embittered Fitz had no name. Yet he felt that every daybreak duped him into waking and every evening conned him into sleep. The feeling of having been cheated–of having been cheated–that was it. Nobody knew why nor by whom.

But only that all was lost. Lost long ago, in some colder country. Lost anew by the generations since. He kept trying to wind his fingers about this feeling, at times like an ancestral hunger; again like some secret wound. It was there, if a man could get it out into the light, as palpable as the blood in his veins. Someone just behind him kept turning him against himself till his very strength was a weakness. Weaker men, full of worldly follies, did better than Linkhorn in the world. He saw with every enviously slow-burning.

“I ain’t a-playin’ the whore to no man,” he would declare himself, though no one had so charged him.

Six-foot-one of slack-muscled shambler, he came of a shambling race. That gander-necked clan from which Calhoun and Jackson sprang. Jesse James’ and Jeff Davis’ people. Lincoln’s people. Forest solitaries spare and swart, left landless as ever in sandland and Hooverville now the time of the forests has passed.

Whites called them “white trash” and Negroes “po’buckra.” Since the first rock has risen about the moving waters there had been not a single prince in Fitzbrian’s branch of the Linkhorn clan.

Sigh, where to being with this?

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way–the book is very, very dated. There’s language and mentalities and attitudes–while probably common usage for the time it is set as well as the time it was written, we’ve progressed a lot since then–that do no hold up today and made me wince as I came across them–and not just about race, either; there’s a lot of misogyny and ableism pervading the manuscript. There’s also not really a story here, either; the book focuses on Ftiz Linkhorn’s son Dove, who becomes involved with a diner owner but then robs her and takes off riding freight trains to New Orleans. He encounters a young runaway–Kitty Pride–on the trains but they become separated, and he gets to New Orleans on his own and becomes one of the con artists who always seem to proliferate here, but the focus of the middle of the book turns away from Dove and to Dockery, who runs a bar and bordello on Perdido Street (where they moved after Storyville was shut down) and the story shifts to some of the hookers, the bordello owner, and Dove exists only on the periphery; Dove actually becomes a sex worker–it kind of glosses over that he gets paid to let people watch him deflower a virgin (who is actually another one of the bordello girls)–while he learns how to read and write, learning from one of the hookers with whom he is kind of involved with, which brings him into conflict with a former professional wrestler and circus worker who has lost his legs–and Dove gradually winds up going back to south Texas, back where he came from, no better off or worse than when he left.

The writing is very good–I marked some pages that had some insightful sentences that were beautifully constructed–but over all, this falls into the category of what I (snidely) refer to as “mid-twentieth century straight white man MFA style.” We don’t need a story with a beginning, middle and end; we don’t need to see character growth or development; Dove is precisely the same person he was when the book opened. There’s also no real depth to any of the characters; it’s written in an omniscient point of view, like someone is telling you the story but because it’s being narrated, we don’t really get to know any of the characters–who they are and what makes them tick and what makes them behave the way they do–and this is something I’ve always taken issue with when it comes to books about the poor and those who lived on the margins; Algren creates these fascinating characters but gives them no complexity or depth, because they are poor, we are led to believe, they are simple and stupid and incapable of growth and since those kinds of people aren’t really people–we don’t need to see any of their humanity, therefore we are unable to identify with any of the characters or even feel empathy for any of them; which we really should. Why write about these characters and this world and this life if we aren’t going to get any insight? For me, it felt like a peepshow; he’s holding back the curtain to give us a peek into the lives of desperate people but in more of a “point and moralize” way which I frankly didn’t like or enjoy. It felt like poverty porn to me (don’t even get me started on The Grapes of Wrath), and he didn’t even remark on the symbolism of these bordellos and bars being located on Perdido Street–perdido means lost in Spanish–and rather than feeling any sympathy or rooting for these characters, they just left me cold since we didn’t understand their motivations or who they were or had any insight into why they were doing the things they were doing.

I don’t regret reading the book–I never even thought about putting it aside and not finishing–so that’s something. I was just disappointed, I guess, by the lack of insight. I guess that’s why I enjoy genre fiction so much; characters are everything in genre fiction, and I want to know the characters I am reading about rather than just having the curtain pulled back and being a passive viewer at the window into their lives.

(And yes, Lou Reed did get the title for his classic song from the title of this book and film.)

In Another Land

My flight was two and a half hours delayed yesterday due to the FAA system crash yesterday morning, which was, of course, tiresome. But I eventually got to board my flight, finished reading A Walk on the Wild Side (I literally finished it when we were taxiing to the gate, so perfect timing, and more on that book later), then collected my bag and got my car service into Manhattan. I checked in, went up to my room, and then had dinner as Connolly’s Irish Pub, where our waiter was stunned and delighted to see my LSU sweatshirt–he was a fan! (That happened again in the elevator on the way up to my room–who knew Manhattan was filled with LSU fans? You got to love it!) I got to have fish ‘n’ chips–they were marvelous–and then we walked back to the hotel and retired early. He ran me ragged today– lunch in Chinatown, and then we are having dinner with our friend Donna, who is also joining us for Hadestown, which I am very excited to see. I also need to write while I am here–hopefully I’ll be able to get some of that done Friday afternoon; I hate that I wasn’t able to keep my momentum going yesterday and knock out another three thousand words, but it was a day, wasn’t it? I got up at six yesterday morning, headed out to the airport around ten thirty, and then didn’t get to the hotel until six New York time. That’s an awful lot of me being out in public.

I also didn’t sleep great last night–first night in a hotel is always an adjustment; I hope tonight it will be a different story–and then was awakened (not really, I was awake but lying in bed with my eyes closed like I always do when I have insomnia) by a text from That Bitch Ford (Michael Thomas Ford, for those of you who are new; buy his books, they’re terrific) and so I washed my face and brushed my teeth and went down for coffee with him while he ate ($29 eggs!) and then we took the subway to lower Manhattan to walk around and see Chinatown (we’d planned on having lunch there all along, and we did!) and had a lovely time. Lunch was terrific, and it was fun catching up in person. We don’t think we’ve seen each other in person for going on ten years (I don’t think it’s been that long but I am not certain enough to argue the point), which is astonishing. We’re also two of the few from out “time” to still be around and writing all these years later, which feels very strange to me. We did a lot “I wonder whatever happened to–” and “who was that who–” types of conversation starters. Mike is one of the few people who is still a part of my life who knew me before I was published*; we met when he came to New Orleans to sign Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me and Other Trials from My Queer Life, and we’ve kind of been friends ever since then. I know I interviewed him for IMPACT News back when I used to write for the local gay paper (shuttered since about 2002 or 2003, methinks) and since we both have the same horrible sick sense of humor…it was inevitable.

And now I am back in my room, exhausted, but with dinner plans at five with Mike and our friend Donna, and then of course we’re making a 7 pm curtain for the show. I’m not entirely sure what tomorrow holds for me; I think we have a breakfast date but I could be wrong, and I know in the late afternoon I start having plans again–and of course I will be tied up all day Saturday before flying home on Sunday. Thank God Monday is a holiday, so I can recover and rest and write and get things taken care of around the house. I had hoped to spend some time writing today but I am too tired, and I need to rest and relax before we get going for tonight. I’ve not been to a Broadway show in years, so am kind of looking forward to it. I know nothing about this show other than it’s the Orpheus myth (I think), so am really interested in hearing what the score sounds like.

And on that note I am going to lie down for a minute or two before I have to get ready for dinner. Till next time, Constant Reader!

*It’s very weird to me that so few people who knew me before I was published are actively still part of my life; I am still connected with people from past phases of my life but primarily through social media; I don’t interact with them very much outside of social media; and it’s not like I am ghosting the people from my past or anything; it’s just how life evolves. And most of the people we both knew back when we got started on this crazy journey into publishing aren’t around anymore.

Dandelion

I am soon to depart for the airport, where I am catching a flight to LaGuardia for a weekend in New York; I am flying back home on Sunday. It’s going to be a short but busy trip, where I will get to see all kinds of people i really like and run all over the island and do all sorts of things. I also need to carve out time to write while there as well–I have gotten really bad about writing when on trips over the years, but I really can’t go without writing the entire time. I made quota again yesterday–it was a little harder to get motivated and not quite as easy to get into a proper rhythm, but it was also a transitional chapter and my first goes at those are always stilted and awkward and people don’t really talk like that, do they? But I got through it, the transition was made, and the stage has been set. Now we move on to act 2, which is why it really cannot wait. Hopefully, if I am not too tired when I get to the hotel, I can spend a few hours working.

My flight is already delayed, I see–so I don’t have to leave quite as early for the airport as I had originally thought, which is fine. Our Internet was spotty last night, going in and out, so we ended up not finishing watching the Golden Globes and I went to bed early. It seems to be working fine this morning, so I am not going to worry about it–I’m the one who always has to deal with it, the Cox bill is in my name, etc. etc. etc. It would suck for Paul to have no Internet for the weekend, but I am going to assume that last night was an aberration. Our cable box is also so old they can’t even service it anymore, so I need to go get a new one at some point; the Cox office is near my office, so I can run by there during lunch someday when I get back. Sigh, it’s always something.

I am taking A Walk on the Wild Side with me to read on the plane and at the airport, along with a rather short book by Harry M. Benshoff, Dark Shadows, which is a kind of academic breakdown of the original show that I am kind of looking forward to reading. Dark Shadows probably had a much bigger impact on me than almost anything else–my preference for Gothics, supernatural stories, murders–and I should probably do an entire entry about Dark Shadows and its influences and impact on me creatively. I am also trying to decide what other books to take on the trip with me–I need at least one more for the flight home–and am kind of torn as to what to read next. I’ve got some great cozies stacked up in the TBR pile, but I also have some books by other favorite authors and some other books that have gotten some high praise from either reviewers or friends on social media. Maybe someday I can get the TBR pile under control but it won’t be anytime soon, I can promise you that. I am really looking forward to reading more this year than I have in past ones.

I’m also looking forward to writing a lot more this year, too. I can’t believe what a roll I’ve been on since Christmas (or just before); I’ve written at least three thousand words a day on average ever since (some days I skipped, others I did from four to six thousand words), which is quite a bit, really–somewhere between forty-five and fifty thousand words, which is kind of impressive, I must say. It’s also not been wearing me out, or making me very tired. I think some of that has to do with the lessening of outside pressures and stressors–I’ve been sleeping very well (well, last night was kind of spotty) for the most part, feeling rested, and not letting things get to me the way they always seem to have been doing for the last three or four years. I really hate stress and anxiety, and I really need to make sure I continue to focus on reducing those thing. Staying off social media more has done a good job of that, too–nothing can quite raise the blood pressure the way reading something racist or homophobic or misogynist or transphobic from people who should know better, and I’ve started unfollowing and/or blocking people who are, for wont of a better word, assholes. And it actually feels good to hit unfollow or block, knowing you never have to interact with that person or read their shitty screeds ever again.

And it’s not required that I follow every crime writer on social media, either.

I went to a lot of events last year, and will be scaling back dramatically on that this year. Probably Bouchercon in San Diego is all I am going to do involving air travel, and yes, I’ve been offering my short stories and books up for Lefty and Agatha consideration, but I won’t be attending either event so even were I to score a nod, not being present doesn’t help your odds of winning. (For me, being present isn’t enough, either.) It’s weird to think that after this weekend’s trip I probably won’t be flying anywhere again until Labor Day weekend for Bouchercon, and I’m actually feeling kind of iffy about that, to be honest. I hate the thought of traveling over Labor Day weekend, but at least if I fly home on Sunday I’ll have Monday off to recalibrate and recenter and recover from the conference.

I just hope I can sleep this weekend. Let’s focus on getting through that first, shall we? LOL.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start packing. I made a list of everything I need for the trip, and I got the big black suitcase out last night so everything is in place and ready to go. I may check in with you tonight from the hotel–stranger things have happened–but one never knows. I was actually thinking the other day that I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut with this; I always write it in the morning with coffee and maybe, just maybe, sometime during the day I may write another entry, usually about a book I’ve just finished reading or something–and there’s really no reason for that other than habit. Maybe the blog entries that require a more awake brain, for logic and reasoning and making a rational argument either for or against something, can be worked on during the day or in the early evening or around my writing for the day. I have any number of entries I’ve started over the years–dealing with things like racism and homophobia and all the other, irrational bigotries and prejudices that run rampant in our modern world, and it would be nice to finish them all, get them out there into the world to be read by the two or three people who actually check in with me every day and read these meanderings of my mind.

She’s a Rainbow

Monday morning and back into the office. I only have two days in the office this week and three next, thanks to the holiday next Monday–huzzah! I had an incredibly productive weekend, Constant Reader, thanks to some terrific sleep every night and no college football. I know that tonight is the national championship game but I won’t be staying up to watch it again this year–that’s three consecutive years I’ve not watched–because I have no skin in the game and can always watch highlights tomorrow. My preference would be for a TCU win; they’ve not won anything since the second world war and it would be a fun change to see a program come from nowhere to win it all this year. (LSU was 10-3 in 2018, so we knew they’d be good in 2019; we just didn’t know how good they would be.)

I slept well again last night. I think I may have finally found the right mixture of things at night to help me sleep, so hopefully the big test–New York and a hotel bed–will be passed with flying colors.

Yesterday was a good day. I spent most of it working–I wrote six thousand more words yesterday, bringing the weekend’s total to ten thousand, which is pretty damned good–and after I was done working for the day, we finished watching The Rig, which was kind of interesting and weird and way different than what we thought it might be–again, there’s no greater suspense than people being trapped and isolated somewhere and there’s some kind of threat, especially when group dynamics and politics start getting involved. I am enjoying writing again–the last book I wrote was nightmarish to try to get done for some reason, but I am back into a writing groove again and it feels terrific. I only needed to rest for a day or so, too, between different writing projects before diving back into it. I kind of let my emails pretty much go, though, over the course of the weekend so it’s going to take me some time to get that back under some kind of control today. But I feel pretty good this morning, my coffee continues to taste marvelous, and while I do have a lot to get done before leaving for New York on Wednesday, I am neither daunted nor bowed by the amount of work that needs doing; rather, I feel very empowered this morning.

I also spent some more time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am sort of enjoying a bit more than I did originally. I am probably going to try to read some more when I get home from work tonight and after I get my quota for the day. I also need to make some lists about what to take on the trip with me and I need to check what the weather is going to be like up there; there’s also a weird bit of sadness associated with this trip as well, since it will be my last official trip for Mystery Writers of America. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years, but two of those years were sucked up into the pandemic and no traveling, so there’s that. That probably won’t completely sink in until I am back home from the trip this weekend, either.

I also need to make a to-do list for this week. I have errands to run after my day at the office as well. Heavy heaving sigh. I know I have some short stories I need to get written and some other things that have to be done at some point soon–and I really need to dig through my email inbox to make sure everything’s been put on the calendar so I don’t forget anything. I also want to watch The Pale Blue Eye, but that may have to wait until after I get back from this trip and get all settled in again here in my own life. I also need to decide what to take with me to read on this trip. Obviously, I am not going to finish the Algren before I leave, so that’s going with me, but what to read while there and on the trip home? I think I am going to continue immersing myself in cozy mysteries for a while before going back to a different sub-genre; on the other hand, I could also take either a Carol Goodman or a Ruth Ware with me, so I can continue working my way through their oeuvre…decisions, decisions, always decisions to be made.

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 later.

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

Sunday morning and probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had in quite some time. I didn’t even wake up the first time until past eight, and was so relaxed and comfortable I stayed in bed for another hour like a very bad Gregalicious. I had some vague plan when I went to bed last night that I would get up early this morning since I had so much work to get done, but the pull of a comfortable bed and warm blankets was too much for me to resist. I am now enjoying a really good cup of coffee; I cleaned out my Keurig machine yesterday, which was terribly overdue, and it does make a difference. (I should probably do it far more regularly than I do.) I also ordered groceries for pick up this morning as well, which will probably be the only time I leave the house today.

Overall, yesterday was a good day. I got up in the morning, did some cleaning and ran some errands, before coming home and doing some more cleaning while i worked. I clocked in four thousand words yesterday, which was amazing–I’ve been averaging between three and four thousand since Christmas when I write, and there were a couple of days that were between six and seven (hoping for one of those today, frankly), and all the pieces of this particular one are starting to fall into place. I’m having a very good time writing, and it’s awesome to be making it a priority in my life, too–plus it helps to not really check or examine your emails quite so compulsively. After I finished writing yesterday, I started watching some documentaries on Youtube about the Great Schism and the development of the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox church; I am probably going to try to focus my history reading for the year to be on the Eastern Roman Empire and the development of Christianity (I’d really like to reread Gore Vidal’s novel Julian the Apostate again), which has always been one of those periods I find fascinating and don’t study or read about near enough. I also spent some time thinking (while football highlights played on a loop on Youtube–I never tire of watching the last minute of the Tulane win in the Cotton Bowl) about my year and my writing plans for the year and what I would like to accomplish in 2023. I am really leaning toward trying to write an actual gay romance novel at some point in this coming year or the next; I’ve always wanted to write one and why the hell shouldn’t I give it a try at some point? (Although the romance writer who faked her own death and resurrected herself this week has me again wary of Romanceland…)

We also watched The Menu last night, which was a very strange film but highly entertaining. I’ve never been much of a foodie (I even hate the word foodie), because primarily most of my life food primarily either filled a need (the abatement of hunger) or served a purpose (as fuel, during the overly-exercised period of my life), so I never viewed it as a pleasure or an art form. Sure, I loved (and dearly miss) my annual lunch at Commander’s Palace, and I can appreciate delicious food, flavors and textures and so forth, but the plating and the rest isn’t something I’ve ever been terribly interested in. I don’t care if my food looks like a work of art on a plate. Sorry, I am a peasant at heart and peasantry isn’t that easily overcome. I did make an effort to become better in the kitchen and better at cooking while I was in my forties, and after I turned fifty I started learning how to bake things–cakes, cheesecakes, brownies, etc. But I digress. The Menu , like Glass Onion, seems to be a commentary on class and snobbery; the difference between the creators and the takers. I think the film is filled with great performances and interesting twists and turns, but ultimately it doesn’t succeed in the same ways that Glass Onion did. I do recommend it be seen; I’m curious to see what other people thought of it.

We then started watching a new prime series called The Rig, with an excellent cast headed by Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek, Chapelwaite), and Martin Compston (Line of Duty); the cast is diverse and the tale is interesting. An off-shore oil rig, somewhere in the North Sea I think, is riding out a terrible storm when something strange and seismic happens; whether it’s an earthquake on the ocean floor or some kind of volcanic activity isn’t clear. As the rig loses its connections to the outside world–internet, telephones, etc.–a terrifying fog comes rolling in, and something supernatural or mysterious but rooted in science is going on, particularly with a crewman who suffers a terrible fall that should have killed him; there are internal injuries they can’t do anything about–but he starts getting better, which shouldn’t be possible, and he has terrifying visions of the future. We watched one, and then couldn’t resist the temptation of staying up later and watching another. It’s quite good, and I highly recommend it. I am very curious to see how it winds up playing out.

I am going to finish this, grab a second cup of coffee, and repair to my easy chair to read for about an hour or so; A Walk on the Wild Side is calling to me, and I’d prefer to finish it before my trip (I don’t think that will happen, but one never knows), before I start writing again and dive into the day’s work. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Paint It Black

So how is the new year going for you thus far, Constant Reader? I am on holiday for today, finishing the book hopefully this morning before the LSU game so I can watch it in peace with no worries–or so my attention won’t be divided between finishing it and watching the game. I also ordered groceries to be picked up later this afternoon as well. I made my quota again yesterday, and realized, as I moved into the living room with my journal to relax for the rest of the day, that I have written a ridiculous amount lately, and that it not only felt good but still does feel good. I don’t feel exhausted, despite all the writing and all of the other pressures, the way I usually do when I get to the end. I also feel good about the book, too–it needs some more work, but I am getting it in today with the full knowledge and expectation of necessary edits and revisions. But even as it is, it’s pretty decent, and I am pleased with it. I always put so much pressure on myself, and always doubt myself, and am always so terrified that I am not going to ever be able to get back into a writing groove and the creativity is going to dry up–or the desire to do it will go away once and for all. But I don’t think that’s reality. I think that’s more of that self-defeating self-doubt fear of success and unwillingness to feel pride neurosis I’ve really got to get past at some point before I die, and I do this to myself every time I write anything, really. Maybe it’s a part of my process, which is an absolutely terrifying thought–although that would be a great answer for the next time I’m asked about my process (which really doesn’t happen as often as one might think); “my process is to convince myself that I can no longer write, if I ever knew how really in the first place, and that the well has finally run dry and it’s all over and I am going to have to figure out something else to do with the rest of my life, and then once I’ve had an almost complete mental breakdown I will emerge yet again like a phoenix from the ashes of that meltdown and calmly sit down and blast out over thirty thousand words in slightly more than a week.”

Because that is literally how I write a book. Every. Single. Fucking. Time.

And why I squirm when asked about my process in interviews and on panels.

I slept in this morning and it felt marvelous. I feel rested and recharged, and ready to dig into the final chapter of the book as well s the epilogue. And after a few cups of coffee this morning I am going to go in. I’d love to be finished before the LSU game starts, but I think that’s at eleven and thus highly unlikely. I did do my six thousand words yesterday is just under four hours, so who knows? Maybe it is possible for me to bang out this chapter in an hour or so; one never really knows how well it’s going to go and how quickly the words will come out from my fingers flying across the keyboard; I know I used to write first drafts of short stories of about five thousand words in about two hours or so back in the day when I was younger, had more energy, and more time to think things through before sitting down to write. I often write everything out in my head before I sit down at the keyboard, so really the first draft gets written in my head, the second draft is me typing it all out and correcting things, the third draft is usually the fix the errors draft, and the fourth is the polish of language. Then comes editorial revisions and copy edits and all of that fun stuff. So, that’s my process. Sometimes I don’t even think about it before I sit down and start typing–which is the fiction-writing equivalent of spirit writing, where it just all starts coming out of me as I am typing it and I have no idea where any of it is coming from. You can see why it worries me that at some point the well will run dry? When you don’t know where the stories are coming from, it’s very easy to fear that they’ll stop coming at some point. It’s almost like magic, in a way.

We started watching Treason on Netflix last night, which was interesting. We also got caught up on Three Pines and Welcome to Chippendales (which they are really dragging out for far too long, and last night’s episode Juliette Lewis was so fucking annoying and homophobic I wanted to literally reach into the television screen and just slap the snot out of her; there’s nothing more annoying than a straight woman who doesn’t take a gay relationship seriously because it’s not, to a heteronormative, a “real” relationship; I’ve had this experience numerous times in my real life and yes, it’s a fucking anger trigger for me, as you can obviously tell) before watching Treason, which is interesting but again, it’s one of those annoying super-dad stories where Dad will put world security (or whatever) at risk for the sake of his own child. I hate those stories, so I am not entirely sure we’ll continue. It’s a clever premise (without the child-at-risk stakes) whereas a Russian spy has been helping a British MI6 agent rise through the ranks by giving him intel–the objective being to get him into a leadership position so they can coerce him into being a double-agent for them. That was interesting. The problem was some other group decides to kidnap his daughter–so of course, everything is up in the air–national security, safety of the general population, etc.–because he loves his daughter so much fuck everything else in the world because nothing else matters. I fucking hate Super-Dad stories–because in these cases Super-Dad always risks everything in the world–including, in some cases, the safety of a group of people dependent on him (this was when Stephen King’s Cell lost me; because of course everyone in the group went along with putting themselves at risk of death to help save Super-Dad’s child because that child is more important than ALL of them)…because it also paints an unrealistic picture of fathers who are present and good fathers. For me, the struggle to do what is best for the group rather than potentially sacrificing them all for the selfish goal of saving one’s own child would make a more interesting story. It also always amazes me in these stories that no one ever questions these decisions and go along with them. I know I can be a cold-hearted bitch but I am also very pragmatic. In an end-of-the-world situation like Cell, it simply doesn’t make sense for everyone to put their lives at risk for this man’s child. You have to put your own interests aside in order to be a good leader sometimes. Those are the kinds of sacrifices I’m interested in reading…the slow realization that you, a cisgender straight white man, aren’t the fucking center of the universe and must sacrifice for the benefit of all. That’s leadership.

Can you tell how sick I am of the Superdad fantasy? LOL.

I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side yesterday, which I am beginning to enjoy a bit more–the main character has finally reached New Orleans, and while some of the geography seems off–there are times when I can’t really quite figure out where they are or how they are getting around–but we’re finally getting to the part with the prostitutes and the bordello, which is really what I was reading it for (the first hundred pages are set-up for the reader to get to know the main character, Dove Linkhorn, and how he came to set out for New Orleans from Texas in the first place; which easily could have been condensed down to a couple of paragraphs, really; the book could have started with him climbing onto the freight train to escape his miserable life in Texas, and as the train rolled through the night flashbacked to all the first hundred pages which could easily be condensed to a few paragraphs/pages–but it’s mid-twentieth century straight white male MFA literary fiction, of course). I like reading about past New Orleans, and yes, reading this does make me think about writing more historical crime novels centered in New Orleans.

And on that note, I am going to open my word document and start plugging away at the finish of this. Have a lovely second day of the new year, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you either later or tomorrow.

Heart of Stone

Another new year. 2023. This year it will have been forty-five years since I graduated from high school. That feels weird to me, but it must be true. Forty-five years. Kids born the year I graduated from high school are full on having mid-life crises already. Not exactly a cheery thought to kick off a new year, though, is it?

I got my writing done yesterday and have a daunting day of more writing ahead of me. I managed to get it all done in a little less than three hours yesterday (what can I say? I was on a roll, and the book is really coming together here at the end), and I was thus able to watch some college football games yesterday, namely TCU-Michigan and Georgia-Ohio State. Both games were completely insane, but I am sure OSU fans are not happy with their unfortunate head coach. I imagine now, after two straight losses to Michigan and no national title wins, they are every more unhappy than they have been with their head coach; it’s almost like Ohio State and Michigan have switched their annual trajectories. I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am starting to appreciate more. I am not a fan of twentieth-century straight white male MFA writing, which is what this kind of is (look at me! my book will be taught in universities!) and I’ve never cared for (Hemingway comes to mind) but I’m starting to like it more. There’s a dark, noir undertone to it that I am appreciating, and now that the main character (Dove) is making his way to New Orleans now–well, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to me once the action moves here, which is the entire reason I am reading the book in the first place. We also finished off season two of Sex Lives of College Girls, whose second season didn’t live up to the first, but it was still enjoyable. Tonight we’ll probably go back to Three Pines and watch a movie; there was something Paul mentioned last night that he wants to watch but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

I felt remarkably rested and relaxed yesterday; the writing going so well had a lot to do with it, I am sure. I slept well again last night and feel rested again this morning–I really do like these lengthy weekends, and am going to miss them once they are over–so I feel confident I can bang out the word count i need to get done for today as well. Yay! So, I am going to do exactly the same thing I did yesterday; read this morning over my coffee, then take a shower and get cleaned up before diving into the next chapter I need to write.

As is my wont, I am setting goals for 2023 rather than making resolutions–and while this hasn’t been as successful for me as it should have been over the years (some goals remain the same, year after year after year), I still like goals better than resolutions. So, without further ado, here we go:

Get an agent

This has been at the top of my goals every year since i started setting goals rather than resolutions, which goes back to the beginnings of my blog, way back in December 2004. I have made running lists of potential agents to try for years, always adding someone new whenever I come across their information or someone being excited to be signed by one. Having an agent doesn’t mean a significant change to my writing or my earning potential or the possibilities of my career getting bigger, but none of those things are likely to happen without an agent: I am not getting signed to a major publisher like William Morrow or Random House unless and until I have an agent. I may never sign with one of those houses–I may never get an agent–but I also never really try, either. So, the goal isn’t necessarily to get an agent in 2023, but to at least make an effort.

Finish everything on deck

I have five novellas in some sort of progress, as well as two other books I am at least four or five chapters deep into. I want to finish all of these projects in 2023 and get them out of my working files. I don’t think I will ever finish every short story or essay I’ve begun over the years, but getting some sort of completion here would be really nice. I would love nothing more than to have a working first draft of both Muscles and Chlorine by the midpoint of 2023. I also would like to pull together a second short story collection, which would be incredibly cool (This Town and Other Stories). It would also be nice to get those novellas completed. It is very tempting to turn them all into novels–a couple of them might be able to be stretched out that way–but I know some of them simply do not have the depth or story potential to play out that way. The nice thing about novellas is the length is up to you; I know these stories are all too long to pare down to something readable and enjoyable for six thousand words or less; but some of them need to be longer than the twenty thousand words I was shooting for.

More short stories sent out on submission.

I really do need to finish some of these other short stories I have in progress to try to get them out on submission. I have over eighty stories in some sort of progress, with still others yet to be started and/or finished. I’ve not been doing so great with the short stories as I would have liked over the last few years. I have some really good ones to work on–there’s one I fear that’s going to end up being longer than a short story, because there’s more to the story than can fit in the confines of six thousand words or less, but then you also never know.

Clean like we are moving.

I really need to get rid of things that have accumulated over the sixteen or so years we’ve been living in this apartment. I need to clean out the storage attic and the storage unit; donate a shit ton of books to the library sale, and just in general rid the apartment of all this clutter that seems to be weighing us down and closing in on us. Part of this is my inability to rid myself of books once I’ve read them, but I’ve also become much more ruthless when it comes to pruning them–I still can’t believe I donated so many of my old Stephen King first edition hardcovers, and my Anne Rice first editions as well, but they were just collecting dust in boxes so what use were they? Paul and I set this goal–clean like we’re moving, which in other words means would you move this or trash this? The first few times I pared down the books it literally was painful, but I am getting better. And after being a lifelong book hoarder, well. you can’t just turn that off after decades of doing it.

Volunteer less of my time.

All due respect, I’ve done my time. I have volunteered relentlessly for the overall betterment of the writing community–whether it’s the mystery community or the queer writing community–for quite some time now. I write stories for free for charity anthologies all the time. I step up and judge awards because I think they’re important. I’ve served on the Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon boards. But now that I’m older, I need to scale back. I don’t have either the time or the prodigious energy that I used to have, and while I’ve enjoyed all the volunteer work, something has to give. I just can’t do all the things that I used to do because things have changed: my day job takes more out of me physically, emotionally, and intellectually than it ever has before (the switch to working early mornings didn’t help); I tire out much earlier than I used to since my COVID situation last July and I can’t write or be productive or even read when I am bone-tired exhausted the way I am when I get home from work some nights. This also includes giving blurbs, I am sad to say; blurbing means reading the entire book, and I just don’t really have the time or mind-space to do much of that anymore; same with judging. I want my reading to be for pleasure or education for the rest of my life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always say no when asked, just that I am going to be more discriminatory. I need to be more jealous of my free time, and I can honestly say few people in the mystery community have done more volunteer work than me. I’d just like to start getting paid for working.

Take better care of myself.

The one-two punch of getting older and having COVID last summer has brought home very clearly to me that I need to take better care of myself and that physical things are just going to get harder. It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few years getting into a gym/workout routine with everything else I had to do plus the exhaustion thing; but the truth is physically I need to start working my body more–and the longer I go, the weaker my body gets and the harder it will be to get back into decent physical condition again. I also need to start paying more attention to my diet now than I am in my early soon to be mid-sixties–my diet needs to be healthier and I need to eat better. I weighed myself last week at the office and I am back up to 218; which is better than 220, but I had gotten myself down to nearly 200 at one point and I’d like to get back there. I don’t like this extra weight on me, and sure, maybe I can carry it and it would surprise people to know how much I actually do weigh, but I’m aware of it. And while it would be easy to think who cares, you’re almost sixty, you’re practically in the grave so why start depriving yourself of things you love at this age? But there’s a defeatist mentality there, a laziness speaking that is far too easy for me to go ahead and give into, and I don’t think that’s perhaps the wisest decision to make? I also need to get some more work on my mouth done–I’m tired of looking like an inbred hillbilly.

Read more.

It’s incredibly easy to come home and collapse into my easy chair and flip on Youtube videos–whether its football highlights, lists, music or military or European history, or reaction videos–it’s easy to just mindlessly lay there in the chair while watching endless videos, one after the other, about whatever subject catches my fancy. But I could read instead–and there’s plenty of nonfiction lying around the apartment. Over the past few days I’ve been reading either Bad Gays or Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown by J. F. Andrews–about heirs to thrones that got supplanted by people with more spurious claims in the Middle Ages–or Holy Wars by Gary L. Rashba (about crusades and ancient wars in the Holy Land, going back to Biblical times); and there are plenty of other non-fiction books lying around here that I could get to more quickly if I read rather than watched Youtube videos. But at the same time, when I am exhausted, it’s almost therapeutic. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to read history or other nonfiction while trying to rest, relax and decompress from a day in clinic.

Be more assertive and less self-deprecating.

In general, this is a good idea. I need to break the conditioning I was raised with, in which you never praise yourself and simply wait for others to notice and do it for you. No, this just doesn’t work and it’s not a good trait for a writer to have. I need to stand up for myself, my work, and my career because let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for me.

New years can be daunting as they are not only full of potential for either good or bad but they are unknown. You can’t know what’s coming, so all you can do is be hopeful things will always work out in the end. I want to also try to be more positive, and try to enjoy the good things without fear of the inevitable bad things that will inevitably come along. I also need to get out of the mindset that enjoying good things that happen will trigger bad things to happen as punishment; I need to learn to navigate that line between self-confidence and arrogance, which isn’t an easy task.

And on that note, I am going to go read for a little while before i dive into today’s writing. Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.

I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.

I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elit√© continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.

Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.

I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!

College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.

As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.

I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.

Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.

Under the Boardwalk

My last work-at-home day for 2022, and technically my last day of work for the year at the day job. It still freaks me out a little, or doesn’t feel right, to write 2022 on my clinical testing forms; 2023 is going to be even stranger to write. Where the hell has this decade gone already? It’s almost 2023. I certainly didn’t think I’d make it this far, yet here I am.

It got up into the seventies again yesterday–we literally went from the mid-sixties to a hard freeze back to the seventies in about a week–which is why you can never write about New Orleans without writing about the weather. Our weather affects everything here, and can change everything happening and going on in a matter of hours. It also messes with your moods and how you feel–how can your sinuses adapt to such dramatic weather changes in such a short period of time? And that’s not even taking into consideration the humidity and rain. You always have to plan your day and your life around the weather here, and you ignore it at your own peril (he said, having been caught unawares in enough flash-flooding events to know whereof he speaks). With a great HVAC system I didn’t find myself minding the cold quite as much this past weekend, but don’t get me wrong–I’m not sorry to see it gone, and good riddance to it.

I also had a ridiculous amount of chores to do last night when I finished work. Two loads of dishes, two loads of laundry, and of course I had to do something about the refrigerator, and since I was already doing chores I decided to go ahead and launder the living room comfort blankets and do something about the floors (a chore I’ve been avoiding for far longer than I dare to admit publicly, given my reputation as a housekeeper). I decided not to try for my quota for the day, which of course increased today’s quota, but thought it best to go ahead and reread everything I’ve been doing and get a better sense of things so I can figure out how to get to the end of the book from where I’m at now. Sometimes it’s best to relax and let the muscles rest when you’ve been pushing them for a while; burn out is always a fear, and I suspected yesterday that I was reaching that point and should probably rest from it for at least the night, while planning what to do next. I do have a lovely three day weekend looming, and if I ignore college football bowl games–which shouldn’t be difficult to do–I should be able to leisurely get this done and sent off Monday.

Whew.

I’m still a little tired this morning, and it’s gray outside. Ah, yes, a quick glance at the weather (I seem obsessed this morning with the weather, I know) and it appears that we’ll be having thunderstorms for most of the day. I do have to go out into the outer world at some point today–the postal service is closed tomorrow through Monday–so I won’t be able to get the mail again until after work on Tuesday. I should also spend a little time figuring out what, if anything, I need from the grocery store so I don’t have to leave the house again until Tuesday morning. That’s really turning into my biggest contest–how long can I go without leaving the house? (Along with “how few showers can I take this weekend? ” and “How long can I go without cleaning the house?” These do not speak well of me, I am well aware.) I also am going back to reading Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side, after my break from it to read Donna Andrews for Christmas; it’s slow going because it’s an old book written in twentieth century cis-white male literary style, which is something I don’t really care for as a general rule. But I do want to read the parts where the main character (whose backstory is currently being explored) gets to New Orleans and experiences the demimonde; I’d also like to see the film, which I haven’t ever viewed. (I know, right? Barbara Stanwyck and Jane Fonda and I’ve never seen it? Bad gay, bad gay.)

After getting the chores done–Paul didn’t come home until late again–I spent some time read Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller, which takes a look at some gay men in history who weren’t exactly role models for gay men or behavior–some of whom I had heard of, others I had not–¬†which is an interesting approach (usually writers and historians are always looking for positive role models, or take normal human beings and idealize them into heroes). I was a little disappointed to see that my favorite historical homo wasn’t included–Philippe d’Orleans, younger brother of Louis XIV and known as Monsieur (I’ve always wanted to write about Monsieur, he fascinates me to this day)–but the authors did include James I of England and Frederick the Great, so no complaints on royal representation in the book. (But if you’re looking for bad examples of gay men in history, choosing James I over Richard the Lion-Hearted or Edward II was an interesting decision.) I read the sections on Oscar Wilde and Bosie, Frederick the Great, and James I (primarily because the most ambitious book idea I’ve ever had involved James I’s successor as well as his last love, George Villiers Duke of Buckingham); and I enjoyed them. They weren’t very in depth, as they were only given a chapter, so they were at best slightly superficial, but it was interesting to read. I really do need to read a biography of Frederick the Great, who has fascinated me since I was a kid (again, interesting that even as a child I was fascinated by a king who turned out to be gay in the long run); I’ve read histories of Prussia and Europe and other monarchs of the period, but biographies of Frederick aren’t as easy to come by as say, biographies of any Tudor, the Wars of the Roses, or Louis XIV. (Try finding a biography of Louis XIII or said George Villiers, for that matter. There are quite a few of Cardinal Richelieu–but not as many as one would think. Americans seem to be more interested in British history than anything else, and not many of them at that.)

Lightning just flashed, and it’s getting grayer outside, never a good sign for the weather in New Orleans. Then again, spending a little time reading this morning during a thunderstorm while drinking my coffee before starting my work-at-home duties could be just the ticket for kick-starting this day into high gear, so on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

All I Want for Christmas Is You

Well, yesterday was a bit dramatic.

As I believe I mentioned, we were in a severe weather alert for most of the day, with everyone in the meteorology game saying conditions would seriously deteriorate in the mid-to-late afternoon. We started getting emails from upper management and operations in the mid-morning letting us know they were monitoring the weather as the afternoon drew nearer. (I had not really been aware of the bad storms that had passed by the north of us the day before, either.) The decision was made around three to close the building and send everyone home for their safety. I texted Paul to make sure he left his office (fortunately, he was working at home) and hurried home myself. It started raining by the time I got home, and settled in. Maybe about an hour or so later the warning alert on my phone went off, so I quickly tuned into the local meteorology maven Margaret Orr on WDSU (I love her, it’s going to be such a loss when she finally retires) as the storm was drawing nearer and it looked like it was going to form a tornado on the West Bank, just like that horrible storm back in March that also produced one. The maps they use on television aren’t the greatest, especially when they are pulled back as far, so it looked like my neighborhood was in the direct path for awhile. That was a bit nerve-wracking, especially as they were also giving times of arrival–“this storm will be in the lower Garden District in five minutes”–so we just braced ourselves and waited. But fortunately for us (but not for others) this storm followed almost the exact same path as the one in March–following the river and jumping across at Arabi and the lower 9th ward. But we did have some major rain and wind rattling the house. Fortunately, I had Scooter sleeping in my lap, which is always calming, and then it was past and over.

The Entergy power map seems to indicate the office has power, so operations will resume today, one would assume.

It’a also colder today–right now it’s in the fifties–which could account for me not wanting to get up this morning; it’s always so comfortable and comforting when you’re under a pile of blankets when it’s chilly. I feel like I slept through the night for the most part. I think I woke up once? But I feel more rested this morning than I have all week, which is a good thing. This is my last day in the office this week, with tomorrow being a work-at-home day. I made it through another week, but man, time is flying. I spent most of the evening reading parts of When Women Ruled the World on my Kindle or randomly opening The Prime Time Closet to read bits and pieces. When Women Ruled the World is about the sixteenth century; a period I’ve mentioned before because more women held power that century than any century before or since, and I’ve always wanted to write about those women in a book called The Monstrous Regiment of Women, taking its title from John Knox’ horrifically misogynistic text; but whereas I would want to merely overview the women who have been written about extensively already (Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, etc.) while paying more attention to the ones not as famous (infamous?) in today’s popular culture, like Margaret of Austria, Mary of Hungary, Marie de Guise, Catherine de Medici, Queen Margot, etc. (It was also the same century that produced Elizabeth Bathory…) I should have read more of Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side, but after the adrenaline rush and emotional distress about being in the potential path of a tornado, my mind was too fried to focus on fiction. I did work on the book some, but my mind was just not in the right place for that sort of work. Hopefully, tonight and tomorrow progress will be made and I can get this under control.

And of course, Christmas is next weekend. Next weekend? Yikes!

Something awful happened to me yesterday on social media that I am still processing, so I am not really quite ready to talk about it here. It ties into a blog entry I’ve been toying with for quite some time now; but it’s not really something I can write when I am waking up and swilling coffee; it’s too personal and too complex to trust to a tired brain that isn’t as awake as it should be to tackle such a subject. I mean, it’s bad enough when you see people you know being openly homophobic or transphobic on social media, it’s even worse when it’s directed specifically at you. By someone you’ve known for years, and maybe didn’t quite consider a friend, but was definitely an acquaintance with whom you were friendly. Well, that ship has sailed–and it’s really interesting to me to see how many people who claim to be allies draw the line when it comes to my transgender siblings. But make no mistake about it: you come for the T you’re coming for me as well. When the right wing comes for the trans community and/or drag queens (which are often not the same thing), make no mistake about it, they are coming for all of us. Just as they used to vilify gay men and lesbians until most decent human beings saw how repugnant it was, they think drag queens and transpeople are an easier way to get to legalize the discrimination against all of us that they want. The language they are using is the same as the ones Anita Bryant used in the 1970’s, and the bigots who have come along in her wake have picked up the banner and use the same coded language she did. “Protect the children!” has always been their battlecry, but who are they to decide how parents should raise their children? What children should be exposed to? Your complaints about “the children” stop at your own. You do not have the right to tell other parents how to raise their children or what they can or cannot be exposed to; and the entire concept of “exposing young children to drag queens is sexualizing them!” is complete fucking bullshit on its face–and you fucking straight people have nerve saying that to queer people while keeping your fucking mouths about toddler beauty pageants. Where are the fucking Proud Boys with their AK-47’s at those events, where they paints the faces of children and dress them provocatively to the point most of them look like incredibly cheap streetwalkers? And don’t you fucking dare ever tell me that Drag Queen Story Hours are inappropriate for children because basically you are fucking saying no queer people should be around children.

Go straight to fucking hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

And don’t you ever dare speak to me again.

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