Save Me a Place

Oddly enough, as I sat in my easy chair the other day watching college football games and letting my body and mind and creativity rest, I had an idea for either a stand alone book or a new series, one way or the other, and it’s something I find interesting enough that I might even consider it. It would be a difficult proposition, to be sure–given the decline in retail sales and everything going to an on-line and electronic model–but I was looking at a map of New Orleans on my iPad because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Tulane’s not-so-new-anymore on-campus football stadium was; so I pulled up a map to look because I was thinking that was a great line for a Scotty book–I always forget there’s a football stadium in Uptown-so of course I had to go looking for it. The map also brought up businesses in the area and lo and behold, there’s a comic book shop uptown on the lake side of Claiborne and it hit me: no one has ever done a cozy series about a comic book shop and that opened up an entire world of possibilities for me: the main character is an aspiring comic book artist who works in the shop, and of course, you can get into the whole thing about who actually is into comics and the history of comic books and it would give me an excuse to actually learn more about comics and their history and…

You see how this ends up going, don’t you?

I know any number of comics geeks–Alex Segura Jr, author of this year’s brilliant Secret Identity, about the business side of producing comics, is one–and one of my best friends from college owns a comic book shop in central California, or did at some point–and of course my neighbor Michael is also heavily into comics, having gone to Comic Con in San Diego, even. And of course I’d get to make up shit, which is always a huge plus for me. I love making up shit! And of course, it would be fun to write from the point of view of a struggling artist.

I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about that…

The Saints played terribly yesterday and logged another “L” in the record book (how bad are the Falcons?) yesterday; I didn’t watch but rather followed on Twitter while I did things around the house. The Saints games sometimes cause me too much stress and then I am emotionally exhausted afterwards–too drained to be of much use, so sometimes I just follow it on Twitter or it’ll be on in the living room while I work in the kitchen. I did get the Costco delivery yesterday, and should probably run some errands at some point today, but it is Work-at-Home Monday and I have work I have to get done. I am behind still from the Bouchercon trip and the ensuing back injury, but am hopeful I will start getting caught up somewhat soon. Emails beget emails, though, and therefore that is a sisyphean task indeed.

We watched the new Star Wars show Andor last night, and I am so happy Deigo Luna’s character is getting an origin story. So far, the only show they’ve done I didn’t buy into completely was The Book of Boba Fett, and am thinking maybe we should give that another try at some point. After those three episodes we moved on to The Serpent Queen and American Gigolo, which I think we’re going to give up on. I love Jon Bernthal, but I’m just not buying this story for the character. It’s an interesting idea–and full props to them for turning it into a sequel series in which Julian actually goes to jail for the murder he was accused of committing in the film, but I’m just not really getting vested into the show, either, no matter how much I want to. The Serpent Queen remains fantastic, and gets better with each episode as Catherine explains to her new maid her philosophy of survival, illustrated with scenes from her past. Samantha Morton is fantastic as the older queen and the actress who plays her as a young woman is also equally good. But it’s a period of history I particularly love, and of course, Catherine de Medici is one of the most fascinatingly complex women to hold power in history. The reality of her life was dramatic enough to drive a series, and they’ve done a pretty decent job of following the actual history, with some adjustments here and there.

Also keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ian, which seems to have Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly in its sights. We are just outside the Cone of Uncertainty, which doesn’t mean we’re safe–there could always be another westward shift to the potential path–but I do concern myself with Florida and friends there. I don’t remember the last time Tampa took a direct hit; I don’t think they have in quite some time, and I can imagine a storm surge into the bay and into the rivers that drain into it would be enormously problematic for the city–as well as for Clearwater and St. Petersburg on the peninsula on the other side of the bay. Stay safe, people.

My podcast interview about Daphne du Maurier, with a particular emphasis on My Cousin Rachel, went really well. It was for my friend Ricky Grove, whom I know from my days in the Horror Writers Association and when I put on World Horror Con back in the day here in New Orleans (he is the author Lisa Morton’s partner–have you read Lisa? You should read Lisa). I can talk about du Maurier all day, and we did continue talking for at least another hour after we stopped recording; I do love to talk books and writing, after all, with the end result that I felt horribly drained when it was over. Ah, yes, the age-old problem of the introvert having to be an extrovert on a day when he usually doesn’t have to do anything of the kind. I retired to my easy chair, but found the draining of my energy to have been far too effective for me to focus clearly on anything. I did do another blog entry about my work–this time my Todd Gregory erotic novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, while starting others about Baton Rouge Bingo and the second Todd Gregory book (Games Frat Boys Play)–but when I tried to work on the book or anything else (including trying to read) I couldn’t get anything done so finally gave up and made myself useful around the house. Hopefully after an eyes-crossing day of data entry and quality assurance on testing logs, I’ll be able to dive back into the Scotty book. I know I am procrastinating with Chapter Three and should probably just stop worrying about it and move on, but that’s just not how my creativity works. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay, the stress of being behind will come in handy as December 1 draws ever more near.

Or so I tell myself.

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

Over & Over

Monday morning and I slept really well again. I feel rested this morning; but then a weekend of pain killers and muscle relaxers will do that for you. But I do feel better than I have since getting home from Minneapolis this morning, so that’s a start. My back still hurts but it’s bearable–this morning it feels like I simply slept on it wrong rather than making my wince and my eyes water every time I move. I also realized yesterday that if I did everything with proper posture, my back didn’t hurt…you know, doing things the way you’re supposed to–i.e. not bending at the waist to pick something up but rather using my legs, keeping my head erect instead of leaning forward, sitting back in chairs etc. I also did, in addition to the drugs, the alternating heat/cold thing with it, and so I think as long as I don’t do anything particularly stupid in the meantime it’ll keep getting better.

And I should always use good posture and do things properly anyway. Lesson learned.

I did manage to get all the dishes done and put away yesterday, which is lovely. I have a couple of errands to run today–mail, minor groceries, a prescription–but I think the right plan is to do my data entry while doing my heat/cold with my back, and at some point try to do some stretching. I believe my hips and quadriceps have been taking pressure off my back when I walk and do things, which is why they’ve been exhausted for the last few days as well. I don’t know how to avoid this happening again when I travel, but I think it does have more to do with all the standing and laughing–a laughing injury!–than anything else, as I didn’t have the same issues other times I’ve traveled. We did watch the Saints lose yesterday, and then, in my drug-addled state I rewatched the LSU game when it was rebroadcast on SEC Network yesterday, before we watched American Gigolo, House of the Dragon and The Serpent Queen. I wasn’t sure about American Gigolo, because no matter how much I love John Bernthal I just couldn’t see him taking over from Richard Gere, but he did a great job and the second episode really takes the show off–the first is merely set-up and back story, which is why you should always give a show two episodes before deciding to stop watching unless the first episode is so incredibly bad you can’t put yourself through a second (although I will confess to being wrong about Outer Banks, which I found out thanks to the Holmses). Of the three, I believe The Serpent Queen is the best (because you really can’t go wrong with Catherine de Medici; her story alone is dramatic enough for a series), even though they aren’t capturing Diane de Poitiers correctly (Diane was a lot smarter then they are making her out to be, and she was never Catherine’s enemy for the simple reason she preferred Henri to be married to someone he could tolerate but was no threat to her); but I believe the audience wouldn’t get the nuance and sophistication of the game Diane played in reality.

I did start reading Donna Andrews’ Round Up the Usual Peacocks yesterday before I had to start taking meds for my back, and it’s as charming as her books always are. I didn’t get as far as I would have liked because my back’s need for attention by the time the Saints game started could no longer be ignored; and I started reading Daphne du Maurier’s novella “A Border-Line Case” during my brief lucid moments (because it was shorter). It’s an interesting story and one that I will most likely have to start over again in order to get a real reading of it accomplished, but du Maurier is such a genius with mood and her language usage that reading her is akin to getting drunk on the words.

Reading du Maurier is, of course, one of those things that make me wonder why I bother, or what I am trying to do with my work–and she used a typewriter. I can never get past that with writers of the past–that they wrote either first in long-hand or all along on the typewriter–but regardless, it always had to be typed. (Even using Word I make typos on a regular basis and they are far easier to correct on a computer document than they are on onion-skin or bond paper….which makes me think about how Misery couldn’t work today, because Paul would have to be a crank who still used a typewriter instead of a laptop and…you get the picture.)

So, today I hope to start digging out from under. I had never really caught up on everything after Bouchercon (primarily because I’ve been in so much pain since I got home) and so now today I must assess the damage and try to figure out how to get back on the horse I’ve fallen from. I didn’t intend to lose two weeks to Bouchercon but here we are, almost to the end of September and another month of 2022 gone before I knew it and a deadline taking aim at the bull’s eye squarely affixed to the center of my forehead. The house is a mess (as always) and I have a lot of data entry to get done today before venturing out to run the afore-mentioned errands; I also don’t know where I am at financially and need to figure out what bills are left to be paid and so forth. I also need to get this messy house under some sort of control, and I only have so much time every day to deal with these things. Once my back is better, I’m going to start easing back into the gym as well–what better way to get in shape for conferences than being in better physical condition and perhaps dropping some of this extra weight? My blood sugar was surprisingly high the last time I fasted for blood work, which isn’t great–so perhaps the exercise and shift in diet I’ve been avoiding for quite some time has finally reached the point where it’s unavoidable anymore. My natural inclination to laziness doesn’t help matters much in this regard either, but I just have to remember how much I enjoy how I feel after I’ve worked out to help motivate me to get started again. This back shit is a motivator too; if I can keep my back stretched and strengthen my core, I’ll never lose a week to back pain again.

And so, that is the state of the Gregalicious this morning: hopeful, rested, and hoping the sheer amount of work I am behind on won’t send me into a corner whimpering. I am heading into the spice mines, and I shall see you on the other side, Constant Reader.

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Twist of Fate

It snowed yesterday in New Orleans, and it is still cold today–albeit sunny. I am sitting at my desk this morning wearing fingerless gloves so I can type, a  knit LSU cap on my head, and a blanket wrapped around my legs. I also have to go to Costco at some point today, and I also have to get some things done. Needless to say, a temperature around fifty at my computer doesn’t make that more likely. I may check into space heaters at Costco today–although I may check the attic. There should be another one around here somewhere.

When I got home last night I turned on the heat and cleaned the upstairs, then grabbed a blanket and headed for my easy chair.I stopped reading The Last Picture Show when I got to the bestiality part (which I’d completely forgotten about) and even though there’s an even more important part of the story after the cow-rape (seriously), I just couldn’t pick the book up again. I know I can skip over that part, but honestly. I didn’t remember it, or the relatively nonchalant way McMurtry talked about it in the book–like it’s very common place amongst farm boys (literally, “every farm boy has done it”)–and I don’t know…I still have fond memories of the book, but despite the fact that it’s still really well written, I don’t know if I’m going to keep reading it; although I suppose if I continue reading it as an example of toxic masculinity…and the homophobia in it–what would toxic masculinity be without some good old homophobia?–is also not easy to read; because it’s so casual. 

Then again, that was the thing about the culture back then (it’s set in the 1950’s); the hate was so casual and matter-of-fact. It’s a short book, I may go back to it later today. (And interestingly enough, Larry McMurtry also co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, so there’s that.)

Speaking of homophobia, I was scrolling through HBO Now last night looking for something to watch, and noticed they had American Gigolo available. I had watched that movie only once, years ago on videotape, when a female friend had rented it. I didn’t remember much about it, other than Richard Gere was so incredibly beautiful and at the end Lauren Hutton came through for him at the end, and Blondie’s “Call Me” played over the opening credits and it was criminal that the didn’t at least get an Oscar nomination for Best Song. It should have WON, damn it. It’s a great song and it still holds up today.

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I also remembered that it wasn’t very good.

That memory was correct, but watching it again…so much wasted potential in this movie. It could have been a noir classic.

Gere plays Julian, or Jules, who basically is a gigolo, and not cheap. He works for several different pimps–one a blonde woman with a great beach house, the other a black gay man–but Jules is so in demand and so good at what he does-and let’s face it, Gere smolders. You can see why he catches everyone’s eye when he walks into a room, and no one wears an expensive suit like he does–but he’s also become incredibly arrogant because he is so good. Both of his pimps argue with him about the split on jobs they get for him–but he’s so good he always gets his way, but both warn him that his attitude and ingratitude to them is going to bite him in the ass one day. The gay pimp sets him up with a kinky job in Palm Springs–he has to be abusive to the woman while the husband watches–which makes him incredibly uncomfortable but he does the job well because the pimp tells him they want him back. Jules throws the word ‘fag’ around a lot–“I don’t do fags” etc., which, as someone who is paid for sex, I can certainly see why he would want to be clear on what he does and what he doesn’t, but again–casual homophobia. He meets and falls for Lauren Hutton in a restaurant at a posh hotel, who turns out to be an unhappy politician’s wife. They embark on a secret affair, but she turns out to be his alibi for the night the Palm Springs wife is murdered…and he can’t tell the police about her. This is also kind of where the movie goes off the rails. The crime itself is treated as an afterthought, and Jules being suspected and investigated–and he is being framed–are all secondary to his development as a character; all of this is just a moral lesson for him about being humble and how you shouldn’t treat people badly because they won’t stand by you when you need him, all the while he’s making this incredible noble sacrifice for the woman he loves.

A woman is brutally murdered as a plot point and pivot so Jules can learn humility.

Whoa. And wow.

And even the resolution doesn’t make sense. Turns out the gay pimp pulled off this elaborate ruse and frame just to teach Jules a lesson in humility? I wasn’t really clear on this at the end; it didn’t make sense to  me the first time I watched and it still didn’t make sense this time. The confrontation with the pimp ends with him accidentally knocking him off the balcony, but Jules tries to save him, but he can’t hold him. He falls to his death with Jules literally left holding his boots. He is taken in by the police and arrested, refuses to speak to his lawyer, but then Lauren Hutton comes forward and alibis him for the original murder, because she loves him…and they speak to each other through glass in the prison’s visiting room when she tells him she’s cleared him because she loves him. The end. And my first thought was, well, your alibi isn’t going to do him any good NOW that he’s killed the pimp, even if it was an accident. So you just blew up your own life for no reason because he’s still going to jail.

None of that was resolved. It’s really a shame, because it could have been a great noir classic. And it many ways it is actually a good film, and highly original: it was one of the first movies to ever focus so heavily on male beauty, and Gere is often in underwear or naked (full frontal, at that) or shirtless; the camera lingers over him lovingly the way it previously only did for women; the soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder was excellent and also the first time electronica music was used for a film score; and the entire film is beautifully shot. But the writer/director didn’t see it as a film noir or a crime film; he saw it as a character study with a redemptive arc, and that was where the film fell flat.

Pity.

And now back to the spice mines.