Beauty and the Beast

Thursday and the work week approaches its end.

Yesterday was Payday, or rather, Pay the Bills Day, which is always an odious chore. Ironically, the one bill I never mind paying is my car payment; don’t get me wrong, I deeply hate making that payment every month, but I love having a newer car (I guess I can’t really call it new anymore) with all of the lovely bells and whistles and the ability to not worry every time I get in the car if it’s going to break down–not that I don’t always worry about that, it’s just not as present as it was in the Buick.

I have to say, American Horror Story has been a rollercoaster for me to watch over its many seasons; some seasons–“Murder House,” “Cult”–are fantastic, others a little disappointing, others such an enormous mess that I never bothered to finish watching. This season, “Apocalypse,” has been teetering on the edge of probably one more episode and I’m done. The storytelling has just been all over the map; the performances have been entertaining, and the first episode’s opening was pretty intense…but most of the time I’ve just been sitting in my easy chair, rolling my eyes and saying really? This makes no sense. But this week…they returned to “Murder House,” along with Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and most importantly, JESSICA FUCKING LANGE, and the episode was amazing. It also firmly reestablished in my mind that 1) “Murder House” was, by far and away, the best season of the show; and 2) I don’t care what you have to pay her, Jessica Lange is worth every penny and needs to come back once and for all. If she doesn’t get an Emmy for last night’s episode, they need to stop giving them out. Period. The episode was also directed by Sarah Paulson, had some extraordinarily beautiful shots, and wrapped up so much of the “Murder House” story…it may have been my favorite episode of American Horror Story ever.

My own writing continues apace; I worked on the Scotty revision a bit more last night, and I am also thinking about how to structure the final revision of the WIP; I also tried to work a bit on my short story “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which is going to be the lead off story in Monsters of New Orleans. I still plan on writing Bury Me in Satin next; my mind is currently swimming in ideas and thoughts and plans. The fact that my sleep schedule has become somewhat consistent at long last is an enormous help in that regard; it makes a huge difference when you feel rested every day.

I’m also looking forward, with a little trepidation, to LSU’s game with Mississippi State on Saturday evening. One of the lovely things I’ve noted about switching from cable to Hulu Streaming Live TV is that I don’t spend all day Saturday in my easy chair watching college football games all day; I literally used to spend the entire day with my eyes glued to the television watching games that don’t matter to me in the least, usually, to be fair to myself, while I was reading a book or scribbling notes. I don’t do that anymore; not that Hulu TV isn’t easy to negotiate–it is, just in a different way than cable was–but the beauty of Hulu TV is that what tyranny cable television had left on me has been broken; case in point–last night’s American Horror Story episode. It is one of the few shows that Paul and I would make a point of watching live as it aired; Paul had a board meeting last night and didn’t get home until about nine fifteen; fifteen minutes after it had started. But because Hulu TV sort of works as a kind of DVR, I could queue it up and it started at the beginning. This is marvelous, and now it’s weird to think that we ever scheduled our lives around the airdate and time of some television show. This means I don’t ever have to rush home from work, or think rats, can’t stop at Rouses on the way home because our show is starting.

This was amazingly helpful during this last season of Real Housewives of New York.

And now I am going to jump back into the spice mines for a bit before I head into the office. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Dancing on the Ceiling

So, yesterday I managed to finish the afterward to the short story collection; worked on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit (also figured out the rest of the story, crucial!); decided on the story I am going to revise/rewrite to submit to Cemetery Dance; did some thinking about the Scotty book and where to go with it next; and continued the copy editing of Bourbon Street Blues.  I am about a quarter of the way through with this; hoping to have it finished by the end of the month so I can get the ebook/print-on-demand up before the end of summer. The book has been too long out of print, and by the way, I fucking love the new cover I got for it and the new one for Jackson Square Jazz.

I’m having some seriously terrific luck with covers this year, methinks.

So, I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked this weekend but again, progress, which is everything. As long as I am moving forward, I celebrate the win because staying in place is a loss.

Last night, I started watching the new Ryan Murphy series, Pose, and was most impressed with it. I still have not watched the Versace season of American Crime Story, but that’s on my ‘to-watch’ list. The thing with Murphy is that his series are so frequently hit-and-miss. Often they start out fantastic (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and then go south; the uneven quality of pretty much every season of American Horror Story is legendary. So, I am not holding out much hope that Pose won’t derail; but at the moment it’s high-quality, riveting television; taking us back to those awful days of the late 1980’s and shining a spotlight on queers of color, which doesn’t happen very often–and especially, the transwomen and drag queens, who rarely get to see themselves on television or in the movies. Having the show set during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis was also a brilliant move; there was, I think, a tendency in the late 90’s and ever since, for queer publishing to shy away from HIV/AIDS; it enveloped so much of queer writing for so long…and I’m thinking that it might be time for us to start addressing it again.

HIV/AIDS plays a part in “Never Kiss a Stranger” and in “The Feast of St. Expedite” (the story I started writing last week); both are set in New Orleans in 1994 and you simply can’t write about gay men and the gay male community in that time and not have it be a part of the story in some way. The question of whether I am handling it properly or not remains to be seen…but I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past lately, and it’s been kind of fun.

I had gotten tired of most of my iTunes playlists last week and then remembered, duh, the new car has an actual CD player in it; you can listen to some of your CD’s. This thought led me to browsing through our CD tower–yes, we still have one, and yes, it’s covered in dust–and discovering a lot of great music that I don’t have in digital form and haven’t listened to in a long time. I found a lot of dance music mix CD’s, including Deborah Cox: The Remixes and so every time I get in my car I’ve been listening to old gay dance music. I even was playing some of them while I was cleaning the house on Sunday (the only CD players in the house are in the computers), and yes, I’d forgotten how much easier dance music makes cleaning (note to self: always play dance CD’s in the computer when cleaning).

In the car this morning I was listening to a Pride 2001 CD, and a song come on called “Movin’ Up” (I think) and without even realizing it I was singing along with it and this lyric popped up: I take my problems to the dance floor. and I was flooded with memories. I remember someone in the bars back then had a T-shirt that said this, and although I don’t remember his name, he was around a lot back in those days and he always had a great time on the dance floor; and I enjoyed watching the joy and sheer abandon with which he danced.

I do kind of miss dancing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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What About Me

It is fall in New Orleans, and the light has changed. Summer is a brutal season here, and it is easy to wonder, as you bake in the sun and get drenched in sweat from the thick humidity, why on earth you ever thought you could live here. Then fall comes, and you remember; the extreme heat and thick humidity are gone and the light is just spectacular. The blue of the sky is simply stunning, like the Mediterranean Sea where it’s shallow, and the sunlight itself, softened and not quite as harsh after the shifting of the earth on its axis, bathes everything with a gorgeous glow.

I am off to Thibodeaux today, to do testing at Nicholls State University this afternoon with some of my co-workers. I’ve never actually been there before; I’ve never explored Louisiana south of the city–now that I have a new car, once football season is over I am going to rectify that by not only exploring more of New Orleans but more of Louisiana as well. I printed out Bourbon Street Blues last night preparatory to doing a copy edit and some tweaks to the story; it is still firmly fixed in 2004 so I won’t be updating some things that I don’t think should be changed: Scotty still won’t have a computer nor a cell phone, and will still be a a bit of Luddite when it comes to the Internet (he still is, but not to the degree he was when we first met him). It’s pretty amazing to realize how much technology has changed since the book was first written, back in 2001-2002. It’s also going to be kind of fun to go back to Scotty’s roots, as it were, and reacquaint myself not only with his origins but who he was when I first created him.

That can only help me write the new one, you know?

I also found the original electronic draft of the short story I started rewriting this week, but the whole story isn’t there. I don’t know if I ever wrote the entire first draft, or if I just did so in my head. I was pretty certain I’d written the entire thing, so I might have to go digging through the files this weekend to see if I can find it. I am off tomorrow, which is lovely, and Saturday as well. I am now reading Anna Dressed In Blood, by Kendare Blake. I’m enjoying it so far; a y/a reviewer compared my book Sara to it, so I thought I should read it, and am finally now getting around to it. I’m toying with the idea of another paranormal y/a with a gay main character, and so it’s kind of nice to see what other stuff is out there as well.

We got caught up on American Horror Story last night; although the stupid FX app skipped last week’s episode, so we were a bit lost, but after we finished we didn’t see any reason to go back and watch the previous one–although apparently there was a hot sex scene with Billy Eichner and Colton Haynes. Meh, don’t care enough; maybe this weekend.

So, I should probably dive back into the spice mines this morning before I leave for work. For Throwback Thursday, here’s the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues.

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Truly

Tuesday! I made it through Monday. I also managed to get a big hunk of edits input into the manuscript, which means I am on the downward slope to getting that finished. I am most likely going to put aside working on Scotty until the edits are finished, now that I’m in a groove, and am very pleased, I must say. I would love to have this done by the weekend, so I can let it sit for another week while I work on Scotty; but I don’t know; that’s going to depend on two things: motivation and energy.

We’ll see how that turns out, won’t we?

Heavy sigh.

I am debating on whether I want to reread It. I bought it the day it was released, back in 1986 (as I have done with everything Stephen King has published since Different Seasons,  and I read it over the course of two days. (I binge-read King’s novels back then; each as they came out, on the day they were released; a habit I have sadly fallen out of.) I also used to reread King novels many times; I can’t count how many times I’ve reread, for example, The Stand, The Dead Zone, ‘salem’s Lot, etc. I still will reread one of those earlier novels on occasion; but I’ve never reread It, though, and I’m not sure why. I think I got out of the habit of rereading King sometime in the mid-1990’s; and what I wouldn’t give for the time to sit down and reread them all, beginning with Carrie and working my way through the most recent. But now that a new film version of It is out, and breaking records, and getting much critical acclaim; it may be time to reread the Big Novel. I loved It the first time, cherishing the characters more so than the story, which did terrify me; but I vaguely remember not liking the ending; which was a first for me with King.

I do love Stephen King, both as a person and as a writer; granted, what I know of him as a person is confined to news reports of things he does, and his Twitter account; plus, I did get to meet him at the Edgars several years ago, which was one of the biggest thrills of my life. It’s hard to describe what King’s work has meant to me; how it’s inspired me as a writer, and pushed me to not only find my own voice as a writer but made me want to figure out how to create characters that, no matter how bad they might be or how awful the things they do, the reader can find some sympathy for. His On Writing is the book I always recommend to beginning writers as a place to start learning to write, and ‘salem’s Lot (with Needful Things running right behind it) is one of the best novels about a small town, and small town life, I’ve ever read. “The Body” is one of my favorite novellas, if not the favorite; and of course the film version, Stand by Me, is one of my favorite films. His uncanny eye for human behavior, his insights into character that are so honest and real and true, are what make the books so damned brilliant for me.

We watched the first episode of American Horror Story: Cult last night as well; it was an excellent start to the season. But that doesn’t mean the show won’t go off the rails as it continues to unfold; it seems like it almost always does. And without the anchor of Jessica Lange giving a balls-out performance at the center, the post-Jessica seasons tend to lose my interest along the way. We never finished watching Hotel, but we did finish the mess that was Roanoke. As Halloween approaches–it’s certainly has felt more like fall around here since Labor Day, with temperatures in the low seventies and no humidity–my mind is turning more and more to reading horror; it’s almost time for my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House, and I do have some other horror in my TBR pile I’d like to get through. I promised Katrina Holm I’d read Michael MacDowell’s The Elementals before Bouchercon so we could drink martinis and discuss it; I’ve got some unread Nick Cutter on my shelves, as well as some other things from ChiZine Press (which never disappoints), and there are some Stephen King novels in my collection I’ve yet to read. I also want to reread Peter Straub’s Ghost Story and Floating Dragon; as I said the other day, a horror novel I’ve been thinking about for about thirty years has been percolating in my frontal lobes the last week or so–I finally realized where I could set it, where it would make sense, as opposed to where I’d stubbornly been wanting to set it, where it wouldn’t work so I’ve never been able to write it–and I may start sketching some ideas for it.

And on that note, these edits aren’t going to input themselves.

Here’s a hunk for you, Constant Reader, Eddie Cibrian, in his underwear:

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The Night Chicago Died

One of the most enjoyable developments of the last ten years or so (maybe longer) has been the resurgence of horror television. I am not knowledgeable enough about the television history–I don’t really pay nearly as much attention to the entertainment industry as I used to; and I often find shows long after everyone else does. My memory, which used to be sharp as a razor, is quite a bit duller than it used to be. The embrace of horror themes and stories by television networks is something I endorse (crime has long been a mainstay of the networks); I am greatly enjoying The Exorcist, gave up on both Scream and Scream Queens during their first seasons, never finished watching Damien (which was cancelled after season one)…and then there’s American Horror Story.

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To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with the show.

Paul and I are both huge fans of Jessica Lange, so we were tempted to watch for that reason; we both enjoy horror (Paul was the one who got me to watch not only the Halloween movies but the Scream ones as well). But we rarely watch television when it airs; our schedules don’t permit us to watch things regularly week by week. For years we simply waited for them to come on to Netflix and then would binge-watch; it was before Season 2, Asylum, began airing that I got a DVR so we could record the shows–back in the days of VCR’s we used to record shows all the time. So, as Asylum aired, we were also watching Murder House from Netflix on disc at the same time.

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The acting was fantastic; Jessica Lange was, as always, amazing. But my biggest fear about the show–Ryan Murphy as show-runner–too often proved to be true. It has been my experience that Murphy is a great ideas guy, but those ideas don’t often pan out into a long-term running show; Glee being the classic example. But I thought the anthology nature of this show–each season being a self-contained story, and using an ensemble cast–might work. Murder House was terrific, and of all the seasons, the most cohesive in terms of story-telling. Asylum was all over the place; after an amazing beginning in which Adam Levine died in a most horrible fashion, the show seemed more concerned with cramming in as many horror tropes as possible within the season: Aliens! Serial killers! Nazis! Biological experiments creating bizarre things! Demonic possession! And on and on and on. Paul and I soon lost track of the story and were just watching for the acting. We never did watch the season finale. But it did give us the wonder that was Jessica Lange singing “The Name Game”; Lily Rabe’s brilliance as the possessed nun; and Sarah Paulsen, after playing a small part in season one, getting a chance to truly exercise her acting ability as Lana, the reporter who winds up involuntarily committed.

My favorite season, though, is Coven.

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It was set in New Orleans, for one thing, and beautifully shot; it was almost a New Orleans travelogue. Kathy Bates was added to the cast, as was Angela Bassett; it was about witchcraft and a school for witches…and one of the girls was obsessed with Stevie Nicks, who even made two guest appearances on the show, but her music threaded through the entire season.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks - Episode 310 (Airs Wednesday, January 8, 10:00 PM e/p) --Pictured: (L-R) Lily Rabe as Misty Day, Stevie Nicks as herself -- CR. Michele K. Short/FX

Miss Robicheaux’ School for Girls was even in my neighborhood.

But again, the writing was incredibly uneven and often times the story didn’t make any sense. The acting was terrific, though, and the visuals absolutely stunning. I even wrote a piece about how watching Coven for the Criminal Element website about how the show reminded me of why I fell in love with this crazy city in the first place.

The <i>Freak Show</i> season was again unevenly written, and this time the acting–the way the characters were written and so forth, wasn’t strong enough to really carry the show. It was also filmed here, with New Orleans standing in for Jupiter, Florida; the Mott mansion, for example, was Longue Vue. And Hotel was such a mess that we didn’t ever watch the season finale, like Asylum. We are watching the new season, Roanoke, and were very close to stopping watching until the big twist in episode 6–Murphy had hinted in interviews the show would flip, and so we decided to stick it out until then. But after the big flip–which was incredibly clever–it seems like the writing is going off the tracks again.

There have been amazing moments on the show, though.

I am curious to see where this season goes.

And now back to the spice mines.