I’m Here, You’re Here

I really have no concept of days and dates anymore. And since my office at the day job is closed and without power–at least thus far; I’ve not checked the Entergy map yet this morning–there’s no telling when I will start remembering the dates and what day of the week it is for the foreseeable future, honestly. I’m sleeping better than I was (anything is better than the powerless sleep of last week)yet my energy reserves still seem to be a little on the low side. Yesterday I hit a wall around five, but pushed through the final hour of work-at-home duties; we’ll see how long my energy lasts today before it starts flagging.

I stopped by Rouse’s yesterday; very picked over and the whole building was condensed to half it’s size; fruits and vegetables moved from their usual section over to where the dairy and bacon is usually stored on the river side of the store–but the bakery was operating and they had bread and milk, which was important, but were low on Cokes and Gatorade, which was a bit disappointing, but to be expected. There’s no telling when the trucks to restock will have the gas to get in or out of the city, so am rather glad we bought some things in Greenville to bring back home. Today I have more things to do at home–we still can’t get into the office, per yesterday (I’ve not checked yet this morning as to whether we can get inside or not, as I already mentioned)–but am worried about running out of things to do at home before we can get back inside the office.

Last night Paul and I caught up on the shows we missed during the evacuation–Ted Lasso, American Horror Story, and Archer–before retiring for the evening; as always with a power outage our a/c is now messed up, with it hovering in the high 60’s/low 80’s upstairs and mid-to-low 60’s downstairs, but seriously, am just so happy cold air is coming out of the vents I don’t even care in the slightest that the thermostats are fucked up again. I was laughing yesterday as I did the last load of power outage/evacuation laundry; my tights were in that load, and I remembered that the thermostats had gone all fucked up before the power outage, so I was wearing layers downstairs because it was so cold. I laughed because of the extremes–one day I am wearing layers downstairs because it’s so cold, the next I am sweating to death and can barely breathe. New Orleans is definitely not for the timid of heart.

Driving around yesterday was weird. There’s still a lot of debris out there being cleaned up, but there’s still a lot that hasn’t been as of yet. The streetcars aren’t operating yet–no idea when they will be rolling again–and it’s rained off and on a lot, which leads to water pooling because most of the catch traps or gutters are blocked with debris. The enormous live oak branches are the ones that make me sad; I hate seeing damage to live oaks, but I’ve only seen one or two of our beautiful trees uprooted and down, so that’s something. It seems like we lost more of them during Katrina than we did during Ida, but that may not be true; it’s just how I see it, and of course, my post-Katrina memories are in the foggy recesses of my brain any way.

And of course, now that I am home, I cannot focus on reading anymore. The Internet came back yesterday, so obviously we have television streaming capabilities again (thank you, Cox), so I was able to get my phone hotspot turned off and can also use my work laptop now to actually do the day job stuff–I try to keep my computers free from other uses; I try not to do dayjob stuff on personal computers and personal stuff on the dayjob computer, although it’s not always possible, frankly.

My plan for this week is to slowly get the apartment and the outside yard/walk under control this week–still debris out there that needs to be picked up–and re-acclimate myself to everything; find the last to-do list and make a new one; keep cleaning and purging things from the apartment; keep making a list of things we need to get to be prepared the next time there’s a storm and/or loss of power (candles being at the top of the list; preferably tapered ones), and just get back on top of things–a near impossible task, really, since I wasn’t on top of everything before Ida came ashore–so I can feel better about everything.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely whatever day of the week it is, Constant Reader–I’m going to guess Wednesday.

Young Hearts Run Free

And here we are on a lovely and quiet and calm Sunday morning; in which I don’t even have to go outside unless I actually want to–and the odds are against that, believe you me.

Well, not entirely true, as nothing is; I’ll have to take out the trash and the recycling at some point, and of course, if I use the grill for burgers today (a Sunday summer tradition; in the fall I switch to Saturdays for LSU games) but other than that, I am staying inside the cool of the Lost Apartment today. Tomorrow I’ll go to the gym (I went yesterday rather than Friday), go to the bank, get the mail and do other errands–it’s lovely having that option with the extra vacation day we received this week–and of course, I am taking Friday off for my birthday. I wasn’t planning on doing so, but then I figured why the hell not? You only turn sixty once.

I told you I decided to lean into the sixty thing. Only four more days of my fifties left!

Yesterday was nice, really. I read for a while yesterday morning (I am loving The Other Black Girl so much), and ran my errands; it was ninety-five degrees but during the day the humidity was low (at least while I was out in it) so it wasn’t as terribly unpleasant as it could easily have been; and then when I got home I walked to the gym. The gym is in the process of a $250,000 renovation–delayed thanks to COVID-19–so working out was interesting; I had to find things as everything was moved around for the arrival of new machines and the putting in of a new floor in the weight room, but over all it was fine; it will be problematic probably on Wednesday night during peak times, so I may change up my work out days this week. But it felt good–as it always should–and afterwards I walked home (it was definitely humid then) and came back to the house and started working around here–cleaning and so forth. I reread some of the Secret Project and spotted the places I am going to need to get fixed up and prepared and so forth; I also worked on “The Sound of Snow Falling” a bit. Was it as highly a productive day as I would like? No, probably not, but I also kept remembering I have nothing to do today other than read, write, clean and organized, so today will be the load-bearing day of the weekend, methinks. I am going to have some breakfast and some more coffee; then I am going to type up the editorial notes I have for the next book, read for a bit, and then I am going to probably write Chapter Four of Chlorine and work on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I may even take some time to start writing emails I won’t send until tomorrow morning–remember, I have a very strict policy on not sending emails on the weekend.

But the nights of good sleep are plentiful, and I feel rested every day when I get up (today I was a lag-a-bed until nine! Just like the last two days! Madness!) and I feel more like myself than I have in a very long time–like there’s been a cloud in my brain that has finally lifted; I know that’s not very clear but that’s the best metaphor I can come up with one cup of coffee so sue me–and while I may not be writing as much as I was, say, last month…I am making definite progress on things and feel very much centered. I do wish I was writing more–but today should get me back into the swing of writing again, and I am very excited to be writing on my new computer–which also accesses files on my laptop, which is amazing (and the obverse is also true). I’m probably going to do some more cleaning and organizing this morning; I really need to get these boxes out from under my desk–I can undoubtedly cram some more things into the filing cabinet, which I will most likely get handled this morning–and I do want to prune the books a bit more, or at least get them better organized. (I’m afraid I’ve been acquiring again, alas.)

I also stopped working yesterday around five expecting Paul to be home soon (not until after eight thirty) and while I waited for him, I decided to give Loki another whirl after the disappointing, almost tedious first episode–and was very glad I did. I got very caught up in the story–which was incredibly smart and clever, with some great surprises and twists. Next thing I knew, I had blown through four or five episodes before Paul got home–which enabled us to watch Ted Lasso (me for the second time) before watching last week’s disturbing episode of American Horror Stories–which is so much better than American Horror Story it’s not even funny. I may have to finish Loki this morning while Paul sleeps, now that I think about it. I can go through my journals and mark the pages with notes for both Chlorine and the other secret project, as well as for the Kansas book.

My, what a busy boy one Gregalicious is these days! But that’s also fine; I don’t really feel any paralysis of oh my god how will I get all this done so why even try; rather, I am making lists and crossing things off, which was how I used to always deal with feeling overwhelmed; accept it, write down everything, and start getting them done. So yes, I think, after I post this i am going to go ahead and make that to-do list, and start getting things done.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. You have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

He’s The Greatest Dancer

Saturday and there’s a lot to get done for me today. What else is new? I slept very well last night, which was as marvelous as I could have hoped; I feel rested and relaxed this morning, despite everything I have to get finished today; it just seems more tiresome than it actually is, if I am going to be completely honest. Time-consuming, more than anything else. Paul has his trainer and then is going to the office for the afternoon, so the coast will be clear around here for me to get as much done as I would like. I replaced my bluetooth speaker system yesterday–it wasn’t playing nice with my new phone for some reason (for that matter, neither is the car’s stereo, but I’ve managed to work around it somehow) and so I can once again listen to music while cleaning the house, which is also very necessary this morning. We also made a Costco trip yesterday after work, and I spent a good portion of my evening rearranging thing so I could get everything put away at long last. I have to run get the mail later, and pick up a few things– a very few things–at the grocery store, so here’s hoping venturing out into the heat won’t strip me of any and all desire to get things done, the way it usually does.

We watched the latest episode of American Horrror Stories–this past week’s episode was a little lower in quality that the preceding ones, but over all, we are enjoying the show. Since each episode is self-contained, they don’t really have the time or opportunity or space to go off the rails the way every episode of American Horror Story inevitably does (not every season, but most of them), and the ones thus far have been pretty enjoyable. Like I said, last night’s didn’t do much for me, but it was an interesting concept and I’ll give them props for it. This series digs into the underlying morality that most horror stories buy into; the moralistic trope that bad people will inevitably punished for their crimes, even if it takes a supernatural force to do it. The show is a throwback to The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents–all of which had a far greater influence on my short story writing than I probably recognize (also, the old horror comics like House of Mystery and The Witching Hour).

I also would like to finish reading The Other Black Girl this weekend, especially now that I have The Turnout by Megan Abbott in my TBR Pile. I am literally itching to get to it; it feels like I’ve been waiting for a new Megan Abbott novel forever–of course, the weird pandemic time thing hasn’t helped in that regard in the least–and there are so many other books I need to get to….*sobs in despair at ever finishing everything*.

And of course, the kitchen and the area around my work-space are a complete disaster area. So I think this morning after I finish this and as I continue to swill coffee, I am going to do some busy work around the kitchen/work space area; and who knows–I may even get organized. PERISH THE THOUGHT. #madness. But I want to get a lot accomplished today so I can get to the gym tomorrow as well as finish writing Chapter Four of Chlorine, and maybe even start writing Chapter Five. I know, crazy, right? I haven’t written hardly anything this past week, which is gnawing at my conscience–but so much was going on this past week I literally felt completely drained when writing time rolled around every day–and I was even too worn down to get to the gym again last week. (So it will be one full week tomorrow when I roll into the gym since the last time I was there–or am I just remembering wrong? My memory is something that simply cannot be trusted anymore…so I am going to say no, I haven’t been to the gym since last Sunday and feel confident that it’s factually true) Shameful. I am going to be doing something new this week; two days of upper body and one day of lower body. Tomorrow will be upper; Tuesday or Wednesday will be lower, and then Thursday or Friday will be upper again. The next step, after a few months of this, is to divide my workouts into even more concentrated body parts: chest and back; arms and shoulders; legs. And if I stick to it–eventually adding the great joy of cardio to it, I should get back into fairly decent shape sooner rather than later.

We shall see, I suppose.

The Olympics conclude this weekend…but I’ve not really been paying much attention to them these last few days; the sports I enjoy watching are already over, and while I enjoy watching track somewhat, at the same time I’m not as vested in it as I am in its water version, swimming. As such, we also watched the Vince Vaughn horror-comedy reboot of Freaky Friday, Freaky, which, while fun, wasn’t as fun as it could have been. I appreciated that Millie’s best friends included an out gay boy–diversity; you can rarely go wrong by including it, and I also am looking forward to the rapidly approaching day where diversity in film and television is so commonplace it doesn’t merit mentioning anymore–and Vince Vaughn was hilarious once their souls had switched bodies (I don’t much care for his politics, but Vaughn is a great comedic actor), but they didn’t lean into it as much as I would have thought–it was one of the movie’s strengths, and there’s a great scene between Vaughn-as-Millie and the boy she has a crush on–but it inevitably ended up being a trifle disappointing and with me thinking about wasted opportunities.

It’s almost like, with all the blockbusters and super-hero movies, Hollywood has forgotten how to make other kinds of pictures.

As I’ve mentioned on social media lately, I am really enjoying writing Chlorine, which is yet another reason having things to do that aren’t writing annoys me so much. I really feel like I’ve found Logan’s voice, and it came to me organically; I wrote my way into his voice rather than trying to determine what it was and trying to write it that way, which of course was a big concern for me. Voice is, to me at any rate, very crucial when it comes to writing; the reader has to feel some connection with the character, and that comes from Voice, really; the reader connects with the character and that starts rooting for him. It’s very important for me to not have Logan bemoan any of the situations he’s in–gay man in a homophobic society, culture, and industry–but rather cynically accept them as his reality, but that reality he accepts is why he doesn’t behave in what could be considered a “moral” way; his life is immoral, so he doesn’t feel bound by the same societal and cultural norms about behavior that others might–as he says in chapter two, “Everything in Hollywood is a lie.” (In fact, just talking and thinking about the book makes me want to finish this and work on it a bit; yes, I actually want to write, can you believe it? That has to be some kind of miracle, and also says something about how committed I am to this book.)

And on that note–if I want to get back to Chlorine, I have all this other stuff I need to get done first, so it’s best that I head into those spice mines and get started. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

Begin Again

While I am not, precisely, starting over again with Bury Me in Shadows, I am in some ways returning to the drawing board; my memory has become more and more useless the older I get, and the daily beating my psyche and consciousness has taken this year hasn’t helped much in that regard. But it’s kind of sad that it’s been so long now–and really, it’s not been much more than a week–that I’ve worked on it that I don’t remember where I was at and what was going on; I don’t even remember what happens next and where the story goes, or even the ending I wrote for it–which is part of the problem with writing a book while having, for want of a better term, pandemic brain. (I don’t think I should blame my faulty, horrific memory completely on the pandemic, but I think I am willing to agree that it has not helped one little bit with my short or long term memory.)

I started reading The Heavenly Table yesterday–Donald Ray Pollack is the author, and he also wrote The Devil All The Time–and it’s really quite well written. He really knows how to hit that rural poverty note, and does it really exceptionally well; like Daniel Woodrell, Ace Atkins, and William Faulkner. As I was reading it, I was remembering those summers in Alabama when I was a kid, and thinking about the way my parents grew up–and how difficult that must have been for them, even though they didn’t know any different. This also put me in mind of things that I may need to put into Bury Me in Shadows, or save for something else; another novella that I’m writing, “A Holler Full of Kudzu”, keeps going through my mind when I am reading this book.

I didn’t do much writing yesterday; I was interviewed yesterday for Brad Shreve’s Gay Mystery Podcast (link to come) and, as always after something like that, when I was finished I felt terribly drained (caffeine rush wearing off, perhaps? Also a possibility) and so I wound up sitting in my chair, reading the Pollack novel and thinking about my various writing projects. we eventually watched this week’s episode of Ted Lasso, which continues to be quite marvelous and lovely, and then started Ryan Murphy’s Ratched. It’s entertaining and beautifully shot; the costumes are amazing, as are the sets and visuals, and it’s reminiscent of the Douglas Sirk film stylings from the 1950’s–and for a state mental hospital, the place is gorgeous and impeccably decorated and sparkling clean. The acting is quite good, but I am really not seeing the connection to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest other than as a clever marketing tie-in to draw viewers in, but other than Sarah Paulsen’s character being a younger Nurse Ratched, there really is no connection. It could have just as easily been another season of American Horror Story, and it does have connections, in some ways, to the afore-mentioned show’s Asylum season: the menacing and dangerous nurse; the aversion to lesbianism; the crazy and criminal doctor using his patients as guinea pigs; the serial killer; and so forth. We’re interested and intrigued enough to keep watching, and it’s also interesting seeing the additions to what I call the Ryan Murphy Repertory Company–the young actor who played Justin on 13 Reasons Why, Charlie Carver, Sharon Stone, and Judy Davis. (I do give Murphy a lot of credit for casting openly gay actors in his series, playing either gay or straight or bisexual men.)

It’s gray and drizzly outside the windows this morning, and it feels very cool here inside the Lost Apartment. I know this is the outer edges of Beta–I’ve not yet had the heart to look the storm up and see where it is and where it is projected to be going this morning so far–I’m just not in the mood to see what new potential destruction and flooding is now possible for somewhere along the Gulf Coast. Yay.

I do want to get some writing done, even if it’s merely the tedium of taking the second half of the book and adjusting it from present tense to past tense (a decision I made between drafts; I was trying present tense to see if it added urgency to the story, and I don’t think it really did, so am switching it back to past, which is something i am more comfortable with anyway. If it worked the way I had wanted I would have left it that way, but it really didn’t, and so I am changing it back) so that they are more ready for the revising. I would love more than anything to maybe get two or three chapters revised–but I also need to go back and add at least one scene to the chapters I’ve already got done; a scene I put off until later in the book because I wasn’t completely sure how to deal with it earlier. (I also need to reread the stuff that’s already been revised, so I can remember where I am at and what needs to be done with the next revisions; again, as I said before, the problem with allowing one’s self to procrastinate writing for as long as I have is you forget what you’re writing, which is terrifying) But I intend to be as productive today as I can be, and I feel confident, which I haven’t in quite some time. Not sure what that’s about, but I am going to ride that wave as long as I can.

I’m also setting a goal of a short story per week; both reading one and writing/finishing one. This week’s short story to finish is one I started a while back called “Please Die Soon,” which is a Rear Window/Sorry Wrong Number type pastiche; is there anything more terrifying than being bedridden and beginning to suspect the people trusted with caring for you are actually trying to kill you? It’s a terrific title, and I know exactly how I want the story to work, but I’ve never had a lot of confidence in my ability to actually get it written properly. As I said the other day, I really want to get some more short stories out there to markets–you can’t sell if you don’t submit–and I’ve also began to understand that some of my stories aren’t really crime stories/mysteries; which makes finding markets for them even harder. “Burning Crosses” isn’t really a crime story–even if it’s about two college students looking into a lynching from sixty or so years ago–and it might make some markets deeply uncomfortable. Hell, it makes me uncomfortable–I question whether I should even be writing this type of story about racism, but I also need to stop second guessing myself. If I don’t do a good job of it, then the story isn’t any good, and I think the point that I am making with it–the cowardly discomfort white people experience when confronted with past racism–is a valid one. It’s most definitely not a white savior story, for sure–which is something I definitely don’t ever want to write.

There are already plenty of those stories already in print.

The trick is, as always, going to be focus, which has always been my mortal enemy.

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

Galveston

So here we are, on yet another Tuesday morning. Yesterday wasn’t a complete loss for me; I was very tired after going out and getting myself tested in the morning, so I came home and decided to take a “Greg Day”; no emails, no work,  and as little social media as possible. Easier said than done, of course, but you know–that’s how the ball bounces sometimes. I did get further into my reread of Ammie, Come Home (I always forget the damned comma in the title) by Barbara Michaels–one of the best Gothic ghost stories ever published, even if a little dated today–and I read a few chapters of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror–the 14th century is my second favorite century, behind the 16th–and when my brain couldn’t focus to read, I watched some videos on Youtube that sent me into yet another wormhole, this one of videos about American Horror Story.

In my defense, it started with a video about Jessica Lange’s roles on the show, which led to Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe, and…you get the picture.

And then, of course, ESPN replayed that particular Monday night football game from back in September, 2006. That warm night when the Saints played their first home game since the 2004 season. A year after Katrina, when the roof came off the Superdome and people died and still others were trapped there for days. When the city was almost completely destroyed, its economy gone, her people scattered. Our futures were uncertain that bleak fall of 2005, and even throughout 2006, with our abbreviated Mardi Gras and frustratingly slow, it seemed, recovery. We’d almost lost the Saints to San Antonio when the city drowned, but they’d stayed–and the true hero of that was Tagliabue at the NFL, not Tom Benson–and now the Superdome, long a symbol of the city and now a monument to its worst moments, was ready to reopen and create a new identity for itself, just as the city was seeking to be reborn, just as those who lived here were waiting for hope. I remember that day in the city–I knew the Saints were winning but I was busy; the Lost Apartment was still lost and still wouldn’t be finished for another two months. All we had was a tiny old black and white portable television in the carriage house, whose carpet had been ripped up to be replaced but hadn’t yet so there were carpet tacks sticking up out of the bare, scarred exposed wood. We were sleeping on a mattress on top of a box spring on the floor. Paul’s desk and computer were set up in one corner of the room, the staircase and railing took up another side and the little television, which was rarely watched, sat on top of a dresser. I ran errands that day and sensed something in the air–I knew the Saints were winning games but wasn’t paying attention because I was busy trying to make a living and keep myself to the very strict schedule I had to follow in order to have the slightest chance of getting anything done. But i could feel it when I went out to the car, in the air. People were wearing Saints jerseys, or at least black and gold, everywhere I looked. Saints flags were flying on the front of houses (we take flags seriously in New Orleans). Everyone was in Saints gear–the post office, the grocery store, Walgreens, everywhere–and when I got home I looked it up on-line: yup, the Superdome was reopening for Monday Night Football, and we were playing the hated Falcons. Paul and I watched on that little black and white television, screaming and cheering and getting a little teary eyed.  It gave us something we hadn’t had in a long time–hope. They called the game both “ReBirth” and “Domecoming”; both fit.

And while the Saints had always been our team before, that night they became OUR TEAM. Even New Orleanians who weren’t football fans became Saints fans that night. And the sheer joy with which the team played that night was so apparent, and so obvious, and they made it so clear they were doing it for the city…I’ve rarely felt so connected with a football team the way I did with that 2006 Saints team.

As glorious as winning the Super Bowl was, I have to say I think the Domecoming game was probably the greatest moment in Saints history.

Watching the game last night during another social and societal upheaval–one that is affecting the entire world and not just us this time–reminded me of that feeling. Tears spilled out of my eyes once again as Steve Gleason blocked that punt and the Dome erupted; listening to that crowd, seeing their faces and the tears of joy on their faces…having something like the Saints to cheer for, to help us through the hard times, and to give us hope again for the first time since Katrina crossed southern Florida…it’s hard to explain that, I guess.

Try to imagine what it’s going to be like when we have sports again–or the first time you can go out to a restaurant again, or what it’s like to be free of this worry and burden and fear…heady stuff, frankly.

And now…now I am feeling tired again, so I am going to go lie down for a bit. Stay safe, everyone.

Evans1

Come Go with Me

I’ve always enjoyed horror as a genre, both in film and in novels. One of the greatest joys of the last decade or so has been the rise of horror television, with terrific shows like American Horror Story (despite its many flaws), The Exorcist, Castle Rock, and so many others. I suppose even The Walking Dead sort of counts as a horror program.

I do not consider myself to be anything more than a horror fan, frankly; I am not an expert, I’ve not read (or watched) everything, I’ve never done any comprehensive studying of the genre. I don’t know what are tropes or stereotypes or what-may-have-you, unless they are so obvious it’s like being hit in the head with a baseball bat. The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favorite novels; Stephen King is one of my favorite writers; I could watch all four Scream movies a million times without ever getting bored or not being entertained–I even enjoyed the MTV television series called Scream, which had nothing to do with the films.

I know so little about the genre that I’m not even sure of the sub-genres contained within; I could write pages about the sub-genres in crime fiction, but horror? I’d be hard-pressed to even name them.

I’ve written two vampire novellas (“The Nightwatchers” and “Blood on the Moon”) and an entire gay erotic vampire novel (Need), and a ghost story novel (Lake Thirteen) and a monster novel (Sara), and I suppose Sorceress would be considered gothic horror–I certainly followed the blueprint for Gothic novels with that one, which was kind of the point. And while there are any number of horror short stories in the files, as well as aborted novels, I’ve never really had much luck in publishing horror. Crime is the genre I know best, and you should always, as they say, write what you know; I always fear my horror attempts are ridiculously derivative of Stephen King–but then again, steal from the best.

I also don’t have a much time to read as I would like, and as such, I tend to primarily read within the crime genre, branching out into horror only occasionally–writers like Bracken MacLeod, Paul Tremblay, Christopher Golden, Michael Rowe, and some others spring to mind–and the pile of unread horror in the TBR stacks continues to grow, it seems, by leaps and bounds every year as I never seem to get around to reading any of them.

But this year, as I’ve noted, I’ve made a conscious effort to read more diverse writers, and the end result of that has been me finding any number of terrific writers I might not have read had I not made an effort, had I allowed myself to continue with the ease of white privilege and simply reading other white writers.

I only regret not making the effort sooner.

certain dark things

Collecting garbage sharpens the senses. It allows us to notice what others do not see. Where most people would spy a pile of junk, the rag-and-bone man sees treasure: empty bottles that might be dragged to the recycling center, computer innards that can be reused, furniture in decent shape. The garbage collector is alert. After all, this is a profession.

Domingo was always looking for garbage and he was always looking at people. It was his hobby. The people were, not the garbage. He would walk around Mexico City in his long, yellow plastic jacket with its dozen pockets, head bobbed down, peeking up to stare at a random passerby.

Domingo tossed a bottle into a plastic bag, then paused to observe the patrons eating at a restaurant. He gazed at the maids as they rose with the dawn and purchased bread at the bakery. He saw the people with the shiny cars zoom by and the people without any cash jump onto the back of the bus, hanging with their nails and their grit to the metallic shell of the moving vehicle.

I’m not sure where I first heard of Silvia Moreno-Garcia; I am friends with members of the horror writing community on social media, and we have friends in common; so I am sure I heard of this book first from one of our mutual friends on Facebook (I have also purchased her next novel, Gods of Jade and Shadow). I decided, as always, to read horror in celebration of Halloween; alas, illness and being overly busy has limited my reading lately, and as such, outside of my annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House, the only horror I was able to squeeze into October was Certain Dark Things, and this is not, by any means, to be seen as any kind of judgment of Ms. Moreno-Garcia’s consummate skill as a storyteller; this has everything to do with me being tired, ill, and unable to focus as a result. Those moments when I was able to focus was when I was able to read this book; and it is, quite frankly, a pleasure and a treasure.

Certain Dark Things is set in a Mexico City that teems with ugliness, darkness, poverty and corruption. As I read the descriptions of the city, I couldn’t help but think damn I bet she could write some brilliant noir set in this version of Mexico City–like I said, my mind always reverts to crime fiction–but this Mexico City, this world Moreno-Garcia has created, is steeped in reality and actual Mexican history–of which I know some, but not nearly enough (my interest in history is colored by, sadly, the white supremacy of American educational systems; focused primarily on the United States and Europe, with some Egyptian thrown in for good measure).

Moreno-Garcia also throws everything anyone who’s ever read about vampires into question from the absolute beginning of the book: perhaps because of Stoker’s Dracula, and every film/television adaptation of some form of it ever since, I have a tendency to always think of vampires as being eastern European/Transylvanian in origin; almost every vampire novel or story I’ve read has been almost entirely white. I myself, when writing my own little vampire stories, fell victim to these same tropes (although I did have Creole witches, which upon new reflection is also kind of problematic). So Certain Dark Things also opened my mind; why would supernatural/paranormal creatures always be white? Are there no supernatural/paranormal creatures or beings from other, non-white cultures?

There are two main characters in the novel: Atl, the female vampire, descended from a long line of vampires going back to Aztec days (and not your typical, Transylvanian vampire, either), and Domingo, a poor young man of the streets who sorts through garbage looking for things to sell to support himself. In this world, there is, like in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, an awareness that vampires and other creatures like them exist; so Domingo isn’t as terrified when he encounters Atl as he might be, were their reality still in question. Domingo is drawn to Atl, wants to help her and be with her, but it’s not in a romantic way, nor is it a product of being “glamoured” (as Harris called it in her work), either; it’s more along the lines of Atl being the first person to truly see Domingo, and appreciate him, and recognize his humanity despite being of the streets.

And that’s very powerful.

Atl herself is on the run. In this new world Moreno-Garcia has created, Mexico City is an independent city-state where vampires aren’t permitted; she has run there after the annihilation of her clan of vampires in north Mexico. She is on the run and needs to get out of Mexico completely; she has run to the city to hide and to try to find the means to get out of the country. There are many different kinds of vampires in this world; with different abilities and different powers.

There’s a third character, Ana Aguirre, a single mother who works as a police detective in the city, dealing with corruption and sexism every single day, not taken seriously by her superiors, and trying to do whatever she can to ensure a good future for her daughter. Ana is also a strong character, defined and complex; her inner struggle over her own integrity warring with what is the best thing to do for her daughter is masterfully described, and very relatable.

I’d read an entire series about Ana Aguirre in this world, frankly.

Moreno-Garcia doesn’t over-explain this world, either; but somehow, with sparsity of description and a minimal approach to the past few decades that changed the world as we now know it, she manages to create an entire world that is completely believable and easy to become immersed in. The story moves quickly, the characters growing more depth from each experience they have, and it’s all too soon over.

I would love to read more books about Atl and her world; I’d love to read more of Moreno-Garcia’s work.

This is a truly terrific work. I highly recommend it.

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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