Tears in Heaven

Friday, and this slightly odd, off-kilter week is finally coming to an end.

 I slept deeply and well last night, but am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Because of the flea situation, I spent most of yesterday laundering things and cleaning and vacuuming, so the weekend’s chores are already finished before the weekend rolls around, which is absolutely lovely; and also means that, if I am feeling ambitious, I can do more advanced cleaning; i.e. the cleaning I never get to because I only have time for a surface clean–so baseboards, cabinets, ceiling fans, etc–can be gotten to this weekend.

I am still revising “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” which I hope to read aloud this weekend and thus be finally finished with the story. I am pleased with how the revision is going; how the story and the character are taking shape on my computer screen; we shall see how it turns out. I also want to finish a strong revision/read-aloud of “This Thing of Darkness,” and I also want to work on “Please Die Soon” and maybe even get back to “Never Kiss a Stranger” this weekend. “Never Kiss a Stranger” is longer; it’s going to end up as a Kindle single, which is the entire point of writing it, and it’s terribly freeing to not have that word limit that limit short stories. I am also working my way through the manuscript of Royal Street Reveillon, and may even get to work on inputting edits and revisions and changes this weekend.

We shall see.

Next up in Florida Happens is a lovely story called “Muscle Memory,” by Angel Luis Colon.

Angel Luis Colón is a Derringer and Anthony Award shortlisted author. His published works include the titles: Pull & Pray,  No Happy Endings, the BLACKY JAGUAR series of novellas, the short story anthology; Meat City on Fire (And Other Assorted Debacles), and the upcoming Hell Chose Me(2019).

His short fiction has appeared in multiple web and print publications including Thuglit, Literary Orphans, and Great Jones Street. He also hosts the podcast, the bastard title.

Keep up with him on Twitter via @GoshDarnMyLife

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You don’t like it.” Katie gives me this look I’d swear her mother used to give me whenever I lied but it’s been so many years that a passing glance could evoke the same memory.

Got a laundry list of reasons why I don’t like it here but I keep my mouth shut. I’m sitting on a bed that reeks of old piss and medicine—room’s about the size of a nice bathroom, so it makes sense. Better than a jail cell but not much better. I don’t feel this old. I don’t like Florida.

Single window behind me with faded curtains. Laminate floor. Don’t think there’s a word for the color but if depression had a color, this floor would suffice. Wood panel walls. Framed photographs of people I love without me in them. I shift on the bed. Back hurts. Knees hurt. Head hurts. All the pills I take and not a one seems to dull things enough for me to focus.

I raise a hand and find myself wondering if I always so slow or if my perception’s fucked from the new pills. “It’s fine,” I slur, “Besides, this is where I sleep. They got a bunch of tables and shit out there where I can occupy myself.”

Katie frowns. “I tried to find a spot at the nicer place a few miles up the highway, you know, by the girls’ school. They—”

“Muscle Memory” is, as I said, a lovely story that deals with several issues, but never in a preachy way. The main character is Sean Clarke, a former criminal who did some time for manslaughter, whose wife is dead and is now reaching the end of his life. His daughter Katie has found a senior facility for him to live in, where he befriends an old gay man named Manny and he spends times missing his daughter and granddaughters and wishing life had turned out better for him–but there’s a weary acceptance there. Something is going on with Manny, and Sean is the only one who can do anything about it–or thinks he is. Poignant and sad without crossing into sappy sentimentalism, Colon captures Sean’s voice perfectly. I’d actually like to read more about him, to be honest.

And now back to the spice mines.

Dance Hall Days

Sunday! I have a panel and a signing at Comic Con today; the Saints have a play-off game, and the Golden Globes are tonight…and sometime today the Olympic ice dancing finals are also airing. Madness! Usually my Sundays are a lot more mellow than this. I did manage to get a lot done yesterday; cleaning and organizing and laundry and filing and even some brainstorming. I am definitely going to be hitting the ground running this week; it’s so lovely to finally feel 100% me again, stupid flu or whatever it was I had.

So, this morning I need to do some more cleaning, am going to do some more brainstorming and perhaps an edit on a story, work on the new Scotty outline, and do some other editing before it’s time to get ready to head down to the Convention Center. Damn it, I also have to copy edit that damn file of Bourbon Street Blues, too, don’t I? Sigh. My work is never done.

And the Scotty Bible. Heavy heaving sigh.

I also read another short story yesterday, Angel Luis Colon’s “My Heart Died on Blackrock Avenue.”

meat city on fire

I’ll never forget my first fight.

And I mean a real fight, not the random tussles with my brothers or cousins. I’m talking a knuckle-busting, lip-splitting, eye-swelling fight. The kind of fight where you go savage and the world’s pure fire, where there’s no concern about whether your punches connect or if they’re going to do permanent damage. A real street fight–drawn blood, scrapes and cuts you find later, and that taste at the back of your throat, as if you’d been chowing on pennies all day long. The kind of fight a person with more brains than heart knows to avoid.

Obviously, my first fight was over a girl–surprise, surprise.

I met Angel in Toronto at this year’s Bouchercon; as is usual with the business, we have a lot of mutual friends. And then he wrote this brilliant piece for Medium, and I thought to myself, I need to read this guy, so I ordered his collection Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles.

Wow.

I said when I posted about Sue Grafton that she was the writer who brought me back to the crime genre; the stuff that was getting published in the 1970’s and early 1980’s that I was reading held no interest for me; I hadn’t heard the term toxic masculinity yet, but that was primarily what turned me off to crime fiction at the time. To this day, I still have trouble reading some male authors for that very reason; I’m just not interested in reading any more books about the tough, tragic, closed-off man who drinks himself into oblivion because the love of his life is dead, or he’s obsessed with some dead, beautiful woman that makes him reflect on life and the harsh, cold, cruel world in which we live. No thank you. This trope also pops up in what’s called ‘literary fiction’ as well; it’s hard for me to identify with, or care about, these kinds of characters; the plight of the straight white man simply doesn’t interest me that much. Does that mean I’m prejudiced? Maybe.

It’s something I can live with.

So, as I started reading Angel’s first story in this collection, I winced a little bit inwardly. Great, I thought, here we go again with the tough-guy stuff. But the story–which isn’t a crime story at all, I might add–isn’t that; it’s actually fantastic, to be honest. There are so many truths, and so much honesty, in this story that it’s almost painful to read, to digest, to think about. I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, as the main character in this story did, but I grew up in the working class neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, where casual racism not only existed but simmered; where prejudice wasn’t just about the color of one’s skin but also about religion and your ethnicity; if you were a Pole or a Slav, etc. Violence was always just there under the surface, and this story took me back to that neighborhood, the innocence of childhood and learning about the cold, cruel world out there. It’s a truly terrific story, and I encourage everyone to read Angel’s collection, or one of his novels.

I’m really looking forward to reading more of his work myself.