1963

And now it’s Saturday. It’s still cold in New Orleans and we still don’t have any heat but it’s not as bad as Texas by any means, and we never lost either power or water pressure. So far we haven’t had a rolling blackout, either–although they were threatened. I spent most of yesterday unpacking and repacking condom packs, while watching history videos on Youtube, done by a local New Orleanian–someone I do not know–correcting revisionist history; it began with his lengthy video on the Confederate propaganda movie Gods and Generals–which I have never seen; I tend to avoid Civil War films because they are all-too frequently Lost Cause narratives at best or defenses of white supremacy at worst–even the ones that don’t center Confederate stories. I have no desire to see either. I was raised on the Lost Cause false-narrative, and I am still kind of bitter about being taught false narratives as truth as a child. I also resent having had to spend so much of my adult life correcting everything I learned that was wrong and/or incorrect; relearning American history without the rose-colored glasses of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny firmly placed on my nose and eyes.

Writing Bury Me in Shadows, methinks, is in some ways for me kind of a reckoning with that “heritage.”

The cold is going to continue through this weekend, but tomorrow is supposed to be relatively normal late winter weather for New Orleans. It will be nice to get back to normal. It’s currently forty degrees and sunny outside, and I’ll take it, thank you very much.

Today I am going to spend most of the day rereading and revising my manuscript. I want to be able to get through the entire thing in one sitting–this way I can catch most of the repetition, and I am going to also be starting to sprinkle the new stuff through the manuscript that needs to be added. I am hoping that on Sunday I can go to the gym and start inputting the changes; Monday I will assess as to whether I believe I can finish before the deadline or not. (I am a firm believer in not waiting until the last minute to let my publisher know the manuscript will be late.) I mean, I do have another full weekend to get it all done, but it’s not going to be super easy. I have to write an entire season of a podcast–or at least, significant excerpts from said podcast–and there’s at least one more chapter that needs to be written. (Depends on the inputted changes I am going to be making as I go; the goal is to make writing that last chapter really easy by making it a “now that everything is over and has been resolved” kind of chapter.)

It’s going to be lovely to be done with the book, to be honest. I started writing this version in the summer of 2015; I wrote the entire first draft in slightly less than one month–without the last chapter; I never did write the last chapter because I knew I was going to have to make changes to the story and why write something I might have to throw completely out? I have always tried to be efficient with my writing–not going off on tangents, not writing things that will have to be cut out later (it’s so painful cutting out entire scenes and chapters)–and knowing that I couldn’t really write the final chapter until I was absolutely certain about the story itself. I know the story now–this is like the eighth draft, seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that took this many drafts (novels, at any rate; I have short stories that have been through eight or more drafts, seriously). I am looking forward to moving on from it at long last; I want to start planning the writing of Chlorine next, while also finishing some short stories and putting together some proposals for other ideas I have. If all goes well, I will be able to write a first draft of Chlorine in April, a first draft of the next Scotty in May, and then spend the summer revising and rewriting both. I’d like to spend the fall finishing other odds and ends I have in my files–“Never Kiss a Stranger” has been crying to me from the files to be finished, for one, and there are a couple of other novellas and short stories I want get done. Granted, if any of the proposals sell I will have to change my writing schedule, but if none of them do sell…well, I have plenty on hand for me to write.

I may even start a new series. I’ve been thinking that a gay cozy mystery might be fun to write. I love puzzles and lots of suspects and things; I’d love to do something along the lines of James Anderson’s The Case of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy, which is probably my favorite cozy mystery of all time; a big mansion, secret passages, jewel thieves, international espionage–all taking place over a house party weekend at an English country home. I’ve always felt it was a shame that those wonderful old classic home house party/small village mysteries the British wrote that I loved to read really couldn’t be replicated in the US…and then later realized that is because those stories are completely rooted in the British class system and what would be comparable here and then…yeah, you see where this went, don’t you? Although some day I will figure out how to do one of those…

I WILL. And it will be marvelous.

I also need to reread The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy again. It’s really quite marvelous; I do hope it holds up.

I’ve also been sort of paging through/rereading the Three Investigators’ The Mystery of the Fiery Eye, which in some ways was a tribute to Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone–which I also did with my own Vieux Carré Voodoo–while not finishing the Dana Girls’ The Clue in the Cobweb. I also keep meaning to get back into reading short stories, since my mind is in that weird “I need to finish my book” place where I can’t focus on reading anything new (once the book is done, I am going to spend some serious time with Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things, which I had started reading before locking into “finish the book” mode), so it’s either short stories or rereads until I turn this manuscript in. Anyway, that’s one of my favorite Three Investigators books because it, too, involves a treasure hunt with vague clues (or rather, a riddle of sorts) the boys have to figure out in order to find their new young friend August’s inheritance, the Fiery Eye, a cursed jewel stolen from an idol in a fictional southern Asian nation (Constant Reader will note that Vieux Carré Voodoo also involved the need to solve a riddle to find a cursed jewel stolen from a temple in a fictional southeast Asian country). I also recently–and I don’t remember if I shared this here or not–had the epiphany that the Scotty series, in some ways, is in and of itself a tribute to The Three Investigators…if they were adults and gay and in a “throuple”, as such relationships are called nowadays (I first heard the term in a CDC training). It also occurred to me that many kids’ series involve the main character and two close friends–or if the main characters are a pair (the Hardys and the Danas) they’re inevitably given a close pal who shares their adventures (in fairness, the Dana sisters have several friends who fill that role; some of the books involve several of their friends, but the only one whose name I can recall now is Evelyn Starr–although I believe they also had a friend named Doris Garland, but I am not sure about that name). As I thought about this more, I had to wonder if this was an attempt to steer the books away from homoeroticism or the undercurrent of the main character and his/her best friend being more like a couple then as friends….but I also can’t imagine that being a concern when these books were first conceived? (Although Trixie Belden and her best friend Honey Wheeler certainly play out the butch/femme lesbian dynamic rather convincingly–which I think why in later books in the series they played down Trixie’s “tomboyishness” and tried to make her more of a girly-girl.) Nancy Drew’s first four books featured her and her dear friend Helen Corning; in book five Helen vanishes (she shows up in a couple of later books) and is replaced by cousins Bess and George (again, the butch/femme dynamic at play, even though they are made cousins to avoid such thinking…but George is so damned butch and Bess so femme people made the connection anyway). The Hardys have Chet Morton, who is relentlessly fat-shamed and mocked throughout the entire series (Frank and Joe sometimes aren’t the wonderful boys they are made out to be). I have certainly made note of the homoerotic undercurrent in the Ken Holt series (with his best pal Sandy) and the Rick Brant series (with his best pal Scotty) before; there is none of this in the Three Investigators series because there are three of them, and they are vaguely around thirteen; it is doubtful any of them have gone through complete puberty yet because they still think of girls as kind of alien creatures, which really plays strangely in the series where the male leads are in their later teens….the chasteness of the Hardys with their token girlfriends–like Nancy, Bess and George with their token boyfriends–never quite rings true to me. They don’t even kiss! That probably has more to do with their target audience (nine to thirteen year olds) than anything else, but even when I was a prepubescent kid it struck me as strange.

I still want to try writing my own middle-grade series for kids; I think I may take a month this summer and try to write one and see what happens. I’ve been planning such a series since I was a kid, after all, and my writing career lately has seemed to be all about writing the things I’ve been leaving on the back burner simmering for years.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. My book is calling to me, and I want to read some short stories with the rest of my morning caffeine. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–and friends in Texas, hope you’re doing okay. I’ve been thinking about all y’all this past week.

Hey Now What You Doing

Huzzah for a paid vacation day! No getting up at six am this freezing morning, thank you very much–although the real horror is going to come tonight when it gets into the twenties–there’s a chance we’ll have snow for Fat Tuesday.

Madness.

Although it is frightfully cold for a Lundi Gras–forty degrees this morning, and of course our heat isn’t working, and will be getting gradually colder throughout the day until it gets into the twenties later this evening, with a chance of snow on Fat Tuesday for the first time since 1899. Needless to say, I am wearing layers today and have the space heater going–and it will be following me around whenever I move around the house–the easy chair, even up to the bedroom tonight when we go to bed, although the layers of blankets, Paul and Scooter all combined to keep me nice and warm last night. I slept like a dream, too. I stayed in bed a full hour after I woke up this morning, too, luxuriating in the warm comfort of the bed, and I feel no shame in that at all…why shouldn’t I relax and be comfortable, despite all the work that I have to get done?

I managed to finish going through the manuscript last night, changing it all into the present tense. I caught a lot of things that need to be fixed–changes in story and plot and so forth that weren’t eliminated through the various drafts the book has gone through. Today I am going to print it all out and start going through the hard copy, making notes and cuts and noting where new material has to go to fill in the gaps. I have approximately two weeks to get this all finished before it’s due, and I actually think I am going to be able to get it all done in time. I have a new framing device for the story that I have to write, and there’s a final chapter that needs to be written, and of course the cuts….I am always amazed at how often I repeat myself, and how passive the early draft voice I write in inevitably turns out to be. Today I am going to curl up, most likely in bed, with my laptop, my lap desk, and my notebooks, and start marking up the manuscript. Tomorrow, as it is Fat Tuesday, I am most likely going to take the day off and read and/or watch movies–the Short Story Project is definitely in need of some catching up on, and of course I’ve started a new project of rereading various books in the kids’ series I loved as a child (I am currently reading a Dana Girls volume, The Clue in the Cobweb, that I’ve never read before), and I would love to spend some more time with Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things–I really hate that my reading attention span comes and goes the way it does.

Needless to say, I am most pleased to have gotten through the manuscript yesterday. I am really looking forward to spending March mostly working on short stories as well as pre-planning both Chlorine and Twelfth Night Knavery–I even know how to open the story–and that will eventually lead into the tenth Scotty, French Quarter Flambeaux, which will lead into the eleventh, Quarter Quarantine Quadrille. I also want to try to get some of these novellas finished between working on books, too. Ash Wednesday I have to go into the office, and then it’s two more work-at-home days before I have yet another weekend…so things are looking up somewhat as far as my writing schedule is going. I certainly am getting a lot more finished this year than I did last year, and here’s hoping that I will stay motivated and continue getting things done.

We started watching the second season of Mr. Mercedes last night, which got off to a slow start but is picking up well now. WHat’s interesting is that the show is not following the Bill Hodges trilogy as written by King; they’ve skipped the second book of the series, Finders Keepers, and gone straight on to the third, End of Watch. From a television story-telling perspective it makes sense; the villain of the first book returns in the third, while the middle book is an entirely different story and case for Bill and the gang at Finders Keepers–the detective agency they open after the first book–and while that one may be my favorite of the series, the show’s been renewed for a third season, and I suspect that they will use the plot of the second book as the framework for the third season. There are some other shows dropping this week we want to watch as well–It’s a Sin on HBO and The Luminaries on either Starz or Showtime, it has Eva Green in it and I try not to ever miss anything with Eva Green.

And now it’s raining. We are either going to get rain tomorrow, or snow, or sleet; none of which are appealing, and quite frankly, I am happy for both krewes (Rex and Zulu) that aren’t going to have to deal with parading in such horrendous weather. (I wonder if Zulu is going to come down the river to the Quarter to meet Rex at five today?) I’m supposed to go to the gym at some point today–but there’s no way I am walking five blocks in cold and rain. Is it wimpy of me to take the car? I always used to drive to the gym until we joined one that’s literally right around the corner; our new gym is a longer walk, of course. I would walk to St. Charles Athletic Club in this weather; but Franco’s on Magazine is a bit too far for this kind of nasty weather.

I also have retrieved my blanket from the easy chair; I am actually feeling quite toasty warm here at my desk this morning–between the space heater, double layers, the blanket and my coffee….I could retrieve my fingerless gloves and then the only remaining part of me feeling the cold–my hands–would be taken care of as well. I hate that Paul is going to go out in this weather to go to his office–I’m actually hoping that once he gets up and sees how nasty it is outside, he’ll just work from home…all he needs is a computer and a phone and he can seriously do his job anywhere, but there is something about going into an office–the discipline or mentality that comes with being in your office…plus the guilt factor. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I know when I am at my office I feel guilty for not doing work-related things…it’s raining even harder now. Just truly nasty weather out there….

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–or as lovely a day as you can given the horrible weather everyone appears to be having.

Love Vigilantes

Friday! Friday! Gotta get down it’s Friday! Although I kept thinking yesterday was Friday, actually. It occurs to me that I actually keep this blog so religiously primarily because it helps me keep track of what day of the week it actually is, if not the actual date so much. I am of course working at home today–lots of data entry to do once I got this posted, and of course, it’s laundry day for the bed linens. Yesterday I spent the day making condom packs and then went to the gym, afterwards coming home and feeling completely brain-dead and unable to make any progress on the book–which I will have to correct tonight; I need to be revised through Chapter 10 by this weekend was the goal, which means I need to get four chapters revised tonight or tomorrow, so Sunday I can spend the day copy-editing and coming up with some plans for the second half of the book. If I have some spare moments that I wish to use not being a vegetable, I may work some more on “The Sound of Snow Falling,” which I am actually enjoying writing.

Shocking, right? And at some point I need to get back to Jess Lourey’s marvelous Edgar finalist, Unspeakable Things.

I also went into a bit of a wormhole last night about Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” and have long thought, in idle moments, that I need to address Cancer Alley in a Scotty book; I can think of nothing local that would drive his parents into full-on protest mode than that. (For those of you who don’t live in Louisiana,”Cancer Alley” is what Louisianans call the strip of petrochemical plants along a stretch of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The plants are generally located in relatively poor parishes and areas,; there is also a very high prevalence of cancer in those communities, hence “Cancer Alley.” Since the petrochemical companies have deep pockets and Louisiana politicians have always gone relatively cheap, nothing is ever done about it….Louisiana is slowly being destroyed from within because our state legislature, many of our state politicians–including those we send to Washington–are owned these companies in tandem with the oil companies, who are responsible for our gradually eroding coastline and increased vulnerability to hurricanes) Cancer Alley has been back in the local news (it never makes the national news) again because people are protesting again–this happens periodically–but this could be an enormous departure for a Scotty book, which is why I’ve never done Cancer Alley Canard (yes, I came up with the title for it yesterday), but it also doesn’t make any logical sense for Scotty’s parents to never ever talk about, or protest, Cancer Alley…and of course, it would have to begin with a protest (perhaps Scotty and Storm bailing their parents out from yet another arrest) and then an activist would have to be murdered–maybe even a journalist, I don’t know. But corporate evil is something I have always wanted to write about, and perhaps it’s getting closer to the time I do that with Scotty. (For those who are paying attention, that means I have ideas for at least four more Scotty books–this one, Twelfth Knight Knavery, French Quarter Flambeaux, and Quarter Quarantine Quadrille, with Hollywood South Hustle also in the mix.)

But I have to write Chlorine next. That’s the most important thing once I have this one sent off to my publisher.

As Constant Reader is aware, one of the things I do to entertain myself while making condom packs is to continue improving on my vastly inferior education in film. I decided to take a bit of a break from the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and am again saving horror films for this coming October season. I had wanted to do a study of teen films and how they changed and evolved from the 70’s to the 80’s; but yesterday as I scrolled through those options I really didn’t feel like any of them were particularly appealing, given my mood. But as I scrolled, I came across A Room with a View, an 80’s classic from Merchant-Ivory, and I recognized that I had, in fact, never seen a Merchant-Ivory film. I’ve never been a particular fan of E. M. Forster, and while I do recognize the appeal in fictions set during the high noon of the British Empire (likewise, I felt much the same about the Regency period, but found myself thoroughly enjoying Bridgerton and have thus had to alter my thinking about that period, so why not?) at the same time, I have also recognized that the appeal of most of those fictions lies in there being about the privileged–those with country homes and scores of servants, and the ability to travel abroad. The Imperial English were also horrific racists and nationalists as well as classists, so while I was relatively certain Merchant-Ivory films were well made and well done, my attitude towards viewing them was more of a “meh” than anything else. Yet…I had never seen one; this film was one of Helena Bonham Carter’s first big roles; and you really can never go wrong with a cast filled with English actors. So, I queued it up and began watching.

Imagine my delight when within minutes of the film opening I discovered the cast included one of my all-time favorite actresses–the magnificent Maggie Smith–and Judi Dench! And of course, the first section of the film is set in my beloved Florence and Tuscany! I settled in, starting stuffing condom packs with a very delighted sigh, and began watching. The film seemed a bit slow at first–I felt the build-up into the love story between Lucy and George (gorgeous young Julian Sands) perhaps took a little too long, and then the whole matter of the “scandalous” secret that he kissed her in a poppy field during a rainstorm a bit silly (fully acknowledging that in their class, this was the kind of thing that could ruin a young woman’s reputation; one of my frustrations with older periods is how atrociously stifled women were), but once they were all back in England and Daniel Day-Lewis appeared on the scene as a fiancé for her, it got really going. (Might I add how marvelous it was seeing Day-Lewis, who would go on to win three Best Actor Oscars, in an early role as the pompous and very straight-laced Mr. Vyse? He was marvelous in the part, and of course, watching him I couldn’t help but marvel that the man inhabiting this role so perfectly would go on to My Beautiful Laundrette, My Left Foot, The Last of the Mohicans, There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, and Lincoln–yes, what an exceptional talent indeed) And of course, Rupert Graves is so astonishingly beautiful as a young man. Visually the story is sumptuous; the writing witty and clever; and of course, the acting is top notch. I shall indeed have to watch more Merchant-Ivory films…and it also occurred to me, as I watched, that I have also never seen A Passage to India, and really should correct that oversight.

And perhaps should give Forster another try.

After completing my daily tasks and chores and the gym, I came home to clean and reorganize a bit. As I was putting books away, I came across my copy of Sanctuary, which I had taken down recently thinking about rereading it. I did reread the first chapter, but then I got caught up in Alyssa Cole’s amazing When No One Is Watching and digressed away from it. One of the reasons I was thinking about Faulkner again was, naturally, because I had been working on Bury Me in Shadows, and the whole world I’d created in that book– as well as a couple of published short stories, and numerous others unfinished–was rather inspired, not only by the region my family is from, but by Faulkner; I wanted to write about Alabama much the way Faulkner did about his jawbreaker of a county in Mississippi (Yoknapatawpha?) and writing various books and stories that were all set there and loosely connected; I also wanted to revisit Faulkner a bit because I wanted to remember the way he wrote; the dreamy texture and atmosphere of his prose, and how he presented his world as honestly and realistically as he could. (I know there are those who consider Faulkner’s works to be racist, and yes, of course they are; the use of the n-word is prevalent, of course, as well as depictions of racial inequities and racist white people; but he also doesn’t excuse them or try to present them as heroic or being right–he leaves that to the reader. Usage of the worst racial slur will never cease to make me recoil or flinch, which makes rereading his work more challenging than it did when I was younger, I am sad to confess.) I had originally read Sanctuary when I was in high school, and really do need to revisit it as an adult and as a published writer, so I can grasp it better and I am also curious to see how I will react to it. I began reading other Faulkner works after I had a very encouraging creative writer teacher in California (as opposed to the monstrous troll in Kansas); he recommended As I Lay Dying to me, and I not only devoured it, but then moved on to The Sound and the Fury, which remains to this day one of my absolute favorite novels. “A Rose for Emily” is also one of my all time favorite short stories as well–and I think it was this story that actually pushed me along the path to coming up with ideas for a fictional county in rural northwest/central Alabama; that story is so beautifully Southern Gothic…and so many small Southern towns have those kinds of eccentrics that it seemed like writing about those eccentrics was the proper way for me to go with my own writing.

My writing career has truly had so many stops and starts over the years…

And on that note, tis time to. head into the spice mines for today. It’s gray outside my windows this morning, and today is a day when I most likely won’t be leaving the house at all, which is also kind of lovely. I am going to be doing data entry until I finish it all; if there’s time left in my work day I shall then go back to my easy chair and condom packing….and seeing if I can find Maurice on a streaming service for free, or A Passage to India.

Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader!

Doubts Even Here

Thursday and working from home.

I thought I would be tired yesterday afternoon, as it was my third straight get-up-at-six morning and I usually am, but I not only made it through the day fine, I had the energy to work on the book and do my chores last night when I got home, which was simply marvelous.

Tuesday when I got home from work the tree guys were at work on the neighbor’s property again, cutting back branches and leaving skeletal trees in their wake. There are no longer any leaves on any of the crepe myrtles running alongside the fence separating our properties, and the loss of even more foliage in another backyard has exposed my windows to even more direct morning sunlight this morning. Usually by now the sun’s glare is blocked; instead I am wearing a baseball cap quite low on my forehead to block out the blinding light. I am definitely going to have to get curtains or blinds of some sort; I can only imagine how miserable my work space is going to be when it starts getting hot again and the sun is shining through and being amplified by my windows. Heavy heaving sigh. I was hoping to not have to get blinds or curtains–I really love this natural light, but at least I don’t have to worry about missing the view of the branches and greenery in the neighbors’ yards anymore–the denuded tree trunks with the branches slashed off are actually kind of sad looking, and every time I look at them it just makes me sad. I am sure they was a practical reason for doing this–I think the last hurricane may have caused some property damage entirely related to the trees not being cut back–but it’s also a little annoying because my landlady has been asking them to trim back the ones along the fence for years to no avail, when they were possibly causing damage to our property. The fact the property owner next door (I think she or a company that is basically her owns the next three properties on the river side of our place) couldn’t care less about any damage or inconvenience her trees were causing all these years but the moment her property sustained some damage she sprang into action with her checkbook open is kind of telling of the American mentality these days–which essentially boils down to the callous “not my problem.”

I also transcribed what I’d written in my journal for “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and it wasn’t much–I always forget how big and loopy my longhand can be–an so it’s maybe about a little shy of a thousand words? It worked out to one page single-spaced when printed–so it may be even shorter of a thousand words than I am remembering this morning But it’s an interesting story, one that I will likely finish, even though there’s no anthology or magazine asking for it…this is why I don’t usually mind writing short stories on spec; it’s always a crapshoot when you write one, unless specifically invited and/or asked to do so, because there’s never a guarantee your story will be selected, anointed, published, etc. I love short stories because they are challenging for me to write, always a struggle, and I am never sure if I have gotten it correct when I am finished with it. Very rare is the story that was rejected by the market I originally wrote it for that I have turned around and sold without any revisions to it–“The Email Always Pings Twice” is one of those, actually–and the story I recently submitted for the MWA anthology is one I am hoping to get another shot at revising, whether its for the MWA editor or for submission elsewhere. I’m not entirely sure I pulled the story together as tightly as it should–needs–to be; it comes from working on it on and around the completion of one novel and diving into the revision of another, so my creative batteries were a bit depleted going into it. But I think this one has the potential to be a good one, a potential sale at some point, which is absolutely lovely. I also want to get back to “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “To Sacrifice a Pawn”, two stories I began in December but needed a very quick turnaround to get submitted to an anthology Gabino Iglesias was pulling together; I was in the weeds with the novel and while I was able to get both stories started and formed slightly in my head, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to get them finished, but I do want to get back to work on them in the rest period between finishing this book and starting Chlorine…

Okay the sun glare has become worse, so I have thumbtacked a towel up over the window as a temporary measure until such time as I can get some blinds or come up with a more permanent, not silly looking, solution. It also has the added benefit of hiding the sad-looking tree skeletons from view. Heavy sigh. I do have some errands that must be run today, and after finishing my work-at-home day I shall have to repair to the gym for today’s workout, but overall there’s really nothing about today that’s going to be too difficult to deal with, methinks. After the gym I will most likely come home and do some more revising on the book–I am now up to Chapter Seven (of 20 total; so I should easily hit the halfway mark this weekend) and tonight I will probably start copy-editing the chapters I’ve already finished. I also kind of need to chart out what all needs to be added to this manuscript, so I am not flying blind and can tie up all of the loose ends in a very neat package and get it turned in, which will be most lovely.

I am also quite pleased by how I’ve kept up with the chores so far this week–there really isn’t much clean up left to be done over the course of the coming weekend, which is so fucking lovely you have no idea–there’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher to be put away and some scattered things on the counters to put away, but I don’t have a sink full of things to wash nor baskets of laundry to do, so I can focus on the floors during the cleaning, and possibly some in-depth spot cleaning. Maybe even more some things to clean behind them? Ooooh, stop the insanity!

Or…I could be my usual lazy self. It wouldn’t be the first time.

And on that note, Constant Reader, I must get to work. Have a lovely Thor’s Day, and I will see you tomorrow on Frey’s Day.

Primitive Notion

Another good night’s sleep, only to wake up to a frigid forty degree morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have my cappuccino prepared, the space heater is blowing warm air in my general direction, and the ceiling fans are most definitely turned off. The kitchen is clean this morning, which is lovely–there’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher needing to be put away, but that can wait till after work–but it was marvelous to come down to a cleaned up and organized kitchen this morning.

Paul was working last evening, so I did the same. I got another two chapters of the book polished and revised; and hopefully will keep that momentum going this evening. I also started reading Jess Lourey’s Edgar finalist Unspeakable Things, and that voice! It’s quite good thus far, and I am really looking forward to getting further into it this evening after going to the gym. Yes, I have to go workout this evening; my shoulder is finally no longer sore from last week’s inoculation (hallelujah) and it has been nearly a week since I last went to the gym. My muscles and joints will no doubt protest and creak a bit as I put them through their rusty paces this evening, but I really have to get back into the swing of the regular workouts…and I also have been missing them. This is a good thing, and I am very pleased that my natural inclination of blowing off the gym has become, at least currently, a thing of the past; a former behavior, if you will.

I’ve also concluded that there are so many wonderful notes in my journals that when I am not actually writing on the book, I should start going through the journals yet again and pull ideas out of there, actually creating electronic files and folders to track the stories. I have written at least six or seven hundred words in my journal on “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I need to convert that into a Word document as soon as I can so I can really start writing the story. I also can’t believe I allowed myself to go so long without keeping a journal; I believe it was 2017 when I started keeping them again, and it’s really been rather nice. While I no longer write for the most part by long hand–primarily to spare myself the ordeal of transcribing–I do find that brainstorming while scribbling has a restorative, creative effect; the journals were enormously helpful when writing both Royal Street Reveillon and Bury Me in Shadows–and there are an awful lot of helpful notes and brainstorming in them about the Kansas book, which are certainly coming in handy as I write the book. It has evolved so much over the decades since I started writing it all those years ago, and so much that I wrote in it originally has come in helpful over the years, being pirated and plundered for other books and stories. I am very deeply ensconced inside this manuscript now–to the point where I haven’t been thought about Chlorine since I started this deep dive into this final edit. This is unusual; earlier in my career I would become immersed in a manuscript the way I am now; but over the years it inevitably got to the point where I would always be thinking about–and wanting to work on–the next one while rushing to get through the current. I also think having this razor sharp focus is making the book better than it might have been.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?

I also was thinking about “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday for some reason, as well as “To Sacrifice a Pawn”–two other stories I think I started writing in December; yes, December, because the idea was to write something for a last minute Christmas anthology Gabino Iglesias was pulling together (it’s always interesting to me how I will write a story for a submission call of some sort, but the story rarely ever gets published by the market I wrote it for; take “The Snow Globe” for instance. That started out being written for a Halloween anthology HWA was doing; I never finished it and the deadline passed. I turned it into a Christmas story for another anthology call; it was rejected, but now I have sold it somewhere else entirely), but of course I was in the weeds with Bury Me in Shadows and never finished it; I think the most likely thing that’s going to happen is I will spend March planning out Chlorine while finishing some of these other stories and getting them out for submission. I think I still have two or three stories in anthologies that will be coming out this year at some point; I am really looking forward to seeing the finished books. And at some point soon, I will have enough stories for another single-author collection of my own, which is very exciting.

But the sun is rising over the West Bank with pinks and reds and pale blues staining the sky; and I must start putting together today’s lunch, packing my backpack, and getting into the shower to face down yet another day of clients and work at the office. I’m also going to need to start pulling together my tax information (yay); which I’m also kind of dreading…but I can do that after I finish the book, really. No rush there at all–which is a good thing; there are few things I hate more than prepping my taxes for the accountant.

And so I shall go ahead and bid you adieu for yet another morning, Constant Reader, and hope your Tuesday is as marvelous as you deserve.

Nothing but a Fool

Ah, it is Thursday and we have a new president. It was kind of nice to wake up without that sense of existential dread and worrying about what new horrors the day would bring–or what I may have missed while I was sleeping. I also slept deeply and well, and I am enjoying my first cup of coffee thus far this morning. I don’t have a full day of working at home, as I worked longer hours in the office so can shave some off my day today, which is lovely. I can spend the morning with my emails and blog and drinking coffee and waking up gradually–which is my actual preference–I suppose no one likes waking up to an alarm. It’s more along the lines of how used to it you can get. I personally hate the alarm, but there’s simply no way I would ever get up at six in the morning without one. I don’t think my body will ever adapt to that–it never has before, and I can’t imagine that changing as I rapidly approach the big 6-0 later this year.

And Twitter, wonder of wonders, has stopped–for the moment, at least–being the bleak horrific portal to hell it has been for such a long, long time. This, coming so soon after the horrific redesign of Facebook that seems designed and intended to drive all of its users away, has resulted in me spending more time there than I have been on Facebook lately, and frankly, this actually hasn’t been a bad thing. I have freed up a lot more time–Twitter has been fun, but ultimately I am not overly fond of it–and so I find myself taking the time I used to spend endlessly scrolling and commenting and sharing and liking things to do other things, like read or brainstorm or clean.

And is this really a bad thing? I don’t think so. The first and hopefully last social media presidency has shown us all the dangers inherent in unmoderated social media; how quickly it can be harnessed to undermine civility and societal norms and our democracy. The steadfast refusal of social media for years to not try to control the dangerous lies being spread and amplified on their platforms is something that will be studied for generations–and I suspect people like Mark Zuckerberg and their sociopathic desire for blood profits will not come off well in those histories.

Good.

So now I must buckle down and stop watching history unfold and get all the things done that I need to get done. There are some deadlines for short story submissions coming up, my deadline for the Kansas book also is hanging over my head in the near future, and there are any number of other things I need to get a handle on. I have yet to decide on what the next book I will read will be–it’s a toss-up between too many excellent titles, to be sure–and may cowardly delay the decision by delving back into short stories. It’s been a hot minute since I read any short stories, and I also got two wonderful single author collections of ghost stories–those of Edith Wharton and E. F. Benson. (The Benson volume is much thicker than the Wharton.) I have never read Edith Wharton–as I have often confessed, my education in the classics has been sadly lacking–and I am fond of ghost stories, particularly those from that period in literature. I love the formality of the writing with the touch of Gothic to them; I have a ghost story in progress called “The Weeping Nun” I would also like to write in that same kind of style, and perhaps even change it from a modern setting to the past, with the sound of horses’ hooves on the cobblestones and flickering gaslight through the fog in the French Quarter.

Ironically, I had started writing that story on my iPad in Pages; recently I discovered the trove of things written in that app I had completely forgotten about, and so I uploaded them all to the Cloud and converted them to Word documents; hilariously, the opening of “The Weeping Nun” is the scene–or at the very least inspired–the opening to “The Snow Globe.” I had started writing “The Weeping Nun” for an HWA anthology built around the theme of Halloween; and it opens with Satan not only had a six-pack but he also had one of the finest asses I’d seen in a while. The main character is up on the balcony at the Parade watching the street when a muscle boy in a Satan costume comes out of Oz, and that is the point where the story began. I never got more than a thousand words done on the story–I don’t recall why I was too busy or tied up or whatever to finish the story, but when I started “The Snow Globe” for the original anthology I sent it in to, I remembered that opening and changed it from Satan to Santa–and away I went with the story.

I’m still prepping for the final push on the Kansas book as well, the final draft. There will have to be some new scenes and chapters written; more than I’d prefer will have to come out of it; and so much cleaning up to do–the mind positively reels in horror from the amount of work this manuscript needs–which is really why I’ve been avoiding getting back into it, if I am going to be completely honest with myself. But it’s not going to revise or edit or rewrite itself, obviously, and the only way it’s going to get finished is if I stop procrastinating and fearing doing the work (which I inevitably end up enjoying doing anyway, which makes it all the more irritating and annoying that I have to make myself do it) but I’ve also decided that the thing to do is reward myself for getting work on it done; seems silly, but it works. So, for every three chapters I refine, revise and polish I am going to spend some time developing Chlorine, which is what I really want to be writing anyway. I have a lot of ideas and a loose sense of the plot/story floating around inside my head, and I probably need to start writing it all down and piecing it all together, as well as start building the characters and fleshing them out more. I like my amoral, do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-it himbo movie “star”; I think I can make his cynicism and hard-edged morality understandable and likable. I’m kind of excited to start working on it.

And on that note, it is time for me to answer some emails and then start today’s condom packing duties. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

Someone Like You

TUESDAY!!!!! How are you?

It’s cold again this morning in New Orleans–but one lovely thing about the cold is that I sleep better. I woke up this morning with the alarm, wide awake and feeling surprisingly rested, but stayed in bed because it was so comfortable and warm through several strikes of the snooze button. Even now, as I sip my cappuccino and sit very closely to the space heater, I can feel the cold…and it’s most unpleasant….as will be getting out to the car this morning, and from the parking lot to the office. Ugh. But tis life.

I’m still working on my short story that has to be turned in on Thursday–I think that’s the 15th? Perhaps it’s Friday, I am not sure, but regardless, I have another four thousand words to add to my story and then need to sit and polish and everything else before then. I did manage to get what I had already written very cleaned up, and I like to think I did a good job establishing who my main character is and where he is at in his life; the question is whether the story will turn out to be okay. The nice thing about these stories, of course, is that they can always wind up in a short story collection if the blind readers, for example, turn this one down. I’ve also started working my way through #shedeservedit, and am hopeful I can actually start the revisions as soon as I have this story finished. I have until March 1st to whip it into publishable shape, and then I think I am going to spend some time with short stories in April before spending May writing the first draft of Chlorine. That’s a doable, viable plan for the first half of the year, and I’d also like to spend June and July working on the next Scotty book, before returning to Chlorine. I have some there book projects potentially hanging around out there, floating in the ether, both ideas and potential leads for contracts, and I have a couple of pseudonymous things I’d like to see if anyone has any interest in out there.

Provided, of course, that the country manages to halt all upcoming treason and sedition and doesn’t collapse into an autocratic dictatorship. It’s been very hard for me to focus on anything other than what’s going on in the country since the attack on Congress last Wednesday–the very same one instigated by the president and some of his lickspittle lackeys (who are now calling for conciliation less than a week after they were calling for civil fucking war–looking at you in particular, Hee Hawley and Traitor Ted Cruz), the ones who are now trying to gaslight the country as though last Wednesday was not only a travesty but not one of the major crises of the Republic. The game I play is, what would they be saying and doing had the insurrectionist mob succeeded?

I’ll give you a hint: it most definitely would not be “we need to move on and unify.”

I need to be able to take Donna Andrews’ brilliant advice that I noted last week, about writing on 9/12, and put all of this out of my mind–or find a way to channel my anger into my writing. The story I am currently writing isn’t an angry one; in fact, it’s incredibly important to the story that the main character, and thus the story, remain calm and rational while fighting off rising panic and terror, so this story isn’t the way for me to get the anger out through words…and really, as much fun as I am having (or have been having) on Twitter isn’t really emotionally healthy for me for the most part, but channeling my anger about this outrage into tweets at those who are complicit, or making excuses for treason…well, after being told for decades that I am not a real American patriot while these anti-American fucking nut jobs appropriated the nation’s symbology (for the record, if you don’t understand what those symbols actually stand for, you’re actually fetishizing them and debasing them, along with yourself) while bleating about FREEDOM…yeah, miss me with that, traitors. You appropriated Christianity and perverted it, and you’re trying to do the same with our symbols and ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

I did watch some of the national title game, going to bed just as Alabama was about to make their first score of the second half. Congratulations, Tide, and thank you for continuing SEC dominance of the college football championships. I’ve lost track of how many titles Alabama has won since 2009, but I know LSU won three, Florida two, and Auburn one since the turn of the century. Only the ACC has two teams to win national titles this century; the SEC has twice that many–and LSU has won as many as both ACC teams have. DOMINANCE.

Hopefully, today I can focus and get things done that need to get done. And in that spirit, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day–unless you’re a traitor. Then I hope today’s the day you get arrested.

Miss Americana and The Heartbreak Prince

One question that always exasperates authors is the old standard, where do you get your ideas from?

I get why it annoys writers to be asked this; who wants to be psycho-analyzed on a panel or at a reading? It’s a process, of course, and one that cannot be distilled into a quick, witty, quotable sound bite–and the ultimate truth is, it’s almost always different in every case–whether it’s a novel, an essay or a short story; I certainly have not gotten inspiration the same way every time. A lot of the Alabama fiction, for example, that I have written/am writing/have thought about writing, comes from stories my grandmother told me when I was a child about the past–mostly her family’s past, and certainly those stories were self-aggrandizing and self-serving, and still others were apocryphal: the ancestress, for example, who killed a Yankee soldier come to rob her during the Civil War? Yeah, that one was almost certainly lifted from Gone with the Wind–but I have since come to find out that Mitchell probably took the story from legends as well–that story seems to exist everywhere in local legend throughout the former Confederacy (I mention this in passing in Bury Me in Shadows, which also originated in one of my grandmother’s stories).

A while back, I started thinking about doing period novels centering gay male characters and telling their stories about the times when prim-and-proper society swept all things gay under the rug and homophobia was king (or Queen, I suppose). I had already come up with a great idea for a gay noir centered around a health club that operated as a money-laundering front for the local mob in a city in Florida called Muscles, which I hope to write at some point…I cannot recall exactly how or why Muscles led into thinking about other one-word titled gay noir novels set in different periods of the twentieth century; but there you have it. I think Muscles led me to think about setting one in a gay bar in the early 1990’s, built around the time gay porn star Joey Stefano was arrested while performing at a Tampa gay bar for public indecency; Indecency was such a great title that I couldn’t forget it–and I also figured I could link the two books, the way I always link my books together in an Easter eggy kind of way that the majority of people don’t notice but pleases me immensely. Right round that same time a gay man who was very active as a fundraiser and a donor for political causes died; he had started out owning a company that published gay-interest magazines with nude models and had been arrested, and served time, for using the mail to deliver pornography; I wanted to write about him and the rise of gay porn films in Southern California and call it Obscenity. So there it was: a trilogy of loosely connected gay noirs I hoped to write someday…and then one day, as I was blogging–I think maybe two years ago? I don’t recall–my mind was wandering (as it is wont to do) and I started riffing about an idea that was forming in my head as I wrote the entry for a book set in 1950’s Hollywood, dealing with the underground gay community, McCarthyism, and scandal-mongering that would open with a gay movie star’s body being found naked in the surf at the beach…only the autopsy found that the water in his lungs actually contained chlorine…so he hadn’t drowned, he’d been murdered and the body moved. I called it Chlorine; and that was, for me, kind of the end of it–I wrote the idea down, created a folder for it, and posted the entry.

So, I am sure you can imagine my surprise when I checked Twitter a few hours later and had a ridiculously high amount of–what do they call them? Mentions? Anyway, I had no idea what had triggered this–I rarely get much interaction there–and so when I went to check…some people had read my blog and were all about Chlorine–and the more they tweeted about it, the more people had gotten drawn into this conversation. I was thrilled, to say the least, to see so much attention on-line for something that was really just an amorphous idea…and then a great first line occurred to me: The earthquake woke me up at nine in the morning. So I opened a new Word document, typed in that line, and next thing you know, I had an over 3000 word first chapter written, and the entire plot was forming in my mind already. I took voluminous notes, and decided that, once I got finished with everything I was in the midst of writing already, I would give Chlorine a shot.

And in the meantime, I could start reading up on the period, gay Hollywood, and root myself firmly in the period.

Which is how I came across Robert Hofler’s The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson.

On November 29, 1954, The Hollywood Reporter’s gossip columnist Mike Connolly wrote about the proud, happiest day of Rock Hudson’s life. The movie star had just been cast in George Stevens’ cattle-and-oil epic Giant, and Connolly’s one-line blurb commemorating Rock’s celebration party was as cryptic as it was pumped with news ready to break: “Saturday Mo-somes: Phyllis Gates & Rock Hudson, Margaret Truman & Henry Willson.”

In one of his rare acts of discretion, newshound Connolly dispensed with the ampersand that should have wedded the names Rock Hudson and Henry Willson. Fifty years into the future, “Mo-somes” could be read as slang for the two men’s sexual orientation. But not in 1954. Back then, “Mo” meant something far less provocative but nearly as colorful

“Mo” was short for the Mocambo, the Mount Olympus of Sunset Strip nightclubs. Pure tinseltown fantasy, the Mocambo was an over-heated study in contrasts where oversized tin flowers and humongous velvet balls with fringe festooned flaming candy-cane columns that framed a dance floor designed to induce claustrophobia when more than two couples got up to fox-trot. The tables were equally miniscule, making it possible for the establishment to charge lots of money for not much food, which nobody could see. Overhead, rococo candelabras gave off so little illumination that revelers kept bumping into each other by mistake, and sometimes now, as they tried to check themselves out in the flecked mirrors that recast everybody’s reflection in tones of warm, flattering, fake gold.

I had a vague idea of who Henry Willson was before I read this book–he appeared in the Rock Hudson bio I read a few months ago as well as in Tab Hunter’s memoirs–and of course, Jim Parsons played him in the Ryan Murphy alternate-history Hollywood. I was also vaguely aware–my memory is a lot dimmer than it used to be–of the gay Hollywood underground; the Sunday afternoon pool parties at George Cukor’s, for example–and I had read some gay Hollywood histories (the ones by William J. Mann are particularly good), but I knew my main character in Chlorine needed a Henry Willson-like agent, and so I needed to research Henry Willson. Willson was, of course, notorious in his time and the passage of time since his heyday has done nothing to soften that image. He was the definitive “casting couch” agent–and per this book, which is very well written and very entertaining–men who wanted to be movie stars (whether gay, straight or bi) were more than willing to service Henry if it meant a leg up in the business. And Henry did work very hard for his clients, polishing rough material into diamonds for the camera. He taught them how to speak, how to walk, the proper silverware, how to behave in public; manners and etiquette. Henry believed that talent wasn’t as important to being a movie star as having star quality–the indescribable something that all major stars have, that is impossible to describe–and he knew what he was doing. He also frequently renamed them–hence the proliferation of the one syllable first names with the two or three syllable last names: Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Chad Everett, Guy Madison, etc.

This book provided a wealth of information as well as inspiration for me, as did the Rock Hudson biography I read several months ago. This period of Hollywood history is fascinating, and I love that writing this book–or rather, planning and researching, since I haven’t really started writing it–is giving me an amazing excuse to study gay Hollywood history and the post-war film industry.

Make no mistake about it–Henry Willson was good at what he did, but he was also a terrible person; trying to make it in a homophobic culture, society and industry at the time in which he lived would definitely twist a person. He was an arch-conservative; a Log Cabin Republican of his time, friends with the horrific Roy Cohn. Was it camouflage to help protect him and his clients from the Red Scare days of McCarthyism, when being queer was also just as suspect? Or was he really that terrible of a person? The author makes no judgments; rather leaving it to the reader to. make up their own minds about who Henry was as a person. As terrible as he was–and some of the things he did, like the casting couch, were pretty unforgivable–I did feel sorry for him in some ways, and in basing a character on him I kind of have to find the humanity in the monster. He was not attractive in a business that revolved around beauty; while the straight male pigs who ran the business used their power to force women to sleep with them, Henry used and abused his own power to get beautiful men to sleep with him.

My own main character–a second-tier movie star who slept his way into parts and a career–is also not entirely likable; but I think I’ve gotten deep enough inside of his head to at least make him identifiable and relatable to the reader…but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

I do recommend this book, if you’re interested in Hollywood history in general or gay Hollywood history specifically.

New Year’s Day

2021 dawns, and theoretically, at any rate, it’s a new year and a fresh start–at least that’s the mentality everyone else seems to embrace. I don’t get it, myself, never really have. But far be it from me to rain on anybody’s parade–or their New Year’s hangovers.

It’s a lovely morning again in New Orleans; blue skies and sunshine. I’m going to swill down some coffee this morning and then head to the gym–they are only open until 2 this afternoon–before coming home to put one last coat of polish on Bury Me in Shadows before I turn it in, on time, later today. I finished it last evening–there are still some holes in the plot that need filling, as well as some contradictory elements I need to catch–but it’s essentially finished. I have not, in fact, finished a book since early 2019, when I turned in Royal Street Reveillon; so it’s very nice to have another one done. I go back and forth between thinking it’s really good or the worst thing I’ve ever written, so there’s that part–par for the course, really.

I also got my first inoculation for the COVID-19 vaccination yesterday. It wasn’t so bad, really–my shoulder is kind of sore still this morning, glad I had them do my left arm–but I felt off for most of the rest of the day; which could have been the inoculation, could have just been the fact that I was tired. I’ve not really slept that great this week, and the fluctuations in the weather have not helped in the least–sinuses, you know–and I’ve not really had much of an appetite lately, either, so I’m probably experiencing low blood sugar and all of that. But the next inoculation will be in 28 days, and then my life sort of can go back to normal? Not really–I’ll still be wearing masks everywhere I go, and washing my hands religiously as often as I can, but at least I no longer have to worry (too much) that I am going to get infected and sick.

2020 was one of those years, like 2005, that we will look back on and wonder about. A lot of my memories of the year just past are foggy and gray; I don’t remember much of the year rather like I don’t really remember much of the year and a half after Katrina. It’s always weird when there’s a major world paradigm shift; Katrina really only affected those of us in Louisiana and Mississippi and coastal Alabama–while the rest of the country and world looked on in horror, they also were able to move on within a few weeks whereas we were not. The COVID-19 paradigm shift affected everyone in the world, and as we (hopefully) are beginning to move past it–which will not finally happen until we achieve herd immunity, and who knows how long that’s going to take–things aren’t going to go back the way they were before the world came to a screeching halt. Things have changed, whether for the better or not remains to be seen; but one lesson that everyone has learned is that almost everyone actually can work from home and be productive, something employers resisted like the plague before, you know, an actual plague forced them to adapt. Now businesses and companies have to ask themselves–do we really need all that overhead of having an actual office, when our staff can do their jobs efficiently and effectively from home? Same with book signings–publishers probably aren’t going to be paying to send their authors on tours anymore since virtual ones actually get a higher attendance. What about conferences? They also became virtual–but in all honesty, I will want to continue to go to in-person conferences once they are feasible; drinking at home on Zoom isn’t the same thing as hanging out in the bar with friends and laughing our asses off.

I do miss seeing my friends.

I usually set goals on New Year’s Day for the new year; I’ve not really put much thought into goals for 2021, to be honest. I did achieve one of my 2020 goals, despite the pandemic: getting back into a regular gym routine and going regularly. I’ve noticed a change in my body, even though I’m not really pushing myself as hard as I could–I don’t want to overdo it, nor do I want to injure myself again, which started the whole spiral ten years ago in the first place–but it’s nice to see my muscles hardening and getting more defined. My weight hasn’t changed at all, but I can see a difference in my face and my pants/shorts/sweatpants, which were already a bit too big, have gotten even bigger (I really need to wear a belt). I do want to continue focusing on taking care of myself a bit more in 2021; dental work and vision exams and new glasses and possibly the occasional massage. I have a number of secret projects lining up as well, which is kind of exciting, and of course, I need to finish the Kansas book now and I want to get to work on Chlorine. I think there’s probably another Scotty or two in my head, and I also want to experiment with novellas–I have at least three or four or five in progress, and I really need to finish them. I also want to get some more short stories finished and out for submission.

I watched a movie for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival yesterday afternoon as I made condom packs: Something for Everyone, starring Michael York and Angela Lansbury, based (or rather, according to the credits, “suggested by”) on the novel The Cook by Henry Kessing (recently brought back into print by Valancourt Books), which I recently read about as “the queerest movie of the 70’s”–and yes, it is indeed very queer. (It’s not streaming anywhere, but there’s a bootleg of it on Youtube, which is what I watched) It reminded me somewhat of The Talented Mr. Ripley in several ways, and it also made me think about how amazing Michael York would have been playing Tom Ripley. York plays Conrad, a drifter from no one knows where and, like Tom Ripley, we really never learn about his past or who he is. He shows up on screen in Bavaria, riding a bicycle and wearing cut off khaki trousers that are cut very high; Daisy Duke-ish in fact, and he looks splendidly beautiful and alluring in the German sun. He decides he wants to get a job working for the local impoverished Countess and her children, who no longer have the money to maintain their castle or live in it, but it’s entailed so they can’t sell it. (Neuschwanstein, the fairy castle of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria–who was also queer) stands in for their castle.) Angela Lansbury plays the Countess, and she is truly splendid. Conrad begins killing people who get in his way, but is also doing it to help the family he now work for, while slowly seducing and sleeping with everyone in sight in order to get what he wants–he seduces the Countess’ son and eventually the Countess, and York is simply breathtakingly gorgeous to look at in all his youthful, lean beauty. (I had an enormous crush on him in the 1970’s.) But Angela Lansbury is truly fantastic. She’s beautiful and slender and elegant, and those expressive eyes are perfect for expressing the Countess’ malaise and ennui with her situation and with the world. Watching her slink around in gorgeous clothing, I could but marvel an wonder why she was never a bigger film star, and in all honesty, I’ve never really seen her as Mame Dennis before. Yes, I know she played the part on Broadway and it was a huge smash hit, but for me Rosalind Russell was definitive….but having watched this movie now, I am now convinced the casting of Lucille Ball as Mame in the film instead of Lansbury was an even bigger crime than I considered it before–I watched the Lucy version and it was awful; but the crime that was casting Ball is now even more egregious. I could literally imagine Lansbury as Mame as I watched this movie. It’s cynical and a bit cold, but it definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival in that Conrad never is punished for any of his own crimes–he’s outwitted in the end, but not really punished…and knowing Conrad, I am also confident that at some point after the film ended he got the upper hand back.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. One more cup of coffee and I am off to the gym; and then its back to home and the grindstone. Happy New Year, everyone!

Wildest Dreams

It’s Thursday, a work-at-home day before the holiday weekend. I know, it’s weird to take a vacation and then work a day before another holiday weekend, but there you have it. It’s also the last day of 2020, I am getting my COVID-19 vaccine (part one) today, and my book is due tomorrow. Heavy heaving sigh. I only have two chapters left to do and a final polish, so after I am done with day job duties, I should be able to power through those last two chapters this evening, and then I have all day tomorrow to reread, revise, and polish before turning it in.

It’s also New Year’s Eve, a holiday I’ve never quite understood but am more than happy to enjoy–I am always happy to get an extra day off with pay, any time anyone wants to provide me with one–but I’ve never really understood the point of celebrating the end of a calendar year and the beginning of another. I mean, it’s an excuse for a holiday and for people to get wasted, I suppose, but other than being a party for symbolism, I don’t understand it. I suppose it’s seen as a demarcation point, but it’s really not a new beginning; I’ve also never been one for resolutions, either. I prefer to set goals for the year, and then see how well I did after twelve months have passed. One of the major things of this past year for me has been memory loss–I can’t remember anything anymore–so I don’t remember the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. I do remember that 2019 was a shitshow of a year, and I was very happy to see it end, as was most everyone, only to discover that 2020 would be so awful that I cannot remember precisely why 2019 was so dreadful, just that it was.

I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine because of my day job, which a lot of people don’t know much about because it’s not something I talk about publicly very much. I am always very careful to compartmentalize my life, keeping my writing career and public life very separated from my day job and my private life. I work at a public health clinic here in New Orleans that used to be the NO/AIDS Task Force, which evolved into Crescent Care Health sometime (my memory is completely shot) over the course of the last decade. I work at the Elysian Fields campus, and basically, what I do is test clients, by appointment, for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C; do all the necessary paperwork required by our funders; and basically interview and assess my clients for risk reduction messaging and what other services we provide that they might require. Once that is finished, I take them to a nurse who will draw blood for their PrEP labs (if they are taking PrEP) as well as testing them for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Over the course of the pandemic our services were initially shut down, and then we became a testing site for COVID-19. For several months I worked in the garage of our building, screening people for COVID symptoms before we let them into the building (we were on very limited services; some blood draws were still being done, the food pantry was still open, and so was the pharmacy on the second floor) or sending people who needed to be tested over to the COVID testing area. So, yes, I am in a public contact job that is health care related, and see clients three days a week, putting myself at risk of exposure. I follow our safety protocols stringently–which includes mask wearing, regular hand-washing or sanitizing, and cleaning the room where I see clients with virucidal wipes–their chair, the side of the table they sit at, the pen they handle, and their side of the plexiglass screen they stick their hand through in order for me to stick their finger and draw enough blood to run the tests I run. The clients also have to wear a mask the entire time they are in our building. So, that’s why I am getting the vaccination so early; I’d posted about it on social media and got some weird comments, like so lucky and so forth…which I understand; sure, I’m lucky to get it early, but at the same time I’ve been at a high daily risk of infection since late spring–and while I don’t think the age thing matters as much as they thought it did at the beginning of the pandemic, I am not that young–my next birthday will be my sixtieth.

So, that’s why I am getting the vaccine earlier than many. I am a front-line employee of a public health clinic–and while I may not be a doctor or a nurse, I provide essential health services–or serve as a gateway to accessing those services….and the Office of Public Health provided enough vaccines to our clinic so that all of our employees can be get one, so that our clinic can get back up and be fully operational (rather than on a limited basis) sooner rather than later.

And that’s probably the last time I will ever talk about my day job and what I do there publicly.

Yesterday was a very good work day–I am still behind, of course; I’d hoped to be finished with the entire thing on Tuesday so it could sit for a day or two before the final polish. Bury Me in Shadows has had an interesting journey to completion. It began as a short story I wrote sometime in the 1980’s called “Ruins”–and when I finished writing the story, I knew it wasn’t a short story but a novel. I filed the story away, dragging out the folder and rereading it occasionally over the last thirty or so years (it’s really difficult for me to grasp that 1980–and soon 1981–was forty years ago), and I’m not sure when exactly I decided to turn it into a novel or when I started working on it. The original title, once I started pulling the book together as a novel, was Bury Me in Satin, which is a line from the song “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry; I love the song, and when I heard that lyric the first time, I immediately thought, ah, that’s the title for the book built on “Ruins”, but at some point during the writing I changed it to the more Gothic Bury Me in Shadows. I had always, since the 1980’s, wanted to write about my fictional Corinth County, Alabama–which is where this book is set–and over the decades since have done some serious world-building. I have any number of short stories written, in some form or another, that are set there…and tried to weave some of those story strands into this book. I’ve already published one book with a character from Corinth County, even if the book wasn’t set there: Dark Tide. The book has also evolved in other ways from the original story; the main character was thirteen in the original story, and then evolved into a sixteen year old when I started writing the book. At some point in the process, I recognized that the character’s age didn’t work, and so I aged him into a college student, which actually works much better. This required completely overhauling and reworking the opening two chapters; but I do think the new versions are better than the originals, and I think the book works better this way.

I suppose I will always think of this book as my pandemic book, since that’s when it was written. Ironically, once this one is turned in I have to start working immediately on the next, which is due on March 1. The next has already been through a ridiculous amount of drafts–I started writing it in 2015, and have worked on it off and on since then (I wrote the entire first draft in July 2015; a chapter a day, basically), and so I guess this is all about finishing projects that have been lingering around for a while. (Even this Kansas book began being formulated when I was in high school, and has followed an interesting–to me–evolutionary pattern since then.)

Perhaps 2021 will be the year where I clear out all the projects that have been hanging around my office for years–decades, in some cases–so I can move on.

It would be so lovely if I could write a first draft of Chlorine in a month…

And on that note, I’m heading for the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!