Exile

I don’t really remember why I originally decided to subscribe to Apple Plus; I have a love/hate relationship with the entire company, frankly, but after using their products for nearly twenty-five years I’m sort of resigned to using them until the day I die (but reserve the right to complain incessantly about them). I have a ridiculous amount of streaming services that I already pay for–Hulu, Prime, Netflix, CBS All Access, DC Universe, HBO MAX, Disney Plus (and I really need to trim that down, seriously)–and so why on earth would I add another? I honestly don’t know, but there it is, and I’m paying for it. We originally tried watching an Octavia Spencer show she did for them, but as much as we love her and as talented as she is, the writing wasn’t worthy of her talents and we abandoned the show. We then tried Defending Jacob–I mean, come on, CHRIS EVANS–but it, too, began to strain credulity and credibility and despite it’s amazing production values and CHRIS EVANS, we finally abandoned the show. Having had two disappointing experiences with their series in a row, we kind of decided to avoid Apple Plus and I was at the point of pulling the plug when I remembered I wanted to give The Morning Show a try–and we fucking loved it.

And then a friend recommended Ted Lasso.

I like Jason Sudeikis; the film where he played a drug smuggler and hired a stripper played by Jennifer Aniston to play his wife, and then hired two kids to play their kids was surprisingly funny and enjoyable (even if I can’t remember the name of it) and I vaguely remember him as a Saturday Night Live alum (sorry, but this century the women have far overshadowed the men for the most part), but the premise of the show didn’t sound terribly promising to me, frankly; an American college football coach is hired to coach a major league soccer team in the UK, despite knowing nothing about soccer or England or anything. It was, I thought, kind of a stupid premise; I may not follow soccer or know much about it, but even I know it’s the most popular sport in the world and the Brits go nuts about it. It also was that most tired of sitcom premises, once you boil it down to its nuts and bolts and foundation: fish out of water. How many times have we seen this already, and in every possible variation? And soccer–a sport I don’t follow, don’t really understand, and generally never get terribly excited on the few times I’ve watched it?

But the friend who recommended it also said it was very much in the spirit of Schitt’s Creek, which might just be one of my favorite sitcoms ever, and so we gave it a whirl.

And we both found ourselves completely enchanted by the end of the first episode.

And in all honesty, I didn’t think we would last. Ted is from Kansas–the football team he coached to a championship that drew the eye of the Richmond soccer team owner was Wichita State–and has that “aw shucks good golly” type of Midwestern personality that is such a stereotype that it’s almost painful to watch, and there was a fear that this show would be painful to watch; a sweet, unassuming, good-hearted Midwestern American having to deal with the cutthroat British media, angry fans who can’t understand the decision to hire him, and I thought to myself, oh this is going to be one of those things where he wins and everyone grows to love and appreciate him.

It is so much more than that–and not just because he doesn’t win (spoiler). We soon find out two important, key things about Ted and his new job that explain it, in that weird, cartoonish sitcom way: the team’s owner, Rebecca, got the team as part of a divorce settlement from her horrific ex-husband, Rupert–a cheating, slimy piece of shit who is horrible to her–and as the only thing he actually cares about is the soccer (football) team, she wants to destroy it while he watches helplessly as it happens. What better way to ruin a team than hiring someone who knows absolutely nothing about the sport to be its coach? But why would Ted take the job? It turns out that Ted’s marriage is also on the rocks, and the marriage counselor he and his wife are seeing have suggested they put some distance between them–just as the job offer came through, so Ted takes it.

And Ted isn’t a stereotype at all, as I feared; as played by Jason Sudeikis, he’s just one of those genuinely kind people, almost completely without guile; he believes in his players and he believes in the goodness of people–and as everyone gets to know him, his kindness and caring begins to break through with the players and everyone he encounters. The media is brutal to him, but he just smiles and appreciates them for doing their job. Rebecca is consistently undermining him with the team, setting him up to make sure the team fails. But Ted’s eternal optimism and belief in people starts pulling the team together, creating a true team atmosphere. One of the sweetest episodes is one where he spends the day with a journalist who is one of his harshest critics, Ted Crimm; and watching as Ted’s optimism and kindness slowly begins to win the reporter over, to the point that he writes an absolutely glowing column about Ted–concluding with his belief that the team will be relegated (moved to the minors) but that he won’t gloat when it happens, because he can’t help rooting for the guy.

Like Schitt’s Creek, the show is about the characters, their relationships with each other, and their personal growth. Even Rebecca (played brilliantly by Hannah Waddingham, perhaps most famous as the ‘shame” sept from Game of Thrones), the mastermind of this cruel scheme with Ted set-up as the butt of the joke, is understandable; we see how much Rupert has damaged her, and awful as what she is doing may be, we understand her pain and root for her to get through it all, and watching Ted slowly beginning to win her over–as well as Keeley, the former supermodel who begins the show involved with team star (borrowed from Manchester City) Jamie Tartt, and gradually realizes she deserves better and falls for someone more her match; Keeley is a terrific character, who immediately sees, gets, and understands Ted’s worth, and watching her friendship with Rebecca grow is also delightful to watch. The show is never side-splittingly funny, but the humor is there…and so are the human elements that sometimes make you tear up.

Because Crimm is ultimately right–you can’t help rooting for Ted, and by extension, you can’t help rooting for the team, the characters, and the show. The acting is top-notch, and even the minor characters are completely lovable–I love Jamie Rojas, the Mexican player who is always happy and always saying “football is life!” and Nate the equipment manager in particular; even the fans, whether it’s the ones in the stadium chanting “Wanker!” at Ted or the ones in the local pub, are fun to watch and again, fun to watch them grow into an appreciation of their Yankee coach and his methods.

I love this show, and I can’t wait to see the second season.

Domino Dancing

I was very tired yesterday for most of the day, with the end result of not going to make groceries on my way home–an odious chore that has now defaulted to today. I slept very well last night, for the first time in a couple of nights, and slept later than I’d intended. I woke up at seven this morning, as is my wont, and I thought, oh just a few more minutes, the bed feels lovely and the next thing I knew it was after eight. I also feel like I could have stayed in bed for the rest of the morning without the slightest quibble or problem. But I peeled myself out of the bed and am now drinking my first cup of coffee. I was too tired last night when I got home to do much of anything, either, so I pretty much stayed in my easy chair for most of the night. We’re giving up on Defending Jacob, because the plot isn’t making much sense–it kind of went off the rails, which is a shame; it’s done very well and has a remarkable cast, but there’s only so much you can do with a script and plot that don’t really work all that well. It’s a shame, since I love both Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery, but the material didn’t do right by them. We then started watching Dead to Me–the second season dropped yesterday–but while Christina Applegate (whom I love) and Linda Cardellini are pitch perfect, again, the story of season two didn’t grab either one of us, so we moved on to an Acorn show, Gold Digger, starring Julia Ormond, as a recently divorced, wealthy woman of sixty who has fallen for a handsome young man the age of her oldest son–and naturally, her children aren’t terribly thrilled about this. It isn’t clear if her lover actually loves her or is a gold digger; there are only two episodes, so I guess we’ll find out tonight.

Yesterday was an interesting day on social media. Shitstorms aplenty and as always, lots of foolishness. Rather than try to explain, I will send you to S. A. Cosby’s response to the attacks and outrage from “y/a twitter” (most of whom are pieces of shit, quite frankly) about ALA Booklist using the cover of his upcoming novel Blacktop Wasteland (which is getting the kind of advance buzz you don’t see very often in this business; similar to the buzz that built for Gone Girl and Rob Hart’s The Warehouse last year). You can see his response here, or if you’d rather, you can read the entire response not as a thread on Booklist’s website, right here. Perhaps the best thing about the entire controversy (which still makes my blood boil a little bit) is the incredible self-own of so-called “woke y/a twitter” to the cover of a crime novel written by a man of color and centering a man of color being featured on the cover of the American Library Association’s trade publication. I want you to sit and think about that for a moment: the American  Library Association. Which means librarians were the ones who saw it and became “outraged”, and therefore decided ALA needed to change the cover….LIBRARIANS. I’ve noticed over the years that “y/a Twitter” is borderline trash; they’ve already taken over the world of y/a publishing, obviously, and have decided that they, and only they, can anoint and crown the proper authors and the proper books; and the elitism and privilege on display is horrifying. Libraries, after all, are the key to the success or failure of y/a as a general rule; the librarians come after you, and your book, and you’re done. Y/A Twitter has done this before–there are at least three novels I can think of that they have come for; in one case, the book was pulled to be revised and I don’t remember what happened to the other two, frankly, after they were charged with racism and otherism (one was called The Black Witch–you can tell by the title it had a target painted on it almost from the font); I’d always meant to go read those books to see for myself how problematic they actually were (while recognizing that I read through a lens of white privilege). This happened to a friend of mine who wrote a book with a trans character; he got a detail wrong and y/a Twitter came for him and his book–the charge led by a trans librarian whose own book, I might add, was released recently to much applause from y/a Twitter. You see how insidious this is? How the self-righteous Madame Defarges and their knitting needles can pick and choose whose book is going to do well and whose isn’t?

And yet, for all their “woke” screaming and screeching about how “we need diverse books” and “own voices”–they have no problem rewarding straight white women writing books about queer youth for mainstream presses, while ignoring the work being done by actual queer voices writing about actual queer youth, rather than the nice straight white suburban lady’s view of what queer youth is. Only those published by the Big 5 need apply, as well–actual books about queer youth being written by actual queer people and being published by queer presses? Ignored, pushed away and aside–those books don’t matter (because obviously, if you aren’t published by the Big 5, clearly you don’t matter). God forbid the same straight white woman write about any other marginalized community; then they would be cultural appropriators and buried under a firestorm of angry tweets….but it’s perfectly okay for them to write about queer people.

Interesting, isn’t it?

One of the reasons I’ve recently decided to change the age of my main character in Bury Me in Shadows from seventeen to twenty-three was because I knew ALA and y/a Twitter would ignore the book completely; a book about a queer seventeen year old by a queer writer and published by a queer press? Not queer enough and not important enough–but by all means let’s applaud some books by straight women writing about teenaged gay male eunuchs who are just looking for love and romance. Straight y/a characters, of course, are allowed to experience love and lust and desire; gay characters have to be eunuchs…because, you know, gay sex is actually kind of icky, right, ladies?

I kind of have mixed feelings about the ALA, to be honest. I love libraries, and I love librarians, who are actually kind of fierce and usually are out there on the front lines every day fighting for the First Amendment and against the banning of books. But when I had my own experience with suppression and so forth; the ALA sat aside and pretended it wasn’t happening. I actually wrote to the ALA asking for help in that situation. They didn’t respond. Neither did Lambda Literary, for that matter, or any of the gay press. I wasn’t a big enough Hollywood star to merit any attention for what was actually happening from either Out or The Advocate–which have been joke publications cine before the turn of the century–but when push came to shove, not a word of support, nothing. The Publishing Triangle in New York and the ACLU took some action…but I can honestly say there’s no worse feeling than being targeted by a right-wing hate group, smeared and slandered by said hate group, and seeing ALA and Lambda Literary sit on their hands and pretend like it wasn’t happening. The great irony is that in the spring of 2006, well after this all had happened, ALA came to New Orleans–the first major conference to return to the city after the flood–and asked me to do a reading at one of their events. I did it, of course–but the whole “we did nothing at all while you and your work were under attack, but please, come read to our conference” kind of left me with a seriously bad taste in my mouth.

But y/a Twitter? As they pat themselves on the backs for their “wokeness”, they can all fucking go to hell and burn there for all eternity. By all means, keep promoting the people who kiss your ass and build up the books by your friends; because that’s really what ALA should be all about, right? Gatekeeping?

Disgraceful.

It is also very important to add to this that even after it was repeatedly pointed out to them by actual crime writers that it was 1) a book cover 2) a book by a man of color and 3) the cover was one that the author loved, they doubled down, refused to listen, and insisted that the cover was offensive and racist.

Yes, that’s right: y/a Twitter got a man of color’s book cover taken off the cover of ALA Booklist because they thought it was racist.

As for me, well, I cannot wait to read Blacktop Wastelandwhich you can order right here. Cosby’s first novel, My Darkest Prayer, was a revelation; and I honestly believe Cosby is destined to become one of crime fiction’s biggest stars. Blacktop Wasteland is going to be one of the books of the year–it’s getting starred reviews all over the place; the reason it was selected to be on the cover of the magazine in the first fucking place was because of the great review it got in Booklist, and their staff recognizing how important of a book it’s going to be this year.

Today I have to go get groceries because I was too tired to do so yesterday; I was tired all day for some reason, and I just got more and more tired the longer the day progressed. Maybe that was why I was so not into anything we were trying to watch last night; but I did manage to read another chapter of Thunder on the Right, and I did get another thousand words done on “Falling Bullets”–which I also want to try to get finished this morning before the Rouse’s run. There was a wonderful storm last night–lots of thunder and torrential rain, which I always enjoy and always helps me sleep better–and it looks hazy out there this morning. There’s branch and tree debris all over our sidewalk, so there was clearly some strong wind last night as well.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Dreaming of the Queen

And here we are, on yet another Thursday, awake before the crack of dawn so I can go screen people at our two offices–mornings at the Marine Building on Tulane Avenue, afternoon at the Elysian Fields office–before heading home. I’m also doing a live reading this evening for Tubby and Coo’s Bookstore; not sure how that’s going to work or how you can tune in–I think it’s a Facebook thing? But I’ll be posting on Twitter and Facebook etc once I have that information handy. I am not sure how I feel about this–I intensely dislike the sound of my own voice, let alone how I appear on camera–but this is a brave new world we’re all living in, and if I want to continue having a career, I am going to have to start doing all kinds of things I generally avoid doing, because doing things you don’t enjoy or like to do is part of the price one has to pay for a career in publishing. I’ve always admired authors who can do the public appearance thing with grace and wit and aplomb; I am not one of those, and inevitably, as is my wont, am aware of every single thing that goes wrong in a reading or on a panel; whether it’s me saying the opposite of what I mean or stumbling over words as I read…yeah.

Which is why I always get a terrified look on my face when people ask me for career advice. I so clearly don’t know what I’m doing that it’s almost laughable that anyone would want my advice on anything, really.

I read some more of Thunder on the Right last night; again, not really sure why Stewart opted to go with a third person point-of-view rather than her usual first; perhaps it will become more apparent as the novel progresses. I honestly don’t remember anything of this story–which is weird.  It’s set in the Pyrenees, a part of Europe I’ve always been interested in and rarely appears in fiction; and how could I forget the plot of a story that begins with the heroine going to visit a cousin staying in a remote convent in the Pyrenees, only to discover on arrival that her cousin died two weeks earlier. (Then again, I remembered very little of This Rough Magic, and even thought the dolphin was from The Moon-spinners; and was wrong wrong wrong)

We also watched another episode of Defending Jacob, which kind of is unspooling. Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery are both superb in this–at least, so far–but the plot itself…as I said to a friend on Twitter, who had issues with the book (I’ve not read the book), the story is familiar–the concept of ‘what would you do is your child was accused of a crime’ has been used plenty of times, and this is what would be called domestic suspense if it was written by a woman and the main character was the wife, not the husband (Alison Gaylin did a magnificent, Edgar winning job of this very story in If I Die Tonight, which you should read if you haven’t already), and the whole “Dad is a prosecutor but will hide evidence and interfere with the investigation to protect his son, thereby risking his entire career and life because he is so convinced his son is being railroaded” thing…the “heroic dad” trope is such a straight male fantasy that it’s very hard for me to take the show seriously. It’s hard to watch someone do stupid things, particularly when they’re supposedly really smart (LAWYER), that you know are only going to turn out badly because it’s necessary for the plot.

I also finished watching Maximilian and Marie de Bourgogne. It’s really quite good, partly because it’s one of those weird historical royal marriages that was surprisingly happy. They were only married five years before Marie was killed in a fall from her horse; Maximilian, in an age when kings and princes and emperors rarely went more than a year between wives, didn’t remarry for nearly twenty years after Marie died. He had lots of mistresses, but never remarried–which was kind of a lovely tribute to his first wife. The show is really well done, and the German actor playing Maximilian is quite hot. (The actress playing Marie is also beautiful.) Their two children, Philip and Margaret, were also quite attractive; Philip is also known to history as Philip the Handsome; how good looking did he have to be to earn that nickname while he was alive? Later Hapsburgs, however, were not known for their looks.

Lord, I have a lot of work to get done this weekend, and I am really dreading it.

Heavy sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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E-Mail

And just like that, the weekend is over and a new work week has begun; what fresh hells and wonders will this week bring? One thing is for certain–the monotony of every day work life is a thing of the seemingly distant past now. Whatever one wants to say or think or feel about a new work week, it’s not the way it was before. Each work week brings some new change, some new shift in the current reality–which was unthinkable as recently as early February; who could have foreseen a lockdown as big and as extensive as this? Our naïveté at being so delighted to see the hell of 2019 come to an end, and people thinking 2020 has got to be better–yeah, I’ve made that precise fucking mistake before, and never again; we had no idea how good we actually had it in 2019, did we?

Seriously.

I’m not missing the twelve hour days on Mondays and Tuesdays, quite frankly, and I believe those are going to be relegated to the scrap heap of history once this has passed–whenever that will be; I’m thinking November, seriously, and at that am being optimistic–and working five eight hours days is actually much more palatable than it ever seemed before, quite frankly. I like getting home every day shortly after five–closer to six if I have to stop somewhere, like the grocery or to get gas–and I like having my evenings free, to make dinner, write, read, and watch television, and it’s actually nice not being completely exhausted once five pm on Friday rolls around, as well. I need to remember this going forward, and adjust my future work schedule appropriately.

I continue reading Mysterious Skin in dribs and drabs; I’d love to steal more time away from everything else to spend on it, as it is absolutely wonderful, and even better than I’d remembered; and reading it as a crime novel was definitely a smart choice. It’s also reminding me about poetry in language choices, and how sometimes stark simplicity says so very much; something James M. Cain knew, and Megan Abbott knows, intimately; how the correct choice of a single word in a very short sentence can speak volumes, provoke insight, and a sense of wonder in the reader at the art and intelligence at work. I’m in the final third of the book now, and should have it finished by the end of the week.

I also managed to revise two more short stories, which are going to be sent off to submission queues this morning; “Night Follows Night” and “This Thing of Darkness”, and here’s hoping they will find a very happy home somewhere. This pleases me to no end; this flurry of work–even if it’s not actual writing, but revising and polishing counts–and get it out there is a good feeling. I feel like I’m actively chasing this crazy dream again. I doubt all five stories will get taken–they might all be rejected, who knows?–but at least I’m getting my work out there again. Now, to select two more stories for the big ones–Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. I may actually have to finish writing two stories–I’m not sure what else I have on hand that’s just in need of revision–but hey, you never know.

We started watching the HBO show Run–not sure about it yet, but love Merritt Weaver, and started Defending Jacob on Apple Plus last night, with Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery, and it’s really good; very well done. We also caught the new episode of City of Angels, which led me to comment, “we’re watching a lot of period pieces lately, what with this and The Plot Against America and Hollywood.” But I am also really enjoying City of Angels; the styling and way it’s filmed reminds me somewhat of Chinatown.

And now, tis back to the spice mines for me. When I get home tonight, I hope to get some more writing accomplished. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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You Won’t See Me

Wednesday after the holiday, and it’s back to the office with me today. I suppose it’s kind of apropos that my first day back at work is a twelve hour day; office testing then main  office testing then bar testing at the Pub. But it’s also a short work week, I am extremely well rested, and I should be able to hang. I finished the revisions yesterday and am going to let them sit for a few days, and I’ll get back to the final read and polish this weekend. I still think there’s some more work needing to be done, in addition to the trimming. The manuscript now sits at about 101,000 words, and that’s not only my longest manuscript ever but it’s probably too long for a manuscript that will be marketed as y/a. I also started writing a new short story over the course of this weekend, and worked out how to fix some others that are either already in progress or in need of revision, which is absolutely lovely. I think as I let the manuscript settle, I am going to work on my short stories as well as start planning out the next book. My plan for the summer was to be finished with this one by the end of June so I could spend July and August working on the next Scotty and planning out the book to follow that one, so I may be a week or so behind. In any case, I feel very good about where I am sitting right now and I am not going to beat myself up over not staying on schedule.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I am not going to try like hell to get back on schedule.

The Lost Apartment is also clean; there’s a little touching up here and there–mostly upstairs, which is not my responsibility–that needs to be done, but other than that everything is sparkling and clean and neat and tidy. I wonder how long it can stay that way? Paul is returning on Saturday night; my hope is that I can do all the shopping I’ll need to do, preparatory for his return, either tomorrow morning before work or Friday morning before work. As Saturday is my last full day without him here, I am hoping to go over the manuscript that day for the last time, and then figure out what agents to send it to. I’ve not tried to land an agent in over twelve years; so I have to steel myself for the rejections. I also need to update my CV, which is always hopelessly out of date, which also means I need to go back and figure out when I published what. Heavy heaving sigh. Ah, well. I also want to get back to reading; I was so busy focusing on the manuscript that my mind was too tired when I was finished working to do any reading. I finished bingeing Scream yesterday, which was quite fun, and then I watched Cabaret again on my TCM app; La Bare, a documentary by Joe Manganiello about a male strip club in Dallas; and a documentary about a once-promising college football player whose career kind of imploded for a variety of reasons, The Identity Theft of Mitch Mustain, which was very well done (and also got me looking forward to college football season again).

So, I suppose I should get ready for work and make a to-do list for the next few days to make sure I don’t miss anything.

And here’s a hunk to get your week off to a nice start, the always delightful Chris Evans:

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