Tumbling Dice

Monday morning and all is quiet and dark in the Lost Apartment this morning. I slept well again last night–I’m getting rather spoiled by all this good sleep, really–and yet it’s weird to be up again when it’s so dark outside. Today is my first full week of work this entire year–not bad, really, since it’s the last week of the month–but it’s also going to be weird to be working every day. I have that event this Saturday at the Convention Center, but other than that my entire focus this entire week is going to be writing (just like always). Everything is going the way it’s supposed to –I’ve already started questioning my choices about the story, so we’re right on track–and I am not getting stressed about anything, so that’s also working for me this year. I’d love to have another day off, though.

And parade season is literally right around the corner.

I didn’t write as much this weekend as I would have liked to, unfortunately; that seems to be very much par for the course, sadly. I’ll have a lot to get done this weekend, of course–that’s how it always seems to work, doesn’t it? That last minute push–but it’s fine. I guess the Joey Burrow and the Bengals won again yesterday–I really only pay attention to the Bengals and the Saints; I pull for the Bengals because of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, of course. I wish the Saints could have gotten him, seriously, but we had a really good run as Saints fans and so I am not going to complain about their return to mediocrity.

We watched two more episodes of Mayfair Witches and there are some substantial changes to the story from the book, but it’s enjoyable watching and there was one point last night where I kind of had to laugh; one of the most vivid and poignant things in the book is how they always parked drugged out of her mind Deirdre on the side porch every day for everyone and anyone walking past the house to see–it wasn’t until last night that it dawned on me how uniquely New Orleans and Southern Gothic that actually is; of course they put her out on the side porch on display for the entire world to see rather than keeping her hidden away inside the decaying mansion. I’m enjoying the show, much like how I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire. I am not one of those people who inevitably are disappointed with adaptations of novels I enjoyed; I long ago sensed that you can’t compare a television series or movie to a novel as they are completely different media and differences are inevitable–they should be viewed and valued for what they are rather than what they should have been. Changes have to be made–just like how the house they used for filming and converted to look like the house at First and Chestnut isn’t exactly the same; Deirdre’s porch wasn’t the main gallery of the house but a completely separate and different side porch, coming off the living room windows. But you have to adapt to what you are working with, and since they couldn’t use the actual house–obviously there would be differences.

I also have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon on Wednesday, which means having to leave early that day (so I guess it’s not really a full week of work after all), so I can finally get my arm looked at and possibly start the process of getting hearing aids. Yay for health insurance! I am tired a bit this morning–more like still sleepy more than anything else, it’s funny how the meaning of tired has changed over the years–and could easily climb back into bed and sleep for another two hours or so. I like that I am getting good sleep so that I feel rested; weekend after next will be the weekend in Alabama which means I won’t be sleeping again relatively soon, sigh. (It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to travel at all anymore because the lack of sleep becomes debilitating.) But I won’t be traveling again after that weekend until San Diego and Bouchercon in August/September, unless I have to go to Kentucky for something in the meantime, and I am really looking forward to the build up of accrued time off. I really do think I may just take a week off in May or June just to stay home and work on things around the house–which will inevitably lead to me being lazy and doing nothing for most of that time, which is not good. I am hoping that the arm check-up will go well and will eventually lead to me being cleared to return to the gym, but I also fear I am being overly optimistic. Visually the arms look vastly different from each other now, which really has me concerned about something like a torn muscle or something like that–but you’d think that would be more painful and wouldn’t have stopped hurting as quickly as this did? It’s always something. I guess I should check into the yoga schedule at the gym and see if there’s any classes that work with my schedule. Stretching, riding the bike, walking on the treadmill…these are all things that don’t require me to actually use my arms much, so….no excuses.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Big Love

Sunday morning and another good night’s sleep. The bed was enormously comfortable and I didn’t want to get up–knowing how much I had to do today–but c’est la vie; I knew that was going to be the case. I felt unwell most of the day yesterday–slightly feverish, low energy, no appetite–which was probably my usual flu-shot reaction (I know you aren’t supposed to get sick, but I always have a reaction to a flu shot) and I stupidly had them give it to me in the same arm I got my COVID booster injected into, so my left arm was achy and sore all day yesterday. It was okay, I knew I needed to just rest and relax, and fortunately, it was college football Saturday, so I curled up in my chair and started watching college games when the chores I was doing eventually wore me out and I had to retire to my easy chair with ‘salem’s Lot (more on that later) while watching games–and the two I wound up watching (Alabama-Tennessee and LSU-Florida) were pretty epic games.

The Tennessee-Alabama game was amazing, and deepest sympathies to my Tide friends; what a stinging loss, and to a bitter rival–even if it’s one you’ve beaten every year since 2006 (it was Nick Saban’s first loss to Tennessee at Alabama; he also had some pretty memorable wins over them at LSU). 52-49 was the final score, with the Tide missing a last-minute field goal with the Volunteers making theirs to hold off the furious Alabama comeback and capture the biggest win in Knoxville in decades. One thing you have to give Alabama–their losses are almost always incredible games because they never give up.

I didn’t have very high hopes for my Tigers going into the Florida game. Like Alabama-Tennessee, it’s a rivalry game (I don’t know how that happened or came about; maybe it’s because we are both swamp states with a large alligator population? I honestly don’t know, but it’s true) that has mostly been dominated by Florida throughout the series–but LSU has been catching up. The series record is now 33-33-3; tied. LSU has won four in a row against Florida for the first time since 1977-1980 (when Bear Bryant was still at Alabama, Florida had no national titles and LSU only had one), and because it had been so long since LSU won four straight, I figured history would be telling and LSU didn’t have much of a chance. The game was also the first between new coaches for both teams. LSU has won 8 of the last 10 games in the rivalry–losing in 2012, 2016, and 2018–and has won 10 of 13. And for the first time this season LSU looked good; usually this year they’ve fallen behind very quickly in the first half and had to dig their way back out, but not yesterday. Florida’s opening drive last two plays before they went up 7-0 and I thought oh, here we go again but LSU matched every Florida score and then added another just before half-time to take a 28-21 lead; by the end of the third quarter the score was 42-21 and despite a furious Florida comeback in the fourth (similar to Alabama’s, actually), held on to win 45-35. Nerve wracking, but exciting–and it was nice to see LSU finally starting to gel as a team. The schedule doesn’t get easier now–we have Mississippi, a bye, then Alabama followed by Arkansas and Texas A&M–and two of those teams are currently sitting in the Top Ten. LSU and Alabama are tied for second place in the division behind Mississippi, which makes both of those games crucial for all three teams (Mississippi and Alabama have yet to play as well; Alabama also plays LSU and Mississippi back to back) so it’s going to be an interesting November in the SEC West–while the Tennessee-Georgia showdown in the East also looms.

And the sting of the blowout loss to Tennessee at home doesn’t seem quite so horrific now that Tennessee has also beaten Alabama and scored 52 points to do it. I think that’s the most points scored on Nick Saban? It may even be the most points ever scored on Alabama? You just never think of any team ever scoring fifty points on the Tide. It’s definitely a weird season. And of course, Mississippi is coming to Baton Rouge in almost the same position they were in back in 2014, when they were 7-0 and ranked third; LSU won 10-7. This is only the third time Mississippi has started a season 7-0 (the other was 1962). Definitely an interesting season when there’s a chance that the SEC Title game could be between two unbeatens–but instead of Georgia-Alabama, which is what everyone was expecting, it could be Tennessee-Mississippi. How weird would that be? Tennessee hasn’t been in the title game since 2007, and Mississippi never has.

Definitely a weird college season, but very happy with my Tigers. It’s always lovely to beat Florida.

And today the Saints play the Bengals, which brings Joey Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase back to the Superdome for the first time since the 2020 national championship game against Clemson. I think I’ll hav the game on in the background–I can’t root against the Saints under any circumstance, but I also can’t ever root against Joey B and Chase, either.

I did finish reading Interview with the Vampire the other night (I’ll write about it when the TV series is finished), and yesterday I started rereading ‘salem’s Lot, which is one of my favorite novels of all time and was the book that turned me into an unabashed Stephen King fan. I had bought a used hardcover copy on eBay sometime in the past decade (which I also had done with The Shining) and so as I was reading it yesterday I caught a typo–I’d never read this copy of it, and the typo was weird, so I flipped back to the front of the book to discover that it’s a first edition. I don’t think the person selling it knew they could have gotten a lot more for it than I paid for it; it was so inexpensive it never even crossed my mind it was a first edition (I had the same insane luck with a copy of In Cold Blood, getting a hardcover copy off eBay for less than ten bucks, only to have it arrive as a very well-kept first edition…signed by Truman Capote. You never know how lucky you can get on eBay, I guess is the point of this sidebar?) so I was pretty thrilled to see that my copy is actually an undiscovered treasure. Anyway, as I started rereading–and remembering just how great a novel it actually is–I started thinking about length; my longest book is around 100k (I don’t think I’ve ever exceeded 100k in a book, or by much if I did) and the average length for books I am hearing these days is 80k. Out of curiosity, I decided to see how long ‘salem’s Lot is; it’s just over 157k words. As I was rereading it–and enjoying those early chapters again, as King creates the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot so beautifully and perfectly–I also was thinking what would an agent/editor cut out of this to submit it for publication today if this was a first or second time author in modern times? They would cut out a good third of the book, I think; sure, there’s a lot in the story that doesn’t really advance it at all–a lot o the supporting characters and subplots could easily be cut without notice, but at the same time I think that would serve to damage the book and turn it into something else; as I was reading, I kept thinking “this is really just Peyton Place as a horror novel” and that, for me, is one of King’s strengths–the way he writes about small towns, and how interconnected everyone is, and how everyone has dark, dark secrets that aren’t quite as secret as they might prefer. I think when I finish reading this book, I may move on to another King that I’ve not read–there are any number of them in my cabinets; the days when I used to get King on release day (still do that) and then read the entire book within forty-eight hours are long gone, and so many of his book are really long…

And I just checked my email to see that I’ve placed another short story. Woo-hoo! More details on that as they develop.

And now back to the spice mines with me. I am going to have another cup of coffee and go read some more of ‘salem’s Lot before getting cleaned up and getting to work on the book. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader!

Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)

I love football.

I know, it catches people off-guard that a sixty year old gay man is a massive football fan, but I’ve never subscribed to stereotypes. I love football, with an especial love for the college game (I used to only watch the Saints in the NFL, but have started rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals because, well, Joe fucking Burrow); I think everyone knows I am a massive LSU fan. (GEAUX TIGERS!)

There really isn’t anything else in the world like a Saturday night in Death Valley. I will remember the 2019 night game against Florida probably for the rest of my life. God, what a great game, and it was so much fun. I am aware that I am digressing.

Anyway, I grew up in a Southern football family (even if we didn’t live in the South, we were from the South and that’s all that matters), so it was inevitable that I should become both a football fan and a football player. I played all four years in high school, all of my cousins also played, and I have close relatives who played at both the college and professional levels (and I don’t mean some small college in the middle of nowhere; I mean in the SEC–Auburn and Alabama, and there may be even more that I don’t know about). I have relatives who were successful coaches. Every fall Saturday the television was tuned into whatever college game was playing–even if we weren’t fans of either team; it’s hard to imagine now with the 24/7 college football coverage, but when I was growing up ABC had a monopoly on all NCAA football games. They would usually play one game of national significance, and then the second game was regional–important to that region. As we did not live in the South, we rarely got to see SEC games other than Alabama–Alabama was almost inevitably the only Southern team of “national interest” throughout the 1970’s (I really don’t remember the 1960’s much, but we lived in Chicago so I imagine we saw a lot of Big Ten and Notre Dame games; I don’t really remember a lot of my life before the suburbs, really–some things, yes, but most things not so much)

I’ve never really read a lot of fiction about football, though; it inevitably winds up being something cliched and tired. I loved North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent; hated Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins; but do remember enjoying End Zone by Don DeLillo (I was going to reread this recently; but there’s so much to read. I did try to to reread Semi-Tough–but when I opened the book there were racial slurs and other mess on page one, so I threw it in the trash; no thanks). And I’ve also enjoyed other books with football involved, even if it wasn’t necessarily what the book was about. (The Hardy Boys were on the Bayport High football team in The Crisscross Shadow–the only time football is mentioned in the series.) There’s also a tendency, in books about high school and football to make the football players and cheerleaders the villains of the story, which has never really sat right with me. I was never bullied by anyone on the football team, and maybe the cheerleaders weren’t bitches to me because I was on the team and my sister was a cheerleader, but that wasn’t my experience (one thing I truly appreciated about Stephen King’s Christine was the horrible bullies at Libertyville High weren’t the football players but the hard-case kids–which was also my experience; which is probably yet another reason the book is one of my favorites of the King canon, methinks).

But…I can also see why it’s so attractive to make the jocks and cheerleaders the villains of high school dramas. And I sort of did something similar in #shedeservedit, didn’t I? Those boys on the Marysville and Steubenville high school teams certainly fit the bill of villainy.

So, when people started recommending Eli Cranor’s debut Dont Know Tough to me, I wasn’t so sure. I just published a book of my own about high school football and the toxicity it can engender in a small town (#shedeservedit), and revisiting my memories of high school and football was harder than I had thought it would be; I thought I could be dispassionate about it all while writing about it (I often write about things to try to distance myself from them and gain some perspective) but I was wrong. It was hard to write that book, much harder than I thought it would be–and it took years (first draft was written in 2015; published in 2022).

But enough people whose opinions I respect were raving about the book, so I got a copy and once I started reading it, there was no way I could stop.

Still feel the burn on my neck. Told Coach it was a ringworm this morning when he pick me up, but it ain’t. It a cigarette, or at least what a lit cigarette do when it stuck in your neck. Just stared at Him when He did it. No way I’s gonna let Him see me hurt. No way. bit a hole through the side of my cheek, swallowed blood, and just stared at Him. Tasted blood all day.

Tasted it while I saw in Ms. Miller’s class. Woke up in Algebra tasting it. Drank milk from a cardboard box at lunch and still, I tasted it. But now it eighth period football. Coach already got the boys lined up on either side of the fifty, a crease in between, a small space for running and tackling, for pain.

This my favorite drill.

I just been standing back here, watching the other boys go at it. The sound of pads popping like sheet metal flapping in a storm.

“Who want next?” holler Bull. Bull ain’t the head coach. Bull coach the defense. He as mean as they come.

One of my favorite books of all time about small towns is Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show (I also love the film, which is extraordinary and one of, in my opinion, the best films made during the 1970’s). I did try to reread it recently–I was interested in refreshing my memory of its gay subplots and the mental breakdown of poor Joe Bob Blanton, but I’d also forgotten the part about the bored teenaged boys decided to fuck some calves, so when I got to that part I put the book down in distaste. But now that I’ve finished Don’t Know Tough, I kind of want to go back and reread The Last Picture Show again (I can skip that distasteful part…weird that I didn’t remember it).

Don’t Know Tough is yet another incredibly impressive debut, further confirming the truth of what I said at the Lefty Award banquet–the last few years have seen so many amazing and diverse and extraordinary debuts that the future of our genre is in very good hands. I won’t lie–when I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it; I was worried that the entire book would be written in that grammatically garbled first-person voice but as I kept reading that first chapter I got into the rhythm of the language and started seeing the beauty and fluidity of the style choice–which is no small feat to pull off, and pull off consistently, throughout the entire book…to the point I was also a little disappointed that the entire book wasn’t done in that same style. Billy Lowe is the character whose voice this is; and the story of the novel revolves around him and the horrific Shakespearean tragedy that his life actually is. His mother is an alcoholic, and lives with an abusive piece of shit who obviously directs violence at Billy. He has a younger half-brother who was fathered by this POS; he also has an older brother who lives elsewhere. Billy’s situation has turned him into a wild beast of rage with an exceptional gift for channeling that rage into playing football. He’s not big enough in size to go major college, but his coach feels like there’s a chance he could get a football scholarship to a smaller college, and break the cycle of poverty he is trapped in at the moment. Billy is exceptionally compelling–it’s hard to read his first person point of view and not have your heart break for this kid; and hope that it’s all going to work out for him in the end, despite the disturbing pattern of violence in both his life and behavior.

Denton High has made the Arkansas state play-offs, but without Billy in the backfield their chances of advancing are practically nil. It’s important for Denton to do well in the post season because their coach’s job depends on it. Trent Powers is a born-again Christian, whose last coaching job in California crapped out–winning only three games in his final three seasons before being fired. This job is another chance for him, even though his wife and daughters hate relocating to a small town in Arkansas from California (much is made throughout the book of Coach Powers’ Prius, seen by the locals are weird and strange and almost otherworldly and unmanly). Coach Powers also has a very soft spot for his star player, and not just because he’s a star player–he actually feels compassion for the horror the young player’s life has been up to that point, and he wants to help–even if Billy doesn’t want any help from anyone. Billy’s future, to Billy at any rate, is already set, and he’s not going to end up going anywhere or doing anything or having a good life and decent future. He doesn’t see himself being worthy of anything or of doing better than his assigned lot in life.

The Powers family is a direct contrast to Billy’s; loving and nurturing couple, raising two daughters and trying to do right by them. How far is too far to go when helping someone in Billy’s situation, is the question. Coach’s wife–the daughter of a successful football coach who took Trent in when he was a kid from a similar background as Billy’s…and yes, he slept with his coach’s daughter and got her pregnant. So both Coach and his wife have the fear that the same thing will happen to their daughter and Billy–especially when the daughter starts opening up to Billy.

But one night Billy’s abuser is murdered. No one would blame Billy for killing the abusive bastard–well, the law would. But the story of what happened that night is far more complicated, and far more surprising, than the reader can imagine.

The pacing is also exceptional, and I love the contrasts between the third person point of view we see much of the novel in, with the Billy point of view chapters mixed in. The language choices and imagery are spare and tight yet full and rich and immersive–reminding me not only of Megan Abbott and her brilliant Dare Me, but also with a healthy dash of Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, S. A. Cosby, and Kelly J. Ford (all masters of Southern Gothic) mixed in. The little touches of how claustrophobic small Southern towns can be, the class disparities between the haves and the have nots, and what teenagers in those types of environments was simply masterful.

I was completely blown away by this amazing work, and suspect that you will be as well. Highly recommended. I cannot wait to see what Eli Cranor does next.

Love Child

Monday morning, you gave me no warning, of what was to be.

I had thought the Super Bowl was an evening game–what can I say? I never watch as a general rule, and when the Saints won it, it was a night game–so was very pleasantly surprised to find it on early last night, so I started watching. I was sorry to see the Bengals lose, but as I said yesterday–if I learned anything by watching Joe Burrow play at LSU, they won’t lose next time, and it will probably be next year. The Bengals are also only going to get better with every passing year. So, heads up, Cincinnati fans–you have decades of greatness before you. Congratulations to the Rams are in order as well; the Bengal defense didn’t get the job done when they needed to in the end.

It was a good weekend around here, in which I did manage to not only get rested but got a lot done. “The Rosary of Broken Promises” is out of my hair now for good; I worked on the anthology; and I started getting the draft of “Condos for Sale or Rent” underway. I do still have a ridiculous amount of things to get done this week, but am feeling much better about the entire thing now. Parades start on Friday, which makes working and getting home from work and running errands entirely problematic for the next two weeks; but when it is all over it will be March and time will start running out across the board. Heavy heaving sigh–where did February go? I have emails to answer this morning and more organizing to get done today–it’s really non-stop, to be honest–but I am no longer tired the way I was last week and feel more motivated than I have in a while, which is a good thing. That fatigue last week was the fucking pits, frankly, and now I worry that I’ll require time from every trip to recover going forward, which wasn’t something I had in the cards for this year.

But…you have to play what you’re dealt, right?

I also reread Chlorine yesterday, and was…well, in all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed by what I have written already in this manuscript. Sure, the voice and tone are right–but the word rhythm is off, and I could also tell that I worked on chapters without revisiting what had already been written; lots of contradictions and changes from chapter to chapter which, obviously, will need to be corrected and changed when I start working on it full force again around April, most likely. But I managed to get some needed and necessary research taken care of over the weekend that will help pull it all together in some ways, plus it anchors the book in a time of the year which I hadn’t been doing up to now. It kind of messes with some other history, but that means I can play around a bit more with fact and fiction, which is also incredibly fun.

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Don’t have much to say today, really–sorry about the brevity of the entry–but I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

The Way You Do The Things You Do

Sunday morning, and not only is the Super Bowl today, but it’s also our Costco run day. Hurray! And in a moment of perfect timing, this morning I also got the emailed rebate coupon from my Costco Visa, so we have almost a hundred dollars off whatever we spend there today. One really has to love serendipity when it happens, doesn’t one? It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to Costco, and I am really missing my dark chocolate sea salt caramels…we’ve been out for a while. And with the next two weekends lost to parades, this is the last opportunity we have to go until after March.

Is it insane that I am excited about going to Costco? It also says a lot about the quality of my life, doesn’t it? LOL. Yesterday was a good day–I also had another good night’s sleep, which was lovely–and I got a lot accomplished around the Lost Apartment as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned. Everything looks, if still a bit cluttered, neat and tidy–at least the clutter is stacked nicely–and it really does make a difference in how I feel about the place. I also worked on “Condos for Sale or Rent” for a bit yesterday, made groceries (got Doris Day parking and everything), and settled in to watch the Olympics. I wasn’t thrilled with the ice dancing results–as always, the Americans were under-scored–but we’ll get a medal of some kind; the French were always a lock on the gold anyway. And both of our top teams won a silver medal in the team competition, so…really, can’t complain about too much at all here.

I got the edits for “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday, and it took me about ten minutes to get through them and make corrections where necessary. The story turned out a lot better than I had obviously thought, but the good news is the story is finished and turned in and the edits are done; so I can put the file away, add the title to the Table of Contents for my next short story collection, and move the electronic file into the This Town and other Stories folder. I have ten published stories, which is about half of the new collection, and of the other ten, well, four have complete drafts–and of course, I have two more stories to finish in the next few months as well. So, that will give me sixteen at some point, which is lovely, and even closer to a finished collection–would be, should I decide to throw a novella in there at some point. I also retrieved my folder on Chlorine so I could again read over what I’ve already written–with an eye to getting back to it in March or April; I’ve not really decided yet what I should do next other than these short stories. I also started writing a blog post about Joey Burrow that I will try to get finished today–I don’t think I’ve been such a fan of any pro quarterback since the glory days of Drew Brees–otherwise there isn’t much point. I won’t be watching the Super Bowl–or certainly not all the entire thing–since I have to get up early tomorrow (all week, in fact; I have to go into the office four mornings and I have to get up early again on Friday to take the car in for its oil change), but obviously the first thing I will do upon rising tomorrow is see how it all turned out.

I also want to go to the gym today after we go to Costco–I know, crazy, right?–but it looks lovely outside today (yesterday was so beautiful I got out the charcoal and barbecued burgers) so the walk to the gym will undoubtedly be lovely, and I want to get a lot of work done today once that’s over and done with. Paul is still working on Festival programming, so I need to make certain I am utilizing my free time wisely. After organizing the books and making them look more orderly yesterday, I am debating not buying any more books until I can get some more of these read and donated and out of the house. It does seem weird to be continually buying books when you have so many that you’ve never read–many of them classics and award-winners–and so maybe, just maybe, the time I usually was spending in the evenings writing could be utilized for reading for an hour or so every night, which will gradually bring me through the books. (I doubt I will get much reading done during parade season, frankly.) The only parades I really care about this year are Muses and Iris, frankly; but there are reasons Paul and I might end up going out there every night of parades, or many of them, at any rate. (Not my story to tell, but being supportive of a friend.) Note to self: get more take home COVID tests from the office.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start doing some more clean-up around here before we go to Costco. Paul’s alarm just went off, which means he’ll be getting up soon (later rather than sooner, of course) and I need more coffee to fortify myself for the journey.

Have a lovely Super Bowl Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Set me free, why don’t you, babe?

I cannot get used to having the house at a moderate temperature. It’s so weird to get up and not freeze as I come downstairs and make my first cup of coffee, while I get ready for work, anything. I also had insomnia last night, alas–but again, first time in a very long time that’s happened, so I guess I can live with it, really. I had a very good and productive day yesterday–I got caught up some on the book (still behind, but nothing that can’t be defeated by some good work getting done every day) and I also made progress on my emails. I doubt I will get the inbox emptied today, but stranger things have happened before, and could even happen again.

We finished Ozark last night, and now have to wait until the second half of the season drops before finding out what happens to the members of the cast. I can’t imagine this having a happy ending–they just keep going from bad situations to worse ones, and I can’t help but feel that Marty and Wendy are not going to have a happy ending where they escape from the criminal world and go back to having some semblance of a normal family life again; unless they get into witness protection or something like that. Julia Garner also continues to kill it as Ruth Langmore–I see another Emmy in her future–and overall, it’s really been a terrific show from the beginning. We also got caught up on Peacemaker, and started the new season of Servant, which is even weirder than the first two seasons–which is actually saying a great deal.

Apparently the NFL had some great play-off games this weekend; as I’ve noted before, outside of the Saints I generally don’t follow (and don’t care) very much about pro football; now that so many LSU players are in the NFL I pay a little more attention to them because–well, LSU players; and how could I not pay attention to the professional success of the kids from that great 2019 season, especially Joe Burrow, who still wears an LSU wrist band in every game he plays for the Bengals? I can’t root against Tyrann Mathieu or Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs) or Justin Jefferson (Vikings), or whenever I hear a former LSU player’s name called in a game it becomes very difficult for me to root against them (unless, of course, they play for the Falcons, in which case all bets are off). It’s weird–it’s been a while since the post-season continued without the Saints, so I could stop paying attention to football on the weekends and get things done.

The weekend was good, over all. I did manage to get what I planned to get done with the book–didn’t quite finish the filing, organizing and cleaning, though–and I did brainstorm for a bit about two stories I am writing and are due soon (yikes) while I was waiting for Paul to finish whatever it was he was doing (work no doubt) and come downstairs to watch television last evening. It’s very strange how bipolar being a writer can make one; Saturday I was struggling with the work, which was why I only did one chapter instead of the planned two. I was certain Saturday that the book was garbage, unfixable, and was going to be the end of my career. Yesterday I zipped through three chapters, thinking this isn’t bad at all, really and occasionally this is actually working and I am enjoying myself. Seriously, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown multiple times since I started working in this literally insane industry.

But fortunately I do enjoy writing. I do enjoy doing the work–even when I hate doing the work, which is usually when it just won’t come for whatever reason and I am forcing it–and I actually enjoy editing and revising because you are making it better, which is always a pleasant feeling. And that’s how I was feeling with it yesterday–I am making this better–and why I had so much fun with it. Hopefully that same sense of joy will resurface tonight–although every once in a while I will get to a part that has to be completely redone because I changed something earlier in the book and then I sob internally before I start screaming internally.

But it’s always up and down, and if anything, my mood swings and chemical imbalances make me perfect for being a writer; because it has proven to be a rollercoaster ride of its own (kind of like the chemical imbalances) and if anything, I’ve gotten used to my life feeling like a rollercoaster; slow climbs to heights, speedy descents into lows, and the ever popular stomach-churning loop-de-loops. But I write because I love to write, and after learning how to edit and revise, I love the process of making the work better than it originally was–much as I would love to believe I can write a perfect first draft I no longer make myself crazy trying to get it all right the first time. And there are times I have stories that I don’t know how to fix (usually short stories; I still have many from college writing classes that have potential but have to actually be revised or edited in some way to make them publishable; I did finally figure out how to make “Whim of the Wind” work–after almost forty years–and that’s one of the stories I plan to revisit when I am finished with this manuscript. I do enjoy writing, even if the business of writing makes me crazy; I also like writing what I want to write. Sure, every now and then I think to myself “hey this is a really great commercial idea”–but usually it’s more along the lines of “I think this is an interesting story and I want to take a shot at writing it.”

And sometimes…sometimes the final book doesn’t feel as complete and finished as I would like, even if it sells and gets nice reviews and award recognition; in which case I will always revisit the base idea but with different characters, different location, and different styles of writing. I know I have a tendency to always use the same type of structure with my short stories–which I need to stop doing, because when you do a collection it becomes rather obvious, which I noticed (even if no one else did) with Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories…

Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines on a chilly morning. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader.

Ask Any Girl

Sunday morning and I wish I was coming down.

But a cold spell has descended upon New Orleans overnight, and its chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning. I overslept–much later than ever–and didn’t rise until ten this morning; obviously, all that “outgoing energy” I spent on the MWA ZOOM board orientation drained my batteries completely. That, and the cold, I suspect, combined to make me not want to get out of bed this morning–in fact, I could just as easily go straight back to bed and probably could fall asleep for a while. I am sure that has more to do with the cold than anything else; all I really want to do is get underneath a blanket and stay warm–so when I finish this I am going to go sit in my easy chair under a blanket and read some more of the new Alafair Burke novel before diving into this morning’s writing. I am going to do my best to pretend my email inbox doesn’t exist today and solely focus on resting, reading, and writing.

We finished watching Murders at Starved Rock last night, which was actually kind of annoying; the entire premise of the documentary is the man who served over forty years for the murders might be innocent, and yet they finished filming before the DNA tests came back (due in 2022)? I mean, sure, they can always do one more episode later, but come on–you left the audience hanging? Why put the documentary together and release it now? Paul and I found this to be terribly irritating and annoying. We then moved on to Season 2 of Cheer–I had wondered if they would do another season, given how incredibly popular the original was back in those early days of the pandemic; I actually think it may have come out before the pandemic–it’s so hard to remember these things now. I had wondered how they would do the second season–given how successful the first was–and I have to say, the decision to focus on how the sudden fame has affected everyone there at Navarro College and the town, while still trying to get prepared for the next Nationals–and taking a look at their arch-rival from Trinity Valley as well–was a very wise choice. The Trinity Valley coach also makes a good villain, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. So far so good; will keep you posted as we get further into the season.

We haven’t even gotten to the part where one of the breakout stars is arrested for inappropriate behavior with an underaged boy yet–although I am not sure I am all that keen on watching how that plays out, really, other than in a “can’t look away from the train wreck” kind of way. And isn’t that really the allure of reality television in the first place? The opportunity to be voyeurs without judgment? (Hmmm, that would be an excellent jumping off point for an essay, wouldn’t it? Hmmm.)

But I need to write today; reshaping and revising my manuscript so that it’s ready to go to the editor, and everything else I have to do is going onto the back-burner to simmer for a little while longer. I have been thinking also a lot about a couple of stories I need to get finished, “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “Solace in a Dying Hour,” and I need to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” one more time. I was also very pleased to see the Cincinnati Bengals won their play-off game yesterday (I don’t really care about the NFL outside of the Saints, but I, as an LSU fan, am also a huge fan of both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who are now killing it at the professional level so I follow the Bengals a bit; I also pay attention to the Chiefs more than I ordinarily would because two favorite LSU players are also on their roster.)

And on that note, I am getting another cup of coffee and retiring to my chair to read some more of Alafair’s new book before diving back into mine.

Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader!

Love Must Be The Answer

And here we are on Monday again. It was overall a pleasant weekend, really; I love being able to get up without an alarm, whenever I simply decide I’ve had enough of being lazy and lolling about beneath the covers and so forth. I was deeply asleep when the alarm woke up–I was charging the Fitbit, so have on report on how the sleep actually was, but I think it was deep for most of the night. The alarm was definitely invasive and jarring this morning. But I do feel very well rested and awake–even though I do think I could very easily fall right back asleep if I got back into my bed–and that’s a very good sign for a day in which I have a lot of things to get done.

(Incidentally, I did look up what the normal stages of sleep are at night for a good sleep, and I am hitting the percentages properly every night per my Fitbit–who knew you only needed about two hours of DEEP SLEEP and ninety minutes of REM to be and feel perfectly rested the next day, and that those hours of light sleep aren’t, in fact, a bad thing at all? The more you know…)

I went to the gym during the Saints game–it really is much easier on my stress levels and blood pressure to just periodically check in on the score, or to have the game on while I do other things. AND THEY WON! YAY! GEAUX SAINTS! I’m also following Joey Burrow and Cincinnati–I will always be a fan of Joey B–and they lost in overtime, but they don’t seem like the Bengals of old anymore. I think they will be in the Super Bowl within a very few years.

The gym felt marvelous, as it always does once you get past that deeply painful “back-to-the-gym-after-a-break” workout. For the first time in a while yesterday, I noticed in the gym mirrors that my muscles were responding to the working out and were getting pumped up, which was a shock and a pleasant surprise at the same time; as always an extremist, I think my muscles shrink and fade away if I don’t work them out regularly and I forget sometimes that I am actually fairly big in muscle mass…but all I see, of course, is spaghetti arms, drooping moobs, love handles a gang can grasp, and a big belly. I also am enjoying seeing my flexibility slowly coming back from the abyss; I was able to stretch more deeply yesterday than I have in a very long time. Once I get going again and am doing three sets with added weights for several weeks in a row, I am going to add some more exercises and increase the difficulty of the workouts. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, frankly–although I am going to be missing two weeks in November (two trips planned!).

And yes, I am very excited to be traveling again. I am going to New York for MWA business for a few days, then taking the train to Boston for Crime Bake, a joint event sponsored by MWA’s New England chapter and the local Sisters in Crime chapter. I’ll be going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, so that will be quite the lengthy drive to and fro; I believe I will listen to books on tape that I will get from the library; and who better to while a lengthy drive away with than Stephen King? I think I’ll listen to Black House on the way up and Dr. Sleep on the way home. That definitely sounds like a plan, does it not?

I’m also going to have to be very careful and keep an eye on my schedule so my writing schedule doesn’t get fucked up by these trips. Deadline is 1/15 for A Streetcar Named Murder; definitely need to keep my eyes on that prize; I am going to start revising the first four chapters this week and hopefully will get the ball going again on that.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate for Nate the Great from Ted Lasso recently on Twitter, and while I can certainly understand the turn of the audience–what a terrific job they did on this villain origin story–I also kind of understand where Nate is coming from, if that makes sense? Yes, his behavior is shocking, but it’s not unearned and it didn’t come from left field, and kudos of all kinds to the writers for not taking the easy way out with this character. It would have been very easy for Nate, who was so shy and reticent and cowed by being bullied by everyone on the team and his father, to slowly bloom under Ted and Beard’s belief in him, and how the team has not only stopped bullying him but come to accept him as one of them….as I said, that story was easy; all that was left for the icing on the cake was for Nate’s confidence to keep growing and for him to fall in love and so on and so forth; a nice easy audience-pleasing character arc for the poor bullied boy everyone felt sorry for in the beginning. But the underdog we always want to root for isn’t always this nice person being held down by others. Bullying, and being bullied, isn’t really that simple, nor are all the bullied kids lonely and desperate for just a chance, any chance, and once given that chance, blossom into great people and achieve the potential they’ve always had. Being bullied–and I am speaking as someone here who has been bullied, for most of my childhood and some of my early adulthood–has a very toxic effect on the victim. You often wind up hating yourself intensely; after all, they have a reason for bullying you, don’t they? You must deserve what’s happening to you. And when people cut you down and insult you, you always respond in your head, hating them, wishing you had the courage to say something nasty right back to them. You spend your alone time reliving the humiliations and embarrassments, practicing the vicious and nasty things you should have said in response. There’s a lot of anger there, and often, in the narratives we are used to seeing in fiction, that anger never gets resolved; it just magically dissolves away once the bullying ends. I think that the show writers are doing an excellent job of showing how Nate’s character development/arc has run; remember, he has always lashed out angrily when he felt safe enough to do so; and people who are bullied often become bullies themselves; it’s really the only interpersonal interaction they are most familiar with. Nate began coming out of his shell with the encouragement of Ted and Beard and the acceptance from the team; the promotion to coach; and actually being good at soccer. When he began to see Ted and the others no longer applauding him, giving him the attention he believes he has earned and now deserved, that anger that was always there began to curdle within him. The final episode turn didn’t come as a terrible surprise to me; I saw it building all season, really. I applaud them for taking Nate–obviously a fan favorite–and turning him into the antagonist for Season Three.

Although it must be a strange ride for actor Nick Mohammed, who went from being beloved to reviled over the course of twelve episodes.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.

Casting a Shadow

And it’s Friday again! Cue the dancing horses.

I have a lot that I want to get done this weekend. I need to get those stories pulled together, and I want to get started on finishing off the Secret Project. Stupidly, I also started writing another short story yesterday, “The Flagellants,” which I am not really sure what it’s going to be about, or how to even finish the stupid thing. (An\d because I am twelve years old, sometimes when I think the title quickly it sounds like flatulence, which is a joke I may make in the story because I am twelve years old.) And yes, I got the idea from the bubonic plague chapter in Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror; during the fourteenth century’s bubonic plague outbreak, the church was already in disrepute and many felt that the plague was God’s judgment on a sinful mankind, so there were some religious cults that sprang up; the flagellants movement was one of these, and it was enormously popular and spread throughout central Europe, primarily Germany. These penitents would march through town and flagellate themselves with whips and cat o’nine tails and knotted ropes, trying to take on the sins of all mankind.

Naturally, I found this interesting, and I really liked “The Flagellants” as a title, and we’re kind of in the midst of a pandemic…granted, we’re not that far into it as of yet, but we’ve already seen ridiculous behavior in the name of Jesus–so far, nothing I’m aware of from other faiths–but I began to think about it some more and wondered, what if this becomes more lethal and lasts longer than anyone is even considering now? The second wave of the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 was much worse than the first, and in the wake of the Great War (aka World War I) and said pandemic there was a huge religious revival in the US during the 20’s–we tend to only think of that decade as flappers and bathtub gin, but that wasn’t all that was going on during that decade (it was also the decade that inspired Sinclair Lewis to write Elmer Gantry, and the decade of Aimee Semple McPherson)…and the old “what if” questions started running through my head, and I remembered the religious fanatics who always protest at Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence…and yeah, that’s kind of how stories get born. I’m not sure where this story is going to go or what it’s going to become–it’s kind of fun and different than anything I’ve written before–and I’m not entirely sure it’s going to end up as a crime story, which makes it even more fun.

I slept really long and well last night, and didn’t want to get up this morning, which was lovely–and a long time coming. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a great night’s sleep, and it was absolutely wonderful. I feel rested and ready to go mine some spice this morning.

As expected, Joey Burrow was the Number One draft pick last night, taken by the Cincinnati Bengals–and I said to Paul, “it’s going to be weird rooting for the Bengals now”–one of the many reasons I don’t get so far into the NFL is it is impossible for me to not root for former LSU players and their new teams to do well; and I really can’t devote more time to the NFL than I already give to the Saints. But after last night, I feel it’s pretty safe to say the Saints are Louisiana’s favorite team, and now the Bengals are our second favorite. I also never pay attention to the NFL draft, but I did last night because I wanted to see how the LSU players would do in it. Five players in the first round, I believe–Joey Burrow, K’Lavon Chaisson, Patrick Queen,  Justin Jefferson, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (which is a record, I believe, for LSU and one short of the overall record)–and now I need to go read the Advocate to see how the rest of the team did, and where they wound up.

Obviously, I will always love this 2019 team and everyone on it. It’s kind of hard not to, after the dream season they just gifted us with–and it’s going to be a very hard act to follow; every LSU team going forward is going to be compared to this one.

This weekend, I hope to get some more writing done. I didn’t get hardly anything written this week (after having such a great writing weekend last weekend), but I do need to finish revising and polishing these stories that are due, and maybe even work some more on some of these ones that are in progress–I may just keep writing “The Flagellants” and see where it goes, just letting it develop as it goes–and I need to start getting some other stuff prepared to get back to work on. I also want to do some reading this weekend; I’ve really fallen behind on that, and I want to make reading more of a priority; it certainly is a better thing to do with my time than falling into Youtube rabbit holes.

And now back to the spice mines.

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