The Rose

Good morning, first Saturday of the new year, how you doing?

It was cold yesterday in New Orleans; in the forties when I woke up, and I felt ill pretty much most of the morning. I ate breakfast and felt somewhat better, but the rest of the day was pretty much the same–one minute I’d feel fine, then the next I’d feel bad again. This was unfortunate because our office holiday party (delayed) was also last evening; I wasn’t able to have anything to drink because I didn’t trust my stomach and I wound up leaving early to come home. I was also very tired all day; my sleep was restless and wretched, which undoubtedly had a large part in the not feeling well. Last night I managed to sleep for almost eleven hours…so yes, I must have been terribly tired, and this morning, while it is cold again in the Lost Apartment, I feel rested and much better than I did yesterday.

My blood sugar–which I was concerned about yesterday as well–seems to be okay this morning as well. I guess the blood sugar thing–which was a concern yesterday–wasn’t really anything to be concerned about. It’s so lovely getting old; such a myriad of things to run through your head when you don’t feel well, you know?

As such, when I got home from the holiday party I gratefully sank down into my easy chair and finished watching Great Greek Myths on Prime; the Oedipus myth in particular is gruesome and horrible and grim. Poor dude; and none of it was his fault. The episode filled in the back story of his parents, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, and all the horror that happens to Oedipus is because of something his father did before he was even born. Truly horrible, right? Those Greek gods…now I want to find my copy of Edith Hamilton and reread it; it’s been years. (Shameless Greek mythology plug: read Madeline Miller’s Circe! It was one of the best–if not the best–book I read last year. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

Today I am mostly going to hang around the house and clean/write/edit. I’m going to go to get groceries tomorrow; Paul has errands and appointments today, so I am going to take advantage of the quiet and still around the house to get things done as well as be productive with my own stuff. I also want to finish my reread of The Shining, which I am enjoying and appreciating more than I did before. I am also figuring out why I didn’t care for it as much as I did before–which I always assumed was based on the holes in the plot (why would anyone build a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that can’t be used for winter sports and is closed for the winter season? AND WHAT PARENTS WOULD TAKE THEIR SMALL CHILD SOMEWHERE SO REMOTE AND CUT OFF FROM MEDICAL HELP?) but I am also starting to understand that it triggered some things in my subconscious that made me predisposed to not enjoy it; I am not a big fan of small children in peril, particularly if the peril is from one of his/her parents. But it’s terrifically written and structured; the shifting POV from all three members of the Torrance family is particularly ingenious as it helps create a strong sense of claustrophobia within the enormous hotel. The book also serves as a marvelous kind of time capsule; The Shining probably couldn’t be published today because readers would have little-to-no sympathy for Wendy. But in the 1970’s, while certainly becoming more common-place, divorce was still enough of a taboo that women wanted to avoid it and make their marriages work no matter what the cost–even after her husband breaks her son’s arm. (The story would end there today; corporal punishment and spankings and so forth were still considered fairly normal in the 1970’s….but today Jack would have been talking to the police after Danny’s arm was set.)

But one thing that is particularly stellar about the book is that sense of impending doom. The reader knows, obviously, that the Overlook is a bad place and going there for the winter is an enormous mistake for the Torrances; but King also does a really good job of showing their desperation and that this winter job is the last chance for them to make it as a family. But you can’t help but hope they’ll somehow survive the winter, and one thing I think the film missed out on completely was how the book showed Jack. Yes, he is a terribly flawed human being with a horrible temper and an alcoholic, and a lesser writer would have simply allowed Jack to become the villain of the story, which he kind of is…but King creates him as a complex character and shows all sides of him; and he clearly loves his wife and son even if he is a fuck-up. The real villain in King’s novel is the hotel itself, a bad place, and how it exploits Jack’s weaknesses. The way King shows his psychological collapse, and how the hotel’s evil influence slowly starts to take control of him, is masterful…particularly given how early in his career he wrote this book.

And so, once I post this, I am going to get cleaned up and start laundering the bed linens. I want to also clean out some of the books–another purge–and perhaps some light cleaning while I read and edit and get the things done today that I need to get done today. I feel very rested (thank you, long night’s sleep) and use this day to get organized once and for all. I started getting things organized that I am working on yesterday morning, despite feeling like shit, and I feel much better about things, quite frankly. But organized is always better than disorganized, and it’s unfortunate and sad how often I allow laziness to let me slip into disorganization and being scattered.

It’s just wrong.

And something I should work on.

But then again, what isn’t?

And now into the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, all, and Happy Epiphany Eve!

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Hazard

Thursday morning and I am still feeling unwell.

And winter has arrived in New Orleans; a cold front that of course would be considered spring or fall most everywhere else north of I-10 arrived overnight. It is amusing that our local weather people are talking about a cold front when it is seventy-four degrees outside. But that’s at least a ten degree difference from yesterday, and it is getting close to mid-October, so the colder weather is fairly overdue.

Colder, not cold.

I’m hoping that today is the last day of this lingering whatever-the-hell-it-is; that one more day of soup and vitamin C and juice and DayQuil will not only make today bearable but will also cure whatever it is that ails me. I really loathe being sick–not, of course, that anyone else really likes being sick. Although I suppose there are some who do.

Yesterday as I spent the day covered in blankets in my easy chair I finished reading Circe by Madeline Miller (already wrote about it, but buy it–it’s fantastic), and then fell into some New Orleans history worm-holes on the Internet on my iPad. The history of New Orleans is so rich and vibrant; bloody and filled with not only death but defiance. It started with me seeing a post from the Historic New Orleans Collection of an article about Prohibition in New Orleans–which was pretty much ignored and not really enforced as much as it should or could have been, perhaps–and I thought to myself, self, there’s probably a really good novel that could be set in this time period dealing with Prohibition and everything else going on in the city at the time. Was it James Sallis’ Lew Griffin series that was set in the past? Which reminds me, I need to revisit that series anyway.

I am kind of amazed, really, how little of New Orleans history I actually do know. I mean, I know who founded the city and when, when it became Spanish rather than French, when it was sold to the United States, the Battle of New Orleans…but there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I do know some about the uglier parts of the city’s history–the homophobia and racism, Delphine LaLaurie, how I-10 was deliberately routed to destroy prospering African-American neighborhoods and of course, the hideousness of the Upstairs Lounge fire and aftermath–but there are so many gaps, as I said before. I know about the murder of the police commissioner that led to the mob violence against the Italian immigrants, and the horror of the battle of Monument Place; I know about the Axeman murders and Storyville and Bellocq and his photos of Storyville prostitutes.

But there’s so much more, and so much I don’t know. This is why I always laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert.” I am far from that. I know neighborhoods and streets, houses and the Quarter. But there are entire populations of the city I don’t know much about; the Greeks and the Islenos, the Vietnamese in New Orleans East, and the growing Latin/Hispanic populations. There are neighborhoods I don’t know, and the West Bank is, for the most part, completely unknown to me.

In other words, I need to explore. I need to read more New Orleans history, and I need to get out in my car on weekends and drive around, exploring and visiting and sight-seeing. I do feel that my next series will most likely be set in New Orleans’ past; it’s just that I don’t know when or where or what it will be. I’ve experimented with the past in short story form; “The Weight of a Feather” (included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories) may not be set in New Orleans, but the main character is from here. “The Blues Before Dawn”, an in-progress story, is also set in the past…and I think it’s an interesting time/subject to take up. (I don’t know how to end the story or even what the middle is, if I am to be completely honest; but it has a terrific opening and I am sure the story will come to me someday.)

I think one of the primary problems I’ve had over the past few years, that sense of feeling disconnected from the city that I’ve mentioned before, comes from, in all honesty, not reading the newspapers here. When the Times-Picayune became the Sometimes Picayune I stopped reading it; I will only visit their website to read write-ups on the Saints and LSU games. The New Orleans Advocate is doing a great job of picking up the slack, but I never think to pick it up and read it. I need to be better about that; I need to be better informed on what is going on in the city. There’s currently a scandal brewing–or it’s already brewed–about the Archdiocese and one of the Catholic boys’ schools in town; it’s what you would expect–sexual abuse and a cover-up; which has happened so many times now in other cities as to be almost a cliche. There’s a novel there as well, even though when I had the idea a long time ago–years before this scandal brewed up and made it onto the public radar–I was told it wasn’t an interesting topic and no one would want to read it.

I disagreed then, and I disagree now. I think it’s not only timely, but people would read it. It would have to not be a cliche, and it would have to be cleverly done, but I think it would work quite well.

And now, I feel the fever returning and I need to go lie down again for a moment.

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How Do You Talk To An Angel

I’ve always loved Greek mythology.  Reading Greek myths is one of my earliest childhood reading memories (others include Scholastic book catalogues, The Children’s Bible, World Book Encyclopedia, etc.); and I have mentioned before that I would love to write a novel of the Trojan War. Mark Merlis’ brilliant An Arrow’s Flight is one of my favorite gay novels of all time. I also loved Mary Renault’s novels based on Greek myths (The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea) as much as I loved the ones based on Greek history. And of course, I love love LOVE Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and the sequel series, The Lost Hero.

But Madeline Miller’s Circe…it’s just amazing. Absolutely amazing.

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When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist. They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and thousand cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves. That word, nymph, paced out the length and breadth of our futures. In our language, it means not just goddess, but bride.

My mother was one of them, a naiad, guardian of fountains and streams. She caught my father’s eye when he came to visit the halls of her own father, Oceanos. Helios and Oceanos were often at each other’s tables in those days. They were cousins, and equal in age, though they did not look it. My father glowed bright as just-forged bronze, while Oceanos has been born with rheumy eyes and a white beard to his lap. Yet they were both Titans, and preferred each other’s company to those new-squeaking gods upon Olympus who had not seen the making of the world.

Oceanos’ palace was a great wonder, set deep in the earth’s rock. Its high-arched halls were gilded, the stone floors smoothed by centuries of divine feet. Through every room ran the faint sound of Oceanos’ river, source of the world’s fresh waters, so dark you could not tell where it ended and the rock-bed began. On its banks grew grass and soft gray flowers, and also the unencumbered children of Oceanos, naiads and nymphs and river-gods. Otter-sleek, laughing, their faces bright against the dusky air, they passed golden goblets among themselves and wrestled, playing games of love. In their midst, outshining all that lily beauty, sat my mother.

The one upside to being sick is it gave me the chance to finish reading Circe. 

It’s…incredible, marvelous, a joy to read and truly exceptional.

It is just as good as The Song of Achilles, her first novel, as beautifully written and lovingly told, and like Achilles, the end of Circe also made me weepy.

Miller, who holds both a BA and MA in Classics from Brown, writes absolutely beautifully. Like Renault, she is able to capture the magical music of words, so that the prose reads like a poem, a song, something the bards would sing around the fire in the houses in Athens, Sparta, Corinth or Thebes. Like Circe herself, Miller weaves a magical spell over her readers, draws them into this stunningly beautiful world where gods sometimes appear to mortals and intervene in their lives.

An unliked, ignored daughter of the sun god, shunned by her fellow nymphs and siblings, Circe grows up an outsider. She doesn’t have the voice of an immortal; the others complain about her screeching voice–it isn’t until much later that she discovers that she actually has the voice of a mortal, which is why the gods cannot abide it. She soon discovers power in plants and in words; she falls in love with a mortal and uses her knowledge to turn him into a god. But once she does this, he spurns her for another nymph, and she goes out in search of more powerful plants, ones that were grown out of the blood of a dead titan. She then transforms her rival into the monstrous beast Scylla, and is punished by being put in exile on the island of Aiaia, where she lives alone and becomes even more powerful by practicing her witchcraft.

She is present when her sister Pasiphae gives birth to the Minotaur; she knows Daedalus and his son, Icarus. Jason and her niece Medea stop on her island for her help in escaping her brother, Medea’s father. Odysseus and his men eventually arrive, and Circe’s life and destiny are changed forever. I won’t go any further than that, for fear of spoiling the story.

Circe is a story about finding strength in yourself when you are despised; of learning to trust in your own strength and power, and that even the most despised is worthy of strength and character and, most of all, love.

It’s beautiful and powerful and moving.

I cannot wait for Madeline Miller’s next book. I do hope she writes about Medea next.

Mysterious Ways

I hate being sick.

I noticed on Saturday something was off–I just assumed it was the disappointment of the LSU loss, but on Sunday I knew I was coming down with something; achy joints, burning eyes, fever that came and went, lack of energy, congested sinuses, etc. I took a Claritin-D, dosed myself occasionally as warranted with DayQuil, and slept decently that night. Monday I was still off–congested, achy, etc.–but it was bearable. Yesterday I was again low energy and achy, but was still hopeful I could ward it off.

Silly Gregalicious. When will you ever learn?

Yes, it hit with a vengeance this morning. All of my joints ache. I have a fever. I am constantly blowing my nose. I have a headache. Nausea. Draining sinuses and constant fits of wet, phlegmy coughing. Lovely.

So I regretfully called in sick. I will spend the day resting in my easy chair, reading, dosing myself with DayQuil and Vitamin C and juice and water. My throat is very scratchy and feels raw. There is so much pressure behind my eyes it feels like they’ll both pop out if I cough hard enough.

Yes, in case I haven’t made it clear, I am feeling absolutely miserable. Miserable.

Of course, it could be worse. It can always be worse. This is just some flu-ey thing that will go away. It’s not a chronic illness I have to live with the rest of my life, or something potentially fatal. New Orleans is being spared from the fury of Hurricane Michael (do stay safe, Floridians). So, yeah, all this whining for a minor inconvenience is pretty pathetic and sad, in the big picture.

Fuck the big picture. I feel sick.

I’ve been watching Season 3 of The Man in the High Castle, which is quite good. I am having trouble remembering Season 2–which I know I watched and enjoyed–but the show is very interesting…and somewhat troubling to watch. If you don’t know the premise, it’s based on a popular Philip K. Dick novel of the same title, which was an alternate history which imagined that the Nazis developed an atomic bomb, which they dropped on DC, ending World War II with an Axis victory. The United States has been divided up between Japan and Germany–the Germans have everything from the eastern seaboard to the Rockies; the Japanese everything on the other side to the Pacific coast (no mention of the Italians, which is interesting in and of itself), and the growing Resistance to the Fascist tyrants. After watching the first season I read the book, which is significantly different but equally compelling, but the show is really taking off. I do remember some terrific moral dilemmas for the characters–this is one of the show’s great strengths, frankly; when you are living under a fascistic regime, what is moral? It’s also an interesting look at collaborators, because of course there would be some–many, in fact.

I also read some more of Circe last night in my misery, and it is, as always, still compelling and beautifully written. Maybe between naps and misery i can actually finally finish reading it today.

And now to the easy chair with me.

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She’s Playing Hard to Get

GEAUX TIGERS!

LSU plays at Florida today at two-thirty central time. Paul is going to be out all day; he has to go work at the office and is attending an event tonight. I have to do some errands around noon–post office, bank, mail–and of course I want to get some writing done today. I didn’t write at all yesterday; I came home from work and started cleaning, then relaxed and watched some television until Paul came home. I’m trying to get as much of this book done as I possibly can today, around the LSU game.

I’m trying not to get worked up about football as much as I used to; it is, after all, just a game and the players are just young men, barely adults. This has worked for me since the Auburn game; during the first quarter I was very anxious, and found myself getting highly irritated in the second quarter. When LSU fell behind 14-10 just before half-time, I thought, let it go. Stop yelling at the television. They can’t hear you for one, and it doesn’t make you feel any better, and the players are just kids. This isn’t life or death. It makes ZERO difference in your life for the better or worse if LSU wins or loses. 

 It worked and I calmed down considerably, and was able to watch and enjoy the rest of the game. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LSU won the game, coming from behind to score nine points in the last five minutes or so of the game. I suppose the real test of this attempt to watch games calmly will be a game LSU loses.

It’s a lot of energy to expend on something over which I have no control. So now I try to watch the games with detachment rather than overhyped emotion. It also makes no difference also in that I am never going to stop rooting for LSU.

Maybe someday I’ll get more zen about the Saints’ games.

I woke up just before eight this morning, but stayed in bed for another forty-five minutes before finally getting up. I feel rested. My sleep has been better for the last week or so–the overnight rains have helped in that regard tremendously–plus getting up at seven three days a week now instead of just one has helped shift my sleep patterns to something more manageable. For years I woke up at seven every morning like clockwork; that changed when I started working late nights and my sleep has never been the same since that time. Now that I am back into a regular sleep pattern, I get up early every morning and get to do what I used to do in the mornings, before I faced the world; answer emails, write blog post, read my social media feeds, even do some writing, on the mornings when I don’t have to be at work by nine. On weekend mornings, like this one, I can relax with my coffee and get some things done around here. I like this new schedule I’ve been on for the last few weeks; I get to start cleaning the house and doing the laundry early Friday evenings, and then I can relax with television or a book (honestly, cracking open the wine usually results in me watching television instead of reading; and I still haven’t finished Circe; again this is a not a testament to the quality of the book. Thus far it is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.)

And so now, it’s back to the spice mines. I’ve got laundry going already, and the kitchen is fortunately already clean. I need to work on the living room some today as well; I can do that during the LSU game without disturbing Paul since he’ll be at the office. I’m going to spend the rest of this morning working on Scotty and maybe starting to pull apart the WIP. Ironically, I’d begun to think that a y/a novel about rape culture wasn’t timely anymore; these last few weeks have proven to me that it’s just as timely as ever. I have to put aside all of my doubts about being a gay man writing a novel about rape culture and just write the damned thing. As I said earlier this week, it needs to be pulled apart and it’s own stand on its own book, which means starting from scratch (which I had already kind of done) and then start piecing it back together again. The shell I’ve already written can certainly be recycled into another book, if need be, and I even already know what that book is going to be. So, this is a win-win, really.

Have a  great day, Constant Reader, and hang in there.

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2 Legit 2 Quit

The revision continues to proceed, slower than I would like it to–as always–but it’s getting there gradually, which is always a lovely thing. I am very pleased that thus far I’ve not needed to do anything truly major in terms of revision; just cleaning up some sloppy stuff, getting rid of some things that were eventually discarded from the narrative thread as well as adding some things to foreshadow what’s to come. It’s lovely to see that so much of this, written by the seat of my pants without much idea of where it was going or how it was going to end, is actually turning out to be usable.

I love when I am wrong. I was almost certain I’d have to basically start from scratch. Sure, there are grammatical errors and repetitions I am cleaning up (and some horrifyingly awkward sentences) as I go, but the final run through will do a nice job of cleaning all that up.

Or so I hope.

I also realized last night, as I finished off the revision of Chapter Five, that this is going slowly partly because there’s some serious shit going down in the first third of this book; and I don’t particularly enjoy writing about characters I love going through rough times. So, there’s that as well. But as Scotty always says, life doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. It’s how you handle it that matters.

As I was running my errands this morning, an idea came to me for a bit for an in-progress short story I’ve not worked on for a while, “The Brady Kid.” I don’t know whether or not I should take a momentary break to add it to the story, or if I should just make a note. (Note to self: I also need to go through my last two journals and mark pages that have notes for works in progress, etc. It really is handy to have the journals to write in and write free form with ideas as they come to me, but it’s not helpful if I don’t remember those notes and things are actually there. In fact, I may do that today between clients. Yes, that’s the ticket.)

And it’s Wednesday. The week is half over, and now it’s just the slide downhill into the weekend. The LSU-Florida game is this weekend, and the Saints don’t play until Monday night (which will, of course, make getting home from work that night ever-so-much more fun), and I of course will have errands to run. Perhaps wait till Sunday to do them, spend Saturday cleaning and writing around college football games, and then perhaps do the same on Sunday?

So many decisions to be made.

And I really need to get back to both Circe and the Short Story Project.

And so now I head back into the mines to extract more spice. Have a lovely day, all.

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The One

Saturday! GEAUX TIGERS!

The Tigers are playing Ole Miss tonight in Tiger Stadium; this is a rivalry game (like so many of LSU’s games; how in the hell did that ever happen?) of which, of course, the most famous is the Halloween Night game when both were undefeated, LSU ranked Number One and Ole Miss number three–that fabled night when Billy Cannon ran a punt back and won the game for LSU, 7-3 (often forgotten is the goal line stand made by the LSU defense as time ran out). A few years back, during one of the down years for LSU, Ole Miss rolled into Tiger Stadium undefeated and ranked Number 3 in the country, and looked like they had the West division of the SEC wrapped up, having already beaten Alabama…and lost, 10-7. They lost again after that, to Auburn, but even with the Auburn loss a win over LSU would have tied them with Alabama in the West and they would have gone to Atlanta for the championship, and maybe even had a shot at the national title.

Okay, I guess I can understand why they hate us…GEAUX TIGERS!

Paul’s and my first game at Death Valley was the Ole Miss game in 2010; we were also there for the game in 2012. Both were thrillers and came down to the last minute; but of course, you know how they turned out as Paul and I have never seen the Tigers lose in person.

So, I decided to make today my day off from doing any writing. I have a business call tomorrow regarding the Bouchercon board and my duties there, so I’ve decided to clean and write and do everything that I need to get worked on tomorrow. (I may do some writing today too; I work up early and feel really rested, so there’s that–but I think I’d rather focus on cleaning and reading Circe today around football game watching.)  I also have a big announcement coming up sometime next week–nothing to do with writing or books, but still pretty cool, I think–so keep an eye out for that, won’t you?

I need to make a to-do list for this weekend. The kitchen is a mess, and I’m going to use my new vacuum cleaner on the downstairs–I also want to see if I can fix the old one, so we can have one upstairs and down. I need to wash the bed linens today, and I also want to reread the chapters I’ve revised on the Scotty book so far. It would be lovely to revise another three chapters this weekend, or even push myself to get all the way to Chapter Ten. There’s lots of filing and organizing to do; a load of dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away,  a load in the dryer that needs to be sorted and folded, and all sorts of odds and ends need doing. Sigh.

It would be so nice to have a weekend where I could just curl up in my easy chair with book after book after book.

But alas, it is not to be, and I just need to buckle down and get things done. Make a list and start marking things off as I go, which is ever so satisfying.

So, on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday all, and GEAUX TIGERS!

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