Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

And a happy 4th of July to you, too, Constant Reader.

It’s always bothered me that people consider this our national birthday, when it’s really not. July 4th is actually Independence Day; when the Declaration of Independence began to be signed and we officially shrugged off the yoke of the British Empire. Independence was, of course, qualified; it was independence for white men, naturally; women still were second-class, and no slaves were freed with this declaration. It would take almost another hundred years before the abolition of slavery; 150 for women to get the right to vote; and full equality with the straight white man is still a dream to be fought for in our laws and courts and hearts. But we can celebrate the ideal that was established by the flawed founding fathers, who were, as are all men, imperfect–no matter what the mythology we are taught from birth claims.

And it cannot be denied that our country was built over the bones and blood of the indigenous people whose land was taken from them.

So, there will be political speeches, and fireworks displays, and firecrackers going off and scaring pets pretty much the entire day. There will be picnics and barbecues and no mail delivered. Flags and parades and patriotism on display wherever you look. Hell, even I’m going to light some charcoal and cook out later today. But the United States is generally incapable, as a nation, of self-reflection and critical analysis of its past, present, and future; such is seen by a segment of the population as a lack of patriotism (because somehow blind allegiance to a party and its members, as well as slavish devotion to the symbols of democracy, rather than to the democracy itself, is somehow seen as true patriotism) and derided. But it is only through self-criticism, critique, and reflection that the democracy grows stronger with mistakes corrected and the course reset.

For no one is truly free and equal until all are free and equal.

I took yesterday as a day of rest; I answered some pressing emails in the morning and then walked away from my computer. I watched Hamilton (see other blog post) which was truly delightful; we finished Season Two of Titans, which was also marvelous, and Dick Grayson finally emerged from the shadow of Robin and donned the Nightwing costume in the finale (Season 2 was so much better than Season 1, and I liked Season 1; cannot wait for Season 3); and then we moved onto a Mexican series called The Club, which was highly entertaining and fun. We’re not even halfway finished with it, either, so we have several more nights of cheesy fun as our heroes establish themselves as Ecstasy dealers to the upper class of Mexico City–and the lead, Pablo, is absolutely gorgeous.

It was lovely having a relaxing day, as it always is; one in which I cast aside my cares and worries, and simply get lost in being entertained. I slept well again last night–I have quite a streak of that going now, which is absolutely lovely–and so now today, I am going to spend the day the way I usually spend my second day of the weekend–reading, writing and cleaning. The sink is filled with dirty dishes, and the dishwasher is also full (of clean dishes, that must be put away) and at some point this weekend I need to buy a new broom, clean the filter in the vacuum cleaner, and actually clean the floors. Today I am going to work on some in-progress short stories, while tomorrow I am going to work on the Secret Project (it would be lovely to get it finished tomorrow, and sent off to the publisher, but you know how that usually winds up). I also want to spend some time with Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, perhaps even finishing it, which would be lovely; I really need to get back into the swing of reading every day, else I have no prayer of ever getting caught up on the always-growing TBR pile.

I’m not sure what stories I am going to work on today, to be honest. There are several which are finished in the first draft form and need to be revised, things added and changed; still others are incomplete and need to have a first draft finished in order to get things worked on a bit. I was thinking about trying to take on “Please Die Soon,” “Gossip,” and “You Won’t See Me”; but there are any number of others that are simply begging to be finished. I’ve also got those novellas in progress–four or five, at last count–and it would be lovely to make some sort of progress on some of those as well. I also am quite aware I am most likely being overly ambitious here; laziness will inevitably seep into my bones at some point and I’ll just say the hell with it and walk away from my computer.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Wish me luck.

Rise

Sunday! Yesterday I braved the AT&T store and upgraded my phone. It’s kind of cool. I wanted a red one, but had to settle for silver as they were out of red. Maybe next time.

I didn’t really want a new phone, but since it’s a lease–which I really am not sure I understand how that works, but whatever–it was overdue for a replacement. Other than the lengthy wait–and the usual irritating length of time it always takes for Apple operating systems to load and so forth–it wasn’t that bad. And now I have a new phone.

Now I need to get that pesky brake tag, and I’ll be all set. DON’T JUDGE ME.

I also put some books away in storage, and filed away the last few editions of manuscripts I’ve worked on over the last year. I still have to figure out where that extra seventy dollars in my checking account came from, do my taxes, and clear out all my emails…heavy heaving sigh.

But despite the limited progress on anything of merit yesterday, I am refusing to berate myself as per the usual. I work forty hours a week, after all, and write around my job. I don’t quite have the energy I used to have, so recharging a bit on the weekend is necessary and also kind of the only time I have to do it. So, having a low-energy not get a lot of writing done day is kind of work; I need to recharge in order to get the work done.

I also began reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long and once again, I am completely blown away at her mastery of language. She truly has mastered what I think of as Southern Gothic, and when I am reading her work I am always reminded of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Gone Too Long has also come along at precisely the right time in my reading; it’s about the Klan in Georgia. One of the things I love about Roy’s work is how patiently and deftly she plays her cards, never letting you know anything you don’t need to know until you absolutely need to know it; there’s also a haunting, dream-like quality to her work that I wish I could figure out how to do myself, quite frankly. I am savoring the book, and not wanting to rush through it. I read some more this morning with my second and third cups of coffee; and now am reluctantly putting it aside in order to get the work done I didn’t do yesterday.

Had I done the work yesterday, I could spend more time today reading Gone Too Long.

Which is yet another shining example of not putting off till tomorrow what you can do today because you will definitely regret it.

On the other hand, if I get everything done that I want to get done today, I can go back to reading it. I also want to finish reading a short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?

Always so much to do, so little time in which to do it, and very little desire to get it done.

But I also got up early this morning, so there’s no excuse. If, for example, I buckle down and start writing now, I can be finished in a few hours and have the rest of the day to enjoy this book.

We also started watching Russian Doll last night, which is holding our interest–more so than The Umbrella Factory–and so we’ll probably delve into another episode of that this evening as well.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Magic

Friday evening, with the weekend looming large and lonely, as Paul is gone and the Lost Apartment is really weirdly quiet without him. He’s not very big nor is he loud, but when he’s gone the apartment just seems enormous and empty.

Funny how that works.

But the Lost Apartment is an utter and complete mess, and I am going to try to focus and get a lot of cleaning done today. I am tired and drained from the work week–despite only working five hours yesterday and merely four today–and so I think mindless cleaning is in order to reset my mind and creativity. Tomorrow I need to run get the mail and return a library book–a short voyage that should over-all take less than an hour; I was thinking about getting the car washed tomorrow but it’s supposed to rain all day so there’s no point in bothering with that (and I am sure the rain means a return of the hideous cold weather; yay!) and so I am going to try to get some writing/editing done–even if said editing is simply rereading manuscripts and making notes.

I also think I need to rework the first five chapters of Bury Me in Satin. They are just so…bare, and I am thinking up new things as I write that need to be threaded back into the beginning. I love when the story starts to emerge from the fog, and I think, oh yes, this makes sense, but I need to go back and put this stuff into earlier chapters because I can’t just spring it on people.

So, the last load of bed linens now agitates in the washer, and the second-to-last is spinning in the dryer. I have another load of laundry to do–how I am creating so much laundry with Paul gone?–and I need to unload the dishwasher. Scooter also is feeling particularly lonely and needy this evening as well–he has been ever since Paul left. It’s really sweet–although I know I am a mere substitute–because he curls up inside my arm every night in bed, purring, and stays there most of the night. (He usually does this with Paul, but you know what? It’s still sweet. Scooter is an incredibly sweet cat.)

All right, I’m going to do the floors.

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You Make Loving Fun

Another good night’s sleep. There must be something to this stay-at-home vacation thing, don’t you think?

I didn’t get as much writing/editing done yesterday as I wanted to, but I also had to run errands and bouncing back into a creative mode after dealing with the General Public is never easy; I find that always to be all too frequently true. But as I waited for Paul to come home last night, I watched the season finale of Versailles (which I am going to miss) and the Netflix documentary Audrie and Daisy, which made me smolder with rage, and made me realize my rape culture novel, sitting collecting dust now for over a year, really needs to get out there for people to read.

Will it make a difference? I doubt it, but change is water wearing away at a rock, and maybe at some point our culture and society will finally recognize that men do not have a right to women’s bodies.

I also read a few more chapters of Falling Angel last night. It’s the Edgar Award nominated novel the film Angel Heart was based on, and while I haven’t seen the film in decades, I remember liking it a lot (it was another one of those films that heightened the connection I felt with New Orleans before I moved here); once I read the book I am going to watch the movie again, see how it holds up. The book is quite good; as I read it I remember the film more and more; the book’s quality lies in that hardboiled noir voice I mentioned the other day having trouble capturing in my own work. I think part of the problem I have with that, frankly, is the straight male machismo aspect of it. One of the reasons I stopped reading crime fiction in the late 1970s (having exhausted Christie, Queen, and Gardner) was because the current stuff was pretty much the straight male gaze and that macho bullshit. (Not everything, of course, and that was, I realize now, an over-generalization; but that was how it seemed to me.) I eventually returned to crime fiction, primarily thanks to Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky; their work led me to a greater appreciation of the genre and enabled me to read and appreciate John D. Macdonald and eventually get back into the genre over-all, and is partly why, in my own work, I tried to develop my own version and style; the gay male gaze. Whether I succeeded or not is for future generations to decide–whether I am remembered at all or not.

Probably not, is the most likely.

And I’m fine with that, really.

Yesterday I did manage to get the kitchen cleaned (not quite organized as I would have liked, but small victories), and today around editing and writing I intend to do the same with the living room and start working on the kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is truly sad how these things give me pleasure, but on the other hand, I like cleaning up my house and feel truly satisfied when it is cleaned and organized and sparkling. (If it remains sunny but chilly, I am going to do the windows in the kitchen as well.)

And that is, really, the genesis of my story “Housecleaning”, in the wonderful anthology Sunshine Noir.

The smell of bleach always reminded him of his mother.

It was, he thought as he filled the blue plastic bucket with hot water from the kitchen tap, probably one of the reasons he rarely used it. His mother had used it for practically everything. Everywhere she’d lived had always smelled slightly like bleach. She was always cleaning. He had so many memories of his mother cleaning something; steam rising from hot water pouring from the sink spigot, the sound of brush bristles as she scrubbed the floor (‘mops only move the dirt around, good in a pinch but not for real cleaning’), folding laundry scented by Downy, washing the dishes by hand before running them through the dishwasher (‘it doesn’t wash the dishes clean enough, it’s only good for sterilization’), running the vacuum cleaner over carpets and underneath the cushions on the couch. In her world, dirt and germs were everywhere and constant vigilance was the only solution. She judged other people for how slovenly they looked or how messy their yards were or how filthy their houses were. He remembered one time—when they were living in the apartment in Wichita—watching her struggle at a neighbor’s to not say anything as they sat in a living room that hadn’t been cleaned or straightened in a while, the way her fingers absently wiped away dust on the side table as she smiled and made conversation, the nerve in her cheek jumping, the veins and chords in her neck trying to burst through her olive skin, her voice strained but still polite.

When the tea was finished and the cookies just crumbs on a dirty plate with what looked like egg yolk dried onto its side, she couldn’t get the two of them out of there fast enough. Once back in the sterile safety of their own apartment, she’d taken a long, hot shower—and made him do the same. They’d never gone back there, the neighbor woman’s future friendliness rebuffed politely yet firmly, until they’d finally moved away again.

“People who keep slovenly homes are lazy and cannot be trusted,” she’d told him after refusing the woman’s invitation a second time, “a sloppy house means a sloppy soul.”

Crazy as she seemed to him at times, he had to admit she’d been right about that. In school after school, kids who didn’t keep their desks or lockers neat had never proven trustworthy or likable. It had been hard to keep his revulsion hidden behind the polite mask as he walked to his next class and someone inevitably opened a locker to a cascade of their belongings. He’d just walked faster to get away from the laughter of other kids and the comic fumbling of the sloppy student as he tried to gather the crumpled papers and broken pencils and textbooks scattered on the shiny linoleum floor.

As I said, I like to clean, and I often joke that my own mother makes Joan Crawford look like a slob. One morning, when I was filling up my blue bucket with water and bleach, the smell of bleach reminded me of my mother and voila! A story was born. I actually stopped cleaning to sit down and write the entire first draft.

Sigh. I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.