Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)

I managed to get the page and cover proofs for Bury Me in Shadows finished yesterday, and yes, I am at the point again where I am so heartily sick of this book I’d rather not ever look at it again. It’s a good book; I like my main character and I enjoy the story and how it all plays out; I even think I got the tone I was going for correct–I just don’t ever want to have to read it ever again; this is par for the course, and frankly, I was a little surprised as I started going through the proofs that I wasn’t already there; I usually am by this point, and so I am taking this as a good sign for the book. Soon it will be up to the reviewers and the readers and there’s nothing I can do about it anymore. Now all I have to do is fill out the forms and turn them in and I can close up the box with all the drafts and notes and thoughts and everything else under the sun for the book and put it away up in the attic with the other accumulated boxes…which I really need to decide to do something with, and sooner rather than later. Tulane’s Louisiana Historical Research Center had shown some interest in them about a decade or so ago; I should probably renew that conversation at some point; maybe the Historic New Orleans Collection would be interested–I honestly don’t know. But the sooner this stuff it out of my attic and my storage the better, frankly. I should set a date to get them donated and if no one does, indeed, want them–toss them out and be done with it once and for all.

I also wrote an outline/synopsis of what I am going to finish writing for my friend’s website this morning, which I will need to flesh out and finish this morning. Over all, yesterday was a very good day–I also wrote notes for Chapter Four of Chlorine, which I hope to get to finish today, around going to the gym, which would also be lovely.

We’re watching the final season of Animal Kingdom on Hulu; the show seems weird without Ellen Barkin’s chilling performance as Smurf at the heart of it–and I don’t think the flashbacks to her as a young mom committing crimes and using/discarding men are necessary; the actress playing her as a young woman is good–but as I said to Paul last night, “but I think of young Ellen Barkin and how she’d be killing this role, and this young actress just isn’t young Ellen Barkin.” The show is still high quality, though–we’re enjoying it and I would recommend it–and I think tonight we may start watching the new season of Ted Lasso. We’ve been holding off on starting because it’s such a joy to binge-watch; but I am getting more and more impatient to get started. Several other shows we’ve enjoyed–Sky Rojo, Control Z, Dark Desires, Titans–have either dropped new seasons or will be at some point this month, so we should be set for viewing for a while.

I also started writing a short story yesterday–yes, I know, I know, but this is the curse of creative ADHD–called “A Midnight Train Going Anywhere.” Yes, the title came to me while I was listening to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and I thought, she took a midnight train going anywhere was a great image (I’ve always thought so) and as I thought about it some more, I saw a train pulling into a whistle stop station in the middle of Kansas (Kansas has been on my brain a lot lately, because my main character from Chlorine is from there and of course I am about to give the Kansas book it’s final polish from editorial notes) and I just had the image–the lonely platform, the train’s whistle on a cold clear night, the darkness lying on the town at midnight, the only light the station–and a man, sitting on the train, heading west, awakened by the change of the rhythm of the train wheels, getting up to walk around the station platform to work out the kinks in his legs, back and shoulders from riding on the train–but beyond that, I couldn’t really think of anything. I wrote down that entire set-up scene, scribbled away in my new journal (started a new one yesterday!) and didn’t know where to go from there….I have some vague, amorphous ideas, but I also love the idea about writing about a train in a past time–it was also very clear to me this wasn’t an Amtrak train so it had to be set in the distant past (also another nod to Chlorine), but am not sure where it will go or if it will come to anything; I’ll wind up transcribing it today at some point, I am sure. Maybe it will turn into something, maybe it will go into the files with all the others and collect dust there, who knows? What I do know is I have until the end of September to finish Chlorine, so I can spend the final quarter of the year writing Mississippi River Mischief, which will be Scotty IX.

Yikes, right?

The house is also still a hideous mess; I am going to finish the laundry (folding) and empty/refill the dishwasher this morning before i dive into the website writing and the writing of Chapter 4 of Chlorine before heading to the gym this afternoon. I’ve been terrible; I just haven’t had the wherewithal to actually face the heat and walk over there this past week; I don’t think I’ve been since Sunday, to be perfectly honest with you (I had a horrible moment yesterday where I couldn’t remember Thursday–which was a bit terrifying, and then I shrugged and gave up trying, essentially thinking obviously nothing major happened on Thursday if you can’t remember anything), so today’s workout will undoubtedly be exhausting and more than a little painful; but I can hang with it. It’s weird not having the motivation of results anymore–I really don’t care if I look good; that ship has long since sailed and the latest age-related shifts to my body have pretty much let me know I will never be as lean and defined and muscular as I was fifteen years ago, and that’s perfectly fine–but this phase of Greg’s workouts is about feeling better, feeling stretched, maintaining the strength and flexibility of my body, and if the muscles grow and the overall body gets leaner, so be it.

At least I am not obsessively looking at myself in the mirror trying to find trouble spots where fat has accumulated and obsessing about how to get rid of it, thinking that will solve everything. (Helpful hint: it solved nothing.)

I’d also like to spend some time reading this morning; maybe an hour before I get to the writing stuff, after folding the laundry, putting away the clean dishes as well as washing the dirty ones and putting them in the dishwasher. I like Sundays, really; it would be my favorite day of the week if it didn’t end with going to bed and waking up to Monday morning. I seem to always be fairly level on Sundays, focused and relaxed and able to get things done that I want to get done, if you know what I mean. I have a four day weekend next weekend thanks to the office closing to give us all a mini-thank you-vacation for working in a public health clinic during a world-wide pandemic; I am hoping to dive into the revisions of the Kansas book over that weekend and then finishing it during my vacation during the next week (my time off for Bouchercon).

As long as everything goes as planned, by the end of the year I’ll have a great first draft of Chlorine ready to go, as well as a ninth Scotty ready to be turned in; and if I stay motivated maybe even the novellas and short story collections might be ready to go as well.

Fingers crossed as I head back into the spice mines this morning….have a great day, Constant Reader!

Shopping

I woke up to a marvelous thunderstorm this morning–probably something to do with Hurricane Hannah, undoubtedly–and while last night’s sleep was also sporadic, with waking up regularly and not falling back asleep right away, I feel somewhat rested this morning.

I did reread Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and it’s actually not bad at all. It needs tweaking, of course, and there were some paragraphs/sentences/dialogue that made me wince a bit as I read, but overall it’s a fairly solid story with some really good writing already done. I have to throw out the entire first chapter and start over with it–now that the character isn’t a too-smart-for-his-age gay teenager and I’ve aged him to college student, the opening and the tone are all different, which is also going to require some changes here and there in the overall manuscript,and I think the opening of the story is much, much stronger with the new first chapter I started writing yesterday. I like the way the first chapter is going, and I like this new direction for the story, which makes it even stronger. It’s always lovely when you are pleased with your work, I think.

And I really need to not be so hard on myself about my writing. I’m pretty good at it, actually, and need to stop being so self-deprecating/down on myself.

Yesterday was, overall, quite lovely and relaxing. I ran my errands around noon to get them over and done with, which was lovely, and then I curled up in my easy chair with Scooter and started rereading the manuscript. That took me a few hours, along with the occasional break to do some chore–the house still really needs to be thoroughly cleaned–and then I wrote about 900 words of the new first chapter. Paul went and got us shrimp dinners from the Please U–a usual Saturday ritual–and then we finished watching Control Z, a really marvelous Mexican Netflix high school drama which is very intense and very well done. It’s amazing to me how different high school dramas are from other countries as opposed to the saccharine sweetness (and complete unreality) of American shows. Control Z had bullying, homophobia, transphobia, sex, drugs, alcohol, suicide, attempted murder, violence and our main character, Sofia, was emotionally vulnerable and damaged, which led to her cutting herself (her arms are decorated with scars) and a mental breakdown that sends her to a mental hospital for about a month. This was high school in all its ugliness and cruelty, and there were a few times it was hard to watch. The story focuses on Sofia, who is mentally fragile and everyone knows about her breakdown; they avoid her and think she’s a freak. But because no one talks to her and she has no friends, she observes everyone and notices things about them–very Sherlock Holmes–and then she is paired with the really cure new boy, Javier, for a science project. Javier’s father is a major soccer star, and Javier played for the national junior team–but he refuses to play soccer at his new school. That first day, during an assembly, the prettiest girl in school, Isabela, is outed as transgender when someone hacks into the computer system and plays a video stitched together from information in her phone and laptop computer. Her boyfriend knows–he’s the school’s resident hot guy–but part of the video also reveals that he is cheating on her with someone only known as Honey Bunny, and the nude videos he’s sent to Honey Bunny are a part of this video. Isabela is played by Carmen Carrera, a transgender actress who originally came to broader notice on RuPaul’s Drag Race and later came out as a transwoman; she’s terrific in the role, and it’s lovely to see such progressive subjects handled and a television show take the long overdue step of casting a trans actress in a trans role. She is also depicted sympathetically, and the cruelty of her ignorant classmates over the course of the season is heart-breaking and real; you really can’t come away from the show and still not be affected by what transfolk have to go through in their lives. (I’ve never understood why “difference” is most often met with hostility and sometimes violence, rather than with empathy and kindness) The following day more secrets are revealed with videos with other students’ secrets sent to everyone’s phones. Raul, whose father is a politician (and corrupt), and whose video exposes his father and destroys his political career, asks Sofia to find out who the hacker is. As she investigates, she and Javier become closer and soon it becomes apparent Raul is interested in her as well….but Sofia also has a damaging secret of her own. Paul and I were very impressed with this show and how well written and plotted it is; and it ended with a magnificent cliffhanger. We certainly hope there’s a season two.

I did not, however, get around to working on “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” because, as I suspected, my plans for the day turned out to be more ambitious than I had the energy or the will to complete. It was nice, though, to be relaxing, and I feel a lot less fried this morning than I have in quite a while. I also love that it’s raining. I don’t know how I lived in California with it’s lack of rain for eight years, but now I don’t think I could ever live in a dry climate ever again. (There’s a lot of rain in Bury Me in Shadows; in fact, I write a lot about rain and thunderstorms, now that I think about it.)

The plan for today is to get some more work done on Bury Me in Shadows, do some more cleaning, grill out at some point (another Sunday tradition around here; in the fall we do it on Saturdays as a makeshift LSU tail-gate), and keep on relaxing so I can get a lot done this coming week as well. I can’t believe it’s almost August already–but then again this year seems to have already lasted for-fucking-ever.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

It’s Saturday, and how lovely that feeling is. I am going to try to avoid social media as well as email interactions this weekend, as I want to be productive and I really don’t need any help with getting distracted. I was a condom packing machine yesterday, and Scooter was happily cuddled up to my feet as I had my lap desk and was working. I finally came up with the working system for maximum efficiency, and ultimately I was able to double my productivity in the same amount of time, which was quite impressive. It had been bothering me that I wasn’t as fast at home as I was at the office–or rather, in my old office on Frenchmen Street–but I also didn’t have the proper set-up until yesterday. I also had taken some time on Thursday to fold inserts, which also sped up my time yesterday. I also watched this week’s Real Housewives episodes, rewatched “The Bells” episode of Game of Thrones season eight (it’s quite a spectacle; more on that later) and then Dangerous Liaisons and The Maltese Falcon on the TCM menu on HBO MAX (which I love; there’s so much excellent film on that menu–things I want to rewatch and things I’ve always wanted to see). After dinner we finished off watching Into the Night, which had a lovely cliffhanger, and then started a Mexican Netflix drama, Control Z, which is quite intense. I do have to run an errand today, and I do have to spend some time cleaning out my email inbox–it’s ridiculously out of control again (doesn’t take long!)–and then I am going to reread Bury Me in Shadows and make notes on what to keep and what has to change. I’d also like to spend some time with “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” but there’s only so much time in one day and I only have so much attention span, really.

It’s gloomy and overcast out there this morning; we’re expecting rain off and on for most of the weekend because of now-Hurricane Hannah. I slept fairly decently most of the night, but still woke up feeling a little tired this morning. As much as I would like to be lazy for the day–and really, rereading a manuscript is the epitome of lazy, since I’ll be doing it in my easy chair–but it’s quite interesting and sort of amazing how much of a difference a good night’s sleep makes in my productivity when it comes to writing. The more tired I am, the more snappish I become–so it’s always a good idea to not be on social media or answer emails, as little things really get under my skin when I’m in that condition–but hopefully that won’t be an issue this evening. We shall see, I suppose.

I’m not really sure why I got the bug in my ear to rewatch that episode of Game of Thrones–it’s really amazing, given what a cultural phenomenon the show was while it was airing, how little anyone talks about it anymore. I think this is primarily due to the enormous disappointment the majority of viewers felt with its conclusion, and I certainly can’t disagree with those disappointed feelings. I, too, wasn’t terribly pleased with how the show ended, but at the same time, I wasn’t expected this world–which mirrored actual history with all its gore and good-doesn’t-always-win and evil-sometimes-goes-unpunished reality–to come to a happy ending; although Sansa did wind up as Queen of the North, so at least there’s some sense of justice in that, after everything she went through. And with her red hair, and all the suffering she endured, an argument could be made that she was sort of based on Queen Elizabeth I–who against incredible odds and twenty-five years of living in the shadow of the executioner–finally climbed to the throne. But I want to talk more about “The Bells” and the sack of King’s Landing–which was another episode that had fans disappointed and outraged. I was one of the few fans who was all about the city being destroyed; and I was also really pleased that they showed it from the ground for the most part–with Daenarys and Drogon only seen from below as the city burns and people die. It was exactly how I imagined the sacking of cities throughout history to look–rape and murder, blood in the streets, pillaging, hysterical terrified crowds running for their lives and praying for sanctuary as their world collapses around them. Conquerers never showed mercy; the concept everyone was hoping for that to happen once the bells were rung is very modern. Cities have historically been subject to such sackings throughout history; maybe not with a dragon involved, but read accounts of the many times Rome fell, or the fall of Constantinople–this wasn’t a modern world by any means, and modern concepts of justice and mercy weren’t in play. Cersei herself said it in Season One: “when you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.” She played, she died, and she took her capital city with her. Power politics in medieval history–the closest proximation to the world of Game of Thrones–were bloody and cruel and merciless, and the Popes and the Church were just as involved and as ruthless as any king or emperor. Arya even alluded to this when she was wearing the face of Walder Frey and wiping out his entire house: “You didn’t kill all of the Starks. You should have ripped them out, root and stem. Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.” Ergo–if you don’t kill all of your enemies, you have no one but yourself to blame when they kill you.

Dangerous Liaisons is a great movie, and a great story as well. When the film came out, I bought a copy of the novel and was enthralled by the petty games of seduction and revenge that played out in its pages. (I didn’t see the film until years later, when I rented the video; I’ve seen both the Glenn Close version and the Annette Bening, Valmont; and of course the modern day remake with Ryan Philippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions. There was an earlier, modern day version made in the 1960’s I’ve not seen; it’s in French and I’ve always wanted to see it.) The novel is exceptional; originally published (and banned) in France in 1782, it was quite a cause celebre at the time; depicting the immorality and debauchery of the aristocratic class, it has sometimes been described as being one of the initial steps on the road to revolution in 1789. It’s an epistolary novel; you are reading the letters the characters all write to one another, so you see how the Marquise and the Vicomte are playing with their innocent, naive friends and relatives quite well. They are only honest with each other–although, of course, in this modern age the lesson I took from it was never put anything in writing, which is just as true today as it was then–and I had always wanted to do a modern, gay version. I eventually did, with Wicked Frat Boy Ways, but while I am proud of the book I also wish I could redo it some, revise and add to it more.

The film is extraordinary, and Glenn Close was certainly robbed–as she has been many times–of the Oscar for Best Actress.

As for The Maltese Falcon, it’s still a great movie, but I didn’t finish watching–and would prefer to rewatch when I can give it my full attention. It really is marvelously written, acted, directed, and filmed. I should probably reread the novel someday.

And on that note, I am going to dive back into the spice mines. The kitchen and living room are both a mess; I have errands to run, and of course, that manuscript to read. Have a lovely, safe Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow.