Fine Line

Saturday rolling into our lives and taking no prisoners!

I slept really well last night, which was a good thing. Yesterday wasn’t a good day–suffice it to say I got through it–and after I finished my work-at-home duties I went to the gym, which was lovely (and my muscles are feeling it this morning, which is perfectly fine with me). Paul will be going in to the office later this morning and most likely will be gone for the rest of the dy, leaving me home alone. It occurred to me the other day that this year’s Festival widowhood is different; usually I don’t get off work most nights until eight or so, so I only have a few hours home alone in the evenings before he gets home. Me finishing work every day by five stretches the entire evening out in front of me alone; I think that might be part of the doldrums. It’s noticeable in a non-pandemic year, but this year those lonely evenings are taking a bit of a toll on me. Paul has always been my favorite person to spend time with, and always will be; his absence is always noticeable.

I asked for a two week extension on my deadline for the book, and they actually gave me a month. The weight of that deadline stress lifting off my shoulders was considerable; that means I can try to spend this weekend getting caught up on everything else that has been piling up (and dear God, has it ever been piling up) while also working on the book without the great stress of “oh my GOD it’s due on Monday!”) as well as working on cleaning. Cleaning for some reason is calming and relaxing to me–plus being occupied with my hands frees up my mind to be creative (Agatha Christie said, in my favorite writer quote of all time, “my house is never so clean as when I am on deadline”). I’m also becoming less attached to my books, which are sprawling everywhere and taking up so much room it isn’t even funny. My goal is by June to have cleared out, through donating to the Latter Library’s weekend book sales, most of the piles of books. Should we ever have the means or find a place to live that will provide me with an actual room to serve as my office–so I can have walls and walls of bookshelves–I should have no problem whatsoever with filling those shelves. It’s a long time project, of course, and will require, in many instances, the purchasing or repurposing of boxes, but the truth is the only books I should be holding onto are research ones–and even those can be replaced with ebooks as needed; and let’s face it, ebooks are much easier to use than hard copies because you can search for key phrases and words, etc. much easier than flipping to the index and so forth.

The pandemic, of course, has had a lot to do with the weird, eerie, dream-like existence of the last year; and these additional stressors in my life have, like the Katrina aftermath, affected my short term memory. This entire last year–our office officially shut down services on March 16th last year–is kind of blurry to me; I don’t remember when this happened or when that happened and so forth; I thought, for example, we had closed down earlier than March 16th and opened up for limited services much later than we actually did. I have no recollection of my birthday in August. This is also kind of understandable, as there were none of the usual markers of the year that generally mark the passing of time: no Southern Decadence condom outreach, no Halloween, no Jazz Fest, no Bouchercon, no board meeting in New York in January. I miss those things; I miss my annual events and seeing everyone that I usually see and the social interactions…and given my general misanthropist attitude, that is saying a lot. I miss my friends, I miss my co-workers, I miss the way things used to be. (I do not, however, miss the past administration in the least.) And that’s okay; that’s normal, and I really need to get to a place and point in life where I stop beating myself up for, you know, having the same feelings and experiences everyone has.

I’ve been doing a lot of unpacking in my mind over the last few weeks of issues–and yes, pain–from my past as well as reexamining things that happened. I’ve always been hesitant to write about my past–I’ve always been uncomfortable about writing my memories or a memoir or anything like that, simply because none of the people I’ve known and/or interacted with over the years ever gave me permission to write about them, or tell my version of their stories, which is also why I generally don’t talk about people I know or interactions with them or so forth on here. What constitutes an invasion of privacy in these cases? I really don’t want to find out the hard way. But I am going to start, I think, writing personal essays that will most likely never see the light of day–or maybe, I don’t know. But writing about things has always been the easiest and best way for me to process and deal with them, and while I may not want to pull off the scabs in public here on my blog…I don’t know, maybe someday I could pull together a collection of them. I know when I was using the discography of the Pet Shop Boys for my blog titles last year I kept thinking that not only do their songs have great titles, but those titles would also make great titles for essays, as well as great starting points and inspirations for the essays themselves. Do I have anything interesting to say, anything deep or profound? As Eve Harrington said as she accepted the Sarah Siddons Award for a role written originally for Margo Channing, “everything wise and witty has long since been said–by minds more mature and talents far greater than mine.”

I really need to watch All About Eve again.

So, we will see. Once I finish slurping down my morning coffee and get my gears in order this morning, mayhap I’ll start writing an essay. I am going to spend some time with the manuscript for #shedeservedit–I’ll have the cover art soon, and I can’t wait to share it, y’all–and clean, clean, clean and organize, organize, organize.

I also started watching Allen v. Farrow last night on HBO Max. It’s very well done. I’m very curious to see the rest of it. I never followed the story that closely back in the day–but it was one of those things you couldn’t help but be aware of and everyone had an opinion. I’ve never been a particular fan of Woody Allen, and haven’t seen many of his films–of the ones I’ve seen, my favorite is Bullets over Broadway–nor do I have much inclination to go back and watch them now. I recognize this is yet another one of those “art v. artist” things; and perhaps the distinctions I make in other cases (I won’t watch anything made by Roman Polanski after his crime, but will rewatch both Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown–justifying those as being before he turned to criminal assault against minors, but apparently he was horrible to Faye Dunaway during the production….at the same time Dunaway is also notoriously difficult, so who is at fault in that instance?) are rationalizations to excuse myself. I won’t read Orson Scott Card nor Dan Simmons anymore, and really–there are so many books I want to read that I will never have time to read that cutting bigots out of my reading schedule isn’t an issue. I suppose the same goes for film–I’ll never have the time to watch every movie that I want to watch, so cutting out films made by predators or abusers or bigots really shouldn’t be an issue.

The art v. the artist! That could be an essay!

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Chemical

Well, we have apparently survived yet another Monday, so here it is Tuesday morning again.

My manic Monday wasn’t too bad, other than the utter insanity of an issue with my car insurance that is going to end up wasting more of my own time than it’s worth, to be completely honest. I did start getting tired in the afternoon–it’s not easy being a Gregalicious–but I got some emails answered (I will never get all of my emails answered, and that’s just a sad fact I need to accept; because there will always be more) when I got home and then repaired to my easy chair where I finished watching Sons of Liberty. (Paul didn’t get home until just before it was time for me to go to bed.) And here I am this morning with the space heater on–it’s chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, but I am sure it’s going to warm up during the day time–and apparently our new HVAC unit will be installed today; they’ve been doing all the other work the last few days; it was quite astonishing to come around the last corner to the apartment last night and see a big blank space where the big unit used to be. Better late than never, I suppose, and I hope this means a stronger unit that will help offset the loss of the trees when the sun will shine directly through these windows in the summer time, creating a glass house effect in my kitchen. (I’ve been trying not to think about that too hard.)

I bit the bullet and asked for more time for the book–deadline extension–and they gave me longer than I asked for, which was an enormous relief and pressure release on me. They were actually very lovely about it, and apparently I am much more fragile emotionally than I thought because the kindness of the response almost made me choke up…which wasn’t the response I was expecting to have. I feel like I’m doing a fairly decent job of soldiering on through everything that’s going on in the world and around me these days–so much PTSD, from so many past traumas, I suppose–not to mention that it seems like almost everyone I know is going through a rough time. Two friends lost their fathers over the course of the past week, for example, and there have been so many other issues for everyone I know and care about that it’s almost like one body blow after another. And yet I keep moving forward because there’s no other option, really, and just keep sending out positive energy to my friends while keeping them deep inside my heart and mind and soul. I’ve said it before and I will say it again here–there’s nothing worse than seeing people you care about suffering when there’s nothing you can do about it.

Hell, I don’t even know if people in Texas have recovered from the horror of last week. So many people I owe emails to…heavy heaving sigh. The emails are endless, aren’t they?

The other good news is Paul has finally been scheduled for the vaccine, round one, on Thursday. That’s one less stressor off my plate, and it just now occurred to me that there’s another, buried stressor inside my head–now that I am older, I fear I am going to see a repeat of the past where I keep living while so many people I love and care about do not. After all, it’s happened before, and I think that’s part of the issue of my facing my age and so forth lately–the fear that I will outlive everyone I care about again. Obviously, I am not hoping that I die soon or anything like that–but recognizing a fear that’s been imprinted on my brain, no matter how unrealistic or nonsensical it may be, will certainly help me figure out how to cope with it or conquer it entirely, I think.

Watching Sons of Liberty (and did they ever take liberties with history!) was a pleasing enough diversion; I always enjoy the Revolutionary period–it’s been a favorite of mine since childhood–so when I was finished with the final episode–the signing of the Declaration of Independence–I got down my copy of The Wars of America by Robert Leckie and started reading the bridge section between The Colonial Wars and the Revolutionary War; Leckie’s book is really a history of the country as told through the perspective of the wars and the lead-up to them in the periods between them. Leckie is a very good writer–The Wars of America is one of my favorite histories–but he definitely is a subscriber to the mythology of American exceptionalism, even as he talks right up front about the evils of slavery and the slaughter of the indigenous. (The copy of the book I have now is not the one I had when I was a child; this is an updated version including the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he is very much a drum-thumping anti-Communist right-winger when it comes to those two conflicts, to the point that I’ve never read those chapters because the native jingoism is too much for me to stomach) As I mentioned yesterday, I am now thinking a series of mysteries set in revolutionary Boston, with John Adams as defense attorney and investigator, would be highly interesting. I doubt that I will ever have the time to research or write such a series, but I do wish someone would. I believe–and could be wrong; it just flitted into my brain as a memory–there was at one time an Abigail Adams mystery series; I never read it, but now am curious enough about it to go looking to see if it’s a false memory or not. I mean, why not? Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Truman have been the main character in crime series, so why not Abigail? (A very quick search has, indeed, offered up an Abigail Adams mystery series written by Barbara Hamilton; it’s nice to know it wasn’t a figment of my imagination….alas, yet another series of books to go not ye olde wish list.)

And tonight, of course, once I am off work I must go to the gym. I am sure I will have to force myself to go–the temperatures will undoubtedly start falling again after I get off work, so there will be that…but it will feel good, as will the protein shake and shower afterwards. I also have another load of laundry to get started tonight when I get home.

The glamorous life, that’s me.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Primitive Notion

Another good night’s sleep, only to wake up to a frigid forty degree morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have my cappuccino prepared, the space heater is blowing warm air in my general direction, and the ceiling fans are most definitely turned off. The kitchen is clean this morning, which is lovely–there’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher needing to be put away, but that can wait till after work–but it was marvelous to come down to a cleaned up and organized kitchen this morning.

Paul was working last evening, so I did the same. I got another two chapters of the book polished and revised; and hopefully will keep that momentum going this evening. I also started reading Jess Lourey’s Edgar finalist Unspeakable Things, and that voice! It’s quite good thus far, and I am really looking forward to getting further into it this evening after going to the gym. Yes, I have to go workout this evening; my shoulder is finally no longer sore from last week’s inoculation (hallelujah) and it has been nearly a week since I last went to the gym. My muscles and joints will no doubt protest and creak a bit as I put them through their rusty paces this evening, but I really have to get back into the swing of the regular workouts…and I also have been missing them. This is a good thing, and I am very pleased that my natural inclination of blowing off the gym has become, at least currently, a thing of the past; a former behavior, if you will.

I’ve also concluded that there are so many wonderful notes in my journals that when I am not actually writing on the book, I should start going through the journals yet again and pull ideas out of there, actually creating electronic files and folders to track the stories. I have written at least six or seven hundred words in my journal on “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I need to convert that into a Word document as soon as I can so I can really start writing the story. I also can’t believe I allowed myself to go so long without keeping a journal; I believe it was 2017 when I started keeping them again, and it’s really been rather nice. While I no longer write for the most part by long hand–primarily to spare myself the ordeal of transcribing–I do find that brainstorming while scribbling has a restorative, creative effect; the journals were enormously helpful when writing both Royal Street Reveillon and Bury Me in Shadows–and there are an awful lot of helpful notes and brainstorming in them about the Kansas book, which are certainly coming in handy as I write the book. It has evolved so much over the decades since I started writing it all those years ago, and so much that I wrote in it originally has come in helpful over the years, being pirated and plundered for other books and stories. I am very deeply ensconced inside this manuscript now–to the point where I haven’t been thought about Chlorine since I started this deep dive into this final edit. This is unusual; earlier in my career I would become immersed in a manuscript the way I am now; but over the years it inevitably got to the point where I would always be thinking about–and wanting to work on–the next one while rushing to get through the current. I also think having this razor sharp focus is making the book better than it might have been.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?

I also was thinking about “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday for some reason, as well as “To Sacrifice a Pawn”–two other stories I think I started writing in December; yes, December, because the idea was to write something for a last minute Christmas anthology Gabino Iglesias was pulling together (it’s always interesting to me how I will write a story for a submission call of some sort, but the story rarely ever gets published by the market I wrote it for; take “The Snow Globe” for instance. That started out being written for a Halloween anthology HWA was doing; I never finished it and the deadline passed. I turned it into a Christmas story for another anthology call; it was rejected, but now I have sold it somewhere else entirely), but of course I was in the weeds with Bury Me in Shadows and never finished it; I think the most likely thing that’s going to happen is I will spend March planning out Chlorine while finishing some of these other stories and getting them out for submission. I think I still have two or three stories in anthologies that will be coming out this year at some point; I am really looking forward to seeing the finished books. And at some point soon, I will have enough stories for another single-author collection of my own, which is very exciting.

But the sun is rising over the West Bank with pinks and reds and pale blues staining the sky; and I must start putting together today’s lunch, packing my backpack, and getting into the shower to face down yet another day of clients and work at the office. I’m also going to need to start pulling together my tax information (yay); which I’m also kind of dreading…but I can do that after I finish the book, really. No rush there at all–which is a good thing; there are few things I hate more than prepping my taxes for the accountant.

And so I shall go ahead and bid you adieu for yet another morning, Constant Reader, and hope your Tuesday is as marvelous as you deserve.

As It Is When It Was

And another Monday has rolled around and here I am yet again awake before the sunrise and trying to get it together for yet another work week.

I got some terrific work done on the book yesterday, which quite naturally was most pleasing to me. I made it through the intro pieces and the first two chapters, which were very messy–I was, frankly, a little taken aback by just how sloppily written those two chapters were. Especially since they were around the seventh or so drafts of those chapters–I have been working on this book, off and on, since the summer of 2015–but I never really had quite grasped how to write the book in any of those earlier drafts, nor did I know what the plot and story were missing; which I do now. I got up rather early yesterday, feeling refreshed and well-rested (which was quite lovely) and spent the morning cleaning the kitchen and doing some more organizing. I also spent some time in the morning getting further into Alyssa Cole’s marvelous Edgar finalist, When No One Is Watching, which I went back to and finished after getting my own work done. I absolutely loved this book, and it will definitely be getting its own entry at some point. I cannot recommend it enough Anyway, around finishing reading this book I managed to get a couple of chapters revised and rewritten, and hope to get a few more done this evening after work. The deadline looms, of course–and now I am going to have to buckle down and focus for the month of February in order to get it finished. I also worked a little bit on my short story “The Sound of Snow Falling”– also handwriting the story in my journal rather than typing on the computer. I think it’s going to be a good story; here’s hoping at any rate.

We also got caught up on the The Stand last night–we were two weeks behind, and somehow one or both of us always manages to forget we are watching it–and…I am enjoying it, and it is telling the story Stephen King wrote forty years ago, and I do admire the changes in how the story is being told…but I am also emotionally resistant to those changes at the same time, simply because I am so devoted to the book. The original mini-series from the early 1990’s followed the book’s narrative pretty closely; this new version chose to skip over a lot of the end of the world and everyone’s journey to Boulder. I do think that cutting all that backstory was perhaps a mistake; without it, we don’t really understand why everyone is so devoted to Mother Abagail, or the relationship between Larry and Harold, which I also thought was an integral key to the story. So I am enjoying it at the same time I am a little disappointed by it? I am not dismissing it straight out of hand, like some King purists, but I am not overly thrilled by the choices they are making as show-runners and writers. But it’s different, and whether that difference is good or bad remains to be seen. I suspect there is only one episode left, perhaps two–I will be curious to see how it all ends and what differences there are between the original story and the finished product of this adaptation.

It’s cold this morning in New Orleans, and even with the sun rising in the east over the West Bank (that will never cease to amuse me, really) it’s very cold and gray looking outside. I can see one of the few remaining trees next door moving in the wind, and the sky is covered with a layer of gray-looking clouds. It’s less than fifty degrees out there right now, which is a bit chilly, and I would imagine, from the looks of the cloud cover, that it’s likely to rain for most of the day, or at least the morning. I have my space heater going–the warm air blowing against my sweat-panted legs feels quite lovely–and I am drinking my first cappuccino of two for the morning. I don’t feel tired this morning, but rather well-rested, which is nice…not to mention I only have about another week or so before my vaccine kicks into gear. My left shoulder is still a bit sore this morning–now it just feels like a bruise–so I am going to most likely sip the gym one more time and go tomorrow evening. (I’ll see how the shoulder feels tonight when I get home from the office, to be honest–but I also don’t want to get out of the routine again. I’ve been doing so well, and as I have noted, my boy’s shape and size is shifting, which is quite nice)

I also have a lot of work to get done this week. Oh, so much work to get done this week! But there’s naught to do but to get it done–it’s not going away, and the longer before I get to it, the harder it will be to go ahead and do it.

And on that note, as the gray light becomes steadily a little gray outside my windows (but remains, nevertheless, gray) I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–and if you’re in the path of the massive blizzard up north, stay inside and stay warm and safe!

Sooner Than You Think

Friday, Friday, gotta get down it’s Friday!

Well, I got my second inoculation yesterday, and yes, I don’t feel so hot this morning. Yesterday was weird; after getting home and working for the rest of the afternoon, I could sense something was, for want of a better word, off. Not bad, not sick, not anything like that–just off. After work as I sat in the easy chair waiting for Paul to come home, my hands were cold…which is also unusual; my hands are always warm and tend to get sweaty, which makes wearing gloves a challenge in cold weather. I also felt incredibly tired, despite sleeping really well the night before. I kept dozing off and on, and was too tired to focus on reading. I went to bed early, slept deeply and well–didn’t wake up for the first time until around seven, and went right back to sleep. Now I am up and feeling a little dragged out, yet rested at the same time. My hands are cold again this morning, but the rest of me isn’t. My shoulder also wasn’t sore yesterday, but it sure the fuck is this morning. So no gym today for sure–I’ll see how it feels tomorrow–and at least I don’t feel sick. These other weird side effects–the exhaustion and fatigue, the cold hands–are something I can live with and handle, and I’d rather be vaccinated than not. I just find it curious, but I’ve always had weird reactions to flu shots, too–until the last few years, where it hasn’t affected me at all. I am glad I am taking today off from work, though. Yesterday’s lethargy and the lethargy from earlier in the week from being tired shall not stand! The Lost Apartment is a mess, things need to be cleaned and put away, and I have a lot of volunteer work and writing to get done over the course of this weekend.

We’ll see how the energy thing works out, shall we?

At the very least, I hope I have the energy to get back to reading Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching, or some short stories.

And I’ve got to start working on the manuscript. The good news is I don’t have any other writing distractions going on in my head right now–there’s an anthology I want to submit to later this spring, and there’s an open call for a magazine I’d like to get into that will be open for about a week in March–but other than that there’s literally nothing else pending other than getting this damned manuscript revised for the last time. I’ve been reading through it casually–I sent the entire document to my Kindle, so I can read it on my iPad while reclining in my easy chair–and there are some incredibly good bits in there that I am quite pleased with. The plot is the weakest part, as always, so I am going to have to tear the entire thing down into its parts and rearrange it while seeing what else is missing from it that I need to fill in.

My air fryer arrived yesterday, but I was too lethargic yesterday to try to use it; guess what I am going try to do today? Yes, I am going to try to make nuggets for lunch in it. It’s a little on the small side, but that’s okay; if I like it and find it convenient I can always get a larger one later. Hurray for consumerism, I suppose?

But it looks beautiful outside this morning, if a bit on the cold side (my hands are still cold; even holding my coffee cup isn’t helping), and I’d rather it be sunny than raining and gloomy. The Lost Apartment has become quite messy, and since that doesn’t require any real brain power to execute, I am probably going to work on cleaning and organizing once I post this, before taking a shower and seeing how I feel then–if I still feel like I do now, I’ll probably retire to my chair and read the rest of the day while Taylor Swift videos play on the television. (I’ve really become a fan of hers lately; those last two albums were stellar, and of course I never tire of the song “Red”–I don’t think I’ve heard anything of hers I haven’t liked; I should write a story called “Red” at some point; alert Constant Readers may have noticed I spent a good portion of 2020 on this blog with entries using her song titles. For those keeping track, I have always used song titles; for years I simply used whatever song I was listening to while I was writing the entry. Then I started going through the Top 100 hits of a given year from my childhood, before moving on to the Pet Shop Boys catalogue. I followed that with the Taylor Swift catalogue, and now am using New Order’s recordings. Not really sure what will follow New Order, to be honest; maybe country song charts from the 60’s and 70’s–some of those song titles are bound to be doozies)

You know, it just occurred to me how I feel this morning; I feel like an orange that has been squeezed for every last drop of juice–completely wrung out, hollowed out, empty. Heavy heaving sigh. Perhaps I should eat some breakfast, and start the cleaning process.

Have a lovely Friday morning, Constant Reader!

Morning Night and Day

Inoculation Day, Part II.

I am glad to be getting it, don’t get me wrong, but reports of reactions to the second shot–feeling flu-like symptoms, light fever, and chills–has me a bit concerned. However I am planning on taking a personal day tomorrow anyway, so I can get caught up on personal things. I also am picking up my new air fryer at the post office today; I am very excited. I’ve never had an air fryer before, and am really interested to see how it works (after the last attempt at deep frying things resulted in a grease fire, I am loathe to try that again); I’ll make nuggets in it tonight and will let you know how that went, okay?

The first morning of the week when I don’t have to get up at six is always a lovely morning. I feel more rested than I have all week, which feels great, and am hopeful that the end result of the inoculation won’t be me feeling sick for a day or two. I started to say I dislike being sick, but then realized it’s kind of a stupid thing to say because who likes being sick? No one, that’s who. Alas, last evening Paul was was still working, so as I relaxed alone in the living room, I rewatched some episodes of Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso that I enjoyed. It was lovely, really; both shows really hit the same chords in some ways despite being so vastly different; in the first, it’s the charm and kindness of the town that fixes the broken Rose family and helps them develop into the best version of themselves; whereas in the latter it’s Ted himself who fixes the broken culture at the Richmond soccer team by helping everyone there become the best version of themselves. Seriously–if you’ve not watched either show, you need to.

I am hoping to spend some time this evening after work with Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching; if I do get sick from today’s shot, I can curl up in my easy chair under some blankets and read, if nothing else, right? I think the next book on deck will be a reread of Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine, which I read once (back when I was making my way through the Susann ouevre) and never again; it never really connected with me the way Valley of the Dolls did, but I kind of want to give it another read. A friend posted an excerpt from it on Twitter a few weeks ago (recently, at any rate) and seeing that made me giggle a bit; the excerpt was funny, and evidence that the so-called “love machine” of the title, a television executive named Robin Stone, was actually lousy in bed. I didn’t care much for the book at the time I read it–there was something very strange about its structure that didn’t sit right with me when I was a teenager; I do remember what that was but I don’t want to think about it too much before I get into the reread–just as I didn’t care much for Once Is Not Enough, reading each book only once and never revisiting (unlike Valley of the Dolls, which I revisit periodically) and am curious if my original perceptions of those two books will still hold accurate the second time around.

It’s cold in New Orleans this morning–forty-four degrees, which was a precipitous drop from yesterday’s low seventies/high sixties and rainy (on the way home from work yesterday I had to turn the air on in the car). But it’s a lovely bright day–the sun has blessedly finally moved so that it is blocked by the house next door so it’s no longer shining directly into my face (I am going to need to get curtains for my windows, which I really hate; fucking neighbor cutting down the damned trees!)–and I do feel rested this morning, which is absolutely lovely. I have a long day of data entry to stare down; as well as the trip into the office for the shot. I have some things–odds and ends–to also do in the office once I get there; filing and so forth, so I’ll be there for an hour or so as well.

Pretty exciting life I am leading here, huh?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Behind Closed Doors

Wednesday, Hump Day, all downhill into the weekend now. Woo-hoo, methinks?

I slept very well last night–about five hours consecutively, then in and out for the final three hours–and feel much better this morning than I did yesterday morning. I still have a ridiculous mountain of work to get done–the mind literally reels, but I’m trying not to feel defeated before even trying to get through it all. And of course, tomorrow I don’t have to get up before the sunrise. Tomorrow is also my second inoculation for COVID-19, which means a sore shoulder for a few days. Supposedly the second dose is worse than the first, and might make me a bit sicker than the first did–again, this is fine; I’d rather have a mild sickness than get the coronavirus, certainly! And I certainly should not complain about getting it, considering how early I am and how many people would love to get it done. It’s going to be strange being inoculated. I’m going to keep wearing masks of course–total strangers won’t know I am vaccinated nor do I plan on flashing my vaccine card at everyone I see–because quite frankly, not getting sick at all so far this winter has been lovely. Maybe, I don’t know, we should always wears masks and focus on cleaning our hands with regularity? It’s a thought, isn’t it?

We didn’t start watching season two of Servant last night after all; Paul didn’t get home until very late from the office last night, so I basically just sat in my easy chair, exhausted, trying to drum up the energy to read (Alyssa Cole’s book is so good) while scrolling endlessly through social media while Youtube videos played on the television screen. I also went to bed a bit earlier than I usually do–I was seriously exhausted yesterday–and so the sleep was, indeed, quite marvelous. I really miss the days when I used to fall immediately into a deep sleep that, as Paul once remarked, “a nuclear bomb couldn’t wake (me) from.” That’s probably the primary thing I miss from my pre-fifties life…no one ever told me that one of the things about getting older would be that your sleep patterns change.

Ugh.

But I feel like I can face today this morning–yesterday was one of those “I just want to hide in a corner” days; and while I despise having everything put on hold or pushed back to be dealt with another day, that is one of those things you just have to deal with. I have come to understand when I am that tired after an insomniac night I am really not at my best, and taking care of business when i am not firing on all cylinders is perhaps not the best thing for me or anyone I am having to deal with, work with, take care of, etc. I am still way behind on my book, but I am hoping that this weekend–with the proper amount of rest–I’ll be able to dive headfirst into the book and start heading towards the finish line. I think the current manuscript sits at around 75000 words; it probably needs another 20k to be complete and have everything tied up into a little bow. The trick is going to be figuring out where the new stuff needs to go. One thing I will say about myself as a writer that is complimentary is that I am very good at the transition between chapters–it’s usually very seamless, so inserting new chapters and scenes is a bit more of a challenge. What I need to do this weekend is break the book down to its moving parts, and see what I can do to make it more cohesive–as well as find the parts that are missing that need to be added to it. I think it’s going to be a good book–right now I am clearly not going through imposter syndrome–but a lot will hang on what I am able to pull together and get done.

I also have to revise and rewrite a short story; I need to check when that deadline is, and get it put on my calendar.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

Superheated

And now it is Sunday in the Lost Apartment. I trust everyone had a most lovely and delightful Saturday? I did; I spent most of it cleaning and reading and watching figure skating and making groceries and running errands and doing all sorts of things that didn’t involve writing. I’m not entirely sure again why I am avoiding writing–yesterday methinks it was primarily due to the hangover of the final push to finish the short story, as well as trying to purge it out of my brain. Part of the joy of being a writer apparently is the absolute guarantee of self-doubt and second guessing everything once you’ve turned the story/manuscript in. I spent way too much time yesterday wondering “maybe I should have done this” and “maybe I should have done that” and on and on it goes–with the occasional second thoughts about the novel I turned in two weeks ago as well. Enormously lovely, you see.

But the figure skating was fun to watch, as always, and congratulations to our national champions (the men’s title will be decided today, with Nathan Chen most likely becoming the first US man to win five consecutive national titles in a row since Dick Button’s post-war dominance, winning seven in a row and two Olympic gold medals (a feat unparalleled until Japan’s Yuzuru Honyu won the last two Olympics). It’s also interesting to me how strong the United States has become in the ice dancing discipline this century, after decades of not being up to international snuff. The Saints also are playing today in the play-offs; playing Tampa Bay and Tom Brady for the third time and hoping to pull off the hat trick.

Today is going to be mostly spent reading and cleaning, methinks; I need to focus on my reread of the Kansas book manuscript and make some decisions about where it’s going to go, how to clean it up, what can be kept and what can be discarded. The manuscript currently sits somewhere around 75000 words, give or take; I need to add some more to it while taking other stuff out; strengthening some bits while underplaying others. I am also still greatly enjoying Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and am looking forward to spending some more time with Mary Russell…although I must confess that I am going to have to be very careful with reading more Sherlockian fiction, whether it’s actually Conan Doyle’s or pastiches, because revisiting the Sherlockian universe makes me want to write some more about my own Sherlockian universe. The period of time in New Orleans history where I have put my Holmes has already been written about by David Fulmer, in his series beginning with Jass, and I may have to revisit those novels–it’s been a long time since I read them, and I also remember enjoying them. Anyway, I am digressing, as always, from the original point: writing that Sherlock story has given me the bug to write about him some more, and as usual, I am thinking not only in terms of a short story but of a novel as well…with the full knowledge that actually Sherlockians will undoubtedly see my own feeble attempts as an abomination and heresy.

I’ve also been reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln in dribs and drabs. I am enjoying it, but the lovely thing about Vidal’s writing is it isn’t like reading a thriller or a good mystery; you can put it down at any point and walk away from it, not missing it until you pick it up again. I am a fan of Vidal’s, even though he seems as though he would have been a horrible person to know–a snob both intellectually as well as in terms of class–but he also was fiercely intelligent and witty, and he looked at the United States with a jaundiced, unsentimental eye. I don’t think I’ve really read much about Lincoln as an adult–I of course read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals back in the day, but don’t really remember much about it. Yesterday I also started reading through my copy of The Black Death by Phillip Ziegler–I have a vague idea for a murder mystery, most likely a short story, set during the plague years in Florence; I don’t think there is much modern fiction set during that time, so of course I am interested in it. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year reading plague histories and fictions (yet somehow not rereading Stephen King’s The Stand) and I still would like to get back to my story “The Flagellants,” which I was having a lot of fun with last spring.

I’m also seeing conversations on-line about whether authors should include the pandemic in their fictions or not, which seems kind of counter-intuitive; did New York writers pretend 9/11 didn’t happen? Did New Orleans writers pretend Katrina was a near-miss? In both cases the answer is no. You may not want to write fiction set during the pandemic, but we cannot pretend the pandemic didn’t happen–particularly since it’s on-going. It’s hard to write about something–even harder to read about it–when you are still in the midst of it because you don’t know how it’s going to end. By the time I started writing Murder in the Rue Chartres it was already apparent New Orleans was going to come back from the flood, even if what the new city would look like was still being debated, was still uncertain, and up in the air. I’ve never written about Scotty’s experiences with Katrina, rather choosing to pick up his story several years later with the flood, the evacuation and everything else entailed in the destruction of 90% of the city in the rearview mirror. I get that readers might not want to read about and relive this past year plus; but I don’t see how you can write honestly about an America where it never happened. The last four years of this administration–including the sack of the Capitol–also cannot be entirely ignored either. So what to do? I suspect history isn’t going to be terribly kind to the insurrectionists nor the anti-maskers (deservedly so), particularly since they are the ones who politicized public health and safety because they believed the Mammon they’ve worshipped like a cult for so long; their own golden calf, as it were–despite all the warnings in their Bible. Ah, the dilemmas we modern writers face!

I do sometimes wonder if writers during the Civil War wondered if they should write about the war or not in their work.

And on that note, tis time for me to start mining spice here on Kessel, so it’s off into the mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

New Year’s Day

2021 dawns, and theoretically, at any rate, it’s a new year and a fresh start–at least that’s the mentality everyone else seems to embrace. I don’t get it, myself, never really have. But far be it from me to rain on anybody’s parade–or their New Year’s hangovers.

It’s a lovely morning again in New Orleans; blue skies and sunshine. I’m going to swill down some coffee this morning and then head to the gym–they are only open until 2 this afternoon–before coming home to put one last coat of polish on Bury Me in Shadows before I turn it in, on time, later today. I finished it last evening–there are still some holes in the plot that need filling, as well as some contradictory elements I need to catch–but it’s essentially finished. I have not, in fact, finished a book since early 2019, when I turned in Royal Street Reveillon; so it’s very nice to have another one done. I go back and forth between thinking it’s really good or the worst thing I’ve ever written, so there’s that part–par for the course, really.

I also got my first inoculation for the COVID-19 vaccination yesterday. It wasn’t so bad, really–my shoulder is kind of sore still this morning, glad I had them do my left arm–but I felt off for most of the rest of the day; which could have been the inoculation, could have just been the fact that I was tired. I’ve not really slept that great this week, and the fluctuations in the weather have not helped in the least–sinuses, you know–and I’ve not really had much of an appetite lately, either, so I’m probably experiencing low blood sugar and all of that. But the next inoculation will be in 28 days, and then my life sort of can go back to normal? Not really–I’ll still be wearing masks everywhere I go, and washing my hands religiously as often as I can, but at least I no longer have to worry (too much) that I am going to get infected and sick.

2020 was one of those years, like 2005, that we will look back on and wonder about. A lot of my memories of the year just past are foggy and gray; I don’t remember much of the year rather like I don’t really remember much of the year and a half after Katrina. It’s always weird when there’s a major world paradigm shift; Katrina really only affected those of us in Louisiana and Mississippi and coastal Alabama–while the rest of the country and world looked on in horror, they also were able to move on within a few weeks whereas we were not. The COVID-19 paradigm shift affected everyone in the world, and as we (hopefully) are beginning to move past it–which will not finally happen until we achieve herd immunity, and who knows how long that’s going to take–things aren’t going to go back the way they were before the world came to a screeching halt. Things have changed, whether for the better or not remains to be seen; but one lesson that everyone has learned is that almost everyone actually can work from home and be productive, something employers resisted like the plague before, you know, an actual plague forced them to adapt. Now businesses and companies have to ask themselves–do we really need all that overhead of having an actual office, when our staff can do their jobs efficiently and effectively from home? Same with book signings–publishers probably aren’t going to be paying to send their authors on tours anymore since virtual ones actually get a higher attendance. What about conferences? They also became virtual–but in all honesty, I will want to continue to go to in-person conferences once they are feasible; drinking at home on Zoom isn’t the same thing as hanging out in the bar with friends and laughing our asses off.

I do miss seeing my friends.

I usually set goals on New Year’s Day for the new year; I’ve not really put much thought into goals for 2021, to be honest. I did achieve one of my 2020 goals, despite the pandemic: getting back into a regular gym routine and going regularly. I’ve noticed a change in my body, even though I’m not really pushing myself as hard as I could–I don’t want to overdo it, nor do I want to injure myself again, which started the whole spiral ten years ago in the first place–but it’s nice to see my muscles hardening and getting more defined. My weight hasn’t changed at all, but I can see a difference in my face and my pants/shorts/sweatpants, which were already a bit too big, have gotten even bigger (I really need to wear a belt). I do want to continue focusing on taking care of myself a bit more in 2021; dental work and vision exams and new glasses and possibly the occasional massage. I have a number of secret projects lining up as well, which is kind of exciting, and of course, I need to finish the Kansas book now and I want to get to work on Chlorine. I think there’s probably another Scotty or two in my head, and I also want to experiment with novellas–I have at least three or four or five in progress, and I really need to finish them. I also want to get some more short stories finished and out for submission.

I watched a movie for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival yesterday afternoon as I made condom packs: Something for Everyone, starring Michael York and Angela Lansbury, based (or rather, according to the credits, “suggested by”) on the novel The Cook by Henry Kessing (recently brought back into print by Valancourt Books), which I recently read about as “the queerest movie of the 70’s”–and yes, it is indeed very queer. (It’s not streaming anywhere, but there’s a bootleg of it on Youtube, which is what I watched) It reminded me somewhat of The Talented Mr. Ripley in several ways, and it also made me think about how amazing Michael York would have been playing Tom Ripley. York plays Conrad, a drifter from no one knows where and, like Tom Ripley, we really never learn about his past or who he is. He shows up on screen in Bavaria, riding a bicycle and wearing cut off khaki trousers that are cut very high; Daisy Duke-ish in fact, and he looks splendidly beautiful and alluring in the German sun. He decides he wants to get a job working for the local impoverished Countess and her children, who no longer have the money to maintain their castle or live in it, but it’s entailed so they can’t sell it. (Neuschwanstein, the fairy castle of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria–who was also queer) stands in for their castle.) Angela Lansbury plays the Countess, and she is truly splendid. Conrad begins killing people who get in his way, but is also doing it to help the family he now work for, while slowly seducing and sleeping with everyone in sight in order to get what he wants–he seduces the Countess’ son and eventually the Countess, and York is simply breathtakingly gorgeous to look at in all his youthful, lean beauty. (I had an enormous crush on him in the 1970’s.) But Angela Lansbury is truly fantastic. She’s beautiful and slender and elegant, and those expressive eyes are perfect for expressing the Countess’ malaise and ennui with her situation and with the world. Watching her slink around in gorgeous clothing, I could but marvel an wonder why she was never a bigger film star, and in all honesty, I’ve never really seen her as Mame Dennis before. Yes, I know she played the part on Broadway and it was a huge smash hit, but for me Rosalind Russell was definitive….but having watched this movie now, I am now convinced the casting of Lucille Ball as Mame in the film instead of Lansbury was an even bigger crime than I considered it before–I watched the Lucy version and it was awful; but the crime that was casting Ball is now even more egregious. I could literally imagine Lansbury as Mame as I watched this movie. It’s cynical and a bit cold, but it definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival in that Conrad never is punished for any of his own crimes–he’s outwitted in the end, but not really punished…and knowing Conrad, I am also confident that at some point after the film ended he got the upper hand back.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. One more cup of coffee and I am off to the gym; and then its back to home and the grindstone. Happy New Year, everyone!

Wildest Dreams

It’s Thursday, a work-at-home day before the holiday weekend. I know, it’s weird to take a vacation and then work a day before another holiday weekend, but there you have it. It’s also the last day of 2020, I am getting my COVID-19 vaccine (part one) today, and my book is due tomorrow. Heavy heaving sigh. I only have two chapters left to do and a final polish, so after I am done with day job duties, I should be able to power through those last two chapters this evening, and then I have all day tomorrow to reread, revise, and polish before turning it in.

It’s also New Year’s Eve, a holiday I’ve never quite understood but am more than happy to enjoy–I am always happy to get an extra day off with pay, any time anyone wants to provide me with one–but I’ve never really understood the point of celebrating the end of a calendar year and the beginning of another. I mean, it’s an excuse for a holiday and for people to get wasted, I suppose, but other than being a party for symbolism, I don’t understand it. I suppose it’s seen as a demarcation point, but it’s really not a new beginning; I’ve also never been one for resolutions, either. I prefer to set goals for the year, and then see how well I did after twelve months have passed. One of the major things of this past year for me has been memory loss–I can’t remember anything anymore–so I don’t remember the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. I do remember that 2019 was a shitshow of a year, and I was very happy to see it end, as was most everyone, only to discover that 2020 would be so awful that I cannot remember precisely why 2019 was so dreadful, just that it was.

I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine because of my day job, which a lot of people don’t know much about because it’s not something I talk about publicly very much. I am always very careful to compartmentalize my life, keeping my writing career and public life very separated from my day job and my private life. I work at a public health clinic here in New Orleans that used to be the NO/AIDS Task Force, which evolved into Crescent Care Health sometime (my memory is completely shot) over the course of the last decade. I work at the Elysian Fields campus, and basically, what I do is test clients, by appointment, for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C; do all the necessary paperwork required by our funders; and basically interview and assess my clients for risk reduction messaging and what other services we provide that they might require. Once that is finished, I take them to a nurse who will draw blood for their PrEP labs (if they are taking PrEP) as well as testing them for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Over the course of the pandemic our services were initially shut down, and then we became a testing site for COVID-19. For several months I worked in the garage of our building, screening people for COVID symptoms before we let them into the building (we were on very limited services; some blood draws were still being done, the food pantry was still open, and so was the pharmacy on the second floor) or sending people who needed to be tested over to the COVID testing area. So, yes, I am in a public contact job that is health care related, and see clients three days a week, putting myself at risk of exposure. I follow our safety protocols stringently–which includes mask wearing, regular hand-washing or sanitizing, and cleaning the room where I see clients with virucidal wipes–their chair, the side of the table they sit at, the pen they handle, and their side of the plexiglass screen they stick their hand through in order for me to stick their finger and draw enough blood to run the tests I run. The clients also have to wear a mask the entire time they are in our building. So, that’s why I am getting the vaccination so early; I’d posted about it on social media and got some weird comments, like so lucky and so forth…which I understand; sure, I’m lucky to get it early, but at the same time I’ve been at a high daily risk of infection since late spring–and while I don’t think the age thing matters as much as they thought it did at the beginning of the pandemic, I am not that young–my next birthday will be my sixtieth.

So, that’s why I am getting the vaccine earlier than many. I am a front-line employee of a public health clinic–and while I may not be a doctor or a nurse, I provide essential health services–or serve as a gateway to accessing those services….and the Office of Public Health provided enough vaccines to our clinic so that all of our employees can be get one, so that our clinic can get back up and be fully operational (rather than on a limited basis) sooner rather than later.

And that’s probably the last time I will ever talk about my day job and what I do there publicly.

Yesterday was a very good work day–I am still behind, of course; I’d hoped to be finished with the entire thing on Tuesday so it could sit for a day or two before the final polish. Bury Me in Shadows has had an interesting journey to completion. It began as a short story I wrote sometime in the 1980’s called “Ruins”–and when I finished writing the story, I knew it wasn’t a short story but a novel. I filed the story away, dragging out the folder and rereading it occasionally over the last thirty or so years (it’s really difficult for me to grasp that 1980–and soon 1981–was forty years ago), and I’m not sure when exactly I decided to turn it into a novel or when I started working on it. The original title, once I started pulling the book together as a novel, was Bury Me in Satin, which is a line from the song “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry; I love the song, and when I heard that lyric the first time, I immediately thought, ah, that’s the title for the book built on “Ruins”, but at some point during the writing I changed it to the more Gothic Bury Me in Shadows. I had always, since the 1980’s, wanted to write about my fictional Corinth County, Alabama–which is where this book is set–and over the decades since have done some serious world-building. I have any number of short stories written, in some form or another, that are set there…and tried to weave some of those story strands into this book. I’ve already published one book with a character from Corinth County, even if the book wasn’t set there: Dark Tide. The book has also evolved in other ways from the original story; the main character was thirteen in the original story, and then evolved into a sixteen year old when I started writing the book. At some point in the process, I recognized that the character’s age didn’t work, and so I aged him into a college student, which actually works much better. This required completely overhauling and reworking the opening two chapters; but I do think the new versions are better than the originals, and I think the book works better this way.

I suppose I will always think of this book as my pandemic book, since that’s when it was written. Ironically, once this one is turned in I have to start working immediately on the next, which is due on March 1. The next has already been through a ridiculous amount of drafts–I started writing it in 2015, and have worked on it off and on since then (I wrote the entire first draft in July 2015; a chapter a day, basically), and so I guess this is all about finishing projects that have been lingering around for a while. (Even this Kansas book began being formulated when I was in high school, and has followed an interesting–to me–evolutionary pattern since then.)

Perhaps 2021 will be the year where I clear out all the projects that have been hanging around my office for years–decades, in some cases–so I can move on.

It would be so lovely if I could write a first draft of Chlorine in a month…

And on that note, I’m heading for the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!