Rainmaker

I overslept yet again this morning–for whatever reason my body continues to demand extra sleep and extra rest–but I also woke up to a sunshine day this morning, and that’s simply marvelous. I slept very well, too–I actually fell asleep in my easy chair last night watching college football highlights, so there was that–and of course, now I have to readjust to getting up at six every morning beginning tomorrow again, which is actually fine, really. I made some progress on some things while sitting in my easy chair watching LSU play like LSU again last night against Central Michigan–final score 49-21, could have been much higher, as the started sat down after we went up 42-7 early in the third quarter–and it was quite lovely watching LSU play up to their potential for the first time this season. I feel a little bit better about starting SEC play now; I still don’t think we have the wherewithal to compete with Alabama, but I am not so worried as I was about some of the other teams in the league. I was also impressed by how close Florida came to knocking off Alabama yesterday as well…and I don’t think Florida is the best team in the East, either; that’s Georgia, methinks. So, it could be an interesting year for the SEC; not sure what the Auburn loss to Penn State means either, other than maybe Auburn may not be on track for a run this year, either.

The Saints are playing at noon today, which means I’ll probably have to watch part of the game at the gym; which is fine. I am not as rabid about watching every second of a Saints game the way I am with LSU; the Saints cause me too much stress sometimes to watch. I was impressed with how they played last week against Green Bay; we’ll see if they can keep that momentum alive this week, won’t we?

We also watched some Sex Education, which continues to be an absolutely charming little show, and the season premiere of The Morning Show, which doesn’t get near the attention it should, really. I tried to read a little bit yesterday to little or no avail; my mind still can’t focus on reading yet. The creative side of my brain is really starting to kick into gear again after the sort of short-circuiting the Ida situation caused; now i have to remember how to focus the creativity so I can get all this stuff done that I need to get done. I also need to start promoting my new book coming out in less than a month, but I am not quite there yet emotionally and mentally yet. I am hoping seeing clients again for three consecutive mornings will be the final return to normality that I so desperately need, that I so desperately hope will clear the cobwebs and dust from my brain and get me to sit at the keyboard and write again.

God, there’s so much to do. I cannot allow myself to let the depression to sneak its tendrils into my brain and give me that sense of being so overwhelmed that my subconscious thinks there’s so much to do I will never get it done so why bother trying which is the death knell, really; the surrender to my brain chemistry I’ve been fighting for well over twenty years. But I know I can do it all, I just need to get started and go until my energy (or interest) flags. And to do that I need a very thorough, very detailed, probably extremely lengthy to-do list, and to make that to-do list I need to get through all these piles of everything stacked up on my desk and on every surface around it. Getting organized is always the key, and it’s never easy, especially since I inevitably will always want to goof off and do nothing–which is my preference at all times, really. But I’ve been allowing the depression to control me too much over these last few weeks, so today it ends. I am going to clean this goddamned kitchen if it kills me, and I am going to file all this shit, and tomorrow night when I get off work I am going to go to the gym because I am not going to make it there today because getting this shit all under control is more important. I know I won’t want to go tomorrow night either when I get off work, but I am not going to let my laziness continue to control my life. Did you hear that, laziness and depression? YOU’RE NOT THE FUCKING BOSS OF ME ANYMORE.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

The other night at Costco we bought some new throw rugs for the kitchen, and I must say the kitchen looks a lot nicer now than it did. I decided to go with all black and white rugs this time, rather than multiple colors, and it’s a vast improvement. I need to get a few more to completely cover the floor, but it’s already made a terrific difference in how the kitchen looks. Now to get the dishwasher repaired again, and the kitchen will be a bit more functional (the dishwasher sprang a leak before the power went out). I made groceries yesterday so the house feels a bit more stocked (I always have this thing about not having enough food in the house; a left over from being poor, I suppose) and I also bought some bleach, which I’ve been meaning to get for some time, as I only had a little bit on hand when the power went out and I went through it rather rapidly after we returned to the Lost Apartment.

It’s also a bit hard to relate to and understand that it’s late September already; I feel like this past month has passed in a very strange fog and have lost all track of dates–I have a handle on the days now–which only is going to increase pressure for me to get everything done on time that I need to get done on time.

And on that note, I need another cup of coffee. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

One Night Stand

Saturday morning and I slept late again. I am feeling better this morning–I actually think recognizing what was going on inside my brain and calling it by its true name yesterday morning (in the blog post I forgot to post yesterday) helped me get past it in some way; like finally knowing what it is assists in getting past it in some way. I also know that it’s insidious and sneaky, and comes in waves, so will probably go back and forth between waves of depression and possibly manic bursts of energy and creativity; I need to really get focused on channel the energy as productively as I can because of the time I’ll lose when depression’s cold fingers wrap around my subconscious again. Ugh, it’s so awful, really; but I also know from cold hard experience that anti-depressants inevitably always make me feel numb all the time…which can be in some ways equally as bad as the depression itself as far as living my life and being productive is concerned.

I am hoping to get some writing done today, as well as running some errands before today’s college football games start airing. I’ll clean while the games are on, and possibly get some reading done if I can–I really want to finish Velvet Was the Night, in no small part because the new Rachel Howzell Hall, These Toxic Things, finally arrived yesterday. We made a late Costco run last night after work, and it was sad to see how understocked even Costco was (I don’t know why I was thinking Costco would be immune to the delivery issues affecting the city’s grocery stories) but we still managed to spend a ridiculous amount of money there; part of it was buying new throw rugs for the kitchen because the old ones are kind of gross now. But we were able to get almost everything on the list (there were a few things they didn’t have that we wanted, alas) and of course, we went off-list big time in order to spend the amount of money that we did…and we still didn’t replace everything completely. I had to clean the refrigerator out again last night–I either missed some spots on the initial clean or mold spontaneously reappeared somehow–but I am hoping that I simply wasn’t as thorough with the cleaning as I thought I had been–another side effect of the depression is doing something half-assed and then giving up, thinking meh it’s good enough.

It’s literally the worst.

Today I have some errands to run–yet again to make groceries, pick up the mail, that sort of thing–and then I am going to probably park in my easy chair with my journal while the games play on television. I am primarily interested in Auburn-Penn State and Alabama-Florida, with tonight’s LSU-Central Michigan game on deck; but we are also a bit behind on our shows that we watch; everyone dropped a new episode in the last few days, and we also started the new season of Sex Education on Netflix, which hasn’t dropped it’s delightful teen gay romance (huzzah!) and seems to be just as delightful, since the characters have actually grown some emotionally since the end of the last season, which is very cool and something I all too often complain about with shows; usually if characters don’t experience some degree of growth I lose interest.

I also have a book I need to write. YIKES! (Two, actually.) The Saints play early tomorrow, which is kind of a drag–I prefer them to play later in the day than noon, which means I will need to go to the gym earlier than I would prefer tomorrow–but it’s workable. I really really really need to get through everything today and make a complete and incredibly thorough to-do list; I am still so disoriented and disconnected from the pre-Ida life that I can’t remember everything I needed to get done, get going on, and of course the insidious depression at work inside my fevered brain keeps whispering you were supposed to finish a draft of Chlorine this month, remember? Honestly, depression is such a son of a bitch! Like I need any help undermining myself?

I also need to sign books and ship them off to people to whom I owe copies of the next one. I had hoped to get that done this morning so I can mail them today when I pick up the mail, and perhaps there will be time for that before I get up from my desk and get a move-on for the day.

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

That’ll Be The Day

And just like that, it’s Friday again.

The thing I always get wrong about depression is I never can identify it until it’s passed–or is in the process of passing–through my mind. I’m not sure why i have so much difficulty in recognizing it when I am experiencing it; I guess because I am sort of able to function (“sort of” being the key words there), and I always tend to think of depression as being so overwhelming that you cannot function when you are going through it–to the point of being almost even suicidal. I almost always, once I am no longer in its grasp, recognize it afterwards–oh yes you were in a heavy depression–but for some reason I never can understand that is what is wrong while it is wrong. I suffer from it periodically–I think everyone does, to some degree–and while mine never goes as deep anymore as it used to (thank GOD for medication and health insurance), I’ve been lost in its throes probably ever since the power went out on the morning of August 29th. The true, tell-tale sign is that once I was in an environment with power again–the flight into Alabama–I wasn’t able to write and I haven’t been even able to do much reading. The loss of my ability to focus on something is always a telltale sign that something is wrong in my brain; and when I spend hours at the computer (like I did last night) going through hundreds and hundreds of picture files to file, name or delete them, because it is rather soothing to me…yeah, that’s really a sign. Today I feel better about things in general–even though it’s kind of an icky day outside–and have been able to get some things finished today. I still haven’t been able to get through my emails, but I am going to try to work on that once I am finished with work today.

And hopefully, this weekend I can start writing again.

My choice for the movie to watch yesterday while working from home was Coma, starring a very young Micharl Douglas, Genevieve Bujold, and Richard Widmark, with Rip Torn and Elizabeth Ashley in supporting roles (also in brief cameos were pre-fame Tom Selleck and pre-bald/pre-fame Ed Harris). This was an excellent choice for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival; Coma was yet another film of the time that took a cynical, jaundiced eye at one of the pillars of modern society/civilization: medicine. The book was a phenomenon at the time. It was Robin Cook’s debut thriller, and caught fire, like lightning in a bottle. EVERYONE was reading and talked about Coma; it was an “event book”, like Jaws had been a few years earlier. I read the book when it was released in paperback. I didn’t love it, but it was interesting; my primary problem with reading it was that Cook–a physician in real life–put too much medical detail into the book for the lay reader; paragraphs upon paragraphs about medical information which really wasn’t necessary to follow or understand the story…if anything, these medical moments pulled me out of the story completely. It’s actually ripe for a remake, honestly; I bet it could be done and made much more suspenseful and scary than the original film was. The film was a hit–it’s weird looking at young Michael Douglas, in the process of trying to transition from television star to movie star and not quite there yet–but as a thriller, it left a lot to be desired.

The story is focused on a female resident at “Boston General Hospital,” Dr. Susan Wheeler. While this book and movie was set not that long ago–within my lifetime, certainly, and around forty years ago–the rampant sexism and misogyny of that period is sometimes hard to take. Susan was dealing with it on a regular basis; she was a strong, accomplished, hardworking doctor–but she was still a woman trying to make it in what was still primarily a man’s world/profession. The way the men–especially the older ones–condescend to her and talk down to her like she’s a child is almost infuriating to watch…but that misogyny and sexism are integral to the story: no one will believe her and she is dismissed as a hysterical woman. Susan’s best friend comes into Boston General for a routine D&C–a medically necessary abortion–but never regains consciousness; slipping into an unexplained coma. While all the men agree with Susan that what happened was a tragedy, they are all too willing to write it off as a medical anomaly and drop the subject. Susan won’t, however, and keeps looking into it–Boston General has had, over the past year, a remarkably high amount of patients who went into comas after a routine procedure (eight in total–up to ten by the middle of the book, including her friend and another patient shortly thereafter; and yes, given the amount of surgeries performed in the hospital annually, eight isn’t much…but as Susan retorts when her mentor and the hospital’s chief of staff says that to her, “Isn’t one too many?” Susan keeps digging, and the further she goes it soon becomes apparent that she isn’t just risking her career–she’s onto something that could put her life at risk. The book had an ambiguous ending which, even though it’s been forty years, I won’t spoil here–but they changed the ending for the movie, which I felt cheated the story and the audience–but the book’s ending was vastly better than the film’s. I wouldn’t seek the movie out unless you have a high tolerance for misogyny; and now that I think about, the misogyny was so important to the plot that I don’t think it could be remade today–Susan would have gone straight to HR and/or gotten a lawyer and sued the fuck out of that hospital in today’s world.

Robin Cook went on to have quite the career writing medical thrillers–although my favorite of his novels was Sphinx, his second, which was set in Egypt and was an archaeological thriller–and I kept reading him for a while. I think I read his first four books, but I cannot think of the name of one of them, but I am pretty sure the last one I read was Fever, and then I just kind of stopped reading him. Not because I wasn’t enjoying them still, I think I just kind of forgot about him…but I still love Sphinx, which I would love to reread sometime.

Heavy sigh. So much to read and reread, so little time.

Bad Blood

So, I took the plunge yesterday and signed contracts for the two manuscripts on hand. As I said on social media immediately afterward, this is either the smartest thing I’ve done this year or a several miscalculation. One can never be sure in either case–until the game is afoot. It’s not that bad; both are in fairly decent shape and need one more final draft, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch or anything–that would be utter madness.

So, Gregalicious, what are your two manuscripts about?

BURY ME IN SHADOWS

When a partying spree after a bad break-up lands college student Jake Chapman in the hospital, his attorney mother gives him two choices: rehab, or spend the summer in rural Alabama at his dying grandmother’s home. He doesn’t like either choice, but decides on Alabama because at least there’s a semblance of freedom. There’s a lot going on there, as well–a team of archaeologists are excavating the ruins of the old plantation house, Blackwood Hall, out in the woods behind his grandmother’s house. Once he is there, he starts experiencing bizarre headaches and emotional swings– as well as having flashes of memory that he can’t place. He starts finding out family secrets–dead uncles he never knew about, legends about the family’s past–and  there’s also the Tuckers, who live in the next holler over–with their moonshine still and meth lab. With the discovery of a skeleton out at the ruins, Jake begins to realize he is in danger–but is the danger something from a distant past, or a murderer in the present? Will someone kill to keep the family secrets?

#shedeservedit

Liberty Center High School’s football team has a long history of success–state and conference championships, players who went on to play in college–and often, the Spartan football team is all the dying small town has to hold on to, and their primary source of pride as businesses and industries and opportunities have dried up. But when one of the team stars disappears the night of the first game–and his dead body is later found–his best friend, Alex Wheeler, begins putting things together in an effort to clear himself of suspicion,  connecting the dots that lead back a few weeks to the suicide of cheerleader Angie Dixon, and the football party where she had too much to drink and was sexually assaulted. Was the on-line bullying and sharing of pictures of her from the party what drove her to suicide? Or was it murder? How far will people go to cover up misconduct by the football players? What other dark secrets are hiding beneath the placid surface in this oh-too-typical American small town,  Liberty Center? Alex and his girlfriend India soon find their own lives are in danger as they get closer and closer to the horrifying truth about the rot at the center of one of the state’s strongest football programs.

I certainly hope those whet your appetite to read them, Constant Reader! Covers to come, of course, as well as publication dates. I also don’t think I’ve ever revealed the title of the Kansas book before, so there you have it.

It does feel kind of nice to know that I will actually have a book (or maybe two) out in 2021; it felt very weird to not have one this year. I can’t remember the last time I missed a year of publishing at least one book per year, but the last one I actually remember for certain is 2005 (there may have been one in the teens; I think I may have skipped a year–2017, maybe? 2018? I honestly don’t know). I want to get my next short story collection put together at some point during 2021 as well–not sure what stories and what the title will be, but I really want to get that taken care of in the next year, and aren’t goals a lovely thing? I also want to get moving with Chlorine–the research has been phenomenally fun; here’s hoping the actual writing will be fun as well. I think I might have to write a Scotty book at some point in the next year as well; I know I want to do a pre-pandemic book (between Christmas–Royal Street Reveillon–and the pandemic this year; I really want to write about that fucked up 2020 Carnival season, and I have a really nasty idea for a plot that simply has to be written….) and I know I want to do a pandemic story for Scotty as well; I’m just not sure what that story would look like. I know people are saying they aren’t going to want to read about the pandemic, but it’s such a rich vein for story-telling and story ideas, I kind of am not sure how true that will be. I just can’t see writing about a world where it never happened–especially in a series; it’s much easier to pretend in a stand alone.

Does that make any kind of sense? To me–and my warped mind–it sort of does. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to not miss years between books–it’s not like the world is knocking down my door, or anyone is holding a gun to my head to make sure I publish something–but it is, and I think if I salvage or take away anything from this dreadful year, I’d like it to be I got those two fucking books finished and out of my hair.

I went to be early last night–it’s really been a week–and I slept for nearly ten hours, which I never do, and it felt actually pretty marvelous. LSU is playing Vanderbilt today–I don’t have very high hopes after last week, which is fine–and one of the lovely things about this abrogated season, coupled with LSU’s unexpected loss last week, is that I seriously doubt I will spend my Saturdays this fall watching football games all day, while sitting in my easy chair reading, writing in my journal, and editing things. INstead, I should be able to sit at my desk and focus on writing–now that I have deadlines, I need to be better about being on top of things and getting things finished as quickly as I can–and while it’s disappointing, what else is new with 2020? Everything is off this year, and there really is something to the notion of simply eradicating 2020 from the books; the way ancient Egyptians used to go back and remove names from statues and carvings and temples, to try to obliterate a pharaoh from their history (and yes, I watched a documentary on Akhenaten last night, why do you ask?), and not really counting it.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso last night, and I have to say, I am going to miss my weekly visits with him and the Richmond soccer team. I was very glad to see it was already renewed for another season, and it’s another one of those terribly sweet shows that will make you laugh while at the same time touching you and bringing up tears in your eyes (much as Schitt’s Creek did). It’s what they used to call “heartwarming”–and you have no idea, Constant Reader, how much I hate that word and how I generally tend to avoid anything referred to in that way–only it’s not emotionally manipulative like most “heartwarming” books, movies and TV shows; the sweetness genuinely evolves from the characters and their relationships with each other. I love this show–and it’s hard not to love the characters. Like Schitt’s Creek, the premise struck me at first as not only ludicrous but cliched; but the writing is so strong, the acting so pitch perfect, and the cast chemistry undeniable. And the optimistic, kind, always look on the bright side while always looking for the good in people character of Ted Lasso himself is the jeweled centerpiece of the show.

I have to run errands today; I’d intended to run them yesterday once I’d finished my work but by the time five rolled around I really wasn’t terribly in the mood to get out amongst people, so inevitably I shall have to do it today, which is, you know, fine; making groceries seems to always tire me out these days but that’s also fine. I want to start reading John Vercher’s Three Fifths at long last this weekend, so if I am tired when I get home I can do that. I need to do some revisions on things this weekend, too–and I should get some work done on the book manuscript as well. There’s also some cleaning and touching up around here I need to do–there are still some remnants of the Notorious Grease Fire that need to be tidied up–and feeling well-rested, as well as mentally sharp this morning certainly cannot hurt in that regard.

As always, I have a lot to do, but the lovely thing is that this morning, it doesn’t seem horrifyingly overwhelming–it just seems like my normal existence, which it usually is, and so there’s that. I did do a lot of cleaning and organizing while I was waiting for Paul to come home last night, and so the downstairs looks much lovelier and organized than it usually does. There’s still a shit ton of filing to get done (isn’t there always?) and part of my plan for this morning before running the errands is to make the long overdue to-do list, add things to my calendar so I won’t forget about them needing to be done, and trying to get set up so that once I am ready to get going I won’t forget things. I’ve always been ridiculously busy–and I think I’ve actually been busier before than I am now, if I am being completely honest–and I think the primary problem I’ve been having has been chemical; PTSD and depression, etc. as well as the occasional feeling of hopelessness this year has wrought with everyone at some point, I think. Not that there’s a such thing as a normal year, but this year has been so abnormal that it sort of stands out from the rest–it certainly has erased all memories of 2019, which also sucked, from the hard drive in my brain.

And on that note, I think it’s time to head into the spice mines this morning. I thank you for stopping by and listening, Constant Reader, and may you have a glorious, absolutely glorious, Saturday.

I

I c##

I Don’t Wanna Live Forever

This week’s unnecessary blow (fuck you, 2020, seriously) is that Scooter has developed feline diabetes. And while it has turned out to not be that big of a deal–it’s apparently fairly common, and easily treatable–it was nevertheless 24 hours of stress and distress I didn’t need; I really didn’t want to think about the possibility of losing our cat so close to the ten year anniversary of the loss of our first cat, frankly, and being told that I need to give my cat insulin injections at least once a day (Paul will do evenings, I will do mornings), given how I feel about needles–yeah, that was a stress/depression ride I didn’t really need this week. But I’ve been shown how to do it, it doesn’t seem that terrible, and the biggest issue is going to be transitioning him from his old food to his new low carb food–and it’s also going from dry to wet. He seems okay with the new, wet food–but denying him kitty treats is the primary outrage he is experiencing now. He doesn’t seem to give two shits about the shot, and at least I work somewhere I can safely dispose of the used needles.

Still. There was no need to scare me to death on Thursday.

I did manage to get both my flu shot and the second shingles vaccine this week, and both shoulders still fucking hurt. I took Thursday off because certain activities that I can do at home required using my arms in ways that made me aware that my shoulders ached, and well–that’s what my sick time is for, isn’t it? (Plus, see above: cat and vet.)I really feel like I’ve turned into such a ridiculously delicate flower somehow as I’ve aged; going from a crabgrass to an orchid, as it were, for some reason. I mean, I played football. I was a gymnast. I was a wrestler. I played tennis for years (never well). I used to teach twelve aerobics classes and lift weights a minimum of three times every week. I used to have abrasions and bruises and scrapes and callouses from working my body, blisters and bumps and lumps and muscle pulls and strains and God only knows what I did to my right shoulder–but at least it has stopped making that strange clicking sound whenever I rotate my arm. My right index finger hasn’t bent properly since it got caught in the treads of a trampoline as I practiced back handsprings when I was nineteen. I am used to aches and pains and soreness and tired muscle. And yet, somehow, now whenever I get my blood drawn, I develop this enormous and hideous looking bruise on the arm it was drawn from; it never hurts and it doesn’t bother me–I can even watch now–and yet–the bruise. I always used to think I got that bruise because my veins rolled and they had to dig for it; but now the needle goes right in every time and there’s no pain. But I still get the bruise.

And shots? I never liked them, ever, under even the best of circumstances. But now they don’t bother me at all and I don’t think they hurt at all. I don’t wince or flinch or even turn my head anymore. But whereas before–when I suffered through a shot–within moments it was like I’d never had one in the first place. But now that they no longer bother me, my shoulders are sore for days.

I don’t get it, nor do I understand it, nor do I like it.

But it’s also my new reality, so I get to live with it, like it or not.

So I get to look forward to training my cat–who is really the sweetest thing ever, even the vet is amazed at how good-natured and sweet he is–to eat wet food instead of dry, and give him a shot every morning. Hopefully around this I can also get some work done–I really need to get moving on the book, which has stalled this week yet again–but it’s also to do with dealing with depression; I always forget that when I am in a depressive state, there will be some days where I feel like a million dollars and can conquer the world, before slipping back into a lethargic, low-energy place where I get nothing done and my life continues to burn to the ground all around me. (An exaggeration. I am very well aware that I am very privileged and luckier than a shit ton of the American population…)

I mean, usually I would be excited about the start of LSU’s football season today, and all excited about the game. Now…I am not so sure. I don’t know how I feel about the athletes playing, or whether having fans in the stadium (25% of capacity) is smart or not, and I just have this horrible, nagging feeling that it’s really a bad idea and watching the games and rooting them on and everything that goes along with fandom is encouraging this if it’s a bad decision. But then this system has always exploited the athletes and I always turned a blind eye to that before…which kind of means I’m a bit of a shit person, doesn’t it?

Constantly reevaluating everything these days, and I never come out of the reevaluations looking good, I might add. Never.

I also got a lovely rejection letter for a market that my work isn’t really right for, but I also didn’t think I stuck the landing on that story and need to rewrite it anyway. But like I always say, it was worth a try; sometimes you have to shoot for the stars even if you only have a bow-and-arrow.

This actually started out as yesterday’s blog entry, but I never got around to finishing and posting it–indicative of my state of mind these last few days–but also makes writing a blog entry this morning a bit easier. After I got home from the office yesterday, I tried to read yet couldn’t focus, and so went to comfort television–I rewatched a couple of Ted Lasso episodes from earlier in the season, preparatory to the new episode dropping last night; and also went back and rewatched a favorite episode of Elite–and then of course we watched this week’s Ted Lasso and Archer–which sadly isn’t as funny in its final season as it could have been. I went to bed relatively early, slept like a stone all night, and am still kind of groggy this morning–and it’s my turn to give Scooter his morning insulin injection. Yikes. He seems to be adapting to the wet food okay, but he’s really not happy about not getting treats anymore. He wasn’t too thrilled to get his injection last night either–but I think, like with his flea treatments and so forth, he’ll eventually get to the point where he doesn’t care anymore and it’s not a big deal to him.

My plan for today is to try to have as normal an LSU game day as possible, and, horrible as it is, to try to get as much joy from the game as I can. Joy these days is not in plentiful supply, and even typing that made me feel sort of like a terrible person because of the risks to the athletes and the fans in the stands. I am also going to try to get some writing done today, some cleaning and organizing once my coffee kicks in–as I mentioned earlier, the worst part of the depressive state is the exhaustion, and this morning I am feeling it in my muscles. My mind is getting probably caffeinated and is waking up–and maybe I should do some stretching to warm up my muscles and get them doing something rather than just stagnating the way they have been ever since St. Charles Athletic Club closed down.

But emotionally I feel fine–at least in my conscious brain, at any rate–and since I am an entry behind because I never finished nor posted this yesterday, maybe I’ll go back and finish one of those “not a daily update on Gregalicious” message posts I’ve started and never finished; which are, as mentioned before, kind of abstracts for essays I want to write.

Anyway, enough whining and complaining and off to the spice mines with me.

GEAUX TIGERS!

Drops of Jupiter

I got my flu shot yesterday, as well as the second and final vaccination for shingles, and just like the first shingles shot, my shoulder (flu went into the left, shingles to the right) is achy and sore again this morning. But I have absolutely no regrets–a few days of sore shoulder is certainly worth never having shingles. Ironically, one of my goals for this year was to be better about my health in general; who knew, of course, when setting my goals there would be a global pandemic and all of the resultant fallout? But while I still need to get that damned colonoscopy scheduled, I have managed to get the lumps in my chest X-rayed (fatty cysts, RUDE!) and my shingles vaccination. I was in a regular routine of going to the gym again before it closed (and I really really miss it), and need to get into at least a regular routine of stretching, push-ups. and abs every morning (which hasn’t happened yet). I think that will help with what I call malaise, but really is depression.

Malaise just somehow sounds better to me than depression–but that’s also due to stigma. I don’t know why I am so reluctant to admit that I have depression sometimes–it never gets truly bad, just bad enough that I fail to see the point in doing anything of any kind–but of course, when i had to go to the office every day and see clients that helped keep it under control; helping people every day and talking to them about their own problems and issues made me feel better about myself–hey at least you’re helping people and you can do that even during a bout of depression–so obviously, only working with clients two days a week now does not help as much with that. I also am not one who likes to admit to weakness of any kind–thank you, systemic toxic masculinity–and so talking publicly about it, let alone admitting to it, has always been an issue for me.

I did watch The Believers while making condom packs yesterday, and yes, I was right; it doesn’t hold up and it’s really terrible about what is essentially just as valid a religion as Christianity. At one point an expert in santeria does explain to the main character–played by a very handsome younger Martin Sheen–that there is a difference between santeria (white magic; the forces of good) and brujeria (dark magic; the forces of evil)–but throughout the film it’s only referred to as santeria, and the entire point of the film is to exoticize an ancient African religion, make it seem mysterious and evil. Ironically, even though the film was made in 1987 or so, it actually fits into my Cynical 70’s Film Festival because it, too, is about paranoia and conspiracy and not being able to truly trust anyone. There was also a fear of Satanism rampant in the 1980’s; devil cults and so forth–and a lot of it had to do with heavy metal music as well. I suppose this swing back in the 1980’s was to be expected, almost predictable; after the social upheavals of the 1960’s and the cynicism of the 1970’s, the 1980’s saw a swing back to older values of a sort. Evangelicalism–which began to uptick somewhat in the 1970’s, on the wings of end-times religious theory, like The Late Great Planet Earth and The Omen, began preaching about “family values” and trying to censor film, books, television, and music. The film, which I didn’t really remember much of, played down some of the paranoia and motivation of the novel (which was called The Religion, until the release of the film); in the book the religion followers were being warned by the Seven Powers that child sacrifice–three children, in total–was necessary to prevent the coming end of the world; and the stakes of the novel lie in the fact that the main character’s son was to be the third. This plot point was written out of the movie, which obviously turned them into crazy child sacrificers; at least their motivations in the book were sort of pure–an end justifies the means sort of thing, which was a very popular mentality in the 1980’s, as I recall. The book ends with the main character, his new second wife (love interest throughout the book) and the son, saved from sacrifice, living on a farm somewhere; their radio and television goes out, and the adults look at each other with worry as the sky outside also begins to change to an eerie color…the movie obviously ends differently, and not as satisfyingly; I liked that the book depicted that their unwillingness to allow their son to be sacrificed in order to save the world–selfishness, really–doomed the entire world. (The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay also does a most excellent job of portraying this same dilemma–seriously, Constant Reader, you need to read that book.)

Thinking about this book, and rewatching this movie, naturally has me thinking about the connections between santeria and brujeria to the type of voodoo that was practiced in New Orleans; something I’ve long been interested in but hesitant to write about, particularly, as I’ve said before, because the historical writings about New Orleans and voodoo culture is extremely, horrifyingly dated and racist. My story “The Snow Globe”–coming next year in the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s anthology Magic is Murder–touches on New Orleans voodoo, and I was absolutely terrified of getting it wrong. The primary issue I have with both fictional and historical depictions of voodoo under any name is that it’s always painted as devil-worship and evil, which is predicated on the notion that Christianity is the only good religion. (I’ve also, often, noted that horror fiction–film, television, novels–while always attacked by Christians, actually almost always portrays Christianity as good, and true, and real; a confirmation of its beliefs and value systems. Vampires inevitably recoil from the cross and holy water; same with demonic possession–and inevitably not just Christianity but Catholicism in particular. I’ve always thought that rather curious.)

Scott Heim’s wonderful story “Loam”–available here at Amazon–was very interesting (not just because he’s a terrific writer and it’s very good) to me because it was about the after-effects, years later, of one of those devil-worshipping/Satanic cult scares from that time period, in which child abuse and so forth were also alleged, and convictions gained, only to later discover the kids had “false memories” that were implanted by the questioning (similar to what happened to Greg Kelley in that documentary we recently watched, where he was falsely accused and convicted of molesting two children). I’ve always been curious about the after-effects of these kinds of traumas, not just on the children but the adults involved as well. How do you parent in that situation? I have a book idea that’s been lying around here for quite some time called I Know Who You Are, which is sort of based on that idea; someone escaping a deeply troubled past and starting a new life with a new name somewhere else, only to have someone from that past turn up, because you can never escape the past. It’s a great idea, and one that I was originally intending to use as a Paige novel in that aborted series, but I think it will also work as a stand-alone–I’ve considered using it as the spin-off from my true crime writer Jerry Channing, who has shown up in the Scotty series a couple of times.

But I must get through these other manuscripts before I can even consider writing anything else.

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

All Too Well

Saturday morning, and there’s sunlight streaming through my windows–a lovely change from the majority of mornings this past week. I overslept this morning, something that has been happening with greater frequency over the last few weekends, but I also have been staying up later than normal and having trouble falling asleep when i finally do go to bed; I may have to change my pre-bed routine and go back to reading a bit before tumbling into bed. There was some study I read several years ago that indicated the light from screens made it harder for one’s mind to relax and turn off before bed, making sleep even more elusive than it already is for me.

The last thing I need in this world is to make it harder for myself to fall asleep.

I also realized yesterday afternoon when I finished work that I’ve been depressed for well over a week; going back to the week of my birthday. Depression is rather sneaky that way; I always forgot just how sneaky and malicious it actually is. You don’t have to feel sorry for yourself or have that ‘woe is me’ consciousness; it can manifest in being tired, having little or no energy, no desire to do your work, and thinking okay if I can just make it through this day. I literally felt myself come out of it, physically and emotionally, last evening after I finished my day’s work; the swing back to I can conquer the world was so palpable I actually can tell you what time it happened: 5:27, as I was loading blankets into the washing machine. These swings used to be much more obvious and apparent, and maybe…maybe I need something stronger than what I am taking to control all the chemical imbalances in my head. I don’t know. I worry so much about addiction that I am not even certain I should be taking the medication every day, and I also sometimes think I should take a week to wean myself off of it, to be certain, but then I remember that one of the symptoms of not taking the medication is an inability to sleep and like I need anymore assistance in THAT area.

It also never helps to have hurricane season amp up during the Katrina anniversary week. Sigh.

So, in this week’s film festival:

I watched Midway, the 2019 film about the climactic battle in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, which was the first American victory over the Japanese in the war and a major turning point; military historians consider it one of the most important naval battles in history, along with Salamis, Lepanto, and Trafalgar. I generally don’t watch war movies–I’ve never really cared for them much, and while I was watching Midway I realized why: I despise, and have always despised, toxic masculinity, and war movies are all about that amped up, testosterone driven macho bullshit. The main character of the film was someone who made me extremely uncomfortable with his posturing and, for want of a better term, dick-swinging; it wasn’t until he finally realized his posturing had resulted in the death of one of his airmen that he started to get it, and softened a bit, and became more likable (I also realize that this macho attitude is undeniably necessary for soldiers and the military; these are people who are putting their lives on the line and it really is a matter of kill or be killed; the problem is that it is incredibly difficult to shed that kind of training when you’re not on duty anymore or a civilian again, not to mention the PTSD). It also wasn’t until the end of the film, when the characters were shown as played by the actor with the story of what happened to them in their lives later, and the actor morphed into the real person on screen, that I realized that almost everyone in the movie was based on a real life person, not just the big admirals and so forth; that did make the movie a lot more powerful as I realized that not only was what I had just watched a fairly accurate depiction of the historical battle, but the individual experiences of the actual men who fought it. It’s a gorgeous film with stunning visuals, and the Pacific Theatre of the war never gets enough credit or recognition from us–we tend to remember the war primarily as being against the Nazis and the battle to free Europe from the Germans; bit the Pacific Theatre of the war is just as compelling, and the opening sequence–the horrific bombing and slaughter at Pearl Harbor–was just horrible to watch (one of the most moving experiences of my life was my first visit to the Arizona cemetery and memorial out in Pearl Harbor, where the water is so clear you can see the ship resting on the bottom, and oil bubbles are still escaping from the wreckage).

Yesterday I watched Blade Runner Final Cut  as part of my Cynical 70’s Film Festival (and yes I know it was released in 1982, but I consider it to be one of the last films that count as a Cynical 70’s film), and was most impressed. Rutger Hauer, of course, stole the film completely, and it was also a bit funny to me that the movie supposedly was set in 2019 (what an enormous disappointment 2019 turned out to be, given how Ridley Scott originally saw it forty years ago); visually it’s an amazing film, and I can also see how the visuals and art design of the film has influenced filmmakers ever since–the constant darkness and rain in Los Angeles (I kept thinking it’s rained more in this movie than it has in Los Angeles in the last year) reminded me of the  Alien film franchise and Altered Carbon and any number of other films. It was also interesting to see Sean Young and Daryl Hannah in the roles that first really brought them to audience attention–Sean Young was on the brink of major stardom for a while until she got labeled “troublesome and crazy; makes you wonder if she refused to fuck Harvey, doesn’t it?–and of course, a still young Harrison Ford just owns the screen. The concept behind the movie was interesting as well; it made me want to go back and read the source material (I’ve not really read much of Philip K. Dick, and given how influential his work was…yeah), and I still might. I bought a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?–great title–a few years back, but I can’t seem to put my hands on it now.

We also watched two documentaries last night: Class Action Park, about the exceptionally dangerous water park in New Jersey and the Showtime documentary about the Go-Go’s,  The Go-Go’s. Both are excellent and I do recommend both; I’ve always wanted to write about an amusement park–I have a short story somewhere set in one based on the old Miracle Strip in Panama City Beach–and still might; I’d hoped to do a Scotty book back before Katrina set in Jazzland, which is now, of course, a derelict ruin. The Go-Go’s, of course, were and remain one of my all-time favorite bands; I still listen to their music today and of course, contributed my story “This Town” (one of my favorites) to Holly West’s anthology Murder-a-Go-Go’s.

So, I am now awake after two cappuccinos (Gosh, why do I have trouble sleeping? A mystery for the ages), and looking ahead, there’s a lot to get done for me this weekend. I am way behind on both emails and the book, and of course I want to start reading Little Fires Everywhere, and the filing! Good lord, the filing. I also need to make notes from All That Heaven Allows, the biography of Rock Hudson I recently read as research for Chlorine, so I can return the book to the library this week; and it wouldn’t hurt to go through Tab Hunter Confidential and at least mark the pages that would be of use to me later.

We also finished watching The Case Against Adnan Syed, and I definitely have some thoughts and opinions about that case and show.

Watching Magic the other day, and a young Jerry Houser’s appearance in a bit role as the cab driver reminded me of another movie from the 1970’s, which I wanted to rewatch to see how it holds up: Summer of ’42, which also has one of the most beautiful scores every recorded (it won an Oscar for Michel Legrand, who composed it). I read the novel by Herman Raucher, and the book and movie are both considered seminal works and examples of the “coming-of-age” novel–and thinking about it now, how exactly would that work out nowadays? The main character was a teenager–15 or 16, I don’t remember which–and he becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman in her early twenties whose husband is off to war; when the husband is killed in her insane grief she sleeps with the young boy, who returns, even more deeply in love with her, the next day to find a goodbye note and her gone. The book and movie are told in retrospect; many years later, as an adult, he returns to Nantucket, still remembering her, and then the story is told in flashback, and then at the end he sadly looks at her old beach house and drives away. This remembrance also reminded me that I had written, as a short story, my own version of the same story–which never really worked–called “The Island”, which I still have here somewhere and could possibly at some point revise and rewrite; the primary problem for me with the story I wrote was the main character was only thirteen–RED FLAG–and just now I figured out how I could revise it and make it work (definitely not with a thirteen year old main character).

I might to actually spring for the $1.99 to rent Summer of ’42 on Prime, and see how, and if, it fits into my Cynical 70’s Film Festival.

And now it is time for the spice mines. Enjoy your Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Today’s title is my favorite Christmas song, probably because the kids sing it at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Whatever the reason, it and “Silver Bells” are the two I never tire of hearing, no matter how much I do hear them during the season.

I just think they’re pretty.

It was a glorious weekend of rest and relaxation in the Lost Apartment. I spent yesterday finishing getting caught up on The Mandalorian, doing some writing, and reading Watchmen. I only have one chapter of it left; and of course, we watched the season finale last night. I love the Watchmen series (and the graphic novel), and do have some regrets about waiting so long to read the graphic novel; then again, had I read it before, I wouldn’t have the great pleasure of reading it now, so there’s that. The graphic novel is probably the most extraordinary comic I’ve read since Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and there is no higher praise I can give than that. I can also see the influence this has had on the comics industry overall since it was first published. It’s smart, it’s mature, it’s layered, and the story itself is a cautionary tale on many levels. I also love how excerpts from diaries, newspaper stories, and memoirs are interwoven in to provide even more context to the illustrated pages.

In other words, as a friend said to me on Twitter the other day, “it’s nice when something exceeds the hype” to which I replied, “it deserves all the hype and more; it should get all the hype.”

I also got some work, as I alluded to earlier, finished on the book. I feel better about things–about the book, my career, life in general–than I have in quite some time. I feel as thought Ive turned a corner of some sort–not truly sure what that corner was, or what it means, or even if this feeling is going to last–but I woke up with my alarm this morning and rather than grousing about getting up, I just got up, made my coffee, and started working on getting on top of the day already. The only person who can affect positive change in my life is me, and only me, and therefore it’s time to start being a spectator in my life and hoping for the best…it’s time to start working to make things better. Things can always get better; things can always get worse, but we can at least have some say in how they develop…and a lack of participation in one’s life rarely ever makes it better, if you know what I mean.

I haven’t felt like I could make change in my life for quite some time–and the truth is, there are some things that are immutable; I cannot change my salary at my day job; I cannot stop the aging process; I cannot control how many copies of my books get sold. But I can control my attitude and my approach; I can get motivated and make plans; I can write the best books and stories that I can; I can start actively looking for literary representation. It’s a shame that I allowed the malaise to take over, and take over for so long, frankly; I’ve been depressed for quite some time, and the lack of sleep back then didn’t help. But there was also a medical issue involved and now that’s been resolved; I’m sleeping well and getting rest and am not tired all the time–and really, there’s fewer things worse than feeling tired and knowing you aren’t going to be able to get rest when you need it.

I can’t blame the “not writing” on any of that, of course; I could, but the truth was I also saw no point in writing–the depression speaking again–and yes, while it does feel sometimes like I am beating my head against the wall, and perhaps not getting anywhere with my writing career, the truth is I’ve never written for the money or the fame–if I had, I would have taken my career in a much different direction. But I allow those immutable things over which I have no control–sales, reviews, etc.–to color and affect my motivation to write, and I can’t do that; one should never allow things over which you have no control to defeat you. There may be roadblocks or speed bumps you can’t control, but you certainly shouldn’t stop driving because there’s a roadblock or a speed bump. That’s just silly.

I also don’t take the time to ever sit back and revel in what success I have enjoyed thus far in my career. Over thirty novels, over twenty anthologies, and over fifty short stories thus far is nothing to sneeze at; I may not win regularly, but I’ve been short-listed for a lot of awards over the course of this career. (And it makes me appreciate the times I do win much more than I would if I won every time.)

And I do have readers, for whom I’m eternally grateful. One of my co-workers has been working their way through the Scotty series–I gifted her with a copy of Royal Street Reveillon, in gratitude for her buying all seven of the earlier books–and I’ve also enjoyed answering her questions about the books. It’s very weird when my two worlds cross and intersect–the day job and the writing, which I manage to keep segregated almost completely–but sometimes there’s overlap; like weird moments when a client will rather timidly ask me if I am Greg Herren the writer. It’s always a little strange and it inevitably catches me off-guard; I don’t, I think, handle those weird little moments of being recognized for my other career well, as a general rule.

But I do like being called Greg Herren the writer.

I have to say, the teens have been an overall wretched decade–I am hoping the twenties will roar. It’s weird to think we are coming to yet another decade in just a few weeks; that it will be 2020.

Let’s all shoot for the brass ring in 2020, shall we?

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Who Will You Run To

Vacation all I ever wanted….

Yes, I am off now for about nine days, which is incredibly lovely. Today I am getting the car serviced on the West Bank, and will most likely go ahead and make groceries while I am over there. After that, it’s home and chores; I’d love to get all the cleaning and organizing done today so I don’t have to worry about doing any of that over the next nine days–and possibly do some writing while I am at it. My writing muscles are horribly, disgustingly, rusty; almost as rusty as my actual muscles which haven’t exercised since earlier in the year. I am going to try to get back into a regular workout routine during this vacation period; I miss the endorphins, and I miss the feeling of genuine tiredness one gets from forcing one’s muscles to do work. I also need to stretch regularly and do the dreaded, hated cardio; I’m very disappointed in myself for letting my regular workouts fall by the wayside.

I also want to read The Nickel Boys, and get that out of the way.

We watched two more episodes of Netfix’ Unbelievable last night, and Toni Collette and Merritt Weaver are absolutely killing it. I do think this is a must-watch mini-series; the difference with which the two women treat the rape victims in their cases is such a 180 from the way the men treated poor young Marie in the first episode; and of course Marie’s entire life and experience has turned into garbage not just because she was raped but because of how she was treated, and not believed. I have a lot of thoughts about men and rape/sexual assault; I’ve had them for quite some time but have never truly articulated any of them–who am I to talk about these things?–but there’s a lot more complexity buried there that is never truly talked about or explored; as though there’s a third rail one cannot touch. I’m looking forward to finishing it, and getting caught up on Castle Rock, which is killing it this season.

Which of course always comes down, as ever, to Imposter Syndrome; the fear that I am not intelligent, smart or articulate enough to talk about sensitive things or subjects or topics; which is what holds me back from writing personal essays. Laura Lippman recently announced that her essays are being collected into a book called My Life As a Villainess, which will be released next year, and I can’t wait for it. Her essays are amazing and smart and well-thought out, articulated beautifully; but then again, she is one of our finest writers publishing today, so why wouldn’t they be? Laura once told me, when I said that I am not a strong essay writer and am not very good at them, “Um, you write a personal essay every day on your blog.” It was very kind, and meant a lot to me, and there’s possibly some truth there; but I always see the blog as a kind of free-form rambling, stream of consciousness thing that I do every morning over my first few cups of coffee as I shake off the cobwebs of my sleep–which was glorious again last night, by the way–and try to prepare to face a day of who knows what being thrown at me.

I’m also looking forward to the LSU-Arkansas game this Saturday night on ESPN. The Tigers, despite the dismal defensive showing in Oxford last Saturday, remain the Number One team the country–I still can’t believe this season and how it’s turned out–and of course the Saints game Sunday at noon. The Saints bounced back from that disgraceful outing against Atlanta two weeks ago, and we’ll see how it goes from here. It’s weird to have the top ranked team in college football at the same time as one of the top teams in the NFL; how crazy would it be if LSU won the national championship in the same year that the Saints won their second Super Bowl? Magical indeed; as well as unlikely, but my God, would that ever be cool, and the entire state would lose its collective mind.

As I have said a lot lately, I’ve felt disconnected from my writing life lately–my reading life, too–and I’m not sure what that is. I am hesitant to say “writer’s block,” because it’s not something I truly believe in; I do believe writers can go through fallow periods when they have nothing to say, or can’t think of anything to say; not being able to put words to page. But I don’t believe that–which I often refer to as a ‘malaise’–is the actual problem; I’ve always believed writer’s block is a symptom of depression. One thing I’ve often noted when reading up on writers of the past is how many of them had drinking problems, or certainly drank to excess fairly regularly; so regularly that I’ve sometimes wondered whether there’s a connection between creativity and addiction. I do think creative types are more emotionally volatile than their fellow citizens; more susceptible to vulnerability and emotional instability, which can lead to depression, which can lead to not being able to write, which then turns around in a vicious cycle to make the depression worse, and some people deal with that by using alcohol. I myself have a medicine cabinet filled with medications to help me navigate the fast-flowing, submerged danger everywhere river of my life, and they’ve helped with my own particular brand of crazy.

So, in a little bit I’m going to take a shower and head across the river to the dealership; and hopefully when I come home I’ll be able to get some clear-headed thoughts down on the page as well as some seriously deep-cleaning done on the Lost Apartment.

So it’s off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

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