Baby I’m Burnin’

Monday and a lovely vacation day, which meant not getting up at six and dragging for the earlier portion of my day. Instead, I stayed in bed until nine again–a streak that’s been going for several days now–and I suspect tomorrow morning’s alarm is going to be an incredibly rude return to reality. But I only have to get up early two days this week, and I only have one work-at-home day on Thursday because I decided to take the splurge and take my birthday off as well. Next week I only have to work two days before the Bouchercon vacation week kicks in, and then I don’t have to return to work until the following Tuesday.

I am rather glad I decided to keep that vacation week, in all honesty.

I am doing an event this evening on Zoom for the Anne Arundel County library; it’s a Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter panel on writing diversity, or diversity in your writing, or something like that. It seems like it will be a great and interesting time–I’ve been wrong before, but I have no worries on that score here–and if you have any interest in watching/listening, you can register here. They are obviously cutting off registration at the starting time of 7pm EDT. Join us! It’s an interesting group: Cathy Wiley, Sherry Harris, Cheryl Head, Paula Mays and Kristopher Zgorski–me, too, of course. I am looking forward to it.

I finished watching Loki last night, which was great fun–cannot wait for the second season–although I do wish they’d allow Tom Hiddleston to let him use his real hair and get rid of the wig. That long dark wig detracts from how pretty he is–at least in my opinion–and he has such gorgeous eyes. But I am digressing, and I do think it was a great fun show–very clever and interesting–with a great season-ending cliffhanger it will be interesting to see them write their way out of, in all honesty; I always am interested in major cliffhangers from a writer’s point of view; I always like to see how they write their way out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into. We then watched the most recent Titans episode, and then binged our way through the latest Harlan Coben Netflix show, Gone for Good, which was chock full of twists and turns and surprises–and the main story, as is often the case with Harlan’s work, isn’t what it appears to be in the very beginning, or even through the first episode or two. It was. French production, which meant listening in French and reading the English subtitles; it’s hard for me to imagine that there was a time when I wouldn’t watch shows because they were in foreign languages and subtitled. Ah well, we do continue to learn as we get older.

I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I would have liked; I did finish a revision of “The Sound of Snow Falling,” but not much beyond that–other than some note-taking in my journal, as well as going through the last four or five of them and marking the pages containing notes on the Kansas book AND Chlorine; today I have errands to run, and I do have to go to the gym at some point, but I plan on getting the kitchen finished (ZOOM tonight, after all) and those notes on the Kansas Book typed up; the final revision of that book has to get started this week so I can buckle down next week whilst on vacation and get it completely redone the way it needs to be redone, so its readable. I am looking forward to this challenge, if not the actual work that has to be done.

So, was this long weekend a waste for me? Old Gregalicious would certainly think so; Chapter Four of Chlorine remains unwritten; just as the notes for the revision of #shedeservedit remain scribbles on several sheets of notebook paper and three boxes still repose under my desk. I haven’t gone anywhere near the attic to try to prune down the boxes up there; and I have yet to clean out the vacuum cleaner and run it over the floors of the downstairs. But I feel rested, relaxed, and remarkably stress-free; perhaps the bromide be kinder to yourself is actually working its magic on my psyche and my soul and my fevered brain.

Or I’ve simply gotten too old to care about that stuff anymore. It could be either, really.

My errands should be relatively simple and easy to get through (the post office, the bank, groceries, gas for the car) and then of course I need to walk to the gym in the middle of the heat-soaked humidity-laden afternoon. And of course then it’s time to get some stuff done around the house and maybe do some writing and reading before getting ready for tonight’s event. I am over half-way finished with The Other Black Girl, and it’s pretty amazing, really–more on it, of course, when I am ready to discuss the book on its completion. I think the next book I’m going to read is either Yes Daddy or A Beautiful Crime; it’s fun to be reading gay books again, and maybe I should stop shying away from them. I really don’t care anymore if people think I’m jealous of other people’s careers–I’m not, and I can’t control what other people think of me even if I was, and I’ve long since stopped caring what other people think of me at any rate; just as they can’t control what I think about anything or anyone.

So, I probably should get a-move on for this morning. I generally run errands around noon; which gives me about an hour of email answering and cleaning up to do around here before i leave the house. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

Love in the First Degree

THURSDAY!

It’s lovely to be working at home this morning–I do have my bi-annual physical with my brand new primary care doctor today (which means prescription refills, HUZZAH), but other than that, I am planning on being ensconced in my easy chair making condom packs for most of today, while I get caught up on shows I am watching (Real Housewives, Superman and Lois) and then possibly moving on to a 1970’s movie–either a return to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, or the 80’s Teen Film Festival (which inevitably is disappointing, as the movies tend to not age particularly well…I am still reeling from rewatching Class, with Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy; although it would make for a good essay about how society has changed since those films were made…).

Because I don’t already have enough to write.

I slept incredibly well last night, and even slept in a bit. I’m a bit groggy this morning (Groggy GreggOly) as a result, but my coffee is quite marvelous and it seems to be doing the trick. The Lost Apartment is the disaster area it always seems to be on Thursday mornings–heavy sigh–and so after i get my condom packing done, I’ll have to do some cleaning around here while I am doing my writing tonight. We finished Happy Endings last night–the final six or so episodes of the final season really weren’t very good, alas–and will probably focus on finishing HIgh Seas before moving on to something new–Young Royals, perhaps, or an Italian show Paul was interested in (I need to see if he wants to finish watching Loki, because if he doesn’t I know what I’ll be bingeing while condom packing tomorrow–we’ve also not watched any of the Marvel shows on Disney Plus, and we probably should give them a whirl; although some borderline homophobic comments by one of the leads in Falcon and The Winter Soldier kind of killed off any interest I may have had in that show)–and of course, some of our favorites (Ted Lasso, Outer Banks) are also coming back soon.

I also want to read S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears this weekend, so I can move on to the next book on the list, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris–my reading has fallen off so dramatically, I really need to get back on that horse and start riding again.

But I also have to get organized, which is apparently an on-going struggle, my own personal Vietnam, as it were. One would think by now I’d have kinda-sorta gotten used to the 6 o’clock alarm when it rings three mornings per week, and kinda-sorta adjusted my life around that, but really haven’t. Sometime next month my schedule is going to change again–which is going to require readjusting from what I’ve never adjusted to something new; it will also mean having to get up relatively early still to go to the gym so I can keep my workout routine going–Ill be going in later on Tuesdays–10 instead of 7:30–but I won’t be getting off work until 7 pm, which is too late to go to the gym Tuesday nights after. Heavy sigh.

And I need to get going on Chapter Two of Chlorine. I think I need to make a list of things I need to do for the weekend and start, as always, checking things off. In another note, I was cleaning out my spiral notebook yesterday and discovered that, as I tore the two to-do lists out of it, that I had done almost everything on both of them (even though I never crossed them off). Progress, of a sort, I guess. (Note to self: you need to get a new notebook too).

I also am at that time where I can upgrade my phone; a trip to the AT&T store is no doubt in order. It did, however, occur to me yesterday that iPhones probably can no longer accommodate plug in head-phones, which will make a difference for me. I sure as hell don’t want to pay $300 for ear buds I will lose rather quickly… but on the other hand, I have also managed to have iPhones now for twelve years without breaking or losing one, so maybe I am mature enough (ha ha ha ha) to have those ear bud things without the possibility of losing them and having to replace them for a ridiculous amount of money. I don’t know. We shall see what they say when I stop into the store. Fortunately, there’s one a few blocks away, and I can go there on my way to Office Max to get a new spiral notebook.

The excitement around here truly never stops, does it?

Angel of the Morning

Tuesday morning and we here in New Orleans are in the midst of a heat wave of sorts; I gather from my social media accounts that it’s pretty widespread nationally. It’s often difficult to tell here whether this year is hotter than previous years; it’s always, to borrow a lovely phrase from the Brits, bloody hot here in the summer (technically, it’s not even summer yet–not until June 20th–but summer always seems to arrive in New Orleans around Mother’s Day in May; which is also when the termites start swarming) and one always questions one’s self as the heat descends upon us in all its blazing fury: was it this hot last summer? Surely I would remember, wouldn’t I?

Ah, the joys of selective memory. Again, why I will never write a memoir.

I slept very well last night, but was yet again plagued with some seriously bizarre and strange dreams; which is becoming a nightly occurrence. I don’t remember said dreams this morning, which is more normal than those from the previous two nights–which I did remember; but I remember having them, which is also not ordinary for me. I o feel rested–although I would have gladly slept the rest of the day away. Last night after work I also was interviewed by Eric Beetner for his Writer Types podcast; although I guess the correct way of saying that is that I was a guest on a taping of a future podcast, along with the always delightful Dharma Kelleher. (She and I are also going a ZOOM-type panel tonight for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by my personal hero, Michael Nava, along with fellow panelists Cheryl Head and PJ Vernon, whose Bath Haus is releasing today; my copy should be delivered sometime today and YAY!) Doing those sort of things is always draining for me, and of course, with the time differential, this will be wrapping up tonight past my bedtime, which may mean I am not at my best as I will undoubtedly be drooping–but Cheryl is on EST, so it’s even later for her, so I need to fasten my seatbelt, sit up straight and participate. I just figure it means I will sleep even better tonight than I did last, frankly.

Today looks to be another hot one–but we’re getting thunderstorms later this week, so that might bring the heat down a little bit. When I went out to get into my car after work yesterday, it was literally like opening the oven door. I reached in, put the keys in the ignition and started the engine, reaching down to turn up the a./c, waiting for a bit before getting inside–but even then, the steering wheel was too hot to touch and the seat belt buckle was also pretty rough and nasty. I think I need to have my windshield tinted at some point–the direct bright sunlight can’t be good for the dashboard, and it’s certainly not good for me, personally.

I also intended to write some more on “Festival of the Redeemer” last night, but by the time the podcast was over–always a delight; I really enjoy Eric Beetner a lot, and Dharma is always lovely to talk books with–I was tired. I was already tired before signing into the podcast–spotty sleep Sunday night–and the drive home included a stop for groceries and the heat is so draining…I was worried I’d be deadly dull, and am not entirely sure I wasn’t anyway. But when we were finished, I needed to do some dishes and laundry before finally plopping down into my easy chair. I do need to get back to writing it, though–maybe tonight, since the panel is so late for me, I can do some since I won’t be able to get sucked into the television, watching something. I was going to go to the gym, and then rethought that–heat, lifting weights, losing lots of fluids; probably not the best idea and I can always go tomorrow night after work–so yeah, getting some things done and some writing under my belt is probably the best way to go with that.

We watched the first episode of Loki last night, and I wasn’t really impressed with it. Tom Hiddleston, of course, is always wonderful, and I think the premise might be interesting, but it just seemed like a lot of set-up was being done and there was a lot of backstory being recapped to set the series up, so for me, it wasn’t terribly involving. It wasn’t terrible by any means, so I will keep watching–I always try to give a show a few episodes before abandoning it entirely–but I found myself more than a little disappointed, and my mind wandered a lot.

This next scene I am writing for “Festival of the Redeemer” is also a rather hard one to write, in which a lot of complex feelings must be dealt with, as well as the deteriorating relationship between the two main characters, while they are having a lovely, romantic dinner at a restaurant on top of a hotel along the Grand Canal with a magnificent sunset view of the Serenissima; and it occurs to me that’s why I’ve been hedging about writing it, frankly–which is dumb (and I do this all the time; a scene or chapter that’s going to be difficult so I delay writing it because I forget it can always be revised, rewritten and edited BECAUSE I AM A MORON!).

And on that note– calling myself a moron is always a lovely spot to stop–I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Turn My Way

Last night I made it to the gym for the first time in forever, and it felt marvelous. Since it had been a few weeks, an my muscles are old (everything is old, frankly), I only did one set of everything at the weight I was doing the last time I went to the gym. (Never go full tilt when you go back after a break; that results in the kind of muscle fatigue and soreness no one wants, and isn’t good for you, either) Tomorrow night I’ll do two sets, and Friday I’ll be back to three, with Sunday beginning a new week of full workouts. Huzzah!

I actually did some work on Chlorine last night as well; and I am feeling pretty good about the whole thing. For once I know how a book is going to end when I started writing it; it’s the middle and how to get to that desired end that is going to be the problem here. But I love my not-so-heroic hero already, and and it’s really coming together remarkably well. I am also trying to edit and pull together my story “Death and the Handmaidens” for an anthology call that ends in the middle of next month; it’s been through so many iterations already and I really do think my original version–all the rewrites were to try to get it to a place where it would fit the submission call I was sending it to–and so today at some point I am going to read the original and most recent versions and figure out how to make it work. (I used the basic structure of the story, and its original opening, for “The Silky Veils of Ardor.”) I watched some videos on YouTube last night about old Hollywood (and the closet), while I scribbled in my journal while Scooter slept in my lap. I also did a load of dishes and a load of laundry last night–I was pretty motivated and efficient last night; obviously, I wasn’t tired when I got home from work the way I usually am on Mondays, meaning I slept well and am over-all well rested.

Hell, I feel well rested again this morning. Go figure. I woke up before my alarm (4:30, to be exact, just like yesterday) but stayed in bed until it was time to rise. My muscles and body feel relaxed, stretched, and worked, which is a lovely feeling–the stretching before the workout always feels so fucking good–and I am looking forward to a relatively pleasant day. The sun is rising outside as I swill my first of two cappuccinos this morning–the new machine is most excellent, as is my new washing machine (although it’s much more complicated and fancy than it needs to be, which of course makes me nervous), and I continue to make progress on cleaning up and out the apartment. I think tonight–after putting away the laundry and the dishes–I may start breaking into some of the living room boxes to shed more books. The primary reason I’ve not already done this is because it will require disassembling a lot of the living room, but having taken the laundry room apart and put it back together lately, I don’t really see that as the enormous challenge I was seeing it as being, and if it gets more books out of the house that are superfluous, more power to the disassembly. Paul was working on a grant last night, which is why we didn’t continue our viewing of Very Scary People (we are probably going to skip the Bobby Durst episodes, having watched the HBO mini-series on him and his “alleged” crimes already, The Jinx), and perhaps if Paul is working on the grant again tonight I can get caught up on Superman and Lois. There’s also those marvelous Marvel superhero series on Disney Plus we haven’t watched–WandaVision and the new Falcon and the Winter Soldier–and Loki is also coming, which should be a lot of fun; there’s really so much content nowadays it’s more of I can’t decide WHAT to watch rather than there being nothing to watch. I also want to watch that new Kate Winslet crime series on HBO, too.

The weather was absolutely lovely yesterday, too–but we are going into a lengthy period of flash flood warning, beginning this afternoon and running through Thursday, so getting home this afternoon after work should be a good time. Yay? Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Sorry to be so short and dull, today, Constant Reader–but it’s Tuesday. Perhaps tomorrow I can be more entertaining.

I’ll Stay With You

Sunday morning, and I am swilling coffee preparatory to going to the gym and getting my workout on. I didn’t go at all this past week–the cold, the cold, the cold–but I am ready to get back into the swing of things. My goal/hope with my workouts is to get to the point by June that I am so used to the exercising that I can switch it up–move from a full body workout three times a week to one that focuses on different body parts every visit (chest/back, arms/shoulders, legs) even though that will mean the return of the hated and feared LEG DAY.

Christ, even typing the words leg day sent a cold chill down my spine.

It feels sort of temperate this morning in the Lost Apartment, though a quick weather check shows that it’s fifty-three degrees outside–but today’s high is going to be a tropical 64 degrees. Huzzah! The sun is also out, so it’s very bright this morning in my workspace, which also kind of feels rather nice. I am still wearing layers, of course–I am going to make some groceries in a moment before going to the gym–but I think the cold spell may have broken–or is in the process of being broken; the ten day forecast indicates lows in the forties but highs up to 70 over the next ten days, so that’s much more bearable. Thank you, baby Jesus.

I managed to work on the book yesterday–I got through the first five chapters, and it was really a struggle–and then last night while we watched Servant and Resident Alien I scribbled out one of the podcast entries I need to get done. I do think this is actually going to turn out to be something pretty decent, if awful at the same time (a good book about an awful subject is probably the best way of putting it) and I did some other writing work yesterday as well, which was pretty lovely. I did watch a lot of Youtube history videos–Paul was at the office yesterday; he’s going back in today as well–and I discovered an old show on HBO, Sons of Liberty, a one-season show with six episodes from 2015 that I’d never heard of before, which is odd; given my interest in history I am usually aware of such shows. (Interestingly enough, I looked it up just now–it aired originally on the History Channel, and was one of their rare instances of actually showing a program about history–but only in three episodes; HBO must have broken each down into two parts.) It’s entertaining enough, and of course, as I watched the episode (Ben Barnes is way too young and way too hot to play Samuel Adams, but hey, it’s entertainment) naturally I started thinking about, of all things, writing a. murder mystery set in occupied Boston before the revolution breaks out. Pre-revolution Boston is one of my favorite historical periods–blame Johnny Tremain for that (and I am still bitter that movie hasn’t shown up on Disney Plus yet….hello? Are you listening, Disney Plus? It does rather make me wonder if there’s some content in the film that wouldn’t play today, the way the blatant racism of Song of the South got it locked into the Disney vault forever, despite having an Oscar-winning song in it), although there’s an excerpt of it on their streaming service. It’s very preachy, as pro-Americana Disney from that period always was–but I’d still like to see it again sometime. I’m not even sure you can pay to watch it on any streaming service. Hmmm; maybe its on Prime, and since Paul won’t be home most of the day….I can work on the book and when I am finished I can see if I can stream it…ah, yes, there it is on Prime, and relatively cheap, at that. Well, that’s my post writing day sorted. Huzzah!

Also, we are really enjoying Resident Alien, which we are watching on Hulu and is a Syfy show. It’s very clever and interesting approach to the trope of the lovable alien (see E. T. and Starman), and is actually quite funny as well, set in the tiny town of Patience, Colorado. Servant continues to be deeply dark and disturbing, which of course is fun, and I think tonight we will probably start watching It’s a Sin, provided Paul gets home from the office early enough, since I am back to work at the crack of dawn again tomorrow morning.

I was also very pleased to read four short stories yesterday morning with my coffee; I suspect that once I am finished here I will gather up my coffee and my copy of Alabama Noir to read a few stories in it this morning. It feels good to be reading again, even if I am not reading novels, and as I have said, I am hoping that once this book is finished to have the bandwidth to start getting caught up on my reading some more. My desk area is also a horrific mess in need of some work–the endless filing becomes endlessly tiresome–but I think it’s at the point where I can move stuff into an actual file box, if that makes any sense at all. Probably not, but I know what I am talking about. I have gathered so much research about New Orleans and Louisiana history–seriously, I have so much stuff that I want to write about at some point that I know I shall never live long enough to get it all written, but even if I never write about Louisiana and New Orleans history–which I know I will–it’s at least an interesting hobby for an amateur historian like me. Our history is so interesting and colorful, if horrifically racist…I have to say how incredibly disappointed I am in James Michener for never doing one of his epic historical novels about Louisiana. I mean, he wrote about Texas and Hawaii and Colorado; why not Louisiana? Maybe he didn’t want to deal with the race stuff–after all, before the Civil War we had that caste system, in which the whites were the elites, the free people of color the second class, and of course, the enslaved the bottom of the pyramid. I should go back and finish reading Barbara Hambly’s marvelous Benjamin January series, as well as revisit Anne Rice’s The Feast of All Saints. Louisiana’s free people of color are often written out of history, as is the German Coast slave uprising of 1811 and the impact of the Haitian revolution on Louisiana and New Orleans, with the emigrés from Hispaniola/Ste. Domingue fleeing here (Anne Rice also touched on this briefly with The Witching Hour; the Mayfairs were Haitian refugees, I believe, which is how they came to New Orleans in the first place–but it’s been years and I could be wrong about this, but I think Suzanne Mayfair was the witch from Ste. Domingue who came to New Orleans to establish the dynasty here; another book I should revisit)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and hope everyone I know in Texas is doing well this morning.

Babe

Saturday morning and no LSU game today–kind of a relief, really; I imagine watching us play Alabama this season would be kind of painful and awful, to be honest. I am going to go make groceries and pick up the mail later on–and then I am hopefully going to write and work the rest of the day. The Saints are playing tomorrow, so that’ll take up the late part of the afternoon, so I will be going to the gym in the morning and then heading home to write, read, and clean some before the Saints game starts.

Yesterday was nice. I can’t say why yet, but it started off very nicely and continued in that same vein for the rest of the day. It was a gorgeous day, and I took some time off in the early afternoon to go to the gym and go to Garden District Books to get my next journal–the current one isn’t finished yet, but I like to get the next one ahead of time–and it was just stunningly beautiful in New Orleans yesterday, stunningly beautiful; sunny and low 70’s and blue skies everywhere you looked when you looked up. I am still behind on everything–what else is new?–but am hopeful things will start turning around sooner than later. The Lost Apartment is starting to look much better–neater, cleaner, better organized–which is a lovely, absolutely lovely thing, and that is helping me to get better and more organized with everything else, which is also lovely.

It is a beginning, which is a very lovely place to start.

It looks to be another beautiful late fall day here in New Orleans–gorgeous sky and lots. of sunlight; I have my laptop turned to the side and my chair pulled over to the side of my desk, like I had to do yesterday–and while I do have to get the mail and make groceries at some point today, the lack of an LSU game today and the total lack of care about any other games being played today has opened up my entire day for me, which is absolutely lovely. I’m afraid to think that this year has begun to turn around somewhat–the pandemic’s second wave is still rising after all–but hope has returned.

We watched The Mandalorian last night, and yesterday I was kind of amused to see there was a backlash of sorts to last week’s episode, in which The Child was eating the eggs of the Frog Lady–the eggs she was hoping to get to her husband to fertilize else they would be the last of their line (there seems to be some confusion as to whether it was the end of their race or the end of her family line; I took what she said to mean family line, not race)–and honestly, people need to get a fucking life. It’s a fucking television show, for one thing, and it depicts things that happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Aren’t there enough genuine problems confronting us to be concerned about rather than what happens on a science fiction/western hybrid television program? We’re still enjoying the show, and apparently The Child became attached to the babies as they hatched, which was a nice coda to that story. But it also remains one of the best Star Wars universe tales, and as I said before, they should have ditched the Skywalker saga and moved on to other tales from the same universe.

We also watched another episode of Mr. Mercedes, which continues to enthrall and hold our attention. I didn’t give near enough credit to the actors playing the Hartsfields: Harry Treadaway (best known as Dr. Frankenstein from Penny Dreadful) as the psychotic killer known as Mr. Mercedes, and Kelly Lynch as his mother, with whom he has a disturbingly incestuously close relationship with–both are killing it, as is Jharrel Jerome as Jerome. This show is really well done–one of the best King adaptations I’ve seen–although I do wish Cynthia Erivo was playing Holly in this, as she did in The Outsider. Holly Gibney is one of my favorite King characters; and while she hasn’t appeared yet in this show, I am really looking forward to seeing Justine Lupe’s interpretation of the role. Brendan Gleeson is also perfect as Bill–I’m not sure why they decided to go with making him Irish, to fit the actor, but it’s working. I also couldn’t help but think what a great role this would have been for Ed Asner or Ernest Borgnine or Carroll O’Connor or Burl Ives. I also don’t know why this show didn’t really get much attention, unless it was because it was on a lesser streaming service. Here’s hoping it being on Peacock will help it find a bigger audience. It is so well done, and Dennis Lehane wrote last night’s episode!

Ironically, I’d been thinking about Stephen King a lot lately–the Halloween Horror thing, along with the rewatches of Carrie and Christine–and while I am probably not as rabid a fan of his as I was for a very long time (I no longer buy the book on release day and everything in my life comes to a screeching halt while I devour the book) I am still a fan. The Hodges trilogy is King in top form, and so was Joyland, his paperback original for Hard Case Crime. I’ve never finished The Dark Tower, primarily because so many years passed between The Waste Lands and Song of Susannah that I lost the thread of the story and realized I’d be better off rereading the entire thing; I thus decided to wait until the series was finished and then go back and read it all the way through. Surprise! I haven’t done that yet, and there are still some volumes of his that I have yet to read (Doctor Sleep, 11/22/63, The Outsider, The Institute, If It Bleeds) which would have never happened back in the day. I enjoyed all of King’s earlier work–I never reread Pet Sematary or Cujo, primarily because they were too disturbing, which I understand now; a recent reread of Pet Sematary made me very aware of how actually brilliant it is–and reread them constantly; The Stand is one of my all-time favorite novels, and of course so many of the others are equally brilliant. The Tommyknockers was the first book of his I actively disliked, and believed the entire first third of the book could have easily been cut out. And while the books that followed were either hit or miss for me–more hits than misses–I can honestly say that Dreamcatcher was one of the worst things I’ve ever read. I absolutely hated that book, hated everything about it, and even the characters—usually a major strength of his–weren’t memorable or overly likable. One thing King does that he doesn’t nearly get enough credit for is writing about working class people, and how the grind of poverty, or the fear of lapsing into it–drives and hardens people.

Ironically, I saw a thread yesterday on social media where some writers were taking a whack at King, since King has been on my mind so much lately these days. I am constantly amazed at how many pseudo-intellectual writers always smugly assert their own dismissive opinions of King–when I’ve never heard of them, probably will never hear of them again, and kind of don’t want to ever hear about them again. I strongly disapprove of writers trashing other writers (although hypocritically I am down with it if it’s Stephenie Meyer or E. L. James) and books–which is why I stopped being a paid reviewer years ago–and sure, it’s easy to take potshots at writers who’ve become brands, like King (and Anne Rice and John Grisham and Dean Koontz and numerous others), but I always like to remember that those brand name authors sell huge amounts of books, which keeps publishers in the black and enables them to take chances with other authors who might not be as marketable or salable.

I slept really well last night also, which was absolutely lovely. I feel very well rested, and looking forward to my fourth week of working out, which begins tomorrow morning. I really am hoping to get a lot done this weekend. Wish me luck as I head back into the spice mines!

The Long Run

Not only do I write two private eye series, erotica, and the occasional stand alone,  I also, sometimes, write what’s classified as young adult fiction. I have not published anything that could remotely be considered y/a in quite a while, and therein lies a tale (I think the last book I published that could be considered “young adult” was Dark Tide; I could be wrong. I no longer remember when and in what order my non-series books came out).

To be clear, the fact that I even call those books “y/a” even though I don’t really think of them as young adult fiction is a marketing thing, really; in my mind, they’re simply novels I wrote about teenagers. I started writing about teenagers when I actually was one; the stories I wrote in high school weren’t bad, for a teenager, and were the first indication–from my fellow classmates, and my English teacher–that I could seriously become a published writer if I chose to try to do so; the utter lack of seriousness my writing aspirations received from my family was kind of soul-crushing. But I always wanted to write about teenagers, from the very beginnings; I wanted to do my own Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys style series, and then progressed to other stories.

I progressed as a reader pretty quickly when I was growing up; I went from the series books, like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and the Scholastic Book Club mysteries, to Agatha Christie, Charlotte Armstrong, and Ellery Queen when I was around eleven or twelve, if not younger; I know I read both Gone with the Wind and Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots when I was ten. The few books I read that were considered “children’s books” (there was no such thing as young adult fiction then) were books like The Outsiders and The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and I did enjoy them; I just didn’t think of them as either being particularly authentic or realistic. Nor did they have any bearing on my life, or the lives of my friends–I viewed them like youth-oriented television shows like The Brady Bunch, existing in some bizarre alternate universe that has no basis in actual reality or what those of us who were that age were actually experiencing. I always thought there was something missing–complicated and authentic books about the lives of real teenagers and the real issues they faced everyday, without getting into the insanity of the preachy-teachy “issue” books that usually wound up as ABC After-school Specials, which I loathed. 

Not all “issue books” were bad, in all fairness; some, like Lisa Bright and Dark, about a girl struggling with mental illness whose parents refused to face their daughter’s reality, so her friends tried to help her by serving as amateur psychologists, and  I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, about a teenaged girl in a mental hospital dealing with her illness were actually quite good. But I loved books like The Cheerleader, about a poor girl in a small New England town with ambitions and dreams that far exceeded those of most of her friends…dealing with issues of popularity, sex, and first love.  David Marlow’s Yearbook was also a favorite, and while not marketed to kids, was about high school, but had some themes and plot-lines considered far too heavy for teens to digest in the 1970’s. You can also see it in the pap that was considered movies for teenagers; G-rated bubble-gum like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and inevitably came from Disney and starred Kurt Russell. (These movies are an interesting time capsule; I did try to watch one of them recently on Disney Plus and didn’t last three minutes in that squeaky clean, sex-free college environment.)

(Also, I would like to point out at this time there were terrific books being published in the 1970’s for teens that dealt with major issues and were groundbreaking; Sandra Scoppetone was writing about queer teens back then, and there were some others doing terrific work at the time–I just wasn’t aware of those books until much later.)

My first three young adult novels–Sorceress, Sleeping Angel, Sara–were written as first drafts in the early 1990’s, put in a drawer, and forgotten about for nearly twenty years. Sorceress  had no queer content in it at all; it was my version of the truly popular trope of romantic/domestic suspense where an orphaned girl goes to live in a spooky mansion far away from her old life (Jane Eyre, Rebecca, almost everything written by Victoria Holt), and slowly becomes aware that everything in the house isn’t as it seems. It was a lot of fun to write–I loved those books and I loved putting a modern spin on them. Sleeping Angel’s first draft was never completed, and the published version is vastly different than what the original first draft contained; there are still some vestiges of the original plot there in the book that are never truly explained, and by the time I realized, after many drafts, that I hadn’t removed those vestiges from the book it was too late to do anything about it other than hope no one noticed. The book did well, won an award or two, and is still a favorite of my readers, according to what I see on social media. One of the things I added to the story was a queer subplot about bullying, which is what I think readers truly responded to, and I also feel like adding that to the story in addition to the other changes I made to it made it a stronger book. Sara was always intended to have gay characters and a gay plot; I originally started writing it as a novel for adults and realized, over the course of writing it, that actually the teenage story was the most interesting part and I could deal with some issues there if I switched the focus of the book to the teenagers. One thing that changed from the 1991 first draft to the draft that was published is that the character I originally had being bullied for being gay, even though he wasn’t (another character, one of the biggest bullies, actually was), was actually not only gay but had come out, and so the book also talked about the reverberations of a popular football coming out, and what impact that had on the school social structure and hierarchy.

Sara, incidentally, is one of my lowest selling titles–which also kind of breaks my heart a little bit.

Since those three, there have been others I’ve written–Lake Thirteen, Dark Tide–and I’ve also dabbled in what is called “new adult fiction”–books about college-age or just out of college-age characters–this is where The Orion Mask and Timothy and the current one I’m working on, Bury Me in Shadows, fall on the marketing spectrum.

One of the questions I had to deal with in writing young adult novels with queer content was the question of sex. I had already been through being banned in Virginia because I had written gay erotica (a really long story that I revisited recently with Brad Shreve on his podcast; I really do need to write in depth about the entire experience); what would happen if ‘notorious gay porn writer’ Greg Herren began writing fiction specifically aimed at teenagers? But the truly interesting thing about being used as a political pawn by the right-wing fanatics in the power games they play is that once they’ve made use of you, they forget about you and move on. My young adult fiction was released without a single complaint, protest, or any of the sturm und drang that my speaking at a high school to a group of queer and queer-supportive youth created scant years earlier.

Interesting, isn’t it?

And yet…there is no sex in any of those books. None. I don’t  remember my gay teens even getting a chaste kiss, let alone a sex life, or fantasies, or a boyfriend.

And what about desire?

A couple of years ago someone tagged me on Facebook on an article about just that very subject; that was when I started writing this post (three yeara ago, looks like) but I never finished writing this until this morning.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

Okay, welcome back. Some interesting points, no?

Now, check out this one. 

I know, it’s a lot of information to process, but it’s something we should all be thinking about, particularly as the calls for diversity in publishing and popular culture continue. Sex is, quite obviously, a touchy subject when it comes to young adult fiction, but when it comes to questions of sexuality and being a sexual minority, what is too much and what is not enough? Even depictions of straight sexuality is frowned on and controversial when it comes to young adult fiction. (For the record, that is also considered the case for crime fiction–no explicit sex scenes–or at least so I was told when I was first getting started; doubly ironic that my mystery series were what the right-wing Virginian fanatics considered porn–I really do need to write about that.)

I also have noticed the elitism evident in hashtags like #ownvoices and #weneeddiversevoices that have come and gone and return periodically on Twitter; those actively involved in promoting those tags, when it comes to queer books, make it abundantly clear they only care about those published by the Big Five in New York–which is a good target, I agree, and they do need to be doing better when it comes to diversity and “own voices” work–but this focus also ignores the small presses, particularly the queer ones, who have been doing this work all along and making sure queer books were still being published for all ages and getting out there and made available to those who want and need them. I am absolutely delighted to see queer books by queers being published by the Big 5, and young adult work in particular…and yet…there are some serious issues still with the Big 5–and with what is called ” young adult Twitter”.

I do find it interesting to see who they decide are the “cool kids” and who they banish to the outer tables with the freaks and geeks.

It’s part of the reason I don’t engage with young adult twitter, to be honest. I really have no desire to return to the high school cafeteria at this point in my life.

And I’ll write about teenagers whenever there’s a story I want to tell involving teenagers–which currently is the Kansas book; I turned my protagonist in Bury Me in Shadows into a college student because it actually works better.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. (And huzzah for finally finishing this post!)

Electricity

Good morning, Tuesday, how it’s going with you, Constant Reader, on this lovely early May morning?

I sent out another story yesterday–why, yes, I am on a roll, kind of, thank you for asking. I could also easily go 0 for 4, which is certainly more likely than 4 for 4 (I know, I know, self-deprecation there, and yes, it’s a very hard habit to break but I am working on it).

Last night I managed to work througb some of my my computer frustrations. Apparently, at some point in the last few months or so, there was yet another Mohave update–I remember when it happened, and I didn’t install it, it somehow just happened–that rendered my flash drive unreadable or unworkable with Mac computers. Fortunately I have that shitty little PC laptop, which can still read it. So I then had to download a Cloud for PC app, which needed a Windows update to work, and–long story short, I found a backup to the flash drive from November backed up in the Cloud, and I honestly don’t think I worked on anything on the flash drive that wasn’t backed up to the Cloud already, so it was simply a matter of moving the working files from the back-up folder in the Cloud to the active area. An enormous pain in the ass, but there you have it–and I now have the files I need accessible. At some point I’ll be able to get that PC Cloud app working and save yet another back-up, but until then I am able to work with what I have, thank you.

Today is another early morning for me, but truth to be told, I’m pretty much starting to adapt to these mornings and they aren’t nearly as painful as they used to be. I’m actually getting rather used to this sort of 9 to 5 thing, which I never expected to ever happen in a million years. Last night I was home shortly after five, and had some time thus to work on these computer issues. And since it was May 4th, and Rise of Skywalker was newly available to stream last night on Disney, I decided to watch it again–more critically this time than when I saw it in the theater, and yeah. I enjoyed it on the big screen—I always enjoy Star Wars on the big screen, as a general rule, but when I was rewatching it, it seemed disjointed, poorly written and planned, and kind of all over the place. So, all those people who were so critical of it? Yeah, they were probably right, but this sequel trilogy didn’t “ruin my childhood” or anything; it was just disappointing on a rewatch. I’ll probably have some more thoughts about the whole thing later.

I also finished reading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin last night, and it really is quite a wonderful book. Reading it as a crime novel was an interesting take, and I think I can quite solidly back up my theory that it is, in fact, while a very literary book to be sure, a crime novel. It certainly is structured and written kind of like one, and the mood and tone of the book is very dreamlike yet terrifying, like Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything, which I think is a good companion book for Mysterious Skin. There will, of course, be a blog entry devoted to the book; I’m still gathering my thoughts about it and trying to order them in some way. Afterwards, I tried to find my copy of We Disappear, but couldn’t put my hands on it–even though I am absolutely positive I located it the moment I started rereading Mysterious Skin…it’ll turn up, I’m sure.

I also started rereading Mary Stewart’s Thunder on the Right, which has some rather razor-sharp wit going on in the very beginning, which immediately (to me) added to its charm, and drew me in already. I also remember Thunder on the Right as being a “lesser” Stewart novel–kind of like The Moon-spinners and This Rough Magic, both of which I loved on the reread.

Tonight we’ll probably go back to watching Defending Jacob; I was already watching Skywalker when Paul got home, and he just fell asleep while watching that–he also pointed out that he doesn’t remember watching it in the theater at all; which is really not a sign of a movie that resonated with the viewers, really–so tonight it’ll be back to Defending Jacob. Apple is really putting a lot of cash into their streaming service, a and there are certainly a lot of impressive names being put to work on their shows, so who knows? I also need to sign into my CBS app so we can start watching their All Access Star Trek shows, as well as the reboot of The Twilight Zone from Jordan Peele.

There’s really so much good stuff to watch–and that’s only the stuff I know about. We’ve stumbled onto so many good shows over the years that we’d not heard about, and of course, season 3 of Killing Eve is also up now.

And on that note, tis time to get ready for the spice mines. Have a most lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you later.

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Act Naturally

Monday morning and there’s still dark pressing against my windows this morning. Mondays and Tuesdays are the worst two days of my week; long hours spent at the office and most of the day gone before I can retreat, as quickly as I can, to the safety of the Lost Apartment.

The gym yesterday felt terrific. I upped the weights as it was time (every Sunday) and while I’ve felt the workout before–even with a light, practically nothing weight, you’ll feel three sets of twelve–yesterday I actually felt like I was pushing myself for the first time. I didn’t up the weights on legs–I do that every two weeks instead of every week, because I go up in increments of ninety pounds; whereas with everything else I go in ten pound increments–but it still felt pretty intense on the lower extremities. I also got back on the treadmill–only fifteen minutes after the five minute warm-up because it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done the treadmill–and that also felt good. I watched more of the Anthony Minghella The Talented Mr. Ripley film adaptation because I couldn’t get my Disney Plus app to work for some reason (I want to start watching the Clone Wars series while tread-milling) so I decided to finish watching Ripley. I still have about another forty-two minute to go, so I should finish watching it on the treadmill on Friday.

And hopefully by next Sunday I’ll have this Disney Plus mess straightened out.

I have chosen Charlotte Armstrong’s Mischief as my next reread, for the Reread Project, and started reading Carol Goodman’s The Sea of Lost Girls yesterday; I didn’t mean to get as far into it as I did, either–but once I started reading, the book was moving like a speeding Maserati and I couldn’t stop until it was time to make dinner. Damn you, Carol Goodman! I’d intended to use that time to write! But now that things are sort of normal again–the first normal, full work week since Carnival’s parade season began–I am hoping to get back into some sort of swing of normalcy and get back into my normal, regular routine.

I didn’t get as much writing done this weekend as I had wanted to; those short stories turned out to be like pulling teeth without novocaine or anesthesia, but some progress is always better than none, as I always like to say. I seem to have not had a really good, long writing day in quite some time; but here’s hoping now that things are back to some sort of normal and I can reestablish a routine, that the words will start flowing again soon. I need to get to work on the story due at the end of the month; I’ve got it vaguely shaped inside my head, and so now I need to get to work on putting the words to paper, preparatory to getting them in the proper sounding voice and so forth. I’m excited about the challenge, to be completely honest, and I am relatively certain I should be able to get it moving relatively soon, if not a good strong first draft completed in no time at all.

One can hope, at any rate.

My goal for March is finishing: finishing that story, finishing the Secret Project, finishing some of these short stories. April I will return to Bury Me in Shadows with a fresh eye, and I am also hopeful I can get it finished that month, so I can move back on to the Kansas book to finish in May, so I can get started on Chlorine in June, spending the summer writing a first draft, before turning to the next Scotty/Chanse or whatever the hell it is I intend to spend the fall writing. It isn’t going to be easy, and I am going to have to fight off the distractions that always seem to be trying to keep me from getting things done–and my own personal laziness; the default always being to go lie in my reclining chair with a book or to watch television.

We streamed the entire series of I Am Not Okay With This last night; which is another teen show oddly rooted in the 1980’s–musically, esthetically, and visually; which is an interesting if weird trend (both It’s The End of the Fucking World and Sex Education also have the same vibe, as does, obviously, Stranger Things; it’s almost like Netflix is targeting those who were kids/teens in the 1980’s…hmmmm). After we finished it–we really liked it–we started watching Harlan Coben’s new series on Netflix, The Stranger, and we are all in on it; the first episode was kind of strange, with all the different concurrent plot threads, but episode two began to seamlessly sew the threads all together, and we are completely hooked. It’s also fun seeing Jennifer Saunders playing someone besides Edina Monsoon. Not sure when we’ll finish it–probably an episode a night until the weekend–but it’s great fun. I recommend it.

And now it’s time to get ready for my work day. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

 

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Walking the Floor Over You

I have always loved to read, and have always encouraged other people to read. It’s one of the great pleasures of my life, for as long as I can remember. Once I learned how to read, I never stopped reading. I will probably never stop reading. There are fewer non-sexual pleasures in life as satisfying as reading a good book.

As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother got me really started into watching old movies–both horror and crime–and also encouraged me to read. She was the one who got me started reading Mary Stewart, by giving me her copy of The Ivy Tree; my friend Felicia in high school reminded me of Stewart and so I started reading more of her work. (I still have not read all of Mary Stewart’s work–that “I don’t ever want to run out of something new to read by Mary Stewart” thing I do) And while I enjoyed all of them, I enjoyed some more than others. For example, i remember reading The Moon-spinners, but not really enjoying it very much, frankly. I never revisited the book…but now that I am doing the Reread Project, I decided to give it another read.

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It was the egret, flying out of the lemon grove, that started it. I won’t pretend I saw it straight away as the conventional herald of adventure, the white stag of the fairytale, which, bounding from the enchanted thicket, entices the prince away from his followers and loses him in the forest where danger threatens with the dusk. But, when the big white bird flew suddenly up among the glossy leaves and the lemon flowers, and wheeled into the mountain, I followed it. What else is there to do, when such a thing happens on a brilliant April noonday at the foot of the White Mountains of Crete; when the road is hot and dusty, but the gorge is green, and full of the sound of water, and the white wings, flying ahead, flicker in and out of the deep shadow, and the air is full of the scent of lemon blossom?

The car from Heraklion had set me down where the track for Agios Georgios leaves the road. I got out, adjusted on my shoulder the big bag of embroidered canvas that did duty as a haversack, then turned to thank the American couple for the lift.

“It was a pleasure, honey.” Mrs. Studebaker peered, rather anxiously, out of the car window. “But are you sure you’re all right? I don’t like putting you down on the hill like this, in the middle of nowhere. You’re sure you’re in the right place? What does that sign post say?”

The above pictured cover was the one I originally read; the reread was of a more recent edition. When I was younger, I was fascinated by ancient history: Egypt, Greece, and Rome, to be exact; Greek or Roman or Egyptian ruins on the cover of a book, especially if it was a suspense novel, drew me to the book like moth to flame. (That was what originally drew me to read Phyllis A. Whitney’s Mystery of the Hidden Hand, which I now believe–my memory lies, remember–was the first Whitney I read, because it was set in Greece) I had also remembered seeing a film version of The Moon-spinners, broken up over two weeks’ episodes of The Wonderful World of Disney, which starred Hayley Mills. I don’t remember much of the film now, but I do remember thinking it was vastly different from the book when I read it the first time. It’s not on Disney Plus (neither is Johnny Tremain or Now You See Him Now You Don’t, which has annoyed me regularly since I signed up for the service), and I’m not about to spend even three dollars on renting it on Amazon Prime–although I was tempted enough to look it up to see if it can actually be viewed anywhere.

Anyway.

I enjoyed the book much more greatly this time. I’m not certain why, precisely, I didn’t like it as much as Stewart’s other books at the time, but sometimes that’s just the way it is. The Moon-spinners focuses on Nicola Ferris, an adventurous young Englishwoman in her early twenties. She works at the British Embassy in Athens; her parents died when she was a teenager and she went to live with her aunt Frances, who is a leading botanist. Frances is also single and terribly independent, like most women in Stewart novels; Nicola admires and loves her aunt greatly and emulates her. Her aunt is taking a yacht voyage with friends around Greece and the islands; Nicola decides to take a vacation, meet up with Frances on Crete–a friend, a travel writer, has recommended a very remote village with a small hotel to them–and Nicola has the great good fortune, while on Crete, to meet an American couple (the above mentioned Studebakers) who are driving around Crete and offer her a lift to Agios Georgios, putting her there a day earlier than expected. (This sentence, describing the Studebakers,  They were both lavish with that warm, extroverted, and slightly overwhelming kindliness which seems a specifically American virtue–is a terrific example of Stewart’s exceptional skill as a writer; in that one sentence she tells you exactly who the Studebakers are.) The Studebakers aren’t terribly keen on letting her off in the middle of nowhere, to lug her suitcases and such over a dusty mountain trail to a village where she isn’t expected until tomorrow and where she will know no one; fortunately her work at the embassy has given her a passable knowledge of speaking Greek.  Nicola insists she’s fine and thanks them for their kindness, and starts trudging along the dusty path.

All of Stewart’s heroines are strong, capable, intelligent young woman who can take care of themselves; and courageous. It is while walking on the path that Nicola’s Greek adventure takes off–she stops at a pond to get a drink of water, and in the reflection of the water she sees a man’s face, watching her. Your average run-of-the-mill heroine would scream and run off or be terrified; Nicola is merely startled and curious. This is how she comes across Lambis, the Greek boatman, and young Mark Langley, who has been shot and needs medical attention. Nicola immediately makes Mark’s problems her own. Lambis, as it turns out, had put in his boat in a nearby bay so that Mark and his younger brother Colin could go exploring and look at the ruins of an old church, originally a shrine to a Greek god but converted during the days of the old Eastern Empire into a Byzantine church. As they are walking back to the boat they come across of small group of people arguing over a recently dead body. Mark is shot and left for dead; Colin is taken. And so, now of course, Nicola wants to help rescue Colin and help Mark–she isn’t, after all, expected for another day, and of course, the killers/kidnappers must be from the small town of Agios Georgios.

Stewart is, as always, an exceptionally talented writer. Her descriptions are simple yet poetic; she vividly brings the town, the mountains, the sea, everything to life so well you can easily imagine yourself there. And courageous Nicola, now possessed of dangerous knowledge that could get her killed, has to navigate the village while trying to help Mark find Colin, with no idea of who she can trust and where she can turn to help.

Nicola is a terrific heroine, and I can see why Stewart was so popular with women and teenaged girls; she wrote smart, no-nonsense, capable young women who were courageous and fearless and could pretty much handle anything. The suspense is, at times, unbearable.

There is an element of romance to the story as well; Nicola begins to have feelings for Mark, but it’s practically an afterthought, and it feels almost like it was inserted into the story. There’s absolutely no need for the two of them to develop feelings for each other; other than the psychological closeness that comes from a shared danger (one of the things I loved the most about the sequel to Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, is that it showed that happy couples who bond over adventures don’t necessarily wind up living happily ever after; I’ve often wondered about the couples from these types of novels), and this is one of the reasons I no longer really consider Stewart a romantic suspense writer; the romances in her books often feel that way–something inserted into the story later to appease either her agent or editor–and they are completely unnecessary to the story; if anything, the romance develop organically because of what else is going on in the story; the suspense/mystery aspect is the most important part.

And Stewart consistently wrote some of the best openings in crime fiction.

Highly recommended; I will probably reread it again someday.