Getting back to reality was very strange yesterday.
Obviously, I had work to do–I’d been out of the office for over a week and yes, my data entry and uploading and everything was way behind; but fortunately it was also Carnival time so we weren’t all that busy in the clinic during my absence. But it felt very strange being in the office again, like I hadn’t been there in years, which is of course patently absurd on its face. It only seems that way, and let’s face it, I’ve not been good with days and dates for quite some time now, if we’re going to be completely honest, which is something I am trying much harder at these days. Although honesty isn’t always the best policy (“oh what an adorable baby!” is always better than recoiling and saying “yikes!”, even if the second option is probably the most correct one), the truth is so much easier to keep track of–but then again, do you remember the truth? Our memories are colored by our perceptions and biases, and we often rewrite our memories to make ourselves look better than maybe we actually were at the time. I don’t quite trust my memories as absolute truths anymore.
I came home and did a few things, finished reading Abby Collette’s charming Body and Soul Food (more on that later), and then I basically sat in my chair thinking for the rest of the evening, until Paul took a break and we watched the final episode of the first season of Class. It’s so interesting, as the story-lines and characters are essentially the same as season one of Elité, but with enough tweaks and changes, some of them cultural, to make it very interesting. I also wound up going to bed early, which was kind of nice. I didn’t sleep great last night–I kept waking up, and often had trouble falling back asleep–and I know we’re going to be busy in the clinic today, too, which is going to be a challenge–so we’ll see how it goes. My fuse for the dryer is supposed to arrive today as well, so if it does and I am not too tired when I get home from the office, I may go ahead and attempt to see if I can get the dryer to work again. If it doesn’t, well, we’re going to have go get a new dryer to go along with the new refrigerator we’ll be getting once the festivals are over.
I just plan on trying to make it through today, really. Paul probably won’t be home until very late again tonight, and so I will inevitably end up in my chair to make a bed for Scooter, so I can use my cat-bed time to read and ice my toe and keep it elevated. It’s not nearly as swollen or painful as it was, and I did leave a message for my doctor yesterday to see if I should get it checked out; I thought about making an appointment but then decided to opt for the message route–mainly because the appointment times were really inconvenient, not soon, and so I figured meh, send a message through the app and see what happens. I hate being so indecisive, but what’s the point of seeing the doctor if I can’t get in to see him until next week? Worst case scenario is I haven’t heard back from him by tomorrow, at which point I’ll go ahead and take one of those appointments. I don’t feel like an emergency room is the best option–I could be there for hours, which I can’t afford to do right now–nor is an Urgent Care because they might need X-rays, and I don’t think you can get that done at an Urgent Care. And while it’s unpleasant, it’s certainly not still as unpleasant as it was when it first happened or while I was in Alabama, so at least it’s getting better? I don’t know, I am beginning to think maybe I am not handling this the right way. I don’t know. Adulting is hard.
Heavy heaving sigh.
I also am pretty confident that if I can get myself to start writing again, my world will settle back down and I’ll be able to get a better grasp on everything.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.
My God, my email inbox is completely out of control.
At one point in mid-January and before February I had it almost emptied; there was blank space at the bottom of the inbox for more emails to be viewed but there weren’t any. It was a glorious feeling, frankly, for the few weeks it lasted before everything went off the rails. I suspect now that I can get through it all even faster than I did back in mid-January, but it’s sooooooo daunting.
Yesterday I swung by Home Depot to buy the fuse I need for the dryer, which they don’t keep in stock. The helpful man in the Appliance Accessories aisle told me of one place I may be able to find it in stock, and so I called them (and Lowe’s) from the parking lot and found that neither do, so I went ahead and ordered it on-line and it should be here Tuesday. The suspense, right? Will we need a new dryer, or will Greg somehow be able to repair the one they already have? There will undoubtedly be an update on this fascinating case on Wednesday; in which we either have a working dryer or have gone ahead and ordered a new one. Sigh. I also swung by the mail and the Fresh Market; I am going to have to actually venture into the grocery store at some point this weekend (Sunday morning most likely) because I also woke up to an email that my grocery order was canceled due to the system at the store being down this morning; it was originally postponed from yesterday to today, so I think the system has been having problems for a hot moment already; although I do suppose I could order them from the store on the West Bank, which means I could stop at Sonic on the way home and…it really takes so little to make me happy.
I finally booked my flights for San Diego Bouchercon! So my two trips for the year–Malice Domestic and Bouchercon–are all booked and ready for me to travel. I also need to do some more organizing and filing this morning, too–I also have to put the dishes away and do another load of laundry, and I really should work on cleaning up around here. My toe was worse yesterday than it’s been in a while, but this morning the swelling seems to have gone back down and while it’s still painful, it’s not throbbing the way it was last night, which was very painful. Adding message doctor tomorrow on medical app to the to-do list. We also watched two more episodes of Class last night, which differs from Elité enough to make it something new, but it’s funny how the personalities of the actors affect the characters. While many of the storylines are the same, the season of this Indian version is a few episodes shorter, so some of the emphasis on secondary storylines isn’t there as much as in the Spanish. But I want to finish it because Outer Banks’ third season dropped last night, and it looks completely insane and over-the-top, which is wild because the entire run of the show has been insane and over-the-top; I’m really glad it hasn’t been one of those Netflix shows that get orphaned after an amazing first season (so many I couldn’t even begin to name them all). So, today I think I am going to spend some time in my easy chair with my toe elevated and an icepack on it. I want to finish reading Body and Soul Food so I can move on to another book in the TBR pile–there are so damned many, Jesus Lord God–and I do want to keep my reading habit satisfied. I’m been struggling not to buy more books–it’s so damned tempting, especially when you have books out there by favorite authors just begging to be bought–and I also need to start writing thank you cards to everyone for their kindnesses these last few weeks.
And of course, there’s that horrible inbox. But if I start answering and saving my answers as drafts this weekend, I can maybe have the entire thing cleaned and cleared out by Monday afternoon? Perchance to dream….
And then of course I am very behind on writing everything I should be writing, but have had little to no desire to even look at anything these last few weeks. I’ve always felt writer’s block had more to do with depression than anything else; an endlessly revolving cycle in which you get depressed about not writing and then can’t and that renews the depression. I do think I need to start writing something for myself about Mom–if for no other reason than to keep the memories fresh–and I do think that could break the logjam in my brain and get me writing again.
And on that note, I am going to make some more coffee and repair to the chair with the icepack and the book. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you again later.
Ash Wednesday and the party is over for another year. It feels a bit weird to have not gone to a single parade and have missed out on all the festivities, but I will always remember 2023 as the Carnival when Mom died.
I allowed myself to sleep in this morning. I’m still out of the office on leave, which is nice. I am getting better but am still a bit shaky, if truth be told, and so these extra days to kind of get my act together before going back to work are going to be a bit nice. I did manage to get some things done yesterday. I had a Facebook page takeover promo thing to do, which turned out to be a lot of fun–it was a very nice group, and I have to say, the cozy audience (writers and readers both) are amazing. They are welcoming and friendly and inclusive and supportive and I have to say, this entire experience has been really marvelous. While I was doing that I was cleaning out my inbox and working on filing and organizing. This morning the kitchen/office looks much better than it has since this whole business with Mom started; today I plan to do some more. I also need to make a minor grocery run (probably will go to Fresh Market today) and will order for pick-up on Friday to do the bigger stuff (mainly because they’ll have restocked after the Carnival madness by then). I also need to start working on the books again, and I still have that short story to write, and there’s of course all those emails in my inbox (yesterday I was just basically deleting the junk). I was still exhausted for the most part yesterday still, so focusing wasn’t easy, so I spent most of the day watching documentaries about history on Youtube and making Scooter happy by giving him a lap to sleep in. We also started watching Class last night on Netflix, which is basically an Indian remake of Elité, which makes it kind of fun. The actors are all young, pretty and talented; the show seems a bit less glossy and a lot grittier in this version–can an American version be far behind? (I suppose Gossip Girl would qualify, but it’s not in the same league and the reboot is terrible to the point of being embarrassing.) Class also moves faster than Elité; we discover the identity of the first season’s murder victim at the end of episode 2, whereas in Elité we didn’t know it was Marina until halfway through the season–I also think this version’s seasons are shorter. But it’s fun to watch, even though we know what’s going to happen, just seeing how they did the adaptation and how they had to change things because it’s now set in Delhi, India rather than Spain.
My toe is less swollen, less red, and less painful this morning as well. I am beginning to suspect it’s psoriatic arthritis, but I am going to send a message to my doctor about it through the phone app. I also need to buy more wrap for it; I don’t know where the wrap I bought before the trip disappeared to; I may have left it in the hotel room (note to self: never buy black tape again) since I can’t seem to put my hands on it around here. I can swing by CVS on the way to get the mail to buy more, but it’s not cheap and it’s very irritating to have lost the rest of the roll. Now, the toe is just annoying and irritating, but I need to get to the bottom of what happened to it in the first place.
It does feel weird and somewhat disrespectful to pick up the reins of my life again and start moving forward. What is an appropriate period for mourning in modern times? I don’t think I’ll ever stop mourning, to be honest; it’s just something else you have to learn to live with and never get over completely. I remind myself regularly that this isn’t unique to me–I am hardly the first person to lose their mother, nor am I the last–and that really, I was pretty lucky that I had my mom for sixty-two years and I still have my father. I am still processing this, and probably will for a while. It’s very weird that it takes something like this to give you clarity on a lot of things, or insights that should have been fairly obvious all along but never crossed my mind because there wasn’t a reason to even think about it; they just were, you know, and why question these things or think about them? It also forced me to look back at my life (which I don’t like to do, but have been doing more and more since I turned sixty and the realization that the sands in my hourglass are almost finished running through), and realize that sometimes it’s not necessarily a bad thing to look back. The interest in the past that I’ve always had but never extended to my own has now been triggered, and I suspect more and more of my future work is going to be somehow tied to the past–either being set there or things in the past are affecting things in the present. I also need to assess where I am with regards to my plans for the year; I didn’t really have plans–more of an amorphous this is what I’d like to write for this year thing than anything else–especially since I never really make writing plans because they inevitably are changed or have to change and I am very resistant to change (not sure why that is, my entire life has always been about changing), but I do have a vague idea of how I want the rest of the year to play out writing-wise. I also have to start being more restrictive of my traveling because I am going to start needing to go to Kentucky more often every year (yay for audiobooks!) or at least meeting my dad in Alabama to visit Mom (Alabama is much easier than Kentucky for me, obviously).
So, today is catch-up day; finishing laundry and dishes and chores, running errands, organizing and filing, maybe doing some reading (I am really enjoying One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski), and I also need to start trying to figure out how to fix the dryer, or if I even can. Paul was kind of adamant about not buying a new one at first, but as this has gone on for weeks (I’ve been gone the last three weekends) he is getting more and more resigning to buying a new one. So on the to-do list I am going to update after I post this will go figure out if I can fix the dryer myself. I don’t have to work in the office on Friday, but I do need to swing by there to pick up some more work, and there’s a Lowe’s out by the office I can swing by the see if they have the fuse I may need (I may just need to unplug it and vacuum out the lint thing; it’s the simplest solution and definitely worth a try). I also need to order a Bluetooth keyboard for the laptop; the one I am using now is battery operated and of course, the batteries are always dead when I need to use it, so I need to get one that is rechargeable.
But I feel good and rested and at peace this morning, so I am going to focus on that and get moving. Have a lovely rest of your day, Constant Reader, and I will check in which you again later.
And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.
I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.
I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.
Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.
I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!
College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.
As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.
I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.
Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.
Monday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment as I swill coffee and brace myself for the day (and week) ahead.
I returned from Kentucky on Friday. Both the voyage up and back–despite their great length and the brittle stiffness of my aging body–didn’t seem quite so bad or to take as long as they usually do. I did make great time in both directions, while listening to two audiobooks (Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 on the way up, Carol Goodman’s The Disinvited Guest on the way back; both are superb and highly recommended) but of course once I got home on Friday night I was quite exhausted. I spent Saturday trying to get caught up on the apartment itself while football games played in the background (more on that later). I did a lot of laundry, a lot of dishes, ran errands and made groceries, before finally settling in to watch the LSU/Texas A&M game, which was disappointing (more on that later). Yesterday I got up early (I’ve been getting up early a lot lately) and chose to stay off-line for the most part. I did clean out the junk out of my inbox, wrote up the books I read while on my trip for blog entries, and wrote another blatant self-promotion post for A Streetcar Named Murder while also trying to get a handle on everything I need to get done for this coming week. I felt very well-rested yesterday at long last. I didn’t have as much trouble sleeping while I was away as I usually do, which was cool–I found another sleep-aid that seems to be working very nicely–but Friday night I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I would, given how worn out I was from the drive. Saturday night’s sleep, however, was quite marvelous.
Ah, the Insomnia Chronicles. How I long for the day when my sleep isn’t of concern (or at least as not as much interest) to me.
The weather was also kind of terrible when I got back–raining and humid, but cool; the kind where you aren’t sure if you need to turn on the heat or the air, and yesterday there were tornadoes and high winds in the river and bayou parishes outside of New Orleans. Yesterday however was beautiful; sunny with blue skies with the low in the mid-sixties and the high in the mid-seventies. Not bad for Christmas season, is it? It’s also hard to wrap my mind around the idea that it’s Christmas already, to be honest. I got a great Kindle deal on a collection of Christmas crime short stories, which I am really looking forward to digging into–perhaps a story a day for the season? The Christmas Murder Mystery project? (You know I love me some projects to work on.) It’s also weird that it’s the holiday season again, which means Carnival is also right around the block. YIKES. This also means I need to start planning around the parade schedule and when I need to leave work and so forth. Ugh, much as I love Carnival, it’s always stressful and exhausting, if fun and delightful.
It was an interesting weekend of college football. The Mississippi-Mississippi State game on Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, right up to its crazy end; South Carolina somehow managed to beat Clemson; and of course, Michigan blew out Ohio State in Columbus. This kind of set the stage for the LSU game on Saturday night–I had a very queasy feeling about the game, partly because it seemed as though everyone was looking ahead to next week’s SEC title game with Georgia and the possibility of a play-off berth for the Tigers; but Texas A&M always plays LSU hard, no matter how bad their record is, and for some reason they’ve decided LSU is their big rivalry in the conference. The game looked awful; LSU was playing very sloppy on both sides of the ball and my heart and spirit continued to flag with each missed tackle and each missed opportunity. It was disappointing, to be sure, but on the other hand, I am thrilled to death with how the season went. No one gave LSU a shot at having a winning record, let alone beating Alabama and winning the West division, so I am choosing to be grateful for a wonderful winning season after two seasons of mediocrity and looking forward to an even better, more glittering future for the Tigers. I have faith in Coach Kelly, I have faith in what he is building there, and who knows? In a year or two we may win it all again. GEAUX TIGERS!
In other blatant self-promotional news, I also appeared recently on Alexia Gordon’s The Cozy Corner, which was a lot of fun, and I also appeared on Dru’s Book Musing, and how lovely that she gave me such a wonderful view. Thanks to both Dru and Alexia, both being lovely people who have gone out of their way to be kind to me and A Streetcar Named Murder, for which I will always be eternally grateful. It’s hard to believe the book is going to be published soon! And don’t worry, there will be plenty more blatant self-promotion to come.
I also spent some good time with the book yesterday and it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, as I feared it would be. Yes, the first half needs some work, but not nearly as much as I had thought and I also went through and made a character list as well as outlined the first half. Tomorrow I am going to work on the edits and finishing the outline for the rest of the book; and I am also going to write in and ask for more time. I never finish on time, do I? But the book is good, there’s lots of material for the second half, and I am kind of excited about getting this one completely under control at long last. Huzzah!
We also binged 1899 yesterday; it’s from the same people who did the superlative German series Dark, and had the added bonus of having one of our favorite actors from Elité, Miguel Bernardeau, in the cast as well. It’s delightfully creepy and strange, and you never have a very good sense of what is going on (like Dark), so of course we were glued to the set the entire time. It’s quite good, actually; I’m not sure how I feel yet about the final episode other than curiosity about how that is going to lead into a second season–because the finale raised more questions than it answered (like a good finale), but I’ll be happy to continue watching.
I feel rested this morning, though, which is lovely. I am sure by the middle of the week I’ll be tired and short of temper again, but for now, for this morning, I am going to just enjoy myself feeling rested and relaxed in the meantime. I have, as always, an insane amount of work to get done this week, but right now I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet of this morning before I have to start getting ready to leave for work; I even got up earlier than I usually do on Mondays.
And on that note, I am heading headfirst into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat at you again tomorrow morning.
I allowed myself to sleep in later than usual this morning–despite waking at seven as I inevitably do–but it felt warm and comfortable and cozy in the bed, and I knew it was a cold morning. It’s temperate inside the apartment–I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to being comfortable inside during cold weather, but the floor is cold beneath my socks here in the kitchen, so I need to put my house shoes on. I can also feel a bit of cold from the windows, and it’s not sunny outside but kind of overcast and gray. LSU plays its final home game of the season tonight against UAB, which will be a nice way to cap off the evening before bed tonight. Yesterday was yet another exhausting day, but last night we finished the season of American Horror Story: NYC–not entirely sure how I feel about it, to be honest–and then started the new season of our favorite show, Elité, on Netflix. Not entirely sure where the season is going, but I am here for it. There are, I think, too many new characters (kind of like how uneven season four felt, with the change in cast for over half the show; again, the rest of the original cast departed after last season so again, there were new characters to add and new cast members) but it might work. I like they’ve added a transman to the cast, with an actual storyline–I am curious as to how transpeople feel about the story they’ve given Nico, but I will say this–I’ve never seen the transmasc experience depicted in this much depth. And of course, everyone is stunningly beautiful.
And of course, I am completely vested in the Iván/Patrick relationship as I was last season.
Today is going to be a work day. This morning as I wake up and drink my coffee, I will finish the kitchen and the filing before diving headfirst into my book. I am behind as always, but am hoping that I can make some decent progress this weekend. The story is whirling around in my head and starting to come together, but a strong push this weekend, some work over the week while in Kentucky, and another strong push next weekend means I could possibly actually make the December 1 deadline–or at least take yet another weekend to finish it off that first weekend of December. But I am much more hopeful and confident about it than I was to begin with–just last weekend, in fact–and so today I am going to start pushing my way through to the next part of the book.
I also want to do another BSP post for Streetcar, since I probably won’t have the opportunity to post much from Kentucky. So, so much to do.
And I think I am going to treat myself to a cappuccino this morning. I love my new electric Moka pot–I liked my old espresso machine, but it was too much work, frankly, and it takes up a lot of space in my cupboard, so I decided to get a different style espresso maker, and seeing that Moka pots (which so many people swear by) now come in electric versions (so you don’t have to use the stove, which always made me nervous) kind of made up my mind, so I ordered one and now can have a relatively easily made cappuccino whenever I so choose. I definitely will be taking one in the car with me Monday morning as I set out for the Great Cold North.
I also need to order groceries this morning for pick-up tomorrow. Like I said, soooo much to do before I head out on Monday morning. I just hope that I have time to get to everything, because my preference would be to leave relatively early on Monday morning, but it will also depend on when I feel like waking up. Leaving at seven makes the most sense, despite having to get up so fucking early, but that would get me there around eight pm their time, which would get me through Chattanooga and Knoxville outside of rush hour–both are nightmares when it comes to rush hour–but do I want to get up at six on what is sure to be a very cold Monday morning? Decisions, decisions.
And on that note, I am going to make my cappuccino and head into my day. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in again tomorrow morning.
And now it’s Sunday in the Lost Apartment, and I didn’t even go outside yesterday. Seriously, and it was lovely. I spent yesterday morning doing some organizing and planning and chores, and then dove into my edits. I emerged from the edits, bleary-eyed and more than a little bit tired, about five or six hours later and adjourned to my easy chair for some “be Scooter’s nap lap for a while” time and watched some videos on European royalty and some who were royalty-adjacent (Ivan VI of Russia, Diane de Poitiers, Elisabeth-Charlotte d’Orleans, duchess of Lorraine, and so forth) until Paul came home, and we streamed for the rest of the evening, which was nice and relaxing. Today I am going to finish the edits so it can be polished tomorrow before turning it in once and for all–huzzah!–and then the rest of the week I will undoubtedly have the “just finished a book for good” hangover and won’t get much else done. But I am already starting to feel that release of having a book finished; and my stress/anxiety levels have gone down significantly. I slept very well last night, which was also very nice and lovely, and I hope to do so again tonight–it’s been really nice getting all this sleep lately.
We watched Fire Island last night on Hulu, and I wasn’t horribly disappointed by it. I’ve seen few gay films–written, directed, produced and starring gay men– that weren’t disappointments; even the ones that come from traditional Hollywood inevitably I don’t care for very much. I never made it through Call Me by Your Name, for one example, and do not get me started on Philadelphia, In and Out, and To Wong Foo. But I enjoyed Fire Island, despite thinking I wouldn’t. I’ve actually never been to Fire Island–although I was invited to go for my birthday one year; their big Morning Party was actually on my birthday–but I was timid and shy and didn’t know how to get there from Tampa, because it involved trains and ferries and things, and I was also always broke in those days, and so I ended up not going. I’ve regretted it ever since…especially when I was writing Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which had a segment actually set on Fire Island. Anyway, I am digressing. I went into Fire Island kind of expecting it to be the same old gay story about Fire Island–I’ve read enough gay literary fiction either written or set in the 1970’s to have formed a strong impression about Fire Island–but the movie wasn’t what I was expecting. I was kind of expecting…I don’t know, another movie about beautiful and rich gay men with ripped bodies that didn’t go very deep, even if it was billed as a rom-com (I mean, a rom-com set on Fire Island?). But it was a lot more than what I was expecting; the characters the movie followed (a group of friends who all bonded and became kind of a family when they all worked at a horrible restaurant in Manhattan with “bottomless Mimosas”–that flashback scene might only be hilarious to former waiters, but it made both Paul and I laugh knowingly) were not rich for sure; the only reason they can afford to be there is they have a friend–a lesbian who won a lawsuit and got a shit ton of money and bought a house on the island, played by Margaret Cho–and there’s definitely some class issues played out in the movie, as well as issues of race. It was also nice to see some frankness about gay male sexuality. I won’t spoil the movie, but it wound up being deeply satisfying, had some really funny moments, and Bowen Yang is the emotional center of the movie–and he kills it. Fire Island may not be for everyone, but Paul and I really enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we would, and the island itself looks beautiful. I am far too old now to “do” Fire Island…but you can’t always do everything you want.
My, how philosophical I am after one cup of coffee this morning.
We also started watching a Spanish language show called Merli: Sapere Audi (Dare to Know), which is a sequel to a show called Merli about a philosophy teacher and ran for three seasons. This show focuses on one of the teacher’s best students, Pol, who is now studying at the University of Barcelona and is played by a really beautiful young actor named Carlos Cuervas, Pol is still in a relationship with Bruno, the son of his old teacher, and is still struggling to come to terms with his bisexuality (or homosexuality; I am not sure which it is), while developing a new relationship with his philosophy professor, who is played by Maria Pujalte, whom we have seen in numerous other shows; she is always great. It’s entertaining enough, and we’ll probably go ahead and finish it tonight. (I laughed because the opening shot of the show has Pol in the shower, with that shot being a close-up of his lovely ass. “Spain understands the gay market,” I laughed as we watched.) I’m not sure what we’ll watch when we finish this, but there are five more episodes so that will be a question for later this week, no doubt…I think the new, New Orleans based and filmed Queer as Folk will be dropping soon on HBO MAX, and we’ll probably watch that and Obi-wan Kenobi on Disney.
And we still haven’t watched all those Marvel shows, either.
I’ve been thinking–always a dangerous thing–lately about trying my hand at writing a gay romance. I’ve always avoided the genre because of it’s commitment to heteronormativity (which actually came up during Fire Island, which was kind of a knowing wink at the audience), but even before watching Heartstopper (I actually think Patrick/Ivan on Elité was when I first started thinking about it.). I even (of course) have a title for it, and was thinking it might be kind of fun to bring Jake from Bury Me in Shadows back and toss him a romance sequel. (I think my next Alabama may focus on his boyfriend Beau from Bury Me in Shadows….if I write another Alabama book. One never really knows.) But writing another book about Jake, or one about Beau would be kind of lazy since I already created them….but I also couldn’t write another book set in Corinth County and not acknowledge Beau…who was a cousin of the main character from Dark Tide, which did get mentioned. I don’t know. But as I put the finishing edits on my cozy mystery, I am thinking it might be fun and interesting to try something–a romance novel–that is completely outside of my wheelhouse. Sure I have to write Mississippi River Mischief, Chlorine and another project first; there’s all those novellas I have to finish as well as all those short stories; and of course, the essays.
No wonder I am so tired all the time…
My goal has been to write a first draft of Chlorine in May, and then a first draft of another project (Muscles) in June, spend July writing the short stories and novellas, and then move on to Mississippi River Mischief in August. I’m now thinking–inspired by these edits–that what I really need to do is spend the rest of this month working on the short stories and novellas as well as getting MRM started; it would be great to have a first draft of MRM completed by August 1, and then spend the next two months writing first drafts of the other projects before returning to MRM to finish by December 1. I think that’s not only workable but doable, but I also have to stay focused on the goal and not allow myself to either get lazy or distracted. I really also want to get back down to 200 pounds before Bouchercon; that may not be entirely realistic, but I can at least change the way the weight is distributed on my body somewhat by then–although back in the day, I generally started working on my Decadence body (ah, the days when it mattered so much to me to be in shape for certain weekends of the year!) around June…but my body has aged and changed since those days, and the metabolism has completely slowed down. But my body also craves exercise and stretching–I may do some stretching when I finish writing this, and before I start putting stuff away and cleaning prior to diving into the edits–and it certainly cannot hurt for me to start trying to make it to the gym three times per week again.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.
One of my favorite lines from All About Eve is not, actually, one of the more popular or famous (infamous?) ones. It comes when Margo and Karen are stranded in the car on the way to the train station so Margo can make her curtain; they’ve run out of gas and Lloyd has gone for help (Margo doesn’t know Karen has drained the tank deliberately to punish Margo for–well, for being right about Eve all along), and they start talking. Margo turns on the car radio and music plays, and Bette Davis makes a patented Bette Davis sneer-face and turns it off, snapping, “I despise cheap sentiment.” I love that line, and use it whenever it feels appropriate.
I do feel it important to say that I don’t despise all sentiment, just the cheap, sappy kind. I used to love It’s a Wonderful Life, frankly, until I started really thinking about its message and how truly dark it actually is; now I love to fuck with people who still love it by called it the darkest Christmas noir ever put on film. But The Princess Bride and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are still two of my favorite movies; and earned sentimentality, that arises from strong character development and a good story, still moves my heart and can make me cry a little bit.
Yes, I cry at movies and television shows; there are even songs that make me tear up a little bit, too. I know I project that I am deeply cynical–probably because, well, I am deeply cynical. People and systems have disappointed me far too many times for me to have a glowing opinion of humanity as a rule; my friend Victoria often accuses me of being a misanthrope–to which I always reply, “And I’m not wrong to be.” I do prefer to believe that most people are decent at heart, but there are just so many examples on the other side of the scales that it’s very hard to keep believing in the kindness of random strangers. (Just look at our current society and what is going on in the world even as I type this.)
So, I went into Heartstopper not expecting an awful lot. It looked cute from the brief previews I’d seen, and so I knew already it was about two teenaged boys falling in love and their friend group. I’ve often been disappointed by queer representation in films, television shows, and sometimes in books as well; I figured, despite the enormous popularity of the graphic novels this show was based on, that this would yet again be the case.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I was so completely charmed by a television series with gay characters–if ever. I have always been harshly critical of fictions targeted toward queer youth for any number of reasons; the primary one being a serious lack of authenticity in the ones I’ve read and/or watched. Some of them were so blatantly unrealistic I couldn’t even get past the third page, and even the ones I managed to hold my nose and get through were incredibly problematic and disappointing. I never got into Love, Victor because it seemed…well, phony to me. I can’t give any examples of why I reacted that way to the show, and believe me, I wish I could have watched more of it so I could (I may go back and do so at some point). So when I saw the first previews for Netflix’ Heartstopper, it looked adorable…but as I said, didn’t get my hopes up. I checked into it before watching and learned that it was based on a series of graphic novels that started as web cartoons, written by Alice Oseman, and I thought, well, be supportive and give it a chance. We were just coming off season 5 of Elite, which had thoroughly shocked and surprised me with the amazing storyline and arc they’d given the character of gay Patrick (who literally stole the entire season out from under the rest of the cast; it was a stunning performance by Manu Rios), and the thought that I might have another terrific show with gay characters and a romance was too much to pass up on. So, the Saturday before we went to New York, Paul and I queued up Heartstopper and…
We were both enchanted.
Heartstopper is just so sweet and lovely I felt my Grinch heart grow three sizes while watching it.
I even happy-cried several times per episode; so it’s like Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek in that way, but it also touched me deeply. I kept thinking, over and over again, how marvelous this show was; how beautifully written and acted and produced–and how lovely this would have been for fifteen year old me to have seen.
It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore.
It really is just so damned sweet and charming.
The queer rep I’ve seen in y/a novels–romance or not–has generally not been satisfying or engaging; I tend to raise my eyebrows and roll my eyes a lot–if I can even make it all the way through. But this….this was different somehow. Maybe because the actors playing the roles were the actual age they were playing? They just looked so young and innocent and sweet….which was perfect for this kind of show, really. It does make a difference when teenagers are played by teenagers, as opposed to actors in their twenties.
Charlie is the main character, who was accidentally outed by one of his friends the previous year and has suffered some bullying, which has left a few marks on his psyche. But it’s a new school year, some older boys put an end to the bullying, and he’s starting over in a way. On the first day of class he finds himself sharing a table in Form (what I guess we would call homeroom) with Nick, the big star of the school’s (Truham) rugby team. As they continue sitting next to each other, they slowly but surely start becoming more and more friendly with each other; enjoying each other’s company, etc. Charlie is also involved in a toxic relationship with Ben–who will meet him privately to make out, but only on his terms and when he wants it, and is also seeing a girl–that Charlie is trying to get out of. Ben tries to force himself on Charlie one day… Nick stops it, and then their friendship blossoms even more, with more texts and Nick proving himself to be a really good friend to Charlie, who is also developing a crush on Nick.
Nick is also starting to have feelings for Charlie that go deeper than “being mates”–so we see him looking stuff up on line about being gay.
Kit Conner, who plays Nick, plays the role so pitch-perfectly–the confusion of having feelings you’ve never had before, which upsets your entire worldview and everything you think you know about yourself (it wasn’t my experience, personally, but I’ve heard this from countless others) and being terrified to express it; afraid of what will happen when you admit it to yourself and start admitting it to others, and what it all means. He’s falling in love with Charlie, but what precisely does that mean?
His mother is brilliantly played by Olivia Colman, who is just such a treasure. One of the sweetest scenes in the entire show is after she’s met Charlie, and she comments on the friendship, “You’re more you when you’re around him. You’re different around your other friends. With Charlie, you’re you.”
Yes, it brought tears to my eyes–especially watching the emotions of what she means being processed in Nick’s mind and the lovely smile when he realizes that Charlie really sees him…and what THAT means.
It was also lovely seeing their relationship develop and blossom and grow–and that everyone is supportive and excited for them for the most part (yes, there’s some homophobic bullying, but not as much as one would expect, but it’s also dealt with strongly and doesn’t really hang over the show, either). There’s a young lesbian couple as well whose development and growth mirrors that of Nick and Charlie; a wonderful young trans character who has left the boys’ school and is now at the girls’ school, and a burgeoning romance for her as well–which I hope develops more in the next season.
But most importantly, the show is about acceptance and the sweetness of falling in love for the first time–and the usual obstacles that keep our adorable young couple apart aren’t heavy drama, and their suffering is more along the line of does he really like me? Am I his boyfriend?
It’s sweet, and adorable, and charming. As I said, I happy cried any number of times throughout the show…and the soundtrack is fantastic.
In fact, I am so obsessed with Heartstopper that the day after we watched I bought all four graphic novels and read them the following afternoon.
The show follows the books pretty closely, but they are just as adorable in the graphic novels as they are on the show. The graphic novels take a bit of a darker turn in the last couple of volumes than I would have liked, but the dark stuff is handled not only optimistically but in the same charming, loving, kind way the rest of the story is told.
Highly recommended. I am probably going to rewatch, too. It made me all warm inside, and shows like that–Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso and now Heartstopper–are necessary, especially in these dark times in which we live. Thank you, Alice Oseman, for the books, the story, and the characters. Highly recommended.
I could write about this show and the books forever, and may write more later…but I am going to go ahead and post this now.
Sunday morning and I slept in again, which was marvelous. I fell asleep in my chair last night while watching television, which makes me think that no matter what time I arise, ten is now my bedtime, and I am not really sure how I feel about that, to be completely honest. I welcome the good sleep, though, and the rested and refreshed feeling I’ve been experiencing in the mornings. Yesterday was a good day; I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted, but c’est la vie; such is life, and I did get things done. I worked on the kitchen, did some cleaning, working on my CV a bit more (more on that later), and laundered the bed linens (clean bed sheets and blankets always make sleep feel better for some reason I choose not to question). I did a load of dishes, cleaned some things out of the refrigerator that needed cleaning out, and organized some.
We rented Spider-Man: No Way Home yesterday and yes, I do think it was the best live action Spider-Man film (barring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which was animated). The young cast (Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalan) are absolutely pitch-perfect; the concept of the story was actually good; and it was a sweeping epic that caught us up in the narrative. I hate to think this might be Tom Holland’s last go round as Spidey, frankly; I adore the kid, and have ever since his Lip-Sync Battle performance doing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (that was what got me into the theater to see Spider-Man Homecoming, whichI didn’t care much about seeing before that clip won me over, and these three Tom Holland outings as my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man are my favorite Spidey live-action movies), and I hope this isn’t the end of this cast in these roles. I don’t know how the franchise can go on now, given the events of the movie, but in some ways it’s very true to the original comic books–Peter being alone and friendless. Tom Holland is also one of our best young actors; I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, even if the film itself was flawed. I’m sure he’s destined for a long and successful career, and he certainly has the money and success to focus only on projects that interest him as an actor; kind of like Daniel Radcliffe and the other kids from Harry Potter.
It would be a lovely place to be in as an actor, I would think.
After that, we switched over to Netflix to watch Heartstopper, a young adult gay romance series from Britain (with Olivia Colman in a very small party) and coming on the heels of season 5 of Elité, it was marvelous to see a love story between gay teens actually played by teens who weren’t perfect looking and beautiful. We deeply enjoyed this show, which was just incredibly sweet and adorable; how can you not fall in love with main character Charlie? How can you not empathize with him being mocked and bullied, yet despite this remaining first and foremost an incredibly kind and caring young man who loves his friends and wants to protect the people he loves from suffering the way he has suffered? It was apparently a graphic novel first, which was a bit of a surprise (I may have to go looking for it now; I definitely would read the novel if there was one) but a very pleasant one. It didn’t have any of the falseness or inauthenticity of other queer young adult fictions I’ve read and/or seen before; there was also lesbian representation as well as a very well rounded and developed trans character. It was so remarkably well done…I cried a couple of times. Rugby star Nick’s struggle to understand what he was feeling, and how to express himself in ways he’d never learned or thought about was also remarkably touching to see. I defy anyone to watch Heartstopper and these wonderful teens and not want to do everything in their power to protect them from hate and bullies–of which there is far too fucking much in the world, and has roared back lately thanks to the right wing hate machine. (It’s also been horrific watching people who consider themselves “allies” betraying us at every opportunity and turn…I’d forgotten how that felt, and frankly, I’ve cut people out of my life for far less than this…more on that later; I have been trying to compose a Julia Sugarbaker entry for several weeks now about the vicious political attacks on my community lately, but it’s not easy to do so without swearing vociferously and shredding people–mind you, they deserve it with both fucking barrels, but reason and logic is the best way to battle bigotry and hatred and garbage human beings.
I reserve the right to experience righteous anger and express it, though, because sometimes it is absolutely fucking necessary.
It’s weird that we’ve spent the weekend with superhero films, watching The Batman on Friday night and Spider-Man last night; we also started watching Severance last night, which I was also enjoying–my falling asleep during the second episode was more a result of my being tired more than anything else; I am going to rewatch it this morning while Paul sleeps–and there are several other shows I want us to get watching. We leave for New York on Tuesday, though–tonight and tomorrow night will be more about me packing and getting ready to head for the airport on Tuesday more than anything else; our flight is around noonish, I think–I need to double check, especially since I have to check us both in tomorrow–so we have time to drop Scooter off at the kitty spa before we have to head for the airport. (One of the things I need to do today is make sure I have everything I need, paperwork wise, for the trip–the car service from LaGuardia, the discount parking coupon for USPark, the confirmation number for the flights and the hotel)
Today I need to work on my story some more, do some more things, and get everything together that I need to get together before we leave town.
I’ve been updating my CV lately (something I’ve not done since 2009, and it wasn’t even really complete then) because I am doing a favor for a colleague (whom I also consider to be, at the very least, a friendly acquaintance) which requires me having an updated CV. As I was adding short stories, essays, articles, books and anthologies to the list, I began to realize why precisely people refer to me as prolific (which I always just smile and shrug off). The damned thing is already seven pages long, and I’ve not included everything–old books reviews, author interviews, columns, etc.–and there are some things I wrote for websites that I am no longer able to locate or remember (if it’s not in print, the chances I won’t remember it expand exponentially) and really, it doesn’t need to be that exact for this purpose; but it does make me think I really do need to, at some point, make sure every single thing I’ve ever written is included in my CV. I mean, it already looks impressive; I can only imagine how long it will be once it is as complete as I can make it. I mean, I wrote a fitness column every two weeks for IMPACT News and later for Window Media, for at least four years. That’s well over a hundred columns right there…not to mention all the book reviews I used to do. I think I have produced millions of words over the course of when I first started writing professionally all the way back in 1996 in Minneapolis, which was really when my writing career began; so I’ve been at this now for over twenty-six years, which is kind of amazing, really.
And perhaps it’s best for me to head into the spice mines now, so I can get a jump on the day. Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EVERY SEASON OF ELITE.
One of the most moving moments during Left Coast Crime came during Raquel V. Reyes’ acceptance speech for Best Humorous Mystery for Mango, Mambo, and Murder. Raquel spoke very eloquently about her love for the crime fiction genre, and why it was so important for her to write a Latina sleuth heroine in her series: “Representation matters,” she emphasized, her voice breaking a little bit. This naturally got me to thinking about representation and its importance. It reminded me of the weird little boy in Chicago (and later, in the suburbs and on the plains of Kansas) who believed he was so weird, unnatural, and anything but normal; and how those rare appearances of gay men in fiction–scattered here and there in paperbacks–meant so much to me and made me feel, even if just for a moment, that I wasn’t strange and weird and an outsider. There were people like me out there somewhere, and maybe, just maybe, someday I’d find them and my community and feel like, finally, I belonged somewhere.
I was thinking about this very thing as Paul and I binged our way through Season 5 of our favorite show, Elité, on Netflix recently (the new season dropped while I was in Albuquerque).
I don’t remember how, when, or why Paul and I started watching Elité, but I am so glad we did. I know it was pre-pandemic, because I do remember both of us being concerned about when the fourth season would drop and whether it would be delayed because of the pandemic. But regardless of when we started watching, this Spanish-language Gossip Girl type show (far, far superior to Gossip Girl, sorry, stans, don’t @ me) really captured our imaginations and we became full fledged addicts. (The best way to describe the show is as a terrific hybrid of Gossip Girl and How to Get Away with Murder, yet better than both). I think part of it was the great cast–everyone was not only gorgeous, but they were remarkably talented as well, and the writing/plotting/story construction was superb; take note, American television series. I also greatly enjoyed the Ander/Omar romance, which began with both deeply closeted and meeting guys on hook-up apps, which is how they met. They began building a relationship, coming out to friends and family–it didn’t go well with Omar’s Palestinian parents–and their romance was given equal weight to that of their straight cast members; I don’t recall many shows where that happens. It was handled very well, and they literally became one of the show’s “super couples”, to borrow a daytime soap term. Fans loved them, and their romance was handled so beautifully that I was impressed, all the way from the terrors of the closet to fears about acceptance to actually coming out and developing a romance, with all the drama and upheavals young straight couples usually have to deal with. Omar and Ander were no different from any other romantic couple on the show; their story was just as important as the others, and there was never any sense of “oh they’re just pandering because we’ll always watch something with gay representation on it.”
And it wasn’t just Omar and Ander, either. Polo and Carla were in a long-term relationship since they were children; deeply in love and yet somehow bored with each other, both found themselves attracted to sexy new student Cristian; and that progressed from Polo watching Cristian and Carla together to joining them! Polo’s sexuality became a bit more murky than it was at the beginning. Is he bisexual, pan, or are they all three polyamorous? Carla and Polo end up breaking up and Cristian left the show after a tragic accident; but the intricacies and intrigues from their long-term relationship continued to play out and affect their storylines as well as others along the way. A lesbian romance was introduced into season 4, as well as a new villainous gay character, whose entire purpose was simply to be rebellious against his father and try to come between Omar and Ander. Played by the strikingly beautiful Manu Rios, I liked the idea of a manipulative gay villain (think Erica Kane as a gay man), but hoped they would flesh him out more. I felt Manu Rios was more talented than the material they were giving him, and hoped that in Season 5 we’d get to know him better.
(There are many other reasons I love the show–the other characters are also incredibly well developed, and their behavior fits their characters as they’ve developed along the way; no one ever acts in a way that doesn’t feel realistic simply to suit a story-line, something else American show runners should pay attention to.)
Season 5 literally dropped the Friday night I was in Albuquerque, and as soon as I got back to New Orleans, Paul and I started watching, and binged the entire season in like two nights. Season 4 wasn’t as good as the first three seasons (the bar was set high, to be fair), but it was also a transitional season; at least half of the cast graduated at the end of season three and thus left the show–which I thought was probably a good thing, despite losing some absolute favorite characters from those earlier seasons. Season 4 transitioned the story as the show added new cast members to replace those who’d left; so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have (more original cast members departed at the end of season 4) and so I was worried that Season 5 wouldn’t be as good, either…but I am delighted to report I was totally wrong on that score. -With Season 5, the show is back at the incredibly high level/standard it set for itself in those first three seasons, and while it is very hard to compare the one season with the interconnected stories of those first three, I don’t know. Season 5 might just be my favorite.
And of course, now that we’ve seen Season 5, the stage has been set for a very strong new, sixth season, and I literally cannot wait.
But the primary strength of this most-recent season comes from the further development of the character of Patrick, played by the stunningly beautiful young actor Manu Rios, through a truly terrific storyline that let us see sides of Patrick we’ve not seen before.
I mean, look at that stunning face.
The body isn’t too shabby, either.
Patrick joined the cast of characters, as I mentioned, in season 4. The openly gay character was primarily brought in as an agent of chaos: self-absorbed, narcissistic and rebelling against his strict father (the new principal), his role in season 4 was primarily to cause drama and disruption between the long-running gay romance storyline between Omar and Ander (again, and it can’t be said enough, how lovely was the Omar/Ander storyline, where a gay couple in a soapy show got the kind of story usually reserved for opposite sex teen couples?), so he was kind of a villain character–striking out angrily whenever he was hurt but inevitably causing more trouble for himself than for others, but the role was played with such sensitivity and style by Manu Rios that we as viewers couldn’t hate him the way we should have, the way we wanted to; since he was really “the other guy” and causing trouble between the already fraught Ander/Omar relationship we were all rooting for. Patrick was really nothing more than the latest obstacle to their happily ever after; but when Ander also left the show after season four, I wondered if Patrick and Omar would pick back up–it didn’t seem likely, but they were the gay characters, so…
And even I didn’t fully appreciate how talented Manu Rios was during season four–but that changed in a matter of moments in Season 5. I mean, I could see he was beautiful–anyone with eyes can see that–but could he turn what was essentially a one-note character into someone who seemed perfectly real to the viewers?
The answer was yes yes a thousand times yes.
You see, there’s a new student at Las Encinas in season 5, who catches Patrick’s eye on his first day: Ivan Carvalho, played by André Lamoglia.
This picture doesn’t do him justice in the least, either. He’s beautiful. And the way his face lights up when he smiles–utterly irresistible. (Lamoglia is also a remarkably good actor.) His father is a world-famous soccer player, Cruz Catalho, and there’s no sign or mention of Ivan’s mother. But Cruz lives the good life of the hard-partying rich superstar, often telling his uptight son–who’s moved around the world following his father’s career, unable to make lasting friends or set down roots anywhere as a result–to loosen up. Ivan just wants a normal life–with Cruz always telling him to relax and enjoy the great life Cruz is able to provide for him.
And the character is so kind and loving and understanding…it’s easy to see why Patrick would not only be attracted to him for his looks but drawn to him as a person. He sees Patrick in a way no one else ever has before. It’s impossible not to root for them to fall in love with each other.
Ivan first comes to Patrick’s attention when he is looking for directions to the high school locker room–which, at the time, didn’t strike me as odd but now looking back, it kind of does; he was in his gym clothes and in need of a shower, but I SUPPOSE that it’s entirely possible he could have gotten turned around–new school and all, I guess. Immediately interested and attracted to this handsome stranger, Patrick not only gives him directions but offers to take him there “since I was on my way there anyway.” They talk as they shower–but Ivan is onto Patrick; after the shower he points out with a smile, “you just wanted to shower with me to see me naked” he teases, pointing out Patrick’s arousal. As I mentioned, Ivan is breathtakingly gorgeous. When he smiles, you can’t do anything but melt. And yet, the two boys have undeniable chemistry.
But Ivan is straight. He keeps telling Patrick this, over and over again, but…
We actually first meet Ivan as he is getting ready for school, climbing over the passed out bodies in the living room to see if his father will drive him to school. Instead, Cruz winds up hugging the toilet and telling Ivan to take the car. During his first initial meeting with Patrick, Ivan definitely points out that he isn’t gay, but he’s not put off by Patrick’s sexuality, either. They can be friends–but that’s all it’s going to be. He knows Patrick is attracted to him, and he’s a bit of a tease; sending mixed signals that confuse and anger Patrick.
This, too, is an old trope of a story, and I was really not overly thrilled with it; it’s clichéd and one of the tired old reasons the homophobes trot out whenever they want to deny us our rightful place in society and culture: we want to convert everyone.
Because it’s just that easy.
But at the same time, Patrick’s desperate crush on his new straight best friend isn’t played as exploitative. There’s more there than just him being a cocktease, really; Ivan clearly cares very deeply for Patrick, and their friendship means a lot to him. He cares, and this is a new experience for Patrick; he isn’t used to anyone genuinely caring for him. He’s a disappointment to his father, he loves his sisters but those relationships are very tense, and he really just wants to be loved. So the fact that he has found someone who genuinely loves him is confusing; he loves being loved, but he is also strongly attracted to Ivan, in love with him (at one point Ivan teases him, “you’ve fallen for me”) and isn’t sure how to react or behave or what. Ivan is attracted also to Patrick’s sister Ari–and the heartbreak when Patrick sees them together is completely believable; and it’s all done in his incredibly expressive face. After seeing Ivan and Ari having sex on a boat on the lake…heartbroken Patrick goes back to the dock and sits there, hating himself and hating his life. While he’s sitting there, Ivan’s father Cruz comes out there–they’ve already had a couple of run ins already, and Patrick is on to the fact that Cruz isn’t as straight as he acts–and as Cruz comforts Patrick–they begin to kiss!
Did. Not. See. That. Coming.
At the time, I was rather impressed with the writing, frankly. What better set-up for drama than having Patrick, in love with Ivan, wind up in a relationship with Ivan’s dad? (Yes, aware of the creepiness of an adult man sleeping with a high school student; yet I still thought it make an interesting story.) But the writers are even more clever than that.
Patrick winds up comforting Ivan after his brief little fling on the water with Ari–who no longer wants to even speak to him–and the two boys go back to the Carvalho household. Cruz isn’t happy with this–he has his own developing feelings for Patrick, so he acts homophobic, but privately he invites Patrick to join him later after Ivan falls asleep. Later, when Patrick cleans up before bed and walks into Ivan’s room, he sees Ivan watching porn and they come oh-so-close again to something physical happening…but Ivan pulls aways again. Frustrated and hurt AGAIN, Patrick goes to the guest room. While watching porn on his phone and masturbating, he gets a text from Cruz asking is Ivan asleep yet? Hating himself but hurt AND horny, Patrick gets up to go join Cruz–but when he walks out of the guest room Ivan is there in the hallway.
IVAN: I can’t sleep.
PATRICK: Count sheep.
IVAN: No, no, I want you to come back to my room with me.
PATRICK: You need to stop. I am going to get really angry with you.
IVAN: I can’t stop thinking that…what if…because of prejudice or fear or something…what if I am missing out on something amazing…with someone amazing…who makes me feel amazing.
Ivan then tries to kiss Patrick, but awkwardly. Patrick pushes him away, and Ivan apologizes. “I’m sorry, I’m just really nervous but I want this.”
The look on Patrick’s face literally made me tear up as he said, “No, let me.” And then they kiss. When Patrick pulls away he says, “Are you okay?”
Ivan smiles and just nods, and the two boys go back to Ivan’s room.
What followed was the most amazing slightly longer than five minutes gay sex scene I’ve ever seen outside of gay porn. But it wasn’t raunchy (it’s definitely not gay porn); it was sensual and beautiful and erotic; an expression of love between two young men who’ve never been really in love before. It wasn’t all candlelight and roses; it was Ivan’s first time (at one point, he’s doing oral on Patrick for the first time, and Patrick stops him–“watch the teeth!” I defy anyone to find a gay man who has never said that or had that said to him once in his life. ) and while i know rimming scenes have become more commonplace on cable shows, I’ve never seen two males do it as realistically as it was done here. Patrick allows Ivan to top him, and even that was realistic, honest, authentic. The entire thing was beautifully shot and scored (EDIT: the song playing in the background is Brian Eno’s “By the River,” which is beautiful and perfect for this scene), and the acting was fucking fantastic (the pun was deliberate). I literally got tears in my eyes.
There were three more episodes in the season after this–with ups and downs and more pain and heartache for the two–but it all comes together in the incredible season finale, which again left me in tears.
This entire season could have simply focused on Patrick and Ivan’s story, and I would have been happy. But the other storylines of the season–which didn’t seem all that great in the first half–coalesced in the second half of the season, with twists and surprises and suspense; this show is fantastic at surprise twists that make you gasp.
But this story…wow. How much of a difference would it have made in my life to have seen something like this play out on a television series when I was a teenager? Even in my early twenties? Both young actors are fantastic. The acting is stellar, and I have to admit it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a gay storyline play out like this where I was absolutely 100% convinced they were in love with each other, was rooting for them, wanted them to end up together against all the odds.
Manu Rios and André Lamoglia steal the fifth season right out from under the rest of the cast–which is no small feat, as Elité’s biggest strength has always been its incredibly talented cast.
I loved this show already, but I love it all the more now. I have no idea what they are going to do with Ivan and Patrick for the next season; but whatever it is, I am here for it…and so are the rest of the fans of the show around the world. (Yes, I did a deep dive the other day on-line; Patrick and Ivan and their story are the breakout stars of season 5…as they should be.)