I spent a lot of time in beach resort towns when I was younger. My grandmother and her second husband retired to the panhandle of Florida when I was ten and about to start the seventh grade, and when they moved down there I actually rode along with them because it was summer. My aunt and uncle had a beach house that they would rent out for weeks and weekends to make money in a small beach town along the Emerald Coast (they called it the Miracle Strip back then; Panama City Beach) and until we moved away to California, we used to go down to visit my grandparents and time it around a visit to the beach house as well. In the years since, I’ve often thought about writing about the panhandle and those sleepy little beach towns (believe me, Panama City Beach has changed dramatically since the 1970s); my short story “Cold Beer No Flies” is one of those stories, and I have another one–book-length–that I am considering writing at some point in the near future.
But beach resorts and the townies have always been interesting to me; the difference between those who live there year round and those who simply vacation there; the drifters who come in for jobs during those summer months and then disappear–what do they leave in their wake?–and it just seemed rife with possibilities.
So, after greatly enjoyed her sophomore novel The Mother Next Door, I was really looking forward to her reading her debut novel, One Night Gone.
Constant Reader, it did not disappoint.
The girl tried not to look up into the hazy summer night, the seagulls circling overheard like giant paper airplanes. They made her dizzy. She focused on the horizon, the dark ocean churning, its vastness broken up by milky froths.
Thomas, the guy from the party, was pressed up against her, his thighs tight against hers. She could feel the heat in her cheeks, but at least it was cooler here at the end of the pier, away from the lights and sounds, from the constant pop pop pop bling bling of the arcade games and the deafening roar of the Zipper, a ride she’d thrown up on last year and then swore her friends to secrecy.
Thomas dipped her back over the railing–not too far, but enough that she felt the danger, felt that if he just shifted his large hand an inch or so off her back she’d fall, tumble like a tragic mistake. He laughed, pulling her back, his dewy breath catching in her hair.
“Stop it,” she said, batting at him, though she wasn’t sure she meant it.
She liked him. She liked the way he made her feel–important. Funny. Sexy. At the party, he’d said he was from the cornfields of Indiana, a state–she would never tell him–that she wouldn’t be able to point out on a map. He was tall like a cornstalk, she thought, and let that bubble up into a giggle on her lips as he swayed into her again and kissed it away.
One thing I absolutely love in crime novels is different timelines–one in the past and one in the present. I myself have never done this; and perhaps it’s about time I try (one of the ideas I have, ironically set in a Florida panhandle beach town, is a dual timeline novel); I’ve always admired writers who can do this and pull it off with aplomb because it looks really hard to me. Laura Lippman did this beautifully in After I’m Gone; Alison Gaylin in What Remains of Me; and Carol Goodman is a master of this. Add Tara Laskowski to this list–she also managed to pull it off with The Mother Next Door, her marvelous follow-up.
The story focuses on two women thirty years apart who come to Opal Beach for their own reasons. Allison, our modern heroine, is a former meteorologist who was fired for unprofessional conduct when going off on her cheating (now) ex-husband on air; she went viral and left her cheating husband, and her sister finds her this great housesitting gig in a mansion on the beach in the off-season and so Allison comes to a beautiful house on the Jersey shore in a resort full of secrets–going back to the disappearance of our 1980’s heroine, Maureen. Maureen comes from a bad background and she works for the carnival that comes to Opal Beach every summer; she finds herself becoming friends with locals and even getting romantically involved with one. Maureen is also desperate the way Allison is; desperate to escape a terrible past and start a new life with the cons and crimes of her past behind her. Maureen disappears that summer, never to be found again–and somehow Allison’s arrival at Opal Beach starts dredging up secrets and lies from that past so long ago…and Allison’s own life is put in jeopardy because there are any number of people who have their own reasons for wanting Maureen to stay buried in the past…
Laskowski is a terrific writer, with a knack for being highly efficient and proficient in her sentence and paragraph construction; she creates characters that are rounded and complete and multi-dimensional; and her ability to explore how little slights and personality clashes can grow into festering wounds is exceptional. Opal Beach felt very real to me–the bonfire parties on the beach, the gift shops and restaurants catering to the summer people, the climate and weather and the house itself. I really enjoyed this, and got caught up in the story quite easily.
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.
I have decided, at long last, to throw away my ratty old LSU sweatshirt.
This sweatshirt, for the record, predates Paul, that’s how old it is. It’s either thirty or twenty-nine; I cannot really remember one way or the other. It was, however, my very first LSU sweatshirt–the first of many–and I bought it at the bookstore on the LSU campus. I don’t remember which drive from Houston to Tampa it was when I stopped on campus and bought it–it was either a time when I was driving my new car from Houston back to Tampa, or when I was riding with a friend who was driving from Phoenix to Tampa–I flew into Houston, he met me at the airport and we drove on to Tampa from there, but for a very long time it was my only LSU sweatshirt, and I’ve always had a deep fondness for it. It’s been worn and washed so many times that it’s incredibly thin and threadbare; the neckline is fraying and so are the sleeves at the wrist. It’s stained and ratty and messy, so much so that I won’t even wear it to run errands. I only wear it around the house and usually only when all the other sweatshirts are dirty (I live in sweats when I am at home), and the other day as I was putting it on I realized not only how old it was but how bad of shape it was in. Why are you holding on to this sweatshirt? I asked myself, and then Saturday morning as I was folding it out of the dryer I thought throw it away, why are you keeping this? Sentiment? You pride yourself on your lack of that emotion, so I decided to take a photo of it, write a farewell blog entry to it, and put it in the trash–which I should have done years ago, really.
I don’t even remember why I decided to stop on campus and buy it, to be honest. I have no memory of that at all. Even now, when we are on campus for games and go by the store, it doesn’t look familiar at all from back then. Maybe they’ve built or redesigned the campus store, I don’t know; it’s certainly possible. But I don’t remember it being right by the stadium, either; it’s possible there are two stores on campus. I couldn’t say for sure.
Despite growing up as an Auburn and Alabama fan (in that order; the rule was you always rooted for Alabama unless they were playing Auburn), I’ve always kind of been partial to LSU, even though I had no connection to either the school or the state until much later in life. I’ve tried to remember why I always liked LSU, even as a kid–I think it was two things: purple has always been a favorite color of mine, especially when paired with gold, and the live tiger on campus (which I am now on the fence about–I see the arguments both for and against keeping a live tiger on campus as a mascot, but I love that tiger). My cousin actually was on the Auburn team that lost the Earthquake Game back in 1988–my family is still bitter about that 7-6 last minute loss–and when we moved to Louisiana, I got Paul into college football and he became an LSU fan because we lived here. I still rooted for Auburn and Alabama and LSU, in that order. I was still rooting for Auburn and Alabama when they played LSU, though; even in 2003 when LSU won its first national championship since 1958. It was 2005 when everything shifted for me on the college football landscape; that horrible 2005 season after Katrina, when LSU’s football team was about the only positive thing Louisiana had going for it that season, that was when I went full-on bleed purple-and-gold LSU fan, and have never looked back since. Paul of course had already gone full tilt LSU fan, and his enthusiasm was catching. I used to only care about college football; now I pay attention to almost every sport, from basketball to gymnastics to baseball to track so I can root for the Tigers.
Even before LSU moved to the front of the list, I was writing about LSU. Chanse played scholarship football for LSU, and would have possibly played pro had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury in the Sugar Bowl his last season of eligibility. Chanse was a tight end; and I had always intended for Chanse to go back to LSU and solve a murder on the campus, at his fraternity house. That story, “Once a Tiger,” is about four thousand words in; I’ve debated turning it into both a novel or a novella rather than a short story. Scotty is an LSU fan–I wrote about Mike the Tiger in Baton Rouge Bingo–and of course, in A Streetcar Named Murder Valerie’s twin sons are in their first semester up there.
Paul and I went to our first LSU game in Tiger Stadium in November of 2010. It was the Mississippi game, the Magnolia Bowl; there’s not much love lost between LSU and Mississippi–their fans still can’t get over Billy Cannon’s Run back in 1959. LSU has ruined many a season for the Rebels, and vice versa, but I do think they hate us more than we hate them. The game was amazing, and we had a great time. We went to several games in 2011, and it wasn’t until the COVID year of 2020 that we went the entire season without going to a game; the only game we went to in 2021 was the first time the Tigers ever lost when we were at the game (Auburn, ironically; it was also Auburn’s first win in Baton Rouge this century). We didn’t go to any games this year, either; not sure if we will be going to any more in the future, either; but one never knows, and I would like to go to at least one more Saturday night game in Death Valley. We’ve been to some great games over the years, and I am very happy to say that we got to see that great 2019 team play twice–and we were at the Florida game, which was amazing and exciting and I couldn’t talk for at least three days afterwards.
And of course, this season was all over the place, but the team did something never done before in LSU football history: won at both Florida and Auburn…so obviously, the team has never won in Gainesville and Auburn and beat Alabama in Baton Rouge. Not even Joe Burrow could do that; in his first year as a Tiger he was 1-2 in those three games. So, if nothing else, Jayden Daniels has won a place in LSU history for that, and Brian Kelly did something in his first year in Baton Rouge that no LSU coach had ever done before–including Nick Saban (even the year Saban led LSU to a national title, that team lost to Florida in Tiger Stadium).
And so it’s goodbye to my old sweatshirt at long last. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away sooner–it’s been ratty and stained and threadbare for years–unless it was an unconscious kind of sentimentality. I haven’t preserved much of my pre-Paul life–I’ve always viewed those years as a prologue to the rest of my life–but this was one of the few things left from that time.
But its time has passed, so farewell to you, old LSU sweatshirt. You served me well…and now I get to buy a new one to replace it. YES!
Yesterday was World AIDS Day, something I didn’t mention on yesterday’s blog because well, it was early in the morning and I literally forgot about it until I got to work yesterday morning (I probably should have prepared a post ahead of time to memorialize and commemorate those we lost; next year–I will put it on my calendar so I won’t forget).
To be fair, I was also all aglow from that terrific review Oline Cogdill gave A Streetcar Named Murder (you can still preorder! Release date is 12/6!). And this morning, I am the guest blogger over at The Wickeds, talking about orange cones and a particularly vexing New Orleans problem, the perennial and pesky potholes.
I slept really well last night, not alighting from the arms of Morpheus until seven thirty this morning. I felt absolutely like a lag-a-bed, a lazy swine, for sleeping so late when my eyes opened to see the red digital numbers glowing in the morning light. I’ve been getting up at five or five thirty all week, so was kind of wondering whether or not I’d sleep late this morning. (I did wake up at three, but went back to sleep almost immediately.) Today I am working from home. I do have some errands I must do at some point, and there’s data to enter and so forth, and oddly enough I feel rested this morning. Usually on Fridays I am a bit worn down from the week, low energy and so forth (which makes the data entry perfect as a job duty for the day), but I don’t feel that way this morning. I don’t feel like I can conquer the world, but I do feel like I can get some things accomplished today. The sink is filled with dirty dishes and of course, there’s always laundry (it never ceases to amaze me how much clothing Paul and I can dirty up all week). I was also very tired when I got home from work last night. Paul didn’t come home until after I groggily climbed the stairs around ten to go to bed, so I spent much of the evening with Scooter purring in my lap while I watched some documentaries on Youtube. James Somerton has a great new one about gay body culture and its origins in Nazi Germany (!), and how the ubermensch Nazi culture of the perfect body was brought home by GI’s after the war. It was fascinating–and it’s been something that’s been on my mind a lot lately (well, over the last few years since the pandemic started) as I’ve looked into gay history and have thought about writing historical gay noirs set throughout the twentieth century (Chlorine, Peplum, Obscenity, Indecency). Watching the Somerton documentary reminded me of Michelangelo Signorile’s Life Outside, which spent some time examining gay body culture, and 2001’s The Adonis Complex, which was a look at the development of male body culture that couldn’t be taken seriously as they erased the gay male experience completely (by not mentioning or acknowledging its existence) which completely invalidated almost everything they wrote about in the book; you cannot talk about male physical perfectionism and only talk about straight men. As Somerton points out in his video–being in good physical condition as a male after your teens used to be a tell about not being straight, as I also mentioned recently on here (when I was talking about using pictures other than of shirtless men).
I don’t always agree with Somerton, but I always enjoy his videos. They make me think, even when I agree with him, and I do enjoy hearing different perspectives.
Progress on the book is being made. It’s been slow going this week, but I am hopeful to make all kinds of progress this weekend. I do have some errands that must be done this weekend, not the least of which is making groceries, and of course I’ll have to watch the SEC Championship game since LSU is playing Georgia, but the loss last week took most of the urgency out of this game, so I can just watch and not mind how it turns out. As I said the other day, finishing the regular season at 8-3 with a trip to the conference championship was something I couldn’t have imagined in August or September–so it’s wonderful to see LSU relevant again after the tragedies that were the last two seasons. Who knows what the future may hold for the Tigers? But it’s nice to be competitive again with the big boys. Like I said, last summer I would have never believed LSU would beat Auburn, Florida, and Alabama this season, yet here we are. GEAUX TIGERS!
I need to get my act together today. It’s been nice (seriously) getting up this week when I wake up; I’ve loved having that extra hour (or half hour, depending on which day it was) to get things done before heading for work. And while I was tired in the evenings when I got home, realistically I was able to get some things done in the evening as well. I need to check my to-do list and clean some, as already mentioned; I also have errands to do and I want to get some work on the book done as well as some more Blatant Self-Promotion posts. The book comes out on Tuesday officially, which is terribly exciting.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader!
Saturday morning and LSU plays at eleven, which means I have an extremely short window to get things this morning. I fell asleep in my chair watching the debut episode of Dangerous Liaisons, which was a great idea for a series in theory, but I wasn’t impressed with the execution. I doubt we’ll continue with it–a shame, because it’s one of my favorite stories of all time; I read the original novel after the Glenn Close film was released in the 1980’s and have loved it ever since. (I also love the Cruel Intentions adaptation of it; I even adapted it into my gay erotic fraternity novel Wicked Frat Boy Ways) It also rained overnight–I slept very deeply and well last night–and of course I woke at five again this morning but napped on and off until rising just before eight.
LSU can actually clinch the West Division of the SEC today with a win over Arkansas–either outright and a share of it; should Alabama beat Mississippi today, it’s theirs if they win. If Mississippi wins, the pressure is back on LSU to win out; both would end up tied for the West if they both win out, but LSU goes to the championship game by virtue of having beaten Mississippi when they played. It’s a very chaotic college football season, folks; the kind that rarely comes around and things happen that never usually happen. (I still can’t believe LSU beat Alabama last week.) Just a month ago, things looked very bleak for the season indeed for LSU, and I am so proud of how they bounced back after that embarrassing loss to Tennessee. Several things happened this year that have never happened before: LSU had never beaten both Auburn and Florida on the road in the same season before, let alone beaten them both on the road AND beat Alabama. LSU hadn’t beaten Alabama in Baton Rouge since 2010 (the last time Alabama had lost twice this early in the season–but I doubt they will go on to lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl as they did in 2010), hadn’t beat Florida four years in a row since 1977-1980, and the Tennessee loss was the first time the Vols have beat LSU since 2005.
Okay, I’ll stop boring you with my football fandom. GEAUX TIGERS!
Although I have to add I don’t know how I’ll manage to stay calm during the LSU game–and today I find myself rooting for Alabama. College football always gets interesting later in the season…
I’m going to try to work on edits during the games today; I am not sure how well that is going to go. I’m probably not going to leave the house this weekend outside of a lunch date tomorrow; I really need to work on the book and I’m even going to have to (sigh) not watch the Saints game tomorrow and work instead. I’m running out of time on my deadline, which is terrifying to me, and I have a lot of other things I have to write as well. I really need to make a thorough and complete to-do list; maybe after I finish and post this. I did get a lot of chores done yesterday around the work-at-home duties; laundry and dishes and the kitchen are under control this morning, so I don’t need to do anything this weekend on that score. But whoa boy, was I worn out once five thirty rolled around. I repaired to my chair and watched Youtube videos (and yes, I watched the LSU-Alabama highlights again because I still can’t believe LSU beat Alabama)–I watched a really great historical one about the fall of Constantinople in 1204 to the 4th Crusade, and another interesting one about the camp aesthetic of Mommie Dearest–until Paul got home, and we got caught up on Andor, which I am really enjoying; I’ve actually enjoyed all the Star Wars television shows other than The Book of Boba Fett, which I should probably give another chance to, before switching to Dangerous Liaisons, which was, frankly, boring and the revised plot doesn’t make much sense–a wealthy older noblewoman would not be able to confer a title on anyone; that was the prerogative of the King and the King only, especially in absolutist France of the eighteenth century, so yeah–it wasn’t just being tired. I can forgive historical inaccuracies as a necessity for dramatizations, but being so blatant and deliberate in being wrong like that for the purpose of plot and story is something I cannot condone by rewatching. I am not a purist either when it comes to adaptations of novels into series and films, either–I enjoyed Cruel Intentions, after all–but in all honesty, there was so much more to the original story that had to be cut and removed from any film adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses that could have been implemented into telling the story over the course of a season–perhaps even a second–and the fallout and aftermath from the exposure of the Marquise de Merteuil’s letters could have also been interesting.
Ah, well. Great idea, poor execution.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. The game starts in less than two hours (!!!) and I need to get some things done. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader!
Yesterday LSU announced that the game Saturday night registered on the campus seismograph twice: once when Jayden Daniels scored the overtime touchdown, and then again minutes later when the two-point conversion worked. I had thought this had happened several times since the famed Earthquake Game in 1988 against Auburn, when Tommy Hodson threw a touchdown pass on fourth down with less than two minutes left in the game to tie, with the extra point that followed given LSU a one-point lead that held. I would have thought it might happen during the 1997 Florida game, when the Tigers ended several Florida winning streaks as well as their Number One ranking on the season; during the 2003 Georgia game when Matt Mauck threw the winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go; or during either the 2007 Auburn game or the 2007 Florida game, but I was incorrect. The next time Tiger Stadium registered on the seismograph was during this summer’s Garth Brooks concert there, when he played “Calling Baton Rouge”–people who lived within a mile of the stadium didn’t hear the concert, but they could hear the crowd singing–and then twice this past Saturday night.
I still can’t believe LSU won that game. I may never believe it. I still, three days later, wake up every morning and the first thing I do is check to make sure I didn’t dream it.
So it’s Tuesday, the time has changed and it’s no longer dark when I get up in the morning. It’s kind of gray out there at the moment, as the sun hasn’t truly risen yet–so there’s a weird kind of wintry gloom outside, and I really hated coming home in the dark yesterday. My sleep still hasn’t adjusted yet–wide awake at five this morning, but stayed in bed anyway–and I am not sure how well I actually am sleeping since the time change. Yesterday morning I felt fine and didn’t really fade until I got home–and then I faded, big time. I even forgot the Saints game was last night. Paul had a meeting so he had to go into his office; I didn’t remember to turn on the game until it was already past half-time. I fell asleep while watching, and since Paul wasn’t home yet by nine thirty I just went to bed (they lost; I just checked the score. We Saints fans are indeed terribly spoiled) and I didn’t even hear Paul come home–Scooter is still cuddling with me when I go to bed still, even with Paul home–so I must have slept much better than I initially thought this morning when I first got up.
I also need to remember to vote when I get home from work today.
I did work on cleaning up the opening of the book yesterday. I didn’t get very far, but I did manage to switch the two things that I needed to switch at the beginning (anything else would be a spoiler, sorry) and so the revision is already starting to come together. Progress is progress, and I also had some–not much, but some–luck in cleaning out my email inbox. There’s still a lot that I have to get done in addition to working on the book, but as long as the book keeps moving forward, I am fine with it. I am really worried about getting it done on time–the Thanksgiving trip is going to seriously fuck with me–but the LSU game this weekend is at eleven in the morning, and while I do indeed want to watch the Alabama-Mississippi game to see if LSU can clinch the division, I should be able to spend some serious time working this weekend.
Oh, the box of books arrived yesterday! How cool is that? It’s been almost eighteen years since I’ve had a hardcover release, so needless to say that was a bit of a thrill for me. Huzzah! I posted a picture of the box yesterday–I know, I know, the thing is unboxing videos for Instagram stories and Tik Tok but I’ve always just posted pictures of the open box and I am not going to change that now, no matter what the cool kids are doing. I’ve never been one of the cool kids, have long since given up on caring about whether I was cool or not, and am smart (or experienced) enough now to know I will never be one of the cool kids. That’s a lot of pressure I used to put on myself gone, frankly. I am still working on the “completely not giving a shit whether someone likes me or not”; I am much better than I used to be about that but it still occasionally rears its ugly head from time to time. I would imagine that is something that I will never get over completely, but at least now I can see it happening and can make an attempt to try to stop it before it becomes a problem. Anyway, I need to start amping up pre-release promotion. Have you preordered your copy yet?
I am terrible at this. It really is a wonder I have a career, isn’t it?
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I have so much to do…it is to weep.
I still am in shock. LSU beat Alabama. I didn’t even dare to hope or dream–sure, every once in a while I’d think my God, if we can pull this off–nah, it’s Alabama. Nobody gave the Tigers a chance, not even me. Yes, of course I wanted to win, hoped we could somehow pull it off (I am always slightly uncomfortable saying we in these instances, reminding myself I am not a part of the team or student body but merely a devoted, rabid fan), but never really wanted to get my hopes up. I’ve hoped and been excited so many times before when I thought LSU had a chance, only to be bitterly disappointed with the inevitable last second Alabama comeback. The Tigers hadn’t beaten Alabama in Baton Rouge since 2010, and had only beaten them once in total since 2011. Add in this would be Alabama’s second regular-season loss (which rarely happens), as well as the fact that Alabama hasn’t had two losses early in November since 2010, so, yeah, you can see why I had my doubts about my Tigers’ chances against the greatest football power of this century. What Coach Saban has done at Alabama is astonishing, remarkable, and may never ever be duplicated by any other team in college football. No one has won the national championship without having to beat Alabama since 2006, with the only exception being 2013–and Auburn, who lost the title game that year, had to beat Alabama to get there. And unlike some of the disappointed Alabama fans–and the haters who relish any loss by Saban and Alabama–I don’t think this is the end of the Alabama dynasty or the Saban juggernaut. It’s also kind of amazing that a two-loss season triggers that kind of talk–which goes to show what a standard Alabama has set for the college football world.
And now Brian Kelly owns the state of Louisiana. Any haters or doubters have been forever silenced. He beat Alabama with a team that had already lost twice, came within a whisker of losing to Auburn, and had only thirty-nine scholarship players left for our bowl game loss after last season. Jayden Daniels, our transfer quarterback, has now done something that not even Joey Burrow could accomplish with his first season at LSU: beating both Auburn and Florida on the road, and beating Alabama. I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around this, I hope you know that, Constant Reader. I fully expected to wake up this morning and find that it had all been a fever dream, that I dreamt it and the game was actually tonight. But no, LSU did beat Alabama with a two-point conversion in overtime that was the gutsiest thing I have seen this season from LSU. And they played their asses off all night.
What a fucking game, seriously.
LSU went three-and-out on their first possession. Alabama marched down the field with ease on their first possession…before Bryce Young threw an interception in the end zone to kill the drive. Alabama made it into the red zone four times in the first half, but only had six points at half-time. LSU had managed to take advantage of a short field to score the first half’s lone touchdown to lead 7-6 at the half. I couldn’t believe it as I watched from my easy chair. The defense was astonishing, making play after play and even after a big play by the Tide, would stiffen and hold. The Tigers fell behind 9-7 in the third quarter, only to score another touchdown to take a 14-9 lead into the fourth quarter. And all through the fourth quarter, as Alabama kept coming back and coming back, LSU kept fighting, clawing their way back into the game. When we got the ball back with the score tied 24-24 with twenty-one seconds left, I questioned Coach Kelly’s decision to take a knee and not try to move the ball into field goal range. Alabama got the ball first in overtime, and after about five or so plays took a 31-24 lead. This is it, I thought to myself, this is how we lose, but hey, it was a much better game than I was expecting and I am so proud of this team! And then Jayden Daniels, on LSU’s first play, scampered twenty-five yards for a touchdown and Coach Kelly decided to go for two and the win, and again, I thought, this is where we lose but I am so proud of those boys only to watch Daniels flip the ball to Mason Taylor in the corner of the end zone and to my shock, delight, and disbelief, LSU won the damned game.
As someone tweeted, This may be unexpectedly the greatest game in the history of LSU football and Tiger Stadium.
And they weren’t wrong. Even in our worst seasons, LSU has always managed some kind of big win, even in our last two seasons of mediocrity we managed to upset Florida both years, and last season we also upset Texas A&M on the last game of the season. But beating Alabama in the same season where we lost to both Florida State and Tennessee (badly) did not seem in the cards. As the Tigers have improved and gotten better, coalescing as a team while Jayden Daniels became more and more comfortable as our quarterback, I kept thinking this year we’ll probably be 9-3 at best, but look out for next year. I still think we are going to be even better next year, but I was not expecting the Tigers to be in the driver’s seat in the West division in early November with a very strong chance at making the SEC title game; if Alabama beats Mississippi next week (and Saban rarely, if ever, loses two games in a row, let alone three in a regular season, LSU can clinch the division with a win over Arkansas. If LSU wins out–including a win over Georgia in the title game–they still won’t make the play-offs, as both Georgia and Tennessee have only one loss while LSU has two, and yes, lost to Tennessee. But Tennessee lost to Georgia…I see a lot of calls for play-off expansion if the unthinkable happens and LSU is an SEC champion who gets locked out of the play-offs. This is kind of like the 1989 season, when two loss Auburn tied with one-loss Alabama and Tennessee for the conference championship.
It’s really great to be a Tiger fan this morning. GEAUX TIGERS!
Work-at-home Friday has rolled around again, and today I get to do data entry and quality-assurance on forms until my eyes cross. I have a couple of errands to run this afternoon–but other than that, I am looking forward to a nice, peaceful day at home doing my work-at-home duties and my chores. Later on, I hope to get some good work done on the book before I repair to my easy chair with the latest Wanda Morris novel. It was a tough choice between that and the new Donna Andrews, but I am thinking since Dashing Through The Snowbirds is a Christmas tale, I may save that for Christmas reading this year–it makes the most sense, and since I generally don’t watch any Christmas movies or specials anymore (I do sometimes watch A Charlie Brown Christmas–it’s my favorite), maybe I could read Christmas-themed books and stories this year in December; maybe call it “The Twelve Reads of Christmas” or something like that. Hmmm, it’s a thought.
It really is amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you after a few days of insomnia and exhaustion/fatigue.
Last night I didn’t sleep as deeply or as well as I did on Wednesday night. I kept waking up, partly due to Scooter’s restlessness and sometime need to let me know his outrage about something, but was always able to fall back asleep. I had to have bloodwork done this morning; I got an email from the lab telling me I had lab orders waiting for me, so I scheduled it. I got there this morning and checked in–mind you, I needed to fast, so I didn’t eat last night or have anything to drink or eat this morning before leaving the house–only to find out they didn’t, in fact, have lab orders for me. Hilariously, I am terrible about remembering to do the labs after my doctor appointments, so this last time in July I made the appointment for Labs the same week as my doctor appointment and had them done. Once they told me I didn’t have orders in, I looked in the app and saw that I had, indeed, had them done back in August. So, no need to fast overnight, no need to not have coffee before leaving, no need to leave, in fact. Heavy sigh. But I did start reading Wanda Morris’ new book while waiting to be told I didn’t really need to be there, and it’s quite marvelous already. I knew it would be–her debut novel was superb–and it’s such a delight, as always, to see exciting new voices grow and become even stronger as their career progresses.
Last evening as I relaxed before heading to bed I watched another documentary about the history of gay pornography–I’ll probably watch another one later today–which of course put me in mind of writing about that history. I really do need to focus on getting this Scotty book and the next thing I have to write finished so I can get back to Chlorine; my goal for the rest of this year and 2023 is to get these two books finished, finish two other in-progress projects, and wrap up some other things that are unfinished but need to be finished so I can cross them off the list. I may do another short story collection; I’m not sure but I think I have enough sold and/or published for another collection to actually be possible. This one, when it materialized, will be called This Town and Other Stories, because the strongest story I’ve done since the last collection was “This Town”, which was in Holly West’s anthology Murder-a-Go-Go’s. At least in my opinion, although The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy and Other Stories would probably sell better…
And of course, tomorrow is a big day for the Southeastern Conference, with division championships on the line. LSU can actually get a leg up in the West by accomplishing the gargantuan task of beating Alabama in Baton Rouge for the first time since 2010–but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sure, it’s possible–anything is possible in college football on any given Saturday; I am sure no one would have thought Kansas State would shellack Oklahoma State the way they did last weekend–but despite all the hype chatter, I’m not getting my hopes up terribly high. Yes, I want the Tigers to win–but I don’t have any expectations, just as I really haven’t all season. I’m just delighted the program seems to be on the rise again after the last two horrible years. I certainly would have never thought LSU would be coming into the game with Alabama tied with them and Mississippi for first place in the division. And earlier in the day Georgia and Tennessee will play for the leg up in the East–which again, no one would have seen coming before the season started; no one really give Tennessee much thought as the program has been moribund since at least 2007, the last time they won their division (which also happened to be the year a two-loss LSU team won the national championship–see how you can see omens and portents in everything?). I am not a Tennessee fan by any means–I rooted for them during the Peyton Manning years because I thought he was a phenomenal athlete plus I despise Florida with every fiber of my being, but that was about it. I only root for them in non-conference games and bowls, but I am happy for their fans–just as I was happy for Georgia fans last year as they finally beat Alabama and won the national title; I always think back to what a glorious ride 2019 was for LSU fans, so it’s always nice to see a long-starved fan base finally get something they can be excited about. Pundits and fans are already comparing 2019 LSU and 2022 Tennessee…but it’s really not even the same. Sure, no one thought LSU would be as great as they were in 2019, but they were also coming off a 10-3 season. Tennessee was 7-6 last year, so it’s an even bigger turnaround for them on that level. I plan to get my writing and my errands and chores finished tomorrow morning well before the 2:30 Georgia-Tennessee kick-off, so I can spend the rest of the day nervously cleaning with the games on in the background. Paul also comes home tomorrow (yay!) so I am going to need groceries, too.
And my kitchen, as always, is a disaster area on a Friday morning, so it’s perhaps time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you later or tomorrow.
I slept really well last night, which I inevitably usually do on Thursday nights because I can sleep an hour later those mornings, which naturally makes for a better evening of sleep. I also stay up an hour later (I really have this thing about going to be before eleven that always feels wrong and like I am being cheated out of the evening or something). I was very tired after work last evening, but I did get a load of dishes finished and another started (which I will have to finish this evening). I didn’t write, but I did reread the chapters already in place and think (hope) that tonight I will get that revision finished and can finally, at long last, move on to the next.
And today is the last day of September, October Eve, if you will, which of course leaves me shaking me head in bewilderment about where September could have gone, and why did it go so quickly? Why did I get so little done? I don’t know those answers, of course, but I do know we have been having some lovely weather this week–and it’s not because of the hurricane so we can enjoy it in peace (the cold front we are having, however, is what pushed Ian east and kept him there). It was sixty-three degrees yesterday morning when I went in to the office, so chilly that it even startled me a bit as I went outside. It was still cool when I got off work as well–there was a lot of wind, too, as there has been most of the week–but I am sure we’re going to have at least another couple of really warm weeks yet before the summer finally releases its chokehold on New Orleans.
My plan is only to read horror in the month of October, but since I’ve not had the bandwidth to finish reading my Donna Andrews novel that is one of the things I am going to work on getting through this weekend. It’s not a chore, mind you–Donna’s books are always entertaining and always great reads, and I love the world she’s created in these books–but I also want to be able to focus on the book and actually, you know, read it when my mind is not so worn out and tired, so it can really enjoy the book for the volume of sheer entertainment it inevitably will turn out to be. And then I am going to move on to horror. I have some more Paul Tremblay and Christopher Golden novels on hand to read, and of course I am years behind on Stephen King–might not be a bad idea to revisit some of the classics as well as start reading through the newer works, and of course I should reread ‘salem’s Lot, and I haven’t done a reread of The Stand in quite a while, or Christine or The Dead Zone for that matter. I also need to get back to reading short stories, and I have some lovely volumes of horror short stories on hand I can read as well.
LSU plays Auburn Saturday night at Auburn, so I have most of tomorrow free to clean and read and so forth. Paul is also planning a trip to visit his mother, probably around Halloween, so I am going to have a long and lonely week to look ahead to–thinking that I’ll be able to get a lot done while he’s gone which of course will end up not being the case–and right now I don’t know what other games are on this weekend, so I am hoping I won’t actually blow all of Saturday sitting in my chair, reclined, with a purring cat in my lap while I mindlessly watch teams play games I don’t care about. I need to get back on top of all of my projects and snap out of this weird blasé place I’ve been in since Bouchercon where I just can’t seem to have the energy or strength or will to work through being tired. But the weekend looms, and if I can manage to get a good night’s sleep tonight hopefully tomorrow morning I will wake up with lots of motivation and energy–and the strength of will to ignore Scooter’s plaintive cries to provide a lap for him to sleep in.
We started watching Reboot last night on Hulu, and it’s hilarious. The core of the story is actually kind of genius; an old family-friendly comedy from twenty or thirty years ago, similar to the kind of show Diff’rent Strokes and Full House were (heartwarming fare with cute kids with corny jokes and broad humor and–ugh, you know what I mean) is being rebooted…with the original cast…only as a more modern, darker, and more realistic show. It’s hilarious, and the entire cast is terrific (Johnny Knoxville being a surprising standout). We loved it, and can’t wait to watch more. I am also getting kind of excited to watch the new adaptations of Anne Rice’s series, The Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches (although I think the vampire series may be called Interview with the Vampire? I’ve not followed stories about either show closely, figuring I’d watch once they started airing and then would check into what the plans for the shows are). Elité is also coming back, as are some other favorites. Huzzah!
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely, lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope everyone in Florida is doing okay this morning. Check in with you again tomorrow!
Oddly enough, as I sat in my easy chair the other day watching college football games and letting my body and mind and creativity rest, I had an idea for either a stand alone book or a new series, one way or the other, and it’s something I find interesting enough that I might even consider it. It would be a difficult proposition, to be sure–given the decline in retail sales and everything going to an on-line and electronic model–but I was looking at a map of New Orleans on my iPad because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Tulane’s not-so-new-anymore on-campus football stadium was; so I pulled up a map to look because I was thinking that was a great line for a Scotty book–I always forget there’s a football stadium in Uptown-so of course I had to go looking for it. The map also brought up businesses in the area and lo and behold, there’s a comic book shop uptown on the lake side of Claiborne and it hit me: no one has ever done a cozy series about a comic book shop and that opened up an entire world of possibilities for me: the main character is an aspiring comic book artist who works in the shop, and of course, you can get into the whole thing about who actually is into comics and the history of comic books and it would give me an excuse to actually learn more about comics and their history and…
You see how this ends up going, don’t you?
I know any number of comics geeks–Alex Segura Jr, author of this year’s brilliant Secret Identity, about the business side of producing comics, is one–and one of my best friends from college owns a comic book shop in central California, or did at some point–and of course my neighbor Michael is also heavily into comics, having gone to Comic Con in San Diego, even. And of course I’d get to make up shit, which is always a huge plus for me. I love making up shit! And of course, it would be fun to write from the point of view of a struggling artist.
I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about that…
The Saints played terribly yesterday and logged another “L” in the record book (how bad are the Falcons?) yesterday; I didn’t watch but rather followed on Twitter while I did things around the house. The Saints games sometimes cause me too much stress and then I am emotionally exhausted afterwards–too drained to be of much use, so sometimes I just follow it on Twitter or it’ll be on in the living room while I work in the kitchen. I did get the Costco delivery yesterday, and should probably run some errands at some point today, but it is Work-at-Home Monday and I have work I have to get done. I am behind still from the Bouchercon trip and the ensuing back injury, but am hopeful I will start getting caught up somewhat soon. Emails beget emails, though, and therefore that is a sisyphean task indeed.
We watched the new Star Wars show Andor last night, and I am so happy Deigo Luna’s character is getting an origin story. So far, the only show they’ve done I didn’t buy into completely was The Book of Boba Fett, and am thinking maybe we should give that another try at some point. After those three episodes we moved on to The Serpent Queen and American Gigolo, which I think we’re going to give up on. I love Jon Bernthal, but I’m just not buying this story for the character. It’s an interesting idea–and full props to them for turning it into a sequel series in which Julian actually goes to jail for the murder he was accused of committing in the film, but I’m just not really getting vested into the show, either, no matter how much I want to. The Serpent Queen remains fantastic, and gets better with each episode as Catherine explains to her new maid her philosophy of survival, illustrated with scenes from her past. Samantha Morton is fantastic as the older queen and the actress who plays her as a young woman is also equally good. But it’s a period of history I particularly love, and of course, Catherine de Medici is one of the most fascinatingly complex women to hold power in history. The reality of her life was dramatic enough to drive a series, and they’ve done a pretty decent job of following the actual history, with some adjustments here and there.
Also keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ian, which seems to have Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly in its sights. We are just outside the Cone of Uncertainty, which doesn’t mean we’re safe–there could always be another westward shift to the potential path–but I do concern myself with Florida and friends there. I don’t remember the last time Tampa took a direct hit; I don’t think they have in quite some time, and I can imagine a storm surge into the bay and into the rivers that drain into it would be enormously problematic for the city–as well as for Clearwater and St. Petersburg on the peninsula on the other side of the bay. Stay safe, people.
My podcast interview about Daphne du Maurier, with a particular emphasis on My Cousin Rachel, went really well. It was for my friend Ricky Grove, whom I know from my days in the Horror Writers Association and when I put on World Horror Con back in the day here in New Orleans (he is the author Lisa Morton’s partner–have you read Lisa? You should read Lisa). I can talk about du Maurier all day, and we did continue talking for at least another hour after we stopped recording; I do love to talk books and writing, after all, with the end result that I felt horribly drained when it was over. Ah, yes, the age-old problem of the introvert having to be an extrovert on a day when he usually doesn’t have to do anything of the kind. I retired to my easy chair, but found the draining of my energy to have been far too effective for me to focus clearly on anything. I did do another blog entry about my work–this time my Todd Gregory erotic novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, while starting others about Baton Rouge Bingo and the second Todd Gregory book (Games Frat Boys Play)–but when I tried to work on the book or anything else (including trying to read) I couldn’t get anything done so finally gave up and made myself useful around the house. Hopefully after an eyes-crossing day of data entry and quality assurance on testing logs, I’ll be able to dive back into the Scotty book. I know I am procrastinating with Chapter Three and should probably just stop worrying about it and move on, but that’s just not how my creativity works. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay, the stress of being behind will come in handy as December 1 draws ever more near.
Or so I tell myself.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Hope you have a marvelous and lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.