Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

Sunday morning and probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had in quite some time. I didn’t even wake up the first time until past eight, and was so relaxed and comfortable I stayed in bed for another hour like a very bad Gregalicious. I had some vague plan when I went to bed last night that I would get up early this morning since I had so much work to get done, but the pull of a comfortable bed and warm blankets was too much for me to resist. I am now enjoying a really good cup of coffee; I cleaned out my Keurig machine yesterday, which was terribly overdue, and it does make a difference. (I should probably do it far more regularly than I do.) I also ordered groceries for pick up this morning as well, which will probably be the only time I leave the house today.

Overall, yesterday was a good day. I got up in the morning, did some cleaning and ran some errands, before coming home and doing some more cleaning while i worked. I clocked in four thousand words yesterday, which was amazing–I’ve been averaging between three and four thousand since Christmas when I write, and there were a couple of days that were between six and seven (hoping for one of those today, frankly), and all the pieces of this particular one are starting to fall into place. I’m having a very good time writing, and it’s awesome to be making it a priority in my life, too–plus it helps to not really check or examine your emails quite so compulsively. After I finished writing yesterday, I started watching some documentaries on Youtube about the Great Schism and the development of the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox church; I am probably going to try to focus my history reading for the year to be on the Eastern Roman Empire and the development of Christianity (I’d really like to reread Gore Vidal’s novel Julian the Apostate again), which has always been one of those periods I find fascinating and don’t study or read about near enough. I also spent some time thinking (while football highlights played on a loop on Youtube–I never tire of watching the last minute of the Tulane win in the Cotton Bowl) about my year and my writing plans for the year and what I would like to accomplish in 2023. I am really leaning toward trying to write an actual gay romance novel at some point in this coming year or the next; I’ve always wanted to write one and why the hell shouldn’t I give it a try at some point? (Although the romance writer who faked her own death and resurrected herself this week has me again wary of Romanceland…)

We also watched The Menu last night, which was a very strange film but highly entertaining. I’ve never been much of a foodie (I even hate the word foodie), because primarily most of my life food primarily either filled a need (the abatement of hunger) or served a purpose (as fuel, during the overly-exercised period of my life), so I never viewed it as a pleasure or an art form. Sure, I loved (and dearly miss) my annual lunch at Commander’s Palace, and I can appreciate delicious food, flavors and textures and so forth, but the plating and the rest isn’t something I’ve ever been terribly interested in. I don’t care if my food looks like a work of art on a plate. Sorry, I am a peasant at heart and peasantry isn’t that easily overcome. I did make an effort to become better in the kitchen and better at cooking while I was in my forties, and after I turned fifty I started learning how to bake things–cakes, cheesecakes, brownies, etc. But I digress. The Menu , like Glass Onion, seems to be a commentary on class and snobbery; the difference between the creators and the takers. I think the film is filled with great performances and interesting twists and turns, but ultimately it doesn’t succeed in the same ways that Glass Onion did. I do recommend it be seen; I’m curious to see what other people thought of it.

We then started watching a new prime series called The Rig, with an excellent cast headed by Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek, Chapelwaite), and Martin Compston (Line of Duty); the cast is diverse and the tale is interesting. An off-shore oil rig, somewhere in the North Sea I think, is riding out a terrible storm when something strange and seismic happens; whether it’s an earthquake on the ocean floor or some kind of volcanic activity isn’t clear. As the rig loses its connections to the outside world–internet, telephones, etc.–a terrifying fog comes rolling in, and something supernatural or mysterious but rooted in science is going on, particularly with a crewman who suffers a terrible fall that should have killed him; there are internal injuries they can’t do anything about–but he starts getting better, which shouldn’t be possible, and he has terrifying visions of the future. We watched one, and then couldn’t resist the temptation of staying up later and watching another. It’s quite good, and I highly recommend it. I am very curious to see how it winds up playing out.

I am going to finish this, grab a second cup of coffee, and repair to my easy chair to read for about an hour or so; A Walk on the Wild Side is calling to me, and I’d prefer to finish it before my trip (I don’t think that will happen, but one never knows), before I start writing again and dive into the day’s work. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Oh Diane

Monday morning and a good morning to you all. I feel rested this morning, if a bit intimidated by what all I have to get down this week but I’m just going to update and make a new to-do list this morning and just start working my way down it, you know? I was still a little unwell yesterday–I used to be able to shake of a mild fever and still get things done, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I feel better this morning–I always feel better in the mornings; it tends to come on during the course of the day, alas–so I’m hoping whatever mild thing that was is over and no more. I don’t have any COVID tests here at home (note to self: pick some up today at the office) so I can’t test myself until I get to work, but I don’t think that’s what this is (but better safe than sorry, just in case). I did manage to get some writing done yesterday–not very good writing, but it got done–and I read more of ‘salem’s Lot, which still holds up remarkably well (I just got to the part where Danny Glick dies…oops, spoiler). I know King was going for a more Gothic type style in this book (he patterned it along the lines of Dracula, if I recall correctly) and that sense of brooding and creepiness is there to very good effect. As I said yesterday, it would be edited down today by at least a third if King were a new writer; and I think the shorter books we get nowadays kind of do us a disservice, as both readers and writers? That could also explain why I always feel like my own books don’t cover enough material and so forth–because the books I grew up reading were longer than the books getting published today and the ones that I myself am writing.

We watched The Serpent Queen, House of the Dragon, and Interview with the Vampire last evening (I couldn’t watch the Saints game yesterday–the games are too stressful plus it was hard for me to not root for Joey Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase to do well, so my loyalties were divided which made it more stressful, and this morning I feel like I’ve betrayed the Saints), all of which are getting more interesting. The Serpent Queen has begun to deviate from the actual history–dramatically so, especially in light of last night’s episode–which is disappointing but understanding; the great game of politics in the mid-sixteenth century was insanely complex, so I can see why they’d want to simplify it in order for it to be more easily digested by the audience as most Americans have no clue about anything that happened in that century outside of easily digestible bits without nuance: Henry VIII had six wives; religious conflict; Bloody Mary, Spanish Armada and Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded.

It always cracks me up how everyone loved Game of Thrones but get bored about the real history that puts Martin to shame, really.

I’m plowing ahead on the book even though I know Chapter 5 is a sloppy, disgusting and terrible mess. I need to get the rest of the draft done so I can go through it and start fixing things; I’ll probably need to fix some of it before I can move on to Chapter 6 but the plan this week is to move ahead and try to get as much done as possible so the first draft can be finished by the end of the month so I can then spend the rest of December making the fixes it so desperately needs (I think the primary problem with it is that it’s out of order; I crammed too much into the beginning of the book and now I need to go back and put it in the proper context and order, which will all be a part of the extensive revision process this book is going to be sorely in need of…which just makes me tired, frankly, to think about.). I am trying very hard not to get horribly stressed about everything I need to get done…

And I have a book coming out in six weeks. YIKES.

I missed a short story deadline from this past weekend, which is a shame. But I didn’t feel well all weekend, really–I know the flu shot doesn’t get anyone sick, but can I help it if every time I get one I do? It just seems like an odd coincidence that almost every time I get a flu shot I spend the next few days not feeling 100%–and I hate the feel of a low grade fever. Either go big or go home, god damn it! But my body seems to be sliding back into the normal routine of Monday thru Thursday in the office and Friday as my work-at-home; which I am hoping means that once I get home every night, I can be certain to do some work and chores around the house before settling into my easy chair, exhausted, to wind down before going to bed. We’re all caught up now on our weekly shows, so can go back to Diary of a Gigolo, which is interesting and fun to watch, if a little complicated and sometimes hard to follow–but Spanish-language shows are so much better and faster moving than English language counterparts; they never have a filler episode like so many American shows do to pad out their seasons.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Tusk

Monday and a work-at-home day, for data entry and other things. I also have a meeting at one (yay) and I am hoping to get some things delivered today so I don’t have to leave the house. Yesterday started out well; I wrote my entry and did some writing planning and then repaired to my easy chair to read; but then Paul got up and came downstairs and I decided that as long as I kept my notebook/journal handy, I could make notes while thinking and watching television. We missed the Saints game; I’d forgotten it was in London and by the time I checked what time it was starting it was already over so I can’t even blame the Saints for my complete (well, pointed, at any rate) failure to get as much done yesterday as I had wanted to–which means it’s entirely my fault.

I did watch the first two episodes of the new Interview with the Vampire series, and it put a lot of thoughts into my head. I thought it was remarkably well done and well-cast–I would have gone for a Skargaard for Lestat, but that could be True Blood’s fault as well–and it was beautifully filmed. The changes made to the original book (I liked that it’s structured as a follow-up interview to the original interview) and story were barely noticeable. It’s also amazing how different Jacob Anderson looks as Louis as opposed to Greyworm from Game of Thrones. It also made me start thinking about vampires and how/why they are so popular with queers–this show has no gay subtext, it’s right there in your face–and also remembered how incredibly disappointed I’d been when I first read the book, as a teenager. At that point in time, I’d forgotten that Dark Shadows had turned a vampire into a romantic leading man–my thoughts about vampires were entirely shaped at that time by Dracula and ‘salem’s Lot, and that was what I was expecting from Interview…and that is most definitely not what the book was. I read it again about ten years or so later, and still didn’t care for it much; I didn’t come into an appreciation of Anne Rice’s work until the 1990’s–a friend told me to read The Mummy so I did and enjoyed it, and then I read and loved The Witching Hour, so I took the first three volumes of The Vampire Chronicles with me to Hawaii on a vacation and that time…well, that time I got into the books and enjoyed them. Mrs. Rice soon became a “buy in hardcover on release” author for me, and remained that way for a very long time. I do think there’s a line from Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows to Lestat/Louis to True Blood/the Sookie Stackhouse books; I once described True Blood as “Dark Shadows with sex, violence, nudity and blood.”

We then watched the first episode of Queer for Fear, a documentary series on Shudder about queer themes and subtexts in horror films, which was fun and certainly fit the theme of the day, but then we moved on to Your Honor starring Bryan Cranston, filmed and set in New Orleans (again, we marveled a lot about the geography–“oh, look, they’re transporting him from the courthouse to OPP but for some reason are coming in from I-10 which means they somehow detoured through Metairie”–and we can’t quite figure out where Cranston and his son live; they are always taking the bridge across the river, but Cranston can go jogging from his front door down St. Charles Avenue down to the lower 9th ward (clearly, training for a marathon of some sort) and back, so I am not sure why they have the need to go back and forth to the West Bank (Paul: this would only make sense if they lived in Algiers, but why would he cross the river to go jogging?). I know, I know, it’s fiction and make-believe and has everything to do with shots and visuals that remind the viewer it’s New Orleans; both the Crescent City Connection and the Huey P. Long bridges will do that, as will the drawbridge over the Industrial Canal, and nothing says New Orleans quite like the streetcar. I also know it’s being nit-picky and “more New Orleanian than thou”, but I can’t help it when I watch something filmed here (I was also identifying where scenes were shot in Interview with the Vampire as well). I’m sure New Yorkers do this a lot, too. We also watched this week’s House of the Dragon, which I am enjoying–there’s really no good characters to root for in this one; they are essentially all terrible people; at least in Game of Thrones we could root for the Starks as the only decent people in Westeros. We also watched the new episode of The Serpent Queen, as Catherine is now slowly coming into her own. I really am enjoying this series; I hope it doesn’t go off the rails at some point.

But now it’s October already–yikes; it seems as though this year has sped past but on the other hand January also seems like it was a million years ago already–and I’ve really got to start getting things done.

As I’ve been doing my entries about writing my books, it’s been a fun journey down memory lane, as I remember things I wanted to do and plans I had that somehow were either forgotten or pushed aside as other things crowded them out of my brain. Watching Interview and Queer for Fear reminded me of my own world of the supernatural I was trying to create with some of my horror writing (I don’t really consider my vampire writing as horror; yes, vampires, but the primary focus of them was the eroticism), and somehow I’ve managed to stick to the rules of that weird world of the supernatural I was creating through short fiction that spilled over into the erotica; so far I’ve done vampires and witches, rougaroux and le feu follet, all tied around parishes on the other side of the river and west/south of New Orleans. I have a couple of short stories to write still, and a book to get done–and I want to read more. I want to finish reading my current book and I think the first book for Horror Month will be a reread of Interview with the Vampire, perhaps followed by a reread of ‘salem’s Lot; why not explore the vampires?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely first Monday in October, Constant Reader, and I will be checking in with you again tomorrow morning before the sun comes up. Yay.

Angel

The eerie thing about Hurricane Ian is it has given us gorgeous weather in New Orleans–no humidity, warm but with a cool breeze; as though this monstrous storm is blessing those of us not under threat with this amazing fall-like weather (well, for New Orleans; this probably feels like summer to most People Not From Here). It was gorgeous yesterday morning when I left for the office; stunning, in fact. I was a little taken aback when I opened the front door to leave yesterday morning and didn’t get slapped in the face with a wall of wet hot heavy air, and as I walked out to the car couldn’t help but think well this weather is simply gorgeous. And when I came home from work–gorgeous, if a little too windy or my preferences. It’s a Category 4 this morning, looking to come ashore somewhere between Tampa and Fort Myers; the storm surge is worrisome and you can’t help but Youtubewonder if the three main causeway bridges from Tampa to the Clearwater/St. Petersburg peninsula will get damaged. I’ll keep monitoring the storm during the day, and hoping for the best possible outcomes for everyone in the path.

After getting stuck having to ride out Ida last year, I really wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

And our house is sheltered on three sides.

Today is Pay the Bills Day, and I’ll dive into that later on this morning. It’s always disappointing to watch your bank balance dwindle, but at the same time–as I remind myself every other Wednesday–at least I can pay them without worry; something that was frequently not true throughout my life. But still, it would be nice to have an entire paycheck that could just sit there in my bank account, wouldn’t it? Indeed, it would.

I was tired when I got home from work yesterday, and last night’s sleep wasn’t nearly as deep as I would have preferred; I had trouble actually falling asleep (thank goodness for Scooter’s Magical Put You To Sleep powers; he climbed up into the bed, curled up next to me, and went to sleep with his purr engine fully activated; and as it always does in my easy chair, it put me to sleep in no time) and kept waking up throughout the night; I woke up at three and four and five, thank you very much, and was awake before the alarm went off. I think I have a much busier work schedule today at the office than I’ve had in a few days, which means I will most likely be very tired when I get off work tonight; fortunately I don’t have any errands to run after work this evening and can come straight home. Hopefully I will have the energy to not only sit at my computer and write for a while, but also the inner strength of character to ignore Scooter’s wailing demands that I sit in my chair and provide a lap for him to sleep in, which inevitably leads to me dozing off in the chair and going down a lot of Youtube wormholes.

I found a lovely video last night, for example, about Catherine de Medici’s Flying Squadron; beautiful women trained in the seductive arts that she used as spies. I have always wanted to write a book based in this historical truth; just as I have always wanted to write about Catherine herself. The French wars of Religion, and the regency of “that Italian woman” is a fascinating period of history (let’s face it, I just love the sixteenth century), with all kinds of Games of Thrones-like conspiracies, betrayals, spying, murder, and so on and so forth as the Catholics and the Huguenots and the nobility jockeyed back and forth for power and control of the kingdom, with Catherine grimly hanging on to the crown for her sons and doing what she had to do. (When I have my flights of fancy of writing historical suspense novels, this is one of the four I think about wanting to do, the others being a retelling of The Three Musketeers; the murder of AMy Robsart; and the Babington Plot which resulted in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. And of course, I always want to write a Barbara Tuchman-like history of the century focusing on the women who held power, The Monstrous Regiment of Women, in that most unusual century.)

Not to mention how much fun I would have reading all that history…

But I am behind on everything current and need to start getting caught up. I’ve not been able to adjust to this schedule of work and having to get up so damned early every morning; you’d think by now I would have and would have energy when I get home at night, but I don’t. I’m also older (less that four years to go before retirement!) than I was and my energy reserves aren’t quite what they used to be…but it’s always a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Determining what they are and what they should be, and then working my way down the list, and trying not to get distracted by shiny objects along the path.

And on that note, i am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, and y’all who are in the Ian path, stay safe.

Silver Springs

My back still hurts today, and while at the moment it’s better than it was yesterday…it’s always best when I get up in the morning, so I don’t know how the rest of today is going to go. I have to go pick-up the groceries I ordered yesterday–which has me nervous–and I’ve even decided to wait on ordering Costco until tomorrow or Work-At-Home Monday. I was hoping it would be okay enough for me to be able to at least spend a few hours at the computer this morning writing; but taking yesterday off to just lie flat while alternating heat and cold (thank you, Eric Andrews-Katz, for reminding me to do that yesterday and not just use heating pads and generic Ben-Gay; I will be doing that today as well)was enormously helpful in the healing process. I was also taking pain killers yesterday to make myself more comfortable, and by the end of the day yesterday I felt–I really don’t know how to describe it, but I felt like all of my muscles and joints needed to be stretched, so I started doing that in my chair and it felt ever so much better before I went to bed last night. I didn’t read much of anything because the pain killers were fogging up my brain something terrible; but I did get my three-ring binders containing everything I am currently working on out to reread where I am at on everything. Scotty’s Chapter Three needs a revision (or a re-ordering of its scenes) to match up to the changes I made on the first two chapters; I know where this story is going now and I really like the decisions I made before Bouchercon to turn this into something worthy of a Scotty novel. Today, other than the making of the grocieries, is going to be mostly me doing the same as I did yesterday–lying prone in my easy chair unfolded out, alternating between heat and cold, while hopefully reading the new Donna Andrews while managing my pain with Aleve while college football plays on the screen. LSU plays Mississippi State tonight in Death Valley, so we’ll get some sort of idea of how well the Tigers have regrouped since that opening loss (last week’s blowout of Southern doesn’t really count–no offense, Southern). And tomorrow is Saints-Buccaneers, so I can swear at Tom Brady some more, which is always an enjoyable experience.

So, looks like today–other than the groceries, getting the mail, and getting as–is going to be another enforced day off. I am afraid of doing my usual “oh it feels better so I can do more things only to make it worse and last longer” thing, so much as I am loathe to fall even further behind on everything, I really don’t have much choice. Your back is not something you want to fuck with a whole lot, and the last thing I need at my age–at any age–is to continue having chronic issues with my back. I hurt it at the gym years and years ago, always assumed it was safe to go back before it actually was, and then consistently made things worse. This was when my serious 3 to 4 times per week workout routine was finally and completely disrupted, and I’ve never really been able to consistently attend the gym to workout ever since.

The Lost Apartment is also a disaster area, but…don’t push it, Gregalicious. Just relax and allow yourself the time to let whatever-the-fuck-it-is you did to your back to heal. You’ve got college football games to watch and a Donna Andrews novel to read, and in a worst case scenario you can lay back in your easy chair and use the laptop to do things like write or something…until of course Scooter wants to go to sleep in my lap.

I also overslept a bit this morning, but the benefit of that is I no longer feel exhausted, which is yet another step on the needed path for me to feel like Gregalicious again. I got the Bouchercon email this morning in which sixteen (!!!!) attendees have tested positive this far, but so far I’ve dodged that bullet again. I have wondered, with the exhaustion, but that second line keeps on not showing up on my tests so as far as I can tell, everything else is fine. (Excuse me for a moment while I stick a swab up my nose; seriously, at this point I’d rather stick my finger and use blood to run the test. Why can’t this be an oral swab like the HIV tests used to be like?)

We did get caught up on Bad Sisters last night, and then moved on to the series premiere of The Serpent Queen, with Samantha Morton as Catherine de Medici. The show is actually–at least so far–seems historically accurate (other than she married Henri duc d’Orleans in 1533 rather than 1536; that year is fixed in my head because that is also the year Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had her crowned), and of course, Catherine is one of my favorite historical characters of all time. She is often depicted in history as evil and cruel and malignant–but imagine loving your husband so much and enduring the humiliation of his disinterest in you while being utterly devoted to a woman twenty years older…and this goes on for 26 years before he dies. Wouldn’t you be a little warped? Ignored, dismissed, laughed at…and then with her husband’s death she becomes one of the most powerful women in Europe, trying to preserve the crown and an intact France for her sons during a time of almost constant religious and political strife. She fascinates me, much as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anne Boleyn, Blanche of Castile, and several other great queens of history do…which again leads me to my idea of writing a history of the sixteenth century in Europe through the tales of the great and powerful women of that century, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. There was also a time when I wanted to write historical novels of political intrigue, and what better place to set such a series than during the second half of the sixteenth century in France, which was a time more akin to Game of Thrones than most periods (the Wars of the Roses is another; the dying out of the Capetian dynasty in France in the early fourteenth is another).

Yes, a series centered around one of Catherine’s Flying Squadron (beautiful women trained in the arts of seduction and eroticism, who took lovers strategically so they could spy on them for the Crown) during the period of 1570-1589 would be a lot of fun to write, and the research! What fun would all that reading be? Perhaps someday when I have more time and energy…ha ha ha, I somehow managed to type that with a straight face.

I’ve also always wanted to write a sixteenth century murder mystery where Robert Cecil hires someone to investigate the death of Amy Robsart in 1560–which jeopardized Queen Elizabeth’s throne within the first two years of her reign.

And that’s not even taking into consideration my retelling of The Three Musketeers from Milady de Winter’s point of view.

Yeah, I will probably never write anything more historical any further back than my lifetime.

And on that note, I am retiring to my easy chair with Donna Andrews and some ice packs. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

Songbird

Thursday!

My back, while still a little tight, is more irritating than painful; it’s at that stage where it is so close to not hurting at all anymore that it’s annoying that it hasn’t stopped, if that makes sense at all? I ran errands on my way home from work yesterday–mail and a prescription–and then came home, did a load of dishes, and then collapsed into my chair with the heating pad. I am taking it to work again with me this morning–more heat can’t hurt, after all, and the office is cold–and hopefully will wake up tomorrow morning feeling ever so much better. We got caught up on House of the Dragon last night–it’s getting better, but man was it ever getting off to a slow start–and it’s not as big and epic as Game of Thrones was; it’s more contained, with fewer characters and fewer story-lines, for one thing–and then we watched Archer (it really misses Jessica Walter; Mallory Archer was too great of a character for the show to do without) before calling it a night and heading for bed. I slept well again last night–only woke up a few times–and my back felt better when I got up…but it is slowly starting to make itself known, so yes, definitely bringing the heating pad to the office with me this morning.

I was thinking, last night as I waited for Paul to finish working (whenever he comes home earlier than usual, he inevitably spends a few hours making calls and sending emails once he’s home), about something that has been sticking in my mind for quite a while–and last night it hit me between the eyes.

People talk a lot about crime in New Orleans–it’s usually code for people to be racist without being outright racist; I always laugh at people in the comments section of the local news stations or newspapers, talking about crime in New Orleans and ‘that’s why they left New Orleans’ for the suburbs/West Bank/North Shore, etc. I laugh at this because they will always claim to other people Not From Here that they are, indeed, from New Orleans (bitch, you’re from Metairie) and I always want to ask them, “was it really crime in New Orleans that drove you out of the city, or was it the desegregation of the schools, hmmm?” Every neighborhood in New Orleans, you see, is mixed; the Garden District neighborhood at one time also included the St. Thomas Housing Projects. And sure, crime has been on the rise here lately. But I have lived in New Orleans since 1996, and white people are always talking about crime here and shaking their heads about how the city “has gone downhill.” Um, if you study the history of New Orleans, the city has always been filled with crime; IT’S A GODDAMNED PORT CITY.

Anyway, as I was standing in line waiting to board my flight out of Minneapolis, the woman in front of me turned out to also be from New Orleans (River Ridge). She was absolutely lovely, and we chatted the entire time we waited and as we went down the jetway to the plane–which, for someone whose default is always social awkwardness, was something–and ironically, she was the person in front of me in line for the flight from Chicago to New Orleans. She began talking to me about the crime and I did my usual shrug “there’s always been crime in New Orleans” and when she asked me if I wasn’t afraid, I just shook my head and said “no–no more than usual.”

That, of course, started a thread in my head about why are you not afraid of the rising crime in New Orleans and I realized, as I had also said to the nice lady, “I’m just always hyper-aware of my surroundings and what’s going on around me.” And then last night it hit me: as opposed to the nice straight white people of New Orleans, the rising crime rate doesn’t really bother me because I have never felt completely safe anywhere or anytime in my life–that’s what life is like for queers in this country.

I had to train myself as a kid to always keep my eyes moving and always be aware of what’s going on around me–I look ahead, I look behind, I always am looking from one side to the other and am always on hyper-alert because you never know when the gay bashers are going to come for you. I’m no more afraid now than I have ever been throughout the course of my life, and I had decided a long time ago that I would not live my life in fear anymore–but to always be vigilant.

Straight white people aren’t used to not feeling safe and they don’t like it when they don’t.

Welcome to what it feels like to be a minority in this country–and let’s face it, I still have white male privilege; I can’t imagine what it’s like to navigate this world as a black lesbian or transwoman.

But straight white people? This is their world and it is the world they made. While straight white women are oppressed terribly by straight white men, many of them have been gaslit into thinking they are less than straight white men and it is simply their lot in life, and they accept that in exchange for protection by the patriarchy. So while it is true that for women, car-jackings and muggings are just one more thing to add to their backpack of oppressive fears–usually sexual assaults (physical or verbal) or harassment. Interesting, right?

But for those Stockholm Syndrome suffering straight white women, crime is outrageous and horrifying to them because the system is theoretically set up to protect them from crime.

And what’s a little sexual harassment if it means you won’t get mugged or carjacked by that scary Black man? Boys will be boys, after all; they’re just wired that way.

I’ve always wanted to write from the perspective of someone like Brock Turner, the Stanford swimming rapist–but I don’t think I can. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so blind about your own child, especially since I don’t (and never wanted) any of my own.

And yes, this is yet another subject for an essay.

But the fog of exhaustion seems to finally be lifting from my head–hallelujah–and so I think–if I am not too tired when I get home tonight, that is–I am going to be able to get back to work on my writing either today or tomorrow. I also want to start reading my new Donna Andrews novel, and I want to read Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side before October, when I have to turn my attention to the horror genre again for Halloween.

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

dreams

Thunder only happens when it’s raining…

It’s Tuesday and I leave for Bouchercon tomorrow. Woo-hoo! Yay Bouchercon!

I am up early and not terribly happy about it, in all honesty. I could have gladly slept for another hour or so, but at least we don’t have to get up super early tomorrow. I think we have to leave for the airport around noon or so, so that will be nice. I have a panel at nine (!) on Thursday morning, which terrified me–I’ll have to get up early and go register for the event, for one, and then to try to be coherent at that hour is not exactly my strong suit. There are also a lot of incredibly smart and talented people on that panel, so I am not entirely sure why I am also on it, but there I am and there you have it. Friday and Saturday are my more busy days, so at least I kind of get to ease into it. I’ve not been to Bouchercon since 2018.

I am very pleased with the work I got done on the book yesterday. I said I had figured the book out at last, so yesterday afternoon I went back and revised chapters one and two, and ye Gods, I’ve finally solved the puzzle. Those two chapters are so much better, and work, and make sense. Sure they need to be revised and edited again a few more times, but at least I’ve gotten the primary plot of the book figured out–and we’ll see how it goes from here. I have a gazillion emails I need to read, respond or delete to at some point today to try to get a handle on things before I leave town tomorrow–heavy heaving sigh. And I still have to figure out what to pack. Ah, well, at least I have both tonight and tomorrow morning to worry about getting that part of it done as well as cleaning up a bit around here and cleaning out the things that will go bad in the refrigerator.

It was also kind of fun revisiting the first three books in the series–and it also helped with the decisions made to reshape the book into what it will (hopefully) turn out to be. It was lovely revisiting these little time capsules of my life–remembering what I was thinking as I wrote them, things I took out and the things that went in, clever turns of phrase and twists of the plots, and above all else, how much I really like the characters, and the affection that exists between my main three lead characters. All three will be present for the entire book–which is also a first; I never was sure how to juggle them all at the same time, so inevitably either Frank or Colin (or both) would be gone for most of the story and Scotty would be on his own to solve whatever crime it is he’s stumbled into again. I may keep rereading my way through the entire series, but I don’t know whether I’ll go ahead and write about them, to be honest; I don’t remember writing Vieux CarrĂ© Voodoo, for example, other than knowing I wanted to write a treasure hunt where a riddle must be solved in order to find the treasure (something I’ve always wanted to do). I also remember using The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins as a guidepost for the story (with a bit of a nod to one of my favorite Three Investigators cases, The Mystery of the Fiery Eye), but beyond that…I’m not sure I remember a whole lot about writing the book or how I made the decisions I made about the story and the plot. I’ll have to go back and revisit old blog entries, although I rarely talk about the creative process in detail when I am experiencing it.

I am getting very excited about traveling tomorrow! I just got notices from the airline and the hotel about how to check in and so forth, and I already have my parking spot reserved. As much as I loathe travel days for the most part, as long as they don’t involve getting up super-super early, I don’t mind them that much; I just prefer not to have to rush when I am tired, and even on travel days I don’t want to get out of bed that badly.

We watched the new episode of House of the Dragon last night, and I have to say, it kind of annoys me extremely that the entire succession “problem” was quite simple to solve: have the King’s daughter marry the King’s brother. It wasn’t like the Targaryens weren’t into incest; the Targaryens (per the source material) were even more incestuous than everyone’s favorite historical incestuous family, the Hapsburgs. This basic flaw in logic kind of is irritating for me and I can’t get past it. Last night i must have screamed “have Rhaenyra marry Daemon! It’s not this hard!” But with that simple solution, there is no plot. I also don’t understand this insistence of the King that she is his heir even though the new wife has given him a son. That also doesn’t make sense logically, given the rules of the Seven Kingdoms and the family, per the source material.

But….no plot without the succession struggle, which makes it contrived, and I despise contrivances in fiction. Literally despise them.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and begin by making my list of things to pack. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Monday Morning

And here we are on another work-at-home Monday.

It has been quite a while since I managed the kind of word count that I did yesterday. I got up at seven yesterday morning, wrote my morning blog entry and then finished writing about how my novel Sorceress came to be (I am gradually working my way through all of my books), started another entry on Lake Thirteen (still to come), and then went to work on my Scotty book. I banged out Chapter Three, and then moved on to another project I am working on for a friend; I was writing a chapter of that book per week to send on to him but it went off-track and I knew it. So, I had to go back and reread those first four chapters that are already completed to see–and the fix was so much easier than I had been fearing, with the result that rather than actually fixing the problem, I simply made notes on how to fix it for the binder where I keep the printed pages (I do this with every book the last few years or so; it’s just easier to print it out, three-hole punch it and put it in a binder where I can access it easily and make notes whenever necessary). So I wrote Chapter Five of that project, bringing today’s word count to six thousand, not counting the blog entries. Whew, did my shoulder hurt once I was done for the day, but I actually felt like I earned the rest of the day off.

So, overall it was a pretty good weekend. I am working at home today with lots of data to get entered before I can take off my spice-mining helmet and head to the easy chair to relax. Labor Day is this weekend, which means it’s also Southern Decadence in New Orleans, and I haven’t really checked the schedule to see what I am going to have to do–if anything–for the day job this weekend. Next week we’re off to Bouchercon, which I am looking forward to; it’ll be lovely, even if smaller than it usually is. It’s the first in-person one since Dallas in 2019 (I still swear sometimes that LSU had the best football season of all time in 2019 and that broke the world) and there will be people I’ll get to see that I haven’t seen since St. Petersburg in 2018. My schedule is already filling up; I had to create a day by day schedule of where I have to be and what I have to do and dates I’ve made with people already (to avoid double booking as well as to keep track); it’s going to be hectic, and I also bet I am not going to get to sleep a lot because of my hotel room insomnia issues, which makes the trip even more tiring and draining. And then I get to come back and go to work at the office all week. Yay.

I’ve done a lot of thinking this summer in those rare moments when I have some time to sit and think about things–I really don’t get to do this as often as I should; I am thinking that maybe once every three months I just need to take a three day weekend and go stay in a hotel by myself somewhere–maybe do some exploring of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, I don’t know–to take stock of my life, evaluate where I am at and where I want to go, and what do I need to do to make the things I want to happen for me actually, you know, happen. The nine-day bout of COVID, with its exhaustion, fatigue and continual brain fog, forced me to not work, to not do much of anything other than trying to just stay on top of my emails. The forced rest actually gave me time to deconstruct my life and everything I do and all of my commitments, and recognize some things about my life and what I want out of it. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result; I’ve been doing just that for quite some time now. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities over the years with my writing career–and while I am certainly of the mindset that everything happens for a reason and grabbing on to one of those opportunities might have changed my life in ways I cannot conceive, making it entirely possible that my life could be worse than it is now–one of the primary reasons I adopted the old “no regrets about the past” mantra–but I am getting old and many of those opportunities may never present themselves again. Now, I am at the point where my energies and abilities are growing more limited, yet the demands on my time, energy and ability don’t ever seem to ease up or abate in any meaningful way. I’ve made some decisions about my life and my future going forward; I also feel like they are the right ones to make and my mind is made up. (There are few things I find more annoying than making a decision and having that decision questioned, or having people try to talk you out of it. I rarely, if ever, change my mind once it’s definitively made up.)

I need to make writing a major priority again in my life. Yesterday it felt marvelous to get up in the morning, drink some coffee, and then sit down at the computer and start writing. I don’t know if my Scotty book is coming along well or not–it could be shit; and first drafts are usually pretty awful anyway–or if the other project is working or not, but it literally was so satisfying to sit at the computer and just create for hours. When I was finished for the day, too, I felt like I’d actually accomplished something and I liked the feeling. If I write a chapter of the other project every week while still managing to get two or three chapters of Scotty done every week, the Scotty will be finished on deadline and the other will have a completed first draft in another fifteen weeks. Juggling two completely different books and two entirely different styles is going to be a challenge, but I’ve always been about challenging myself when I write. (Even if it doesn’t seem like it.) I’ve also really been enjoying revisiting my books and remembering where the ideas came from, what I was trying to do with the book and story and characters; I hope those blog entries are entertaining. But…if they aren’t, you can always skip them, Constant Reader. I won’t mind. I’m also trying to write the book entries slowly, take my time with them, not write them all in one burst in one sitting the way I do the daily “this is what I am doing” entries.

I suppose I’ve always used this blog incorrectly. I probably should use it to do giveaways of copies of my books or engage with readers more, or turn it into a writing advice blog or something like that; develop a plan for it and stick to it rather than just pantsing it every morning. But that’s how I’ve always done it, and maybe when I’ve retired and don’t have to get ready for work every morning (the blog is part of my waking up to go to work process) I can take it another direction. Ah well, that’s about four years into the future, so I can worry about it then–if I even live that long.

We also binged Bad Vegan last night, which was insane but interesting, and of course episode 2 of House of the Dragon, which was markedly better than the first episode. (I did laugh at the opening credits of Episode 2, which weren’t included in episode one…reusing the Game of Thrones theme and using the same kind of “model” assembling itself was an interesting choice.)

And on THAT cheery note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Blue Water

Monday rolls around, and it’s a work-at-home Monday. I’m not sure how many work-at-home days we still have left to us in the future; it’s going to feel very odd going in five days a week after all these years of limited in-the-office time. Ah, well, the more things change and all that. Life is always about change, really; which does make you wonder about people who inevitably fall into ruts. I can rarely get into a rut (can’t spell routine without r-u-t) because everything is always different. When I worked for Continental, they used to always tell us “the only constant in this business is change”, and I realized that also applies to life. Things are changing around us all the time. No two days are really the same–certainly not at my day job–and therefore the only rut I ever feel like I’ve ever gotten myself into is just the actual work week; but the tasks and duties are never the same even if the schedule is the same. Every client is different, every testing/counseling session is not the same as the one before or after, every book or story I write is different and the process of writing each is always different.

It rained pretty much all weekend, which gave the outside air a feeling of oppressive heavy dampness whenever I stepped outside of the apartment all weekend. It was a lovely and relaxing weekend, too. I am not pressed, nor did I press myself to get things done, which was also kind of nice, quite frankly. We watched House of the Dragon last night–I kept thinking, “ah, this story is based on the Pragmatic Sanction which led to the War of the Austrian Succession”–and it wasn’t bad. You could tell they don’t have that Games of Thrones sky’s-the-limit budget; some of the CGI wasn’t great and you could tell they didn’t really have crowds or lots of extras in some scenes that required them. We’ll keep watching, of course (the entire time I was thinking, why doesn’t the uncle marry the niece? The Targaryens weren’t above incest–and in fact, many royal marriages in European history were uncle/niece; looking at you, Hapsburg family) but I don’t think it’s going to have the same “must-watch” feel to it the way Game of Thrones did–which was “must watch as soon as its available.” It’s not bad, by any means. It’s just on a smaller scale than Game of Thrones was, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I read some more of Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home, which is incredibly well-written and powerful as an exposed nerve, with an intense depiction of suffering and pain and agony, and how that changes a person. It’s very emotionally heavy and packs a very powerful punch in those first few chapters. I’m looking forward to reading more of it, but it’s also not something you can gulp down in a few sittings. The language is too lyrical and beautiful yet stark; I feel it needs to be read slowly, so you can enjoy all the beauty and power of the language being used to tell this very dark story. I doubt seriously that the book is going to leave me feeling uplifted and happy–I don’t see how it could; but it may be a story about redemption and coming back from a very dark place…yet somehow I don’t think that’s where Gabino is coming from with this exceptional work. Getting inside that level of grief is difficult. I can’t imagine how hard it was, as a writer, to go to such a horrifyingly dark place–and that’s the FIRST FEW CHAPTERS. Sheesh.

I do have to take time from my workday today to run some errands–I ordered groceries, need to get the mail, need to drop off library books–so I am hoping it’s not going to be horrifically miserable outside today the way it was the weekend. There’s a tropical system in the Atlantic off the Cape Verde Islands heading this way–well, west at any rate–to keep an eye on. The Katrina anniversary looms, and we’ve had several storm systems around the same time numerous times in the years since 2005. I certainly hope that isn’t the case, as it could affect our trip to Bouchercon, but I think we were back home last year from Ida around the same time we would need to be leaving for Minneapolis (I could go back and look it up on the blog, I suppose, but Ida wasn’t a good time and it’s still a bit raw for me to want to actually do that just yet); any way, it’s not something I want to deal with again this year.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Annabel Lee

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all seems to be well. I slept late as I had planned–maybe a bit too late, but I also stayed up late to finish doing the laundry (it’s such an exciting and always oh-so-glamorous life I live here in the Lost Apartment. I have to run some errands a little later on–mail, make groceries, prescriptions, library–and some things to do around here to touch up and clean a bit. I want to do some writing and reading today as well as just relax and enjoy the day a bit. We finished watching The Sandman this week, which was incredible–I think everyone can enjoy it, frankly, and it’s so creative and smart and visually breathtaking; a sweep of technical Emmys would be incredibly well-deserved; but it’s also a fantasy show built upon a mythology that originated in the DC Comics super-hero world, so it probably won’t be taken as seriously by the Emmy voters as it should…but then again they were also all about Watchmen (which was, frankly, superb), so you never know. Game of Thrones didn’t do too badly with the Emmys, either. Regardless, The Sandman is brilliant and I highly recommend it.

We also started watching the new show on Apple+ by Dennis Lehane, Black Bird, starring Taron Edgerton, which is also really good and Edgerton really is enjoying the role he plays. (Paul and I decided that he and Tom Holland need to make a movie together where they play brothers; Edgerton is what Holland would look like were he not so baby-faced boyish looking…or they could easily pass for brothers.) Edgerton, who is very handsome and has an amazing body, also looks like he’s been buffing up his body, too. (I think we first noticed him in Kingsman…I also think he’d make a terrific Nightwing if they ever make a Nightwing movie, which they really need to–I was distressed to see the latest HBO MAX news that Titans will probably be cancelled, which means DIck and Kori need to get together this final season soon to be airing.) We blew through the first three episodes quickly; I am also thinking we need to watch Five Days At Memorial–it’s getting to be Katrina anniversary time, woo-hoo–which will undoubtedly be difficult to watch (that period is a very dark time, obviously, and reliving it, even through the guise of entertainment, is always difficult) but probably necessary.

Since watching It’s a Sin last year (or whenever it was it was released) opened a floodgate of sorts in my mind. I know I’ve mentioned here before that I had always, since about age thirty-three, chosen to focus on the present and the future and never look back. It always seemed counter-productive, and I had finally come around to the acceptance point of realizing that everything that has happened in my life–whether macro or micro–inevitably set me on the path that led me to where I am today, and as long as I am happy, did the past really matter? What was the point to having regrets, to wishing I had something differently? Doing anything differently would have changed my path, and direction, with absolutely no guarantee that I would either be happy–or have survived this long. I am sure there are many many alternative timelines for me that had me dying in the 1980’s or 1990’s, which is always a sobering reflection and one I always have to keep in mind. I am alive because of every decision I’ve made and every heartbreak and crisis and problem and bad thing that has ever happened to me, and I kind of like my life and who I am. I am aware of my flaws (probably not as aware as I could be) and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are as a general rule; my biggest worry is that I delude myself periodically about anything or everything or something, and I really don’t like the possibility that I have blinders on when it comes to anything to do with me, my life or my career, while knowing it’s a strong one. I also know sometimes I probably take on blame for wrong that isn’t my fault (another reason Charlie in Heartstopper resonated so strongly with me was him constantly thinking everything was his fault and always saying “sorry”; I could absolutely relate to that as I’ve done the same most of my life and it is generally always my default on everything).

But as I have said, watching It’s a Sin, and being reminded so viscerally and realistically of what that period of my life was like–oh, they were so heartbreakingly young–did make me start looking back, remembering and reevaluating and, while perhaps not actually having regret, actually mourning everyone and the world and the life perhaps we all could have had if the homophobes hadn’t been in charge of everything back then. By not looking back I don’t think I ever allowed myself to heal, even though so much time has passed it’s all scar tissue now. But scar tissue is generally tighter than the skin it repairs; one is never quite as flexible as one used to be before the wounds became scabs and finally scars. Writing, as always, has been an enormously helpful tool for me to process experiences and feelings without tearing the webbing of the scar tissue again. That’s why I think writing “Never Kiss a Stranger” is important to me, and why the story haunts me so. Both Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit both were enormously helpful to me, forcing me to deconstruct and evaluate and look at harsh bitter truths I’ve tried to avoid most of my life. So I think it may be helpful to watch Five Days at Memorial, because perhaps enough time has passed for me to look back without the full range of painful emotion the memories brought before.

Hilariously, after all that bitching yesterday morning about the health fair, it turned out much differently than I was expecting. For one thing, their scale clearly was wrong; it clocked me at 196 pounds. If that was accurate, then I have lost sixteen pounds since I last visited my doctor–two weeks ago (I weighed 212 at his office). As that is most likely not possible–especially since I’d moaned in disbelief when putting on my pants yesterday morning only to find them snugger than they were the last time I’d put them, so the notion I’ve lost that much weight in such a short period of time without trying is utterly ludicrous on its face, preposterous. But it did kind of make me smile a little bit and shake my head.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope it’s everything you hoped it will be.