Angel of the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tide is High

So, I was interviewed recently by Sumiko Saulson for the Horror Writers’ Association’s Pride Month celebration. You can click here to read it, should you so choose:

Pretty cool, huh? Sumiko is awesome–we met on a diversity panel a million years ago at the Stokercon that was in Las Vegas–and I’ve been following her career ever since. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s talented, and she’s also pretty cool.

The sun is out this morning, for a change, and today I am going to head back to the gym at some point. I’m going to do as much on my to-do list (yes, I actually went ahead and made one yesterday, finally) as I can this morning and in the early afternoon before heading over there, and I am going to light the charcoal and make dinner later on as well. I want to spend some time reading this morning–by morning, I mean the extended period before I go to the gym–and I do still have some filing to do–there’s a big stack of paper sitting on my desk this morning to my right that has to go–and I actually did some writing yesterday as well. I am starting to feel like I am fitting back into my life again, and that the world is also starting to get a bit more normalized, too.

Well, that’s what I’m hoping, at any rate.

The writing I actually did yesterday wasn’t really very much of anything, and wasn’t what I actually put on my to-do list to work on (rationalizing and justifying to myself that the to-do list was for next week, which didn’t start until this morning or until tomorrow, whichever I decide upon), but something I’ve been toying with for a while. I’ve been wanting to set something in Venice for quite some time–ever since my all-too-short twenty-four hours there seven (!) years ago–and I fixated on an event they have there every summer, the “Festival of the Redeemer,” which is nearly, if not as, popular as their Carnival celebrations. The idea was to send a gay couple, whose relationship is rotting and falling apart, there together as it was a rather expensive birthday trip scheduled by the wealthier, prettier partner for the less attractive, less financially stable one; the wealthier one now sees it as a farewell gift as the relationship is, in his opinion, now completely over–and he plans on never seeing or communicating with his soon-to-be-ex once they return to the states. The visit is scheduled during the Festival; and they are staying at the glamorous Gritti Palace, right on the Grand Canal and near the Piazza San Marco; with their own balcony so they will have a spectacular view of the fireworks and the celebrations. The story is, of course, told through the point-of-view of the soon-to-be-ex; who is beginning to suspect that his beloved partner is planning to dump him–and when they are shown to their rooms and they each have their own bedroom, his suspicions are confirmed–and then he meets a beautiful young Italian, and the intrigue and suspense begin. I do have about 3558 words of this finished, but the novella isn’t anywhere near to being finished; I opened the document yesterday and started making my way through it, editing and revising to get back into the head of the main character, flight attendant Grant…and I really do like the story, to be honest. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going to go–I do know how I want it to end–and so I also found myself looking through my pictures from the trip there and looking at others on-line for further inspiration. And while I wasn’t actually creating anything new–I hadn’t reached the part quite yet where I would have to start putting new words on the page–it felt really good to be writing again.

This is also why, I realized, I haven’t read Christopher Bollen’s A Beautiful Crime yet; I didn’t want to read another gay crime story set in Venice until I had at least finished a first draft of my own–which is further incentive to get this first draft finished.

So, once I finish this and get it posted, get some other things done–like getting all this crap off my desk–I am going to dive back into this novella and try to get through the rest of this first 3558 words, maybe add another thousand or so to it, and then start scratching things off my to-do list. I want to try to get my inbox cleared out as much as humanly possible; put the dishes in the dishwasher put away, and I really like starting off the week with the Lost Apartment as cleaned up as humanly possible so…well, so as I get more tired and lazier during the work week, it’s not as much of a disaster to deal with next weekend.

I’m also, while working on Chlorine (I want to get a first draft finished by the first of July) going to go ahead and try to make some progress on my next short story collection, This Town and Other Stories. I’ve also been thinking about the next Scotty book, believe it or not, and while I do want to eventually write about the cursed Carnival of 2019 and the pandemic, I have been thinking that perhaps the most recent Scotty, Royal Street Reveillon, might have taken place over Christmas of 2018 and I now have all of 2019 to play with before I have to deal with those other stories; and I could easily write another Scotty adventure set in the spring of 2019 before having to deal with any of those other real world times. I know a lot of writers are saying they don’t want to write about the pandemic, which is perfectly understandable, but I also can’t wrap my mind around NOT dealing with it–it’s like Hurricane Katrina for me; it happened and how do we not talk about it? I suppose I could deal with it by writing about it after it happened; but that kind of feels like cheating to me. I don’t know, maybe the further we get away from the shutdown, the less likely I will feel that I need to write about it. Maybe I could simply write about the Spanish Flu epidemic in a Sherlock story, back in the day? I’ve been reading about the Spanish Flu pandemic (I love that I keep making typos and writing Spanish Fly epidemic instead)–which reminds me, I need to check John Barry’s The Great Influenza out of the library–and maybe writing about that pandemic as a symbol of this most recent one will help me with that?

Who knows?

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

Okie from Muskogee

Thursday morning, and I am working from home today; or taking a mental health day–I’m not sure which it will be as of yet. This week has been fraught, to say the least, and by the time I got home yesterday I was exhausted and literally just collapsed into my easy chair for cat cuddles and mindless Youtube viewing. I don’t precisely remember what led me down that particular rabbit hole, but I at one point found myself listening/watching music videos of the Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, the Monkees, and the Partridge Family. (Hanna-Barbara animation, by the way, wasn’t very good–and the voices! My God, the speaking voices of the characters was like fingernails on a blackboard.) We also continue to watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and seriously–if you’re home, have Netflix, and are looking for something really fun to binge, you can’t go wrong with Sabrina.

I think what is making this week particularly hard is knowing that this weekend was when the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival/Saints & Sinners was supposed to be taking place; I was looking forward to seeing friends and making new ones, hanging out in the Quarter, staying in our posh suite at the Monteleone while coming home from time to time to keep Scooter company, and then launching into the next week energized and ready to get back to writing. Instead, I am physically and emotionally drained; the weather is spectacular (although I would imagine those from up north would consider this too hot–it is much warmer than it usually is in late March), and who knows what fresh hell tomorrow will bring? This morning I woke up at seven, but stayed in bed almost another two hours simply because I didn’t want to face my emails or whatever the new reality for today was going to be. But I can’t, in fact, stay in bed all day–no matter how much I want to–so I finally rolled out of bed and am now on my first cup of coffee and thinking already about how best to make use of the day.

I did read “The Masque of the Red Death” again finally last evening; I found a pdf on-line free for download (thank you, public domain!) so I downloaded and printed it out and read it while a cat purred in my lap. As I was reading it–it’s really more of a fable or fairy tale than an actual story; there’s no real characters, and the only one who has a name–Prince Prospero–is never developed into anything remotely human or three dimensional; as I said, it’s more of a fable illustrating the futility of trying to escape from death than an actual short story. And yet–yet it still resonated with me more than “Death in Venice”, which, though, I am still thinking about a few days later, which means it affected me probably more than I originally thought.

Either that, or all these stories–linked by plagues and Venice, in some ways; it was easy to imagine Prospero’s palace being on the Grand Canal–are linking and fusing together in my mind somehow; so perhaps the essay I am thinking about isn’t so far-fetched and out of touch with reality as perhaps I may have originally thought. I am going to spend some time today reading du Maurier’s “Death in Venice” pastiche, “Ganymede”, and I will let you know how that goes. I still don’t seem to be able to commit to a full-length novel, but I also do remember that I did read an awful lot in the aftermath of Katrina–in fact, I remember rereading All the President’s Men as well as a book about the criminal conduct of Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew–and so am thinking I might be best off turning to my non-fiction reading. I am still reading Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams, and I am thinking about getting down my copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and rereading her chapters about the bubonic plague’s first, and most deadly, visits to Europe.

I made a post on Facebook yesterday, a little annoyed, about how the condos being built on my street two lots over is continuing despite the shelter-in-place order, essentially saying so glad the condo construction going on two lots over from my house is considered essential. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the guys are working and getting paid; these are scary times, particularly for those living paycheck to paycheck, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone getting paid-, but I can’t help but think about their safety, and I also can’t help but wonder who in the hell is going to buy a condo in this economic climate? As of yesterday Louisiana had 1,795 confirmed cases and 65 deaths, most of them in Orleans Parish, but it’s spreading gradually to the outer parishes, who are even less equipped to deal with a pandemic than Orleans. Anyway, this led to an idea for a noir short story called “Condos For Sale or Rent”, and I actually scribbled down the opening to the story last night…and it also kind of made me think about, as is my wont, quarantine/pandemic fiction. I wonder what post-flood New Orleans fiction would be like; now I wonder about how this whole pandemic/quarantine event will impact not just crime fiction, but fiction in general.

And here I am, already thinking about a pandemic short story, and even last night, before switching on Sabrina (that’s how the Youtube wormhole started; I was thinking about Sabrina, and how she was originally a character on Archie–so I looked for the old show on Youtube, found the video for “Sugar Sugar”, which featured Sabrina working a kissing booth, and then I got sucked in), I was thinking about a Scotty book during the pandemic/quarantine. Obviously such a book cannot be written now–without knowing what’s going to happen with COVID-19, you cannot tell the entire story–but it’s not a bad idea to take notes and come up with thoughts about it.

I also just remembered Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse Pale Rider is set during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918; perhaps I should read it again. Not a huge fan of Porter, either, to be honest; I read The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (I was looking for “Miss Brill,” not realizing at the time that was written by Katherine Mansfield rather than Porter) and was underwhelmed by them. Maybe I should give it another whirl? Maybe my tastes have matured and deepened enough by now for me to develop an appreciation for Porter. I should probably take another run at Hemingway–I only read The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms, both of which were required for a lit class in high school and I hated them both–although Hemingway is precisely the kind of writer I’d hate if I knew in real life.

And on that note I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and do whatever you need to in order to keep yourself safe and uninfected.

Chris-Mears