Thieves Like Us

Day three of severe thunderstorm watches yet again–there was a tornado watch on the lake shore yesterday afternoon–and outside my window this morning is that eerie grayness, everything is wet, and while it isn’t raining at the moment, it only recently stopped. Oh my God, how well did I sleep last night? I took one of Paul’s sleeping pllls, and oh my God, what a difference that chemical compound made. I, alas, cannot get both my Xanax (alprazolam) prescribed by my doctor along with any kind of sleeping pill (I think Paul’s are lorazepam); and it’s probably best for the world that I continue to take Xanax to even my moods out and lessen my anxiety. But wow, after last night’s sleep–the best I’ve had in I don’t know how long–the temptation is there, seriously, to switch. I also feel level and calm this morning…so maybe, maybe, I should switch. I don’t know, but I’ll definitely talk to my doctor about it the next time I see him.

We finished watching Jupiter’s Legacy last night, which started getting much better as it headed towards the season finale. I still question the storytelling though; while I appreciate the back story of how they are got their original powers back in the 1920’s, it didn’t really tell us anything applicable about the present day characters; it was just here, you need the back story and we need the filler to get ten episodes out of this. But it was enjoyable enough, just not nearly as well done as Watchmen or The Boys–but seriously, there are so many tropes when it comes to superheroes and there are only so many names and so many powers, that in writing these you are always, inevitably, being derivative in some ways.

We then watched the first episode of the Kate Winslet HBO series Mare of Easttown, which has a great cast–you can never go wrong with Winslet or Jean Smart, who plays her mother–but the show is incredibly bleak. But really, whenever I watch something like this and it makes me squirm a bit uncomfortably, it also makes me reevaluate my own work and my own prejudices. I didn’t grow up poor the way my parents did; but we were very definitely working class when I was young–watching every penny, my mother always keeping an eagle eye out for sales to stretch her budget even further while trying to not do without anything, buying less expensive off-brands rather than the ones we’d see commercials for on television–and as an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever been financially stable–or if I ever was, it was a condition that didn’t last for long. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided writing about characters in dire financial straits; my two private eyes both are incredibly financially stable (Chanse has a gig as a security consultant for a major oil company; Scotty has a massive trust fund), which is also not very realistic (not that private eye novels are ever realistic; private eyes rarely, if ever, are involved in murder investigations where it’s their job to find the killer–if they are ever involved in such a case, they are usually working for an attorney representing someone accused, and they are employed to help find reasonable doubt for the jury–and now that I think about it, that very perspective would be a great approach for a Chanse short story or novella–I am still resisting writing another novel for him). I know I despise and hate monetary stress; which is one of the reasons I am loath to write about characters in dire financial straits.

Then again, it’s not like I am writing anything at the moment, despite my best intentions. I do want to get the outline for Chlorine started this week, and I’d like to get a short story worked on–whether it’s finishing writing one that was already started, or revising one that is already in a completed draft–and I also need to get my computer files whipped back into some sort of shape. (I have a tendency to just toss things into the files and not sort anything…which makes finding things a bit challenging.)

And on that note, tis time for the spice mines. May your Wednesday be lovely and bright, Constant Reader–and we are very close to the weekend!

Mesh

Day three of heavy weather in New Orleans; there was a marvelous downpour around six this morning or so that lasted over an hour, complete with lightning and thunder. It’s still gray outside, not currently raining–but there’s a thunderstorm somewhere nearby, as there’s still lightning flashing but with a nice little break before the thunderclap, the kind that lasts for several seconds or more. I didn’t go to the gym last night because the rain was so heavy and had planned to go today–perhaps when I am done with my work-at-home duties today there will be enough of a break in storm bands for me to get over there. I could drive, of course, but that just really seems kind of silly to me since it’s so close. Why yes, I drove the four or five blocks to the gym to work out my body. Granted, rain changes everything, especially New Orleans’ kind of drenching rain, and since we are going into day three of it, the ground is already saturated and can’t absorb it so there’s more standing water than there usually is–and there’s inevitably a lot of standing water any time it rains here.

It just started raining again.

I came home last night fully intending to get a lot done, since the rain precluded the walk to the gym, and while I did do some piecework on Chlorine, I didn’t really do a lot. I was feeling tired, the way I usually do on Wednesday nights anyway, and I also didn’t even bother to unpack my backpack last night, which is not a good sign. I read some more of The Man with the Candy, which is so well-written! I’m really enjoying the book–it reminds me a lot, in how well it’s written, of my favorite true crime books of all time, Blood and Money, and not just because they are both set in Houston–it’s about how well the two different writers wrote about Houston itself, turning the city into a character in the books. This is what I always try to do when writing about New Orleans–giving the reader a strong enough sense of place that the city itself is almost a character in and of itself in my books. This is also triggering the memory that Blood and Money was part of the reason (besides living there) I wanted to set the Chanse series there originally–don’t get me wrong, I am not in the least bit regretful that the Chanse series exists in my own personal New Orleans fictional universe, but there’s always a bit of a pang for me that I have never written about Houston and probably never will, other than as an aside or something in a book. I have several ideas that begin with the character either living in, or being from, Houston; but nothing actually set there.

We also finished the second season of Very Scary People, with the two episodes on Dr. Swango, aka Dr. Death; I’d actually never heard of him before, so he was obviously new to me. We skipped the Bobby Durst episodes–after watching all six or so episodes of The Jinx I didn’t see any real need to spend another hour and a half with Bobby Durst–who, while interesting enough, doesn’t really deserve any more of my attention than he’s already had, frankly. There’s also a new limited series on Netflix, The Serpent (it may be HBO; it’s hard for me to keep track of whichever streaming service these days since there are so many), which is about Charles Sobhraj, a criminal and murderer who operated in Southeast Asia mostly. I read a book about him many years ago called Serpentine, which was also written by Thomas Thompson, who also wrote Blood and Money. It was interesting, and clearly I’ve never completely forgotten it–as soon as I saw The Serpent‘s trailer and its lead actor, I knew exactly who and what it was about–which we may be diving into tonight. There’s also a new mini-series on HBO with Kate Winslet that looks interesting, so there are a lot of options for us to choose from….maybe too many, really.

I’m not really sure why I am having so much trouble getting started on my day–although I suspect the weather has a lot to do with it. When it’s like this I really would much prefer being under a blanket and reading–there’s no better reading weather than rain, is there? It’s just so comforting to be inside and warm and dry while the house is being battered with rain and wind and the sky is rent with lightning and loud thunder….and even though it sometimes means flash flooding and so forth, one of the many things I love about living in New Orleans is the rain (Houston also has marvelous thunderstorms, as did Tampa). I lived for eight years in San Joaquin Valley in California, where it rarely, if ever rained–and we certainly never had this kind of amazing thunderstorm there.

All right, I’ve procrastinated quite long enough. Onward and upward into the spice mines, Constant Reader!

Dream Attack

THE IDES OF MARCH!!!!

Monday and another week dawns; full of possibilities both good and bad as well as potential. We are at the midway point of March, today being the Ides, of course (beware the Ides of March) with 16 days left for me to get this manuscript whipped into shape. Once that is finished and turned in I have to go back for a final pass, with editorial notes, on Bury Me in Shadows, which is due at the end of April. This pushes my writing schedule back further for the year, but that’s okay; my writing plans inevitably are always overly ambitious.

Always.

I did manage to have a sort of productive day yesterday after all; I went to the gym around noon and came back home to get started on working on inputting the edits into #shedeservedit. I didn’t get very far, but I did manage to get some of it done, which is a start. I am hoping to get all finished this week, so I can work on the rewrites that are necessary–as well as writing the new stuff that I need for it–and so I suspect I’ll be back on track with it sooner rather than later. I just have this sense of impending doom right now–not sure why this always happens, but it inevitably does a few weeks before deadline (last month by that time I already knew I wasn’t going to be finished on time, so didn’t have that feeling last time) and believe you me, I am really looking forward to being done with this. I suspect the tweaks necessary for Bury Me in Shadows won’t take the entire month to do; so I am hoping to be able to get some short stories worked on and possibly a synopsis/outline for Chlorine finished in April as well. We shall see how that turns out.

I hate Daylight Savings Time with a passion, and frankly, could easily do without that extra hour of sleep in the fall to eliminate the loss of one in the spring. It’s pitch black outside the windows this morning, which means I may be driving to work in the dark this morning–and the next mornings until such time as the sun starts rising earlier as the earth continues tilting on its axis. At least it will still be light out when I get home from work in the evenings now, which will feel slightly less oppressive than coming home in the dark. The days are getting longer now, which means they will also be getting hotter–I am curious to see how unpleasant walking to and from the gym during the dog days of summer is going to be–but I cannot allow that to keep me from going. Yesterday’s workout was a good one, and I need to remember to stay focused and push myself when I go on days when I’ve not been to the office (Tuesday night workouts inevitably will always be half-assed, but at least I am aware of that going into it and won’t be terribly disappointed by them anymore.)

I watched the final episode of Allen v. Farrow last night, and it was rather harrowing, as all episodes were. Obviously, the point of the documentary was to present the opposite side to the Allen camp’s denials…but it’s still not easy to watch. I guess it’s important that the truth of the police investigation–they felt they had enough to go to trial but didn’t think young Dylan was strong enough to withstand the rigors of testifying or going through the trial–be put out there, particularly since the decision to not prosecute was not a vindication, as the Allen camp has claimed repeatedly throughout the years, as well as the findings of the custody trial, which was also damning yet spun; and Mia Farrow herself comes across fairly well. I’d never really been much of a fan of Mia–I’d seen some of her movies, Rosemary’s Baby being the best of them–and now I feel as though somehow I’ve never been fair to her as an actress….but watching Woody Allen movies in order to see how well she played those roles is going to be a hard pass from me. I’ve never really been much of a fan of his–I think I’ve seen Annie Hall, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (homophobic as the book was), Casino Royale I(technically not a Woody Allen movie, but a movie with Woody Allen in it), and maybe a couple of other earlier ones I cannot recall at this moment, and was never terribly impressed by any of them, frankly–but just figured Woody Allen movies was one of those things everyone else got that went past me. Perhaps the most damning thing for me that came out of this documentary series was learning that if a father is accused of sexual/physical/mental abuse by a mother, the mother is often not believed and loses custody herself, putting the children into the custody of their accused abuser, which is seriously fucked up.

We really need to stop assuming all women are vicious and vindictive shrews out to ruin any man they accuse of anything, really, and start listening. False accusations made from malice are rare; so why do we always automatically default–especially our legal system–to not believing ANY woman? I don’t think I’ll ever understand this, but I also remember when it first became illegal for a husband to rape his wife–even though the wife is rarely, if ever, believed; even marriage doesn’t eradicate the need for consent; the marriage vows don’t give the husband (or the wife, for that matter) ownership over their spouse’s body.

Ah, and Drew Brees retired yesterday, which saddened me. I may do an entire entry on Drew Brees and New Orleans….it’s complicated. But I wish him and his family well, and I do thank him for what he–and his family–have done for the city.

And on that note, HELLO SPICE MINES!

All The Way

And now it’s Thursday, and the work-at-home before the weekend part of the weekly cycle begins. It’s beautiful outside my widows this morning; all bright and sunny and clear blue sky as far as the eye can see. It might be cold out there–I’ve not checked–and I am liking the idea that the temperature inside is not an indication any more of what it might be outside. Huzzah for new HVAC system!

I was very tired when I got home from work last evening–I also had to run a few errands on my way home–and I watched the second episode of Superman and Lois (more on that later) before falling into another wormhole on Youtube. There’s a very interesting series of videos on a channel called “Dave Knows Wrestling” (I think) about the history of professional wrestling as well as critiques of current trends and so forth present currently in that world. I don’t know how accurate any of this is–I’ve spotted errors in numerous history videos, and it’s the Internet, so take everything with a grain of salt–and then I found a wonderful Youtube channel which looks at queer representation in the culture back in the day; Matt Baume is the guy who does them, and they are quite lovely, looking at the evolution of how queer people were represented on television back in the day. I watched his videos about gay characters appearing on shows like Cheers, Phyllis, Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, The Golden Girls, and of course Frasier, as well as episodes centering same-sex attractions, kind of like a television version of Vito Russo’s definitive The Celluloid Closet. (I’ve actually been hoping someone would either update Russo’s book or do a sequel. Someone probably has an I just don’t know it; I am hardly the font of all knowledge, no matter how much I would like to consider myself to be exactly that.)

I did wonder, though, while I watching one of his videos about drag artist Charles Ludlam appearing on one of the final episodes of a one-season sitcom starring Madeline Kahn called Oh, Madeline, if he knows about a very short-lived Norman Lear sitcom based on the play The Hot L Baltimore, which was about a seedy residential hotel and the people who lived there–Conchita Farrell played a hooker–and it also had a gay couple. It didn’t last very long and I would imagine it would be difficult to find archival footage of the show; but it was also a great idea for a sitcom or a modern dramedy; it would be interesting to see what someone like Shonda Rimes or even Ryan Murphy could do with an adaptation of the play into a series. (I really should be running a television network.)

As Constant Reader will remember, I enjoyed the premier episode of Superman and Lois and really loved this new take on the Superman mythos. Clark and Lois as parents, moving back to Smallville to become a closer family unit with their twin sons, is pretty terrific, and the casting is absolutely perfect. I worried the quality and likability of the show might begin to siphon off in future episodes, but the storytelling is quite excellent and I love the nuanced look at what is happening in small towns like Smallville–or what has happened to them. I also like they didn’t go with the usual “Lex Luthor is our big bad guy and enemy of Superman” trope; rather there’s a threat from an off-worlder (referred to by his computer as “Captain Luthor”) and the real, Earth big bad is a billionaire named Morgan Edge–who was introduced into the comic books series during the 1970’s. I am enjoying this so much that I am thinking I might want go back and finish watching Arrow, give The Flash another chance, and start watching the other Arrowverse shows. Batwoman looks terrific, and so does Stargirl, and I am also still hoping for a third season of Titans. I never did get to see the second and final season of Krypton; I enjoyed the first season (I always loved whenever the comics would explore something about Krypton, and John Byrne’s mini-series The World of Krypton is still one of my all-time favorite comics) and still hold out some hope that Warner Brothers and HBO might bring it back for another season….there was so much to still be explored.

So I am working from home today, and am about to head into the spice mines. I have some data entry to do and there’s always condom packs to make, of course; not sure what I want to watch while I make them today; not really in the mood for a movie. I was thinking about revisiting Megan Abbott’s wonderful television show Dare Me–hey, I’m writing about high school students currently, and why not watch a show developed and produced by one of our best writers based on one of her amazing novels? I was also thinking, for the times when I am not in the mood for a slasher/horror or a Cynical 70’s or a teen movie, that I should find an old television program and watch it from the beginning and binge it all the way to the end. Paul and I never finished watching The Sopranos, for one example–Katrina interrupted our viewing–and I have never seen The Wire, either, for that matter. Alas, my education in television classics is just as inadequate as my education in film and literature…something to consider, of course.

And on that note, I have data to enter and condoms to pack, so it’s best for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will see you again tomorrow.

Hey Now What You Doing

Huzzah for a paid vacation day! No getting up at six am this freezing morning, thank you very much–although the real horror is going to come tonight when it gets into the twenties–there’s a chance we’ll have snow for Fat Tuesday.

Madness.

Although it is frightfully cold for a Lundi Gras–forty degrees this morning, and of course our heat isn’t working, and will be getting gradually colder throughout the day until it gets into the twenties later this evening, with a chance of snow on Fat Tuesday for the first time since 1899. Needless to say, I am wearing layers today and have the space heater going–and it will be following me around whenever I move around the house–the easy chair, even up to the bedroom tonight when we go to bed, although the layers of blankets, Paul and Scooter all combined to keep me nice and warm last night. I slept like a dream, too. I stayed in bed a full hour after I woke up this morning, too, luxuriating in the warm comfort of the bed, and I feel no shame in that at all…why shouldn’t I relax and be comfortable, despite all the work that I have to get done?

I managed to finish going through the manuscript last night, changing it all into the present tense. I caught a lot of things that need to be fixed–changes in story and plot and so forth that weren’t eliminated through the various drafts the book has gone through. Today I am going to print it all out and start going through the hard copy, making notes and cuts and noting where new material has to go to fill in the gaps. I have approximately two weeks to get this all finished before it’s due, and I actually think I am going to be able to get it all done in time. I have a new framing device for the story that I have to write, and there’s a final chapter that needs to be written, and of course the cuts….I am always amazed at how often I repeat myself, and how passive the early draft voice I write in inevitably turns out to be. Today I am going to curl up, most likely in bed, with my laptop, my lap desk, and my notebooks, and start marking up the manuscript. Tomorrow, as it is Fat Tuesday, I am most likely going to take the day off and read and/or watch movies–the Short Story Project is definitely in need of some catching up on, and of course I’ve started a new project of rereading various books in the kids’ series I loved as a child (I am currently reading a Dana Girls volume, The Clue in the Cobweb, that I’ve never read before), and I would love to spend some more time with Jess Lourey’s Unspeakable Things–I really hate that my reading attention span comes and goes the way it does.

Needless to say, I am most pleased to have gotten through the manuscript yesterday. I am really looking forward to spending March mostly working on short stories as well as pre-planning both Chlorine and Twelfth Night Knavery–I even know how to open the story–and that will eventually lead into the tenth Scotty, French Quarter Flambeaux, which will lead into the eleventh, Quarter Quarantine Quadrille. I also want to try to get some of these novellas finished between working on books, too. Ash Wednesday I have to go into the office, and then it’s two more work-at-home days before I have yet another weekend…so things are looking up somewhat as far as my writing schedule is going. I certainly am getting a lot more finished this year than I did last year, and here’s hoping that I will stay motivated and continue getting things done.

We started watching the second season of Mr. Mercedes last night, which got off to a slow start but is picking up well now. WHat’s interesting is that the show is not following the Bill Hodges trilogy as written by King; they’ve skipped the second book of the series, Finders Keepers, and gone straight on to the third, End of Watch. From a television story-telling perspective it makes sense; the villain of the first book returns in the third, while the middle book is an entirely different story and case for Bill and the gang at Finders Keepers–the detective agency they open after the first book–and while that one may be my favorite of the series, the show’s been renewed for a third season, and I suspect that they will use the plot of the second book as the framework for the third season. There are some other shows dropping this week we want to watch as well–It’s a Sin on HBO and The Luminaries on either Starz or Showtime, it has Eva Green in it and I try not to ever miss anything with Eva Green.

And now it’s raining. We are either going to get rain tomorrow, or snow, or sleet; none of which are appealing, and quite frankly, I am happy for both krewes (Rex and Zulu) that aren’t going to have to deal with parading in such horrendous weather. (I wonder if Zulu is going to come down the river to the Quarter to meet Rex at five today?) I’m supposed to go to the gym at some point today–but there’s no way I am walking five blocks in cold and rain. Is it wimpy of me to take the car? I always used to drive to the gym until we joined one that’s literally right around the corner; our new gym is a longer walk, of course. I would walk to St. Charles Athletic Club in this weather; but Franco’s on Magazine is a bit too far for this kind of nasty weather.

I also have retrieved my blanket from the easy chair; I am actually feeling quite toasty warm here at my desk this morning–between the space heater, double layers, the blanket and my coffee….I could retrieve my fingerless gloves and then the only remaining part of me feeling the cold–my hands–would be taken care of as well. I hate that Paul is going to go out in this weather to go to his office–I’m actually hoping that once he gets up and sees how nasty it is outside, he’ll just work from home…all he needs is a computer and a phone and he can seriously do his job anywhere, but there is something about going into an office–the discipline or mentality that comes with being in your office…plus the guilt factor. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I know when I am at my office I feel guilty for not doing work-related things…it’s raining even harder now. Just truly nasty weather out there….

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–or as lovely a day as you can given the horrible weather everyone appears to be having.

Style

Friday morning, and I had an absolutely lovely night’s sleep, thank you for asking. It’s the final day of the work week, the weekend looms, and as always, I have a million and a half things to get done before Monday. I somehow managed to fall behind on the writing again–by the time I was finished with my work-at-home duties yesterday I was exhausted again–and as such, didn’t write another word. So I need to get my writing going again today, knowing I am at least two chapters behind that need to be caught up, and yes–NO PRESSURE THAT AT ALL, is there?

I have some copy edits for an essay that dropped into my inbox this morning, which shouldn’t be too terrible an issue to deal with over the course of the weekend–then again, I’ve not really looked at them, either, so it could be absolutely horrifying once I open the document–but again, I don’t see that I won’t be able to get caught up on everything that must be done this weekend. What I really need to do is make a to-do list; I’ve been meaning to all week and yet somehow have not managed to get around to it yet. Gah. But that’s the kind of week this has been; 2020, after dragging all fucking year, seems to have now speeded up time now that it’s coming to a close, continuing to prove itself to be a shit-bag of a year.

Given how much optimism we all had for 2020 and what we ended up receiving, I am a bit afraid of 2021, to be completely honest.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, and I managed to watch Superman whilst making condom packs yesterday; the 1978 version with Christopher Reeve. I hadn’t seen the movie in years–I saw it originally in the theater and then watched again when it was on HBO in the early 1980’s–and wasn’t really prepared for the impact it would still have, many years later, on a rewatch. As I watched, my nimble hands breaking off condoms in groups of four and shoving them into little plastic bags, along with a packet of lube and instructions on how to properly use them, I found myself catapulted backwards in time and remembering the time period. The movie’s slogan was You will believe a man can fly and you also have to remember the late 1970’s was when films–and special effects–were changed forever after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Superman was the acme of super-heroes; perhaps the most famous, the most loved, and possibly the very first comic-book hero with superpowers, and bringing him to the big screen with a huge budget and special effects to make it look like he actually had powers was a huge deal. It was a huge hit, set the stage for several sequels, and showed Hollywood that comic book heroes were big-ticket items–it can easily be argued that there would be no MCU, no Arrowverse on television, and no Batman movies had there never been Superman first. The first sequel was also a huge hit, but the franchise began to run out of steam with the third, and the fourth was misbegotten from the very beginning.

On this rewatch, Christopher Reeve was even more perfect than I remembered, and Margot Kidder, whom I always believed was miscast, actually fit the role much better than she had in my memories. But what made the movie work–just as how the Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman worked–was how Reeve, at that point a complete unknown whose biggest role had been on the soap Love of Life, fit the role like a hand in a glove. He looked the part, had the right body for the part, and he just was Clark and Superman–and the physical differences between the two different characters–entirely dependent on how Reeve held himself, stood, and his posture–I could see how you wouldn’t see one as the other. Obviously, there were some flaws–how on earth did Lois Lane afford a penthouse with that glorious view and patio deck on a reporter’s salary? How did reversing the Earth’s spinning turn back time so he could save Lois–and didn’t turning the clock back change a lot of other things as well? DC was still in its Golden Age–the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot was still some years in the future–and so this film fits into that comic book era; they were trying to update the comics and giving their characters more of modern flare and new costumes for the most part at this time, before realizing their universe was so convoluted and confusing they needed to start over. This was the period when Wonder Woman had gotten rid of her powers; when Supergirl was poisoned, which led to her powers becoming unreliable and actually coming and going beyond her control; when two more Green Lanterns turned up on earth in addition to the original; and Green Arrow going more in a Batman-like grim direction.

But it was an uplfiting movie, putting a clear-cut hero on the screen, and it is to Reeve’s credit that he made Superman’s integrity, code of ethics, and kind concern for all humanity from a two-dimensionality to a fully fleshed out, completely believable character that you root for. The John Williams score was excellent, and it really was perfectly cast–I apologize to Margot Kidder for hating her performance for all these years. It was also interesting to see the New York of the 1970’s (passing off as Metropolis), and remembering the way the culture saw the city in that decade (the Cynical 70’s Film Festival has also done a really good job of this); in some ways the perception of New York hasn’t really changed much since then, but it isn’t the same city today that it was back then. It was, I think, in the latter half of the 1970’s that Hollywood began to turn away from the cynicism of the decade and began making movies with happy endings or that were more uplifting in general–Star Wars, Superman, Rocky–the melding of those polarities in film deeply influenced the films of the 1980’s.

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

Breathless

Monday morning and up at the rise of the sun; back to another work week and trying to get caught up on everything.

I really do feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill most days, you know?

But I woke up early yesterday and made progress, which is never a bad thing, and I also made it to the gym for my first workout of week two. I managed to accomplish all three workouts for week one, and so this week entailed an added set of 15 reps at the same weights I used last week. It was more difficult, but not painfully so or so bad that I couldn’t finish both sets–but on some exercises it was much harder than it was on others. That’s fine–I worked up a lovely sweat and my heart rate went up, which was the ultimate goal. I came home–it was really quite a beautiful fall day in New Orleans; sunny and crisp and cool–and had my protein shake before getting cleaned up and diving back into the emails and things I needed to get done.

I did decide what my next read would be: Donald Westlake’s The Hot Rock. My education in Westlake is sorely lacking (as is my education in Lawrence Block, for that matter) although I read one of his Hard Case Crime books, The Comedy is Finished, and I read the first of his Richard Stark novels…but other than that, I have failed miserably in reading Westlake. I remember when The Hot Rock was out in paperback originally; I also remember that it was filmed with Robert Redford (perhaps another film I can add–if I can find it–to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival), and I’ve had a copy of this forever. Rob Byrnes has always spoken highly of Westlake–his own comic caper novels, he claims, owe a huge debt to Westlake, and only three chapters into the book, I can totally see the influence–and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading The Hot Rock, frankly. The edition I have also has an intro from Westlake himself, which sort of explains where the book came from, and I found this very interesting:

One day in 1967 I was wearing my Richard Stark hat, looking for a story to tell about my man Parker, and I thought, he reacts badly to frustration, what if he had to steal the same thing four or five times? I started to work it out, then realized the idea was only comic and Parker wouldn’t stand for it. But I still liked the notion, and even–once it was comic–saw how to make it six thefts of the same elusive item. So I’d do it that way.

But if it wasn’t Parker, who was it? Who was this guy, dogged but doomed, and what was his name? Without a name, I couldn’t see him, and until I could see him I couldn’t write about him.

Wow. He then goes on to talk about how he came up with the name Dortmunder, but it was so weird to see a writer of Westlake’s stature having the same problem I have when writing, or coming up with a new idea: I can’t write about people if they don’t have names, because without names I can’t see them or know enough about them to write about them. I know there are writers who can do this; I am just not one of them, and I always thought it was one of my (many) peculiarities as a writer. Turns out, Westlake was like me, too. Mine goes even further–I can’t write a story without a title, and if the title is wrong, it impedes the story writing even further. I think some of the in-progress unfinished stories I have on hand suffer from this very problem–I know I think “A Dirge in the Dark” isn’t the right title for the story I am writing with that title–but I am hoping I can get it all worked out eventually.

I do hate daylight savings time, quite frankly, but this “gain an hour” nonsense was rejected by my body–which makes getting up earlier much easier than it usually is. I was awake before my alarm went off this morning, I am wide awake as I sip my first cappuccino of the morning, and I feel like it’s going to be, over all, a really great day–for a shitty, unsettling week. Heavy sigh. But I got everything ready last night so I don’t have to pick out clothes or anything this morning; my lunch is ready to go into the lunch box, and my office/kitchen is very neat and organized already–a very good start to the week. LSU has a bye week this coming weekend, and one good thing about LSU having a bad season–I’ve almost completely lost interest in both the conference and national championship races, which means I won’t be watching games other than LSU anymore, thereby freeing up my Saturdays almost completely. The Saints did eke out a win yesterday–although they did everything they possibly could to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As Paul said, “this year sucks and we can’t even get solace from football season.”

I did read a Charlaine Harris short story yesterday as well, from the MWA anthology she edited a while back, Crimes by Moonlight, which was, in her own words from her introduction to the piece, “a collection of woo-woo stories.” Her story was set in the Sookie Stackhouse universe she created with her bestselling novels (later adapted into True Blood, one of my favorite television series), and was called “Dahlia Underground.” Dahlia is a nine hundred year old vampire who looks nineteen–sexy and beautiful, she also dresses like a sexy dominatrix (I kept picturing my favorite True Blood character, Pam) who wakes up after an anti-vampire terrorist strike on a hotel. Numerous vampires were killed during the attack, she has to be dug out of the wreckage by a firehouse company, and then the rest of the story is about not only vampiric revenge on the terrorists, but Dahlia essentially adopting the fire company that saved her life. It was well done and enormously satisfying; the next story up in the anthology is by Edgar winner William Kent Krueger, which should also be fun.

My back feels a little sore this morning–not sure what that’s from, but it’s not muscle soreness, so who the fuck knows–so I am going to use the self-massager in a moment to try to loosen whatever it is that is tight back there. I’m having dinner with a writer friend tonight who is in from out of town to visit her daughter, who is currently enrolled at Tulane University, which is lovely–I always tend to avoid such commitments, but when I do agree to them inevitably have a good time–and I just have to be wary of time, since I have to get up early again tomorrow.

We continue to watch The Undoing on HBO, and I am beginning to think I’ve already got this entire thing figured out. I could be wrong–I have been before–and perhaps what I am thinking is too obvious to be the case. If it does turn out to the case, it will be disappointing…but therein lies the rub of being a crime writer who reads a lot of crime novels (and has edited dozens).

I certainly am hoping to get a lot done this week. But I am rested, hopefully there will be no more major life disruptions (he types hopefully the day before a terrifying general election), and if I can remain focused, I can get everything finished that I need to get finished this week.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday before the election, Constant Reader, and if you haven’t already, VOTE TOMORROW.

You Need To Calm Down

So, I went to the gym for the first time in nearly five months yesterday morning.

Apparently there’s another tropical storm out there with New Orleans in its Cone of Uncertainty; Wednesday night seems to be when it’s projected to come ashore; they’re saying Category One is about as big as Zeta will get, given conditions in the Gulf and so forth, and while that’s not nearly as scary as the bigger storm, it’s still a cause for concern amongst New Orleanians. We’ve been incredibly lucky this year in this insane season of storms, but every time someone else gets it instead you can’t help but feel that your odds for a direct hit are exponentially increasing every time that happens. And it’s always stressful when there’s a storm coming your way–that whole losing power thing is the least of it, of course, but at least it’s not the dog days of summer right now and losing power doesn’t mean melting into a puddle inside the Lost Apartment.

THANK GOD.

I know I loathe cold weather, but I am also all about the air conditioning.

The track has starting shifting to the east–sorry, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida panhandle–and local meteorologists are saying the longer it stays stationary and slow-moving where it is, the more likely it is that it will continue to shift east. But I’d still rather not have that in the back of my head for the next three days, you know what I mean?

So I went to my new gym yesterday morning–it was quite chilly out for a Sunday morning in October in New Orleans–and did my first workout since May. It was marvelous. I was smart and only did one set of 15 reps with low weight and exercised every body part; I stretched for a good while before going to the weight machines, and did 100 crunches to conclude before walking back home. As always, one must start slow–one set this first week, two sets the next, then three in the third week and then add weight in the fourth–in order to get your body used to exercising again. In about two months of this (full body workout three times per week) I’ll change the workout to different body parts per workout–chest and back one day, shoulders and arms the second, and legs the third–and make the workouts more intense and difficult, in order to begin pushing myself and getting my heart rate up and making my muscles grow so they can burn fat more efficiently. My goal is to get my weight down to 200 by March, and then reassess my goals and where I want to be physically by Memorial Day.

I used to always balance out my workout goals based on gay holidays when I would go out in public with the inevitable goal of removing my shirt at some point. I always wanted to peak at Southern Decadence. hen it was just maintenance through Halloween and Carnival, bulking until Memorial Day and then lean down for Decadence for peak lean muscularity.

Ah, my shallow youth.

I do wonder, though, if having those goals made the workouts easier to focus on and stick to; not using those times as an endgame to work towards might have had something to do with the loss of intensity and interest in regular workouts, along with not caring as much about a healthier diet. Points to ponder.

We started watching the new Nicole Kidman HBO series The Undoing last night, and were quite taken in by it. Kidman is always a fine actress, and the rest of the cast, which includes Hugh Grant and Lily Rabe, is also quite good. We also are continuing with the very strange M. Night Shyamalan series Servant on Apple Plus, which continues to be very strange and remarkably disturbing. It’s quite good, creepy, and rather intense. I’m still not entirely certain I know what’s going on in that house, to be honest, and I’m also not really sure who I am supposed to be rooting for. The episode we watched last night, which primarily focused on Rupert Grint’s character, was rather confusing. But…it’s also M. Night Shyamalan, which means it’s probably intended to be confusing.

I slept very well last night, and I’m not sore this morning, which is, of course, always a plus. My muscles feel tired, in that good way from working them, rather than tight and tired from non-use. Today will be a day off from the gym–I still need to buy a lock to take with me–and then after work tomorrow I’ll walk over there and get in a workout. I’m thinking Saturdays will be the day when I go and use the aerobics studio for my own cardio workout–if, of course, I can still remember my routines from my classes all those years ago–and do weights on Sunday. It means rearranging and rescheduling my weekends so I can make sure I can still get things done and stay on top of things, but adding some structure to my weekends cannot be a bad thing. Structure is always important for me–as well as routine–and I feel like that is what has been missing in my life since the pandemic began–having some sort of structure and routine to keep up with.

The Saints managed to win yesterday–and it wasn’t a guarantee, either, until the final drive–and so we had a good Louisiana football weekend. I am quite pleased with how both LSU and the Saints played this weekend; although one can never be sure if the LSU win actually meant anything, to be honest. Sure, South Carolina managed to knock off Auburn the week before–but in this crazy college football season no teams (besides Clemson and Alabama) seem to have any kind of identity; they are all playing all over the map, and outside those two top teams, it seems like everyone else are all about the same–anyone can win over anyone on any given weekend. Should make the play-offs race interesting, and regardless, whoever winds up winning it all this year should have an asterisk next to their name because the season is shortened, weird, and staggered.

And the pandemic seems to be kicking into high gear yet again, just like the Spanish flu pandemic did all those years ago.

But I am trying something new: optimism. That was why I enjoyed Ted Lasso so much–the show was about kindness, understanding, and optimism–and while all of those things have been in short supply for this horrific year (partly why the show resonated so much; it served as a reminder of what we can be if we choose to be), I am going to try to keep all of those things in mind going forward…knowing full well there are going to be times when it’s not going to be easy to keep any of those mentalities and life philosophies in the forward part of my life and mind…but also understanding and trying to remember that it can be a choice.

And on that note, it is off to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–I certainly intend to.

Sexy Northerner

So, who had “this revision won’t be as easy as Greg thought it would be” on their Gregalicious trials-and-travails bingo card?

Well, congratulations, you were correct. This reminds me of the time when I thought, oh I’ll just turn this Scotty manuscript into a Chanse, it’ll be easy and no, it really wasn’t. It was actually a nightmare, but eventually, after much anguish, stress, and aggravation, I did get it done and I was pretty pleased with the final outcome. I got up early yesterday morning and wrote an entirely new first chapter of Bury Me in Shadows, and one that was much better than any of the original attempts, so there’s that. Chapter Two was more of a slog, since I was trying to save more material so I wouldn’t have to write new material, but it’s going to need some going over again to make sure the transition from the old original story to the new is seamless. On the plus side–there’s always a plus side, even if I have to really dig deep down for it–the new material I am writing is good, and I like this iteration of the character much better than I did in the previous drafts; and his backstory is much better than it was originally. I also love the new opening. And making these changes actually eliminates a big hole in the story–something I could never really quite figure out–it was one of those things that had to happen for the story to happen, but it only made sense in THAT context, and that was driving me completely insane.

You can’t do that. It’s called “contrivance,” and there’s nothing that makes me more irritated or annoyed with a writer (or a movie or a TV show) where something happens only because it’s necessary for the story and only makes sense in that particular context. (I mean, obviously you can, and plenty of writers do, but it’s fucking lazy, and you shouldn’t, and if you do, and your editor doesn’t stop you…yeah, well.)

I also spent some time with Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, which I am really enjoying. I just wish I had more time to read, you know? I am so fucking far behind on my reading.

We also started watching HBO’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which is very well done and very creepy. One of the things that terrifies me–which therefore also interests and fascinates me–is the concept of not being safe in your own home; that we all have this incredible illusion of security and safety in our homes–and neighborhoods, for that matter–and so we often are caught off-guard or by surprise by violence, or, as the theorists would say, the introduction of a Dionysian element into our safe, secure worlds. “The Carriage House” is that kind of story; so is “Neighborhood Alert” to a degree, as is the one I just sold, “Night Follows Night,” which is about not being safe in a supermarket because that was something I thought was interesting; you never think you aren’t safe in a bright public place full of employees and other shoppers until you actually aren’t. This is something Stephen King does very well; the introduction of something Dionysian into an ordinary, sedate, everyday kind of environment, and how normal everyday people react in those kinds of situations; some rise to the challenge, others do not.

Anyway, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is just that–a true crime documentary based on the book by the late Michelle McNamara about her investigation into the Golden State Killer, and how that all came about. When you listen to the stories of the victims, and remember what it was like in in the 1970’s for women who were raped (not that things have gotten much better since then, but at least as bad as it is now it’s not as bad as it was then–not a laurel we as a society should be resting on any time soon, frankly), but how the rapes and murders happened in these quiet middle class suburban type enclaves where no one ever expected anything bad to ever happen (I’ve always wanted to write a book based on a murder that happened in the suburb of Chicago I lived in during my early teens; the killer and one of the accomplices were students at my high school; I knew the accomplice’s two younger sisters quite well); and I also lived in Fresno during the later part of the Golden State Killer’s run–but he had moved on to Southern California by then. I was stuck by the old footage of these neighborhoods in Sacramento, and how like our neighborhood in Fresno (Clovis, actually; a suburb of Fresno) and how closed off the houses were from their neighbors and the street–with small front yards and an enormous garage in the very front of the houses, which were in U shapes. My bedroom was the other side of the U from the garage and there were bars on the windows so no one could ever come in. My curtains were always closed so I could never see out onto the street or no one could see in; every once in a while on nights when I couldn’t sleep I would scare myself by thinking if I opened the curtains someone would be there–because it was very easy to get to, even if the bars precluded anyone from getting inside. Sliding glass doors were also very popular in houses back then, if not the most secure thing to have in your house, really.

And naturally, I started writing a short story in my head while I watched, about a bickering couple who come home early from a party because they got into a fight and are still fighting as they pull into their driveway and arguing still as they go into the house where they find their fifteen year old daughter bound and gagged in the living room with the sliding glass door to the backyard and pool area open, the curtains blowing in the night breeze. I don’t know the whole story, or how it ends, or even where it goes from there–which is why I have so many unfinished short stories in my files.

Heavy sigh.

There’s a tornado watch in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes this morning, which probably means rain for most (or part) of the day here as well. It seems kind of gloomy and overcast out there, but brighter than it has been the last three mornings–when it rained a lot–so we’ll see how this day goes.

But it’s Monday, the start of a new week, and here’s hoping that I’ll be able to find time to not only read this week but time to work on the manuscript. Perchance to dream, I suppose.

Have a lovely week, Constant Reader!

One of the Crowd

And it’s now the fifth of July, and so far–at least for me–the second half of this annus horribilis is off to an okay start. Yesterday was oddly not humid or hot; there wasn’t much direct sunlight and even by noon I hadn’t been forced to turn on the portable Arctic Air coolers that have so far made life in the kitchen/office bearable; I remain, as ever, buried and behind in all of my work, which is to be expected, of course–par for it, actually. I am always behind and scrambling to catch up, and since my personality is this peculiar combination of Type A mixed in with almost chronic laziness, this will most likely always be my state of being.

The sun is out, however, this morning, and while it remains cool here in the Lost Apartment, there’s no telling how hot it perhaps might get in here later this afternoon. I accomplished very little yesterday, truth be told; I started working on “You Won’t See Me” and didn’t get very far, because it was wandering off into a different direction than where it was originally intended to go–it wasn’t until I quit writing in disgust and adjourned to my easy chair that I realized (or remembered)where I’d wanted to go with the story in the first place, so I made some notes and went back to reading Cottonmouths. Later we streamed a lot more of The Club, which has a rather lengthy first season–it’s been a while since I’ve seen a season of anything recent that runs for over twenty episodes–and an awful lot has happened. We’re finally into the mid-teens, and halfway finished with the show, which we are still enjoying. And Cottonmouths remains quite delightful.

I refuse to allow myself to give into despair this fair morning over what I wasn’t able to get accomplished over the last two days. This morning I feel, for want of better terms, not only vivacious but alive and rested. The clouds of exhaustion that have made my thinking not as clear have lifted, or so it seems at this very moment, and we shall see how this day turns out, won’t we? I hope to get quite a bit accomplished today–we have the clinic open the next two days–and I have been sleeping well lately. I’m actually feeling close to normal for the first time in months, and while mentioning it also has me concerned that I might be jinxing it in some way, it’s actually been quite lovely.

It is very difficult to not fall into the ease of despair with the news every day–hell, every day for the last few years, quite frankly. The pandemic is raging out of control and might not get better for a while; Florida, for example, has reported more new cases over the last eight days than Louisiana has had since it first arrived here (um, where are all those people claiming it was irresponsible for us to have Carnival NOW? Cavorting on the beaches in Florida?), and as the crisis seems to continue to deepen rather than get better, the return to normality everyone seems to want gets pushed further and further back because of selfishness, frankly. As I joked to Paul yesterday about not getting much writing done yesterday, “What’s the point of writing anything new when who knows if there will even be a publishing industry next year?”

I’ve not, to be honest, thought much about my writing career this year, or at least since March. It was lovely being nominated for a Lambda Award–it’s been years since the last time–but I also knew once I saw Michael Nava’s name on the short-list I didn’t have a prayer of winning. But the nominations are always nice. I have thought about writing more Scotty books–I did leave their personal story on a cliffhanger in Royal Street Reveillon, after all–but there are two manuscripts in the hopper I need to finish first, and I want to work on Chlorine next. I need to get this Secret Project finished and out of my hair in order to get back to the two manuscripts–I’ve solved the issues with Bury Me in Shadows over the course of the pandemic–and I’ve also solved the plot issues with the Kansas book while I’ve essentially been too distracted and too exhausted and too ill to actually do any actual writing. My goal for this week–and yes, the week, not today–is to get that proposal finished; get a couple more of these stories under control and/or closer to finished; and if I have a highly productive week, to take next weekend off again to rest and recharge while trying to make some progress in the TBR pile. I want to reread another Perry Mason novel–I have The Case of the Calendar Girl in a hardcover I found in a used bookstore sometime during my travels over the past few years, and watching the new HBO Perry Mason has made me want to reconnect with the original character again–and I also want to get back into reading through both the John D. MacDonald and Ross MacDonald and Margaret Millar canons; which will help me get into a place where I will be able to get Chlorine written sooner rather than later. I also have some Dorothy B. Hughes novels on hand I’ve not read as well…and of course, there’s the Diversity Project to get back to at some point, in addition to the Short Story Project. I have Sara Paretsky’s short story collection on its way, as well as the latest Lawrence Block anthology, which I think is called In the Darkling Halls of Ivy (I could be wrong but it’s something like that), and of course, I still have his previous anthology on my side table, untouched.

So much to read, so much to watch, so little free time in which to do it all–and that includes, I might add, so little time to write everything I want to write before I die.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I certainly hope that I do.