Invisible String

Labor Day morning, and I feel rested. I’ve not felt this good in quite some time, frankly–I am sure ignoring my emails and staying away from social media over the course of the long weekend has something to do with that, indubitably–and now I am having my morning coffee and slowly coming alive. May as well enjoy it while I can, since tomorrow I have to get up unbearably early, but we only have one clinic day this week and it’s also a four-day work week, so maybe it won’t be so bad on my physically.

I worked on the book for a little while yesterday; not very much, not nearly as much writing as needed to be done over the long weekend–which is inevitably always the lament, is it not? But getting rest–both physical and mental–is also inevitably necessary and a necessity. I did manage to not only finish reading Little Fires Everywhere over the course of the weekend, but I also finished The Coyotes of Carthage (which will be getting its own entry eventually) and started reading Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World, which is not only extraordinary but nothing like I was expecting–and I was also going in blind, knowing nothing about the book other than I had read his earlier novel A Head Full of Ghosts and really enjoyed it. It features and centers, for example, a happily married gay couple and their adopted child; didn’t see or expect that coming. I’m about halfway through the book, and while I certainly don’t want to give anything away, I am already planning on spending some more time with it today. Reading is such an escape (always has been) and a pleasure for me my entire life; I never really understand what it’s like for people who don’t read, or who don’t like to read–its so outside of my own experience I’m not sure I could ever understand choosing not to read.

The work I did on the book yesterday, while not a lot, was also quite good work, and I am certain that the rising quality of this novel I am writing has everything to do with the high quality of what I am reading these days. I mean, between Matt Ruff, Celeste Ng, Steven Wright, and Paul Tremblay, one really cannot go wrong, can one? I’ve also come to understand that my deadlines–while arbitrarily set–are also set up to maximize time, and are also predicated on the idea that I can actually have the energy–both physical and creative–to do good work every day. I’m not sure that I can anymore–not sure that I ever could–but the mindset is the key, and I know after seeing clients for eight hours, I really don’t have the bandwidth to write anymore the way I used to; which inevitably, I am sure, has something to do with the malaise this current world in which we live has created. Malaise is probably not the right word; depression is probably closer to what I really mean–there’s this weird depressive thing going on in my subconscious that makes macro issues I would ordinarily blow off or ignore or brush off much more micro and much more draining on me.

So, what is a writer to do in these days? Self-care, as I have noted before, is more important than ever. I am going to use the massage roller this morning, and possibly do some stretching exercises as I get ready to face this day–I intend to write today; it’s been lovely dipping my toe into it most of the weekend but I really need to dive into the pool today–and I’d also like to get some more cleaning done at some point. There are electronic files to sort as well, and filing to be done; floors to be cleaned and laundry to fold; all the endless minutiae I always intend to keep up with as I go but inevitably push the back of the priority list and do nothing about until they reach a point like the one they are at now: a literal mess that requires more focused work than ordinarily they would. And while my energies are frequently scattered…I have found that the binge reading I’ve been doing has done a lot to create a sort of inner peace that I’ve been missing lately. I also think I’ve sort of been in mourning about the loss of football season–yes, I know they are going to try to have a season, but it’s not a real season and thus not the same thing; this will be the first year since 2010 that Paul and I have not gone to at least one game in Tiger Stadium–but at the same time, that has also freed up my weekends. My goal for this week is to read a short story a day, as well as a chapter or two per day of whatever book I am currently reading–I suspect I may finish the Tremblay today, it’s that good and that unputdownable–as well as to do some stretches every morning after I get up and before I take my shower. I think regimenting my days into a sort of routine–since I clearly love routines when I can manage to stick to them–is perhaps the smartest way to go.

We watched the new episode of The Vow last night, and it’s getting more and more chilling the deeper into the series we go; I’m glad it’s currently not binge-able, because watching one episode per week makes it more easily digestible. They are doing a most excellent job as well of showing how attractive NXIVM was; a lot of the things they talk about, when it comes to taking responsibility for yourself and changing your mentality and behavior to become more successful, sounds like practical advice you can apply to improve your life–but there’s certainly a dark side to the whole thing. Last night’s episode, which brought up the branding and master/slave “sorority” within the organization, was positively chilling.

We also started watching the new Ridley Scott series for HBO MAX, Raised by Wolves, which is extraordinary. We watched all three episodes that were made available immediately, and it’s quite an accomplishment; it looks very expensive, with no expense spared on production design and special effects. The story itself is also interesting, if a bit hard to understand to begin with; it’s set in 2145, and Earth has been ravaged to the point of becoming unlivable because of a religious war, between Mithraic religion (worship of the sun) and atheists. Since Earth was becoming uninhabitable, both sides launched space ships to another Earth-like planet to save humanity; and it gets a lot more complicated from there. It’s a very high-concept show, and I am curious to see how it all plays out going forward. If you’re a science fiction fan, I’d recommend it; I don’t know if people who generally don’t watch sci-fi would like it as much–I could be wrong. I would have never guessed, for example, that Game of Thrones would have become the cultural phenomenon that it was.

And I still haven’t decided what short stories to focus on writing, although I am leaning towards “After the Party”, “The Flagellants”, “Waking the Saints”, “Please Die Soon,” and “He Didn’t Kill Her.”

And on that note, tis back into the spice mines with me.

Positive Role Model

Thursday; three-day weekend eve, and I am working from home today. I have a lot of on-line trainings to do, and some condom packs to make, and various other duties that don’t require showering and putting on presentable, appropriate clothing.

Seriously, you really don’t want to see me on a weekend–particularly a long weekend. Pity the people at the grocery store.

This week, though, seemed to last forever, which is something that is becoming more and more common as the COVID pandemic continues. I always thought when you got older time went by faster? That no longer seems to be the case–whether it’s the dumpster fire the country has become, or the COVID disaster, or any number of any other things, or some combination of all of them, days and weeks seem to last for months. I had hoped that moving into the second half of this interminable annus horribilis might change some of that, but no…yesterday was the first and it was a dreadful, wearing, exhausting day that killed the euphoria I was experiencing from the two short story sales that came with the first two days of the week (which is still, I think, fairly remarkable; I sent the things out in the morning–there is one still pending–and within two days had contracts for two of them). Okay, the euphoria may not be completely dead, but it’s on life support.

The good news is that physically I feel fine–no more sickness, no more exhaustion, and I have been enjoying restful nights of sleep for over a week now, which has to be some kind of record for one Gregalicious. (Don’t get me wrong, I still have aches and pains, but those are the normal, your body has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel aches and pains that comes with getting older; I need to use my back roller today to release all the tension and stress accruing in my back, and the closure of my gym has not helped at all with physical fitness, either.)

Last night as I waited for Paul to come home, I sat in my easy chair and scrolled through the Cloud folder on my iPad, taking a look at some in-progress short stories (nothing like a couple of sales to get you going on writing short stories) trying to decide which ones to try to take a whack at over the course of this weekend, and with all due modesty, I really need to let go of some of this self-defeating insecurity I carry around inside my head. Two of the in-progress stories I read–“You Won’t See Me” and “He Didn’t Kill Her”–are actually quite well written, if I do say so myself (and I am saying that), even if I am not sure how to finish the stories. I like the concept of both stories, actually; and maybe if I pull them up and start writing the proper way to complete them will come to me–or some way to finish them, even if it’s not the right ending; sometimes the right ending comes when you write the wrong ending, if that makes sense? I also want to finish my quarantine story, “Condos for Sale or Rent”.

Also, in other exciting news, for the first time in my career a book I am included in, The Faking of the President, was covered in the New York Times, here:https://nyti.ms/31CR0br

Yet another review of an anthology that doesn’t mention my story–can’t imagine why I am insecure about my story-writing ability–but hey, any promo for the book is the most important thing, and to hell with my writerly ego. (This new version of WordPress doesn’t allow me to change a link into a hyperlink, so I can just say “click here”–but I will continue to try to figure this out.)

Yesterday we were in a heat advisory; today I don’t see the emergency alert in my inbox, so I guess today is going to be cooler than yesterday. Granted, cooler is one of those things when it comes to New Orleans weather that is more of a matter of which degree of hellish we are going to experience for the day; the kitchen/office was literally unbearable last night as I made dinner, even with my wonderful little Arctic Air coolers going (I may need to order some more of them, to be honest).

We watched another few episodes of Titans last night, and I have to say, Season Two is so much better than Season One; and Season One, while clunky at times, wasn’t bad at all. The addition of Deathstroke as the big bad for the season was genius, the episode with Aqualad was an all too brief appearance for him (and the actor, who was also on Pretty Little Liars, was prime eye candy), and now the addition of Cadmus Labs, Conner Kent, and of course–you can’t have Cadmus Labs or Conner Kent without Lex Luthor! I do hope this has been renewed for a third season. It’s quite good.

And now, back to the spice mines. Have a lovely 4th of July weekend eve, Constant Reader!

Harper Valley PTA

Hey, hey, Saturday, what have you got to say?

I feel very good this morning, after another deep and restful night’s sleep. I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed longer than usual–figuring if I have a mild case of the virus, as I suspect I do–that more rest certainly can’t hurt and might even help. It looks overcast this morning in New Orleans, and one of the things I did last night with the buzz I got from the Chardonnay was start the organization process in my kitchen. It was lovely, actually, to wake up and come downstairs to an organized and neat desk. My next thing to do is get my MWA stuff organized, and this morning I am going to get through everything in my email inbox, if it kills me.

I honestly don’t think it will.

And I want to get some writing done today as well. As I said, I feel terrific this morning; I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the morning and felt great, rather than however it was I was feeling when I got up. I think I’ve turned a corner, and here’s hoping that I can start whipping everything back into shape and getting my life back under control–which is something I’ve not really been feeling lately. That’s the problem with crises like the pandemic; they are so big and enormous and overwhelming that you can’t really grasp them, with the end result you’re almost paralyzed and unable to get anything accomplished. The truth is you can’t worry about it too much, you can’t worry about the future, and you have to let go–which is incredibly difficult, not as easy or as incredibly simplistic as it sounds–and simply focus on what you can do to keep yourself going and get your mind off it. Stress and worry isn’t going to solve anything, and in fact might make things worse by draining your energy and making you feel everything is so hopeless that it can easily turn into depression and lethargy. (I’m genuinely concerned about the suicide rate and mental health issues over the next few months; I remember that Katrina aftermath far too well.

Simply put, the entire country kind of needs a Xanax prescription.

Paul is going into his office today. He assumes the building is going to be completely closed down soon, and is assembling everything he needs to continue working from home. It looks as though I will be able to start going back into the office, if to do nothing else than helping out with the screenings to let people into the building, so that’s going to get me out of the house. I was very tired yesterday after all the interaction and five hours of screening in the very warm garage of our building, but I’ll also be able to retreat into the air conditioning of the building and head up to my desk where I can do some work up there as well. I do like the idea of having to leave the house every day, even as the city continues to shut down more and more; the lack of traffic and the ease of getting around the city certainly makes a difference.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with–and perhaps other writers have been as well–is what do we do with our writing? It is, at best, an enormous national trauma we’re dealing with; do we pretend in our fictional worlds that the pandemic never happened? As with Katrina, it was difficult to do while it was ongoing because you didn’t know how it was all going to play out; so since the end wasn’t in sight there was no happy ending with the Katrina story and we also don’t know how this is going to play out. How can I start writing another Scotty book, other than setting in the past before the pandemic, without knowing how this is going to play out? It was easy to never talk about 9/11 in the Scotty or Chanse books, but obviously I couldn’t ignore Katrina, and I suspect this pandemic is going to be roughly the same. It also occurs to me this morning as I type this–this is how my mind works; as I type I start thinking who in Scotty’s world would die from this? and immediately I went to the grandparents. When I think about ages and so forth I realize how old Scotty’s grandparents–and his parents–have to be now that he’s in his forties and the youngest of three; and I realize I’ve always alluded to their being more relatives on the Diderot side but have never really explored it any further than that. I touched on the Bradley side of the family a little bit more than usual in Who Dat Whodunnit, but for the most part, at least for Scotty, his family primarily consists of his siblings, his parents, his Diderot grandparents, and the boys. Maybe this is the time to explore the extended family a bit more?

I don’t know, I was kind of torn about whatever the next Scotty may be; I have a list of titles to chose from and some amorphous ideas about what the next one will be, ranging from Hollywood South Hustle to Bywater Bohemia Bourgie to Congo Square Conga–I have so many of these titles already thought up, you can rest assured that I will never run out of Scotty titles–and the plots to go with them. Scotty plots are always amorphous and ambiguous when I start writing them; I don’t feel like I did the entertainment industry and movie stars the proper treatment in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, which, if you will recall, was originally intended to be a Scotty book, and then was adapted into a Chanse instead. The original idea behind Hollywood South Hustle was that Scotty would be minding his own business as he walked home from his parents (or the bars) when someone shoots at him in front of a walled-in house on one of the side streets in the lower Quarter, because it turns out from behind he can pass for a Brad Pitt-like movie star who has moved to New Orleans and is being targeted for some reason–and this draws him into the weird world of Hollywood celebrity. I don’t know that I would use that same opening and methodology of drawing Scotty into the case–particularly now that he and the boys have sort of adopted Frank’s college student nephew–but there’s also a good local scandal from the last ten year about the film industry I could use; and perhaps graft that onto another abandoned idea for a Scotty–the book I was going to write next when Katrina happened; Hurricane Party Hoedown, because I was interested in exploring the corruption of wealth and power, in which the young scion of a wealthy Louisiana family becomes obsessed with a a handsome young gay man and ends up throwing acid in his face, only to escape to Europe to avoid prosecution and now, ten years later, the runaway heir is returning to New Orleans to face the music and his victim is obviously worried. (One night as I sat in my easy chair wishing I was finished with Royal Street Reveillon and thinking about the next Scotty and going through all the story ideas I have for him, it occurred to me how I could graft that particular story onto the movie scandal and tie the two separate storylines into one book; I may go ahead and do that.)

But once I get everything unfinished here in the Lost Apartment under control I am going to start writing Chlorine. That is the next and most important thing for me to get done, and in order to get to that I have to get this other stuff finished. As I was organizing my files and filing last night I realized that over the last month or so I have started a ridiculous amount of short stories without finishing a first draft of any of them: “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop”, “Festival of the Redeemer”, “You Won’t See Me”, the Sherlock story, “He Didn’t Kill Her”, and “Gossip”–in addition to all the unfinished ones I already have on hand, which is frankly insane. But today I am going to work on the Sherlock story, get back to the Secret Project, and start writing down ideas for the next Scotty.

And while I am doing that, I am going to clean my apartment and maybe even do a little bit of pruning with the books–which are slowly but surely starting to take over the apartment again.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe.

augDaniel-McCarroll2

Family Tradition

Normal is an interesting concept–particularly when you live in New Orleans.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t live here (or, as we say, Not From Here) to understand just how disruptive Carnival is, and how much harder it makes getting anything done, or accomplished. I live inside the parade box (in local parlance, “inside the box”) which means anything requiring the usage of my car has to be accomplished and the car has to be back “inside the box” no later than three-thirty on any parade day. This means, if you have to go to work you have to leave early, and try to schedule whatever errands you need to do accordingly–bearing in mind that you will also have heavier traffic to deal with. (Case in point: on Muses Thursday–a day when the parades were cancelled because of the weather) my five to ten minute drive home took almost forty minutes. It’s exhausting. When our office was on Frenchmen Street I used to have to walk to the office and back home on parade days–if I was able to walk straight there without detours, 2.3 miles going and 2.3 miles home (and there were always detours walking home during parades). And on the nights when I had to do condom outreach…yeah, was walking anywhere from six to ten miles per day; and then going out to the parades….why, you may be asking yourself, why on earth would you also go to the parades on top of that? Because you’re too exhausted and stressed about everything to do anything else–plus, enjoying the parades makes the work of living here around them sort of worth it.

I can’t imagine how miserable it would be to not go to the parades on top of everything else–especially when you can hear them.

But when it’s all over, readjusting to normalcy and getting your body back in sync is no easy task.

Plus, no more King cake. Womp womp.

I literally have no idea where I am at and what I should be doing with any and everything. Pre-Carnival life seems like it was a million years ago…it always takes the rest of the week of Mardi Gras to re-acclimate back to New Orleans normal.

It’s incredibly disorienting.

But Carnival–whatever you may think of it, no matter how much it may inconvenience you, no matter what–is wonderful. I absolutely positively love Carnival season, and I love the parades. I love seeing the families and kids having a ball along the parade route–and it crosses generations and ages. I love seeing grandparents dancing to  marching bands. I love our public school marching bands–every last one of them from Orleans Parish. I also love the Marching 100 of St. Augustine. I love the specialty throws and the stuffed animals and the bracelets and the medallion throws and the cups and all of that. I love that feeling of neighborhood and community that comes with hanging out on the parade route. I love getting an enormous corn dog, slathered with mustard and ketchup. I love funnel cakes, which are really just twisty beignets and are also covered in powdered sugar.

You can never go wrong with deep fried dough covered in powdered sugar, for the record.

Today I woke up early and feel great. I slept deeply and well–probably could have gladly stayed in bed another hour or two, but as I’ve been saying–Carnival has put me very behind, as it is wont to do, and as I am often paddling madly beneath the surface while treading water, a shake-up to the daily routine makes things ever so much worse. As much as I would like to spend the weekend relaxing and reading and writing, I’m afraid I’m going to have to spend some of it actually working on non-writing related things, which is terribly unfortunate; but it’s not like this was a normal week in the first place. I hated missing the gym yesterday morning, but I can go tomorrow and get back on track with my usual Sunday-Wednesday-Friday gym schedule. I did write for a while yesterday–not on the Secret Project, of course, which is what I need to be doing, but rather I wrote a bit on “Festival of the Redeemer” and a little bit on “He Didn’t Kill Her” and also a little bit on “You Won’t See Me.” Progress, of course, is progress and I am always happy to get any writing done at all these days, of course; I think my decision to simply go ahead with some of the short stories until this weekend, when I can spend some serious time with the Secret Project–which has been worked on very haphazardly, and you simply can’t be that scattered with something and expect it to be good–and make the decisions that need to be made with it. I think that I am probably very guilty of overthinking things with this; rather than going with my instincts and trusting myself. It’s something that’s completely outside my comfort zone, which is actually a good thing.

One should step outside their comfort zone from time to time, I think. It makes you a better writer–even if the project isn’t good, frankly; sometimes you need to do something like that to shake things up inside your head, clear the cobwebs and dust, and get a fresh perspective on what you write, your career thus far, and where you want it to go. (I also remember those glorious days when I actually used to plan ahead for my career. Man plans and God laughs.)

We are also slowly but surely watching the final season of Schitt’s Creek, and enjoying it, even if we know with each episode we watch that the end is nigh.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

1655836_616061301782907_1240042705_n

Don’t Rock the Jukebox

Monday, and after Orpheus finishes passing tonight, Paul and I are finished with Carnival. While we miss participating in the festivities of Fat Tuesday/actual Mardi Gras–it was always the best day–we both have to work on Wednesday and one last fling is too much for us–the penalty of growing older I suppose. But we both decided over this weekend that next year we’ll also take off Wednesday, and head down there for Fat Tuesday, walking up the Zulu and Rex route and enjoying the costumes and the sights and the fun and–DAMN I DO MISS GOING TO THE QUARTER FOR FAT TUESDAY.

But, as I was forced to admit to my neighbor CLM at the parades the other night–I only know how to do slutty costumes, and I haven’t had the body to do that for nearly a decade.

Maybe now that I am working out regularly again…maybe next year I can get away with Ole Man Slut? We shall see.

I tend to doubt it, but stranger things have happened. I could also up my costume game and do something that doesn’t require a lot of bare skin…

I felt enormously well rested yesterday; sleeping in was definitely the smart thing to do yesterday (after retiring relatively early the night before). But I have to say, despite it being a beautiful day for parades yesterday, the energy at the parades I attended seemed off; weird and not festive. To be sure, there were a lot of people out there, but given there was an another parade-related death on Saturday night at Endymion (causing the cancellation of the parade beyond float 12); that two riders fell off Thoth parade floats and had to be rushed to the hospital; and two people watching the parades from a balcony on a house on St. Charles managed to fall off the balcony (the railing gave way)–it’s not surprising the energy seemed off last night. Naturally, there are now stories circulating on social media and around town that this Carnival is cursed–and it’s because the city never recovered two of the bodies from the ruins of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site. I’m not normally superstitious, and I tend to scoff at things like curses and so forth–but then again, it’s very easy to believe in those sorts of things here in New Orleans. For some reason, the supernatural seems very natural here, and it’s always been that way. Reading all the New Orleans history, as I have been doing lately, has shown me plenty of evidence of the darkness and brutality that has always existed here; the history of the city is, indeed, written in blood and human suffering.

And of course, having a crime writer’s mind, the second death at a parade of someone being run over by a float made me think of a spree-thrill killer, going from parade to parade and shoving people under floats. It would be next to impossible to catch someone doing that very thing–and imagine trying to chase a criminal (any criminal, really) through the massive crowds on the parade route, with all the people in costume and bedecked in sequins and glitter and fright wigs and the Mardi Gras colors–and the still, many others, who are wearing actual costumes. A story I’ve got in some sort of progress already seemed perfect to graft this onto; I emailed myself notes I typed up between floats during Bacchus last night. I also, the other night, started writing two new stories that popped into my mind; “He Didn’t Kill Her” and “Gossip”. “He Didn’t Kill Her” is an entirely new story, that just suddenly took shape in my mind–I’m not sure how to finish it; all that occurred to me was the opening sequence and the title–but “Gossip” is one that’s been rolling around in my brain and subconscious for about thirty or so years. The opening popped into my head on Saturday, and so I started writing, as I am wont to do. (I’ve put off working on anything else until Ash Wednesday–but my mind never takes time off.)

I also spent some time yesterday bouncing back and forth between my reread of Mary Stewart’s The Moon-spinners, which is absolutely delightful, and Ali Brandon’s Double Booked for Death, which is equally delightful. It would be enormously fun to write a crime series with a bookstore as the anchor; the ability to make fun of trends in publishing, authors who are assholes, customers that are jerks, etc. would be enormously fun, I would think. The premise behind the book is that an enormously popular author of a series of supernatural books for kids, Haunted High, is doing a booksigning at main character Darla’s inherited bookstore in Brooklyn–and I’ve laughed aloud several times–and I just got to the part where the author in question–Valerie Baylor–was killed. I’m enjoying both books; I will confess I didn’t enjoy The Moon-spinners quite as much on first read as I am on the second read. I think I was expecting the plot to be more like the Hayley Mills film, which in retrospect is terrible. The main character, Nicola, is very headstrong and determined, and very determined to not be pushed aside because she’s a young woman. She’s intelligent and capable and quite clever, with the ability to think on her feet quite brilliantly; in other words, she is a typical Stewart heroine and not a shrinking violet in need of being rescued all the time. There’s a dash of romance in this book, tossed in, I think, to appease her publisher, who saw Stewart as a romantic suspense author when she actually wrote quite excellent suspense novels; but it’s completely unnecessary–if to be expected.

I have errands to run and emails to sort through today; I am getting the mail, making a Costco run, and going to the gym. I also have a business call this afternoon; all of which must be taken care of long before Orpheus begins winding its way through the streets of New Orleans. I do hope the energy is more Carnival-esque tonight; yesterday wasn’t nearly as much fun as it usually is, or could be, during a more normal Carnival.

Tomorrow is a day to rest and relax and get organized as life begins to return to what passes as normal around here; try to do some writing, read some more, get the house back under control after the chaos of the last two weeks.

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

1606351_326854494153534_6730888135315691453_o