The Sound of the Atom Splitting

And here we are at Monday again. Yesterday, much to my dismay, I realized my recent observation about this summer being hotter than normal was correct. Yesterday was the first time–at least that I am aware of–for the city of New Orleans to be under a heat warning, rather than a heat advisory. I actually didn’t know what a heat warning was, so I grimly went to the Google to look it up, and, in case you’re interested, it means a period when the heat index–the combination of heat plus humidity; what it feels like outside–is in excess of 113 for extended periods of time. Yes, it gets hot here, but I don’t recall it being quite that hot before.

Oh, it was set for 10 a.m. to eight p.m. When you’re in a heat warning, you’re advised to not go outside more than you absolutely have to–and outdoor workers are warned to stay hydrated and watch for signs of heat exhaustion/dehydration sickness.

Again: NOT NORMAL.

We are also in a heat advisory today for the same time period. I do recall being in heat advisories before–it usually means we can wear shorts and T-shirts to work–that have lasted a week or two, but it was almost always late July or sometime in August. Never this early in July, and again–a heat warning?

I only went outside twice–once to take the recycling, and a second series during which I lit the charcoal and cooked burgers and cheese dogs–and opening the door to the outside literally felt like opening the oven door to take out a pizza or something. I am actually dreading having to walk out to the car, from the car to the elevators at work, and reversing the process to come home later on in the day. My face felt blasted just from that little time I was outside, and our section of the yard outside the house is pretty well shaded and rarely in direct sunlight.

And it’s only mid-July-ish.

We started watching season two of Dark, this marvelous German show that is rather hard to describe; it’s speculative fiction but it’s also an extraordinary human drama as well. It’s difficult to get into at first, as there are a lot of characters and it can be confusing as the story blocks get set into place and motion, but once it does, it’s riveting. And it’s filmed so well that even those first few episodes of the first season, that are a bit confusing, are riveting because of the use of music, camera angles, shots, and mood, and the acting is pretty stellar as well. I honestly didn’t see how they could do a second season–but the second season is actually better than the first, as we are still finding out exactly what is going on and how everything is all linked together. It reminds me of Orphan Black and Killing Eve in that way; that the show constantly confounds expectations and keeps springing surprises on you.

There’s a forty percent chance of rain this morning, and given how grayish it is outside my windows right now I’m thinking it’s probably a lot higher than that in actuality. We’re also supposed to be subject to thunderstorms tonight as well–which should cool things down a bit–and we’re also forecast to have rain every night until Friday, when the sunshine returns to broil us all alive.

I did not, of course, get any writing done this weekend; but I did make definite progress on the road to getting thoroughly organized, and while that might seem counter-productive, it’s actually kind of helpful in that it helps reset my mind, and knowing I know where things are and I am not surrounded by chaos helps. Then again, the world is in chaos, but like after Katrina, controlling my own environment helps me in some little ways. I hate that my gym went out of business–I really do–and both Paul and I have agreed there isn’t much point to joining another one (there’s one down on Magazine that’s a slightly longer walk than my old gym) until we know for a fact the possibility of shelter-in-place is no longer looming over our heads. I should go back to doing little things to keep myself physically active–stretching, push ups, abs–but on the mornings when I have to go to the office, it’s really all I can do to get up and get my shit together before I head down to the office.

I also didn’t read at all over the weekend. I fear that I am passively giving the impression that Cottonmouths is not a good read–it is–it’s just that it’s hard for me to focus when I am finished with work for the day…but I am going to try to read a chapter a day until it’s finished; that’s the goal for this week, and since I now have some other things that I also want to get to, am hopeful this will be the motivation I need.

And on that note, tis off to the shower and get ready to start the day. may your Monday be whatever you need it to be, Constant Reader.

Wildflower

Back to reality.

I feel rested, relaxed, and ready to get back to the office and to writing. This is a really lovely feeling, Constant Reader, and one I’d love to feel more often, you know? But the truth is as I get older, I need to take these breaks from everything every few months, in order to keep on a-keepin’ on, as it were. I’d hoped to do some writing–didn’t happen, but I managed to get the proofs for Royal Street Reveillon finished, which was something, and I also made a to-do list, and tried to schedule out the books I need to write next, which is also an accomplishment. I have twelve–yes, you read that right, twelve–books in some form of completion; whether there’s a draft finished, a partial draft, an outline, or just a fleshed out idea. Twelve. 

And yes, I am completely and totally aware how utterly insane that is.

That doesn’t count the short story collections (two or three), or the essay collection, or the copy editing for Jackson Square Jazz so the ebook can finally go live.

So I guess it’s more like seventeen.

I also have agreed to write two short stories for anthologies, and I also want to write something to submit to the new MWA one whose deadline is coming up this fall. (Fortunately, I already have one written that fits the MWA criteria, so it just needs to be tweaked and cleaned up and polished and made pretty; I have to write the others from scratch, and I worry that won’t end well.) I am in the process of making a list, so that I can try to make sure I can get everything logged and written and therefore stay on top of things.

There’s a heat advisory today, from noon till about seven this evening, where it’s going to feel like 106-111 degrees outside, which should, of course, do wonders for my power bill for next month. Hurray. I’ll be curious to see how our new building handles this onslaught of heat; the side of the building we’re on is in direct sunlight after about one in the afternoon, so that should be lovely. It already gets hot over there in the afternoons as it is; I’m curious to see how that turns out. There’s also a low out in the Gulf, close to shore and in that corner of Florida where the peninsula descends from the mainland, that might turn into a tropical depression this week. Not likely to do anything to us other than outer bands, but not good for the Florida coastline.

I am reading Jay B, Laws’ second, and posthumous, novel The Unfinished. It’s being rereleased in a new edition by ReQueered Tales, and they’ve asked me to write the introduction for it, which is a lovely, nice thing to do. I read the book a long time ago, and barely remember any of it, but the opening sequence, in which our deaf main character (so far) has corrective eye surgery is not for the squeamish–I count myself amongst the squeamish when it comes to eyes–and I am really enjoying the ride again nevertheless. It’s amazing to me that I can’t remember anything about the story–I didn’t remember that the main point-of-view character was deaf, for that matter–because I used to be able to remember plot points and details of every book I’ve read; another by-product of age, I suppose, was the loss of many of those memories and details. I do remember, however, the enormous sadness I felt that Laws died so young of HIV/AIDS, back in the plague years, and was only able to produce two high quality gay-themed horror novels, this one and Steam.  HIV/AIDS did so much damage, not just to our community but also to our creative community that even now, so many years later, that we are struggling to recover from the losses.

I would imagine there’s an amazing academic study to be done on the impact of HIV/AIDS to the queer writing community, and how it shifted and changed our work, the direction of it, and how younger queer writers also lost the mentoring possibilities of the older, more established writers who were dying off, one by one. I myself have never once addressed the plague in my own work. It was a conscious choice back when I first started; the cocktail had already been discovered and lives being extended. The plague was no longer a death sentence for those diagnosed, and the advances that have been made in the years since I first started writing and getting published are the things we could only dream of during the 80’s and 90’s. Ironically, I wrote a short story for a horror anthology (more details on that to come) called “A Whisper from the Graveyard” which is the first time I’ve addressed the plague in fiction (the story was set in the early 1990’s), and I am writing about it in my so-far unfinished novella “Never Kiss a Stranger.”

God, so much writing to do and always, always, new ideas arrive. Even as I listed the books I plan to write yesterday, afterwards I remembered there were at least two more that I’d forgotten about.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And now, back to the spice mines, as I must prepare for my return to the office this morning.

Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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Sleeping Bag

Saturday morning and a lovely night’s sleep was had last evening; today is, I think, going to be a lazy day. We’re in a heat advisory, and I do want to go to the gym this morning, but after that I might have to just stay inside the rest of the day. The heat can be so oppressive; I worry about just how high my power bill is going to be, and it feels like my car never completely cools down when I’m driving here or there, hither and yon.  New Orleans summers are quite brutal; it’s hot and above all else, damp. Hydration is vital because you lose a lot of body fluids through sweating. Just walked to the car from the Lost Apartment, my socks get damp and so do my underarms and forehead. The wetness of the air is, naturally, wonderful for wild plant life; part of the reason New Orleans is so lush with vegetation is nature’s determination to return the city to what it was originally: a swamp. The sidewalk alongside the house is covered in pink crepe myrtle blossoms, like it snowed pink overnight.

I really don’t want to go outside.

But I will always prefer heat to cold. That will never change. I don’t, after all, have to scrape humidity off my car or shovel it off my sidewalk. And really, the anticipation of dealing with the heat is always worse than it ever turns out to be.

The kitchen is a mess this morning, so I definitely need to unload the dishwasher and do another load of dishes this morning. I’ll probably do the floors as well; in for a penny and all that. I may just wind up spending the day reading Lou Berney’s brilliant November Road. My reading has slowed down a bit; I’m not sure why that is, and I also need to read some more short stories this morning, as I only have two that I’ve read left to blog about; but the lovely thing about short stories is they are short, and don’t take a long time to read. I can read three or four in less than an hour, and I’ve got all kinds of anthologies and single-author collections piled up all around the house and in my iPad.

Or…I could just blow everything off and deal with it tomorrow. I’m going to have to make a grocery run anyway.

Weekends.

Next up in the Short Story Project is “The River Styx Runs Upstream” by Dan Simmons, from his collection Prayers to Broken Stones and other Stories:

I loved my mother very much. After her funeral, after her coffin was lowered, the family went home and waited for her return.

I was only eight at the time. Of the required ceremony I remember little. I recall that the collar of the previous year’s shirt was far too tight and that the unaccustomed tie was like a noose around my neck. I remember that the June day was too beautiful for such a solemn gathering. I remember Uncle Will’s heavy drinking that morning and the bottle of Jack Daniels he pulled out as we drove home from the funeral. I remember my father’s face.

The afternoon was too long. I had no role to play in the family’s gathering that day, and the adults ignored me. I found myself wandering from room to room with a warm glass of Kool-Aid, until finally I escaped to the backyard. Even that familiar landscape of play and seclusion was ruined by the glimpse of pale, fat faces staring out from the neighbor’s windows. They were waiting. Hoping for a glimpse. I felt like shouting, throwing rocks at them. Very deliberately I poured the red Kool-Aid into the sand and watched the spreading stain digging a small pit.

They’re digging her up now.

Dan Simmons is a terrific writer. The first of his I read was Carrion Comfort, which I remember fondly, before moving on to (among others) Song of Kali, Summer of Night, and Children of the Night. There was also a really terrific one set in Hawaii whose name I cannot recall right now; but it was about volcanoes and Pele, and I also really enjoyed it. The television adaptation of his The Terror was simply phenomenal television, and while I disagree strongly with his politics–I try as hard as I can to separate the artist  from the work.

This story is absolutely fantastic, and chilling, and creepy. Humanity has developed the technology to revive the dead, but rather than going into any explanations of how that works or why you would do such a thing, Simmons focuses on the point of view of a child whose mother has died and is being brought back…and how other people react to such a thing. This could easily make a terrific novel; and the themes of isolation, being viewed as outsiders and being ostracized by your community, is handled beautifully and can be extrapolated into symbolism about any outsiders. It’s really quite terrific.

And now on to the spice mines.

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