Oh Diane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You May Be The One

Tuesday and the week seems to be settling into a sort of groove that I can not only handle but isn’t too horrific, to be perfectly honest. The week has started off pretty okay, really; I was notified that Mystery Scene magazine had given an anthology I have a story in a glowing review which included a lovely shout out to my story, “The Snow Globe,” which is absolutely lovely. And I quote: “The Snow Globe,” by Greg Herren, is a dark and humorous Christmas tale–“Santa, Dylan thought, certainly has a great six-pack”–about loneliness, voodoo, and reconnecting with family.

Isn’t that lovely? Usually anthologies I am in get reviewed and my story doesn’t get mentioned; there was a review of one anthology in particular I recall where every single story was individually reviewed…except for mine, which wasn’t even mentioned. Since my story had gay content and characters, I can’t help but think that was due to the reviewer’s homophobia; why would you namecheck every story in the book with a few sentences about each and then not even mention mine, even to dog it? I know, I know, it’s not always homophobia, but one always has to wonder–especially when you have the only gay tale in the book and it is the ONE story that doesn’t even get mentioned. So how lovely was this?

I don’t even mind that the story was called “dark and humorous” even though it wasn’t supposed to be funny (this has happened so many times in my career….)

But, you see, this is yet another one of the problems of being a queer writer of queer work. When things happen like the aforementioned review (where my story was the only one unworthy of review or commentary), as a queer writer of queer work you always have to wonder: was my story that bad, or is this just your average, garden variety homophobia at work? This is always an issue for queer writers; is this a place that will publish a story about a gay man or will they just reject it out of hand? I wonder about this, particularly with the bigger markets for crime short fiction that are out there. I know I’ve sold a gay tale or two to some of the paying markets for crime short fiction; I also know there are some that have rejected every story with a gay character but have taken the ones that centered a straight character. I shouldn’t have to even wonder about this, to be perfectly honest; I should never hesitate about sending a story somewhere as long as it meets their guidelines. And yet, every time I submit something, anything, somewhere anywhere, I always wonder.

I ran my errands after work yesterday, came home and Paul and I relaxed in front of the television, watching the last episode of The Anarchists (weird and sad), and then got ourselves caught up on Becoming Elizabeth, which is quite well done for a Starz English royalty dramatization (earlier series, based on the Philippa Gregory books, were also well done, but not necessarily always historically accurate. Becoming Elizabeth follows the period between the death of Henry VIII and Elizabeth being crowned queen–the eleven year period of the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, which were quite turbulent and Elizabeth often found herself imprisoned, if not her life in jeopardy. It was in navigating those times that her character was formed, and she learned–often the hard way–how to play both sides as well as how to never ever cross the line into treason.

I slept decently, not great, last night, and this morning I am not feeling either tired or groggy, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hit the wall this afternoon, either. I have so much to do it’s not even funny, and I suppose, as always, that the key to getting everything done is to just go down the list and check things off once and for all. I did get some work done on the new Scotty yesterday–not much but any progress at this point is progress–but I was mostly tired when I got home last night, to be honest. I am hoping for a better day today than yesterday was–not that it was a bad day, but it was a very low energy, low motivation day (which probably had a lot to do with me going in on a Monday, which isn’t the usual and at some point I am going to have to get used to again, which I kind of don’t want to do, frankly) so hopefully today won’t be like that. They set up a work station in my testing room yesterday, which means I don’t have to commute back and forth from my desk all day anymore, so today will be me trying to get used to that and trying to figure out how best to utilize the space in the my room and how to make it easier for me to do my job with the new set-up; I don’t know how I am going to get it set up to be functional quite yet, which means work arounds in the meantime until I can get it all figured out.

If it isn’t one thing, it certainly is another.

I also had ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni.com that arrived yesterday, and I really do like them–I especially like that they were about one fifth the cost of my last pair, which I bought from the optometrist. (I may order another pair or two today; I didn’t want to go crazy until I got the first pair and could see that they worked just fine, which they do.) I had never thought of glasses as being fashionable; they were too expensive, for one thing, to think about in terms of oh I should get different pairs in different styles to coordinate with outfits; which of course meant that, as with everything, I saw glasses as utilitarian rather than fashionable–function over form, if you will. But this pair of glasses was inexpensive enough that I can actually start thinking of my glasses as form and function, rather than as one. So, maybe on my lunch hour I will look around on their website and see if I can find some others that work for my round face and slight wattle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader! And I will see you tomorrow!

Thousand Days

Last night was definitely the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I left for Florida last week, which was really nice. I still didn’t want to get up this morning, of course, but the weird thing is I feel very rested; I actually have every morning this week, which should say something about how well i’ve been sleeping, right?

Yesterday after work I had to head uptown to run an errand before heading home to the Lost Apartment, where I cleaned the kitchen and did a load of laundry before settling in with a grilled cheese sandwich (with bacon, guacamole, and two slices of Creole tomato–marvelous, simply marvelous) to watch some more episodes of Stranger Things, and I think we should finish it tonight. We also caught up on Only Murders in the Building, which I am enjoying–but not so sure how I feel about the latest plot twist in the story, but I am enjoying the show this season; the cast is top-notch, of course, and the writing is still strong, but the plot does seem to be dragging a bit this season. Not a complaint, merely an observation. We also have some episodes of Becoming Elizabeth to get caught up on; I love me some Tudor drama, and it’s funny how we very rarely see the incredibly turbulent times between the death of Henry VIII and the coronation of Elizabeth I on film or in novels (one exception: Anya Seton’s marvelous Green Darkness), so it’s nice seeing the years of Edward VI being dramatized; I’ve always felt the younger years of Elizabeth before she became Queen were just as interesting as those of her reign, particularly since the lessons she learned during those years held her in good stead when she did mount the throne…I wonder, now that I think about it, whether Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones was sort of based on Elizabeth Tudor?

I am starting to feel sort of back to normal again, so I am recovered fully from the trip this past weekend; and since I am not going anywhere again until September for Bouchercon (provided any of our current pandemics don’t suddenly worsen between now and then) I can get settled into a routine and hopefully–hopefully–start making it back to the gym again as well as settling into a routine of writing and editing. It’s not with the slightest hesitation that I can happily state that I am pretty much finished with all editing for A Streetcar Named Murder (all that is left is the page proofing), and all Imposter Syndrome aside, it’s actually not a bad book. After going through the copy edits and doing some slight tweaking, it actually holds together pretty well; I think my main character is likable enough; and I think I may have actually done a good job with the New Orleans stuff. Suffice it to say, I am pleased with it and hope that everyone who does read it will be as well.

Huzzah!

I have one other major chore on my list to get done by Monday, and then once it’s completed I can go ahead and get down to work on the new Scotty and everything else I am working on. Everything is a process, of course; but once I get the errands I need to run done tomorrow (which I am taking off) I should be able to sit around and focus on everything I need to get done in the meantime. I am excited about getting my new glasses tomorrow (the ability to see clearly is vastly underrated) and at some point I need to run by Costco as well as make a significant grocery run–there’s literally so little food in the house we would be hard-pressed to get through an entire weekend, quite frankly–and perhaps part of my “straight home from work” night chores should include a thorough cleaning out of the refrigerator (I may make grilled cheese again tonight; Creole tomato season doesn’t last forever after all) as well as reorganizing things in there to utilize the space better. I have a load of clothes in the dryer that will need fluffing and folding once I am home, as well, and I have a short story to edit before turning it in tomorrow for a submission call I’d like to make it past the cut–but on the other hand, I won’t be terribly upset if I don’t. I am not sure my story actually fits within the perimeters of the actual call, so it’s already a long shot before taking into consideration whether the writing or anything is any good.

I also need to figure out where I am with a lot of other things. This weekend will be good, methinks, for centering myself. I also want to finish reading Devil’s Chew Toy this weekend, and I also have a blog post or two about some things I’ve read I need to finish and post. It’s always something….

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Beauty and the Beast

Holiday Monday, which is celebrating Juneteenth (if you want to know more about the holiday, this is a great place to start). It’s hard to believe, and more than a little sad, that it took until recently for this to become a federally recognized holiday. Honestly.

Better late than never, I suppose–which is hardly any consolation, really.

But it’s nice to have another three-day weekend (I can’t remember which holiday we gave up for this one at my dayjob, but we only are allowed no more than eight holidays for some reason), and I slept late again this morning. The cappuccino yesterday morning had no effect on my sleep, so I am having another one this morning, which is lovely. I really do love the way they taste; I just wish making them wasn’t so complicated and dirtied up so much stuff. I made Swedish meatballs yesterday afternoon and that mess still needs to be cleaned up as well. Heavy sigh. What can I say? I got caught up in watching television once the meal was ready and stayed in my easy chair until it was time for bed. We watched the new episode of Becoming Elizabeth, which isn’t bad but it’s not overly compelling either–which is weird, because the period between Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558 was very fraught and very dangerous (Anya Seton brilliantly captured this period in her seminal novel Green Darkness, which I highly recommend along with the warning “it’s quite long”); but it’s not really translating to the screen very well in this production. I also spent some more time with John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which I hope to do again today.

We also started watching an amazing show on Netflix that originally dropped in 2020 and whose second season was endlessly delayed by the pandemic (I checked it out on-line as we watched) called The Defeated starring Taylor Kitsch as a Brooklyn homicide detective who is “loaned” to a small precinct in the American sector of Berlin in 1946 to help rebuild their station along American police standards; which is a challenge. None of the people working as cops there have any experience in being police officers; some are young boys while the majority are women. The Germans aren’t allowed to have guns, so they have an “arsenal” where they keep their bedposts and other wooden sticks; the Russians are horrible; and Kitsch himself is looking for his brother, a soldier with mental problems who’s gone AWOL and whom Kitsch suspects is targeting and murdering Nazis. It’s extremely well done–think Babylon Berlin but only in another twenty years–and it also asks a lot of ethical and moral questions that really don’t have answers. The woman who runs the station, is the “superintendent” or captain of the squad–wasn’t a Nazi but her protestations about “we weren’t all Nazis” have the same credibility of a prisoner at Angola claiming innocence: no one admits to being a Nazi once the war was lost, after all. At one point she says, very poignantly, “The war is over and the entire world hates us because of what we did, or allowed, and who can blame them?” This seems particularly poignant given the current political climate in our country; I know it seems extreme, but I’ve seen other people comment on Twitter and other social media about how they feel sometimes like “they are living in Weimar Germany and it’s just a matter of time.”

I know I’ve certainly felt that way at times.

We also watched a classic old Bette Davis film, The Letter, which I’d realized I’d never seen yesterday so I pulled it up and started watching. I had read the original short story by Somerset Maugham a few years ago for the Short Story Project, and enjoyed it tremendously. The story is told from the lawyer’s point of view, while the movie certainly shifts the focus over to Leslie Crosbie, wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner, who shoots and kills a man she accuses of trying to rape her. Everyone believes Leslie…but you see, there is this letter that exists that contradicts her story, and the more lies she tells, the less her lawyer believes her–although he ultimately pays a blackmailer to get the letter back so she escapes conviction. In the story it’s all from the lawyer’s point of view; she’s merely the wife of a friend he is taking on as a favor, and he doesn’t know her well…but as he (the lawyer) discovers the existence of the letter and recovers it, he slowly begins to see through her lies and to see her as she really is. He doesn’t expose her–he allows her to escape her punishment–but he confronts her with the letter after the verdict and she confesses everything…only to return to her loveless marriage at the rubber plantation. The story and the movie both are steeped with the Imperialistic and racist overtones of the time the story was written and the film made; the ending of the movie is different than that of the story because of course, for the Hays Code of the time she couldn’t be seen as not being “punished” for her crime; she is murdered at the end by the Eurasian widow of the man she killed (his marriage to this mixed-race woman is what sets the tragedy in motion) during a party celebrating her verdict. There was one scene in particular that really made me shake my head: after she has told her story of being almost raped and committing murder to protect herself, she makes dinner for her husband, a friend of the family, and the local police magistrate and they sit around eating and talking about things like nothing’s happened. As we watched this season, Paul–who had no idea of what the movie was about–said, “Oh, he didn’t try to rape her, did he? She’s a cold-blooded killer.” GREG: “It’s Bette Davis, what do you think?”

Although it did make me think about false accusations of rape again, which is one of the myriad of reasons women generally tend to not be believed about being assaulted. There’s probably a really good essay to be written about that.

I also wrote yesterday, which was really lovely. I managed to get the first chapter of that manuscript written; I plan to look at it again today and tweak it a bit. I have a lengthy errand to run–must go over to the North Shore–and when I get home, I plan to write for a while before retiring to my easy chair with my Copenhaver book (I am really enjoying it, y’all) before we finish watching The Defeated (y’all, it’s really good). I’m not sure if what I wrote yesterday is actually any good or not; it remains to be seen, I suppose, and let’s face it, I am not (nor have I ever been) the best judge of my own work. But we shall see today, I suppose. It felt good to be creating again and it felt good to be finishing something, even if it’s just a shitty draft. I’d like to be able to get a lot more written today, if I can…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Talk soon, Constant Reader!

Waiting for the Sirens’ Call

Well, it’s now Thursday and let’s see how the rest of this week goes. I don’t have to go back to the office until Ash Wednesday–working at home today and tomorrow–and then over the weekend (all four days of it) I can leisurely clean and write and get things done, which is always a plus. Paul hasn’t been getting home from the office until almost ten every night this week–making me a Festival widow, as I always am every year at this time; the primary difference being Paul would come home for the parades and then work on things at his desk until all hours of the night while I went to bed. Last night’s Youtube wormholes included Kings and Generals videos about the Ottoman Wars; short documentaries about Henry VIII’s sisters, Margaret and Mary (who don’t get near as much attention as their famous brother– had Henry’s matrimonial efforts been a bit more in line with those of a normal king, Margaret and Mary would have most likely gone down in history for their own notoriety and scandalous lives…as it is, they are most forgotten footnotes to Tudor history. But all the British monarchy after Elizabeth I is actually descended from Margaret Tudor rather than Henry VIII); another couple about another favorite sixteenth century royal woman Marguerite de Valois (immortalized as Queen Margot in the Dumas novel); famous courtesans of history; and the decline and fall of the Byzantine Empire. (I really have always wanted to write about palace intrigue in Constantinople–there’s a reason why “byzantine” has come to mean interconnected elaborate conspiracies with twists and turns and surprises)

I was also very tired yesterday, after my third “get up at six and go to the office” day in a row. I am acutely becoming more and more aware of my age and the increasing fragility of my body; nothing terribly original or insightful, really. The decay of our bodies is something we can generally spend a good portion of our lives not thinking about, and of course, we consistently always push aside thinking about our own mortality because–well, because no good can come of it, really, other than paralyzing depression and panic about the shortening of the life string held by the Three Fates. I have become very used to the idea that I am not going to be able to write all the things that I want to write in the limited time I have left to me (see what I mean about paralyzing depression? Just typing those words made my entire body shudder), particularly with all the new ideas I get on an almost daily basis.

And the more research I do about New Orleans and Louisiana history, the more fascinated I become. I was actually thinking the other day, as I idly went down a research wormhole about Alice Heine (the first American born princess of Monaco was NOT Grace Kelly, but Alice Heine–born and raised in the 900 block of the French Quarter in New Orleans), I couldn’t help but think man, I should have started studying all this New Orleans/Louisiana history YEARS ago–at least when we first moved here. There is so much rich, vibrant material in New Orleans’ checkered history; and when you expand it out to Louisiana as a whole, it becomes even more interesting. I had, in fact, primarily always assumed the prevalence of Spanish names in the state and region came from when the Spanish owned Louisiana….which in a way it kind of did; but it was because to populate their new lands and territories as a protective measure against both the British and the Americans, the Spanish governors encouraged immigration from the Canary Islands–their descendants are called los isleños; I knew about the isleños, but I never really knew when they came here and to what part of Louisiana they came. (There was also a Filipino settlement at a place called St Málo; outside the levees, that settlement was completely destroyed by a hurricane in the early twentieth century…which just goes to show precisely how much of a cultural and ethnic melting pot New Orleans is and always has been.) It’s all so goddamned interesting…the main problem is the older books about the state and city’s history aren’t necessarily reliable–Lyle Saxon, Harnett Kane, and Robert Tallant, in particular; their works weren’t always based in fact but in rumor and legend, and all too often in upholding white supremacy–but the stories are highly entertaining, if inaccurate, biased, and with perhaps too high a degree of fictionality built into them. But the stories themselves are interesting and could make for good stories–in particular Tallant’s book Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, (one can never go wrong with historical true crime, even if Tallant’s sources were faulty and included rumor and speculation)…the title tale is, in and of itself, one I’ve been interested in fictionalizing since I first became aware of it–I can’t recall the murderer’s name, but a very good-looking young man, he used to lure men in to rob and kill; and while he always had a girlfriend–sometimes accomplices–and Tallant never comes right out and says so, my takeaway from the story is that the guy basically preyed on older men with either gay or bisexual tendencies, which puts it right into my wheelhouse, really.

And of course, so many of these stories would work in my Sherlockian world of New Orleans in the first decades of the twentieth century.

And this, you see, is why I will never be able to write everything I want to write. Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your day be as splendid as you are, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you again tomorrow morning.

It’s A Sin

Ah, SIN.

The human concept of sin is something that has alays fascinated me; as does the societal distinction that sin isn’t necessarily a crime. Adultery, after all, made the Top Ten in the Bible; but adultery isn’t a crime, at least in our country. Maybe I’ve been reading too much medieval plague history, but as a result the entire concept of sin v. crime has been running through my head a lot. We also always tend to speak and think of historical as being more religious and superstitious than our modern, “rational” time; which is why when the religious superstitions start finding their way out of the woodwork, people are always surprised. I’ve seen that a lot, actually, since 2008; the surprise of people who were just now noticing that much of organized religion is steeped in bigotry propped up by skillful, selective usage of their “holy” book while ignoring the parts that do not prove their bigotry and ignorance as holy. I’ve been toying, since the start of this current pandemic and the beginning of my own plague readings, with a story called “The Flagellants,” based on an idea obtained from rereading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and it’s plague chapter–about a movement of religious fanatics who believed God had sent the plague as a punishment for mankind’s sin (as fanatics have always believed in divine punishment as long as they have believed there are gods in the sky), and marched through the streets praying and repenting loudly while flogging themselves; their theory (if one can call it that) was that they were representing mankind’s penitence to God and therefore their behavior was intended to get God to take the scourge away. This set me to thinking about that Christian group that loves to show up here in the Quarter during Southern Decadence and Carnival to loudly tell us all, through megaphones and over amplifiers, that we are all sinners that need to repent and find our way back to the Lord, and wondering why they weren’t parading through the streets of the Quarter, doing something similar. (Their faith isn’t as strong as they would have us believe, apparently.) And so I started writing said story, but wasn’t really sure where to take it…I have some ideas; hopefully this weekend will help me sketch some of those ideas out.

Ah, sin.

A three day weekend is always a delight; I’m of the mind that every weekend should be three days rather than two. It generally takes me one day to rest and recover from the weekend, which is when I do my errands and clean and so forth, and then I am centered enough and rested enough (after two good night’s sleep) to get some work done on Sunday. With a three day weekend, that gives me an extra day to simply focus on writing. Naturally, of course, if every weekend was a three day weekend it would eventually prove also to not be enough time for me, I suppose, and so probably best to leave things as they are and simply enjoy those weekends when they come around. I have some plans for today; primarily a grocery run and perhaps a trip to the gym, along with some cleaning and organizing and perhaps some writing/brainstorming.

We continue to enjoy The Great on Hulu; I do recommend it, it’s very entertaining if not always the most historically accurate–and as I have stated many times, when it comes to television or film adaptations of actual historical events, accuracy inevitably goes out the window (the most egregious example of this being The Tudors. By combining Henry VIII’s sisters Margaret and Mary into one person, and then having her die without children, they essentially erased not only the Brandon/Grey line–no Nine Days’ Queen Jane Grey–but also the Scottish Stewarts; so no Mary Queen of Scots or any of the royalty since the death of Elizabeth I); and complaining about historical inaccuracies in fictional representations of actual history is low-hanging fruit, as it were.

I also want to finish reading Phyllis A. Whitney’s The Red Carnelian, and I’ve also started rereading a book from one of my favorite kids’ series, the Ken Holt mysteries by Bruce Campbell. The Ken Holt series is always neck and neck with The Three Investigators as my favorite kids’ series; they are very well written, action-packed, and well plotted as well; with a kind of hard-boiled edge to them. The first book in the series, The Secret of Skeleton Island, (a title also used in The Three Investigators series) introduces us not only to our young hero but to the people at Global News (Ken’s father is a globe trotting reporter; his mother is dead, and since his father is gone a lot Ken is at a boarding school somewhere outside of New York; I always assumed it was up the Hudson valley but it may have actually been Long Island), and how Ken meets up with, and basically is adopted into, the Allen family. I’m actually enjoying the book–and considering it was written for 9-12 year olds in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s, and it still holds up, is saying quite a bit. The fact these books never caught on or were as popular as, say the Hardy Boys, and have been out of print for decades, is disgraceful.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I look forward to speaking to you again this weekend.

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Let Her In

Yesterday was simply lovely.

I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I also suspected as much would occur–I know myself all too well–but I got the laundry room cleaned, even the baseboards–and all the bed linens done, vast arrays of dishes, and filing and organizing and other general duties that probably don’t get done as often as they should. I am really the most horrible housekeeper; my apartment would never pass muster, and the way my mother would react to it sends chills down my spine. I don’t like have a slovenly home, but there simply isn’t enough time for me to keep up with it all, let alone do the deep dive it really needs.

You learn to live with the dust.

I shudder to think what the tops of the cabinets look like, or what’s under the refrigerator.

But it was lovely, I enjoyed doing what I was doing and I listened to music and I made progress on answering my emails and I even looked over the revision of “The Snow Globe” I had begun. I also discovered that–utter Luddite that I am–that I can broadcast the screen of my computer onto the living room television. The mouse also works in there, but not the keyboard; I am not sure what the problem is there, but it’s probably solvable. Imagine, me being able to write on my computer while seeing it on the television screen while I recline in my easy chair with a lap desk.

How much fun would that be?

Pretty darned fun, methinks.

We started watching the new Renee Zellweger show on Netflix, What If, but lost interest in it about halfway through. Paul fell asleep and I was scrolling through my phone, and when he did wake up I really couldn’t explain what was going on because I hadn’t been paying attention–so off it went. We may try it again later, but we’ve never been big fans of hers, and while I hesitate to comment on the way people look, particularly people in the entertainment business, she’s had some work done and she doesn’t look quite right, if that makes sense. She looks pretty, but now there’s a kind of artificiality about her face which wasn’t there before, if that makes sense? Maybe not. Maybe I am being too hard on her and too hard on the show, but I was hoping for something good, particularly since one of the male actors was stunningly good looking and had a nude scene in the first few minutes, appearing again later in just some boxer briefs.

We may try again later.

I also watched another episode of The Spanish Princess, which is entertaining enough, if not as well done as other similar type series about royalty. I never did finish The White Princess, but I rather enjoyed The White Queen, and am really looking forward to HBO’s Catherine the Great with Helen Mirren–although that may be just a film. But watching The Spanish Princess, I was struck by how very different this take on Katherine of Aragon is then anything I’ve ever seen (or read) before. Katherine is primarily of interest to filmmakers/playwrights as an old woman, past menopause and having lost the love of Henry VIII, while desperately resisting his attempt to divorce her to marry Anne Boleyn. She is always portrayed sympathetically–the tragic devoted wife, deserted and abandoned for a younger model (the age-old story), proudly holding on to her dignity and fighting for the inheritance of her daughter. I’ve always kind of been more #teamAnneBoleyn, to be honest, and the older I get and the more I read the more suspicious I am of the kind of person Katherine was–and she doesn’t really have my sympathy. Don’t get me wrong, neither does Henry; he was an idiot and a fool and he didn’t understand his first wife at all. They were both willful and arrogant and too proud. Katherine should have understood her duty better; Henry should have known better than to ask his wife to say she’d lied to the entire world in order to invalidate their marriage.

Simply stated, there wasn’t any way Katherine was ever going to do that, and that he even asked guaranteed she would fight him to the end.

But it’s amazing how well she has done in the court of public opinion over the centuries; the “wronged woman” getting all the sympathy. One of the things I loved about Carrolly Erickson’s biography of Katherine’s daughter, Bloody Mary, is that she wrote about the influences constantly at war within Mary’s nature; her role in the world as a woman, and how that came into conflict with her role as princess and later Queen. (Her sister Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a master of playing both conflicting roles to her advantage, based on the situation at hand; Mary could have learned a lot from her much younger sister.)

But the interesting thing about The Spanish Princess is that we are, just as we can never be certain about the truth in history, not certain whether or not Katherine’s first marriage, to Henry’s sickly older brother Arthur, was actually consummated. The way the show was filmed (and I could be wrong), it implies that they did consummate the marriage–and she changed her story later to fulfill what she believed was her destiny: to marry a prince of England and bring the two countries into alliance against their common enemy, France. This is a very different take on Katherine’s story; usually it is pretty much taken for granted that she was telling the truth and she and Arthur never had sex.

I like this entire concept of telling the story from the perspective that she actually lied in order to become Queen of England; and I’ve always believed, from the very first time I read the highly sympathetic biography of her by Mary M. Luke when I was eleven (Catherine the Queen), that she may have lied because it was in her best interest to do so.

And having lied, she could hardly admit, thirty years later, that she had.

Such a fascinating woman, really. I still am not certain any biography has truly done her justice.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. There’s cleaning and reading and writing to do; and I need to run some errands later.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Miss Me Blind

The last Friday of 2017. I am working a very abbreviated day at the office today; and have a three day weekend. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning–nothing new there this week; I’ve felt that way every morning this week–and am really looking forward to being a lazy slug and staying in bed as long as I can the next three days. Huzzah for being a lazy slug! I am also starting to come out of this whatever it was that I had; its lovely to feel this close to normal–I was beginning to forget what close to normal felt like, to be honest.

I finished reading The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo last night, and I have to say, it was refreshing to read something about Anne Boleyn that tried to take a look at her in an objective way; who she was has been so defined over the years by so much misogynistic garbage, as well as the highly biased accounts of two men who hated her–the Spanish ambassador, Chapuys, and the Venetian ambassador–that it was lovely to read  a book about her that tried to take a look at who the real Anne was, and debunk the myths that have, over the years, come to be taken as facts.

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The sixteenth century is one of my favorite periods of history, and always has been, as far back as I can remember; the Tudors in England and the Valois in France; the unification of the Hapsburg empire; the rise of Spain as a nation and its own colonial empire and systematic looting of the Americas; the corruption of the papacy and the Reformation; the Renaissance; and the rise of England as a world power. The sixteenth century is also remarkable in that it is the first century of European history where women rose to prominent positions of power, more so than any other: the list of powerful, influential women ranges everywhere from intellectual influences (Marguerite de Navarre) to regnant queens (Mary I and Elizabeth I in England, and even the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey; Mary Queen of Scots; Jeanne d’Albret, Isabella of Castile) to powers behind the throne (Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici) to regents (Margaret of Austria, Maria of Hungary, Marie de Guise), among many other women who influenced the course of history. I’ve always wanted to do a Barbara Tuchman style study of the century and its powerful women, called The Monstrous Regiment of Women. 

The century was also terribly unique in that precedents were set by things that had never happened before: England executed three of her queens, and another in Mary Queen of Scots; France saw a non-royal crowned queen in Catherine de Medici; and of course, there were the marital shenanigans of Henry VIII. And while I am fascinated by many  of the century’s women and their place on the stage of history, perhaps the most fascinating, for me at least, has always been Anne Boleyn.

I’ve never understood the bad rap that Anne Boleyn has gotten over the years from historians; the very first biography of a Tudor woman that I read, Mary M. Luke’s Catherine the Queen, was obviously very anti-Anne Boleyn; she has been painted with the brush of misogyny throughout history as everything from the husband-stealing vixen to the great whore; and yet, the answer has to be more complex than that. Anne Boleyn was responsible for England’s break from the Catholic Church, and while her predecessor Catherine of Aragon is often depicted as the long-suffering victim, there was also no question, in any histories of the period or biographies, that Catherine of Aragon was, the entire period of her marriage to Henry VIII and after being discarded, very much a Spanish agent working against England’s interests in favor of those of her family; the ruling house of Spain. Her goal was to eventually see her daughter, Mary I, sit on the English throne and marry her cousin Charles, thus bringing England into the Imperial fold. She violently resisted any other possible marriage for her daughter; and it cannot be questioned that making England a basic vassal state of the Hapsburgs was hardly in England’s best interests going forward (as was seen when Mary did eventually become queen and married Charles’ son, Philip). Catherine, no matter how romantically people want to view her as the wronged wife and victim, allowed her own pride, and her own ambition, to cause England to be separated from the Catholic Church despite her own seeming piety; for her, her own pride was more important than the souls of the English people. So even the stories of her deep religious faith as a sign of her great character really don’t hold water. And at any time, she could have relieved, not only her own suffering, but that of the daughter she loved so much. I’ve always found these depictions of Catherine of Aragon to be more emotional rather than logical.

No matter what, Anne Boleyn inspired great passion in both her adherents and her enemies. After her death Henry VIII destroyed all of her papers, so very few letters of hers exist and so there are no primary sources of information on her that aren’t tainted by the opinions of the person writing; the Spanish ambassador, so clearly an agent of Queen Catherine, can hardly be trusted to be unbiased. Likewise, the Venetian ambassador was no fan of Anne Boleyn. Yet I’ve never seen any letters from the French ambassador; or from the Scottish ambassador, or any that might actually have been anti-Spanish. All that exists is basically propaganda. And there are few women in history who’ve been more slandered than Anne Boleyn; and not only was she slandered for being the mother of the English Reformation, she was slandered for not being a typical woman of the time. She was intelligent, she was educated, and she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind during a time when women were primarily expected to be quiet and listen to the men.

It was not, of course, uncommon for women who didn’t fit the desired societal mold of their time to be trashed and slandered; it still happens today. Another woman of the century whom I find fascinating–Catherine de Medici–also has had a horrible reputation throughout the years…Jean Plaidy’s trilogy of historical novels about her bears some of the names she was called for titles: The Italian Woman, Queen Jezebel, Madame Serpent. Elizabeth I was also slandered; one can only imagine how the historical views of her would be different had the Spanish/Catholic view of her prevailed.

I am really piquing my own interest in this project again here.

Anyway, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating read, and one that Tudorphiles definitely should look into. I highly recommend it.