Midnight Train to Georgia

Thursday morning, my first cup of coffee and there’s condensation all over my office windows. There’s mess everywhere in the Lost Apartment this morning–which means, of course, that it’s Thursday. My Monday thru Wednesday work days are lengthy and exhausting so I rarely have the energy to do much of anything on those nights when I get home from work, other than watch a little television, write a bit, and possibly read some. Last night I got home from work, moved a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, started another load in the washing machine, wrote six or seven hundred words, than escaped to my easy chair. I’m watching a lovely documentary in bits and pieces–Tea with the Dames, on Hulu, which is just Maggie Smith, Judi Densch, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright, talking about their careers, their long friendships, and gossiping about other actors and directors they’ve worked with. It’s quite charming, actually, and then Paul was ready to watch another episode of The Boys, which continues to amaze and impress me.

It’s also now August this morning, so that means there are only nineteen shopping days left before my birthday, so I strongly suggest and recommend you get started looking for my gifts now, okay? It’ll save you so much stress if you do it now, and beat the inevitable crowds that are certain to form the closer the actual day comes.

The big project I’m working on that dropped into my lap lately moves closer to completion; or at least, closer to my part being finished; I’ve acknowledged that after a certain point my assistance is moot and would be useless, but I can get a lot of the groundwork finished to begin with, which is in my wheelhouse, and we’re almost there.

As I said earlier, I only managed 700 or so words on the WIP last night, which isn’t terrific, but there are certainly worse things. Writing this book has been like pulling teeth almost from the very beginning, and doesn’t seem to get any easier the closer I get to the end. But that’s okay; I like the way it’s all coming together, despite the roughness of the words and the writing, it’s just taking me a hot minute to get everything finished, and that’s fine. I’m not so sure I know how to make the Kansas book–which I’ll be revising for the final time once I finish writing this draft–go faster than this; I am doing some heavy revisions and heavy lifting with it (I am literally stunned–and glad I waited on it–to see how many high school tropes and stereotypes I played into with this particular manuscript; I mean, literally–pick one and I can almost certainly let you know that it was included in this book), but I am confident I know what to do with it and am hoping I’ll get through it relatively quickly. I’m kind of glad another project I was scheduled to start working on today has been moved back another couple of months–dealing with it while trying to get this other stuff done (especially the one that dropped out of nowhere into my lap) would have sent me straight to the Xanax bottle. As it is, I have some other odds and ends I need to get done that I don’t seem to have the energy to get to once I do everything else for that day; perhaps one morning this weekend I’ll simply focus on those things and get them out of the way once and for all. I have three short stories promised to write, two of which I haven’t the slightest idea of what the story actually is; I definitely need to set aside some time to brainstorm those as deadlines are looming and drawing nearer and nearer.

And I really need to clean out my email inbox once and for all.

I also agreed to participate in a round table discussion about an aspect of writing–you know me, I never say no since I’m always flattered to be thought of and included in the first place–but yesterday I took a look at the questions and JFC, they are way over my head and slightly too smart for me; answering and participating is going to probably make me look stupid. (Shut up, Bryon.) But I agreed to do it, so I am going to print out the questions this weekend and look them over, because they do require thought rather than off-the-top-of-my-head answers. (Let me put it to you this way; the very first question revolves around an Octavia Butler novel…so you see how far it’s over my head already.)

This morning I feel very rested and very good; I feel like I can conquer the world today, which is always a plus and it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve felt this way.

I got some more books yesterday–Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith (I am literally drooling to start this); Love and Death in the Sunshine State: The Story of a Murder by Cutter Wood; and The Women of Dauphine by Deb Jannerson, a queer y/a set in New Orleans by a local writer; I don’t recall how I heard about this book, but I did and now I have it. I’ve not read a New Orleans novel in a while, and it might be fun to read another writer’s take on our diverse, vibrant city. I’m actually not sure how I heard about any of these books, to be honest–other than Sarah Weinman was talking about the Highsmith on Twitter last week and convinced me I needed to read it. I generally don’t read how-to-write books anymore (other than John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, which I primarily read, and reread, for enjoyment because Gardner was such a pompous, pretentious ass, which comes through loud and clear with every sentence–it helps whenever I want to create a character who is a pompous ass literary writer), but Sarah (who has to date never been wrong with recommending something to me) said it’s not only a writing guide but also sort of a memoir, and Highsmith was not only an unpleasant person but she embraced her unpleasantness, which is kind of lovely and fun and admirable–and probably fun to read. I love her novels–I’ve not read the entire canon, and I never finished the Ripley series other than the first one–and I should probably start working my way through the canon at some point. I’ve never been disappointed with a Highsmith, and the last two I read–The Cry of the Owl and The Blunderer, were simply genius and devilishly clever).

I also want to finish reading Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, which I’ve been recommending to all my co-workers.

Okay, that’s enough morning reflection. I need another cup of coffee, and I think I’m going to do some chores around answering emails this morning.

Have a lovely Friday Eve, everyone!

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Crocodile Rock

Oh, Louisiana.

My beautiful, beautiful state. Louisiana is basically a lush, fertile state chock full of important natural resources, and also sports the nickname “Sportsmen’s Paradise,” because outdoor sports–hunting, fishing, etc.–are abundant here. Lots of hunting, lots of fishing, that sort of thing.

But Louisiana also is known for corruption, being backwards in many ways, and some truly bizarre politics/politicians. It’s easy to say that Louisianans have a very cynical view of politics and politicians–no one is really surprised when one of our elected officials is caught doing something criminal or morally questionable; the basic presumption is that they’re all crooks and liars unless proven otherwise. We can never forget that one gubernatorial election featured bumper stickers and campaign slogans that read Vote for the crook, it’s important–when Governor Edwards, convicted for taking bribes in office, was running again after serving time and his opponent was notorious racist and former Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

And for the record, that election was in the early 1990’s–not that long ago.

As I said yesterday, I watched a four hour documentary on Hulu this past week called Murder in the Bayou, about what is called the “Jeff Davis 8”–eight women murdered over a period of less than three years in and around the Jefferson Davis Parish village of Jennings. The women all  had issues with drugs, and also came from really poor backgrounds. The documentary was interesting, and seemed geared to the idea that there was a serial killer operating in the parish–and for some reason, the cops simply couldn’t track said killer down, and eventually the killings stopped.

I also remembered that there was a book about the murders, with the same title, by New Orleans journalist Ethan Brown, and I had a copy. So, after I finished watching the documentary Friday afternoon, I got the book down from the shelves and looked to see if there were any photographs included. There weren’t–just the flyer with the reward posted, with photos of all the victims on it. I started reading…

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On May 20, 2005, Jerry Jackson, a soft-spoken slim African-American retiree with a short salt-and-pepper Afro, prepared to cast a fishing line from a hulking bridge over the Grand Marais Canal on the outskirts of Jennings in southwest Louisiana. Jackson peered down at the muddy rush below, the corroded, cylindrical rain pipes along the canal belching water, the collapsed pedestrian bridge far out in the distance. As he prepped his fishing line, Jackson imagined the catch that day, white perch, a small bass with a strong spine that’s so abundant in Louisiana it’s the state’s official freshwater fish. In low-lying southwest Louisiana, where rain is constantly siphoned to prevent flooding, drainage canals are as common as the perch. These canals provide sustenance for poor Louisianans for whom fishing is both a generations-old tradition and a day-to-day necessity. For hobbyists such as Jackson, who made the approximately ten-mile trip to Jennings from his cramped trailer on a dead-end street in nearby Welsh, drainage canal democratize fishing. Expensive shrimp boats and fishing equipment aren’t necessary–all one needs to do is drop a line into the water.

As Jackson peered deeper into the Grand Marais Canal, he spied the outline of a human body. “It had come up on the news that someone had stole some mannequins,” Jackson told me, “so I thought that one of the mannequins ended up in the water somehow.” Jackson focused his eyes on the figure. “I saw flies, and mannequins don’t attract flies.”

It didn’t take me long to get into the book to realize there was information, crucial information, about the victims in the book that wasn’t included in the documentary; in fact, the documentary left a lot of important information out. Yes, the women all had addiction issues, but they also were sex workers–turning to sex work to either get drugs, or to get the money to buy drugs. The police didn’t cooperate much with Mr. Brown, and the sister of one of the victims played a very prominent role in the documentary; she was only mentioned by name once in the book. Brown also shared the information that many of the victims were witnesses to other crimes, and theorized they were all killed to silence them–and that it wasn’t a serial killer after all. Brown also isn’t convinced completely that the police were so inept and incompetent to handle these kinds of investigations (something that came up a lot in the documentary), but that the parish police were actually corrupt, involved in the drug trade, and connecting all the dots also led to a peripheral involvement by a powerful politician. Naturally, the police and the politician disagree with Mr. Brown’s theories and conclusions…but he also includes, in the book, other crimes in the parish that may or may not have been connected to the murders, as well as corruption within the police department; things that were not in the documentary.

One of the things that struck me, while watching and again when reading the book, is how tragic the cycle of poverty is in these small towns, not just in Louisiana, but across the country. The class divide–marked in Jennings by literally railroad tracks that separate the good part of town from the bad–is truly staggering; I would imagine it’s much the same in big cities only not as obvious. The poor and uneducated people in places like Jennings are trapped in a terrible cycle of poverty that they cannot seem to break, which is truly sad, and the disruptive nature of the families they were born into doesn’t help much, either. And once someone starts spiraling down into drug addiction, there’s nowhere to turn to for help getting off the drugs…and there’s no money for rehab, which is incredibly expensive.

I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to stuck like that, with no hope for the future.

The book is very well written, and it’s not terribly long; I read it in one day, and it’s a terrific read. I do recommend it, and I also recommend watching the documentary as well. I’m curious about why they chose to leave some stuff out of the documentary that’s in the book–perhaps it has something to do with both using the same title but not adapting the book or using it as source material, or something along those lines–but it’s very interesting to see the two very different takes on the murders.

And yes, learning more about these murders did, in fact, give me an idea for another Chanse novel; the first idea I’ve had for a Chanse novel since I wrote Murder in the Arts District. I can easily see fictionalizing this story, with Chanse as the investigating private eye…or someone else, really; it doesn’t have to be Chanse, and the issues at play here–the disposability of drug addicted sex workers, class distinction, and corruption in the parish power structure–are things I would love to explore in a novel.

Like I don’t have anything else to write already, right?

And now back to the spice mines.

On the Radio

So, it’s Friday and yet another week has passed by. Next Friday is the first parade day of this year’s Carnival madness…I cannot believe it is nigh upon us–and it’s late this year. Madness….Mardi Gras madness, to be exact.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so Paul got us Chinese take-out for dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook, which was lovely. I do enjoy some shrimp lo-mein. We then proceeded to watch this week’s Schitt’s Creek, which was terrific–the David/Patrick pairing is one of my favorite gay couples on any television series–and another episode of PEN15, which I think we’re going to let go of. Maybe if we were younger women, we’d get it and enjoy it more; I’m sure it’s a fine show–we simply aren’t the target audience for it, which is fine. Not every television show or movie or book, for that matter, is targeted to everyone.

Since I already ran my errands yesterday, I came straight home from the office today–it was a short day for me, which made getting up so early a little less painful. Huzzah!

Also, when I got home from work yesterday the house next door had been tented for termites. It was a little surreal looking out the window and seeing the house next door hidden beneath an enormous yellow-and-red tarp that more closely resembled a circus tent than anything else. (I’ve always wondered why the termite tarps/tents are yellow and red…but a google search proved that, while they are always striped, they aren’t always yellow and red.) This morning when I got up, I noticed that the clips holding it together near the back of the house had given way and there was a rather large gap; a mere ten minutes later I almost jumped out of my skin when the part in the front of the house came tumbling down–particularly because it was so early in the morning. As I wondered if I should call my landlady (she knows the woman who owns the house next door) the tarpaulin over the back of the house began moving, and over the top of the fence I saw some hands. Then I heard voices….and the rest of the tarp came down.

So yes, the termite assassins were un-tenting the house at that ungodly hour of the morning. Who knew?

So, as I sit here, the washing machine is chugging on the last load of blankets, and the second-to-last load of bed linens is tumbling in the dryer. There’s also a load of clothes to do, but it’s still early. I’ve also unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it with what was in the sink. I am currently cleaning the coffee-maker, and will probably keep cleaning the kitchen a bit as I sit here. I am going to try to get a chapter done before I retire to the easy chair and Lori Roy’s ARC (#ilovemylife), and possibly another ghost short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? by Norah Lofts. I am going to go to the AT&T store tomorrow to see if I can trade my phone in–it’s past time–and other than that, I intend to spend the weekend reading, revising, and cleaning. Maybe watching some fun stuff on the TV; there are all kinds of movies and TV shows available on the streaming services I pay for that I want to watch.

There are also some odds and ends here in the office/kitchen area–as well the tables around my easy chair–that I should just bite the bullet and do something with. I’ve been meaning to update my address book for Christmas cards and so forth forever; the Christmas cards I’ve been saving are piled up on top of one of the filing cartons. I’ve also apparently made an error of some sort in my checking account; the bank says I have more money than my register does, and everything has cleared that I recorded. This happens periodically because I absolutely hate to balance my checkbook, and it always, without fail, means I’ve deducted something twice–I’ll buy something on-line or pay a bill, and then I’ll record it in the register. Then a few days later I’ll check my account on-line because I know I’ve forgotten to record something small–like NyQuil–that I got at the CVS across the street from the office. I’ll then notice the other amount–whether a purchase or paid bill–and will record it again.

Sometimes there are multiple mistakes.

I also have a tendency to round up in my check register, so that there’s less money showing than I actually have (one of my biggest fears is bouncing a check or having my debit card be declined at a cash register), which also makes determining what the actual balance really is a problem to figure out.

And yes, I think I have delayed revising sufficiently long now.

So, without further ado, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

Happy Friday, Constant Reader!

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All Out of Love

Wednesday, feelin’ fine.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to get out of bed–but not really out of a sense of being tired or not getting enough sleep; rather, it was more along the lines of it was raining and in those situations, I would always prefer to stay in bed with my blankets. Here’s hoping it rains this weekend, when I can stay in bed.

I’ve decided to go with my library book as my next Diversity read, White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig. It’s due next Friday, the first day of parades (!!!) on the St. Charles Avenue route, and so it makes more sense to go ahead and read it now and get it out of the way. That makes it sound like more of an odious chore than I intended it to sound, quite frankly; it isn’t an odious chore at all. I had a lovely time reading his first novel, and I am quite certain I’ll enjoy this one as well. There’s no reason I wouldn’t; but I also need to steer myself into reading short stories. My collection is coming out on April 1, and around that same time the anthology I’m in, Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is also coming out…so I am going to start talking about the stories in both, and I should probably get a jump on that.

The best-laid plans of mice and men…

Yesterday during the revising I was stopped cold by an enormous hole in the plot that threw me off my game. I blinked at the computer screen three times slowly, and as how to fill the hole, or patch it up, as it were, started coming to mind and I began filling said plot-hole with new words, I got exhausted suddenly, very tired and drained…so I stepped away from the manuscript, knowing that trying to force it when I’m tired would just mean having to redo it anyway, so why not just think about it, solve the problem thoroughly in my head, and reserve the energy? A good night’s sleep and a fresh start in the morning would be the most wise course to follow. And I did have a good night’s sleep last night! I feel amazing this morning–rested, awake, energized and ready to go. So, hopefully I can resolve this plot problem this morning, and get another chapter done, as well. Huzzah! I also have to pick up a prescription this morning on the way to work, so I’ll need to leave earlier than I usually do.

I also got an ARC of Lori Roy’s new book, Gone Too Long, in the mail yesterday, so I am most likely going to shunt the Diversity Project aside momentarily in order to read it. Every new book by Lori is kind of an event; her resume of awards and great reviews rather speaks for itself. And the cover copy makes this one sound terrific…and her books usually surpass the cover copy. Huzzah!

I’m in a pretty good mood this morning, no doubt due to the terrific night’s sleep I just enjoyed, and feeling better about my manuscript–despite the plot hole. I’m still on-target to get it finished by the end of the month, and I really am looking forward to getting back to work on the WIP…I may even start doing some revision work/rereading of it this weekend; we shall see. I would really like to get the Scotty done long before the end of the month, but again–we’ll just have to see how it goes, won’t we?

And of course, one of my favorite reality shows, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, returned last night, so I spent a rather blissful hour last night watching rich women setting up ridiculous drama that will carry the show through this season. My enjoyment of these shows is starting to wane a little; so a good season of this one and New York is really necessary or else I may stop watching entirely.

We started watching PEN15 on Hulu the other night, and it has potential. We’ll have to give it another episode or two before we decide whether we want to continue with it–but it currently looks very promising.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Beauty and the Beast

Thursday and the work week approaches its end.

Yesterday was Payday, or rather, Pay the Bills Day, which is always an odious chore. Ironically, the one bill I never mind paying is my car payment; don’t get me wrong, I deeply hate making that payment every month, but I love having a newer car (I guess I can’t really call it new anymore) with all of the lovely bells and whistles and the ability to not worry every time I get in the car if it’s going to break down–not that I don’t always worry about that, it’s just not as present as it was in the Buick.

I have to say, American Horror Story has been a rollercoaster for me to watch over its many seasons; some seasons–“Murder House,” “Cult”–are fantastic, others a little disappointing, others such an enormous mess that I never bothered to finish watching. This season, “Apocalypse,” has been teetering on the edge of probably one more episode and I’m done. The storytelling has just been all over the map; the performances have been entertaining, and the first episode’s opening was pretty intense…but most of the time I’ve just been sitting in my easy chair, rolling my eyes and saying really? This makes no sense. But this week…they returned to “Murder House,” along with Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and most importantly, JESSICA FUCKING LANGE, and the episode was amazing. It also firmly reestablished in my mind that 1) “Murder House” was, by far and away, the best season of the show; and 2) I don’t care what you have to pay her, Jessica Lange is worth every penny and needs to come back once and for all. If she doesn’t get an Emmy for last night’s episode, they need to stop giving them out. Period. The episode was also directed by Sarah Paulson, had some extraordinarily beautiful shots, and wrapped up so much of the “Murder House” story…it may have been my favorite episode of American Horror Story ever.

My own writing continues apace; I worked on the Scotty revision a bit more last night, and I am also thinking about how to structure the final revision of the WIP; I also tried to work a bit on my short story “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which is going to be the lead off story in Monsters of New Orleans. I still plan on writing Bury Me in Satin next; my mind is currently swimming in ideas and thoughts and plans. The fact that my sleep schedule has become somewhat consistent at long last is an enormous help in that regard; it makes a huge difference when you feel rested every day.

I’m also looking forward, with a little trepidation, to LSU’s game with Mississippi State on Saturday evening. One of the lovely things I’ve noted about switching from cable to Hulu Streaming Live TV is that I don’t spend all day Saturday in my easy chair watching college football games all day; I literally used to spend the entire day with my eyes glued to the television watching games that don’t matter to me in the least, usually, to be fair to myself, while I was reading a book or scribbling notes. I don’t do that anymore; not that Hulu TV isn’t easy to negotiate–it is, just in a different way than cable was–but the beauty of Hulu TV is that what tyranny cable television had left on me has been broken; case in point–last night’s American Horror Story episode. It is one of the few shows that Paul and I would make a point of watching live as it aired; Paul had a board meeting last night and didn’t get home until about nine fifteen; fifteen minutes after it had started. But because Hulu TV sort of works as a kind of DVR, I could queue it up and it started at the beginning. This is marvelous, and now it’s weird to think that we ever scheduled our lives around the airdate and time of some television show. This means I don’t ever have to rush home from work, or think rats, can’t stop at Rouses on the way home because our show is starting.

This was amazingly helpful during this last season of Real Housewives of New York.

And now I am going to jump back into the spice mines for a bit before I head into the office. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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People Everyday

Hulu is streaming a two-part true crime documentary about a string of unsolved murders of women in Jefferson Davis Parish, Murder in the Bayou. I have a copy of Ethan Brown’s book of the same title, released a few years ago, but haven’t read it yet (instead, it’s sits on a shelf in the mini-bookcase to the right of my desk, where I also keep other nonfiction–histories, true crime, cultural studies–about both New Orleans and Louisiana; books which I delve into periodically in order to come up with ideas for stories (novels and short stories and novellas, etc.), or background for the same. (One of the many reasons I laugh when people refer to me as ‘a New Orleans expert’ is because I am everything but an expert on the city; there are literally hundreds of volumes of reference books information about New Orleans I’ve not read and know nothing about)  Mr. Brown came to the Tennessee Williams Festival a few years ago, but I didn’t get to meet him or see any of his panels, but I did pick up his book that weekend.

So, you can imagine my surprise the other night when I opened the Hulu app on my television (ten years ago that sentence would have been as unintelligible to me as Latin) and I saw it listed as a show I might be interested in. “Huh,” I thought, clicking on it, “I wonder if this is the same story as the book I’ve not read?”

Sure enough, it was.

I finished watching the show yesterday afternoon, and then of course, got the book from the bookshelf and started reading it…and didn’t stop until I was finished. I hadn’t intended to do that; I actually started writing this post after I finished watching the documentary series and simply reached over to the bookcase and pulled it out–mainly to see if there were photographs in it–many true crime books do–and since it didn’t, I started reading…and then couldn’t stop. I’ll talk some more about both the documentary and the book in another entry; I want to think about it some more, and the issues that came to mind while watching/reading–but again, as I said earlier, it was yet another example of how little I know about not just New Orleans, but Louisiana in general. As I read more New Orleans history, and get to know my city better with each read, I find myself expanding my former-tunnel vision view focusing on New Orleans only to expand out into Louisiana as well. It’s a truly fascinating state, really–as someone said in the documentary, there are three Louisianas: New Orleans; north Louisiana; which is really part of the Protestant Bible Belt and could just as easily be part of Arkansas; and south Louisiana, which is overwhelmingly French and Catholic; heavily Cajun, in all honesty. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Atchafalaya basin, too; I sort of have an idea about writing about that area. Most of my Louisiana fiction has been confined to writing about New Orleans, or places on the I-10 corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and sometimes dabbling on the North Shore. I am sure every state has just as rich and diverse and colorful a history as Louisiana/New Orleans; but I also don’t live there, and Louisiana with its strange mix of Creoles, Cajuns, Spanish, and Americans, with the attendant cultures, brews up a strange and endlessly fascinating gumbo.

I realized also yesterday while going through my blog drafts that I have never published my blog entry about reading Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin, which was what sent me down the Louisiana/New Orleans history rabbit hole in the first place.

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“The crime,” as detectives would later tell the newspapers, was “one of the most gruesome in the annals of the New Orleans police.”

At five a.m. on the sultry morning of May 23, 1918, the bodies of Joseph and Catherine Maggio, Italian immigrants who ran a small grocery store in a remote section of the city, were found sprawled across the disordered bedroom of the living quarters behind their store. Both had been savagely attacked, apparently while they slept. Joseph Maggio lay face-up on the blood-sodden bed, his skull split by a deep, jagged gash several inches long; Catherine Maggio, her own skull nearly hewn in two, was stretched out on the floor beneath him. Each victim’s throat had been slashed with a sharp instrument.

A blood-smeared ax and shaving razor–obviously the murder weapons–had been found on the floor nearby.

The book opens with an examination of the strange case of New Orleans’ most famous serial killer: the Axeman. Julie Smith wrote an entire novel  based in the story called The Axeman’s Jazz; it might be the second or third Skip Langdon novel. Poppy Z. Brite wrote a short story with the same name, and of course, American Horror Story: Coven also included the Axeman in its litany of past New Orleans horrors–in the Ryan Murphy version, he stumbled into the Robicheaux School for Girls (read: witches) and they killed him; his ghost haunting the house ever since. The mystery of the Axeman’s identity, of course, has never been solved–as well as the why.

Empire of Sin, however, isn’t about the Axeman entirely; it’s really a history of the Storyville district (again, another notorious part of New Orleans history, probably best known for its appearance in the Louis Malle film Pretty Baby, which probably, with its creepy pedophilia, wouldn’t hold up too well today), and really focuses on the man known as the mayor of Storyville, Tom Anderson, who rose to great wealth, notoriety, and political power through his successful bordellos there–even going so far as to providing the district with its own police force. It’s a story of immorality, the struggle between reformers trying to turn New Orleans into a city free from sin (they won small victories but New Orleans remains New Orleans to this day) and Anderson’s struggle against those “virtuous reforms.” He eventually failed, and Storyville was shut down, but Krist tells a fascinating story, extrapolating his tale of Storyville’s struggle to stay open and functioning (the money being made there brought with it the ability to, of course, buy off the police and politicians), along with the stories of corruption, murder, prostitution, violence and racism extant in the city at the time. It’s also a story of how Storyville also, surprisingly enough, gave birth to jazz music, and provided a way for musicians of color to make a successful living playing music. Storyville was the incubator that provided sustenance to the musicians playing this new form of popular music, enabling them to make a living while developing a wholly American form of music.

Reading Empire of Sin is what sent me down the road to reading history, as I said before, and as I love history, it also made me aware of just how little about New Orleans I actually do know. Discovering little throwaway bits in the book–that there were male prostitutes who serviced men with “more exotic tastes”–reminded me of how frequently, and almost completely, queer history has been successfully erased, and that made me start thinking about, well, doing something more about it. Reading this book inspired two short stories I’ve not finished–“The Blues before Dawn” and “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman”–and also inspired a potential series set during the time. It’s also what gave me the idea for my collection of noir/crime/horror stories that I want to write, Monsters of New Orleans.

I cannot recommend Empire of Sin highly enough.

Throwing It All Away

Well, the insomnia came back last night. I can’t complain, because while I am mentally fatigued this morning I don’t feel physically tired. Hopefully, sweet sleep will return tonight with a vengeance. I have a short day today; only five or so hours later on today at the office. I had wanted to get a lot done this morning, but the energy levels are kind of low at the moment. Heavy sigh. Maybe I can do a short grocery run or something; I don’t have to be at the office until two thirty.

Or I could curl up in my easy chair and read. Choices.

I have successfully frittered away most of July and got little to nothing finished. This is kind of normal, as I realized this morning as I started to mournfully beat myself up over it. I finished a book manuscript at the tail end of June; of course I’ve not been motivated this month to work on anything else or write very much; it happens every time. And it’s not like I haven’t been very creative this month; I have. I don’t think there’s anything I can actually come out at the moment and say that I’ve actually written this month, besides revising “This Thing of Darkness,” which is shaping up nicely methinks; there’s probably some other things I’ve written this month that I cannot recall this morning, and that’s fine. I think I can finish “A Whisper from the Graveyard” if I can just figure out how I want it to end; I;’m doing some basic research and its coming along nicely.

I’ve also been thinking about the Scotty book and getting ideas and writing them down, which is enormously helpful. Hurray for that, right?

And the endless, endless struggle with the WIP. Seriously. My own personal Vietnam. It will never be finished, it seems. But the revision I am planning is going to be pretty awesome, I think, and will finally make it all click into place for me. Fingers crossed, Constant Reader!

We started watching Castle Rock last night, and it’s disturbing and eerie and interesting, which is exactly what I was hoping for. We’ll continue with the series tonight–I think there are three episodes currently available?–but I am hoping it doesn’t wind up being disappointing.

All right, I should stop delaying and get a move on to the spice mines before the morning completely escapes my grasp.

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