Being with You

Our new stray (we’re currently calling him Guzman, after a character on Elite) is very friendly, and is clearly someone’s cat, or was; he wants to come inside (alas, already have one indoor kitty) and not only is happy to be fed, but he also wants to be petted and loved on. He’s also very talkative and purrs while being fed/petted. He’s also enormous; he’s a bit on the skinny side, but if he were fed regularly he’d probably eventually expand to Bubba size, and Bubba was essentially the size of a small wildcat–he had to weigh thirty pounds, and his fangs, like Guzman’s, were very long and scary-looking. Guzman could do some serious damage were he so inclined…and I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Tiger since Guzman showed up. Guzman has also yet to figure out he could and would be fed by every door in our little complex–something Tiger learned very quickly–and instead just hangs out on our steps.

While he’s nice to have around, he clearly was–or is–someone’s cat, and I worry that maybe we should have someone come and take him in–he’s been chipped (clipped ear), but if he was abandoned that just makes me furious. I’m hoping he belongs to someone in the neighborhood (the way Simba did) and just has decided to hang out around our steps for a while.

I did make it to the gym last night after work, which was marvelous–despite the heavy soupy humidity; I was drenched in sweat by the time I got there–and I did one set of everything at the weights I was using before the break–three to four weeks, however long it was–and only lat pulldowns was a real strain; I’ve never really had much back strength, at least not in my lat muscles, which then becomes compounded by not wanting to do those exercises or push myself, which becomes the vicious cycle of the lats never getting stronger so the exercise never becomes easier so I don’t like to do them or push myself with them so they never get stronger so the exercise never becomes easier so I….you get the point. I had hoped to be on a split workout by June–different body parts on different days–but that’s going to have to be pushed back to July now, and only if I manage to keep consistent with my three times per week visits. I think I can do this, but I’ve also thought that before. But sixty is also staring me in the face–scratching at my back, as it were–and if I don’t want to continue becoming more and more feeble, regular visits to the gym needs to become part of my routine. Now that summer is here in its full force, that also means the walk to and from will result in heavy loss of body fluids…as it did last night…so I need to make sure I remain fully hydrated.

Insomnia also reared its ugly head again last night; but I am okay with it. I’ve not suffered from this at all since my return from Kentucky, and as long as it doesn’t become a nightly occurrence again I am good with dealing with being tired today–right now I don’t feel tired; my eyes a bit and my legs, of course, but that’s not from lack of sleep so much as it is from the workout last night–but we shall see how the day goes. At the very least I don’t have to go to the gym tonight, so being tired won’t impact my workouts…but tomorrow is another story.

I also didn’t write last night, which wasn’t ideal, but between going to the gym and then coming home for my protein shake and shower there wasn’t much time before Paul came home–and I started falling asleep a bit while we were watching our current Acorn series, Blood–which is interesting, and boy oh boy is the family it focuses on seriously fucked up–but that was also, I think, partly due to Scooter sleeping in my lap; Paul and I have both noted that our cat’s superpower is the ability to lull us both to sleep simply by cuddling with either of us. It’s probably his regular breathing, heartbeat, and warmth, but it is interesting; Skittle didn’t have that power over me. But I have been thinking more about “Festival of the Redeemer,” and am hopeful I’ll get a few thousand words done on it today at some point. I also want to work on “The Sound of Snow Falling” this week; my goal is to get rough first drafts of both finished by the end of the weekend as well as an edit of “A Dirge in the Dark” finished, and I also want to revise the first chapter of Chlorine I’ve already written. An ambitious plan, to be sure, but one that is possible to accomplish. I really need to start achieving at a high level again, and stop whining about lack of sleep and getting older, and using both as an excuse to not achieve–if that makes any sense?

I’ve also, of all things, started exploring Instagram some more. I was discussing it with That Bitch Ford over the weekend, and he was pointing out that he often gets more engagement there than he does on other social media; which I thought was kind of interesting. So, on my way to and from the gym on Sunday in the rain (that aborted trip because I had the operating hours wrong), I was taking pictures of my neighborhood and posting them on Instagram–and yes, there was a LOT of engagement and I gained a lot of new followers; which was, as I mentioned before, rather interesting. Maybe it’s because it’s more of a visual medium than Facebook and Twitter? I have no idea, but will keep you apprised as I continue what I call The Instagram Experiment. I mean, I love taking pictures–I have literally THOUSANDS of picture files stored in the Cloud–so why not combine my love of photography with a social medium dedicated to sharing images? I doubt I will start making videos–I recorded one yesterday at the request of the San Francisco Public Library, to promote the queer mystery panel I am doing for them later this month–since I hate the way I look and I really hate the sound of my voice–but one never knows.

Stranger things indeed have happened.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to head into the spice mines and get my day rolling. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Truth

Friday! I am up ridiculously early on what would ordinarily be a work-at-home day, but I actually have taken a personal day today because I have to take my desktop to the Apple Store in Metairie at nine this morning. Yes, I finally broke down and decided to see if there’s anything that can be done with it. Last week, I had to take Paul out there to buy a cord for his phone (and a remote for the Apple TV, since somehow ours disappeared) and I asked them about loading an operating system into it; the guy said they’d do it for free, so I made the appointment. I don’t entirely trust Apple, though, so I am expecting that it either will cost me money, or they’ll tell me the computer is irreparable or something. Heavy sigh, it’s always something, isn’t it?

I couldn’t sleep last night–par for the course, really, anymore–and so at six this morning I just gave up and got up. I am going to try to swill down enough coffee to make me lucid before having to drive out there. I’m going to also see if I can buy replacement watchbands–I have two watches with broken bands–while I am at the mall, even though the rest of the mall doesn’t open until eleven. I am taking a book with me, and of course will have my phone, as I plan to simply wait there at the mall until my computer is ready. If it’s going to take more than a few hours, I *may* drive home and then go back out there again; I don’t know. I guess I will see what they say when I check the computer in…I know when Wendy and I went to the Apple Store in Tampa during Bouchercon several years ago to get her phone repaired, they said it wouldn’t take more than an hour but we were there for hours, waiting–so these things generally, inevitably, always take longer than they say.

I have other errands I am going to do today; I had two other appointments–doctor and eye doctor–but in an odd weird coincidence, both were cancelled yesterday afternoon…a pain in the ass, to be sure, but what can I do? I was trying to be efficient and do everything I need to do in Metairie on the same day, but it was, alas, not to be.

We got caught up on Mare of Easttown last night, and started watching a documentary about the opioid epidemic on HBO MAX, The Crime of the Century, which was very well done and really horrifying to watch–it’s just another example of how fucked up this country is, and what an enormously flawed system capitalism actually is; when there is no legal accountability for a pharmaceutical company for addicting millions of Americans deliberately, and elected officials and doctors are complicit, what hope does anyone have for justice? Addiction has always terrified me–I have had mental addictions before, but thank God no physical cravings for anything–and it’s one of the many reasons I try to be careful with my alprazolam prescription; I am out and cannot have it refilled again until July–so hold on to your hats as my moods are going to start swinging and my anxiety is going to get out of control again, yippee! But it’s probably best that I go cold turkey on it for a couple of months…anyway, back to the opioids. I never really quite understood the connection between oxycontin and heroin before; why people who became addicted to an opioid would then go to heroin; I knew it happened, but never completely made the connection that, for all intents and purposes, oxycontin was simply a legal, pure form of stronger heroin. I myself have been prescribed oxycontin before–for pain–but I also have always had a high tolerance for pain and so never needed to use every pill prescribed; being able to take a couple to get through the intense pain and then handling it on my own after that without taking anything. I can certainly see how one can become addicted to it–it’s lovely to not have pain, after all, and you also never realize how many aches and pains you deal with on a daily basis (and think nothing of) until you take something that makes all of that go away. For people who have chronic pain, this is the choice they are given: live in pain or become a drug addict, and possibly die from an overdose.

Addiction is yet another big subject I’ve never tackled in my own fiction; I was always very careful to make certain I didn’t give in to the incredibly easy trope of the alcoholic (or hard drinking) private eye–there are very few who manage to do it well, make it fresh, have something new to say about it. J. M. Redmann’s Micky Knight series is one where it works; Micky’s fondness for whiskey (particularly fine Scotch) never really crosses the line into an alcoholism trope; I have written about drinking too much and having a hangover and having to deal with reality while suffering from the after-effects of binge drinking; that is something I am familiar enough with to write about, although I always fear I have gone to that well far too often. I often question myself too much, I think, about my work, and in addition to my frequent imposter syndrome, I always am worried that I am repeating myself in my work; something that becomes all too easy the older I get and the more I have written and the more my memory declines.

As my body continues to break down and decay as it ages, that’s part of the reason I am hopeful my desktop computer can be easily be repaired and made usable again; I need the big screen to view and work on. I have tried, for the longest time, to get used to using the small screen of my laptop and be able to work on it–I really have no choice, but it has made me feel incredibly disconnected from my work and like I am not working the way I should be, and my lack of productivity over the past few years has been directly connected to having to work on this MacBook Air. I have already decided if the computer is irreparable, I am going to probably go ahead and use my tax refund to buy a new desktop; it is a tax deduction, inevitably, even if I don’t want to spend the money, it is a necessary work tool. I don’t fool myself into thinking it will actually solve my productivity issues, by any means, but it will help–and once I’ve spent the money, I think I can make myself do the work if for no other reason than for the fact that I spent all that money.

Sigh. It also just occurred to me that the computer may not even get worked on today; they might just be checking it in and at some point it’ll be ready over the weekend or next week….

On that cheery thought, I need to get in the shower and ready to head for Metairie. May your Friday be lovely and marvelous, Constant Reader.

Rock the Shack

Wednesday, and the day my income tax refund is due to hit the bank. It’s too early to check; the bank doesn’t update accounts until 8 am–which is actually pretty annoying, particularly since this is a new development since my bank was bought out by another. Well, hello and surprise–it was actually there! Huzzah!

We had an amazing thunderstorm last night–it’s still pretty nasty outside this morning–and yes, I was awake through the storm because yet again I passed another sleepless night. That’s three nights of insomnia in a row. Heavy sigh. Maybe tonight I will be able to sleep. I had hoped to make it to the gym tonight, but I can’t imagine not being tired after I get off work this afternoon. Looks like we are also in a flash flood warning for most of the day–not really feeling like I’d want to walk to the gym in torrential rain, either. But…if i do go, perhaps that would wear me out so I could sleep tonight? One can dream, I suppose.

We only have one episode left of The Innocent, and we really have enjoyed the hell out of this show. I’m going to terribly sorry to see it end tonight–and I am sure there are some twists and turns left to play out in this story.

Not sure what we are going to watch next, but there’s a Spanish language show on Netflix called Who Killed Sara? that looks interesting.

I am still trying to decide what to read next–I have such a plethora of riches on hand to go through as it is already, and some of my favorite writers (Alison Gaylin, Megan Abbott, and Laura Lippman) are releasing new books later this year, and S. A. Cosby’s follow-up to Blacktop Wasteland drops in July. Can’t wait to get my grubby paws on all of those, believe you me.

I’ve been too tired to write or do much focusing of any kind this week–three days of insomnia and counting will do that to you–but I’ve been thinking about a couple of my short stories lately and wanting to get to work on those at some point. Maybe tonight I will get some sleep so I can both read AND write tomorrow night, which would be lovely.

And, tired as I may be, it’s time to drag my tired ass into the spice mines. Have a great Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Face Up

Wednesday has rolled around again, as it always does, and last night was another restful sleep of the same sort I had on Monday; restful but awake or half-awake the majority of the time. I am beginning to wonder, quite frankly, if this is just another affect of getting older; the inability to sleep deeply every night. Yesterday I wasn’t as tired as I feared I would be, which actually was kind of nice, and I do think this will be the case this morning too. I intend to go to the gym this evening for a workout with weights after work–so being tired will not be helpful in the least. Maybe that will put me into a deep sleep tonight.

Maybe it won’t–which is more likely.

We watched two more episodes of The Capture last night on Peacock, which is incredibly good. I still have absolutely no clue what’s going on, but the suspense is so ratcheted up that I cannot wait to get home tonight so we can finish watching it. I want to start reading Laurie R. King’s A Monstrous Regiment of Women, the second in her Mary Russell series, but focus is so important when reading and what little focus I have these days really needs to be spend on the revision of Bury Me in Shadows, which needs to be finished by the end of the month–so time is running out on me, as always. I was thinking about how I reacted to rereading the manuscript with an eye to edits last weekend, and how I always am enormously dissatisfied with the final product when it is released. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of every book I’ve written, as each represents surmounting a struggle of some sort in some way, and finishing and publishing a novel is always an accomplishment, regardless of how it turned out in the end. I was dissecting this in my head last night while I was making tacos for dinner (nachos for Paul); my strengths are premises, titles, and character–but inevitably whenever I start writing a book most of the time I don’t know how it’s going to end. I try to figure out how to end a book before I start writing it–but on the rare occasions when I have figured out the end beforehand, I question that as I write and inevitably change my mind at least once, if not twice, and as a result, I never am completely confident in my endings. Adding to the neuroses in my brain, the last few chapters of a book generally don’t get as much attention as earlier chapters, either, which makes my insecurity even worse.

I really do wish I could slap my first creative writing teacher across the face for doing such a number on me that it has lasted all these years. FUCKER.

Then again, he typed smugly, I’m about thirty-six novels, five novellas, and fifty short stories into my career; he’s still unpublished, forty years later. So, there’s that…and the fact I never forget a grudge.

I’ve also been toying with some 1970’s research in my spare moments–looking up things and trying to remember things from my tween years–like “sissy bars” (and no, it’s not a bar for effeminate gay men, though it is a great name for a gay bar). I remembered “sissy bars” as being the high bar on boys’ bicycles that girls’ bikes didn’t have back then; turns out it’s actually the back bar at the end of a bike that the passenger behind the driver/rider can lean back on for balance. (I still remember it the other way; and that other bar doesn’t seem to have a name, which is weird.) I’ve been wanting to write about the early 1970’s in the Chicago suburbs for quite some time–I have an idea based on a murder that happened in our suburb when I was a freshman in high school, You’re No Good, which could be a lot of fun to work on and write–and my main character from Lake Thirteen (Scotty?) was from that same fictional suburb…which leads me back into that weird Greg Universe where all of my books are somehow connected, between New Orleans, Alabama, Chicago and it’s suburbs, California, and Kansas–which I completely forgot that I was doing. (Aside: Bury Me in Shadows is set in Corinth County; which is where the main character in Dark Tide was also from; where I set the story “Smalltown Boy”; and where Frank and Scotty’s nephew Taylor is from, making his first appearance in Baton Rouge Bingo.) But the early 1970’s was an interesting and somewhat volatile time, between Vietnam, the economic crisis, and Watergate; where television gave us stuff like The Partridge Family and Love, American Style and horrible variety shows; when the post World War II economic boom in the United States was beginning to crumble and fade away; when Top 40 radio ruled the AM channels and everything was still on vinyl or eight-track tapes, before cable television and 24 hour news and no Internet or cell phones. But… as I mentioned earlier, while I have a great premise and a terrific title, I don’t know the story or how it ends…but that won’t stop me from obsessively researching the period.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a great day Constant Reader!

Guilty Partner

I slept better last night than I have the last two nights, but it still left something to be desired. I woke up regularly throughout the night, but managed to relax enough somehow to always feel like I was resting, which was lovely and nice and helped; I certainly hope I am not going to be as fucking tired today as I was all day yesterday–which was miserable. Tonight I should go to the gym after I get off work, but we’ll have to see how I am feeling. I can always, in a worst case scenario, push it off till Wednesday night if I am too tired this evening.

Heavy sigh.

But it’s Tuesday and the week is progressing; time and tide wait for no one, and especially not for me. It occurred to me last night as I sat in my chair watching another episode of The Capture (which is really well done and interesting; here’s hoping they don’t blow the great premise over the final four episodes) that I am turning sixty this year in August and what I really need to do, really should do, is come up with a five-year-plan that will carry me into retirement from the day job. I know I shouldn’t really retire that early because of the benefit increases to seniors if I wait until seventy; but I honestly don’t know that I can do another ten years, honestly. So, if I want to retire at sixty-five, I need a plan to increase my income to compensate for the loss of my salary. (And yes, I know retiring at 65 means I won’t get my full benefits, but I can’t see waiting another almost two years. I can barely handle it now, let alone almost another seven years.) So, I am going to try to figure out a five-year plan for me, both personally and professionally.

I have to say, rereading the manuscript on Sunday (it’s not a good sign that I fell asleep reading it; but I was tired from the gym and not sleeping well Saturday night) but I was kind of embarrassed by how bad some of my sentences were and how paragraphs were constructed, to the point I was beginning to question my ability to write anything; I’m not going to lie, since the pandemic struck I’ve been having a lot of issues writing, and what little confidence I may have had at one time (not entirely sure I ever had any, honestly) is completely gone now. That’s something I really need to work on. Several years ago, in another fallow/low-confidence period, I came up with some things to say every morning, going with the old theory that saying something out loud every day will make it come true because I will start believing in it. Needless to say, at some point I stopped saying the affirmations aloud every morning–not sure when that happened, or why it happened; but I just did, and I think I may need to start doing it again. I’ve never had much self-confidence about anything, to be completely honest, and it’s very easy for me to go down the dark path of self-doubt and self-castigation.

The joys of the mood swings, seriously.

But today is much better than yesterday–and Sunday for that matter; being tired clearly affects my moods–and so I am probably going to try to dive back into the manuscript tonight when I get home from work. Here’s hoping I have the energy to not only do so but to make dinner as well. Fingers crossed, right?

But I do need to snap the fuck out of whatever this whatever it is, is, and get back to work on everything.

Heavy sigh.

I also need to get back to reading for pleasure. I have so many amazing books on hand that I want to read, and yet somehow I just am always so worn out in the evenings I can’t focus on reading anything other than things I am reading for research, and I also need to jump back into writing new stuff–Chlorine is just sitting there, and there are any number of other stories I want and need to write or revise or finish. I’ve already allowed so much time to go past that I am going to miss a submission deadline for a story I wanted to get out there–partly the current computer nonsense, mostly; an annoyance I am not going to get into right here–but the older I get the more of a Luddite I appear to be.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

Behind Closed Doors

Wednesday, Hump Day, all downhill into the weekend now. Woo-hoo, methinks?

I slept very well last night–about five hours consecutively, then in and out for the final three hours–and feel much better this morning than I did yesterday morning. I still have a ridiculous mountain of work to get done–the mind literally reels, but I’m trying not to feel defeated before even trying to get through it all. And of course, tomorrow I don’t have to get up before the sunrise. Tomorrow is also my second inoculation for COVID-19, which means a sore shoulder for a few days. Supposedly the second dose is worse than the first, and might make me a bit sicker than the first did–again, this is fine; I’d rather have a mild sickness than get the coronavirus, certainly! And I certainly should not complain about getting it, considering how early I am and how many people would love to get it done. It’s going to be strange being inoculated. I’m going to keep wearing masks of course–total strangers won’t know I am vaccinated nor do I plan on flashing my vaccine card at everyone I see–because quite frankly, not getting sick at all so far this winter has been lovely. Maybe, I don’t know, we should always wears masks and focus on cleaning our hands with regularity? It’s a thought, isn’t it?

We didn’t start watching season two of Servant last night after all; Paul didn’t get home until very late from the office last night, so I basically just sat in my easy chair, exhausted, trying to drum up the energy to read (Alyssa Cole’s book is so good) while scrolling endlessly through social media while Youtube videos played on the television screen. I also went to bed a bit earlier than I usually do–I was seriously exhausted yesterday–and so the sleep was, indeed, quite marvelous. I really miss the days when I used to fall immediately into a deep sleep that, as Paul once remarked, “a nuclear bomb couldn’t wake (me) from.” That’s probably the primary thing I miss from my pre-fifties life…no one ever told me that one of the things about getting older would be that your sleep patterns change.

Ugh.

But I feel like I can face today this morning–yesterday was one of those “I just want to hide in a corner” days; and while I despise having everything put on hold or pushed back to be dealt with another day, that is one of those things you just have to deal with. I have come to understand when I am that tired after an insomniac night I am really not at my best, and taking care of business when i am not firing on all cylinders is perhaps not the best thing for me or anyone I am having to deal with, work with, take care of, etc. I am still way behind on my book, but I am hoping that this weekend–with the proper amount of rest–I’ll be able to dive headfirst into the book and start heading towards the finish line. I think the current manuscript sits at around 75000 words; it probably needs another 20k to be complete and have everything tied up into a little bow. The trick is going to be figuring out where the new stuff needs to go. One thing I will say about myself as a writer that is complimentary is that I am very good at the transition between chapters–it’s usually very seamless, so inserting new chapters and scenes is a bit more of a challenge. What I need to do this weekend is break the book down to its moving parts, and see what I can do to make it more cohesive–as well as find the parts that are missing that need to be added to it. I think it’s going to be a good book–right now I am clearly not going through imposter syndrome–but a lot will hang on what I am able to pull together and get done.

I also have to revise and rewrite a short story; I need to check when that deadline is, and get it put on my calendar.

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

Hold On

Good morning, Wednesday, how are you?

It’s very cold again this morning; I am swathed in a blanket and I also dug out the space heater. According to the weather, it is a mere 48 degrees this morning–warmer than yesterday, certainly, but still not exactly balmy as the sky begins to lighten and I sip my cappuccino and blearily try to withdraw from the arms of Morpheus. I was exhausted last night, and even went to bed before ten. No insomnia, I am pleased to report, last night. I slept deeply and well and–once the cobwebs clear–I will feel pretty well rested, which is kind of lovely.

I got another chapter of the book finished as well, which was also nice. It’s beginning to come together, and hopefully I can get another chapter done today. I need to go to the gym when I get off work today, so here’s hoping the weather gets warmer. The high is supposed to be in the low 60’s today–which is cold for a long walk, but I can hopefully hang with it. It depends, I suppose, on how tired I feel tonight when I get off work.

But the blanket and the space heater are working very well together this morning, and I am starting to feel warm now, which is lovely. I really don’t like cold weather. But why don’t you turn on the heat? you may well be asking yourselves. Because it’s an old New Orleans house, for one, and for another all the heat winds up on the second floor–so the first floor remains cold while the upstairs turns into a sauna. And so, those lovely windows around my desk with the sweet view and the wonderful natural light? Yeah, when it’s cold they are like cold conduits. The surface of my desk is very cold, my keyboard colder and, as Ali Valli commented on a Facebook post of mine the other day about the cold, “there’s nothing like a bathroom in an old south Louisiana house on a cold day.”

I was too tired last night to read, so The Bad Seed remains on my end table, beseeching me to pick it up and keep reading, alas. We did watch another episode of A Teacher on Hulu last night, and I’m not really sure what I think about this show, to be honest, other than it’s not particularly good? We’re kind of hate-watching it at this point…if you’re not aware of it, it’s another one of those “high school teacher has an affair with one of her students” stories. I know it’s probably misogynist of me, but I hate stories where someone behaves self-destructively; the entire time you’re watching you’re saying to yourself, “I just can’t be sympathetic to someone who is really that stupid.” I’m not really sure why there is such a fascination with these stories–I also know they are a lot more common in real life than we might want to think or believe; it seems like every few months or so some young female teacher in one of the more rural parishes around New Orleans is busted for sleeping with a student–there was one case, I think, maybe in Destrehan?–where two female teachers were having sex with the same student, and maybe they were having three ways? I don’t remember. But there have been several rather famous cases–maybe Mary Kay LeTourneau being the most notorious, since she allegedly got her lover-student and some of his friends to kill her husband–which is the case the book and movie To Die For were based on. It has led to some interesting conversations between Paul and myself about teacher-student relationships–in particular, the incredible difference between when it’s a male teacher and when it’s a female, as well as how they are reported on and discussed–and how the women always seems to fall in love with/become obsessed with their young male student lovers, whereas the men are inevitably just predators. (The women are also predators, don’t get me wrong–but the men move from target to target whereas the women become, usually, fixated on one particular student.) The show’s not done particularly well, really; I really don’t understand why this particular teacher fixated on her student, and I’m not really certain I understand the male student (who is played by the same kid who played the gay male lead in the atrocious Love, Simon) either.

Yesterday saw the official end of a publishing tradition: BookExpo is dead, never to be revived or rescheduled or anything. The event was expiring already–digital books, publishing mergers, etc. kind of did it in completely; and the event was already starting to die off when I first started going, back in 2000. The last time I went–I think–was either 2006 or 2007, and I could already see a significant difference from previous years–not as many events, not as many authors, not as many publishers–and it was so expensive. For me, it was fun to go, if a bit overwhelming–and I always took every book that was offered to me, because I always felt bad for people offering–but it’s definitely the end of an era. It makes you stop and think, really; what else is never going to come back after the pandemic? Things aren’t going to ever go back to the way they were–too much has already changed, and some work-arounds are turning out to be, actually, better in the long run than the way things were done before.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Hope you have a lovely and warm Wednesday!

Back to December

And suddenly, one morning you wake up and it’s December, and you think, for just a moment, wow, how did that happen? And you try to remember last December….which now seems as long ago and remote as the Middle Ages. I mean, doesn’t it? As I was saying to someone the other day, “remember when RWA burned to the ground? It hasn’t even been a year yet, but that seems as remote in the past now as the Knights of the Round Table and Camelot.

Yesterday was a nice day to ease back into working. I didn’t have any issue getting up, nor was I tired when I got home; good thing, as I needed to go to the gym. I’d skipped Sunday because when I walked there and back on Friday, somehow I managed to rub a blister onto the back of my left heel, and it was painful wearing shoes. It was also cold and rainy, and between the blister and cold rain…yeah, wasn’t feeling it too much, so I decided to wait till I got home from work on Monday and hope that I’d have the energy and the willpower to go. It was incredibly cold (for New Orleans, coming in after weeks of high 70’s/low 80’s weather), but I bundled up into my sweats and off I went.

But despite the cold, a lovely workout was had, and then I scurried home. It was the cold wind, really, that made it so bad.

It was also supposed to get down to 38 last night. It certainly feels like it this morning as I sip my cappuccino, my hands desperately trying to leech all the heat out of the cup. I did manage to work on the book last night as well (another chapter down; roughly eleven left to go, but if I get one per day done it’ll be finished in ten days and then can sit for a moment or two while I get ready for the final polish before turning it in), which was lovely. It’s taking shape and getting better; I really can’t wait to get it turned in. I need to finish a story, too, and I need to really get cracking on the Kansas book when this is all done and behind me.

The sun is rising, which means the gradual warming will begin, which is lovely. It’ll be cold though when I dash out to my car, and from my car into the office, but at least that means I can wear a sweater. I love sweaters, and don’t get many opportunities to wear them, so there’s that part, which I do like. I also like when the apartment is cold, which means wearing sweats and watching television or reading underneath blankets. (I’m under one right now, in fact, and it’s nice and toasty; one of those thin ones that somehow manages to keep me warm, like the ones they used to give you on airplanes.)

The other thing about it being cold is it makes it harder for me to wake completely up. My insomnia came back last night with a vengeance–it’s been awhile, and I figured the cold, plus the exhaustion from the gym, would have put me under in no time at all. Instead, despite how lovely and warm the bed and blankets were, I never really feel into a deep, restful sleep. I am going to be extremely tired tonight, and may even go to bed earlier than I usually do; we shall see once I get home from the office today.

I do worry the world is going to close down again sometime soon–although I am fairly certain that even if we do, I’ll be considered an ‘essential worker’–I kind of think I am, even if I am not a medical professional; I help keep people safe and healthy (at least that’s the goal) and the service I do provide, which is necessary for our PrEP clients to get their prescriptions renewed, is kind of essential–but we did close the program down during the original lockdown, so….I just hope not. As little as I like getting up at six three mornings a week, I love interacting with my clients and getting out of the house and feeling useful. But I do think another one is coming; it’s just a matter of time, and as the infections rise thanks to Thanksgiving…imagine how people are going to be about Christmas.

And on that note, it’s time to get in the shower and pack my lunch and get my day rolling. Have a happy first of December, Constant Reader.

This Is Me Trying

And so here we are, sliding into Wednesday like we’re stealing third base.

I just realized yesterday morning that this coming Monday is Labor Day. A three day weekend! Huzzah! And one that I completely forgot about until Facebook memories reminded me about past Southern Decadence weekends, which are always Labor Day weekend–except for this year, of course.

Maybe, at some point this weekend, I’ll curl up with Frank Perez and Howard Philips Smith’s definitive history of the event, Southern Decadence in New Orleans. You should really consider getting a copy–and while you’re at it, you could get the e-book of Bourbon Street Blues, which is set during Southern Decadence. It’s so weird not having Decadence this year–this year has really sucked for everyone. I feel bad for the few people who are having a good year in some way, because the massive suckage has ruined everything–which really makes celebrating those successes all the more important for the rest of us, to claim a small victory over this shitty year whenever we can.

In my sad, almost desperate attempt to find something good in this year, I realized that, failing everything else, I’ve read some amazing books this year; have watched some excellent television shows; and the pandemic work-at-home-making-condom-packs has also enabled me to watch a lot of films I’ve never seen, which has also been not only educational but interesting. The Cynical 70’s Film Festival, for example, has been pretty awesome, and has reminded me a lot of what it was like growing up in that decade of earth tones and mood rings and disco balls and bell bottoms–just yesterday at the office between clients some of the kids and I–I wasn’t the one who brought it up either–started talking about the Bermuda Triangle, which was a thing in in the 1970’s (this was triggered by the storm system heading up the Atlantic coast, which startled both of my co-workers, who’d always thought Bermuda was in the Caribbean–I laughed and said, yes, I’d always thought the same until I read The Deep and this led into an entire discussion of Bermuda’s geographic location which led, as free form conversations tend to do, a lot of jumping around on the topic of Bermuda, which led to the Bermuda Triangle). It wasn’t a real thing, after all; just another one of the many weird conspiracies and so forth that existed and proliferated in that crazy decade–although Area 54 and UFO’s seem to be turning out to be an actual thing (both of which were very popular topics of discussion and wonder in the 1970’s–hence Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

Maybe I should look into the Bermuda Triangle. Hmmmm.

Last night the Insomnia Curse was broken and I slept like the dead. I woke up at five, looked at my alarm, and rolled over and went back to sleep. My alarm–which I hadn’t set–went off  at seven this morning (maybe I dreamed it; it was set for six from the last two mornings) and so I was able to shut it off and sleep a bit more. I feel marvelously rested and awake this morning (despite the Internet outage; I am freeloading off the Cox Wi-fi–which I don’t understand; I have access to this as a Cox customer, but my home wireless is out; how can one work without the other? I don’t know and I don’t want to hurt my brain by trying to figure it out). Anyway, according to the Cox website our home wireless should be back up by around 1:30, so I am okay with using this until such time as ours comes back up. It’s okay; there’s any amount of on-line work stuff I can do until the wireless comes back up and I can stream movies whilst making condom packs again–today’s choices range from Bonnie and Clyde (technically a late 1960’s movie, but it was one of the films that signaled the change in Hollywood film), All the President’s Men, and Klute–but I am always amazed at how helpless we’ve become without the Internet or access to it, you know?

I was extremely tired last evening when I got home from the office; I was tired a lot during the day, but kept having these weird spurts of energy, and even had one after i got home from work. I sat down in the easy chair after doing the dishes and unpacking my backpack and rewatched this week’s episode of The Vow, which I kept dozing off while trying to watch on Monday night. It’s a very interesting show–cults have always been of interest to me (the 1970’s, by the way, was a big time for them) and I have always kind of wanted to write about one. When we were living in Kansas, there was actually a local one; the Way. There had used to be two colleges in Emporia, the county seat: Kansas State Teachers College (which evolved into Emporia Kansas State College and finally to what it is now, Emporia State University) and the College of Emporia. C of E was a religious school; Presbyterian, to be exact, but it had gone bankrupt and closed down in or around 1973, after which the campus was purchased by the Way International–which was a cult. When we first moved to Lyon County, since my sister and I were both teenagers, everyone warned us about the Way College of Emporia and to be careful. The members were easy to identify, really; for one thing, they always traveled in pairs, wore Polo-style shirts with name tags identifying them as members of the Way International, and they also wore khaki style pants. They also were always smiling and had a glazed look to their eyes. There were also all kinds of rumors about what went on at the campus; armed guards–and I remember seeing them–patrolled the grounds and the boundaries, keeping the curious away; and of course there were always stories about weird bonfires and ceremonies being seen from a distance, and “this guy I know is friends with a cop and they always get calls from the people who live around the campus about dogs disappearing and hearing screams from the campus and…” you know the type of thing; the story that has grown exponentially from what was originally said so you aren’t really sure what the kernel of truth in the story actually was; I actually have a file folder labeled The Cult in my file cabinet with some research I did about the Way International over the years, with an eye to writing a novel about it some day. (Obviously, The Cult is too obvious a title to actually use for such a book)

Who knew Kansas in the 1970’s was such a gold mine of material for a writer?

I’ve also been researching Chlorine while being too tired to focus on either reading or writing anything–I am definitely itching to get back to Little Fires Everywhere, and when I finish working today I am going to get Chapter Seven of Bury Me in Shadows whipped into shape for sure–and there’s such a glorious wealth of material about the closeted stars and closeted Hollywood of the time; I am kind of surprised no one has done a noir about underground gay Hollywood of the time already. (Of course, now that I’ve said that, there will probably be eighty-five million of them before I get this damned thing done) It was such an interesting period–obviously, there are biographies of the gay stars of the time (Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, Anthony Perkins, etc.) and there’s even a biography of Henry Willson, the gay agent played by Jim Parsons in Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, who represented all the beefcakes male stars of the time–but I am also interested in the ones who never quite made it as movie stars, either, and the clients of Willson who were beefcakes but not gay–like Guy Madison, who was certainly gorgeous and hunky and eventually had a hit TV show. I bet their stories are just as interesting as Rock Hudson’s and the other big closeted stars.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.

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Stay Beautiful

I really do miss the gym.

All those years of inactivity, and of not going to the gym, and now of course I am becoming more acutely aware of how soft, saggy, and squishy my body has become. Heavy sigh. But, per my new mentality and outlook on life that I am trying to implement, I am not going to allow myself to regret said last time or anything of that nature, and simply will try to find time in each week to not only get a nice stretch done, but to do some crunches and possibly push-ups; based on the theory that some exercise is better than none. And I also know it helps make me feel better; I have one of those round ridged things that you can roll your back over to self-massage (I am describing this badly, well aware) and I used it yesterday, and felt exponentially better; I am going to try to use it as many days I can remember to do so. Self-care is always crucial, and during these difficult and strange times in which we find ourselves, even more so.

Yesterday morning I got up an hour earlier than I usually do on Mondays; something I was resisting doing because I am not now, nor have ever been, much of a morning person, and the thought of getting up at or around six in the morning was anathema to me. But I did it, and had coffee and breakfast and woke myself up a great deal more than usual, and I even managed to get to work early and have a jump on the day–and that was actually lovely. When I got home from work I was tired; very tired–partly from getting up so early and partly because there was some minor stress involved at work in the afternoon; I  was required to do some problem-solving, and while (he typed modestly) it’s something I am actually quite good at, it’s still draining and stressful and tiring while I am in the midst of it, and particularly when the adrenaline from the stress finally drains away. I came home and tucked myself up in my easy chair with Little Fires Everywhere (I cannot emphasize enough how much I am enjoying this book) and then did some organizing and cleaning in my office while the LSU-Texas A&M game from last season played on Youtube as delightful background noise while I waited for Paul to come home.

After Paul got home–and I read some more–we settled in to watch this week’s episode of The Vow, during which I kept dozing off, which I thought meant I had a lovely night’s sleep ahead of me. Alas, my old friend insomnia came back for a visit last evening, and so while I was enormously relaxed and comfortable in the bed, my mind never completely shut down, so I was partially awake for the majority, if not all, of the night, I’m not tired per se this morning as I drink my coffee, nor am I groggy; but I don’t have high hopes for a productive day other than seeing my clients. It’s definitely fine; I suppose–what other choice do I have, really–but a good night’s sleep would obviously have been more preferable. Ah, well, perhaps tonight that will happen–Lord knows I should be tired and sleepy tonight.

I also started working on a new short story for some reason last night instead of working on the book; reading Little Fires Everywhere started making me think of a new story–as good writing always does inspire me–and I wanted to write the opening down before I forgot it; it didn’t quite go the way I’d planned, as these things never really do, and it is definitely veering off the track I’d originally intended for it to go, but it’s called “Noblesse Oblige”–the relationship between Mrs. Richardson and Mia in the book made me start thinking about a certain kind of wealthy, or upper middle class, woman; whom I generally tend to refer to as “limousine liberals”–the kind who are all about the right causes and doing what they can to help those who aren’t as privileged as they are, but don’t want to get too close to those underprivileged people and are inevitably surprised and shocked when their “generosity” isn’t met with the worshipful adoration and gratitude they feel it should be–and become resentful. You know, the ones who say things like “after everything I’ve done for you”–which, to me, has become an incredibly loaded statement.

While the show Friends hasn’t aged terribly well, every so often there was an episode that was absolutely (and probably accidentally) insightful about the human condition; this was one in which Joey and Phoebe had an argument about doing charity work or doing things for other people; Joey’s position (which, ironically, was the same as Ayn Rand’s) was that there was no such thing as a selfless act, because even the most noble person gets a sense of satisfaction after doing something charitable. Phoebe, who “didn’t want to live in a world where Joey was right, desperately spent the entire episode trying, and failing, to prove Joey wrong. It was so strange to me, and jarring, to see a philosophy of Ayn Rand’s being illustrated so perfectly on a situation comedy on my television screen that I never forgot the episode (yes, I’ve read Ayn Rand; but unlike many who profess to be her devotees and acolytes I have read beyond Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead; I also read her other novels–Anthem, We the Living–and most of her non-fiction as well–which is why I find the modern day political posturing of those who profess to be her followers revolting and a bastardization of her philosophy; because they clearly haven’t read anything beyond the two novels that she used to illustrate her beliefs and values. For the record, I believe her philosophy and theories were interesting, but ultimately would never truly work because they weren’t based in any sort of reality–however, the purpose of this entry is not to point out the fallacies in Randian philosophy and this is merely a sidebar); and I think about it every now and again whenever I am presented with someone’s “good works”.  One is never supposed to question someone’s motives for doing something charitable; it is always to be assumed they are doing it because they are a good, generous, kind and giving person; and it is cynical to question the motives behind charity: that the reason and motives behind the act aren’t important and shouldn’t be questions because the act is, in and of itself, such a good thing that it should be above reproach.

And while there is some truth to that, I always question motives, and if that makes me a cynic, so be it. I do a lot of volunteer work, and I’ve donated writing to charity anthologies over the years, and have edited, for free, others. Inevitably, though, I do gain something from all of this: self-satisfaction in helping others because I enjoy it, my name on the spine of a book is promotional even if I did the editing for free, and the same with the donated short stories–if someone who has never read my work before reads one of the donated stories and likes it, there’s always the possibility they will buy my other work–so inevitably the donation works as promotional material for my career. And I do get some satisfaction from helping people–it makes me feel good about myself, makes me feel like I am a better person than I probably am, and there’s also a sense of paying a cosmic, karmic debt in advance–the idea that doing something to help other people either repays people who’ve helped me, or will be banked so that someone will help me out in the future.

Which probably isn’t how that works, is it?

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

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