That’ll Be The Day

I was never much of a science fiction fan when I was a kid. I think the first science fiction I actually read was Dune (the original trilogy) when I was in high school; the first book was on my English class reading list. I loved Dune; still think of it fondly to this day, although it’s a bit dense and whenever I return to it kind of think the writing is a bit stiff…but it remains a treasured read of mine. Even Star Wars (I will die on the hill of refusing to call Episode IV A New Hope; when I saw it, it was called Star Wars and they didn’t add this abomination of a title until Return of the Jedi was released years later–I still remember my confusion when viewing The Empire Strikes Back and EPISODE V scrawled across the screen…”What the fuck do they mean, EPISODE V?”) didn’t really turn me into much of a science fiction fan; but as more Dune books were released, I would buy them and read them voraciously. I also read the novelizations of the Star Wars movies, but refused to read anything new and not in the films–the bitterness of being burned by Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (in which Luke and Leia were romantic interests….ewwwwww) still stings to this day; and of course when the sequel trilogy started being released all those books stopped being canon, so it was a wise decision on my part.

But Return of the Jedi did inspire me to try to write science fiction. I wrote a short story in which I created an entire universe–the science undoubtedly didn’t make sense–but it was fun to write, and I realized I needed to be better versed in science fiction if I wanted to write it.

So, I went to the bookstore, asked the clerk “if I wanted to start reading science fiction, where would I start?” She smiled, and retrieved Foundation for me from the science fiction shelves. When she handed it to me, she said, “This book is aptly titled, because it’s basically the foundation for everything published in science fiction ever since.”

And she wasn’t wrong.

His name was Gaal Dornick and he was just a country who had never seen Trantor before. That is, not in real life. He had seen it many times on the hyper-video, and occasionally in tremendous three-dimensional newscasts covering an Imperial Coronation or the opening of a Galactic Council. Even though he had lived all his life on the world of Synnax, which circles a star at the edges of the Blue Drift, he was not cut off from civilization, you see. At that time, no place in the Galaxy was.

There were nearly twenty-five million inhabited planets in the Galaxy then, and not one but owed allegiance to the Empire whose seat was on Trantor. It was the last half-century in which that could be said.

To Gaal, this trip was the undoubted climax of his young, scholarly life. He had been in space before so that the trip, as a voyage and nothing more, meant little to him. To be sure, he had traveled previously only as far as Synnax’s only satellite in order to get the data on the mechanics of meteor driftage which he needed for his dissertation, but space-travel was all one whether one travelled half a million miles, or as many light years.

Having read almost all of the Foundation novels (I didn’t read the prequels that came later; ending with Foundation and Earth), I was very excited to see the Apple TV adaptation–while knowing it would be dramatically different (no doubt) from the books. But it was so different I thought it would be wise to go back and reread (or listen) to the original novel again. (It’s also been a very hot minute since I read them all, and I don’t remember everything I’ve read the way I used to…)

(Side note: I had actually read an Azimov novel in the 1970’s–Murder at the ABA–and still have my original paperback copy, purchased at the News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia, Kansas. I’ve always wanted to revisit it–because it was very insider-y about the American Booksellers Association annual event–now Book Expo America and in decline–as well as about publishing itself, and I wanted to see how spot-on Azimov was with the book. I remember it fondly, and am also curious as to whether or not it still holds up as a mystery novel.)

There are differences; there are characters in the show that don’t exist in the book, there was no Thespin in the book (Anacreon does, however, play an important part in the book), there’s no Genetic Dynasty running the Empire (in fact, little to nothing in the book about the Empire once the Encyclopedists take off for Terminus), and of course, Azimov wrote about white men–the show is much more diverse as well as gender flips both Gaal and Salvor Hardin. If you’re an Azimov purist, you’ll probably dislike the show, I think; I enjoyed it even as I noticed the significant differences. But listening to the audiobook, I also realized that some of those changes were necessary–what worked in the book and was exceptionally clever probably wouldn’t translate well into a visual medium, but listening and getting refreshed in my memory of what the original work actually was made me appreciate the book all the more. I’d remembered it was incredibly smart and clever, particularly in how everything worked out to solve what came to be called “Seldon crises”–a situation where the Foundation was endangered, both from within and without, but the forces working against it eventually led to a point where only one possible action could be taken, and it was inevitably the right one; which meant they had to have an almost religious-like belief in Seldon and his mathematics (and how much did I love that math was the savior of the galaxy?) and trust that taking no action was the proper course of action. I also loved how the Foundation changed and adapted from its original mission (its true purpose was hidden from them to begin with, because foreknowledge would change things and alter outcomes), and how it even developed a religion around its technology to control inhabitants on other planets.

And, as that bookstore clerk all those years ago at the bookstore in Manchester Center Mall told me, the book–and Azimov, really–influenced every science fiction writer and novel that came in his wake. It truly was a foundational text for science fiction. And it’s also not difficult to see where his own influences came from–his Galactic Empire was very similar to the Roman Empire in decline, and the parallels to the decline of the American empire are almost impossible to miss.

I did enjoy the show–the production values are amazing, and it’s a great story as well, if it does get off to a bit of a slow start (but it picks up)–but I am even more glad that the show drove me to revisit the original novel again. It truly is a superb work.

Long Way Around

Home.

And exhausted.

I drove up to Kentucky on Monday; it took me twelve hours to get there. I drove back yesterday; it took eleven hours to get home. I may have been doing 80 most of the way home–hey, the speed limit is 70 and the rule was always ten miles over the limit was cool (except for speed traps)–but every once in a while I would look down and see the needle creeping closer to ninety and would chill out for a while. I listed to Isaac Azimov’s Foundation on the way up, and Donna Andrews’ The Falcon Always Wings Twice on the way home (I had to sit in the car for another few minutes when I pulled up to the house to finish listening to Falcon, which was a delight as are all Donna Andrews novels). I wish I’d know about the magic that is audiobooks before; what a lovely way to while away lengthy drives. I am now almost caught up on the Meg Langslow series; I think there are three more to go. I also managed to read some others this week as well–more on those later–and it was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip. My father and I did some sight-seeing–Civil War battlefields, mostly, as everything else we tried was closed–and I had never known much about Kentucky in the Civil War period, other than the commonwealth didn’t secede despite being a slave state (we learn very little about the Civil War in school, really–mostly Lee and Grant and Virginia, very little about anything else, maybe Sherman’s march to the sea if your teacher was a bit more thorough) and the Kentucky battlefields we visited–Perryville and Richmond–were interesting. My father also told me some more family history; there are relatives who are researching the family history, tracing the family line back to Revolutionary times. I have ancestors who fought in the Revolution, and I am descended from a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Richard Stockton of New Jersey’s daughter married a Herren, and I am descended directly from them. That was interesting to find out–but I imagine if most of us trace our lineage back pretty far we’d find interesting ancestors. (My father made copies of all the records for me; there’s also an ancestor’s will in which he divided up the enslaved people he “owned” amongst his wife and children; which is not a point of pride for me. He enslaved eleven people, per the will, considered “property” to be divided up in his will…he also told me some of the Civil War history of the part of Alabama where we come from; my uncle’s wife had an ancestor who fought on the Union side. There were Unionists and the Alabama Home Guard who fought and committed atrocities against each other–my uncle’s wife’s ancestor had leave from the Union army and come home to visit his wife and children. The Home Guard captured him and skinned him alive…apparently his screams could be heard echoing through the hills. I apparently didn’t go far enough in Bury Me in Shadows…)

But…material for another book, I suppose; and therefore the history of my fictional county (the history of this county is written in blood) can be much more violent and bloody than I originally imagined; which means more secrets, more mysteries, and more spirits trapped on this plane and unable to move on.

There’s also an extremely rare book, long out of print, fiction based in that divided, divisive history, that I am going to try to see if I can get a copy of–I did find it on-line at the University of Alabama Library (eight other libraries, all universities in Alabama have copies); not entirely sure how I would get to borrow it from them, or if I would have to go to Tuscaloosa and read it there. But now that I know about it, I am dying to get my hands on it–I’ve searched for it on-line from used booksellers and eBay and so forth, to no avail.

It was a nice trip, overall. I slept decently every night–the last night was my best night of sleep, which was a good thing because the drive yesterday (it’s eleven hours or so in the car in both directions) is exhausting. The South is so incredibly beautiful–oh, those Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!–and I know people who’ve never been will find this hard to believe, but Birmingham and north Alabama is also breathtakingly beautiful. Those mountains. I do love the mountains, but I don’t think I could ever live in a mountainous area because of that cold weather/snow thing.

And of course now I am very behind on everything. I tried to keep up with deleting junk/sales emails with my phone while I was gone–hundreds per day, thank you Black Friday capitalism–and yet the inbox is still incredibly full with ones I have to answer. The Lost Apartment is a mess, I have errands to run and a grocery list to prepare, bills to pay and a checkbook to balance, filing and cleaning and organizing and of course, writing–I wrote absolutely nothing while I was away, and I have a tight deadline hanging over my head–and a massive to-do list I need to prepare. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, personally and professionally, and I really need to make sure that it’s incredibly thorough, else things will get missed and things will not get covered and that inevitably leads to stress and disaster.

But…my own bed felt lovely last night. I don’t think I slept all that well last night–but I feel a little tired and drained this morning, but I think that’s also due to being exhausted from the drive and feeling disconnected from my own life again. Getting everything together and figuring out everything I need to get done will be an enormous help in that regard. I simply cannot spend today watching college football–it will be okay to have it on in the background, but I can’t sit in my chair all day and waste another day. Fortunately this is the last day of regular season games–conference championship games coming next weekend, with the play-offs later in December, but LSU isn’t really involved in anything after today so I can pretty much follow as a slightly disinterested fan of college football and not care about who wins or who loses or who does what.

And on that note, I am going to start doing some filing and organizing. I gave some blog entries about books I’ve read to do, and I will be here every morning from now on, Constant Reader….and I am also looking forward to the second half of the reboot of Gossip Girl, which dropped on HBO MAX while I was gone. Huzzah!

Have a great day, Constant Reader, and I hope your holiday was lovely.

You’ve Been on My Mind

So, today I am heading north for Thanksgiving. It’s an eleven hour drive both ways, give or take, depending on variables (bathroom breaks, lunch, gas stops, traffic, etc.) but I have Azimov’s Foundation queued up on Audible to listen to on the drive up (watching the show gave me an itch to revisit the books. It’s been years since I read the original trilogy, which I owned in one of those all-in-one compendiums. At the time, there were only the three; much as there was only a Dune trilogy when I read the books in high school). It’s going to be far colder up there than I would prefer, which means I won’t be going outside very much, or at least as little as possible.

Also, the thing I hate most–heat. Okay, I can hear the puzzled thoughts in your mind–but you live in New Orleans! How can you hate heat? Hang on, I will explain.

I don’t like indoor heat when it’s cold outside. It always feels somewhat suffocating and stale to me, and it inevitably affects my sinuses (sinii?) and everything else and it just kind of makes me feel dried out; like a turkey in the oven without being basted properly. Air conditioning doesn’t have that same effect, which is why I prefer to live in a more tropical climate where we don’t need to run the heat that often or that much (last winter being a horrible exception; I will never forget that freezing fat Tuesday when we didn’t have heat).

I obviously finished reading Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, and I will probably get started on Donna Andrews’ Owl Be Home For Christmas tonight in Kentucky before going to bed. I am planning on leaving here around eight this morning, which will have me arriving at my parents’ house around eight this evening EST. It’s a lovely drive, and as I mentioned, I will be listening to Azimov’s Foundation on the way up there and the next Donna Andrews Friday on my drive home (I am almost caught up on the series!). I did some writing yesterday, but not nearly enough–we turned on the Saints game for a little while before switching back to Gossip Girl, bingeing through the rest of what was available on HBO MAX (the second half of the first season will drop while I am in Kentucky) and then we decided to give the original a whirl, and while we only had time for two episodes before I had to go to bed…we are hooked and will watch all six seasons. So, at least we know what we’ll be watching next weekend when I come home. It’s fun; the reboot reminds me of Elité–with a three-way romance hinted at, just like there was there was on the first season of that show (at one point Paul said, “I think the producers or writers must have watched Elité”), and I have to say, this is one reboot I am definitely on board with.

It definitely fills in the void of glossy melodramatic soap with lovely young people I’d been feeling.

I’m not sure how regularly I am going to be able to post here until I get back home–my primary focus for the week is going to be spending time with my family, reading, and trying to get some writing done every day, which means this isn’t going to be a priority, alas, and rather than writing here while drinking coffee every morning and waking up I’ll be hanging with my family, but I am also hoping the time away from the Internet–emails, social media, blog–will help reboot my brain somewhat (I am also hoping to have the opportunity to get sorted a bit more while I am away; trips like the last one tend to make me more scattered because rest and relaxation aren’t in the cards the way they are when I visit family) and motivate me to get more things done as I move forward with my life. The rest of this year is going to be frantic–trying to get the book finished, preparing for the release of the next, the holidays–but it’s definitely do-able.

So, if you email me this week, I may not get to it as quickly as I would like (although I have to admit I am not as timely with responding to emails as I have been in the past), but I will get to it–I am going to be buried enough when I get back without having to answer a gazillion emails on top of everything else.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

He Darked the Sun

And now it’s Saturday again, and there are but two days left before I depart for Kentucky. Which is fine–I am actually looking forward to the drive and the alone-time in the car to listen to audiobooks; I downloaded Isaac Azimov’s Foundation, because it’s been decades and in the wake of the show I’d like to read (hear?) it again.

I also finished The Lost Symbol, which was kind of silly if you actually paid attention, but it also made me curious–I’d never seen any of the Dan Brown/Tom Hanks/Ron Howard collaborations–I am not a Tom Hanks fan; heresy, I know–and so I decided to go ahead and watch Inferno and The Da Vinci Code. They were actually well done–the plot of Inferno was nonsensical and also driven by the main character, Robert Langdon, having temporary amnesia, of all things (and yes, I am well aware that I used the trope of main character with amnesia in Sleeping Angel about ten or eleven years ago) and I never really quite grasped why he was so necessary–a symbologist, something utterly ridiculous and not a thing that was made up for the books, and he is also apparently an international bestselling writer of nonfiction books about symbols, because that, too, is a thing–but I didn’t mind The Da Vinci Code quite as much as I thought I might. I do remember enjoying the book when it came out; but it’s also one I’ve never revisited. I also read it when it was first released and before it became a thing–it was quite a thing for quite some time, before everyone turned on it. That is also something oddly prevalent in our culture–we embrace something and make it into a Very Big Deal, and then comes the inevitable backlash. But Brown was quite rich by the time the backlash began, and so I am sure it didn’t bother him very much. (It probably would bother me if I were in that situation; the months atop the bestseller lists and the cash pouring in from every direction would be lovely but even the slightest criticism would be certain to trigger the Imposter Syndrome, which is something I wish I could chisel out of my psyche.)

Today I have some errands to run and a lot of writing to do–as always. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about A Streetcar Named Murder lately, and I know how I am going to write the rest of the book now–oh, there will be some curve balls along the way, I am certain; there inevitably always are when I am writing a novel–but I know what the underlying force of the book (the theme, if you will, if this book could be said to have one; although I am thinking now it’s more of a underlying tone than a theme, really) is going to be. I did some more research after I finished work yesterday, and everything–the characters, the story, the subplots and the neighborhood and the sense of community–are beginning to take shape in my mind. I actually think I should be able to get a lot of writing done this weekend, to be honest. I am itching to get back to it, I feel better about writing and everything else that’s going on in and around my life, and I feel good for the first time in a long time.

I can’t speak for anyone else besides myself of course, and I do think I have been laboring with some degree of retrograde depression for some time now; even going back to before the pandemic dropped on the world (I also got caught up on The Morning Show, which is now dealing with the early days of the pandemic). I don’t know how else to describe it, but there’s been this gray fuzziness in my peripheral vision when I think, or wake up in the morning. There were mornings when the alarm would go off and I would lie there in bed, staring at the glowing red numerals on my digital clock and think fuck I just don’t want to deal with anything today and I sure as hell can’t face my email inbox. I’ve been lucky, too, with all of this plague shit–I’ve not lost any friends or family to it, at least that I’m aware of, at any rate–but it certainly didn’t do me any good. I did get some of my best writing done during the pandemic–Bury Me in Shadows is probably one of the best books I’ve ever written, and I also think #shedeservedit is pretty good, too; and I’ve done some really good short stories during the twenty or so months since the massive paradigm shift.

Today I have to get some stuff done. Writing, of course, as always, and some errands. I have a box of books to donate to the library sale, have to get the mail, and make some groceries–the Saturday before Thanksgiving, that’s going to be ever so much fun, yay–but if I get that stuff done today, along with the necessary cleaning around the house, I can focus tomorrow solely on writing and getting a lot done. I am going to try to get up early so I can leave early on Monday morning–Foundation safely downloaded to my phone, and I think I will probably download the next Donna Andrews for the trip home on Friday–because sooner is always better than later with lengthy drives. And now that I am waking up relatively early on the regular every morning, why the hell not take advantage of that? (oh yes, I need to make a packing list for the trip as well, don’t I?)

And so, so much cleaning to do. I’ve really let the floors and the living room go since the hurricane, and that must be rectified–there’s nothing worse than coming home to a house that’s not clean after a trip, which I experienced coming home last weekend–and so I am going to spend some time seriously working on the house. That will also help me get creative with the writing–my thoughts anyway–and I also need to check my to-do list and see what’s left to be done as well as make a new one. I’d also like to spend some time with Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, which I am enjoying.

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

Here I Go Impossible Again

Later today I am leaving on a jet plane. My bags aren’t packed and I’m not ready to go–but eventually this morning I will get to that place. I have already made my packing list, have checked in for the flight on-line, have ground transfers negotiated and hotels booked; appropriate credit cards are in my wallet and I will get cash at the airport ATM. I have some errands to run this morning as well–prescriptions to retrieve from the pharmacy, treating myself to Five Guys because it has been far far too long–and I don’t have to leave for the airport until the mid-afternoon. So I decided to let myself sleep a bit late, futz around the Lost Apartment for a bit, and try to get things together that need to be gotten together before I depart, abandoning Paul and Scooter for far longer than I would prefer.

But I am taking a trip!

It’s almost like the before times.

Almost.

But when I think about how marvelous it felt to be in Tiger Stadium earlier this year, how normal it all felt to be there on Game Day (despite seeing my Tigers lose in person for the very first time in eleven years, but it was going to happen sooner or later and hey, the streak lasted an entire decade), and how that “normal” experience actually translated into feeling better about this world in which we live in general. Airports (and airplanes) generally aren’t pleasant experiences for me in the best of times and circumstances; I have so many horrible memories of nightmarish experiences working for that airline that literally going through the automatic doors of an airport concourse makes my entire body seize up with tension–I can feel the knots forming in my neck, shoulders, and back. But…I am thinking today I may be too happy and excited to feel that tension–not to mention grateful to actually be able to travel again.

Paul had a meeting on Sunday afternoon (!) and so I was left to my own devices after the Saints game ended; I caught up on The Lost Symbol (better than I remember the book) and Foundation, which really picked up steam (I also realized they aren’t following the exact timeline from the book series, either–for example, the existence of the second Foundation isn’t revealed until Book Three, not during the first Seldon Crisis–so much is coming back to me as I watch!) after a slow first two episodes–the Emperor thing is also different than in the books, but I am enjoying this entire idea of a clone threesome who run the empire, in fact embodying it to the point they are simply addressed as Empire, and also loving Lee Pace in the rule of Day, the adult yet not old Emperor (Dawn, Day, Dusk are the three cloned emperors; Dusk eventually dies and is replaced by Day, who is replaced by the no longer a child or teen Dawn, and a new cloned baby because the new Dawn. It’s interesting, and they’ve added a lot of creative flourishes filling in the missing brushstrokes; as though the Azimov novels were merely an outline needing to be expanded.

But when I was finished with Foundation, I still had some time left before Paul would get home and I didn’t really want to start something entirely new-to-me (having to stop when he got home) and my headspace after the Saints game wasn’t really in a place where it should be for reading, so one of the suggestions on my streaming app was The Rocky Horror Picture Show…and yes, I have literally seen it well over two, if not three, hundred times already. I’ve never watched it on television because talking back to the television by yourself is kind of…not sane? Certainly not as fun as being in a movie theater full of people with props and people in costume and so forth. It was interesting to watch it by myself and completely sober…it’s really a crazy movie that makes little to no sense, really, but it’s message resonates very strongly still with me today…I suspect there’s an essay there. I also think there’s a short story or a scene from a book I need to write about viewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time; I remember being quite taken aback–if completely enamored–by it. I do know that I bought the soundtrack album the day after and still know it all by heart even now, all these years later…

And yes, I did find myself answering the movie back. There are some problematic things in it, of course–what movie from that period doesn’t have something problematic in it?–but at the time…and for quite some time afterward, the movie meant a lot to all of us misfits out here, the square pegs that couldn’t be pounded into a round hole no matter how hard society–or we–tried. In that theater that first night–and all the other theaters on so many other nights–for about an hour and a half I was able to escape the strictures and stresses of a world in which I–and people like me–didn’t belong. As years passed props and toys were slowly but surely banned–who would want to clean up that mess, seriously?–but the loss of water pistols to simulate rain, flying rolls of toilet paper, etc. always seemed to lessen the experience.

Then again, I would have hated to have been the one cleaning the theater at two in the morning for minimum wage, too. Definitely an essay there, for sure–which would have to include the problematic parts that haven’t aged well. But man, did Tim Curry ever commit to that part, and he definitely understood what the movie was.

Last night we watched some more Big Mouth, which is hilarious, although I am never entirely sure if it is actually funny, or if the laughs come from wow I can’t believe they went there shocks. (I’m actually surprised there’s not more right-wing outrage at the show, honestly; maybe there is and I am unaware, but this is precisely the kind of show they would go for–a comedy about junior high students going through puberty that is completely frank about sex and sexuality and masturbation and so forth? You’d think the American Family Association would be eating the outrage with a fucking spoon in both hands.)

And on that note, I should probably start getting it together around here this morning. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow morning from New York!

Love to Hate You

Working at home today, but heading into the office this afternoon to get my booster shot. Yay, booster shot!

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is this weekend. WHERE THE HELL DID OCTOBER GO? Granted, when I think back to the summer or spring (let alone the winter) it does seem like it was a million years ago; time seems to slip past very quickly but when looking back, I don’t think, “wasn’t it just Labor Day?” This year has certainly been something–but I much prefer 2021 to 2020, any day of the week, and maybe, just maybe, 2022 will be better than 2021.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

This has been a strange week. My fuse has been shorter than usual; I don’t know what that is about because I’ve been sleeping really well and have been productive, but at the same time I’ve not actually been writing, and that always causes trouble for me in the long run; if I don’t write, my mood darkens (something I always seem to forget). I’ve not been tired this week–at least not until I get home from the office, at any rate; I generally have been running out of steam around six or so in the evening, which means neither writing nor reading anything; although I’ve been going over my edits in the evenings and will probably do my proofing in the evening as well. I want to step away from the book for a few days anyway; there have been so many drafts and so many changes that I was slowly beginning to not completely trust my memory for the edits (I couldn’t remember if something was in the current draft or I was remembering a former one; I eventually gave up on my memory and trusted that my editor was getting things right because there was no way I could be certain….this memory thing is really becoming problematic).

The memory thing is becoming enough of an issue that I may need to end the Scotty series because I can’t remember what has happened in the past books…I keep meaning to make a series Bible–even took the time to go through a set of the series with little post-it notes, color-coded by character and location…just never got around to extracting the information. Maybe one of these days when I am really tired, or really bored…it probably wouldn’t be a completely terrible idea to reread the entire series from beginning to end, either. Sigh. I really don’t like rereading my own stuff because inevitably I will always find things I want to fix or correct and revise…and of course, it’s too late.

Last night we had the most terrifyingly powerful thunderstorm. The thunder sometimes seemed it wasn’t going to end, and there was more of a downpour than we had during Hurricane Ida. I mean, I was watching television (Paul had gone to the gym) and if I notice that it’s raining–if I can hear it–that means it’s literally getting close to time to build an ark. I actually wondered if I should move the car…and am still a little nervous about getting into it later to drive to the office for my booster to find out it flooded or something. It ended before Paul came home from the gym, but I was worried about him–the lightning and thunder was so intense, and the downpour so strong…it was pretty bad in the parishes so damaged by Ida, too, particularly in Lafourche and Terrebonne.

Louisianans don’t get near enough credit for toughness and resiliency, methinks.

I started watching Foundation again last night, and am really glad I did, as the action and story begin to seriously pick up in episode 4. There’s a weird gap of time between the second and third episodes–definitely a risk by the producers and writers–which isn’t really explained; episode two ends on a major cliffhanger and when the third episode begins, it’s like thirty or more years later, with no explanation or follow-up to the second episode–which was jarring to me as a viewer. But enough happens in episode four that I started to finally get sucked into the story, and episode five was spectacular; I am definitely all-in on the show now. It’s incredibly well-done; visually it’s gorgeous and stunning and epic in design, and it also expands heavily on the original stories. (I read the Foundation trilogy–it was originally a trilogy–back in my brief scifi/fantasy period of the 1980’s; I also read all the follow up Foundation novels, and loved them all. I don’t remember an awful lot of the books, but I do remember being very impressed by them and the universe they created; I loved them so much I went back and read much of Azimov’s past science fictions–the robot books, the Lije Bailey/Daneel Olivaw novels–and really came to an appreciation of Azimov as a visionary writer.)

We also watched the most recent episode of Dopesick, and what a stunning indictment of our capitalist system it is. The fact that the Sackler family’s greed resulted in our current opioid crisis and I don’t even know how many deaths and addictions and crimes…and the fact they are going to not only get away with it but keep most of their ill-gotten gains is sickening and disgusting to me. Sure, Purdue Pharma is bankrupt and going out of business, but the real evil here is the family that owned it–and the fact they are not going to have anything happen to them other than losing a few billion (out of over a dozen)–gosh, how will they fucking sleep at night? The Sacklers certainly make me understand why people so fervently believe in hell.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in on you again in the morning.

Star

Well, I survived my first ever colonoscopy, with an endoscopy thrown in for good measure (my gastroenterologist was concerned about the heartburn medication I take daily, so he wanted to take a look around in there). It was a thing, really. The colonoscopy was originally supposed to be in 2018, but there was a problem with my insurance (insurance companies are really of Satan) so it was rescheduled for last April…and then pandemic. Men really should get their first at fifty; so of course I got mine at sixty.

But ugh, what an unpleasant experience prepping for the procedure was. I didn’t sleep at all Wednesday night because I was getting up all the time to run to the bathroom; the final dose of the purge medication was supposed to be taken at 1 a.m. (!!!!), along with another 42 ounces of water–following the first dose and 42 ounces of water five hours earlier. Oh, and you’re supposed to drink all the water over an hour. So I went to bed finally at two in the morning, and then UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN all night, plus the stress of worrying about sleeping through the alarm because I was up so late…yeah, it was pretty ugly around the Lost Apartment yesterday morning before we summoned the Lyft to whisk us off to Touro Infirmary. They had also originally told me I needed to stop in and get a COVID test the day before “around four”; you can imagine my horror to get the confirmation call Wednesday afternoon at two-forty-five, which was when I was informed that they cut off testing if you aren’t there by two-thirty.

Womp womp.

So then I had the added stress of oh my God what if I am doing all this prep and my test comes back positive? (It didn’t.) But they couldn’t do anything with me as far as anything actually medical is concerned, until the results came back (negative, around nine thirty). I got wheeled in and anesthetized around eleven thirty, and we were home before one. Exhausted, hungry, and still wonky from the anesthetic, I decided to take their advice and just relax and chill at home and not worry about anything pending; my body, after all, had two invasive procedures (and any procedure is traumatic to the body), so I figured–and still think–that I was allowed to have the day free from any worries or constraints about anything else. I was very tired–no coffee, no sleep, anesthetic–to the point that my joints ached from exhaustion, which also was rather unpleasant. I was too tired to do much of anything, really, and actually dozed off in my chair for a while (I did, however, stream the first half hour of Dune; and it looks incredible.) I did go to bed early and I think I slept deeply all night; at some point will have to download the Fitbit data to get an idea of just how much sleep I did or didn’t get over the last few days.

I wound up working from home needlessly on Wednesday (I read the prep instructions wrong; I thought I was supposed to start at eight a.m.–but it was actually eight pm); but I was very low energy all day anyway so it was probably best that I not see clients when I am in a low-energy place; undoubtedly it was stress about the procedure sapping my energy. I made condom packs and did some data entry and other work-at-home things while bingeing the non-Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween movies. As I have said before, I came to the Halloween (and most other non-Freddy Krueger slasher fare) late in life; in fact, it was Paul who got me to start watching. Anyway, I had realized that I’d never seen any of the other ones from the original series that don’t have Jamie Lee Curtis in them….so for my Halloween Horror Film Festival what could be more apt than finally watching the rest of those movies?

Maybe apt, but seriously–if Jamie Lee Curtis isn’t in it, why bother making it? I mean, seriously. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was just terrible. I’d heard at the time it was released that it wasn’t good, but I thought I had seen that people had revisited it and it was becoming a cult classic, under-appreciated at the time and now coming into its own? It had lesser production quality than any old made-for-television movie from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The plot made no sense whatsoever; the acting, editing and production quality was horrific–I kept watching all the way to the bitter end, waiting for something, anything, that would make me think I was correct in seeing that it had been rediscovered as better than originally thought? Stonehenge, some weird plan to turn children and people into androids…fucking weird. I did research it, though, and apparently John Carpenter wanted to do the films as an anthology series built around Halloween; kind of like American Horror Story, only with films. The film tanked, so they brought back Michael Myers with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which had Sasha Jenson, my crush fromDazed and Confused, as a supporting character. I went on to watch Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers–but again, no Jamie Lee Curtis. Instead, these two movies focused on Laurie Strode’s DAUGHTER (!!!!) who was a child; Laurie and her husband died in a car accident or something, and so the little girl was staying with a foster family, and Michael came for her.

As far as slasher movies go, these last two weren’t bad; they just didn’t feel like Halloween movies. It was also unsettling because he was psycho-stalking a child, and that just didn’t feel right or fun to watch. I mean, it’s one thing when the victims are relatively attracted and slightly talented twenty-somethings pretending (badly) to be teenagers…but a little girl? Too may squick factors there for me to enjoy the movies as much. But…now I can say I’ve seen practically all of them, so that’s something, I guess?

And now it’s Friday morning, and I need to, once again, reconnect to my life and everything that’s going on and everything I need to get done. The Lost Apartment is again a disaster area, I haven’t been to the gym all week, and…ugh. All I really want to do is go back to bed and sleep for the rest of the weekend, frankly. But I am way behind (my constant refrain) and need to get caught up. The Saints are on Monday night football (note to self: alternate route home from work Monday night) so I have all day Sunday to get stuff done, and of course the LSU-Mississippi game isn’t until two-thirty on CBS Saturday, so I have most of Saturday morning as well to get things done. I think we’re going to watch Dune tonight; I just wanted to get a feel for the movie last night, which is why I started watching and it looks amazing in scope and style and visuals.

I first read Dune when I was in high school, and loved it. At that point there were only three books–the original trilogy; the other two being Dune Messiah (which I didn’t like near as much) and Children of Dune (which I did enjoy very much) and was very excited when Mr. Herbert continued the series; I think I only read the next three (God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune) and loved them all. (I stopped reading the books when Mr. Herbert died and his son took over; no offense to his son, but…it just didn’t feel right to me. And while I appreciate series being continued by new authors after the original passes, I’m not interested in reading them because the original mind behind them isn’t controlling the direction anymore, if that makes sense? This is entirely different to me than authors who become brands and new authors come in as “co-writers”; I don’t expect those books to be the same as those by the original, brand name author–like James Patterson and Robert Ludlum) Dune was my first forage into science fiction, actually; I’d never read any before, and that’s another reason why I am so partial to the book/series: it was my gateway drug. The next summer Star Wars came out, and by the end of the decade I was reading Azimov* and other science fiction writers, like Heinlein and Bradbury and an entire new world had opened for me in fiction. (I feel like this might be the proper place to mention how much I admire science fiction/fantasy authors; the world building alone requires so much work and so much attention to detail that I cannot wrap my mind around it, let alone attempt doing it.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and deepest apologies for not checking in with you yesterday.

*I have also started watching Foundation on Apple Plus; but more on that in a later post.

I’m On My Way Back Home

Saturday morning and I feel remarkably well rested this morning, and better than I have for weeks when I wake up. I’m not sure what this is about–I am not going to talk about the absence of insomnia lately, which has been marvelous–but I am merely going to take it as a lovely occurrence and run with it.

I guess the most exciting news around here is that we have a mouse in the house, living inside the walls and emerging from behind the dishwasher/refrigerator to occasionally raid Scooter’s food dish. The exterminator came yesterday–and we also discovered the reason the dishwasher is leaking is because the fucking mouse ate through a hose, the little shit–so hopefully this problem will be rectified soon. Scooter has done a good job of keeping the mouse trapped in his area–but he’s not always downstairs. I saw the mouse the other day, eating out of Scooter’s food bowl, and chased it back to his hiding place/residence. It’s not a terribly huge deal–with this old house and all the wildlife thriving in this jungle, tropical climate, it’s really amazing we’ve not had one in over ten years; my theory is the mouse came exploring under the house, and was chased into the house by one of the outdoor cats, and once he was inside, well, wouldn’t you live in the walls of the nice safe house where you can hide out of reach of the predatory cat inside, rather than in the dangerous wilds below the house where any number of cats roam?

I guess we should be glad it isn’t an opossum–the family that was living in the crepe myrtles have disappeared since some of the trees were cut down and the ones left behind trimmed down. Those are almost impossible to get out of the house.

Last night we watched Ted Lasso, which was marvelous (I teared up several times, as I do with every episode, and yet the show always leaves you feeling joy), as well as some other episodes of shows we’re watching but right now I cannot think of what any of them were. How peculiar. Oh, of course, The Morning Show. Foundation is also up on Apple TV now, and i really want to watch it, but am not sure if Paul will be interested. I read the entire Azimov series (ironically, when I read it, it was simply called The Foundation Trilogy, because there were only three at the time; same with Dune. The fourth books in both series were released after I’d read the original trilogies, and now both have been adapted at around the same time!) when I was relatively young–it was definitely before the release of the fourth book, Foundation’s Edge–and I greatly enjoyed them; they were my window into the world of Azimov’s science fiction, which I eventually read a lot of (he eventually connected his other trilogies–the Robot books and the spacer books–to this same trilogy into a sweeping history of the galaxy, really) and greatly enjoyed. I don’t really remember many characters or much of the story of Foundation, other than mathematician Hari Seldon could, using mathematical formulas, accurately predict the future, and when the series opens, his calculations show that the mighty Galactic Empire is falling–and the period of darkness for humanity that will follow in the wake of the collapse of the Empire will last for ten thousand years. However, if he and a team of Encyclopedists are given funding and a place to work without interruption or interference for a thousand years, collecting all the knowledge and history of the galaxy in that time, the darkness will only last a few hundred years or so because of the Encyclopedia. This is the basic premise of the series, which eventually proves to be so much more involved and so much else going on…it was fascinating. But I am not sure how it will work as a series–the trailers look epic–so it might not interest Paul, which means something else I’d have to watch on my own.

The LSU game today is on at eleven, which is insane and unusual and really kind of puts a fly in the ointment of the day, doesn’t it? There aren’t many good games today–the only other one of even slight interest is Arkansas-Texas A&M–so I should be able to get through the emotional rollercoaster of the LSU game early enough to get things done; at least finish reading Velvet Was the Night, which is what I really want to do, and maybe do some writing/editing; it’s way overdue, but I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about the writing lately, so it’s time to put those thoughts onto the page before other thoughts and ideas push them out and they languish, forgotten and abandoned, in the deepest and darkest recesses of my brain. Christ, the Saints game is also at noon tomorrow. Whatever happened to night fucking games?

I did manage to get some cleaning done up in the kitchen yesterday after work; I got caught up on the dishes (which have been piling up since the dishwasher started leaking; the days of rinsing something out and/or using a sponge to clean it with soap before placing it in the dishwasher to keep the sinks free are gone until that hose is replaced; the handyman is theoretically going to do it on Monday) and the laundry, started picking up things around the living room, and also pruned some more books off the shelves. Now if I can get the desk area/office space better organized…maybe I can even make myself sit at the computer and write for a while? Stranger things have happened.

I am also doing a promo thing for my publisher tonight at six o’clock central time; it involves a reading and a chat about my book along with other Bold Strokes authors who have books coming out in October; you can register here if you would like to.

And at some point today, I’ll need to pick a small section of the book to read from; and practice a bit.

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

I Wish You Would

Hurricane Delta is moving ever closer by the moment to our shores. This is one of the worst parts–the inevitable waiting, the need to be completely flexible, and the need to be ready to pack up and get out of Dodge in a hurry if need be. In that regard we are luckier than most when it comes to natural disasters; we have warning so we can get out while there is still time. Tornadoes and earthquakes don’t give you those options; with tornadoes sometimes it’s merely a matter of minutes (those years in Kansas…); earthquakes give you no warning whatsoever. Hurricanes clearly trigger PTSD in me–and have, ever since Katrina–but I would still rather deal with them than tornadoes or earthquakes (been through those during my years in California).

Ugh, natural disasters. Earth’s way of reminding us how unimportant and insignificant we really are.

There was a thing going around Twitter the other day, reading something along the lines of : Fellow authors, creatives… do you think it’s wise to tweet your policital opinions using your author/creative twitter account, or should you keep politics out of your creative timeline? Do you think it might lose you followers, readers, even work, or hurt your cause?

It did make me think a little bit at first. I generally don’t talk about politics much about my social media, or here on my blog; but it’s not about worrying that I might offend and lose readers, for fuck’s sake. The funniest thing to me about that tweet was precisely how privileged it was, and how the person tweeting it didn’t even have the slightest clue about the place of privilege she was coming from.

Simply stated, any writers that are not cishet white heterosexuals has had their very existence politicized, over and over and over again. Two Supreme Court justices, just this very week, very nastily announced that they don’t think queer people are entitled to equality in the eyes of the law; no surprise it was dumpster fires Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. I would love to have the privilege of not having my existence, and my status as an American citizen, politicized and reviled and attacked by bigots and monsters masking their demonic tactics are “religious liberty”; and a little louder for those of you in the back: if your religion is teaching you to treat any other human being with anything less than empathy, understanding, and compassion, you are doing religion wrong.

Period.

Frankly, I don’t exactly see how I could possibly lose any readers who are homophobes or racists or transphobes or fire-breathing conservatives because they would never buy books by a gay man centering gay men and themes in the first place. These are the ones who don’t buy your books but will waste their lives away going on Amazon and looking for queer writers to one-star, with a sentence about “not wanting a political agenda shoved down (their) throat.”

Books by and about queer people are political by nature of their very existence–and this is something which we, like writers of color and any other underprivileged minority in this country do not get to have a choice. The personal is the political for us; it is very interesting to me to see how much privilege is on display in tweets like the one above; while assuredly the intentions of the tweeter were good and she was genuinely curious what other people thought on the subject–other straight white people, obviously. It is an interesting subject, after all; moral stances don’t pay the bills, obviously, and at what point does your survival outweigh your principles?

Some authors are big enough, and successful enough, to not have to worry about offending or losing readers–which is another kind of privilege; recently seen on display with J. K. Rowling, and previously seen with writers like Orson Scott Card, among others–while those writers who aren’t marginalized for something beyond their control and are barely scraping by, hoping their sales will warrant yet another book contract, trying to figure out how to get the word out about their books and sell more copies while balancing a day job and family and everything else, possibly cannot afford to alienate any portion of their reader base if they want to keep writing. I get that, I really do; part of the reason I am so productive (per other people) is a definite fear that at some point my writing career will end–although I have also come to realize that while my career as Greg Herren might end, I could always create a new name and start over again–but it would be really nice to have the kind of reality that makes asking that question even possible to consider. As a gay male writer who writes about gay men and their experiences navigating this country and this world, obviously my books make a political statement; just my existence makes such a statement.

I refuse to closet myself or my work for the convenience of making homophobes more comfortable.

Suck on that, bitches.

Honestly.

Anyway, a friend reminded me of a short story the other day, and it had been quite the hot minute since I’d read Ray Bradbury’s “The Whole Town’s Sleeping,” and so I thought, why not reread it for the Short Story Project?

So I did.

The courthouse clock chimed seven times. The echoes of the chines faded.

Warm summer twilight here in upper Illinois country in this little town deep and far away from everything, kept to itself by.a river and a forest and a meadow and a lake. The sidewalks still scorched. The stores closing and the streets shadowed. And there were two moons; the clock moon with four faces in four night directions above the solemn black courthouse, and the real moon rising in vanilla whiteness from the dark east.

In the drugstore fans whispered in the high ceilings. In the rococo shade of porches, a few invisible people sat. Cigars glowed pink, on occasion. Screen doors whined their springs and slammed. ON the purple bricks of the summer-night streets, Douglas Spaulding ran; dogs an boys followed after.

“Hi, Miss Lavinia!”

Isn’t that a lovely start? I have to confess, I’ve not read much Bradbury–I’m not even sure how I read this story in the first place, but I remembered it; there must have been a short-story collection I picked up somewhere and read that I don’t recall. I know that I read it sometime after I had read Night Shift by Stephen King; because when I originally read this story it made me think of his story, “Strawberry Spring,” both in its style, voice and content SPOILER: both are serial killer stories, and both are written in that same Norman Rockwell Americana type voice; look at this sweet, picturesque American community, isn’t it lovely and aspirational and oh, by the way, there’s a serial killer on the loose. Before rereading the story, all I could remember was that weird Rockwellian voice, the Americana of the depiction of the town, and the ending. I also remembered the suspense of the scene where Miss Lavinia, after walking her companions home after seeing the Chaplin movie, thinks someone is following her as she hurries home alone. I’d forgotten that she and one of her friends found the body of the latest victim on the way to the movie, and yet continue on; that was extremely weird, and I also remembered the wonderful twist of the final sentence of the story, once she has safely gotten home. The serial killer, The Lonely One, kills a woman every month–and yet, in this pristine little slice of Americana small town life, no one in the town seems to take the killer all that seriously, or worry all that much about becoming his next victim. The voice vs the content is a masterstroke of writing, frankly; and I must admit, I’m not really sure why I haven’t read more Bradbury. I remember reading Something Wicked This Way Comes–I also remember thinking recently that I should reread it–and Dandelion Wine, and there must have been a short story collection I read as well; but I never read any of the science fiction–my education in Heinlein and other science fiction greats is also sorely lacking (although I have read quite a bit of Azimov and of course, Dune). I think I’ve avoided the great science fiction writers of back in the day because the advances in technology in reality have made some of those stories probably obsolete–watching 2001 recently, along with Blade Runner, was interesting in seeing what major corporations of the time they were made are no longer around (Pan Am and Howard Johnson’s, for a few) that people of the time couldn’t possibly imagine wouldn’t be around in the future. Perhaps I’ll move Something Wicked This Way Comes closer to the top of the reread pile. I didn’t enjoy it all that much at the time–I was expecting something a little more Stephen King-ish–and with more of an adult, better read mentality, I might enjoy and appreciate it more. I am certainly intrigued by that voice, which is very similar to the one he used in the short story.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and safe Thursday, Constant Reader!

Welcome Back

I managed fourteen hundred words today, and then came up blank. I hate when that happens, but I just can’t force the creativity, you know? And those fourteen hundred words were hard to do, frankly. But I printed out the next chapter (Chapter Seven, to be exact) and will reread that at some point before getting to work on it, perhaps later, before Game of Thrones airs. I am planning on making this weird combination Swedish meatball/beef stroganoff dish for dinner (I’ve made both, and then one time when I was making Swedish meatballs later I realized I’d used the stroganoff recipe, but you know what? I also liked it. A lot. And I’ve made it that way ever since) later, and the kitchen is relatively clean already (and my goal is to leave it clean when I finish cooking; the worst thing is to go into my two long days at work with a messy kitchen, knowing it will most likely stay that way, getting worse, until Thursday–unless I somehow have more energy during the week than I usually do). I’ve filed stuff, cleaned the floors, paid the bills, made groceries, mailed things that needed to be mailed, and I wrote fourteen hundred words on the WIP today before running out of steam. Perhaps someday I’ll work my way back up to those halcyon days of three thousand or more I used to do routinely, but having a nice, relaxing weekend where I am actually able to get started writing and get caught up on things and have a clean home is a lovely way to start, don’t you think?

I certainly do.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones when it ends, and I doubt very seriously I will ever go back and watch the entire series again. It’s a tempting thought, to be honest, to devote several months to rewatching it in full, from episode one to its conclusion, in one massive binge and think about what I am watching, in terms of what I know is going to happen and watching for possible foreshadowing. I’ve always loved history, and that’s part of why I love Game of Thrones so much; it’s kind of like history where you don’t know how it all ends. When I was a kid I used to redraw maps of Europe and create countries and change the way wars ended and try to create my own Eurocentric history of the world; who knew that what I was actually doing wasn’t simply a waste of time but rather an incredibly creative experiment in world building via alternative history. Every so often, when I’ve been caught up in a science fiction or fantasy epic series, I wonder at the world building/universe building creativity of the author and think I could never do that. I’ve always wanted to, but never have; but perhaps that was simply a failing of my own. Of course I could do it, but whether I could do it well would be an entirely different thing.

I don’t read as much science fiction and fantasy as I would like–I’ve always geared more towards crime and horror–but I’ve certainly read and enjoyed the Dune series, The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Shannara Chronicles, and Azimov’s science fiction novels about the robots and the empire and the Foundation, which wound up in the end all being one great big long series. There are writers out there now that I am looking forward to reading–I am not only diversifying the types of stories I read by race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, and sexuality, but I am also trying to read more broadly across genres. Reading science fiction, fantasy, romance, even what is condescendingly called “chick lit”, and even some literary fiction will influence me and help make me a better writer in the long run. I read primarily for enjoyment, yes, but I also want to be a better writer, and reading different stories and different perspectives can only serve to make me a better writer.

I guess in reality when the show ends I won’t be saying goodbye completely to Game of Thrones; I still have the books to finish reading, and there will undoubtedly be spin-off shows–but seriously, is anyone at HBO listening? Your next big series should be Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern. Her dragon books would be fantastic television, and for that matter so would Naomi Norvik’s (which I need to read; I started reading one a long time ago and was completely enthralled; something came up and I never finished and I never got back to it, and I’ve always regretted that).

I am also, in case you haven’t noticed, not only in that stage of writing where I never want to do it, have to force myself to do it, but when I finally do I am not happy with what I have done. I am completely convinced this book isn’t going to be what I want it to be, what I envisioned it to be, and its entirely due to my own various shortcomings as an author. It’s all part and parcel of the same neurosis, really; the endless cycle of Imposter Syndome, where you think you’ve somehow managed to con people for years that you can write but eventually the gig will be up and the marks you’ve been conning all along will finally wise up. This all too frequently translates I need to work today into what’s the point of writing? This book is shit, anyway, and no one is going to want to read it which very easily becomes let me get watch Youtube videos of Game of Thrones fan theories and listicles or highlights of exciting LSU football games or really hot well built muscular professional wrestlers or old music videos or clips from old episodes of All My Children–yes, those downward Youtube spirals can be quite frightening sometimes.

But I did make myself get those fourteen hundred words done today, even though I didn’t want to do it, even though I thought I should do three thousand, even though I currently think the words I wrote are crap and the chapter is crap and the character is two dimensional and I don’t know what I am doing, I FUCKING WROTE THOSE GODDAMNED WORDS TODAY.

And that’s fourteen hundred more words than I did yesterday, or Friday, or Thursday.

And I bet tomorrow I can do more than fourteen hundred.

Watch closely now.

What do I say to the God of Imposter Syndrome? NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT TODAY.

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