Lost in Emotion

And somehow we’ve managed to make it to Thursday again, which is a lovely thing to contemplate.

I have to say, it was lovely to get back into writing and editing mode this week, having not had the time or energy for the last few weeks; much as I always seem to loathe writing while i’m actually doing it, it’s always enormously satisfying when I do it. I also tend to be more on the side of depression and so forth when I am not writing, or don’t have the time to; writing, much as I always seem to be loathe to do it, always somehow evens out my personality and blunts the edges somewhat.

I should put that on a sticky note and glue it to the wall above my computer, really.

Much as I want to get back to the Kansas book, I think I’m going to start revising Bury Me in Shadows instead. There are simply too many versions and too many changes that need to be made on the Kansas book–so many that I don’t think there’s any way I could get the draft finished by the end of this month, whereas Bury Me in Shadows is more solid. It needs some language correction, obviously, and more character development and there are more things that need to be woven into the text of the story, but I think that’s far easier than the massive overhaul the Kansas book needs–which means probably a draft to overhaul it and then another draft to correct it, and there’s simply no way I’d be able to get that done this month. I probably–because of my laziness and my tendency to be distracted by shiny objects–won’t get it finished this month, either, but a good strong push might just do the trick. One never knows.

I also want to work on “Fireflies” and “Never Kiss a Stranger” this month, and I’d like to get some other short stories polished and out to markets as well.

I finished reading James Gill’s Lords of Misrule yesterday (more on that later) and have started reading Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, which is interesting–but at the same time, since it’s an old book it’s filled with questionable language and attitudes towards people of color–always an issue when you’re reading an old book about New Orleans (Voodoo in New Orleans, also by Robert Tallant, is another one of those)–which also made me think about the problems of doing historical research. Newspapers, the go-to in the archives, have not always been the bastions of truth and integrity we assume them to be today (although…), which of course means the only actual reporting on things is probably heavily biased (Lords of Misrule in particular pointed out how horribly biased the newspapers of the times could be, particularly in regards to trumpeting the values of white supremacy), which blurs and muddies the truth. But I am really enjoying my trip into my favorite city’s often horrific and terribly bloody history; there are times when I wonder if there’s some kind of weird curse of some sort on this city–similar to the town of Derry in Stephen King’s It, where horrible things happen….and then everyone just moves on like it never happened. I’d never realized how brilliant that aspect of It was; King tried to explain that away as part of the power of Pennywise…but it’s actually a terrible honest truth about humanity: we tend to move on from bad things and eventually lock them away into the darkest parts of our minds.

I slept pretty well last night, only waking up once or twice, and feel pretty rested this morning, which is lovely. I have to put in eight hours at the office today, but we aren’t doing clinic, just walk-in testing, which means it won’t be as busy as it usually is. I’m still trying to get adjusted to switching my eight hour shift from Wednesday to Thursday; I keep thinking it’s Thursday on Wednesday, and then today I’ll keep thinking it’s Wednesday. *eye roll to infinity* It’s really strange how much routine in my life I have, and how much comfort I actually draw from said routine.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but hey, there you go.

All right, time to get ready to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Do I Have to Say the Words?

GEAUX TIGERS!

It wasn’t a pretty win by any means, but a win is a win–and LSU is now the only team to have beaten four teams that were ranked at the time of the game. With Ohio State’s stunning blow-out loss to Purdue, the Tigers should be ranked in the top four (probably number four) when the rankings come out..and also setting up a huge game against Number One ranked Alabama… look completely unbeatable. Regardless, this has been a wonderful dream season so far–particularly when you take into consideration everyone had LSU dead and buried before the season started. The defense looked amazing against Mississippi State last night; the offense moved the ball decently at times, but for the most part looked sluggish and off. But on a night when the offense wasn’t clicking, we still managed to beat a top 25 team 19-3.

Yes, this season has been joyous, for the most part.

I did all my chores and ran all my errands yesterday. I was too nervous about the game to get much else of anything done, other than random tasks that don’t require much thinking; filing, organizing, cleaning, dishes, putting groceries away, and so forth. I did some thinking about writing while my  hands were busy, which sort of counts, and I did look over the Scotty book. I do like getting organized and preparing my thoughts. I am going to try to get my revisions done this morning before the Saints game; knowing I will become completely useless afterwards. But at least I don’t spend as much time as I used to parked in front of the television, flipping back and forth between games I don’t care very much about.

That’s something, at any rate, isn’t it?

The Saints game isn’t until two this afternoon, so I have plenty of time to answer emails and do some editing/revising/cleaning in the meantime. This is actually kind of nice; I slept later than I’d intended this morning but again I feel amazingly rested, which is kind of nice; and I remain hopeful that I’ll be able to get everything done that I need to get done today. It would be lovely to get three chapters finished; but I’ll have to see how that goes as I start writing. I’d also like to get my floors done today, and maybe some more reading of Empire of Sin; I also need to mark up my old journal with sticky notes for ideas on works in progress so I don’t forget about those notes. I used to have such an amazing memory; it’s almost tragic how much my brain has slowed and how overloaded it has become in my late fifties. Tragedy, truly.

Yesterday, in the afternoon lull before the LSU game, rather than reading something new I took down my hardcover copy of Stephen King’s ‘salem’s Lot, which is one of my favorite novels of all time, and dipped into it again from the beginning. If The Stand is my favorite King novel–of several to choose from; if pressed I name it as my favorite but it’s on a pretty equal par with several others, including Christine, Carrie, The Dead Zone, It, Misery, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, and Firestarter, to name just a few–‘salem’s Lot also holds a special place in my heart for any number of reasons. For one, it’s a book I bought solely because of the name of the author–the first time I did this with King, and from this one on I anxiously awaited the new King novel every year–because I’d never read anything remotely like Carrie before, and I was curious to see what he would do in this new book. I was living in Kansas when it was released in paperback; I actually saw in the grocery store line at Safeway with my mother and I asked if I could have it. She said yes in this instance–I always was asking for a book whenever we were anywhere shopping; whenever we went to malls she would send me into a bookstore while she shopped; the most exciting thing my mother could ever say to me was You can have a book–and I started reading it in the car on the way home. I remember it was a Saturday; I  remember retiring to my room with a bag of taco-flavored Doritos (also a treat; my mom would either get me a bag of those or barbecue Fritos whenever she went to the grocery store and I would spend the afternoon methodically eating the entire bag while reading in my bed), and starting to read. Living in Kansas I had no idea what books were about–there were no book reviews in the Emporia Gazette, the only paper we had access to–and so I could only go by the blurb on the back of the book or on the first page inside the front cover. I had no idea what was going on in this little town in Maine until King revealed it halfway through the book. Also, when you bear in mind that Jerusalem’s Lot’s population at the beginning of the book was just over a thousand and I was living in a small town with a population just under a thousand; it was raining that day and as I read, the rain turned into a thunderstorm that seemed to last for hours; and right at the time King revealed that the secret supernatural thing going on was vampires the wind blew a tree branch against the screen of the window directly next to my bed–well, you can see why I may have uttered a half-scream and dropped the book. I remember my heart was racing and I was breathing hard; I had to go wash my face and take some deep breaths before I could pick up the book, find my lost page, and finish reading it. I stayed up until three in the morning finishing the book. ‘salem’s Lot has always had a place in my heart as the first book I ever read that truly terrified me; I’d read horror fiction before but I’d never had such a major physical reaction of sheer terror and shock as I had in that book. (I had also barreled through Carrie in one day, but it didn’t terrify me so much as suck me into a fast-moving train of a story about a horrible tragedy; I’d never read anything like it before–and this would prove to be the case with so many of King’s novels for me.) Reading ‘salem’s Lot made me a King fan for life; a Constant Reader, if you will. Eventually, other distractions and changes in my life also changed my King fandom; I don’t always necessarily buy his new novel the day it is released and put everything else on hold as I read it in a day or two, shutting everything else in the world out. (I just, for example, bought The Outsider yesterday; I still don’t have a copy of Sleeping Beauties, and I’ve never finished reading The Dark Tower series, haven’t read Bronco Billy or The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon or Black House or Doctor Sleep or 11/22/63 or End of Watch yet; I know, I am a terrible King fan.)

But one of the things I loved the best about King–one of the reasons I always felt, back in the days when he was dismissed as simply another hack genre writer–was the way he depicted small towns and the people who populate them; Jerusalem’s Lot was the first of his great small towns, to be followed by Castle Rock and later, Derry. King’s small town, and the people who populate them, are so realistic, so real, so these are my next door neighbors, that I’ve always loved his work and characters and their reality, their realness. This is why his horror works so well–the reader is invested emotionally with his characters–which is also one of the reasons why my least-favorite King novel, The Tommyknockers, is my least favorite. (I also want to revisit that novel at some point; just as I want to reread Pet Sematary again. Both are amongst the few earlier King novels that I’ve only read once and never went back to; I used to reread King all the time.) This is also, I think, why Netflix’ adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House was so powerful, and why I enjoyed it so much: so much was done with character and their relationships with each other that I became vested; I cared what happened to the Crains.

And isn’t that, ultimately, what makes any work resonate with the reader? The ability to identify with, and care about, the characters?

I am really looking forward to continuing my return visit to Jerusalem’s Lot.

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The Way I Feel About You

Well, my plans on how to stay calm during an LSU game most emphatically did not work yesterday.

I do, however, have a very clean apartment.

It was, on the whole, a most exciting game–if you’re an LSU fan, but it also had a lot of stressful moments, momentum swings, and tension. And yet, when the smoke cleared and the game clock ran down, LSU upset the second ranked team in the country and the national championship runners-up from last year decisively, 36-16. Hardly anyone gave LSU a chance, and even those who only made Georgia a seven-point favorite were doing so half-heartedly; as I watched the pre-game show it was so clear no one really thought LSU had a chance, or would even meet that seven-point margin; they were trying to hype up the ratings–if they said what they really believed, that Georgia was going to humiliate LSU–only die-hard fans would watch.

Which would have been a pity. LSU was dominant in retrospect–at the time it didn’t feel that way. We went up 3-0, stopped a fake field goal attempt on fourth down by the Bulldogs, and then drove down the field to go up 10-0. Two more field goals followed, along with some lights-out, tenacious defense, and the score at half-time was 16-0, LSU. Georgia had never trailed this season for more than fifteen seconds, and had not been held scoreless in a half in God knows how long. But it was really only a two-score game, and I was concerned about having to kick three field goals instead of touchdowns…then again, LSU had four scoring drives in the first half; it could have been 28-0. I worried those field goals might come back to haunt us in the second half. And I was wrong. LSU scored twenty more points in the second half to put the game away–although Georgia scored 16 points of their own–but the final score was 36-16, and the biggest win for LSU since the Alabama game in 2011; certainly one for the history books, and one that will go down in LSU lore as one of the great Death Valley wins.

Suddenly, after the Florida loss, with LSU looking slow and lackadaisical and almost mediocre, now LSU looks like a championship team who can compete with anyone. And while I don’t want to get my hopes up–Alabama looks completely unbeatable–how exciting would it be if we got to play Florida again for the SEC championship game? Florida has already lost to Kentucky; Georgia already has a conference loss with both Florida and Kentucky yet to play; all the contenders in the East have a loss already (Kentucky to Texas A&M; Georgia to LSU; Florida to Kentucky) so the stakes for the Florida-Georgia game are really, really high in two weeks.

Yes, it was a very exciting day around the Lost Apartment yesterday. GEAUX TIGERS!

I also watched another two episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, which is probably one of the best horror television shows I’ve seen in a while. I am quite frankly loving this television horror renaissance, which is producing such amazing programs. The Haunting of Hill House, of course, still can–and might–go off the rails, but so far it is terrifying, eerie, and mesmerizing; the call-backs to the original source material are enormously satisfying, and yet it could stand entirely on its own with a different title; it’s almost like a revisitation of the Lutz family twenty or so years after the original story of The Amityville Horror–how do you experience something supernatural and terrifying, particularly if you’re not really sure what it was you were experiencing, and deal with that trauma for the rest of your life? The Crain children, now adults, have dealt with this in varying ways, but they are definitely all suffering from PTSD and trauma. The first four episodes told the same story from different points of view of the adult Crains, their present reality juxtaposed with their memories of their stay at Hill House. All the characters are compelling, well-written and defined, and the acting is absolutely stellar. I said in a previous entry it’s reminiscent of the best of Stephen King’s It and Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts; I am also going to throw in the first season of the television adaptation of The Exorcist as well–an excellent show that only lasted two seasons but I wish it could have gone on for longer. This is some excellent story-telling, and it is astonishing how true to the mood of the novel this show is.

I won’t deny it–at first I thought, when I heard of this and how it was going to be done, I rolled my eyes. You can’t do this better than Shirley Jackson, I thought dismissively, remembering the horrible 1999 film version (the original film version, in black and white, directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Harris–who should have at least gotten an Oscar nomination–was superb and terrifying). But I was absolutely, positively, completely wrong. The show is amazing and fantastic, and I can’t wait to watch more; I might even do so today before getting started on writing–since there’s no Saints game today, and of course being sick last week put me desperately behind.

I also read some more in Empire of Sin yesterday–Storyville is now up and operational. I’ve always avoided reading about Storyville, or even considering writing about it; for me, I was thinking it was almost cliche to do so. David Fulmer has already done a series set in that time–Chasing the Devil’s Tail, Jass, Rampart Street, Lost River–with his detective, Valentin St. Cyr; he also had a story in New Orleans Noir, and since he has done so well with the period and the area I didn’t really see any need to cover that same ground. But now….now I am thinking I could, and differently. “The Blues Before Dawn” might actually turn into a novel rather than a short story, and it’s a great title, if I do say so myself. But once I get this revision under control, I’ll have some more time to play around with the story and see where it goes.

I’m particularly interested in Tom Anderson, the unofficial mayor of Storyville.

I’m also thinking I should watch Pretty Baby again; it’s been decades.

And on that note, I think I am going to take my coffee into the living room, ensconce myself in my easy chair, and watch the next episode of The Haunting of Hill House preparatory to heading into the spice mines.

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

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One

GEAUX TIGERS!

Yes, second ranked Georgia rolls into Tiger Stadium today to take on the twelfth-ranked Tigers, reeling from the first loss last week at Florida. I’m trying not to get to invested in the stakes of the game; I just want the Tigers to play better than they did last week and be competitive. I want them to win, I will be rooting them on–but I will also likely be cleaning and keeping myself occupied to handle the nerves.

Sigh.

I slept in this morning–I did wake up around seven, but chose to stay in bed for another hour, before finally getting up and getting a load of laundry started. I feel extremely well-rested this morning; which is absolutely lovely. I have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do today in order to clear my plate so tomorrow can be all about writing and editing and reading. I am greatly enjoying Empire of Sin; it’s giving me all kinds of ideas about stories to write and maybe even a novel or two…I’ll probably read Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter next.

Lisa Morton once suggested that I do a New Orleans version of her book Monsters of LA. I am thinking that might just be something I can do, now that I’m reading all this New Orleans history.

I also started streaming the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House last night; I got through the first two episodes, which I greatly enjoyed. I was tempted to watch  yet a third but stopped myself as it was getting late. There’s been, since the trailers for the show dropped, a lot of anger and disgust from Shirley Jackson fans as well as horror fans, since obviously the show was going to be different from the novel, and why does this even need to be? Well, I am a huge fan of both Jackson AND this particular novel; one of my proudest moments was when Night Shadows was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist. (I love the rock I got for being a finalist.) The show is good. It didn’t have to be Hill House; it didn’t have to be The Haunting of Hill House, but that’s what it is, and it is inevitable, as such, that it’s going to be compared to the original. Jackson’s structure is there; Hill House, the Crain family, the Dudleys; even some of the things that happen in the book happen in the show. It’s being told in a parallel structure; when the Crains moved into Hill House, a young couple with five children, ostensibly to renovate the house and flip it. Something horrible happened while they lived there, and the parallel story being told in modern times is about the Crains today; all five of the kids grown up into severely damaged adults. The children are Steve, Shirley, Theo, Nell, and Luke–the names of the characters from the novels plus the novelist’s name–and the parallel story structure works. The performances are good, and I also like the concept–it’s very Stephen King’s It, because clearly they are all going to have to return to Hill House and face not only the house but their own demons. As I watched and began to understand the story structure, I also thought to myself, ah, this is a great direction modern horror is going in; not only dealing with the paranormal elements but the also dealing with the psychological aspects of having dealt with something so traumatic as a child. It reminded me somewhat of Paul Tremblay’s novel A Head Full of Ghosts in that way. I am really looking forward to continuing to watch and see how it plays out. I don’t see how this can become a regular series…but then again Netflix turned Thirteen Reasons Why into a multi-season show and the second season just wasn’t very good.

I’m also still watching season three of The Man in the High Castle, which is sooooo good. The first season was terrific, the second kind of mess, but they’ve really hit their stride in Season 3.

And now, I have laundry to fold, dishes to put away, spice to mine.

Have a lovely lovely Saturday, everyone.

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I’m Your Man

Well, the first day of vacation passed without too much of note occurring. We grilled out for dinner–burgers and cheese dogs–and watched It on HBO; I cleaned and started organizing the kitchen; we watched a few more episodes of Big Mouth on Netflix-, and oh yes, Paul spent most of the day watching Wimbledon. I was most pleased to spend a day relaxing (and yes, I find cleaning and organizing to be relaxing; feel free to sue me), and will probably spend today doing more of the same, in addition to going to the gym and doing some writing and answering some emails. I keep thinking today is Sunday, which is also kind of funny–evidence of how nuts the mind can be; I kept thinking yesterday as Saturday. I need to revise my short story for submission to Cemetery Dance (yes, a long shot, but it’s a bucket list thing and I am going to keep trying every year until I actually get in) and in other bizarre news, I also managed to start writing my next book yesterday. I didn’t intend to; but I just felt like I needed to get that opening written down. It’s been swirling in my head for months now, and getting started neither took a long time nor was it particularly painful (what’s going to be painful is rereading the Scotty manuscript, which I am rather dreading).

Here it is:

The summer I graduated from high school my mother ruined my life.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. Mom says I do that a lot—well, that, and that I’m melodramatic. When I tell her being called a drama queen by my mom will make a great story for my future therapist, she just gives me that look and says, “The prosecution rests, Your Honor.”

This particular book is going to be vastly different from anything I’ve written before–I am being most ambitious in my thinking with this one–and I am also writing about a kind of character I’ve never really done before–oh, sure, gay teenager, to be sure, I’ve done that multiple times–but he’s also the only child of a incredibly successful attorney single mother, and the tricky part, the part that’s kept me from writing this book, which began as a short story called “Ruins” about thirty years ago, was I simply could not figure out how to get my main character to spend the summer in rural Alabama, which I have finally managed to do.

Also, yesterday while I was cleaning and organizing–and really, this is the best way to have this sort of thing happen–I kept getting ideas on how to fix and repair the Scotty novel. There really is something to writing an entire draft from start to finish, even knowing that it’s sloppy and you’re leaving things dangling or starting threads that you don’t see through to fruition, as opposed to going back and revising as you go so that by the time you reach the end, you’re past deadline and you don’t get to revise or rewrite the end, or have the time to go back and do much fixing once you’ve finally devised the end. I’ve always been paranoid about that with my Scotty books, which is kind of how I’ve written them all since Mardi Gras Mambo. But if 2018 has been about anything, it’s been about going back to the beginnings and remembering how I used to do things, and going back to my original systems has really been helpful when it comes to writing.

And I got to say, I love that very much.

Next up in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “Wrought Iron Lace”:

The guy who just moved in across the courtyard is gorgeous.

 I would guess that he’s still in his early thirties, maybe still the late twenties. Since I turned forty it’s really hard for me to judge age. Twenty years olds look like babies, fifty year olds look forty, and that group in between I just have no fucking clue. I watched him move in the day after I came home from the hospital. I have three pins in my leg from the car accident, and I have to keep it elevated as much as possible. I can’t stand on it yet, even with crutches, so I have a nice loaner wheelchair from the hospital. Friends are running errands for me when they can, and checking in on me to make sure I’m not lying on the floor in the bathroom helpless. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time at home by myself ever before. It’s amazing how little there is to watch on television, even with eighty cable channels. Is there anyone left on the planet who has not seen the movie Sixteen Candles? Why do they have to keep airing it?

It was a Saturday, and if ever there was a day of television hell, it’s Saturday. There’s nothing on, at any time of the day. I don’t really care that much about billiards, snowboarding, or timber-sports, thank you very much. I knew that the vacant apartment on the other side of the courtyard had been rented, the lower one, but I’d forgotten someone was moving in. My apartment is the second floor of a converted slave quarter, and my balcony has a view straight into the living room and bedroom windows of the lower in the back of the main house. I had seen the young lesbian couple who had lived there naked in the bedroom entirely too many times, and had trained myself not to notice those windows.

What can I say? I was bored, bored, bored.  It was eleven o’clock in the morning, I’d been up for three hours, and I wasn’t expecting anyone to come by again until two o’clock. I put a Jewel CD on, and pushed myself out onto the balcony. It was a beautiful October morning, the sky blue, the sun shining and warm, but none of the humidity that made New Orleans almost unlivable in the summer. There was a stack of books on the balcony table, and I figured this enforced captivity was a pretty good time to catch up on my reading. On top of the stack was a hardcover with two incredibly pretty young men giving each other the eye on the jacket. They were fully dressed, so I knew it was a romance rather than some porn. The sex would be soft-core, the characters fairly two-dimensional, and the problems they faced would be most likely vapid, but it would while away some time without requiring a vast degree of thought.

The door in the gate opened, and this guy came in. Wow, was my instant reaction. I put the book down on the table. He was wearing a black tank tee, tight black jean shorts that reached almost to his knees, with the bottom inch or so rolled up, and calfskin ankle boots with heavy socks pushed down on top of them. He was wearing a black baseball cap with the fleur-de-lis emblem of the Saints on the front. He had a key ring in his hand, and he walked right over to the door of the vacant apartment and unlocked it. When his back turned to me, my jaw dropped. He had without a doubt the most beautiful ass I have ever seen in my entire life. It was hard, it was round, perfectly curved. It was an ass to make men weep, an ass that belonged on an underwear box, an ass that could launch a thousand hard-ons.

I lit a cigarette.

A couple of other guys, muscular, attractive enough but nothing like the first, came back carrying boxes. Any other time, I would have probably been attracted to either or both of them, but the incredible beauty of the first boy (I found myself thinking of him as a “boy” strangely) made them seem like the girls who don’t make the Top Ten at Miss America. I’m sure they were used to it–it probably happened to them in bars all the time. I sat there for several hours, watching them move boxes and furniture, occasionally breaking to have a beer or a smoke break at one of the iron tables in the courtyard. The also-rans eventually removed their shirts, displaying fairly nice torsos, one with some hair, the other completely smooth. Again, under ordinary circumstances I would have been fantasizing a pretty damned vivid three way scene. If I could walk I’d be down there helping, flirting a little, feeling them out about trysting. I would watch the sweat glistening on their bare skin in the sun and wonder how it might taste, if their armpits were becoming a little smelly perhaps from the sweat, if their underwear was sticking to their asses. But my mind was solely on my new neighbor, hoping that he too would take his shirt of, give me a glimpse of his chest and back, maybe the waistband of his underwear showing above his shorts. It never occurred to me that they might be aware of me, the aging man in the wheelchair up on the balcony watching them hungrily without even saying hello. I never saw them look up or give any indication they were being watched. For all I knew, when they were out of sight on the street taking stuff out of the truck they could be laughing their asses off at the perv on the balcony, thinking he’s hidden behind the  wrought iron lacework. But if that were the case, it wouldn’t have mattered to me at all. I could not tear myself away from watching the boy in the black tank tee.

I wrote this story for an anthology called  A View to a Thrill (finally! I remember the anthology!) which was about voyeurism. Voyeurism always reminds me of Rear Window, and so I wanted to do a kind of Rear Window take on a gay erotica story; without the murder, of course.

When I first moved to New Orleans all those years ago, I always wanted to write a book about a group of gay guys–friends and frenemies–who all lived around a courtyard in the French Quarter and their quest for love and happiness and success; kind of Armistead Maupin meets Jacqueline Susann, using the same structure of Valley of the Dolls–one older character who’s already at the top of his game and owns the buildings, and the three younger ones who become unlikely friends/frenemies on their journey. I called it The World Is Full of Ex-Lovers (a play on two Jackie Collins titles), and from time to time, I found myself writing short stories about these guys. “Stigmata,” which was my first or second non-erotica short story, was about these guys; so was “Touch Me in the Morning,” the story I wrote for Foolish Hearts and had completely forgotten about until I took the book down and looked at the table of contents. I’ve got a lot of first drafts and partial drafts of stories written about these guys and their courtyard. One of the things I love about New Orleans is how, in rental situations (like the one I currently am in) you find yourself in a kind of enforced intimacy with your neighbors; one that you tend to ignore for the most part to maintain the illusion of privacy.

I even used the concept of the French Quarter courtyard with friends living around as a key component in Murder in the Rue Dauphine.

Maybe someday I’ll write that book. You never know.

Anyway, I digress. As I was pondering my ideas for a voyeur story, what better setting than a French Quarter courtyard that a number of people rent apartments around? I broke my character’s legs and gave him the upstairs apartment in a slave quarter/carriage house in the back of the courtyard, who observes a really hot young man moving into one of the apartments in the back wing of the main house, through the wrought iron lace of his balcony. I think the story turned out well, and I’ve always been pleased with both it and its title; in fact, when I thought about collecting the erotic stories together originally the book’s title was going to be Wrought Iron Lace and Other Stories.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Wanna Be Startin’ Something

Well, I finished the tragic mess that is currently known as Chapter Seven’s first draft yesterday. And it is a mess; this is easily one of the sloppiest first drafts of a novel I’ve ever written. In fact, I feel so bad about how shitty it is I may even go back and rewrite the entire first half once I finish Chapter Ten. This book is so bad, I can’t even believe how badly I can write a Scotty novel. Oh, well, that’s what rewrites and revisions and future drafts are for.

I also finished rereading It yesterday. Wow, you are undoubtedly saying, that’s a lot of reading. But truth be told, much like the Losers Club when they return to Derry twenty-seven years later, the more I read the more I remembered. And yes, I skimmed some sections, and skipped some entirely. It’s a perfectly fine novel, and I would recommend it..but there are problematic sections, and yes, I do feel like I’m committing treason by saying anything negative about Stephen King and his work, because he is my writing idol, and he has been since I was a teenager. What works in this book works extremely well; no one writes about the lives of children, how they relate to other children, and what it’s like to be a loser as a child (or feel like one) the way he does. I identify with every one of those kids, I feel for them, I desperately want them to succeed and have great lives and live happily ever after. Their return as adults doesn’t work quite as well as the parts that are set in the past; the characters are still richly defined, and their relationships still work–but I still didn’t like the resolution of the story, either when they were kids or when they were adults; I didn’t like the way the book ended (but for the life of me, I couldn’t write such a book nor could I think of a way to end such a book), and it reminded me a lot of Floating Dragon by Peter Straub in many ways (or vice versa; I think I read the King first and then the Straub originally and was struck by the similarities; I do love both books and think of them fondly). I’m not sorry I took the time to reread It and reacquaint myself with Derry and the Losers Club; there are some genuinely good scares in the book, and it’s one of the best books about a small city I’ve read–King really does a great job of depicting life in these smallish towns/cities and how the social dynamics work in them, whether it’s Derry, Castle Rock, or Jerusalem’s Lot. (That was one of the best parts of Needful Things for me; how the town dynamics worked and how the characters and their lives and their petty foibles and feuds all were entwined so intricately together.)

One of the other interesting things I found in rereading It was there was an LSU connection in it; in the town Ben has moved to and currently lives in there was a local kid who was a star athlete and went to LSU, only to party too hard and flunk out, and wound up coming back to the small town as an alcoholic. The town is Hemingford Home, where of course Miss Abigail lived in The Stand; also in that same book when Nick Andros is jumped, one of the assailants was wearing his fraternity ring from LSU–he was the sheriff’s brother-in-law, and he partied too hard and flunked out of LSU as well. Methinks Mr. King knows someone who went to LSU and flunked out for partying too hard. Those are the only two references to LSU in King’s work that I know of; would that Rocky Wood was alive so I could email and ask him.

Maybe someday I’ll get to ask Mr. King.

And of course, It is very reminiscent of the novella “The Body.” which is probably my favorite work of King’s, if pressed to name a favorite–the Losers Club, like the smaller group of friends in “The Body”, has the fat kid, the kid whose brother died and parents haven’t gotten over it, the poor kid (only switched from male to female in It), and the kid who gets beaten up a lot because of his smart mouth.

And there’s also the writer character–King often throws a writer in his work (Ben in ‘salem’s Lot, Jack in The Shining), but this was the first book where he really went all-in on  writer character with Bill Denbrough–and of course, his next novel was Misery, which of course took the writer character, and the dangers of fame, to a whole new level.

But yeah, the gang bang scene has a whole different vibe about in 2017. It didn’t phase me thirty-one years ago, but now it’s just kind of…icky.

As I said, I’m not sorry I reread it; most of it still stands up, and I still think it’s a terrific, if flawed, novel.

Today I need to get this kitchen in order, and I want to work some more on both the WIP and the new Scotty, maybe even a short story. Next up for my reading is Michael MacDowell’s The Elementals.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk to get your week off to a nice start.

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Family Man

So, last night I started my reread of Stephen King’s It. The book is slightly over 1100 pages long; and was the second novel King published that I never reread after the initial read (the other being Pet Sematary, which I think I will reread at some point now; I really disliked the book, but I think it was more because of its subject matter than anything King did, if that makes sense?). I sat down with it in my easy chair, and before I knew it the evening had passed and I was well past page two hundred. King is always compulsively readable; I can’t think of a single King novel where I just thought, meh and was able to put it down and walk away from it without regret. Likewise, I was so enmeshed in the story last night that when Paul wanted to watch some of our shows (How to Get Away with Murder, Will and Grace) I was a little annoyed to put the book down. I have no doubts that i will be able to get the entire thing reread in a matter of days; it’s simply a matter of finding the time to read.

Over the years since I first read It, I’ve seen some negative commentary on the book; I myself can distinctly remember not being overly thrilled with the ending, and being more than a little disappointed, which was a first with a King novel for me. The criticisms I’ve seen leveled at the book have included its length (I thought about that while reading last night, and frankly couldn’t imagine being King’s editor, trying to decide what to cut and what to leave behind), which I suppose can be justified in some ways; 1100 is awfully long. But as I was reading, I couldn’t imagine what needed to be cut from the book. King brings Derry vividly to life, and almost every word, every sentence, used to create his characters seems absolutely necessary. One of the things I’ve always loved about King was his realistic-seeming characters; whether it’s Stan Uris’ wife with her bitter recollection of not being allowed into the after-prom party at the country club because she and her date were Jewish, or Eddie Kasprack’s realization that in his overweight and needy and clingy wife, he has actually married his mother; and so on. No other writer I can recall has ever captured childhood, or written about children and the way their minds work, the way King has; the children he creates take me back to memories, long buried and forgotten, about my own childhood and its insecurities and its terrors–like Ben Hanscom when I was a kid I loved the library and lost myself in books, and was never lonely because I never really knew what it was like to have friends or a gang of friends. I always had books, you see, and I could see myself in some way in each and all of his characters as children.

Another one of the criticisms I’ve seen leveled at It has to do with the gay-bashing murder of Adrian Mellon in the second chapter of the book; it’s this murder that brings the cycle of death back to Derry; just as the the first chapter’s depiction of how Georgie Denbrough dies, chasing his paper boat down the gutter triggers the cycle of death in 1958. I’ve seen criticism of the Adrian Mellon death as proof that King is homophobic, or criticism that the depiction of Adrian and his lover, Don Hagarty, was homophobic. Rereading it last night, I never once got that sense. The book was originally published in 1986, at the height of the AIDS epidemic and the societal terror/homophobia that was triggered by the epidemic; some thirty years later it is easy to forget, or downplay what a truly terrifying time that was. And here was King, one of the biggest selling and most read authors of our time, putting in a vicious homophobic attack at the start of one of his biggest and most ambitious novels to date. Was his depiction of Adrian and Don, with their lipstick and tight pants and glittery eye shadow, indeed homophobic?

No, I didn’t think so in 1986 and I don’t think so in 2017.

Maybe Adrian and Don weren’t the most masculine gay men King could have chosen to write about, but the thing that we, in our more ‘enlightened’ times, tend to forget was that back in the day, back when the community was primarily focused on not dying and getting medical research into treating and preventing HIV/AIDS, the big butch straight-acting gay men were deep in the closet and desperately terrified that anyone might find out their truth. The effeminate gay men, ones who embraced who they were and wore make-up and flashy clothing and might have minced and pranced around a bit, flaunting their homosexuality–they were out because they didn’t have a choice. They weren’t straight-acting, the societal definition of masculine; they couldn’t hide their sexuality if they wanted to. Even if they remained closeted, everyone thought they were gay and treated them accordingly anyway, so they came out and got in everyone’s face.

And sometimes, getting in people’s faces, being so defiant about who they were, got them killed, as was the case with Adrian Mellon in Chapter Two of It.

King doesn’t show this hate crime as two fags getting what they deserved, either, by the way; he makes both Adrian and Don sympathetic, making the point that no one deserves to be beaten, attacked, or killed for simply being who they are. This was a radical statement to come from a straight white man whose books always shot up to Number One on the bestseller lists and had become a cultural phenomenon. Even the cops, who themselves were homophobic, made it clear that they maybe didn’t like gays but felt they should be left alone. King even talks about the small gay community in Derry, that it exists. He shows the death of Adrian as a tragedy, what happened to him as undeserved, wrong and terrible. He also shows, in a scene where Don shows Adrian, who has fallen in love with the small city and wants to stay there, the homophobic graffiti on the bridge where he ultimately dies–and the horrible words made this reader recoil, in horror and revulsion, at the inhuman sentiments expressed there with spray paint; the way the scene plays out only the most homophobic monster, without any feelings or heart, could possibly read any of it and think, well, that fag got what he deserved or agree with the sentiments spray painted on the bridge.

I’m sure there are others who can find this scene homophobic; I remember reading it back in my closeted days and having my decision to stay closeted confirmed; this is what happens to out gay men. I don’t think that was King’s intent; I believe King was trying, in his way, to show the oppression and abuse that gay men in 1986 were subjected to, something you didn’t find very often in mainstream novels of the time or even in mainstream novels of today.

He showed homophobia in all of its ugliness, and it still resonates today, thirty-one years later.

I have to go to the grocery store this morning, and I have a lot of cleaning and writing to do. So here’s a hunk to get your Saturday going, as I head back into the spice mines.

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