I Miss You

And here we are on a lovely humid Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment. I overslept this morning, or rather, slept later than I had intended or wanted to, but seriously, I’m learning to accept these things as messages from my body that I need more rest. I felt weirdly tired most of yesterday, despite the good night’s sleep; it kind of felt like my body never completely woke up, although my fevered brain was working properly. My body just felt like it would have preferred to stay in bed for the rest of the day. On the way home from work I stopped and made some groceries; today I’ll run uptown and get the mail, making a stop at the Fresh Market for fruit, vegetables and berries on my way home. I may order a Costco delivery for this afternoon (or tomorrow) as well; I haven’t really decided. I started doing some shopping on their website yesterday, but we really didn’t need as much stuff as I would have thought we needed going into their website. (Some of the stuff I wanted wasn’t available, either; which was annoying to say the least–but that would probably also be the case were I to actually go there in person, as well) I also have a library book to pick up today while I am out and about in the humid air of an August Saturday. Huzzah?

I hope I can stay motivated today and get to everything I want to get to this weekend; the jury, of course, remains out at this point.

But if I don’t, I don’t. The world won’t stop turning, after all.

We watched They/Them last night, and it was interesting. It was billed as a horror film, but I really didn’t feel like it was a horror movie rather than social commentary using horror tropes, if that makes sense? The young queer actors playing the kids at the conversion therapy camp were terrific–so were the older cast (Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston)–but the movie never quite gelled as being anything more than a clever idea. A “slasher” movie with “they slash them” in the title I bet made the people around the creative table very excited. And maybe I went in expecting a little too much from it, I don’t know. But it really says something about us as a society that this is the first time we’ve ever seen a horror film rooted in the real-life horror of a reparative therapy camp; they are such real horrors that it’s hard to clear your mind to watch the film objectively; obviously, everyone involved with running the camp are the real monsters, etc. and Paul figured out very early on who the killer was–I didn’t bother trying to figure it out, because the identity of the killer (or killers) in these movies, Scream series notwithstanding, really isn’t a big Scooby-Doo reveal or the point of the films. Ultimately, while the film was actually well done, if you want to see a better send-up of slasher flicks, much as I hate to say it, the latest season of American Horror Story was probably better than They/Them, but at least They/Them is mercifully shorter than any season of AHS. Watch it for yourselves and make up your mind; it does bring up some interesting things to think about.

We then watched the first two episodes of a Netflix true crime series The Most Hated Man on the Internet, about Hunter Moore and his horrific revenge-porn site IsAnyoneUp.com. It’s a horrible story–we stopped before the third and final episode, in which Moore is finally arrested and charged–but riveting and hard to stop watching. The story is primarily told through the eyes of his victims–women whose intimate photos were posted on his website–and its yet another compelling example of how women can so easily be dehumanized and devalued by men and society as a whole. It’s a pretty disgusting story, as these kinds of stories so often are, but I think people do need to watch it. It’s pretty frightening how successful a sociopath can become in this country, and a stinging indictment of our society as a whole. Tonight I am excited to start watching The Sandman–one of the greatest comic book series ever done; I hope it translates well to the new medium (I really didn’t care for other Neil Gaiman adaptations, American Gods and Good Omens, even though I loved the books they were based on). There’s a lot of good stuff dropping this month, too–yes, I will watch House of the Dragons because I’ve missed Westeros since Game of Thrones ended, and I am not ashamed to admit it, either.

Just glancing around my home office as I swill coffee and swim up from the depths of Morpheus (see what I did there?) induced sleep, I can also see that there are a lot of odds and ends that need doing around here as well. I am hoping to get some writing done today–I want to really start digging into the Scotty book this weekend, and of course I need to work on some short stories and so forth. I went ahead and bit the bullet and submitted a story yesterday. I don’t think they’re going to accept it, to be honest, but that’s okay. They certainly can never accept it if I never send it to them for consideration, can they? It never gets any easier, either, the longer I do this: the minutes-long debate with myself before I hit the submit button. I hate that I still have so little confidence in my skill as a writer and I am this far into it, which means that confidence will probably never come along; it’s not like one day I will wake up with an entire new mindset and brain…plus, I think the insecurity is a driver in keeping me writing, frankly, which is in and itself probably more than just a little bit neurotic.

Nothing ever really changes around here, does it? I suspect that this blog–going back now seventeen years or so–is nothing more than an endless log of neuroses and insecurity and self-loathing. (A little voice in my head just shouted, and that will be your legacy!) I was also looking at the saved drafts in my folder–entries that I wanted to write but decided I needed more time to think about before posting, and in many cases they are unfinished–and thinking I should spend some more time actually finishing and posting them. While the blog has always been intended primarily for me–it’s a warm-up writing session at best, at worst it’s some writing I do every day to keep my hand in–there’s no reason I can’t use the blog for other purposes; like publishing an essay about something that I care about, or a personal essay built around something that happened to me. I don’t trust my memories, as I’ve often mentioned here (I sometimes think that if I were ever to start writing memoirs, it would have to be called False Memories or Memory Lies), and so writing about personal experiences is something I have always been highly reluctant to do. There are any number of things I could write personal essays about, but everything is entirely subjectively MY opinion, which makes it a bit harder for me to think anyone would even care to read them. I am not known as a great thinker or as an intellectual; far from it, in fact, and there’s quite literally nothing I can think of to say about anything that would be clever or insightful or meaningful.

Then again, that could just be the Imposter Syndrome speaking again, too.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow, okay?

Tossin’ And Turnin’

I’ve been sleeping well lately, which I suppose means I’ve not been wicked for awhile? Isn’t it “no rest for the wicked?” (I’ve also always considered Ways to Be Wicked one of my potential memoir titles; one of many, to be true, but maybe when I retire I’ll write a memoir every year! Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

If that didn’t send a chill down your spine…well, it should have.

Shudder. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying.

I had appointments and things yesterday, so I took a personal day from the day job and decided–once I was home, having been poked and prodded and all those lovely, distasteful things that are chalked up as “routine maintenance” on an sixty-year-old car–to take a Gregalicious day yesterday; no emails, no day job duties (I had taken the day off, after all) and little to no Internet for most of the day. I wanted to focus on me and my own work for the rest of the day, without any distractions or interference from other places (and yes, that kind of has put me a bit behind on the to-do list, but that’s okay; I also remember and realize that stress and pressure are mindkillers; they induce paralysis and keep me from moving ahead by allowing me to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I have to get done. And once I kicked it into gear, I got a lot done yesterday. I reread the most recent drafts of six short stories that are stalled and I’ve been unable to unlock to secret to solving the problems to make them publishable; for whatever reason yesterday I was able to divorce myself from those creations and edit/review them with a very cold and distant eye. The result? I solved those problems, was able to write extensive notes on how to make them stronger and better stories for the next round of revisions, and even came up with notes on one that is in progress and needs to be turned in by the end of April. Huzzah!

Today I am back in the office, and while the return to the gym I’ve been wanting to make hasn’t happened quite yet (as I said, I really went into the world of self-editing yesterday and by the time I’d gotten through everything I was working on, it was too late to go to the gym), I am hopeful it will be soon enough (maybe this weekend; we shall see). I also continued watching Young Justice last night, which I am really enjoying. It’s sort of another take (with a different title) on Teen Titans, a comic I loved when I was younger (kind of like how Super Friends was the Saturday morning version of Justice League, but don’t get me started on how stupid that show was and how it undermined canon characters who were actually cool in the comics but bad on the show–cough cough, Aquaman, cough cough–but Young Justice, while geared clearly for a younger audience, doesn’t talk down to them the way Super Friends did. The show kicks off with the sidekicks being brought to the Hall of Justice–all of them expecting to become members of the Justice League now, only to discover it’s just step one of the journey and they actually aren’t going to be involved in any cases/adventures for the League. Speedy walks out, and the remaining three sidekicks (Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad) decide to answer an emergency call about a fire a Cadmus Labs, which leads them to the clone of Superman; whom they release. Lots of action and adventure end with Cadmus Labs being taken down and the clone becoming Superboy; the older heroes decide to give them an abandoned League facility for their own headquarters and add another young hero to the group: Miss Martian (a really stupid name), who is the niece of the Martian Manhunter.

(One thing I really like about this show is that it doesn’t just show the big names in the League but the lesser ones–Martian Manhunter, Red Tornado, etc.–as being active and vital members of the League. Well done, adapters!)

I am also hoping that when I get home from the office tonight I can spend some more time withAlex Segura’s marvelous Secret Identity. Next up will be Chris Holm’s Child Zero, and then I am not sure which treasure to pluck from the TBR pile. But I have a lot to get done this week and I need to get ready for work, so I am going to bring this to a close. Have a happy Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Morning Train

Thursday morning and the work-at-home portion of my work week begins. I slept really well last night, which was lovely–but it was humid when I got home from the errands I ran after work I simply couldn’t face walking the five blocks or so to the gym. It was a complete wimp-out, of course; and one I cannot continually use or I might as well cancel my membership. But I want to get back to working out regularly–the lapse in working out gained six pounds back, more or less, and that trend needs to be reversed–so I am hopefully going tonight after my event at 6 pm for Tubby and Coo’s Bookshop, with J. M. Redmann and Traci Taylor. Should be interesting.

As always, I am behind on everything I need to get done–I don’t allow it to stress me out anymore, though, unless there are some major work deadlines for writing or something that really needs to get done–otherwise, those deadlines are merely arbitrary ones that I’ve set, and they don’t matter in the long run, other than personal satisfaction and why allow something for personal satisfaction to get me upset, seriously? I have some more reading I would like to get done this weekend, and of course, there’s always laundry and cleaning to get done. It never ends, says the hamster trying to get to the end of the wheel. But at least I do have things to keep me busy, and there’s never a reason for me to be bored unless I want to be bored, you know what I mean? I chose not to be bored–although even when I am too tired to really think or read or get absorbed into something, there’s always plenty of content on Youtube to keep me entertained at the very least.

I also should drag out my to-do list and see where that stands. While I wish I could rely on my memory, it has proven to be too unreliable for me to completely trust it–if I trust it at all, which is becoming a lot less likely the closer I get to sixty (yet another reason to never write a memoir; if I can’t trust my memory… how can I write them?). I used to think I had a great memory–another lie my memories told me–but I also believe, in many instances, that it isn’t so much that my memories are lies but more a matter of perspective. The way I experienced situations, how they affected me and therefore how I remember them, are colored by many other things, many other aspects–my own life experience, my own biases and prejudices and beliefs, are the prisms through which my memories are filtered; which is why witness testimony is so entirely unreliable. The way any two people can witness and see the same event can be radically different, depending on who they are as a person, their own experiences and beliefs and values, prejudices and biases. Think Rashomon.

I’ve also been thinking about the next Scotty–I think I am going to write something–maybe two books, for that matter–that is/are pre-pandemic. I hate anchoring the series in time, and who knows? Maybe I will never write a pandemic Scotty book; the beauty of fiction is you create your own alternative universe where you control all the events and everything else that happens there…although avoiding the pandemic entirely feels like cheating in some ways. I don’t know; the jury is still out on what to do, but I can easily get away with at least a book or maybe two that are pre-pandemic; hell, maybe even three. I still want to do a book about the cursed Carnival of 2020; the last gasp of the old order, as it were.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Y’all have a great day.

All I Want for Christmas

Joan Didion once wrote “we tell ourselves stories in order to live” in her title essay in the collection The White Album. 

I have grown to love and appreciate Didion’s work over the last couple of years, but I’ve always puzzled over that particular quote. The full quote is “We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

Often that first sentence is taken from its original context and used as a stand-alone quote; my first thought on seeing it somewhere (without having read Didion) was, yes, this is true. This is why our memories of the same event are all different; we interpret and remember that event through the prism of our personal experience and therefore it is colored by who we are as a people; we are all unreliable narrators of our own lives.

This is one of many reasons I am hesitant to even attempt to write personal essays or a memoir; my memory lies to me all the time. It was only recently that I realized, for example, that my recollection of when we moved from Chicago to the suburbs was in 1969; I’ve always believed that, but recently remembered wait, I was ten when we moved; I turned ten in 1971 and sure enough, looking at the dates on some old pictures, yup, it was December 1971 when we left the city for the burbs…so writing personal essays, or a memoir, would require me to research and fact check my own life.

Which would be bizarre, to say the least.

So, we tell ourselves stories in order to live. Christmas is sort of like that, isn’t it? All of these Christmas stories, all these myths…all these stories and traditions that have absolutely nothing to do with what the actual holiday means and was originally intended to be; it’s also kind of amusing to me that something that theoretically began as a Christian religious holiday has been so thoroughly secularized; and at the very least, the majority of Christmas “traditions” are heavily Catholic; so much so that in the early days of the Reformation Protestants didn’t celebrate Christmas (or Easter); some still don’t to this very day. Santa Claus is derived from St. Nicholas; so evangelical children who are taught about Santa Claus are actually celebrating Catholicism–which is why I am always amused by the bumper stickers and billboards stating “Keep the Christ in Christmas.”

Um, there’s no Rudolph or Frosty or Santa Claus or reindeer in the New Testament, so telling your children those stories, or letting them watch the specials or movies, or making that a part of their Christmas isn’t keeping the Christ in Christmas; if anything, it’s helping take the Christ out of Christmas. (And Christmas is a contraction of Christ Mass, so again, Catholic in the first place.) What do lights and a Christmas tree or any of that have to do with the birth of Jesus?

NOTHING

Most Christmas stories–novels or film or television–inevitably are predicated on a belief in Christianity; the stories always boil down to having faith in the unseen and having that faith reaffirmed, or developing that faith. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol probably did the most in popularizing and secularizing Christmas; it’s a morality tale which everyone knows by heart–how many fucking adaptations of that classic story have their been? (I think the first one I saw was with Mr. Magoo.) But it’s a ghost story–ghost stories have always been a part of Christmas, for some reason; the Holy Ghost, perhaps?–and it’s a classic story, even if repetition has made it cliche and tired. It’s also a compelling psychological breakdown of a desperately unhappy man, who takes out his misery on everyone else around him and doesn’t celebrate, or enjoy, Christmas; the ghosts of his past Christmases show him how he became the man he is today–and his future. It has been adapted so many times–even It’s A Wonderful Life is a variation on the story–that is, as I said, the hoariest of all the Christmas cliches; I think the vast majority of sitcoms when I was a child would always, inevitably, do a take on the story for a Christmas episode, to the point that I would cringe when it opened. I read the actual story about twenty years ago, and I was quite surprised to see the changes that were made to it in order to film it…changes that were incorporated into every version filmed ever since. (Bob Cratchit wasn’t Scrooge’s family in the original story; just an employee. Scrooge’s nephew is never in the story, except at the end when Scrooge joins his nephew’s family, not the Cratchits, for the holiday feast.)

But none of these traditional stories, as I’ve mentioned, center queer people–or even include them. A queer version of A Christmas Carol has probably been done by someone–I don’t keep up with queer publishing outside of mysteries the way I used to–but it would be incredibly difficult to do it well; making Scrooge a gay man wouldn’t be enough of a change to make it fresh and new…although the nineteenth century trope of the “broken hearted man who vowed to never love again and thus died a confirmed bachelor” has always read as code for “big old homo” to me (hello, James Buchanan?) because it is incredibly difficult for me to believe that a man of any time would go his entire life without having any sexual experience; although I suppose they wouldn’t have recorded “So instead of a loving marriage, Buchanan spent the rest of his life using prostitutes for his needs.”

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

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You Are The Sunshine of My Life

Sunday morning. It took me awhile to fall asleep last night; the last time I remember looking at the clock it was around three in the morning and I was still pretty much awake.  I did manage to doze off around that time, though, and while I still woke up around eight thirty, I feel somewhat rested this morning.

I didn’t do any writing yesterday; I wound up cleaning and organizing and doing that sort of thing for most of the day, interspersed with reading. It was, despite having to go out in the heat and humidity of the early afternoon, kind of a lovely day, really. It wasn’t as terribly hot as I feared it would be, and once I was back inside the cool of the inside of the Lost Apartment, I was able to get some things I needed to get done finished; I also need to finish the organizing I started yesterday but never quite finished. I also came up with some amazing and key things for the WIP, which technically I should be finishing up today–big surprise, it’s not finished nor will it be by midnight–so I am also trying to figure out what I want to do; should I follow my schedule and reluctantly put it to the side, to go back and spend the month revising the other I’d planned on working on for July, or should I go ahead and work my way through this first draft, trying to get it finished this week, and then diving back into the other?

Decisions, decisions.

I suspect I’ll keep working on the WIP, if I am going to be completely honest. Yes, it’s been horrible, like extracting teeth by gripping them with my fingers and yanking really hard, but also last night I had some more breakthroughs about the main character as well as the story I am telling. I also remembered some more things I need to go back and litter through the first sixteen chapters I’ve written–not that big of a deal, as they are all early draft and intended to be worked on more any way–but I am always feeling pressed for time, as is always the case.

Paul is departing to visit his mother for a week, starting tomorrow; I am taking a stay-cation of my own built around the 4th of July holiday. I am only working Monday and Tuesday this week before having a delightful five consecutive days off from work; suring which I have deeply ambitious plans to get a lot of cleaning, organizing, and writing done…as well as a lot of reading. I am going to step away from the Diversity Project with my next read–triggered by a Twitter conversation with the amazing Sarah Weinman–and am going to read Mickey Spillane’s I the Jury next. In a way, though, it’s really still a part of the Diversity Project, just not the way I’d originally seen it: a necessary adjunct, or rather, corollary to the Diversity Project should be reading, and examining, and critiquing, the crime genre’s long fascination with a particular type of masculinity; the Mike Hammer novels are certainly the perfect examples of that, almost to the nth degree.

And can I really call myself a student of my genre without reading Spillane?

I am sure the books themselves are problematic; almost everything from that time period is in some ways (I still remember reading a James Ellroy novel–I don’t remember which one–which had some incredibly horrible homophobia in it; it was painful and difficult to read, but absolutely in line with the thinking of cops in the 1950’s; and I do believe sometimes it’s necessary to read these problematic texts, to critique and understand them and the time period from whence they were originally written and published.

A conversation I had on Twitter with Rob Hart (whom you should also be reading; his next novel The Warehouse, sounds absolutely terrific and I am eagerly awaiting its release) also triggered a thought; that perhaps a non-fiction/memoir type book about me, my reading life, and queer representation in mainstream crime novels might be an interesting thing to write; whether or not there’s an audience or a publisher for such a work remains to be seen, of course, but it does sound like an interesting intellectual challenge.

It might also be horrifically difficult, but reading is about learning, isn’t it?

And on that note, none of this stuff is going to get done unless i start doing it, you know?

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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