Long Train Runnin’

Ah, it’s the weekend. I went to bed relatively early last night, after watching the final episode of The Last Czars (which, of course, included the horrific massacre scene in the basement in Ekaterinburg; which is probably why everyone sees the monstrous, people-abusing, careless Romanovs as tragic figures–the way they died, as opposed to the way they lived; it’s impossible to hear the children screaming and the sound of the guns without feeling badly for them) and before that, I watched Spider-Man Into the Spider-verse, which was, without question, the absolute best superhero movie, bar none, that I’ve ever seen. Well-written, well-voiced, and extraordinarily animated, it was quite an achievement in film making, and definitely a high spot when it comes to superhero films The entire time I was watching I kept thinking imagine how incredible this must have looked on the big screen. It took me a moment to get used to the style of animation, but it was absolutely amazing, and should be used as a blueprint for origin stories for superheroes. I do hope they do another; I really loved the character of Miles Morales and his family.

This morning I woke up well rested with a shit ton of work to get done today. Yesterday I was lazy; I got home from work around one and just cleaned the house. I never manage to seem to finish getting my office in order, because there simply isn’t enough space for me to put things, and I am always afraid to put thing into my inbox because they tend to get buried once they are there. I try to put things into it in ways that they can still be seen; but I don’t always have the best luck with that, and out of sight, out of mind if I don’t have it on the to-write list (speaking of which, I don’t see it anywhere, damn it to hell), which is also ridiculous when you consider how much I have to get written, or hoped to have written, by the end of this month.

One thing at a time, cross them off the list, and be done with it.

I’m also looking forward to spending some time with Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay over the course of the weekend; after which I am going to read S. A Cosby’s My Darkest Prayer. I’d also like to get started reading the other Anthony nominees for Best Short Story (Cosby is one of my fellow nominees, along with Holly West, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor–three of my favorite colleagues)–I still can’t believe I’m an Anthony finalist. I am very proud of my story, and its genesis; I originally wrote the first draft when I was in my early twenties or late teens, while I was still living in Kansas–close to forty years ago, and here it is, nominated for an Anthony Award.

How fucking cool is that? I had no idea when I wrote that story in long hand on notebook paper that forty years into the future it would be nominated for an award I’d not yet heard of, to be presented at a fan conference I knew nothing about, and that my life would be something I didn’t even dare dream of at that age.

I was thinking about my self-appreciation project last night, the one in which I work on stopping belittling my achievements, learn how to accept compliments, and take some pride in myself and my writing and everything I’ve done thus far in my life. Because I should be proud of myself. I’ve managed to sustain an almost twenty year career in a niche sub-genre of a genre, and not only that, I’ve accomplished quite a bit not even counting the writing itself. I was also thinking last night back to the days when I was editor of Lambda Book Report, which kind of set the stage for my publishing career. I reinvented myself, you know; I went from being a highly knowledgeable industry insider, basically running a magazine that was sort of a cross between a queer Publisher’s Weekly and a queer The Writer; for nearly two years I read a lot of queer fiction, and if I didn’t actually read a queer book, I knew a lot about it. I had already sold Murder in the Rue Dauphine to Alyson Books when I took the assistant editor job at Lambda Book Report, and that was actually the first job I ever had where I kind of flourished. It was the first job that allowed me to be creative in what I did, and where all the lessons I’d learned at various dead-end jobs along the way could be applied in a very positive way. I’d also learned how to treat writers, from being treated myself in very shitty ways by magazines and editors and papers I’d written for by this point–something I continue to do today as an editor (one of my proudest moments of my career thus far was being told by one of the contributors to Florida Happens–Hilary Davidson, a very talented writer whose works you should check out–that working with me was one of the best editorial experiences she’d had in her career thus far). Lambda Book Report seems like it was a million years ago; I actually officially resigned from the job in November 2001, three months before Rue Dauphine was published finally. I resigned because of the conflict of interest involved in running a review magazine while publishing my own novels; there was a strong sense, at least for me, that I couldn’t allow my own books to be reviewed in my own magazine, and as it was the only real game in town nationally (the odds of being reviewed in any of the national gay magazines–Out, The Advocate, Genre–were slim to none; on the rare occasions when those magazines chose to review books, it was either a straight celebrity ally’s (so they could do a feature and put straight celebrity ally’s picture on the cover)or if it was an actual queer book by a queer writer, it was never a genre work. They sniffed disdainfully at queer genre writers; kind of how Lambda Book Report did before I came along, and, all due respect, kind of how the Lambda Literary Foundation (which was always the parent apparatus of the magazine, and now runs a review website) still does. I’ve rarely been reviewed there–either in the magazine I left behind, when it was still being done as a print magazine–or on their website.

But I did a great job running that magazine, if I do say so myself, and I am very proud of everything i accomplished while working there. I met a lot of people, a lot of writers, and made some lifelong friends out of the experience.

I have also been nominated for the Lambda Literary Award, in various categories and under various names, quite frequently. I don’t know how many times I’ve been nominated, to be honest; it’s something like thirteen or fourteen times. I think the only people nominated more times than me are Ellen Hart, Michael Thomas Ford, and Lawrence Schimel. I won twice, once for Anthology for Love Bourbon Street, and once for Men’s Mystery for Murder in the Rue Chartres. The statues are somewhere around here; my Moonbeam Award medals hang from a nail right next to my desk, and my Anthony Award for Blood on the Bayou sits on one of the shelves in the bookcase where I keep copies of my books, but I’m not quite sure where my Lambda Awards are. My Shirley Jackson Award nominee’s rock is in my desk drawer, and even though it just represents a nomination (I didn’t win the award), it’s my favorite out of all the awards I’ve won. I don’t get nominated for Lambda Literary Awards anymore–I think the last time I was nominated was for Night Shadows, which should tell you how long it’s been–and I don’t really care about that anymore, to be honest. After thirteen or fourteen times…yeah, it’s just not quite the thrill it was back when I was nominated the first time. Getting nominated for things like the Shirley Jackson, or the Anthonys, or the Macavitys–those are thrilling because they come from out of nowhere, and are completely unexpected.

And let’s face it, being nominated for Best Short Story awards, for the kid who was told by his first writing instructor that he would never be published, would never have a career as a writer, and had no writing ability whatsoever–opinions all formed by reading a short story written by a kid who’d just turned eighteen–are very thrilling and satisfying. My lack of confidence in my short story writing abilities is pretty extreme, and so whenever one gets published or one gets nominated for an award or I get some great feedback from readers for one, it’s quite reassuring and quite lovely.

All right then–Steph Cha’s novel is calling my name, and I want to get some things written as well before I run my errands later this morning.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

IMG_1829

I Just Called To Say I Love You

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was rather lovely; we had our deep dish pizza and a lovely visit with our friend Lisa; then Paul and I watched three movies on Netflix: Fourth Man Out, Closet Monster, and Handsome Devil. We also watched another episode of a Hulu original series, Future Man; which we had given one more episode to get better. And the fourth episode definitely delivered. We laughed a lot all the way through it; and it finally started delivering on its premise.

The three movies were all gay films, which we generally don’t watch very often. I know I should be supportive of gay films, but so often they’re aren’t very good–or at least that used to be the case. When a major studio makes one (Philadelphia, In and Out, To Wong Foo, etc.) they’re awful; indies always mean well but don’t have the budget to really do them well or cast good actors, so we stopped watching them a long time ago. Every so often, a film like Beautiful Thing or Latter Days will come along, but still, fairly rare. My incredibly cynical self is very pleased to say that the three films we watched yesterday were enjoyable in varying degrees, which also makes me tend to think that perhaps we should watch more gay cinema. And really, isn’t mainstream film always a crapshoot, too?

Fourth Man Out was the first movie we watched; its about a group of four guys who’ve been best friends since they were kids and then one of them comes out to the others. It was a comedy, so the coming out was handled in a comedic fashion; the friends were a little taken aback, and then there was some awkwardness about what you can or can’t say around your gay friend which was sweet and kind of cute. The gay character was a mechanic, so there was a sense to me of ‘see, a gay guy can be just a regular guy’ about the movie which was well-intentioned but…the really charming part of the movie was watching the friends try to help him navigate the gay dating world, and there was a really charming scene where they take him to his first gay bar. And the ‘meeting someone from on-line’ trope was treated as comedy (and who hasn’t met someone whose picture wasn’t them?) and there were some moments that I thought might have been in questionable taste–but overall the film was charming. The lead, gay Adam, was played by Evan Todd, who’s very good-looking:

tumblr_o9jmg5lCng1urvepco3_1280

His best friend, Chris–and their relationship/chemistry was quite charming, was played by the impossibly good-looking Parker Young:

mgid_uma_image_logotv

Another one of the guys was played by Glee’s Chord Overstreet, almost recognizable in a heavy beard. But the movie’s true charm was the relationship between Adam and Chris; how they learn from each other and grow and finally find their perfect matches because of their friendship.

Closet Monster starred Connor Jessup from American Crime, who is an appealing and talented young actor I would pretty much watch in anything.

la-et-vn-emmy-contenders-chat-connor-jessup-20160510

This movie was apparently very popular on the indie art film festival circuit and won lots of awards; for me, it was the weakest of the three and were it not for Connor Jessup, we would have probably stopped watching. As a little boy, around the time his parents broke up in a very nasty and volatile break-up, young Oscar witnessed a violent hate crime against a gay teenager–and that, plus the divorce, have been deeply internalized and traumatized him as he comes of age as a gay teenager with an interest in horror movies and a desire to become a make-up artist for horror films. He’s applied to the best school for this in New York, and cannot wait to get away from this awful town he lives in. He’s desperately unhappy–who can’t relate to that–with big dreams, and is developing a crush on another boy he works with at a Home Depot type store. Wilder, played by Aliocha Schneider, is coolly confident in himself and tries to draw Oscar out of his own shell, with some success.

MV5BMTgxNTcwNTI1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTczOTQyNjE@._V1_UY317_CR10,0,214,317_AL_

The point of the movie is ultimately that Oscar needs to stop spinning his wheels and move in a positive direction in his life; and it does eventually get there after a bizarre costume party where he has his first sexual experience with a stranger and comes to terms with his feelings for his mother; his relationship with his father remains unresolved. But it was an arty film; Oscar’s hamster speaks to him in Isabella Rossellini’s voice–he got the hamster originally the day his mother left his father so it symbolizes the last time he was happy; and there’s a lot of moments where the director slaps the viewer in the face with his symbolism and hidden depths. There are some gorgeous shots, particularly at the end, but there are also some serious plot holes. But as I said, Connor Jessup is a very talented and appealing young actor, and he carries the entire movie.

The last film we watched, Handsome Devil, was by far and away the best of the three. Set in an Irish boarding school obsessed with its rugby team, it’s from the point of view of young Ned, who is bullied by his schoolmates in no small part because he doesn’t care about rugby and doesn’t fit in; he is played charmingly by Fionn O’Shea. He comes back to school against his will–his father and stepmother live in Dubai and for some reason he can’t live with them there; it’s kind of implied that he’s an inconvenience for them. He’s delighted when he gets to school to find out he’s got a single room and won’t be sharing. There’s also a really funny sequence where he talks about his English teacher; he simply turns in the lyrics to old songs for papers and get’s A’s; the song that is handed back to him with an A written on it to illustrate this voice over is Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Walk Side,” which is hilarious if you know the words.

Handsome-Devil2-1024x512

But he winds up with a roommate after all, Connor. Connor can’t go back to his old school–he was kicked out for ‘fighting’–AND it turns out Connor is a great rugby player; the long-missing piece for the school’s team which will make them champions. Ned reacts by moving all of their furniture to the center of the room, kind of forming a Berlin wall. They also have a new English teacher this term, Mr. Sherry, who is played by Sherlock’s Andrew Scott. Mr. Sherry, and his class, reminded me of Dead Poets’ Society, and I don’t think that was accidental. But Ned and Connor slowly become friends–Connor is Ned’s first friend, really–and of course there’s the requisite homophobia (they all treat Ned like he’s gay, but we never really know for sure) and obstacles for the boys to face before the film’s end. This movie is really charming, and is about friendship, and has some absolutely lovely moments. O’Shea is fantastic as Ned, and you can’t help but root for him as he learns who he is and what being a friend really means; Nicholas Galitzine plays Connor and does a fine job with a less complex part; but the chemistry between the two boys is terrific. I highly recommend this movie.

MV5BMjI4ZmRkMTYtNTFmOC00NDFjLWFhYjEtMTJhYjg4ODc5NjQyL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDY5NTM2NjY@._V1_UY317_CR20,0,214,317_AL_

It was also highly educational to watch these films, and it also made me realize that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to gay-themed films; I should probably watch more of them in the future–and I think I’m going to. Watching these movies reminded me of the kinds of novels Kensington used to publish after the turn of the century; particularly the novels of Timothy James Beck. I miss those novels, and Kensington did a great job of finding and publishing fun gay-themed novels in those days. I was one of Kensington’s authors; Kensington was where the first three Scotty books were published, and pulling together the Scotty Bible has also put me in mind of those days again. Kensington first published Rob Byrnes,  and also those wonderful novels by Michael Thomas Ford. Kensington was also home to William J. Mann’s fiction, from The Biograph Girl to The Men from the Boys, All-American Boy, and several others; Kensington also published Andrew Beierle’s The Winter of Our Discotheque, which remains to this day one of my favorite gay novels.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

It’s a Mistake

Tropical Storm soon to be Hurricane Nate is out there, drawing nearer by the minute and moving pretty fast across an incredibly warm Gulf Of Mexico. I slept very well last night–woke up a few times, one of course being the daily five a.m. purr kitty lying on me and kneading my chest with his paws, but was able to fall back into a restful sleep every time. It’s gray out there this morning, and the storm seems to continue shifting eastward (sorry, Biloxi!), and they’re now saying we’re going to get tropical storm strength winds. The west side of a hurricane is usually the dry side, too, so we won’t get as much rain. I have to stop by the grocery store today to get a few things, but I imagine it won’t be quite the madhouse it would have been yesterday when STORM PANIC mode was gripping the city. I also don’t need water or bread, so am not too worried about the few things I need to get. I can’t imagine there was a run on cat food, for example.

Paul had some late afternoon/early evening meetings last night, so while I waited for him to come home I read R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl and started reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. It’s a zombie apocalypse novel, so I figured it fit with my Halloween Horror reading for this month. It’s also remarkably good, and while it is not my first zombie apocalypse novel (I’ve only read Michael Thomas Ford’s Z, which is really good and vastly under-appreciated), it’s not like how I imagined any zombie apocalypse novel to be (I still have one of Joe McKinney’s in my TBR pile, but I don’t think I’ll get to it this month).

Scan

What I remember most about that afternoon was the shimmering scarlet and yellow of the sky, as if the heavens were lighting up to join our family’s celebration. The sunlight sparkled off the two-day-old snow at teh curb, as if someone had piled diamonds in the street.

I think I remember everything about that day.

Running all the way home on the slushy sidewalks from my weekend job at the Clean Bee Laundry. The smell of the dry cleaning and the starch still on my clothes and my skin. I remember the blood thrumming at my temples as I ran and the feeling that, if I raised my arms high, I could take off, lift off from the crowded sidewalks of the Old Village, and glide easily into the pulsating colors of the sky.

The Lost Girl is a Fear Street novel, one of many R. L. Stine has published, set in the small city of Shadyside where Fear Street is located, where the ruins of the old Fear mansion, which had burned to the ground decades earlier, remained…only now, in this relaunched Fear Street series, the ruins have been cleared away and it’s a vacant lot. Stine built quite an empire with the Fear Street books, but his scary books for children, Goosebumps, were what really made him an industry. They were adapted into a TV show, and movies, and as the Goosebumps took off, the Fear Street books became less and less important and disappeared eventually. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page shows that there are, to date, 166 young adult novels written by Stine; the majority of them having something to do with Fear Street. I read a lot of those books in the early 1990’s–he and Christopher Pike and Jay Bennett, and those are the books that gave me the idea to write young adult novels in the first place–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel were written in first drafts during that time. The Fear Street books were also what gave me the idea to link all of my y/a novels in some way; not all being set in the same town because that didn’t seem realistic, but linked in some way. I did manage to do that.

The Lost Girl is an entertaining enough read–it took me about two hours to get through it before I moved on to the Whitehead–and it’s very much what I remembered of the Fear Street books; very likable protagonist caught up in something terrible and awful through no fault of his own…loses some friends to the supernatural force, but eventually figures out how to bring it all to an end. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening while I waited for Paul to come home, and that was kind of how I read Stine back in the day; I always kept a few of them around on hand to read when I had some time to kill but didn’t want to get into anything truly heavy.

Stine is also a very nice man; I met him at the Edgars several years ago, and he was a Guest of Honor at Stokercon in Vegas, so I got to arrange his travel and email back and forth with him a few times. He’s very gracious, very kind, and it was kind of a thrill for me. Since I was representing Stokercon and the Horror Writers Association, I couldn’t gush and make a fool of myself the way I probably would have otherwise–which is probably a good thing.

And now, back to the spice mines. I want to find some more markets to submit my short stories to, and get some of this mess cleaned up.

Have a great day, Constant Reader!

Angel

Writers write.

I’ve posted something along those lines before, both on my blog here and on Social media. I do believe that to be the truth; writers are people who write. Writers don’t write all the time of course; we take breaks, we step away from it for a while–sometimes days, weeks, months, years; some writers walk away and never write. But writers do write.

Sometime in the past year or so–I don’t remember when–I saw somewhere, I don’t remember where–someone took umbrage to the notion that writers write and wrote a lengthy diatribe about how some writers don’t write; as I read all the reasons people don’t write I just kind of shook my head. I take time off from writing periodically; sometimes it’s necessary to take some down time to think, to read, to relax so you don’t burn out or get stale.

And no matter what anyone thinks, says, or feels, I will always think it’s true: writers write.

Michael Thomas Ford (aka That Bitch Ford; or TBF for short) writes. He writes a lot. And he’s very good; he can pretty much write anything. He’s written children’s books and young adult; mysteries and romances and vampires and zombies and essays. I first became acquainted with his work when he was writing a syndicated column in the LGBT press (there used to be such a thing, kids) called “My Queer Life.” I met him when he signed a collection of those essays at the Marigny Bookstore, Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me, and they were all quite funny (included in that collection is my favorite essay about writing ever, “The Nonwriting Life,” which is absolutely spot-on), and over the years we’ve stayed in touch, remained friends; he was one of my contributing editors when I was at Lambda Book Report, he’s contributed to my anthologies over the years, we’ve shared editors, friends and enemies and lots of snark.

Endless amounts of snark.

But after several years away from writing, he’s back, and once again, he’s done a fantastic job with his new work, Lily.

Lily is a fairy tale of sorts, in the same way Tim Burton movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride are; like Neil Gaiman’s Emmeline. Lily is a little girl who, on her birthday, develops the ability to know when whomever she touches will die; and the book follows her after her mother sells her to a traveling tent revivial–as she struggles to fulfill a quest given to her by the witch Baba-yaga as well as find her way back to her safe old world.

The illustrations are quite beautiful, and they match the tone and beauty of the story as well. I am often amazed at how TBF can so easily master different voices and tone and styles. It’s a wonderful wonderful story; one adults can enjoy as well as children.

It’s an excellent addition to your library.

Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)

One more day to get through and then it’s vacation. Woo-hoo!

I have literally been riveted by Owen Laukkanen’s The Watcher in the Wall; I hated having to put it down and go to bed last night. I’m about halfway finished; Paul won’t be home until late tonight so I am hoping I’ll be able to finish it tonight. I’m probably going to read Michael Thomas Ford’s Lily tomorrow; the LSU game is on early and after that I am probably going to do a lot of cleaning and organizing and reading. (I’ve decided to take Saturday off from all projects, in order to recharge my batteries.) There’s no Saints game on Sunday, so I am debating whether I should attempt Costco before the LSU game tomorrow, or just go Sunday while everyone’s at church.

Decisions, decisions.

Of course, while I juggle these multiple projects, I’ve been thinking a lot about a couple of short stories I’ve been working on for years, “The Ditch” and “Fireflies”; this was triggered, I think, by reading the Lisa Unger novel. I’ve been also thinking about a y/a novel I’ve wanted to write for years called Ruins; rereading the two Barbara Michaels novels in October started me down that path, and the Unger kicked it into overdrive. The problem with Ruins is that I borrowed some of it for Lake Thirteen; if I am going to write Ruins I’ll have to come up with some new things to say, and replace the scenes I borrowed. The problem with Ruins, of course, is that it’s a Civil War ghost story, and you can’t write that kind of book without addressing the elephant in the room: slavery and racism. I originally wrote it as a short story a long time ago (correction: make that a really bad short story; I think it was one of the stories I wrote in the 1980’s when I was trying to emulate Stephen King. I didn’t address any of those issues in the short story; I blissfully pretended, as so many others have done, that none of that mattered. God, the naivete. I think this is why I have so much trouble with trying to write about Alabama. Is there anything more annoying than a progressive white person trying to address race issues? I loved To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it as a kid; I reread it again recently and, while still thinking it was a moving story that was beautifully written, recognized several problems with it. I have copies of the Colson Whitehead novel that just won the National Book Award and the controversial book Ben Winters published earlier this year; I also found a copy of William Bradford Huie’s The Klansman, about the civil rights struggle in Alabama in the 1960’s, on ebay that I want to reread. (I read it when I was young; I’d like to give it a reread as an adult.)

Maybe after I read Lily. The time has never been more ripe for reading about racism, and studying America’s history of it. I also have Philip Roth’s alternate history The Plot Against America.

Hmmmm.

Of course, actually writing Ruins is a long way away; I have so much to do before the end of the year…

But it’s lovely feeling creative again. I am making lots of notes. The book is coming along rather well, too. I may even get all these things done when I am supposed to

Scary. Who am I?

And on that note, I should probably head back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hottie for today:

14542384_10210729441256939_5592957175501939966_o

Never Going Back Again

Tonight is my biweekly late night, and tomorrow is my last day in the office before I go on vacation, which is so fucking lovely I cannot wait. I have to do some things today –grocery store and get the oil changed in the car–before I head to work, and I also need to edit and write. I have some laundry going right now, and I also have to do the dishes.

I’m so fascinating.

I am reading Owen Laukkanen’s amazing The Watcher in the Walls, and I think I may take Saturday as a day off so I can watch the LSU-Florida game and relax and finish reading it. One of the lovely consequences of recent events has me avoiding wasting time on social media when I get home from work and actually either watching something on television–last night I watched the season finale of American Horror Story, which was incredibly awful and a complete waste of time, just as the entire season was–or reading; I’m really enjoying the reading, frankly, and there are so many books I need to read. Just that extra hour or so of reading every day is getting me through the TBR file ever so much faster and it’s absolutely lovely. I love reading so much.

I also got some lovely new books in the mail yesterday, not the least of which is Michael Thomas Ford’s Lily, which I am hoping to read very soon.

img_0974

I also got Lara Parker’s latest Dark Shadows novel, Heiress of Collinwood; I think I might indulge myself and read those novels during Christmas.

I’m also feeling a bit discombobulated this morning; I am going to have to get out my list and make sure I am getting everything done today that I need to get done.

And on that note–back to the spice mines.