I was bored briefly yesterday between clients (it’s rarely more than five to ten minutes, and at the time I didn’t feel like answering emails or even looking at social media–after all, I am already taking medication for my blood pressure) so I thought, maybe you should look up the books you read and wrote about here to make a Best Reads of the Year list, but as I started going through the blog I remembered that I only write about the books I feel very strongly about, which would mean trying to narrow the ones I loved down to ten, and I don’t really want to do that. I may just do a list of the books I reviewed here…there were so many damned good ones that I read all year, and of course there were a lot of rereads over the year as well. I also watched a lot of television and film this past year, and almost everything was terrific–we stop watching if we aren’t enjoying it very much–so again, choosing favorites or a top ten list would be incredibly difficult and mentally taxing. But I have no problem saying that the television program I watched that I enjoyed the most was Heartstopper. It was just so charming and pure, precisely the sort of thing I would normally turn my nose up at and dismiss as old-fashioned or overly sentimental, but it took me completely by surprise. I wasn’t expecting the sweetness or the charm, and of course the incredibly charismatic, age-appropriate cast had a lot to do with that, too–although I then read the graphic novels and loved them just as much.
I actually feel good this morning, oddly enough. I slept deeply and well, waking only once, and I was able to go back to the Dreaming (Neil Gaiman/The Sandman reference). My arm is much better, though sometimes it still feels like I have a Charley horse in the biceps. It got colder overnight as well, so that probably helped me sleep somewhat. It feels chilly in the apartment this morning: a quick glance at the weather shows that it’s in the mid-fifties, which feels about right. I have a lot to do this weekend, and of course, forty-eight hours isn’t enough time. But the book is going very well, if not quickly enough, and a strong push this weekend should stand me in good stead. Cleaning up the mess that the first ten chapters is taking me a while, no lie, but it’s getting better and I am starting to have fun with it again. Which is always nice.
It’s been quite a week, and I have to say, December has been a bit of a trying month so far. Keeping all the plates spinning is much harder and I am barely making it to some right as they are about to fall off. I’ve been battling exhaustion a lot lately. I’m not sure if it’s the sleep issues I’ve been having for the last ten years, but it seems to be more of a problem these last few years, which could simply be age-related. I know my body has changed a lot in the last few years–blood sugar drops, for example, were never anything I ever had to worry about before, but it makes a significant difference now. Which tends to happen quite a bit, too–because if I don’t eat when I get hungry, the hunger will eventually go away and I’ll end up not eating at all–which results in a drop in my blood sugar. The fact that it’s noticeable is concerning–another thing to ask my doctor about next month, I need to make a list–so who knows? I hate our health care system. Health care should never be a for-profit enterprise, because that puts profit ahead of patients, and the fact that there is anyone who can’t see that “profit before patients” is immoral really concerns me about the future. But I also have faith in today’s young people. They’re bright, inclusive, and want a better world for everyone. That’s kind of cool, isn’t it?
But it’s been a good year, overall. I just wish I’d been able to enjoy it a bit more. And on that note, here I come for the spice mines. Have a great Friday, everyone.
I can’t get The Sandman series on Netflix out of my head…and isn’t that what great art is supposed to do? Lodge itself into your head until you can’t help but think about it all the more? So, I decided to revisit the comic series, and was delighted that the two volumes I had on hand were actually the first two, and those are the ones that were adapted into the television series. (I’ll have to order the rest.)
Netflix also dropped another episode of the show after its initial ten episode run, which was built around two of the stand alone issues of the original series run–“Dream of a Thousand Cats” and “Calliope”, the first of which was animated and takes the reader inside the mind of cats; as a cat person, I absolutely loved it, despite its brutality, which at times made me very upset because, well, I am a cat person. I love cats, as does Paul–something we came to very late in life, with our adoption of Skittle way back in 2002 or 2003 or whenever it was we got that mouse, which led to our becoming converts to cat people–and we will probably always have cats; if we ever end up in a larger space we’ll probably wind up having more than one cat–we’ve come close to getting a second numerous times, which is part of the reason we feed and take care of the outdoor herd that has taken up residence on our block and under the house (everyone on the property–with the exception of Michael in front–are cat people, so the lucky herd generally gets fed multiple times per day; the others also take them to the vet for regular check-ups and so forth, so we get to just enjoy their company; we are down to Buddy–orange and white–and old standby Tiger, a tortoise shell who’s been around since the days of the original outdoor kitty, Bubba, now.
I discovered The Sandman when I moved to Houston in 1989 and started reading comics again thanks to my nephew; it was during this time that several of my favorite comics runs took place–the Five Years Later run of the Legion of Super-Heroes; the reboot of The Question; the Will Payton as Starman run; and of course, Neil Gaiman’s stunning run of The Sandman. Over the years, I’d forgotten a lot about the series–I remembered there were seven Endless siblings, that Morpheus was also known as Dream of the Endless and his kingdom was the Dreaming; and I remembered “The Doll’s House,” which was superlative. I went back and bought all the back issues of The Sandman (as I did with Starman; I was lucky with Legion of Super-heroes because the “Five Years Later” reboot began almost at the same time I started reading the books again) because the book was so extraordinary, so literate and beautifully imagined and written and drawn. Seeing the live action series and being so entranced by it sent me back to the original source material; I don’t remember why I bought these two volumes (my comics collection was yet another victim of a move) or when, butI was very glad to have them on hand so I could revisit them.
And they are just as marvelous and enchanting as they were the first time.
I think even people who aren’t fans of comics would enjoy these; they are stunning achievements, and I think you would enjoy them Constant Reader, as much as I did.
I am now going to have to collect the entire run again, heavy sigh.
I would not describe myself as a big comics fan. I love them, still have a strong attachment to them and their characters, but I am hardly an expert–not even close.
I started reading comic books when I was very young–I remember all the iterations of Archie, Millie the Model, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Sugar ‘n’ Spice, etc.–and eventually moved into the world of super-hero comics (while still greatly enjoy the horror/suspense/mystery comics as well–The Witching Hour, House of Secrets, House of Mystery, Chilling Tales, etc.). I stopped reading them regularly when we moved out to the suburbs–they were harder to find in our little developing suburb when we moved there–and it wasn’t until we moved to Kansas several years later than I got back into comics again. I was always a DC kid; and the few years I’d been away saw some dramatic changes made to the DC Universe–trying to modernize and update them; the 70’s were a very weird time for Wonder Woman–and then, again, when I moved to California I stopped reading them again. A friend in college brought me around to them again, this time also introducing me to Marvel. When I moved to Houston, my nephew was really into comics, and so I started reading them again with him, and continued buying them for several years. This was post-Crisis and the first massive reboot of DC, so as I was going through the racks at a comics shop in Houston one day I saw The Sandman.
The post-Crisis reboot of DC had changed some of the comics, and the heroes (this was always my favorite version of Starman, Will Peyton) changed as well. But…I wasn’t prepared for The Sandman.
I’d never heard of Neil Gaiman before, but it was this comic book series that turned me into a fan. The incredible imagination involved in creating this bizarre mythology, of the Endless siblings who epitomized some aspect of the human experience–Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny–and of course, the main character of the book was Dream of the Endless, master of the Dreaming, where all humans go when we sleep, and he controls our dreams, creating both Dreams and Nightmares. The story line of “The Doll’s House” especially was fantastic and enchanting; it was one of the few comics (along with the Will Peyton run as Starman) where I went back and bought the back issues because I wanted to read them all. (I’ve also gotten some of the all-in-one collections of the stories, including “The Doll’s House.”)
I’ve always loved this comic run. and have always regretted never finishing it; I stopped buying comics before the series ended. The prospect of a film version never interested me much because I didn’t see how it could be done, plus it would inevitably be a disappointment; the comics were visually stunning, the characters and stories so layered and complex I didn’t see how any of them could be condensed into a two-hour film, and the expense of recreating the brilliant and beautiful images contained within the books seemed insurmountable. The announcement of a Netflix series didn’t inspire confidence; I didn’t care for, or finish, the adaptations of two Gaiman novels I loved, American Gods and Good Omens, which to me was an omen that The Sandman would be disappointing as well. I also wasn’t sure if Paul would like it, or that it would be so difficult to follow without knowing the source material he’d pester me with so many questions I wouldn’t be able to follow it myself.
Constant Reader, I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything as I was about The Sandman adaptation.
First of all, it’s very closely adapted to the comics, at least as how I remember them. My memory isn’t what it used to be, of course, and so I couldn’t really remember much about it other than he was Dream, aka Morpheus, and he was lord of the Dreaming and had six siblings. It was also kind of an anthology series, with stand alone issues as Morpheus visited human dreams or was forced to sometimes interfere with them. (I also always thought he looked like Robert Smith, the lead singer of the Cure) So as each episode unfurled before me, I would start remembering things. I remembered that out of all the Endless, Death was actually the kindest and most compassionate, who saw her job as necessary and thus wanted to appear as a kind friend and companion to the dead to ease them through the transition (I have always thought that was brilliant). I remembered the story of him being captured and trapped by humans, and that the Dreaming had been damaged and decayed by his absence and he needed to rebuilt his world as well as capture his creations who’d escaped into the Waking World…and of course, the appearance of the dream vortex which could have destroyed everything, and how that played out.
It is such an excellent adaptation that some of the scenes in the show are perfect recreations of panels in the books themselves; I found myself smiling in recognition, visually the scene in print as well as on the television screen before me. The show is also beautifully written and perfectly cast, from Tom Sturridge as Dream himself (I don’t know how he did the voice, but its other-worldly yet beautiful at the same time; one of the things I loved the most about The Sandman is how Gaiman made everything, no matter how terrifying or scary or steeped in fear, beautiful; beauty can also be terrifying and The Sandman expresses this better than anything I’ve ever seen or read before) to Gwendoline Christie’s chilling turn as Lucifer to Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine (a gender switch from the comics) to my personal favorite, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne. It’s a terrific cast, including an Emmy-worthy supporting turn by John Cameron Mitchell and of course, break out star Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian.
I highly recommend it; its smart and funny and clever and intelligent and beautiful, the set and art design and costumes are first rate–and the cinematography is breathtaking.
I absolutely loved it, and so did Paul–who watched in utter spellbound silence and didn’t ask a single question.
I cannot wait for season two.
(Oh, and the show is queer and gender-bending AF, for the record.)
Monday morning, and the shopping days left till my birthday are slowly but surely getting crossed off my calendar. Yesterday was a lovely relaxing day at home; I did some on-line shopping (ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni; we’ll see how they work out once they arrive; I may order a few other pairs to be more color-conscious; and yes, I know how weird that is for me–I didn’t get the fashion gene that most gay men seem to be born with, and so I’ve never really cared much about clothes other than their function–especially glasses
) and then spent some time doing the fun part of writing: thinking about the book(s).
I love that part. I actually realized yesterday that I was flying without a navigator (as usual), which is probably a mistake. I hadn’t spent any time really thinking about the story of Mississippi River Mischief and how it would impact the characters and how they interact with each other, etc. I had some basics down; I knew how I was going to start the story and open the book, and what I was going to include in it–I also recognized that another subplot is too big a story to be included in this book, and so I had to put it to the side for now, for use at a later date in a different book. But beyond that I hadn’t really thought much about it, and that was problematic for me and would inevitably cause problems for me down the line as I struggled to write a strong first draft. I also realized that a lot of what I was writing was going to take place outside of New Orleans, and yes, I know it’s anal of me, but my fictional Louisiana was far too amorphous. My work has always centered New Orleans and I’ve always been a stickler about getting that correct–I know I’ve made mistakes, I got Orleans and St. Louis Streets reversed in one book, or example– but over the course of forty-odd books, inevitably parts of some of them had to take place outside New Orleans. (I had, oddly enough, no qualms about completely fictionalizing the entire state of Louisiana for the most part outside of the metro area.) And being anal, I realized I had no real “map” or idea of what fictional parish or city or plantation was where and what names I’d used where and so on and so forth. And yes, I know it probably doesn’t matter–no reader would ever take the time to go through all of my books and try to piece Greg’s fictional Louisiana together and point out contradictions and errors, but it would bother me knowing that it was a mess outside Orleans and Jefferson parishes.
Something clearly had to be done.
So, I spent yesterday afternoon doing Scotty research–namely, checking every book I’ve ever written with scenes that take place outside of the metro area and try to assemble all of those places into a coherent and cogent “world” of Louisiana, strictly of my own making. I did allow myself to get sidetracked a few times with research into other projects, current or upcoming (the Great Hurricane of 1915, and the legend of Julia White were Internet wormholes I happily went down yesterday; I think a story I am going to write for an anthology call will be based in these two events), which is always a delight; Louisiana and New Orleans history are literal treasure troves for thoughts and ideas and so forth (another wormhole: the German Coast of the Mississippi River) and also humbling at the same time, because these wormholes always remind me how little I actually do know and understand about New Orleans and Louisiana.
Revisiting old books–especially Scotty ones–inevitably bring back memories of the time period in which the book was written, where the idea for it came from, what I was trying to do with it, and so on and so forth…not to mention how the character himself has changed and grown along with my writing styles and skills. It also reminds me of other things, too–plans I used to write the books, ideas and thought processes for the characters and their futures, and so on; things I had forgotten over the passage of time. I also sent the pdf of Jackson Square Jazz to my iPad; so I can slowly start copy-editing it so I can put up the ebook on Kindle at long last–there was also a part of that novel, part of Scotty’s long-forgotten past that only appears in this particular book that I want to circle around back to for this one. There are, I suspect, any number of sub-plots and character arcs that have been left hanging within the series over the years, and I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to reread the entire series again from start to finish since I am writing another book in the series. Obviously, I love Scotty and he is a part of me, and I don’t have a hard time slipping into his voice again (one of the things, I think, that makes writing a series a bit easier than writing a stand-alone–or starting a new series–is that ease of finding the character’s voice again. I’ve written eight Scotty books now, it should be easy to find his voice again), but there are a lot of other things I need to revisit and remember from the previous books in the series, so as to avoid continuity issues and things like that which plague me constantly.
For the record, the books I had to consult to map out my fictional Louisiana included not only Scotty books, but Murder in the Arts District (Chanse), The Orion Mask, a pseudonymous book or two, and some short stories. If A Streetcar Named Murder indeed becomes the launch of a new series for me, I’ll need that fictional map of Louisiana for that series as well–I’d already brought up one of my fictional parishes in the text of Streetcar, so…
I also reread the first four chapters of something else that is currently in progress to also kind of sort of make sense of it as well (and a good thing, too–I had two completely different sleazy gay dive hustler bars in the same neighborhood in two different chapters; easy enough to fix of course, and another continuity issue). This is going to sound weird–what else is new with one Gregalicious–but I am writing another book at the same time as this Scotty; I am sending a chapter a week to a friend, kind of like a serial novel, but I had not gone back and reread what I had already written on it (hence the two sleazy gay hustler bars in the same area of the fictional city) and so it went off the rails slightly (I suspected it was doing so and even remarked on it when I sent the email with the most recent chapter attached), and I am going to have to go back and clean that all up before proceeding–because it’s too big of a mistake to leave in the draft for correcting in another, later draft (plus, it will bother me to no end knowing those big mistakes are there), so I think I am going to have to make those fixes before I write Chapter 5–which is a good thing, because I am not really sure how to write chapter 5 or what to do in it; revisiting and fixing the first four chapters is always a good idea in these situations.
The problem with not outlining is because sometimes you get stuck.
We also binged a lot of The Sandman last night. What an extraordinary show–the visuals are absolutely stunning (I keep thinking how visually breathtaking it would be on the big screen), and the costumes, the art and set design, everything is just stunningly perfect, and the stories themselves (as well as the over-arcing storyline) are depicted and acted and written beautifully. This is the adaptation of the series I always wanted to see but never dared dream we would get; Paul and I are both just completely blown away by its brilliance (I also loved that Cain and Abel, from the old comics House of Mystery and House of Secrets, are a part of this universe; I loved those comics back when I was a kid–note to DC: make an anthology series of both of those comics, please.) We only have three episodes left, but by the time we finish this show–probably Wednesday, given how our weekday evenings seem to go–there should be some other amazing shows dropped for us to watch–I am particularly looking forward to The Serpent Queen; I’ve been asking for a Catherine de Medici series for years and now we are getting one that seems to embrace and encompass her manipulation and dedication to the acquisition of power, and of course House of the Dragon looks like it could be very fun, and other shows will be returning soon as well with new episodes.
So, overall it was a great weekend; I cannot complain. It was productive–perhaps not as productive as I would have liked, but I do feel like some seriously good work was done this weekend, and that’s all that matters. I have some work-at-home duties today–trying to decide whether to run errands today or on the way home from work tomorrow (on the way home is currently winning the debate in my head), and about the only real disappointment in the weekend was not being able to make time to read.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later or tomorrow; depends on when I finish writing these other blog posts that are more essay-driven than the norm.
I ran my errands–got the mail (which had a check!), swung by the Latter Library (which will be the setting for one of my new series books if it takes off) and picked up my book about obscenity trials (Dirty Works: Obscenity on Trial in America’s First Sexual Revolution) and then swung by Fresh Market to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables and some other odds and ends. I returned home, felt pretty decent, and then spent the rest of the day cleaning and organizing and redoing the kitchen cabinets to make them feel a bit less cramped and crowded. When Paul got home from work we watched some television, finishing The Most Hated Man on the Internet (recommended), watched Uncharted with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg (not missing much if you skip this), and started The Sandman on Netflix, which is superb.
Today I am going to continue with some of the cleaning and organizing, but am hoping to squeeze out some time to write before sinking back into my easy chair to enjoy more of The Sandman, which is extraordinary. I read the comic series years and years ago–I have some of the hardcover collections, which I’ve always intended to go back to and reread–and loved it. I had also loved the Neil Gaiman’s books American Gods and Good Omens, but found the adaptations to leave something to be desired, so I was worried about The Sandman being well done and good. Rest assured, it is very well done; visually arresting and stunning, the story relatively easy to follow, and the casting is superb. I think I may have to take some time and go back and reread the collections I have on hand–I always like to read the source material while I am watching the adaptation–but I also want to spend some time with the Ippolito book, which I want to finish this week. I am definitely going to be working on my Scotty book this weekend; progress must be made on it sooner rather than later, else it’s going to turn into one of those nightmarish deadline scenarios and God knows I do not want to find myself in another one of those situations ever again, perish the thought. (I say that about every deadline, don’t I? I am nothing if not sort of self-aware…)
I’m also trying to decide what to cook. I’ve been wanting to make shrimp-fried rice, which requires making rice the day before (apparently it needs to be at least day-old in order to make it), and I’ve been thinking that it’s not a bad idea to cook some things today that Paul can just heat up at night for something to eat, primarily because I never feel like cooking (or rarely) on the days when I go into the office (I keep hoping that we’ll eventually go back to our old schedule so I can go back to my normal schedule, which will make my life ever so much easier to handle, mainly because insomnia won’t be such an existential threat to my well-being the way it is when I have to get up at six in the morning); it would also help to clear some things out of the refrigerator (which is something I have to deal with today–cleaning out the refrigerator) and that’s always a good thing, methinks.
I was trying to remember where I had sold stories to this year and what short stories I have coming out at some point in the near future last night, and of course, couldn’t remember some of the places I had sold stories–which is why I try to keep the spreadsheet of submissions and sales–and maybe today, if I have some time after working on the book (I really want to pull that first chapter together today and maybe even get started on the second, to be honest) I may work on one of my short stories in progress. I know I have promised two stories with paranormal elements in them to two specific calls, and there’s another one I want to submit to, but don’t mind if I don’t get into it. (Another thing to do this week if I have time; try to figure out what my next short story collection will look like) I am feeling rather ambitious this morning, am I not? I am going to try to get my writing, cleaning and organizing (and weekly cooking preparations) all taken care of before I sit down to try to read this afternoon, so I am going to try to stay focused this morning, which is never an easy process for me. I’m also writing an entry for here about the birth and growth of the Scotty series that I should probably work a little more on, as well as some of the other in-progress entries I have–that whole personal essay thing I was talking about the other day–and of course, I am in the process of inventing an entire parish in Louisiana for the new Scotty book. It’s not like it’s the first time; I think I invented one on the north shore for Baton Rouge Bingo that popped up again in Garden District Gothic, but I could also be remembering wrong. I know I am going to have to go back to an old Scotty book to dig out something from his past that he’s going to have to face up to in Mississippi River Mischief which is going to be a lot of fun for me to write, frankly.
Come to think of it, I’ve invented rural parishes outside of New Orleans for several books now; I should go back and reread through them to get a sense or semblance of what I’ve already done and pull it all together.
And on that note I think I am going to head into the spice mines. I want to put the dishes away and get started on making this rice for tomorrow’s dinner (I also suspect it’s going to make way too much for both Paul and I to eat), and cleaning out the refrigerator while also doing some other chores until my brain is awake enough to start figuring out how to start this Scotty book and where it’s going to go. SO have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader. I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.
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?
Today’s title is my favorite Christmas song, probably because the kids sing it at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Whatever the reason, it and “Silver Bells” are the two I never tire of hearing, no matter how much I do hear them during the season.
I just think they’re pretty.
It was a glorious weekend of rest and relaxation in the Lost Apartment. I spent yesterday finishing getting caught up on The Mandalorian, doing some writing, and reading Watchmen. I only have one chapter of it left; and of course, we watched the season finale last night. I love the Watchmen series (and the graphic novel), and do have some regrets about waiting so long to read the graphic novel; then again, had I read it before, I wouldn’t have the great pleasure of reading it now, so there’s that. The graphic novel is probably the most extraordinary comic I’ve read since Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and there is no higher praise I can give than that. I can also see the influence this has had on the comics industry overall since it was first published. It’s smart, it’s mature, it’s layered, and the story itself is a cautionary tale on many levels. I also love how excerpts from diaries, newspaper stories, and memoirs are interwoven in to provide even more context to the illustrated pages.
In other words, as a friend said to me on Twitter the other day, “it’s nice when something exceeds the hype” to which I replied, “it deserves all the hype and more; it should get all the hype.”
I also got some work, as I alluded to earlier, finished on the book. I feel better about things–about the book, my career, life in general–than I have in quite some time. I feel as thought Ive turned a corner of some sort–not truly sure what that corner was, or what it means, or even if this feeling is going to last–but I woke up with my alarm this morning and rather than grousing about getting up, I just got up, made my coffee, and started working on getting on top of the day already. The only person who can affect positive change in my life is me, and only me, and therefore it’s time to start being a spectator in my life and hoping for the best…it’s time to start working to make things better. Things can always get better; things can always get worse, but we can at least have some say in how they develop…and a lack of participation in one’s life rarely ever makes it better, if you know what I mean.
I haven’t felt like I could make change in my life for quite some time–and the truth is, there are some things that are immutable; I cannot change my salary at my day job; I cannot stop the aging process; I cannot control how many copies of my books get sold. But I can control my attitude and my approach; I can get motivated and make plans; I can write the best books and stories that I can; I can start actively looking for literary representation. It’s a shame that I allowed the malaise to take over, and take over for so long, frankly; I’ve been depressed for quite some time, and the lack of sleep back then didn’t help. But there was also a medical issue involved and now that’s been resolved; I’m sleeping well and getting rest and am not tired all the time–and really, there’s fewer things worse than feeling tired and knowing you aren’t going to be able to get rest when you need it.
I can’t blame the “not writing” on any of that, of course; I could, but the truth was I also saw no point in writing–the depression speaking again–and yes, while it does feel sometimes like I am beating my head against the wall, and perhaps not getting anywhere with my writing career, the truth is I’ve never written for the money or the fame–if I had, I would have taken my career in a much different direction. But I allow those immutable things over which I have no control–sales, reviews, etc.–to color and affect my motivation to write, and I can’t do that; one should never allow things over which you have no control to defeat you. There may be roadblocks or speed bumps you can’t control, but you certainly shouldn’t stop driving because there’s a roadblock or a speed bump. That’s just silly.
I also don’t take the time to ever sit back and revel in what success I have enjoyed thus far in my career. Over thirty novels, over twenty anthologies, and over fifty short stories thus far is nothing to sneeze at; I may not win regularly, but I’ve been short-listed for a lot of awards over the course of this career. (And it makes me appreciate the times I do win much more than I would if I won every time.)
And I do have readers, for whom I’m eternally grateful. One of my co-workers has been working their way through the Scotty series–I gifted her with a copy of Royal Street Reveillon, in gratitude for her buying all seven of the earlier books–and I’ve also enjoyed answering her questions about the books. It’s very weird when my two worlds cross and intersect–the day job and the writing, which I manage to keep segregated almost completely–but sometimes there’s overlap; like weird moments when a client will rather timidly ask me if I am Greg Herren the writer. It’s always a little strange and it inevitably catches me off-guard; I don’t, I think, handle those weird little moments of being recognized for my other career well, as a general rule.
But I do like being called Greg Herren the writer.
I have to say, the teens have been an overall wretched decade–I am hoping the twenties will roar. It’s weird to think we are coming to yet another decade in just a few weeks; that it will be 2020.
Let’s all shoot for the brass ring in 2020, shall we?
It’s gloomy and gray outside my windows this morning. I slept late–we stayed up late watching Unbelievable, which is so fantastic, and the performances of Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette are amazing–and a little later on I must run out to pick up some prescriptions and the mail. I’m still a bit groggy this morning as I sip my first cup of coffee, so here’s hoping the next cup or two will clear the cobwebs inside my brain and get me going.
I was terribly lazy (again) yesterday; I did get the car serviced (if you’re going to buy a Honda in the New Orleans area, you cannot go wrong with Superior Honda on the West Bank), after which I made groceries, hit the Sonic, and drove back across the river. I did the laundry (still not finished) and started cleaning and organizing, but also got sucked into a really bizarre true crime documentary on Hulu, The Turpin 13: Family Secrets Revealed, which left more questions behind in its wake than it answered. The Turpins were a family of Pentecostal Christians who eventually had thirteen children, whom they isolated and controlled in their various homes over the years, including such traumas as chaining them to their beds; starving them; not allowing them to bathe; and not allowing them to go outside during the day, in fact turning them into nocturnal beings who went to bed at 5 am, slept all day, and got up when the sun went down. It’s an interesting, albeit fascinating, story, but as I said, the couple are still awaiting trial so there aren’t any real answers there. I also watched the start of another World War II documentary of colorized footage on Netflix–very similar to the one I just watched yet different; I mean, obviously World War II documentaries are going to be similar as it’s history and history doesn’t–rarely–change.
Although watching the other colorized one, produced by the British and therefore not quite so interested in maintaining and upholding American mythology was very interesting.
I am also moving along in The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead’s latest, and am truly enjoying it. I like the way Whitehead writes, and I am all in for his main character, Elwood, growing up in Tallahassee during the Civil Rights era. As I do like to occasionally remind people, the Civil Rights era was my childhood; it really wasn’t that long ago. (The Second World War was also during my parents’ lifetimes, although they were too young at the time to remember any of it.) One of the many reasons to read diverse, non-white American authors is to see the country, its history, culture and society, through the eyes of the outsider, which challenges the narrative so often put forth, of American exceptionalism…and as I said earlier, those narratives also prop up and perpetuate American mythology. (This is, I think, one of the many reasons I so greatly enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods when I read it all those years ago–the concept of an American mythology, along with the identities and creation of gods through an American lens of what precisely we do worship in this country makes one start to question our collective societal values, as well as the mythology we are taught as truth.)
I’m also still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is quite fun and educational, as part of my continued study of New Orleans history. I still have quite a few volumes to get through, and then I plan to move on to general Louisiana history.
But as I said above, the question of what is real and what is American mythology often colors the history we read and study. Reading Robert Tallant’s work, for example, clearly shows that white supremacy colors any of his writings about New Orleans and Louisiana history, and the same goes for Harnett Kane, and probably many other historical writers of the past. And when you consider that most reference materials from our own history are often newspapers–which weren’t exactly beacons of journalistic morality and integrity in the past–one has to wonder what the actual truth of our shared American history actually is.
Which is more than a little disturbing, really.
There’s an essay or a non-fiction book on American mythology–probably not one I will ever write, but it’s something that strikes me as needing to be written; although I would imagine Howard Zinn’s works of “people’s histories” of the United States would certainly qualify. (I do highly recommend Howard Zinn; all Americans should read him, and his People’s History of the United States should be taught, if not at the lower levels than certainly in college.)
And now it is time for me to get on with my day. There are some interesting football games on today, but nothing really strikes my fancy until this evening’s LSU-Arkansas game (GEAUX TIGERS!) and so will most likely will have the television on in the background as I read, write, and clean the rest of the day.
This is my one thousandth post on this blog, which means I’ve been here on WordPress for almost three full years; it seems like I moved here from Livejournal just yesterday. But then again, it’s also hard for me to fathom that I’ve been keeping a blog for almost fifteen years.
That’s a lot of blogging, you know?
Later today we are having brunch at a friend’s, which means I have to leave the house. It’ll be fun–I love these friends and don’t see them frequently enough–so I am hoping to get some writing done this morning before it’s time to go. (I know all too well that the odds of me doing anything once I come home are negligible; yesterday I didn’t write at all after I got home from my errands–the heat and humidity are back, which makes going outside an exhausting, draining experience. I don’t know how people who work outside survive the summers here. Whatever they are paid, it isn’t enough.)
I did do some cleaning and filing and organizing yesterday; a lot of it involved cleaning out computer files and getting rid of duplicates, of which there are absurd amounts. But being able to look for things easily, and knowing where they are, is a big first step in being organized and saving time. (It is amazing how I can justify not writing, isn’t it?) Part of this is because I have too many files, and they are slowing down my computer. So in a way this was a help for me to get work done by speeding up the computer, and of course i hoard things and make sure I have back-ups and so forth, which means I end up, a lot of the time, with multiple copies of multiple files.
Does that, I suppose, make me an e-hoarder?
I also managed to clean the ceiling fans in the kitchen, which was no small feat, quite frankly.
We did finish watching the second season of Killing Eve last night, and seriously, what a terrific show! Sandra Oh is, of course, fantastic, but Jodie Comer is equally strong and brilliant as assassin Villanelle; absolutely fantastic. I also continued watching Good Omens, which I am enjoying–the two leads are terrific–and it is more whimsical and clever than Gaiman’s American Gods series, which is bleak and dark.
Hopefully this morning I can get some things done, and who knows? Maybe after we get home I can get some things done too. One never knows.
Also, Leah Chase, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant fame, died yesterday at the age of ninety-six. A class act, a gracious lady, and a humanitarian, Miss Leah was a fixture and a local icon for decades, and she will be sorely missed. RIP, Miss Leah, and thank you.