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.

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One

GEAUX TIGERS!

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely lovely Saturday, everyone.

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Hooked on a Feeling

I can be kind of obtuse when it comes to the date; I have to date documents at work every day but it’s kind of automatic and then one day it hits me: hey, it’s October! Where did 2016 go?

I hate when that happens.

I especially hate my obliviousness because I’d intended to spend the month of October blogging about the horror genre–books, stories, films, etc. So here I am, four days behind but I am game to get going on this. Are you with me, Constant Reader?

I knew you would be.

I wasn’t allowed to watch monster movies when I was a kid because they always gave me the absolute worst nightmares, and I would always wake up screaming and terrified. Yet at the same time, I was drawn to scary movies; I loved being terrified. One of my earliest memories was watching The Birds on television with my parents, and I’ve never been able to see a flock of birds on telephone/power lines ever since without having a chill go up my spine. The first horror novel I read was either The Exorcist or The Other, I’m not sure which; but they were two of the popular books everyone was reading when I was in junior high school (the crucifix masturbation scene in The Exorcist  was discussed in great detail). I never much care for The Exorcist, to be honest, and even when I finally was able to rent the film years later and watch it for the first time, it was more funny to me than anything else; almost like it was trying too hard to be scary and obscene–which is what I also felt about the novel. (I thought about rereading the novel recently, since I am really enjoying the new TV show based on it; but I’ve read other works by Blatty and not cared for them either; plus, I think I’ve read somewhere recently that he’s a homophobe, and yes, I know one should try to separate the art from the artist, but I’m just not that evolved, okay? Sue me.)

Anyway, I digress.

The horror genre is similar to the crime genre in that there are a number of sub-genres contained under the umbrella term of horror; and not all horror is necessarily scary. I am not well-read enough in the genre to even try to define any of these subgenres, frankly; I’m not especially well-versed on horror films or television programs, either. I am a casual fan; when it is done well, I greatly enjoy it–but I am hardly an expert in the field. I know good writing when I see it, though–whether it’s literary or crime or horror or fantasy or romance.

I once said on a panel somewhere–I don’t remember where–that crime and horror fiction are the flip sides of the same coin; the difference being in crime fiction the monsters are human. It was a great sound-byte, and I used a variation of it in the introduction to the anthology I co-edited with J. M. Redmann, Night Shadows, where I said the two genres were both concerned with death. After all, Freddy Kruger is just a supernatural serial killer, right? And while I’ve not read any of the Thomas Harris books (I know, I know, shame on me), the film The Silence of the Lambs is both a crime film as well as horror.

Stephen King, of course, is my writing god. I discovered him when I was a sophomore in high school, and a friend was reading the paperback of Carrie. I’d never heard of either the author or the book, but I picked it up idly and started reading it–and couldn’t put it down. She graciously let me borrow it, and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished reading it that night. I’d never read anything like it before–and I became an immediate fan. It wasn’t until The Stand, several years later, that I started buying King in hardcover; but I have done so ever since (at least, the ones that were published in hardcover; some, like his Hard Case Crime novels The Colorado Kid and Joyland were paperback originals only).

But my real favorites are, and always have been, ghost stories. Barbara Michaels wrote some excellent ones, including Ammie Come Home, The Crying Child, House of Many Shadows, and Be Buried in the Rain, among many others.

And of course, Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier wrote some brilliant work.

I do wish I had more time to read–so many brilliant writers and so many brilliant books out there to read.

So, I intend to spend this entire month blogging about horror. Next time, Dark Shadows.

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