Walking on Broken Glass

Sometimes I try to remember the first time I saw or heard or watched or read something, anything, that made me feel less weird, less like an outsider…often to no avail. I can never remember if it was That Certain Summer (a very SPECIAL ABC Movie of the Week), or reading Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, or discovering The Front Runner on the paperback racks at the News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia; and then I will remember something else, some vague memory of something–hints about Richard the Lion-Hearted in Norah Lofts’ The Lute Player, or subtle hints here and there throughout history (Edward II and Piers Gaveston; Louis XIV’s brother Phillippe Duc D’Orleans; James I and Robert Carr; Achilles and Patroclus)…Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great series…I can never remember precisely the first time I was exposed to who and what I am in popular culture, nor can I remember if it was positive or negative. I do know that in my own life, it was made very clear to me when I was very young that what I am was not normal, was unacceptable, wasn’t what I was supposed to be. My earliest memories are of me not being like other boys, and it took me a while to realize that the others were just playing at being boys (something I was never very good at) and were actually like that; that they weren’t, underneath, just like me, just better at pretending than I was.

This is why we have emphasized, as a community, the importance of representation in popular culture; kids needs to see themselves reflected in the culture they consume so they don’t feel like they don’t belong. Queer kids aren’t raised queer; we don’t learn how to be queer by interacting with our peers (who are mostly straight when we are kids), nor do we learn anything about being queer while we are inside the educational system in this country. I’ve always firmly believed that queers take longer–at least in the olden days–to form lasting romantic relationships because we don’t have “trial runs” when we are kids; we don’t get to date, we don’t get to “go steady”, etc. We don’t get to play House with other kids of the same gender, we don’t learn societal and cultural expectations about relationships and how they work when we are actually kids. Our queer adolescence doesn’t actually start until we come out–admit it to ourselves without shame, and then start telling our family and our friends and our co-workers that we aren’t wired the same way they are. It’s very tricky, and very complicated and sometimes very messy.

Representation absolutely matters.

And we cling to that representation when it shows up. When a prime time show like SOAP introduces the first long-running gay character to the world in Jody Dallas (does anyone even remember this was Billy Crystal’s big break, playing gay on a sitcom in the 1970’s/early 80’s?), we watch–even if the depiction is problematic to the extreme (you also learn very early that your hunger for representation will also force you to turn a blind eye to some things). Steven Carrington on Dynasty, the terrible film Making Love from the early 1980’s, as well as some other problematic depictions and films along the way–we took what we got, and always had to remember that these characters and stories also had to be palatable to straight people…that, in fact, these characters and stories were created with straight people in mind.

As they used to say, “but will it play in Peoria?”

As i stare down sixty this month, I am very happy to see that representation becoming common-place. It’s lovely to see gay books–THRILLERS, even–being published by major presses with queer characters in them. It’s lovely seeing straight writers including sensitive depictions of queer characters and their stories in their books.

And over the year, yes, problematic tropes that can make you very, very tired have also developed–which makes me wary every time I approach a book by a non-queer person that takes on a trope without hesitation, as S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears does, and that trope is one of the biggest and most hated by the queer community: bury your gays.

Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might, nothing came to mind.

The two men stood side by side on the small concrete landing of his front step with their hands on their belts near their badges and guns. The morning sun made the badges glimmer like gold nuggets. The two cops were a study in contrast. One was a tall but wiry Asian man. He was all sharp angles and hard edges. The other, a florid-faces white man, was built like a powerlifter with a massive head sitting atop a wide neck. They both wore white dress shirts with clip-on ties. The powerlifter had sweat stains spreading down from his armpits that vaguely resembled maps of England and Ireland respectively.

Ike’s queasy stomach began to do somersaults. He was fifteen years removed from Coldwater State Penitentiary. He has bucked the recidivism statistics ever since he’d walked out of that festering wound. Not so much as a speeding ticket in all those years. Yet here he was with his tongue dry and the back of his throat burning as the two cops stared down at him. It was bad enough being a Black man in the goo ol US of A and talking to the cops. You always felt like you were on the edge of some imaginary precipice during any interaction with an officer of the law. If you were an ex-con, it felt like the precipice was covered in bacon grease.

“Yes?” Ike said.

My faulty memory doesn’t remember how and when I first became aware of S. A. Cosby. What I do remember is that I bought and read one of his earlier works (perhaps his debut?) My Darkest Prayer, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Hard-boiled with a healthy dose of noir, I had a great time reading it–and was thrilled when his Blacktop Wasteland debuted to raves and attention and lots of recognition. Cosby can write like a house afire; and while he keeps up a rat-a-tat pace of story, he also manages to construct sentences and paragraphs beautifully, with a poet’s gift for language–spare and tight, yet poetic and beautiful at the same time (Megan Abbott is the Galactic Empress of this).

So, when I heard the “elevator pitch” for Razorblade Tears, I inwardly winced a bit, even as I had to admit Shawn’s guts; taking on bury your gays is a ballsy move–and also a bit of a dangerous one. If you don’t stick the landing…you’re fucked.

For those of you who don’t know what bury your gays means, it’s very simple: a show, or a book, or a movie, will introduce gay characters (lesbians, queers, whatever initial in the all encompassing umbrella those characters might choose for their identity), get the audience (and especially the queer viewers) deeply vested in them–and then kill them off suddenly and unexpectedly, all so the other queer characters (but usually the straight ones) will experience some kind of personal growth…in other words, you introduce a gay man into your narrative simply to later use him as a plot device, so the other characters can mourn and experience personal growth.

That’s probably explained badly, but you get the gist: gays will inevitably die. A good example of this is the so-called groundbreaking AIDS movie, Philadelphia–but the Tom Hanks character in that movie existed so that Denzel Washington’s character could grow and develop and move on from his own homophobic beliefs and fears about HIV/AIDS; as Sarah Schulman, one of our community’s finest minds, once said, “the entire point of Philadelphia is to make straight people feel better about HIV/AIDS and the gay men dying from it.” (Sections of her book Stagestruck: Theatre, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America are absolutely brilliant; it should be required reading for any Queer Studies course.)

The plot of Razorblade Tears is so deeply steeped in “bury your gays” that the gays are already dead when the book opens. The gays in question–Derek and Isiah–were brutally murdered, and the police don’t seem to care too much about looking into who killed them. Their homophobic fathers–both ex-cons–decide to look for their son’s killers. Both Ike and Bobby Lee feel a lot of guilt about their sons and how they rejected them both–their relationship, their eventual marriage, their child–while they were alive; finding their killers isn’t just about revenge but also a matter of atonement. In some ways, it’s like this book is borne from the anger every queer child rejected by their parents feels–you’ll be sorry when I’m dead.*

Ike and Bobby Lee are, indeed, sorry now that their sons are dead.

This also falls into another long-existent fictional trope: don’t fuck with a father. How many films (I’m looking at you, Liam Neeson), books or television shows are about a father’s rage, a father’s revenge, what a father will do to save or avenge their children?

Ike and Buddy Lee aren’t supermen, though. Cosby’s strength (besides his ability with words and images) is how well he creates characters and makes them human through their faults and frailties. Ike and Buddy Lee don’t much like each other as the story begins to move along–I kept thinking of the old Sidney Poitier/Tony Curtis movie, The Defiant Ones–but their ability to look past their own internal prejudices to see the commonalities between them as they unite in this foolhardy crusade to avenge their murdered sons is the real strength of the book here. (As well as the language.) You eventually start to understand them, care about them, want them to get their vengeance…even as you know it will bring them no peace.

I have to admit, I was hesitant to start reading this. I really was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to read it with the empathy necessary for Ike and Buddy Lee and their suffering–that I would think, yeah, well, maybe you should have thought about that when he was alive–but the book ultimately isn’t about their redemption, either; which is a genius move by Cosby. He makes their pain all too real–I cannot imagine the pain any parent should feel when their child dies–but he makes it clear there’s no easy answers here for Ike and Buddy Lee, and that pain will go on even if they get justice for their sons.

Shawn is also a master of writing about the Southern working class–about the poverty, the lack of opportunity, the societal neglect and how those factors all combine to keep those already mired in it trapped with little chance of escape; he clearly loves the rural South but not so much that he can’t expose the tragedy and ugliness that exists there.

It’s a powerful book, and I do recommend it….although the people who probably should read it inevitably won’t. I can recommend it, and do, enthusiastically; it’s a very powerful book, and it made me think–and what more can you want from art?

*sadly, I have seen all too often that a lot of those parents aren’t sorry when their rejected child dies; far too regularly they will say something along the lines of “So-and-so died for me years ago.”

Don’t Mean Nothing

Well, I got up early this morning–with an assist from Needy Kitty, who has apparently decided this week that after getting fed really early in the morning two days in a row, that this should become a regular thing. It’s okay, actually, I was already awake when he climbed on me in bed and laid down. And it doesn’t kill me to get up early anyway, now does it? Today is my half day, Wednesday, which means running by the mail on the way to the office and I get off early enough to meet a friend for dinner. Huzzah!

I’m getting things done this week, even if it feels like I’m just treading water. I always have so much to do, you know, that it sometimes feels like I never make any progress; it seems like every time I cross something off the to-do list, something else rears its ugly head, you know? Or two something elses, sometimes three. Heavy heaving sigh. But I suppose it’s better than having nothing to do, or being bored, or something. One thing I never have to worry about is being bored–unless I am watching something boring, or am bored by whatever I’m reading.

As Bouchercon looms on the horizon, I should probably start doing some planning, or at least figuring out what I’m going to be doing, and when I’m going to be doing it. I also should talk some more about the Anthony nominees for Best Short Story, of which I am one, for “Cold Beer No Flies.” It’s lovely to be nominated for awards–it really is, no humility about this, folks, I fucking love making short-lists–and it’s a real joy to be nominated with writers like my fellow nominees: Holly West, S. A. Cosby, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. Not only are they talented writers but they are also really awesome people. That’s one of the things I love about being a part of the publishing community, really–the vast majority of people in it are pretty awesome. Sure, there’s the occasional dirtbag asshole, but for the most part? A fun group of people. Can’t wait to see them all next week!

My email inbox is ridiculously full again; I feel sometimes like Sisyphus pushing that rock every time I look at it. Heavy heaving sigh. But all I can do is put my head down and keep clicking them open and responding to them, hoping against hope that each one I answer won’t engender yet another response to answer. Oh, well, it could be worse: I could get no emails except junk. Or ones from political campaigns. I wish I had a dollar for every email I get asking for money for a political campaign–I could leave the spice mines behind for good and relax in my hammock on the white sand beach while sipping a margarita.

I finally finished reading Norah Lofts’ short story collection Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I really enjoyed them; they were more Gothic than straight up horror, and (breakthrough alert) I realized after finishing the book that perhaps the reason I am so bad at writing horror (I’m more of a fan than a horror writer) is because I like Gothic-style horror more than anything else. Oh, sure, I read all different styles of horror (I’m really enjoying Certain Dark Things), but when it comes to writing it, I tend to go more along the line of Gothic, which is more creepy and unsettling than scary. Bury Me in Shadows is a Gothic-style novel; I’d love to have a parody Gothic style cover with my cute teenaged gay boy running away from a big creepy house with one light on in a window, looking back over his shoulder…which is, now that I think about it, a really good idea.

I read a lot of Norah Lofts when I was a teenager; primarily her fictional biographies of royal women. She wrote about Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eleanor the Queen), Katherine of Aragon (The King’s Pleasure), Anne Boleyn (The Concubine), Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais (A Rose for Virtue), George III’s sister Caroline-Matilda (The Lost Queen), and Isabella of Castile (Crown of Aloes). She also wrote Biblical fiction, with Queen Esther and How Far to Bethlehem?, and a lot of what was classified, marketed and sold as historical romances–but they weren’t really romances. They were dark stories about lost love and hopelessness and her women rarely had happy endings; Nethergate was one of those. She was an excellent writer with a good eye for details and character, that made her creations come to life–but she also wrote some Gothic horror, which included this collection of ghost stories. I don’t remember how it came to my attention or who reminded me of Lofts, but I ordered a copy of the Hauntings from a second-hand bookseller, and as I said, I really enjoyed it. I’d love to revisit some of her other work that I enjoyed, to see how it holds up and if my evolving and maturing tastes have altered how I read them, but again–my TBR pile continues to grow every day and I am never going to read everything I need and want to read.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

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Show Me the Way

Saturday morning and I slept in, as I always seem to do on Saturday mornings. But really, things have truly come to a sorry pass when getting out of bed at nine is considered sleeping in. But that’s when I got up and I feel good and rested this morning, which bodes well for the things I’d like to get done today.

I spent yesterday afternoon getting caught up on laundry (there’s a load going in the dryer now), and doing a surface clean of the apartment. After Paul got home last evening we finished watching Dead to Me, which is really fantastic–if Christina Applegate doesn’t at LEAST get an Emmy nomination, it’s a travesty. The show is fantastically written, has two amazingly great roles for the two lead actresses (Linda Cardellini, of Freaks and Geeks/Mad Men fame, is the secondary female lead and is heartbreakingly terrific as well; I’d be hard pressed as an Emmy voter to chose one over the other), and the writing is also award-worthy; the premise is in and of itself exceptional, thematically exploring the grief of two women who’ve suffered recent great losses; but it is ever so much more than that. It’s smart, angry, funny, and oh-so-twisted, oh-so-clever. Bravo to Netflix; this is up there with Ozark for dark comedy with a crime twist. I cannot recommend Dead to Me highly enough, Constant Reader.

I also, before Paul came home, rather than falling into a Youtube vortex of LSU or Saints highlights or Game of Thrones fan theory videos or whatever might strike my fancy at the moment (music videos or Dynasty clips or whatever), switched on Starz and started watching The Spanish Princess, which is the latest Starz mini-series based on a Philippa Gregory book. We’d watched and liked The White Queen, but gave up on The White Princess relatively quickly. I’ve not read Gregory, and I’ve seen all sorts of mockery of her on-line as to her changing history to fit the needs of her narrative, but that isn’t why I’ve not read her work; I’m just not that interested in fictional biographies of royalty anymore, certainly not the way I was as a teenager. As a teenager I would have read everything Gregory wrote, anxiously awaiting the next. But I’ve read Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts, and of course others like Maurice Druon and Thomas B. Costain, so Gregory’s work has never held much appeal for me; I am more apt to read an actual biography now rather than fictionalized versions (although I do want to read Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books). The Spanish Princess is, of course, about Catherine of Aragon, who has gotten mostly favorable press throughout history as Henry VIII’s poor, abandoned first wife; I’ve always viewed that with an arched eyebrow, primarily because she had a great PR machine in the Spanish ambassador, Chapuys, and of course she had the entire PR machine of the Hapsburg empire behind her as well–whereas Anne Boleyn, her replacement and the cause of her misery, soon enough had Henry’s PR machine blackening her name. At least this production had the wisdom and sense to ignore modern sensibilities; this is the first time I’ve ever seen Catherine portrayed on film (since the 1970s BBC The Six Wives of Henry VIII) to have the actual coloring she had in real life; she is usually shown as dark when she was actually fair; like her husband, she had reddish-gold hair; and she also had Plantagenet blood as a descendant of Edward III–her grandmother was Blanche of Lancaster, a daughter of John of Gaunt, and as such had her own legitimate but unrecognized claim to the English crown herself (since no illegitimacy was involved, she actually had a better claim than her own husband–his claim was based on his grandmother’s descent from John of Gaunt, but she was descended from his liaison with long-time mistress Katherine Swynford–whom he later married and legitimized their offspring–but Catherine’s descent was not marred by the bar sinister).

However, they did depict Catherine’s mother, Isabella, as being dark–which she wasn’t, either. Isabella of Castile was blonde and blue-eyed, but she’s a minor character we’ll never see again, so I will overlook it. (Isabella is one of my favorite historical queens; she was kind of a bad-ass but at the same time her bigotry planted the seeds for the eventual downfall of Spain from the great power she turned it into; but more on her at another time.) Anyway, I enjoyed the first episode; which also has laid the groundwork for Catherine as stubborn, proud, and arrogant–qualities that eventually led to the upheaval that changed world history forever. I’ll keep watching, of course–but at the same time, it’s not “must watch”; it was okay and can serve as a time-filler when I need to relax and when Paul’s not home and I don’t feel like actually wasting my time on Youtube.

I also want to watch the Zac Efron as Ted Bundy movie on Netflix.

So many riches, so many choices! It’s kind of like my TBR pile.

The plan for today and tomorrow is to work on the WIP and work on the article a bit, maybe even work on a short story. Given I have the attention span of a squirrel lately, I am not sure how much work I am actually going to get done today, but I have good intentions. I also have a Bouchercon subcommittee conference call later on this afternoon as well, so I should be able to bounce back and forth between cleaning, writing and reading until such time as the conference call; after which time I can call it a day and relax for the rest of the evening.

Ah, to have the energy and ambition I have in the morning after a good night’s sleep and two cups of coffee, right?

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me.

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Heartbreaker

Adjusting to normality after the madness of Carnival is never an easy thing to do.

Fortunately, it always involves a short work week–three days–and before I know it the weekend will be here and Monday will be when things really get back to normal around here.

In other exciting news, my own Mardi Gras Mambo was included in a round-up of crime novels set during Carnival, along with noted writers whom I admire, such as Bill Loefhelm, James Sallis, James Lee Burke and Barbara Hambly, among others. (You can check out the entire list here.)

Isn’t that lovely? It’s always nice–and a bit of a surprise–when I find myself on lists like this, whether it’s “gay crime writers” or “books about New Orleans” or “New Orleans crime writers” or pretty much anything, really. I must confess, whenever I see a list where I could be included and am not, it always stings a little bit; I suppose that’s something I will never get used to…and I always wonder, is it because I’m gay? Do queer writers not count? Of course when it’s a list of queer writers it can be a bit maddening, but if you let things like that derail you or hurt your feelings…you’re in the wrong business.

You have to not let the exclusions bother you and celebrate the inclusions…which isn’t easy.

Yesterday was a day of utter discombobulation as I tried (and failed, really) to adapt back to my work schedule, which means I did go to work but the rest of my life floundered around the edges. I didn’t even get around to answering emails yesterday, which was a priority, or paying the bills. But this morning I paid the bills (which is always a crushing blow on pay day) and have another hour or so before I have to get ready for work–so the goal is to tear through my emails and get as many answered as possible.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

I also started rereading Bury Me in Shadows last night; and yes, the first chapter is, as I feared, a total mess–but it’s fixable, and I am going to continue rereading those first ten chapters this week and work on fixing them before moving on to the rest of the book. I just need to get past this weird feeling leftover from Carnival, where I don’t feel like I am actually a part of my life but am kind of drifting alongside it, observing but not participating in it, if that makes any weird kind of sense.

But I am hoping today will sort that out. The kitchen is a mess–I did the dishes when I got home last night, but there still is a mess everywhere in here and the floor needs to be done–and get some more things sorted and organized. I slept really well last night and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning; tomorrow is a get up at the crack of dawn morning but it’s also only half-a-day, so I am going to try to get all my errands done tomorrow afternoon on the way home from work so as to be able to, once again, not leave the house this weekend.

I find that I really do enjoy those weekends when I don’t leave the house.

I also managed to read another short story last night, from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?, titled “The Bird Bath”:

Opening her door for the first time to Mr. Mitson, Mrs. Pryor felt a sense of recoil. He looked like a tramp of the kind not often seen nowadays. He had a very red face, sharp red-rimmed little eyes, and a week’s growth of beard. He wore a dirty old army greatcoat, made for a bigger man, and a hat which had long ago lost its original color and shape. He smelled strongly of beer.

Nearby, however, actually in her tiny drive, stood a reassuring sight, a white pony, plump and shiny and with the placid look of a well-treated animal. Attached to the pony was a small cart, bearing in white paint the words–J. Mitson, Dealer. This morning J. Mitson was dealing in firewood.

Over the next few days, as the widowed Mrs. Pryor settles into her new home–having returned to England after years abroad with her husband–in East Anglia, Mr. Mitson keeps coming back and selling her things…with the final thing he sells her being a strange bird bath; a plinth with a wide open space at the top.

And that’s when things get interesting.

Another enjoyable, Gothic style, softly whispering ghost story. I love that Lofts isn’t into outright horror or jump scares, but like The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House, her whispered stories make the hair stand on end and the skin crawl.

SO glad I got this book!

And now back to the spice mines.

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Should’ve Never Let You Go

And my first morning of vacation looms bright, with a stunningly blue sky and the sun blinding me through my windows. The clouds will roll in later this afternoon, per the weather forecast, and the thunderstorms aren’t supposed to arrive until around eleven; well after the second parade has passed. Tonight’s parades are Druids and (Stevie) Nyx; so only two, to prep us for the madness of Thursday, which includes Muses.

So much to get done today, should I choose to do any of it; I need to get caught back up on Scotty revising, and there’s always cleaning to do around the Lost Apartment. I also have to make groceries and collect the mail, and I’d like to go to the gym at some point this afternoon as well to begin my reconnection with taking better care of my body. There’s also reading to do; I need to read the next story in the Murder-a-Go-Go’s anthology, and I need to finish the ghost story I’m reading in Norah Lofts’ Hauntings, and of course, the delicious pleasure that is Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long also awaits on the end table next to my reclining chair. I need to set aside some time to finish that because I need to read my homework for the panel I’m moderating at the Tennessee Williams Festival–Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife, and Kristien Hemmerechts’ The Woman Who Fed the Dogs. I am also falling very far behind on the Diversity Project, which is enormously disappointing to me.

I’m sort of in a malaise in which I keep putting things off because I don’t want to do them, which isn’t really like me–or at least, the me I’ve been for the last half of my life. The first half of my life was when I just avoided things I didn’t want to deal with, which never ended well. I’m not entirely sure what’s causing it, and the Great Data Disaster of 2018 was so long ago now (three months, almost four!) that I can’t keep blaming things on it; but I can really trace this back to losing that weekend’s worth of work and getting derailed…because I was also on a roll at that point, and I’ve never quite gotten that momentum back.

Something innocuous I posted on social media blew up in a way I certainly never intended, and no, I don’t mean the post that someone needs to do a noir reboot of The Partridge Family, which I still think is a brilliant idea–after all, we never really know what happened to Shirley’s husband, who is rarely, if ever mentioned; and let’s face it, none of those kids looked even remotely related to each other. I envision Shirley as a not only a black widow going through numerous husbands and baby-daddies, but also being a horrific stage mother, forcing her children into musical careers, while having an affair with their sleazy manager, Reuben.

No, I idly posted that someone needs to do one of those music-inspired crime anthologies based on the music of Pat Benatar…and then came up with the title, Crimes of Passion: Crimes Stories Inspired by the Music of Pat Benatar.

Well, it kind of took off, with people replying to my tweet that they’d write to it, or responding on Facebook that they wanted to, even going so far as to pick the songs they wanted. At first–I was at work–I wanted to say, yo, everyone, it was just a thought, I’m not actually doing this but as the day went on I began to think, more and more, that hey, maybe you should think about doing this. More than enough people have offered to write for it, so many so that if anyone drops out there would still be more than enough stories to fill out a volume and for it to be really good.

So…I’m considering it, and considering publishers to approach. So maybe, just maybe, that will be my next anthology.

MAYBE.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Desire

It’s a lovely morning, with a blue sky and the sun shining, and it might be a bit chillier than it was yesterday–but the high is forecast for the seventies and there’s no rain in the forecast.

I slept deeply and well last night, partly from exhaustion. Paul, of course, is in the final weeks before the Festival so has been working late at the office and then staying up till the wee hours of the morning working at home, so yesterday he was catching up on sleep most of the day so I was, alas, without my trusted parade route partner as I wandered down to the corner for the Pontchartrain and Choctaw parades. I did well for myself with bead-and-throw catching, but it started sprinkling while I waited for the third parade, so I walked back home. As soon as I sat down in my easy chair, however, exhaustion set in. My legs and lower back were aching, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to skip the next parade. As Sparta and Pygmalion were coming later, I started watching Versailles and actually got through three episodes. Paul got ready for the night parades…and it started raining. There was also thunder here–which also means lightning–and I decided that it simply didn’t make sense to stand in the rain and possibly catch a chill that would ruin the rest of the season, so I remained ensconced under my blanket in my easy chair and watched television: the CNN docuseries The 2000’s is very well done. This morning my back is still a bit sore and all the joints of my leg–hip, knee, ankle–ache a bit; but I have far too many friends riding in King Arthur to skip that one today.

And I also go on my little staycation on Wednesday, so there’s that, as well.

I do love parade season, I have to say. I may even have to write another Scotty-at-Mardi-Gras book at some point.

Or just some Mardi Gras set book. I could write a hundred books or stories about Mardi Gras and never really cover it all, you know.

How I do love New Orleans.

I also managed to revise a chapter of Scotty yesterday; I should be able to do another this morning as well. I read some more of Lori Roy’s superb Gone Too Long while I was grilling yesterday; it’s most excellent and you need to preorder it immediately. I also managed to get some emails cleaned out; hope to do some more this morning as well as reading the next story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, and perhaps another Norah Lofts ghost story.

I suppose I’ll watch the Oscars tonight after the parades. It’s really not much fun anymore, as all the pre-awards kind of take all the suspense and excitement out of the Oscars. The acting winners will be Regina King (who deserves all the awards), Mahershala Ali, Glenn Close, and Rami Malek, barring the every-once-in-a-blue-moon surprise. I’ll probably read while it’s on…although I’d love to see Olivia Colman win; not only was she amazing in The Favourite but her acceptance speeches are pure gold. But Glenn Close is way overdue; she should have won for both (or either) Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons, which I’d actually like to watch again.

And now, I am waking up and needing some sustenance; perhaps some peanut butter toast or a bowl of honey-nut Cheerios?

And then it’s back to the spice mines.

Happy Carnival, all!

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Romeo’s Tune

It’s PARADE SEASON, boys and girls!

Tomorrow’s afternoon parades were moved up an hour due to the possibility of inclement weather–which does rather make one wonder about the evening parades–but tis Carnival Season in New Orleans, so the weather is what it is, and we celebrate and enjoy around it. I mean, it usually rains during Jazz Fest, too. And I don’t think I ever remember a Carnival season where there wasn’t at least one cold, rainy night for parades.

The weather has been interesting lately; what I like to call New Orleans Gothic. It’s gray, rainy and warm during the day, and then the fogs rolls in as the sun goes down and it gets about ten degrees cooler. The cloud cover reflects the lights, so the clouds above at night aren’t dark but strange, light shades of orange and pinks and blues, yet closer to the ground, beneath the live oaks, its dark and the fog wraps itself around things so things begin to disappear about five feet or so ahead of you.

As I drove home from work and running errands late yesterday afternoon I began to notice the tell-tale signs; portable fencing lined up on neutral grounds, ready to be put into place for the parades. More and more houses are hanging Carnival flags and putting up their decorations. Fences are festooned with beads glittering in the sun when it peeks through the clouds for a moment or two. The grocery stores have, of course, been stocking King cakes since before Christmas, and everything you would need to party outdoors for days on end are on prominent display throughout the stores. The mood of the city is also starting to lift, which is always lovely.

New Orleans is always in a state of flux; but change seems to come slower here than it does in other places, and there’s always some resistance to those changes. I was thinking the other day that the New Orleans of today is so vastly different than the New Orleans I moved to all those years ago, that I fell in love with even longer ago. But no matter what, it’s always New Orleans here; there are some things that never change, that never go away. The friendliness, for one, and that peculiar to New Orleans us against the rest of the world mentality I’ve never really experienced anywhere else; the way the city will fight and squabble and complain and argue and bicker, but band together as one against outsiders. (In some ways, the Saints are the embodiment of this particular virtue, but that’s a subject for another time.)

I was at the office a mere two hours this morning, which I spent doing odds-and-ends I’m responsible for, and then hit the grocery store on my way home since I won’t be able to get anywhere this weekend. It’s warm–low seventies–but yeesh, is it ever muggy out there! I was sweating bringing the groceries in from the car, which…I mean, it’s still February. But I got enough stuff to get us through until the staycation next week starts.

I also read another one of Norah Lofts’ ghost stories from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?, titled “Victorian Echo:”

When my great-aunt Julia died she was eighty-seven, and she had attained her last objective, which was to die in her own house.

She left far more money than anyone would have expected. Most of it went to rather obscure charities, but she left her house, its contents, and a thousand pounds to me; a surprise, and a very pleasant one. She had always lived rather parsimoniously; I had sometimes wondered if she had enough to eat and on my visits had taken food, making rather thin excuses.

Jon and I went out to look at my inheritance on a Sunday, the only day on which we were both free. It was mid-March, a sunny, windy, hopeful day with catkins in th ehedges and primroses in the ditches. Joe did not know the house well; he had come with me a time or two, but Julia disliked him and showed it.

Norah Lofts’ ghost stories are more Gothic than scary; her goal isn’t necessarily to give you a jump scare, but rather to get under your skin and make it crawl just a little bit. Her Victorian style of writing is absolutely perfect for this; she’s very much in the school of The Turn of the Screw and Shirley Jackson in that way. For our happily married young couple in this story, pinching pennies to make ends meet, this inheritance of a house and a small fortune is indeed a blessing for them…until they start to notice that their behavior changes when they are actually inside the house…

Great, great fun.

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On the Radio

So, it’s Friday and yet another week has passed by. Next Friday is the first parade day of this year’s Carnival madness…I cannot believe it is nigh upon us–and it’s late this year. Madness….Mardi Gras madness, to be exact.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so Paul got us Chinese take-out for dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook, which was lovely. I do enjoy some shrimp lo-mein. We then proceeded to watch this week’s Schitt’s Creek, which was terrific–the David/Patrick pairing is one of my favorite gay couples on any television series–and another episode of PEN15, which I think we’re going to let go of. Maybe if we were younger women, we’d get it and enjoy it more; I’m sure it’s a fine show–we simply aren’t the target audience for it, which is fine. Not every television show or movie or book, for that matter, is targeted to everyone.

Since I already ran my errands yesterday, I came straight home from the office today–it was a short day for me, which made getting up so early a little less painful. Huzzah!

Also, when I got home from work yesterday the house next door had been tented for termites. It was a little surreal looking out the window and seeing the house next door hidden beneath an enormous yellow-and-red tarp that more closely resembled a circus tent than anything else. (I’ve always wondered why the termite tarps/tents are yellow and red…but a google search proved that, while they are always striped, they aren’t always yellow and red.) This morning when I got up, I noticed that the clips holding it together near the back of the house had given way and there was a rather large gap; a mere ten minutes later I almost jumped out of my skin when the part in the front of the house came tumbling down–particularly because it was so early in the morning. As I wondered if I should call my landlady (she knows the woman who owns the house next door) the tarpaulin over the back of the house began moving, and over the top of the fence I saw some hands. Then I heard voices….and the rest of the tarp came down.

So yes, the termite assassins were un-tenting the house at that ungodly hour of the morning. Who knew?

So, as I sit here, the washing machine is chugging on the last load of blankets, and the second-to-last load of bed linens is tumbling in the dryer. There’s also a load of clothes to do, but it’s still early. I’ve also unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it with what was in the sink. I am currently cleaning the coffee-maker, and will probably keep cleaning the kitchen a bit as I sit here. I am going to try to get a chapter done before I retire to the easy chair and Lori Roy’s ARC (#ilovemylife), and possibly another ghost short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? by Norah Lofts. I am going to go to the AT&T store tomorrow to see if I can trade my phone in–it’s past time–and other than that, I intend to spend the weekend reading, revising, and cleaning. Maybe watching some fun stuff on the TV; there are all kinds of movies and TV shows available on the streaming services I pay for that I want to watch.

There are also some odds and ends here in the office/kitchen area–as well the tables around my easy chair–that I should just bite the bullet and do something with. I’ve been meaning to update my address book for Christmas cards and so forth forever; the Christmas cards I’ve been saving are piled up on top of one of the filing cartons. I’ve also apparently made an error of some sort in my checking account; the bank says I have more money than my register does, and everything has cleared that I recorded. This happens periodically because I absolutely hate to balance my checkbook, and it always, without fail, means I’ve deducted something twice–I’ll buy something on-line or pay a bill, and then I’ll record it in the register. Then a few days later I’ll check my account on-line because I know I’ve forgotten to record something small–like NyQuil–that I got at the CVS across the street from the office. I’ll then notice the other amount–whether a purchase or paid bill–and will record it again.

Sometimes there are multiple mistakes.

I also have a tendency to round up in my check register, so that there’s less money showing than I actually have (one of my biggest fears is bouncing a check or having my debit card be declined at a cash register), which also makes determining what the actual balance really is a problem to figure out.

And yes, I think I have delayed revising sufficiently long now.

So, without further ado, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

Happy Friday, Constant Reader!

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Tired of Toein’ the Line

Friday! I’m in love!

Heh heh. Well, it’s true; I have been for almost twenty four years. It’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how long that is…it’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how old I am. But sometimes…when I have to get up ridiculously early (like today) I feel every minute of those fifty-seven years.

Heavy sigh.

But today is a short day and I’ll be off work at one this afternoon, and then it’s off to run my errands and come home to clean and revise the Scotty. The goal for today is to get somewhat caught up on the revision and to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress, which I am really enjoying. I also want to read another one of Norah Lofts’ ghost stories from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I really like that her ghost stories are more Gothic and quietly creepy than anything else; that’s kind of the vibe I’m trying to go for in the WIP, so choosing to read her stories was probably a rather wise move on my part–unintentional, of course, but no less wise in any case.

And is it just me, or has the world gone crazy? Last night I saw the perfect tweet, one that perfectly encapsulated this week: If you didn’t predict that ‘politicians in blackface’ would get upstaged by ‘dick pics of billionaires’ by the end of the week, I don’t know what to tell you.

This brave new world in which we all live.

I made Swedish meatballs for dinner last night and they were most delicious, thank you very much. I don’t really follow a recipe anymore; I just kind of do it from memory, which means they taste different every time I make them. I have a slightly messy kitchen as a result, but it won’t take long to get it cleaned and set to rights again. And two weeks from today the first parades of Carnival roll down St. Charles Avenue. It’s hard to believe that the parades are nigh; I am kind of looking forward to them, to be honest. With the move to the new office and the realization that I simply can’t walk to work anymore during parade season, this will be the first time in years I’ll actually be able to enjoy the parades without having to deal with walking to and from work almost every day. I may actually make it through the season without the bone-tired exhaustion I’ve become accustomed to–madness.

The temperature dropped about twenty degrees overnight, and it’s supposedly going to drop a little further. Of course, that means it’s in the fifties, which is still much more tolerable than the bitter cold in many parts of the country; I think there’s a hundred degree difference between the weather here and in Montana, per a post I saw on Facebook this morning from a friend who lives up there. A hundred degree difference. How insane is that?

Pretty fucking insane, I’d say.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. I’m hoping to get the revision of Chapter 4 finished this morning before i head to the office…fingers crossed, Constant Reader.

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Better Love Next Time

Hello, Thursday morning, how are you doing?

This week went by pretty fast, I am thinking, and this is the first time in a long time I can recall not being worn out and tired. Usually Monday night I start dragging, Tuesday night I’m exhausted, Wednesday I am a little regenerated but still tired, and by the time Thursday morning rolls around I am pretty much the walking dead. But last night I stopped on the way home from work at the grocery store–where I ran into Jean Redmann AND Wacky Russian–then came home and did the laundry. I also wasn’t all that tired last night. Mentally fatigued, sure–but not physically. And I can deal with mental fatigue much easier than I can with physical.

I feel pretty decent this morning as well, which is lovely. I only have to work half a day today and tomorrow at the office, and so when I get home this afternoon I should be able to get some things done before Paul gets home. I am in the midst of some chores–the dishwasher is full and needs to be emptied; I am in the midst of two loads of laundry, and of course the filing has piled up again, which is ridiculous. I did manage to get some revising done yesterday; not much, but I do feel I am doing a really good job on this round, and Scotty’s voice is starting to emerge at last. I am hoping to get caught up this evening and tomorrow, and really get moving on it this weekend.

Fingers crossed! I also want to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress this weekend…and since there has been so much recent publicity about it, maybe I’ll read A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window next.

Yesterday I got a copy of Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I read Lofts when I was a teenager, and mostly read her fictional biographies of queens and historical women–The Concubine, The King’s Pleasure, A Rose for Virtue, Eleanor the Queen, Crown of Aloes, How Far to Bethlehem?–and some of her ‘romances’ (I would hardly call them romances, but that was how they were marketed…I defy anyone to read Nethergate and tell me it’s a romance). She also wrote a witchcraft novel called The Little Wax Doll, which I don’t remember much about but I did enjoy reading. Somewhere recently I read an article or something on Lofts and her ghost stories…so started tracking down a copy of her collection. I read the first story yesterday between clients, and it’s called “Mr. Edward”:

If I’d been in the habit of bothering God about trivial, material things, I should have said that Miss Gould’s suggestion came as an answer to prayer. Ever since the Easter holiday I had been worried about the long one in the summer. When Tom died and I found a post as school matron and David went to boarding school, my father had said that we must spend all holidays with him. At first, though dull, they were pleasant enough; but as David grew older Father grew more critical, making outspoken remarks about the behavior of the young nowadays and accusing me of spoiling. I confess I am inclined to be indulgent during the holidays; David’s school is pretty Spartan, I don’t see him often, and I am very fond of him.

This is how the story starts, and our main character agrees to house sit and oversee renovation work being done on Miss Gould’s house for the summer. And once she and her son arrive…she begins having odd experiences around the house; small things, nothing absolutely terrifying, but very Gothic in their smallness…and Lofts shows that the little things can be just as terrifying as the BIG ones horror/supernatural tales seem to favor of late. I love the old Gothic style of scary stories, to be honest, and Lofts’ Gothic, formal writing style, reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw, is very quiet and very unsettling.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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