Forever and Always

Wednesday morning and the sun is shining, which is always a lovely thing. After the last few days of incessant rain and gloom–but not as bad as a tropical storm coming through–it’s nice to see the sunshine again. The weather is also beginning to take that shift towards cooler, which is also incredibly lovely. I slept really well last night– I inevitably do on the morning after two consecutive days of getting up at six–and as such, I don’t feel very tired today. Also a lovely thing. I am working from home today–I think I am going to pick an 80’s movie today for watching during the inevitable making of the condom packs; I had already cued up Martin Sheen’s The Believers, a horror movie about santeria, because I wanted to see how it held up after all these years–and i am relatively certain it is probably guilty of a lot of things that would keep the film from being made today; not the least of which would be portraying a non-Abrahamic religion as a tool of evil. I read the book the film was based on as well, The Religion by Robert Stuart Nathan, and a quick google search brought up this: The Religion is a horror novel written in 1982 by Nicholas Conde*. It explores the ritual sacrifice of children to appease the pantheon of voodoo deities, through the currently used practice of SanterĂ­a. (*Nicholas Conde was the pseudonym he used for the novel.)

Yeah, that doesn’t sound terribly promising.

As I said, it’s probably a terribly offensive movie (and book), but reading/seeing it made me more interested in both voodoo and Santeria, and was the first place I learned about how the enslaved Africans in this hemisphere adapted their religion by replacing their gods and goddesses with Catholic saints to fool people into thinking they’d converted to Christianity. Voodoo was something I didn’t know much about at the time–I still don’t really know much about it–and I’d never heard of santeria before; I’ve always wanted to learn more about it, but the problem is so much of the available material cannot be trusted, particularly when it comes to the New Orleans version of the religion; so much history here is word-of-mouth legend, and when people started to write “histories” (such as Robert Tallant’s Voodoo in New Orleans) most of what they wrote was deeply racist and most likely inaccurate–and can one really trust white Southern historians writing about the culture of people of color?

Probably not. At any rate, it’ll be interesting to rewatch the film through a modern lens.

We finished watching Ratched last night. It was highly entertaining, and visually spectacular, but you also kind of had to turn off your brain a bit, as there were enormous plot holes and there were more than a few things didn’t make sense; not to mention the connection to the character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was marginal, at best, and completely absent at worst. But the sets, costumes and visual aesthetic of the show was stunningly gorgeous, similar to the old Douglas Sirk films of the 1950’s. And it did keep me entertained, which is saying something–I don’t have much of an attention span these days, which is why I am having difficulty reading these days again. It’s so weird; I’ll have some sort of reading breakthrough and then tear through a bunch of novels in a short period of time, and then go back to not being able to focus again. I intend on working on the book again tonight once my workday is finished–I wasn’t joking about that mess of a chapter–and I also haven’t worked on anything short-story related at all this week either; even if it’s just to reread and figure out how to fix one that has a finished draft already, or one that is unfinished while trying to figure out how to keep going with it.

And on that note, I am going to get some more coffee and get this day started. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

Begin Again

While I am not, precisely, starting over again with Bury Me in Shadows, I am in some ways returning to the drawing board; my memory has become more and more useless the older I get, and the daily beating my psyche and consciousness has taken this year hasn’t helped much in that regard. But it’s kind of sad that it’s been so long now–and really, it’s not been much more than a week–that I’ve worked on it that I don’t remember where I was at and what was going on; I don’t even remember what happens next and where the story goes, or even the ending I wrote for it–which is part of the problem with writing a book while having, for want of a better term, pandemic brain. (I don’t think I should blame my faulty, horrific memory completely on the pandemic, but I think I am willing to agree that it has not helped one little bit with my short or long term memory.)

I started reading The Heavenly Table yesterday–Donald Ray Pollack is the author, and he also wrote The Devil All The Time–and it’s really quite well written. He really knows how to hit that rural poverty note, and does it really exceptionally well; like Daniel Woodrell, Ace Atkins, and William Faulkner. As I was reading it, I was remembering those summers in Alabama when I was a kid, and thinking about the way my parents grew up–and how difficult that must have been for them, even though they didn’t know any different. This also put me in mind of things that I may need to put into Bury Me in Shadows, or save for something else; another novella that I’m writing, “A Holler Full of Kudzu”, keeps going through my mind when I am reading this book.

I didn’t do much writing yesterday; I was interviewed yesterday for Brad Shreve’s Gay Mystery Podcast (link to come) and, as always after something like that, when I was finished I felt terribly drained (caffeine rush wearing off, perhaps? Also a possibility) and so I wound up sitting in my chair, reading the Pollack novel and thinking about my various writing projects. we eventually watched this week’s episode of Ted Lasso, which continues to be quite marvelous and lovely, and then started Ryan Murphy’s Ratched. It’s entertaining and beautifully shot; the costumes are amazing, as are the sets and visuals, and it’s reminiscent of the Douglas Sirk film stylings from the 1950’s–and for a state mental hospital, the place is gorgeous and impeccably decorated and sparkling clean. The acting is quite good, but I am really not seeing the connection to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest other than as a clever marketing tie-in to draw viewers in, but other than Sarah Paulsen’s character being a younger Nurse Ratched, there really is no connection. It could have just as easily been another season of American Horror Story, and it does have connections, in some ways, to the afore-mentioned show’s Asylum season: the menacing and dangerous nurse; the aversion to lesbianism; the crazy and criminal doctor using his patients as guinea pigs; the serial killer; and so forth. We’re interested and intrigued enough to keep watching, and it’s also interesting seeing the additions to what I call the Ryan Murphy Repertory Company–the young actor who played Justin on 13 Reasons Why, Charlie Carver, Sharon Stone, and Judy Davis. (I do give Murphy a lot of credit for casting openly gay actors in his series, playing either gay or straight or bisexual men.)

It’s gray and drizzly outside the windows this morning, and it feels very cool here inside the Lost Apartment. I know this is the outer edges of Beta–I’ve not yet had the heart to look the storm up and see where it is and where it is projected to be going this morning so far–I’m just not in the mood to see what new potential destruction and flooding is now possible for somewhere along the Gulf Coast. Yay.

I do want to get some writing done, even if it’s merely the tedium of taking the second half of the book and adjusting it from present tense to past tense (a decision I made between drafts; I was trying present tense to see if it added urgency to the story, and I don’t think it really did, so am switching it back to past, which is something i am more comfortable with anyway. If it worked the way I had wanted I would have left it that way, but it really didn’t, and so I am changing it back) so that they are more ready for the revising. I would love more than anything to maybe get two or three chapters revised–but I also need to go back and add at least one scene to the chapters I’ve already got done; a scene I put off until later in the book because I wasn’t completely sure how to deal with it earlier. (I also need to reread the stuff that’s already been revised, so I can remember where I am at and what needs to be done with the next revisions; again, as I said before, the problem with allowing one’s self to procrastinate writing for as long as I have is you forget what you’re writing, which is terrifying) But I intend to be as productive today as I can be, and I feel confident, which I haven’t in quite some time. Not sure what that’s about, but I am going to ride that wave as long as I can.

I’m also setting a goal of a short story per week; both reading one and writing/finishing one. This week’s short story to finish is one I started a while back called “Please Die Soon,” which is a Rear Window/Sorry Wrong Number type pastiche; is there anything more terrifying than being bedridden and beginning to suspect the people trusted with caring for you are actually trying to kill you? It’s a terrific title, and I know exactly how I want the story to work, but I’ve never had a lot of confidence in my ability to actually get it written properly. As I said the other day, I really want to get some more short stories out there to markets–you can’t sell if you don’t submit–and I’ve also began to understand that some of my stories aren’t really crime stories/mysteries; which makes finding markets for them even harder. “Burning Crosses” isn’t really a crime story–even if it’s about two college students looking into a lynching from sixty or so years ago–and it might make some markets deeply uncomfortable. Hell, it makes me uncomfortable–I question whether I should even be writing this type of story about racism, but I also need to stop second guessing myself. If I don’t do a good job of it, then the story isn’t any good, and I think the point that I am making with it–the cowardly discomfort white people experience when confronted with past racism–is a valid one. It’s most definitely not a white savior story, for sure–which is something I definitely don’t ever want to write.

There are already plenty of those stories already in print.

The trick is, as always, going to be focus, which has always been my mortal enemy.

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