Heart to Break

The first Sunday in August. I think we’re in the midst of yet another excessive heat warning today–I’d swear I’d heard that last night on a newsbreak during the Olympics, but haven’t bothered to check yet again this morning. I slept in yet again–again–and am only now getting to my morning coffee, which tastes marvelous. Yesterday wound up being one of those days; the ones where I get very little done and just kind of gave in to the mental and physical exhaustion, turning it into essentially a “rest and recover” day. Finishing Shawn’s book had a lot to do with it; I kind of just sat around for a couple of hours, thinking about it and figuring out what I wanted to say about it when I sat down to write my blog piece about it. I’m still thinking about the book a bit this morning, to be honest; it’s really thought-provoking and very well done. I also spent some time reading the first few chapters of The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, which is also quite remarkable–definitely off to a good start, and made me feel much better about selecting it as my next read after finishing Shawn’s–and I think I’m going to have a lot of really great reading ahead of me, which is, as always, incredibly exciting. There’s also a new Stephen King and a new Megan Abbott dropping this week, too–life simply doesn’t get better than that, methinks.

All I know is yesterday I overslept, read for a while, wrote a second blog entry and before I knew it was already after four–shocking, to say the least–with the end result that yesterday wound up being an off-day, and you know what else? I think I must have needed an off-day, which is the only proper response. I am trying not to beat myself up over having a lot to do and yet still taking a day off–because most people get to occasionally take a day off, and it’s not the end of the world when and if I myself chose to take one. Today I have things to do to get caught up on, of course–my email inbox is completely out of control, as always, and the Lost Apartment could stand another cleaning, and there’s always writing to do, and I also have to go to the gym this afternoon–but all of those things will inevitably get done, as they always inevitably do. I shall have to consult the to-do list, of course; and perhaps make another one with additional things, like I want to get my various state “bibles” made eventually, starting with Alabama (in this instance, a ‘bible’ means recording names, places, geography, etc. so it’s all in one place and easily consulted when writing something new set there; I want to do one for Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, and California, as well as one for both the Chanse and Scotty series; it’s way overdue in each instance, which is why there are so many continuity errors–but mostly in the state stories more than anything else). I guess this is what one calls “world-building”? All of my books are inevitably, in some roundabout way, connected; even the main character in Chlorine is from Kahola County (he’s from the tiny, population 63, town of Furlong, a whistle stop on the Missouri Pacific railroad line) and thus it is connected with the others, too. (I really need to finish Chapter Three today if it kills me; it’s a transitional chapter and as we know, I always have trouble with transitional chapters). I also need to type up my notes from my editorial call as a guideline to the final polish on #shedeservedit; which I need to focus on this month–which will not be easy to do with an unfinished Chapter 3 hanging over my head, you know?

But I think I am going to try to keep the burner on beneath Chlorine; it’s just on a slow cook rather than being brought to a boil at the moment. It would be great to be able to get these revisions done and then be able to get the first draft of Chlorine finished this month as well; almost too much to hope for, really. I also need to get some other things further under control, and much as I would like to take yet another day off from everything and just spend the day reading, I don’t think that’s either wise or in the cards. I am going to try to get this finished, spend an hour with The Other Black Girl, and then get to work on other things that need to be worked on before heading to the gym. I generally am exhausted when I get home from the gym–inevitable, particularly with us in a excess heat warning–and while drinking my protein shake I’ll probably spend some more time with The Other Black Girl. This is the last full week of work I have for a while; the following two weeks we are being given a long holiday type weekend with the agency closing on the 13th and the 16th; and then the following week after that second short week Im on vacation for most of it because of Bouchercon–and no matter what happens (or doesn’t, for that matter) with Bouchercon I am still going to take that time off, and then it’s Labor Day, and you know…it’s August, and August, from all indicators, is going to be miserably hot this year anyway, so I need to take what I can get from all of this.

And once the Olympics are over, and our moratorium on watching outside television ends, we are going to have a lot to watch–Ted Lasso, Outer Banks, and several others as well, which is quite interesting and exciting, methinks.

I also saw a wonderful looking Spanish series, set in the 1720’s, on Netflix that looks like it could be quite entertaining, The Cook of Castamar–and you know Paul and I are crazy about some Spanish language shows.

I am also kind of pleased to have Bury Me in Shadows all finished except for the proofing. That’s always a lovely feeling, really.

So–let’s tally everything, shall we? I am in the midst of writing a new novel, the midst of revisions of another, and planning yet a third; I am pulling together a short story collection AND an essay collection; and a collection of novellas. That’s six books right there that are in some sort of progress for me; and of course I am also co-editing the Bouchercon anthology for Minneapolis. So, seven books in some sort of progress–no wonder I am so fucking scattered and on edge all the time, always certain I am forgetting something!

And on that note, I should probably get another cup of coffee and take a look around and see what I need to get to first–after an hour of reading the Harris novel, of course.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

I Am What I Am

Saturday!!

My GOD, it was hot yesterday. I walked to the gym after work and by the time I got there was drenched in sweat and felt exhausted. I wound up cutting my workout short–I didn’t have the energy to make it through the whole workout; just the partial I was so tired and sweaty and hot that the walk home was absolute misery. I’m glad I went; I just wish the heat hadn’t been so damned extreme. The heat and humidity just suck your energy right out of your body sometimes–and it absolutely felt like 115 degrees as I walked. The ground felt hot, even when I cut through Coliseum Square. Yesterday morning it was cool in the house but I could tell it was hot outside, and as the day passed I had to turn on the ceiling fans and at one point considered getting out the portable air conditioners–but finally decided I was being ridiculous on that score and left them alone. I took a long hot shower once I got home and had my protein shake, and just then luxuriated in that clean, not hot and not sweaty (or that sticky feeling when sweat has dried on your skin–yuck) feeling the shower left me feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. I sat down and read through the edits on the next two parts of Bury Me in Shadows–there’s only one small 30 page section left to get through–and I am feeling content with the book. It’s good work. I like my main character and his instabilities; the weird mystery of what is going on there at the old Donelson place in the country is interesting and intriguing, and it’s also kind of nice to see that some of the points I wanted to make worked and didn’t sound overly preachy (which worried me).

So, yay! I feel much better about the book now, and am kind of interested in getting back to #shedeservedit this weekend. I think I am going to probably do some filing when I am finished here–it never hurts to get better organized–and spend some time with Shawn’s Razorblade Tears this morning, and then do some writing on Chlorine and possibly, just possibly, start rereading #shedeservedit–but I also need to type up the notes from our call the other day.

Huzzah!

I overslept again this morning, but fully intended to when I went to bed last night so I don’t feel any guilt this morning about being a lag-a-bed until nine. I do have things to do today but right now I am enjoying feeling rested and my coffee tastes remarkably delicious this morning. I am feeling good–particularly about not having to go outside today as we move into yet another excessive heat warning day. Paul is working out with his trainer this morning (later this morning, I should clarify) and then will probably head to the office, so I have the Lost Apartment to myself for most of the day–so i should be able to finish reading Shawn’s book, get some writing and cleaning and so forth taken care of, before heading back into the Olympics tonight. The second season of Outer Banks also dropped on Netflix yesterday, which is terribly exciting; Paul and i had kind of made up our minds to not watch anything other than the Olympics until they were over, so we’d have a vast variety of things to watch for the rest of the month of August…but damn me, if Outer Banks isn’t tempting. (Paul even mentioned it was dropping yesterday last night as we watched the swimming –Caeleb Dressel is incredibly pretty)

I was also, of all things (because I don’t have enough writing to do on my plate already) about my next Scotty book, Mississippi River Mischief–this was a direct result of finishing going over the copy edits/line edits of Bury Me in Shadows, I should add–and how complicated that story is going to be; I think maybe part of the reason I’ve been avoiding it for so long is because I know how hard plotting that story is going to be; I left the Boys in an incredible personal dilemma or two that needs to be resolved, and I don’t really know how to resolve those issues quite yet. I know what the case is going to be, and it, too, is going to be complex and difficult to plot out and make work. Don’t get me wrong–I know I can do it, but that’s when the lazies kick in.

And on that note, I am going to go finish my coffee with Shawn. Talk to you later, Constant Reader!

Working My Way Back to You

Wednesday! Pay the Bills Day! Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I know, right? Pay Day is generally depressing, as I pay the bills and slowly but surely watch the balance in my checking account gradually deplete, and then try to figure out how to stretch what is left for another two weeks. While this is rarely–if ever–fun, there’s something weirdly satisfying about doing it, though; part of the slight OCD problem I’ve suffered from most of my life. Tomorrow morning I also have to get up early–I have to have blood work done, which means fasting, so I basically scheduled it at eight in the morning so I can literally roll out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, throw on some clothes and go out the door. (I will, of course, take some coffee with me which I will immediately start guzzling as soon as the blood draw is finished and I can head home to condom packing and lab form quality/assurance–a very big Thursday at the Lost Apartment for one Gregalicious.)

I started working on Chapter Two of Chlorine last night, and I really think I have the voice right–we’ll see as it goes along–but I am in a groove with the book at the moment and I am going to ride this wave as long as I can. I hope to get Chapter Two finished tonight and Chapter Three started; then I am going to work on revising one of the short stories this weekend–probably not a novella (that will require more than a few hours work, I fear)–but I’d like to end July with some stories being submitted, decent progress made on Chlorine, and then to spend August finishing the first draft of Chlorine and possibly revising some the novellas. I’d like to spend October thru December writing another Scotty book, so this time between now and October 1 is going to have to be highly productive if I want to stay on my schedule. I also did some minor tweaking on Chapter 1; I always find that (tweaking/editing an earlier chapter) helpful in finding my way back into my main character’s voice. (I guess that can go under Helpful Writing Hints, can’t it?)

It can, of course, be horribly overwhelming when I sit and think about the projects I currently have in progress; as I got organized over the weekend I did find myself a little taken aback to see that I have nine projects in progress (short story collection, essay collection, three novellas, three novels, an anthology) and that is most definitely going to require some serious focusing in order to get everything finished. I will, of course, continue to have other ideas come along while I am working on all of these things–the more my creativity seems to flourish, the more ideas and thoughts I have ; which is why “Wash Away Sins” popped into my head over the last weekend. But as long as I can stay focused and don’t allow myself too many distractions, I should be able to get everything finished and somehow stay on top of everything.

Stranger things, of course, have happened.

Last night we finished watching Young Royals, which was exceptionally good. It’s a Swedish show, which kicks off when the Queen of Sweden’s second son, Willhelm, gets involved in a viral video while partying at a bar and getting in a fight, so the royal family packs him off to an elite boarding school where he won’t get in trouble. Ha ha ha, famous last words, right? Wille soon becomes attracted to a talented young local kid, Simon, who is also attending the school–and it goes from there. Simon also has an autistic sister with ADHD, Sarah, who is also kind of adopted by the richer, more socially prominent students–which was actually a lovely break with tradition; I assumed they’d bully her mercilessly–and while there are other story-lines, the Wille-Simon romance is the primary driving story of the show, and it’s so beautifully handled and done. (Watching this made me realize how deeply sanitized American queer y/a is; I mean, for generations the primary driver of young adult storylines in books and movies and television shows is “will they have sex? Will they lose their virginity?” And while my experience with the majority of queer y/a is limited to a few things written by straight people that I absolutely detested–the whole “losing one’s virginity” seems to never come up. I guess queer teenaged sexuality is the third rail? There’s an essay in this, methinks) Anyway, it’s a great show and it handles the gay young love storyline really well–tenderly and beautifully and sweetly–and it also doesn’t hurt that the young actors in the leads are very appealing. There are, for example, many sweet scenes where they just sit next to each and cuddle a bit–which I realized was far more intimate than the actual “take off our clothes and get to it” scenes. Highly recommended! I do hope there’s a second season, as the first was quite marvelous.

And now of course we have to find something new to watch. Outer Banks‘ second season, which looks INSANE, doesn’t come out until the end of the month, so we might have to give Gossip Girl on HBO MAX a look-see (we never watched the original).

And now I am boring myself, so I will bring this to a close. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Love in the First Degree

THURSDAY!

It’s lovely to be working at home this morning–I do have my bi-annual physical with my brand new primary care doctor today (which means prescription refills, HUZZAH), but other than that, I am planning on being ensconced in my easy chair making condom packs for most of today, while I get caught up on shows I am watching (Real Housewives, Superman and Lois) and then possibly moving on to a 1970’s movie–either a return to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, or the 80’s Teen Film Festival (which inevitably is disappointing, as the movies tend to not age particularly well…I am still reeling from rewatching Class, with Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy; although it would make for a good essay about how society has changed since those films were made…).

Because I don’t already have enough to write.

I slept incredibly well last night, and even slept in a bit. I’m a bit groggy this morning (Groggy GreggOly) as a result, but my coffee is quite marvelous and it seems to be doing the trick. The Lost Apartment is the disaster area it always seems to be on Thursday mornings–heavy sigh–and so after i get my condom packing done, I’ll have to do some cleaning around here while I am doing my writing tonight. We finished Happy Endings last night–the final six or so episodes of the final season really weren’t very good, alas–and will probably focus on finishing HIgh Seas before moving on to something new–Young Royals, perhaps, or an Italian show Paul was interested in (I need to see if he wants to finish watching Loki, because if he doesn’t I know what I’ll be bingeing while condom packing tomorrow–we’ve also not watched any of the Marvel shows on Disney Plus, and we probably should give them a whirl; although some borderline homophobic comments by one of the leads in Falcon and The Winter Soldier kind of killed off any interest I may have had in that show)–and of course, some of our favorites (Ted Lasso, Outer Banks) are also coming back soon.

I also want to read S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears this weekend, so I can move on to the next book on the list, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris–my reading has fallen off so dramatically, I really need to get back on that horse and start riding again.

But I also have to get organized, which is apparently an on-going struggle, my own personal Vietnam, as it were. One would think by now I’d have kinda-sorta gotten used to the 6 o’clock alarm when it rings three mornings per week, and kinda-sorta adjusted my life around that, but really haven’t. Sometime next month my schedule is going to change again–which is going to require readjusting from what I’ve never adjusted to something new; it will also mean having to get up relatively early still to go to the gym so I can keep my workout routine going–Ill be going in later on Tuesdays–10 instead of 7:30–but I won’t be getting off work until 7 pm, which is too late to go to the gym Tuesday nights after. Heavy sigh.

And I need to get going on Chapter Two of Chlorine. I think I need to make a list of things I need to do for the weekend and start, as always, checking things off. In another note, I was cleaning out my spiral notebook yesterday and discovered that, as I tore the two to-do lists out of it, that I had done almost everything on both of them (even though I never crossed them off). Progress, of a sort, I guess. (Note to self: you need to get a new notebook too).

I also am at that time where I can upgrade my phone; a trip to the AT&T store is no doubt in order. It did, however, occur to me yesterday that iPhones probably can no longer accommodate plug in head-phones, which will make a difference for me. I sure as hell don’t want to pay $300 for ear buds I will lose rather quickly… but on the other hand, I have also managed to have iPhones now for twelve years without breaking or losing one, so maybe I am mature enough (ha ha ha ha) to have those ear bud things without the possibility of losing them and having to replace them for a ridiculous amount of money. I don’t know. We shall see what they say when I stop into the store. Fortunately, there’s one a few blocks away, and I can go there on my way to Office Max to get a new spiral notebook.

The excitement around here truly never stops, does it?

I Think I’m In Love With You

Good morning, Friday, hope all is well with everyone out there in Constant Readerland, as we head into a three day weekend. HUZZAH!

I didn’t write again yesterday–I know, I know; I’m trying not to read the worst into two days of not writing back-to-back–but I did reread both “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger” (what’s done so far), and yes, both need revision and work and clean-up, but they also aren’t as terrible and won’t require near as much work as I might have feared (well, did fear). I got the tone and mood right, which was the most important thing in these drafts, and what I was really looking for in the rereading. I was also worried they might start too slow, or be too wordy, before the story gets underway–a worry one has with a novella; finding the right spot to start because you have more room than in a short story and thus there’s a danger of that happening. But overall, I am quite pleased with both. I am going to get back to work on “Stranger” today after work, and I am then going to spend some time with a revision of “Redeemer.” I also reread other stories in progress–notably, “The Sound of Snow Falling” and “A Dirge in the Dark”–with an eye to the repairs the stories need; I already know what I need to do to fix “This Thing of Darkness,” which is an odd story and will undoubtedly need to go into the next short story collection as no one will likely publish it. I am going to try to get the other two submitted to magazines for publication; wish me luck with that, and then next week I am going to try to get back to work on Chlorine again, with a goal of finishing a very rough first draft by the end of the month–it may bleed over into August, which is also fine.

I also spent some time with Daphne du Maurier’s Echoes from the Macabre after I finished reading my own stuff, and Jesus, was she good. “Don’t Look Now” remains one of my favorite all time short stories; the tone and voice she managed to get into her work was so extraordinary and exceptional…and distinct; I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone who managed to have such a powerful authorial voice that was so easily identifiable yet managed to change enough from book to book and from story to story to ring authentic to her characters; the main characters in Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel are so incredibly distinct and different, yet you know without doubt you are reading du Maurier.

God, I need to make time to read. The books are piling up and Shawn Cosby’s Razorblade Tears will be arriving next week.

We finished watching Line of Duty last night and yes, the series finale was a little bit underwhelming. I get why it ended the way it did–every season was kind of unsatisfying at the end–and the end of the series was definitely in line with the tone and mood the show had set from the very beginning…the acting and writing remained en pointe as well, but yeah, I too was left feeling a bit saddened and disappointed. But most of all, disappointed that there won’t be more. We really enjoyed the show every step of the way, and hate to say goodbye to it. But Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and Outer Banks will all be dropping new seasons this month, so huzzah for that!

Today I will be doing data entry for most of the day, and then it’s three day weekend time. I also spent some time last night cleaning and organizing and trying to get filing done–it’s not finished, but my work space doesn’t look as horrendous as it did yesterday morning. My primary project for this weekend is to do something with my workspace to open it up and make it more roomy rather than the tightly packed cozy thing I’ve had going on for so long. While it certainly has never affected my productivity, some of this stuff needs to go–and I really need to clean out my file cabinet, which is an odious chore I’ve put off for YEARS.

Oh! They fixed the air yesterday, so the upstairs and downstairs now are at the same temperature. It felt weird coming downstairs this morning…it’s felt like entering a meat locker for weeks, and today it’s temperate–could be adjusted down a little bit, because it’s humid outside and the air feels heavy in here this morning, which isn’t good.

I made jambalaya last night, too–I’d been hankering for some lately, and so the other day when I was making groceries I bought some turkey sausage and a box of Zatarain’s (which is excellent when you’re not in the mood to make it from scratch, which I knew I wouldn’t be. I have an excellent from scratch recipe from the Louisiana cookbook Can Your Mama Make a Roux?), but as I said, yeah, not in the mood. I cut up the sausage and sautéed it in olive oil, and then added it with the Zatarain’s and it turned out quite marvelously. I had two bowls, if that tells you anything.

And why have I not used jambalaya in a Scotty title? Seriously, falling down on my Louisiana job, aren’t I?

Okay, that data isn’t going to enter itself. Catch you in the morning, Constant Reader!

Jump Then Fall

Sliding into Sunday with two storms heading this way, less that two days apart. Ah, 2020, you just keep 2020-ing, don’t you? We are in a flash flood warning from today through Thursday, as I see over at nola.com, and are in a hurricane warning as well. Parking restrictions have been lifted, and I am feeling fairly certain that this time around our street will likely flood again–as it has done only once before, and not during a hurricane–because the fucking two empty lots have a stupid condo building going up on it, so there’s no place for water to go this time. I’ll probably have to move my car this afternoon to get it up higher than where it is parked right now. I checked my phone this morning but there’s nothing from work; which is in and of itself interesting: with so few people actually working in the office, what exactly is the policy and procedure during a hurricane? Monday is supposed to be clinic hours, of course, but since the hurricane could be hitting us smack dab in the middle of those, are we really going to have our clinic? Although–looking at the latest track, it appears to have slowed down some and is now predicted to cross over us around seven pm on Monday–whereas last night before I went to bed it was one pm.

May we live in interesting times, indeed.

I just hope we don’t lose power–although the two storms will indubitably amp up the humidity, I don’t think it will be as hot. That was what saved us that week when Ike knocked out our power and hovered over the city for a couple of days; the cloud cover made it cooler, otherwise it would have been completely unbearable.

Yesterday was a rather relaxing one. I did run an errand–which I may regret, as I wound up buying more perishables, and–sigh–my freezer is full–and then came back home to relax some more. I worked on Bury Me in Shadows a bit, finishing Chapters Two and Three and pulling up Chapter Four before going to bed, and it’s coming along rather nicely. We watched Jojo Rabbit last night–didn’t really care that much for it, to be honest; I guess it was just too smart for me–and then started watching Warrior Nun, which really didn’t engage us very much after the first episode, but we are intrigued enough to give the second episode a chance–you can never really judge a show competently by its first episode (although the first episode of Lovecraft Country was off the chain amazing), and sometimes it takes an episode or two to get going (hey, Outer Banks took four episodes to hit the ground running), but our standards have been set pretty high this year–we’ve watched some amazing programs this year.

I also decided to treat myself to cappuccinos this morning because why not? Marco tomorrow, Laura Wednesday; the potential of living a week in August without power; yeah, who cares about the mess and all the moving parts of the espresso machine to clean this morning? Besides, the jolt I’ll get from two cups will power me through the rest of this morning and I’d like to get more chapters finished today–since who knows how long we’ll have power this week–and I am busily charging up all of my devices; granted, as long as the car isn’t under water and will start I can always go out there, turn the air conditioning up as high as it can go, and sit there while my phone recharges, like during Ike.

I also managed, from the looks of things, to get some organizing and cleaning done around the kitchen/office yesterday, which was not only necessary but needed. There are still some things I need to get straightened up, of course, and some things to get filed, but it’s not nearly as messy as it has been lately. I also tend to get neater the more into writing a book I get, so there’s that. I am really feeling my characters now, and I think I am doing some very good work on this book now. Ideally, it will be finished by the end of the month–that was the goal, and while it no longer seems likely anymore–am I really going to revise 21 chapters in eight days?–at least I am on track to get it finished and turned in sometime in September, which is lovely; and then I can get to work on the Kansas book and finally get that fucking albatross from around my neck.

I also gassed up the car yesterday just in case. And the lovely thing about a Honda is that IF we do need to suddenly have to evacuate, a full tank will get me pretty damned far. Although I am not worried about a sudden evacuation, of course; no one seems to be leaving New Orleans today and the storm will be here tomorrow.

It’s weird looking outside my windows this morning, which is definitely a sign that a storm is coming–that weird eerie stillness and surreal glow to the light.

And so, I need to put hurricane warnings and thoughts aside, otherwise my obsessive personality will find me sitting here, refreshing weather.gov every few minutes looking for updates, and waiting to hear from work whether I actually have to go into the office tomorrow. I am going to put all those worries and anxieties aside–as worrying and being anxious will solve nothing, it never does–so that I can be as productive as I possibly can this morning.

I think I’m going to have another cappuccino and curl up with Lovecraft Country for awhile.

Have a safe and lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Later Tonight

So here we are, on Memorial Day Monday, the final day of the three day holiday weekend, and I’m wondering–without checking social media (I do not intend to go on social media at all today)–how many people are wishing others have a Happy Memorial Day? Memorial Day isn’t a happy day–even though the majority of people don’t have to work today–it’s supposed to be a day of quiet reflection in honor (or memory) of those who have died serving the country in the military. It’s a day when you should visit the graves of the military dead and clean them, bring flowers, and reflect on their service. While I have no one in my family, on either side, who was lost to a battlefield, it’s still a somber day, and wishing others well or to have a happy day is in extremely poor taste.

But then, Americans generally have a tendency to go through their lives blithely, completely unaware of their own history and the meanings behind national symbology, holidays, memoriams, etc.

Yesterday was a blissful day. I quite happily finished reading The Red Carnelian, and then reread a kid’s mystery I remembered fondly, The Secret of Skeleton Island, book one of the Ken Holt series–one of my childhood favorites, and was very pleased to see that it still held up. I wrote for a little while, did some cleaning and organizing (not nearly enough of either, quite frankly), and then we finished watching Outer Banks, which is really quite something. It’s kind of a hodgepodge of story, really; at first, it didn’t seem like it was sure what it wanted to be, but once it decided to kick it up a gear after a few dull episodes of set-up, it really took off. A lost treasure, betrayals and murder, class struggles, the heartbreak of teen romance–it was a non-stop thrill ride, culminating in our hero, John B., and his star-crossed lover, Sarah, taking off to sea while being hunted by the cops and driving their boat directly into the path of a tropical storm. Cheesy, completely ridiculous, and over-the-top, Outer Banks turned to be much more fun than I would have ever guessed, particularly given the first few episodes, which were just tedious. We then moved on to another Netflix series, a joint British/Spanish production of a crime thriller called White Lines, set on Ibiza and focusing on the discovery of the body of Axel Collins, missing for over twenty years–and his younger sister’s determination to get to the bottom of who killed her brother. It’s trash, but ever so entertaining.

I also spent some time with Harlan Ellison’s collection of television columns from the Los Angeles Free Press from the late 1960’s, The Glass Teat. Harlan Ellison was a writing hero of mine, yet at the same time he was one of those people I never wanted to meet. He wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time (“Paladin of the Lost Hour”) and is probably my favorite short story writer of all time; he also wrote the best episode of the original Star Trek series, “The City on the Edge of Tomorrow”; and also wrote the original story that became the film A Boy and His Dog, which was a bit of a cult classic in the 1970’s and 1980’s. All of his stories are really exceptional, and he was very opinionated–if he thought you were a garbage writer and you wrote garbage, he would let you know–but his television writings, while undoubtedly accurate, are really dated. It also got me thinking about the time period, and the struggles that were going on in the country–the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, the Civil Rights battle–and how much of that period is not only not remembered today, but the specific language of the time has been forgotten: people using words like groovy and squares and the establishment, etc.; I also remember how false those words seemed when filtered through the lens of television producers and writers trying to seem hip and modern and cool….which, naturally, killed the popular usage of the words; after all, after you’ve heard Greg Brady enthuse about something being “groovy” on The Brady Bunch, it’s kind of hard to use the word in any other way than ironic from that point on. But a lot of what he was complaining about, what he was eviscerating, is still true today–that the television networks are all too terrified to put something that actually mirrors people’s realities on; that the whole point of television is to sell products to consumers; and as such, the commercial concerns inevitably will outweigh the artistry and truth of the show.

I’d love to know what he thought of All in the Family, in all honesty.

Today I want to get to some serious work on the multiple projects lying around; I also have two short stories queued up on the Kindle to read–“Rain” by Somerset Maugham, and Cornell Woolrich’s “It Had to Be Murder,” which was adapted into Hitchcock’s film Rear Window. I’ve been aware of Woolrich for quite some time now, but I have yet to read his work. He is considered a noir master, not perhaps as well known today as he should be, considering how many of his stories and novels became famous films, and he was also gay in a time period where being gay was exceptionally difficult–so naturally, I have a growing fascination for him. I started reading his The Night Has a Thousand Eyes a few years ago, but had to put it aside to read something else (prep work for a panel I was moderating) and somehow never got back to it….maybe instead of proceeding with another book in the Reread Project–I’ve yet to select one–I can go back and finish reading that? I looked at the opening of “It Had to Be Murder” last night as I queued it up and was most pleased with how it opened…so am looking forward to reading the story today.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines.

Disco Potential

Sunday morning and I slept very well last night, which feels pretty lovely this morning, quite frankly. Yesterday was a good day, which I took off from all my deadlines, worries, and cares. I did run to the grocery store for a few things, tried to buy ink at Office Depot to no avail, and then went to the gym. I then came home and showered before reading for a while, and then I started watching Outer Banks again, after it being recommended by Chris and Katrina Niidas Holm; this time I got sucked into the story. Is it a great show? Not really, but it is trashy fun, and I like that the writers finally got what they were actually doing and went all in. We also finished watching The Great last night, which is actually quite fun and terrific. I’m not quite sure who the audience for The Great is, but Elle Fanning is terrific as Catherine and it’s highly entertaining.

Sigh. Saturday nights are a whole lot different for me now than they were for years.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Saturday meant an entirely different thing than it does to me now. Now, it’s all about what can I get done today and what will we watch this evening and so forth; back then it wasn’t a question of whether we would be going out or not–the question was which bars would we be going to and what time would we be going out. Even if the idea was always just to be around people and listen to fun music, we’d inevitably pass the tipping point over into drunk. Sometimes we’d go dancing, sometimes we’d just hang out in the non-dance clubs with friends or would run into people; the free flow of going out on the weekend in the French Quarter was something that could never be planned. You never knew who you’d run into and how that would impact or change your plans; whether the mood or the music in a particular club would be off or fun–which also impacted how long we’d stay there before moving on.

I miss going dancing sometimes, but I don’t miss the late nights and the cigarette smoke (of course that’s also a thing of the past) and I don’t miss getting drunk two or three times on the weekend, either (the only question of the weekend wasn’t if we would go out on Saturday or not, it was would we also go out on Friday as well? And Sunday inevitably wound up being a given). I drank enough in those days to last me the rest of my life, and while I do like the occasional cocktail and the occasional buzz, I don’t like getting sloppy drunk anymore, and that happens more rarely now than it used to.

Now, of course, as a fifty-eight year old who feels like he’s going on eighty sometimes, the thought of going to a bar or a club isn’t appealing to me in the least. I can’t imagine standing around for hours, for one thing, and for another, I can’t imagine dancing for hours like I used to, getting hot and sweaty and taking off my shirt and tucking it into the back of my jeans. Then again, it’s been so long since I’ve been to a gay bar I don’t know if gays still do that–oh, what am I saying? Of course they do. Just like the swallows return to Capistrano, a certain subset of gay men will always go dancing on the weekends, drink too much, perhaps indulge in some illegal substances, and dance the night away with their shirts off. Why else would you go to the gym all week if you’re not going to show off the hard work on the dance floor?

I do miss it sometimes, though.

Today I am going to do some writing and trying to get out from behind this eight ball I seem to have been behind for most of this year. I have some things to reread and edit, and of course I want to get going on the Secret Project again, which has stalled for a moment–damned work week heat and humidity, sucking the life out of me every day–and there’s some cleaning to do as well. I didn’t get the floors done yesterday–trying to get caught up on the dishes and laundry was hard enough work as it was–and I am going to try to finish reading Phyllis Whitney’s The Red Carnelian today, as well as Bruce Campbell’s The Secret of Skeleton Island, which is the first novel in one of my favorite kids’ series, the Ken Holt mysteries. And yes, as always, I am probably assuming I can get more done today than I actually can, but hey–you never know until you try.

It’s also so incredibly easy to get distracted…I must try to avoid distractions at all cost. Distractions are the progress killer.

And I am, after all, so easily distracted. In fact, even as I type about not letting myself get distracted….I am thinking about things to do to waste my time today rather than writing.

But one important thing: I am going to close my web browser before I start writing. The Internet is the true distraction.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

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Delusions of Grandeur

So, we survived yet another manic quarantine Monday, did we not? And here we are, ready to get on with our week with another Tuesday. Huzzah! Or so I think. The jury may still be out on this week.

I am working an early shift today, which is why I am awake while there is still dark pressing against my windows. But I’m on my first cappuccino (of the two I allow myself,  only on days when I have to get up this early) and so soon my mind will be dusted free of cobwebs and I can face looking at my email inbox…ha ha ha, just kidding! The only thing that would prepare me for my inbox is a good belt of bourbon, methinks–and one might not even be enough.

Focus.

I need to focus, for I have too much to do for me not to.  What else is new, though, right?

We started watching a dreadful new Netflix show, Outer Banks, last night. We’d finished the concluding chapter of Tales of the City on Sunday night, and thus needed something new to watch. It’s not good, but it was entertaining enough for us to watch the first three episodes (it’s really hard to decide based on a first episode alone–we made that mistake with Schitt’s Creek initially, and yes, it was a complete mistake)–it’s essentially set up as a locals vs. rich people struggle, Pogues against Kooks, and of course, as always, the poor scrappy law-breaking Pogues are who we’re supposed to root for; and there’s also a treasure hunt and murders involved–a ship carrying four hundred million dollars in gold sank off the Outer Banks back in the 1800’s, our hero’s missing father was looking for the ship, and so on. I doubt we’ll continue–when it was time for bed and turning off the television, we both decided, meh, it’s good as a back-up when we’ve exhausted every other possibility. 

And given how much I love me a treasure hunt story…yeah.

I also started reading Katherine Anne Porter’s story of the Spanish influenza, “Pale Horse Pale Rider,” and am reminded again how much I really dislike Katherine Anne Porter’s writing style. Several pages into the story, I don’t really give a shit about her characters, Miranda and Adam, because I don’t really know anything about them. Porter writes in a strange style, that follows Miranda’s thought processes, yet at the same time gives us nothing to make us care about Miranda. She comes across as relatively cold; living in her boarding house, worrying about money, dating Adam, with the war as a background in the distance that kind of always is in the back of everyone’s mind. The Spanish influenze pandemic is occurring at the same time yet it doesn’t seem real to Miranda; one thing I will give Porter is she does manage to capture precisely how self-absorbed we all are, and how that self-absorption blinds us to what is really going on all around us, but we ignore it until it directly affects us (writing this note in my journal last night I realized this is something du Maurier also does in her stories–distracting her characters with their own little personal dramas so that they don’t pay attention to what is going on right under their noses, especially in “Don’t Look Now”–and that also was a theme in Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”). I don’t know that I’ll go back and finish reading the Porter story; as I said, I am not a fan, and yes, am aware that she won awards and was highly acclaimed as a writer. But…just not feeling it, frankly, not on this read nor on previous ones.

It’s funny that I am reading famous fiction about plagues and epidemics during a global pandemic, and it only just now occurred to me that I’ve not read any writing about HIV or AIDS in years. My novella “Never Kiss a Stranger” is, actually, my first attempt at writing this kind of fiction myself–and I am no longer so familiar with current gay literature that I don’t know if that’s something that has passed out of fashion with gay writers. I don’t think the m/m writers ever address it much; I’ve certainly never written about it before–for a number of reasons. When I first came to discover queer lit, there was a lot of it; almost every book or story about gay men being published, or that had been published since the mid-1980’s, involved it on some level or another. When I first started writing, it was still a question being debated in queer lit circles: was it irresponsible not to mention it, even in passing, in queer lit? Was it irresponsible to write erotica without the use of condoms? And while at the time I started publishing the drug cocktail had been discovered and the breakthroughs to extend life and lessen the impact of the diagnosis, when it came. I’ve very deliberately set “Never Kiss a Stranger” in the New Orleans of 1994, when HIV/AIDS was essentially wiping out the gay community in New Orleans, and I’m trying to capture that feeling of impending doom that hung over all of us back then, the sense of inevitability when it came to getting infected and dying, and how that felt to live through and experience.

The panel we did the other night for the Bold Strokes Book-a-thon was about writing during a pandemic; the interesting thing about that panel was two of us–J. M. Redmann and I–had both written during the previous HIV/AIDS epidemic; COVID-19 is our second time around. I think back to those days before I was a writer, when I was reading gay lit left and right, trying to familiarize myself with topics and themes; I think about the questions that we debated about our own work as we did panels and readings and so forth when my first book came out, and the other new writers doing the same. I remember that the big question then was whether or not we considered ourselves gay writers, or whether our books are gay (I distinctly remember Poppy Z. Brite replying to that question on a panel with “I don’t know, I’ve never asked my books if they were gay”); that all seems kind of silly now. (Frankly, it seemed silly then; it didn’t matter whether we considered ourselves gay authors or our books to be gay; that’s how they were going to be classified whether we liked it or not, and it was cute we thought we had come control over that–we had absolutely none.)

One of the things I am trying to do this week is determine how many things I have in some sort of progress–and I am not including the short stories that have lain unfinished in my files for years; I just want to get a handle on everything that’s in progress for now so I can get a better sense of where I stand on my next short story collection(s), and to see how many novellas there are that need completing–off the top of my under-caffeinated brain this morning, I can only think of three, but I think there are four in total–at least “Never Kiss a Stranger,” “Fireflies,” and “Festival of the Redeemer” are the ones I can remember–perhaps later on I can remember more of them; there should be at least one more, because I remember thinking I could publish them all together in one book so there has to be one more–maybe it was “A Holler Full of Kudzu”? I don’t remember.

And on that note–my lack of memory–I’m going to dive back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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Bet She’s Not Your Girlfriend

I was tired yesterday when I got home from work. My sleep has become unreliable again–I really miss those depression-assisted deep sleeps from the early days of the pandemic, quite frankly–and as always, I am terribly behind on everything. I need to get some writing done today–I want to finish a first draft of the Sherlock story, and I need to edit another short story (or two) for blind submissions to two anthologies with deadlines at the end of this month. I also have to run an errand this morning, and I am way behind on a lot of other things that I need to use this weekend to get caught up on. Alas, when I got home last night I was mentally exhausted, so I spent the evening doing dishes and finishing laundry and making dinner (pasta, for the record) and of course after a restless night’s sleep came downstairs to discover that I left the kitchen a mess and there’s another load of laundry to finish. Go me!

I’m not entirely awake yet this morning, either–I’m only on my second cup of coffee–but hope to be rarin’ to go by the time I finish this. The mess around here is quite disturbing, if I’m going to be completely honest, and I also have to start loading the bills into next month’s calendar to ensure that I don’t miss one, like I did this month. I also need to air up a tire; one of the tires in my car has a slow leak, and I probably should take it back to the dealership at some time to get it looked at–it has been a problem ever since I got the car, and it’s stupid to not get it at least looked at. The tires also need to be rotated again at some point, too.

The excitement of my life is a bit overwhelming, is it not?

We continue to enjoy the Lucy Lawless series My Life is Murder; I really do recommend it if you enjoy crime-solving shows. Netflix also dropped a new series called Outer Banks, which looks like it has potential. It’s amazing sometimes to think how our television viewing habits have changed over the years, isn’t it? We were watching the new Tales of the City last night, and there was an episode where Mouse and the Ellen Page character played on a team for a bar’s Trivia Night, and the questions were so ridiculously easy…the final question for the win was essentially by what name is Reginald Dwight better known as–the entire point of the thing was Mouse was bad at trivia after boasting to his younger boyfriend he was good at it, and of course, he was the only person who recognized Elton John’s birth name. I found this preposterous at first, and then realized, younger people who weren’t around during his hit-making heyday would probably NOT know that, and then I felt a bit old.

This led me into a spiral as well–the changes in technology I’ve seen over the course of my life, and how new technology rather quickly became obsolete. I’ve seen listening to music evolve from radio and vinyl and 8 track tapes to cassettes, then compact discs, and finally it became digital. (Vinyl is now making a comeback, though.) Listening to music has gone from having an enormous stereo with various interconnected components and enormous speakers to the Walkman to the Discman to the iPod/MP3 player. Even remembering the very first computer I worked on in the 1980’s (at work), which operated on MS-DOS. Our first Apple computer was enormous, and incredibly slow. We went from floppy discs to ZIP drives to flash drives over the course of about ten years, and now of course there’s these “cloud” things. Dial-up Internet to DSL to wireless connections. Landlines to cell phones to smart phones. My first laptop weighed about ten pounds, only lasted at most an hour or two on its own battery, and was such a pain in the ass that I got to the point where I refused to take it on trips because my shoulder and back would get sore from lugging it through airports.

My latest laptop weighs practically nothing, and is in fact so light I can’t tell if it’s in my backpack or not.

I also am doing a virtual panel tomorrow night on “writing during a pandemic” for a Bold Strokes Books reader-a-thon that’s going on all weekend. (I also agreed to do a reading for a bookstore event later this month; one thing this pandemic has already taught me is how little I understand technology and how to make it work). There’s nothing like new technology to make you feel like a fossil.

Heavy sigh.

But I’m hoping to spend some time rereading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin this weekend, and I realized last night that I’ve not even cracked the spine of Lawrence Block’s latest “art as inspiration from crime stories” anthology.  So I am going to wrap this up, drink some more coffee, and clean the kitchen before running my errand, after which I will come home to my writing.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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