Working Overtime

FRIDAY! Today I am taking what we can a personal day, or a Mental Health Day, or whatever you want to call a day when you really have a lot to do at home–chores, errands, writing, cleaning, etc.–so you dip into your dwindling supply of paid time off and snag some hours so you can get that shit done. It’s gray again outside this morning, and the sidewalks wet with a fractional amount of standing water in low places, so I am not really sure what the weather is actually like outside. Yesterday the high was 78–insane for late March, which doesn’t bode well for summer when it arrives in a few weeks (yes, summer is usually here by mid-April)–and I haven’t yet checked today’s weather. The gray cloud cover, however, kind of says it all, really.

I finished off a journal last night, filling the final few pages with thoughts about the current book, what I need to get done with it, and how precisely I want to get that done. Time is, of course, slipping through my fingers, as it is wont to do, and the extended deadline expires on Thursday of next week. Of course, it’s also Easter weekend, that is Good Friday and a paid holiday (thank you, deeply Catholic state of Louisiana), so I am debating whether to go ahead and get it turned in on Thursday, taking that nice long weekend to relax and recuperate from the exhaustion of finishing a book, or using that time to painstakingly go over the entire thing one last time….or desperately try to revise the end one last time. (I think we know what I am going to inevitably end up spending next weekend doing, don’t we?) I also need to get to the gym today later this afternoon.

I watched the Snyder cut of Justice League yesterday while I was making condom packs. I hadn’t wanted to for a number of reasons (four hours being the primary, to be fair, and I’m also kind of over “director’s cuts” of movies I’ve already seen; the few times I’ve watched these kind of things they never seemed to improve the original movie that much, or made a significant amount of difference to the film that warranted a rewatch; I’m afraid I’ve been burned that way a few too many times to be much interested in ever viewing a director’s “personal vision” yet again…but then, I realized yesterday, this was different–the movie I watched was patched together, rewritten, and reshot to create an entirely different film; so this Justice League would have some similarities to the movie I’d watched and mostly forgotten, but wouldn’t be the same film), but yesterday I thought well it’s four hours, watching this will save me the chore of having to decide what two movies I want to view while I am doing this, and so, with no small amount of trepidation, I queued the movie up and hit play.

Four hours later, as the end credits rolled, my first thought was wow, Warner Brothers really shit the bed by bringing in Joss Whedon to make that piece of crap instead of just releasing this.

DC Comics was my jam when I was a kid; I move on to DC from Archie Comics and never looked back–although I am very fond of Archie, even watching the first few seasons of Riverdale and absolutely loving The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina–and even though I eventually came around to include Marvel in my super-hero reading, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for DC–how can you go wrong with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? DC changed over the years–the transition from the old school heroes in an attempt to modernize them all in the 1970’s had mixed results (I can’t be the only person who remembers that Wonder Woman gave up her powers and became mortal for a while in the early 1970’s?); but the 1970’s also meant a move toward more realism in the way the characters were drawn, and an attempt to make them more three-dimensional and human. (Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow is the first DC hero to be drawn hyper-realistically; I distinctly have a memory of Oliver standing at a mirror with his shirt off–and seeing not only nipples but a navel and some curly body hairs and defined muscles). DC rebooted their entire universe in the 1980’s with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was an epic undertaking, and kind of brilliant–getting rid of, for example, the Kryptonian super pets like Krypto, Streaky, and there was even a super-horse, if I remember correctly; they also got rid of the myriad rainbow colors and types of Kryptonite and only keeping the deadly green–my favorite was always red, because how red Kryptonite affected Kryptonians on Earth was unpredictable and never the same…which meant it could also always serve as deus ex machina to explain away strange, out of character behavior, like Superman or Supergirl or Superboy–who had his own comic series as well: “oh, I was exposed to red Kryptonite”–the effects only last, I think, for forty-eight hours.

Anyway, I’ve always rooted for DC Comics and its adaptations–loved, for a while, The CW’s series with lesser known heroes, like Green Arrow and the Flash and Batwoman. I even like the Brandon Routh version of Superman in Superman Returns. (Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds was enormously disappointing; I loved the Lantern Corps, I also love Reynolds, but the whole thing was just a big mess.) I enjoyed the first rebooted Henry Cavill as Superman movies (questioned the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, to be honest) but I also agreed with critics who felt those films were missing something at their core; they came very close to getting Superman right but didn’t quite get there. And while this version of Justice League clearly fucks with the continuity of the DC Universe–particularly with Aquaman–I would strongly suggest Warner Brothers use this movie as the template for the Universe moving forward and just ignore those continuity errors. Joss Whedon definitely did both Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller dirty in his revision; the parallel difficult relationships between Flash and his wrongfully imprisoned father played against the antagonistic relationship between Ray and his father are really at the heart of the film, and give it an emotional depth and complexity that the Whedon version truly lacked. The Whedon plot merely served as a device for action scenes and explosions; the Snyder film actually has a plot, fleshes out the characters of the heroes more, and is truly an epic on the grand scale of the Richard Donner Superman films of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s–not an easy feat.

And can we just give the Amazons their own movie already?

I went into it skeptical, and when it was finished, was absolutely delighted to have had such an enjoyable experience that I didn’t even once notice that it was four hours long. And yes, I get that could have been a problem for a theatrical release, but outside of some things at the end–the dream sequence for Batman–I really can’t think of much that could have been cut from the running time. I also liked that the movie ended with the Darkseid cliffhanger, and the permanent establishment of the team. I don’t know what they are going to do from here out–I think both Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller are out, as well as Affleck–I don’t really pay much attention to casting news and things like that, nor do I care enough to go look it up, but it’s a shame. Both were perfectly cast, and while I can also see some issues with Miller anchoring a Flash film, I think he had the charm and charisma to pull it off if he had a great script.

And on that note, my errands and chores and writing aren’t going to do themselves, so I will talk to you tomorrow.

If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got The Time

One of the things I find fascinating about many people is their dedication to nostalgia; their insistence that some past time of their life was somehow this incredibly magical time of innocence (which it could conceivably have been); a utopia paradise of some sort where everything was right with the world and everyone was so happy and–you get the picture. It’s like how people glowingly refer to high school as one of the “best times of their lives” (which, frankly, is terribly sad and tells me more about their present circumstances than I’d care to know); the past wasn’t magic and neither were our childhoods. If they mean I liked life better before I knew how awful it can be, that I can understand–and I do think that is what they actually mean, even if it isn’t what they are actually saying: they preferred life when the bills and putting food on the table was someone else’s responsibility; when the biggest worries were who will I go to the Homecoming dance with and I have to study for that History test and so forth. But my teenaged years weren’t halcyon and rosy. The 1970’s was a very strange decade of reaction to the 1960’s–and for a queer kid, first trapped in a middle to upper middle class suburb of Chicago and then a small rural town in Kansas, it was hard. I’ve no desire to ever relive high school or go back to being a teenager. Sure, it might be easier to be a queer teen  in a Chicago suburb now–but I suspect it’s not that different in a rural high school in Kansas now than it was forty years ago.

Reading was always my escape from the pressures of a world into which I really didn’t fit–and one that from my earliest memories as a child I knew I didn’t belong in. Reading was a godsend for me, and I read ravenously. I was always being told to go outside and play instead of reading; the most effective punishments were the ones either prohibiting me from reading or limiting how much I could read, and the earliest signs of my obsessive/compulsive disorder were evident with my discovery of the mystery series for kids, which was the next gradual move for me as a reader from the Scholastic Book Fair mysteries. My goal has always been to finish collecting all the series I read and collected as a child: the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, The Three Investigators and Trixie Belden, as well as the lesser known ones like Biff Brewster, Ken Holt (over whom I had a weird bonding moment with James Ellroy), Rick Brant, Vicki Barr, Judy Bolton, Cherry Ames, Kay Tracey, and Connie Blair. (I also collected the Chip Hilton sports series.) I still have the copies I had as a child, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I discovered eBay and tried to finish collecting the series. I don’t have room in the Lost Apartment to display them proudly in a bookcase–I have far too many books; and many of them are boxed up and stored–but I refuse to rid myself of them, because I keep holding out hope that someday I will live in an apartment or condo or house where I can have a room filled with bookcases that will also serve as my office.

But eBay gradually led me to collectors’ and fan pages of these books on Facebook..occasionally someone on one of those pages will be selling a copy of something I need to complete my collections.  There is a generic page for series books in general, and then there are individual pages for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, respectively–and probably still others for the other series that I don’t know about. I know there are also fan websites and serious scholarship on the kids’ series–some of them make for interesting reading, if you have some free time (or are wasting time you should be spending on writing). Some of the fan websites also have conferences and trips–the Nancy Drew group, for example, has an annual trip to where one of the books was set, and tours and so forth to visit the places Nancy also went to look for clues in the course of her investigation. (They were in New Orleans a few years ago; I was going to register–it’s not cheap–until I realized it was more about being a fan than anything else.)

And boy, do these people take their series fandom seriously. I’m not as rabid or as devoted as the majority of them; periodically I might reread one of the series books (I’d love to write an essay about the Ken Holt series, which was darker and more hard-boiled than any of the others; which was why James Ellroy and I bonded over them–which is still so weird to me), but I don’t reread an entire series from beginning to end, and while I used to remember plot details quite vividly, as I’ve gotten older those memories are fading.

I’ve not watched the new CW series Nancy Drew–well, I watched the first episode but didn’t keep watching; primarily because I haven’t had time and Paul and I usually watch shows together–at least, I like to give him a chance to watch something I might enjoy before moving on to watch it on my own (like Riverdale). Maybe he’ll be interested in Nancy Drew, maybe he won’t; I thought he’d like Riverdale but he didn’t. Maybe Nancy Drew is something I’ll wind up watching while he’s working in the evenings; I don’t know. But I’ve also not seen the recent film adaptation, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, either. But boy, do these Nancy Drew fans take their Nancy Drew seriously. They were outraged that Nancy Drew had sex in the first episode (because Nancy of course never had sex in the series; I don’t even think she even enjoyed a chaste kiss from Ned in all 58 of the original books) and Ned Nickerson was black! Nancy Drew was not only having sex but she was having sex with a black teenager!

The pearls were clutched so tightly! And if you stuck a piece of coal up these people’s asses, it would have come out a diamond. There was a lot of moaning and whining about people’s childhoods being ruined (really? Mine is still just fine) and the “horrors of political correctness” and on and on and on. In other words, Nancy should be a virgin and only know white, straight, cishet people. Got it.

Anyway, Hulu recently announced that they are doing a Hardy Boys series; however, instead of Bayport the town is Bridgeport; their first case is their mother’s murder; and rather than being 18 and 17, their ages will be 16 and 12. Their father is off investigating the murder and so he deposits them with their aunt in Bridgeport, but they soon realize their mother’s death is somehow connected to the town–and everyone in town is a suspect.

Yes, these are significant changes to the original canon of the Hardy Boys, but also remember: The Mickey Mouse Club did two serialized versions of the Hardy Boys, making them also about 13 and 14. The Hardy Boys fans are fan with this, of course, and with the other changes Disney made…so what’s the problem? As someone pointed out, in response to all the whining and moaning about ruining characters and childhoods and “political correctness”, someone also commented, grumpily, “I suppose Chet will be slim, gay, and black”–which actually sounded kind of good to me, frankly. The character of Chet is overweight and loves to eat (kind of like Bess in the Nancy series) and also like Bess, his appetite and weight are the subject of lots of jokes, teasing and sometimes humiliation. Not really cool, if we’re being completely honest.

And yes, all of these people are grandparents with graying hair and are white people. All of this whining and complaining over two television series based on characters that have evolved and changed and been rewritten multiple times in the nearly hundred years they’ve been around–to appeal to  new generations of readers. The original versions of the books were all revised in the 1950’s and 1960’s because they were loaded with racial and ethnic stereotypes that were beyond offensive; naturally, the nice old white people prefer the original texts (big shock, right?).

And if any kids’ series need to be turned into television programs, can I vote for The Three Investigators and Encyclopedia Brown?

I am really tired of this whole “you’re ruining my childhood” nonsense. Unless they are traveling back in time to do so, your childhood hasn’t changed.

I’ve always wanted to write a book about kids’ series fans and conventions; I might just have to now. I mean, I get it–people don’t like change, and something that was beloved when you were a child you want frozen in amber forever. But I just wish these people would unpack their issues with the updates and changes–and nothing gets my gorge going more than the ever popular whine of every racist, misogynist, and homophobic piece of shit out there: politically correct. Sorry you don’t feel safe expressing your hateful bigoted opinions any more without consequence.

I’ve also always wanted to write my own middle-grade series; I used to think about that all the time when I was a kid, even up to coming up with characters and titles for the books in the series because of course I did. I don’t know if I can write middle-grade or not; but it’s worth a shot sometime.

And of course, I can talk for hours on the subject of the kids’ series. Perhaps someday I will.

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Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

Well, we made it to Monday again, Constant Reader, and I suppose that’s reason enough to be happy in these uncertain times, right?

Paul’s building officially goes on lock-down at three. He’s been going into the office, wearing gloves and maintaining social distancing, primarily to get things done that could only be done from there while preparing for the move to working from home. I’m quite relieved, frankly, that he won’t be going back into the office anymore; that’s one less thing I have to worry about. I am going to be working at the office on a hit-or-miss basis mostly; our clinic is still open for patients, but our STI clinic is closed for the duration (although there’s apparently a conference call this week between upper level department personnel and the Office of Public Health about that. Social distancing or no social distancing, in times of distress…people tend to hook up more, and the fatalism that comes with times of distress generally means condoms aren’t be used…I hope a protocol to keep both us and our clients safe can be found so we can commence with testing again); most of us from our department have been helping with screening the patients who arrive for appointments, to use the food pantry, or pick up prescriptions at the Aveeda pharmacy on the second floor.

Yesterday I reread Daphne du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now” and was once again, as I have been every time I’ve read it, by the mastery on display in that story. I will undoubtedly post a blog entry about it again–I started writing one yesterday–and when I was finished, I started reading Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”, which is a new-to-me story and one I’ve been meaning to get to for quite some time. Others have mentioned I need to read du Maurier’s “Ganymede” as well; it’s included in her collection The Breaking Point, which I have a copy of somewhere, but couldn’t put my hands on it yesterday, so this morning I downloaded the ebook. (And bravo to the du Maurier estate; it wasn’t that long ago that a lot of her work was unavailable as ebooks; they are all up now and ready to go, which is very cool and exciting for a du Maurier aficionado like myself. It means no more scouring eBay or aLibris for used copies of uncertain provenance and condition.) I hope to finish reading “Death in Venice” tonight; and get started on “Ganymede” either tonight or tomorrow.

I did manage to get some writing done; I revised a story for one of those blind-read submissions I was talking about earlier, and was very pleased to have the intellectual challenge of writing something again–even if it was simply a matter of revising. I am going to spend some time at some point today revising the other story for the other blind read; the Sherlock story’s deadline was pushed back a month so I can go ahead and focus on these other two stories–which, as I said, are merely revisions, which makes them a bit easier. I am hopeful doing these revisions will help me out in the long run and get me back into writing again, just as reading those short stories will get me back into reading.

We also started watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix this weekend. I had tried the first episode when the series originally dropped its first season whenever that was, and frankly, wasn’t too terribly impressed with it so stopped watching. Paul at some point over the last few months was over at a friend’s, who had it on in the background, and he suggested to me that we give it another whirl. Very glad we did; it’s extremely dark and incredibly well done; far superior to its sister show Riverdale (I can’t help but think how much better Riverdale would be if it aired on Netflix rather than the CW), and we are pretty much caught up in it now. I love that there’s a gay main character who is actually being allowed a love life (Ambrose) and a non-binary character who may or may not be a lesbian and is depicted carefully, honestly, and authentically; this is actually rather huge, and I am curious to see where the character of Susie goes.

Louisiana’s cases–in particularly, the confirmed in New Orleans–continue to rise every day, and as more testing is done I suspect will go through the stratosphere. There have been twenty deaths in Louisiana this far–fifteen of them in New Orleans–and I have yet to check the latest death/infection toll. Our rates are climbing must faster than Italy’s did; which is not a good sign, and our health care infrastructure here is going to be overwhelmed very quickly, if it’s not already happened. I suspect (and hope) that Crescent Care might become a designated COVID-testing drive thru site at some point this week; it only makes sense that we do–we have the perfect set up for it, really; the way our building was constructed, with the garage on the first floor with a different entrance and exit and the clinics on the two floors above–but I of course don’t make those calls. Ironically as this first started, I did think and hope that upper management would make that offer to OPH and CDC; I hope that we are going to be a part of the solution to this pandemic, rather than on the sidelines.

And let’s face it–for some of us who work there, this isn’t our first deadly pandemic.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines. Shelter in place if you can, Constant Reader, and have a lovely, quiet, safe and healthy day.

charlie

U Got the Look

This week, The CW debuted a new version of Nancy Drew. I sort of watched it Thursday night, and will probably watch again so I can pay better attention. It’s definitely a reboot, with a lot of changes–Nancy’s mom died much later in her life, for example, and there’s no Bess. The story is also set in Horseshoe Bay rather than River Heights, and Nancy has hung up her sleuthing cap since her mother’s death and is now working as a waitress in a diner. George Fayne isn’t a close friend but now her boss, and they don’t get along–I expect that to change. Ned Nickerson is not white–a change I liked a lot–and prefers to go by Nick. It’s also a bit more in the vein of Riverdale than the classic Nancy Drew stories, but let’s face it–the real Nancy as originally written is kind of insufferable–bit more on that later.

I’m also sure these changes will enrage the Nancy Drew fanbase–anything other than the way she was originally written by a lot of ghostwriters generally sets them off. I am not such a purist–I recognize that changes have to be made for a different medium, for one thing, and for another–as I said earlier, Nancy was a bit insufferable as originally written.

I did enjoy the movie a few years ago with Emma Roberts (it might be the only time I’ve ever actually enjoyed an Emma Roberts performance, frankly); a lot was changed from the books to the series.

Nancy Drew and I go back to my fifth grade year at Eli Whitney Elementary in Chicago. I was already reading as many mysteries as I could get my hands on–those Scholastic Book Fairs were my favorite part of school–and I was checking out as many mysteries from the library as I could. (This was also the period of time when I discovered Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries for children; the first I read was The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye.) My fifth grade teacher had a big table in the back of the room with books for kids on them; we were on the honor system. We could borrow a book but we were supposed to return it when we finished reading it. The first day of school I wandered back there and looked at the books on the table; the first title to jump out at me was The Secret of Red Gate Farm. Above the title was NANCY DREW MYSTERY SERIES, and on the cover was a picture of a girl with wavy blonde hair, wearing a sweater and a long skirt, hiding behind a tree and looking, her mouth wide open in shock, fear or surprise, staring at the entrance to a cave  as some strangely robed figures entered it. I took it back to my desk, and started reading it.

red gate farm

“That Oriental-looking clerk in the perfume shop certainly acted mysterious, ” Bess Marvin declared, as she and her two friends ended their shopping trip and hurried down the street to the railroad station.

“Yes,” Nancy Drew answered thoughtfully. “I wonder why she didn’t want you to buy that bottle of Blue Jade?”

“The price would have discouraged me,” spoke up Bess’ cousin, dark-haired George Fayne. Her boyish name fitted her slim build and straight-forward, breezy manner. “Twenty dollars an ounce!”

“Oriental-looking.”

Sigh. The great irony is that both the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were rewritten and revised to remove racist stereotypes and language…

Anyway, The Secret of Red Gate Farm enthralled me, as Nancy and her friends tried to help a young girl and her grandmother save Red Gate Farm from mortgage foreclosure while also trying to expose a ring of counterfeiters. There was a list of intriguing-sounding Nancy Drew titles on the back of the book, and back on the table in my fifth grade classroom there were three more titles: The Mystery at Lilac Inn, The Haunted Showboat, and The Clue of the Leaning Chimney. As I scoped around, there was another series novel, but it wasn’t Nancy Drew; it was the Dana Girls The Secret of the Old Well, allegedly written by the same person: Carolyn Keene.

Nancy Drew introduced me to the world of Grosset & Dunlap series–which were actually all produced, for the most part, by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. I eventually found myself reading–and collecting–many of those series, including the Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, Ken Holt, Rick Brant, Biff Brewster, Chip Hilton, and Judy Bolton, among others–I also wound up collecting Trixie Belden and the Three Investigators, too.

I always wanted to write a series like these when I was a kid; I even came up with a list of about forty titles I could use. I wrote one, actually, when I was in the fifth grade–called The Secret of the Haunted Mansion–which, to the best of my recollection, might be the first fiction I ever wrote; alas, it is lost in the mists of time. Periodically, I come back to the thought of writing such a series, but I don’t know that there’s a market for them anymore. Most of the series have gone out of print, with only Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, as far as I know, still available; Trixie Belden might be but I’m not sure. I still collect the books–it really pleases my OCD to have the series completed. I’m still missing a few from some of the harder to find series–like Biff Brewster and Ken Holt, and I do think I am missing a couple of Judy Boltons and Dana Girls as well–but I’ve stopped scouring eBay over the last few years because, well, money.

But at some point, I imagine I will go back and try to complete the series.

I do credit these series with a lot of my devotion to the world of crime and crime writing; while I always loved mysteries, it’s entirely possible I would have moved on to something else had I not discovered, and become addicted, to these series. These series led me eventually to Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, Charlotte Armstrong, and Ellery Queen; and those authors eventually led me to others…and wanting to write crime fiction of my own.

So, thank you, Nancy Drew. It’s kind of your fault.

Funny Face

Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day, you know?

Saturday night I watched a documentary about college football on ESPN, Football is US: The College Game. It was interesting–I didn’t know who Walter Camp was, but I’d heard the name before. I also knew who Amos Alonzo Stagg was–there’s a high school in Chicago named for him, and I also knew that the University of Chicago was an early power in college football, until they disbanded their team and stopped playing. It lightly touched on how college football parity helped desegregate the Southern universities–their football teams were mediocre, once other schools started recruiting, and playing, black players–but there was one line, when talking about the civil rights struggles in the 1960’s, and how Southern people, especially those in Alabama, focused on football as a source of pride for their state, that was particularly true and honest, and I wished they would have followed up on it some more: they didn’t like the way their state was being portrayed on the news, and felt like these representations of Southern states as hotbeds of racism was unfair.

Yes, indeed. It was incredibly unfair how the national news depicted Southern racism as how it actually existed in the real world. This resentment of how they are viewed by outsiders is keenly felt down here, and that sense of resentment is very key to understanding their behavior.

I reread the final few chapters of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and then planned out the final three, so I have a good shot at making my deadline of finishing the first draft by September 1. I also revised both “Moist Money” and “This Thing of Darkness” yesterday, so it was a fairly productive day for me on the writing front. Both stories need to be gone over again before sending them out into the world–both are rather dark stories; I sometimes shock myself with how dark I can go if I set my mind to it. (Fully cognizant of the notion that other people’s opinion of what dark is can vary wildly.)

We are still watching the third season of Thirteen Reasons Why, and I have to say, the show is both ridiculous and over the top–last night I said to Paul, “you know, this high school is completely fucked up–I can’t imagine anyone I went to high school with being murdered, let alone that almost everyone I was friends with would have a motive for killing another classmate”–but the show’s true appeal lies in the cast, how good they are in their roles, and the chemistry they have with each other. And let’s be honest–it hasn’t come remotely  close to Riverdale when it comes to plots going over the top. While watching last night, it occurred to me that the show is really kind of an Edge of Night type serial, only set in high school; every season’s plot has had something to do with death and crime. There has been at least one suicide, one suicide attempt, an almost-school shooting, several rapes–one particularly brutal one involving a young man and a broom handle–and so I can see why teenagers who’ve been through a trauma of some sort would find the show hard to watch.

I also watched Roll Red Roll, a horrifying documentary of the Steubenville rape case–which also is an exploration of rape culture in small towns–and that case was what initially inspired my own in-progress manuscript about the same thing; rape culture in a small town. Watching the documentary, and remembering how awful the story was as it unfolded–several other cases broke around the same time; there was another in Marysville, Missouri, and another in southern California, which were the subjects of another documentary–also made me see, again, what are the many problems and holes in the plot of the book I wrote on the subject, and what needs to be fixed about it.

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

Happy Monday, everyone.

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This Is It

I slept rather late this morning, did I not? It was a very good night’s sleep and I feel terrifically rested now. Which is a good thing, as I am braving the wilds of Costco later this morning (AIEEEE!). The objective is to get as many errands as possible done today, and to remain focused on my goals. The house is pretty well cleaned and organized; I just need to do the floors today and it’ll be good to go. The weather is also supposed to be peculiar today; from a high of seventy around noon to be followed by a nasty storm with high winds, after which the temperature is going to take a severe forty degree drop. #madness

You have to love the bipolar weather of January in New Orleans.

I watched another episode of Titans last night, the one in which we meet the Doom Patrol, and I have to say the show is really well done. The pacing is excellent; the hour (or forty-two minutes, or however long it is) flies past and the credits roll before you know it. The cast is young and attractive, and has the charisma or acting skills or a combination of the two to pull off their roles convincingly. As I said the other day, introducing a show about a team is never easy, as you have so many characters with back story that has to be told and/or explained. It’s incredibly easy to get bogged down in back story, but the writing of the show integrates the character back stories into the current story seamlessly. I am very impressed. I also watched another episode of Riverdale, and apparently missed one along the way somehow–or just didn’t remember it, but how would I not remember the appearance of Gina Gershon?–but it was fine. The show is kind of a train wreck, to be honestand yet I find myself being pulled back to it like a moth to a flame.

I also read a bit more of Pet Sematary last night; and now that the reader knows where the story is going–yes, Louis is crazed with grief and anger, not in his right mind, surely he isn’t going to dig up Gage and take him to the Micmac Burying Ground, is he? Oh yes he certainly is!–it seems as though the train wreck of the Creed family tragedy King is writing is well on its way down the tracks. The book’s pacing also picks up dramatically along the way; the more I reread the more I am convinced that the book is actually an under-appreciated masterpiece (at least one that I didn’t fully appreciate), and I am glad I am rereading it. As much as the book disturbs me, I cannot imagine what it would be like to read as a parent. I hope to finish reading it today, and move on to the first book of the Diversity Project.

I also spent some time reorganizing and cleaning out some of my kitchen cupboards yesterday; throwing away things that have been stored in there uselessly for years; there was even a bottle of salad dressing with a 2017 sell-by date on it, and now there’s more room in the cupboards. I also need to go through the cupboards with the dishes and so forth; I’ve just been cramming stuff in there when taking them out of the dishwasher and not really trying to organize the mess very much. I am also going to do another round of purging with the book cases.

A very ambitious plan for the first day of this three-day weekend, is it not?

I also need to run by Office Depot at some point this weekend, too.

And on that note, it’s time for me to dive back into the spice mines. Keep your fingers crossed for me, Constant Reader, that I’ll have the energy and motivation to get everything done that I need to get done today.

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Babe

It’s late Friday afternoon, and I am home already. The car maintenance stuff went extremely well, and I did some grocery shopping on the West Bank since I was already over there–and who knew there’s now a Five Guys on Manhattan Boulevard? I was torn between my usual Sonic and going to Five Guys; Five Guys won out in the end. I did console myself with the thought you can always come over here more often to shop, you know. And the Sonic is not going anywhere.

And I am now on my three-day weekend. Tomorrow I am off to Costco–woo-hoo!–and Sunday of course is the Saints NFC championship game. The city is, of course, awash in excitement today; everyone wearing the colors or a jersey, flags waving from the tops of cars, etc. I am going to try to get to Costco relatively early, come home, and then relaunch my workout program before coming home to do some cleaning and writing (I am also cleaning tonight). Sunday I pretty much assume I’ll be completely useless; I’ll be drained and exhausted one way or the other after the game…and then there’s Monday. Paul will be at work, and so I can go to the gym and spend the rest of the day writing. Maybe I can even get the Scotty finished once and for all on Monday? No, not likely; it’ll probably happen the following weekend, after which I can spend the rest of February finishing the first draft of the WIP before the madness of Carnival.

Christ, Carnival is late this year but it’s still just around the corner. #madness.

I also am going to launch myself back into the Short Story Project by reading and talking about all the stories in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, the fabulous anthology of crime stories inspired by the music of the Go-Go’s edited by the amazing Holly West. I also have my own collection coming out around the same time, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, so I will also be talking about those stories as well. And if I can find the time, I am hoping to work on some of the short stories I’ve written and are just in some kind of limbo, which is also kind of exciting. I am also excited to get back to watching Titans, and of course the Australian Open is also going on…and Schitt’s Creek is back. Huzzah! (So is Riverdale.)

And now tis back to the spice mines. Just thought I’d check in with you Constant Reader. I also hope you’re having a three-day weekend as well.

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Rhythm is a Dancer

Christ, it’s the Friday before Halloween. The Quarter is going to be full of gays from all over the country all weekend, most of them costumed for at least part of the time.

And 90% of them will have costumes that include either sexy or slutty in the official name: “Sexy Sailor,” “Slutty Nurse,” etc etc.

Boy, do I feel old–because even as recently as ten years ago I would be chomping at the bit to get down there, have a good time, ogle some pretty boys, and have a good time. Instead, I’ll be hunkered down here in the Lost Apartment all weekend, proofing and editing and revising and copy-editing. I also have some reading to do, and there’s this week’s Riverdale–I seriously don’t know why I still watch, other than the really attractive and charismatic cast, because the plots do not make any sense–so yeah, I probably won’t be setting foot outside the house until Monday.

Ah, my first New Orleans Halloween.

It was 1994, and I hadn’t met Paul yet. I had just started my new exercise and diet regimen in late August, and I had never been to anything like the New Orleans Halloween weekend before. I have always had a contentious relationship with my body, and this Halloween was going to be the first time I ever dared to wear a slutty Halloween costume; granted, I was simply going as an ancient Egyptian, which meant, of course, being shirtless. This was a big step for me–I was going to go out in public without a shirt on; and it was a big gay Halloween costume ball. I even bought a headdress to go with the little skirt I had made for the event, and did my eyes with mascara and drew a thick line around my eyes and out to the side with eyeliner. My eyes looked huge. 

I also stupidly wore gold glitter. I never made the glitter mistake again.

I had such a lovely time that weekend. It was, I think, one of the first and best times I ever had as an out gay man–how sad that it took to age thirty-three for that to happen; but it did take me a very long time to deprogram myself from everything I learned growing up. (I’m still finding, from time to time, that I’ve not made as much progress as I would have liked, or hoped, to have made by now) But it was one of the first times that I felt like I was actually a part of the gay community; and I’ve tried, over the years, to write about the sense of belonging one gets when one in is in a sea of gay men dancing to great music and everyone just wants to have a good time; a blessed respite from the dangers and horrors of the every day world. I also distinctly remember being out on the dance floor in the midst of all these happy men dancing (the song was “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys) and thinking, we are finding joy behind locked doors, forgetting everything that goes on outside and creating an oasis, kind of like in “The Masque of the Red Death.”

I wrote a story in my journal the next morning–while recovering over coffee–that was basically that; a gay adaptation of the Poe story. I’ve never revisited that story, but I just might, now that I am thinking about pulling together a collection of personal essays called Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life. So, yes, that’s yet another book I am currently working on. I have Bourbon Street Blues to proof, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories to go over, Royal Street Reveillon to finish, and my second short story collection, Once a Tiger and Other Stories, also in progress.

And I am also planning yet another collection, Monsters of New Orleans.

And there’s also the WIP.

This. Is. Fucking. INSANE.

Nothing like some creative ADHD, is there?

I have so much writing work to get done this weekend. And once again, I am having an attack of the lazies this morning. I even did laundry and some cleaning last night to free myself up for today’s work…and yet here I sit, lingering over coffee and social media and not really feeling particularly interested in getting to work.

And on that note, I should probably return to the spice mines.

Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

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Some Like It Hot

Our weather forecast for today is grim; thunderstorms and downpours and flash flooding. Happy Saturday! Right now, even at this early hour, it’s already grim and gray outside; yesterday my sinuses were bothering me–another sign, not only of impending heavy weather but that I’m getting old because I am predicting the weather with my body–and I was incredibly tired when I got home. I repaired to my easy chair and read some more of Bryan Camp’s The City of Lost Fortunes (it’s wonderful, preorder it now), and then watched the first episode of two Netflix series, the Lost in Space reboot and Troy: The Fall of a City. I enjoyed both–although of course with Troy, I know how it ends–and there was a moment when Helen was telling Paris the myth of Actaeon and mentioned the goddess Diana and I was all “wrong! Helen would have called her Artemis!” which then sent me into another spiral because Wonder Woman is also from Greek mythology yet her name is Diana…and did the Greeks have the name Diana, or was it Roman? Yeesh, my mind.

It’s getting darker and the wind is picking up.

The plan for today is to do some writing, do some cleaning, and finish reading Bryan’s book. I also need to catch up on Riverdale and Krypton. Heavy sigh. I am really happy with some of the work I’ve been doing this week, and need to stay focused. I want to get “Don’t Look Down” finished, and I need to write an introduction to the short story collection, and there’s another story that needs to be done, and I still haven’t work on that revision based on editorial notes on another story. As you can see, it never ends for one Gregalicious. But as I said, I’m enjoying the work–which I couldn’t say last year–and that’s always a plus. I think the direction in which I am taking the Scotty novel in Chapter Eleven is quite fun and different; whether I am right in that assumption or whether it’s more a symptom of my creative ADHD, I suppose we’ll see once we have the first draft completed. But I have to have a completed first draft in order to see, don’t I?

Heavy heaving sigh.

Anyway I’ve got two more stories read for The Short Story Project. First up is “Office at Night” by Warren Moore,  from Lawrence Block’s anthology In Sunlight and In Shadow:

Margaret heard the train rumble by as Walter looked at the papers on the desk. The cord on the window shade swung, whether from the trains’s vibrations or from the breeze through the window, she didn’t know. She couldn’t feel either, nor did she feel the blue dress–her favorite–clinging to her curves. All she saw was Walter, and all he saw were the files in the pool of light from the desk lamp.

She had put the papers in the file cabinet and rested her arm atop the folders for seemed like–could have been–a lifetime ago. The phrase brought a slight smile to Margaret’s face. Any time could be a lifetime, depending on how long you lived. And she had thought from time to time that she and Walter might have had a lifetime together. Before she had died.

I really enjoyed this story; which is about lost opportunities and melancholy. Margaret was a large woman while alive; tall and big boned, tauntingly called Large Marge by the cruel children in the small town where she grew up. This made her withdrawn and shy. As soon as she was able she moved to New York, moved into a rooming house, and got a job, slowly starting to build a life for herself and leave “Large Marge” behind. Then she accidentally is killed–not in a crime or anything, just an accident–and her ghost visits the office where she worked, and loved her boss–but that past history made her unable to speak up, unable to say anything, unable to make a try for happiness. Like I said, it’s more about that sense of sadness and melancholy than a story with beginning, middle and end; but it’s incredibly well written and that melancholy…wow.

The next story was “Still Life 1931” by Kris Nelscott, also in Lawrence Block’s  In Sunlight and in Shadow.

She first noticed outside Memphis: they didn’t ride segregated in the box cars. At the time, she was standing outside yet abotehr closed bank. The line of aggrieved customers wrapped around the block–men in their dusty pants, stained workshirts, caps on their heads; women wearing low heels, day dresses, and battered hats.

Lurleen looked just different enough to attract attention. Her green cloche hat was a bit too new, her coat a little too heavy. Her shoes were scuffed like everyone else’s. but hers were scuffed from too much travel, not age and wear.

This story is absolutely amazing, and one of the most powerful in this collection, which is saying a lot. Set in the early 1930’s, Nelscott captures the era perfectly; the failing banks and the desperation of people losing their savings; the racial issues in the deep South; and Lurleen’s own sense of who she is, of right and wrong. When the story opens, Lurleen, recently widowed, is taking the train to small towns and cities all over the South, closing bank accounts she’d opened years earlier and withdrawing all the cash. The story opens with her in line at one bank where a run has happened; the bank has closed “temporarily”, but the sign on the door doesn’t indicate any time when the bank might reopen. As the story progress, we learn that Lurleen, before her marriage, worked for the NAACP, going around the South and interviewing witnesses and survivors, documenting lynchings and racial violence in the South. The story is powerful; Lurleen is well developed, and I was sorry when the story ended because I wanted to know more about Lurleen and the work she had done, the work she was going to begin doing again. According to the author bio, Nelscott is planning to write more about Lurleen, which is kind of exciting; I certainly hope she does.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Smooth Operator

April Fool’s Eve!

I slept in this morning, after staying up much later than I intended last night. I’d read somewhere that you should stop looking at a screen of any kind–television, computer, phone, iPad–at least half an hour before going to bed to help with sleep, and frankly, I’ll try just about anything that will help in that regard; so I’ve started keeping a non-fiction book on my nightstand, to read for about half an hour every night before attempting sleep. The last two I read were The Black Prince of Florence and Joan Didion’s After Henry; last night I started onJon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. I couldn’t stop reading it, of course, and before I knew it, I’d read through the first two people he’d interviewed about their public shamings–Jonah Lehrer and Justine Sacco–and wanted to keep going; but I forced myself to put the book down because it was much later than I wanted to stay up and I was worried about not getting up this morning.

I was right.

It’s kind of interesting to be reading the Ronson book about how public shaming destroyed the lives of two people–one who did something terrible (Lerner) and the other who made a really dumb joke on Twitter that went viral–and Ronson is really a good writer; I actually have some sympathy for the people he is writing about. But this is another, perfect example of why Twitter terrifies and fascinates me at the same time. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to go viral in such a way on social media, but then again, I try to be very careful with social media. Is that cowardly? Perhaps it is, but i also don’t have time for arguing with people on social media, nor do I have an inclination to do so. I am frequently exposed to different viewpoints on my own social media–but as long as it is couched respectfully and is not in any way nasty or vicious, I like seeing points of view that are different than my own. (Homophobia, misogyny, and racism, however, are always deal-breakers. I never have any sympathy or interest in seeing that point of view.)

As you can tell, I am finding the book to be very interesting.

We also finished watching Season 2 of Santa Clarita Diet, which is hilarious. I highly recommend it. I also got caught up on Krypton and Riverdale yesterday, and did some more writing–not very good writing, mind you; for some reason “Don’t Look Down” is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to write, but I am determined to get that first fucking draft done this weekend. I also want to get some revisions done today. I am going to run some errands and go to the gym in a little bit, and then I am hoping to be able to get home and sit down and just write for the rest of the afternoon, which is going to require me shutting down all social media and closing my web browsers. I think I’ll clean the windows today as well, and maybe do some cleaning…which is the best way to deal with getting stuck on writing.

As I said, I finished reading Joan Didion’s After Henry this week.

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It’s a collections of essays she wrote that were published in various places, and tackle various subjects in that amazing style of writing she had; the way she constructs sentences, and puts words and paragraphs together, is so amazing that it’s hard sometimes to drink in what she is actually saying. These essays, about politics in Los Angeles; natural disasters in southern California; the Central Park jogger case in New York; the political conventions in 1988; the Reagan administration and the face it presented to the world; and several others, are pretty amazing and also serve as a kind of time capsule of recent history. I am really looking forward to reading another non-fiction Didion book, and possibly another of her novels.

I had finished reading The Black Prince of Florence before I took up the Didion.

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As Constant Reader is aware, I am fascinated by the Medici family of Florence, who rose from being merchant class to one of the wealthiest banking families in Europe to popes and queens to royalty in their own right. Alessandro de Medici, the little known subject of this biography, was the first Medici to attain royalty on his own; due to the machinations of his uncle, Pope Clement VII (better known to history as the pope who refused Henry VIII’s request for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon), he became Duke of Florence and the republic came to an end. Alessandro was illegitimate, and there is no proof of whom his mother was; his legitimate sister, Catherine, became queen of France. Fletcher does an excellent job of explaining the tumult of the times; how Italy had been riven by a series of wars between different city-states as well as between France and the Holy Roman Empire, both with extensive claims to various places on the peninsula, along with all the machinations in Rome for the papacy. The question of whether Alessandro’s mother was an African slave, or that was simply a slander to discredit him during his lifetime by his enemies, is one that Fletcher takes up; she also explains the differences between modern day views of race as opposed to those of the sixteenth century. I found the book to be endlessly fascinating, and really helped me get a better grasp of just how the Medici family became royalty. Alessandro’s sister Catherine is probably the most famous (notorious?) member of the family; I have numerous biographies of her on my shelves I look forward to reading.

I’ve also read some more short stories for the Short Story Project. First up is”A Poison That Leaves No Trace” by Sue Grafton, from Kinsey and Me:

The woman was waiting for me outside my office when I arrived that morning. She was short and quite plump, wearing jeans in a size I’ve never seen on the rack. Her blouse was tunic length, ostensibly to disguise her considerable rear end. Someone must have told her never to wear horizontal stripes, so the bold red-and-blue bands ran diagonally across her torso with a dizzying effect. Big red canvas tote, matching canvas wedgies. Her face was round, seamless, and smooth, her hair a uniformly dark shade that suggested a rinse. She might have been any age between forty and sixty. “You’re not Kinsey Millhone,” she said as I approached.

“Actually, I am. Would you like to come in?” I unlocked the door and stepped back so she could pass in front of me. She was giving me the once-over, as if my appearance was as remarkable to her as hers was to me.

This story is kind of clever, with a surprise twist at the end that caught me off guard; a woman hires Kinsey to prove that her niece murdered the woman’s sister for the insurance money. It’s fraud, all right, but not what Kinsey was originally led to believe, and the twists and turns are spooled out very cleverly.

The next up was another Sue Grafton tale from Kinsey and Me, “Full Circle.”

The accident seemed to happen in slow motion–one of those stop-action sequences that seem to go on forever though in tryth no mare than a few seconds have elapsed. It was Friday afternoon, rush hour, Santa Teresa traffic moving at a lively pace, my little VW holding its own despite the fact it’s fifteen years out of date. I was feeling good. I’d just wrapped up a case and I had a check in my handbag for four thousand bucks, not bad considering the fact that I’m a female private eye, self-employed, and subject to the feast-or-famine vagaries of any other freelance work.

I glanced to my left as a young woman, driving a white compact, appeared in my driver’s-side mirror. A bright red Porsche was bearing down on her in the fast lane. I adjust my speed, making room for her, sensing that she meant to cut right in front of me. A navy blue pick-up truck was coming up on my right, each of us jockeying for position as the late afternoon sun washed down out of a cloudless California spring sky. I had glanced in my rearview mirror, checking traffic behind me, when I heard a loud popping noise. I snapped my attention back to the road in front of me. The white compact veered abruptly back into the fast lane, clipped the rear of the red Porsche, then hit the center divider and careened directly into my path. I slammed on my brakes, adrenaline shooting through me as I fought to control the VW’s fishtailing rear end.

This story opens with one of the best descriptions of the slow-motion horror of an accident on the highway; how it happens right before your eyes and how you basically have to rely on instinct and automatic reaction to try to avoid the accident because your brain is so busy processing what it’s seeing. The story is worth reading for that alone, but it turns into a case when the mother of the girl driving the compact, Caroline Spurrier, hires Kinsey because it turns out the accident didn’t kill Caroline; she’d been shot. The man driving the truck also has disappeared. From that point on, it’s a great example of a private eye story.

Sigh. I’m going to miss Sue Grafton.