Well, yesterday was actually quite lovely. I slept extremely well Thursday night and of course, the Anthony Award nominations turned my week around when the news broke that night (I still can’t believe Bury Me in Shadows is nominated TWICE), and I did spend a lot of yesterday trying to thank everyone for their congratulatory tweets, posts, comments and emails–I can’t think of anything lovelier than having to say thank you to people for their kindness–AND then Netflix renewed Heartstopper for an additional two seasons, which warmed the cockles of my cold, dark little heart. I wasn’t able to get as much done as I would have liked–but I did get some important thinking done, and today I am really going to start working on my edits. When I got home from work yesterday I did a lot of cleaning and organizing in order to get it out of the way before the weekend, precisely so I could focus on my edits. We spent the evening, once I’d made dinner (Swedish meatballs over egg noodles, if you were wondering) watching this week’s Under the Banner of Heaven and then one of the two new episodes of Hacks before we turned in early for the evening. I slept marvelously again last night, and feel very rested and a-rarin’ to go this morning. I do have some errands to run–nothing major that will take me away for long; I need to get the mail and put gas in the car–and then I can settle in for a day of editing and writing, which I am strangely looking forward to doing.
It was a rollercoaster of a week, ending withe incredibly pleasant high of having two Anthony Award nominations for the same book–still having trouble wrapping my mind around this, to be honest; I don’t know if it’s ever happened before–but I am not the only person with more than one nomination. Tracy Clark is nominated for Best Novel for Runner and for Best Short Story; S. A. Cosby is nominated for Best Novel (Razorblade Tears), Best Short Story, and Best Anthology for Under the Thumb. I feel confident no one’s ever been nominated for three Anthonys in the same year, as well; Shawn just keeps breaking down barriers with his extraordinary work. The nominations list is also one of the most diverse I’ve seen in all my years in this business, which certainly also bears remarking on.
As always, I still have a ridiculous amount of work to get done; but now that I am all rested this morning and feeling great about things, I am not so worried or stressed about it as I was yesterday or earlier in the week (being tired is so unpleasant, and just opens to the door to stress and anxiety and depression); we will see, of course, how long that will last very shortly, won’t we? I have hopes–although I know going out into the blisteringly hot and humid day to run errands will suck the energy right out of me, sending me quite literally to my easy chair; but I can work in the easy chair–if I make myself do it, which I feel like I can do today. I don’t think I am going to make the deadline for that short story–its fine, really; I was thinking about it last night and realized working on it has been a way of pushing off getting the edits on my book finished because I just can’t face working on it again, but I am over it already. I still don’t know the middle of the story, and I can always finish it some other time and get it done and try to sell it somewhere. It’s a pretty good story–I just need to figure out the middle of it.
Sigh. I hate the middle.
But looking around the desk this morning, there’s things I need to put away and filing that needs to be done; I also got down my Scotty books (with the pages marked with sticky notes for each character’s history and background; this was the initial step to creating a Scotty Bible to make continuity easier for me) and have them stacked neatly on the right corner of the desk underneath some others I’ll be using for Chlorine research (should I ever get around to that, I am beginning to sense the slippage of time through my hot little fingers). This is always the first step of writing a Scotty book; gathering the copies of the old for references. I have the prologue-opening spoof of a more famous book’s opening selected and even written somewhat (A START!) and I am doing some research–I am going to pay homage with the book to two Nancy Drew mysteries (The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat) in this plot/story, so I actually had to sit down and reread both books (another blog post there, but you’ll have to be patient, Constant Reader) this past week–more of a skim, really; just to get some feel for them again since I didn’t really remember as much of them as I would have liked–and yes, I have thoughts (hence the blog post which I’ve already started).
But as I said, I have edits to dig into today, and some filing to do before I run the errands, so it’s perhaps best that I bring this to a close this morning and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow morning.
And so we have reached the last day of 2021 at last (it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has been 2021 for a year; 2022 is going to seem even stranger, methinks). I’m on a holiday, so there’s no work for the day-job to be done today, but there’s plenty of other things that need to be done. I need to work on the book some more, I need to clean, I need to run some errands, and I’d also like to do some reading. It’s a lot, I know, and who knows how much I can or will actually get done around here? Yesterday I did data entry, made condom packs and rewatched the original Clash of the Titans (starring a very young Harry Hamlin and his nipples; seeing this in the theater made me a Harry Hamlin fan for life) while I did so. I also was able to pick up two boxes of home COVID-19 tests (the day-job procured you them for the staff as a preventive measure, which are apparently like gold these days.
It was a very challenging year in many ways. I suspect that if I looked back at a list of my goals for the year, two of the most key things–getting an agent and finishing Chlorine–would not be able to be checked off the list. My faulty memory–I keep, for one thing, conflating the last two years as one and the same mentally–has something to do with it. I know I wanted to write more short stories in 2021, and I don’t know that I succeeded at that. I know I had a couple of stories of which I am very proud come out this past year (my first ever attempt at writing a Sherlock Holmes story for one), and of course I finished writing two books while trying to finish yet a third under contract, and trying to get Chlorine done.
I always feel sort of weird at the end of the year when I compile my favorite things (books, movies, television) because I never limit myself to things that were new to the year, but rather new to me during the year; I am always so woefully behind on everything I read and watch that it doesn’t seem fair to leave off things that didn’t debut in 2021. Besides, it’s always kind of fun, I think, to remind people of things they themselves might have missed and forgotten about. But when I started thinking about all the books I read this past year, I would have sworn that I hadn’t read this much, or that I couldn’t have possibly read this many books–and I know I am also forgetting some, and these are the ones that stand out enough to be remembered. My favorite reads of the year were, in no particular order, The Turnout by Megan Abbott; The Collective by Alison Gaylin; Dream Girl by Laura Lippman; The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews (I read three or four Andrews novels this past year, and loved them all, frankly); Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby; A Beautiful Crime by Christopher YBollen; Yes Daddy by Jonathan Page-Ramage; The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris; These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall; Invisible City by Julia Dahl; and By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl. I also read a lot more cozies than I generally do, which were quite fun–I highly recommend checking out Leslie Budewitz, Vivien Chien, Sherry Harris, Ali Brandon, Miranda Harris, and Carolyn Haines, among many others–my TBR pile is nothing if not a treasure trove of terrific reading–and I am hoping to get even more reading done in the new year as well.
As for movies, I also watched a lot of movies. I saw a lot of classic cinema of the past I’d never seen before–my Cynical 70’s Film Festival had some marvelous entries this past year–as well as revisited some favorites. I greatly enjoyed Dune, which I thought was incredibly well done, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a great super-hero film, with just the right amount of spectacle, humor, and humanity to ground it in enough reality that an audience could relate to it. I don’t remember any other new films that we saw in this past year, but I am sure there were some–the direct-to-streaming/limited theatrical release model for the pandemic ensured that I saw some things much sooner than I probably would have otherwise–but give me a break, I am still on my first cup of coffee after a lovely and deep night’s sleep.
Television again is something a bit blurry for me; the lines between 2020 and 2021 also blurring a bit here. I know we loved Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso (a true gem of a show), The Mandalorian, Elité, Superman and Lois (probably the best version of Superman since the first two Christopher Reeve films), the original Gossip Girl (which is winding down now with a last season that is rather disappointing, alas), Hacks,One of Us is Lying, Cruel Summer, and Only Murders in the Building, which was also a jewel. But maybe my favorite show of the year was HBO’s It’s a Sin, which was not only well done, but powerful and thought-provoking. I had debated whether I wanted to see it or not; entertainment about HIV/AIDS, particularly about the height of the plague, has never sat well with me–either pandering nonsense or heavy-handed. The gold standard for me has always been Longtime Companion, but after watching I had to say It’s a Sin belongs up there. It was hard to watch at times–and I realized that the reason was the characters were all the same age that I was when it all started, which was a big part of it–but it also made me acknowledge and understand any number of things about myself and my past; namely that I had never grieved, just going numb at one point and deciding to keep moving forward and not think about anything. Watching the show brought back a lot of memories which, while painful at times, was necessary and needed.
I also spent time writing and working on two novellas, “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger”; one thing I really want to be able to do in the new year is get the novella collection together as well as another collection of short stories. Lots of plans for the new year, including a new Scotty novel I’ve been itching to get to, and another stand alone, in addition to Chlorine. I was able to visit my parents twice this past year, and I was also about to make it to New York and then Boston for Crime Bake, which was simply marvelous. I have lots of travel plans for the new year that I am hoping new pandemic variants aren’t going to jettison–I really do want to be around writers again, seriously–and over all, the year wasn’t as terrible as it easily could have been (2022, do not take this as a challenge). I got a new computer, paid off a lot of debt, and over all, I have to say, all things considered, 2021 wasn’t altogether terrible. I wish I had been more productive, but I also wish that every year.
And on that note, this next chapter isn’t going to write itself, is it? Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you next year!
One of the things I’ve greatly enjoyed over the last few years has been the sea change in how publishing views works by non-white and non-straight authors; the push for more diverse voices in the publishing community has already borne wonderful fruit. I’ve been saying for years that the world of crime fiction was in danger of getting stale again, much as it did in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; particularly the private eye novel. The arrival of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller on the scene shook things up and shook things out; the private eye novel got a much-needed shot in the arm of adrenaline with these three women and the others their work inspired; I strongly believe the move toward diversity is going to bear fruit in much the same manner–and it already has, frankly; the works of diverse writers like S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Alex Segura, Tracy Clark, Cheryl Head, and so many others have joined the great pioneers like Walter Mosley and the wonderful Barbara Neely to open up new perspectives on crime and crime fiction; our society and world; and again, this was desperately needed–and is necessary every so often, for our genre to refresh and expand and become more inclusive. We’re also seeing more queer books being sent out into the world from the big houses in New York, which is also incredibly exciting (another shout out to Yes Daddy By Jonathan Parks-Ramage and A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen).
It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of crime fiction.
Noir has always been one of my favorite sub-genres of crime fiction, and I always enjoy reading modern takes on it. I want to write more noir, quite frankly; Chlorine would be the first of at least four I want to write, if not more (for now, I have ideas for four of them, with Chlorine being the most full formed). I always enjoy modern takes on noir–Laura Lippman’s Sunburn was quite marvelous, as was Christa Faust’s Money Shot and Choke Hold)–and of course, S. A. Cosby is a master of rural Southern noir; both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears are destined to be considered classics, I think.
So, I was very curious to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s take on modern noir, Velvet Was the Night. It took me a very long time to finish–which is not indicative of the quality of the book, I hasten to add–because after I read so much during the post-Ida power outage, I kind of broke my brain and thus haven’t been able to really focus as much on reading as I would like; yesterday after the LSU game I sat down and finished it with Georgia-Kentucky on as background noise.
And what a fun ride it was.
He didn’t like beating people.
El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the stupidest possible way.
Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess.That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.
No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.
He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El Güero had been at him again.
The recent rise of Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been meteoric, although I am sure to her it has seemed anything but. I read her terrific vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, a while back, loved it, and have been following her career ever since as she has turned out novels at a terrific rate–Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, Mexican Gothic–all of which have been critically acclaimed and sold very well; I love that she bounces from genre to genre–horror to fantasy to crime; even bouncing around in the sub-categories of the crime genre. This is only my second read of her work–I have them all, of course–and had been meaning to get around to her take on noir with a Mexican flourish for quite some time. (I am really sorry I broke my brain with all the reading I did after the power went out; I greatly enjoyed this book, but it was so hard for me to focus for some reason…but am glad I sat down yesterday with the book, determined to finish it at last.)
One of the things that strikes me about Moreno-Garcia’s work is that I am seeing Mexico, a place I greatly love, through a fresh new perspective; like all Yanquis, I always view Mexico through the prism of a tourist. I’ve always wanted to write about Mexico, and have several short stories in the files that are set there (I did write one erotica story as Todd Gregory set in Acapulco; from the perspective of a tourist, of course: “Oh, What A Friend I Have in Jesus”)…but reading Moreno-Garcia makes me aware of how scant my knowledge of our Southern neighbor is–all of the counties south of the Rio Grande, frankly–which is a stinging indictment of our education system. (Don’t even get me started on the concept of Latin America vs. “America”) I know very little of Mexican history after the Spanish conquest, other than the Mexican War and the French empire set up under a Hapsburg by Napoleon III during our civil war. I know very little history of any of the countries that make up the rest of the American continents, really–and isn’t that more than a little bit disgraceful? I also know very little about their cultures, their politics, and what goes on there; a quick glance through the news also will show very little information or news being reported about those non-United States/Canada American countries, which is really a shame.
Velvet Was the Night is set un 1971, a particularly politically rife period in Mexico. The US was terribly concerned about communism being spread by the Soviets in what has always been considered the American soft underbelly–I mean, look at our reaction to Cuba–and there’s no question that CIA operatives and money were working to subvert Communism while supporting borderline Fascist governments because that was preferable to Washington than another potential Soviet satellite state in our hemisphere. The vast paranoia of that time–which really lasted from 1945-1990, really–cannot be underestimated or understated. By rooting her story in actual events of 1971–the crackdown of the Mexican government on dissidents–Moreno-Garcia slyly gives us a taste of how American foreign policy of the time affected everyone in Mexico, as well as a history lesson. (One of the great modern deceptions of our society is this idea that we always act benevolently as a nation; we’re doing this for your own good.) The book has two point of view characters; one, depicted in the opening above, is “Elvis”, a very young man who works as a thug, basically, for an oppressive group of anti-Communists that try to infiltrate dissident groups and haunt protests in order to make them turn violent, so the military can intervene on behalf of the “people.” Elvis grew up very poor and sometimes imagines what his life would be like if he were able to pursue his primary interests–educating himself and music. He doesn’t know what his future holds but is vaguely aware the path he is on–violence and more violence–will not end well. Over the course of the book he begins to question the values he’s been taught to believe in his gang, and begins to aspire to get out of it.
The other main character is Maite, a legal secretary barely getting by on her low salary and barely able to afford food. Her car has been in the shop unclaimed because she cannot afford the mechanics’ bill. She leads a lonely and solitary life, has a very vivid imagination and fantasy world she prefers to inhabit, colored strongly by her love of romance comic books and the music she likes to listen to. Maite’s lovely neighbor, Leonora, asks her to feed her cat while she is away, and when she agreed, Maite unknowingly enters the world of political struggle and upheaval. The riot depicted in the first chapter, that Elvis helps engineer? A friend of Leonora’s has taken pictures that prove that the riot was started by government forces, and those two rolls of film are the McGuffin everyone in the book is after–except poor innocent Maite, who, like any main character in a great Hitchcock film, becomes involved in something life threatening by simply agreeing to feed a neighbor’s cat–something she resents agreeing to do. When Leonora doesn’t come back, Maite starts looking for her–primarily motivated by the fact she can’t afford to keep feeding the car, and Leonora promised her money for feeding it–money she needs to get her car back. Motivated by her own poverty, Maite finds herself getting involved more and more in this clandestine world, and her own life is in danger soon.
The true strength of the book lies in the careful characterizations of both Elvis and Maite; two desperate people trapped by poverty in lives they want to escape, and the parallel journeys they both follow that lead their paths to cross; and the richness of the reality of what life in Mexico City was like during the turbulent time when the book is set. Moreno-Garcia shows us, as she did in Certain Dark Things, what the reality of life is like in one of the world’s largest cities, the reality the tourists rarely, if ever, get a chance to see. And while the hopelessness of both their situations seem unresolvable at times, the pacing is strong and the story construction so tight, and you the readers finds yourself rooting for them both to get out safely.
I really loved this book, and am sorry my inability to focus forced me to take so long to finish reading it. It’s extraordinary, and I recommend it highly.
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.
Monday morning and another week of work staring me in the face.
Yesterday was rather pleasant, as Sundays generally tend to be more so than any other day of the week. I slept in, as I have been doing a lot lately on the weekends (thank you medication!) and then I spent about two hours with Razorblade Tears, S. A. Cosby’s thought-provoking and interesting thriller–a very worthy follow-up to last year’s terrific Blacktop Wasteland. After that, I started moving computer files around in an attempt to get better organized, which was a rather dreadful and tedious chore, but listening to the Per Shop Boys’ Pop Art (aka their greatest hits) made it somewhat more bearable, quite frankly. I also went to the gym and had a terrific workout that felt great; I am always amazed at how much better my Sunday workouts are compared to those on days that have work-responsibilities, and I felt and looked so pumped when I left the gym–something I never feel on the weeknight workouts. I also had a great stretching session (I also stretched at home on Saturday; I think I am going to start going on Saturdays to do some cardio…we’ll see. Football season is also looming…), and felt really good when I got home. I also registered for New England Crime Bake in November, which means a visit to Boston and (hopefully) New York as well. YAY!
I’m also trying something new this morning–no cappuccinos, just regular coffee. This could very easily turn out to be a huge mistake–huge–but it’s something I wanted to try. I slept okay last night–woke up a few times, but was able to fall back asleep–and I am pretty sure I can function with a lot less caffeine than I usually have on these early mornings. I guess I am about to find out one way or the other, right? I’m also going to make a to-do list for this week once I get a little bit more awake this morning; and I am going to try to actually follow it. It’s very easy for me to get off track–shiny object! Look!–but it is definitely something I need to try to get back into the habit of working on. I want to get several more chapters of Chlorine written, and I also want to get some things revised/reworked this week–I want to get a few more stories out for submission by the end of July; you can’t sell anything if it’s just sitting in your computer–and getting organized is crucial for me getting things done, period.
I’ve been feeling fairly decently about my writing lately; not sure what’s changed (the chemicals in my body? Thank you, medication) but I’ve been feeling pretty confident. Maybe it’s because I’ve done so much work in this last month? Maybe it’s because the work has gone really well? Maybe, maybe, maybe. Who knows?
I am enjoying watching the Olympics, but it feels weird not watching the way we have in the past. NBC’s coverage is, as always, horrible and cheesy (really makes me miss the days when ABC did the Olympics and treated sports reporting like, you know, actual journalism), but it’s always fun seeing the athletes competing and being emotional and so forth, and there are always lovely Olympic stories. I was also very delighted to wake up to see that our swim team once again won the gold in the mens’ 4 x 100 swim relay–I also loved when they show the one from Beijing with the amazing finish when Jason Lezak pulled out that amazing final leg and stunned France at the wall; that was one of the most exciting moments in Olympic history that Paul and I can recall–I know we both leaped up and were screaming and jumping up and down (also because we wanted to see Michael Phelps break the record for most gold medals at a single Olympics, and this race was crucial for that)–and even rewatching it is almost as exciting as witnessing it as it happened.
This is why I love sports, you know? I am still floating from the 2019 LSU season, to be honest.
And on that note, I should probably head into the spice mines and get my act together for today.
I overslept (for me) again this morning; which felt nice; I’ll take oversleeping over insomnia any day of the week, frankly, and this morning I am going to swill coffee, read some more of S. A. Cosby marvelous Razorblade Tears, and then will write for a while before going to the gym later on in the early afternoon. I still haven’t gotten phô yet–maybe next weekend I can make to the Lilly Cafe and finally get some.
Yesterday saw me relaxing and organizing and cleaning for most of the day, at an incredibly casual pace–so casual, of course, that I didn’t get everything finished that I wanted to get finished (natch); but progress was made and I will always take some progress over not making any. I finished writing Chapter 2 of Chlorine yesterday, also setting up Chapter 3 to be written for today (after some reviewing of Chapters 1 and 2 before getting started on that today). I like that I am starting to feel connected to this manuscript; it’s finally taken root in my head and all the other considerations about it no longer matter to me other than the two most important: that I finish writing it, and that i write the best book I possibly can.
The whole Chlorine thing is remarkably improbable about how it came to be in the first place. I’ve always wanted to write about 1950’s Hollywood and the gay closet/underground that existed there; it was an incredibly turbulent time, with television stealing film audiences, HUAC investigating Communists, and J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI going after gay men and lesbians. It was also during this time that the biggest closeted movie star perhaps in Hollywood history, Rock Hudson, came to success–and there were plenty of other closet cases on the headlining pictures with their names above the title: Montgomery Clift and Tab Hunter–and plenty who may have been bisexual but definitely had experiences with men, like Marlon Brando, Anthony Perkins, James Dean, and so on. I idly wrote about this notion I had for a noir set during that time, with the main character a hustler with no talent but a lot of good looks and charm, that opens with another closeted actor’s nude, dead body being found in the morning on Santa Monica beach–only the drowning victim also had chlorine in his lungs, so he clearly drowned in a swimming pool and his body was moved. I riffed on this concept here on the blog for a little bit, and then thought nothing of it.
Yet Chlorine landed with my peers in the crime writing community for some reason–I got a lot of tweets and DM’s about what a great idea it was, and that I needed to write it. Some people continued pestering me about it, enough time and enough people, for me to go ahead and slot it into my writing schedule….but even then I kept putting it off and not taking it or myself seriously; was I the right person to write such a book? Is this interest in such a book even something that could turn into sales or whatever? You know, the usual self-doubt that plagues me on a daily basis. I sat down and wrote a very rough first chapter several years ago, just to see if I could get the tone right, and the voice properly done; I was rather pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, and so I put aside any thought of imposter syndrome and figured, okay, I CAN do this.
But the syndrome came again when the calendar time to write the book rolled around; I spent the last month or so writing anything but this manuscript…and finally sat down to revise and reshape that first chapter so that it set up the second even better, and I also had an idea of how to do the second as I worked on the first. It took me a few days, but I now have a very nice 3700 word second chapter written; and today I am going to work on writing the third. I wanted to wait until August and spend that entire month writing it, but finally decided that I was being decidedly un-confident, so while I still want to have the first draft finished by the end of August, I decided to go ahead and get started on it in the meantime. I still want to work on Scotty for the rest of the year, from September on, but there’s also a lot of other things I need to get done, so I need to stop being lazy and get my ass into my chair and writing.
We watched the Olympics some yesterday–I am amazed at the sports I couldn’t care less about most of the time but will watch avidly during an Olympics–but it again seems weird that there’s no audience or crowd…and this whole weird vibe these Olympics are giving off–no you smoked weed so you’re banned; you’re a serial sexual assaulter so we’ll make accommodations for you–has kind of tarnished the whole thing for me in some ways. There has always been cheating and stupidity at the Olympics (another example of how media has brainwashed us all into the mythology of the Olympics), but for some reason this year it seems more intolerable than usual. But I love watching the US swimmers–it’s weird without Michael Phelps in the pool–and I will undoubtedly watch more, especially the gymnastics.
I also figured out last night how to change a story I started writing at some point during the last decade and make it actually work–“The Brady Kid”–and while the new idea I have for it may not work after all, it’s an interesting idea for a story and something I definitely want to try writing.
And on that note, Razorblade Tears is calling me, and so it’s off to the spice mines for a bit to read, swill coffee, and prepare to start writing.
Well, I over slept this morning. As someone who regularly suffers from insomnia, you can imagine how weird it felt to wake up, look at the alarm, and see that it was after nine (yes, nine is what I consider oversleeping; on days when the alarm isn’t needed I generally rise sometime between seven and eight); yet at the same time it was kind of delightful. I feel very rested this morning, which is definitely a good thing, so even though my morning hours were cut back by sleeping, I can still spend some time reading S. A.Cosby’s delightful Razorblade Tears all while still being able to get the writing and organizing done today that I need to get done. Huzzah!
And I also need to get to the gym this afternoon as well, around one-ish/one thirty.
Yesterday was a bit odd, if I do say so myself. I intended to get some writing done, and do some cleaning and organizing. But writing yesterday’s blog entry put me into a weird state of mind, also partially triggered by starting to write “Wash Away Sins”, and I wound up getting down my Todd Gregory short story collection, Promises in Every Star and Other Stories to see if I had, indeed, included “Smalltown Boy” in it the way I had originally thought I had. The answer is I didn’t; I originally intended to but finally pulled it because, while there is a tiny bit of a sex scene in it, it wasn’t then and never has been considered an erotic short story (or porn, if you will) and so I did pull the story–even though I didn’t remember pulling it. This also reminded me that not only has one of my favorite short stories never been collected into either of my short story collections, but that it was available to go into my next one, This Town and Other Stories; it fits better into a crime story collection anyway, even though the crime isn’t the heart of the story, the aftermath of the crime does drive it–which also makes me want to write “Wash Away Sins” all the more. I do have another story that fits into the same universe, “Son of a Preacher Man,” which is definitely erotica (and is available in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories) but is also definitely in the voice of “Smalltown Boy” and “Wash Away Sins,” which is also the voice for “A Holler Full of Kudzu”, which had me wondering yesterday if I should actually put them all into a single book–a novella and short stories, all from the same voice and all set in an around Corinth, Alabama…which also sparked my imagination in a million different ways; such was the state of my mind yesterday.
This also made me remember, or think about, another story or two I had published way back in the day under a pseudonym, “The Troll in the Basement” and “The Snow Queen”; neither of which had ever been published in either of my collections. Both are more like horror than anything else (although “The Snow Queen” has some erotic elements to it), and I had used a pseudonym which I’d hoped to use as my “horror” brand, but it wasn’t a good pseudonym (it sounded like a soap opera character more than anything else) and I only used it twice….so those stories are just kind of amorphously out there. Needless to say, I then had to track down copies of all these stories, and reread them, just to see what needed to be done with them, and then of course I also tracked down the unpublished novella, Spellcaster, which I then spent some time rereading and trying to decide if it could be turned queer and how much work would that entail. I just didn’t really see how I could add 30k plus words to it as it stood, and then realized, maybe the ending isn’t really the ending, and maybe the story goes on from there? And my fevered brain started working and I thought, yes yes this will work and will be fucking clever so I started writing a gazillion notes and then the next thing I knew the evening had rolled around.
I find it both amusing and terrifying that I have work lying around that I have completely forgotten about.
Which is inevitably why it’s important for me to go back and reread my work. I kind of need to reread Dark Tide, if for no other reason is that it’s an offshoot of the Corinth Alabama stories (the main character is from Corinth, even if the book is set elsewhere), not to mention this is where Scotty’s sort of nephew Taylor hails from, which means now the Scotty books are connected to my y/a’s, and the y/a’s are all connected to each other in some way, and…yeah.
So that was where my day yesterday mostly went. I cleaned out my inbox, did a shit ton of filing–and there’s still a shit ton of organizing that remains needing to be done–and perhaps one day I will find the time to get it done, tedious chore that it is–but I have not really been organized since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, and three years is an incredibly long time to go without some sense of organization, which is undoubtedly the core symptom of the disconnect I’ve been feeling for several years (probably since the Great Data Disaster of 2018). I also took all the book-length projects (anything destined to be more than 20k, to be fair) and bound the print-outs into binder clips, which makes the organization of them in my “needs work” pile MUCH easier, but when I took a picture and posted it I realized I had not included the short story collection or the essay collection; and there’s another pseudonymous manuscript lying around here somewhere as well. WHICH IS WHY I AM BURIED IN PAPER, SERIOUSLY.
I do kind of wish I’d learned to write and edit after everything went electronic, to be honest. All the paper…JFC. I am undoubtedly responsible for the loss of hundreds of acres of the rain forest. I try to work electronically, but I spend so much time at a computer already that the idea of reading and editing entirely this way gives me hives.
And on that note, it’s time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and may your day be terrific.
Friday and I like my new doctor. It’s nice to finally be in the care of an actual doctor again–with no offense intended at all to the nurse practitioners I’ve seen over the last two years; they were also wonderful–but there’s something subconsciously psychologically more affirming about seeing someone who has the actual title of doctor, which is curious in and of itself–what is that rooted in? What kind of societal expectation, which may be based in absolutely nothing rational, created that as a comfort zone for me, and further, made it instinctual?–which I will leave in the hands of the clinically trained behavior experts to research.
Instead of working on anything already in progress last night, of course I started writing another short story. This one is called “Wash Away Sins”, which makes a sort of loose sense in my fevered creative brain, and it’s another Alabama story and it’s a follow-up to “Smalltown Boy,” actually; I can’t remember precisely the thought chain that wound up there, but I read something somewhere that made me think of washed in the blood of the lamb, which means baptized, and in the Christian sect i was raised in, that meant your baptism washed away all your sins before the baptism….which made me think of everything before the baptism as a “wash away sin”, and then i thought about the opening of “Smalltown Boy” and how that poor woman killed her husband to end the abuse, and the sentence You could have knocked everyone down with a feather when Vonda Hackworth answered Brother Burleson’s call to salvation and I was off to the races. I was writing in my journal, though, rather than typing the story up–which I will have to do at some point, probably today or maybe tomorrow.
Again, not anything I should be working on, of course.
I also started reading S. A. Cosby’s marvelous Razorblade Tears yesterday while at the doctor’s office, and it is, actually, quite marvelous. Maybe the most delightful thing of being a part of this community, as well as being an avid reader, is watching talents grow and develop. I’ve always enjoyed Shaun’s work, but every book is exponentially better somehow than the one before….and that is saying something. I am really looking forward to a deep dive on the book this weekend. Huzzah!
I also had a dentistry appointment this morning, and I hope, whenever the health care situation in this country is ever resolved, that the dentisty insurance issue is also addressed. I’ve always had terrible teeth–the only good thing about them was they were perfectly straight–and now I am going to have to spend a lot of money on my bottom teeth to have a functioning mouth again. It’s horribly depressing, really–hurray for even more debt–but I suppose it’s money I need to spend.
Or I can keep going through life looking like a Clampett.
Today turned out to be almost a complete waste. After the dentist experience–which took much longer than anticipated–i made groceries and then decided to go upgrade my phone. Again, took waaaaaaaaay longer than anticipated; seriously, y’all, I left the house for the dentist at nine this morning and i got home from the AT&T store after three…so I figured, fuck it, I may as well get the gym out of the way and take pictures with my new phone on the way home so that’s what I did. The new phone, an iPhone 12 Pro, is pretty amazing. The sound quality is so dramatically better than the old phone–which I thought had amazing sound, actually–and my word, the pictures are so much better, too! I am going to need to play with this phone’s camera a bit, methinks.
And on that note, I am ending this tiresome entry and ending my on-line presence for the day.
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 had a marvelous workout yesterday afternoon. I finished reading PJ Vernon’s delightful Bath Haus, and then went to the gym. There was no one there when I arrived around two–delightful in and of itself–and so I started working out, trying to maintain a good pace to keep my heart rate up to get a cardiovascular benefit (I’ve always hated cardio, so have always relied on pacing during weights to get in a cardio workout, with varied success throughout my life). I added weights, worked hard, and then strolled back to the Lost Apartment with a slight detour to take more pictures for Instagram, and then came home, made a protein shake, and wrote a blog entry talking about PJ’s book. And then I just kind of kicked back and goofed off. I was a bit tired from the gym, and still feeling a bit lethargic from the amazing night’s sleep from Saturday night, so I just kind of played around with Youtube video wormholes and did a load of laundry and made dinner and just kind of let myself have a night off, to relax and recharge. I am having to navigate the spice mines again this week, and facing the week with a lot of things to do nd get done relaxed, recharged and rested wasn’t necessarily the worst idea, after all… so yes, thus I rationalized not writing this next chapter of the book, or rereading the works in progress, or even thinking about everything I need to get done this week, and I am nothing if not an OIympic caliber rationalizer.
And so it went.
AND I AM NOT SORRY!
I also managed to somehow not get phô this weekend. Perhaps tomorrow after work it might work out. We shall have to see, one supposes. Phô has become my great white whale, hasn’t it?
I slept very well again last night–in fact didn’t really want to get out of bed this morning, quite frankly–but as the caffeine begins flowing through my veins and my mind begins to clear and focus, I do feel very rested, which was my goal heading into this week, if not completely awake yet. But I do feel prepared to face the work week, which I don’t always on Monday mornings, and that’s quite lovely. Tonight after work I’ll be swinging by to pick up my library book–about pirates and sodomy–and hopefully, I’ll have some time this evening to start reading Razorblade Tears, the new S. A. Cosby novel, which is getting rave reviews everywhere. I am curious to read it for two reasons–one, Shawn is one of our better writers publishing today, and two, the subject matter of the book intrigues me, and i am curious to see what I will think about it once I am reading about it. Essentially, it’s the story of two ex-con fathers who are looking for the killer of their gay sons–and having to deal with their own guilt over their own homophobia in the wake of their sons’ murders. This is kind of a new approach, and not one I can really recall having been tackled before in crime fiction; which in and of itself is a rarity. Shawn is also a terrific writer–his Blacktop Wasteland being one of my favorite books of last year–and am very interested to see how he handles this subject matter.