Jojo

Sunday morning and another lovely night’s sleep. It should surprise no one that I wound up getting very little done yesterday. Blame it on the World Figure Skating championships/SEC women’s gymnastics tournament one-two punch, if you will. After watching the LSU ladies win their third title in a row (GEAUX TIGERS!) Paul and I settled in to watch an episode of Shrill and a few episodes of The Order, which is just good campy, Teen Wolf-ish fun. And it doesn’t take itself seriously, which I love; it is funny, and it also takes time to laugh at itself.

But I did box up all of the open perishables in my kitchen cabinet, and now have just a few more boxes to load up–the bathroom stuff, etc.–and then we are as ready for the termite tenting as we can be. I still have to clean out the freezer–our friend Jean has graciously agreed to allow us to keep it in hers–and coordinate how all of this is going to go down–Scooter to the kitty spa; my suitcases and so forth to the hotel; the freezer stuff to Jean’s; how to coordinate getting everything back into the house on Monday–but it’s just too much and I don’t really want to think about it. This week is going to be completely insane, and I am not here for it.

I think that’s part of the reason I got so little done yesterday–in addition to the laziness default and the stuff on television–is that I am more than a little overwhelmed with everything I have to do–without taking the tenting into consideration. I literally am half-way through a first draft of a novel, have at least twenty to thirty short stories in some stage of writing, another manuscript that needs to be revised, am editing another novel as a paid gig, and that’s not even taking into consideration the volunteer work I am doing with Bouchercon and other organizations–and the Weekend o’Festivals is looming on the horizon. I still have to finish reading The Woman Who Fed the Dogs and My Lovely Wife, I have to get prepared for my panel and come up with some interesting questions for my panelists, and….seriously, all I want to do is sit in my easy chair and watch highlights of old LSU games on Youtube.

But I need to buckle up and get to work. There are things that need to be done, and they need to be done today. I need to get my email inbox cleaned out, as well as answer insane amounts of messages on Facebook and other places that I’ve simply allowed to pile up, and I still have a lot of filing and organizing to do. I’m not beating myself up over not getting all the things done yesterday that I had originally intended to get done yesterday; that’s just self-defeating, after all, and I am not a believer in wasting time on regrets. So, when I finish this, I am going to go fold the laundry, load up another box of stuff from the kitchen and perhaps from the bathroom, and organize/file the stuff that’s piled up on the kitchen counter. I am going to make a to-do list for the week, some playlists for the car on my phone because I am sick to death of the ones I already have and have listened to for quite some time now, and possibly finish revising the first chapter of the WIP. I am not going to push myself too hard about getting the WIP worked on this week; my original plan had been to finish it this month, but that’s not going to happen now so I am going to push it off until April. I also need to get my taxes sorted and to my accountant, and I also need to back up my desktop computer.

And the books always need to be reorganized.

And then, of course, there’s the Scotty Bible, and I also need to make a list of things to do for the next Scotty, aka Hollywood South Hustle.

And on that note, those emails aren’t going to answer themselves now, are they?

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Dance Hall Days

Sunday! I have a panel and a signing at Comic Con today; the Saints have a play-off game, and the Golden Globes are tonight…and sometime today the Olympic ice dancing finals are also airing. Madness! Usually my Sundays are a lot more mellow than this. I did manage to get a lot done yesterday; cleaning and organizing and laundry and filing and even some brainstorming. I am definitely going to be hitting the ground running this week; it’s so lovely to finally feel 100% me again, stupid flu or whatever it was I had.

So, this morning I need to do some more cleaning, am going to do some more brainstorming and perhaps an edit on a story, work on the new Scotty outline, and do some other editing before it’s time to get ready to head down to the Convention Center. Damn it, I also have to copy edit that damn file of Bourbon Street Blues, too, don’t I? Sigh. My work is never done.

And the Scotty Bible. Heavy heaving sigh.

I also read another short story yesterday, Angel Luis Colon’s “My Heart Died on Blackrock Avenue.”

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I’ll never forget my first fight.

And I mean a real fight, not the random tussles with my brothers or cousins. I’m talking a knuckle-busting, lip-splitting, eye-swelling fight. The kind of fight where you go savage and the world’s pure fire, where there’s no concern about whether your punches connect or if they’re going to do permanent damage. A real street fight–drawn blood, scrapes and cuts you find later, and that taste at the back of your throat, as if you’d been chowing on pennies all day long. The kind of fight a person with more brains than heart knows to avoid.

Obviously, my first fight was over a girl–surprise, surprise.

I met Angel in Toronto at this year’s Bouchercon; as is usual with the business, we have a lot of mutual friends. And then he wrote this brilliant piece for Medium, and I thought to myself, I need to read this guy, so I ordered his collection Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles.

Wow.

I said when I posted about Sue Grafton that she was the writer who brought me back to the crime genre; the stuff that was getting published in the 1970’s and early 1980’s that I was reading held no interest for me; I hadn’t heard the term toxic masculinity yet, but that was primarily what turned me off to crime fiction at the time. To this day, I still have trouble reading some male authors for that very reason; I’m just not interested in reading any more books about the tough, tragic, closed-off man who drinks himself into oblivion because the love of his life is dead, or he’s obsessed with some dead, beautiful woman that makes him reflect on life and the harsh, cold, cruel world in which we live. No thank you. This trope also pops up in what’s called ‘literary fiction’ as well; it’s hard for me to identify with, or care about, these kinds of characters; the plight of the straight white man simply doesn’t interest me that much. Does that mean I’m prejudiced? Maybe.

It’s something I can live with.

So, as I started reading Angel’s first story in this collection, I winced a little bit inwardly. Great, I thought, here we go again with the tough-guy stuff. But the story–which isn’t a crime story at all, I might add–isn’t that; it’s actually fantastic, to be honest. There are so many truths, and so much honesty, in this story that it’s almost painful to read, to digest, to think about. I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn, as the main character in this story did, but I grew up in the working class neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, where casual racism not only existed but simmered; where prejudice wasn’t just about the color of one’s skin but also about religion and your ethnicity; if you were a Pole or a Slav, etc. Violence was always just there under the surface, and this story took me back to that neighborhood, the innocence of childhood and learning about the cold, cruel world out there. It’s a truly terrific story, and I encourage everyone to read Angel’s collection, or one of his novels.

I’m really looking forward to reading more of his work myself.

Sunglasses at Night

Sunday morning. Last evening I went to a Christmas party and had an absolutely lovely time; but stayed much longer than was probably warranted and got home much later than I should have. But there were lots of laughter, and I got to hang out with friends that I don’t see nearly enough, and so overall, I would classify it as a win. I also slept beautifully and deeply and restfully after getting home, so that, too, was absolutely lovely.

Today I have to do a lot of writing; I finished a project yesterday, which was also lovely, and managed to get the cleaning of the downstairs finished. Today I will move to the upstairs, doing cleaning and organizing when I take breaks from the writing/editing I have to do. I also will read some more of Donna Andrews’ How the Finch Stole Christmas when I can; hopefully wrapping up reading it this evening as well. I’m not sure what I am going to read next; I am rather torn between a reread of George Baxt’s A Queer Kind of Death, Joan Didion’s Miami, Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse (also a reread), or something else in the pile. I also haven’t done my annual reread of Rebecca, but I think I am going to save that for actual Christmas. There are also some other duMauriers lying around the apartment I haven’t read that I need to (The House on the Strand, The Progress of Julius, The Scapegoat), some Ross MacDonalds, many Margaret Millars, and so many other books by writers I adore and am way behind on–I still have Stephen Kings that are languishing on my shelves, unread–and of course, come January it’s going to be Short Story Month again.

I also have another short story to write that I keep forgetting about, which, of course, is insane. (Note to self: put post-it note up on computer.)

But the good news is I am finally feeling motivated again about writing; this past year hasn’t been, for me, a good one as far as writing is concerned. I had a long conversation with my friend Susan last night about the current Scotty and the problems I’m having with it–and of course, while talking about the problems out loud with her I solved the problem. (It really is amazing, isn’t it, how saying things out loud can make a difference and make you see what’s been missing? The same thing happened with the WIP when I was chatting about it with my friend Wendy in Toronto–as I spoke I could see in my head what I needed to add, and then she put her finger right on the problem and pointed it out just as I was coming to the realization, which confirmed that it was the correct one. Again, it’s all a matter of having the time to make these fixes, but now that I know whatI need to fix, well, that makes it all a lot easier.

I also finished post-it-noting Garden District Gothic yesterday while watching the first half of the SEC championship game, so the Scotty Bible also proceeds apace, which is also lovely.

So much I need to get done this month!

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

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Break My Stride

The regular season came to an end for LSU last night with a 45-21 win over Texas A&M, and I am going to miss the seniors and the guys the team will lose to the NFL draft. It’s been a pleasure watching you all play for the last few years. I also want to shout out to Danny Etling, who has never really gotten the kind of respect he earned over the last two seasons. He’s not Eli Manning, but he was a cool, competent quarterback who made some big plays and only threw two interceptions this entire season. That’s pretty amazing. And considering where the team was at one point, it’s no disgrace to take pride in how they closed out the season, winning six of their last seven games–including a win over Auburn, who went on to win the West division spot in the conference championship game by beating Alabama yesterday–the second CFS Number One team they defeated in three weeks.

GEAUX TIGERS!

I also continued working on the Scotty Bible yesterday–found some discrepancies that may not be able to be corrected, at least maybe not right away–but the ones I can’t correct are easily explained away; and I can correct things like the fact that Storm apparently had children in the first two books that completely vanished from the series later. Oops. (I’m not sure if they disappeared or just were never mentioned again; I don’t think I ever said Storm didn’t have children; I just never mentioned them, and that is kind of weird, really; why wouldn’t Scotty or his parents ever talk about his nieces and nephews? Although it might be kind of fun to bring them into the story at some point….hmmmm. Also, I mentioned in one book that Frank’s parents lived in Chicago and then in a later one that they were dead. I think I can correct that in the earlier book; let’s hope.

Obviously, I should have done this years ago.

But I have only one more book to go through–Garden District Gothic–which is incredibly exciting, and then I can create the Scotty Bible, which….is not so incredibly exciting. Ah, well. I have a lot to do today, so it’s probably best to get to it.

Here’s how it looks so far:

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I Just Called To Say I Love You

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was rather lovely; we had our deep dish pizza and a lovely visit with our friend Lisa; then Paul and I watched three movies on Netflix: Fourth Man Out, Closet Monster, and Handsome Devil. We also watched another episode of a Hulu original series, Future Man; which we had given one more episode to get better. And the fourth episode definitely delivered. We laughed a lot all the way through it; and it finally started delivering on its premise.

The three movies were all gay films, which we generally don’t watch very often. I know I should be supportive of gay films, but so often they’re aren’t very good–or at least that used to be the case. When a major studio makes one (Philadelphia, In and Out, To Wong Foo, etc.) they’re awful; indies always mean well but don’t have the budget to really do them well or cast good actors, so we stopped watching them a long time ago. Every so often, a film like Beautiful Thing or Latter Days will come along, but still, fairly rare. My incredibly cynical self is very pleased to say that the three films we watched yesterday were enjoyable in varying degrees, which also makes me tend to think that perhaps we should watch more gay cinema. And really, isn’t mainstream film always a crapshoot, too?

Fourth Man Out was the first movie we watched; its about a group of four guys who’ve been best friends since they were kids and then one of them comes out to the others. It was a comedy, so the coming out was handled in a comedic fashion; the friends were a little taken aback, and then there was some awkwardness about what you can or can’t say around your gay friend which was sweet and kind of cute. The gay character was a mechanic, so there was a sense to me of ‘see, a gay guy can be just a regular guy’ about the movie which was well-intentioned but…the really charming part of the movie was watching the friends try to help him navigate the gay dating world, and there was a really charming scene where they take him to his first gay bar. And the ‘meeting someone from on-line’ trope was treated as comedy (and who hasn’t met someone whose picture wasn’t them?) and there were some moments that I thought might have been in questionable taste–but overall the film was charming. The lead, gay Adam, was played by Evan Todd, who’s very good-looking:

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His best friend, Chris–and their relationship/chemistry was quite charming, was played by the impossibly good-looking Parker Young:

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Another one of the guys was played by Glee’s Chord Overstreet, almost recognizable in a heavy beard. But the movie’s true charm was the relationship between Adam and Chris; how they learn from each other and grow and finally find their perfect matches because of their friendship.

Closet Monster starred Connor Jessup from American Crime, who is an appealing and talented young actor I would pretty much watch in anything.

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This movie was apparently very popular on the indie art film festival circuit and won lots of awards; for me, it was the weakest of the three and were it not for Connor Jessup, we would have probably stopped watching. As a little boy, around the time his parents broke up in a very nasty and volatile break-up, young Oscar witnessed a violent hate crime against a gay teenager–and that, plus the divorce, have been deeply internalized and traumatized him as he comes of age as a gay teenager with an interest in horror movies and a desire to become a make-up artist for horror films. He’s applied to the best school for this in New York, and cannot wait to get away from this awful town he lives in. He’s desperately unhappy–who can’t relate to that–with big dreams, and is developing a crush on another boy he works with at a Home Depot type store. Wilder, played by Aliocha Schneider, is coolly confident in himself and tries to draw Oscar out of his own shell, with some success.

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The point of the movie is ultimately that Oscar needs to stop spinning his wheels and move in a positive direction in his life; and it does eventually get there after a bizarre costume party where he has his first sexual experience with a stranger and comes to terms with his feelings for his mother; his relationship with his father remains unresolved. But it was an arty film; Oscar’s hamster speaks to him in Isabella Rossellini’s voice–he got the hamster originally the day his mother left his father so it symbolizes the last time he was happy; and there’s a lot of moments where the director slaps the viewer in the face with his symbolism and hidden depths. There are some gorgeous shots, particularly at the end, but there are also some serious plot holes. But as I said, Connor Jessup is a very talented and appealing young actor, and he carries the entire movie.

The last film we watched, Handsome Devil, was by far and away the best of the three. Set in an Irish boarding school obsessed with its rugby team, it’s from the point of view of young Ned, who is bullied by his schoolmates in no small part because he doesn’t care about rugby and doesn’t fit in; he is played charmingly by Fionn O’Shea. He comes back to school against his will–his father and stepmother live in Dubai and for some reason he can’t live with them there; it’s kind of implied that he’s an inconvenience for them. He’s delighted when he gets to school to find out he’s got a single room and won’t be sharing. There’s also a really funny sequence where he talks about his English teacher; he simply turns in the lyrics to old songs for papers and get’s A’s; the song that is handed back to him with an A written on it to illustrate this voice over is Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Walk Side,” which is hilarious if you know the words.

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But he winds up with a roommate after all, Connor. Connor can’t go back to his old school–he was kicked out for ‘fighting’–AND it turns out Connor is a great rugby player; the long-missing piece for the school’s team which will make them champions. Ned reacts by moving all of their furniture to the center of the room, kind of forming a Berlin wall. They also have a new English teacher this term, Mr. Sherry, who is played by Sherlock’s Andrew Scott. Mr. Sherry, and his class, reminded me of Dead Poets’ Society, and I don’t think that was accidental. But Ned and Connor slowly become friends–Connor is Ned’s first friend, really–and of course there’s the requisite homophobia (they all treat Ned like he’s gay, but we never really know for sure) and obstacles for the boys to face before the film’s end. This movie is really charming, and is about friendship, and has some absolutely lovely moments. O’Shea is fantastic as Ned, and you can’t help but root for him as he learns who he is and what being a friend really means; Nicholas Galitzine plays Connor and does a fine job with a less complex part; but the chemistry between the two boys is terrific. I highly recommend this movie.

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It was also highly educational to watch these films, and it also made me realize that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to gay-themed films; I should probably watch more of them in the future–and I think I’m going to. Watching these movies reminded me of the kinds of novels Kensington used to publish after the turn of the century; particularly the novels of Timothy James Beck. I miss those novels, and Kensington did a great job of finding and publishing fun gay-themed novels in those days. I was one of Kensington’s authors; Kensington was where the first three Scotty books were published, and pulling together the Scotty Bible has also put me in mind of those days again. Kensington first published Rob Byrnes,  and also those wonderful novels by Michael Thomas Ford. Kensington was also home to William J. Mann’s fiction, from The Biograph Girl to The Men from the Boys, All-American Boy, and several others; Kensington also published Andrew Beierle’s The Winter of Our Discotheque, which remains to this day one of my favorite gay novels.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

Hold Me Now

Happy Thanksgiving! We have our deep dish pizza in the refrigerator, which we will be heating up later when our friend Lisa comes over to watch some movies; which is what we do every year for Thanksgiving. (Lisa is the one who introduced us to each other.) Today I am going to take a day off from writing and stressing; no news, no worries. Paul is going in to the office tomorrow, so I’ll have tomorrow to do some writing and editing and so forth and I also have Monday off as well. He’s departing to visit his mom for a week one week from today as well. So, yes, today is the day where I am not going to be stressed about anything and just relax and enjoy the day. I’ll probably spend Saturday doing copy edits and working on the Scotty Bible (which means, going through the books with post-it notes to mark pages with references to regular characters so I can check for continuity).

I finished reading Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds last night, and it is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year; it’s a remarkable concept, and Sternbergh delivers on it completely. It’s just exceptional. I’m going to review it here, but I am going to let my thoughts on it brew for another couple of days or so. I also started reading Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley last night, and while I am only a few chapters in, it’s already blowing me away. This is some extraordinary writing and character development, people. I have Ivy’s earlier books in my enormous TBR pile, but I wanted to read this one and review it since it’s more current; her books will be moving up in the TBR pile now. I’ve now read some amazing books back to back; If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin, Sunburn by Laura Lippman, The Wife by Alafair Burke, and now The Blinds, and as I said, the Pochoda is also exceptional; I’ll be reviewing the others here closer to their release dates.

Glad I am not judging any awards this year or next. Whoa.

After abandoning the other short story I started working on another one. I wrote its first draft about thirty years ago, and of course, it’s terrible, but I liked the main character and I liked the setting, which are about the only things I am keeping for the story. I have, over the years, realized that the story is actually a great noir set up, so I am revising it accordingly, and while the story was originally about unrequited gay desire…I am changing it to something darker. The gay desire will still be there, but it’s just going to be a lot darker. This draft is just to get the story down; after which I will do another draft to deepen the characters, and then another to make the story itself stronger and more horrific/shocking, and then once more for language. This was the problem with the other story; I couldn’t get the story down and it was taking forever. (Although I am now itching to take another run at it, if you can believe that. Lord.)

And on that note I am going back to the spice mines. I need to get this place looking more ship-shape before Lisa arrives, and I have a shit ton of filing and organizing to do.

Here’s something I have always been thankful for: Calvin Klein underwear ads.

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