Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)

I love football.

I know, it catches people off-guard that a sixty year old gay man is a massive football fan, but I’ve never subscribed to stereotypes. I love football, with an especial love for the college game (I used to only watch the Saints in the NFL, but have started rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals because, well, Joe fucking Burrow); I think everyone knows I am a massive LSU fan. (GEAUX TIGERS!)

There really isn’t anything else in the world like a Saturday night in Death Valley. I will remember the 2019 night game against Florida probably for the rest of my life. God, what a great game, and it was so much fun. I am aware that I am digressing.

Anyway, I grew up in a Southern football family (even if we didn’t live in the South, we were from the South and that’s all that matters), so it was inevitable that I should become both a football fan and a football player. I played all four years in high school, all of my cousins also played, and I have close relatives who played at both the college and professional levels (and I don’t mean some small college in the middle of nowhere; I mean in the SEC–Auburn and Alabama, and there may be even more that I don’t know about). I have relatives who were successful coaches. Every fall Saturday the television was tuned into whatever college game was playing–even if we weren’t fans of either team; it’s hard to imagine now with the 24/7 college football coverage, but when I was growing up ABC had a monopoly on all NCAA football games. They would usually play one game of national significance, and then the second game was regional–important to that region. As we did not live in the South, we rarely got to see SEC games other than Alabama–Alabama was almost inevitably the only Southern team of “national interest” throughout the 1970’s (I really don’t remember the 1960’s much, but we lived in Chicago so I imagine we saw a lot of Big Ten and Notre Dame games; I don’t really remember a lot of my life before the suburbs, really–some things, yes, but most things not so much)

I’ve never really read a lot of fiction about football, though; it inevitably winds up being something cliched and tired. I loved North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent; hated Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins; but do remember enjoying End Zone by Don DeLillo (I was going to reread this recently; but there’s so much to read. I did try to to reread Semi-Tough–but when I opened the book there were racial slurs and other mess on page one, so I threw it in the trash; no thanks). And I’ve also enjoyed other books with football involved, even if it wasn’t necessarily what the book was about. (The Hardy Boys were on the Bayport High football team in The Crisscross Shadow–the only time football is mentioned in the series.) There’s also a tendency, in books about high school and football to make the football players and cheerleaders the villains of the story, which has never really sat right with me. I was never bullied by anyone on the football team, and maybe the cheerleaders weren’t bitches to me because I was on the team and my sister was a cheerleader, but that wasn’t my experience (one thing I truly appreciated about Stephen King’s Christine was the horrible bullies at Libertyville High weren’t the football players but the hard-case kids–which was also my experience; which is probably yet another reason the book is one of my favorites of the King canon, methinks).

But…I can also see why it’s so attractive to make the jocks and cheerleaders the villains of high school dramas. And I sort of did something similar in #shedeservedit, didn’t I? Those boys on the Marysville and Steubenville high school teams certainly fit the bill of villainy.

So, when people started recommending Eli Cranor’s debut Dont Know Tough to me, I wasn’t so sure. I just published a book of my own about high school football and the toxicity it can engender in a small town (#shedeservedit), and revisiting my memories of high school and football was harder than I had thought it would be; I thought I could be dispassionate about it all while writing about it (I often write about things to try to distance myself from them and gain some perspective) but I was wrong. It was hard to write that book, much harder than I thought it would be–and it took years (first draft was written in 2015; published in 2022).

But enough people whose opinions I respect were raving about the book, so I got a copy and once I started reading it, there was no way I could stop.

Still feel the burn on my neck. Told Coach it was a ringworm this morning when he pick me up, but it ain’t. It a cigarette, or at least what a lit cigarette do when it stuck in your neck. Just stared at Him when He did it. No way I’s gonna let Him see me hurt. No way. bit a hole through the side of my cheek, swallowed blood, and just stared at Him. Tasted blood all day.

Tasted it while I saw in Ms. Miller’s class. Woke up in Algebra tasting it. Drank milk from a cardboard box at lunch and still, I tasted it. But now it eighth period football. Coach already got the boys lined up on either side of the fifty, a crease in between, a small space for running and tackling, for pain.

This my favorite drill.

I just been standing back here, watching the other boys go at it. The sound of pads popping like sheet metal flapping in a storm.

“Who want next?” holler Bull. Bull ain’t the head coach. Bull coach the defense. He as mean as they come.

One of my favorite books of all time about small towns is Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show (I also love the film, which is extraordinary and one of, in my opinion, the best films made during the 1970’s). I did try to reread it recently–I was interested in refreshing my memory of its gay subplots and the mental breakdown of poor Joe Bob Blanton, but I’d also forgotten the part about the bored teenaged boys decided to fuck some calves, so when I got to that part I put the book down in distaste. But now that I’ve finished Don’t Know Tough, I kind of want to go back and reread The Last Picture Show again (I can skip that distasteful part…weird that I didn’t remember it).

Don’t Know Tough is yet another incredibly impressive debut, further confirming the truth of what I said at the Lefty Award banquet–the last few years have seen so many amazing and diverse and extraordinary debuts that the future of our genre is in very good hands. I won’t lie–when I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it; I was worried that the entire book would be written in that grammatically garbled first-person voice but as I kept reading that first chapter I got into the rhythm of the language and started seeing the beauty and fluidity of the style choice–which is no small feat to pull off, and pull off consistently, throughout the entire book…to the point I was also a little disappointed that the entire book wasn’t done in that same style. Billy Lowe is the character whose voice this is; and the story of the novel revolves around him and the horrific Shakespearean tragedy that his life actually is. His mother is an alcoholic, and lives with an abusive piece of shit who obviously directs violence at Billy. He has a younger half-brother who was fathered by this POS; he also has an older brother who lives elsewhere. Billy’s situation has turned him into a wild beast of rage with an exceptional gift for channeling that rage into playing football. He’s not big enough in size to go major college, but his coach feels like there’s a chance he could get a football scholarship to a smaller college, and break the cycle of poverty he is trapped in at the moment. Billy is exceptionally compelling–it’s hard to read his first person point of view and not have your heart break for this kid; and hope that it’s all going to work out for him in the end, despite the disturbing pattern of violence in both his life and behavior.

Denton High has made the Arkansas state play-offs, but without Billy in the backfield their chances of advancing are practically nil. It’s important for Denton to do well in the post season because their coach’s job depends on it. Trent Powers is a born-again Christian, whose last coaching job in California crapped out–winning only three games in his final three seasons before being fired. This job is another chance for him, even though his wife and daughters hate relocating to a small town in Arkansas from California (much is made throughout the book of Coach Powers’ Prius, seen by the locals are weird and strange and almost otherworldly and unmanly). Coach Powers also has a very soft spot for his star player, and not just because he’s a star player–he actually feels compassion for the horror the young player’s life has been up to that point, and he wants to help–even if Billy doesn’t want any help from anyone. Billy’s future, to Billy at any rate, is already set, and he’s not going to end up going anywhere or doing anything or having a good life and decent future. He doesn’t see himself being worthy of anything or of doing better than his assigned lot in life.

The Powers family is a direct contrast to Billy’s; loving and nurturing couple, raising two daughters and trying to do right by them. How far is too far to go when helping someone in Billy’s situation, is the question. Coach’s wife–the daughter of a successful football coach who took Trent in when he was a kid from a similar background as Billy’s…and yes, he slept with his coach’s daughter and got her pregnant. So both Coach and his wife have the fear that the same thing will happen to their daughter and Billy–especially when the daughter starts opening up to Billy.

But one night Billy’s abuser is murdered. No one would blame Billy for killing the abusive bastard–well, the law would. But the story of what happened that night is far more complicated, and far more surprising, than the reader can imagine.

The pacing is also exceptional, and I love the contrasts between the third person point of view we see much of the novel in, with the Billy point of view chapters mixed in. The language choices and imagery are spare and tight yet full and rich and immersive–reminding me not only of Megan Abbott and her brilliant Dare Me, but also with a healthy dash of Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, S. A. Cosby, and Kelly J. Ford (all masters of Southern Gothic) mixed in. The little touches of how claustrophobic small Southern towns can be, the class disparities between the haves and the have nots, and what teenagers in those types of environments was simply masterful.

I was completely blown away by this amazing work, and suspect that you will be as well. Highly recommended. I cannot wait to see what Eli Cranor does next.

Tears of Sorrow

And just like that, it is now 2022.

We’ve been having a more than abnormal heat wave lately; Thursday when I went to run my errands it was over eighty degrees, according to the car’s temperature gauge, and yes, since you asked so nicely, I was in fact running the air conditioner. The air conditioner in the house has also kicked on and off several times over the past few days. I prefer it to be warm than cold, without question, it just seems a bit weird.

I did give in to my curiosity a bit and watched some of the College Football Play-off games yesterday; in which Alabama spanked Cincinnati and Georgia dominated Michigan to set up yet another championship game between the two. This will be the first time they’ve played twice in the same season though; the question is whether or not Georgia will at long last get the Alabama monkey off their back and finally get a title win. I won’t get involved in the “Did Cincinnati/Michigan belong in the play-offs” conversation because they earned their way in and I don’t think there was anyone else (sorry, Ohio State/Notre Dame/Baylor fans) who might have done any better than they did against this year’s two juggernauts; this is like how in 2011 LSU and Alabama were so much better than anyone else they were the only teams capable of beating each other. Paul said earlier in the season, “It’s really just Georgia and Alabama, and then everyone else” and he was right. People are already bored with the notion of two SEC teams playing for the national championship again for the third time in just over a decade; I am curious to see if this development will result in another reshuffling/change to the system.

We also finished watching Gossip Girl the OG last night, and while it’s nice to finally be finished with the show, I feel like the last season was a bit hurried, and the final outcomes of the cast mates’ lives–who they wound up with for their HEA’s–wasn’t necessarily the best outcome or the one I wanted to see, but life sometimes just works out that way. The identity of the actual “gossip girl” was never really, to me, a big mystery of the show–whenever I did think about it, the big reveal at the end was the only outcome that could possibly make sense over all, even if they did cheat a bit from time to time to throw the viewers off the scent, but at the same time–I was more interested in the melodrama playing out on screen between the characters than actually caring about the mystery at the heart of the show, or finding out who it actually was. I still think–without watching the rest–that the OG is vastly superior to the new edition, but I may go back and finish watching the sequel series simply because I am, if nothing else, a completist.

I need to work this weekend; I need to write and revise and edit and work on my email inbox, among other things, and at some point I need to make a grocery run (something I am really not looking forward to, but there are definitely worse things at this point that going to the store), and of course, there’s always housework that needs to be done. I was very tired these last two days–not sure what that was about, some combination of physical, mental, and intellectual exhaustion, no doubt–so waking up feeling good and rested and not sluggish was a lovely feeling; an excellent portent for the new year. I’ve also decided to set my goals for 2022 in a different entry for clarity’s sake.

Reflecting back on 2021, as I’ve been doing these past few days, hasn’t been easy–in no small part because the last two years have sort of blended together in my head as “the pandemic year” even though we are about ready to go into Year Fucking Three of it, which was completely and utterly unnecessary–but one great reading pleasure I forgot to mention in my round-up of what I enjoyed this last year was Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, which has brought me no small amount of pleasure in this pandemic time. I still have a long way to go in the series before I can even consider myself close to the point of running out of books to read within it; but I would also like to revisit King’s Kate Martinelli series and some of her other work as well. She really is particularly gifted as a writer, and she’s made me fall in love a bit with Sherlock Holmes, and Conan Doyle didn’t even manage that particular feat. (I also kind of want to revisit the Nicholas Meyer iterations of Holmes; there’s a brand new one out now that involves Egypt, so naturally I want to dig into that one.)

I also need to figure out what I need to revise and write that I’ve agreed to do thus far…yikes! I will be the first to admit I’ve been sluggish these last couple of weeks–the holidays always do that for me–but I feel rested and alert and capable this morning, which is more than I can say for any other morning lately. So I am going to finish this off, do my 2022 goals entry, and then get my day going. I don’t know if I am going to watch any of the bowl games today–I don’t find myself caring very much about any of the games being played today, and I might put them on for background noise while I do other things. (I spent a lot of time yesterday while doing things listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and then some of the earlier session versions of the songs that come along with the “deluxe bonus” version of the album on Spotify; one of the earlier session recordings of “Gold Dust Woman” is spectacular–That Bitch Ford made sure I listened to it–and I might spend some time listening to other Fleetwood Mac albums today as well.)

So, today I need to spend some time with the book; spend some time with a promotional article I need to write for #shedeservedit, and need to do one last final edit/revision on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I feel like that’s an ambitious enough program for the first day of the new year, and should I finish these things as planned, I can reward myself with some reading time.

I seriously cannot wait to be finished with writing this book, frankly.

And on that note, I am going to move on to writing up my goals email. Have a lovely New Year, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you again later with the goals and then again tomorrow morning.

Rain

Daylight Savings Time is one of those things, you know? I enjoy the gift of another hour’s sleep when it comes in the fall, but I deeply resent giving it up in the spring. But this morning it was lovely to wake up, look at the clock, and know I could continue to relax in bed for a little while longer; it was most comfortable and my body was completely relaxed, so it felt simply marvelous to stay there for a bit more.

Yesterday was kind of a lovely day. I finished my page proofs for #shedeservedit, and of course, reading through it again made me incredibly nervous, anxious, and insecure about its looming publication. This is nothing new, of course, and I often go through this with every book I write and publish–there’s nothing like page proofs to reawaken the imposter syndrome firmly implanted into my brain–and while I know it’s coming and I know it’s possible and I know it’s going to happen, it hits me like a 2 x 4 between the eyes every. Single. Time. I hate that for me. I also revised a short story for an anthology I was asked to contribute to–incredibly short turn around time, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to write something new; so I looked for something I had on hand I could adapt for it. The editor seemed to like it, with some notes to come–but I will probably revise the story again myself; I mean, I just grafted the concept of the anthology onto an existing story to see if it would work, and I guess it did since he liked it, but I really should go over it again myself with my editorial pen uncapped and my editorial eyes wide open. But it was, overall, a very productive day, and I was most pleased with how it all turned out. I had football games on while I was looking over the proofs–Auburn-Texas A&M, to be specific–which was nice; all the real pressure has been taken off watching games this season because I don’t really care that much if LSU is out of the running, so I can just watch and appreciate. Yesterday was a wacky day of upsets and near-upsets; and in all honesty, I assumed I would stop watching the LSU-Alabama bloodbath at the end of the first quarter.

Instead, plucky third team players on defense rose up and almost successfully smote the mighty Tide in their home stadium, 20-14; and a play here, a play there, and Alabama would have lost to a 4-4 29 point underdog team that all week long sports journalists (and I have to admit, I bought into it myself) didn’t have a chance. Coming within a whisker of an upset win, that really came down to the last play? Never saw it coming, and it was, frankly, one of the best LSU-Alabama games I’ve ever seen. I don’t think the way Alabama played last night–or the way they played in their loss to Texas A&M–is indicative that they are going to get trounced by Georgia in the SEC title game, or that they won’t do well in the play-offs should they make it that far; it’s Alabama, and they always seem to play better when something is on the line for them. Let’s face it, nothing was really on the line for them last night, but with no disrespect intended, you generally don’t see Alabama play that badly against a team they are supposed to run all over. Did they play badly, or did LSU play above their own level? Perhaps both? I hope LSU uses this to motivate them for the rest of the season, but who knows? They could easily lose to both Arkansas and Texas A&M to close out the first losing season since 1999. But I will always give the 2021 team props for giving us fans an unexpected great game against one of the greatest programs in the history of college football.

I honestly believed this year’s game would be a repeat of last year’s rout, and for that, I owe the program an apology. Sorry, guys, for not believing in you.

Today I have to make groceries. I am going on a trip this week–New York during the week, Boston over the weekend–which I’ve not really talked about much because I wasn’t sure the trip would happen. I mean, sure–I have the air and hotels booked, even the Acela Express from New York to Boston–but with pandemic times and so forth, let’s be serious; any trip can be canceled at any time because everything can change overnight. I am flying up on Tuesday, returning to New Orleans on Sunday; it’s my first trip anywhere other than to visit family since the world shut down, and I am actually very excited about it–despite all the nightmarish posts I see from other people experiencing horrors when they travel, primarily from the anti-mask morons for whom I have absolutely no patience whatsoever anymore. I’m also driving up to visit my family later this month–now you see where the stress and pressure about getting to work on the book is coming from, don’t you? Hopefully I’ll be able to get some writing done on these trips–and some reading, too; I definitely am going to check out an audiobook or two to listen to on the drive. Maybe one of my lengthier Stephen Kings?

Project Organize is working pretty well, too–I can’t complain about it (although I always can complain about something, it’s my super-power); the area around my desk is looking pretty good this morning, if I do say so myself. I still need to buy a day planner for next year–I definitely want one, I think it may help in some ways to have things actually written down as well as the digital calendar–and I am also going to try to figure out a writing schedule for next year. I think I may spend next year finishing things that are already started; Chlorine for one, and I have actually started another Scotty, even if it’s only one page–but I really want to get these novellas finished as well as getting some more short stories out there.

The Saints play the hated Falcons today at noon; which of course cuts right into the heart of the day but that’s also fine; my plan for today was to finish editing and correcting the first four chapters of A Streetcar Named Murder as well as map out the next four chapters, and delve into my characters a bit more. I generally don’t watch the Saints games anyway because it’s too emotionally stressful for me; and when they are over I am emotionally depleted and exhausted and unable to get anything done anyway. I only have to work one day this week–tomorrow–since I am leaving on Tuesday; and so I do have quite a bit to get under control today.

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

Stop!

It’s Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and slept relatively well again, if a bit late; my body clock is now all messed up and tomorrow morning’s waking up at the crack of dawn is going to be harder than usual.

Not that it’s ever easy, frankly.

LSU played terribly yesterday and lost, as expected, to Mississippi 31-17 (first loss to them after five straight wins) but I managed to finish reading Not All Diamonds and Rosé while it was on, and also read some more in Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, which is, as all books by Paul Tremblay, very well done–but I am not deep enough into it to have an idea of what’s going on. It focuses on the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old from a state park outside of Boston; it opens with his family–along with everyone else in the community–finding out he is missing and dealing with the emotions and fears that come along with a kid gone missing; but something out of the ordinary has already happened (no spoilers, sorry) which means there’s more to this than just your average child gone missing story.

Which, given it’s written by Paul Tremblay, was always going to be the case in the first place.

After the LSU game, we spent the rest of the evening watching Skate America; we used to be (still are) big figure skating fans, but the Internet and so forth has kind of ruined figure skating, really–when you know what the results are before the competition airs, it’s not nearly as exciting or suspenseful; so the only way to recapture the way it used to feel to watch something pre-recorded is now to watch live, which Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) does now provide. (I also think the new scoring system has a lot to do with it as well. Sure, the old 6.0 system had serious flaws and corruption in its judging, but I am not convinced that corruption still isn’t there and now the scoring system is so mysterious and complicated that it’s almost impossible to tell anymore if anything untoward is going on. The great irony is the scoring change, claiming to be more fair and to rule out bias, simply made it harder for viewers to see it for themselves.) There’s also tension brewing in the ISU this year as well, as a Russian judge and coach has made horrifically homophobic comments about French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron (who came out last year) and his partner Gabrielle Papadakis. They have a silver Olympic medal (it would have been gold had Papadakis not suffered a costume malfunction in the original dance) and are three time world champions. It was an obvious attempt to smear them in an Olympic year and potentially influence future judging pools at upcoming events, only making it all the more disgusting….particularly since Russia couldn’t even officially compete at the last summer Olympics because of widespread doping and cheating. This piece of shit Russian essentially said that since Cizeron is gay they cannot “convincingly portray romance” the way the top Russian team can; to that I say, “hey, you homophobic needle-dicked piece of shit, if you want to see a gay man convincingly play a romantic lead, watch Pillow Talk some time and tell me Rock Hudson didn’t deserve an Oscar. And by the way, go fuck yourself and drink bleach.”

I am so fucking sick of this shit. Seriously.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, but I am still looking for my old journals. I cannot for the life of me remember where I stored them; I know sometime over the past few years I found them in a box, but now I don’t remember what I did with them. It seems unlikely I would have simply shoved them into another box and stored them somewhere; but I can’t seem to locate them anywhere inside the apartment, which makes it appear that must be what I did with them. Generally I don’t go back and read my old journals very often–I don’t really like to see how much of a mess I used to be, written down plainly in ink on paper–but I kind of need to because I am writing a novella set in the summer of 1994 and I kind of need to go back and see what I recorded back then about music and pop culture and so forth. One of the hardest things about doing research on gay life in the past is so much of it is hidden, or wasn’t recorded anywhere, really–like there’s no listings anywhere on the Internet of “what dance songs were popular in gay dance clubs in 1994?” and my memory banks simply are not substantial enough anymore for me to summon those answers up out of the muck and mush my brain is slowly turning into as I age. That summer I went out dancing a lot, but I honestly don’t remember anything much about the music other than there were a couple of Pet Shop Boys songs that were really popular that summer–“Go West” and “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing”, and Erasure had a great remix of their song “Always”, but beyond that I have no memory of much.

Today I am debating as to whether I actually want to go run errands; making groceries is kind of necessary but I really have no desire to leave the house and go out in public. There’s not a Saints game today–they’re on Monday Night Football this week–and next weekend is LSU’s bye week, so I don’t really need to spend Saturday watching football (despite it being the weekend of Georgia-Florida and Auburn-Mississippi), so here’s hoping I can get some serious writing done today and this coming weekend. Stranger things have happened..and I am definitely running out of time to get this book written, which is incredibly stressful for me, as always. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Ship of Fools

G’morning, Sunday. How’s everyone doing today?

Yesterday was a weird one, beginning with the stunning LSU 49-42 upset of Florida. For the second year in a row, an underachieving LSU team riddled and depleted by injuries, somehow managed to outscore and upset Florida (a third consecutive win over the Gators, no less) that will quiet the complaints about the coaching staff and the team for at least a week–until the Mississippi game on the road this week, followed by a trip to Alabama two weeks later. The game was also ridiculously early–11 am start time–so the game was well over by two thirty, but I was too worn down from the rollercoaster of the game to have much energy to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. Being an LSU fan is a rollercoaster, and sometimes it’s not very fun; but no matter how bad of a season the Tigers might be having, they always manage to somehow beat someone they shouldn’t–for the last two seasons, that has been Florida. As I said to Paul as time ran out yesterday and the Tigers managed to wreck yet another season for the Gators, “No wonder they hate us so much.” That’s three losses for a Gator team that everyone thought would challenge Georgia for the East title, and might even have a shot at beating Alabama during the regular season (they lost by two points)…and they still have yet to play Georgia, who remained undefeated by shellacking an also undefeated Kentucky team yesterday.

I finished reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night at long last (I cannot reiterate how much that has to do with my inability to focus rather than the quality of the book; the book is quite marvelous; a modern take on a historical noir built around events that actually happened) and then moved on to finish watching the rest of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, (I skipped the episodes on body horror and torture porn–no thanks!) before tuning in to see the ridiculous and insane end of the Tennessee-Mississippi game–which people are still talking about today. There were some extremely questionable calls in the LSU game; while there’s no excuse for the way the fans in Neyland Stadium reacted, they were also reacting to an incredibly bad call that was upheld under review (!) that essentially took their chance to win the game away from them. After the incident was over and they were able to finish the final 54 seconds of the game, Tennessee managed to get the ball back with another shot at winning, only to fail in the end.

Today is one of those days where I get to play catch-up. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday–once I am ensconced in my easy chair, with the cat in my lap and college football on the television, it’s hard for me to get back up out of it to do anything. I did get the dishes done–still have some to put away–and I didn’t get around to the floors or anything else that I wanted to get done yesterday, which means I have to get to it today. I also need to get some serious writing done today–I am much too far behind, and the clock is ticking on everything–so I also need, once I am finished here and after I write my entry about Velvet Was the Night, to make a to-do list. I still have a lot of filing and organizing to get done as well; which I am hoping to do while I wake up and drink my coffee this morning. I need to make it to the gym at some point today, and I should see what time the Saints game is; oh, look at that, it’s the BYE WEEK, so there’s no reason to turn on the television at all; they also don’t play next Sunday–the next game is on Monday Night Football. So that’s two free Sundays I have ahead of me on the agenda, and this is a lovely, very lovely, thing. In fact, that weekend of the Saints on Monday night is also LSU’s bye week, so again–no need to turn on the television at all that weekend….so I should make that my most productive weekend of the month.

This week is also going to be weird because I have a procedure scheduled for Thursday morning; a way overdue colonoscopy. The saga of the colonoscopy is a long messy one, having to do with insurance issues, out of network charges, and so on. I finally had everything finally sorted and it scheduled last spring…only to have it canceled because of COVID-19 and then the endless attempts to get it rescheduled and out of the way. In a way, my colonoscopy feels almost like a quest for the Holy Grail–alway unattainable, so close sometimes you can almost touch it, but then it skitters away again, out of reach. I’m nervous about it, of course; any kind of medical testing can lead to bad news; any procedure can take am unexpected left turn at any time–not pleasant to consider or think about, really. But it’s always better to know something’s wrong than to go on like nothing is…until you can’t pretend anymore because your health takes a particularly nasty turn. But I am sixty, and I have to stop playing groundhog with my health. My body isn’t young anymore, and while I still feel good and go to the gym on a (fairly) regular basis, I’ve also eaten crap most of my life and have really beaten and battered my body during my younger years. (Teaching aerobics 7-21 hours a week wreaks havoc on your leg joints–and mine weren’t so great to begin with.)

The weather also turned cooler this weekend; dropping into the high sixties over night. The time change is coming soon, as well…autumn is here, clearly, and soon I’ll be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, which I hate because it feels like your day has been completely used up and is over by the time you get home. I also have to pick out my next book to read; since my reading has been so off lately I am going to pick out one of my unread Stephen Kings (if someone would have told me thirty years ago that I would have King novels on my shelves I hadn’t read, I would have laughed hysterically in their face) to read in honor of Halloween season; I try to read horror every October. There’s also a Paul Tremblay or two I’ve not gotten to yet as well; if I can get through whichever King I choose before the end of the month (and with a football free weekend coming up shortly, it’s possible) then I will move on to another Tremblay, who’s becoming my current favorite contemporary horror writer very rapidly; the books of his I’ve read still haunt me.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. You have a great Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in with you again later with my thoughts on the Moreno-Garcia novel, and then will check in again on the morrow.

The Circus

GEAUX TIGERS!

Today–actually later this morning–is the LSU-Florida game in Baton Rouge. It’s a rivalry game, and generally is kind of exciting most of the time, but I suspect this year that will not be the case. Both teams always seem to play a level higher than usual when they play each other; who can forget 3-5 LSU going into Gainesville last year, Florida’s shot at the play-offs on the line, and LSU pulling off a major upset, thanks to the notorious shoe throwing incident? I have to admit I only watched the game last year as a courtesy, with every intention of turning it off once it got out of hand…only it never did. Somehow LSU kept plugging away in the fog, and in the end, the Florida kicker missed the last second, tying field goal and their play-off chances circled the drain. I’m sure they have vengeance on their minds, particularly since this season has them already out of play-off contention and struggling to stay relevant in the East division of the SEC; they’ve already lost to both Alabama and Kentucky, so even if they manage to run the table the rest of the season, they have to hope not only to beat Georgia, but that someone else beats them AND Kentucky as well. (Kentucky-Georgia is also today; the winner will be in control of the division; a Kentucky win almost guarantees them a spot in the conference championship as they have already beaten Florida.) This was supposed to be a big year for Florida, so they already have ashes in their mouths. LSU has lost a number of players to injury and academic ineligibility, just like last year…but I doubt this year will go like last. Paul and I have been to the Florida game twice–2015 and 2019–and both times both teams were unbeaten and ranked in the Top Ten. LSU won both games–both were very exciting; the 2019 probably the most fun I’ve ever had in Tiger Stadium–but again, I don’t hold out much hope for my Tigers this year.

Stranger things, however, have happened, and have been known to happen in this game (we can never, ever forget the shoe-throw last year).

Yesterday I rewatched the original Halloween, and marveled at how vastly superior–despite the low budget–it was to anything Friday the 13th related. It was weird to think this was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first movie, and the one that really kicked off the slasher film craze of the late 1970s/early 1980’s. They literally were everywhere, and with my youthful distaste for gore and blood and horrific and violent death, I avoided them like the plague (Paul, in fact, was the person who got me to start watching the Halloween films; last year I moved on to the other slasher movies in October for my first Halloween Horror Film Festival–and in most cases, I didn’t really miss anything). But I have come to appreciate the Halloween movies–primarily due to Jamie Lee Curtis, who single-handedly makes the films worth watching. (I’ve also never understood why P. J. Soles, so terrific in this, in Carrie, and Rock and Rock High School, never became a bigger star.) Donald Pleasance is also wonderful in this original movie, which is very basic. We never know why Michael Myers is a homicidal maniac–we don’t really need to–and what Carpenter does, with the use of the score (which he wrote), camera angles, tracking shots and so forth, is ratchet up the menace and suspense until it’s almost unbearable. After it was over, my Apple TV moved on–the remote had fallen off the table and under my chair, out of reach–to Eli Roth’s History of Horror series, and believe you me, I was glued to the television. I sat through the first season, and even through the first episode of the second season before Paul got home from the gym and we switched over to Halloween Kills, which….was disappointing, to say the least. It wasn’t anything new, really…and if you have nothing new to say or add to the franchise, well, it just comes across to the audience as “cash grab” and…it didn’t even work on a camp aspect. Over the years the franchise has been rebooted and there are lots of sequels; (confession: I’ve not seen any of the originals past part 2; I did watch the Halloween H2O and its follow up (I will never not watch a Michael Myers movie with Jamie Lee Curtis) but the original reboot and sequel from the aughts? Not so much.

I do highly recommend Eli Roth’s History of Horror. It’s not very deep or scholarly, but it’s a very good overview for people who are interested in horror film and television. Roth also interviews a lot of directors, horror writers, and stars for the series; I greatly enjoyed it and look forward to getting back to it this week, if not this weekend.

I slept deeply and well last night and feel fairly rested this morning. One of the things I really want to do this morning (before turning on the LSU game at eleven) is get some more cleaning and organizing do. There’s a load of dishes that needs to be put away and another sinkful that needs washing. I need to vacuum and clean around the living room, too…and as always, there’s a shit ton of filing that needs to be done. I also need to make a new to-do list for next week; I have this sense that things are getting away from me again, and that’s not a feeling I particularly enjoy. (Especially hits home when I look at the date and think what the fuck happened to October? Where did it go already?) In fact, the feeling is quite unpleasant.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

It Doesn’t Have To Be

Friday, Friday, gotta get down it’s Friday.

I find myself now in the post-launch haze; it’s been awhile since I’ve actually promoted a book–and usually so much else is going on the launch date might get some social media posts from me and not much else (it really is a wonder I still have any career to speak of)–but I actually feel a bit hungover from what little I did. (I admire other writers who hit it so hard; how do they do it? I sure as hell can’t.) I have nothing but the utmost respect for authors who can do the public appearance/promotion stuff and make it look easy and make it seem like they’re enjoying themselves; because that is not my experience with such things. I am always incredibly self-conscious, and inevitably my fallback response to being nervous and feeling uncomfortable is to try to be funny–which is, of course, completely subjective, and amps up the anxiety: what if no one thinks you’re funny? And with these on-line appearance (as opposed to in-person ones) I do not know if anyone laughs and that makes me even more anxious to the point that when it’s over I am a completely nervous wreck, emotionally, physically and emotionally exhausted; and the hangover from that carries over into the next day. I felt very drained and hollowed out yesterday. Today I feel better–I don’t think I slept that great, to be honest, but this morning I feel fairly well rested. Not I can conquer the world rested, but rested. This is a good thing. I don’t have to do anything outside of the apartment today other than go to the gym after I am finished working at home, and I am going to relish that. I have some data entry to do, condom packs to make, and there are also some other on-line trainings for the day job coming due–annual things we are required as a health clinic to take, like HIPAA, blood borne pathogens, biohazard, etc. (In all honesty, my favorite is the emergency training one–what do you do if there’s an electrical fire? What do you do if there’s a regular fire? What do you do if a patient collapses? I don’t know why that’s my favorite, but for some reason it is.)

Yesterday was spent mostly with on-line trainings for the day job; there was time, however, for some condom packing duties before LEG DAY at the gym (and yes, my legs are tired today. But good tired, not bad sore). I decided to keep going with my attempts at a Halloween Horror Film Festival, moving on to Friday the 13th, Part III. (turned out I must have watched the second part last October and completely forgot; my memory has now moved from sieve to a garbage disposal that clearly eats and grinds up each memory before spitting it out, forgotten) What. A. Shitty. Movie. The first one had a kind of “so-cheaply-made-it’s-kind-of-charming” feel to it, but each film cost more money…but the quality didn’t improve. The acting and writing is so incredibly bad, it’s easy to see why audiences started rooting for Jason as a kind of anti-hero; those who are about to die are such shitty, one-dimensional characters, played by actors who’d be lucky to get a supporting role in a bad dinner theater in Sarasota, Florida, you kind of enjoy watching them die horribly. I don’t know that I have the stomach to handle yet another entry in that endless series of sequels; maybe I’ll switch to the Halloween movies. Those, while equally small budget at first, are at least better acted, written, produced, and directed than their counterparts about Jason Voorhees. Paul came home rather late and had some work to do, so we watched the latest episode of Titans, which I really enjoy but this season, while interesting, is dragging a bit.

It also makes me terribly sad that this is a Friday without a new Ted Lasso.

I also need to get back to work on my writing; I got distracted with all the book promo stuff and so forth and well, now I am behind yet again. What else is new, right? When am I not behind on everything? Yes, it makes me crazy, which is partly why I am alway teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown, without question. I’ve been feeling very good about myself lately–which always makes me suspicious. My piece on Gothics for Crime Reads was well received, so was my piece on Superman posted here the other day, and Bury Me in Shadows also appears to be getting a good reception. My royalty statement came the other day and was significantly higher than I was expecting, which is always welcome news…and of course, I need to make a new to-do list. I also have some filing that needs to be done, and the apartment always needs cleaning. I do think our mouse is gone, though. Last week he was very noisy one night–Paul thought it sounded like death throes–and we haven’t heard him since. Scooter also doesn’t stare at the cabinet under the sink and the dishwasher anymore, either, which is the more likely sign that the mouse is gone at last. It’ll take me a while before I am comfortable turning the dishwasher on without putting a towel across the floor in front of it, though–the little bastard chewing through the hose is going to take me a while to get past.

I may also prune the books a little bit this weekend; the books can always be pruned, and I may even get a box of them down from the storage crawlspace today to go through–I really do need to clean out the crawlspace–and the night time lows this weekend may even dip in the high fifties; it’s definitely October in New Orleans. I think next weekend I may drive around taking pictures of Halloween decorations. One of the many things I love about this city is how so many people go all out decorating for holidays–I love the mansion on St. Charles with the annual skeleton theme–plus, A Streetcar Named Murder is set in early October. LSU plays Florida tomorrow at eleven in the morning (!), and I’ll have the game on but I doubt I will watch it from beginning to end. This has been a horribly disappointing season for LSU football–people are calling for the coach to be fired, as it looks like they’ll have their first losing season this century (!)–the last time that happened was 1999, which led to the firing of then coach DiNardo and the hiring of Nick Saban, which rescued and turned the program around to the point they won the SEC in his second season and a national title in his fourth. LSU fans have become very spoiled this century, but it’s been a very good run these last twenty or so years: four SEC titles and three national championships; only Alabama has done better during this run, and that’s a pretty high standard.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Data ain’t gonna enter itself and the condoms won’t pack themselves, either. Have a lovely Friday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Am I Losing You

Good morning, Sunday. I am not as worn out and tired as I thought I would be, to be honest.

The game last night was disappointing–it always is when LSU uses–but I wouldn’t have even minded that so much had it seemed like they were trying to win the game, if that makes sense? As I sat in a crowded (not full) stadium for the first time in two years, in and itself a novelty from the before times, it occurred to me as I watched that the problem this entire season with LSU is both sides of the ball (offense or defense), whichever is out on the field at the time, is playing not to lose, rather than to win. They play cautiously. The defense’s tackling was embarrassing for a team playing at the elitest level of college football; I don’t think they sacked the Auburn quarterback even once, and they don’t aggressively play pass defense in the backfield, either. It’s just weird that LSU has a quarterback now who has flashes of potential greatness–but no run game, no offensive line to speak of, and probably the worst defense to play for LSU since the 1990’s. Auburn didn’t play much better, either–so War Eagle fans shouldn’t put too much stock in this “big win” for them either. We barely beat Mississippi State, and UCLA–our other loss–keeps losing, too. Paul and I had never seen LSU lose in Tiger Stadium since we started attending games in 2010; that streak came to an end last night, as did Auburn’s losing streak in Baton Rouge; they hadn’t won in Tiger Stadium this century.

I always thought it would suck to drive all the way back to New Orleans after a loss–and especially one that at night–we didn’t get back to the car until well past twelve, yet somehow managed to get home before one thirty (a miracle in and of itself). There was hardly any traffic, even in Baton Rouge; but there was a cop directing traffic on Highland Avenue so maybe that helped, I don’t know.

The sting of the LSU loss, however, was made a bit more palatable by others scores from other games: Florida lost to Kentucky (Dan Mullen’s job is definitely in jeopardy–with Georgia and LSU still on their schedule, it’s entirely possible they could lose four games, although I wouldn’t be too concerned about the LSU game were I them) and Mississippi State beat Texas A&M (which means Jimbo Fisher should be worrying about his job–they haven’t played Alabama or Auburn yet, and they already have two losses in the conference). Arkansas’ bubble was popped by Georgia decisively last night, and Stanford knocked off Oregon. This is a crazy year for college football, reminding me of 2007 and 2014 (although 2014 sorted itself in the end), and come to think of it, that’s a seven year cycle.

Maybe 2021 is going to be just as crazy.

As Paul said in the car, “I think really this year there’s just Alabama and Georgia, and then everyone else at a level below.” I think he’s right.

But I slept fairly well, and there was no need to yell or scream, so I am not hoarse this morning. The stadium never really got rocking, either, so my ears aren’t ringing the way they were after the last time we went to a game in Baton Rouge. I’m not tired, but I am also not feeling particularly high energy this morning either. I have to make groceries and get gas for the car (I can apparently make it to Baton Rouge and back on a quarter tank of gas, which ain’t bad, really), and there’s also a lot of other things I’d like to do today–the gym, write for a while, do some editing, clean and organize. I started clearing out files from the Cloud yesterday because once again–a problem I have had with every Mac I’ve owned ever since they developed the cloud and stopped putting large amounts of storage in their computers, even to operate programs–my computer wasn’t working properly. It was enormously frustrating and it took me hours to move big files out of there and onto my back-up hard drive. I wasted most of yesterday doing this, in fact, until it was time to get ready to go to the game. The entire point of buying a new Mac computer two months ago was to alleviate these issues and have a functional desktop; the Cloud was a huge mistake on their part–I am certainly not a fan of it–and I do think it’s absurd that every time they upgrade their operating systems you have to learn how to use your computer all over again. It’s bullshit, a cashgrab from an already excessively greedy corporation, and yes, this will be the last Mac I own. When it finally dies from an operating system upgrade–I’d say probably two years, max–I’ll be buying a Dell, much as I hate Windows, and moving everything in the Cloud over to Dropbox….which will not affect the operating memory of my fucking computer thank you very much.

So. Fucking. Frustrating.

And on that note, I need to get rolling on my day. You have a lovely and restful (or productive, if that’s your preference) Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

I’m On My Way Back Home

Saturday morning and I feel remarkably well rested this morning, and better than I have for weeks when I wake up. I’m not sure what this is about–I am not going to talk about the absence of insomnia lately, which has been marvelous–but I am merely going to take it as a lovely occurrence and run with it.

I guess the most exciting news around here is that we have a mouse in the house, living inside the walls and emerging from behind the dishwasher/refrigerator to occasionally raid Scooter’s food dish. The exterminator came yesterday–and we also discovered the reason the dishwasher is leaking is because the fucking mouse ate through a hose, the little shit–so hopefully this problem will be rectified soon. Scooter has done a good job of keeping the mouse trapped in his area–but he’s not always downstairs. I saw the mouse the other day, eating out of Scooter’s food bowl, and chased it back to his hiding place/residence. It’s not a terribly huge deal–with this old house and all the wildlife thriving in this jungle, tropical climate, it’s really amazing we’ve not had one in over ten years; my theory is the mouse came exploring under the house, and was chased into the house by one of the outdoor cats, and once he was inside, well, wouldn’t you live in the walls of the nice safe house where you can hide out of reach of the predatory cat inside, rather than in the dangerous wilds below the house where any number of cats roam?

I guess we should be glad it isn’t an opossum–the family that was living in the crepe myrtles have disappeared since some of the trees were cut down and the ones left behind trimmed down. Those are almost impossible to get out of the house.

Last night we watched Ted Lasso, which was marvelous (I teared up several times, as I do with every episode, and yet the show always leaves you feeling joy), as well as some other episodes of shows we’re watching but right now I cannot think of what any of them were. How peculiar. Oh, of course, The Morning Show. Foundation is also up on Apple TV now, and i really want to watch it, but am not sure if Paul will be interested. I read the entire Azimov series (ironically, when I read it, it was simply called The Foundation Trilogy, because there were only three at the time; same with Dune. The fourth books in both series were released after I’d read the original trilogies, and now both have been adapted at around the same time!) when I was relatively young–it was definitely before the release of the fourth book, Foundation’s Edge–and I greatly enjoyed them; they were my window into the world of Azimov’s science fiction, which I eventually read a lot of (he eventually connected his other trilogies–the Robot books and the spacer books–to this same trilogy into a sweeping history of the galaxy, really) and greatly enjoyed. I don’t really remember many characters or much of the story of Foundation, other than mathematician Hari Seldon could, using mathematical formulas, accurately predict the future, and when the series opens, his calculations show that the mighty Galactic Empire is falling–and the period of darkness for humanity that will follow in the wake of the collapse of the Empire will last for ten thousand years. However, if he and a team of Encyclopedists are given funding and a place to work without interruption or interference for a thousand years, collecting all the knowledge and history of the galaxy in that time, the darkness will only last a few hundred years or so because of the Encyclopedia. This is the basic premise of the series, which eventually proves to be so much more involved and so much else going on…it was fascinating. But I am not sure how it will work as a series–the trailers look epic–so it might not interest Paul, which means something else I’d have to watch on my own.

The LSU game today is on at eleven, which is insane and unusual and really kind of puts a fly in the ointment of the day, doesn’t it? There aren’t many good games today–the only other one of even slight interest is Arkansas-Texas A&M–so I should be able to get through the emotional rollercoaster of the LSU game early enough to get things done; at least finish reading Velvet Was the Night, which is what I really want to do, and maybe do some writing/editing; it’s way overdue, but I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about the writing lately, so it’s time to put those thoughts onto the page before other thoughts and ideas push them out and they languish, forgotten and abandoned, in the deepest and darkest recesses of my brain. Christ, the Saints game is also at noon tomorrow. Whatever happened to night fucking games?

I did manage to get some cleaning done up in the kitchen yesterday after work; I got caught up on the dishes (which have been piling up since the dishwasher started leaking; the days of rinsing something out and/or using a sponge to clean it with soap before placing it in the dishwasher to keep the sinks free are gone until that hose is replaced; the handyman is theoretically going to do it on Monday) and the laundry, started picking up things around the living room, and also pruned some more books off the shelves. Now if I can get the desk area/office space better organized…maybe I can even make myself sit at the computer and write for a while? Stranger things have happened.

I am also doing a promo thing for my publisher tonight at six o’clock central time; it involves a reading and a chat about my book along with other Bold Strokes authors who have books coming out in October; you can register here if you would like to.

And at some point today, I’ll need to pick a small section of the book to read from; and practice a bit.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Twenty-Four Hours a Day

Wednesday and the mid-week point. I only have to work this morning–I have a doctor’s appointment at one this afternoon, so I’ll be leaving the office around twelve to head uptown–and then to home, probably the gym and hopefully to get some writing done. One can dream, cannot one?

The doctor’s appointment is the pre-colonoscopy preparation visit; today I will get the procedure scheduled–can’t wait–but while I am not thrilled at the prospective, potential scary diagnoses that could come from it, it’s better to know rather than not. Whether there’s a genetic predisposition to cancer or not, both sides of my family have seemed to have had an excess of cancer diagnoses, which makes me tend to think I am relatively high risk (although neither parent has ever had it). There’s also all the other genetic predispositions–high blood pressure, heart disease, all those lovely things that do tend to run in families–and of course, I get all of it from both sides, which isn’t terrific. But there’s also little I can do about genetic predispositions–other than eating better (which is always a problem for me) and healthier and of course, going to the gym regularly–which has completely fallen off since the power went out. Today I need to climb back onto the horse and work my ass out.

Last night I was very tired. My last two appointments canceled on me, so I came home early and did some on-line trainings, and still have several more to do (hello, two days working at home!). And I didn’t have either the energy to read or write last night after I was finished with bloodborne pathogen training (try not to envy me too much, okay?) The LSU game is at eleven on Saturday, which means any and all errands will be delayed until Sunday; my mood for the rest of Saturday is entirely dependent on how well LSU fares in its first SEC game. A loss here means a potential season of no-wins in the conference; the division just keeps getting better–even Arkansas and Mississippi look vastly improved this year–and Mississippi State (Saturday’s game) was one of our inexplicable losses from last year…and that’s not taking into consideration the murderer’s row of Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M, and Alabama. Heavy sigh. It’s going to be a long, ugly football season I fear, and the Saints didn’t look too great last weekend, either.

Yay.

But I had some excellent book mail this week: These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall (it was supposed to be delivered the week after Ida; it took a bit longer, needless to say); Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead; and Bitterroot Lake by Alicia Beckman (a pseudonym of the fabulous Leslie Budewitz). So, if I can ever finish reading Velvet Was the Night, I have some other excellent reading in store–but October is rapidly approaching, and I want to spend October reading horror, beginning with my annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I also have so much writing to do–Christ, I haven’t written much of anything since before the power went out (a phrase I am using so regularly I am beginning to think I should start referring to it as Before The Power Went Out), although yesterday I did spend some brainstorming time on my next book and I did try to work on an essay. Progress? But it was something, at any rate, and something is better than nothing at this point, quite frankly.

And yet…

Maybe–and this is a big maybe–this week is a period of readjustment, as life returns to normality (or what at least passed for it Before The Power Went Out–oooh, I do like that) I need to get used to my normal schedule again before I can settle into it and get my shit together again–or I’ve just gotten incredibly good at justifying laziness and procrastination after a lifetime of practice. But today is the first day of autumn officially (I rather jumped the gun on Twitter yesterday, getting a resultant scolding from my friend Alafair), and tonight the low is dipping into the sixties, and it will do that very thing every night through the weekend. It wasn’t horribly humid yesterday–at least it didn’t feel like it; it felt much cooler yesterday despite my car telling me it was 92 degrees when I left the office yesterday–and even this morning, the air was a bit thick (it rained a bit overnight) but there was a bit of a nip in the thickness, which indicates the ignominy of the summer heat is finally past. There were still occasionally be days where it gets up into the high eighties/low nineties, but the humidity is pretty much finished for the year (please please please don’t prove me wrong) so it’s actually lovely; rather southern California-ish outside.

So, here’s hoping to a nice little visit with the doctor this afternoon, a lovely workout at the gym, and some quality reading/writing time this evening. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.