As Long As You’re There

And now it’s Friday.

I slept very well again last night, which was lovely–I’ve really been getting excellent sleep ever since The Power Came Back On, which is delightful–and I am looking ahead to this lovely weekend with great excitement and joy. The LSU game tomorrow is a night game, at undefeated Kentucky (when was the last time the teams played and KENTUCKY was the undefeated and ranked team of the two? Probably never), so I have tomorrow’s entirety free to get things done, run errands, go to the gym, and essentially do as I please until the game. I also am working at home today, and thus trying to find some horror to watch while I make the condom packs.

I started watching Friday the 13th Part II yesterday, and wasn’t far along into it before it started seeming familiar, like I’d seen it before–and I soon realized that I probably had, last year in October, so I switched it off in disappointment (not really; it was actually quite terrible) and switched over to the final episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I had not been watching because I was sick to death of Erika Girardi using the show to try to gain sympathy for herself as one of her husband’s “victims.” But I had read a piece somewhere about the show being the “best thing on television right now”, and then I read a piece run recently in the Los Angeles Times, an interview with the three ‘outsiders’ on the show (Garcelle, Sutton, and Crystal) talking about the season and the filming of the lengthy finale, and I thought, swallow your disgust at the behavior of this criminal accomplice and watch. Interestingly enough, the cringe-aspect of watching I was experiencing before taking a break was now gone; and while I still felt a bit squeamish about watching–de facto condoning her behavior by giving them ratings, which will lead to her getting signed for another season, which is again a reward for her terrible behavior–I found myself actually enjoying watching again. I still loathe two members of the cast completely–looking at you, Kyle and Lisa Rinna, and will continue to hope to see them humbled, humiliated and (best case) let go–but I think I can watch again. The show, which the cast had been overly producing for quite some time, kind of had that rigid artifice stripped away from it with the Girardi criminal case; there really was no way they could escape the litigation or comment on the investigations of the growing scandal.

Or maybe I’m not in a really dark place anymore? There’s still something that seems wrong about watching this…but I can’t get to the bottom of it, frankly. I guess I’ll just keeping discussing it here until i get to the bottom of why it feels so wrong.

Who knows? I may never get to the bottom of it.

We got caught up on some of our shows last night–Only Murders in the Building, American Horror Story: Double Feature, and Archer–which was lovely and relaxing. I think it was the last episode of Archer ever; it ended with a tribute to Jessica Walter, and I can’t imagine having the show without her character, so it most likely was. Archer has never been as funny in its later seasons as it was in its earlier ones, alas; and while I appreciated the show’s attempts to keep it fresh by changing things up with seasons devoted to a theme–outer space, becoming a drug cartel, doing a noir Hollywood story–they never quite equalled the humor of the original seasons. Pity. I am also kind of intrigued by the second half of this AHS season; the alien stuff is very strange and weird, even by AHS standards, and I am not really sure where this is going, but it’s holding our interest. Only Murders continues to hold its charm; I had assumed it was rushing to a conclusion, only to have a twist at the end of the latest episode that ensure that no, indeed, the season is not finished quite yet. And we have our other shows to watch this weekend, as well as some movies–Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the very top of the list, of course–and perhaps there are some other shows we can look into on the streaming services. (I really want to check out Stephen Amell’s new wrestling show on Showtime, Heels–which looks like it could be pretty good.)

So, I have some nice plans for the weekend–catching up on things, cleaning, organizing, writing, dropping off books to the library sale–and am really excited about possibly doing the writing part of the to-do list this weekend. I also want to fucking finally finish the book I am reading–which I am not going to name; my inability to stay focused and read lately has been really annoying and I no longer want to even hint at the possibility that I am not finishing the book because it isn’t good because it it very excellent; I may have to finish and then move on to short stories again. Short stories could also work very well for Halloween Horror Month; it never can hurt to dig into Stephen King or Shirley Jackson short stories, and of course Daphne du Maurier’s are often macabre and haunting. So, we shall see. I am going to try to finish the book I’m reading now, possibly reread The Haunting of Hill House, and if my reading focus remains fucked up, move on to short stories.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow.

History Has Its Eyes On You

Ah, Independence Day.

That’s really what the 4th of July commemorates–the day the Continental Congress ratified, and began signing, the Declaration of Independence, when the thirteen British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard threw off the yoke of the King of England and his Parliament and said, nah, thanks–we’re going out on our own. It was extremely radical–particularly since the British Empire was the greatest power in the world since the end of the Seven Years’ War (to the colonials, the French and Indian War) in 1763; perhaps the largest empire to date in world history.

And yet…no rights for women and there was still slavery for another ninety-odd years, give or take.

Someday I will write an essay about American mythology and how I learned it as absolute truth as a child; American history (or rather, US history) was my gateway drug to world history. I should have gone into History as my major in college; it’s entirely possible that History rather than English (or business; I switched back and forth between the two for a very long time) might have garnered an entirely different result when it came to my academic career. But I also would have had to have picked a time to specialize in, and how on earth could I have ever decided? There were so many interesting periods…although inevitably, I tend to think my metiér would have been sixteenth century Europe.

Someday–probably after I retire–I am going to write A Monstrous Regiment of Women.

Yesterday was rather lovely. I actually slept late, of all things; I cannot remember the last time that happened, and thus got a rather late start to my day. I started cleaning up around the house, and organizing things, but again–a late start kind of threw me off my game a bit, and I didn’t get near enough done that I had wanted to get done. I did read a couple of short stories for the Short Story Project, and I also read some more of Robyn Gigl’s wonderful By Way of Sorrow; that was lovely. I also listened to some Bette Midler albums on Spotify (joking on Facebook that I was doing my part to break down gay stereotypes by doing so); in particular I listened to It’s the Girls and Bette Midler, before moving on to Liza with the Cabaret soundtrack, and the little known sequel to Rocky Horror soundtrack, Shock Treatment, and then moved on to the Pet Shop Boys. I made meatballs in the slow cooker for dinner, and then we watched Fear Street 1994 (which was remarkably fun), then a few episodes of High Seas (which is really fun) and a few episodes of Happy Endings before bed.

R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike, who were hugely successful writers of young adult suspense/mystery/horror in the 1990’s, actually had an influence on me as a writer, surprisingly enough. I read most of their novels when I lived in Tampa back in the day (I actually preferred Pike, to be honest), and I actually wrote three novels–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel–for young adults during that time. I had always intended to do the Fear Street thing–where the books were all connected somehow and minor characters in one would become the lead characters in another–and spread them across the country, as opposed to one town, as Stine had done; mine would be scattered between Kansas, California, Chicago, and Alabama (one of those ideas became Dark Tide and another Bury Me in Shadows). Then I discovered, through Paul, gay mysteries and all those ideas went into a drawer, along with those manuscripts, and I started creating Chanse and his world, and what eventually became Murder in the Rue Dauphine.

Fear Street 1994 is a lot of fun, as I said, both a mystery, a slasher film, and horror–the main romantic story is a lesbian love story, which was very cool–and it also slightly involved class differentials between the town of Shadyside (often called Shittyside) and it’s wealthier, preppy neighbor, Sunnyvale. It was a fun homage to Scream as well, and it was clever, witty, and quite a fun ride. I do recommend you watch it, if you like those kinds of movies. Nothing deep, but lots of fun, and now I can’t wait for the next part of the trilogy, which drops this Friday: Fear Street 1978.

I did try writing yesterday, without much luck, logging in less than a thousand words. But rather than despairing, as I am wont to do (Oh no! I knew I was breaking my momentum!), I chose to understand and recognize that the scene I was writing needed to be set up better–which was why it wasn’t working–and it needed more than just the cursory slide over I was giving it. I am going to open the document back up later this morning–probably after getting another load of laundry finished, and emptying the dishwasher–and scroll back a bit to start revising and getting into the story again. There really is such a thing as thinking too much about what you’re writing; that’s when the door to doubt starts to open a crack and Imposter Syndrome starts saying pssst through that open crack in the door.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe 4th of July, Constant Reader!

I Am What I Am

Wednesday morning and I am I ever glad to be getting closer to a holiday weekend, Constant Reader–you have NO idea. The last two days weren’t easy–while not really having insomnia all night, I did for at least half the night both Sunday and Monday nights–and as such wasn’t able to remain centered as much as I would have liked. I did sleep deeply, restfully and well last night–I think making it to the gym was a huge help in that regard–and I certainly feel much better this morning than I have since the break I’ve had to take because of the tooth extraction. Heavy sigh.

I did, however, manage to write just under three thousand words last night on “Never Kiss a Stranger,” more or less (slightly less, I actually think). While it feels good to be writing so much, and doing so much on first drafts, I am very well aware that all of these things I am working on will require editing and revision before they are fit for human consumption, or to be seen by anyone else outside of me. But I am being productive again in the old way–the way I used to be–and it’s a lovely lovely feeling to be able to produce so much work in a few hours again. “Stranger” is going to need more work than “Festival of the Redeemer,” I believe; it’s out of order and I am bunching things together that need to be spread out more across the story, but that’s what edits and revisions are for. I’m also not breaking my novellas up into separate scenes, or chapters, the way so many writers of novellas do; but that’s a decision for me to make later, during the editorial process.

This, by the way, is why I hate editing myself. Inevitably I will come to a problem section and think, fuck, I don’t want to fix this it’s going to be a huge pain in the ass why did I leave this for my later self to deal with, you asshole?

It’s also why, I think, I’ve not been as productive in the last few years as I used to be; I have a tendency to self-edit as I go and try not to spend any time writing something that I am going to have to fix later, which is stupid–don’t get it right get it written. This inevitably leads me to not wanting to do what always works–start writing and eventually, as I keep quoting Mr. King, the hole in the page will open and the next thing I know I’ve written a lot. And as much of a pain in the ass as it can be to have to fix things, it’s easier to fix things than to write something completely new. Although…maybe that isn’t the case? Since all I have to do is focus and start writing?

Heavy sigh. But I want to get this finished because I want to spend the weekend editing.

Tonight when I get off work I am going to put the dishes away and finish the load of laundry I started last night–it’s been sitting in the dryer since I went to bed last night, and so it will need to be fluffed and folded–and then I am going to try to do some straightening up around the Lost Apartment so it won’t be a complete disaster when I get up tomorrow for the first of my work-at-home days (condom packs and data entry! woo-hoo!). I also have to make a Costco list for this weekend, and I want to finish reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow so I can start PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus…I also want to get back to the Short Story Project; I want to reread some of Daphne du Maurier’s short storie–“Don’t Look Now” in particular, and I also want to start some organizing of this essay collection I am thinking of doing…sigh. This is, you see, why I think I am lazy. I always want to get so much more done than I am actually capable of doing, and as a result when I cannot get it all done I think it’s because I am lazy and took some time off or goofed off for a while, and never can recognize or accept that DOWN TIME IS NECESSARY.

I really need to stop beating myself up over taking down time. It is self-defeating, and leads to other mental health issues, always.

And one of my goals for the year was to be kinder to myself, so I need to stop beating myself up over this kind of stuff and always remember: it is what it is.

It is what it is.

And on that note, back to the spice mines with me!

Who’s Crying Now

I’m not going to tell the story of my college writing professor who read the short story I turned in for his class and told me I would never be a published writer–as tempting as it is (oops, looks like I told it again, didn’t I?) but every time I sell a short story I do think of him and the smug look on his face as he tried to obliterate my life-long dream. I think of it every time the anthology or magazine or wherever I’ve sold the story to comes out, when the reviews begin (even the ones that don’t mention my story or didn’t like it) coming out, every time I Iook at the pdf file to proof, and so forth.

And I definitely think about him when I cash the check.

As I hurtle towards sixty (less than three months away) I have been remembering a lot about my life, reflecting and looking back, memories long buried coming to the forefront of my fevered little brain. I really had horrible professors in college, without fail–one after the other at that godforsaken college; it’s little wonder I experience bouts of imposter syndrome.

Let it go, Elsa, let it go.

Zane parks his wobbling shopping cart next to the island divided in half. The side he parked beside contains cantaloupes, separated by a partition from round, green-striped watermelons beneath a sign reading Red Seedless Personal Watermelons, $3.99 The cantaloupes are cheaper, per the sign casting shadow on the stacks of melons below. He glances around. There’s an older woman, rooting through the baking potatoes like a pig hunting truffles. A younger woman is inspecting the rubber-banded clusters of green onions. Two men in uniforms are building salads at the salad bar, scooping things into Styrofoam boxes. Three people are waiting for their orders at the deli meat counter, their backs to him.

No one is paying him the slightest bit of mind.

He picks up one of the cantaloupes and does what he’s seen others do. He sniffs it where the vine had been attached, holds it up to his ear and thumps it with his thumb. He doesn’t know how it should smell or sound if it’s ripe or not, but he’s too self-conscious to not go through the same motions everyone else does when selecting a melon. He’s terrified someone will notice him not thumping and laugh at him, mock him for his stupidity, point out he doesn’t belong in this big modern supermarket with its aisles and aisles of bounty. He’s always afraid someone, anyone, will notice he doesn’t know how to do a simple task every other shopper seems to know how to do instinctively, something so incredibly simple his failure will be like an enormous neon sign announcing to the other shoppers in their yoga pants or tennis skirts that he doesn’t belong here.

One of these things is not like the others.

Stop thinking like that, he scolds himself as he puts the cantaloupe back with the others. You belong here just as much as anyone. Who knows what secrets these other shoppers might be hiding?

He closes his eyes for a moment, hears his heart thumping rapidly in his ears.  It’s too fast, but that isn’t anxiety or stress, it’s because he just taught back to back spin classes, it’s why his legs are tired and why he’s in the produce section of the Rouse’s Supermarket on Tchoupitoulas Street, listening to melons while wearing a black tank top drenched in sweat and tight bike shorts under looser-fitting cotton ones and shivering in the air-conditioned coldness.

I love dark fiction, and particularly love horror. I used to go back and forth between horror and crime; I couldn’t decide which I wanted to do more. The first books I wrote to completion (besides that silly, lengthy Peyton Place ripoff I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, from which I regularly pilfer characters and plots from)were horror, technically; Sara, Sorceress and Sleeping Angel–which eventually, with a lot of revision and updating, saw print; although Sleeping Angel in its final form was more of a mystery than anything else. I don’t write “jump-scare” horror, and eventually realized that I didn’t have the imagination to write horror; almost everything I tried–story, novel, whatever–inevitably was highly derivative of other books, authors, stories. Inspiration for crime stories were everywhere–the daily news, for example–and I also realized my bent was more along the lines of Gothic stories and/or psychological horror.

The inspiration for “Night Follows Night” came from one of my several-times-per-week visits to the grocery store; that mundane experience we all have, we all deal with; the necessary chore that can only be put off for so long. As a slightly obsessive-compulsive person, I always plan my trips to the grocery store for maximum efficiency; no wasted time, no wandering down aisles, no just looking around. I have a list every time I go grocery shopping, and the list is made completely predicated on where everything is located in the store–so I don’t have to waste any time. I go only to the aisles where the things I need are stocked; skipping the ones I don’t need anything from, and work my way from the right side of the store to the left before completing the circuit by checking out and heading back out through the same doors I entered, having parked near them. One afternoon I stopped at the Rouse’s on Tchoupitoulas, list in hand (always on a small legal pad) and pen in pocket, when I got a cart from the corral with a loud, wobbly squeaky wheel–again. I always get a cart with a wobbly, squeaky front wheel; it doesn’t matter where I shop, it happens every time. (Of course, I could always put it back and get another, but somehow that disturbs my sense of order.) As I pushed the cart into the store, the wheel wobbling and squeaking, and headed for the melons–a seedless watermelon was on my list, the very first thing–and I picked one up and thumped it…and as I placed it in my cart I wondered, what precise sound is the thump supposed to make? Am I just so lucky that I pick up a ripe one every single time? What does an unripe one sound like?

And as I worked my way through the list with my wobbling, squeaking cart that day, the story kept forming in my mind; someone doing the mundane task of making groceries (as we say here) in a brightly lit, sparsely crowded supermarket–the character taking shape in my mind, having a near breakdown and his tightly held grip on reality and sanity starting to slip–but why? What would trigger such a reaction, and who is this guy? He held my imagination, my mind idly wondering about him and coming up with reasons for this break in a public place–which, I figured, would also make it worse for him–and I started thinking about that sense of not belonging there; that he feels like he doesn’t belong still, in a normal everyday environment, and wondering why that was as I drove home, unloaded the car and putting the groceries away, and I sat down at my computer and started to write this story–which, through several title changes and various iterations, became, finally, “Night Follows Night.” It languished in my files for about a year until a friend–Felice Picano, to be exact–sent me the call for submissions for Unburied, and I thought to myself, “hmmm, that grocery store story might work for this” and I opened the file and polished it again before sending it in early last year. It was one of four stories I sent out in a day, and one of the two that were accepted within twenty-four hours, by editor Rebecca Rowland, and now the entire anthology is available.

Some of the reviews, and information about the other contributors and their stories as well as ordering information can be found here.

Cries and Whispers

And just like that it is Saturday again. Another good night of sleep–I did wake a few times, but had little to no difficulty in falling back to sleep, which was lovely–and I feel relatively well-rested this morning. Yesterday was, of course, a work-at-home Friday, and I had to take a bit of a break to go to the West Bank to get the car serviced; it was perhaps a bit overdue on the oil change, and I also learned something new about my car–it doesn’t really desperately need an oil change until the orange wrench lights up on the dashboard, or once a year, whichever comes first. I’ve had the car for nearly four years or so at this point, and since I have slightly less than 17,000 miles on it in that amount of time–hence the answer about the oil change. I’m still, obviously, unused to having a car produced so recently; all the old rules about oil changes and service and everything else stemming from having an ancient car no longer applies. It’s quite lovely, actually, but I am still not used to it, frankly.

I also love my car dealership–they are always so professional, courteous, and friendly. I have never had a single bad experience with them, and should the day come that I would replace my car, obviously I would go there and buy the new car from them. As much as I resent that car payment depleting my checking account every month–and the insurance payment–I really do love my car and am very pleased with it. It runs like a dream, I love that my phone syncs with the car stereo via bluetooth so I can make hands-free calls when I drive if I so choose–I generally choose not to, but there have been times I’ve been in the car and gotten a call. needed to take, and I prefer the hands-free method, frankly. I also grabbed lunch at Sonic since I was over there already–I always do this, and it had been a while since I’d had Sonic (there’s also a Five Guys on Manhattan Boulevard now; but I wanted tater tots so Sonic was the obvious choice), and then settled in for an afternoon of condom packing and watching movies.

Yesterday I was talking about 80’s Neo-noir, triggered by a rewatch of the terrific Angel Heart, and so as I scrolled through the watch-lists I’ve made on various streaming services (some of them really need to be cut out, quite frankly) I came across The Big Easy on Prime. This is a film that is almost universally reviled in New Orleans; I’ve not watched it since we moved here, but it also, like Angel Heart, piqued an interest in New Orleans I had always had, so it also played a small part in my eventually winding up living here, so it always has a special place in my heart for that very reason. I also thought it might be interesting to rewatch it after living here for nearly three decades, and to see it from the perspective of a local (I will always be a local, an important distinction from a native here). It wasn’t long into the film before I started laughing and cringing, to be honest, but it’s also a fun movie to watch because, as with anything filmed here, you start trying to pick out the various locations where it was shot. It also had some very weird geography for New Orleans, as does every movie filmed and set here.

But the movie is not completely terrible. When I originally saw it, in the theater, I had an enormous crush on Dennis Quaid–insane grin and all–because of that extraordinary body he had as a young man, and he also had charisma and charm on screen. Having him play a Cajun cop in New Orleans wasn’t perhaps the best casting choice; but given the way the role was written and the screenplay itself, he wasn’t bad–he did the best he could with what he was given to work with. It’s another one of those movies that assumes New Orleans is a Cajun city, which it is not; there are Cajuns in the city, yes of course, but they aren’t the dominant demographic nor do you here Cajun accents everywhere you go; I’d say I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Cajun accent, or Cajun language, used here. (One of my former co-workers was from Lafayette, in the heart of Acadiana, and he would talk Cajun to me sometimes; I always enjoyed it. The Cajuns are, frankly, fascinating to me, and I would love to study their culture and history more) The film also portrayed the New Orleans police department in a non-too-flattering light; almost all of the cops are corrupt in some casual way, whether it’s actually the drug trade or taking kickbacks from the “widows and orphans” fund, including detective Remy McSwain; the police department is practically a family business for the McSwains. Ellen Barkin, with her own style of unique beauty and sexiness, plays a new ADA in the city, Ann Osborn, and her job is primarily to investigate corruption in the police department–she was brought in by the Feds. Again, the role was written in a horribly sexist way; Ann is smart and capable and hard-working–why else would the Feds bring her in, particularly when the corruption is so deeply embedded that it’s such an accepted part of the police culture that no one even thinks twice about it? And yet Remy is so hot and charming and sexy, she struggles between her ethics and her knowing he’s corrupt and basically turns into an idiot in his presence at all times–clumsy, bumping into things, dropping things–and of course, she only wears her glasses when she’s working. Eventually she brings him around to recognizing that he’s one of the bad guys, and they combine forces–and have steamy sex scenes–to close the case they are both investigating, an apparent drug war between rival gangs which may not be real, just made to look real. The city looks beautiful–there are so few places in this country that look so astonishingly beautiful on film (hence the draw for me) and the story itself is a pretty decent one. But they managed to get so much wrong about New Orleans–beginning with the fact no one here calls it that, or “N’awlins.” I can certainly see why the film is so loathed here. It was adapted into a television series that began airing when Paul and I first moved here, and if the movie’s depiction was bad, the television show’s was even worse. We hate-watched it until it got so bad it wasn’t even campy anymore; the series was up on Prime for awhile, and I rewatched the first episode but had to turn it off after ten minutes because I couldn’t take how terrible it actually was.

I also started reading a short story by Patti Abbott yesterday, from the Lawrence Block anthology From Sea to Stormy Sea while I was waiting for them to finish servicing my car, and I intend to finish reading that story today–it’s amazing to me how quick and efficient the service at my dealership is–and I will probably read some more stories in that anthology over the course of the weekend. I have a lot of work to get done–so much work–and I really need to start working on the book as well. Time is slipping away fairly quickly, which means February will be incredibly stressful for me if I don’t get my shit together, but at least there are no parades to have to plan around this year.

And now to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely weekend, Constant Reader.

The Lakes

Yesterday was one of those lovely autumn days in New Orleans that always reminds me how lucky those of us who get to live here actually are. Oh, what a gorgeous day it was, with the temperature in the mid-seventies, the sun shining and the sky that brilliant sapphire shade of blue. As I am sure you can imagine, Halloween is extremely popular in New Orleans, and I love seeing the way people go all out in decorating the exteriors of their homes for the holiday. So, driving uptown in the early afternoon hours of such a glorious day, and seeing the lovely houses all festooned in their orange and black spectral finery was quite relaxing and joyous. The shade from the live oaks also seems somewhat spooky in October–not sure why that is, it just is.

I definitely need to take my phone and go for a lengthy walk, taking pictures.

I proofed the story yesterday–a start on getting things done–and then turned on the television for background noise…and what a crazy day for football in the SEC. Auburn was upset by South Carolina; Texas A&M took out Mississippi State (whose only win is, natch, LSU); Kentucky embarrassed Tennessee in Knoxville, Arkansas somehow took out Ole Miss; and then in the big game of the day, Alabama took out Georgia decisively for the third time in four years after trailing at half-time. I suspect Alabama is going to run the table this year and be the SEC’s best chance for the national title yet again, which means things are sort of back to normal–although the usual suspects don’t seem to be in a position to challenge. Alabama and Georgia will probably play again the conference championship game–with Florida holding an outside chance at winning the East, but would also have to run the table–it’s possible, as I doubt LSU is going to take Florida down this year. The Saints are playing today at noon, but I’m not sure I am going to watch that or not. (Again, probably have it on as background noise, while I reread Bury Me in Shadows.)

Proofing my story yesterday allowed me to reread it again as well, and much as I hate to say things like this about my own work, “Night Follows Night” is actually a good story, and I did a good job on it. I also realized that, in some ways, the in-progress story “The Flagellants” could easily be tweaked into a sequel to it; which I may try to do, just to see…but by making it a sequel, I don’t know what the crime part of the story could turn out to be. So maybe, maybe not. We’ll have to see how it all turns out, I suppose.

I have two books on hold currently at the library–both of which are research for Chlorine–and I am a bit surprised they didn’t email me to let me know they were waiting for me. I can pick them up on Thursday, and will need to remember to call and make an appointment with them so I can do so. I also need to order prescription refills for Thursday as well, so I can get it all over and done with in one fell swoop. (That might be, in fact, a good day to take pictures of the skeleton house in Uptown–they always do such a great job of decorating for Halloween.)

It’s going to be weird not having Gay Halloween this year, just as it was weird there was no Southern Decadence for the first time in decades. It’s not like I’ve attended or participated in years–or for that matter, even go out on Halloween weekend anymore–but the absence still bothers me somewhat. I also have to go up to Kentucky this year–probably for Thanksgiving–which means I’ll be able to get a lot of reading done and maybe even get some writing done as well. The last time I went up there I checked out audiobooks from the library; I’ll have to do the same again this time. Perhaps Stephen King’s The Institute, or another one of his works that I’ve not had the chance to read yet? I am not so sure that it’s perhaps the wisest thing to do to travel–Mom and Dad are getting up there, and if I am an asymptomatic carrier…yeah, so I don’t know. Maybe I should put it off until after this is all over, I don’t know.

Perhaps indeed.

I need to get back to reading for pleasure and education again, seriously. I am still reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, which is well-written but rather dense–it’s not like it’s hard to put it down and walk away from it–and I want to dive back onto gobbling up short stories again. I have Sara Paretsky’s short story collection glaring at me from the stack of collections and anthologies I set aside for the Short Story Project, for example, and of course the latest Lawrence Block anthology is right there next to it.

Yesterday I felt a little off–gastronomically speaking; mostly some terrible heartburn that thankfully seems to have gone away overnight while I slept, which of course had me more than a little concerned. I’ve not had that in a while–of course, I forgot to take my pills both Friday and yesterday, but even after taking them for yesterday the heartburn remained, which was disconcerting and alarming. Needless to say, I am quite delighted this morning that it’s gone away–and I should go take my pills right now, shouldn’t I, while I’m thinking about it and before I forget?

Okay, I am back now. The sun is in my eyes as it rises in the east over the West Bank–is it any wonder we are so off here in New Orleans?–but it’ll just be annoying and right in my eyes for a couple of minutes. Once I finish this, I think I am going to draft some emails to be sent tomorrow morning, and then adjourn to my easy chair with some short stories to read, as well as some of my own work to look over, reread, and correct. When the Saints game starts I’ll probably launch into the reread of Bury Me in Shadows–it’s been so long since I’ve worked on it, and so much is always going on that it’s hard for me to remember anything and everything, which is just plain wrong.

Sigh. I really miss my memory.

And on that note, it’s time to head back into the spice mines. One more cup of coffee, a Sara Paretsky short story, and then a shower to get my day going. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Red

Getting up early is the bane of my existence, and has been for nearly my entire life. I think alarms are evil, frankly–necessary sometimes, admittedly, but there’s nothing worse than being ripped out of a deep sleep by the incessant braying of a fucking alarm clock. My preference would be to wake up naturally every morning; those are the days when I never feel tired the rest of the day–waking up to an alarm inevitably means being tired at some point, and depending on how difficult it is for me to wake up after said alarm goes off, I could quite easily be tired for the rest of the day.

We’re not enjoying The Vow nearly as much as we did in the earlier episodes, and with no offense to Catherine Oxenberg, the documentary’s shift from being about what the cult (NXIVM) is doing and how it hounds people who try to leave–and their attempts to bring it down–and to a focus on her attempts to rescue her daughter was jarring; those original episodes were a lot more interesting than these last few focusing on Oxenberg and her daughter. It’s like the series shifted focus in mid-stream, and while I know Oxenberg played a very important role in bringing NXIVM down, this shift felt strange, awkward, and weird–almost inorganic.

There’s another storm out in the Caribbean Sea, and New Orleans is almost entirely the cone of uncertainty. When I looked at it last night, it looked like it could become a category 2 by the time it makes it ashore at the end of this week. This is Delta–an ominous name for people who live in the Mississippi Delta, or rather just above it–and while I am not necessarily feeling any stress about this storm just yet (give it another day or so, or another cup of cappuccino) it’s definitely not pleasing to have such a thing out there, looming and lurking and slowly making its way towards us. It’s projection right now is a dead-center hit on New Orleans as a Category 2, but let’s keep our fingers crossed that this will be another near-miss or a big old nothing.

This morning, Delta seems to be strengthening in the Caribbean Sea, with it possibly getting up to Category 4 in the Gulf, but only coming ashore as a 2. A 2 is still rough, mind you; that’s what Laura was in western Louisiana and she wrought havoc and destruction; so am I getting a little unsettled and unnerved by the presence of this storm lurking out there, with almost two full months left in the season? Damned straight I am. I don’t seem to be having any PTSD at the moment, unlike the previous storms that threatened here this year, so that’s a good thing–unless I am so beaten down already by the year that I no longer have the bandwidth to spare any emotion anymore, which is probably a very strong possibility.

But it will certainly make the end of the week interesting, at any rate.

We started watching the new Gillian Flynn show–she’s producer, writer and show-runner, I guess–on Prime, Utopia. I’m still not quite sure what I think of it, but it’s pretty amazing. Very hard-boiled, very realistic, very interesting, surprising twists, and boy is it ever dark. I’m not even sure I can describe the plot adequately enough to do it justice–it’s like trying to figure out how to explain Orphan Black to someone; you inevitably give up and say, “you have to watch. It’s marvelous.” The acting and writing are top notch, the direction and editing and overall visual aesthetic are cinematic at the best of the meaning of the word, and you can’t really look away from it. It’s very violent. But I really hated to stop watching when it was time for bed last night. Oh, and John Cusack is in it. There’s this amazing sense of paranoia that runs through it, that is also reminiscent of my Cynical 70’s Film Festival, the decade of conspiracies and theories and cults.

Note to self: rewatch the original Fame movie. It’s very dark, as I recall, as was Saturday Night Fever.

Paul actually got home early last night so I wasn’t able to get any writing done–or reading, for that matter–which of course has me still behind the 8-ball with everything I need to get done. I did make some progress yesterday; I got a lot of my emails responded to, which was lovely, and hopefully I can get the rest of them cleaned up and cleaned out today and tomorrow. I also need to clean the kitchen this evening; I kind of let things slide last night because I wasn’t expecting Paul to be home so early and then we started watching Utopia. I also want to start wading into Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters: Stories; I’d hoped to be able to get that started yesterday. Since I’m having so much trouble focusing enough to read novels, it might be time to get back to the Short Story Project, and there are certainly enough single-author collections and anthologies lying around the Lost Apartment to keep me reading for quite some time. I also realized that I do have two short stories that are almost completed; “This Thing of Darkness” and “Moves in the Field”–the two stories that were rejected by the markets I sent them to–that can be reread, revised, and sent back out into the world, which I’ve been thinking about again lately–the need to get some more short stories out on submission again. I need to be writing more–scheduling and exhaustion (both mental, emotional and physical) cannot be allowed to defeat me and keep me from writing. Writing is what keeps me level and sane (or what passes for it around here), and it’s when I am not writing something, anything, that things tend to go off the rails around here.

And more than anything else, I need to keep things on the rails as much as possible.

Fearless

And here we are, once again, on a Monday morning with the darkness pressing against my windows, a cappuccino in my hot little hands, and wondering how this week is going to play out. Admittedly, it’s kind of a fool’s game trying to anticipate a week in 2020–I rather miss the sameness of weeks in the before-times, and I am really not certain I’ll know how to behave once things become more like they used to be; if they ever go back to how they used to be. I suspect the before-times are gone forever and once whatever this new reality we are living in moves beyond, there will be a different new reality we are all going to have to adjust to and move on.

Keep moving on.

I’m adjusting quite nicely to using the Air, sitting atop my Baring-Goulds, as my primary desktop computer. There are still some adaptations that are going to need to be made, of course–I still need to get that adapter so I can use the printer and the back-up hard drive–but thus far I am pretty pleased with how it’s all working out. My desk is out of balance now, of course—which means I am going to have to rearrange and reconfigure the desktop itself, moving file holders and books and so forth around a bit more–but honestly, it’s just so nice being able to work without the spinning wheel of death showing up periodically to slow me down and make my head split in half in controlled rage that I may just keep this system for as long as the Air remains functional.

From lemons to lemonade, really. I’m just disappointed in myself that I didn’t figure this all out a while ago–but stubbornly I kept wanting to believe that my desktop was reparable. It still might be, and at some point (depending on extra cash) I may want to take it into the Apple Store and have it looked at before trashing it completely; but in the meantime I. just need an out-of-the-way place to keep it until the extra money shows up and I can take it into the shop in Metairie.

I also can’t believe how well this has worked for lowering my incredibly high stress levels.

The workspace is still going to need some tweaking, frankly–as I mentioned, i need the adapter to gain access to the back-up hard drive, for one, and I may decide to move the books off the desk at some point or maybe make the stacks on either side of the laptop lower, I don’t know; there’s a sense of clutter that sometimes bothers me and sometimes it doesn’t, so there is that as well.

I really do think my mantra needs to remain flexibility, the ability to change and adapt to circumstances rather than rigidly refusing to bend and thus getting damaged. I remember when I was hired by Continental Airlines and started the five week training; the first thing our instructor told us was “the most important thing to remember about the airline industry is the only constant is change” and that’s really pretty true for life in general, really; if you don’t adapt and change you risk becoming a rigid dinosaur and extinction, really. And while there is certainly some comfort to be derived from routine and sameness, there’s also stagnation.

So, this week I need to rewrite an essay, revise a short story, and make some progress on the revision of Bury Me in Shadows. I also have a shit ton of volunteer work to get caught up on, I owe everyone and their grandmother emails, and for the first time in a long time i feel like I can not only get caught up but can stay on top of everything once I do get caught up (Universe, this should not be seen as an invitation to pile more unexpected things up on me, for the record), and it kind of feels nice, you know?

Let’s see how long it lasts, shall we?

We started watching a new show, an anthology series, called Monsterworld on Hulu last night; the episodes are all based on short stories from Nathan Ballingrud’s collection North American Lake Monsters: Stories. I had literally just had my hands on the book when I was moving things around earlier yesterday–part of the rearrangement of the work space thing; pull a thread and so forth–and so, rather impressed with how well done the show is and how good those first two episodes were, I found my copy of the book again and opened to the first page.

The first two paragraphs were amazing; and it’s short stories, so I think I can add it to the Short Story Project and justify reading a story here and there.

And on that note, tis time to return to the spice mines.

Clean

Hello, Friday, how are you doing?

In spite of all that’s going on in the rest of the state, yesterday was a lovely day for me personally because I got my electronic copy of Mystery Tribune which contains my story, “The Carriage House” (which you can order here). This is my second time in Mystery Tribune; the first was with my story “Neighborhood Alert”. Mystery Tribune is a gorgeously done magazine, and whenever I have some spare cash (HA!) I am going to subscribe; I really should subscribe to the magazines that support crime short stories. Bad Greg, bad Greg!

A while back, Constant Reader might remember me talking about the illusion of privacy and safety we all have when we are in our homes, even when you live in very close proximity to your neighbors, as we do here in New Orleans. From my desk I can see the right apartment of the carriage house on our property, the carriage house next door, and the apartment on the left side of the house next door. Our apartment shares a wall with our neighbors to the front and our neighbor to the side, and the upstairs shares walls with the neighbors to the front and our landlady, with whom we also share the patio deck (which we never use), and yet…we feel safe and secure and private in our apartment, and it always kind of throws me when someone walks past my “office” windows. Anyway, “The Carriage House” is a story about precisely that; living in close proximity to other people and how it also, occasionally, means knowing more about each other than perhaps you might want to or should.

It was a little after three when my cat woke me up by sitting on my chest and howling.

I wanted to ignore him–I could tell without opening my eyes it was still dark out–but when he started kneading my chest with his claws out, I gave up. “Seriously, Skittle?”  I asked, reaching for my glasses, noticing my alarm’s glowing red numbers read 3:12.

He yowled again. There were four different sounds, each with its own meaning, in his repertoire. This was the water noise. Cursing myself for not making sure his water bowl was full before going to bed, I slipped on my slippers and pulled my robe on as I walked out of the bedroom. Skittle galloped down the stairs ahead of me. I was reaching for the kitchen light-switch when I saw movement outside the windows.

I caught my breath but relaxed when I recognized Peyton.

He’d been renting my carriage house for a few months, but having a tenant was still such a novelty for me that I still forgot I had one. I’d used the carriage house as a kind of combination guest house/office for years, but I’d decided to turn into a rental property to relieve some financial distress. I wasn’t happy having someone else on the property, but the extra money  was lovely.  And I couldn’t have found a better tenant than Peyton. He was quiet, paid the rent on time, and if he maybe had a few more overnight guests than I would have preferred–well, he was still only in his late twenties. He worked as an EMT, savibg lives, and who was I to judge if he liked to bring the occasional man home?

He also had a habit of sunbathing in the back yard in a skimpy yellow bikini that left little to the imagination.

It also didn’t hurt that he was handsome. He was just over six feet tall and jogged every morning on the neutral ground on St. Charles. Several nights a week he’d walk past my windows drenched in sweat and carrying a gym bag.

Not a bad beginning, no?

Several months ago I sent five stories out on submission, and within twenty-four hours two of them sold. A few more weeks passed and another one sold; I did get a rejection from a rather high-end market on my birthday, but I knew they were going to turn me down (I don’t write lit-RAH-choor, you know–but it never hurts to try every once in a while. I haven’t heard back on the fifth yet, but I am also assuming that if I do hear from them (I’m not entirely confident I will, frankly, even rate a rejection from them) it will be a thanks-but-no-thanks. But it’s fine, I don’t care, and sometimes my stories get rejected because, well, it may have needed another pass or two, or I had something wrong, or something was frankly missing from it–that I’ll find the next time I take a good look at it. But there’s no mistaking that I’ve had a good couple of years of short story sales and publications, and that has everything to do with the Short Story Project and taking the time to write them, edit them, clean them up and work them out, you know?

I am trying to decide if I should write and submit something for the New Orleans Bouchercon anthology; I’ve also come across two other calls that look interesting and I may try to get something submitted to both. I do have eighty-six or so stories in some sort of progress now; perhaps there’s something in the files that could be finished and could work for either or both of them. Or…I could write something entirely new for them. Who knows?

Anyway, yay for short stories!

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Looking for a New Love

Hey there, Tuesday! How you doin’?

I’m a bit on the sleepy side; I finally got a good night’s sleep for the first time in a few days, and as such I’m still  a big groggy and loopy this morning. Yesterday was an oddly out of sorts kind of day, during which I didn’t get a lot done but did manage to get some work done on the short story I have due by the end of the month. Kickstarting my writing really needs to become a priority as we wind up this seemingly endless volunteer project–but the end is so nigh it’s almost palpable, as thought I can actually taste the end as it draws near. I feel like this project has sort of sucked the life out of me and the marrow out of my bones, but it’s almost finished and perhaps now everything can sort of go back to some semblance of normalcy around here.

Like that ever happens.

We got caught up on The Righteous Gemstones last night, and I have to say, this show–which is also kind of weird and almost creepy in many ways–is quite enjoyable to watch. I’m not really sure where it’s going, which makes it even more fun, but it’s funny and sad and crazy all at the same time. John Goodman as the family patriarch and head preacher Eli Gemstone is perfect in the role, and pretty much everyone else in the cast is also perfect for their role. I am a little surprised there hasn’t been any nastiness from the evangelical community, but then again, how many  of them watch HBO?

I think tonight we’re going to start Succession, which comes highly recommended by any number of our friends, and one of the previews I saw last night made it look fantastic.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I continue to read Lords of Misrule, and the dark bloody history of this city continues to amaze and enthrall me. I’m shaking my head at myself–my ignorance of New Orleans history certainly gives the lie to the oft-stated notion that I am some sort of expert on New Orleans; I am anything but an expert on this city, particularly of its history. But I am learning, and studying, and I have to tell you, the more I read of New Orleans history the more inspired I am to write about the city.

I will say that I have been invited to contribute a story to an anthology, being done by a publisher in a foreign (yet English speaking) country. I am always excited to be invited to write for an anthology, and usually I see these tasks as challenges–there’s simply nothing more guaranteed to stretch and push your writing as writing to a theme. This one in particular is a strange one for me; it’s a collection of pastiches, where one is to take a particularly famous fictional character and make him a native of another place. You can make any changes to the character–gender, sexuality, age, time period, etc.–as long as, in this case, he isn’t British and the story isn’t set there. I have chosen to make him a New Orleanian during the time around World War I, and the crime he’s to become involved in solving has to do with the secrets of Storyville. I never considered myself to be anything more than a casual fan of this character, and had never considered doing pastiches about him, despite their increasing popularity. SO, I have the idea and I’ve already written the opening paragraph, and I am really looking forward to this challenge.

And I am very well aware that the Short Story Project has primarily taken a backseat to the Diversity Project, which I am taking a respite from in order to read Rob Hart’s novel, before getting back to it.

I do really want to get these other two short story collections finished at some point. But I also need to get some work done on the Kansas book; September is slipping through my fingers and there’s another all consuming project lying in wait for me for October and November–which means December will be spent on the Kansas book, with a goal to turning it into my publisher on January 1.

But we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

And now back to the spice mines.

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