Beauty and the Beast

Holiday Monday, which is celebrating Juneteenth (if you want to know more about the holiday, this is a great place to start). It’s hard to believe, and more than a little sad, that it took until recently for this to become a federally recognized holiday. Honestly.

Better late than never, I suppose–which is hardly any consolation, really.

But it’s nice to have another three-day weekend (I can’t remember which holiday we gave up for this one at my dayjob, but we only are allowed no more than eight holidays for some reason), and I slept late again this morning. The cappuccino yesterday morning had no effect on my sleep, so I am having another one this morning, which is lovely. I really do love the way they taste; I just wish making them wasn’t so complicated and dirtied up so much stuff. I made Swedish meatballs yesterday afternoon and that mess still needs to be cleaned up as well. Heavy sigh. What can I say? I got caught up in watching television once the meal was ready and stayed in my easy chair until it was time for bed. We watched the new episode of Becoming Elizabeth, which isn’t bad but it’s not overly compelling either–which is weird, because the period between Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558 was very fraught and very dangerous (Anya Seton brilliantly captured this period in her seminal novel Green Darkness, which I highly recommend along with the warning “it’s quite long”); but it’s not really translating to the screen very well in this production. I also spent some more time with John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which I hope to do again today.

We also started watching an amazing show on Netflix that originally dropped in 2020 and whose second season was endlessly delayed by the pandemic (I checked it out on-line as we watched) called The Defeated starring Taylor Kitsch as a Brooklyn homicide detective who is “loaned” to a small precinct in the American sector of Berlin in 1946 to help rebuild their station along American police standards; which is a challenge. None of the people working as cops there have any experience in being police officers; some are young boys while the majority are women. The Germans aren’t allowed to have guns, so they have an “arsenal” where they keep their bedposts and other wooden sticks; the Russians are horrible; and Kitsch himself is looking for his brother, a soldier with mental problems who’s gone AWOL and whom Kitsch suspects is targeting and murdering Nazis. It’s extremely well done–think Babylon Berlin but only in another twenty years–and it also asks a lot of ethical and moral questions that really don’t have answers. The woman who runs the station, is the “superintendent” or captain of the squad–wasn’t a Nazi but her protestations about “we weren’t all Nazis” have the same credibility of a prisoner at Angola claiming innocence: no one admits to being a Nazi once the war was lost, after all. At one point she says, very poignantly, “The war is over and the entire world hates us because of what we did, or allowed, and who can blame them?” This seems particularly poignant given the current political climate in our country; I know it seems extreme, but I’ve seen other people comment on Twitter and other social media about how they feel sometimes like “they are living in Weimar Germany and it’s just a matter of time.”

I know I’ve certainly felt that way at times.

We also watched a classic old Bette Davis film, The Letter, which I’d realized I’d never seen yesterday so I pulled it up and started watching. I had read the original short story by Somerset Maugham a few years ago for the Short Story Project, and enjoyed it tremendously. The story is told from the lawyer’s point of view, while the movie certainly shifts the focus over to Leslie Crosbie, wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner, who shoots and kills a man she accuses of trying to rape her. Everyone believes Leslie…but you see, there is this letter that exists that contradicts her story, and the more lies she tells, the less her lawyer believes her–although he ultimately pays a blackmailer to get the letter back so she escapes conviction. In the story it’s all from the lawyer’s point of view; she’s merely the wife of a friend he is taking on as a favor, and he doesn’t know her well…but as he (the lawyer) discovers the existence of the letter and recovers it, he slowly begins to see through her lies and to see her as she really is. He doesn’t expose her–he allows her to escape her punishment–but he confronts her with the letter after the verdict and she confesses everything…only to return to her loveless marriage at the rubber plantation. The story and the movie both are steeped with the Imperialistic and racist overtones of the time the story was written and the film made; the ending of the movie is different than that of the story because of course, for the Hays Code of the time she couldn’t be seen as not being “punished” for her crime; she is murdered at the end by the Eurasian widow of the man she killed (his marriage to this mixed-race woman is what sets the tragedy in motion) during a party celebrating her verdict. There was one scene in particular that really made me shake my head: after she has told her story of being almost raped and committing murder to protect herself, she makes dinner for her husband, a friend of the family, and the local police magistrate and they sit around eating and talking about things like nothing’s happened. As we watched this season, Paul–who had no idea of what the movie was about–said, “Oh, he didn’t try to rape her, did he? She’s a cold-blooded killer.” GREG: “It’s Bette Davis, what do you think?”

Although it did make me think about false accusations of rape again, which is one of the myriad of reasons women generally tend to not be believed about being assaulted. There’s probably a really good essay to be written about that.

I also wrote yesterday, which was really lovely. I managed to get the first chapter of that manuscript written; I plan to look at it again today and tweak it a bit. I have a lengthy errand to run–must go over to the North Shore–and when I get home, I plan to write for a while before retiring to my easy chair with my Copenhaver book (I am really enjoying it, y’all) before we finish watching The Defeated (y’all, it’s really good). I’m not sure if what I wrote yesterday is actually any good or not; it remains to be seen, I suppose, and let’s face it, I am not (nor have I ever been) the best judge of my own work. But we shall see today, I suppose. It felt good to be creating again and it felt good to be finishing something, even if it’s just a shitty draft. I’d like to be able to get a lot more written today, if I can…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Talk soon, Constant Reader!

Floy Joy

Thursday and my last office day of the week. Man, I was tired yesterday. I’d planned on doing some editing and things when I got home from the office but by the end of my workday I was fried, deep fried, battered and put in a basket and dropped into a vat of grease heated to about 350 degrees. (I haven’t worked in fast food for almost forty years, but I still remember the temperature for French fries.) I was exhausted, and went to be an hour early and slept very well (I did wake up a few times, but both times fell back to sleep almost immediately. Example: the first time I woke up it was because Scooter had curled up next to me and his purring woke me up. I put my arm around him and went back to sleep. The next time I woke up–several hours later–Paul was next to me instead of Scooter, and I slept through it.) I know my sleep troubles/fascination are probably not as interesting to you as they are to me, Constant Reader, but there you have it. I feel very well rested this morning, if a trifle groggy, but hopefully the coffee will do the trick to free my mind from the cobwebs.

One can hope, at any rate.

Well, the first cup seems to be kicking into gear, so that’s a good thing. I was bummed that I was so tired last night–I really wanted to get more things done than I did, but I did get a load of laundry finished (still in the dryer, though, will need to fold and put away tonight) and another load of dishes done as well. So, when I get home from work tonight I’ll do those things and some other chores before sitting down in my easy chair with the manuscript and working my way through the next third. The goal is to get it back to the author by Saturday so I can spend the weekend working on some other things, odds and ends: I want to really get the plot for Chlorine worked out; I want to get some better idea of what Mississippi River Mischief will be about; and of course there are short stories I need to get edited/revised/written. The house is of course a mess as always–not as bad as usual when I reach the end of my in-the-office days, as I’ve been trying somewhat to keep up as I go, but still not where I want it to be, for sure, so hopefully I can stay motivated long enough to get all these things done, clean, AND start reading the new Alex Segura (with the new Chris Holm on deck). I also hope we can watch the latest Scream movie this weekend, now that it’s streaming. I might even be willing to pay to rent Spiderman: No Way Home before it’s streaming for free somewhere. (Never mind, you can’t rent it yet, you can only buy it, and much as I love Tom Holland–there’s too many new movies/shows coming out all the time as well as old ones to catch up on that there’s really no need to ever buy a film to keep again…and soon enough they’ll be streaming for free anyway.)

So, so far those are MY big plans for the weekend. What about you? I guess with the Festivals being next weekend I probably won’t be seeing much of Paul for the next week or so, but afterwards hopefully things will get back to normal (or what passes for it around here anyway). I also want to get back to reading short stories. I’ve really allowed the Short Story Project AND the Cynical 70’s Film Festival to languish. I think when I get back to the film festival I may do some Blaxploitation films. I did watch Shaft, and its sequels are also streaming on HBO MAX, as are some classic Pam Grier movies.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. May your Thursday be happy and full–and remember it’s FRIDAY EVE.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Sunday morning and only daytime parades today. We skipped them all yesterday–all five of them–mainly because I felt mostly tired still; it was also a little on the chilly side outside. We will (or at least I will) be heading out there today for at least King Arthur; too many friends ride in it for me to blow it off completely. Since we didn’t have Carnival last year–and the year before was both so cold and so weird it didn’t really feel like Carnival–it’s hard to get motivated about it this year. There’s also the risk that being in the parade crowds will be super-spreader events; I can, of course, always test myself before going to work on Tuesday to make sure I’m still uninfected before heading to the office and spreading viral germs everywhere. And maybe going out there for King Arthur will make Carnival seem real again, I don’t know; listening to the marching bands crossing by at the corner didn’t seem to do it.

But I am going to go out for King Arthur even if it’s exhausting.

We watched three more episodes of Reacher last night, and it is very well done. The cast is very good, the writing is sharp, and there are high production values. I continue to grow more and more enamored of Alan Ritchson as Reacher–Willa Fitzgerald is also killing it as Roscoe–and the show is definitely making me want to revisit The Killing Floor. You owe it to yourself to check the show out if you like crime shows.

I didn’t read anything other than a couple of Laura Lippman short stories from her collection Seasonal Work, and I’m not going to go into great length talking about the stories primarily because I had actually read the two stories before–“Seasonal Work” and “The Book Thing”; I also had read the next one, “The Everyday Housewife”, before–but it’s nice to revisit them (I probably talked about them before on here or over on Livejournal). All three are sort of Tess Monaghan stories–they aren’t from her point of view but she appears in them; the latter is about her mom–which is also the approach I was thinking of taking in writing crime short stories with Chanse MacLeod in them (the ones I’ve already done are from Chanse’s point of view, and maybe the Chanse novella I am writing would be better told from someone else’s point of view; it’s an interesting idea and one I should really attempt–making a note as I type this out). Lippman is one of my favorite writers and I love her short stories, and reading (rereading) these has gotten me to reading again, which was the idea behind picking up the short story collection in the first place. I may go curl up with the book and read (reread) another couple of stories this morning.

I really would like to get back to doing more reading.

I also need to get back to writing. I’ve been having ideas lately–making notes, of course–but every time I look at “Condos for Sale or Rent” I am stuck and wind up having to go do a chore or something to try to prime the pump. Yesterday it was without avail. I wasn’t motivated much yesterday to do a whole lot–I overslept (as I did this morning) and then didn’t really have a lot of energy or creativity going on in my head for the rest of the day–it felt like my batteries were charged, but using them would have to be on accessory and drain them rather than recharging through use–and I wasn’t motivated to read, either, other than those couple of short stories. I did spend a lot of time thinking about another Scotty book–the title is Mississippi River Mischief–but at the same time I did a lot of thinking about not writing it. I always worry that my series–the Scotty primarily, since it’s the only one I am still continuing–isn’t challenging enough to me as a writer; it’s very easy for me to slip back into Scotty’s mindset and voice and start writing. I tried to make Royal Street Reveillon more complicated and complex than previous Scottys, like the second two books in the series were (the first and the fourth through seventh were very simple plots, A to B to C) and it’s one of my favorites of the series. I know what the heart of this book is going to be–political corruption in a bayou/river parish around the licensing of a casino boat on the river–and it occurred to me yesterday how to do a side story (something I had wanted to do in a Scotty book years ago but never did) and there needs to be more to it than the main story I’ve already dreamed up. But I made voluminous notes–and there’s also a personal story for Scotty and Frank I started in the last book that needs to be dealt with in this volume–and so maybe, just maybe, it’s not taking the easy way out by writing this after Chlorine?

We shall see.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

So, over the weekend I finished watching Chapelwaite.

What a terrific series this is!

When I started watching, I must admit I wasn’t compelled to continue watching past episode one. The story it’s based on (“Jerusalem’s Lot,” the only original story written for Stephen King’s collection Night Shift) was never one of my favorites, and I remembered it primarily as an epistolary story that never really got anywhere, if that makes sense–it really was just the letters of a man who was losing his mind, trying to get to the bottom of the weirdness going on in his inherited home, Chapelwaite, and there was something about “the worm” and so on. King described it as “Lovecraftian” in his seminal work on horror, Danse Macabre; and I had never gotten into Lovecraft, so I always figured I was missing something in the story because of that, and never revisited it. The first episode moved kind of slowly, as first episodes are often wont to do, and it did inspire me to reread the story–which I liked a lot more on a reread. But the episode started too slowly for Paul, and so we abandoned the show. A friend recommended it highly–“stick with it, it really picks up” so during my condom packing duties last week I started again with episode 2.

Very glad I did; and I really need to remember the truism that one should always give a show at least two episodes before abandoning it–unless that first episode is really and truly terrible (I’m looking at you, I Know What You Did Last Summer). Chapelwaite’s first episode was not terrible; but it was a very slow burn to set up the story. One thing I did greatly appreciate with how this show was done and cast was how the main character, Charles Boone (played perfectly by Adrien Brody), was more fleshed out and developed than he was in the short story. In the story, no mention was made of any spouse or children for him; his only family was the cousins who lived at Chapelwaite. The show gave him a Pacific Islander wife–who was already dead when the show opened, and three children, Honor, Loa, and Tane. In the show Boone was a whaler who lived at sea with his wife and children; the much-loved wife died of tuberculosis, and the younger daughter has rickets, so one of her legs is in a brace. The children are quickly seen as outsiders because of their mixed race heritage in the small town of Preacher’s Corners, the nearest town to the house; it isn’t just the mixed race children that are the source of the animus of the townspeople toward the Boone family. The Boones are blamed for a mysterious “illness” that infects and gradually kills the villagers; no one really knows what causes the illness or how to combat it effectively.

Charles is soon having weird visions, and hearing rats–or something–scratching within the walls of the house. An exterminator finds nothing in the walls, no signs of rats or mice or anything, which makes Charles think he might be going insane. He also engages Rebecca–who is not your run-of-the-mill nineteenth century young woman in small village in Maine. Rebecca has ambitions and desires of her own–to escape Preacher’s Corners, to become a writer, and she has been educated; so she comes to Chapelwaite to tutor the children and get them up to speed. Of course, the other children at the school are horrific to the Boone children, just as most of the adults are horrible to Charles. (Rebecca is played perfectly by Emily Hampshire, better known as Stevie on Schitt’s Creek, and the range she has is clear in this role; which is as far from Stevie as she could possibly get.)

But once the show starts rolling–as Charles and Rebecca and the children begin to find out what is really going on at Chapelwaite, and in the nearby abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot–it just keeps picking up speed. It is also truly Gothic in tone and feel; beautifully filmed and shot and the cast is perfect in their roles.

Highly recommended; one of the best King adaptations I’ve seen.

Moon & The Sky

The first Monday morning after Daylight Savings Time kicks in–or kicks out? I never can remember if we borrow an hour or return it–and it’s an exciting day ahead for one Gregalicious. (Isn’t every day an exciting day for one Gregalicious, really?) It is rather nice that it isn’t dark outside this morning for once, but at the same time it means it will be full dark when I leave the office every day now, which always feels oppressive for me. I think I am not a fan of the winter primarily because of the shortened days (the colder weather isn’t, despite my frequent harsh reactions to it, the worst thing; as long as there is no snow and ice I can live with it, frankly). I don’t like the darkness, never have; still feel uncomfortable in the dark, if I am not entirely afraid of the dark still.

The terrors of childhood are never truly outgrown, are they?

The Saints game was eminently disappointing–never fun to lose to Atlanta, especially the way the Saints did yesterday–but I did get the sense the team is getting there, starting to gel after losing the starting quarterback, Jameis Winston–so I don’t think the rest of the season is going to be a total wash. We may not make the play-offs this year (!!!) but you know, it’s the beginning of a new era for the Saints, the post-Drew Brees era, and there’s no telling what that’s going to be like. LSU is also going to be getting a new coaching staff for next season…and again, no telling where LSU is going to end up next year either.

I wound up getting a lot more organized yesterday than I was before this weekend, which is lovely. I got folders put away, counter surfaces and inboxes are emptied for the most part, and I am traveling tomorrow. I am going to New York for a few days and then Boston for the weekend; as I have already mentioned, this is my first non-family related travel since the pandemic started, and after everything I’ve seen on-line about airports and flights being disrupted by people who think rules don’t apply to them (a personal pet peeve of mine; the rules apply to everyone else why have rules in the first place?), but at least I have a non-stop flight so the chances of misconnections and lost luggage and all of those other things that make traveling an utter nightmare have been lowered substantially.

We started watching the new season of Big Mouth last night on Netflix–this show is so funny and honest and out-and-out blunt about puberty (clearly, it couldn’t be live action) and burgeoning sexuality (and masturbation) that it still amazes me that it gets made; it would have never aired on basic cable or the original networks. I feel rested after this weekend–perhaps it’s the extra hour and my body hasn’t adjusted yet–more rested than I’ve felt in a very long time. I didn’t get as much accomplished this weekend as I would have ultimately preferred, but that’s life and beyond my control. It’s not easy to either write or edit when traveling, but I am going to give it the old college try and see what I can done while on the road. Obviously, that is something I need to get better about going forward.

But I feel good, am excited about the trip, and just have to get through today. My flight tomorrow is later in the day, so I don’t have to deal with any of the crazed “last minute” packing and so forth; I can leisurely check the weather in both places, figure out what I need to pack, make a list (the crazed list-maker never stops, apparently), and then carefully pack so as to be certain that nothing is left behind (a bigger and bigger fear the older I get, sadly) and then get up tomorrow and slowly get ready for the departure. I have an errand I must run tomorrow before heading for the airport, and there are some things around the house I need to get done before finally heading on my way out. It’s going to be weird traveling again–I did fly up to Kentucky earlier this year, but that now seems like it was an eternity ago–but I will have my phone and a book; I am taking These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall, Invisible City by Julia Dahl, Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier, and a Donna Andrews with me (not sure which Andrews; I am several books behind and desperately need to get caught up on them), which definitely should take care of my reading at the airport, on the trains, and on the planes. It will also help me fall asleep at night as well in strange hotels–I never sleep well in hotels, not sure what that’s about, but it has everything to do with it not being my own bed because I experience this everywhere–and I am looking forward to engaging with these books; it’s been a while since I’ve read a book through.

I reread Stephen King’s short story “One for the Road” from Night Shift yesterday, which, like “Jerusalem’s Lot,” is about the town from ‘salem’s Lot; this story clearly takes place after the events of the novel, so the two stories are book-ends for it–the former story being set over a hundred years in the past and explains how the town became basically cursed; the other being here we are a few years later when the town has become abandoned again. I’ve always wanted King to write a sequel to this book–it’s actually one of the few that kind of cries out for a sequel, as opposed to The Talisman and The Shining, which are the books he wrote sequels to; I know I read somewhere that he had the idea already of how to open such a sequel, and in all honesty it really whetted my appetite to read it. (‘salem’s Lot will always be one of my favorite Kings, if not my absolute favorite)

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check with you later.

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.