Kind of Woman

Sunday morning and to celebrate the holiday weekend, I decided to not only sleep in–almost till nine!–and then made myself a cappuccino when I finally rolled out of my bed. I feel marvelously rested, which is lovely, and the cappuccino is amazing. (I was only going to have one, but I may have a second…but then I worry about sleep tonight and sigh.) I hope to have a marvelously productive day–yesterday wasn’t that productive–and I think I can power through everything I want, or would like, to get done today.

Or I may not.

I didn’t do much writing yesterday, alas, but I did get some done. I did my self-care errand (Ugh, such modesty; I don’t know why I am being so coy. I got my back waxed, but don’t come for me. I don’t care if other people are into body hair, I don’t care if other people like having hair on their backs. I am not one of those people. If I am not saying too much, I am very hairy and since I can’t see it, in my head I always imagine it’s much worse than it probably is, and I don’t like it. I feel better when my back is smooth, okay?) After that I went to the post office and picked up the mail (which included such marvelous books as The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames; The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas–which I want to read back-to-back with Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; and It Dies with You by Scott Blackburn, a debut) and then did the making groceries thing. By the time I had done all that the heat and humidity had sapped my strength, so I decided to take a break once the groceries were done and watch the rest of Slow Burn, that Watergate documentary series I mentioned the other day. Scooter, of course, seized that opportunity to turn my lap into his bed, and that lulled me into a sense of relaxation that also turned into my rewatching Tootsie on HBO MAX rather the reading–Paul got home while I wasn’t very far into it, but I was already not enjoying it. (I’d forgotten that Michael Dorsey doesn’t decide to pretend to be Dorothy Michaels until at least twenty to thirty minutes into the film, while the time before that is spent showing us what a horrible, difficult, narcissist he was before he got in touch with his feminine side…which isn’t fun at all.) I’d seen the film in the theater–in those halcyon days of the early 1980’s before we truly discovered how horrible Ronald Reagan really was and what he was going to to do to the country; Tootsie was the latest in what could be considered an attempt to “queer” the movies; it came out in the same year Victor/Victoria did (we rewatched that recently to see if it had aged well or had become problematic; it actually does) but I suspected that Tootsie–the year’s other “gender bender” comedy, probably did not. When I mentioned how unlikable the Michael character was and how hard the opening of the movie was to watch again, Paul smirked, “Oh, you mean when Dustin Hoffman was playing Dustin Hoffman?” I laughed–but he wasn’t wrong.

Paul and I then watched a four hour documentary series about fundamentalist Mormons–you may remember the ones with the compound in the early aughts, whose children were taken away because they not only subscribed to plural marriage but also to child marriage and conception? (Girls under the age of consent were being given to men sometimes three or four times their age as wives and had children; yet another example of who the real fucking groomers are.) It’s called Keep Sweet–the credo of the fundamentalist Mormons for how women should behave, which is horrifying in and of itself–and it was terribly interesting. We then caught this week’s episode of The Boys (huzzah for adding Jensen Ackles to the cast!), and then of course, retired to bed. I also did some cleaning and organizing yesterday, which was nice–and I did get a few chapters into John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which is really compelling. I did do some writing–not much, but some, and the character in that project is starting to come to life, and this is really my favorite part of writing. Yes, it’s daunting to start writing a new book project–knowing there’s so much more work to come–but this is the part where all the possibilities are swirling and other characters are trying to take shape and I am also trying to figure out how to shape the story. I also thought about how to develop and carry the chapter I was working on forward, so hopefully today I can get that done as well as some other structuring and planning for the rest of it. I also want to work a bit on “Never Kiss a Stranger” today; I am feeling like my creative mojo is back in some ways and I really want to take advantage of that while it lasts. And of course, I need to get some things done for Scotty, too.

I am also going to spend some more time with John Copenhaver’s book this morning as my mind and body continue to wake up. I am almost finished with this cappuccino, but I am afraid I’ll probably have to switch to regular coffee rather than having another one; far, far too much caffeine that I will most likely never wear out of my system today. But….that doesn’t mean I can’t have one tomorrow; maybe I can have one a day before switching to regular coffee? I guess we’ll see how it affects my sleep tonight. Fingers crossed that it will be not at all. I’ve been sleeping well for quite some time now; let’s hope the cappuccino doesn’t fuck that all up.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee, take Copenhaver with me to the easy chair, and read for about an hour or so. Have a lovely Sunday/Father’s Day, everyone.

My Favorite Things

And so we have reached the last day of 2021 at last (it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has been 2021 for a year; 2022 is going to seem even stranger, methinks). I’m on a holiday, so there’s no work for the day-job to be done today, but there’s plenty of other things that need to be done. I need to work on the book some more, I need to clean, I need to run some errands, and I’d also like to do some reading. It’s a lot, I know, and who knows how much I can or will actually get done around here? Yesterday I did data entry, made condom packs and rewatched the original Clash of the Titans (starring a very young Harry Hamlin and his nipples; seeing this in the theater made me a Harry Hamlin fan for life) while I did so. I also was able to pick up two boxes of home COVID-19 tests (the day-job procured you them for the staff as a preventive measure, which are apparently like gold these days.

It was a very challenging year in many ways. I suspect that if I looked back at a list of my goals for the year, two of the most key things–getting an agent and finishing Chlorine–would not be able to be checked off the list. My faulty memory–I keep, for one thing, conflating the last two years as one and the same mentally–has something to do with it. I know I wanted to write more short stories in 2021, and I don’t know that I succeeded at that. I know I had a couple of stories of which I am very proud come out this past year (my first ever attempt at writing a Sherlock Holmes story for one), and of course I finished writing two books while trying to finish yet a third under contract, and trying to get Chlorine done.

I always feel sort of weird at the end of the year when I compile my favorite things (books, movies, television) because I never limit myself to things that were new to the year, but rather new to me during the year; I am always so woefully behind on everything I read and watch that it doesn’t seem fair to leave off things that didn’t debut in 2021. Besides, it’s always kind of fun, I think, to remind people of things they themselves might have missed and forgotten about. But when I started thinking about all the books I read this past year, I would have sworn that I hadn’t read this much, or that I couldn’t have possibly read this many books–and I know I am also forgetting some, and these are the ones that stand out enough to be remembered. My favorite reads of the year were, in no particular order, The Turnout by Megan Abbott; The Collective by Alison Gaylin; Dream Girl by Laura Lippman; The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews (I read three or four Andrews novels this past year, and loved them all, frankly); Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby; A Beautiful Crime by Christopher YBollen; Yes Daddy by Jonathan Page-Ramage; The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris; These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall; Invisible City by Julia Dahl; and By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl. I also read a lot more cozies than I generally do, which were quite fun–I highly recommend checking out Leslie Budewitz, Vivien Chien, Sherry Harris, Ali Brandon, Miranda Harris, and Carolyn Haines, among many others–my TBR pile is nothing if not a treasure trove of terrific reading–and I am hoping to get even more reading done in the new year as well.

As for movies, I also watched a lot of movies. I saw a lot of classic cinema of the past I’d never seen before–my Cynical 70’s Film Festival had some marvelous entries this past year–as well as revisited some favorites. I greatly enjoyed Dune, which I thought was incredibly well done, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a great super-hero film, with just the right amount of spectacle, humor, and humanity to ground it in enough reality that an audience could relate to it. I don’t remember any other new films that we saw in this past year, but I am sure there were some–the direct-to-streaming/limited theatrical release model for the pandemic ensured that I saw some things much sooner than I probably would have otherwise–but give me a break, I am still on my first cup of coffee after a lovely and deep night’s sleep.

Television again is something a bit blurry for me; the lines between 2020 and 2021 also blurring a bit here. I know we loved Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso (a true gem of a show), The Mandalorian, Elité, Superman and Lois (probably the best version of Superman since the first two Christopher Reeve films), the original Gossip Girl (which is winding down now with a last season that is rather disappointing, alas), Hacks, One of Us is Lying, Cruel Summer, and Only Murders in the Building, which was also a jewel. But maybe my favorite show of the year was HBO’s It’s a Sin, which was not only well done, but powerful and thought-provoking. I had debated whether I wanted to see it or not; entertainment about HIV/AIDS, particularly about the height of the plague, has never sat well with me–either pandering nonsense or heavy-handed. The gold standard for me has always been Longtime Companion, but after watching I had to say It’s a Sin belongs up there. It was hard to watch at times–and I realized that the reason was the characters were all the same age that I was when it all started, which was a big part of it–but it also made me acknowledge and understand any number of things about myself and my past; namely that I had never grieved, just going numb at one point and deciding to keep moving forward and not think about anything. Watching the show brought back a lot of memories which, while painful at times, was necessary and needed.

I also spent time writing and working on two novellas, “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger”; one thing I really want to be able to do in the new year is get the novella collection together as well as another collection of short stories. Lots of plans for the new year, including a new Scotty novel I’ve been itching to get to, and another stand alone, in addition to Chlorine. I was able to visit my parents twice this past year, and I was also about to make it to New York and then Boston for Crime Bake, which was simply marvelous. I have lots of travel plans for the new year that I am hoping new pandemic variants aren’t going to jettison–I really do want to be around writers again, seriously–and over all, the year wasn’t as terrible as it easily could have been (2022, do not take this as a challenge). I got a new computer, paid off a lot of debt, and over all, I have to say, all things considered, 2021 wasn’t altogether terrible. I wish I had been more productive, but I also wish that every year.

And on that note, this next chapter isn’t going to write itself, is it? Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you next year!

Girl, You Make My Day

One of the things I’ve greatly enjoyed over the last few years has been the sea change in how publishing views works by non-white and non-straight authors; the push for more diverse voices in the publishing community has already borne wonderful fruit. I’ve been saying for years that the world of crime fiction was in danger of getting stale again, much as it did in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; particularly the private eye novel. The arrival of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller on the scene shook things up and shook things out; the private eye novel got a much-needed shot in the arm of adrenaline with these three women and the others their work inspired; I strongly believe the move toward diversity is going to bear fruit in much the same manner–and it already has, frankly; the works of diverse writers like S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Alex Segura, Tracy Clark, Cheryl Head, and so many others have joined the great pioneers like Walter Mosley and the wonderful Barbara Neely to open up new perspectives on crime and crime fiction; our society and world; and again, this was desperately needed–and is necessary every so often, for our genre to refresh and expand and become more inclusive. We’re also seeing more queer books being sent out into the world from the big houses in New York, which is also incredibly exciting (another shout out to Yes Daddy By Jonathan Parks-Ramage and A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen).

It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of crime fiction.

Noir has always been one of my favorite sub-genres of crime fiction, and I always enjoy reading modern takes on it. I want to write more noir, quite frankly; Chlorine would be the first of at least four I want to write, if not more (for now, I have ideas for four of them, with Chlorine being the most full formed). I always enjoy modern takes on noir–Laura Lippman’s Sunburn was quite marvelous, as was Christa Faust’s Money Shot and Choke Hold)–and of course, S. A. Cosby is a master of rural Southern noir; both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears are destined to be considered classics, I think.

So, I was very curious to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s take on modern noir, Velvet Was the Night. It took me a very long time to finish–which is not indicative of the quality of the book, I hasten to add–because after I read so much during the post-Ida power outage, I kind of broke my brain and thus haven’t been able to really focus as much on reading as I would like; yesterday after the LSU game I sat down and finished it with Georgia-Kentucky on as background noise.

And what a fun ride it was.

He didn’t like beating people.

El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the stupidest possible way.

Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess. That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.

No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.

He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El Güero had been at him again.

The recent rise of Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been meteoric, although I am sure to her it has seemed anything but. I read her terrific vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, a while back, loved it, and have been following her career ever since as she has turned out novels at a terrific rate–Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, Mexican Gothic–all of which have been critically acclaimed and sold very well; I love that she bounces from genre to genre–horror to fantasy to crime; even bouncing around in the sub-categories of the crime genre. This is only my second read of her work–I have them all, of course–and had been meaning to get around to her take on noir with a Mexican flourish for quite some time. (I am really sorry I broke my brain with all the reading I did after the power went out; I greatly enjoyed this book, but it was so hard for me to focus for some reason…but am glad I sat down yesterday with the book, determined to finish it at last.)

One of the things that strikes me about Moreno-Garcia’s work is that I am seeing Mexico, a place I greatly love, through a fresh new perspective; like all Yanquis, I always view Mexico through the prism of a tourist. I’ve always wanted to write about Mexico, and have several short stories in the files that are set there (I did write one erotica story as Todd Gregory set in Acapulco; from the perspective of a tourist, of course: “Oh, What A Friend I Have in Jesus”)…but reading Moreno-Garcia makes me aware of how scant my knowledge of our Southern neighbor is–all of the counties south of the Rio Grande, frankly–which is a stinging indictment of our education system. (Don’t even get me started on the concept of Latin America vs. “America”) I know very little of Mexican history after the Spanish conquest, other than the Mexican War and the French empire set up under a Hapsburg by Napoleon III during our civil war. I know very little history of any of the countries that make up the rest of the American continents, really–and isn’t that more than a little bit disgraceful? I also know very little about their cultures, their politics, and what goes on there; a quick glance through the news also will show very little information or news being reported about those non-United States/Canada American countries, which is really a shame.

Velvet Was the Night is set un 1971, a particularly politically rife period in Mexico. The US was terribly concerned about communism being spread by the Soviets in what has always been considered the American soft underbelly–I mean, look at our reaction to Cuba–and there’s no question that CIA operatives and money were working to subvert Communism while supporting borderline Fascist governments because that was preferable to Washington than another potential Soviet satellite state in our hemisphere. The vast paranoia of that time–which really lasted from 1945-1990, really–cannot be underestimated or understated. By rooting her story in actual events of 1971–the crackdown of the Mexican government on dissidents–Moreno-Garcia slyly gives us a taste of how American foreign policy of the time affected everyone in Mexico, as well as a history lesson. (One of the great modern deceptions of our society is this idea that we always act benevolently as a nation; we’re doing this for your own good.) The book has two point of view characters; one, depicted in the opening above, is “Elvis”, a very young man who works as a thug, basically, for an oppressive group of anti-Communists that try to infiltrate dissident groups and haunt protests in order to make them turn violent, so the military can intervene on behalf of the “people.” Elvis grew up very poor and sometimes imagines what his life would be like if he were able to pursue his primary interests–educating himself and music. He doesn’t know what his future holds but is vaguely aware the path he is on–violence and more violence–will not end well. Over the course of the book he begins to question the values he’s been taught to believe in his gang, and begins to aspire to get out of it.

The other main character is Maite, a legal secretary barely getting by on her low salary and barely able to afford food. Her car has been in the shop unclaimed because she cannot afford the mechanics’ bill. She leads a lonely and solitary life, has a very vivid imagination and fantasy world she prefers to inhabit, colored strongly by her love of romance comic books and the music she likes to listen to. Maite’s lovely neighbor, Leonora, asks her to feed her cat while she is away, and when she agreed, Maite unknowingly enters the world of political struggle and upheaval. The riot depicted in the first chapter, that Elvis helps engineer? A friend of Leonora’s has taken pictures that prove that the riot was started by government forces, and those two rolls of film are the McGuffin everyone in the book is after–except poor innocent Maite, who, like any main character in a great Hitchcock film, becomes involved in something life threatening by simply agreeing to feed a neighbor’s cat–something she resents agreeing to do. When Leonora doesn’t come back, Maite starts looking for her–primarily motivated by the fact she can’t afford to keep feeding the car, and Leonora promised her money for feeding it–money she needs to get her car back. Motivated by her own poverty, Maite finds herself getting involved more and more in this clandestine world, and her own life is in danger soon.

The true strength of the book lies in the careful characterizations of both Elvis and Maite; two desperate people trapped by poverty in lives they want to escape, and the parallel journeys they both follow that lead their paths to cross; and the richness of the reality of what life in Mexico City was like during the turbulent time when the book is set. Moreno-Garcia shows us, as she did in Certain Dark Things, what the reality of life is like in one of the world’s largest cities, the reality the tourists rarely, if ever, get a chance to see. And while the hopelessness of both their situations seem unresolvable at times, the pacing is strong and the story construction so tight, and you the readers finds yourself rooting for them both to get out safely.

I really loved this book, and am sorry my inability to focus forced me to take so long to finish reading it. It’s extraordinary, and I recommend it highly.

Ship of Fools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Hello

Monday morning and here we are again. But the good news is I actually wrote something yesterday that wasn’t this blog and I haven’t done that since Before the Power Went Out. Granted, it wasn’t much of anything; a listicle of books I used as inspiration for Bury Me in Shadows and how their mood, style, voice and point of view helped me develop my own Gothic style for my own book. Bury Me in Shadows isn’t my first Gothic, of course; Sorceress, Lake Thirteen, Timothy, and The Orion Mask could all be considered Gothics (the latter two definitely more so than the first two; but the first two do have touches of Gothic in them).

But writing this listicle (and yes, I do hate that word but it works) got me thinking about Gothics in general, and what is/isn’t considered Gothic when it comes to literature (and no worries, Constant Reader–I refused to take the bait and name The Castle of Otranto, Dracula and all the others that inevitably turn up on these lists; I even left the Brontë sisters off my list); likewise, I often think about noir in the same way and what it is or isn’t (I maintain that Rebecca is noir to the heart of its dark soul), which makes reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night such a joy. Yes, I was able to sit down yesterday and spend some time with this delicious noir that is just as velvety in its writing as its title implies; it was after I walked to the gym on a beautiful late September Sunday and worked out, then walked home and had my protein shake, watching the end of the Saints game while sitting in my easy chair and reading. So, yes, yesterday was quite the marvelous day for one Gregalicious. Yes, I slept later than intended; but I made it to the gym, I wrote the listicle piece, and I spent some time reading. I really need to set aside at least an hour every day to spend reading; I’m not sure why I’ve had so much trouble reading since the power came back. But I have some amazing things in my TBR list I want to get to, and I definitely want to hit the horror/spec fic hard for October, to honor Halloween. Definitely want to reread The Haunting of Hill House again, perhaps grab one of those thick Stephen King first editions down from the shelf and dig into it, and there’s a Paul Tremblay on the shelves, waiting for me to read it. I can also get back into the Short Story Project for October–there’s no better short story writer to study than Stephen King, right, and I haven’t even cracked the spine of If It Bleeds.

Yes, that sounds like a great plan.

I also need to start working on the book I just signed a contract for that is now due in January. I haven’t settled on a pseudonym yet, but the book’s title is (pause for effect) A Streetcar Named Murder, and I am really looking forward to getting back into writing this again. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and making lots of notes…I do think I am getting to the point where I am going to start writing fiction again, and regularly. I still feel more than a little bit overwhelmed, but it’s not as paralyzing as it has been Since The Power Went Out…but I am also aware, from past experience with this sort of shit, that it also goes from day to day and changes. Today may be a good day; yesterday certainly was, but it can also change on a dime at any moment.

We also finished watching Curse of the Chippendales after the Saints game–the final episode was a bit of a letdown–but the overall story was fascinating. I was more than a little surprised that none of the Chippendales dancers were gay–or certainly not the ones they interviewed, at any rate–because I would have sworn that several of them were; I mean, as I said to Paul while we were watching, “I find it really hard to believe none of these guys were gay–especially with worked out bodies at a time when the majority of men who did work out were gay.” Then again, it could be a stereotype, but I do remember when if someone looked like they worked out, the odds were in favor of them being gay. (While I am aesthetically very happy that gay body culture has crossed over into the mainstream with the result that even straight guys of all ages are working on keeping their bodies in shape, I do miss the days when a hot-bodied guy would catch my eye and I’d be able to think, ‘yeah, one of us most likely.’)

After that, we got caught up on Titans–I cannot emphasize how well Greg Berlanti’s television adaptations of the DC Universe are done–and then we started watching Midnight Mass on Netflix. It’s creepy and weird and sad and more than a little spooky; all I could think while watching was ugh how miserable it would be to live on that island…while I am not a fan of living in enormous metropolitan areas like New York or LA or San Francisco etc, I am also not a fan of living in little communities like the one depicted in this show. There’s such a claustrophobic, insular feel to living in small rural towns or communities that I don’t think I could stand for long. But it was a lovely, relaxing Sunday around the Lost Apartment (and the Saints won!), which was greatly appreciated by me at the very least.

And on that note, I should head into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Monday, okay?

One Night Stand

Saturday morning and I slept late again. I am feeling better this morning–I actually think recognizing what was going on inside my brain and calling it by its true name yesterday morning (in the blog post I forgot to post yesterday) helped me get past it in some way; like finally knowing what it is assists in getting past it in some way. I also know that it’s insidious and sneaky, and comes in waves, so will probably go back and forth between waves of depression and possibly manic bursts of energy and creativity; I need to really get focused on channel the energy as productively as I can because of the time I’ll lose when depression’s cold fingers wrap around my subconscious again. Ugh, it’s so awful, really; but I also know from cold hard experience that anti-depressants inevitably always make me feel numb all the time…which can be in some ways equally as bad as the depression itself as far as living my life and being productive is concerned.

I am hoping to get some writing done today, as well as running some errands before today’s college football games start airing. I’ll clean while the games are on, and possibly get some reading done if I can–I really want to finish Velvet Was the Night, in no small part because the new Rachel Howzell Hall, These Toxic Things, finally arrived yesterday. We made a late Costco run last night after work, and it was sad to see how understocked even Costco was (I don’t know why I was thinking Costco would be immune to the delivery issues affecting the city’s grocery stories) but we still managed to spend a ridiculous amount of money there; part of it was buying new throw rugs for the kitchen because the old ones are kind of gross now. But we were able to get almost everything on the list (there were a few things they didn’t have that we wanted, alas) and of course, we went off-list big time in order to spend the amount of money that we did…and we still didn’t replace everything completely. I had to clean the refrigerator out again last night–I either missed some spots on the initial clean or mold spontaneously reappeared somehow–but I am hoping that I simply wasn’t as thorough with the cleaning as I thought I had been–another side effect of the depression is doing something half-assed and then giving up, thinking meh it’s good enough.

It’s literally the worst.

Today I have some errands to run–yet again to make groceries, pick up the mail, that sort of thing–and then I am going to probably park in my easy chair with my journal while the games play on television. I am primarily interested in Auburn-Penn State and Alabama-Florida, with tonight’s LSU-Central Michigan game on deck; but we are also a bit behind on our shows that we watch; everyone dropped a new episode in the last few days, and we also started the new season of Sex Education on Netflix, which hasn’t dropped it’s delightful teen gay romance (huzzah!) and seems to be just as delightful, since the characters have actually grown some emotionally since the end of the last season, which is very cool and something I all too often complain about with shows; usually if characters don’t experience some degree of growth I lose interest.

I also have a book I need to write. YIKES! (Two, actually.) The Saints play early tomorrow, which is kind of a drag–I prefer them to play later in the day than noon, which means I will need to go to the gym earlier than I would prefer tomorrow–but it’s workable. I really really really need to get through everything today and make a complete and incredibly thorough to-do list; I am still so disoriented and disconnected from the pre-Ida life that I can’t remember everything I needed to get done, get going on, and of course the insidious depression at work inside my fevered brain keeps whispering you were supposed to finish a draft of Chlorine this month, remember? Honestly, depression is such a son of a bitch! Like I need any help undermining myself?

I also need to sign books and ship them off to people to whom I owe copies of the next one. I had hoped to get that done this morning so I can mail them today when I pick up the mail, and perhaps there will be time for that before I get up from my desk and get a move-on for the day.

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

Morning Rider on the Road

So, going back to the office wasn’t a terrible experience. We didn’t see any clients yesterday–we’re hoping to get the supplies we need delivered today, so we can get started again tomorrow–but I was able to go into the office and get some things done before coming home and doing some more work at home as well. I am going in again today–good to get the routine back on track again–and am hopeful that tomorrow will be another step forward in returning to normality.

It looks like we’re going to feel something from Hurricane Nicholas, which looks to be following a particularly strange path for a tropical disturbance, but the majority of whatever it may be won’t be until Thursday. It’s gray outside my windows this morning, but I think overall the weather should be fairly decent today? I suppose I should check.

Yes, it’s supposed to rain all day today, with the heaviest fall around eleven this morning. Yay. But I kind of like gloomy, rainy days, to be perfectly honest. My preference for them is to be at home under a blanket with a book, but you can’t always get what you want.

When I visited my parents a while back, one of the books I took with me was James Jones’ unabridged From Here to Eternity, which apparently included the scenes referencing gay bars and gay activity amongst the soldiers–and how some weren’t averse to making some extra money getting paid for sex. It’s always been one of my father’s favorite books (and movies), but I had never read it. I started it a few times when I was a teenager (I always enjoyed World War II stories) but with these scenes restored (they were cut from the original publication, for obvious reasons) I thought it might prove of interest–particularly since I have an idea (don’t I always?) for a book set on Oahu that opens on December 8, 1941. I got maybe three hundred pages into the book, and literally reading it was torture. I finally gave up and moved on to something else; I don’t remember what it was, but I certainly enjoyed it much much more than I was enjoying From Here to Eternity–and the primary reason I was hating the Jones novel was because all of the characters were, basically, assholes with few if any redeeming qualities. Last night as I sorted things for work at home, I decided to watch the film again–the original, from 1953–and…yeah, I’m not really certain it holds up after all this time either. My primary takeaway from the film was how ridiculously lean and fit the actors (Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra) playing the main leads were. It’s funny, because the book’s frank look at sexuality (Clift’s character falls in love with a prostitute; Lancaster has an affair with his superior officer’s wife, played by Deborah Kerr) is so ridiculously tame by our modern standards; crime series currently airing on network television are more risqué than this film–let alone soaps. (Kind of like Peyton Place–there’s more lurid content in an episode of The Young and the Restless than in the entire book!) I wasn’t overly impressed with the film, to be honest–and it was hardly a glowing depiction of the military. But it was interesting…and made me think about that book I mentioned earlier than I want to write someday.

But the gym is back to its normal hours, and so I’ll be able to get back there to workout after work today. Yay! I’ve actually missed going to the gym in these turbulent times; I did make it over there last week for a quick workout one day, and I am really looking forward to things going back to routine again. I like my routines, I like my patterns, I like my ruts, frankly; and again trying to remember what all was going on and what all I was working on before this disruption began has been challenging. Head down, nose to grindstone; get it all together, man!

We also watched a few more episodes of Only Murders in the Building, which we are really enjoying. I’m not really sure if this is a murder mystery, or about three true crime aficionados who’ve become convinced they are not only investigating a murder but making a podcast about it at the same time. I am really enjoying the show; the Martin Short character gets on my nerves periodically, but I really like the Steve Martin character, and those apartments! I can only imagine what those apartments are actually worth in today’s Manhattan rental climate.

I am also hoping to get back into Velvet was the Night soon. I read a chapter last night (or was it the night before?) and am really enjoying it thus far, and we haven’t really gotten into the story itself yet; Moreno-Garcia is letting us get to know our two main characters first; she really is a gifted talent, and am looking forward into delving more into her work in the future–perhaps either Mexican Gothic or Gods of Jade and Shadow will be up next. I love that she doesn’t limit herself to genre, which used to be a no-no in this business; you were supposed to pick a genre and if you wrote in another one, you used another name (Michael Koryta has written both crime and horror under his own name; lately he’s started publishing the horror as Scott Carson). God, how this business has changed in the years since I took my first tentative steps into it so long ago. Some of those changes are for the better–prime example being Moreno-Garcia slipping between genres effortlessly under the same name–and some not so much; I miss writing gay erotica from time to time…although I love that my erotica fell out of favor with “current” readers of gay male pornography because when I write it, it’s about lust and sweat and masculinity and control–as opposed to roses and music and love and fading to black and cuddling when fading back in.

And I need to get back to writing, which I am assuming will happen once I feel more settled, with the ground more stable beneath my feet again. Today is the 14th, which means I only have 16 days left in which to finish the first draft of Chlorine like I had wanted; I think I am going to continue working on it, while prepping for writing the next book and revising some of the other things I have on hand that aren’t finished or in early draft form; I need to make a list, don’t I?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader, never fear!

She’d Rather Have the Rain

Sunday morning and the Gregalicious slept late once again. I easily could have stayed in bed longer than I did this morning, but I decided to go ahead and get up; Scooter needed his insulin shot, coffee was sounding pretty incredible, and I already felt fairly well rested; so what was the point in staying in bed? I’m kind of taking this weekend off from everything, trying to recharge batteries that were down so low from running on accessory for so long…I do feel somewhat better this morning, but I also know these times after major cataclysmic paradigm shifts can be deceptive, and often are no more than day to day; one day or so can be great, and then the next you’re spiraling downward into the depths again–or you can be fine one moment and then some minor type setback will send you off spiraling. I’m glad I’ve been through this sort of thing before, to be honest–I know sort of what to expect mentally and emotionally and physically, moving forward–so hopefully nothing will catch me off guard or unprepared.

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day watching college football and relaxing. The LSU game last night wasn’t great–LSU should beat teams like McNeese State by a greater margin than 34-7; and the offensive line problems from the opener against UCLA seem to be on-going, which isn’t giving the fan base a lot of confidence about the season going on from here–but it was fun watching Oregon surprise Ohio State at home, and Arkansas put a beat-down on Texas that couldn’t have been foreseen; I figured the Horns would make hay out of the Hogs, but instead…and Texas A&M was very lucky to escape Boulder with a win over Colorado. Alabama continues to Alabama; but this looks to be a season of surprises everywhere, which means it will be interesting and fun to watch. The Saints are playing the Packers in the Super Dome today, and of course, Novak Djokovic looks to be the first male player to win a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver back in the 1960’s, and a win will also push him past Federer and Nadal to have the most Slams of any male player in history at 21–I was incorrect yesterday; when I looked up the Slam leaders yesterday the list I saw was from earlier this year, before the French Open, and of course, Djokovic has won two more slams since that list was made. And how cool was it watching young Emma Radacanu become the first qualifier to win a major tournament? And she was cold as ice as she eliminated tournament favorite Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3. What a terrific story; I am looking forward to watching both of these young women continue to play and exhibit greatness on the tennis courts.

I did run an errand or two–getting the mail, picking up a prescription, a quick grocery run (the stores still aren’t fully stocked yet, but I did manage to get some things I needed, even as I forgot to buy bleach yet again)–but really have decided to stick with my original plan of checking out this weekend and trying to get rested, with the plan to be rested and relaxed and fully operational going into this coming week. I am going into the office tomorrow in an attempt to get back on track and back to normal–whatever that may be, who knows at this point–but as always, after a paradigm shift and reminder than everything is a delicate balance that can be upset at any moment by factors beyond my control, it’s going to take no little time for me to get my act back together and my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I did manage to spend a little time with Velvet Was the Night, which I think I am going to spend some more time with today as well. There’s a very short window for the gym today, only open from 10-2, so am not sure if I will have the time to make it over there to get in a quick workout. I think my body rather needs one, to be honest, but it’s all going to depend on time and energy and how I feel…and I am not entirely sure it’s the best idea to go, frankly. Another rest day where I conserve energy and let my batteries kind of recharge themselves might be the best way to go–even as that little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering you’re getting older and you’re running out of time, every day you don’t write or get back in shape is a wasted day you’ll never get back–but seriously, that little voice can also go fuck itself, seriously.

But tomorrow–tomorrow is another story, tomorrow is the first day of the return to some semblance of normality around here, and I honestly don’t think spending another day resting and getting my head together is a wasted one. I need to listen to myself, listen to my body, listen to my brain, and besides, there’s plenty of mindless tasks around here that can be done–the sink is full of dishes again, after all, and there are other things I can do as well, besides watch the Saints and the US Open and read.

And really, a day of rest never did anyone any harm, right?

Umbrella Man

And just like that, it’s once again Friday. I think over the course of this weekend, things will start to readjust to some semblance of normality again; I will probably, most likely, go into the office on Monday in an effort to readjust and reestablish some sense of being normal–or whatever passes for that–again. I am going to swing over there this morning to drop some things off that I’ve been working on, and just check things out in general. I also have to swing by and get the mail today as well, and I am going to go to the gym for a resurrection of Leg Day after I am finished doing my work today. Yay?

There still has been no trash pick-up in my neighborhood since before Ida, and our cans, with all that ruined food rotting in the early September heat, are beginning to smell quite ripe. There’s still a lot of debris on our sidewalks and along the gutters. Over all, not really much to complain about, and given so many people have lost everything, or have nowhere to live, or are still suffering without power in the heat…it seems like parsing and pinching things in order to find something to complain about. I’d forgotten that aspect of hurricane recovery–that sense of you can’t complain because other people have it far worse than you do rings in your ears every time you start to even slightly feel bad for yourself about your situation, or start the downward spiral of stress and aggravation and frustration. It makes adjusting and mental health integrity that much harder; one of the lessons from Katrina, really–knowing that it’s okay to complain and be frustrated and aggravated at the situation, while still recognizing your own good fortune (even if it seems like it’s a backhanded gift of a sort).

Last night, Paul and I got caught up on The Other Two, Archer, and Titans. I’m still enjoying the shows–even if the latter two aren’t quite as good as they were earlier in their run–and I think The Other Two is probably one of the better, most undervalued comedies airing on streaming right now. It’s certainly fun watching the gay brother–and the show is touching on comedic aspects of being gay I’ve really not seen covered anywhere else. As I was stripping condoms out of condom packs and doing other, various, “busy work” (it still needs to be done–these things would need to be done if the clinic was open and I was seeing clients three days a week, like pre-Ida) yesterday and watching television (I did watch this week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills–I am going to have to devote an entire entry to my reality shows at some point, particularly about how they are slowly starting to lose their appeal to me); although I cannot really remember what else I watched yesterday? Oh yes, some documentaries from the Smithsonian Channel, even if I cannot remember which particular ones, and I also rewatched the Brendan Fraser The Mummy–the original, which I realized I’d never actually seen; I’ve seen the sequel, but never all the way through from start to finish, which I may rectify today.

I am hearing noises from the street that sound like a garbage truck–the only inconvenience we are really experiencing at the moment is the stench of the cans when I walk out to the car–so the return of garbage pick-up would certainly serve as another indication that New Orleans is slowly coming back to what passes for normal around here.

I’m also finding it difficult to want to read again, which is weird. I’ve not written anything since Ida, and I’ve not read anything since we left town to find relief from the heat in Greenville, Alabama. I’m hoping this will change over the course of this weekend, but then…you never know. Maybe I read too much while we didn’t have power and I sprained the reading muscle in my brain. Stranger things have happened, after all. I don’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t enjoying Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s book, because I most definitely was; there’s just something off with the creative side of my brain–reading and writing both have been struck down by whatever this malaise is; but it’s more along the lines of being unsettled and not feeling like I have a strong foundation under my feet–this weird not knowing the day/date thing was very disorienting; and of course, there was all that tightness and tension built up in the muscles of neck, shoulder and back (which, oddly, going to the gym cleared up completely; obviously I am hoping going over there today after work will also be a great experience physically for me). I also still have two blog entries to write about books I read during the outage (Dead Dead Girls, A Letter of Mary) which I hope to get around to this weekend, and maybe–just maybe– I may do some writing. I know, I know, stranger things have happened, but I really need to figure out where I am with things and how much time is left in this year and when the deadlines for things are.

And on that note, tis time for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you soon.

To Be Lovers

Tuesday morning and still no Internet. The phone hotspot still seems to be working fine–I’m actually surprised at how quick the Internet connection is; I am so glad I upgraded my phone back in July to a 5G, praise be. I have to work from home today–but am probably going to swing by the office tomorrow to get some more work to be done from either here or there; it all depends, I suppose. My office still doesn’t have power; our other office does (I also need to swing by there as well–there’s a prescription for me waiting there) but my office is running on generators. I am assuming that means there’s no Internet there; but I will go by there to pick up things to work on from home tomorrow anyway and see how things are going there at any rate. Yesterday I was exhausted; the tired went all the way to the bone yesterday. I managed to get some things done around here in the morning, continued to do laundry and organize and clean out cabinets and so forth, but by around four in the afternoon I was so exhausted I could hardly move; so I just put on Spotify and collapsed into my easy chair and started rereading things I’ve been working on–the first three chapters of Chlorine, the novellas, some short stories–and while I am not as pleased with that work as I would like to be this morning, there are some good parts in those works and the skeleton/baseline of them are all very good, very well done, and have the potential to be really good, which is indeed something. Before I get started on my data entry I am going to try to get caught up on my work emails and messages and so forth; while I swill coffee and before I take a shower to face the day. I am going to run some errands at lunch time, and hopefully will be able to go to the gym and at least get some work done on my muscles–I think a lot of the stiffness and so forth is my body protesting the lack of exercise, which does happen; your body gets used to being worked out and when you stop, your muscles are not happy about it in the least. I also have some book review posts to get scheduled for today; I wrote them all yesterday in my exhausted state, but didn’t want to bombard you, Constant Reader, with a slew of book entries…they will be forthcoming, to be sure.

It’s very weird this morning to be readjusting back to some semblance of normality. Remember, Hurricane Ida came ashore during my vacation (sobs softly to self); I had taken a vacation for Bouchercon and kept the time off–only to have a hurricane hit on the final Sunday of the vacation and throw everyone in New Orleans off course for quite some time. At least I don’t have to go into the office today; I have plenty of things to keep me busy around here for the day, and I am curious at some point to go drive around the city and see what’s up everywhere else around here. I know the things that are open are only open for limited hours–staffing AND supplies, I would imagine–so am more than a little curious to see what exactly the grocery stores have in stock and so forth, or if deliveries are coming into the city. I also have no idea whether or not we have mail service, either–so will have to be looking into that. I had packages coming, and Paul’s medications come through the mail (or UPS, we aren’t sure which; but they do come to our postal service). I’m also curious as to whether my CVS is open–going to need to refill that Xanax soon, and believe you me, no one wants me to not have the stuff that takes the edge off and smooths out my corners.

It’s also weird not having television–I guess I didn’t realize how much time I waste sitting in my easy chair with the television on, at the very least for background noise. My wonderful new computer actually has better picture and sound than the television, but the problem is my desk chair isn’t as comfortable as my easy chair (natch) and my muscles again were all tense and knotted from stress and aggravation yesterday–they are still tight this morning, actually–and not only do I need to stretch them, I need a deep tissue massage. (Good luck with that right now, right? Sheesh. It’s too bad we couldn’t have evacuated to a spa hotel somewhere…sauna, steam room, and massage sounds mighty marvelous about right now, quite frankly) I was also a little too tired and loopy to focus on reading, so I didn’t pick up SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s marvelous Velvet was the Night yesterday; I could reread my own works in progress without a great degree of difficulty or requiring a high level of focus or concentration, but not something new…interesting how I powered through all that reading when there was no power or anything to distract me, but as soon as I had television and Internet in the hotel, my reading came to a sharp halt.

Curious, indeed.

I am also exhausted this morning but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I think it all kind of came crashing in on me yesterday–all those nerves, stress, and tension of the last eight to ten days, and I was literally drained. I hate having lost the time–I’d hoped to be to at least to Chapter Ten of Chlorine by now, so I am behind. I am behind on everything, and now get to play catch up while tired and worn down. Ah, well, I know the drill–make a list, start crossing things off while adding more as you go–and so, I should probably get started on my work day.

Have a lovely post Labor Day, Constant Reader.