Who Are You?

I spent my condom packing time the last two days catching up on this week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hill (#lockherup, seriously,) and then Superman and Lois. I had missed an episode–I hadn’t been aware it had come back, and it expired on Hulu*–but I was able to catch up with the action pretty quickly, and before I knew it, hours had passed and I had finished watching everything available. I have to say–and I mean this with all my heart–the Arrowverse gets Superman in a way the movies don’t–and I don’t think ever will. Don’t get me wrong, I will go to my grave loving Henry Cavill (and thinking he is the perfect casting for Colin should the Scotty books ever be filmed or made into a television series–hello Netflix), and thinking he’s a great Superman, but the scripts and directors utterly fail him completely every single time. I mean, I got Man of Steel in a way most people didn’t, and I also appreciate the films for great casting; and the Snyder cut of Justice League did, in some ways, seem to get the character the other films chose not to; but this iteration of Superman is the character I grew up loving, and that Christopher Reeve embodied so perfectly (until that franchise went off the rails completely). It really isn’t that hard: Superman is a nice guy who cares about people and will always, always, do the right thing, even at great personal cost to himself. DAMN IT SUPERMAN IS THE EMBODIMENT OF A HERO AND THE CW GETS THIS. He cares.

I’m not ashamed to say that several times during Episode 11–the flashback origin story–I teared up a bit. Every single episode of this show has a moment where I think to myself, goddamnit this is how you do Superman. This show reminded me of every reason why I loved the character, why I read the comic books voraciously, why I have watched every TV show and every movie religiously–and appreciated almost all of them on some level. I watched both of the first two Christopher Reeve movies in the theater, and got goosebumps (I will never forget the ads for the first one: You will believe a man can fly! And I fucking did!)

I honestly never thought I would ever see a Superman adaptation again that would give me that same thrill–and Superman and Lois does, with every episode.

Superman was my first super-hero comic book when I was a kid, when I moved on from Archie and the Riverdale kids. There was a comic book dispenser machine at the Jewel Osco in our neighborhood in Chicago when I was a kid, and Mom would always give me enough change to get a couple of comic books (because I would then sit in the front of the store and read them while she shopped in peace; I don’t understand why my parents never completely grasped the concept I could always be bribed into good behavior with reading material) and I remember being tired of Archie and thinking–knowing–my father would be pleased if I read something more, well, boys-oriented. Some of the boys in my class at school were way into Superman and DC Comics; so I thought, what the hell and put my change into the machine, getting Action, Adventure and Superman comic books. I very quickly became a big fan, also reading the Superman-adjacent comics as well: Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Superboy, Supergirl, Justice League of America and Legion of Super-Heroes. This also led to reading all the Batman books, Wonder Woman, Flash, Teen Titans, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and so on and so forth. As a DC Comics fan, I don’t thin I ever reached what would qualify me for “nerd” status; I loved them all, though, and also followed along with all the adjacent media adaptations–the Superman movies; the Wonder Woman television show, etc. I’ve seen all the movies, and started reading the comics again in my mid-twenties, and then again in my early thirties. I’ve kept up with them over the years; all the reboots and so forth, all the television iterations–Lois & Clark, Smallville, etc.–and enjoyed them all. When CW started adapting the various characters for television, I began following them as well–the first seasons of both Arrow and Flash were amazing…but we did eventually stop watching because both shows seemed to be repeating themselves, and I slowly began getting way behind on them all…and wasn’t really sure, to be honest, that I wanted to give Superman and Lois a whirl. As I said, love Henry Cavill as Superman, but the movies just weren’t quite there…

But being a fan of gorgeous Tyler Hoechlin from his Teen Wolf days, one afternoon while making condom packs, I decided to give it a shot.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Elizabeth Tulloch’s Lois Lane, but I did like the entire idea of them being married and the parents of twin sons, Jonathon and Jordan–although I winced at the thought of the inevitable CW teen drama to come. But…Tulloch had completely won me over by the second episode, and I really enjoy the twins. Jordan Elsass and Alexander Garfin are perfectly cast, and look enough alike to be believable as fraternal twins. The family drama at the heart of the show–having to tell the twins their father is Superman when one of them begins to develop powers, how they deal with one being powered and the other not–is so incredibly well-written and well-acted that it sucked me right in. I also loved that Morgan Edge is the villain, rather than Lex Luthor or General Zod–which is how they always inevitably begin these types of shows/movies/stories–and I also loved that they waited until Episode 11 to actually give us the origin story, done in flashbacks. They are getting it right on every note, every level–and while we used to roll our eyes at Smallville with great regularity despite being completely sucked in…Superman and Lois gets it right. They understand that Superman and Clark are, at heart, incredibly decent human beings who will always put the needs of others first, no matter what the personal cost to themselves…and the caring about humanity and the greater good is there.

I absolutely love this show, and can’t wait for new episodes to come in July.

If you’re a Superman fan, you should be watching this show if you want to see it done right.

*I realized later I should have checked the CW app, and sure enough, there it was. Sigh.

Take Me Home, Country Roads

And here we are, Sunday morning, and the dawn of a new week. I am still controlling things with copious amounts of DayQuil–it really works wonders.

I finished reading Daphne du Maurier’s story “The Menace” yesterday, and am not quite sure what to make of it, to be honest. It was very strange, and again, like “The Archduchess”, not your typical du Maurier story (if it can be said that there is such a thing as a typical du Maurier story), but I also wasn’t certain how it fit the supposed theme of the stories in The Breaking Point–people pushed to their breaking point, and how they react or behave once they break. But it was an interesting read, and I’m not sorry I read it. I may wait before moving onto the other stories in the collection I’ve not read yet–“The Limpet” and “The Lordly Ones”–because these last two seemed like lesser stories…but it’s also kind of nice to know that du Maurier didn’t always hit it out of the park, too.

Makes me feel a little better about myself, don’t you know.

I also started rereading my favorite ghost story of all time, Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home, which is just as charming, enchanting, and compulsively readable as it was the first time I read it, many many years ago when I was a just a child.

Yesterday was okay, health-wise, for the most part. It comes in waves, it seems, and I dosed myself regularly with DayQuil. At one point yesterday I wasn’t paying attention to the time, and  I could feel my nose starting to run and my temperature starting to go up, so I walked into the kitchen and dosed myself. I started shivering for a moment and then it kicked in and that was that. So, DayQuil, if you’re ever looking for testimonials…you know where to find me. The DayQuil seems to help keep the fever down, and to help with the coughing. There was a slight headache now and again, with several minor dry-coughing fits throughout the day, but no uncontrollable shivering, which for me was really the worst part of it other than feeling off. I am still sticking to my plan of getting tested tomorrow and self-quarantining for the rest of the week–it’s the only thing that makes sense and is responsible. I cannot assume that what I have isn’t the COVID-19 virus, and I cannot put other people at risk (any more than I already have–which is quite a lovely burden to shoulder, I might add). At worst, I’ll exhaust my sick and vacation time staying home for the week; at best, I’m getting better and not getting anyone else sick. I hate the thought that I put people at risk more than anything else, but I also didn’t know, so there’s that–but does that make it any better? Obviously, deliberately infecting people is worse, and now that I’ve been sick, I know better than to go to work every day until I know I don’t have it, or until I know I did have it and have taken the time to get over it completely.

I slept very well again last night, which was lovely, but I did feel tired most of the day yesterday. Going up and down the stairs seemed to really tire out my legs. But my breathing seems to still be okay–no tightness in my lungs, no restriction to my breathing–and while there were a couple of dry coughing fits (which go on until my lungs ached), for the most part my respiratory system seems to be functioning properly. So far so good this morning–although I should probably take a shot of DayQuil pretty soon; certainly before my second cup of coffee.

We watched a lot of episodes of Kim’s Convenience last night, which is a really cute and charming show that occasionally takes on some interesting and topical subjects. It’s very well cast, and I think my favorite character is the mom, who is absolutely hilarious. After a few hours spent with the Kims, we decided to try something else, and I remembered that we have Apple TV Plus (yes, we have too many streaming services, and I know I really should take the time some time to sit down and figure out which ones we need and which ones we don’t), and so I clicked over to that app and saw that Stephen Spielberg’s reboot of Amazing Stories was available, so we watched the first two episodes. The show is aptly titles, by the way–it is amazing. The stories are what Harlan Ellison called speculative fiction–that terrific catch-all that covers horror, fantasy, and science fiction, with all the crossovers and gray spaces in between. The first episode dealt with time travel; the second with spirits trapped in limbo, and both were so incredibly well done. The writing and acting and directing were pinpoint sharp; and the production values made it very clear we were watching a Spielberg production. The first starred Dylan O’Brien of Teen Wolf fame, and despite being about time travel it never created the paradox issues that usually pop up with time travel and was entirely satisfying at the end, with everything wrapped up beautifully. The ghosts in limbo story was equally emotionally honest and strong, about the bond of love between two young girls of color who were track stars and best friends since they were children, until one dies in a tragic accident. The two episodes were so sharp and strongly written they reminded me of Ellison and one of my favorite short stories of all time, “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” which was filmed as an episode of the mid-1908’s reboot of The Twilight Zone (that remains one of my favorite television episodes of all time as well); I am really looking forward to watching more of Amazing Stories–which reminded me I also pay for CBS All-Access, which means we can also watch Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone, which is also incredibly cool. It also made me think that the reboots of these shows should do what Rod Serling and the producers of other such shows in the 1950’s and 1960’s did–buy speculative fiction short stories from masters of the genre to film. Goddess knows there are plenty of them around these days.

And now I’m starting to fade a little bit, so I think I am going to repair to my easy chair and take it easy for a while. Have a lovely, and safe, Sunday, Constant Reader!

clayton snyder

Jojo

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

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

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

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

And the books always need to be reorganized.

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

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

IMG_0867

Human

And it’s back to work.

What a lovely time the last five days were; probably the best stay-cation (I do really hate how we are making up words these days) I’ve ever had, and I think I am probably going to need to do this periodically; perhaps every couple of months or so. Don’t get me wrong, I do love traveling and visiting places, but having time to relax, catch up on rest, and focus on not only cleaning the house but getting some important writing work done cannot be over-estimated in importance. I also managed to get a lot of other loose ends tidied up, which was also equally lovely. This morning I need to send a bunch of emails, and then it’s back to normal; or what passes for normal around here.

I finished watching The Shannara Chronicles yesterday, and kudos to them for an excellent ending to Season 2 and a terrific cliff-hanger. Should the show be renewed, it’s essentially rebooted; if it isn’t, well, it had a lovely run for two seasons. It was originally on MTV, where it was almost as highly rated as Teen Wolf, but moved to Spike for its second season (MTV moving away from higher-cost scripted series), where it lost a significant chunk of audience. If it is popular in streaming, though, it’s entirely possible either Netflix or Hulu could continue it. It’s very well done; a glossier, prettier Game of Thrones, and it’s not like there aren’t over twenty Shannara novels by Terry Brooks to use as source material.

As I said, it would be an enormous shame should the series not continue.

I also did some writing yesterday; again, not so much actual writing as making notes for the stuff I am working on; my creativity has been raging out of control lately, which is fantastic, of course. I made notes for an old story called “The Trophy Boy,” which I think could be redone as a crime story, and came up with some ideas for another short story that’s been floating around in the outer reaches of my creativity, “Head Shot.” I also made notes for a noir novel idea I had, centered around a French Quarter strip club, Girls Girls Girls, and of course, more notes on both the Scotty AND the WIP, which is very exciting. I think the thing I am enjoying the most about not being on deadline is the freedom to not stress about free-associating something else without being slavishly devoted to, or stressed about, whatever the contracted piece might be.

It’s kind of a lovely feeling to embrace the creative ADHD for a change, rather than trying to fight it.

Then again, if giving into the ADHD makes the work I am focusing on (supposedly) better (which I think it is), this is good.

And now back to the spice mines.

33221542_1848752302085671_5741669550110277632_n

Like a Virgin

Well, it’s a chilly, gray Friday morning in New Orleans, Constant Reader, and we’ve managed to survive yet another week Again, this is a short work day for me at the office, so I’ll be able to make groceries this afternoon and go to the gym this evening before curling up in my easy chair with Karen M. McManus’ y/a bestseller, One of Us is Lying. (I will also continue with the Short Story Project, never fear! I just haven’t decided where I want to go next–whether it’s a single author collection or an anthology I want to dip into; or maybe go back to the Laura Lippman and Sue Grafton collections; mystery or horror.) I’m all caught up on posting about short stories after today’s post, too, so I need to decide, and soon.

Last night I worked some more on the WIP; moving on to Chapter Two. This chapter didn’t flow as easily as the first, and I only got about 1800 words done on it (which made the writing day a bit of a failure) but I also tweaked Chapter One a bit and got another 200 words or so added to it; a two-thousand word day is a win, for me, even if the goal is always to do at least three thousand–particularly considering how just last month I would have considered a hundred words a triumph. So, thus far this year I’ve written four short stories, one and a half chapters of the WIP, and one chapter of the Scotty–and I even know what the second chapter is going to be–which is how Scotty books usually work; no plan, but the next chapter reveals itself as I write the current. I also have tossed out the entire plot as it was; new victim, new everything. But I am hopeful I can get this all finished by the end of February; Mardi Gras notwithstanding. I also solved the problem with another manuscript I’ve been sitting on for a long time, and I know how to make it work as well now, but it’ll have to wait until I am finished with these two projects and another.

It feels so good to have my creativity kicking into gear again.

I also watched Riverdale last night, which has replaced Teen Wolf as the gayest show on television. Oh, sure, like Teen Wolf there’s only one gay character on the show; but all of the guys are fricking gorgeous with amazing bodies that are shown off pretty regularly–you haven’t lived until you’ve seen KJ Apa in a low cut singlet without a shirt underneath–and there was even a locker room scene where Archie was talking to gay Kevin, while in the background between them was some amazing hunk wearing only a towel standing at the sink–yay for gratuitous male bodies!

So, as this weekend looms I hope to get a lot done. We shall see how that works, but…hope springs eternal.

Today’s first short story is Sarah Weinman’s “The Big Town”, from Alive in Shape and Color, edited by Lawrence Block:

You don’t expect to see a portrait of your mother hanging on the wall of your gangster boyfriend’s living room. especially when the portrait shows your mother without a stitch of clothing on but for a pair of green heels.

“Where did you get that painting?” I asked, my voice more querulous than I wished. It was my first time in his house. I hesitated about a return visit even before seeing the portrait, but now I knew. I would not be back.

He turned to face the portrait. I looked at his back, the white collared shirt barely covering dark matted hair. I’d run my fingers through that broad, fleshy forest the few afternoons we’d fucked in a Ritz-Carlton hotel suite. Again I remembered what I found attractive about him: power, status, money. And what I found ugly: body, face, manners.

The story is really quite good and a poignant story about love and loss at the same time. The main character is a rural Canadian girl who ran away to the big city to avoid a prearranged marriage, her only future being a farmwife and having a passel of kids; she’s kind of become a good time girl, doing whatever necessary in order to survive on the fringes of society. But once she sees the portrait of her mother, who died when she was young, she becomes obsessed with getting the portrait away from the vile gangster and learning its history; how it came to exist in the first place.

I’ve read a lot of Weinman’s non-fiction before, and of course, just finished reading her stellar anthology Troubled Daughters Twisted Wives, which was exceptional. Nonfiction writing, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into good fiction writing; but Weinman hits the ball out of the park with this one. That yearning, sense of drifting is captured perfectly, and her main character is the kind of woman I like to read about; transitioning from a woman to whom things happen into a woman who makes things happen. The sense of learning more about her mother, that drive to know and understand her biological mother better, is something that resonates with every reader: how well do we really know our parents? Particularly if one parent died really young? This is a great story, absolutely great.

 The second story I read was the last one in Alive in Shape and Color, Lawrence Block’s “Looking for David.”

Elaine said, “You never stop working, do you?”

I looked at her. We were in Florence, sitting at a little tile-topped table in the Piazza di San Marco, sipping cappuccino every bit as good as the stuff they served at the Peacock on Greenwich Avenue. It was a bright day but the air was cool and crisp, the city bathed in October light. Elaine was wearing khakis and a tailored safari jacket, and looked like a glamorous foreign correspondent, or perhaps a spy. I was wearing khakis too, and a polo shirt, and the blue blazer she called my Old Reliable.

We’d had five days in Venice, This was the second of five days in Florence, and then we’d have six days in Rome before Alitalia took us back home again.

I said, “Nice work if you can get it.”

I’ve not read any of the Matthew Scudder novels Mr. Block has been writing for decades; as I have said before, my education in my own genre is often sorely lacking in many regards. But this story was irresistible to me for several reasons–it’s set in Florence, for one, and of course it is inspired by Michelangelo’s David, which also has inspired me for a novel that I hope to someday write. The story begins as above, with Matthew recognizing someone in the piazza that he had arrested, and soon remembers the gruesome butchery of the case. The man comes over, introduces himself, and then invites them to his villa for lunch the following day. Elaine bows out of the lunch, and over the course of the meal the man explains, at last, why he committed the brutal crime Scudder remembers and never knew the motivation behind (he’d pled guilty, served his time, got out and retired to Italy; would that I could do the same!). It’s a macabre story of a stunted gay life, and how once he fell in actual love with another man he abandoned his old life without a care and took up a new one, that ended in tragedy. It’s actually quite good, and bravo to Mr. Block for taking on such a topic without dealing in tropes, or stereotypes; it was also lovely to read a gay villain, as it were.

And now back to the spice mines.

DSCN6869