Destiny Rules

Sunday, Sunday. It feels cold again outside this morning–you can tell, even inside; the downstairs floor is always the giveaway–but I slept really well last night and feel very rested this morning. I have so much to get done today it’s almost daunting, but I think with the good night’s sleep and feeling rested I should be able to plow through everything I need to do today before leaving tomorrow. And there is a lot. I did make great progress yesterday and did get a lot done, not enough, but progress was made. I avoided the television for the most part–it was one, so I could sit in the living room and see what was going on, but I managed to never allow myself to settle in and get sucked into the games. It was a crazy college football day in which the top four all barely managed to win their games, and then of course Number 5 Tennessee got blown out of the stadium by South Carolina last night. Paul went to the office yesterday and when I knocked off for the day I started watching that game because the LSU game started later, and wow, who saw that coming? Or Arkansas blowing out Mississippi? LSU played well despite poor weather conditions and managed to beat UAB 41-10 for their ninth win of the season, with Texas A&M all that is left in the regular season. LSU could have a rare ten win regular season for the first time since 2019, which nobody saw coming, with an extremely outside shot at the play-offs–which would require beating Georgia for the SEC title, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. But what a marvelous turnaround season for my Tigers. Who knew?

I have groceries to pick up, writing to do, need to pack, need to air up the car tires, and have all kinds of things on the list to do today. Yikes. I cannot let Paul distract me or suck me into a Saints game or anything either before six pm this evening; I have to get everything done in that time frame because that’s when I am calling it a day and taking the rest of the evening off. I don’t want to have to get up super-early tomorrow, but the good news is I don’t think I need to get up at six unless I do so organically, which is, of course, entirely possible. I have to make sure the books I am listening to in the car are downloaded and ready to go when I pull away from the curb tomorrow morning, and I need to pay a bill or two today as well.

I also managed to get better organized yesterday–still not completely there, or as organized as I should be, going forward–but it helped to have the book research and my notes and everything all pulled together into one place for review. I am most likely going to close my browser when I finish posting this for the duration of the day; although I am going to want to spend some time later composing emails to send tomorrow morning before I leave for the trip. It’s never ending being a Gregalicious, I have to say. But this was a good weekend; I feel like I’m getting my head back together and back into the game, and it feels functional again, which is saying something. Maybe it’s just because I feel rested this morning, I don’t know and can’t really say for sure, but it is very nice to wake up and feel rested and relaxed and have my mind working completely.

I hate feeling tired more than anything, really.

But my coffee tastes marvelous this morning and I feel terrific. There’s still some serious cleaning to do as well–isn’t there always? There’s a load of dishes needing to be put away and another load ready to go inside of the dishwasher, too–the endless cycle of use and clean, use and clean, ad nauseum ad infinitum. Will this last and will I get everything off my to-do list before six this evening? It remains to be seen, but I do know that right now I feel great and hope this will last through the day. We’ll see how it all goes, but I am optimistic right now and that’s always a plus, really.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow.

Running Through The Garden

Friday morning work-at-home blog!

I have data to enter and things to do today, Constant Reader. I’m leaving on Monday for Kentucky and will be gone for a week, so I have to seriously buckle down over the course of this weekend and get things done. It was cold here last night–in the thirties–and this morning the downstairs floor is cold beneath my feet, and the chilliest spot in the entire Lost Apartment is here at my desk. Heavy sigh. But that’s okay, I can deal with it. I have a load of laundry in the dryer, need to empty the dishwasher and refill it again–and of course the entire place from top to bottom is a complete disaster area. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the house under control as well as get all my work finished that I need to get finished not only today but over the entire weekend. Yesterday I was, not surprisingly, very tired when I got home from work. I did get some laundry folded and another load going, and yes, I loaded the dishwasher last night and stumbled around a bit in my tired state, but eventually Paul came home and we were able to watch the season finale of Half-Bad or The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself or whatever the hell you call it, which felt kind of anticlimactic, to be honest. I enjoyed the show, love the concept and the actors are very appealing–I am especially fond of Gabriel, the pansexual witch, to be honest–and we also watched a new episode of American Horror Story: NYC, which was kind of odd and weird, with a kind A Christmas Carol feel to it. I don’t know, it just seemed more like filler than anything else to me, and of course the AIDS allegory isn’t exactly subtle (why not just make it AIDS? The plague in the 1980s wasn’t horrible enough for a season of American Horror Story? Although AIDS in the first two decades would have been better suited for a season of American Crime Story….) but it is unsettling.

I’ve been doing, if you’ve been paying attention, the occasional Blatant Self-Promotional (BSP) entries for A Streetcar Named Murder, which has been kind of fun. I’m not sure what the next one will be–I’ve done the character, the store, and the neighborhood she lives in; I suppose the supporting cast should be next. I’ll figure it out at some point, I am sure; it’s not like the book drops until December 6th or anything–although I’ve been seeing pictures of already delivered copies on social media, which doesn’t make sense, but I’ve learned to not question things like that. It is what it is, and if people are already getting copies several weeks of release date, who am I to wonder the reasons why? Publishing is one of those businesses you never can completely figure out…because once you think you have a handle on something, it changes almost immediately.

I’m also looking forward to getting a handle on the current Scotty. I’ve been too tired from work this week to get as much done as I needed to get done, so this weekend is going to result in a big push. I have of course all the data to enter for my day job today, and I need to run some errands once I am finished for the day, but I remain hopeful that my energy won’t flag and I’ll be able to dive headfirst into the book this weekend without either having to force myself or for it to be like pulling teeth. As I have mentioned, the LSU game isn’t until the evening and it’s not really a big one; non-conference opponent, and of course I want them to win, but it’s Alabama-Birmingham (although I suppose completing the trifecta of beating Auburn, Alabama and UAB would make LSU state champions of Alabama again) and so there’s not the same urgency as there will be when we play Texas A&M the Saturday after Thanksgiving. What a wild, crazy and all-over-the-place college football season this has been…certainly nothing like I expected.

But I think the cold helped me sleep better last night than I have all week. I didn’t wake up super-early either; wide awake at seven, which is something I absolutely can handle, and feel very rested this morning. I did do one of those “oh you’re getting so old now” things this week–in which I turned my torso to do something here in the kitchen but did it at precisely the right angle to aggravate or irritate something, so now I am vaguely aware of some stiff soreness in my upper body. I can’t describe where exactly it’s located or how it feels, but it’s kind of like how when you have a respiratory thing going on and when you try to take a deep breath it feels tight? It’s kind of like that but not in my lungs, if that makes any sense. I’ll probably try to use the heating pad and the massage roller to work whatever the hell it is out before I leave on Monday morning.

I suppose the clock is ticking on Twitter, but I can’t really muster up enough energy to care much one way or the other. I use it, of course–I remember setting up the account because co-workers suggested that I should have one–and I go there periodically, primarily to waste time when I’m in line at the grocery store or the pharmacy or wherever; or when I am sitting in my easy chair at night with a purring cat in my lap while I am waiting for Paul to come home and I am watching Youtube videos on autoplay. Last night it kind of felt like high school graduation, as people were saying goodbye to everyone and it all had a touch of “signing the yearbook my senior year” to it all. I know a lot of people love Twitter, and I certainly had a lot of fun there over the years–primarily interacting with my friends and readers, mostly–but it’s also a horrific hell-scape with trolls lurking everywhere and nastiness for the sake of nastiness popping up every now and then. I find myself writing horrible responses to horrible people all the time before deleting them, and in some instances it’s too late–yes, you can delete tweets, of course, but that also seems kind of cowardly to me and besides, the Internet is indeed forever; I screen cap bad takes (aka “receipts”) all the time to save them just in case…and as I typed that even now I was thinking just in case? For what? In case I need to remind someone I don’t know of a bad take they had a few years ago? I have little to no desire to learn how to use a new social media service, so I am not migrating to another platform or any such nonsense; perhaps I will if and when the Twitter universe comes to a crashing halt. But while I’ll miss the interactions with my friends–and the opportunity to post that picture of me with the shocked look on my face everyone loves so much–I think I’ll somehow manage to survive.

And on that note, the dryer just stopped so I need to fold some laundry. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Thrown Down

I still am in shock. LSU beat Alabama. I didn’t even dare to hope or dream–sure, every once in a while I’d think my God, if we can pull this off–nah, it’s Alabama. Nobody gave the Tigers a chance, not even me. Yes, of course I wanted to win, hoped we could somehow pull it off (I am always slightly uncomfortable saying we in these instances, reminding myself I am not a part of the team or student body but merely a devoted, rabid fan), but never really wanted to get my hopes up. I’ve hoped and been excited so many times before when I thought LSU had a chance, only to be bitterly disappointed with the inevitable last second Alabama comeback. The Tigers hadn’t beaten Alabama in Baton Rouge since 2010, and had only beaten them once in total since 2011. Add in this would be Alabama’s second regular-season loss (which rarely happens), as well as the fact that Alabama hasn’t had two losses early in November since 2010, so, yeah, you can see why I had my doubts about my Tigers’ chances against the greatest football power of this century. What Coach Saban has done at Alabama is astonishing, remarkable, and may never ever be duplicated by any other team in college football. No one has won the national championship without having to beat Alabama since 2006, with the only exception being 2013–and Auburn, who lost the title game that year, had to beat Alabama to get there. And unlike some of the disappointed Alabama fans–and the haters who relish any loss by Saban and Alabama–I don’t think this is the end of the Alabama dynasty or the Saban juggernaut. It’s also kind of amazing that a two-loss season triggers that kind of talk–which goes to show what a standard Alabama has set for the college football world.

And now Brian Kelly owns the state of Louisiana. Any haters or doubters have been forever silenced. He beat Alabama with a team that had already lost twice, came within a whisker of losing to Auburn, and had only thirty-nine scholarship players left for our bowl game loss after last season. Jayden Daniels, our transfer quarterback, has now done something that not even Joey Burrow could accomplish with his first season at LSU: beating both Auburn and Florida on the road, and beating Alabama. I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around this, I hope you know that, Constant Reader. I fully expected to wake up this morning and find that it had all been a fever dream, that I dreamt it and the game was actually tonight. But no, LSU did beat Alabama with a two-point conversion in overtime that was the gutsiest thing I have seen this season from LSU. And they played their asses off all night.

What a fucking game, seriously.

LSU went three-and-out on their first possession. Alabama marched down the field with ease on their first possession…before Bryce Young threw an interception in the end zone to kill the drive. Alabama made it into the red zone four times in the first half, but only had six points at half-time. LSU had managed to take advantage of a short field to score the first half’s lone touchdown to lead 7-6 at the half. I couldn’t believe it as I watched from my easy chair. The defense was astonishing, making play after play and even after a big play by the Tide, would stiffen and hold. The Tigers fell behind 9-7 in the third quarter, only to score another touchdown to take a 14-9 lead into the fourth quarter. And all through the fourth quarter, as Alabama kept coming back and coming back, LSU kept fighting, clawing their way back into the game. When we got the ball back with the score tied 24-24 with twenty-one seconds left, I questioned Coach Kelly’s decision to take a knee and not try to move the ball into field goal range. Alabama got the ball first in overtime, and after about five or so plays took a 31-24 lead. This is it, I thought to myself, this is how we lose, but hey, it was a much better game than I was expecting and I am so proud of this team! And then Jayden Daniels, on LSU’s first play, scampered twenty-five yards for a touchdown and Coach Kelly decided to go for two and the win, and again, I thought, this is where we lose but I am so proud of those boys only to watch Daniels flip the ball to Mason Taylor in the corner of the end zone and to my shock, delight, and disbelief, LSU won the damned game.

As someone tweeted, This may be unexpectedly the greatest game in the history of LSU football and Tiger Stadium.

And they weren’t wrong. Even in our worst seasons, LSU has always managed some kind of big win, even in our last two seasons of mediocrity we managed to upset Florida both years, and last season we also upset Texas A&M on the last game of the season. But beating Alabama in the same season where we lost to both Florida State and Tennessee (badly) did not seem in the cards. As the Tigers have improved and gotten better, coalescing as a team while Jayden Daniels became more and more comfortable as our quarterback, I kept thinking this year we’ll probably be 9-3 at best, but look out for next year. I still think we are going to be even better next year, but I was not expecting the Tigers to be in the driver’s seat in the West division in early November with a very strong chance at making the SEC title game; if Alabama beats Mississippi next week (and Saban rarely, if ever, loses two games in a row, let alone three in a regular season, LSU can clinch the division with a win over Arkansas. If LSU wins out–including a win over Georgia in the title game–they still won’t make the play-offs, as both Georgia and Tennessee have only one loss while LSU has two, and yes, lost to Tennessee. But Tennessee lost to Georgia…I see a lot of calls for play-off expansion if the unthinkable happens and LSU is an SEC champion who gets locked out of the play-offs. This is kind of like the 1989 season, when two loss Auburn tied with one-loss Alabama and Tennessee for the conference championship.

It’s really great to be a Tiger fan this morning. GEAUX TIGERS!

Big Love

Sunday morning and another good night’s sleep. The bed was enormously comfortable and I didn’t want to get up–knowing how much I had to do today–but c’est la vie; I knew that was going to be the case. I felt unwell most of the day yesterday–slightly feverish, low energy, no appetite–which was probably my usual flu-shot reaction (I know you aren’t supposed to get sick, but I always have a reaction to a flu shot) and I stupidly had them give it to me in the same arm I got my COVID booster injected into, so my left arm was achy and sore all day yesterday. It was okay, I knew I needed to just rest and relax, and fortunately, it was college football Saturday, so I curled up in my chair and started watching college games when the chores I was doing eventually wore me out and I had to retire to my easy chair with ‘salem’s Lot (more on that later) while watching games–and the two I wound up watching (Alabama-Tennessee and LSU-Florida) were pretty epic games.

The Tennessee-Alabama game was amazing, and deepest sympathies to my Tide friends; what a stinging loss, and to a bitter rival–even if it’s one you’ve beaten every year since 2006 (it was Nick Saban’s first loss to Tennessee at Alabama; he also had some pretty memorable wins over them at LSU). 52-49 was the final score, with the Tide missing a last-minute field goal with the Volunteers making theirs to hold off the furious Alabama comeback and capture the biggest win in Knoxville in decades. One thing you have to give Alabama–their losses are almost always incredible games because they never give up.

I didn’t have very high hopes for my Tigers going into the Florida game. Like Alabama-Tennessee, it’s a rivalry game (I don’t know how that happened or came about; maybe it’s because we are both swamp states with a large alligator population? I honestly don’t know, but it’s true) that has mostly been dominated by Florida throughout the series–but LSU has been catching up. The series record is now 33-33-3; tied. LSU has won four in a row against Florida for the first time since 1977-1980 (when Bear Bryant was still at Alabama, Florida had no national titles and LSU only had one), and because it had been so long since LSU won four straight, I figured history would be telling and LSU didn’t have much of a chance. The game was also the first between new coaches for both teams. LSU has won 8 of the last 10 games in the rivalry–losing in 2012, 2016, and 2018–and has won 10 of 13. And for the first time this season LSU looked good; usually this year they’ve fallen behind very quickly in the first half and had to dig their way back out, but not yesterday. Florida’s opening drive last two plays before they went up 7-0 and I thought oh, here we go again but LSU matched every Florida score and then added another just before half-time to take a 28-21 lead; by the end of the third quarter the score was 42-21 and despite a furious Florida comeback in the fourth (similar to Alabama’s, actually), held on to win 45-35. Nerve wracking, but exciting–and it was nice to see LSU finally starting to gel as a team. The schedule doesn’t get easier now–we have Mississippi, a bye, then Alabama followed by Arkansas and Texas A&M–and two of those teams are currently sitting in the Top Ten. LSU and Alabama are tied for second place in the division behind Mississippi, which makes both of those games crucial for all three teams (Mississippi and Alabama have yet to play as well; Alabama also plays LSU and Mississippi back to back) so it’s going to be an interesting November in the SEC West–while the Tennessee-Georgia showdown in the East also looms.

And the sting of the blowout loss to Tennessee at home doesn’t seem quite so horrific now that Tennessee has also beaten Alabama and scored 52 points to do it. I think that’s the most points scored on Nick Saban? It may even be the most points ever scored on Alabama? You just never think of any team ever scoring fifty points on the Tide. It’s definitely a weird season. And of course, Mississippi is coming to Baton Rouge in almost the same position they were in back in 2014, when they were 7-0 and ranked third; LSU won 10-7. This is only the third time Mississippi has started a season 7-0 (the other was 1962). Definitely an interesting season when there’s a chance that the SEC Title game could be between two unbeatens–but instead of Georgia-Alabama, which is what everyone was expecting, it could be Tennessee-Mississippi. How weird would that be? Tennessee hasn’t been in the title game since 2007, and Mississippi never has.

Definitely a weird college season, but very happy with my Tigers. It’s always lovely to beat Florida.

And today the Saints play the Bengals, which brings Joey Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase back to the Superdome for the first time since the 2020 national championship game against Clemson. I think I’ll hav the game on in the background–I can’t root against the Saints under any circumstance, but I also can’t ever root against Joey B and Chase, either.

I did finish reading Interview with the Vampire the other night (I’ll write about it when the TV series is finished), and yesterday I started rereading ‘salem’s Lot, which is one of my favorite novels of all time and was the book that turned me into an unabashed Stephen King fan. I had bought a used hardcover copy on eBay sometime in the past decade (which I also had done with The Shining) and so as I was reading it yesterday I caught a typo–I’d never read this copy of it, and the typo was weird, so I flipped back to the front of the book to discover that it’s a first edition. I don’t think the person selling it knew they could have gotten a lot more for it than I paid for it; it was so inexpensive it never even crossed my mind it was a first edition (I had the same insane luck with a copy of In Cold Blood, getting a hardcover copy off eBay for less than ten bucks, only to have it arrive as a very well-kept first edition…signed by Truman Capote. You never know how lucky you can get on eBay, I guess is the point of this sidebar?) so I was pretty thrilled to see that my copy is actually an undiscovered treasure. Anyway, as I started rereading–and remembering just how great a novel it actually is–I started thinking about length; my longest book is around 100k (I don’t think I’ve ever exceeded 100k in a book, or by much if I did) and the average length for books I am hearing these days is 80k. Out of curiosity, I decided to see how long ‘salem’s Lot is; it’s just over 157k words. As I was rereading it–and enjoying those early chapters again, as King creates the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot so beautifully and perfectly–I also was thinking what would an agent/editor cut out of this to submit it for publication today if this was a first or second time author in modern times? They would cut out a good third of the book, I think; sure, there’s a lot in the story that doesn’t really advance it at all–a lot o the supporting characters and subplots could easily be cut without notice, but at the same time I think that would serve to damage the book and turn it into something else; as I was reading, I kept thinking “this is really just Peyton Place as a horror novel” and that, for me, is one of King’s strengths–the way he writes about small towns, and how interconnected everyone is, and how everyone has dark, dark secrets that aren’t quite as secret as they might prefer. I think when I finish reading this book, I may move on to another King that I’ve not read–there are any number of them in my cabinets; the days when I used to get King on release day (still do that) and then read the entire book within forty-eight hours are long gone, and so many of his book are really long…

And I just checked my email to see that I’ve placed another short story. Woo-hoo! More details on that as they develop.

And now back to the spice mines with me. I am going to have another cup of coffee and go read some more of ‘salem’s Lot before getting cleaned up and getting to work on the book. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader!

Storms

So this morning my back still hurts, but it’s more of an ache than an agonizing pain the way it has been for since this whole mess started the other day. I am resisting the urge and need and desires to actually go ahead and operate today like normal–I should keep resting it, alternating heat and cold, for at least another day–and also have to remember that yesterday morning it felt better, too–but by noon I was taking muscle relaxers and pain pills and camped out in the easy chair, my brain too wasted by the meds to do much of anything other than watch television all day. No reading, no writing, no nothing.

On the other hand, at least it was College Football Saturday, so I had some good entertainment to watch on it. LSU played Mississippi State last night at the very odd starting time of five pm, and I can see that the Saints and LSU are both back to normal–making you think they’re going to lose the game badly until the second half, and even at that sometimes not until the fourth quarter. LSU trailed 13-0 at one point last night before putting together a beautiful drive in the waning minutes of the first half to pull within 6 points at 13-7 before ultimately dominating the fourth quarter impressively to win 31-16. It was Coach Kelly’s first SEC game, and obviously, his first conference win. Mississippi State usually gives LSU some trouble whenever they play, except for the years when LSU is having A Really Great Year and blows them out; LSU has also lost some incredibly disappointing games to the Bulldogs over the years. (It always seems like other teams in the SEC West always rise up to play their best against us; not sure why that is, but it’s a fact) It was also a very weird day all over the country in sports–with Florida, Arkansas, and Notre Dame squeaking out wins over opponents that should have been overmatched; Texas A&M struggled to beat Miami–yes, it is going to be an interesting year in college football.

Maybe not as interesting and fun as 2007–an EPIC year for college football, and not just saying that because LSU won a national title that year–but still fun and interesting.

I just applied store brand Ben-Gay to my back and the heat feels nice. I do think I should probably spend yet another day in the chair. I think once I post this and do some minor picking up around here I may retire to my easy chair with Donna Andrews’ marvelous Round Up the Usual Peacocks. I also am not sure when the Saints game is today, either. Ah, noon. That should give me a few hours to read before the game comes on. I may even try to use the laptop during the game to do some writing, but it’s going to depend on how much my back stiffens up today as I continue to try to function.

And yes, I am well aware I am obsessing about my back and the pain, but seriously, back pain is one of those things you cannot escape; your back is essential for movement and so forth, and while I am not consciously trying to find out what movements hurt and which don’t…I am slowly figuring it out. Someone suggested to me the other day that this could actually be a laughter injury, and I do think that’s entirely possible, as I can remember laughing so hard my abs and ribs began hurting, and I would bend over sometimes laughing so hard….and that is the most painful position for me to assume since the injury made itself known.

A laughing injury. Only a Gregalicious could injure and incapacitate himself by laughing too hard.

What can I say? I am out of shape for laughing like that any more. THANKS PANDEMIC.

I also have to sometime write up Back to the Garden and The Devil Takes You Home, two of this year’s best novels that I’ve read thus far.

I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel before next weekend’s podcast ZOOM call. Yikes! I also cannot get over how messy and sloppy the apartment has become since my injury made itself known–which is really the thing that is driving me the most crazy of everything here, you know. I had hoped to be able to spend this weekend getting the apartment cleaned up and getting caught up on everything but instead I’ve had to nurse my back and get even more behind on everything.

And on that note, I am going to take Donna and my coffee and retire to my chair for a few hours. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow…hopefully with the news that my back is better.

Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Star

Sunday morning, and all is well–as well as it can be, at any rate–in the Lost Apartment. The Saints play the hated Falcons today at noon, with Taysom Hill–he of the sparkling blue eyes, the shredded muscular body, and the big warm infectious smile–getting the start as quarterback in place of Drew Brees, who is injured with broken ribs.

LSU eked out a win yesterday over Arkansas by partially blocking a field goal attempt in the closing minutes, 27-24, but with the only games left being Mississippi (it really requires effort not to say Ole Miss), Texas A&M, and Florida left to play, and a possible rescheduling of the Alabama game (still to be determined), means a losing season is still hanging in the balance. Alabama and Florida are both ranked in the Top Five, and none of those remaining games are going to be easy. They could easily go 0-4; 4-0 is unlikely; 2-2 is possibly the best we can hope for, which would leave the Tigers 5-5 on the season. The officiating in the game yesterday was absolutely terrible–not biased; the calls both for and against LSU were constantly questionable (some of the things that weren’t overturned were astonishing in retrospect).

I got some things done yesterday–the early game time for the Tigers certainly helped in that regard–did some serious cleaning, which was absolutely necessary, as well as some deep filing, which was enormously helpful. I discovered that, much to my surprise, my novella “Never Kiss a Stranger,” actually began as a short story called “A Streetcar Named St. Charles”–which, obviously, I ditched once I wrote a story called “A Streetcar Named Death”–and what was interesting about finding the original story was that I originally intended for my main character to meet the love interest on the streetcar; I think that’s still going to happen in the new version I am doing, but not quite in the same way (plus, that was also how I started “A Streetcar Named Death'”–a chance encounter on the streetcar, so yeah, changes). Some of what I wrote can still be used, of course, in the newer, improved version I have in progress, but what was truly amazing was how completely I’d forgotten the original.

I also started writing another story that formed, somehow, in my brain as I cleaned and filed yesterday: “The Rosary of Broken Promises.” If you will recall, I had started my story for the Christmas horror anthology, “To Sacrifice a Pawn” (really love that title) and then decided I didn’t have enough time to write it and do a really good job….so of course, yesterday I began to form another idea, drawing from the mists of my brain a similar opening as the “Pawn” story, but with a different tone, mood, and main character, and the newer idea was much darker than the original. I love this new story’s title as well; because of course I don’t have enough work in progress already (eye roll).

My back is still sore–I’m not sure what the hell I’ve done to myself, but I’m also not entirely sure it’s a muscle strain issue. I mean, it easily could be, but I am still going to the gym regularly, and it doesn’t affect the exercises I’m doing, nor does it make any of the exercises impossible. In fact, usually after I work out it doesn’t hurt at all, and it takes a while–usually overnight–for it to come back with full force. Yesterday I was aware of it, wincing periodically, with it getting worse the later in the day it got; this morning it is really miserable. Today I am going to use some heat on it with the heating pad; slather it with Icy Hot, and am going to use the yoga roller on it to try to loosen it up.

And of course, periodically I have those “creative mind” moments like, what if it’s something serious, or you had a mini-stroke or something and don’t know it?

A creative mind is truly a curse sometimes.

We watched a delightful film with Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren yesterday, The Good Liar, which wasn’t anything like I expected it to be; for some reason I had gotten it into my head that it was a comedy, and it was anything but a comedy. It was a very dark story about the sins of the past and swindling–very well written, with some terrific surprises in it and some truly terrific acting; Russell Tovey also was good in a supporting role as Dame Helen’s suspicious grandson–and I am surprised this film didn’t get more attention, particularly from fans of crime fiction. Very twisty, very interesting, and very well done. We then moved on to a French limited series, Le Manti (The Mantis) in which a present day serial killer is copying the crimes of a confessed serial killer who has been in jail for twenty-five years–and the serial killer is a woman. Played creepily by former Bond girl Carole Bouquet (For Your Eyes Only), the Mantis offers to help the police catch the killer, a la The Silence of the Lambs, with only one stipulation: her liaison with the police has to be her son, who is now also a cop. Very twisty, very creepy, very well plotted, we tore through three episodes of it last night. I do recommend it, even if there are some plausibility questions. And how nice to see Carole Bouquet so many years after her Bond girl days, still strikingly beautiful as an older woman, and with much stronger acting chops than in her days scuba diving with Roger Moore in the Greek islands.

And on that note, tis time to get back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in on you again tomorrow morning.

Cruel Summer

As far as summers go, I’d say this is one of the cruelest of my life thus far. (Nothing, however, including this one, has been as bad as 2005; let me make that very clear–but this one also isn’t over yet and apparently the Saharan dust storm that was hindering the formation of hurricanes is over now. Yay.)

I read an interesting piece on Crimereads about Robert S. Parker and his creation of his iconic character, Spenser, which put me back in mind of how I came to create MY character, Chanse MacLeod–who I have been thinking about lately ( I’ve decided that rather than writing novels about him I’m going to work on some novellas, and then put four of them together as a book; currently the working titles for the first three are “Once a Tiger,” “The Body in the Bayou,” and “The Man in the Velvet Mask”–I still need a fourth, and it’s entirely possible that any of these could turn actually into a novel, and I do have some amorphous ideas about what the fourth one could be), and reading this piece, which is excerpted from a scholarly tome about the genre I would like to read (Detectives in the Shadows: A Hard-boiled History by Susanna Lee), made me start thinking about how I created Chanse, and the entire process that the series actually went through over the years of his development.

It also made me think about looking at Chanse, the series, the characters, and the stories I chose to tell in a more critical, analytic way; I am not sure if I can do this, actually–while I’ve not published a Chanse novel since Murder in the Arts District back on October 14, 2014 (!!! Six years? It’s been six years since I retired the series? WOW)–which means I do have some distance from the books now, I still am the person who wrote them…even though I barely remember any of them now; I cannot recall plot points, or character names, outside of the regulars who populate every one of the books (I also cheated by using some of the same regulars in the Scotty series; Venus Casanova and Blaine Tujague, the police detective partners, appear in both series; and Paige Tourneur, Chanse’s best friend and a reporter, originally for the Times-Picayune who eventually moved on to become editor of Crescent City magazine, also turned up in the Scotty series, in Garden District Gothic and then again in Royal Street Reveillon. Serena Castlemaine, one of the cast members of the Grande Dames of New Orleans, who shows up in the most recent two Scotty books–the same as Paige–is a cousin of the deceased husband of Chanse’s landlady and erstwhile regular employer, Barbara Palmer Castlemaine).

I first created the character of Chanse MacLeod while I was living in Houston in 1989, and the series was intended to be set in Houston as well. I didn’t know of any crime novels or series set in Houston, one of the biggest cities in the country, and I thought that was strange (and probably wrong). Houston seemed like the perfect city for a crime series–huge and sprawling, economically depressed at the time but there was still a lot of oil money and speculators, con artists and crime–and the original story was called The Body in the Bayou (a title of which I am very fond, and is currently back in the running to be the title of a Chanse novella), because Houston also has bayous. I was reading John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series at the time, and loving them–I particularly loved the character of Travis McGee–and how twisty and complicated (if sometimes farfetched) the plots of the novels were. I had read The Dreadful Lemon Sky when I was thirteen, and liked it; but promptly forgot about MacDonald and McGee; a Book Stop in Houston that I frequented reminded me of them and I started picking them up. I had also discovered Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky by this time, and was falling in love with the crime genre all over again, developing a taste for the more hard-boiled side I disliked as a teenager. This was when I decided to try writing in this field again–for most of the 1980’s I was trying to write horror and science fiction (and doing so, very badly).

But coming back to the field that I loved as a kid, tearing through the paperback stand alones from Scholastic Book Club and all the series, from Nancy Drew to the Three Investigators to Trixie Belden before graduating on to Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen and Erle Stanley Gardner, seemed preordained, and also seemed somehow right; writing mysteries, or crime fiction, seemed to me the right path to becoming a published author (turns out, that was the correct assumption for me to make, and one that I have never regretted).

Chanse was originally, as a straight man, a graduate of Texas A&M and a two year veteran of the Houston Oilers; an injury eventually led to early retirement and joining the Houston PD, where he only lasted another three years before quitting and getting a private eye license. He had a secretary, a woman of color named Clara, who was heavyset and in her early fifties. That was about as far as I got; I think I wrote a first draft of a first chapter which established him as having his office near NASA, in Clear Lake (which was near where I lived) and his first case was going to involve a wealthy oil family in River Oaks. Chanse was also six four, dirty blond hair, green eyes, and weighed about two-twenty. When I fell in love with New Orleans four or five years later, I started revising the character and started writing The Body in the Bayou while I lived in Minneapolis. By this time I’d discovered that gay fiction was actually a thing, and that queer mysteries actually existed: Joseph Hanson, Michael Nava, RD Zimmerman, etc. I wanted to write about New Orleans, and I wanted to write a more hard-boiled, MacDonald like hero than what I was reading. (Not that Hanson, Nava, and the rest weren’t doing hard-boiled stuff; they were–I just wanted to subvert the trope of the straight male loner-hero detective.)

Chanse was definitely a loner, and after I moved to New Orleans I once again started revising the manuscript and story that eventually became Murder in the Rue Dauphine. He was cynical about life, love and relationships, even as he was slowly inching his way into a relationship with a flight attendant named Paul Maxwell; he had only two friends, really: Paige Tourneur, who’d been his “beard” while he was at LSU and in a fraternity and was now a reporter for the Times-Picayune; and Blaine Tujague, a former one-night stand and fellow gay man on the NOPD (I changed his backstory to having attended LSU on a football scholarship and a career-ending injury in the Sugar Bowl at the end of his senior year, which led him to joining NOPD, where he lasted for two years before going out on his own). He also lived in a one bedroom apartment on Camp Street, across the street from Coliseum Square in a converted Victorian, the living room also served as his office–and that was the same place where Paul and I lived when we first moved to New Orleans.

The series and the character evolved in ways I didn’t foresee when I first imagined him as that straight private eye in Houston; or even when I rebooted him into a gay one in New Orleans. The original plan was to have him evolve and grow from every case he took on–which would parallel some kind of personal issue and/or crisis he was enduring as he solved the case–the first case was about his concerns about getting involved in a serious relationship as he investigated a case that made him realize he was very lucky to have found someone that he could be with openly; the second case was about investigating someone who wasn’t who they claimed to be while at the same time he was finding out things about Paul’s past that made him uncomfortable. Katrina, of course, came along between book two and book three and changed everything; I know I also wrote another that dealt with the issues between mothers and children which made him reexamine his own relationship with his mother.

The great irony is I probably need to revisit the books to talk about them individually, or to even take a stronger, more in-depth look at the character; maybe that’s something I can do (since I have ebooks of the entire series) when I am too tired to focus on reading something new or to write anything.

And it’s really not a bad idea to reexamine all of my books and short stories at some point, in order to get an idea of what to do (and how to do it) going forward.

And now back to the spice mines.

Ballerina Girl

And now it’s Sunday. Just like that!

And LSU are the SEC champions in football, for the first time since 2011, and just like in 2011, the game was against Georgia. Also like in 2011, the game wasn’t even close. LSU won the title decisively, defeating the 4th team in the country (and 2nd in defense nationally) 37-10. No one had scored more than 20 points on Georgia all season; LSU had 17 by half-time. Joe Burrow played like an experienced NFL quarterback in the play-offs. Derek Stingley Jr. made two phenomenal interceptions–Georgia had only been intercepted three times all season; make that five now.

This entire season has been a dream, you know? In 2003, LSU was expected to be good–but not national champion good; and they had to fight their way into the national championship game (including a blowout of Georgia in the SEC title game) before beating Number One ranked Oklahoma in the title game. In 2007, they started the season ranked second and expected to be national champions; despite two losses, somehow they fought their way back into the national title game and blew out Ohio State. In 2011, they were supposed to be good and were–going 12-0, winning the SEC title game with a blowout of Georgia, before losing in the title game to Alabama. This year, we expected the Tigers to be good…but I don’t think I ever dreamed they would be this good. I hoped, of course, but…wow. Just wow.

There was much joy in Louisiana last night–and there was SO MUCH JOY in the Lost Apartment, I can’t even begin to tell you. In fact, I’m still floating on cloud nine this morning as I type this. GEAUX TIGERS!

And if the Saints beat the 49ers today in the Superdome…madness.

As I have said before, I’ve been writing an appreciation post of the LSU season since the Alabama game, and maybe at some point (today? this week? Who knows?) I’ll put the finishing touches on it and share it. I wanted to post it originally after the Alabama game, but then thought, but what if they don’t win out? And so I decided to wait until after the regular season ended–but after the A&M win last Sunday, as I added more to the post, I thought, what if they win the SEC title next week? And so I waited again; and even now, I’m not sure if I should go ahead and finish it; the season isn’t over yet, after all, and LSU is going to the national play-offs for the first time ever.

I did get some things done yesterday–I made groceries, and we had our last “tailgate”–but I turned on the television to the Oklahoma-Baylor Big 12 title game and got sucked in almost immediately–and then the rest of the day was pretty much a loss. This morning, I need to get the kitchen cleaned–the Saints make me so tense I usually clean during their games–because sitting still makes me too tense–and I did manage to print out a story I need to edit yesterday, so there’s that. I’m also going to try to find some time to spend with Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, which opens fantastically and I’ve yet to have the time to spend on it that I would like. I also need to get back to work on the book–the work I did last week felt amazing, and I should ride that momentum as long as I can–and there’s a lot of mess and filing and sorting to be done in my office area here in the kitchen.

But I can’t help but bask in the glow of LSU being SEC champions yet again. GEAUX TIGERS!

I’m still also reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is absolutely fascinating. I have to write a Sherlock Holmes story set in New Orleans, if you will recall, and reading all this French Quarter/New Orleans history is proving to be enormously helpful, quite frankly. I’m only disappointed in myself for taking so long to get around to start studying the endlessly fascinating history of this city I love so much.

I really need to make a to-do list.

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

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Cross My Broken Heart

I slept well again last night, so here’s hoping that Monday night’s shitty night of sleep was an aberration. I feel very rested and well this morning, which is a lovely change from yesterday morning’s horror.

Paul was home late last evening, so I was able to finish watching Greatest Events of World War II in Colour, which I highly recommend. It’s incredibly well done, and powerfully moving. The final two episodes, “Liberation of Buchenwald” and “Hiroshima”, are the perfect pair to end the series with; in my last post I talked about how the “Dresden Firestorm” episode brought up questions of morality, both national and that of war; how absolutely fitting that “Liberation of Buchenwald” was the very next episode; so that any sympathy one might have felt for the German citizens killed during bombing raids and so forth, evaporates almost immediately. The documentary is also one of the first times I’ve ever seen anything about World War II and the Holocaust that absolutely puts the lie to the German everyday citizen’s claim, afterwards, that they didn’t know anything about the death camps. They knew, and at best, just didn’t care. At worst, cheered the mass slaughter of “undesirables”. Thank God Eisenhower brought in the press to document the horrors of the camps.

Even more horrifying is knowing that the threat of Soviet Communism was deemed so terrible that the Western nations chose not to pursue a lot of war crimes trials against horrible Nazis, and instead helped rehabilitate them into German society, deciding it was simply better to move on–the past was the past, the Nazis were defeated, and Communism was apparently worse–to our everlasting shame.

“Hiroshima” naturally deals with the development of atomic weapons and the lead-up to the decision to use them on the Japanese. The reason given at the time was that Japan would never surrender, and the conquest of the home islands would have cost many American lives; so President Truman–also wanting to finish off Japan as quickly as possible, before the Soviet juggernaut could turn east–made the decision to wipe two cities off the map–and the xenophobic racism that allowed the Americans to be more brutal with the Japanese then they ever were with the Germans; had the Germans won the Battle of the Bulge and taken Belgium back, would the Americans have dropped atomic bombs on say, Frankfurt and Munich? Highly unlikely.

I highly recommend this series. World War II changed the face of the world, and politics, forever; and almost everything that has gone on in the world ever since the war ended has been affected and colored by the war. It was the war that made minorities in the United States–who fought, bled and died for this country in a brutal and bloody war–no longer willing to accept second class status. For many closeted queers, it gave them the opportunity to meet others like themselves, and planted the seeds for the gay neighborhoods in places like San Francisco and New Orleans and New York–gay men and lesbians no longer felt isolated and alone, knew there were others like them, and tried to make community, eventually leading to the queer rights movement. Women participated in the war and stepped up to replace the fighting men in their jobs, and soon realized they could be more than wives and mothers, chafing against their once-again restricted roles after the end of the war–which of course led to the Women’s Movement…and that’s not even taking into consideration the changes wrought in the world in geopolitical terms.

Even if you aren’t interested in watching all ten episodes, I strongly encourage everyone to watch “The Liberation of Buchenwald.” The Holocaust was real, it happened, the Western nations allowed it to happen, and it must never happen again. And if you have the capacity to even consider, for one moment, the notion that it was a hoax–fuck all the way off, and I hope your death is slow, painful, and horrific.

I kind of want to revisit Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War/War and Remembrance series; such a well done fictionalization of the war, as seen through the eyes of the Henrys, a naval family. Of course the two volumes total something like three thousand pages–I’ll never in a million years ever have the time for a deep reread–but they were amazing, and I read them as a teenager.

Yesterday I taped Susan Larson’s “My Reading Life” with Jean (J. M.) Redmann, which is always a delight. Susan is smart and fun, as is Jean, and it’s all I can do to keep up with them and not come across as a drooling idiot. But it’s always lovely to talk to Susan and Jean about books and writing, and even more delightful, Susan told me she’d enjoyed Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, which was of course the crowning jewel of my month. As you know, Constant Reader, I have constant doubts about my short story writing ability, and so getting Susan’s stamp of approval meant a lot. I’ll post a link for the show when it airs.

Today is a half-day, and after tomorrow my vacation for Thanksgiving begins. I’m hoping to get a lot done–like always–and maybe I won’t; but at least I feel confident I can get a lot of reading done. I also have my blog entries about The Hunter by Richard Stark and The Ferguson Affair by Ross MacDonald to write. I also would like to catch up on all the things–little things, nothing major–that I always seem to let slide since I don’t have much time.

LSU has also managed to maintain its number one ranking, despite the abysmal showing of the defense last Saturday against Mississippi. I saw an interview with Joe Burrow after the game in which he simply shrugged and said, “You know things have changed at LSU when we score 58 points and get over 700 yards of total offense and the locker room mood is disappointment at how badly we played.” YIKES. But I tend to agree–I was enormously disappointed by the defense in both the Vanderbilt and Mississippi games; but the offense was spectacular in both games and ordinarily I’d be aglow by those high-scoring offensive performances. Maybe it’s true; maybe we do get spoiled quickly–God knows I get annoyed when the Saints don’t play well and they’ve consistently been one of the best teams in the NFL since 2006. Sigh.

But the last two games of LSU’s season are at home, against Arkansas and Texas A&M, and if they win either of those games they clinch the West division and are going to Atlanta to play Georgia for a shot at LSU’s first SEC title since 2011. Woo-hoo!

I hope to start reading Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys today; today is my half-day and so I can get home earlier, possibly do some writing, and then curl up in my easy chair while I wait for Paul to get home. I still haven’t written a damned thing recently, and I really need to get back on that.

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

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