Working Overtime

FRIDAY! Today I am taking what we can a personal day, or a Mental Health Day, or whatever you want to call a day when you really have a lot to do at home–chores, errands, writing, cleaning, etc.–so you dip into your dwindling supply of paid time off and snag some hours so you can get that shit done. It’s gray again outside this morning, and the sidewalks wet with a fractional amount of standing water in low places, so I am not really sure what the weather is actually like outside. Yesterday the high was 78–insane for late March, which doesn’t bode well for summer when it arrives in a few weeks (yes, summer is usually here by mid-April)–and I haven’t yet checked today’s weather. The gray cloud cover, however, kind of says it all, really.

I finished off a journal last night, filling the final few pages with thoughts about the current book, what I need to get done with it, and how precisely I want to get that done. Time is, of course, slipping through my fingers, as it is wont to do, and the extended deadline expires on Thursday of next week. Of course, it’s also Easter weekend, that is Good Friday and a paid holiday (thank you, deeply Catholic state of Louisiana), so I am debating whether to go ahead and get it turned in on Thursday, taking that nice long weekend to relax and recuperate from the exhaustion of finishing a book, or using that time to painstakingly go over the entire thing one last time….or desperately try to revise the end one last time. (I think we know what I am going to inevitably end up spending next weekend doing, don’t we?) I also need to get to the gym today later this afternoon.

I watched the Snyder cut of Justice League yesterday while I was making condom packs. I hadn’t wanted to for a number of reasons (four hours being the primary, to be fair, and I’m also kind of over “director’s cuts” of movies I’ve already seen; the few times I’ve watched these kind of things they never seemed to improve the original movie that much, or made a significant amount of difference to the film that warranted a rewatch; I’m afraid I’ve been burned that way a few too many times to be much interested in ever viewing a director’s “personal vision” yet again…but then, I realized yesterday, this was different–the movie I watched was patched together, rewritten, and reshot to create an entirely different film; so this Justice League would have some similarities to the movie I’d watched and mostly forgotten, but wouldn’t be the same film), but yesterday I thought well it’s four hours, watching this will save me the chore of having to decide what two movies I want to view while I am doing this, and so, with no small amount of trepidation, I queued the movie up and hit play.

Four hours later, as the end credits rolled, my first thought was wow, Warner Brothers really shit the bed by bringing in Joss Whedon to make that piece of crap instead of just releasing this.

DC Comics was my jam when I was a kid; I move on to DC from Archie Comics and never looked back–although I am very fond of Archie, even watching the first few seasons of Riverdale and absolutely loving The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina–and even though I eventually came around to include Marvel in my super-hero reading, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for DC–how can you go wrong with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? DC changed over the years–the transition from the old school heroes in an attempt to modernize them all in the 1970’s had mixed results (I can’t be the only person who remembers that Wonder Woman gave up her powers and became mortal for a while in the early 1970’s?); but the 1970’s also meant a move toward more realism in the way the characters were drawn, and an attempt to make them more three-dimensional and human. (Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow is the first DC hero to be drawn hyper-realistically; I distinctly have a memory of Oliver standing at a mirror with his shirt off–and seeing not only nipples but a navel and some curly body hairs and defined muscles). DC rebooted their entire universe in the 1980’s with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was an epic undertaking, and kind of brilliant–getting rid of, for example, the Kryptonian super pets like Krypto, Streaky, and there was even a super-horse, if I remember correctly; they also got rid of the myriad rainbow colors and types of Kryptonite and only keeping the deadly green–my favorite was always red, because how red Kryptonite affected Kryptonians on Earth was unpredictable and never the same…which meant it could also always serve as deus ex machina to explain away strange, out of character behavior, like Superman or Supergirl or Superboy–who had his own comic series as well: “oh, I was exposed to red Kryptonite”–the effects only last, I think, for forty-eight hours.

Anyway, I’ve always rooted for DC Comics and its adaptations–loved, for a while, The CW’s series with lesser known heroes, like Green Arrow and the Flash and Batwoman. I even like the Brandon Routh version of Superman in Superman Returns. (Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds was enormously disappointing; I loved the Lantern Corps, I also love Reynolds, but the whole thing was just a big mess.) I enjoyed the first rebooted Henry Cavill as Superman movies (questioned the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, to be honest) but I also agreed with critics who felt those films were missing something at their core; they came very close to getting Superman right but didn’t quite get there. And while this version of Justice League clearly fucks with the continuity of the DC Universe–particularly with Aquaman–I would strongly suggest Warner Brothers use this movie as the template for the Universe moving forward and just ignore those continuity errors. Joss Whedon definitely did both Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller dirty in his revision; the parallel difficult relationships between Flash and his wrongfully imprisoned father played against the antagonistic relationship between Ray and his father are really at the heart of the film, and give it an emotional depth and complexity that the Whedon version truly lacked. The Whedon plot merely served as a device for action scenes and explosions; the Snyder film actually has a plot, fleshes out the characters of the heroes more, and is truly an epic on the grand scale of the Richard Donner Superman films of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s–not an easy feat.

And can we just give the Amazons their own movie already?

I went into it skeptical, and when it was finished, was absolutely delighted to have had such an enjoyable experience that I didn’t even once notice that it was four hours long. And yes, I get that could have been a problem for a theatrical release, but outside of some things at the end–the dream sequence for Batman–I really can’t think of much that could have been cut from the running time. I also liked that the movie ended with the Darkseid cliffhanger, and the permanent establishment of the team. I don’t know what they are going to do from here out–I think both Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller are out, as well as Affleck–I don’t really pay much attention to casting news and things like that, nor do I care enough to go look it up, but it’s a shame. Both were perfectly cast, and while I can also see some issues with Miller anchoring a Flash film, I think he had the charm and charisma to pull it off if he had a great script.

And on that note, my errands and chores and writing aren’t going to do themselves, so I will talk to you tomorrow.

Style

And this is the first Tuesday of 2021, how are you all doing?

I was very tired yesterday. I slept well Sunday night, but the stress of finishing the book was messing up my sleep leading into Sunday night, so yesterday wasn’t an easy day for me. I also think my caffeine intake might have gone up while I was on vacation, so I am not really sure if it was book stress or perhaps caffeine messing with my sleep. I didn’t sleep particularly well last night either–and I am going to the gym after work tonight. I’m a little stressed out because I really allowed the Sisyphean task of answering my emails be pushed aside focused on getting my book finished, and it was more than a little traumatizing yesterday to see how out of control my inbox had gotten. But que sera sera, as Doris Day used to sing.

We finished watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina last night, and bravo to everyone involved. Sabrina was one of the most fun shows we’ve watched over the past few years, I highly recommend it. Kiernan Shipka is pitch perfect as Sabrina–the entire cast is perfect, really; not a false note anywhere–and of course, the guy who plays Lucifer is fucking gorgeous. The four seasons was a wonderful ride, as Sabrina went from wide-eyed, goody two-shoes half mortal/half witch to owning her own power and using it to save herself, her friends, her family–and eventually, the entire cosmos. I was bummed when I heard the fourth season would be its last…but the final season was perfectly written, and ended all of the story arcs satisfactorily, tying the entire run up with a bow. Sorry to see it go, but absolutely delighted that they clearly planned the show’s end.

I do feel a bit at sea, to be honest; the usual disorientation after the tight focus required to finish a book. I printed out #shedeservedit–it’s at around 100,000 words right now and needs to be trimmed down because there’s some additions that need to be made to it, but it cannot come in at 125+. I also periodically have some fears about Bury Me in Shadows–which is inevitable, I suppose; imposter syndrome never goes away, even after you’ve written over thirty books at this point in your career. I’m not certain why this happens to me still–or what I need to rewire in my brain to stop it happening–if that’s even possible at this point in my life. I rather am who I am, and I doubt that change is possible for me now. I do try to continue to learn and grow–I don’t think I ever want to stop learning and growing, as a person or as a writer–but sometimes I wonder if I am so deeply mired in who I am as a person for that to even be possible anymore. I was also thinking about books and stories I’d like to write in the future, and then wondering, am I the right person to tell that story? As an example, I had an idea I really liked a few years back (probably longer than I remember) which was centered around a family of Vietnamese refugees who owned a small business somewhere along the Gulf Coast, either Florida or Alabama, from the point of view of a teenager who was born in the US and so is torn between his family culture and becoming assimilated, when something from the matriarch’s past in Vietnam–from the war days–comes back into their lives,, affecting everyone and changing everything. It’s a really good idea…but then, am I the right person to tell that story? Wouldn’t a Vietnamese-American write a more authentic story, and would my writing such a book take a publishing slot away from a Vietnamese-American writer?

While I do believe that writers have a right–perhaps even a duty–to write the stories they are compelled to write, I also don’t see that compulsion as a “get out of jail free” card. You have to do the work to make sure you aren’t using cheap stereotypes, are creating authentic characters whose experience lives and breathes and is real to the reader, and are telling honest stories about them. You can’t just shrug and smile and say, “well, if people only wrote from their personal experience we wouldn’t have stories about vampires and werewolves and space aliens”; nothing makes me angrier than seeing someone using that to answer criticism about authenticity in their work.

Because people of color and queers, for the record, aren’t mythological creatures that only exist in fiction and in our imaginations. We all exist, and to have our lives, our experiences, and our very existence compared to “vampires and werewolves and space aliens” is not only insulting, it’s dehumanizing–which is absolutely what racism and homophobia are about when boiled down to their base point: people who are not straight and white aren’t REALLY human beings.

And anyone who uses that excuse most definitely should not be writing outside of their own experience, because they are NOT coming from a good place.

When I was first starting out, there was an ongoing debate/discussion about whether we should identify as gay writers or just as writers. The debate died off as traditional publishing backed away from publishing queer writers–and the ones they did continue publishing weren’t marketed as “queer.” I could see the merits on both sides of the discussion; sure, I’d prefer to be seen as a crime writer and have my works stocked in the mystery section of bookstore–but that was also not a reality. As I would say back then–and it’s still true today–“it doesn’t matter what we consider ourselves and our work to be; the publishers and the booksellers are going to label us and or work however they think best in order to sell it, and no matter what we do, our thoughts and opinions and definitions will always be overruled by Marketing.” That label also trumps everything that comes after it–whether it’s romance or mystery or literary or science fiction or fantasy or horror, gay or queer overpowers everything else. I think that is beginning to change. I see books written by queer writers centering queer characters being published by the big houses to great reviews and getting attention, which is lovely. I love the entire “#ownvoices” conversation, and the move to course-correct the overwhelming white straightness in book publishing.

Ironically, it causes me to doubt myself. When I was writing Bury Me in Shadows, I questioned myself constantly: do I have the right to write this book and tell this story? Can a white Southern gay man write about issues of race in the rural South? Am I writing authentic characters or perpetuating rural Southern stereotypes? Do I have anything really insightful to bring to the discussion, or have I gone completely off the rails? It’s a whole new kind of imposter syndrome I wasn’t expecting!

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

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

So yesterday was the last day of my vacation. Heavy heaving sigh. It was a bit on the weird side, though, because of the holidays and so forth I kept losing track of what day it was. Friday seemed like Saturday to me, and every day last week I had to really sit down and think about what day it actually was–or look at my Google calendar. #madness

I did finish the book yesterday, and sent it to my publisher two days late. I really thought I was going to get this one in on time–still not certain the final chapter is complete, but the manuscript currently sits at over 90,000 words and I just can’t think about the book anymore. I’m delighted to be finished with it, disappointed it took me an extra two days, and now I am going to breathe a bit as I try to get caught up with everything I let slide while I slogged through finishing this book.

As always, I overestimated how much time I can spend staring at a computer screen and underestimated how long it would take to put the copy edits/corrections into the entire document. And of course, the MacBook Air problems continued this morning as well. I fucking hate this thing, seriously.

But Bury Me in Shadows is finished; and now I can start figuring out how to finish #shedeservedit by March 1 and a short story by 1/15. And oh my God, the emails I’ve been ignoring while I tried to get this done. But I am glad to be going back to work this morning, despite having to get up at a ridiculously early hour, and I feel fairly well rested; I had issues sleeping during my vacation–of course–but now that I am going to go back to my usual schedule, hopefully that will be a thing of the past. I haven’t been to the gym since getting my inoculation (part one); my shoulder was sore and moving my left arm in an upward motion–required for the gym–hurt, so I thought it smart and prudent to skip it. I will go tonight after I get off work, of course, and try to make up for the lost time.

Since I was on deadline for a book, I never really had the opportunity to reflect on the shit-show that was 2020. It’s weird, too, because usually I am looking forward to Carnival–Twelfth Night is Wednesday, which kicks off the season, and there were King cakes already out at Rouse’s yesterday–but the parades are cancelled due to the pandemic, so Carnival is going to be weird this year. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to plan my life around parades, to be honest–but it’s still going to be different and strange…and imagine how insane parade season will be next year! I will eventually recap my 2020 for this blog at some point–favorite books and movies and television shows and so forth–but that isn’t going to happen today, as my memory is shot and I will have to go through old blogs to see what I read and what I watched this past year. I also haven’t really done a goals post for 2021 the way I usually do, either–primarily because there was one goal, and that was to get the book done. It was nice having the holidays and the little bit of vacation time to work on the book; it was one of those ah this is what life would be like if I only had to write books things, and it was quite lovely. One thing I noticed, too, while I was working on the final polish was that one of my biggest worries is that I forget things, or start something and never finish it off, leave subplots dangling without an answer, etc.–or names change for characters, that sort of thing. Partly it’s because when I write and I come to a place in the story where I have to remember something from earlier in the book, I usually don’t remember and guess–and it’s amazing how often my subconscious rises up and makes the correct guess for me. I always used to be able to remember the plot and things like that in my head; my memory is shot now, so I am generally terrified as I give the final a final polish and copy edit…there were only a couple of small minor things–a character’s last name changed once, a location’s name was the incorrect one–so I was pretty well pleased and the final step not nearly as difficult as anticipated or expected. (Thank God, as it took me three days to get through the manuscript and input those corrections and deletions; who knows how long it would have taken if the manuscript was more of a mess?) It also went from a book about a high school student to a college student–almost from the very beginning of its origins as a short story, the main character was young; going from about thirteen in the short story to seventeen in the original draft to twenty in the final. It also went from first-person/present tense to first person/past tense, and it was amazing to me how many verbs I’d missed going through and making those changes. Laziness, probably, being the correct answer to that.

As always, when I am pressed to finish a book my mind becomes very creative. I was scribbling down ideas in my journal almost all of last week, and I even came up with a new Scotty title, which might even be the next book–Twelfth Knight Knavery, which is just so fun I am going to have to do it. I had originally planned on doing a pre-pandemic book (French Quarter Flambeaux, primarily because the shitty Carnival season of 2019 deserved to be recorded for posterity), but this one….I kind of like the idea behind this one, and there’s no reason I can’t do two pre-pandemic books for Scotty before Quarter Quarantine Quadrille. My timeline for Scotty, after all, is completely under my own control. And I suspect people aren’t going to want to be reading about the pandemic for a little while at any rate. I do love the title Twelfth Knight Knavery, though.

We’ve also been watching the final season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, and my God, how I love this show. I hate that it’s ending, but also get it–this final season has the gang taking on the Eldritch horrors, and where do you go after that? We only have two episodes left to watch, which will most likely occur tonight or tomorrow. The Saints also won yesterday, so football season is theoretically not over yet for Louisiana fans, but while people around here are talking Super Bowl…I dunno.

And on that note, it’s time to get back to the spice mines and try to get caught up on things. Have a lovely first Monday of the new year, Constant Reader.

You Choose

So, we finished watching Dark last night.

It is, quite frankly, superb.

Netflix is, frankly, killing it with their original programming, and since I’ve finally conquered my issues with subtitles, the foreign language Netflix shows we’ve been watching–from Boy Toy to Elite to Dark–are far superior to the shows from American Netflix (with, of course, the exception of the magnificent Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the original seasons of Stranger Things).

Dark was being suggested to me regularly by Netflix–because it’s the kind of thing I would enjoy, obviously–for years now; but the German language/subtitles thing always made me choose not to watch. The premise of the show also seemed, well, a bit on the cliche side, frankly; a small German town where kids disappear in the woods. Was it a mystery show about a serial killer? A horror show, like Stranger Things? What precisely was it? Finally, last week Paul and I decided to give it the old “one or two episodes” rule, and within minutes, we were completely sucked into it.

It begins as a mystery; a teenage boy has gone missing without a trace in the small south German town of Winden. Our main character, Jonas, has recently returned home from what was essentially a brief stay in a mental hospital after having a breakdown upon finding his father’s dead body earlier that same year (his father hung himself). While Jonas has been gone, his girlfriend Martha has started dating another guy in their friend group, Bartosz. One night, the group of friends decide to sneak into the woods nearby; the missing boy Erik was a drug dealer and Magnus (Martha’s brother) and Bartosz believe they know where Erik kept his stash; stuffed into an abandoned reclining chair near the cave. The town main industry is a nuclear power plant. Magnus and Martha’s parents are a police detective and the school principal; there is also a parents’ meeting townhall at the school on the same night; the babysitter is sick, so Magnus and Martha are forced to take their younger brother Mikkel with them into the woods. They find the drugs; there’s a weird, scary sound from inside the cave and their flashlights go on the blink. They all take off running–but eventually discover Mikkel isn’t with them, and they can’t find him anywhere.

Is there a serial killer out there preying on young boys, or is something even creepier going on?

It also rains a lot in Winden. An awful lot, and no one ever seems to mind being caught out in it–so much so that I started commenting on it.

Jonas, Martha and Bartosz

But the problem with talking about Dark is the issue of spoilers; part of the joy of the show is being surprised when the twists come–and they literally are so surprising that each one completely changes the show and how you watch it. It turns out, of course, that there is a thirty-three cycle of young boys disappearing–kind of like It–and it is all connected. It’s confusing in the first episode or two because there are so many characters and so much going and two different timelines, but once you get used to it, it’s fascinating to follow.

Everything is connected, so you really do have to pay attention.

One of the things I love the most about the show is how it depicts small town life–how grudges from childhood can last for decades; how everyone’s lives are interconnected; and all the dark secrets everyone is keeping. It’s also filmed and scored beautifully; the camera angles are surprising but visually stunning, and the writing is incredibly smart. The acting is also terrific, and so is the casting. It’s amazing how they were able to find talented actors to play the same roles as younger and older who actually looked like the older version of the younger character and the younger version of the older character. I do highly recommend the show; it lasts for three amazing seasons, which is precisely how long it takes to wrap up the story.

Leave it to the Germans to do a crime/suspense/thriller/horror/scifi show based in logic, reason, science and philosophy that is compelling and impossible to stop watching.

Hey Good Lookin’

Hey there, Sunday morning, how’s about you doin’?

Well, we’re still here, aren’t we? That’s something to be grateful for, I suppose; I don’t know what horrors today might still have in store for me, or what fresh new ones await on the morrow, but for now–I am okay, we’re all okay, and it’s always okay to take a step back away when you need to because it can be so overwhelming.

Yesterday was lovely. I slept in, I read some emails, I did laundry and cleaned the kitchen. I organized the stuff on the cabinets on the stove-side (downtown in New Orleans) of the kitchen; I had a protein shake for lunch and peanut butter toast for breakfast. I worked on the laundry room shelves, and reorganized the bathroom vanity. I read Daphne du Maurier’s “Ganymede,” which was both creepy and charming at the same time–which only makes it creepier, doesn’t it? I made a shopping list for the next time I go to Costco. I made progress on getting organized, despite the on-going irritations with my computer which finally resulted in it doing a deep crash, but now it seems to be working just beautifully. I didn’t lose anything but time, and well–the one thing to come out of the dramatic shift and change in my work schedule is eight hour days, five days a week–and despite getting up early and having to go to bed early as a result–I find myself with more free time than I had before. There’s no sports to watch on television; this weekend I would have been running around getting exhausted (but having a great time doing it) at TWFest/S&S. That’s correct; that is what would have been the normal madness of life I associate with this time of year–part of the reason, I suspect, I feel so unmoored most of the time; this is anything but a normal time–and I also know, from past experience,  that normal is going to be different from now on. There’s no going back to December 2019, when we were all looking forward to the end of an annus horribilis; we had no idea what horrors our eldritch reality had waiting in store for us in 2020.

An innocent, more carefree and hopeful time. Hard to believe it’s only been three months since Christmas.

But yesterday I stayed away from the news and scrolled past it on the rare occasions I ventured into the Internet yesterday; it made for a much more relaxed day, and I even refused to worry about how many bad things might be happening while I wasn’t paying attention–and then realized with luck, some of the stuff that probably shot by in our daily dystopian news reality, the stuff I’ll never go back and get caught up on, hopefully won’t be necessary. The only news I want to hear at this point is that this whole situation has miraculously resolved itself and everything is back to normal, and if that were the news, I’ll find out soon enough, right?

Right.

But it was lovely to feel like it was my life again, and a normal Saturday. I could feel the tension slowly easing itself out of my shoulder blades as the day passed and I grew more and more relaxed, as the ease of repetition and mindless work put me into a more zen-like state, where my mind could release itself from its bonds and be creative; think creatively and solve problems and get organized; and of course the memories from AFTER Katrina, of going to the gym to develop a routine for every day and sticking to that; setting a routine of things to do to keep me occupied, my mind focused elsewhere than what the reality was outside my front door. None of this is possible now, of course; but I am going to start stretching every morning so at least I am doing something to take care of my body. But I am trying to adapt and change to a new system, a new normal, a new reality; and finding time to write–which I am going to do today–goes a very long way to reestablishing a new reality for me.

We finished watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and I already miss it. It’s quite an excellent show; and as I mentioned already, Kiernan Shipka is perfectly cast as Sabrina (I also kept thinking, as I watched, what a good Nancy Drew she would make); in fact, everyone is pretty much perfectly cast, and the high production quality of the show is something to see indeed. After we finished Sabrina, we started with the third season of Ozark, and if you haven’t been watching that show, you need to start from the beginning and go to binge-heaven. Cleverly written, beautifully directed and filmed, and remarkably cast–Julia Garner as Ruth is a particular stand-out–Ozark is one of the best shows of the last few years. And then we moved on to Tiger King, the docu-series everyone is talking about, and wow–what an interesting show. The funny thing is I had always wanted to write a book built around the Big Cat Rescue organization run by Carole Baskin; I had a base idea formed around it, and when Paul and I stayed at the Saddlebrook Tennis Resort north of Tampa a few years ago (probably more than a few years ago; I think it was 2012? 2013? Time holds little to no meaning to me anymore) I had considered contacting them to do some research while we were there. The name of the book was going to be The Stripes of the Tiger and I actually came across my file with notes a few days ago when I was organizing and filing in the kitchen. (I often have ideas that hold my interest for a little while and then I see another new, shiny object and move on)

“Ganymede” was a chilling and charming story, as I mentioned earlier–and I can see why it’s compared to “Death in Venice’; there are definitely similarities under the surface of the stories; an older tourist comes to Venice on holiday, becomes obsessed with a much younger, extremely beautiful teenager, and the end result of both stories is death. The Mann story, of course, ends with the death of the tourist from a cholera outbreak; the du Maurier ends very differently. Naturally, I prefer the du Maurier story, which is dark and twisted, and I’ll say it if no one else wants to make the comparison: “Ganymede” also has a lot in common with Lolita. I’ll have more to say about “Ganymede,” but I think I’ll save that for a dedicated post.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

ChristopherDaniels_Shirtless_3

The Gambler

Saturday morning, and we’ve made it through yet another week, Constant Reader. It got a little hairy here and there this past week–Wednesday afternoon I was literally hanging by a thread and barely in control of my temper–but having Thursday to stay home and collect myself was absolutely lovely. I got rested, got my equilibrium back, and so yesterday I was fine. I managed to make it through an entire eight hour shift at work with aplomb; I was even able to spend some time getting some of my data entry work accomplished. There were some difficult times yesterday, I cannot lie; it’s going to get harder and harder as the epidemic continues weaving its evil, viral way through our parish, and as more and more people get sick. I also believe the city is reaching its tipping point with the hospitals close to being overwhelmed; they are preparing the Convention Center with beds to turn it into a makeshift hospital ward for those who are sick and need care, but don’t need ventilation. This, of course, brings back horrible memories of the days after Katrina; so far there’s been no word about the Superdome being used in this capacity, primarily because it’s not as easily accessed as the Convention Center–you can walk inside the Morial Center from the sidewalk, whereas at the Superdome you have quite a climb and walk to get inside, so it’s probably not practical for use in that manner.

Yesterday I had to stop at Rouse’s on the way home, and I was expecting–well, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. Since I made the Costco run on Lundi Gras (which in hindsight was probably one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in my life; certainly the most important decisions I’ve made in 2020), toilet paper isn’t a concern so I didn’t check that aisle at all; but as picked over as the bread aisle was, I  managed to get two small loaves of Bunny Bread (the local Louisiana version of Wonder Bread, don’t judge me–it makes excellent toast and grilled cheese sandwiches, so back off). I also noticed that Rouse’s bakery is now making fresh bread, cut for sandwiches, and only charging 99 cents per loaf.

I do love my friendly neighborhood Rouse’s.

And as our case numbers and death toll continues to rise in New Orleans, I am pleased to say that the city is doing what it always does in times of crisis: it is pulling together. No matter how scared people might be, no one we have to turn away from getting tested for not having the applicable symptoms becomes irate or angry, even out of a sense of being scared or frustrated–they all accept it with aplomb, thank us for helping the sick, and promise to keep checking to see when we have more testing capacity.  Restaurants are feeding service workers who no longer have incomes. One of the hotels in the CBD has opened itself to the homeless population, to get them off the streets and put a roof over their heads and giving them access to running water and a bed. Everyone in Rouse’s, from the customers to the staff, were all pleasant and polite and kind to each other.

I don’t think I will ever get used to getting on I-10 at 5 pm and seeing no traffic–I certainly hope I don’t ever get used to it, at any rate.

Last night, we continued our binge-watch of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and my God, how addicted are we to this show? It doesn’t hurt, of course, that all of the men are incredibly hot, but the character of Sabrina, and the way Kiernan Shipka plays her, is the heart of the show. It’s become increasingly more and more fantastic, as any show dealing with the supernatural inevitably does; but Shipka manages to root her performance–and thus carry the show–in reality, which makes it work perfectly. All of the acting is stellar and top-notch, and while it plays fast-and-loose with a lot of things having to do with the dark arts and dark magic–it’s still kind of cool to see the world-building taking place, and that it all seems to come together and work on the show. I also have a HUGE crush on Luke Cook, the Australian actor who plays Lucifer. (Do yourself a favor and do a google-image search for “Luke Cook shirtless.”)

I also love the way Sabrina is the center of the show–and the way the men inevitably wind up doing what she tells them to.

And–as weird as this may sound–I find that my best coping mechanism to get back to my own center after getting home from a tough day at work is to watch highlights of LSU games from this past season. I also particularly enjoy watching the last five minutes of the first half of the Alabama game (as LSU took a 16-13 lead and in under five minutes turned it into an unsurmountable 33-13 half-time lead) or the final ten minutes of the first half of the national championship game against Clemson (when LSU went from trailing 17-7 to a 28-17 half-time lead; scoring enough points to win the game before half-time). As I said to Paul last night as I cued up that Clemson game yet again, “You know, this is the last time I remember being completely happy.”

These are, indeed, strange times in which we are living.

Today I am going to step away from the Internet (once I finish this) while checking in periodically on social media, and instead I am going to spend most of the day organizing and cleaning and hopefully getting some writing work done. I have the tops of the other cabinets to organize and make tidy; and I may start working my way through the kitchen drawers. I slept extremely well last night and I slept till nine this morning, so I feel rested; I am going to use my massage roller to loosen up the tightness in my back and I am also going to do some stretching this morning; just because I can’t go to the gym doesn’t mean I can’t do stretching exercises. I also forgot two things at Rouse’s yesterday–cat food and charcoal–so I am going to walk over to Walgreens at some point and see if they have both at a reasonable price; if they don’t, I am going to walk to the Rouse’s in the CBD and take pictures of the deserted streets as I go. I feel like I should be documenting these strange times here in the river city; and am probably missing golden opportunities to take pictures of landmarks and so forth that could be used for book covers and so forth because there are no tourists to photo shop out of them.

Maybe I should walk down to Woldenberg Park and also take some pictures of the river. Lost in all this COVID-19 stuff is the fact that the river is very high right now–we may need to open the spillway again this year–and of course, hurricane season is just around the corner….but I am not allowing myself to think about that just yet; there’s plenty of time to worry about storms when the time comes.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and STAY SAFE.

augRhysTylerCalvin2

Folsom Prison Blues

So, my work-at-home day yesterday turned into a “mental health/vacation day”, and you know, I’m fine with it. I stayed in bed luxuriating in my laziness until just before nine; but in my own defense I have to be at work tomorrow at 8, and at 8 every day next week, so cut me some slack, Jack. I didn’t do much writing, of course–I know you’re completely shocked, Constant Reader, but that’s how it happens sometimes–but I did make some seriously major strides towards getting organized.

I even worked on the filing–putting away files that are no longer necessary; putting things that aren’t current into the not-current file box, etc. etc. I even started organizing the stuff I keep on top of my kitchen cabinets (it’s a thing in New Orleans–our ceilings are so high there’s about three feet–if not more–between the ceiling and the tops of the cabinets) so now it doesn’t look like i just threw things up there. Rather, it’s now neat and organized, and I like that a lot better. I’m probably going to do some more of that kind of work this weekend; mostly I’m taking a lot of the surplus copies of my books, boxing them up, labelling the boxes appropriately, and then storing those boxes up on top of the cabinets. I only worked on the side with the sink, refrigerator, and dishwasher; tomorrow I’ll do the stove side, which also has extra storage containers and other kitchen appliances that I rarely use on those cabinets.

I also started, very briefly, my new quarantine noir short story “Condos, for Sale or Rent”; it’s a newish type voice for me, probably showing more of the du Maurier influence–even though she was amazing at voice, there was still a bit of authorial distance in her stories; so I am thinking her use of voice is the primary influence here; and there’s also a bit of Poe’s narrator speaking directly to you in the voice as well–than I usually do. I still haven’t finished reading “Ganymede”–hopefully that will be today. We also finished Chapter 2 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and I have to applaud their casting choice for Lucifer; he was indeed the most beautiful of the angels.

Since I took yesterday off I keep getting confused about what day it is, particularly since I am used to getting up early on Mondays after having Sunday off (obviously) so my mind keeps telling me today is Monday rather than Friday–which is a day I would usually be sleeping late. Next week is going to be challenging, since I have to be at work at 8 every morning.

It’s encouraging in some ways that I am writing again, even if all I am doing is fragments of stories or new beginnings. I’ve started so many new stories this year–none of which have completed first drafts–but it’s writing of a sort. I am going to try to focus on finishing the first drafts as I go; short stories don’t require the attention span that novels do, but apparently my ADHD isn’t even allowing me to finish short story drafts…so I need to get more focused, methinks.

Having yesterday off was kind of necessary; I definitely needed the rest. I feel good today, neither tired nor exhausted, and actually in a good mood, for the moment.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Well, stay safe everyone, and I’ll catch you tomorrow.

augRyan-Ball2

Okie from Muskogee

Thursday morning, and I am working from home today; or taking a mental health day–I’m not sure which it will be as of yet. This week has been fraught, to say the least, and by the time I got home yesterday I was exhausted and literally just collapsed into my easy chair for cat cuddles and mindless Youtube viewing. I don’t precisely remember what led me down that particular rabbit hole, but I at one point found myself listening/watching music videos of the Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, the Monkees, and the Partridge Family. (Hanna-Barbara animation, by the way, wasn’t very good–and the voices! My God, the speaking voices of the characters was like fingernails on a blackboard.) We also continue to watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and seriously–if you’re home, have Netflix, and are looking for something really fun to binge, you can’t go wrong with Sabrina.

I think what is making this week particularly hard is knowing that this weekend was when the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival/Saints & Sinners was supposed to be taking place; I was looking forward to seeing friends and making new ones, hanging out in the Quarter, staying in our posh suite at the Monteleone while coming home from time to time to keep Scooter company, and then launching into the next week energized and ready to get back to writing. Instead, I am physically and emotionally drained; the weather is spectacular (although I would imagine those from up north would consider this too hot–it is much warmer than it usually is in late March), and who knows what fresh hell tomorrow will bring? This morning I woke up at seven, but stayed in bed almost another two hours simply because I didn’t want to face my emails or whatever the new reality for today was going to be. But I can’t, in fact, stay in bed all day–no matter how much I want to–so I finally rolled out of bed and am now on my first cup of coffee and thinking already about how best to make use of the day.

I did read “The Masque of the Red Death” again finally last evening; I found a pdf on-line free for download (thank you, public domain!) so I downloaded and printed it out and read it while a cat purred in my lap. As I was reading it–it’s really more of a fable or fairy tale than an actual story; there’s no real characters, and the only one who has a name–Prince Prospero–is never developed into anything remotely human or three dimensional; as I said, it’s more of a fable illustrating the futility of trying to escape from death than an actual short story. And yet–yet it still resonated with me more than “Death in Venice”, which, though, I am still thinking about a few days later, which means it affected me probably more than I originally thought.

Either that, or all these stories–linked by plagues and Venice, in some ways; it was easy to imagine Prospero’s palace being on the Grand Canal–are linking and fusing together in my mind somehow; so perhaps the essay I am thinking about isn’t so far-fetched and out of touch with reality as perhaps I may have originally thought. I am going to spend some time today reading du Maurier’s “Death in Venice” pastiche, “Ganymede”, and I will let you know how that goes. I still don’t seem to be able to commit to a full-length novel, but I also do remember that I did read an awful lot in the aftermath of Katrina–in fact, I remember rereading All the President’s Men as well as a book about the criminal conduct of Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew–and so am thinking I might be best off turning to my non-fiction reading. I am still reading Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams, and I am thinking about getting down my copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and rereading her chapters about the bubonic plague’s first, and most deadly, visits to Europe.

I made a post on Facebook yesterday, a little annoyed, about how the condos being built on my street two lots over is continuing despite the shelter-in-place order, essentially saying so glad the condo construction going on two lots over from my house is considered essential. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the guys are working and getting paid; these are scary times, particularly for those living paycheck to paycheck, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone getting paid-, but I can’t help but think about their safety, and I also can’t help but wonder who in the hell is going to buy a condo in this economic climate? As of yesterday Louisiana had 1,795 confirmed cases and 65 deaths, most of them in Orleans Parish, but it’s spreading gradually to the outer parishes, who are even less equipped to deal with a pandemic than Orleans. Anyway, this led to an idea for a noir short story called “Condos For Sale or Rent”, and I actually scribbled down the opening to the story last night…and it also kind of made me think about, as is my wont, quarantine/pandemic fiction. I wonder what post-flood New Orleans fiction would be like; now I wonder about how this whole pandemic/quarantine event will impact not just crime fiction, but fiction in general.

And here I am, already thinking about a pandemic short story, and even last night, before switching on Sabrina (that’s how the Youtube wormhole started; I was thinking about Sabrina, and how she was originally a character on Archie–so I looked for the old show on Youtube, found the video for “Sugar Sugar”, which featured Sabrina working a kissing booth, and then I got sucked in), I was thinking about a Scotty book during the pandemic/quarantine. Obviously such a book cannot be written now–without knowing what’s going to happen with COVID-19, you cannot tell the entire story–but it’s not a bad idea to take notes and come up with thoughts about it.

I also just remembered Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse Pale Rider is set during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918; perhaps I should read it again. Not a huge fan of Porter, either, to be honest; I read The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (I was looking for “Miss Brill,” not realizing at the time that was written by Katherine Mansfield rather than Porter) and was underwhelmed by them. Maybe I should give it another whirl? Maybe my tastes have matured and deepened enough by now for me to develop an appreciation for Porter. I should probably take another run at Hemingway–I only read The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms, both of which were required for a lit class in high school and I hated them both–although Hemingway is precisely the kind of writer I’d hate if I knew in real life.

And on that note I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and do whatever you need to in order to keep yourself safe and uninfected.

Chris-Mears

The Chair

I finished reading “Death in Venice” last night, and it occurs to me that I might have been better served rereading “The Masque of the Red Death,” actually. I’ve not read it since high school, and yet it is always there, somehow, in a corner of my mind. There have been several instances, for example, in my life where the story has come to me as the perfect analogy for whatever was going on or whatever situation I found myself in; and its underlying theme–there is no escape from death–is one I’ve always wanted to write about, but whether to do it in fiction or non-fiction form; that is, as ever, the question.

Don’t get me wrong, “Death in Venice” was perfectly fine, and I can see why it is so acclaimed. It didn’t really connect with me as much as I would have liked to engage with it, but Mann’s style is so formal and distant that the characters are kept from the reader as a sort of arm’s length; it’s a very distinct picture of a particular character and I got a very strong sense of who he is from it–but he isn’t someone who particularly interests me very much, nor is the strange obsession with the beautiful young Polish boy Tadzio–absolutely pure, of course, and entirely intellectual; nor sordid thoughts of lust or physical desire to be found on that particular beach on the Lido in Venice, interesting. The extraordinary passivity of the man as he is subconsciously aware that his inability to leave Venice because he must continue to look at, follow, and stalk this teenager will inevitably lead to his death was something I never really quite grasped or understood; perhaps, as ever, I am too stupid to understand the big underlying point of the story, with my low peasant tastes and faulty, not classically educated intellect. It was sort of a Lolita-esque type story, and I think my tastes are too honed to favor writers like du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, and Patricia Highsmith to not expect there to be some dark noir twist to it at the end, and to be disappointed to not find it there. (I also thought the whole part of him having his hair dyed and his face painted wasn’t really anything to do with trying to look younger or because Tadzio made him care about his appearance more, so much as it was like getting the corpse ready for the viewing; but your mileage, as always, might vary.)

It has been a long, trying week, and like everyone, I am trying to muddle through the best I can using a combination of judicious amounts of alcohol and prescription medication. I love my day job (although I will now and forever always reserve the right to be highly annoyed by it from time to time), but even under the best of circumstances, it can be emotionally and mentally exhausting–and when you’re both emotionally and mentally exhausted, you feel that way physically as well. I find myself having to force myself to do normal, every day routine things; putting the dishes away seems like an unconquerable chore and when it’s finished, I need to sit for a bit. I watch the clock every night dreading the inevitable time I have to go to bed–because then I have to wake up to what has been almost consistently worse news every morning since before Carnival started, and somehow pull myself together to go to work. I also know that I’m lucky to have a job to go to every day, and I am hopeful I’ll remain lucky.  But…my primary whine now is that I have to get up at six to be at work every day–yesterday, today, and Friday, at any rate–and that just is too early for me to be completely functional. But it beats the twelve hours days I usually put in when I get up this early, I suppose.

Today my goal is to get through most of my emails and try to get some things settled; as much as I can, at any rate, and make some decisions about things I have to make decisions on. Maybe tonight I can get some writing done; if not, I am going to finish reading du Maurier’s “Ganymede,” and reflect on the influence/effect of Venice on not only her two stories (including “Don’t Look Now”, which i reread this past weekend) but on “Death in Venice,” as well as whether I can see influences of the Mann story on her two stories on death in Venice. It’s an intellectual challenge of the sort I used to rather enjoy; the kind of essay and/or article I love to write that no one wants to publish or see from me. (And maybe I can find a copy of the “The Masque of the Red Death” somewhere on line free to download; all of Poe’s work is in the public domain, so it shouldn’t be difficult to locate, frankly.)

At some point I also need to get to work on some of these short stories and the Secret Project again, but who knows when that time will present itself again? I find myself so tired when I get home from the office–at least yesterday, and certainly those days of last week when I went in rather than working from home–and this getting up so goddamned early is also a challenge for me, to not be tired when I get home; although it is rather lovely to get home so quickly, regardless of the time of day.

Last night we continued with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is truly so much better than I ever dared to hope. It did occur to me last night, as we watched two episodes back-to-back, that the show is following the same trajectory as both Dark Shadows and True Blood–a small town with all the typical dysfunction any soap viewer knows to expect from a show centered in a small town; and how the supernatural aspects begin to amp up in an accelerated fashion once the show actually begins. Dark Shadows brought forth first ghosts and then a phoenix; after that came the vampire and the flood gates opened. Likewise, on True Blood, once Bill the vampire showed up, the little Louisiana town of Bon Temps began the epicenter of all kinds of crazy and bizarre supernatural events and creatures. I understand the necessity of it all, but once you go so far, there’s really no dialing it back. I’m glad they decided to send Sabrina to the witch school and leave her traditional school; by embracing the witch half of DNA and signing her name to the Book of the Beast it defied the way these types of shows usually go, with the mortal half always holding sway over the witch half, and not using her powers, etc. etc. etc.–which has always felt…contrived to me; after all, if Darren had no problem with Samantha being a witch and using her powers, 90% of the plots of Bewitched wouldn’t have been possible. (More on that later–and the implicit sexism of that show, which really needs to be explored.) But we’re enjoying Sabrina, and hoping that it doesn’t eventually–as these shows always, inevitably do–“jump the shark”–which is why we finally stopped watching Supernatural a few years ago (although we still love the show and remember it fondly; we have no desire to go back and watch the last few seasons).

And on that note I now have to go get ready for another day in the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, as much as you can.

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Wide Open Spaces

Well, here we are in the midst of the new normal–a term I’ve always hated, absolutely hated–and the adjustment has been…problematic, but not anything I can neither handle nor deal with. I am up at the break of dawn today because today, tomorrow and Friday I get to start my work-day at 7:30 am at the screening stations. As we all know, Gregalicious absolutely is not a morning person, so this is going to be…interesting, to say the least.

I cannot be held responsible, quite frankly.

I started reading Daphne du Maurier’s story “Ganymede” last night, and no, I still haven’t finished reading “Death in Venice”; I opened the Kindle app on my iPad to see if the ebook was there–it was–and then I opened it and clicked on the table of contents for “Ganymede” so it would be ready when I was and I started reading and…three pages later I tore my eyes away and stopped. I can see, yet again, this is du Maurier in top form; I can’t wait to finish reading it so I can discuss it, along with “Death in Venice” and “Don’t Look Now”, altogether; particularly as there are some thematic similarities between the three tales. As I am working on my own Venetian story (“Festival of the Redeemer”), I think it’s interesting and fun to read other classic stories set in Venice. (Don’t come for me, I know “Ganymede” is more influenced directly by “Death in Venice’:, but I can see, and would argue, that “Don’t Look Now” also shows some of the Mann influence–perhaps not as much as “Ganymede,” but it’s definitely there.)

I was also thinking last night about Anne Rice’s Cry to Heaven, which is also set in Venice. It’s one of my favorite Rice novels (along with The Witching Hour and The Tale of the Body Thief) but it’s also been quite a while since I read it, and I think I only read the book the once, to be perfectly and completely honest. It’s set in the Venetian world of opera and power politics within the Venetian government; and of course John Berendt’s The City of Falling Angels is also about the burning of the primary opera house in Venice and the political fallout that followed within the city. Venice and New Orleans, at least in my mind, are very similar; both cities are dominated by their proximity to water, after all, and their relationship to that water affected the way the cities developed and also the kind of cities they are. I hope to one day be in Venice for Carnival–but that would also require me to be filthy rich, but like all Americans I still cling to that dream that someday I’ll become a one-percenter, even though it becomes more and more unlikely every passing year.

We are still watching the highly addictive and thoroughly entertaining Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and as it gets progressively darker and darker and more and more appealing, as I did the other day, I can’t help but think how much better Riverdale would have turned out under the more loose standards of Netflix, as opposed to the CW.

This version of Sabrina is ever so much more entertaining than the old Melissa Joan Hart version, that’s for fucking sure. But I also tend to prefer the dark side.

The light is coming up outside. It feels like it’s been about a million years since I got up this early; but then again–the old pre-pandemic quarantine world seems like a different time and place, as though it belonged to someone else; which is kind of how the pre-Katrina world has seemed to me since the evacuation. Some of my co-workers brought up the imminence of the upcoming hurricane season–which begs the question: how and when and where would New Orleanians evacuate to during a quarantine, when the vast majority of hotels and motels everywhere have been closed and shuttered?

Then again, in these days and times, it’s probably best not to think about that until it becomes absolutely necessary. That’s the key to surviving these times, or at least how I survived the Katrina aftermath: don’t look ahead, don’t think about tomorrow; just think about today and what you can do to get through it because every passing day is a victory, one to go into the win column, and yet another step forward to that unknowable future.

I didn’t write anything last night when I got home from the office;  I was very tired–both physically and emotionally–and so I just kind of wanted to relax and rest. I did the dishes and retired to my easy chair for the rest of the evening, knowing I’d have to go to bed fairly early, and so I did. Tomorrow and Friday both I have to get up at this ungodly hour; although I am hopeful it is only for this one particular week. And who knows what tomorrow, or next week, will hold at the day job?

Hang in there, Constant Reader–these are tough and strange times.

Chris-Campanioni-18