Misunderstanding

Well, Iris is over for another year and as always, the ladies of Iris were most generous to Paul and I. The coffee table is now buried in beads and throws, and there’s a whole day of parades today, plus the magnificence that is Orpheus tomorrow night. We skipped Tucks and Endymion last night–we never have really gone to watch Endymion; we used to walk up St. Charles to go out dancing on that night, and always caught tons of beads from Endymion as we walked–and our attendance today is entirely dependent on the weather. The day parades have been moved up an hour already because of potentially inclement weather; but thus far Bacchus is scheduled to role tonight at its regularly scheduled time.

Paul went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday last night, leaving me home to my own devices for the evening, and so I pretty much spent the evening watching nonsense on television and reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long, which is so beautifully written I have to put it down every once in a while to digest it. I am hoping to finish reading it today before and between parade.  I am glad I have tomorrow off, so I can get all the odds-and-ends of my book finished before Orpheus rides, and on Fat Tuesday I am going to probably just relax and read most of the day. I am very behind, not only on the Short Story Project but on the Diversity Project, and I also have my TWFest homework to do as well–I have three books to read for that. But once the Festival is over and I have the first draft of the WIP finished (around April 1st, methinks), I can dive back into both projects. Huzzah!

And since I am taking today off from writing, I can spend the morning before the parades get here curled up in my easy chair with Lori’s book, which is an absolutely lovely way to spend a morning…and perhaps during the brief break between Thoth and Bacchus I can get it finished. It’s a very  well written book, and the story itself, intertwining present day grief in a family with a history of Klan leadership, is stunning in its scope and what it is trying to do, and I am here for it. It’s also interesting that it fits into one of my goals for the year–which is to read more diverse books as I try to get a better handle on this country’s horrific history with race and how that currently impacts and effects our current society–which was, as I started reading it, completely unintentional…so technically, it counts in the Diversity Project because it is about racial disparities and tackles the question of race head-on by doing something incredibly daring for this day and age–a look at the Klan from inside the family of one of its leaders.

Reminiscent of William Bradford Huie’s The Klansman, which I reread earlier this year.

And now, I am going to retire to my easy chair with Lori Roy’s book and my iPad, with the electronic copy of Murder-a-Go-Go’s.

Happy Sunday, every one!

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Rise

Sunday! Yesterday I braved the AT&T store and upgraded my phone. It’s kind of cool. I wanted a red one, but had to settle for silver as they were out of red. Maybe next time.

I didn’t really want a new phone, but since it’s a lease–which I really am not sure I understand how that works, but whatever–it was overdue for a replacement. Other than the lengthy wait–and the usual irritating length of time it always takes for Apple operating systems to load and so forth–it wasn’t that bad. And now I have a new phone.

Now I need to get that pesky brake tag, and I’ll be all set. DON’T JUDGE ME.

I also put some books away in storage, and filed away the last few editions of manuscripts I’ve worked on over the last year. I still have to figure out where that extra seventy dollars in my checking account came from, do my taxes, and clear out all my emails…heavy heaving sigh.

But despite the limited progress on anything of merit yesterday, I am refusing to berate myself as per the usual. I work forty hours a week, after all, and write around my job. I don’t quite have the energy I used to have, so recharging a bit on the weekend is necessary and also kind of the only time I have to do it. So, having a low-energy not get a lot of writing done day is kind of work; I need to recharge in order to get the work done.

I also began reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long and once again, I am completely blown away at her mastery of language. She truly has mastered what I think of as Southern Gothic, and when I am reading her work I am always reminded of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Gone Too Long has also come along at precisely the right time in my reading; it’s about the Klan in Georgia. One of the things I love about Roy’s work is how patiently and deftly she plays her cards, never letting you know anything you don’t need to know until you absolutely need to know it; there’s also a haunting, dream-like quality to her work that I wish I could figure out how to do myself, quite frankly. I am savoring the book, and not wanting to rush through it. I read some more this morning with my second and third cups of coffee; and now am reluctantly putting it aside in order to get the work done I didn’t do yesterday.

Had I done the work yesterday, I could spend more time today reading Gone Too Long.

Which is yet another shining example of not putting off till tomorrow what you can do today because you will definitely regret it.

On the other hand, if I get everything done that I want to get done today, I can go back to reading it. I also want to finish reading a short story from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?

Always so much to do, so little time in which to do it, and very little desire to get it done.

But I also got up early this morning, so there’s no excuse. If, for example, I buckle down and start writing now, I can be finished in a few hours and have the rest of the day to enjoy this book.

We also started watching Russian Doll last night, which is holding our interest–more so than The Umbrella Factory–and so we’ll probably delve into another episode of that this evening as well.

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

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All Out of Love

Wednesday, feelin’ fine.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to get out of bed–but not really out of a sense of being tired or not getting enough sleep; rather, it was more along the lines of it was raining and in those situations, I would always prefer to stay in bed with my blankets. Here’s hoping it rains this weekend, when I can stay in bed.

I’ve decided to go with my library book as my next Diversity read, White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig. It’s due next Friday, the first day of parades (!!!) on the St. Charles Avenue route, and so it makes more sense to go ahead and read it now and get it out of the way. That makes it sound like more of an odious chore than I intended it to sound, quite frankly; it isn’t an odious chore at all. I had a lovely time reading his first novel, and I am quite certain I’ll enjoy this one as well. There’s no reason I wouldn’t; but I also need to steer myself into reading short stories. My collection is coming out on April 1, and around that same time the anthology I’m in, Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is also coming out…so I am going to start talking about the stories in both, and I should probably get a jump on that.

The best-laid plans of mice and men…

Yesterday during the revising I was stopped cold by an enormous hole in the plot that threw me off my game. I blinked at the computer screen three times slowly, and as how to fill the hole, or patch it up, as it were, started coming to mind and I began filling said plot-hole with new words, I got exhausted suddenly, very tired and drained…so I stepped away from the manuscript, knowing that trying to force it when I’m tired would just mean having to redo it anyway, so why not just think about it, solve the problem thoroughly in my head, and reserve the energy? A good night’s sleep and a fresh start in the morning would be the most wise course to follow. And I did have a good night’s sleep last night! I feel amazing this morning–rested, awake, energized and ready to go. So, hopefully I can resolve this plot problem this morning, and get another chapter done, as well. Huzzah! I also have to pick up a prescription this morning on the way to work, so I’ll need to leave earlier than I usually do.

I also got an ARC of Lori Roy’s new book, Gone Too Long, in the mail yesterday, so I am most likely going to shunt the Diversity Project aside momentarily in order to read it. Every new book by Lori is kind of an event; her resume of awards and great reviews rather speaks for itself. And the cover copy makes this one sound terrific…and her books usually surpass the cover copy. Huzzah!

I’m in a pretty good mood this morning, no doubt due to the terrific night’s sleep I just enjoyed, and feeling better about my manuscript–despite the plot hole. I’m still on-target to get it finished by the end of the month, and I really am looking forward to getting back to work on the WIP…I may even start doing some revision work/rereading of it this weekend; we shall see. I would really like to get the Scotty done long before the end of the month, but again–we’ll just have to see how it goes, won’t we?

And of course, one of my favorite reality shows, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, returned last night, so I spent a rather blissful hour last night watching rich women setting up ridiculous drama that will carry the show through this season. My enjoyment of these shows is starting to wane a little; so a good season of this one and New York is really necessary or else I may stop watching entirely.

We started watching PEN15 on Hulu the other night, and it has potential. We’ll have to give it another episode or two before we decide whether we want to continue with it–but it currently looks very promising.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Devil with a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly

I decided that for 2019 I was going not only to continue, regarding my reading, with the Short Story Project but was also to create and dedicate myself to a new reading project: The Diversity Project, which entailed reading books and stories by marginalized authors. Marginalized authors, of course, can mean anything from authors of color to queer ones to women, for that matter; pretty much anyone other than a straight white cisgender man. I’ve been reading mostly  women authors for the last few years, with the occasional straight man thrown into the mix, and my reading has primarily focused on crime novels, with the occasional horror novel thrown in. Over the years, I’ve been supportive of marginalized writers; I’ve been buying their books and helping to publicize them on social media…but I’ve not been actually reading the books, despite hearing wonderful things about the writers and seeing them win awards. I came to realize this was white privilege in a nutshell and kind of a subconscious bow to white supremacy; whether it was intentional or not I would buy the books but when it came time to select something to read…I always reached for a book by a white writer and justified it with the rationale well, women writers are also marginalized; this is why Sisters in Crime exists in the first place.

But it isn’t enough and it’s definitely the mentality of the limousine liberal–who is all about marginalized people and their rights, but never has anyone from a marginalized community in their home.

If I am going to talk the talk I need to walk the walk.

My adult life has been an education on race, an education that continues as I grow older. As I was saying to one of my younger co-workers the other day, who was telling me about visiting a Civil Rights museum…I remember the Civil Rights Movement. It happened during my lifetime, and I saw it all on television, on the news. The recent blackface scandal in Virginia? I was about the same age as the  governor of Virginia when he did his blackface. I can honestly say I don’t remember anyone in college when I was there doing blackface, but I remember horribly racist “South of the Border” theme parties and “Pimps and Hos” parties which were equally bad. The history of race in America is complex and hideous and horrible; if you haven’t read Howard Zinn, I highly recommend him to you. My elementary school education was an indoctrination into white supremacy and American exceptionalism; it’s taken me years to understand that Columbus wasn’t a hero and that Andrew Jackson committed genocide, among other historical lessons that were not accurate. Gone with the Wind used to be one of my favorite books and favorite films; now I can see how problematic they are, and I question my embrace of both. (At some point, I am going to sit down and reread Gone with the Wind, which, at over a thousand pages, is a gargantuan task. But I think reading it as a more aware adult in my late fifties, with my eyes more open to the barbarities of slavery and plantation life, would be an interesting thing to do; particularly since it, along with Birth of a Nation, did more than anything else to perpetuate the mythology of the genteel Southern plantation way of life. I tried watching Mandingo on Amazon Prime the other day–it was a much more, I think, realistic look at the barbarity of slavery than Gone with the Wind but it was hindered by being a terrible movie.)

So I selected Walter Mosley to kick off the Diversity Project (the actual first book I read for this was William Bradford Huie’s The Klansman, but after reading it decided it didn’t count). And Devil in a Blue Dress, the first Easy Rawlins novel, is quite a gem of private eye fiction.

I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy’s bar. It’s not just that he was white but he wore an off-white linen suit and shirt with a Panama straw hat and bone shoes over flashing white silk socks. His skin was smooth and pale with just a few freckles. One lick of strawberry-blond hair escaped the band of his hat. He stopped in the doorway, filling it with his large frame, and surveyed the room with pale eyes; not a color I’d ever seen in a man’s eyes. When he looked at me I felt a thrill of fear, but that went away quickly because I was used to white people by 1948.

I had spent five years with white men and women, from Africa to Italy, through Paris, and into the Fatherland itself. I ate with them and slept with them, and I killed enough blue-eyed young men to know that they were just as afraid to die as I was.

The white man smiled at me, then he walked to the bar where Joppy was running a filthy rag over the marble top. They shook hands and exchanged greetings like old friends.

Easy is a World War II vet originally from Houston who’s moved to Los Angeles to work in a factory–following in the footsteps of any number of people of color who fled the South to the factories of the West Coast and the Midwest in the post-war years, not only to escape Jim Crow but to improve their lives (poor Southern whites also did the same; my parents among them). Easy owns a house, of which he is justifiably proud, but also recently lost his factory job and is worried about losing said house…which makes him more susceptible to an offer of work from DeWitt Albright, the white man in Joppy’s Bar. Basically the job pays a hundred dollars and all Easy has to do is locate a white woman named Daphne Monet…but as ever in a hardboiled/noir novel, there is a lot more going on than that, and this simple task involves Easy in a dangerous world of corrupt racist cops, politics, and gangsters. The hardboiled sensibility of crime fiction is given a brilliant overhaul by Mosley in this novel; invigorating the genre in much the same way Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller, and Sue Grafton did when they gave a tired genre a shot of adrenalin in the early 1980’s, bringing the genre back from the almost-dead.

Devil in a Blue Dress does much the same, and really, is there anything more noir or hard-boiled than the life of people of color in American society? As I watched the movie last night (after finishing the book I found the film on Amazon Prime, and it’s also quite good), the scenes where Easy is basically the victim of police brutality and has zero recourse come across much more vividly on the screen than on the page–and the scenes in the book were pretty fucking powerful. How do people exist in a society where justice is regularly denied them by the people who are supposed to provide it for them?

And that, I think, is the key. As a gay man, I constantly struggle with the idea that justice and fairness, the two things I was raised to believe are the cornerstones of American society and government, aren’t available to everyone. We are raised to believe as white Americans that the criminal justice system works for everyone, and it is our recourse whenever we are victims of crime. We want to–need to–believe that the police and the system enforce the law equally and fairly for everyone, and realizing, and recognizing, that isn’t true shakes our foundation of belief in everything, so we tend to look the other way and pretend that isn’t true.

But denying there’s a problem means the problem never gets fixed.

And injustice for one means there’s no justice for all.

I highly recommend this book, and can’t wait to read more of Mosley’s work.

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Heartache Tonight

Well, Constant Reader, it is mid-afternoon on Friday and I am home. I worked this morning, ran errands, put the groceries away, and am currently in the midst of laundering the bed linens. Scooter periodically howls at me because I clearly need to be sitting in my easy chair so he can nap on me, but I keep denying him…so he goes away for about ten minutes before returning to express his displeasure with me yet again. At some point–probably after emptying the dishwasher and washing the dishes currently in the sink, I will take a break. I will go into the living room with Devil in a Blue Dress, sit in my chair, and read for a little bit–giving Scooter what he wants. Then, after a chapter or two, I will get up again to do something–perhaps switching laundry loads from one appliance to another and to the empty basket–and he will curl up on the couch and sleep, sated, and forget that I’m even home.

Unless, of course, I vacuum. But I did that yesterday, so he’s in luck on that score.

Well, actually it was a noise outside that got Scooter up and out of my lap, and I am now back. I out-waited him; I heard the washer stop but continued reading. He has his glare face on now, but he won’t howl at me again since he was the one who got up.

I am really enjoying the book, though, and while I am deeply ashamed it’s taken me this long to read one of Mosley’s novels, I am enjoying it so much I won’t allow the shame to ruin it for me. And there’s such a backlist! I can savor his work for years to come without fear of running out of one I haven’t read–there’s nothing worse than having finished reading all the books an author has written and having to wait for a new one…unless of course they are no longer amongst the living. I keep putting off reading more of Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith for that very reason. It’s insane, I know, but it makes perfect logical sense to me.

I stand corrected! I am being howled at from the doorway by a cat that wants me right NOW. Back in a bit.

Well, now it’s Saturday morning. I slept in this morning–I only woke up a couple of times during the night, which was lovely–and now I sit at my computer. Paul’s still sleeping so I have no battle of wills with the cat this morning; although Paul is planning on going into the office today, which means Scooter will slip into needy mode the minute the front door closes behind him. Heavy heaving sigh. But I read a lot more of Devil in a Blue Dress last night, which is really picking up steam. It’s really the origin story of how Easy Rawlins became a private eye, and I am really loving the way Mosley writes and tells the story…it also kind of reminds me of what I had in mind when I started writing Murder in the Rue Dauphine back in 1997. (Not that I would ever classify my work as being in the same league as Mosley’s; I just wish I’d read this before I started writing mine, as it would have been enormously helpful.)

I also got very tired last night–having the purring cat sleeping in my lap always makes me sleepy, even when I’m not really tired–so when I’m tired, watch out. I ended up watching a documentary about George V and Mary of Teck, and how they modernized the British monarchy to adapt to the first world war, and their issues with their children (who knew the current Queen had a gay/bisexual uncle? I did not), and then managed to stagger upstairs and make the bed before falling into a fabulous deep sleep. And here I am this morning, having accomplished nothing much last night, wondering how I am going to get everything finished this day that I want to finish.

Heavy heaving sigh. Same song, different day. Like always. But I am also going to repeat my last weekend methodology of closing my browser and staying off the Internet for as much of the day as possible, with a goal of only looking at it from time to time on either the phone or the iPad until tomorrow morning.

It really worked last weekend, didn’t it?

So, I think after I work on my emails this morning I am going to go read for a bit, before getting cleaned up and working on the revision and my writing. I also brought the Air home from the office, so I can also write in my easy chair if Scooter becomes too insistent with his neediness (and I think we can all reasonably assume he’s going to be a howling bitch until he gets his way this afternoon). That’s the plan, at any rate. I may watch a movie at some point this evening; Paul claims that when he gets home from the office he doesn’t want to do any more work this weekend and just wants to hang out. We shall see if that is indeed the case, won’t we?

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Tired of Toein’ the Line

Friday! I’m in love!

Heh heh. Well, it’s true; I have been for almost twenty four years. It’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how long that is…it’s hard sometimes to wrap my mind around how old I am. But sometimes…when I have to get up ridiculously early (like today) I feel every minute of those fifty-seven years.

Heavy sigh.

But today is a short day and I’ll be off work at one this afternoon, and then it’s off to run my errands and come home to clean and revise the Scotty. The goal for today is to get somewhat caught up on the revision and to finish reading Devil in a Blue Dress, which I am really enjoying. I also want to read another one of Norah Lofts’ ghost stories from Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I really like that her ghost stories are more Gothic and quietly creepy than anything else; that’s kind of the vibe I’m trying to go for in the WIP, so choosing to read her stories was probably a rather wise move on my part–unintentional, of course, but no less wise in any case.

And is it just me, or has the world gone crazy? Last night I saw the perfect tweet, one that perfectly encapsulated this week: If you didn’t predict that ‘politicians in blackface’ would get upstaged by ‘dick pics of billionaires’ by the end of the week, I don’t know what to tell you.

This brave new world in which we all live.

I made Swedish meatballs for dinner last night and they were most delicious, thank you very much. I don’t really follow a recipe anymore; I just kind of do it from memory, which means they taste different every time I make them. I have a slightly messy kitchen as a result, but it won’t take long to get it cleaned and set to rights again. And two weeks from today the first parades of Carnival roll down St. Charles Avenue. It’s hard to believe that the parades are nigh; I am kind of looking forward to them, to be honest. With the move to the new office and the realization that I simply can’t walk to work anymore during parade season, this will be the first time in years I’ll actually be able to enjoy the parades without having to deal with walking to and from work almost every day. I may actually make it through the season without the bone-tired exhaustion I’ve become accustomed to–madness.

The temperature dropped about twenty degrees overnight, and it’s supposedly going to drop a little further. Of course, that means it’s in the fifties, which is still much more tolerable than the bitter cold in many parts of the country; I think there’s a hundred degree difference between the weather here and in Montana, per a post I saw on Facebook this morning from a friend who lives up there. A hundred degree difference. How insane is that?

Pretty fucking insane, I’d say.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. I’m hoping to get the revision of Chapter 4 finished this morning before i head to the office…fingers crossed, Constant Reader.

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