Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

It started raining last night as I retired to bed. Lovely, I thought, the sound of rain always helps me sleep better. There’s just something about being warm and dry underneath blankets while it’s pouring rain outside that, I don’t know, that makes me feel comfortable and relax, which is, quite naturally, rather lovely. It rained pretty heavily all night, actually; thunder woke me a couple of times, but I was able to easily go back to sleep, which was quite marvelous. I woke up this morning a little later than usual, and after seeing articles like this one, popping up on my notifications when I sat down at my computer, I might not have known how bad the raining–and subsequent flooding–actually was. My street generally doesn’t flood–it might take on an inch or so or water, but the entire neighborhood basically drains to Coliseum Square–but I did go out and check. I didn’t see any telltale leaves or dirt on the sides of any of the cars parked out there, so I am going to assume my car is okay this morning.

One can hope, at any rate.

So, yesterday I managed to write quite a bit in a very short period of time; over three thousand words on chapters nine and ten, finishing them off and bringing me back to the point where I have to start writing new chapters. Revising these first ten chapters has, as intended, brought me back into the story again, so today I am going to try to write Chapter Eleven as well as map out the rest of the middle of the book. This pleases me inordinately; I should be able to get the rest of this first draft finished by the end of the month; there’s also a three day weekend to look forward to, which is also kind of awesome. It felt great doing all that writing yesterday, and when I was finished for the day I was amazed at how great I felt. It was also a bit of a relief; whenever writing becomes hard, you always begin to question whether or not the well has run dry and your glory days are behind you.

I think that becomes worse the older you get, too–because things you’ve become used to over the course of your life begin to go away the older you get, you know? Things like teeth and hair and firm skin…the ability to write.

I watched the first episode of Fosse Verdon last night, and greatly enjoyed it. I was sort of familiar already with the story–I watched All That Jazz a very long time ago, and that film sort of spelled out the Fosse story, while of course centering Fosse and shoving Verdon’s importance to his career to the side (as always); I’m glad to see this series making this very clear. Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell are incredible; I don’t know who the actress playing young Liza Minnelli is, but she also knocked it out of the part, turning what could very easily have been your standard caricature into an actual performance. It also didn’t hurt that the first episode primarily focused on the filming of Cabaret, a film I first saw when I was very young and didn’t much care for, but as an older adult have grown to appreciate all the more–and watching this episode actually made me want to see it yet again. It’s a very good show; I hope people are watching.

I am also still thinking about Dead to Me, which is absolutely superb. Seriously, Constant Reader, you need to watch this show.

So, yesterday, as you can tell, was a good day for the most part–the overnight street flooding aside–and I also managed to get some filing and organizing and cleaning done, which was also pretty marvelous. The Lost Apartment looks better than it has in quite some time–I was managing the cleaning/writing balance pretty well–and when I was finished (quite early, actually) with the writing I was able to focus on the cleaning/filing/organizing, and it all went well. I did some backing up of computer files–the computer is getting wonky again–and did all the dishes and so forth, which was also quite lovely. I also did some note-taking in my journal.

Go, Gregalicious!

I am also really loving my Spotify subscription; I am truly sorry I didn’t discover it and its magic long ago. I’m listening to a lot of albums I used to love and reacquainting myself with how much I love them–the Cars, the Go-Go’s, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar, the Pointer Sisters, Josie Cotton, Tina Turner, ’til Tuesday–the list goes on forever, really. I’ve saved tons of albums to my library, and have been having the best time listening to them and–as music always does–being swept back in time to when I used to listen to them originally; I guess revisiting my youth?

It’s also daunting to realize how old some of these records actually are; I mean, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is about forty-two years old now…which again adds to the horror of how old I am. AIEEEEE! But so many of them still hold up today, you know, and don’t sound dated at all, and I’m really enjoying rediscovering how great some of the records I owned in the past were and had just forgotten about. I mean, I’d absolutely forgotten how amazing the Cars were, or how terrific the Pointer Sisters’ Break Out album actually was–and still is.

So, today, I intend to write Chapter Eleven, map out some future chapters, and get some other things done before Game of Thrones tonight.

And then the entire week starts all over again, lather, rinse, repeat.

But I do have high hopes for getting things done today. Fingers crossed, Constant Reader, fingers crossed!

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Mercenary

As I have said before, reading Murder-a-Go-Go’s indirectly led me to Spotify, which led me to rediscovering the magic of the Go-Go’s again after many years, and then led me on to rediscovering other 80’s music I loved, like the Cars and, just Friday, Josie Cotton. Josie Cotton is probably best known for her her cover of the Go-Go’s “Johnny Are You Queer?” (which could never be released or recorded today, but at the time was kind of in-your-face and cool) as well as fronting the band playing the prom at the end of the terrific teen movie Valley Girl (which also should have been a much bigger hit than it was; but calling it Valley Girl was an attempt to cash-in on Moon Zappa’s novelty hit “Valley Girl”, but the movie was actually so much better than that; it was one of my favorite teen movies of the 1980’s and also starred a very young and beautiful Nicolas Cage in what may have been his first starring role). I was listening to two of her albums Friday night and yesterday (Convertible Music and From the Hip) and marveling that she wasn’t a bigger star than she was; she certainly had fun, upbeat music with lyrics that bit down hard, and she also had a terrific sense of personal style that should have caught on in the age of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.

Go figure.

Which leads me to the next story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, Bryon Quertermous’ “Mercenary.”

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“They asked for my dental records,” Lodi Meyers said, “so they can identify my body if he kills me.”

Andre Taylor sat across from her at a diner on the outskirts of downtown Detroit. “You really want to talk about this now? With me?”

“I don’t have any other options,” she said, tears giving way to an angry flush across her cheeks. “They’re putting together this moronic safety plan for me while insisting there’s not enough evidence to keep him in prison.”

Andre flexed the fingers of his beefy, gnarled hands and picked up his coffee cup without taking a drink. The bleached white of the cup contrasted with the dark black skin of his hands, which were shaking enough to splash a bit of the freshly poured coffee onto the table.

“I’m really not the person you should be talking to about this.”

Lodi reached her hand across the table and clutched Andre’s wrist. “That’s exactly why we’re talking.”

Andre put his coffee cup down and stood up. “This was a mistake.”

Lodi grabbed his wrist again, this time more aggressively. “There’s a reason you showed up even though this is a terrible idea. You want to make sure I haven’t told any- one what you did.”

Bryon Quertermous has published two novels–Murder Boy and Riot Load–which are kind of hard to classify. They’re noir and hard-boiled, but there’s a twisted, slightly demented sense of humor about them that reminds me of Victor Gischler’s work (which you should also read).

“Mercenary” is a terrific tale, built around two people–a woman and a man–who are tied together by the weirdest connection (saying anything more would be spoilerish); she’s a former pain clinic manager and he’s a bail bondsman. Her husband is about to be released on bail–and plans to kill her. The rest of the tale, as she tries to convince the bail bondsman to help save her life, plays out as we find out more about their connection, why the husband is in jail, and see just how far Lodi is willing to go to protect herself and her daughter–who is in a coma. There’s a lot here, and Quertermous tells his story sparingly and carefully, with fewer words than most would have used, and yet I can’t help but feel there’s even more to be mined here; this easily could have been a novel. Instead, it’s an enormously satisfying dark tale with a sardonic sense of humor that was quite fun to read.

Tonite

As I said before,  I’d never really how dark the Go-Go’s lyrics work until I started reading them sans music, trying to pick a song to base a story on. One of the things that’s interesting about music is so often people will love a song,  make it their jam, and sing along to it all the time without  really understanding what the song’s about.

A classic case in point, and maybe the best example, is “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. It’s a terrific song on every level, was a huge hit, and launched their huge-selling Synchronicity album…and yet I knew, almost from the first time I heard it, that the lyrics were really dark and obsessive to the point of being completely creepy. So when I discovered that people actually thought it was romantic, and most people didn’t realize how creepy and stalker-ish it actually was, it blew my mind. The song is played at weddings, for fuck’s sake.

How can people so completely miss the point of the song?

Next up for Murder-a-Go-Go’s is “Tonite,” penned by R. D. Sullivan.

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“Come on, come on, come on…” Benicia whispered, eyes flicking between the rearview mirror of the stolen car and the red traffic light. One hand tapped nervously on the steering wheel. She tried to ignore what the pit bull had done to her leg, but it screamed with pain, and blood puddled in her shoe. There wasn’t time to deal with it.

The heat of the summer night pressed in from the open windows, oppressive and dry. No other cars sat at the intersection, nobody waited at the crosswalks. All of Red Bluff shut its doors and called it a night as soon as the sun set and this late? Nothing stirred.

Not even the junkies were out. With as hot as it has been, hitting 112 today, they were likely hunkered by the river that bisected town, trying to stay cool enough to sleep.

Good. The deserted streets would make this easier.

Eyes on the red light.

Eyes on the mirror.

Light.

Mirror.

The white pick-up screamed around the corner, slipping for a heartbeat before grabbing road and accelerating. she couldn’t see their faces, but she could picture them, how angry they’d look. Angry at her.

She put a hand on the two bags on the passenger seat and ran the red light.

There’s nothing I love more than a good tale of revenge, and “Tonite” is precisely that. The story opens with the major adrenaline rush of a car chase where the stakes are very high; if whoever is chasing her catches Benicia, they’re going to kill her. But what is her plan, what is her game, and what is she doing? Sullivan craftily weaves flashbacks into her chase tale, as Benicia races through the streets of Sacramento with angry killers on her tail, and each successful reveal adds to the incredibly powerful tension of the story, which literally amps up in the opening sentence.

Well done!

This Town

I am technically considered a baby boomer; I was born in one of the last years that falls into that classification. But I’ve never felt like a child of any decade other than the 1980’s; even though I remember the 1960’s I was too young to be anything other than a passive observer. Likewise, most of the 1970’s I was young-ish; I graduated from high school in 1978 while I was still sixteen (turning seventeen the first week of college), and not turning twenty-one until 1982. So, if anything, I was probably mostly shaped by the 1980’s, even though I wasn’t a child of that decade. The 1980’s changed and shaped me and what I went through in that decade probably had the biggest impact on the person I was to become. The 1980’s were an interesting decade–horrific in some ways, terrific in others–but without question, I always think of the Go-Go’s when I think of that decade.

I remember the first time I heard “Our Lips Are Sealed” on the radio; it was different from anything else in the transitioning world of music; disco was dying everywhere except gay bars and so was operatic hard rock. New wave and punk were starting to make their presences felt on the charts, and of course the launch of MTV changed the world of popular music forever. I bought the Beauty and the Beat album the day it was officially released, at Tower Records on Blackstone Avenue in Fresno (I spent a lot of money in that Tower Records over the years). I loved it. It was one of the few albums I played cover-to-cover, over and over again. I wound up buying their albums on their release dates (alas, in the 1980’s there were only two more–Vacation and Talk Show–before they broke up the first time and an era ended), saw them multiple times in concert, and even bought their solo recordings (Jane Wiedlin’s solo recordings are spectacular and never got the attention they deserved).

I was distraught when they broke up.

So, naturally, when I heard Holly West was doing an anthology of crime stories based on the music of the Go-Go’s, I unashamedly contacted her and asked if I could write one for her. (I never do this, by the way. I will submit to open calls, but I never directly contact an editor to ask if I can write something for them.) Much to my delight, she said yes, gave me a list of song titles to choose from, and I picked “This Town.”

I honestly don’t know where the story came from. I cued up Beauty and the Beat on my computer one morning and blasted it while cleaning…listened to “This Town” on repeat a couple of times, and then sat down at the computer and started writing the story.

I was rather pleased with it, and so was Holly. The rest is history.

And when I found out Jane Wiedlin had written an introduction and the book was blurbed by 80’s MTV veejay Alan Hunter…what a fucking thrill.

And here’s the opening, for a taste.

Our IDs were fake, but no one seemed to care. Even when a burly bouncer asked to see them, his bare meaty arms adorned with tattoos, his bored eyes just flicked over the laminate before waving us inside. Celia was right about that, like she was right about everything. She could always find someone with coke to share or sell, or who was happy to share their blunt with us. She was a golden girl, the kind I used to think only existed in books or movies, the girl that’s too perfect to exist, the one every other girl wants to be friends with, wants to be. The one all the guys notice first, their eyes wide open and their jaws gone slack.

 She always had the trendiest new make-up, the first to try out a daring new look we were too cowardly to try but quick to copy, always the first, the one everyone else imitated. She seemed to glow from inside, drawing everyone’s eyes to her effortlessly, and she somehow managed to always look perfect, even when she was drunk, even after dancing for hours when our make-up was running down our cheeks and perspiration dampened our armpits. Her skirts were just the tiniest bit shorter than everyone else’s, her tops seemed to fit her in a way they didn’t fit anyone else, her hair thicker and shinier and bouncier. She pulled in guys like night insects to a white light, caught up in her magic, wanting her. They only noticed the rest of us once she’d turned her attention elsewhere. We didn’t mind taking second place to her because it seemed like the natural order of things. She always knew the right thing to say—whether kind or insulting—and we all gravitated to her, wanting to be her friends, to be her. She was our pledge class president, organized, efficient, determined we be the best pledge class our Omega Psi chapter had ever seen. Even the sisters seemed to be a little in awe of her, grateful she’d picked Omega Psi out of all the offers she’d had—every sorority had offered her a bid, I’d overheard one sister telling another at Monday night dinner, her voice awed as she went on to say that had never happened in the history of the Greek system at Tulane.

And she made us all feel special, whispering “Sisters” to us as we hooked our pinkie fingers and whispered the word back to her, committing to a lifelong bond with her.

She was Celia, and we were better for knowing her, special for being her sisters, like she’d selected us to be pledges and not the actives.

She somehow even knew the best places to catch the parades at our first Mardi Gras, and wasn’t from New Orleans.

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