New Romantics

Despite my enormous sense of cynicism, at the same time I’m kind of a hopeless romantic. I want to believe that people are mostly good, that kindness is the way to change the world, and that selfishness is much rarer than we think it is, or despite all the evidence to the contrary. While deliberate cruelty no longer surprises me, it will always disappoint me.

And I will go to my grave, bitter to the very end, about the bill of goods I was sold as a child, about everything.

Yesterday was nice and relaxing, despite the LSU loss. Having the winning streak snapped– as well as being the first defending national champion to lose their season opener in almost forty years–was disappointing. Not to write the team off, either–there were some flashes of brilliance yesterday, and definitely, there’s potential there–but historically, LSU has followed up championship seasons with disappointing ones. LSU has also lost games early in the season they maybe shouldn’t have, only to pull it together and have a pretty decent season the rest of the way. I just feel bad for the players and the coaches; yesterday had to be horribly sobering, and the loss of the glow of being one of the best teams of all time last year to losing the opener to Mississippi State was a wake-up call. However, who knows? It’s early in the season, and maybe the Bulldogs are going to have a year. (I did watch, and enjoy, the end of the Kansas State upset of Oklahoma. What a terrific comeback! Go State!)

After that disappointment, however, we queued up Enola Holmes on Netflix, and what a delight it turned out to be. The previews I’d seen looked marvelous, and what a delightful cast as well. (I mean, you can never go wrong with Helena Bonham Carter, and Henry Cavill is a delight to look at, even if he never takes off his shirt.) It was also rather delightfully cleverly written, well produced, and Millie Bobby Brown has certainly proved herself to be more than just the girl from Stranger Things; even with the stellar cast, this is her show. She carries the movie from start to finish, and without being charismatic, charming, and giving a great performance as well, the movie would have sunk like a stone. And Henry Cavill makes a marvelous Sherlock; maybe not Benedict Cumberbatch-worthy, but it’s a terrific role for him and he did pretty well in it. I now want to read the entire Enola Holmes series–so the film served as an excellent marketing device for the novels, and watching it reminded me, yet again, how much fun I had writing that Sherlock pastiche earlier this year, and started thinking about perhaps doing another. The 1910’s and 1920’s are such a rich period in New Orleans history to draw from, for one thing, and as I watched I realized I didn’t include either Inspector Lestrade (the name works for a New Orleans police investigator, doesn’t it?) or Mycroft; and it was a fun world to inhabit for a while. I am not at the point where I feel like a true Sherlockian or anything; but it would be fun to revisit my Sherlock Holmes 1916 New Orleans again. Perhaps “A Scandal in Baton Rouge”? “Murder in Milneburg”? The possibilities are, as they say, endless.

Scooter is adapting to the new wet food, as well as slowly getting used to the idea that treats are no longer forthcoming. He still goes to the coffee table, stands where he used to when I would give them to him, and whines; but instead I put the wet food in his bowl and he goes and eats it. I managed to surprise him with his morning insulin shot while he was eating–he’s still not fond of being stuck, but he’s getting better about it. And with each successive shot, I felt better about giving it to him, and it becomes less of a big deal. The one thing that does bother me about it is the disposal of the syringes; if I didn’t work somewhere that did syringe access and return, I would probably just throw the damned things in the garbage, and while they aren’t really a huge risk of any kind to anyone–I also recap them–if a garbage man was to get stuck accidentally with one of them, they wouldn’t know it was an insulin syringe, and of course they would then have the stress of worrying about Hepatitis C or HIV infection, and rounds of testing.

And that’s not something I’d want to put anyone through, you know?

I also decided to set aside The Heavenly Table for now. It’s quite good, and so exceptionally well written; I will definitely come back to it, but it’s just so unrelentingly dark, and I don’t think I can handle anything like that right now. I just found myself reaching for it yesterday before pulling my hand back like I’d been burned, and realized that part of the reason I’d not been reading it on weeknights was because I was already in a dark place and reading something so dark wasn’t going to help matters any. When I finally finished that entry from yesterday about writing young adult fiction, and queer desire in it, I had to go reread the links I posted in it–and was reminded of a book called Release, by Patrick Ness, which I thought I remembered purchasing in support because of the criticism it was receiving at the time (I have a tendency to do that–buy books in support when controversy envelopes them–but feel it important to note that it depends on the controversy. I shall never, for example, buy American Dirt), and I started reading it, immediately becoming entranced by the writing style, which I liked very much, and also found myself liking the point of view character very much as well. So, I think I will most likely spend some more time with it today.

I also need to spend some time with Bury Me in Shadows–there’s really no excuse other than laziness for my reluctance thus far to tackle the revision of Chapter 11. Yes, it’s a poorly written mess that will require blood, sweat, and tears to repair and revise and make readable, but it is also not likely to rewrite itself, and the longer I put off working on it and making the all-too-necessary repairs, the longer it is going to take me to finish the book and turn it in–and that is simply not an option. I also want to work on a short story today, and I have to start writing an essay I promised to do with very little turnaround time.

I did manage to get come cleaning and organizing done yesterday, which was lovely.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you either later today (should I finish one of the drafts in the post draft folder) or tomorrow morning when I have to get up insanely early in order to go to the office.

Begin Again

While I am not, precisely, starting over again with Bury Me in Shadows, I am in some ways returning to the drawing board; my memory has become more and more useless the older I get, and the daily beating my psyche and consciousness has taken this year hasn’t helped much in that regard. But it’s kind of sad that it’s been so long now–and really, it’s not been much more than a week–that I’ve worked on it that I don’t remember where I was at and what was going on; I don’t even remember what happens next and where the story goes, or even the ending I wrote for it–which is part of the problem with writing a book while having, for want of a better term, pandemic brain. (I don’t think I should blame my faulty, horrific memory completely on the pandemic, but I think I am willing to agree that it has not helped one little bit with my short or long term memory.)

I started reading The Heavenly Table yesterday–Donald Ray Pollack is the author, and he also wrote The Devil All The Time–and it’s really quite well written. He really knows how to hit that rural poverty note, and does it really exceptionally well; like Daniel Woodrell, Ace Atkins, and William Faulkner. As I was reading it, I was remembering those summers in Alabama when I was a kid, and thinking about the way my parents grew up–and how difficult that must have been for them, even though they didn’t know any different. This also put me in mind of things that I may need to put into Bury Me in Shadows, or save for something else; another novella that I’m writing, “A Holler Full of Kudzu”, keeps going through my mind when I am reading this book.

I didn’t do much writing yesterday; I was interviewed yesterday for Brad Shreve’s Gay Mystery Podcast (link to come) and, as always after something like that, when I was finished I felt terribly drained (caffeine rush wearing off, perhaps? Also a possibility) and so I wound up sitting in my chair, reading the Pollack novel and thinking about my various writing projects. we eventually watched this week’s episode of Ted Lasso, which continues to be quite marvelous and lovely, and then started Ryan Murphy’s Ratched. It’s entertaining and beautifully shot; the costumes are amazing, as are the sets and visuals, and it’s reminiscent of the Douglas Sirk film stylings from the 1950’s–and for a state mental hospital, the place is gorgeous and impeccably decorated and sparkling clean. The acting is quite good, but I am really not seeing the connection to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest other than as a clever marketing tie-in to draw viewers in, but other than Sarah Paulsen’s character being a younger Nurse Ratched, there really is no connection. It could have just as easily been another season of American Horror Story, and it does have connections, in some ways, to the afore-mentioned show’s Asylum season: the menacing and dangerous nurse; the aversion to lesbianism; the crazy and criminal doctor using his patients as guinea pigs; the serial killer; and so forth. We’re interested and intrigued enough to keep watching, and it’s also interesting seeing the additions to what I call the Ryan Murphy Repertory Company–the young actor who played Justin on 13 Reasons Why, Charlie Carver, Sharon Stone, and Judy Davis. (I do give Murphy a lot of credit for casting openly gay actors in his series, playing either gay or straight or bisexual men.)

It’s gray and drizzly outside the windows this morning, and it feels very cool here inside the Lost Apartment. I know this is the outer edges of Beta–I’ve not yet had the heart to look the storm up and see where it is and where it is projected to be going this morning so far–I’m just not in the mood to see what new potential destruction and flooding is now possible for somewhere along the Gulf Coast. Yay.

I do want to get some writing done, even if it’s merely the tedium of taking the second half of the book and adjusting it from present tense to past tense (a decision I made between drafts; I was trying present tense to see if it added urgency to the story, and I don’t think it really did, so am switching it back to past, which is something i am more comfortable with anyway. If it worked the way I had wanted I would have left it that way, but it really didn’t, and so I am changing it back) so that they are more ready for the revising. I would love more than anything to maybe get two or three chapters revised–but I also need to go back and add at least one scene to the chapters I’ve already got done; a scene I put off until later in the book because I wasn’t completely sure how to deal with it earlier. (I also need to reread the stuff that’s already been revised, so I can remember where I am at and what needs to be done with the next revisions; again, as I said before, the problem with allowing one’s self to procrastinate writing for as long as I have is you forget what you’re writing, which is terrifying) But I intend to be as productive today as I can be, and I feel confident, which I haven’t in quite some time. Not sure what that’s about, but I am going to ride that wave as long as I can.

I’m also setting a goal of a short story per week; both reading one and writing/finishing one. This week’s short story to finish is one I started a while back called “Please Die Soon,” which is a Rear Window/Sorry Wrong Number type pastiche; is there anything more terrifying than being bedridden and beginning to suspect the people trusted with caring for you are actually trying to kill you? It’s a terrific title, and I know exactly how I want the story to work, but I’ve never had a lot of confidence in my ability to actually get it written properly. As I said the other day, I really want to get some more short stories out there to markets–you can’t sell if you don’t submit–and I’ve also began to understand that some of my stories aren’t really crime stories/mysteries; which makes finding markets for them even harder. “Burning Crosses” isn’t really a crime story–even if it’s about two college students looking into a lynching from sixty or so years ago–and it might make some markets deeply uncomfortable. Hell, it makes me uncomfortable–I question whether I should even be writing this type of story about racism, but I also need to stop second guessing myself. If I don’t do a good job of it, then the story isn’t any good, and I think the point that I am making with it–the cowardly discomfort white people experience when confronted with past racism–is a valid one. It’s most definitely not a white savior story, for sure–which is something I definitely don’t ever want to write.

There are already plenty of those stories already in print.

The trick is, as always, going to be focus, which has always been my mortal enemy.

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