Blank Space

Well, that’s over, and there’s a sort of slight return to some semblance of normalcy this morning. I have to work today and tomorrow before the weekend starts up again–and of course, next week is a shortened week in much the same way. I didn’t want to get up this morning because the bed was feeling all kinds of comfortable, but I dragged myself out of bed and am on my first cup of coffee thus far. We’ll see how it goes.

We drove out to Elmwood to see The Rise of Skywalker yesterday, and I enjoyed it. I know there are people up in arms and angry about it–because we can’t, of course, just enjoy anything for the sake of enjoyment anymore without some segment of a fan base getting their balls retracted and their sphincters tightened–but I thought it brought everything to a nice close and the entire film itself was fun. I’ve never understood the toxic parts of fandom, but it definitely exists, and social media has given it much more of  a voice. I never thought The Last Jedi was the worst thing that ever happened to the franchise, and I loved The Force Awakens.  But even Nancy Drew fandom has toxic elements to it (If I have to read one more whine about someone’s fucking childhood being “ruined”…newsflash: your childhood wasn’t ruined and neither were your memories. And if you think they were, well, you might need to seek professional help) and the Star Wars fandom is probably one of the most toxic. But it was a lot of fun, it had a lot of action and some absolutely spectacular visuals, and it did what Star Wars was designed to do–not to make you think, but to thrill to an exciting adventure. I do think The Mandalorian might have taken some of the wind out of its sails, but I am terribly excited to see what else Disney Plus intends to do with television series in that universe.

Once we made it back home, we started streaming The Witcher on Netflix. Paul wasn’t very into it, and it seemed kind of slow to me, but I’m intrigued enough to continue watching.  I did wonder about the wisdom of hiring one of the hottest, handsomest, and sexiest actors working today and then trying to make him look as ugly as possible–and in the two episodes I watched, no shirtless Henry Cavill either. I’m not certain whether Paul will want to continue watching or not, but I thought it was interesting enough, if a little slow. Continuing won’t be a huge priority, but can we just stop calling every new fantasy series “the new Game of Thrones” or whatever network’s “attempt at Game of Thrones”? Game of Thrones was its own thing; a unique, incredibly layered and complicated series with a massive backstory and an enormous world to pull from and so many, many characters; The Witcher is practically an interior show in comparison. And building up audience expectations is always a fool’s game. Nothing is going to be, or will ever replace, Game of Thrones.

I also started rereading The Talented Mr. Ripley yesterday and have some thoughts about it as well, but they will keep until I finish reading it–but it has to do with unlikable characters and why we are so drawn to them.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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This Masquerade

 Yes, I am now beginning a glorious four-day weekend, during which I plan to read and clean and write and rest and watch movies and just have a glorious time relaxing and trying to catch up on things. I started cleaning, for example, out my jump drive yesterday–there’s an absolutely absurd amount of duplicates, old pictures from a million years ago, old files, etc on it–and I am probably going to try to spend some time trying to do that; get better organized with my computer files and so forth. I also intend to spend some time on a deep clean of the apartment–we’ll see how that goes, but my windows are filthy and I really do need to move things and clean beneath them; and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to clean and organize all the cabinets and drawers, either.

Ambition. We’ll see how that works out, won’t we?

But I slept fantastically last night, waking up this morning feeling wonderfully rested. My burnt lips are healing (you have no idea how fun it is to test people for syphilis while warning them of the dangers of the disease while your lips have enormous looking blister/wounds on them) and hopefully by the time I return to work on Tuesday morning, they will have healed completely and I will no longer have to worry about their syphilitic appearance any more. *whew*

So, here I am, just before nine in the morning with four glorious days off stretching out in front of me. I am going to write a little this morning–probably finishing the revision of “The Snow Globe,” and then hopefully revising the latest chapter of the WIP–while cleaning. I am going to try to do a deep dive clean, one that is sorely overdue here in the Lost Apartment–baseboards, floors, windows, window sills and frames, etc–which can, of course, be incredibly tedious, but it also needs to be done. It’s also launder the bed linen day, and so I have that to do as well. I also want to curl up with Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which I’ve not had the chance to get back to this week, and after that, I’d like to read either John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning or Joseph Olshan’s Black Diamond Fall, which are both Lambda finalists (John is also a Strand and Anthony Award finalist). And then I am not sure what I’ll read after that; I got a stack of fabulous books this week to add to the TBR pile, including Owen Laukkanen’s Deception Cove and the new Michael Koryta…and there’s already so many wonderful treasures waiting for me in the the pile already.

An embarrassment of riches, as it were.

We also watched the new Wanda Sykes comedy special on Netflix last night, and she’s just as funny and pointed as ever, which is lovely as I am a big fan.

I’m probably going to watch the finale of Game of Thrones again at some point over this weekend, as well–I have found, this season particularly, that it helps to rewatch the episodes after having some time to digest them; I find that it helps me appreciate the show more; the first time I watch I am so busy watching to see what happens that I miss subtleties I am able to catch on a reviewing. I know a lot of fans hated this final season of the show–some going as far as to hate the last two seasons–but I enjoyed it; I enjoyed it as spectacle, and I enjoyed it even despite holes in the plot and subplots that went nowhere and so on and so forth; primarily because it did the unexpected, and it did from the very beginning. Game of Thrones never gave us what we were expecting because it didn’t follow traditional story-telling arcs–for example, once Jon Snow was identified as the true Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne, I was a little disappointed (despite the thrill); because I thought, ho-hum, here we go, it’s just another telling of the King Arthur legend–but as it turned out, it wasn’t that at all.

And I think that may be why so many fans were so disappointed–they were expecting the traditional story arcs, and Game of Thrones went the other way and rejected those.

Then again, what do I know? The Last Jedi is one of my favorite Star Wars movies, which also apparently renders me suspect as a forty-year Star Wars fan.

And on that note, it’s time to start cleaning and writing which means closing the web browsers.

Hello, spice mines!

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White Christmas

Christmas is now over, and New Year’s looms; Carnival is just around the corner. Mardi Gras is late this year, I believe; but I can’t be bothered to look it up at the moment so take my word for it.

Our holidays were lovely and relaxing; now there are simply three days to get through before the next holiday, so getting through the rest of this week should be relatively simple. One would think, at any rate. I am quite pleased with how the weekend turned out; I didn’t read or write or edit nearly as much as I should have, but that’s the way the holiday weekend goes sometimes, you know? I did get some brainstorming in, which is always important, and I got a lot of computer filing done. I almost got all the physical filing done as well. There’s a sink full of dirty dishes that I hope to take care of this morning as well; but we shall see. I am a little groggy this morning; as I suspected, getting up to an alarm earlier than I’ve been doing these last four days was just as problematic as I had feared it would be this morning. And I have to get up even earlier the next two mornings…heavy heaving sigh.

But I am sure the coffee–once it kicks into gear–will be most helpful.

We continued watching that Australian series Wanted yesterday, and paid to stream Avengers: Infinity War from iTunes. It was quite enjoyable, and very well done for what it was, despite having to juggle all these stars and super-heroes and story-lines, and the ending was just as sad and heartbreaking as everyone said it was when the movie was released. And yet….being an old hand at comics and super-heroes, isn’t it obvious how this will go? Thanos will somehow either be defeated in the sequel, and/or convinced to use, the Infinity Stones that control time and space to go back and not allow him to erase half of the life in the universe.

Which is fine, and makes for great drama, but it’s precisely the problem that eventually drove us off from watching Arrow and Flash: the stakes aren’t high when people can be brought back from the dead, or you can change the time-line to save them.

Although watching this movie gave me the idea of how to write the epilogue for the new Scotty, which is incredibly cool. Yay?

Well, not so much as gave me the idea as the idea came to me while I was watching the movie.

Which is a completely different thing, really.

Maybe for New Year’s, I’ll watch The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi again, back-to-back.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader!

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That’s All

Nostalgia is something I rarely indulge in, because I consider it to be dangerous in its apparent innocence. We tend to look back at the past with a rosier glow; see it through cheesecloth and Vaseline smeared on the lens to take away the wrinkles and ugliness, make it seem prettier than it actually was.  My childhood actually ended when I was thirty-three and decided to live my life rather than continue to allow it to just happen; the events of my life prior to that influenced me and helped make me into the person I am today, so I cannot have any regrets or ‘what-ifs’; I love my life now and I like who I am. I try to live in the present and look ahead; plans and goals are helpful to keep one focused, but they also leave one at the mercy of whimsical fate. You never know, for example, when a hurricane is going to come to your city or a wildfire burn down your home and your plans turn out to be for naught; we are all at the mercy of nature and fate.

Nostalgia perhaps explains my love for the Star Wars films; the first film opened when I was a senior in high school, and I have been a fan ever since. I waited in line for three hours to see the very first showing of Return of the Jedi when it opened; the prequel trilogy was a sore disappointment to me. Yet The Force Awakens and Rogue One tapped into that magic I remembered as a teenager, looking up at the big screen and seeing an epic tale of magic and mystery, the battle between good and evil, between freedom and authoritarianism, play out with space ships and droids and light sabers, with heroes and villains that were easily identifiable, and American cinema, for good or bad, was changed forever.

Yesterday Paul and I went to see The Last Jedi.

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 There are spoilers hidden behind the ‘more’ cut, so don’t say you weren’t warned. Continue reading “That’s All”

Caribbean Queen

It’s raining this Sunday morning in New Orleans, with the occasional growl of thunder and a constant leak from the gray skies overhead. When I woke up, this leak was a faucet, turned all the way to high and so loud I wasn’t certain it could actually  be rain; my first thought was I wonder if the streets are flooding again and my second we have tickets to see The Last Jedi at one fifteen; will we be able to make it to the Palace theater in Harahan? As my first cup of coffee brewed this morning I checked to see if there are any reports of flooding in the city; there aren’t, and none are, apparently, expected. And yet any rain here carries with it the possibility of rising water and ruined cars, fears of hundreds of dollars in repairs if you are lucky, scrambling to find the money for a new one while battling with your insurance company and your lender in the meantime.

I worked yesterday, ran some errands, came home and made myself barbecue-flavored chicken nuggets in the oven; the TGIFriday’s brand, frozen food, heated for ten minutes on each side at 375 degrees in the oven. It’s easy and quick, doesn’t taste horrible, and fills the emptiness; Paul was also at work and we were going to a Christmas party last night in Uptown so I didn’t see any need in actually making any food that would make a mess; I’ve not had time to clean and organize and file this week; but I am hoping to get all of that done this morning before we brave the storms to see our movie. There’s something comforting and relaxing about rain, though, despite its imminent and constant threat here, I’ve always found rain to be a relaxing experience, a cozy one; safe inside from the wetness and able to witness it through windows, warm and dry and somehow protected.

Yesterday I finished reading yet another book, another one that I enjoyed tremendously; Reality Boy by A. S. King. I’ve had the book for quite some time, it’s been in my TBR pile for years now. I don’t remember why I bought it, other than an interest in the subject matter; the after-effects of being a reality show celebrity as a child. I’ve always watched, enjoyed and been fascinated by reality television; one of my early ideas for a Scotty novel involved a Real World type show being filmed in New Orleans (that show has filmed here twice; the first time in my neighborhood). Even early on, I saw, in The Real World, the classic Agatha Christie set-up: a group of strangers thrown together in a confined space, forced to interact with each other and all for the benefit of cameras, some hidden and others hand-held. It seemed perfect for a classical-style locked room murder mystery; the locked room, of course, being the cameras. I toyed with it and played with the notion for several years, before finally deciding on the bizarre plot that became Mardi Gras Mambo; the first iteration of that novel was the reality show plot that I eventually lost interest in and threw away so I could start over. Reality television has taken over our culture in so many ways; you are just as likely to see a reality “star” staring at you from the covers of the tabloids and celebrity magazines in the check-out line at the grocery store as you are to see an actor or an actress or a member of British royalty. I do watch some reality television still to this day, primarily franchises of the Real Housewives, some more so than others, and other shows I absolutely will not watch, as though some of these shows are somehow more highbrow, more morally and intellectually pure, than others.

As I said the other day, I had decided to get through some of the young adult fiction in my TBR pile once I’d finished Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire, and I greatly enjoyed The Truth About Alice. Reality Boy has been in my pile for quite some time; and I pulled it out and started reading it Friday night once I’d finished the Ritter and Alice. Reality Boy was, in a word, quite extraordinary; I’m not sure that I would classify it as full-on noir, but it’s definitely domestic suspense bordering on domestic noir.

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I’m the kid you saw on TV.

Remember the little freak who took a crap on his parents’ oak-stained kitchen table when they confiscated his Game Boy? Remember how the camera cleverly hid his most private parts with the glittering fake daisy and sunflower centerpiece?

That was me. Gerald. Youngest of three. Only boy, Out of control.

One time, I did it in the dressing room at the mall. Sears, I think. My mom was trying to get me to try on some pants and she got the wrong size.

“Now you stay right there,” she said. “I’ll be back with the right size.”

And to protest having to wait, or having to try on pants, or having to have a mother like her, I dropped one right there between the wicker chair and the stool where Mom’s purse was.

And no, it wasn’t excusable. I wasn’t a baby. I wasn’t even a toddler. I was five. I was sending a message.

As much as I enjoy the reality shows I watch, one thing that has always put me off about them is when adults use their children as props on these shows. It’s one thing when you’re an adult, or when your children are adults and have the kind of agency to decide whether they want their life to be turned into a circus or not. It’s entirely another when parents decide they want their young children trotted out for the cameras like some dog-and-pony show to show off what great parents they are, or how talented their children are, or how cute they are. I particularly loathed those ‘nanny’ shows, where ‘problem’ children were trained by a some Mary Poppins stand-in to be behave better when their parents can’t control them; those videos and tapes are going to, I have often felt and believed, haunt those kids for the rest of their lives.

The premise of Reality Boy is precisely that.

Gerald, at ages five and six, appeared with his family on one of those nanny shows, and his particular problem was that he defecated as a sign of rebellion and protest; in his mother’s shoes, in the hallway, etc. He became viral and forever known as the Crapper. He is now sixteen going on seventeen, his family is still just as dysfunctional as ever, and he is regularly taunted, mocked and bullied for his reality show past. Being a teen is hard enough for any number of reasons–as explored in The Truth About Alice, for example–but imagine being famous/infamous for behavior when you were a small child, on television.

Reality Boy is about Gerald’s learning to cope with his past, learning to cope with his future, and recognizing, at long last, that he could have a future. It’s exceptionally well done, and as King reveals the layers of dysfunction that led to Gerald’s behavior, the truth of his life and his own reality, why he is been labelled a problem child and a disgrace, are even more horrible. And yet Gerald has to find the strength to cope, to deal, and to by the time the book ends, there’s hope that Gerald’s life is going to get better. It’s extremely well done, Gerald comes to fully-realized life beautifully on the page, and his burgeoning relationships with new friends and maybe, even, just possibly, a girlfriend–help him to grow and understand. It’s incredibly well done, and it’s also a cautionary tale that needs to be sent to anyone who’s ever trotted their children out for the cameras for fame and money. It makes you wonder what Honey Boo-Boo’s life is going to be like when she’s seventeen, or Teresa Giudice’s daughters (they’ll probably still be on television). It also makes you wonder just how complicit those of us who watch these shows are in the possible damage being wrought on these children.

My current Scotty book has me returning to the reality well, only this time with a Real Housewives-type show. I’ve already done nine chapters, and had already decided to toss those and start over because it wasn’t going in the direction I wanted it to go; I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say in the book. I had planned on starting it over again, but now…now I am thinking I need to sit down and think through what I want to say in it, maybe plan it a little more than I’ve ever planned a Scotty book before. I don’t know, but I’ll be keeping you posted.

The Warrior

Wednesday, and I finished the first draft of my short story yesterday. It’s quite dark, and I quite love it, but it needs some serious polishing and editing. I changed my mind about the ending while i was writing it, you see, and that changes some things back at the beginning. I want to have that finished by the end of the weekend, as well as another story I’ve worked on recently. Huzzah!

I am also thoroughly enjoying Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire. I do highly recommend it, even though I am not even halfway finished with it, it’s that engaging. Sure, the plot could go off the rails, but I rather like the main character and the story she is telling–both the crime itself as well as the main character’s story in confronting her past–is quite enjoyable.

This weekend, I have to work Saturday and we are going to a Christmas party that evening; Sunday we have tickets for The Last Jedi and I am very excited. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, of course, and I wisely chose to buy tickets in IMAX during the Saints game, so I am assuming the theater won’t be full. Hoping, at any rate, and since we live close to the Superdome the traffic will be going the other way in both instances as we head out to Harahan to see the movie. It’s a much more busy weekend for me than I would ordinarily prefer, but the next weekend is a four day weekend for Christmas and of course, the next is the three day weekend for New Year’s. So…not really having a full day at home this weekend isn’t going to be nearly as traumatizing as it could be.

Anyway, I am really happy with my story. I was asked to write a story for an anthology of crime stories inspired by the work of Joni Mitchell, and when I chose my song, read the lyrics and listened to it again, I really went down a rabbit hole and man, did it ever get dark. Really dark. But what was also fun about it was having to research malls in the early 1990’s; research can be a bit of a drag sometimes, but for me, most of the time it’s so much fun because it triggers a lot of memories, or inspires me even more if it’s from before my time. (note to self: do some research on Washington DC in the early 1950’s; I’ve written a story set during that time but I’ve never done the back-up research, which could be incredibly fun.) Usually, when I write a story that’s set during a time I lived through, I depend on my memory–which ain’t what it used to be, but priming the pump by looking up things on-line triggered memories; memories of stores and displays, the way malls smelled, the parking lots and so forth.

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

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Union of the Snake

So, I braved Costco AND the grocery store on a frigid Saturday two weeks before Christmas; but I did manage to get a lovely space heater at Costco which has already changed everything in the frigid kitchen.  I also forgot to turn the heat off when I went to bed last night, but it wasn’t obnoxiously hot upstairs–which makes me tend to think that it must have been really cold outside last night. But whatever. I am up this morning, my kitchen is getting warmer thanks to the space heater, and I have some things I need to get done today so I am going to buckle down and try to get it all done as much as possible. Next weekend I have to work on Saturday, so it’s a very short weekend for me, but I can hang with it.

Pual went to a gallery opening last night for the guy who donated his art for the cover of the Saints and Sinners Anthology, and so while Scooter dealt with his abandonment issues by sleeping in my lap I got caught up on this season of Riverdale; I hadn’t realized they hadn’t gone on midseason break and had missed two episodes, with the midseason finale coming up this week. I am pleased to report that KJ Apa was shirtless a lot in last week’s episode (finally), and this season’s mystery is deepening nicely. It really is a good show, probably the best young actors on a teen soap-style show I’ve ever watched, and visually it’s just stunning. I also got our tickets to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi for next Sunday at one, which is also incredibly exciting. I only have to avoid spoilers for a week.

I also watched two episodes of Soundtracks last night, the CNN series about how cultural and societal events influenced the popular music of the time. I watched the episodes about gay rights and Hurricane Katrina; each one made me unexpectedly tear up at moments as I remembered things. I recommend the series; I’m going to keep watching it. CNN series are really quite good; I’ve enjoyed their Decades series and their History of Comedy; and when I am not in the mood to write (or finished for the day) and not in the mood to read, they’re an excellent way to pass some time.

I think I’m going to read Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire next. It’s gotten some excellent reviews, and I’m a fan of hers; Jessica Jones was terrific, and Paul and I both enjoyed Don’t Trust the B, her one season sitcom. I actually think I may spend the rest of the year focusing on reading y/a fiction, to be honest. I have a lot of amazing books in my TBR pile, but…I want to get the WIP whipped into shape to start the agent hunt again in earnest next year; and I have two more y/a manuscripts to whip into shape as well as the Scotty to completely redo. I hate having to throw out eight chapters worth of work–and maybe some editing can get them into decent shape and usable again. As I said, in talking to my friend Susan last week I realized the plot I was developing for the book simply doesn’t work; primarily because New Orleans is such a small town, and New Orleans society is an even smaller one. There’s no way Scotty wouldn’t have known something before he was surprised with it; just given both sides of his family he would have met the person any number of times and would have heard about him; that kind of throws that plot right out the window. Maybe the entire thing should just be scrapped and I should start over completely. I don’t know.

But so yes, there’s a lot I need to get done. I also have a short story due by the end of the month I need to work on, another project is also calling my name, and I have a grant application I need to get ready. I’ve decided to start applying for grants, long shots that they are; but you cannot get one without applying, and while I may not have an MFA or a Ph.D. behind my name I do have an awful lot of publications; my c.v. is at least fifteen pages long–and it hasn’t been updated in years. But I think I have proven that I can write. And I think perhaps a collection of personal essays, of experiences and observations I’ve made throughout my life, studying our culture and the deep flaws in our society and culture, could actually be rather interesting. I have years of diaries and blog entries to cull from; and I often find writing personal essays, on those rare occasions when I’ve had the opportunity to write them, quite rewarding. My favorite essay is “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”, which was in Love Bourbon Street, and was edited down to be included in another collection, and I could possibly make that the lynchpin of the collection. I also want to pull together my horror and crime short stories into a collection, which will undoubtedly have to be self-published. So many projects, so little time.

And yes, reading Joan Didion has inspired me a bit on that front.

And on that note, I am going to dive back into the spice mines this cold morning in New Orleans. Here’s a lovely hunk to get your week off to a lovely start:

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