Street Angel

Ugh, another toxic Tuesday.

I mean, if Monday is manic, Tuesday can be toxic; Wednesday can be woeful; and Thursday can be…something. Regardless, I am awake at the usual Tuesday morning godawful toxic time, swilling coffee and getting ready to head into the office. Huzzah.

I didn’t feel well this morning when I got up, but I took my weekly return-to-work COVID test and it was negative. I am not really sure why or how I ‘ve managed to go this entire pandemic without getting infected (particularly when you take into consideration how many possible exposures I have had with my job since this all began), but I also managed to get through the entire (and ongoing) HIV/AIDS pandemic without getting infected, either. Just one of the lucky ones, I guess? But as my coffee sinks in and courses through my veins–and the Claritin-D kicks in–I am feeling a lot better. Still a bit tired, but can definitely make it through the day, which was questionable when I first got up this morning. I’m not sure what that was about, but am glad it is passing (or is past).

I have so much to do it’s a bit overwhelming, but when I got up this morning I didn’t have the strength and/or energy to even face up to everything that I have to do, but I am starting to get that necessary second wind and maybe–just maybe–the strength and brain focus necessary to start plowing through this massive to-do list, which also needs to be updated. SO much to do this week, but I also have a three day weekend looming so maybe I’ll be able to actually get some things done this weekend rather than trying to recover from an exhausting week? My energy levels is something that I’ve been very concerned about for quite some time; by the time I generally get home from work the day–from getting up early to being out in the heat to running errands–I am so tired that I have trouble working on my writing and my to-do list, and giving into Scooter’s demands that I sit in my easy chair and provide a lap for him in which to sleep while I watch documentaries or go down Youtube wormholes is way too easy and tempting to avoid–and once I am in that chair, it’s game over for the night.

Paul didn’t get home until late last evening so I watched some documentaries, including Scream Queen, about Mark Patton, the closeted gay lead of what is considered the gayest horror movie of all time–A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge. I remember seeing it and not liking it when it first was available to rent–I rented a lot of movies back in the day–but primarily because the connecting thread from the first movie wasn’t there other than Elm Street and Freddy. Now that I’m hearing about all the gay subtext–some of which was apparently overt–I kind of want to see it again; I’ve never wanted to watch it again because I didn’t enjoy it when I was in my twenties (a foul, horrible decade and probably one of the worst of the seven–yes, seven, this is my seventh decade on the planet–decades of my life. I do have fond memories of the 1980’s, but I also have a lot of horrific memories of that same decade) but now I am thinking I’d kind of like to see it one more time, looking at it with a fresher perspective than I had in my twenties.

And I really need to finish reading John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind. I’ve agreed to read a friend’s manuscript with a gay character in it, but I can’t read two new-to-me pieces of fiction at the same time. (This is not true for non-fiction; I am reading both Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and The Great Betrayal now, and I am trying not to start reading Paul Monette’s Becoming a Man) I need to work some more on all my various writing projects; there are some short stories coming due, deadline-wise, relatively soon that I’d like to write something for, and so I can’t just not be writing in the evenings consistently the way I have not been doing since the summer weather arrived.

Heavy heaving sigh. And on that note, tis off to the spice mines I go. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

I Sing for the Things

Sunday morning and it looks a bit overcast out there. I have a lot to do today–writing, reading, cleaning–and I slept deeply and well–so much so that I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, it felt soooo comfortable under the covers. Scooter’s anguished demands for breakfast finally got me out of that marvelous cocoon of sheets and blankets, and now I am enjoying a cup of coffee and wondering how bad the weather will be today. We had lots of thunderstorms rolling through last evening, and overall, it wasn’t a terribly bad day yesterday, if not as productive.

I did spend some time with John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind (which I also hope to do today), and then headed out to Metairie for my eye appointment. I go to the Target in Clearview Mall, just off the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Boulevard. After my new glasses were ordered, I shopped a bit–found some aromatherapy oils I needed, got a new Brita water-filter pitcher, and a few other things, including a copy of Casey McQuiston’s Red White and Royal Blue.On my way home I hit the drive-thru at Atomic Burger (expensive, but I do love their burgers), and came home to do some more things around the house. I finished watching The IPCRESS File, which was very twisty and surprising and incredibly well done (I’ve never read the Len Deighton novel on which it was based, but the original film of this, which starred Michael Caine, was clearly the basis for the Austin Powers movies, only played for real); I thought one of its primary strengths was showing that even allies spy on each other and steal talent, as well as how beautifully yet casually it indicted the British class system as well as its ingrained misogyny. I also watched the Fall River documentary (didn’t finish, Paul came home and I was on the final episode) about the supposed “Satanic cult ritual murders” that took place there in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s; my primary takeaway and memory of living through those peculiar “Satanic panics” that seemed to be everywhere in that decade was people really think Satan is real and exists? I thought we were more rational a nation than that….which was one of the first steps on my journey to seeing my country, society and culture as it actually was rather than the mythology I was taught in elementary school and other levels of public education as a child.

Even when I was a child being taught the Bible was literal history I knew better than to believe it was literally true. It was quite an eye-opening shock and jolt that people not only believed the Bible was literal truth, but they also believed in Satan (Elaine Pagels’ The Origin of Satan should seriously be taught in high school) as an actual being working to undermine humanity and lure us into sin. It was quite a shock, and only the first of many to come as I began reeducating myself on everything.

And yes, I am bitter that I was miseducated, and that I had to waste so much of my adulthood reeducating myself.

But I do love to learn; it’s one of the many reasons I love to read so much. I am always reading something non-fiction at the same time as I am reading fiction (although the non-fiction often takes longer for me to get through). I have been reading Robert Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York for over a year now; it’s long and I am finally past the half-way point–but it’s an absolutely terrifying look at how power can be amassed and how it corrupts even those who go into public service with the purest and brightest of motives; and how that accumulation of power turns personality flaws in individuals into horrific public policy that causes more damage than good in the long run. I think after I finally finish this epic biography and study of public works in New York for most of the previous century, I may dive into some true crime to cleanse my palate and prepare me for another non-fiction tome. I of course read The Borgias while I was in Kentucky on my last trip, and I also have The Medicis to read as well as other history, but I think I want to read about true crimes for a bit once the palate has been cleansed. I have Sarah Weinman’s marvelous collection of true crime reporting on hand, as well as her recent Scoundrel, which cries to me from the TBR pile; there are several other true crime books I have on hand as well that are always fun to read for insight into my fellow (depraved) citizens and why they do the things they do (part of the reason I really was enjoying Fall River was due to getting some insight into why people turn out the way they do when they go bad), and there’s some other interesting histories I have on hand that i would like to read, too.

Someday I will have enough time to read as I would like.

My to-do list for today and this week is quite ambitious. The heat and humidity have been serious drawbacks to my energy levels and my ability to get things done (I just got the power bill and recoiled in horror), but I need to adapt and adapt quickly else the entire summer will have passed and suddenly it’s fall and I have only a few months to work on the Scotty book. (I did work on it a bit yesterday; I had some really good ideas to jot down, and I do think I am beginning to get a grasp on the story and what it’s going to be.) I want to work on the secret project I wanted to have finished by the end of the month (so not happening) and I also have to work on some short stories I want to submit and get out there. I’ve been feeling defeated lately, primarily I think by the heat (since my sleep has been really good for the most part since I got back from Kentucky, fingers crossed this will continue), and I need to get beyond that. Yes, the world is a dumpster fire raging out of control, but all I can control is me and how I react and I can feel the need for control building inside my head….so I imagine at some point relatively soon I am going to stop watching the fire blazing and work on the things I can control, while still being aware of the fire and doing whatever small things I can to pitch in to keep the blaze as under control as I am capable.

It’s getting gloomier as I type, so I am going to bring this to a close, make another cup of coffee, and retire to my easy chair for some more The Savage Kind. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

A Little Respect

Well, hello, Wednesday morning, how are you doing? I am at home today because I am doing the prep work necessary for tomorrow morning’s procedure (it’s a colonoscopy; I am not sure why I am being so coy about it. I am over sixty now and this is long overdue; the hurdles I had to clear and hoops I had to jump through to get this thing scheduled….oy. I don’t understand the mentality of the people who defend our health care/insurance system…and sadly, it’s better now than it was when I first got health insurance back in 2006), and the doctor recommended being in close reach of a bathroom for most of the day. I have to get up at midnight to begin Stage II, then I have to get up and be at Touro for the procedure by seven tomorrow morning. I also have to go to Touro later today to get a rapid COVID test to get clearance.

Seriously, with my luck I’ll test positive and then not only have to reschedule the entire thing but have to quarantine for fourteen more days.

That sure took a turn, didn’t it?That should give an indication of my late October mood, though, shouldn’t it? I don’t know, maybe it’s the procedure and having to go underneath anesthetic for the first time in a really long time; or perhaps it’s the whole Halloween thing? Who knows? Halloween is certainly a time for darkness and the macabre; which is interesting, since the name is a contraction of all hallows eve, which means, really, the eve of All Saints Day, which you’d think would be more celebratory? It also occurs to me that I’ve never actually written about Halloween, and given what a popular holiday it is in New Orleans, that’s kind of odd. Jackson Square Jazz is set just before Halloween; I think in the afterward Scotty mentions the costumes he and the boys were to the Halloween Ball? It’s been a hot minute, so I can’t remember…but I know there’s not a Scotty Halloween book, and I know I never did one with Chanse–who couldn’t be bothered to wear a costume; he’d find the whole thing tiresome. But not even a short story! (“The Snow Globe,” in fairness, began as a Halloween story and was originally titled “All Hallows Eve”; obviously I changed that.)

Unfortunately, given the timeline I’ve got going with the Scotty books now, I don’t know that the next one can be a Halloween book. Although I could play with the timeline a little more, I suppose. Royal Street Reveillon was set during the Christmas season, and I’ve always thought of it as Christmas 2019 (which means it became cemented into my brain as set in that year; and my stubborn subconscious never lets it go until my conscious mind realizes how stupid I am actually being)….with a pandemic just around the corner. But the book itself came out in October 2019, so I finished writing it earlier that year so there’s no reason it can’t be 2018…or 2017 for that matter, and I can also go back and put books in between the ones I’ve already published, if I so desire…ah, the Godlike power of being an author! What, though, would be a good Scotty Halloween title? Hmmmm…Halloween Season Hijinks? Halloween Party Horror?

Sigh. This will be in the back of my head now for awhile, which is how this always goes, doesn’t it?

I did sleep very well last night, which was lovely. (I set the alarm of course, reflexively, as I slipped into bed last night) We finished the first season of Only Murders in the Building, which resolved the first season but ended with a cliffhanger setting up Season 2–something I was wondering about–and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also started watching Dopesick, a fictionalized version of how the Sackler family single-handedly created the opioid crisis in this country so they can make billions. It’s very well done–I’d watched the documentary version of this already, whose name I cannot recall–and the acting is stellar. It’s powerful, too; I love that they are showing how this all happened through the eyes of a doctor in Appalachia (played by Michael Keaton), as well as showing the lives of some of his patients and how they got sucked into oxycontin addiction. I don’t know how anyone can watch this (or the original documentary) without burning with rage at the Sackler family and the politicians they fucking bought off so they could exploit the pain of the working class for profit, and what a classic example this is of how an unmonitored and unregulated capitalism–the ideal of the conservatives (let the market decide!)–can not only be damaging but lethal. We are still cleaning up the mess this created, while they sip expensive wine and eat caviar and fly to glamorous places on private jets. (I think the next time someone pulls some of that Ayn Rand libertarian “no regulation” bullshit on me I’m just going to smile and say “Oxycontin and the Sackler family disprove her theories on everything.”)

I also got Dr. Alecia P. Long’s latest book yesterday, Cruising for Conspirators: How a New Orleans DA Prosecuted the Kennedy Assassination as a Sex Crime, which I am really looking forward to reading. This is, of course, about the Clay Shaw trials here in New Orleans, and how Jim Garrison abused his power as district attorney; Oliver Stone based JFK on this, treating Garrison as an unsung American hero when he was anything but that–I’ve not seen the film, nor any other Oliver Stone film since this piece of propaganda and packet of lies was filmed. I also don’t trust anything Stone did, or does, anymore to be honest and truthful and factual. He basically ignored all the evidence–and there was plenty of it–and turned Garrison into some kind of folk-hero when he truly was a corrupt monster who tainted everything he touched and made the Puritans look like sex maniacs. And this country being what it is, the completely fictional film JFK and its conclusions and accusations are now seen by people as being factual. I’ve always been interested in writing about this case fictionally–seriously, the history of New Orleans and Louisiana is so rich and deep and rife with potential for writing, I could never run out of material here–and have done some loose reading up on it…and I’ve never come across anything backing up Garrison or his claims that didn’t originate in some insane right-wing crackpot conspiracy generator. I could be wrong, but I feel Dr. Long–whose The Great Southern Babylon is also a must-read for people interested in New Orleans and her history–is not a Garrison sympathizer; certainly the book’s title implies that; but I also trust Dr. Long, her scholarship, and her dedication to research. This will inevitably prove to be the definitive book on the subject.

I’m also still reading Robert A. Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Bob Moses and the Fall of New York, which, like all of Caro’s work, is exceptional. I’m perhaps about a quarter of the way through the book, but it’s also fascinating; a history of the New York parks and recreational facilities and the building of highways and parkways and roads so that New Yorkers could escape the city and enjoy the outside recreationally on the weekends. The power struggle over making Long Island more accessible to the city dwellers is deeply fascinating, as is watching how another idealistic young man slowly realizes that politics is more about reality and power than ideals, and learns to use politics and power to get what he wants–even if doing so might not be exactly legal. (This was my primary takeaway from Huey Long by Harry Williams.) I hope to read more of Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock with an eye to finishing it, over the course of the next few days and the weekend. Tremblay is becoming one of my favorite horror writers; I’ve certainly loved everything he’s written thus far, and would like to get some more horror read this month before Halloween and we move into the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holiday cycle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow after the procedure. (Depending on how it goes and how drugged I am and how quickly the drugs wear off.)

Two To Make It Right

Thursday morning and I am slurping coffee and trying to get awake and ready for an exciting day of data entry and condom packing. I’ve not been terribly successful with my goal of cleaning out my inbox; I am going to try to work on that today after I finish working, after I go to the gym, and after I get today’s writing done.

I’ve identified a problem–a pattern, if you will–with my writing. I will get to a point in a short story where I am kind of stuck, and whereas what I do with a novel (write my way out of it) I won’t do that with the story, instead agonizing over it for a bit before consigning it to the oh well I’ll finish this later at some point folder. This is defeating, and why, ultimately, I have so many unfinished stories languishing around in my files. So, I am determined to solider on with the one I am currently working on, “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and try to get it finished. I am also determined to revise chapter one of Chlorine this weekend, and hopefully get into my next novella–either “Never Kiss a Stranger” or “A Holler Full of Kudzu”–and also get the Lost Apartment back under control at some point.

It’s amazing how little time it takes yet how easy it is for this place to look like a disaster area in need of FEMA assistance.

I also want to get back to reading–oh, how the books pile up!–and maybe it’s something I should do before I go to bed every night. I had tried for a brief while–after that less screen time before going to bed will help you sleep better thing circulated a few years ago–to read before bed every night; I have a non-fiction book on my nightstand that is now coated in dust that I would love to get back to reading–but it also wouldn’t hurt to do some fiction reading downstairs before I go up to bed, risking the getting caught up in the book and not wanting to put it down thing, which all too often happens to me with reading fiction. I am still greatly enjoying Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, by the way; Caro is an exceptional biographer. I also love how he weaves historical context into his biographies–I’ve only read the first volume of the Johnson biographies, and his description for how hard life was for poor rural women has never stopping haunting my mind–and always am blown away. I’ve never read the two biggest biographies of this century–Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or McCullough’s John Adams, which I need to remedy–but then again my non-fiction reading (outside of necessary research for writing) has been woefully overshadowed this century by my fiction reading.

I also received copies of the MWA anthologies Deadly Anniversaries (edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini) and When a Stranger Comes to Town (edited by Michael Koryta), which reminded me of how much I’ve been languishing on the Short Story Project–while continuing to buy anthologies or single-author collections, which are also piling up around me. I also have a lot of short stories to read for my Bouchercon panel in August; I am on, of all things, a short story panel; which kind of caught me off-guard because I don’t consider myself a master of the form–or even half-way decent at it. But I have published quite a few of them, and my goal is to publish more (which means writing more of them) and I figure with the terrific panelists, maybe I can pick up a thing or two from some of them.

We started watching another Spanish language show last night, High Seas (Alta Mar in Spanish), which is a murder mystery set on a luxury liner sometime in the 1940’s, traveling from Spain to Rio de Janeiro. It’s gorgeously shot, the period costumes and decor are first rate, as is the acting. We’re on episode 4 now; there have already been two murders and some mysterious shenanigans, including a fire, and yes, we are completely sucked into it. (We’re taking The Underground Railroad slowly, because it’s not really something to be binged, since it raises so many philosophical and societal questions; you kind of need to absorb each episode. It’s really one of the most literate series I’ve ever watched, in part because the visuals are so incredible and poetic; I think it’s one that needs to be rewatched as well because it’s almost too cerebral–yet compelling–to absorb all at once for someone of such diminished intellectual capabilities as me–it’s also making me want to revisit the novel)

And on that note, I am heading into today’s spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you later.

Slow Hand

I slept very strangely last night–for the first time in a very long time I had what I call “stress dreams”; they’re really not quite nightmares, in that they aren’t scary, but rather me dreaming about something that causes me stress. It’s been years since I’ve had one of these–I guess you could say that the ‘test I didn’t study for’ or ‘went to class naked’ fall into that category; I’ve never had either of those–but this was one in which I was going to have to go on stage and perform for something to do with work; but for some reason I needed to have a cricket and as the time for me to go on stage drew nearer, the cricket I was given got away and I couldn’t find it; finally had to go outside and try to catch a new, untrained (it was a dream; of course none of it made the slightest bit of sense) and of course, for some reason my parents were in the audience and I couldn’t find a cricket. I woke up around six and thought, do I want to go back to sleep and into that dream again? But I closed my eyes again, figuring the dream was interrupted, but no–back into this weird dream where I had to have a cricket and go on stage and perform in something vaguely Dickensian.

At seven thirty I woke up again and thought, fuck it, I’d rather be tired than go back into that dream. So I got up and came downstairs to make coffee. And here I am.

I bit the bullet and bought a more expensive (and dependable) vacuum cleaner yesterday–the same model we bought like nine years ago that I didn’t really maintain properly but still managed to work well for nearly seven years; I am going to maintain this one properly–I read the manual, believe it or not–and so part of my day today will include working on the floors. I’m also going to make watermelon gazpacho–I may have to run to the grocery because I need both lemon and lime juice, and I also want to get a bag of ice so I can make a proper dirty martini this evening–still working on getting the taste right–and I also want to work on my writing some as well as get to the gym. I also recognize this is a rather ambitious program for the day; there’s reading I need to get done as well–I really want to finish Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow, which I was enjoying before I got distracted from it; a great debut by a trans author (which we need more of, by the way), and I’m not really sure what distracted me from it, to be honest…but I’ve not really been doing much reading for a while–but I am enjoying Robert Caro’s The Power Broker.

I guess I should say I am not reading anything new to me, because that is more accurate. I think I mentioned yesterday that I got a lovely tweet from a reader about Mardi Gras Mambo the other night, and then I tried reading it again–I have the ebook on my iPad–but for some reason there was an issue I couldn’t resolve to get it open, and it kept freezing my Kindle app (don’t come for me, I also have iBooks and Kobo and generally try to buy ebooks through platforms that allow percentages to go to either non-profits or independent bookstores; and I also take advantage of deeply discounted sales and I especially love when the books are offered free); yesterday I deleted the app and redownloaded it and voila! Problem solved. I haven’t reread the book in a really long time–I’ve not reread any of the Scottys in a really long time–and as I was reading (skimming mostly) I was remembering things from the time I was writing the book: that the original idea was vastly different from the final iteration; I actually stopped writing it and then trashed everything I had written and started over; the second iteration was also significantly different from the final, and something else happened that kept me finishing; and when I finally went back to finish it I trashed the entire thing for yet a second time and started over completely. It took me–because of the stops and starts–much longer to write than anything else I’ve ever written (that was published); I remember often referring to the book as my own personal Vietnam (although now Afghanistan would be more indicative of endless quagmire) and–now that I think back on it–the inability to finish this book was why I started blogging in the first place. I needed to get back into the habit of writing every day, so I could kickstart my creativity and finish the damned book.

I digress.

But as I was rereading/reskimming, I was amazed at how fucking complicated the plot was, and how much juggling was required to not leave loose ends, to not contradict things that had happened, and I remember that last summer before Katrina (the book was turned in three weeks before that bitch came ashore) how much work I had to do on that manuscript; how I had to keep checking and double-checking to make sure it made sense and I had the right people in the right place and that it was possible for characters to move around the way they did; and how I wanted the pacing to be completely frenetic and crazy because it was taking place over that final weekend of Carnival, and how badly I didn’t want to the book to end the way it did. It was also during the writing that I discovered that the original way I’d planned the trilogy (once I knew it was going to be more than a standalone) couldn’t be completed in this volume and that the personal story–always intended to be resolved by book three–was going to have to roll over into a fourth book….which I eventually (thanks to Katrina) began to think would never happen. I hated leaving it as a trilogy…but how do you write a funny book set in New Orleans after Katrina? I couldn’t think of any way to do it, and when I finally did start Vieux CarrĂ© Voodoo, I just jumped ahead a few years. (Although now I am thinking I can go back and do that very thing; maybe I could do a couple of post-Katrina Scottys, to give me some breathing space away from the pandemic and go back to him being younger?) It also made me realize, again, that a lot of the post-Katrina Scotty books I’ve done didn’t have very complex or complicated plots; they were always very straightforward and simple until Royal Street Reveillon. I have several ideas of what to do next with Scotty, and rereading/reskimming Mardi Gras Mambo made me realize–instead of deciding which plot to do next, why not do them all in one? Why NOT write another complicated, complex, all over the map plot with subplots galore? It’ll be hard work, of course, but why am I shying away from hard work?

I’ve also been researching more about folk tales and legends of Louisiana; I saw that someone is doing a graphic novel built around one of them–the Grunch–and as I started digging around into that particular myth/legend, a Grunch story started forming in my mind, and I soon realized Monsters of Louisiana could happen very easily; again, it’s a matter of time to write and time to research.

I did manage, around groceries and getting the mail and trying to get organized and relaxed and everything, to put about another 1200 words into “Festival of the Redeemer.” I also remembered that I had made, years ago, a Pinterest board for Venice, and so I visited it yesterday to look at the pictures to help me with a dream sequence I am writing into the story–I needed to see Venetian Carnival costumes, and oh, did my Pinterest board ever have some fantastic images pinned to it! I had completely forgotten that I’d made a Pinterest board when I was writing Timothy to help out, with images of the house I was basing Spindrift on, and images of rooms to use for descriptions, and so forth…and as I scrolled through these amazing images on my Venice board, I kept thinking to myself, why the fuck don’t you use this website for images for works in progress? This would have come so in handy for the two you’ve just turned in, you fucking moron.

And seriously, it really is a wonder I have a career anymore. I have all these wonderful tools at my disposal to make it easier to write things and then never use them.

And on that note, this floor isn’t going to vacuum itself. Catch you tomorrow, Constant Reader.