You’ve Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party

Good morning, Thursday, how it’s hanging?

It was bitterly cold in New Orleans yesterday, and of course our heater isn’t working. This tends to happen at least once a winter, and usually the first time we need to turn it on; I think the pilot light goes out? Anyway, the handyman guys should be coming by at some point to see what’s going on.

In the meantime, we shall suffer in silence.

Colder weather means deeper and more restful sleep; it also means not wanting to get out from the warmth of the bed in the morning. But I managed to drag myself out this morning, and the space heater is going next to my desk, and I feel fine–although I need to find my stocking cap.

I just finished paying the bills and, oh how I hate doing that, watching my bank balance drain and all of that, you know. Heavy heaving sigh.

We finished watching Catherine the Great last night, which was extremely well done, and of course Helen Mirren was spectacular in the role. One of the things about the show–and one of the most fascinating aspects of Catherine–was the fact that, as her son Paul kept mentioning, she had absolutely no right to the Russian throne. She wasn’t a Romanov–hell, even her husband wasn’t a Romanov; he was a Romanov only through his mother–and she staged a coup that overthrew him; he was later murdered. At first she was only theoretically a regent for her son; when he came of age she abandoned that pretense and refused to let go of power. She also was a great ruler, if oppressive; she made Russia a great power, and it was her grandson Alexander who toppled Napoleon, and as such, she is worthy of study. Russia today would not be what it is without Catherine, the minor German princess born into poverty who made a great marriage, educated herself, and played a long game when it came to seizing and maintaining power. Her son passed a law forbidding women to rule, so she was the last woman to rule Russia…despite the fact that the vast majority of Russian rules in the eighteenth century were women (Catherine I, Anna, the Regent Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II–it’s also worthy to note that Catherine I was also only a Romanov by marriage; she was a peasant who became the mistress of Peter I, who eventually married her and left her his throne).

Catherine, like all women who gained and maintained power in the past, has had her reputation vilified and her sexuality criminalized and stigmatized in the years since she died–it even went on while she was alive of course; her voracious sexual appetite and the hideously misogynistic rumor about the horse, which has come down through the centuries and is often quoted as an absolute fact. Other powerful women throughout history were vilified as sexually promiscuous; while Catherine never hid her passions and her love affairs, they weren’t as extreme as the rumors spread by her enemies made them seem. Eleanor of Aquitaine was also painted as a woman of loose morals, which may or may not have been true when she was young; after she married her second husband there was never any question about her fidelity; England’s Elizabeth I was also painted in sexually unflattering lights by her enemies, but her successes, and being queen of England, countered those rumors coming down through time as fact. Marie Antoinette was also accused of being a whore…sexuality has traditionally been used as a way to vilify and demean women, and despite societal changes, still is today.

I admire Catherine the Great for many reasons, but she was also a tyrant–and her concern for the poor and the serfs really came to nothing in the end.

The writing is still tragically stalled; I am hoping to kick start it into gear today. When I got home yesterday from the office and the grocery store, I was a bit frazzled and worn down; so I chose to sit in my easy chair and make notes in my journal and relax with some wine. I consider this, quite frankly, to be a viable use of my creative time. Prep work is important for writing; it’s much more difficult to write something you’ve not put any thought into. I am looking forward this week to get my contributor’s copy of Dark Yonder, which contains my story “Moist Money,” and I also got the cover art/contract for The Faking of the President, which contains my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision.” I have two more stories out on submission; one which I hopefully know about by the end of the year, the other I’ll find out about sometime in the spring. Both, I think, are good stories, but I think I have–see? the time spend in my easy chair is often helpful and productive in the long run–figured out why I have so much trouble with short stories, and how I can correct that problem in the future, making the writing of them that much easier.

Well, we’ll see.

And since I am falling way behind again on everything, I am going to have to recalibrate my schedule to determine what I can–if I actually stick to the plan and do some work–get done by the end of the year.

And on that note, tis best for me to head back into the spice mines.

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The Cisco Kid

Good morning, Monday.

I woke up to a major thunderstorm; in fact, my alarm went off at the same time as some lightning flashed and the entire house shook with the thunder. I’m not too keen on the idea of getting soaked going to the car, and from the car to the office, but as long as the streets aren’t flooding I imagine I’ll be relatively okay. (Note to self: put fresh socks in backpack, just in case. There’s nothing worse than wet feet at work)

I manage to not only finish Chapter Twenty-one yesterday, but I also did some work on “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which was also lovely. I only have another four to go to finish this draft, which is ugly, messy and sloppy, but I think the revision will most likely go very quickly. I know there are things that are going to need to be added–and the writing has to definitely be fixed, corrected, and polished–but I am feeling very good about the state of the manuscript. I doubt I’ll be writing a chapter a day this week, but at the same time, I feel fairly confident that it’ll be finished relatively soon, and I can dive back into the Kansas book, possibly with an eye towards getting it finished by the end of September. I am also taking a long weekend for my birthday in August–and of course there’s also the long holiday weekend for Labor Day as well.

I also organized yesterday, putting away files that I’m not going to need access to for quite some time (if at all), as well as closing out other files. This is long overdue, and now my office space isn’t cluttered with files anymore.

I almost finished off The Romanovs yesterday; all that’s left is the final chapter, which clearly covers Alexander III and Nicholas II–and I’m no rush to watch the slaughter of the Romanovs again, having just seen it in The Last Czars. I do have a better grasp of Romanov history now–the lesser known Romanovs–which was all that I wanted from watching this show. After that, I made dinner and Paul and I settled in to watch HBO’s Years and Years, which is extraordinary, and terrifying. Set in the not-too-distant future, the story follows a family as it flashes forward from the present to the near future, and is actually quite adept at showing how easily civilization as we currently know it could collapse. It’s so horrifyingly realistic, and that’s what makes it so utterly engaging and terrifying at the same time. It’s set in England, and over the course of the first two episodes we see how the United States gets involved in a hideous confrontation with China that ends with a nuclear weapon being launched; the international outrage isolates the United States, international sanctions simply make the Americans double down, and the slow but steady fallout from this is wrecking the UK economy., and we see how that affects one family: a grandmother, two brothers, and two sisters, and their family. Russell Tovey, an out actor I’ve loved since the UK version of Being Human, is playing gay in this; we see his first relationship fail and him getting involved with a Ukrainian refugee. It’s really quite stellar, although I’ve heard the end of the first season is a bit disappointing.

The storm seems to have calmed for now, which is lovely–although it’s probably just getting ready to cut loose when it’s time for me to leave. (I just checked my phone for alerts and yes, we are in a flash flood warning until 8:15; I get to leave for the office at 7:30. Yay?)

All right, I’m going to start dealing with my day. Sigh, hello emails.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)

Sunday morning. I slept late again–it took me a while to fall asleep last night, but I finally did and slept like the dead, which was lovely.

I finished reading Steph Cha’s exceptional Your House Will Pay yesterday; I reviewed it in a different entry, but will re-emphasize that you should preorder it right now again. I really loved it; I love the way Cha writes, and I also look forward to getting back to her Juniper Song series. There are some extraordinary novels being published in the crime fiction community this year; I myself have read some pretty amazing books this year, and can’t wait to dive into my next one, S. A. Cosby’s My Darkest Prayer.

I also woke to the news this morning that the anthology I was talking about yesterday, the one to which I’d contributed my original story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” to, will be released this October, which is kind of exciting. The cover was designed by Joe Phillips, one of my favorite gay artists (check out right here on his website; the art on my walls in my old office on Frenchmen Street were his calendar illustrations; gorgeous works of art). The title of the anthology is Pink Triangle Rhapsody, and it’s all genre work by gay writers. I’m kind of looking forward to reading the whole thing, to be honest.

I managed to get some things done yesterday, around reading the Cha novel. I cleaned, I ran errands, and I organized; I also made some notes for things I am writing, and then last evening–Paul went out with a friend–I fell into an Amazon Prime docu-series about The Romanovs, actually Russian produced with English subtitles. It was interesting, but now that we’ve reached Catherine the Great I no longer need to continue watching. I’ve read enough about Catherine that I don’t need to watch a documentary about her; and the Romanovs who came after her aren’t particularly interesting other than Alexander I, and he’s only interesting because of 1) Napoleon and 2) he never seemed to have any real interest in women. As this is a Russian production, I imagine the chapter on Alexander I will focus on Napoleon rather than his private life. So, no need for me to continue. The nineteenth century Romanovs aren’t that interesting, and I’ve read and watched enough about Nicholas and Alexandra to last me a lifetime; although I would be curious to see how they handle the last of the Romanovs, to get an idea of how Russians see them now. But again, their sad tale of hemophiliac son, deep abiding love and passion, and Rasputin that ends in a massacre in a basement in Ekaterinburg I know well enough already.

Today I plan on writing, believe it or not; I am going to dive into Chapter 21 headfirst and see what shakes out. I also am going to try to reread the first twenty chapters as well to update the detailed outline I am doing as I go, which will help me restructure the novel when it’s time to go over it a second time and revise the hell out of it. I also want to work on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit, perhaps even as a warm-up; deciding that it’s going to be a novella rather than a short story was a good first start on getting it finished. (I am, in fact, still reeling from yesterday’s realization of just how many books, stories, and essays I am currently in the midst of writing) I also need to work on a project today, and there’s definitely some organizing (isn’t there always?) that needs doing. I also need to clean out my email inbox. Heavy heaving sigh, isn’t that always the way?

I’m also still thinking about Steph Cha’s novel, and how good it actually is. One of the things I meant to talk about in my entry about her novel is how it’s about every day people, rather than exceptional ones. Her characters aren’t cops, aren’t professional investigators; just people like you and me and your friends and neighbors, who sadly get wrapped up into a horrible crime and trauma, and how they deal with it. Such a good book, really.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the day, Constant Reader. Hope your Sunday is a lovely and peaceful and relaxing one; I hope mine will be as well as a productive one as well. We shall see, shall we not?

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Right Place Wrong Time

Well, I survived Monday’s return to the office–and there wasn’t a body count.

It is, however, still early in the week.

Yesterday’s heat was simply insane. The heat index was about 115, I think, and it felt every one of those degrees every time I had to go outside. It was 95 last night when I drove home from work at eight o’clock, which is also just completely insane.

I did a little bit of writing yesterday, not much, trying to get going on the WIP again. I’m a little bit at sea with the WIP right now; not touching it over the course of my vacation wasn’t exactly much of a help, and the heat and everything  yesterday, as well as adjusting to getting back to the office, kind of made that a bit on the difficult side. I will, of course, try again tonight.

Paul also got home really late last night, so Scooter and I are no longer on our own here in the Lost Apartment anymore. I’m glad he’s home–he’s always gone just long enough for me to get over the “home alone” thing; I enjoy the solitude at first, and then it gets a bit lonely by the end of his trip. And now we can get caught up on everything we’re watching, which is also another one of those win-win things. Huzzah!

I’ve been watching Netflix’ The Last Czars, which I am enjoying–it’s very well done, and the actors cast playing Nicholas and Alexandra are perfectly cast; but it’s a little bit different watching a show about doomed royalty than it used to be. There’s been a kind of tectonic shift in my mind and my way of thinking, and while the story of the last Romanovs is certainly tragic on a human scale, on a national scale I don’t really have that much sympathy for them as I might have in the past. He was an ineffectual ruler, and they were both religious bigots; they actually believed they had a divine mission from God to be autocrats and sole authority in Russia; and therefore they were always in the right–as their people starved and his bad decisions and policies brought the country to the brink of ruin, while they lived and dined in luxury and spent, spent, spent. It’s really not hard to think they sort of deserved the basement in Ekaterinburg–and the way history is taught, I’ve come to realize, with its emphasis on royalty and nobility with no interest on the lives of the people whose bodies, taxes, and lives were exploited by the ruling class–all with the blessings of their religion–isn’t necessarily the right way to teach history. I’m not saying the lives of the rulers aren’t important to the histories, just that the emphasis on them is misplaced. History should be taught as the history of the people, and the development of law and modern government–which the people have had to fight for, every step of the way…one thing I’m enjoying about this show–an odd combination of documentary, reenactment, and actual footage from the time–is that it doesn’t shy away from the crimes or the arrogance of the Romanovs, especially when it comes to their people. There’s one particularly brilliant scene where Alexandra scolds Nicholas for even considering giving in and creating a duma (the Russian version of parliament), while the nation is on the brink of revolution. “They’ll want more,” she scoffs, convinced of their divine right to power, “they’ll always want more, and then what?” She wasn’t wrong about that, but she was most definitely wrong about their divine right, and she was almost always wrong about the people.

I have agreed to write a forward to a new edition of an almost forgotten gay classic back from the plague years; the book was published posthumously after the author died from AIDS in the early 1990’s. The author, Jay B. Laws, had only managed to write two gay horror novels before died; the first, Steam, is better known than the second, and is one of my favorite horror novels as well as one of my favorite gay novels. I had read the second, The Unfinished, years ago but it’s quite odd; I don’t remember anything about it, so rereading it is like reading it for the first time. It’s quite good, and I don’t think I’ll have any trouble writing the forward–and I am also glad this has kind of forced me into rereading the book, which is practically like a new book to me. And, as a gay novel, it fits into the Diversity Project quite nicely.

There’s a low-pressure zone drifting from mid-Georgia into the Gulf, which will most likely turn into either a tropical depression or a tropical storm; forecast to dump a shit ton of rain on wherever it comes to shore, either Thursday or Friday, possibly this entire weekend. Hurray. The water in the Gulf is also ridiculously warm–89 degrees off the coast of Louisiana, near the mouth of the river and New Orleans–which isn’t really going to help matters much. (This heat wave has me already dreading my next power bill.)

Oh, yes, I also spent some time rereading the opening chapters of the Kansas book, which I’d started revising one last time last summer before being pulled away into other projects, and it’s in much better shape than I had remembered–I was still marking up the pages with a highlighter and my pen–but it also has me thinking that perhaps this final rewrite isn’t going to be nearly as painful as I first thought, or had been thinking since I got pulled away from it to work on something else. Huzzah!

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

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