Vicious Circle

Ugh, Monday morning. I slept really well again last night–woke up before the alarm, in fact–and feel relatively well rested, if not completely mentally awake yet. I am sort of feeling like myself again; like my batteries have finally recharged, even if it meant putting some things off for a few days and just allowing myself to relax completely. The Lost Apartment is all pulled back together again; I’ve made some terrific progress with my writing, and my creativity is firing on almost all of its cylinders again, which is more than I ever thought would happen for me again. I finished reading The Russia House yesterday–it’s quite good, if unexciting; the writing itself is so marvelous the coldness of the story itself doesn’t matter, really–and we started watching season two of Very Scary People, getting through the Son of Sam and Night Stalker cases, and then part one of the Coed Killer (honest takeaway from this series: California sure has a lot of mass murderers and serial killers/rapists) before retiring for the evening. I also started reading Jack Olsen’s The Man with the Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders (interesting title, because the term “serial killer” hadn’t really been coined yet), which is extremely well written, and also paints an interesting picture of Houston; coupled with Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money–I’ve always wanted to write about Houston. I lived there for two years, and then six months again a few years later, and it’s an interesting, complicated city that no crime writer, at least that I am aware of, has set a crime series in, or written a crime novel set there….which is something I find interesting. I think it’s also true of Dallas.

Interesting trivia Greg fact: the Chanse series was originally set in Houston, and the first book was called The Body in the Bayou. I later, when I started writing it seriously (and got beyond two chapters) I moved the series to New Orleans and the story evolved into Murder in the Rue Dauphine, which is the real reason why Chanse was from Texas: he was originally supposed to have lived in Houston, playing for the (at the time) Oilers after attending Texas A&M before getting injured and becoming a private eye. (In the published series, Chanse went to LSU instead of A&M, and was injured in his final college game, which kept him from playing in the pros.)

I still think someone should write a cop or private eye series set in Houston. As wild and crazy as these true crime books set there make Houston seem, I doubt very seriously that the city isn’t wild and crazy still. I remember going to see the stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) there, the very first time it was publicly performed (little known Greg fact), and the audience was interesting….I loved the guys in their formal jackets, ties, Wranglers and boots escorting women in evening gowns and furs and dripping with diamonds ( needless to say, I was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt, but I spent the intermissions and the pre-performance time in the lobby literally just staring at the fascinating fashion choices for Houston’s moneyed class).

Oddly enough, there were not many children there; considering it was the stage production of a Disney animated film, you’d think there would be more kids there…but it was a world premiere, and more about Houston’s higher class showing off jewels, furs, and gowns more than anything else.

I also had fun brainstorming the background work for Chlorine over the weekend; naming characters and loosely sketching out bios for them, as well as trying to figure out how to pull off the plot and how to make it work. This is the really fun part of a book–figuring out everything–before the drudgery of actually writing it starts. I am very excited about writing this book, though, and it’s been a hot minute since I was excited about writing a book–in fact, so long that I can’t remember the last time I was actually excited to write a book–it may have been Lake Thirteen, all those years ago–which is different than being happy to write a book. I also have to be careful not to worry about expectations of other people, too–Chlorine began its life as just a vague idea I had one morning while writing my blog, which somehow caught on with some of my friends on Twitter who started tweeting at me (some of them still, periodically, will bring up Chlorine on social media, wondering where it is and when I am going to write it), excited about the idea.

I also spent some time yesterday coming up with a to-do list, which I always enjoy doing when I’m not stressed and worn out. When I am stressed and worn out (hello, first three months of this year), to-do lists simply make things worse more than anything else; emphasizing how far behind I am and how much I have to get done and sometimes–not always, just sometimes–the to-do list defeats me once it’s written. Just looking at it causes me stress. I’m not sure how long I am going to be able to hold off stress at the moment–it’s always just lurking there, in my peripheral vision, waiting to pounce on my like a tiger and hold me down–but I am hoping that having the apartment back together and having the two deadlines in my rearview mirror will help stave off it’s inevitable return for a little while, at least.

Tonight I am planning–we’ll see how that goes–to return to the gym for the first time in a couple of weeks, which means basically starting over with one set of everything, which means I won’t be there for terribly long, which for a Monday night is a good thing, most likely. Here’s hoping this will also help me fall asleep tonight; insomnia so frequently derails me. The office is also on track to going back to full staffing and regular open hours, possibly as early as May; I am curious to see how that winds up going. I’ve gotten used to the tumbleweeds blowing through our mostly empty department, and it will seem weird having other people around when they actually starts to happen.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, all, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Touched by the Hand of God

Sunday morning, and I am swilling coffee and eating coffee cake and trying to wake up. I slept very well again last night, and am starting to feel more…normal, whatever that means for me, since I am anything but normal. I have things to get done today, but the apartment is starting to feel like home again for the first time in a while (since everything went haywire week before last). The laundry room is mostly reassembled, and the book shelves in there look neat and tidy and organized, which rather pleases me. The living room is….well, the living room. I am always going to have too many books in my house (even typing that a voice inside my head was shrieking you can never have too many books what are you talking about?); but I am developing a certain heartlessness as I continue to fill boxes with books for the library sale. At some point, I am going to have to start going through the boxes of books on top of the kitchen cabinets and the ones in the storage attic, and my goal is to have cleaned out not only the attic but the storage unit I’ve rented for far too long.

We finished the first season of Very Scary People on HBO last night, concluding with the two-parter on Jim Jones (we skipped Gacy–have seen enough of him lately already–and Aileen Wuornos, because we watched one on her already recently) and will be moving on to season two probably this evening. I am way behind on Superman and Lois–mainly because it’s something I started watching without Paul and so, rather than trying to get him caught up, I am just going to continue watching without him (I always, inevitably, have to fill him in on super-hero backstory and so forth anyway in most cases, though I think he knows enough Superman lore–doesn’t everyone, really–that he wouldn’t need explanations in this case).

I’ve started–sort of–working on Chlorine this weekend, mostly free hand and mostly in my journal, mapping out backstory and so forth for the main character, and I’ve also started working on the backstory for the body in the surf, and the plot–which was kind of amorphously planned in my head, but yesterday I started nailing down specifics in the plot. It’s going to be kind of fun to write, I think–I always think that going into a manuscript; ever the optimist–and while it’s very tempting to use real people as characters, I think I will make the ones who actually are on the page and participating in the story fictional, but mention others–Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, etc.–in passing. I know the studio is going to be fictional–tempted as I am to use Fox or MGM–and I also know I need to sprinkle in some of the conservatism that reigned then, as everyone was afraid of Communists and having to testify in front of HUAC in Washington; it was the time of ‘the lavender scare” (also the title of a terrific history of the period and this very thing, by David Johnson; I highly recommend it) and so homosexuality was also driven even further underground because we were seen as security risks, particularly if we worked in government since it put us at risk for blackmail by Communists (I touched on this briefly in my story “The Weight of a Feather”, collected in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories).

I also worked on getting organized yesterday. I did a lot of filing, and took a lot of books off my desk and replaced them with ones I’ll be using for research and background for this book. I kind of feel like I already know my main character (even though I couldn’t remember his name yesterday as I wrote notes in my journal); he grew up in Kansas, was caught by his father in a “compromising position” with his high school basketball coach in the tiny little town he grew up in and was forced to enter the military at age 17–going into the Navy and serving in the South Pacific, where he found other men like himself, and thus became familiar with the underground gay community within the military, as well as in Honolulu and Los Angeles (on leaves). After mustering out in 1946 he comes to LA to become a movie star, is discovered by a Henry Willson type agent, and at the start of the story his seven year control with Pacific Pictures is coming to an end, they aren’t going to renew his contract, and he is in fact being sacrificed to a tabloid in order to protect another client, a rising star the tabloid was going to out–loosely based on how Henry Willson sold out Rory Calhoun and Tab Hunter to Confidential to save Rock Hudson; but unlike them, my character’s agent has a plan for him: a long-term contract to work with an Italian film company making sword-and-sandal epics.

It’s a great set-up, and one that I hope to not let down…right now I am feeling confident that I can write this and it will be amazing; of course, once I start the doubts and imposter syndrome will start creeping in and I will spend most of my time wondering what the hell I was thinking to try to write such a thing in the first place.

I couldn’t have picked a better career path for a neurotic, could I?

I also lined up all the potential short story calls I am interested in submitting to, matched them up with an in-progress story that fits their call (or at least what does in my mind; I am really not that great a judge of these things, in all honesty) and need to plan out when to reread and when to rewrite. It’s very strange; now that I am coming out of the exhaustion from the writing of the two books back to back I am amazed at how light I feel; I don’t feel that oppressive burden nor the stress that comes from carrying it. I know both manuscripts need work and I need to revise and rework and edit one last time with each, and there’s a deadline for the first for sure–but I am going to put that off until next weekend, when I have the time to sit and go through Bury Me in Shadows from beginning to end, making notes, making corrections, and so on and so forth to get it polished into a diamond…or as close to one as I can get one of my books.

So, I am going to spend the rest of this morning swilling coffee and trying to finish reading The Russia House. I love LeCarré; he is such a terrific writer I can get lost in his sentences and paragraphs forever–but I find myself not loving the plot or the characters in this one, which is why it’s taking me so long to get through this one, I think. He also does an excellent job of taking me back into that 1980’s world/mentality of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union–that halcyon time when the fear of nuclear annihilation began to fade somewhat but at the same time the worry of what would fill the vacuum created by that collapse was almost nearly as intense (it didn’t take long for conservatives to replace Communists with Muslims as the scary other from another part of the world determined to destroy us); not to mention the wondering if glasnost and perestroika weren’t real or sincerely meant; LeCarré does an absolutely amazing job with that cold intelligence paranoia.

And then, for something similar yet completely different, I am going to reread Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I also would like to get back to the gym today; it looks absolutely lovely outside, and the walk will be lovely.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Sunday!

I Told You So

Finally, a good night’s sleep last night, and I feel rested finally–physically, emotionally, and intellectually–for the first time this week. I didn’t sleep through the night–I was awakened just before four this morning by a simply marvelous thunderstorm; lightning so close it was simply a white flash and then thunder claps that seemed to go on forever as the rain came down torrentially; the emergency notification alerts also came through on both of our phones at the same time. I didn’t get out of bed–I assumed it was a flash flood warning, given the strength of the downpour–but upon rising this morning you can imagine my shock to check my phone to see that it was a tornado warning “for this area”. However, in checking just now I don’t see any tornado reports for the area, but we were in a flash flood warning for four hours (it actually ends in about fifteen minutes–but it’s clear outside). The storms dropped three to five inches of rain a couple of hours–which means at some point I should go make sure the car didn’t get water inside.

But there really isn’t anything like being in bed, warm and comfortable under the blankets, while it’s pouring down rain outside.

I am working at home today, and I have to also get the apartment ready for the delivery of my new washing machine at some point tomorrow. I think I am going to have to take the saloon doors off the laundry room–that’s not going to be much fun–and I am also going to take the bottom shelf down from above where the washer and dryer sit for maneuverability purposes, as well as getting some other things out of the way to make it as easy as possible for the delivery guys. It’s going to be lovely, frankly, having a washing machine again–there’s a load of clothes that needs to be washed, and I also want to do the bed linens, since I couldn’t last week–and hopefully, that will do away with this weird, slightly off way I’ve been feeling since the washer broke last Wednesday night and flooded the laundry room and kitchen.

I think I’ve also been feeling more than a little off-center (off-kilter, off my game, whatever) because I was already not centered as I went into the big (and exhausting) push last weekend to get the book finished and turned in. Finishing a book is always an enormous relief, but that final push to get it done is always, inevitably, exhausting on every level–and then having to get up early for work (or to take Paul to Touro) just wore me down. Insomnia also bedeviled me almost every night this week (until last night, thank the Lord), so finally getting rested last night was most essential and very important. Paul got home late as well, so I sat in my easy chair for most of the evening going down Youtube video wormholes because I was really too tired to be able to focus on reading…although I am hoping to get back to The Russia House after I complete my work-at-home duties today as well as get everything moved around that needs to be moved around preparatory to tomorrow’s washer delivery.

And now I’ve got serial killers on the brain. A friend tipped me off to a series on HBO MAX, Very Scary People, which takes on serial rapists, mass murderers (yes, there’s two episodes about the Manson family) and serial killers. There’s a new book idea formulating in my head–when isn’t there, really?–and I’ve been making notes and so forth this past week, as well as looking up more information about Dean Corll on-line…plus I’ve been trying to remember the early 1970’s and life in suburban Chicago, which is where and when the book will be set. I know, I know, I’m going to write Chlorine next–when my creative batteries have completely recharged and reset–and I also have some submission calls I want to submit short stories to. I wanted to spend this week doing just that–writing/revising/editing short stories–but I just haven’t had the bandwidth to focus and look at the calls (and the in-progress stories I want to write for them) to figure out when things would be due and how much work would need to be done, etc. But I think it’s okay for me to take a week to let my brain recalibrate.

AH, so much to do and as always, the clock is ticking.

I’ve also started reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram. Everything I’ve read of Tuchman’s has become a favorite (A Distant Mirror may be the best history I’ve ever read), and while I have yet to get through her entire canon (The Guns of August is still in my TBR pile), I thought it would be interesting to read this tale of the inflammatory telegram that was primarily responsible for the United States entering the first World War. (I’ve also become very interested–primarily through the writing of my Sherlock Holmes story–in the historical period from, say, 1910-1930, particularly in New Orleans. I would love to write more Holmes pastiches, but am not entirely sure there’s a market for them; I do have one on deck right now–one of the afore-mentioned short stories in progress; I am trying to decide if writing a Holmes pastiche for the submission call would be a smart thing to do, or whether I should just write the story and leave Holmes out of it entirely.) This creative ADHD thing really does suck sometimes…but I am going to actually not berate myself for my brain being all over the map this week because–well, damn it, I just wrote two books totally approximately 195,000 words in total over the course of about five months, give or take. My brain should be fried.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. I need to get some things done before I start working for the day. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Your Silent Face

Hello, Thursday, how’s it hangin’?

Yesterday was kind of strange, really. In the morning I had issues with my espresso machine–no worries, I ordered a new one–but since the problem was the water was turning to steam rather than coming through the ground beans, I think the smaller amount of actual coffee produced had a much higher octane than I am used to having in the morning. Since the second cup–which is usually the cappuccino I sip off the rest of the morning at work–was also somewhat smaller than usual, I made a small cup of regular coffee with the Keurig to add to it so I would have enough for the morning.

It was about nine, I think, when I realized I had made a horrible mistake with the caffeine dosages and was essentially bouncing off the walls, over-caffeinated, with the whole eyes burning thing that usually means I am really tired and have had too much caffeine to compensate, and yeah. I was too jittery to do much of anything, and I was talking a mile-a-minute with my clients All. Damned. Day. And of course, on my way home, I had the inevitable caffeine crash…I had intended to go to the gym, but it was also supposed to rain. When I got home, I decided to do a load of laundry, and while that was going, I’d work on some emails, possibly the book, and if it hadn’t started raining by six when I switched the laundry from washer to dryer, I would then head to the gym. As I sat here, being constantly pestered by Scooter (and frankly, being annoyed) I heard water running–loudly; so loud it couldn’t be the washer, so I thought, ah, it’s raining, so the gym is out. But it kept get louder, and finally I looked out the window and realized, to my horror, that it was not, in fact, raining….so I spun around in may chair and saw that not only was the laundry room floor under water, it was spreading into the rugs into the kitchen. I immediately ran (splashed) into the laundry room, lifted the lid to the washer….and there was no water in it, and the sound of running water, naturally, stopped when I lifted the lid. I dragged the sopping wet rugs outside and draped them over the fence to dry, and then gathered up all the towels from inside the washer–oh yes, I was doing a load of towels–and they weren’t enough. I had to get all the towels from the linen closet upstairs to mop up and dry the floor. (Dragging the sopping wet rugs outside had also resulted in pools of water being formed wherever the rugs had passed–so the living room floor, the steps outside–and so I had to keep mopping.)

And of course, not being the most emotionally stable person at the moment–the stress of the deadline, any number of other things, the sense that I am just treading water in the deep end of the pool and getting very very tired–led to an almost amazing storm of emotions, swinging back and forth from a horrific depression (why does everything always have to be so fucking hard? What’s the point of staying positive when life just keeps shoveling shit on top of you?) to almost out of control hysterics (how are we going to afford a new washer? What are we going to do without a washing machine? So from now on every week I’m going to have to drag everything to a laundromat? Because I have nothing else to do? Something else stealing my time away from me?). Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, and when finally the pendulum stopped swinging–I was wringing out the soaking towels in the bathroom sink before putting them in the dryer–an eerie calm had descended over me, and I just didn’t care about anything anymore. This was even more disquieting than the swinging pendulum, frankly–I was worried something in my brain had snapped and the not caring thing was kind of, well, scary. When Paul got home, completely exhausted–he’d stayed up all night Tuesday working on a grant and working on a special project–he was also in that “mind has kind of broken” place, and we commiserated about everything and came up with a workable plan. We’re going to see if we can get a washing machine from Costco–figuring it can’t be more expensive there than it would be anywhere else–and we needed, ironically, to buy new towels anyway (I’ve just been putting it off, worrying about spending money), so we are going to also get some new towels while we are there. The carriage house is still unrented, and I think there’s a washer/dryer in there, so we are going to ask our landlady if we can use the washing machine in there until our new one comes–or else I’ll just have to go spend some time at a laundromat-and yes, it will eat up some time in my day, but at the same time, I can do all the laundry all at once, and I can read The Russia House while I sit and wait.

The book isn’t quite finished yet, either, so I am going to tell them I am taking the weekend to finish and polish and will send it in on Monday. Writing this book, I realized, as well as the one before it, has also taken a deep emotional toll on me (part of the reason last night’s meltdown was so intense, frankly), as did the one I wrote right before it. Writing back to back books that came from deep inside personal experience as well as facing up to those personal experiences has been emotionally exhausting and draining, to say the least.

I slept very well–I did wake up a few times during the night–but feel rested, if drained, this morning. One of the reasons I always try to stave off the meltdowns and the pendulum swings is precisely because it’s exhausting, and today I have a kind of hangover from it. The apartment is still a mess–it was a HUGE mess before the flooding; after the calm descended last night I told myself you know, the only thing you can actually control is how messy this fucking apartment is, and so I set to work on getting everything put away and organized and under control again. I didn’t finish–after Paul and I talked and he went to bed, I went into the living room and sat down, flipped on the DVR and went to my happy place–watching LSU game highlights, like the last five minutes of last season’s Florida and Mississippi games, with those amazing comeback wins pulled off in the closing minutes of each game–before finally retiring to bed.

Today is insane and all over the map. We have to take Scooter into the vet this morning for a follow-up on his diabetes as well as his “senior cat” blood panels, and then I am going to run uptown and get the mail, drop off a library book, and at some point we’re going to swing by Costco. I have six hours of data entry to squeeze in today around all of that, and I also need to do some writing (obviously); so it’s going to be a bit of a hectic day with lots of running around and utter madness. The towels hadn’t dried completely in the dryer, so I am running them through another full cycle–they’re dirty, too, since I mopped up the floor with them; but I also didn’t want to have to carry a load of sopping wet towels anywhere, whether it’s to a laundromat or to the carriage house. I’ve checked the rugs–they are dry, so they can be brought in and put back into place–it’s going to be sunny all day, so I am also liking the idea of them being aired out, and while they are draped over the fence I want to beat them with the broom (makeshift rug beater), and I like the idea of them outside air drying and getting whatever smells may be in them swept away by the sun and the wind and so forth.

And on that note, let me get another cup of coffee and brace myself for the rest of the day and whatever fresh hells it has in store for me. I will let you know tomorrow how it all goes, Constant Reader.

Love Less

Wednesday, and pay-the-bills day yet again has rolled around. Heavy heaving sigh. But at least I can pay them, for which I should be–and am–grateful.

This morning a PDF proof of my Sherlock Holmes story dropped into my inbox for me to proof-read; this is very exciting for me, to be honest. The book is called The Only One in the World, and is from Clandestine Press in Australia–so not really sure if or how it will be available in the United States….but it’s still exciting for me. I am far enough distant from the writing of the story to not really remember much about it, so rereading it will be kind of like reading something new for me–also kind of exciting. The cover looks pretty cool, too.

I am getting so close to being finished with the book it isn’t even funny. I can almost taste it, I am so close…it’s due tomorrow, so by the time I go to bed tonight I should have a better idea as to whether I am going to get it finished tomorrow or not, or if I will need the long holiday weekend (thank you, Louisiana Catholics!). Last night I had every intention of going to the gym once I got home from the office, but I hit a wall on the drive home and so once I was home, it was to the easy chair with the laptop and the Taylor Swift Vimeo account for background noise. Paul came home later and had to work on a grant, so he went upstairs and I kept writing until I burned out and couldn’t stand the sound of my own written voice anymore and put it aside.

I felt like I slept really well again last night, but my espresso machine is giving up the ghost. I’m not sure what’s wrong with it–and let’s face it, I didn’t buy a top-of-the-line one and as cheap as it was, it’s a miracle it’s lasted as long as it did–so I am now in the market for a new one. I am going to obviously keep this one until I get the new one, and hope that whatever was wrong with it this morning was just me being tired and doing something stupid…but it is old–I bought it right after our trip to Italy (sigh, Italy) which was seven years ago. (Wow.) So, I think seven years worth of work from a relatively cheap espresso machine is probably pretty fucking great; when I bought it I figured it would last, at most, two years. I have a lot of work to do at home tomorrow…the endless hell of CDC data entry…but at least I can do it in my sweats without showering, and I can also do it in my easy chair with a purring sleeping kitty in my lap, which is really my favorite way of doing anything, really.

Although I wish I had thought to pick up The Russia House for a few more chapters, but my brain was kind of fried and frazzled. I am really looking forward to being finished (well, for now, at least) with writing this book. I do need to go through my folder of submission calls I am interested in to see if there’s anything I have on hand–either partially written or needing a revision–that will fit any of them. I know I was thinking about one for “Death and the Handmaidens,” and there was another for “The Blues Before Dawn” and yet still another one I remember thinking “He Didn’t Kill Her” would work for as well. I also need to look over “This Thing of Darkness” again and see if i can figure out how to make it work–I suspect in its current iteration it doesn’t, which is why its been rejected twice–and I really would like to finish “Please Die Soon” to send somewhere, maybe Ellery Queen.

Or Alfred Hitchcock. That’s a bucket list item I’ve yet to cross off my list.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow!

Too Late

Outside of the “getting up to an alarm” thing that is always a trial for me every morning, I think I feel rested and alert today–as opposed to yesterday’s Greggy Grogginess. This I hope is a good sign for today’s workday and the work to come tonight. I didn’t get as much work on the book done as I would have liked yesterday–I’m really going to have to dig deep today and try to get back on schedule–but the work I did get done last night was good work, and therefore I will take it. It was most pleasing to our eyes.

After I finished working on the book, I spent some more time with The Russia House, which is actually quite marvelous, and watched a documentary on the history of gay porn which was terribly interesting. I’ve talked quite a bit about Chlorine, and how I kind of want it to anchor a short quartet of gay noir historicals–the others being Obscenity, Indecency, and Muscles–that all sort of touch on the history of gay rights and the evolution of public opinion about queer people, by looking at the kind of crimes that had to be committed in order to be gay–whether publicly or secretly–back in the day. Muscles doesn’t really fit completely with the others–which deal with Hollywood, porn films, and public nudity, while Muscles is a bit different in that it doesn’t take on a big issue other than the former connection (and who knows how former it is?) between gay bars and the Mafia. I’ll watch the documentary again–I kind of found it by going down a wormhole the started with the discovery of the entire film of Song of the Loon on Youtube, and that’s a whole other story in and of itself.

Paul was home last night so I also got to make dinner, which was lovely; we’ve had so few opportunities to have dinner together over the last few months I’d forgotten how nice it is to have him be at home. He was working on a grant, so he spent most of the evening upstairs, but I suspect my boring evenings of going own Youtube wormholes after writing are going to be over for a while yet, and I do welcome this change. It’s also so weird that it’s almost April already. Last year seemed endless; this year is flying by already. That could also be because there were no deadlines really last year until the fall when I signed the contracts for the most recent two books–deadlines always make time seem to fly past. Tonight I am hoping to get to the gym after work, and then home to write for a while before piling into bed yet again and trying to get one more good sleep on the last night before having to wake up early for the week. They told us yesterday that we are gradually working our way to being back to fully operational again; it’s going to seem weird once we are, to be honest–I’ve gotten so used to there being no other people around for most of the time it’s going to be weird to have a building full of people again, not to mention a steady flow of clients into and out of the building. But there are worse problems to have, certainly! It just means I need to be flexible and adjust yet again.

I am so tired of having to adjust at this point, though…but what really is life but a rather lengthy series of readjustments to changing situations?

Whereas last week I was terribly stressed out by the impending deadline and everything else I had to do, this week I am eerily calm. I”m not sure if that means I think I have everything under control or my brain just snapped and I no longer care about the stress; whatever the root cause of the calm is I’ll happily take it over the stress and being on edge, ready to snap at any moment. I hate that stress, because it also comes with a couple of sides: imposter syndrome (which try to again rear its ugly head last night before being batted back down) and depression. It amazes me that despite being so deep into my career now that the day my fortieth novel is published is coming up–I think I’ll probably hit that milestone at some point in the next few years, but then again would have to sit down and actually count the books, and I always, invariably, forget some when I do that–but I probably should figure that out someday. And update my long out of date CV….but then again, why do I even need a CV at this point?

Heavy sigh. This is why nothing ever gets done around here.

And on that note, I am going to ride this energy wave and get some things done before I head to the office. Happy Tuesday, Constant Reader!

World in Motion

Ah, Sunday.

Last night I kept waking up, even though it felt like I was getting good rest, if that makes any sense. I finally got tired of trying to get some more sleep and went ahead and got up before eight–around quarter till, to be precise–because I have work to do and the deadline is ticking. I made some excellent progress yesterday, and have a lot more to do today. I am hoping to get the final chapters of the book completely refinished and rewritten today; so I can do mop up the rest of the week–and there will be lots of mopping up to do. This is maybe the ninth draft of the book since I wrote the first draft in 2015–but in complete fairness, all those revisions were of the first half of the book rather than the second; this is the third draft of the second half–I was struggling to find the right voice, to find the correct tense, and really, trying to figure out who my main character is or was. Most of this work has been, since I first wrote the first draft six years ago, scattered and disorganized and, in retrospect, primarily a case of me not trusting myself or my abilities and be intimidated by what I was writing about–with the occasional dose of imposter syndrome thrown in for good measure.

We watched the ice dancing final last night, and remain completely mystified by the results. Perhaps we’re partisan, but we simply failed to see the same magic in the routine by the Canadian team that resulted in them placing second in the free dance, and capturing the bronze medal somehow. But ice dance has always been controversial, and the judging has never made much sense. The Russian team that won was clearly the best in the competition; no question about that–but I also felt the second place Russian team, that finished fifth, was also better, more athletic, and more artistic, than the Canadians. But yesterday afternoon I also took some time to watch the men’s final, and it was delightful to see Nathan Chen make a comeback from a fall in the short program to win it all, his third world title in a row–the first American to do so since Scott Hamilton–and if he wins the Olympics and a fourth world title next year, he’ll be in even more elite company. The women also managed to earn the US three Olympic spots, which I wasn’t expecting to happen, so at least we’ll have as full a team as possible; I think Nathan winning automatically earns us three men for the team–but the rules may have changed, and I must confess I don’t pay nearly as much attention to figure skating as I used to. I hate this new points system; always have since it was implemented, and I don’t believe it forestalls arrangements between judges the way the old system did–not to mention the guarantee of anonymity so no one knows how any judge scored any competitor; I fail to see how this will stop collusion, but I am not the ISU.

The humidity has been ruinous on my sinuses lately; it’s so weird for it to be so hot and humid already this year. My windows are covered in condensation this morning, which is unusual for this time of year–that new HVAC system clearly works extremely well–an I am going to head to the gym later this morning for my weekend workout. The rain kept me from going earlier in the week, so for the last two weeks I’ve only had two workouts per week; not goo, but better than one and much better than not going at all. I need to get some new workout clothes, though; I haven’t bought workout shorts in well over ten years and thus they not only don’t fit properly but are also a little on the worn out side, and the more hot and humid it gets the less likely I am to want to wear sweat pants to the gym. I found some T-shirts in my T-shirt drawer back from the days when I could squeeze into a medium (I now wear extra large) and so I disposed of them as well. I really would like to get this book finished and turned in on Thursday the 1st (this week!) so I can spend my three day Easter weekend cleaning out books and going through my clothes.

I’d also like to spend some time finishing The Russia House. I read another chapter yesterday and greatly enjoyed it; I am really looking forward to spending more time with LeCarré. I also want to start reading more of these books that I keep buying and adding to my TBR pile, which is mostly out of control these days–I also need to recognize that many essays I have wanted to write about books and authors I enjoyed won’t ever happen because I will never have the time to write them, nor will I ever have the time to go back and reread the books; there simply isn’t enough time for all the reading I want to do, and I have to be more realistic. Some are simply too long–much as I loved Anya Seton’s Green Darkness, Arthur Hailey’s Airport, and Herman Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke, there’s simply no way I can (or will) ever find the time to reread those books; let alone anything by Michener (I’ve been wanting to reread my favorite Michener, Centennial, for quite some time, but probably will never happen).

And once I have this book finished and turned in, I have to do some revisions of Bury Me in Shadows by May 1; I don’t think it’s anything major, really; a much more thorough copy edit, an additional clarifying sentence here and there, and then it will be finished, and then comes the first draft of Chlorine….at long last. There are also some submission calls I want to write for as well; we’ll see how that turns out, won’t we? But I think my stories “Death and the Handmaidens”, “The Blues Before Dawn”, and “Le Feu Follet” might actually have homes I can try to get them into; and there’s another call for a humorous mystery I’d like to take a shot at as well; my stories always seem to turn out to be darkly comic anyway.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow.

Weirdo

What a lovely night’s sleep I had last night. I’m not sure what’s been up lately, but my sleep hasn’t been as good as it could be (or should be) but yesterday I got my order of pillow spray from This Works (I’ve used it before; my friend Lauren recommended it to me years ago. It’s what they give the first class passengers on British Airways flights to spray on their pillows to help them sleep during a flight; it does work…it’s just not inexpensive. I ordered two bottles with my stimulus check and they arrived yesterday–and last night I slept deeply, restfully, and well–and through the night.) I woke up at six–thanks, early mornings–but was able to go back to sleep for a few more hours. This is a very good thing, as I have–outside of some errands to run this morning–to spend the entire day working on my book–the same with tomorrow. It’s due on Thursday–but I may take the next weekend to go over it one more time.

I finished reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln yesterday; it’s been quite a voyage. I’m not sure, frankly, how long it’s taken me to read it–I think I started it sometime last year–but I was reading a few pages a day rather than curling up with it. I love the way Vidal writes–he uses a weirdly distant, almost but not quite omniscient third person point of view–and the characters he follows are interesting choices. I’ve read another one of his chain of books Narratives of Empire (Empire) and rather enjoyed it; I’ve enjoyed most of Vidal’s work that I’ve read (Julian the Apostate is a particular favorite) and now I suppose will seek out others in the series; 1876 sounds kind of appealing, if for no other reason that it is a little-known but incredibly important year in American history. I’ll do an entry about Lincoln at some point, but I did really enjoy this, and do recommend it.

It’s very weird feeling so rested this morning–it makes me realize all those other mornings when I thought I was actually rested, well, I was wrong. It was just an improvement over insomnia, I guess.

It’s sort of gray outside again today–my windows are covered in condensation, which means it’s very definitely humid outside this morning. I am going to drop off two boxes of books at the library for their sale this morning and I need to stop at Whole Foos–I’ve been carrying a gift card valued at $25 in my wallet for nearly two years at this point, and as horrific as the Whole Foods on Magazine will be on a Saturday with all the uptown Karens out with their yoga pants or tennis skirts with a latté in hand will inevitably prove to be, I may as well make use of the extra trip uptown. I made groceries yesterday already, so I am just going to check out their berry situation as well as see if they have blackened catfish at the prepared food bar–it’s been a long time since I’ve had that, and Whole Foods’ is pretty good–and then head home to hibernate. Tomorrow all I have to do is work on the book and go to the gym–I am also doing some cleaning around the house, when I need a break and to clear my head–and hopefully, will be able to make some great progress on the book. We shall see, shan’t we?

The World Figure Skating championships are also currently going on in Stockholm–spoiler! I just checked results and Nathan Chen made a comeback from third place in the short to win the free skate by enough points to win the gold medal by a decisive margin–he hasn’t lost since the Olympics in 2018–which makes him the favorite for the Olympics next year. Pretty cool. We may win two medals in the ice dance, which finishes later–and the ladies finished fourth and ninth, so we can send three women to the Olympics next year as well. Our best pairs team finished seventh–not bad, since they’ve only been skating together for less than a year, and they are probably the best pairs team we’ve had in decades; they certainly have the potential to be at any rate. I just wish we could get another ladies’ champion again….particularly when you take into consideration we won two medals (gold and bronze) in 1992; a silver in 1994; gold and silver in 1998, and gold and bronze in 2002 (also a silver in 2006; the last time an American woman won an Olympic medal in figure skating).

The Tennessee Williams Festival also comes to a close this weekend, and I will shortly have my marriage back. Paul was actually home last night in time for me to make dinner–the Festival is virtual, so he doesn’t have to live at the Monteleone this weekend and can actually come home and watch things as they air on his computer–so we actually had dinner together for the first time since Valentine’s Day, really; and even that dinner together was an outlier. I’ve barely seen him for several months now, and perhaps that’s part of the reason I slept so well last night; because it was also a return to some semblance of what passes for normal around here; we ate dinner together and watched the rhythm dance competition.

It was kind of nice, actually.

I also reas Sara Paretsky’s introduction to a new edition of Dorothy B. Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse. Hughes is one of the great crime writers of the past, probably best known for her In a Lonely Place, which is certainly stellar; but I’ve never been disappointed by a Hughes novel, just as I never have been with anything written by her contemporaries Charlotte Armstrong and Margaret Millar. I got a cheap ebook edition of Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, which I remember enjoying tremendously–I loved the early books in the series, but in one of them Gilman gave her a love interest whom she also married, and I felt the books weren’t really the same after that and I stopped reading them. I reread the first two pages of the book last night and was instantly charmed, just as I had been decades ago when I read it for the first time (I honestly don’t know why I picked up the first one in the first place), but the idea of the CIA hiring a widowed grandmother as a courier because no one would suspect the nice elderly American lady always has entertained me tremendously. It also occurred to me, as I set my iPad aside to come make dinner, that I am currently reading John LeCarré’s The Russia House..another novel of spies and international intrigue, and that I should perhaps read the two books back to back, comparing and contrasting them; spy thrillers coming from such vastly different perspectives…and voices.

Ah, my coffee tastes marvelous this morning. My brain is shaking off the vestigial fog from the sleep and my body is waking up. I am going to take this delicious cup of coffee with me to my easy chair, where I shall spend the next hour reading LeCarré, before doing the dishes and then venturing out to get my errands completed. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Vanishing Point

Tuesday morning and I’m doing okay this morning, how are you, Constant Reader? (I ask very sincerely.)

I feel a little sleepy still this morning; not sure how that’s going to play out over the course of my day but it frankly does not bode well. I thought I had slept pretty well–I did wake up a few times–but this morning I am questioning it. I made it through almost the entire day yesterday without feeling tired at all; I did go to bed earlier on Sunday than I usually do, but come on. A half an hour can make that significant of a difference the next morning? I suppose it’s possibly, even if it seems terribly unlikely. I did manage to get a lot done yesterday–maybe not as much as I would have liked, but I did get it done–and same for today; I have a lot to get done, the deadline is pressing, and I actually may have to take my work-at-home days off this week in order to try to get everything done. I don’t think I will have to go anywhere or run any errands other than perhaps a mail run on Saturday, so other than that and going to the gym (I have to do that tonight as well) I should be able to do nothing other than write and work and clean up around here and maybe fill a few more boxes with books (my OCD brain is just itching to start going through the boxes of books in my storage attic and some of the ones I have in the living room, covered by a blanket, that sort of pass for tables). I would also like to finish reading The Russia House at some point and move on to my next read.

I did get some work done on the book last night–not as much as I needed to, so I am going to be playing catch up for a while, hence the consideration of needing to use vacation time this weekend (it’s not a big deal, and I’ve not used much vacation time over this past year thanks to COVID-19; not nearly as much as I would have used otherwise–no Edgar week trip to New York last year and this; no board meeting in New York in January; no trip to Bouchercon in Sacramento last fall, etc.) so maybe taking another couple of days here to get my book done isn’t such a bad idea, and if it’s done–I can enjoy my three day Easter weekend by being lazy and reading and cleaning….and Paul will be free for that weekend as well with my Festival widowhood officially ending this coming Sunday evening. There are also some calls for submissions I’d like to get some short stories written or revised for, and as I have said any number of times, it would be lovely to get some more short stories out there on submission.

Last night I finished watching Visible on Apple Plus, and I have to say I really enjoyed it–and even though it was about queer representation on television–it was also educational for me in ways I hadn’t anticipated it being. The series pulled no punches about representation–pointing out that the growth in queer rep on television for many years was incredibly limited, and primarily to white gay men at that; no lesbians, no bisexuals, no transpeople, no other races or melanin; it also made me realize that I myself had always lumped all queers together without respect to race or even the differences between the letters in our alphabet soup community; it was also incredibly educational on gender issues, particularly those of people who identify as non-binary. And that’s really the thing about our world, isn’t it? We never know everything, and we have to be open-minded about learning about new things, especially when they help broaden our understanding of humanity, what it means to be human, and how every human deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and empathy (until they prove unworthy, through their own actions as an individual and not consider that representative of others like them; i.e. “well, I worked with a trans-woman who was an awful person, so therefore all transpeople must be awful”). I found it overly simplistic in some places, of course–“women and gay men are natural allies” negates the awful truth that many anti-gay organizations were led by women (looking at you, Anita Bryant and Maggie Gallagher) and there are any number of right-wing women today who are not allies to the queer community, and are actually actively hostile to it.

But it was lovely being reminded of how much I’d loved My So-Called Life, and how much that love was due to Wilson Cruz and Rickey. I did think they glossed over HBO’s Angels in America, which certainly deserved as much attention as other shows they talked about, but it seemed to only be a very quick segment about how AIDS was being depicted and moved on very quickly from it….but nothing can cover everything with the depth one would prefer; hence the Planet Egypt series that jumped from King Narmer and Dynasty Zero in episode ahead a couple of thousand years to the 18th Dynasty for episode 2. It was also interesting being reminded of how the American Family Association and others of its ilk hounded Tales of the City off PBS–something I am sure PBS regrets to this day, given how successful it was as well as its follow-ups–and of course, I also remembered (having never forgotten) how seventeen-year-old Ryan Philippe launched his career playing gay teenager Billy Douglas on One Life to Live (I will always be a fan of his forever for this; it could have easily ended his nascent career), but I wish the docuseries had explored that story-line more in depth–it wasn’t just about a gay teenager being rejected by his family and trying to deal with homophobia and being out at that time; the show also tackled HIV/AIDS in a compelling story about how Father Andrew’s gay brother had died from it which was why he was so open and understanding with Billy; how Andrew’s homophobic father had to be brought around to mourn his son instead of being ashamed of his life; and how Andrew was also accused of molesting Billy by a vengeful young woman whose advances Andrew had scorned….and it all concluded with a visit to the AIDS Quilt. It was powerful and moving and must-see TV for me back then–in the early to mid-90’s One Life to Live was the fucking bomb, y’all. (They also covered consent, and the gang rape of a girl at a fraternity party when she’d had too much to drink–decades before we addressed this as a society, and still haven’t resolved the issue, frankly.)

If and when I ever do my book of essays, I may do one on One Life to Live during this time.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow.

Times Change

And here we are on Monday morning yet again–the world keeps turning and revolving around the sun, bringing the endless cycle of night and day we’ve become accustomed to as perhaps one of the few things in this life we can reliably depend upon; things which, alas, are in far too short a supply these days.

I worked on the book yesterday–I wasn’t feeling especially motivated, to be honest, and decided to try not to force anything, but I did get some things done with it, which was necessary, so I don’t feel like the day was entirely lost, either. Paul slept late and I went to the gym, getting home before he got up and left for the office. I was in bed (damned six a.m. alarm anyway) by the time he got home, so I am not even entirely sure when he got home, to be honest. I think I woke up and glanced at the clock around midnight when he was getting into bed–but I may have dreamed that. After I was finished with the bare minimum of the work I got done yesterday, I started watching a documentary series about Egypt–Planet Egypt–but when I was getting going on the second episode, I realized you’ve already seen this–they jump from Narmer to basically the 18th Dynasty and so decided to find something else to watch. I wound up landing on Visible, the documentary about queer representation on television through the decades, and I managed to get through the first two episodes. Ironically, I remember the bad representation on screen from mostly the 70’s (they also didn’t mention another notorious queer killer–John Davidson played a cross-dressing murderer on The Streets of San Francisco to some serious critical acclaim. I didn’t watch it, but it was yet another early representation of queer as psycho killer, so I was a bit surprised they skipped it–and if you think about it, it’s really strange that of all television shows, The Streets of San Francisco wasn’t loaded with queer representation….then again, Arthur Hailey’s Hotel was an 80’s show set in San Francisco with nary a queer in sight; which tells you everything about the times). It also has reminded me that I should probably let go of a lot of the shame I feel/felt about not really coming out until I was thirty in every aspect of my life…it was a very different time, and not everyone was able to escape to San Francisco or New York, which at the time were the only real options for queers.

One of the things that actually gives me hope for the future is seeing all the openly young queer people living their lives today in every part of the country, something that simply wasn’t really possible when I was a teenager or in my twenties.

Another takeaway from the documentary, which I will probably finish tonight–I never remembered Raymond Burr as being as sexy as he actually was–he had amazingly beautiful and expressive eyes. I wonder…are the original Perry Mason shows streaming anywhere? I loved the books, and I can remember watching the repeats when I was a kid. My grandmother loved Perry Mason, and she was really my gateway to mystery books and movies, as well as horror. I never finished watching the HBO reboot, which I was sort of enjoying while not enjoying it at the same time–I didn’t necessarily like the fleshing out of the character or giving him this angsty back story, an the plot was glacial and hard to follow, but it was extremely well done and well acted, and you can never go wrong with Tatiana Maslany, ever. But I’ve also not been driven to go back and finish it, either–the same with Penny Dreadful: City of Angels–although the two shows vaguely reminded me of each other. I had to stop watching that one because of the unrelenting racism against the Latinx community of Los Angeles–which, of course, is completely historically accurate, yet hard to watch because you also knew there would be no justice for them. Perhaps I should go back and watch them back-to-back? They seemed to be similar thematically….hmmm, it’s a thought, and of course, I love Natalie Dormer.

I also managed to read a few chapters of The Russia House, but wasn’t really able to focus the way I would have liked to, so I put it aside and started looking for documentaries.

And this coming weekend is the Tennessee Williams Festival, which means my first quarter of 2021 widowhood will be coming to an end relatively soon. I’m not sure I’ll know how to act, having to make dinner and pack lunches for Paul every day–I stopped doing that early in the pandemic, and am not entirely sure I’ll go back to it. Half the time he wouldn’t eat his sandwich until he came home at night, alleviating the need to make dinner, of course, but he has to carry so much with him as it is and if he wasn’t going to eat it most of the time during the day, why carry it along? I try to reduce everything I have to carry to and from work as much as I can–and I don’t walk, I drive.

It’s going to be in the 70’s this afternoon, which is lovely. It’s in the high fifties right now, which means I’ll have to take a jacket with me to work today, but it’s okay–a relatively small price to pay, really, for lovely weather later today. I did make it to the gym yesterday–even increased some weights–and my flexibility is slowly coming back. Oh, I know even now I am more flexible than most people, but I also can remember how flexible I used to be, and while I seriously doubt I can ever get back to that level at age sixty, the stretching does make my muscles feel better–they feel marvelous this morning, frankly–and what I really should do is stretch every morning when I get up here in the kitchen–doing it every day rather than three times a week would make the gains progress more rapidly, obviously–but that’s something I’ll have to gradually work myself up to. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made thus far–I’ve noticeably lost weight, and people are noticing; every week I get at least one mention from a client, or get asked have you been working out, which is always lovely to hear; positive reinforcement is always welcomed. I also know from experience that I will never really see the changes, or if I do, I won’t think it’s enough–I am so fucking critical of myself and I don’t think that is something I’ll ever be able to change at this late date; I’ve tried to stop being self-deprecating but it’s an on-going struggle, really.

And a particularly annoying one, I might add.