If Anyone Falls

I absolutely loved the tag line for the marvelous television adaptation of Megan Abbott’s equally brilliant novel Dare Me: “There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenaged girls.” It’s also incredibly accurate; our teen years often impact and influence who we become and can color the rest of our lives. I loved Dare Me; it was lyrically, hauntingly written, and the story it told, while actually pretty simple, showed how the intricacies of relationships between young girls and authority figures who aren’t much older than they are, can become so complicated and complex; layers of love intermingling with hate and jealousy, the power dynamic shifting and changing as the characters themselves shift, change, and grow from their experiences.

I write, sometimes, books where the main characters are young–teenagers, either in high school or college or having just completed college–and those books are often labeled and marketed as “young adult” fiction, even though I generally just consider them novels about young people. I mean, technically novels about young people are young adult novels, and yet while I am resigned to this marketing label I am never certain if my books truly qualify or not. Perhaps that’s some kind of internalized arrogance and a sense of subconscious superiority to what I consider something lesser; it’s definitely something I should unpack at some point. But I think it is also an interesting starting point for one of my endless essay ideas, and perhaps someday–when I am less scattered, less all-over-the-place mentally and creatively–I’ll be able to sit down and write all those essays I want to write.

Which brings me to John Copenhaver’s second novel, The Savage Kind, which I just finished reading yesterday.

If I tell you the truth about Judy and Philippa, I’m going to lie. Not because I want to, but because to tell the story right, I have to. As girls, they were avid documentarians, each armed with journals and buckets of pens, convinced that future generations would pour over their words. Everything they did was a performance. Everything they wrote assumed an audience. After all, autobiographers are self-serving, aggrandizing. Memoirists embellish. It’s unavoidable. To write down your memories is an act of invention, to arrange them in the best, most compelling order, a bold gesture. Some of the diary entries that follow are verbatim, lifted directly from the source, but others are enhanced and reshaped. I reserve my right to shade in the empty spaces, to color between the lines, to lie.

You may balk, dear reader, but I don’t care. I need to get this right.

I could take different approaches. I could contrast the teenage girls: the black hat and the white, the harpy and the angel, the cunning vamp and the doe-eyed boob. Or I could draw them together, a single unit: Lucy and Ethel, Antony and Cleopatra, Gertrude and Alice, Holmes and Watson, or even, I dare say, Leopold and Loeb. But neither of those angles would work. The complicated facts are inescapable. These girls are both separate and together, but many times, they followed their own paths and even crossed one another. Things are never that simple, never that black and white, that good or evil, or that true or false. I’m not writing this to assign blame, or to ask forgiveness, or to tie it up in a bow for posterity. It’s not that kind of book.After all, an act of violence committed by one may have originated in the heart of the other. That’s to say, this is a story about sisters, and like many of those dusty and gruesome stories from ancient literature, here sisterhood is sealed in blood.

I should know. I was one of them.

Great opening, right?

John’s debut Dodging and Burning won the Macavity Award*, and was quite the impressive debut. II was completely blown away by the book myself–it showed a maturity and sophistication in theme, writing, and characters that one rarely sees in a debut novel. One of the things I thought was very interesting about the book was that while it did focus on a gay story, the main voices in the book were young straight women; I thought that was a risky thing to try to pull off, but he did a really excellent job.

As good as Dodging and Burning was, I wasn’t prepared for how good The Savage Kind would be.

The heart of the book is the friendship/relationship between two damaged young women in the post-war afterglow of the late 1940’s in Washington DC. (Both of John’s novels are set in the post-war period, when the world was trying to go ‘back to normal’ after the massive paradigm alteration of a global war that left most of Europe and significant parts of Asia in ruins; tens of millions dead, billions in property damage, and the world needed to rebuild from the rubble–and normal was also being redefined; the paradigm shift caused by the war made going back to “the way things used to be” practically impossible–which makes it a very interesting time to write about.) Philippa’s mother died giving birth to her and she has a slightly adversarial relationship with her stepmother, Bonnie. Judy was raised in an orphanage and adopted by a wealthy couple who had lost a daughter in a particularly brutal way–Judy was adopted to replaced their raped and murdered daughter, but her adoptive parents are still too scarred and damaged from the lost of their own child to raise and love another, and this history also colors Judy’s personality and who she is. The two girls find each other and become very close friends; so close that their love for each other might go even deeper than the Platonic ideal of friendship–their teenaged hormones raging out of control, are romantic/sexual feelings also developing between the two of them?

They are also playing girl detectives, trying to get to the bottom of a mystery that they don’t know has anything to do with them beyond the idle curiosity (and their dangerous boredom) but as they look further into the mystery revolving around a classmate, a favorite teacher, and that classmate’s family–as well as their own–they become more and more deeply enmeshed in danger and cling even tighter to each other.

As if that juggling act isn’t tough enough, Copenhaver makes all of these characters realized, fully developed and realistic in their emotions, their feelings, and their reactions. He also tells the story in alternating points of view between the two girls while they are experiencing the events, as well as a narrator voice from the future, telling the story in retrospect as well as talking directly to the reader. This is hard to pull off, particularly the omniscient future narrator–the last time I saw this used so effectvely and memorably was in Thomas Tryon’s The Other (at least, this is the book that popped into my head as I was reading, and it’s a favorite of mine).

The Savage Kind was nominated for a Lefty Award, and it very deservedly won the Lambda for Best Mystery recently. I highly recommend it!

*I may be wrong here, but I think he might be the first openly gay author of a book with gay characters and themes to win the Macavity Award; I know I was nominated once for a short story–but my characters and themes weren’t queer.

I Can’t Wait

Sunday morning and I slept late again, and again, it felt marvelous. I feel much more rested than I did yesterday morning–and I also don’t have to make an errands run today, either; lugging groceries from the car to the Lost Apartment on top of dealing with a grocery store on a Saturday of a holiday weekend wasn’t exactly an energy-enhancing experience either (my God, it was so humid yesterday; little wonder it rained off and on all day). But I did get things done–sort of. I finished reading The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver, which I really enjoyed from start to finish (more on that later); I got some chores done around the Lost Apartment, and I worked on getting better organized (always an in-process on-going thing). We binged a show on Amazon Prime last night–The Lake–which we both really enjoyed (and stayed up too late to finish watching) before retiring to bed for the evening, and now here I am this morning with a cup of coffee and slightly bleary, unfocused eyes as I write this. It’s a little cloudy and dim outside–not the blinding brightness of a cloudless morning, for sure. I don’t have to go outside for anything the next few days other than taking out the trash and using the grill–I’m probably going to cook out burgers either today or tomorrow, I can’t decide which–and then I am going to write and edit for most of the day, always a pleasure and joy. The next thing I am going to read isn’t something I can talk about, as it’s a manuscript in progress for a friend (who is also a really great writer), but I think the next book I read is indeed going to be Rob Osler’s The Devil’s Chewtoy, which is a great title and I’ve heard any number of good things about the author, who earlier this year won the Robert Fish Award from Mystery Writers of America for best debut short story–an impressive achievement, to be sure.

The Lake has an interesting premise, and it was much funnier than I thought it would be. Sixteen years ago, the main character–a gay male, Justin–had sex with his best friend (Teesa) on prom night (they were both drunk, and the only time he’s ever slept with a woman) and she became pregnant. They gave the child up for adoption–one of those “open” adoptions, so the child always knows who their adoptive and birth parents are, and has a relationship with their birth parents–which caused an even deeper rift between the main character and his father (already there because of his sexuality). After the adoption, Justin left Canada with his partner for Australia. That relationship has ended (the partner was “fucking half of Bondi Beach”), and he has returned to Canada. He brings his daughter Billie to the lake where he spent all of his summers as a child, and8 his family used to have a cottage to try to develop a relationship with her; only to discover that their old lake house was never sold–instead, his father left it to his stepsister and nemesis, Maisy, played brilliantly by Julia Stiles in an epic villain turn. The rest of the series details his schemes for getting back his lake house and feuding with Maisy; while developing a relationship with a local handyman named Riley, while his daughter ironically finds herself falling for Maisy’s son. Justin is played by Jordan Gavaris, who is terrific in the part; Constant Reader may remember Gavaris for his star turn in Orphan Black as Felix, the openly gay artist who is a foster brother to Sarah and her grounding point–seeing him in this reminded me of how terrific he was in Orphan Black, and how disappointing it is that he hasn’t broken out into a bigger star. But The Lake is terrific and funny and surprisingly twisted; I highly recommend it, and can we please have more good parts for Jordan Gavaris, please?

I still haven’t figured out what I am going to read on Thursday, either. Heavy heaving sigh. I seriously need to put some thought into that either today or tomorrow or both; I go back and forth during those brief moments when I do think about it. Should I read from Bury Me in Shadows, #shedeservedit, or one of my short stories? It would probably make more sense to read from something that might intrigue listeners to go buy the book, and even more sense to read a novel than a story, since I won’t earn anything from a sale of a copy of the anthology, really, if my reading was to move people into parting with hard-earned money to buy something of mine. Yes, the more I think about it, the more likely I am to read from #shedeservedit…or maybe “This Town.” I’ve always wanted to read that story aloud…hmmm. I just wish I had started thinking about this sooner–this is why I always end up doing things at the last minute, which always makes me feel like I’ve not prepared adequately.

But I do feel very good this morning, which is always lovely. I get paid on Wednesday this week, so I can go ahead and get the bills paid before I leave for the weekend (I cannot believe I have to get up at five a.m. for my flight; what the actual fuck was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t. Of course, it was the only non-stop, which is what I actually was thinking. But…I’ll be tired. Very tired that evening. And probably hungry and crabby and tired and…oy. No sense freaking out about any of that right now. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

And on that note, I am going to shave my head and jump in the shower and get my day’s work started. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–I will check in with you again later.

Rooms on Fire

Saturday morning and I slept late, and it was indeed marvelous. I have to make groceries and gas up the car (will probably need a bank loan for that), but my primary focus today is going to be reading and writing. I will also probably start going over the edits for one of the two manuscripts sitting in my inbox right now, but that’s also going to depend pretty heavily on how nasty it is outside. It rained off and on most of yesterday–I do love the New Orleans rain, especially if I don’t have to go out into it, of course–but it’s very bright and sunny outside my windows this morning. My morning coffee feels marvelous and tastes even better, and as I glance around the workspace and the rest of the kitchen I see some odds and ends that need straightening and putting away. There’s also some dirty dishes in the sink that need being taken care of at some point. The rugs needs to be straightened, and the entire downstairs needs vacuuming. I would also like to get a box of books down from the attic and start cleaning that out a little bit this weekend as well. An ambitious program to be sure, but one that isn’t impossible…if i stay focused.

Which is always the big if, isn’t it?

We did get caught up on The Boys last night–this third season is the best so far, and there was a great twist in last night’s episode, which doesn’t bode well for the future but I also can’t wait to see how it plays out (although that will probably come in season four). I wasn’t tired when I got home from the office yesterday the way I usually and ordinarily am, but there were things to do, and I immediately set out to get them done once I had reached the safety and respite of the Lost Apartment. But it all got done for the most part, and Scooter got his lap for a goodly portion of the evening while I doom-scrolled social media waiting for Paul to get finished with his work (he worked at home yesterday) so we could watch The Boys. I even fell asleep in my chair a few times while waiting–Scooter’s super-power is the ability to get both of us to fall asleep when he cuddles with us. I did spend a lot of the evening thinking about writing and things I want to write–there’s never enough time for me to write as much as I want to, really, even though I have to force myself to do it.

I also realized last night that I need to get ready for Sleuthfest. I am doing a reading on THursday night and haven’t picked out something to actually, um, you know, read, let alone rehearse. It’s my first-ever Noir at the Bar, and will be in the hotel bar. I’ve published so much stuff that I’ve never gotten the chance to read from, you know? Should I read from one of my recent books? Should I read a short story? Should I perhaps read something in progress–Chlorine, for example? I also am on a panel about MWA’s How to Write a Mystery, in which the other panelists and I are going to talk about our essays…and I really don’t remember much about mine other than it’s about dialogue, so perhaps I should go ahead and reread it at some point before the panel so I don’t sound like an utter blithering idiot.

Then again, maybe people enjoy me being a blithering idiot. I don’t know.

I can’t help but think that is not the case, though. I prefer to believe audiences laugh with me and not at me, but one can never be entirely sure.

Ah, well, there’s plenty of time to get petrified with fear about standing up in front of an audience. But I do have to decide what I am going to read on Thursday. Heavy heaving sigh. I was thinking “Moist Money,” from the Down Yonder anthology–mainly because it’s shorter, but it’s also one of the nastier things I’ve ever written; my short stories tend to be nastier than my actual books (by “nastier” I mean darker, not pornographic, FYI) but there are so many choices…and I need to make up my mind because I am going to need to rehearse before I get there…I can’t just get up and read the way I used to, completely unprepared and stumbling over words and…heavy sigh. There I go again, working myself up into a lather of anxiety about something happening in five days, which will end up being fine in the long run.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head to my easy chair to read some more of The Savage Kind, which I hope to finish today. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Bella Donna

Here we are on another Wednesday morning. I managed to make it through the day yesterday somehow, and last evening we started watching the new season of Only Murders in the Building, which is clever and funny–although I’m not entirely sure what the point of having Amy Schumer in it is. I was curious about how they’d do a second season–and was worried about it, to be honest; so many shows that were great in their first season tend to lose their way in the second–but the core cast is still terrific and the writing is just as sharp as in the first.

I’ve gotten so used to bingeing shows that it feels weird when you start watching a show that is dropping weekly rather than all at once. Weird how our viewing habits have changed so dramatically over the past few years. If someone would have told me twenty years ago that we wouldn’t have cable service and would be “streaming” shows and movies to the television wirelessly, I not only would have thought them crazy but wouldn’t have understood what they were talking about. The changes in technology we’ve seen in this century have been dramatic and fast.

I didn’t read yesterday when I got home from work–there were still chores to be done around the Lost Apartment, and I got home a little later than I usually do. It’s enormously frustrating, of course, but I have to be more focused and pay more attention to things like time and how much I am wasting doing things that have little to no value and simply waste my time. Easier said than done, of course–I am a master of wasting time– but I just get so damned tired all the time from getting up so early every day. I really hope to go back to my old work schedule at some point, even though I think my body has sort of adjusted to getting up so early so often every week. I don’t drag the way I used to in the mornings (other than before the first cup of coffee) but get super tired in the afternoons–and then coming home and/or running errands during our ridiculous summer heat, which is more intense this year and harder to adjust to for some reason (perhaps my advancing age?). But there’s a three day weekend coming up this weekend, and I am heading to Fort Lauderdale next week for Sleuthfest….so there should be time for me to get some reading done over the next two weekends. There’s nothing like an airport and a flight for reading.

But I’d like to finish The Savage Kind before I leave for Florida. Mayhap I can carve out some time this weekend–like Sunday morning with my coffee–to finish reading it. Trust me, Constant Reader, the length of time it’s taking me to read this has everything to do with me and the mania that is my life and nothing to do with the quality of the book, which is exceptionally well written and the characters are so well drawn that it is incredibly easy to get immersed in the book. Heavy heaving sigh. But definitely can put some time aside this weekend to finish it. I have a lot of other stuff to get done before I leave for Florida, but if I don’t allow myself to get sidetracked or defeated by running errands, etc–it would actually make sense to read and run errands on the same day, wouldn’t it?–I should be able to power through everything.

Yesterday I got my first blurb for A Streetcar Named Murder, and it was a very good one, which was really nice because it was from someone whose opinion really matters to me. (Evil little imposter syndrome voice in my head: like she would tell you your book sucked–she’s a lovely person and very kind and you know that which is part of the reason you asked her in the first place…God how I hate that fucking voice.) But seriously, I really need to sit down and really map out everything I need to get done over the next week or so because I know deadlines are looming (I also have something due today that I need to write when I get home–sorry, Scooter! No lap for awhile once I get home). And I only have to get up super-early one more day this week. Huzzah? Huzzah.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader! I will see you again tomorrow.

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.

Edge of Seventeen

Just like the white winged dove….

Sing it, Stevie!

So I managed to get some writing done yesterday–not only did I get some writing done yesterday but it actually flowed; it wasn’t nearly as painful or forced as it has been when I’ve been writing lately, which is lovely. I also read for a little while yesterday; I am moving into the final act of The Savage Kind and am really enjoying it; I hated put it aside yesterday when my allotted reading time had finally run out. I slept very well last night–didn’t want to get up this morning, or more precisely, didn’t want to get out of bed which felt unusually comfortable to me this morning–but I do feel well rested. I am working at home today, which is nice–I really don’t want to go out into the heat–but things change. We watched the first few episodes of Condor last night–it’s not bad, a more modern-day version of Three Days of the Condor, which was one of my Cynical 70’s Film Festival movies during the pandemic–and I do feel relaxed this morning….probably because I am still in denial about everything I have to do and get done.It just keeps building….

My anger has finally cooled over the so-called “supreme court” rulings of last week; but I still have a lot of righteous indignation and outrage left that can easily be fanned into red-hot flames. Louisiana, of course, had just passed its very own trigger law, which our piece-of-shit governor signed. Of course, my own rights will soon be overturned by this joke of a court; as I tweeted on Friday, “Somewhere in hell Roger Taney is smiling because his supreme court may no longer be the worst in our history.” I mean, when you are passing out rulings that are about on the same level as Dred Scott, you really should sit back and reflect on your life choices. It’s bad enough we have four perjurers on the court along with a sexual harasser, a probable rapist, and a woman whose religion has brainwashed her into a Stepford wife–someone on Twitter said yesterday “if the founding fathers could see us now they’d say ‘You let Catholics on the court?'” I love to point out that despite all evangelical claims that this is a Christian country, they never specify which brand of Christianity they mean. Pentecostal? Quaker? Lutheran? Catholic? Missouri Synod? Latter Day Saints? No two sects of Christianity agree on anything; it was precisely this division of belief within the same theoretical faith that led to centuries of war and oppression in Europe, and the very American standard of the separation of church and state. You also have to remember that originally nearly every colony since the Europeans decided they were taking over this continent from its natives followed a different sect: Maryland was Catholic; Massachusetts Puritan; Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams upon the very principle of religious freedom and became a haven for persecuted religious minorities; Virginia was Episcopal; and so on. Christianity isn’t a monolith where everyone believes the same thing–they can’t even agree on the basic principles of their religion or how to pray or who can preach or teach.

Although they do all have the symbolic cannibalism ritual–but again, all different versions.

But the “supreme court” has a long and tragic history of incredibly bad and damaging rulings–see Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Citizens United, etc.

There’s another Alabama story brewing inside my head–you know, that non-stop creative ADHD thing I have going–about a small town in Corinth County trapped and controlled by it’s radical fundamentalist religion. I know I had the idea for the town years ago–it’s called Star of Bethlehem–but this idea for using that town is vastly different than the original one I had (in which the town’s water supply was deliberately tampered with as a corporate experiment in which the townspeople began developing strange abilities; I can still make that work into this–imagine a small remote town in the grips of a maniacal controlling religious sect where this happens; are these miraculous abilities a gift from God or the work of the devil? Which, really, was kind of the point of the superb mini-series Midnight Mass) but it keeps nagging at me as I sit down to work on other things. I scribbled some notes in my journal last night while watching Condor–again, it’s an interesting modern take on the original story–and so we’ll see how it goes.

I also started writing Mississippi River Mischief yesterday. I was going back and forth, wondering how to open the book, and finally just decided to say fuck it and start writing it. I wrote 173 words on it, which while not much is certainly something. Hopefully after work today I can work on it some more. I’ve started figuring it out a bit more–I already know who the victim is, I already know what’s going to be going on in Scotty’s life during the course of this book–but there’s all kinds of things left for me to get figured out. But–as with every Scotty book–I usually tend to just jump into it headfirst and see what happens.

So, all in all, a relatively productive weekend and very few regrets. I still have a ridiculous amount of work to do, but…progress is all that matters and I refuse to allow myself to get stressed out.

And on that note, it’s Data Entry time. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader. Hope we all have a better week this time around.

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.

Rock a Little

Well, here we are on Saturday after a rage-infested Friday during which my anger burned with the white hot heat of a dozen burning suns. I somehow managed to get things done–the world keeps turning, no matter how shitty whatever is going on that day might be–and yet succumbed to the need to rage-tweet and retweet; Twitter is such a horrible place and it just feeds on itself.

The other day I was talking about #shedeservedit and why I wasn’t entirely comfortable promoting the book–but the abomination of the ‘supreme court’ and its rulings of this past week have completely changed my position about that entirely. I am very glad that I wrote that book, because part of its story also addresses the need for legal abortion. YES I AM PRO-CHOICE AND I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, even when I was a child. I remember when the Roe decision originally came down; I was twelve years old, and everyone was talking about it. My sister wrote an anti-abortion piece for our high school newspaper, so I knew where she came down on the issue; my parents never really talked about it but I felt pretty safe in assuming, based on their upbringing and their faith, where they came down on the issue. It seemed kind of wrong to me, but the more I read about it and the more I understood the position of those who argued in favor of it, the more I came around to the pro-choice side. No one should have to carry a child to term against their will, period. I don’t know why that is so difficult for so many men to understand or grasp; if men could get pregnant Planned Parenthood would have drive-thru service. And the right to privacy these judicial activists just struck down? The ripples of government intervention into personal life choices that are none of the government’s or anybody else’s decisions is the epitome of government intervention and overreach that conservatives are always screaming about. The abominable sexual predator Clarence Thomas* even specifically named other decisions regarding privacy and government overreach he felt were ‘wrongly decided.’ Hey, if I was married to one of the biggest traitors in American history this side of Benedict Arnold I’d probably have all the seats and keep my mouth shut, but you do you, predator.

Sigh. I’ll probably never stop being angry about this.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday. I did my day job duties. I also took a short break to go wash and vacuum out my car (I finally found a do-it-yourself car wash that is easy to get to); I also got my brake tag renewed, which was marvelous. (It expired during the shutdown of 2020, and there were no places open to have it done. Naturally, I forgot all about it until a conversation at the office the other day.) I don’t have to worry about that again until 2024. I also picked up the mail and came back home to do more work. After my work duties were finished, I made three binders for working projects–yes, this is something that I do. I print out every draft, three hole punch it, and put into a three-ring binder used specifically for that purpose. I had recently emptied out the binder for A Streetcar Named Murder, and so I am reusing that one of Mississippi River Mischief. I also made a new one for Chlorine, one for “Never Kiss a Stranger ” (and the other novellas), and one for another project I am slowly but surely working on for some reason that doesn’t really make sense to me; someone has shown an interest in it and so I am writing it when I can’t make any progress on what I am currently focused on working on. Today I have an eye appointment in Metairie at noon; I’m debating as to whether to donate books to the library today to get the boxes out of the living room before heading out there. I am probably going to treat myself to Atomic Burger on the way home–I was thinking Sonic, but I’ve not had Atomic Burger since pre-pandemic times so that sounds like more of a treat for me than going to Sonic. (it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve had Five Guys…)

We watched this week’s episode of The Boys last night (thoroughly enjoyed the season finale of Obi-wan Kenobi the night before) before catching another episode of Loot (seriously, Maya Rudolph is killing it on this show; one of the best female comedy performances since Veep–she and Jean Smart will be definitely fighting it out for the Emmy this year, and the entire cast is actually quite good. Very sharp comedic writing, as well, and then once we were caught with that we moved on to First Kill, which we are still enjoying, weird as it is. I also want to spend some time today with The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver–it’s quite wonderful–before I head out to the burbs. (I also laundered the bed linens and got caught up on the dishes as well.) I do want to finish reading it this weekend, so I can find out where it’s going and enjoy every page as well as to move on to my next read before Pride Month runs out. I have all these marvelous books just collecting dust here in the Lost Apartment, and just begging to be read.

On that note, I am going to make myself another cup of coffee and head over to the easy chair with my book before I have to start getting ready to head out to the eye appointment. Have a great Saturday, and remember–channel your rage into action. To quote Game of Thrones, “there is no justice in this world unless we make it.” I intend to spend the rest of my life, as I have spent so much of it already, fighting for justice. I’d kind of hoped that I wouldn’t have to anymore, but letting your guard down just gives the Fascists an opportunity to regroup.

“Henceforth I shall only refer to him in this manner, just as Kavanaugh will always be “the rapist Brett Kavanaugh.”

After the Glitter Fades

Well, I never thought I’d make it here in Hollywood…

That’s the opening line of today’s title, lifted from Stevie Nicks’ classic song from her debut solo album, Bella Donna, which is from beginning to end one of my favorite albums (and one I need to listen to more). But it’s an unusual work-at-home Friday for one Gregalicious, and I have data to enter as well as other things to do for the day job while I am here at home today–and I am going to take a break later on to get my brake tag, wash the car, and pick up the mail–all of which will be super fun in the heat advisory. Woo-hoo!

It is amazing what a difference not getting up to an alarm at six makes. I woke up at six on my own, and went back to sleep for about another hour and I feel absolutely marvelous and rested this morning, which is a good thing. I have a lot to do today–data entry, some errands (odious ones, at that)–but I feel like if I can stay focused, I have the energy to get through the day preparatory for going into the weekend relaxed. I do have an eye appointment in Metairie tomorrow (sigh), but I think I may treat myself to an Atomic Burger or something since I have to go out there. Paul will be gone–he has his trainer in the late morning and then either rides the bike at the gym for the rest of the day, or goes to the office (he’s working on yet another grant)–so I hope to get home from that appointment and do some more writing. I’ve been working on this draft I’d hoped to have finished by the end of the month (ha ha ha, I am 750 words into Chapter Two), but a good push over the weekend should have it in good shape by Monday–or so I hope at any rate.

I also sent out early, unfinished copies of A Streetcar Named Murder to some author friends who all graciously agreed to read it for potential cover blurbs; this is a weird part of this business that I am not entirely certain I completely am comfortable with–never have been, and generally I just skip this part and just reuse the ones I asked for and have gotten over the past twenty years, but since this is something entirely new for me I thought it was probably better to start from scratch. Which, of course, is nerve-wracking; it’s always nerve-wracking to have something you’ve written in the hands of people you deeply admire and respect. Fingers crossed.

We watched some more of First Kill on Netflix, which is an interesting take on the original romance story on Teen Wolf, only the couple are lesbian teenagers, and instead of a werewolf, the “monster” half is a vampire. It’s clever and interesting and has really funny moments; it’s also some interesting world-building as it seems to be creating its own supernatural mythology–also interesting. We then watched two episodes of Maya Rudolph’s new show on Apple, Loot, which is really funny; Rudolph and the rest of the cast are great and the writing is as well. Highly recommended; more to come as we watch more of each show.

I also hope to finish reading The Savage Kind this weekend–I just keep falling further and further behind on my reading, but coming home after work in the heat, and running errands in it after a long day at the office, has had me brain-dead when I get home and I just can’t focus on reading anything. I hate that, and I kind of blame the pandemic for the shortening of my attention span and how much easier I lose focus than I used to back in the day.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. The kitchen is a disaster area that needs cleaning before I start doing my data entry and get going on my work day, and none of this stuff is going to do itself, so it’s on me as always. Heavy heaving sigh. But happy Friday, everyone!

Beauty and the Beast

Holiday Monday, which is celebrating Juneteenth (if you want to know more about the holiday, this is a great place to start). It’s hard to believe, and more than a little sad, that it took until recently for this to become a federally recognized holiday. Honestly.

Better late than never, I suppose–which is hardly any consolation, really.

But it’s nice to have another three-day weekend (I can’t remember which holiday we gave up for this one at my dayjob, but we only are allowed no more than eight holidays for some reason), and I slept late again this morning. The cappuccino yesterday morning had no effect on my sleep, so I am having another one this morning, which is lovely. I really do love the way they taste; I just wish making them wasn’t so complicated and dirtied up so much stuff. I made Swedish meatballs yesterday afternoon and that mess still needs to be cleaned up as well. Heavy sigh. What can I say? I got caught up in watching television once the meal was ready and stayed in my easy chair until it was time for bed. We watched the new episode of Becoming Elizabeth, which isn’t bad but it’s not overly compelling either–which is weird, because the period between Henry VIII’s death in 1547 and Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558 was very fraught and very dangerous (Anya Seton brilliantly captured this period in her seminal novel Green Darkness, which I highly recommend along with the warning “it’s quite long”); but it’s not really translating to the screen very well in this production. I also spent some more time with John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which I hope to do again today.

We also started watching an amazing show on Netflix that originally dropped in 2020 and whose second season was endlessly delayed by the pandemic (I checked it out on-line as we watched) called The Defeated starring Taylor Kitsch as a Brooklyn homicide detective who is “loaned” to a small precinct in the American sector of Berlin in 1946 to help rebuild their station along American police standards; which is a challenge. None of the people working as cops there have any experience in being police officers; some are young boys while the majority are women. The Germans aren’t allowed to have guns, so they have an “arsenal” where they keep their bedposts and other wooden sticks; the Russians are horrible; and Kitsch himself is looking for his brother, a soldier with mental problems who’s gone AWOL and whom Kitsch suspects is targeting and murdering Nazis. It’s extremely well done–think Babylon Berlin but only in another twenty years–and it also asks a lot of ethical and moral questions that really don’t have answers. The woman who runs the station, is the “superintendent” or captain of the squad–wasn’t a Nazi but her protestations about “we weren’t all Nazis” have the same credibility of a prisoner at Angola claiming innocence: no one admits to being a Nazi once the war was lost, after all. At one point she says, very poignantly, “The war is over and the entire world hates us because of what we did, or allowed, and who can blame them?” This seems particularly poignant given the current political climate in our country; I know it seems extreme, but I’ve seen other people comment on Twitter and other social media about how they feel sometimes like “they are living in Weimar Germany and it’s just a matter of time.”

I know I’ve certainly felt that way at times.

We also watched a classic old Bette Davis film, The Letter, which I’d realized I’d never seen yesterday so I pulled it up and started watching. I had read the original short story by Somerset Maugham a few years ago for the Short Story Project, and enjoyed it tremendously. The story is told from the lawyer’s point of view, while the movie certainly shifts the focus over to Leslie Crosbie, wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner, who shoots and kills a man she accuses of trying to rape her. Everyone believes Leslie…but you see, there is this letter that exists that contradicts her story, and the more lies she tells, the less her lawyer believes her–although he ultimately pays a blackmailer to get the letter back so she escapes conviction. In the story it’s all from the lawyer’s point of view; she’s merely the wife of a friend he is taking on as a favor, and he doesn’t know her well…but as he (the lawyer) discovers the existence of the letter and recovers it, he slowly begins to see through her lies and to see her as she really is. He doesn’t expose her–he allows her to escape her punishment–but he confronts her with the letter after the verdict and she confesses everything…only to return to her loveless marriage at the rubber plantation. The story and the movie both are steeped with the Imperialistic and racist overtones of the time the story was written and the film made; the ending of the movie is different than that of the story because of course, for the Hays Code of the time she couldn’t be seen as not being “punished” for her crime; she is murdered at the end by the Eurasian widow of the man she killed (his marriage to this mixed-race woman is what sets the tragedy in motion) during a party celebrating her verdict. There was one scene in particular that really made me shake my head: after she has told her story of being almost raped and committing murder to protect herself, she makes dinner for her husband, a friend of the family, and the local police magistrate and they sit around eating and talking about things like nothing’s happened. As we watched this season, Paul–who had no idea of what the movie was about–said, “Oh, he didn’t try to rape her, did he? She’s a cold-blooded killer.” GREG: “It’s Bette Davis, what do you think?”

Although it did make me think about false accusations of rape again, which is one of the myriad of reasons women generally tend to not be believed about being assaulted. There’s probably a really good essay to be written about that.

I also wrote yesterday, which was really lovely. I managed to get the first chapter of that manuscript written; I plan to look at it again today and tweak it a bit. I have a lengthy errand to run–must go over to the North Shore–and when I get home, I plan to write for a while before retiring to my easy chair with my Copenhaver book (I am really enjoying it, y’all) before we finish watching The Defeated (y’all, it’s really good). I’m not sure if what I wrote yesterday is actually any good or not; it remains to be seen, I suppose, and let’s face it, I am not (nor have I ever been) the best judge of my own work. But we shall see today, I suppose. It felt good to be creating again and it felt good to be finishing something, even if it’s just a shitty draft. I’d like to be able to get a lot more written today, if I can…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Talk soon, Constant Reader!