Let’s Take The Long Way Around the World

Wednesday morning, and the beginning of a new era for one Gregalicious. I still only work a half-day, but now I work the second half of our testing schedule (4:30-8) rather than the first half (12-330) which I’ve been doing for quite some time now. When I asked my co-worker with whom I shift share if she’d mind switching with me once a month so I can make the monthly MWA board call, said she’d do it whenever necessary–and I realized, after we talked, that 1) it would actually be better for me overall to work the later half permanently and 2) it also worked better with her schedule for her to do the early, so we made the switch permanent (except for that pesky day when the parades get started, when I need to leave the office no later than 3:30 so I can get home before they close St. Charles Avenue. So, today is that first day, and while I do have a conference call this morning. I can spend the rest of the day getting things done around the house and I can even run the errands I need to run at a more leisurely place while still getting to work on time.

I love when things work out well, don’t you?

I was exhausted yesterday when I got home from work; partly because it was the second of my twelve hour shifts and partly because some days, my work is emotionally and physically draining. I’m a counselor, primarily for sexual health, and sometimes–well, sometimes it’s a difficult, draining job. I’m not complaining–I absolutely love my job and the work I do; my job actually makes a difference in some of our clients’ lives, which helps alleviate the fact that I’m actually a pretty awful person at heart. But I was so tired all I could do was, as usual, recline in my easy chair with Scooter curled up in my lap and cycle through Youtube videos. I enjoy Ms. Mojo’s list videos, for the most part, even when I don’t agree with their choices, and I don’t even remember which ones I was watching last night–although I do recall a lot of them had to do with Baby Yoda/The Child/The Asset and others with the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. 

It’s also a bit hard to realize that Carnival parades start relatively soon; the 14th of February, St. Valentine’s Day, to be exact, with all the disruption that entails.

I also this week booked my tickets to fly to the Edgars and Malice Domestic; I’ll be flying into LaGuardia on the Tuesday of that week; attending the Edgar symposium on Wednesday and going to the combination nominees reception/anthology launch for the new MWA anthology that evening, and then helping with last minute things on Thursday before attending the banquet. Friday morning I will Amtrak from Penn down to Union Station in DC before riding on the Metro to Bethesda for Malice. (I’m flying home from Washington National, which will entail taking the Metro again–probably having to change lines once; I’ll have to investigate that further.) But I’m excited to go to Malice–I haven’t been to Malice in years, and I’ve only been once. I had a great time and met a lot of lovely people; I enjoy the Malice crowd very much, and the train trip down from New York the last time was one of the best times I’ve ever had on a train before–since there were many of us traveling down from the Edgars. The train was full of crime writers! (I did have an idea for a book or a story inspired by that trip–“Murder on the Acela Express”, but could never wrap my mind around how to actually write it; the Christie original which of course inspired the title, Murder on the Orient Express, requires the train to be stranded out in the middle of nowhere for a period of time, and I couldn’t figure out how to strand the Acela in the middle of nowhere–even though now it occurs to me that it could just be the title that’s the homage rather than the story). I’ll probably be registering for Bouchercon in Sacramento later today or at some point this week–that’s going to be a rather long haul of a trip, but since I had to miss Dallas this past year I don’t want to miss the 2020 edition.

I’m still reading Dorothy B. Hughes’ delightful Dread Journey, but was too tired to read anything last night.

I also have to start reading some books to prepare for an interview I am doing for the Sisters-in-Crime quarterly, and am hoping to get some work done on the Secret Project today before heading into the errands and the office.

The kitchen is also a disgraceful mess this morning. Heavy heaving sigh. But at least I have time to do something about it before I head into work today.

And on that note, it’s time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Break Up to Make Up

Friday morning of a Labor Day weekend, and I slept well last night. Yesterday was plenty bad; I felt sick most of the day. I did manage to eat some things, periodically; a grilled cheese here, a banana there, a protein shake…and my stomach began to settle and my blood sugar also stabilized. I was also really dehydrated, so I drank a lot of water and Gatorade. I still feel a little dehydrated this morning, but I am not exhausted, and feel pretty decent otherwise. I do feel a bit hungry–I’ve had some toast already, and will probably have a banana or something else snacky in a moment. I have to remember to hydrate, I need to remember to eat, and I have to try to keep my blood sugar stable.

The hardest thing, for me, about getting older is the changes to my body that require me to change my habits. My eating habits have always been bad, and I’ve never in my life drank enough water on a daily basis the way one should. I eat terrible food–and I also sometimes forget to eat. I rarely am hungry–and if I don’t eat when I get hungry it will pass and I will forget to eat, which didn’t used to be an issue but now? It really is. Part of yesterday’s problem began on Tuesday, when I had a small lunch and nothing else to eat the rest of that day. I slept poorly Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday again, didn’t eat until dinner–which didn’t help with low energy and feeling tired; my blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels and then that night I didn’t sleep either, so yesterday I woke up with blood sugar so low I had no energy and everything ached; I hadn’t slept so was completely exhausted; and I was dehydrated on top of everything else…a perfect storm of conditions I need to be wary of in the future.

And of course, I was reading Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, which opens with one of the characters talking about pancreatic cancer, which he has, and thinking, oh, maybe that’s what’s wrong with me.

Not. Helpful.

We also watched two more episodes of Thirteen Reasons Why last night; there are only two more left to go, and it does feel like they are stretching the story in order to stick to the “each season must be thirteen episodes” mandated by the first season. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still enjoying the story and how it’s playing out lazily, but in order to play things out the way they need them to, sometimes plot twists or character behavior feels contrived; the only reason the twist or the behavior makes sense is because it’s necessary for the plot. They are dealing with heavy issues for teenagers–rape (both girls and one boy), drug addiction, suicide, murder, voyeurism–and perhaps most interesting of all: the dangers of being a self-loathing closet case. In this last case, I am kind of torn. On the one hand, I like they are showing how horrific it can be to realize you’re gay when you have an alcoholic and abusive father and are part of the jock culture; Monty’s self-loathing is the key to his villainous behavior (and make no mistake, Monty is definitely the villain of season three), but it’s also not explored. Monty is just an asshole, and it never gets any deeper than that; maybe one of these last two episodes is devoted to him and we’ll see some understanding and be able to develop some sympathy for him. On the other hand, I am not sure I like having the closeted gay kid as the clear villain of the season. As I mentioned before, the openly gay character was clearly written out of this season, and the lesbian/bisexual Asian girl who was a main character in season one basically only makes cameo appearances this season…so the only representation of a queer character is this one, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Also, this rehabilitation of the rapist story arc this season also makes me uncomfortable; but on the other hand, Bryce was such a cartoonish villain in the first two seasons that he seemed unrealistic; as I said the other day, Hitler loved his dogs. And whenever I write about character development, or teach a workshop on character development, one of the things I always emphasize is that villains are also three-dimensional characters; very few people are all good or all bad, but most everyone is a combination of the two. Seeing another side to Bryce is an interesting twist to the story, but I’m also not sure how much this “nice side of Bryce” is actually earned. On the one hand I applaud them for showing that rehabilitation is a possibility for even the worst of the worst, but there’s also a sense of “both sides”-ism to this.

But…it’s making me think, and isn’t that what these kinds of entertainments are supposed to do?

So, I am going to spend my day answering emails—I also have errands to run–and later on I’m going to try to get Chapter Twenty-four finished, before I take a streetcar named St. Charles to the Quarter so I can work condom patrol tonight for Southern Decadence. We definitely are getting the tickets for the LSU game, which is very cool (GEAUX TIGERS!), and so I also need to do some cleaning around the Lost Apartment so we can go to Baton Rouge tomorrow absolutely guilt-free.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Peaceful

Hello, Wednesday!

I slept strangely last night, in that I felt like I was awake all night but my body was resting–you know, that awful feeling of awareness where you know if you just open your eyes you’ll be awake? That. So I feel rested this morning, but at the same time I don’t completely trust that I’m rested, and suspect I’ll be very tired this evening. Today is my new short day of the week, which is lovely–I’ll be leaving the office around three-thirty this afternoon, stopping at Rouse’s for a few staples, and then I’ll be home.

One of my massive volunteer projects–the one I was so proud of finishing a few weekends ago–has reared its ugly head again, so I spent a good portion of last evening working on it before I went to bed. Another solid push and this phase will be finished; with one shorter phase still to come. Ideally, this will all be done and finished by the end of the weekend, which would be absolutely lovely. But then again, you can’t always count on things finishing when they should or on time, can you? But it was also one of those things hanging horribly over my head and causing me stress, including the stress of inertia; the feeling that there’s so much to do there’s no way I will ever get it done. I sent “Moist Money” off the other day; we’ll see how it plays. It’s a very dark story, but I kind of like it, and I really love the hardboiled gay voice of the main character.

I’ve always thought the Chanse series was my outlet for darkness; my hard-boiled series, whereas the Scotty books were more along the lines of a cozy series, even though Scotty became a licensed private eye. Even though he’s a professional, he’s still really an amateur. But there are people who have told me they love the humor in the Chanse series…which I’ve always thought was rather humorless, so there you go. (It’s like how I thought my story “Annunciation Shotgun” was pure noir and dark; people found parts of it funny even though the story was noir…which was weird for me. But at least they weren’t laughing at the story, but with it, so I didn’t mind so much. I have such a dark sense of humor anyway, I guess it was inevitable that my dark stories would also be humorous in some ways, too.)

Obviously, as I’ve been working on this project I’ve not gotten back to Chapter Twenty-four of Bury Me in Shadows (oh, so close!), but I am hopeful that if I finish the project today, I can get back to the book tomorrow night, and maybe get it completely finished Friday afternoon. I only have to work Friday night, passing out condoms in the Quarter, so I am probably going to run my errands and everything Friday during the day, so I can just stick close to the Lost Apartment over the weekend. There’s college football this weekend (HUZZAH!) and an LSU game Saturday night (GEAUX TIGERS!), and of course the Saints play on Sunday. I also want to start reading Rob Hart’s The Warehouse this weekend, and then I have Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows queued up next, before I get back to the Diversity Project.

We watched another episode of Thirteen Reasons Why last night, and Episode 8 is a particularly good one. The cast is so appealing, and they have such great chemistry together, that I am glad to overlook some things in the plot that don’t make a lot of sense. I also noticed–and maybe I am just not remembering anything from the previous seasons–but there used to be two queer kids at this school; a guy and the Asian girl who is student body president. They’ve been basically erased from the story–the guy is not even mentioned, and the girl was only in a couple of episodes in her role as student body president, but she was downgraded from supporting cast to cameos with little to no explanation. I wonder why? Anyway, last night’s episode is the one where Tyler finally tells Clay the truth about what happened to him, and why he snapped and wanted to die. The kid playing Tyler is phenomenal, probably one of the best actors in the cast, and he was heartbreaking., positively heartbreaking. I’m also not comfortable with the redemptive arc being given to the rapist, even though he’s dead. I understand what they are doing–what he did was inhuman and monstrous, but he was a person, and I think by trying to show him having regrets about what he did, and doing good things for other people, trying to atone…we never saw that in the first two seasons. But yes, it is important for people to understand that monsters are also human…as an editor told me once, years ago, when I was getting started, even Hitler loved his dogs.

Probably some of the best advice about character I’ve ever gotten from an editor.

All right, back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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One of a Kind (Love Affair)

Tuesday rolling around like a punch in the mouth.

I managed to get chapter twenty-three finished last night; two more to go and the first draft is finished. It’s going to get trickier in these final two chapters, methinks, but it’s also going to be interesting. A lot is going to happen in these last two chapters, which also kind of makes it fun to write.

I also turned in “Moist Money” to the anthology I was asked to write a story for; whether they like it or not remains to be seen–and I don’t mind if they don’t, really, because I’m actually glad I got the opportunity to write the story, if I’m being honest, and if I hadn’t been asked I would have never written the story. And while I’m not a fan of the word “moist”–it’s one of the more cringeworthy non-slur words in the English language, I’, not sure why–it really works for the story’s title. I also think it’s a great title. Bill Loefhelm told me me on Twitter–I responded to a tweet about stripper money being damp, and he told me I should write a book with the title; when I was in college I worked at Bank of America for a year as a teller, and our branch was near strip clubs…so the strippers used to come in with moist money to make deposits. (And now that I think about it, the fact that we weren’t given rubber or plastic gloves to wear while handling money seems kind of…unsanitary. Money is dirty to begin with…let alone handling it all day.) It’s a revenge story (because of course it is; I wouldn’t be Gregalicious if I didn’t write revenge stories all the time), and was most satisfying to write.

We’ll see how it goes.

I’m going to probably give “This Thing of Darkness” another going over before I submit it to the MWA anthology; I’m not really certain I’m happy with how I end the story.  I’m not entirely certain the story works in the first place, to be honest; isn’t that always the problem I have with short stories? I wish I had more confidence in my short story writing! I like to think I’m a good writer–you can’t write without some sort of sense that your compulsion to create characters and stories is good enough to be read and enjoyed by others–but ugh, that hideous inner voice, always undermining me and making me doubt myself! How I hate it!

I also started reading Lords of Misrule, a look at the politics of race in New Orleans through the lens of Carnival, and it’s kind of fascinating to see how recent the ordinance to desegregate the krewes was–the early 1990’s, in fact–and we moved here shortly after that went into effect. It’s also kind of handy to read about political things that were going on in New Orleans during that time, since I’m writing a novella set in New Orleans in 1994 (maybe 1995; I may change the date a bit as I work on it some more).

We continue to watch Thirteen Reasons Why’s third season, although I’m no longer sure why. The story seems…I don’t know; kind of forced? In some ways, though, it’s terrific; I do like how they are using all the backstory of the first two seasons to complicate this central murder mystery–although I suspect the reveal of the killer’s identity in the final episode is going to be a cheat. I’m also not terribly pleased that the murder victim/sociopathic rapist is getting kind of a backstory redemption arc…but then again, the kid who was almost a school shooter (stopped before his rampage in the season two finale) is also getting a redemptive arc…I kind of have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, I always felt kind of sorry for the kid, and they did such an amazing job of setting up his decline into depression and victimization–what happened to him in Season 2 was horrific, absolutely horrific–and the kids who perpetrated that have all seemed to have gotten away with it, and will continue to get away with it. On the one hand, realistically nothing would have happened to those kids, most likely; but on the other hand, it’s fiction, and it kind of feels like they just plastered a bandage on the kid’s hurts and sexual assault–yes, in season two a boy was victim of a particularly brutal and horrific sexual assault–and that seems, I don’t know, maybe it’s not compelling, story-wise, but I just feel  like they’ve made it seem easy to get over something like that–and it’s not.

Well, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines, methinks. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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Funny Face

Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day, you know?

Saturday night I watched a documentary about college football on ESPN, Football is US: The College Game. It was interesting–I didn’t know who Walter Camp was, but I’d heard the name before. I also knew who Amos Alonzo Stagg was–there’s a high school in Chicago named for him, and I also knew that the University of Chicago was an early power in college football, until they disbanded their team and stopped playing. It lightly touched on how college football parity helped desegregate the Southern universities–their football teams were mediocre, once other schools started recruiting, and playing, black players–but there was one line, when talking about the civil rights struggles in the 1960’s, and how Southern people, especially those in Alabama, focused on football as a source of pride for their state, that was particularly true and honest, and I wished they would have followed up on it some more: they didn’t like the way their state was being portrayed on the news, and felt like these representations of Southern states as hotbeds of racism was unfair.

Yes, indeed. It was incredibly unfair how the national news depicted Southern racism as how it actually existed in the real world. This resentment of how they are viewed by outsiders is keenly felt down here, and that sense of resentment is very key to understanding their behavior.

I reread the final few chapters of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and then planned out the final three, so I have a good shot at making my deadline of finishing the first draft by September 1. I also revised both “Moist Money” and “This Thing of Darkness” yesterday, so it was a fairly productive day for me on the writing front. Both stories need to be gone over again before sending them out into the world–both are rather dark stories; I sometimes shock myself with how dark I can go if I set my mind to it. (Fully cognizant of the notion that other people’s opinion of what dark is can vary wildly.)

We are still watching the third season of Thirteen Reasons Why, and I have to say, the show is both ridiculous and over the top–last night I said to Paul, “you know, this high school is completely fucked up–I can’t imagine anyone I went to high school with being murdered, let alone that almost everyone I was friends with would have a motive for killing another classmate”–but the show’s true appeal lies in the cast, how good they are in their roles, and the chemistry they have with each other. And let’s be honest–it hasn’t come remotely  close to Riverdale when it comes to plots going over the top. While watching last night, it occurred to me that the show is really kind of an Edge of Night type serial, only set in high school; every season’s plot has had something to do with death and crime. There has been at least one suicide, one suicide attempt, an almost-school shooting, several rapes–one particularly brutal one involving a young man and a broom handle–and so I can see why teenagers who’ve been through a trauma of some sort would find the show hard to watch.

I also watched Roll Red Roll, a horrifying documentary of the Steubenville rape case–which also is an exploration of rape culture in small towns–and that case was what initially inspired my own in-progress manuscript about the same thing; rape culture in a small town. Watching the documentary, and remembering how awful the story was as it unfolded–several other cases broke around the same time; there was another in Marysville, Missouri, and another in southern California, which were the subjects of another documentary–also made me see, again, what are the many problems and holes in the plot of the book I wrote on the subject, and what needs to be fixed about it.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

Happy Monday, everyone.

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Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me-oh-my-oh.

Now I want jambalaya.

Yesterday kind of sucked over all. I wasn’t in the least bit sorry to go to bed last night and bid the shitty day adieu. The energy of the day was off from the moment I got up yesterday, and just never got any better than that, sadly. The drive from the office to the grocery store was an endless annoyance of stupid drivers and their senseless, dangerous behavior. The grocery store was full of thoughtless trash who seemed to think they were the only people in the store, and then I almost got hit by another idiot driver who wasn’t watching or paying attention as I took the turn off St. Charles to my street–had I not been paying attention or been five seconds later, I definitely would have been broad-sided. I got home and the house was a disaster area, so bad I couldn’t get organized enough to clean because somehow I’d allowed the kitchen to get so bad that I had both sinks full of dirty dishes, the stove and counter were filthy, and a dishwasher full of clean dishes that I had to put away before I could start doing the rest of the dishes–which turned out to be more than one load. The shrimp creole turned out delicious, though, and when it was finally time to relax and watch some television, when we opened the Netflix app on the television, the third season of Thirteen Reasons Why had dropped. The second season wasn’t very good–and the first had its moments of nonsense–but as we watched the preview, it looked interesting–and of course the cast is all very young and appealing, so we decided to give it a whirl. The third season is, so far, the best of the three, to be honest; I enjoyed the first season, was surprised by its twists and turns, but ultimately the gimmick that tied the first season together–the tapes Hannah left behind after her suicide–was a bit outdated. For one thing, can you even buy blank cassette tapes anymore? Even when the book was originally published, sometime during the second Bush administration, the cassettes were outdated–but it was important to the story that it had to be cassette tapes–digital recordings wouldn’t work for the necessity of the story–and the one big plot hole that was never resolved was how did all the kids have the means to listen to cassette tapes? Clay had to borrow Tony’s ancient Walkman–and let’s be serious, Walkmans didn’t last very long, even when babied. To use cassette tapes in this decade was absurd on its face; why not videotapes, if we’re using obsolete technology?

But the third season is off to a really good start, and it appears that the third season is going to follow the story-telling methodology of the earlier seasons: the present, the recent past, and the distant past as timelines. The first season’s question was why did Hannah kill herself? The second season concerned itself with will Hannah get justice?, and it appears that the third season is going to be a lengthy, lazily unfurling murder mystery, in which the show’s villain has been murdered and of course, everyone in the cast has a motive. It will be interesting to see how they proceed with this, and I’m actually hopeful it will be a better experience than the first two flawed seasons. And yes, I am very well aware that the entire notion that the group of friends are helping out the poor bullied kid who almost became a school shooter last season by taking care of him and watching out for him, while getting him psychiatric help, is a bit much…but then again, teenagers often think they can solve problems that are beyond their scope.

Juggling multiple time-lines is not something I’ve tried in any of my works; Alison Gaylin and Laura Lippman both are masters of the varied timelines–so if you’re looking for a tutorial on how to structure a novel this way I highly recommend Gaylin’s What Remains of Me and Lippman’s After I’m Gone–but it is something I’ve always wanted to try. My novels are always linear–A to B to C–and it might be a fun challenge sometime to do the multiple timeline thing.

While I was cleaning yesterday some ideas for “Never Kiss a Stranger” popped into my head, and I’m hoping I’ll remember them today so i can add them in. I have some errands to run today, and definitely to spend some time with the new Lippman novel–which I may just finish today–and have some other work to do in addition to cleaning and doing some writing. I feel good this morning; awake and lively and functional, so here’s hoping it will last through the day–and going out into the heat and humidity, which I am rather dreading as it is so draining. But I have prescriptions and mail to pick up, groceries to make, and  I’m hoping I’ll be able to make some serious progress on projects. There’s college football games today–of all things, they are calling it “Week Zero”, which is insane–so I may watch the Miami-Florida game tonight before queueing up Thirteen Reasons Why.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do about dinner today–and I’ll need to make up my mind before heading out to make groceries, you know? I’m also considering going back to taking salads to work for lunch every day–one of the reasons I stopped was because salads would turn brown if I made a big bowl, and it was too much trouble every morning to make a salad, plus it wasn’t helping me lose weight or anything–but now I’m thinking it’s probably not a bad idea to go back to salads again. Of course, I also have the shrimp creole. Maybe I’ll wait and get the salad fixings on my way home from work on Wednesday, which is my new short day.

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I’ll just wait till Labor Day weekend, and start then.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader! See you tomorrow.

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One

GEAUX TIGERS!

Yes, second ranked Georgia rolls into Tiger Stadium today to take on the twelfth-ranked Tigers, reeling from the first loss last week at Florida. I’m trying not to get to invested in the stakes of the game; I just want the Tigers to play better than they did last week and be competitive. I want them to win, I will be rooting them on–but I will also likely be cleaning and keeping myself occupied to handle the nerves.

Sigh.

I slept in this morning–I did wake up around seven, but chose to stay in bed for another hour, before finally getting up and getting a load of laundry started. I feel extremely well-rested this morning; which is absolutely lovely. I have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do today in order to clear my plate so tomorrow can be all about writing and editing and reading. I am greatly enjoying Empire of Sin; it’s giving me all kinds of ideas about stories to write and maybe even a novel or two…I’ll probably read Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter next.

Lisa Morton once suggested that I do a New Orleans version of her book Monsters of LA. I am thinking that might just be something I can do, now that I’m reading all this New Orleans history.

I also started streaming the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House last night; I got through the first two episodes, which I greatly enjoyed. I was tempted to watch  yet a third but stopped myself as it was getting late. There’s been, since the trailers for the show dropped, a lot of anger and disgust from Shirley Jackson fans as well as horror fans, since obviously the show was going to be different from the novel, and why does this even need to be? Well, I am a huge fan of both Jackson AND this particular novel; one of my proudest moments was when Night Shadows was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist. (I love the rock I got for being a finalist.) The show is good. It didn’t have to be Hill House; it didn’t have to be The Haunting of Hill House, but that’s what it is, and it is inevitable, as such, that it’s going to be compared to the original. Jackson’s structure is there; Hill House, the Crain family, the Dudleys; even some of the things that happen in the book happen in the show. It’s being told in a parallel structure; when the Crains moved into Hill House, a young couple with five children, ostensibly to renovate the house and flip it. Something horrible happened while they lived there, and the parallel story being told in modern times is about the Crains today; all five of the kids grown up into severely damaged adults. The children are Steve, Shirley, Theo, Nell, and Luke–the names of the characters from the novels plus the novelist’s name–and the parallel story structure works. The performances are good, and I also like the concept–it’s very Stephen King’s It, because clearly they are all going to have to return to Hill House and face not only the house but their own demons. As I watched and began to understand the story structure, I also thought to myself, ah, this is a great direction modern horror is going in; not only dealing with the paranormal elements but the also dealing with the psychological aspects of having dealt with something so traumatic as a child. It reminded me somewhat of Paul Tremblay’s novel A Head Full of Ghosts in that way. I am really looking forward to continuing to watch and see how it plays out. I don’t see how this can become a regular series…but then again Netflix turned Thirteen Reasons Why into a multi-season show and the second season just wasn’t very good.

I’m also still watching season three of The Man in the High Castle, which is sooooo good. The first season was terrific, the second kind of mess, but they’ve really hit their stride in Season 3.

And now, I have laundry to fold, dishes to put away, spice to mine.

Have a lovely lovely Saturday, everyone.

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Never

Wednesday. I am working only a half-day today, and then I am taking a short vacation. I don’t have to be back at the office until Tuesday of next week, so I am going to try to relax, get caught up on some things–without any pressure to do any of those things–and recalibrate my head, my heart and my soul.

And do something about how disgusting I’ve allowed my apartment to get in the meantime. I do think a thorough clean will help purge my soul; when my apartment isn’t clean and organized, it weighs on me.

I worked a little on the WIP and the Scotty yesterday, and primarily worked on another short story, “Never Kiss a Stranger.” One of the funny things about me, and my stubbornness, and my tendency to get caught up in tunnel vision, is my regular insistence that I am writing everything in the present day. Part of my struggle with “Never Kiss a Stranger” in the past was trying to make it work in the present; yesterday it occurred to me you can set this in the past, you know, and presto! By moving the story from 2018 to 1994, it clicked into place and started working. My main character is a gay man with twenty years in the military; at age thirty-eight, in those days before “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” being gay was grounds for a dishonorable discharge; after the Gulf War he finds out he is on a ‘to-be-investigated’ list and so puts in his retirement papers. His parents dead and not having a relationship with anyone else in his family, he comes out into the general world and decides to move to New Orleans to start his life anew; it’s also his first opportunity as an adult to live openly as a gay man. As I revised what had already been written, the character’s voice clicked in my head and I was able to remember New Orleans in that time period; when I was visiting and falling in love with the city, as well as remembering what a different time period it was, even though it was only slightly more than twenty years ago. No cell phones or Internet, HIV/AIDS was still pretty much a death sentence (or rather, just a matter of time once infected), and New Orleans was riddled with crime everywhere and inexpensive to live; a beautiful old city decaying in her splendid, rotting beauty in the sun.

And it’s kind of fun writing about the past sometimes, being able to  use my own memories (and my journals) to remember things. And at the same time, incredibly freeing to finally realize something so obvious; that everything needn’t be in the present.

We finished watching both The Terror and Thirteen Reasons Why last night; The Terror, while unsettling, ended inevitably in the only way that it could; I am sorry to be finished with it, and will, when it’s free for streaming, probably watch it again to understand it better. It should be a leading contender for all the Emmys; the question only being which stellar member of the cast should take the trophy home. Thirteen Reasons Why’s second season was…interesting, yet incredibly disappointing in its third season. The resolution of some story lines, which had long since been played out, ended in unsatisfying ways that were, while bitter, realistic and honest and true to life. Rapists get away with slaps on the wrists far too often and our judiciary often lets female victims know that their lives really have no value and there is no justice for them. The final episode, with its bittersweet closure, worked in that respect while at the same time set the stage for a third season with horrifyingly depicted brutality, showing that the damage that was caused by the incidents that triggered the first two seasons have deeper and far more lasting consequences; when damage isn’t repaired and the systems that allowed that damage to occur aren’t corrected, far worse damage can occur. The close of the episode, I felt, was a bit of a cop-out; but I understand why they didn’t see that story through, and it did leave me curious to see where it can go next. There hasn’t been an announcement, as far as I know, that there will be a third season; I’d like to see it, if for no other reason than curiosity to see how these newly planted seeds will grow.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Alive and Kicking

Tuesday and a short work week! I am working half-a-day tomorrow, and taking off Thursday and Friday; which, coupled with Memorial Day, gives me a lovely mini-vacation which will enable to get some things done that I want to get done and rest and relax and write and…well, we’ll see how it goes, but I am heading into my mini-vac with seriously high hopes to get a lot accomplished.

And if I don’t? Well, at least I’ll be well-rested.

Watch this space for updates.

Seriously, though, we are continuing through Thirteen Reasons Why, with only two episodes left to go in this season, and while it continues to get better with every episode, I think there may have been a little too much conflict in the writer’s room when story-boarding this season. The show has yet to be picked up for a third season, but there are rumblings on line that Season 2 definitely left the door open for a third; possibly with major cliff-hanger endings to the various story-lines running through the show. It just gets frustrating when things are contrived for the plot, you know what I mean? But then, the original season was also contrived, since it was based on the notion that 1) she had access to cassette tapes 2) she was assuming everyone she wanted to listen to the tapes would have access to a cassette player and 3) she also assumed any one of the people wouldn’t just throw the tapes away. There was a bit of a blackmail threat, of course, but at the same time….I still think at least one of the kids would have destroyed the tapes, or at least not passed them on; especially one of the kids who didn’t really have as much to lose as the others.

But…the young cast is very appealing and compelling in their roles.

Also: we can watch the finale of The Terror tonight. Seriously, if you aren’t watching, it’s some of the best television I’ve seen in years.

And now, for a return to The Short Story Project, we have “The Good Cat” by Vicki Hendricks,  from Retreats from Oblivion: The Journal of Noircon:

I had no name till Dad took me home. Now I answer to Lickrish, Buddy, and Son–when I feel like it. I gave up chasing lizards, squirrels, and birds, and climbing trees, for Dad. None of it was as good as his fingers behind my ears, his soft belly-lap, and the tang of his silky armpit slung across out bedsheets where I curl. I am a good boy till I start trouble.

Dad is on the couch and I am in his lap, as we are supposed to be at night. He turns my head toward his snout. “Son,” he says, his fingers massaging the tingly spot above my tail, “You’re the only one Dad needs.” I stretch forward, head down, butt up. I hunker into a cuddly lump and purr, keeping my eyes cracked on a swaying palm frond outside the window. I’m lulled by the movement—happy—as Dad calls it. He rests his hand on my back and watches the picture-screen.

After a while he says, “Buddy, let’s take a drive to my Ami. Wanna?” It is a place with windows in the sky, a world of sand, and salty waves that try to drown you if you stop to dig a hole. I leap to his shoulder and tuck my forepaws into the dark stubble on his neck, scouring the side of his face with my tongue till he pulls me off. He does not understand what I am telling him, that we are happy on the couch. I do not want to go to his Ami, or anywhere, but I do not want to stay home all by myself.

Read the whole story here.

Vicki Hendricks should be one of the biggest names in crime fiction today, without question. I myself am just as guilty as all the rest of you; this is only my second experience reading some of her work, and I really need to remedy that failing. Her debut novel, Miami Purity, is one of the best noir novels of all time, period, no questions, no doubt. The entire time I read it–and if I recall correctly, I indulged in the entire thing one rainy afternoon in my easy chair, riveted from beginning to end, and it is still an accomplishment in noir writing that I can only try to emulate; I doubt, in all sincerity and honesty, that I could write its equal. After reading this short story, I immediately added all the rest of Hendricks’ novels to my list; I strongly urge you to do so as well.

“The Good Cat” reminded me of Patricia Highsmith’s short story “Ming’s Biggest Prey”; both are dark, noir tales from the point of view of a cat–which is not entirely an easy thing to pull off, but once you read the stories they totally make sense: what could be more noir than a cat? Both stories are about a cat’s love for their owner; Highsmith’s is darker because the character of the cat is more dark; Hendricks rather views a dark thing from the cat’s point of view; a cat who loves its owner, which makes the ending all the more heartbreaking and yes, noir. (Highsmith’s story ends with no small feeling of satisfaction in the reader.)

Read Vicki Hendricks. Do it. Now. 

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West End Girls

Sunday morning and yet again, I have overslept. I wasn’t feeling particularly well yesterday, and managed to get nothing–outside of some errands in the hideous heat and humidity–accomplished yesterday. The end result was I parked my not-feeling-great ass in my easy chair and watched Netflix for most of the day; beginning with an original Netflix show, The Kissing Booth–a teen rom/com, which was actually kind of cute–and then it was back to the misery/drama porn of Season Two of Thirteen Reasons Why.  Season Two is nowhere near the quality level of Season One; without the connecting hook of the cassette tapes telling the stories of the individual kids, it loses a lot. The connective tissue being used for the second season is the trial, where Hannah’s parents are suing the school for not doing more to help their daughter before she killed herself. Therefore, each episode focuses on each kid and is kind of told from their perspective, based on who is testifying that day: because, of course, only one person per day can testify. There are a lot of really good moments in this season, which shows glimmers of how good the season could have been; yet the need to weave the now-dead Hannah into this season without a reason for her to be there is a weakness. I do feel that it would have been smarter to simply have shown her from the point-of-view of the kids in this season–last season was seeing the others through hers–without the ghost/voice of reason/conscience/whatever-the-fuck-she-is that keeps appearing to Clay; which also, unfortunately, weakens Clay. It makes him unreliable as a narrative voice, and we are also not entirely sure he’s not simply lost his mind in his drive and desire to avenge Hannah. This undermines the character and the performance being given by Dylan Minnette, who was so terrific in the first season; which is unfortunate.

But…I continue to watch to see how this is all going to play out.

It’s difficult for a series based on a single novel to be adapted into a regular television series; Thirteen Reasons Why’s first season was a great example of how it can be done, and beautifully so. I greatly enjoyed that first season. But when the show is successful–and let’s face it, in the entertainment industry success  means continue to build on that success, or at the very least, keep milking that cash cow until you’ve squeezed every penny out of it. There wasn’t a need for a second season of this show, nor a third; where I thought they might go in a second season isn’t where they’ve gone. But the series does get stronger after the first weak episodes; maybe it will continue to get stronger. But the standout of this season is the character of Alex, and the young actor playing him, Miles Heizer. The first season ended with someone being shot, and we weren’t sure who it was. Turns out it was Alex, and he survived. This season, the bullet, which entered and exited through his skull, didn’t kill him but partially paralyzed him and messed up his memories. So, watching him struggle with physical therapy, and trying to figure out what went on the month before he tried to take his own life is incredibly powerful and he is knocking it out of the park. It’s really a shame; the first season was about finding out why Hannah killed herself, and the second season should focus more on the kid who tried to kill himself and now not only has to live with the consequences of that decision but try to figure out why he did it, and deal with the pity and cruelty of his classmates.

Now, there’s a story for a young adult novel. Hmmmm. *makes notes*

I am hoping to get some cleaning out of the way today as well as some writing. I’ve been seriously slacking lately, and I need to stop doing that. Granted, yesterday I didn’t feel good, but I need to get motivated and get back to writing. There’s also a lengthy blog entry I  need to finish writing.

But I’ve been thinking about young adult fiction a lot lately; the WIP is young adult, and there’s another one I want to write, or at least get started on, before the end of the year, Bury Me in Satin. It’s going to require some research, which isn’t a bad thing, and perhaps a drive up to Tuscaloosa. I really have been wanting to write this book for a very long time, and I think it’s time. It’s a dangerous topic, but I kind of want to do it. I also want to finish “Burning Crosses” today; it’s ready to be read aloud so I need to go ahead and do that. I also want to finish the first draft of “This Thing of Darkness”, and I have some reading I need to get done. I seriously need to get off my lazy ass and get a move on you know? There’s also that filing shit I started and need to finish. So, yes, indeed, I need to get motivated. But next weekend is a glorious three day weekend, and I am also planning on requesting Friday off and taking a short day on Thursday, not only to maximize the weekend but enable myself to have more time to work, as well as to have a day or two where I have literally nothing to do except read and relax; we’ll see how that turns out.

And I am not missing the cable. Not in the least little bit. This is wonderful.

And now, back to the spice mines.

For your viewing pleasure, here is Jacob Elordi, who plays the romantic lead in The Kissing Booth:

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