Fire Lake

Carnival is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and as such, one has to plan accordingly. The closer I get to sixty the harder it is for me to stand for long periods of time; my retirement plan to be a Wal-mart greeter so as not to have to exist on cat food is clearly out of the question.

Purina it is!

So, I’ve started taking breaks between parades; when I can see the flashing red lights of a fire truck, signaling the end of a parade, I come home and have a seat while I wait for the next one, trying to get rested so I won’t be completely exhausted at the end of the day.

Sigh. I rather miss the days when I could stand out there all night, work all weekend, walking back and forth between the Quarter and home, stay out every night until dawn…if I tried that now I’d probably need to a rest cure of some sort.

Sad, but all too true.

The good news is a co-worker last year convinced me to buy one of those self-message rolling things, and after the parades yesterday I used it on my back, shoulders, and legs. This morning I felt rested, not tired, and my muscles feel much more relaxed than usual. I think when my vacation starts this Wednesday I might try to get back to the gym, for a light round of weights, stretching, and some cardio. I also might make it to Costco on Wednesday, and of course, there’s lots of cleaning that needs to be done. I am hoping that the staycation will be much more effective this time than it usually is…for anything other than reading and resting.

I did managed to get another chapter done yesterday morning before the parades started rolling, and prepared the final five for their revision. I also need to revise the prologue and write the epilogue, but I don’t think that will be too difficult, frankly. It doesn’t need to be much more than fifteen hundred words, at the most, and the book is already coming in pretty long.

I finished watching Versailles last night, and yes, all and any attempts by the show to be historically accurate went out the window with Season Three. While I do admire them for digging deeply enough into the mythology of the Sun King to come up with storylines including the Louise Marie Therese, the Black Nun of Moret, and it would be hard to do a show about Louis XIV and resist the temptation to unravel the riddle of the Man in the Iron Mask (Dumas also tried…and his explanation, also a-historical, at least made a sort of sense)…the  very idea (no spoiler) they came up with very wrong and unlikely; it made no sense, if one has even the slightest knowledge of primogeniture and the rules of succession. They also messed up with Louis losing his claim to Spain with the death of his wife, Marie-Therese; the claim simply passed from her to their son, and the result was the War of the Spanish Succession (which, coincidentally, is the war being fought in The Favourite).

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

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Desire

It’s a lovely morning, with a blue sky and the sun shining, and it might be a bit chillier than it was yesterday–but the high is forecast for the seventies and there’s no rain in the forecast.

I slept deeply and well last night, partly from exhaustion. Paul, of course, is in the final weeks before the Festival so has been working late at the office and then staying up till the wee hours of the morning working at home, so yesterday he was catching up on sleep most of the day so I was, alas, without my trusted parade route partner as I wandered down to the corner for the Pontchartrain and Choctaw parades. I did well for myself with bead-and-throw catching, but it started sprinkling while I waited for the third parade, so I walked back home. As soon as I sat down in my easy chair, however, exhaustion set in. My legs and lower back were aching, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to skip the next parade. As Sparta and Pygmalion were coming later, I started watching Versailles and actually got through three episodes. Paul got ready for the night parades…and it started raining. There was also thunder here–which also means lightning–and I decided that it simply didn’t make sense to stand in the rain and possibly catch a chill that would ruin the rest of the season, so I remained ensconced under my blanket in my easy chair and watched television: the CNN docuseries The 2000’s is very well done. This morning my back is still a bit sore and all the joints of my leg–hip, knee, ankle–ache a bit; but I have far too many friends riding in King Arthur to skip that one today.

And I also go on my little staycation on Wednesday, so there’s that, as well.

I do love parade season, I have to say. I may even have to write another Scotty-at-Mardi-Gras book at some point.

Or just some Mardi Gras set book. I could write a hundred books or stories about Mardi Gras and never really cover it all, you know.

How I do love New Orleans.

I also managed to revise a chapter of Scotty yesterday; I should be able to do another this morning as well. I read some more of Lori Roy’s superb Gone Too Long while I was grilling yesterday; it’s most excellent and you need to preorder it immediately. I also managed to get some emails cleaned out; hope to do some more this morning as well as reading the next story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, and perhaps another Norah Lofts ghost story.

I suppose I’ll watch the Oscars tonight after the parades. It’s really not much fun anymore, as all the pre-awards kind of take all the suspense and excitement out of the Oscars. The acting winners will be Regina King (who deserves all the awards), Mahershala Ali, Glenn Close, and Rami Malek, barring the every-once-in-a-blue-moon surprise. I’ll probably read while it’s on…although I’d love to see Olivia Colman win; not only was she amazing in The Favourite but her acceptance speeches are pure gold. But Glenn Close is way overdue; she should have won for both (or either) Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons, which I’d actually like to watch again.

And now, I am waking up and needing some sustenance; perhaps some peanut butter toast or a bowl of honey-nut Cheerios?

And then it’s back to the spice mines.

Happy Carnival, all!

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Let My Love Open the Door

76 degrees already this morning, with the mercury forecast to continue to rise throughout the day, with heavy rains in the forecast for tonight’s parades. I think I’m going to spark up the barbecue this afternoon–get that true Carnival experience but barbecuing burgers and hot dogs–and probably try to get some work done around the parades.

I only worked two hours yesterday morning, so I went in early and did all the things, departed and went to the grocery store on the way home–there’s no way I can move my car again before Sunday evening–and then came home to do odious chores. But I got all of it done, reorganized some cabinets and the refrigerator, and then relaxed in my easy chair while I waited for Paul to come home so we could have dinner and go to the parades. Alas, he didn’t get home until too late, so we missed Oshun and Cleopatra. I guess I could have gone by myself, but that’s not as much fun, plus getting up early and doing the running around and cleaning and so forth had left me rather tired. I watched some television, including another episode of Versailles, and retired to bed relatively early. I slept well, which was lovely, and am up and at ’em this morning. I intend to get some revising done before the parades arrive, and there’s some tidying required for the living room.

But this morning I feel rested and like I can conquer the world, which is a lovely feeling.

We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?

Hilariously, part of my work on the kitchen yesterday including moving small appliances–I moved the microwave from next to the refrigerator back to the other counter, so it’s next to the stove now, and the coffee maker from there to the counter next to the refrigerator. As small a change as that was, it opened up the kitchen and makes that area look bigger. (I used to have it set up this way for years and changed it about two years ago; yesterday it dawned on me that was why the kitchen looked so much more crowded, so I switched it back.) I also put two boxes of books up in the attic, which was also a satisfying feeling, and at some point today I am going to combine some small boxes of books into a bigger box, and put that in the attic.

I’d also like to finish Lori Roy’s superb novel Gone Too Long this weekend, if i can. I am a little behind on the revising (as always) but am hopeful focusing can get more done before and after and around the parades today–as long as I don’t get too tired out there on the parade route…there are five today.

FIVE: Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta, and Pygmalion.

Sigh. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I am also kind of looking forward to finishing this revision because I really want to get back to work on the WIP, which I think has a lot of potential…and there’s some stories I want to revise. It occurred to me the other day how to solve the problems with “The Problem with Autofill,” which is actually also going to need a new title; whereas I like the original title, it doesn’t really fit the story, and trying to make the story fit that title doesn’t work, either. So I will file the title away (like I had to do with “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”) and hope that a story will eventually come to me that will fit the title.

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

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Don’t Let Go

Tuesday morning. I am not as tired or sleepy this morning as I usually am on Tuesday mornings; I suspect my body is, at long last, adapting to my new work schedule. It’s only taken, what? Three months? And I am about to have another break. Next week I only work Monday and Tuesday, and then I am on vacation until Ash Wednesday.

So I’ll probably have to get used to my schedule all over again. Huzzah.

But I revised another chapter of the book last night, which was absolutely lovely. I am getting closer and closer to being finished, and this fills me with absolute delight. I also realized that there are parades this weekend, so getting a chapter done per day is not only wise but necessary; chances are I’ll be too tired and worn out this weekend from parade-going to get caught up if I fall behind…so I can’t fall behind; I need to keep revising at least a chapter a day in order to be finished by next Wednesday.

Huzzah! I think.

I also have decided, after further thinking on the subject, that my short story “The Blues Before Dawn” would actually work better as a novel rather than a short, so I am putting it on my list of novels to work on. It’s a period piece, probably will be set in the late 1950’s, and will require a lot of research about gay life in New Orleans during the Eisenhower years. Looking some things up in the index of Richard Campanella’s book Bourbon Street was what finally convinced me that it was a novel rather than a short story; I had originally intended for the story to be set in Storyville during the time the United States entered World War I. (I do think there’s some stories and/or novels, perhaps even a non-fiction research book to be written during that time period; as I continue to read up on New Orleans history, and once I start actually doing the research, I feel certain the floodgates will open and I’ll have all sorts of ideas for stories and things…and I need stories for Monsters of New Orleans.)

I watched another episode of Versailles last night, and yes, they’ve completely tossed any semblance of historical fact away for this final season. I’m no longer sure of what year it’s supposed to be; it’s somewhere after the Affair of the Poisons yet sometime before the War of the Grand Alliance. The dying out of the Hapsburg line in Spain is part of the story this season; which only confuses matters more. Louis XIV’s wife, Marie-Therese, was a Spanish Hapsburg, and the older half-sister of the last Hapsburg king of Spain, Carlos II. In last night’s episode much was made of the fact that not only was Carlos ill, but how close Marie-Therese was to him and so it was not out of the question that she’d want to return to Madrid one last time to see him before he dies.

This is a-historical. At the time Marie-Therese married Louis XIV, her father had only two children, she and a sister who married the Holy Roman Emperor.  Because Philip IV had no sons at the time, it was possible his daughters might be his heirs; so it was written into the marriage contract that Marie-Therese renounced all claims to Spain for her and her heirs; her sister, since she was marrying a Hapsburg, did not have to do so; this way Spain would remain a Hapsburg possession. Carlos II wasn’t born until Marie-Therese was already queen of France; she could not be, therefore, close to someone she’d never met. She also died in 1683, so this has to be set in the time period before 1683.

Sigh.

Incidentally, when Carlos II did finally die, he’d been persuaded to leave his possessions and his throne to his French relatives rather than the Austrians. This resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession.

I will keep watching, though, because I do love the period, the production design is spectacular, and they are also tackling the mystery of the man in the iron mask, one of my favorite mysteries of French history.

And now back to the spice mines.

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You’re Only Lonely

Monday, and this week parades start–this Friday, to be more precise. I think it’s Oshun and Kleopatra; perhaps Alla as well? I’ll have to check my handy-dandy Mardi Gras Guide to be certain.

It’s raining this morning, which means it will be colder than I thought it would be; I didn’t bring a coat or wear an undershirt beneath my sweater, which might be problematic much later in the evening. Ah, well.

Yesterday I managed to revise four chapters of the Scotty, so that revision is going very well. Once again, I am at that point where if I do a chapter every day, the book will be finished by March 1. My goal, however, is to get more of it done per day, so that I can let it sit for a couple of days before looking at it one last time. We shall see how that goes.

I also read more of Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long, which is, frankly, a master class in crime writing. JFC, she’s so good, peeps! I still have two of her backlist to read–which, as is my wont, I am hoarding against the day when there may not be another Lori Roy left in my TBR pile (which would be a horribly sad day indeed). I also read another short story in Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? I will, of course, talk more about it later; but one of the things I love about these Lofts stories is they aren’t necessarily scary; they tend to be more Gothic and creepy more than anything else.

I also downloaded season 3 of Versailles last night, and now, alas, the show has finally decided, in its final season, to be completely a-historical. It’s still great fun, and the palace is actually finished now…so they are using the actual exteriors–or CGI, or something. And it’s even more breathtakingly beautiful than it was in previous seasons. In the first episode of this season, the Hall of Mirrors was completed finally and Louis showed it off to an important visitor, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold. I am not certain that this is the correct Emperor for the time period, and it’s also very vague as to what year this is taking place…but it’s certainly not as a-historical as The Tudors was, or The White Queen. 

Or the mess that was Reign.

I do wish someone would make a series about Catherine de Medici. There was NEVER a period in her life that was dull…

She fascinates me; I’d say probably she and Eleanor of Aquitaine are at the top of my list of favorites Queens in history.

And on that note, this manuscript ain’t going to revise itself. Back to the spice mines with me!

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Jingle Bells

Getting used to being back at work is always a chore at the best of times.

Having to go in early two of the only three days I have to work is simply insult to injury, quite frankly. I only hit the snooze button three times this morning, though, and while I am not completely awake as of yet, I don’t feel sleepy or groggy. I am hoping this is a good sign.

I managed to eke out another thousand or so words on the book yesterday; which I am taking as a triumph. I am not certain why this is moving so slow, or why it is so hard for me to get used to working on it; I don’t think my writing muscles are rusty or as tired as I would like to think they must be–any excuse in a storm, really–but if I can get through today and tomorrow it’s another four day weekend and hopefully this discombobulated feeling will pass soon enough.

One can hope, any way.

I watched a great documentary on Youtube after work last night about Versailles, and personal hygiene at the court of Louis XIV. It was very interesting; one of the things that is almost always missing from biographies, historical novels, and histories are the personal touches from daily life–dentistry, breath, body odors, cleanliness, etc.–and how it has changed over the years. We would consider Versailles and the courtiers disgustingly filthy and revolting; they thought they were at the pinnacle of personal cleanliness. The documentary–you should watch, if this sort of thing interests you–is called Versailles’ Dirty Secrets.

Speaking of Versailles, I am hoping the third and final season will be free to streaming soon.

I do feel sort of adrift, I have to say; I realized it last night as I worked on the book. Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 I no longer trust my computer or its back-ups; nor do I remember exactly what I was working on or what was going on in my head with my writing before it happened. I know I had a lot of momentum and quite a head of steam, and was forging ahead full speed and damn the torpedoes…and I hate that I am kind of lost and floundering now.

Thanks for that, Apple.

So if last weekend had a “catch up on your rest, do some deep cleaning, and clear out electronic files” theme, this weekend will have a get back to work and remember what you were doing and GET BACK ON TOP OF THINGS theme.

And I have luncheon at Commander’s Palace on Monday to look forward to.

And now back to the spice mines.

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War

Monday morning, and all is quiet and calm in the Lost Apartment. We are finally working normal hours at the office this week, which means 12 hour days on Monday and Tuesday for me, my old normal on Wednesday and Thursday, and very short days on Fridays, which is absolutely lovely. Since Paul will be gone this Friday, I will probably run what errands need to be run when I get off work, come home and clean the house thoroughly, and perhaps watch season three of Versailles, which I am leaning toward buying just so I can finish it off. I do have a Christmas party to attend on Saturday night, but I’ll just be bouncing around the Lost Apartment for the most part, amazed at how empty and quiet it seems without Paul–as I always do.

I did manage to get chapter six of Bury Me in Satin finished, despite being so tired, and am hoping that I can get past the hump–or rather, that getting past that particular hump–will make the rest of the writing go even more smoothly. I can dream can I not?

We continue to enjoy Schitt’s Creek–Daniel Levy and Catherine O’Hara are fucking national treasures, and I do not understand why they both haven’t won Emmys, or even been nominated. I guess because it was Amazon Prime and it didn’t get that much attention? The show is hilarious, absolutely hilarious, even as it is nonsensical…and there is plenty of lovely male eye candy on the show; we are now up to Season 3, and a bisexual love interest has been introduced for Daniel Levy’s character and his female ex, Stevie, who runs the motel they are living at. (Stevie is also one of my favorites on the show, and she had the best line thus far–after being told something truly horrible: “Okay then, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to run a warm bath and plug in my hair dryer.” It still makes me laugh.)

And on that note, it’s time to get back to the spice mines.

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Bridge over Troubled Water

Looks like we made it, Constant Reader; through another week of trials and tribulations and who knows what all, quite frankly. I woke up at six, but stayed in bed until just before eight, and feel obscenely well-rested, not tired at all; maybe a bit of a sleep hangover, but other than that, in tip-top shape for this lovely weekend. There’s condensation all over the windows around my workspace this morning; I suspect it rained over night and the air out there is probably warm and thick with water. It’s also not cold inside, which is a tip-off that it’s probably a lovely day outside. Paul is going to go into the office at some point today; I intend to go run some errands later as well as get some serious writing done. Conference championship football games are on television all day, but I really don’t care who wins any of them, if I’m going to be completely honest. The kitchen seems scattered and messy today, so does the living room, and of course, Paul is leaving for his winter visit to his family on this coming Wednesday, so I will have almost a full week of alone time.

I am, for December 1, disgustingly behind on everything; from Bury Me in Satin, stalled at Chapter Six, to finishing touches on both the Scotty book and the short story collection. I also need to proof read Jackson Square Jazz at some point so that can finally be available as an ebook; it never seems to end, does it? But I did somehow manage to tear through my to-do list this past week (other than anything writing/editing related that was on it) and I think now, finally, the day job is finally going to settle into a kind of routine schedule. I also picked up Bibliomysteries Volume I, edited by Otto Penzler, at the library yesterday, so I have a wealth of short stories to read. (I also still have all the volumes of anthologies and single author collections I was reading earlier in the year on the mantel in the living room; I should probably get back to those at some point as well.) I am probably going to keep The Short Story Project rolling into the new year; I do love short stories, and I keep finding more unread collections on my bookshelves.

I got some books in the mail yesterday; the two most recent Donna Andrews Meg Langslows, Toucan Keep a Secret and Lark! The Herald Angels Sing (which I wish I could read over the Christmas holidays; I love reading Donna’s Christmas books during the season but I doubt I’ll have time to read Toucan first; and yes, I have to read them in order DON’T JUDGE ME); two novels by Joan Didion, Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted; two books by Robert Tallant, one fiction (The Voodoo Queen, an undoubtedly error-riddled and racist biographical novel about Marie Laveau) and one nonfiction (Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders); the next volume of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, A Clash of Kings; and Hester Young’s follow-up to The Gates of Evangeline, The Shimmering Road. 

So, yes, my plate is rather full this weekend–but I shall also have plenty to do while Paul is gone. I am also thinking about buying the third and final season of Versailles on iTunes to watch. I will probably make an enormous list of all the things I want to get done while Paul is in Illinois and wind up doing none of them.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I also need to figure out his Christmas presents while he’s gone, so I can get them and have them all wrapped before he gets home.

And so now, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Separate Lives

Well, in typical Greg screw-up fashion, I screwed up this morning. I’d signed up to tour the local FBI office and attend two presentations, all of which I was looking forward to, but I had the time wrong. As Constant Reader knows, I am not good in the mornings. So, I thought I had to be there for nine a.m. No, everything started at nine a.m. I needed to be there for eight thirty. As I was getting ready to shave, I double-checked the address and noticed that on the agenda I needed to be there for eight thirty. It was eight-oh-five; I hadn’t shaved, showered, or dressed, let alone drive across town to the lake front. In other words, I wouldn’t been able, even if I hurried, to leave the house until it was time to be there, and then had to hurry to get there. Sigh. So, I made another cup of coffee and felt like a complete idiot.

And now have my morning free.

And before anyone says anything, no. I won’t show up late. I am not that person. It’s disrespectful to everyone who showed up on time, it’s disrespectful to the FBI, and if they want you to allow half an hour to clear security screening, then I need to be there half an hour ahead of time. Period. Plus, you don’t mess with the FBI. Trust me on this one.

Sigh. I hate when I fuck up. Especially after the chapter went to all the trouble to get this sorted out and put together.

Sigh.

I was really looking forward to it, too.

Anyway.

I finished watching season 2 of Versailles last night, and I have to say, it really ended well. You really can’t go wrong with the Affair of the Poisons and the involvement of the King’s mistress, Madame de Montespan, and her subsequent fall from glory. The show is incredibly well done, and they managed to get the character of the second Duchesse d’Orleans, Elisabeth Charlotte, the Princess Palatine, absolutely correct. Liselotte was always one of my favorite people from this period of French history, and the rapprochement between her and her gay husband, and her gay husband’s lover, was incredibly unique in history. I was worried they’d gloss over it, but no, there it was, front and center. Why no one has done a biography of Monsieur, I’ll never know; I suppose everyone is so dazzled by The Sun King that no one has ever thought that, you know, a view of the French court and Louis XIV through the eyes of his gay brother could be interesting.

Believe me, if I spoke French I’d be all over it.

Then again, were I able to speak French, there are so many things I would have written by now.

Sigh. I often regret my monolinguism.

This weekend I managed to read a lot of short stories, giving me a lot of material for The Short Story Project over the next few days, but the weekend was pretty much a bust for writing. I only managed to eke out slightly over a thousand words on one short story and perhaps one hundred on another, which was, as one would imagine, enormously frustrating for me. I am still choosing to see that as a win; getting closer to being finished and all, but still enormously disappointing. The thousand words or so was basically wheel-spinning, because I don’t know how to end the story yet, and I know I need to go back to the very beginning and start revising it so I can figure that out. It’s so weird; I do this with novels all the time but with short stories, I resist doing it until I’ve got a draft version finished. So incredibly stupid, I know, and yet…here we are.

Heavy sigh.

All right, enough of that nonsense. Here are two of the short stories I read over the weekend, both from Alive in Shape and Color, edited by Lawrence Block.

First up, we have Jeffery Deaver’s “A Significant Find.”

“A crisis of conscience. Pure and simple. What are we going to do?” He poured red wine into her glass. Both sipped.

They were sitting in mismatched armchairs, before an ancient fireplace of stacked stone in the deserted lounge. The inn, probably two hundred years old, was clearly not a tourist destination, at least not in this season, a chilly spring.

He tasted the wine again and turned his gaze from the label of the bottle to the woman’s intense blue eyes, which were cast down at the wormwood floor. Her face was as beautiful as when they’d met, though a little bit more worn, as ten years had passed, many of which had been spent outside under less-than-kind conditions; hats and SPF 30 could only give you so much protection from the sun.

If you’ve not read Jeffery Deaver, you simply must read the Lincoln Rhyme series. I am terribly behind on it, but tore through the available volumes over the course of a month or so when I first discovered him. He’s also a very nice man, and it’s lovely when someone nice enjoys exceptional success.

Anyway, this story is terrific. The couple we see in these paragraphs, whom are the main characters of the story, are an archaeologist team at a conference in France. They, while enormously successful with publications and so forth, have never made what is known in their field as a ‘significant find.’ There’s a very strong possibility that they are about to  make one; based on some information passed on to the husband in casual conversation in the bar; undiscovered cave paintings. It turns out the person passing the information on has his own information, collected from a local boy, wrong; the couple figure out what he had wrong, and are about to go look for the cave. The crisis of conscience is whether or not to share the discovery with the colleague who originally got the information. This is the kind of moral dilemma that characters in Tales from the Crypt episodes find themselves in and almost without fail made the wrong choice; so the story always ends up with their come-uppance. This was what I was expecting out of this story; but Deaver manages some exceptionally clever sleight-of-hand and thus the ending of the story comes out of nowhere and is satisfying in its own way; the pay-off is quite good.

I then moved on to “Charlie the Barber” by Joe R. Lansdale.

Charlie Richards, who thought of himself as a better-than-average barber, was lean and bright-eyed, with a thin smile, his hair showing gray at the temples. He loved to cut hair, and he loved that his daughter, Mildred–Millie to most–worked with him. They were the only father-and-daughter barber team he knew of, and he was proud of that. He was also glad she lived at him with him and her mother, Connie, at least for now.

Next year she was off to the big city, Dallas. Graduated high school a couple years back, hung around, cut hair, but now she was planning to attend some kind of beauty college where she could learn to cut women’s hair as well. Planned to learn cosmetology too. Claimed when she finished schooling she could either fix a woman up for a night out, or spruce up a dead woman for a mortuary production. Charlie had no doubt that would be true. Millie learned quickly and was a hard worker.

This story was inspired by one of those classic Norman Rockwell paintings, with it’s homey, almost propaganda-like charm about American simplicity and virtue. Being a story by Joe R. Lansdale, who is embraced by both the horror and crime writing communities–he won an Edgar for Best Novel, and numerous Stoker Awards–you just know this euphoric American idyll story of a small town barbership in the 1950’s is going to take a truly dark turn. Charlie was a POW during World War II and still suffers from a degree of PTSD; the supply closet in the back of the barn, with its tight, confined space and darkness, always takes him back to the horror of the camp and what he had to do to escape the butchering of the prisoners; he was one of the few survivors. And sure enough, the peaceful charming world of the barbershop is turned upside down just before closing time when something wicked that way came. The story is both horrifying and brilliant; the juxtaposition of the Rockwell Americana painting/world view and the automatic nostalgia the time period conjures, steeped in nostalgia for the 1950’s as a more innocent, charming time (which is completely false), against the horror that walks through the barbershop door and what they have to endure to survive it–the sort of thing that did happen, but without 24 hours news channels and the Internet most people never heard about these things–is stunning. Lansdale is a terrific, terrific writer, and this story is one of the best ones I’ve read thus far in this Short Story Project.

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Missing You

Sunday morning, and after a glorious night’s sleep I am wide awake this morning and pretty ready to give the day my best shot. The Lost Apartment needs to be cleaned, as always, and I am wanting to do some writing/editing today as well. I am going to go to the gym later today–it is my experience that going earlier wears me out, despite the endorphin high, with the end result I often don’t get any writing done. I want to work on revising and polishing a story to get it out of my hair–early submission, since the deadline is a long way’s off–and the same with another. I also want to get that Chanse story–the first one–revised and sent off somewhere as well; and in addition to all that revising I want to work on the Italy story.

My work, as it were, is cut out for me today, is it not? I’ll also probably finish watching season 2 of Versailles as well this evening.

Yesterday I got my contacts ordered and did some shopping at Target, which was lovely. I also went car shopping with a friend; he needed a ride and I took him out there. I merely sat there and read short stories from Sue Grafton’s Kinsey and Me; I finished all the Kinsey short stories yesterday, and read some others as well. I was, frankly, worn out by the time I got home but managed to finish the laundry somehow, despite being so tired; I also watched several episodes of Versailles before finally retiring for the evening once the laundry was finished. Paul moves into the hotel this Wednesday; tomorrow morning I am touring the FBI offices in New Orleans with the local Sisters in Crime chapter, and then Tuesday is my usual long day. Then of course the festivals kick into gear, and the rest of the week/weekend is utter and complete madness.

There’s also some filing needing to be done, as always. I’ve also renamed both the Italy story and the Chanse story–the Chanse title, “Glory Days”, only worked if it were his high school reunion, which I dropped from the story–and I think the new title of the Italy story is better.

Here are two of the short stories I read yesterday”

First up is “Trapped! A Mystery in One Act” by Ben H. Winters, from Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark.

Setting

Studio L, an unremarkable rehearsal studio in a warren of unremarkable rehearsal studios, collectively known as the Meyers-Pittman Studio Complex, located on the sixteenth floor of a tall nondescript building in Chelsea, a couple blocks south and one long avenue over from Port Authority. The walls are mirrored; the floor is marked with tape; tables and chairs are clustered to represent the location of furniture on the real set.

Downstage right is a props table, laden with all manner of weaponry. The play in rehearsal is the Broadway thriller “Deathtrap” by Ira Levin, and the table displays the full range of weaponry called for in that show, viz., “a collection of guns, handcuffs, maces, broadswords, and battle-axes.”

This is an incredibly interesting twist on the short story; it’s actually a short story written in play form, and it’s also an homage to the classic thrilled play Deathtrap by Ira Levin. The play was an enormous hit on Broadway, and featured the wonderful Marian Seldes in a supporting role; she set a record for most consecutive performances by one actor in this play. Ira Levin is also one of my favorite writers. Deathtrap was made into a film; not as successfully as the play, alas; the film starred Michael Caine, a young post-Superman Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon. What makes this story/play so clever is it’s a play on Deathtrap; which is a play about a play which basically tells the same story of the play–and this is a play about a murder during a production of a play about a play; complete with the requisite twists and so forth. Winters is an Edgar-winning author (for The Last Policeman), and one of my favorite novels of the last few years, Underground Airlines. if you’re not familiar with Winters, you should make yourself so. I loved this; clever clever clever.

It also reminded me of a crime short story I wanted to write about the production of a play. *makes note*

Next up is  “Fat” by Raymond Carver, from the collection Will You Please Be Quiet Please?

I am sitting over coffee and cigarets at my friend Rita’s and I am telling her about it.

Here is what I tell her.

It is late of a slow Wednesday when Herb seats the fat man at my station.

This fat man is the fattest person I have ever seen, though he is neat-appearing and well dressed enough. Everything about him is big. But it is the fingers I remember best. When I stop at the table near his to see the old couple, I first notice the fingers. They look three times the size of a normal person’s fingers–long, thick, creamy fingers.

When I talked about Barry Hannah several weeks ago, I mentioned that the other writer my professor in my second attempt at taking Creative Writing wanted us to read, whose glory we should bask in, was Raymond Carver. The only texts for the course were Airships by Barry Hannah and Will You Please Be Quiet Please? by Carver. We read two stories before starting on our short stories; I was unimpressed with both writers. Several years ago I decided to repurchase the collections and try them again (I’ll talk about Hannah another time) thinking that perhaps now, as a more mature adult and reader, I might appreciate them more. It wasn’t the case with Hannah, and it certainly isn’t the case with Carver, either.

I am not sure what the point of this story is; waitress waits on a large gentleman, everyone else on staff is mean and cruel about him whereas she is fascinated in him in some way; it’s rather oblique in its meaning, and in its ending; when she says she feels like her life has changed in some way, why? Why did this man have such an effect on her? It isn’t clear and maybe that’s the intent; is it the recognition of the casual cruelty of her co-workers and her boyfriend? Why is she so fascinated by this customer and how much he eats?

It’s a very small story, and rather intimate; I like the way Carver does his writing and tells his story, yet I fail to see the genius here in the actual story itself. I learn nothing about the waitress, not do we learn anything, really, about her customer other than he is polite, well put together, and enormous. Is it about the waitress seeing, and disliking, the casual cruelty of her co-workers and her lover, seeing them in a different way in their inability to see her customer as anything other than enormously fat, that his size somehow strips him of his humanity? Is that what Carver’s intent is, to be so vague and uninvolved with the story that it’s left to our interpretation? I honestly don’t know, and what’s more, I don’t care. I don’t care about this waitress. I don’t care about her friends. The authorial distance just doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep reading his stories, though–I read “Neighbors” for the class, and I remember it fondly–although it didn’t drive me to read more of Carver’s work.

I suppose this is why I am not a literary writer, and could never be one; my purpose is writing a story is to not only to tell the story but to make the reader understand the characters, get to know them, and hopefully empathize with them; to make, in the case of anything I write, to make the inexplicable explicable. I don’t get that from either Carver or Hannah, to be honest. Ah, well.

And now, back to spice-mining.

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