Thieves Like Us

Day three of severe thunderstorm watches yet again–there was a tornado watch on the lake shore yesterday afternoon–and outside my window this morning is that eerie grayness, everything is wet, and while it isn’t raining at the moment, it only recently stopped. Oh my God, how well did I sleep last night? I took one of Paul’s sleeping pllls, and oh my God, what a difference that chemical compound made. I, alas, cannot get both my Xanax (alprazolam) prescribed by my doctor along with any kind of sleeping pill (I think Paul’s are lorazepam); and it’s probably best for the world that I continue to take Xanax to even my moods out and lessen my anxiety. But wow, after last night’s sleep–the best I’ve had in I don’t know how long–the temptation is there, seriously, to switch. I also feel level and calm this morning…so maybe, maybe, I should switch. I don’t know, but I’ll definitely talk to my doctor about it the next time I see him.

We finished watching Jupiter’s Legacy last night, which started getting much better as it headed towards the season finale. I still question the storytelling though; while I appreciate the back story of how they are got their original powers back in the 1920’s, it didn’t really tell us anything applicable about the present day characters; it was just here, you need the back story and we need the filler to get ten episodes out of this. But it was enjoyable enough, just not nearly as well done as Watchmen or The Boys–but seriously, there are so many tropes when it comes to superheroes and there are only so many names and so many powers, that in writing these you are always, inevitably, being derivative in some ways.

We then watched the first episode of the Kate Winslet HBO series Mare of Easttown, which has a great cast–you can never go wrong with Winslet or Jean Smart, who plays her mother–but the show is incredibly bleak. But really, whenever I watch something like this and it makes me squirm a bit uncomfortably, it also makes me reevaluate my own work and my own prejudices. I didn’t grow up poor the way my parents did; but we were very definitely working class when I was young–watching every penny, my mother always keeping an eagle eye out for sales to stretch her budget even further while trying to not do without anything, buying less expensive off-brands rather than the ones we’d see commercials for on television–and as an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever been financially stable–or if I ever was, it was a condition that didn’t last for long. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided writing about characters in dire financial straits; my two private eyes both are incredibly financially stable (Chanse has a gig as a security consultant for a major oil company; Scotty has a massive trust fund), which is also not very realistic (not that private eye novels are ever realistic; private eyes rarely, if ever, are involved in murder investigations where it’s their job to find the killer–if they are ever involved in such a case, they are usually working for an attorney representing someone accused, and they are employed to help find reasonable doubt for the jury–and now that I think about it, that very perspective would be a great approach for a Chanse short story or novella–I am still resisting writing another novel for him). I know I despise and hate monetary stress; which is one of the reasons I am loath to write about characters in dire financial straits.

Then again, it’s not like I am writing anything at the moment, despite my best intentions. I do want to get the outline for Chlorine started this week, and I’d like to get a short story worked on–whether it’s finishing writing one that was already started, or revising one that is already in a completed draft–and I also need to get my computer files whipped back into some sort of shape. (I have a tendency to just toss things into the files and not sort anything…which makes finding things a bit challenging.)

And on that note, tis time for the spice mines. May your Wednesday be lovely and bright, Constant Reader–and we are very close to the weekend!

Unlearn This Hatred

Tuesday morning and it seems quiet outside; rain is still in our forecast (every day for two weeks, with the exception of this Saturday) with thunderstorms predicted to roll in around this very time that I sit here writing this–but as I said, at the moment there’s nothing but stillness and quiet outside my windows. How long that will continue to hold remains to be seen, however; although the old adage about our weather forecasts from May thru October certainly holds true all too often: every day’s forecast is hot , humid, chance of rain.

I slept pretty decently again last night, which is remarkable and lovely; I was very tired last evening and as such, was fairly confident that a good night’s sleep could be had, and I was correct. I forgot to set the alarm last night, but woke up five minutes before it would have gone off had I turned it on, so rather than risking it, just went ahead and got out of the bed. Yesterday was a fairly good day, all things considered; I got my inbox under control (thanks primarily to all the work I did on it Sunday afternoon; now it’s a matter of keeping up with it so it doesn’t get so out of control again) but I can also look at it now and not feel defeated before I even get started with it this morning, which is an enormous plus. I do have some things to take care of today; the kind of odious chore I inevitably always put off–I have to make phone calls. Yesterday I made two of the odious calls I hate making; scheduling an appointment to take my desktop computer into the Apple store to see if they can install an OS into it (scheduled for this Friday morning) and I also scheduled an eye appointment in Metairie that same morning (the Apple Store is actually in Metairie, at Lakeside Mall); today I have to schedule the dentist and I have to call my doctor’s office regarding prescriptions. I am not certain why I hate doing these sorts of things and put them off always; they inevitably are never painful to experience and yet somehow…I just can’t make myself do them, ever; I just don’t like doing things that other people describe as adulting.

I suppose it has something to do with my innate refusal to accept the fact that I am, in fact, not only an adult but an older one, at that.

We watched some more episodes of Jupiter’s Legacy last night, which is entertaining in and of itself, but there are some issues with it–we really don’t like the character of Chloe, and they seem determined to shove her down our throats all the time–although I imagine had we read the graphic novels the show is based on (as were Watchmen and The Boys) that might have made a difference in our perceptions. I would go so far as to say of the three shows about alternative superheros (non-DC and non-Marvel, which have become cultural touchstones for us all), this is probably the weakest entry; it clearly didn’t have the money behind it that the other two shows did, and sometimes the cost-cutting measures are fairly obvious. It’s also incredibly difficult to structure a limited series with two different timelines (I frankly admire the attempt to do so), one which is set in a distant past and intended to show how the original superheroes on the show got their powers in the first place, as well as a modern timeline in which the question of adapting the heroes’ code of honor and behavior must needs be changed and adapted to fit threats which are becoming more and more dangerous and lethal; with some heroes dying as a result. That, to me, is the heart of the show’s present-day story, and much more interesting than the one set in the past; if the story of how they originally got their powers doesn’t somehow tie in conclusively to the current time story, then the origin story (not really explored in either Watchmen or The Boys) will seem as though it was merely filler, padding the show out to more episodes than perhaps necessary.

On the other hand, maybe I should just kick back and enjoy the show for what it is and not think about it too hard: sometimes a show is, in fact, merely intended as an entertainment with no deeper meaning.

Although sometimes I wonder if that is part of the problem with my writing; I never think about a “bigger picture” when I come up with an idea for a book or a short story; I just want to tell the story I am thinking about, rather than trying to place it into the context of our modern day world or culture and just try to tell it. It’s definitely harder when you do try to make a bigger point, and incredibly disappointing when people consistently don’t see it–which is, of course, the writer’s issue, not the reader’s; which also leads to the beginning of the spiral into Imposter Syndrome, which I usually don’t need any help to reach–but I do remember that I used to take those things–themes, points, underlying messages–into consideration when I used to write my books. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I have continued to do so, and simply don’t remember anymore; it is truly terrifying how bad my memory has become over the years.

Ah, there’s the thunder–which means today’s storm is arriving just in time for me to leave for the office! Hurray. Can the flash flood watch be far behind? I think not.

And on that note, best to head into the shower so I can go to work. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Slow Jam

Monday morning and we’re in a flash flood warning–which means it’s flooding somewhere. The phone advisory said (you know, the loud beeping warning at four a.m.) to not even try to go anywhere before eight….of course, I need to be at the office by seven thirty, so there’s that. Sigh. The storm seems to have passed–there was some amazing thunder and lightning I was aware of while I was sleeping comfortably in my warm bed and under my soft, comfortable covers–so I’m not sure if the gray outside is the predawn gray I see every morning, and from the storm. It’s supposed to rain heavily every day until Thursday; this is definitely the wettest spring I can remember us having since we moved here all those years ago.

Yesterday was a good day. I may not have gotten all the things done that I wanted to get done, but I spent a goodly portion of my afternoon answering emails (saving as drafts to be sent today) and my inbox is almost completely emptied out for the first time in I don’t know how long, and it feels pretty fucking marvelous, in all honesty. Emails often defeat me, frankly; there are days when I look at all of them sitting there in my inbox and just close it again. This morning, with an almost empty inbox and some serious energy–two nights in a row of good, deep sleep, in case you were wondering–and I am chastising myself thoroughly for ever letting it get to the point where I need to scroll down through several pages to get to the bottom of them all. OH, no worries–I am sure I will get to that point once again, and probably relatively soon–but being caught up on such a thing makes me feel accomplished this morning, and I am going to roll with that feeling.

I walked to the gym yesterday afternoon in the insane heat (it was in the nineties, but not really humid yesterday) and got in a really good workout. I wasn’t trying to hurry through it the way I usually do–although I did do it quickly–but the gym was deserted and I was able to do the workout the way I like to do it; supersetting exercises and pushing myself (obviously, the key to going to the gym on Sunday is not to go around noon but to wait until about one thirty) and adding weight to the final set. I pushed myself and it felt good, then I came home and filed and organized and cleaned the kitchen. We had started watching a show on Netflix Saturday night, Sky Rojo, which was crazy and fun and action-packed; it’s about three prostitutes in the Canary Island who finally rebel against the abusive pimp in the bordello they work in and make a run for it, being pursued by his evil henchmen, and it was highly entertaining. The episodes were also a lot shorter than I thought–maybe half an hour at most–and we finished it early evening. Then we started watching Jupiter’s Legacy, a superhero series on Netflix based on some graphic novels–we loved Watchmen and The Boys–and despite a rather dull, predictable, and tedious first episode, the show began picking up with the second and we started enjoying it. I’ve always wanted to do a superhero novel myself–it’s one of my bucket list items, along with writing a comic book–and as always, I started thinking about the idea I had for one back in the 1980’s, and have toyed with every so often ever since. (I always end up talking myself out of it, because it’s hard to do any kind of superhero story anymore that isn’t derivative, and isn’t the theme always with great power comes great responsibility? But seeing this, and The Boys..the key is to take something derivative and turn it into something original, which is a terrific challenge, and I like challenges.)

I still haven’t decided what to read next, but I am leaning towards Walter Mosley’s A Red Death; I’d like to get back to my attempt to get through his entire canon. The problem, as always, is there is so little time for me to read, to write, and to get everything finished around the house (chores etc.) around my full-time job and my MWA responsibilities. But it can be done–when I am tired, for example, like reading Summer of ’42 in a single afternoon this past weekend–and so I need to remember that sometimes one can read even when one is tired.

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

Call It What You Want

Well, LSU lost, which certainly cast a pall over my day yesterday. The game was also early–11 am start time–and after that sucked all the air out of my day I struggled, frankly. I know, it’s silly to put so much emotional energy into being a fan of any sport, but I can’t remember ever seeing LSU play as badly on defense as they have so far this year. I feel bad for the kids, and I don’t know what the problem is–I didn’t expect them to have another record-breaking season, but I certainly didn’t think they’d have a very strong shot at going 1-9, either.

Heavy sigh. It seems to be a very weird year for college football–the Alabama-Ole Miss score was 63-48, with Ole Miss gaining over 600 yards; that’s the most points ever scored on a Nick Saban Alabama team–and Mississippi State lost to Kentucky, with Florida falling to Texas A&M; Arkansas almost beat Auburn, so clearly defense is no longer a thing in the SEC, a conference once known and respected for it. Georgia and Alabama are the only unbeatens left in the conference, and they play next weekend…yes, a very strange year in college football.

I did manage to get some work done yesterday–not enough, of course–but progress was certainly made, and I feel confident I’ll be able to get it all taken care of tomorrow. The Saints are playing on Monday night, so there’s absolutely no need for me to turn on the television at all during the day tomorrow, and the French Open final will be on so early I doubt Paul will get up to watch. This year is seriously shit, you know? All the joy from sports has been sucked out of them, and crowd noise, it turns out, increases the enjoyment of the game significantly when you’re watching at home–who knew?

So, I licked my wounds and thought about the things I need to write, and how to get them done, and how to improve everything I have currently in progress. That’s a win, frankly, and I refuse to feel guilty about not getting everything done yesterday. Sure, it means I have to get it all done today–but as I said, I am certain I can bang it all out and get it all done, and then I can go into the first three day work week of the clinic since March with my head held high and start focusing on the other things I need to get done–the manuscript for Bury Me in Shadows, a couple more short stories–and of course, getting the email situation back under control. I feel like this final quarter of the year, no matter what else happens in the rest of the world, is a time when I can turn this ship around and set to rights.

I especially hate that I somehow fucked around and managed to go a year without having a book out. How in the holy hell did I allow that to happen? What was I doing in 2019 that I didn’t get a book written? I turned Royal Street Reveillon in around Carnival of 2019, and it came out last October, a year ago. What in the name of God was I doing the rest of the year? I know I was working on Bury Me in Shadows, but seriously? I honestly don’t remember, but whatever the hell it was I was doing, one thing for sure I wasn’t doing was writing. Sure, I sold some short stories, but I honestly think most of the story sales were this year, not last. Part of the reason I signed contracts with deadlines so tightly on top of each other was partly to ensure I wasn’t going to go another year without a novel out.

Gregalicious, you need to start getting more focused.

I saw the trailer for the new version of The Stand, and I have to say it looks good. I liked the original mini-series from the early 1990’s–that chilling opening when Campion runs and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays over the opening credits as the camera moves through the Army base and all the dead bodies within still gives me chills (it’s on Youtube). I love The Stand, and generally consider it my favorite Stephen King novel. It used to be one of my primary comfort reads; I think I’ve read the original dozens of times. Despite some issues, overall I approved of that initial attempt at filming it; the final episode was the weakest, overall, but they did a pretty good job. This version has a terrific cast, and it looks like CBS All Access spared no expense on putting together a great show…but–the whole Mother Abagail thing really doesn’t hold up well after all this time. At least they’ve added other people of color to the cast this time–in the book and the original TV version, apparently most people of color succumbed to the pandemic.

It’s also interesting that when I was reading plague fictions and histories earlier this year, I didn’t pick up either The Stand or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which are both favorites. I think both–which feature almost the entire human population dying–were probably more than I could handle earlier this year.

And I do think that was probably the wisest course.

I read two more stories by Nathan Ballingrud, from his collection North American Lake Monsters: Stories yesterday while the Alabama-Ole Miss game played on the television–“Wild Acre” and “S.S.”–and both were superbly written. Ballingrud does a truly great job writing about desperate people–financially desperate, emotionally desperate–and his use of the supernatural and how it affects/impacts the desperate people he writes about it is stellar. “S.S.” isn’t really a supernatural story; it’s set in New Orleans and is more about a desperate young man, a loser, who turns to white supremacy to try to find a place where he belongs, and it’s an ugly little story, yet compelling at the same time. The horror of his own life–he’s a dishwasher at a small restaurant in the Quarter, his mother was severely injured in an accident, can’t work, and is now mentally deranged; their power has been turned off for non-payment–makes him an easy target for white supremacy and hate; it’s terribly sad, and makes a surprising turn towards the end. The interesting thing I am learning from reading Ballingrud is that the premise of his work is the real horror comes from humans, not the paranormal or supernatural.

So, today is the day I am going to get a lot of work done, trying to start getting caught up on everything. I slept deeply and well last night, which is always a plus, and so am feeling relatively well rested this morning. Once I’ve had my coffee and finished writing this, I am going to get cleaned up and dig into finishing my essay and then move on to the website writing before the revision of my short story. This will possibly–probably?–take most of the day, so I doubt that I will get around to Bury Me in Shadows today (but one never knows; I could go into the zone and get a ton of shit done today). We watched three episodes of The Boys last night, and I have to say, the primary problem we (Paul agrees with me on this) have with the show is the character of Butcher. He’s really supposed to be the character we root for, leading the resistance against the proto-fascist tendencies of the super-heroes and Vought, the company they work for, but he’s so routinely unpleasant and unlikable it’s difficult to care–and if you excise him and his personal story from the show you wouldn’t really be missing anything; I don’t care about his him or his wife or their situation, frankly, and the fact that almost every sentence he utters includes the words “cunt” and/or “twat” doesn’t help. I realize the words are more commonly used in England and don’t have the unpleasant misogynist implications they do in the United States, but the constant usage is like the writers were all “Oh, he’s British so he can say cunt and twat all the time!” like junior high school boys rubbing their hands together in glee about getting away with something. I do like that the show subverts and looks at super-heroes with a wary eye, exploring the dangers of super-powered beings who are arrogant and don’t really care much about people, but Watchmen also explored the ethics of this, and did it much, much better. Still…for the most part, we are enjoying it, and will continue watching. We only have three episodes left, and so will probably either finish it tonight or tomorrow–there’s also a new episode of The Vow dropping tonight; even though we are slowly losing interest in it, we’ll probably continue watching and see it all the way through.

Although I have to give props where it’s due; The Boys has gotten me thinking about Superman, and why the DC films with Henry Cavill about Superman have been disappointing, despite a stellar cast, because they really don’t get the essence of Superman–and why on earth would you make a movie about the greatest comic book hero of all time when you don’t understand the purpose of the character and why he is a hero? Hero is the key word there; and if Marvel could manage to do Captain America and make him believable, Warner certainly could have done the same with Superman. Watching the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies would have been a huge help, frankly; Superman isn’t angsty or tortured the way Batman is, and using the film version of Batman as a blueprint for Superman, I think, was the first mistake.

Look at Wonder Woman, for that matter.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines and get this day off and running. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Sunday morning and it’s cold again this morning. My space heater is warming my legs nicely–it’s amazing how much heat that thing can put out–and I am going to try to get some things done this morning. My desk area is a mess and there’s a load of clothes in the dryer to fold, and another load of dishes in the sink to be washed and put in the dishwasher. I didn’t write yesterday; after braving the grocery store on the Saturday before Christmas I was pretty worn out and over-stimulated, so I spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching some documentaries on television about professional wrestling–there’s a terrific Vice series available on Hulu called The Dark Side of the Ring. I’ve been wanting to write a noir set in a small wrestling promotion in a fictional, highly corrupt Southern coastal city (which I call Bay City whenever I think about it); seeing the dark stories behind the public image was interesting. I watched the episodes about the Fabulous Moolah and the Von Erich family; I just read an old piece in Texas Monthly about them, and so this seemed timely. I loved the Von Erichs back in the day, and I always had a crush on sexy Kevin Von Erich–although I kind of liked them all, frankly. Kevin is the only surviving brother (of six), and they did talk to him on-camera for the documentary, and he was interviewed for the Texas Monthly piece. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose all of your brothers–almost all of your children for the Von Erich parents–but Kevin’s two sons are now working in professional wrestling, carrying on the family name, and they are also carrying on the “hot as fuck” family tradition as well.

After that, I invested three hours in finally watching Avengers Endgame, which was entertaining enough. There were elements of Days of Future Past in it–no surprise, since they came from the same company–and it did have some terrific moments. Visually it was also stunning, but I always have problems with time travel because of the paradoxes (although I did laugh out loud when someone–I think it was Paul Rudd as Antman–said, “SO you’re saying Back to the Future is bullshit?”), and I also figured out, at the end of Infinity War, that they’d have to go back in time to erase what Thanos had done. This created a lot more questions in my head than were answered by the movie, but I can also see why it was such a huge success and why people loved it so much. It’s quite the star-studded spectacle, everyone is well cast, and visually it’s quite epic.

And then I went to bed–a lovely, relaxing day. I may not watch the Saints game–too stressful–but will definitely have it on in the living room while I do other things. Tonight there won’t be a new episode of Watchmen, which makes me sad (and yes, I still miss Game of Thrones) but there should be a new episode of Dublin Murders dropping tonight, and Paul has expressed an interest in watching Titans, so I’ll probably revisit the first season, primarily because I won’t remember enough of it to explain it to Paul is we just start on season two. I’m also trying to figure out how to watch the DIRECTV-only series of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. There are becoming too many streaming services, and we’re getting to the point where it’s almost as much as the cable bill used to be. One thing I need to do is sit down and figure out what all I am paying for and what I actually don’t need, that I am paying for and can be cancelled.

Also, the first episode of Megan Abbott’s series based on her novel Dare Me is available, if I can figure out a way to stream it onto the television.

I also need to write today. I’ve successfully managed to avoid it for two days now, but today I kind of should do some. I don’t know why I always have to force myself to do things I enjoy, but that’s the paradox of my life. I’m also going to spend some time with Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside. I don’t know why I am taking so long to read this book, it’s fantastic and incredibly well done; it has more to do with me not being in the mood to read or something, rather than anything negative about the book.

I’m also trying to decide whether or not I want to do one–or several–of those my favorite things of the year posts. Obviously, I didn’t read or watch everything, so I can only write about what I’ve actually experienced; but I also worry that I won’t remember something. There were so many amazing new books this year that I read, and some amazing books from previous years I also read…it’s hard to remember a better year for books, or television–Chernobyl, Unbelievable, Fosse/Verdon–and that’s just off the top of my head. The Emmys are going to be incredibly competitive yet again.

And on that note, I am going to retire to my easy chair with my book for a little while before I start cleaning and writing and doing whatever it is I should be doing on this late December lazy Sunday.

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Heroes

I am not what anyone would consider a comics geek; I also don’t, for the record, consider that a slight or a slur. I grew up reading comic books–I read everything I could get my hands on, frankly. My sister read Millie the Model and every iteration of Archie that existed at the time; I read them when she was finished with them. I moved on to super-heroes quite by accident. I had no interest in them whatsoever, but the Jewel where my mom would do her grocery shopping had a comic-book vending machine in the front (anyone else remember those?). Comics were twelve cents at the time. Mom would always give my sister and I a dime and two pennies every time we went to Jewel–the comic book would keep us occupied while she shopped in peace–and I accidentally pressed the wrong button–so instead of Jughead I wound up getting an Action Comics instead. I was quite distraught–and this was also neither the first nor the last time that I didn’t get what I wanted by not paying close enough attention. My mother told me, as always, “it’s your own fault for not paying attention, so just read it.”

I did….and became a fan. I never bought another Archie comic again (there really wasn’t any need–my sister still got them and I could read hers).

My enjoyment of comics continued, all the way through high school–until the cost of comics rose to a point that I wasn’t willing to pay for them anymore. I occasionally dip my toes back into the water, but not enough to be a geek or a nerd or any of the other terms used to describe big fans. I did eventually branch out into Marvel in college as well, but I always liked DC the best–more, probably, out of the fact that those were the comics I read as a kid more than anything else. I also don’t understand why you can’t be a fan of both–but there are clearly battle lines drawn between the fandoms, with some crossover, of course.

I don’t remember when I first heard about the Watchmen graphic novel; but I did hear about it, now and then, throughout the years; great things. But I never read it. I didn’t see the film when it came out a few years ago, and in all honesty I might not have watched the HBO series had it not starred Regina King–whom I will watch in any and every thing. No, that’s not true–she was simply a bonus. I like super-hero stories, and I enjoyed Amazon’s The Boys, so yeah, I would have watched Watchmen.

Enjoying the show as I did, I decided to go ahead and get a copy of the graphic novel.

It was about time, after all…and once I opened it and started reading, I could see why it is considered one of the greatest graphic novels/super-hero stories of all time…

watchmen

If anything, the hype about how terrific Watchmen is actually underplayed how actually terrific the graphic novel is.

The depth and complexity of the characters–and the detail in the world-building–is simply staggering.

I’ve always wanted to write a super-hero novel; obviously, as someone who’s been reading about them and watching them on either television or film most of my life (I remember when Batman aired in prime time), it would sort of make sense for me to try my hand at it. I’ve brainstormed about it a lot over the years as well; what would it mean to have powers beyond those of other people, the whole responsibility of power, and so forth. Marvel and DC both have done a terrific job of exploring those themes over the years, and quite frankly, I’ve never been sure I could develop a super-powered character appropriately, or tell his origin story–plus, almost every kind of super-power has already been explored somehow and some way; what could I possibly come up with that would be new and original? The reboot of DC in the 1980’s after Crisis on Infinite Earths also allowed them to add more depth and dimension to their characters–I always thought the pre-Crisis Green Arrow/Black Canary characters were the most human and most realistic developed–as well as crises of morality and faith and belief in themselves, as well as in humanity and the rest of the world.

Having now read Watchmen, I can see its impact on the industry, and on DC in particular.

Watchmen is set in an alternate timeline, on a different Earth; one in which the greatest, most powerful super-hero of all ended the Vietnam War with an American victory, resulting in Vietnam becoming the fifty-first state. The Keene Act banning masked vigilantes has been passed, and most heroes have either gone to work for the government, or retired. The book opens with the murder of the Comedian, a right-wing Fascist monster of a super-hero; one of the ones who went to work for the government. Rorschach, another hero who refused to retire and continued with his work despite it making him a criminal, starts investigating the murder and starts checking in on the others–not only to warn them but to see if they had any involvement. The comic also didn’t flinch from dealing with politics–fascism, racism, communism, etc. Also, the world is also on the brink of nuclear holocaust, with tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union growing with almost every page. The world Watchmen depicts isn’t that different from the world we lived through in the 1980’s; and like all great art, Watchmen makes you think by showing multiple perspectives without judgment…and that is part of its astonishing brilliance. The script is brilliantly done, the juxtaposition between the text segments–Rorschach’s memoirs, newspaper accounts, magazine articles, etc.–and the comic panels especially striking.

It also asks terrific questions about morality, right and wrong, and responsibility.

If you’ve not read the graphic novel, I highly recommend you do so–and then watch the HBO series (which deserves its own entry, quite frankly, and so I am going to give it one at some point).

Frosty the Snowman

And just like that, we are now at Tuesday; a week before Christmas Eve.

Recently, I was tagged in one of those “post seven books you love with no explanation” things on social media–I posted the book covers on both Facebook and Twitter–and while I understand the motivation behind these things (someone might see one of the posts and think, Oh I want to read that) but for me, it’s always difficult to boil things down to a finite number; only seven books that I love? I don’t have favorites, really; the books I love can be quantified any number of ways: ones I’ve reread the most, etc. And I’ve literally read thousands and thousands of books over the course of my life; picking seven absolute favorites is always an odious chore, particularly as I inevitably forget one or more books. This last time, I decided to go with women crime writers I enjoyed reading when I was young, and excluding Agatha Christie. The seven books I chose were all written by women between the years 1956 (the oldest) and 1972 (the most recent); and they were all books that had appeared in print at least once with the inevitable women’s suspense book cover: woman in long dress running away from, or standing some distance in front of, a haunted-looking house, and the woman also always has long hair, usually blowing in a sharp breeze of some sort, and her face has a look of either apprehension or terror, or both, on it.

Those covers were almost inevitably always slapped on any book with any sort of suspense in it, if it was written by a woman and the main character was a woman. Thus, Mary Stewart often got categorized as romantic suspense–and while there might have been some romance in her novels, the mystery/suspense was the primary aspect of the books…I’ve always thought her novels were just straight up mysteries with female protagonists–in Airs Above the Ground she’s married, for Christ’s sake–but Charlotte Armstrong often got the same kind of covers, and she was far from romantic suspense.

But when I posted the cover of The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt, a friend commented, asking if “the secret woman” was a mistress. And I realized how deeply clever the novel actually was, as I started to reply.

There were several “secret women” in the book. One was a ship, the Secret Woman; the wealthy family in the book, the Creditons, were a shipping family with a fleet of merchant vessels. The main character in the book was a young orphaned girl who goes to live with her aunt Charlotte, who lives in the Queen’s House (supposedly because Queen Elizabeth I once slept there) and is an antiques dealer. Young Anna Brett is trained by her aunt her entire life to take over the antiques business, and nearby is the home of the Crediton family; and Anna’s life becomes eventually entwined with theirs, when she is hired as a governess for the son of an illegitimate Crediton–old man Crediton had an affair with a young woman named Valerie Stretton, who was also the “secret woman” the ship was named for. Anna needs to get out of England because she was tried for murdering her aunt when she died; she became friends with the nurse who took care of her aunt, and she takes the job so she and her friend can go take care of the young boy’s mentally deranged mother on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. She of course falls in love with the boy’s father…but all kinds of strange things go on, until we finally find out who has actually been going around killing people, and why. Anna herself is a ‘secret woman’; because she is in love with a married man and he with her. Holt was a pseudonym of British writer Eleanor Hibbert; who also wrote as Philippa Carr and Jean Plaidy. I went on to read most of her work under all her names, and enjoyed most of them. The Holt novels began to seem repetitive in the 1980’s, and so I stopped reading her at long last then.

I may revisit some of her work–Kirkland Revels is the one I’ve been thinking about; it;s the only romantic suspense novel I can recall whose heroine spent most of the novel pregnant.

I also finished reading  Watchmen last night, and it’s extraordinary. I will undoubtedly discuss it further, once I’ve digested it a bit more. It really is exceptional.

Insomnia also paid me a visit last night–which sucks, as today is a long day, but on the other hand I can’t complain because it really has been a long time since I lay in bed all night half-asleep/half-awake, only having to open my eyes to be awake. Hopefully that means I’ll be tired this evening and able to get right to sleep.

We shall see, at any rate.

I also got some writing done last night, so the malaise has, for now, gone away.

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

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Today’s title is my favorite Christmas song, probably because the kids sing it at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Whatever the reason, it and “Silver Bells” are the two I never tire of hearing, no matter how much I do hear them during the season.

I just think they’re pretty.

It was a glorious weekend of rest and relaxation in the Lost Apartment. I spent yesterday finishing getting caught up on The Mandalorian, doing some writing, and reading Watchmen. I only have one chapter of it left; and of course, we watched the season finale last night. I love the Watchmen series (and the graphic novel), and do have some regrets about waiting so long to read the graphic novel; then again, had I read it before, I wouldn’t have the great pleasure of reading it now, so there’s that. The graphic novel is probably the most extraordinary comic I’ve read since Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and there is no higher praise I can give than that. I can also see the influence this has had on the comics industry overall since it was first published. It’s smart, it’s mature, it’s layered, and the story itself is a cautionary tale on many levels. I also love how excerpts from diaries, newspaper stories, and memoirs are interwoven in to provide even more context to the illustrated pages.

In other words, as a friend said to me on Twitter the other day, “it’s nice when something exceeds the hype” to which I replied, “it deserves all the hype and more; it should get all the hype.”

I also got some work, as I alluded to earlier, finished on the book. I feel better about things–about the book, my career, life in general–than I have in quite some time. I feel as thought Ive turned a corner of some sort–not truly sure what that corner was, or what it means, or even if this feeling is going to last–but I woke up with my alarm this morning and rather than grousing about getting up, I just got up, made my coffee, and started working on getting on top of the day already. The only person who can affect positive change in my life is me, and only me, and therefore it’s time to start being a spectator in my life and hoping for the best…it’s time to start working to make things better. Things can always get better; things can always get worse, but we can at least have some say in how they develop…and a lack of participation in one’s life rarely ever makes it better, if you know what I mean.

I haven’t felt like I could make change in my life for quite some time–and the truth is, there are some things that are immutable; I cannot change my salary at my day job; I cannot stop the aging process; I cannot control how many copies of my books get sold. But I can control my attitude and my approach; I can get motivated and make plans; I can write the best books and stories that I can; I can start actively looking for literary representation. It’s a shame that I allowed the malaise to take over, and take over for so long, frankly; I’ve been depressed for quite some time, and the lack of sleep back then didn’t help. But there was also a medical issue involved and now that’s been resolved; I’m sleeping well and getting rest and am not tired all the time–and really, there’s fewer things worse than feeling tired and knowing you aren’t going to be able to get rest when you need it.

I can’t blame the “not writing” on any of that, of course; I could, but the truth was I also saw no point in writing–the depression speaking again–and yes, while it does feel sometimes like I am beating my head against the wall, and perhaps not getting anywhere with my writing career, the truth is I’ve never written for the money or the fame–if I had, I would have taken my career in a much different direction. But I allow those immutable things over which I have no control–sales, reviews, etc.–to color and affect my motivation to write, and I can’t do that; one should never allow things over which you have no control to defeat you. There may be roadblocks or speed bumps you can’t control, but you certainly shouldn’t stop driving because there’s a roadblock or a speed bump. That’s just silly.

I also don’t take the time to ever sit back and revel in what success I have enjoyed thus far in my career. Over thirty novels, over twenty anthologies, and over fifty short stories thus far is nothing to sneeze at; I may not win regularly, but I’ve been short-listed for a lot of awards over the course of this career. (And it makes me appreciate the times I do win much more than I would if I won every time.)

And I do have readers, for whom I’m eternally grateful. One of my co-workers has been working their way through the Scotty series–I gifted her with a copy of Royal Street Reveillon, in gratitude for her buying all seven of the earlier books–and I’ve also enjoyed answering her questions about the books. It’s very weird when my two worlds cross and intersect–the day job and the writing, which I manage to keep segregated almost completely–but sometimes there’s overlap; like weird moments when a client will rather timidly ask me if I am Greg Herren the writer. It’s always a little strange and it inevitably catches me off-guard; I don’t, I think, handle those weird little moments of being recognized for my other career well, as a general rule.

But I do like being called Greg Herren the writer.

I have to say, the teens have been an overall wretched decade–I am hoping the twenties will roar. It’s weird to think we are coming to yet another decade in just a few weeks; that it will be 2020.

Let’s all shoot for the brass ring in 2020, shall we?

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Away in a Manger

I’ve already posted (finally) my blog about LSU and Joe Burrow this season (GEAUX TIGERS), so this is not another GEAUX JEAUX post–just so you know.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. The weather has been lovely here in New Orleans this weekend, and I slept incredibly well both nights. We went and visited a friend who’d recently had surgery yesterday afternoon, and it was nice. I also feel good about things. One of the loveliest things about my life is having a partner who loves and supports me–even when I’m not particularly lovable or supportable. I’m so used to dealing with things by myself for most of my life that I still default to that (stupidly) when I’m not in the best place with my life, and that I don’t have to shoulder my burdens alone anymore–even after twenty-four years I still forget sometimes–and I also forget how good it feels to just let all of that out to someone who listens.

It’s lovely to unburden yourself–and I need to remember that.

We started watching The Mandalorian last night, and yes, it’s completely and totally worth the money I am paying Disney Plus–particularly when you consider I bundled it with my existing Hulu and ESPN+ accounts, so it’s only costing me $2.01 per month. $24.12 per year to have access to every Star Wars movie and series, as well as everything from Marvel, and all those classic Disney films? Oh fuck yes. And yes, I am completely and totally loving The Mandalorian, and yes, baby Yoda was a fucking genius move by show-runner Jon Favreau. If I were indeed younger, or had more disposable income, or was more of a hoarder (I’m trying to get rid of stuff at this point in my life) I’d definitely be wanting a baby Yoda plush toy.

We also finished off Castle Rock this past week–and while this second season did seem to go completely off the rails from time to time, the final episode pulled it all back together beautifully. No spoilers, but it was definitely a Misery pay-off. I should probably reread Misery again; it’s definitely one of my favorite Kings, and it’s been far too long since I’ve read it. I also would like to reread Christine and Carrie, the two novels I consider the closest things to y/a King has written.

I’m going to spend some time this morning reading more of Watchmen (which is extraordinary) as well as a few more chapters of Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, which so far as I can is a worthy successor to such classic suspense tales centering women as those of Charlotte Armstrong and the great Gothic writers of the mid-to-late twentieth century. I am quickly becoming a Laura Benedict fan–and I suspect you will, too, if you start reading her. I also hope to get some writing done today.

About fucking time, wouldn’t you say?

And on that note….tis back to the spice mines!

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O Come All Ye Faithful

I got my copy of the graphic novel Watchmen this week, and it’s way past time for me to read it; particularly since I’m loving the television series so much.

Then again, Regina King can do no wrong.

I did start reading Watchmen, and while not even halfway finished–not only am I hooked, but I am completely blown away by the story-telling…and the art is extraordinary. I can now see why it’s been talked about so much since its first publication. This is some epic story-telling, and even more amazing world-building. The storylines have layers and textures, the relationships between the characters, and the characters themselves are messy masses of contradictions and layers; it’s just simply mind-blowing how well this is done. The story itself, and how it’s structured, is also incredible. Watchmen not only lives up to all the hype–it surpasses the hype and deserves even more hype. The graphic novel is so stupendously good that it only emphasizes how incredibly well-done the show is–the show is a sequel to the graphic novel, some thirty years later.

And obviously, while it isn’t necessary for one to read the novel to watch the show, reading it does enhance the show tremendously.

I had also started reading Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside last week–just the first few pages, getting a taste for it, and it really grabbed me. Yesterday I read the first few chapters and am also greatly enjoying it. This has been an exceptional year for crime fiction, and may even go down as one of the genre’s greatest years.

I’m now up to Prohibition in Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which was, quite naturally, an interesting time in New Orleans. I am pondering writing a crime series set during that time; the first woman police office, Alice Monahan–known as “Mrs. Officer”– worked during that time, and I think basing a series on her, dealing with everything going on in New Orleans and the country at the time; plus it’s a chance to explore the entrenched racism and misogyny of Jim Crow New Orleans.

Storyville is merely an added bonus.

Seriously, New Orleans history is so rich and vibrant, there’s material everywhere.

One of the reasons I wanted to write about Christmas in New Orleans in Royal Street Reveillon is because Louisiana’s culture is so rich and vibrant that it surprises me that we don’t have our own Christmas stories here. Sure, there’s The Cajun Night Before Christmas, which I love, but where are the other Christmas stories? As I mentioned the other day, I tried writing a Christmas fable once, “Reindeer on the Rooftop,” but it was so sentimental and sappy that it nauseated me. I tried revising it and making it more real and less sentimental for Upon a Midnight Clear, but I just couldn’t get anywhere with it. I did write one called “The Snow Globe,” which was more of a horror Christmas story, for an anthology that didn’t take it; I did get good feedback, and one of these days I’ll sit down with the story and the feedback and pull it together. Not sure where I’d try to get it published, but most likely it would go into my Monsters of New Orleans collection.

I just used the google to check, and I was correct: there are no hits on “New Orleans Christmas stories,” but broadening the search brought up an out-of-print volume called Christmas Stories from Louisiana, edited by Dorothy Dodge Robbins, and with quite an impressive collection of contributors. There are also some more listed here.

And wouldn’t a Hallmark Christmas movie set in New Orleans be amazing?

We even have a year round Christmas shop on Decatur Street, for Christ’s sake! (And don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind to write a series around that Christmas shop, either.)

But all these stories, at first glance, are simply plays on traditional Christmas stories–nothing new or unique to Louisiana or New Orleans.

So, maybe it’s up to me to create one?

Hmmmm.

Perhaps that is just what I’ll do.

I mean, why don’t we have something terrifying, like the Icelandic Christmas cat?

Maybe there’s a Christmas rougarou story that needs to be written.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. I have been itching to write for days now, and I am going to spend the morning writing. Paul and I are going to stop in to see a friend who’s  been dealing with an injury this afternoon, and then it’s back home and to the computer. Tonight is the Heisman Trophy presentation, and I imagine we’re going to tune in to that in case Joe Burrow (GEAUX JEAUX!) wins that tonight–he’s already won every conceivable quarterback award under the sun over this past week. The kid is definitely an LSU legend…and then I can finally finish and post the lengthy post I’ve been writing throughout the season about him.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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