Change the Chant

Anyone who has anxiety will tell you that it’s very real and very dumb. Your brain decides everything is terrible and despite your logical assertions that everything is in fact fine, your brain disagrees. Endlessly.

I have several ways to cope with my anxiety because some days it’s worse than others. With the new day job in retail, learning the specifics of this job (a lot of retail is the same, but every store has their own style), and the drastically increased face-to-face interactions with humans, my anxiety has definitely been worse.

One of the consequences of my anxiety going on a rage is that I don’t sleep and/or don’t sleep well. Sleep is sort of important to my well-being, as it is for most people. Due to my recent health issues, it’s been very important.

One of the ways that I cope with my anxiety is through chanting mantras. It’s a quick and easy way to calm my mind and the anxiety in the moment. It’s also very helpful at slowing down the mental chatter before sleep. The rhythm of the words soothes me and the words themselves plant pleasantness in my brain.

The mantras have been getting a workout due to the new day job and the chaos therein. The Wal-Mart in town is closing, our business has dramatically increased, and it’s been slow going getting more help and more hours to compensate for it. My anxiety has been zinging.

So, it’s no wonder that the mantras I’ve always used have been recently overused and have stopped working.

It’s not ideal, for sure. There is no rest when I come home from a long, hectic shift, go to sleep, and my dreams put me right back at work. I don’t enjoy working the same shift twice.

After a few rough nights, I realized that maybe the solution wasn’t too far from my old tricks.

The old mantras didn’t seem to work anymore. Maybe a new one would? A mantra specifically geared towards releasing the anxiety associated with work. I tried it for a few nights and it…helped? I still dreamed about work, but instead of reliving my shift or fighting not to dream about work, I just let it roll. The dreams weren’t as intense and didn’t last very long before I moved on to my usual dream weirdness (I was involved in a heist that used plastic wrap and wasn’t nearly as clever as everyone thought it was; we all should have been caught). In short, the new mantra has helped me reclaim at least a somewhat more restful night.

Once things with the day job smooth out, it’ll go into the coping toolbox with the rest of the mantras.

But until then, I’ll chant away.

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Murderville: The End Of- Episode 7

The Secrets of Sisters

Lu stood on the stoop waiting for Merry Miller to answer the door.

She had no need to be there, no real right to be there, and yet, Lu had questions and she wanted those questions answered.  No doubt Josh wouldn’t be thrilled about her snooping, but if Josh could deal with Nico’s inability to put his underwear in a laundry basket, instead throwing it all over the floor (and the man had the gall to criticize her bathroom habits from twenty years ago), then he could surely deal with his devoted and caring sister-in-law following up on a lead and helping him out on a case that meant a whole hell of a lot to both of their careers.

Merry Miller worked from home and Lu should have called ahead to both make sure that Miss Miller was there and to let her know that she was coming, but Lu didn’t have her number and didn’t have the patience at the moment to track it down in such a way that Josh wouldn’t know about it.

Merry Miller opened the door, looking more than a little surprised to see Lu.  Miss Miller was dressed much like she had been the first time Lu met her: she wore a brightly printed dress and matching lipstick.  Her blonde hair was down today, though, falling in natural waves around her shoulders.  Lu wondered why this super cute, bubbly woman was wasting her time with married men when she could have her pick of the singles.  But then Lu remembered that it had been only one married man and this woman’s relationship status was none of her damn business.

“Hi, Miss Miller,” Lu said, smiling brightly, hoping that the black polo shirt with the coroner’s office logo on the breast wasn’t too alarming.  “I don’t know if you remember me from the other day.  I’m Lu Jones.  I’m a death investigator.  I was here with Detective Carpenter.”

“Oh, yes!  Of course,” Miss Miller said and she gave a little laugh that sounded a bit relieved.  “I saw the shirt and thought something else awful had happened.”

Lu smiled tightly.  “Yeah, I get that a lot.  Do you mind if I come in?  I have a couple of questions I’d like to ask you.”

“About Starla?”  Lu nodded and Miss Miller stepped aside.  “Of course.  Come in, come in.”

She led Lu back into her living room, back to her sofa, and offered her a drink.  This time Lu did accept a glass of iced tea.  She thought maybe this would make them both more relaxed.  It was different without Josh here, leading things.  Now it was Lu’s turn to ask all of the right questions.  The sudden concern that she might ask the wrong thing or say the wrong thing crawled up Lu’s spine and perched on her shoulder like a gargoyle.  If she screwed this up for Josh…

Miss Miller came into the living room carrying two glasses of iced tea and she handed one to Lu before sitting down on the loveseat.

“Have you found anything out about who might have killed Starla?” Miss Miller asked, hopeful.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Lu said, watching Miss Miller’s face fall.  She quickly added, “But Detective Carpenter has been working diligently on the case, interviewing people.  It’s really only a matter of time.”

Miss Miller nodded and Lu inwardly cringed.  The last thing she needed to be doing was giving this woman any kind of false hope.  What the hell possessed her to do this again?  Lu took a big gulp of her tea before proceeding.

###

Will this case twist to the breaking point? Check out Murderville or Patreon to find out!

July Writing Projects

This projects post is going to be incredibly short because what I was doing in June is what I’m doing in July.

I’ll continue rewriting The Coop Run as a novella and continue writing the first draft of season 3 of Murderville.

Will I get them both done this month?

I don’t know. I’d like to think so. I’m getting better at finding the balance between the day job and writing. I’ve got more of a plan happening and I’m seeing the progress. How much progress I make is up to how well I work the plan.

Aside from that, I’m not putting any real pressure on myself. I talked a bit about my recent struggle, and I’m good with easing myself out of that.

So. Yeah. That’s about it.

Episode 7 of Murderville: The End Of drops on July 10th. Second to last episode of the season. But it’s never too late to become a patron. $1 an episode let’s you read; $2 an episode gets you a bonus every other month. Couch change well-spent!

Rerun Junkie–The Pride of the Ol’ 1-2

Since it’s Pride Month, I wanted to do a post on the gay representation on Barney Miller, just a quick overview of it because there’s really quite a bit I could pick apart and analyze and also because Marty Morrison really deserves his own character post.

Anyway.

Barney Miller was known for depicting the less dramatic, weirder side of law enforcement. It also pushed and poked at many social issues of the time. Some of them were very specific to that moment, like the budget crisis and the fallout from Vietnam, but many of the issues the show presented are still very relevant today. One striking aspect of the show is the representation of gay men in the form of recurring characters Marty Morrison (Jack DeLeon), Mr. Darryl Driscoll (Ray Stewart), and Officer Zatelli (Dino Natali). I read somewhere that show creator Danny Arnold worked with gay groups to get the portrayal of these characters right.  Instead of relying heavily on stereotypes (thought Marty is a classic catty gay man) or presenting them as unnatural or deviant, the show depicted them as humans facing societal challenges, bigotry, and discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

I love Marty Morrison and the pizzazz that Jack DeLeon brought to that character. He was out because it was impossible for him to be in. A petty criminal, he stole my heart as well as purses. In his first appearance on the show there’s a scene in which Barney tells Marty to get a real job and Marty tells him that he’s had “more jobs than you have hair on your head”. He also tells him that he tried to join the police force, but that they turned him down for being gay (“What’s wrong with a gay cop? There are gay robbers.”). Perhaps it’s just me reading into the scene, but there’s a suggestion there that part of the reason for Marty’s criminal behavior is because of his difficulty to hold a job as an out gay man in the 1970s. Or even get one. At the time, I would imagine that most jobs okay with his sexuality were few and far between and most likely limited to very specific industries.

It was through Marty that the show introduced Mr. Darryl Driscoll. The character was first somewhat effeminate, but throughout the appearances, that lessened in favor of Ray Stewart giving the character a more sophisticated personality. His first introduction to the squad room saw him being hustled by a fake cop, threatened with violence if he didn’t give the man money. His reluctance to actually go to the police to file a report echoes the real fear the gay community had (and still has) in regards to law enforcement. Later on in the series it was revealed that Mr. Driscoll had been married and had a son, something not uncommon for gay men. The resulting custody dispute on the surface seemed to be the result of the former Mrs. Driscoll’s opposition to Mr. Driscoll’s sexuality and shielding their son from that. In reality, the reason was more mundane: Mrs. Driscoll was tired of being the bad guy because Mr. Driscoll indulged his son during his visitations.

It was Officer Zatelli who got the truth from Mrs. Driscoll. A uniformed officer in a similar duty role to Ron Carey’s Officer Levitt, Officer Zatelli first showed up in the fourth season. However, it was in the 6th season that an anonymous letter claiming there was a gay police officer led to Zatelli outing himself as both the letter writer and the gay officer. Dino Natali’s portrayal of Zatelli was “straight”. He wasn’t much different from any of the other cops and that was the point. Though the detectives in the squad room knew he was gay and though he told  Mrs. Driscoll that he was gay when she was making a fuss about her son being around “those kind of people” and though Barney encouraged him to come clean to the department because policy prevented punishment for his sexuality (a policy change from the first season as indicated above), Zatelli couldn’t do it. As Barney warned, it was an accidental outing thanks to Wojo that exposed his secret. Instead of termination or forced resignation (like Lt. Scanlon wanted), Zatelli was transferred to a much cushier job, which he believed was a sign that he had a like-minded friend in high places.

Speaking of Wojo, Max Gail was presented with an interesting challenge for his character in regards to his evolution in opinion about gay men. The first season, particularly the first handful of episodes, saw Wojo as kind of a brutish caveman. His dislike of Marty came more from him being a thief rather than him being gay. However, the introduction of Mr. Driscoll, pairing the two men up the way they did, brought Wojo’s discomfort, ignorance, and prejudice into a sharper focus. In a two-part episode called “Quarantine” that saw the members of the 12th as well at Inspector Luger, Marty, Mr. Driscoll, and a sex worker named Paula Capshaw all -you guessed it- quarantined due to either smallpox or chicken pox depending on the outcome of the tests done on a sick criminal, Wojo insists that Marty and Mr. Driscoll sleep on opposite sides of the squad room. Like the two men would just bow-chicka-wow-wow right there if they were allowed to be in close proximity of each other when the lights went out. Wojo lost that argument, but it was an excellent illustration of his prejudice and misconceptions surrounding gay men. Over the course of the series, we got to see Wojo’s own learning experience and watch him as his opinions grew, matured, and evolved. In a way, he was almost a stand-in for no doubt many men in the viewing audience. (I’m singling out the men here because Wojo’s issues with homosexuality was very masculinity-based, but really, that’s another post for another time.)

Like I said, this is just a quick overview. There’s so much more I could get into and just might at some point in time. The gay representation on Barney Miller is really rather unique given the time period. It’s a reflection of the way social norms were evolving at the time as well as a bold step for both a cop show and a comedy.

The characters still resonate and the humor still plays today because the focus was always on the humanity, not stereotypes-as-punchlines.

And that’s pretty special.

I Have to Admit That My Struggle Is Real

I’ve been trying to do at least one blog post a week this year and I almost went without doing one this week. I’ve been working on a Rerun Junkie post that’s just not coming together. I have the idea. I know what I want to say. But the words will not make it from my brain to the laptop.

This is the latest symptom of something that I’ve been trying to ignore for the last several weeks.

I’m struggling. And maybe I’m a little burnt out.

I don’t like to admit that. I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to admit that. I don’t feel like I’ve worked hard enough to earn that struggle or that burnt out feeling.

What it boils down to is that between a minor health issue, a new day job, juggling three writing projects, and the every day requirements of living, I’m wiped out. I don’t have the energy or the focus to do everything I need to do and do it all at the level that I want to do it at.

I’m already in the process of accepting that I’m not going to meet my deadlines for the month. What I thought I’d get done, I won’t. I just can’t. And that’s disappointing as hell.

I operate under the delusion that I should be able to do anything. If I say I’m going to do something, then I will find a way to do it. If I set myself a deadline, then I meet it. As a result of this, I have a tendency to believe that there’s no excuse for me to not achieve what I’ve set out to do. Which is fine in theory. In reality, it ends up with me being gruesomely hard on myself when I don’t hit my mark, even if I’m operating in circumstances that would have required some kind of miracle to make it happen.

Right now, I’m in a period of adjustment.

Part of that adjustment is my new schedule and what I can realistically accomplish within it while recovering from a health setback.

The other adjustment, the much more difficult adjustment, is my expectations.

Murderville: The End Of- Episode 6

Upstairs, Downstairs

Detective Josh Carpenter sat across the table from Calvin and Audrey Connolly and the three of them tried to look inconspicuous.  The only time that Josh could interview the couple together was during their lunch breaks.  Audrey Connolly, of course, worked at the coroner’s office.  Calvin Connolly was a high school math teacher and since the beginning of a new school year was looming, he was busy prepping.  Josh had considered interviewing them separately, but decided to interview them as a couple first.  He wanted to gauge how they interacted during questioning knowing what he knew.  So, the meeting at the McDonald’s during the lunch rush on Monday was the best way to go.  Well, not the best, but the option Josh decided was best out of the limited, not-so-great options.  Thankfully, most of the folks in Munsterville that bothered to get out of their cars to come inside the fast food joint were just grabbing their lunch to-go.

“I did have a date with Starla,” Calvin Connolly said and practically flinched at the sound of the woman’s name coming out of his mouth.  Next to him, Audrey Connolly sat stone-faced, a good gap of physical distance between them in the booth.  “’For the night she was…was murdered.”  He added quickly, emphatically, “But I cancelled it.  Days before.  I cancelled it.”

“Why did you cancel it?” Josh asked, making a note in his notebook.  He’d already known that Calvin Connolly was the cancelled date thanks to Merry Miller’s code key.  It was the why that currently eluded him.  Starla James made no note of that.

“Because…” Mr. Connolly sighed heavily, “because Audrey found out about it.”

“And how long had you been seeing Miss James?” Josh asked, watching the husband squirm and the wife imitate a statue.

“Only a few months,” he said.  “We’d only had sex a couple of times.  Honest.”

“I see,” Josh said, making a note of the duration of the affair, but not of the number of times Mr. Connolly claimed to have had sex with the victim.  That was clearly meant for his wife to hear.  “And when did Mrs. Connolly find out about the affair?”

Now, Audrey Connolly did move, a slight flinch at her name and the word “affair” in the same sentence.

“Last week.  Monday or Tuesday, I think.  Days before I was supposed to see Starla.  She found a text from her on my phone and confronted me.  I cancelled my date with Starla right then.,” Mr. Connolly said, sounding sullen and remorseful.  Josh wondered if it was because he’d hurt his wife by having an affair or because she found out.  “That’s why we were out of town this past weekend.  We were trying to work on our marriage.”

Mrs. Connolly made a little noise as if to suggest that the weekend hadn’t been all that successful.

“And when did you leave for this weekend retreat of yours?” Josh asked.

“Friday evening,” Mr. Connolly said hurriedly.  He looked at his wife for confirmation of that.  “Right?  Right after you got off of work.  You had to work late so we left late.  Right?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Connolly said, sounding reluctant to speak at all.  “We left Friday after I got off of work.  It was around seven-thirty.”

“And you work at the coroner’s office, correct?” Josh asked.

“I work for the coroner’s administration,” Audrey Connolly corrected.  “Yes.  I work upstairs.  I’m their public relations consultant.”

“I see,” Josh said and he made a show of flipping through his notebook as though he were looking for a piece of information that wasn’t already cued up in his head.  “So, you would have been at work when Starla James was discovered and brought in for examination and autopsy.”

Audrey Connolly shifted her weight in the booth a little.

“Yes.  Like I said.  I work upstairs.”

“Why were you working overtime that day?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Mrs. Connolly snapped.

Josh stared at her hard.  She managed to stare back with equal intensity for a few seconds before she shifted in her seat again, nervous.  That might work on her husband, but Josh was immune to it.  Except from his own husband.

“Mrs. Connolly, I’m investigating a homicide,” Josh said, business-like and professional with just a touch of no-nonsense.  “I would appreciate your cooperation in answering my questions.  Why were you working overtime that day?”

Mrs. Connolly glanced at her husband.  “I had to stay late due to a late-breaking development that needed to be addressed.”

Josh nodded at her.  “From my understanding, it was due to the results of Miss James’s autopsy.”

Mr. Connolly looked at his wife with wide eyes.  She never took her eyes from Josh, her look hardening.

###

Time is running out for Lu and Josh to solve the case. Check out Murderville and Patreon to keep up with their ticking clock!

Writing with a Day Job…Again

When I set my writing projects for June, I didn’t have a day job.

By the time it posted, I did.

Life comes at you fast.

I’m back in retail, working at one of the local dollar stores. Every store does things somewhat differently, but a lot of the basics are the same. It’s like riding a bike. I haven’t forgotten.

Now I have to hope that I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to write with a day job. It’s been a while since I’ve been working out of the house for 15-20 hours a week. It’s been a while since I’ve had to write around that kind of schedule (as well as the other life things I have to write around, too). Right now everything is crazy because this day job happened very suddenly during an already busy time, both for writing and for real life. No doubt it’ll settle down and find a groove, but for now, I’m a little stressed and very tired.

I plan on keeping my June writing plan. The Coop Run is on a deadline, so it will get first priority, but I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to get a good chunk, if not all of season 3 of Murderville written. Hopefully, my productivity will be as high as my hopes.

Though the day job will alleviate an immediate need for financial support, like all of my day jobs, I view it as temporary. My goal is to make a (decent) living by writing.

I still intend to do that.