Garden District Gothic

Oh, Scotty VII, what an interesting path you took to publication.

Back when ebooks and Kindles first started to be a thing, they rather revolutionized publishing. This new technology rang the death knell on some independent book stores as well as some small presses, and it was considered the great equalizer: you no longer needed to follow the long-established path to publication that went writer/agent/publisher; and just having an agent was no guarantee your book would ever see print and if it did, that it would sell. You no longer needed a publisher to put your book out and get it to readers; all you needed to do was get a cover designed and format your manuscript and upload it. This excited a lot of people; I was one of them, but still approached the entire thing very cautiously. I have never had a problem with people who elect to self-publish their work rather than follow the traditional path; I certainly never followed the traditional path or ran my career the way I was supposed to, at least according to almost every author I knew.

But ultimately, for me, the ebook revolution and becoming a publisher/author hybrid seemed not only like a risk but a time-consuming one. I didn’t have the time available to market the books I was traditionally publishing the way I should, let alone having the time to have to do all the marketing myself.

But I was curious, and remained open-minded. A friend started her own company and wanted me to write some things for her–short, more like novellas than novels–and since I’d always wanted to spin Paige off into her own series (despite being concerned about writing a mainstream type book from a woman’s perspective) and so I thought, well, here’s a chance to try something new and different. I wound up writing two of these and was partly through a third when I began to realize that even with an independent publisher doing some of the work, I just didn’t have the time or money or incentive to work any harder at marketing these books than I already was–and they needed more attention and promotion than I was able to give them, so we decided to end the business relationship, the already done books came down from sales sites, and that was the end of that.

I did eventually slap up Bourbon Street Blues as an ebook on Amazon, and it’s done okay for me; I’ve not promoted it at all but copies sell every month–but I am not getting rich, either. I also have a longer short story up as an e-original (but it’s also in my print collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories) and yes, I know I need to get Jackson Square Jazz up (one of these days), and perhaps when I’ve retired and have more time, I’ll explore the self-publishing option again just for the hell of it.

But there I was, with a partially completed manuscript and it was a very fun story; I hated wasting it (it was called The Mad Catter), and so, with a little bit of tweaking, I turned it into the seventh Scotty book, and renamed it Garden District Gothic.

I really love the cover Bold Strokes gave me for it, too:

You know you live in New Orleans when you leave your house on a hot Saturday morning in August for drinks wearing a red dress.

It was well over ninety degrees, and the humidity had tipped the heat index up to about 110, maybe 105 in the shade. The hordes of men and women in red dresses were waving handheld fans furiously as sweat ran down their bodies. Everywhere you looked, there were crowds of people in red, sweating but somehow, despite the ridiculous heat, having a good time. I could feel the heat from the pavement through my red-and-white saddle shoes and was glad I’d decided wearing hose would be a bad idea. The thick red socks I was wearing were hot enough, thank you, and were soaked through. They were new, so were probably dying my ankles, calves, and feet pink. But it was for charity, I kept reminding myself as I greeted friends and people whose names I couldn’t remember but whose faces looked familiar as we worked our way up and down and around the Quarter.

Finally, I had enough around noon and decided to call it a day.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in my life, and I grew up in Alabama,” my sort of nephew, Taylor Wheeler, said in his soft accent, wiping sweat from his forehead as we trudged down Governor Nicholls Street on our way home.

It hasn’t been this hot in a while,” I replied, trying really hard not to laugh. I’d been forcing down giggles pretty much all day since he came galloping down the back steps the way he always does and I got my first look at his outfit. “But the last few summers have been mild—this is normal for August, usually.” It was true—everyone in town was complaining about the heat like it was something unusual, but we hadn’t had our usual hellish summer weather in a couple of years.

Last summer had been not only mild but dry, with little humidity and practically no rain—which was unheard of. Usually it rains every day around three in the summer, when the humidity has gotten so thick it turns to rain.

“I don’t even want to think about how much sweat is in my butt crack,” he complained, furiously waving the fan he’d picked up somewhere, trying to create a breeze.

I gave up trying to fight it and just gave in to the laughter.

One of the primary problems of turning The Mad Catter into Garden District Gothic was that the book was intended originally to be a sequel to a pair of books that no longer existed; vanished forever into the ether. I had established a character in earlier books of the series who was supposed to take front and center in this one, but I no longer had the back story and was facing the issue of how do I introduce this woman into Scotty’s world? And it was important, because the case involved a long ago murder that took place in this woman’s Garden District mansion–she didn’t own it at the time; she bought it from the original family that owned it, and owned it at the time of the unsolved murder–but I decided the easiest way to do this was make the woman a friend of Scotty’s older sister, which is how he knew her; and she had been a member of the cast of a reality-TV show called Grande Dames of New Orleans, which had been the centering of the previous book in the now-defunct series. I always thought the Grande Dames (obviously, my version of the Real Housewives franchises) was a clever idea and a fun one to explore as well as poke fun at in a fictional setting, and I hated wasting in a series that no one could access anymore. So I decided to keep Serena, and mention that she was in the cast of the new show which hadn’t started filming yet, and she had bought this big house as a centerpiece for her to be filmed in from the show, giving up her luxurious condo in One River Place. (This also gave me the opening to center the next Scotty book in the Grande Dames show.) The party that now opened the book was a housewarming party, so Serena could show off her new manse with the checkered past.

I had also created a character in the Paige series to serve as a kind of nemesis for her, a true crime writer named Jerry Channing, whom eventually I used as the impetus for getting the plot started in The Orion Mask. Jerry became rich and famous writing a book about the infamous, unsolved murder called Garden District Gothic, which in the Paige series seemed like a Scotty title to me, and I used it as a wink to those who were familiar with the Scotty series…and so, in writing about Scotty and the gang solving this old notorious murder, why wouldn’t I call the book Garden District Gothic, since it really is a Scotty title after all?

The murder was, of course, based on the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder that dominated the media and culture for so long back in the day. I just took the set-up of the story from that real-life case and started making up my own characters and backstories for them and went with it from there. The one thing that always bothered me the most about the case was the fact that people viewed the Ramsey family as speaking to the lawyers before calling the police as suspicious; no, it’s actually smart. Sure, it made them look “guilty” in the press (with all those headlines in the tabloids screaming this conclusively proves one of the family did it!!!! Who calls their lawyer first??? To which I again repeat, people who are fucking smart call their lawyer first. Period.), but it was the smart thing to do; someone had the presence of mind to realize that the most obvious suspects in the murder of a child are going to be the immediate family, and why–in a distraught state of grief over your child’s brutal murder–you would need to have a lawyer present when you’re being questioned by the police so you don’t say anything that could be misconstrued as an admission of guilt when you are not in fact guilty.

Always, always, always call the lawyers first. Always. If i have learned anything from my extensive reading of true crime and study of crime fiction, it is “never talk to the cops without a lawyer, especially if you are innocent.”

I was pleased with it when I was finished with it, but I’d kind of like to revise the ending a bit.

And of course, writing it left me with the decision of whether to reuse my Grande Dames of New Orleans reality show for the next Scotty book.

Honey Hi

Sunday morning and I slept very well again last night, which felt marvelous. I stayed in bed later than I probably should have, but it felt so nice I didn’t want to get up and I did, in fact, fall back asleep relatively easily (I’ve woken up at six the last three mornings and went back to sleep for a little while longer). I did chores mostly yesterday–I intended to read and write and edit with the television on in the background, but the Kentucky-Mississippi game sucked me in (as did the Texas A&M-Mississippi State one) after I got home from my self-care (it was a back wax, okay?) and picked up the mail (there was none) I jus kind of vegetated while doing some chores around the house. I managed to get the bed linens laundered and another two loads of dishes done (it really is amazing how many dishes we dirty up during the week, seriously) and then we settled in for the LSU game last night, which was a doozy.

LSU played like they were walking in their sleep for the first quarter and a half, falling behind quickly 17-0 before a strip-and-scoop fumble turned into an LSU touchdown, and they engineered a drive in the closing seconds of the first half to pull within three, 17-14, and after a quick three-and-out to open the third, managed a strong, time-consuming drive to take the lead 21-17 and that was the end of the scoring. There was a super bizarre close to the game that included three turnovers in the final five minutes (Auburn then LSU before Auburn again), which left the Tigers able to run out the clock to close on 21-17 game that will be considered another classic in the history of the Tiger Bowl season. (Also, on the opening kickoff an LSU player–Sevyn Banks–was so severely injured he had to be strapped to a board and carted off the field before being rushed to the hospital, which kind of cast a pall over the game and the stadium, but fortunately Banks was able to come back to the game in a neck brace and rejoin the team, thank the Lord for this. These kinds of injuries are literally terrifying to see happen. Here’s hoping Banks recovers completely and this has no impact on the rest of his life.

All kinds of weird things happened yesterday–who had Oklahoma being blown out by TCU on their scorecard for 2022?–and so this weird and wacky season goes on. Georgia almost got beat by Missouri, Arkansas put a scare into Alabama, and let’s not forget that A&M game; the Aggie alums have got to be seriously questioning Jimbo Fisher’s outrageous salary around now. Sure, they beat Alabama and managed to finally beat LSU twice in a four year period after losing like eight straight, but they’ve never been a real contender other than the truncated 2020 season and let’s face facts, that was a weird season that shouldn’t really count anyway.

Someone really needs to write a history of the LSU-Auburn “Tiger Bowl” rivalry, as it has provided the conference with some of its most exciting games of the last thirty or so years, when the teams finally began playing each other every year.

Today? This morning I am curling up with my Donna Andrews book before I put in a Costco delivery order and spend the afternoon writing (and cleaning, and organizing). There will be new episodes of The Serpent Queen and House of the Dragon to get through this evening, and I believe Interview with the Vampire premieres today as well. There’s a lot of shows we watch returning soon, and other new ones premiering that we are looking forward to catching as well. I’ve also found a couple of half-hour comedies on various streaming services that look interesting, or like they could be funny (sometimes you just need something funny and short; seriously can’t recommend Reboot enough) we can try out. I got one of those dinner kits from Fresh Market last night–teriyaki chicken–which I am going to make for dinner tonight…my, what an exciting thrill ride this entry is for you, Constant Reader.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

That’s Enough for Me

Ah, Saturday.

I have some self-care scheduled for today which will be lovely, and I am actually hoping to be able to make it to the gym tomorrow to start my working out again. I slept really well last night–I don’t know what it is about waking up on your own without the alarm that makes such a significant difference mentally and physically, but it does–and woke up a little while ago. I am swilling coffee as I type, the dryer is re-fluffing a load preparatory to being reloaded and run again with the load waiting in the washing machine, and I also have to empty and refill the dishwasher. I have a new cable modem to install–pray for me, seriously–and I am going to do some reading this morning before my self-care appointment. That’s the plan, at any rate. But it’s very nice to feel rested and with my day stretching out in front of me the way that it currently does. LSU’s game is tonight and is an away game–Auburn at Auburn–and I am not sure what games are on today during the day, but I will undoubtedly have them on the television in the background as I do things today. Paul has his trainer and then is going into the office to work on a grant so I have the whole day at home to myself, which is kind of nice, too.

I’ve also been debating getting a new microwave and, I don’t know, actually reading the manual so I know how to operate it properly? Ha ha ha, read the manual, as if.

But most importantly, today I need to get back to work on the Scotty book and the other project I am working on. I am going to read Donna Andrews for a few hours this morning before moving on to rereading the Scotty chapters again so I can fix the mess that is Chapter Three so I can write chapters four and five this weekend. It would be amazing to write a chapter a day for a couple of weeks, but I am shooting to have the first real draft of this finished by Halloween, so I can fix it in November and turn it in on time in December, which would be amazing. I have another project in the works to follow that one, and I also have to finish the other project I am working on, but I am trying to get that done by doing a single chapter of it per week. I’ve fallen off my writing schedule since Bouchercon and the back injury considerably, and I really need to get back on that horse.

I also have a book coming out in December, so I also need to spend some time figuring out how to do promo in November. Heavy heaving sigh.

Last night was nice. I wound up staying at the office far later than I’d intended to–things happen–and so I came straight home. Paul came home and left for the gym, so I futzed around and moved things and can’t really remember a whole lot of what I did other than scrolling through social media on my iPad while videos streamed on autoplay from the Youtube app on my television. When Paul came home we watched the next two episodes of Reboot, which concludes everything that has already aired so we have to wait for the next episode to drop (which is disappointing) but it just keeps getting better and better. I am actually enjoying Paul Reiser, whom I’ve never been able to enjoy in anything since his masterful turn as the corporate villain in Aliens–I hated that character so much that it has colored everything Reiser has done ever since, but he is terrific in this; definitely Emmy-worthy for sure–and the writing is just so smart and funny and clever; and Johnny Knoxville is also amazing. The entire cast is amazingly perfect. I cannot recommend this show highly enough. I am curious to see where it is going to go–the premise is so clever, and so many shows never manage to develop much beyond “clever premise”–but hope it remains as light and fresh and funny as it started.

Ah, the morning continues to slip through my fingers, so I am going to bring this to a close and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Baton Rouge Bingo

Ah, Scotty–the series that will never die.

It never ceases to amaze me the way this series has been embraced by readers, or that twenty years after turning in the first one here I am writing the ninth (or it is the eighth?) volume. It just goes to show that trying to come up with a plan for your writing career (at least in my case) is a fool’s game. Revisiting my work the way I have been recently–in part because I am writing another book in this seemingly endless series–has also reminded me of plans that have gone awry over the years; things I was trying to do with my writing and the series and the stand-alones that somehow got lost in the shuffle of trying to make a living while trying to be a writer at the same time as well as balance volunteer work, editing, and my relationship and my responsibilities around the house; and sometimes wondering if maybe I shouldn’t revisit and/or revive those plans. I’d like to get a lot of projects I’ve been thinking about for years or have in some sort of progress finished at long last before I come up with anything new–the problem, of course, being that there’s always something new poking its way out from the deep dark corners and recesses of my creative mind.

I famously said on a panel at Saints and Sinners, when asked about the potentiality of another book in the Scotty series, that if I could “think of a way to include Mike the Tiger from LSU along with Huey Long and his deduct box, I would” and of course, a few days later it struck me across the face like a bitch slap from Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce, and so I started making notes as the story started forming in my head.

I’d been wanting to write about Huey Long ever since I’d read the T. Harry Williams oral biography, Huey Long, which won every award on the planet back in the early 1950’s when it was originally published. I’d been trying to sort out fact from fiction when it came to Long for quite some time by the time someone recommended the Williams volume to me; I was very interested to find out what the actual truth about Long was, separated out from all the noise. I knew about the Kingfish from my US History text book, which devoted an entire paragraph to the “most dangerous politician in American history, the demagogue from Louisiana” without getting into much depth about his rise, what he did, and why he was so reviled.

The GPS in our brand new Explorer announced that it was about ninety miles to Baton Rouge from New Orleans when Frank punched in the coordinates into it before pulling away from the curb at the airport.

I stifled a laugh. It might only be ninety miles, but to a New Orleanian it’s like being sucked into a wormhole and winding up in another dimension.

Of course, New Orleanians are horrible snobs about the city’s suburbs, always making snarky jokes about needing shots and a passport to head over to the West Bank or out to Metairie, so it should be no surprise that we also look down our noses at the rest of Louisiana. We act like there’s no intelligent life outside of Orleans Parish; nowhere decent to eat, no art or culture to speak of, and certainly no one we’d want to associate with could possibly live out there. It’s not true, of course—but we like to pretend it is.

As my Louisiana History teacher at Jesuit High School once sniffed contemptuously, “President Jefferson offered Napoleon $10 million dollars for New Orleans, and for an extra five million he threw in the rest of the continent west of the Mississippi.”

Needless to say, this snobbish disdain for the rest of Louisiana was hardly endearing—which quite frequently means New Orleans gets screwed over by the state legislature.

So, when Frank first mentioned this trip to Baton Rouge, I reacted the way any true New Orleanian would. I scrunched up my face like I’d smelled something really awful and said, “Ew. Do we have to?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, we do, and we need to buy a new car.”

This was even more horrifying to me than going to Baton Rouge, to be honest. I hate to drive—I always have. I don’t even like riding in cars. Given the way people drive in New Orleans, it’s understandable. Most drivers in New Orleans don’t use their signals, ignore street signs and traffic laws if inconvenient, and no one here knows how to make a left turn properly at an intersection. It always amazes me that there aren’t more traffic fatalities.

As I had mentioned in my entry on Who Dat Whodunnit, I had always liked LSU; how can you not love a team that actually has a LIVE TIGER mascot? But of course I was always Auburn first then Alabama; LSU was my third favorite SEC team, and after we moved here it kept creeping closer and closer until I only rooted against LSU when they were playing Auburn, which then became I’m happy whoever wins but after Katrina? I went all in on LSU. Paul and I went to our first game in 2010, the Mississippi game, and it was incredibly exciting and I became an even bigger fan; there literally is nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley, and remember–I’d gone to plenty of college games in my life before that experience, and I thought the Auburn-Florida game in 1993 was the biggest and most exciting game day experience I’d ever had…

…and then I went to an LSU rivalry game at night in Tiger Stadium, and no, there’s absolutely nothing like that experience, anywhere, any time. And I love Mike the Tiger. (every time I go to a game I stop by the habitat to see if he’s out in the yard so I can say hello; he’s such a beautiful animal.) Constant Reader is undoubtedly very tired of listen to me about my LSU fandom and how much I love going to games in Tiger Stadium, but there probably wouldn’t be LSU football as we know it if not for Huey Long. Huey Long turned LSU from a small-enrollment C level state university into what is today, or at least got it started. He’s the reason the stadium is shaped the way it is (he wanted to expand the stadium but there was no money in the budget for it–but there was money to build a new dorm…so he built the dormitory into the stadium. The stadium only stopped being a functioning dorm in the 1980’s or 90’s I believe, and I think there’s a plan to refurbish and reopen the dorm…so yes, Tiger Stadium is the only football stadium in the world that can also serve as a dorm…and the football stadium was used as a staging center for the evacuation of New Orleans after the Katrina flood), and he encouraged the students to raise the money to get a live tiger mascot.

When I was puzzling over how to work all of these elements into a modern-day crime novel, there was a bomb threat on the LSU campus which resulted in an evacuation of the campus. The administration made sure Mike the Tiger was secured and evacuated safely before the general evacuation call, and of course, the students who think football is over-emphasized and prioritized over the university’s primary role as an institute of higher learning (they aren’t wrong, for the record) were furious and outraged that the tiger was giving a priority over the students. I don’t blame them in the least for those horrible optics, but I also understood where Admin was coming from; it was all a part of their safety strategy, and I am sorry, when you have a live tiger habitat on your campus, you kind of have to take that into consideration. Would you want to try to evacuate a tiger during the chaos of a general campus evacuation? How many things could go wrong in that situation? (And the question of whether there should be a live tiger habitat on a college campus is certainly one that should be discussed–traditions aren’t always a good thing–but not in the midst of a chaotic situation and a threat to campus safety. And as I understand it, his team of vets and veterinary students moved very quickly and it resulted in perhaps a fifteen minute delay in the general evacuation call? And leaving him on an abandoned campus was just not an option. So I decided to start my book with Scotty and Frank heading to Baton Rouge, getting caught in the evacuation panic traffic, while Mom is currently being arrested for slapping the state Attorney General. Mike gets kidnapped during the evacuation by a rabid animal rights’ movement, and the leader of the group turns out to not only be from New Orleans but also connected to Huey Long–her grandfather worked for him, and was killed in a car accident shortly after Huey was assassinated.

And at the root of everything is the deduct box. the big strongbox of cash Huey always kept on hand to pay for “unexpected expenses” no one wanted a record of–and I even brought back a villain from the past. I also introduced a new character to the family dynamic: Taylor Rutledge, Frank’s nephew from Corinth County, Alabama (see? all of my books are connected), disowned by his religious rural Southern parents after he came out to them and comes to New Orleans to live with them (I had an eye to spinning Taylor off into his own y/a crime series, but it hasn’t happened yet).

And this book has, perhaps, one of my favorite scenes ever in a Scotty book–when he realizes the bad guys have set he and Taylor adrift at sea…and Mike the Tiger is also on the boat with them (hat tip to Life of Pi).

And having now introduced a new character to the family dynamic, I could hardly call it quits on the series after that–so I knew there was going to be yet another.

Because Scotty will never. ever go away.

Never Make Me Cry

I slept really well last night, which I inevitably usually do on Thursday nights because I can sleep an hour later those mornings, which naturally makes for a better evening of sleep. I also stay up an hour later (I really have this thing about going to be before eleven that always feels wrong and like I am being cheated out of the evening or something). I was very tired after work last evening, but I did get a load of dishes finished and another started (which I will have to finish this evening). I didn’t write, but I did reread the chapters already in place and think (hope) that tonight I will get that revision finished and can finally, at long last, move on to the next.

And today is the last day of September, October Eve, if you will, which of course leaves me shaking me head in bewilderment about where September could have gone, and why did it go so quickly? Why did I get so little done? I don’t know those answers, of course, but I do know we have been having some lovely weather this week–and it’s not because of the hurricane so we can enjoy it in peace (the cold front we are having, however, is what pushed Ian east and kept him there). It was sixty-three degrees yesterday morning when I went in to the office, so chilly that it even startled me a bit as I went outside. It was still cool when I got off work as well–there was a lot of wind, too, as there has been most of the week–but I am sure we’re going to have at least another couple of really warm weeks yet before the summer finally releases its chokehold on New Orleans.

My plan is only to read horror in the month of October, but since I’ve not had the bandwidth to finish reading my Donna Andrews novel that is one of the things I am going to work on getting through this weekend. It’s not a chore, mind you–Donna’s books are always entertaining and always great reads, and I love the world she’s created in these books–but I also want to be able to focus on the book and actually, you know, read it when my mind is not so worn out and tired, so it can really enjoy the book for the volume of sheer entertainment it inevitably will turn out to be. And then I am going to move on to horror. I have some more Paul Tremblay and Christopher Golden novels on hand to read, and of course I am years behind on Stephen King–might not be a bad idea to revisit some of the classics as well as start reading through the newer works, and of course I should reread ‘salem’s Lot, and I haven’t done a reread of The Stand in quite a while, or Christine or The Dead Zone for that matter. I also need to get back to reading short stories, and I have some lovely volumes of horror short stories on hand I can read as well.

LSU plays Auburn Saturday night at Auburn, so I have most of tomorrow free to clean and read and so forth. Paul is also planning a trip to visit his mother, probably around Halloween, so I am going to have a long and lonely week to look ahead to–thinking that I’ll be able to get a lot done while he’s gone which of course will end up not being the case–and right now I don’t know what other games are on this weekend, so I am hoping I won’t actually blow all of Saturday sitting in my chair, reclined, with a purring cat in my lap while I mindlessly watch teams play games I don’t care about. I need to get back on top of all of my projects and snap out of this weird blasé place I’ve been in since Bouchercon where I just can’t seem to have the energy or strength or will to work through being tired. But the weekend looms, and if I can manage to get a good night’s sleep tonight hopefully tomorrow morning I will wake up with lots of motivation and energy–and the strength of will to ignore Scooter’s plaintive cries to provide a lap for him to sleep in.

We started watching Reboot last night on Hulu, and it’s hilarious. The core of the story is actually kind of genius; an old family-friendly comedy from twenty or thirty years ago, similar to the kind of show Diff’rent Strokes and Full House were (heartwarming fare with cute kids with corny jokes and broad humor and–ugh, you know what I mean) is being rebooted…with the original cast…only as a more modern, darker, and more realistic show. It’s hilarious, and the entire cast is terrific (Johnny Knoxville being a surprising standout). We loved it, and can’t wait to watch more. I am also getting kind of excited to watch the new adaptations of Anne Rice’s series, The Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches (although I think the vampire series may be called Interview with the Vampire? I’ve not followed stories about either show closely, figuring I’d watch once they started airing and then would check into what the plans for the shows are). Elité is also coming back, as are some other favorites. Huzzah!

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely, lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope everyone in Florida is doing okay this morning. Check in with you again tomorrow!

Sisters of the Moon

Thursday morning and the last day I have to get up this early this week. Huzzah! I slept well again last night–after the weird sleep of the previous night–and feel rested this morning. Not sure how that will play out through the rest of the day, but we’ll see, I guess. I know I have a full schedule at work today, so I am hoping to have the energy this evening after work to get home and do some writing. I started doing the dishes last night but didn’t finish; Paul was home early last night so I spent the evening hanging with him and Scooter and watching television. We started watching this new high school show on Netflix–Heartbreak High–but it was just okay (no Elite or Sex Education, that’s for sure); we’ll probably give it another episode or so before abandoning it, since shows sometimes need an episode or two to hit their grove and become more fun to watch.

Ugh.

I really don’t want to look at the news about the hurricane; as someone with some firsthand experience to hurricane aftermaths, I also know that no matter how bad it looks on television or on the newspaper, the reality is about a thousand times worse because pictures and video–no matter how well done–can never quite capture the scope of disaster in a way your brain can process the same way bearing eyewitness can. I saw a lot of awful posts on social media–people seeking help for family and/or friends trapped; trapped people looking for help–and I had to put my phone down because at some point it feels like it almost becomes a kind of macabre fascination, like you’re not doing out of empathy but out of some far darker, almost primordial need to see destruction you can enjoy because it doesn’t affect you. Human misery always bothers me on a very deep level, at the core of my being; there are very few people whose misery I can actually revel in (looking at you, Putin!).

But a hurricane threatening the Tampa Bay area has sent me down a rabbit hole into my own history, and memories of living in that area–which is when I worked for Continental Airlines–and my word, how my life has changed since I lived there. I was still pretty immature and under-developed socially and emotionally; I was originally transferred there from Houston in 1991, after I’d been with the company for about a year or so; I think my hire date was April 1990? (You can tell it’s been a long time; your hire date/seniority is everything when you work at an airline.) I’d originally moved to Houston after blowing up my life in California–lost my job, drug problem, drinking too much–but that was also probably the self-destruction brought on by the horror that was my life in the 1980’s, and after living there for two years was ready to start over again somewhere new; Houston was a nice way station but I’d never intended to stay there for very long–I do like Houston but I really don’t want to live in a place where you literally have to get on at least one highway every day and it seemed kind of exciting to start over in Florida.

Tampa turned out to be another transitional location for me; it was where I was able to come into myself, work on myself, and figure out who I am, what I wanted from life–and how to make a plan to get what I wanted from life. I was hardly perfect (still am quite a distance from being the ideal Greg I would like to be), but I was on well on my way to becoming the Greg I wanted to be when I loaded up my car with everything that could fit and left for Minneapolis shortly before Christmas of 1995. When I moved to Tampa I didn’t really have any idea of what I wanted or who I was or the life I wanted to lead; when I left I had those answers figured out and was well on my way to becoming who I wanted to be as a person. Obviously, I am still a work in progress, and while my memories of Tampa may not all be terrific ones, I am very happy I made the decision to transfer there–because I probably would have never become an active participant in my life rather than a passive one to whom things happened; I wanted to make things happen.

Obviously, you only can ever have so much control over your life; a lot depends on other people, of course, and things that are beyond your control (hello, natural disasters!), but it really feels good to have a purpose; I had always wanted to be a writer but it was while I was living in Tampa that I finally realized I needed to get past my fears of failure and really put the effort into making it happen, and it eventually did…who knows how my life would have turned out had I never made the decision to transfer to Tampa and reboot my life once more?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a marvelous Thursday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Angel

The eerie thing about Hurricane Ian is it has given us gorgeous weather in New Orleans–no humidity, warm but with a cool breeze; as though this monstrous storm is blessing those of us not under threat with this amazing fall-like weather (well, for New Orleans; this probably feels like summer to most People Not From Here). It was gorgeous yesterday morning when I left for the office; stunning, in fact. I was a little taken aback when I opened the front door to leave yesterday morning and didn’t get slapped in the face with a wall of wet hot heavy air, and as I walked out to the car couldn’t help but think well this weather is simply gorgeous. And when I came home from work–gorgeous, if a little too windy or my preferences. It’s a Category 4 this morning, looking to come ashore somewhere between Tampa and Fort Myers; the storm surge is worrisome and you can’t help but Youtubewonder if the three main causeway bridges from Tampa to the Clearwater/St. Petersburg peninsula will get damaged. I’ll keep monitoring the storm during the day, and hoping for the best possible outcomes for everyone in the path.

After getting stuck having to ride out Ida last year, I really wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

And our house is sheltered on three sides.

Today is Pay the Bills Day, and I’ll dive into that later on this morning. It’s always disappointing to watch your bank balance dwindle, but at the same time–as I remind myself every other Wednesday–at least I can pay them without worry; something that was frequently not true throughout my life. But still, it would be nice to have an entire paycheck that could just sit there in my bank account, wouldn’t it? Indeed, it would.

I was tired when I got home from work yesterday, and last night’s sleep wasn’t nearly as deep as I would have preferred; I had trouble actually falling asleep (thank goodness for Scooter’s Magical Put You To Sleep powers; he climbed up into the bed, curled up next to me, and went to sleep with his purr engine fully activated; and as it always does in my easy chair, it put me to sleep in no time) and kept waking up throughout the night; I woke up at three and four and five, thank you very much, and was awake before the alarm went off. I think I have a much busier work schedule today at the office than I’ve had in a few days, which means I will most likely be very tired when I get off work tonight; fortunately I don’t have any errands to run after work this evening and can come straight home. Hopefully I will have the energy to not only sit at my computer and write for a while, but also the inner strength of character to ignore Scooter’s wailing demands that I sit in my chair and provide a lap for him to sleep in, which inevitably leads to me dozing off in the chair and going down a lot of Youtube wormholes.

I found a lovely video last night, for example, about Catherine de Medici’s Flying Squadron; beautiful women trained in the seductive arts that she used as spies. I have always wanted to write a book based in this historical truth; just as I have always wanted to write about Catherine herself. The French wars of Religion, and the regency of “that Italian woman” is a fascinating period of history (let’s face it, I just love the sixteenth century), with all kinds of Games of Thrones-like conspiracies, betrayals, spying, murder, and so on and so forth as the Catholics and the Huguenots and the nobility jockeyed back and forth for power and control of the kingdom, with Catherine grimly hanging on to the crown for her sons and doing what she had to do. (When I have my flights of fancy of writing historical suspense novels, this is one of the four I think about wanting to do, the others being a retelling of The Three Musketeers; the murder of AMy Robsart; and the Babington Plot which resulted in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. And of course, I always want to write a Barbara Tuchman-like history of the century focusing on the women who held power, The Monstrous Regiment of Women, in that most unusual century.)

Not to mention how much fun I would have reading all that history…

But I am behind on everything current and need to start getting caught up. I’ve not been able to adjust to this schedule of work and having to get up so damned early every morning; you’d think by now I would have and would have energy when I get home at night, but I don’t. I’m also older (less that four years to go before retirement!) than I was and my energy reserves aren’t quite what they used to be…but it’s always a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Determining what they are and what they should be, and then working my way down the list, and trying not to get distracted by shiny objects along the path.

And on that note, i am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, and y’all who are in the Ian path, stay safe.

I Know I’m Not Wrong

I posted a list of things–a thread, if you will–on Twitter yesterday of helpful hints to get prepared for a hurricane-related power loss; simple things I’ve picked up from other people over the years, and was more than a little surprised by the response that received from other users in the Twitter-world. But it’s all common-sense things you might not think about when you’re panicking and battening down the hatches, as it were. The refrigerator and food spoiling without electricity is one I will always wish I knew before Hurricane Katrina, frankly. It also looks as though Tampa is going to get a direct hit, and I don’t think it’s gotten one of those in a very long time–since the 1960’s, at least, if I am not incorrect, and that area is particularly vulnerable to storm surges and so forth. I’ve not lived there since 1995, but there are still people I care about who live there, and obviously, I’m sending them good thoughts and positive energy and hope everything will turn out okay for them and the power will be back soon and the storm will do little damage. (UPDATE: Tampa has not had a direct hit of this strength since 1921! Over a hundred years ago!)

It’s also kind of interesting because one of my in-progress projects (one of too many) involves my Tampa stand-in city while under hurricane threat. YIKES. (In that self-absorbed reflex I suspect all of us have but manage to successfully filter before those thoughts come out of our mouths, there’s a part of me that thinks maybe if your idea for Scotty IV hadn’t been about a hurricane…and so of course in the back of my head I can’t help but wonder if writing about such a thing didn’t wish it into being…because of course that’s how things work and my mind has that kind of power mwa-ha ha ha ha! I mean, come on.)

I feel rested this morning but felt like a burnt out husk for most of the weekend. I got all of my day job duties completed yesterday and yes, my eyes were crossing from the data entry by the time it was finished right around quitting time for the day, which was helpful; I don’t think I could have faced another form yesterday but now I am all caught up, which is great and puts me in great shape ahead for the coming weekend. Last night we got caught up on Bad Sisters and watched two stand-up comedy shows, the new one from Patton Oswalt and one from a non-binary comedian from Australia, Rhys Nicholson, and both were highly entertaining and quite funny. After that I repaired to the bed for my night’s rest, which seems to have gone well. Today I need to start working my way through my to-do list, and need to add some things to it. I need to work on the book this evening after work, so here’s hoping today won’t be a emotionally and physically taxing one at the office. I am trying not to get worked up or stressed out about how far behind on this damned thing I actually am–if I get back to work, albeit slowly, I’ll be able to get the damned thing finished on time and one great stressor will be lifted out off my shoulders.

One fun thing I got to do this past weekend was listen to voices–not the ones inside my head, of course–but rather voice actors auditioning to do the audiobook for A Streetcar Named Murder, which also triggered me to do the pronunciation key for whoever the final voice actor is. All four were fine, but there was something about the way this one of them spoke that just seemed right to me, and so I picked her (I think the fact that she was also the only one to say New Orleans correctly played a part in it as well as the fact that she didn’t try to do an accent of some sort; people never really get that the natives here don’t have Southern accents–one of the biggest mistakes made in movies and television shows set here; the actual New Orleans accent, if the area could be said to have one, is very similar to the Brooklyn one–“dese” and “dose” and “the kitchen zink” and so forth; it’s a working class accent known as yat, and it gets its name from saying “where yat?”), and I am actually looking forward to listening to my book at some point. How exciting is that?

It’s also kind of hard to fathom that September is ending and October is nigh; 2022 has gone by very quickly–although January also at this point seems like it was a million years ago in the past. It’s been quite a year and I’ve traveled more this year than I have in many years prior to the pandemic, frankly. I started off the year with the Birmingham/Wetumpka weekend, moved on to Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon, with a trip to Boston for Crime Bake coming up too, and I also went to Kentucky for a long weekend, and will be heading back up for Thanksgiving this year (which means listening to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way home, woo-hoo!) but next year my traveling will be severely curtailed; probably Bouchercon in San Diego will be my only travel in 2023 other than Kentucky. I am getting too old to travel well, alas–Bouchercon knocked me out for an entire week, but that was also partly due to the back injury I sustained while I was there–and it also put me into a hole of being behind that I don’t really want to think about too much, you know? I despair of ever clearing out my email inbox, and as for all the writing I need to get done…well, somehow it will happen or it won’t. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be all you hope it can be, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

Save Me a Place

Oddly enough, as I sat in my easy chair the other day watching college football games and letting my body and mind and creativity rest, I had an idea for either a stand alone book or a new series, one way or the other, and it’s something I find interesting enough that I might even consider it. It would be a difficult proposition, to be sure–given the decline in retail sales and everything going to an on-line and electronic model–but I was looking at a map of New Orleans on my iPad because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Tulane’s not-so-new-anymore on-campus football stadium was; so I pulled up a map to look because I was thinking that was a great line for a Scotty book–I always forget there’s a football stadium in Uptown-so of course I had to go looking for it. The map also brought up businesses in the area and lo and behold, there’s a comic book shop uptown on the lake side of Claiborne and it hit me: no one has ever done a cozy series about a comic book shop and that opened up an entire world of possibilities for me: the main character is an aspiring comic book artist who works in the shop, and of course, you can get into the whole thing about who actually is into comics and the history of comic books and it would give me an excuse to actually learn more about comics and their history and…

You see how this ends up going, don’t you?

I know any number of comics geeks–Alex Segura Jr, author of this year’s brilliant Secret Identity, about the business side of producing comics, is one–and one of my best friends from college owns a comic book shop in central California, or did at some point–and of course my neighbor Michael is also heavily into comics, having gone to Comic Con in San Diego, even. And of course I’d get to make up shit, which is always a huge plus for me. I love making up shit! And of course, it would be fun to write from the point of view of a struggling artist.

I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about that…

The Saints played terribly yesterday and logged another “L” in the record book (how bad are the Falcons?) yesterday; I didn’t watch but rather followed on Twitter while I did things around the house. The Saints games sometimes cause me too much stress and then I am emotionally exhausted afterwards–too drained to be of much use, so sometimes I just follow it on Twitter or it’ll be on in the living room while I work in the kitchen. I did get the Costco delivery yesterday, and should probably run some errands at some point today, but it is Work-at-Home Monday and I have work I have to get done. I am behind still from the Bouchercon trip and the ensuing back injury, but am hopeful I will start getting caught up somewhat soon. Emails beget emails, though, and therefore that is a sisyphean task indeed.

We watched the new Star Wars show Andor last night, and I am so happy Deigo Luna’s character is getting an origin story. So far, the only show they’ve done I didn’t buy into completely was The Book of Boba Fett, and am thinking maybe we should give that another try at some point. After those three episodes we moved on to The Serpent Queen and American Gigolo, which I think we’re going to give up on. I love Jon Bernthal, but I’m just not buying this story for the character. It’s an interesting idea–and full props to them for turning it into a sequel series in which Julian actually goes to jail for the murder he was accused of committing in the film, but I’m just not really getting vested into the show, either, no matter how much I want to. The Serpent Queen remains fantastic, and gets better with each episode as Catherine explains to her new maid her philosophy of survival, illustrated with scenes from her past. Samantha Morton is fantastic as the older queen and the actress who plays her as a young woman is also equally good. But it’s a period of history I particularly love, and of course, Catherine de Medici is one of the most fascinatingly complex women to hold power in history. The reality of her life was dramatic enough to drive a series, and they’ve done a pretty decent job of following the actual history, with some adjustments here and there.

Also keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ian, which seems to have Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly in its sights. We are just outside the Cone of Uncertainty, which doesn’t mean we’re safe–there could always be another westward shift to the potential path–but I do concern myself with Florida and friends there. I don’t remember the last time Tampa took a direct hit; I don’t think they have in quite some time, and I can imagine a storm surge into the bay and into the rivers that drain into it would be enormously problematic for the city–as well as for Clearwater and St. Petersburg on the peninsula on the other side of the bay. Stay safe, people.

My podcast interview about Daphne du Maurier, with a particular emphasis on My Cousin Rachel, went really well. It was for my friend Ricky Grove, whom I know from my days in the Horror Writers Association and when I put on World Horror Con back in the day here in New Orleans (he is the author Lisa Morton’s partner–have you read Lisa? You should read Lisa). I can talk about du Maurier all day, and we did continue talking for at least another hour after we stopped recording; I do love to talk books and writing, after all, with the end result that I felt horribly drained when it was over. Ah, yes, the age-old problem of the introvert having to be an extrovert on a day when he usually doesn’t have to do anything of the kind. I retired to my easy chair, but found the draining of my energy to have been far too effective for me to focus clearly on anything. I did do another blog entry about my work–this time my Todd Gregory erotic novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, while starting others about Baton Rouge Bingo and the second Todd Gregory book (Games Frat Boys Play)–but when I tried to work on the book or anything else (including trying to read) I couldn’t get anything done so finally gave up and made myself useful around the house. Hopefully after an eyes-crossing day of data entry and quality assurance on testing logs, I’ll be able to dive back into the Scotty book. I know I am procrastinating with Chapter Three and should probably just stop worrying about it and move on, but that’s just not how my creativity works. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay, the stress of being behind will come in handy as December 1 draws ever more near.

Or so I tell myself.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Hope you have a marvelous and lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Not That Funny

I do not recall which was my first story under the name Todd Gregory, and I am far too lazy to wade through everything to try to find out. I used the name the first time sometime between the release of Bourbon Street Blues and Mardi Gras Mambo, so we’re looking at sometime between 2003 and 2006, and I think it was either “The Sea Where It’s Shallow” or “The Sound of a Soul Crying”; I could also be mistaken in my memory. I’m not really sure of much anymore, and when I try to pin down a specific moment in the timeline of my life I am inevitably proven to be incorrect.

Although maybe my CV may hold the answer–hang on, let me check. Okay, per my CV I started using the name in 2004, and it was actually a story called “Wrought Iron Lace,” which was published in an anthology called A View to a Thrill, with the connecting theme voyeurism (the other two stories, to be fair, came out the same year). Ah, “Wrought Iron Lace,” my gay erotica version of Rear Window, in which a gay man in a wheelchair with two broken legs watches someone move in from his balcony across the courtyard, and his balcony also affords him a view into his new young neighbor’s bedroom, with the inevitable of course happening. (The courtyard set up was one I had wanted to use for quite some time; I loosely touched on it in Murder in the Rue Dauphine but I had wanted to do a kind of Tales of the City kind of thing about gay men living around a courtyard in the Quarter and kind of forming a little family group, a la the Maupin novel as well as Valley of the Dolls and call the novel The World is Full of Ex-Lovers. I returned to the courtyard set-up for another story, written and published as Greg Herren called “Touch Me in the Morning,” where I also used two of the characters I thought up for that novel. Another scene I originally imagined for that novel became the short story “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” which appeared as a Todd Gregory story in the anthology Dirty Diner.)

But one of the things that had interested me, the more time I was out and around gay people, was how many gay men I knew had been in college fraternities–myself included. Almost every gay man I knew who’d been in a fraternity also had lots of prurient tales of illicit sexual experiences with their fraternity brothers–something that never once happened to me (I never once had sex with any of my fraternity brothers; to the best of my knowledge I am the only gay man to pass through the doors of my chapter), and that eventually led to me doing my final erotica anthology under my own name: FRATSEX.

FRATSEX was a good anthology, but I was not prepared for it to become a phenomenon. It earned out, thanks to preorders and subsidiary rights sales, before it was published, something that has never happened to me since; I got a royalty check for the book a month before it was released–and it continued selling for years. I got substantial checks for FRATSEX every six months until Alyson decided it no longer need to honor its contracts and pay its authors and editors the contractually obligated royalties twice a year it had agreed to, before it finally went belly-up after years of bad management and even worse business decisions. (I should point out that usually erotic anthologies had a very short shelf life; they usually never sold out their initial run, never did additional print runs, and certainly were gone within a year of release. FRATSEX was most definitely not that.)

But when Kensington decided to pass on the next Scotty book, they came back to me with another offer for something else: a gay erotic fraternity novel intended to follow the same sales path as FRATSEX. I had no idea what to call the book–but the money was too good to pass up, and so I signed the contract for a book whose working title was Fraternity Row. (I had suggested A Brother’s Touch or My Brother’s Keeper for titles; both of which icked out Marketing.) I think it was my editor who struck gold with Every Frat Boy Wants it.

As I walk into the locker room of my high school to get my backpack, I’m aware of the sound of the shower running. Even before I walk around the corner that will reveal the rows of black lockers and the communal shower area just beyond, I can smell that pungent smell; of sweat, dirty clothes and sour jocks. I would never admit it to anyone, but I love that smell. Especially when it’s warm outside—the smell seems riper, more vital, more alive. For me, it is the smell of athletic boys, the smell of their faded and dirty jockstraps. At night, when I lie in my bed alone jacking off in the dark quiet, I close my eyes and I try to remember it. I imagine myself in that locker room after practice, the room alive with the sound of laughter and snapping towels, of boys running around in their jocks and giving each other bullshit as they brag about what girls they’ve fucked and how big their dicks are. I try to remember, as I lie there in my bed, the exact shape of their hard white asses, whose jock strap is twisted just above the start of the curve, and below the muscled tan of their backs. It’s the locker room where I first saw another boy naked, after all—the only place where it’s acceptable to see other boys in various states of undress. The locker room always haunts my fantasies and my dreams.

And now,  as I reach the corner, I hesitate. Who could still be showering at this time? Everyone else has left; baseball practice is long over, and I’d be in my car heading home myself if I hadn’t forgotten my bag and I didn’t have that damned History test tomorrow. Could it be Coach Wilson? I shudder as I have the thought. I certainly hoped it wasn’t him. He was a nice man, but Coach Wilson was about a hundred years old and had a big old belly that made him look like he’d swallowed every single basketball in the equipment room. I take a deep breath and walk around the corner.

Maybe it was—um, no, that was too much to hope for. Just get your bag and go.

The locker room is filled with steam from the hot water in the shower. Wisps dance around the overhead lights, and it was so thick I could barely see the floor and make out the row of black painted metal lockers. Yet, through the steam, I can barely see a tanned form with his back turned to me, his head under the water spigot, hot water pouring down over his muscled back and over the perfectly round, hard whiteness of a mouth-wateringly beautiful ass. I catch my breath as I stare, knowing that I shouldn’t be—the right thing to do is call out a ‘hello’, pretend not to look, get what I need and get the hell out of there. But I am utterly transfixed by the sheer beauty of what I am seeing. I bite down on my lower lip, aware that my dick is getting hard in my pants as I watch. I can’t tear myself away—I don’t want to turn and go or stop staring, the body is too perfect. And with the wetness cascading down over it, the glistening flow of the water emphasizing every defined muscle in the lovely male form that has haunted my dreams and my fantasies ever since I transferred here my junior year and started going to this small rural high school.  Go, hurry, before he turns around and catches you watching—what are you going to say? Um, sorry I was staring at your ass?

But still I keep standing there, continuing to run the risk he’ll catch me, every second passing making it more likely. How long can he stand there like that without moving?

We-ell, that certainly starts off with a literal bang, doesn’t it?

I had no idea how to write this book, or what it was even going to be about when I signed the contract (I always say yes to money and try to figure it all out later). I’d had an idea, years before, for a book about a fraternity while I was actually living in one, and came up with three main characters: Eric Matthews, Chris Moore, and Blair Blanchard. The three were all friends, all pledge brothers, and all different. Eric came from an upper middle-class family, Chris was strictly middle-class and had a job, and Blair was the son of two movie stars, an aspiring actor himself, and was always intended to be gay gay gay. I had originally wanted to write a Lords of Discipline sort of novel about a fraternity and a secret society within the fraternity–still might; I think it’s a good idea–and so I thought, well, you belonged to a fraternity, and you created a fictionalized version of it for this book idea, so start there.

I fictionalized both Fresno and Fresno State into Polk and CSU-Polk, and my fictional fraternity’s physical house was based on the actual fraternity house, as well as the way its parking lot adjoined a sorority’s at the end of a cul-de-sac, with the fraternities’ parking lots on one side of the little road and the sorority ones on the other side, just like at Fresno State. My fictional fraternity house had a two story dormitory wing attached to the chapter room and meeting/party space/cafeteria, and so on. I created an entirely new character, closeted eighteen year old Jeff Morgan, who had just moved to Polk right after high school graduation (his family was transferred) and enrolls in summer school. In the opening sequence, Jeff is actually in his Economics class and bored, having a very vivid and erotic daydream about a boy he’d had a crush on in high school. Jeff is so involved and vested in the daydream he doesn’t even notice that the class was dismissed until a handsome classmate snaps him out of the daydream…that classmate is Blair Blanchard, who befriends Jeff and invites him to come hang out at his fraternity. It’s also soon apparent that Blair is not only openly gay but has no issue with it; he doesn’t really talk about it around the house, but everyone knows. Blair is the first openly gay person Jeff has ever known–Jeff is from Kansas and hopelessly naïve–and thinks he’s falling in love with Blair; but he isn’t sure how Blair feels about him.

Every Frat Boy Wants It is really Jeff’s story, and about how Jeff slowly comes into himself as a person; accepting his own sexuality and embracing who he is–while having a strange relationship with Blair that he doesn’t quite understand. It’s his first relationship of any kind, and he doesn’t understand why Blair keeps pushing him away–leads him on, turns him off, and so forth, on and on and on–and is told really in a series of vignettes, essentially sex scenes with both elaborate set-ups and follow-ups that have lasting impacts on him, with the story of his unrequited love for Blair running through them all. He even winds up shooting a porn film while on vacation with Blair in Palm Springs at Blair’s movie star father’s place. Eric and Chris turn out to be pledge brothers of Jeff’s–he eventually has a three way with them; they don’t identify as gay but “play around with each other”–until, of course, the very end when Blair and Jeff finally get past all their misunderstandings and disagreements and jealousies and commit, once and for all to each other.

The book did very well–that scorching hot cover also didn’t hurt–and they asked me for a sequel.

That sequel became Games Frat Boys Play, and was adapted from another novel idea I’d had lying around for quite some time (never throw anything away!).

My favorite memory of this book, though, is that I had to go to a conference in Atlanta for the weekend for a queer specfic event. (I still don’t know why I was invited; at that point I had edited one horror anthology and that was it, really) and the book was due. I was in Atlanta for four days; I did my panels and spent the rest of the time holed up in my room, writing madly in a desperate attempt to get this damned book finished and venturing across the street for Arbys whenever I got hungry. I set a writing record for myself that weekend–21000 words in three days–and the book was finished before I drove back to New Orleans. So whenever I talked about writing over twenty thousand words in a weekend? This is the book I am talking about.