If You Leave

Sunday morning.

I wrote another chapter, slightly less than three thousand words, yesterday. I don’t know that I can match the output today, but I’m certainly going to give it another try. I only have five chapters left to go on this excruciatingly sloppy first draft, but a finished first draft is a finished first draft, and I can tear it apart and patch it all back together again in September. Oddly enough, I am looking forward to doing that, to be honest; I just wish these five chapters were finished already.

Heavy sigh.

Last night I took a streetcar named St. Charles down to the Quarter to have dinner with a friend in town for ALA (I am heading back down there again today, to meet the publishers for the Bouchercon anthology), and it was absolutely delightful to talk with someone incredibly smart about books and writing and publishing; it always is, frankly. The heat and humidity were somehow bearable on the way there; it was the way home that was horrific. I was completely soaked when I got off the streetcar and by the time I got to the Lost Apartment, and the heat/humidity just sucked the energy right out of me. I feel icky and sticky still this morning; I feel asleep in my chair and just went to bed from there, forgetting the cardinal rule of summer in New Orleans: always shower whenever you can, especially before bed.

But, it was a lot of fun. I really do have amazing and smart friends.

So I am going to try to get some work done before it’s time to hit the streetcar again. I would prefer to hit my three thousand words today before I get leave, since I probably won’t be in the mood when I get back home again–note to self: take a second shower when you get home, you won’t be sorry in the least.

The next story up in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “Desire Under the Blankets.”

Blair lit a cigarette. The light cast from his match flared briefly, casting shadows in the darkened room. He shook out the match and tossed it into an overflowing ashtray as he sucked in hungrily at the smoke. The menthol clotted in his lungs and he fought against the cough that fought its way up his windpipe, determined to expel the poisons. His eyes watered for a moment, and he gave in to the cough at last, muffling its sound. The clock on his desk read four fifteen. The rest of the fraternity house was silent. The majority of them were undoubtedly passed out from too much alcohol; some of them, he was sure, were huddled in rooms smoking pot out of bongs or snorting cocaine off the glass in picture frames. His own supply of cocaine was sitting in a small pile on a framed photograph of his mother on the desk top next to a bong made of glass and plastic in the shape of a dragon.

He opened his small refrigerator and got a can of Pepsi. He was still a little drunk from the evening’s festivities. Big Brother night, a semesterly tradition in which the pledges received their protectors and advisors amongst the group of the already initiated, ended around two in the morning when the keg ran dry and the last pledge had vomited. His own little brother, Mike Van Zale, was sleeping off his drunkenness in Blair’s bed, snoring a little softly. Mike had puked around midnight, thanks to the Jose Cuervo shots Blair had poured down his throat. After Mike had staggered down the hallway to the bathroom and lost the contents of his stomach, Blair took pity on him and led him up to his room. Some of the other brothers would force their new charges to drink again after throwing up, but Blair was a little more compassionate. Besides, the previous semester one of the Alpha Chi Omega pledges almost died from alcohol abuse. Blair’s brothers at Beta Kappa, for the most part, only paid lip service to the new University regulations regarding alcohol hazing of pledges. They were idiots, Blair reflected as he stubbed out his cigarette and made another line from the cocaine.  It wasn’t the first time he’d thought that nor, he reflected, was it likely to be the last.

His nostrils were already numb from previous snorts and he knew that this one wouldn’t restore the high the first one, hours earlier, had given him. All this would do was make his hands shake and his teeth grind. It was a waste but he was in the stage he called the “I  wants”, when he began to mentally crave more and more cocaine. He took a hit off the bong to lessen the edge of the coke when it hit. He held the smoke in as long as he could before it exploded out of him in a massive coughing fit. He grabbed a tissue and spit out a wad of phlegm.

On the bed, Mike shifted and moaned a little.

Blair took a sip of his Pepsi to cool his burning throat and walked over to the bed. Mike was sprawled on his back on top of the covers. In the moonlight coming through the slightly parted curtains, his skin looked like smooth alabaster. His hairless and hard chest gleamed in the ghostly light. Thick wiry hair sprouted from under his arms. A thin line of drool hung from the corner of his mouth. His face was expressionless. A thin trail of wiry black hairs ran from his navel to the waistband of his white briefs.

He was quite beautiful.

I created the character of Blair–along with two others, Chris Moore and Eric Matthews–years before I was published. When I belonged to a fraternity and was actually living in the house, I created these three fraternity brothers that were very close friends, and wrote lots of notes about them. I was originally thinking along the terms of writing a fraternity thriller, with these three characters kind of a Three Investigators team solving the murder. I’ve always thought a fraternity would be a good setting for a murder, and I still do. This entire scene, in fact, was born from that idea for a novel; I’d always intended Blair, whose parents were movie stars, to be flamboyant and gay, if closeted within the hallowed halls of the fraternity house. I wrote this particular story out as an idea; the title was obviously a play on the Eugene O’Neill play. I used this story for an anthology, and then years later incorporated it into my novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, the first of three erotic fraternity novels I’ve done as Todd Gregory.

I always liked Blair, and should have done a sequel about him. (The fratboy series always focuses on a new character with the new book; the main characters from the previous one show up, but don’t have a lot to do .)

Who know? Maybe someday I will.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Crush on You

Saturday! I am having dinner with a friend this evening, who’s in town for the ALA (American Library Association) convention; someone I don’t get to see with the level of frequency I would prefer, so am very excited to spend the evening discussing the genre and books and maybe just a little hint of gossip. Huzzah!

I cleaned the house yesterday when I got home; the big macro clean; hopefully today, around writing and editing, I’ll get to do the micro clean (macro: picking everything up, cleaning counters, putting dishes away, doing bed linens; micro: sweeping and mopping and cleaning dust off picture frames and reorganizing cabinets, etc.). I slept deeply and well last night also; I woke up this morning around nine feeling foggy and not quite there awake yet; I am about to brew my second cup of coffee but I feel wildly awake and motivated…we shall see how long that lasts.

Today I want to focus on working on the Scotty book as well as read the WIP’s first four chapters aloud. My deadline for finishing the Scotty is next Saturday; I have essentially eight days to write six chapters. I also have to wrap up a ridiculous amount of plot and subplots in six chapters, but it is something I think I can do. After all, the first draft is always going to be a mess, isn’t it? And then I can work on cleaning up that mess when I work on the second draft. I do project it being finished by the end of September and turned into my publisher at that time.

As we progress into my next story in Promises in Every Star, we come on to “Angels Don’t Fall in Love”:

“Angel…..”

I wake up in the middle of the night whispering his name. When my alarm goes off at seven in the morning, for that brief instant I imagine that he is there with me in the bed, that he never left, that his warm body is lying there next to me, and when I open my eyes his round liquid brown eyes will be looking into mine with that curious sexy mixture of innocence and awareness. But my eyes open, as they do every morning, to see the other side of the bed empty, a vast desolate waste of cotton sheets and woolen blankets. My heart sinks again, down into that blackness, the darkness of despair, loneliness, and missed opportunity. For I have known love, I have known passion, I have known joy.

And lost it.

I first laid eyes on Angel one night wandering home from the bars at about two in the morning. I’d had more than my fair share of drinks that night, and was giving up and going home. Staying out didn’t mean meeting the man of my dreams, or even just a warm body with a forgettable name for the night. It just meant more alcohol, more disappointment, standing alone in a corner of the bar, not approaching anyone, nobody approaching me. Before going out that night I’d made a promise to myself that I would break the cycle. I would not stay out ordering more drinks thinking that maybe in five minutes the right guy would walk in. The drinks would only cloud my judgment and distort the way guys looked, making them look far better than they would in the cold light of morning, when I would ask myself, what were you thinking? It was a tired old game, and one I didn’t feel like playing anymore.

He was standing, leaning against a lamppost on Royal Street just a block from my apartment. He was smoking a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. His hair was that dark shade of black that looks blue in the light. There was a mustache and goatee, and he was wearing one of those white ribbed tank tops that cling. His jeans were several sizes too big and were slung low across his hips, exposing black boxer shorts. There was a tattoo on his right arm, a cross in outline with beams of light radiating from it. In the flickering light of the gaslit lamp he seemed to be a large presence, but when I got closer I saw that he was maybe five five, five six possibly. His eyes were amazing, round liquid pools of brown with golden flecks in them, like the sad eyes of a Madonna in a renaissance painting by a forgotten master. They were framed by long, curling lashes that looked dewy in the light.

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Again I don’t remember which anthology I originally wrote this story for, but I reprinted it in my Todd Gregory anthology Wings,  and again, of course, in Promises in Every Star. “Angels” was inspired by an old ’til Tuesday song, “Angels Never Call.” I happened to be listening to the Welcome Home CD when it cued up, and as I listened to it, the image of a man coming home after an evening in the gay bars of the Quarter came to me, encountering a young man named Angel, and the story just progressed from there. It was the first, or at least one of the first, erotica stories I wrote that had an edge of the supernatural to it; was Angel just an attractive young Latino male, or was he actually an angel? It was around this time that I found myself exploring themes in my erotic short fiction, and including supernatural elements, turning the erotica into stories with sex scenes in them. “Angels Don’t Fall in Love” was about, as so many stories I’ve written are, about loneliness and needing to make a connection with another human being. It’s a theme I’ve returned to over and over again, and probably will continue to do so.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Two of Hearts

FRIDAY! Huzzah!

It’s my short day, which is always a lovely way to roll into the weekend, and then I only have one more full week before my next two-day week and six day vacation! Woo-hoo!

I managed to write three thousand words, which is all of Chapter 19, yesterday; I also had miscounted. I still have six chapters to go, alas, but that is doable before the end of the month. The manuscript is a completely sloppy mess, of course, but one that should be easy to fix, to trim, to revise and edit and rewrite. I am hoping to get it into decent shape by the end of September. Huzzah!

I also decided yesterday that “Children of the Stone Circle” isn’t the right story I want to submit to this call. I am going to revisit “The Arm,” which I think is probably more consistent of a story and more believable, would work better in a revision, and so I am going to give it a try this weekend and see what happens with it.

Right now I am hating everything I’ve written. Some things never change.

Next up in my erotic short story collection Promises in Every Star was “All the World’s A Stage.” This one was also written for an anthology, and again, I don’t remember which one or who the editor was or what publisher. I should probably keep better track of this stuff, don’t you think?

The dance floor was still crowded with shirtless boys, sweat running down smooth muscled torsos. My friends had moved on across the street to Oz, leaving me alone on the dance floor enjoying my Ecstasy high and the charms of a guy in his late twenties with the body of an underwear model and the face of an angel. His ass was round and hard in his jeans, and he kept grinding it into my crotch with the beat of the music. He had a tattoo on his lower back, a fleur-de-lis, symbol of the New Orleans Saints. Every time he would back into me that way my dick would get hard in my jean shorts. I wasn’t sure if he actually wanted me to fuck him or not. You never can be sure of anything at a circuit party. His flirting could be entirely based in whatever mind altering substance he’d imbibed. He could have a boyfriend. He might just enjoy losing himself on the dance floor and flirting, in getting attention from men he thought were hot. It was flattering, for sure, since I am now in my late forties, and I had always been brainwashed into thinking that gay life—and most assuredly gay sex and desire—ended at forty.

And if this boy fucked the way he danced, well, it would definitely be worth my while.

He backed into me again, and I slid my arms around his waist, pulling him back against me. His body was wet with sweat, his jeans damp to the touch, his short blonde hair glistening in the flickering laser lights. My cock hardened again, and I ground my crotch into the back of his jeans, rubbing it against him. He suddenly spun around so that our crotches were together. I could feel his hard on against mine. He pressed his lips against mine, forcing mine apart with his tongue. I sucked on his tongue when it entered my mouth, reaching down to cup that pretty ass with my hands.

 “Mmmmmm.” He smiled as he pulled his head back from mine. He put both of his hands on my pecs, squeezing a little bit. “Very nice.”

I smiled back at him. “I could say the same.”

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“All the World’s a Stage” is one of those bar/partying stories, and it is sort of based in reality; although it was kind of a combination of two different events. First of all, yes, once at Southern Decadence a hot younger guy was flirting with me on the dance floor and yes, he did at one point call me daddy, which was the first time that ever happened, and yes, I did get pulled up on stage to mess around with two porn stars by a drag queen. But the getting pulled up on stage and the night I was called a daddy for the first time were, in fact, different occasions; but realistically, in creating the fiction of the story, it simply made sense for the narrative to combine those two incidents.

I’m pleased with it. I think I captured the feel of being drugged out and blissful on the dance floor; that tribal sense I used to get whenever I was one of a crowd of shirtless, sweaty gay men dancing. I loved to dance; always did, and hitting the dance floor was always one of my favorite things to do for years.

I do miss dancing sometimes; I miss that feel of the loud music and the sweat and the shirts being tucked into the back of your jeans (and still losing it sometimes) and sweat rolling down your body and the flashing lights and the fog and everyone lost in joyful abandon…

And now back to the spice mines.

Walk of Life

Thursday, and a bit reflective this morning. I’m not as well-rested as I was yesterday, but still feel pretty good this morning. I’m also only on my second cup of coffee, so there’s also that.

June continues to slip through my fingers; only nine days left for me to finish the first draft of the Scotty book and finish writing two short stories. This weekend I also have to put together the copy edits for Florida Happens, and I have to do a final pass on another short story. But…the more I have to do, the busier I am, the more I seem to get done. (Which is sort of obvious; if you have less to do, you are obviously not going to do as much as you will when you have more to do. But what I mean is the more I have to do, the less likely I am to procrastinate or put something off because I have plenty of time.) I also want to read aloud the first four chapters of the WIP, and I also need to start copy-editing Jackson Square Jazz.

I have, however, requested off a very long weekend around July 4th; I will be off from the 4th thru the 10th, and that should help immeasurably with everything–especially cleaning the house. In other exciting news, today I found the image I want to use for the cover of “Never Kiss a Stranger,” once it’s finished, edited and ready to be a Kindle single. That’s one of the lovely things about living in New Orleans–it’s very easy  to take a gorgeous photo here.

I did go ahead and reread “Tell Me a Lie” last night.

The music is loud, almost at eardrum-bleeding levels. A thin veil of smoke hovers just above the heads of the people in the bar. A muscle man in a red bikini shakes his ass on the other side of the bar, coaxing dollar bills from the gaggle of older men gathered at his feet. I watch him for a moment. It is truly a wondrous ass, hard and round and perched atop two well defined thick legs. There is a tattoo on his lower back just above the red stretch fabric but in the glow of the black lights I can’t make out what it is. It doesn’t matter. He’s a terrible dancer, probably gay for pay like so many of them are, and who has time for that kind of nonsense? The body is remarkable, but there are a lot of guys in the place just as hot as he is, who won’t require cash up front for a fuck. Maybe I should have just stayed home and gone on-line, I think to myself. I’ve been here for almost an hour and no one’s even looked at me twice.  I look at my watch. Another half hour and I’m out of here. Home to my empty apartment and the glow of the computer screen as I cruise manhunt.com and hope someone even half-way decent messages me. But I don’t want that again, the wait for them to knock on my door and the enormous disappointment when I see that their picture was at least ten years out of date, or they haven’t been to the gym in a couple of years, or any number of things…that’s why I prefer going to bars to find someone. At least in a bar you can see what you’re getting and you don’t have to experience that awkward moment when they are standing on your doorstep and you have to resist the urge to slam the door in their face, that horrible split second of resignation of a live body’s better than jacking off to porn again.

I sip my beer, and I see a guy walk around the corner. I’ve seen him before, over the years. Desire rises in my heart and groin. I’ve always wanted him, but he was always with a guy who protectively always seemed to stick close to him—or been part of a group with no apparent interest in hooking up with anyone. He’s beautiful. He’s about six foot tall or thereabouts, with dark hair he cuts short and hides beneath a baseball cap—tonight it’s an LSU cap. He has the thickly muscled body of a football player, and always wears T-shirts and tight jeans. Tonight is no exception. His face is gorgeous, with wide blue eyes and tanned skin—there’s probably some Cajun in his background. I’ve cruised the contact sites looking for him before, with no luck. He’s either faceless in his profiles or just not on-line looking for Mr. Right Now.  I watch as he walks up to the bar directly across from me, ignoring the stripper gyrating near where is standing.

Our eyes meet, and he smiles at me. He has a beautiful smile, the kind I’d like to see in the morning when I wake him with a kiss on the neck.

It’s been a long time since I went into a gay bar, to drink and relax and have fun; even longer since I went into a gay bar looking to get laid with either someone I’d slept with before or someone new. That part of my life, and that lifestyle, is so far off my radar now that it never even crosses my mind to think about going out clubbing. I am fifty-six, soon to be fifty-seven, and while I  certainly don’t want to age myself or think of myself as old…I do feel that I’ve sort of grown out of that now.  I don’t think of it as being sad; I’m not sad about it. I certainly spent my fair share of time in gay bars.

When I talk about stories I’ve written and published, it’s not always easy for me to remember where the idea came from; in this case, I don’t even remember where the story was originally published, but I know I wrote it for an anthology; whether it was for one of mine or someone else’s, I do not recall. But rereading this one…I actually remembered the original idea; I was at the Pub one night, standing in a corner drinking a Bud Lite long neck, as I did, in a tank top and jeans. I hadn’t moved to New Orleans yet, nor had I met Paul. I was here for the weekend, visiting, and I ran into someone–someone gorgeous–that I’d slept with on a previous trip. He’d told me his name was something, I don’t remember what–he’d asked me where I was from and I’d said Tampa, so being a tourist I suppose meant giving me a fake name–but someone else I knew was there, and wound up introducing us; which is when I found out he’d given me a fake name. He was terribly embarrassed; I just laughed and said not to worry about it because it really didn’t matter.

On the flight back to Tampa the next morning I wrote a brief description of a story in my journal; about meeting someone and hooking up with someone in a bar who gives you a fake name and you know he’s lying to you but you don’t care. About five years later I started writing the story–the first draft was terrible, and it didn’t work–and then I remembered the story years later for this anthology (I wish I could remember which one) and started over. I tried to capture that prowling, on the hunt feeling you get when you go out looking to get laid, to have fun. I thought I did a pretty good job, frankly.

I actually used to run into that guy a lot after we moved here, and we became friends. He moved away about ten years ago; we always chatted and laughed and hung out for a while when we ran into each other.

I never asked him why he gave me a fake name that first time; I now kind of wish I had.

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Words Get In The Way

My first published fiction was erotica. Porn, if you will, perversion and filth if you won’t.

I always wanted to do an erotica anthology called Filth and Perversions. Alas, the market for print erotica has long since dried up; there’s too much easily accessible and free/low cost visual erotica available these days. It’s a shame–because all notions that erotica writing is all trash is incredibly incorrect; part and parcel of the American puritan ethic about sex and sexuality that is responsible for a lot of things wrong in this country today, frankly.

Or maybe I’ll just call my memoirs Filth and Perversions. It’s too good of a title not to use, you know?

But I often credit writing erotica with helping me understand how to write short stories better. Erotic stories are the ultimate definition of a story: beginning/middle/end; characters meet/have sex/resolution; writing erotica essentially taught me/help me understand story structure, which for some reason I just couldn’t get through my head before.

As I mentioned in my afterward to Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, there’s not much of a market for short stories with gay characters. In fact, the only way to get gay-themed short stories published was the write erotica.

So, I basically would write a story and then figure out how to add a sex scene to it so it could get published.

That’s not to say, of course, that some of the stories weren’t simply about the sex; but I wanted them to be about more than just random gay guy meets other random gay guy, they have sex, and each goes on his merry way.

The title story of my collection, Promises in Every Star and Other Stories, is about going back to your high school reunion and running into someone you had a mad crush on when you were a closeted, bullied gay teen.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a cornfield after a heavy rain.

I’d forgotten that in the twenty five years since I’d left Kansas and never looked back. Off in the east I could see the black clouds and the mist that hung from them to the ground, blurring everything beyond it. I’d forgotten that the sky in Kansas surrounds you and goes on forever, so that you could see the weather coming and the weather that was just there. There were no clouds overhead now, just sky that was something between azure and robin’s egg, reaching down into the wet corn. The pavement of the county road beneath the tires of my rented red Mustang convertible was wet and splashing every once in a while, the water being thrown up making a slight slapping sound against the rubber. Twenty five years. What else had I forgotten?

As I turned off onto the Allen road, I slid Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours into the CD player and turned it up. This was the way  used to drive to school when Mom let me have the car or one of my friends picked me up and I didn’t have to ride the bus. It was a CD now rather than a scratchy 8 track player, and the sound quality was much better, but it was still the same. I smiled to myself as I saw my old green Chevrolet Bel Air with holes rusted in the sides running up the Allen Road, the old muffler pipe hanging too low from the back end. All the windows would be open to catch the breeze and eliminate the smell of the cigarette dangling from my lip. Stevie would be wailing about the thunder, and the rain washing you clean, and you’ll know. I would be singing along at the top of my lungs, thumping my hand on the steering wheel with the bass line.

No, it didn’t look too different, I thought as the Mustang sped along. The same fields, the same houses, the same barns. Every once in a while there’d be a clearing in the corn and a brick house I didn’t remember would appear, laundry flapping in the sweet after rain air on a clothesline, a couple of cars in the unpaved drive. I crossed the Cottonwood River bridge, and saw a house coming up on the right. The Gosses used to live there, I thought as I drove by. Mrs. Goss was the school secretary, and Sue her spoiled only child. I couldn’t remember what Mr. Goss did for a living, but I remember Sue had her own custom Mustang when we were in school, and she always dressed nice. Sue was cute, in a little girlish kind of way, and a lot of the guys thought she was sexy. I thought she was funny. She made me laugh. She also didn’t strike me as the type who’d marry any of the boys in our school. Sue would, I thought even then, marry money.

The mailbox still said GOSS. I guessed the Gosses would probably be in their seventies by now, and why wouldn’t they still be there? Sue was undoubtedly long gone, came home a couple of times with her kids to see them a year, every once in a while they’d get into their Buick and go see her.

Hmmm. A lot of this is drawn from my own experience, obviously, being a closeted bullied gay teen in a Kansas high school–and the Allen road was one of the ways to get to my high school from the town I lived in, but I’ve never been to one of my reunions so that is all fictional.

This story was actually triggered by getting an invitation to attend my twenty-five year reunion, and that got me started thinking about what it would be like to go back. I’ve written a lot of fiction about Kansas (mostly unpublished, with Sara the noticeable exception. The WIP, by the way, is set in Kansas, and I have an idea for another Kansas novel called Kansas Lonesome that I hope to get to next year).

The next story in the collection,  “Tell Me a Lie,” was written for an anthology but I can’t remember which one, but it was one I didn’t edit. It was specifically about going out looking for sex, cruising a gay bar looking for your trick of the evening, and not really caring about who that person is…it’s kind of a cynical story, in some ways, now that I think about it; cynical and sad, about wanting a physical connection with someone out of need, but wanting nothing more.

Hmm, I should read that again.

And now back to the spice mines.

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I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On

I’ve been traveling down memory lane a lot lately, it seems. I am also beginning, for the first time in my life, beginning to understand the pull of nostalgia. It’s something I’ve never quite gotten before–the past is the past and it basically is what it is, has always been my mentality, and I have always been quite happy in the present. But rereading Bourbon Street Blues again as I did the proofing/copy editing took me back in time, and I kind of liked revisiting that time again mentally. Setting “Never Kiss a Stranger” in the summer of 1994 also has me revisiting that time, and remembering it quite fondly. Also posting my daily “Pride Books” on Facebook has also had me spending time in my past, as I remember books and what they meant to me at the time I read them.

I also saw a call for submissions for crime short stories set in the past, which also has me wondering about something I could write. I have an idea–don’t I always have an idea?–but it’s still too amorphous. And I still have these other two short stories to write, and need to get six more chapters of the first draft of the Scotty done and then I can let it sit for a couple of months.

I did work on my short story “Children of the Stone Circle” a bit yesterday, and also managed to write a really shitty chapter of the Scotty book. I mean, a really shitty chapter. I now have six chapters left in which to solve two murders, find a kidnapping victim, and wrap up all the other stuff I’ve thrown at the boys in this book. Heavy heaving sigh.

It should be interesting, to say the least.

So, I made my first ever red velvet cheesecake this past weekend; it was a co-worker’s birthday and another co-worker suggested I make one. I used the Cheesecake Factory recipe, but adapted it a bit–I didn’t, for example, cut the cheesecake in half so there would be four layers instead of three–and it turned out pretty well. (I think the red velvet layers were a bit dry, but everyone else seemed to think it was fine. The cheesecake and cream cheese frosting, though, made the dryness not so noticeable. If I had only made red velvet cake, I think it would be too dry.)

I actually love to cook; I love trying new recipes and changing them up a bit to make them my own. I just wish I had a bigger kitchen, or at least more counter space. I have a galley style kitchen, long and narrow, and my workspace for writing is at one end, in the bay windows which would ordinarily be used, I think, as a breakfast nook. I always think, whenever I am cooking and feeling confined in my kitchen, that there would be plenty of room if I didn’t have to use the kitchen as a makeshift office as well. I suspect that is actually untrue; it wouldn’t really change the counter space much, although I suppose I could have a table where my desk is and use it for the microwave and coffee maker, which would free up a lot of counter space.

Yeah, right.

I really just want an entire room for my office, so I could have bookcases lined along the walls and filled with books.

Perchance to dream.

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Let’s Go All The Way

So, yesterday I didn’t write much, but I did get something very very important done: I finished the copy-edit/proofing of Bourbon Street Blues, which is now one step closer to becoming an ebook (and a print-on-demand hard copy, if someone so desires), and that really is exciting for me. Bourbon Street Blues is, out of all my books, special to me for so very many reasons. I always thought, for one thing, that it was a much better book than my first (with apologies to Murder in the Rue Dauphine), and for another it was the book where I created Scotty Bradley and his friends and family and world, and Scotty is, well, I’ve always been terribly fond of Scotty.

It’s sometimes hard to believe I’m currently writing the eighth Scotty book. I would have never dreamed there would be three Scotty books, let alone eight, all those years ago when I first dreamed him up. I was determined to create a character that I’d never seen before in gay fiction, or at least in any of the gay fiction I’d read at that time, and my reading at that time was pretty extensive. The late 90’s/early aughts was a strange time to be a gay writer, or to be a gay reader of gay fictions. We were just finding ourselves again after the development of the initial drug cocktails, which meant HIV/AIDS was no longer necessarily the death sentence it was known to be for so lo those many years. Most gay literature, from almost the very beginning of the plague, had been the art of the epidemic: about death, about loss, about hatred but also about love and compassion.

It was a strange time, frankly. All of us gay writers were faced with the conundrum: do we still write about HIV/AIDS? Do we pretend it doesn’t exist? Can we write about it and try to de-stigmatize it in our work? Do we mention condoms, condom use, safer sex? What responsibility do we, as gay writers, have to our community?

Scotty was, in some ways, a reaction to the work that had gone before mine, and to HIV/AIDS. At the time I was creating him, and writing his first book, the equality movement for the community was moving away from the focus on HIV/AIDS and looking at other issues of equality: overturning the sodomy laws; same sex marriage; and overturning ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, so that we could openly serve in the military.

Gay sexuality had become something dark since the early days of the plague, and even with the drug cocktails prolonging life and all the other medical advances that were taking the definition of the disease from fatal to chronic (i.e. something that could be managed with a drug regimen), there was a lot of sturm and drang about gay promiscuity; and while the sexually liberated days of the 1970’s certainly had a part in the spread of the disease, it wasn’t a punishment for gay promiscuity any more than the bubonic plague was a punishment for the schism of the church in the fourteenth century. 

So, when I created Scotty, I wanted to create a character that I hadn’t seen before; someone who not only embraced his sexuality but reveled in it. Scotty was highly promiscuous; wasn’t interested in a boyfriend or monogamy; and had absolutely no hang-ups or judgments about sexuality or promiscuity. He was a personal trainer and taught aerobics, was a former member of a male-stripper troupe who sometimes got back into his thong and moonlighted as a dancer now and then for extra cash. He smoked pot, drank, and celebrated the Gay High Holy Days of New Orleans (Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras) with Ecstasy. He was good-looking and sexy and he knew it, but wasn’t arrogant about it in the least; he was, if anything, amused by the fact that people found him, in his own words, “irresistible.”

Above all else, though, Scotty was, at heart, a nice guy who cared about other people.

I was surprised by the way people reacted, and related, to him. I was expecting to get bashed in the reviews–after all, hadn’t some reviewers dismissed my first series creation, Chanse MacLeod, as ‘just another gay stereotype’?–but the reviews were all incredibly positive, for the most part, other than the occasional one-star on Amazon.

I also wanted the book–and the series, as it turned out–to be light-hearted and funny, even as it took on social issues.

And you know else? Proofing Bourbon Street Blues was the first time in many years that I read the book again. And it ain’t bad. Ain’t bad at all.

And by the way, here’s the new cover for when it’s released again, courtesy of amazing cover designer J. T. Lindroos:

GregHerren-BourbonStreetBluesx2700

I absolutely love it.

And now, back to the spice mines.