Tell Me

Friday and a work-at-home day, except for the morning department meeting I have to attend in person, which means I didn’t get to just roll out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, throw on some sweats, and get a cup of coffee just before nine…no, I have to be there at nine. I’ll run a couple of errands on my way home, which spares me from having to leave the house on Saturday; I may order groceries for pick-up on Sunday, but I don’t need to decide that right now.

This week wore me down and wore me out. I didn’t sleep terrific all week long to begin with, then of course it was one thing after another to have to deal with. But it’s Friday and I am relatively unscathed, methinks; I slept really well last night and think that could again be the case tonight. I was completely worn out when I got home from work last night, so I collapsed into my easy chair and watched a lengthy James Somerton video on Youtube called “What Ever Happened to Good Taste?”, which was about camp classic films, beginning with All About Eve before cycling through Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Mommie Dearest, and the drag queen road movies of the early 90s, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. (I must confess to being enormously disappointed that Showgirls didn’t make the documentary; it is, after all, an all-time classic.) Paul got home shortly after I finished watching (it was two hours long) and we watched another episode of Welcome to Chippendales, which could have been just a movie and not a series I think; there’s a lot of padding out of the story to stretch it out into a mini-series. I have a lot to do this weekend; one of my tasks for today is of course a to-do list for the weekend. I need to get caught up on the book, I need to get caught up on a lot of things, and I want to finish reading Wanda Morris’ marvelous latest work. Perhaps after I get home from the meeting at the office this morning and get through my work-at-home chores today, I can spend some time with Wanda’s book and finish it. I am going to run some errands on my way home from work today, too–hoping that I won’t have to leave the house much this weekend so I can get things done.

My arm continues to get better every day, so I think it is something that didn’t necessarily require the emergency room costs or a forced-onto-the-schedule doctor’s appointment. It means I won’t be able to start back to the gym this weekend as I’d planned–I like to start going again before the new year when everyone’s resolutions crowd the place to within an inch of its life come January–but I cannot lift weights with this arm, which pretty much eliminates every upper body exercise. I could, I suppose, go a couple of times a week and simply focus on legs–but the weight plates would be a problem, too, you see. So, that’s going to have to go back on hold until my arm feels better.

I was very surprised and pleased yesterday to see that a couple of Instagram users did “reels” talking about A Streetcar Named Murder, and I have to confess this week–shitty as it was personally–has been a really terrific week for me professionally. It certainly was a good one for my writer’s ego, for sure. The outpouring of support and appreciation for my book from the cozy reading and writing community has been quite nice, rather unexpected, and I am enormously appreciative and grateful for it all. In some ways, it’s kind of validating; over the past few months I’ve really come to understand that I have an enormous chip on my shoulder when it comes to my own writing, and have tried unpacking that a bit. (I’ve spent quite a bit of time since turning sixty in the wake of a global pandemic unpacking my behaviors and the events that occurred that shaped those behaviors.) How different would my life have been had I gotten support and encouragement when I was younger? Had people taken my ambitions and desire to write seriously rather than dismissively? I honestly don’t know, can never know, will never know–the great pleasure of human life is you can never do anything more than speculate about how differently a shift in something, even a very small minor one, can alter the course of a life and a career.

The other night, before my Murder by the Book event with the marvelous John McDougall and my very dear Ellen Byron, John asked me “Now that I’ve read your book, Greg, I have to ask–why did it take you so long to write a cozy? Why haven’t you been doing this all along?” and my answer was “I really don’t know.” It absolutely gave me pause, and has lived rent-free in my brain ever since Tuesday. Why did it take me so long to write a cozy? I still don’t have an answer that makes any kind of sense. Let me see, I’ve always read them, always appreciated them, and have always done my best to fight the stigma attached to them by some elitists who need to feel better about themselves by looking down on a subset of other writers. I hate that, particularly because I know how it feels to not be taken seriously or be respected by your peers (there’s that enormous chip on my shoulder again).

But despite all the difficulties encountered during the time of its writing, I really enjoyed writing A Streetcar Named Murder. Sure, it was hard, and sure, I had to make myself do it (like always), but when I finally held the finished copies in my hands, I was incredibly proud of it. I have always said that I want to always be challenged by what I am writing, that I don’t ever want to fall into a familiar pattern of writing that feels like painting by the numbers (which is why I ended the Chanse series), which is incredibly easy to do. Writing a cozy presented me with a challenge, and yes, it was hard and yes, it was outside of my comfort zone. But I created likable, believable characters and an interesting story, with new situations and paradigm/life shifts that all played out throughout the course of the story. Now that it’s out in the world, it is an interesting question as to why I never tried to write one before, or even why I believed that I couldn’t write one in the first place.

And in some ways, it’s almost like starting my career over again. I am finding a new audience. I didn’t center queer characters and stories. I just wrote about New Orleans again but from an entirely different perspective, and it was enjoyable.

And I am proud of the book, and of myself. It feels weird to say that, but at the same time it also feels good to say it.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

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