Heart to Break

The first Sunday in August. I think we’re in the midst of yet another excessive heat warning today–I’d swear I’d heard that last night on a newsbreak during the Olympics, but haven’t bothered to check yet again this morning. I slept in yet again–again–and am only now getting to my morning coffee, which tastes marvelous. Yesterday wound up being one of those days; the ones where I get very little done and just kind of gave in to the mental and physical exhaustion, turning it into essentially a “rest and recover” day. Finishing Shawn’s book had a lot to do with it; I kind of just sat around for a couple of hours, thinking about it and figuring out what I wanted to say about it when I sat down to write my blog piece about it. I’m still thinking about the book a bit this morning, to be honest; it’s really thought-provoking and very well done. I also spent some time reading the first few chapters of The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, which is also quite remarkable–definitely off to a good start, and made me feel much better about selecting it as my next read after finishing Shawn’s–and I think I’m going to have a lot of really great reading ahead of me, which is, as always, incredibly exciting. There’s also a new Stephen King and a new Megan Abbott dropping this week, too–life simply doesn’t get better than that, methinks.

All I know is yesterday I overslept, read for a while, wrote a second blog entry and before I knew it was already after four–shocking, to say the least–with the end result that yesterday wound up being an off-day, and you know what else? I think I must have needed an off-day, which is the only proper response. I am trying not to beat myself up over having a lot to do and yet still taking a day off–because most people get to occasionally take a day off, and it’s not the end of the world when and if I myself chose to take one. Today I have things to do to get caught up on, of course–my email inbox is completely out of control, as always, and the Lost Apartment could stand another cleaning, and there’s always writing to do, and I also have to go to the gym this afternoon–but all of those things will inevitably get done, as they always inevitably do. I shall have to consult the to-do list, of course; and perhaps make another one with additional things, like I want to get my various state “bibles” made eventually, starting with Alabama (in this instance, a ‘bible’ means recording names, places, geography, etc. so it’s all in one place and easily consulted when writing something new set there; I want to do one for Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, and California, as well as one for both the Chanse and Scotty series; it’s way overdue in each instance, which is why there are so many continuity errors–but mostly in the state stories more than anything else). I guess this is what one calls “world-building”? All of my books are inevitably, in some roundabout way, connected; even the main character in Chlorine is from Kahola County (he’s from the tiny, population 63, town of Furlong, a whistle stop on the Missouri Pacific railroad line) and thus it is connected with the others, too. (I really need to finish Chapter Three today if it kills me; it’s a transitional chapter and as we know, I always have trouble with transitional chapters). I also need to type up my notes from my editorial call as a guideline to the final polish on #shedeservedit; which I need to focus on this month–which will not be easy to do with an unfinished Chapter 3 hanging over my head, you know?

But I think I am going to try to keep the burner on beneath Chlorine; it’s just on a slow cook rather than being brought to a boil at the moment. It would be great to be able to get these revisions done and then be able to get the first draft of Chlorine finished this month as well; almost too much to hope for, really. I also need to get some other things further under control, and much as I would like to take yet another day off from everything and just spend the day reading, I don’t think that’s either wise or in the cards. I am going to try to get this finished, spend an hour with The Other Black Girl, and then get to work on other things that need to be worked on before heading to the gym. I generally am exhausted when I get home from the gym–inevitable, particularly with us in a excess heat warning–and while drinking my protein shake I’ll probably spend some more time with The Other Black Girl. This is the last full week of work I have for a while; the following two weeks we are being given a long holiday type weekend with the agency closing on the 13th and the 16th; and then the following week after that second short week Im on vacation for most of it because of Bouchercon–and no matter what happens (or doesn’t, for that matter) with Bouchercon I am still going to take that time off, and then it’s Labor Day, and you know…it’s August, and August, from all indicators, is going to be miserably hot this year anyway, so I need to take what I can get from all of this.

And once the Olympics are over, and our moratorium on watching outside television ends, we are going to have a lot to watch–Ted Lasso, Outer Banks, and several others as well, which is quite interesting and exciting, methinks.

I also saw a wonderful looking Spanish series, set in the 1720’s, on Netflix that looks like it could be quite entertaining, The Cook of Castamar–and you know Paul and I are crazy about some Spanish language shows.

I am also kind of pleased to have Bury Me in Shadows all finished except for the proofing. That’s always a lovely feeling, really.

So–let’s tally everything, shall we? I am in the midst of writing a new novel, the midst of revisions of another, and planning yet a third; I am pulling together a short story collection AND an essay collection; and a collection of novellas. That’s six books right there that are in some sort of progress for me; and of course I am also co-editing the Bouchercon anthology for Minneapolis. So, seven books in some sort of progress–no wonder I am so fucking scattered and on edge all the time, always certain I am forgetting something!

And on that note, I should probably get another cup of coffee and take a look around and see what I need to get to first–after an hour of reading the Harris novel, of course.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

Walking on Broken Glass

Sometimes I try to remember the first time I saw or heard or watched or read something, anything, that made me feel less weird, less like an outsider…often to no avail. I can never remember if it was That Certain Summer (a very SPECIAL ABC Movie of the Week), or reading Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, or discovering The Front Runner on the paperback racks at the News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia; and then I will remember something else, some vague memory of something–hints about Richard the Lion-Hearted in Norah Lofts’ The Lute Player, or subtle hints here and there throughout history (Edward II and Piers Gaveston; Louis XIV’s brother Phillippe Duc D’Orleans; James I and Robert Carr; Achilles and Patroclus)…Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great series…I can never remember precisely the first time I was exposed to who and what I am in popular culture, nor can I remember if it was positive or negative. I do know that in my own life, it was made very clear to me when I was very young that what I am was not normal, was unacceptable, wasn’t what I was supposed to be. My earliest memories are of me not being like other boys, and it took me a while to realize that the others were just playing at being boys (something I was never very good at) and were actually like that; that they weren’t, underneath, just like me, just better at pretending than I was.

This is why we have emphasized, as a community, the importance of representation in popular culture; kids needs to see themselves reflected in the culture they consume so they don’t feel like they don’t belong. Queer kids aren’t raised queer; we don’t learn how to be queer by interacting with our peers (who are mostly straight when we are kids), nor do we learn anything about being queer while we are inside the educational system in this country. I’ve always firmly believed that queers take longer–at least in the olden days–to form lasting romantic relationships because we don’t have “trial runs” when we are kids; we don’t get to date, we don’t get to “go steady”, etc. We don’t get to play House with other kids of the same gender, we don’t learn societal and cultural expectations about relationships and how they work when we are actually kids. Our queer adolescence doesn’t actually start until we come out–admit it to ourselves without shame, and then start telling our family and our friends and our co-workers that we aren’t wired the same way they are. It’s very tricky, and very complicated and sometimes very messy.

Representation absolutely matters.

And we cling to that representation when it shows up. When a prime time show like SOAP introduces the first long-running gay character to the world in Jody Dallas (does anyone even remember this was Billy Crystal’s big break, playing gay on a sitcom in the 1970’s/early 80’s?), we watch–even if the depiction is problematic to the extreme (you also learn very early that your hunger for representation will also force you to turn a blind eye to some things). Steven Carrington on Dynasty, the terrible film Making Love from the early 1980’s, as well as some other problematic depictions and films along the way–we took what we got, and always had to remember that these characters and stories also had to be palatable to straight people…that, in fact, these characters and stories were created with straight people in mind.

As they used to say, “but will it play in Peoria?”

As i stare down sixty this month, I am very happy to see that representation becoming common-place. It’s lovely to see gay books–THRILLERS, even–being published by major presses with queer characters in them. It’s lovely seeing straight writers including sensitive depictions of queer characters and their stories in their books.

And over the year, yes, problematic tropes that can make you very, very tired have also developed–which makes me wary every time I approach a book by a non-queer person that takes on a trope without hesitation, as S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears does, and that trope is one of the biggest and most hated by the queer community: bury your gays.

Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might, nothing came to mind.

The two men stood side by side on the small concrete landing of his front step with their hands on their belts near their badges and guns. The morning sun made the badges glimmer like gold nuggets. The two cops were a study in contrast. One was a tall but wiry Asian man. He was all sharp angles and hard edges. The other, a florid-faces white man, was built like a powerlifter with a massive head sitting atop a wide neck. They both wore white dress shirts with clip-on ties. The powerlifter had sweat stains spreading down from his armpits that vaguely resembled maps of England and Ireland respectively.

Ike’s queasy stomach began to do somersaults. He was fifteen years removed from Coldwater State Penitentiary. He has bucked the recidivism statistics ever since he’d walked out of that festering wound. Not so much as a speeding ticket in all those years. Yet here he was with his tongue dry and the back of his throat burning as the two cops stared down at him. It was bad enough being a Black man in the goo ol US of A and talking to the cops. You always felt like you were on the edge of some imaginary precipice during any interaction with an officer of the law. If you were an ex-con, it felt like the precipice was covered in bacon grease.

“Yes?” Ike said.

My faulty memory doesn’t remember how and when I first became aware of S. A. Cosby. What I do remember is that I bought and read one of his earlier works (perhaps his debut?) My Darkest Prayer, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Hard-boiled with a healthy dose of noir, I had a great time reading it–and was thrilled when his Blacktop Wasteland debuted to raves and attention and lots of recognition. Cosby can write like a house afire; and while he keeps up a rat-a-tat pace of story, he also manages to construct sentences and paragraphs beautifully, with a poet’s gift for language–spare and tight, yet poetic and beautiful at the same time (Megan Abbott is the Galactic Empress of this).

So, when I heard the “elevator pitch” for Razorblade Tears, I inwardly winced a bit, even as I had to admit Shawn’s guts; taking on bury your gays is a ballsy move–and also a bit of a dangerous one. If you don’t stick the landing…you’re fucked.

For those of you who don’t know what bury your gays means, it’s very simple: a show, or a book, or a movie, will introduce gay characters (lesbians, queers, whatever initial in the all encompassing umbrella those characters might choose for their identity), get the audience (and especially the queer viewers) deeply vested in them–and then kill them off suddenly and unexpectedly, all so the other queer characters (but usually the straight ones) will experience some kind of personal growth…in other words, you introduce a gay man into your narrative simply to later use him as a plot device, so the other characters can mourn and experience personal growth.

That’s probably explained badly, but you get the gist: gays will inevitably die. A good example of this is the so-called groundbreaking AIDS movie, Philadelphia–but the Tom Hanks character in that movie existed so that Denzel Washington’s character could grow and develop and move on from his own homophobic beliefs and fears about HIV/AIDS; as Sarah Schulman, one of our community’s finest minds, once said, “the entire point of Philadelphia is to make straight people feel better about HIV/AIDS and the gay men dying from it.” (Sections of her book Stagestruck: Theatre, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America are absolutely brilliant; it should be required reading for any Queer Studies course.)

The plot of Razorblade Tears is so deeply steeped in “bury your gays” that the gays are already dead when the book opens. The gays in question–Derek and Isiah–were brutally murdered, and the police don’t seem to care too much about looking into who killed them. Their homophobic fathers–both ex-cons–decide to look for their son’s killers. Both Ike and Bobby Lee feel a lot of guilt about their sons and how they rejected them both–their relationship, their eventual marriage, their child–while they were alive; finding their killers isn’t just about revenge but also a matter of atonement. In some ways, it’s like this book is borne from the anger every queer child rejected by their parents feels–you’ll be sorry when I’m dead.*

Ike and Bobby Lee are, indeed, sorry now that their sons are dead.

This also falls into another long-existent fictional trope: don’t fuck with a father. How many films (I’m looking at you, Liam Neeson), books or television shows are about a father’s rage, a father’s revenge, what a father will do to save or avenge their children?

Ike and Buddy Lee aren’t supermen, though. Cosby’s strength (besides his ability with words and images) is how well he creates characters and makes them human through their faults and frailties. Ike and Buddy Lee don’t much like each other as the story begins to move along–I kept thinking of the old Sidney Poitier/Tony Curtis movie, The Defiant Ones–but their ability to look past their own internal prejudices to see the commonalities between them as they unite in this foolhardy crusade to avenge their murdered sons is the real strength of the book here. (As well as the language.) You eventually start to understand them, care about them, want them to get their vengeance…even as you know it will bring them no peace.

I have to admit, I was hesitant to start reading this. I really was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to read it with the empathy necessary for Ike and Buddy Lee and their suffering–that I would think, yeah, well, maybe you should have thought about that when he was alive–but the book ultimately isn’t about their redemption, either; which is a genius move by Cosby. He makes their pain all too real–I cannot imagine the pain any parent should feel when their child dies–but he makes it clear there’s no easy answers here for Ike and Buddy Lee, and that pain will go on even if they get justice for their sons.

Shawn is also a master of writing about the Southern working class–about the poverty, the lack of opportunity, the societal neglect and how those factors all combine to keep those already mired in it trapped with little chance of escape; he clearly loves the rural South but not so much that he can’t expose the tragedy and ugliness that exists there.

It’s a powerful book, and I do recommend it….although the people who probably should read it inevitably won’t. I can recommend it, and do, enthusiastically; it’s a very powerful book, and it made me think–and what more can you want from art?

*sadly, I have seen all too often that a lot of those parents aren’t sorry when their rejected child dies; far too regularly they will say something along the lines of “So-and-so died for me years ago.”

I Am What I Am

Saturday!!

My GOD, it was hot yesterday. I walked to the gym after work and by the time I got there was drenched in sweat and felt exhausted. I wound up cutting my workout short–I didn’t have the energy to make it through the whole workout; just the partial I was so tired and sweaty and hot that the walk home was absolute misery. I’m glad I went; I just wish the heat hadn’t been so damned extreme. The heat and humidity just suck your energy right out of your body sometimes–and it absolutely felt like 115 degrees as I walked. The ground felt hot, even when I cut through Coliseum Square. Yesterday morning it was cool in the house but I could tell it was hot outside, and as the day passed I had to turn on the ceiling fans and at one point considered getting out the portable air conditioners–but finally decided I was being ridiculous on that score and left them alone. I took a long hot shower once I got home and had my protein shake, and just then luxuriated in that clean, not hot and not sweaty (or that sticky feeling when sweat has dried on your skin–yuck) feeling the shower left me feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. I sat down and read through the edits on the next two parts of Bury Me in Shadows–there’s only one small 30 page section left to get through–and I am feeling content with the book. It’s good work. I like my main character and his instabilities; the weird mystery of what is going on there at the old Donelson place in the country is interesting and intriguing, and it’s also kind of nice to see that some of the points I wanted to make worked and didn’t sound overly preachy (which worried me).

So, yay! I feel much better about the book now, and am kind of interested in getting back to #shedeservedit this weekend. I think I am going to probably do some filing when I am finished here–it never hurts to get better organized–and spend some time with Shawn’s Razorblade Tears this morning, and then do some writing on Chlorine and possibly, just possibly, start rereading #shedeservedit–but I also need to type up the notes from our call the other day.

Huzzah!

I overslept again this morning, but fully intended to when I went to bed last night so I don’t feel any guilt this morning about being a lag-a-bed until nine. I do have things to do today but right now I am enjoying feeling rested and my coffee tastes remarkably delicious this morning. I am feeling good–particularly about not having to go outside today as we move into yet another excessive heat warning day. Paul is working out with his trainer this morning (later this morning, I should clarify) and then will probably head to the office, so I have the Lost Apartment to myself for most of the day–so i should be able to finish reading Shawn’s book, get some writing and cleaning and so forth taken care of, before heading back into the Olympics tonight. The second season of Outer Banks also dropped on Netflix yesterday, which is terribly exciting; Paul and i had kind of made up our minds to not watch anything other than the Olympics until they were over, so we’d have a vast variety of things to watch for the rest of the month of August…but damn me, if Outer Banks isn’t tempting. (Paul even mentioned it was dropping yesterday last night as we watched the swimming –Caeleb Dressel is incredibly pretty)

I was also, of all things (because I don’t have enough writing to do on my plate already) about my next Scotty book, Mississippi River Mischief–this was a direct result of finishing going over the copy edits/line edits of Bury Me in Shadows, I should add–and how complicated that story is going to be; I think maybe part of the reason I’ve been avoiding it for so long is because I know how hard plotting that story is going to be; I left the Boys in an incredible personal dilemma or two that needs to be resolved, and I don’t really know how to resolve those issues quite yet. I know what the case is going to be, and it, too, is going to be complex and difficult to plot out and make work. Don’t get me wrong–I know I can do it, but that’s when the lazies kick in.

And on that note, I am going to go finish my coffee with Shawn. Talk to you later, Constant Reader!

Stomp!

Friday, Friday, got to get down it’s Friday!

Another lovely night’s sleep was enjoyed by one Gregalicious, and my mood is pleasant as a result. It really is insane how much better I feel when I’m getting regular sleep that is good; hopefully today I’ll be able to get a lot accomplished–despite the horror of knowing that we are in an excessive heat warning, with the heat index potentially climbing up to 115 this afternoon and staying there for most of the rest of the day. Yikes! I do have to go to the gym today–which would be on foot, which will send me out into the madness of the heat–but I shall survive. New Orleans and heat kind of go hand-in-hand, after all, and while this summer seems a bit more extreme than past ones, at least we have a working a/c system in the house now (which has also made a remarkably marked difference from the last two summers around here).

I need to make a to-do list, and I have a shit ton of emails to answer. Heavy sigh. It never ends.

I also need to type up my notes from my meeting with my editor yesterday, so that I am prepared to fix what’s wrong with #shedeservedit, so I can get it finished by the end of the month, which is when it’s due. I also have to finish going over the edits for Bury Me in Shadows, so I can get that finished as well–just to ensure that everything with it that she did (this is the line/copy edit) I’m okay with; fortunately I trust her but there are a few things she wants me to check. And while I do hate putting Chlorine aside for a little while, if I can get the Bury Me in Shadows things finished on time I can go back to working on it for Sunday. I don’t know, we’ll see how the weekend goes, I suppose.

Gregalicious plans, and the gods laugh.

But this morning my coffee is wonderful, and I am basking in the glow of feeling good about a lot of things. I’ve not felt good for a while; my memory is such a joke these days that it seems as though I haven’t felt good in a while about myself and my life and my writing in general for a long time. Not sure how true that is, or if it’s really just another side effect of a nasty pandemic (on-going!); but I definitely am hopeful this lasts for a while.

I watched the Olympics yet again last night; it was terrific to see Sunisa Lee become the first Asian-American all around gymnastics gold medalist, and I think possibly the first Olympic medalist of any kind of Hmong descent. The Hmongs are an ethnic minority of southeastern Asia, spread out over Vietnam, Cambodia and China; and they were recruited and used by the American military during the Vietnam War to fight the illegal war in Laos–and then of course, once we pulled out, we pretty much left them out to dry (see also: Iraqi Kurds after the First Gulf War. Sensing a theme?), and they were finally welcomed and recognized as political refugees and allowed entry to the US (big of us, right?) in the early 1980’s. I first became aware of the Hmong people and culture when I lived in Fresno–a large number of them settled there–and my parents also lived next door to a Hmong family in Houston (my mother became rather fond of the family matriarch over their years of being neighbors). I’m not sure if there are any Hmong-Americans in New Orleans; I do know there’s a large Vietnamese community here in the East (that French colonial tie between New Orleans and Vietnam–banh mih is like the Vietnamese version of a po’boy, although I think banh mih might have, probably, existed first).

Then again, there are a lot of other cultures in New Orleans that rarely get written about–Greeks, Vietnamese, the Isleños from the Canary Islands, the Haitians and Dominicans–which is yet another indication of how I could be writing about the city for the rest of my life and never scratch the surface of all the different cultures and ethnicities and influences here.

I also watched 54: The Director’s Cut again–I rented it a few years ago on Prime, I think–and while I remembered it as a much better movie than the theatrical release (which was really sappy and terrible and borderline homophobic), I’d forgotten how completely queer the director’s cut is. I was actually thinking last night about writing an essay about Studio 54-despite never having been there–but knowing that it existed was one of the first times in my young gay life that I became aware that it was possible for people like me to live differently than what I had been raised to believe was my life path and what was the cultural norm (“Looking for Studio 54” is the title I jotted down in my journal), and watching this (much better) version of the film while I made my condom packs yesterday was interesting (I also thought about doing a compare/contrast between the two different versions of the film, “A Tale of Two Studio 54’s”, but I can probably write that into my “Looking for Studio 54” essay); I think the first time I watched the director’s cut I was still completely in the headspace that Shane, the main character (a dazzlingly beautiful Ryan Philippe in all of his youthful glory) was straight but willing to do what he needed to do to get ahead; on second watch, it’s even more clear that Shane’s sexuality is incredibly fluid and while it was possible that he might be gay and just coming to realize it, it’s also not impossible that he could be bisexual. This film is a lot more sexual than the theatrical release, and has no problem exploring the gory details of the hedonism–the drugs and sex–that were the hallmark of that period and of the club itself. There are also some parallels between this movie and Saturday Night Fever–the good looking kid going nowhere who loses himself in the joys of a disco, the only really joy in his life–and there’s also the sense of Shane, rejected by his father for being a disappointment (how many gay men can relate to that experience?) and finding and making his own family; while Shane’s sexuality definitely is fluid in the film, and it never really answers the questions it raises, so much of Shane’s journey parallels the journey of so many young men in the 1970’s drawn to the glittering lights of New York away from their drab lives wherever they were originally from…yes, there’s definitely an essay there, and one that requires watching the film again and probably the theatrical release as well.

And on that note–hello spice mines! Good to see you–and Constant Reader, I will see you tomorrow.

Rock With You

Thursday and we have reached the “work-at-home” portion of my week. Yay! I don’t have to leave my house! (crowd goes wild)

I am feeling good this morning, partly because I overslept (this is becoming a thing with me; how lovely to go from chronic insomnia to oversleeping in a just a month) but regardless of whatever the reason was–the switch from cappuccinos to regular coffee, perhaps–but nevertheless, this morning Gregalicious slept late, and it felt marvelous.

I worked a little bit on Chlorine last night, but it stalled out a bit; not so much from a lack of desire to write or not knowing what to write, but primarily distractions around the Lost Apartment, which were annoying and also unavoidable, alas.

And speaking of anomalies in Gregalicious land, I didn’t finish this entry this morning before it was time for me to start working–which hasn’t happen in so long I cannot remember the last time it happened; usually I’m able to push right through the entry before leaving the house. I didn’t have to leave the house this morning, but I did oversleep, after all–definitely a problem. And now I have spent a lovely day making condom packs while catching up on Real Housewives of New York and watching some history videos on Youtube; I also had a lovely call with my editor about both Bury Me in Shadows but also a highly productive conversation about what I need to do on #shedeservedit to get it ready for publication–edits, sloppy transitions, bad bad Greg writer stuff, really–and some serious tweaks that may actually be easier than I think they’ll be; we’ll just have to see, won’t we? (And now I understand the Chlorine inertia this week; I knew I had this call scheduled and I knew I was going to probably have to put it aside for a while…breaking the chain, as it were. I think I will go ahead and finish Chapter Three and maybe Chapter Four before I dive back into my edits.)

I also had some other interesting developments occur this week, career-wise, but nothing that can be reported just yet; sorry to be so vague, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out. I am feeling better about everything these days–sleep really makes so an extraordinary difference in my life, it really is amazing–and while I am not in Greg can conquer the world mode again just yet, I have a feeling that it’s just around the corner. I am starting to feel energetic again, creative and ambitious, and more like the old Gregalicious than I have in years. Not sure what caused it, to be honest–pandemic, perhaps? I don’t know but I also don’t remember when I last felt this good about myself and everything in my life, to be honest, and it’s a lovely feeling. Now I need to get better organized; I think that is what this weekend is going to be about; me getting my shit together and getting back on top of everything again. I am going to finish reading Razorblade Tears and pick out my next read; I am going to get those chapters written and some short story edits done, and this fucking apartment and my fucking life are going to be organized and ready for the future.

And on THAT note, it’s time to get to work on everything.

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, Constant Reader! I’m going to make mine count.

Who Do You Think You Are

Wednesday and hump day; it’s the Wednesday between bi-weekly Pay the Bills Days and all the bills are paid and thus all is right in a Gregalicious world. Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I didn’t want to get up this morning–definitely didn’t want to get out of bed–which is a lovely contrast to a few weeks ago when I was getting up earlier than usual because I couldn’t sleep. The caffeine experiment also seems to continue to work–I wasn’t tired from less caffeine yesterday, didn’t crash from caffeine drop in the middle of the afternoon, and felt fine when I got home from work (other than exhaustion from being out in a heat advisory, which convinced me to skip the gym last night and try again tonight). I worked on Chlorine a little before being sucked into the Olympic vortex last night, but tonight I am going to try to get more work on Chlorine done and maybe do some editing etc. rather than staring at the television for most of the evening. I am really enjoying working on Chlorine–it hit me yesterday that I am having a lot of fun with the character voice, and another key to his character, who he is, came to me last night–more than anything, he’s a survivor, a queer man in a horribly homophobic society doing what he has to do in order to survive and work and keep going without being destroyed in the process–and as such, he has to make some moral compromises…but he truly sees those compromises as endemic to Hollywood and the system; everyone has to make compromises in Hollywood.

I am really, really liking the character, and really really liking writing it. I mean, yesterday I got to write the line “I’ve never cared much about dames.” That inordinately pleased me to no end, and is emblematic of the voice and the tone I am striving for in this book. And I’m actually believing this will be a really good one–which is a feeling I rarely get when I am in the midst of writing something, if ever.

So, I am just kind of basking in the glow of writing something I am enjoying and am proud of at the same time, since it’s such a unique experience for me.

I’m also speaking to my editor tomorrow about #shedeservedit, which she apparently thinks, in her own words, is “amazing”, which nevertheless means I’ll be taking a break from other writing relatively soon in order to do the revisions and edits on it for its January release. At long last, “the Kansas book” will be out there for people to read. I’ve kind of worked on this book, in one form or another, since 1977, really; it’s been a long time a-bornin’, as they used to say in the olden days in the rural midwest. There are some other Kansas book ideas in my head, but unless something really jumps out and grabs me by the throat, this may very well be my last Kansas book. Alabama, on the other hand…one of the things I need to do (which I forgot to add to the to-do list I created yesterday) is go through the Alabama stuff I’ve already written and clear up discrepancies and so forth, as well as make a list of who’s who in the county and the county’s history and so forth. I will be revisiting Corinth County again–for some reason, I’m thinking that one of the supporting characters from Bury Me in Shadows (namely, Beau Hackworth) may even get his own book at some point, and there are numerous other Corinth County stories I want to tell. I may even do some more California books, for that matter…and there’s definitely a book with a Houston tie-in I want to write eventually.

I guess we’ll see how it all turns out.

But I am pretty jazzed I’ve somehow made it to Wednesday relatively unscathed.

This bodes well for the future, methinks. And in a few more weeks I get a four day weekend; they are closing the agency on the 13th and the 16th as a thank you to the staff for working through the pandemic (which isn’t over yet, but I appreciate the long weekend) and we also all got a raise for the year, which was also rather nice. Bouchercon in New Orleans is also happening in a few weeks–at least, so far it is still happening–and while it’s going to involve social distancing and masking, I am still looking forward to seeing my friends whom I’ve not seen in years now. Years.

But if Louisiana’s numbers keep worsening…sigh.

And on that note, I am going to get my day started. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

I’m Your Baby Tonight

Tuesday morning and the week is passing gradually; not that I want things to hurry up by any means (God forbid, this final countdown to sixty is horrible), but I do kind of wish it were the weekend again. What can I say? I loves me a weekend.

Yesterday’s caffeine experiment went pretty well. I wasn’t wired all morning, true, but at the same time I felt fine and I also didn’t have the usual caffeine crash that usually happened around three o’clock; in fact, I felt fine when I got off work rather than tired. Had last night been a gym night, I would have gone. Instead, I cleaned the kitchen and did some things around the house and watched the Olympics. Sure, I could have spent some time writing last night, and probably should have, but it was also kind of nice to just have a relaxed evening where I wasn’t completely exhausted and was able to just kind of chill out and relax. It was also nice not to have to deal with cappuccino mess when I got home from work last night, and it’s kind of nice to relegate them from necessities to occasional treat from now on–most likely for days when I have to get up and be somewhere early–or when I am just completely groggy, and one is more than enough.

Yesterday was also kind of a good day. I managed to get quite a bit done, despite a serious lack of motivation or desire to do so, and kind of just relished a Monday where I wasn’t tired and felt pretty good overall. Even this morning, I feel rested and alert and alive rather than dragging my ass as usual–the absence of insomnia has been quite marvelous, really–and I am not dreading my day, which is usually the case on Tuesday mornings. Tonight after work is a gym night–which usually means an abbreviated workout because the gym will be crowded–but I am going to try to do my best to get in as good a workout as the one I had on Sunday, which felt wonderful. I am undoubtedly going to have to get a new computer by the end of the year–we’ll see how the chips fall for me financially–because this one just isn’t fast anymore and doesn’t function that great with more than two programs open; or that great with even just two. And if I have any social media open on my browser–well, kiss that all goodbye for sure…and now that I have my laptop working at top speed…I am trying to train myself to work in my easy chair.

Why not? Why not indeed?

Might as well be comfortable while I write and work on-line, right?

Makes sense to me, at any rate.

So, here I am on a Tuesday morning feeling relatively awake, alive, and fairly decently, if I do say so myself. I just need to now get my energies focused; the goal for today is to make a thorough to-do list; get as caught up on emails as I conceivably can; go to the gym tonight; and possibly start writing Chapter Three of Chlorine–I will probably end up cleaning up the first two chapters to remind myself of my character’s voice…I do like the voice I am creating; I like the character even though he’s kind of unlikable and does things that are perhaps morally questionable. But I’m having fun with him, and that’s the most important thing, methinks.

I am really happy I’m enjoying writing again. I am not really certain that saying that is completely fair–and probably a journey through past blog entries when I was writing something would probably quickly prove that to be a lie; I think I’ve probably always enjoyed the act of creation and writing. That isn’t to say that some of it isn’t drudgery–trust me, copy edits and line edits are nearly as tedious as watching paint dry–and editing becomes problematic because I become so familiar with the story and so tired of it at the same time that I am not entirely sure I can trust myself to edit–and God knows I am never the fairest judge of my own work! I am often much too hard on myself with this kind of stuff, and I probably need–despite the rare possibility of change at my advanced age–to work on getting past that. But I think the primary difference I am experiencing with writing Chlorine–as well as the things I’ve written lately–is I feel a confidence in my writing that I’ve not felt in a long time, and I have really enjoyed creating these things.

Of course, I have lots of editing to do on short stories and novellas, but hey–it’s all a part of the process.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Day Two of less caffeination; will report back tomorrow.

How Will I Know

Monday morning and another week of work staring me in the face.

Yesterday was rather pleasant, as Sundays generally tend to be more so than any other day of the week. I slept in, as I have been doing a lot lately on the weekends (thank you medication!) and then I spent about two hours with Razorblade Tears, S. A. Cosby’s thought-provoking and interesting thriller–a very worthy follow-up to last year’s terrific Blacktop Wasteland. After that, I started moving computer files around in an attempt to get better organized, which was a rather dreadful and tedious chore, but listening to the Per Shop Boys’ Pop Art (aka their greatest hits) made it somewhat more bearable, quite frankly. I also went to the gym and had a terrific workout that felt great; I am always amazed at how much better my Sunday workouts are compared to those on days that have work-responsibilities, and I felt and looked so pumped when I left the gym–something I never feel on the weeknight workouts. I also had a great stretching session (I also stretched at home on Saturday; I think I am going to start going on Saturdays to do some cardio…we’ll see. Football season is also looming…), and felt really good when I got home. I also registered for New England Crime Bake in November, which means a visit to Boston and (hopefully) New York as well. YAY!

I’m also trying something new this morning–no cappuccinos, just regular coffee. This could very easily turn out to be a huge mistake–huge–but it’s something I wanted to try. I slept okay last night–woke up a few times, but was able to fall back asleep–and I am pretty sure I can function with a lot less caffeine than I usually have on these early mornings. I guess I am about to find out one way or the other, right? I’m also going to make a to-do list for this week once I get a little bit more awake this morning; and I am going to try to actually follow it. It’s very easy for me to get off track–shiny object! Look!–but it is definitely something I need to try to get back into the habit of working on. I want to get several more chapters of Chlorine written, and I also want to get some things revised/reworked this week–I want to get a few more stories out for submission by the end of July; you can’t sell anything if it’s just sitting in your computer–and getting organized is crucial for me getting things done, period.

I’ve been feeling fairly decently about my writing lately; not sure what’s changed (the chemicals in my body? Thank you, medication) but I’ve been feeling pretty confident. Maybe it’s because I’ve done so much work in this last month? Maybe it’s because the work has gone really well? Maybe, maybe, maybe. Who knows?

I am enjoying watching the Olympics, but it feels weird not watching the way we have in the past. NBC’s coverage is, as always, horrible and cheesy (really makes me miss the days when ABC did the Olympics and treated sports reporting like, you know, actual journalism), but it’s always fun seeing the athletes competing and being emotional and so forth, and there are always lovely Olympic stories. I was also very delighted to wake up to see that our swim team once again won the gold in the mens’ 4 x 100 swim relay–I also loved when they show the one from Beijing with the amazing finish when Jason Lezak pulled out that amazing final leg and stunned France at the wall; that was one of the most exciting moments in Olympic history that Paul and I can recall–I know we both leaped up and were screaming and jumping up and down (also because we wanted to see Michael Phelps break the record for most gold medals at a single Olympics, and this race was crucial for that)–and even rewatching it is almost as exciting as witnessing it as it happened.

This is why I love sports, you know? I am still floating from the 2019 LSU season, to be honest.

And on that note, I should probably head into the spice mines and get my act together for today.

Blow

Good morning, Sunday, how are YOU doing?

I overslept (for me) again this morning; which felt nice; I’ll take oversleeping over insomnia any day of the week, frankly, and this morning I am going to swill coffee, read some more of S. A. Cosby marvelous Razorblade Tears, and then will write for a while before going to the gym later on in the early afternoon. I still haven’t gotten phô yet–maybe next weekend I can make to the Lilly Cafe and finally get some.

Yesterday saw me relaxing and organizing and cleaning for most of the day, at an incredibly casual pace–so casual, of course, that I didn’t get everything finished that I wanted to get finished (natch); but progress was made and I will always take some progress over not making any. I finished writing Chapter 2 of Chlorine yesterday, also setting up Chapter 3 to be written for today (after some reviewing of Chapters 1 and 2 before getting started on that today). I like that I am starting to feel connected to this manuscript; it’s finally taken root in my head and all the other considerations about it no longer matter to me other than the two most important: that I finish writing it, and that i write the best book I possibly can.

The whole Chlorine thing is remarkably improbable about how it came to be in the first place. I’ve always wanted to write about 1950’s Hollywood and the gay closet/underground that existed there; it was an incredibly turbulent time, with television stealing film audiences, HUAC investigating Communists, and J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI going after gay men and lesbians. It was also during this time that the biggest closeted movie star perhaps in Hollywood history, Rock Hudson, came to success–and there were plenty of other closet cases on the headlining pictures with their names above the title: Montgomery Clift and Tab Hunter–and plenty who may have been bisexual but definitely had experiences with men, like Marlon Brando, Anthony Perkins, James Dean, and so on. I idly wrote about this notion I had for a noir set during that time, with the main character a hustler with no talent but a lot of good looks and charm, that opens with another closeted actor’s nude, dead body being found in the morning on Santa Monica beach–only the drowning victim also had chlorine in his lungs, so he clearly drowned in a swimming pool and his body was moved. I riffed on this concept here on the blog for a little bit, and then thought nothing of it.

Yet Chlorine landed with my peers in the crime writing community for some reason–I got a lot of tweets and DM’s about what a great idea it was, and that I needed to write it. Some people continued pestering me about it, enough time and enough people, for me to go ahead and slot it into my writing schedule….but even then I kept putting it off and not taking it or myself seriously; was I the right person to write such a book? Is this interest in such a book even something that could turn into sales or whatever? You know, the usual self-doubt that plagues me on a daily basis. I sat down and wrote a very rough first chapter several years ago, just to see if I could get the tone right, and the voice properly done; I was rather pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, and so I put aside any thought of imposter syndrome and figured, okay, I CAN do this.

But the syndrome came again when the calendar time to write the book rolled around; I spent the last month or so writing anything but this manuscript…and finally sat down to revise and reshape that first chapter so that it set up the second even better, and I also had an idea of how to do the second as I worked on the first. It took me a few days, but I now have a very nice 3700 word second chapter written; and today I am going to work on writing the third. I wanted to wait until August and spend that entire month writing it, but finally decided that I was being decidedly un-confident, so while I still want to have the first draft finished by the end of August, I decided to go ahead and get started on it in the meantime. I still want to work on Scotty for the rest of the year, from September on, but there’s also a lot of other things I need to get done, so I need to stop being lazy and get my ass into my chair and writing.

We watched the Olympics some yesterday–I am amazed at the sports I couldn’t care less about most of the time but will watch avidly during an Olympics–but it again seems weird that there’s no audience or crowd…and this whole weird vibe these Olympics are giving off–no you smoked weed so you’re banned; you’re a serial sexual assaulter so we’ll make accommodations for you–has kind of tarnished the whole thing for me in some ways. There has always been cheating and stupidity at the Olympics (another example of how media has brainwashed us all into the mythology of the Olympics), but for some reason this year it seems more intolerable than usual. But I love watching the US swimmers–it’s weird without Michael Phelps in the pool–and I will undoubtedly watch more, especially the gymnastics.

But…..still.

I also figured out last night how to change a story I started writing at some point during the last decade and make it actually work–“The Brady Kid”–and while the new idea I have for it may not work after all, it’s an interesting idea for a story and something I definitely want to try writing.

And on that note, Razorblade Tears is calling me, and so it’s off to the spice mines for a bit to read, swill coffee, and prepare to start writing.

Dancing on the Ceiling

And here it is, Saturday again, and life just keeps a chugging along.

I slept until nine this morning–I know, right?–and it felt marvelous, even though it’s taking me a moment or two to get my equilibrium this morning. I’ve already had a cup of coffee, and it’s already almost ten! I am going to try to get a lot done today–writing wise, reading wise, cleaning wise–and I am going to try to get the computer files better organized. Yesterday was a busy day; I managed to get my work-at-home duties completed; I picked up a prescription and the mail; went to the gym; and made groceries AND a Costco run (when I can plan ahead, my efficiency and ability to get quite a bit done in a short period of time can be amazing). I bought an enormous bottle of Kirkland white tequila (Costco store brand; the Kirkland vodka is basically Grey Goose, so I checked out the tequila on line and it’s seems to be close to, if not the same as, Patrón, which is my favorite tequila), and tonight I am going to have myself a Margarita. It’s so weird–we’ve not had liquor in the house for so long, and now, thanks to Costco, I have enough vodka and tequila for a fraternity party. Alcohol and I have always had a strained relationship, which is one of many reasons I never kept it in the house, but I am hoping that my sixties will be the year where I can enjoy alcohol while cutting myself off before getting completely intoxicated. In my thirties and forties I learned (finally) how to tell I’d already had too much and to stop (although there were times when I most definitely did not; and I do remember consciously thinking oh one more drink and I’ll be completely wasted; why not?) but having it in the house always kind of concerned me. But one cocktail nightly is something I think I can handle–and it should also help with sleep problems.

I really need to learn how to properly make a martini. That last one I made was so nasty I am afraid to try again.

We watched the opening ceremonies for the Olympics last night–but it felt off and weird; maybe it was the lack of an audience, and opening ceremonies that were planned to HAVE an actual audience? I don’t know, but the Parade of Nations walking into an empty stadium just seemed weird to me. I feel bad for the athletes–it’s already bad enough that this is last year’s Olympics, and the next Olympic cycle is a year shorter than usual–but at the same time this Olympics has already left a bad taste in my mouth with its systemic racism. Ted Lasso also returned last night, but I hate the thought of not being able to watch them all at the same time; it really is amazing how my television-watching habits have been completely altered and changed by streaming. This is also the first Olympics since we cut the cable cord, so streaming it through Hulu seems weird to me because I actually don’t know when anything is or when it’s going to air live…but the commentary on the opening ceremonies didn’t leave me with much hope about the coverage.

It was also a very weird week in college football. On Thursday the rumor broke and was reported that Oklahoma and Texas had reached out to the SEC about ditching the Big XII and joining, and by yesterday the entire world of college football was reeling and speculating and wondering how this would all shake out with changes to the play-offs and conference expansions and so forth. The thing that makes the most sense to me is divvying the Big XII teams up amongst the other four conferences, turning them all into “super-conferences” with two divisions of eight teams each; which essentially would turn the conference championship games into quarterfinals….with the possibility that a conference champion could not be invited to the semi-finals if there is an astounding team from outside the four main conferences…say, a 11-1 Notre Dame over a three loss conference champion. I think it’s an interesting–and it’s also interesting how much college football has changed since I was a kid and the games were exclusively broadcast on ABC, so at most two games were televised per week–usually a Major Game with National Implications and then a regional game of interest. It will be interesting to see how this most recent shake-up affects everything. I remember when it the Big 10, the SEC, the ACC, the Big 8, the Southwest Conference, and the PAC-8. (it has always amused me that the Big XII only has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve and then fourteen)

Hell, this realigning might actually force Notre Dame to join a conference–and you can bet it will be the ACC rather than the Big Ten, which makes the most sense given their location.

I also got some great books yesterday, including Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic; Alan Orloff’s latest y/a, I Play One On TV; Heather Levy’s Walking Through Needles; Robert P. Jones’ White Too Long; and two queer sounding debuts: Yes Daddy by Jonathan Parks-Ramage and These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever; all of them sound positively delightful, and so yes, I need to get cracking on my reading. And my writing, and my organizing and my cleaning and–heavy sigh. You get the picture.

So I am going to take my coffee right now and go curl up with Razorblade Tears for a while. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader!