Drowned World/Substitute for Love

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and I finally slept well last night, and I even slept in for an extra two hours this morning. I could have easily (and gladly) stayed in bed for even longer, but I have too much to get done this weekend to allow myself to slovenly lay in bed for the entire morning, so once Scooter’s outrage about not being fed at six a.m. manifested itself into non-stop yowling, I got up and fed him. I feel very rested today, which is lovely. I was tired and dragging all day yesterday, and when I finished work I had things to get done. Paul and I ran out to Costco for a restocking (I hate that sometimes they have stuff and sometimes they don’t; they didn’t have several key things I always get when I go) and then I picked up the mail and a prescription. I need to get gas this weekend as well as make groceries, and the tires need to be aired up as well (the low pressure light came on in Alabama last weekend, but only one tire was low and it wasn’t officially low; it was simply lower than the other three tires), and there’s all kinds of other things I need to get done this weekend. I am editing a manuscript which needs to get finished this weekend; I’d like to do a little more work on my own manuscript; and I would absolutely love to finish reading Lori Roy’s brilliant Let Me Die in His Footsteps this weekend as well. It’s seem rather daunting when it’s put that way, but I am confident that not only can I get all of it completed but without driving myself insane, either.

Always a plus!

We watched The Boston Strangler film on Hulu last night (after an episode of Somebody Somewhere, which I am really growing fond of), and it was quite good. It focused on the two women reporters who figured out there was an actual serial killer and did all the pursuing of the case, all the while tweaking the police who were falling down on the job and forcing them to actually do their work. I wasn’t old enough when the killings were actually happening, but my dad had a copy of Gerold Frank’s The Boston Strangler and I did read that, as well as watched the Tony Curtis film version of the story when it was released to the television networks after its theatrical run. I don’t really remember much of reading the book, other than one landlady who was certain one of her tenants was the Strangler, and the story kept coming back to her and her suspicions. That always stayed with me over the years (what if your tenant/neighbor was a serial killer and you started to suspect? which became my story “The Carriage House”–yes, Virginia, that story gestated in my head for nearly fifty years before I wrote it) and to this day I still remember how chilling that was and how much I worried for the landlady. (It’s also the plot of the ancient Hitchcock film The Lodger, in which the landlady suspected her tenant was Jack the Ripper.)

I was thinking yesterday about the entry I wrote yesterday morning and the way I was/have been feeling for quite some time, and I realized that I’ve been a very passive participant in life; I’ve been kind of letting it happen to me for a while now rather than living my life actively. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion, both physical and emotional, or a reaction to trauma; or maybe, perhaps, even both. The last few years have been rough on everyone; I don’t think we’ll ever know the full extent of the trauma we all experienced as a result of that paradigm shift back in March of 2020; the shutdown, the battles over what was responsible and what was irresponsible; the insanity of the anti-vaxxer movement and everything else that was just plain wrong over the last few years. I suppose for some of us the trauma goes back even further, to the 2016 election. But it’s kind of true. I think I was very active in my own life and the pursuance of goals before 2016, and ever since 2016 I’ve just been kind of coasting along, letting things happen instead of making them. As a general rule I don’t like coasting through life; it was the recognition that was what I was doing in my early thirties that led to the big changes in my life, which was followed by the achieving goals I had always dreamed about, since I was a little boy.

But roadblocks and speed bumps encountered aside, I think had I been able to look ahead twenty-one years when my first book was released to see where I am today, I’d have been pleased and thrilled and more than a little bit smug about what I’d accomplished. A character trait I’ve never wanted to have is arrogance, and I am always afraid of sounding arrogant when talking about myself and my career. I never want to sound arrogant or smug (well, unless I am dealing with haters, in which case I love giving rein to smug condescending arrogance), but over forty novels? Over twenty anthologies? Over fifty short stories? Fifteen Lambda nominations, and seven Anthonys in total? Nominations for the Macavity, the Shirley Jackson, the Lefty, and the Agatha? How could I not be satisfied and proud of myself?

As I was making room for the Costco purchases once we got home, I was putting some things up in the storage attic and needed to move a box, so I looked inside of it to see what it was. Clippings and things from my career, it turned out–once I carried the box down the ladder to the laundry room I could see I’d written Career Memorabilia on it in Sharpie–and inside was all kinds of things. Back issues of Lambda Book Report from the days when I was either its editor or did some writing for them (or when they were reviewing my work), and back issues of Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, too, along with Insightoutbook catalogues (what a serious blast from the past). Of course I had to bring that box down and keep it for sorting through and scanning purposes (I am serious about cleaning shit out of the storage attic this year), and hilariously found the September 2000 issue of Lambda Book Report, with Michael Thomas Ford on the cover. (Peering inside, I saw that Paul actually was the one who interviewed him!) Scanning all of this stuff will be a huge undertaking, and I do actually hate the thought of throwing it all out once it’s done; I don’t know if Lambda ever archived the back issues or not, so this may be all that’s left of it out there. Same with Insightoutbooks; it was very important and crucial to queer publishing between 2000 and when it went under sometime around 2009 or 2010 (that may be wrong; I also found an issue of LBR from 2008 or 2009, and I would have sworn under oath that LBR stopped publishing a print edition long before that. (You see why I no longer trust my memory? Mnemosyne no longer comes to my aid anymore these days, which is most unfortunate–and yes, the reason the goddess of memory comes to mind is because of Carol Goodman’s marvelous The Ghost Orchid–more to come on that score.)

But I also did some cleaning up and filing around here while I was making dinner (ravioli) last night, so this morning the office doesn’t look as bad as it usually does on Saturday morning; the sink is filled with dirty dishes and there’s a load in the dishwasher to put away, but more of the things I generally wind up doing Saturday morning are already done, so there’s no excuse for me not to be highly productive today other than malaise and laziness.

And on that note, I am going to get these minor chores handled while I keep drinking coffee and my mind finishes awakenening.


Yesterday started off really well for me. I woke up, felt a little groggy, brewed a cup of coffee while I washed my face and brushed my teeth (also checking my scalp for sunburn acquired on Sunday) and then sat down at my computer to touch the space bar to wake it up. The first thing I saw was a DM from my friend Kellye, saying, okay double nominee and, as always, replied with “wait what?” She replied, have you not checked your email since last night? so I went to my inbox and there it was: the Anthony Award finalists for San Diego 2023…and I was on it three times. THREE. In all honesty and modesty aside I figured/hoped/thought my best chance to score a nomination was for the 2022 Bouchercon anthology (what kind of monster do you have to be to edit the Bouchercon anthology and NOT get on the short-list for their awards?) but Best Humorous for A Streetcar Named Murder? Best Children’s/Young Adult for #shedeservedit? How absolutely lovely and kind and totally a surprise. It’s kind on unreal. Last year I was nominated twice, which was stunning in and of itself (losing both was no surprise, and seriously there is no shame in losing to Alan Orloff and Jess Lourey; two very talented, funny, and lovely people), but three? I know Shawn A. Cosby was nominated for three I think last year, too? That’s some good company to be in, let me tell you what. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am thrilled, and how delightful that Streetcar and #shedeservedit are getting some award love. The Anthony nominations announcement sort of derailed my day–but what a nice way to have your day derailed, right?–but I was able to get some things done.

I still can’t believe it. And if I didn’t say thanks or “heart” your congratulations on social media, my apologies. Thanks to everyone, really. It still doesn’t seem real; like always, it never does until I’ve actually not won the night they are presented, but like Paul said, “Three more opportunities to extend your losing streak!”

So, yeah, not much progress was made last night. I wasn’t tired when I got home, but I ran some errands and got home rather quickly–that was a surprise–but did some laundry and a load of dishes, but every time I tried to write anything I’d get more notifications and I am obsessive about thanking people; I never want anyone to think I don’t appreciate their being kind to me. And really, not bad for a queer writer, right? Granted, there’s not much queer about either Streetcar or the anthology, but I am still a queer writer no matter what it is I write, it will come from a queer societal perspective. That’s the thing, you know, about queer writers. Even if we aren’t writing about queer characters and themes, we cannot help but bring an outsider’s perspective towards everything we write, and while perhaps being on the outside colors our viewpoint, it also gives us the opportunity for a different perspective and the ability to sometimes see things a bit more clearly than our straight counterparts, who are all wrapped up in their straightness and their perceived straight world.

Obviously, I am still a bit aglow from the great big hug I just got from my colleagues–and still waiting for the correction email–but today I have to firmly reaffix nose to grindstone. I simply have too much to do to allow myself the ease of indulging in my exhaustion–although it is necessary sometimes for recharging purposes–but time is slipping through my fingers like quicksilver and I’ve got to get all this shit done. I must say, career-wise, this has been a good year so far. But I really am having a good year on the score; it just would be nice if my career wouldn’t only go well during times of trauma so I could enjoy the highs a little bit more? Oy.

But I did have another good night of sleep last night and I do feel rested for the moment–my legs are tired, though; I really need to start stretching daily–so we’ll see how the days goes. I’d like to finish reading my book (Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy, which is superb) at some point, and of course there are things to edit and emails to answer and things to write too–and I definitely need to make a to-do list as well as a Costco grocery list as well.

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

The Power of Goodbye

I got home last night around eight o’clock. I am very glad I went up there this weekend; it meant a lot to Dad and it was kind of helpful for me as well. I am still kind of in shock that I was able to sleep in the motel room on Saturday night; I actually slept better that night than I did at home on Sunday, but here we are. I am composing an entry about the First Sunday in May; I started writing it last night when I got home but don’t want to finish it while I’m sleepy or foggy from sleep. It needs a clearer head, to be certain. It was hot and humid yesterday, and I have a bit of a sunburn on my scalp from the incredibly bright hot sun as we went from cemetery to cemetery.

I am very tired this morning, but am really glad I went this weekend. I feel like some of the darkness has receded–perhaps not for good, make that most likely–I have long since learned to know that once the constant darkness starts to recede that there are still going to be bad days in the weeks and months to come, but that first wave of grief that I’ve been living with seems to be over. Stay tuned, and keep your seatbelt fastened; there’s still more turbulence to come.

I didn’t finish listening to Carol Goodman’s marvelous The Ghost Orchid in the car, but I can finish listening while doing some chores around the office that always need to be done. It’s really fantastic; with DNA from Dark Shadows, Mary Stewart, and Elizabeth Peters; another one of those books that make you think why do I even bother? But Carol’s one of my favorite writers (and favorite people) so I prefer to enjoy her work than beat myself up over not being able to write books as well–there’s no point in that kind of thinking in the first place.

I do feel like the cathartic feel from this weekend might help me buckle down and get back on top of everything. I am so behind on everything that it’s not even funny. I do have an eye appointment this Saturday–just getting my prescription checked; will order new glasses from Zenni if they are needed (and I suspect they are)–and hopefully I will be able to get deeper into the book this week and maybe–just maybe–get all caught up by the end of this coming weekend. I need to go over my to-do list and come up with a new one; I won’t be able to take books to the library sale because of the eye appointment but I should take a box down from the attic this week to get started on the ultimate purge, and hopefully think ahead and plan as much as I can while this good feeling lasts.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Another Suitcase, Another Hall

Well, hello there, Constant Reader! Gregalicious checking in on you from the road, from a motel in Jasper, Alabama. It’s a bit surreal being back in this part of the world, once again seeing for the second time this year the part of the country from which I sprang, as it were. I got up yesterday morning and headed north in a brutal thunderstorm; got Whataburger in Tuscaloosa (and it’s right off Highway 59! I can get it on all trips north from now on!!! Huzzah!), and then cut over to Highway 69 North and found myself driving through the backroads and back ways of where we are from; and before I knew it, I was at Fowler’s Crossroads (which appears in Bury Me in Shadows) and heading through the twisting back roads to meet Dad at Mom’s grave. A second cousin was also at the graveyard visiting her parents (she might be a first cousin once removed, or something. Her mother and my father were first cousins; I don’t know how all that degrees of cousin works, figure it out if you want for yourself), and then my aunt showed up to keep us company. Dad was tending the grave, and he and my aunt got some lovely flowers for the graves (her husband, my father’s brother, passed in either October or November). Afterwards, we drove back over to Jasper where I checked in and hung out with my dad for the rest of the day. I’m glad I made this trip. I am really glad I got to see my father this weekend, and we started thinking about my next trip up north to visit him (and stay in Mom’s house).

I also think that I’ll be able to get back to living my life once I get back home, too. Coming here, being here, has lifted a weight off my chest and off my subconscious mind; in fact, on the way here I was thinking about the book instead of giving as much of my attention to Carol Goodman’s The Ghost Orchid, which of course is fan-fucking-tastic, as all Goodman novels are. (I am hoping to finish it on the way back to New Orleans tomorrow–it has everything I love, including a dual time-line! EEEE!) This trip has been cathartic for me in ways I didn’t think possible, and of course, tomorrow I’ll be spending the late morning/early afternoon visiting graves, and remembering my so-far-distant past. I get it now–the whole graveyard visit thing, which I had always thought before was morbid and part of our weird American cult of death. Now I understand why visiting the graves matters; it’s a way to feel close to our lost departed ones, to remember loving them and being loved by them (Dad said something poignantly beautiful to me today–“she was the first person who loved you” which is both beautiful yet horrible at the same time: beautiful because it was true, yet horrible at the same time for not understanding and recognizing that when she was alive so I could be more appreciative. I saw Andrew Garfield the other day on a Youtube clip from a talk show, where he talked about grief being “all the unexpressed love you have for the person you lost” and that he hoped that the grief would never completely go away, because the pain, no matter how bad it is, is a reminder of that love. Maybe someday I will have something profoundly beautiful to say about grief and loss; I am simply not there yet. Dad also had copies made of some photographs of her–when she was FFA Sweetheart in high school; a “glamour shot” photo she had done for my dad when they were in their fifties; and a candid photo he took of her on a beach in San Diego when they lived there briefly. Mom aged really well, I have to say; in the candid shot she was at least fifty-seven but could have easily passed for her thirties. She had gorgeous skin that was luminous when she was younger; in that FFA Sweetheart photo when she was only fifteen–if she wasn’t wearing the FFA Sweetheart jacket it could have easily been a classic Hollywood glamour shot from Hurrell. Her skin literally glows, the way Ingrid Bergman’s did in black and white. I was very lucky to have a beautiful mother and a handsome father; how their genes and DNA somehow mixed and came up with me is a mystery for the ages.

She certainly aged better than I have. I look like Uncle Fester now but she was beautiful till the moment her heart stopped.

I suppose it’s normal when you lose someone that you love that there are things you wish you could have back, that you have one more chance to talk to them. I wish I could go back to the Friday after Thanksgiving, which was the last time I was able to talk to my mother, and hold her and hug her and kiss her and tell her that I love her, instead of sitting there at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and feeling tired and dreading that twelve hour drive. The coffee was starting to make me feel nauseous because I hadn’t slept well and I realized you’re wasting time sitting here and the more coffee you drink the worse you’re going to feel so I abruptly announced I was going to just go ahead and go. I startled both Mom and Dad, and I know she didn’t walk out with me. I gave her a hug and a kiss at the top of the stairs and told her I loved her and went down the stairs, got into my car, and drove back to New Orleans at ninety miles per hour most of the way so I could get home as fast as I possibly could. Had I known that I wouldn’t see my mother again when she would know who I was? I would have stayed another day at least, or could have stayed another hour that morning, or something. I comfort myself slightly by reminding myself that of course she knew I loved her, that she always knew, even when I wasn’t the most lovable or best son–I was far from being a good child to either of my parents, really–but listening to my dad recite his litany of what he considers his failures as a husband and a father last night made me understand the futility of allowing myself to go down that path.

The first person who loved you.

That’s just wrecking, seriously.

I do think I am slowly starting to heal. I will never not miss my mother, but I think I am beginning to learn how to live with the loss.


In a little bit I’ll be loading up the car and driving north.

We watched more of The Diplomat last night, and I must say, what a terrific show. Keri Russell is fantastic, the writing and production values are top natch, and the cast? Chef’s kiss, really. I also managed to get some work done on the book last evening, as well as doing some chores around the house on breaks from work-at-home duties. I laundered the bed linens, forgot to pick up my dry cleaning, and noted that the humidity has returned–the Formosan termite swarms won’t be far behind, either. There have already been sightings reported on social media, and yet it’s not yet Mother’s Day, which was usually the demarcation line of swarm season. The work on the house next door also looks like it may be winding down at long last, and while the house looks lovely, I still miss my crepe myrtles.

I slept very well last night, so we’ll see how I feel sleeping in a motel tonight. I don’t have much to do to get ready for the drive; my Carol Goodman audiobook is downloaded to my phone, and I just need to pack my shaving kit and a change of clothes to be ready to go, after showering and shaving. I also need to queue up the directions on my phone, too. It should be, all in all, a lovely drive. Mississippi, despite everything, is quite beautiful to drive through, as is Alabama (the entire South is beautiful, more’s the pity), and of course, I’ll probably be working through plot points in my own book while I listen to Carol’s read beautifully through my speakers.

I am not sure what time I will get back here tomorrow, but I assume it will be late, so I will be tired going into my work week. Maybe I should have taken Monday off? But even if I am tired, I should be able to drag my ass to the office. It’s my get-caught-up-on-things day at the office; and I generally am never there for eight hours. Since I am not client-facing on Mondays I am thinking I could probably manage the day despite being tired…and maybe being tired on Monday will help me sleep the rest of the week. I mean, I can dream, can’t I? And Lord, I am behind on everything. Hopefully getting this weekend out of the way will remove the cloud from my subconscious and I can move on ahead without the depressive lows or out-of-nowhere emotional collapses. Again, I can dream, can’t I?

So, when I get back tomorrow night I need to remember to make a list of everything that needs doing in the meantime–there’s a lot I have to do and get done, so I need to make certain that everything that needs doing is written down so I can remember to get to it. I have an eye appointment next Saturday, and I also need to figure out some things about getting the hearing aids and so forth. Heavy heaving sigh. It also looks kind of gray out there this morning; perhaps I should check the weather between here and there before I leave this morning. A thought, to be sure. Looks like rain both today and tomorrow–all the way there and all the way back, as well as here too. Yay, he typed in sarcasm font. That’ll make the drive ever so much easier.

But I don’t mind these lengthy drives, although I’d prefer to teleport wherever I need to be rather than drive or fly. It’s also unusual for me to be gone two consecutive weekends–although of course, after I went to the library events in Birmingham and Wetumpka I had to go to Kentucky the next weekend, and back to Alabama the next–three weekends in a row with me not home. The discovery of audiobooks for the drives changed everything, really. I also worked on cleaning up the piles of books, but haven’t bothered pruning much because I can’t get to the library sale to drop off books before next weekend at the earliest.

I don’t know if there will be an entry tomorrow morning or if it will have to wait until I get home, or Monday morning, one or the other. (And I just realized of course it’s raining today; it’s Jazzfest and it always rains on one of those weekends.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–not sure when I’ll be back. SO hang in there, okay? You got this.


Work at home Friday, woo-hoo! The excitement really never stops, does it? Ah, well.

Yesterday was a pleasant enough day, despite my complete exhaustion by the time the afternoon rolled around. I was fine in the morning, focused and getting things done, but once I went back to seeing clients after my lunch break, I was physically and mentally fatigued. I also had to pick up the mail on my way home–the traffic wasn’t nearly as terrible as it had been the day before; I do NOT know what that was all about, nor do I want to know, frankly. I came home, did some things, and then collapsed into my easy chair. We started watching that new HBO MAX show about the Watergate burglars starring Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux (and if you would have told me in 1989 that Woody from Cheers would become one of our best character actors, I wouldn’t have stopped laughing until 1992), but while it’s exceptionally well done, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy aren’t the kind of people I want to know better or see anything about as the lead characters of anything. It was eerie how well they reproduced suburban life in that period (also having Cersei Lannister playing Mrs. Hunt was an interesting twist), but again…I couldn’t get a sense of whether this was parody or striving for accuracy (which shows how insane Hunt and Liddy both are/were), so after one episode we tapped out and switched over to The Diplomat, which is amazing. I fell asleep during the second episode (I’ll rewatch it to get caught up at some point) because I was, simply stated, completely exhausted from a week of working and not sleeping well and emotional upset, I suppose. Last night I slept like a rock–completely dead to the world all night, and even slept for nearly ten hours before rising this morning rested and refreshed. It is quite lovely, frankly, and I feel terrific for the first time all week. Of course tomorrow I have to drive to Alabama (and back again on Sunday) but I have already selected Carol Goodman’s The Ghost Orchid to listen to on the ride to and fro, and I am kind of excited at the chance to listen to yet another brilliant book by one of my current favorite authors.

I’ve not had a chance to pick up Lori Roy’s brilliant Let Me Die in His Footsteps, which I was reading on the way home from Malice last Sunday and loving every word. Despite the fact she has two Edgars and another nomination from her first three books (which is pretty amazing on every level), I think her more recent work is even better than her earlier work. This book is also pretty fantastic, and I can see why it did win the Best Novel Edgar. Roy has a very hypnotic writing style, and is a master of voice; this story is told by two very different and very distinct voices with an alternating dual time-line, which is also something I love, love, love. The pity is that when I finally do finish this book, there will only be one Lori Roy novel left that I’ve not read, When She Comes Home, and I’ll have to hold onto that one until she publishes another book unless I want to (sigh) finish her entire published canon thus far.

I dread the day when I run out of Carol Goodman novels to read, for example.

It’s been a tough week, and I think that its my subconscious dealing with the issues of what this weekend means, really. Over the course of my life I’ve become really good at compartmentalizing my life into different rooms in my brain and shutting and locking the door on things, thinking I can’t deal with that now, I’ll deal with it later but some things are too big to be locked away, and they seep out through the cracks around the door in its frame and drag like a heavy stone at my being and emotions. I hit a major wall when I got home from work on Wednesday; I just got overwhelmed out of nowhere with grief and collapsed into my easy chair for some purring cat therapy. I also find that my moods can easily be shifted with essentially a snap of the fingers this week. I am unused to this kind of grief, and periodically wonder–with a sense of dread and horror–how much worse this will be when I lose Dad, as he is the only parent I have left. I know I am lucky. I had my mom for nearly sixty-two years; most people don’t get that long with one parent, let alone two. How much harder would this have been to deal with when I was younger and more immature?

But that is the kind of thing I always dismiss when it comes to mind–the path of regret is one of futility, wasted time and energy and emotion. You cannot change anything, so what is the point of trying to figure out or thinking about how different things might have been had you chosen A instead of B at this point, or D instead of Y then? The ripple effect of every choice we make reaches people we don’t know in ways we’ll never know, so maybe different choices made by me could have resulted in horrible things happening to other people, and why on earth would I wish bad things for people I don’t even know? That sounds terrible, frankly, and nothing I would ever want.

In some ways, this morning I am kind of looking forward to the drive north. I mean, yes, the destination is grim and sad, but it’s a beautiful drive; I have a great novel to listen to, and I really am looking forward to seeing my father. I want to get a good look at him, you know, and listen to him and see how he is doing. It’s so hard to tell via email or text, you know? Nothing like having eyes on someone for a proper assessment. I’ve decided to go up there this summer for a while, keep him company and spend some more time with him. (And yes, hateful little voice inside my head, I am very aware that I should have been doing this when Mom was alive. No sense in regrets, but I don’t want to feel this way when I lose Dad, so…changes in mentality and thinking are necessary going forward. I do wish it were easier to get up there than it is, though. I don’t think anyone can fault me for thinking that, either.)

Ah well, I have work-at-home duties to take care of as well as chores, so I am going to bring this to a close and head into the spice mines. I’ll check in with you again tomorrow before I leave, Constant Reader, and have a lovely day.

Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

I think I was always aware of the existence of New Orleans; I just don’t know or remember how my impressions before visiting for that first real visit were formed. I know I learned about New Orleans from my love of history; the city was too important to the development and shaping of the country to not be featured extensively in books–particularly the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, I remember, had me wanting to come visit; I discovered Julie Smith’s New Orleans Mourning after visiting for my thirty-third birthday and realizing that I’d found the place where I belonged, needed to be, and my dreams would all come true.

New Orleans has a very deep canon of literature; you name a kind of book, one has been written in that style about the city. And just as there are a lot of subgenres of crime fiction–you can pretty much find a book about the city in any of them. There have been a number of cozy series set here, in every type of cozy style. I’ve always wanted to find a good cozy series set in New Orleans to sink my teeth into–the humorous kind–and while I’ve tried quite a few, none of them really took with me. That’s not to say the books weren’t well-done and written, or unclever; they just didn’t connect with me. I eventually stopped trying to find one, really–but of course, as with anything, just because you didn’t connect with the first two series you tried, doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

Take Ellen Byron’s Vintage Cookbook series, for one good example. I greatly enjoyed the first book in the series, Bayou Book Thief, which went on to win the Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery earlier this year. It was a terrific series launch, and had me really looking forward to the second book in the series, which is when series generally begin to find their legs and hit their stride.

And so, on my travel day to Malice, I read Wined and Died in New Orleans.

Ricki’s heart hammered as she glanced at the ominous black clouds hovering over New Orleans from the front window of her shotgun cottage home. She took a deep breath, then used masking tape to make X’s on the windowpanes of the living room’s large front window. She grunted as she hefted a mattress ontp the top of the room’s couch and positioned it over the taped window. “We’re safe now,” Ricki assured her dogs, a German shepherd mix and a Chihuahua mix, who were watching her with curiosity. “Even if the hurricane sends stuff crashing into the windows, they’ll break but won’t shatter into a million pieces. And the mattress will keep everything from flying inside.”

A violent clap of thunder shook the house. Ricki cried out. Princess and Thor, the shepherd and Chihuahua, barked at it. I choose to feel calm. I choose positive and nurturing thoughts. Ricki repeated the mantra over and over to herself. She’d been saying it a lot lately. Seconds later, rain slammed the cottage roof with an almost deafening force. Ricki’s phone sounded an alert and she grabbed it. She read the message: Hurricane watch canceled.

“Seriously?” Ricki said with a frustrated groan.

Ricki is our erstwhile heroine, who recently relocated to her birth city, New Orleans, after her husband died in a freak accident while trying to create a viral video. Since her return, she’s found a love interest with the handsome celebrity chef who lives across the street; developed a friendship with her landlady; and opened her own vintage cookbook shop at Bon Vee, the mansion of the Charbonnet family–known for owning restaurants and their delicious food. There are some great characters at the Garden District mansion since converted to a culinary museum celebrating the family that Ricki befriends as well; all in all, a lovely little community of friends and support for her.

This book is set during Ricki’s first hurricane season, and yes, Byron gets what that is like absolutely right–the constant warning texts of warnings and watches and their cancellations–as well as the blase attitude of the locals; we never get concerned terribly until we know something for sure and even then, you can’t be certain if you need to evacuate “just in case.” Evacuating for most people isn’t free, and even if the only disruption is a power outage–if it’s long enough you have to throw everything in the refrigerator out.

Thank God we didn’t make our Costco run the week of Ida, which was when we were due to go. It’s also been a hot minute since I dipped into hurricane season in one of my books. (Mississippi River Mischief does have some hurricane content, but it’s one from the previous season) But I digress.

The plot of this story is put into motion when several cases of really old wine–from the nineteenth century–are found on the estate, and because of its age, it’s really valuable. The decision is made to auction the wine off and put the money back into the museum–which doesn’t always break even–but the discovery of the wine brings some distant relations of the Charbonnet family out of the woodwork, all claiming they deserve a share of the wine sale proceeds. Ricki is also dealing with an intern; her crush across the street (with whom she time shares two dogs) has hired an assistant who sees Ricki as the competition and undermines her at every turn; and of course, one of the distant relations turns up dead and Ricki has to clear her friends–all of whom are suspects–of the murder.

There’s also a wonderful New Orleans pothole that plays a crucial role in the story.

I loved this book. I laughed out loud on the plane a couple of times–and smiled at others, when I recognized something from one of mine and Ellen’s boozy get togethers whenever she comes to town, which made the book all that much more fun to read for me. But it’s fun even if you don’t have a personal connection to it, either. Buy this book, love and cherish it!

And you can thank me later.


Well, it’s back to the office with me today. It seems like it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been to work; last Wednesday seems like it was a very long time ago. I am going to be undoubtedly terribly behind on everything once I get there, but that’s the hard-knock life I suppose. I didn’t sleep great last night, and I am a little tired this morning–groggy–but hopeful the coffee will take care of that. I didn’t want to get up either, and now that I am up I am uninspired to do anything. I think I might be a little stressed about everything I have to get done this month but there’s naught to do but place nose on grindstone and move forward.

I had my hearing test yesterday and it’s official; I am hard of hearing. When I am speaking to someone one on one with no ambient noise, I only hear 80% of what people are saying to me. Start adding ambient noise and the percentage of hearing drops dramatically; basically she told me what I already knew: I cannot hear in restaurants and bars. Apparently operating through insurance to get the hearing aids I clearly need is going to require effort, as well. (I also had a co-pay at the office, which was odd; the deductible was paid off earlier this year and he’s in network–so I need to look into that as well. Fucking insurance shouldn’t be this difficult.) I wasn’t thrilled to get this diagnosis, but at the same time was kind of like well, at least it’s not my imagination or something I am doing on purpose. I have an eye appointment a week from Saturday, too, so yes, getting new appointments and taking care of basic maintenance all over the place. I also have a dental appointment at some point too; I stopped procrastinating about everything and tried to get it all taken care of in one day, calling and making appointments all over the place. It was most impressive for me, especially given how much I hate doing that sort of thing.

It was a beautiful day in New Orleans yesterday; eighty-eight degrees but not humid at all, which is heavenly. To me, that just feels pleasantly warm and comfortable; it’s amazing what a difference dry air makes in this case. I did manage to get all of my errands done, the laundry taken care of, and other chores around the house. I was tired most of the day, despite the good night’s sleep I had Sunday, and last night Paul and I finished watching The Watchful Eye, so you don’t have to. It’s not very good; the plot is full of holes, the writing and acting are kind of bad, and the dialogue is outright laughable at times, but it was entertaining enough in that train wreck kind of way that can be fun to watch at times. I started reading Lori Roy’s marvelous Let Me Die in His Footsteps on the flight home Sunday, and I really need to get back to it because it really is remarkable.

God, I have so much to do! The mind literally reels. And this weekend I have to go meet Dad in Alabama, and of course it’s also Mother’s Day, which is going to make it that much more difficult to deal with. It’s not an ordeal by any means; it’s a relatively easy drive and I have a Carol Goodman to listen to in the car both directions, but it’s going to be emotionally draining and means my weekend is gone and cannot be used to get caught up. Yay. But I just need to buckle down this week, ignore the cat’s whining when I get home, and focus focus focus on getting the manuscript revised as well as start editing another one. Heavy heaving sigh. But if I can make it through May…everything should be out of the way at the end of the month and so I can spring into June with nothing due anywhere, which would be absolutely lovely and am not quite sure on how I will process that? LOL. It’s not like I don’t have a million things in progress that need to be finished, either.

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

I’ll Remember

Monday morning and I got home from Malice Domestic yesterday afternoon after a rather odd but interesting time at the airport–more on that later. I was very tired–exhausted would not be hyperbole–but also very glad I was home. I had a lovely, wonderful, splendid time; the only regrets I have are that there were times when I was tired and had to go rest in my room for a while and take a break rather than spend that time catching up with old friends while getting to know the new ones. I had trouble sleeping the entire trip, which was unfortunate; even going two days without having any Coke didn’t do the trick (and once it didn’t work, why continue depriving myself?). But what a marvelous, friendly event Malice Domestic turned out to be this year! I also got to thank some people in person for their kindnesses over the last year which was also lovely. I read Ellen Byron’s marvelous Wined and Died in New Orleans on the trip up, so didn’t mind the flight delay or the rush hour traffic my cab from the airport was unfortunately timed to cross paths with. But because of the delay I went for a long time without eating–nothing from my yogurt before I left for the airport until about eight o’clock that evening–so my blood sugar dropped and I never really caught up on it over the course of the weekend. That and the no sleep resulted in a very tired Gregalicious who arrived at the Lost Apartment much later than scheduled–which was yet another life lesson.

On my way to the airport in a Lyft (wonderful, friendly driver named Tyrone who got a 25% tip), just as he dropped me off Southwest texted me of a half hour delay on my flight. No worries–I got to the airport about two hours before the flight, so…an extra half hour, no big deal. Of course, it’s Washington National…small, cramped, overcrowded, and not many options for food once you’re past security. And then it seem like every half hour there was another text with another hour delay. Tired and uncomfortable, I started getting annoyed. But as the delays continued to pile up–along with gate changes, which meant moving and trying to find another place to sit–I moved from irritation to acceptance to amusement, along with a lot of empathy for the airline employees. While they never said what the problem was, I’d assumed it was weather–but now this morning, I am beginning to think it was a mechanical issue. The last text I got extending the delay to make it another two and a half hours after the airport was followed shortly thereafter by another text changing the gate and now moving the flight up from its previous 3:45 departure (originally scheduled for 12:45) to 2:00 pm, which clearly meant they’d exchanged an aircraft and crew for the original one I was supposed to be on. So, that was cool, and the flight was two-thirds empty, so I got an entire row to myself just as I did on the way up to DC. I also hadn’t eaten, and there was nowhere to eat during the delay other than a pizza place (and I wasn’t in the mood for pizza) so was starving by the time I retrieved my bag and car and headed for home. I stopped and got Paul and I dinner–I knew there wouldn’t be anything in the Lost Apartment to eat–and then came home, exhausted and happy to be back home. I love conferences; I love seeing my people and my friends and making new ones and discovering new books and writers to enjoy. My Agatha nominees panel was marvelous, and excellently moderated by Alan Orloff. I was fun being on a panel with Elizabeth Bunce again (and her Myrtle series is marvelous; check it out) and Frances Schoonmaker was an absolute delight. We also somehow all three wound up wearing red and black to the banquet, which was a delightful surprise. I got to sit next to Valona Jones (aka Maggie Toussaint) at the table–she’s lovely– as was everyone else at my table. Didn’t win–so, as per my post the other day, it now seems real to me, and I got my nominees’ certificate which I am going to proudly hang somewhere in the my office space. But there’s also no disgrace in losing to Nancy Springer and Enola Holmes, either. I got to talk about my book, which was nice-when you’re as prolific as I am, sometimes conferences fall in such a way that I’ve had two out since the last conference, so sometimes I don’t get to talk about a book that I’ve written anywhere publicly other than here and social media. I also loved the questions Alan asked us on the panel; I’m thinking I may answer them at length on here because they were that great kind of question that you could literally spend an hour talking about instead of just the limited time we had for the panel. (I was also thinking I should maybe talk more about the book again? I don’t know. It was lovely. I had a lot of people tell me they’d read it and even more telling me it was a great title…so maybe I should talk about it some more? I don’t know.) I got to sit next to Mariah Fredericks at the signing, so I got to meet and talk to her a bit and she’s delightful (her latest, The Lindbergh Nanny, sounds amazing). I am glad I got to spend some time with friends, too–there was lots of laughter, which was wonderful–and I never got over-served, which was also a first for me at a mystery conference! Maybe that was why I couldn’t sleep? Nah, definitely not that. I also got to talk about being banned for the first time in years; for one thing, it’s hard to believe it happened eighteen years ago and now everyone is dealing with the shit I dealt with back then, too….so it occurs to me that in light of the return of the banning, I should probably write about it again from the perspective of how things are now. I also was thinking I should write about how much I love Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels after going to the appreciation panel; she helped found Malice, which always puts Malice into a special place in my heart already because I loved her work.

Anyway, I got home while it was still light out, unloaded my suitcase into the washing machine and got that started; put my dress clothes in a pile to take to the dry cleaner’s; and then spent the evening relaxing with Paul and Scooter while we watched Ghosted (the new Chris Evans/Ana de Armas action/adventure rom-com which was actually kind of cute and fun–the two stars are likable and charming and have good chemistry) and then more episodes of The Watchful Eye, which is quite strange and oddly entertaining. We’ll probably finish off the series tonight. I do have a lot to do today–I took the day off, and am very glad I did, as I was exhausted and OMG, I slept so good; there’s nothing like your own bed, seriously–and then we’ll need to find something new, although I think there are some shows we watch dropping new seasons this month. I have to get the mail, pick up a prescription, gas up the car, have a doctor’s appointment, need to get groceries, and have a ZOOM meeting tonight. I also have to dig back into the book; I am so horribly behind on this revision it’s not even funny. ANd it’s May already. Jesus. I also started reading Lori Roy’s marvelous Edgar winning Let Me Die in His Footsteps from 2015; Constant Reader, it is quite wonderful and I honestly can’t wait to finish reading it. Lori Roy is one of my favorite current authors, and doesn’t get nearly the attention she should. (She’s also one of those rare authors who hit the ultimate dual–Edgars for Best First Novel and later for Best Novel.) The kitchen is a mess, as always, but I’m glad I spent some time before the trip trying to get that shit caught up because it isn’t nearly as bad as it could be (and was).

And now I have a day to get caught up on life after being in my author bubble for a few days to ease my reentry into my regular life. I won’t get to be AUTHOR again until Bouchercon in San Diego. But that’s okay, you know. I like the balance of the two different parts of my life, and there’s nothing like working in an STI clinic to keep you not only humble but grounded in the real world.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and thanks again to everyone at Malice Domestic for a simply marvelous weekend.

Bedtime Story

Saturday morning of Malice and I am up at this ungodly hour because I have a very early (for me) panel, the Agatha Awards Best Children’s/Young Adult nominees panel. I still don’t believe I’m an Agatha finalist–that won’t sink in completely until after I lose tonight at the banquet (the noms never seem real to me until I lose). I am very grateful to everyone who voted for me to be nominated, and yes, it is absolutely 100% true that the nomination in and of itself is an honor. I’m definitely not the first queer author with a queer themed book to be nominated for an Agatha; there are two of us this year for sure (yay for Rob Osler!), but the past? Hard to say with any certainty without going back and reading everything that has ever been a finalist, but I’m still pretty proud of myself. The queer kid who used to dream big in his bedroom in Kansas has now been nominated for four Anthonys, a Lefty, a Macavity, and an Agatha, among others, and all of these have been a shock and a surprise–very very pleasant ones, at that–because it never even crossed my mind that any of that was even potentially possible for me, ever. Awards aren’t something I think about when I write anything (the very idea of hmm this might win me some awards is a completely alien concept for me; I think that’s the case with every writer. I could be wrong), but they are absolutely lovely.

And I try not to let the egomaniacal narcissist at the core of my being to get caught up in the competitive mindset. I learned that lesson the first time I was ever nominated for anything, when Murder in the Rue Dauphine was nominated for a Lammy. Oh, how I wanted to win that goddamned Lammy! I was still new to the business and very raw; still adjusting to the reality that everything I’d ever wanted in and for my life was happening, and I was still scarred from years of thinking (and being told, repeatedly) that my dreams were unrealistic and would never happen. I think I wanted the validation of winning an award more than the award itself; it was another opportunity to flip off the people who’d always tore me down and belittled me, made me feel unworthy of anything good. But when my name wasn’t called after the ritual opening of the envelope, I was overcome with disappointment and the thought still not worthy flashed through my head as the winner walked up on-stage to accept his award. But as I sat there, listening to the winner thank people, seeing how genuinely moved he was, and remembering he’s such a nice guy, I realized I was genuinely happy for him. The dark clouds parted and the sun started shining again. I’d been a finalist. Many writers are never nominated for anything; I’d say the vast majority of us are never finalists for any kind of award. Some only get nominated once and then never again. My little debut mystery novel that no agent wanted to represent had been picked by judges as one of the best five gay mysteries published in that year. It earned out and sold well. I should be grateful, not competitive. I don’t really like that competitive mentality that springs up in my head around this kind of thing, so I always try to stomp that mentality out whenever it rears its ugly head.

That first book started a career that now spans over twenty-one years, forty novels, fifty short stories, and over twenty anthologies edited. I’ve been nominated for so many awards over the years that I can’t even remember them all. I’ve even won a few times, which is incredibly humbling. I’ve shared a table of contents in anthologies with major writers whose work I admire and respect–and can call some of them friends. I am so incredibly lucky and blessed, and sometimes (frequently) I forget that. I have an amazing life. I live in a city I love with the man I love doing the work I love–both writing and the day job. The day job can be exhausting, but I actually do work that makes a difference in people’s lives, and I am not the kind of person who can be happy doing a job that I don’t feel makes positive change in the world. My day job has also been an incredible education; I’ve learned so much from my co-workers and my clients that it kind of seems wrong that I get paid. I have the most amazing friends in the world; incredibly smart and talented and kind and supportive people, the kind of friends I used to dream about having when I was that lonely kid in Kansas that everyone whispered about (some said it to my face, but while painful and awful at the time, I kind of respect them more than the ones who pretended to be my friend while mocking and laughing at me behind my back. For the record, it was a very small school and everyone talked, so I knew then who you all were and I still know it now. Have never once regretted getting out of that shit-hole state.). I know so many wonderful people now; so many that I really want to get to know better–what a marvelous problem to have, right? I know so many amazing people that I can’t get to know them all as well as I would like.

The kind of problems I never dreamed I’d ever have. Lucky, blessed, and charmed. Awards are really just lagniappe.

And on that note, I am going to get ready to go forage for coffee and get ready for my panel. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader–and I will be very happy and proud for whoever’s name gets called tonight.