Tumbling Dice

Monday morning and all is quiet and dark in the Lost Apartment this morning. I slept well again last night–I’m getting rather spoiled by all this good sleep, really–and yet it’s weird to be up again when it’s so dark outside. Today is my first full week of work this entire year–not bad, really, since it’s the last week of the month–but it’s also going to be weird to be working every day. I have that event this Saturday at the Convention Center, but other than that my entire focus this entire week is going to be writing (just like always). Everything is going the way it’s supposed to –I’ve already started questioning my choices about the story, so we’re right on track–and I am not getting stressed about anything, so that’s also working for me this year. I’d love to have another day off, though.

And parade season is literally right around the corner.

I didn’t write as much this weekend as I would have liked to, unfortunately; that seems to be very much par for the course, sadly. I’ll have a lot to get done this weekend, of course–that’s how it always seems to work, doesn’t it? That last minute push–but it’s fine. I guess the Joey Burrow and the Bengals won again yesterday–I really only pay attention to the Bengals and the Saints; I pull for the Bengals because of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, of course. I wish the Saints could have gotten him, seriously, but we had a really good run as Saints fans and so I am not going to complain about their return to mediocrity.

We watched two more episodes of Mayfair Witches and there are some substantial changes to the story from the book, but it’s enjoyable watching and there was one point last night where I kind of had to laugh; one of the most vivid and poignant things in the book is how they always parked drugged out of her mind Deirdre on the side porch every day for everyone and anyone walking past the house to see–it wasn’t until last night that it dawned on me how uniquely New Orleans and Southern Gothic that actually is; of course they put her out on the side porch on display for the entire world to see rather than keeping her hidden away inside the decaying mansion. I’m enjoying the show, much like how I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire. I am not one of those people who inevitably are disappointed with adaptations of novels I enjoyed; I long ago sensed that you can’t compare a television series or movie to a novel as they are completely different media and differences are inevitable–they should be viewed and valued for what they are rather than what they should have been. Changes have to be made–just like how the house they used for filming and converted to look like the house at First and Chestnut isn’t exactly the same; Deirdre’s porch wasn’t the main gallery of the house but a completely separate and different side porch, coming off the living room windows. But you have to adapt to what you are working with, and since they couldn’t use the actual house–obviously there would be differences.

I also have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon on Wednesday, which means having to leave early that day (so I guess it’s not really a full week of work after all), so I can finally get my arm looked at and possibly start the process of getting hearing aids. Yay for health insurance! I am tired a bit this morning–more like still sleepy more than anything else, it’s funny how the meaning of tired has changed over the years–and could easily climb back into bed and sleep for another two hours or so. I like that I am getting good sleep so that I feel rested; weekend after next will be the weekend in Alabama which means I won’t be sleeping again relatively soon, sigh. (It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to travel at all anymore because the lack of sleep becomes debilitating.) But I won’t be traveling again after that weekend until San Diego and Bouchercon in August/September, unless I have to go to Kentucky for something in the meantime, and I am really looking forward to the build up of accrued time off. I really do think I may just take a week off in May or June just to stay home and work on things around the house–which will inevitably lead to me being lazy and doing nothing for most of that time, which is not good. I am hoping that the arm check-up will go well and will eventually lead to me being cleared to return to the gym, but I also fear I am being overly optimistic. Visually the arms look vastly different from each other now, which really has me concerned about something like a torn muscle or something like that–but you’d think that would be more painful and wouldn’t have stopped hurting as quickly as this did? It’s always something. I guess I should check into the yoga schedule at the gym and see if there’s any classes that work with my schedule. Stretching, riding the bike, walking on the treadmill…these are all things that don’t require me to actually use my arms much, so….no excuses.

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

Promises in the Dark

I grew up loving both horror and crime stories–those wonderful old black and white Universal monster movies used to scare me to death, not to mention all the marvelous ghost stories and mysteries that got filmed back in the day. I also watched a lot of the 1950’s paranoia horror monster movies–Godzilla and its ilk–and those also used to give me horrible nightmares. I also liked how twisted horror comic books like The Witching Hour, House of Mystery and House of Secrets were. I’ve always wanted to write those kinds of stories, but if you think I have zero confidence in my abilities as a crime/mystery writer, there’s even less when it comes to my writing of horror. I never feel like I ever get it right, you know, and my stuff is macabre and peculiar and slightly twisted, but it’s not really scary. But like I did with the mystery novels and movies I watched as a child, I was always looking for myself in those tales and not finding myself. Oh, every once in a while there would be some homoeroticism in some horror I would be reading (Peter Straub’s If You Could See Me Now comes to mind), but for the most part, there wasn’t much. Thomas Tryon’s The Other resonated with me–it wasn’t until decades later that I learned Tryon was gay, and that sensibility infused all of his work, hence my connection with it–but usually when gays showed up in horror they inevitably were effeminate and soon to become victims. (Kill your gays has always been a thing, clearly.)

When I was going through my “I want to be the gay Stephen King” phase in the 1980’s, I didn’t put gay characters or themes in any of my stories–although rereading my attempts at horror from then now, I can see the sensibility was always there–but the horror novel I started writing in about 1986 or 1987, The Enchantress, had a gay point of view character, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was always afraid, you see, to include gay characters in anything I hoped to get published because I was so busy keeping my two lives completely separated that I feared writing sympathetic gay characters would out me. (During my many writings about my high school students from Kansas, one of them was actually gay and was probably the most realistic and honest character in all of those writings) Trying to salvage those stories now, decades later, I sometimes will revise one and make the point of view character gay–which inevitably makes the story work better, incidentally–and they see publication eventually; “Crazy in the Night” was one of those stories, and another morphed into Bury Me in Shadows, actually. Just this morning I was thinking about some more of those old stories and how to make a couple of them work–partly because I spent the last two mornings reading Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology from the Horror Writers Association, edited by my friends Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason. The point of the anthology was to focus and highlight horror stories from marginalized writers–where they are marginalized by race or religion or sexual orientation or gender identity, and it includes stories from some of the top names in horror publishing today.

As with any anthology, some stories stick with the reader more than others; this isn’t a dis on any of the contributors to the anthology–every story was incredibly well-written–it’s just that everything is subjective and some stories stick with the reader longer than others. For me, the standouts were Jennifer McMahon (“Idiot Girls”); Alma Katsu (“Waste Note”); Gabino Iglesias (“There’s Always Something in the Woods”); Hailey Piper (“The Turning”); Larissa Glasser (“Kalkriese”), Michael Thomas Ford (“When The Lovelight Gleams”); M. E. Bronstein (“The Voices of Nightingales”); and S. A. Cosby (“What Blood Hath Wrought”). These were the ones that really resonated me, with the connections of strong writing, three dimensional characters, and completeness of the story. For many of the contributors, this is my first experience with their work, and I will definitely look out for more of their work. These were the ones that made me start thinking about ideas and stories and characters; stories that not only were enjoyable and immersive to read but also kick-started my own creativity and inspiration.

And what more can you ask from a reading experience, as a fellow writer?

Now I want to write more horror.

Definitely check the book out, Constant Reader, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

He’s a gas, gas, gas!

Here we are on another gray weekend morning. It was supposed to rain off and on all day yesterday–it didn’t–but it turned out to be a pretty good day. I wrote about eight thousand words or so, give and take, and made groceries in the afternoon. I did take care of some chores around the Lost Apartment, too, and I spent some time yesterday morning with Other Horrors, which I should finish this morning as I only have three stories left. There have been a couple that puzzled me, but overall, I’ve enjoyed the collection for the most part. I’d be pressed to pick a favorite story, though. Reading it has again reminded me that I am not, no matter how much I wish I was, a horror writer. I just don’t have the imagination, I don’t think, to be a horror writer. I can write Gothic suspense–suspense stories with a touch of the supernatural in them, like Lake Thirteen and Bury Me in Shadows–but I just don’t have the kind of mind that goes to horror when I think about writing.

We also finished off That 90’s Show last night and started watching Mayfair Witches, an adaptation of Anne Rice’s Mayfair trilogy, beginning with my favorite of her novels, The Witching Hour. I am predisposed to like this, since I loved the book so much (the rest of the trilogy not so much), and of course I drove past the house they turned into the Mayfair house for filming on Prytania Street all the time. (They did not use the actual house at First and Chestnut; one thing I did have a problem with was the way they showed Dierdre’s porch, which was different on the actual house than how depicted on the show) There are two more episodes for us to get through tonight, which is cool. I slept extremely well last night again–it’s remarkable how well I’ve been sleeping since getting back from New York–and my psoriasis seems to be under control again for the first time in years. There are a few things I need from the grocery store, but I think I can safely put that off until tomorrow and can stop on the way home from work. This morning I did get up earlier than I wanted to–I am sleeping so well I could stay in bed all day without an issue, I think–but I eel good. My legs have finally stopped feeling sore and tired, thank God, and I think I can safely say that I have completely reacclimated to my day to day life again.

I’m still listening to the Hadestown score, but I also started listening to the Christine McVie-Lindsay Buckingham album the two recorded a few years ago, and it’s quite good. The harmonies! Although I can’t help but think two things while listening: first, I wish Lindsay Buckingham had produced one of her solo albums and second, the one thing missing is Stevie Nicks and this would have made an amazing Fleetwood Mac album, which I think was what it was originally intended to be but Stevie wasn’t available or something or another. It’s also sad to know there will never be another Fleetwood Mac album since Christine’s untimely passing last year (not with my favorite line-up, at any rate). I need to move her solo album from the 1980’s back into my rotation–it’s a great and always underrated record. It’s hard to imagine the band moving on without either Christine or Lindsay (whom they fired), and Stevie already has a band she tours with as a solo act…sigh. Fleetwood Mac was the soundtrack of my teens and twenties and it’s just very weird that it’s finally over after all these years for me. When I write about the 1970’s–which I probably will do either later this year or sometime next–it will indelibly have Fleetwood Mac music all over the score of my work.

When I finish this book, I have to spend February revising Mississippi River Mischief and should spend some time doing a massive copy edit of Jackson Square Jazz so I finally have all of the Scotty series for sale as ebooks at long last. Once I get that done, March will be spent revising the one I am writing now, and then finally come April I can get back to work on Chlorine at long last. I’d like to get a draft of it finished in April so I can write another first draft of something else in May (I already know what it is going to be) and then will probably spend the rest of the year writing short stories and novellas and revising everything to see what can happen with them. Next year I want to write yet another Scotty book and that’s when I am going to try to write my 1970’s Chicago suburb boys-are-disappearing novel, too. None of this is carved into stone tablets, either–things always come up along the way, new ideas or hey Greg want to write a book we’ll pay you xxx for it and I never ever say no to things like that. I’d also like to come up with a new short story collection at some time, or perhaps the three-in-one book novella collection; it’s hard to say. And I kind of want to try to write a romance. There’s always so much I want to write, isn’t there?

Heavy heaving sigh. I don’t think I’ll ever match the days when I used to write four or five novels per year, but I do think I am going to be able to get a lot more writing done now in the next few years. Next weekend I am doing a signing at the ALA event here in New Orleans at the Convention Center, and of course the next weekend I am off to Alabama, and then it’s Carnival. Utter madness!

And now I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will probably check in with you again later.

Street Fighting Man

Saturday and all is calm within the Lost Apartment, at least so far this morning–who know what will happen later? One can never really be certain.

Heavy sigh. My dryer stopped heating yesterday–a tragedy was averted when I remembered that there was a working dryer in the carriage house so I could dry everything over there, which beats taking it to a laundromat–but rather than let that get me down or upset me at all, I figured out a solution (see sentence between dashes above) and went on with my day. I got my work-at-home duties done around doing some organizing and cleaning in the kitchen/office (I discovered more MWA stuff that can be archived and filed away) and did the dishes, making the kitchen sort of bearable to look at. I got some writing done, which was marvelous, and figured out why my printer kept jamming and fixed it (clearly, it was a solution-driven day for one Gregalicious around the Lost Apartment), so I no longer need to continue looking for a new printer/scanner/copier, which was really super great. (Especially since we now appear to be in the market for a new dryer, damn it all to hell. I think I can probably fix it–its probably a fuse, but the laundry room is really too small and inconvenient to get behind the dryer and try to remove or fix anything; I may give it a try later today to see what can be done. There’s a Lowe’s near the office I can run to after work on Monday if it’s indeed something I myself can handle–and wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to replace a fuse rather than having to order a new one and have it delivered, making arrangements for me to be on hand for it to arrive and everything? Augh. I kept hoping it would fix itself miraculously to no avail. Heavy heaving sigh.

I slept very well again last night and even slept in a little bit this morning. I’m not sure exactly what changed with the sleep situation around here, but it’s nice. Scooter got me up at seven whining for food, but I went back to bed and fell right back asleep for another hour and a half. I feel rested and relaxed and centered this morning, which is nice. I do have to go pick up groceries I ordered today but other than that I don’t really have to leave the house. It’s gray out there this morning and it feels chilly inside–I turned the heat off yesterday because it was a bit stuffy in the house, but I don’t mind a bit of a chill, seriously. My coffee tastes marvelous this morning, and I do need to get a lot of writing done today–I got some done yesterday but not nearly enough–and of course I think my Saturday morning ritual of doing some reading before starting to write is probably a good idea. I think I am going to finish reading Other Horrors this morning and perhaps tomorrow, and then maybe start in on The Last King of California or one of the myriad of cozies I have on hand. I know I want to read the Edgar finalists I have on hand that I’ve not yet read, too.

After watching the LSU gymnastics meet against Missouri (Tigers win! Geaux Tigers!) and this week’s Servant over on Apple TV (which is really interesting), we decided to give That 90’s Show a whirl on Netflix for a bit of nostalgia. (We watched early seasons of That 70’s Show before finally giving up as it got stale) and actually kind of enjoyed it. The kids are appealing, and who knew Red and Kitty were the anchors of the original show so much so that they could anchor the reboot, too? All they need is goofy hormonal teenagers to play off and you have a show. We only have three episodes left to watch, and while it wasn’t high art by any means, it was enjoyable and entertaining enough–who needs more than that on a Friday night after a long week of reentry into reality? I kind of want to watch The Pale Blue Eye at some point over this weekend.

I’m also trying very hard not to get too giddy over how easy it is for me to deal with my emails now. I’m still not used to it, nor am I used to taking a break from doing anything and not feeling guilty about the massive to-do I’ve yet to master/conquer. (Note to self: you need to make a new one to work on) But while I was working at home yesterday and working around the dryer issue, I also managed to get the kitchen–notably my desk area–back under control, which was a very good thing. I still have more organizing and filing to do, but it’s not the enormous task now that it was yesterday morning, and I am looking forward to having it completely under control today. I was also looking through all the drafts here of my blog and am thinking a good goal for this spring would be to get them all finished and posted. I need to do some more blatant self-promotion for A Streetcar Named Murder too; I am curious, though, as to what else I can do to do New Orleans promotional posts that tie into the book somehow. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to look through the book again? Might be something to do later on after I get my writing for the day finished.

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

Honky Tonk Women

We don’t really hear that word used much anymore, do we–honky tonk? It was used a lot when I was a kid, mostly in country music songs, but it was also one of those words/phrases that for whatever reason grated on my when I was younger. Even now I think honky tonk just sounds silly phonetically; why this bugs me so much I will probably never know. (I think it was because it seemed coy to me when I was a kid; like it was a phrase that stood in for something you couldn’t say on television or in the movies or in a song, like making whoopie or making love when what you mean to say is fuck; I always hated that, even as a kid. Just say what you fucking mean. Seriously, y’all, the days of censorship was just incredibly stupid, and don’t even get me started on that staple of soap operas–making love. Gah.)

I am going to have to use “honky tonk” in a title sometime.

Well, last night was probably the best night of sleep of all time, bar none. I feel like I could have stayed in bed easily all day and just kept sleeping, and that was marvelous. I may not be completely awake yet–hello, coffee!–but I feel marvelously rested and relaxed this morning, and so I feel like I am going to be able to get a lot done today. I didn’t get quota yesterday–fell a thousand or so short, alas–which will have to be made up for over the course of the weekend if I am to get back on schedule. I am, oddly enough, not as stressed about this as I ordinarily would be, to be honest–I am feeling confident these days, which is a strange but lovely feeling, and one I don’t ever remember having before when it comes to writing.

No worries, I am sure it will pass soon.

I had a nice day yesterday. After work I had to run a couple of errands, and found Jordan Harper’s UK release The Last King of California, waiting for me at the post office from Book Depository (my go-to for UK publications), which I am kind of excited about. I want to finish reading the stories in Other Horrors this weekend, and then I think I’m going to read another cozy–I have some really terrific ones lying around here in the TBR stacks just waiting for me to pick up, and of course with the Lefty and Edgar nominations released this week my list of books to buy just continues to grow and grow and grow. I still haven’t read Harper’s Edgar winning debut, She Rides Shotgun, which everyone raves about; but it’s always so hard not only to keep up with what’s current because more and more are released every month and once you’re behind there’s no catching up. After getting home from my errands yesterday I did research for my current project (I love that watching Youtube videos counts as research for this, and I am having the best time with the research, and that is part of why I am enjoying writing this so much (I also love my main character).

It looks gray outside this morning, and I do have an errand that must be run today. Heavy sigh. It’s why I got up, after all–I was perfectly willing to stay in bed for even more time this morning–and my kitchen is a disaster and as always, there is laundry. Heavy heaving sigh. So I am going to go ahead and head into the spice mines this morning, Constant Reader. I may check in again later–but one never knows, does one? Have a lovely Friday, though, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Arizona

Holy. Shit.

Lefty Award Nominees

Our thanks to all who submitted their nomination forms. The Lefty Awards will be voted on at the convention and presented at a banquet on Saturday, March 18, at the El Conquistador Resort in the Oro Valley of Tucson, Arizona. We are delighted to announce the Lefty nominees.Lefty Nominees for Best Humorous Mystery Novel

  • Ellen Byron, Bayou Book Thief (Berkley Prime Crime)
  • Jennifer J. Chow, Death by Bubble Tea (Berkley Prime Crime)
  • A.J. Devlin, Five Moves of Doom (NeWest Press)
  • T.G. Herren, A Streetcar Named Murder (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Catriona McPherson, Scot in a Trap (Severn House)

Lefty Nominees for Best Historical Mystery Novel
(The Bill Gottfried Memorial) for books set before 1970

  • Dianne Freeman, A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (Kensington Books)
  • Catriona McPherson, In Place of Fear (Severn House)
  • Wanda M. Morris, Anywhere You Run (William Morrow)
  • Karen Odden, Under a Veiled Moon (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Ann Parker, The Secret in the Wall (Poisoned Pen Press)
  • Iona Whishaw, Framed in Fire (Touchwood)

Lefty Nominees for Best Debut Mystery Novel

  • Erin E. Adams, Jackal (Bantam Books)
  • Eli Cranor, Don’t Know Tough (Soho Crime)
  • Ramona Emerson, Shutter (Soho Crime)
  • Meredith Hambrock, Other People’s Secrets (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Harini Nagendra, The Bangalore Detectives Club (Pegasus Crime)
  • Rob Osler, Devil’s Chew Toy (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Jane Pek, The Verifiers (Vintage Books)

Lefty Nominees for Best Mystery Novel
(not in other categories)

  • Kellye Garrett, Like a Sister (Mulholland Books)
  • Laurie R. King, Back to the Garden (Bantam Books)
  • James L’Etoile, Dead Drop (Level Best Books)
  • Gigi Pandian, Under Lock & Skeleton Key (Minotaur Books)
  • Louise Penny, A World of Curiosities (Minotaur Books)
  • Alex Segura, Secret Identity (Flatiron Books)

2000 Light Years from Home

Tuesday morning and back to the office.

I slept incredibly well on Sunday night–there really is nothing like your own bed–but despite feeling rested, my body was still exhausted and tired. I had to run some errands and make groceries, which us always tiring, but i also managed to get some other blog posts done yesterday morning. (After all, I didn’t post on either Saturday or Sunday, so had to catch up and make up for lost time.) I got the laundry caught up, and did some chores around the Lost Apartment–dishes, filing, organizing–and reread the manuscript to get a handle on where I am at so I could plan the next stages of finishing this sucker.

But yesterday was about re-acclimatization into my reality, and I think I did a nice job. I picked up my prescription and the mail, and made groceries. I was very tired still–exhausted, really–but managed to get some things done around the house; little things that are nevertheless time-consuming but need to be done. I think another project for the overall year will be to organize my picture files. They are a mess, always have been, and none of them are actually labeled or have been renamed; they all sit in my back-up drive as IMG-number, and only in a few instances have they been grouped into a labelled folder for ease of discovery. I also went to bed relatively early last night and finally slept through almost the entire night in a good, relaxing sleep. My legs still ache from soreness, a result of all that walking I wasn’t used to (I really do need to start going for walks–even if short–in the evening after work) over the weekend but not to the point of such exhaustion that I want to cry when I have to get up, thank God.

My voice is still raspy, too. But I feel much better this morning, which is a good thing as I have to not only go into the office but I also have to get back to writing the book this week and I can’t afford a single day off from writing or I won’t be finished by 1/31, which is the original plan. But I had suspected that my not feeling 100% and slightly flu-ey was a result of not enough rest, and now that I’ve slept well for an entire night, my suspicions have apparently been correct all along. I was too mentally fatigued still yesterday to do much beyond simple, menial tasks–my mind was too tired to handle any reading, so I won’t be getting back to Other Terrors until tonight after work. We also watched a documentary on Netflix called The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, which was interesting–I’d never heard of this story, but apparently it went viral in 2013–particularly on how some people in the entertainment field tried to cash in on his viral story and success without doing any due diligence or any looking into his past or who he was at all. That was the most interesting part of the story to me–the way people saw him as a way to make money and didn’t care about anything beyond that, and so it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them when the truth–(no spoilers here)did finally come out.

It inevitably does.

I’ve still not completely wrapped my head around the end of my volunteer work. I spent some time yesterday archiving all the emails from the last three years and deleting the folders they were originally filed away in–which made me realize that my email folders need to be overhauled, as there are any number of them that are no longer needed or necessary, or are actually duplicated–and of course, organizing always makes me incredibly happy. I have a lot of work to do in this first quarter of 2023 (!!!! I still can’t believe it’s this far into the third decade of this century…) and I want to make this a good year for me productivity wise; I am going to start looking for an agent probably come March or April. Nothing ventured, after all, and let’s face it, I’ve never really made much of an effort into finding one, and maybe send out a couple of proposals before giving up and pulling back and hoping for the best. I need to make a blanket effort–going after all of them at the same time–but I am always afraid that they’ll all say no and that’s the end of it. Honestly, the way this business is so brutal on your ego while at the same time requiring you to actually have one (you have to believe in yourself to some degree otherwise you’ll never get going on it and that’s the end of that).

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

A Walk on the Wild Side

When I was a kid, my grandmother got me started watching the 3:30 afternoon movies on WGN (I think); most of them were classic old Hollywood movies (where my affections for Stanwyck, Crawford, Davis and Hepburn began) but essentially, they were usually older films or ones that had already been shown once or twice in prime time before being relegated to afternoon and late night. They were also edited for content and for “appropriate” viewing for kids–since we were all home to watch–and housewives. I remember watching A Walk on the Wild Side with Barbara Stanwyck and Jane Fonda, but it didn’t make a lot of sense–primarily because it was a racy film and they’d shredded it to get it past television censors; every once in a while I think oh you should watch it again because you can probably get the unedited theatrical version through some service or another but never get around to it. A friend recently posted that he was going to watch it that evening, which led me down a rabbit hole which ended with me discovering that it was based on a novel (which I hadn’t known), and that the author was the same man who also wrote The Man with the Golden Arm, which was made into a rather good film with Frank Sinatra, Nelson Algren. Algren was one of those literary lions who was championed and respected by critics and literature professors–The Man with the Golden Arm won the very first National Book Award–but seems to be relatively forgotten today. My pompous and condescending Lit professors in college certainly never assigned us any Algren; so it made me rather curious. I had also forgotten that a significant part of the story is actually set in New Orleans–which was all it took for me to get a copy.

I finished reading it as my flight to New York was taxiing to the gate.

“He’s just a pore lonesome wife-left feller,” the more understanding said of Fitz Linkhorn, “losin’ his old lady is what crazied him.”

“That man in so contrary,” the less understanding said, “if you throwed him in the river he’d float upstream.

For what had embittered Fitz had no name. Yet he felt that every daybreak duped him into waking and every evening conned him into sleep. The feeling of having been cheated–of having been cheated–that was it. Nobody knew why nor by whom.

But only that all was lost. Lost long ago, in some colder country. Lost anew by the generations since. He kept trying to wind his fingers about this feeling, at times like an ancestral hunger; again like some secret wound. It was there, if a man could get it out into the light, as palpable as the blood in his veins. Someone just behind him kept turning him against himself till his very strength was a weakness. Weaker men, full of worldly follies, did better than Linkhorn in the world. He saw with every enviously slow-burning.

“I ain’t a-playin’ the whore to no man,” he would declare himself, though no one had so charged him.

Six-foot-one of slack-muscled shambler, he came of a shambling race. That gander-necked clan from which Calhoun and Jackson sprang. Jesse James’ and Jeff Davis’ people. Lincoln’s people. Forest solitaries spare and swart, left landless as ever in sandland and Hooverville now the time of the forests has passed.

Whites called them “white trash” and Negroes “po’buckra.” Since the first rock has risen about the moving waters there had been not a single prince in Fitzbrian’s branch of the Linkhorn clan.

Sigh, where to being with this?

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way–the book is very, very dated. There’s language and mentalities and attitudes–while probably common usage for the time it is set as well as the time it was written, we’ve progressed a lot since then–that do no hold up today and made me wince as I came across them–and not just about race, either; there’s a lot of misogyny and ableism pervading the manuscript. There’s also not really a story here, either; the book focuses on Ftiz Linkhorn’s son Dove, who becomes involved with a diner owner but then robs her and takes off riding freight trains to New Orleans. He encounters a young runaway–Kitty Pride–on the trains but they become separated, and he gets to New Orleans on his own and becomes one of the con artists who always seem to proliferate here, but the focus of the middle of the book turns away from Dove and to Dockery, who runs a bar and bordello on Perdido Street (where they moved after Storyville was shut down) and the story shifts to some of the hookers, the bordello owner, and Dove exists only on the periphery; Dove actually becomes a sex worker–it kind of glosses over that he gets paid to let people watch him deflower a virgin (who is actually another one of the bordello girls)–while he learns how to read and write, learning from one of the hookers with whom he is kind of involved with, which brings him into conflict with a former professional wrestler and circus worker who has lost his legs–and Dove gradually winds up going back to south Texas, back where he came from, no better off or worse than when he left.

The writing is very good–I marked some pages that had some insightful sentences that were beautifully constructed–but over all, this falls into the category of what I (snidely) refer to as “mid-twentieth century straight white man MFA style.” We don’t need a story with a beginning, middle and end; we don’t need to see character growth or development; Dove is precisely the same person he was when the book opened. There’s also no real depth to any of the characters; it’s written in an omniscient point of view, like someone is telling you the story but because it’s being narrated, we don’t really get to know any of the characters–who they are and what makes them tick and what makes them behave the way they do–and this is something I’ve always taken issue with when it comes to books about the poor and those who lived on the margins; Algren creates these fascinating characters but gives them no complexity or depth, because they are poor, we are led to believe, they are simple and stupid and incapable of growth and since those kinds of people aren’t really people–we don’t need to see any of their humanity, therefore we are unable to identify with any of the characters or even feel empathy for any of them; which we really should. Why write about these characters and this world and this life if we aren’t going to get any insight? For me, it felt like a peepshow; he’s holding back the curtain to give us a peek into the lives of desperate people but in more of a “point and moralize” way which I frankly didn’t like or enjoy. It felt like poverty porn to me (don’t even get me started on The Grapes of Wrath), and he didn’t even remark on the symbolism of these bordellos and bars being located on Perdido Street–perdido means lost in Spanish–and rather than feeling any sympathy or rooting for these characters, they just left me cold since we didn’t understand their motivations or who they were or had any insight into why they were doing the things they were doing.

I don’t regret reading the book–I never even thought about putting it aside and not finishing–so that’s something. I was just disappointed, I guess, by the lack of insight. I guess that’s why I enjoy genre fiction so much; characters are everything in genre fiction, and I want to know the characters I am reading about rather than just having the curtain pulled back and being a passive viewer at the window into their lives.

(And yes, Lou Reed did get the title for his classic song from the title of this book and film.)

We Love You

I got home last night around seven, exhausted, bone-tired, and delighted to be able to sleep in my own bed after four nights of insomnia. I got some sleep while in New York, but not much–and I also exerted myself a lot more than I have in, well, years. Mt Fitbit would let me know every day that I’d reached the goal of ten thousand steps (which never happens, but I do need to start taking walks more regularly, as it’s disturbing how physically out of condition I am–my legs are achy and sore from all the walking), and of course I had cut my heel accidentally the morning I left, so it’s kind of achy and painful. But I slept deeply and well last night, the sleep of the exhausted, and I actually feel rather rested and awake as I re-acclimate to my normal reality. As I expected, I didn’t write hardly anything while I was gone, so I need to climb back up on that horse today. It’s a work holiday–there’s no way I could be functional at the office today (I always take an extra day off to recover from the trip upon my return home), and now I have to figure out what I need to get done to get back in control of my life.

First thing on the list is to get back on track with my writing–so hallelujah for a day off! I don’t even want to think about the horror that is my email inbox just yet, and I may avoid it for another day so I can get my proverbial shit together (oh, my OWN coffee that I made myself just is so much nicer than buying it somewhere). I am most likely going to have to hit the grocery store today, as well as pick up the mail and a prescription and put gas in the car. There’s some filing and sorting that needs to be done this morning, and of course I need to think about what to take for lunch to the office for the rest of the week. So much to think about, so much to do, so much to remember. I believe this may even call for a to-do list. Yay!

I did have a lovely time in New York; it’s always invigorating to spend time in the company of other writers. It was a bit cold for my liking, but I think I walked all over Manhattan, had some amazing food, got to reconnect with friends (some I hadn’t seen in years in person), and of course, the highlight was seeing Hadestown. I’ve already downloaded the cast recording to Spotify; it may be different to listen to than when watching it performed live, but I am looking forward to listening to it on walks–because I’ve decided that walks are de rigeur in my future–and maybe, just maybe, i could also start listening to audiobooks when I am taking my walks. I want my heel to heal first, of course–all that walking in New York probably wasn’t optimal for that, but one of my goals this year to become more physically active, and what better way to get that going than by taking walks? I can also, you know, take pictures with my phone, too, of my neighborhood and the Garden District or wherever I may go for a walk. It also occurs to me that one of these weekends I should spend a day exploring the World War II museum (which could help with some backstory for Chlorine).

As you can see, the trip has rather invigorated me, even as I am physically worn out as I type out these ambitious plans.

I started reading the Horror Writers Association’s latest anthology, Other Horrors (edited by Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason) on my flight home, and am quite enjoying it. The premise of the anthology is for it to be inclusive and to highlight diverse authors and voices; and so far it’s been fun. There are stories I like better than others, of course, but that’s any anthology and it’s very fun to discover new authors and voices that I wasn’t aware of–again, the point of the anthology–and there’s nothing I love more than discovering new voices, you know? Plus, reading it has me itching to write some more short stories–which of course I really can’t do because I’ve got to get this book finished–but I also want to map out the rest of my writing year and come up with a plan for my future. I think I am going to take the plunge and write that romance I was thinking about the second half of last year–just for something different to do and something to sharpen my skills; I think we should always try to write outside of our comfort zone as often as we can, which is why I dabble in horror sometimes. And why not give romance a try? I’ve always liked romance, even if I don’t read very much of it (I can’t keep up with my crime and horror reading, let alone anything else), so why not give a whirl?

And on that note, I need to go fold some laundry and start organizing my life and kitchen and office space again. Have a lovely Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

In Another Land

My flight was two and a half hours delayed yesterday due to the FAA system crash yesterday morning, which was, of course, tiresome. But I eventually got to board my flight, finished reading A Walk on the Wild Side (I literally finished it when we were taxiing to the gate, so perfect timing, and more on that book later), then collected my bag and got my car service into Manhattan. I checked in, went up to my room, and then had dinner as Connolly’s Irish Pub, where our waiter was stunned and delighted to see my LSU sweatshirt–he was a fan! (That happened again in the elevator on the way up to my room–who knew Manhattan was filled with LSU fans? You got to love it!) I got to have fish ‘n’ chips–they were marvelous–and then we walked back to the hotel and retired early. He ran me ragged today– lunch in Chinatown, and then we are having dinner with our friend Donna, who is also joining us for Hadestown, which I am very excited to see. I also need to write while I am here–hopefully I’ll be able to get some of that done Friday afternoon; I hate that I wasn’t able to keep my momentum going yesterday and knock out another three thousand words, but it was a day, wasn’t it? I got up at six yesterday morning, headed out to the airport around ten thirty, and then didn’t get to the hotel until six New York time. That’s an awful lot of me being out in public.

I also didn’t sleep great last night–first night in a hotel is always an adjustment; I hope tonight it will be a different story–and then was awakened (not really, I was awake but lying in bed with my eyes closed like I always do when I have insomnia) by a text from That Bitch Ford (Michael Thomas Ford, for those of you who are new; buy his books, they’re terrific) and so I washed my face and brushed my teeth and went down for coffee with him while he ate ($29 eggs!) and then we took the subway to lower Manhattan to walk around and see Chinatown (we’d planned on having lunch there all along, and we did!) and had a lovely time. Lunch was terrific, and it was fun catching up in person. We don’t think we’ve seen each other in person for going on ten years (I don’t think it’s been that long but I am not certain enough to argue the point), which is astonishing. We’re also two of the few from out “time” to still be around and writing all these years later, which feels very strange to me. We did a lot “I wonder whatever happened to–” and “who was that who–” types of conversation starters. Mike is one of the few people who is still a part of my life who knew me before I was published*; we met when he came to New Orleans to sign Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me and Other Trials from My Queer Life, and we’ve kind of been friends ever since then. I know I interviewed him for IMPACT News back when I used to write for the local gay paper (shuttered since about 2002 or 2003, methinks) and since we both have the same horrible sick sense of humor…it was inevitable.

And now I am back in my room, exhausted, but with dinner plans at five with Mike and our friend Donna, and then of course we’re making a 7 pm curtain for the show. I’m not entirely sure what tomorrow holds for me; I think we have a breakfast date but I could be wrong, and I know in the late afternoon I start having plans again–and of course I will be tied up all day Saturday before flying home on Sunday. Thank God Monday is a holiday, so I can recover and rest and write and get things taken care of around the house. I had hoped to spend some time writing today but I am too tired, and I need to rest and relax before we get going for tonight. I’ve not been to a Broadway show in years, so am kind of looking forward to it. I know nothing about this show other than it’s the Orpheus myth (I think), so am really interested in hearing what the score sounds like.

And on that note I am going to lie down for a minute or two before I have to get ready for dinner. Till next time, Constant Reader!

*It’s very weird to me that so few people who knew me before I was published are actively still part of my life; I am still connected with people from past phases of my life but primarily through social media; I don’t interact with them very much outside of social media; and it’s not like I am ghosting the people from my past or anything; it’s just how life evolves. And most of the people we both knew back when we got started on this crazy journey into publishing aren’t around anymore.