You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Ah, Venice.

I’ve always loved Venice: the idea of a city that exists in a place where no city really should but does anyway (like New Orleans); a city with a long and remarkable history that at one time was one of the major powers of the world, despite not really having much population yet somehow carving out an empire; and always dreamed of visiting there. When Paul and I lucked into our marvelous trip to Italy back in 2014 (I think it was 2014? I could be wrong, it may have been 2015 but it really doesn’t matter) I definitely wanted to include Venice in our itinerary. We wound up only being there for twenty-four hours, but I was enchanted (I was enchanted by all of Italy, really), and have always wanted to go back and spend more time there. We were incredibly lucky when we were there; it was the week before Labor Day weekend, and there were no real crowds there (I have since seen horrible pictures of crowds so thick you can barely move), and we just wandered around looking at beautiful buildings and crossing canals and going into churches and eating gelato–lots and lots of gelato (which was every day, everywhere, while we were in Italy–we even got some at the airport when we flew back out).

Venice is also the setting for my all-time favorite novella and movie based on it (Daphne du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now”). I love the Katharine Hepburn film Summertime, in which a lonely unmarried teacher comes to Venice and is also enchanted by how gorgeous the city is, and also finds a bittersweet romance with a handsome Italian man. One of my favorite parts of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is set there. I finally read Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” as part of my “plague days” reading last year when COVID-19 shut down the country; as well as Daphne du Maurier’s take on the tale, “Ganymede.” John Berendt’s City of Falling Angels, about the La Fenice fire and the insanity in rebuilding the fabled opera house, was a remarkably insightful look at how things work in Venice, as well as the restoration works on the city and its gnarled bureaucracy, as well as the blasé attitudes of the locals about how corrupt and insane everything is there.

It goes without saying that the similarities between Venice and New Orleans are striking, and run much deeper than the constant threat of water and Carnival.

I started writing a novella this year set in Venice–which I’ve wanted to write about ever since I visited–and at some point I will revise it to get it ready for publication; it’s on my to-do list–and so naturally, Christopher Bollen’s A Beautiful Crime was added to my TBR pile as soon as I knew of it.

And what a delight it turned out to be.

Down below the cry of gulls, below floors of tourists undressing and dressing for dinner, below even the shrinking figure of his killer. a man lies crumpled and bleeding. He’s been dead for only a few seconds. He’s sprawled on his stomach, his body twisted at the hips, his left arm hooked in a U above his head. From a distance, from high above, he looks almost as if he were sleeping. It’s the blood leaking through his pink shirt that gives the crime away.

Outside, the sun is setting on what is unarguably the most beautiful city on the planet. There are a lot of dead bodies in this town. Upstairs in the man’s room, an English guidebook recommends taking a boat out to San Michele to visit an entire island of them. Among the legions buried there are the composer Igor Stravinsky, the ballet director Sergei Diaghilev, and the poet Ezra Pound.

The city is sinking and has been for centuries. Enjoy it while you can. The blood is pooling around the body. Screams are blaring from all directions. The killer is making a run for the exit.

But none of this has happened yet.

I don’t think I’d heard of Christopher Bollen before I heard about this book; I may have read some of his work (he writes for both Vanity Fair and Interview magazines), but I was not prepared for how good this book would be.

And the really good news is its his fourth; he has three more books for me to read and cherish and enjoy. Huzzah! (It’s always delightful to discover a new-to-you writer you love, isn’t it?)

The premise behind this book is pretty genius: a young gay couple who have fallen quickly and madly in love with each other, come up with a “foolproof” plan to con a wealthy douchebag out of enough money for the two to ride off into the sunset together after paying off their unsurmountable debt…and Venice is where the action happens. Bollen spent time in Venice interning at the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which pays off in this complex and riveting noirish thriller. Bollen brings Venice to life in a way that few other writers have; you can smell the canals, taste the food, enjoy the bite of the liquor and savor the wine and the spellbinding beauty of the city through the eyes of his characters.

Our young, intrepid gay couple are Nick Brink and Clay Guillory. Nick came to New York to escape his sterile and stale childhood home in the Midwest, and soon has a very well-to-do older man in love with him; Ari, who is an expert in antique silver and runs one of the few silver businesses left in the country. Nick loves Ari, but it’s not a deep passionate love; it seems more like gratitude and appreciation more than anything else. Ari does love Nick, but his plans for their future (he also employs Nick at the silver shop, which is pivotal to the plot of the book) are making Nick claustrophobic and feeling trapped. Nick looks at the years ahead with Ari (and possibly a child) and is terrified of what his life will become; while this is stable and nice and everything he could have possibly wanted…now that he has it, he’s not sure it is what he wanted after all.

Clay is the surviving companion of an older gay man, Freddy van der Haar, last scion of one of the first families of New York (going back to the days of New Amsterdam and the Dutch settlement); Freddy was one of the last surviving colorful characters of the wild and crazy Bohemian artist scene in New York, and had the wealth to really pursue the kind of life and lifestyle that no longer seems possible or to exist anymore. Everyone, of course, believes Clay is a gold digging conniver who may have even murdered Freddy for the inheritance. But the truth is not how it appears on the surface; there was no money left, and Clay has even gone deeply into debt taking care of Freddy as he declines slowly into death. Clay owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to student loans and medical bills, and doesn’t see any way out of his situation.

The two meet by chance at Freddy’s memorial service; Ari knew Freddy, of course, and Nick doesn’t want to be there. He slips out for air and meets Clay on the steps–Clay isn’t attending (he knows very well what Freddy’s friends think of him) but just wants to make sure that the flowers he ordered arrived. They encounter each other again shortly thereafter, when Clay brings in the last of the van der Haar silver collection for appraisal and possible sale; unfortunately it’s all worthless junk. But the mutual attraction is there, and soon Nick is slipping away from work and his shared apartment with Ari for afternoon trysts at Clay’s inherited brownstone in Brooklyn, which he is selling to help pay down the debts of Freddy’s estate as well as his own.

And the two lovers come up with a plan: part of Clay’s inheritance is a small piece of a palazzo in Venice which the van der Haars once owned completely. The rest of the palazzo is now owned by a wealthy investor named Richard West (whom Freddy despised), who has an obsession with the van der Haar family and wants to possess some of their silver. Why not have Clay try to sell the junk to West, and have Nick–who works for an antique silver firm, after all–falsely authenticate it so they can pay off all that debt and live happily ever after? West is a major scumbag, after all, who fucked Clay over once already; and is it really a crime to fuck over someone who is so awful? Not only will their debts be paid but Clay will finally have vengeance against the man who cheated him out of his dream job…and so begins the game of cat-and-mouse.

And what a delight it is. Bollen is a terrific writer–his gift for sentences and paragraph construction is amazing–and his characters all seem quite real. He peoples the book with a terrific supporting cast, all of whom are actualized; from Daniela the transwoman (who is old school; refuses the term “trans”) with whom Nick stays in Venice, to Freddy himself to West and his entourage. As the deception goes deeper, the pacing also begins to pick up, as well as the sense of dread as they change and adapt their plan and decide to go for even more money…and like the best Hitchcock films and all great noirs, the deeper they get into the deception, the more dangerous the game becomes.

Venice itself is a character; Bollen writes about the city with such love and affection that it becomes impossible to imagine the book being set anywhere else–and he also addresses the primary issue in Venice: the crowds of tourists and the outsiders buying apartments to rent out as Air BnB’s, thus driving up the cost of real estate and living in the city that is forcing the locals out (just like New Orleans! Something else the two have in common!)–and this also plays an integral part in the story.

I loved this book, and even though for a while it was making me think I need to scrap my Venice novella…I soon realized I don’t have to. My novella is in the perspective of a tourist falling in love with the city, whereas Bollen’s is written from the POV of someone with intimate, personal knowledge of the city that comes from living there and truly experiencing what it is to be a Venetian.

Highly recommended; it’s a great read.

I Drove All Night

Friday and the first day of my four day weekend! Woo-hoo!

And I got my new computer yesterday–and practically wept for joy once I had it set up (which literally took NO time at all). It’s so fast, the picture quality is stunning (I played the 2019 LSU-Alabama game on it thru Youtube while I did the dishes, and the picture quality is better than my television’s. And yes, that game is one of my main happy places, sue me.) It’s been amazing so far; but I also need to remember to enjoy these it’s amazingly functional and fast days for the inevitable day when the spinning wheel starts showing up again, or programs start freezing or locking up, and the whole hellish Mac computer thing starts all over again.

Today is a Gregalicious day; I had already decided earlier this week that would be what today would be for me. I have a spa appointment at twelve thirty (for a waxing, if you want to know, and sorry about the TMI if you didn’t) but it’s all a part of the new attitude towards celebrating being sixty, and part of my personal wellness journey. There was just something about going to the gym the other night for the rebirth of Leg Day into my life that switched my mindset around, or flipped a switch in my head about working out; maybe it was the tiredness of my legs the last two days around here, which means I am aware of the work my body is doing? While I have been going to the gym and working out fairly regularly since we joined the new gym, it’s not like I’ve been enjoying the workouts, or even had much of a goal going forward with it–more of a I am doing this to be healthier and to try to be in better shape. I’ve not wanted much to mess with my eating habits/diet; I’ve never rearranged the way I eat for weight control, choosing the workout path on its own entirely. Maybe I should do something about my eating habits; trying to eat healthier, or something. I want to lose some fat weight–I had gotten down to 200 but am now back up to 211 again, and i’d rather be around 200, possibly even as low as 190. It’s possible and I am going to work my way up (down?) to that goal. Part of the issue with the working out is that I didn’t have a set goal–before, as I have said, I always planned my goals around peaking at the holidays–Decadence, Halloween, and Carnival–and while I have no intentions of ever running around at those events next to naked again under any circumstances, maybe it’s not a bad idea to use those dates as goal dates…my mind is already wired that way.

We started watching the new season of Titans last night on HBO MAX–I’ve always loved the Titans; they were amongst my favorites in the DC Universe, and Nightwing has always been one of my favorite heroes in that universe–and was surprised/not surprised to see the Joker killing off Jason Todd before the opening credits of Episode One. As I explained to Paul, back in the 1980’s as a publicity gimmick, DC ran a contest about killing off Jason Todd/Robin, fully expecting the readers to vote to keep him alive. They didn’t; and I will be the first to admit I voted for him to die daring DC to actually pull the plug on a major character in the Batman universe; DC called the readers’ bluff and killed off Jason in the now famous “A Death in the Family” story, which was also around the time the Batman stories took their turn toward the truly dark and noir.

Today I am going to, as I said, have a spa appointment. I also have to pick up another box of Scooter’s insulin syringes and get the mail. Obviously, I am trying to figure out the most efficient way to do the errands, as always, and think I’ll start with the spa day and go further afield uptown from there before coming home and spending some time with The Other Black GIrl. I also need to head to the gym at some point today, preferably before five (when it starts getting crowded again) and I will probably spend a goodly amount of time playing with my new computer, which is always a fun way to spend time. I’m going to spend the rest of this morning probably cleaning out my email inbox, as well as doing some other neatening/straightening up around my office area; I don’t have to be at my spa appointment until twelve thirty. I would like to get phô today, but with the gym and the protein shake I may have to put off the phô until tomorrow, alas.

I’m also going to possibly–just possibly–do a little bit of writing work today–I know, that’s not a Gregalicious Day Off thing, but I do need to get that short story revision typed up, and I also need to get my notes for the revision of #shedeservedit typed up, and I should probably spend the weekend going over that manuscript and making corrections to be input while I am on vacation in two weeks in order to get it all finished by the end of the month.

So, yes, I have a lot of plans for the rest of this month that really need to get done absolutely; and the first thing in order to be certain it’s all going to get done is to make sure that I have a to-do list in place….and so that’s what I am going to do for the majority of the rest of this morning; getting a bit organized. And yes, that does count as a Gregalicious Day Off activity; because it will relieve my mind and help me relax.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday the 13th, everyone!

If I Can’t Have You

Friday!

I feel very rested this morning; I’ve been sleeping well (thank you, medication) ever since last week, and am probably jinxing myself this morning for tonight’s sleep, but it is astonishing what not having insomnia feels like, and how literally marvelous that actually is. Yesterday was nice and relaxing; I made condom packs and other day-job related things around here all day, while doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen (sort of); today I will be making more condom packs as well as doing various other day-job related things while watching some thing on television. I am now caught up on Superman and Lois (seriously, the best Superman adaptation since Christopher Reeve; if you’re a Superman fan, you really need to watch this show) and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills–which isn’t quite as absorbing as it has been before; it’s difficult to watch the Erica Girardi performances as “victim” without wanting to slap the smug smirk off her criminal face–and am not entirely sure what to watch today–I forgot to check with Paul about Loki–but I am sure I can find something.

I also neither read nor wrote yesterday; the desktop computer isn’t working as great as it could/should and I suspect I am going to eventually need to replace this bitch once and for all, which is galling, but it’s also, now that I think about it, fairly old. It was at least two or three at the time of the Great Data Disaster of 2018, and that’s almost three years ago as is. I hate spending the money–would actually prefer not to, in all honesty–but it is something I really need for my work and it is a complete tax write-off. I ordered a wireless mouse to use for the laptop–I lost the old one, and have looked for it everywhere–which should also arrive today, so working in my easy chair should be a lot easier as far as that is concerned going forward as well. I am also looking forward to paying off the car and some of these outstanding bills–which has also helped with my sleep, quite honestly–and so maybe, just maybe, I should get a new computer as a birthday gift to myself. I can’t really decide, to be honest. I mean, I could take this one back in and have them install more memory into it, but I am also not entirely certain that is the wisest course to take. Heavy heaving sigh.

But as my coffee continues to warm and wake up my brain from the deepest recesses of sleep, I see all kinds of things I really need to get done around here–I am going to bag up some more beads to donate, for example–and maybe I can start working on clearing things out of the attic. That’s a great, if problematic, project–I hate that little ladder that folds down and it attached to the trap door to the attic, and when I’m standing on it that creates an issue getting things up and down from there–but I can handle getting over my ladder phobia for a little while, and of course there’s no need for me to be going up and down; it can be done bit by bit.

And let’s be completely honest here–I’m not going to read anything that’s stored in the attic, am I?

So that can all go. And while I have been saving my papers almost from the very first–I don’t know, maybe I should try to see if there’s an archive still interested in them. I don’t think there will be much interest in them, or me, once I’ve left this mortal coil–I can’t imagine MFA or PhD candidates ever needing or wanting access to them, nor can I imagine I would be the subject of future biographies and/or scholarly research. And that isn’t me being self-deprecating, either–I am trying to watch out for that stuff, to be honest–and I have to wonder if I am, in fact, hoarding the paper. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Heavy sigh.

But it’s a lovely morning, and I need to make a to-do list for the weekend. One thing for sure I need to do is take boxes of condom packs back to the office (thus clearing out the living room) and pick up the mail; I also need to pick up a prescription. This should all be relatively easy to accomplish; the question is how do I want to do this all, and in what order to maximize my efficiency as I am out and about in the world. I feel pretty good, and that bodes well for my visit to the gym after I get my work done. I want to focus mostly on reading and writing this weekend–often a challenge–and trying to get caught up on everything.

Some day, methinks–or me-dreams–I will be finally caught up on everything. Ha ha ha ha, I still can crack myself up when I put my mind to it, can’t I?

I was also thinking, yesterday, as I made my condom packs and listened to the accessory-after-the-fact nonsense on Real Housewives, about my twisted view on gay relationships when it comes to writing about them; one of the things I’ve always been interested in is relationships gone bad, turned sour, and how to adapt common criminality tropes used for heterosexual couples for gay ones. One of the things I found so interesting about PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus was the power imbalance between Nathan and Oliver, and how that dynamic deeply affected not only how they saw each other but how they interacted with each other. The tired cliché love is blind isn’t really quite so tired when your couple is no longer opposite-sex; those dynamics really haven’t been as explored in queer relationships in crime novels so much as its been done to death for straight ones. When I wrote Timothy, I wasn’t playing with the romantic suspense trope (as Rebecca is so frequently and commonly mistaken considered) as I was writing a gay noir with a completely untrustworthy narrator–how innocent is Mrs. deWinter, after all? I have other ideas, of course (as always) for other explorations of noir and gay characters who aren’t on the up-and-up; there used to be a sense that gay characters in gay fiction had to be heroic in some one–no matter how flawed they were in service to the story they might be–because we needed to create them since history and most literature erased our existence. But things have changed, and I don’t feel that tiresome burden anymore–which I didn’t take terribly seriously in the first place if we’re being completely honest; the villain in Murder in the Rue Dauphine was a gay man, after all–but I no longer feel, when I am creating a character or starting to write something that I need my characters to be role models; that is a subconscious thought I am not sorry to have to consider anymore. Certainly my short story characters are not heroic people; they are damaged and flawed and often driven to their breaking point by circumstances beyond their control. My main character in “Festival of the Redeemer” is certainly incredibly flawed and more than a little unreliable; his mental instability and horrific, almost emotionally crippling insecurities are fun to write if emotionally exhausting.

And on that note, I am starting my day. May yours be a fabulous and amazing Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you later.

My My My

Thursday and just got home from the hideous experience of having bloodwork done. I am not exactly sure when precisely I turned into such a delicate goddamned flower, but every time now I have blood drawn I get a gnarly-looking bruise on the spot where the needle went into my arm. Back in the day when my veins used to roll and they had to dig to get the needle in (always a most unpleasant experience) it made sense that afterwards I looked like I’d been hooked up to a dialysis machine. Now the needle goes straight in, without any pain, and yet I still develop a particularly nasty bruise.

Sigh. The bruise from last week’s blood draw just finally went away, and now I am going to have a new one. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well, and so it goes.

But at least NOW I can have coffee. I had to fast for this, especially since my quarterly bloodwork (for my PrEP prescription) had shown high glucose levels (I always have them done after I’ve had lunch as fasting is not required SURPRISE–blood glucose is high after I eat. IMAGINE THAT) so I definitely need to have a diabetes test run (better safe than sorry, right)… and I have to confess rather shame-facedly that the last time I had fasting bloodwork done I had coffee before having it done. Yes, Bad Greg, bad Greg, bad Greg indeed.

Today is yet another exciting day of condom packing and doing some quality assurance reviews of paperwork from work. I will naturally get caught up on Superman and Lois today as well as the two franchises of Real Housewives I am still watching (New York and Beverly Hills, although it’s more of a habit to watch these than anything else, really) and maybe–just maybe–there will be time for a movie as well. Not sure what that might be, but there are so many options anymore! I am also hopeful that there will be time for me to work on Chlorine and get some time in with Razorblade Tears. Paul is going to bring home dinner with him tonight–anniversary meal, from Hoshun (I’ve been wanting lo mein lately)–and then I guess we’ll either figure out what we’re going to watch next (note to self: find out if he wants to keep watching Loki, because if not, I can watch it alone) or he’ll do some work. I also need to bag up some more beads to drop off for ARC (honestly, we literally have beads every fucking where) and I’d like to get some more books culled so I can take them to the library sale on Saturday.

I wrote about 1500 words on Chapter Two of Chlorine yesterday; it wasn’t easy and rather like pulling teeth, actually, so I kind of would like to revisit (not reread; I can just page through it at random to get a feel for tone and voice) James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, which is one of my favorite books of all time; I feel like in this chapter I am being too wordy, which is always a problem for me with my writing–I over-explain, I tend to have long long sentences connected by and, I often fuck up the rhythm of the words, which greatly affects and impacts the voice and tone of the story. The problem with Chlorine is there’s a lot of backstory–and since it’s Hollywood during the dying days of the studio system–what is artifice? What is real? What is rumor? I also have the ability to mention actual stars of the period–even if they aren’t in the book itself, but can be mentioned in passing, which is a lot of fun–I wrote something yesterday about a female star claiming she was “up there with Hepburn, Crawford, Davis, Garbo; you can say Karla and everyone knows who you mean.” (And yes, I just realized that the Garbo-based character in The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann was also named Karla; although it did not even subconsciously affect my naming of this character–Karla Weiss the half-American, half-German Jewish actress who emigrated to the US to become a star immediately was someone I created way back in 1996, inspired entirely by a black-and-white photograph of a friend; I looked at the picture and invented Karla Weiss and her backstory and it’s been in the back of my mind for the last twenty-five years; she fits in here–and while I originally had her winding up in New Orleans and becoming a recluse for a Chanse or Scotty story, it could still work, I suppose; but she would be WAY too old unless I went back and set that case years ago in the past, which could also work….see how these wormholes form for me?)

Then again, who knows? I could open up the document and next thing you know words are flowing from my fingers like water from a spigot.

This, by the way, is why writers drink.

That said, I did pick up some mixers at the grocery store on the way home–grapefruit juice and margarita mix, as well as a salt thing for the rim of the glass–and am really looking forward to getting some Patrón on the next Costco run. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to continue trying to perfect the dirty vodka martini–but the last one turned out so terribly that I am quite literally afraid to try again. Perhaps I should get some gin as well? Hmmmm. Oh, Costco and your inexpensive liquor.

And on that note, it’s about time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow!

a

Tardy for the Party

Monday after the holiday, and I am sitting at my desk feeling a little discombobulated with this day off.

I managed to finish reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow yesterday (spoiler! enjoyed it!) and started PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus at long last. I am also enjoying PJ’s book–which I was fairly certain I would–and also somehow managed to clock nearly four thousand words in on “Never Kiss a Stranger”. So much for losing momentum, right? Yes, needless to say I was inordinately pleased with yesterday’s display of productivity; as I was thinking the novella would be around twenty thousand words, I am very close to having the first draft finished, which is also kind of exciting. It’s taking me a little longer than “Festival of the Redeemer” to get finished, but I am pretty confident I’ll be able to get it done by the end of this week, if not sooner.

“Never Kiss a Stranger” is very different, both in tone and structure and feel, than “Festival of the Redeemer.” I think what I am really trying to do with these four novellas is to write four vastly different ones, using different voices and different styles, pushing myself to create stories that make me have to stretch my creativity to tell properly. The point of view character in each couldn’t be more different, and of course “Stranger” is set in 1994 New Orleans, while “Redeemer” is set in present day–or at least recent years–Venice. I had already decided that the third novella for this quadriptich is going to be one of my Alabama stories; the question is whether it should be “A Holler Full of Kudzu” or “Fireflies” (I’m leaning towards “Holler,” mainly because it is set in the 1970’s; whatever the final piece will be should be set in the 1980’s, but since I am thinking it will most likely be a Chanse story, “Once a Tiger”….that will also be a present day story.). While I was originally tempted to use both “Kudzu” and “Fireflies,” the truth is both are Alabama stories, and I don’t want two of them in the same work. Of course, I could make them all about 25k to 30k and only use three…decisions, decisions.

That, of course, would make the book a triptich.I don’t now how long these things are going to end up, of course. That’s kind of the thrill with writing novellas–more room and not as limited as a short story, and no pressure to make it longer as there would be to turn them into novels.

The scenes I wrote yesterday were kind of potent, kind of sad–I think I was stalling writing them because those kinds of things are generally emotionally difficult to write, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was tired when I was finished for the day, of course, and retiring to my easy chair to read with a purring sleeping cat in my lap almost put me to sleep…but I managed to stay awake. We watched more of High Seas–only a few episodes left in Season 3, which isn’t nearly as fun as the earlier seasons–and Paul has found an Italian crime drama, Suburra, to watch next. I am a little out of it this morning, too–I had weird dreams last night, and woke up a lot, so am not feeling terribly rested today, and it kind of feels, I don’t know, warm and/or stuffy in the house this morning. Not sure what that’s all about…but I want to get this finished, do some straightening up around here, and I have to make groceries this morning. Then I want to go to the gym, and detour through the Garden District to take pictures of the neighborhood for Instagram before coming home to get cleaned up and write this afternoon. And then of course, tomorrow I have to get up early to go back to the office.

Heavy sigh.

I didn’t get nearly as much done this weekend as I had wanted to–par for the course, and I am not going to beat myself up over it, either; it is what it is–and I’ll try to get more caught up as the week progresses. It’s a short one, after all, and it’s probably going to be miserably hot. MUST FOCUS.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Rhythm of the Night

And now it’s Thursday, and a work at home day–the first of my two of the week, followed by a three day weekend HUZZAH!

I didn’t write last night–I wanted to get phô and a spring roll from Lilly’s Cafe, and a chicken banh mih for Paul, but alas, they are closed until July 9th for summer break, so it will have to wait until next weekend. It was a bummer, of course, but it was also a remarkably cool early evening for June/almost July in New Orleans, so I walked around Magazine Street in my neighborhood to look at how things have changed since the last time I walked around Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District–taking pictures for Instagram, natch–and by the time I got home (not sweaty, I might add), I decided to take the evening off from writing. I’ve been on a roll lately, and while there is something to be said for maintaining momentum when it’s going, there’s also something to be said for letting your batteries recharge for a day or so. I want to get a lot of writing done over this holiday weekend, and I thought it would be best to take an evening off. I was also in a remarkably good mood, so I also had a martini last night while watching television before bed, and slept really well. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I also like martinis so I may have another one tonight.

We continue to watch High Seas, whose second season got off to a rather interesting start–apparently now the ship is haunted, and they picked up survivors from another ship that sank, one of whom is apparently a psychic unironically named Casandra–but it’s so entertaining I kind of hope the Barbara de Braganza never docks in Rio, frankly. The kids at work were watching a show on Netflix this week in their community space called Happy Endings, which looked rather funny, and so we gave it a whirl last night and it was funny. It apparently ran for three seasons on network television in the early part of the last decade, but I’d never heard of it, and as Paul pointed out, even as early as when this aired (2012) we had already moved on to bingeing shows–we may have been watching DVD’s from Netflix (remember that?), but we weren’t really watching anything regularly from week to week, except on Sundays, when we would watch The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones (I still miss that show, and really need to get back to reading the books at some point…maybe when he publishes the next one? Ha ha ha ha! I’ll probably be dead before that happens.)

Looking around at the office/kitchen this morning, it really is amazing at how big of a mess I can let this place become during my three-days-at-the-office; how awful did it get when I went to work five days a week? The mind reels…but I also used to work two half-days and one day I didn’t go in until eleven thirty; so I had late afternoons and mornings most of the week to repair it gradually to order for the two twelve-hour days I used to work (which seems completely unbelievable to me now; how the hell did I ever have the energy and wherewithal to get up at six and work twelve hours two days in a row? JFC, where did that energy go?). I certainly don’t think I’ll be able to go back to that work schedule again, frankly. While I am not overly fond of the three get up before dawn work days, I do like getting home in the late afternoon/early evening; and that has proven to be a good time for me to get to the gym as well as write. I was thinking yesterday–part of the reason I decided to take the night off from writing last night–that I’ve actually written in excess of thirty-five thousand words in slightly less than three weeks, which is actually kind of impressive, and if I am able to keep going at that pace, think of everything I can get done the rest of this year…

But I am also smart enough to know that’s probably not very likely. There will be fallow days when words won’t come no matter how much I try to write them; days when I’ll be too tired; days when I will just be flat out too lazy to do any work of any kind. Again: be kinder to yourself and don’t push too hard.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines I go! Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

In a Lonely Place

Okay, progress has been made.

I managed to finish reading Laurie R. King’s SUPERB A Monstrous Regiment of Women–I was right, once I got into the story I wasn’t able to stop–yet I did indeed manage to get through my own manuscript yesterday as well. Man, there is some seriously shitty writing in that manuscript, but I have until next Saturday to work my way through it and correct things, clean up language, make things stronger, and make the sentences and paragraphs more cohesive and prettier. I also caught some discrepancies in the story, contradictions, and repetitions. Heavy heaving sigh. But I think I should be able to get this entire thing fixed by next Saturday.

One would hope, at any rate.

It’s hard to believe that this coming weekend sees the end of April and the start of May. I’m not quite sure where the first third of this year has gone, but it has gone, and I’m not really sure what happened to it. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with me finishing writing a different book, and I should be terribly grateful that this year didn’t have the usual first-part-of-the-year distractions, like Carnival, to throw me off and wear me out. This morning, I’m going to write this, clean the kitchen and do some organizing, and then head to the gym. I am hoping when I get home from the gym that I won’t be worn out and sleepy, like last Sunday; I’m also trying to decide what to read as a follow-up to the magnificent Laurie King novel I just finished. There are too many options, I think; which is a lovely position to be in, really–and that doesn’t even take into consideration all the ebooks I have on my iPad to choose from. Inevitably I find myself unable to choose, and then I wind up wasting the day going down Youtube wormholes.

But all the news about the manuscript wasn’t itself bad. I did a decent job creating my main character, Jake Chapman, and the setting is very good. There were some mistakes with the pacing and the timing and there are some superfluous words–quite a few–but that’s fine; it came in long, well over ninety thousand words, so I can easily slash and burn my way through them; eighty thousand words is probably ideal for a book like this, and I also need to revise and redo the final chapter. Ideally, I’ll get through most of the stuff this week so I can spend all day Saturday polishing and revising that final chapter to make it sing. I’m actually kind of pleased with this story, despite all the remaining problems and all the issues I had writing and working on it; it was one of the more unusual experiences I’ve had in my career thus far because of all the indecision and self-doubt I experienced writing it (much the same with #shedeservedit) and I’m not really sure what that was all about; much more so than I’ve ever experienced in my career before writing anything. I mean, there’s always indecision, insecurity and massive amounts of self-doubt involved whenever I am writing anything, really; but for some reason working on these two books over this last year or so those usual issues were exacerbated and much more intense than I remember experiencing with other books I’ve written over the years.

I always wonder what it’s like to sit down and start writing without all those issues, frankly. I suppose I will actually never know, but I cannot imagine those things going away at this point in my life. I am guessing that every neurosis will go with me to the grave; God knows if I haven’t worked my way through them by the time I am nearly sixty, what are the odds I’ll ever get past them? Not bloody likely, right? I had always hoped that the insecurities and self-doubts that plagued my youth would be something I would eventually get over as I got older, and, in the spirit of complete frankness, in some instances aging has eliminated some of them; I no longer worry about not being in the best possible physical condition, or how I look, anymore–which was an insecurity/fear I was more than happy to shed once and for all. (I was thinking about this yesterday for some reason or another; I don’t precisely remember why.)

I think part of the reason I do so much thinking about manuscripts before I actually sit down to write them as a way around the self-doubt and imposter syndrome; if I don’t stop to think about my self-doubt and insecurity about my abilities surrounding my work I can move forward with it; and it’s not until later–the editing process, the galleys, the finished book–that all of the insecurities come flooding back. I thought Bury Me in Shadows, for example, was in pretty good shape when I turned it in; rereading it now I am aghast that I could have ever thought such a thing. This is when my passion for reading undermines me; I know I shouldn’t compare my own work to that of others, but I am sure that my horror at rereading and making corrections and notes for corrections yesterday was not helped in the least by having just finished reading something by Laurie R. King, for example; her mastery of voice and language and character and story, while quite extraordinary and exceptional, is one of those bars that I cannot hope to clear. And of course I am well aware that I shouldn’t compare my work–of which I am not the best judge, ever, and about which I am much too hard on myself–to a New York Times bestselling author whose work I admire and respect and of which I am an enormous fan.

However, reading great writers makes me aspire to do better with my own work, so there’s that.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines–have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader! It’s certainly beautiful here in New Orleans.

The Game

Well, that’s two consecutive mornings I’ve woken up to it not raining. The half-sleep insomnia returned also last night, so today should be interesting to get through. It’s so weird; yesterday afternoon I was so tired from the gym (yes, I made it to the gym yesterday) that I fell asleep while rereading my manuscript for about twenty minutes…but after dozing for about twenty minutes or so, I woke up completely; wide awake and not tired for the rest of the night, which also unfortunately included when I went to bed. Heavy sigh. But that’s okay; I am also trying to sleep without assistance–I didn’t sleep particularly well Saturday with assistance, so I figured there’s no need to keep taking assistance if it isn’t working anyway.

We finished watching The Cry last evening, and I highly recommend it. Jenna Coleman is exceptionally good in it, and it’s a really twisted and sad story, involving a complicated and tangled domestic triangle, custody, and the disappearance of a baby. It’s one of the better crime series we’ve seen lately–much better than that dreadful HBO series with Nicole Kidman that just seemed pointless–and I’d recommend Ms. Coleman for an Emmy, frankly. High production values, strong writing, and great acting are always a plus, frankly. We then tried watching Amazon’s Tell Me Your Secrets, but abandoned it about thirty minutes in. The plot was convoluted; the writing not particularly good, and there were so many “what the actual fuck” moments we gave up on it. The basic set-up didn’t make sense, and it’s a shame; stars Lily Rabe and Amy Brenneman deserved much better material. But we then started another British show, The Capture, which was riveting and definitely held out interest. There are five more hours of it; so we’ll see how it goes, moving forward; but it has an interesting premise. A young British soldier, court-martialed and convicted of a war crime due to helmet-cam footage, is exonerated on appeal when it turns out the helmet-cams have a five second delay between audio and video–the sound is delayed–which shows that he didn’t commit the crime he is accused of after all…he celebrates that night, asks his barrister out, and is captured on CCTV street coverage assaulting and kidnapping her. The cops quickly track him down, arrest him–but the barrister is nowhere to be found and he–upon watching the tape–starts freaking out and yelling that didn’t happen that didn’t happen….our newly promoted DI Rachel Cary cryptically closes the episode by saying she believes him; she doesn’t think he remembers the assault.

Definitely captured my interest.

As I mentioned earlier, I started rereading the manuscript of Bury Me in Shadows with an eye to not only writing out a timeline of events (requested by my editor) but to copy-edit and correct things; which is a good thing. I found all kinds of clunky writing and sentences out of order, not to mention typos and other things I am not quite sure how they got past me the first time. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy; this is why you shouldn’t rush these things at the last minute the way I am always prone to do. I wanted to start reading Laurie R. King’s A Monstrous Regiment of Women yesterday; but decided against it since I needed to get the manuscript reread…alas, I then fell asleep for that little while and then I had to start making dinner and we turned on the television and…so I am hoping to get through it all tonight. I also have to stop on my way home from the office to get some things I forgot when I was making groceries on Saturday. Heavy sigh. I can only imagine how tired I will be by the time I get home tonight…

Yeah, I am kind of sensing that today is not going to be one of my better ones. Heavy sigh.

Has anyone else noticed how fast this year is going? Maybe it only seems to be, since last year was one of those endless years that felt like a decade, but we’re nearly done with April already. I’ve certainly lost all sense of time; my usual markers for the year passing–Carnival, Saints and Sinners, Jazzfest, Memorial Day, Southern Decadence, etc.–not happening has really messed up my sense of time.

And on that note, time to head for the spice mines. Have a wonderful Monday, Constant Reader–I’m going to certainly try to.

Don’t Do It

And now it’s Thursday, a work-at-home-make-condom-packs-while-watching-movies-or-bingeing-something-on-television kind of day. I also get to. take Paul in for his second vaccination today (huzzah!) and then this evening will undoubtedly work on the book some more–and possibly squeeze in a trip to the gym. Last night’s weather was horrible–it was windy all day, and then around seven o’clock last night all hell broke loose: high winds, extreme thunder and lightning, and a downpour that had me worried about the street flooding. But the sky is clear of clouds this morning and the sun is shining–I haven’t checked the temperature yet, but it looks pleasant outside, if not outright gorgeous.

I finished the first final run through of the book last night, and as I did, I knew exactly how to end it all and tie all the loose strings together and so forth. It’s going to mean more writing–but I knew that going into it–but the primary problem was the structure of the book, really, and last night I figured it out. A mere two weeks before the final deadline, but better late than never, and I am kind of excited again to whip it all together and into shape. I got rid of most of the repetitions–some of which were actually rather good, so I am going to have to decide this weekend whether to leave things as they are or switch in some of the repetitive stuff for the stuff I left in. I think it’s going to actually turn out to be what I had envisioned from the very beginning….which is very cool. The nice thing is that I have about ninety thousand words already; will probably have to add about five thousand more, while trimming and revising some of the rest out. The book kind of goes off the rails somewhere around chapter seventeen, which is where the reworking is going to really have to start, and there are also going to be some brief inserts from a podcast that goes between some of the chapters, to give the backstory and also keep the overall narrative moving. I’ve never written anything like #shedeservedit before, either subject matter or structurally, so this is a big leap for me….and why not take a big experimental leap before working on Chlorine?

I am taking my library sale copy of John LeCarré’s The Russia House with me to Paul’s vaccination appointment; I am rather excited about reading another LeCarré, to be honest. I thought The Spy Who Came In From The Cold was exceptional and extraordinary, and from looking at the first page of The Russia House, it looks like this one will be as well. I’ve not really been doing much reading lately; when I am in the weeds with a book it’s not easy for me to read anything else as my mind is too distracted to focus much on someone else’s narrative, and so when I get this novel wrapped up and finish The Russia House I expect to be doing a lot of reading in April–and I have some short stories I want to get worked on while prepping to write Chlorine in April. I also need to call the library to make an appointment to drop off this first batch of donated books to them–so I can start boxing up the next batch of them as well. I also want to start making the long-overdue Scotty Bible in April–I can work on that while I am prepping Chlorine and working on these short stories (I really want to get some more things out on submission, the sooner the better)–so that I will really be prepared to start working on Twelfth Night Knavery once I have the first draft of Chlorine banged out.

I’m actually kind of excited about all this writing to come, if a little daunted. I will inevitably, of course, have lazy moments where I will simply blow everything off, but again…that’s kind of inevitable. I slept so well last night I didn’t want to get up out of bed this morning, but I have simply too much to do to be a lag-a-bed this morning. I’m going to be a Festival widow for the rest of this week and all of next, and then I’ll have to get back into a routine of making dinner every night and watching something with Paul–and there’s plenty for us to watch. I have to get caught up on Superman and Lois, which I am really enjoying, and of course Paul and I started the third season of Mr. Mercedes–but are only able to catch an episode here and there whenever he gets home early enough since I have to be in bed by ten on Sunday thru Tuesday nights. I am also thinking about treating myself to phô from the Vietnamese café next door to the Cat Practice at some point over this weekend as well–it’s been a hot minute since I’ve had some good phô, and I just say that my favorite place to get it in Midcity–Namese–has closed permanently, which is a shame. (note to self: you need to write about the Vietnamese community of New Orleans at some point) But I am really really looking forward to a big bowl of phô; I love me some noodles. I’m also thinking about making Swedish meatballs again this weekend. We shall see, I suppose. I may put off the Costco run until next weekend; while there are definitely some things I need from there, there’s nothing really pressing. (I was also thinking last night that I need to stop thinking about going to Costco in terms of periodic visits where I spend a shit ton of money; there’s no reason I can’t, for example, make a short trip to get a few things on weeknights after I get off work, for example; I-10 makes it insanely easy to get there from the office. Rethink things, Greg, rather than remaining in stasis and doing things a certain way simply because you’ve always done them that way.)

And on that note, tis best for me to head back into the spice mines. Them condoms aren’t going to pack themselves, for example, and much as I want everything to simply take care of itself without my assistance, that’s not terribly likely. Catch you tomorrow, Constant Reader, and have a lovely Thursday.

Recoil

And now it’s Ash Wednesday, concluding the Carnival that wasn’t.

My God, yesterday was cold.

Gregalicious does not like the cold.

Yesterday’s high was 36; most of the day was in the 20’s, and without heat in the Lost Apartment, it was pretty miserable here. I spent the entire day in layers of clothing, under blankets, and with my space heater blowing directly on me. It’s in the thirties right now as I type this–shivering, with my gloves forgotten upstairs–but at least today’s high will be in the fifties. (And yes, well aware that ordinarily I would complain about the cold with it in the fifties, so yes, the irony doesn’t escape me at all. Last night, as I got into bed with all my layers still on, I said to Paul, “as much as I am dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to the drive to work because I know the heat in my car works.“) At least this morning I can feel the heat from the space heater–yesterday for most of the day I couldn’t, unless I got close to it, that’s how fucking cold it was in here…I could see my breath last night as I gulped down hot soup. Needless to say, I got absolutely nothing done yesterday, but I watched a lot of videos about history–I found a great American history channel, with a history teacher going over important points from our history–the compromises of 1820 and 1850 that just kicked the slavery question down the road a bit; the Kansas-Nebraska Act; the Dred Scott decision; and every other point in our history where the government tried to appease slaveholders in order to keep the peace.

Appeasement is never a solution; all it does it buy some time before the inevitable conflict comes.

I also just had a horrid thought–I do hope the heat is on at the office…although if it’s not, I doubt they will keep us there very long.

And I do think I’ve learned my lesson about getting out of bed. If it’s cold like this tomorrow, I am just going to grab my laptop and anything and everything else I have to work on tomorrow, and I am going to do it from under the blankets upstairs. And move my space heater up there as well. I can’t afford to lose another day of work because it’s cold–and the weather it going to remain cold over the next few days before finally returning to normal New Orleans winter weather temperatures on Sunday.

I found myself thinking yesterday, as I shivered and tried to start warm (my iPad was cold to the touch so I didn’t even want to hold it for significant periods of time) I found myself thinking, not only about the Kansas book which needs to be worked on, but about another Scotty book–or what will probably be the next Scotty book, Twelfth Night Knavery, which has a very basic plot already in place, so writing the book will just be putting meat and muscle on top of the skeleton I’ve already got in place. I think the next Scotty will take place a few weeks after the previous one, the one after that will take place during the Carnival of 2020, and then we’ll jump ahead to 2021’s Carnival for the next. I’m not sure if this is workable, in all honesty; three Scotty books over such a short time period will spread the writing out over three years, really, so this third one I am thinking about would wind up being a 2024 release….and that’s if no other writing projects/jobs come along in the meantime to kick the Scotty can down the road a while….this is an awful lot of pre-thinking and pre-planning for Scotty; certainly more than I’ve ever put into these books before….so it feels a little bit weird.

We’ve nearly finished the second season of Mr. Mercedes, which we are enjoying a lot after it’s slow start, and I was also very pleased to see that Season Three is going to drop (or start airing) on March 4th, so we don’t have to go too long between seasons. I also rewatched Scream yesterday, which, despite the advances in telephone technology, surprisingly still holds up after all this time–and despite having seen it any number of times, I still enjoy watching it. It really is one of the best slasher movies ever made–particularly in how it mocks the genre, subverting it while embracing it at the same time.

And on that note, I am off to the office, and to perhaps feel warm again for the first time in days.