If I Was a Dancer

Monday and I have to say–as comfortable as that bed was in Birmingham, there’s nothing like my own bed. I really like being home. But being away is much more pleasant when you’ve just spent a weekend away. I slept very deeply last night–I did wake up a couple of times, but was able to get back to sleep again, which was lovely. I also slept later than I intended to this morning, but that’s also okay. I have things to get done, errands to run, cleaning to do and laundry to launder, manuscripts to edit…it’s not easy being a Gregalicious sometimes. (There’s also nothing like coffee you’ve made yourself, either.) Parades on St. Charles also begin this Friday, which means today I really need to get my life and week figured out–parade season always requires a plan. There are three parades Friday night, five Saturday, and two or three on Sunday. We haven’t gotten a Mardi Gras guide for this year, either; I’ll need to rectify that today–but I don’t think I’ve seen any anywhere this year? Maybe I’ve not been paying attention–always a possibility, really–but we really need to have one.

Although I suppose the parade tracker app can serve in its place?

Perish the thought.

It feels chilly in the apartment this morning but the heat isn’t on, which is odd. It felt relatively temperate in the apartment when I got home last night, so I’ll have to check the setting.

It’s always slightly disorienting to reacclimate to your day-to-day existence after a lovely weekend of being an author, you know? I’ve never had much trouble erecting firewalls to compartmentalize the different aspects of my life; I keep my day job out of my writing profession and I keep my author life out of my day job, and so on and so forth. I think I am able to compartmentalize my life so easily because I’ve always compartmentalized my life; every queer person who has ever been closeted should be good at this as we are used to living two separate lives–always terrified that somehow the two lives would intersect at the worst possible moment. I do recognize in myself that separating aspects of my life is such an ingrained habit that even after successfully merging my two lives when I was thirty, that I still have the habit of separating. I separate my private life from my public life, and am fiercely protective of my privacy (and yes, I know how weird that sounds, given I have a daily blog–but I rarely talk about my personal life on here other than generic references to dinners or drinks with friends, and I try very hard to leave my friends’ names out of here as well; they didn’t give me permission to talk about them publicly), and I also separate my author life from my day-job world. It’s nice and humbling to know that even if my co-workers know that I am an author, they don’t think about it much or if they do, it’s more of a how cool and then they move on and forget about it as well. This is even more true now that Jean has retired; I used to pop into her office to talk about a book one of us was writing, or something that we just read and liked, or just to share industry gossip with a heaping side helping of snark. I do miss that from time to time.

But I need to shake off this weird adjustment feeling. I have things to do, even though I’d rather just curl up in my easy chair and finish reading The Lying Game. I need to write my review of Carol Goodman’s The Night Visitors; I need to clean out the refrigerator and see what’s spoiled in order to make a grocery list for today; I need to figure out what to take for lunch for the rest of the week; I need to make a Costco list; I need to make a plan to get through parade season; I need to finish a short story and look at some in-progress ones to pick ones to finish for submission calls; and of course, there’s always filing and organizing to do. At some point I need to start tearing my manuscripts apart for the revisions; and I will probably do that today. There’s laundry to launder and computer files to look through and file properly; there’s mail and groceries and a prescription to get. So, on that note, I need to make another cup of coffee, find something in the cabinets for breakfast (add cereal to grocery list), and get my normal life kicked back into gear, much as I’d rather bask in the afterglow of the weekend.

So have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Out of Time

It’s today that I officially run out of time on this draft; tomorrow I need to get it emailed in. I think I’ll be okay; I wrote six thousand words yesterday and only have six thousand more to go before I can call it an official draft that I can send in with an email of apology and explanation. It’s fine, really, everything is fine. I am remarkably calm about everything these days. I’m not sure why that is, but I do like it, and am delighted that it appears to be becoming a theme for me in 2023. But I am very excited to get this draft finished and turned in–I think it’s eventually, with some work, going to be one of my better ones–but now I have the foundation and skeleton of the book finished; soon I will go in and do all the little touches and finishes that will turn it into something fun and readable for readers. But I still have more to write yet–there are two chapters left to write–and while I did get six thousand words down yesterday, I have to do another six in order to get it finished. Which is fine and do-able, of course. And it’s always nice to finish something right before a weekend away.

We watched more of The Recruit last night, which we are really getting into, so I am looking forward to seeing another episode tonight or maybe two? We shall have to see, of course. I was very tired after getting home and writing last night; last night’s sleep wasn’t as deep as my sleep has been lately, but that’s okay; I did sleep decently even if I did have to keep waking up. I have a lot to do tonight, as well–and I would like to get back to doing some reading. But once I have the manuscript finished, I can have my evenings after work free for a few days; I’m not planning on getting into the weeds on editing until I get back from Alabama. Hopefully that will give me the time to do some short story writing that needs finishing, as well. The kitchen is a mess, too–I really don’t like going away for the weekend with the house in a mess to come home to, but I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do anything about it in the meantime. And then of course it’s parade season again the next two weekends, and before you know it it’s Lent and it’s all over again for another year. The first quarter of the year in New Orleans is always a challenge…

Cindy Williams died yesterday–it took me a minute to remember that Penny Marshall had also passed away already–and of course, most of the commentary and posts defaulted to Laverne & Shirley, and why wouldn’t they? It was a highly rated–if sophomoric–comedy series for eight seasons on ABC, and it did make her both rich and famous. But the thing I always thought was kind of sad was that she was actually capable of a lot more than a slapstick lowbrow comedy on television (hey, she got rich from it, and it made a lot of people happy, too) because she’d given some really fine performances in very good films like American Graffiti and The Conversation (both of which I watched during my Cynical 70’s Film Festival; most people remember American Graffiti as a fun comedy about one Saturday night in 1962 in Modesto, California–but it was a lot darker and more serious than people generally remember. It also was set in 1962, not the 50’s, but it was in that weird aftermath period where the music was still very similar–the Beatles hadn’t crossed the sea yet–and until the Kennedy assassination, the early 1960’s seemed very much like a continuation of the 1950’s until everything changed. I always wondered what Cindy Williams may have made of herself as an actress in film had she not taken the Laverne & Shirley gig. And that Tuesday night ABC line-up was something: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, SOAP, and Hart to Hart.

Ah, my teen years.

I recently rejoined the Horror Writers’ Association; I am not really sure why, to be honest. They sent me a “we want you back” email and I was talking to That Bitch Ford and I thought, sure, why not? You’re not really a horror writer but you ARE a writer who has written some fiction that could be classified as that and you’re always looking for new places to submit short stories and….so I did. I’d forgotten why I’d initially let the membership go, and it barely took a month for me to be reminded. There was a contretemps on the official Facebook page for the group, and then it just kept spiraling out of control with all the nastiness, bigotry, and hatred. As an author, I would always like to be seen as an author first and treated with the common courtesy that any author should expect from their peers, particularly in a nonprofit organization that serves them. But, as I have been reminded all-too-many times since Murder in the Rue Dauphine was sent out into the world, there will always be those people–in publishing, bookselling, reviewing, etc.–who will always define me by my sexuality and denigrate both me and what I write because of it. As I often say on panels when it comes to genre, the adjective gay trumps anything that follows: mystery, horror, science fiction, romance, etc. I am also very aware that gatekeeping in publishing–while on the decline–has always been there to keep the “undesirables” out. Seeing someone whom I didn’t know–and have no desire to know now–erupting on the HWA page and spewing hate-filled rhetoric, and then doubling-down by appearing on a white supremacist/Nazi’s podcast for several hours…well, you put on the SS uniform, it’s kind of hard to deny your complicity in the Holocaust after the war. And watching it all go down over the last few days reminded me of why I left the organization in the first place–the overt and covert bigotry in the organization.

And for the record, when you’re talking about diversity and you say but it has to be about the writing! that’s a dogwhistle people like me have been hearing for decades. What you are saying is the reason our genre is not more diverse is because the non-white non-straight writers aren’t good enough.

Yeah, that was all I needed to hear to know where I stood with HWA, and so when it was time to renew the next time, I just let it go.

And I am also incredibly proud of myself because usually my response to situations like this one–this most recent blow-up, and that comment all those years ago–is to say okay I have to get involved so I can fix this. I am very happy that instead my thought is, oh yes, this is why I let it lapse and will do so again. I’ve been fighting this kind of shit for decades, and frankly, I’m tired. I just want to focus on me for a while and let everyone else fix all the things that need fixing.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow, when Pay-the-Bills Day rolls around again.

It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)

I bit the bullet yesterday and decided to go ahead and attend Malice Domestic. It was expensive, but it does count as a business expense, and really, will I ever be nominated for an Agatha again? Probably not very likely, and even though it is just as likely that I will not win, it’s not like I’m not used to sitting at a banquet and hearing someone else’s name called. Plus, it’s always nice to be around writers, and I’ll get to see friends–including some I’ve not seen in quite a while (looking at you, Sara J. Henry) and the one time before that I went–like ten years ago–I had a really great time. So, I will be coming to Bethesda that last weekend in April, y’all. (Of course I just had a paranoid moment of wondering if I booked the flight and hotel for the right dates, but DUH, I went to the hotel link from their website after registering.) Now I just have to figure out how to get there from Washington National…I’ll probably spring for a Lyft or a car service rather than trying to drag my luggage around on the Metro.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, actually; I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked but I did make progress and progress is always appreciated. We watched the figure skating yesterday (Ilia Malinin got the gold; Jason Brown the silver) and then caught up on Servant and Mayfair Witches (which is getting more and more off-track from the book, but will save those conversations for when the show has finished, when I will talk about both book and television series), and then we started The Recruit on Netflix, which sort of reminds me of Killing Eve in some ways, but it’s different. The first episode is a bit much, but as the show continues it starts hitting its stride and I very reluctantly had to stop the binge so I could go to bed. I do look forward to tuning in again, too–hopefully Paul won’t be working super-late every night this week.

It’s hard to believe that I am heading up to Birmingham this Friday, and the next weekend is when the parades start. #madness. February will be over before we know it–and then it’s March and suddenly spring is over and we’re back into the brutal summer months of three hundred dollar power bills. I slept really well last night–the weather has changed again and is warm, which means it’s super-foggy at night and in the mornings, burning off a bit in the afternoons before descending upon us again as the sun goes down. I need to get the draft of the book finished this week and sent off; I am hoping to spend the rest of the week before I leave for Alabama Friday morning working on a short story that I need to get finished for the ever-patient editor.

I slept really well again last night, which seems to be becoming a recurrent theme for me in 2023, and one that I am deeply happy and grateful for. I’m feeling a lot less anxiety this year, and I think the relaxation and lower anxiety has everything to do with me doing all this writing, which has been wonderful. I am always happiest when I am writing and producing–even work as rough and raw as this manuscript currently is–and it always puts me in a better frame of mind. Writing, as much as I always have to force myself to do it and sometimes even hate it while I am doing it, is my happy place and as long as I am writing I am in a better frame of mind, which is something I really need to remember going forward with everything in my life: writing is what centers you and makes you happiest.

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

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment before I head over to the Convention Center. I had a decent day yesterday; I got all my work done and wrote quite a bit; around four thousand words. I’ll need to do quite a bit this afternoon after I get back from the ALA event; if by chance you are also going, I’ll be signing at 10:30, so stop by the Dreamscape booth (they did the audiobook for A Streetcar Named Murder) and say hello and get a signed copy of the book with a download link for the audiobook. How fun is that?

Last night we watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships, which I’d DVRed–we also watched the LSU gymnastics meet before hand–and I read some more of Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food, which I am really enjoying. On the way home from the event today I have to stop by Office Max to get some new ink cartridges for my printer–it ran out of ink in the middle of a job yesterday (I always print out what I’m writing to edit and reread sans computer screen; I spend way too much time in front of a screen as it is). I slept really well last night, too–which was terrific; it’s amazing how much good sleep and rest I’ve been getting since my return to New York, and of course, I am also incredibly pleased with the writing I’ve been doing since before Christmas. I haven’t quite gotten my act together completely yet, but I am starting to feel like I’m getting closer to where I need to be. After I get back from Alabama the next step for me is to start taking walks when I get home from work every night–nothing major, just out with my phone around the neighborhood; there are Mardi Gras decorations that need to be documented, and it always makes me feel a little more connected to the city when I do that, and maybe start stretching every morning with my coffee, which will also help wake me up, too. I would imagine that tonight’s schedule will be watching more figure skating once Paul gets home from the office–which reminds me, I don’t have anything to make for dinner, so I should probably schedule a grocery run at some point today. Heavy sigh. Time is not on my side.

But so it goes, you know?

I have to say, I’m having a pretty good year so far. The Lefty and Agatha Award nominations were completely unexpected–then again, do people actually expect to be nominated for awards? It shouldn’t surprise me that some do, I suppose. Anyway, for me they were lovely surprises, and a lovely kind of pat on the back from the community to let me know they like and appreciate me and my work. I’ve really not had a lot of reassurance about anything throughout my life; most of my career I was just kind of over here doing my own thing while the mainstream mystery community might acknowledge my existence here and there, now and again, but for the most part I’ve kind of felt on my own, almost from the very beginning. The Anthony nominations last year, and these nominations this year, were so lovely. I may not be the first openly gay writer of openly gay work to be nominated for Anthonys and Agathas, but I am one of the few–there haven’t been many–and of course the response to my first mainstream book, A Streetcar Named Murder, has also been reassuring and lovely and nice. I know I shouldn’t still have issues with Imposter Syndrome, but the truth is I still do, but things like that help me with my confidence levels.

But after a lifetime of people telling me I couldn’t do it, I would never do it, and so on when it came to writing, it’s not surprising that I struggle with Imposter Syndrome despite being nominated for over twenty awards during the course of my career and even winning a few. I guess my mindset has never reset from when my first book came out–periodically I will look at my CV or have to count awards or publications or something and I am always taken a bit aback by how much I’ve actually done already. I guess part of it comes from just focusing on what I am doing and what I need to get done–part of that never look back thing I always do–as well as thinking about all the things I want to write but am beginning to realize I am never going to get to before I die. (And yes, I know, that’s morbid and depressing to think about but once you pass sixty your mortality starts seeming a lot more real than it did before–which is also a great topic for an essay someday.)

So yes, I am feeling good and content this morning. It’s a nice feeling and one I’ve not had in a long time; I am slowly but surely cleaning up all the odds and ends that I’ve had trouble getting around to and getting somewhere.

And on that note, tis time for me to head into the spice mines and start getting ready to head over to the convention center. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again later.

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.

Walking to New Orleans

One thing I do miss about Carnival season is walking home from work along the parade route–and I could tell I was out of practice walking this last weekend in New York, trust me.

For years, I worked on Frenchmen Street, one block downtown from the Quarter. I live inside the Carnival parade route (we call it “inside the box” here–the box boundaries being Tchoupitoulas, Napoleon, St. Charles and Canal–which means those streets generally close to traffic (only the downtown-running side of St. Charles closes; the uptown side does not, but you can imagine how horrific the traffic is on that side when there’s a parade on the other side of the neutral ground) about an hour or so before the first parade rolls, which means if I didn’t have my car “inside the box” before the streets closed, I’d have to wait until after the parades all ended–usually sometime after eleven, and the last thing I’d want to do is walk blocks to where I’d left the car to bring it home through all the after-parade traffic and mess–yeah, no thanks. We also used to do a lot of condom outreach during Carnival nights, setting up a table at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann. So, on days when I had to actually go into the office I took the streetcar (which doesn’t run on Lundi Gras, so I had to walk the entire way) and walked through the Quarter–then would go do outreach and walk home from there. It was always tricky crossing the parade route itself; if I timed it right and got to Canal between parades, I could cut across to the inside easily; if not, I’d have to walk up Baronne to Harmony (formerly Lee) Circle, and I could always cut across at St. Charles (in the CBD and along Canal Street, barriers are erected to keep people out of the street). I may have been tired, but I always was in a good mood by the time I got home because I’d have a lot of beads already from walking along the parade route.

People used to love my post-parade bead selfiesas you can see, I am wearing my work shirt, so these beads were caught while walking home. Also, disregard the horror show that are my kitchen counters, thank you.

It’s funny, because I used to always bitch about having to walk to the office or condom outreach, and then having to walk home after. So, of course now I miss it.

I also sometimes take selfies when I am out on the parade route, to give everyone an idea how the throw-catching is going.

Obviously, I don’t care how I look as long as the throws are visible. This is from Iris in 2020, the last carnival before the pandemic.

And yes, the correct terminology is “throws,” because the krewes throw more than just beads. They throw candy, bubblegum, plush toys, moon pies, bags of potato chips, boas, and go cups, for starters. And of course some of the krewes have signature throws, such as the Zulu coconut, the Muses shoe, Tucks’ toilet themed throws (sunglasses that look like toilets, rolls of toilet paper) and the King Arthur grails. The signature throws are coveted, by the way; you’d be surprised at the way people will fight and claw and shove to get them.

One of our many Muses shoes. Isn’t it pretty? Paul manages to get at least one every year.

New Orleans is an extremely walkable city in my part of town. Twenty minutes maximum to Canal Street, another twenty minutes the other way to Touro or the Fresh Market, and of course the Marigny is another fifteen minutes past Canal. I don’t walk as much as I should; maybe after work every day from now on when I get home I can take a walk until I’m certain my arm is better and I can go back to the gym again. I love walking to the gym, I love walking through the Garden District–but sometimes it’s way too hot to walk, and of course, there’s always a chance of getting caught in a sudden thunderstorm/downpour (it’s why we own so many umbrellas; you end up getting caught out in a storm without one so of course you buy another). That was something I wanted to stress in A Streetcar Named Murder–that someone who lives where Valerie does, for example, can pretty much just walk anywhere to do her errands; I lived in New Orleans without a car for two years. (Good thing my parents insisted on me taking their old Oldsmobile–the Flying Couch of yore–that summer of 2004, or we would have been trapped here for Katrina.)

And one of the best memories I have of all Carnivals was the 2006 one, when New Orleans briefly flared to life again in the midst of the reconstruction, when for a few brief shining days it felt like New Orleans again, and gave us all hope that someday we would have our beautiful, wondrous, wacky city again. That Fat Tuesday was so beautiful; it was in the 70’s, clear sky, cool breeze, and no humidity. As I said that day, marveling at how gorgeous it was, “To be fair, Mother Nature kind of owes us.”

And I definitely need to spend more time walking around my beautiful city finding hidden treasures.

Ruby Tuesday

Tuesday morning before the sun rises blog.

I have to say, it’s really difficult sometimes to be a pro-New Orleans person the way I am, but it’s not New Orleans that is the general problem, it’s some people. After the massive debacle around the Krewe of Nyx and it’s problematic and racist leadership (they defiantly paraded last year to non-existent crowds; maybe some tourists who didn’t know better were out there, but after the parade before theirs, everyone left the parade route), I thought it would be hard for any krewe to do a worse job of public relations or, for wont of a better word choice, reading the goddamned room. However, this past weekend the leadership of the Krewe of Endymion basically said to Nyx, “hold our beer” and named noted anti-Semite, misogynist, and homophobic racist Mel Gibson as celebrity monarch (co-monarch, to be precise).

I don’t go to Endymion–it doesn’t go past our corner; we’d have to walk to Harmony Circle (I keep calling it Liberty Circle since it was renamed, anything is better than Lee Circle) to see it–and I’ve only ever seen it on the rare occasions when it does come down St. Charles Avenue (rained out on Saturday; abbreviated route after Katrina), or when we used to go out that Saturday night, walking to the Quarter up the route (and getting buried with beads on the way)–so it’s not like I would be boycotting it anyway; but they did rescind the invitation but rather than admitting they made a HUGE mistake, decided to blame the outrage and cite concerns for their safety as the reason.

Fuck all the way off, Endymion, seriously. Yes, blame the outrage instead of your incredibly poor decision-making skills.

Nyx, by the way. went from 3500 members and riders to less than 200. And yes, that will wind up in a book someday–it’s too good to not use it, you know? Also of note: that last pre-pandemic Mardi Gras, back in 2020? Two people were killed by floats during parades that season–at Nyx and Endymion. Perhaps the gods of Carnival were letting us know in advance?

Then again, Carnival has a horrifically exclusionary and racist past we tend to gloss over a lot here (read Lords of Misrule sometime).

It’s dark out this morning and I didn’t sleep as great last night as I would have liked, which is fine. This is my last day in the office this week, and of course tomorrow morning I’m off to New York, so if I’m tired, I’m tired. I did manage another three thousand words on the book yesterday–it really is going well, and I am actually enjoying writing it, to be completely honest–and I managed to get some chores done yesterday when I got home from work–the dishes, mostly. Tonight I’ll need to pack; the flight isn’t until 12:15 tomorrow, so I don’t have to leave for the airport until almost ten, so I can sleep a little later than usual on a Wednesday; which will prepare me for the insomnia of the hotel…which I honestly am hoping won’t be the case this time. After doing the chores last night and writing, I watched a documentary about the Eastern Roman Empire for a while before switching over to the national title game–which was kind of boring and not much fun to watch; I mean, what the hell, TCU? And how on earth did they beat Michigan? Ohio State was a missed field goal in the closing seconds away from playing in the title game; and they lost to Michigan at home. I know it’s pointless to do comparative scoring and so forth because every game day is different, but I can guarantee you neither Alabama nor Tennessee would have gotten rolled 65-7. Hell, even LSU played Georgia better in the conference championship game and they played terribly. I guess the only teams capable of stopping Georgia from doing what no one else has ever done–three in a row–are from our conference.

But it will be fun watching Georgia fans become even more hated than Alabama’s this coming year. And they play in Knoxville this next season. The 2023 season, I think, is going to be even more interesting to watch than this year’s.

You heard it here first.

I need to make a packing list today, too. I already checked the weather for the weekend and it won’t be much worse than it is here when it gets wintery, so that’s bearable for me. Hat, jacket and gloves are all I need, and I think I can manage without getting super cold and whiny, so we’ll see how all that goes. I’m actually more than a little excited about the trip, to be honest. This may be my last trip to New York for quite some time and I am not going to be there for very long; That Bitch Ford has done an absolutely marvelous job of Julie McCoy-ing our weekend up there; we’re going to see a play (Hadestown), to Chinatown, and we’re going to a noodle place, too–I love noodles–and I am meeting others for drinks and so forth–it’s quite marvelous, really. I just hate the drudgery and getting to and from the airport, and the flights themselves–although usually once I am on the plane and have my book open in my lap, I don’t mind the flights quite as much–and I have no plans for tomorrow evening, so hopefully once I am checked into the hotel and unpacked, I can write for a while and then read myself to sleep…or watch a movie on my laptop, or something. It should be a great trip, and I even have the Monday holiday off so I can recover as well as do things to get ready for the week without having to do it around going to the office.

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

Darkness at the Edge of Town

I’ve kind of slowed down on my blatant self-promotion for A Streetcar Named Murder, mainly because the enormous thrill and rush of Release Day/Release Week has already come and gone. It isn’t like I’ve run out of things to say about New Orleans by any means; I could be here blogging for the rest of my life about New Orleans and never do more than scratching the surface. The depth of my lack of knowledge about New Orleans is bottomless. One thing, for example, that I can never completely wrap my head around is where the train tracks and stations were in the city, back when rail was king and vitally important to the operation of our port. I know there was a station in Storyville; part of the reason it ended up being closed was because so many men went through New Orleans on their way to serve in Europe during World War II, and the Department of War looked askance at the soldiers disembarking in a red light district (can’t say as I blame them, but on the other hand, they were heading off to the miseries of the trenches and what was, at the time, the bloodiest and deadliest conflict in human history, so why not let them get laid and party it up before getting on their troop transport?

I have always considered New Orleans to be a dark city–despite its many charms and enticements–not just because of the history here (which is plenty dark) or even the crime “problem” (which goes back over three hundred years), but because it really gets dark here at night; not quite as the true dark you can get out in the country, but for an urban area? New Orleans is the darkest city where I’ve lived. I’ve never experienced an urban area that gets so dark at night once the sun has set.

It’s like all the lights from houses and street lamps and businesses just \gets somehow sucked into the darkness and vanishes. When I come home after dark and park on my street, it always catches me by surprise when the inside of my car is lit up by one of the street lights. This happens, I think, because the massive live oaks everywhere inevitably block out the lights with their enormous branches. Oddly enough, cloudy nights generally are lighter than cloudless ones–because the cloud cover reflects back the neon of the French Quarter, turning the night sky clouds reddish-pink; it’s a phenomena unique to New Orleans that I really love. And the street lamps here seem to only cast light downward rather than up and out; it’s very hard to read street signs in New Orleans after dark.

See how dark it gets at night? It’s like the light gets eaten by the night.

Then again, that could be my eyes getting worse with age. My sister can’t see hardly at all after dark now, which worries me a little, but not a lot: her eye issues were different than mine. I was horribly near-sighted while she had an astigmatism, but my mother also has trouble seeing at night, too and she never had to wear glasses (she has reading ones now) so that doesn’t bode well, does it?

Another part of the reason it gets so dark here at night also has something to do with how many of our street lights are out, too. New Orleans street lights aren’t the kind that go up and then hang out over the street, either. Ours are the old-fashioned kind, with a bulb and its cover going up in a straight line–I think they were the old gas ones, adapted for electricity; I am not sure one way or the other. But I do like the antique, old timey look to ours. Now that I think about it, we couldn’t have the ones that hang out over the street, either; because of parade clearance! The low hanging branches of the live oaks that line St. Charles are also a problem for the larger floats, too; which is why so many of them are festooned with beads riders accidentally toss into the trees instead of to the outstretched hands of eager parade-goers–it’s going to be Carnival here sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ haphazard approach to street lights and keeping the city lit up and visible at night also plays, interestingly enough, a role in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually; that darkness has a very strong hand on the finale of the book. When I was driving back from Kentucky after Thanksgiving, I noticed that once you got over the twin spans from Slidell and are back in Orleans Parish the lights on I-10 either don’t work or weren’t on, which gave the busy highway an eerie, almost hypnotically haunted feeling as I arrived in New Orleans East and climbed the bridge over the Industrial Canal. It even feels like the headlight beams of my car also get swallowed up into the darkness.

Is that darkness metaphorical? Maybe.

But I can only imagine how dark it must have been here at night when there wasn’t any electricity or gas, for that matter. And of course, it was very dark here after Katrina when most of the city lay in ruins. That was such a weird time.

I read a great review of Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin yesterday, which pointed out that the book was about a thirty year battle between the city of New Orleans and its brand of lawlessness, debauchery, and sin; which really is spot-on accurate. New Orleans has always been fighting that branding almost from the day the French settled on the high land along the river here. There has never been a time in her history when New Orleans has not drawn in tourists due to the branding with debauchery and sin. Someone was telling me the other day that the primary problem with dating apps in New Orleans is they are always full of tourists looking to get laid and not wanting to pay for it–which made me laugh; it reminded me of the old gay truism about not looking for hook-ups on-line the week before Decadence, Halloween or Carnival–because the chatrooms etc. were full of people coming in for the weekend and looking to make hook-up dates in advance…which was so patently absurd because seriously, back in the day if you couldn’t get laid just by going out during those events…well, you should just hire an escort and be done with it. People come here specifically to have the kind of good time they can’t have at home.

So, yes, the city has always had that kind of reputation and branding, which is why I always roll my eyes when the whites who fled the city for the suburbs and/or the north shore clog up the comments on social media and news articles about crime in New Orleans, clutching their breasts and casting their teary eyes up to the heavens as they bemoan how New Orleans has somehow slid into the gutter and how crime has gotten completely out of control. Fuck off, racists–we know what your dog whistles are because we’ve listened to them ad nauseum, ad infinitum: crime is a stand-in for oh no the black people and don’t pretend like you left New Orleans because of “crime”; you left New Orleans because of desegregation, so fuck all the way off. (The people who were protesting the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans were not from New Orleans, either.)

So, yes, there is crime in New Orleans–always has been, always will be–and I don’t know what the answer to reducing it or bringing the numbers down. But you can be the victim of a crime anywhere–the Clutters were murdered in rural Kansas back in the 1950s, after all–and it just means always be aware of your surroundings–which is always good advice for anywhere, really.

Twelfth Night

The other night, as I walked to Lilette to meet my friend Laura for dinner, I walked past this house:

It made me smile, as the New Orleans dedication for decorating for the holidays (any holiday, really) always does.

I posted this picture after taking it, along with a caption along the lines of it’s almost Twelfth Night and the start of Carnival! Someone commented, a bit surprised, “already?” which once again made me realize how different living in New Orleans is from living anywhere else, really, in the country. Nobody outside of Louisiana (unless they’re Catholic) understands how Carnival actually works, which makes sense. If it doesn’t affect you, how would you know? So, I decided explaining Carnival would be an excellent blatant self-promotion post, particularly since A Streetcar Named Murder is built around (sort of) a Carnival krewe and their membership recruitment ball. So, buckle up, Constant Reader, I’m going to give you a sort of primer for New Orleans Carnival.

Carnival begins on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and the season continues until it ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras is actually the last day of Carnival, not the entire season; but over the years Mardi Gras has become synonymous with Carnival, but the locals will always correct you when you call it Mardi Gras instead of Carnival; and ‘mardi gras” literally translates from the French to Fat Tuesday), when the bells of St. Louis toll the beginning of Lent and the police clear everyone off the streets of the city (no one is supposed to be out on the streets after midnight; I used to love to stand on the balcony at the Parade watching the mounted police officers slowly making their way down Bourbon Street as the crowds disperse before them–and behind them the street is empty). I’m not going to get into the history of Carnival and how it all began as a “farewell to the flesh” before the religious solemnity and penance of Lent; but that’s the part most people don’t get if you’re not from here or Catholic. Christmas, Carnival, Lent, and Easter are all tied together. Twelfth Night is always a fixed date because Christmas is fixed for December 25th; but since Easter’s date is never the same, neither is the date for Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, which is always forty days before Easter.

So, first things first. If you want to know all there is to know about each year’s Carnival, you start by getting a copy of Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide, seen below. (You can order it on-line if you’re curious about it.)

(Don’t @ me, I know it should be Carnival Guide, but Mr. Hardy is Mr. Expert on all things Carnival, so we let him get away with it every year.)

The guide is invaluable, even though now there’s a parade tracker app so you always know where the parades are. The parades are what most people associate with New Orleans and Carnival/Mardi Gras; the big ones that shut down St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street aren’t until the last two weekends before Fat Tuesday. I don’t even know how many parades pass by our corner during parade season, but it’s a lot. (I’m hearing that the parade routes are being truncated a bit because of not having enough police officers to pull parade duty, but I don’t pay a lot of attention and just look at the Guide–which I have yet to get a copy of this year.) So, parade season is the two weekends prior to Fat Tuesday. The first weekend is easy, really; there’s parades on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Then we get a two day respite before they start in earnest, and there’s always at least two a night beginning the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday. Muses is Thursday night, following two others; there are also three on that Friday. Saturday afternoon is my favorite, Iris, which is followed by Tucks. Endymion is the big parade on Saturday night but it has a different route; it doesn’t come down St. Charles unless rain has caused it to be postponed for a night (when Endymion rolls down St. Charles on a Sunday night it’s a nightmare out there at the corner because Endymion is HUGE). There are parades all day Sunday, culminating with Bacchus Sunday night; Orpheus is the grand finale on Monday night, and of course on Fat Tuesday Rex follows Iris and then come the truck parades. There are also other, smaller, walking parades earlier; Krewe de Vieux, for example, is enormous and is a Saturday night later this month. After Twelfth Night and before Parade Season, there are balls and parties and walking parades and all kinds of celebrations leading up to the parades. The bleachers are already going up at Liberty Circle and all along St. Charles.

So, what does A Streetcar Named Murder, which is set in October, have to do with Carnival, and how is this a blatant self-promotion post?

Because the plot of Streetcar is set around an October costume ball for one of the newer Carnival krewes, the completely fictitious Krewe of Boudicca (it was Athena in earlier drafts, until I realized that I should check to make sure such a krewe doesn’t exist anywhere and sure enough, there is one; either in Metairie or on the north shore), which is also kind of new-member rush for the krewe. Our main character, Valerie, has no interest in belonging to a krewe; as she says, she’s fine “just going to parades and catching throws.” But her neighbor/best friend Lorna wants to join Boudicca, and she is dragging an unwilling Valerie along for the ball. It’s at the ball that the murder takes place; turns out the membership chair for Boudicca is Valerie’s nemesis, and of courea Valerie is the one who finds the victim after she’s stabbed.

And of course, it’s Carnival season again in New Orleans! So more info and blatant self-promotion to come!

19th Nervous Breakdown

Saturday morning and another lovely day in New Orleans–if a bit chilly–has dawned in the Lost Apartment. What a marvelous night’s sleep I had last night. The bed and blankets were so comfortable–not to mention the snoring kitty curled up between Paul and I–that I really didn’t want to get up, but I have far too much to do today to continue to laze in the bed simply because it felt good. So, it was out of the bed for one Gregalicious, and here I sit, swilling my morning coffee and clearing the cobwebs from my brain by trying to write a coherent blog post. (Good luck to me on that, am I right?) Yesterday was a work-at-home day, of data entry and doing quality assurance on testing logs, and yes, it is as tedious as it sounds. But after work I did some great thinking and work on the in-progress story, and am looking forward to getting some quality work done on it this morning/afternoon/however long it takes me to reach the day’s goal, and no matter if it kills me–which it just might do. I also have some errands to do today, but they shouldn’t take long.

Huzzah? Huzzah.

Last night we watched the final episode of Welcome to Chippendale’s, which really dragged on for far too long. There really wasn’t eight episodes of story here, and so it often seemed to drag and drag and drag. It’s a shame, the acting was top-notch and it was a great story, but unless you’re interested in viewing a couple of Emmy-worthy performances, watch the true crime documentary instead. It’s funny to remember how ubiquitous Chippendale’s seemed to be in the 1980’s–I certainly owned a few of their calendars, since they were the first real beefcake calendars produced–and I wished sometimes that I had a stronger memory, at least of the 1980’s, but it was such a dark and brutal decade for me I think I was happy to forget most of it. Paul is going to be gone most of the day today, so I have no excuse not to get a lot of writing and other things completed today. I do want to watch the adaptation of Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix at some point this weekend, and of course we do need to finish watching Sherwood, too. I leave for New York on Wednesday, which is kind of fun–I am really looking forward to having some good Chinese food–and hopefully I’ll be able to get writing done on the road (which never happens, no matter how much I hope that it does).

But this time, it must.

I’m really enjoying all this writing I am doing lately, even though I am lazy and would rather not do anything at all. But it feels good to be pushing my brain and my creativity and trying to come up with fresh and new ways of saying things as well as fresh and new characters and interactions and stories. This first half of the year is going to be hectic and busy for me, but I am developing a plan that should help me get through till the spring. If I can stay motivated and stop being lazy, I should be able to get a lot accomplished before the dog days of summer are upon me. My writing goals for the year are very ambitious, of which I am well aware, but I think it’s better to try to do more and not quite get there than to plan less ambitiously and get even less done. I know I can’t get everything done that I want to get done in 2023 (I don’t think anyone could, to be honest), but I’d rather be overconfident than not, you know?

I am having my first piece of king cake for 2023 with my coffee this morning and it is sublime. It’s kind of hard to believe that Carnival season has rolled around again, and now of course the first part of the year will fly by: New York next week, Alabama the first weekend of February, then Carnival, the one-two punch of Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners at the end of March, and then of course it’s practically summer again already, and then the next thing you know it’s football season again. This, for the record, is how your life ends up slipping through your fingers like mercury. Heavy sigh. But I am trying not to look forward to things, if that makes sense? I kind of want to just keep my head down, avoid drama for the most part, and focus on my writing for the year. It seems like writing always takes a back seat to everything else for me, which is ironic since it’s the thing I draw the most pleasure from and being a writer is such an integral part of my self-identity. I don’t see myself as a sexual health counselor, even though that’s my day job and has been for eighteen years. I don’t see myself as Mrs. Saints & Sinners/Tennessee Williams Festival, either–even though that’s been Paul’s job for the last twenty-two years. I see myself, despite all the other identities I take on in my everyday life, first and foremost as a writer; that is the core of my identity and who I am. And yet…it always seems as though my writing in always being shunted to the side or pushed back on the list of things to do because I have so many other things always going on in my life. Writing will be my priority now going forward, and while I still intend to work on volunteer stuff whenever I have time, that isn’t going to be a priority for me and it never should have been, either. I don’t know why the most important aspect of my life is always back-burnered for one reason or another, but it’s not going to be the case anymore. I am going to be even more zealous and jealous of my time and donating it only sparingly, and only when I have time.

I also need to start being realistic about everything I can and cannot do and stop thinking oh I can do everything in the world by all means ask me to do more things. I think it all comes from the fear of being disliked, that goes back to childhood–I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over those scars, truth be told–and I am very aware of the idiocy this implies: oh if I say no to this they won’t like me and won’t ask me again; I have always called this Homecoming Queen Syndrome–the desperate need for approval from other people, the need to be liked and well thought of, the fear of being made fun of, mocked, and disliked. I need to work harder on not giving a fuck, but it’s also part and parcel of being queer and trying to fit into a mainstream culture group, the crime writing community. It’s very strange and off-putting to know that people who’ve never met you, know nothing about you, and never will know you hate you in the abstract; that some people will never like you because they’re homophobic (honestly, when it comes to homophobia I prefer the Westboro Baptist Church version, where they will scream their hatred in your face; at least it’s more honest than people who will smile to your face while voting to strip you of your rights); and those same people will never, no matter what, ever read anything you write. It’s weird knowing that people will find your books on Amazon and one-star you without reading the actual book because you’re a queer and you had the audacity to write a book about queers where they are actually whole, happy people who aren’t suffering at all because of their same-sex attractions. The great irony of this is my own inconsistency; when I actually think about it, I do not give two shits what other people think of me, and haven’t for a long time. Unfortunately, I’ve been conditioned my entire life to care what other people think so I always fall back on that subconsciously; I’m always so flattered to be asked to do anything–which is the sneaky way that insecurity/need to be liked gaslights me into agreeing to do things I may not want to actually do or have the time to get done without something else, something that actually matters more to me, being pushed aside or not getting the full attention it needs and deserves.

A Gregalicious is still a work in progress, apparently–even at sixty-one.

And on that note, this work isn’t going to do itself now, is it? Off to the spice mines with me–and will talk to you later, Constant Reader. Have a fabulous Saturday.