I know I’ve told this story about a hundred times, but I think it matters to the entire Scotty canon review thing that I’m doing now, and it kind of does shape the rest of the series. One afternoon when I was heading to work at the old CAN office on Frenchmen Street, I always parked on Kerlerec Street, which was one of the few places in the Marigny neighborhood that wasn’t restricted to two-hour parking and a potential ticket (I didn’t get a parking spot until I went full time). I got out of the car, locked it, and saw some people riding towards me on bicycles. I said good morning and they said good morning back and smiled and kept going. I took a few more steps before realizing that was Brad and Angelina and a couple of the kids! I smiled to myself–one of the things I love most about New Orleans is the regular celebrity sightings–and of course, they lived not far from my office at the time. As I kept walking, some thoughts started riffing in my brain: Brad is blond and not all that tall; Scotty is also blond and not all that tall. Brad and Angelina live essentially right around the corner from Scotty. What if Scotty was walking home one night and when he’s in front of their house someone takes a shot at him, mistaking him for a Brad type actor living in the Quarter? Someone is trying to kill him and since Scotty looks like him, they hire him to get to the bottom of it as well as to run interference?
I really liked the idea–Hollywood South Hustle (keeping the “H” alliteration I was going for when the book was going to be Hurricane Party Hustle)–and when I got home that night I wrote the proposal and first three chapters in a fever…spent a few days refining and polishing it, and submitted it to my Scotty publisher–and they turned it down.
Around the same time, my Chanse publisher–who had yet to make an offer on the next book in the series–suddenly made an offer but gave me a two month turn around on the book. It was do-able, of course, but I thought I deserved something in return for that insane turnaround and so asked for a two book contract and more money; they were clearly desperate since they agreed to both. And I thought, Hmm, I can just turn that Scotty book into a Chanse book and thus it became Murder in the Rue Ursulines (and it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be but that’s a story for another time).
And then one day, I was walking from the parking lot at my old office to where the Gay Easter parade was lining up (my office had a carriage and I rode) and as I walked underneath a balcony I barely avoided getting drenched (those who turn their balconies into lush gardens have to water them, after all, and the excess water has to go somewhere; it’s one of those Quarter hazards we’ve accepted) and in a flash, I thought that very thing–walking under balconies in the Quarter can be hazardous–and then imagined Scotty on his way to the Gay Easter parade to ride on his parents’ business’ float when he gets drenched by someone watering their balcony garden. And just as quickly as I had that thought, I thought of course Scotty would be dressed as a slutty Easter bunny in a white speedo and rabbit ears and tail and then it just got really funny to me. The next morning I wrote that scene, which grew into the first chapter, and since I needed to wrap up the personal story left hanging in the previous book, I ended the chapter with him seeing someone in the crowd he thought was Colin–a thought he quickly dismisses as impossible, and we were off to the races.
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even pigeons and palmetto bugs are supposed, by some, to dream. New Orleans, not sane, stood by itself inside its levees, holding darkness within; it had stood there for almost three hundred years and might stand for three hundred more. Within, walls continued to tilt, bricks crumbled sloppily, floors were termite-chewed and doors sometimes shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of New Orleans, and whoever drank there there, drank alone.
Yeah, right. People only drink alone in New Orleans by choice.
My name is Scotty Bradley, and I’m a private dick who works the mean streets of New Orleans. I right wrongs. I help the downtrodden find justice. I punish the guilty. I ferret out crime, and protect the innocent while punishing the guilty. Criminals tremble when they hear my name, and get out of town if they know what’s good for them. Dame Justice may be blind, but I see all too clearly. The helpless come to me when everyone else has failed, when hope is gone, and the night seems darkest. I’ve got a mean right hook and never back down from a fight. I drink my martinis shaken, not stirred—because I like my gin like miscreants who cross my path, bruised and a little battered. I am on a never-ending quest for truth, justice, and preserving the American way of life. I rescue dreams and bring nightmares to an end. Don’t call me a hero, because any one of you would do the same if given the chance. There is no case too small for me to handle, and there is no case so large that it is intimidating. I’ve taken down a corrupt political machine, and would gladly do it again tomorrow. I’ve found lost treasures and stared down the Russian mob. I’ve stared evil in the face until evil blinked and backed away in mortal terror. I have—
Yeah, right. And I have a bridge across the Mississippi for sale, if you’re interested.
My name is really Milton Bradley, like the board game company—my parents have a slightly twisted sense of humor. Scotty is my middle name, but it’s what everyone calls me. I really am a private eye—bonded, and licensed by the state of Louisiana. I was born and raised in New Orleans and have lived here my entire life except for two misspent years at Vanderbilt University up in Nashville. I live on Decatur Street with my partner, Frank Sobieski. We’re business partners, and life partners. We met on a case a couple of years back, and it was pretty much love at first sight. Frank is one of the most gorgeous men I’ve ever seen outside of a porn movie. He’s in his early forties, about six foot two, and when he had hair, it was blond. Now that he’s balding, he shaves it down to a little buzz. He has the most hypnotic blue eyes, a strong chin, and a scar on the right side of his face. He also started lifting weights in his twenties—and there’s not an ounce of fat on his hugely muscled, amazingly defined body.
He also has one of the most amazing butts I’ve ever laid eyes on. Woof!
Well, okay—it was lust at first sight. Love came later.
I love treasure hunts, always have, and have always wanted to write one. One of my favorite series when I was a kid (they’re still actually quite fun to read now) are the Three Investigators series; which was originally called the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series as he introduced each case and sometimes even referred potential clients to the boys. Many of those books were treasure hunts, and those were always my favorite books. One of their adventures, which was also a favorite, was called The Mystery of the Fiery Eye and was loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, which I read as a teenager and have always remembered fondly. I decided I wanted to do an homage to both books; the treasure everyone is looking for is a stolen, notorious jewel that is very important to a south Asian religious cult, and it’s name was Kali’s Eye, because it was mounted in an enormous statue of her in a temple in a very small, remote south Asian country.
And it was stolen during the Vietnam War, and they’ve been looking for it ever since.
After Scotty gets soaked in his slutty Easter bunny attire, he swears very loudly and the person on the balcony hears him. Turns out to be an old family friend–Scotty wasn’t really paying attention to where he was; his mind was elsewhere as he walked–and gets invited up, so the friend, Doc–he was a professor at University of New Orleans when Scotty’s parents went there–can give him a towel and run his outfit through the dryer quickly. While Scotty is there, Doc gives him an old stuffed toy Scotty had left there years ago, when he was a small child. This strikes Scotty as odd, but he humors Doc and takes the stuffed bunny. When he gets to the parade, his mother is thrilled to see Mr. Bunny, so he gives it to her.
And later, when he is walking home, there are cops at Doc’s. He fell to his death from his balcony, and his apartment was ransacked. Then the new tenant on the top floor of Scotty’s building (he and Colin gave up that apartment after Colin disappeared) wants to hire Scotty and Frank to solve a mystery for him–but soon he, too, is murdered–and also turns out to not be who he had claimed to be. Are these two murders connected, and if so, how?
My absolute favorite part of the book to write was the treasure hunt itself; when Scotty and Frank realize that Doc left clues behind for Scotty to solve and find the missing jewel; which takes them on a trail from the apartment on Decatur Street uptown in the rain. That was so much fun, and of course, when I was polishing the manuscript before turning it in, I had to actually go and follow the trail I’d set out for them to make sure it was accurate and worked and was something someone could actually follow…and of course, it was pouring that day so I did it, like they did, in the pouring rain.
I dedicated the book to my friend Poppy Z. Brite, a writer I’ve long admired and whose friendship I have always cherished. He was always a big fan of the Scotty books, and his support meant the world to me. He was actually the person who convinced me–one drunken night at the House of Blues for a Banned Books Night reading–that I could indeed write another Scotty book, and the boost of confidence was just what I needed to get back to work on this series. (And the Vietnam stuff was a nod to a private joke between us.) And it was, indeed, fun to get back to work on Scotty and produce another book.
And here I am, all these years later, writing another one. Go figure.
I’ve told this story any number of times; how the writing of the book was derailed by two awful things that happened in my life, and how I finally got back to writing again in the spring of 2005, managing to finish this and turn it into literally two or three weeks before Hurricane Katrina came barreling ashore and changed everything in my life, and the long recovery time from that paradigm shift, trying to adjust to the new reality I was facing every day. It felt weird going over the copy edits, weirder still doing the page proofs (I actually had the incredibly sharp-eyed Becky Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert do it for me while I was visiting the Compound, thanks again, guys!), and even stranger having to tour and promote a book about New Orleans set before Katrina while still dealing with the recovery.
I’ve told those stories before, and that isn’t really what these entries are about; these entries are about the books themselves and how I came up with the stories and so forth, and the writing of the books. The primary problem, of course, is that I wrote this book between and around tragedies; the two year period I call the Time of Troubles that began on Memorial Day weekend in 2004 and ran through about 2008, really; because that’s about how long it took after all those issues for me to feel like my feet were beneath me again and I once again had a grasp on my life. I don’t remember what the original story was about, other than it centered on the Krewe of Iris, Scotty’s Diderot grandmother’s best friend who’d married a much younger muscle-stud Russian, and that’s really about it. The Russian would have something to do with a Colin case–and it would turn out actually be the case that brought him undercover to New Orleans in the first place during Southern Decadence; in Jackson Square Jazz we find out what Colin’s real job is, and that he was in town originally about the Napoleon death mask–but he was also in town to keep an eye on the young muscle-stud Russian who’d married Scotty’s grandmother’s best friend. It wasn’t really working, and I didn’t much care for the story, to be honest; I’d already asked for an extension before Memorial Day weekend in 2004 when all the shit started happening; after Paul was attacked they took it off the schedule and told me not to worry about it. (I appreciated the courtesy greatly at the time, but at the same time had this sinking feeling in the back of my head uh oh, they may not want another one after this–which turned out to be correct. But I dismissed the fear as part of my on-going struggle with Imposter Syndrome. It took me about six months, more or less, to get back to writing. I started my blog right after Christmas that year, and there I was writing every day again, and by January of 2005 I was ready to get going on this book again. I remember rereading everything I’d already done, not liking it, and deciding to scrap it and start over with the same essential premise: rich older society woman in New Orleans has married a much younger Russian boy-toy; Colin is investigating the boy-toy; and it’s Carnival season. Shortly after getting about halfway into a new first draft, the Virginia thing happened and I was derailed again. After that was over and I went back to the book…once again I didn’t like what was happening in the story and I threw it all out and started over again.
But this time, I hit my stride and four months later I turned the book in at long last, along with a proposal for a fourth, Hurricane Party Hustle, which was going to be set during an evacuation and would wrap up the loose ends left at the end of Mardi Gras Mambo.
And of course, three weeks later Katrina changed everything, and Hurricane Party Hustle went into the drawer.
Last night I dreamed it was Mardi Gras again. It seemed to me I was standing inside an iron gate, watching one of the night parades go by. The sidewalks in front of the gate were crowded with people, all shouting, with their grasping eager hands up in the air. Out beyond the edge of the curb, I could see people sitting in lawn chairs. Still others were up on ladders, with coolers and plastic bags of booty piled around them on the ground. Fathers and mothers were holding up babies, while black kids with the crotches of their pants down around their knees walked behind the crowd, weighted down by the ropes of beads around their necks. Beads were flying through the air, some getting caught and tangled in the branches of the towering gnarled oaks lining the avenue. The heavy upper branches of those oaks also blocked out the glow of the ancient street lamps so the night seemed even darker than it should. I could hear a marching band, playing a recent hip-hop hit, and the strange clicking sound of the baton girls’ tap shoes on the pavement. The air was heavy with the heavy fragrance of hot grease, corn dogs and the strange melted yellowish-orangey substance the vendors put on nachos that purports to be cheese—but no one is really sure what it is. A group of flambeaux carriers were passing by, dancing that odd little circular dance they do, their propane tanks popping and hissing, throwing long and twisted shadows that also danced inside the iron fence I was behind. Right behind them a huge float pulled by a tractor was coming and the crowd’s shouts became louder, more desperate, more pleading. On the float’s front was a huge white clown face, its bright red lips parted in what passed for a smile but seemed to me to be a frightening leer. The masks on the float riders glowed supernaturally at the hordes begging them for generosity in the strange light cast by the moon when it cleared the thick clouds in the cold night sky. I stood inside the black iron fence, my arms wrapped around me against the cold as an increased sense of menace and dread built inside me. Something bad was going to happen—
Oh, get real, Scotty!
If I do have bad dreams, I don’t remember them when I wake up. I’ve certainly never been troubled in my sleep, even though crazy things always seem to happen to me. I’m just one of those people, I guess. For whatever reason, the Goddess has decided to throw some wild stuff at me—she always has, even when I was a kid—and what can you do? I just don’t think I am one of those people who were destined to have a nice, normal, quiet life. Maybe it’s because I was named Milton Bradley at birth. Yes, that’s right. Milton Bradley. My older brother started calling me by my middle name, Scotty, before I started school and thank the Goddess, it stuck. Can you imagine how cruel the kids would have been to someone named Milton, let alone Milton Bradley? And then of course there’s the gay thing. I was lucky—my parents are pretty liberal and were delighted to have a gay son—like it somehow proved how truly cool they really are or something. They are pretty cool, actually.
By now, I’d taken to starting all of my New Orleans novels with a Tennessee Williams quote; for this one I chose a line from Vieux Carré: “You’ve got a lot to learn about life in the Quarter.”
I had opened Bourbon Street Blues with a parody of “The name’s Bond, James Bond” and I’d done something similar with Jackson Square Jazz–“Danger is my middle name”, riffing on Trouble is My Business. I decided to open this book with a parody of the opening line of Rebecca: “Last night I dreamed I went to Mardi Gras again.” But that entire opening paragraph of du Maurier’s is so fucking brilliant, I couldn’t help myself and made my entire first paragraph a parody of that opening. I then decided that from then forward, every Scotty book would have a Williams quote and each prologue–where Scotty introduces himself and his cast of characters and gives backstory so I don’t have to do it in the text of the story itself–would parody the opening paragraph of a famous novel, rather than just the first line (I am actually struggling to find the proper opening to parody to start the prologue for this one. I’ve used Rebecca, Peyton Place, The Haunting of Hill House, and Lolita, among others so far already; I’ve tried with this one to use An American Tragedy, Atlas Shrugged and The Great Gatsby thus far, with no luck. I’ve tried Valley of the Dolls several times for other books in the series already, but I can’t ever get it to work for me).
I do remember that the one thing that didn’t come across in those earlier drafts that I had abandoned was the sense of insanity that Carnival always brings with it; that feeling of “controlled anarchy” we experience those two weeks of parades, of knowing you have to schedule your entire life around a parade schedule–true even for those who do not live inside the box, as we say here; the box being the Uptown parade route–I always have to schedule my job, my trips to run errands uptown, everything, predicated around having to get home at least two hours before the parades start, and am incredibly lucky if I can get a parking spot within three blocks of the Lost Apartment. The thing I kept forgetting in those earlier versions was the books are meant to be fun. Granted, I was hardly in a mental space to write something fun…and of course the decision to really take it completely over the top the way I did was something I still think about to this day and wonder, where on earth did you get the idea for identical triplets?
Which, while crazy, made more sense than the cloning story I tried to write the second time.
Maybe those bad things happened for a reason? Because I couldn’t be more pleased with how the story and the book turned out. I also ran out of room to finish the personal story…but I also was operating on the assumption I’d get a contract for a fourth book. If not for Katrina, Kensington might have made another offer and Hurricane Party Hustle might have been the fourth Scotty than something just sitting in the files.
The book was released on Fat Tuesday, 2006. Paul and I had been out of town–the truncated Carnival/parade season seemed almost too sad to handle, so we’d accepted a gig to speak at the South Carolina Book Festival. We flew back to New Orleans the Sunday morning before Fat Tuesday. I’d checked my email that morning before boarding the flight to Atlanta (we changed planes) and then our cab driver couldn’t get closer to St. Charles than Baronne Street. A parade was going as we got out of the car, and we had to cross the parade (it was in the high seventies and sunny) with our luggage–I’ll never forget looking up as we got ready to cross and catching a bag of beads with my hand just before it connected with my face–and got home. I checked my emails and my word! SO MANY EMAILS.
You see, that day’s edition of the Times-Picayune carried Susan Larson’s review of the book, and it was a rave! Everyone emailed me as soon as they saw it–I still bask in the glory of that review–and I was about to embark on probably the most ambitious book tour of my career.
I just didn’t see, though, how I could write another funny, light book about a city still in ruins whose recovery was still questionable.
The series was, for the moment, over–with the personal story not resolved the way I would have wanted, but it could stand as it was, should there never be another Scotty story.
Rereading it, I couldn’t but laugh at some of the outrageous twists and turns the plot took.
This is another one where I had the idea years before I actually sat down and wrote the damned book. I actually got the idea at my first ever Carnival; when I came as a tourist in 1995. We were at the Orpheus Parade on Monday night–I caught some beads thrown by Barbie Benton, if anyone remembers who she is–and I had noticed, at the parades since flying in late the preceding Friday for a long weekend, that the majority of the riders wore masks. I think I’d already known that, from books I’d read and movies and so forth, but seeing those plastic face-masks in person was a bit on the creepy side. I was already deeply in love with New Orleans–this was like the fifth or sixth trip I’d made there since my birthday the previous August–and that whole time I’d been thinking about how there had never been a New Orleans romantic suspense novel that I could recall; Phyllis A. Whitney wrote about New Orleans in Skye Cameron, but it was set in the 1880’s and I hadn’t much cared for the book (note to self: reread it!). I wanted something set in the present day, and as I caught more and more beads at the parade, it came to me: The Orpheus Mask.
I somehow even managed to remember the idea after staying out dancing until late at night, scribbling it down in my journal the next day. I honestly don’t remember if I flew home on Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday, but I also don’t remember Fat Tuesday, so it makes more sense that I did fly back on Fat Tuesday. I was an airline employee, after all, and since I had to fly standby would I have waited to fly home until Ash Wednesday, when every flight would have been overbooked by about thirty, or would I have flown home on a lighter travel day, Fat Tuesday? I’ll have to find my journals (I’ve been looking for the old ones forever; I distinctly remember finding them a few years back but I don’t know where I put them; perhaps I can spend some time looking for them this weekend?) to check and be sure. But The Orpheus Mask idea was always in the back of my mind somewhere–even after I moved to New Orleans and realized I couldn’t use “Orpheus” in the title, but the krewe and its parade were far too new and modern to work in the story I was developing. Finally I decided to simply invent a krewe, the Krewe of Orion, and thus the book’s title became The Orion Mask.
I also always knew that The Orion Mask was going to be my attempt at writing a romantic suspense novel, using some of the classic tropes of the genre, particularly those used by one of my favorite writers, Phyllis A. Whitney. I grew up reading her juvenile mysteries (the first were The Mystery of the Hidden Hand and The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye) and then I moved on to her novels for adults, the first being Listen for the Whisperer, after which there was no turning back. I went and devoured her back list (I haven’t read all of the books for juveniles) and then she gradually became an author whose books I bought upon release in hardcover. The last I read was The Ebony Swan; the quality of the books had started to slip a bit as we both got older plus the world and society had changed; even I had noted earlier that her characters were often–I wouldn’t go so far as to say doormats, but they didn’t seem to stand up for themselves much, and often the “nice” heroine was put in competition and contrast to an “evil” villainess; a scheming woman who didn’t mind lying and scheming to get what they want–which also included tormenting the “nice heroine”. (There were any number of times I thought read her for filth or whatever the saying for that at the time was.) My main character wasn’t going to be a pushover or weak; but I also wasn’t going to make him an asshole, either.
Taking this trip was probably a mistake I would regret.
I finished my cup of coffee and glanced over at my shiny black suitcases. They were new, bought specifically for this trip. My old bags were ratty and worn and wouldn’t have made the kind of impression I wanted to make. My cat was asleep on top of the bigger bag, his body stretched and contorted in a way that couldn’t possibly be comfortable. I’d put the bags down just inside my front door. I’d closed and locked them securely. I’d made out name tags and attached them to the handles. I’d taken pictures of them with my phone in case they were lost or misdirected by the airline. My flight wasn’t for another three and a half hours, and even in heavy traffic it wouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to get to the airport. I had plenty of time; as always, I’d gotten up earlier than I needed to, and finished getting ready with far too much time left to kill before leaving for the airport. I checked once again to make sure I had my airline employee ID badge, my driver’s license, my laptop, and the appropriate power cords in my carry-on bag. I was flying standby, of course, but I’d checked the flight before leaving work the previous night and there were at least thirty seats open with a no-show factor of fifteen The only way I wouldn’t get on Transco flight 1537 nonstop from Bay City to New Orleans was if another flight to New Orleans canceled or this one was canceled for mechanical problems. But should that happen, I had my cousin’s cell phone number already loaded into my phone so I could give her a call and let her know what was going on.
I got up and poured what was left in the pot into my mug, making sure I turned the coffeemaker off.
The occupational hazard of flying standby was that your plans were never carved in stone and were subject to change at any moment.
They’d offered to buy me an actual ticker, of course, but I’d said no.
I wasn’t really ready to take any money from the family I didn’t know just yet.
I sipped my coffee. Has it really only been two months? I thought again.
I’d known they’d existed, of course, since that day I accidentally found my birth certificate when rooting around in my father’s desk drawer.
Phyllis A. Whitney’s books almost always involved two things: a murder in the past that cast shadows on the present, and someone going to meet a family they’ve been estranged from–usually not through any fault of their own–since their childhood. Another popular trope was that the murder involved one of the main character’s parents; in this case, I made it his mother. I named him Heath Brandon (after a co-worker), and the mystery from the past was his mother’s death. When Heath was a very small child, his mother was murdered by her lover, who then committed suicide. Heath’s father–never a fan of her family, the Legendres–took his son and left, cutting off all communications and never telling Heath anything about his mother. He always knew his father’s second wife wasn’t his mother, but all he knew about his mom was she died when he was young and talking about her upset his father, so he never brought her up and never even knew her name.
His father is now dead and Heath is working at the Bay City Airport for Transco Airlines (my go-to whenever I need an airline), when one night he notices a very attractive bald man in a tight T-shirt and jeans watching him work at the ticket counter. When the man appears the next night, Heath wonders if he should report him to security–but the man approaches him, invites him out for a drink and promises to tell him about his mother’s family. Heath in intrigued–he found out about how his mother died after finding his birth certificate and doing some on-line searches. But the man–Jerry Channing, who has also popped up in the Scotty series–is actually a true crime writer who doesn’t necessarily believe the story of how Heath’s mom and lover died, and is looking into it with an eye to writing a book. Jerry puts Heath in touch with the family, and now…he is going to meet them.
The Legendre plantation, Chambord, has been in the family for centuries. At one point, it became known for glass-making; I tied this somehow into Venetian glass, particularly the famous Murano style, and while the glass-making has long since fallen by the wayside, Chambord houses a Chambord glass museum on the property as well as a high-end restaurant–and also does the de rigeur plantation type tours. Once Heath arrives, any number of mysteries present themselves to him: why is his first cousin bear him such animosity? Why does is aunt? Why is everyone so afraid of his grandmother? And he begins to feel an attraction to his cousin’s handsome, sexy cousin–who runs the restaurant with her. Their marriage doesn’t seem happy–his cousin is kind of a bitch, as is his aunt Olivia–and he gets signals from the married restauranteur. Could it be?
And then, is it his imagination or has someone tried to kill him?
He also inherits his mother’s house in the lower Garden District of New Orleans (a house that is real and I’ve been in love with for decades), and when he goes to stay there for a night or two, he discovers a clue to the dark secrets that hang over Chambord–and what really happened in the boathouse when his mother and her lover died.
One of the things I realized while writing The Orion Mask how freeing it was for me to write a Gothic with a gay main character; Whitney and her colleagues were constrained by the rules of their genre and what their readers expected these books to be. I didn’t have either those fears or constraints; and whenever I would think oh I can’t do that Whitney would have never–then I would stop and think, you aren’t Whitney and you aren’t writing in her time period, and besides, your main character is a gay man not a young woman; of course you can do that even if its against the rules!
That realization also made me admire the talents and skills of Whitney and her contemporaries, and what they were able to accomplish within the boundaries of their genre, even more than I had previously. I will most likely write more of these style books in the future; it was a lot of fun writing this and playing with the conventions of romantic suspense.
Chambord was sort of based on Houmas House–I think I even reference that “Chambord” was made famous by a film with two aging stars that was filmed there (obviously, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte); I also referred to Belle Riviére in Murder in the Arts District that same way.
Twenty-eight years ago I came to New Orleans for my birthday weekend, and my life changed completely. Earlier that month I had already taken a cold, hard, long look at my life and I didn’t like what I saw. I had been wrapped in misery for years, wallowing in it, and diving so deep into the misery that I allowed it to erase my dreams and any hopes I had for the future. It was, after all, very easy to blame outside forces for my miserable life, and when you dig deep down into the misery, well, it’s a lot easier to just wrap yourself up in self-pity than take any responsibility for your own happiness; making excuses not to try rather than reasons to better myself. I worked for Continental Airlines at the Tampa airport–most times not a bad job for the most part, but the bad days were horrible–and didn’t make much money. I was broke all the time and yes, I wasted a lot of money treating myself to things–like buying lots and lots of books every payday–in an effort to make me feel better about myself and my miserable life. I was horribly lonely.
A bad experience with someone I was romantically interested in was the impetus for the changes I made to my life, because for whatever reason that night everything just bubbled up to the surface; I hated everything about my life, I hated where I was at, I felt trapped and like nothing good was ever going to happen to me. I stayed up the entire night, feeling sorry for myself and unable to sleep, tossing and turning and occasionally crying. At seven o’clock the next morning (it was a day off) I went into my bathroom and took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror. I never want to feel this way ever again, I thought as I looked at red swollen eyes, the unshaved face. the dark purplish circles under my eyes. I then repeated it out loud. I went back to my desk, sat down and opened my latest journal and wrote the words: I hate my life. I stared at the words for a few moments, and then added, I have no one to blame for this but myself. I am the only person who can change things for me. I want to be a writer. I want to be published, and I don’t want to work for Continental for the rest of my life in this job that makes me miserable. I am lonely and it’s probably too late for me to find a life partner. But I have to stop being afraid of everything, and I can’t go the rest of my life NOT living because I am afraid of dying. Other men are not attracted to me because I am overweight–no one ever looks at me twice when I go to bars. I cannot change my face but I can change my body. I will eat healthy. I will drop some of this extra weight. I will do crunches and push-ups every day from now on, and if by January I have been consistent with the workouts and the diet, I will join a gym. I need to start figuring out who I am and how to get what I want because no one is going to knock on my door and just give it to me. The only person who can change the things in my life is me, and I am going to work on being the best possible me that I can.And that means taking the steps necessary to change who I am and what my life is so I can become a writer.
Three weeks later, my birthday weekend rolled around and I flew to New Orleans with a friend for the weekend. We were staying with his on-again off-again boyfriend–who turned out to be one of the nicest gay men I’ve ever known. I really liked him. thought he was a good person–but once they broke up for good that was the end of that; I guess he associated me with his ex and so couldn’t be bothered anymore (or he did a great job of acting the part of the generous host; I am not sure how the invitation to stay with him came about; all I knew was we were going to New Orleans for my birthday and staying with this guy), which was always a shame. I was always grateful to him–have been for twenty-eight years–because coming to New Orleans that weekend was yet another key piece to the puzzle of Greg’s future, a piece I didn’t even now I needed.
I think at that point I may have lost five pounds or so. My friend was gorgeous; one of those perfect gay men with golden skin and very little–if any–body fat; his boyfriend was his counterpart, only with much bigger muscles, bluish-black hair, and that gorgeous gorgeous olive toned skin darker Italians have. They looked beautiful together, too, and I was in some sense a third wheel that weekend, but it was okay with me. They were totally into each other which left me with time on my own to think and reflect. He picked us up at the airport and took us to his apartment (which was in a complex on Sophie Wright Place that Paul and I eventually moved into when we returned from DC in August 2001), we showered and cleaned up, and headed to the Quarter.
I had been to New Orleans before that particular trip, and while I had always felt drawn in some ways to this city since I was a child, I’d never before felt the sense of belonging I felt that weekend. When we stepped out of the cab that night at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann, I felt this enormous emotional release, as though tension I didn’t know I. had in my shoulders and brain were suddenly gone and a big burden had been lifted from my shoulders. It was as though my soul was saying at last you’ve come home, and I knew then, before we paid the cover charge to go into the bars there at the corner–Oz and the Pub/Parade–that I was going to someday live in New Orleans…and all of my dreams would come true once I did.
I have never been sure what was different about that trip than previous ones. On my brief, previouos visits to the city before, I’d never gotten a real sense of the city before–we stayed in motels by the airport or on the West Bank–and so it wasn’t really possible to get a sense of New Orleans. Waking up in the spare bedroom in the morning, walking out onto the balcony and looking around at the roofs and unique architecture of the lower Garden District, I felt like I was at home. It was also the first time I’d ever come to New Orleans to hang out with other gay people and in the gay section of the Quarter, and maybe that was the difference? I don’t know for certain, but I do know that was the magical trip when everything coalesced in my head on that trip here. I knew New Orleans was my home, and I needed to live there, and my dreams would finally all come true once I’d moved there.
My friend’s boyfriend was a great host. He made sure to take me to see Anne Rice’s home at First and Chestnut (which was also the home of the Mayfair witches in The Witching Hour, a book I’d loved that had only heightened my sense of need to come to New Orleans), and showed me (us) around the entire weekend; we went to Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District, ate amazing food, and then at night we’d head down to the Quarter to the bars and danced the night away.
That was also the weekend I did Ecstasy for the first time, but that’s a story for a different time.
The entire weekend was a whirl; I have pictures somewhere (or lost many years ago during the course of a move or something) of all the places we went and things we did; the amazing food, dancing all night and going to the Clover Grill in the morning (or La Peniche, over in the Marigny) and then sleeping before going roaming again throughout the city. I fell for New Orleans hard that weekend, and have never really fallen out of love for the city, really, since. We broke up once (that dreadful year Paul and I spent in DC), but we came back and New Orleans forgave us for our desertion and welcomed us back home.
I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard about New Orleans, but I do remember Nancy Drew came to Carnival (called “the Mardi Gras” in the book, eye roll to infinity) in The Haunted Showboat (she also visited briefly during The Ghost of Blackwood Hall), but I don’t really remember much else. I think everyone in the country has a sense of Carnival/Mardi Gras, and always associates that with New Orleans–but New Orleans, obviously, is so much more than that. I was a kid when I watched the James Bond movie Live and Let Die–which whetted my interest in New Orleans and Louisiana–later movies like The Big Easy and Angel Heart and Tightrope expanded that interest, as did Anne Rice’s novels and the Skip Langdon series by Julie Smith. Whenever I had been to New Orleans previously I hadn’t felt anything but a sense that the city was different than everywhere else, and that difference felt alien to me.
But that entire weekend was different. That weekend in the city changed me and changed my life. I’d never felt like I’d belonged anywhere before–I always had felt out of place wherever I lived; part of it was being gay, part of it was being a creative, and the rest had everything to do with being raised by Southern parents with a Southern mentality but not living in the South (not a complaint, I am very grateful to have not been raised down here)–so New Orleans felt special to me; I’d finally found my place or, to quote Pippin, I’d finally found my corner of the sky.
Within a year I’d met the love of my life–who also was in love with New Orleans and wanted to live there–and on August 1, 1996, I drove the U-haul truck with all of our stuff and towing my old car into the city to start the rest of my life. I had already started dipping into the waters of writing–I got a gig with a gay paper in Minneapolis that actually paid me, and had started writing the book that would eventually become Murder in the Rue Dauphine. Within three years of moving to New Orleans I had a book contract and had sold my first ever short stories. Twenty-eight years to the day of that most important visit to New Orleans, and look at me now.
I live in the city I love with the man I love doing the work I love. I’m glad that I didn’t know at the time how important that weekend was going to prove to be; that it was, indeed, really the first day of the rest of my real life, when I finally stopped just enduring my life and actively started living it. It’s not always been easy to live here and love the city; New Orleans can be a hard place a lot of the time. We’ve endured hurricanes and floods, disease and injury, poverty and horror. But even the bad things are made bearable because we live in New Orleans.
I’ve written millions of words about New Orleans. One of the best compliments I can receive is being told that I’ve depicted the city so vividly and lovingly that it’s a character. I do laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert”–I am anything but an expert; you could fill the Great Library of Alexandria with what I don’t know about New Orleans; every day I discover something new about this wondrous and bizarre place, the only place on earth I’ve ever felt at home. I will never run out of material to write about this magical city, and every day, more ideas and thoughts for stories and characters and essays about New Orleans comes to me.
So, my favorite part of my birthday is the fact that it is also the anniversary of me finding, at long last, where I belong.
And thank you, New Orleans, for always, no matter what, being New Orleans.
As I get ready to write another Scotty book, I am busy making his acquaintance all over again. It might seem strange, but yes, although I’ve written eight books about my ex-go-go boy/personal trainer/private eye, it remains true in this as in all other aspects of my life that my memory is not what it once was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written a Scotty book since the first three without having to go back and revisit the series again. I have made continuity errors over the years (Scotty’s mother’s name changed over the course of the series, from Cecile to Marguerite and back to Cecile again), and I may forget things about his past and things I’ve written in previous books, but the one thing I never ever forget is his voice.
No matter what else is going on in my life, Scotty’s voice is very easy for me to slip back into, like a house shoe, and it somehow always feels like coming home to me in some ways. This is odd–because I would have always thought Chanse was the series character I was more connected to rather than Chanse, but that’s not the case at all. Scotty just won’t go away; but I ended the Chanse series and only every once in a while do I regret it (although I am beginning to suspect that I am going to probably end up writing another Chanse novel at some point in my life; I have two ideas that he’d be perfect for, but it also might be better and more challenging for me to simply come up with a whole new character for those stories rather than resurrecting Chanse); Scotty just won’t ever go away.
The idea for the Scotty series famously came to me during Southern Decadence, 1998.
(Well, I don’t know about famously, but I know I’ve told this story before many, many times. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to see how I remember the birth of the character and the series now)
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Paul and I had somehow managed to get prime balcony standing spots–at the Bourbon Pub/Parade, right at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon where the railing curves at the corner to head alongside the upper floor down the St. Ann side; so we could look down directly into the roiling mass of sweaty, almost completely naked bodies of hundreds of gay men from all over the country. That was my favorite spot for Decadence sight-seeing (Halloween, too, for that matter), and as I looked down into the crowd, I saw a guy in booty shorts and a very very loose fitting tank top, carrying a bag and trying to get through. I recognized him as one of the out-of-town dancers working at the Pub/Parade that weekend (I may have tipped him the night before) and as I watched in sympathy as he tried to get through that tightly-packed crowd of gays in various stages of being wasted, I closed my eyes and an image of him–or someone like him–fighting his way through the Decadence crowd while being chased by bad guys with shaved heads popped into my head just as Paul said, next to me, “You should really write a story set during Decadence” and then it popped into my head: someone escaping the bad guys has slipped a computer disc into one of the dancers’ boots on Friday night as he danced on the downstairs bar, and the bad guys want the disc back.
I didn’t have any way to write it down, obviously–I was wearing booty shorts, socks, and half-boots that came to my ankles, with nothing underneath the shorts and I had my tank top tucked through a belt loop like a tail in the back–yet even the title popped into my head: Bourbon Street Blues. The idea clearly stuck, because when I got home the next morning at about six or seven, dehydrated, drenched in sweat and having lost the tank top at some point during the night, I remembered it and wrote it down.
At some point over the next two years, I wrote a short story called “Bourbon Street Blues” about my stripper–only instead of being from out of town, I made him a local, filling in for someone booked from out of town for the weekend who had to cancel–and wrote about seven thousand words. It felt very rushed to me–the story–and I kept thinking it’s too long for a short story, it would have to be a novel but I also wasn’t sure there was enough story there for a novel. But I liked the idea, no one (at least, to the best of my knowledge) had written anything like it, and I thought, someday I’ll get a chance to write this story and develop this character.
Flash forward to 2001. This was during the time Paul and I had moved to DC to work for the Lambda Literary Foundation, we were miserable there and wanted to move back to New Orleans but didn’t have the money to do so, and the release of Murder in the Rue Dauphine was still at least a year away. I was talking to an editor on the phone about one of his new gay releases, and out of the blue I just pitched Bourbon Street Blues to him. He loved the idea, and asked me to write a proposal and email it to him. I had never written a proposal before, but I thought what the hell, how hard can it be? and so I wrote a two page proposal for the book. Two months later they made me a two-book offer–and the money was good enough to pay for Paul and I to move back to New Orleans as well as to live on for a while. I had only seen the book as a one-off, but they wanted a series. I needed and wanted the money, so I thought I can figure this out later and signed it.
Three months later, we moved back to New Orleans and I started writing the book.
The one thing I wanted to do with Scotty was make him unabashedly, unashamedly, gay. I didn’t want him to have any hang-ups, a sad backstory, or parental issues. I wanted him to be a free spirit who embraces life with both hands, lived in the Quarter, and loved having sex, loved being found desirable, and never really said anything or thought anything mean about anyone else. I made him a personal trainer, and his poverty–he agrees to do the dancing gig for Decadence because he’s behind on his rent and other bills; he teaches aerobics and was a personal trainer–comes from his grandparents freezing his trust funds when he dropped out of college to go to work for a booking agency for male dancers. He has since stopped doing that, but fills in when needed (and when he needs the money) at the Pub/Parade. I also based the shitty politician running for governor–and trying to mount a Christofascist takeover of the state, beginning with an attack on Southern Decadence–on an actual politician who ran for the US Senate shortly after we moved here; we saw him being interviewed on the news and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke, some kind of performance art–but forget it Greg, it’s Louisiana.
I also want to let you know that while I was working on this manuscript my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, was released–and I got a “damned with faint praise” review from the Bay Area Reporter, which complained that “it would have been nice to see inside the heads of the other characters”, which took me aback as the book was a first person narrative, which made that impossible. What the reviewer I think was trying to say was that she wished the book had been told in the third person; that to her that would have made the book more interesting to her. But in my baby-author naïveté, all I could think was how can you see inside the heads of other characters in a third person narrative unless the main character was psychic?And the proverbial lightbulb came on over my head. Make Scotty a psychic. This was also an integral key to the puzzle of who Scotty was; the reviewer also yawned over my “gay stereotypes” in Rue Dauphine, so I decided to make Scotty the embodiment of all the worst stereotypes of muscular gay men who worked out and had a lot of sex. Just writing that down now, I realize how incredibly insane it was for me to use my new series book and character to respond to criticism o my debut novel; and when the book came out I braced myself for the inevitable backlash to come.
No one was more surprised than I was at how readers embraced him. The book got great reviews, even from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (Kirkus, of course, has always pretended I don’t exist). Bourbon Street Blues was even nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery of 2003 (I lost, I think to John Morgan Wilson?) shortly after the sequel, Jackson Square Jazz, was released.
Jackson Square Jazz’s story was actually a recycled idea I had for a spin-off book for Chanse’s best friend Paige. The original concept was that someone would steal the Louisiana Purchase from the Cabildo–and somehow Paige stumbled onto the theft, and knew that the one on display currently there was a copy. (I was calling it, originally enough, Louisiana Purchase.) I decided to make that the basis of the second Scotty book. (This was inspired by a documentary I’d seen about the Cabildo fire of 1989–that may be the wrong date–and how the fire department tried saving everything in the museum before fighting the fire. I remembered how in the documentary they literally were placing historical objects and paintings against the fence at Jackson Square and thinking, anyone could have walked off with something during the fire…and my imagination immediately was off to the races.) Unfortunately, when I met with the museum director–whose actual first day on the job was the day of the fire–I found out that 1) the copy of the Louisiana Purchase at the Cabildo was actually only a replica and the original was stored in the weather-protected underground archive at the Library of Congress and 2) it was more than one page long–I’d imagined it was one large document like the Declaration of Independence; it is not. However–he also suggested I make the MacGuffin the Napoleon death mask–one of the three originals made when Napoleon died–and gave me some great backstory on it as well that I don’t remember if I used in the book or not; but it was a lot of fun talking to him (his name escapes me at the moment, alas) and was a great example of why it is important to actually do research and talk to people.
I also wanted to include figure skating–the working title for the book was Death Spiral, which the publisher made me change, asking for something alliterative, like Bourbon Street Blues–and so I decided to open the book with Scotty having a horrific hangover and then realizing someone was in the bed with him (it’s to this day one of my favorite book openings; what slutty gay man hasn’t been there?)…and then I remembered I’d introduced two love interests for Scotty in book one, and here he was in bed with someone else entirely. (The young man he woke up with was a figure skater in town to compete at Skate America, being held in the Smoothie King Arena.) I loved both of his love interests, and knew I was going to have to bring both of them back somehow, and then I was going to have to figure out which one he’d end up with. (Spoiler: I couldn’t decide, so he wound up with both of them.) I also threw in a ghost, a billionaire artifact collector, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. I turned in the book, along with a proposal for Book Three, in which I finally decided I was going to resolve the threeway relationship personal story, and that would be the end of the Scotty trilogy.
Man plans and God laughs. (Jackson Square Jazz was also nominated for a Lambda; I think this was the time I lost to Anthony Bidulka.)
Mardi Gras Mambo turned out to be an entire other kettle of fish.
I’m not entirely sure I remember exactly what the original plot of Mardi Gras Mambo was going to be, but I know it had to do with the Krewe of Iris (Scotty’s sister Rain belongs) and the book opened at the Iris parade on the Saturday morning before Fat Tuesday. It was due in June of 2004, and of course, I wasn’t nearly finished by the time Memorial Day rolled around, and was planning on asking for another month on the manuscript on the Tuesday after. Of course, that was the Memorial Day weekend when Paul was attacked and everything went to hell in my personal life. My publisher was incredibly kind; they took the book off schedule, told me to take care of Paul, and get the book done whenever I got the book done.
I started writing it again in January of 2005, shortly after I began keeping a blog in order to get me writing again. That was when the Christian/Virginia nonsense happened, and everything got derailed again. When I started writing the book again, I threw out everything except that first chapter at the Iris parade–which did wind up in the final book–and I do not recall what the second plot I chose to write was at this time, other than I knew I was bringing in a Russian character, inspired by someone I’d seen around in the bars for years and had always been just awestruck by his body–and yes, that Russian turned out to eventually be Wacky Russian, my personal trainer. I actually kept this as an inspiration–Eclipse used to be the nightlife insert for IMPACT News, a queer newspaper that died out in the early aughts:
Finally, it was April 2005, and I started writing Mardi Gras Mambo again. I had the plot all figured out–it was completely insane–but I also realized I couldn’t end the personal story with Scotty the way I had hoped and wrap it all up with Book Three. There had to be a Book 4, and so when I finished the book at last and turned it in, I included a proposal for a fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle–which was going to be set during an evacuation for a hurricane that missed New Orleans…I always thought it would be interesting to write a mystery story set during such an evacuation.
Of course, I turned the book into Kensington on August 14th, 2005. Fourteen days later, Paul, Skittle and I fled from New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina.
I wouldn’t come back for good until October 11. Paul didn’t come home until after Thanksgiving.
Of course, I wrote to my editor a day or so after the levee failure to say, well, I don’t think I can write that book I proposed now.
I didn’t see, for a very long time afterwards, how I could write another Scotty book–light, funny, zany–in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Then one day I was walking to work from where I’d parked my car and some people on bicycles came riding toward me. They smiled and waved and I smiled and waved back…and realized oh my God, that was Brad and Anjelina. Their house wasn’t far from my office–in fact, it was quite literally around the block from where Scotty lived–and I thought, you know, Brad kind of looks the way I describe Scotty–wouldn’t it be funny if someone tried to kill Scotty because he looked like a movie star who lived in his neighborhood? The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I started writing the proposal for Hollywood South Hustle when I got home from work that night. I was so certain they would take it that I started developing the characters and writing out a detailed synopsis…and they turned it down.
I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a marketing decision. Even if they signed the book immediately, it would still be another year before it would come out, and they felt by then Scotty’s audience was long gone, if it wasn’t already. It was disappointing, but right around the same time Alyson came back to me for a fourth Chanse book but they needed it right away–like within ten weeks–so I turned the Scotty story into Murder in the Rue Ursulines. I finished the book, turned it in, and figured the Scotty series was dead, alas.
Shortly thereafter, during the Gay Easter Parade an idea for a different Scotty book occurred to me . The parade was over and I was walking back to my car to drive home when I walked underneath a balcony…just as they started watering their plants. I got soaked–you can’t get mad, it happens in the Quarter periodically and it’s just one of those New Orleans things–and I thought, you really need to write about this. As I walked to the car, dripping, I pictured Scotty hurrying to catch a ride on his parents’ business’ float for the Easter Parade–and of course, he’d wear a white bikini, rabbit ears, and have a rabbit tail–when the exact same thing happened to him, only his bikini would become see-through when wet. By the time I’d driven home, I’d figured that the person on the balcony would be an old friend of his parents’, he’d invited Scotty in to dry off, and when Scotty was on his way home from the parade, the cops would be there because the friend had been murdered. Using The Moonstone as my inspiration, I came up with another MacGuffin story, a way for Colin to come back and explain everything that happened during Mardi Gras Mambo, and I had the perfect ending to Scotty’s story. I just didn’t have a publisher.
But Bold Strokes Books, a primarily lesbian publisher, had started doing books by and about gay men. I’d taken an erotica anthology to them when it was orphaned by the death of its original publisher, and so I wrote and asked if they wanted a Scotty story. They did, and thus Scotty came back to life one more time…and I figured that was the end of it. I wrapped up the personal story about the three-way relationship in a way that was organic and made sense; and I also added a new wrinkle to Scotty’s personal life: Frank’s late-in-life decision to become a professional wrestler. (One of the things we locals learned from Hurricane Katrina was to not put off following or chasing dreams or goals; my attitude thus became go for it and I started chasing down dreams I’d pushed to the side for years.) Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo were both nominated for Lambdas, but at this point I can’t remember who I lost to in both of those cases–for the record, Lambda has never rewarded a Scotty book with an award–probably because they are inevitably funny and over-the-top, which never wins awards because funny is seen as “not serious,” despite the fact that humor/comedy is much harder than drama/tragedy.
I didn’t think I was going to write another Scotty book then, either. But then something miraculous happened: the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and I wanted to write about what it was like to live here during that incredible time. It didn’t seem like the right story for another Chanse book, so I thought, well, I can pull Scotty back out and write it from his point of view.
And of course, Who Dat Whodunnit was just sitting there for the title. How could I not write that book?
I had already established over the course of the series that the two sides of his family–the Diderots (maternal) and the Bradleys (paternal) didn’t really get along. The Diderots go back to Iberville and the 1718 settling of New Orleans; the Bradleys were Americans who came after 1803, and thus are not only parvenus to the aristocratic Diderots, but also l’Américains. Perish the thought! We’d also established that the Diderots were not nearly as conservative as their State Street living in-laws, but we’d never actually seen much of the Bradley side of the family, so I thought why not do the Bradleys and let us get to know the other side of Scotty’s family? It was around the same time I started reading about a megachurch out in Kenner (or Metairie? I don’t recall) that was rising to prominence in local politics and was, as you can imagine, homophobic. The same-sex marriage wars were also being fought at this time; and during one of those pageants (Miss America? Miss USA?) the reigning Miss California was asked about same-sex marriage during the question portion by judge Perez Hilton (why was he judging a beauty pageant for women is a mystery for the ages) and she responded that her faith had taught her that marriage was between a man and a woman (the audience started jeering) and she apologized by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s how I was raised!” She wound up as First Runner-Up, and some felt, rightly or wrongly, that her “politically incorrect” answer cost her the title. In some ways, I felt bad for her (although it’s not my fault it’s how I was raised I have always thought was an incredibly stupid thing to say; you have free will, and you should be capable of making up your own mind rather than simply parroting things without question you were raised to believe. So if your parents were racist white supremacists…) but then of course, the Right tried to turn her into a martyr and heroine, and she dove right into that headfirst, erasing any sympathy I might have felt for her (I still think the question was inappropriate for a pageant, as would be anything polarizing–and yes, well aware that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be polarizing, but here we are), and of course, Miss Upright Moral Christian had a bit of a shady past that eventually came out and that was that. I decided to base the murder victim in the book on this girl, and tried to explore the influence of this megachurch on her. I also gave Scotty a first cousin who was the darling of the Bradley grandparents because he was a jock and was on the Saints team as a player–but also a homophobic asshole. The Bradleys were like something out of Tennessee Williams–I think I even named Scotty’s uncle (the football player’s dad) Uncle Skipper as an homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
There’s a lot of story there left in the Bradley side of the family, now that I think about it–and I’ll be digging into that in the new one, rest assured!
Funny story: After I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit, I decided I was not going to write another Scotty book. This had been Book 5 of what started as a stand-alone and then became a trilogy and yet somehow, I’d kept going on top of that. I kind of felt played out a bit with Scotty, and the longer the series went on, the more problems I was having with things like character ages–Scotty was getting older, which meant his parents were getting older, which meant his grandparents were getting older, too. I didn’t want to deal with the deaths of his grandparents (or Aunt Sylvia, who was his grandmother’s age and had married Uncle Misha), and so I had two options: pretend they weren’t getting older and not talk about their ages, or let the series go. I was still writing Chanse at the time, and I kind of figured that would be the series that went on longer. But I was on a panel at Saints and Sinners and someone from the audience asked me if there would be another Scotty.
GREG: Probably not, but if I can figure out a way to include Mike the Tiger (the live tiger mascot at LSU), Huey Long, and a treasure hunt for Huey’s deduct box, I will.
(I had read T. Harry Williams’ award winning biography Huey Long and had become fascinated completely with him. All I had known about Long going into reading that biography was that he’d been a demagogue (thanks, US History textbook from high school) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men had been loosely based on his life and career. Mention Long’s name to anyone and they immediately reply with “oh, he was so corrupt”–which amused me, since every Louisiana politician is corrupt to a degree–and I knew Roosevelt and others had worried about him as a populist politician who reminded them of Hitler (and the way he crushed his opposition in Louisiana and essentially became the state’s dictator, who could blame them?), but what was the real story? And Huey Long made me start to have what was at first a grudging admiration for him which grew into a kind of fandom the more I learned. (There are some similarities–more than one would think–between Long and LBJ in the Caro biographies, as well as with Robert Moses, another Caro biography; which would make for a very interesting comparison/contract essay at some point.) But the more I read about Long, the more I wanted to write about him. He fascinated me, and the fact that his trove of cash–the deduct box–was never recovered after his murder was even more fascinating to me.)
And don’t you know, later that night, it came to me. A few months earlier there had been a bomb threat at the LSU campus, and there had been some controversy about how the administration had handled the situation–they’d evacuated Mike the Tiger off the campus before the mass evacuation call for the students. It made sense to me (but I didn’t blame the students for being upset because it absolutely looked like the administration cared more about the tiger’s safety than the students’)–in the chaos of evacuating the campus, getting the tiger out safely would have been a nightmare, and God forbid something happen and Mike got loose. Then it hit me: what if some animal rights’ activists had staged the bomb threat in order to steal the tiger in order to set him free somewhere? (Mike is a frequent target of PETA, who often calls for him to be released into the wild–not in the US, of course–, or sent to a big cat sanctuary.) So, I had the tiger kidnapped, and since Huey Long was responsible for LSU being what it is today, it only made sense for the treasure hunt to have to do with his missing “deduct box”–Huey always used cash, after his assassination the deduct box containing thousands and thousands of dollars in cash disappeared–and there we had it: a plot involving Mike the Tiger, Huey Long, and the deduct box.
This was also the book where I decided to extend Scotty’s family a bit further by adding a new, younger gay character to the mix: Taylor, Frank’s nephew, disowned by Frank’s sister and her homophobic husband after he comes out to them after a semester in Paris, and so he comes to live with Scotty and the boys in the house on Decatur Street. I wanted to bring in someone younger, and gay, with literally hardly any gay experience in the world to reflect the change between generations of gay men and how they view being gay and the rest of the world.
I also figured this would be the last one, but like I said, Scotty just won’t go away.
SIDENOTE: I had to write to the administrators of the Huey Long website for permission to use some quotes from the site in the book. Needless to say, they were very wary of me when they responded, so I emailed them the chapter where I would use the quotes–Scotty was doing some research on Long, and came across the website. Like me, Scotty had always been told Long was corrupt and a demagogue…but demagogues also don’t get things done, which Long did. Some of Long’s programs–like the Homestead Exemption–still exist as public policy in Louisiana. They wrote me back, granting permission…and that was when I found out the person I was talking to was Long’s great-granddaughter, who was rightfully suspicious of anyone writing about her great-grandfather. I sent her a copy of the book when it was finished, and she sent me a lovely thank you card, which is probably one of my favorite writing souvenirs.
The genesis of Garden District Gothic was weird, but yet serves as yet another example of my adage never throw anything you’ve written away.
I had always wanted to spin Chanse’s best friend, journalist Paige Tourneur, off into her own series. I had always intended to do so; from the first time I thought her up for Murder in the Rue Dauphine I thought, “she’s fun and witty and interesting and that weird name–there’s so much more story there than we can get to as a supporting player in a series about someone else.” I have so much written down about Paige and her origin story; how she came up with that name and why; how she wound up at LSU; and so on and so forth. A friend started an ebook publishing company, and wanted me to write Paige novellas for her; I did two–Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans–but the sales, frankly, weren’t there and I didn’t have the necessary time to put in marketing them to help drive the sales, so even though I’d started a third, The Mad Catter, we agreed to kill the series and pull the first two from availability; ultimately, I was working too hard for too little pay-off. I was disappointed, obviously; Paige was kind of a passion project for me–I’d made any number of false starts writing a series book for her, and it was sad to see that there wasn’t an audience for her after all. But I had about four chapters of The Mad Catter in place, and I didn’t want to waste the time spent on them…so I decided to turn them into a Scotty book, which became Garden District Gothic.
I also brought in a new character–a true crime writer with a shady past of his own–who actually wrote a book, a la Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the case. The name of his book? Garden District Gothic. I brought him in, thinking I would spin him off into his own book/series–I thought it might be fun to write about a writer…(I thought about using him as the main character in another book based on an actual unsolved string of murders in a rural Louisiana parish, but very quickly realized he was simply an amalgamation of Scotty and Chanse, so that book–The Bodies in the Bayou–went onto the backburner. I think I may have created the character before, in the Chanse series, but I could be remembering that wrong. I also used this book to sort of set up the next; I will explain that further when I am talking about Royal Street Reveillon. I also crossed the character of Paige Tourneur over from the Chanse series into the Scotty series (I loved the character, hated to sideline her after I ended the Chanse series and the novella series didn’t pan out); not that she will be a big part of the Scotty series, but hey, every so often I need a journalist, and why not use a character I am very fond of already and wasn’t ready to stop writing about?
The book was loosely based, obviously, on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case–a decades old notorious murder of a child in the Garden District that was never solved. I wanted to examine and explore issues of class in New Orleans, but I am not entirely sure I pulled off what I intended with the book.
Then again, I think that with every book, don’t I?
And we now come to the (so far) most recent book of the Scotty series, Royal Street Reveillon.
Originally I’d envisioned the Scotty trilogy (when it morphed from a stand-alone) as encompassing the three big gay holidays in New Orleans: Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. Jackson Square Jazz wound up taking place just before Halloween, alas; Scotty talks about their costumes in the epilogue, but I hit the other two holidays out of the park. When I added a fourth book, I tied it to the Gay Easter Parade–Scotty is on his way to ride on the Devil’s Weed’s float when the book opened–and then of course the next book was sort of Christmas/sort of Mardi Gras/sort of the Super Bowl. Baton Rouge Bingo was the first book that wasn’t tied to a holiday of some sort; neither was Garden District Gothic. But for the next Scotty book, I wanted to do a Christmas book. I’ve never really written much about Christmas, and I do love the season, especially in New Orleans. I wasn’t sure what kind of plot I was going to use, but I knew it was going to be set during Christmas season and I knew I wanted to use reveillon, the Christmas season meal you use to break your fast for Mass, in the title. I had introduced one of the characters from Dead Housewives of New Orleans in Garden District Gothic, so it only made sense to me (or so it seemed at the time) for me to take the framework of Dead Housewives–the entire Real Housewives spoof I wanted to write–and build this new story around it. I changed a lot–made the overarching story much more complicated, and especially complicating the “whodunnit” aspects of the three murders that all occurred within twenty-four hours of the premiere party for Grande Dames of New Orleans.
I also did a couple of horrible things to Scotty and his loved ones over the course of this book…which will have to be dealt with in the new one, alas. I hate when I do this to myself! But with Royal Street Reveillon and its darker themes, I wanted to show how much Scotty has grown and changed over the course of the series; he’s evolved as a person, partly because of the changes to his life and partly because of what he experiences through the murders he finds himself involved in. Do I wish, as I start writing Mississippi River Mischief, that maybe I hadn’t given so many growth opportunities over the years to Scotty and his gang of family and friends? Absolutely. But that’s part of the challenge of writing a series, and what makes it so much fun.
*Funny story about the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues. Back in the day, publishers used to meet with reps from Barnes & Noble and Borders to show them covers and get their input; covers were changed based on those meetings. The Bourbon Street Blues cover was so in-your-face it took me aback when I first saw it; and they had toned the original image down dramatically, mainly smoothing down the bulge so it wasn’t so in-your-face. The Barnes & Noble buyer told them, “he needs a bigger bulge” so they made it bigger–but were still cautious; the image’s original bulge was still bigger. I do think that story is hilarious.
Ah, Tuesday morning and back to the office. I slept decently last night–woke up a couple of times, always able to go back to sleep–so I feel somewhat better this morning than I usually do on Tuesday mornings, but then again, we’ll just have to see how the rest of the day/week goes. I did my work at home duties yesterday, some chores and errands, and last night we started watching the new season of Stranger Things, which I think is the final season. The first episode was a bit off to me, but it certainly started picking up speed in the second and now we are all in after the third. I didn’t write or read much last night after work, but I do have some things i need to get finished today–quite a few things, actually–but I feel rested and maybe when I feel more awake than I do now, it might not be a problem getting everything done today that needs to get done. Stranger things, indeed.
I do have things I need to get ordered on-line today, too–and we need to go to Costco again at some point, perhaps this weekend. It’s always something.
I’m still, to be honest, coasting a little on the high from this past weekend in Florida, if I am being completely honest. I’m still feeling connected to my writing, which is lovely, even if I have to figure out a few things and get a few things pulled together. I also can’t believe it’s July already–and we’re almost halfway through the month, at that. Crazy, you know. But this year is already have over as well–what the hell? And then the next thing you know it’s football season. The twitter accounts for both LSU and the Saints are counting down the days until the season starts. It’s a new era for both–new coaches, essentially new teams, for that matter–so it will be interesting to see how the season goes for both. I also have a book to write during football season (as ever yet again), which will be challenging of course, as it is always is, and then it’s Christmas and New Year’s and BOOM. Carnival time again! #madness
Oh, and I have a book coming out in December right around the time my next Scotty manuscript is due, so as always, the promotion of a new book will have to occur (or start occurring) around the same time as I have to finish another. Now, there’s the workshop I would like to attend: how do you stay focused when you are finishing a book at the same time you are promoting a new release without going completely insane? That’s the part they never tell you about in creative writing classes and workshops–although I suppose those who have agents probably have the agent to walk them through that part (although sometimes I do wonder if I over-romanticize what it’s like to have an agent, since I’ve never had one? Oh if I had an agent they’d take care of this for me–I suspect that’s all too often not accurate. I also suppose that if and when I do ever land one, I will inevitably be disappointed with what they don’t do for me). Someday, I suppose, I’ll find out one way or the other.
And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.
Wednesday and we have achieved midweek at last. Yesterday wasn’t a very pleasant day–it could have been worse (it can always be worse)–but I was not sorry to see the day come to a miserable close, frankly. My Fitbit claimed I had one of the better nights’ sleeps that I’ve had in a while (the highest sleep score I ever got was an 86 out of 100; yesterday morning showed “82”–I’m not really sure how this all works but anything above an eighty is supposed to be good and anything below not good; yesterday felt like a 76 to me, but I’ve been wrong before) and I definitely ran out of steam in the mid-afternoon around three o’clock. (The last two appointments every day are awful–for me; I hope the clients don’t notice that I’m loopy and tired…) I don’t think I slept as well last night as I did the night before–my Fitbit is currently syncing with my phone, so I’ll get last night’s ‘sleep score’ soon–and it was, indeed, a 77, which isn’t good.
But was about what I expected, so another day of running out of gas in the middle of the afternoon. Huzzah.
Progress of a sort is being made. I turned in the Bouchercon anthology yesterday (note to self: let the contributors know) so that’s off my plate, and now I get to start diving into the edits on my book. They are extensive, but will make the book stronger and I am going to need to start pulling all of that together quickly and soon. I did (briefly) start working on the Scotty book over the weekend, and I do need some time to think about that one as well. I guess next week in the car on the way to Kentucky I’ll have some time to think about it, around listening to whatever books I decide to listen to on the driving. I also have a shot at getting that story finished, since the deadline is later than I thought, but we’ll have to see precisely how much free time I have this weekend. I still haven’t decided what book to read yet–I was much too tired when I got home from work last night to read, so it was another evening of catching up on shows Paul doesn’t watch before he got home late.
I’m really tired… of being really tired.
But the world continues to turn and time continues to pass. Paul also expressed surprise at how quickly May has flown by thus far; I was thinking the same thing myself yesterday. This entire year has kind of flown by, it feels like, but on the other hand New Year’s and Carnival seem like a very long time ago. I tested negative for COVID yet again this morning–it still boggles my mind that I, of all people, have never had it–which is a good thing; I would hate to come down with it before my trip next week–and I am not feeling nearly as overwhelmed this morning as I was feeling, say, yesterday morning. I still have a shit ton of things to get done in the meantime, but it seems a bit more do-able this morning to me. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, I don’t know, but I just seem to feel better about everything this morning. I’m not feeling particularly creative this morning either, but stranger things have happened, and maybe once my morning coffee kicks completely into gear my creativity will start to flow as well.
Ha ha ha. A boy (even a sixty-year-old one) can dream, can he not?
And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!
I indulged myself by staying in bed until almost nine this morning–I know, right? I woke up at three and again at five (like every other night this week; this is a trend in my sleep that I am not liking all that much), but stayed in bed. Now that I am up, it’s gray and wet and gloomy outside; maybe it was rain that kept me in bed. What is it about rain and being safe and dry and warm that feels so comforting? I wish I knew. I am also trying to decide this morning over my coffee whether I want to leave the house today. I should swing by the mail and maybe make some groceries and get gas for the car; I also need to get my taxes together, work on my short story, and some other things. I also want to spend some time with Chris Holm’s Child Zero today (and this weekend). I should also brainstorm some more plot ideas for the two books I’ll be working on this year, and once I get this story in some sort of shape I want to go back to “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Festival of the Redeemer” and some other stories. I had pretty much decided to use April to do clean-up on some things–finishing stories etc–and now it is April; how delightful is that? I can hear thunder, which makes leaving the house seem even more undesirable; I’ve not checked today’s weather. Paul is seeing his trainer today, and instead of going to the office immediately after he’ll be coming home. I think we might (I might) rent Spiderman No Way Home today; we started watching Death on the Nile last night on Hulu but bailed on it when the first ads popped up in mid-scene; at least on a broadcast network, they plan where the commercials will go so a character won’t get cut off in mid-sentence. I am really starting to dislike Hulu’s services for streaming; I remember trying Youtube TV and hating it because it’s interface was useless and difficult to navigate. I really would prefer not to go back to cable under any circumstance; I despise Cox with every fiber of my being. The great irony was the reason I chose Hulu in the first place for a streaming service was because their interface was intuitive and incredibly easy; so naturally they keep changing it and making it less user friendly. (Although to be honest, I was only interested in watching Death on the Nile in order to see Egypt; there’s no way this newer version can possibly top the original with Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, and Maggie Smith.) Instead we turned over to Netflix and dove into the second season of Dark Desire, which got us caught up in the story immediately.
We wound up going to Costco last night after Paul got home from work to get it out of the way. I also had to take Scooter to the vet for his biannual senior kitty workup–dropping him off and picking him back up later–and I think the Costco trip wore me out. Why is Costco so tiring for me? I hope someday to have a better understanding of that. And we spent a lot of money but it didn’t seem to me like we got as much stuff as we usually do? I don’t understand–will probably never understand that, but I suppose it’s prices going up everywhere that is to blame.
Ooh, it just got darker, which means storm a coming. Ah, there’s the thunder. And it lasted quite a while, too….I suppose I should check the weather.
Ah, rain all morning and then sunny the rest of the day. That I can live with. It also solves the problem of what to do about the errands–run them today or wait? The mail can wait until Monday; there’s no rush to getting it, after all, and I could always just run to the Rouse’s in the CBD to pick up the few things I do actually need. Decisions, decisions.
Ah, there’s the lightning and the rain and even more thunder. I may have to turn on a light, it’s gotten so dark.
I do love New Orleans rain; I’ve never lived any place where it rains the way it does here. I mean, it fucking pours down here, coming down so hard and fast that the drains (and pumps) take a good while to catch up with it. I own about twenty umbrellas as a result of being caught in the rain unexpectedly; it can also go from hot, humid and not a cloud in the sky to a torrential downpour with street flooding in a matter of minutes. Although this doesn’t seem like one of those street-flooding monster storms; this seems more like a oh the greenery needs watering kind of rains. Doesn’t mean it can’t turn even uglier as I sit here typing, but hey. It’s still one of those chill damp mornings where curling up under a blanket with my coffee sounds vastly more appealing than any of the other dreadful things I need to do today–dreadful might be a bit harsh, but unpleasant certainly doesn’t miss the mark nearly as much.
So on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and head over to my easy chair to spend an hour with Child Zero–I’ll figure out the rest of the day when that hour is up.
Ugh, I must confess I am one of those people who despise the time change. I forgot to reset my alarm clock last night when I went to bed, so of course this morning I didn’t remember that I’d forgotten (yes, well aware of what I just wrote)
Sunday and I am debating as to whether or not to run the errands today I’d originally wanted to run yesterday but didn’t because of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Yes, we pretty much will throw a parade for any reason here in New Orleans, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day parade, they do indeed throw things from the floats. Just like Carnival, they throw beads and cups and plush toys. They also throw potatoes, cabbages and carrots; the idea being you could catch the ingredients to make dinner at the parade. As for me, I’d rather not stand beside the street while parade riders hurl hard objects at me that could bruise or injure; given that my heel was bruised because my shoe insert fucking slipped the other day, imagine what would happen to me at a parade throwing hard objects at me. But now that I’ve gotten up and realized the impact of the loss of the hour…I’m debating whether or not the errands can actually wait until tomorrow after my work-at-home duties. I mean, I can’t get the mail today anyway, right, so I am going to have to go uptown tomorrow or after work on Tuesday. I do need to finish the final two chapters of the book revision today–I made some great progress yesterday, did I not?–and worry that running those errands could wear me out and put me out of the mood to work on it. Of course, there’s also no rule that says when I should run the errands; I could run them late this afternoon after I get the things I need to get done today completed.
Ooooh, doing something different. How not like me, right?
Yesterday was relatively pleasant. I worked on the book after I got up, did some stuff around the house, started reading Donna Andrews’ The Twelve Jays of Christmas (one can never go wrong with Donna Andrews), and then last night settled in for a rewatch of 2010, the sequel to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I rewatched during the pandemic (I’d also already seen 2010; we rented it one night in the 1980’s but got incredibly high so I really didn’t remember much of it other than it made 2001 make a lot more sense; just as the book cleared up a lot of the stuff in the original that didn’t make a lot of sense). One of the things that I always enjoy about watching old science fiction movies is to see what they were able to predict right about the future and what they got wrong; just like in 2001, in 2010 Pan Am is still around, as is the Soviet Union. Part of the plot’s premise is that the US and USSR are on the brink of war over Honduras; at the time the book was written and the film made it was inconceivable to Americans–anyone of the time, really–that the USSR was actually on the brink of collapse and wouldn’t survive in that form for another decade. I also had to wonder, wouldn’t Jupiter becoming a second sun in our system dramatically alter our orbit around the sun and our climate? Even though we are much further away from Jupiter than we are from our actual star?
It’s kind of hard to imagine Earth going from a one-star system to a two-star without any other impact.
Then again, I am not an astronomer, so what do I know? I did enjoy the film the second time around; I’d forgotten that young John Lithgow was in it, as was Helen Mirren as the leader of the Soviet space team.
I also read a marvelous two-issue crossover between two comics, Nightwing and Superman: Son of Kal-el, featuring the bisexual new son of Superman, Jonathan Kent (which reminds me, I am way behind on Superman and Lois). Nightwing/Dick Grayson remains my favorite DC Universe character; I hope HBO MAX will drop a new season of Titans soon.
And on that note, I think I’m going to read some more Donna before I get back to my own manuscript. Have a lovely Daylight Savings Time Sunday, Constant Reader.
And just like that, in a snap of the fingers, it’s Friday again and I am working at home. Huzzah? Huzzah!
I have apparently reset my body clock at long last. It took until age sixty plus a few months, but I woke up this morning without the alarm at just before six. I chose to stay in bed until seven–it was very comfortable under my blankets this morning–but I am now out of bed, drinking my first coffee, and feeling pretty well rested and wide awake. I have, as always, a lot of things to do today (some errands to run, work that needs doing, chores that are overdue) but right now I am feeling like I can get it all done without a problem; that’s undoubtedly incorrect–at some point I’ll get derailed or hit a wall or something; it happens every time–but right now I am going to roll with it most happily. I’ve managed to keep up somewhat this week with the chores, so the Lost Apartment doesn’t need as much attention as it generally does as we roll into the weekend; but maybe that’s because we had a truncated work week (thanks Fat Tuesday!). Either way, I want to see if I can build on that and get more things cleaned–the other stuff that I never manage to get to; like dusting picture frames and so forth. I suppose we shall see.
And I might even be able to get caught up on everything. Ha ha ha ha, it had to be said, right?
So my goals for this weekend are to get through my to-do list and make a new one. I have editing to do and writing to do and decisions to be made about my career and my future–always a daunting subject, always put off for another time because i don’t want to deal with it–and hopefully, this weekend will be an opportunity. As I said earlier, I feel more rested this morning than I have in a long time–rested and relaxed–which means, at least for now, that I feel like I can do anything and everything and I can conquer the world, which is a nice feeling…I know I can’t realistically take over the world, but it’s always nice to feel like I can if I wanted to, you know? I definitely want to finish reading Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister this weekend; it’s quite good, and it feels good to be enjoying reading again. I’d intended to do some reading when I got home from work yesterday, but was very tired–drained, really; it was one of those days at the office for some reason–and so I just kind of hunkered down, let Scooter climb into my lap, and watched history videos on Youtube about Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine’s history. I want to spend some time this weekend figuring out my new Scotty’s plot and subplots–I want this to be a labyrinthine story, ever more so than Royal Street Reveillon was–and I also need to figure out what else I need to be writing this year, and there’s so much else that needs to be caught up on…heavy heaving sigh. But rather than feeling defeated, this morning I feel like I can get everything done and it’s just a matter of rolling up my sleeves and getting to work, which is always a lovely feeling, frankly–and one I’ve not felt in quite some time. Yay? Yay.
So right now before my first work meeting of the day I have laundry going–it’s launder the bed linens day, after all–and have to unload the dishwasher. I need to make a grocery list. I need to work on my to-do list and create a new one. There’s always organizing to do around here (my computer files are finally starting to get it together, but there’s still a very long way to go, sadly), and there’s always another chore somewhere that I’ve not noticed (or have ignored for so long that it now escapes notice and seems normal for whatever it is to be the way it is–not a good thing) and of course, I need to get my taxes and stuff together. See? These are things that should be going on my to-do list, rather than being written about here. But that’s just the way my brain bounces around, you know? But it does feel nice to have shaken off the cobwebs and that aching bone-tired feeling, as well as the clouded brain thing. (I shudder to think how much worse this week would have been had I actively participated in Carnival as much as I have done in the past…yikes indeed.)
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and try to get some things done before the work meeting. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader; I certainly intend to!