The Rose

Good morning, first Saturday of the new year, how you doing?

It was cold yesterday in New Orleans; in the forties when I woke up, and I felt ill pretty much most of the morning. I ate breakfast and felt somewhat better, but the rest of the day was pretty much the same–one minute I’d feel fine, then the next I’d feel bad again. This was unfortunate because our office holiday party (delayed) was also last evening; I wasn’t able to have anything to drink because I didn’t trust my stomach and I wound up leaving early to come home. I was also very tired all day; my sleep was restless and wretched, which undoubtedly had a large part in the not feeling well. Last night I managed to sleep for almost eleven hours…so yes, I must have been terribly tired, and this morning, while it is cold again in the Lost Apartment, I feel rested and much better than I did yesterday.

My blood sugar–which I was concerned about yesterday as well–seems to be okay this morning as well. I guess the blood sugar thing–which was a concern yesterday–wasn’t really anything to be concerned about. It’s so lovely getting old; such a myriad of things to run through your head when you don’t feel well, you know?

As such, when I got home from the holiday party I gratefully sank down into my easy chair and finished watching Great Greek Myths on Prime; the Oedipus myth in particular is gruesome and horrible and grim. Poor dude; and none of it was his fault. The episode filled in the back story of his parents, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, and all the horror that happens to Oedipus is because of something his father did before he was even born. Truly horrible, right? Those Greek gods…now I want to find my copy of Edith Hamilton and reread it; it’s been years. (Shameless Greek mythology plug: read Madeline Miller’s Circe! It was one of the best–if not the best–book I read last year. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

Today I am mostly going to hang around the house and clean/write/edit. I’m going to go to get groceries tomorrow; Paul has errands and appointments today, so I am going to take advantage of the quiet and still around the house to get things done as well as be productive with my own stuff. I also want to finish my reread of The Shining, which I am enjoying and appreciating more than I did before. I am also figuring out why I didn’t care for it as much as I did before–which I always assumed was based on the holes in the plot (why would anyone build a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that can’t be used for winter sports and is closed for the winter season? AND WHAT PARENTS WOULD TAKE THEIR SMALL CHILD SOMEWHERE SO REMOTE AND CUT OFF FROM MEDICAL HELP?) but I am also starting to understand that it triggered some things in my subconscious that made me predisposed to not enjoy it; I am not a big fan of small children in peril, particularly if the peril is from one of his/her parents. But it’s terrifically written and structured; the shifting POV from all three members of the Torrance family is particularly ingenious as it helps create a strong sense of claustrophobia within the enormous hotel. The book also serves as a marvelous kind of time capsule; The Shining probably couldn’t be published today because readers would have little-to-no sympathy for Wendy. But in the 1970’s, while certainly becoming more common-place, divorce was still enough of a taboo that women wanted to avoid it and make their marriages work no matter what the cost–even after her husband breaks her son’s arm. (The story would end there today; corporal punishment and spankings and so forth were still considered fairly normal in the 1970’s….but today Jack would have been talking to the police after Danny’s arm was set.)

But one thing that is particularly stellar about the book is that sense of impending doom. The reader knows, obviously, that the Overlook is a bad place and going there for the winter is an enormous mistake for the Torrances; but King also does a really good job of showing their desperation and that this winter job is the last chance for them to make it as a family. But you can’t help but hope they’ll somehow survive the winter, and one thing I think the film missed out on completely was how the book showed Jack. Yes, he is a terribly flawed human being with a horrible temper and an alcoholic, and a lesser writer would have simply allowed Jack to become the villain of the story, which he kind of is…but King creates him as a complex character and shows all sides of him; and he clearly loves his wife and son even if he is a fuck-up. The real villain in King’s novel is the hotel itself, a bad place, and how it exploits Jack’s weaknesses. The way King shows his psychological collapse, and how the hotel’s evil influence slowly starts to take control of him, is masterful…particularly given how early in his career he wrote this book.

And so, once I post this, I am going to get cleaned up and start laundering the bed linens. I want to also clean out some of the books–another purge–and perhaps some light cleaning while I read and edit and get the things done today that I need to get done today. I feel very rested (thank you, long night’s sleep) and use this day to get organized once and for all. I started getting things organized that I am working on yesterday morning, despite feeling like shit, and I feel much better about things, quite frankly. But organized is always better than disorganized, and it’s unfortunate and sad how often I allow laziness to let me slip into disorganization and being scattered.

It’s just wrong.

And something I should work on.

But then again, what isn’t?

And now into the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, all, and Happy Epiphany Eve!

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Coming Up

Happy New Year!

I chose to take a break from the Internet yesterday; no checking social media, no checking email, no hassling with anything on-line at all. Sometimes I think we forget how much the Internet has taken over our lives in the last ten years or so–at least, since the smart phone changed everything along with social media. It was, quite frankly, lovely to just relax and pay no attention to the rest of the world. I worked on the WIP for a good while yesterday, and thought about the fixes Scotty needs; I watched the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!) and some of the later bowl games as well. We’ve finally started watching Killing Eve, which we are loving (we might always be late to the party, but we always are most enthusiastic once we arrive). I wonder–has anyone read the books the show is based on? I might have to add them to the TBR pile.

Which, of course, is enormous.

I am hoping to finish my reread of The Shining this week; it’s a short work week, of course, because of the long holiday weekend, and I am working my usual half-day on Friday. We then work two full weeks before yet another three day holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Day, and of course, Carnival begins on Sunday with the arrival of Twelfth Night. I am going to have to take vacation time for the parades, because I can’t get to and from work with my car on parade days, so for the first time in years I can actually enjoy the parades without being exhausted from everything entailed with getting to and from work and passing out condoms in the Quarter. Plus, it will be a lovely little break as well, as well as not having to plan my days thoroughly to make sure I can get all the errands in around street closures and so forth.

Which is an enormous relief, quite frankly. I’m getting too old for all that stuff.

It’s also amazing how much email can pile up in your inbox when you take a day off to unplug. I think I might have to make that a Saturday or Sunday thing every week, to be honest. It was most lovely.

I also managed to re-initialize my old back-up hard drive that ceased working during the Great Data Disaster of 2018. Much as I hated seeing all that data and work lost, most of it had been reconstructed by now anyway and so whatever is gone may as well be gone forever; there was no guarantee the Apple Store would have been able to retrieve any of the data and I think that the loss wasn’t really that big of a deal. I no longer feel discombobulated by the loss of data, and I think I’ve finally reached the place where I can focus and get back into everything that needs to get done without worries or feeling disconnected from everything. It’s kind of lovely, really; I’ve felt so out of it ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 that I wasn’t certain I was ever going to get to a place where I would feel organized again.

And with me, organization (and being on top of things) is vitally important otherwise I won’t ever get anything done.

And it’s a new year, the one in which I turn fifty-eight. Huzzah! I am still feeling like I can achieve all my goals this year; I just have to stay focused and practice self-care.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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New Year’s Day

Ah, the annual setting of goals.

1. Getting in better shape. Self-care is important, and there are fewer, easier ways to take care of one’s self than taking regular exercise. But self-care isn’t just the physical; it’s also the mental. So, I need to focus on taking care of myself mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I want to try to get a massage at least every other month, to help with that; and I also think I’m going to start practicing meditation and yoga. I’ve always liked doing yoga, and I need to stretch more regularly. The yoga-toes have already helped with my feet and leg-joint issues, and I need to use techniques to keep myself from feeling pressured. One of the reasons I stopped signing book contracts without having written the book already is because of the pressure deadlines put me under; I still don’t deal with those too well and I simply need to work on my own patience.

2. Finding an agent. This is still incredibly important; I cannot move to the next level of being a professional writer without an agent negotiating for me. I should have done this long ago, and I need to take this all very seriously going forward. I’ve been collecting names of agents and agencies over the last couple of years, but I still don’t have anything to show them. I sent the first fifty pages of the Kansas book out to some agents last year, and got no interest. Which is fine, it was more of a if you don’t ever start doing this you never will thing. But now that I’ve taken the Kansas book back to the drawing board, I think it’s time to accept that trying to make the Kansas book work is like trying to make fetch happen; it’s probably not going to ever be a thing. Which, while sad, is okay. I can always reuse what I’ve done for something else. But it’s also kind of freeing to let it go and think, okay, what else have I got up my sleeve? It’s only failure if I choose to view it that way, and I’m choosing not to; I did some good work on that manuscript and it may work out in some other way.

3. The Diversity Project. I had a lot of success with the Short Story Project, so I’ve decided to add a new reading project to my 2019: reading diverse books by diverse writers. First off, it’s a shame that I am having to make this a project in the first place; I should already be reading diverse authors. I’ve been buying books by minority writers for quite some time now and adding them to the TBR pile…and yet somehow those books never seem to manage to make it up to the top of the pile. What is that about, I wonder? But it’s definitely a thing, and I need to do something about it. I live for the day when I don’t even have to think about my choices because diversity has become commonplace; but I can’t talk the talk if I don’t walk the walk. How can I expect non-gay people to read my gay books if I don’t make an effort to make diverse reading choices myself? And I have a lot of these books on hand already. So why buy more books (always the question) when I have so many to read, so many to choose from? I will blog about these books as well, and I am going to do my part to try to diversify the crime genre and my own reading.

4. The Short Story Project. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t have read nearly as many short stories in 2018 had I not made a point out of doing so, and I have not come anywhere near reading all the anthologies and single-author collections I have on hand, so I am going to renew this project for 2019. I think it’s made me a better short story writer, and I’ve certainly enjoyed all the stories I read (with a few exceptions, of course; there are always exceptions, aren’t there?). I am, however, going to try to loosen the pressure on myself and limit myself to reading at least three per month as a goal, which would be thirty-six stories for the year. I think that’s do-able without creating any added pressure for me….because everything creates pressure for me, even things I start out doing as fun, if I’m not careful.

5. Writing more short stories. This is part of the Short Story Project, of course, but it also (without adding more pressure) was part of the point of the entire project in the first place; reading more short stories was meant to be a master class in short story writing, and therefore teaching me how to be better about writing them. I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my issue with revisions and rewriting and editing my own short stories has everything to do with my own stubbornness and my own refusal to admit a story isn’t working while still trying to force it to work. I have several of those; great concepts that I simply can’t pull off the way they currently sit, and I need to figure out some way to make them work as stories. My goal is to finish two collections within the next two years (Once a Tiger and Other Stories and Monsters of New Orleans),  as well as continue trying to get stories published as the year pass. I am very excited for the release of Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories this coming April 1. I definitely also want to get “Never Kiss a Stranger” finished and up as a Kindle single sometime this year.

6. Writing more personal essays. Yes, yes, I know the blog sort of counts as writing personal essays on a daily basis, but I’d like to start seeing them published in other places, and there are some blog entries that are more abstracts of what could be more in-depth, more introspective, and much longer. The goal is to ultimately come up with a collection of said essays called Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life, and again, this is a long-term goal; I’d like to have this collection ready in about three years.

7. More research on New Orleans history. This is also necessary for, of course, the writing of Monsters of New Orleans, which is a terrific project I am terribly excited about, plus I am kind of excited about reading up on New Orleans history, lore and legends, which will only make my writing about the city stronger and better. I am also looking forward on teaching myself how to do research, and making use of all the amazing local resources, such as the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Tennessee Williams Research Center, the public library resources, and of course, the Louisiana Historic Research Collection at Tulane University. (The Tulane library alone!) I am still reading Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter whenever I get a minute, and there are so many others to read–currently in my research pile on my desk I have that and three Robert Tallant books (Voodoo in New Orleans, Ready to Hang, and The Voodoo Queen) along with Alecia Long’s The Great Southern Babylon and the ever classic Gumbo Ya-Ya.

8. Clearing out the TBR pile. I wasn’t able to read as much for pleasure this past year as I have in other years; primarily because I was judging a book award again (I think this will be the last time I actively participate in judging a book award; it’s just too time-consuming, not to mention all the books piling up in the house), and of course, all the research. I’ve also decided that books I want to keep to reread no longer need to be kept; if I need to read again or use it for research for another project (I still want to write about the romantic suspense writers who dominated the bestseller lists from mid-century through the 1980’s) I can always simply get an ebook version of it, which I can access and make notes easily on with the iPad. I also want to declutter the Lost Apartment, and let’s face it, the books are the primary problem.

9. Keeping a positive attitude. This is the hardest of all goals; because my mind is already trained to default to the negative. But negativity derails everything; and keeping belief in myself, no matter whatever career disappointments might lie around the corner for me, is necessary in order for me to do the work I need to do, not only on my writing but on myself, to be the best Gregalicious I can be. And ultimately, that’s the bottom line of all the goals, isn’t it? To be the best me I can be?

And now, back to the spice mines. I am taking a self-imposed exile from the Internet for the rest of the day, to get things done around the house, to write some more, to do some reading, and just get ready for the return to work this week. Happy New Year, one and all!

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The Coventry Carol

New Year’s Eve Eve, and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment this morning. Scooter has been fed and given treats, so  he’s gone back to bed; Paul is curled up with him upstairs. I overslept again this morning, not as late as yesterday but still–I woke up just before ten. Obviously, I need the rest, but at the same time it becomes a little frustrating because I generally do my best work in the mornings.

I did some work yesterday but not much. I got sucked into the college football vortex after going to the grocery store and picking up the mail, and wound up mostly just reading The Shining most of the time. I finished reading the first part, which is all set-up; we meet the Torrances (Jack, Wendy, Danny) who are point-of-view characters and learn about their background–Jack’s drinking and violent temper; how he broke Danny’s arm in a rage and almost destroyed the marriage; Wendy, who still loves him but isn’t sure she should be staying with him, and young Danny, with his unusual talent and desperate love for both his parents and wanting them to stay married. This is also the tale of how they came to stay at the Overlook Hotel over the long, remote, brutal winter; one of the things that has always been a flaw to me with this book is the idea of a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that is so high up in the mountains that it has to close for winter sports season. But King presents it as a fact; it is a necessary one for the story to work–the Torrances have to be completely cut off from civilization, and that again makes The Shining a novel of its time; even today there would be wi-fi service all winter up there; Jack would be able, undoubtedly, to look up all kinds of information about the hotel on-line (probably would have before taking the job) rather than having to dig through the stuff in the basement. But I am enjoying this reread, and I am also enjoying recognizing why some of the issues and problems I had with this book come from a personal place; I don’t like, for example, stories where children are in danger–whether from supernatural forces or from their parents or from anyone or anything, really. And that is also an interesting thing to unpack: why do these stories bother me so much, get under my skin, make me recoil from them?

I am really looking forward to my reread of Pet Sematary.

So this morning I need to finish cleaning and organizing. I may write today after the Saints game–none of the main players will be in the game, as they’ve already clinched the Number One seed and home-field advantage during the play-offs, so why risk your stars getting injured in a game that doesn’t matter (and games that don’t matter is another thing I dislike about the NFL; all games should matter) so I don’t know how intense the game will be or how wound-up in it I will get. But probably not very; since the game doesn’t matter.

We had a deep-dish Chicago style pizza from That’s Amore last night and it was everything. Everything. It is seriously my favorite pizza in New Orleans, but it’s so thick and heavy you can’t have it regularly; it’s perfect as an occasional treat. We hadn’t had one in months, so having one for dinner (and the second half of it today for today’s dinner) is probably the smart way to go. We are having our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace tomorrow–which will be wonderful–and I am going to simply make baked potatoes for our evening meal tomorrow night; Tuesday I’m going to make Shrimp Creole in the slow-cooker for dinner, and we’ll probably cook out for lunch for the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!).

Tomorrow morning’s blog will be my year recap; it’ll be curious to go back to my New Year’s Day blog from last year and see what the 2018 goals were, and if I made any progress on any of them (unlikely). It was an interesting year, to say the least, and one that I’m not in the least bit sorry to see ending. One of my year-end goals is to clean out my various email inboxes, as well, and to henceforth try to stay on top of these things.

We shall see how that plays out, won’t we?

I took some awesome pictures with my phone last night on the walk to pick up the pizza at That’s Amore. I’ll post them on Facebook at some time today.

And now, I am going to dive headlong back into the spice mines. I want to revise another chapter of the WIP and I am going to reread those last five chapters of the Scotty during the Saints game.

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The First Noel

We made it, Constant Reader!

The end of the wretched 2018 is on the horizon; mayhap 2019 will be a better year for everyone and the world.

One can hope, at any rate.

I actually slept for almost eleven hours last night; I cannot recall the last time I ever slept so late. I feel good, but also kind of like I’ve lost my morning. But it’s a four day weekend so who cares? 

And see, that’s how it starts–the downward slippery slope into getting nothing accomplished. It is amazing how quickly and easily my mind will come up with reasons not to write, not to edit, not to get anything done–pretty much anything will do. But this is how it goes….and it’s also very easy to fall into the mindset of nothing matters, you’re terrible at this, you slave away and for what, everyone else gets time off….and on and on and on it goes.

But you have to make sacrifices if you’re going to be a writer. And sometimes, your lazy time (which you love because you are at heart incredibly lazy) is what you do have to give up. And I need to view this long, deep, wonderful sleep as ‘well, you clearly needed the rest, but that has to count as your lazy time for the day.’

I wrote another fifteen hundred words or so on Bury Me in Satin, whose title, going forward, is going to be changed. “Bury me in satin” is a lyric from a song I love, “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry, and while technically I don’t need their permission to use the title, I kind of should ask–it’s the done thing, and since I neither want to bother (lazy!) nor does the title really fit the book (it kind of  only does in the mood I am trying to set, and I’ve already gotten the mood down) I’ve been thinking I want to change it. As we all know, I am very reluctant to make changes–I resist and resent change with all of my being–last night the new title came to me. Part of the resistance was I liked having Bury Me in the title, and last night I figured out a way to retain those words but change the rest of the title from the song lyric. I like the new title, but I think I’m going to keep it under wraps for a while. I usually don’t refer to works-in-progress by their titles; but I’ve called the “one for agent search” the WIP for so long I now think of it that way in my head; I can’t call anything else the WIP anymore. But–and this is an important but–it’s really what I called “the Kansas book” forever; I am going to rebrand it in my head and call it “the Kansas book” again, and the one I am currently working on will be the WIP. I also thought of some new ways to deepen the main character and iron out some plot issues I was having with the WIP. (see what I just did there?) So, my decision to stop writing new chapters after finishing Chapter Eight while I go back and clean up those already written was clearly the right decision to make.

Hopefully, that will also be the case with the final polish of the Scotty book. One can hope, at any rate.

And…the kitchen and entire house is a disaster area yet again, so there’s cleaning and organizing to be done as well.

And on that note, I need to get back to the spice mines.

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Silent Night

Friday and we are somehow getting through this infernal time between Christmas and New Year’s. Every year I think to myself self, next year you need to take this time off, and every year I forget. Like an idiot.

I’m putting this on my 2019 calendar right the fuck now.

Seriously.

But we’ve made it to Friday, haven’t we, Constant Reader? I’ve managed to get back to work writing–although I should be working on polishing the Scotty, I’ve been bogged down with Bury Me in Satin so keep trying to work my way through it. But I need to get back to the Scotty and cleaning it up; the problem being I am so heartily sick of the opening chapters I don’t even want to look at them anymore. I am going to try to revise and polish the last six chapters, and then work my way back through the entire manuscript, and I still have to write the epilogue. I need to snap out of this malaise/funk I’ve been in ever since the Great Data Disaster, and seriously climb back into the writing and editing, else it will never be done. NEVER. I also need to start reading again. I’d like to finish my reread of The Shining, so I can move on to my reread of Pet Sematary, and then I am going to work my way through the TBR pile….as I’ve said before, I’m going to try to read more minority and diverse writers this next year. I’ve been buying their books all this time, of course, but the books have been languishing in my TBR pile–along with a lot of other books and authors–and I also need to read outside of the crime genre for a while, as well.

I’ve always believed reading is a crucial part of writing; you can’t be a good writer if you don’t love to read, and reading is also an excellent education in writing. The best writers should inspire you to want to equal or better them, or at least to do better with your own writing. I think not publishing anything for quite some time has also done a number on my confidence as a writer; I think we all tend to be our own harshest critics. I need to stop listening to those horrible voices in my head with their nasty whispers that undermine my confidence and make me worry about my writing; that give me Imposter Syndrome and encourage me to not bother writing anything.

Which is also self-defeating, and self-annihilation, and self-destructive.

So I am going to try to use this long weekend to reboot my life and reboot my brain and get back on track with everything. I need to read some more New Orleans history, and I need to figure out what short stories need to be finished or reworked; I realized the other day what is wrong with my story “The Problem with Autofill” and I don’t know if I can rework it properly; I don’t think the premise actually works. I probably need to free-associate the story and the root problem at its core, and figure out how to fix it. The title is probably going to have to go–perhaps I can use it for another story with a different plot–but I think there’s something there with the story and I can make something work with it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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White Christmas

Christmas is now over, and New Year’s looms; Carnival is just around the corner. Mardi Gras is late this year, I believe; but I can’t be bothered to look it up at the moment so take my word for it.

Our holidays were lovely and relaxing; now there are simply three days to get through before the next holiday, so getting through the rest of this week should be relatively simple. One would think, at any rate. I am quite pleased with how the weekend turned out; I didn’t read or write or edit nearly as much as I should have, but that’s the way the holiday weekend goes sometimes, you know? I did get some brainstorming in, which is always important, and I got a lot of computer filing done. I almost got all the physical filing done as well. There’s a sink full of dirty dishes that I hope to take care of this morning as well; but we shall see. I am a little groggy this morning; as I suspected, getting up to an alarm earlier than I’ve been doing these last four days was just as problematic as I had feared it would be this morning. And I have to get up even earlier the next two mornings…heavy heaving sigh.

But I am sure the coffee–once it kicks into gear–will be most helpful.

We continued watching that Australian series Wanted yesterday, and paid to stream Avengers: Infinity War from iTunes. It was quite enjoyable, and very well done for what it was, despite having to juggle all these stars and super-heroes and story-lines, and the ending was just as sad and heartbreaking as everyone said it was when the movie was released. And yet….being an old hand at comics and super-heroes, isn’t it obvious how this will go? Thanos will somehow either be defeated in the sequel, and/or convinced to use, the Infinity Stones that control time and space to go back and not allow him to erase half of the life in the universe.

Which is fine, and makes for great drama, but it’s precisely the problem that eventually drove us off from watching Arrow and Flash: the stakes aren’t high when people can be brought back from the dead, or you can change the time-line to save them.

Although watching this movie gave me the idea of how to write the epilogue for the new Scotty, which is incredibly cool. Yay?

Well, not so much as gave me the idea as the idea came to me while I was watching the movie.

Which is a completely different thing, really.

Maybe for New Year’s, I’ll watch The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi again, back-to-back.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader!

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