Crush on You

Saturday! I am having dinner with a friend this evening, who’s in town for the ALA (American Library Association) convention; someone I don’t get to see with the level of frequency I would prefer, so am very excited to spend the evening discussing the genre and books and maybe just a little hint of gossip. Huzzah!

I cleaned the house yesterday when I got home; the big macro clean; hopefully today, around writing and editing, I’ll get to do the micro clean (macro: picking everything up, cleaning counters, putting dishes away, doing bed linens; micro: sweeping and mopping and cleaning dust off picture frames and reorganizing cabinets, etc.). I slept deeply and well last night also; I woke up this morning around nine feeling foggy and not quite there awake yet; I am about to brew my second cup of coffee but I feel wildly awake and motivated…we shall see how long that lasts.

Today I want to focus on working on the Scotty book as well as read the WIP’s first four chapters aloud. My deadline for finishing the Scotty is next Saturday; I have essentially eight days to write six chapters. I also have to wrap up a ridiculous amount of plot and subplots in six chapters, but it is something I think I can do. After all, the first draft is always going to be a mess, isn’t it? And then I can work on cleaning up that mess when I work on the second draft. I do project it being finished by the end of September and turned into my publisher at that time.

As we progress into my next story in Promises in Every Star, we come on to “Angels Don’t Fall in Love”:

“Angel…..”

I wake up in the middle of the night whispering his name. When my alarm goes off at seven in the morning, for that brief instant I imagine that he is there with me in the bed, that he never left, that his warm body is lying there next to me, and when I open my eyes his round liquid brown eyes will be looking into mine with that curious sexy mixture of innocence and awareness. But my eyes open, as they do every morning, to see the other side of the bed empty, a vast desolate waste of cotton sheets and woolen blankets. My heart sinks again, down into that blackness, the darkness of despair, loneliness, and missed opportunity. For I have known love, I have known passion, I have known joy.

And lost it.

I first laid eyes on Angel one night wandering home from the bars at about two in the morning. I’d had more than my fair share of drinks that night, and was giving up and going home. Staying out didn’t mean meeting the man of my dreams, or even just a warm body with a forgettable name for the night. It just meant more alcohol, more disappointment, standing alone in a corner of the bar, not approaching anyone, nobody approaching me. Before going out that night I’d made a promise to myself that I would break the cycle. I would not stay out ordering more drinks thinking that maybe in five minutes the right guy would walk in. The drinks would only cloud my judgment and distort the way guys looked, making them look far better than they would in the cold light of morning, when I would ask myself, what were you thinking? It was a tired old game, and one I didn’t feel like playing anymore.

He was standing, leaning against a lamppost on Royal Street just a block from my apartment. He was smoking a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. His hair was that dark shade of black that looks blue in the light. There was a mustache and goatee, and he was wearing one of those white ribbed tank tops that cling. His jeans were several sizes too big and were slung low across his hips, exposing black boxer shorts. There was a tattoo on his right arm, a cross in outline with beams of light radiating from it. In the flickering light of the gaslit lamp he seemed to be a large presence, but when I got closer I saw that he was maybe five five, five six possibly. His eyes were amazing, round liquid pools of brown with golden flecks in them, like the sad eyes of a Madonna in a renaissance painting by a forgotten master. They were framed by long, curling lashes that looked dewy in the light.

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Again I don’t remember which anthology I originally wrote this story for, but I reprinted it in my Todd Gregory anthology Wings,  and again, of course, in Promises in Every Star. “Angels” was inspired by an old ’til Tuesday song, “Angels Never Call.” I happened to be listening to the Welcome Home CD when it cued up, and as I listened to it, the image of a man coming home after an evening in the gay bars of the Quarter came to me, encountering a young man named Angel, and the story just progressed from there. It was the first, or at least one of the first, erotica stories I wrote that had an edge of the supernatural to it; was Angel just an attractive young Latino male, or was he actually an angel? It was around this time that I found myself exploring themes in my erotic short fiction, and including supernatural elements, turning the erotica into stories with sex scenes in them. “Angels Don’t Fall in Love” was about, as so many stories I’ve written are, about loneliness and needing to make a connection with another human being. It’s a theme I’ve returned to over and over again, and probably will continue to do so.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Two of Hearts

FRIDAY! Huzzah!

It’s my short day, which is always a lovely way to roll into the weekend, and then I only have one more full week before my next two-day week and six day vacation! Woo-hoo!

I managed to write three thousand words, which is all of Chapter 19, yesterday; I also had miscounted. I still have six chapters to go, alas, but that is doable before the end of the month. The manuscript is a completely sloppy mess, of course, but one that should be easy to fix, to trim, to revise and edit and rewrite. I am hoping to get it into decent shape by the end of September. Huzzah!

I also decided yesterday that “Children of the Stone Circle” isn’t the right story I want to submit to this call. I am going to revisit “The Arm,” which I think is probably more consistent of a story and more believable, would work better in a revision, and so I am going to give it a try this weekend and see what happens with it.

Right now I am hating everything I’ve written. Some things never change.

Next up in my erotic short story collection Promises in Every Star was “All the World’s A Stage.” This one was also written for an anthology, and again, I don’t remember which one or who the editor was or what publisher. I should probably keep better track of this stuff, don’t you think?

The dance floor was still crowded with shirtless boys, sweat running down smooth muscled torsos. My friends had moved on across the street to Oz, leaving me alone on the dance floor enjoying my Ecstasy high and the charms of a guy in his late twenties with the body of an underwear model and the face of an angel. His ass was round and hard in his jeans, and he kept grinding it into my crotch with the beat of the music. He had a tattoo on his lower back, a fleur-de-lis, symbol of the New Orleans Saints. Every time he would back into me that way my dick would get hard in my jean shorts. I wasn’t sure if he actually wanted me to fuck him or not. You never can be sure of anything at a circuit party. His flirting could be entirely based in whatever mind altering substance he’d imbibed. He could have a boyfriend. He might just enjoy losing himself on the dance floor and flirting, in getting attention from men he thought were hot. It was flattering, for sure, since I am now in my late forties, and I had always been brainwashed into thinking that gay life—and most assuredly gay sex and desire—ended at forty.

And if this boy fucked the way he danced, well, it would definitely be worth my while.

He backed into me again, and I slid my arms around his waist, pulling him back against me. His body was wet with sweat, his jeans damp to the touch, his short blonde hair glistening in the flickering laser lights. My cock hardened again, and I ground my crotch into the back of his jeans, rubbing it against him. He suddenly spun around so that our crotches were together. I could feel his hard on against mine. He pressed his lips against mine, forcing mine apart with his tongue. I sucked on his tongue when it entered my mouth, reaching down to cup that pretty ass with my hands.

 “Mmmmmm.” He smiled as he pulled his head back from mine. He put both of his hands on my pecs, squeezing a little bit. “Very nice.”

I smiled back at him. “I could say the same.”

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“All the World’s a Stage” is one of those bar/partying stories, and it is sort of based in reality; although it was kind of a combination of two different events. First of all, yes, once at Southern Decadence a hot younger guy was flirting with me on the dance floor and yes, he did at one point call me daddy, which was the first time that ever happened, and yes, I did get pulled up on stage to mess around with two porn stars by a drag queen. But the getting pulled up on stage and the night I was called a daddy for the first time were, in fact, different occasions; but realistically, in creating the fiction of the story, it simply made sense for the narrative to combine those two incidents.

I’m pleased with it. I think I captured the feel of being drugged out and blissful on the dance floor; that tribal sense I used to get whenever I was one of a crowd of shirtless, sweaty gay men dancing. I loved to dance; always did, and hitting the dance floor was always one of my favorite things to do for years.

I do miss dancing sometimes; I miss that feel of the loud music and the sweat and the shirts being tucked into the back of your jeans (and still losing it sometimes) and sweat rolling down your body and the flashing lights and the fog and everyone lost in joyful abandon…

And now back to the spice mines.

Let’s Go All The Way

So, yesterday I didn’t write much, but I did get something very very important done: I finished the copy-edit/proofing of Bourbon Street Blues, which is now one step closer to becoming an ebook (and a print-on-demand hard copy, if someone so desires), and that really is exciting for me. Bourbon Street Blues is, out of all my books, special to me for so very many reasons. I always thought, for one thing, that it was a much better book than my first (with apologies to Murder in the Rue Dauphine), and for another it was the book where I created Scotty Bradley and his friends and family and world, and Scotty is, well, I’ve always been terribly fond of Scotty.

It’s sometimes hard to believe I’m currently writing the eighth Scotty book. I would have never dreamed there would be three Scotty books, let alone eight, all those years ago when I first dreamed him up. I was determined to create a character that I’d never seen before in gay fiction, or at least in any of the gay fiction I’d read at that time, and my reading at that time was pretty extensive. The late 90’s/early aughts was a strange time to be a gay writer, or to be a gay reader of gay fictions. We were just finding ourselves again after the development of the initial drug cocktails, which meant HIV/AIDS was no longer necessarily the death sentence it was known to be for so lo those many years. Most gay literature, from almost the very beginning of the plague, had been the art of the epidemic: about death, about loss, about hatred but also about love and compassion.

It was a strange time, frankly. All of us gay writers were faced with the conundrum: do we still write about HIV/AIDS? Do we pretend it doesn’t exist? Can we write about it and try to de-stigmatize it in our work? Do we mention condoms, condom use, safer sex? What responsibility do we, as gay writers, have to our community?

Scotty was, in some ways, a reaction to the work that had gone before mine, and to HIV/AIDS. At the time I was creating him, and writing his first book, the equality movement for the community was moving away from the focus on HIV/AIDS and looking at other issues of equality: overturning the sodomy laws; same sex marriage; and overturning ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, so that we could openly serve in the military.

Gay sexuality had become something dark since the early days of the plague, and even with the drug cocktails prolonging life and all the other medical advances that were taking the definition of the disease from fatal to chronic (i.e. something that could be managed with a drug regimen), there was a lot of sturm and drang about gay promiscuity; and while the sexually liberated days of the 1970’s certainly had a part in the spread of the disease, it wasn’t a punishment for gay promiscuity any more than the bubonic plague was a punishment for the schism of the church in the fourteenth century. 

So, when I created Scotty, I wanted to create a character that I hadn’t seen before; someone who not only embraced his sexuality but reveled in it. Scotty was highly promiscuous; wasn’t interested in a boyfriend or monogamy; and had absolutely no hang-ups or judgments about sexuality or promiscuity. He was a personal trainer and taught aerobics, was a former member of a male-stripper troupe who sometimes got back into his thong and moonlighted as a dancer now and then for extra cash. He smoked pot, drank, and celebrated the Gay High Holy Days of New Orleans (Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras) with Ecstasy. He was good-looking and sexy and he knew it, but wasn’t arrogant about it in the least; he was, if anything, amused by the fact that people found him, in his own words, “irresistible.”

Above all else, though, Scotty was, at heart, a nice guy who cared about other people.

I was surprised by the way people reacted, and related, to him. I was expecting to get bashed in the reviews–after all, hadn’t some reviewers dismissed my first series creation, Chanse MacLeod, as ‘just another gay stereotype’?–but the reviews were all incredibly positive, for the most part, other than the occasional one-star on Amazon.

I also wanted the book–and the series, as it turned out–to be light-hearted and funny, even as it took on social issues.

And you know else? Proofing Bourbon Street Blues was the first time in many years that I read the book again. And it ain’t bad. Ain’t bad at all.

And by the way, here’s the new cover for when it’s released again, courtesy of amazing cover designer J. T. Lindroos:

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I absolutely love it.

And now, back to the spice mines.

 

No One Is To Blame

Writing has always been my salvation.

That may seem melodramatic, but it’s true. As long as I can remember, no matter what was going on in my life, the dream was always there and after I actually became a writer, it’s been the foundation of my life. The business drives me crazy, but the writing itself keeps me sane. When the rest of my life or the world seems to have gone mad, I can always escape anything and everything by immersing myself in writing or reading. No matter what else was going on my life or my world, I could always escape by either reading a book or getting out a journal and writing. Whenever I had a bad day at a job or some kind of personal-life conflict, I would always think to myself, one day I will be a writer and none of this will matter anymore.

That got me through more hard times than I care to remember, honestly.

Which is why, of course, the weird duality of being a writer/writing fascinates me so much. I actually love being a writer, and most of the time I love writing, but it can be enormously frustrating at the same time. No matter how much I love to write, how much I enjoy actually doing it, no matter how much of my real identity is wrapped up in being a writer–I dread doing it every day and have to actually force myself to do it. Today I need to write a chapter of the Scotty book (at least one) and I need to work on two of my short stories; one has a bigger priority than the other, of course, but we’ll see if I even get to them. I intended to write yesterday, but after running errands and doing all of that I was exhausted, which is also concerning: why am I so easily exhausted, and what has happened to all of my energy? I spent the rest of the day in my easy chair, watching Evil Genius on Netflix and getting caught up on Animal Kingdom (which, in Season 3, I’m not enjoying as much as I was in earlier seasons), and then wasted some more time I should have spent cleaning or doing something productive. But I also need at least one day a week where I don’t really use my brain too much, and even so, as I sit there watching television my mind does tend to wander a bit, and I wind up working out puzzles and problems that I’m encountering in my work.

I had another story rejected yesterday, and I consider it a badge of honor that I no longer get my feelings hurt or react in disappointment or in other rage-y ways to rejections. One, it’s always lovely to receive a direct email rejection from the editor herself when they have a system where you can actually go look and see if your story was rejected; so a personal note from the editor is always appreciated. And as I have mentioned before,  my short stories are crime-related but not mysteries per se; so it’s not really a surprise when they get rejected from mystery markets; the surprise comes when they are actually taken. But never fear, I shall keep writing them, if for no other reason than I enjoy doing so…but I am also very well aware that my writing, and the limited time I have available for writing, should be spent working on things that should make me money.

That’s the other dichotomy of being a writer; writing what you want to write vs. writing things that make you money. I am a firm believer in the axiom you must always pay the writer, and yet many times I’ve written things I haven’t gotten paid for, that I knew up front I wasn’t getting paid for (this is an entirely different thing than writing something you are promised payment for but never actually receive the proffered payment for; that’s fraud) because it was something I either wanted to write or because it meant sharing the table of contents with writers I deeply admire, hoping that sharing the pages of an anthology or magazine or whatever-it-was with those writers would somehow end up with some of their luster and stardust rubbing off somehow on me.

I reflected on this a lot this past week as I wrote my afterward to Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories; some of those stories I never received payment for, or was paid so little for them that the money was merely a token of appreciation rather than something I could get excited about receiving; there’s a significant difference between getting ten or fifteen dollars for a story and getting fifty to a hundred (or more). As I said in that afterward, no one gets rich writing short stories. (Well, maybe Joyce Carol Oates makes money doing it, and names on that level. Those of us on my level of success? Not so much.)

So, on that note, I am about to put on my miner’s hat and head into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely day, everyone.

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What Have You Done For Me Lately

I managed to tear through Chapter 18 Thursday, so now I am on Chapter 19. I cannot reiterate enough times how sloppy and messy this manuscript is, but I am getting a first draft done and I don’t care how bad it looks now; revisions and rewrites will clean that the fuck up.

I also decided it was time to get my agent-search organized; which meant creating a spreadsheet and entering all the names of agents, their agencies, etc. that I’ve been collecting on scraps of paper or scribbling down in my journal into it. This weekend I am going to go over and revise the first four chapters of the WIP–this time for cohesion and to copy edit, revise, make the language prettier–and see where that’s at. I also retitled “The Feast of St. Expedite”–it is now called “A Whisper from the Graveyard”–and worked on it a little bit before bed. But the one I really need to focus on is “Children of the Stone Circle,” which is the story I am hoping to edit and revise and have ready to submit to Cemetery Dance. It’s a longshot–they are probably going to get thousands of stories–but it’s also a bucket-list item, so I am going to go for it.

I have a lot of errands to do today–pick up prescriptions, post office, make groceries–and I’ve promised to make a co-worker a red velvet cheesecake for his birthday (today, but I’ll bring it into the office on Tuesday); I’ll probably make the cheesecake tomorrow but still need to get all the things for it today. I most likely won’t get much written today–all that running around in the obnoxious New Orleans heat and humidity will wear me out, as it always does–and so the rest of today will most likely be spent cleaning and organizing and getting ready to do some writing tomorrow; although I will most likely continue to work on the Bourbon Street Blues copy edit.

I started reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is the book Love Simon was based on. I’m very curious about it–having not seen the movie, which we’ll probably rent sometime–and since I write gay y/a, I kind of feel like I need to see what all the fuss is about (I also want to work on the WIP this weekend; we’ll see. I am well aware that time is limited and I am trying to cram too much into a single weekend. I also am taking a long weekend around the 4th of July; another mental health break, which I think I need to do every couple of months or so just to maintain my sanity, stay on top of things in the apartment, and get back in touch with my writing.

And on that note, I have to make a grocery list as well as figure out what else needs to get done this weekend, so perhaps it’s best if I return to the spice mines.

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Danger Zone

The good news: I not only revised the afterward, I also managed to finish the first draft of Chapter 16 of the new Scotty. It’s a transition chapter, which I hate to write–have always hated them, always hate writing them, wish I never had to do another–but it will do for now, and I can always fix the shitty mess it currently is later. It’s better, far far better, to write a short, shitty draft of a transition chapter rather than put off writing it for, oh, I don’t know, over a week–which I what I actually did.

Sigh.

But it’s progress, and I am all about the progress these days. If I can bang out Chapter 17 today–and there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be able to–and possibly Chapter 18 tomorrow–well, a chapter a day will finish the damned book. And I need to get these other two stories written at some point; I’ve about two-and-a-half weeks to do so. I think I can do it, you know?

Confidence.

I slept really well last night, and it was lovely to sleep in a bit. I have to run an errand today, and I have another errand to run tomorrow morning as well before work. But this was a short week, so I really can’t complain about having to do errands or having to do anything, really. Next week is, of course, going to seem brutally long. But the 4th of July is coming up, and I am taking a very long weekend around that holiday. So I just need to hang in there for a while.

But I am confident that if I stay focused I can get everything done that I need to get done.

I’ve also not forgotten about the Short Story Project; it just got derailed there for a little while.

Next up is “Black Water Rising” by Danny Rhodes, from Cemetery Dance, Issue 79, edited by Richard Chizmar.

Monday

When I walked through the park on that first evening there was nothing unusual about it. I remember the benches by the boating lake being empty because in the summer there was never a bench to sit on. They were always occupied by couples enjoying a bit of time together. The surface of the lake shimmered in the sunlight. Alison said the water’s surface reflected an alternate world. I remember smiling at that. Back then, I was ready to agree with just about anything she suggested.

Now, in November, the lake swallowed by darkness, it was hard to see a reflection in the surface at all. In some selfish way, that made me feel better.

It’s a creepy story, about the rising water of the lake and the mental torment the main character is undergoing; one is never quite sure if the main character is imagining the whole thing, or if the lake is actually rising and causing the malaise that the people who live along its shores are experiencing; a powerlessness in the inevitable face of death.

I really liked this story.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Dancing on the Ceiling

So, yesterday I managed to finish the afterward to the short story collection; worked on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit (also figured out the rest of the story, crucial!); decided on the story I am going to revise/rewrite to submit to Cemetery Dance; did some thinking about the Scotty book and where to go with it next; and continued the copy editing of Bourbon Street Blues.  I am about a quarter of the way through with this; hoping to have it finished by the end of the month so I can get the ebook/print-on-demand up before the end of summer. The book has been too long out of print, and by the way, I fucking love the new cover I got for it and the new one for Jackson Square Jazz.

I’m having some seriously terrific luck with covers this year, methinks.

So, I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked this weekend but again, progress, which is everything. As long as I am moving forward, I celebrate the win because staying in place is a loss.

Last night, I started watching the new Ryan Murphy series, Pose, and was most impressed with it. I still have not watched the Versace season of American Crime Story, but that’s on my ‘to-watch’ list. The thing with Murphy is that his series are so frequently hit-and-miss. Often they start out fantastic (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and then go south; the uneven quality of pretty much every season of American Horror Story is legendary. So, I am not holding out much hope that Pose won’t derail; but at the moment it’s high-quality, riveting television; taking us back to those awful days of the late 1980’s and shining a spotlight on queers of color, which doesn’t happen very often–and especially, the transwomen and drag queens, who rarely get to see themselves on television or in the movies. Having the show set during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis was also a brilliant move; there was, I think, a tendency in the late 90’s and ever since, for queer publishing to shy away from HIV/AIDS; it enveloped so much of queer writing for so long…and I’m thinking that it might be time for us to start addressing it again.

HIV/AIDS plays a part in “Never Kiss a Stranger” and in “The Feast of St. Expedite” (the story I started writing last week); both are set in New Orleans in 1994 and you simply can’t write about gay men and the gay male community in that time and not have it be a part of the story in some way. The question of whether I am handling it properly or not remains to be seen…but I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past lately, and it’s been kind of fun.

I had gotten tired of most of my iTunes playlists last week and then remembered, duh, the new car has an actual CD player in it; you can listen to some of your CD’s. This thought led me to browsing through our CD tower–yes, we still have one, and yes, it’s covered in dust–and discovering a lot of great music that I don’t have in digital form and haven’t listened to in a long time. I found a lot of dance music mix CD’s, including Deborah Cox: The Remixes and so every time I get in my car I’ve been listening to old gay dance music. I even was playing some of them while I was cleaning the house on Sunday (the only CD players in the house are in the computers), and yes, I’d forgotten how much easier dance music makes cleaning (note to self: always play dance CD’s in the computer when cleaning).

In the car this morning I was listening to a Pride 2001 CD, and a song come on called “Movin’ Up” (I think) and without even realizing it I was singing along with it and this lyric popped up: I take my problems to the dance floor. and I was flooded with memories. I remember someone in the bars back then had a T-shirt that said this, and although I don’t remember his name, he was around a lot back in those days and he always had a great time on the dance floor; and I enjoyed watching the joy and sheer abandon with which he danced.

I do kind of miss dancing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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