Dance Little Sister

Today I am off to Alabama. I’ve ordered groceries to pick up for Paul, which I will drop off on my way out of town. I am a bit excited about the trip–it’s always lovely to see Margaret and Tammy–and I just love this event. This is my fourth time going, and I’ve always had a good time whenever I’ve headed up there. I’ll be back here on Sunday evening, probably exhausted and ready for the incredible comfort and joy of my own bed. I am looking forward to the drive (lunch at the Arby’s in Toomsuba! Carol Goodman audiobook on the stereo!) and I’m not in a huge rush to get up there, either. I think it’s about six or seven hours? Never mind, it’s only five total– I also checked the distance and the timing it takes, and I realized last night that I don’t, in fact, have to get on the road by nine or ten. Since it’s five hours, give or take, without stops, so really, as long as I get on the road around noon I’ll be there tonight by six. So, why make myself crazy trying to rush out of here?so yeah, no need to put the pedal to the metal and speed or anything. I’ll probably just put the cruise control on after I get past Slidell and cross the state line into Mississippi. I also checked the distance and the timing it takes, and I realized last night that I don’t, in fact, have to get on the road by nine or ten. Since it’s five hours, give or take, without stops, so really, as long as I get on the road around noon I’ll be there tonight by six. So, why make myself crazy trying to rush out of here? I do have to go pick up those groceries, swing by the bank and post office, get gas, and run another errand. I can also take my time and make sure I have everything packed that I need as well–when I finish this I’ll probably go ahead and make the list after checking the weather. I slept extremely well last night, too.

I was exhausted when I got home from work yesterday, hence the great relief that I could just laze about and not do much of anything last night, which was helpful. I think the malaise really struck hard yesterday, and by the time I got home from the office I was exhausted, so much so that I collapsed into my chair without a second thought and pretty much stayed there the entire night, rather than packing or organizing or anything. Paul did come home so we could finish The Recruit–and I have to say, that was a season finale. It’s already been renewed for a second season, and I can’t recommend this show enough. It’s a lot of fun, has humor, a great plot and story, and the acting is top notch. I also rather like the cynical way the CIA works on the show–as well as its depiction of how Washington works–because I suspect it’s much more like this than people would like to believe. I did go to bed early, too, which helped with the sleep, and even though I woke up at six this morning I chose to stay in bed for another couple of hours like a slug. But it felt marvelous–last night I was thinking to myself I was too tired to make the trip this weekend if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and how fortuitous for me that I got one. Here’s hoping I can sleep for the next two nights at a hotel in Birmingham, shall we?

But I can feel my batteries recharging, if that makes sense? And that, too, feels good to me. I know I have a lot of editing work to do in front of me–as well as other writing–but this fallow period is needed to rest the earth of my creativity so it can spring back into action when I need it again. I think I was a bit too ambitious with thinking about my schedule for the year, too–but the schedule has kind of sorted itself out again, which is kind of nice. I’m not sure when I am going to get to some of the things I had planned to write this year–but I do still plan on writing them; I don’t think ambition is going to be a problem to get me motivated this year. In fact, I suspect motivation is actually not going to be a problem for me this year or any year going forward.

Then again, it isn’t summer here quite yet, either. Summer definitely takes its toll on me and my psyche; usually by August I am feeling relatively defeated by the heat and humidity, but I don’t think that’ll be as much of a problem this year as it has been. Now that we have the new HVAC system, it’s always cool in the house in every part of it. And by then I am hoping to have my return to the gym ingrained as a habit by then. 2023 is the year I want to take better care of myself and get things taken care of–hearing and teeth to start with–and of course going to the gym is integral to my health. I need to start stretching at home every day in the meantime, maybe even working my way back up to some push-ups and ab crunches before I start going back to the gym. It also has occurred to me that stretching at home before going to the gym is probably a better approach; I’ll be warmed up and the walk will keep me warmed up as I head over there and then back home again. I also think I’ll feel more like myself once I am going to the gym again more regularly. And feeling more like myself, returning my life back to what it used to be, is really kind of important to me. I feel in some ways like I’ve lost my sense of self and who am I and what really matters to me the most over the course of the last years because I’ve been so busy. It’s also been really tempting to think oh I have so much free time I should start volunteering again, but I cut those thoughts off very quickly and at the pass. This is how I become over-committed and stressed out and inevitably kicks my anxiety into high gear again–so I always have to take a step back and think whenever that impulse rears its head in my life again.

And I won’t feel bad for being selfish and more jealous of my time. I’ve been volunteering almost non-stop since 1998–twenty five years ago–and so see no reason to feel bad about not giving back for a while, if ever again.

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for the trip and ready to hit the road. Have a great Friday, Constant Reader; I probably won’t check in again with you until Monday morning.

Dark Shadows (Josette’s Theme)

I always forget this when I am asked about major influences on my life, writing, and career–but probably the biggest influence on me was the television soap Dark Shadows.

“My name is Victoria Winters…”

So began the first episode, with young heroine Victoria speaking over some rather spooky music, usually with a background scene of a light in the window at the great house of Collinwood in the fog, or waves crashing against the beach, or the family cemetery, or even the Old House.

Dark Shadows is probably the root or seed from which Bury Me in Shadows was grown from, now that I think about it more. A haunted old house, an even older house in ruins nearby in the woods that was the original family home, ghosts and secrets from the past–oh yes, the framework is absolutely there, and it never even occurred to me.

When my sister and I were kids, we moved to Chicago from Alabama. I was about two years old, give or take; I don’t remember moving up there nor do I remember ever living in Alabama; my sister was two years older. My parents both got jobs–the point of the move was for climbing the economic ladder; they both got really good jobs in factories while my dad finished his degree. But because they both worked (our friends and neighbors all felt sorry for us because our mom had to work; their moms all were housewives), we needed to be watched while they weren’t home. Our landlady recommended a woman down the street–a mother of six whose two youngest were in their last years of high school–and so we started spending our days with Mrs. Harris, who fed us breakfast and lunch, and Mom would pick us up on her way home from the bus stop. When we started school, we went there for breakfast and lunch but came home after school; school let out at 3:15 and Mom was usually home by 3:30. But it was Mrs. Harris–and my grandmother, who worked a night shift–who got me started watching soaps in the first place. One Life to Life and General Hospital sort of held my attention, but it was Dark Shadows I couldn’t wait for. I used to run home from school to try to catch the last five or ten minutes during school; it wasn’t a problem during the summer.

I loved Dark Shadows.

I was crushed when it was canceled.

I mean, look at that house!!!!

The show wasn’t canceled, although the ratings were starting to slide a bit in the later years. The truism that Dark Shadows‘ producers and writers discovered is one that practically every other continuing series having to deal with the supernatural and supernatural creatures has had to deal with: how do you keep topping yourself and raising the stakes? True Blood, Supernatural, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and countless others have all run headfirst into that wall. Once you’ve done time travel and vampires and witches and werewolves and Frankenstein and other dimensions, what is left to do? I admire them for pulling the plug rather than getting more and more desperate to get the ratings up and eventually damaging the legacy of the show.

The show was a phenomenon the likes of which had never really been seen before in daytime–and the lesson learned from its success (go for the young audience!) would soon lead to the creation of youth-oriented shows like All My Children and The Young and the Restless–and of course in the mid-1970’s soaps would be forever changed when General Hospital introduced the character of teenager Laura Webber, played by an actual teenager, Genie Francis–and daytime was never the same. But Dark Shadows managed something that other soaps hadn’t–they created teen idols. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, David Selby as Quentin, and even David Hennessey as David Collins were often on the covers of teen magazines like Tiger Beat and 16. The show even licensed FAN FICTION–a series of books based on the characters from the show, but thanks to all the fun stuff with time travel and parallel dimensions, Dark Shadows was perfect for spin-off books that took place in other Dark Shadows universe; one could even say Dark Shadows was one of the first shows to make use of a multi-verse.

The books were cheap–as you can see in the picture above (a copy sent to me by a friend with whom I bonded over our mutual love of the show) they ran between fifty cents and seventy-five cents a copy; they all had that same gold bordered cover with an oval image of characters from the show, and they were all written by “Marilyn Ross”, which was a pen name for a very prolific Canadian author named  William Edward Daniel Ross; he wrote over three hundred novels during his career, and Marilyn Ross was the name he used for Gothics–and the Dark Shadows books. (He also wrote as Clarissa Ross, and I read some of those novels as well, including The Spectral Mist.) They also weren’t particularly well written, and while they did take place outside the show’s continuity, there were also moments in some of them that didn’t make sense; in one of them, in which Barnabas shows up at Collinwood in the 1910’s, the only son of the family dies in a tragic accident…but if he was the only son, where did the present day Collinses come from? (The earlier books were told from the perspective of Victoria Winters, and in some cases the gimmick was some member of the family was telling Victoria a story about the family history.)

That’s the kind of shit that drives me insane.

But I remember when one of the off-brand television channels in Chicago (not affiliated with a major network) started running repeats of Dark Shadows from the very beginning when we lived in the suburbs in the evenings while the networks ran the evening news–guess what I was watching instead? Yup, Dark Shadows. (I always found it interesting, too, that the young actress who played Victoria Winters originally–Alexandra von Moltke–eventually became infamous as Klaus von Bulow’s mistress Alexandra Isles, who was, in the prosecutor’s theory, the reason Klaus injected Sunny with enough insulin to induce the coma from which she never woke up. But I digress.

I always wanted to write a vampire story similar to that of Barnabas Collins; I have an entire idea for a rural Louisiana version called Bayou Shadows that I’ve tinkered with off and on since the early 1990’s…but then Charlaine Harris started the Sookie Stackhouse series, which was essentially the same thing. I still might write about Bayou Shadows–the town called that has popped up from time to time in my books about New Orleans and Louisiana; most recently in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually–and if people think I’m ripping off Charlaine, so be it.

I’ll know that I’m really ripping off Dark Shadows.

The show also spawned two feature films, Night of Dark Shadows and House of Dark Shadows, each featuring one of the show’s leading men, Jonathan Frid and David Selby, respectively; the first did far better than the second. The show was revived in prime time for a single season in the late 1980’s; I watched it and loved it, of course–even got Paul to watch when it became available on DVD and I rewatched. I wish that show had been given more of a chance, because it was really quite good, and I was curious to see where the story went from that first season. It also had an excellent cast, including Hammer Film star Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman. I did watch the Tim Burton film from this century, which had some clever moments but wasn’t quite as good; it went for the silly parody thing The Brady Bunch movies of the 1990’s did, but it didn’t land. The actress who played villainess Angelique in the original series, Lara Parker, has also written some Dark Shadows novels (I have copies but haven’t read them; I really should). Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played the original Maggie Evans on the soap (and in the first film) also has written novels; she was at Long Beach Bouchercon, where I met her and got a signed copy of her book Down and Out in Beverly Heels. She was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer; I really should read that book someday.

I’ve had Dark Shadows on my mind lately because I bonded with Carol Goodman at Bouchercon over our mutual love of Dark Shadows, and the Scotty book still in draft form takes place mostly in a rural parish outside of New Orleans; not the same parish where Bayou Shadows is located, but the next one over.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to reboot the show again, retelling the original story, or picking up from where the television series ended, or even doing a new generation, some forty years later, with David Collins as an adult with children and so forth…Carol and I have joked about coming up with a concept and trying to sell it and be the showrunners…which would be a dream.

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Well, I’ve decided on my audiobook for the drive to and from Alabama this weekend: Carol Goodman’s The Night Visitors. Carol is one of my favorite writers (and has become a friend! I love my life) and I love her works; if you’re not reading her already you need to get on it–and there’s a healthy canon to dig into as well (always a plus). She also has a new book coming out this spring, called The Bones of the Story, which is a great title. I’m working on a short story this week while I am letting my novel manuscripts rest, and it’s definitely some slow going. I got about two thousand words into this story about a year ago, and I think it works perfectly for this anthology a friend of mine is putting together; I just need to finish the damned thing. But tonight I have a ZOOM call I have to do and I have to pack for my weekend in Alabama, and tomorrow morning I’m getting up, writing a post and hitting the road while listening to the divine Carol Goodman.

Does life get better? I think not.

It’s actually kind of funny; after I finished yesterday I realized I could, for the first time in quite a while, take some down time to myself for a minute or two without guilt or something looming over me needing to be done. After I sent the manuscript (such as it is) in along with my editorial thoughts and analyses, I thought, wow, I’ve sure written a lot since just before Christmas and showed an incredible amount of discipline–the kind of single-mindedness you’ve not had for quite a while, and I should feel drained and tired but I don’t. That was an incredibly over-confident assumption to make, even though it was true at the time I thought it. When I got home from work I realized my candle wick had burned down so far that it needed to rest and be replenished for a while. I am still feeling motivated and creative, though; I was simply drained yesterday. Before I went to bed last night (after watching another episode of The Recruit, which I am really enjoying) I kind of felt like the batteries were already starting to recharge. I feel very tired this morning, too–I slept well, don’t get me wrong, but I think I needed to sleep longer. Ah, well. I don’t have to get up before the sun rises tomorrow, so that’s something.

I always like Thursday nights.

But the kitchen is still a mess. I wasn’t in the mood to clean last night when I got home, either. I just felt disoriented, emotionally and intellectually spent, and physically tired. I used to call it the malaise, because it felt like melancholy brought on by the utter exhaustion of my creativity and drive to write. It’s very weird. Usually, the malaise also brings with it the feeling that I don’t even want to think about writing anything else ever again–which is not the case this time, which is very weird to me. I am champing at the bit to get to work on more things, new things, even to start working on the editing of everything else. It is very weird, and I will keep you posted on how this weird new version of malaise works itself out.

But I’ll have to clean the kitchen before the ZOOM thing tonight. That, or turn off all the kitchen lights.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I watched an interesting documentary on Youtube in my tired malaise last night, a new one from James Somerton called The Death of Queer Privacy, which was interesting. The primary focus of the documentary–Somerton does popular media critiques from a queer perspective–was, to begin with, about outing as well as the potentially problematic tropes in Paul G. Tremblay’s A Cabin at the End of the World and it’s film adaptation, A Knock at the Cabin. It was another look–deconstruction, if you will–if whether a straight identified (I don’t know how he actually does identify) writer centering a gay couple/family at the heart of a horror novel/movie is either good representation (they could just as easily have been a straight couple, a mixed-race couple, lesbians, etc.; sexual orientation didn’t play a part in the plot and if anything, the fact that the gay family was presented as normal and not a big deal tends to undermine any critical analyses of this as intentionally or unintentionally sinister) or if the book/movie, at heart, centers the trauma of a queer family as entertainment for the masses. I may want to watch that again; I wasn’t paying a lot of attention because I was tired and scrolling through social media on my iPad, so I may have missed some things, but the critique and look at the film itself was merely an introduction to the main topic, which was the attack on queer people’s right to privacy–which served as an interesting counterpoint to a lot of the public discourse about queer celebrities and how much of their lives, if any, needs to be shared with the audience. The recent forced outing of Kit Conner from Heartstopper is perhaps the best example of this; the idea that queer people in the public eye need to–nay, must–come out and be publicly queer, no matter how they themselves feel about revealing that much of themselves to the world, is problematic on its face. Somerton then went on to talk about how gossip blogger (and garbage human being) Perez Hilton essentially dragged a couple of people out of the closet. And really, are the personal and private lives of any celebrity any of our business? Simply because we enjoy someone’s performance in film and television, or like someone’s music, doesn’t really give us the right to know intimate details of their personal lives. I’ve never cared, beyond mere idle interest in hearing gossip; but I don’t care that much about it because I don’t know these people. What does who Taylor Swift is dating have to do with her music–other than her break-ups tend to spawn some amazing music–and why do I care? Why would I care who Tom Hiddleston is fucking, unless it’s someone I actually know? (There’s an interesting dialogue to be had about our billion-dollar celebrity gossip industry…) To circle around back to Tremblay, I knew he was publicly identified as straight as far as I knew (and didn’t care to know more). I was a fan of his before reading A Cabin at the End of the World (having greatly enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock–I’ve not read the others yet–and so I was delightfully surprised that the family the book was centered on was a gay couple and their adopted child. It was yet another entry in the “people go to secluded place and then horrible things happen” trope of horror, but with a remarkable twist that made it even more intense and terrifying. (I’m really looking forward to the film.) I read the book and enjoyed it, and I didn’t read anything sinister into it; but I was also reading it from an entertainment perspective rather than to gain a sociopolitical perspective for writing a critique…which now I kind of want to do, thank a lot, James Somerton–this is how this kind of thing always happens to me.

In fact, an essay exploring three mainstream novels by non-queer writers centering queer characters could prove interesting–and the Tremblay, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears, and Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden would be the perfect trio to look at as they are relatively current, critical successes, and often award recognized.

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

I Don’t Know Why

Wednesday Pay-the-Bills Day has rolled around again, and my goodness, do I have a lot of bills to pay, YIKES. But with another six thousand word push yesterday, the draft is done. All I need to do now is pull it all together into one document, write the explanatory apologetic email about the mess and how I am going to fix it, and send it off and all is finished–for now. But I know it’s going to be a great book once I tie up all the threads, add in the back story and character development it needs, and I think it’s going to be super awesome when it’s done. Yay! I love creating, I really do, and I actually enjoy the writing.

Well, until I hear back from my editor, at any rate.

I finally started listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album, Midnights, and I have to say, I really like it. I’d always liked her–some of the songs I knew I liked, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to her or her music. Spotify changed that, and I really have been impressed not only with the quality of her music but how different it all is; not to mention the evolution from teen country star to major world pop superstar. (“Red” is still my favorite song of hers, probably always will be.) I find that putting her albums on continual play on Spotify is really great when it comes to cleaning things or doing the dishes and things like that. (Back when I first started writing I always would put three Madonna CD’s in the CD changer and hit shuffle and would start writing. I should go back to that, really.) I had a lot of chores to get done last night around my writing–unloading the dishwasher and doing another load; cleaning the counters and organizing the office area, etc.–but I do like having those opportunities to take a break from the writing to clear my head and see what comes to me while my hands are focused on something mindless and music streams through my ear buds.

I really do like writing, y’all.

I still have a lot of work to do on the manuscripts I’ve written the last couple of months, but it’s nice to have workable, fixable drafts in place; that’s always the hardest part for me, and the ability to focus on the writing without having to worry about anything else outside of my job and whether the books are selling is kind of nice, actually. I think it’s part of the reason why I’m calmer every day, don’t get my anxiety going, and don’t get stressed. I was irritated when I got home Monday–because I knew I had writing to get done, and I had errands to run which seemed to take much longer than anything had any need to take (don’t even get me started on the hell making groceries has turned into since the pandemic started) but once I was home and had everything under control and could sit down and pound away at the keyboard for a while, after which I was finally completely and totally relaxed for the evening. And of course, last night after a very productive day at work in which I got all of my day job responsibilities finished and caught up (huzzah!), I came home and wrote while doing those odious seeming chores that I always wind up enjoying. And Paul didn’t come home until after I’d gone to bed, so there were no distractions for me, but I would have loved to have watched another episode of The Recruit. I don’t like it when Paul comes home that late because I don’t see him for that day (I leave long before he gets up in the morning; which is another reason I hate working these shifts; I like when Paul and I work basically the same schedule.

It’s going to be warm and rainy today, which means I’ll be wearing a sweatshirt to work underneath my Crescent Care T-shirt; it was freezing in the office yesterday; last week the heat was on, but the weather changed, and they finally turned on the air conditioning I guess on Friday (it had been insanely warm in the office all week) and so yesterday it felt like the frozen tundra of the great white north in the office, which of course meant I was pretty much miserable the entire day there. But I was productive and got all my work caught up; today of course is the first which means all kinds of things for me to do this morning; pulling logs and forms for the month, putting out new ones for the new month and so forth, and of course seeing my clients.

After talking about them negatively yesterday, I do feel I need to thank the Horror Writers’ Association, which quickly moved to ban the incredibly insulting member from all their events and kicked him out of the organization. I had mentioned that I had left the organization a while back because one I’m not really a horror writer, and second because I felt that the organization had a ways to go as far as being welcoming to the non-white non-straight part of the community–I had been made to not feel welcome when I actually chaired World Horror Con in New Orleans, and while I didn’t have quite the same experience when I went to Las Vegas…there were enough little things to make me decide that my money and time were better spent in the mystery community, and that’s what I’ve done. I returned in December for some reason or another–I think they sent me a really nice “we want you back” email–and to be honest, this whole mess over the last week or so kind of had me thinking I’d made the wrong decision in coming back. But the swift movement of the HWA board of trustees over this matter was heartening, and while I have no intention of volunteering for anything any time soon for anyone or anywhere, I do not regret my decision. (I am also remembering that the community is also cantankerous and there are all kinds of feuds and things–long-time long-held grudges and so forth, which isn’t fun to navigate in trying to remember who doesn’t like who and so on; I usually don’t care or pay attention to such things and generally remain neutral because I don’t know the people well enough to have an opinion one way or the other.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday Pay-the-Bills Day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Out of Time

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

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

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

Ah, my teen years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Star

It’s a rainy gray morning here in New Orleans–which explains a little further why I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, as there is nothing more comfortable than being buried in blankets in a warm bed while it rains outside. Scooter was even snoring when I finally decided I couldn’t be a lag-a-bed much longer. I have writing to do–so much writing to do–and of course, the kitchen is an utter disaster area this morning. I’ve also been so focused on getting the writing done that I didn’t order groceries for pick-up today; which I may do once I am finished with this entry. I am going to Alabama on Friday for Murder in the Magic City as well as Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka on Sunday, so no groceries will be made this coming weekend. I could just order something for pick-up either Thursday night or Friday morning before I leave; but I will make those decisions after I’ve had more coffee and my brain is a little less bleary. I also need to make the decision as to whether I am going to go to Malice Domestic or not. I mean–how many times am I actually ever going to be an Agatha finalist? I won’t win, but it was very kind of the attendees to nominate me–and I did have a great time the last time I went. Decisions, decisions. It’s going to boil down to money, but I think I can take the money out of savings safely without concern for disaster later. And of course, I have lots of points on Southwest to take care of the airfare.

The ALA event I went to yesterday was smaller than the ALA’s I am used to; I’ve been twice before when it was here in New Orleans. Once was after Hurricane Katrina (I was thinking 2006, but it may have been 2007) and I actually read at their Friday night event that time; the other was years later when I signed in the booth for Sisters in Crime. I didn’t get rid of many books–I don’t even remember which book it was I was signing and giving away–but I know there was so little interest in the gay New Orleans writer’s books that I basically was helping out in the booth, breaking down boxes and setting out more books, and helping the other authors by opening books for them to sign–they started calling me Booth Boy, and it was quite fun. But yesterday I signed fifty copies of A Streetcar Named Murder to give away (along with a bookmark with a download code for the audiobook) and got rid of every last copy in fifteen minutes. It really does make a difference when you aren’t giving away a queer book, which deep down in my heart of hearts I already knew, but it also made me kind of sad at the same time to see that I was right. (It was one of the rare occasions when being proved right gave me no pleasure or satisfaction.)

I have a lot of writing to do today. I didn’t make quota yesterday, which means the quota is even higher now for today and even more unlikely for me to make. It’s fine, actually; I am going to make the deadline of Wednesday. It’s a mess, of course, as they always are at this stage, but I already know what I need to do to fix it, which is making the finishing even harder than usual because I am itching to go back and revise and fix it before finishing it, but that’s simply not going to work. Instead, I am going to write this and then worry about getting it revised. (Which isn’t easy, I might add.) I did spend some time with Abby Collette’s book, which I am really enjoying, and also watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships yesterday–the men’s short program and the ice dance final. The men’s final is this afternoon, but I’ll record it to watch later this evening. All of the current shows we are watching have new episodes available (Servant, Mayfair Witches) as well, but I would imagine once Monday rolls around we’ll be back to Paul not getting home from the office until after I’ve gone to bed or am starting to get ready for bed.

I feel good about everything this morning, to be honest, and it’s remarkable how calm I am about this pending deadline particularly given how far behind I am right now. I still haven’t completely adapted to the freedom from volunteering yet–I still have that subconscious unsettling feeling that there’s more I should be doing before I remember oh yeah there’s nothing besides the book that you need be worried about right now which is always kind of lovely and nice–and relaxing. I know I’ve said it before but I am really really happy that I am still able to write in the amounts that I’ve always been used to when writing–I now remember that I wrote the 98,000 or so words of the first draft of #shedeservedit in thirty days one hot July summer month; and I am still capable of doing that, clearly. I need to focus once I get both of these current manuscripts revised and I can get an incredible amount of writing done this year, which is always fun.

And on that note, I am going to clean up some of this mess before curling up with Abby’s book for a while before I start my writing journey for the day. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

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

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

But so it goes, you know?

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

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

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

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

Sympathy for the Devil

Well, well, well. This morning I woke up to the announcement of this year’s Malice Domestic Agatha Award finalists, and mych to my pleasant surprise, our very own Gregalicious’ #shedeservedit is a finalist for Best Children’s/Young Adult novel. It was a very pleasant surprise, as I figured the Agatha short-list wasn’t in my future for A Streetcar Named Murder (which was only eligible for Best Novel, and there is WAY too much competition for that category to even consider the possibility) and honestly, I didn’t think #shedeservedit, my only other release for 2022, had a prayer of getting enough votes (if any at all), but hey. I put up a couple of “for your consideration” posts on social media, figuring it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything to at least try, and here we are. Wow. Thanks to everyone who voted for me. It’s very exciting to start out the year with what hopefully won’t be my last Lefty and Agatha nominations. The nominations are a very lovely pat on the back, and will make even nicer additions to my author bio and CV. Added to the two Anthony nominations last year for Bury Me in Shadows, and it would appear that I am having a rather lovely period in my career, am I not? Perhaps a Gregnaissance?

Okay, yeah, I hate when people do that and make up words. Forget I ever said that.

It’s work at home Friday and I have data to enter. I also had to roll out of bed and head down to Quest Labs this morning for a blood draw for my bi-annual physical, so now I have a bruise on both arms since I had my PrEP labs drawn on Wednesday. I had a good day yesterday–I managed to get back into the book, but fell 500 words short of quota, so I need to do that today as well as today’s writing so I am back on schedule. I’ve been having some moments of doubts and imposter-syndrome lately, but that always happens at this stage in a book so I dismissed it and put it right back out of my head. I was very tired when I finished yesterday’s writing, and Paul went to the gym last evening, so I went down a Youtube wormhole of research (yes, yes, justify wasting your evening, Gregalicious) until Paul got back and we watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships, particularly the Rhythm Dance. (If someone would have told me back when I moved in with Paul in 1996 that my eventual favorite discipline in figure skating would be the ice dancing, I’d probably still be laughing…) I also was remarkably hungry yesterday, which really never happens. I was so hungry yesterday afternoon when I left the office that I actually came home and ate a piece of King cake, which kept me through the night, but it was still odd. I rarely ever get hungry–which is why I often will forget to eat, especially when I am on a trip (unless you go to New York with That Bitch Ford–I think I ate more that weekend in New York than I have on every trip I’ve taken in the last ten years combined)–so it bears noting when I actually realize that I am hungry. My weird relationship with food and my body is something I should probably write about sometime.

One of the problems I face when I think about writing personal essays (did you enjoy that segue, Constant Reader? I usually struggle with transitions) is, of course, Imposter Syndrome. Whenever I sit and think about writing a personal essay, I immediately start to doubt myself. What insights and perceptions and conclusions can you possibly draw about this that hasn’t already been said, probably better and more eloquently, by many others already? I can be pretty oblivious, too–something that is patently obvious to everyone else is something that startles me when I recognize it, mainly because I never think about it; it’s just something that already is, so I don’t think about it. Like one day when I was visiting my parents in Houston a news promo ran on the television calling Houston the “space city,” which was something I clearly was aware of since my parents lived two exits from NASA, and “Houston we have a problem.” But when I heard it that day, it connected in my head, oh, Houston the space city, that’s why the baseball team is the Astros and the basketball team is the Rockets. I said this out loud and my mother looked at me like I was insane (a look I am quite used to, so no worries on that score) and started laughing. I guess my obliviousness was amusing, but I just had literally never thought about it–they were the Rockets and the Astros, and that was that; didn’t matter why they were called that. But this is the kind of thing that makes me worried about trying to write personal essays–that, of course, and my faulty and failing memory, which is yet another reason why I don’t write a memoir…although I could write a really good one. But the problem–even if I trusted my memory–is that everyone remembers everything differently, so I could write about something the way I remember it but the other people involved could remember it completely another way. Who is right, and what is the truth? That hurdle is something I’m going to have to clear–after all, “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” is a terrific personal essay, and a piece of work of which I am particularly proud; so I know I can do it. I suppose the true fear is that I won’t strip naked and show myself to the world, and will color and/or distort things to make me not look quite as bad as I actually was in the moment. That’s one of the reasons why I love writing fiction; I can take personal experiences and twist them into something that can fit into a good story, or make them better in some ways.

And believe me, there was a lot of bad behavior in my past.

You learn to live with it.

Sigh. I do have a lot to get done over the course of this weekend–cannot forget the ALA event tomorrow morning–and of course, there’s a lot of writing to be done and the US Figure Skating Championships to watch. I’ll need to make groceries at some point, too, and I have prescriptions to pick up at CVS and of course, next weekend I am off to Alabama (yay!) for two of my favorite events of every year, Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu, which will take me to Birmingham and Wetumpka. Yay!

So, I am feeling a little more confidence this morning about my writing and everything in my life. I’m enjoying my day job and my new responsibilities, my writing career is doing okay, and I can’t really complain about too much. I’m going to return to the gym in April and start working on that part of my physical self. I am getting the hearings aids process started, and at some point I am going to need to have another eye exam later this spring. I have a lead on a dentist to get my teeth fixed so I can stop looking like a hillbilly, and start getting things figured out with a plan for my writing future.

And on that note, this data ain’t gonna enter itself. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Wild Horses

Thursday morning last day in the office for the week blog, and I am feeling kind of okay this morning. I slept really well last night (yay!) which is a relief because I was so tired and groggy last night I kept falling asleep in my chair. I also didn’t make the quota yesterday, which means a big push tonight to catch up. Paul was exhausted, too, from all his late nights working lately, so he was in and out of sleep all evening as well. Needless to say, Scooter was in heaven, as he could sleep in my lap, go upstairs and sleep with Paul, and then come downstairs and sleep in my lap again. But I feel very relaxed and rested this morning, and my brain isn’t groggy and goofy, which bodes well for the rest of my day. I have to do fasting labs tomorrow (joy), which means rolling out of bed, washing my face and brushing my teeth before venturing down to the lab to get the blood drawn–I’ll have my go cup of coffee waiting in the car for me, though. And of course, Saturday I have that event at the convention center in the morning.

So, naturally now that I am in the deep weeds with the book, I saw two calls for submissions for anthologies that I may have something on hand for; I am also trying to finish a story for another anthology that I should have finished already. It truly never ends around here, you know?

Last night as I was struggling to stay awake with a purring kitty asleep in my lap, I decided to check out Velma on HBO MAX. There was a lot of talk about this show when it first aired–the usual oh you’ve ruined my childhood nonsense–but I intended to check it out anyway because of course they decided to make Velma officially a lesbian (which we’ve always suspected anyway), and I do feel a kind of obligation to watch anything that may have some queer representation in it. There was a lot of outrage, but I tried to watch with an open mind as a long time fan of Scooby Doo Where Are You? and yes, my pretties, I watched it when it originally aired on Saturday mornings when I was a kid who loved mysteries. (Although I always preferred Jonny Quest.) The outrage about “ruining my childhood” always makes me tired–your childhood isn’t ruined, and your memories of something you loved as a child haven’t been affected; if anything you’re just disappointed because they changed something you loved rather than just feeding you the same old bullshit you’ve been eating all along. I thought an origin story for Mystery Inc. was a clever enough idea, and seeing how the gang all came to be what they were in the show we all loved as kids was interesting enough to make me curious to watch. I also am not someone who gets up in arms about adaptations changing things from the original book–it’s a different medium, hello, of course it’s never going to be the same, plus watching a film or television show is an entirely different thing from actually, you know, reading a book? As for the complaints, well, I don’t care that they made Velma south Asian. I don’t care that they made Daphne vapid and Freddy stupid. What I do mind is they did such a terrible job with such great raw material. The show isn’t funny, engaging, or entertaining in the least, which was very disappointing to me. There were a couple of clever moments of winking at the audience that I enjoyed, but overall? When I finished the first episode I had absolutely little to no desire to watch another. It was a great idea the producers simply didn’t deliver on.

And yes, that’s disappointing. I can live with changes to story and characters, and am more than happy to embrace new interpretations of the canon…but I do expect the characters and story to be engaging. I think they were maybe a little too focused on the subversion of the traditional Mystery Inc. characters and stories that they forgot the most important part of story-telling: the story. I don’t even need my characters to be likable–but I do have to be able to identify with them in some way.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a great Thursday, Constant Reader, and Ill chat at you again later.