(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long

Saturday morning. After my morning coffee,  I’m going to run some errands, and then I am going to figure out what time to drive out to Elmwood to see Wonder Woman–shooting for late afternoon/early evening; that way I can get some cleaning and revising done. I’ve not done much revising this week–which is shameful (there is some harsh and ugly truths there about the need for actual contractual deadlines, isn’t there?), and so my goal is to get back on track with all of that for this weekend. I want to get another three or four chapters revised, as well as the second draft of “Quiet Desperation” finished this weekend, so I can move on to revising another short story. I’ve also started a new draft of the eighth Scotty novel, Crescent City Charade, which I am hoping to get finished by the end of the summer (Labor Day is the goal). I absolutely HAVE to get these revisions finished by the end of June, because I want to spend the summer querying agents. I honestly believe this WIP is my best work, and could be an important book.

Whether that proves to be the case or not remains to be seen, of course, but here’s hoping.

The Lost Apartment is a mess, and has been for quite some time. I can’t remember the last time I did the floors, quite frankly, and it’s getting kind of ugly down there, honestly. I mean, our kitchen floor needs to be redone–tiles have come up–which kind of makes it hard to make it look nice anyway, but that’s no excuse for not cleaning, you know? My mother would be so ashamed.

So ashamed.

So, I am going to, as soon as I finish this cup of coffee, start straightening and cleaning up down here. It looks like it’s going to rain all weekend, so I am not going to bother with the windows (which are also long overdue for a cleaning; although I could do the inside. Hmmmm, that could be a plan, actually) and definitely work on these floors. There’s some filing to do–isn’t there always–and some other organizing I need to do, but if I buckle down and stay focused (and make a fucking list) I should be able to get through everything before it’s time to go see Wonder Woman.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie. Wonder Woman was always one of my favorite comic book superheroes (although when I started reading DC Comics, she’d given up her powers somehow and was running a clothing boutique and dealing with social issues and was a modern feminist; in retrospect, it was one of the stupidest reboots in DC’s long history of rebooting their characters); I loved the historic Amazon character, and the rebooted non-powered Wonder Woman/Diana Prince character was more of a detective, solving crimes and trained in martial arts. Around the time the television series starring Lynda Carter started, the DC rebooted her again and made her an Amazon princess with her powers again. And the TV show was amazing. Rewatching it now shows it up for its low-budget special effects and bad writing, but Lynda Carter embodied the part so beautifully that she became iconic–and I’ve been a lifelong fan of Ms. Carter. Paul and I stopped watching Supergirl during its first season, before Lynda Carter joined the cast as the president, so I’m sure at some point I’ll go back and binge the series. (I’ve also always been a fan of Supergirl–who also went through an incredibly stupid reboot in the 1970’s; complete with new costumes and a loss of some of her powers–sometimes she had them, sometimes she didn’t; they came and went because of some kind of Kryptonite poisoned drink she was tricked into imbibing; then was killed off during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and then was brought back as something completely different after Superman was killed off in the early 1990’s. It’s really hard to keep track of all these shifts and changes in DC continuity/universes.)

Interestingly enough, now as I reflect on my fandom of both Wonder Woman and Supergirl, I realize how I’ve always been drawn to fictional depictions of strong women–from Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden to the Dana Girls to Cherry Ames to Vicki Barr to Wonder Woman to Supergirl to Lois Lane (who used to have her own comic book, detailing her adventures as an investigative reporter, which I also loved), to real life women who defied the traditional role of women in our society, like Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’ve certainly always enjoyed reading fiction by and about women; from Charlotte Armstrong to Phyllis Whitney to Victoria Holt to Mary Stewart to Judith Krantz and so on and so forth. Do people still read Rona Jaffe? She was another favorite of mine from the 1970’s. Taylor Caldwell, Evelyn Anthony, Jean Plaidy, Helen MacInnes, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson–I’ve always read and enjoyed books written by women. (This is not to say I don’t enjoy books by men; I always have, but at the same time there is a certain style of testosterone driven male novel, complete with angst, that I simply cannot abide, and the crime genre is riddled with them. I recently joked that I wanted to write a noir set in the strip clubs in the Quarter and call it Girls Girls Girls…you get the idea.)

And there are so many wonderful women writers publishing today: Sara Paretsky, Laura Lippman, Sue Grafton, Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Alafair Burke, Alex Marwood, Lisa Unger, Jamie Mason, Wendy Corsi Staub, J. M. Redmann, Kristi Belcamino, Carrie Smith, Sara Henry, Ellen Hart, Donna Andrews, Dana Cameron, Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry), Carolyn Haines, Catriona McPherson, Lori Rader-Day, and Rebecca Chance–just off the top of my head; my TBR pile is filled with books by women, and there are so many wonderful women writers I’ve not gotten to yet, like Lisa Lutz and Shannon Baker and Jennifer MacMahon and Karin Slaughter–the list goes on and on forever and ever, amen. And this is just crime fiction/thrillers…I’ve not even touched on horror or scifi or fantasy or so-called ‘chick-lit.’ (Which reminds me, I really want to read some more Liane Moriarty, and I’ve not read any Jennifer Weiner…sigh.)

There’s just never enough time….and speaking of which, it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines.

Here’s a Saturday hunk for you:

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Set the Night to Music

It rained all night; a wonderful downpour punctuated with lightning and rolling thunder that seemed to last forever. This morning everything is still gray outside, the windows covered with condensation and everything outside slick and dripping. It’s a short work week, and I don’t even have to go in until later this afternoon; I am bar testing tonight. I have some errands to run this morning, and also some things to do around the house that I kind of blew off and didn’t do over the course of the three day weekend, which is sort of shameful but I refuse to feel guilty about. I feel very well-rested this morning, and that really was the point of the weekend; the most important thing was for me to feel rested again once it was time to return to the office.

So, over all, the weekend was a win. I didn’t finish reading The Sympathizer, but have only a hundred or so pages left to read. I am really enjoying it. We finished watching Sherlock last night, got caught up with Veep, and then moved on to London Spy, which we are also enjoying; it’s nothing like I expected. I kind of knew the premise; everyone on Facebook was talking about it when it was originally airing, and of course, lots of people told me I should watch it–gay main character, gay romance at the heart of the story, and a mystery the main character has to solve. We’re two episodes in, and I have to say I am rather pleased with how it’s depicting Danny, the main character. It’s very Hitchcockian in that the main character is just an ordinary guy who gets caught up in something beyond his scope quite by accident; which is also something I rather enjoy. I’m looking forward to getting further into it–alas, tonight I have to work late, but there’s always tomorrow. (It also got me thinking about Colin, and what I kind of want to do with the next Scotty book.)

And before I run my errands and get things done around the Lost Apartment, I am going to get through some work on the WIP as well.

It is very lovely to feel rested.

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

Here’s a hunk to get you into your week.

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All I Need

I had a lovely, relaxing day yesterday of reading and cleaning, capped up with watching three more episodes of Sherlock; tonight we will finish that off and hopefully, there will be a new Veep to watch, else we’ll have to find something else. I am greatly enjoying The Sympathizer, am almost halfway finished with it so probably will get it finished today, which will then beg the question of what to read next. I’m leaning towards James M. Cain’s The Cocktail Waitress…but there are any number of other books in the running as well. The riches contained within  my TBR pile are simply mind-boggling; and it’s continuing to grow exponentially. Heavy heaving sigh. I also want to start doing some re-organizing of the storage attic today; that, along with some work on the WIP as well as some more cleaning around the Lost Apartment will probably account for most of my day. Paul will undoubtedly watch some of the French Open, and around mid-afternoon I will cook out for our late lunch/early dinner.

Another exciting day in New Orleans.

It feels really good to be so well-rested; and tomorrow is a late night at work for more–bar testing, so I don’t even have to go in until later, pretty much freeing up my entire day to get some more cleaning and organizing and writing done before I head to the office. I rather do think that three day weekends are much better than regular ones; the extra day off is really lovely. I wish there was a way I could rearrange my schedule to work four ten hour days and take a three day weekend every weekend….but that’s just not possible, alas. It would be lovely, though, wouldn’t it?

At least this will be a short work week.

The Sympathizer is, while a bit hard to get into at first, quite compelling. The first book to win both an Edgar (Best First Novel) and the Pulitzer Prize, it’s also the first time I’ve read about Vietnam from the perspective of a Vietnamese–which is certainly rather American of me, isn’t it? Everything I’ve read about Vietnam has been from the perspective of Westerners–from Graham Greene’s The Quiet American through Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War; and certainly the Western/white gaze has been pretty aptly explored on film and television (I should rewatch China Beach again); but this view, from a character who is not only Vietnamese, but a Viet Cong undercover operative implanted in the staff of a South Vietnamese general–to the point of also evacuating and spying on the refugee community in Southern California–is quite interesting. (I also have a copy of Vu Tran’s Dragonfish, which I am looking forward to reading.) I had an idea for a noir centered around a young man of Vietnamese/American mixed heritage, set in a small town on either the Gulf Coast of Alabama or Florida–writing this would require a LOT of research, obviously–but I think it could be interesting, and certainly would be fun to write.

But I need to get this revision done by the end of June, so I can spend the rest of the summer writing the next Scotty book.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

Here’s a Memorial Day hunk for you.

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Nobody But Me

As tired as I was, I didn’t sleep very deeply last night, and I was wide awake this morning by six thirty. Not a bad thing; I’ll probably sleep well tonight, and I am trying to get organized. The kitchen/work space is an absolute disaster area, and I am also doing laundry, having to put away dishes, and file and organize. I am going to be really tired later, but must stay awake and watch Twitter because tonight is THE EDGAR AWARDS, and I have so many friends nominated! I can’t BELIEVE how tense I am, and I’m not even up for anything!

No lie, but if I were ever an Edgar finalist, I would probably cry.

It’s lovely to be back home; this past week or so has literally been crazy. I’ve driven almost a thousand miles (yay for new car!) and had a really nice time reconnecting with my Southern roots. I am an Alabama boy; I used to joke that I still have red dirt between my toes. I love Alabama, and I love the South. But that love doesn’t mean that I also blind myself to the problems down here, and have actually spent a lot of my adult life trying to figure out ways to change things down here. But when you drive through Alabama and Mississippi, you can’t help but be blown away by how beautiful it is down here.

I’m also aware that I can be blown away by the natural beauty as I drive because I don’t have to worry about being pulled over for Driving While Black.

Alabama’s license plates, and welcome signs, all say “Alabama the Beautiful,” and it’s true. So many trees and forests, lush green grass, the sky is beautiful…and I feel so connected there. I always am inspired when I visit Alabama, or even just drive through it. I don’t write much about Alabama, but when I do, I feel like it’s some of my best work. Dark Tide is my only novel set in Alabama, and it’s one of my personal favorites. I do want to write about Alabama, and I do have an idea about how to turn what I consider one of my best short stories into a novel. I may do that next; we’ll see how I feel when I get finished with the current project. I am also leaning towards shelving the Scotty book for a while. I like the idea behind the book, but I don’t really think it fits Scotty. I’m also struggling to find his voice again, so I think it might be best to take a break from him for a while.

I had a lovely time at the Alabama Book Festival. Troy University and the volunteers and staff did a fantastic job, and Old Town Alabama (or is it Old Alabama Town?) is gorgeous. I really liked Montgomery a lot–it’s a charming little city–I just wish I hadn’t been so tired. I worked doing bar testing the night before I drove up, and as such I was tired the entire time I was there–not sleeping well in hotels had a lot to do with it as well. My panel went really well; Lachlan Smith is very perceptive, insightful and smart, and I look forward to reading his books. I started the first in his series, and was really enjoying it before I put it aside for Thirteen Reasons Why; I’ll get back to it when I finish Cleopatra’s Shadows. Our moderator, Jessie Powell, did a really great job as well, and we had a nice audience. It was also lovely to see Carolyn Haines and Dean James and Tammy Lynn from Wetumpka again, and I also got to meet some lovely people whose company I enjoyed tremendously.

I never thought I’d ever be liked in Alabama, frankly–gay writer of gay stories–but that was my own prejudices and buying into the notion that everyone in Alabama is prejudiced and bigoted. It’s easy to make that assumption; just as it is easy to make that assumption about Louisiana. There are progressives in the South; we’re just outnumbered, but we’re fighting the good fight against prejudice and bigotry and discrimination and hate. Sometimes it feels like we’re fighting all alone, and progressives lucky enough to live in states that are more progressive are more than willing to write us off all the time. (Thanks for that, by the way.)

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

Here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you, John Wesley Shipp from when he appeared on Guiding Light in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, and fueled many a fantasy of mine.JohnWesleyShipp

 

Never Give You Up

As I get deeper into the outlining of the manuscript I am working on–yes, I am outlining it after writing it, which only makes sense in Bizarro World, but welcome to Greg’s Wonderful World of Writing–I am very pleased with what I managed to accomplish in this first draft. I touched on a lot of issues and themes that are important to me, and it’s not nearly as repetitive as I feared it might be. The trick is going to be the winnowing down; it currently sits at 97,000 words and needs at least three more chapters to get to the resolution and be finished. Even if those are only three thousand words or so, a young adult manuscript of 106,000 is probably way too long. I also think I managed to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish with it, even though it’s technically not finished. There is, apparently, something to be said about writing a manuscript you are really passionate about without the pressure of a deadline. All in all, from the moment I started writing the first chapter to when I realized I’d written it too long and the original end I’d planned would require another three chapters–or I’d really have to rush it all to get it all done in one more–was a total of forty-five days, and I didn’t write every one of those forty-five days. I think the actual writing days were at most thirty, and may have been as few as twenty-five.

I am actually dreading getting to those last few chapters I’ve written, to be honest.

Another thing I am doing is making a list of every character named in the book as I go–I’ve already discovered multiple character name changes–and another thing I am going to do is really get into the characters’ lives and histories by writing biographies of them, putting all the things I know in my head about them down onto paper and filling in the gaps. I’m amazed at how many characters there are–some of them are really only seen or mentioned in passing–and there are some things I really want to hit harder that I just seemed to lightly pass over as I wrote the first draft. But there aren’t a lot of mistakes, no awkward sentences, no bad paragraphs, and most of the dialogue works.

If you couldn’t tell, Constant Reader, one Gregalicious is quite pleased with himself and this manuscript.

I’ve also decided to NOT take the detour on Chef Menteur Highway on my way to Montgomery, and think I might do that on my way to Oxford on Monday instead. The drive to Montgomery is more time sensitive–there’s an author party I should go to on Friday night, and the event in Oxford is on Tuesday, so it doesn’t really matter what time I get there, so why not do it when I am not going to be pressed for time? It only makes sense. And I am also really pleased with how “Quiet Desperation” is coming along in its rewrite.

Wow. Who am I, and what have I done with myself? I think the affirmations are helping, seriously.

We got through two more episodes of Thirteen Reasons Why last night, and I have to say, I am becoming rather a fan of Ross Butler. He was simply stellar in the episode about Zach’s tape, and I was already aware of him from playing Reggie Mantle on Riverdale, and that casting was pretty bad-ass: a role traditionally Caucasian being played by an Asian-American actor (yet another reason to love Riverdale is its diverse casting choices). Ross is also easy on the eyes:

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See what I mean? And now, back to the spice mines.

Spooky

During the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe was invited to dinner at the White House. When she was introduced to President Lincoln, his eyes twinkled and he said, “So this is the little lady who made this great big war.” Stowe, of course, had authored Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published originally in 1852, and it was probably one of the most influential books ever published in the United States.

Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)

Monday morning in New Orleans.

I’ve been awake for an hour, yet don’t feel awake yet. Second cup of coffee is helping, though; I can almost feel the caffeine moving through my body inside my veins. I have a short day today; only five and a half hours, and am having dinner with my friend Stuart this evening. Tomorrow and Wednesday are both twelve hour days at the office, complicated still further by meeting with Wacky Russian early on Wednesday morning. I don’t have to go in until late on Thursday, which will also be rather lovely; I am sure I am going to need the extra sleep to get over the preceding days. And of course, Friday is Good Friday, so—three day weekend! I am hoping that if I spend about three hours on each day of that weekend cleaning I can get the Lost Apartment back under control. It’s a horrifying mess, quite frankly, and it’s more than a little appalling. The ceiling fans, for example, are disgusting.

I’ve gotten further along in Underground Airlines, and I am really enjoying it. With the three day weekend coming, I hope to get it finished this week, finish The Nest over the weekend, and maybe move on to something else. I didn’t get any writing done this weekend, but I did do some brainstorming–which, to me, counts, and if you don’t think it does FUCK YOU–and came up with some new characters. The problem I am having with Chapter One of Crescent City Charade (which I really want to finish this week) is that already the chapter is too long and it’s not even finished yet. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, and rather than resisting how long the chapter is I should just make it as long as it needs to be to get to the transition into Chapter 2 and worry about editing it down–or splitting it into two chapters, if necessary–later, rather than worrying so much about it now; similar to how I have almost five thousand words of “Quiet Desperation” already written and haven’t even gotten to the meat of the story yet. (That story, obviously, is going to require a ridiculous amount of editing.)

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate editing myself? The only thing worse is rewriting. Heavy heaving sigh.

Friday night I finished watching a television show on Hulu; Faking It, which originally aired on MTV. It only lasted three seasons, and it’s actually kind of clever (the second season was twenty episodes; the third and final was only ten, which makes me wonder how that played out). MTV has long been a progressive force, yet we really no longer hear about MTV being controversial. MTV ran the first HIV/AIDS PSA’s to air, and continued to do so for years before other networks caught up. MTV also originated reality television–The Real World model is still copied and imitated to this day; any reality show where everyone has to share a living environment is copying it–and also put a face on HIV/AIDS with Pedro Zamora back in the early 1990’s. I often have held that a lot of the shift in public/social perceptions of the LGBTQ community had a lot to do with MTV’s influence on youth; I also think MTV has shifted public perceptions on many social issues by exposing young people to them and helping them to see the systemic unfairness in so much of American society. But that’s an essay for another time.

Faking It has a ridiculous premise, but it’s actually kind of clever at the same time: Hester High School, in Austin, Texas, is every conservative’s nightmare about political correctness raging out of control in public education. The show could have easily been called Politically Correct High; because Hester High School is just that: sensitivity to other races and cultures are foremost. The most popular kid at Hester is the openly gay kid, whose best friend is the high school lothario; but the primary focus of the show is the friendship of Karma and Amy, two best friends who accidentally get outed as a lesbian couple. Amy wants to correct the record, but Karma enjoys the corresponding rise in their popularity and she wants to ride that wave; plus, the school lothario–played by Gregg Sulkin–is now interested in her because he’s never had sex with a lesbian before. The show frankly and honestly takes on a lot of social issues–everything from intersex to transgender to sexual fluidity–and the catch to the ‘pretending to be lesbians’ schtick is that Amy actually is in love with her best friend Karma–who doesn’t return the feelings. The young cast is quite appealing, and while some of the adventures they have strain credulity, the show’s message of tolerance, acceptance, and understanding is handled very well.

Gregg  Sulkin also has achieved teen heartthrob status.

 

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Not hard to see why.

But young, out actor Michael J. Willett as Shane Harvey pretty much steals the show. Shane is depicted as a scheming. snarky, but funny kid with a lot of insecurities who really just wants to find a boyfriend, and Willett plays the part to perfection. He also played gay in the movie GBF, which was actually a lot better than I thought it would be (think a John Hughes teen comedy with a gay main character instead of Molly Ringwald), and the two characters couldn’t be any more different–showing that there are a range of gay characters; we aren’t this monolithic ‘all the same’ that some people seem to think we are–which goes along with the concept of inclusion: we’re not all finger-snapping sidekicks with a great sense of snark, fashion sense, and with our fingers on the pulse of pop culture. Just as it would be cool for books, TV shows, and movies to include gay characters for the sake of diversity; within the gay community there’s a huge range of diverse characters. The key to writing gay characters is to make them human.

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Here’s hoping Willett can find more work as an out gay actor.

And now, back to the spice mines.