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.

Honky Tonk Women

We don’t really hear that word used much anymore, do we–honky tonk? It was used a lot when I was a kid, mostly in country music songs, but it was also one of those words/phrases that for whatever reason grated on my when I was younger. Even now I think honky tonk just sounds silly phonetically; why this bugs me so much I will probably never know. (I think it was because it seemed coy to me when I was a kid; like it was a phrase that stood in for something you couldn’t say on television or in the movies or in a song, like making whoopie or making love when what you mean to say is fuck; I always hated that, even as a kid. Just say what you fucking mean. Seriously, y’all, the days of censorship was just incredibly stupid, and don’t even get me started on that staple of soap operas–making love. Gah.)

I am going to have to use “honky tonk” in a title sometime.

Well, last night was probably the best night of sleep of all time, bar none. I feel like I could have stayed in bed easily all day and just kept sleeping, and that was marvelous. I may not be completely awake yet–hello, coffee!–but I feel marvelously rested and relaxed this morning, and so I feel like I am going to be able to get a lot done today. I didn’t get quota yesterday–fell a thousand or so short, alas–which will have to be made up for over the course of the weekend if I am to get back on schedule. I am, oddly enough, not as stressed about this as I ordinarily would be, to be honest–I am feeling confident these days, which is a strange but lovely feeling, and one I don’t ever remember having before when it comes to writing.

No worries, I am sure it will pass soon.

I had a nice day yesterday. After work I had to run a couple of errands, and found Jordan Harper’s UK release The Last King of California, waiting for me at the post office from Book Depository (my go-to for UK publications), which I am kind of excited about. I want to finish reading the stories in Other Horrors this weekend, and then I think I’m going to read another cozy–I have some really terrific ones lying around here in the TBR stacks just waiting for me to pick up, and of course with the Lefty and Edgar nominations released this week my list of books to buy just continues to grow and grow and grow. I still haven’t read Harper’s Edgar winning debut, She Rides Shotgun, which everyone raves about; but it’s always so hard not only to keep up with what’s current because more and more are released every month and once you’re behind there’s no catching up. After getting home from my errands yesterday I did research for my current project (I love that watching Youtube videos counts as research for this, and I am having the best time with the research, and that is part of why I am enjoying writing this so much (I also love my main character).

It looks gray outside this morning, and I do have an errand that must be run today. Heavy sigh. It’s why I got up, after all–I was perfectly willing to stay in bed for even more time this morning–and my kitchen is a disaster and as always, there is laundry. Heavy heaving sigh. So I am going to go ahead and head into the spice mines this morning, Constant Reader. I may check in again later–but one never knows, does one? Have a lovely Friday, though, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Live With Me

Wednesday and Pay the Bills Day has rolled around yet again. Woo-hoo!

Yesterday I was working on cleaning out my inbox–an ongoing struggle, but it’s suddenly gotten easier lately–and around noonish an email from Left Coast Crime dropped in letting me know that A Streetcar Named Murder had been selected as a finalist for the Lefty Awards! I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like that to ever happen, so thanks to everyone who listed me on their ballot. It’s a tough category–the other nominees are Ellen Byron for Bayou Book Thief, Catriona McPherson for Scot in a Trap, Jennifer Chow for Death by Bubble Tea, and A. J. Devlin for Five Moves of Doom. Such a thrill, really, and to be nominated against authors for whom I have so much respect and admiration for their talents and achievements already? And so many other amazing nominees in the other categories as well–including lots of friends! Kellye Garrett, Alex Segura, James L’Etoile, Karen Odden, Laurie R. King, Gigi Pandian, Rob Osler, Eli Cranor, Wanda Morris, and Catriona again (nominated TWICE!!!!). I’m really sorry I won’t be going to Left Coast this year. I had a marvelous time last year, but it’s also the week before TWFest and Saints & Sinners, and there’s no way I could take that much time off so close together–let alone leave the week before the festivals. I’d come home to find the locks changed, seriously. So many amazing reads this past year on this list, and there I am, right there with some of my favorite people.

It’s always lovely to get recognized, of course. Award nominations are always a lovely pat on the back, and yes, while I often joke about always losing everything I am ever nominated for (I love pretending to be bitter and cynical about losing awards), it is indeed a great honor and a thrill and all those things they’re supposed to make you feel like. Being nominated for mainstream awards, like this and the Anthonys, was never in my thoughts or calculations (to be fair, I never think about awards when I’m writing something)–so yes, for the kid who used to give acceptances speeches to the mirror holding a shampoo bottle as a stand-in for an Oscar, it’s an honor and a thrill and a privilege. I mean, winning isn’t really in my control–anyone who’s ever nominated’s control–so I just look at it as a lovely nice job thumbs-up from the community and add it to my author bio.

I slept really well again last night and this morning I don’t feel tired or sore and my mind is completely alert–yesterday there was some residual fog from my trip still, and leftover exhaustion–but today feels absolutely great. I ran errands after I got off work yesterday–some books and other things came in the mail yesterday, including my Rainbow candles (a client gave me one for Christmas; I loved the smell, and then had to go searching on line to find more of them) and the leather-bound copies of Rebecca and Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier as produced by the International Collectors’ Library (about time I got two really nice editions of two of my favorite books). I was terribly tired when I got home from work yesterday so I pretty much melted into my easy chair with Scooter asleep in my lap and just watched videos on Youtube (I went down a Rihanna wormhole for a good while–I’d forgotten how amazing her music was–while also looking up videos from Hadestown, whose score I’ve been listening to every since I got home; I cannot tell you how much I loved this show). I need to pay the bills today and get back to work on the book–I’m behind again and am really going to have to work my ass off to get it done by the end of the month now, no time for goofing off or anything other than a major push; I also have a short story to finish that I’ve promised to a friend for an anthology; that will be a nice creative and intellectual challenge to try to get finished around the book, too.

So, yes, Constant Reader, as you can probably tell I’m in a really good place this morning. My coffee is marvelous, I got a lovely pat on the back from the mystery community yesterday (“they like me! they really like me!”), and I am feeling great about my writing and my future. We’ll see how long this happy feeling and inspiration lasts, won’t we? I also think the cold or sinus thing that’s been going on with me since I flew to New York has finally been given the boot by my immune system, which is really nice. (I always feel terrible when I travel–part of it is the lack of sleep and the dehydration caused by the pressure changes required for flying; one of these days I’ll learn to drink water and replenish electrolytes when I travel instead of just drinking Cokes and coffee and alcohol; you’d think I’d know better by now but I clearly do not) But I feel like me again for the first time in what seems like a really long time, and it’s going to take some getting used to and adjusting again. (This weekend especially is going to feel weird as fuck, to be honest.)

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

2000 Light Years from Home

Tuesday morning and back to the office.

I slept incredibly well on Sunday night–there really is nothing like your own bed–but despite feeling rested, my body was still exhausted and tired. I had to run some errands and make groceries, which us always tiring, but i also managed to get some other blog posts done yesterday morning. (After all, I didn’t post on either Saturday or Sunday, so had to catch up and make up for lost time.) I got the laundry caught up, and did some chores around the Lost Apartment–dishes, filing, organizing–and reread the manuscript to get a handle on where I am at so I could plan the next stages of finishing this sucker.

But yesterday was about re-acclimatization into my reality, and I think I did a nice job. I picked up my prescription and the mail, and made groceries. I was very tired still–exhausted, really–but managed to get some things done around the house; little things that are nevertheless time-consuming but need to be done. I think another project for the overall year will be to organize my picture files. They are a mess, always have been, and none of them are actually labeled or have been renamed; they all sit in my back-up drive as IMG-number, and only in a few instances have they been grouped into a labelled folder for ease of discovery. I also went to bed relatively early last night and finally slept through almost the entire night in a good, relaxing sleep. My legs still ache from soreness, a result of all that walking I wasn’t used to (I really do need to start going for walks–even if short–in the evening after work) over the weekend but not to the point of such exhaustion that I want to cry when I have to get up, thank God.

My voice is still raspy, too. But I feel much better this morning, which is a good thing as I have to not only go into the office but I also have to get back to writing the book this week and I can’t afford a single day off from writing or I won’t be finished by 1/31, which is the original plan. But I had suspected that my not feeling 100% and slightly flu-ey was a result of not enough rest, and now that I’ve slept well for an entire night, my suspicions have apparently been correct all along. I was too mentally fatigued still yesterday to do much beyond simple, menial tasks–my mind was too tired to handle any reading, so I won’t be getting back to Other Terrors until tonight after work. We also watched a documentary on Netflix called The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, which was interesting–I’d never heard of this story, but apparently it went viral in 2013–particularly on how some people in the entertainment field tried to cash in on his viral story and success without doing any due diligence or any looking into his past or who he was at all. That was the most interesting part of the story to me–the way people saw him as a way to make money and didn’t care about anything beyond that, and so it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them when the truth–(no spoilers here)did finally come out.

It inevitably does.

I’ve still not completely wrapped my head around the end of my volunteer work. I spent some time yesterday archiving all the emails from the last three years and deleting the folders they were originally filed away in–which made me realize that my email folders need to be overhauled, as there are any number of them that are no longer needed or necessary, or are actually duplicated–and of course, organizing always makes me incredibly happy. I have a lot of work to do in this first quarter of 2023 (!!!! I still can’t believe it’s this far into the third decade of this century…) and I want to make this a good year for me productivity wise; I am going to start looking for an agent probably come March or April. Nothing ventured, after all, and let’s face it, I’ve never really made much of an effort into finding one, and maybe send out a couple of proposals before giving up and pulling back and hoping for the best. I need to make a blanket effort–going after all of them at the same time–but I am always afraid that they’ll all say no and that’s the end of it. Honestly, the way this business is so brutal on your ego while at the same time requiring you to actually have one (you have to believe in yourself to some degree otherwise you’ll never get going on it and that’s the end of that).

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Ruby Tuesday

Tuesday morning before the sun rises blog.

I have to say, it’s really difficult sometimes to be a pro-New Orleans person the way I am, but it’s not New Orleans that is the general problem, it’s some people. After the massive debacle around the Krewe of Nyx and it’s problematic and racist leadership (they defiantly paraded last year to non-existent crowds; maybe some tourists who didn’t know better were out there, but after the parade before theirs, everyone left the parade route), I thought it would be hard for any krewe to do a worse job of public relations or, for wont of a better word choice, reading the goddamned room. However, this past weekend the leadership of the Krewe of Endymion basically said to Nyx, “hold our beer” and named noted anti-Semite, misogynist, and homophobic racist Mel Gibson as celebrity monarch (co-monarch, to be precise).

I don’t go to Endymion–it doesn’t go past our corner; we’d have to walk to Harmony Circle (I keep calling it Liberty Circle since it was renamed, anything is better than Lee Circle) to see it–and I’ve only ever seen it on the rare occasions when it does come down St. Charles Avenue (rained out on Saturday; abbreviated route after Katrina), or when we used to go out that Saturday night, walking to the Quarter up the route (and getting buried with beads on the way)–so it’s not like I would be boycotting it anyway; but they did rescind the invitation but rather than admitting they made a HUGE mistake, decided to blame the outrage and cite concerns for their safety as the reason.

Fuck all the way off, Endymion, seriously. Yes, blame the outrage instead of your incredibly poor decision-making skills.

Nyx, by the way. went from 3500 members and riders to less than 200. And yes, that will wind up in a book someday–it’s too good to not use it, you know? Also of note: that last pre-pandemic Mardi Gras, back in 2020? Two people were killed by floats during parades that season–at Nyx and Endymion. Perhaps the gods of Carnival were letting us know in advance?

Then again, Carnival has a horrifically exclusionary and racist past we tend to gloss over a lot here (read Lords of Misrule sometime).

It’s dark out this morning and I didn’t sleep as great last night as I would have liked, which is fine. This is my last day in the office this week, and of course tomorrow morning I’m off to New York, so if I’m tired, I’m tired. I did manage another three thousand words on the book yesterday–it really is going well, and I am actually enjoying writing it, to be completely honest–and I managed to get some chores done yesterday when I got home from work–the dishes, mostly. Tonight I’ll need to pack; the flight isn’t until 12:15 tomorrow, so I don’t have to leave for the airport until almost ten, so I can sleep a little later than usual on a Wednesday; which will prepare me for the insomnia of the hotel…which I honestly am hoping won’t be the case this time. After doing the chores last night and writing, I watched a documentary about the Eastern Roman Empire for a while before switching over to the national title game–which was kind of boring and not much fun to watch; I mean, what the hell, TCU? And how on earth did they beat Michigan? Ohio State was a missed field goal in the closing seconds away from playing in the title game; and they lost to Michigan at home. I know it’s pointless to do comparative scoring and so forth because every game day is different, but I can guarantee you neither Alabama nor Tennessee would have gotten rolled 65-7. Hell, even LSU played Georgia better in the conference championship game and they played terribly. I guess the only teams capable of stopping Georgia from doing what no one else has ever done–three in a row–are from our conference.

But it will be fun watching Georgia fans become even more hated than Alabama’s this coming year. And they play in Knoxville this next season. The 2023 season, I think, is going to be even more interesting to watch than this year’s.

You heard it here first.

I need to make a packing list today, too. I already checked the weather for the weekend and it won’t be much worse than it is here when it gets wintery, so that’s bearable for me. Hat, jacket and gloves are all I need, and I think I can manage without getting super cold and whiny, so we’ll see how all that goes. I’m actually more than a little excited about the trip, to be honest. This may be my last trip to New York for quite some time and I am not going to be there for very long; That Bitch Ford has done an absolutely marvelous job of Julie McCoy-ing our weekend up there; we’re going to see a play (Hadestown), to Chinatown, and we’re going to a noodle place, too–I love noodles–and I am meeting others for drinks and so forth–it’s quite marvelous, really. I just hate the drudgery and getting to and from the airport, and the flights themselves–although usually once I am on the plane and have my book open in my lap, I don’t mind the flights quite as much–and I have no plans for tomorrow evening, so hopefully once I am checked into the hotel and unpacked, I can write for a while and then read myself to sleep…or watch a movie on my laptop, or something. It should be a great trip, and I even have the Monday holiday off so I can recover as well as do things to get ready for the week without having to do it around going to the office.

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

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

Sunday morning and probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had in quite some time. I didn’t even wake up the first time until past eight, and was so relaxed and comfortable I stayed in bed for another hour like a very bad Gregalicious. I had some vague plan when I went to bed last night that I would get up early this morning since I had so much work to get done, but the pull of a comfortable bed and warm blankets was too much for me to resist. I am now enjoying a really good cup of coffee; I cleaned out my Keurig machine yesterday, which was terribly overdue, and it does make a difference. (I should probably do it far more regularly than I do.) I also ordered groceries for pick up this morning as well, which will probably be the only time I leave the house today.

Overall, yesterday was a good day. I got up in the morning, did some cleaning and ran some errands, before coming home and doing some more cleaning while i worked. I clocked in four thousand words yesterday, which was amazing–I’ve been averaging between three and four thousand since Christmas when I write, and there were a couple of days that were between six and seven (hoping for one of those today, frankly), and all the pieces of this particular one are starting to fall into place. I’m having a very good time writing, and it’s awesome to be making it a priority in my life, too–plus it helps to not really check or examine your emails quite so compulsively. After I finished writing yesterday, I started watching some documentaries on Youtube about the Great Schism and the development of the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox church; I am probably going to try to focus my history reading for the year to be on the Eastern Roman Empire and the development of Christianity (I’d really like to reread Gore Vidal’s novel Julian the Apostate again), which has always been one of those periods I find fascinating and don’t study or read about near enough. I also spent some time thinking (while football highlights played on a loop on Youtube–I never tire of watching the last minute of the Tulane win in the Cotton Bowl) about my year and my writing plans for the year and what I would like to accomplish in 2023. I am really leaning toward trying to write an actual gay romance novel at some point in this coming year or the next; I’ve always wanted to write one and why the hell shouldn’t I give it a try at some point? (Although the romance writer who faked her own death and resurrected herself this week has me again wary of Romanceland…)

We also watched The Menu last night, which was a very strange film but highly entertaining. I’ve never been much of a foodie (I even hate the word foodie), because primarily most of my life food primarily either filled a need (the abatement of hunger) or served a purpose (as fuel, during the overly-exercised period of my life), so I never viewed it as a pleasure or an art form. Sure, I loved (and dearly miss) my annual lunch at Commander’s Palace, and I can appreciate delicious food, flavors and textures and so forth, but the plating and the rest isn’t something I’ve ever been terribly interested in. I don’t care if my food looks like a work of art on a plate. Sorry, I am a peasant at heart and peasantry isn’t that easily overcome. I did make an effort to become better in the kitchen and better at cooking while I was in my forties, and after I turned fifty I started learning how to bake things–cakes, cheesecakes, brownies, etc. But I digress. The Menu , like Glass Onion, seems to be a commentary on class and snobbery; the difference between the creators and the takers. I think the film is filled with great performances and interesting twists and turns, but ultimately it doesn’t succeed in the same ways that Glass Onion did. I do recommend it be seen; I’m curious to see what other people thought of it.

We then started watching a new prime series called The Rig, with an excellent cast headed by Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek, Chapelwaite), and Martin Compston (Line of Duty); the cast is diverse and the tale is interesting. An off-shore oil rig, somewhere in the North Sea I think, is riding out a terrible storm when something strange and seismic happens; whether it’s an earthquake on the ocean floor or some kind of volcanic activity isn’t clear. As the rig loses its connections to the outside world–internet, telephones, etc.–a terrifying fog comes rolling in, and something supernatural or mysterious but rooted in science is going on, particularly with a crewman who suffers a terrible fall that should have killed him; there are internal injuries they can’t do anything about–but he starts getting better, which shouldn’t be possible, and he has terrifying visions of the future. We watched one, and then couldn’t resist the temptation of staying up later and watching another. It’s quite good, and I highly recommend it. I am very curious to see how it winds up playing out.

I am going to finish this, grab a second cup of coffee, and repair to my easy chair to read for about an hour or so; A Walk on the Wild Side is calling to me, and I’d prefer to finish it before my trip (I don’t think that will happen, but one never knows), before I start writing again and dive into the day’s work. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

19th Nervous Breakdown

Saturday morning and another lovely day in New Orleans–if a bit chilly–has dawned in the Lost Apartment. What a marvelous night’s sleep I had last night. The bed and blankets were so comfortable–not to mention the snoring kitty curled up between Paul and I–that I really didn’t want to get up, but I have far too much to do today to continue to laze in the bed simply because it felt good. So, it was out of the bed for one Gregalicious, and here I sit, swilling my morning coffee and clearing the cobwebs from my brain by trying to write a coherent blog post. (Good luck to me on that, am I right?) Yesterday was a work-at-home day, of data entry and doing quality assurance on testing logs, and yes, it is as tedious as it sounds. But after work I did some great thinking and work on the in-progress story, and am looking forward to getting some quality work done on it this morning/afternoon/however long it takes me to reach the day’s goal, and no matter if it kills me–which it just might do. I also have some errands to do today, but they shouldn’t take long.

Huzzah? Huzzah.

Last night we watched the final episode of Welcome to Chippendale’s, which really dragged on for far too long. There really wasn’t eight episodes of story here, and so it often seemed to drag and drag and drag. It’s a shame, the acting was top-notch and it was a great story, but unless you’re interested in viewing a couple of Emmy-worthy performances, watch the true crime documentary instead. It’s funny to remember how ubiquitous Chippendale’s seemed to be in the 1980’s–I certainly owned a few of their calendars, since they were the first real beefcake calendars produced–and I wished sometimes that I had a stronger memory, at least of the 1980’s, but it was such a dark and brutal decade for me I think I was happy to forget most of it. Paul is going to be gone most of the day today, so I have no excuse not to get a lot of writing and other things completed today. I do want to watch the adaptation of Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix at some point this weekend, and of course we do need to finish watching Sherwood, too. I leave for New York on Wednesday, which is kind of fun–I am really looking forward to having some good Chinese food–and hopefully I’ll be able to get writing done on the road (which never happens, no matter how much I hope that it does).

But this time, it must.

I’m really enjoying all this writing I am doing lately, even though I am lazy and would rather not do anything at all. But it feels good to be pushing my brain and my creativity and trying to come up with fresh and new ways of saying things as well as fresh and new characters and interactions and stories. This first half of the year is going to be hectic and busy for me, but I am developing a plan that should help me get through till the spring. If I can stay motivated and stop being lazy, I should be able to get a lot accomplished before the dog days of summer are upon me. My writing goals for the year are very ambitious, of which I am well aware, but I think it’s better to try to do more and not quite get there than to plan less ambitiously and get even less done. I know I can’t get everything done that I want to get done in 2023 (I don’t think anyone could, to be honest), but I’d rather be overconfident than not, you know?

I am having my first piece of king cake for 2023 with my coffee this morning and it is sublime. It’s kind of hard to believe that Carnival season has rolled around again, and now of course the first part of the year will fly by: New York next week, Alabama the first weekend of February, then Carnival, the one-two punch of Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners at the end of March, and then of course it’s practically summer again already, and then the next thing you know it’s football season again. This, for the record, is how your life ends up slipping through your fingers like mercury. Heavy sigh. But I am trying not to look forward to things, if that makes sense? I kind of want to just keep my head down, avoid drama for the most part, and focus on my writing for the year. It seems like writing always takes a back seat to everything else for me, which is ironic since it’s the thing I draw the most pleasure from and being a writer is such an integral part of my self-identity. I don’t see myself as a sexual health counselor, even though that’s my day job and has been for eighteen years. I don’t see myself as Mrs. Saints & Sinners/Tennessee Williams Festival, either–even though that’s been Paul’s job for the last twenty-two years. I see myself, despite all the other identities I take on in my everyday life, first and foremost as a writer; that is the core of my identity and who I am. And yet…it always seems as though my writing in always being shunted to the side or pushed back on the list of things to do because I have so many other things always going on in my life. Writing will be my priority now going forward, and while I still intend to work on volunteer stuff whenever I have time, that isn’t going to be a priority for me and it never should have been, either. I don’t know why the most important aspect of my life is always back-burnered for one reason or another, but it’s not going to be the case anymore. I am going to be even more zealous and jealous of my time and donating it only sparingly, and only when I have time.

I also need to start being realistic about everything I can and cannot do and stop thinking oh I can do everything in the world by all means ask me to do more things. I think it all comes from the fear of being disliked, that goes back to childhood–I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over those scars, truth be told–and I am very aware of the idiocy this implies: oh if I say no to this they won’t like me and won’t ask me again; I have always called this Homecoming Queen Syndrome–the desperate need for approval from other people, the need to be liked and well thought of, the fear of being made fun of, mocked, and disliked. I need to work harder on not giving a fuck, but it’s also part and parcel of being queer and trying to fit into a mainstream culture group, the crime writing community. It’s very strange and off-putting to know that people who’ve never met you, know nothing about you, and never will know you hate you in the abstract; that some people will never like you because they’re homophobic (honestly, when it comes to homophobia I prefer the Westboro Baptist Church version, where they will scream their hatred in your face; at least it’s more honest than people who will smile to your face while voting to strip you of your rights); and those same people will never, no matter what, ever read anything you write. It’s weird knowing that people will find your books on Amazon and one-star you without reading the actual book because you’re a queer and you had the audacity to write a book about queers where they are actually whole, happy people who aren’t suffering at all because of their same-sex attractions. The great irony of this is my own inconsistency; when I actually think about it, I do not give two shits what other people think of me, and haven’t for a long time. Unfortunately, I’ve been conditioned my entire life to care what other people think so I always fall back on that subconsciously; I’m always so flattered to be asked to do anything–which is the sneaky way that insecurity/need to be liked gaslights me into agreeing to do things I may not want to actually do or have the time to get done without something else, something that actually matters more to me, being pushed aside or not getting the full attention it needs and deserves.

A Gregalicious is still a work in progress, apparently–even at sixty-one.

And on that note, this work isn’t going to do itself now, is it? Off to the spice mines with me–and will talk to you later, Constant Reader. Have a fabulous Saturday.

Lady Jane

Ah, elusive sleep, how lovely thou art when you do finally bless me with your grace. Yes, sleep returned after a two-night absence and one Gregalicious at last got some rest last night. I didn’t want to get up this morning, to be honest, and probably could have stayed in bed for at least another hour or two. It feels a bit chilly in the kitchen this morning but the coffee is delicious and hot. Ah, fifty-one degrees. Well, that would do it. I have a lot of work to get done today and some errands to run, but right now I am going to enjoy my coffee as I gradually swim out of the misty fog that is my morning just-woke-up brain.

I was exhausted when I got home yesterday. Two consecutive nights of little to no sleep are not what my doctor (any doctor) ordered, and it had been awhile since i was that tired. (I get tired every afternoon, but that’s a function of having been awake so long already, methinks, and just normality when you’re at your office. Yesterday’s fatigue was different.) I collapsed into my easy chair and watched some history videos (the difference between Creole and Cajun–which I already knew but was curious to see if they got it right and if there was anything new I could glean, and there was not; a couple of videos about French history; a video about what happened to the minor kings of the German Federation when Prussia united them all into the empire of Germany; and of course, it’s always fun to watch the videos captured by the Tulane fans as they won the Cotton Bowl in the closing seconds of the game before Paul got home), thought about doing some reading or writing but my brain was just too tired to focus enough to accomplish much, and so thought some more about the work-in-progress. I need to get a lot of work on it done this weekend and the first two nights of next week, since I am going to New York on Wednesday and won’t be home until Sunday. I’ll have to try to get some work done while I am there, so I am hoping I won’t get struck by the insomnia monster while I am there. (It would be a first, for the record.) But there is nought to do but firmly press nose to grindstone and get motivated while staying motivated. I also need to pick out some books to read while traveling. I can probably finish A Walk on the Wild Side on the trip up; I just need to pick out one or two more to take along for the trip home.

The Lost Apartment is also a mess, so something must be done about that before I leave as well–I hate coming home to a messy house, and Paul doesn’t really make any mess downstairs, so anytime I come home to a mess and get annoyed I also have to take accountability for my own self because if it’s messy I didn’t clean. But there’s no college football this weekend–I am not going to stay up Monday night to see who wins because I can check the score when I get up Tuesday morning–so there are no distractions I can blame for not writing or reading or cleaning this weekend. I do have things to do besides that, of course; I need to make groceries for Paul and get the mail and maybe even clean out and wash the car (stop that crazy talk!)–did I ever tell you I found a marvelous do-it-yourself car wash finally on Louisiana Avenue on the other side of St. Charles? I need to make a point of washing the car every other week–so much grime gets on it just sitting on the street in front of the house, it’s unbelievable–and I also need to remember to get the oil changed before I leave for Alabama at the end of the month.

Sigh.

It never ends, does it? It’s always the minutiae of life that gets to you and gradually wears you down, those minor little tasks you have to do all the time that don’t seem like much but will eventually just grind you down into the dirt because you have no choice but to do them because otherwise they wouldn’t get done and life would be ever so much worse without getting that stuff done. But there’s naught to do but do them; I do always reserve the right to complain even when something is my fault.

It does look beautiful outside. The sun is shining and there are no clouds in our cornflower blue sky. Perhaps later on today I can take my phone with me and take a walk around the neighborhood. It’s been a hot minute and I always enjoy going for walks around the neighborhood, plus it helps me feel more connected to the city, something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It’s silly for me to ever think that I don’t feel my usual connection to New Orleans; it’s always there, but it does change and evolve. As I said the other day, I’ve just grown so accustomed to life here that I don’t notice things as peculiar, unusual, or unique anymore; it just is New Orleans and normal now to me. I’ve finally gone completely native, and I can barely remember what it was like to live anywhere else in the country. Traveling has always felt like I was going to another country, ever since we moved here–and that’s really when the difference makes itself known. It’s a little jarring to feel like a foreign tourist when you go somewhere, but New Orleans is just so different from everywhere else in so many little ways that aren’t always apparent until you travel–like the Puritan liquor laws everywhere else. What about my freedom to drink, damn it?

Oh, and of course, tonight is Twelfth Night, so I should do a blatant self-promotional post for A Streetcar Named Murder, shouldn’t I?

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Heart of Stone

Another new year. 2023. This year it will have been forty-five years since I graduated from high school. That feels weird to me, but it must be true. Forty-five years. Kids born the year I graduated from high school are full on having mid-life crises already. Not exactly a cheery thought to kick off a new year, though, is it?

I got my writing done yesterday and have a daunting day of more writing ahead of me. I managed to get it all done in a little less than three hours yesterday (what can I say? I was on a roll, and the book is really coming together here at the end), and I was thus able to watch some college football games yesterday, namely TCU-Michigan and Georgia-Ohio State. Both games were completely insane, but I am sure OSU fans are not happy with their unfortunate head coach. I imagine now, after two straight losses to Michigan and no national title wins, they are every more unhappy than they have been with their head coach; it’s almost like Ohio State and Michigan have switched their annual trajectories. I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am starting to appreciate more. I am not a fan of twentieth-century straight white male MFA writing, which is what this kind of is (look at me! my book will be taught in universities!) and I’ve never cared for (Hemingway comes to mind) but I’m starting to like it more. There’s a dark, noir undertone to it that I am appreciating, and now that the main character (Dove) is making his way to New Orleans now–well, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to me once the action moves here, which is the entire reason I am reading the book in the first place. We also finished off season two of Sex Lives of College Girls, whose second season didn’t live up to the first, but it was still enjoyable. Tonight we’ll probably go back to Three Pines and watch a movie; there was something Paul mentioned last night that he wants to watch but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

I felt remarkably rested and relaxed yesterday; the writing going so well had a lot to do with it, I am sure. I slept well again last night and feel rested again this morning–I really do like these lengthy weekends, and am going to miss them once they are over–so I feel confident I can bang out the word count i need to get done for today as well. Yay! So, I am going to do exactly the same thing I did yesterday; read this morning over my coffee, then take a shower and get cleaned up before diving into the next chapter I need to write.

As is my wont, I am setting goals for 2023 rather than making resolutions–and while this hasn’t been as successful for me as it should have been over the years (some goals remain the same, year after year after year), I still like goals better than resolutions. So, without further ado, here we go:

Get an agent

This has been at the top of my goals every year since i started setting goals rather than resolutions, which goes back to the beginnings of my blog, way back in December 2004. I have made running lists of potential agents to try for years, always adding someone new whenever I come across their information or someone being excited to be signed by one. Having an agent doesn’t mean a significant change to my writing or my earning potential or the possibilities of my career getting bigger, but none of those things are likely to happen without an agent: I am not getting signed to a major publisher like William Morrow or Random House unless and until I have an agent. I may never sign with one of those houses–I may never get an agent–but I also never really try, either. So, the goal isn’t necessarily to get an agent in 2023, but to at least make an effort.

Finish everything on deck

I have five novellas in some sort of progress, as well as two other books I am at least four or five chapters deep into. I want to finish all of these projects in 2023 and get them out of my working files. I don’t think I will ever finish every short story or essay I’ve begun over the years, but getting some sort of completion here would be really nice. I would love nothing more than to have a working first draft of both Muscles and Chlorine by the midpoint of 2023. I also would like to pull together a second short story collection, which would be incredibly cool (This Town and Other Stories). It would also be nice to get those novellas completed. It is very tempting to turn them all into novels–a couple of them might be able to be stretched out that way–but I know some of them simply do not have the depth or story potential to play out that way. The nice thing about novellas is the length is up to you; I know these stories are all too long to pare down to something readable and enjoyable for six thousand words or less; but some of them need to be longer than the twenty thousand words I was shooting for.

More short stories sent out on submission.

I really do need to finish some of these other short stories I have in progress to try to get them out on submission. I have over eighty stories in some sort of progress, with still others yet to be started and/or finished. I’ve not been doing so great with the short stories as I would have liked over the last few years. I have some really good ones to work on–there’s one I fear that’s going to end up being longer than a short story, because there’s more to the story than can fit in the confines of six thousand words or less, but then you also never know.

Clean like we are moving.

I really need to get rid of things that have accumulated over the sixteen or so years we’ve been living in this apartment. I need to clean out the storage attic and the storage unit; donate a shit ton of books to the library sale, and just in general rid the apartment of all this clutter that seems to be weighing us down and closing in on us. Part of this is my inability to rid myself of books once I’ve read them, but I’ve also become much more ruthless when it comes to pruning them–I still can’t believe I donated so many of my old Stephen King first edition hardcovers, and my Anne Rice first editions as well, but they were just collecting dust in boxes so what use were they? Paul and I set this goal–clean like we’re moving, which in other words means would you move this or trash this? The first few times I pared down the books it literally was painful, but I am getting better. And after being a lifelong book hoarder, well. you can’t just turn that off after decades of doing it.

Volunteer less of my time.

All due respect, I’ve done my time. I have volunteered relentlessly for the overall betterment of the writing community–whether it’s the mystery community or the queer writing community–for quite some time now. I write stories for free for charity anthologies all the time. I step up and judge awards because I think they’re important. I’ve served on the Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon boards. But now that I’m older, I need to scale back. I don’t have either the time or the prodigious energy that I used to have, and while I’ve enjoyed all the volunteer work, something has to give. I just can’t do all the things that I used to do because things have changed: my day job takes more out of me physically, emotionally, and intellectually than it ever has before (the switch to working early mornings didn’t help); I tire out much earlier than I used to since my COVID situation last July and I can’t write or be productive or even read when I am bone-tired exhausted the way I am when I get home from work some nights. This also includes giving blurbs, I am sad to say; blurbing means reading the entire book, and I just don’t really have the time or mind-space to do much of that anymore; same with judging. I want my reading to be for pleasure or education for the rest of my life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always say no when asked, just that I am going to be more discriminatory. I need to be more jealous of my free time, and I can honestly say few people in the mystery community have done more volunteer work than me. I’d just like to start getting paid for working.

Take better care of myself.

The one-two punch of getting older and having COVID last summer has brought home very clearly to me that I need to take better care of myself and that physical things are just going to get harder. It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few years getting into a gym/workout routine with everything else I had to do plus the exhaustion thing; but the truth is physically I need to start working my body more–and the longer I go, the weaker my body gets and the harder it will be to get back into decent physical condition again. I also need to start paying more attention to my diet now than I am in my early soon to be mid-sixties–my diet needs to be healthier and I need to eat better. I weighed myself last week at the office and I am back up to 218; which is better than 220, but I had gotten myself down to nearly 200 at one point and I’d like to get back there. I don’t like this extra weight on me, and sure, maybe I can carry it and it would surprise people to know how much I actually do weigh, but I’m aware of it. And while it would be easy to think who cares, you’re almost sixty, you’re practically in the grave so why start depriving yourself of things you love at this age? But there’s a defeatist mentality there, a laziness speaking that is far too easy for me to go ahead and give into, and I don’t think that’s perhaps the wisest decision to make? I also need to get some more work on my mouth done–I’m tired of looking like an inbred hillbilly.

Read more.

It’s incredibly easy to come home and collapse into my easy chair and flip on Youtube videos–whether its football highlights, lists, music or military or European history, or reaction videos–it’s easy to just mindlessly lay there in the chair while watching endless videos, one after the other, about whatever subject catches my fancy. But I could read instead–and there’s plenty of nonfiction lying around the apartment. Over the past few days I’ve been reading either Bad Gays or Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown by J. F. Andrews–about heirs to thrones that got supplanted by people with more spurious claims in the Middle Ages–or Holy Wars by Gary L. Rashba (about crusades and ancient wars in the Holy Land, going back to Biblical times); and there are plenty of other non-fiction books lying around here that I could get to more quickly if I read rather than watched Youtube videos. But at the same time, when I am exhausted, it’s almost therapeutic. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to read history or other nonfiction while trying to rest, relax and decompress from a day in clinic.

Be more assertive and less self-deprecating.

In general, this is a good idea. I need to break the conditioning I was raised with, in which you never praise yourself and simply wait for others to notice and do it for you. No, this just doesn’t work and it’s not a good trait for a writer to have. I need to stand up for myself, my work, and my career because let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for me.

New years can be daunting as they are not only full of potential for either good or bad but they are unknown. You can’t know what’s coming, so all you can do is be hopeful things will always work out in the end. I want to also try to be more positive, and try to enjoy the good things without fear of the inevitable bad things that will inevitably come along. I also need to get out of the mindset that enjoying good things that happen will trigger bad things to happen as punishment; I need to learn to navigate that line between self-confidence and arrogance, which isn’t an easy task.

And on that note, I am going to go read for a little while before i dive into today’s writing. Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Monday morning and back to the office with me! It was a pretty good weekend, overall; I got some work done on the book, made groceries, did all kinds of chores, finished reading my Wanda Morris book and started reading another, and somehow managed to get some rest around all of that as well. I was very pleased with the work I did on the book, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even somehow manage to get it turned in by the extended deadline. #madness

And now it’s Monday morning, and I am up earlier than I need to be. I really need to focus, as a lot of things have been slipping lately as I focus on the book and getting it finished, and there’s been a kind of malaise–the feeling that usually comes along when I’ve actually finished a book, and has never before come while I was writing one. These last few years haven’t been easy for writing, to be honest, and yet–I’ve also produced some of my best work somehow during this time. I think Bury Me in Shadows is one of my best works, and while I don’t think it’s as good, #shedeservedit was also one I was terribly pleased with. And all I’ve seen anywhere for A Streetcar Named Murder has been highly positive. Land of 10000 Thrills was also one of the better anthologies I’ve done, and some of the short stories I’ve been doing during these last few years have also been really good. I also think that some of the stuff I have in progress–“Never Kiss a Stranger,” “Festival of the Redeemer,” Chlorine, Muscles, etc.–are also really good stuff. Some of the work I did this weekend is pretty damned good. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this confident in my writing before in my entire life, to be honest, but as long as I keep confidence from bleeding over into ego, I should be okay.

We watched all four episodes of Three Pines last night, and i think it’s very well done. Alfred Molina is perfect as Inspector Gamache, and while I must confess to only have read the first Louise Penny novel, Still Life, I was very impressed with it and liked it a lot (not sure why I’ve not gone back and read more of them; I do have the first three or four, but it probably has more to do with time and the massive TBR pile than anything else). I thought the show didn’t have the same feel as the books, in some ways, but it’s also a different medium and there are always changes. When I was reading the book (and again, only the first in the series so I am hardly an expert on Penny’s writing or her series) I like the town, and enjoyed my visit there. It was a nice, quirky, small town–but translating that to the screen is an entirely different ball of wax. I think the producers and writers decided that because the show is about murder, it needed to be a little darker, and Three Pines comes across as a small town full of eccentrics in the show, more like Twin Peaks, Picket Fences, and Northern Exposure than Penny’s creation….but I think it was a smart direction to go with the show. Penny’s strength is offsetting the charm of the town against the darkness of the crimes committed there, and I don’t know how well Penny’s vision could have translated to the screen any better. We both really liked it. We also watched a true crime documentary about Charlie Cullen, the killer nurse–which was creepy as fuck.

I’m hoping against hope that this good feeling will last all week. I’m going to have to stop and make groceries on the way home from the office–heavy sigh–but no need to swing around uptown for the mail until tomorrow. I have to remember to buy a shipping envelope to mail a copy of Streetcar to the winner of the drawing from Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–I should add that to my to-do list…which I need to make a new copy of it. The problem is I don’t remember everything I am supposed to be doing, and I need to get back into the habit of making a new list every weekend so things don’t get lost.

I also spent some more time with Nelson Algren’s (I was spelling it wrong in the last blog) bleak A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am enjoying but isn’t precisely a quick read by any chance. It reminds vaguely of another novel set in the same time period, A Garden of Sand by Earl Thompson, which I’ve started any number of times but have never managed to get very far into because it is also not an easy read. I am going to try to devote an hour to reading every night–an hour a day is far better than what I’ve been doing, which hasn’t been helping to budge the TBR pile at all–and I think tonight we are going to finally start watching Wednesday. I’ve been reluctant to jump into it, despite the great reviews, because the Christina Ricci version from the 90’s films was, at least for me, definitive. But we keep hearing good things about the show as well as Jenna Ortega’s performance in the lead, so I think tonight will be the night we take the plunge.

It rained all day yesterday–it was even raining when I went to pick up the groceries–and it seems a bit gray outside this morning as well. I have a lot of emails to write and a lot of emails to answer and all kinds of stuff to do today–one of the reasons I got up an hour earlier than I needed to this morning–so I am trying to be proactive and not laze in bed the way I usually do on the mornings when I don’t have to get up at six. I am getting used to getting up early for the first time ever in my life, and quite frankly, I don’t like it. But I also don’t see the clinic hours being changed any time soon, either; I fear my afternoon/early evening shifts are a thing of the remote past now.

And on that note, I have quite a bit to do today, so it’s perhaps best that I make another cup of coffee, some toast, and dive right in. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.