Think About Me

Wednesday morning and all is sort of well in the Lost Apartment. It’s dark outside still, but the sun should be rising soon over the West Bank (don’t ask) and my coffee should start kicking in soon. I’ve continued testing negative for COVID, so I think I escaped Bouchercon and the trip unscathed, which is actually kind of lovely. I don’t think I could handle yet another week of being knocked out and unable to do anything. Although the enforced rest–first with the COVID and then with my back more recently–was also kind of nice.

I was very exhausted when I got home from work yesterday, so kind of just headed right to the sweats and the easy chair. The kitchen is still a mess from Monday night’s dinner, and I really need to get that cleaned up tonight after work, if I have the energy. I have adjusted to these early mornings in some ways–it’s not painful to get up anymore, and I am not groggy and half-asleep most of the mornings anymore–but I do get tired a lot earlier, and sleepy too. I dozed off a couple of times in the chair last night while watching Making it Big, which is a lengthy video on Youtube about the growth and development of the gay porn industry, from its humble beginnings with Bob Mizer and physique magazines/videos to what it is today–free and almost everywhere you look on the Internet. I started in this industry writing gay porn–my first two published short stories were gay porn, and they paid rather well, thank you very much–and I had a very nice sideline until around 2009 editing and writing it. It was around 2009 that the bottom started falling out of gay porn writing and editing–and within a few years that sub-genre of the industry was gone for good. I miss the money, although I don’t miss doing the writing or editing. I produced some terrific anthologies along the way, and some really terrific short stories as well as erotic novels.

I’m not in the least bit ashamed of my past writing and editing gay erotica–writing is writing, and there’s an entire gamut of quality in gay erotica, as there is in every sub-genre in publishing; some was terrific, some was great, some was competent, and some was garbage. I am also often been told, throughout my career, that admitting to, and talking about, writing gay erotica was an error, that I shouldn’t talk about it or write about it ever or should put up a firewall between it and my “serious” writing. My response to that was always puzzlement; I take all of my writing seriously so why would the gay erotica be any different than that? But there is a stigma, still to this very day, about pornography and erotica (although it’s always been around; archaeologists have been finding erotic art in ruins going back thousands and thousands of years), which probably has a lot to do with the bizarre and deeply-rooted American societal and cultural bias about sexuality in general. It’s dirty, it’s private, it’s something you shouldn’t talk about openly with other people and you should be embarrassed if it comes up and therefore need to change the subject immediately.

This puritanical societal mentality is the root cause of a lot of our problems, in my opinion. A society and culture where sexuality is no big deal, where no one is judged for their sexual needs and desires and activities, and where the topic can be discussed openly and honestly, would be a much healthier one. But talking about sex and desire and need embarrasses most Americans and makes them uncomfortable; I believe that writing about eroticism and passion and desire and sex was maybe the best preparation for my day job as a sexual health counselor that I could have asked for.

The first time I wrote an erotic short story I was embarrassed almost the entire time I was writing it. I embarrassed myself, because in order to write an erotic short story I had to write about a desire of my own, a kink, if you will; something I had always been interested in, had experienced a few times, and wanted to explore much further than I had already. It’s hard to get younger people, who grew up with the Internet and smart phones and hook-up apps how difficult it was to find other gay men who were into the same secret fetishes and desires–now all you have to do is a Google search, really–but there was serious isolation back in the day, and with all the shame we learn through society about sex and desire, it was very easy to believe that you were the only person who was into whatever it was you were into. But once I had written one, I found that the more of these type stories that I wrote, the more free I felt; the more open, the more accepting of kinks and other people’s desires and what they were into. One of the great gay erotica writers said in the introduction to a collection of his own work you can’t write great sex unless you’ve had great sex, which I didn’t think was true at the time–creativity and imagination being what they are–and while I don’t necessarily think that’s true any more than I did then, I will say having great sex makes it easier to write about great sex…and when you can look at sexual experimentation as research…

Write what you know, indeed.

But early on in my career I was both naïve and stubborn. Don’t use your own name for writing erotica, I was told, over and over again, because it will damage your non-erotica work and people won’t take you seriously. That really wasn’t the threat that my well-meaning friends and colleagues thought it was; at that point in my life no one had ever taken me seriously about anything; and especially when it came to my ambitions with writing. So, my first short stories were published under my own name, and I edited two erotica anthologies under my real name, as well. The great irony was under my own name I became known for writing a certain kind of a gay erotica, rooted in one of my own fantasies and desires, but it also wasn’t the only thing I wanted to write about–but I had become typecast as an erotica writer and those were the only stories editors wanted from me; so I started using Todd Gregory so I could write erotica about other fetishes and desires and needs, other than what everyone wanted Greg Herren to write about. Which was actually, in retrospect, kind of funny.

It was also around this time that my traditional short story-writing problems–which I still have; I am never really certain if there’s an actual story in my stories, if you know what I mean–were sort of solved, because I realized that erotica is the perfect illustration of beginning, middle, end: two people meet, have sex, and then there’s an ending bit. I was having trouble publishing short stories–genre wasn’t ready for openly gay characters and themes, I didn’t write literary fiction–and so I decided, you know, you have this idea for a story–add a sex scene to it and see what happens. The story was published, and I became more experimental with my own erotica–one of my favorite stories I wrote was about a merman who was also an empath, “The Sea Where It’s Shallow”–and I became more and more known for erotica writing as Todd Gregory started editing anthologies and writing more and more stories.

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything erotic–and who knows if I ever will again? I have an idea for a gay romance novel I would like to write, but I also know that the kind of sex scenes I write–grunting, sweating, messy, and loud–aren’t the kind of sex scenes romance readers tend to like, but on the other hand, I may be making assumptions and who knows what they like? It’s one of the things I want to write over the next two years because I think it’s a fun challenge (yes, yes, I still manage to fool myself into thinking writing challenges are fun; I never learn), but we’ll see how everything goes.

I also kind of want to reread my erotica to see how it holds up, and I also kind of need to (heavy sigh) start making a list of characters and places and so forth that I have already used, so I won’t have Chris Moore or Eric Matthews showing up in yet another book (although it’s not impossible in the real world for different people to have the same name, either) and besides, maybe by doing so I can see the way to connect the books all together even more closely.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

The Ledge

And here it is, Tuesday morning and dark outside my windows as I have my morning coffee preparatory to getting ready for work. It’s getting to be that time of year where I drive to and from work in the dark, which is always a bit debilitating; you feel like you’ve spent the entire day at work when you don’t get to spend any time outside–even if just going to and from work–in the sunshine. The weather has cooled here a bit over the last week, which has been lovely (and early in the season for coolness). My back is much better–there’s still some tightness and slight pain involved–but I think i can actually head to work today and not be in the kind of pain I was in last week, which is kind of nice. It’s still there, but I am learning how to not trigger it–the irony of which is that I am having to use good posture at all times so as not to inflame the pain, which means had I been using good posture most of my life I might not have this problem right now.

But it’s something I can live with today; something I wasn’t so sure about as recently as Sunday. So taking the days of rest, with the alternating hot and cold, was probably a very smart thing to do. I will be taking the generic Ben-Gay with me to work today, too–just in case. But I can sit comfortably without it, which is something I can honestly say was not the case as recently as Sunday. And now of course I have to start digging myself out from under–which is a lot of catching up I need to get done. I also have to do some digging around and figure out what is missing from some projects that I need to get finished, and I also need to get back to writing. There’s an anthology deadline next month–more like three weeks from now–that I wanted to submit something to, but I seriously doubt I am going to be able to have the time or the energy to revise anything the way I want it to be revised to submit to this anthology, so I am probably going to have to let it go once and for all.

We watched Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders last night, a documentary series about the In Cold Blood murders and of course Truman Capote’s famous book that was written about the case (which remains, to this day, one of my favorites) as well as the film made from the book (which I’ve never seen, but Paul’s friend the actress Brenda Curran was in, playing Nancy Clutter). I’ve been to both Holcomb and Garden City, back when I lived in Kansas and when I also had no idea Holcomb was where the crimes happened (I didn’t read In Cold Blood until I lived in California). One of the things I’ve always found interesting about these old rural crimes is how they always talk about how the “community changed” after it happened and how people never used to lock their doors…and everyone could just knock and enter other people’s homes. I wasn’t raised that way; my mother was very obsessive about always making sure everything was locked up–cars, homes, wherever–and used to get mad at me when, as a lazy not really paying much attention teenager used to sometimes leave the car unlocked. Paul is much the same as my mom; sometimes I forget to lock the car, and when I am home by myself I forget sometimes to lock the front door–someone would have to scale the fence, which isn’t easy, to get back to our apartment door–but that’s also a part and parcel of the false sense of security we all have about being safe in our homes. Once I am inside I am safe.

Which really isn’t true.

I spent some more time with Donna Andrews’ delightful new Meg Langslow novel last night while I waited for Paul to finish working so I could make dinner, and it’s delightful. I don’t know how she manages to do this with a series that has lasted as long as hers has; I think there may be more than twenty volumes in the series now? But each one is a delight. I love the town of Caerphilly, I love her family, and most of all I really enjoy Meg. I love highly accomplished, confident, efficient women like her; she’s yet another drily humorous main character in the vein of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell (I really am overdue for reading another book in that series) and while my own poor Valerie is hardly in the same vein as these remarkable women characters, I’d kind of like to keep developing her into a series because, well, I kind of grew attached to Valerie and her friends while writing A Streetcar Named Murder, and I’d kind of like to revisit them again in another book. I have a title and an idea for the next book in the series, should Crooked Lane want another, and while I felt fairly confident they’d hate the title, I just this weekend came up with a potentially better title for it…and now that I am writing this, i cannot for the life of me remember what that title was, nor do I think I made a note of it (which is why you should always make a note of it).

Ah, well, perhaps it will come back to me at some point.

I also woke up to proofs of an anthology I contributed a story to that has been in the works for many years now, which means the book is finally going to be released which is great news. My story is called “A Whisper from the Graveyard” and I really don’t remember much, if anything, about the story because it’s frankly been so long. But I will need to proof it–check for typos and missing words and such–which will be a nice way to get reacquainted with the story, at the very least. I vaguely have some idea about the story–I know it’s a private eye story, with a gay detective who has just tested HIV positive and it’s set in the early 1990’s, so it’s a death sentence as far as he knows–and is hired by someone to find someone else? I don’t remember–it really has been a long time since I wrote this story.

But I am also completely overwhelmed with work and being behind on everything and I really need to start making a to-do list so I can sort all this shit out and get things done that need to be done. I know I need to go back to work on Scotty and my other project; there’s any number of other things I need to get done, and I also need to start figuring out promo for A Streetcar Named Murder else no one will buy it and that will be the end of that.

The great joy of being a writer.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Tuesday everyone (except Buccaneer fans)!

Monday Morning

And here we are on another work-at-home Monday.

It has been quite a while since I managed the kind of word count that I did yesterday. I got up at seven yesterday morning, wrote my morning blog entry and then finished writing about how my novel Sorceress came to be (I am gradually working my way through all of my books), started another entry on Lake Thirteen (still to come), and then went to work on my Scotty book. I banged out Chapter Three, and then moved on to another project I am working on for a friend; I was writing a chapter of that book per week to send on to him but it went off-track and I knew it. So, I had to go back and reread those first four chapters that are already completed to see–and the fix was so much easier than I had been fearing, with the result that rather than actually fixing the problem, I simply made notes on how to fix it for the binder where I keep the printed pages (I do this with every book the last few years or so; it’s just easier to print it out, three-hole punch it and put it in a binder where I can access it easily and make notes whenever necessary). So I wrote Chapter Five of that project, bringing today’s word count to six thousand, not counting the blog entries. Whew, did my shoulder hurt once I was done for the day, but I actually felt like I earned the rest of the day off.

So, overall it was a pretty good weekend. I am working at home today with lots of data to get entered before I can take off my spice-mining helmet and head to the easy chair to relax. Labor Day is this weekend, which means it’s also Southern Decadence in New Orleans, and I haven’t really checked the schedule to see what I am going to have to do–if anything–for the day job this weekend. Next week we’re off to Bouchercon, which I am looking forward to; it’ll be lovely, even if smaller than it usually is. It’s the first in-person one since Dallas in 2019 (I still swear sometimes that LSU had the best football season of all time in 2019 and that broke the world) and there will be people I’ll get to see that I haven’t seen since St. Petersburg in 2018. My schedule is already filling up; I had to create a day by day schedule of where I have to be and what I have to do and dates I’ve made with people already (to avoid double booking as well as to keep track); it’s going to be hectic, and I also bet I am not going to get to sleep a lot because of my hotel room insomnia issues, which makes the trip even more tiring and draining. And then I get to come back and go to work at the office all week. Yay.

I’ve done a lot of thinking this summer in those rare moments when I have some time to sit and think about things–I really don’t get to do this as often as I should; I am thinking that maybe once every three months I just need to take a three day weekend and go stay in a hotel by myself somewhere–maybe do some exploring of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, I don’t know–to take stock of my life, evaluate where I am at and where I want to go, and what do I need to do to make the things I want to happen for me actually, you know, happen. The nine-day bout of COVID, with its exhaustion, fatigue and continual brain fog, forced me to not work, to not do much of anything other than trying to just stay on top of my emails. The forced rest actually gave me time to deconstruct my life and everything I do and all of my commitments, and recognize some things about my life and what I want out of it. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result; I’ve been doing just that for quite some time now. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities over the years with my writing career–and while I am certainly of the mindset that everything happens for a reason and grabbing on to one of those opportunities might have changed my life in ways I cannot conceive, making it entirely possible that my life could be worse than it is now–one of the primary reasons I adopted the old “no regrets about the past” mantra–but I am getting old and many of those opportunities may never present themselves again. Now, I am at the point where my energies and abilities are growing more limited, yet the demands on my time, energy and ability don’t ever seem to ease up or abate in any meaningful way. I’ve made some decisions about my life and my future going forward; I also feel like they are the right ones to make and my mind is made up. (There are few things I find more annoying than making a decision and having that decision questioned, or having people try to talk you out of it. I rarely, if ever, change my mind once it’s definitively made up.)

I need to make writing a major priority again in my life. Yesterday it felt marvelous to get up in the morning, drink some coffee, and then sit down at the computer and start writing. I don’t know if my Scotty book is coming along well or not–it could be shit; and first drafts are usually pretty awful anyway–or if the other project is working or not, but it literally was so satisfying to sit at the computer and just create for hours. When I was finished for the day, too, I felt like I’d actually accomplished something and I liked the feeling. If I write a chapter of the other project every week while still managing to get two or three chapters of Scotty done every week, the Scotty will be finished on deadline and the other will have a completed first draft in another fifteen weeks. Juggling two completely different books and two entirely different styles is going to be a challenge, but I’ve always been about challenging myself when I write. (Even if it doesn’t seem like it.) I’ve also really been enjoying revisiting my books and remembering where the ideas came from, what I was trying to do with the book and story and characters; I hope those blog entries are entertaining. But…if they aren’t, you can always skip them, Constant Reader. I won’t mind. I’m also trying to write the book entries slowly, take my time with them, not write them all in one burst in one sitting the way I do the daily “this is what I am doing” entries.

I suppose I’ve always used this blog incorrectly. I probably should use it to do giveaways of copies of my books or engage with readers more, or turn it into a writing advice blog or something like that; develop a plan for it and stick to it rather than just pantsing it every morning. But that’s how I’ve always done it, and maybe when I’ve retired and don’t have to get ready for work every morning (the blog is part of my waking up to go to work process) I can take it another direction. Ah well, that’s about four years into the future, so I can worry about it then–if I even live that long.

We also binged Bad Vegan last night, which was insane but interesting, and of course episode 2 of House of the Dragon, which was markedly better than the first episode. (I did laugh at the opening credits of Episode 2, which weren’t included in episode one…reusing the Game of Thrones theme and using the same kind of “model” assembling itself was an interesting choice.)

And on THAT cheery note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Say You Love Me

I am up amazingly early for a Sunday morning, but that’s okay. I have a lot of things to do today; I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I could have, but I am not allowing the things that derailed me from my productivity. I did get things done yesterday–laundry needs folding this morning, and there are dishes to put away and so forth–and I also was able to get some writing done yesterday, which was marvelous and lovely. The Scotty book is still kind of a sloppy mess, and I am not really sure what to do with Chapter Three quite yet–or how to write it–but I am going to try the old “start writing and see what happens” trick with it today. I also went over another project I am working on, and realized that it was much easier to fix than I had originally thought, quite frankly. So, once I get my coffee swilled down this morning and this posted, I am going to get cleaned up and dive into the writing. I think spending the entire morning writing should help get some things crossed off the list and should move me ahead somewhat.

I just checked Margaret Orr’s Twitter for updates on storms. One of the systems in the Atlantic has increased its possibility of getting organized, but most likely not until it’s north of the Bahamas, which has me thinking it’ll keep moving north in the ocean. The one in the Caribbean Sea also has increased its percentage of forming, but it’s most likely going to stay in the south and menace Mexico and the Yucatán. No word thus far on the other system in the Atlantic, but I only saw one tweet before reporting back. Oops, my bad; I misread her tweet and didn’t take as good a look at the map she shared before I came back here. The other system is the one north of the Bahamas with a low degree of development possibility; the one with a 70% likelihood of anything happening looks like it’s heading for Puerto Rice and/or Florida, and thus into the Gulf of Mexico.

Oh, and embiggening the map, there’s another system forming off the Cape Verde Islands. So, there will be a lot of storm tracking in the coming weeks. Our favorite September past-time in New Orleans. Hopefully, we won’t have to evacuate at any time in the coming weeks…and come to think of it, the freezer is a little on the full side, so maybe I should try working on getting that emptied out over the next few weeks–cooking things that are in there, at the very least, without refilling it until times are a little more settled. I’d hate to have to throw everything in there away again. That would completely suck.

Today marks seventeen year since that frantic morning we tried to be organized in our panic to leave while we still could; that day is etched in my memory even if the details are sketchy in my head. (To be fair, the memories and details were already difficult to remember in the days immediately thereafter, as I watched out lives wash away.) It looks like it may be a sunny day today without rain, at least it’s clear out there this morning. I also feel like I slept very well this morning, so we’ll see how the rest of it goes. I am going to have to make a to-do list, of course, and then make sure that everything that needs to be on it is, in fact, on it.

Last night, after we finished our work for the day, Paul and I settled in and binged W. Kamau Bell’s docuseries We Need to Talk About Cosby on HBO MAX. It was interesting, maybe one of the most interesting “artist vs. the art” conversations I’ve ever seen illustrated out in this manner. It’s certainly one of the most complex, and we as a society have had a lot of these discussions over the past decade…but it’s very easy to dismiss Roman Polanski’s art (I make the distinction of “art before the child rape” and “art after the child rape” with him, which clears both Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown for me, and I know it’s probably a deeply problematic differentiation) and contributions than it is to write off Bill Cosby’s and the cultural and societal change his career had on the country as a whole, not to mention, as the documentary pointed out, how The Cosby Show was dedicated to showing, every week, Black excellence on our television screens in a way that was rarely ever seen before–if at all. (We’ve been bingeing documentary series lately like they are going out of style, probably because they’re easier to follow for my exhausted and overheating brain at the end of the day than a series.)

Obviously, my heart goes out to his victims, but while my sympathies lie with them entirely, the question of the art–which meant so much to the Black community–does remain. I don’t know the answer to that question–whether it’s Cosby or Polanski or any of the other abusers who created great art. I see the points on both sides of the discussion/argument/debate. But if the point of a documentary is to get the viewer to reflect on the questions raised, Bell’s docuseries certainly succeeded. Highly recommended.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines for now. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Mabel Normand

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all is well–at least so far.

I ran errands last night on my way home from work so I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything today involving leaving the house, and I think I’ll go ahead and make groceries on-line today to pick up tomorrow; we don’t really need a lot of stuff but it must be done. There’s a part of me that feels incredibly lazy doing this for some reason–perhaps the more I do it, the less guilt I’ll feel about having someone else make my groceries for me. I guess that’s really what it is; getting used to a new service. I mean, even the Fresh Market will do this, too–but one of the things I like about the Fresh Market is, well, everything seems fresher than at the other groceries, and picking out fruit and vegetables isn’t something I am willing to trust to another person just yet. I like to see the fresh stuff I am buying and pick it (although I am still regretting not stopping at that roadside stand when I was on the North Shore last weekend and picking up some Creole tomatoes fresh from the field, especially since I’ve not seen any in stores since then).

It rained again most of the day, and of course we’re still under a flood warning through sometime tonight. There are two systems out there I’ve yet to check but probably will momentarily. It’s that time of year when we seem to be getting hit with a higher degree of frequency since Katrina–just before Labor Day–and I know there have been at least three more storms around this time that I can think of right off the top of my head (2008, 2012, and last year for sure). Well, I took a look and yes, there is still a system in the Caribbean near the Yucatan, and there’s another one developing in the eastern Atlantic (meaning there are now two out there) but at least we’re okay for now. Labor Day weekend, on the other hand, could be something else entirely. Last year’s Ida was more of a Labor Day thing, if I am remembering correctly, or at least its impact and aftermath lasted through Labor Day. (2021 is still kind of blurry for me.)

The sun is shining right now, and I rested really well last night. A good night’s sleep is always a pleasure on the weekends, of course, and I even allowed myself the indulgence of sleeping in a little later. I have some laundry to finish and a sink to clear in the kitchen, and some other casual cleaning up and household maintenance to take care of this morning before I dive back into the wonderful world of work. I did get Chapter One rewritten Thursday–still leaves something to be desired, but isn’t completely the shitty mess it was before–and I did get started revising Chapter Two, which is going to be trickier–and then I have to springboard into Chapter Three, which I still have to figure out. I also want to do some work on some other things I am working on (as always) and I want to dedicate some time to reading Gabino’s marvelous novel The Devil Takes You Home today and tomorrow. I’ve actually been better these last couple of weeks at not being completely exhausted when I get home, which has also enabled me to try, at some level, to keep up with the housework so I don’t have to spend the entire day today cleaning and organizing and filing–there will be some of that, of course, and I also have to spend some time revisiting older Scotty books; maybe one of the things I could do today is start working on the Scotty Bible? That would help me remember everything that’s going on in the family and refresh my brain about some other things (did I ever give Rain’s doctor husband a name, for one really strong example of bad memory) and of course it would never hurt to have all of that assembled in one place that is easily accessible. Heavy sigh.

We also are watching Bad Sisters on Apple TV, and am really enjoying it. It’s rather dark; it’s about five extremely close Irish sisters who lost their parents young and were all raised by the oldest sister, who now lives in the family home, is single and apparently unable to have children. One of the sisters is married to an emotionally abusive asshole named John Paul who apparently takes delight in torturing and being cruel not only to his wife but to her sisters. One decides he needs to die, and recruits the oldest to help her kill him…and then each episode details how another sister got involved in the plan. The show opens with his funeral, so we know they succeed at some point, but the story alternates between the past (the sisters slowly coming together to decide to kill The Prick, which is what they all call him) and the team of brothers who work for the insurance company who have to pay out the death claim. The brothers (half-brothers, actually; one is played by the same hot actor who played the escort Emma Thompson hires for sex in her most recent film, which we enjoyed and I can’t recall the name of now) don’t really get along either. The oldest is convinced John Paul was murdered, but the younger brother is really attracted to the youngest sister and they are starting to develop a romantic relationship. It’s quite cleverly written and plotted–and even before I was completely sold on the show, I realized I wanted to keep watching because I hated John Paul so much I wanted to see how they decided to kill him and how. But well into the second episode I had to confess to being hooked. I loved the dueling timelines (I have always been a sucker for stories that are told this way, both the past and the present, flashing back and forth; I’ve always wanted to do one that way, but it seems really hard. A good example of a crime novel using this technique is Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me), the writing is sharp, and the acting top notch. It also takes place in Ireland, with gorgeous cinematography. I’ll keep you posted as we continue to watch.

We also watched the latest episode of Five Days at Memorial, which was truly painful to watch. The first episodes didn’t really get to me, but episode five–the fifth day, when the decision was made that everyone had to be out of the hospital and whoever couldn’t get out would be left behind regardless of the consequences, was absolutely wrenching in a way the previous episodes had not been. My Katrina scars are as nothing compared to what a lot of other people experienced: I survived, I was able to get out before the storm arrived, and my scars, while still from loss, are from bearing witness by watching television and witnessing what I saw when I finally came home in October, as well as living in a nearly-empty, 90% destroyed city after my return. (Last year, when we trapped here as Ida came in, was bad enough; I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been to have been stuck here praying for someone to come rescue us. At least we were able, and had the means, to finally get out when we ran out of food and water.)

I’ve also found myself thinking a lot about my Katrina writing these last couple of days–my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”; my short stories “Disaster Relief” and “Annunciation Shotgun” and “Survivor’s Guilt”; and of course, Murder in the Rue Chartres. I was thinking about this book last night–partly because of watching Five Days at Memorial, because it reminded me that Rue Chartres wasn’t supposed to be the third Chanse book at all. The third Chanse book was supposed to be something else altogether, but obviously in the wake of Hurricane Katrina my plans for both the Chanse and Scotty series had to dramatically shift and change. Seventeen years ago was a Saturday, the Saturday we nervously watched the storm, having now crossed south Florida and entered the Gulf, intensifying and growing and taking aim directly at New Orleans. We decided to not leave just yet; every other time a hurricane had threatened the city after we moved here we watched and waited patiently, and were rewarded with the storm turning east before coming ashore and the city avoiding a direct hit. We never lost phone, cable or power during those other instances–we were nervous, still reassuring ourselves of the turn to the east before landfall but the reality that we would have to leave was becoming more and more real. It’s odd that this year the dates all on the same day they fell back in 2005, so it’s a reflective anniversary that mirrors the actual weekend it happened. I’m debating whether I want to watch the new documentary on HBO MAX, Katrina Babies–that might be definitely too much for me to handle. (I’m still surprised that we’re able to–and were willing to–watch Five Days at Memorial, to be honest.)

At least I know Paul won’t be shaking me awake tomorrow morning at eight saying, Honey, we need to go.

OH! I didn’t tell you. Yesterday my other glasses I ordered from Zenni arrived–the red frames and the purple frames, and I absolutely love them. I don’t think I need to order any more pairs, to be honest, but it’s so cool to have them! And to have options now. I never ever thought of glasses as anything other than utilitarian, to be honest; I needed them to work and that was all I cared about, and I also thought they were too expensive to treat as part of a “look” or to be more style conscious…but Zenni is so inexpensive; the three pairs I got are all cheaper than the pair I got with my eye exam, and using my insurance. Had I saved my insurance for use on Zenni, they would have been even cheaper.

Life. CHANGED.

And on that note, I am going to make some more coffee and dive back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Belle Fleur

Wednesday and the middle of the week and the countdown to Bouchercon continues. I think we leave two weeks from today? I booked my parking at the airport for the trip reservation yesterday, so it’s starting to feel like it’s actually going to happen. I am looking forward to this trip–I can’t believe I’ve not seen some friends since 2018–even though it’s going to be completely and totally exhausting. We have to change planes in Chicago both directions (because that always makes trips more relaxing and less stressful, you know) and then of course there’s the to-and-fro with the airport up there and…no, I am going to focus on the fun aspects of the trip rather than the hassles and irritations that come with traveling (I am also in denial over my usual travel insomnia).

Yesterday was okay. I got tired right around lunch time, and ran my errands on the way home (I did, however, cut one errand out that will have to be run today after work). By the time I got home, my mind wasn’t in a focused place, so rather than trying to read anything I did chores–laundry, dishes, straightening up, filing–and when Paul got home we watched the finale of Only Murders in the Building, which was fun, and the final episode of that Woodstock 99 documentary we’d been watching whose title I can’t recall at the moment (we enjoyed it so much we might actually watch the documentaries about the other shitshow festival, Fyre) but it was enjoyable before we retired for the evening. And it was really nice getting up to a relatively clean kitchen this morning. Hopefully, tonight I’ll have the energy to do the floors before doing some reading and writing.

I realized last night the reason I’ve been so reluctant to go back and revise these first two chapters of Scotty (as well as fix the problems in the four chapters of the other book) has been primarily because I intellectually know that they are terrible and need a lot of work, and I haven’t really been in the mood to examine just how terrible of a writer I can be (hush, you there in the back) when I writing a first draft and the story is still gestating in my head. I also keep defaulting to Mississippi River Bottom as the title of this book, which it’s not–it’s Mississippi River Mischief. Mississippi River Bottom was the working title for Jackson Square Jazz, and that flashed back into my head this morning as I referred to the book as “bottom” rather than “mischief.” In JSJ, Scotty meets the young figure skater at a seedy gay strip club–which I dubbed “the Brass Rail”, and I’ve used ever since as a stand-in whenever I need a seedy gay strip club for either Scotty or Chanse or a short story or anything I am writing where I need a seedy gay strip club. Most people assume “the Brass Rail” is the Corner Pocket, but it wasn’t originally. There used to be a seedy gay strip club in the lower Quarter–I don’t remember exactly where it was–called MRB’s, that had a stage AND a pole, should one of their dancers be so inclined. When I was new to New Orleans, I asked someone what MRB’s stood for, and they replied, “Mississippi River Bottom”–which amused me to no end; what a perfect name for a seedy club! It wasn’t until later that I learned it actually stood for Mr. Boudreaux’, which makes more sense…but in my heart I always kept thinking “it’s Mississippi River Bottom”, and when it came time to write the second Scotty. I decided to use that as a title. My publisher didn’t like it and suggested I do something alliterative, to mirror the first, which is how the Scotty titles began. Most of the book centered on the Cabildo fire on Jackson Square, so Jackson Square Jazz made sense to me as a title, and the publisher loved it. I’ve kept using the Brass Rail since then–it played a pivotal role in Royal Street Reveillon–and it’s going to appear in the new Scotty as well. Continuity alert! When the Brass Rail made its first appearance in my fiction, like MRB’s, it was located in the lower Quarter…however, whenever I’ve used it since it migrated to the Upper Quarter; which, of course, is always possible–businesses in New Orleans change locations quite frequently, and certainly much more frequently than anyone might think. It’s going to remain one of those unremarked-upon continuity errors in the series–why bore the reader by trying to come up with a backstory for the change in location, especially when no one has even noticed?

*eye roll to infinity*

I’m also thinking a lot about the book lately. I have some odds and ends I really need to clear up this week, but I also have been thinking about the book and what its story should be and how to make it all make sense. One of the great stressors of my life is not being able to write as often as I would like; my spare time is becoming more and more limited, and there’s always something else I need to do–that has nothing to do with my writing, which I resent, and I am growing more and more resentful of the time I spend doing things besides writing, which isn’t a good thing.

And on that note, I need to make a to-do list, I need to start getting things done and cleared off my itinerary, so I am going to head into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely day, okay?

Starshine

Tuesday morning and I am awake, swilling my coffee and trying to think of what all needs to be done this evening when I get home from work. The weekend wasn’t nearly as productive as I would have liked…but it was also my birthday weekend so I am cutting myself some slack here (I know, it’s like I don’t even know myself anymore). I slept well last night, which is lovely, and am feeling awake this morning and not in the least groggy; I could easily go back to bed (which was enormously comfortable this morning) and sleep for a few more hours, but this morning that’s simply not in the cards. I have to get ready for the spice mines here in a moment, but I am just going to sit here and enjoy my coffee for another moment or two here before getting going. My coffee tastes rather good this morning, always a nice sign that it’s hitting the spot, and who knows what this day will bring? I am hoping for the best, as always; a smooth easy day at the office where things go the way they are supposed to, and then a stop on the way home to get some incidentals at the Fresh Market. The office space is a bit of a mess, but hopefully it won’t take long for that to get rectified.

I am also at a crossroads with a couple of projects, where I am trying to resist the urge to go back and fix what I’ve already done so I can move on with the next chapters. I think I am going to have to just go back and fix those chapters because, at least with the Scotty, it’s definitely keeping me from moving into the next chapter. The opening of this book has to be just right, or else the rest of the book will not work. And maybe–just maybe–I should go ahead and do the prologue, which is usually one of the last things I write (primarily because I am having trouble right now giving backstory in the first two chapters which is kind of necessary–since the prologue isn’t written–but I also need to know how I do the backstory so I know how much (or how little) to say in the text of the novel itself. I was having a bit of despair over the weekend over the state of the book, but just talking it through here this morning is helping clear things up in my head a bit–you see how that works? This is one of the reasons I always say the blog is really, at its most basic, intended for me to talk about things and my life and talk them through and maybe get some clarity in my brain once it’s talked through.

Ugh, August in New Orleans. I don’t know if it actually does get nastier, weather-wise, here in August or if it’s just being tired of the excessive heat going on months now. It rained again yesterday and overnight, and literally walking outside the air is so hot, damp, and heavy it feels like sitting in a steam room. Just stepping out the front door sucks the energy and spirit right out of you. I did manage to run my errands yesterday successfully–I skipped a couple of the errands, like returning the library books and stopping by Fresh Market, which I pushed off till today for after work which I will undoubtedly regret when I get off work and it’s rush hour traffic as I drive uptown on Claiborne Avenue–but it is what it is, and really, yesterday I wasn’t in the mood to run all over New Orleans in the rain and/or the heat/humidity and said fuck it, tomorrow at least I’ll already be out of the house.

Probably not the smartest or best reason to make a decision about running errands, but don’t judge me until you’ve lived here through a summer.

But it’s Tuesday morning and time to go back into the office and handling my patients again, which is a pleasure; I honestly enjoy interacting with my clients, in all honesty, and while it’s not the same as it used to be back in the olden days, I still like to believe I am making a difference in their lives, helping them reduce their risks of getting an STI.

We started watching a documentary about Woodstock 1999–a shitshow if there ever was one; and of course, knowing what’s going to happen makes watching the episode about the planning and the first day and the bright and high-minded mentality of those who organized it (I forgot there had been one in 1994, also a shit show but everyone wasn’t on the Internet yet so it didn’t get as much exposure as 1999 did)–the mentalities of young people in 1999 were significantly different than those they had in 1969; the world, the culture, society and civilization were dramatically altered and changed during that thirty year period. To me at the time, I just remember thinking this is some nostalgia that needs to remain nostalgia–kids nowadays aren’t about tearing down the Establishment and peace and love and harmony anymore; all you have to do is watch MTV’s programming to see this is going to draw that spring-break, party party party fratboy mentality and that is a completely different vibe than 1969. I inevitably was proven correct, but we only got through the first two episodes last night and there’s one left–which is the “all hell breaks loose” episode.

(Writing this reminded me to check the Hurricane Center. There’s still a system out there in the eastern Atlantic, but still not anything to be concerned about. Late August is always a tricky, stressful time for hurricane season–partly because of the Katrina anniversary, but we’ve also had at least three other hurricanes right before Labor Day since then as well, including last year’s delight, Ida.)

I did read some more of Gabino’s book, but it’s so powerful and well-written that the pain and suffering literally comes alive viscerally on the page, and I literally can only take a chapter or so at a time before it gets so intense I have to put it down. The book is brilliant and sad and wise and heartbreaking, and I can’t help but think things for the main character are going to continue to get worse. I think this is probably going to be one of the best books of the year–the writing is gorgeous yet raw as an exposed nerve at the same time–but it’s probably going to take me longer to read it than usual.

And on THAT note, I should probably head into the spice mines and start getting ready for work. May your Tuesday be as joyous as it possibly can, Constant Reader.

24 Karat Gold

Sixty-one and a day. It feels no different that sixty-one, of sixty and three hundred sixty-four days, or that matter. I had a lovely day yesterday–I must carve out some time today to thank people for all the lovely birthday wishes all over social media yesterday, which is always nice. I spent most of the day off-line, as I intended; I wanted to actually have a complete day off from everything, and it was lovely. I finished (finally) my book yesterday morning, and started Gabino Iglesias’ latest The Devil Takes You Home, which is superb. Gabino manages, somehow, to find terrible beauty in despair, and the first chapter is like a sucker-punch to the soul. I finished watching a documentary about post-war British cinema, Reel Brittania (it’s really good) and then we watched a whole lot of other things the rest of the day–the eleventh episode of The Sandman, which adapted two stand-alone stories from the comics run (“Dream of a Thousand Cats” was my favorite of the two, but “Calliope” was also incredible; seriously, The Sandman comic was one of a kind)–and watched some other things, gradually making our way to season two of Outlaws, which I don’t think is as good as the first season but it’s still fun to watch.

I am, however, looking forward to House of the Dragon dropping tonight, though.

It rained yesterday most of the day-some lovely thunderstorms added into the all-day rain for variety–which made it even more lovelier to stay home in my easy chair with a blanket tucked carefully in around me while I read my books and watched the television. It was really relaxing, which is what I wanted more than anything else in all honesty–a day where I could simply just completely unplug and let every part of me rest. It’s generally not a bad idea for me to do this with one day of every weekend–inevitably it falls on Saturday so I can spend the entire day watching college football (GEAUX TIGERS!)–but I am also going to need to take some time to go exploring around the outer edges of New Orleans; I was thinking the other day that I’d like to drive up the River Road, along the levee–the map can’t really give me the answer I need–and I also need to go explore the river and bayou parishes, to get a better idea of what they are like and what they look like and so on and so forth for this Scotty book.

I am probably going to spend today cleaning, revising and reading. I had thought I couldn’t actually spend the entire day sedentary yesterday and would inevitably get up to do some cleaning–because it bugs me, for one thing, when the house isn’t as tidy as it could and should be–but surprise! I guess having COVID did teach me one thing: that I don’t always have to be doing something and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing nothing, if that’s what I want to do. Usually, when I spend an entire day doing as little as I did yesterday I inevitably feel guilty the following day about the loss of time (that whole you’re not getting any younger, Greg thing that constantly runs through my head) but maybe I am starting to mature enough as I realize gradually that I will never be able to write everything that I want to write, or read everything that I want to read. I don’t always have to be working, and relaxation and rest is essential for my mental health, particularly as I get older (the inside of my head is a very intense and scary place, trust me on this, Constant Reader).

But…I am now sixty-one, and that much closer to retiring from the day job. I am trying not to think about retirement with a lot of hope and longing; sixty-five will get here soon enough, and I would like to make some good use of the four years between now and then. So, I am going to bring this to a close, Constant Reader, and start the process of cleaning and organizing so I can start the editing/writing process for the day.

And I will talk to you soon, Constant Reader. May you have a lovely Sunday.

Cheaper Than Free

Friday and my last day as a sixty year old.

I am working at home today, which is kind of nice. I do have an errand to run this morning–or rather, on my lunch break–but have lots of data to enter and so forth, so I will be ensconced in the home workspace for most of the day. I am also laundering the bed linens–an every Friday chore–and have some odds and ends to clean up around here. I am going to try to get the chores done today so I don’t have to do a damned thing tomorrow; I think I’m allowed on my birthday to take an entire day off–not wash a dish or do any laundry or run any errands or do anything I don’t want to do. I want to spend all day tomorrow reading and relaxing and just chilling out; that’s my favorite kind of birthday. Paul is going to get us Chinese food for a birthday dinner treat, which we haven’t had in an extremely long time..one of my favorite things to do whenever I go to New York is to get good Chinese food. (I know it’s Americanized, don’t @ me.)

I was tired yesterday, the usual Thursday “I’ve gotten up at six a.m. four mornings in a row” thing more than anything else. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have hoped, but as I said, I felt tired all day–both body and brain fatigue–so when I got home from work yesterday I just kind of allowed myself the evening off. I finished rereading the first two Sandman graphic novels–Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House–which the first season of the show covered, and they were just as marvelous and well-done as I remembered. Hopefully, this weekend I will be able to get back into reading–which is my entire plan for my birthday; I want to finish reading the book I started two weeks (!!!) ago, and move on to the next book on my list. Sunday I will write and edit; and then of course Monday is another work-at-home day as August slowly but surely slides back into September. Whew. At some point–Sunday, most likely–I will need to run some errands, but I’m not going to worry about that today…although I do need to update ye Olde To-Do List.

Last night we couldn’t decide what to watch. I started watching a documentary series about British cinema while I was waiting for Paul to finish working, and when he came downstairs we just started chatting while the documentary continued streaming–and when it got to the part about James Bond, Paul remembered seeing something about the young woman who played Rosie Carver, the first Black Bond girl (who also turned out to be a double agent) and as we chatted, we both confessed that we had a special soft spot for that Bond film (Live and Let Die), which led to me remembering that watching that movie (the first Bond I saw in the theater, and why Roger Moore was always my favorite Bond–although I’ve really come to appreciate Connery’s a lot more and of course, DANIEL CRAIG) and I said, “I bet that movie doesn’t hold up anymore–I watched it a couple of years ago while making condom packs and I was a little surprised at how racist it actually was; why don’t we watch it again and see what we think?” I had also read the book when I was a teenager–very very little in common with the film, I might add–and had reread it sometime in the last decade and, like rewatching the film, more than a little taken aback about how racist it was. (Live and Let Die will probably be an essay I’ll write at some point, both book and movie.) There are some funny moments in the movie–Moore had a much lighter take on Bond than Connery, and the switch in actors resulted in a dramatic switch in tone for the films–and it’s highly entertaining…but yes, it definitely traffics in the worst 70’s stereotypes of Black people and the voodoo aspects of the story on the fictional island of San Monique are pretty bad, as well. Live and Let Die was also filmed and released during the “blaxploitation” period of film, which saw movies like Superfly, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Cleopatra Jones, Shaft, and Coffy being made and released–the time when the incredibly marvelous Pam Grier’s career took off. Was it an attempt to be relevant and possibly try to reach the audience for blaxploitation movies? Probably, but one of the few things that carried over from the book to the movie was that the villains were Black.

And yes, when we finished watching we agreed that the depiction of Black characters were, at the very least, problematic. The movie does have one of the best theme songs of the entire series of films, though (probably the best song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded, for that matter).

I had always kind of envisioned Colin from the Scotty books as a kind of cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones–one of the reasons I originally decided to never really talk about what Colin was doing when he wasn’t in New Orleans is yes, even back then I was thinking about spinning Colin off into his own action/adventure series before realizing can you write an action/adventure novel, Greg? I still would like to try–part of the reason my career is so strange and all-over-the-place is me trying new things to see if I could actually, you know, do it–but action has always been difficult for me to write (and now that little voice in my head is saying which is precisely why you should try to write one, jackass) and of course, an international intrigue plot would require a lot more planning than what I am used to doing. I might still do it, you never know–I have a plot in mind that involves the 4th Crusade and the sack of Constantinople; one that’s been in my mind now for several decades–but there are so many things I want to write, and time is running out…

Which, of course, is why I think I’m lazy and am taken aback when people say I’m prolific. My novels and short stories published are maybe about a fifth (if that much) of all the ideas I’ve had or things that are in some sort of progress; that’s what I think about when someone calls me prolific–the files and files of incomplete stories and ideas and characters and scenes languishing on the back burner and collecting dust.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Greg’s Birthday Eve, everyone!

Hard Advice

And now it’s Thursday, my last day in the office until Tuesday (I scheduled my work at home days to bracket my birthday weekend, so I don’t have to shower or get dressed if I don’t want to). Yes, probably more information than you ever wanted or needed from me, but live with it–it’s my birthday this week!

Which is funny, really; I really don’t care that much about my birthdays. My parents never made a big deal out of birthdays and while it was always nice to get presents, I never really thought of it as “my day” or “MY DAY” (as some people insist). It’s the anniversary of the day I was born, and an arbitrary marker of my age. I inevitably add a year to my age once the first of the year rolls around, anyway, and I generally don’t run around reminding co-workers or hinting to Paul for gifts or what I want to do or anything like that. I prefer there not to be a fuss–Facebook and other social media will be lovely on my birthday, of course, as lots of people will wish my a happy day and all of those lovely thoughts–and will probably spend the day at home, trying not to do anything. That, to me, is the perfect birthday–no stress, no emails, no writing, no pressure on myself, and no need to do anything other than what I want to do, which is get up in the morning and swill coffee while writing my blog entry for the day (I’ve actually already started the entry, for the record; I do that sometimes) and then retiring to my easy chair to finish reading my book and maybe even move on to the next in the TBR pile.

I might clean, though. I actually enjoy that, especially if I have nothing else to do–and as I said, I am taking my birthday off completely.

I finished the second chapter of the new Scotty last night. It’s terrible–oh, Lord, how terrible is it? It’s kind of scary how bad it actually is, and how bad I can write when I am trying to start something new–and last night, as I sat in my easy chair while we finished watching I Just Killed My Dad–what a sad, strange case; it was interesting to watch, and such a strange case; how do you decide in such a case what is justice?–I started thinking about tweaking those first two chapters before I can move on to the next one. On the one hand, there are sloppy messes, but on the other hand, isn’t that what the next drat is for, or the one after that? I’m not entirely certain, though, how to start Chapter Three, so maybe it’s not the worst idea in the world to go ahead and revise them, get them into better shape, and maybe that will help me roll into the next chapter. I am excited to be writing another Scotty book–excited to be writing another book of any kind, really–and for the first time since probably the start of the pandemic, I am sort of feeling like myself for the first time in a very very long time, which is kind of cool. I wasn’t tired again when I got home from work last night, and I feel like I slept pretty decently again last night, too. Could I have stayed in bed for another hour or two? Of course I could have, but I am conscious, not feeling groggy or physically tired, and my coffee is definitely hitting the spot this morning. I don’t know if that means I have finally gotten used to this schedule or not, but I am not going to question it and am going to roll with it.

Tomorrow of course is a work-at-home day and I have an enormous stack of work that I’ve brought home for me to get through tomorrow and Monday. At some point, I suppose we are going to lose our one day at home per week, and it’s going to feel really strange for me to have to actually head into the office again Monday through Friday, which will require even more adjustments for me. Heavy sigh. As soon as I get used to something…never fails, right?

It’s also hard to believe that Bouchercon is actually coming up–it’s only a couple of weeks now before Paul and I will be heading for the airport, changing planes at Chicago Midway, and arriving in Minneapolis for a short stay where I will be on the run almost from the very beginning. I started putting together my schedule for the weekend–I have four panels (!) and a signing; a publisher party to attend and several meetings and happy hours and so forth with other groups–so needless to say, I will most likely be extremely exhausted when we fly home that Sunday. But I will also hopefully feel invigorated and recharged and like a writer again, a member of the publishing community, which is always absolutely lovely. I’m really not happy when I don’t feel like a writer; it’s so much a part of my identity that not being around other writers or talking about writing or getting feedback on my work helps trigger Imposter Syndrome, which is something I utterly loathe and despise because it leads to depression and imbalances my mind. I am very excited to be going back to Bouchercon; I’ve not been since 2018 because I had to cancel Dallas the week of because I got sick–inner ear infection prohibiting flying–but had I known it would be another three years before I’d get to go again, I would have driven to Dallas.

Ah, hindsight.

And on that note, I am going to swill down some more coffee and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.