Everything’s Gone Green

My memory has truly become amazingly awful and limited as I grow older. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me just how bad it’s become–and how rarely I follow through on plans I make.

I started writing about Kansas when I was a teenager living in Kansas, and I wrote a long, messy manuscript by hand that was essentially a kind of Peyton Place tip-off, with tons of characters and plots and subplots that meandered about and never really had one cohesive central story. Over the years since that handwritten, almost a thousand page first draft was finished, I came to the realization that as a single novel itself I would need to cut out a minimum of fifty percent of the characters and even more of the subplots while tightening it into one cohesive story. The name of the town changed multiple times, as did the names of the some of the characters, while others remained the same from beginning to end. I had no idea at the time of how to write a novel, or how to structure one…but since it already existed, I began mining it for other novels and short stories, pilfering names and subplots and so forth (the murder story in Murder in the Garden District, and the Sheehan family in the book, were directly lifted from this old manuscript; I changed the family name from Craddock to Sheehan). My young adult novel, Sara, also had a lot of story lifted from this same old manuscript–even characters’ names–so when I started building this iteration of what I’ve taken to calling “the Kansas book” over the years, I knew it was possible I was repeating names from the old original, and at some point I would have to check Sara at some point to get the character names from it, to not repeat them. The Kansas book was also intended to be set in the same world as Sara–Sara being primarily set in the county and the small grouping of three small towns consolidated into one high school; with this book set in the county seat, the small city/large town I called Kahola. Kahola never really sat well with me for the town name; it’s perfectly fine for the name of the county as well as the lake (there actually is a Lake Kahola; it’s where we went when I lived there and “went to the lake”), so I decided to change it to Liberty Center (which I got from Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, so it’s also an homage) and Sara geography be damned. So, yesterday while the Saints played terribly and ended their season (and possibly Drew Brees’ career), I was scanning though the ebook of Sara and pulling out character names–even minor ones– as well as place names and so forth.

I am very pleased to report that there is only one character name that traveled from the original manuscript to Sara and finally into this new iteration of the Kansas book, and obviously that needs to be changed. I am not willing to change the name of the county seat back to Kahola; it never really seemed to fit, and Liberty Center works much better on every level, but I can change the name of the character in #shedeservedit to avoid confusion…not that there would be much, since Sara is my lowest selling book for some reason I certainly don’t get, but it would unsettle me, so it cannot be. As I was pulling names out of the ebook, and place names and places of interest, I also began remembering other things.

I had originally intended for all of my young adult novels to be connected in some way, kind of how R. L. Stine had done his Fear Street series, where all of the books take place in the same town and high school, and a minor character in one would become the hero of another. I was reminded of this because Laura Pryce is mentioned by name in Sara; she was the protagonist of Sorceress, and she was from the same rural part of Kahola County and went to the same consolidated high school. Sorceress tells the story of how Laura goes to live with her aunt in a huge house outside the California mountain town of Woodbridge; Woodbridge is also the setting for Sleeping Angel, and characters overlapped from Sorceress to Sleeping Angel. The Chicago suburb in Sara where Glenn is from is the same suburb that the main character in Lake Thirteen was from; it is the same suburb where Jake’s father, stepmother, and half-siblings live in Bury Me in Shadows; and of course, this latter is set in Corinth County, Alabama–which is where my main character in Dark Tide was also from. As I was picking out the character and place names from Sara, I was also reminded of other books I’d wanted to write, and I had introduced some of these characters in this book intending to revisit them again at another time in another book or story–books and stories I have since forgotten about completely, and yet there are the characters, crying out to me from my Kindle app for me to write about them.

Having triggered my brain into the creative mode yesterday by doing this chore during the Saints game (I started during the men’s finals at the US Figure Skating Championships; congratulations to our world team o Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Jason Brown) I also began remembering other things I was working on–like “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “To Sacrifice a Pawn,” two stories I started for a submissions call I didn’t manage to make; or some of my pandemic story ideas (inspired by the pandemic or during it) like “The Flagellants”, “The Arrow in the Cardinal’s Cap”, and “The Pestilence Maiden”; amongst so many, many others. This is why I despair of ever writing everything I want to write during the limited time I have on this earth; I could spend the rest of my life trying to write every story and novel idea I already have and would never be able to finish them all.–and I have new ideas, all of the time; it’s almost ridiculous.

I already know I am most likely going to revisit Corinth County in Alabama again–it’s basically where my already-in-progress novellas “Fireflies” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” are set, amongst many other ideas for short stories, novellas, and novels. I will undoubtedly return to Liberty Center at some point as well; I have ideas for other Kansas books and stories, too; I’ve revisited Kahola County, Kansas in my short stories numerous times already as well. I’ve also got my own parish in Louisiana–Redemption Parish, which I wrote about in Murder in the Arts District, The Orion Mask, and some other short stories. I’ve also already invented a fictional town on the north shore–similar to Hammond–that showed up in Baton Rouge Bingo and will undoubtedly turn up again in my work, although perhaps not under my own name.

I spent some more time with Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and am thoroughly enjoying the ride. King’s authorial voice is so strong (and reminiscent of the late great Elizabeth Peters) that I cannot wait to read more of the Mary Russell series–it’s so different from her Kate Martinelli series, which I also love–and intend to spend some more time with it this morning with my coffee as well; I see a new tradition for non-working days developing; reading with my coffee in the mornings, which is simply wonderful. I recently acquired Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching, which I am also looking forward to, and I have added both Stephen King’s The Stand and Faulkner’s Sanctuary to the reread pile…and I’d also like to get back to the Short Story Project at some point….and of course there are all those ebooks piled up in my Kindle as well.

We also spent last evening after the Saints’ loss getting caught up on The Stand, which I am enjoying, although it’s made some choices I find questionable. I’m okay with everything having to do with the plague and the characters making their way to either Boulder or Las Vegas being done entirely in flashback, but the focus on the character of Harold Lauder–whom, while important to the story, was at best a supporting character in the novel and the original mini-series–is an interesting choice. They’ve certainly spent more time with him than they have with any of the people who were the novel’s protagonists–Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie–so the focus of the mini-series seems a bit off to me….but props to them for casting the delightful Alexander Skarsgard as Flagg; his beauty and charisma–so evident as Eric on True Blood–playing perfectly into the role of the dark leader of the other side. Over all, the series is well done and well cast (Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail doesn’t quite work for me; in the book she was old and frail and Whoopi is many things but frail is not one of them; I’d have gone with Cicely Tyson or any of the other gifted Black actresses who are older now) and I am a bit more forgiving than most when it comes to adaptations, I think–especially since the key part of the word is adapt. (I saw some more Hardy Boys enthusiasts bitching about the Hulu series somewhere again yesterday; honestly–I really have to center a book and a mystery around a kids’ series’ overly enthusiastic fans) We still have the rest of the first season of Bridgerton to watch, and season two of Servant has dropped on Apple Plus–do NOT sleep on this creepy-as-fuck show; you will not regret it–and I am also anticipating the release of Apple Plus’ adaptation of Foundation, starring Jared Harris, and we’ve also got a second season of The Terror somewhere to watch, and the second season of Mr. Mercedes on Peacock as well…so we seem to be set for things to watch for a good while.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Today is going to be mostly spent reading Laurie King this morning, and then the rest of the day spent with my manuscript as I try to work out the kinks and figure out what else needs to go into it. Have a happy holiday Monday, and do try to remember Dr. King’s message of equality, unity, and freedom for all.

Superheated

And now it is Sunday in the Lost Apartment. I trust everyone had a most lovely and delightful Saturday? I did; I spent most of it cleaning and reading and watching figure skating and making groceries and running errands and doing all sorts of things that didn’t involve writing. I’m not entirely sure again why I am avoiding writing–yesterday methinks it was primarily due to the hangover of the final push to finish the short story, as well as trying to purge it out of my brain. Part of the joy of being a writer apparently is the absolute guarantee of self-doubt and second guessing everything once you’ve turned the story/manuscript in. I spent way too much time yesterday wondering “maybe I should have done this” and “maybe I should have done that” and on and on it goes–with the occasional second thoughts about the novel I turned in two weeks ago as well. Enormously lovely, you see.

But the figure skating was fun to watch, as always, and congratulations to our national champions (the men’s title will be decided today, with Nathan Chen most likely becoming the first US man to win five consecutive national titles in a row since Dick Button’s post-war dominance, winning seven in a row and two Olympic gold medals (a feat unparalleled until Japan’s Yuzuru Honyu won the last two Olympics). It’s also interesting to me how strong the United States has become in the ice dancing discipline this century, after decades of not being up to international snuff. The Saints also are playing today in the play-offs; playing Tampa Bay and Tom Brady for the third time and hoping to pull off the hat trick.

Today is going to be mostly spent reading and cleaning, methinks; I need to focus on my reread of the Kansas book manuscript and make some decisions about where it’s going to go, how to clean it up, what can be kept and what can be discarded. The manuscript currently sits somewhere around 75000 words, give or take; I need to add some more to it while taking other stuff out; strengthening some bits while underplaying others. I am also still greatly enjoying Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and am looking forward to spending some more time with Mary Russell…although I must confess that I am going to have to be very careful with reading more Sherlockian fiction, whether it’s actually Conan Doyle’s or pastiches, because revisiting the Sherlockian universe makes me want to write some more about my own Sherlockian universe. The period of time in New Orleans history where I have put my Holmes has already been written about by David Fulmer, in his series beginning with Jass, and I may have to revisit those novels–it’s been a long time since I read them, and I also remember enjoying them. Anyway, I am digressing, as always, from the original point: writing that Sherlock story has given me the bug to write about him some more, and as usual, I am thinking not only in terms of a short story but of a novel as well…with the full knowledge that actually Sherlockians will undoubtedly see my own feeble attempts as an abomination and heresy.

I’ve also been reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln in dribs and drabs. I am enjoying it, but the lovely thing about Vidal’s writing is it isn’t like reading a thriller or a good mystery; you can put it down at any point and walk away from it, not missing it until you pick it up again. I am a fan of Vidal’s, even though he seems as though he would have been a horrible person to know–a snob both intellectually as well as in terms of class–but he also was fiercely intelligent and witty, and he looked at the United States with a jaundiced, unsentimental eye. I don’t think I’ve really read much about Lincoln as an adult–I of course read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals back in the day, but don’t really remember much about it. Yesterday I also started reading through my copy of The Black Death by Phillip Ziegler–I have a vague idea for a murder mystery, most likely a short story, set during the plague years in Florence; I don’t think there is much modern fiction set during that time, so of course I am interested in it. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year reading plague histories and fictions (yet somehow not rereading Stephen King’s The Stand) and I still would like to get back to my story “The Flagellants,” which I was having a lot of fun with last spring.

I’m also seeing conversations on-line about whether authors should include the pandemic in their fictions or not, which seems kind of counter-intuitive; did New York writers pretend 9/11 didn’t happen? Did New Orleans writers pretend Katrina was a near-miss? In both cases the answer is no. You may not want to write fiction set during the pandemic, but we cannot pretend the pandemic didn’t happen–particularly since it’s on-going. It’s hard to write about something–even harder to read about it–when you are still in the midst of it because you don’t know how it’s going to end. By the time I started writing Murder in the Rue Chartres it was already apparent New Orleans was going to come back from the flood, even if what the new city would look like was still being debated, was still uncertain, and up in the air. I’ve never written about Scotty’s experiences with Katrina, rather choosing to pick up his story several years later with the flood, the evacuation and everything else entailed in the destruction of 90% of the city in the rearview mirror. I get that readers might not want to read about and relive this past year plus; but I don’t see how you can write honestly about an America where it never happened. The last four years of this administration–including the sack of the Capitol–also cannot be entirely ignored either. So what to do? I suspect history isn’t going to be terribly kind to the insurrectionists nor the anti-maskers (deservedly so), particularly since they are the ones who politicized public health and safety because they believed the Mammon they’ve worshipped like a cult for so long; their own golden calf, as it were–despite all the warnings in their Bible. Ah, the dilemmas we modern writers face!

I do sometimes wonder if writers during the Civil War wondered if they should write about the war or not in their work.

And on that note, tis time for me to start mining spice here on Kessel, so it’s off into the mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

Guilt is a Useless Emotion

Saturday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment. I certainly hope this day finds you contented and well, Constant Reader! I slept deeply and well last night, after watching the LSU Gymnastics team defeat Arkansas, and then watching the ladies’ figure skating finals at US Nationals. It was a lovely evening–one can never go wrong with a double feature of gymnastics and figure sating, really–and as I said, afterwards I slept like a stone.

I also spend some time polishing and revising my short story for the MWA anthology Crime Hits Home, being edited by the enormously talented S. J. Rozan (if you’ve not read her novels, start. Right. Now. Her Winter and Night is one of my all-time favorites). As always, submitting to the open call for an MWA anthology is a long shot–there are levels of blind-reads to make it through–and I have as yet to make it into one of the fiction anthologies (I do have a piece about writing dialogue in the upcoming Mystery Writer’s Handbook, edited by Lee Child and Laurie R King, and I did have a recipe in the MWA Cookbook a while back) so keep your fingers crossed for me. Inevitably everything I’ve had rejected by an MWA anthology has sold elsewhere, so making myself write a story for the submission calls has always wound up working out for me in the end…I was, however, more than a little bummed when this call came out, because my story “The Carriage House” was perfect for this one….but I had already submitted it to Mystery Tribune (who did wind up buying and publishing it). I think the story is good–although I wish I had finished the drafting sooner, so I could have spent more time on the revisions and polishing. Ah, well–if they reject it I will try to sell it somewhere else.

Today I have to make groceries, get the mail, and go to the gym. I’ve blown off the gym pretty much ever since the weather turned cold last weekend–the stress and pressure of writing the story, as well as what was going on in the country over the last wee or so has precluded any writing or gym visits, which I should have never allowed. I was coming home from work every day and immediately turning on either CNN or MSNBC, being sucked right in and then spending the rest of the evening watching them report the same news, hour after hour after hour–which also needs to stop–and I need to get my focus back again. Not that I am not gravely concerned about the future of the country, of course–that I very much still am–but I need to focus on what I need to get done while paying some attention to the current crisis.

I also need to do some cleaning around here as well…cleaning and filing never seems to have an endpoint, ever–and I also need to get back to my reread of the manuscript. I should have started revising it last week…but a thorough reread/copy edit/line edit of the manuscript in its most recent iteration is probably really the smart thing to do; it was what worked so well with Bury Me in Shadows, and definitely need to stick to the things that actually work for me.

While I was making condom packs yesterday I managed to watch three films: Farewell My Lovely with Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe; The Fog with Jamie Lee Curtis and Adrienne Barbeau; and last but not least, a revisit of Creepshow 2, with assorted stars, including George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour. The first definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival–you don’t get more cynical than the film version of a Chandler novel–and the other two are holdovers from the Halloween Horror Film Festival, with the last also fitting into the Stephen King Film Adaptation Festival. Of the three, I had only see the third before; I actually saw it at the drive-in, and then again on what used to be the pay-cable movie channels, whether it was HBO or Cinemax or Showtime I cannot recall. Farewell My Lovely is flawed, but a very good film–very solid noir; I kept thinking it should have been filmed in black and white–and Mitchum projects the world weariness of an older Marlowe quite perfectly….I’d love to see someone like Oscar Isaac or Bill Skarsgard or Adam Driver take on the role. The entire movie was stolen, however, by Sylvia Miles in a terrific supporting performance that earned her an Oscar nomination; and Charlotte Rampling is also perfect as the femme fatale. (A very young Sylvester Stallone also has a small role as a gangster.) I did enjoy it, and I think it was released in the wake of Chinatown, when Hollywood discovered noir would still sell tickets.

The Fog was also a perfectly adequate horror film, directed by John Carpenter, about a hundred-year old curse coming to wreak vengeance and havoc on the coastal California town of Antonio Bay. Jamie Lee Curtis is in the cast–in the midst of her fame as a Scream Queen–but she isn’t the star of the film (if it could be said to have one); if anything, it’s a supporting role at best. The bigger female role belongs to Adrienne Barbeau, playing dee-jay and radio station owner Stevie, who is the first to realize what is actually going on–without knowing the history, she just knows the fog is dangerous and bad. I’d also forgotten Janet Leigh was in the movie as Mrs. Williams, local get-it-done lady who is in charge of the hundred year anniversary of the town. It has all the requisite John Carpenter directorial touches–jump scares, a weird and creepy electronic soundtrack, the growing sense of doom with every scene–and I would recommend it, even if it is dated. It was remade this century–I may watch the remake at some point for a comparison/contrast.

Creepshow 2 was obviously the sequel to the original; written by Stephen King and based on his short stories (some of these may be actually original, as I don’t recall reading the stories for the first and third part of this anthology film), and both films served as an homage to the horror comics King grew up reading and loving and inevitably influenced his writing. The second film didn’t do as well as the first, but the underlying theme of all the stories is paranormal vengeance for bad behavior. The first features an old cigar store wooden Indian (I don’t think if anyone brought up that subject that anyone born after 1970 would even know what one was) that comes to life to wreak vengeance for the brutal murders of the elderly couple who own the store he stands in front of; and the third features an adulterous wealthy wife rushing home from a rendezvous with a paid escort ($25 per orgasm!) who gets distracted by dropping a cigarette in the car and runs over a hitch-hiker, whom she leaves on the side of the road but he just keeps popping up as she debates whether she can live with what she did as she continues on her drive home, trying to kill the hitch hiker as he inevitably pops back up on the road saying thanks for the ride lady–which became a running gag between me and my friends at the time. (The woman is played by Lois Chiles, who came to the TWfest one year and was an absolute delight.) Both are good and macabre; fitting right into the karmic justice theme that ran through almost all horror comics back in the day. The middle story–“The Raft”–is also one of my favorite Stephen King stories; about four college students who go for a late-in-the-season swim because it sounds like a good idea, helped along by weed and beer, and it goes horribly wrong for them. The story is different from the filmed version–it’s told from the perspective of the less-than-perfect male roommate who always lives in the shadow of his roommate who is muscular and handsome and charismatic, who loves his friend but also resents him a little because he always sucks up all the air in the room. In the film the two girls who go with them are just other girls; in the story there’s a different dynamic, in which the stud’s girlfriend senses the other girl, ostensibly the lesser roommate’s date, is making a play for the stud before the dying starts. The main character in the story, though, is a decent guy which winds up ending badly for him; in the movie, he’s more of a dick, because he realizes when the final girl is taken by whatever the thing is in the water preying on them, that he could have used that time to swim for it…but doesn’t realize it until it’s too late. In the movie, he deliberately feeds her to the creature so he can escape…and that decision is what dooms him, and you don’t really feel sorry for him the way you do in the story. The highlight of this segment is Paul Satterfield’s youthful physical beauty in a bright yellow bikini (and while I enjoyed viewing the splendor of his body in a bikini, I also kind of doubted he would have worn one; back in the 80’s the only men who wore bikinis were gay, body builders, Europeans, or guys who’d been competitive swimmers so they were used to them); and the movie is okay. I do wish anthology films would make a comeback–since they inevitably based their “episodes” on short stories (Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson had a lot of their short stories adapted for anthology films as well as for anthology television series), it would be great to see some modern horror short stories filmed.

And on that note, tis time for one Gregalicious to head back into the spice mines. I want to spend some time this morning with Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which I am loving, before it’s time to hit the errands and the gym. I am also sure there will be figure skating to watch this weekend as well, huzzah! Have a lovely Saturday of a holiday weekend, Constant Reader, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

The B-Side

So, my maintenance all went well yesterday–my blood pressure was on the high end of okay, but I also had forgotten to take my pills and things yesterday morning, which was probably why. I am being assigned to yet another new doctor (my previous two left the practice as did the wonderful nurse practitioner I saw last summer), and I saw yet again someone different yesterday–another nurse practitioner whom I also liked–so I have my prescriptions all set and hopefully will get a call from the specialist for the routine exam I’ve been needing for quite some time but have yet to get, for one reason or another. Taking better control of my health was one of the goals for last year, which I vaguely remember in those foggy, long distant Before Times. It didn’t happen since this fucking pandemic has made everything so difficult on top of killing far too many others, and I worry all the time that I am an asymptomatic carrier.

Because apparently, despite the many accusations over the years, I am not in fact a sociopath. Who knew?

I also spent some time trying to fix the desktop. I fucked up–I had it in the right mode and in the right place to fix it–I erased the hard drive and was all ready to download the operating system again when I stupidly misread the instructions and restarted the computer before downloading the iOS; and now I can’t seem to get the thing to a place where I can download the iOS again. I think I got there once–and of course, fucked up yet again, and now have to remember what I did to get it to that place again. Ah, well, I am most likely going to keep futzing with it around the working at home today and making condom packs.

I also managed to finish a terribly rough draft of my story, due today, and once it was finished I immediately knew how I could fix it and make it stronger and better, which is always a good thing; I wasn’t really sure how to pull off the ending (stick the landing, as it were) and once I had actually written that ending–I knew I had to go back and tweak the story some more to make it better. I’ll do that this evening in the wake of the condom packing/movie watching.

I also started reading, at last, Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and I am loving it so far. The authorial voice of Mary Russell is superb, and reminds me of one of my other favorite characters in crime series fiction, the unflappable Amelia Peabody. The voices and characters are very similar–fiercely independent and intelligent, no patience with nonsense–and I quite love the way King has developed her character and her version of Holmes and his world; I also love the running digs at Conan Doyle’s version. King has always been one of my favorite authors–her Kate Martinelli series is quite superb–and I admit I’ve been holding off on reading this series primarily because I was never overly interested in Holmes. My mindset regarding Holmes has changed since I wrote my own version of him last year (I cannot wait to see the finished anthology with “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” in it; there are several anthologies I have stories in coming out this year that I am very excited about)–and I know that I am going to probably revisit ny Holmes-in-New-Orleans world again at some point. I already had a period story in progress called “The Blue Before Dawn” which seems like the perfect thing to adapt into a Holmes story; but for now I have to focus on getting this story finished and submitted, and diving into the Kansas book headfirst this weekend. Forcing myself to finish that story yesterday was probably the smartest thing I could have done–forcing myself to write when I don’t want to inevitably is always the smartest thing I could do, which I need to remember since I always seem to forget about it.

I also keep forgetting Monday is a holiday. Huzzah!

I also stopped at the Fresh Market on St. Charles on my way home from the final maintenance appointment, to scope it out as a potential new source for making groceries. It’s nice–I can never get past that it’s in what used to be the Bultman Funeral Parlor–and I picked up a nice California roll for lunch as well as some sliced turkey meat for sandwiches, but yeah, they don’t carry a lot of name brands and it seems very similar to Whole Foods–but easier to access. This weekend I’ll probably scope out the Winn-Dixie on Tchoupitoulas, and maybe, since it’s a long weekend, I can make an exploratory expedition to Trader Joe’s in Metairie.

I also started watching the US Figure Skating Championships on Peacock yesterday, availing myself of the seven day free trial for extra access–and there are some movies on there I want to watch as well that could work with several of the film festivals I have in process. Paul, of course, is very excited that skating is going on and college gymnastics–we of course are big LSU Gymnastics fans–and so his weekend is pretty much set. The second season of Mr. Mercedes is also on there, among some other things that would be fun to watch–I am back to talking about Peacock–and a lot of the Hitchcock movies (I really want to do a Hitchcock Film Festival; while I have seen some of his more famous films, there are even more that I’ve not seen). I wish Rebecca and Suspicion were on there, but one can’t have everything I suppose. I really want to watch Shadow of a Doubt…and any number of the others I’ve not seen. It’s really a shame Hitchcock never directed a version of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I also realized yesterday that my second vaccine is coming up quickly, which is also pretty exciting. It also appears like the car will be paid off this year–thank the Lord–which will alleviate a lot of my financial hardships–or the occasional ones, I should say, and then I can start paying down the rest of the debt with a goal of being debt free by the end of 2022. I think it’s a realistic goal right now; and one that is very pleasing to me. Being burdened with debt is absolutely the worst, frankly–and it’s a burden far too many of us have to carry for far too long.

And on that note, the spice mines are a-calling me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Sparks Fly

Sunday morning coming down–as if; although there have been any number of Sunday mornings when I was doing precisely that; often sleeping late or stumbling home in the early morning hours to sleep until around noon or so. I’m not quite sure how I managed to do all of that–and for years would go out again around six or seven on Sunday for Tea Dance, to come home around ten or eleven sloppy drunk yet again. It’s been a good hot minute since I’ve gone out in the evening to gay bars, visiting my old haunts and so forth; yet the pandemic has certainly made any nostalgic trips to the Fruit Loop impossible and impractical.

We joined a gym yesterday at long last; another one in our neighborhood and within walking distance, and while it’s a bit more of a slog than going to the old gym was–maybe a ten to fifteen minute walk rather than a five–it’s nice to belong to a gym again; it’s nice that it’s still in the neighborhood; and there are many different ways of walking there–so I can explore the neighborhood even more each time I walk to and fro. It’s nice, if small, and I am very excited to walk over there this morning and start putting my body through its paces yet again. The main thing for me is to remember that I need to be cautious, start slowly with lower weights, and build up reps and sets gradually. But it feels very terrific to be going to the gym again, working out again, and while i may not be as fanatical about it as I was in the wake of Katrina–I am hopeful I’ll be able to get going and gradually work myself back into better shape again.

LSU won last night–and while the defense didn’t look terrific, they didn’t look as terrible as they did in the two previous losses. At first, it kind of looked like the same-old, same-old; LSU took the opening kick-off and drove the length of the field behind a true freshman, starting in place of an injured Myles Brennan, in about eight minutes. South Carolina took two or three plays to tie the score on their next possession, but the defense started clamping down. South Carolina continued to have big plays, but that was it–scoring 17 more points in the game while LSU went on to win 52-24. The team is starting to pull together and play better–and considering how many true freshman are starting–LSU is going to be dangerously good in the future. This may be an off year for the Tigers–there’s no telling how many of the remaining games they’ll win, but I certainly am feeling better about our chances to do well this year. I mean, I didn’t go into the season thinking it would be a repeat of last year’s amazing result, but I didn’t expect LSU to lose to two teams they should have beaten.

We also wound up staying up later than we probably should have watching the pairs and ice dance finals from Skate America, but i also slept very well–I almost dozed off a couple of times in my easy chair–and slept later than I wanted to this morning but that’s okay; the combination of going to the gym this morning and getting a lot of work done today should work to enable to sleep really well tonight. I’m not sure what time the Saints game is today–just checked, it’s at noon–but I need to get deeper into the weeds with my book, and I also realized part of my issue with writing lately is getting used to my new computer set-up here in my office; writing on a significantly smaller screen on a MacBook Air is the primary difference here, and one that I shouldn’t be having such an issue adapting to. It could, of course, simply be my innate laziness, but there you go.

It’s cool this morning–it’s in the sixties, and the high is only going to be 75–so it’ll be a nice brisk walk over to the gym–they are only open on Sundays from 9-1; they close early on Sundays to clean everything thoroughly due to the pandemic–and then a brisk walk home to a protein shake and a shower and a plan for the rest of the day. I started rereading the first ten chapters of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday–it’s better than I thought it was, but it still needs tweaking and work–and hope to spend today reading through the last fifteen and making revision notes and so forth. I still have to finish the revision of “The Snow Globe” again, but I honestly think that getting off my ass and exercising again will be the catalyst or impetus to get me off my fat ass and writing again, too. It’s all connected, in some ways, in my mind–working out, writing, etc.–and hopefully I’ll also be able to get my mind and my writing in better shape as I go to the gym more and more.

I know I am probably too hard on myself about everything I do–whether it’s the day job, writing, editing, my body, etc.–but that drive to improve myself and be better is what helps me accomplish things. As I was remembering the other day, so much of my life is out of my control that when the world becomes too overwhelming in its harsh realities, I try to focus on the things I can control. I can control my body and how it looks; whether people read my books and like them is beyond my control but the books themselves are not. I do tend to be lazy–a Greg at rest tends to stay at rest–which is a constant struggle for me; I have trouble between distinguishing when I need to actually rest and recharge vs. when I just am feeling lazy. There’s a difference there, and one I need to be better about recognizing–kind of like having to identify the difference between bad pain (injury) vs. good pain (muscle exhaustion) at the gym when working out. My goal isn’t to get back to the kind of shape I was in post-Katrina–I will never be that lean and small-waisted again; then again, do I need to fit into size 30-31 pants again at my age? No, I really don’t, but I also don’t need to be carrying this extra weight I am, and I’d kind of like to have toned muscles again rather than simply the size that goes with having them. This week is going to be a gradual thing–I am going to stretch thoroughly before working out, the longer walk to and fro will serve as a nice warm-up/cool down, and once I get through this first week of primary focus on weights, I will start adding in the treadmill or stationary bike or some kind of cardiovascular exercise, which is probably what I need more than anything else. The aerobics studio in the gym is always open and available for use when it’s not being used for a class, and i may start doing my own step class again, trying to remember the programs I used to teach twenty years ago–I always preferred doing step than using the cardio machines, but there may be times at the gym when I have no choice–like when there’s a class going on.

As you can no doubt ascertain, I am very excited about going back to the gym. In fact, I shall have precisely one more cup of coffee before I head over there this morning to put my aged body through its paces for the first time since May. Since May.

Lord.

And so, on that note, I think I am going to finish my morning coffee, get my ass in gear, and head over to the gym. May your Sunday be as warm and delightful and amazing as you are, Constant Reader.

Amazed

Show of hands: who predicted I wouldn’t get as much done yesterday as I wanted to? I was pretty confident that would wind up the case, as it always is. But I did get a lot done yesterday–some of it even writing-related, so have a seat, guilty conscience!–and that pleases me. I am hopeful I’ll be able to get more done today as well. Granted–it’s easy to say that as I sip my first cup of coffee. I also stayed in bed later this morning than I wanted to–since I woke up at seven on my own yesterday I thought perhaps this morning would be the same so I didn’t set an alarm–but I wound up getting up at eight, so that wasn’t too terrible I also hit a wall yesterday around four thirty–I got very tired–and so I repaired to the easy chair to finish reading my book.

It’s rather gloomy out there this morning, and it’s chilly here in the Lost Apartment–the space heater is on–and I’m a little annoyed by this return of coldness. Yesterday. while starting out chilly, eventually turned into quite a beautiful day; I didn’t even wear a jacket when I went out to run my errands. But that’s okay; I probably won’t have to go out into much today, or at least I hope not.

We watched a lot of the figure skating championships yesterday–will probably do so again today; I think the men’s is on this afternoon and Europeans is on tonight–and Paul’s been watching the Australian Open on his computer. We’re very behind on all the shows we watch, and there are also any number of new shows we want to watch–or shows we watch have returned for another season, which is very cool–and of course, the Williams Festival is approaching, which means late nights at the office for Paul; yes, it’s about that time when I become a Festival widow again. I should be able to get a lot of reading done during this time–which is what I generally use it for. I got a copy of Lori Rader-Day’s new novel yesterday in the mail, The Lucky One, and since I’m moderating that panel, I’ll need to read it soon.

I also have to make travel arrangements today for some upcoming trips in this new year; Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, etc.

Ah, it’s raining. That explains the gloomy grayness outside.

It’s the kind of day, really, where I’d rather curl up under a blanket and read all day, quite frankly, but I can’t do that. I need to work on the Secret Project, and there’s all kinds of other things I also have to get done today–odds and ends, emails to answer, etc. I’d also like to make some headway on getting my taxes at least started; I am missing only one 1099 form, and once I have that I can turn everything over to my accountant and get my return filed, which will be lovely.

I did finish reading Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture, which is fantastic–and then I started reading Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey when my energy finally flagged in the late afternoon.

pretty as a picture

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

That’s not what I’d say.

I’d say it depends on the picture. I’d say it depends on the size and the color and the subject and the print and the framing and the focus and the composition. I’d say it depends on what you were doing the hour before, the day before, the year before, the life before. I’d say it depends on whether you’re looking at it on a wall or scrolling past it on a screen or cutting it carefully out of a book, digging your knuckle into the gutter of the spine because the margins are so small and the blades are so long and it’s impossible to get a straight line, but you don’t want to dig up a guide and an X-Acto knife because you aren’t willing to wait, you have to have it, you have to have this picture, right now, and your kitchen scissors are close enough and good enough–yes, good enough–and Jesus Christ, Marissa, when will you get it through your thick head: Imperfection is a price happy people pay to cradle the weight of something they love.

That’s what I’d say.

Elizabeth Little’s debut novel, Dear Daughter, is one of my favorite first novels and one of my favorite books of this past decade. Her novels–why they do focus on crime, or criminal activity–are more than just crime novels; they’re stories about women–messy, complicated, complex, interesting women you want to see get past not only their current crisis, but also pull their lives together. One of the most impressive things to me about Dear Daughter is that she didn’t wrap it all up neatly with a bow at the end, with justice being served and our heroine coming out of everything triumphant; she gave the ending a more realistic, this-is-how-it-would-play-out-in-real-life ending.

I’ve been waiting a long time for Pretty as a Picture, and it was worth the wait.

The story is told in a very tight, first person/present tense style that pulls the reader into the action and the head of our main character/narrator–Marissa Dahl, an up-and-coming film editor who has primarily worked on the films of her college best friend and current roommate, Amy,  an up-and-coming director. Marissa is socially awkward–there’s a lovely scene in which she talked about meeting a superstar director, Tony Rees, at the Venice Film Festival and pulls him into a fountain with her when she loses her balance–and very unsure of herself. She meets a guy named Josh, who winds up dating Amy, and having been interested in him herself, she now has become an incredibly awkward fifth wheel and has decided to separate herself from Amy, personally and professionally, to give Amy and Josh’s new relationship room to breathe and grow–and she’s more than just a little resentful about Josh, whom she now actively dislikes (which is also wrapped up in her own social awkwardness), which is why she ends up agreeing to work on a Tony Rees’ new film–a project wrapped in secrecy and sixteen page NDA’s. She heads out to Kickout Island, off the coast of Delaware, and even has a big security man–Isaiah–who picks her up at the local airport and takes her out there.

One of Marissa’s neuroses includes a fear of the water–and we eventually do find out where that fear came from.

The film turns out to be a fictionalized film version of an actual murder that took place on Kickout Island many years ago–the murder of a pretty teenaged girl; a murder that was never solved. Strange things are going on around the set–accidents, cast and crew being fired–and we slowly but surely are made aware, through Marissa’s eyes, that things are not as they seem…and then someone else dies, and Marissa is reluctantly on both cases.

I have to say, though, that my favorite characters–besides Marissa, whom I really liked for all her tics and strangeness and constant film references (which is actually very cool)–are the two teenaged girls she first encounters in the hotel kitchen while she is scrounging for something to eat–Grace and Suzy–who are also trying to solve the original murder case. I’d read an entire series about these two girls.

But Pretty as a Picture is a great read; well-written and clever and witty and snarky at points, but an enjoyable read with a complicated, twisty plot that never condescends to the reader. Well worth the lengthy wait for this second novel by Elizabeth Little–the only problem is now I have to wait (hopefully not as long) for her third.

Sweet Desire

Friday morning and it’s a bit chilly here in the Lost Apartment this morning–but the temperature’s supposedly gradually rising from how cold it was at the beginning of the week.

Hilariously, I have just one jacket–one really doesn’t need more than one in New Orleans–and it’s a wonderful black leather jacket I’ve had since before Katrina, I think. I believe it was a gift from my mother; I’m not entirely sure. I had a great leather jacket before this one, but the sleeve ripped on a door frame nail, and I think I got this jacket to replace it? I don’t know, the jacket is old. I’ve been struggling with the zipper, which would sometimes jam–it did walking in the snowfall in New York Saturday night–but as I waited for the parking lot shuttle here at the airport, I managed to zip it all the way up. (Every time I have trouble with the zipper I think I need to get this zipper replaced, but have never done it because, you know, procrastination) When I got out of the car at home, I realized that the zipper teeth had come apart at the bottom, and had separated all the way up to my chest. I tried to get the zipper teeth back together so I could unzip it, to no avail. Finally I pulled it up over my head like a sweatshirt and ripped the zipper open, thinking, great, now I HAVE to get the fucking zipper replaced. Heavy sigh. But as I emptied my suitcase into the washing machine, Paul–who was upstairs reorganizing our disaster of a shared closet, came down the stairs with a lovely jacket on a hanger. “Is this yours?” he asked. I had no memory of buying it–I still don’t–but it’s gorgeous and my size. We finally had to assume that I bought it at one of our trips to the outlet mall in Gonzalez, probably with the intent to take it to New York for the January board meeting years ago–and then it got swallowed into the closet and completely forgotten.

FOR YEARS.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been wearing this week, and now I have a terrific winter coat to take next January to New York with me.

It also should go without saying that now I am really curious about what else is in that closet that I’ve forgotten about.

This has been a lovely week of getting re-acclimated to my normal existence, and I’ve actually been having a lovely time. My new duties as Executive Vice President of MWA have forced me to get organized and start planning my time better–and I’ve also slept remarkably well all week. I’ve also started setting my alarm to get up at seven on the mornings I don’t have to go in at eight–while the extra sleep is absolutely lovely, I can’t lose that extra hour or two every morning. There’s always a lot of emails that need answering, and keeping up is going to be crucial–I can’t let myself get either overwhelmed or defeated by my emails. And I still need to have time to both write and read; the evenings before sleep just aren’t going to cut it anymore. So now I am determined to get up at seven every morning but Sunday–I’ll allow myself to sleep in on Sunday mornings, since Monday is one of those hellish six a.m. mornings–and I also am aware that once my body is trained to get up every morning at seven, I’ll probably get up at that time on Sundays, too. I need to start going back to the gym as well, and watching my diet again. I’m going to be fifty-nine this year, and so I should probably get back into a healthier lifestyle, which is going to be much harder now than it was when I was thirty-three and originally made that change.

Plus, I actually enjoy working out. But like writing, which I also actually enjoy doing, I always dread it and have to force myself to do it. #madness.

I am also looking forward to finishing Elizabeth Little’s stunning Pretty as a Picture. I am enjoying this book so much, Constant Reader–you have no idea. I’m also learning a lot about how a movie gets made, behind the scenes, which is something I’ve always been interested in. I need to get some serious writing done this weekend too–despite the US Figure Skating Championships, the European Figure Skating Championships, and the Australian Open all taking place over the course of this weekend. Yikes. I also have to go to the grocery store and make plans for trips later in the year and oh my God there’s never enough time but you know what? To-do lists are fantastic, and were always the key to my getting everything done in the past.

We also have to finish watching Messiah, Sex Education, and get caught up on Dare Me. Hilariously, a few weeks ago we had nothing to watch; now we have too much to watch.

And on THAT note, tis back to the spice mines. Happy Friday, everyone!

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On My Knees

Thursday morning in New Orleans, and it looks to have rained overnight–which might account for my deep and restful sleep last night. It’s been cold since I returned to New Orleans on Sunday evening–I wore not only a T-shirt under my sweaters to work this week but also tights under my jeans. When I got home from work late yesterday afternoon it was still bitterly cold; but the overnight rain was expected to warm things up a bit. It’s not as cold in the Lost Apartment as it was last night when I went to bed, but it’s still not balmy. Rain is forecast for most of the day today, but it’s not raining now, so we’ll just have to see how that all works out. I don’t get off work until late this evening–eight-ish–but Thursday are generally (knocks wood) slower than the other days of the week. Not sure why that is, but there you have it.

I’ve not written much this week. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by my new responsibilities and trying to get caught up on everything I need to get caught up on for Mystery Writers of America; I’ve been alternating between being excited and being terrified, off and on, for the last few days. I have made some notes, and the secret project I’ve been working on (and wanted to get finished this week) has been taking shape in my head. Now I just need to find some time to actually sit down and start committing it all to paper (a Word document, actually, but you know what I mean). I’ve also had another Scotty book taking shape in my head over the last week or so, and its not the one I thought I was going to write next. It’s a different one; an idea about the gentrification of the city post-Katrina that I’ve been calling Bywater Bohemia Bougie in my head all this time. It’s a bit of a mouthful–well aware of that–but it does fit the usual schematic of Scotty titles. I have several ideas about what the book should cover, and now I just have to figure out how to pull all those disparate thoughts and ideas all together in a cohesive story.

I am also still reading Bourbon Street, and am now to the 1960’s, and the monstrous Jim Garrison years as district attorney, as Bourbon Street began to shift from what it was before to what it is now, and as tourism slowly began to overtake everything else as the leading industry for the city. I can’t recommend this book enough, Constant Reader; Richard Campanella is fantastic, and his writing makes a terrific subject even more enjoyable.

We’re nearly finished watching Messiah, which we are still enjoying, and also started watching the second season of Sex Education, which is just as funny and entertaining and charming as the first season was–I do recommend it, and Gillian Anderson is fantastic as the main character Owen’s mother, a sex therapist. The entire first episode is about an outbreak of chlamydia at the high school–which isn’t nearly as bad as people think it actually is because none of them actually know how chlamydia is transferred. (when it is first mentioned as being airborne, I literally said out loud No it isn’t. The day job–no matter what, it’s always there in the back of my mind) We laughed out loud multiple times, and that of course means the show is a winner in our book.

It’s also going to be a little strange and weird this weekend to not have any football to watch–but at the same time, it frees up a lot of time for me to write, clean, plan and do all those things–including read–that I don’t get done during football season. Of course the US Figure Skating Championships are this weekend, so…yeah, there’s that, too. Heavy sigh.

I also took some time last night to read another fifty pages of Elizabeth Little’s fantastic new novel, Pretty as a Picture, and I am loving it. Like all the best writers, reading Liz makes me want to be a better writer and also inspires stories of my own that I want to write–which always is an indicator, to me, that the author is spectacular at what they do. If you’ve not read her first, Dear Daughter, do so–you won’t be sorry, and then you’ll then have the exquisite pleasure of reading Pretty as a Picture when it is finally released into the wild.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader.

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Someday

Wednesday morning, although my internal calendar is all messed up from not working on Monday. I kept thinking yesterday was Monday all day–and it was most irritating. But the good news is I made it through an entire twelve hour shift without getting tired (I did get a bit sleepy toward the end, though) and I had yet another lovely night of sleep last night, which was marvelous.

Sleep is so underrated, really. I’ve really come to cherish it as I approach sixty.

Last night we watched the ice dance competition from Grand Prix France, which occurred over the last weeked–we also are most delighted that the Olympic Channel airs a lot of figure skating competitions; we are big fans and always have been, and in recent years the lack of air time for figure skating competitions has made it a lot harder to follow and remain a fan. I think one of the upcoming US Nationals is actually in Nashville, which is drive-able, and therefore do-able (I am really getting to the point where I will avoid flying and airports as much as I possibly can). We then discovered the Netflix has dropped season two of It’s the End of the Fucking World, and very much kudos to the showrunners and writers for taking the show in a completely unforeseen direction in episode one. Tonight will drop new episodes of Castle Rock and American Horror Story: 1984, so our television needs for this evening are already met; but it’s nice to know Fucking World is there when we need something to watch.

I’ve also managed to almost get completely caught up on emails; alas, there was a thing yesterday on a board of directors on which I serve, which took up a lot of time yesterday in reading all the emails, thinking about the situation, and figuring out what we needed to do–if anything–so that kind of threw me off getting through the rest of my emails as well as getting anything written yesterday. I did manage to get the editorial corrections to my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision” finished and turned in, and I also got the cover art and an eye on the other contributors–which was quite thrilling; there are some folks in there I am very excited to be sharing a table of contents with–more on that later, but I really love the cover and I really love the entire concept of the anthology, The Faking of the President, and I love even more the fact that I was asked to write for it and was included.

The Dark Yonder anthology, to which I contributed my story “Moist Money” (and how much do I love that I wrote a story called “Moist Money”? And thanks again to the wonderful Bill Loefhelm for telling me I needed to use that as a title) is also going to be available at some time this month; I think the official release date is Black Friday? It’s actually been, all things considered, a pretty good year for me and short stories. I have another one or two out there for submission. And as I said, over the course of this past weekend I finally figured out how to fix two stories that have gone through a ridiculous amount of drafts and rejections: “Death and the Handmaidens” and “The Problem with Autofill.” In both instances I was too stubborn to see the necessary changes that would make the stories work, because those changes were pretty intensive; including a title change for “The Problem with Autofill”–which is still a great title and can still be used for another story, but the one I wrote doesn’t fit that title and trying to force it to fit that title is why the story isn’t working.

One of the biggest problems I face as a writer is my own, innate stubbornness. I CAN make this work is always my go-to, and I cling to that even when it’s patently obvious to me that I cannot make it work. If I had all that time back…but there it is. It may take me in some cases years to get to that point with something I am working on, but I do eventually get there.

I also worked a bit on Bury Me in Shadows before I went to bed last night. It’s coming along more slowly than I would like–and I suspect I am going to have to go back over the first twelve chapters again because I didn’t include everything on this go round that I needed to include, which is fine. I didn’t finish it in October like I wanted to because I got sick towards the end, but I am choosing that as a sign that it didn’t need to be finished by the end of October and perhaps shooting for the end of November is the way to go. That means I can’t work on the Kansas book again until December, but I do think with focus and drive I can finish that one in a month, which frees me up to move onto Chlorine in January. My goal is to get a good first draft written in a month, put it aside to breathe and settle, and then write that next Chanse book I’ve been thinking about for the last few months.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me this morning before work. I have a half-day today, and have some errands to run this morning before heading into the office, which is fine. I’m also doing a better job of keeping up with the chores, so hopefully this weekend, around the LSU and Saints games, I’ll be able to do some touching up. Have a terrific day Constant Reader!

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C’est la Vie

Wednesday morning and I’ve made it thru the long days of my week. Today is a short day; I am free after three thirty, and then it’s back home to the spice mines and getting the house cleaned, organized and so forth, all around me not only writing at my desk but preparing a new taste treat for dinner–shrimp and baked potatoes–which is the same as my shrimp-and-grits, only substituting a baked potato for the grits. I saw this somewhere on social media recently, looked at the recipe, and realized it simply meant making baked potatoes instead of the grits…and realized that with a baked potato, timing the meal isn’t quite as important as it is when you’re making grits at the same time as the shrimp.

I managed another good night’s sleep last night, which was incredibly lovely; it’s amazing what a difference that makes to your quality of life–and productivity. I’m still behind on everything this morning, just as I was last night when I went to bed, but this morning I feel like I can do anything and everything. We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?

But as I face my computer with my first cup of coffee this morning, I do feel almost as though I can do anything and everything.  I had a slight minor panic attack last night about everything I need to get done this week, but it passed quickly, as I remembered my favorite mantra: sometimes, it just is what it is. Simple, but helpful and rather wise; there’s only so much one can do, there’s only so many people one can please, and sometimes you just have to let the worry go–because it just is what it is.

I sat down with Royal Street Reveillon last night, and opened the book up. When Paul got home he told me that someone whose opinion I deeply value had told him to  let me know she’d read and loved the book, and invited me to be on her radio show. Yes, it was Susan Larson, the long-time books editor of what was once the Times-Picayune and now has her own show on WGNO, “My Reading Life.” This naturally made my day, if not the week or month; Susan has read practically everything and everyone, has been a Pulitzer Prize judge (!!!!!), and is one of the most respected reviewers in the country. Her opinion means, obviously, a lot to me. As I sat in my chair last night holding a copy of the book–and it’s a beautiful looking book, probably my favorite cover of all time–I thought about how it never gets easier, no matter how many books you write; at least for me, it’s like the first one every single time. Will people like it? Will people hate it? Is it any good? Writing the books never gets easier over time, either. If anything, the only thing that’s changed with the actual writing is efficiency; I am more efficient in the use of time when I write now. But the self-doubt, the insecurity, the imposter syndrome–all of that still plagues me, even after all this time and all these books and all these short stories.

So, I opened the book and started skimming through it. My goal when I wrote it was to make it the best Scotty book thus far; I don’t know if I achieved that goal, but I am pretty pleased with the book. I think it turned out well. I also realized, as I was reading through it last night, that the reason I don’t like to reread my work–why I never go back once its published and look at it again, isn’t because I always wind up dissatisfied and disappointed with it (although that’s some of it), but primarily because I only reread my work to correct, edit and fix it. So, I am so trained from revising and editing my work that when actually reading it in a print format my mind automatically switches into editorial mode and I want to fix things and oh this sentence could have been better or look at this, you used the same word twice in the same paragraph and so on and so forth; it’s impossible for me to read it as a reader coming to it for the first time. And with Royal Street Reveillon, I don’t feel like I rushed the ending the way I inevitably feel about most of my books–which is a direct result of deadlines. So, I’m kind of glad I don’t write on deadline anymore; it’s relieved that bit of stress from my life, thank the Lord.

I also got out a copy of Bourbon Street Blues last night, because one of my co-workers wants to read it. She was reading the latest Janet Evanovich, and we got into a bit of a discussion about Evanovich, mystery novels, and so forth. SHe eventually said, “I really need to read one of your books”, and me being me, I said, “I’ll bring you a copy” and then realized, hey, I can give her a copy of Bourbon Street Blues,  my first Scotty!

So, I actually looked through it as well. I remember so little of the story now; I barely remember writing the book now. It was all so long ago; I turned the book in to Kensington on May 15th, 2002. Christ, we were so broke then, cobbling together an income from Paul working part time and teaching aerobics, me writing, doing some part time work for a friend as their assistant, and eventually getting a part time job at the LGBT Community Center to supplement the writing income, as well as doing some freelance editorial work. I was mostly working for Bella Books then–yes, I got my start as an editor working for a lesbian publisher–before moving on to Harrington Park Press and then Bold Strokes Books. Bourbon Street Blues is, of course, the Southern Decadence book I’d been wanting to write ever since I first came to Decadence as a tourist back in the early 90’s. I was also writing the book, ironically, on 9/11–I didn’t actually work on it that day, but I always associate 9/11 with Bourbon Street Blues because I can remember being glued to the television in horror all day, and glancing over at the pile of pages on my desk and wondering if I could distract myself by working on the book. I never tried…I didn’t get back to working on the book for a few days. As I looked through Bourbon Street Blues last night, thinking about how Southern Decadence had just passed and how much the world, the event, the city, everything had changed since the days when I was writing this book.

My career as a published writer of fiction dates back to 2000, with the publication of two short stories in the month of August, one in an anthology and the other in a magazine. It’ll turn twenty the month I turn fifty-nine; but I of course started getting paid to write (journalism) in 1996. I moved in with Paul and within a month had published my first column in a local queer newspaper in Minneapolis; as I used to say, Paul was my lucky charm for my writing career; it truly started when we moved in together.

So yes, he never has to worry about me going anywhere, since I do emotionally consider him entirely responsible for my career–and all of it tied up in a nice New Orleans bow. New Orleans inspired me, and I knew I would become a writer if I moved to New Orleans. I met Paul here, and while I was already writing before we moved here, New Orleans made it possible for me to meet the love of my life and create the career I’ve always dreamed of and wanted.

And you know what? As I paged through Bourbon Street Blues, reacquainting myself with the original story I came up with for Scotty all those years ago, I thought, this is a pretty decent book, really. There’s never really been a character like Scotty in crime fiction–and certainly not one like him in gay crime fiction. I also never dreamed that people would connect with him the way they did–I may not sell books in Harlan Coben or Stephen King numbers, but the people who read the Scotty books love him, and that means I did my job well.

I also realized, looking through both books last night, that the occasional charges of “political agenda” I get on Goodreads and/or Amazon are accurate. I never really think of the Scotty books as having an agenda or being political, but I forget that any book centering a queer character is still radical and political; let alone a book centering a queer character who is perfectly happy and loves his life and has some terrific adventures, finding love to go along with the wonderful loving family he already has. This is still, sadly, for some a radical concept; as is the idea of having Scotty never change the core of who he is,  no matter what happens or how awful a situation he’s in might become. The Scotty books were never intended to be, nor ever will be, torture porn. Bourbon Street Blues was all about homophobia and the religious right. Jackson Square Jazz, long before Johnny Weir and Adam Rippon, looked at homophobia in figure skating and Olympic sports…and on and on it goes. Royal Street Reveillon actually goes into several things–familial homophobia, for one, and date rape/sexual assault for another–and ultimately, I am pretty pleased with it.

And yes, for those of you worried I may never write another Scotty book–there will be at least one more. Hollywood South Hustle is already taking shape in my head; I have several disparate threads of plot to weave together for it, but never fear, they are most definitely there. I don’t know when I’ll get around to writing it–I have several books to write before I can even think about starting work on it officially, and yes, that includes a new Chanse–and so it goes, on and on forever and ever without end, amen.

And now I should perhaps return to the spice mines. This shit ain’t gonna do itself.

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