Little Red Rooster

Well, the tire cost almost three hundred dollars to replace (I also had them replace the rear window wiper blade, but I don’t think that was terribly expensive)–more, if you count the personal time I had to take in order to get the car taken care of–but as Paul said, “It could have been worse–what if it happened on the causeway, or when you were driving back from Kentucky?” A very good point, further emphasizing the fact that he is, indeed, the smart one in the Lost Apartment. I treated myself to Five Guys once the ordeal was finished and I could drive back across the river and head into the office–it’s been a very hot minute since I last was able to enjoy me some Five Guys–and that made up for the inconvenience and irritation….somewhat.

I do love me some Five Guys. Thank God the only ones in my area are a pain in the butt for me to get to, or I’d have it all the damned time and would weigh a lot more than I do now.

Bruises appeared on my arm yesterday, which makes me tend to think that I really do need to have this injury looked at because I am older and it might be something serious. Do I want to have it looked at? No, I really don’t. I also probably shouldn’t wait until my primary care appointment in January, either. But I am going to wait until this weekend and see how it goes. If it keeps getting better–yesterday it only hurt when I was trying to carry or lift something, or moved it in a particular way–I may just let it go until January. I know, I know, probably not smart and I do have health insurance, but…if it’s just a muscle pull or a strain…and I think what I must have done was turn my arm too far to one side as a result of the tire getting stuck, which strained the muscles and tendons.

And if I end up having to have my arm amputated, that’s all on me.

But I was exhausted yesterday by the time I got off work. And had a minor little drama once I was home, so even then couldn’t rest until about seven-thirty, eight o’clock. Heavy heaving sigh. But I think I slept better last night than I have all week; I may have only woken up once or twice during the night, and I do feel somewhat rested this morning. Just one more day to get through before my work-at-home Friday tomorrow, which will be delightful, I am sure. And there’s no college football this weekend–which seems weird, but it was a rather long season, after all–so I have little to no excuse to not get caught up on things this weekend. The handyman came by yesterday and fixed the garbage disposal (praise be) which I need to clean and deodorize this weekend (I may need to stop and make groceries on my way home tonight). But it’s really no surprise I am tired this week–it’s been quite a week, from the tire to my book release to trying to get my new book finished to everything else I’ve had going on this week, and so I should be exhausted. We did finish the Victoria’s Secret documentary last night, and I have to say, the “#metoo”/Harvey Weinstein/Jeffrey Epstein” reckoning was not only way overdue but it’s quite bizarre to look back at it now and think, how did they get away with this shit for so long?

It wasn’t just women, either. It happened to men, too–I’m thinking of Henry Willson’s casting couch, and how he basically pimped his beautiful male clients out to Hollywood bigwigs, hence the basis for Chlorine–and of course, famously Brendan Fraser, who is having a very lovely career comeback now. But it was mostly the women these awful things happened to, and it’s no surprise that the reckoning took down Victoria’s Secret. The documentary series is interesting–I’d love to know what Epstein had on Les Wexler, because it had to not only be seriously bad but incredibly damaging; which means it could have been underage girls but my money is on underaged boys, frankly.

But as I said I feel rested this morning somewhat, and it will be more of a regular day for me–which hasn’t really happened all week, to be honest; Monday was messed up and so was yesterday; Tuesday was normal but it didn’t feel normal because I had the tire situation hanging over my head as well as the injury to my left arm (which feels fine this morning; there’s some tightness in my forearm when I turn my arm a certain way, and we’ll see how it feels when I try to pick something up and/or carry it with the left arm today). I had kind of wanted to go back to the gym this week or weekend, but if my left arm isn’t functional…I suppose I could go do legs only and stretch some. I don’t know what to do, really.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday (!) and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Carol

I have to go to the West Bank this morning to buy two new tires for the car. An active pothole destroyed my driver’s side front tire the other day, and so I need to get at least one new tire, probably two so their wear pattern will match. The tires are supposed to be good for 50k miles; I don’t even have 30k on my car yet, which makes this even more frustrating. Perhaps this is my punishment for writing about potholes the other day on the Wickeds blog, with “The Orange Cone”? I may have angered the pothole gods, and they must be appeased to the tune of several hundred dollars.

Ah, well, there’s nothing to do but go whip out a credit card and pay for new tires. At least I can take Wanda Morris’ Anywhere You Run with me to read while I wait for the tires to be mounted and put on the car.

I was very tired yesterday when I got home from work. I didn’t sleep well Monday night (did better last night, frankly) and so was already tired going into the day. I was monitoring my blog post at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen so I could reply to everyone’s comments, and they were keeping me occupied between clients and the end of my shift. When I got home, I had a few hours to make the kitchen presentable before going live with Ellen Byron and Murder by the Book, which was a lot of fun. Paul came home as we were wrapping it up, so we could watch another episode of Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons, which moved on to the Epstein/Ghislaine Maxwell connection to Victoria’s Secret, and it seems as though human trafficking and models being pimped out by their agencies might very well have been happening in the industry before Epstein, from the looks of things. B

But the event went really well–it was nice seeing John from the store again, and he said very nice things about my book beforehand, including “After reading it and liking it a lot, I have to ask, why did it take so long for you to write a cozy?” which I thought was the highest compliment I could ever receive. There have been times that I have felt like a carpetbagger in the subgenre; poaching in territory not my own. But one thing I will say about the cozy subgenre–the authors and readers are incredibly kind, supportive and welcoming to new authors entering their territory. It’s been lovely seeing all the support from other cozy writers and readers on social media in the weeks leading up to the book’s release, and it’s also something I’m really not used to, to be honest. I don’t want to make it sound like I haven’t had support from colleagues and readers before–because that wouldn’t be the truth–but this entire experience, from the announcement of the contract to the cover reveal to the release, has been so incredibly lovely and affirming that like John, I wonder why it took me so long to join the ranks of the cozy writers? Ellen and I did agree on camera that my Scotty series was a more of an edgy cozy series that breaks some of the rules (profanity, sex, violence and blood on the page) than anything else; Scotty may be a licensed private eye but no one ever hires him–he just stumbles into bodies and mysteries all the time through no effort of his own.

Christ, I am so behind on my Scotty book. Heavy heaving sigh.

(Even in the midst of self-promotion, I can always feel guilty about the progress of whatever it is I am working on at the moment.)

After I get the tires put on the car and paid for, then it’s off to the office to finish my work day. This week has been a weird one; sick on Monday, flat tire, promotional events, book launch, and now a morning spent at the car dealership. Not exactly how I saw the week going Sunday morning while I was drinking coffee and planning ahead–which is another great example of ‘man plans, the gods laugh”–and now today is even Pay-the-Bills Day and I didn’t really notice because. well, I need to get to the dealership this morning and buy new tires…all the while hoping the spare makes it to the West Bank intact. (It’s supposedly good for fifty miles and I haven’t gotten anywhere close to that kind of mileage since changing the tire.)

But life always has a habit of interfering with your best laid plans, doesn’t it?

And on that note, I am hopping into the shower and heading over to the West Bank. Wish me well, Constant Reader, and that it’s quick and easy to get in and out. Fingers crossed, at any rate.

“They told me to take a streetcar named Murder…”

Obviously, that’s not the famous Tennessee Williams line, which actually is “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!”

The quote, incredibly poetic and evocative, is also wrong. Whoever gave Blanche DuBois those directions at the Greyhound station in the Central Business District, gave her bad directions. The Desire line ran past Elysian Fields–so there was no need for her to transfer to the Cemeteries line, which ran up and down Canal Street. The Desire streetcar would be the one she’d take to get off at Elysian Fields…not the Cemeteries. I’ve always loved that the directions were wrong; thinking that it was a sly little joke Williams played on playgoers, the cast, everyone; Blanche came to New Orleans and got bad directions, and it was all downhill after that.

I love the play, and I love the film. The performances of the entire cast are amazing; Marlon Brando is at his most bestial and beautiful, and Vivien Leigh is just stunning.

And of course, my partner is the executive director of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, and has worked there since 1998. So I have another connection to Williams, a more direct one than just appreciating his work. At some point in my career–I think maybe with Murder in the Rue St. Ann–I started using Tennessee Williams quotes as epigrams to my series novels set in New Orleans; maybe it wasn’t Rue St. Ann but rather Jackson Square Jazz; I used a quote from Orpheus Descending: “A good-looking boy like you is always wanted.”

SO, today my new book from Crooked Lane launched, and yes, I called it A Streetcar Named Murder. I still can’t believe no one else has ever used that title; it seems perfect for a New Orleans mystery novel. I came up with the title years ago–only it was A Streetcar Named Death, and when I started writing that one about eighteen years ago it was a Paige novel, set during the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, and the victim was an Ann Coulter-like writer who came from a New Orleans political family, only her beliefs and what she writes about are anathema to her more progressive family. I got about four or five chapters in when I had to put it aside and move on to something else–I don’t remember what–and when I started writing those Paige novellas whenever the hell that was, I’d moved on from the title…because I’d used “A Streetcar Named Death” as a short story title.

But when Crooked Lane didn’t like my original title for this, and asked for another, well, I suggested A Streetcar Named Murder (they were also nonplussed than no one had used it before) and the rest was, as we say, history.

The first rule of life in New Orleans is any time you leave your house not looking your best, you’ll run into your nemesis.

You’d think as many times as this has happened to me, I’d know better by now. I guess I’m just a slow learner. But in my own defense, I was just walking the couple of blocks to Big Fisherman Market on Magazine Street to get a pound of shrimp fresh from the Gulf, and I figured the odds were in my favor.

It was obviously not the day to buy a Powerball ticket.

I was tucking my wallet into my purse and reaching for the bag of peeled, deveined shrimp resting on the counter when a voice behind me said, dripping with sugar, “Valerie Cooper! Is that you?”

I froze. My heart sank. I knew that voice all too well. I’d become very familiar with it over years of countless, seemingly endless parents’ association meetings and events. When my twin sons graduated last spring, I’d hoped I’d never hear it again.

I took a deep breath and choked back a moan. My chestnut-brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. I hadn’t even put on lip gloss. I glanced down at my worn, ratty old sweatpants. The ancient, paint-stained Jazz Fest T-shirt I was wearing didn’t help either.

I steeled myself, plastering a phone smile on my face.

I turned around to face Nemesis.

Okay, nemesis is probably a bit harsh. Collette Monaghan wasn’t that awful. I’d managed to keep Collette at arm’s length through all the years of being active in the Loyola High School parents’ group, the Cardirents. (Cute, right? Short for Cardinals’ Parents. It started out as the Cardimoms until some moms guilted their husbands into joining. A unanimous vote changed the name to be more inclusive when my boys were freshmen.) I wanted to believe Collette Monaghan didn’t deliberatately try to make other women feel bad about themselves. Her rare compliments always seemed a bit back-handed.

I kind of like that opening.

Feel free to order it from your local independent bookseller, or from your favorite on-line site.

It’s All Over Now

Well, it’s Tuesday morning and all I have to say about that is good. Monday was a dreadful day, and the less said about it the better. I woke up feeling ill, and it was just all downhill from there. The only good thing I can say about yesterday was I got to spend the entire morning lying down, covered up in blankets, reading Wanda M. Morris’ Anywhere You Run, which is fantastic. I didn’t get to finish reading the book–hopefully that glorious day will come soon–and losing yet another day of work on the book was quite a savage blow. Tonight after work I have to do an on-line event for Murder by the Book with the always delightful Ellen Byron, which will leave me exhausted as those things always do, so tonight is pretty much out. Heavy heaving sigh. But at least college football is over, which frees up my entire day Saturday, which is nice. And I feel well this morning–I knew taking Claritin and resting all day (sort of) would stave off the coming sinus infection (but I’ll take another one today just to be on the safe side). We also started watching the Victoria’s Secret documentary–I think it’s called Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons–because the owner of the company was weirdly involved with Jeffrey Epstein? It’s interesting enough. I vaguely remembered the collapse of the brand–and who knew there were so many other stores, all belonging to the same person? Remember Structure?–but I didn’t remember that there was an Epstein connection.

Oh! I am also guesting at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, with my slow cooker meatball recipe. Today is also the official release day for A Streetcar Named Murder, so happy release day to me!

It still seems a bit weird to me to have this book out in the world at long last. It feels like I’ve been waiting for this release date for a very long time, and now it is here. Will people like it? Will people buy it? Will my regular readers like this completely different (not really, but you know what I mean) type of book from me? Naturally, I hope so; I’ve been really surprised and delighted by the unexpectedly and overwhelmingly positive response to the book thus far. I’m not used to it.

But just as it occurred to me the other day that my perceptions of New Orleans have changed–i.e. that all the little oddities and eccentricities that used to amuse me and give me things to write about now seem commonplace and normal to me now–I think my perception on my writing has also started changing a little bit–which is really lovely and nice and long overdue. I’ve talked about this before–the dichotomy of how I was raised to always be humble and never, ever brag about myself–and how its really the exact worst way to raise any kind of artist. Being an artist (or writer) is difficult enough with those constant self-doubts and “do I really know what I am doing here” and everyone’s favorite, Imposter Syndrome. If you don’t know what Imposter Syndrome is, consider yourself very lucky. For me, it manifests itself in “I’m really just faking it and don’t really have any insights because I literally don’t know what I am doing, but as long as I can keep fooling people I’ll keep going until they realize the Empress has no clothes.” My perception of my own writing and my own work is slowly starting to shift–yes, Constant Reader, after twenty-odd years and over forty books, etc etc etc, I am starting to feel some confidence in my actually work. Rereading A Streetcar Named Murder the other week–I had to do so because I’d forgotten a lot about the book in the meantime, so I could do some more Blatant Self-Promotional blog entries–and realized it wasn’t, in fact, terrible but was actually an enjoyable read. (This may not seem like much to you, Constant Reader, but for me this was huge.) I do think that this book, along with my last three (Royal Street Reveillon, Bury Me in Shadows, #shedeservedit) is some of the best work of my career thus far. And when I was rereading the old Scottys to prepare me for writing the new one, I was impressed with them rather than wincing. I think maybe I’ve managed to flip the “editorial” switch off when I read my books again? So rather than rereading them and catching errors or thinking oh I could have said this or that better, I read them as they were and for what they are. It was definitely some major progress, methinks, towards a better mental attitude for me, not only for my work but for my life in general.

It only took me over sixty-one years to start getting there.

A lot of it, I think, comes from my determination to not take myself seriously, which probably goes back to my childhood. I know the self-deprecatory shit comes from a mentality of if I make fun of myself I can beat everyone else to it which was a self-defense mechanism I developed to shield myself from being mocked, made fun of, and insulted by other kids. I can’t claim it as a gay experience because I would imagine every queer kid’s experience is different and there are probably some who never were bullied, were never made fun of, were never the butt of everyone else’s jokes as an easy target because I didn’t fit the societal image of what a little boy was supposed to be. I think I was seven or eight the first time someone called me a fairy? (At the time, I didn’t realize they meant fairy as in Tinkerbell and not ferry as in a boat that conveys cars over water; I couldn’t understand the ferry reference until a few years later when it was accompanied by such lovely terms as fag, faggot, femme, homo, cocksucker and so forth; when I was conditioned to be ashamed of myself and of who I was, through no fault of my own….and well, if I make fun of myself I can head them off before they go down that road.) This of course presupposed that people were going to make fun of me or call me names–and I can now see how toxic and self-destructive that actually can be. You should never default to the idea that other people will make fun of you.

You can see how that mentality can be damaging to a writer.

I carried a lot of baggage into this career that I should have discarded a long time ago.

I am, if nothing else, always a work in progress.

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

You Better Move On

I woke up not feeling so hot this morning. There was a touch of fever, a lot of sinus, and just over ickiness. I did take a COVID test that came back negative–praise the Lord–but I am achy and not feeling myself, so I bit the bullet and called in sick. Yay. And then to add insult to injury, my Internet went out. Grrrreeeeeeaaaaattttt. I turned my phone into a Hotspot, and Cox is quite generously sending someone out today between 5 and 7 because unplugging it and resetting the modem simply isn’t doing the trick the way it is supposed to. In fairness, I think we’ve had this modem since we moved back into the Lost Apartment just before Christmas of 2006, so I suppose it has lasted a really long time. But it is still fucking irritating to risk a data overage on my phone simply because Cox has a shitty customer service mentality. I’d switch to another provider but…I’ve heard terrible things about all of them, so maybe this is yet another case of the devil you know. I expect Cox to suck, so it’s frustrating but not a surprise.

My Apple TV router is also getting up there in years, too. Probably will need to replace it sooner than I’d prefer as well. Heavy heaving sigh.

I feel a little better now than I did this morning–I took a Claritin and it seems to have helped some–but I still have stomach upset and everything feels a little more tired than it should. I also have a mild headache–it was a major one before I took the Claritin, so it’s sinus-related. Our weather has been weird the last few days–very humid but not super-hot, even coldish–so we’ve had a lot of foggy mornings and nights which are never good with my sinuses. So I am assuming I’ve developed yet another sinus infection (hurray!) which hopefully the Claritin will spare me the worst of. But at least I didn’t feel good this morning, so I was at home for the Internet shenanigans. Imagine if I had gone to the office, come home to this after their hours, and had to deal with it? Who knows when they would deign to come fix is? I probably would have had to call out for work on another day, so at least this is all going to be handled today.

Sigh.

I’ve spent part of the morning under my blanket in my easy chair reading Wanda M. Morris’ Anywhere You Run and Constant Reader, it is marvelous. It’s even better, I think, than her debut All Her Little Secrets and if I’m not mistaken, I believe the two books may actually be connected, which is super cool. I had the great pleasure of meeting Wanda this year, and she’s just as kind and warm and lovely in person as she is a talented writer, which is amazing.

I was feeling off yesterday–which I guess was the start of this whatever the fuck it is–and so I wrote for a while yesterday morning before collapsing into my easy chair around three yesterday afternoon. We watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which has been recommended to me by several people whose opinions I respect, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have hoped, predicated on the enthusiasm with which it was recommended to me. I do love Robert Downey Jr. (pre-Iron Man; I never cared for his Tony Stark but hey, congrats, it made you richer than you could have ever imagined) and I thought the story was clever. I don’t really care for the breaking of the fourth wall so much, but I also loved that it was sort of based on a Brett Holiday novel (i’ve never read Holiday; I should rectify that sometime but I am not really a huge fan of the tough-guy books that proliferated in the pulpy post-war era. I absolutely hated I the Jury, and there’s not enough money in the world to persuade me to read another Mickey Spillane novel, and I suspect his Mike Shayne books fall into that category–the hard-nose tough guy, sexy two-dimensional “broads” who are devious, and so on) and it did have a lot of clever things that I appreciated. We then moved on to watch another episode of Welcome to Chippendales, which is interesting but could be better, and last night we watched The Texas Killing Fields docuseries about the I-45 murders between Houston and Galveston, which I vaguely remember from when my parents lived in Houston. (I also thought it was interesting that the first batch of killings, mostly young girls, teenaged or younger, was going on at the same time the Candyman was killing teenaged boys in another part of Houston. Houston: serial killer capital of Texas, clearly.) I was dozing off during the docuseries, so I missed a couple of important pieces to the story, but it wasn’t hard to stay up on the story and get caught up when I’d wake. We also got caught up on Andor and some of the other shows we’re watching.

Okay, I am feeling a bit woozy again so I am going to go back to my chair and Wanda’s book. Hope you have a better Monday than me, Constant Reader.

Not Fade Away

And here it is, Sunday morning already, and where did my weekend go? I am not sure, but somehow yesterday managed to get away from me somehow, and I didn’t get nearly what I had hoped done–or at least looked at, at any rate. I allowed myself to sleep in yesterday–today too–and it felt really nice. I got some things done around the house and then ran my errands. When I returned, I realized I had something to do that I’d forgotten about–I remembered right when I was leaving to run the errands (okay, I saw the reminder email before I left to run those errands)–and so I had to prepare something to eat. A friend had offered to let me guest blog at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, where you promote yourself and your new book by sharing a recipe. No problem, I thought, forgetting that I don’t really use recipes after the first or second time I make something, and then I never ever make it the same way twice again. I love cooking, I really do, and I think I’m good at it. I’m not a chef by any means–I cannot identify flavors by taste, and I am not familiar enough with tastes and textures to think of combinations that would work together into something delicious without a reference or a starting place. And truth be told, I subscribe very heavily to the notion that if you base your cooking in the basics of Louisiana-style food, it’s always going to be delicious. You can never go wrong with anything that starts with a roux as the base, let’s be honest. Many years ago I had a recipe in the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, which was way fun; it was a recipe I’d been making for years and years and years and tinkered with a lot, going through many delicious and delightful variations–so I knew I had it written down somewhere. But after I got the reminder email I looked at what was required–and saw to my horror that I also needed pictures. I am not one of those people who regularly documents their food preparation, so I realized that I was going to have to actually make it so I could take the needed pictures; and there were things I would need from the market as I didn’t have them on hand. I also found the recipe and realized I’d improved on it quite a bit since I wrote it down for the cookbook, and I had to rewrite and revise it.

Constant Reader, those meatballs were goddamned delicious.

And I documented their making, as well as took a photo of the plated end product.

LSU got beaten yesterday, 50-30, in the SEC championship game. Georgia was better, as I expected, and none of the breaks really went LSU’s way; and for them to win, they needed all the breaks they could get, Georgia to not play well, and the Tigers needed to play out of their ass. Back-up quarterback Garrett Nussmeier looked amazing, frankly–the future of LSU football clearly on display; a little more control and better chemistry with his receivers and he could become Joey Burrow 2.0. Am I disappointed? Sure, a little, but mostly I am proud of this team and have far they have come since last January and that bowl game, or how far they’ve come since the start of the season. But they won the toughest division in college football, and did some things no one could have predicted. The future looks bright, and LSU is going to be elite again, very soon. (And a shout out to Tulane for winning their conference and winning a trip to the Cotton Bowl. No one saw that coming, either.) TCU lost, which, along with USC’s loss, will cause enough of the chaos I was hoping to see this weekend…although I do think Georgia and Michigan are without question the two best teams in the country, and there’s really no need for a third or fourth place seed. Now we just have to see which bowl game LSU ends up in, and the season is over–far better than anything I had any reason to expect back in August, so thanks again, Tigers. It was an interesting, up and down and exciting season, with some amazing games.

Today I have to go pick up the groceries I ordered; I think the meatballs will get me through the week for lunches, and so I don’t think I need to cook anything else today. I’ll probably have to stop at the market on the way home from work on Monday, after I get a better sense of what we need after putting everything away today (don’t ask, it makes sense in my fevered brain)–I may want to get a salad, or the produce necessary to make one.

As I have been writing my Blatant Self-Promotion posts for A Streetcar Named Murder I have also been realizing that a feeling I’ve been having for quite some time isn’t actually accurate. I have posted a few times over the last few years about feeling disconnected from New Orleans in some weird way, that something had changed and I wasn’t sure what it was, if it was the city itself–which has changed–or something in me or some combination of the two. But in writing these posts about New Orleans, I find myself smiling as I write them–I certainly was smiling when I was writing that guest post the other day for the Wickeds blog, “The Orange Cone” (which could also be the seeds of a longer comic essay about life in New Orleans)–that what has actually shifted is that I’ve kind of gone native. For years, I wrote about the wackiness and silliness and delicious little ironies of life in New Orleans, the eccentricities and oddities, because they stood out to me. They no longer do. I take that stuff for granted now, and it doesn’t even register with me anymore because I’ve become so accustomed to it. Writing about potholes and orange cones, and how they are easily not only in the Top 5 for conversation material between total strangers in the city made me laugh, made me shake my head at the wackiness and strangeness, and well–the whole New Orleans of it. That’s the thing. I never thought I would get to the point where the oddities of New Orleans life would become so commonplace as for me to pay it no mind, but here I proverbially am.

And I kind of love that for me. I love this city. I am by no means an expert on New Orleans; what I do not know about this city, its people, its history and its legends and lore could fill the Great Library at Alexandria. I continue to learn more every day, and with the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know and that I will never become expert, no matter how much I learn and read and absorb and experience. I always kind of smile to myself when people say that I am an expert on all things New Orleans because I am all too aware of how little I actually do know. I don’t know that I will ever stop writing about New Orleans. Writing that historical Sherlock Holmes story set here was so much fun to write and research–and I’ve also discovered an enormous flaw in my research and writing for that story since writing it, which serves as yet another example of the limits of my knowledge and how much deeper you have to go when researching a period of history here (one of the biggest hurricanes to ever hit New Orleans came through the year before the story’s setting; no commentary on rebuilding or about the disaster is a glaring omission). I want to write about Madame La Laurie; I want to write about the Sultan’s Palace and the trunk murders and the kidnapping of that little boy back in the late nineteenth century. I want to write about Storyville and musicians and Prohibition and bootleggers. I want to write about the Axeman, and the grinch, and other legends and lore; every time I find something new in a history or an a New Orleans history website, I immediately start thinking of ways to write about it. I will never run out of material to write about here, never.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. I am going to read for a little while as I drink coffee and wake up, and then I am going to write until it’s time to go get the groceries…and then come home to write some more. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

I Wanna Be Your Man

Apparently Utah stomped USC last night in the Pac-12 championship game, which throws the college football playoffs into a bit of chaos. At this point I am rooting for chaos, frankly. Since LSU is out of it, I want everyone in the Top 4 to lose today (with apologies to all of their fans) simply because I do want this to be as insane as the entire season has been so far. This has been easily the craziest college football season since 2007, which has made it a lot less predictable and a lot more fun to watch. Do I think LSU has a chance to beat Georgia today? Probably not, but…the last time LSU went to the championship game with three or more losses, they played a one-loss Tennessee team that was ranked second in the country and heading to the national championship game. No one gave LSU a chance–but somehow they won, 31-20, without their starting quarterback or their star running back, going on to trounce Big 10 champion Illinois in the Sugar Bowl. So there’s precedent for it happening again, but as I said, I find it highly unlikely.

I slept late this morning–all the way until eight thirty, a miracle–and it was sound. I got up once during the night to go to the bathroom and immediately went right back to a deep, restful sleep that felt absolutely marvelous. I feel very rested this morning, and feel like if all goes well this could be a highly productive day. I do have to get the mail and probably stop at Fresh Market for a few things, and I also need to order groceries for pick-up tomorrow morning, but other than that I plan on being here, parked in front of my computer, for most of the day. I don’t care much about today’s football games other than who wins, and I can follow that on Twitter (as I did the USC-Utah game last night), so I should be able to get writing work done today as well as some necessary and needed cleaning and filing and organizing.

Last night, Paul and I watched Bros, and I feel like I kind of owe Billy Eichner an apology for not going to see it in the theater. I’ve never much cared for Eichner, in all honesty–the mean-spirited bitchy persona he’s always personified as his schtick is one that I’ve never connected with, and so my reaction to the trailers and press about the movie was always, why would I pay this much money to go see him be an asshole for two hours? And yes, the character he plays is very similar to the comic persona he’s developed over his career–the difference is Bros fleshes him out as the character Bobby (Bobby/Billy; see what I mean?) and makes him three-dimensional and yes, dare I say it? Relatable and likable. Luke McFarlane is also incredibly likable as Aaron, his love interest–and of course the fact that he’s beautiful makes him, I suppose, that much more relatable. Both are emotionally unavailable and have no desire to deal with the drama dating entails, but as they spend more time with each other and keep challenging each other to be better versions of themselves, it actually is a charming, sometimes funny, and all too human romantic comedy–the kind we gays have been begging Hollywood to make for decades. I don’t know if publicly admonishing the audience for not turning up to the theater opening weekend was perhaps the smartest public relations move or not, but I really enjoyed the movie. A lot. It was very smart, had a lot of things to say about being gay or queer in this modern age of hookup apps and computer dating, and I actually felt like I was watching two real gay men fumbling their way towards an actual relationship–and rooting for them to get there. It was a very pleasant surprise, and is one of the best gay romance movies I’ve ever seen.

So, I’ll say it again: I’m sorry, Billy, for not seeing it in the theater on opening weekend. I don’t see many movies in the theater–I think the last one I did see was either Aquaman or Wonder Woman 84, and I probably should have supported Bros. My apologies. There are also some incredibly real moments in the movie that I could actually relate to–the soliloquy on the beach on Provincetown about how being so unmistakably gay as Bobby was altered and changed the trajectory of his life, going so far as to destroy his dreams and force him to reevaluate and come up with new ones. That resonated with me–my experience with the college writing professor is never far from my mind–and it also made me think about how many other gays or queers have had that same experience with an authority figure?

It’s a good movie when it makes you think and reevaluate your own life, you know? So well done, Mr. Eichner, and again, I’m sorry. I enjoyed your movie, think it’s one of the best gay films I’ve ever seen, and you were right to chastise us for not supporting it during it’s theatrical run.

Interestingly enough, I’ve been thinking over this past year that I actually may want to write a gay romance. I’ve been toying with the idea for at least that long, and I know writing a cozy has something to do with that. I also have an idea, I just am not sure how to execute it–but I am going to put it on the list for potential 2023 projects.

And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up and get my day started. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Come On

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, something I didn’t mention on yesterday’s blog because well, it was early in the morning and I literally forgot about it until I got to work yesterday morning (I probably should have prepared a post ahead of time to memorialize and commemorate those we lost; next year–I will put it on my calendar so I won’t forget).

To be fair, I was also all aglow from that terrific review Oline Cogdill gave A Streetcar Named Murder (you can still preorder! Release date is 12/6!). And this morning, I am the guest blogger over at The Wickeds, talking about orange cones and a particularly vexing New Orleans problem, the perennial and pesky potholes.

I slept really well last night, not alighting from the arms of Morpheus until seven thirty this morning. I felt absolutely like a lag-a-bed, a lazy swine, for sleeping so late when my eyes opened to see the red digital numbers glowing in the morning light. I’ve been getting up at five or five thirty all week, so was kind of wondering whether or not I’d sleep late this morning. (I did wake up at three, but went back to sleep almost immediately.) Today I am working from home. I do have some errands I must do at some point, and there’s data to enter and so forth, and oddly enough I feel rested this morning. Usually on Fridays I am a bit worn down from the week, low energy and so forth (which makes the data entry perfect as a job duty for the day), but I don’t feel that way this morning. I don’t feel like I can conquer the world, but I do feel like I can get some things accomplished today. The sink is filled with dirty dishes and of course, there’s always laundry (it never ceases to amaze me how much clothing Paul and I can dirty up all week). I was also very tired when I got home from work last night. Paul didn’t come home until after I groggily climbed the stairs around ten to go to bed, so I spent much of the evening with Scooter purring in my lap while I watched some documentaries on Youtube. James Somerton has a great new one about gay body culture and its origins in Nazi Germany (!), and how the ubermensch Nazi culture of the perfect body was brought home by GI’s after the war. It was fascinating–and it’s been something that’s been on my mind a lot lately (well, over the last few years since the pandemic started) as I’ve looked into gay history and have thought about writing historical gay noirs set throughout the twentieth century (Chlorine, Peplum, Obscenity, Indecency). Watching the Somerton documentary reminded me of Michelangelo Signorile’s Life Outside, which spent some time examining gay body culture, and 2001’s The Adonis Complex, which was a look at the development of male body culture that couldn’t be taken seriously as they erased the gay male experience completely (by not mentioning or acknowledging its existence) which completely invalidated almost everything they wrote about in the book; you cannot talk about male physical perfectionism and only talk about straight men. As Somerton points out in his video–being in good physical condition as a male after your teens used to be a tell about not being straight, as I also mentioned recently on here (when I was talking about using pictures other than of shirtless men).

I don’t always agree with Somerton, but I always enjoy his videos. They make me think, even when I agree with him, and I do enjoy hearing different perspectives.

Progress on the book is being made. It’s been slow going this week, but I am hopeful to make all kinds of progress this weekend. I do have some errands that must be done this weekend, not the least of which is making groceries, and of course I’ll have to watch the SEC Championship game since LSU is playing Georgia, but the loss last week took most of the urgency out of this game, so I can just watch and not mind how it turns out. As I said the other day, finishing the regular season at 8-3 with a trip to the conference championship was something I couldn’t have imagined in August or September–so it’s wonderful to see LSU relevant again after the tragedies that were the last two seasons. Who knows what the future may hold for the Tigers? But it’s nice to be competitive again with the big boys. Like I said, last summer I would have never believed LSU would beat Auburn, Florida, and Alabama this season, yet here we are. GEAUX TIGERS!

I need to get my act together today. It’s been nice (seriously) getting up this week when I wake up; I’ve loved having that extra hour (or half hour, depending on which day it was) to get things done before heading for work. And while I was tired in the evenings when I got home, realistically I was able to get some things done in the evening as well. I need to check my to-do list and clean some, as already mentioned; I also have errands to do and I want to get some work on the book done as well as some more Blatant Self-Promotion posts. The book comes out on Tuesday officially, which is terribly exciting.

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

Silver Girl

And now it’s Thursday, my last in the office day of this week and I surprisingly have made it through without much complaint. I am awake again this morning, not feeling particularly tired (I don’t think I slept that well last night, to be honest) but I feel better than I usually do on Thursday mornings, so I will take it.

Yesterday was a marvelous one when it comes to work. I managed to get some more work done on Mississippi River Mischief, and not looking at it for almost a week was the smart thing to do. I removed myself from the agony of forcing myself to write it and thinking it was completely crap, and was able to see it for what it is, while also realizing what I was trying to do with the story. I regained my confidence by stepping away from it and asking for an extension, and now I feel like not only will I get it done but it will be what I actually want it to be.

And then this morning, what do I see on my social media but this marvelous review from Oline Cogdill. Talk about a confidence boost!

Ironically, as I was writing another Blatantly Self-Promotional post last night after finishing working on my new book and I thought, you know, you should do what you never do and reread the book–which could help you come up with other blatant self-promotional post ideas. So, since Paul had a meeting last night, I curled up in my chair and opened one of my author copies of A Streetcar Named Murder, and I’m really glad I did. It may surprise you, Constant Reader, to know that one of the hardest parts of being a writer for me is promoting myself–there are many reasons for this, but the one I want to talk about right now is one in particular; I may circle back around to examining my discomfort with self-promotion later or save it for another post because it may take a lot on unpacking.

But for now, one of the reasons I find promoting myself to be difficult is usually I’ve almost completely forgotten almost everything about the book by the time it’s released. As I have said ad nauseum, I rarely go back and read something I’ve written once it is in print. And usually by the time the book has come out, I have written at least one more or am in the weeds writing another–for example, I am very deep inside of a new Scotty book (which is another New Orleans book, of course) which makes it even harder for me to remember details about the book being released. (I’ve also had to dig into some of the old Scottys for this one I am writing as well–and have been very pleasantly surprised rather than embarrassed and/or disappointed, which is always my fear about reading old work)

And…I liked it. I actually reread my book and liked it. I never cringed, I didn’t slip into editorial/critical mode (“why didn’t you word that better? What is up with this paragraph?” etc etc etc.), and I found myself actually enjoying the ride. Rather than being critical and self-deprecating and all of that shit I usually fall into when rereading my own work, I had a breakthrough of sorts. It’s only taken over forty books and over fifty short stories–even typing the first part of the sentence out makes me feel ridiculous, but it’s how my brain works–but I may have finally broken down the wall and achieved confidence in myself as a writer. It’s been a whirl, really. Last night after I finished reading I thought, “you know, you were really proud of Royal Street Reveillon, and over the last eighteen months you released Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit and you were proud of them, too. And now you’re proud of this one already! Well done, you!”

ANd yes, pride goeth before a fall and I always find myself waiting for the next shoe to drop, but for now, I am going to relish and enjoy this feeling. I may wake up tomorrow and hate everything I’ve ever written again, who knows? But it feels good to take pride in my work, to finally be able to feel proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last twenty years instead of just shrugging it off.

I’ve written over forty books.

I absolutely should be proud of myself.

And on that high note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow morning before my work-at-home duties.

Goodbye Baby

Tuesday morning and all is quiet at this ungodly hour.

I’m up earlier than usual because I made the decision, whilst I was out of town, that the smart thing to do was get up when I actually wake up, rather than just continuing to lie in the bed awake. It’s comfortable, to be sure, and getting out from under my pile of blankets is never an easy thing to do….but it’s also wasteful of time and staying in bed doesn’t make getting up with the alarm any easier, nor does it make me less tired later in the day. All in all, it’s not going to kill me to get up earlier, so today is my first day trying it (not really, I woke up an hour earlier than necessary yesterday and just went ahead and got up then, so this is my second day of trying this to see how it all works for me). I had errands to run after work last night and I had to write a promotional piece for another blog for A Streetcar Named Murder–there really is no worse timing than having a book coming out as you are trying to meet the deadline on another.

It’s also weird because at the same time I have to try to remember things from Streetcar, which was finished months ago, and of course I’ve moved on to something new that I need to focus on. Heavy sigh. But I think the post I wrote last night is fun and interesting, and hopefully will spark some interest in the book. I’ve also been asked to sign at an event here in New Orleans in January–I want to say ALA, but I could be wrong–and I’ve also agreed to return to the dual Murder event weekend in Alabama yet again. I think this is the fourth time I’ve been invited? I love Margaret and Tammy, and I always have a lovely time at the event.

WE started watching that Hulu series about Chippendales last night, Welcome to Chippendales, starring Kumail Nanjiani as Steve Batterjee. I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about Chippendales and the resultant murder of one of the partners, but I’d forgotten about Dorothy Stratten’s connection to the club before she was murdered (someone really needs to do another series or movie about her life and death; Star 80 was good but…). It’s entertaining enough, and Chippendales also has something to do with the societal change in the sexualization and objectification of the male body that began in the 1970’s (along with the explosion of gay porn and Playgirl, followed by Calvin Klein ads in the 1980s), as well as the beauty standard for men. I recently (it may have been longer ago than what counts as recent, but time has lost all meaning to me now) commented to one of my younger gay male co-workers that “you used to be able to tell if someone was gay or not by how well built they were; if they clearly spent time on their bodies at the gym and ate right to improve the way they looked, they were gay because straight men didn’t give a shit.” Tribal tattoos also used to be a tell that a hot guy was gay. NOT ANYMORE. And the guys today–whatever their sexual orientation–have even more amazing bodies than we used to have back in the day; the definition and the focus on ab development and the absence of any body fat is far more pronounced amongst hot young men these days than it used to be. And they are everywhere. My Instagram and Twitter feeds are often filled with beautiful shots of incredibly handsome young men with unbelievable bodies; some of which I’ve sometimes shared here on the blog. I’ve also been seriously considering going to something else with the blog images, to be honest–I know some people would miss the sexy men images, but it also might be keeping other people away at the same time. I don’t know. But I started using pictures of hot men years ago because when the blog cross-posted to social media it would always show up as with a pale blue square box with a pencil in it, which I hated. When I talked about books, the book cover would come over, so I decided to use images of very hot men that essentially pop up somewhere on the Internet throughout the course of the day and it kind of became an ingrained habit, a default if you will, perhaps even a brand–I hate thinking of myself or anything I do as a writer as a ‘brand,’ and yes, I do recognize that my writing is a product for sale, but it’s not a pack of T-shirts or underwear or a pair of pants hanging on a sales rack. So, do I really want my ‘brand’ for my blog to be sexy shirtless men?

Probably a little late to worry about that now.

The Chippendales calendar–how many years did I buy that? I can remember being deathly afraid to take it to the cash register at the bookstore…but now that I am thinking about it, I don’t remember which bookstores I used to patronize in Fresno. Perhaps a Barnes and Noble at the mall? A Waldenbooks, maybe? But yes, I used to feel my face burning with embarrassment as I tried to nonchalantly buy a Chippendales calendar, all the while thinking the cashier knows I am gay because why else would I be buying this calendar? Now I laugh at the memory of the shame I used to feel. The cashier couldn’t have given two shits about what I was buying, and even if they did, who cares? I had always been attracted more to athletes than any other type of male; I always had a thing for muscles and worked out bodies. Why, I don’t know; whether I was simply wired that way for physical attraction, or if it’s because the first naked bodies of men that I saw were those of athletes in school. Junior high was the first time I ever had to change into gym clothes, shower and be around other naked boys, and I was never comfortable doing so. The locker room before and after gym in junior high was a nightmare, but once I was in high school and on sports teams…the boys I was attracted to were usually athletes. That never really changed over the years as I got older and grew more comfortable with my sexuality–what changed were the bodies. Whereas only athletes and dancers, gay men, and narcissistic straight men used to regularly go to the gym and work out their bodies to build muscle, gradually it became a thing for all men across the board, regardless of orientation. On the rare occasions when I go to the gym now, I see incredibly well-built and well-muscled young men all the time–and while thirty years ago I would have assumed they were gay or bisexual, now I can’t assume anything. I just marvel at the shift in societal attitudes towards men no longer in school who continue to exercise and work out–whether to be healthier or for something to show off and attract women, who knows?

But aesthetically, I appreciate them.

So, the quandary remains. Do I try to rebrand the blog by using other types of pictures, and if so, what kind should I start using? Would people miss the hot guys? Would more people be drawn to the blog rather than closing the browser window as soon as the hot guy loads?

Or do I just not worry about it–as I have never worried about people coming here to read the entries–and keep on as I have been? Decisions, decisions.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.