Sleeping Bag

Saturday morning and a lovely night’s sleep was had last evening; today is, I think, going to be a lazy day. We’re in a heat advisory, and I do want to go to the gym this morning, but after that I might have to just stay inside the rest of the day. The heat can be so oppressive; I worry about just how high my power bill is going to be, and it feels like my car never completely cools down when I’m driving here or there, hither and yon.  New Orleans summers are quite brutal; it’s hot and above all else, damp. Hydration is vital because you lose a lot of body fluids through sweating. Just walked to the car from the Lost Apartment, my socks get damp and so do my underarms and forehead. The wetness of the air is, naturally, wonderful for wild plant life; part of the reason New Orleans is so lush with vegetation is nature’s determination to return the city to what it was originally: a swamp. The sidewalk alongside the house is covered in pink crepe myrtle blossoms, like it snowed pink overnight.

I really don’t want to go outside.

But I will always prefer heat to cold. That will never change. I don’t, after all, have to scrape humidity off my car or shovel it off my sidewalk. And really, the anticipation of dealing with the heat is always worse than it ever turns out to be.

The kitchen is a mess this morning, so I definitely need to unload the dishwasher and do another load of dishes this morning. I’ll probably do the floors as well; in for a penny and all that. I may just wind up spending the day reading Lou Berney’s brilliant November Road. My reading has slowed down a bit; I’m not sure why that is, and I also need to read some more short stories this morning, as I only have two that I’ve read left to blog about; but the lovely thing about short stories is they are short, and don’t take a long time to read. I can read three or four in less than an hour, and I’ve got all kinds of anthologies and single-author collections piled up all around the house and in my iPad.

Or…I could just blow everything off and deal with it tomorrow. I’m going to have to make a grocery run anyway.

Weekends.

Next up in the Short Story Project is “The River Styx Runs Upstream” by Dan Simmons, from his collection Prayers to Broken Stones and other Stories:

I loved my mother very much. After her funeral, after her coffin was lowered, the family went home and waited for her return.

I was only eight at the time. Of the required ceremony I remember little. I recall that the collar of the previous year’s shirt was far too tight and that the unaccustomed tie was like a noose around my neck. I remember that the June day was too beautiful for such a solemn gathering. I remember Uncle Will’s heavy drinking that morning and the bottle of Jack Daniels he pulled out as we drove home from the funeral. I remember my father’s face.

The afternoon was too long. I had no role to play in the family’s gathering that day, and the adults ignored me. I found myself wandering from room to room with a warm glass of Kool-Aid, until finally I escaped to the backyard. Even that familiar landscape of play and seclusion was ruined by the glimpse of pale, fat faces staring out from the neighbor’s windows. They were waiting. Hoping for a glimpse. I felt like shouting, throwing rocks at them. Very deliberately I poured the red Kool-Aid into the sand and watched the spreading stain digging a small pit.

They’re digging her up now.

Dan Simmons is a terrific writer. The first of his I read was Carrion Comfort, which I remember fondly, before moving on to (among others) Song of Kali, Summer of Night, and Children of the Night. There was also a really terrific one set in Hawaii whose name I cannot recall right now; but it was about volcanoes and Pele, and I also really enjoyed it. The television adaptation of his The Terror was simply phenomenal television, and while I disagree strongly with his politics–I try as hard as I can to separate the artist  from the work.

This story is absolutely fantastic, and chilling, and creepy. Humanity has developed the technology to revive the dead, but rather than going into any explanations of how that works or why you would do such a thing, Simmons focuses on the point of view of a child whose mother has died and is being brought back…and how other people react to such a thing. This could easily make a terrific novel; and the themes of isolation, being viewed as outsiders and being ostracized by your community, is handled beautifully and can be extrapolated into symbolism about any outsiders. It’s really quite terrific.

And now on to the spice mines.

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Rumors

I wrote a short story the other day; or rather, I finished writing one. It’s called “This Thing of Darkness” (I love that title. It’s from Shakespeare; The Tempest, to be exact.) and it’s one I started writing several months ago and then set aside to work on other things. I’ve always wanted to finish it, and while the story I should have been working on was kind of stalled out for me, rather than trying to force it or work some kind of voodoo magic somehow, I thought, oh, I should just finish “This Thing of Darkness” and soon enough have the first draft banged out. It needs work, of course, but I am very pleased, as the writing has been very slow going this month.

The second story I am writing, the one I really need to finish, continues to be a slog. Heavy sigh. But I am hoping to have a breakthrough on it really soon; otherwise I am just going to have to push myself to write through it.

I really hate when the writing stalls, don’t you?

I also started another story this week. It was one of those things where it came to me Monday night as I was sitting in my easy chair watching the news unfold, and shaking my head in disbelief, frankly. It’s called “Please Die Soon” and I think it’s kind of a clever idea; we shall see if I can deliver on its original promise, shan’t we?

Our anniversary–the twenty-third–is this Friday, and to celebrate we are going to go see a movie on Saturday and go out to dinner. There’s no end to the living large, is there?

And hurray for Thursday! I’ve almost made it through the week.

Today’s short story is “Prey” by Richard Matheson, from The Best of Richard Matheson:

Amelia arrived at her apartment at six-fourteen. Hanging her coat in the hall closet, she carried the small package into the living room and sat on the sofa. She nudged off her shoes while she unwrapped the package on her lap. The wooden box resembled a casket. Amelia raised the lid and smiled. It was the ugliest doo she’d ever seen. Seven inches long and carved from wood, it had a skeletal body and an oversized head. Its expression was maniacally fierce, its pointed teeth completely bared, its glaring eyes protuberant. It clutched an eight-inch spear in its right hand. A length of fine, gold chain was wrapped round its body from the shoulders to the knees. A tiny scroll was wedged between the doll and the inside wall of its box. Amelia picked it up and unrolled it. There was handwriting on it. This is He Who Kills, it began. He is a deadly hunter. Amelia smiled as she read the rest of the words. Arthur would be pleased.

The thought of Arthur made her turn to look at the telephone on the table beside her. After a while, she sighed and set the wooden box on the sofa. Lifting the telephone to her lap, she picked up the receiver and dialed a number.

Her mother answered.

“Hello, Mom,” Amelia said.

“Haven’t you left yet?” her mother asked.

Amelia steeled herself. “Mom, I know it’s Friday night–” she started.

She couldn’t finish. There was silence on the line. Amelia closed her eyes. Mom, please, she thought. She swallowed. “There’s this man,” she said, “His name is Arthur Breslow. he’s a high-school teacher.”

“You aren’t coming,” her mother said.

Amelia shivered “It’s his birthday, ” she said. She opened her eyes and looked at the doll. “I sort of promised him we’d…spend the evening together.”

Every one who was old enough to watch television in the 1970’s knows this story, because everyone watched the made-for-TV movie Trilogy of Terror, which starred Karen Black. Trilogy of Terror was an anthology film; three short stories adapted into thirty-minute stories, all starring Karen Black, and “Prey” was the final story. It was completely unforgettable, because it was absolutely terrifying. It gave me nightmares for weeks, and I had to sleep with a night light on for months. All three were stories by Matheson; Matheson only wrote the screenplay for the third segment. It’s equally chilling as a short story as it was a short film; Amelia buys a fetish doll for a male friend with whom she has a date that night. She has to cancel a visit to her mother, who is very controlling, but while she is on the phone with her mother the gold chain that keeps the spirit of the fetish doll imprisoned and trapped falls off….and the real terror begins.

Absolutely unforgettable.

The movie was also produced by Dan Curtis, of Dark Shadows fame, who also produced and directed Burnt Offerings.

And now back to the spice mines.

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R.O.C.K in the USA

Happy Sunday and a good morning to all y’all.

I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I would have liked; running my errands in the pre-rain humidity literally wore me out, and then when I got going again I started cleaning and doing laundry and well, once I start doing that–as well as going through and trying to organize the books–I am pretty much done for the day….especially after I discovered Burnt Offerings was available for streaming on Prime. Oliver Reed! Karen Black! Bette Davis (who was totally wasted in her role)! I’d seen the movie years ago, I think when it first aired on television after it’s theatrical run, and while it’s still has some moments, it overall doesn’t hold up as well as I would have hoped. I read the book for the first recently in the last few years, and it was wonderful. But watching Burnt Offerings put me in mind of an essay about horror in the 1970’s; the 1970’s was a time when the suburbs really developed because of ‘white flight’ from the cities and desegregation; this was this whole movement of back to the country from the urban centers, and at the same time, there was horror that specifically focused on this phenomenon (without the racism and white flight issues); namely this book, Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon, The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, and even Stephen King lightly touched on this in ‘salem’s Lot; the dangers of the country to people from the city.

One could even argue that James Dickey’s Deliverance also belongs in this category, and it put me in mind of an essay that I may never write. I also thought up another yesterday while running my errands, after car after car after car violated traffic rules and almost caused me to be in in accident (three times, to be exact; which might be a new record): “Right of Way,” in which I would extrapolate the American contempt for traffic rules and laws for everyone’s safety can be directly correlated to contempt for law and order, the system, taxes, everything. I made some notes, and this is one I may actually write. Essays are fun and I do enjoy writing them but I don’t very often, unless one is requested of me for something, and perhaps that’s the wrong approach.

Today I am going to go to the gym and I am going to start rereading Royal Street Reveillon and make notes for the big revision that is coming. I’m also going to start reading Jackson Square Jazz out loud for copy editing purposes, and I’d also like to work on “A Whisper from the Graveyard” today. I should at some point also work on finished “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which means I should also make a to-do list for everything I want to get done in July.

Hmmm. Perhaps not a bad idea, at that.

I also remembered I have notes on a short story I need to read and decide what revisions I need to be make.

It never truly ends, does it? But I am looking forward to Sharp Objects tonight on HBO; I actually liked this book by Gillian Flynn better than Gone Girl, which of course made her hugely famous and hopefully hugely rich. I still haven’t read her Dark Places, but that’s because I still subscribe to the “if I don’t read all the canon then I still have something by her to read” mentality, which is partly why I still have not read the entire canon of either Daphne du Maurier or Shirley Jackson or Patricia Highsmith.

So, I have a lot to do today–only one more day after today before I return to the office, but at least it’s only a four day work week–and so I should probably get back to the spice mines.

The next story up in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “Bloodletting”:

The damp air was thick with the scent of blood.

It had been days since I had last fed, and the desire was gnawing at my insides. I stood up, and my eyes focused on a young man walking a bicycle in front of the cathedral. He was talking on a cell phone, his face animated and agitated. He was wearing a T-shirt that read Who Dat Say They Gonna Beat Dem Saints? and a pair of ratty old paint-spattered jeans cut off at the knees. There was a tattoo of Tweetybird on his right calf, and another indistinguishable one on his left forearm. His hair was dark, combed to a peak in the center of his head, and his face was flushed. He stopped walking, his voice getting louder and louder as his face got darker.

I could smell his blood. I could almost hear his beating heart.

I could see the pulsing vein in his neck, beckoning me forward.

The sun was setting, and the lights around Jackson Square were starting to come on. The tarot card readers were folding up their tables, ready to disappear into the night. The band playing in front of the cathedral was putting their instruments away. The artists who hung their work on the iron fence around the park were long gone, as were the living statues. The square, so teeming with life just a short hour earlier, was emptying of people, and the setting sun was taking the warmth with it as it slowly disappeared in the west. The cold breeze coming from the river ruffled my hair a bit as I watched the young man with the bicycle. He started wheeling the bicycle forward again, still talking on the phone. He reached the concrete ramp leading up to Chartres Street. He stopped just as he reached the street, and I focused my hearing as he became more agitated. What do you want me to say? You’re just being a bitch, and anything I say you’re just going to turn around on me.

I felt the burning inside.

Desire was turning into need.

I knew it was best to satisfy the desire before it became need. I could feel the knots of pain from deprivation forming behind each of my temples and knew it was almost too late. I shouldn’t have let it go this long, but I wanted to test my limits, see how long I could put off the hunger. I’d been taught to feed daily, which would keep the hunger under control and keep me out of danger.

Need was dangerous. Need led a vampire to take risks he wouldn’t take ordinarily. And risks could lead to exposure, to a painful death.

The first lesson I’d learned was to always satiate the hunger while it was still desire, to never ever let it become need.

I had waited too long.

“Bloodletting” is an unusual story for me in that it’s actually a short story that bridges the gap between my novella “Blood on the Moon” and the novel Need; I eventually used it as the book’s first chapter. I have always wanted to give vampire fiction a try; I created an entire world that I first wrote about in the novella “The Nightwatchers,” which I always intended to develop into a series. I still would like to develop that series, and when the opportunity came to write “Blood on the Moon” I realized I could simply still use the world I’d created for “The Nightwatchers” and move on to different characters. The second book in the series, the one that was to follow Need, Desire, was going to tie the two story-lines together but Need didn’t sell as well as the publisher would have liked and so Desire died in the water. I may still go back and write it, of course, but I have no publisher for it and I am not particularly interested in self-publishing that much. But…I never say never. I wrote “Bloodletting” for Blood Sacraments, and only had to change the original concept a little bit; in the original idea Cord, my vampire, was actually sitting on the roof of St. Louis Cathedral watching the crowd for his next victim. I still love that image, and may use it sometime, but I did eventually change it to how it reads now.

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Perfect Way

I submitted a story to Cemetery Dance yesterday, and felt very accomplished after having done so. As I have said before, getting a story published in Cemetery Dance is a bucket list item for me, and I am reasonably proud of the story; we’ll see what happens. But I’m glad I did it; glad I spent the morning and early afternoon revising and polishing it. And hopefully,  if they don’t use the story I’ll get a chance to submit to them again at some point.

To celebrate, I went to the gym and did cardio, continuing my iPad screening of Troy: Fall of a City–which is starting to, sadly get a little boring. I’ll keep watching, though–I want to see how they play the story out, plus it’s helping me with my pronunciation of all their names; most of which I’ve been saying wrong my entire life, since I was a kid and read The Windy Walls of Troy.

I also spent some time last night with my journals; basically going through them and marking the pages where I wrote notes on the Scotty book, which should make the next revision much easier. Huzzah! I am also glad that I did this because not only did I find some ideas for short stories I’d forgotten, as well as how some of the short stories I have written since the first of the year were born, but I also discovered that I had roughly sketched out a couple of scenes for Bury Me in Satin, which I typed up last night–remember, I’d started writing the opening on the 4th, but was incredibly pleased to see that I’d actually handwritten not only the opening but some other scenes from the first and second chapter that needed to be transcribed. So, I am pretty far ahead on this one already, which is kind of awesome. I’m having lunch today with a friend, which will be lovely, and then I am going to run a couple of errands before coming home and doing some more writing.

I may even (gasp) return to the gym for the third consecutive day: madness.

I also spent part of the day reading about the Dreyfus Affair in Barbara Tuchman’s book The Proud Tower, which takes a look at life and the issues confronting the great powers from 1895-1914; basically, the set-up for World War I. I’d heard of the Dreyfus Affair, of course, and Emile Zola’s participation; but I didn’t know the entire story, and, well, you really can’t go wrong with reading Barbara Tuchman on a subject you want to know about.  I love reading history, and I always make a point of trying to read some around the 4th of July (I also took down Catherine Drinker Bowen’s history of the Constitutional Convention Miracle at Philadelphia, which should be required reading for all Americans); Tuchman is the kind of historian I would have liked to have been, writing the kinds of things I would have liked to have written had my career path gone in that direction (I still toy with The Monstrous Regiment of Women, a history of the sixteenth century, built around all the women who held power–more women held power in that century than any before or since). The Dreyfus Affair was really something, and even more horrific, in many ways that time in France is reflected in modern day American society as well.

The next story in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “The Porn King and I”:

He is beautiful.

He is everything I want in a lover.

Thick curly black hair.

Blue eyes.

Muscles rippling under tan skin.

A hard, round, beautiful ass.

The cock of Apollo.

I first saw him in a poster in the adult book store on Decatur Street. The poster was black with just a picture of him, hands on hips, wearing a jock strap. His face was smiling, a warm, inviting smile that would melt anyone’s heart and stir their groin. His tanned skin gleamed. At the bottom of the poster in red capital letters it said: CODY DALLAS IN THE SEX SENSE. I stood, staring for a few moments, my glance going from that pretty face down the neck to the beautifully shaped chest, smooth and silky, down the abs that looked carved out of stone, to the top of the jock. His hard-on was unmistakable beneath the white cloth. I walked over to the counter. “Do you have that film?” I pointed back over my shoulder with my thumb.

The counter boy was just that; a boy. He didn’t look old enough to be working in a sex shop. Hell, he didn’t look old enough to have hair on his balls. Bleached blonde hair standing up spikily over black roots. A straggle of hair on his chin that was supposed to be a goatee. He weighed maybe 130 pounds. His baggy jeans hung off his hips. A black Marilyn Manson t-shirt. Pierced nose and eyebrow. Tattoos on both arms. He grinned at me. Braces.

“Yeah. Only $59.95 or did you want to rent?”

“I’ll buy.”

I walked home to my apartment on Chartres Street. Opened the door. Switched on the television with the remote. Opened the box and popped the video in. Hit play as I pull off my shirt, kick off shoes, strip naked. Reach underneath the couch for the fresh bottle of poppers and the lube. Fast forward through the opening credits. First scene.

It’s him. He is wearing Daisy Dukes and work boots. No shirt. The sun glistens on the muscles in his back. He is trimming a bush with garden clippers. Every movement he makes causes muscles to ripple. Someone is watching from the house. Behind the curtains a face appears. Cut away to from behind the curtains. He looks beautiful, oh so beautiful. Camera pulls back. The man at the window is naked. Thinner. Not as muscled as Cody. Lean wiry muscle.

Cody looks up at the window and smiles. The man in the window beckons. Cody puts the clippers down and walks to the door. It opens.

I open the bottle of poppers. My eyes are glued to the screen. I lift it up to my right nostril. I close off the left and start inhaling. Deeply. The scent fills my nose, my sinuses, my lungs. I shift it to the other nostril. Inhale.

“The Porn King and I” was, ironically, inspired by something that actually happened; I was walking into the Quarter on a warm early summer evening. I walked past a house right on the sidewalk with its enormous windows open–anyone could have climbed into the house; something that has always amazed me about the Quarter and those that live there–and on the wall was a framed and mounted poster of a porn star (I do not recall, all these years later, precisely which porn star it was; I am thinking Kris Lord but that might be wrong). It inspired a story about a lonely man who talks to the poster, like it’s real, and eventually there’s a scene where a young man catches him talking to the poster, climbs in through the window, and they have nasty hot passionate sex. When I was asked to write this story for one of the Best Gay Erotica volumes, I stripped out the poster and the guy walking by on the street, leaving the main character’s obsession with a porn star, and renting the video from Tower Videos on Decatur Street (which is, sadly, no longer there); the sex scene thus became three-sided: there’s the main character watching the video and masturbating; what he’s imagining in his head as he masturbates; and, of course, what is actually happening on the television screen. I thought it was a clever take.

And the stuff I stripped out? I eventually used in a story about a lonely guy who lives in the Quarter and how a gorgeous young man talks to him through the window, and what transpires then. The story was called “Mr. Lonely” and was published in the original Saints and Sinners anthology.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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I’m Your Man

Well, the first day of vacation passed without too much of note occurring. We grilled out for dinner–burgers and cheese dogs–and watched It on HBO; I cleaned and started organizing the kitchen; we watched a few more episodes of Big Mouth on Netflix-, and oh yes, Paul spent most of the day watching Wimbledon. I was most pleased to spend a day relaxing (and yes, I find cleaning and organizing to be relaxing; feel free to sue me), and will probably spend today doing more of the same, in addition to going to the gym and doing some writing and answering some emails. I keep thinking today is Sunday, which is also kind of funny–evidence of how nuts the mind can be; I kept thinking yesterday as Saturday. I need to revise my short story for submission to Cemetery Dance (yes, a long shot, but it’s a bucket list thing and I am going to keep trying every year until I actually get in) and in other bizarre news, I also managed to start writing my next book yesterday. I didn’t intend to; but I just felt like I needed to get that opening written down. It’s been swirling in my head for months now, and getting started neither took a long time nor was it particularly painful (what’s going to be painful is rereading the Scotty manuscript, which I am rather dreading).

Here it is:

The summer I graduated from high school my mother ruined my life.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. Mom says I do that a lot—well, that, and that I’m melodramatic. When I tell her being called a drama queen by my mom will make a great story for my future therapist, she just gives me that look and says, “The prosecution rests, Your Honor.”

This particular book is going to be vastly different from anything I’ve written before–I am being most ambitious in my thinking with this one–and I am also writing about a kind of character I’ve never really done before–oh, sure, gay teenager, to be sure, I’ve done that multiple times–but he’s also the only child of a incredibly successful attorney single mother, and the tricky part, the part that’s kept me from writing this book, which began as a short story called “Ruins” about thirty years ago, was I simply could not figure out how to get my main character to spend the summer in rural Alabama, which I have finally managed to do.

Also, yesterday while I was cleaning and organizing–and really, this is the best way to have this sort of thing happen–I kept getting ideas on how to fix and repair the Scotty novel. There really is something to writing an entire draft from start to finish, even knowing that it’s sloppy and you’re leaving things dangling or starting threads that you don’t see through to fruition, as opposed to going back and revising as you go so that by the time you reach the end, you’re past deadline and you don’t get to revise or rewrite the end, or have the time to go back and do much fixing once you’ve finally devised the end. I’ve always been paranoid about that with my Scotty books, which is kind of how I’ve written them all since Mardi Gras Mambo. But if 2018 has been about anything, it’s been about going back to the beginnings and remembering how I used to do things, and going back to my original systems has really been helpful when it comes to writing.

And I got to say, I love that very much.

Next up in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “Wrought Iron Lace”:

The guy who just moved in across the courtyard is gorgeous.

 I would guess that he’s still in his early thirties, maybe still the late twenties. Since I turned forty it’s really hard for me to judge age. Twenty years olds look like babies, fifty year olds look forty, and that group in between I just have no fucking clue. I watched him move in the day after I came home from the hospital. I have three pins in my leg from the car accident, and I have to keep it elevated as much as possible. I can’t stand on it yet, even with crutches, so I have a nice loaner wheelchair from the hospital. Friends are running errands for me when they can, and checking in on me to make sure I’m not lying on the floor in the bathroom helpless. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time at home by myself ever before. It’s amazing how little there is to watch on television, even with eighty cable channels. Is there anyone left on the planet who has not seen the movie Sixteen Candles? Why do they have to keep airing it?

It was a Saturday, and if ever there was a day of television hell, it’s Saturday. There’s nothing on, at any time of the day. I don’t really care that much about billiards, snowboarding, or timber-sports, thank you very much. I knew that the vacant apartment on the other side of the courtyard had been rented, the lower one, but I’d forgotten someone was moving in. My apartment is the second floor of a converted slave quarter, and my balcony has a view straight into the living room and bedroom windows of the lower in the back of the main house. I had seen the young lesbian couple who had lived there naked in the bedroom entirely too many times, and had trained myself not to notice those windows.

What can I say? I was bored, bored, bored.  It was eleven o’clock in the morning, I’d been up for three hours, and I wasn’t expecting anyone to come by again until two o’clock. I put a Jewel CD on, and pushed myself out onto the balcony. It was a beautiful October morning, the sky blue, the sun shining and warm, but none of the humidity that made New Orleans almost unlivable in the summer. There was a stack of books on the balcony table, and I figured this enforced captivity was a pretty good time to catch up on my reading. On top of the stack was a hardcover with two incredibly pretty young men giving each other the eye on the jacket. They were fully dressed, so I knew it was a romance rather than some porn. The sex would be soft-core, the characters fairly two-dimensional, and the problems they faced would be most likely vapid, but it would while away some time without requiring a vast degree of thought.

The door in the gate opened, and this guy came in. Wow, was my instant reaction. I put the book down on the table. He was wearing a black tank tee, tight black jean shorts that reached almost to his knees, with the bottom inch or so rolled up, and calfskin ankle boots with heavy socks pushed down on top of them. He was wearing a black baseball cap with the fleur-de-lis emblem of the Saints on the front. He had a key ring in his hand, and he walked right over to the door of the vacant apartment and unlocked it. When his back turned to me, my jaw dropped. He had without a doubt the most beautiful ass I have ever seen in my entire life. It was hard, it was round, perfectly curved. It was an ass to make men weep, an ass that belonged on an underwear box, an ass that could launch a thousand hard-ons.

I lit a cigarette.

A couple of other guys, muscular, attractive enough but nothing like the first, came back carrying boxes. Any other time, I would have probably been attracted to either or both of them, but the incredible beauty of the first boy (I found myself thinking of him as a “boy” strangely) made them seem like the girls who don’t make the Top Ten at Miss America. I’m sure they were used to it–it probably happened to them in bars all the time. I sat there for several hours, watching them move boxes and furniture, occasionally breaking to have a beer or a smoke break at one of the iron tables in the courtyard. The also-rans eventually removed their shirts, displaying fairly nice torsos, one with some hair, the other completely smooth. Again, under ordinary circumstances I would have been fantasizing a pretty damned vivid three way scene. If I could walk I’d be down there helping, flirting a little, feeling them out about trysting. I would watch the sweat glistening on their bare skin in the sun and wonder how it might taste, if their armpits were becoming a little smelly perhaps from the sweat, if their underwear was sticking to their asses. But my mind was solely on my new neighbor, hoping that he too would take his shirt of, give me a glimpse of his chest and back, maybe the waistband of his underwear showing above his shorts. It never occurred to me that they might be aware of me, the aging man in the wheelchair up on the balcony watching them hungrily without even saying hello. I never saw them look up or give any indication they were being watched. For all I knew, when they were out of sight on the street taking stuff out of the truck they could be laughing their asses off at the perv on the balcony, thinking he’s hidden behind the  wrought iron lacework. But if that were the case, it wouldn’t have mattered to me at all. I could not tear myself away from watching the boy in the black tank tee.

I wrote this story for an anthology called  A View to a Thrill (finally! I remember the anthology!) which was about voyeurism. Voyeurism always reminds me of Rear Window, and so I wanted to do a kind of Rear Window take on a gay erotica story; without the murder, of course.

When I first moved to New Orleans all those years ago, I always wanted to write a book about a group of gay guys–friends and frenemies–who all lived around a courtyard in the French Quarter and their quest for love and happiness and success; kind of Armistead Maupin meets Jacqueline Susann, using the same structure of Valley of the Dolls–one older character who’s already at the top of his game and owns the buildings, and the three younger ones who become unlikely friends/frenemies on their journey. I called it The World Is Full of Ex-Lovers (a play on two Jackie Collins titles), and from time to time, I found myself writing short stories about these guys. “Stigmata,” which was my first or second non-erotica short story, was about these guys; so was “Touch Me in the Morning,” the story I wrote for Foolish Hearts and had completely forgotten about until I took the book down and looked at the table of contents. I’ve got a lot of first drafts and partial drafts of stories written about these guys and their courtyard. One of the things I love about New Orleans is how, in rental situations (like the one I currently am in) you find yourself in a kind of enforced intimacy with your neighbors; one that you tend to ignore for the most part to maintain the illusion of privacy.

I even used the concept of the French Quarter courtyard with friends living around as a key component in Murder in the Rue Dauphine.

Maybe someday I’ll write that book. You never know.

Anyway, I digress. As I was pondering my ideas for a voyeur story, what better setting than a French Quarter courtyard that a number of people rent apartments around? I broke my character’s legs and gave him the upstairs apartment in a slave quarter/carriage house in the back of the courtyard, who observes a really hot young man moving into one of the apartments in the back wing of the main house, through the wrought iron lace of his balcony. I think the story turned out well, and I’ve always been pleased with both it and its title; in fact, when I thought about collecting the erotic stories together originally the book’s title was going to be Wrought Iron Lace and Other Stories.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Take Me Home Tonight

Paul and I drove home last night from dinner with friends during a New Orleans summer thunderstorm, complete with torrential rains and high winds and low visibility and lightning, sometimes three different strikes at the same time lighting up the sky. It was a lovely evening, with an excellent cold meal and wonderful drinks and terrific conversation and much laughter. These types of evenings are too few in our life, I think; I was incredibly relaxed and cheerful when I got home, and slept the sleep of the righteous last night. It does feel lovely to be all rested this morning.

In these trying times, one must always take these spots of comfort and joy when one can find them.

We were supposed to go into a heat advisory today, but I think last night’s storm might have have some effect on that; apparently it’s only in the 80’s and with the heat index, “it feels like the low nineties.” The forecast I’d seen late last week indicated a “feels like 109” for today, so this is a blessed relief. I am going to make it to the gym today later on if it kills me; I have some things I need to get done today and I am determined to do them. Yesterday afternoon I braved the hideous heat to make groceries, and then came home and cleaned the floors and washed the bed linens. The Lost Apartment doesn’t look quite the disgusting mess it has all week; when the exhaustion from the heat kind of had me reeling and not wanting to move when I got home. But today, for the first time in a long time, I feel motivated and ready to get a move on.

Which is, quite frankly, absolutely lovely.

So, there’s definitely some organizing that needs to be done around here, and then some cleaning as well as some writing. I’m very close to being finished with the Scotty draft, and I need to work on a short story, and I also want to make a list of things I need to get done this week.

I’ve also started thinking about the next book I’m going to write. I really want to write Bury Me in Satin this year, but I am also thinking about making developing my story “A Holler Full of Kudzu” into a novel; it seems like it would work better as a novel than as a short story. Both are Corinth, Alabama stories; and of course there’s still the WIP to whip into shape. So, I am thinking September will be my revision of Scotty month while I continue to work on revising the WIP, with an end goal of being finished with both by October 1 and then diving into Bury Me in Satin, which I think is a terrific idea and long overdue for me to write….but the other story also beckons me. We shall see; things always seems to change when situationally and I am trying to be more of a go with what is interesting me at the time kind of writer.

I only have to work two days this week: Monday and Tuesday, then I am taking a stay-cation that has me not returning to the office until Tuesday of the following week, which is absolutely lovely. I need to get a list made of everything I need to get done during that free time as well.

I also am way behind on my reading. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda hasn’t really grabbed my interest but I’ve also not gotten very far into it, either. Maybe it will pick up; maybe today when I go to the gym I can take it with me and read it while on the treadmill; or I can watch something on the iPad; which was how I managed to get back into and enjoy Black Sails.

I really need to start going to the gym with greater regularity; hell, I just need to start going again, period. I’ve always had an adversarial relationship with my body; and I think part of my lackadaisical/not motivated issue comes from not going to the gym with any regularity. I need to actual focus on trimming the fat-weight down on my body, and focus on eating better and healthier. It’s not going to get easier to lose the weight, and at the same time I don’t want to keep gaining as I get older either.

That would be a disaster.

And so now I will return to the spice mines. I am going to work on Scotty for a bit before I go to the gym.

The next story in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “The Sound of a Soul Crying”:

The dream was mild at first, scarcely remembered upon awakening—a vague flash of a blonde man in a pair of tight underwear, wrapped in a blanket of multi-colored wool, almost like a serape, but that flash brought with it a sense of unease, discomfort, that horrible gut feeling that something was wrong. Galen sat up in bed, the slight breeze from the ceiling fan tousling his light brown hair. Rubbing his eyes, he glanced over at the clock. Just before four. He tried for a moment to recapture the dream, the image, but it was just that—an image, nothing more. Not again, he thought, climbing out of bed to get a drink of water. The last time had been too painful, too hard on him. It had taken weeks to get over; he couldn’t afford that again. He took a couple of aspirin. There was no headache this time, but it never hurt to be careful.

More was revealed to Galen the second night, more of a picture of what the blond man looked like: thick blond hair parted in the center, perfectly straight, bleached even whiter by sun exposure. His skin was tanned bronze-gold, his lips a thin, almost austere line drawn above a slightly pointed jaw. The nose was long but not so long as to offset the rest of his face. His eyes were small, frosted with white lashes and crowned with two white brows. Their color was a blue too dark to be called azure. His slender neck connected with heavily muscled shoulders that descended to a hairless, equally impressive chest. He was wearing navy blue cotton sweatpants that hung loosely off his waist, revealing two lines of definition where his hips and torso intersected. Slight lines around his eyes and lips betrayed his age to be early- to mid-forties.

His face looked as though it had forgotten how to smile.

He was watching a video on his television, holding the remote in his long fingered hand. He pressed the FF button, and Galen’s perception of the scene rotated as though a movie camera on a track was moving around until his line of sight was coming from behind the couch the man sat on, enabling him to see the same blurred images on the television moving quickly by that the blond man was watching: images of three naked young men with low body fat, veined muscles, and erect cocks—one getting fucked while sucking the third’s cock. The blond was watching, massaging his crotch, but nothing was happening; there was no physical reaction at all. He finally stopped the tape, turned off the television, and walked into a bedroom. He dropped the sweatpants, revealing a tight pair of thirty-five dollar white briefs. He slid beneath the multi-colored blanket, turned off the light and lay there, staring at the ceiling in the darkness.

This time Galen woke with a headache. It wasn’t the worst he’d ever had after such a dream, but it wasn’t pleasant. There was a dull aching throb in his forehead over his right eye, close to the bridge of his nose. Lying in bed, his breath coming faster and faster as he focused on the pain, he attempted to will it away. He got out of bed and headed toward the bathroom, his erection poking out from beneath the elastic waistband. The dreams always had that affect: headache and hard-on, two things he would ordinarily consider mutually exclusive. He shook two aspirin out, popped them into his mouth and cupped his hands beneath the faucet for water to wash them down. He stared at himself in the mirror. The bags under his eyes were getting thicker, darker, larger. The whites of his eyes were laced with red, and even the white was starting to look yellowed and tired. He splashed water on his face. “It’s only going to get worse, so stop bitching about it,” he told his reflection. “Now is the easy part.” Praying for the aspirin to work their mysterious magic, he got back into bed.

This is another story that was written for an anthology pre-Katrina whose name I don’t recall; but I had the idea for the story when I was in college, and actually wrote a partial draft of it by hand (as I always did for the most part in those horrible pre-computer days), and when I was asked to write a story for this anthology–it had to do with dreams and nightmares; that much I do recall–I remembered this story of an empath who sees people hurting emotionally in his dreams, and started writing. It was, for an erotic story, much longer than they usually run, and there was a lot more story than there was erotica, which often happens in my stories.

I really like what I did with this story; it’s really more about heartbreak and loneliness and isolation than anything else, and it turned out pretty well.

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Two of Hearts

FRIDAY! Huzzah!

It’s my short day, which is always a lovely way to roll into the weekend, and then I only have one more full week before my next two-day week and six day vacation! Woo-hoo!

I managed to write three thousand words, which is all of Chapter 19, yesterday; I also had miscounted. I still have six chapters to go, alas, but that is doable before the end of the month. The manuscript is a completely sloppy mess, of course, but one that should be easy to fix, to trim, to revise and edit and rewrite. I am hoping to get it into decent shape by the end of September. Huzzah!

I also decided yesterday that “Children of the Stone Circle” isn’t the right story I want to submit to this call. I am going to revisit “The Arm,” which I think is probably more consistent of a story and more believable, would work better in a revision, and so I am going to give it a try this weekend and see what happens with it.

Right now I am hating everything I’ve written. Some things never change.

Next up in my erotic short story collection Promises in Every Star was “All the World’s A Stage.” This one was also written for an anthology, and again, I don’t remember which one or who the editor was or what publisher. I should probably keep better track of this stuff, don’t you think?

The dance floor was still crowded with shirtless boys, sweat running down smooth muscled torsos. My friends had moved on across the street to Oz, leaving me alone on the dance floor enjoying my Ecstasy high and the charms of a guy in his late twenties with the body of an underwear model and the face of an angel. His ass was round and hard in his jeans, and he kept grinding it into my crotch with the beat of the music. He had a tattoo on his lower back, a fleur-de-lis, symbol of the New Orleans Saints. Every time he would back into me that way my dick would get hard in my jean shorts. I wasn’t sure if he actually wanted me to fuck him or not. You never can be sure of anything at a circuit party. His flirting could be entirely based in whatever mind altering substance he’d imbibed. He could have a boyfriend. He might just enjoy losing himself on the dance floor and flirting, in getting attention from men he thought were hot. It was flattering, for sure, since I am now in my late forties, and I had always been brainwashed into thinking that gay life—and most assuredly gay sex and desire—ended at forty.

And if this boy fucked the way he danced, well, it would definitely be worth my while.

He backed into me again, and I slid my arms around his waist, pulling him back against me. His body was wet with sweat, his jeans damp to the touch, his short blonde hair glistening in the flickering laser lights. My cock hardened again, and I ground my crotch into the back of his jeans, rubbing it against him. He suddenly spun around so that our crotches were together. I could feel his hard on against mine. He pressed his lips against mine, forcing mine apart with his tongue. I sucked on his tongue when it entered my mouth, reaching down to cup that pretty ass with my hands.

 “Mmmmmm.” He smiled as he pulled his head back from mine. He put both of his hands on my pecs, squeezing a little bit. “Very nice.”

I smiled back at him. “I could say the same.”

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“All the World’s a Stage” is one of those bar/partying stories, and it is sort of based in reality; although it was kind of a combination of two different events. First of all, yes, once at Southern Decadence a hot younger guy was flirting with me on the dance floor and yes, he did at one point call me daddy, which was the first time that ever happened, and yes, I did get pulled up on stage to mess around with two porn stars by a drag queen. But the getting pulled up on stage and the night I was called a daddy for the first time were, in fact, different occasions; but realistically, in creating the fiction of the story, it simply made sense for the narrative to combine those two incidents.

I’m pleased with it. I think I captured the feel of being drugged out and blissful on the dance floor; that tribal sense I used to get whenever I was one of a crowd of shirtless, sweaty gay men dancing. I loved to dance; always did, and hitting the dance floor was always one of my favorite things to do for years.

I do miss dancing sometimes; I miss that feel of the loud music and the sweat and the shirts being tucked into the back of your jeans (and still losing it sometimes) and sweat rolling down your body and the flashing lights and the fog and everyone lost in joyful abandon…

And now back to the spice mines.