Bad Blood

So, I took the plunge yesterday and signed contracts for the two manuscripts on hand. As I said on social media immediately afterward, this is either the smartest thing I’ve done this year or a several miscalculation. One can never be sure in either case–until the game is afoot. It’s not that bad; both are in fairly decent shape and need one more final draft, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch or anything–that would be utter madness.

So, Gregalicious, what are your two manuscripts about?

BURY ME IN SHADOWS

When a partying spree after a bad break-up lands college student Jake Chapman in the hospital, his attorney mother gives him two choices: rehab, or spend the summer in rural Alabama at his dying grandmother’s home. He doesn’t like either choice, but decides on Alabama because at least there’s a semblance of freedom. There’s a lot going on there, as well–a team of archaeologists are excavating the ruins of the old plantation house, Blackwood Hall, out in the woods behind his grandmother’s house. Once he is there, he starts experiencing bizarre headaches and emotional swings– as well as having flashes of memory that he can’t place. He starts finding out family secrets–dead uncles he never knew about, legends about the family’s past–and  there’s also the Tuckers, who live in the next holler over–with their moonshine still and meth lab. With the discovery of a skeleton out at the ruins, Jake begins to realize he is in danger–but is the danger something from a distant past, or a murderer in the present? Will someone kill to keep the family secrets?

#shedeservedit

Liberty Center High School’s football team has a long history of success–state and conference championships, players who went on to play in college–and often, the Spartan football team is all the dying small town has to hold on to, and their primary source of pride as businesses and industries and opportunities have dried up. But when one of the team stars disappears the night of the first game–and his dead body is later found–his best friend, Alex Wheeler, begins putting things together in an effort to clear himself of suspicion,  connecting the dots that lead back a few weeks to the suicide of cheerleader Angie Dixon, and the football party where she had too much to drink and was sexually assaulted. Was the on-line bullying and sharing of pictures of her from the party what drove her to suicide? Or was it murder? How far will people go to cover up misconduct by the football players? What other dark secrets are hiding beneath the placid surface in this oh-too-typical American small town,  Liberty Center? Alex and his girlfriend India soon find their own lives are in danger as they get closer and closer to the horrifying truth about the rot at the center of one of the state’s strongest football programs.

I certainly hope those whet your appetite to read them, Constant Reader! Covers to come, of course, as well as publication dates. I also don’t think I’ve ever revealed the title of the Kansas book before, so there you have it.

It does feel kind of nice to know that I will actually have a book (or maybe two) out in 2021; it felt very weird to not have one this year. I can’t remember the last time I missed a year of publishing at least one book per year, but the last one I actually remember for certain is 2005 (there may have been one in the teens; I think I may have skipped a year–2017, maybe? 2018? I honestly don’t know). I want to get my next short story collection put together at some point during 2021 as well–not sure what stories and what the title will be, but I really want to get that taken care of in the next year, and aren’t goals a lovely thing? I also want to get moving with Chlorine–the research has been phenomenally fun; here’s hoping the actual writing will be fun as well. I think I might have to write a Scotty book at some point in the next year as well; I know I want to do a pre-pandemic book (between Christmas–Royal Street Reveillon–and the pandemic this year; I really want to write about that fucked up 2020 Carnival season, and I have a really nasty idea for a plot that simply has to be written….) and I know I want to do a pandemic story for Scotty as well; I’m just not sure what that story would look like. I know people are saying they aren’t going to want to read about the pandemic, but it’s such a rich vein for story-telling and story ideas, I kind of am not sure how true that will be. I just can’t see writing about a world where it never happened–especially in a series; it’s much easier to pretend in a stand alone.

Does that make any kind of sense? To me–and my warped mind–it sort of does. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to not miss years between books–it’s not like the world is knocking down my door, or anyone is holding a gun to my head to make sure I publish something–but it is, and I think if I salvage or take away anything from this dreadful year, I’d like it to be I got those two fucking books finished and out of my hair.

I went to be early last night–it’s really been a week–and I slept for nearly ten hours, which I never do, and it felt actually pretty marvelous. LSU is playing Vanderbilt today–I don’t have very high hopes after last week, which is fine–and one of the lovely things about this abrogated season, coupled with LSU’s unexpected loss last week, is that I seriously doubt I will spend my Saturdays this fall watching football games all day, while sitting in my easy chair reading, writing in my journal, and editing things. INstead, I should be able to sit at my desk and focus on writing–now that I have deadlines, I need to be better about being on top of things and getting things finished as quickly as I can–and while it’s disappointing, what else is new with 2020? Everything is off this year, and there really is something to the notion of simply eradicating 2020 from the books; the way ancient Egyptians used to go back and remove names from statues and carvings and temples, to try to obliterate a pharaoh from their history (and yes, I watched a documentary on Akhenaten last night, why do you ask?), and not really counting it.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso last night, and I have to say, I am going to miss my weekly visits with him and the Richmond soccer team. I was very glad to see it was already renewed for another season, and it’s another one of those terribly sweet shows that will make you laugh while at the same time touching you and bringing up tears in your eyes (much as Schitt’s Creek did). It’s what they used to call “heartwarming”–and you have no idea, Constant Reader, how much I hate that word and how I generally tend to avoid anything referred to in that way–only it’s not emotionally manipulative like most “heartwarming” books, movies and TV shows; the sweetness genuinely evolves from the characters and their relationships with each other. I love this show–and it’s hard not to love the characters. Like Schitt’s Creek, the premise struck me at first as not only ludicrous but cliched; but the writing is so strong, the acting so pitch perfect, and the cast chemistry undeniable. And the optimistic, kind, always look on the bright side while always looking for the good in people character of Ted Lasso himself is the jeweled centerpiece of the show.

I have to run errands today; I’d intended to run them yesterday once I’d finished my work but by the time five rolled around I really wasn’t terribly in the mood to get out amongst people, so inevitably I shall have to do it today, which is, you know, fine; making groceries seems to always tire me out these days but that’s also fine. I want to start reading John Vercher’s Three Fifths at long last this weekend, so if I am tired when I get home I can do that. I need to do some revisions on things this weekend, too–and I should get some work done on the book manuscript as well. There’s also some cleaning and touching up around here I need to do–there are still some remnants of the Notorious Grease Fire that need to be tidied up–and feeling well-rested, as well as mentally sharp this morning certainly cannot hurt in that regard.

As always, I have a lot to do, but the lovely thing is that this morning, it doesn’t seem horrifyingly overwhelming–it just seems like my normal existence, which it usually is, and so there’s that. I did do a lot of cleaning and organizing while I was waiting for Paul to come home last night, and so the downstairs looks much lovelier and organized than it usually does. There’s still a shit ton of filing to get done (isn’t there always?) and part of my plan for this morning before running the errands is to make the long overdue to-do list, add things to my calendar so I won’t forget about them needing to be done, and trying to get set up so that once I am ready to get going I won’t forget things. I’ve always been ridiculously busy–and I think I’ve actually been busier before than I am now, if I am being completely honest–and I think the primary problem I’ve been having has been chemical; PTSD and depression, etc. as well as the occasional feeling of hopelessness this year has wrought with everyone at some point, I think. Not that there’s a such thing as a normal year, but this year has been so abnormal that it sort of stands out from the rest–it certainly has erased all memories of 2019, which also sucked, from the hard drive in my brain.

And on that note, I think it’s time to head into the spice mines this morning. I thank you for stopping by and listening, Constant Reader, and may you have a glorious, absolutely glorious, Saturday.

I

I c##

Out of the Woods

Yesterday was annoying and frustrating on several levels, and if you guessed that almost all of them were computer-related, you would be absolutely correct. But I did manage to get through the hump of Chapter 11, which was delightful, and now I can move on to Chapter 12, so progress was made. I also finished and posted my blog entry about being a shitty friend; so that was something else accomplished, and if I wasn’t really able to get through all those emails, oh well. I can try this week. And who knows? Maybe tomorrow morning my desktop computer will be functioning properly.

One can dream, at any rate.

I am just so tired of 2020 being, you know, 2020.

Heavy sigh.

I also had an almost-major kitchen catastrophe last night, too. Don’t ask, but suffice it to say it was very 2020; you know, shitty day, get it together, decide to just laugh it all off, and then BOOM! Grease fire! Although, in all fairness, I was just thinking the other day how long it had been since we’d had a fire of some sort in the kitchen, and I guess it was one of those Candyman things. So now I need to deep clean the stove at some point (hello, EZ Off and toxic fumes and chemicals!) and gradually get to real work on the deep cleaning of the kitchen that, in all fairness, has been overdue for quite some time. And at least I had dinner finished before the grease fire broke out.

Grease is the word, have you heard?

But, annoyances and frustrations aside, I did get some things finished this weekend, which was enormously lovely. As I mentioned earlier, Chapter 11 is finished (for now) and I started reading again; Release by Patrick Ness is quite good, and I also read one of Laura Lippman’s essays from My Life as a Villainess (and yes, it was actually a reread of her essay about being a bad friend that inspired me to write my blog post about being a bad friend in the first place, several years ago; I decided to reread it to make sure I wasn’t plagiarizing it, and found that her essay had very little in common with mine, so I went for it). It is lovely to be both reading and writing again, and I also managed to find the germs of an essay that I now have to write this week, and quickly; I knew the germs were there somewhere, but couldn’t find the file; having to mess around with both my work laptop and my MacBook Air yesterday actually helped me find said germs–I would have never found them because of what they were named; I would have never remembered that in a million years. So, overall, it wound up being a pretty decent weekend, LSU and the Saints losing (in almost identical games, which was quite odd) and grease fires and computer issues aside.

And at least I felt somewhat rested and relaxed yesterday morning before it all turned into a shitstorm. Despite this, I am hopeful this will turn out to be a highly productive week and I am able to keep the creative work going. I am hoping that all the bad karma worked itself out over the weekend, and I am facing this week with a good attitude and feeling relatively well rested this morning; not groggy at all, which is nice. I’ve got a cappuccino in hand, it’s pitch black outside, and I am giving my life a control-alt-delete reboot.

We also watched the new episode of The Vow last night–and it feels now like they are dragging it out to eight episodes when six would have been plenty. But it’s still entertaining enough–although scary to think had former Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg gotten involved because of her daughter, they could still be plying their merry cultish ways.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and hope I have a terrific day–and the same to you, Constant Reader.

New Romantics

Despite my enormous sense of cynicism, at the same time I’m kind of a hopeless romantic. I want to believe that people are mostly good, that kindness is the way to change the world, and that selfishness is much rarer than we think it is, or despite all the evidence to the contrary. While deliberate cruelty no longer surprises me, it will always disappoint me.

And I will go to my grave, bitter to the very end, about the bill of goods I was sold as a child, about everything.

Yesterday was nice and relaxing, despite the LSU loss. Having the winning streak snapped– as well as being the first defending national champion to lose their season opener in almost forty years–was disappointing. Not to write the team off, either–there were some flashes of brilliance yesterday, and definitely, there’s potential there–but historically, LSU has followed up championship seasons with disappointing ones. LSU has also lost games early in the season they maybe shouldn’t have, only to pull it together and have a pretty decent season the rest of the way. I just feel bad for the players and the coaches; yesterday had to be horribly sobering, and the loss of the glow of being one of the best teams of all time last year to losing the opener to Mississippi State was a wake-up call. However, who knows? It’s early in the season, and maybe the Bulldogs are going to have a year. (I did watch, and enjoy, the end of the Kansas State upset of Oklahoma. What a terrific comeback! Go State!)

After that disappointment, however, we queued up Enola Holmes on Netflix, and what a delight it turned out to be. The previews I’d seen looked marvelous, and what a delightful cast as well. (I mean, you can never go wrong with Helena Bonham Carter, and Henry Cavill is a delight to look at, even if he never takes off his shirt.) It was also rather delightfully cleverly written, well produced, and Millie Bobby Brown has certainly proved herself to be more than just the girl from Stranger Things; even with the stellar cast, this is her show. She carries the movie from start to finish, and without being charismatic, charming, and giving a great performance as well, the movie would have sunk like a stone. And Henry Cavill makes a marvelous Sherlock; maybe not Benedict Cumberbatch-worthy, but it’s a terrific role for him and he did pretty well in it. I now want to read the entire Enola Holmes series–so the film served as an excellent marketing device for the novels, and watching it reminded me, yet again, how much fun I had writing that Sherlock pastiche earlier this year, and started thinking about perhaps doing another. The 1910’s and 1920’s are such a rich period in New Orleans history to draw from, for one thing, and as I watched I realized I didn’t include either Inspector Lestrade (the name works for a New Orleans police investigator, doesn’t it?) or Mycroft; and it was a fun world to inhabit for a while. I am not at the point where I feel like a true Sherlockian or anything; but it would be fun to revisit my Sherlock Holmes 1916 New Orleans again. Perhaps “A Scandal in Baton Rouge”? “Murder in Milneburg”? The possibilities are, as they say, endless.

Scooter is adapting to the new wet food, as well as slowly getting used to the idea that treats are no longer forthcoming. He still goes to the coffee table, stands where he used to when I would give them to him, and whines; but instead I put the wet food in his bowl and he goes and eats it. I managed to surprise him with his morning insulin shot while he was eating–he’s still not fond of being stuck, but he’s getting better about it. And with each successive shot, I felt better about giving it to him, and it becomes less of a big deal. The one thing that does bother me about it is the disposal of the syringes; if I didn’t work somewhere that did syringe access and return, I would probably just throw the damned things in the garbage, and while they aren’t really a huge risk of any kind to anyone–I also recap them–if a garbage man was to get stuck accidentally with one of them, they wouldn’t know it was an insulin syringe, and of course they would then have the stress of worrying about Hepatitis C or HIV infection, and rounds of testing.

And that’s not something I’d want to put anyone through, you know?

I also decided to set aside The Heavenly Table for now. It’s quite good, and so exceptionally well written; I will definitely come back to it, but it’s just so unrelentingly dark, and I don’t think I can handle anything like that right now. I just found myself reaching for it yesterday before pulling my hand back like I’d been burned, and realized that part of the reason I’d not been reading it on weeknights was because I was already in a dark place and reading something so dark wasn’t going to help matters any. When I finally finished that entry from yesterday about writing young adult fiction, and queer desire in it, I had to go reread the links I posted in it–and was reminded of a book called Release, by Patrick Ness, which I thought I remembered purchasing in support because of the criticism it was receiving at the time (I have a tendency to do that–buy books in support when controversy envelopes them–but feel it important to note that it depends on the controversy. I shall never, for example, buy American Dirt), and I started reading it, immediately becoming entranced by the writing style, which I liked very much, and also found myself liking the point of view character very much as well. So, I think I will most likely spend some more time with it today.

I also need to spend some time with Bury Me in Shadows–there’s really no excuse other than laziness for my reluctance thus far to tackle the revision of Chapter 11. Yes, it’s a poorly written mess that will require blood, sweat, and tears to repair and revise and make readable, but it is also not likely to rewrite itself, and the longer I put off working on it and making the all-too-necessary repairs, the longer it is going to take me to finish the book and turn it in–and that is simply not an option. I also want to work on a short story today, and I have to start writing an essay I promised to do with very little turnaround time.

I did manage to get come cleaning and organizing done yesterday, which was lovely.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you either later today (should I finish one of the drafts in the post draft folder) or tomorrow morning when I have to get up insanely early in order to go to the office.

I Don’t Wanna Live Forever

This week’s unnecessary blow (fuck you, 2020, seriously) is that Scooter has developed feline diabetes. And while it has turned out to not be that big of a deal–it’s apparently fairly common, and easily treatable–it was nevertheless 24 hours of stress and distress I didn’t need; I really didn’t want to think about the possibility of losing our cat so close to the ten year anniversary of the loss of our first cat, frankly, and being told that I need to give my cat insulin injections at least once a day (Paul will do evenings, I will do mornings), given how I feel about needles–yeah, that was a stress/depression ride I didn’t really need this week. But I’ve been shown how to do it, it doesn’t seem that terrible, and the biggest issue is going to be transitioning him from his old food to his new low carb food–and it’s also going from dry to wet. He seems okay with the new, wet food–but denying him kitty treats is the primary outrage he is experiencing now. He doesn’t seem to give two shits about the shot, and at least I work somewhere I can safely dispose of the used needles.

Still. There was no need to scare me to death on Thursday.

I did manage to get both my flu shot and the second shingles vaccine this week, and both shoulders still fucking hurt. I took Thursday off because certain activities that I can do at home required using my arms in ways that made me aware that my shoulders ached, and well–that’s what my sick time is for, isn’t it? (Plus, see above: cat and vet.)I really feel like I’ve turned into such a ridiculously delicate flower somehow as I’ve aged; going from a crabgrass to an orchid, as it were, for some reason. I mean, I played football. I was a gymnast. I was a wrestler. I played tennis for years (never well). I used to teach twelve aerobics classes and lift weights a minimum of three times every week. I used to have abrasions and bruises and scrapes and callouses from working my body, blisters and bumps and lumps and muscle pulls and strains and God only knows what I did to my right shoulder–but at least it has stopped making that strange clicking sound whenever I rotate my arm. My right index finger hasn’t bent properly since it got caught in the treads of a trampoline as I practiced back handsprings when I was nineteen. I am used to aches and pains and soreness and tired muscle. And yet, somehow, now whenever I get my blood drawn, I develop this enormous and hideous looking bruise on the arm it was drawn from; it never hurts and it doesn’t bother me–I can even watch now–and yet–the bruise. I always used to think I got that bruise because my veins rolled and they had to dig for it; but now the needle goes right in every time and there’s no pain. But I still get the bruise.

And shots? I never liked them, ever, under even the best of circumstances. But now they don’t bother me at all and I don’t think they hurt at all. I don’t wince or flinch or even turn my head anymore. But whereas before–when I suffered through a shot–within moments it was like I’d never had one in the first place. But now that they no longer bother me, my shoulders are sore for days.

I don’t get it, nor do I understand it, nor do I like it.

But it’s also my new reality, so I get to live with it, like it or not.

So I get to look forward to training my cat–who is really the sweetest thing ever, even the vet is amazed at how good-natured and sweet he is–to eat wet food instead of dry, and give him a shot every morning. Hopefully around this I can also get some work done–I really need to get moving on the book, which has stalled this week yet again–but it’s also to do with dealing with depression; I always forget that when I am in a depressive state, there will be some days where I feel like a million dollars and can conquer the world, before slipping back into a lethargic, low-energy place where I get nothing done and my life continues to burn to the ground all around me. (An exaggeration. I am very well aware that I am very privileged and luckier than a shit ton of the American population…)

I mean, usually I would be excited about the start of LSU’s football season today, and all excited about the game. Now…I am not so sure. I don’t know how I feel about the athletes playing, or whether having fans in the stadium (25% of capacity) is smart or not, and I just have this horrible, nagging feeling that it’s really a bad idea and watching the games and rooting them on and everything that goes along with fandom is encouraging this if it’s a bad decision. But then this system has always exploited the athletes and I always turned a blind eye to that before…which kind of means I’m a bit of a shit person, doesn’t it?

Constantly reevaluating everything these days, and I never come out of the reevaluations looking good, I might add. Never.

I also got a lovely rejection letter for a market that my work isn’t really right for, but I also didn’t think I stuck the landing on that story and need to rewrite it anyway. But like I always say, it was worth a try; sometimes you have to shoot for the stars even if you only have a bow-and-arrow.

This actually started out as yesterday’s blog entry, but I never got around to finishing and posting it–indicative of my state of mind these last few days–but also makes writing a blog entry this morning a bit easier. After I got home from the office yesterday, I tried to read yet couldn’t focus, and so went to comfort television–I rewatched a couple of Ted Lasso episodes from earlier in the season, preparatory to the new episode dropping last night; and also went back and rewatched a favorite episode of Elite–and then of course we watched this week’s Ted Lasso and Archer–which sadly isn’t as funny in its final season as it could have been. I went to bed relatively early, slept like a stone all night, and am still kind of groggy this morning–and it’s my turn to give Scooter his morning insulin injection. Yikes. He seems to be adapting to the wet food okay, but he’s really not happy about not getting treats anymore. He wasn’t too thrilled to get his injection last night either–but I think, like with his flea treatments and so forth, he’ll eventually get to the point where he doesn’t care anymore and it’s not a big deal to him.

My plan for today is to try to have as normal an LSU game day as possible, and, horrible as it is, to try to get as much joy from the game as I can. Joy these days is not in plentiful supply, and even typing that made me feel sort of like a terrible person because of the risks to the athletes and the fans in the stands. I am also going to try to get some writing done today, some cleaning and organizing once my coffee kicks in–as I mentioned earlier, the worst part of the depressive state is the exhaustion, and this morning I am feeling it in my muscles. My mind is getting probably caffeinated and is waking up–and maybe I should do some stretching to warm up my muscles and get them doing something rather than just stagnating the way they have been ever since St. Charles Athletic Club closed down.

But emotionally I feel fine–at least in my conscious brain, at any rate–and since I am an entry behind because I never finished nor posted this yesterday, maybe I’ll go back and finish one of those “not a daily update on Gregalicious” message posts I’ve started and never finished; which are, as mentioned before, kind of abstracts for essays I want to write.

Anyway, enough whining and complaining and off to the spice mines with me.

GEAUX TIGERS!

The Last Time

Saturday I was interviewed for Brad Shreve’s Gay Mystery podcast (links to come when it’s available), and some of the questions he asked have hung around in my brain for quite a while now. We talked for a while before the taping commenced, and then continued chatting once we’d wrapped up what would actually air, which was also kind of lovely. (I’ve come to realize that one of the many original reasons I stopped using the phone was because I talk too much; phone calls involving me tend to last far too long because I never shut up, as so many unfortunates have discovered at some point.)

I had been remembering the long-gone queer independent bookstores lately, because Facebook memories had brought up a photo I’d posed for in front of the old A Different Light on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, where I was doing a signing/reading for Mardi Gras Mambo in either April or May of 2006. I really do miss visiting those stores–Outwrite in Atlanta was another particular favorite of mine–and it was also interesting to look at the books in the window display I was standing beside; titles by Christopher Rice, Edmund White, Andy Zeffer, John Morgan Wilson, and Joe Keenan, among others. I think that tour was my first time ever signing there; I think I signed there at least once more–on the Love, Bourbon Street tour, and by the time I was touring again–or ready to do appearances again after that–A Different Light in West Hollywood would close; I would eventually do two appearances at the one in San Francisco as well before it closed.

Then again, my memory is sketchy, as I have pointed out quite a bit lately.

But I do miss the queer bookstores–the queer newspapers, too. It was always fun to go into a queer bookstore and look through the new arrivals table, the bestseller racks, and so on. I used to always spend about a hundred bucks every time I signed in a queer bookstore–primarily to thank them for letting me appear in their store, and I have always overspent every time I’ve set foot in a bookstore. I used to always draw decent audiences, too–for me, decent is eight and up–and I remember one time at ADL in WeHo there were about fifty or so people there to see me; that was kind of a trip. (I also hyperventilated before I went out to read to that audience, as well; one thing that has never changed about me, from beginning of my career to now, is that speaking in public to an audience is excruciating torture for me–at least before hand, when I go through every level of stage fright.)

I also managed to get started on working on Chapter 11 of Bury Me in Shadows last evening, and whew–what a piece of shit THAT chapter is. As I went through the file, changing verbs and tenses from present to past, it took all of my self-control not to start erasing and deleting and rewriting. I literally said out loud at one point, “Jesus fucking Christ, this is badly written” just as Paul walked into the kitchen to get something to drink (a diet Coke, for those who pay attention to those sort of details) and he asked, “Who are you reading?” and I laughed before replying “Me. I really suck sometimes.” It’s really true; for someone who has published as much as I have and been short-listed for as many awards as I have (and yes, I know how that sounds, but I’m making a point here, do you mind?) my first and second drafts can be pretty horrible–astonishingly horrible, as I found out last night rereading this chapter. Jesus, it’s terrible. But that’s fine; the manuscript itself is probably too long anyway, and so I should be able to cut quite a lot out of this one during the revision process; there’s a bunch of filler, really, and not particularly good filler, in this chapter that can just be stricken from the record and as such, the chapter can be made much stronger.

Low bar at this point, but there it is.

We’re still in a flash flood watch through tomorrow morning, but a quick glance through social media has shown me that Beta has come ashore in Texas already, but we are still dealing with those break away storm bands, at least through today. Yesterday it actually felt chilly; I put on a sweat jacket at the office, and probably should’ve worn pants. Today it’s not even going to get into the eighties; it’s practically fall.

We did watch the enormously disappointing Saints game last night on Monday Night Football, and of course, this Saturday the LSU season starts with a home game against Mississippi State. It’s very weird; I am not sure how comfortable I am following college football this year. I love college football but this year already is so off and weird, and I’m not sure I should support it or not this year. Should they playing, given how the pandemic has played out thus far? Is watching the games and following how the season plays out actually showing support for young athletes having their health put at risk? Doesn’t playing put their bodies at risk even in a non-pandemic time?

Deep thoughts on a Tuesday morning with the dark pressing against my windows.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Blank Space

Well, I am most pleased to let you know, Constant Reader, that I did manage to get those three chapters revised of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and yes, it felt fucking amazing to get back to work on my writing again, after that rather lengthy dry spell. Now, I need to go through the next fifteen chapters and change the tense, which will help me reread them as I go, which will be nice. I think I may even just do the corrections on the hard copies I have, before going and inputting them in the new files; I am most pleased with the work I’ve done on those first ten chapters, and think the book works much better now than it did–and it’s only going to get better as I continue to work on it. If I can manage a chapter a day I can actually have it ready for one final run through by the middle of October, which would be incredibly lovely–after which I can take some time off to recollect myself before diving back into the Kansas book, which I am also hoping to have finished and ready to go by the end of the year.

If I don’t get sidetracked and/or depressed again, that is. Heavy heaving sigh.

Which is, sadly, always a possibility.

But at least this week is off to an excellent start for me, and I couldn’t be more delighted. This past weekend I felt more like my actual self than I have in weeks; let’s hope that continues through these next two days of waking up early and seeing clients; we’ll also have to see what Tropical Storm Beta has in store for us this week, and where it’s going to come ashore. We had some rain over the weekend from Beta’s bands, and from yesterday’s weather, apparently we’re going to get a lot of rain, along with its evil twin, potential flash flooding, over these next couple of days. I certainly hope this isn’t going to result in any changes to my work schedule; I’d kind of like to get back going with my usual and somewhat normal routine again–as much normality as I can muster would be greatly appreciated.

But I am also starting this week with a relatively clean and organized downstairs, including the inevitably insanely cluttered workspace/office I have here in the kitchen. I did manage to get a lot of the filing done that needed to be done, and while there are still some loose odds and ends floating around, it’s not nearly as bad as it usually is when I am starting a week, so that’s already lovely. And if I can stay focused and not get tired/depressed/into a bad headspace again, I can keep it that way all week and not have to spend any time on the weekend doing a “make it not look derelict” lick-and-a-promise, but do some of the deep cleaning and organizing it so desperately needs.

We’ll see how that goes. I make no promises.

It was raining when I first dragged myself out of bed this morning; one cappuccino in and I’m not entirely certain that it is still raining; I’m not looking forward to negotiating a drive to work in the rain, or dealing with potential street flooding today. But I slept relatively well last night–dragging myself out of bed was not easy this morning–but I am hoping to be well awake and raring to go by the time I leave the house this morning. We’re almost finished with Ratched–one episode left–and we also caught this week’s episode of The Vow, which continues to get creepier and creepier with each episode; I’m assuming there’s only one week left in it. We tuned into the Emmys for a little while, but I’ve gotten so unused to the normal network commercial break that it quickly became tedious, and after Schitt’s Creek won everything in sight we switched back to Netflix and stayed there until The Vow was loaded into HBO MAX last night. A quick check of the weather shows we are expected to experience heavy rain through Wednesday, which is when the flash flood warning expires.

Heavy rains will probably mean more no-shows than usual at the office today and tomorrow; I certainly hope not–if everyone shows the day goes by a lot faster–but the caffeine is also starting to kick in some, so that’s a plus. I’m hoping to stay on track with the writing every day–there’s about a gazillion emails that need to either be answered or generated today as well–and I’d also like to stay on track with my goal of revising or finishing a short story every week. But the depressive state seems to have finally broken, and we can always hope that means that I’ll be able to be productive.

It’s also only in the 60s this morning, which is going to be quite a shock to the system when I leave the house. The rest of the week appears to be more normal–80’s during the day, 70’s at night–but it looks as though the heat has finally broken and we are finally reaching fall weather here in New Orleans–which would be summer most everywhere else.

LSU football also returns this weekend, so that will be interesting. I’m not really sure how I feel about this pandemic football season, to be honest; the Saints are playing tonight, and it already feels weird, off, not normal; not your usual football season, for sure. I’m not particularly hyped for it, either. Sure, I’ll watch every LSU game, and it’ll be weird to not go to any games this year (first time since 2010 we didn’t attend at least one game in Tiger Stadium), but it just doesn’t seem….right, somehow.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to head into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–I certainly intend to.

Daylight

Well, here we are again, back to something resembling normality, whatever that may be, for this awful year of 2020. The stress hangover has finally, seemingly, passed; and now I have to try to remember what I was working on and what is in progress and what is finished and what I need to do. Lord. It also seems weird to be talking about my stress hangover while western Louisiana still is in ruins, with Mobile and Pensacola and everything in between joining them after this latest natural disaster. (And California is still burning.) But, as I always say, suffering isn’t an Olympic sport, and admitting to being in a weird place emotionally doesn’t demean or diminish those who are losing, or have lost, everything.

Ah, well. That which doesn’t kill us, or whatever.

This week is very off, as so many this year have been. I have trouble remembering that today is Thursday, frankly; I’ve had to stop and think about it several times this morning already and occasionally there’s even a thought o oh wow it’s Thursday already isn’t it? Yeesh.

I feel rested and rather emotionally stable this morning–always a plus, and becoming more of a rarity it seems these days–and so I am hoping that today will be an enormously productive day as well. The sun is shining outside, there’s no haze and I can see white clouds and blue sky; so overall that’s a very pleasant way to go into the day. I think one of the primary issues I’ve been having lately is related to the lack of a football season thus far–I know games have been played, but the SEC season hasn’t started, and for me, that (mostly LSU) is how I gauge the season, and so for me at least, I won’t think of it as having started until LSU plays a game. It’s also going to be weird that the entire conference is having a conference-only schedule. I suppose this season will have an asterisk beside it for all eternity? I don’t know–but I feel like people should be aware in the future that 2020 wasn’t a normal year on any level.

I’ve not really been able to do much reading or writing this week; hell, keeping up with my emails has been an utter failure all week and I may even have to give up on the clearly impossible dream of ever being completely on top of my emails. I tried picking up Babylon Berlin again last night while I waited for Paul to come home, but couldn’t even open to the page where I left off, and even my current nonfiction read, The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, held no interest for me last night. I will say, though, that I am leaning more and more towards writing a stand-alone Colin adventure–a historical one–and that is becoming more and more appealing to me the more I think about it, particularly since I can go back in time and write an entire series of Colin books going back to the late 1990’s without having to deal with writing about anything in the present or current day, which I will admit is more than a little cowardly on my part. I need to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and then the Kansas book so I can write Chlorine and then do a Scotty book, or perhaps the novellas I’ve been working on. Time slips through my fingers so quickly that it’s really upsetting and frightening on some levels to know that the there will be at the very least a two–if not three–year gap between the last Scotty and the next now; and there’s also a little voice in my head telling me not to write another Scotty and let the series end, or at least write another to end the series once and for all. I don’t know what to do.

I rewatched Don’t Look Now yesterday, even though it doesn’t really fit into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, yet it is a film of that decade and while it may not be a cynical film per se, it certainly has its moments. It’s naturally based on one of my favorite short story/novellas of all time, the superb Daphne du Maurier tale “Don’t Look Now,” and while the film has differences from the story (I much prefer the opening of the story, frankly), it has to be, because things that are told in the story to set it up, the backstory, cannot really be done properly on film, so the tale of John and Laura Baxter and their agonizing grief spools out on film by taking us to the moment they lost their daughter, Christine, by opening with her death by drowning in a pond while wearing her bright red slicker. In the story, they’ve come to Venice for a holiday to get away from home and its haunting memories; the pain is still too fresh and Christine is still too raw. In the film, they are living in Venice now while John works restoring an old church; time has passed since Christine’s death, but Laura is still not completely recovered from it; the pain is still there, a lingering grief that still throbs like an aching tooth you’ve gotten used to. The film does an excellent job of building the tension and suspense in much the same way du Maurier did in her story–God, if you’ve not read it, you really must, Constant Reader–and the imagery director Nicholas Roeg uses–those reds!–really amplifies it. Julie Christie is stunningly beautiful as she underplays the role of the grieving mother; Donald Sutherland is also at his young handsome best (those eyes! that mop of curls!) as skeptical John–at a lunch, they encounter two sisters, one of whom is blind and psychic, who tells Laura that she sees Christine and she’s happy and laughing, but that John is in danger in Venice and must leave. John doesn’t believe in any of that–afterlife, psychics, ghosts, etc.–and so he thinks they are after something from his wife–even though he does keep having close calls with accidents and possibly death…and he also keeps seeing a small figure running around Venice, wearing a red slicker like the one Christine died wearing….

Christ, what a great film and story.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

I Know Places

This has really been a most unsettling year.

Remember as 2019 was coming to a close and we were all looking forward to that hellish year ending and a brand new start in 2020? Yeah, that’s why I am pointedly not looking forward to this year ending and a different year beginning for 2021. I’ve certainly learned my lesson.

And at least in 2019 we had the greatest LSU football season of all time to enjoy from September through January. (And yes, I still go back sometimes, when I am feeling down, blue, or depressed, and rewatch games from that wonderful season. And I won’t feel bad about it, no matter how much you try to shame me, primarily because I’m not ashamed of it.)

Today is a strange day, in which I am either working at home or taking a personal day of some sort; I haven’t really yet decided what I am actually going to do today; I have condom packing supplies and as long as I have Internet access I can do work-related things. I wasn’t quite sure what precisely I was going to wake up to this morning; the dreaded Cone of Uncertainty kept shifting gradually more and more to the east as yesterday progressed, until when I checked before going to bed New Orleans, and in fact all of southeastern Louisiana, was no longer in that dread Cone anymore. That bullseye was squarely on the panhandles of Mississippi and Alabama, and the storm had also slowed; landfall moved from the wee hours of tonight/tomorrow morning to tomorrow evening, possibly Wednesday morning. My heart breaks for that stretch of the Gulf Coast, and my friends in harm’s way–and of course, we still don’t know what to expect here. Ah, the lovely, unbearably bearable stress and suspense of hurricane season–and there’re even more systems out there in the Atlantic basin.

Hurray!

But now that I’ve checked, I see that we are going to be missed; it continues to creep forward with now landfall projected to be sometime tomorrow night, and we’re back down to merely a tropical storm warning. It’s a relief, of course, but horrible for where it’s coming ashore, as I mentioned earlier. The weather here is weird and hazy, yet still sunny; the sun is behind some haze, making it seem grayish-yellow outside my windows this morning, but there you have it.

We started watching a most delightful Mexican dramedy last night on Netflix: The House of Flowers, or La Casa de las Flores, and it is absolutely wonderful. We probably would have stayed up all night watching; fortunately, Paul had the strength and fortitude to stop the binge in its tracks.

As I was making condom packs yesterday afternoon, I continued with the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, watching American Graffiti and Marathon Man. That might seem like an odd pairing, and one might not think American Graffiti actually fits into the Festival, but I remembered the one time I saw the film, decades ago, and remembered it being rather a dark film. It’s debut brought on a wave of nostalgia for the 1950’s in the 1970’s–the music, the clothes, the things the teens did in the movie–but the movie was actually set in 1962, not the 1950’s, but most of the music was from the 1950’s. American Graffiti‘s success led to another revival, for example, of the Beach Boys; eventually led to the series Happy Days (which also starred Ron Howard–although in the movie he was billed as Ronnie Howard, a holdover from The Andy Griffith Show); and sparked that 50’s nostalgia trend I mentioned earlier. The movie really doesn’t have much of a plot, other than it’s the last night in town for Steve and Curt, who are leaving the next morning for college in the east somewhere. Steve is dating Curt’s sister Laurie, who is head cheerleader and will be a senior when school starts, Curt is having second thoughts about leaving for college; Steve cannot wait to get away from the unnamed town, which was director/writer George Lucas’ hometown of Modesto. These three are played by Thomas, a very young Richard Dreyfuss, and Cindy Williams. Basically, the movie follows them and a few of their friends throughout this last night, as Steve and Curt decide about their futures. It’s really about growing up and making decisions about who you are and what your life is going to be, and while rather light-hearted in tone for the most part, there are dark elements to the movie as well–and the end, with Curt flying east, and as the plane is silhouetted against the clouds, a scroll lets us know what happens to the four male characters: Steve is an insurance salesman, Curt is a writer living in Canada, Terry is missing in action in Vietnam, and John was killed by a drunk driver. There’s a definitely 50’s feel to the movie, even though it’s set in 1962–some say the 50’s didn’t really end until the JFK assassination–but it’s not as “feel-good” as one might think. There’s sadness and poignancy in the movie, as well. And of course, it’s the film that launched numerous careers, including Lucas’; the afore-mentioned stars, Mackenzie Phillips, Suzanne Somers, Harrison Ford, and Kathleen Quinlan, among others. It wasn’t as heavy drama as The Last Picture Show, which was another dark film about teenagers in the 1950’s, but it’s still darker than most people think of it.

Marathon Man definitely belongs in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival. William Goldman adapted his novel for the screen–I read the book, never saw the movie (although the sadistic dentist scene is legendary; it was much worse in the book)–and now that I’ve seen the film, there’s no question about it. The film opens with an old man going to a ban and checking his safe deposit box; his car stalls, which starts a road rage incident with another old man, with the two men swearing at each other in German and the second man realizing the first man is anti-Semitic, if not an actual Nazi, and so begins a car duel between the two that ends with both of them crashing into a fuel truck and being killed. The film then cuts to Dustin Hoffman, who is training to run a marathon. He is also working on his PhD in history, trying to clear his father’s name–his father was smeared during McCarthyism in the 1950’s and ruined, finally killing himself. Because his brother, played by Roy Scheider, works for a mysterious secret agency for the government (doing the things in that gray area between the FBI and CIA), is somehow involved with actual Nazis who escaped from Germany at the end of the war (we never really learn why our government helped those Nazis escape–although that’s actually true; in most cases it was scientists we set to work on the space program), Hoffman actually becomes involved peripherally with this case through no fault of his own, and people are now trying to not only kill him but torture him as well, trying to find out “if it’s safe”, and he has no idea what they are talking about. This is the ultimate paranoia/conspiracy movie: an innocent person being stalked and his life threatened and he has no idea why, and all he can do is try to stay alive and figure it all out (this is also the underlying story of some of Hitchcock’s best films, and many Robert Ludlum novels), and there is quite literally no one he can trust: not the woman he is seeing, not his brother’s fellow agent, and certainly not any of the Nazi henchmen. It’s a good thriller, but I don’t think it would make it today because of the pacing and the slow developing plot, but once it starts rolling it really goes quickly.

It also reminded me that another element of the 1970’s was actual Nazis; Israelis were still hunting down and exterminating war criminals, and the war and the Holocaust were still in recent enough memory that it was still very much in the public consciousness. War novels still proliferated (this was the decade Herman Wouk published both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance), it also brought forth William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice and Ira Levin’s brilliant The Boys from Brazil. Ludlum’s career also got rolling in the 1970’s, and one of his first novels dealt with Nazis–as I always say, you can never go wrong with Nazis as villains, with the Vatican a close second; one of my favorite Ludlums, The Gemini Contenders, used both.

And now back to the spice mines.

Soon You’ll Get Better

Saturday morning in New Orleans, and all is as well as can be expected in this hellish timeline we are all living through at this point. I’ve been sleeping exceptionally well lately–not sure why, but don’t want to question it and simply enjoy it for as long as it lasts, frankly–and I may even just stay in bed as long as I want to tomorrow; I could have easily lazed in bed much longer this morning. I may treat myself to cappuccinos while I get everything on-line done that I need to get done before closing my browser and shutting the Internet down for the rest of the day so I can get to work on Bury Me in Shadows, which I haven’t even looked at all week, much to my deep and abiding shame. I’ve not completely adjusted to working 8:30 – 5 every day, really; and am always tired and mentally fatigued when the daily shift comes to an end; too mentally fatigued to read anything, let alone write anything. I did manage last night to clean up/organize some electronic files, though.

While I was condom packing yesterday (I filled three boxes of them, a personal best thus far) I continued my journey through 1970s cinema, with yesterday’s theme being paranoia. Paranoia was a big thing in the 1970’s, and the films and novels of the decade reflected that–not surprising, given it was also the decade where Vietnam came to an end (1975), when Watergate occurred (1972-1974), and of course, the decade where terrorism really became a thing–it was the decade of the Munich Olympic massacre, the Entebbe skyjacking, etc. It was a decade where trust in institutions began to erode and fade; where conspiracy theories really began to come into their own; and cynicism replaced optimism–if optimism could be said to have ever been an integral part of the American outlook and not simply another part of the mythology we were being sold. It was the decade of the Bermuda Triangle, the Amityville horror, UFO’s, and countless other strange conspiracies and/or cover-ups; when Area 54 really entered the public consciousness, and a time when it became much easier to believe that the government was lying to us about everything and that corporations and billionaires were truly running the world for their own benefit and profit. (This was, of course, the primary theme of Taylor Caldwell’s bestselling novel Captains and the Kings, a thinly veiled history of the Kennedy family’s rise to wealth and power, which was made into a mini-series later in the decade.)

The two films I watched yesterday while condom packing were definitely reactions to the paranoia of the times: The Parallax View (starring Warren Beatty) and Three Days of the Condor (starring Robert Redford). Both were based on novels; both were about conspiracies and/or cover-ups led by incredibly powerful people; and both had very cynical endings. The Beatty film was about the cover-up of a political assassination, in which Beatty played a crusading journalist trying to get to the bottom of the story; the Redford film was about a man who worked for a CIA front (the American Literary History Society) and whose job was to read books, articles, journals, etc., looking for coded references to spy organizations and conspiracies (which was, in and of itself, another example of paranoia); the Redford character finds some curious reoccurring references in some South American and Greek novels and articles and writes a report. One day when he goes out to pick up lunch for the office he returns to find everyone dead; even the guy who called in sick was murdered in his apartment. Redford, whose code name is “Condor”, is not a field agent and has no idea what is going on, other than his life is in danger and he needs help. He winds up taking Faye Dunaway hostage at some point at gunpoint and getting her to help him–she eventually succumbs to Stockholm syndrome, winds up helping him rather than escaping, and they even have sex together*–and throughout the course of the movie you never are certain who can be trusted or who cannot, as people keep switching sides, including the professional assassin (played by Max von Sydow), and the end of the movie is also cynical, implying that not even journalists can be trusted (subverting the popular 1970’s trope of the crusading reporters, inspired by Woodward and Bernstein’s coverage of Watergate).

It was an interesting decade to experience puberty and adolescence through, that’s for certain.

We’re nearly finished with The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, and are really enjoying it. I think we’re going to go with Never Have I Ever next; we’ve pretty much been watching non-stop noir-like heavy crime dramas for quite some time now (although the foreign ones have been absolutely delightful) but I think some light comedy will be welcomed gratefully into the Lost Apartment.

We also had an astounding thunderstorm/flash flood warning yesterday afternoon, which seems to be happening almost daily now. I love rain–I don’t even mind being caught in it as long as I am not having to lug shit into the house while it pours–and there’s nothing quite so comforting as being safely warm and dry inside while it pours outside and the sidewalks get covered in an inch or so of water. I’m not sure if it’s going to rain today–there’s nothing but sunshine and blue sky outside my windows this morning–but I feel fairly confident it will at some point; after all, it’s pretty much a daily occurrence now.

I also realized belatedly last evening that part of the funk I’ve been in lately has to do with the impracticality and uncertainty surrounding the football season for this year. I usually spent most of August excitedly reading everything I can about the Saints and college football, wondering what the coming season will hold; will it be an exciting one or a disappointment; but no matter what happens, I am always entertained–and last season was, as Paul reminds me pretty regularly, one for the books. As huge LSU fans last season was like a fairytale, a Disney film come to life–with every element in place for a great uplifting movie, and the ending was perfect, too; LSU stuck the landing and gave all us fans a season we will always remember with a smile. I am deeply grateful I got to see that championship team play twice in Tiger Stadium–we went to the season opener against Georgia Southern and the Florida game, which was one of the best times I’ve ever had in Tiger Stadium, and we’ve been to exciting games before but that one was everything–and am even more grateful I got to see Joe Burrow play, not only those two games last year but in the games we were able to see the year before. Not knowing if there’s even going to be a season, or if there is, what it will look like, has been kind of depressing on top of everything else; it’s as though all the things in life I find joy in are all gone, with just the bullshit left in its place. I’m not even sure how I feel about the conferences trying to make a limited season happen; it just seems vastly unfair to the players to put them at so much risk, and I don’t know if I should encourage that by even watching the games if they do happen and air on television.

I will never forgive the non-maskers for the loss of this football season, or however it turns out–whether it’s shortened, messed up, or cancelled. NEVER. Thanks for being such complete selfish assholes! You, for the record, are why we can’t have anything fucking nice–although the loss of college football is the LEAST of your crimes. Enjoy meeting your God with that black sin on your soul.

So, I am going to finish this and head back into email hell for a while, before showering and getting back to work on my book. I’ll probably try to do some cleaning and organizing while I’m at it; I still haven’t started–or even selected–my next fiction read, although Poe Dameron; Free Fall is sitting right there….but I also want to read Lovecraft Country before I start watching the show.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

*This is the same trope that Robert Ludlum used in The Bourne Identity, in which his character, Jason Bourne, who has been shot in the head and now has amnesia and no idea why everyone is trying to kill him, kidnaps a woman and takes her hostage; by the end of the novel they are in love and making a future together–and no one thinks anything of this, and it’s presented as normal; another sign of the times, I suppose. I’ve been meaning to reread The Bourne Identity as well as revisit Ludlum; his career as a novelist actually began in the 1970’s with a paranoia novel, The Osterman Weekend, which was also made into a movie, and almost all of his books have some sort of paranoia at their heart. I loved Ludlum when I discovered him in the late 1980’s; I’ve meant to revisit him for quite some time now, to see how he holds up. My favorites of his were The Chancellor Manuscript, The Gemini Contenders, and of course, The Bourne Identity, but I read all of the books he wrote himself until he died–I’ve not read any of those written by other authors since his death.

Cruel Summer

As far as summers go, I’d say this is one of the cruelest of my life thus far. (Nothing, however, including this one, has been as bad as 2005; let me make that very clear–but this one also isn’t over yet and apparently the Saharan dust storm that was hindering the formation of hurricanes is over now. Yay.)

I read an interesting piece on Crimereads about Robert S. Parker and his creation of his iconic character, Spenser, which put me back in mind of how I came to create MY character, Chanse MacLeod–who I have been thinking about lately ( I’ve decided that rather than writing novels about him I’m going to work on some novellas, and then put four of them together as a book; currently the working titles for the first three are “Once a Tiger,” “The Body in the Bayou,” and “The Man in the Velvet Mask”–I still need a fourth, and it’s entirely possible that any of these could turn actually into a novel, and I do have some amorphous ideas about what the fourth one could be), and reading this piece, which is excerpted from a scholarly tome about the genre I would like to read (Detectives in the Shadows: A Hard-boiled History by Susanna Lee), made me start thinking about how I created Chanse, and the entire process that the series actually went through over the years of his development.

It also made me think about looking at Chanse, the series, the characters, and the stories I chose to tell in a more critical, analytic way; I am not sure if I can do this, actually–while I’ve not published a Chanse novel since Murder in the Arts District back on October 14, 2014 (!!! Six years? It’s been six years since I retired the series? WOW)–which means I do have some distance from the books now, I still am the person who wrote them…even though I barely remember any of them now; I cannot recall plot points, or character names, outside of the regulars who populate every one of the books (I also cheated by using some of the same regulars in the Scotty series; Venus Casanova and Blaine Tujague, the police detective partners, appear in both series; and Paige Tourneur, Chanse’s best friend and a reporter, originally for the Times-Picayune who eventually moved on to become editor of Crescent City magazine, also turned up in the Scotty series, in Garden District Gothic and then again in Royal Street Reveillon. Serena Castlemaine, one of the cast members of the Grande Dames of New Orleans, who shows up in the most recent two Scotty books–the same as Paige–is a cousin of the deceased husband of Chanse’s landlady and erstwhile regular employer, Barbara Palmer Castlemaine).

I first created the character of Chanse MacLeod while I was living in Houston in 1989, and the series was intended to be set in Houston as well. I didn’t know of any crime novels or series set in Houston, one of the biggest cities in the country, and I thought that was strange (and probably wrong). Houston seemed like the perfect city for a crime series–huge and sprawling, economically depressed at the time but there was still a lot of oil money and speculators, con artists and crime–and the original story was called The Body in the Bayou (a title of which I am very fond, and is currently back in the running to be the title of a Chanse novella), because Houston also has bayous. I was reading John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series at the time, and loving them–I particularly loved the character of Travis McGee–and how twisty and complicated (if sometimes farfetched) the plots of the novels were. I had read The Dreadful Lemon Sky when I was thirteen, and liked it; but promptly forgot about MacDonald and McGee; a Book Stop in Houston that I frequented reminded me of them and I started picking them up. I had also discovered Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky by this time, and was falling in love with the crime genre all over again, developing a taste for the more hard-boiled side I disliked as a teenager. This was when I decided to try writing in this field again–for most of the 1980’s I was trying to write horror and science fiction (and doing so, very badly).

But coming back to the field that I loved as a kid, tearing through the paperback stand alones from Scholastic Book Club and all the series, from Nancy Drew to the Three Investigators to Trixie Belden before graduating on to Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen and Erle Stanley Gardner, seemed preordained, and also seemed somehow right; writing mysteries, or crime fiction, seemed to me the right path to becoming a published author (turns out, that was the correct assumption for me to make, and one that I have never regretted).

Chanse was originally, as a straight man, a graduate of Texas A&M and a two year veteran of the Houston Oilers; an injury eventually led to early retirement and joining the Houston PD, where he only lasted another three years before quitting and getting a private eye license. He had a secretary, a woman of color named Clara, who was heavyset and in her early fifties. That was about as far as I got; I think I wrote a first draft of a first chapter which established him as having his office near NASA, in Clear Lake (which was near where I lived) and his first case was going to involve a wealthy oil family in River Oaks. Chanse was also six four, dirty blond hair, green eyes, and weighed about two-twenty. When I fell in love with New Orleans four or five years later, I started revising the character and started writing The Body in the Bayou while I lived in Minneapolis. By this time I’d discovered that gay fiction was actually a thing, and that queer mysteries actually existed: Joseph Hanson, Michael Nava, RD Zimmerman, etc. I wanted to write about New Orleans, and I wanted to write a more hard-boiled, MacDonald like hero than what I was reading. (Not that Hanson, Nava, and the rest weren’t doing hard-boiled stuff; they were–I just wanted to subvert the trope of the straight male loner-hero detective.)

Chanse was definitely a loner, and after I moved to New Orleans I once again started revising the manuscript and story that eventually became Murder in the Rue Dauphine. He was cynical about life, love and relationships, even as he was slowly inching his way into a relationship with a flight attendant named Paul Maxwell; he had only two friends, really: Paige Tourneur, who’d been his “beard” while he was at LSU and in a fraternity and was now a reporter for the Times-Picayune; and Blaine Tujague, a former one-night stand and fellow gay man on the NOPD (I changed his backstory to having attended LSU on a football scholarship and a career-ending injury in the Sugar Bowl at the end of his senior year, which led him to joining NOPD, where he lasted for two years before going out on his own). He also lived in a one bedroom apartment on Camp Street, across the street from Coliseum Square in a converted Victorian, the living room also served as his office–and that was the same place where Paul and I lived when we first moved to New Orleans.

The series and the character evolved in ways I didn’t foresee when I first imagined him as that straight private eye in Houston; or even when I rebooted him into a gay one in New Orleans. The original plan was to have him evolve and grow from every case he took on–which would parallel some kind of personal issue and/or crisis he was enduring as he solved the case–the first case was about his concerns about getting involved in a serious relationship as he investigated a case that made him realize he was very lucky to have found someone that he could be with openly; the second case was about investigating someone who wasn’t who they claimed to be while at the same time he was finding out things about Paul’s past that made him uncomfortable. Katrina, of course, came along between book two and book three and changed everything; I know I also wrote another that dealt with the issues between mothers and children which made him reexamine his own relationship with his mother.

The great irony is I probably need to revisit the books to talk about them individually, or to even take a stronger, more in-depth look at the character; maybe that’s something I can do (since I have ebooks of the entire series) when I am too tired to focus on reading something new or to write anything.

And it’s really not a bad idea to reexamine all of my books and short stories at some point, in order to get an idea of what to do (and how to do it) going forward.

And now back to the spice mines.