Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Well, I’ve decided on my audiobook for the drive to and from Alabama this weekend: Carol Goodman’s The Night Visitors. Carol is one of my favorite writers (and has become a friend! I love my life) and I love her works; if you’re not reading her already you need to get on it–and there’s a healthy canon to dig into as well (always a plus). She also has a new book coming out this spring, called The Bones of the Story, which is a great title. I’m working on a short story this week while I am letting my novel manuscripts rest, and it’s definitely some slow going. I got about two thousand words into this story about a year ago, and I think it works perfectly for this anthology a friend of mine is putting together; I just need to finish the damned thing. But tonight I have a ZOOM call I have to do and I have to pack for my weekend in Alabama, and tomorrow morning I’m getting up, writing a post and hitting the road while listening to the divine Carol Goodman.

Does life get better? I think not.

It’s actually kind of funny; after I finished yesterday I realized I could, for the first time in quite a while, take some down time to myself for a minute or two without guilt or something looming over me needing to be done. After I sent the manuscript (such as it is) in along with my editorial thoughts and analyses, I thought, wow, I’ve sure written a lot since just before Christmas and showed an incredible amount of discipline–the kind of single-mindedness you’ve not had for quite a while, and I should feel drained and tired but I don’t. That was an incredibly over-confident assumption to make, even though it was true at the time I thought it. When I got home from work I realized my candle wick had burned down so far that it needed to rest and be replenished for a while. I am still feeling motivated and creative, though; I was simply drained yesterday. Before I went to bed last night (after watching another episode of The Recruit, which I am really enjoying) I kind of felt like the batteries were already starting to recharge. I feel very tired this morning, too–I slept well, don’t get me wrong, but I think I needed to sleep longer. Ah, well. I don’t have to get up before the sun rises tomorrow, so that’s something.

I always like Thursday nights.

But the kitchen is still a mess. I wasn’t in the mood to clean last night when I got home, either. I just felt disoriented, emotionally and intellectually spent, and physically tired. I used to call it the malaise, because it felt like melancholy brought on by the utter exhaustion of my creativity and drive to write. It’s very weird. Usually, the malaise also brings with it the feeling that I don’t even want to think about writing anything else ever again–which is not the case this time, which is very weird to me. I am champing at the bit to get to work on more things, new things, even to start working on the editing of everything else. It is very weird, and I will keep you posted on how this weird new version of malaise works itself out.

But I’ll have to clean the kitchen before the ZOOM thing tonight. That, or turn off all the kitchen lights.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I watched an interesting documentary on Youtube in my tired malaise last night, a new one from James Somerton called The Death of Queer Privacy, which was interesting. The primary focus of the documentary–Somerton does popular media critiques from a queer perspective–was, to begin with, about outing as well as the potentially problematic tropes in Paul G. Tremblay’s A Cabin at the End of the World and it’s film adaptation, A Knock at the Cabin. It was another look–deconstruction, if you will–if whether a straight identified (I don’t know how he actually does identify) writer centering a gay couple/family at the heart of a horror novel/movie is either good representation (they could just as easily have been a straight couple, a mixed-race couple, lesbians, etc.; sexual orientation didn’t play a part in the plot and if anything, the fact that the gay family was presented as normal and not a big deal tends to undermine any critical analyses of this as intentionally or unintentionally sinister) or if the book/movie, at heart, centers the trauma of a queer family as entertainment for the masses. I may want to watch that again; I wasn’t paying a lot of attention because I was tired and scrolling through social media on my iPad, so I may have missed some things, but the critique and look at the film itself was merely an introduction to the main topic, which was the attack on queer people’s right to privacy–which served as an interesting counterpoint to a lot of the public discourse about queer celebrities and how much of their lives, if any, needs to be shared with the audience. The recent forced outing of Kit Conner from Heartstopper is perhaps the best example of this; the idea that queer people in the public eye need to–nay, must–come out and be publicly queer, no matter how they themselves feel about revealing that much of themselves to the world, is problematic on its face. Somerton then went on to talk about how gossip blogger (and garbage human being) Perez Hilton essentially dragged a couple of people out of the closet. And really, are the personal and private lives of any celebrity any of our business? Simply because we enjoy someone’s performance in film and television, or like someone’s music, doesn’t really give us the right to know intimate details of their personal lives. I’ve never cared, beyond mere idle interest in hearing gossip; but I don’t care that much about it because I don’t know these people. What does who Taylor Swift is dating have to do with her music–other than her break-ups tend to spawn some amazing music–and why do I care? Why would I care who Tom Hiddleston is fucking, unless it’s someone I actually know? (There’s an interesting dialogue to be had about our billion-dollar celebrity gossip industry…) To circle around back to Tremblay, I knew he was publicly identified as straight as far as I knew (and didn’t care to know more). I was a fan of his before reading A Cabin at the End of the World (having greatly enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock–I’ve not read the others yet–and so I was delightfully surprised that the family the book was centered on was a gay couple and their adopted child. It was yet another entry in the “people go to secluded place and then horrible things happen” trope of horror, but with a remarkable twist that made it even more intense and terrifying. (I’m really looking forward to the film.) I read the book and enjoyed it, and I didn’t read anything sinister into it; but I was also reading it from an entertainment perspective rather than to gain a sociopolitical perspective for writing a critique…which now I kind of want to do, thank a lot, James Somerton–this is how this kind of thing always happens to me.

In fact, an essay exploring three mainstream novels by non-queer writers centering queer characters could prove interesting–and the Tremblay, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears, and Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden would be the perfect trio to look at as they are relatively current, critical successes, and often award recognized.

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

I Don’t Know Why

Wednesday Pay-the-Bills Day has rolled around again, and my goodness, do I have a lot of bills to pay, YIKES. But with another six thousand word push yesterday, the draft is done. All I need to do now is pull it all together into one document, write the explanatory apologetic email about the mess and how I am going to fix it, and send it off and all is finished–for now. But I know it’s going to be a great book once I tie up all the threads, add in the back story and character development it needs, and I think it’s going to be super awesome when it’s done. Yay! I love creating, I really do, and I actually enjoy the writing.

Well, until I hear back from my editor, at any rate.

I finally started listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album, Midnights, and I have to say, I really like it. I’d always liked her–some of the songs I knew I liked, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to her or her music. Spotify changed that, and I really have been impressed not only with the quality of her music but how different it all is; not to mention the evolution from teen country star to major world pop superstar. (“Red” is still my favorite song of hers, probably always will be.) I find that putting her albums on continual play on Spotify is really great when it comes to cleaning things or doing the dishes and things like that. (Back when I first started writing I always would put three Madonna CD’s in the CD changer and hit shuffle and would start writing. I should go back to that, really.) I had a lot of chores to get done last night around my writing–unloading the dishwasher and doing another load; cleaning the counters and organizing the office area, etc.–but I do like having those opportunities to take a break from the writing to clear my head and see what comes to me while my hands are focused on something mindless and music streams through my ear buds.

I really do like writing, y’all.

I still have a lot of work to do on the manuscripts I’ve written the last couple of months, but it’s nice to have workable, fixable drafts in place; that’s always the hardest part for me, and the ability to focus on the writing without having to worry about anything else outside of my job and whether the books are selling is kind of nice, actually. I think it’s part of the reason why I’m calmer every day, don’t get my anxiety going, and don’t get stressed. I was irritated when I got home Monday–because I knew I had writing to get done, and I had errands to run which seemed to take much longer than anything had any need to take (don’t even get me started on the hell making groceries has turned into since the pandemic started) but once I was home and had everything under control and could sit down and pound away at the keyboard for a while, after which I was finally completely and totally relaxed for the evening. And of course, last night after a very productive day at work in which I got all of my day job responsibilities finished and caught up (huzzah!), I came home and wrote while doing those odious seeming chores that I always wind up enjoying. And Paul didn’t come home until after I’d gone to bed, so there were no distractions for me, but I would have loved to have watched another episode of The Recruit. I don’t like it when Paul comes home that late because I don’t see him for that day (I leave long before he gets up in the morning; which is another reason I hate working these shifts; I like when Paul and I work basically the same schedule.

It’s going to be warm and rainy today, which means I’ll be wearing a sweatshirt to work underneath my Crescent Care T-shirt; it was freezing in the office yesterday; last week the heat was on, but the weather changed, and they finally turned on the air conditioning I guess on Friday (it had been insanely warm in the office all week) and so yesterday it felt like the frozen tundra of the great white north in the office, which of course meant I was pretty much miserable the entire day there. But I was productive and got all my work caught up; today of course is the first which means all kinds of things for me to do this morning; pulling logs and forms for the month, putting out new ones for the new month and so forth, and of course seeing my clients.

After talking about them negatively yesterday, I do feel I need to thank the Horror Writers’ Association, which quickly moved to ban the incredibly insulting member from all their events and kicked him out of the organization. I had mentioned that I had left the organization a while back because one I’m not really a horror writer, and second because I felt that the organization had a ways to go as far as being welcoming to the non-white non-straight part of the community–I had been made to not feel welcome when I actually chaired World Horror Con in New Orleans, and while I didn’t have quite the same experience when I went to Las Vegas…there were enough little things to make me decide that my money and time were better spent in the mystery community, and that’s what I’ve done. I returned in December for some reason or another–I think they sent me a really nice “we want you back” email–and to be honest, this whole mess over the last week or so kind of had me thinking I’d made the wrong decision in coming back. But the swift movement of the HWA board of trustees over this matter was heartening, and while I have no intention of volunteering for anything any time soon for anyone or anywhere, I do not regret my decision. (I am also remembering that the community is also cantankerous and there are all kinds of feuds and things–long-time long-held grudges and so forth, which isn’t fun to navigate in trying to remember who doesn’t like who and so on; I usually don’t care or pay attention to such things and generally remain neutral because I don’t know the people well enough to have an opinion one way or the other.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday Pay-the-Bills Day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Out of Time

It’s today that I officially run out of time on this draft; tomorrow I need to get it emailed in. I think I’ll be okay; I wrote six thousand words yesterday and only have six thousand more to go before I can call it an official draft that I can send in with an email of apology and explanation. It’s fine, really, everything is fine. I am remarkably calm about everything these days. I’m not sure why that is, but I do like it, and am delighted that it appears to be becoming a theme for me in 2023. But I am very excited to get this draft finished and turned in–I think it’s eventually, with some work, going to be one of my better ones–but now I have the foundation and skeleton of the book finished; soon I will go in and do all the little touches and finishes that will turn it into something fun and readable for readers. But I still have more to write yet–there are two chapters left to write–and while I did get six thousand words down yesterday, I have to do another six in order to get it finished. Which is fine and do-able, of course. And it’s always nice to finish something right before a weekend away.

We watched more of The Recruit last night, which we are really getting into, so I am looking forward to seeing another episode tonight or maybe two? We shall have to see, of course. I was very tired after getting home and writing last night; last night’s sleep wasn’t as deep as my sleep has been lately, but that’s okay; I did sleep decently even if I did have to keep waking up. I have a lot to do tonight, as well–and I would like to get back to doing some reading. But once I have the manuscript finished, I can have my evenings after work free for a few days; I’m not planning on getting into the weeds on editing until I get back from Alabama. Hopefully that will give me the time to do some short story writing that needs finishing, as well. The kitchen is a mess, too–I really don’t like going away for the weekend with the house in a mess to come home to, but I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do anything about it in the meantime. And then of course it’s parade season again the next two weekends, and before you know it it’s Lent and it’s all over again for another year. The first quarter of the year in New Orleans is always a challenge…

Cindy Williams died yesterday–it took me a minute to remember that Penny Marshall had also passed away already–and of course, most of the commentary and posts defaulted to Laverne & Shirley, and why wouldn’t they? It was a highly rated–if sophomoric–comedy series for eight seasons on ABC, and it did make her both rich and famous. But the thing I always thought was kind of sad was that she was actually capable of a lot more than a slapstick lowbrow comedy on television (hey, she got rich from it, and it made a lot of people happy, too) because she’d given some really fine performances in very good films like American Graffiti and The Conversation (both of which I watched during my Cynical 70’s Film Festival; most people remember American Graffiti as a fun comedy about one Saturday night in 1962 in Modesto, California–but it was a lot darker and more serious than people generally remember. It also was set in 1962, not the 50’s, but it was in that weird aftermath period where the music was still very similar–the Beatles hadn’t crossed the sea yet–and until the Kennedy assassination, the early 1960’s seemed very much like a continuation of the 1950’s until everything changed. I always wondered what Cindy Williams may have made of herself as an actress in film had she not taken the Laverne & Shirley gig. And that Tuesday night ABC line-up was something: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, SOAP, and Hart to Hart.

Ah, my teen years.

I recently rejoined the Horror Writers’ Association; I am not really sure why, to be honest. They sent me a “we want you back” email and I was talking to That Bitch Ford and I thought, sure, why not? You’re not really a horror writer but you ARE a writer who has written some fiction that could be classified as that and you’re always looking for new places to submit short stories and….so I did. I’d forgotten why I’d initially let the membership go, and it barely took a month for me to be reminded. There was a contretemps on the official Facebook page for the group, and then it just kept spiraling out of control with all the nastiness, bigotry, and hatred. As an author, I would always like to be seen as an author first and treated with the common courtesy that any author should expect from their peers, particularly in a nonprofit organization that serves them. But, as I have been reminded all-too-many times since Murder in the Rue Dauphine was sent out into the world, there will always be those people–in publishing, bookselling, reviewing, etc.–who will always define me by my sexuality and denigrate both me and what I write because of it. As I often say on panels when it comes to genre, the adjective gay trumps anything that follows: mystery, horror, science fiction, romance, etc. I am also very aware that gatekeeping in publishing–while on the decline–has always been there to keep the “undesirables” out. Seeing someone whom I didn’t know–and have no desire to know now–erupting on the HWA page and spewing hate-filled rhetoric, and then doubling-down by appearing on a white supremacist/Nazi’s podcast for several hours…well, you put on the SS uniform, it’s kind of hard to deny your complicity in the Holocaust after the war. And watching it all go down over the last few days reminded me of why I left the organization in the first place–the overt and covert bigotry in the organization.

And for the record, when you’re talking about diversity and you say but it has to be about the writing! that’s a dogwhistle people like me have been hearing for decades. What you are saying is the reason our genre is not more diverse is because the non-white non-straight writers aren’t good enough.

Yeah, that was all I needed to hear to know where I stood with HWA, and so when it was time to renew the next time, I just let it go.

And I am also incredibly proud of myself because usually my response to situations like this one–this most recent blow-up, and that comment all those years ago–is to say okay I have to get involved so I can fix this. I am very happy that instead my thought is, oh yes, this is why I let it lapse and will do so again. I’ve been fighting this kind of shit for decades, and frankly, I’m tired. I just want to focus on me for a while and let everyone else fix all the things that need fixing.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow, when Pay-the-Bills Day rolls around again.

Street Fighting Man

Saturday and all is calm within the Lost Apartment, at least so far this morning–who know what will happen later? One can never really be certain.

Heavy sigh. My dryer stopped heating yesterday–a tragedy was averted when I remembered that there was a working dryer in the carriage house so I could dry everything over there, which beats taking it to a laundromat–but rather than let that get me down or upset me at all, I figured out a solution (see sentence between dashes above) and went on with my day. I got my work-at-home duties done around doing some organizing and cleaning in the kitchen/office (I discovered more MWA stuff that can be archived and filed away) and did the dishes, making the kitchen sort of bearable to look at. I got some writing done, which was marvelous, and figured out why my printer kept jamming and fixed it (clearly, it was a solution-driven day for one Gregalicious around the Lost Apartment), so I no longer need to continue looking for a new printer/scanner/copier, which was really super great. (Especially since we now appear to be in the market for a new dryer, damn it all to hell. I think I can probably fix it–its probably a fuse, but the laundry room is really too small and inconvenient to get behind the dryer and try to remove or fix anything; I may give it a try later today to see what can be done. There’s a Lowe’s near the office I can run to after work on Monday if it’s indeed something I myself can handle–and wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to replace a fuse rather than having to order a new one and have it delivered, making arrangements for me to be on hand for it to arrive and everything? Augh. I kept hoping it would fix itself miraculously to no avail. Heavy heaving sigh.

I slept very well again last night and even slept in a little bit this morning. I’m not sure exactly what changed with the sleep situation around here, but it’s nice. Scooter got me up at seven whining for food, but I went back to bed and fell right back asleep for another hour and a half. I feel rested and relaxed and centered this morning, which is nice. I do have to go pick up groceries I ordered today but other than that I don’t really have to leave the house. It’s gray out there this morning and it feels chilly inside–I turned the heat off yesterday because it was a bit stuffy in the house, but I don’t mind a bit of a chill, seriously. My coffee tastes marvelous this morning, and I do need to get a lot of writing done today–I got some done yesterday but not nearly enough–and of course I think my Saturday morning ritual of doing some reading before starting to write is probably a good idea. I think I am going to finish reading Other Horrors this morning and perhaps tomorrow, and then maybe start in on The Last King of California or one of the myriad of cozies I have on hand. I know I want to read the Edgar finalists I have on hand that I’ve not yet read, too.

After watching the LSU gymnastics meet against Missouri (Tigers win! Geaux Tigers!) and this week’s Servant over on Apple TV (which is really interesting), we decided to give That 90’s Show a whirl on Netflix for a bit of nostalgia. (We watched early seasons of That 70’s Show before finally giving up as it got stale) and actually kind of enjoyed it. The kids are appealing, and who knew Red and Kitty were the anchors of the original show so much so that they could anchor the reboot, too? All they need is goofy hormonal teenagers to play off and you have a show. We only have three episodes left to watch, and while it wasn’t high art by any means, it was enjoyable and entertaining enough–who needs more than that on a Friday night after a long week of reentry into reality? I kind of want to watch The Pale Blue Eye at some point over this weekend.

I’m also trying very hard not to get too giddy over how easy it is for me to deal with my emails now. I’m still not used to it, nor am I used to taking a break from doing anything and not feeling guilty about the massive to-do I’ve yet to master/conquer. (Note to self: you need to make a new one to work on) But while I was working at home yesterday and working around the dryer issue, I also managed to get the kitchen–notably my desk area–back under control, which was a very good thing. I still have more organizing and filing to do, but it’s not the enormous task now that it was yesterday morning, and I am looking forward to having it completely under control today. I was also looking through all the drafts here of my blog and am thinking a good goal for this spring would be to get them all finished and posted. I need to do some more blatant self-promotion for A Streetcar Named Murder too; I am curious, though, as to what else I can do to do New Orleans promotional posts that tie into the book somehow. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to look through the book again? Might be something to do later on after I get my writing for the day finished.

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

She’s a Rainbow

Monday morning and back into the office. I only have two days in the office this week and three next, thanks to the holiday next Monday–huzzah! I had an incredibly productive weekend, Constant Reader, thanks to some terrific sleep every night and no college football. I know that tonight is the national championship game but I won’t be staying up to watch it again this year–that’s three consecutive years I’ve not watched–because I have no skin in the game and can always watch highlights tomorrow. My preference would be for a TCU win; they’ve not won anything since the second world war and it would be a fun change to see a program come from nowhere to win it all this year. (LSU was 10-3 in 2018, so we knew they’d be good in 2019; we just didn’t know how good they would be.)

I slept well again last night. I think I may have finally found the right mixture of things at night to help me sleep, so hopefully the big test–New York and a hotel bed–will be passed with flying colors.

Yesterday was a good day. I spent most of it working–I wrote six thousand more words yesterday, bringing the weekend’s total to ten thousand, which is pretty damned good–and after I was done working for the day, we finished watching The Rig, which was kind of interesting and weird and way different than what we thought it might be–again, there’s no greater suspense than people being trapped and isolated somewhere and there’s some kind of threat, especially when group dynamics and politics start getting involved. I am enjoying writing again–the last book I wrote was nightmarish to try to get done for some reason, but I am back into a writing groove again and it feels terrific. I only needed to rest for a day or so, too, between different writing projects before diving back into it. I kind of let my emails pretty much go, though, over the course of the weekend so it’s going to take me some time to get that back under some kind of control today. But I feel pretty good this morning, my coffee continues to taste marvelous, and while I do have a lot to get done before leaving for New York on Wednesday, I am neither daunted nor bowed by the amount of work that needs doing; rather, I feel very empowered this morning.

I also spent some more time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am sort of enjoying a bit more than I did originally. I am probably going to try to read some more when I get home from work tonight and after I get my quota for the day. I also need to make some lists about what to take on the trip with me and I need to check what the weather is going to be like up there; there’s also a weird bit of sadness associated with this trip as well, since it will be my last official trip for Mystery Writers of America. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years, but two of those years were sucked up into the pandemic and no traveling, so there’s that. That probably won’t completely sink in until I am back home from the trip this weekend, either.

I also need to make a to-do list for this week. I have errands to run after my day at the office as well. Heavy heaving sigh. I know I have some short stories I need to get written and some other things that have to be done at some point soon–and I really need to dig through my email inbox to make sure everything’s been put on the calendar so I don’t forget anything. I also want to watch The Pale Blue Eye, but that may have to wait until after I get back from this trip and get all settled in again here in my own life. I also need to decide what to take with me to read on this trip. Obviously, I am not going to finish the Algren before I leave, so that’s going with me, but what to read while there and on the trip home? I think I am going to continue immersing myself in cozy mysteries for a while before going back to a different sub-genre; on the other hand, I could also take either a Carol Goodman or a Ruth Ware with me, so I can continue working my way through their oeuvre…decisions, decisions, always decisions to be made.

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

Darkness at the Edge of Town

I’ve kind of slowed down on my blatant self-promotion for A Streetcar Named Murder, mainly because the enormous thrill and rush of Release Day/Release Week has already come and gone. It isn’t like I’ve run out of things to say about New Orleans by any means; I could be here blogging for the rest of my life about New Orleans and never do more than scratching the surface. The depth of my lack of knowledge about New Orleans is bottomless. One thing, for example, that I can never completely wrap my head around is where the train tracks and stations were in the city, back when rail was king and vitally important to the operation of our port. I know there was a station in Storyville; part of the reason it ended up being closed was because so many men went through New Orleans on their way to serve in Europe during World War II, and the Department of War looked askance at the soldiers disembarking in a red light district (can’t say as I blame them, but on the other hand, they were heading off to the miseries of the trenches and what was, at the time, the bloodiest and deadliest conflict in human history, so why not let them get laid and party it up before getting on their troop transport?

I have always considered New Orleans to be a dark city–despite its many charms and enticements–not just because of the history here (which is plenty dark) or even the crime “problem” (which goes back over three hundred years), but because it really gets dark here at night; not quite as the true dark you can get out in the country, but for an urban area? New Orleans is the darkest city where I’ve lived. I’ve never experienced an urban area that gets so dark at night once the sun has set.

It’s like all the lights from houses and street lamps and businesses just \gets somehow sucked into the darkness and vanishes. When I come home after dark and park on my street, it always catches me by surprise when the inside of my car is lit up by one of the street lights. This happens, I think, because the massive live oaks everywhere inevitably block out the lights with their enormous branches. Oddly enough, cloudy nights generally are lighter than cloudless ones–because the cloud cover reflects back the neon of the French Quarter, turning the night sky clouds reddish-pink; it’s a phenomena unique to New Orleans that I really love. And the street lamps here seem to only cast light downward rather than up and out; it’s very hard to read street signs in New Orleans after dark.

See how dark it gets at night? It’s like the light gets eaten by the night.

Then again, that could be my eyes getting worse with age. My sister can’t see hardly at all after dark now, which worries me a little, but not a lot: her eye issues were different than mine. I was horribly near-sighted while she had an astigmatism, but my mother also has trouble seeing at night, too and she never had to wear glasses (she has reading ones now) so that doesn’t bode well, does it?

Another part of the reason it gets so dark here at night also has something to do with how many of our street lights are out, too. New Orleans street lights aren’t the kind that go up and then hang out over the street, either. Ours are the old-fashioned kind, with a bulb and its cover going up in a straight line–I think they were the old gas ones, adapted for electricity; I am not sure one way or the other. But I do like the antique, old timey look to ours. Now that I think about it, we couldn’t have the ones that hang out over the street, either; because of parade clearance! The low hanging branches of the live oaks that line St. Charles are also a problem for the larger floats, too; which is why so many of them are festooned with beads riders accidentally toss into the trees instead of to the outstretched hands of eager parade-goers–it’s going to be Carnival here sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ haphazard approach to street lights and keeping the city lit up and visible at night also plays, interestingly enough, a role in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually; that darkness has a very strong hand on the finale of the book. When I was driving back from Kentucky after Thanksgiving, I noticed that once you got over the twin spans from Slidell and are back in Orleans Parish the lights on I-10 either don’t work or weren’t on, which gave the busy highway an eerie, almost hypnotically haunted feeling as I arrived in New Orleans East and climbed the bridge over the Industrial Canal. It even feels like the headlight beams of my car also get swallowed up into the darkness.

Is that darkness metaphorical? Maybe.

But I can only imagine how dark it must have been here at night when there wasn’t any electricity or gas, for that matter. And of course, it was very dark here after Katrina when most of the city lay in ruins. That was such a weird time.

I read a great review of Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin yesterday, which pointed out that the book was about a thirty year battle between the city of New Orleans and its brand of lawlessness, debauchery, and sin; which really is spot-on accurate. New Orleans has always been fighting that branding almost from the day the French settled on the high land along the river here. There has never been a time in her history when New Orleans has not drawn in tourists due to the branding with debauchery and sin. Someone was telling me the other day that the primary problem with dating apps in New Orleans is they are always full of tourists looking to get laid and not wanting to pay for it–which made me laugh; it reminded me of the old gay truism about not looking for hook-ups on-line the week before Decadence, Halloween or Carnival–because the chatrooms etc. were full of people coming in for the weekend and looking to make hook-up dates in advance…which was so patently absurd because seriously, back in the day if you couldn’t get laid just by going out during those events…well, you should just hire an escort and be done with it. People come here specifically to have the kind of good time they can’t have at home.

So, yes, the city has always had that kind of reputation and branding, which is why I always roll my eyes when the whites who fled the city for the suburbs and/or the north shore clog up the comments on social media and news articles about crime in New Orleans, clutching their breasts and casting their teary eyes up to the heavens as they bemoan how New Orleans has somehow slid into the gutter and how crime has gotten completely out of control. Fuck off, racists–we know what your dog whistles are because we’ve listened to them ad nauseum, ad infinitum: crime is a stand-in for oh no the black people and don’t pretend like you left New Orleans because of “crime”; you left New Orleans because of desegregation, so fuck all the way off. (The people who were protesting the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans were not from New Orleans, either.)

So, yes, there is crime in New Orleans–always has been, always will be–and I don’t know what the answer to reducing it or bringing the numbers down. But you can be the victim of a crime anywhere–the Clutters were murdered in rural Kansas back in the 1950s, after all–and it just means always be aware of your surroundings–which is always good advice for anywhere, really.

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

Sunday morning and probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had in quite some time. I didn’t even wake up the first time until past eight, and was so relaxed and comfortable I stayed in bed for another hour like a very bad Gregalicious. I had some vague plan when I went to bed last night that I would get up early this morning since I had so much work to get done, but the pull of a comfortable bed and warm blankets was too much for me to resist. I am now enjoying a really good cup of coffee; I cleaned out my Keurig machine yesterday, which was terribly overdue, and it does make a difference. (I should probably do it far more regularly than I do.) I also ordered groceries for pick up this morning as well, which will probably be the only time I leave the house today.

Overall, yesterday was a good day. I got up in the morning, did some cleaning and ran some errands, before coming home and doing some more cleaning while i worked. I clocked in four thousand words yesterday, which was amazing–I’ve been averaging between three and four thousand since Christmas when I write, and there were a couple of days that were between six and seven (hoping for one of those today, frankly), and all the pieces of this particular one are starting to fall into place. I’m having a very good time writing, and it’s awesome to be making it a priority in my life, too–plus it helps to not really check or examine your emails quite so compulsively. After I finished writing yesterday, I started watching some documentaries on Youtube about the Great Schism and the development of the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox church; I am probably going to try to focus my history reading for the year to be on the Eastern Roman Empire and the development of Christianity (I’d really like to reread Gore Vidal’s novel Julian the Apostate again), which has always been one of those periods I find fascinating and don’t study or read about near enough. I also spent some time thinking (while football highlights played on a loop on Youtube–I never tire of watching the last minute of the Tulane win in the Cotton Bowl) about my year and my writing plans for the year and what I would like to accomplish in 2023. I am really leaning toward trying to write an actual gay romance novel at some point in this coming year or the next; I’ve always wanted to write one and why the hell shouldn’t I give it a try at some point? (Although the romance writer who faked her own death and resurrected herself this week has me again wary of Romanceland…)

We also watched The Menu last night, which was a very strange film but highly entertaining. I’ve never been much of a foodie (I even hate the word foodie), because primarily most of my life food primarily either filled a need (the abatement of hunger) or served a purpose (as fuel, during the overly-exercised period of my life), so I never viewed it as a pleasure or an art form. Sure, I loved (and dearly miss) my annual lunch at Commander’s Palace, and I can appreciate delicious food, flavors and textures and so forth, but the plating and the rest isn’t something I’ve ever been terribly interested in. I don’t care if my food looks like a work of art on a plate. Sorry, I am a peasant at heart and peasantry isn’t that easily overcome. I did make an effort to become better in the kitchen and better at cooking while I was in my forties, and after I turned fifty I started learning how to bake things–cakes, cheesecakes, brownies, etc. But I digress. The Menu , like Glass Onion, seems to be a commentary on class and snobbery; the difference between the creators and the takers. I think the film is filled with great performances and interesting twists and turns, but ultimately it doesn’t succeed in the same ways that Glass Onion did. I do recommend it be seen; I’m curious to see what other people thought of it.

We then started watching a new prime series called The Rig, with an excellent cast headed by Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek, Chapelwaite), and Martin Compston (Line of Duty); the cast is diverse and the tale is interesting. An off-shore oil rig, somewhere in the North Sea I think, is riding out a terrible storm when something strange and seismic happens; whether it’s an earthquake on the ocean floor or some kind of volcanic activity isn’t clear. As the rig loses its connections to the outside world–internet, telephones, etc.–a terrifying fog comes rolling in, and something supernatural or mysterious but rooted in science is going on, particularly with a crewman who suffers a terrible fall that should have killed him; there are internal injuries they can’t do anything about–but he starts getting better, which shouldn’t be possible, and he has terrifying visions of the future. We watched one, and then couldn’t resist the temptation of staying up later and watching another. It’s quite good, and I highly recommend it. I am very curious to see how it winds up playing out.

I am going to finish this, grab a second cup of coffee, and repair to my easy chair to read for about an hour or so; A Walk on the Wild Side is calling to me, and I’d prefer to finish it before my trip (I don’t think that will happen, but one never knows), before I start writing again and dive into the day’s work. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

19th Nervous Breakdown

Saturday morning and another lovely day in New Orleans–if a bit chilly–has dawned in the Lost Apartment. What a marvelous night’s sleep I had last night. The bed and blankets were so comfortable–not to mention the snoring kitty curled up between Paul and I–that I really didn’t want to get up, but I have far too much to do today to continue to laze in the bed simply because it felt good. So, it was out of the bed for one Gregalicious, and here I sit, swilling my morning coffee and clearing the cobwebs from my brain by trying to write a coherent blog post. (Good luck to me on that, am I right?) Yesterday was a work-at-home day, of data entry and doing quality assurance on testing logs, and yes, it is as tedious as it sounds. But after work I did some great thinking and work on the in-progress story, and am looking forward to getting some quality work done on it this morning/afternoon/however long it takes me to reach the day’s goal, and no matter if it kills me–which it just might do. I also have some errands to do today, but they shouldn’t take long.

Huzzah? Huzzah.

Last night we watched the final episode of Welcome to Chippendale’s, which really dragged on for far too long. There really wasn’t eight episodes of story here, and so it often seemed to drag and drag and drag. It’s a shame, the acting was top-notch and it was a great story, but unless you’re interested in viewing a couple of Emmy-worthy performances, watch the true crime documentary instead. It’s funny to remember how ubiquitous Chippendale’s seemed to be in the 1980’s–I certainly owned a few of their calendars, since they were the first real beefcake calendars produced–and I wished sometimes that I had a stronger memory, at least of the 1980’s, but it was such a dark and brutal decade for me I think I was happy to forget most of it. Paul is going to be gone most of the day today, so I have no excuse not to get a lot of writing and other things completed today. I do want to watch the adaptation of Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix at some point this weekend, and of course we do need to finish watching Sherwood, too. I leave for New York on Wednesday, which is kind of fun–I am really looking forward to having some good Chinese food–and hopefully I’ll be able to get writing done on the road (which never happens, no matter how much I hope that it does).

But this time, it must.

I’m really enjoying all this writing I am doing lately, even though I am lazy and would rather not do anything at all. But it feels good to be pushing my brain and my creativity and trying to come up with fresh and new ways of saying things as well as fresh and new characters and interactions and stories. This first half of the year is going to be hectic and busy for me, but I am developing a plan that should help me get through till the spring. If I can stay motivated and stop being lazy, I should be able to get a lot accomplished before the dog days of summer are upon me. My writing goals for the year are very ambitious, of which I am well aware, but I think it’s better to try to do more and not quite get there than to plan less ambitiously and get even less done. I know I can’t get everything done that I want to get done in 2023 (I don’t think anyone could, to be honest), but I’d rather be overconfident than not, you know?

I am having my first piece of king cake for 2023 with my coffee this morning and it is sublime. It’s kind of hard to believe that Carnival season has rolled around again, and now of course the first part of the year will fly by: New York next week, Alabama the first weekend of February, then Carnival, the one-two punch of Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints and Sinners at the end of March, and then of course it’s practically summer again already, and then the next thing you know it’s football season again. This, for the record, is how your life ends up slipping through your fingers like mercury. Heavy sigh. But I am trying not to look forward to things, if that makes sense? I kind of want to just keep my head down, avoid drama for the most part, and focus on my writing for the year. It seems like writing always takes a back seat to everything else for me, which is ironic since it’s the thing I draw the most pleasure from and being a writer is such an integral part of my self-identity. I don’t see myself as a sexual health counselor, even though that’s my day job and has been for eighteen years. I don’t see myself as Mrs. Saints & Sinners/Tennessee Williams Festival, either–even though that’s been Paul’s job for the last twenty-two years. I see myself, despite all the other identities I take on in my everyday life, first and foremost as a writer; that is the core of my identity and who I am. And yet…it always seems as though my writing in always being shunted to the side or pushed back on the list of things to do because I have so many other things always going on in my life. Writing will be my priority now going forward, and while I still intend to work on volunteer stuff whenever I have time, that isn’t going to be a priority for me and it never should have been, either. I don’t know why the most important aspect of my life is always back-burnered for one reason or another, but it’s not going to be the case anymore. I am going to be even more zealous and jealous of my time and donating it only sparingly, and only when I have time.

I also need to start being realistic about everything I can and cannot do and stop thinking oh I can do everything in the world by all means ask me to do more things. I think it all comes from the fear of being disliked, that goes back to childhood–I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over those scars, truth be told–and I am very aware of the idiocy this implies: oh if I say no to this they won’t like me and won’t ask me again; I have always called this Homecoming Queen Syndrome–the desperate need for approval from other people, the need to be liked and well thought of, the fear of being made fun of, mocked, and disliked. I need to work harder on not giving a fuck, but it’s also part and parcel of being queer and trying to fit into a mainstream culture group, the crime writing community. It’s very strange and off-putting to know that people who’ve never met you, know nothing about you, and never will know you hate you in the abstract; that some people will never like you because they’re homophobic (honestly, when it comes to homophobia I prefer the Westboro Baptist Church version, where they will scream their hatred in your face; at least it’s more honest than people who will smile to your face while voting to strip you of your rights); and those same people will never, no matter what, ever read anything you write. It’s weird knowing that people will find your books on Amazon and one-star you without reading the actual book because you’re a queer and you had the audacity to write a book about queers where they are actually whole, happy people who aren’t suffering at all because of their same-sex attractions. The great irony of this is my own inconsistency; when I actually think about it, I do not give two shits what other people think of me, and haven’t for a long time. Unfortunately, I’ve been conditioned my entire life to care what other people think so I always fall back on that subconsciously; I’m always so flattered to be asked to do anything–which is the sneaky way that insecurity/need to be liked gaslights me into agreeing to do things I may not want to actually do or have the time to get done without something else, something that actually matters more to me, being pushed aside or not getting the full attention it needs and deserves.

A Gregalicious is still a work in progress, apparently–even at sixty-one.

And on that note, this work isn’t going to do itself now, is it? Off to the spice mines with me–and will talk to you later, Constant Reader. Have a fabulous Saturday.

Get Off Of My Cloud

And Christmas is over.

I managed to make my quota yesterday; I didn’t make up the quota from the day before but it’s okay; I don’t really mind. I am going to have to work like a dog this week to get this into something reasonably not embarrassing before turning it in. But I am writing, and I am writing in the proper amount of word count bursts; I just wish I could do more than the daily quota. I can get the quota usually done in about two hours or so, which is pretty fast methinks for the amount of output. I used to be able to do more when necessary, though, and I keep hoping I’ll hit one of those days again. You never know. It may even been today; stranger things have happened.

I finally remembered the last movie we watched on Christmas Eve: Enola Holmes 2. I can’t imagine why I couldn’t remember it yesterday morning. I enjoyed it, and both Millie Bobbie Brown and Henry Cavill are favorites of mine. Last night we watched Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson, which we also enjoyed. I’d seen some snarky hate directed at the movie on Twitter since its release, but I like the Rock and I like DC, so go figure, we liked it. Were there holes in the plot? Of course, it’s a superhero movie so there are always going to be holes in the plot and things that don’t make sense. It’s a fucking super hero movie. I’ve already accepted that mythological gods have given him the “shazam” power, and that he’s been alive in a sort of suspended animation for thousands of years, what precisely is a bridge too far here? I also thought it was interesting to see a superhero who belongs to another country other than ours–all superhero stories inevitably make them American because of course only we would have superheroes.

I also read quite a bit more of Dashing Through the Snowbirds, which I will hopefully finish this morning over coffee–reading while having coffee in the mornings has been really lovely over this long holiday weekend. Perhaps in the new year it can become a tradition for me on the weekends; reading while having my morning coffee. I would like to read more in the new year–my reading isn’t nearly as regular or frequent as it should be at this point, but I am also looking forward to getting my shit back together in 2023 and being more on top of things than I have been in quite some time. I think that’s been the worst thing of these last few years; having a lot to do all the time while not feeling like you have an organizational grip on everything has been absolute hell for me, and I am hopeful come the new year will see that horrific feeling come to an end. I’m always going to be busy, let’s be honest; but I always used to feel like I always had a handle on it before. Maybe that’s changed because I am older and don’t have the desire or drive or energy that I used to have, but I do think it’s really a combination of everything. Come the new year, I am hoping to get better organized from the start and try to get everything planned ahead of time.

I slept really well again last night, which was great. One thing for sure is I got rested over this long weekend, if nothing else. I wanted to get up early this morning to try to start the adjustment to the hellish earliness of six a.m. alarms that are coming the rest of the week, but the bed was so comfortable this morning and warm, and I was so relaxed, I stayed in bed until after eight, making me a lag-a-bed surely this morning. I do have to leave the house–I reordered the groceries I was originally supposed to pick up on Christmas Eve for today–but not for long. The temperature is in the thirties out there right now–but should be up into the seventies by the end of the week again. Ah, bipolar New Orleans winter weather never changes from year to year, does it?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I want to read a bit this morning, and I have a load of laundry to finish as well as a load of dishes to put away, and of course there’s minor cleaning and picking up to do this morning. I think this evening we will get caught up on Three Pines and maybe start something else new.

Have a wonderful Boxing Day for those who celebrate, and for everyone else, have a lovely Monday off from work. I certainly intend to do so!

Thank God It’s Christmas

And now it’s Christmas morning, with tidings of great joy and all that. It’s thirty-six degrees in New Orleans and our Hard Freeze Warning doesn’t let up until nine this morning, but it’s still not exactly going to be warm or anything. But that’s fine. I have lots to do today and I slept in again (it’s been marvelous, sleeping late this long weekend but it’s going to make getting up Tuesday morning in the cold difficult, I fear) and feel rested this morning. Which is a very good thing, don’t get me wrong on that. But when I finish this I need to clean up the dishes from yesterday before I dive back into my Donna Andrews Christmas read for a bit before I dive headfirst back into the book. I did get some writing done yesterday–didn’t make the quota, so will have to make up for that today as well as meet today’s–and I am enjoying Donna’s book tremendously. After Paul got home from his trainer, I gave up on reading and we settled in to watch some movies: See How They Run (great cast, clever concept, not completely executed properly); The Banshees of Inisherin (not seeing how that was nominated for comedy Golden Globes, unless it’s such dark humor that I completely missed it. There are some terrific performances in it, though); All Quiet on the Western Front (a remake of the Oscar winning classic; perhaps one of the grimmest and darkest looks at how miserable war really is and definitely an Oscar contender); and finally–well, I don’t remember the fourth film we watched last night before going to bed, which is probably not a good sign of either its memorability or my memory. Maybe it’ll come to me as I write this, who knows?

I made pulled turkey for Christmas Eve, with an eye to not having to cook anything today, and I bought too much. I usually get one of those small boneless turkey breasts from Butterball, but I couldn’t find one anywhere this week, but Friday they had turkey breasts at Rouse’s, so that’s what I got. It was twice the size of what I usually get–and we can never really finish eating–and it had bones. It barely fit into the crockpot but…it was delicious when it was finished, much better than those boneless ones, and I can’t help but wonder if the bones somehow make a difference? It was a time shredding the meat (since there were bones), and I made some Stove Top to go with it (I can make real cornbread dressing from scratch like my mom makes, but it’s a shit ton of work and it makes a shit ton of dressing, which we would never be able to completely eat). But today I shouldn’t have to cook anything, other than maybe a grilled cheese for lunch or something, and once I finish this I am going to clean the kitchen and read for a little while before getting cleaned up and diving back into the book.

It’s also a very short work week at the office, since tomorrow I have off as a holiday and so only have three days in the office this week preparatory to another three day weekend this coming weekend. There will be football games to watch over that weekend, which will make it much harder to get writing done, but the book must be turned in on January 1. I am trying not to feel guilty about not getting any more writing done yesterday and for leaving the apartment in such a mess, but one of the things I’ve become more aware of as I get older is that I need more down time to recover and regroup and recharge. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, other than I think I used to not need the recovery time nearly as much as I do now. Then again, it’s also entirely possible I simply don’t remember and it’s merely yet another memory lie my mind is telling me, allowing me to look backward through rosy lenses to see things as markedly better in the past than they are in the present. That’s always the trick of getting older–your mind always wants you to believe that things were better or easier or made more sense in the past, when that wasn’t true; the struggle was simply different back then than it is now, but there’s always some kind of struggle going on in people’s lives. We are also masters at hiding our struggles from other people–I know there have been many times in the past when I wondered how other people managed to do so well while I was doing so poorly; now with the “wisdom” of age and experience I know they were probably all struggling too, I just didn’t know it or was too self-absorbed to notice.

Probably more of that latter part, actually.

The Saints did win yesterday, which was lovely–I had the game on in the background while I read, and then once Paul and I started watching See How They Run I followed it on my iPad and Twitter–but I am finding I am not caring much about the post-season for college football. I’ll watch LSU’s bowl game with Purdue, but other than that, I don’t care very much. I always say that, but inevitably always end up watching the national title game, regardless. I have no stake in the game, other than wanting SEC dominance to continue, and quite frankly, I’ve turned a bit on Georgia–their decision to go for two when up thirty against LSU in the conference title game so they could hit fifty left a sour taste in my mouth; enjoy your run while it lasts, Bulldogs, because your day will come again. And if you think LSU’s players, coaches and fans won’t remember that for the rest of time, think fucking again.

Then again, Joe Burrow did make the Dogs look like a high school second string in 2018 and 2019, so maybe there was some payback there from them, I don’t know. But Cajuns and Louisianans have long memories and will carry a grudge to the grave; and on that score I am definitely an honorary Cajun. (I said to a friend the other day, “I may not remember the reason, but I remember the grudge.”)

So, on that cheerful holiday note, I bid you adieu as I head into the spice mines, Constant Reader. Have a lovely day, whether you celebrate the holiday or not; at least have a lovely free day from worry or care, and I’ll check in which you again later.