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.

2000 Light Years from Home

Tuesday morning and back to the office.

I slept incredibly well on Sunday night–there really is nothing like your own bed–but despite feeling rested, my body was still exhausted and tired. I had to run some errands and make groceries, which us always tiring, but i also managed to get some other blog posts done yesterday morning. (After all, I didn’t post on either Saturday or Sunday, so had to catch up and make up for lost time.) I got the laundry caught up, and did some chores around the Lost Apartment–dishes, filing, organizing–and reread the manuscript to get a handle on where I am at so I could plan the next stages of finishing this sucker.

But yesterday was about re-acclimatization into my reality, and I think I did a nice job. I picked up my prescription and the mail, and made groceries. I was very tired still–exhausted, really–but managed to get some things done around the house; little things that are nevertheless time-consuming but need to be done. I think another project for the overall year will be to organize my picture files. They are a mess, always have been, and none of them are actually labeled or have been renamed; they all sit in my back-up drive as IMG-number, and only in a few instances have they been grouped into a labelled folder for ease of discovery. I also went to bed relatively early last night and finally slept through almost the entire night in a good, relaxing sleep. My legs still ache from soreness, a result of all that walking I wasn’t used to (I really do need to start going for walks–even if short–in the evening after work) over the weekend but not to the point of such exhaustion that I want to cry when I have to get up, thank God.

My voice is still raspy, too. But I feel much better this morning, which is a good thing as I have to not only go into the office but I also have to get back to writing the book this week and I can’t afford a single day off from writing or I won’t be finished by 1/31, which is the original plan. But I had suspected that my not feeling 100% and slightly flu-ey was a result of not enough rest, and now that I’ve slept well for an entire night, my suspicions have apparently been correct all along. I was too mentally fatigued still yesterday to do much beyond simple, menial tasks–my mind was too tired to handle any reading, so I won’t be getting back to Other Terrors until tonight after work. We also watched a documentary on Netflix called The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, which was interesting–I’d never heard of this story, but apparently it went viral in 2013–particularly on how some people in the entertainment field tried to cash in on his viral story and success without doing any due diligence or any looking into his past or who he was at all. That was the most interesting part of the story to me–the way people saw him as a way to make money and didn’t care about anything beyond that, and so it’s hard to feel sympathy for any of them when the truth–(no spoilers here)did finally come out.

It inevitably does.

I’ve still not completely wrapped my head around the end of my volunteer work. I spent some time yesterday archiving all the emails from the last three years and deleting the folders they were originally filed away in–which made me realize that my email folders need to be overhauled, as there are any number of them that are no longer needed or necessary, or are actually duplicated–and of course, organizing always makes me incredibly happy. I have a lot of work to do in this first quarter of 2023 (!!!! I still can’t believe it’s this far into the third decade of this century…) and I want to make this a good year for me productivity wise; I am going to start looking for an agent probably come March or April. Nothing ventured, after all, and let’s face it, I’ve never really made much of an effort into finding one, and maybe send out a couple of proposals before giving up and pulling back and hoping for the best. I need to make a blanket effort–going after all of them at the same time–but I am always afraid that they’ll all say no and that’s the end of it. Honestly, the way this business is so brutal on your ego while at the same time requiring you to actually have one (you have to believe in yourself to some degree otherwise you’ll never get going on it and that’s the end of that).

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

The Power of Goodbye

At 3:00 pm, Saturday, January 14th eastern time, I officially (and symbolically) turned over my gavel as Executive Vice President of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America.

It’s going to take some getting used to, methinks.

As you get older, your perspective changes on things when you look back. I’ve never been one to look back at my past–I’ve always tried to focus on the present and the future–but once I hit sixty, it was inevitable. January 20th this month is the twenty-first anniversary of the release of my first novel, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and with the closing of this chapter–my service to MWA–it’s hard not to look back and remember.

When I was first published, my mystery writer friends kept urging me to pursue mainstream markets and join mainstream organizations. A lot has happened since 2002: Lawrence v. Texas still hadn’t been decided so my sex life was still a crime; “don’t ask don’t tell” was still in place; and it’s not like you could get married to your same-sex partner when our sexuality was criminalized. That was a completely different world and society and culture than the one we currently live in. For one thing, for a gay mystery author, there were queer newspapers and magazines and bookstores. It was entirely possible to make a living and a career for one’s self outside of the mainstream–and this situation developed because of the mainstream’s rejection of most things queer. There had been some queer publishing booms, but I came in at the tail end of the last one–as all the New York publishers had started canceling queer imprints and slowly but surely removing queer writers from their lists. I decided that I would try to arrange signings and appearances at mystery bookstores as well as queer ones, and that was a lesson in homophobia I’ve never forgotten. One mainstream bookstore actually hung up on me after nastily cutting me off to say we don’t carry those kinds of books in our store–some variation of which I heard from all of them except one (which is why Murder by the Book in Houston will always hold a place in my heart). A friend bought me a membership in an organization as a gift (I won’t name it) but it was made abundantly clear to me that mainstream spaces weren’t welcoming or safe for a fledgling queer writer, so I didn’t bother joining any others or going to any mystery conferences–my concerns were always poo-poohed by straight mystery writer friends, which now, in reflection, was a kind of gaslighting, but I was inevitably always proven right (it’s always nice to be told you’re “nobody”). But when I emerged from the haze of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the wreckage it made of my life, publishing had significantly changed, as had the rest of the world. The queer stores were closing, and our newspapers and magazines were shuttering–as were some of our publishers. I took a look around and thought, what am I going to do now?

I took a deep breath and joined Mystery Writers of America. Within a year I was asked to run for my chapter board, and then was asked to run for chapter president, which would also give me a seat on the national board. I remember going to New York for my first board orientation, staying at the Roosevelt Hotel–I always loved staying there; it made me feel like an author the way I only really feel when I am in New York, to be honest–and walking into the room where the meeting was being held. I had already met MWA staffer Margery Flax (at the time administrative director, now Executive Director), who had made me feel not only welcomed but like I belonged, which was something I had only rarely ever felt outside of queer publishing. I remember being awestruck that I was in the same (proverbial) room where it happened; the same board meeting that giants of our genre had attended in the past. I was stunned when a beautiful woman asked me if the seat next to me was taken and I was like oh my god, that’s Harley Jane Kozak! (I knew her from my long addiction to daytime, but also from other films she’d done.) I sat there quietly, overwhelmed, absorbing it all, and that night at dinner I had the thrill of sitting next to Jess Lourey, and as we talked over dinner we became friends–something that has lasted to this day; I will always love Jessie–and over the next four years I slowly found my voice and began taking on more and more responsibilities. It became a huge part of my life, and I kept working, as is my wont, to try to achieve equity for everyone in MWA, specifically with the goal to make queer writers feel welcomed and a part of the organization as a vital part of our community. I made a lot of friends that I cherish to this day, and it felt very weird when my time there was finally up and I stepped away. Being involved with MWA, and making friends in the organization (which led to making even more friends in the genre) was what got me to start attending our genre conferences, getting involved and being more active in the community, and becoming better known than I was before.

It would have been easy to give up after the collapse of queer media and outlets. Mystery Writers of America gave me hope that my career could and would continue, and that the best part was yet to come.

So one can only imagine my surprise when four years after I left the board I was asked to return and serve as Executive Vice President (basically, chairman of the board). I was thrilled, flattered, and honored, particularly for being the first openly gay one in the history of the organization. What better way, I thought, to let queer writers know they were welcome than by being in a leadership position? There was admittedly some hubris involved in saying yes–the making history thing, for one, as well as thinking I could handle all that responsibility while maintaining a full time job and a full time writing career. I will never regret saying yes; the only regrets I have are the mistakes I made (there were plenty) and not having as much time to devote to the office as was needed so I could get everything done that I wanted to get done while I served. But I am not going to focus on the regrets, ever; instead I shall take pride in the things we were able to accomplish.

And now, it’s over. I could have served five years total, but bowed out after three. Were we still living in the same world we were in when I was initially approached in the fall of 2019, I probably would have stayed for the full five. But we’re not living in that same world–the pandemic that shut down the world within two months of my taking office overwhelmed every aspect of my life, from day job to running errands to my writing and publishing career to helping to oversee the operations of the organization. (I like to joke about how I was not only the first gay EVP in history but also the first EVP to cancel the Edgar banquet) Navigating an organization through the unknown waters of a pandemic and a changing world, where there was no previous experience to draw from was challenging, especially since I had to worry about my day job, adjust to working from home on some days and helping with the COVID testing at our office, exposing me to something that could quite possibly kill either Paul or myself every day I was there. The years between 2020 and now are all kind of blurry to me now; sort of the way everything from the Katrina evacuation through about 2009 is either a blank or blurry.

It’s going to take some getting used to, and it’s going to take a while before it sinks in that it’s no longer my responsibility.

I wouldn’t trade the experiences–both good and bad–for anything. Even though sometimes it was stressful and disruptive, and there were times when I got incredibly frustrated because I was very short on time and in the middle of a book that I needed to focus on, it’s going to be weird for me for awhile. It was very weird checking my emails this morning and seeing that there were none with (MWA) in the header line. I worked with some great people and made some friends–at least I like to think so, their mileage might vary–that I would have never made had I not served. I learned a lot about myself, and strangely enough I also think serving somehow has made me a better writer somehow; I know the work I am producing now is vastly superior to the work I did before I served. I know I have a stronger sense of the genre after my total of seven years of service.

The hardest part, I think, is going to be remembering that I no longer have anything other than an opinion and that I am now just one of the many members.

Thanks to everyone I served with, the membership, and the community. I no longer feel like an outsider looking in at the community, and maybe, just maybe, I made a small difference.

I can live with that.

Ruby Tuesday

Tuesday morning before the sun rises blog.

I have to say, it’s really difficult sometimes to be a pro-New Orleans person the way I am, but it’s not New Orleans that is the general problem, it’s some people. After the massive debacle around the Krewe of Nyx and it’s problematic and racist leadership (they defiantly paraded last year to non-existent crowds; maybe some tourists who didn’t know better were out there, but after the parade before theirs, everyone left the parade route), I thought it would be hard for any krewe to do a worse job of public relations or, for wont of a better word choice, reading the goddamned room. However, this past weekend the leadership of the Krewe of Endymion basically said to Nyx, “hold our beer” and named noted anti-Semite, misogynist, and homophobic racist Mel Gibson as celebrity monarch (co-monarch, to be precise).

I don’t go to Endymion–it doesn’t go past our corner; we’d have to walk to Harmony Circle (I keep calling it Liberty Circle since it was renamed, anything is better than Lee Circle) to see it–and I’ve only ever seen it on the rare occasions when it does come down St. Charles Avenue (rained out on Saturday; abbreviated route after Katrina), or when we used to go out that Saturday night, walking to the Quarter up the route (and getting buried with beads on the way)–so it’s not like I would be boycotting it anyway; but they did rescind the invitation but rather than admitting they made a HUGE mistake, decided to blame the outrage and cite concerns for their safety as the reason.

Fuck all the way off, Endymion, seriously. Yes, blame the outrage instead of your incredibly poor decision-making skills.

Nyx, by the way. went from 3500 members and riders to less than 200. And yes, that will wind up in a book someday–it’s too good to not use it, you know? Also of note: that last pre-pandemic Mardi Gras, back in 2020? Two people were killed by floats during parades that season–at Nyx and Endymion. Perhaps the gods of Carnival were letting us know in advance?

Then again, Carnival has a horrifically exclusionary and racist past we tend to gloss over a lot here (read Lords of Misrule sometime).

It’s dark out this morning and I didn’t sleep as great last night as I would have liked, which is fine. This is my last day in the office this week, and of course tomorrow morning I’m off to New York, so if I’m tired, I’m tired. I did manage another three thousand words on the book yesterday–it really is going well, and I am actually enjoying writing it, to be completely honest–and I managed to get some chores done yesterday when I got home from work–the dishes, mostly. Tonight I’ll need to pack; the flight isn’t until 12:15 tomorrow, so I don’t have to leave for the airport until almost ten, so I can sleep a little later than usual on a Wednesday; which will prepare me for the insomnia of the hotel…which I honestly am hoping won’t be the case this time. After doing the chores last night and writing, I watched a documentary about the Eastern Roman Empire for a while before switching over to the national title game–which was kind of boring and not much fun to watch; I mean, what the hell, TCU? And how on earth did they beat Michigan? Ohio State was a missed field goal in the closing seconds away from playing in the title game; and they lost to Michigan at home. I know it’s pointless to do comparative scoring and so forth because every game day is different, but I can guarantee you neither Alabama nor Tennessee would have gotten rolled 65-7. Hell, even LSU played Georgia better in the conference championship game and they played terribly. I guess the only teams capable of stopping Georgia from doing what no one else has ever done–three in a row–are from our conference.

But it will be fun watching Georgia fans become even more hated than Alabama’s this coming year. And they play in Knoxville this next season. The 2023 season, I think, is going to be even more interesting to watch than this year’s.

You heard it here first.

I need to make a packing list today, too. I already checked the weather for the weekend and it won’t be much worse than it is here when it gets wintery, so that’s bearable for me. Hat, jacket and gloves are all I need, and I think I can manage without getting super cold and whiny, so we’ll see how all that goes. I’m actually more than a little excited about the trip, to be honest. This may be my last trip to New York for quite some time and I am not going to be there for very long; That Bitch Ford has done an absolutely marvelous job of Julie McCoy-ing our weekend up there; we’re going to see a play (Hadestown), to Chinatown, and we’re going to a noodle place, too–I love noodles–and I am meeting others for drinks and so forth–it’s quite marvelous, really. I just hate the drudgery and getting to and from the airport, and the flights themselves–although usually once I am on the plane and have my book open in my lap, I don’t mind the flights quite as much–and I have no plans for tomorrow evening, so hopefully once I am checked into the hotel and unpacked, I can write for a while and then read myself to sleep…or watch a movie on my laptop, or something. It should be a great trip, and I even have the Monday holiday off so I can recover as well as do things to get ready for the week without having to do it around going to the office.

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

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.

Fortune Teller

Very glad it’s Thursday already. I am tired again this morning–there was some insomnia last night, but not nearly as bad as that if the night before–but I am waking up and slurping coffee and getting ready to face the day. I did manage to get all the bills paid yesterday and did some writing–which wasn’t easy. I’m hoping to get some more of that done tonight and hoping that it actually will get better and easier the further I get into this new project. But in checking my emails there’s not a weather advisory today for the first time since before Christmas, what with freezes, high winds, hail, tornadoes, flash flood warnings, and dense fog advisories. Yeesh, that’s something, isn’t it? It’s like the weather has lost its mind down here–well, everywhere in the country for that matter, really–but climate change is a myth, y’all. (eye roll to infinity)

The schedule at work is picking up, too, and probably within a few weeks I won’t have time to breathe during the day anymore in the clinic. We have gone back to appointments every half hour rather than every hour–which is what we did before the pandemic–and that’s going to take some getting used to, I think. After work last night I had dinner with a very dear friend at Lilette, a lovely place on Magazine Street where they have amazing passionfruit bellinis (I limited myself to one, but easily could have slurped down three or four) and got caught up with each other. I really do have the best friends–such a blessing so late in life, you know, to make some amazing friends past forty. My life has gotten significantly better the older I get, which is probably the best way for that to occur…I just wish I had the energy I used to have so I could enjoy it more. That’s something I should have added to my goals for 2023: take time to appreciate and enjoy the good things in my life more. It’s so damned easy to only see the negative and the bad, which are always far outweighed by the good and positive. I’m going to try to get as much of my email inbox deleted before next Monday–or at least addressed in some way–and as my term with Mystery Writers of America starts to come to a close, I can also start archiving all my emails having to do with MWA business.

The sky is turning blue which means the sun is rising over the West Bank (don’t ask), and it’s only in the low fifties this morning, which probably means high sixties-low seventies during the day and when I get off work. I have to run errands when I leave the office this afternoon, and then I am going to come home and try to dive more deeply into the book I am currently writing–which is wickedly fun–and hopefully Paul will get home at a relatively decent hour so we can watch more Sherwood, and hopefully I can stay awake for a while tonight at any rate, LOL. Yesterday afternoon was when I hit the wall, which had me deeply concerned because I was having dinner with a friend I’ve not seen in nearly a year. But I came home from work, shaved and showered and got dressed, and felt fine as I drove uptown. I was early, as I always am, so I wandered around the neighborhood (a part of the city I am rarely in) and took pictures of houses with their Christmas lights or just some interesting shots of houses with their regular lights on. I need to do more of that, really–one of these football free weekends I need to take the streetcar (or walk) to the Quarter and take a look around, get more of a feel for it again. I am planning on spending the weekend of the festivals (TW, S&S) at the Monteleone this year (which means coming home periodically to feed the cat and spend some quality time with him), which will also help me explore and get to know the city a bit more, or re-familiarize myself with it. It occurs to me that probably a lot of my private places–the ones I could take friends for meals and drinks that were off the touristy beaten path–probably aren’t in business anymore. I know I recently saw the Green Goddess had closed because of the pandemic, which has me a bit concerned about the other places I used to take folks. But I am also getting to know my own neighborhood better–I can always bring people down to the Lower Garden District to eat and have cocktails; St. Vincent’s is a really nice place here in the neighborhood, and there’s that awesome Vietnamese cafĂ© next to our vet, and of course Lilette and Coquette and all the other marvelous place uptown of the Quarter to eat.

I really do love living in New Orleans. It’s quite marvelous, really–sure, there are endless frustrations and irritations every day (someone needs to make everyone in the city take a remedial driving course like yesterday), but it’s so beautiful here. Last night was a lovely evening, and as I walked around taking pictures of houses with their Christmas lights (or just their normal lights) I kept thinking to myself you really are so lucky to be able to live here. It still hits me sometimes when I am driving around running errands; I’ll notice something I’ve driven past thousands of times before that never registered and I’ll smile and think god damn, I live in fucking New Orleans! and it really makes my day.

And at this time next week I’ll be waking up in a hotel in New York–hopefully having slept decently. I am kind of excited about the trip–time has really flown since I booked my flights and things–and since it will be my last hurrah…I do have mixed feelings about stepping back from my role there. Sure, I will miss it–it actually could be a lot of fun a lot of the time–but there are also things I am not going to miss. I’ve always been super-hard on myself, and rarely, if ever, give myself credit for things I’ve done and accomplished. Part of this comes from not taking myself terribly seriously–I laugh at myself ruefully all the time–and I’ve always had this mentality that if I did something, it must not be a big deal because I am no more than, if not below, average. But I don’t believe that as deeply as I used to, nor do I think it’s necessary for me to constantly be humble about things I’ve done, either. I think it’s also time for me to update my CV again, which will enable me to count all my stories and novels again for an update.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Wish me well, Constant Reader, and I will do the same for you. And I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Heart of Stone

Another new year. 2023. This year it will have been forty-five years since I graduated from high school. That feels weird to me, but it must be true. Forty-five years. Kids born the year I graduated from high school are full on having mid-life crises already. Not exactly a cheery thought to kick off a new year, though, is it?

I got my writing done yesterday and have a daunting day of more writing ahead of me. I managed to get it all done in a little less than three hours yesterday (what can I say? I was on a roll, and the book is really coming together here at the end), and I was thus able to watch some college football games yesterday, namely TCU-Michigan and Georgia-Ohio State. Both games were completely insane, but I am sure OSU fans are not happy with their unfortunate head coach. I imagine now, after two straight losses to Michigan and no national title wins, they are every more unhappy than they have been with their head coach; it’s almost like Ohio State and Michigan have switched their annual trajectories. I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am starting to appreciate more. I am not a fan of twentieth-century straight white male MFA writing, which is what this kind of is (look at me! my book will be taught in universities!) and I’ve never cared for (Hemingway comes to mind) but I’m starting to like it more. There’s a dark, noir undertone to it that I am appreciating, and now that the main character (Dove) is making his way to New Orleans now–well, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to me once the action moves here, which is the entire reason I am reading the book in the first place. We also finished off season two of Sex Lives of College Girls, whose second season didn’t live up to the first, but it was still enjoyable. Tonight we’ll probably go back to Three Pines and watch a movie; there was something Paul mentioned last night that he wants to watch but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

I felt remarkably rested and relaxed yesterday; the writing going so well had a lot to do with it, I am sure. I slept well again last night and feel rested again this morning–I really do like these lengthy weekends, and am going to miss them once they are over–so I feel confident I can bang out the word count i need to get done for today as well. Yay! So, I am going to do exactly the same thing I did yesterday; read this morning over my coffee, then take a shower and get cleaned up before diving into the next chapter I need to write.

As is my wont, I am setting goals for 2023 rather than making resolutions–and while this hasn’t been as successful for me as it should have been over the years (some goals remain the same, year after year after year), I still like goals better than resolutions. So, without further ado, here we go:

Get an agent

This has been at the top of my goals every year since i started setting goals rather than resolutions, which goes back to the beginnings of my blog, way back in December 2004. I have made running lists of potential agents to try for years, always adding someone new whenever I come across their information or someone being excited to be signed by one. Having an agent doesn’t mean a significant change to my writing or my earning potential or the possibilities of my career getting bigger, but none of those things are likely to happen without an agent: I am not getting signed to a major publisher like William Morrow or Random House unless and until I have an agent. I may never sign with one of those houses–I may never get an agent–but I also never really try, either. So, the goal isn’t necessarily to get an agent in 2023, but to at least make an effort.

Finish everything on deck

I have five novellas in some sort of progress, as well as two other books I am at least four or five chapters deep into. I want to finish all of these projects in 2023 and get them out of my working files. I don’t think I will ever finish every short story or essay I’ve begun over the years, but getting some sort of completion here would be really nice. I would love nothing more than to have a working first draft of both Muscles and Chlorine by the midpoint of 2023. I also would like to pull together a second short story collection, which would be incredibly cool (This Town and Other Stories). It would also be nice to get those novellas completed. It is very tempting to turn them all into novels–a couple of them might be able to be stretched out that way–but I know some of them simply do not have the depth or story potential to play out that way. The nice thing about novellas is the length is up to you; I know these stories are all too long to pare down to something readable and enjoyable for six thousand words or less; but some of them need to be longer than the twenty thousand words I was shooting for.

More short stories sent out on submission.

I really do need to finish some of these other short stories I have in progress to try to get them out on submission. I have over eighty stories in some sort of progress, with still others yet to be started and/or finished. I’ve not been doing so great with the short stories as I would have liked over the last few years. I have some really good ones to work on–there’s one I fear that’s going to end up being longer than a short story, because there’s more to the story than can fit in the confines of six thousand words or less, but then you also never know.

Clean like we are moving.

I really need to get rid of things that have accumulated over the sixteen or so years we’ve been living in this apartment. I need to clean out the storage attic and the storage unit; donate a shit ton of books to the library sale, and just in general rid the apartment of all this clutter that seems to be weighing us down and closing in on us. Part of this is my inability to rid myself of books once I’ve read them, but I’ve also become much more ruthless when it comes to pruning them–I still can’t believe I donated so many of my old Stephen King first edition hardcovers, and my Anne Rice first editions as well, but they were just collecting dust in boxes so what use were they? Paul and I set this goal–clean like we’re moving, which in other words means would you move this or trash this? The first few times I pared down the books it literally was painful, but I am getting better. And after being a lifelong book hoarder, well. you can’t just turn that off after decades of doing it.

Volunteer less of my time.

All due respect, I’ve done my time. I have volunteered relentlessly for the overall betterment of the writing community–whether it’s the mystery community or the queer writing community–for quite some time now. I write stories for free for charity anthologies all the time. I step up and judge awards because I think they’re important. I’ve served on the Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon boards. But now that I’m older, I need to scale back. I don’t have either the time or the prodigious energy that I used to have, and while I’ve enjoyed all the volunteer work, something has to give. I just can’t do all the things that I used to do because things have changed: my day job takes more out of me physically, emotionally, and intellectually than it ever has before (the switch to working early mornings didn’t help); I tire out much earlier than I used to since my COVID situation last July and I can’t write or be productive or even read when I am bone-tired exhausted the way I am when I get home from work some nights. This also includes giving blurbs, I am sad to say; blurbing means reading the entire book, and I just don’t really have the time or mind-space to do much of that anymore; same with judging. I want my reading to be for pleasure or education for the rest of my life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always say no when asked, just that I am going to be more discriminatory. I need to be more jealous of my free time, and I can honestly say few people in the mystery community have done more volunteer work than me. I’d just like to start getting paid for working.

Take better care of myself.

The one-two punch of getting older and having COVID last summer has brought home very clearly to me that I need to take better care of myself and that physical things are just going to get harder. It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few years getting into a gym/workout routine with everything else I had to do plus the exhaustion thing; but the truth is physically I need to start working my body more–and the longer I go, the weaker my body gets and the harder it will be to get back into decent physical condition again. I also need to start paying more attention to my diet now than I am in my early soon to be mid-sixties–my diet needs to be healthier and I need to eat better. I weighed myself last week at the office and I am back up to 218; which is better than 220, but I had gotten myself down to nearly 200 at one point and I’d like to get back there. I don’t like this extra weight on me, and sure, maybe I can carry it and it would surprise people to know how much I actually do weigh, but I’m aware of it. And while it would be easy to think who cares, you’re almost sixty, you’re practically in the grave so why start depriving yourself of things you love at this age? But there’s a defeatist mentality there, a laziness speaking that is far too easy for me to go ahead and give into, and I don’t think that’s perhaps the wisest decision to make? I also need to get some more work on my mouth done–I’m tired of looking like an inbred hillbilly.

Read more.

It’s incredibly easy to come home and collapse into my easy chair and flip on Youtube videos–whether its football highlights, lists, music or military or European history, or reaction videos–it’s easy to just mindlessly lay there in the chair while watching endless videos, one after the other, about whatever subject catches my fancy. But I could read instead–and there’s plenty of nonfiction lying around the apartment. Over the past few days I’ve been reading either Bad Gays or Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown by J. F. Andrews–about heirs to thrones that got supplanted by people with more spurious claims in the Middle Ages–or Holy Wars by Gary L. Rashba (about crusades and ancient wars in the Holy Land, going back to Biblical times); and there are plenty of other non-fiction books lying around here that I could get to more quickly if I read rather than watched Youtube videos. But at the same time, when I am exhausted, it’s almost therapeutic. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to read history or other nonfiction while trying to rest, relax and decompress from a day in clinic.

Be more assertive and less self-deprecating.

In general, this is a good idea. I need to break the conditioning I was raised with, in which you never praise yourself and simply wait for others to notice and do it for you. No, this just doesn’t work and it’s not a good trait for a writer to have. I need to stand up for myself, my work, and my career because let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for me.

New years can be daunting as they are not only full of potential for either good or bad but they are unknown. You can’t know what’s coming, so all you can do is be hopeful things will always work out in the end. I want to also try to be more positive, and try to enjoy the good things without fear of the inevitable bad things that will inevitably come along. I also need to get out of the mindset that enjoying good things that happen will trigger bad things to happen as punishment; I need to learn to navigate that line between self-confidence and arrogance, which isn’t an easy task.

And on that note, I am going to go read for a little while before i dive into today’s writing. Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

Seven Wonders

If I live to see the seven wonders, I’ll make a path to the rainbow’s end…

It’s 49 degrees here in New Orleans this morning–it could have been worse, and was predicted to be worse–so I can’t complain too much. It’s chilly inside the apartment this morning, but I have on my sweats and a stocking cap and feel okay. I didn’t want to get out of the warmth of the bed this morning–who can blame me–but I do feel somewhat rested this morning, which is always an enormous plus. I managed to not feel exhausted yesterday, so I managed to reconfigure Chapter Five so it is no longer a steaming pile of crap and now feel like I can move on to Chapter Six. Huzzah! Progress, Constant Reader, we are making progress at long last and it feels marvelous. We also watched this week’s Reboot (seriously, y’all, this show is hilarious and marvelous and you should be watching) and started the new season of The Vow on HBO–remember the NXIVM cult? They got a second season, which is going to be interesting as it covers the trials and has interviews with some of those higher-ups who pled guilty…but I am not seeing the cult leaders who finally woke up and brought them down as heroic, frankly. I have mixed feelings about them, to be honest; when they finally turned they really turned, but they were also involved for years and recruited lots of people–especially women–to the group, so I don’t know. There’s something to be said for atonement, I suppose, which is one of those esoteric philosophical questions about crime and punishment and our legal system (I’ve always felt conflicted, for example, about the sex offenders’ registry; I totally get why the neighborhood should know a convicted sex offender has moved into the neighborhood but at the same time it feels like a continuation of their punishment–either you do the time and are rehabilitated or you’re not…this conflict of fairness in my mind is what led me to write my story “Neighborhood Alert”).

I actually listened to my Sisters in Crime podcast interview with Julie Hennrikus (I tend to avoid listening to recordings of my voice, as I don’t like how I sound) for a change, and started to wonder about this distaste I have for hearing my voice. I don’t sound to myself anything like I sound on recordings, so for one thing it’s jarring to my sense of self (“that’s what other people hear when I talk?”), kind of like photographs, and there’s a bit of an effeminacy to my voice, I think–or that I hear–that makes me uncomfortable–and as I listened last night (it’s an interesting conversation, and Julie is a marvelous interviewer) I began to wonder why I hate the sound of my voice so much. There’s nothing wrong with sounding effeminate, so why does it get under my skin the way it does? It makes little to no sense, and it’s definitely something to do with the self-loathing I developed as a child from being an outsider. But after I started listening, after a while I stopped cringing as my voice came out of the computer speakers and started paying attention. Julie is a marvelous conversationalist/interviewer, and I felt like I didn’t come across as a pompous and arrogant fool who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, which is also a plus. (I’ve always felt that authors should be good interviews, since they are story-tellers; the interviewer’s job is to prod the subject into telling an entertaining story–which I think is another part of it; I tend to think my life and my writing processes and anecdotes aren’t terribly interesting, which again goes to the core of self-deprecation and humility that I am trying to break as it is not only counter-intuitive but it’s a bad quality for an author to have…I am always so afraid I’m going to sound arrogant and ungrateful that I tend to go too far the other way.)

But now that I am working on my aversion to hearing my voice, I can listen to the other podcast i recently recorded with Ricky Grove, about My Cousin Rachel, you can listen by clicking here if you like. I am actually now looking forward to listening myself–now that I am getting over my aversion to my own voice–and listening to myself more regularly will help me conquer that aversion, yank it out by the roots, as it were. Working on improving myself will clearly never stop until I breathe my last, will it?

I’m hoping to have a productive day, really. I feel rested, my brain isn’t feeling fatigued, and I feel more alert than I did earlier this week. I need to get some life-function things to do (make sure all bills are listed on calendar; remake my to-do list) and tonight after work I am hoping to be able to sit down and bang out Chapter Six, as well as perhaps read some more into ‘salem’s Lot while I wait for Paul to get home from work. I think I’ve pretty much decided not to make the trip to Boston for Crime Bake–flying back and two weeks later having to drive to Kentucky sounds exhausting and like way too much for me already–plus with the book deadline looming over everything, that makes it less promising to take a second trip before the deadline, alas–so it’s probably smarter for me to go ahead and cancel that trip…but I may keep the time off I’ve requested so I can work on the book. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. But I also need to be able to take time off to go to New York in January for my last hurrah for Mystery Writers of America…so who knows? Maybe I should just cancel the vacation requests and work? I don’t know. I hate making decisions because I am so certain that I will make the wrong one…

See how insidious that self-deprecating self-loathing thing is? It pops up everywhere. Why can I never make a decision that either makes sense for me or with confidence that I’m making the right one? Sigh, I don’t know and probably never will, I suppose.

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

The Dealer

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I am feeling a bit bleary-eyed this morning. I slept magnificently last night; I didn’t want to arise from the nest of blankets in my comfortable bed this morning in the least. But arise I did, because there are things I must get done today and staying in the bed for a longer time than usual would not help accomplish anything except, you know, more pleasure of sleep.

We did finish watching Black Bird last night, which was an interesting show based on a true story and executive-produced by Dennis Lehane; in which a cop’s son turned bad gets a chance to get his sentence commuted if he goes into a prison for the criminally insane and gets a serial killer–whose appeal might earn his release–to confess to him. It was quite entertaining and more than a little intense, but I do recommend it. I don’t think it needed to be six episodes–I think it felt a little padded here and there to get to six episodes, which seems to be the American minimum/sweet spot for mini-series. We also started watching Five Days at Memorial, which is…interesting. It’s a dramatization based on a book and the true-life experiences of those who were trapped there after Katrina and the flooding; one thing that was absolutely spot-on was how everyone kept lapsing and calling the hospital “Baptist” instead of “Memorial”–the hospital had been bought out by Tenet Health and renamed in the years before the storm; it was a New Orleans thing as to how long it would take for the new name to catch on; I was still calling it “Baptist” to the point that even the title of the series took me aback; I actually did wonder before we started watching, was the name of the hospital Baptist Memorial and we all just called it Baptist? Mystery solved.

I did run my errands yesterday–it didn’t feel quite as miserable outside as I thought it would–and actually made dinner last night…meatballs in the slow cooker, but I also made them differently than I usually make slow-cooker meatballs, the recipe I donated to the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook; I added sour cream to the recipe, for one thing, as well as some other spices and vegetables in the sauce. They turned out really well–quite tasty, actually–and as I sliced bell peppers, celery and onions yesterday while the roux bubbled and browned, I remembered oh yes, I love to cook; I just never get the opportunity to do so anymore. Our work and sleep schedules are now completely out of sync, and the only time I ever cook anything is on the weekends. Today I do need to make things to take for lunch this week–the meatballs will only stretch so far, and I am starting the week in the office on Monday instead of Tuesday this week. I am also having Costco delivered this afternoon as well. I also need to get to work on my second-pass page proofs for a Streetcar today; they are due on my birthday, ironically, but I’d rather get them out of the way today. I also want to get some writing in today, if I am lucky and motivated; I need to start getting more focused and less concerned about other things and issues as well as getting distracted, which is getting easier and easier all the damned time. I know there’s medication for ADHD, but unfortunately it can also act like speed–and the last thing in the world I need is to take something that will make it harder for me to fall asleep.

Yeah, definitely don’t need something to keep me awake longer. (Although every night before I go to bed now I start drifting off to sleep in my easy chair, which is so fucking lovely you have no idea.)

I’ve been reading some non-fiction lately; my mind hasn’t been clear or steady enough to continue reading fiction–a malaise that has come and gone since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020–so I’ve been focusing more on non-fiction when I am reading lately. I’ve got a really interesting book called Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang, which is absolutely fascinating. I loved the Charlie Chan movies when I was a kid (neither knowing nor comprehending how racist they were, not to mention their “yellowface” aspects)–again, the influence of my grandmother–and I read some of the Earl Derr Biggers novels when I was a teenager. I am really interested in getting into the meat of this book, since the character was beloved but is problematic in our more enlightened time; can the stories and the character be reclaimed from the morass of stereotyping and cultural colonialism the books and films were steeped in so deeply? Reading the introduction to the book yesterday did again make me feel like gosh, I wish I was educated enough in criticism and the writing of non-fiction to produce this type of work; there are any number of books and writers and characters I would love to explore and dissect and deconstruct. But alas, I do not have that background or education, nor do I have the necessary egotism/self-confidence in my own intellect to believe that I could come up with anything interesting or constructive or scintillatingly brilliant to say that hasn’t already been side (although I have an interesting take on Rebecca I would love to write about someday). I’d love to write about the heyday of romantic suspense and the women who hit the bestseller lists throughout the 50’s-80’s writing those books (Whitney, Stewart, Holt being the holy trinity); deconstructing the themes and tropes and tracing their evolution as the role of women in society began to change during the decades they wrote their novels.

I also bought an ebook about the children of Nazis, which is something that has always fascinated me; how did and have Germany and Germans dealt with, and continue to deal with, their horrific and genocidal past?

Obviously, as a Southerner, I am curious to see how one deals with a horrific history.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Sunday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Free Fallin’

When I was being interviewed for the Sisters in Crime podcast the other night, Julie Hennrikus (their marvelous executive director) asked me, through a series of interesting questions, to basically start tracing back my writing career and how it came to pass–in particular, the young adult fiction I write (for that part of the interview, at any rate) and so I was recounting how I had decided, in the early 1990’s, to try writing y/a horror/paranormal/crime novels, inspired by Christopher Pike and, to a lesser degree, R. L. Stine. This was the period when I wrote the first drafts for Sorceress, Sara, and Sleeping Angel…and when asked why I put them in a drawer and switched back to writing crime novels for adults (or trying to, at any rate) I remembered that it was because I had suddenly discovered that there was, in fact, such a thing as queer mysteries: mysteries written by gays and lesbians with gay and lesbian characters and gay and lesbian themes (there wasn’t much trans or bisexual or any other kind of queer crime fiction at that time–at least, not to my knowledge). I had known that queer fiction and non-fiction was a thing, but it was Paul who actually introduced me to writers like Michael Nava, Steve Johnson, and Richard Stevenson. When I lived in Minneapolis that bitterly cold winter of 1996, the Borders in Uptown Square (just around the block from our apartment) had an enormous gay/lesbian section that I visited every week, immersing myself in queer fiction and its history as well as exploring the new-to-me world of queer crime novels.

In the years since, I’ve watched the ups-and-downs of queer publishing, all while writing and publishing my own books. Queer crime is currently having a renaissance of sorts; new talents coming up with wonderful new titles and themes and stories that is very exciting to watch.

A good example of this would be Devil’s Chew Toy, by Rob Osler.

Half opening my good eye, I squinted up at the fluorescent tube hanging from the stained popcorn ceiling. The club’s manager had suggested the storeroom as a place for me to chill until my nose stopped bleeding. I appreciated the gesture. The idea was a win-win. It saved me from the pointing and whispers of the crowd, and getting me off the dance floor restored the party atmosphere typical of a weekend night at Hunters.

Despite the damage done to my face, the worst of the experience had been me being the center of attention for all the wrong reasons–embarrassing for most, excruciating for yours truly. Everyone who knew me would say I was quiet and reserved–perhaps to a fault. My latest ex has joked that my tolerance for thrill-seeking maxed out on the teacups ride at Disneyland. I’d brushed off the comment with a laugh, but in truth, the remark had stung. Being five foote four (rounding up) and weighing 125 (again, rounding up) makes one sensitive to such jabs. Add in the fact that I’m freckled and possess a shock of red-orange hair that that same ex had pegged as being the color of a Cheetos bag, and you understand why I make take offense.

“Damn, dude, you’re going to have a nasty shiner. Does it hurt?”

First of all, can I just say how lovely it is to read a queer novel that opens in a gay bar? It’s been a while since I’ve read one, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I read one that wasn’t published by a strictly queer publisher–which Crooked Lane, the publisher of Devil’s Chew Toy, most definitely is not. It was also nice to have the book open with such a bizarre and out of the ordinary experience–our main character, Hayden, was kicked in the face in a weird accident while trying to tip a really hot stripper, Camilo, who slipped and fell, ending with Hayden looking like he’s been in a fistfight. Hayden, who is a self-described “pocket gay” (from “oh you’re so small I could put you in my pocket and take you home”) and has low self-esteem, is more than a little surprised when the apologetic and gorgeous stripper offers to take Hayden home with him. Camilo is a very sweet guy and only wants to cuddle, and Hayden drifts off to sleep cuddled up with him.

But when he wakes up, Camilo is gone. Camilo also has a dog who needs to be taken care of, and then the police show up at the door looking for Camilo–whose pick-up truck was found, running, with the keys in it and the doors open, in a parking lot. There’s also the possibility that Camilo may have been involved in something shady–which Hayden, despite not really knowing the stripper, doesn’t believe for a minute. He also can’t just abandon Camilo’s dog–despite the fact his own apartment complex has a “no-pet” rule. So Hayden decides he needs to find Camilo, if for no other reason than to return his dog–and the story is off to the races. Hayden encounters all kinds of interesting queer folk while on his hunt for Camilo, makes some new friends, and we the reader get to know him a lot better (he’s very likable) as the story goes on, taking some surprising twists and turns along the way.

I greatly enjoyed this book. It’s very well written, flows nicely, and the plot makes sense–which isn’t always the case–but that comes as no surprise. Rob Osler not only debuted with this novel earlier this year, but his first publisher short story won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award from Mystery Writers of America this past spring for Outstanding Debut Short Story.

I’m really looking forward to visiting with Hayden again, and am excited to read more of Rob’s work.