Let’s Get Rocked

How about dem Saints? Damn, they look like the Alabama of the NFL.

A long day in the car stretches before me. Just thinking about it makes me tired, oh so tired.

So don’t think about it, bitch.

In exciting news, I can now announce that my story, “Neighborhood Alert,” has sold to Mystery Tribune.

“Neighborhood Alert” was one of the stories I wrote in the flurry that was the first quarter (or first half?) of the year. I’d had the idea for a long time; the inspiration came to me one day when we were living back on Camp Street. I never used the front door of the apartment–or rarely, at any rate–because we had off-street parking and I usually came in through the apartment’s back door. But one morning when I was coming home from training a client I noticed there was a white piece of paper stuck in the mail slot in the front door. When I retrieved it, it was one of those sex offender notices–we are required by law to let you know a sex offender has moved into your neighborhood–and while I certainly understand why this is done…at the same time, there’s an element of continuing to punish the criminal after they’ve served their time about it that makes me a little squeamish.  But if I had a child I’d want to know, and if I were a woman I’d want to know. So, therein lies the intellectual and moral dilemma.

And, in the back of my head, I always wanted to write a story which opens with a character getting one of those notices on his/her front door. And vóila, at some point early in the year I wrote that story and started shopping it around.

And now, it has sold. How lovely is that?

I will talk about the story more when it is closer to seeing the light of day.

I’ve successfully managed to download A Game of Thrones to my phone, so hopefully I’ll have that for listening as I drive north, and I’ll decide if audiobooks are indeed something I can make a part of my reading life going forward. I’ve added the Duolingo app to my iPad so I can continue with my Italian lessons–some of the words are starting to stick with me, but being able to hear and identify the words isn’t going quite as well.

I also read “The Nature of My Inheritance” by Bradford Morrow, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

In the wake of my father’s death, my inheritance of over half a hundred Bibles offered me no solace whatsoever, but instead served to remind me what a godless son I was and had always been. Like the contrarian children of police officers who are sometimes driven to a life of crime, and professors’ kids who become carefree dropouts, my  father’s devotion to his ministry might well have been the impetus behind my early secret embrace of atheism. In church, listening to his Sunday sermons, as I sat in a pew with my mother near the back of the sanctuary, I nodded approvingly along with the rest of the congregation when he hit upon this particularly poignant scriptural point or that. But in all honesty, my mind was a thousand light years away, wallowing, at least usually, in smutty thoughts. His last day in the pulpit, his last day on earth, was no different. I cannot recall with precision what lewd scenario I was playing out in my head, but no doubt my juvenile pornography, the witless daydream of a virgin, did not make a pretty counterpoint with my father’s homily.

One of the fun things about reading anthologies is discovering new writers, or rather, new-to-me writers. I’d not read Morrow before, but I’ve added him to my list of writers whose canon should be explored. This story is interesting and goes places I certainly never imagined; and the voice of the young man who is telling the story–a slightly amoral young man whose father’s devotion hid a lot of secrets, which his son will slowly uncover, is exceptional. The story could have just as easily been called something like “Lessons My Father Taught Me” or something like that; but this title is just fine–it doesn’t give anything away, and it’s truly a wonderful, fun story. I was very pleased with it.

Once I get caffeinated and clean the kitchen, I’m hitting the road.

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I Can’t Make You Love Me

GEAUX SAINTS!

So, it’s another chilly Sunday here in the Lost Apartment. It’s sixty degrees now outside, but it dipped into the forties overnight, so it’s going to take awhile for the Lost Apartment to recover–if it ever does. Today I need to pack up for the trip tomorrow morning. I’m not taking the MacBook Air with me, so I am not entirely sure how I’ll be able to crosspost the blog–should I write any entries–to Facebook and other social media because cutting and pasting on the iPad confuses me.

Don’t judge me.

The LSU game last night was a romp; never in doubt from the first snap, and ending with a 42-10 score. It was 28-3 at half-time and was never in doubt. As such, there was very little-to-no tension on my part, so I was able to sit in my easy chair like a millennial, scrolling through apps on my phone while also taking some time to read. I stopped by the Latter Library yesterday to pick up another book I’d reserved (Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken–more about that later) and also renewed Bibliomysteries Volume 2 for another week. I am taking both books with me to Kentucky, and am also taking A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; I think it’s time I got started writing A Song of Ice and Fire, now that the end of the television series is in sight with this past week’s announcement that the final season will begin airing in April.

I took yesterday as my day off for the weekend; I didn’t clean anything, nor did I organize or file or edit or write. I was basically just a lazy slug, sitting in my easy chair and flipping between football games while reading. I’m still rereading ‘salem’s Lot but have now reached the end game, the final section of the book called “The Empty Village,” and the tracking down of the vampires concluding with Ben and Mark running away to Mexico while Ben writes his book isn’t as interesting to me as the opening of the book; as I said when I discussed the reread initially, I am more interested in how King depicts the town more than anything else, which was the impetus for the reread. And how much do I love this sentence, which opens section 2, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”:

The town knew darkness.

It’s very Shirley Jackson-esque, and the passage that follows is perhaps my favorite part of the entire book.

I also think I am going to give The Shining  a reread; The Shining is, for most fans, critics and readers, King’s best work. I couldn’t get into it when I first bought the paperback, with the boy’s head with a blank face drawn on a shiny silver cover. I picked it up again a few years later and tore through it in one sitting; but as creepy and horrifying as it was, and how nasty the Overlook Hotel was…it was one of the few I never reread completely. I’ve picked it up and started it again, flipped through it and read sections, but I’ve never read it from beginning to end. I think the complexity of Jack Torrance as a character cut a little too close to home for me, but now that I have over fifty books out there with my name (or a pseudonym) on the spine…I don’t have to be too stressed about the failed author character being too close to home for me anymore.

At least one can hope so.

Tomorrow is the dreaded twelve hour car ride through Mississippi, Alabama, a bit of Georgia, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I need to go get the mail before I leave town and possibly stop by the bank, so I am going to be getting a later start than I would have perhaps wished, but a twelve-hour drive is a twelve-hour drive no matter when you get started, and I am most likely going to shower and go straight to bed when I arrive in Kentucky. I am still trying to figure out what digital book to download and listen to in the car–who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?–but none of A Song of Fire and Ice are available as audiobooks from the library, and the library’s app isn’t as intuitive as I would like (translated: I’m too old to figure out the easiest way to use it). I wanted to start Charles Todd’s brilliant series set during the end of the first world war, but the first book isn’t available from my library (BASTARDS!!!!) and so I have to choose something else. I’ll spend some time on there today–maybe on the library’s website, which is easier for a Luddite like me–and perhaps the second Louise Penny Inspector Gamache novel might do the trick.

Or maybe The Shining. Ooooooh.

Most of today is also going to be spent on odds and ends. I may get some writing work done, or I may not. I think after the Saints game we are going to watch either Love, Simon or Call Me By Your Name; both are available for free streaming on one or another services I pay for now. I also am assuming I’ll finish watching Knightfall while I am in Kentucky, as my parents both go to bed early every night.

And yesterday I also managed to read “The Gospel of Sheba” by Lyndsay Faye, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Letter sent from Mrs. Colette Lomax to Mr. A. Davenport Lomax, September 3rd, 1902.

My only darling,

You cannot comprehend the level of incompetence to which I was subjected today.

You know full well I never demand a private dressing room when stationary, as the very notion implies a callous disrespect for the sensitivities of other artists. However, it cannot pass my notice when I am engaged in a second class chamber en route from Reims to Strasbourg. The porter assured me that private cars were simply not available on so small a railway line as our company was forced to book–and yet, I feel justified in suspecting the managers have hoaxed their “rising star” once again. The reek of soup from the dining car’s proximity alone would depress my spirits, even were my ankles not confined one atop the other in a padlock-like fashion.

I do so loathe krautsuppe. Hell, I assure you, my love, simmers with the aroma of softening cabbage.

Lyndsay Faye has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (for The Gods of Gotham, which I adored, and for Jane Steele, which is still in my ever-growing and enormous TBR pile), and she is also a delight to know in addition to her enormous gift for writing. Lyndsay is an enormous Sherlock Holmes fan (Sherlockian?), and even her first novel, Dust and Shadow, was a Holmes tale; she recently published an entire collection of Holmes short stories. “The Gospel of Sheba” is sort of a Holmes story; both he and Watson do appear in the story, but it’s primarily told from the point of view of a sub-librarian, Mr. Lomax; he is married to a professional singer who at the time of the story is currently on a tour–her presence in the story is either through her husband’s point of view or epistolary; we get to see occasional letters from her. Her husband’s point of view is seen through diary entries where he talks about the mystery of the Gospel of Sheba, a grimoire a member of a private men’s club with an interest in the supernatural has discovered and that makes anyone who reads it ill. One of the things I love the most about Faye is she writes in the formal style of the nineteenth century, but it always reads as organic and never forced. There’s never a sense from the reader of Oh I see what you’re doing here or from her as the author of see how clever I am? She’s somehow modernized that formal style, breathed fresh life into it, and uses it to help set the mood and the time and the setting. You can almost hear the hiss of gas in the lamps, and see the flickering gaslight. This is a terrific story, and reminds me of why I loved The Gods of Gotham so much, and also reminded me I need to dive back into her backlist.

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

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Beauty and the Beast

Thursday and the work week approaches its end.

Yesterday was Payday, or rather, Pay the Bills Day, which is always an odious chore. Ironically, the one bill I never mind paying is my car payment; don’t get me wrong, I deeply hate making that payment every month, but I love having a newer car (I guess I can’t really call it new anymore) with all of the lovely bells and whistles and the ability to not worry every time I get in the car if it’s going to break down–not that I don’t always worry about that, it’s just not as present as it was in the Buick.

I have to say, American Horror Story has been a rollercoaster for me to watch over its many seasons; some seasons–“Murder House,” “Cult”–are fantastic, others a little disappointing, others such an enormous mess that I never bothered to finish watching. This season, “Apocalypse,” has been teetering on the edge of probably one more episode and I’m done. The storytelling has just been all over the map; the performances have been entertaining, and the first episode’s opening was pretty intense…but most of the time I’ve just been sitting in my easy chair, rolling my eyes and saying really? This makes no sense. But this week…they returned to “Murder House,” along with Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and most importantly, JESSICA FUCKING LANGE, and the episode was amazing. It also firmly reestablished in my mind that 1) “Murder House” was, by far and away, the best season of the show; and 2) I don’t care what you have to pay her, Jessica Lange is worth every penny and needs to come back once and for all. If she doesn’t get an Emmy for last night’s episode, they need to stop giving them out. Period. The episode was also directed by Sarah Paulson, had some extraordinarily beautiful shots, and wrapped up so much of the “Murder House” story…it may have been my favorite episode of American Horror Story ever.

My own writing continues apace; I worked on the Scotty revision a bit more last night, and I am also thinking about how to structure the final revision of the WIP; I also tried to work a bit on my short story “A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” which is going to be the lead off story in Monsters of New Orleans. I still plan on writing Bury Me in Satin next; my mind is currently swimming in ideas and thoughts and plans. The fact that my sleep schedule has become somewhat consistent at long last is an enormous help in that regard; it makes a huge difference when you feel rested every day.

I’m also looking forward, with a little trepidation, to LSU’s game with Mississippi State on Saturday evening. One of the lovely things I’ve noted about switching from cable to Hulu Streaming Live TV is that I don’t spend all day Saturday in my easy chair watching college football games all day; I literally used to spend the entire day with my eyes glued to the television watching games that don’t matter to me in the least, usually, to be fair to myself, while I was reading a book or scribbling notes. I don’t do that anymore; not that Hulu TV isn’t easy to negotiate–it is, just in a different way than cable was–but the beauty of Hulu TV is that what tyranny cable television had left on me has been broken; case in point–last night’s American Horror Story episode. It is one of the few shows that Paul and I would make a point of watching live as it aired; Paul had a board meeting last night and didn’t get home until about nine fifteen; fifteen minutes after it had started. But because Hulu TV sort of works as a kind of DVR, I could queue it up and it started at the beginning. This is marvelous, and now it’s weird to think that we ever scheduled our lives around the airdate and time of some television show. This means I don’t ever have to rush home from work, or think rats, can’t stop at Rouses on the way home because our show is starting.

This was amazingly helpful during this last season of Real Housewives of New York.

And now I am going to jump back into the spice mines for a bit before I head into the office. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Take Me Home Tonight

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

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

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

Which is, quite frankly, absolutely lovely.

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

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

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

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

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

That would be a disaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dancing on the Ceiling

So, yesterday I managed to finish the afterward to the short story collection; worked on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit (also figured out the rest of the story, crucial!); decided on the story I am going to revise/rewrite to submit to Cemetery Dance; did some thinking about the Scotty book and where to go with it next; and continued the copy editing of Bourbon Street Blues.  I am about a quarter of the way through with this; hoping to have it finished by the end of the month so I can get the ebook/print-on-demand up before the end of summer. The book has been too long out of print, and by the way, I fucking love the new cover I got for it and the new one for Jackson Square Jazz.

I’m having some seriously terrific luck with covers this year, methinks.

So, I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked this weekend but again, progress, which is everything. As long as I am moving forward, I celebrate the win because staying in place is a loss.

Last night, I started watching the new Ryan Murphy series, Pose, and was most impressed with it. I still have not watched the Versace season of American Crime Story, but that’s on my ‘to-watch’ list. The thing with Murphy is that his series are so frequently hit-and-miss. Often they start out fantastic (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and then go south; the uneven quality of pretty much every season of American Horror Story is legendary. So, I am not holding out much hope that Pose won’t derail; but at the moment it’s high-quality, riveting television; taking us back to those awful days of the late 1980’s and shining a spotlight on queers of color, which doesn’t happen very often–and especially, the transwomen and drag queens, who rarely get to see themselves on television or in the movies. Having the show set during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis was also a brilliant move; there was, I think, a tendency in the late 90’s and ever since, for queer publishing to shy away from HIV/AIDS; it enveloped so much of queer writing for so long…and I’m thinking that it might be time for us to start addressing it again.

HIV/AIDS plays a part in “Never Kiss a Stranger” and in “The Feast of St. Expedite” (the story I started writing last week); both are set in New Orleans in 1994 and you simply can’t write about gay men and the gay male community in that time and not have it be a part of the story in some way. The question of whether I am handling it properly or not remains to be seen…but I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past lately, and it’s been kind of fun.

I had gotten tired of most of my iTunes playlists last week and then remembered, duh, the new car has an actual CD player in it; you can listen to some of your CD’s. This thought led me to browsing through our CD tower–yes, we still have one, and yes, it’s covered in dust–and discovering a lot of great music that I don’t have in digital form and haven’t listened to in a long time. I found a lot of dance music mix CD’s, including Deborah Cox: The Remixes and so every time I get in my car I’ve been listening to old gay dance music. I even was playing some of them while I was cleaning the house on Sunday (the only CD players in the house are in the computers), and yes, I’d forgotten how much easier dance music makes cleaning (note to self: always play dance CD’s in the computer when cleaning).

In the car this morning I was listening to a Pride 2001 CD, and a song come on called “Movin’ Up” (I think) and without even realizing it I was singing along with it and this lyric popped up: I take my problems to the dance floor. and I was flooded with memories. I remember someone in the bars back then had a T-shirt that said this, and although I don’t remember his name, he was around a lot back in those days and he always had a great time on the dance floor; and I enjoyed watching the joy and sheer abandon with which he danced.

I do kind of miss dancing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Holding Back the Years

Yesterday was rather dreary, weather-wise, and I feel fairly confident we are still under a flash-flood warning; but this morning all I see is blue sky and sunshine. Things still look a little damp out there, but over all, much better than one could have hoped. And in checking the project path for Alberto, the cone of uncertainty has narrowed to New Orleans in the west to Panama City in the east; much, much smaller cone; but we are on the outside of the western edge. As storms also tend to turn to the east–even Katrina did before landfall–I’ve breathed a slight sigh of relief this morning.

It is, I suspect, going to be a long hurricane season–particularly since it doesn’t officially start until June 1.

I slept deeply and well last night, and my back–which was aching–no longer hurts, which is a good thing. I wish I could figure out what the hell I am doing to it to make it hurt in the first place, so I can be more careful, but I am more than happy to take the pain being gone as a win this morning. Huzzah!

Yesterday I was scribbling away in my journal as I continued to read Philip Roth’s When She Was Good. The writing is very good, and the characterizations are also quite good; all that remains is the plot/story, and I am intrigued enough with it to continue reading it. Maybe I should dial it back for a while on the crime fiction and read outside my genre for a little while; not just for a break but to come up with better ideas for my own writing, which can never hurt.

I wrote all kinds of notes in my journal yesterday; notes for the WIP, notes for the short stories “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” and “The Brady Kid” (I’ve not even thought about the latter for months now), so I am feeling all kinds of productive here in the Lost Apartment this morning. I am going to actually write today for a while; I also intend to do some reading–not just the Roth, but I am going to read everything I’ve written on the Scotty thus far and make notes. I also don’t know my characters in the Scotty book as much as I should, and I need to get the plot figured out so I can get the goddamned draft done. I also have a few other things I need to get done as well.

And there’s always cleaning, of course. I am currently working on washing the bed linens, and the living room of course needs to be vacuumed. I also need to clean out my car a bit; and Armor-all the inside of my car now that summer is looming. I also need to put the recycling out. But I have to say, this well-rested thing is actually working out quite beautifully. I could easily get very used to it, I must say. I must also say that I’m greatly enjoying this creative phase I am currently experiencing. I am thinking about character, and why I write the things I write, and how to broaden my reading audience. I’ve been thinking about moving forward with the agent search, how best to approach an agent, how to put my best foot forward, not only with industry professionals but also with the readers of my genre.

I’ve also come to realize that, over the last few days, as I’ve put my finger precisely on why I wasn’t getting anywhere with “A Holler Full of Kudzu” is because I was trying to not be subversive; the write from the gay male point of view without rubbing people’s faces in the sexuality. But WHY? Why would I do that? The point of the story, the theme, if you will, has everything to do with the point of view character’s sexuality; of beginning to understand what your sexuality is and that is partly why you feel different from everyone else, and also, learning how people feel about people who are like you, and how dangerous those feelings are, can push you deeper into the closet. I think the theme may be larger than the story itself, to be completely honest with you; which is why I am tending to think this story may actually be a novel a-borning in my mind rather than the lengthy short story I was thinking it would be. As I plug in some of the story pieces today that I brainstormed in my journal last night, I will come to a better understanding of the story and how long it is going to be.

Likewise, “Never Kiss a Stranger” is becoming much longer than I originally thought it would turn out to be; it’s going to come in far longer than the six or seven thousand words I originally had planned. That will make it harder to place, of course–not that it’s not already hard to place stories with gay characters and themes; it’s almost impossible–but I’ve also decided that I simply have to stop writing things that are specifically intended for markets. I have to write the story the best I can and then try to find a market for it. And I can always, always, always, simply do another collection of stories.

I also like that “The Brady Kid” is starting to shape in my mind; mainly, who the point-o-view character is. Part of the issue with some of my stories is that maybe I don’t define the characters enough; it’s hard to write a good story when you don’t know who your characters are.

I’m also finding that experimenting with voice and style and tone and place is much easier to do in a short story rather than in a novel. I think writing these stories is making me a much better writer, to be honest, which is ultimately going to be more helpful to me in the long run than I’d possibly thought. During my brainstorming last night I also figured out some of the problems I am having with the Scotty novel; not solutions, per se, but actually diagnosing the problems, which is key to figuring out how to solve those problems.

Which is fun, actually, and I have to say, it’s so awesome that writing is fun again.

I also read some short stories. Here’s one: “Crazy Margaret” by Jack Fredrickson, from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2017 issue.

The gravestone had room for only the first name, but it was the largest he could carry up the hill. He set in on ground covered now, as then, with curled brown leaves.

He’d meant to slip into town quietly, place the stone, and slip out again. There was no one from his old life he wanted to see. But a voice had called his name when he was gassing up the rental, a guy he’d known in high school. They’d chatted for a moment before Dave, acting casual, asked about her.

The old classmate had scratched his head, surprised. Crazy Margaret, he said; that’s what the kids sneaking out there called her after she dropped out of school. But new kids came along, kids who didn’t know her, and soon enough, nobody gave her any mind at all. “Hell, it’s been at least twenty years,” he said. “She could be dead.”

I enjoyed this story; which is told from the perspective of someone coming home to their small town and remembering something that happened years earlier, something criminal; this is something I often do in my own stories–in fact, “This Thing of Darkness” is sort of one of these stories. The Margaret of the title is a beautiful young woman who sunbathes out at the lake where she lives in skimpy bikinis; luring young boys out there to watch her and possibly, just possibly, killing some of them. It’s sort of a retelling of the siren myth, from the Greeks: the beautiful woman who lures men to their deaths. Although…really, should the boys be out there spying on her in the first place? Isn’t that a form of harassment?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story; it’s very well done and how Margaret gets her own punishment for what she’s doing is very Tales from the Crypt or House of Mystery; crime is always punished in a macabre, ironic way and so it is for the Crazy Margaret of the title.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Higher Love

Since Philip Roth died this week, I decided to get down one of my copies of his work and give it a read. Roth is one of those authors whose work I know intellectually I am supposed to like and admire and aspire to be more like, but…I read his first novel several years ago, Letting Go. I was having another one of those periods where I realized that maybe I needed to not focus on reading so much crime fiction and needed to expand my mind more, read more critically acclaimed literary authors. I go through these phases periodically; I remember this particular phase not only included Roth but also William Styron’s Set This House on Fire, Faulkner’s The Reivers, something by Jonathan Franzen, and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. As always, I appreciated some of the books and disliked others. My primary takeaway from the Roth, since he is the subject of this paragraph, was this is really well-written but I neither like nor care about any of these characters. The characters were richly drawn, almost intricately so; which is no small accomplishment, but the more I got to know them, the less I liked them and the less I cared about them. Even as I type this I realize how important characters are to my enjoyment of anything; short story, movie, novel, television show. I have to care, or why bother? I got the sense that as I read Roth didn’t much like the characters he was writing about either, which I don’t understand. Perhaps this is why I am not a Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner; I cannot write about characters I don’t care about, and I don’t want to watch or read the same.

Why would I invest hours of my time with characters I don’t like when I wouldn’t spend time with them if they were real?

As I said to begin with, I never read Roth again–I tried reading  The Plot Against America, but it lost my interest several chapters in; I do intend to try again–but I do have copies of some of his novels. The one I am going to try to read is When She Was Good. I’ve heard Laura Lippman, one of my favorite writers and intellects, discuss how much she admires Roth while being conflicted about his work; her novel with a similar title, And When She Was Good, is one of my favorite novels of hers. It’s also relatively short–from the looks of things, Letting Go may have been his longest novel–so I will be giving him another shot over the course of this weekend.

So, yesterday on my first day of vacation, I spent the day organizing and cleaning primarily, but I also did some work; I worked on the opening of my short story “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” which, I fear, might actually wind up being a novel; but I am going to continue working on it as a short story in the meantime, I also went to meet a writer friend in town for a few days for drinks at the Saint Hotel bar, which is becoming my go-to. It was fun to talk about writing and laugh about the nonsensical nature of this business with her; one of the best things about being a writer is being able to connect with other writers and in hearing other people are going through the same things.

It really is lovely.

I took the streetcar down there and back, and lugged the Roth with me to start reading. He really is a great writer; I’ve only managed the first chapter and it’s so well-written. I’ll be taking it with me to the Honda dealer today for the car’s oil change, and so I am hopeful the quality will continue; I think it will. I just hope the characters are likable, or at least relatable in some way.

After I finish with the oil change, I’m going to grab lunch over there and then do some errands, and then it’s home to get to work. I have some news brewing, and can’t wait to share it with you, Constant Reader! But until it’s all carved into stone…must say nothing.

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