Squeeze Box

I didn’t write a goddamned thing yesterday.

I did a podcast interview yesterday; Eric Beetner and S. W. Lauden very graciously invited me to be on their Writer Types broadcast, which I had been on briefly before–they’d gone around on Saturday afternoon at St. Petersburg Bouchercon to talk to people, and they caught up to me in the bar where I was drinking with Chris Holm, his lovely wife Katrina Niidas Holm, Stephanie Gayle and I don’t remember who else was around at the time (read: drinking in the bar). I was impressed with the questions they asked me; usually interviews tend to be rather softball and don’t require me to actually think a whole lot. But the questions they asked me put me into a reflective mood, and I kind of spent the rest of yesterday thinking, and remembering. My career as a published author of fiction (I don’t say writer because I started in publishing as a journalist in 1996; and while I continued to write for newspapers and magazines until around 2003 or so, I never really considered myself–and still don’t, to this day–a journalist).

When I started out all those years ago, it was possible to be a gay writer of gay mysteries and stay cloistered away from the mainstream mystery community. There were gay bookstores, newspapers, and magazines; those no longer exist and the publications that do aren’t really interested in books–at least ones that aren’t written by celebrities. I got some local press in the Times-Picayune, thanks to the divine (and still missed) Diana Pinckley and Susan Larson, but I was able to build my career entirely within the gay community. I don’t think that career path is possible for anyone today; I have no idea what to tell young gay writers just starting out nowadays because they can’t do what I did, back in the day–the bookstores I used to always do appearances at (Outwrite in Atlanta, A Different Light in West Hollywood and San Francisco, Lambda Rising in DC and Baltimore, Oscar Wilde in New York, and I forget the names of others) no longer exist. Talking to Eric and Steve, I remembered those days when I used to show up to signings in a baseball cap and shorts and a tank top; and I kind of missed it. I’ve not done a book signing in an actual bricks-and-mortar bookstore since Rebecca Chance and I both appeared at Murder by the Book in Houston, which was either 2012 or 2013? But book signings aren’t as effective a promotional tool for a writer like me, in a niche market–but going to conferences and appearing on panels gets me more bang for my buck and exposes me to a lot more potential readers than appearing in a store ever would. I would love to do another signing at Murder by the Book; John McDougall and McKenna Jordan are two of my favorite people in this business and I have friends in Houston as well…but then I worry about all the trouble a signing would be for the store and worry no one would show up to make it worth their while to have me in the store.

Plus, I have a new car so the drive over wouldn’t be terrifying the way it always used to be.

Well, newer car. I guess now that I’ve had it for two years it’s not really a new car anymore.

Ah, well. As you can tell, Eric and Steve sent me down memory lane. Who knows what blog entries that might lead to?

And now back to the spice mines.

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With Your Love

Here we go again, on the rollercoaster that is my usual work week! Good morning, Monday, how the hell are you?

I am still rather sleepy this morning; more of a tired eyes thing than anything else, really. I got new contact lenses (a trial pair) from my optometrist on Thursday; yesterday was my first time trying them out in real life, as it were (I wore them home from Metairie on Thursday, taking them out as soon as I got home). The new lenses didn’t really seem to fit in my right eye; that lens felt off the whole time Thursday, and again when I put them in yesterday. But within minutes my right eye adjusted and they became comfortable; the progressive lenses actually began to work as well, which they hadn’t any time I had tried previously with another set of lenses. I wound up wearing them for almost seven hours yesterday, which was kind of lovely. Today and tomorrow, however, are too long of work days to try them out again; I’ll hold off until Wednesday before trying them again. But it’s nice to have contact lenses again; I’ve not really worn contacts since discovering, five or six years ago, that I need progressive lenses (what used to be called bifocals).

This weekend, on June 1, I started posting on social media about queer crime books in order to celebrate Pride Month (last year I simply posted a queer book cover every day for Pride; this year I am specifically focusing on queer crime novels). I want to be absolutely clear that, in case there’s any confusion, I am posting queer crime books that were influences on me; or influential at some point in my lengthy (!) career. At the end of the month I will post the entire list here for more easy access to anyone looking to look at queer crime novels, or looking for such a list–I may not be an expert on queer fiction, or even on queer crime fiction, but I do have my list and I do know the books I read and enjoyed that made me think and develop my own queer crime novels.

And if I can bring attention to a queer crime writer who has somehow fallen off the radar, so much the better.

Yesterday we went to brunch at our friend Pat’s lovely deluxe apartment in the sky; she really has the most spectacular views of the Mississippi River at what’s called the Riverbend (from her dining room) and the rest of the city (from the terrace outside her living room). Her apartment is filled with natural light, gorgeous built in bookshelves filled with wonderful books, and amazing art everywhere. It’s kind of a dream apartment for me–one I’d never be able to afford in a million years–but every time I set foot in her apartment I do spend a moment or two fantasizing about living there (just as I always fantasized about living in her partner Michael’s former home in Hammond). It was, as always, a lovely afternoon, and enormously relaxing. I wasn’t able to do anything when I got home around six because I was so relaxed; instead, I started watching Chernobyl on HBO, which is incredibly sad and disturbing. I remember when Chernobyl happened in real life, just as I remember the Three Mile Island scare in the late 1970’s. It’s interesting that since those two scares that nuclear power plants are pretty much not talked about or thought much about anymore, when back in the day they were quite controversial (I’ve mentioned Scotty’s parents protesting nuclear power plants in the earlier books in the series) but that controversy doesn’t seem to exist as much anymore, as though activists have maybe given up on their dangers…or it’s not glamorous enough to be considered newsworthy anymore. I do recall after the natural disaster in Japan several years ago (earthquake/tsunami) there were concerns about a Japanese nuclear power plant…but those concerns also evaporated once the news cycle moved on from the Japanese disaster.

One thing that was interesting about visiting Pat’s apartment was her view of the river, mainly from the dining room windows–which was my first experience this year actually looking at how the river is in its flood stage. The river has apparently been in flood stage longer than it has any time since the Great Flood of 1927, which changed everything as far as governmental policies and procedures for fighting floods; this was the natural disaster that created the Southeast Louisiana Flood Project, building levees and dams all along the river and its tributaries. For only the third time in history all the spillways north of New Orleans are being opened–and the tributaries are all still flooding and continuing to rise. The river itself it almost to the top of the levees in Baton Rouge, and apparently a levee on the Mississippi breached further north yesterday or this morning; I saw the report on social media earlier this morning but didn’t read it; I think it was in Illinois, maybe?

Anyway, the river is really high and this reminds me that the river being high was a plot point in Bourbon Street Blues, all those years ago, and it also reminds me of how vulnerable the city is for this year’s hurricane season–if the river is already almost to the tops of the levees, a storm surge coming up the river would overtop them quite easily; which begs the question, would the levees be blown below the city to save it? Any time there’s potential flooding of New Orleans there’s always the belief that levees are blown to save the city; people believe the levee failure during Katrina was planned, to save the French Quarter and white Uptown; people still believe the levees were blown below the city for Betsy in 1965.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Saturday Night

Well, it’s certainly Saturday morning. I woke up around eight, yet remained a lag-a-bed until around nine-ish, and you know what? Not sorry, not sorry in the least. I clearly needed to rest more–the work week seems to take more out of me these days than it used to, thank you, aging process–and now that I’m awake and swilling coffee, I feel more rested and relaxed than I did for most of the week. I still intend to write a lot this weekend, as well as get some serious cleaning done around here, and perhaps this is the time for me to finish reading Jamie Mason’s superb The Hidden Things, which is really fucking fantastic. She reminds me, in voice, style, and plotting, a lot of the great Patricia Highsmith. As I get deeper into the book and the stylish complexity of the plot becomes deeper and more tangled than I could have ever imagined when I read page one, I despair of the things that keep me from having more time to read so I can finish this exquisite gem of a novel. I am perhaps just over half-finished–which should give you an indication of how tired I’ve been lately; it’s taking me a really long time to finish this book–certainly longer than it should, given it’s consistent high quality.

The Anthony nomination this week (I still can’t believe it, to be honest) effectively derailed my entire week–but only because I allowed myself to bask in the glow of the enormous pat in the back from my colleagues, as well as the flood of congratulatory messages, posts, comments, and tweets. But now we’re in the afterglow stage of having to come back to earth and reality and get my life back together and on track yet again, particularly when it comes to writing. I really couldn’t afford to lose the days of writing I lost this week through my self-indulgence, and yet I did lose them. Chapter Eleven of the WIP has been a bitch to write; I started this past week and got about halfway through, and now have to go back to finish it and see if I can get on some kind of roll with writing it. I am going to try something; I am going to try finishing that chapter today and then move on to some short stories that have been languishing in my files for a while. Last night–or more properly, sometime yesterday–I finally figured out how to fix my story “And The Walls Came Down”; it’s a shift in the plot which will require some extreme changing. I also want to revise “This Thing of Darkness” one more time, and I’d like to get some done on my lengthy short story that is turning into a novella, “Never Kiss a Stranger.”

We watched Widows last night, which was good, but could have been better. The acting was topnotch, as were the relationships between the women–but the plot was so complicated and twisted I wasn’t sure I was actually following it and knew what was going on for most of the movie; that could also be entirely my fault. But Viola Davis is one of the finest actresses of our time, and I would watch her in anything, to be honest; her performances are always complex, nuanced, and brilliant.

We also need to catch up on Fosse/Verdonwhich I can’t recommend highly enough, and we have yet to start season two of Killing Eve, which I am also excited about watching; although I am very worried about sophomore slump; season one was so brilliant and fantastic that I have concerns that the second season won’t pass muster.

Today I have to go by the Cat Practice to get another bag of Scooter’s expensive food (no, his Majesty is NOT spoiled, thank you very much), and then have to swing uptown to get the mail and make some groceries (not many, thank you Baby Jesus) before returning home, where I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing and cleaning (and probably doing some preparatory cooking for next week, as well). I may get the car washed as well; it’s looking pretty dirty, and the Uptown Car Wash does a lovely job; or perhaps I can put it off until next week, what with the three day weekend and all.

Yes, there’s a three day weekend lurking on the horizon, which is exciting. Huzzah! I am obviously thinking I’ll be able to either get a lot done over its course, or get a lot of rest, or some combination of the two, which would also be incredibly lovely.

I also have to start pulling together an article for Sisters in Crime for my diversity column. I have some ideas for it,  and I know who I want to speak to for it, but at the same time I’ve not been able to come up with an over-all hook for it. Maybe some brainstorming over the course of this particular weekend will do the trick for me.

And on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday!

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A Little Bit More

Thursday morning and I have errands to run before I head into the office. Prescription pick-ups and the mail, which means a voyage uptown and then taking Highway 90 all the way back across town until I can get on I-10. I’ve started taking I-10 to and from work, which has dramatically cut back on my travel time. My office is literally a block from the on/off ramps, and I only live six or seven blocks or so from the highway. It only recently occurred to me to take the highway, and was stunned when I got from the office parking lot to my house in about six or seven minutes; if I hit the lights correctly on St. Charles I can do it in almost under five.

Driving through the city instead? Anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour. #madness

I woke up tired and a bit out of it this morning; not so much tired as more not rested enough. I’m not sure what that’s all about or why, but it’s annoying and it needs to stop happening. It was that way yesterday as well; I couldn’t really focus because I felt like I was still drowsy all day. Tomorrow I have to get up ridiculously early again (sigh) but I am also going to Costco tomorrow after work, which means girding my loins and sucking it up. The tiredness yesterday also precluded me from actually doing any writing–I did reread Chapter Six, and that was part of it; the chapter as written is a mess and is going to require brain power and work to sort and I just kind of sighed and surrendered in defeat to  it yesterday–and I also reread my story “And The Walls Came Down,” which I want to rewrite and revise and possibly send out to some markets over the course of the weekend. (There’s also more than a slight fear that the early part of the week will render me useless on the weekend, but I do think a good night’s sleep on Friday night will resolve that problem.)

And, of course I am really looking forward to seeing this weekend’s episode of Game of Thrones, to see how the show is going to move through these last three episodes now that the threat of the dead from the north is over. I just have some errands to run and some house to clean–since I get off from work early tomorrow that should do the trick; I am hoping to go to Costco and then come home and perhaps go to the gym (!!!!) before coming back home and cleaning the Lost Apartment. If I can manage to get it cleaned up on Friday, I shall have the weekend to write.

And continue reading Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things, which I started reading this week and am really enjoying thus far.

And that’s kind of the goal for now, at least.

And now back to the spice mines.

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In America

Wednesday morning and it’s not quite sixty degrees yet this morning in New Orleans, so the space heater is on to take the chill out of my kitchen and my office space as I swill coffee and prepare for my day. I was exhausted yesterday, and fell asleep almost immediately after tumbling into bed. I had a fabulous night’s sleep, and this morning I feel very rested and well–although I could have easily stayed in bed for a while longer. Tomorrow morning I have to get up early because I have to have bloodwork done, but I am also in the home stretch of the week where the half-days are happening.

Huzzah!

I started–very slowly–revising the WIP’s first chapter last night. I’d always envisioned the book opening with the line The summer before my senior year my mother ruined my life, and while it is a great opening, it doesn’t really work with the story I am actually writing–while my character still believes that to be true, of course, as a framing device for the actual story my WIP has become it no longer works. For one thing, I am writing the book in a very close first person, present tense; so opening with a sentence and paragraph in the past tense, where he is obviously looking back to what happened that particular summer in Alabama, the shift in tense is awkward and abrupt and really doesn’t work anymore. I am horribly stubborn about this sort of thing, and it usually takes me much longer to give up and recognize that the opening I love so much has to go–so I am kind of pleased about that I’ve already gotten past that, to be honest. And the story is much better for it.

As I was writing those first ten chapters, too, I recognized holes in the plot when I saw them but, as is my wont, I simply made note of them and kept ploughing ahead. Part of the reason I want to go back and do a second draft of these chapters before I move on to the second half of the novel is because fixing those plot holes and cleaning up those mistakes will make writing the second half easier…and the book might go to twenty-five chapters, rather than the twenty I was thinking about. I”m not going to worry too much about length at the moment–that can always be worked out later–but I am very excited to be writing something new again.

And not to worry, Scotty fans–writing this doesn’t mean I’m not making notes and doing research for the next Scotty. I may not get to it until this fall, but I am going to get to it at some point.

Now I need to get on the stick and get my TWFest homework done. I have to have two books read by next weekend! This is ordinarily not a problem for me, but all kinds of crazy shit is going on around here. I have to have bloodwork done tomorrow, we have to start getting ready not only for the Weekend o’Festivals but also for the house tenting for termites that is going to occur that weekend as well–which means the easy day I have planned for that Friday is turning into a nightmare–I have to take the cat to board; I have to clean out our freezer because the power will be off; I have a doctor’s appointment that day; I have to figure out how to get all my stuff down to the hotel in the Quarter without the car (no fucking way am I paying hotel parking in the Quarter); and how to get ready for that evening’s parties and so forth….then the following Monday, also a day off for me, will require me to retrieve the cat and the car and everything else.

Just thinking about it is making me tired.

But on that note, I am heading back to the spice mines.

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I Wanna Be Your Lover

So, Facebook was apparently wonky yesterday, and so was Instagram. I rarely go to Instagram–I’m not really sure what the point of it is, and I mostly follow male fitness models because I like to look at pictures of pretty men, feel free to judge me for this–but I did have some things I wanted to post on Facebook yesterday which kept failing on me. But the wonkiness kept me off of there for most of the day, and I have to say it was kind of lovely.

I am loving Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, as I knew I would. This weekend I am going to have to spend most of my free time reading, because I still have two more books to read to prepare for my panel and time is running out.

Yesterday the box o’books for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories arrived, and it looks fantastic. I can’t tell you, Constant Reader, how pleased I am with what Bold Strokes has been doing with the packaging of my books. Great covers, the interior with Janson (my favorite font); they look terrific, and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s been a while since I got a box o’books; the last Todd Gregory novel came out in January of 2018, and this is the first fiction I’ve published since then (I don’t count anthologies, even though my name is on the spine). Yeah, I know that’s just over a year, but for me that’s a long time.

And no, the feeling of opening up a box o’books with my name on the cover still hasn’t gotten old.

I am really looking forward to getting the box o’books for Royal Street Reveillon.

I had hoped to have the first draft of the WIP finished by the end of this month, but I don’t really see how I can do that while getting the reading done that I need to do for my panel…which means, I suppose, that I’ll have to rejuggle my calendar for the year. Ha ha ha, like I actually have taken the time to make a to-do calendar for the year. I’ve not even been making to-do lists. Maybe this is why I’ve felt so at-sea this year; I should get back on that and get back to normal.

I started watching The Order on Netflix last night, per the recommendation of some of my co-workers, and I kind of enjoyed the first episode. It is a paranormal show of some sort, but it, like True Blood (and the grandmother of all these shows, Dark Shadows), doesn’t take itself seriously and there are some seriously funny moments on the show. I also watched the first episode of Gregg Araki’s new show on Starz, Now Apocalypse, and also am intrigued enough to watch more. American Gods is also apparently back for its second season, which is something else I can watch during these last few weeks pre-Festival while Paul is working around the clock.

My new computer was delivered yesterday–I did wind up ordering a new MacBook Air on-line on Monday (not that there’s anything wrong with the HP Stream; there’s not, but it’s a long story I won’t bore you with and it doesn’t hurt to use it as a back-up in case of other issues AND this way when we travel we won’t have to share a laptop which is always aggravating), and it did arrive and I am picking it up this morning on my way to the office. Today and tomorrow are, of course, my half-days, which is lovely, and so I can come home tonight and get things started on cleaning around here as well as reading, and then tomorrow I can make groceries on the way home and be in for the weekend. This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, which means parades and day-drunks roaming around the neighborhood, so not leaving the house is optimal.

And on that note, I should return to the spice mines. Happy Thursday, Constant Reader,

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I Pledge My Love

Good morning, Saturday, how are you doing? I’ve been up for over an hour and am just now finishing my second cup of coffee. I slept really well last night, and feel incredibly rested this morning. This is a good thing; I have a few errands to run later this morning (including getting my filthy filthy car washed) and therefore I need a lot of energy. I am also dropping off several bags worth of beads and throws at the Latter Library drop-off for the ARC of Greater New Orleans (attention locals: if you’re looking to get rid of excess beads and throws, here is a list of the drop-off points.). There are also a few odds and ends I need to get at the grocery store, and of course I always need to get the mail.

Yesterday was a bit of an adventure.

So, Thursday afternoon my MacBook Air started…well, acting a little funky. It was working just fine, no worries on that score, but on the left part of the screen, a series of vertical black lines suddenly appeared. I could still see what was behind them, but there was some flickering and the wall paper just turned into flickering blotches of color. Uh oh, I said to myself, that can’t be good. I spoke to Apple Support on-line, and we determined that yes, it wasn’t software but a hardware issue, which is what I suspected all along. We made an appointment for me to take it to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Metairie, the earliest available appointment being for 3:15. Terrific, I thought. I get off work at one, can drive out to Metairie and go shopping at Target–which I need to do anyway–and then head to the mall.

So, I did precisely that; I got off work at one, headed over to 610, and took it to where it merges with I-10 just over the parish line and drove out to Clearview Parkway. I spent far too much money at Target (it’s just like Costco in that way; even with a list I buy more than I intended to–oh, look, I need toothpaste but this deal for two is a dollar cheaper than buying two separately at separate times; oh, coffee is on sale? This is too good a deal to pass up…and so it goes) and loaded everything in the hatch of the car (where there were already all the bags of beads and throws to be donated) and headed to Lakeview Mall. I checked in–an hour early–at the Apple Store, then went to eat at the Smashburger in the food court (good, but a little too expensive; I should have stopped at Atomic Burger, which is also expensive but worth it). I returned to the Apple Store and started checking out the MacBook Airs, just in case the old one wasn’t reparable. I really can’t afford to buy a new one at this time, but was prepared to because I can’t do without a laptop.

And long story short, no they couldn’t repair it because it was too old. I bought the Air in 2011–eight years old, and eight years of it working brilliantly whenever I needed it to.

So, I decided to go ahead and get the least expensive one, which was actually very similar to mine. Except…

..they had none in stock, it had to be ordered, and the earliest I could get it would be April 1st.

Um, no. They did have the more expensive models in stock, of course.

But there was no way I was taking that financial hit and then having to wait four weeks to actually get the damned thing, all the while hoping that the current one would continue to work.

But this happened before, I remembered, with my current iPad–the store told me it would take five weeks to get it on back order, then I came home, went on-line, ordered it from Apple.com and had it within a week. So, I decided to come home and do the same thing–order it on-line and see what happened.

But as I was leaving the mall and turning around to head back to New Orleans, I saw there was a Best Buy on my right. What the hell, I thought, and pulled into their parking lot. Long story short, I bought a HP Stream for $251 total and it didn’t cost me any cash out of pocket; the cashier signed me up for Best Buy credit and if I pay it off in six months there’s no interest…which means even if it is a cheap piece of shit and breaks down or turns out to be useless, it should give me at least another year of use while I save up to buy a proper Apple laptop. And I may not even go with the Air next time and might get a MacBook Pro.

This HP Stream also looks just like my old iBook, which I loved and used for six years or so before its motherboard went out. It’ll take some getting used to, of course, but this all kind of worked out really well for me and I am most pleased.

And when I got home, there were no places to park on my street–remember, hatch was full of bags from shopping at Target–but as I drove down the street, resigned to having to lug everything two blocks in the heavy humidity we get before a rain, someone pulled out of a spot right in front of my house.

Seriously.

So, today I am going to run my errands and come back home to clean. I also plan on doing one last copy edit of Scotty before I send it in to my editor, and also get back to work on the WIP. I also need to read some more of Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, in preparation for our panel later this month at the Tennessee Williams Festival.

And I hope you have a lovely, lovely day, Constant Reader.

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