Beast of Burden

Wednesday and only two–count ’em, two–days left before the parades start rolling down St. Charles, so tonight after work I am taking the highway and swinging by Costco on my way home. Yesterday was an okay day in that I never really felt tired or drained, which is always a plus. I did manage to start working on the first stage of the revisions of the manuscript–and I started working on something cool and exciting and new, but must remain a secret for now until I get it all figured out and worked out–and that’s terrific. I am sure going to Costco after work today is going to be a draining experience–but it’s never as bad as just going to a regular grocery store or Walmart, frankly. I also have to clean up around the kitchen this morning because I am doing a ZOOM thing for the MWA-Midwest chapter tomorrow night. I also have to go in Friday morning for a staff meeting (yay) but that’s fine; I can run to the grocery store for last minute things and pick up the mail afterwards so we’re good through Monday.

Because the grocery store won’t be a zoo the first Friday morning of parades, either.

I’m a bit groggy this morning. I slept pretty much through the entire night, other than when Scooter began howling for food early in the morning. He’s such a sweetheart, though. I went to bed last night before Paul got home and fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up when Paul got home and Scooter was curled up, nestled inside my right arm with his head right next to mine. You have to love a cat that’s just a big ole cuddlebug.

While I waited for Paul last night–I am still in the final stages of the malaise, alas; my creativity at a very low ebb at the moment–I started going through the manuscript, this time getting character names and seeing which characters actually had their names changed from one thing to another over the course of the manuscript (which happens when you don’t have a character key, which I know and don’t know why I didn’t keep up with mine as the manuscript progressed…especially when you have a fashion show with how many drag queens walking the runway? But the manuscript, even with the slight glances I was giving to it as I went through pulling out character names, didn’t seem nearly as messy and sloppy as I remember it being while I was writing it–which can be either my faulty memory or my usual self-loathing of any and every thing I write. The latter is always possible, but so is the former. At some point I should probably address my failing memory on here…but not today; I shall save that for some morning when I am not awake before sunrise and can focus properly on writing about my aging mind.

I was too tired to read as well last night; I am hoping to break that tonight when I get home. I am in the midst of two really fun and well written crime novels–Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food and Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game–and so maybe every night when Paul’s not home I should take a book to bed with me? I don’t know how that might work, to be honest; usually I am so groggy by the time I climb the stairs I’m not sure how much reading I could do–let alone retain–late in the evening. I was pretty worn out by the time I finished watching Airplane! on HBO MAX (I got tired of scrolling through Youtube videos to watch so decided to rewatch one of my favorite comedies of all time–which has some eyebrow raising moments, but still holds up for the most part) and maybe that’s what I should start doing on the evenings when Paul works late–watch an old movie, maybe even a rewatch of a particular favorite, like Rogue One or something I’ve not seen in years, like Double Indemnity.

But today’s goal is to finish the character list and start the outline, so I can see what corrections needs to be made, what sections might need moving, and where I need to add more. I am feeling more awake now–coffee always helps, but my legs feel like they’re still not completely awake yet, which is a weird feeling that I am not describing properly to get across. It’s not like they’re asleep and tingling, or even exhausted or fatigued or anything like that–they just feel like they’re not awake, which isn’t getting the way it feels across, is it? Ah, well, it doesn’t matter because they don’t feel like they’re still sleeping in the bed, anyway.

And I still haven’t gotten an Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide 2023 yet, either.

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

Miss You

Tuesday morning and back into the office with me. I am awake before the sun rises yet again, and will be back in the office again for the first time since Thursday. It feels like it’s been somewhat longer than that, somehow, but the vagaries of time and how it passes seems to be ever-changing the older I get. I slept pretty well–could have slept longer quite happily–but am hoping I’ll fully awaken my brain with a strong assist from my coffee this morning.

I was tired yesterday–not the exhaustive kind, but the drained kind; public performance always drains me and wears me out. It’s why I could never be a performer of any kind who would need to perform every night. I’m sure you get used to it, but even when I was younger public appearances always drained me and left me feeling very low energy. It probably also has to do with driving over ten hours over the course of forty-eight, too, but yesterday was a real low energy day where I just couldn’t seem to get started. I did manage to get some things done. I picked up the prescription and made groceries, picked up the mail and went by the bank. I came home, wrote some panel descriptions for Paul, and did some cleaning and organizing.–and felt grateful to get that much done by the time I went to bed last night. I also watched a rather bad documentary series called The Price of Glee–about the tragedies surrounding the show. (Glee was important in many ways, but whoa boy, it has not aged well.)

Today I must pay some bills and make an updated to-do list. I keep forgetting things that I should be doing, and trying to plan my week (parades start Friday, so finesse needs to begin to become more involved in the planning processes here. I also need to be checking my calendar to make sure I am not forgetting things I’ve agreed to do–which has become a problem. I need to make a Costco run sometime this week after work as well–probably tomorrow or Wednesday would be best–and I need to get the editing process on my two manuscripts started as well as work on a short story I’ve promised. (I am going to look at some other stories I have on hand that might work just as well, as I am struggling with the one I thought would be perfect initially.)

I also was unable to resist writing the opening sentences of the 70s book I was talking about the other day, because they’ve been dancing around in my head tormenting me for quite some time now; plus it’s about time I create a file of some sort for the idea in the first place. So I guess I did do something writing-wise when it comes to productivity; even if it was nothing that should have been written or any time spent on at all. Ah, well, welcome to the wonderful world of creative ADHD. But I think the malaise combined with the hangover from the public appearances of extroversion and traveling over the weekend created a 1-2 punch that made truly doing anything other than recharging my batteries a major accomplishment, so I am going to simply go ahead and rest on my laurels, proud that something got done. (I straightened out the corner in the living room, so it doesn’t look quite as cluttered and hoarder-ish as it has for the last few years or so.) I’m going to also continue pruning the books with extreme prejudice. I need to finish the Ware and the Collette, which hopefully will not be difficult to do or to find time to do this week as I rush around madly trying to accomplish things before the parades begin. I think the weather might be nice this weekend, too–which would be lovely to take some time and go out to the corner, catch some beads while enjoying being outside, and taking lots of pictures. I should have taken a walk today, actually; it was a beautiful day in New Orleans yesterday. I had to switch the heater over to the air conditioner in the apartment this afternoon as it was in the low seventies and sunny–heaven. Today will be the same, getting into the high seventies before dipping into the lows at night. This seems to be what the weather holds for parade season as well; decent and sunny during the day, with it getting far chillier at night, which means hoodies on the parade route most likely.

The coffee is kicking in (huzzah!) as I sit here, but I also have to shave and do all kinds of things before I leave for the office later on. I need to get my daily pill regimen sorted into its daily dosages, I really should shave my face and my head, and of course, I need to take a shower and get dressed like every other morning. I’m still a little dazed, I think, from the weekend, but fortunately that will gradually fade away throughout the course of the day as I wake up further. I got a fresh king cake yesterday (cream cheese filling, of course, because it isn’t sweet enough already), and I also need to get my lunch packed. So, Constant Reader, I am going to head into the spice mines after finishing this. Have a lovely Tuesday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

If I Was a Dancer

Monday and I have to say–as comfortable as that bed was in Birmingham, there’s nothing like my own bed. I really like being home. But being away is much more pleasant when you’ve just spent a weekend away. I slept very deeply last night–I did wake up a couple of times, but was able to get back to sleep again, which was lovely. I also slept later than I intended to this morning, but that’s also okay. I have things to get done, errands to run, cleaning to do and laundry to launder, manuscripts to edit…it’s not easy being a Gregalicious sometimes. (There’s also nothing like coffee you’ve made yourself, either.) Parades on St. Charles also begin this Friday, which means today I really need to get my life and week figured out–parade season always requires a plan. There are three parades Friday night, five Saturday, and two or three on Sunday. We haven’t gotten a Mardi Gras guide for this year, either; I’ll need to rectify that today–but I don’t think I’ve seen any anywhere this year? Maybe I’ve not been paying attention–always a possibility, really–but we really need to have one.

Although I suppose the parade tracker app can serve in its place?

Perish the thought.

It feels chilly in the apartment this morning but the heat isn’t on, which is odd. It felt relatively temperate in the apartment when I got home last night, so I’ll have to check the setting.

It’s always slightly disorienting to reacclimate to your day-to-day existence after a lovely weekend of being an author, you know? I’ve never had much trouble erecting firewalls to compartmentalize the different aspects of my life; I keep my day job out of my writing profession and I keep my author life out of my day job, and so on and so forth. I think I am able to compartmentalize my life so easily because I’ve always compartmentalized my life; every queer person who has ever been closeted should be good at this as we are used to living two separate lives–always terrified that somehow the two lives would intersect at the worst possible moment. I do recognize in myself that separating aspects of my life is such an ingrained habit that even after successfully merging my two lives when I was thirty, that I still have the habit of separating. I separate my private life from my public life, and am fiercely protective of my privacy (and yes, I know how weird that sounds, given I have a daily blog–but I rarely talk about my personal life on here other than generic references to dinners or drinks with friends, and I try very hard to leave my friends’ names out of here as well; they didn’t give me permission to talk about them publicly), and I also separate my author life from my day-job world. It’s nice and humbling to know that even if my co-workers know that I am an author, they don’t think about it much or if they do, it’s more of a how cool and then they move on and forget about it as well. This is even more true now that Jean has retired; I used to pop into her office to talk about a book one of us was writing, or something that we just read and liked, or just to share industry gossip with a heaping side helping of snark. I do miss that from time to time.

But I need to shake off this weird adjustment feeling. I have things to do, even though I’d rather just curl up in my easy chair and finish reading The Lying Game. I need to write my review of Carol Goodman’s The Night Visitors; I need to clean out the refrigerator and see what’s spoiled in order to make a grocery list for today; I need to figure out what to take for lunch for the rest of the week; I need to make a Costco list; I need to make a plan to get through parade season; I need to finish a short story and look at some in-progress ones to pick ones to finish for submission calls; and of course, there’s always filing and organizing to do. At some point I need to start tearing my manuscripts apart for the revisions; and I will probably do that today. There’s laundry to launder and computer files to look through and file properly; there’s mail and groceries and a prescription to get. So, on that note, I need to make another cup of coffee, find something in the cabinets for breakfast (add cereal to grocery list), and get my normal life kicked back into gear, much as I’d rather bask in the afterglow of the weekend.

So have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Emotional Rescue

Well, I forgot my power cord in New Orleans, so have been trying to use this laptop as sparingly as possible so that I can at least get this posted before I head to Wetumpka this morning for Murder on the Menu. Today was nice; the Homewood Library always has a nice turnout for the panels, people bought my books and were very lovely to me–always a plus–and I got to spend some more time with friends I don’t get to see very often, like Dean James and Erica Spindler (name-dropping!) and I also got to spend time getting to know Debra Goldstein and Christopher Swann better, and I got to spend some time with Bobby Mathews, whom I met briefly at Bouchercon this last fall. He’s quite funny, and I picked up his Working the Gimmick, a pro wrestling noir! How fun is that? And since one of my in-progress projects is a pro-wrestling adjacent gay noir, I’m kind of looking forward to reading it! I am going to listen to Carol Goodman on the drive to Wetumpka (The Night Visitors), and when I finish it–probably about halfway between Wetumpka and New Orleans, I will switch over to Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, which I am also looking forward to. I’ve also been writing lots of notes and ideas in my journal during yesterday’s panels. Alas, after mine today I am departing back to New Orleans because I do need to get home–parades start next weekend, so I really need to start preparing for the coming limitations on running errands that is the inevitable and unenviable result of parade season.

I did sleep really well Friday night–the key is that even if I am now in that partial sleep that is the bane of my existence, my body and mind are resting, which makes such a difference. My Fitbit does actually monitor my sleep; the goal is to always have a sleep score of 80 or higher; I think there’s only been one night since I came home from New York where the score wasn’t over eighty, and usually it’s averaging in the high eighties, which is great and not very common for me. I slept really well again last night–at least, rested well; not sure how deep the sleep actually was but the rest was lovely.

I did not manage to finish this entry this morning. The battery in my laptop did indeed die as I was typing (I’d managed to save it as I watched the battery very quickly evaporate once it got to 15% charge) and now I am home. Today I had a lovely drive to Wetumpka, and the panel and signings and stuff there went well. We managed to sell thirty (!) copies of A Streetcar Named Murder, which was very pleasant and a very pleasant surprise. I really love Wetumpka, and the folks there seem to really love me, too. They are absolutely lovely, they read my books and like them, what a pleasant surprise, you know? Small town Alabama–who knew that was my sweet spot?

I am home now and very tired. The drive home was smooth–and I did start Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game before I got to Mobile (the Goodman novel is fantastic; more on that later), and I am really enjoying the Ware as well. I really want to set a book in Wetumpka–I have a Ruth Ware kind of idea for a book to be set there, and I have a cozy idea that could easily work in a town like Wetumpka. Although the Wetumpkans may not like what I may do to their town….LOL. But the more I listen to/read Carol Goodman and Ruth Ware, the more I think I want to write something more along those lines, too. That’s me, the sponge; anything I read that I also enjoy I always wind up wanting to write something in that style. The 70’s book that I am thinking about–I almost have the title down–is also something entirely different than what I’ve written before or want to write in the future, which of course makes me want to write it all the more. But this week I need to start tearing manuscripts apart and stitching them back together, getting these other two books finished so I can get back to the others I want to write, so I can then write the 70s book. (I am resisting the urge to start writing it, you have no idea how hard it is to resist that urge, especially with that little voice in my head whispering you can always start editing the manuscripts next week why not take this week to get it started which is how this stuff always winds up getting out of hand. I also think that my creativity sometimes gets a bit over-stimulated when I do events like this.

But what a problem to have, right?

And on that note, I am going to go start digging out from under everything that has piled up since I left Friday afternoon. Have a lovely rest of your evening, Constant Reader!

Dance Little Sister

Today I am off to Alabama. I’ve ordered groceries to pick up for Paul, which I will drop off on my way out of town. I am a bit excited about the trip–it’s always lovely to see Margaret and Tammy–and I just love this event. This is my fourth time going, and I’ve always had a good time whenever I’ve headed up there. I’ll be back here on Sunday evening, probably exhausted and ready for the incredible comfort and joy of my own bed. I am looking forward to the drive (lunch at the Arby’s in Toomsuba! Carol Goodman audiobook on the stereo!) and I’m not in a huge rush to get up there, either. I think it’s about six or seven hours? Never mind, it’s only five total– I also checked the distance and the timing it takes, and I realized last night that I don’t, in fact, have to get on the road by nine or ten. Since it’s five hours, give or take, without stops, so really, as long as I get on the road around noon I’ll be there tonight by six. So, why make myself crazy trying to rush out of here?so yeah, no need to put the pedal to the metal and speed or anything. I’ll probably just put the cruise control on after I get past Slidell and cross the state line into Mississippi. I also checked the distance and the timing it takes, and I realized last night that I don’t, in fact, have to get on the road by nine or ten. Since it’s five hours, give or take, without stops, so really, as long as I get on the road around noon I’ll be there tonight by six. So, why make myself crazy trying to rush out of here? I do have to go pick up those groceries, swing by the bank and post office, get gas, and run another errand. I can also take my time and make sure I have everything packed that I need as well–when I finish this I’ll probably go ahead and make the list after checking the weather. I slept extremely well last night, too.

I was exhausted when I got home from work yesterday, hence the great relief that I could just laze about and not do much of anything last night, which was helpful. I think the malaise really struck hard yesterday, and by the time I got home from the office I was exhausted, so much so that I collapsed into my chair without a second thought and pretty much stayed there the entire night, rather than packing or organizing or anything. Paul did come home so we could finish The Recruit–and I have to say, that was a season finale. It’s already been renewed for a second season, and I can’t recommend this show enough. It’s a lot of fun, has humor, a great plot and story, and the acting is top notch. I also rather like the cynical way the CIA works on the show–as well as its depiction of how Washington works–because I suspect it’s much more like this than people would like to believe. I did go to bed early, too, which helped with the sleep, and even though I woke up at six this morning I chose to stay in bed for another couple of hours like a slug. But it felt marvelous–last night I was thinking to myself I was too tired to make the trip this weekend if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and how fortuitous for me that I got one. Here’s hoping I can sleep for the next two nights at a hotel in Birmingham, shall we?

But I can feel my batteries recharging, if that makes sense? And that, too, feels good to me. I know I have a lot of editing work to do in front of me–as well as other writing–but this fallow period is needed to rest the earth of my creativity so it can spring back into action when I need it again. I think I was a bit too ambitious with thinking about my schedule for the year, too–but the schedule has kind of sorted itself out again, which is kind of nice. I’m not sure when I am going to get to some of the things I had planned to write this year–but I do still plan on writing them; I don’t think ambition is going to be a problem to get me motivated this year. In fact, I suspect motivation is actually not going to be a problem for me this year or any year going forward.

Then again, it isn’t summer here quite yet, either. Summer definitely takes its toll on me and my psyche; usually by August I am feeling relatively defeated by the heat and humidity, but I don’t think that’ll be as much of a problem this year as it has been. Now that we have the new HVAC system, it’s always cool in the house in every part of it. And by then I am hoping to have my return to the gym ingrained as a habit by then. 2023 is the year I want to take better care of myself and get things taken care of–hearing and teeth to start with–and of course going to the gym is integral to my health. I need to start stretching at home every day in the meantime, maybe even working my way back up to some push-ups and ab crunches before I start going back to the gym. It also has occurred to me that stretching at home before going to the gym is probably a better approach; I’ll be warmed up and the walk will keep me warmed up as I head over there and then back home again. I also think I’ll feel more like myself once I am going to the gym again more regularly. And feeling more like myself, returning my life back to what it used to be, is really kind of important to me. I feel in some ways like I’ve lost my sense of self and who am I and what really matters to me the most over the course of the last years because I’ve been so busy. It’s also been really tempting to think oh I have so much free time I should start volunteering again, but I cut those thoughts off very quickly and at the pass. This is how I become over-committed and stressed out and inevitably kicks my anxiety into high gear again–so I always have to take a step back and think whenever that impulse rears its head in my life again.

And I won’t feel bad for being selfish and more jealous of my time. I’ve been volunteering almost non-stop since 1998–twenty five years ago–and so see no reason to feel bad about not giving back for a while, if ever again.

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for the trip and ready to hit the road. Have a great Friday, Constant Reader; I probably won’t check in again with you until Monday morning.

Dark Shadows (Josette’s Theme)

I always forget this when I am asked about major influences on my life, writing, and career–but probably the biggest influence on me was the television soap Dark Shadows.

“My name is Victoria Winters…”

So began the first episode, with young heroine Victoria speaking over some rather spooky music, usually with a background scene of a light in the window at the great house of Collinwood in the fog, or waves crashing against the beach, or the family cemetery, or even the Old House.

Dark Shadows is probably the root or seed from which Bury Me in Shadows was grown from, now that I think about it more. A haunted old house, an even older house in ruins nearby in the woods that was the original family home, ghosts and secrets from the past–oh yes, the framework is absolutely there, and it never even occurred to me.

When my sister and I were kids, we moved to Chicago from Alabama. I was about two years old, give or take; I don’t remember moving up there nor do I remember ever living in Alabama; my sister was two years older. My parents both got jobs–the point of the move was for climbing the economic ladder; they both got really good jobs in factories while my dad finished his degree. But because they both worked (our friends and neighbors all felt sorry for us because our mom had to work; their moms all were housewives), we needed to be watched while they weren’t home. Our landlady recommended a woman down the street–a mother of six whose two youngest were in their last years of high school–and so we started spending our days with Mrs. Harris, who fed us breakfast and lunch, and Mom would pick us up on her way home from the bus stop. When we started school, we went there for breakfast and lunch but came home after school; school let out at 3:15 and Mom was usually home by 3:30. But it was Mrs. Harris–and my grandmother, who worked a night shift–who got me started watching soaps in the first place. One Life to Life and General Hospital sort of held my attention, but it was Dark Shadows I couldn’t wait for. I used to run home from school to try to catch the last five or ten minutes during school; it wasn’t a problem during the summer.

I loved Dark Shadows.

I was crushed when it was canceled.

I mean, look at that house!!!!

The show wasn’t canceled, although the ratings were starting to slide a bit in the later years. The truism that Dark Shadows‘ producers and writers discovered is one that practically every other continuing series having to deal with the supernatural and supernatural creatures has had to deal with: how do you keep topping yourself and raising the stakes? True Blood, Supernatural, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and countless others have all run headfirst into that wall. Once you’ve done time travel and vampires and witches and werewolves and Frankenstein and other dimensions, what is left to do? I admire them for pulling the plug rather than getting more and more desperate to get the ratings up and eventually damaging the legacy of the show.

The show was a phenomenon the likes of which had never really been seen before in daytime–and the lesson learned from its success (go for the young audience!) would soon lead to the creation of youth-oriented shows like All My Children and The Young and the Restless–and of course in the mid-1970’s soaps would be forever changed when General Hospital introduced the character of teenager Laura Webber, played by an actual teenager, Genie Francis–and daytime was never the same. But Dark Shadows managed something that other soaps hadn’t–they created teen idols. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, David Selby as Quentin, and even David Hennessey as David Collins were often on the covers of teen magazines like Tiger Beat and 16. The show even licensed FAN FICTION–a series of books based on the characters from the show, but thanks to all the fun stuff with time travel and parallel dimensions, Dark Shadows was perfect for spin-off books that took place in other Dark Shadows universe; one could even say Dark Shadows was one of the first shows to make use of a multi-verse.

The books were cheap–as you can see in the picture above (a copy sent to me by a friend with whom I bonded over our mutual love of the show) they ran between fifty cents and seventy-five cents a copy; they all had that same gold bordered cover with an oval image of characters from the show, and they were all written by “Marilyn Ross”, which was a pen name for a very prolific Canadian author named  William Edward Daniel Ross; he wrote over three hundred novels during his career, and Marilyn Ross was the name he used for Gothics–and the Dark Shadows books. (He also wrote as Clarissa Ross, and I read some of those novels as well, including The Spectral Mist.) They also weren’t particularly well written, and while they did take place outside the show’s continuity, there were also moments in some of them that didn’t make sense; in one of them, in which Barnabas shows up at Collinwood in the 1910’s, the only son of the family dies in a tragic accident…but if he was the only son, where did the present day Collinses come from? (The earlier books were told from the perspective of Victoria Winters, and in some cases the gimmick was some member of the family was telling Victoria a story about the family history.)

That’s the kind of shit that drives me insane.

But I remember when one of the off-brand television channels in Chicago (not affiliated with a major network) started running repeats of Dark Shadows from the very beginning when we lived in the suburbs in the evenings while the networks ran the evening news–guess what I was watching instead? Yup, Dark Shadows. (I always found it interesting, too, that the young actress who played Victoria Winters originally–Alexandra von Moltke–eventually became infamous as Klaus von Bulow’s mistress Alexandra Isles, who was, in the prosecutor’s theory, the reason Klaus injected Sunny with enough insulin to induce the coma from which she never woke up. But I digress.

I always wanted to write a vampire story similar to that of Barnabas Collins; I have an entire idea for a rural Louisiana version called Bayou Shadows that I’ve tinkered with off and on since the early 1990’s…but then Charlaine Harris started the Sookie Stackhouse series, which was essentially the same thing. I still might write about Bayou Shadows–the town called that has popped up from time to time in my books about New Orleans and Louisiana; most recently in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually–and if people think I’m ripping off Charlaine, so be it.

I’ll know that I’m really ripping off Dark Shadows.

The show also spawned two feature films, Night of Dark Shadows and House of Dark Shadows, each featuring one of the show’s leading men, Jonathan Frid and David Selby, respectively; the first did far better than the second. The show was revived in prime time for a single season in the late 1980’s; I watched it and loved it, of course–even got Paul to watch when it became available on DVD and I rewatched. I wish that show had been given more of a chance, because it was really quite good, and I was curious to see where the story went from that first season. It also had an excellent cast, including Hammer Film star Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman. I did watch the Tim Burton film from this century, which had some clever moments but wasn’t quite as good; it went for the silly parody thing The Brady Bunch movies of the 1990’s did, but it didn’t land. The actress who played villainess Angelique in the original series, Lara Parker, has also written some Dark Shadows novels (I have copies but haven’t read them; I really should). Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played the original Maggie Evans on the soap (and in the first film) also has written novels; she was at Long Beach Bouchercon, where I met her and got a signed copy of her book Down and Out in Beverly Heels. She was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer; I really should read that book someday.

I’ve had Dark Shadows on my mind lately because I bonded with Carol Goodman at Bouchercon over our mutual love of Dark Shadows, and the Scotty book still in draft form takes place mostly in a rural parish outside of New Orleans; not the same parish where Bayou Shadows is located, but the next one over.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to reboot the show again, retelling the original story, or picking up from where the television series ended, or even doing a new generation, some forty years later, with David Collins as an adult with children and so forth…Carol and I have joked about coming up with a concept and trying to sell it and be the showrunners…which would be a dream.

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

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

Does life get better? I think not.

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

I always like Thursday nights.

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

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

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

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

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

Out of Time

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

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

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

Ah, my teen years.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)

I bit the bullet yesterday and decided to go ahead and attend Malice Domestic. It was expensive, but it does count as a business expense, and really, will I ever be nominated for an Agatha again? Probably not very likely, and even though it is just as likely that I will not win, it’s not like I’m not used to sitting at a banquet and hearing someone else’s name called. Plus, it’s always nice to be around writers, and I’ll get to see friends–including some I’ve not seen in quite a while (looking at you, Sara J. Henry) and the one time before that I went–like ten years ago–I had a really great time. So, I will be coming to Bethesda that last weekend in April, y’all. (Of course I just had a paranoid moment of wondering if I booked the flight and hotel for the right dates, but DUH, I went to the hotel link from their website after registering.) Now I just have to figure out how to get there from Washington National…I’ll probably spring for a Lyft or a car service rather than trying to drag my luggage around on the Metro.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, actually; I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked but I did make progress and progress is always appreciated. We watched the figure skating yesterday (Ilia Malinin got the gold; Jason Brown the silver) and then caught up on Servant and Mayfair Witches (which is getting more and more off-track from the book, but will save those conversations for when the show has finished, when I will talk about both book and television series), and then we started The Recruit on Netflix, which sort of reminds me of Killing Eve in some ways, but it’s different. The first episode is a bit much, but as the show continues it starts hitting its stride and I very reluctantly had to stop the binge so I could go to bed. I do look forward to tuning in again, too–hopefully Paul won’t be working super-late every night this week.

It’s hard to believe that I am heading up to Birmingham this Friday, and the next weekend is when the parades start. #madness. February will be over before we know it–and then it’s March and suddenly spring is over and we’re back into the brutal summer months of three hundred dollar power bills. I slept really well last night–the weather has changed again and is warm, which means it’s super-foggy at night and in the mornings, burning off a bit in the afternoons before descending upon us again as the sun goes down. I need to get the draft of the book finished this week and sent off; I am hoping to spend the rest of the week before I leave for Alabama Friday morning working on a short story that I need to get finished for the ever-patient editor.

I slept really well again last night, which seems to be becoming a recurrent theme for me in 2023, and one that I am deeply happy and grateful for. I’m feeling a lot less anxiety this year, and I think the relaxation and lower anxiety has everything to do with me doing all this writing, which has been wonderful. I am always happiest when I am writing and producing–even work as rough and raw as this manuscript currently is–and it always puts me in a better frame of mind. Writing, as much as I always have to force myself to do it and sometimes even hate it while I am doing it, is my happy place and as long as I am writing I am in a better frame of mind, which is something I really need to remember going forward with everything in my life: writing is what centers you and makes you happiest.

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

Star Star

It’s a rainy gray morning here in New Orleans–which explains a little further why I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, as there is nothing more comfortable than being buried in blankets in a warm bed while it rains outside. Scooter was even snoring when I finally decided I couldn’t be a lag-a-bed much longer. I have writing to do–so much writing to do–and of course, the kitchen is an utter disaster area this morning. I’ve also been so focused on getting the writing done that I didn’t order groceries for pick-up today; which I may do once I am finished with this entry. I am going to Alabama on Friday for Murder in the Magic City as well as Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka on Sunday, so no groceries will be made this coming weekend. I could just order something for pick-up either Thursday night or Friday morning before I leave; but I will make those decisions after I’ve had more coffee and my brain is a little less bleary. I also need to make the decision as to whether I am going to go to Malice Domestic or not. I mean–how many times am I actually ever going to be an Agatha finalist? I won’t win, but it was very kind of the attendees to nominate me–and I did have a great time the last time I went. Decisions, decisions. It’s going to boil down to money, but I think I can take the money out of savings safely without concern for disaster later. And of course, I have lots of points on Southwest to take care of the airfare.

The ALA event I went to yesterday was smaller than the ALA’s I am used to; I’ve been twice before when it was here in New Orleans. Once was after Hurricane Katrina (I was thinking 2006, but it may have been 2007) and I actually read at their Friday night event that time; the other was years later when I signed in the booth for Sisters in Crime. I didn’t get rid of many books–I don’t even remember which book it was I was signing and giving away–but I know there was so little interest in the gay New Orleans writer’s books that I basically was helping out in the booth, breaking down boxes and setting out more books, and helping the other authors by opening books for them to sign–they started calling me Booth Boy, and it was quite fun. But yesterday I signed fifty copies of A Streetcar Named Murder to give away (along with a bookmark with a download code for the audiobook) and got rid of every last copy in fifteen minutes. It really does make a difference when you aren’t giving away a queer book, which deep down in my heart of hearts I already knew, but it also made me kind of sad at the same time to see that I was right. (It was one of the rare occasions when being proved right gave me no pleasure or satisfaction.)

I have a lot of writing to do today. I didn’t make quota yesterday, which means the quota is even higher now for today and even more unlikely for me to make. It’s fine, actually; I am going to make the deadline of Wednesday. It’s a mess, of course, as they always are at this stage, but I already know what I need to do to fix it, which is making the finishing even harder than usual because I am itching to go back and revise and fix it before finishing it, but that’s simply not going to work. Instead, I am going to write this and then worry about getting it revised. (Which isn’t easy, I might add.) I did spend some time with Abby Collette’s book, which I am really enjoying, and also watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships yesterday–the men’s short program and the ice dance final. The men’s final is this afternoon, but I’ll record it to watch later this evening. All of the current shows we are watching have new episodes available (Servant, Mayfair Witches) as well, but I would imagine once Monday rolls around we’ll be back to Paul not getting home from the office until after I’ve gone to bed or am starting to get ready for bed.

I feel good about everything this morning, to be honest, and it’s remarkable how calm I am about this pending deadline particularly given how far behind I am right now. I still haven’t completely adapted to the freedom from volunteering yet–I still have that subconscious unsettling feeling that there’s more I should be doing before I remember oh yeah there’s nothing besides the book that you need be worried about right now which is always kind of lovely and nice–and relaxing. I know I’ve said it before but I am really really happy that I am still able to write in the amounts that I’ve always been used to when writing–I now remember that I wrote the 98,000 or so words of the first draft of #shedeservedit in thirty days one hot July summer month; and I am still capable of doing that, clearly. I need to focus once I get both of these current manuscripts revised and I can get an incredible amount of writing done this year, which is always fun.

And on that note, I am going to clean up some of this mess before curling up with Abby’s book for a while before I start my writing journey for the day. Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader.