Rock and Roll All Nite

So, I got my new glasses yesterday.

The trip to Metairie and back was relatively pain-free, other than idiot drivers on the interstate (but that’s anytime you get on the interstate here), and I have to say I like my new glasses. I’ve always chosen glasses more based on functionality than as a “fashion accessory” (I actually only discovered that was a thing about twelve years ago, and it still amazes me on both ends–one, that it’s a thing, and two, that it never dawned on me in almost forty years of wearing glasses to pick them out based on how they look on me), and I have very little patience for trying on glasses or shopping for them. I like big lenses, because it always bothers/distracts me when I can things out of focus around them. It’s also hard to find glasses that are wide enough across the face, because the distance from ear to ear that the glasses have to reach across is not proportional to the distance between my eyes.

So my glasses seem to always have the legs jutting off to the side, rather than backwards, which looks odd.

But not these new ones. The lenses are so big I can’t blurry things around them unless I look hard left or right, and the frames are so wide that the legs go straight back to my ears. I also hadn’t realized how out-of-date my old glasses were (just two years, really; maybe three?) because now I see so much better with my new ones, and they do feel comfortable on my ears and to my eyes, which is quite nice, frankly.

And of course, I primarily selected these not for how they look but for their function. The lenses are big, and so are the frames. Whether they are flattering, I don’t know. The entire concept of glasses as an accessory to enhance my appearance is an utterly foreign concept to me. I guess it goes back to being a kid and wearing glasses being considered being a strike against the way you look? (Glasses and braces–hello, Jan Brady!–being the original dipso duo) The whole men don’t make passes are girls who wear glasses thing. I know that when I wear glasses rather than my contact lenses any concern I might have about my appearance goes away; I’m wearing glasses, you see, so it doesn’t matter; I couldn’t possibly look good.

And then I begin to wonder–was it when I started having to wear progressive lenses, which fucked up the ability to wear contacts, that I started not caring about how I looked? I do remember thinking, once I had to go to progressives (no longer called bi-focals, because that’s a stigmatizing term that indicates GETTING OLD) that I could never wear contacts again; it was around this same time that I hurt my back at the gym and had to stop working out for nearly a year–a year away from the gym from which my body never truly has recovered. (And this was also, oddly enough, around the time that I decided to teach myself how to cook and bake….so my caloric intake went up around the same time that my caloric output dramatically decreased. I often wonder if the reason I feel so old and  tired so often is because I don’t work out regularly anymore)

But I like my new glasses, and I don’t know whether they are flattering or not–but i also got new progressive contact lenses as well, and I am trying very hard to adapt to wearing contacts again. When I do wear my contacts I feel differently than I do when I wear glasses; and I know damned well that it’s a completely mental thing that has nothing to do with reality. I am conditioned to think I look better without my glasses, whether I actually do or not. It’s all part and parcel of the cultural and societal conditioning I grew up with.

I started wearing glasses quite young; I was either seven or eight when I got my first pair of glasses, and to this day I remember the first time I wore them outside the house, to school. As I walked the block and half to my grade school, I remember looking at the trees and the houses and everything and being astonished at how clearly I could see everything; I also remember thinking this is how everyone else sees all the time. My entire life up until that point I’d seen everything as blurry, indistinct shapes of color the further away from them I was, and it was wondrous to be able to see the world clearly for the first time.

The fact that I wore glasses–and this is another one of those ridiculous societal things we were all brainwashed with back when I was a child–also made people think I was smart, because there was some strange correlation made between wearing glasses and being intelligent. I was intelligent, of course, but the glasses had nothing to do with it; it was, I suppose, one of those strange things where the stereotype had built up that people who wore glasses strained their eyes studying and because of the glasses they couldn’t play sports and therefore couldn’t be dumb jocks. Glasses did make it difficult for me to play sports, but my primary problem wasn’t my glasses but the problem I had (and still have, to this day) with depth perception.

My grandmother, for the record, always believed I needed glasses because I read too much in the car, which is completely insane, but she absolutely believed this and convinced my parents of it as well–so they didn’t let me read in the car for years. I guess that’s one of those “old-wives’-tales-from-back-in-the-holler” that my parents took with them to Chicago when we moved up there when I was two years old.

Rural Southern wisdom, for what it’s worth.

All right, I’ve got a lot to do today and I need to get going on it. Tis off to the spice mines with me, and have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Junk Food Junkie

Well, Constant Reader, we made it through another week successfully, and the weekend is nigh. I slept pretty well again last night, which was lovely. It’s my half-day today at the office (the second of two in a row) and after I get off work I have to travel out to Metairie to pick up my new glasses, and then its back home to clean and organize and maybe–just maybe–do some writing today. I’ve not written a thing all week, which is pretty shameful. I was tired most of the week from not sleeping deeply, and then yesterday–the first day where I’d slept well–I was busy trying to get caught up on the things I was too tired to do on the long work days when I was feeling tired. I have to make a birthday cake for a co-worker this weekend (red velvet cheesecake, thank you very much) and so while I am at Target today I’m going to buy one of those cake carrier things. I will have to make a grocery run tomorrow as well, but other than that I am going to mostly hang around the house this weekend and get writing/editing done. The editing is the most important thing; that manuscript is coming up due soon, so I really need to get it finished.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But next weekend i have a three day weekend. I have Friday off because the following Thursday (our pay weeks, oddly enough, run from Friday thru Thursday) I am working an eight hour day on National HIV Testing Day in the Carevan at the Walgreens in my neighborhood. So I can literally roll out of bed, shower and get dressed and walk over two blocks to work, and walk two blocks back home when the day is done. I love me some three day weekends, Constant Reader, as you are undoubtedly already aware, and then two weeks later I am taking a mini-vacation around the 4th of July. (I will most likely take another one around my birthday in August as well; then there’s Labor Day, and the end of October is Bouchercon.)

The Lost Apartment isn’t nearly the mess it was before I got home from work yesterday. I did some laundry and a load of dishes–there’s another load that needs to be done as well, and then of course the bed linens, which I do every Friday–and I really need to do the floors as well. I’m not certain about what to do about dinner this evening–well, I suppose nothing, as i just remembered Paul won’t be home this evening as he has made plans with some friends–so I’ll be home pretty much alone most of the day once I get home from Metairie.

Sigh, Metairie. I think I’ll stop at Atomic Burger on my way home. I love their food. I don’t eat fast food that much anymore–living in New Orleans definitely broke both Paul and I of the bad fast food habits we have before we lived here. I think from my graduation from high school through going on my get-healthy kick in 1995 I probably ate most, if not all, meals at fast food places. Which explains the ballooning weight during those eighteen years, and my general not-good health during that period. Now, I so rarely eat fast food that it generally doesn’t agree with my system and it reminds me why I don’t eat it anymore–but there are some exceptions. Five Guys, Sonic and Whataburger remain favorites, but I don’t eat at any of them very often–and they also don’t make me feel sick in the aftermath, either. I do like Atomic Burger in Metairie, though–I’ve only eaten there twice over the last two years or so–but it might make a nice treat for me today to reward myself for the trip to Metairie. But it should be at a time going and coming back that shouldn’t be too terrible, traffic-wise.

I hope, anyway. Even the day I had my eye appointment and had to come back into the city during rush hour wasn’t that terrible, really.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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Take the Money and Run

Ah, being a writer.

The first month Paul and I lived in New Orleans, we went to a fundraiser for the LGBT Center–I don’t remember how or why we found out about it, or were invited, I don’t know. It was at the Country Club–back when the Country Club was a seedy, queer-only, clothing optional place–and the only thing I truly remember about that evening was they had a tarot card reader, and as someone who’s always been fascinated by the occult and the tarot in particular, I let her give me a reading. We went through the whole thing of me cutting and shuffling the deck, then holding them in my hands and concentrating on my question before handing the deck back to her.

She dealt the cards and smiled. “The answer to your question is yes–but it won’t be anything like you think or hope or expect it to be.”

The question, of course, was will I ever be a published author?

And of course, her response was incredibly vague, could apply to any number of questions, and so on and so forth…but here I am, twenty three years later, a published author and you know what else?

It’s nothing like I thought it would be like, or expected, or hoped.

And to be honest, it’s so much lovelier than I ever thought it would be. Sure, it’s not my sole source of income, like I’d hoped it would be, nor do I get glamorous book tours where I fly around the country to appear and sign books for crowds of adoring, worshipping fans, or have to watch Hollywood studios conduct a bidding war for the rights to turn my books into films or television shows…but it is lovely in so many other unexpected ways: the readers I’ve met, the other writers I’ve befriended and gotten to know, the conventions like Bouchercon…I never thought about those sort of things.

And I do love writing–although I groan about it all the time–even though it never seems to get easier. I’ve not written a single word on anything this week–not a fucking word–and I really need to make up for that this weekend else this manuscript is never going to be finished…and I really need for it to be finished so I can finish the other one. I hate the thought of just putting this one aside for now…but on the other hand, maybe coming back to it at a future date after letting it sit for a while might just be the trick? It’s hard to say–that’s certainly worked in other instances. And maybe working on something else over the course of this weekend might kick the WIP back into shape. At any rate, I have to do something because I can’t just keep letting time go by while not getting anything done.

And the house is a mess. My kitchen is a disgrace–the sink is full of dirty dishes, the counters covered with debris and garbage and things that need to be put away–and I haven’t even done anything to the living room in well over a month. Today is one of my half-days; I am going to stop at Rouse’s on the way home to pick up some things, and then I am going to get the kitchen cleaned and the laundry done and do some work on the living room before sitting down to write some things. I want to get some short stories submitted–I think “The Carriage House” and “This Thing of Darkness” are pretty much ready to go (but I do want to reread them and possibly tweak them at least one more time before hitting the submit button), and I do want to think about some of the other some more as well…and there’s also that goddamned proposal to work on.

No rest for the eternally wicked, is there?

And on that note, the spice mines are calling my name. Have a great Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again

It isn’t very often that I look back at the past. While memories and nostalgia can be quite lovely, they can also be a trap; it is far too easy to start second-guessing your life and thinking things like oh if only I’d done this or maybe if this hadn’t happened and so forth. Many years ago, shortly after I moved to Minneapolis to live with Paul, I gave up on looking back. The truth was, no matter how many bad decisions or wrong turns I’d made in my life, no matter how many shitty things I endured, no matter how many times a friend betrayed me or whatever…the truth was everything in my past was part and parcel of who I am today and my life would be different now if any of those things had changed; so having regrets about the past and playing the if only game indicated that I was, in fact, not happy with my life at the present time because why else would I want to change something in my past if not to change the present?

And I’m pretty fucking happy with my life and my career(s). I do love my day job, where I get to  help people every day, and I love my writing career. I marvel from time to time that I have one at all; it’s been my dream for as long as I can remember–I remember being a little boy and getting my weekly Scholastic book club books, sitting on the back porch of our little apartment in Chicago and reading them, and thinking that what I wanted to do when I grew up was write books for people to read and enjoy, the way I read and enjoyed books. Are there times when I wish I was more successful? Of course there are; I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have some ambition. And really, while some of that ambition is about making more money, it’s mostly about writing more complex stories and exploring complicated themes and characters.

Right now I have three unpublished manuscripts here in the Lost Apartment; one has been languishing in a drawer after two drafts for nearly seven years, another has gone through five drafts and needs one more to correct everything then another to polish; and the partial I am currently working on (which is like pulling teeth for me, for some reason. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to write this book…). I want to spend probably the rest of this year getting those manuscripts ready for publication before I start writing yet another; I am also working on a proposal for a potential new series, and I have another idea for a stand alone thriller….there’s also an amorphous Scotty book swirling around in the mists in the creative part of my brain. I also would like to do another short story collection, but I need to get those stories written and sent out. I also want to do an essay collection.

Yesterday was a lost day for me, because I was tired all day. I didn’t sleep particularly well either night of the weekend; I was asleep and resting, but not a deep sleep that rests up everything; more of a I’m sort of asleep and wake up every few hours. This made my twelve hour shift yesterday more of a survival thing rather than a participatory day–I was present, and I gave my clients excellent service yesterday (I am, he typed modestly, extremely good at my day job), but I was too tired to really function mentally and creatively. When I got home last night, I was too tired to do much of anything other than stream the first two episodes of the new season of Archer, which I love–even though it’s not quite as good as the earlier seasons were. I’m also considering buying the first season of The Other Two, which isn’t available to stream for free anywhere, I’ve heard good things, and it’s only ten bucks…I hate paying for anything television, but since getting rid of the cable service and using Hulu’s streaming service, even with subscriptions to certain services (HBO, Showtime, ESPN) I still am paying less than I  used when I had cable, so paying to watch a TV show isn’t that bad of a thing. Animal Kingdom has also returned, and we’re watching it as well–and in just over two months college football and the Saints will be back, taking over my weekends. I’m taking a long weekend around the 4th of July–five days; it falls on a Thursday so I am taking Wednesday and Friday to go with it.

Anyway, to bring this back around to the first paragraph, as I said yesterday being interviewed for the Writer Types podcast put me into a reflective mood, looking back at my past–and part of that is also the current WIP, which requires me to probe memories of my childhood summers in Alabama to make the book come to life–and that, in turn, brings back other memories and reflections. At first, I resisted the rabbit holes of memories that were flooding through my brain, determined to never look back–but I also think part of that was not wanting to remember mistakes made and revisiting bad decisions. But embracing the memories hasn’t made them rosier and glossier; but I am able now, with the proper time and distance, to examine them dispassionately and deconstruct how and why, and the lessons learned from them.

And that isn’t a bad thing, really.

I was talking to my co-workers last night about how much change I’ve seen throughout my life–not just for the queer community, but for women and people of color–and even though none of us in those groupings have achieved true equality yet, we’re closer than ever and getting closer every day.

It’s also amazing how patchy my memory is–as I told Eric and Steve during the podcast, the years from 2005-2009 are mostly blanks, which I have learned is a result of the PTSD created by everything from Paul’s gaybashing through the Christian attacks to Katrina and it’s aftermath; it’s not unusual for people to have memory gaps after that kind of emotional trauma.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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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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Who’d She Coo

Here it is, a lovely Saturday morning, and I am steeling myself to go to the gym. I have things to do this weekend–writing, and a manuscript to edit, and I’d also like to get some short stories out for submission as well, around cleaning the house–and going to the gym is an errand that has been put off for far too long. The excuses and rationalizations I can come up with for not going to the gym are legion.

Thanks to a Scott Heim post yesterday on Facebook, I had a blissful moment remembering one of my favorite TV shows of my youth, The Snoop Sisters, and the glorious ABC Movie of the Week Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate–which was, actually, the original catfishing story. Four elderly women (played magnificently by Helen Hayes, Mildred Natwick, Myrna Loy, and Sylvia Sidney) as a joke sign up for a computer dating service–back in the days when computer programs were ‘written’ on hole-punch cards; computer dating was actually a new and exciting thing in the 1970s, with all the newfound freedom of the sexual revolution, the pill, and feminism. Of course, the young man their “perfect woman” is matched up with is deranged, and he begins stalking and terrorizing the women. I watched that movie every time it aired, and guess what? It’s on Youtube! (Isn’t everything, really?) So, I am going to try to carve some time out in my schedule to rewatch it…because I, of course have so much free time.

I slept fairly well last night, all things considered, and woke up before seven this morning–but stayed in bed until about seven thirty. There’s still a mess in the kitchen–something I’m going to have to do something about this morning, because I won’t be able to do anything in this mess I can see when I turn my head in any direction, so it’s fortunate that I did, in fact, wake up so early. Last night I tried watching Bad Times at the El Royale, which looked like a fun, twisty, noirish thriller–but about forty-three minutes into it, I gave up. The cast is terrific, and there was a lovely 70’s vibe to it (it was set in the 1970’s, at a motel that straddles the California/Nevada line in Lake Tahoe), but after forty-five minutes of nothing happening, I couldn’t sit through another hour and forty five minutes. The movie was, frankly, certainly too long, and if the first half of your movie is basically just backstory and set-up…you need to re-edit your film. Sorry not sorry. I even gave up before Chris (THOR!)  Hemsworth showed up–which should tell you how bad the film was.

Which is a pity, as the cast was amazing.

I think tonight we will watch Always Be My Maybe. I do love Ali Wong.

My Pride Month posts and tweets about queer crime writers are getting some lovely traction, which is always nice, and I do marvel at the way things have changed over the the course of my lifetime. It does occur to me that I am not celebrating or talking about things on here for Pride Month; perhaps I should rectify that, and perhaps I will. It’s been a long journey, and a long life for me–I certainly never thought I would live this long, even when I was a kid–and I do think, from time to time, about the fatalistic way I viewed my life after I came out and started living–rather late–as a gay man. One of the many, many stories I have in some sort of progress is set in the early 1990’s in New Orleans; and deals with some of that sort of the thing. It’s a long story, and probably will wind up being a novella which I will either self-publish on Amazon or include in my next collection of short stories (which I can also self-publish on Amazon if my publisher doesn’t want it). It’s called “Never Kiss a Stranger”–I mention it from time to time–and it’s also a way for me to recapture what New Orleans was like at that time–sleepy and crumbling in the sun.

And yes, at the end of the month, I will post the list of queer crime novels and authors here, so people can use it as a reference. I also think it’s going to be published somewhere? Maybe the Mystery Scene blog? Anyway, someone asked if they could use it and post it someplace like that, and obviously, I said yes to it.

And now, perhaps it’s time to get back to those old spice mines.

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Walk Away from Love

Wednesday and I am being betrayed, left and right, by idiotic technology.

I had to take my fucking phone back to factory settings because despite updating my phone the other day, last night my computer didn’t fucking recognize my phone again. (You can certainly tell Steve Jobs died…the quality of Apple’s overpriced products has gone into steep decline since his death. This kind of shit never happened on his watch.) And my email inbox is also having some issues today as well.

I don’t have time for this nonsense.

Seriously.

I’ve not written hardly at all this week, because I got sucked down into a rabbit hole regarding the crime fiction community these last two days–yet another train wreck I can’t look away from. I hope to get back in the writing saddle again today, though; fingers crossed there won’t be any more developments of nonsense! But the way things have been going…it certainly wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

I watched another episode of Chernobyl last night, and seriously, this is some extraordinary television. It’s depressing and horrifying as all  hell, but like the crime fiction kerfuffle or a train wreck, I simply can’t stop watching. The fourth episode–if you’re a pet lover, do not watch. The show is doing a terrific job of showing the disaster from the point of view of every day citizens affected, and what the disaster has done to them and their lives; episode four is particularly ghoulish and while true, it was awful and heartbreaking to watch: you see, all the people had to be evacuated out of the hot zone, but they didn’t take the contaminated animals with them…including pets. So, a team of people were assigned to go around and shoot all the cats and dogs the citizens had to leave behind–they were contaminated and it was a mercy, rather than letting them die a horrific, slow painful death from radiation. The part of the episode dealing with this was all shown from the point of view of an eighteen year old newly inducted soldier who volunteered to help out in the hot zone. I had to pause and get up and walk away several times during the episode because it was, frankly, too much. There’s one scene in particular…Christ, I can’t even write about it.

Chernobyl, despite the incredible acting, writing, and production values, is not an easy thing to watch. It’s filmed like a horror movie–very bleak and hopeless–and what makes it worse is something I realized after Hurricane Katrina; that no matter how bad something looks on television or in a film, the reality is so much worse. I will never get the images of what the lower 9th ward looked like that October of 2005, and how television didn’t even capture a fraction of the actual horror and devastation.

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


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