Thursday morning and my last day in the office for the week–woo-hoo! (I really do make it sound like I hate my job, don’t I? I actually don’t; I like my job a lot…but I’d prefer to stay home, always.) Paul is leaving tomorrow and I am trying to prepare myself for the emptiness; Paul is not a big man and he’s not loud, either–but when he is gone the house just feels enormous and empty. Scooter also gets lonely and needier–he’s used to having Paul to sleep on/with most of the time–and so I’ll probably spend a lot more time with my laptop in the bed with Scooter than I usually do. I also want to clean the upstairs while he’s gone, which is probably what I will do most of the day on Saturday; clean the upstairs while football games play on the television. Sounds like a good plan to me! I also have to take some more books to the library sale, and I can swing by and get the mail and stop at Fresh Market on the way home.
I feel rested again this morning. I had a very good night’s sleep last night, which was marvelous, and I hope this means a productive day. Yesterday was a pretty good day, actually; I managed to get quite a bit done and stopped to get the mail and to make a little groceries (amazing how you cannot get out of a store without spending a minimum of fifty bucks anymore) before coming home and relaxing a bit. I finished writing Chapter Eight (huzzah!) and am now going to move on to Chapter Nine. I am still further behind than I would prefer to be, but a strong push this weekend (Sunday all I plan to do is write) should get me back on schedule. I had wanted to be finished with the first draft by the end of the month, but somehow the month slipped through my fingers; Monday is Halloween, and this weekend of course is Gay Halloween, aka Halloween New Orleans. That, in the olden days, would have been my plans for the entire weekend, and whatever my costume for the Ball on Saturday might be would always start with the adjective “slutty.” Those days are past, long past, alas; no one wants to see sixty-one year old Greg in anything that starts with slutty, but hey–I had a great time back when I could get away with the look. And I got away with it, he typed modestly, far longer than I ever would have thought I could.
Last night we watched the new episode of Andor, but I am probably going to have to watch it again after Paul leaves, because my mind kept wandering–not because the show isn’t good, but because my mind kicked into “book mode” while I was sitting there watching and I kept thinking about the work I need to do on the book and how to revise the opening to make it stronger and move faster. I hope to get a good portion of the next chapter done today and another tomorrow before taking Saturday to rest and then diving back in headfirst on Sunday. I really need to update my to-do list because there are things I need to do that I keep forgetting about and they aren’t written down on the list which makes remembering them that much harder. Heavy heaving sigh.
I then watched the conclusion of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, which was interesting. I still might have to do an entire entry about this past season; I generally try not to get involved in conversations about reality television publicly–it’s ever so much more fun to do privately with friends–but I am often reminded of how vested viewers would get in soaps, both daytime and primetime; we used to have watch parties for Dynasty when I was in college, after all, and talked about the show incessantly, living for the bitchy cattiness and the surprise twists in the plot. Someone with whom I rarely ever agree–Camille Paglia–actually said something insightful when talking about these reality shows so many watch fervently: she said they were the modern-day versions of the 1980’s prime time soaps, and she wasn’t wrong. They aren’t the same kind of shows at all, but in some ways they are; the housewives shows have certainly taken the place of the old night time soaps, and just like them, the housewives began with a show with modest success and then branched out to replicate the formula, just as Dallas was the first and the rest sprang from its success. And I have to say, there were times last night once Kathy Hilton made her entrance that I was reminded, over and over again, of Dynasty: her entrance reminded me of Alexis entering the courtroom to appear on the show for the first time, and as Kathy sat there, shredding her foes with a razor-sharp tongue I kept seeing Alexis on the stand tearing down Blake, over and over again.
And yes, I can see my friends from college all sitting around today watching this show while getting really high and drinking lots of beer.
I also just realized that with Paul out of town I won’t be able to watch any of the shows we are watching together; I’m really glad House of the Dragon has already ended because I wouldn’t have been able to wait to watch! Hence I will be bored every night and therefore should use that time to either read or be productive.
We’ll see how it goes.
And on that note, tis the spice mines for me. Have a lovely day. Constant Reader.
Pay the Bills Wednesday has rolled around again; and this is my first paycheck with my new raise, which is super cool. I guess we’ll soon see how much of a difference the raise will make, won’t we? And–a pretty nice one, to be honest. I paid all the bills already this morning and have a nice tidy sum left over. And I have more bills this time that I ordinarily would, so it’s going to be interesting. I also accidentally paid a bill that isn’t due until we get paid again–which puts me ahead for next time, too.
I slept decently last night, but something I suspected was going on with me turned out to be correct: I am not properly hydrated. I had to have blood drawn yesterday for my PrEP labs, and my blood was too thick. Thick blood which doesn’t want to come out into the tube means over-dehydration. I drank some glasses of water and we tried again hours later–to better success–but between the blood sugar ups and downs and now this it’s not any wonder I’ve been feeling tired and a definitive lack of energy lately. I suppose the morning coffee–caffeine is also dehydrating–doesn’t help much in that regard either. I need to stop and get Gatorade on the way home from the office tonight.
I wrote a chapter of the book last night–well, almost. It’s not quite finished, but I am pleased to admit that it is just as terrible as all the others I’ve done thus far. So hurray for consistency! But the story is starting to take shape, as I had hoped it would as I wrote, and as I move on (while still writing crap) I am revising and reconfiguring the opening of the book and so forth; editing in my head (which is worrisome since I no longer have any sort of memory to rely upon) as I go. I think I am going to do a big push this weekend and while Paul is gone to try to get as much of this finished as I can.
Sorry to be so brief today! But I don’t really have a whole lot to say today, which is an unusual occurrence for one Gregalicious, is it not? Somehow I am managing to get caught up on things, which is always a lovely and a good thing. Sometimes it feels like I am forever Sisyphus, pushing that heavy stone up the side of a mountain, only to have it come tumbling back down to the valley below once I manage to finally get up there. Some days I can look at those massive to-do lists and think to myself yes let’s do this and roll up my sleeves to dive in headfirst; other days I look at them and just want to curl up into a ball and hide from the rest of the world. But that doesn’t get things done, and doesn’t help with anything, either. On the way home tonight I am going to run a couple of errands, and then I am going to just curl up in my easy chair and read The Haunting of Hill House until it’s time for (what will inevitably be disappointing) third episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, which I will need to digest fully before posting about.
So I am heading into the spice mines for now. Have a great Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Thursday morning and it’s cold in New Orleans (well, for New Orleans). We have a low of 49 today–it will eventually get back up into the low seventies, and by the weekend we’ll be back up in the 80’s again). One good thing is I sleep better when it’s cold like this, but the bad thing is I don’t want to get out of my warm bed into the cold apartment in the mornings, when it’s also dark outside. When the time change comes I think I’ll be coming to work in the dark and going home in the dark, too? This is really why I dislike winter, to be honest; I hate the short days and the long hours of night.
I managed to get some work on the book done yesterday and for the record it wasn’t completely crap, either. I need to finish that chapter this evening–about another thousand or so words should do the trick–and then move on to the next. Yesterday it really felt like a dam of some sort had finally broken and whatever block I had about writing this book was gone or smaller or something, I don’t know. And I didn’t hate completely what I did write, either, which is a significant change from the usual. I felt good about it, which is a pleasant change from the way it’s been feeling lately, if I am going to be completely honest. I was, as ever, beginning to fear that I’d finally drained the batteries so much that they’d never recharge and the well had gone, at long last, dry. I go through this even now and again (far more often than I would prefer, if I am being completely honest); that period of terror where I can’t write anything or if I do it’s incredibly difficult and I am afraid that I’ve somehow lost the ability to create and suddenly the career is over. (I started to type such as it is after “the career” and stopped myself; progress on the road to ending the self-deprecation self-criticism neurosis, so progress in my head is being made, albeit slowly–see, I did it again!)
Anyway, the book is starting to flow out of me again, which is always a lovely experience. I love writing, much as I complain about doing it, and am always happiest when I am actually doing it, or in the process of doing it. It gives me great pleasure to tell stories, really; I like everything about it besides getting stuck or being lazy–and as my default is always to be lazy, sometimes (many times) it can be hard to make myself do it. The gym is the same, really; I haven’t been to the gym in months and I really do need to start going again. I know I’ve put some of the weight I lost back on–I’ve been too fearful to actually get on the scale–and while I don’t eat the healthiest diet in the world, it’s not like I’m eating fast food or pizza every meal or anything (which is what I used to do, seriously), and yes, I should probably cut back on cheese and bacon and so forth…but at the same time I’m like I’m old and do I really want to spend my last years eating stuff that doesn’t bring me joy?
We watched this week’s episode of Andor, and I really like this show. Diego Luna is marvelous in the role, and the story itself it pretty good. I think I saw somewhere yesterday that it’s the lowest rated Star Wars show so far? Given the fact that The Book of Boba Fett exists–which we couldn’t make it to the third episode–I find that rather hard to believe. (I do keep thinking we should give Boba Fett another chance, but then think why? There are a lot of good shows and only so much time in which to watch them. (I also watched the second part of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, which left me shaking with rage and disgust. I may write an entry after the final episode of the reunion airs, but all I will say for now is there are at least four disgusting pieces of shit on that show; five if you count Andy Cohen, whom I have never seen the appeal of, to be honest. I will probably stop watching this show and others of its ilk, as they aren’t fun to watch anymore.)
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.
I am, and can be, remarkably naïve when it comes to some things. I literally will believe almost everything I am told because my default is never to assume someone is lying (unless they’ve proven themselves to be a liar before), so I actually believed, all those years I was watching The Real World, that the show was “unscripted” and the cast had cameras and microphones on them 24/7.
Then The Real World came to New Orleans–to my neighborhood, in fact–and the “gay one” got a job bar-backing at Oz (one of my favorite gay bars; and autocorrect tried to turn that into “barebacking”, which is an entirely different thing), and it wasn’t long before I realized that The Real World wasn’t, actually, “real.” I saw them any number of times walking from one destination to another to film, the camera crews not filming and just walking behind the cast; I actually watched them set up a scene in Oz and go through several takes, and so yeah, the luster and magic was gone for me. I think I may have watched another season or two after New Orleans, but reality television had also changed dramatically from when the first season of that show aired (and yes, I am aware that PBS’ An American Family was the first real reality-type show) and by the time I stopped watching that it wasn’t about kids learning to get along and learning from each other’s differences as it was about getting wasted, hooking up, and fighting.
You know, the formula Bravo quickly adapted to in Season Two of The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Viewers want conflict.
I never watched the Real Housewives shows, but usually on Sundays when it wasn’t football season Paul would come downstairs and fall asleep on the couch while I would either read or edit in my easy chair. I’d turn on the television for background noise, and it was just easiest to always park the channel on Bravo because they’d marathon something–originally Law & Order, then The West Wing or Inside the Actor’s Studio, which were fun for an occasional distraction but not enough of one to take my interest away from what I was doing. But Bravo changed, and those marathons eventually became one of the Real Housewives shows. I winced a bit, but again, background noise I didn’t need to pay attention to–it all seemed so exploitative and, well, awful–that I couldn’t see myself ever watching regularly. So I began to slowly recognize who they were–all the gossip site pop-ups and so forth on social media also covered them extensively–and even know something about them. I didn’t want to ever become a regular viewer, didn’t think I ever would.
I originally tuned into TheReal Housewives of Beverly Hills to see Kim Richards, whom I remembered as a child star when I was a kid–from Nanny and the Professor to Escape to Witch Mountain to Tuff Turf–and was interested to see how she turned out, what happened to her…and just like a soap opera back in the day, I was soon tuning in every week. Some other friends turned out to be big fans of both Orange County and New York, so I started watching New York so we could talk about it (my antipathy to Orange County would be a subject for another essay at some other point), and there was no turning back after that.
I still primarily only watch New York and Beverly Hills with any regularity (although Atlanta is always a favorite), and there have been times when I’ve thrown up my hands in disgust with what was actually going on with the season and stopped watching (I stopped watching Beverly Hills during the “let’s out Denise Richards as bi!” bullshit, for example, and never did finish the season); but I am still absolutely fascinated by the concept behind these shows. Is any of it for real? How much is set up and scripted? It becomes very easy to get sucked into the shows–they are highly addictive; they remind me a lot of soaps as they are very high on petty drama and melodrama, feuds and fights and arguments–and how much of what we see is actually not audience manipulation on the part of production, the network, and the editors. (Women often claim to have “gotten a bad edit”–which always makes me think about The Real World–that show really started everything) I find myself getting emotionally sucked into the petty dramas too–which often spill out into the social media world and the endless blogs that dedicate themselves to reporting on these shows–and there are times when I think, well done, production! I would have never guessed you could ever show me a side of this horrible woman that would make me sympathetic to her.
Because while the women may manipulate and scheme and plan and script things, the primary people being manipulated by production are the audience and the line between reality and “reality” often gets so blurred that it’s hard to tell what is real and what isn’t.
Take, for example, this current rollercoaster of a season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Before the season started airing there was gossip flying around the Internet about their Aspen trip and a meltdown by a supporting cast member in her second year officially on the show–Kathy Hilton, older sister of OG cast member Kyle Richards–that supposedly went “really dark”…only for the season to start airing and the behavior of other members of the cast (Lisa Rinna, Diana Jenkins, Erica Girardi) being far worse than any of the rumors floated about Kathy’s “meltdown.”
Again, a subject for another time, perhaps once the reunion episodes have aired.
Anyway, I had always thought that a Real Housewives type show, set and filmed in New Orleans, would make the excellent backdrop for a crime story, particularly because of those blurred lines between reality and “reality”…so I used it for one of those e-novellas back in the day. After they were taken off the market, I kept thinking about how I wasted the background of a reality show on a story no one can access anymore and so that original story eventually morphed into Scotty VIII, Royal Street Reveillon.
I fished the last olive out of my almost empty glass and popped it into my mouth. I glanced at my watch as I chewed it, and moaned after swallowing. “There’s nothing like a good martini,” I said, glancing around the bar and getting our server’s attention.
“Do we have time for another?” My nephew Taylor finished the rest of his sazerac and looked at me hopefully.
“I take it you liked it.” I replied, not even trying to hide my smile. “But no time for another unless we want to be late.”
This was Taylor’s first time at the Sazerac Bar. He’d turned twenty-one just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and since we were going to a party at the Joy Theater, I thought I’d treat him to a sazerac in the bar where they were invented. I personally don’t care for the drink—give me gin or vodka any day of the week—but everyone in New Orleans is required to try a sazerac at least once.
And now I could rest easy, having done not only my civic duty but treated Taylor to a New Orleans rite of passage.
I’d also wanted him to see the Roosevelt Hotel’s Christmas decorations. The Roosevelt was one of the grand old hotels of the city, and their lobby decorations are truly spectacular. Since we were going to a party at the Joy Theater—a mere block or so from the hotel, I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone? This was Taylor’s second Christmas with us, and I wanted to do it right. We’d already done Celebration in the Oaks at City Park, and I’d loved seeing the beautifully decorated ancient live oak trees through a newbie’s eyes.
I know it’s corny, but I love Christmas.
I love everything about it. I love decorating my apartment. I love picking out presents that are one hundred percent perfect for the person and carefully wrapping it up in beautiful paper, topped with a bow and twining ribbons around the box. I love picking out a tree, and the wonderful smell of pine that permeates everything inside once it’s delivered. I love getting the boxes of ornaments down from the storage closet and adorning the branches with them. I love tinsel and opening a new box of icicles for the branches. I love Christmas cookies and cakes and pies and turkey and celebrating and spending time with people I love.
I even love carols—although I do think that September is a bit early to start playing them unless the intent is to drive people to homicide by December.
While I kept the original backstories of the Grande Dames of New Orleans cast as I had in the original, I changed a lot because I didn’t want those few who had read the original to know the ending. I also wanted to do some fun things with the story, adding in another murder that was completely unconnected to the primary story as well as yet another deep personal dilemma for Scotty that doesn’t get resolved in this story, and trying to keep track of all the crazy things I had going on–as well as the complicated and complex backstories and threads of different subplots; I added another murder for the main story and I wanted to make it a bit more topical, so I added an element of “me too” to the story (in all honesty as I write the current one I wish I hadn’t done this because I can’t just drop it, either, like it never happened), and I found myself having fun with it. This was by far the most complicated and layered Scotty book since probably Mardi Gras Mambo, and this was one I felt very contented about when I turned it into the publisher. Even revisiting it now, as part of the prep for the current one, I kind of am proud of myself for it.
I also set it during Christmas season in New Orleans because I love New Orleans at Christmas-time. It’s one of the few times of the year where I don’t mind that it gets dark so fucking early–because New Orleans has put on her Christmas face and it’s absolutely delightful. One of the things I love most about this crazy city is how everyone here takes decorating so seriously–so seriously they decorate their houses and windows for everything. Jackson Square is stunning with the big red bows tied on the lampposts guarding the gates, as you can see in the gorgeous cover my publisher gave my book (and perhaps the thing about it that make me happiest the most is that one of the lamp’s light is out–just like it would be in real life) and the lights and…sighs happily.
I did think, for a time, about ending the series with this one, but I left the personal story hanging yet again which meant there would be another one–and I honestly don’t know what happened that it took me so long to get around to writing another one, but here we are.
G’morning, Saturday! How you doing? I slept well, woke up sans alarm, and feel kind of rested and good this morning. The sun is ridiculously bright this morning–it was yesterday as well–but that’s fine. Today is a long day of college football, and I have one errand to run this morning later on. Yesterday was a fairly good day; I got my work done during the day and ran the errands that needed running. I made Swedish meatballs (my version of them, any way) for dinner last night, and we settled in to watch the finale of Bad Sisters and of course, Halloween Ends, which was remarkably different than what I was expecting and despite a slow start, turned out rather interestingly after all.
I did think about the book last night while I was waiting for Paul to be ready for television viewing (and while I was doing some chores and making dinner), so I think I may have some success working on it this morning. I am going to try to get this done, put the dishes away and do some other chores before taking a shower and getting cleaned up to work on the book before I have to run the errands. And while I am of course hoping that Alabama cleans Tennessee’s clock today, the LSU game isn’t until this evening so I have the day pretty much all free heading into that, so there’s no reason I can’t get some writing done today and tomorrow (note to self: check the time of the Saints game today so you can plan accordingly). I don’t need to make another grocery run this weekend–or even order anything for pick-up–so I can pretty much plan on having the time to get things done around here. I have to work Monday morning in the clinic (covering for someone) but I also don’t have to be there until eight-thirty, either. Huzzah!
I also want to start rereading ‘salem’s Lot today; but I also have some other things I want to read as well. There never is enough time for everything, seriously. I have a couple of short stories written by friends that I need to look over (I promised feedback months ago) and I also have that Shirley Jackson Edgar-winning story I want to read, too. At some point I want to drive around the city and take pictures of Halloween decorations too–maybe I can take a walk with my phone tomorrow morning around the neighborhood and the Garden District–because I feel like I don’t document life in New Orleans as much as I should.
But then this blog has never really had a theme other than really just being a kind of diary for me, more than anything else, one where I don’t really talk about personal things as much perhaps as I would in a diary but just a way of situating myself and seeing where and how I am every morning. I have some pending entries that I also need to finish–entries talking about other books I’ve written, other books I’ve read and yet not done an entry for yet–and of course that takes time out of my day every day as well as time away from my other writing. But I do have a rather funny one about Nancy Drew and New Orleans I really should finish sometime–I have a weird love/hate thing with Nancy Drew; my OCD required me to collect and read the entire series, yet she was never really a favorite of mine; there were other juvenile series I vastly preferred to both Nancy and The Hardy Boys–but I had wanted to pay homage to Nancy’s adventures in New Orleans in the new Scotty book, so I reread the two books where Nancy came to New Orleans (The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat) and whoo-boy, were they dated, wrong on almost every level, and horrifyingly racist. (Sidebar: I’ve always wanted to write my own juvenile series, similar to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and at the same time I’ve always wanted to write a murder mystery set at a fan convention for one of these series–because I belong to some fan-pages on Facebook and let me tell you, those folks are interesting)
I also have my entry about Donna Andrews’ marvelous Round Up the Usual Peacocks to finish, and I also have a rather lengthy entry about Interview with the Vampire I think I’ll wait to finish until I am done with watching the show.
I am not going to lie, I was curious about Halloween Ends primarily because I absolutely hated the second film in this sequel/reboot series, or whatever the hell it is considered. I was impressed by the creative decisions made on how to handle this absolutely, finally the last chapter (the end definitively ends it, trust me); but I am not entirely sure how I felt about the focus being moved off Laurie and Michael Myers. I guess I was a little disappointed–I was hoping to see, I guess, a balls-to-the-wall Laurie v. Michael battle, which we did kind of get, but it also wasn’t the primary focus of the film? I appreciated the new story as well as the new cast members like Rohan Campbell (who plays Frank on Hulu’s The Hardy Boys reboot), but I came away a little disappointed, but that was due to my own expectations, not any failure of the film itself. (I was also really amused to no end that Kyle Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, who played one of the kids Laurie babysits in the very original Halloween, was brought back to reprise the role in the new trilogy. After listening to her talk about “filming” all season, and “having to focus on learning her lines” while dealing with RHOBH drama…only to watch the actual film to see she has exactly two scenes and at most five lines made me laugh out loud–and of course, Paul shadily said “I find it really hard to believe a bartender in Haddonfield could afford all that plastic surgery” which sent me into gales of laughter. I did enjoy the movie, though, and appreciated the different direction it took. If you’re a fan of Halloween, I think you’ll enjoy it, too–but understand it’s different going in.
All right, on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and GEAUX TIGERS!
Oh, Scotty VII, what an interesting path you took to publication.
Back when ebooks and Kindles first started to be a thing, they rather revolutionized publishing. This new technology rang the death knell on some independent book stores as well as some small presses, and it was considered the great equalizer: you no longer needed to follow the long-established path to publication that went writer/agent/publisher; and just having an agent was no guarantee your book would ever see print and if it did, that it would sell. You no longer needed a publisher to put your book out and get it to readers; all you needed to do was get a cover designed and format your manuscript and upload it. This excited a lot of people; I was one of them, but still approached the entire thing very cautiously. I have never had a problem with people who elect to self-publish their work rather than follow the traditional path; I certainly never followed the traditional path or ran my career the way I was supposed to, at least according to almost every author I knew.
But ultimately, for me, the ebook revolution and becoming a publisher/author hybrid seemed not only like a risk but a time-consuming one. I didn’t have the time available to market the books I was traditionally publishing the way I should, let alone having the time to have to do all the marketing myself.
But I was curious, and remained open-minded. A friend started her own company and wanted me to write some things for her–short, more like novellas than novels–and since I’d always wanted to spin Paige off into her own series (despite being concerned about writing a mainstream type book from a woman’s perspective) and so I thought, well, here’s a chance to try something new and different. I wound up writing two of these and was partly through a third when I began to realize that even with an independent publisher doing some of the work, I just didn’t have the time or money or incentive to work any harder at marketing these books than I already was–and they needed more attention and promotion than I was able to give them, so we decided to end the business relationship, the already done books came down from sales sites, and that was the end of that.
I did eventually slap up Bourbon Street Blues as an ebook on Amazon, and it’s done okay for me; I’ve not promoted it at all but copies sell every month–but I am not getting rich, either. I also have a longer short story up as an e-original (but it’s also in my print collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories) and yes, I know I need to get Jackson Square Jazz up (one of these days), and perhaps when I’ve retired and have more time, I’ll explore the self-publishing option again just for the hell of it.
But there I was, with a partially completed manuscript and it was a very fun story; I hated wasting it (it was called The Mad Catter), and so, with a little bit of tweaking, I turned it into the seventh Scotty book, and renamed it Garden District Gothic.
I really love the cover Bold Strokes gave me for it, too:
You know you live in New Orleans when you leave your house on a hot Saturday morning in August for drinks wearing a red dress.
It was well over ninety degrees, and the humidity had tipped the heat index up to about 110, maybe 105 in the shade. The hordes of men and women in red dresses were waving handheld fans furiously as sweat ran down their bodies. Everywhere you looked, there were crowds of people in red, sweating but somehow, despite the ridiculous heat, having a good time. I could feel the heat from the pavement through my red-and-white saddle shoes and was glad I’d decided wearing hose would be a bad idea. The thick red socks I was wearing were hot enough, thank you, and were soaked through. They were new, so were probably dying my ankles, calves, and feet pink. But it was for charity, I kept reminding myself as I greeted friends and people whose names I couldn’t remember but whose faces looked familiar as we worked our way up and down and around the Quarter.
Finally, I had enough around noon and decided to call it a day.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in my life, and I grew up in Alabama,” my sort of nephew, Taylor Wheeler, said in his soft accent, wiping sweat from his forehead as we trudged down Governor Nicholls Street on our way home.
“It hasn’t been this hot in a while,” I replied, trying really hard not to laugh. I’d been forcing down giggles pretty much all day since he came galloping down the back steps the way he always does and I got my first look at his outfit. “But the last few summers have been mild—this is normal for August, usually.” It was true—everyone in town was complaining about the heat like it was something unusual, but we hadn’t had our usual hellish summer weather in a couple of years.
Last summer had been not only mild but dry, with little humidity and practically no rain—which was unheard of. Usually it rains every day around three in the summer, when the humidity has gotten so thick it turns to rain.
“I don’t even want to think about how much sweat is in my butt crack,” he complained, furiously waving the fan he’d picked up somewhere, trying to create a breeze.
I gave up trying to fight it and just gave in to the laughter.
One of the primary problems of turning The Mad Catter into Garden District Gothic was that the book was intended originally to be a sequel to a pair of books that no longer existed; vanished forever into the ether. I had established a character in earlier books of the series who was supposed to take front and center in this one, but I no longer had the back story and was facing the issue of how do I introduce this woman into Scotty’s world? And it was important, because the case involved a long ago murder that took place in this woman’s Garden District mansion–she didn’t own it at the time; she bought it from the original family that owned it, and owned it at the time of the unsolved murder–but I decided the easiest way to do this was make the woman a friend of Scotty’s older sister, which is how he knew her; and she had been a member of the cast of a reality-TV show called Grande Dames of New Orleans, which had been the centering of the previous book in the now-defunct series. I always thought the Grande Dames (obviously, my version of the Real Housewives franchises) was a clever idea and a fun one to explore as well as poke fun at in a fictional setting, and I hated wasting in a series that no one could access anymore. So I decided to keep Serena, and mention that she was in the cast of the new show which hadn’t started filming yet, and she had bought this big house as a centerpiece for her to be filmed in from the show, giving up her luxurious condo in One River Place. (This also gave me the opening to center the next Scotty book in the Grande Dames show.) The party that now opened the book was a housewarming party, so Serena could show off her new manse with the checkered past.
I had also created a character in the Paige series to serve as a kind of nemesis for her, a true crime writer named Jerry Channing, whom eventually I used as the impetus for getting the plot started in The Orion Mask. Jerry became rich and famous writing a book about the infamous, unsolved murder called Garden District Gothic, which in the Paige series seemed like a Scotty title to me, and I used it as a wink to those who were familiar with the Scotty series…and so, in writing about Scotty and the gang solving this old notorious murder, why wouldn’t I call the book Garden District Gothic, since it really is a Scotty title after all?
The murder was, of course, based on the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder that dominated the media and culture for so long back in the day. I just took the set-up of the story from that real-life case and started making up my own characters and backstories for them and went with it from there. The one thing that always bothered me the most about the case was the fact that people viewed the Ramsey family as speaking to the lawyers before calling the police as suspicious; no, it’s actually smart. Sure, it made them look “guilty” in the press (with all those headlines in the tabloids screaming this conclusively proves one of the family did it!!!! Who calls their lawyer first??? To which I again repeat, people who are fucking smart call their lawyer first. Period.), but it was the smart thing to do; someone had the presence of mind to realize that the most obvious suspects in the murder of a child are going to be the immediate family, and why–in a distraught state of grief over your child’s brutal murder–you would need to have a lawyer present when you’re being questioned by the police so you don’t say anything that could be misconstrued as an admission of guilt when you are not in fact guilty.
Always, always, always call the lawyers first. Always. If i have learned anything from my extensive reading of true crime and study of crime fiction, it is “never talk to the cops without a lawyer, especially if you are innocent.”
I was pleased with it when I was finished with it, but I’d kind of like to revise the ending a bit.
And of course, writing it left me with the decision of whether to reuse my Grande Dames of New Orleans reality show for the next Scotty book.
Yesterday I made a to-do list, and this odd sense of calm came down over all of my neuroses. Sure there’s a lot to be done and not much time to do it, but at least yesterday I felt like I could get it all done…now that I had made a list. I have a lot of writing to do, a lot of promotion to plan, and endless endless emails to send and reply to–and of course it’s football season and the heat is beginning to break a bit. I do like the fall, even though I don’t like it getting dark earlier.
I had to proof the galleys of an anthology I am in (just my story, fortunately) and it was quite an odd experience. I barely remembered anything about the story itself; I know how it came to be and how much money they offered me (seriously, y’all, I am very easy. Make me an offer) and I had a vague sense of what it was about, but I’d forgotten most of it, and I don’t really remember much of writing it, either. I know the anthology took a long time to come out, but the cover is lovely and they’ve done a really nice job of art on the interior of the book as well. It was interesting rereading the story, and weird–it’s very weird to not remember something you’ve written, but I guess I have finally reached that point in my life where I can’t remember everything I’ve written or said or done, for that matter–but it’s not bad. It was supposed to be a pulpy sort of story with a horror bent to it, and “A Whisper from the Graveyard” is what I came up with. They also had instructed us to “write something only a gay man can,” so I went back to 1994 or 1995 and had my big gay private eye hired to find a dead man the same day he finds out he is HIV positive. I’ve never written anything like that before; I’ve never written about HIV/AIDS, which is probably another one of those “I should write an essay about this so I can sort out all of my unresolved and long-buried traumas and fears and potential PTSD from those years” things–especially since I’ve worked as a sexual health counselor for the last fourteen years (my first four years I worked on research projects for NO/AIDS before becoming a counselor). I am also trying to address this in my novella “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which I hope to finish in the next year sometime.
I wasn’t terribly tired when I got home last night, and so I did the dishes and cooked dinner (so I would have something for lunch the rest of this week) before Paul and I settled in to watch Dahmer on Netflix (Paul came home all excited because “the new Star Wars show dropped!” and became even more excited when I replied, “And Dahmer dropped on Netflix”–Paul has long been fascinated by serial killers), which was really good and horribly disturbing; Evan Peters is fantastic as Dahmer, and Niecy Nash is golden in anything she does, but yeah–bleak and disturbing, and of course addicting. (When I get home tonight it’s this week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills before Paul gets home.) I slept well again last night, and since I had a productive day yesterday (finished pulling on some loose ends, even started working on the book again–Chapter Three is a mess, and I need to fix it before I can move on to Chapter Four and the rest of the story) and made some progress on my to-do list as well. Tonight I can come straight home from the office, and tomorrow of course is “I don’t have to get up at six Friday”, which is marvelous; one good thing about these “get-up-at-six” mornings is that it makes getting up at seven or eight seem almost vacation-like.
Yesterday’s post about erotica writing and my “sordid” past as a gay porn writer also set me to thinking about a lot of things about my past and my career and the direction it has gone. There’s probably a lot more to be said about it, definitely more to unpack, but I also really need to think some more about it and also, reread some of my earlier erotica writing. Revisiting my past works, as I have done a bit over the past few months, has been much more reassuring than worrisome; I had been concerned that the writing wouldn’t hold up or I would be appalled by its amateurishness or something, I don’t know (I don’t need a logical reason to be concerned about my work, really, especially when it’s old, published long ago work) but was pleasantly surprised to see it’s nowhere near as bad as I had convinced myself it was (it’s really a twisted and strange place here inside my head) and there’s always the possibility that I may have written something that could be seen as problematic by today’s standards…and, for the record, I do not think that is a bad thing; it simply means that culture and society continue to evolve to a place where past prejudices and bigotries are being overcome, albeit slowly, and hopefully we’ll gradually get to a place where no one is ever made to feel less than or that they are not welcomed or embraced in society. If that means periodic corrections, and acknowledging mistakes made in the not-so-distant past so be it. We are all learning more and more every day, and I certainly hope that neither my heart nor my compassion will ever become ossified and stop learning, growing and trying to be better.
So, on this glorious and unusual Thursday morning (because I am not walking around in a coma this morning waiting for the coffee to kick in, and I can also tell it’s humid outside this morning, yay), I am looking at the positives and looking forward to getting things stricken from that to-do list I made yesterday afternoon. I am looking forward to getting some writing done this evening, and some reading this weekend–I need to reread My Cousin Rachel so I don’t sound like a fricking moron on that podcast recording on Sunday morning–and maybe, just maybe, I can get my email inbox down to something that doesn’t make my heart sink and my soul diminish just by looking at it.
Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again probably tomorrow morning.
Yesterday morning when I got up my back felt like it was on the mend; it was still a bit painful and tight, but better than it had been the day before so I thought, oh thank you baby Jesus–there’s an end in sight. Unfortunately, as the day progresses it began to hurt more and more until the end of the day, when picking up my back pack was agonizing, as was the drive home. I immediately changed into my sweats (which was painful) and repaired to my easy chair. Scooter climbed into my lap and went to sleep immediately while I caught up on this week’s episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (which really deserves its own entry or an essay; the phenomenon of these shows fascinates me–which is probably why I explored it in Royal Street Reveillon) and then…I don’t remember much of the rest of the evening, really. Paul came home, gave me a pain killer, and I know we watched the final two episodes of Five Days at Memorial (which posed some pretty interesting ethical questions that I don’t know the answers to) and then another of Bad Sisters (which I really like) before collapsing into bed and praying that this morning would be the same as yesterday….
…for naught. The painkiller didn’t really help all that much (although I can see why the drugs with oxy in their name are so addictive) but made me comfortable–I was still aware of the pain, but it was slightly more bearable. Yesterday afternoon I made the right decision–I told my supervisor I was taking a personal day to let my back get better; all that getting up and sitting down yesterday was no help at all–and so I am literally going to spend the day sitting in my easy chair, slathered in generic Ben-Gay with the heating pad attached to my back.
Getting old really and truly sucks. But I do have some reading to get caught up on–I need to reread everything I am working on, I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel as I am being interviewed on a podcast about it and du Maurier in a couple of weeks (seriously, how fucking thrilling is that?) and of course, I want to read the new Donna Andrews. I never did make the to-do list I’ve been talking about on here all week–the back pain really is excruciating–so maybe I can gather everything around me that I need to get to today while sitting in the chair and letting highlights of old LSU games stream on Youtube in the background (oh yes, I rewatch highlights of old LSU games–only big wins, of course–and it always puts me in a better mood, and yes, I am aware how weird that actually is. Sue me.), and hopefully Scooter will sleep in my lap for most of the day. I need to order groceries for pick-up (and Costco for delivery) but I am a little worried about carrying everything into the Lost Apartment.
I also slept later than usual this morning; I’ve been feeling exhausted all week and figured the world wouldn’t end should I stay in bed for an extra hour or two. The good news is I do not feel tired this morning–I am so tired of feeling tired–but, of course, the back is aching. My desk chair feels much more comfortable than my work chairs, for some reason it just seems to fit my back better so it’s not painful to sit here. I cannot explain it, it makes absolutely no sense, but I am going to take advantage of that fact not only to try to get this entry written but do my reviews of Gabino Iglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home and Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden, both of which are SUPERB. (5 out of 5 stars, get copies NOW)
I’ve also realized I’ve not done much of a Bouchercon round-up–primarily because all of it was a blur, and maybe, just maybe, I hurt my back from laughing so hard for so long. A laughing injury! It is entirely possible, of course; I noted many times how much it hurt to laugh when I was in the midst of a laughing fit because of something hilarious someone said (I really do know the funniest people), and also all the standing; several times in the evening in the bar I noted that my back was getting sore–so naturally instead of sitting down or doing anything to baby it (because that would be admitting that I am too old to stand for long) I continued doing what made it hurt in the first place.
The uncomfortable airline seats on the flight home also did not help much in that regard.
So, that is the state of the Gregalicious this morning. I just made groceries for pick up tomorrow–I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it–and at some point tomorrow I’ll order Costco for delivery. But for now, I am going to take my heating pad and my aching back to my chair so I can chill for a bit.
As I get ready to write another Scotty book, I am busy making his acquaintance all over again. It might seem strange, but yes, although I’ve written eight books about my ex-go-go boy/personal trainer/private eye, it remains true in this as in all other aspects of my life that my memory is not what it once was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written a Scotty book since the first three without having to go back and revisit the series again. I have made continuity errors over the years (Scotty’s mother’s name changed over the course of the series, from Cecile to Marguerite and back to Cecile again), and I may forget things about his past and things I’ve written in previous books, but the one thing I never ever forget is his voice.
No matter what else is going on in my life, Scotty’s voice is very easy for me to slip back into, like a house shoe, and it somehow always feels like coming home to me in some ways. This is odd–because I would have always thought Chanse was the series character I was more connected to rather than Chanse, but that’s not the case at all. Scotty just won’t go away; but I ended the Chanse series and only every once in a while do I regret it (although I am beginning to suspect that I am going to probably end up writing another Chanse novel at some point in my life; I have two ideas that he’d be perfect for, but it also might be better and more challenging for me to simply come up with a whole new character for those stories rather than resurrecting Chanse); Scotty just won’t ever go away.
The idea for the Scotty series famously came to me during Southern Decadence, 1998.
(Well, I don’t know about famously, but I know I’ve told this story before many, many times. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to see how I remember the birth of the character and the series now)
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Paul and I had somehow managed to get prime balcony standing spots–at the Bourbon Pub/Parade, right at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon where the railing curves at the corner to head alongside the upper floor down the St. Ann side; so we could look down directly into the roiling mass of sweaty, almost completely naked bodies of hundreds of gay men from all over the country. That was my favorite spot for Decadence sight-seeing (Halloween, too, for that matter), and as I looked down into the crowd, I saw a guy in booty shorts and a very very loose fitting tank top, carrying a bag and trying to get through. I recognized him as one of the out-of-town dancers working at the Pub/Parade that weekend (I may have tipped him the night before) and as I watched in sympathy as he tried to get through that tightly-packed crowd of gays in various stages of being wasted, I closed my eyes and an image of him–or someone like him–fighting his way through the Decadence crowd while being chased by bad guys with shaved heads popped into my head just as Paul said, next to me, “You should really write a story set during Decadence” and then it popped into my head: someone escaping the bad guys has slipped a computer disc into one of the dancers’ boots on Friday night as he danced on the downstairs bar, and the bad guys want the disc back.
I didn’t have any way to write it down, obviously–I was wearing booty shorts, socks, and half-boots that came to my ankles, with nothing underneath the shorts and I had my tank top tucked through a belt loop like a tail in the back–yet even the title popped into my head: Bourbon Street Blues. The idea clearly stuck, because when I got home the next morning at about six or seven, dehydrated, drenched in sweat and having lost the tank top at some point during the night, I remembered it and wrote it down.
At some point over the next two years, I wrote a short story called “Bourbon Street Blues” about my stripper–only instead of being from out of town, I made him a local, filling in for someone booked from out of town for the weekend who had to cancel–and wrote about seven thousand words. It felt very rushed to me–the story–and I kept thinking it’s too long for a short story, it would have to be a novel but I also wasn’t sure there was enough story there for a novel. But I liked the idea, no one (at least, to the best of my knowledge) had written anything like it, and I thought, someday I’ll get a chance to write this story and develop this character.
Flash forward to 2001. This was during the time Paul and I had moved to DC to work for the Lambda Literary Foundation, we were miserable there and wanted to move back to New Orleans but didn’t have the money to do so, and the release of Murder in the Rue Dauphine was still at least a year away. I was talking to an editor on the phone about one of his new gay releases, and out of the blue I just pitched Bourbon Street Blues to him. He loved the idea, and asked me to write a proposal and email it to him. I had never written a proposal before, but I thought what the hell, how hard can it be? and so I wrote a two page proposal for the book. Two months later they made me a two-book offer–and the money was good enough to pay for Paul and I to move back to New Orleans as well as to live on for a while. I had only seen the book as a one-off, but they wanted a series. I needed and wanted the money, so I thought I can figure this out later and signed it.
Three months later, we moved back to New Orleans and I started writing the book.
The one thing I wanted to do with Scotty was make him unabashedly, unashamedly, gay. I didn’t want him to have any hang-ups, a sad backstory, or parental issues. I wanted him to be a free spirit who embraces life with both hands, lived in the Quarter, and loved having sex, loved being found desirable, and never really said anything or thought anything mean about anyone else. I made him a personal trainer, and his poverty–he agrees to do the dancing gig for Decadence because he’s behind on his rent and other bills; he teaches aerobics and was a personal trainer–comes from his grandparents freezing his trust funds when he dropped out of college to go to work for a booking agency for male dancers. He has since stopped doing that, but fills in when needed (and when he needs the money) at the Pub/Parade. I also based the shitty politician running for governor–and trying to mount a Christofascist takeover of the state, beginning with an attack on Southern Decadence–on an actual politician who ran for the US Senate shortly after we moved here; we saw him being interviewed on the news and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke, some kind of performance art–but forget it Greg, it’s Louisiana.
I also want to let you know that while I was working on this manuscript my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, was released–and I got a “damned with faint praise” review from the Bay Area Reporter, which complained that “it would have been nice to see inside the heads of the other characters”, which took me aback as the book was a first person narrative, which made that impossible. What the reviewer I think was trying to say was that she wished the book had been told in the third person; that to her that would have made the book more interesting to her. But in my baby-author naïveté, all I could think was how can you see inside the heads of other characters in a third person narrative unless the main character was psychic?And the proverbial lightbulb came on over my head. Make Scotty a psychic. This was also an integral key to the puzzle of who Scotty was; the reviewer also yawned over my “gay stereotypes” in Rue Dauphine, so I decided to make Scotty the embodiment of all the worst stereotypes of muscular gay men who worked out and had a lot of sex. Just writing that down now, I realize how incredibly insane it was for me to use my new series book and character to respond to criticism o my debut novel; and when the book came out I braced myself for the inevitable backlash to come.
No one was more surprised than I was at how readers embraced him. The book got great reviews, even from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (Kirkus, of course, has always pretended I don’t exist). Bourbon Street Blues was even nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery of 2003 (I lost, I think to John Morgan Wilson?) shortly after the sequel, Jackson Square Jazz, was released.
Jackson Square Jazz’s story was actually a recycled idea I had for a spin-off book for Chanse’s best friend Paige. The original concept was that someone would steal the Louisiana Purchase from the Cabildo–and somehow Paige stumbled onto the theft, and knew that the one on display currently there was a copy. (I was calling it, originally enough, Louisiana Purchase.) I decided to make that the basis of the second Scotty book. (This was inspired by a documentary I’d seen about the Cabildo fire of 1989–that may be the wrong date–and how the fire department tried saving everything in the museum before fighting the fire. I remembered how in the documentary they literally were placing historical objects and paintings against the fence at Jackson Square and thinking, anyone could have walked off with something during the fire…and my imagination immediately was off to the races.) Unfortunately, when I met with the museum director–whose actual first day on the job was the day of the fire–I found out that 1) the copy of the Louisiana Purchase at the Cabildo was actually only a replica and the original was stored in the weather-protected underground archive at the Library of Congress and 2) it was more than one page long–I’d imagined it was one large document like the Declaration of Independence; it is not. However–he also suggested I make the MacGuffin the Napoleon death mask–one of the three originals made when Napoleon died–and gave me some great backstory on it as well that I don’t remember if I used in the book or not; but it was a lot of fun talking to him (his name escapes me at the moment, alas) and was a great example of why it is important to actually do research and talk to people.
I also wanted to include figure skating–the working title for the book was Death Spiral, which the publisher made me change, asking for something alliterative, like Bourbon Street Blues–and so I decided to open the book with Scotty having a horrific hangover and then realizing someone was in the bed with him (it’s to this day one of my favorite book openings; what slutty gay man hasn’t been there?)…and then I remembered I’d introduced two love interests for Scotty in book one, and here he was in bed with someone else entirely. (The young man he woke up with was a figure skater in town to compete at Skate America, being held in the Smoothie King Arena.) I loved both of his love interests, and knew I was going to have to bring both of them back somehow, and then I was going to have to figure out which one he’d end up with. (Spoiler: I couldn’t decide, so he wound up with both of them.) I also threw in a ghost, a billionaire artifact collector, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. I turned in the book, along with a proposal for Book Three, in which I finally decided I was going to resolve the threeway relationship personal story, and that would be the end of the Scotty trilogy.
Man plans and God laughs. (Jackson Square Jazz was also nominated for a Lambda; I think this was the time I lost to Anthony Bidulka.)
Mardi Gras Mambo turned out to be an entire other kettle of fish.
I’m not entirely sure I remember exactly what the original plot of Mardi Gras Mambo was going to be, but I know it had to do with the Krewe of Iris (Scotty’s sister Rain belongs) and the book opened at the Iris parade on the Saturday morning before Fat Tuesday. It was due in June of 2004, and of course, I wasn’t nearly finished by the time Memorial Day rolled around, and was planning on asking for another month on the manuscript on the Tuesday after. Of course, that was the Memorial Day weekend when Paul was attacked and everything went to hell in my personal life. My publisher was incredibly kind; they took the book off schedule, told me to take care of Paul, and get the book done whenever I got the book done.
I started writing it again in January of 2005, shortly after I began keeping a blog in order to get me writing again. That was when the Christian/Virginia nonsense happened, and everything got derailed again. When I started writing the book again, I threw out everything except that first chapter at the Iris parade–which did wind up in the final book–and I do not recall what the second plot I chose to write was at this time, other than I knew I was bringing in a Russian character, inspired by someone I’d seen around in the bars for years and had always been just awestruck by his body–and yes, that Russian turned out to eventually be Wacky Russian, my personal trainer. I actually kept this as an inspiration–Eclipse used to be the nightlife insert for IMPACT News, a queer newspaper that died out in the early aughts:
Finally, it was April 2005, and I started writing Mardi Gras Mambo again. I had the plot all figured out–it was completely insane–but I also realized I couldn’t end the personal story with Scotty the way I had hoped and wrap it all up with Book Three. There had to be a Book 4, and so when I finished the book at last and turned it in, I included a proposal for a fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle–which was going to be set during an evacuation for a hurricane that missed New Orleans…I always thought it would be interesting to write a mystery story set during such an evacuation.
Of course, I turned the book into Kensington on August 14th, 2005. Fourteen days later, Paul, Skittle and I fled from New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina.
I wouldn’t come back for good until October 11. Paul didn’t come home until after Thanksgiving.
Of course, I wrote to my editor a day or so after the levee failure to say, well, I don’t think I can write that book I proposed now.
I didn’t see, for a very long time afterwards, how I could write another Scotty book–light, funny, zany–in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Then one day I was walking to work from where I’d parked my car and some people on bicycles came riding toward me. They smiled and waved and I smiled and waved back…and realized oh my God, that was Brad and Anjelina. Their house wasn’t far from my office–in fact, it was quite literally around the block from where Scotty lived–and I thought, you know, Brad kind of looks the way I describe Scotty–wouldn’t it be funny if someone tried to kill Scotty because he looked like a movie star who lived in his neighborhood? The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I started writing the proposal for Hollywood South Hustle when I got home from work that night. I was so certain they would take it that I started developing the characters and writing out a detailed synopsis…and they turned it down.
I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a marketing decision. Even if they signed the book immediately, it would still be another year before it would come out, and they felt by then Scotty’s audience was long gone, if it wasn’t already. It was disappointing, but right around the same time Alyson came back to me for a fourth Chanse book but they needed it right away–like within ten weeks–so I turned the Scotty story into Murder in the Rue Ursulines. I finished the book, turned it in, and figured the Scotty series was dead, alas.
Shortly thereafter, during the Gay Easter Parade an idea for a different Scotty book occurred to me . The parade was over and I was walking back to my car to drive home when I walked underneath a balcony…just as they started watering their plants. I got soaked–you can’t get mad, it happens in the Quarter periodically and it’s just one of those New Orleans things–and I thought, you really need to write about this. As I walked to the car, dripping, I pictured Scotty hurrying to catch a ride on his parents’ business’ float for the Easter Parade–and of course, he’d wear a white bikini, rabbit ears, and have a rabbit tail–when the exact same thing happened to him, only his bikini would become see-through when wet. By the time I’d driven home, I’d figured that the person on the balcony would be an old friend of his parents’, he’d invited Scotty in to dry off, and when Scotty was on his way home from the parade, the cops would be there because the friend had been murdered. Using The Moonstone as my inspiration, I came up with another MacGuffin story, a way for Colin to come back and explain everything that happened during Mardi Gras Mambo, and I had the perfect ending to Scotty’s story. I just didn’t have a publisher.
But Bold Strokes Books, a primarily lesbian publisher, had started doing books by and about gay men. I’d taken an erotica anthology to them when it was orphaned by the death of its original publisher, and so I wrote and asked if they wanted a Scotty story. They did, and thus Scotty came back to life one more time…and I figured that was the end of it. I wrapped up the personal story about the three-way relationship in a way that was organic and made sense; and I also added a new wrinkle to Scotty’s personal life: Frank’s late-in-life decision to become a professional wrestler. (One of the things we locals learned from Hurricane Katrina was to not put off following or chasing dreams or goals; my attitude thus became go for it and I started chasing down dreams I’d pushed to the side for years.) Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo were both nominated for Lambdas, but at this point I can’t remember who I lost to in both of those cases–for the record, Lambda has never rewarded a Scotty book with an award–probably because they are inevitably funny and over-the-top, which never wins awards because funny is seen as “not serious,” despite the fact that humor/comedy is much harder than drama/tragedy.
I didn’t think I was going to write another Scotty book then, either. But then something miraculous happened: the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and I wanted to write about what it was like to live here during that incredible time. It didn’t seem like the right story for another Chanse book, so I thought, well, I can pull Scotty back out and write it from his point of view.
And of course, Who Dat Whodunnit was just sitting there for the title. How could I not write that book?
I had already established over the course of the series that the two sides of his family–the Diderots (maternal) and the Bradleys (paternal) didn’t really get along. The Diderots go back to Iberville and the 1718 settling of New Orleans; the Bradleys were Americans who came after 1803, and thus are not only parvenus to the aristocratic Diderots, but also l’Américains. Perish the thought! We’d also established that the Diderots were not nearly as conservative as their State Street living in-laws, but we’d never actually seen much of the Bradley side of the family, so I thought why not do the Bradleys and let us get to know the other side of Scotty’s family? It was around the same time I started reading about a megachurch out in Kenner (or Metairie? I don’t recall) that was rising to prominence in local politics and was, as you can imagine, homophobic. The same-sex marriage wars were also being fought at this time; and during one of those pageants (Miss America? Miss USA?) the reigning Miss California was asked about same-sex marriage during the question portion by judge Perez Hilton (why was he judging a beauty pageant for women is a mystery for the ages) and she responded that her faith had taught her that marriage was between a man and a woman (the audience started jeering) and she apologized by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s how I was raised!” She wound up as First Runner-Up, and some felt, rightly or wrongly, that her “politically incorrect” answer cost her the title. In some ways, I felt bad for her (although it’s not my fault it’s how I was raised I have always thought was an incredibly stupid thing to say; you have free will, and you should be capable of making up your own mind rather than simply parroting things without question you were raised to believe. So if your parents were racist white supremacists…) but then of course, the Right tried to turn her into a martyr and heroine, and she dove right into that headfirst, erasing any sympathy I might have felt for her (I still think the question was inappropriate for a pageant, as would be anything polarizing–and yes, well aware that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be polarizing, but here we are), and of course, Miss Upright Moral Christian had a bit of a shady past that eventually came out and that was that. I decided to base the murder victim in the book on this girl, and tried to explore the influence of this megachurch on her. I also gave Scotty a first cousin who was the darling of the Bradley grandparents because he was a jock and was on the Saints team as a player–but also a homophobic asshole. The Bradleys were like something out of Tennessee Williams–I think I even named Scotty’s uncle (the football player’s dad) Uncle Skipper as an homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
There’s a lot of story there left in the Bradley side of the family, now that I think about it–and I’ll be digging into that in the new one, rest assured!
Funny story: After I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit, I decided I was not going to write another Scotty book. This had been Book 5 of what started as a stand-alone and then became a trilogy and yet somehow, I’d kept going on top of that. I kind of felt played out a bit with Scotty, and the longer the series went on, the more problems I was having with things like character ages–Scotty was getting older, which meant his parents were getting older, which meant his grandparents were getting older, too. I didn’t want to deal with the deaths of his grandparents (or Aunt Sylvia, who was his grandmother’s age and had married Uncle Misha), and so I had two options: pretend they weren’t getting older and not talk about their ages, or let the series go. I was still writing Chanse at the time, and I kind of figured that would be the series that went on longer. But I was on a panel at Saints and Sinners and someone from the audience asked me if there would be another Scotty.
GREG: Probably not, but if I can figure out a way to include Mike the Tiger (the live tiger mascot at LSU), Huey Long, and a treasure hunt for Huey’s deduct box, I will.
(I had read T. Harry Williams’ award winning biography Huey Long and had become fascinated completely with him. All I had known about Long going into reading that biography was that he’d been a demagogue (thanks, US History textbook from high school) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men had been loosely based on his life and career. Mention Long’s name to anyone and they immediately reply with “oh, he was so corrupt”–which amused me, since every Louisiana politician is corrupt to a degree–and I knew Roosevelt and others had worried about him as a populist politician who reminded them of Hitler (and the way he crushed his opposition in Louisiana and essentially became the state’s dictator, who could blame them?), but what was the real story? And Huey Long made me start to have what was at first a grudging admiration for him which grew into a kind of fandom the more I learned. (There are some similarities–more than one would think–between Long and LBJ in the Caro biographies, as well as with Robert Moses, another Caro biography; which would make for a very interesting comparison/contract essay at some point.) But the more I read about Long, the more I wanted to write about him. He fascinated me, and the fact that his trove of cash–the deduct box–was never recovered after his murder was even more fascinating to me.)
And don’t you know, later that night, it came to me. A few months earlier there had been a bomb threat at the LSU campus, and there had been some controversy about how the administration had handled the situation–they’d evacuated Mike the Tiger off the campus before the mass evacuation call for the students. It made sense to me (but I didn’t blame the students for being upset because it absolutely looked like the administration cared more about the tiger’s safety than the students’)–in the chaos of evacuating the campus, getting the tiger out safely would have been a nightmare, and God forbid something happen and Mike got loose. Then it hit me: what if some animal rights’ activists had staged the bomb threat in order to steal the tiger in order to set him free somewhere? (Mike is a frequent target of PETA, who often calls for him to be released into the wild–not in the US, of course–, or sent to a big cat sanctuary.) So, I had the tiger kidnapped, and since Huey Long was responsible for LSU being what it is today, it only made sense for the treasure hunt to have to do with his missing “deduct box”–Huey always used cash, after his assassination the deduct box containing thousands and thousands of dollars in cash disappeared–and there we had it: a plot involving Mike the Tiger, Huey Long, and the deduct box.
This was also the book where I decided to extend Scotty’s family a bit further by adding a new, younger gay character to the mix: Taylor, Frank’s nephew, disowned by Frank’s sister and her homophobic husband after he comes out to them after a semester in Paris, and so he comes to live with Scotty and the boys in the house on Decatur Street. I wanted to bring in someone younger, and gay, with literally hardly any gay experience in the world to reflect the change between generations of gay men and how they view being gay and the rest of the world.
I also figured this would be the last one, but like I said, Scotty just won’t go away.
SIDENOTE: I had to write to the administrators of the Huey Long website for permission to use some quotes from the site in the book. Needless to say, they were very wary of me when they responded, so I emailed them the chapter where I would use the quotes–Scotty was doing some research on Long, and came across the website. Like me, Scotty had always been told Long was corrupt and a demagogue…but demagogues also don’t get things done, which Long did. Some of Long’s programs–like the Homestead Exemption–still exist as public policy in Louisiana. They wrote me back, granting permission…and that was when I found out the person I was talking to was Long’s great-granddaughter, who was rightfully suspicious of anyone writing about her great-grandfather. I sent her a copy of the book when it was finished, and she sent me a lovely thank you card, which is probably one of my favorite writing souvenirs.
The genesis of Garden District Gothic was weird, but yet serves as yet another example of my adage never throw anything you’ve written away.
I had always wanted to spin Chanse’s best friend, journalist Paige Tourneur, off into her own series. I had always intended to do so; from the first time I thought her up for Murder in the Rue Dauphine I thought, “she’s fun and witty and interesting and that weird name–there’s so much more story there than we can get to as a supporting player in a series about someone else.” I have so much written down about Paige and her origin story; how she came up with that name and why; how she wound up at LSU; and so on and so forth. A friend started an ebook publishing company, and wanted me to write Paige novellas for her; I did two–Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans–but the sales, frankly, weren’t there and I didn’t have the necessary time to put in marketing them to help drive the sales, so even though I’d started a third, The Mad Catter, we agreed to kill the series and pull the first two from availability; ultimately, I was working too hard for too little pay-off. I was disappointed, obviously; Paige was kind of a passion project for me–I’d made any number of false starts writing a series book for her, and it was sad to see that there wasn’t an audience for her after all. But I had about four chapters of The Mad Catter in place, and I didn’t want to waste the time spent on them…so I decided to turn them into a Scotty book, which became Garden District Gothic.
I also brought in a new character–a true crime writer with a shady past of his own–who actually wrote a book, a la Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the case. The name of his book? Garden District Gothic. I brought him in, thinking I would spin him off into his own book/series–I thought it might be fun to write about a writer…(I thought about using him as the main character in another book based on an actual unsolved string of murders in a rural Louisiana parish, but very quickly realized he was simply an amalgamation of Scotty and Chanse, so that book–The Bodies in the Bayou–went onto the backburner. I think I may have created the character before, in the Chanse series, but I could be remembering that wrong. I also used this book to sort of set up the next; I will explain that further when I am talking about Royal Street Reveillon. I also crossed the character of Paige Tourneur over from the Chanse series into the Scotty series (I loved the character, hated to sideline her after I ended the Chanse series and the novella series didn’t pan out); not that she will be a big part of the Scotty series, but hey, every so often I need a journalist, and why not use a character I am very fond of already and wasn’t ready to stop writing about?
The book was loosely based, obviously, on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case–a decades old notorious murder of a child in the Garden District that was never solved. I wanted to examine and explore issues of class in New Orleans, but I am not entirely sure I pulled off what I intended with the book.
Then again, I think that with every book, don’t I?
And we now come to the (so far) most recent book of the Scotty series, Royal Street Reveillon.
Originally I’d envisioned the Scotty trilogy (when it morphed from a stand-alone) as encompassing the three big gay holidays in New Orleans: Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. Jackson Square Jazz wound up taking place just before Halloween, alas; Scotty talks about their costumes in the epilogue, but I hit the other two holidays out of the park. When I added a fourth book, I tied it to the Gay Easter Parade–Scotty is on his way to ride on the Devil’s Weed’s float when the book opened–and then of course the next book was sort of Christmas/sort of Mardi Gras/sort of the Super Bowl. Baton Rouge Bingo was the first book that wasn’t tied to a holiday of some sort; neither was Garden District Gothic. But for the next Scotty book, I wanted to do a Christmas book. I’ve never really written much about Christmas, and I do love the season, especially in New Orleans. I wasn’t sure what kind of plot I was going to use, but I knew it was going to be set during Christmas season and I knew I wanted to use reveillon, the Christmas season meal you use to break your fast for Mass, in the title. I had introduced one of the characters from Dead Housewives of New Orleans in Garden District Gothic, so it only made sense to me (or so it seemed at the time) for me to take the framework of Dead Housewives–the entire Real Housewives spoof I wanted to write–and build this new story around it. I changed a lot–made the overarching story much more complicated, and especially complicating the “whodunnit” aspects of the three murders that all occurred within twenty-four hours of the premiere party for Grande Dames of New Orleans.
I also did a couple of horrible things to Scotty and his loved ones over the course of this book…which will have to be dealt with in the new one, alas. I hate when I do this to myself! But with Royal Street Reveillon and its darker themes, I wanted to show how much Scotty has grown and changed over the course of the series; he’s evolved as a person, partly because of the changes to his life and partly because of what he experiences through the murders he finds himself involved in. Do I wish, as I start writing Mississippi River Mischief, that maybe I hadn’t given so many growth opportunities over the years to Scotty and his gang of family and friends? Absolutely. But that’s part of the challenge of writing a series, and what makes it so much fun.
*Funny story about the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues. Back in the day, publishers used to meet with reps from Barnes & Noble and Borders to show them covers and get their input; covers were changed based on those meetings. The Bourbon Street Blues cover was so in-your-face it took me aback when I first saw it; and they had toned the original image down dramatically, mainly smoothing down the bulge so it wasn’t so in-your-face. The Barnes & Noble buyer told them, “he needs a bigger bulge” so they made it bigger–but were still cautious; the image’s original bulge was still bigger. I do think that story is hilarious.
Friday. I am taking a personal day today so I can try to get caught up on some things that slid while I was gone and haven’t had the chance to do anything about. I have to head out to Metairie to pick up my new glasses, have another errand to run out there, and also have a prescription to pick up at some point. I also have to make groceries and go to Costco sometime soon; maybe today, maybe not. We’re supposed to get a lot of rain this weekend–it’s summer in New Orleans: hot, humid, chance of rain–and am thus hoping that I’ll be able to not only get a lot done but be able to read cozily under a blanket while listening to the rain in the background. I slept very well last night, and am just going to do some mild stuff around here before it’s time to go run the errands and get back home to firmly set nose to grindstone. I feel very well rested this morning, despite getting up before eight (I actually woke up at five, but was easily persuaded into going back to sleep for a few more hours), and am looking forward to a restful if productive weekend.
I was a little surprised to see that the last two episodes of Stranger Things are much longer than the previous ones; the series/season finale is two and a half hours long. So we watched the one and a half hour second-to-last episode before switching over to this week’s Loot. I guess we’ll finish watching Stranger Things tonight, but it was disappointing; I thought for sure we’d be able to finish it last night. Why do the last two episodes total four hours of viewing? It doesn’t make much sense to me, and again, I was rather disappointed, primarily because I am really enjoying this season and am looking forward to finishing the series. On the other hand, watching the series finale will take up all of our television time this evening, so we won’t have to make a decision about what else to watch tonight at any rate. Conundrums a’plenty here, aren’t there?
I also want to finish Rob Osler’s book Devil’s Chew Toy, which is charming but I’ve been too drained to look at this week. I’m not sure what I am going to read next–I have so many options, all of them good–and of course today I have to polish a short story since the anthology closes for submissions at midnight. I’d like to get the copy edits for the Bouchercon anthology out of the way once and for all–a goal for the weekend–and I am thinking perhaps for my next read I might read something horror rather than mystery; I can’t really decide and as usual, will actually go ahead and decide once I’ve finished the current read and see what appeals to me. I have such a plethora of riches here in the massive TBR stacks and piles it’s not even funny. (I am also resisting the urge to buy more books, doing which would not be a good thing. A lot of really good books are dropping right now, but I have to be strong and hold firm.) I think when I get home from my errands today I may just curl up in my easy chair and finish the book. I don’t want to give the impression I am not enjoying it; my brain is often fried after I get off work and do some writing and/or editing once I get home and all I am good for is watching something mindless, like Real Housewives’ Ultimate Girls’ Trip, which has been highly entertaining so far, until Paul gets home.
I also need to pick out a Tennessee Williams quote for the opening of Mississippi River Mischief.
I’m not very exciting or interesting this morning, am I? Sorry about that, I think my brain didn’t reset over night or something; it feels rather intellectually burnt out, if that makes any sense. It’s okay, most of anything that I’ll be doing today doesn’t really require my creative brain but rather the editorial side, yet it would be nice to get some new writing done–on the other hand, I am going to be out running around in the heat today, which is going to be tiring and exhausting and probably by the time I get home from it all, I’m just going to want to collapse into my chair and read, which is also fine. A very important rule for being a writer is to also be a voracious reader, and I’ve not exactly been voracious in a while. I didn’t read hardly at all, for example, at Sleuthfest–but on the other hand I was also doing a lot there and not sleeping well. (I also didn’t write much while I was there; I did get some writing done in the mornings but it literally wasn’t a good writing weekend for me, either.)
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Another cup of coffee, another load of laundry, and some cleaning are in order for the next hour or so. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader!