Save Me a Place

Oddly enough, as I sat in my easy chair the other day watching college football games and letting my body and mind and creativity rest, I had an idea for either a stand alone book or a new series, one way or the other, and it’s something I find interesting enough that I might even consider it. It would be a difficult proposition, to be sure–given the decline in retail sales and everything going to an on-line and electronic model–but I was looking at a map of New Orleans on my iPad because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Tulane’s not-so-new-anymore on-campus football stadium was; so I pulled up a map to look because I was thinking that was a great line for a Scotty book–I always forget there’s a football stadium in Uptown-so of course I had to go looking for it. The map also brought up businesses in the area and lo and behold, there’s a comic book shop uptown on the lake side of Claiborne and it hit me: no one has ever done a cozy series about a comic book shop and that opened up an entire world of possibilities for me: the main character is an aspiring comic book artist who works in the shop, and of course, you can get into the whole thing about who actually is into comics and the history of comic books and it would give me an excuse to actually learn more about comics and their history and…

You see how this ends up going, don’t you?

I know any number of comics geeks–Alex Segura Jr, author of this year’s brilliant Secret Identity, about the business side of producing comics, is one–and one of my best friends from college owns a comic book shop in central California, or did at some point–and of course my neighbor Michael is also heavily into comics, having gone to Comic Con in San Diego, even. And of course I’d get to make up shit, which is always a huge plus for me. I love making up shit! And of course, it would be fun to write from the point of view of a struggling artist.

I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about that…

The Saints played terribly yesterday and logged another “L” in the record book (how bad are the Falcons?) yesterday; I didn’t watch but rather followed on Twitter while I did things around the house. The Saints games sometimes cause me too much stress and then I am emotionally exhausted afterwards–too drained to be of much use, so sometimes I just follow it on Twitter or it’ll be on in the living room while I work in the kitchen. I did get the Costco delivery yesterday, and should probably run some errands at some point today, but it is Work-at-Home Monday and I have work I have to get done. I am behind still from the Bouchercon trip and the ensuing back injury, but am hopeful I will start getting caught up somewhat soon. Emails beget emails, though, and therefore that is a sisyphean task indeed.

We watched the new Star Wars show Andor last night, and I am so happy Deigo Luna’s character is getting an origin story. So far, the only show they’ve done I didn’t buy into completely was The Book of Boba Fett, and am thinking maybe we should give that another try at some point. After those three episodes we moved on to The Serpent Queen and American Gigolo, which I think we’re going to give up on. I love Jon Bernthal, but I’m just not buying this story for the character. It’s an interesting idea–and full props to them for turning it into a sequel series in which Julian actually goes to jail for the murder he was accused of committing in the film, but I’m just not really getting vested into the show, either, no matter how much I want to. The Serpent Queen remains fantastic, and gets better with each episode as Catherine explains to her new maid her philosophy of survival, illustrated with scenes from her past. Samantha Morton is fantastic as the older queen and the actress who plays her as a young woman is also equally good. But it’s a period of history I particularly love, and of course, Catherine de Medici is one of the most fascinatingly complex women to hold power in history. The reality of her life was dramatic enough to drive a series, and they’ve done a pretty decent job of following the actual history, with some adjustments here and there.

Also keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ian, which seems to have Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly in its sights. We are just outside the Cone of Uncertainty, which doesn’t mean we’re safe–there could always be another westward shift to the potential path–but I do concern myself with Florida and friends there. I don’t remember the last time Tampa took a direct hit; I don’t think they have in quite some time, and I can imagine a storm surge into the bay and into the rivers that drain into it would be enormously problematic for the city–as well as for Clearwater and St. Petersburg on the peninsula on the other side of the bay. Stay safe, people.

My podcast interview about Daphne du Maurier, with a particular emphasis on My Cousin Rachel, went really well. It was for my friend Ricky Grove, whom I know from my days in the Horror Writers Association and when I put on World Horror Con back in the day here in New Orleans (he is the author Lisa Morton’s partner–have you read Lisa? You should read Lisa). I can talk about du Maurier all day, and we did continue talking for at least another hour after we stopped recording; I do love to talk books and writing, after all, with the end result that I felt horribly drained when it was over. Ah, yes, the age-old problem of the introvert having to be an extrovert on a day when he usually doesn’t have to do anything of the kind. I retired to my easy chair, but found the draining of my energy to have been far too effective for me to focus clearly on anything. I did do another blog entry about my work–this time my Todd Gregory erotic novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, while starting others about Baton Rouge Bingo and the second Todd Gregory book (Games Frat Boys Play)–but when I tried to work on the book or anything else (including trying to read) I couldn’t get anything done so finally gave up and made myself useful around the house. Hopefully after an eyes-crossing day of data entry and quality assurance on testing logs, I’ll be able to dive back into the Scotty book. I know I am procrastinating with Chapter Three and should probably just stop worrying about it and move on, but that’s just not how my creativity works. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay, the stress of being behind will come in handy as December 1 draws ever more near.

Or so I tell myself.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Hope you have a marvelous and lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Who Dat Whodunnit

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

I am a very proud member of Who Dat Nation, and have been since we moved here in 1996. I never really paid a lot of attention to the NFL before moving to New Orleans; I vaguely was aware of who was good and who wasn’t–and I knew very certainly that the Saints had routinely been one of the worst football teams, consistently, in the league since they were formed in 1966. You couldn’t not be aware of how hopelessly bad the Saints were, year in and year out. I always root for underdogs–a particularly American trait, I might add, which is another good essay topic (how we always root for underdogs, especially in our entertainment–film, television, books–but in the real world we either look the other way or actually pile-on. We all feel bad for poor bullied Carrie White in Stephen King’s Carrie and hate the cruel kids…but how many of us ever stood up for some kid being bullied in school? My experience as the bullied is NONE.)–and so I always wanted to see the Saints somehow turn their program around. Paul and I always watched the games–or had them on–when they aired; there were many times the games were blacked out locally because they didn’t sell out the Superdome.

Three things were inevitable in New Orleans: hot summers, termites in the spring, and the Saints would suck in the fall. When we first moved to Louisiana LSU was also in a downturn slump; some seasons they’d win, some they’d lose, but they were rarely, if ever, in contention for the conference title. I had a Saints ball cap and a Saints T-shirt, of course, but I was an idle fan of theirs for a very long time.

As with so many other things, my attitude towards the Saints was completely changed by Hurricane Katrina.

It was the best of times.

It was the craziest of times.

Well, what it really had to be was the end times, which was the only logical explanation for what was going on in the city of New Orleans.

Pigs grew wings and nested in the branches of the beautiful love oaks everywhere in the city. Some thought the pilot light in hell had gone out, so that icicles hung from the noses of shivering demons in the realm of the dark lord. Others started watching the horizon for the arrival of the Four Horsemen, for surely the Apocalypse must be coming. Surely the earth was tilting on its axis. Maybe aliens would land in Audubon Park, or the Mississippi River would start flowing backward.

Anything and everything was possible, because the Saints were winning.

GEAUX SAINTS!

People who don’t live in the South don’t really understand how important football is down here. Football is more than a religion in the Deep South. I’m not sure what it is–my mom claims it’s because the South lost the Civil War–but it’s true. On Saturdays, when the colleges play their games, the entire region comes to a complete halt. People live and die by their teams–whether it’s LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia or Tennessee–and how they face on Saturday. I myself grew up cheering for the LSU Tigers–even though attending Vanderbilt was a family tradition on my mother’s side. Whenever Papa Fontenot gives me crap for dropping (well, flunking is probably a more accurate word) out after my sophomore year, I give him a withering look and reply, “Maybe I’d have done better at LSU.

That always shuts him up.

I don’t think even the Saints organization knew how much the team actually meant to New Orleans until they tried to move the team after Katrina.

Everyone knows the Superdome was damaged by Katrina and the aftermath. I’ll never forget driving back into the city in either late September or early October and seeing it as I came around that curve in I-10 just past Metairie Road and the cemeteries; I wrote in Murder in the Rue Chartres that it resembled a half-peeled hard-boiled egg. One of the saddest things for me about seeing the wreckage of the Lost Apartment was finding my beloved Saints ball-cap lying on the rug in the living room and consumed by black mold. It seemed so symbolic of everything that had happened to us and our city.

Obviously, the Saints had nowhere to play home games and arrangements had to be made. Some games were played at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, others in San Antonio–and San Antonio made it very clear they would be more than happy to give them a permanent home.

It felt like the Saints organization was not only stabbing New Orleans in the back, but the entire state. I know I took it very personally; the city had supported and loved that team through decades of mediocrity if not outright suckage, and now when the city is at its lowest point, they’re going to move to San Antonio? But the NFL wasn’t having it–Tom Benson always made it seem like it was his decision, but the NFL was committed to New Orleans and wouldn’t let the Saints leave. The Dome was renovated and fixed in record time; the season tickets for 2006 sold out for the first time in years, and the new Saints–with our new coach and quarterback–debuted on Monday night football against the hated Atlanta Falcons. I wasn’t even aware of it, I was paying so little attention to everything going on around the country and world, to be honest. I ran my errands that day and noticed Saints flags were everywhere and people were wearing Saints jerseys and there was this strange sense of excitement in the air. Paul and I were living in the carriage house and we only had this tiny little black-and-white television, but we watched that night. And when Steve Gleason blocked that punt and the Saints recovered in the end zone–we both cried as we jumped up and down and screamed. (Everyone remembers the punt, but the entire game was amazing from beginning to end.) People call the blocked punt “the moment Louisiana healed,” and maybe they were right about that…but all I knew was for the first time in over a year we had something to be excited about, cheer about, and be proud of–and the Saints made it all the way to the NFC title game, so close to making it to the promised land of the Super Bowl.

I’ve been a rabid Who Dat ever since (2005 I also switched my first college allegiance from Auburn to LSU, but that’s a story for another time.).

And that magical season when the Saints not only went to, but won the Super Bowl? I had to write about it. I had never lived in a city that won a championship before, and let me tell you–it was insane in New Orleans that season, insane–as were the play-offs and the Super Bowl. I cried when Tracy Porter picked off Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter and ran it back for a touchdown to ice the game, and I cried again when the clock ticked to zero and the impossible had finally happened: the Saints had won the Super Bowl. It was so noisy that night; cars were honking their horns all night long, the streetcars rang their bells non-stop, and people were just chanting and cheering all over the city. We could hear the crowd at the bar on the corner, we could hear our neighbors, it was just insane and celebratory. Paul and I to this day have regretted not getting dressed and heading down to the Quarter to see it all; when will that ever happen again? The Saint may win a Super Bowl again, but it will never be the first time ever again.

I remember later that spring a friend asked if I thought the Saints would be good again the next year, and I just smiled. “I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is we finally won the Super Bowl and I can die happy, and I think a lot of us feel that way.”

The Saints are New Orleans, and New Orleans is the Saints. (I also am a little disappointed in myself for forgetting that A Streetcar Named Murder is actually set during football season; I didn’t mention it once and that’s a significant flaw in the book, honestly.)

So I decided to write another Scotty book, set it in that period between the Saints winning the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl so I could document that time, and I also decided to bring the other side of his family–the Bradleys–into the mix and give him a cousin who actually was on the Saints team and kind of a dick.

It was around this time, when I was planning or writing the book, that same-sex marriage was in the news a lot. Several suits were winding their way through the courts, and public opinion–thoroughly anti-queer in 2004 when it was on the ballot on a lot of states–was starting to swing back the other way. There was an incident at a beauty pageant when Miss California (her name escapes me now) was asked by Perez Hilton (who shouldn’t be judging anything, frankly) about same-sex marriage. She had to say she was against it, and even apologized, saying “I’m sorry, it’s how I was raised!” as the crowd began booing and jeering. She didn’t win, and I actually felt like it was kind of a shitty question to ask, but on the other hand, California had passed Prop 8 in 2008 (which was kind of the catalyst for the public opinion change, I believe). I also have always believed the old “it’s how I was raised” is a copout for bad or unpopular opinions–most white people are raised racist, after all–and questioning and reevaluating values and beliefs you were raised with is part of the maturation process of becoming your own person. But I was willing to cut her a break–she was young, it was a “gotcha’ kind of question, and kind of unfair–until she doubled down and decided to became the Patron Saint of Homophobia, following in the pumps of another runner-up pageant queen who became the face of hate and bigotry, wrapping it all up in religion and “concern for children”: yep, the hateful old bitch Anita Bryant herself, may she burn in hell for all eternity. She didn’t last long–its hard to paint yourself as a martyr for family values when you’ve been caught sexting (and recording yourself masturbating to send your man–and that was the end of that. I decided to make the reigning Miss Louisiana a homophobe who got that question at Nationals and is now dating Scotty’s cousin the Saints player–and he brings her to Christmas, with the end result that she gets slugged by Scotty’s mother and their family storms out.

And the night the Saints win the NFC championship, she’s murdered.

It was fun because I got to involve a megachurch in Jefferson Parish (there actually is one), and a sordid history of her own that the beauty queen was keeping secret for her own reasons–(coughs LESBIAN coughs) and even got to bring some more past characters back into the mix, like Emily who worked at the Devil’s Weed, and I had a lot of fun with this look into the other side of Scotty’s family (the one I am working on now also deals with another branch of relatives).

And I got to write about the Saints winning the Super Bowl, which was even more awesome. This was the book where I really thought I was done with Scotty. The year after it came out, at the next Saints and Sinners, was when I was asked if I would do another Scotty book; this was when I made my famous reply, “if I can figure out a way to include Mike the LSU Tiger, Huey Long, and his deduct box into a book, I will write another Scotty book.”

Of course, later that night it hit me like a 2 by 4 across the forehead, and I made some notes that eventually became Baton Rouge Bingo.

Over & Over

Monday morning and I slept really well again. I feel rested this morning; but then a weekend of pain killers and muscle relaxers will do that for you. But I do feel better than I have since getting home from Minneapolis this morning, so that’s a start. My back still hurts but it’s bearable–this morning it feels like I simply slept on it wrong rather than making my wince and my eyes water every time I move. I also realized yesterday that if I did everything with proper posture, my back didn’t hurt…you know, doing things the way you’re supposed to–i.e. not bending at the waist to pick something up but rather using my legs, keeping my head erect instead of leaning forward, sitting back in chairs etc. I also did, in addition to the drugs, the alternating heat/cold thing with it, and so I think as long as I don’t do anything particularly stupid in the meantime it’ll keep getting better.

And I should always use good posture and do things properly anyway. Lesson learned.

I did manage to get all the dishes done and put away yesterday, which is lovely. I have a couple of errands to run today–mail, minor groceries, a prescription–but I think the right plan is to do my data entry while doing my heat/cold with my back, and at some point try to do some stretching. I believe my hips and quadriceps have been taking pressure off my back when I walk and do things, which is why they’ve been exhausted for the last few days as well. I don’t know how to avoid this happening again when I travel, but I think it does have more to do with all the standing and laughing–a laughing injury!–than anything else, as I didn’t have the same issues other times I’ve traveled. We did watch the Saints lose yesterday, and then, in my drug-addled state I rewatched the LSU game when it was rebroadcast on SEC Network yesterday, before we watched American Gigolo, House of the Dragon and The Serpent Queen. I wasn’t sure about American Gigolo, because no matter how much I love John Bernthal I just couldn’t see him taking over from Richard Gere, but he did a great job and the second episode really takes the show off–the first is merely set-up and back story, which is why you should always give a show two episodes before deciding to stop watching unless the first episode is so incredibly bad you can’t put yourself through a second (although I will confess to being wrong about Outer Banks, which I found out thanks to the Holmses). Of the three, I believe The Serpent Queen is the best (because you really can’t go wrong with Catherine de Medici; her story alone is dramatic enough for a series), even though they aren’t capturing Diane de Poitiers correctly (Diane was a lot smarter then they are making her out to be, and she was never Catherine’s enemy for the simple reason she preferred Henri to be married to someone he could tolerate but was no threat to her); but I believe the audience wouldn’t get the nuance and sophistication of the game Diane played in reality.

I did start reading Donna Andrews’ Round Up the Usual Peacocks yesterday before I had to start taking meds for my back, and it’s as charming as her books always are. I didn’t get as far as I would have liked because my back’s need for attention by the time the Saints game started could no longer be ignored; and I started reading Daphne du Maurier’s novella “A Border-Line Case” during my brief lucid moments (because it was shorter). It’s an interesting story and one that I will most likely have to start over again in order to get a real reading of it accomplished, but du Maurier is such a genius with mood and her language usage that reading her is akin to getting drunk on the words.

Reading du Maurier is, of course, one of those things that make me wonder why I bother, or what I am trying to do with my work–and she used a typewriter. I can never get past that with writers of the past–that they wrote either first in long-hand or all along on the typewriter–but regardless, it always had to be typed. (Even using Word I make typos on a regular basis and they are far easier to correct on a computer document than they are on onion-skin or bond paper….which makes me think about how Misery couldn’t work today, because Paul would have to be a crank who still used a typewriter instead of a laptop and…you get the picture.)

So, today I hope to start digging out from under. I had never really caught up on everything after Bouchercon (primarily because I’ve been in so much pain since I got home) and so now today I must assess the damage and try to figure out how to get back on the horse I’ve fallen from. I didn’t intend to lose two weeks to Bouchercon but here we are, almost to the end of September and another month of 2022 gone before I knew it and a deadline taking aim at the bull’s eye squarely affixed to the center of my forehead. The house is a mess (as always) and I have a lot of data entry to get done today before venturing out to run the afore-mentioned errands; I also don’t know where I am at financially and need to figure out what bills are left to be paid and so forth. I also need to get this messy house under some sort of control, and I only have so much time every day to deal with these things. Once my back is better, I’m going to start easing back into the gym as well–what better way to get in shape for conferences than being in better physical condition and perhaps dropping some of this extra weight? My blood sugar was surprisingly high the last time I fasted for blood work, which isn’t great–so perhaps the exercise and shift in diet I’ve been avoiding for quite some time has finally reached the point where it’s unavoidable anymore. My natural inclination to laziness doesn’t help matters much in this regard either, but I just have to remember how much I enjoy how I feel after I’ve worked out to help motivate me to get started again. This back shit is a motivator too; if I can keep my back stretched and strengthen my core, I’ll never lose a week to back pain again.

And so, that is the state of the Gregalicious this morning: hopeful, rested, and hoping the sheer amount of work I am behind on won’t send me into a corner whimpering. I am heading into the spice mines, and I shall see you on the other side, Constant Reader.

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Silver Springs

My back still hurts today, and while at the moment it’s better than it was yesterday…it’s always best when I get up in the morning, so I don’t know how the rest of today is going to go. I have to go pick-up the groceries I ordered yesterday–which has me nervous–and I’ve even decided to wait on ordering Costco until tomorrow or Work-At-Home Monday. I was hoping it would be okay enough for me to be able to at least spend a few hours at the computer this morning writing; but taking yesterday off to just lie flat while alternating heat and cold (thank you, Eric Andrews-Katz, for reminding me to do that yesterday and not just use heating pads and generic Ben-Gay; I will be doing that today as well)was enormously helpful in the healing process. I was also taking pain killers yesterday to make myself more comfortable, and by the end of the day yesterday I felt–I really don’t know how to describe it, but I felt like all of my muscles and joints needed to be stretched, so I started doing that in my chair and it felt ever so much better before I went to bed last night. I didn’t read much of anything because the pain killers were fogging up my brain something terrible; but I did get my three-ring binders containing everything I am currently working on out to reread where I am at on everything. Scotty’s Chapter Three needs a revision (or a re-ordering of its scenes) to match up to the changes I made on the first two chapters; I know where this story is going now and I really like the decisions I made before Bouchercon to turn this into something worthy of a Scotty novel. Today, other than the making of the grocieries, is going to be mostly me doing the same as I did yesterday–lying prone in my easy chair unfolded out, alternating between heat and cold, while hopefully reading the new Donna Andrews while managing my pain with Aleve while college football plays on the screen. LSU plays Mississippi State tonight in Death Valley, so we’ll get some sort of idea of how well the Tigers have regrouped since that opening loss (last week’s blowout of Southern doesn’t really count–no offense, Southern). And tomorrow is Saints-Buccaneers, so I can swear at Tom Brady some more, which is always an enjoyable experience.

So, looks like today–other than the groceries, getting the mail, and getting as–is going to be another enforced day off. I am afraid of doing my usual “oh it feels better so I can do more things only to make it worse and last longer” thing, so much as I am loathe to fall even further behind on everything, I really don’t have much choice. Your back is not something you want to fuck with a whole lot, and the last thing I need at my age–at any age–is to continue having chronic issues with my back. I hurt it at the gym years and years ago, always assumed it was safe to go back before it actually was, and then consistently made things worse. This was when my serious 3 to 4 times per week workout routine was finally and completely disrupted, and I’ve never really been able to consistently attend the gym to workout ever since.

The Lost Apartment is also a disaster area, but…don’t push it, Gregalicious. Just relax and allow yourself the time to let whatever-the-fuck-it-is you did to your back to heal. You’ve got college football games to watch and a Donna Andrews novel to read, and in a worst case scenario you can lay back in your easy chair and use the laptop to do things like write or something…until of course Scooter wants to go to sleep in my lap.

I also overslept a bit this morning, but the benefit of that is I no longer feel exhausted, which is yet another step on the needed path for me to feel like Gregalicious again. I got the Bouchercon email this morning in which sixteen (!!!!) attendees have tested positive this far, but so far I’ve dodged that bullet again. I have wondered, with the exhaustion, but that second line keeps on not showing up on my tests so as far as I can tell, everything else is fine. (Excuse me for a moment while I stick a swab up my nose; seriously, at this point I’d rather stick my finger and use blood to run the test. Why can’t this be an oral swab like the HIV tests used to be like?)

We did get caught up on Bad Sisters last night, and then moved on to the series premiere of The Serpent Queen, with Samantha Morton as Catherine de Medici. The show is actually–at least so far–seems historically accurate (other than she married Henri duc d’Orleans in 1533 rather than 1536; that year is fixed in my head because that is also the year Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had her crowned), and of course, Catherine is one of my favorite historical characters of all time. She is often depicted in history as evil and cruel and malignant–but imagine loving your husband so much and enduring the humiliation of his disinterest in you while being utterly devoted to a woman twenty years older…and this goes on for 26 years before he dies. Wouldn’t you be a little warped? Ignored, dismissed, laughed at…and then with her husband’s death she becomes one of the most powerful women in Europe, trying to preserve the crown and an intact France for her sons during a time of almost constant religious and political strife. She fascinates me, much as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anne Boleyn, Blanche of Castile, and several other great queens of history do…which again leads me to my idea of writing a history of the sixteenth century in Europe through the tales of the great and powerful women of that century, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. There was also a time when I wanted to write historical novels of political intrigue, and what better place to set such a series than during the second half of the sixteenth century in France, which was a time more akin to Game of Thrones than most periods (the Wars of the Roses is another; the dying out of the Capetian dynasty in France in the early fourteenth is another).

Yes, a series centered around one of Catherine’s Flying Squadron (beautiful women trained in the arts of seduction and eroticism, who took lovers strategically so they could spy on them for the Crown) during the period of 1570-1589 would be a lot of fun to write, and the research! What fun would all that reading be? Perhaps someday when I have more time and energy…ha ha ha, I somehow managed to type that with a straight face.

I’ve also always wanted to write a sixteenth century murder mystery where Robert Cecil hires someone to investigate the death of Amy Robsart in 1560–which jeopardized Queen Elizabeth’s throne within the first two years of her reign.

And that’s not even taking into consideration my retelling of The Three Musketeers from Milady de Winter’s point of view.

Yeah, I will probably never write anything more historical any further back than my lifetime.

And on that note, I am retiring to my easy chair with Donna Andrews and some ice packs. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

Don’t Stop

Back to life, back to reality…

I am sooooo tired.

But what an incredible trip that was.

Someone–I wish I could remember who, so I could give them credit–said that Bouchercon was like going to Crime Writer’s Camp, and it was actually so spot on that I decided to go ahead and say it without being able to give the proper credit where it’s due (whomever that was, my apologies). I slept extremely well last night (there’s nothing like your own bed), yet despite that I feel achy, sore and exhausted still this morning. My voice has recovered somewhat–it still is raspy and hoarse, but nevertheless yesterday it hurt to talk–and my ribs and abs still hurt from laughing so much and so long and so hard (in some ways, it felt like I’d forgotten how to enjoy myself and only started remembering this past weekend). I had some great meals, some great drinks, reconnected and tightened bonds with old friends; got to know acquaintances better; and met some marvelous new people! All of my books that the bookseller had in stock on Thursday (and quite a few copies of each of my last three books–usually I count myself lucky if they have more than one copy of one book) were gone by noon on Friday, which was an incredible shock.

A pleasant one, to be sure, but still a shock.

My panels went really well, too. The only real hiccup was my bag got lost on the way up there. Our connecting flight out of Midway was a half hour delayed, yet…my bag didn’t get on the plane in New Orleans and didn’t arrive at the airport until after one. It was delivered the following morning…right at the end of my panel. Yes, I had to borrow clothes from Paul. Yes, he is smaller than me. No, it wasn’t the first time I went out in public in clothes that were two sizes too small. Yes, I talked about it on the panel. And yes, people asked me about whether my bag arrived or not all weekend, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and nice…and then yesterday on the way home Paul reminded me that–to save myself time–I’d packed five identical black T-shirts and of course, three pairs of jeans that all look the same. I wore the pants I wore on the flight to the panel that morning, and Paul had loaned me–yes, you guessed it–a dark T-shirt.

PAUL: People didn’t think your bag arrived all weekend because you were always wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans! They didn’t know it was your Bouchercon Uniform and thought you had to keep wearing the same clothes!

It still makes me laugh to think about it.

I also read Gabino Iglesias’ extraordinary The Devil Takes You Home on the way up (more on that later) and read most of Laurie R. King’s new, stellar novel Back to the Garden, which is just marvelous. Our flight coming back was also delayed out Midway–two hours rather than a half this time–but reading Laurie’s book made the time fly. We also arrived at Midway just in time to see the final minute of the Saints-Falcons game (marvelous). (I have to say, I am a little bummed I wasn’t home to watch college football on Saturday, and now am REALLY looking forward to seeing how this college football season goes!)

AND SO MANY QUEER WRITERS!

But, oh, if nothing else, the one thing I learned from this trip is I am waaaaaaaaay out of shape and far too old not to be going to the gym regularly. All the walking, all the standing, not sleeping in my own bed–my back hurts, my hips and ankles are sore, my shoulders are tight, and my quads are tighter than piano wire. I need to start going back to the gym even if not to lift weights so much as to get a good stretch every now and again. That was actually the best parts of my all-too-brief patches of regular gym attendance since the start of the pandemic–how great it felt to stretch two to three times a week. I am literally running on accessory today, and am dreading tomorrow morning’s alarm going off at six to drag me out of the clutches of Morpheus. I will undoubtedly be tired all week (and oh dear God my emails) but as long as I can limp along till Friday, I should be okay.

Should.

I don’t even want to think about how behind I am.

But for now, I am going to sit in my easy chair and finish Laurie’s brilliant book while Scooter purrs in my lap and just have a nice relaxing evening at home. Until tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Twisted

Ah, Tuesday morning and back to the office. I slept decently last night–woke up a couple of times, always able to go back to sleep–so I feel somewhat better this morning than I usually do on Tuesday mornings, but then again, we’ll just have to see how the rest of the day/week goes. I did my work at home duties yesterday, some chores and errands, and last night we started watching the new season of Stranger Things, which I think is the final season. The first episode was a bit off to me, but it certainly started picking up speed in the second and now we are all in after the third. I didn’t write or read much last night after work, but I do have some things i need to get finished today–quite a few things, actually–but I feel rested and maybe when I feel more awake than I do now, it might not be a problem getting everything done today that needs to get done. Stranger things, indeed.

I do have things I need to get ordered on-line today, too–and we need to go to Costco again at some point, perhaps this weekend. It’s always something.

I’m still, to be honest, coasting a little on the high from this past weekend in Florida, if I am being completely honest. I’m still feeling connected to my writing, which is lovely, even if I have to figure out a few things and get a few things pulled together. I also can’t believe it’s July already–and we’re almost halfway through the month, at that. Crazy, you know. But this year is already have over as well–what the hell? And then the next thing you know it’s football season. The twitter accounts for both LSU and the Saints are counting down the days until the season starts. It’s a new era for both–new coaches, essentially new teams, for that matter–so it will be interesting to see how the season goes for both. I also have a book to write during football season (as ever yet again), which will be challenging of course, as it is always is, and then it’s Christmas and New Year’s and BOOM. Carnival time again! #madness

Oh, and I have a book coming out in December right around the time my next Scotty manuscript is due, so as always, the promotion of a new book will have to occur (or start occurring) around the same time as I have to finish another. Now, there’s the workshop I would like to attend: how do you stay focused when you are finishing a book at the same time you are promoting a new release without going completely insane? That’s the part they never tell you about in creative writing classes and workshops–although I suppose those who have agents probably have the agent to walk them through that part (although sometimes I do wonder if I over-romanticize what it’s like to have an agent, since I’ve never had one? Oh if I had an agent they’d take care of this for me–I suspect that’s all too often not accurate. I also suppose that if and when I do ever land one, I will inevitably be disappointed with what they don’t do for me). Someday, I suppose, I’ll find out one way or the other.

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

Whatcha See is Whatcha Get

Good morning, Constant Reader, and a happy Thursday to you. I am a bit groggy this morning as I swill my first cup of coffee, but Scooter has already been fed and so at least the cat cries have stopped.

For now, at least.

I slept pretty well last night again, and maybe my body has readjusted to my work schedule already, which is nice and I was a bit concerned that it might take a while for that to happen. But I seem to have slipped right back into the routine I was in before I left for New York, and that is, of course, quite lovely. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office yesterday and picked up a few things, then once I was home I retired to my easy chair to edit “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which actually is a much better story than I thought it was. In fairness to me, expecting the story to need a great deal of work really isn’t a case of Imposter Syndrome, as one might have expected (it so often is just that), but rather because it was so hard for me to write and took me so long to get into the story groove. It’s actually not bad at all, and just needs some tweaking here and there; which I should be able to do tonight and get turned in by the end of the day. This is actually rather nice, and I am most pleased about it, in all honesty. By the time I’d finished, Scooter was in my lap and I tuned in to get caught up on Superman and Lois; Paul came home while I was watching and we switched to the new Jane Seymour mystery series on Acorn, which is quite good. I’ve always appreciated Jane Seymour and thought she was more talented than she often received credit for; I suppose being a Mini-series Queen during the 1980s didn’t really help all that much–but I thought she was exceptional in the adaptation of East of Eden that was done in the 80’s, in which she played Steinbeck’s perhaps most evil creation, Cathy Ames. (She was also good as Natalie in War and Remembrance, having a remarkably long career for someone who started as a Bond girl in Live and Let Die.) The show is Harry Wild, and we quite enjoyed it; although it’s hard to think of a British crime series we haven’t enjoyed.

I also didn’t get an opportunity to read any more of my Carol Goodman novel, either, which didn’t please me. Perhaps tonight I can relax with my book and the Gothic story of what is going on at that boarding school on the lake. Really, y’all, if you’ve not read anything by Carol Goodman, you really should. But tonight I am coming straight home from the office–no detours, no stops to make–and so hopefully that means I can spend some good quality time reading tonight. Fingers crossed, at any rate, especially since Saturday I have an appointment in the late morning and a ZOOM appearance to make in the mid-afternoon, which means I won’t have a lot of time to do much of anything on Saturday other than making the kitchen background to my computer camera neat and tidy.

I was also delighted to see that the Saints signed former LSU and Kansas City Chiefs standout (and local high school star from St. Augustine’s) TYRANN MATHIEU. The Honey Badger is finally coming home to New Orleans (HUZZAH!) and I think this was an incredibly smart move by the Saints. Mathieu has already proven himself to be a leader who is interested in helping and giving back to the community (he helped fund the new state-of-the-art training center for the LSU football team, for example, despite the fact that he was kicked off the team and out of school for infractions after his sophomore year), and what better brand ambassador in the city of New Orleans for the Saints than a local kid who made good? I’ve never really understood why the Saints never signed anyone from LSU over the many years since Sean Payton took over–especially since so many of those stars were from either New Orleans or Louisiana–but maybe it was a “local hero ego” kind of thing. Who knows? (Paul and I dreamed that Joey Burrow would end up playing for the Saints, but that would have been too much to hope for, really.) I’ll be actually curious to see how LSU and the Saints will do this year; I remember the last time new coaches came in to both around the same time was 2005 at LSU (Les Miles) and 2006 with the Saints (Sean Payton)–both of those turned out well, so here’s hoping the new coaches at both for 2022 will also turn out well.

As always with football season, hope springs eternal.

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

The Way You Do The Things You Do

Sunday morning, and not only is the Super Bowl today, but it’s also our Costco run day. Hurray! And in a moment of perfect timing, this morning I also got the emailed rebate coupon from my Costco Visa, so we have almost a hundred dollars off whatever we spend there today. One really has to love serendipity when it happens, doesn’t one? It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to Costco, and I am really missing my dark chocolate sea salt caramels…we’ve been out for a while. And with the next two weekends lost to parades, this is the last opportunity we have to go until after March.

Is it insane that I am excited about going to Costco? It also says a lot about the quality of my life, doesn’t it? LOL. Yesterday was a good day–I also had another good night’s sleep, which was lovely–and I got a lot accomplished around the Lost Apartment as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned. Everything looks, if still a bit cluttered, neat and tidy–at least the clutter is stacked nicely–and it really does make a difference in how I feel about the place. I also worked on “Condos for Sale or Rent” for a bit yesterday, made groceries (got Doris Day parking and everything), and settled in to watch the Olympics. I wasn’t thrilled with the ice dancing results–as always, the Americans were under-scored–but we’ll get a medal of some kind; the French were always a lock on the gold anyway. And both of our top teams won a silver medal in the team competition, so…really, can’t complain about too much at all here.

I got the edits for “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday, and it took me about ten minutes to get through them and make corrections where necessary. The story turned out a lot better than I had obviously thought, but the good news is the story is finished and turned in and the edits are done; so I can put the file away, add the title to the Table of Contents for my next short story collection, and move the electronic file into the This Town and other Stories folder. I have ten published stories, which is about half of the new collection, and of the other ten, well, four have complete drafts–and of course, I have two more stories to finish in the next few months as well. So, that will give me sixteen at some point, which is lovely, and even closer to a finished collection–would be, should I decide to throw a novella in there at some point. I also retrieved my folder on Chlorine so I could again read over what I’ve already written–with an eye to getting back to it in March or April; I’ve not really decided yet what I should do next other than these short stories. I also started writing a blog post about Joey Burrow that I will try to get finished today–I don’t think I’ve been such a fan of any pro quarterback since the glory days of Drew Brees–otherwise there isn’t much point. I won’t be watching the Super Bowl–or certainly not all the entire thing–since I have to get up early tomorrow (all week, in fact; I have to go into the office four mornings and I have to get up early again on Friday to take the car in for its oil change), but obviously the first thing I will do upon rising tomorrow is see how it all turned out.

I also want to go to the gym today after we go to Costco–I know, crazy, right?–but it looks lovely outside today (yesterday was so beautiful I got out the charcoal and barbecued burgers) so the walk to the gym will undoubtedly be lovely, and I want to get a lot of work done today once that’s over and done with. Paul is still working on Festival programming, so I need to make certain I am utilizing my free time wisely. After organizing the books and making them look more orderly yesterday, I am debating not buying any more books until I can get some more of these read and donated and out of the house. It does seem weird to be continually buying books when you have so many that you’ve never read–many of them classics and award-winners–and so maybe, just maybe, the time I usually was spending in the evenings writing could be utilized for reading for an hour or so every night, which will gradually bring me through the books. (I doubt I will get much reading done during parade season, frankly.) The only parades I really care about this year are Muses and Iris, frankly; but there are reasons Paul and I might end up going out there every night of parades, or many of them, at any rate. (Not my story to tell, but being supportive of a friend.) Note to self: get more take home COVID tests from the office.

And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start doing some more clean-up around here before we go to Costco. Paul’s alarm just went off, which means he’ll be getting up soon (later rather than sooner, of course) and I need more coffee to fortify myself for the journey.

Have a lovely Super Bowl Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

Forever Came Today

Thursday, and the last day this week I have to get up so damned early. I was, however, delighted to wake up and find out that Nathan Chen had won the men’s gold in figure skating (YAY!)–I was watching, fell asleep in my chair, and couldn’t stay up to watch it all. (I’ll watch Nathan on Youtube sometime today–probably when I get home from work this afternoon.) Naturally, I am delighted for Nathan after his disappointment at Pyeongchang four years ago.

I am starting the recovery (or rather, further along in the process) from last weekend’s trip and the deadline crunches that nearly wiped me out; I am still trying to get caught up on my emails that have, well, festered in my inbox now for the last month or so–the deadly crunch of trying to get the book done–and I still have some other things that I left pending for quite some time that need to be handled as well. But I think I can get all that finished (or caught up) over the course of the next few days as well as the weekend, and I am looking forward to coming out of the weekend on Monday (four days in the office next week, sob) with a fairly clean slate and ready to get going on everything else. The weekend, with no writing that needs to be done, looms large; I am sure part of my chores this weekend will also include cleaning the Lost Apartment and doing some filing, since that’s also gotten completely out of control over the last few months as well. My primary goal is to get organized again–I’ve felt unorganized and unable to get caught up for several years now–and I feel like once that miracle occurs, I should be able to stay that way, or at least let it slide for a bit before getting back on track on the weekends.

That’s the plan, at any rate.

But I had another great night’s sleep last night, which felt marvelous. I do feel more rested and more together today than I have all week, which is odd–given that usually on my third early morning I am usually more tired than I have been all week–but I’ve been sleeping really well since I got home, and sleeping late on Saturday (I may have some car things to do tomorrow morning, which I am not terribly thrilled about, frankly, but I don’t ever want to buy another car and so I have to make this one last forever, even if it means getting up early on a day when I usually don’t have to) is going to be very appealing. Ah, well, nothing to do but bite the bullet and get up and go and get it over with (oil change, nail in tire). I can, at least, take a book with me tomorrow morning and utilize the time to read–and since I will be on the West Bank, I can make groceries over there and get lunch at Sonic before heading home to make condom packs and data entry. Yay for an exciting Friday!

And it wouldn’t hurt for me to start looking through my Chlorine file, to get a sense of what’s been written and what needs to be written and some of the inspirations–I’ve been snagging photos from old Physique-style magazines, as well as beefcake shots of hunky movie stars from the olden days of Paull Wilson and so forth from that same time period to use for help in creating my own world of marginally talented beautiful men who allowed gay men in positions of power in Hollywood to use their bodies to get ahead in the business–and am actually kind of looking forward to digging into it again, frankly. Writing a historical is, by its very nature, problematic–you have to research things, you have to remember or find out how things worked (could you direct dial a local number in Los Angeles in 1952?)–but I am going to push through the first draft, methinks, and then do the research painstakingly as I edit my way through the bitch once it’s finished. I have another story request for the end of this month (time is running out here) and another one that is due in early April; but both should be easier to put together than this one I just had to desperately finish at the last minute to get in on time. I think this year might be a good short story year for one Gregalicious; I think I have several stories in the pipeline that will be coming out this year–all of them remarkably different in subject matter, voice, and tone–which makes them all the more fun, don’t you think?

I also just got another book idea–seriously, it never ends in my head–and on that note, I think I will head into the spice mines.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Set me free, why don’t you, babe?

I cannot get used to having the house at a moderate temperature. It’s so weird to get up and not freeze as I come downstairs and make my first cup of coffee, while I get ready for work, anything. I also had insomnia last night, alas–but again, first time in a very long time that’s happened, so I guess I can live with it, really. I had a very good and productive day yesterday–I got caught up some on the book (still behind, but nothing that can’t be defeated by some good work getting done every day) and I also made progress on my emails. I doubt I will get the inbox emptied today, but stranger things have happened before, and could even happen again.

We finished Ozark last night, and now have to wait until the second half of the season drops before finding out what happens to the members of the cast. I can’t imagine this having a happy ending–they just keep going from bad situations to worse ones, and I can’t help but feel that Marty and Wendy are not going to have a happy ending where they escape from the criminal world and go back to having some semblance of a normal family life again; unless they get into witness protection or something like that. Julia Garner also continues to kill it as Ruth Langmore–I see another Emmy in her future–and overall, it’s really been a terrific show from the beginning. We also got caught up on Peacemaker, and started the new season of Servant, which is even weirder than the first two seasons–which is actually saying a great deal.

Apparently the NFL had some great play-off games this weekend; as I’ve noted before, outside of the Saints I generally don’t follow (and don’t care) very much about pro football; now that so many LSU players are in the NFL I pay a little more attention to them because–well, LSU players; and how could I not pay attention to the professional success of the kids from that great 2019 season, especially Joe Burrow, who still wears an LSU wrist band in every game he plays for the Bengals? I can’t root against Tyrann Mathieu or Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs) or Justin Jefferson (Vikings), or whenever I hear a former LSU player’s name called in a game it becomes very difficult for me to root against them (unless, of course, they play for the Falcons, in which case all bets are off). It’s weird–it’s been a while since the post-season continued without the Saints, so I could stop paying attention to football on the weekends and get things done.

The weekend was good, over all. I did manage to get what I planned to get done with the book–didn’t quite finish the filing, organizing and cleaning, though–and I did brainstorm for a bit about two stories I am writing and are due soon (yikes) while I was waiting for Paul to finish whatever it was he was doing (work no doubt) and come downstairs to watch television last evening. It’s very strange how bipolar being a writer can make one; Saturday I was struggling with the work, which was why I only did one chapter instead of the planned two. I was certain Saturday that the book was garbage, unfixable, and was going to be the end of my career. Yesterday I zipped through three chapters, thinking this isn’t bad at all, really and occasionally this is actually working and I am enjoying myself. Seriously, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown multiple times since I started working in this literally insane industry.

But fortunately I do enjoy writing. I do enjoy doing the work–even when I hate doing the work, which is usually when it just won’t come for whatever reason and I am forcing it–and I actually enjoy editing and revising because you are making it better, which is always a pleasant feeling. And that’s how I was feeling with it yesterday–I am making this better–and why I had so much fun with it. Hopefully that same sense of joy will resurface tonight–although every once in a while I will get to a part that has to be completely redone because I changed something earlier in the book and then I sob internally before I start screaming internally.

But it’s always up and down, and if anything, my mood swings and chemical imbalances make me perfect for being a writer; because it has proven to be a rollercoaster ride of its own (kind of like the chemical imbalances) and if anything, I’ve gotten used to my life feeling like a rollercoaster; slow climbs to heights, speedy descents into lows, and the ever popular stomach-churning loop-de-loops. But I write because I love to write, and after learning how to edit and revise, I love the process of making the work better than it originally was–much as I would love to believe I can write a perfect first draft I no longer make myself crazy trying to get it all right the first time. And there are times I have stories that I don’t know how to fix (usually short stories; I still have many from college writing classes that have potential but have to actually be revised or edited in some way to make them publishable; I did finally figure out how to make “Whim of the Wind” work–after almost forty years–and that’s one of the stories I plan to revisit when I am finished with this manuscript. I do enjoy writing, even if the business of writing makes me crazy; I also like writing what I want to write. Sure, every now and then I think to myself “hey this is a really great commercial idea”–but usually it’s more along the lines of “I think this is an interesting story and I want to take a shot at writing it.”

And sometimes…sometimes the final book doesn’t feel as complete and finished as I would like, even if it sells and gets nice reviews and award recognition; in which case I will always revisit the base idea but with different characters, different location, and different styles of writing. I know I have a tendency to always use the same type of structure with my short stories–which I need to stop doing, because when you do a collection it becomes rather obvious, which I noticed (even if no one else did) with Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories…

Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines on a chilly morning. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader.