Love You Down

Tuesday’s blue, and Wednesday, too.

There’s a freeze warning on the north shore this morning; and it’s not supposedly much warmer here on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain this morning. The low for the morning was in the forties; the high for the day is mid-sixties. Given there’s another one of those arctic wave things or whatever they are called in the rest of the country, complete with snow and ice and so forth, I’m definitely feeling lucky here in New Orleans this morning–primarily that, for one, I am able to sit at my desk this gray morning without having to have the space heater on, no house shoes on my feet or a hat on my head and I am not freezing to death–all of which are, frankly, wonderful things.

Huzzah!

Very little progress was made on the writing front yesterday–it’s not that I was tired last night or anything, it’s more along the lines of needing to relax more than anything else. Monday nights are always a concern for me; as Tuesday is my second long day of the week and I am always worried that exhaustion will rule the day when my alarm goes off on Tuesday morning–but I woke up before the alarm this morning, even if I did stay in bed and hit snooze a few times because the bed was warm and comfortable. I am more hopeful for tonight; tomorrow is a mere half-day and I don’t have to go into the office until eleven thirty, so getting up early isn’t a concern and of course, I only have to be there for four hours or so before getting out. We did catch this week’s episode of Watchmen, which is really terrific, and of course we’ve now got an episode of Catherine the Great to get caught up on this evening. (Paul was late getting home last night; writing a grant, he didn’t get home until I was getting ready to climb into bed)

Tomorrow is also Pay-the-Bills Day, always an unpleasant morning. Heavy heaving sigh. And I think I may still owe for my phone; I’ll have to check to see if I paid the phone bill last time; I’m not certain that I did.

I’ve almost caught up on all of my emails, too. Maybe today I can get the rest of them out of my inbox.

One can hope, at any rate.

I’m also still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is fantastic, and haven’t made any further progress on Ross Macdonald’s The Ferguson Affair. It actually doesn’t seem like I’ve been getting much done lately, does it? I also need to start getting my new journal ready; one thing I actually did accomplish this past weekend was managing to buy a new journal, as the old one is nearly full. I cannot tell you, Constant Reader, how much I enjoy keeping a journal again; I wish I’d never stopped, to be honest. It’s incredibly cool, frankly, to have something to jot down notes and ideas into; there’s another book idea that’s been brewing inside me for a while and I make notes on it periodically; I also have been paying attention to how other writers do their work, and I think maybe my haphazard way of writing and plotting novels needs to be seriously revamped and overhauled. I do know what I wanted to accomplish, and what I am trying to say, in this new book; I don’t know why I am having so much trouble getting back to work on it as well as fixing the core problem of it, at least the problem I think I’ve been having–which is making the main character likable. I also can’t help but feel that the story itself is based on a contrivance; and what I really need to do is figure out how to fix that core issue at the heart of the book and the rest will fall into place.

But oh, how i wish I could just sit down for two or three hours and write. It would be nirvana.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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Mandolin Rain

Thursday, aka Friday Eve, has arrived and I have a purring kitty interfering with my computer usage this morning before I go to the office. Which is fine; he usually doesn’t want to sit in my lap when I’m at the computer and he seems to be okay with that this morning, which is lovely.

It’s been a week for the publishing world, let me tell you, Constant Reader. I am not going to talk about any of that here; I have another blog entry I am working on, where I talk about reading The Hunter by Richard Stark, which correlates with the crazy publishing week, so it’s best left to there.

Last night we watched perhaps the best episode of Castle Rock that has aired, either season, to date; as we learned about Annie Wilkes’ childhood and her relationship with her parents–and the two actors who played her mother and father were astonishingly good. It was riveting television, and I was truly sorry to see the episode end. It also seriously paid homage to Misery, and a lot of the things we are familiar with Annie saying were all learned from her parents. I know Castle Rock is theoretically set in an alternate universe to King’s novels, which enables them to use his characters, settings, and stories to create new versions–which is genius, really–and doing an entire season with Annie Wilkes as a younger woman was incredibly smart. Lizzy Kaplan is giving an Emmy worthy performance as young Annie, and watching this is making me want to reread Misery, which I still consider one of the best books of the last century.

Ironically, I wasn’t able to finish this entry yesterday; it’s the first blog day I’ve missed in quite a while. There’s been a lot of drama in two writing communities I belong to this week, and I’ve not been able to look away from either–one in particular I described to Paul as a slow-motion train wreck, and just when you think the last car has finally come off the tracks, here comes another train on the same line. Today, however, I am determined to ignore the train wreck as much as possible because I have too much to get done. I’ve not even been able to catch up on my emails, and the inbox just keeps filling up every damned day. So, today I am going to finish paying the bills, clean out my inbox, and do some goddamned writing. I’ll never finish this fucking book if I don’t focus, and I have some short stories that need to be reworked and revised and so forth as well.

Last night we watched the second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: 1984, and have just about decided that the only way one can watch a season of anything produced by Ryan Murphy is to simply not think about it, because once you start thinking about it you see all the holes in the plot and all the contrived behavior that makes no sense in terms of character–because the characters are only there to service the plot, which is the penultimate story-telling sin. But I can’t stop myself from watching–and somewhat enjoying–these shows. Some of the kids at work were streaming the Hotel season, which I’d stopped watching as it aired and never finished; and it seemed a bit more cohesive in a binge. I may go back and rewatch it, just to see if it works better as a binge show where you don’t have time to think about these things.

It certainly worked with The Politician.

I also want to finish reading The Ferguson Affair, which is making me think about some other issues with old works being read through the present-day lens (which also occurred with me reading The Hunter and, a few months back,  I the Jury)–and the age-old question of separating the artist from the art (not in Macdonald’s case; as far as I know he was never problematic, but the attitudes of the time, translated into fiction, are what I am talking about in this case–in particular, women and minorities and how they are represented on the pages of the book).

I am also slowly but surely making my way through Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and enjoying the trip immensely. New Orleans history–dark and bloody as it is–is endlessly fascinating, and I am always finding inspiration for more stories and books the more of it I read.

I’m not really sure how much I am going to get done this weekend–the emotional drains of the LSU-Alabama game on Saturday, followed by the Saints-Falcons game on Sunday–is probably going to be prohibitive of doing any writing–unless I do it in the mornings–all weekend. So, mostly reading will be on the agenda this weekend, methinks.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I don’t have to head into the office until around noonish, so I have this morning free to write and answer emails and put away dishes and…sigh. I’m getting tired just thinking about it, so I better just do it.

Til tomorrow, Constant Reader.

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Someday

Wednesday morning, although my internal calendar is all messed up from not working on Monday. I kept thinking yesterday was Monday all day–and it was most irritating. But the good news is I made it through an entire twelve hour shift without getting tired (I did get a bit sleepy toward the end, though) and I had yet another lovely night of sleep last night, which was marvelous.

Sleep is so underrated, really. I’ve really come to cherish it as I approach sixty.

Last night we watched the ice dance competition from Grand Prix France, which occurred over the last weeked–we also are most delighted that the Olympic Channel airs a lot of figure skating competitions; we are big fans and always have been, and in recent years the lack of air time for figure skating competitions has made it a lot harder to follow and remain a fan. I think one of the upcoming US Nationals is actually in Nashville, which is drive-able, and therefore do-able (I am really getting to the point where I will avoid flying and airports as much as I possibly can). We then discovered the Netflix has dropped season two of It’s the End of the Fucking World, and very much kudos to the showrunners and writers for taking the show in a completely unforeseen direction in episode one. Tonight will drop new episodes of Castle Rock and American Horror Story: 1984, so our television needs for this evening are already met; but it’s nice to know Fucking World is there when we need something to watch.

I’ve also managed to almost get completely caught up on emails; alas, there was a thing yesterday on a board of directors on which I serve, which took up a lot of time yesterday in reading all the emails, thinking about the situation, and figuring out what we needed to do–if anything–so that kind of threw me off getting through the rest of my emails as well as getting anything written yesterday. I did manage to get the editorial corrections to my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision” finished and turned in, and I also got the cover art and an eye on the other contributors–which was quite thrilling; there are some folks in there I am very excited to be sharing a table of contents with–more on that later, but I really love the cover and I really love the entire concept of the anthology, The Faking of the President, and I love even more the fact that I was asked to write for it and was included.

The Dark Yonder anthology, to which I contributed my story “Moist Money” (and how much do I love that I wrote a story called “Moist Money”? And thanks again to the wonderful Bill Loefhelm for telling me I needed to use that as a title) is also going to be available at some time this month; I think the official release date is Black Friday? It’s actually been, all things considered, a pretty good year for me and short stories. I have another one or two out there for submission. And as I said, over the course of this past weekend I finally figured out how to fix two stories that have gone through a ridiculous amount of drafts and rejections: “Death and the Handmaidens” and “The Problem with Autofill.” In both instances I was too stubborn to see the necessary changes that would make the stories work, because those changes were pretty intensive; including a title change for “The Problem with Autofill”–which is still a great title and can still be used for another story, but the one I wrote doesn’t fit that title and trying to force it to fit that title is why the story isn’t working.

One of the biggest problems I face as a writer is my own, innate stubbornness. I CAN make this work is always my go-to, and I cling to that even when it’s patently obvious to me that I cannot make it work. If I had all that time back…but there it is. It may take me in some cases years to get to that point with something I am working on, but I do eventually get there.

I also worked a bit on Bury Me in Shadows before I went to bed last night. It’s coming along more slowly than I would like–and I suspect I am going to have to go back over the first twelve chapters again because I didn’t include everything on this go round that I needed to include, which is fine. I didn’t finish it in October like I wanted to because I got sick towards the end, but I am choosing that as a sign that it didn’t need to be finished by the end of October and perhaps shooting for the end of November is the way to go. That means I can’t work on the Kansas book again until December, but I do think with focus and drive I can finish that one in a month, which frees me up to move onto Chlorine in January. My goal is to get a good first draft written in a month, put it aside to breathe and settle, and then write that next Chanse book I’ve been thinking about for the last few months.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me this morning before work. I have a half-day today, and have some errands to run this morning before heading into the office, which is fine. I’m also doing a better job of keeping up with the chores, so hopefully this weekend, around the LSU and Saints games, I’ll be able to do some touching up. Have a terrific day Constant Reader!

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When Smokey Sings

And just like that, the vacation is over and it’s back to work with me.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But in all honesty, it feels like I haven’t set foot in the office for months. It also feels like I haven’t written anything in months, either.

But let’s face it, and be honest with myself: yesterday was also the first time I have felt human,  or like myself, in weeks. I managed to get good sleep almost every day for the last five or six days; it’s amazing what a difference good sleep can make in one;’s day to day life. Even this morning, despite being untimely ripped from my bed–I’m not sleepy or tired; just not fully awake yet, and the coffee–with an assist from a shower–will change that all fairly rapidly.

I started –and finished–Richard Stark’s The Hunter yesterday, and I’m not quite sure how I felt about it. I thought it was written very well–the pacing was particularly good–but…it’s a 1962 novel, and that shows with misogyny and a couple of homophobic slurs, as well as some seriously questionable sexualization. But it’s also a pulp novel from the early 1960’s; Stark was a pseudonym for Donald Westlake, and it read very quickly and very fast….the main character, Parker, is described as an anti-hero; I’d say he’s more of a sociopath than anything else, really, although I do suppose to that does make him a bit of anti-hero….I am still thinking about the book, and will write more about it at another time, most likely. After I finished reading it, I moved on to The Ferguson Affair by Ross Macdonald. I don’t think I’ve read it before–to date, to the best of my knowledge I’ve not read any of Macdonald’s non-Archer novels, and that very much is what this one is; but it’s got Macdonald’s trademark writing style, and I am enjoying it. I think the Parker novel inevitably led to the Macdonald, really–there were some things about Parker that reminded me of both Macdonalds, Ross and John D.; I actually was looking for a non-McGee novel of John D. MacDonald’s to read, and finally decided on the Ross Macdonald The Ferguson Affair. As I read the book, it reminds me of something I’ve read before–perhaps not another Macdonald novel, but perhaps one of the Lew Archer short stories I read in The Archer Files last year when I was doing the Short Story Project.

I also had to do the editorial notes on my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision,” which is appearing in the anthology The Faking of the President, edited by Peter Carlaftes of Three Rooms Press–they also published Florida Happens last year–and got that turned in; I also saw the cover, which was shared on Facebook. I do like this story that I wrote; it wasn’t one of the easier ones to do. Primarily the reason it took me so long–other than I was writing Bury Me in Shadows at the same time–was because it was so difficult to come up with an idea for what I was going to write. Ordinarily I like writing stories to order–trying to come up with a story that fits a theme (and I usually will push those limits) is always a fun challenge; this one was a bit more difficult, and I am really happy with what I finally managed to come up with. I did worry, as the deadline loomed, that the story wasn’t going to come together properly; I always have that fear, it’s the flip side (or a primary symptom) of Imposter Syndrome. But it’s finished, the editor liked it, and I got my corrections done….now I just have to figure out how to write this Sherlock Holmes pastiche I agreed to write. I already have the idea, and how I want to do it, and where it’s set and the title, which I love….I just now have to figure out the story itself.

I also figured out how to revise two short stories I’ve been unable to get; one was simply because in order for the story’s title to work, one of the characters had to be a moron; and the other because it was a little too, shall we say, spot on? It’s also a great title, and I think it’s a great story; I just have to revise it and change some of the things in it before I make one last try to get it published somewhere.

It’s actually been a pretty good year, career-wise, for me so far….and with only two months left to go–what can I accomplish in the meantime?

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

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Can’t We Try

And just like that, this is the last day of my combination of illness/vacation. The good news is that I think I’m over everything that prevented the trip to Bouchercon in Dallas; the other good news is that I feel remarkably rested, centered, and ready to get back into the world again. I slept deeply and well again last night–and for those of you who can sleep well every night, I hope you appreciate it! I certainly never did back in the days when I could fall asleep simply by putting my head on the pillow and closing my eyes.

That seems so very long ago now.

These little vacations, I think, are very important for me. I need to recharge more frequently than I used to, and the weekends, while helpful, simply aren’t enough anymore. I have another little week-long vacation coming at the end of this month; I always try to take them around office holidays–so I am taking the first three days of Thanksgiving week off. As I said, I do need to take these little vacations every now and then in order to continue functioning; I wear out a lot easier now that I am older.

Paul and I got caught up on Catherine the Great last night, which is quite enjoyable (although as I said to Paul, “Catherine’s life when she was younger, and how she came to power, is a lot more interesting than this part of her life; but since you have Helen Mirren, it has to be about her when she’s older.” And Helen Mirren is absolutely killing it.

We also watched the first three episodes of Watchmen last night, and we are all in on this one, too. Regina King is just a goddess, and one of our best actresses working today. The story is all too apt for this time, as well–it’s themes of racism and white supremacy and fighting it, while exposing all the ugly nastiness of white supremacy, is all too too timely for our present day–and the third episode, which brings the remarkably talented and vastly under-appreciated Jean Smart into the cast, was one of the best. As a federal agent who hates vigilantes, and has come to Tulsa to help fight not only the white supremacy but to also bust “vigilantes”–which would be, in her own words, “some rich asshole with too many toys”–Smart is the anchor the show needed–the first two episodes didn’t seem as cohesive or to make as much sense as they all do now; the addition of her and her character pulled the entire show together and has essentially set up the conflict for the rest of the season. I never read the graphic novel on which the show is based; but it’s another take at superheroes (vigilantes) like Amazon’s The Boys, and it veers away from the path that DC and Marvel set up with their own hero universes.

I started reading another book yesterday, but am not sure I’m going to finish it–too much misogyny and homophobia in it already–it was originally published in 1962–but I might go ahead and finish it; it would tie directly into the essay about toxic masculinity that reading I the Jury inspired, and let’s face it, that essay needs other examples rather than just Spillane. I know I want to reread James Ellroy’s Clandestine because of its remembered homophobia; it’s one of the reasons I never read more Ellroy, despite always wanting to. He’s an MWA Grand Master; deeply respected in the field, and considered one of the giants in the genre, plus LA Confidential alone sounds terrific. And reading Ellroy to get a sense of 1950’s Los Angeles is probably the best way to get a sense for the time, for Chlorine.

I’m also still thinking about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things. It’s just that good, Constant Reader. I also saw she has signed to do a novel for Agora, the Polis Books diversity imprint; I seriously can’t wait to read that.

I’ve done very little writing since I went on vacation; I’ve been primarily focusing on resting, doing some cleaning and filing, and getting over being sick. I’ve felt really good the last few days, and I think I can face returning to the office again tomorrow. I’d like to get some writing done today–I also want to get my email inbox emptied out–but I am not going to pressure myself; I am simply going to take the day as it comes and try to get whatever needs to be done finished as it comes along. I kind of need to reread where I am with Bury Me in Shadows anyway; I’ve not even really looked at it much over the last two weeks as I was not feeling myself. Today I feel rested and relaxed and healthy enough to possibly get some work done; and even if I don’t–if I save my energy because I am going back to work again tomorrow–I should be able to get some reading done. I may go ahead and finish reading that book I started to read this weekend; it’s kind of short, and so it shouldn’t take terribly long to read, right?

And then I can move on to something else.

I’m still enjoying Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, although I always find the early Colonial period of New Orleans a bit dull and uninteresting…although I am curious to see how the street–and the city itself–eventually became such a rough place. People in Louisiana outside of New Orleans–the ones who comment on newspaper articles and television station websites–always trash New Orleans as being “dangerous” and “full of crime” and “unsafe”; which, to me, I have always considered codewords  for racists, who can’t stand the idea of all the people of color who live and work here. They often will talk, in their little comment/rants, about how New Orleans “didn’t used to be like that” and bemoan the wonderful, lily-white days before desegregation. But my reading of New Orleans history definitely gives the lie to those comments; historically, the city has always been a hotbed of crime and murder. Always. Those lovely “white flight emigrants” are like those people who seem to think the 1950’s was this idyllic period of American history, when it was anything but that; the ones who think Happy Days was a documentary, and Leave It to Beaver was reality television. Frankly, it wasn’t particularly a great time to be white, either–McCarthyism, the widespread fear of communism and the Soviets, the shadow of the mushroom cloud, the rise of the suburbs–it was not the wonderful time we are so often told it was. What was wonderful about the 1950’s? The economy was booming in the post-war period.

Which should tell you all you need to know about white American priorities.

Over this past weekend I got an idea about what to do with a failed short story I’ve done many drafts on and has been rejected everywhere. I do think I can now do something with it, and maybe even get it published somewhere. Stranger things have happened, after all.

And now, I think I’m going to get some more coffee, work on my emails for a bit, and then repair to my chair to read for a little bit while I figure out how to best spend my last day of vacation. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Songbird

So, daylight savings time means I didn’t sleep as late as I have the last few mornings–simply because the clocks were turned back an hour. I woke up yet again at ten this morning–I went to bed around ten last night–and slept like a stone yet another night. Sleep really is the best thing, isn’t it? These last few nights of good sleep have been absolutely heavenly, and I feel a million times better than I did before this staycation started. I also can’t help but feel that missing Bouchercon–much as I hated to do so–was probably the smartest thing I could have done; thank you, doctor, for forbidding my travel.

And a belated congratulations to all the Anthony Award winners! I didn’t win for Best Short Story, but couldn’t be happier that Shawn Cosby did! He’s a great guy, a terrific writer, and also supports other writers. His debut novel, My Darkest Prayer, was fantastic; he recently signed a two book contract with Flatiron Books and I can’t wait to see what he does next, quite frankly. The other nominees–Art Taylor, Barb Goffman, and Holly West–are also terrific writers and awesome people who support other writers as well. Being nominated for an Anthony for a short story was one of the biggest thrills of my career so far.

It’s also weird that it’s a Sunday morning and  there’s no Saints game today.  It’s weird that both the Saints AND LSU have bye weeks the same weekend; but next weekend is going to be tough–LSU at Alabama for all the marbles; the Saints playing the hated Atlanta Falcons.

I imagine by the end of that weekend I am going to be quite worn out from emotion and adrenaline.

Angela Crider Neary, who moderated the Anthony Short Story nominees panel yesterday, very graciously sent me the questions she intended to ask me on the panel, so I thought I’d go ahead and answer them today–even though I’ve already lost. 😉

You’ve written in an impressive array of genres – over 50 short stories, two different private eye novel series, young adult novels (some with supernatural elements), and even some erotica as well as some horror and suspense.  Do you like one of these genres or formats (short or long) better than others, and tell us what you enjoy or find rewarding about writing each of them.  Are there any other genres you have written or would like to write?

I’ve also written some romance! I like all the genres I write in pretty equally; I just wish I was better at writing horror than I am. I’ve always had a strong passion for history, so I think historicals is something I’d like to try at some point–it surprises me that I haven’t already. I find writing short to be a lot more difficult than writing long; I always think of ideas in terms of books rather than short stories, and sometimes have to modify the idea down, as I can certainly never write all my ideas as novels unless I have an exceptionally long life. I’ve been experimenting with writing novellas lately–I’m in the process of writing two right now. Of course, there’s little to no market for novellas. I guess I’ll wind up self-publishing them or something.

I love the title of your current Anthony-nominated story, “Cold Beer No Flies.”  Is there a story behind this particular title, and how important do you think titles are for stories or novels?

Thank you, I’m rather partial to that title myself! When I was a teenager in Kansas, there was a bar in the county seat that was very similar to the bar in my story. It was simply called My Place and they had a reader board out on the side of the road and one day it said COLD BEER NO FLIES. That tickled me for some reason, and I never forgot it. About ten years later I wrote the first draft of the story with that title. It sat in my files for a very long time, and about ten years ago I revised it for the first time, shifted the setting from Kansas to the Florida panhandle, and changed the main character from a young woman to a young man. When Florida Happens came about, I revised it one last time and submitted it to the blind read process, and was delighted to have the judges score it highly enough for inclusion. (My story in the Blood on the Bayou anthology also went through the blind read, and was picked.)

You have two PI novel series set in New Orleans.  How would you describe these two series, how they differ from each other, and how you’re able to slip into the separate moods and characters of each of them?

The Chanse series is more hard-boiled than the Scotty series, which is more light and fun. Chanse is a completely different kind of  gay man than Scotty; he was raised working class, his family lived in a trailer park and were evangelical Christians in a small working class town in east Texas. He used football and a scholarship to LSU to get out, and finally came out officially after graduating from college. He’s more scarred emotionally, more bitter and cynical, and has a very low opinion of humanity. Scotty is the polar opposite of Chanse: from a wealthy society family on both sides, he grew up in New Orleans with extremely liberal, progressive parents who never had any issue with his sexuality, and was kind of a fuck-up in some ways, though–flunked out of college, worked as a stripper and a personal trainer, etc. But he has a very positive outlook on life, and has no baggage about his sexuality whatsoever; in fact, he revels in being gay. I’d never read a character like that before, and I felt like there needed to be one. Scotty is much more fun to write than Chanse–I kind of just make up the story as I go, because that’s kind of how Scotty lives his life, up for anything and everything–whereas Chanse is more rigid, more unhappy, and more of a tight-ass, so I have to plan his stories out from the very beginning.

You’re the co-founder of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, which takes place in New Orleans every spring.  Tell us about it.

Well, way back in 2002 my partner, myself, and Jean Redmann went out for dinner and drinks one night, and over the course of conversation the subject of writer’s conferences came up–and how queer writers were often not included, and if they were, were put on what we call a “zoo panel”–a panel where all the non-straight writers are gathered together which, no matter the good intentions, always felt like we were zoo animals people came to see and point at, and those panels inevitably devolved into “let’s teach the nice straight people about homophobia.” We thought it would be lovely to have an event of our own–open and welcoming all who wanted to participate–where being queer wasn’t the topic of discussion. We also thought it would be good to stress the importance of queer literature and its importance in its response to the AIDS epidemic, and try to honor the many writers we lost to the plague years. We figured we might be able to pull it off maybe once or twice before interest died down…and here we are, seventeen/eighteen years later, still going strong. I have less to do with the organizing now than I did in the beginning–most of it is my partner and his team–but I still get credit for it.

Your Lambda Literary Award winning Murder in the Rue Chartres was described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as “the most honest depiction of life in post-Katrina New Orleans published thus far.”  There was such overwhelming personal and community devastation after the hurricane and flooding.  Why did you choose to write about the hurricane and what was that like for you?

It’s so weird to me that it’s been over fourteen years now. But even now, it’s impossible to describe, or talk about, everything that happened because of Katrina. 90% of the city was rendered uninhabitable, and for awhile we weren’t even sure if the city was going to come back–or if we would ever be able to come home. We were lucky, we were able to evacuate when so many couldn’t–and that guilt lasted a really long time. It took me a long time to forgive myself for leaving New Orleans to die. It’s very difficult to describe how New Orleanians feel about New Orleans, that deep love that runs through, and colors, everything. The entire time I was gone I felt unmoored, unanchored, unsure about the future. I also knew I was going to have to write about Katrina, and I didn’t really want to. I was one of the first to come back–I returned to New Orleans on October 11th, about six weeks or so after it happened. I had been blogging at that time for not quite a year–but I was blogging extensively throughout that time, describing what I was feeling and what I was seeing. (I only wish technology had advanced to the point where phones had cameras–I didn’t have a digital camera at the time and so was unable to document everything with pictures; all I have is memories and the blog.) Katrina was such an enormous event, that the entire world was aware of–I didn’t see how I could possibly continue to write fiction about New Orleans without acknowledging Katrina, but at the same time I didn’t want to write about it, either. The Scotty series–I’d finished and turned in the third book in that series, Mardi Gras Mambo, about three weeks before the storm and I’d intended to start writing the fourth almost immediately, after taking about a month off to rest and regroup. Ironically, the idea was called Hurricane Party Hustle and I wanted to write a book set in the city during an evacuation with another near-miss hurricane–which I’d already experienced three or four times at that point. Needless to say that idea was scrapped. I also didn’t see how I could write a light, funny book about New Orleans when we were still in the midst of everything.* I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write a Chanse book. My editor at Alyson Books, Joseph Pittman, kept after me, telling me I was the perfect person to write such a book, and so on and so on, and I finally agreed to write it–but only on the condition that Chanse, like me, had evacuated and returned on the same day I did. I didn’t think survival stories from Katrina were mine to tell.** Writing the book itself was incredibly difficult, and I found myself drinking a lot whenever I finished for the day. But in the end, it was incredibly cathartic to write the book and I am very grateful, to this day, that Joe wore me down and convinced me to write it.
*Of course, now, all these years later, I can actually see how a funny book could be written about New Orleans in the aftermath–particularly in the way New Orleanians who were here reacted. The ruined refrigerators, for example, that everyone dragged out to the curb for disposal and sealed with duct tape–people decorated their refrigerators or wrote slogans on them; some of them were enormously funny. New Orleans has always had a sort of gallows sense of humor about itself; we always laugh, no matter what, and I do regret that I wasn’t in a place where I could examine that.
**I did eventually write a survival story, “Survivor’s Guilt” (my story in Blood on the Bayou, it was nominated for a Macavity Award a few years ago), and while I still didn’t think I had the right to tell a survival story–I kept questioning myself the entire time I was writing it–I based a lot of it on survival stories I’d been told, and given the response to the story, I think I got it right. I have another idea for a noir story set in the aftermath as well–it came to me on a panel at Raleigh Bouchercon several years ago Katrina Niidas Holm was moderating, and she keeps pushing me to write it–and I think I’ll someday get to it.
I also think sometimes I might go ahead sometime and write Hurricane Party Hustle–probably enough time has passed to write a story about an evacuation and near-miss , and sometimes I think I might go back and write a Scotty book set during that time as well…maybe.
And on that note, back to the spice mines. Thanks to everyone who voted for my story for the Anthonys so it made the short-list; that meant a lot, and I appreciate it.
And here’s hoping I won’t miss Sacramento next year.

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Bad

I should be getting ready to go to the airport.

Instead, I am glumly sitting at my desk in the Lost Apartment, feeling horribly sorry for myself and staring out the windows. It’s gray out there this morning, and this is the worst I’ve felt in quite some time. It’s bad enough to miss out on something you were looking forward to for most of the year–even worse is to miss it because you’re sick. I hate being sick, hate it hate it hate it. Im going back in to see the doctor tomorrow, so hopefully this will all be over soon. I don’t know why it’s rebounded again so terribly, but last night I definitely was feeling like crap and that’s what I woke up to this morning. Heavy heaving sigh. I suspect today–which I’d hoped would be somewhat productive–is going to be spent in my easy chair under blankets, eating chicken noodle soup and reading. Yay.

But I should be able to finish reading Certain Dark Things, so that’s definitely something to be pleased about. Little victories are important when you feel like you’re at death’s door, and maybe when I’m finished with it, I may just go ahead and treat myself to reading a Stephen King; there are any number of Kings in my bookshelves that I’ve not read. I’ve also got some terrific ARCs I should read as well. I really do have a plethora of riches in my TBR pile, and there’s also all kinds of things to watch on my streaming services. So, I should probably be sort of productive, right? Rather than moping around feeling like shit and feeling sorry for myself, right? I bet after I have some chicken noodle soup I’m going to feel a lot better. I wonder what it is about chicken soup that makes you feel better always? Is it an actual thing, or have we been socialized and trained to believe in its healing powers, so it’s a psychosomatic response?

And I may not be going to Dallas, but I still am on vacation, right? So this should be about getting caught up, rested, and treating this as a vacation–despite the fact that everyone on my social media timelines (well, a high percentage of them anyway) will be at Bouchercon without me, and I will have an enormous sense of ‘fear of missing out’ come to fruition. I’ve gotten a lot better about dealing with my lifelong FOMO, but it still pops up. I love going to events like Bouchercon because it helps me reconnect with my writing, and helps remind me that I actually am one. I’ve talked on here before endlessly about the Imposter Syndrome I experience almost every day when it comes to being a writer; going to Bouchercon and talking with other writers, sitting on panels talking about writing and books–all that stuff reaffirms me and reminds me that yes, Greg, you actually are a writer, and you’re actually pretty good at it. That kind of reassurance is quite lovely, and it’s necessary sometimes. It helps keep me going. Bouchercon and the combined Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints & Sinners are usually spaced apart enough to give me the needed jolt of creative energy I need every six months; it’s going to be terrible missing Bouchercon this year just for this very reason.

But in other exciting news, this author roundtable I participated in has gone live right here. Crime Reads is one of my favorite websites, and it was quite lovely being asked, as an Anthony Award nominee, to participate in a roundtable discussion about crime fiction. Sigh. I really hate not being in Dallas this weekend.

Isn’t this picture interesting?

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I’m not really sure where I found it, but all my pictures of hot men that I share generally pop up on the Internet somewhere. I save the ones I like, or that pique my curiosity, and then I share them here so my blog crossposts onto social media with an image.

This picture particularly intrigues me not just because the model is attractive with a nice, leanly muscled body; while I am not an expert on the subject of male bikinis, the one he’s wearing looks too modern to have been around as long as it would have had to have been if the picture is as old as it looks–to me, it looks like it was taken in the 1940’s or 50’s. I don’t know why it does, but it does. When I first saw it, I thought, ah, this is some sailor or Marine from during the Second World War in the South Pacific…but as I look at it more, I could be wrong. It’s the tone of the black and white colors that make it look like it is decades old, but that could have been achieved in other ways, including modern day digital filters. I also don’t think, upon further reflection, that this bikini is actually his–or if it is, this is the first time he’s worn it out in the sun, based on the tan lines exposed. I’m also not sure what he has in his mouth, although it is most likely a cigar of some sort.

I guess my perception of the picture is because it looks like other beefcake black and white photography from the time period where I placed the picture originally; there are a lot of beefcake images from the WW2 era and just after where gorgeous young men in the military either posed nude or next-to-nude, most likely for money. As this is also the time period that Chlorine is going to be set, these images speak to me more than just as the ordinary isn’t this a great picture of a hot guy reaction the more recent ones I use on this blog generally get. I wonder about this guy…was he gay or bisexual? The cigar he might or might not be chomping on is yet another symbol of masculinity from that era; so he’s a strong, healthy sexy body, and while the bikini might cast some aspersions on his perceived masculinity in that era, the cigar counteracts that. So, who is this guy? What is his story?

A google image search turns up nothing.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I still feel pretty shitty, so I think I’m going to go lay down and make some soup in a bit. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!