Don’t Dream It’s Over

Saturday, and LSU is taking on Vanderbilt at eleven a.m. on the SEC Network. GEAUX TIGERS!

I feel pretty good this morning. The massive volunteer project is now over but for the shouting, and I feel pretty damned good about it. I’ve been sleeping well, and starting to feel more rested–the emotional and creative hangover I’ve been experiencing has been absolutely horrific–so hopefully this weekend I can focus and get more work done. I am soooo far behind where I need to be with everything right now; but that also seems to be where I am at all the time, regardless of what else I am doing. I tend to always fall behind.

ALWAYS.

But I am taking today as a day of rest from everything–don’t worry, I’ll still be cleaning during the football games today (LSU-Vanderbilt, Georgia-Notre Dame, Florida-Tennessee) and maybe get some reading done; I also will have my journal perched on my end table so whenever an idea or thought comes to mind, I will be able to jot down notes whenever ideas come to me–and they almost always do, without fail. It really is a good idea, for the record, to write stuff down. I often go back through my journals and find jewels I’d completely forgotten about secreted in there.

And I have a veritable plethora of choices for my next book to read. The TBR pile around here has been out of control for quite some time, and I’ve got to start reading some of these books. I have some more reading to do to prepare for Bouchercon–I’m moderating two panels–and of course, there’s the Diversity Project, but I think I am going to read Lisa Lutz’ The Swallows next. I’ve also got to start preparing for those panels, thinking up good questions that will stimulate a healthy, vibrant discussion. Moderating panels is a lot of work, but I always try to think of them in terms of being like talk shows; like as moderator I’m Oprah and they are my panel of guests to talk about books. Loving books and authors as much as I do, it’s not much of a reach for me, and I am moderating some panels with some pretty smart, amazing, and talented people.

I seriously know some of the most amazing people. I have the most fantastic friends. I am so lucky.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines–LSU kicks off in half an hour.

GEAUX TIGERS!

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Everybody Have Fun Tonight

Well, we made it to Wednesday and survived, did we not? It’s payday, aka pay-the-bills day (yay) and I also only have to work a half-day, which is lovely.

I didn’t want to get up this morning; the big project I was working on was officially finished yesterday and turned in; and I was amazed at how much it had taken out of me. I was exhausted when I went to bed last night; emotionally and physically. Today I get to start digging out from under; my email inbox is completely out of control, and I’ve been trying to keep up with it as much as I can lately, but also haven’t really wanted to face some of them while I was so vested in something else, frankly. Today I have my half-day, and tomorrow I have the day off because I have to deal with some personal issues that will involve me driving all over New Orleans and Metairie–and no, none of it is anything that will resolve any issues I’ve been having with other things; I still need to figure out when to get to the dentist and to the Apple Store with my laptop and get the oil changed in my car. But as most of tomorrow will be spent driving somewhere and then waiting, I can hopefully get a lot closer to finished with Rob Hart’s wonderful The Warehouse, which I am greatly enjoying but have been too tired to read.

The goal for the rest of this week is to get some good work on writing done, get the email inbox cleaned out from top to bottom, and figure out what I can get done the rest of this month before I have to work on another project. I started some prep work for the Kansas book yesterday, which is basically being completely overhauled, just brainstorming name changes as I realized I used many of these character names in Sara (which is also a Kansas book), and therefore really can’t use them a second time. There’s definitely a couple of short stories that need to be finished, and of course, the Lost Apartment really needs to be cleaned thoroughly from ceiling fans down to the floor.

Something to do while college football games are on Saturday, I guess. LSU is playing Vanderbilt, but I don’t know if it’s a day or evening game–haven’t had the time to look it up, but definitely will, obviously, before Saturday–and other than that, I don’t know what other games are on tap for this weekend. But it’s lovely to know that I can have my usual Saturday again–writing in the morning before errands, then cleaning while watching football games the rest of the day, and reading as well–after several weeks of not having normal weekends.

I do rather think that once my brain has rested, it’s going to probably explode into another episode of mass creativity; which is daunting to think about, quite frankly, but always winds up being fun of some sort, and who knows what creative efforts might come forth. I’m still so discombobulated from all this work that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going to be honest; it’s kind of like that time after the Great Data Disaster of 2018, when I was literally on fire with creativity and balancing multiple projects and having a great time with everything…until the betrayal of my electronics.

I am now up to the lynching massacre of Italians in New Orleans that took place after the chief of police was murdered in the 1890’s in Lords of Misrule; another disgraceful period of history but at least one that wasn’t memorialized like the Battle of Liberty Place. I’ve read about this mob violence against Italians before, in Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin (which I highly recommend), and I know there’s a story in there somewhere for Monsters of New Orleans, but I can’t quite figure out what it is.  But I will get there someday.

And oop–there it is. I just figured it out. See what I mean? This is how my mind works. It’s seriously crazy. But it also solved a problem for me with one of the short stories I have in development; ah, if I just tweak this and add this bit, now the story works much better and maybe I can now sell it. How cool is that?

Pretty fucking cool, methinks.

Okay, time to get to the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.

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Looking for a New Love

Hey there, Tuesday! How you doin’?

I’m a bit on the sleepy side; I finally got a good night’s sleep for the first time in a few days, and as such I’m still  a big groggy and loopy this morning. Yesterday was an oddly out of sorts kind of day, during which I didn’t get a lot done but did manage to get some work done on the short story I have due by the end of the month. Kickstarting my writing really needs to become a priority as we wind up this seemingly endless volunteer project–but the end is so nigh it’s almost palpable, as thought I can actually taste the end as it draws near. I feel like this project has sort of sucked the life out of me and the marrow out of my bones, but it’s almost finished and perhaps now everything can sort of go back to some semblance of normalcy around here.

Like that ever happens.

We got caught up on The Righteous Gemstones last night, and I have to say, this show–which is also kind of weird and almost creepy in many ways–is quite enjoyable to watch. I’m not really sure where it’s going, which makes it even more fun, but it’s funny and sad and crazy all at the same time. John Goodman as the family patriarch and head preacher Eli Gemstone is perfect in the role, and pretty much everyone else in the cast is also perfect for their role. I am a little surprised there hasn’t been any nastiness from the evangelical community, but then again, how many  of them watch HBO?

I think tonight we’re going to start Succession, which comes highly recommended by any number of our friends, and one of the previews I saw last night made it look fantastic.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I continue to read Lords of Misrule, and the dark bloody history of this city continues to amaze and enthrall me. I’m shaking my head at myself–my ignorance of New Orleans history certainly gives the lie to the oft-stated notion that I am some sort of expert on New Orleans; I am anything but an expert on this city, particularly of its history. But I am learning, and studying, and I have to tell you, the more I read of New Orleans history the more inspired I am to write about the city.

I will say that I have been invited to contribute a story to an anthology, being done by a publisher in a foreign (yet English speaking) country. I am always excited to be invited to write for an anthology, and usually I see these tasks as challenges–there’s simply nothing more guaranteed to stretch and push your writing as writing to a theme. This one in particular is a strange one for me; it’s a collection of pastiches, where one is to take a particularly famous fictional character and make him a native of another place. You can make any changes to the character–gender, sexuality, age, time period, etc.–as long as, in this case, he isn’t British and the story isn’t set there. I have chosen to make him a New Orleanian during the time around World War I, and the crime he’s to become involved in solving has to do with the secrets of Storyville. I never considered myself to be anything more than a casual fan of this character, and had never considered doing pastiches about him, despite their increasing popularity. SO, I have the idea and I’ve already written the opening paragraph, and I am really looking forward to this challenge.

And I am very well aware that the Short Story Project has primarily taken a backseat to the Diversity Project, which I am taking a respite from in order to read Rob Hart’s novel, before getting back to it.

I do really want to get these other two short story collections finished at some point. But I also need to get some work done on the Kansas book; September is slipping through my fingers and there’s another all consuming project lying in wait for me for October and November–which means December will be spent on the Kansas book, with a goal to turning it into my publisher on January 1.

But we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

And now back to the spice mines.

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I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Blue Monday….

I managed to get some things done yesterday; some work on the short story I needed to work on, and I finished the essay I needed to turn in yesterday. So, that’s a good start to the week, methinks; we’ll see if the momentum keeps going through this week. The month of September is definitely beginning to wind down–we’ve only got a couple of weeks left, and of course, I have another project that’s going to take all of my time for the next two months so getting things done this month is crucial for me going forward. I am sleeping and groggy this morning, which isn’t good, but hopefully as the coffee continues to enter my system I’ll start waking up and getting it together here.

We started watching The Righteous Gemstones last night on HBO, and I have to say, it’s highly entertaining and more than a little bit insane. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it, but what turned up was even crazier than I was expecting. The Gemstones are a family of evangelicals with a megachurch, and of course, raging hypocrites with borderline criminal credentials and behavior. Over the course of the first few episodes, the eldest son is being blackmailed over a video of him partying with cocaine and hookers; this craziness begins the wild spiral of this truly original show. I kept thinking about John D. MacDonald’s One More Sunday, which tackled the same subject only in a deeply serious and noirish way; I’ve considered doing something similar myself–one of the many iterations of the Kansas book revolved around a megachurch that arose out of the sins of the past. (You have literally no idea how many iterations the Kansas book has been through, Constant Reader, no idea.)

One of the goals of this week is to get through all the emails in my inbox and clean it out once and for all; I’d like to be down to zero emails to answer by the end of this week, if at all possible. It may not be possible–answering emails inevitably leads to more emails to answer, as always–but that’s the goal of the week, and I will have to work my ass off this coming weekend as the deadline for this short story looms ahead of me.

I read some more of Rob Hart’s The Warehouse this weekend, and really am hoping to have the time to get further along into the story. It’s beginning to pick up steam, and the world it depicts is all too realistic, frankly; realistic and horrifying at the same time. It isn’t very hard to see this world as our future, and that is frankly a terrifying prospect. But it’s a credit to how good a writer Hart is that this book is so thought-provoking and real; this is my first time with one of Rob’s books and it certainly is encouraging me to make a run through his entire backlist.

And can anyone really expect anything more from a book that it’s so good that you want to tear through the author’s entire canon? I think not.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Walk Like an Egyptian

And just like that, it is now Friday. I’m still not entirely certain of everything I must get done this weekend, but at some point today I am going to have to make a list. I know I have to finish my essay, get further along on that short story I have due at the end of the month, and get some work done on another that isn’t due until March, but I want to start playing with.

Last night was another bad night as far as sleep was concerned, but I do feel somewhat rested today. My friend Lisa from Atlanta is in town, and I am meeting her after work today to hang out for a bit. My schedule has changed from early morning to early afternoon, which is always my preference–I’d rather never do any early mornings, quite frankly–and I am hoping this morning’s coffee will not only fuel me through this entire day of work but get me through hanging out with Lisa with some coherence. I have a lot of work to do this weekend–one of the many things I’ve allowed to fall to the wayside whilst working on this enormous volunteer project is housework, other than the dishes and laundry–and I really need to get that under control. The weather is still pretty awful here, although it’s getting to the point where it’s cool in the morning and cool in the evenings, which is a sign the heat’s going to break relatively soon.

It’s also Friday the 13th, which I just realized, and there’s a full moon tonight, methinks.

I’ve been reading Lords of Misrule by James Gill, as I have mentioned previously, and it’s really quite eye-opening. It’s funny to me in some ways because all of my reading of New Orleans history this and last year has shown me that New Orleans has always been a rather lawless city, with high rates of brawls, murders and robberies; I am sure rape rates have always been high but never reported back in those days. The history of the city can essentially be summed up in the theme I am using for Bury Me in Shadows: “The history of this city was written in blood.” It shames me that I’ve not studied the history of my home city and state in more detail, and that it has taken me this long to start. I’m going to be writing a historical short story soon–I’ve been asked to write one for an anthology, and I am setting it in 1913-1914 era New Orleans, in Storyville, and I think it will be incredibly fun to write, and I know it will be incredibly fun to research. I really do want to, at some point, write more historical fiction set in New Orleans; the history here is fascinating, if a little frightening–the white supremacy and racism is particularly horrible for such a seemingly tolerant city; but we also have to remember the horribly homophobic reaction of most of the city when the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in the French Quarter, was set ablaze in the worst mass murder of queer people in American history until the Pulse massacre in Orlando a few years back. (I really can’t wait to read Robert Fieseler’s Edgar winning Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Upstairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.)

Anyway, I am at the chapter in Lords of Misrule called “The Battle of Liberty Place,” and I am already dreading reading it in some ways. I know a little about this; all I really need say is it involves a mob of white supremacists and it happened in 1874, during Reconstruction while the state was occupied after the Civil War and…I don’t really need to draw a picture, do I? The Battle of Liberty Place monument was one of the Confederate memorials in the city that were taken down during Mitch Landrieu’s administration, and while I believe they all had to go (I was truly tired of saying to visitors I was showing around, “and here we are at politically incorrect Lee Circle, which memorializes treason”), the Liberty Place monument in particular was a disgrace to a modern city. (I had considered doing a Scotty book around the memorials and their removal, but decided ultimately against it. I don’t like the Scotty books to be fixed in time; there are times when I’ve regretted writing about the Saints winning the Super Bowl) I don’t consider myself to be particularly “woke”, but I do recognize I’ve benefited from privilege most of my life, and while being gay has resulted in some marginalization, I’m still a cisgendered white male, which in this society and culture puts me on third base already.

I can always do better when it comes to issues of race, gender, and sexuality–and it’s something I think about every day at least once. I strive to be a better ally than I am. It really is amazing, when you think about it, how indoctrinated we all are into this shit.

And the history is absolutely horrifying–and it’s disgraceful how it’s been sanitized into mythology.

Heavy thoughts for a Friday morning, aren’t they? Sheesh. But it’s hard not to read about  angry mobs murdering people they’ve othered, and not be appalled by it. I haven’t even gotten to the xenophobic massacre of Italians in the 1890’s yet.

Yes, New Orleans is a city with a history that drips blood; a city of massive contradictions, and it’s not hard to believe that the city’s history haunts it. And yet it is still a magical place, where all that pain and blood and suffering has been somehow transmuted into gold through art and music and literature. The city will probably never stop fascinating me, and I will undoubtedly spend the rest of my life studying it.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. One of the things that is completely out of control is my inbox; I’ve got to do something about that this morning.

Heavy sigh.

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Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now

It’s going to take me a while to get used to getting off work early on Wednesdays. Yesterday as I left the office, I felt like I was skipping school or something, and I also had to catch myself periodically from thinking oh tomorrow’s Friday.

So today I have an eight hour shift ahead of me, and lots to do in the meantime. I made shrimp-n-grits last night, but rather than making the grits I made baked potatoes instead, sauteed some mushrooms, and used the shrimp-n-grits recipe to make the shrimp. Oh my God, was that ever delicious; the baked potatoes were the perfect starch to replace the grits.

I’ve simply got to get caught up on everything. The volunteer project continues to run on, but I am fairly certain today it will be finished–but I think I’ve been thinking that every morning since it started. It’s a long, detailed, immensely complicated process, but I do think that we are doing a good job on it–but details keep popping up that require changes, and like most things, when one thread gets pulled…other threads also start unraveling and you have to stanch the bleeding. But I think the work we did yesterday loans itself to being finished today, and at least I am heading into today with my fingers crossed that a good strong push today will get everything done, once and for all, which will be absolutely lovely sliding into the weekend, so I can get caught up on everything else. I am frankly so far behind on emails it’s not even funny, and I’ve barely written anything at all over the last few weeks. That essay is still due on Sunday and I still have that short story to whip into shape, but this has been so all-encompassing I haven’t been able to get anything else done in the meantime–when I call it quits for the day, I am too mentally exhausted to do much of anything else. Last night, for example, I finished the final season of the Scream television series; they’d done a third season that never aired on MTV but was instead released to Netflix. It wasn’t particularly good–entertaining enough, but the backstory that created the Ghostface character in this season didn’t really make sense, so the whole thing kind of unraveled at the end. It’s a shame; it had some very good moments, and it had a lot of potential.

So, I am hopeful that today the volunteer project will be finished, once and for all, and my life will return to some slight semblance of normalcy. I am far behind on writing goals with some deadlines looming that I should probably start panicking, but panicking is the worst thing I could do as it will bring with it that horrible paralysis which results in me never getting anything done. Which completely and totally sucks.

So, probably best not to go down that road, don’t you think?

Anyway, my friend Lisa from Atlanta will be in town this weekend, so I am going to go hang out with her when I get off work on Friday for a good little while. That’s good news, as I adore Lisa and she’s always a lot of fun to be around. I’m not even sure that LSU’s game will be on television this weekend–it’s a nobody game, I think Northwestern State, from Natchitoches (pronounced nakadish), so that frees up my Saturday almost completely. Sure, I’ll probably tune in to some other games that day, but most likely not. WHat I should do is spend the day writing, and then when I’ve burned out on that, curl up with Rob Hart’s The Warehouse. I hate that I’m getting so much further behind on my reading as well…and of course I wanted to finish the final draft of the Kansas book this month–but it’s already the twelfth and that means only eighteen more days to get it done. I probably could, with a strong push, but I don’t know. Scream did remind me, though, of some more horrible high school cliches I included in the Kansas book–the poor quarterback who wants to get a scholarship to get out of the dead-end town, the bitchy mean-girl cheerleader, and so forth. I think the primary problem I’ve had with this book all along is I never really learned who the characters were beneath their surface appearance; if I can do that (maybe I should focus on that this month, if I’m not going to be able to finish writing it this month at least maybe I can lay the groundwork for getting it finished in December) it will probably go a long way towards reclaiming the book and making it good rather than yet another cliche-ridden book filled with stereotypes. I was so concerned with the story itself, maybe I never really dug into the characters deeply enough.

Which is a recipe for disaster–and the book kind of is one at this point. I think I nailed the main character, but everyone else is simply a facade and a shell; so yeah, I should probably get that done. Always, always so much to do.

All right, I think I’m going to clean up the mess in the kitchen I left overnight from the shrimp ‘n’ baked potatoes from last night, and the get some work done this morning before I head into the office.

Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

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Shake You Down

And just like that, it becomes Tuesday.

Another restless night of sleep, yet I managed to get through yesterday after a similarly restless night, so I guess I’ll be okay today. Tomorrow is a short day for me (yay!) and so I just need to get through this really long day before the easy part of my week gets here.

And today is the official launch date for Royal Street Reveillon. I know some of you have already gotten and read it–thank you so very much!–and I hope my incessant reminders that the book is dropping today haven’t been overly annoying. I never know about that–it worries me somewhat to always been on self-promotion mode, and yet some authors seem to go there all the time without a problem, so maybe I’m doing this all wrong?

Then again, this is my blog, which is pretty much all about me to begin with, isn’t it? In a way, my blog is my own version of a reality TV show; a carefully curated but essentially honest version of my life. Something to ponder, at any rate.

I got another ask for a short story last evening after I got home from work–a solicitation to submit, not a guaranteed inclusion–and it’s something that immediately struck my fancy, so I said yes immediately. Without going into many details, it’s a pastiche; an assignment to write a story using another author’s incredibly famous characters to create something new, with a slight twist–the characters can be anything other than the famous nationality that is very much a part of them. Immediately, I came up with a great title (it’s one I’ve had in my back pocket for quite some time and thought I’d never get to use), which is always the first step of the process for me, and then jotted down some notes for it in my journal, which is usually the second step in the process for me, and then I realized I can probably start even writing the beginning, which also came to me last night. I have another story to finish by the end of the month and an essay I have to finish by the end of this week, so I need to stop procrastinating and get to work, don’t I? And the last round of the volunteer project is also on deck, so I suspect I am going to be very busy this week–which is also kind of nice.

This month is also flying by a lot faster than I would like, but that’s pretty much every month these days. So, for the record, this week I need to work on two short stories, finish an essay, and write a chapter of Chlorine, all while working on the volunteer project around the day job. Heavy heaving sigh. No rest for the wicked, I suppose.

But that’s my life, isn’t it? LSU doesn’t have another big game until next month, after they start SEC play–Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and then Texas A&M, with a week off between Auburn and Alabama–but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch their games against lesser-tier opponents in the meantime, but I find myself not all that interested in watching other college games this season. I really and truly only care about LSU (and Auburn, to a lesser extent) and I do have some affection for Alabama, residual leftover from growing up watching them during the Bear Bryant years, but not so much everyone else. Maybe that’ll change as the season progresses; I don’t know. But I am very excited for LSU, and excited to see how they turn out this season.

And maybe sometime I will have the time to actually sit down and lose myself in Rob Hart’s The Warehouse. My reading time lately has been greatly diminished, and I am not happy about that, either.

And now off to the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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