Dance Little Sister

Today I am off to Alabama. I’ve ordered groceries to pick up for Paul, which I will drop off on my way out of town. I am a bit excited about the trip–it’s always lovely to see Margaret and Tammy–and I just love this event. This is my fourth time going, and I’ve always had a good time whenever I’ve headed up there. I’ll be back here on Sunday evening, probably exhausted and ready for the incredible comfort and joy of my own bed. I am looking forward to the drive (lunch at the Arby’s in Toomsuba! Carol Goodman audiobook on the stereo!) and I’m not in a huge rush to get up there, either. I think it’s about six or seven hours? Never mind, it’s only five total– I also checked the distance and the timing it takes, and I realized last night that I don’t, in fact, have to get on the road by nine or ten. Since it’s five hours, give or take, without stops, so really, as long as I get on the road around noon I’ll be there tonight by six. So, why make myself crazy trying to rush out of here?so yeah, no need to put the pedal to the metal and speed or anything. I’ll probably just put the cruise control on after I get past Slidell and cross the state line into Mississippi. I also checked the distance and the timing it takes, and I realized last night that I don’t, in fact, have to get on the road by nine or ten. Since it’s five hours, give or take, without stops, so really, as long as I get on the road around noon I’ll be there tonight by six. So, why make myself crazy trying to rush out of here? I do have to go pick up those groceries, swing by the bank and post office, get gas, and run another errand. I can also take my time and make sure I have everything packed that I need as well–when I finish this I’ll probably go ahead and make the list after checking the weather. I slept extremely well last night, too.

I was exhausted when I got home from work yesterday, hence the great relief that I could just laze about and not do much of anything last night, which was helpful. I think the malaise really struck hard yesterday, and by the time I got home from the office I was exhausted, so much so that I collapsed into my chair without a second thought and pretty much stayed there the entire night, rather than packing or organizing or anything. Paul did come home so we could finish The Recruit–and I have to say, that was a season finale. It’s already been renewed for a second season, and I can’t recommend this show enough. It’s a lot of fun, has humor, a great plot and story, and the acting is top notch. I also rather like the cynical way the CIA works on the show–as well as its depiction of how Washington works–because I suspect it’s much more like this than people would like to believe. I did go to bed early, too, which helped with the sleep, and even though I woke up at six this morning I chose to stay in bed for another couple of hours like a slug. But it felt marvelous–last night I was thinking to myself I was too tired to make the trip this weekend if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and how fortuitous for me that I got one. Here’s hoping I can sleep for the next two nights at a hotel in Birmingham, shall we?

But I can feel my batteries recharging, if that makes sense? And that, too, feels good to me. I know I have a lot of editing work to do in front of me–as well as other writing–but this fallow period is needed to rest the earth of my creativity so it can spring back into action when I need it again. I think I was a bit too ambitious with thinking about my schedule for the year, too–but the schedule has kind of sorted itself out again, which is kind of nice. I’m not sure when I am going to get to some of the things I had planned to write this year–but I do still plan on writing them; I don’t think ambition is going to be a problem to get me motivated this year. In fact, I suspect motivation is actually not going to be a problem for me this year or any year going forward.

Then again, it isn’t summer here quite yet, either. Summer definitely takes its toll on me and my psyche; usually by August I am feeling relatively defeated by the heat and humidity, but I don’t think that’ll be as much of a problem this year as it has been. Now that we have the new HVAC system, it’s always cool in the house in every part of it. And by then I am hoping to have my return to the gym ingrained as a habit by then. 2023 is the year I want to take better care of myself and get things taken care of–hearing and teeth to start with–and of course going to the gym is integral to my health. I need to start stretching at home every day in the meantime, maybe even working my way back up to some push-ups and ab crunches before I start going back to the gym. It also has occurred to me that stretching at home before going to the gym is probably a better approach; I’ll be warmed up and the walk will keep me warmed up as I head over there and then back home again. I also think I’ll feel more like myself once I am going to the gym again more regularly. And feeling more like myself, returning my life back to what it used to be, is really kind of important to me. I feel in some ways like I’ve lost my sense of self and who am I and what really matters to me the most over the course of the last years because I’ve been so busy. It’s also been really tempting to think oh I have so much free time I should start volunteering again, but I cut those thoughts off very quickly and at the pass. This is how I become over-committed and stressed out and inevitably kicks my anxiety into high gear again–so I always have to take a step back and think whenever that impulse rears its head in my life again.

And I won’t feel bad for being selfish and more jealous of my time. I’ve been volunteering almost non-stop since 1998–twenty five years ago–and so see no reason to feel bad about not giving back for a while, if ever again.

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for the trip and ready to hit the road. Have a great Friday, Constant Reader; I probably won’t check in again with you until Monday morning.

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Well, I’ve decided on my audiobook for the drive to and from Alabama this weekend: Carol Goodman’s The Night Visitors. Carol is one of my favorite writers (and has become a friend! I love my life) and I love her works; if you’re not reading her already you need to get on it–and there’s a healthy canon to dig into as well (always a plus). She also has a new book coming out this spring, called The Bones of the Story, which is a great title. I’m working on a short story this week while I am letting my novel manuscripts rest, and it’s definitely some slow going. I got about two thousand words into this story about a year ago, and I think it works perfectly for this anthology a friend of mine is putting together; I just need to finish the damned thing. But tonight I have a ZOOM call I have to do and I have to pack for my weekend in Alabama, and tomorrow morning I’m getting up, writing a post and hitting the road while listening to the divine Carol Goodman.

Does life get better? I think not.

It’s actually kind of funny; after I finished yesterday I realized I could, for the first time in quite a while, take some down time to myself for a minute or two without guilt or something looming over me needing to be done. After I sent the manuscript (such as it is) in along with my editorial thoughts and analyses, I thought, wow, I’ve sure written a lot since just before Christmas and showed an incredible amount of discipline–the kind of single-mindedness you’ve not had for quite a while, and I should feel drained and tired but I don’t. That was an incredibly over-confident assumption to make, even though it was true at the time I thought it. When I got home from work I realized my candle wick had burned down so far that it needed to rest and be replenished for a while. I am still feeling motivated and creative, though; I was simply drained yesterday. Before I went to bed last night (after watching another episode of The Recruit, which I am really enjoying) I kind of felt like the batteries were already starting to recharge. I feel very tired this morning, too–I slept well, don’t get me wrong, but I think I needed to sleep longer. Ah, well. I don’t have to get up before the sun rises tomorrow, so that’s something.

I always like Thursday nights.

But the kitchen is still a mess. I wasn’t in the mood to clean last night when I got home, either. I just felt disoriented, emotionally and intellectually spent, and physically tired. I used to call it the malaise, because it felt like melancholy brought on by the utter exhaustion of my creativity and drive to write. It’s very weird. Usually, the malaise also brings with it the feeling that I don’t even want to think about writing anything else ever again–which is not the case this time, which is very weird to me. I am champing at the bit to get to work on more things, new things, even to start working on the editing of everything else. It is very weird, and I will keep you posted on how this weird new version of malaise works itself out.

But I’ll have to clean the kitchen before the ZOOM thing tonight. That, or turn off all the kitchen lights.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I watched an interesting documentary on Youtube in my tired malaise last night, a new one from James Somerton called The Death of Queer Privacy, which was interesting. The primary focus of the documentary–Somerton does popular media critiques from a queer perspective–was, to begin with, about outing as well as the potentially problematic tropes in Paul G. Tremblay’s A Cabin at the End of the World and it’s film adaptation, A Knock at the Cabin. It was another look–deconstruction, if you will–if whether a straight identified (I don’t know how he actually does identify) writer centering a gay couple/family at the heart of a horror novel/movie is either good representation (they could just as easily have been a straight couple, a mixed-race couple, lesbians, etc.; sexual orientation didn’t play a part in the plot and if anything, the fact that the gay family was presented as normal and not a big deal tends to undermine any critical analyses of this as intentionally or unintentionally sinister) or if the book/movie, at heart, centers the trauma of a queer family as entertainment for the masses. I may want to watch that again; I wasn’t paying a lot of attention because I was tired and scrolling through social media on my iPad, so I may have missed some things, but the critique and look at the film itself was merely an introduction to the main topic, which was the attack on queer people’s right to privacy–which served as an interesting counterpoint to a lot of the public discourse about queer celebrities and how much of their lives, if any, needs to be shared with the audience. The recent forced outing of Kit Conner from Heartstopper is perhaps the best example of this; the idea that queer people in the public eye need to–nay, must–come out and be publicly queer, no matter how they themselves feel about revealing that much of themselves to the world, is problematic on its face. Somerton then went on to talk about how gossip blogger (and garbage human being) Perez Hilton essentially dragged a couple of people out of the closet. And really, are the personal and private lives of any celebrity any of our business? Simply because we enjoy someone’s performance in film and television, or like someone’s music, doesn’t really give us the right to know intimate details of their personal lives. I’ve never cared, beyond mere idle interest in hearing gossip; but I don’t care that much about it because I don’t know these people. What does who Taylor Swift is dating have to do with her music–other than her break-ups tend to spawn some amazing music–and why do I care? Why would I care who Tom Hiddleston is fucking, unless it’s someone I actually know? (There’s an interesting dialogue to be had about our billion-dollar celebrity gossip industry…) To circle around back to Tremblay, I knew he was publicly identified as straight as far as I knew (and didn’t care to know more). I was a fan of his before reading A Cabin at the End of the World (having greatly enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock–I’ve not read the others yet–and so I was delightfully surprised that the family the book was centered on was a gay couple and their adopted child. It was yet another entry in the “people go to secluded place and then horrible things happen” trope of horror, but with a remarkable twist that made it even more intense and terrifying. (I’m really looking forward to the film.) I read the book and enjoyed it, and I didn’t read anything sinister into it; but I was also reading it from an entertainment perspective rather than to gain a sociopolitical perspective for writing a critique…which now I kind of want to do, thank a lot, James Somerton–this is how this kind of thing always happens to me.

In fact, an essay exploring three mainstream novels by non-queer writers centering queer characters could prove interesting–and the Tremblay, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears, and Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden would be the perfect trio to look at as they are relatively current, critical successes, and often award recognized.

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Out of Time

It’s today that I officially run out of time on this draft; tomorrow I need to get it emailed in. I think I’ll be okay; I wrote six thousand words yesterday and only have six thousand more to go before I can call it an official draft that I can send in with an email of apology and explanation. It’s fine, really, everything is fine. I am remarkably calm about everything these days. I’m not sure why that is, but I do like it, and am delighted that it appears to be becoming a theme for me in 2023. But I am very excited to get this draft finished and turned in–I think it’s eventually, with some work, going to be one of my better ones–but now I have the foundation and skeleton of the book finished; soon I will go in and do all the little touches and finishes that will turn it into something fun and readable for readers. But I still have more to write yet–there are two chapters left to write–and while I did get six thousand words down yesterday, I have to do another six in order to get it finished. Which is fine and do-able, of course. And it’s always nice to finish something right before a weekend away.

We watched more of The Recruit last night, which we are really getting into, so I am looking forward to seeing another episode tonight or maybe two? We shall have to see, of course. I was very tired after getting home and writing last night; last night’s sleep wasn’t as deep as my sleep has been lately, but that’s okay; I did sleep decently even if I did have to keep waking up. I have a lot to do tonight, as well–and I would like to get back to doing some reading. But once I have the manuscript finished, I can have my evenings after work free for a few days; I’m not planning on getting into the weeds on editing until I get back from Alabama. Hopefully that will give me the time to do some short story writing that needs finishing, as well. The kitchen is a mess, too–I really don’t like going away for the weekend with the house in a mess to come home to, but I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do anything about it in the meantime. And then of course it’s parade season again the next two weekends, and before you know it it’s Lent and it’s all over again for another year. The first quarter of the year in New Orleans is always a challenge…

Cindy Williams died yesterday–it took me a minute to remember that Penny Marshall had also passed away already–and of course, most of the commentary and posts defaulted to Laverne & Shirley, and why wouldn’t they? It was a highly rated–if sophomoric–comedy series for eight seasons on ABC, and it did make her both rich and famous. But the thing I always thought was kind of sad was that she was actually capable of a lot more than a slapstick lowbrow comedy on television (hey, she got rich from it, and it made a lot of people happy, too) because she’d given some really fine performances in very good films like American Graffiti and The Conversation (both of which I watched during my Cynical 70’s Film Festival; most people remember American Graffiti as a fun comedy about one Saturday night in 1962 in Modesto, California–but it was a lot darker and more serious than people generally remember. It also was set in 1962, not the 50’s, but it was in that weird aftermath period where the music was still very similar–the Beatles hadn’t crossed the sea yet–and until the Kennedy assassination, the early 1960’s seemed very much like a continuation of the 1950’s until everything changed. I always wondered what Cindy Williams may have made of herself as an actress in film had she not taken the Laverne & Shirley gig. And that Tuesday night ABC line-up was something: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, SOAP, and Hart to Hart.

Ah, my teen years.

I recently rejoined the Horror Writers’ Association; I am not really sure why, to be honest. They sent me a “we want you back” email and I was talking to That Bitch Ford and I thought, sure, why not? You’re not really a horror writer but you ARE a writer who has written some fiction that could be classified as that and you’re always looking for new places to submit short stories and….so I did. I’d forgotten why I’d initially let the membership go, and it barely took a month for me to be reminded. There was a contretemps on the official Facebook page for the group, and then it just kept spiraling out of control with all the nastiness, bigotry, and hatred. As an author, I would always like to be seen as an author first and treated with the common courtesy that any author should expect from their peers, particularly in a nonprofit organization that serves them. But, as I have been reminded all-too-many times since Murder in the Rue Dauphine was sent out into the world, there will always be those people–in publishing, bookselling, reviewing, etc.–who will always define me by my sexuality and denigrate both me and what I write because of it. As I often say on panels when it comes to genre, the adjective gay trumps anything that follows: mystery, horror, science fiction, romance, etc. I am also very aware that gatekeeping in publishing–while on the decline–has always been there to keep the “undesirables” out. Seeing someone whom I didn’t know–and have no desire to know now–erupting on the HWA page and spewing hate-filled rhetoric, and then doubling-down by appearing on a white supremacist/Nazi’s podcast for several hours…well, you put on the SS uniform, it’s kind of hard to deny your complicity in the Holocaust after the war. And watching it all go down over the last few days reminded me of why I left the organization in the first place–the overt and covert bigotry in the organization.

And for the record, when you’re talking about diversity and you say but it has to be about the writing! that’s a dogwhistle people like me have been hearing for decades. What you are saying is the reason our genre is not more diverse is because the non-white non-straight writers aren’t good enough.

Yeah, that was all I needed to hear to know where I stood with HWA, and so when it was time to renew the next time, I just let it go.

And I am also incredibly proud of myself because usually my response to situations like this one–this most recent blow-up, and that comment all those years ago–is to say okay I have to get involved so I can fix this. I am very happy that instead my thought is, oh yes, this is why I let it lapse and will do so again. I’ve been fighting this kind of shit for decades, and frankly, I’m tired. I just want to focus on me for a while and let everyone else fix all the things that need fixing.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow, when Pay-the-Bills Day rolls around again.

It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)

I bit the bullet yesterday and decided to go ahead and attend Malice Domestic. It was expensive, but it does count as a business expense, and really, will I ever be nominated for an Agatha again? Probably not very likely, and even though it is just as likely that I will not win, it’s not like I’m not used to sitting at a banquet and hearing someone else’s name called. Plus, it’s always nice to be around writers, and I’ll get to see friends–including some I’ve not seen in quite a while (looking at you, Sara J. Henry) and the one time before that I went–like ten years ago–I had a really great time. So, I will be coming to Bethesda that last weekend in April, y’all. (Of course I just had a paranoid moment of wondering if I booked the flight and hotel for the right dates, but DUH, I went to the hotel link from their website after registering.) Now I just have to figure out how to get there from Washington National…I’ll probably spring for a Lyft or a car service rather than trying to drag my luggage around on the Metro.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, actually; I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked but I did make progress and progress is always appreciated. We watched the figure skating yesterday (Ilia Malinin got the gold; Jason Brown the silver) and then caught up on Servant and Mayfair Witches (which is getting more and more off-track from the book, but will save those conversations for when the show has finished, when I will talk about both book and television series), and then we started The Recruit on Netflix, which sort of reminds me of Killing Eve in some ways, but it’s different. The first episode is a bit much, but as the show continues it starts hitting its stride and I very reluctantly had to stop the binge so I could go to bed. I do look forward to tuning in again, too–hopefully Paul won’t be working super-late every night this week.

It’s hard to believe that I am heading up to Birmingham this Friday, and the next weekend is when the parades start. #madness. February will be over before we know it–and then it’s March and suddenly spring is over and we’re back into the brutal summer months of three hundred dollar power bills. I slept really well last night–the weather has changed again and is warm, which means it’s super-foggy at night and in the mornings, burning off a bit in the afternoons before descending upon us again as the sun goes down. I need to get the draft of the book finished this week and sent off; I am hoping to spend the rest of the week before I leave for Alabama Friday morning working on a short story that I need to get finished for the ever-patient editor.

I slept really well again last night, which seems to be becoming a recurrent theme for me in 2023, and one that I am deeply happy and grateful for. I’m feeling a lot less anxiety this year, and I think the relaxation and lower anxiety has everything to do with me doing all this writing, which has been wonderful. I am always happiest when I am writing and producing–even work as rough and raw as this manuscript currently is–and it always puts me in a better frame of mind. Writing, as much as I always have to force myself to do it and sometimes even hate it while I am doing it, is my happy place and as long as I am writing I am in a better frame of mind, which is something I really need to remember going forward with everything in my life: writing is what centers you and makes you happiest.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a most lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment before I head over to the Convention Center. I had a decent day yesterday; I got all my work done and wrote quite a bit; around four thousand words. I’ll need to do quite a bit this afternoon after I get back from the ALA event; if by chance you are also going, I’ll be signing at 10:30, so stop by the Dreamscape booth (they did the audiobook for A Streetcar Named Murder) and say hello and get a signed copy of the book with a download link for the audiobook. How fun is that?

Last night we watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships, which I’d DVRed–we also watched the LSU gymnastics meet before hand–and I read some more of Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food, which I am really enjoying. On the way home from the event today I have to stop by Office Max to get some new ink cartridges for my printer–it ran out of ink in the middle of a job yesterday (I always print out what I’m writing to edit and reread sans computer screen; I spend way too much time in front of a screen as it is). I slept really well last night, too–which was terrific; it’s amazing how much good sleep and rest I’ve been getting since my return to New York, and of course, I am also incredibly pleased with the writing I’ve been doing since before Christmas. I haven’t quite gotten my act together completely yet, but I am starting to feel like I’m getting closer to where I need to be. After I get back from Alabama the next step for me is to start taking walks when I get home from work every night–nothing major, just out with my phone around the neighborhood; there are Mardi Gras decorations that need to be documented, and it always makes me feel a little more connected to the city when I do that, and maybe start stretching every morning with my coffee, which will also help wake me up, too. I would imagine that tonight’s schedule will be watching more figure skating once Paul gets home from the office–which reminds me, I don’t have anything to make for dinner, so I should probably schedule a grocery run at some point today. Heavy sigh. Time is not on my side.

But so it goes, you know?

I have to say, I’m having a pretty good year so far. The Lefty and Agatha Award nominations were completely unexpected–then again, do people actually expect to be nominated for awards? It shouldn’t surprise me that some do, I suppose. Anyway, for me they were lovely surprises, and a lovely kind of pat on the back from the community to let me know they like and appreciate me and my work. I’ve really not had a lot of reassurance about anything throughout my life; most of my career I was just kind of over here doing my own thing while the mainstream mystery community might acknowledge my existence here and there, now and again, but for the most part I’ve kind of felt on my own, almost from the very beginning. The Anthony nominations last year, and these nominations this year, were so lovely. I may not be the first openly gay writer of openly gay work to be nominated for Anthonys and Agathas, but I am one of the few–there haven’t been many–and of course the response to my first mainstream book, A Streetcar Named Murder, has also been reassuring and lovely and nice. I know I shouldn’t still have issues with Imposter Syndrome, but the truth is I still do, but things like that help me with my confidence levels.

But after a lifetime of people telling me I couldn’t do it, I would never do it, and so on when it came to writing, it’s not surprising that I struggle with Imposter Syndrome despite being nominated for over twenty awards during the course of my career and even winning a few. I guess my mindset has never reset from when my first book came out–periodically I will look at my CV or have to count awards or publications or something and I am always taken a bit aback by how much I’ve actually done already. I guess part of it comes from just focusing on what I am doing and what I need to get done–part of that never look back thing I always do–as well as thinking about all the things I want to write but am beginning to realize I am never going to get to before I die. (And yes, I know, that’s morbid and depressing to think about but once you pass sixty your mortality starts seeming a lot more real than it did before–which is also a great topic for an essay someday.)

So yes, I am feeling good and content this morning. It’s a nice feeling and one I’ve not had in a long time; I am slowly but surely cleaning up all the odds and ends that I’ve had trouble getting around to and getting somewhere.

And on that note, tis time for me to head into the spice mines and start getting ready to head over to the convention center. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again later.

Rocks Off

That’s a rather charming title for a blog post, isn’t it? As you may have noticed, I generally pick a list of songs to use as titles for the blog, and I am currently (perhaps obviously) now working my way through the Rolling Stones’ extensive discography, which will occasionally provide something a little off-color (the best was the Pet Shop Boys; every song title sounds like a great essay title about gay life), like today. Today’s title just makes me think of sex and “getting your rocks off”; I don’t think I am familiar with the actual song, in all honesty, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the gist of the song.

Whatever gets your rocks off, man.

Ah, the 1970s were such a different time, weren’t they? I’ve been going down a lot of 1970s wormholes lately, not just for the sake of the nostalgia afforded (all those lovely memories of the Top Forty AM stations in Chicago, WLS and WCFL, that I grew up with; WGN before it became a nation-wide cable channel) but because it’s also a bit of research, you see. Yes, after I finish writing the book I am writing and editing the one I turned in last month and then editing the one I am turning in at the end of this month, I plan on writing Chlorine and a different book I’ve been planning for a while, but after that I am thinking about a 1970’s book–or a romance; I can’t decide which I would prefer to do next. Romance is a whole new ball game for me, which is part of the appeal, but then I look at Romancelandia on Twitter and think, yeah, not so sure I want to go swimming with those sharks. I’m not even sure what precisely is going on in that world anymore, either; I don’t know if RWA ever recovered from the “burn it all to the ground” December of 2019, and I think Romantic Times has also gone away? It’s funny, though, every time I dip my toes into the waters of another genre something inevitably will run me screaming back to crime fiction, my publishing safe space as it were. I do feel like doing something completely different from everything I’ve done already–it’s always fun and challenging to go in another direction than you usually do, and I think it helps me with my mystery writing, frankly–but I am not sure if a romance is the way to go. I have what I think is a great idea for one, but….it’s not like I haven’t thought that before, either.

Of course, writing what would be best for my career and my “brand” (whatever that may be) never enters my head. Which is probably why I am not a New York Times bestseller and a household name–yeah, that’s why, Greg.

But I went to my doctor’s appointment and am pleased to report that the arm was just a pulled muscle and lingering tendonitis (he added that I should keep it wrapped until the swelling goes does–yes, there is some weird swelling), got my prescriptions refilled, and started the process rolling that will hopefully result in my getting hearing aids at long last. My weight was high, but my blood pressure was also fine and all vitals were good, so…yay for that at any rate. And now I find myself home earlier than usual and more time to work on my writing than I ordinarily would, so hurray! I also got Art Taylor’s new short story collection The Adventures of the Castle Thief and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions, from Crippen and Landru (order direct from them! It’s better for everyone!), which is very exciting–Art is one of our best crime short story writers, period, and has won every possible award in crime fiction for short story writing at least once, and I love his work. I started reading Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food while I waited for my appointment and it’s off to a really good start, which is very cool.

I am really excited about the hearing aids, Constant Reader, you have no idea. I’ve always had trouble hearing conversations in crowded restaurants and whenever there’s ambient noise, and it’s gotten progressively worse as I’ve gotten older. (I smile and nod a lot…) And since I’ve long since stopped caring how I look, who cares if people can see me with my hearing aids in? (I wish I’d stopped caring about that a lot sooner than I did, frankly.) So once I get this done and a load of dishes in the dishwasher and a load of clothes going in the washing machine, I am going to dive headfirst into my book and see what I can get finished today.

So, best to head into the spice mines else I’ll never get started.

Promises in the Dark

I grew up loving both horror and crime stories–those wonderful old black and white Universal monster movies used to scare me to death, not to mention all the marvelous ghost stories and mysteries that got filmed back in the day. I also watched a lot of the 1950’s paranoia horror monster movies–Godzilla and its ilk–and those also used to give me horrible nightmares. I also liked how twisted horror comic books like The Witching Hour, House of Mystery and House of Secrets were. I’ve always wanted to write those kinds of stories, but if you think I have zero confidence in my abilities as a crime/mystery writer, there’s even less when it comes to my writing of horror. I never feel like I ever get it right, you know, and my stuff is macabre and peculiar and slightly twisted, but it’s not really scary. But like I did with the mystery novels and movies I watched as a child, I was always looking for myself in those tales and not finding myself. Oh, every once in a while there would be some homoeroticism in some horror I would be reading (Peter Straub’s If You Could See Me Now comes to mind), but for the most part, there wasn’t much. Thomas Tryon’s The Other resonated with me–it wasn’t until decades later that I learned Tryon was gay, and that sensibility infused all of his work, hence my connection with it–but usually when gays showed up in horror they inevitably were effeminate and soon to become victims. (Kill your gays has always been a thing, clearly.)

When I was going through my “I want to be the gay Stephen King” phase in the 1980’s, I didn’t put gay characters or themes in any of my stories–although rereading my attempts at horror from then now, I can see the sensibility was always there–but the horror novel I started writing in about 1986 or 1987, The Enchantress, had a gay point of view character, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was always afraid, you see, to include gay characters in anything I hoped to get published because I was so busy keeping my two lives completely separated that I feared writing sympathetic gay characters would out me. (During my many writings about my high school students from Kansas, one of them was actually gay and was probably the most realistic and honest character in all of those writings) Trying to salvage those stories now, decades later, I sometimes will revise one and make the point of view character gay–which inevitably makes the story work better, incidentally–and they see publication eventually; “Crazy in the Night” was one of those stories, and another morphed into Bury Me in Shadows, actually. Just this morning I was thinking about some more of those old stories and how to make a couple of them work–partly because I spent the last two mornings reading Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology from the Horror Writers Association, edited by my friends Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason. The point of the anthology was to focus and highlight horror stories from marginalized writers–where they are marginalized by race or religion or sexual orientation or gender identity, and it includes stories from some of the top names in horror publishing today.

As with any anthology, some stories stick with the reader more than others; this isn’t a dis on any of the contributors to the anthology–every story was incredibly well-written–it’s just that everything is subjective and some stories stick with the reader longer than others. For me, the standouts were Jennifer McMahon (“Idiot Girls”); Alma Katsu (“Waste Note”); Gabino Iglesias (“There’s Always Something in the Woods”); Hailey Piper (“The Turning”); Larissa Glasser (“Kalkriese”), Michael Thomas Ford (“When The Lovelight Gleams”); M. E. Bronstein (“The Voices of Nightingales”); and S. A. Cosby (“What Blood Hath Wrought”). These were the ones that really resonated me, with the connections of strong writing, three dimensional characters, and completeness of the story. For many of the contributors, this is my first experience with their work, and I will definitely look out for more of their work. These were the ones that made me start thinking about ideas and stories and characters; stories that not only were enjoyable and immersive to read but also kick-started my own creativity and inspiration.

And what more can you ask from a reading experience, as a fellow writer?

Now I want to write more horror.

Definitely check the book out, Constant Reader, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

He’s a gas, gas, gas!

Here we are on another gray weekend morning. It was supposed to rain off and on all day yesterday–it didn’t–but it turned out to be a pretty good day. I wrote about eight thousand words or so, give and take, and made groceries in the afternoon. I did take care of some chores around the Lost Apartment, too, and I spent some time yesterday morning with Other Horrors, which I should finish this morning as I only have three stories left. There have been a couple that puzzled me, but overall, I’ve enjoyed the collection for the most part. I’d be pressed to pick a favorite story, though. Reading it has again reminded me that I am not, no matter how much I wish I was, a horror writer. I just don’t have the imagination, I don’t think, to be a horror writer. I can write Gothic suspense–suspense stories with a touch of the supernatural in them, like Lake Thirteen and Bury Me in Shadows–but I just don’t have the kind of mind that goes to horror when I think about writing.

We also finished off That 90’s Show last night and started watching Mayfair Witches, an adaptation of Anne Rice’s Mayfair trilogy, beginning with my favorite of her novels, The Witching Hour. I am predisposed to like this, since I loved the book so much (the rest of the trilogy not so much), and of course I drove past the house they turned into the Mayfair house for filming on Prytania Street all the time. (They did not use the actual house at First and Chestnut; one thing I did have a problem with was the way they showed Dierdre’s porch, which was different on the actual house than how depicted on the show) There are two more episodes for us to get through tonight, which is cool. I slept extremely well last night again–it’s remarkable how well I’ve been sleeping since getting back from New York–and my psoriasis seems to be under control again for the first time in years. There are a few things I need from the grocery store, but I think I can safely put that off until tomorrow and can stop on the way home from work. This morning I did get up earlier than I wanted to–I am sleeping so well I could stay in bed all day without an issue, I think–but I eel good. My legs have finally stopped feeling sore and tired, thank God, and I think I can safely say that I have completely reacclimated to my day to day life again.

I’m still listening to the Hadestown score, but I also started listening to the Christine McVie-Lindsay Buckingham album the two recorded a few years ago, and it’s quite good. The harmonies! Although I can’t help but think two things while listening: first, I wish Lindsay Buckingham had produced one of her solo albums and second, the one thing missing is Stevie Nicks and this would have made an amazing Fleetwood Mac album, which I think was what it was originally intended to be but Stevie wasn’t available or something or another. It’s also sad to know there will never be another Fleetwood Mac album since Christine’s untimely passing last year (not with my favorite line-up, at any rate). I need to move her solo album from the 1980’s back into my rotation–it’s a great and always underrated record. It’s hard to imagine the band moving on without either Christine or Lindsay (whom they fired), and Stevie already has a band she tours with as a solo act…sigh. Fleetwood Mac was the soundtrack of my teens and twenties and it’s just very weird that it’s finally over after all these years for me. When I write about the 1970’s–which I probably will do either later this year or sometime next–it will indelibly have Fleetwood Mac music all over the score of my work.

When I finish this book, I have to spend February revising Mississippi River Mischief and should spend some time doing a massive copy edit of Jackson Square Jazz so I finally have all of the Scotty series for sale as ebooks at long last. Once I get that done, March will be spent revising the one I am writing now, and then finally come April I can get back to work on Chlorine at long last. I’d like to get a draft of it finished in April so I can write another first draft of something else in May (I already know what it is going to be) and then will probably spend the rest of the year writing short stories and novellas and revising everything to see what can happen with them. Next year I want to write yet another Scotty book and that’s when I am going to try to write my 1970’s Chicago suburb boys-are-disappearing novel, too. None of this is carved into stone tablets, either–things always come up along the way, new ideas or hey Greg want to write a book we’ll pay you xxx for it and I never ever say no to things like that. I’d also like to come up with a new short story collection at some time, or perhaps the three-in-one book novella collection; it’s hard to say. And I kind of want to try to write a romance. There’s always so much I want to write, isn’t there?

Heavy heaving sigh. I don’t think I’ll ever match the days when I used to write four or five novels per year, but I do think I am going to be able to get a lot more writing done now in the next few years. Next weekend I am doing a signing at the ALA event here in New Orleans at the Convention Center, and of course the next weekend I am off to Alabama, and then it’s Carnival. Utter madness!

And now I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will probably check in with you again later.

Street Fighting Man

Saturday and all is calm within the Lost Apartment, at least so far this morning–who know what will happen later? One can never really be certain.

Heavy sigh. My dryer stopped heating yesterday–a tragedy was averted when I remembered that there was a working dryer in the carriage house so I could dry everything over there, which beats taking it to a laundromat–but rather than let that get me down or upset me at all, I figured out a solution (see sentence between dashes above) and went on with my day. I got my work-at-home duties done around doing some organizing and cleaning in the kitchen/office (I discovered more MWA stuff that can be archived and filed away) and did the dishes, making the kitchen sort of bearable to look at. I got some writing done, which was marvelous, and figured out why my printer kept jamming and fixed it (clearly, it was a solution-driven day for one Gregalicious around the Lost Apartment), so I no longer need to continue looking for a new printer/scanner/copier, which was really super great. (Especially since we now appear to be in the market for a new dryer, damn it all to hell. I think I can probably fix it–its probably a fuse, but the laundry room is really too small and inconvenient to get behind the dryer and try to remove or fix anything; I may give it a try later today to see what can be done. There’s a Lowe’s near the office I can run to after work on Monday if it’s indeed something I myself can handle–and wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to replace a fuse rather than having to order a new one and have it delivered, making arrangements for me to be on hand for it to arrive and everything? Augh. I kept hoping it would fix itself miraculously to no avail. Heavy heaving sigh.

I slept very well again last night and even slept in a little bit this morning. I’m not sure exactly what changed with the sleep situation around here, but it’s nice. Scooter got me up at seven whining for food, but I went back to bed and fell right back asleep for another hour and a half. I feel rested and relaxed and centered this morning, which is nice. I do have to go pick up groceries I ordered today but other than that I don’t really have to leave the house. It’s gray out there this morning and it feels chilly inside–I turned the heat off yesterday because it was a bit stuffy in the house, but I don’t mind a bit of a chill, seriously. My coffee tastes marvelous this morning, and I do need to get a lot of writing done today–I got some done yesterday but not nearly enough–and of course I think my Saturday morning ritual of doing some reading before starting to write is probably a good idea. I think I am going to finish reading Other Horrors this morning and perhaps tomorrow, and then maybe start in on The Last King of California or one of the myriad of cozies I have on hand. I know I want to read the Edgar finalists I have on hand that I’ve not yet read, too.

After watching the LSU gymnastics meet against Missouri (Tigers win! Geaux Tigers!) and this week’s Servant over on Apple TV (which is really interesting), we decided to give That 90’s Show a whirl on Netflix for a bit of nostalgia. (We watched early seasons of That 70’s Show before finally giving up as it got stale) and actually kind of enjoyed it. The kids are appealing, and who knew Red and Kitty were the anchors of the original show so much so that they could anchor the reboot, too? All they need is goofy hormonal teenagers to play off and you have a show. We only have three episodes left to watch, and while it wasn’t high art by any means, it was enjoyable and entertaining enough–who needs more than that on a Friday night after a long week of reentry into reality? I kind of want to watch The Pale Blue Eye at some point over this weekend.

I’m also trying very hard not to get too giddy over how easy it is for me to deal with my emails now. I’m still not used to it, nor am I used to taking a break from doing anything and not feeling guilty about the massive to-do I’ve yet to master/conquer. (Note to self: you need to make a new one to work on) But while I was working at home yesterday and working around the dryer issue, I also managed to get the kitchen–notably my desk area–back under control, which was a very good thing. I still have more organizing and filing to do, but it’s not the enormous task now that it was yesterday morning, and I am looking forward to having it completely under control today. I was also looking through all the drafts here of my blog and am thinking a good goal for this spring would be to get them all finished and posted. I need to do some more blatant self-promotion for A Streetcar Named Murder too; I am curious, though, as to what else I can do to do New Orleans promotional posts that tie into the book somehow. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to look through the book again? Might be something to do later on after I get my writing for the day finished.

And on that note, I heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Honky Tonk Women

We don’t really hear that word used much anymore, do we–honky tonk? It was used a lot when I was a kid, mostly in country music songs, but it was also one of those words/phrases that for whatever reason grated on my when I was younger. Even now I think honky tonk just sounds silly phonetically; why this bugs me so much I will probably never know. (I think it was because it seemed coy to me when I was a kid; like it was a phrase that stood in for something you couldn’t say on television or in the movies or in a song, like making whoopie or making love when what you mean to say is fuck; I always hated that, even as a kid. Just say what you fucking mean. Seriously, y’all, the days of censorship was just incredibly stupid, and don’t even get me started on that staple of soap operas–making love. Gah.)

I am going to have to use “honky tonk” in a title sometime.

Well, last night was probably the best night of sleep of all time, bar none. I feel like I could have stayed in bed easily all day and just kept sleeping, and that was marvelous. I may not be completely awake yet–hello, coffee!–but I feel marvelously rested and relaxed this morning, and so I feel like I am going to be able to get a lot done today. I didn’t get quota yesterday–fell a thousand or so short, alas–which will have to be made up for over the course of the weekend if I am to get back on schedule. I am, oddly enough, not as stressed about this as I ordinarily would be, to be honest–I am feeling confident these days, which is a strange but lovely feeling, and one I don’t ever remember having before when it comes to writing.

No worries, I am sure it will pass soon.

I had a nice day yesterday. After work I had to run a couple of errands, and found Jordan Harper’s UK release The Last King of California, waiting for me at the post office from Book Depository (my go-to for UK publications), which I am kind of excited about. I want to finish reading the stories in Other Horrors this weekend, and then I think I’m going to read another cozy–I have some really terrific ones lying around here in the TBR stacks just waiting for me to pick up, and of course with the Lefty and Edgar nominations released this week my list of books to buy just continues to grow and grow and grow. I still haven’t read Harper’s Edgar winning debut, She Rides Shotgun, which everyone raves about; but it’s always so hard not only to keep up with what’s current because more and more are released every month and once you’re behind there’s no catching up. After getting home from my errands yesterday I did research for my current project (I love that watching Youtube videos counts as research for this, and I am having the best time with the research, and that is part of why I am enjoying writing this so much (I also love my main character).

It looks gray outside this morning, and I do have an errand that must be run today. Heavy sigh. It’s why I got up, after all–I was perfectly willing to stay in bed for even more time this morning–and my kitchen is a disaster and as always, there is laundry. Heavy heaving sigh. So I am going to go ahead and head into the spice mines this morning, Constant Reader. I may check in again later–but one never knows, does one? Have a lovely Friday, though, and may the odds be ever in your favor.