And we have cycled around once again to work-at-home Friday. Huzzah? Huzzah.

I will be taking a short break from my work-at-home duties today to interview Margot Douaihy today for S&S’ Pride Month extravaganza. Ah, the terror of not sounding stupid when interviewing someone really smart and talented. Heavy heaving sigh. I will of course post a link to it when it goes live, so you can hear how smart she is and how much I fumble in interviews. Her Scorched Grace is probably the best debut novel you’re going to read this year, and I highly recommend it. It’s not too late to get a copy, either. (You can order it–I don’t understand why this stupid site won’t let me do short hyperlinks like it used to, but it’s fucking annoying. Anyway, buy the book. It’s terrific.)

And it’s a three day weekend! Huzzah! I am looking forward to getting some rest, getting a lot of editing and revising done, and hopefully some cleaning and reading.

I was terribly tired yesterday, the way I inevitably am on Thursdays, and really didn’t want to run errands when I got off work, but I put on my big boy pants and did it anyway. I decided my brain was too mushy to work on the book–I went ahead and read the next few chapters I’ll be editing after work today, so I did do something, at any rate–while relaxing with a purring cat in my lap after I did some chores. I had to unload the dishwasher and reload it, plus fold the clothes in the dryer before moving the load in the washer (I started this on Wednesday night but completely forgot once I was in the clutches of Vanderpump Rules), and tried to do some things to straighten up the kitchen before the energy flagged and I was forced back to the easy chair by mental and physical fatigue. There are, after all, worse things. But I can get a lot of revising done this weekend, which is terrific. It would be great if I can get the whole thing finished by next weekend, wouldn’t that be marvelous? I slept deeply and well last night, too–and managed to sleep in all the way until seven thirty, which is when I usually get to the office. I was exhausted last night when I crawled up the stairs to bed, but as Paul noted, “it’s not that you’re old, you just get up really early every morning now” which is true. Funny how I managed to go almost my entire life without having a 9 to 5 job for very long, and now my body clock is adjusting to it at this late stage of my life. My body is now used to it; I just have to retrain my brain to stop thinking in terms of losing time by going to bed earlier since I get up earlier and thus have more time during the day.

We started watching Platonic these last few nights, a new Apple Plus show starring Rose Byrne and Seth Rogan. I do like Seth Rogan and think he’s funny, and of course love Rose Byrne since her days on Damages, which I feel doesn’t get nearly enough credit for how fucking good of a show it was, and its amazing cast, led by GLENN CLOSE, who was phenomenal as Patty Hewes, super attorney and all around horrible person. Platonic is quite funny, and the chemistry between the two as platonic former best friends who come together again after Rogan’s character gets divorced (the Byrne character didn’t like the woman he married) like no time has passed. Luke McFarlane is beautiful as always as her gorgeous husband, essentially the Ricky to her Lucy. I do recommend it, it’s clever and funny and well written, and, like all Apple shows, very high production values.

I also managed to proof my short story “Solace in a Dying Hour,” forthcoming in an Australian anthology titled This Fresh Hell yesterday, as well as reviewed a book contract for signing–and emailed the corrections necessary to the contract in order for me to sign it. I also spent some time doing research for this afternoon’s interview; I’ll spend some time reviewing the research and coming up with great questions for her, or at least ones that won’t embarrass me by being too stupid and the kind of thing she’s been asked a million times. We also started watching the Hillsong documentary, which is interesting because I really don’t know much of anything about that church; but it’s a megachurch which probably means the heresy of the prosperity gospel, and yes, it’s a heresy. Jesus was not about “believe in Me and you’ll get earthly treasures”; the promise was supposed to be about a wonderful afterlife. (It always has amused and saddened me that so many people miss that Christianity isn’t about life but death and the afterlife; the point is to be the best possible person in your human life to earn a good afterlife, so yes, the prosperity gospel is heresy–“it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven”–does that ring any bells? At some point I am going to have to talk about religion and how it’s been perverted from a guide to life to so many things that it isn’t supposed to be…)

I also rewatched the first part of the Vanderpump Rules reunion in its longer, no commercials version on Peacock, and that version is by far the best of the two. It flows better, is edited better, and the extra seventeen minutes of public shaming for the Toms (Sandoval and Schwartz) was worth every second. I really need to spend some time on that blog entry about reality television I started after the wrap of the last season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; because those two shows are entwined; Rules was initially a spin-off of Beverly Hills, with Lisa Vanderpump going back and forth between the two shows (until she quit Housewives). So much has already been written about the Scandoval that what new or interesting thing can I find to say about it, or the layers to levels of cheating and adultery being laid out on the show by its cast? I am sure none of the players involved in this had the slightest idea how explosively this would go viral, turning the three players (Sandoval, his mistress, his enabling best friend) into pariahs. Not even Camille Grammer in her legendarily villainous first season on Beverly Hills got this kind of publicity or exposure–she did get the cover of People magazine–and of course, the legal troubles of Erica Girardi/Beverly Hills cast drama got some coverage in major papers because of the massive frauds perpetrated by her husband (and get the fuck out of here with the “she didn’t know” bullshit), but still–nothing in reality television prepared anyone, let alone Bravo, with how this affair within the cast would explode and become a worldwide fascination…while Andy Cohen and the network count their cash as the money keeps rolling in. The reunion episode got over two million viewers, which is huge for a reality show. The question is, do I finish my entry about reality shows and their appeal before the reunion episodes finish airing, or can I go ahead and do it now?

Always the question, really.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back with you again tomorrow.

Me Against The Music

Saturday in the Lost Apartment, let’s goooooo!!!!!

I slept really well last night and feel good this morning. I had decided already–yesterday morning–that I was going to not do any writing after work yesterday and to take today off as well, and it feels nice. Finishing projects is always lovely, because once you’ve finished them the release of pressure is pretty marvelous. I also had a ZOOM meeting with my Scotty editor yesterday to get the book back on track, and I felt pretty good after that as well. It’s interesting how pressure and stress can affect your brain and your thinking when you are juggling things. But I have no doubt I can get the book done in time for it’s November release (moved back from September) and the release of that particular pressure valve was marvelous. I’m actually looking forward to diving back into the book again headfirst. Today I have a ZOOM thing for Queer Crime Writers at one, and so I am planning on heading out on errands around eleven; so I have time to also make groceries and get back home in time for the ZOOM meeting. After that I am going to probably finish reading Lori Roy’s marvelous Let Me Die in His Footsteps at last, and then I get to choose my next read, which is kind of exciting. I also have to prepare to interview Margot Douaihy for Saints and Sinners’ Pride Month celebration, which I want to do a very good job on because she’s amazing and so is her book.

I also need to take today away from the computer a bit so I can figure out what loose ends are dangling out there that I need to tie up. Not to mention what a mess the Lost Apartment is. I did get caught up on the dishes last night, and the laundry. The kitchen isn’t the mess it was developing into but could use some touching up, which I should try to do today or tomorrow morning. I also need to start brainstorming on some other things that I want to do. I’d like to take the rest of this year (once this one is finished) actually finishing things I’ve not been able to get done and thus off my plate: the short story collection, the novellas, and two in-progress books that I already have started. That’s what I would like to spend the rest of the year doing, frankly; getting that stuff off my plate and out of my hands into the world, so I can start 2024 with a fresh slate and figure out what I want to write that year. Of course, things always change; an opportunity you can’t pass up can come along at any minute, throwing off your plans and schedule (this happens to me a lot more than one might think); I also have some short stories to write and other short stories that need finishing. I’d like to get some more short stories out there in the world, so if anyone reading this is doing an anthology and needs a crime story (preferably queer) let me know because I can always find something for you. It is very rare that I pass up an opportunity to get a story in an anthology or publication of some sort.

It’s really nice to be busy, you know? I complain about it all the time–my freakish productivity and the pressure to keep it up–but I do like accomplishing things. I do need to be kinder to myself and perhaps not be quite so hard on myself as I am used to being; it’s nice to be able to sit around and take stock of your life and your career without it being deemed arrogant. And when I look at things from an outside perspective–someone whose thinking isn’t cluttered up with all my neuroses and self-loathing–it does look kind of impressive. I think I’ve been nominated for a Lammy fourteen or fifteen times? I don’t have the most nominations–that would be Michael Thomas Ford, Ellen Hart, and Lawrence Schimel, and not in that order–but hey, I’m in the top five of most nominations, which isn’t bad. This year’s three Anthony nominations brings me to a total of seven nods there from the Bouchercon membership, which is a lovely pat on the back for a queer author most of them hadn’t heard of even five years ago. I can add Agatha and Lefty finalist to the other awards I’ve gotten a single nomination for–the Shirley Jackson and the Macavity. I won some young adult independent press medals, too, along the way, which was lovely. (I am very happy Sleeping Angel and Lake Thirteen won those medals; I was very proud of both books, frankly.) Forty-three novels, twenty-two anthologies, over fifty short stories, two short story collections, and two novellas–and countless articles, interviews, book reviews and blog posts.

Not bad for someone told by his first creative writing teacher in college he would never be a published author.

There have been plenty of slings and arrows along the way, of course; things that happened so long ago that no one today who knows me and my work may even know about–the Virginia incident, Paul’s bashing, my service with the National Stonewall Democrats–so the rollercoaster of my life has certainly had its highs and lows. It’s been an interesting life, I guess; I’ve certainly met and knew a lot of interesting people and celebrities and authors. I’ve also learned over the years that there’s nothing wrong with ambition; I always am so busy and behind on everything that I forget that sometimes it’s nice to take a break, step away from everything, evaluate the situation as it is currently and make plans on where to go and what to do next. I’m feeling very content this morning, which is a very pleasant (and unusual) thing for me to feel; this brief reflection on my career and where it is now has, for once, brought a sense of satisfaction and pleasure instead of you still have so much more to accomplish! It’s not like I’m going to rest on my accomplishments, take my ball and go home, of course–but it’s very nice to think if my career ended now–for whatever reason–I could walk away from it and be proud.

I’ll never stop writing, of course. I will write until the day I die or can’t sit at the computer or hold a laptop or iPad; as long as I can still scribble in a journal I’ll be writing. I love creating, I love writing, I love telling stories. I love exploring character. I love taking a situation and thinking okay, what has to happen for this to happen, and where is the true starting place for the story? Who are these people and how did they come to be involved in this?

But it is nice every once in a while to stop, take a step back, and see things as they really are, or at least trying to take a look and see what other people see since they aren’t wrapped up in my neuroses.

And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself, which I am. It feels weird, but I am proud of myself. I’m proud of my career and what all I’ve accomplished since moving to New Orleans in 1996.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader–take the day off and rest–and I’ll be back later.

Die Another Day

At some point, with all the book -bans and censorship that’s going on, I am going to have to recap and go over my own experience with being banned; but that will require logic, rational thought and revisiting my blog entries from that period to refresh my memory. Yesterday I got political on here for the first time in a long time, and you know–it kind of felt good to get that out of my system and into the public sphere. I do feel very complicit for not speaking out sooner, but…I’ve always worried, more so after turning fifty, that my opinions might cause trouble for others I am associated with; I work at a non-profit for one, and of course, I had a very long volunteer service ‘career’ with Mystery Writers of America. It was probably at least nine years of service all told; and I didn’t want anyone claiming I was speaking for MWA (particularly when I was serving as Executive Vice President) when I was expressing myself personally; nor did I want anything I might say or do to reflect poorly on the organization–or have my words used against it in any way. As EVP, I was one of only two people authorized to speak for the organization publicly; and that last year after pandemic restrictions were lifted I traveled a lot, representing the organization at several conferences and events. And even though I personally knew where the lines were drawn and what was and wasn’t separate, I couldn’t count on other people to keep or recognize those same distinctions…and I was far too busy with everything to willingly risk more things to have to deal with by opening my mouth on here. That’s part of the reason I dialed that all back–along with the “preaching to the choir” element–but yesterday morning I realized you don’t have to be careful about what you say publicly anymore and it was incredibly liberating. So yes, I will sometimes be taking on things that I feel strongly about and not keeping my mouth shut the way I have for so long. (In my narcissistic hubris, I also sort of blame myself for the state of the world right now because I kept my mouth shut for so long.) Besides, if you read this blog or my books (hopefully both), it should be readily apparent that politically I am basically a Jacobin–albeit one who understands how our government runs and functions and how it is supposed to work…which some people serving in Washington don’t seem to know, which is odd. Surely the ones in my age group had to take Government or Civics in high school? I don’t see how they could have passed it, but here we are.

So be prepared, Constant Reader. There’s a lengthy tome coming on the Virginia Incident.

But I finished editing the manuscript I was working on (not one of my own) last evening and sent it back to the author, and I can breathe. I have a ZOOM call scheduled with my editor, so we can talk out all the issues and scheduling for Mississippi River Mischief, which I am actually itching to get back to work on. I think I’ll take today and tomorrow as free days from writing, and then I will jump back into the book on Sunday. I want to do it the way I always do my editing and revisions; by chapter as opposed to entire manuscript, which is what I had been doing and I think this change of work habits, on top of the depression and everything else, made it impossible for me to get the book finished. I don’t think I’ll get it done by the end of May, but surely I can get it finished by mid-June, and then can move back to Chlorine–which will also require me going over and revising the opening chapters again so I can get the voice down again. I am also going to go back to my chapter-per-week project I was working on before my life blew up late last year, and I feel marvelous about everything. I feel very excited about this, and about getting back to writing again. This hasn’t been the best year for me thus far, really, and I also need to stop thinking oh I need to understand why I feel like this or trying to deconstruct everything in some kind of pseudo-psychological processing. My mother died after a slow, lengthy decline, at an extremely difficult time for me professionally. I need to stop feeling guilty about grieving, or being unable to do anything because of depression. Of course I am experiencing some depression; I’d have to be inhuman not to feel anything. And like with all previous traumas, I am learning to navigate grief as I go–although maybe I should read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking–and like all previous traumas, it creates a bipolar existence where one day you are fine and the next you’re back in the pit of despair. Sometimes the day will start out great and will flip as it goes on. I have nothing wise or profound to say about loss or grief; although there is something to be said about the numb emotional deadening the HIV/AIDS crisis brought in its wake. I would never want to be that zombie-like ever again, drifting through the days waiting to hear someone else is in the hospital, someone else has died, and there’s another funeral in a few days–but I also have to start recognizing, at this great advanced age, that I’ve never processed or dealt with that time either. (It’s a Sin was a strong reminder of that very thing. I was also thinking Longtime Companion deserves a revisit; it’s always been hard to watch for me, but the beach scene at the end always makes me sob. I’ve also been thinking about the literature of the plague; has anyone ever compiled a list of the classic HIV/AIDS writings? There’s a thesis for a grad student.)

Last night I slept like a log; the sleep of the righteous for finally finishing that editing job. I feel great this morning–rested and relaxed. I do have some work at home duties to accomplish today, and the kitchen is a complete disaster area. I have decided that I am going to finish reading Lori Roy’s Let Me Die in His Footsteps (which is fucking brilliant in every way), as well as reread the openings of the Scotty books this weekend, to see if I can get his voice back into my brain–I feel like that’s the big problem in Mississippi River Mischief–I haven’t nailed the voice and tone in any of the drafts yet, so I need to re-familiarize myself with Scotty’s voice and his wicked, wicked ways. I am actually excited about getting reacquainted with him. This is our ninth outing together, and I always wonder with each one if this is the last or not. I think there’s at least two more Scottys within the reaches of my brain–Hurricane Party Hustle and Quarter Quarantine Quadrille for sure–but you never know what is going to happen next and what may come along your road to write from out of nowhere. I’d like to get both Chlorine and Muscles finished this year, as well as the novellas, and maybe a short story collection by the end of the year. I have also been thinking that one thing that is missing from the annals of New Orleans (or Louisiana, for that matter) crime fiction is the environmental novel. John D. MacDonald deplored what politicians and greedy developers were doing to the tropical paradise of Florida, and slipped that social commentary into almost every Travis McGee novel and many of his stand alones (Barrier Island comes to mind). Louisiana has been in an environmental crisis for decades, and yet no one ever writes about the eroding coastline, the greed of the oil companies and the politicians they buy and pay for every year; Cancer Alley along the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans being a hotbed of toxic waste; and of there was the Bayou Corne sinkhole a few years ago. I don’t know that I have the knowledge or the time to do the necessary research to write such things, but it’s something someone needs to write. And you know what I always say–if you think someone should write it, that someone should be you.

For me, though, the problem with research is how do you stop from going down wormholes and wasting days? Where do you draw the line, and when do you know you’ve done enough? As Constant Reader knows, I can never get enough of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of European history; I can spend days in wormholes of research about politics and wars and the powerful; it was an interesting time–when white Europeans began their colonization of the world, when Christianity had it’s huge splintering that led to war after war after war, the Hapsburgs continuing to expand their empire by marrying it, and on and on and on. Remarkable female leaders proliferated in the sixteenth century more than perhaps any other century before or since; which makes the sixteenth a bit more interesting than the seventeenth. The seventeenth interests me because it was the century when the world empires continued to grow and oppress natives around the globe, but it was also the time of the rise of the modern state, when the political games became more about state power rather than faith or old inheritance claims–when politics became more about the country than the King’s whims. I also go down New Orleans and Louisiana history wormholes a lot, too. I will never have the time to write everything I want to write, or research history enough to write about it. I really, for example, want to write about the German Coast rebellion of the enslaved; I want to write about Freniere, Louisiana being wiped off the map; and I want to write more historical stories set in New Orleans.

And I want to write a romance. I had that on my list of projects for this year, but then everything blew up in my face and my control over the year slipped right out of my fingers. But even though it’s mid to late May, it’s not too late to salvage the rest of the year from the wreckage of the first five months.

And on that note, I’m heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in which you again later or tomorrow.

Drowned World/Substitute for Love

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and I finally slept well last night, and I even slept in for an extra two hours this morning. I could have easily (and gladly) stayed in bed for even longer, but I have too much to get done this weekend to allow myself to slovenly lay in bed for the entire morning, so once Scooter’s outrage about not being fed at six a.m. manifested itself into non-stop yowling, I got up and fed him. I feel very rested today, which is lovely. I was tired and dragging all day yesterday, and when I finished work I had things to get done. Paul and I ran out to Costco for a restocking (I hate that sometimes they have stuff and sometimes they don’t; they didn’t have several key things I always get when I go) and then I picked up the mail and a prescription. I need to get gas this weekend as well as make groceries, and the tires need to be aired up as well (the low pressure light came on in Alabama last weekend, but only one tire was low and it wasn’t officially low; it was simply lower than the other three tires), and there’s all kinds of other things I need to get done this weekend. I am editing a manuscript which needs to get finished this weekend; I’d like to do a little more work on my own manuscript; and I would absolutely love to finish reading Lori Roy’s brilliant Let Me Die in His Footsteps this weekend as well. It’s seem rather daunting when it’s put that way, but I am confident that not only can I get all of it completed but without driving myself insane, either.

Always a plus!

We watched The Boston Strangler film on Hulu last night (after an episode of Somebody Somewhere, which I am really growing fond of), and it was quite good. It focused on the two women reporters who figured out there was an actual serial killer and did all the pursuing of the case, all the while tweaking the police who were falling down on the job and forcing them to actually do their work. I wasn’t old enough when the killings were actually happening, but my dad had a copy of Gerold Frank’s The Boston Strangler and I did read that, as well as watched the Tony Curtis film version of the story when it was released to the television networks after its theatrical run. I don’t really remember much of reading the book, other than one landlady who was certain one of her tenants was the Strangler, and the story kept coming back to her and her suspicions. That always stayed with me over the years (what if your tenant/neighbor was a serial killer and you started to suspect? which became my story “The Carriage House”–yes, Virginia, that story gestated in my head for nearly fifty years before I wrote it) and to this day I still remember how chilling that was and how much I worried for the landlady. (It’s also the plot of the ancient Hitchcock film The Lodger, in which the landlady suspected her tenant was Jack the Ripper.)

I was thinking yesterday about the entry I wrote yesterday morning and the way I was/have been feeling for quite some time, and I realized that I’ve been a very passive participant in life; I’ve been kind of letting it happen to me for a while now rather than living my life actively. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion, both physical and emotional, or a reaction to trauma; or maybe, perhaps, even both. The last few years have been rough on everyone; I don’t think we’ll ever know the full extent of the trauma we all experienced as a result of that paradigm shift back in March of 2020; the shutdown, the battles over what was responsible and what was irresponsible; the insanity of the anti-vaxxer movement and everything else that was just plain wrong over the last few years. I suppose for some of us the trauma goes back even further, to the 2016 election. But it’s kind of true. I think I was very active in my own life and the pursuance of goals before 2016, and ever since 2016 I’ve just been kind of coasting along, letting things happen instead of making them. As a general rule I don’t like coasting through life; it was the recognition that was what I was doing in my early thirties that led to the big changes in my life, which was followed by the achieving goals I had always dreamed about, since I was a little boy.

But roadblocks and speed bumps encountered aside, I think had I been able to look ahead twenty-one years when my first book was released to see where I am today, I’d have been pleased and thrilled and more than a little bit smug about what I’d accomplished. A character trait I’ve never wanted to have is arrogance, and I am always afraid of sounding arrogant when talking about myself and my career. I never want to sound arrogant or smug (well, unless I am dealing with haters, in which case I love giving rein to smug condescending arrogance), but over forty novels? Over twenty anthologies? Over fifty short stories? Fifteen Lambda nominations, and seven Anthonys in total? Nominations for the Macavity, the Shirley Jackson, the Lefty, and the Agatha? How could I not be satisfied and proud of myself?

As I was making room for the Costco purchases once we got home, I was putting some things up in the storage attic and needed to move a box, so I looked inside of it to see what it was. Clippings and things from my career, it turned out–once I carried the box down the ladder to the laundry room I could see I’d written Career Memorabilia on it in Sharpie–and inside was all kinds of things. Back issues of Lambda Book Report from the days when I was either its editor or did some writing for them (or when they were reviewing my work), and back issues of Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, too, along with Insightoutbook catalogues (what a serious blast from the past). Of course I had to bring that box down and keep it for sorting through and scanning purposes (I am serious about cleaning shit out of the storage attic this year), and hilariously found the September 2000 issue of Lambda Book Report, with Michael Thomas Ford on the cover. (Peering inside, I saw that Paul actually was the one who interviewed him!) Scanning all of this stuff will be a huge undertaking, and I do actually hate the thought of throwing it all out once it’s done; I don’t know if Lambda ever archived the back issues or not, so this may be all that’s left of it out there. Same with Insightoutbooks; it was very important and crucial to queer publishing between 2000 and when it went under sometime around 2009 or 2010 (that may be wrong; I also found an issue of LBR from 2008 or 2009, and I would have sworn under oath that LBR stopped publishing a print edition long before that. (You see why I no longer trust my memory? Mnemosyne no longer comes to my aid anymore these days, which is most unfortunate–and yes, the reason the goddess of memory comes to mind is because of Carol Goodman’s marvelous The Ghost Orchid–more to come on that score.)

But I also did some cleaning up and filing around here while I was making dinner (ravioli) last night, so this morning the office doesn’t look as bad as it usually does on Saturday morning; the sink is filled with dirty dishes and there’s a load in the dishwasher to put away, but more of the things I generally wind up doing Saturday morning are already done, so there’s no excuse for me not to be highly productive today other than malaise and laziness.

And on that note, I am going to get these minor chores handled while I keep drinking coffee and my mind finishes awakenening.

Ray of Light

The cemetery where Mom rests is small. I remember it as being much bigger, of course, but everything there is smaller than I remember. But most of my memories of Alabama predate my adulthood, so things that seemed enormous to a child don’t seem quite so large to an adult.

I’ve written about it before, just as I’ve written plenty of stories (and even a book! Or two!) set in the county of my birth, where my people are from as we say in the South, and where my people are buried. Before Mom died, I hadn’t been to this cemetery since we laid my paternal grandfather to rest in those blurry years between the turn of the century and Hurricane Katrina. But I’ve written about this cemetery in an unpublished short story I originally wrote in 1983, called “Whim of the Wind” that opens When I was young and spending the summers in Alabama, the graveyard at White’s Chapel held a peculiar fascination for me. When I wrote those words, I was living in California and hadn’t been back to Alabama in at least two or three years; it would be another eight before I returned for my last visit pre-funerals. That story was loved and appreciated not only by my professor but by the class as well. I tried several times to get it published, but to no avail; there’s something missing from the story itself that makes it incomplete, but no editor whose ever read it has been able to put their finger on it. (I do recall having solved the problem after reading Art Taylor’s brilliant story “The Boy Detective and the Summer of 1974”, but of course didn’t write it down and don’t remember what it was. (I shall reread Art’s story at some point to see if it triggers my memory; it really is upsetting that I didn’t write it down–which I always do)

And yes, it’s called White’s Chapel. I always assumed it was called that because it was “whites only”; Dad told me over the weekend of the funeral that it was built by someone named White, which is how it got its name. Hurray for it not being racist in origin? Small victories. But when I was there that time, we drove around the county and through the little town/village which was really where all the Blacks in the county were forced to live, which is no longer the case but was when my parents were children. Lovely, right? I still don’t remember ever seeing any Black people during my childhood visits, which seems hardly possible, does it?

I am both of Alabama and not of Alabama. Dad and I talked about that this weekend, too–I don’t think my sister feels the same tug from Alabama that I do. It’s weird for him to go back there, too–there’s hardly anyone left that he knows; even my aunt commented that she didn’t know a lot of people in the county anymore, and thats kind of sad. The land my grandmother’s house sat on has been sold and the house itself–uninhabitable for years–will be torn down and that part of my history, that part of my life story, will be gone forever. My grandfather’s house, where Dad grew up, is long gone and I think my eldest cousin’s son is going to build a house there. The small, battered old houses I remember from when I was a kid are also all gone; enormous McMansions of brick and mortar with columns and muli-car garages dot the landscape now, so it doesn’t seem as poor down there as it used to.

We started the day at the cemetery where my maternal grandparents rest alongside my youngest uncle, thrown from a rolling car when he was eighteen and the car rolled over him; I remember the funeral but never knowing much more than he died in a wreck (the driver was drunk; the other two riders escaped with minor injuries). There are lots of relatives and ancestors at Studdard’s Crossroads cemetery, which is also well off the paved county road on an incredibly narrow red dirt road. We stayed there for a few hours, and then headed over to see where my mother’s grandparents were buried; another where my other uncle is buried, and finished off at White’s Chapel, with Mom and my paternal two uncles (one died when he was two). It’s so beautiful there, and so different than what I remembered and have written about–which is actually a good thing; I completely fictionalized the present-day county predicated on my childhood memories–but yes the pine forests and the red dirt, the incredibly blue sky, and fall away drops alongside the roads (not near as steep and deep as I remembered).

I’m glad I went. Seeing Dad again, seeing that he’s okay, lifted an enormous weight from my shoulders–I was terribly worried and hated being almost eight hundred miles away–but also being able to talk to him about Mom, and their shared histories, as well as more family histories on both sides that I didn’t know, was a big help. I by no means think I am over the hump or well on the way to recovery; I know from my own bitter experience that you can have a good day after a trauma and thus think with relief, oh good now I can get on with everything only to have one of the dark days immediately after. It takes time to heal, and I am never going to stop missing my mother. I just have to get used to not having her anymore.

(I had originally intended to post this yesterday, but then I got the Anthony news and that kind of sidetracked the day for me.)

You’ll See

And somehow, here we are at Thursday again. It is kind of annoying and irritating how quickly time is slipping through my fingers; but then this was a short work week because I was off on Monday. I’ve felt a bit out of sorts and off-balance this week, which I think is because of the Malice come-down plus knowing that I have to go to Alabama this weekend. It’s hard for me to focus and get settled with that journey ahead of me, and while I am not necessarily dreading it, I also know it’s going to be emotionally draining and exhausting so there’s some trepidation, to be sure. It’s also Mother’s Day the next weekend, so that’s going to probably be a bit rough (note to self: text your sister). Yay?

But in cool news, the anthology This Fresh Hell now has a release date of June and can be ordered here:

(Apologies, for some reason I can’t substitute text for links anymore. Fucking updates.)

Anyway, this anthology has my story “Solace in a Dying Hour” in it, and this is a story I am really proud of. It’s one where I went to rural Louisiana/bayou country yet again, which also meant navigating stereotypes, tropes, and clichés. I had originally intended to write a story about the grunch (a mythical creature sighted occasionally out in old New Orleans East, but I think his old stomping grounds now are neighborhoods) but in looking up information about that particular Louisiana legend I stumbled over a bunch more that I’d never heard of, and one in particular–le feu follet–really struck my fancy. These are fairy lights seen out in the swamp or along a bayou, kind of like a will-o’-the-wisp. Usually no larger than a candle flame, these lights have been said to be many things, but the definition I went with–the souls of the unshriven dead, come to claim other souls–worked for what I was trying to do, and the more I thought about it, the more the story began to come together in my mind. I think it’s a lovely piece of writing, frankly, and it really must be if I am going to say it publicly. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, and I had some expert editorial help from Katya de Becerra and Narrelle M. Harris (who worked with me on my Sherlock story; I really love working with Narrelle) that made it even better than I thought it could be while still remaining what I wanted the story to be; their input was invaluable. Good editors, y’all, are worth their weight in gold. As you can imagine, I am very excited about the story and the anthology.

I slept decently last night; I was again very tired when I got home. It took me an hour because of traffic–I stopped at the Rouses’s in the CBD on the way home, but was only there for fifteen minutes. I left the office at straight-up four thirty and got home after five thirty. It was the worst I’ve seen traffic in the CBD since before the pandemic. Not sure what there was about yesterday that brought horrendous pre-pandemic traffic back to New Orleans, but here we are, right? Heavy sigh. Tonight I am going to swing uptown on my way home to get the mail, so hopefully Claiborne traffic won’t be hellish tonight. And tomorrow is my work-at-homeday, before getting up Saturday and driving north. It was odd; yesterday morning on the way to work the traffic was also heavy. It’s been a hot minute, but I always used to drive here before the pandemic at off times so I never had to deal with traffic very much. I am beginning to think my working in the evenings is a thing of the past I may never see again, doomed to a life of getting up at six a.m. Monday thru Thursday for the rest of my working life. That sounds incredibly tiresome, doesn’t it? But I imagine I’ll be tired all of next week, too, and won’t get caught up on rest until the following weekend. Not loving this, for sure.

But in other weird developments, I discovered that Tuscaloosa–where I will be turning north to head to the home country–has WHATABURGER. It is almost sad how excited finding that out made me; I am definitely scheduling my trip to stop there for lunch on my way up. How cool is that? Usually when I drive north I tend to stop at Hardee’s, since we don’t have them in New Orleans and they’re basically Carl’s Jr, which I loved when I lived in California (and yes, I know the family that owns them is homophobic right-wing trash) so I always see that as a bit of a ‘treat’ for me when I go on long drives. I do love fast food hamburgers, although the old classics (McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s) all are kind of disgusting to me now. Give me Whataburger, Five Guys, or Sonic. (I am starting to not like Hardee’s; the last few times it was just kind of meh)

Fascinating stuff, am I right?

What can I say? I’m a little bleary this morning, so maybe it’s best to head into the spice mines and be done with it. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader!

The Look of Love

Saturday morning. I was incorrect about the department meeting; it’s later this month (when I’ll be in Bethesda, actually) so I went to the health fair, was told I should increase my exercise (duh, since I do none now) and other than that, I appear to be perfectly healthy–or at least per my vitals and blood work, at any rate.

How fortunate they weren’t testing for mental stability, eh?

But it was a lovely day to work-at-home. It was still cold overnight, but the high yesterday hovered in the high seventies, topping out at a solid, spring-like eighty degrees at one point in the afternoon, which was also nice. I filed and cleaned when taking breaks from work; laundered the bed linens, finished off the dishes, and straightened the rugs as well as sweeping and vacuuming. We got caught up on Yellowjackets and The Mandalorian, and while I was waiting for Paul to come home from the gym, I rewatched this week’s Ted Lasso with the captions on so I could catch things I missed on first viewing (something I do with every episode, as I did with Schitt’s Creek), and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more on the second viewing than I did on the first. I am very curious to see where the show is going and how it’s going to end–but unlike everyone else, I’ve decided to not theorize about it or jump to conclusions predicated on my interpretation of what I’ve seen; instead I just want to enjoy the ride and trust the writers to do their jobs, which they’ve done superbly on every step of the journey thus far.

I slept really well last night and feel very rested this morning. I have to get the mail today and I should make a small grocery run while I am out, but ugh, how I hate the grocery store lately. It saps my strength and will and makes me want to curl up with Scooter and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist anymore out there. There’s not much we really need, to be completely honest; but I need to know what I want to make for dinner this weekend and what I am going to be taking for lunch next week. Decisions, decisions–but it feels good to be rested and clear-headed this morning. I don’t know that I feel particularly inspired this morning, but that’s okay. Once I finish this, I am taking my coffee and repairing to my easy chair to read Scorched Grace, which I hope to finish this weekend.

Anne Perry, a very successful author, died this week. She had an unfortunate past, having committed the crime that Peter Jackson’s film Beautiful Creatures was based on (also known as the film that gave us Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) as a teenager, and served her time. I didn’t know Ms. Perry, nor have I ever read any of her work. This wasn’t out of any sense of oh I can’t possible be supportive of her! She killed someone! but more because they weren’t the kind of stories I particularly enjoy. I did ride in an elevator with her once at a Bouchercon, and she was polite, reservedly friendly (understandable), and seemed kind. I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to read more historical crime fiction, particularly around the first World War (looking at you, Charles Todd!), but that TBR stack is already way too deep and tall and wide. However, Ms. Perry’s death has, of course, brought all that about her teenaged crime back into the news and onto social media to be rehashed and discussed and, well, frankly beaten into the ground. Ms. Perry’s situation also is key to a broader discussion about criminal justice, and our criminal justice system and how it operates. (Ms. Perry’s crime was committed in Australia, I believe.) I see a lot of people talking about how they don’t believe in redemption, and how they could never bring themselves to support someone who’d done something so terrible, etc. etc. etc. And it’s very true; we as a society tend to look askance at people who’ve served time in prison–and tend to judge them harshly.

How can you believe in a criminal justice system if you don’t believe in the potential of human redemption? I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, let me make that very clear at this point. I am merely examining this from a layman’s perspective and coming from a logical place to try to dissect all of this with nuance and rationality; what can I say, I took Geometry in high school and was on the debate team. I don’t think you can believe in our criminal justice system if you don’t believe in redemption, which seems kind of Old Testament to me; once a criminal always a criminal is what that boils down to, and if there is never even the slightest possibility that someone can be redeemed, what is the point of jailing them? Punishment? That seems kind of draconian and not very humanist, frankly. The odds are stacked against convicts as it is when they are released; as most of us will always keep an eye at them in askance, just waiting for them to commit another crime to prove that they belong in jail and should never be released. I understand the sex-offender registry–women and children are vulnerable and should be aware someone who may be a predator is living in their area now–but at the same time, it feels….punitive. Sex crimes are horrible, to be sure, but if they are so horrible and the offender is statistically going to commit the same kind of crime again–why let them out in the first place? Getting one of those flyers back when we lived on Camp Street is what inspired me to write my short story “Neighborhood Alert,” which is one of my favorite stories that I’ve done, and tried to use the story to illustrate the potential consequences that can come from such alerts.

I also think it’s interesting that people are so unforgiving in real life while they will read–and root for–characters like Tom Ripley or Hannibal Lector or Dexter. But that’s fiction, they say in response, to which I say so you would be repulsed by them if they were real, but you root for them in fiction? Make it make sense to me.

Ultimately, she did her time for her crime, and then spent the rest of her life writing crime novels successfully. Enough people either didn’t know about her past, or didn’t care enough to make them give up the pleasure of reading her work. As I said, I’ve not read her work but it’s not out of any sense of moral outrage or superiority, but because they aren’t the kind of books I ordinarily read–although now I kind of want to read one, to see how good she was. If you don’t want to read her, or didn’t, because of her past that’s your choice and your decision. But please don’t think for one moment you have the right to tell me what I can or cannot read, or what I can or cannot enjoy–because then you are no better than right-wingers trying to ban books and close libraries, and that is something I will not, do not, and cannot, support on any level.

I also kind of believe that redemption is possible, but not unless there is atonement and a desire to change. If I didn’t believe that, well, I don’t know how I could live with myself. This is a question I explored in my nasty little story “This Thing of Darkness”–can you atone for something terrible you did as a teenager? Especially if you are never punished for the crime itself? How do you live with yourself with such a thing on your conscience? (This is also the theme for one of my favorite books of all times, Thomas Thompson’s Celebrity)

And on that note, I am making another cup of coffee and heading to the chair with Margot Douaily. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back here again tomorrow, as always.

La Isla Bonita

Sliding into Tuesday like it’s nobody’s business and here we go!

I managed to start gathering everything to send to my accountant last night, which was nice. It wasn’t as difficult to calculate my expenses this past year as it has been in previous years; I don’t know what exactly that says about my writing career but there you have it. I felt pretty groggy for most of the day, like I never really woke up to begin with, but it wasn’t a bad day by any means; I just kind of felt like I was sleepwalking through most of it, to be honest. I ran errands when I got off from work, and then I came home and worked on the tax stuff. I”ll finish it this morning before I leave for work, will double check it all over lunch, and hopefully get it all sent in. Huzzah. Then I came home where we finished off The Last of Us, which we both really enjoyed. It was a bit colder yesterday than I was expecting–I was cold all day at the office, which means a long-sleeved sweater is in the offing today, because today is going to be colder than yesterday (well aware that cold is relative; the high today is forecast for 69 degrees, which is cold here for April, sue me). Because I was gathering the taxes, and went straight from that to The Last of Us, I didn’t get to spend any time with Scorched Grace last night, which was a pity. Perhaps tonight.

I feel like I slept well last night, even though I kept waking up. I don’t feel groggy this morning, or that weird thing like yesterday where my body is groggy but my mind is alert. My coffee is good this chilly morning in my windows, but it’s fine. I need to get ink for my printer on my way home from the office tonight (hurray); I don’t understand how the colored ink has now run out twice before the black, when 90% of what I print is from Word documents…in black and white. But there you have it, you know. Tomorrow is pay-the-bills day, too; which means a morning spent trying to get all the bills paid. My financial fortunes are turning around–I still owe far too much money, though–but I am gradually, slowly and surely getting there. I’m hoping that by the end of the year I will be making significant progress in paying down my debt. That’s one of the goals for the year, and I am definitely hoping that it continues the way it’s going.

Tonight I am going to start tearing into the revision of Mississippi River Mischief. It definitely needs work, make no mistake about that, but I am not as overawed by it as I was originally–because of course I hate everything I write and am always convinced it’s a steaming pile of crap. It is–there’s a lot to be cleaned up, plot holes to fill, bad writing to clean up and try to make sing–a mess, to be sure, but it’s fixable; everything is always fixable. We also will probably get caught up on some of the other shows we watch–I like that we get Ted Lasso a day early–after I finish my work and do some more of the chores around the house that need doing (my kitchen is an utter disaster area, and I want to make chicken salad), and of course, there are always odds and ends around the kitchen that need filing or put away. I am going to have an insane writing schedule, because I want to get this finished before I leave for Malice Domestic on April 17th, which only gives me a couple of weeks to get this under control. But big pushes on the weekends should do the trick. I have a staff meeting this Friday morning, which means getting up earlier than I would prefer and being out among the rest of the living long before I probably should be, but such is life. I can also run errands after the meeting on my way home as well, which is pretty cool–getting them out of the way, at any rate–and here’s hoping for a super-productive weekend where I will make amazing and significant progress on the manuscript, will finish Scorched Grace and start reading whatever is next in the TBR pile, where there are an awful lot of good things waiting for me.

Which is lovely, of course. It’s always nice when you have a pile of lovely books to choose one from for your reading pleasure. And of course, I am volumes behind on some series I enjoy as well as some authors of whom I am a huge fan. (Looking at you, Mary Russell!) I am kind of looking forward to getting this book finished and being able to breathe without a deadline for a while; of course I’ll be working on something else, but there’s no need for killing myself to make a deadline, either. I was actually reflecting last night about my rereads of Never Kiss a Stranger and Festival of the Redeemer–both of which are closer to being finished than I actually had believed before diving into the reread. I could even use Festival of the Redeemer to close out my short story collection–it’s always nice to throw a 20k+ word count novella in at the end of a collection–but I think I would also rather wait and do the three-novellas-in-one thing my publisher had recommended. I do have four or five novellas on hand, so using one and then replacing it in the novella collection wouldn’t be an issue. I also have to edit Jackson Square Jazz at some point to get the ebook up and out.

Sigh. So much to do and so little time in which to do it all.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Payday Eve (even if it isn’t your payday eve) and I will check in with you again tomorrow.


And we have again made it to Thursday, Constant Reader. Huzzah for us! For a few days there I was wondering if we would, indeed, get this far. It’s funny; one of the things that are almost stereotype level for older people is that we all seem to think that time just flew past and the next thing we know, we’re old.

That is certainly not the case in my life.

I will be sixty-two years old this year (four more shopping months; plan ahead to beat the shopping crowds!), and sometimes it seems like I’ve been alive for well over a hundred years. My childhood was so long ago it feels like it happened to someone else and I watched the movie or read the book or something. High school? An eternity ago. So, no, I don’t feel like time flew past and my life went by too quickly or anything like that. I lived every day of my sixty-one years, and they did not pass quickly. Od sure, I’ve had time fly but it’s primarily because I wasn’t paying attention to the dates or anything, then realized oh this weekend is Easter? Where did March go? but that’s the illusion that time went quickly because I wasn’t paying attention to dates or anything like that. That is why time seems to pass by quickly–it does when you aren’t paying attention, so yes, there are times when it does happen, but overall in the scope of my life, not so much.

Last night I was very tired when I got home from work, and of course, Scooter was whining for a lap. We got caught up on The Mandalorian (I’m not really enjoying this season, to be honest.) and then tried a new animated show on HBO that was terrible and we stopped; then we watched the first episode of the new Rob Lowe show. At first, I thought it was going to be rough–it’s about the relationship of a father and son who are slightly estranged having to come together to deal with the loss of their wife/mother. At first I thought the parallels might hit too close to home, but I didn’t find myself getting upset or sad or anything; it’s actually kind of a cute little show. We watched the pilot last night, and will probably keep going with it tonight.

I also pulled together all the stuff I need to do to start rereading and revising Mississippi River Mischief, which is going to be a terribly all consuming task once started; I also have to get my tax stuff done and turned into my accountant rather quickly; I also started pulling all of that together last night as well. The house is still a mess, and we have to take Scooter in for his senior panel and I have to go to Costco this weekend as well. Tomorrow is Good Friday, which used to be a work holiday for us; now we get Juneteenth instead, which is fine with me. I’m not Catholic so Good Friday isn’t important to me; although New Orleans is very Catholic and so it’s kind of a thing here (it’s all tied to Carnival and Lent, you see; the third part of that Holy Trinity is Easter weekend). I know there are parades on Sunday–there are always parades for a holiday, although with the passing of local legend and icon Chris Owens (who sponsored and put on one of them in the Quarter), we may be a parade down this year. I wrote about Easter and New Orleans in Vieux Carré Voodoo, all those years ago, when I was tying Scotty books to holidays and events in the city (to date, I have never written a word about Jazz Fest because I don’t go). I also pulled the short stories together into one document to get an idea of how close I am to a complete collection and was stunned, startled, and delighted to see that I have about 73,000 words of This Town and Other Stories. That’s actually enough for a collection, but I’d rather it came in between 90 and 100k words. I can either write more short stories or I can finish one of the novellas; in either case, that’s very exciting for me, needless to say. (It will, of course, have to wait until some of the anthologies that some of the stories appear in are published.)

This weekend I have to make a Costco run and take Scooter in for his senior panel; I hate the thought of my kitty getting old. We’ve had Scooter now for nearly thirteen years, and he was supposedly a full grown two year old when we got him; I swear that he’s grown since we got him and not because we overfeed him. Do cats age in dog years? That would make Scooter 105! I don’t even want to think about that in terms of how little time we have left with our orange sweetheart. It’ll break Paul’s heart when he goes, and it’s not like I’ll be a barrel of laughs, either. (We’d definitely get another cat, though; maybe even a bonded pair.) I also miss having outdoor kitties come running when they hear my car pulling up outside. Tiger is still living in the carriage house, but Buddy was declining and had to finally be put down last weekend. We used to have as many as five or six strays we fed and played with; I miss that. It does,, however, make me wonder about where all the strays in the city have gone, or even the indoor/outdoor ones who come begging like they don’t have food at home.

I kind of am worrying about how miserable this summer is going to be down here. It’s already hot and humid–yesterday when I got into the car after work it felt like climbing into an oven–which means the Gulf is heating up and it’s a la nina year, which means good conditions for hurricane formation in the Atlantic. Hurray. I’m really glad, though, we have that new HVAC system, which really works in the summer.

And on that note, Constant Reader, I am going to head into the mines for spice. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow morning.

Into the Groove

And you can dance.

For inspiration.

And we made it to Wednesday once again, Constant Reader. Huzzah!!!! I’m a bit groggy this morning, despite having woken at four, five and then again at six, which was a good thing as I had apparently forgotten to switch on the alarm when I tumbled into bed last evening.

We finished watching The Night Agent last night, which was bonkers/crazy, with gaping holes in the plot and a lot of “really?” being asked as the main characters did or said something completely insane. But it was entertaining, mindlessly, and that’s kind of nice as well. After we finished that we watched this week’s Ted Lasso, which was a bridge episode of a kind; I’ll have to watch again. But the redemption arc I was pretty certain was coming this season was glimpsed last night; which I was also pleased with. And then of course it was off to bed so I could get up this morning, and so well trained at it now that I woke up at six without the alarm going off. Not sure how I feel about automatically getting up at six without an alarm, but it was a plus this morning as I now won’t be late to work.

I am in a post-book malaise again, which I need to be snapping the fuck out of as soon as possible as I have to get this Scotty book finished. I don’t have time for malaise! I’d intended to reread the manuscript last night, but of course Scooter was needy when I got home and once I surrendered to the “I need a lap bed” whines, I was in the chair for the night and it was all over. I know what needs to be done to this manuscript, of course–which is a step in the right direction–but I am terrified about how much work it’s actually going to be. I don’t know why I psych myself out of writing and editing like this all the time, but I’m going to chalk it up to the malaise and be done with it all. I’ve also not been up for reading, either, which is not helping with the TBR pile in the least. I did finally put my hands on a book I’ve been trying to lay my hands on for months now, and when I finally spotted it and pulled it out of the bookcase, I decided to move it to the top of the pile and I am bringing it to work with me to read at my lunch hour. Maybe if I start reading for pleasure, it will motivate me to write for pleasure again…and the truth is, the overhaul of this book is going to be an incredible pleasure, if a bit on the nightmare side as well. I had already outlined the first half; I need to do the second half (after rereading the first half) and I also need to make a character list and timeline.

And then I can get back to Chlorine at long last. Woo-hoo!

I was also thinking last night I want to spend some more time with short stories this year. I got a lovely email forwarded to me (sent to Paul originally) from a new writer whom I greatly admire and whose debut novel is at the top of the pile to get to (if I ever get out of this fucking malaise), who’d attended my reading session and Saints & Sinners and wanted to know how “This Town” ended. I sent her a copy and she was very kind in her response; she loved it. I have always been proud of “This Town,” and is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written; I really felt like I got Callie’s voice down perfectly. It’s also one of the few stories I’ve written that I can reread and be satisfied, rather than making mental corrections and chastising myself for missing something in the process of writing it (this happens a lot for me, alas); but I’ve also noticed over the last few years that I am getting better at writing the short stories; and have been getting lovely compliments from people on them. I should really write more of them but the primary problem here is that there are so few markets (a submission from September is still pending) to sell them to that the time spent on them doesn’t ever seem to be worth it, other from the sense of satisfaction, which often is enough in and of itself. I think when I finish the revision of this Scotty book, I am going to spend a month on Chlorine to get the first draft finished, and then spend a month working on short stories, and then spend another month getting my pro wrestling noir’s first draft finished. And after that, who knows? My suburban serial killer in the 70’s book? Perhaps a new series? A short story collection? Finishing one of the novellas? The future is rife with possibilities.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have yourself a lovely Wednesday. Constant Reader, and I”ll check in with you again tomorrow.