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.

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.)

Express Yourself

Sunday morning and I am feeling good, I think. I stretched yesterday a little bit and used the back roller thingee, which made me feel a lot less tense and tight and may have helped me sleep better. I feel good this morning, after a very deep and relaxing night’s sleep. If that was a result of a brief time stretching and using the back roller, well, I am more than willing to spend five or so minutes every morning doing just that. I don’t feel tense this morning, and I feel like a lot of stress stored up in tight muscles that have been ignored for far too long. Regardless, I will be doing some stretching again this morning once I’ve finished this.

LSU’s Gymnastics team didn’t do so great at the Nationals–fourth out of four– but hey, just the fact they made it to Nationals was a victory; they lost one of their major stars to injury, a secondary star to another injury, and several other solid performers were out for the season as well from a team that didn’t make it out of Semi-Finals last year. LSU is killing it in sports right now, and with football season just a few months away, this is a very exciting time to be an LSU fan, to be honest. GEAUX TIGERS! And next year’s team will be even better and stronger than this year’s. A very good time to be a Tiger fan.

I ran errands yesterday, mostly to the post office and to make a little groceries. I came home and spent some time rereading MRM until it was time for the Gymnastics. I also spend some more time yesterday morning with Scorched Grace, which I am taking my time with to savor every word and sentence; it’s that kind of amazing book with such extraordinary language choices and structuring and style. It’s hard to believe this amazing work is a debut, and more than a little humbling for someone who’s working on book forty-something. I really look forward to finishing it and sharing my thoughts and impressions with you, Constant Reader. After the Gymnastics and dinner, we started watching something new, since we’d finished our last show already, and Paul chose P-Valley, from Starz; which I remember hearing about when it debuted, but not much since. A strip club in the Mississippi Delta area–known for its poverty–wasn’t something I’d usually be interested in. But I’d also heard good things about it–what little I’d heard, that is–and so we started watching. At first it reminded me a bit of Showgirls, in its rawness, its insane dialogue and story-lines, but the second episode really pulled us into it and now we’re all about Mercedes, Uncle Clifford (the gender non-conforming club owner), and Autumn.

The plan for today is to put away some things in the kitchen (I got a little lazy about put away the sundries when I got home from the store yesterday) and then most likely spend some time with Scorched Grace this morning before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst into the book. I am, of course, as always terribly behind, which isn’t a good thing at all. But focus and a strong push should get me through this revision. Fingers crossed I stay not only motivated but rested, what do you think? It rained a lot yesterday–it even rained over night–so there’s this damp chill in the air this morning which makes me, frankly, want to get back into bed under the covers. But I am going to resist my natural inclination to laziness and get back to reading and writing and getting things done and taken care of and tearing through the rest of my to-do list. (And if I feel this good after some minor stretching yesterday, imagine how good I’ll feel once I start lifting weights again…)

So yes, I am behind on everything as always, but this morning I feel like life is full of infinite possibilities, and I am feeling very optimistic about everything and my capacity and capability of getting everything done that I need to get done. It’s amazing what a difference a really good night’s sleep can make, isn’t it?

And on that note, I am heading to my chair with Margot, my coffee, and Scorched Grace. Have a lovely day, 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.

The Way We Were

I am both of the South and not of the South.

My people are from Alabama, as we say down here, but I didn’t grow up there. My parents moved north for better opportunities and for a better life for the two of them and their young children, and over the years since I’ve lived all over the country and grew up in vastly different places and cultures than that in which my parents were raised. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the region; I am both proud of my roots and yet embarrassed and ashamed a bit at the same time. That’s really the thing with being a Southern white man of a certain age; how do you reconcile your family’s history, and the history of where you’re from, when there is so much ugliness and darkness?

Someone told me once I was a coward for never dealing with race in my work, and there was enough truth in that statement to make it sting a bit. Are there things in past works of mine that are problematic? I’ve never gone back to reread them with that in mind–when I do actually force myself to reread them–but I know I am more enlightened now than I was twenty years ago, so it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to realize I wrote something that wouldn’t hold up to present-day scrutiny. But I also know that if someone ever told me I wrote something in the past that was an issue in the present I would listen to their concerns and not get defensive or double-down. I do not set out to upset people or hurt their feelings, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Which also leads to an ethical question I’ve often debated within my own head about: is it better when someone says something hurtful inadvertently, or if they do it on purpose? If it’s done on purpose, they had to put thought into it, which is bad…but isn’t it just as bad to be hurtful without thinking? To me, that reads as “I dont care enough to think about it” and how is that better?

But this weekend I finished reading Cheryl A. Head’s brilliant stand-alone novel Time’s Undoing, and what a joy it was to read.

Four hours ’til dawn. The single streetlamp at the alleyway splays veiled illumination on the wet pavement. The rumble and squeak of streetcars ended two hours ago, and the in-a-hurry owner of the diner hauls out the last of the garbage, which tumbles onto the slick red bricks as he slams the door.

Cress lifts the collar of his tight-fitting jacket against curly brown hair. Alert. Smoking. Shufting from one leg to the other. Leaning into the shadows every time he hears loud voices from the street.

I can’t feel the rain nor smell it, but I sense its fragrance misxed with the relentless forsythia creeping through every patch of dirt. Anna Kate often remarked that the flowers were her favorite part of living in Birmingham.

A car engine hums louder. Cress metls into the darkness when a blue sedan eases forward and idles under the lamp. The sight of it passes a shiver my body doesn’t recognize. Cress steps forward and drops his smoke, grinding the butt under his boot. He shoves both hands deep into the pockets of his dungarees.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Cheryl years ago at a Saints and Sinners, and shortly thereafter became a voracious reader of her Charlie Mack series. We were both nominated for Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original at Bouchercon last year (neither of us won) but it was so cool to be sharing the short-list with another queer writer (I don’t think two queer writers have ever been nominated in the same category before, so we might have made some history together there, too) that I am still agog and aglow from the entire experience. Over the past few years while Cheryl was working on this book, we would do panels or readings together (pandemic ZOOM events) and she would talk about it–and every time she did I’d think girl you need to finish this because I want to read the hell out of it, so you can imagine my joy when my copy finally arrived in the mail.

Oh. My. GOD. This. Book. Is. Incredible.

The book was born of fact; Cheryl’s great-grandfather was murdered by a Birmingham cop back in the Jim Crow days, and the truth behind that murder remains a mystery. Cheryl took the family story and wrote a book around it, and it’s powerful and moving and beautifully written and structured. The love and care Cheryl takes with this painful family history and weaving it into a fictional tale with something powerful to say is evident on every page. The book focuses on main character Meghan, from Detroit, who is doing a series for the Detroit Free Press about Black Lives Matter, and how she uses that as a hook into the story of her great-grandfather’s murder, which brings her to modern-day Birmingham to do research and see if she can find the answers her family has never known for almost ninety years.

The story is structured with two time-lines; Meghan’s present-day investigation, and what went on back in 1929.

Time’s Undoing is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a while. It’s brilliantly written, and Meghan is a likable, relatable character that is easy for a reader to connect and engage with, root for, and the 1929 sequences are also strongly rendered; bringing a by-gone age back to vivid and ugly life–but it’s also a story of resilience and recovery, and living with a back-breaking sorrow while still being able to find joy in life.

Cheryl has always been one of our strongest voices, getting better and growing more confident in her talent with each book. Time’s Undoing is going to be one of 2023’s strongest titles and will be making many short-lists when award season rolls around again.

Bad Boy

Masculinity is something I’ve always felt I viewed from the outside.

It’s very strange; for someone who doesn’t look back very often and has a rather healthy disdain for nostalgia, for some reason since the pandemic started, I’ve been revisiting my past a lot. I don’t know, perhaps it was triggered by having dinner with an old friend from high school a while back (which also inspired me to write a horribly dark short story); or perhaps it’s because of short stories or novel ideas I’ve been toying with, but lately, I’ve been thinking about my past much more so than I usually do, and what it was like for me growing up. I wrote a Sisters in Crime quarterly column several years ago about the first time I realized, once and for all, that I was indeed different from everyone else–it centered the first time I heard the word fairy used towards me as a pejorative, as well as the first time I was called a faggot. I’ve also been examining and turning over issues of masculinity inside my head for quite some time (most of my life). #shedeservedit was itself an examination of toxic masculinity and how it reverberates through a small community when it’s allowed to run rampant and unchecked: boys will be boys. Some short stories I’ve published have also examined the same subject.

What can I say? My not being the American masculine ideal has played a very major part in shaping my life and who I am; how could it not? I used to, when I was a kid, pray that I’d wake up the next morning and magically be turned into the kind of boy I was supposed to be, the kind that every other boy I knew–from classmates to cousins to everything I watched on television and at the movies.

Society and culture have changed in many ways since I was a little boy who didn’t fit so easily into the conformist role for little boys; roles for male and female were very narrowly defined when I was a child, and children were forced into conforming to those roles almost from birth. Boys were supposed to be rough and tumble and play sports and get dirty and like bugs and frogs and so forth; girls were supposed to be feminine and play with dolls or play house, wear dresses and mother their baby dolls. Boys weren’t supposed to read or enjoy reading (but I was also supposed to get good grades and be smart), and that was all I wanted to do when I was a kid. I used to love Saturdays, when my mother would go to the grocery store and drop me off at the library on her way. I loved looking at the books on the shelves, looking at the cover art and reading the descriptions on the back. I loved getting the Scholastic Book Club catalog and picking out a few books; the excitement of the day when the books I’d ordered arrived and I could go out on the back porch when I got home and read them cover to cover. I was constantly, endlessly, pushed to do more “boyish” things; I played Pee-wee baseball (very much against my will), and later was pushed into playing football in high school–which I hated at first but eventually came to love…which just goes to show, don’t automatically hate something without trying it. But yeah, I never loved playing baseball. I was enormously happy when we moved to Kansas and I discovered, to my great joy, that my new high school didn’t have a team.

One less traditionally masculine thing for me to participate in was always a bonus.

The things that I really wanted to do weren’t considered masculine pursuits, and as a general rule I was denied them as much as possible. My parents forbade me from reading books about girls–Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, Trixie Belden–which, quite naturally, made me want them more (my entire life the best way to get me to do something is to tell me either not to do it or tell me I can’t do it…either always makes me want to do it). Oddly enough, when my reading tastes became more adult–when I moved from children’s books to reading fiction for adults–they didn’t seem to care that I was reading books by women about women quite so much as they did when I was younger; either that, or they gave up trying as they finally saw me as a lost cause–one or the other; I don’t know which was the actual case. Maybe my embrace of football in high school overrode everything else suspect about me. It’s possible. My family has always worshipped at the goalposts…and I kind of still do. GEAUX TIGERS!

I spent a lot of my early life trying to understand masculinity and how it worked; what it was and why it was something I should aspire to–and never could quite wrap my mind around it. The role models for men always pointed out to me–John Wayne, etc.–never resonated with me; I always thought they were kind of dicks, to be honest. The whole “boys don’t cry, men never show emotions, men make the money and the entire household revolves around their wants and needs” shtick never took with me, and of course, as I never had any real sexual interest in women…the whole “locker room talk” thing was always kind of revolting to me, because I always saw girls as people. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was more likely to be able to trust girls than boys; I had so many boys decide they couldn’t be friends with me anymore because at some point other kids calling me a fairy began having an negative impact on their own lives all through junior and senior high school (to this day, I’ve never understood this; why were we friends before, and what changed? It wasn’t me…I didn’t suddenly switch gears from butch boy to effeminate overnight) it’s little wonder I have difficulty ever trusting straight men…but in fairness, I have trouble trusting everyone. But I never quite understood the entire “boys are studs girls are sluts” thing, but I also never truly understood the dynamics of male/female attraction. Yes, I dated in high school; I dated women in college before I finally stopped entirely. And yes, I also have had sex with women, back then–but never really enjoyed it much.

In all honesty, I still don’t understand masculinity, at least not as it was defined in my earlier decades of life. I’ve never understood the cavemen-like mentality of responding with violence (no matter how angry I get, I never get violent); I’ve never understood the refusal to recognize that women are human beings rather than life support systems for vaginas and wombs and breasts; I’ve never understood the mentality that a man’s desires should trump (see what I did there?) bodily autonomy for women. No man has a right to a woman’s body, nor does any man have a right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. Maybe always being an outsider looking in and observing has something to do with my mindset, maybe my difference and always having mostly female friends most of my life is what shaped me into understanding these things.

I also mostly only read women’s books, to be honest. There are some straight male writers I read and admire (Ace Atkins, Bill Loefhelm, Michael Koryta, Harlan Coben, Chris Holm, Stephen King, Jeff Abbott and Paul Tremblay, just to name a few) but I really have no desire to read straight male fantasies that reduce women to caricatures and gay men, if they do appear, as stereotypes; but after I recently read I the Jury by Mickey Spillane, a comment someone left on my post gave me a whole new perspective on how to read such books from the 40’s 50’s, and 60’s; the perspective of reading these books as examples of post-war PTSD…and that opened my eyes to all kinds of questions and potential critical analyses; that the horrors of World War II and what the veterans saw and experienced shaped the development of the culture of toxic masculinity that arose after the war (not that toxic masculinity didn’t exist before the war, of course, but the war experience certainly didn’t help any and it most definitely reshaped what “being a man” meant). I was thinking about doing a lengthier critical piece, on I the Jury, along with the first Travis McGee novel, and possibly including Ross Macdonald, Richard Stark and possibly Alistair MacLean. There’s certainly a wealth of material there to take a look at, evaluate, and deconstruct–and that’s not even getting into Ian Fleming and James Bond.

I’ve also always found it rather interesting that Mickey Spillane was Ayn Rand’s favorite writer. Make of that what you will.And on that note, I am off to bed. The last two days have been long ones, and tomorrow and Sunday will also be long days. I’m planning on driving back to New Orleans on Sunday–timing it so I get back after the parades are over so I can actually get home–regardless of what happens here. It’s not been an easy time here, and I am very tired.


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.

Dark Shadows (Josette’s Theme)

I always forget this when I am asked about major influences on my life, writing, and career–but probably the biggest influence on me was the television soap Dark Shadows.

“My name is Victoria Winters…”

So began the first episode, with young heroine Victoria speaking over some rather spooky music, usually with a background scene of a light in the window at the great house of Collinwood in the fog, or waves crashing against the beach, or the family cemetery, or even the Old House.

Dark Shadows is probably the root or seed from which Bury Me in Shadows was grown from, now that I think about it more. A haunted old house, an even older house in ruins nearby in the woods that was the original family home, ghosts and secrets from the past–oh yes, the framework is absolutely there, and it never even occurred to me.

When my sister and I were kids, we moved to Chicago from Alabama. I was about two years old, give or take; I don’t remember moving up there nor do I remember ever living in Alabama; my sister was two years older. My parents both got jobs–the point of the move was for climbing the economic ladder; they both got really good jobs in factories while my dad finished his degree. But because they both worked (our friends and neighbors all felt sorry for us because our mom had to work; their moms all were housewives), we needed to be watched while they weren’t home. Our landlady recommended a woman down the street–a mother of six whose two youngest were in their last years of high school–and so we started spending our days with Mrs. Harris, who fed us breakfast and lunch, and Mom would pick us up on her way home from the bus stop. When we started school, we went there for breakfast and lunch but came home after school; school let out at 3:15 and Mom was usually home by 3:30. But it was Mrs. Harris–and my grandmother, who worked a night shift–who got me started watching soaps in the first place. One Life to Life and General Hospital sort of held my attention, but it was Dark Shadows I couldn’t wait for. I used to run home from school to try to catch the last five or ten minutes during school; it wasn’t a problem during the summer.

I loved Dark Shadows.

I was crushed when it was canceled.

I mean, look at that house!!!!

The show wasn’t canceled, although the ratings were starting to slide a bit in the later years. The truism that Dark Shadows‘ producers and writers discovered is one that practically every other continuing series having to deal with the supernatural and supernatural creatures has had to deal with: how do you keep topping yourself and raising the stakes? True Blood, Supernatural, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and countless others have all run headfirst into that wall. Once you’ve done time travel and vampires and witches and werewolves and Frankenstein and other dimensions, what is left to do? I admire them for pulling the plug rather than getting more and more desperate to get the ratings up and eventually damaging the legacy of the show.

The show was a phenomenon the likes of which had never really been seen before in daytime–and the lesson learned from its success (go for the young audience!) would soon lead to the creation of youth-oriented shows like All My Children and The Young and the Restless–and of course in the mid-1970’s soaps would be forever changed when General Hospital introduced the character of teenager Laura Webber, played by an actual teenager, Genie Francis–and daytime was never the same. But Dark Shadows managed something that other soaps hadn’t–they created teen idols. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, David Selby as Quentin, and even David Hennessey as David Collins were often on the covers of teen magazines like Tiger Beat and 16. The show even licensed FAN FICTION–a series of books based on the characters from the show, but thanks to all the fun stuff with time travel and parallel dimensions, Dark Shadows was perfect for spin-off books that took place in other Dark Shadows universe; one could even say Dark Shadows was one of the first shows to make use of a multi-verse.

The books were cheap–as you can see in the picture above (a copy sent to me by a friend with whom I bonded over our mutual love of the show) they ran between fifty cents and seventy-five cents a copy; they all had that same gold bordered cover with an oval image of characters from the show, and they were all written by “Marilyn Ross”, which was a pen name for a very prolific Canadian author named  William Edward Daniel Ross; he wrote over three hundred novels during his career, and Marilyn Ross was the name he used for Gothics–and the Dark Shadows books. (He also wrote as Clarissa Ross, and I read some of those novels as well, including The Spectral Mist.) They also weren’t particularly well written, and while they did take place outside the show’s continuity, there were also moments in some of them that didn’t make sense; in one of them, in which Barnabas shows up at Collinwood in the 1910’s, the only son of the family dies in a tragic accident…but if he was the only son, where did the present day Collinses come from? (The earlier books were told from the perspective of Victoria Winters, and in some cases the gimmick was some member of the family was telling Victoria a story about the family history.)

That’s the kind of shit that drives me insane.

But I remember when one of the off-brand television channels in Chicago (not affiliated with a major network) started running repeats of Dark Shadows from the very beginning when we lived in the suburbs in the evenings while the networks ran the evening news–guess what I was watching instead? Yup, Dark Shadows. (I always found it interesting, too, that the young actress who played Victoria Winters originally–Alexandra von Moltke–eventually became infamous as Klaus von Bulow’s mistress Alexandra Isles, who was, in the prosecutor’s theory, the reason Klaus injected Sunny with enough insulin to induce the coma from which she never woke up. But I digress.

I always wanted to write a vampire story similar to that of Barnabas Collins; I have an entire idea for a rural Louisiana version called Bayou Shadows that I’ve tinkered with off and on since the early 1990’s…but then Charlaine Harris started the Sookie Stackhouse series, which was essentially the same thing. I still might write about Bayou Shadows–the town called that has popped up from time to time in my books about New Orleans and Louisiana; most recently in A Streetcar Named Murder, actually–and if people think I’m ripping off Charlaine, so be it.

I’ll know that I’m really ripping off Dark Shadows.

The show also spawned two feature films, Night of Dark Shadows and House of Dark Shadows, each featuring one of the show’s leading men, Jonathan Frid and David Selby, respectively; the first did far better than the second. The show was revived in prime time for a single season in the late 1980’s; I watched it and loved it, of course–even got Paul to watch when it became available on DVD and I rewatched. I wish that show had been given more of a chance, because it was really quite good, and I was curious to see where the story went from that first season. It also had an excellent cast, including Hammer Film star Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman. I did watch the Tim Burton film from this century, which had some clever moments but wasn’t quite as good; it went for the silly parody thing The Brady Bunch movies of the 1990’s did, but it didn’t land. The actress who played villainess Angelique in the original series, Lara Parker, has also written some Dark Shadows novels (I have copies but haven’t read them; I really should). Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played the original Maggie Evans on the soap (and in the first film) also has written novels; she was at Long Beach Bouchercon, where I met her and got a signed copy of her book Down and Out in Beverly Heels. She was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer; I really should read that book someday.

I’ve had Dark Shadows on my mind lately because I bonded with Carol Goodman at Bouchercon over our mutual love of Dark Shadows, and the Scotty book still in draft form takes place mostly in a rural parish outside of New Orleans; not the same parish where Bayou Shadows is located, but the next one over.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to reboot the show again, retelling the original story, or picking up from where the television series ended, or even doing a new generation, some forty years later, with David Collins as an adult with children and so forth…Carol and I have joked about coming up with a concept and trying to sell it and be the showrunners…which would be a dream.

Sympathy for the Devil

Well, well, well. This morning I woke up to the announcement of this year’s Malice Domestic Agatha Award finalists, and mych to my pleasant surprise, our very own Gregalicious’ #shedeservedit is a finalist for Best Children’s/Young Adult novel. It was a very pleasant surprise, as I figured the Agatha short-list wasn’t in my future for A Streetcar Named Murder (which was only eligible for Best Novel, and there is WAY too much competition for that category to even consider the possibility) and honestly, I didn’t think #shedeservedit, my only other release for 2022, had a prayer of getting enough votes (if any at all), but hey. I put up a couple of “for your consideration” posts on social media, figuring it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything to at least try, and here we are. Wow. Thanks to everyone who voted for me. It’s very exciting to start out the year with what hopefully won’t be my last Lefty and Agatha nominations. The nominations are a very lovely pat on the back, and will make even nicer additions to my author bio and CV. Added to the two Anthony nominations last year for Bury Me in Shadows, and it would appear that I am having a rather lovely period in my career, am I not? Perhaps a Gregnaissance?

Okay, yeah, I hate when people do that and make up words. Forget I ever said that.

It’s work at home Friday and I have data to enter. I also had to roll out of bed and head down to Quest Labs this morning for a blood draw for my bi-annual physical, so now I have a bruise on both arms since I had my PrEP labs drawn on Wednesday. I had a good day yesterday–I managed to get back into the book, but fell 500 words short of quota, so I need to do that today as well as today’s writing so I am back on schedule. I’ve been having some moments of doubts and imposter-syndrome lately, but that always happens at this stage in a book so I dismissed it and put it right back out of my head. I was very tired when I finished yesterday’s writing, and Paul went to the gym last evening, so I went down a Youtube wormhole of research (yes, yes, justify wasting your evening, Gregalicious) until Paul got back and we watched some of the US Figure Skating Championships, particularly the Rhythm Dance. (If someone would have told me back when I moved in with Paul in 1996 that my eventual favorite discipline in figure skating would be the ice dancing, I’d probably still be laughing…) I also was remarkably hungry yesterday, which really never happens. I was so hungry yesterday afternoon when I left the office that I actually came home and ate a piece of King cake, which kept me through the night, but it was still odd. I rarely ever get hungry–which is why I often will forget to eat, especially when I am on a trip (unless you go to New York with That Bitch Ford–I think I ate more that weekend in New York than I have on every trip I’ve taken in the last ten years combined)–so it bears noting when I actually realize that I am hungry. My weird relationship with food and my body is something I should probably write about sometime.

One of the problems I face when I think about writing personal essays (did you enjoy that segue, Constant Reader? I usually struggle with transitions) is, of course, Imposter Syndrome. Whenever I sit and think about writing a personal essay, I immediately start to doubt myself. What insights and perceptions and conclusions can you possibly draw about this that hasn’t already been said, probably better and more eloquently, by many others already? I can be pretty oblivious, too–something that is patently obvious to everyone else is something that startles me when I recognize it, mainly because I never think about it; it’s just something that already is, so I don’t think about it. Like one day when I was visiting my parents in Houston a news promo ran on the television calling Houston the “space city,” which was something I clearly was aware of since my parents lived two exits from NASA, and “Houston we have a problem.” But when I heard it that day, it connected in my head, oh, Houston the space city, that’s why the baseball team is the Astros and the basketball team is the Rockets. I said this out loud and my mother looked at me like I was insane (a look I am quite used to, so no worries on that score) and started laughing. I guess my obliviousness was amusing, but I just had literally never thought about it–they were the Rockets and the Astros, and that was that; didn’t matter why they were called that. But this is the kind of thing that makes me worried about trying to write personal essays–that, of course, and my faulty and failing memory, which is yet another reason why I don’t write a memoir…although I could write a really good one. But the problem–even if I trusted my memory–is that everyone remembers everything differently, so I could write about something the way I remember it but the other people involved could remember it completely another way. Who is right, and what is the truth? That hurdle is something I’m going to have to clear–after all, “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” is a terrific personal essay, and a piece of work of which I am particularly proud; so I know I can do it. I suppose the true fear is that I won’t strip naked and show myself to the world, and will color and/or distort things to make me not look quite as bad as I actually was in the moment. That’s one of the reasons why I love writing fiction; I can take personal experiences and twist them into something that can fit into a good story, or make them better in some ways.

And believe me, there was a lot of bad behavior in my past.

You learn to live with it.

Sigh. I do have a lot to get done over the course of this weekend–cannot forget the ALA event tomorrow morning–and of course, there’s a lot of writing to be done and the US Figure Skating Championships to watch. I’ll need to make groceries at some point, too, and I have prescriptions to pick up at CVS and of course, next weekend I am off to Alabama (yay!) for two of my favorite events of every year, Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu, which will take me to Birmingham and Wetumpka. Yay!

So, I am feeling a little more confidence this morning about my writing and everything in my life. I’m enjoying my day job and my new responsibilities, my writing career is doing okay, and I can’t really complain about too much. I’m going to return to the gym in April and start working on that part of my physical self. I am getting the hearings aids process started, and at some point I am going to need to have another eye exam later this spring. I have a lead on a dentist to get my teeth fixed so I can stop looking like a hillbilly, and start getting things figured out with a plan for my writing future.

And on that note, this data ain’t gonna enter itself. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

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.