Italian Summer

Eight or so years ago at this time Paul and I were in Italy. Sigh, Italy. God, how I love that country. I would love to live there in a village in Tuscany–well, really, anywhere in Italy would work just fine, really. I do so hope we’ll be able to go back someday. I’d love to see Pompeii, Milan, and Rome. And both Corfu and Capri–especially after reading (listening) to Carol Goodman’s wonderful The Night Villa. (One of the real life incidents she mentioned in the book from Capri’s history fascinated me, and took me down a wormhole and now I want to write about that historical incident, of course.) I have since written a short novella (or long short story) set in Italy called “Don’t Look Down,” which was included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and I have another novella-in-progress set in Venice called “Festival of the Redeemer,” which I hope to polish and edit at some point before the end of the year. Sigh, Italy. What a beautiful country, with lovely friendly people and the most amazing food and….so beautiful. You can see why the Renaissance flourished there.

I got the final edits on “Solace in a Dying Hour”–two questions (one in which I had made a mistake) and the rest was copy edits and the deletion of a paragraph. So that’s a wrap, methinks, and I am really fond of the story, too. It was my first venture into Louisiana urban legends and myth; well, really the second, because I did write “Rougarou” about a decade ago, but it’s been a while since I’ve turned to Louisiana legend and folklore to write a story, and writing about le feu follet was a lot of fun. I want to do more of these, of course; as Constant Reader may remember, I’ve become fascinated by the story of Julia Brown and the Great Hurricane of 1915, when her town, Freniere, was wiped off the map. Freniere was located on that narrow strip of land running between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain; if you’re driving west out of New Orleans on I-10, and then take the Hammond exit north on I-55, that’s the land the bridge is built on (when you’re actually driving over dry land, that is). I’ve always called that swamp the Manchac Swamp, but I don’t think that’s it’s real name (and I’ve called it that in books, too. Yikes!). You cannot get to the location where either Freniere or Ruddock (the other town in that area that was wiped away by the Great Hurricane of 1915) any way except by boat; apparently some of the swamp tours will swing by the old location where the graveyards still are, but the wreckage and remains of the towns are long gone. Both towns were only reachable by train or boat when they actually existed; there were no roads in or out of town, which always makes me think why would anyone want to live in such a remote and isolated place? But yes, you can bet the witch Julia Brown will appear someday in something I write.

I also got a rejection for a story yesterday, but it was one that I expected so it didn’t sting. I knew it was a long shot to begin with, so that’s fine, and I can certainly send it to another market, which I will most likely do after reading it again to make sure it’s actually quite terrible and I was in a complete state of denial about it being publishable in the first place. Rejection is just part of the game, of course, and there are any number of reasons your story doesn’t get accepted that have nothing to do with the story’s quality itself. I like my story and I think it’s clever, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be looked over another time, you know?

I feel rested this morning. I was very tired when I got off work yesterday afternoon, which is fine; I’d rather be tired after work then during it, you know? I didn’t get much of anything done once I got home, either–I had to pick up the mail and a prescription on my way home; today I can just come straight home–and I have some things I need to get taken care of when I get home from work tonight. Which is cool, I think I can spend a bit of time preparing (I have to make a promotional video–which clearly I’ve been putting off as it is due to be turned in tomorrow) and of course, I have to make the kitchen in the background behind me look–well, not embarrassing for me, at the very least. (Although I don’t know how much more embarrassed I can get filming myself. I hate the sound of my voice and I hate the way I look on video recordings–mainly because the actuality of how I look does not come close to the way I see myself in my head–pictures, recordings and the mirror often provide deeply disturbing shocks for me.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines this morning. Y’all have a marvelous day, and I’ll be back tomorrow for another entry. See you then!

The Dealer

Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and I am feeling a bit bleary-eyed this morning. I slept magnificently last night; I didn’t want to arise from the nest of blankets in my comfortable bed this morning in the least. But arise I did, because there are things I must get done today and staying in the bed for a longer time than usual would not help accomplish anything except, you know, more pleasure of sleep.

We did finish watching Black Bird last night, which was an interesting show based on a true story and executive-produced by Dennis Lehane; in which a cop’s son turned bad gets a chance to get his sentence commuted if he goes into a prison for the criminally insane and gets a serial killer–whose appeal might earn his release–to confess to him. It was quite entertaining and more than a little intense, but I do recommend it. I don’t think it needed to be six episodes–I think it felt a little padded here and there to get to six episodes, which seems to be the American minimum/sweet spot for mini-series. We also started watching Five Days at Memorial, which is…interesting. It’s a dramatization based on a book and the true-life experiences of those who were trapped there after Katrina and the flooding; one thing that was absolutely spot-on was how everyone kept lapsing and calling the hospital “Baptist” instead of “Memorial”–the hospital had been bought out by Tenet Health and renamed in the years before the storm; it was a New Orleans thing as to how long it would take for the new name to catch on; I was still calling it “Baptist” to the point that even the title of the series took me aback; I actually did wonder before we started watching, was the name of the hospital Baptist Memorial and we all just called it Baptist? Mystery solved.

I did run my errands yesterday–it didn’t feel quite as miserable outside as I thought it would–and actually made dinner last night…meatballs in the slow cooker, but I also made them differently than I usually make slow-cooker meatballs, the recipe I donated to the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook; I added sour cream to the recipe, for one thing, as well as some other spices and vegetables in the sauce. They turned out really well–quite tasty, actually–and as I sliced bell peppers, celery and onions yesterday while the roux bubbled and browned, I remembered oh yes, I love to cook; I just never get the opportunity to do so anymore. Our work and sleep schedules are now completely out of sync, and the only time I ever cook anything is on the weekends. Today I do need to make things to take for lunch this week–the meatballs will only stretch so far, and I am starting the week in the office on Monday instead of Tuesday this week. I am also having Costco delivered this afternoon as well. I also need to get to work on my second-pass page proofs for a Streetcar today; they are due on my birthday, ironically, but I’d rather get them out of the way today. I also want to get some writing in today, if I am lucky and motivated; I need to start getting more focused and less concerned about other things and issues as well as getting distracted, which is getting easier and easier all the damned time. I know there’s medication for ADHD, but unfortunately it can also act like speed–and the last thing in the world I need is to take something that will make it harder for me to fall asleep.

Yeah, definitely don’t need something to keep me awake longer. (Although every night before I go to bed now I start drifting off to sleep in my easy chair, which is so fucking lovely you have no idea.)

I’ve been reading some non-fiction lately; my mind hasn’t been clear or steady enough to continue reading fiction–a malaise that has come and gone since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020–so I’ve been focusing more on non-fiction when I am reading lately. I’ve got a really interesting book called Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang, which is absolutely fascinating. I loved the Charlie Chan movies when I was a kid (neither knowing nor comprehending how racist they were, not to mention their “yellowface” aspects)–again, the influence of my grandmother–and I read some of the Earl Derr Biggers novels when I was a teenager. I am really interested in getting into the meat of this book, since the character was beloved but is problematic in our more enlightened time; can the stories and the character be reclaimed from the morass of stereotyping and cultural colonialism the books and films were steeped in so deeply? Reading the introduction to the book yesterday did again make me feel like gosh, I wish I was educated enough in criticism and the writing of non-fiction to produce this type of work; there are any number of books and writers and characters I would love to explore and dissect and deconstruct. But alas, I do not have that background or education, nor do I have the necessary egotism/self-confidence in my own intellect to believe that I could come up with anything interesting or constructive or scintillatingly brilliant to say that hasn’t already been side (although I have an interesting take on Rebecca I would love to write about someday). I’d love to write about the heyday of romantic suspense and the women who hit the bestseller lists throughout the 50’s-80’s writing those books (Whitney, Stewart, Holt being the holy trinity); deconstructing the themes and tropes and tracing their evolution as the role of women in society began to change during the decades they wrote their novels.

I also bought an ebook about the children of Nazis, which is something that has always fascinated me; how did and have Germany and Germans dealt with, and continue to deal with, their horrific and genocidal past?

Obviously, as a Southerner, I am curious to see how one deals with a horrific history.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Sunday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Annabel Lee

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all seems to be well. I slept late as I had planned–maybe a bit too late, but I also stayed up late to finish doing the laundry (it’s such an exciting and always oh-so-glamorous life I live here in the Lost Apartment. I have to run some errands a little later on–mail, make groceries, prescriptions, library–and some things to do around here to touch up and clean a bit. I want to do some writing and reading today as well as just relax and enjoy the day a bit. We finished watching The Sandman this week, which was incredible–I think everyone can enjoy it, frankly, and it’s so creative and smart and visually breathtaking; a sweep of technical Emmys would be incredibly well-deserved; but it’s also a fantasy show built upon a mythology that originated in the DC Comics super-hero world, so it probably won’t be taken as seriously by the Emmy voters as it should…but then again they were also all about Watchmen (which was, frankly, superb), so you never know. Game of Thrones didn’t do too badly with the Emmys, either. Regardless, The Sandman is brilliant and I highly recommend it.

We also started watching the new show on Apple+ by Dennis Lehane, Black Bird, starring Taron Edgerton, which is also really good and Edgerton really is enjoying the role he plays. (Paul and I decided that he and Tom Holland need to make a movie together where they play brothers; Edgerton is what Holland would look like were he not so baby-faced boyish looking…or they could easily pass for brothers.) Edgerton, who is very handsome and has an amazing body, also looks like he’s been buffing up his body, too. (I think we first noticed him in Kingsman…I also think he’d make a terrific Nightwing if they ever make a Nightwing movie, which they really need to–I was distressed to see the latest HBO MAX news that Titans will probably be cancelled, which means DIck and Kori need to get together this final season soon to be airing.) We blew through the first three episodes quickly; I am also thinking we need to watch Five Days At Memorial–it’s getting to be Katrina anniversary time, woo-hoo–which will undoubtedly be difficult to watch (that period is a very dark time, obviously, and reliving it, even through the guise of entertainment, is always difficult) but probably necessary.

Since watching It’s a Sin last year (or whenever it was it was released) opened a floodgate of sorts in my mind. I know I’ve mentioned here before that I had always, since about age thirty-three, chosen to focus on the present and the future and never look back. It always seemed counter-productive, and I had finally come around to the acceptance point of realizing that everything that has happened in my life–whether macro or micro–inevitably set me on the path that led me to where I am today, and as long as I am happy, did the past really matter? What was the point to having regrets, to wishing I had something differently? Doing anything differently would have changed my path, and direction, with absolutely no guarantee that I would either be happy–or have survived this long. I am sure there are many many alternative timelines for me that had me dying in the 1980’s or 1990’s, which is always a sobering reflection and one I always have to keep in mind. I am alive because of every decision I’ve made and every heartbreak and crisis and problem and bad thing that has ever happened to me, and I kind of like my life and who I am. I am aware of my flaws (probably not as aware as I could be) and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are as a general rule; my biggest worry is that I delude myself periodically about anything or everything or something, and I really don’t like the possibility that I have blinders on when it comes to anything to do with me, my life or my career, while knowing it’s a strong one. I also know sometimes I probably take on blame for wrong that isn’t my fault (another reason Charlie in Heartstopper resonated so strongly with me was him constantly thinking everything was his fault and always saying “sorry”; I could absolutely relate to that as I’ve done the same most of my life and it is generally always my default on everything).

But as I have said, watching It’s a Sin, and being reminded so viscerally and realistically of what that period of my life was like–oh, they were so heartbreakingly young–did make me start looking back, remembering and reevaluating and, while perhaps not actually having regret, actually mourning everyone and the world and the life perhaps we all could have had if the homophobes hadn’t been in charge of everything back then. By not looking back I don’t think I ever allowed myself to heal, even though so much time has passed it’s all scar tissue now. But scar tissue is generally tighter than the skin it repairs; one is never quite as flexible as one used to be before the wounds became scabs and finally scars. Writing, as always, has been an enormously helpful tool for me to process experiences and feelings without tearing the webbing of the scar tissue again. That’s why I think writing “Never Kiss a Stranger” is important to me, and why the story haunts me so. Both Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit both were enormously helpful to me, forcing me to deconstruct and evaluate and look at harsh bitter truths I’ve tried to avoid most of my life. So I think it may be helpful to watch Five Days at Memorial, because perhaps enough time has passed for me to look back without the full range of painful emotion the memories brought before.

Hilariously, after all that bitching yesterday morning about the health fair, it turned out much differently than I was expecting. For one thing, their scale clearly was wrong; it clocked me at 196 pounds. If that was accurate, then I have lost sixteen pounds since I last visited my doctor–two weeks ago (I weighed 212 at his office). As that is most likely not possible–especially since I’d moaned in disbelief when putting on my pants yesterday morning only to find them snugger than they were the last time I’d put them, so the notion I’ve lost that much weight in such a short period of time without trying is utterly ludicrous on its face, preposterous. But it did kind of make me smile a little bit and shake my head.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope it’s everything you hoped it will be.

Watching Scotty Grow

As I get ready to write another Scotty book, I am busy making his acquaintance all over again. It might seem strange, but yes, although I’ve written eight books about my ex-go-go boy/personal trainer/private eye, it remains true in this as in all other aspects of my life that my memory is not what it once was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written a Scotty book since the first three without having to go back and revisit the series again. I have made continuity errors over the years (Scotty’s mother’s name changed over the course of the series, from Cecile to Marguerite and back to Cecile again), and I may forget things about his past and things I’ve written in previous books, but the one thing I never ever forget is his voice.

No matter what else is going on in my life, Scotty’s voice is very easy for me to slip back into, like a house shoe, and it somehow always feels like coming home to me in some ways. This is odd–because I would have always thought Chanse was the series character I was more connected to rather than Chanse, but that’s not the case at all. Scotty just won’t go away; but I ended the Chanse series and only every once in a while do I regret it (although I am beginning to suspect that I am going to probably end up writing another Chanse novel at some point in my life; I have two ideas that he’d be perfect for, but it also might be better and more challenging for me to simply come up with a whole new character for those stories rather than resurrecting Chanse); Scotty just won’t ever go away.

The idea for the Scotty series famously came to me during Southern Decadence, 1998.

(Well, I don’t know about famously, but I know I’ve told this story before many, many times. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to see how I remember the birth of the character and the series now)

It was a Sunday afternoon, and Paul and I had somehow managed to get prime balcony standing spots–at the Bourbon Pub/Parade, right at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon where the railing curves at the corner to head alongside the upper floor down the St. Ann side; so we could look down directly into the roiling mass of sweaty, almost completely naked bodies of hundreds of gay men from all over the country. That was my favorite spot for Decadence sight-seeing (Halloween, too, for that matter), and as I looked down into the crowd, I saw a guy in booty shorts and a very very loose fitting tank top, carrying a bag and trying to get through. I recognized him as one of the out-of-town dancers working at the Pub/Parade that weekend (I may have tipped him the night before) and as I watched in sympathy as he tried to get through that tightly-packed crowd of gays in various stages of being wasted, I closed my eyes and an image of him–or someone like him–fighting his way through the Decadence crowd while being chased by bad guys with shaved heads popped into my head just as Paul said, next to me, “You should really write a story set during Decadence” and then it popped into my head: someone escaping the bad guys has slipped a computer disc into one of the dancers’ boots on Friday night as he danced on the downstairs bar, and the bad guys want the disc back.

I didn’t have any way to write it down, obviously–I was wearing booty shorts, socks, and half-boots that came to my ankles, with nothing underneath the shorts and I had my tank top tucked through a belt loop like a tail in the back–yet even the title popped into my head: Bourbon Street Blues. The idea clearly stuck, because when I got home the next morning at about six or seven, dehydrated, drenched in sweat and having lost the tank top at some point during the night, I remembered it and wrote it down.

At some point over the next two years, I wrote a short story called “Bourbon Street Blues” about my stripper–only instead of being from out of town, I made him a local, filling in for someone booked from out of town for the weekend who had to cancel–and wrote about seven thousand words. It felt very rushed to me–the story–and I kept thinking it’s too long for a short story, it would have to be a novel but I also wasn’t sure there was enough story there for a novel. But I liked the idea, no one (at least, to the best of my knowledge) had written anything like it, and I thought, someday I’ll get a chance to write this story and develop this character.

Flash forward to 2001. This was during the time Paul and I had moved to DC to work for the Lambda Literary Foundation, we were miserable there and wanted to move back to New Orleans but didn’t have the money to do so, and the release of Murder in the Rue Dauphine was still at least a year away. I was talking to an editor on the phone about one of his new gay releases, and out of the blue I just pitched Bourbon Street Blues to him. He loved the idea, and asked me to write a proposal and email it to him. I had never written a proposal before, but I thought what the hell, how hard can it be? and so I wrote a two page proposal for the book. Two months later they made me a two-book offer–and the money was good enough to pay for Paul and I to move back to New Orleans as well as to live on for a while. I had only seen the book as a one-off, but they wanted a series. I needed and wanted the money, so I thought I can figure this out later and signed it.

Three months later, we moved back to New Orleans and I started writing the book.

The one thing I wanted to do with Scotty was make him unabashedly, unashamedly, gay. I didn’t want him to have any hang-ups, a sad backstory, or parental issues. I wanted him to be a free spirit who embraces life with both hands, lived in the Quarter, and loved having sex, loved being found desirable, and never really said anything or thought anything mean about anyone else. I made him a personal trainer, and his poverty–he agrees to do the dancing gig for Decadence because he’s behind on his rent and other bills; he teaches aerobics and was a personal trainer–comes from his grandparents freezing his trust funds when he dropped out of college to go to work for a booking agency for male dancers. He has since stopped doing that, but fills in when needed (and when he needs the money) at the Pub/Parade. I also based the shitty politician running for governor–and trying to mount a Christofascist takeover of the state, beginning with an attack on Southern Decadence–on an actual politician who ran for the US Senate shortly after we moved here; we saw him being interviewed on the news and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke, some kind of performance art–but forget it Greg, it’s Louisiana.

I also want to let you know that while I was working on this manuscript my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, was released–and I got a “damned with faint praise” review from the Bay Area Reporter, which complained that “it would have been nice to see inside the heads of the other characters”, which took me aback as the book was a first person narrative, which made that impossible. What the reviewer I think was trying to say was that she wished the book had been told in the third person; that to her that would have made the book more interesting to her. But in my baby-author naïveté, all I could think was how can you see inside the heads of other characters in a third person narrative unless the main character was psychic?And the proverbial lightbulb came on over my head. Make Scotty a psychic. This was also an integral key to the puzzle of who Scotty was; the reviewer also yawned over my “gay stereotypes” in Rue Dauphine, so I decided to make Scotty the embodiment of all the worst stereotypes of muscular gay men who worked out and had a lot of sex. Just writing that down now, I realize how incredibly insane it was for me to use my new series book and character to respond to criticism o my debut novel; and when the book came out I braced myself for the inevitable backlash to come.

No one was more surprised than I was at how readers embraced him. The book got great reviews, even from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (Kirkus, of course, has always pretended I don’t exist). Bourbon Street Blues was even nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery of 2003 (I lost, I think to John Morgan Wilson?) shortly after the sequel, Jackson Square Jazz, was released.

Jackson Square Jazz’s story was actually a recycled idea I had for a spin-off book for Chanse’s best friend Paige. The original concept was that someone would steal the Louisiana Purchase from the Cabildo–and somehow Paige stumbled onto the theft, and knew that the one on display currently there was a copy. (I was calling it, originally enough, Louisiana Purchase.) I decided to make that the basis of the second Scotty book. (This was inspired by a documentary I’d seen about the Cabildo fire of 1989–that may be the wrong date–and how the fire department tried saving everything in the museum before fighting the fire. I remembered how in the documentary they literally were placing historical objects and paintings against the fence at Jackson Square and thinking, anyone could have walked off with something during the fire…and my imagination immediately was off to the races.) Unfortunately, when I met with the museum director–whose actual first day on the job was the day of the fire–I found out that 1) the copy of the Louisiana Purchase at the Cabildo was actually only a replica and the original was stored in the weather-protected underground archive at the Library of Congress and 2) it was more than one page long–I’d imagined it was one large document like the Declaration of Independence; it is not. However–he also suggested I make the MacGuffin the Napoleon death mask–one of the three originals made when Napoleon died–and gave me some great backstory on it as well that I don’t remember if I used in the book or not; but it was a lot of fun talking to him (his name escapes me at the moment, alas) and was a great example of why it is important to actually do research and talk to people.

I also wanted to include figure skating–the working title for the book was Death Spiral, which the publisher made me change, asking for something alliterative, like Bourbon Street Blues–and so I decided to open the book with Scotty having a horrific hangover and then realizing someone was in the bed with him (it’s to this day one of my favorite book openings; what slutty gay man hasn’t been there?)…and then I remembered I’d introduced two love interests for Scotty in book one, and here he was in bed with someone else entirely. (The young man he woke up with was a figure skater in town to compete at Skate America, being held in the Smoothie King Arena.) I loved both of his love interests, and knew I was going to have to bring both of them back somehow, and then I was going to have to figure out which one he’d end up with. (Spoiler: I couldn’t decide, so he wound up with both of them.) I also threw in a ghost, a billionaire artifact collector, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. I turned in the book, along with a proposal for Book Three, in which I finally decided I was going to resolve the threeway relationship personal story, and that would be the end of the Scotty trilogy.

Man plans and God laughs. (Jackson Square Jazz was also nominated for a Lambda; I think this was the time I lost to Anthony Bidulka.)

Mardi Gras Mambo turned out to be an entire other kettle of fish.

I’m not entirely sure I remember exactly what the original plot of Mardi Gras Mambo was going to be, but I know it had to do with the Krewe of Iris (Scotty’s sister Rain belongs) and the book opened at the Iris parade on the Saturday morning before Fat Tuesday. It was due in June of 2004, and of course, I wasn’t nearly finished by the time Memorial Day rolled around, and was planning on asking for another month on the manuscript on the Tuesday after. Of course, that was the Memorial Day weekend when Paul was attacked and everything went to hell in my personal life. My publisher was incredibly kind; they took the book off schedule, told me to take care of Paul, and get the book done whenever I got the book done.

I started writing it again in January of 2005, shortly after I began keeping a blog in order to get me writing again. That was when the Christian/Virginia nonsense happened, and everything got derailed again. When I started writing the book again, I threw out everything except that first chapter at the Iris parade–which did wind up in the final book–and I do not recall what the second plot I chose to write was at this time, other than I knew I was bringing in a Russian character, inspired by someone I’d seen around in the bars for years and had always been just awestruck by his body–and yes, that Russian turned out to eventually be Wacky Russian, my personal trainer. I actually kept this as an inspiration–Eclipse used to be the nightlife insert for IMPACT News, a queer newspaper that died out in the early aughts:

Finally, it was April 2005, and I started writing Mardi Gras Mambo again. I had the plot all figured out–it was completely insane–but I also realized I couldn’t end the personal story with Scotty the way I had hoped and wrap it all up with Book Three. There had to be a Book 4, and so when I finished the book at last and turned it in, I included a proposal for a fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle–which was going to be set during an evacuation for a hurricane that missed New Orleans…I always thought it would be interesting to write a mystery story set during such an evacuation.

Of course, I turned the book into Kensington on August 14th, 2005. Fourteen days later, Paul, Skittle and I fled from New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

I wouldn’t come back for good until October 11. Paul didn’t come home until after Thanksgiving.

Of course, I wrote to my editor a day or so after the levee failure to say, well, I don’t think I can write that book I proposed now.

I didn’t see, for a very long time afterwards, how I could write another Scotty book–light, funny, zany–in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Then one day I was walking to work from where I’d parked my car and some people on bicycles came riding toward me. They smiled and waved and I smiled and waved back…and realized oh my God, that was Brad and Anjelina. Their house wasn’t far from my office–in fact, it was quite literally around the block from where Scotty lived–and I thought, you know, Brad kind of looks the way I describe Scotty–wouldn’t it be funny if someone tried to kill Scotty because he looked like a movie star who lived in his neighborhood? The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I started writing the proposal for Hollywood South Hustle when I got home from work that night. I was so certain they would take it that I started developing the characters and writing out a detailed synopsis…and they turned it down.

I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a marketing decision. Even if they signed the book immediately, it would still be another year before it would come out, and they felt by then Scotty’s audience was long gone, if it wasn’t already. It was disappointing, but right around the same time Alyson came back to me for a fourth Chanse book but they needed it right away–like within ten weeks–so I turned the Scotty story into Murder in the Rue Ursulines. I finished the book, turned it in, and figured the Scotty series was dead, alas.

Shortly thereafter, during the Gay Easter Parade an idea for a different Scotty book occurred to me . The parade was over and I was walking back to my car to drive home when I walked underneath a balcony…just as they started watering their plants. I got soaked–you can’t get mad, it happens in the Quarter periodically and it’s just one of those New Orleans things–and I thought, you really need to write about this. As I walked to the car, dripping, I pictured Scotty hurrying to catch a ride on his parents’ business’ float for the Easter Parade–and of course, he’d wear a white bikini, rabbit ears, and have a rabbit tail–when the exact same thing happened to him, only his bikini would become see-through when wet. By the time I’d driven home, I’d figured that the person on the balcony would be an old friend of his parents’, he’d invited Scotty in to dry off, and when Scotty was on his way home from the parade, the cops would be there because the friend had been murdered. Using The Moonstone as my inspiration, I came up with another MacGuffin story, a way for Colin to come back and explain everything that happened during Mardi Gras Mambo, and I had the perfect ending to Scotty’s story. I just didn’t have a publisher.

But Bold Strokes Books, a primarily lesbian publisher, had started doing books by and about gay men. I’d taken an erotica anthology to them when it was orphaned by the death of its original publisher, and so I wrote and asked if they wanted a Scotty story. They did, and thus Scotty came back to life one more time…and I figured that was the end of it. I wrapped up the personal story about the three-way relationship in a way that was organic and made sense; and I also added a new wrinkle to Scotty’s personal life: Frank’s late-in-life decision to become a professional wrestler. (One of the things we locals learned from Hurricane Katrina was to not put off following or chasing dreams or goals; my attitude thus became go for it and I started chasing down dreams I’d pushed to the side for years.) Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo were both nominated for Lambdas, but at this point I can’t remember who I lost to in both of those cases–for the record, Lambda has never rewarded a Scotty book with an award–probably because they are inevitably funny and over-the-top, which never wins awards because funny is seen as “not serious,” despite the fact that humor/comedy is much harder than drama/tragedy.

I didn’t think I was going to write another Scotty book then, either. But then something miraculous happened: the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and I wanted to write about what it was like to live here during that incredible time. It didn’t seem like the right story for another Chanse book, so I thought, well, I can pull Scotty back out and write it from his point of view.

And of course, Who Dat Whodunnit was just sitting there for the title. How could I not write that book?

I had already established over the course of the series that the two sides of his family–the Diderots (maternal) and the Bradleys (paternal) didn’t really get along. The Diderots go back to Iberville and the 1718 settling of New Orleans; the Bradleys were Americans who came after 1803, and thus are not only parvenus to the aristocratic Diderots, but also l’Américains. Perish the thought! We’d also established that the Diderots were not nearly as conservative as their State Street living in-laws, but we’d never actually seen much of the Bradley side of the family, so I thought why not do the Bradleys and let us get to know the other side of Scotty’s family? It was around the same time I started reading about a megachurch out in Kenner (or Metairie? I don’t recall) that was rising to prominence in local politics and was, as you can imagine, homophobic. The same-sex marriage wars were also being fought at this time; and during one of those pageants (Miss America? Miss USA?) the reigning Miss California was asked about same-sex marriage during the question portion by judge Perez Hilton (why was he judging a beauty pageant for women is a mystery for the ages) and she responded that her faith had taught her that marriage was between a man and a woman (the audience started jeering) and she apologized by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s how I was raised!” She wound up as First Runner-Up, and some felt, rightly or wrongly, that her “politically incorrect” answer cost her the title. In some ways, I felt bad for her (although it’s not my fault it’s how I was raised I have always thought was an incredibly stupid thing to say; you have free will, and you should be capable of making up your own mind rather than simply parroting things without question you were raised to believe. So if your parents were racist white supremacists…) but then of course, the Right tried to turn her into a martyr and heroine, and she dove right into that headfirst, erasing any sympathy I might have felt for her (I still think the question was inappropriate for a pageant, as would be anything polarizing–and yes, well aware that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be polarizing, but here we are), and of course, Miss Upright Moral Christian had a bit of a shady past that eventually came out and that was that. I decided to base the murder victim in the book on this girl, and tried to explore the influence of this megachurch on her. I also gave Scotty a first cousin who was the darling of the Bradley grandparents because he was a jock and was on the Saints team as a player–but also a homophobic asshole. The Bradleys were like something out of Tennessee Williams–I think I even named Scotty’s uncle (the football player’s dad) Uncle Skipper as an homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

There’s a lot of story there left in the Bradley side of the family, now that I think about it–and I’ll be digging into that in the new one, rest assured!

Funny story: After I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit, I decided I was not going to write another Scotty book. This had been Book 5 of what started as a stand-alone and then became a trilogy and yet somehow, I’d kept going on top of that. I kind of felt played out a bit with Scotty, and the longer the series went on, the more problems I was having with things like character ages–Scotty was getting older, which meant his parents were getting older, which meant his grandparents were getting older, too. I didn’t want to deal with the deaths of his grandparents (or Aunt Sylvia, who was his grandmother’s age and had married Uncle Misha), and so I had two options: pretend they weren’t getting older and not talk about their ages, or let the series go. I was still writing Chanse at the time, and I kind of figured that would be the series that went on longer. But I was on a panel at Saints and Sinners and someone from the audience asked me if there would be another Scotty.

GREG: Probably not, but if I can figure out a way to include Mike the Tiger (the live tiger mascot at LSU), Huey Long, and a treasure hunt for Huey’s deduct box, I will.

(I had read T. Harry Williams’ award winning biography Huey Long and had become fascinated completely with him. All I had known about Long going into reading that biography was that he’d been a demagogue (thanks, US History textbook from high school) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men had been loosely based on his life and career. Mention Long’s name to anyone and they immediately reply with “oh, he was so corrupt”–which amused me, since every Louisiana politician is corrupt to a degree–and I knew Roosevelt and others had worried about him as a populist politician who reminded them of Hitler (and the way he crushed his opposition in Louisiana and essentially became the state’s dictator, who could blame them?), but what was the real story? And Huey Long made me start to have what was at first a grudging admiration for him which grew into a kind of fandom the more I learned. (There are some similarities–more than one would think–between Long and LBJ in the Caro biographies, as well as with Robert Moses, another Caro biography; which would make for a very interesting comparison/contract essay at some point.) But the more I read about Long, the more I wanted to write about him. He fascinated me, and the fact that his trove of cash–the deduct box–was never recovered after his murder was even more fascinating to me.)

And don’t you know, later that night, it came to me. A few months earlier there had been a bomb threat at the LSU campus, and there had been some controversy about how the administration had handled the situation–they’d evacuated Mike the Tiger off the campus before the mass evacuation call for the students. It made sense to me (but I didn’t blame the students for being upset because it absolutely looked like the administration cared more about the tiger’s safety than the students’)–in the chaos of evacuating the campus, getting the tiger out safely would have been a nightmare, and God forbid something happen and Mike got loose. Then it hit me: what if some animal rights’ activists had staged the bomb threat in order to steal the tiger in order to set him free somewhere? (Mike is a frequent target of PETA, who often calls for him to be released into the wild–not in the US, of course–, or sent to a big cat sanctuary.) So, I had the tiger kidnapped, and since Huey Long was responsible for LSU being what it is today, it only made sense for the treasure hunt to have to do with his missing “deduct box”–Huey always used cash, after his assassination the deduct box containing thousands and thousands of dollars in cash disappeared–and there we had it: a plot involving Mike the Tiger, Huey Long, and the deduct box.

This was also the book where I decided to extend Scotty’s family a bit further by adding a new, younger gay character to the mix: Taylor, Frank’s nephew, disowned by Frank’s sister and her homophobic husband after he comes out to them after a semester in Paris, and so he comes to live with Scotty and the boys in the house on Decatur Street. I wanted to bring in someone younger, and gay, with literally hardly any gay experience in the world to reflect the change between generations of gay men and how they view being gay and the rest of the world.

I also figured this would be the last one, but like I said, Scotty just won’t go away.

SIDENOTE: I had to write to the administrators of the Huey Long website for permission to use some quotes from the site in the book. Needless to say, they were very wary of me when they responded, so I emailed them the chapter where I would use the quotes–Scotty was doing some research on Long, and came across the website. Like me, Scotty had always been told Long was corrupt and a demagogue…but demagogues also don’t get things done, which Long did. Some of Long’s programs–like the Homestead Exemption–still exist as public policy in Louisiana. They wrote me back, granting permission…and that was when I found out the person I was talking to was Long’s great-granddaughter, who was rightfully suspicious of anyone writing about her great-grandfather. I sent her a copy of the book when it was finished, and she sent me a lovely thank you card, which is probably one of my favorite writing souvenirs.

The genesis of Garden District Gothic was weird, but yet serves as yet another example of my adage never throw anything you’ve written away.

I had always wanted to spin Chanse’s best friend, journalist Paige Tourneur, off into her own series. I had always intended to do so; from the first time I thought her up for Murder in the Rue Dauphine I thought, “she’s fun and witty and interesting and that weird name–there’s so much more story there than we can get to as a supporting player in a series about someone else.” I have so much written down about Paige and her origin story; how she came up with that name and why; how she wound up at LSU; and so on and so forth. A friend started an ebook publishing company, and wanted me to write Paige novellas for her; I did two–Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans–but the sales, frankly, weren’t there and I didn’t have the necessary time to put in marketing them to help drive the sales, so even though I’d started a third, The Mad Catter, we agreed to kill the series and pull the first two from availability; ultimately, I was working too hard for too little pay-off. I was disappointed, obviously; Paige was kind of a passion project for me–I’d made any number of false starts writing a series book for her, and it was sad to see that there wasn’t an audience for her after all. But I had about four chapters of The Mad Catter in place, and I didn’t want to waste the time spent on them…so I decided to turn them into a Scotty book, which became Garden District Gothic.

I also brought in a new character–a true crime writer with a shady past of his own–who actually wrote a book, a la Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the case. The name of his book? Garden District Gothic. I brought him in, thinking I would spin him off into his own book/series–I thought it might be fun to write about a writer…(I thought about using him as the main character in another book based on an actual unsolved string of murders in a rural Louisiana parish, but very quickly realized he was simply an amalgamation of Scotty and Chanse, so that book–The Bodies in the Bayou–went onto the backburner. I think I may have created the character before, in the Chanse series, but I could be remembering that wrong. I also used this book to sort of set up the next; I will explain that further when I am talking about Royal Street Reveillon. I also crossed the character of Paige Tourneur over from the Chanse series into the Scotty series (I loved the character, hated to sideline her after I ended the Chanse series and the novella series didn’t pan out); not that she will be a big part of the Scotty series, but hey, every so often I need a journalist, and why not use a character I am very fond of already and wasn’t ready to stop writing about?

The book was loosely based, obviously, on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case–a decades old notorious murder of a child in the Garden District that was never solved. I wanted to examine and explore issues of class in New Orleans, but I am not entirely sure I pulled off what I intended with the book.

Then again, I think that with every book, don’t I?

And we now come to the (so far) most recent book of the Scotty series, Royal Street Reveillon.

Originally I’d envisioned the Scotty trilogy (when it morphed from a stand-alone) as encompassing the three big gay holidays in New Orleans: Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. Jackson Square Jazz wound up taking place just before Halloween, alas; Scotty talks about their costumes in the epilogue, but I hit the other two holidays out of the park. When I added a fourth book, I tied it to the Gay Easter Parade–Scotty is on his way to ride on the Devil’s Weed’s float when the book opened–and then of course the next book was sort of Christmas/sort of Mardi Gras/sort of the Super Bowl. Baton Rouge Bingo was the first book that wasn’t tied to a holiday of some sort; neither was Garden District Gothic. But for the next Scotty book, I wanted to do a Christmas book. I’ve never really written much about Christmas, and I do love the season, especially in New Orleans. I wasn’t sure what kind of plot I was going to use, but I knew it was going to be set during Christmas season and I knew I wanted to use reveillon, the Christmas season meal you use to break your fast for Mass, in the title. I had introduced one of the characters from Dead Housewives of New Orleans in Garden District Gothic, so it only made sense to me (or so it seemed at the time) for me to take the framework of Dead Housewives–the entire Real Housewives spoof I wanted to write–and build this new story around it. I changed a lot–made the overarching story much more complicated, and especially complicating the “whodunnit” aspects of the three murders that all occurred within twenty-four hours of the premiere party for Grande Dames of New Orleans.

I also did a couple of horrible things to Scotty and his loved ones over the course of this book…which will have to be dealt with in the new one, alas. I hate when I do this to myself! But with Royal Street Reveillon and its darker themes, I wanted to show how much Scotty has grown and changed over the course of the series; he’s evolved as a person, partly because of the changes to his life and partly because of what he experiences through the murders he finds himself involved in. Do I wish, as I start writing Mississippi River Mischief, that maybe I hadn’t given so many growth opportunities over the years to Scotty and his gang of family and friends? Absolutely. But that’s part of the challenge of writing a series, and what makes it so much fun.

*Funny story about the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues. Back in the day, publishers used to meet with reps from Barnes & Noble and Borders to show them covers and get their input; covers were changed based on those meetings. The Bourbon Street Blues cover was so in-your-face it took me aback when I first saw it; and they had toned the original image down dramatically, mainly smoothing down the bulge so it wasn’t so in-your-face. The Barnes & Noble buyer told them, “he needs a bigger bulge” so they made it bigger–but were still cautious; the image’s original bulge was still bigger. I do think that story is hilarious.

Everybody Loves You

Monday morning, and the shopping days left till my birthday are slowly but surely getting crossed off my calendar. Yesterday was a lovely relaxing day at home; I did some on-line shopping (ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni; we’ll see how they work out once they arrive; I may order a few other pairs to be more color-conscious; and yes, I know how weird that is for me–I didn’t get the fashion gene that most gay men seem to be born with, and so I’ve never really cared much about clothes other than their function–especially glasses

) and then spent some time doing the fun part of writing: thinking about the book(s).

I love that part. I actually realized yesterday that I was flying without a navigator (as usual), which is probably a mistake. I hadn’t spent any time really thinking about the story of Mississippi River Mischief and how it would impact the characters and how they interact with each other, etc. I had some basics down; I knew how I was going to start the story and open the book, and what I was going to include in it–I also recognized that another subplot is too big a story to be included in this book, and so I had to put it to the side for now, for use at a later date in a different book. But beyond that I hadn’t really thought much about it, and that was problematic for me and would inevitably cause problems for me down the line as I struggled to write a strong first draft. I also realized that a lot of what I was writing was going to take place outside of New Orleans, and yes, I know it’s anal of me, but my fictional Louisiana was far too amorphous. My work has always centered New Orleans and I’ve always been a stickler about getting that correct–I know I’ve made mistakes, I got Orleans and St. Louis Streets reversed in one book, or example– but over the course of forty-odd books, inevitably parts of some of them had to take place outside New Orleans. (I had, oddly enough, no qualms about completely fictionalizing the entire state of Louisiana for the most part outside of the metro area.) And being anal, I realized I had no real “map” or idea of what fictional parish or city or plantation was where and what names I’d used where and so on and so forth. And yes, I know it probably doesn’t matter–no reader would ever take the time to go through all of my books and try to piece Greg’s fictional Louisiana together and point out contradictions and errors, but it would bother me knowing that it was a mess outside Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

Something clearly had to be done.

So, I spent yesterday afternoon doing Scotty research–namely, checking every book I’ve ever written with scenes that take place outside of the metro area and try to assemble all of those places into a coherent and cogent “world” of Louisiana, strictly of my own making. I did allow myself to get sidetracked a few times with research into other projects, current or upcoming (the Great Hurricane of 1915, and the legend of Julia White were Internet wormholes I happily went down yesterday; I think a story I am going to write for an anthology call will be based in these two events), which is always a delight; Louisiana and New Orleans history are literal treasure troves for thoughts and ideas and so forth (another wormhole: the German Coast of the Mississippi River) and also humbling at the same time, because these wormholes always remind me how little I actually do know and understand about New Orleans and Louisiana.

Revisiting old books–especially Scotty ones–inevitably bring back memories of the time period in which the book was written, where the idea for it came from, what I was trying to do with it, and so on and so forth…not to mention how the character himself has changed and grown along with my writing styles and skills. It also reminds me of other things, too–plans I used to write the books, ideas and thought processes for the characters and their futures, and so on; things I had forgotten over the passage of time. I also sent the pdf of Jackson Square Jazz to my iPad; so I can slowly start copy-editing it so I can put up the ebook on Kindle at long last–there was also a part of that novel, part of Scotty’s long-forgotten past that only appears in this particular book that I want to circle around back to for this one. There are, I suspect, any number of sub-plots and character arcs that have been left hanging within the series over the years, and I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to reread the entire series again from start to finish since I am writing another book in the series. Obviously, I love Scotty and he is a part of me, and I don’t have a hard time slipping into his voice again (one of the things, I think, that makes writing a series a bit easier than writing a stand-alone–or starting a new series–is that ease of finding the character’s voice again. I’ve written eight Scotty books now, it should be easy to find his voice again), but there are a lot of other things I need to revisit and remember from the previous books in the series, so as to avoid continuity issues and things like that which plague me constantly.

For the record, the books I had to consult to map out my fictional Louisiana included not only Scotty books, but Murder in the Arts District (Chanse), The Orion Mask, a pseudonymous book or two, and some short stories. If A Streetcar Named Murder indeed becomes the launch of a new series for me, I’ll need that fictional map of Louisiana for that series as well–I’d already brought up one of my fictional parishes in the text of Streetcar, so…

I also reread the first four chapters of something else that is currently in progress to also kind of sort of make sense of it as well (and a good thing, too–I had two completely different sleazy gay dive hustler bars in the same neighborhood in two different chapters; easy enough to fix of course, and another continuity issue). This is going to sound weird–what else is new with one Gregalicious–but I am writing another book at the same time as this Scotty; I am sending a chapter a week to a friend, kind of like a serial novel, but I had not gone back and reread what I had already written on it (hence the two sleazy gay hustler bars in the same area of the fictional city) and so it went off the rails slightly (I suspected it was doing so and even remarked on it when I sent the email with the most recent chapter attached), and I am going to have to go back and clean that all up before proceeding–because it’s too big of a mistake to leave in the draft for correcting in another, later draft (plus, it will bother me to no end knowing those big mistakes are there), so I think I am going to have to make those fixes before I write Chapter 5–which is a good thing, because I am not really sure how to write chapter 5 or what to do in it; revisiting and fixing the first four chapters is always a good idea in these situations.

The problem with not outlining is because sometimes you get stuck.

We also binged a lot of The Sandman last night. What an extraordinary show–the visuals are absolutely stunning (I keep thinking how visually breathtaking it would be on the big screen), and the costumes, the art and set design, everything is just stunningly perfect, and the stories themselves (as well as the over-arcing storyline) are depicted and acted and written beautifully. This is the adaptation of the series I always wanted to see but never dared dream we would get; Paul and I are both just completely blown away by its brilliance (I also loved that Cain and Abel, from the old comics House of Mystery and House of Secrets, are a part of this universe; I loved those comics back when I was a kid–note to DC: make an anthology series of both of those comics, please.) We only have three episodes left, but by the time we finish this show–probably Wednesday, given how our weekday evenings seem to go–there should be some other amazing shows dropped for us to watch–I am particularly looking forward to The Serpent Queen; I’ve been asking for a Catherine de Medici series for years and now we are getting one that seems to embrace and encompass her manipulation and dedication to the acquisition of power, and of course House of the Dragon looks like it could be very fun, and other shows will be returning soon as well with new episodes.

So, overall it was a great weekend; I cannot complain. It was productive–perhaps not as productive as I would have liked, but I do feel like some seriously good work was done this weekend, and that’s all that matters. I have some work-at-home duties today–trying to decide whether to run errands today or on the way home from work tomorrow (on the way home is currently winning the debate in my head), and about the only real disappointment in the weekend was not being able to make time to read.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later or tomorrow; depends on when I finish writing these other blog posts that are more essay-driven than the norm.

In Your Dreams

Yesterday turned out to be relatively pleasant.

I ran my errands–got the mail (which had a check!), swung by the Latter Library (which will be the setting for one of my new series books if it takes off) and picked up my book about obscenity trials (Dirty Works: Obscenity on Trial in America’s First Sexual Revolution) and then swung by Fresh Market to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables and some other odds and ends. I returned home, felt pretty decent, and then spent the rest of the day cleaning and organizing and redoing the kitchen cabinets to make them feel a bit less cramped and crowded. When Paul got home from work we watched some television, finishing The Most Hated Man on the Internet (recommended), watched Uncharted with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg (not missing much if you skip this), and started The Sandman on Netflix, which is superb.

Today I am going to continue with some of the cleaning and organizing, but am hoping to squeeze out some time to write before sinking back into my easy chair to enjoy more of The Sandman, which is extraordinary. I read the comic series years and years ago–I have some of the hardcover collections, which I’ve always intended to go back to and reread–and loved it. I had also loved the Neil Gaiman’s books American Gods and Good Omens, but found the adaptations to leave something to be desired, so I was worried about The Sandman being well done and good. Rest assured, it is very well done; visually arresting and stunning, the story relatively easy to follow, and the casting is superb. I think I may have to take some time and go back and reread the collections I have on hand–I always like to read the source material while I am watching the adaptation–but I also want to spend some time with the Ippolito book, which I want to finish this week. I am definitely going to be working on my Scotty book this weekend; progress must be made on it sooner rather than later, else it’s going to turn into one of those nightmarish deadline scenarios and God knows I do not want to find myself in another one of those situations ever again, perish the thought. (I say that about every deadline, don’t I? I am nothing if not sort of self-aware…)

I’m also trying to decide what to cook. I’ve been wanting to make shrimp-fried rice, which requires making rice the day before (apparently it needs to be at least day-old in order to make it), and I’ve been thinking that it’s not a bad idea to cook some things today that Paul can just heat up at night for something to eat, primarily because I never feel like cooking (or rarely) on the days when I go into the office (I keep hoping that we’ll eventually go back to our old schedule so I can go back to my normal schedule, which will make my life ever so much easier to handle, mainly because insomnia won’t be such an existential threat to my well-being the way it is when I have to get up at six in the morning); it would also help to clear some things out of the refrigerator (which is something I have to deal with today–cleaning out the refrigerator) and that’s always a good thing, methinks.

I was trying to remember where I had sold stories to this year and what short stories I have coming out at some point in the near future last night, and of course, couldn’t remember some of the places I had sold stories–which is why I try to keep the spreadsheet of submissions and sales–and maybe today, if I have some time after working on the book (I really want to pull that first chapter together today and maybe even get started on the second, to be honest) I may work on one of my short stories in progress. I know I have promised two stories with paranormal elements in them to two specific calls, and there’s another one I want to submit to, but don’t mind if I don’t get into it. (Another thing to do this week if I have time; try to figure out what my next short story collection will look like) I am feeling rather ambitious this morning, am I not? I am going to try to get my writing, cleaning and organizing (and weekly cooking preparations) all taken care of before I sit down to try to read this afternoon, so I am going to try to stay focused this morning, which is never an easy process for me. I’m also writing an entry for here about the birth and growth of the Scotty series that I should probably work a little more on, as well as some of the other in-progress entries I have–that whole personal essay thing I was talking about the other day–and of course, I am in the process of inventing an entire parish in Louisiana for the new Scotty book. It’s not like it’s the first time; I think I invented one on the north shore for Baton Rouge Bingo that popped up again in Garden District Gothic, but I could also be remembering wrong. I know I am going to have to go back to an old Scotty book to dig out something from his past that he’s going to have to face up to in Mississippi River Mischief which is going to be a lot of fun for me to write, frankly.

Come to think of it, I’ve invented rural parishes outside of New Orleans for several books now; I should go back and reread through them to get a sense or semblance of what I’ve already done and pull it all together.

Hmmm.

And on that note I think I am going to head into the spice mines. I want to put the dishes away and get started on making this rice for tomorrow’s dinner (I also suspect it’s going to make way too much for both Paul and I to eat), and cleaning out the refrigerator while also doing some other chores until my brain is awake enough to start figuring out how to start this Scotty book and where it’s going to go. SO have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader. I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Fall from Grace

Thursday, and one more day before the weekend. The weeks just seem to flit past these days–my birthday and Bouchercon will be upon us before we know it–and August is definitely here in New Orleans. It’s so weird, as though the weather somehow knows and thinks hey, it’s August–bet you thought it was ALREADY humid, didn’t you, New Orleans? WELL HOLD MY FUCKING BEER I WILL SHOW YOU HUMIDITY. My windshield kept fogging up all the way into work yesterday morning, and for some reason when I turned on the defroster to get rid of it, it never blew warm air, which is a concern. Sigh, that means another day off and another trip to the dealer on the West Bank (but the plus to that is either Sonic or Five Guys!), but I’ll figure all that out after Bouchercon in September. And who knows? It may have just been a quirk this morning or something, who knows? I really do wish my parents had let me take Auto Shop in high school.

I also wish I had a driveway so I could wash my car at home. But if wishes were horses….that would be a good title, methinks: If Wishes Were Horses.

Yesterday wasn’t so bad, really. I slept well on Tuesday night–at least far better than I had on Monday night, for sure–and so yesterday morning wasn’t the loss that Tuesday morning was. I hate those days after insomnia takes its inevitable toll on me physically and mentally; it’s the worst, frankly. I’ve also agreed to write another short story by the end of the year–if not two, but I am not sure about either, to be honest–and I think I probably already have things on hand that I can use for both, if I so chose. There’s also a submission call for stories based on Alice Cooper songs that sounds interesting–“Welcome to My Nightmare” is such an obvious choice for me, but I would imagine a lot of people would choose that one so if I am going to write something for this I want to be a bit more obscure with my song choice….although “School’s Out” could be really fun. Hmmmm.

I also finished the revision of “Solace in a Dying Hour.” I hope they like the changes I made, else I will soon find out otherwise. I am very pleased with the story–the editorial suggestions were absolutely 100% perfect; there’s nothing like editors who are worth their weight in gold, seriously–and now…I think I am all caught up and can focus solely on Mississippi River Mischief for the next few months. I do have some other stories to write over the course of writing the Scotty, as I mentioned above, but it’s always lovely when the things that are causing you stress–even if it’s only a small bit of stressful discomfort–are taken care of and out of the way. I really loved writing this story, though, and I hope people like it when the anthology is released. It’s my second-ever story about a Louisiana “urban legend”–the first was “Rougarou,” which was about a, well, a rougarou, aka a Cajun werewolf (“rougarou” is a Cajun bastardization of the French loup-garou)–and this time I wrote about le feu follet. Maybe someday that collection Monsters of Louisiana will actually come to fruition…

I did come straight home from work yesterday, and did a load of laundry and cleaned out the sink and ran the dishwasher. I also did some filing, but by the time I retired to my easy chair to relax, I was too tired to read and so I started watching things on Youtube before remembering there was a new episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I tuned into for awhile until Paul got home, and we switched over to Only Murders in the Building and Control Z before going to bed. I was dozing off in the chair during Control Z, which I am not really following–the plot has become incredibly insane, over the top, and hard to follow, let alone make sense of–before retiring for the evening. I think we have a fairly light clinic schedule today as well, which is always a lovely way to finish off my time in the clinic. Tomorrow morning I have a department meeting followed by the monkeypox training, which I am actually looking forward to–I did discover that I won’t be vaccinating anyone, but I am going to be trained on the virus and how it spreads and how to reduce risk for exposure and infection. (It was kind of a relief, frankly; I loathe needles and shots, and while I had come to accept that I needed to learn and it could help me get over my phobia of needles–like how doing finger-sticks every day got me over my squeamishness with blood–I am really glad, Constant Reader, that I won’t be doing it.)

I also seem to have slept really well last night, too, which is nice. I did wake up at three again–I’ve woken up at three every morning this week, which is peculiar–but was able to fall back asleep with ease and I feel pretty good this morning. Maybe not quite “I can conquer the world!” but something akin to that, methinks. I feel rested and alert, which is always a plus. I have a couple of errands to run today on the way home from work, and then I am hopefully going to be able to settle in for some Scotty writing.

One can hope, at any rate.

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

That Made Me Stronger

Monday morning has rolled around again, and this morning I had to get up ridiculously early to go have blood drawn for my biannual check-up–I find it easier to just get up early, brush my teeth, wash my face, and throw on some clothes to run down there before eating or drinking anything (must fast before bloodwork; therein lies the rub) before rushing out to the car where my travel mug rests with my first cup of coffee in it. That first swallow of coffee is always so blissful once the three vials of blood have been taken from my arm.

I finished all the copy edits of the Bouchercon anthology in order to get it turned in (late) last evening; that was quite an experience–but it’s a great anthology. There are some terrific stories from writers you know and writers you may not have heard of yet, but you’ll be delighted to make their acquaintance here. I am hoping to get the page proofs this week so I can get that out of the way–after I finish work tonight I have to finish the proofing for Streetcar–and am feeling a bit weird this morning that it’s now August. (Nineteen shopping days left before my birthday, Constant Reader, so make a note of that, okay?) I also did laundry and dishes yesterday; went over that story one last time and decided to bite the bullet and submit it anyway–if it’s offensive or tone deaf, they won’t use it, after all; ordered groceries on line to be picked up tomorrow night after work; and did some more cleaning around here. I also finished reading Sandra SG Wong’s In the Dark We Forget, which I greatly enjoyed and already blogged about, and started reading Curtis Ippolito’s Burying the Newspaper Man at long last. I’ve also picked up some more books to read along the way somehow, and more are coming that were preordered.

I will never finish reading everything I want to read, just like I will never write everything I want to write.

I did get some writing done over the weekend, though–all this proofing and copy editing and so forth haven’t exactly made it the easiest thing to do, seriously–and I have to get the edits/revisions done on another story that’s been accepted; it’s being edited as a google doc, which I don’t have a lot of experience with and so I am not sure what I am looking at, which is always fun; I hate being technologically challenged on a regular basis–whenever I get used to something like “track changes” in Word, now we have a new way of doing this I have to learn! Hurray! Because, after all, all I have is time to learn how to use new technology when I haven’t completely grasped the old yet. Heavy heaving sigh. AH, well, this evening after the data entry is completed I will see if I can figure it all out. It’s a good story, and I am excited to have sold it….but it also reminds me (when I was looking at the submissions spreadsheet last night, so I could update the story submission from yesterday, and add the others from this year I’ve not recorded yet) how few short stories I’ve been sending out lately. I’ve only sent out three stories this year–two have sold, the other went yesterday–and it irritates me to know that I’ve once again let something slide that I wanted to prioritize this year. And of course now I have exactly three months to write the Scotty book. Heavy heaving sigh. I need to get my shit together, don’t I?

I am also getting trained tomorrow on how to administer the monkeypox vaccine; my department head messaged me over the weekend about my schedule for Tuesday so I can get trained. I am assuming this means we are getting some of the vaccine* in for my clients; since I spend most of the week working in the clinic with appointments every hour I can’t see how I can work vaccinating in other departments or areas of the clinic (I work in the STI clinic for men who have sex with other men and trans individuals; which is just one small piece of our overall massive public health clinic), but who knows? I was a little taken aback to be told I was getting this training–I am not any kind of medical professional, I am merely certified by the state to do rapid antibody tests for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C; I turn them over to the nurse for everything else–but I guess anyone can give someone a shot if they know how, and obviously, this isn’t an intravenous shot but one that probably goes into the upper shoulder. I’m not a huge fan of getting shots–I loathe needles–let alone giving them; but…doing fingersticks to draw pipettes of blood to do the antibody tests got me over my dislike and distaste for blood, so this is a really good way to get me over my intensely visceral dislike of needles and shots. I can’t imagine it’s a lot more complicated than doing a fingerstick, really; just a matter of prepping the needle and then using the plunger once the skin has been pierced by the sharp end of the hypodermic. And who knows? Learning how to administer a vaccination might be something that could come in handy for my writing someday.

We also watched the new Neil Patrick Harris show, Uncoupled, on Netflix last night. In it, Harris plays Michael, a gay realtor in New York City whose partner of seventeen years (Tuc Watkins) decides out of the clear blue to leave him, moving out on his fiftieth birthday without any forewarning (Harris thinks they’ve been robbed), and the rest of the season shows him trying to adapt to being single again, dating again, and trying to get over the hurt and betrayal of the end of a relationship he thought was for life–and his old partner just doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him again. It was a very well done depiction of grief and anger and finally acceptance–it’s a shitty situation, and his character can’t see past his own shock, hurt and anger to even wonder what went wrong and why he didn’t see it coming in any way–but eventually he starts coming to terms with everything and starts moving on. It’s done by Darren Star, who also did Sex and the City, and there’s a very Sex and the City vibe to the show–I pointed out how like Carrie the main character was, and we spent the rest of the series deciding who Miranda and Charlotte and Samantha were of his friend group. The best part of the show, though, are the women: Marcia Gay Harden is fantastic as Claire Lewis, a wealthy woman whose husband has also just left her out of the blue, and Tisha Campbell is Emmy worthy as Michael’s business partner and best friend, Samantha. We did enjoy it–though I did have some questions about it, which could make (as always) an interesting essay someday–and are looking forward to the second season.

And on that note, this data ain’t gonna enter itself now is it? I’ll check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader.

*If this is, in fact, a general thing Crescent Care will be offering to the general population rather than just our established and current clients, I will of course make announcements on social media, so locals–stay tuned or watch this space or whatever you want to call it.

Too Far from Texas

I used to think you could never be too far from Texas, in all honesty, despite my deep appreciation and affection not only for Houston (I lived there for a time) but for all my marvelous friends in Texas. Murder by the Book, the only mainstream mystery bookstore that would allow me to have events in their store when I first published, always holds a deep place of affection within my heart and soul; I love that store, and of course, I also love me some Whataburger.

Whataburger alone makes Texas worth visiting, to be honest.

The Chanse MacLeod series was originally going to be set in Houston. I created him, and actually started writing about him, while i lived in Texas from 1989-1991. I remember distinctly that he had an office and a pager, as well as a secretary and an off-hours answering service…clearly, I didn’t understand how private investigators actually worked and was basing everything off movies, books, and television programs. But I do recall the name of the first book was going to be The Body in the Bayou–and Chanse was also straight in his original iteration–and it wasn’t until later (after my birthday visit here in 1994) that I decided to move it to New Orleans, and of course by the time I started rewriting the New Orleans version, I’d discovered gay mysteries and so of course, I changed his sexuality (I’ve never once regretted that either, I might add). I also put The Body in the Bayou aside and started writing a whole new murder mystery for him (Murder in the Rue Dauphine) that eventually became my first published book. Chanse remained from Texas–a small town in east Texas called Cottonwood Wells–and I even wrote a short story where Chanse goes back home to that small town. (I’d always wanted to write a book where he goes back home and has to deal with memories and so forth; I just never got around to it and his original publisher always made the sign of the cross at me whenever I suggested, “hey, should I set the next one in Chanse’s home town, where he has to go to clear up a crime someone from his past is accused of?”) Cottonwood Wells also popped up in earlier drafts of #shedeservedit, as where main character Alex’ family was originally from; that eventually got edited out over the final drafts.

Sunday morning and I slept late, and even after waking, stayed in the bed for a while longer. It felt very comfortable and my body was very relaxed, which was lovely, and I didn’t really want to get out of the bed, to be honest. I made swedish meatballs last night for dinner and left the mess for this morning (I am now cursing lazy Greg last night who made that decision–part of the reason I made this decision was I realized while cooking that the dishwasher had a clean load in it that needed to be put away, and it was a pain in the ass to do while cooking and trying to time everything) and I didn’t really want to come downstairs and face the mess. I did get some cleaning and organizing done yesterday–I did the kitchen floors at long last–and I also worked on the living room some. I wrote about fifteen hundred words yesterday to flex my writing muscles a little bit–I’ll probably go back over them again today as I write more–and I also have to get the proofs for Streetcar significantly finished today. I also want to work on the new Scotty a little bit as well. We’ll see how much I can get done this morning/afternoon before Paul gets up–although he is going to go into the office today; there was a lot of thunderstorms yesterday and street flooding, so he and the IT guy rescheduled for today (can’t say as I blame him, we were in and out of flash flood alerts all day yesterday; the joys of the tropics in the summer) which will free up this afternoon for proofing.

My self-care appointment (okay, it was a back wax; someday I will write an essay about my issues with body hair) went well and after that, I swung by and picked up the mail. On my way back home I stopped at the Fresh Market (I rarely shop there; I always forget it’s there) to get a few things, and while it is more expensive than other places, I like shopping there. The fruit and vegetables always seem much fresher, and rather than buying prepackaged ground sirloin, I instead got it from the butcher counter, remembering suddenly that it’s fresher that way–and those meatballs turned out superlatively. I think in the future I might shop there a little more regularly. They don’t carry everything I would need, of course–that would make life too easy–but for meats and fruit and vegetables…well, it really cannot be beaten. I spent some more time with In the Dark We Forget–which I am also going to do this morning for a bit, it’s really good and I want to find out what happened to Cleo and her parents–for the rest of this morning, and then I need to vacuum the living room at some point (I swept up the floor in there last night as well, and tried to get it to look cleaner and better organized in there as well; it’s amazing what a difference the clean floor makes). So, a busy busy day for one Gregalicious. But that’s fine, I kind of like having things to do…it’s just when I have so much to do the thought of it is soul-crushing and defeating that I don’t like it.

We started watching The Anarchists on HBO MAX last night, and it’s….something, all right. It’s also interesting how these people chose to define “anarchy” as something other than what most people generally accept it as meaning; but they were using the actual definition of anarchy rather than the societal definition. I always laugh at people who think that laws and rules and regulations are things that restrict freedom and are unnecessary in a society; it’s really just another branch of libertarianism or Ayn Rand’s insane “objectivism”–those laws and rules and regulations exist because they were necessary, because human beings tend to always operate by putting their own needs first. Regulations exist because food manufacturers regularly sold bad, or dangerous, food to the general public because there were no regulations and no one keeping them honest; robber barons created monopolies to exploit the public and make themselves rich (Bezos, Musk, etc are simply the modern day version of the robber barons) at the expense of the needy; hence we needed government intervention to prevent abuses. I’ve never understood the mentality of “oh, if we do away with regulations and laws and rules we’ll all live together in peaceful harmony” because there’s always at least ONE asshole in every group.

ALWAYS.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee, put the clean dishes away, and go read for a bit. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and we’ll talk again tomorrow, if not later. (I’ve been going down the Stevie Nicks discography for my titles, and some of them–along with some of them from other song lists I was using before–wind up having the same titles as some of my books, and I’ve decided–see yesterday’s post about Sleeping Angel–that when I have a blog list song title that matches the title of one of my books, I am going to post about the book. Right now, I have Timothy in my stored draft blogs folder, and I think there’s another called “Watching Scotty Grow” in which I am trying to write the history of the series, which could be helpful as I am writing Book Nine at the moment, and since I am doing Stevie’s discography, that means Sara will also be coming up at some point.)

Somebody Stand By Me

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all seems to be well so far–yet it is still early, nevertheless. Yesterday was an interesting day. I had to go to a training, if you will recall, in the morning–it was okay, as far as trainings go–and then of course I had a shortened day in the office afterwards (I can only do six hours on Fridays because I work extra long on clinic days), after which I headed home for the Lost Apartment. I almost have the Bouchercon anthology completed; and now I have my page proofing for Streetcar to get through this weekend. I also have a short story deadline tomorrow; but I am not really sure if I am going to bother submitting this story to it. I’m not entirely comfortable with it and what it’s about; it may be in questionable taste, and that of course concerns me deeply. If the story is problematic I don’t even want the editors to read it, you know? And I have this feeling–that nagging voice, which is so quick to point out every flaw in my life and writing and so forth, is really having a good time with this right now–that if you’re worried about the story being problematic, then it probably is.

On the other hand, I thought Bury Me in Shadows might be problematic, and it wasn’t. So maybe this story isn’t as bad as I think it might be, who knows? I am often not the best judge of my own work, after all–the lack of confidence in my own writing really is not good for me at all–and who knows if I will ever get the chance to publish it again anywhere other than a collection of my own (where I can count on my publisher saving me from myself if it is problematic?), so maybe–just maybe–after I finish the proofs for Streetcar this weekend, I can give the story another once over, and give it a shot.

I slept really well last night. When I got home from work last night I laundered all the bed linens, did another load of dishes, and then just kind of chilled for the rest of the evening as I was a bit mentally tired. I managed to get all the copy edits back to everyone for the Bouchercon anthology; I’m still waiting to get a few of them back and I can turn the manuscript in. I have a self-care appointment this morning at ten; then I am going to come back home and work on the page proofs and maybe carve out some time to read some more of In the Dark We Forget, which I am really enjoying and would love to finish reading this weekend. I need to make myself read for an hour every night; if I read for an hour every day I will gradually work my way through the TBR pile. I think the next book I am going to read is going to be Curtis Ippolito’s Burying the Newspaper Man, although the new Donna Andrews is probably going to be delivered sometime soon, as well as Gabino Iglesias’ new one. I also want to get some filing and cleaning done today–Paul has to go to the office to meet his tech person because his computer is messed up–and I think I am also going to get a box down from the attic to sort through as well as go through some drawers to throw shirts and shorts and things I never wear out. I also plan on getting through all the emails in my inbox at some point this weekend as well; I am tired of all those goddamned emails being in there, you know what I mean?

It also occurred to me yesterday that I should send the Word file of Jackson Square Jazz to my iPad so I can reread and copy edit it on there. Progress can only be made when you set yourself up to succeed, which sounds like one of those horrible motivational posters that were such a thing sometime in my past–they were in office spaces everywhere and always made me want to roll my eyes whenever I saw one. But I slept really well last night, which was incredibly lovely, and I am looking forward to getting quite a bit done this weekend. I already feel rested, which is really nice, and the Lost Apartment isn’t the usual disaster area it always appears to me when Saturday rolls around again. Sure, there’s stuff I need to clean up and organize and there’s always filing to do–not to mention the computer files that need clearing and cleaning up–but after my self-care and my errands, I should be able to come on home and dig into my work that needs to be done.

And on that note, I can actually get started on that before I get ready to leave for my appointment, so have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow, or perhaps even later again today.