Give Up the Funk (Tear The Roof Off That Sucker)

I started watching Doom Patrol on DC Universe the other night, and I have to confess I was a bit intrigued–much more so than I was when Titans did their crossover and wound up at the Doom Patrol house for one episode. That episode didn’t encourage me to tune in when Doom Patrol got its own series, but I’m glad I did tune in. I love that Brendan Frasier and Matt Bomer are basically doing voice-over work, as their characters are robots and completely bandaged from head to toe; but there was also a wonderful sequence where we learn that before the accident that left him burned beyond recognition over all of his body, Matt Bomer’s character was a deeply closeted gay Air Force pilot in the 1960’s, with a wife and child. It was a lovely, sad, and poignant touch, and one that we, in our modern times, don’t think about much: what it was like to be queer between World War II and Stonewall. I am finding myself drawn more and more to historical queer life, to be honest; it’s fascinating finding the clues and small, almost completely eradicated traces of queers in history. Maybe one of these days I’ll write a book set in the past…I have an idea for one or two, the problem being I don’t have a whole lot of time for research–I don’t have a lot of time for anything these days, it seems.

We also started watching Fleabag last night, and it’s quite interesting. Very different from most other shows, really; I can’t think of anything it’s even remotely like. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is fantastic in the lead, and she also created the show and writes it.

Yesterday I worked on a manuscript I’m editing; I intend to do some more work on that today as well. There are a million other things I need to do as well today; I started making a red velvet cheesecake for a co-worker’s birthday yesterday–I made the cheesecake part, today I have to do the red velvet cake, layer them together, and make the frosting–and I also need to do some cleaning. I’d like to get some writing or editing of my own stuff done today, too–but who knows how much time I will have to get around to doing any of it? It’s so easy for me to get off-track, and I am very easily distracted, as we all know. It’s really all a matter of juggling and staying motivated. The last two nights I slept deeply until around three-thirty in the morning; after that my sleep was spotty–more awake just lying in bed or half-awake until I finally got up both mornings. Yesterday I wound up being very tired in the afternoon and wound up taking a nap; having Scooter get into my lap and fall asleep never helps; Paul and I think he drains our energy like some kind of cat-vampire; he always cuddles up to one of us and falls asleep….and before too long, whichever one of us he is lying on is asleep as well.

Naturally, he doesn’t cuddle up to me at night when I’d like to use his sleep-inducement powers.

Anyway, I feel rested this morning and I’m awake early, which means I can get a lot done if I close my browsers and ignore the rest of the world. The house is a mess, as always, and I’ve been letting things slide (I’ve not done the living room floor in quite some time and it’s very apparent), and perhaps today I can make the time to get some of it under control.

I have a short work week this week; National HIV Testing Day is a week from this Thursday, which means I have to work eight hours instead of the usual four; since our pay week runs from Friday to Thursday, that means I get to take this coming Friday off for a lovely three day weekend. Needless to say, the month is completely winding down and I still haven’t gotten the first draft of the WIP done, but I think it’s slowly starting to come together for me–what I need to get the rest of it done. I think it’s going to be pretty good once it’s finished but who the hell knows? I’m really not sure of anything anymore, to be perfectly honest, particularly when it comes to writing. One would think it would get easier the more you do it, you know? But it never gets easier…if anything, it seems like it’s getting harder the older I get.

And on that note, I’d best get going on everything.

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

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Take the Money and Run

Ah, being a writer.

The first month Paul and I lived in New Orleans, we went to a fundraiser for the LGBT Center–I don’t remember how or why we found out about it, or were invited, I don’t know. It was at the Country Club–back when the Country Club was a seedy, queer-only, clothing optional place–and the only thing I truly remember about that evening was they had a tarot card reader, and as someone who’s always been fascinated by the occult and the tarot in particular, I let her give me a reading. We went through the whole thing of me cutting and shuffling the deck, then holding them in my hands and concentrating on my question before handing the deck back to her.

She dealt the cards and smiled. “The answer to your question is yes–but it won’t be anything like you think or hope or expect it to be.”

The question, of course, was will I ever be a published author?

And of course, her response was incredibly vague, could apply to any number of questions, and so on and so forth…but here I am, twenty three years later, a published author and you know what else?

It’s nothing like I thought it would be like, or expected, or hoped.

And to be honest, it’s so much lovelier than I ever thought it would be. Sure, it’s not my sole source of income, like I’d hoped it would be, nor do I get glamorous book tours where I fly around the country to appear and sign books for crowds of adoring, worshipping fans, or have to watch Hollywood studios conduct a bidding war for the rights to turn my books into films or television shows…but it is lovely in so many other unexpected ways: the readers I’ve met, the other writers I’ve befriended and gotten to know, the conventions like Bouchercon…I never thought about those sort of things.

And I do love writing–although I groan about it all the time–even though it never seems to get easier. I’ve not written a single word on anything this week–not a fucking word–and I really need to make up for that this weekend else this manuscript is never going to be finished…and I really need for it to be finished so I can finish the other one. I hate the thought of just putting this one aside for now…but on the other hand, maybe coming back to it at a future date after letting it sit for a while might just be the trick? It’s hard to say–that’s certainly worked in other instances. And maybe working on something else over the course of this weekend might kick the WIP back into shape. At any rate, I have to do something because I can’t just keep letting time go by while not getting anything done.

And the house is a mess. My kitchen is a disgrace–the sink is full of dirty dishes, the counters covered with debris and garbage and things that need to be put away–and I haven’t even done anything to the living room in well over a month. Today is one of my half-days; I am going to stop at Rouse’s on the way home to pick up some things, and then I am going to get the kitchen cleaned and the laundry done and do some work on the living room before sitting down to write some things. I want to get some short stories submitted–I think “The Carriage House” and “This Thing of Darkness” are pretty much ready to go (but I do want to reread them and possibly tweak them at least one more time before hitting the submit button), and I do want to think about some of the other some more as well…and there’s also that goddamned proposal to work on.

No rest for the eternally wicked, is there?

And on that note, the spice mines are calling my name. Have a great Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again

It isn’t very often that I look back at the past. While memories and nostalgia can be quite lovely, they can also be a trap; it is far too easy to start second-guessing your life and thinking things like oh if only I’d done this or maybe if this hadn’t happened and so forth. Many years ago, shortly after I moved to Minneapolis to live with Paul, I gave up on looking back. The truth was, no matter how many bad decisions or wrong turns I’d made in my life, no matter how many shitty things I endured, no matter how many times a friend betrayed me or whatever…the truth was everything in my past was part and parcel of who I am today and my life would be different now if any of those things had changed; so having regrets about the past and playing the if only game indicated that I was, in fact, not happy with my life at the present time because why else would I want to change something in my past if not to change the present?

And I’m pretty fucking happy with my life and my career(s). I do love my day job, where I get to  help people every day, and I love my writing career. I marvel from time to time that I have one at all; it’s been my dream for as long as I can remember–I remember being a little boy and getting my weekly Scholastic book club books, sitting on the back porch of our little apartment in Chicago and reading them, and thinking that what I wanted to do when I grew up was write books for people to read and enjoy, the way I read and enjoyed books. Are there times when I wish I was more successful? Of course there are; I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have some ambition. And really, while some of that ambition is about making more money, it’s mostly about writing more complex stories and exploring complicated themes and characters.

Right now I have three unpublished manuscripts here in the Lost Apartment; one has been languishing in a drawer after two drafts for nearly seven years, another has gone through five drafts and needs one more to correct everything then another to polish; and the partial I am currently working on (which is like pulling teeth for me, for some reason. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to write this book…). I want to spend probably the rest of this year getting those manuscripts ready for publication before I start writing yet another; I am also working on a proposal for a potential new series, and I have another idea for a stand alone thriller….there’s also an amorphous Scotty book swirling around in the mists in the creative part of my brain. I also would like to do another short story collection, but I need to get those stories written and sent out. I also want to do an essay collection.

Yesterday was a lost day for me, because I was tired all day. I didn’t sleep particularly well either night of the weekend; I was asleep and resting, but not a deep sleep that rests up everything; more of a I’m sort of asleep and wake up every few hours. This made my twelve hour shift yesterday more of a survival thing rather than a participatory day–I was present, and I gave my clients excellent service yesterday (I am, he typed modestly, extremely good at my day job), but I was too tired to really function mentally and creatively. When I got home last night, I was too tired to do much of anything other than stream the first two episodes of the new season of Archer, which I love–even though it’s not quite as good as the earlier seasons were. I’m also considering buying the first season of The Other Two, which isn’t available to stream for free anywhere, I’ve heard good things, and it’s only ten bucks…I hate paying for anything television, but since getting rid of the cable service and using Hulu’s streaming service, even with subscriptions to certain services (HBO, Showtime, ESPN) I still am paying less than I  used when I had cable, so paying to watch a TV show isn’t that bad of a thing. Animal Kingdom has also returned, and we’re watching it as well–and in just over two months college football and the Saints will be back, taking over my weekends. I’m taking a long weekend around the 4th of July–five days; it falls on a Thursday so I am taking Wednesday and Friday to go with it.

Anyway, to bring this back around to the first paragraph, as I said yesterday being interviewed for the Writer Types podcast put me into a reflective mood, looking back at my past–and part of that is also the current WIP, which requires me to probe memories of my childhood summers in Alabama to make the book come to life–and that, in turn, brings back other memories and reflections. At first, I resisted the rabbit holes of memories that were flooding through my brain, determined to never look back–but I also think part of that was not wanting to remember mistakes made and revisiting bad decisions. But embracing the memories hasn’t made them rosier and glossier; but I am able now, with the proper time and distance, to examine them dispassionately and deconstruct how and why, and the lessons learned from them.

And that isn’t a bad thing, really.

I was talking to my co-workers last night about how much change I’ve seen throughout my life–not just for the queer community, but for women and people of color–and even though none of us in those groupings have achieved true equality yet, we’re closer than ever and getting closer every day.

It’s also amazing how patchy my memory is–as I told Eric and Steve during the podcast, the years from 2005-2009 are mostly blanks, which I have learned is a result of the PTSD created by everything from Paul’s gaybashing through the Christian attacks to Katrina and it’s aftermath; it’s not unusual for people to have memory gaps after that kind of emotional trauma.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Who’d She Coo

Here it is, a lovely Saturday morning, and I am steeling myself to go to the gym. I have things to do this weekend–writing, and a manuscript to edit, and I’d also like to get some short stories out for submission as well, around cleaning the house–and going to the gym is an errand that has been put off for far too long. The excuses and rationalizations I can come up with for not going to the gym are legion.

Thanks to a Scott Heim post yesterday on Facebook, I had a blissful moment remembering one of my favorite TV shows of my youth, The Snoop Sisters, and the glorious ABC Movie of the Week Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate–which was, actually, the original catfishing story. Four elderly women (played magnificently by Helen Hayes, Mildred Natwick, Myrna Loy, and Sylvia Sidney) as a joke sign up for a computer dating service–back in the days when computer programs were ‘written’ on hole-punch cards; computer dating was actually a new and exciting thing in the 1970s, with all the newfound freedom of the sexual revolution, the pill, and feminism. Of course, the young man their “perfect woman” is matched up with is deranged, and he begins stalking and terrorizing the women. I watched that movie every time it aired, and guess what? It’s on Youtube! (Isn’t everything, really?) So, I am going to try to carve some time out in my schedule to rewatch it…because I, of course have so much free time.

I slept fairly well last night, all things considered, and woke up before seven this morning–but stayed in bed until about seven thirty. There’s still a mess in the kitchen–something I’m going to have to do something about this morning, because I won’t be able to do anything in this mess I can see when I turn my head in any direction, so it’s fortunate that I did, in fact, wake up so early. Last night I tried watching Bad Times at the El Royale, which looked like a fun, twisty, noirish thriller–but about forty-three minutes into it, I gave up. The cast is terrific, and there was a lovely 70’s vibe to it (it was set in the 1970’s, at a motel that straddles the California/Nevada line in Lake Tahoe), but after forty-five minutes of nothing happening, I couldn’t sit through another hour and forty five minutes. The movie was, frankly, certainly too long, and if the first half of your movie is basically just backstory and set-up…you need to re-edit your film. Sorry not sorry. I even gave up before Chris (THOR!)  Hemsworth showed up–which should tell you how bad the film was.

Which is a pity, as the cast was amazing.

I think tonight we will watch Always Be My Maybe. I do love Ali Wong.

My Pride Month posts and tweets about queer crime writers are getting some lovely traction, which is always nice, and I do marvel at the way things have changed over the the course of my lifetime. It does occur to me that I am not celebrating or talking about things on here for Pride Month; perhaps I should rectify that, and perhaps I will. It’s been a long journey, and a long life for me–I certainly never thought I would live this long, even when I was a kid–and I do think, from time to time, about the fatalistic way I viewed my life after I came out and started living–rather late–as a gay man. One of the many, many stories I have in some sort of progress is set in the early 1990’s in New Orleans; and deals with some of that sort of the thing. It’s a long story, and probably will wind up being a novella which I will either self-publish on Amazon or include in my next collection of short stories (which I can also self-publish on Amazon if my publisher doesn’t want it). It’s called “Never Kiss a Stranger”–I mention it from time to time–and it’s also a way for me to recapture what New Orleans was like at that time–sleepy and crumbling in the sun.

And yes, at the end of the month, I will post the list of queer crime novels and authors here, so people can use it as a reference. I also think it’s going to be published somewhere? Maybe the Mystery Scene blog? Anyway, someone asked if they could use it and post it someplace like that, and obviously, I said yes to it.

And now, perhaps it’s time to get back to those old spice mines.

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Baby I Love Your Way

So, it’s Friday, and $562 later (not including the cost of the appointment itself) at the optometrist’s later, I am home. But I have my first new glasses in three years on order, and a year’s supply of contact lenses, which I am trying to get better about wearing more regularly. Part of the resignation to being old and not going to the gym regularly (if at all) anymore was the loss of contact lenses as an option years ago…I still don’t like the progressive lenses, but I am getting used to them, and I am very hopeful my vanity is going to kick in and get me off my ass.

I mean, if I don’t have to wear my glasses…

Don’t hold your breath.

So, here’s an insight into how my brain and my memory works. For years, I’ve been trying to remember the name and author of a book I read during a horror phase in the 1980’s–during that time I fantasized of being a horror novelist. When I worked at Bank of America, I didn’t have a car, and had to take the bus to and from work. I had to change busses at the Manchester Mall, going and coming, and on paydays I would, rather than catching the next bus, going into the mall, go to the B. Dalton and browse the books, and after getting a bag of books, I would eat in the food court–there was a place that had an amazing hamburger with grilled onions and bell peppers, but it wasn’t cheap and this was part of my payday treat for myself. (It was during this time period that I also went through a fantasy period; this was when I read the rest of The Shannara Chronicles and  The Belgariad) There was a horror novel that I read that has always stuck with me; when I moved to Houston from California I left most of my books behind, alas. For years I’ve been trying to remember the author’s name and the book’s title; it was set in rural New Jersey, the main characters were from New York and for some reason were spending the summer, independently of each other, in this small rural town. I remember there was a demon or a devil in a tree in the prologue which consumed someone; but there’s not much more I remember, except how brilliantly and vividly the author described things; there was a scene with the young woman working in a public library in Manhattan that was so vivid I could see the cracks in the paint and the plaster.

Today I was listening to Spotify and cued up The Best of New Order. When the song “Ceremony” came on I thought, that’s a great title for a horror short story or novella sand I was starting to reach for a pen when it hit me between the eyes, that novel set in rural New Jersey you’ve been trying to remember for twenty years was titled The Ceremonies.

A quick check on Google, and sure enough, the book is The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein.

And now I need to get a copy so I can reread it.

And now back to the spice mines.

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With Your Love

Here we go again, on the rollercoaster that is my usual work week! Good morning, Monday, how the hell are you?

I am still rather sleepy this morning; more of a tired eyes thing than anything else, really. I got new contact lenses (a trial pair) from my optometrist on Thursday; yesterday was my first time trying them out in real life, as it were (I wore them home from Metairie on Thursday, taking them out as soon as I got home). The new lenses didn’t really seem to fit in my right eye; that lens felt off the whole time Thursday, and again when I put them in yesterday. But within minutes my right eye adjusted and they became comfortable; the progressive lenses actually began to work as well, which they hadn’t any time I had tried previously with another set of lenses. I wound up wearing them for almost seven hours yesterday, which was kind of lovely. Today and tomorrow, however, are too long of work days to try them out again; I’ll hold off until Wednesday before trying them again. But it’s nice to have contact lenses again; I’ve not really worn contacts since discovering, five or six years ago, that I need progressive lenses (what used to be called bifocals).

This weekend, on June 1, I started posting on social media about queer crime books in order to celebrate Pride Month (last year I simply posted a queer book cover every day for Pride; this year I am specifically focusing on queer crime novels). I want to be absolutely clear that, in case there’s any confusion, I am posting queer crime books that were influences on me; or influential at some point in my lengthy (!) career. At the end of the month I will post the entire list here for more easy access to anyone looking to look at queer crime novels, or looking for such a list–I may not be an expert on queer fiction, or even on queer crime fiction, but I do have my list and I do know the books I read and enjoyed that made me think and develop my own queer crime novels.

And if I can bring attention to a queer crime writer who has somehow fallen off the radar, so much the better.

Yesterday we went to brunch at our friend Pat’s lovely deluxe apartment in the sky; she really has the most spectacular views of the Mississippi River at what’s called the Riverbend (from her dining room) and the rest of the city (from the terrace outside her living room). Her apartment is filled with natural light, gorgeous built in bookshelves filled with wonderful books, and amazing art everywhere. It’s kind of a dream apartment for me–one I’d never be able to afford in a million years–but every time I set foot in her apartment I do spend a moment or two fantasizing about living there (just as I always fantasized about living in her partner Michael’s former home in Hammond). It was, as always, a lovely afternoon, and enormously relaxing. I wasn’t able to do anything when I got home around six because I was so relaxed; instead, I started watching Chernobyl on HBO, which is incredibly sad and disturbing. I remember when Chernobyl happened in real life, just as I remember the Three Mile Island scare in the late 1970’s. It’s interesting that since those two scares that nuclear power plants are pretty much not talked about or thought much about anymore, when back in the day they were quite controversial (I’ve mentioned Scotty’s parents protesting nuclear power plants in the earlier books in the series) but that controversy doesn’t seem to exist as much anymore, as though activists have maybe given up on their dangers…or it’s not glamorous enough to be considered newsworthy anymore. I do recall after the natural disaster in Japan several years ago (earthquake/tsunami) there were concerns about a Japanese nuclear power plant…but those concerns also evaporated once the news cycle moved on from the Japanese disaster.

One thing that was interesting about visiting Pat’s apartment was her view of the river, mainly from the dining room windows–which was my first experience this year actually looking at how the river is in its flood stage. The river has apparently been in flood stage longer than it has any time since the Great Flood of 1927, which changed everything as far as governmental policies and procedures for fighting floods; this was the natural disaster that created the Southeast Louisiana Flood Project, building levees and dams all along the river and its tributaries. For only the third time in history all the spillways north of New Orleans are being opened–and the tributaries are all still flooding and continuing to rise. The river itself it almost to the top of the levees in Baton Rouge, and apparently a levee on the Mississippi breached further north yesterday or this morning; I saw the report on social media earlier this morning but didn’t read it; I think it was in Illinois, maybe?

Anyway, the river is really high and this reminds me that the river being high was a plot point in Bourbon Street Blues, all those years ago, and it also reminds me of how vulnerable the city is for this year’s hurricane season–if the river is already almost to the tops of the levees, a storm surge coming up the river would overtop them quite easily; which begs the question, would the levees be blown below the city to save it? Any time there’s potential flooding of New Orleans there’s always the belief that levees are blown to save the city; people believe the levee failure during Katrina was planned, to save the French Quarter and white Uptown; people still believe the levees were blown below the city for Betsy in 1965.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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She’s Gone

This is my one thousandth post on this blog, which means I’ve been here on WordPress for almost three full years; it seems like I moved here from Livejournal just yesterday. But then again, it’s also hard for me to fathom that I’ve been keeping a blog for almost fifteen years.

That’s a lot of blogging, you know?

Later today we are having brunch at a friend’s, which means I have to leave the house. It’ll be fun–I love these friends and don’t see them frequently enough–so I am hoping to get some writing done this morning before it’s time to go. (I know all too well that the odds of me doing anything once I come home are negligible; yesterday I didn’t write at all after I got home from my errands–the heat and humidity are back, which makes going outside an exhausting, draining experience. I don’t know how people who work outside survive the summers here. Whatever they are paid, it isn’t enough.)

I did do some cleaning and filing and organizing yesterday; a lot of it involved cleaning out computer files and getting rid of duplicates, of which there are absurd amounts. But being able to look for things easily, and knowing where they are, is a big first step in being organized and saving time. (It is amazing how I can justify not writing, isn’t it?) Part of this is because I have too many files, and they are slowing down my computer. So in a way this was a help for me to get work done by speeding up the computer, and of course i hoard things and make sure I have back-ups and so forth, which means I end up, a lot of the time, with multiple copies of multiple files.

Does that, I suppose, make me an e-hoarder?

I also managed to clean the ceiling fans in the kitchen, which was no small feat, quite frankly.

We did finish watching the second season of Killing Eve last night, and seriously, what a terrific show! Sandra Oh is, of course, fantastic, but Jodie Comer is equally strong and brilliant as assassin Villanelle; absolutely fantastic. I also continued watching Good Omens, which I am enjoying–the two leads are terrific–and it is more whimsical and clever than Gaiman’s American Gods series, which is bleak and dark.

Hopefully this morning I can get some things done, and who knows? Maybe after we get home I can get some things done too. One never knows.

Also, Leah Chase, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant fame, died yesterday at the age of ninety-six. A class act, a gracious lady, and a humanitarian, Miss Leah was a fixture and a local icon for decades, and she will be sorely missed. RIP, Miss Leah, and thank you.

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