Not That Funny

I do not recall which was my first story under the name Todd Gregory, and I am far too lazy to wade through everything to try to find out. I used the name the first time sometime between the release of Bourbon Street Blues and Mardi Gras Mambo, so we’re looking at sometime between 2003 and 2006, and I think it was either “The Sea Where It’s Shallow” or “The Sound of a Soul Crying”; I could also be mistaken in my memory. I’m not really sure of much anymore, and when I try to pin down a specific moment in the timeline of my life I am inevitably proven to be incorrect.

Although maybe my CV may hold the answer–hang on, let me check. Okay, per my CV I started using the name in 2004, and it was actually a story called “Wrought Iron Lace,” which was published in an anthology called A View to a Thrill, with the connecting theme voyeurism (the other two stories, to be fair, came out the same year). Ah, “Wrought Iron Lace,” my gay erotica version of Rear Window, in which a gay man in a wheelchair with two broken legs watches someone move in from his balcony across the courtyard, and his balcony also affords him a view into his new young neighbor’s bedroom, with the inevitable of course happening. (The courtyard set up was one I had wanted to use for quite some time; I loosely touched on it in Murder in the Rue Dauphine but I had wanted to do a kind of Tales of the City kind of thing about gay men living around a courtyard in the Quarter and kind of forming a little family group, a la the Maupin novel as well as Valley of the Dolls and call the novel The World is Full of Ex-Lovers. I returned to the courtyard set-up for another story, written and published as Greg Herren called “Touch Me in the Morning,” where I also used two of the characters I thought up for that novel. Another scene I originally imagined for that novel became the short story “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” which appeared as a Todd Gregory story in the anthology Dirty Diner.)

But one of the things that had interested me, the more time I was out and around gay people, was how many gay men I knew had been in college fraternities–myself included. Almost every gay man I knew who’d been in a fraternity also had lots of prurient tales of illicit sexual experiences with their fraternity brothers–something that never once happened to me (I never once had sex with any of my fraternity brothers; to the best of my knowledge I am the only gay man to pass through the doors of my chapter), and that eventually led to me doing my final erotica anthology under my own name: FRATSEX.

FRATSEX was a good anthology, but I was not prepared for it to become a phenomenon. It earned out, thanks to preorders and subsidiary rights sales, before it was published, something that has never happened to me since; I got a royalty check for the book a month before it was released–and it continued selling for years. I got substantial checks for FRATSEX every six months until Alyson decided it no longer need to honor its contracts and pay its authors and editors the contractually obligated royalties twice a year it had agreed to, before it finally went belly-up after years of bad management and even worse business decisions. (I should point out that usually erotic anthologies had a very short shelf life; they usually never sold out their initial run, never did additional print runs, and certainly were gone within a year of release. FRATSEX was most definitely not that.)

But when Kensington decided to pass on the next Scotty book, they came back to me with another offer for something else: a gay erotic fraternity novel intended to follow the same sales path as FRATSEX. I had no idea what to call the book–but the money was too good to pass up, and so I signed the contract for a book whose working title was Fraternity Row. (I had suggested A Brother’s Touch or My Brother’s Keeper for titles; both of which icked out Marketing.) I think it was my editor who struck gold with Every Frat Boy Wants it.

As I walk into the locker room of my high school to get my backpack, I’m aware of the sound of the shower running. Even before I walk around the corner that will reveal the rows of black lockers and the communal shower area just beyond, I can smell that pungent smell; of sweat, dirty clothes and sour jocks. I would never admit it to anyone, but I love that smell. Especially when it’s warm outside—the smell seems riper, more vital, more alive. For me, it is the smell of athletic boys, the smell of their faded and dirty jockstraps. At night, when I lie in my bed alone jacking off in the dark quiet, I close my eyes and I try to remember it. I imagine myself in that locker room after practice, the room alive with the sound of laughter and snapping towels, of boys running around in their jocks and giving each other bullshit as they brag about what girls they’ve fucked and how big their dicks are. I try to remember, as I lie there in my bed, the exact shape of their hard white asses, whose jock strap is twisted just above the start of the curve, and below the muscled tan of their backs. It’s the locker room where I first saw another boy naked, after all—the only place where it’s acceptable to see other boys in various states of undress. The locker room always haunts my fantasies and my dreams.

And now,  as I reach the corner, I hesitate. Who could still be showering at this time? Everyone else has left; baseball practice is long over, and I’d be in my car heading home myself if I hadn’t forgotten my bag and I didn’t have that damned History test tomorrow. Could it be Coach Wilson? I shudder as I have the thought. I certainly hoped it wasn’t him. He was a nice man, but Coach Wilson was about a hundred years old and had a big old belly that made him look like he’d swallowed every single basketball in the equipment room. I take a deep breath and walk around the corner.

Maybe it was—um, no, that was too much to hope for. Just get your bag and go.

The locker room is filled with steam from the hot water in the shower. Wisps dance around the overhead lights, and it was so thick I could barely see the floor and make out the row of black painted metal lockers. Yet, through the steam, I can barely see a tanned form with his back turned to me, his head under the water spigot, hot water pouring down over his muscled back and over the perfectly round, hard whiteness of a mouth-wateringly beautiful ass. I catch my breath as I stare, knowing that I shouldn’t be—the right thing to do is call out a ‘hello’, pretend not to look, get what I need and get the hell out of there. But I am utterly transfixed by the sheer beauty of what I am seeing. I bite down on my lower lip, aware that my dick is getting hard in my pants as I watch. I can’t tear myself away—I don’t want to turn and go or stop staring, the body is too perfect. And with the wetness cascading down over it, the glistening flow of the water emphasizing every defined muscle in the lovely male form that has haunted my dreams and my fantasies ever since I transferred here my junior year and started going to this small rural high school.  Go, hurry, before he turns around and catches you watching—what are you going to say? Um, sorry I was staring at your ass?

But still I keep standing there, continuing to run the risk he’ll catch me, every second passing making it more likely. How long can he stand there like that without moving?

We-ell, that certainly starts off with a literal bang, doesn’t it?

I had no idea how to write this book, or what it was even going to be about when I signed the contract (I always say yes to money and try to figure it all out later). I’d had an idea, years before, for a book about a fraternity while I was actually living in one, and came up with three main characters: Eric Matthews, Chris Moore, and Blair Blanchard. The three were all friends, all pledge brothers, and all different. Eric came from an upper middle-class family, Chris was strictly middle-class and had a job, and Blair was the son of two movie stars, an aspiring actor himself, and was always intended to be gay gay gay. I had originally wanted to write a Lords of Discipline sort of novel about a fraternity and a secret society within the fraternity–still might; I think it’s a good idea–and so I thought, well, you belonged to a fraternity, and you created a fictionalized version of it for this book idea, so start there.

I fictionalized both Fresno and Fresno State into Polk and CSU-Polk, and my fictional fraternity’s physical house was based on the actual fraternity house, as well as the way its parking lot adjoined a sorority’s at the end of a cul-de-sac, with the fraternities’ parking lots on one side of the little road and the sorority ones on the other side, just like at Fresno State. My fictional fraternity house had a two story dormitory wing attached to the chapter room and meeting/party space/cafeteria, and so on. I created an entirely new character, closeted eighteen year old Jeff Morgan, who had just moved to Polk right after high school graduation (his family was transferred) and enrolls in summer school. In the opening sequence, Jeff is actually in his Economics class and bored, having a very vivid and erotic daydream about a boy he’d had a crush on in high school. Jeff is so involved and vested in the daydream he doesn’t even notice that the class was dismissed until a handsome classmate snaps him out of the daydream…that classmate is Blair Blanchard, who befriends Jeff and invites him to come hang out at his fraternity. It’s also soon apparent that Blair is not only openly gay but has no issue with it; he doesn’t really talk about it around the house, but everyone knows. Blair is the first openly gay person Jeff has ever known–Jeff is from Kansas and hopelessly naïve–and thinks he’s falling in love with Blair; but he isn’t sure how Blair feels about him.

Every Frat Boy Wants It is really Jeff’s story, and about how Jeff slowly comes into himself as a person; accepting his own sexuality and embracing who he is–while having a strange relationship with Blair that he doesn’t quite understand. It’s his first relationship of any kind, and he doesn’t understand why Blair keeps pushing him away–leads him on, turns him off, and so forth, on and on and on–and is told really in a series of vignettes, essentially sex scenes with both elaborate set-ups and follow-ups that have lasting impacts on him, with the story of his unrequited love for Blair running through them all. He even winds up shooting a porn film while on vacation with Blair in Palm Springs at Blair’s movie star father’s place. Eric and Chris turn out to be pledge brothers of Jeff’s–he eventually has a three way with them; they don’t identify as gay but “play around with each other”–until, of course, the very end when Blair and Jeff finally get past all their misunderstandings and disagreements and jealousies and commit, once and for all to each other.

The book did very well–that scorching hot cover also didn’t hurt–and they asked me for a sequel.

That sequel became Games Frat Boys Play, and was adapted from another novel idea I’d had lying around for quite some time (never throw anything away!).

My favorite memory of this book, though, is that I had to go to a conference in Atlanta for the weekend for a queer specfic event. (I still don’t know why I was invited; at that point I had edited one horror anthology and that was it, really) and the book was due. I was in Atlanta for four days; I did my panels and spent the rest of the time holed up in my room, writing madly in a desperate attempt to get this damned book finished and venturing across the street for Arbys whenever I got hungry. I set a writing record for myself that weekend–21000 words in three days–and the book was finished before I drove back to New Orleans. So whenever I talked about writing over twenty thousand words in a weekend? This is the book I am talking about.

Who Dat Whodunnit

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

I am a very proud member of Who Dat Nation, and have been since we moved here in 1996. I never really paid a lot of attention to the NFL before moving to New Orleans; I vaguely was aware of who was good and who wasn’t–and I knew very certainly that the Saints had routinely been one of the worst football teams, consistently, in the league since they were formed in 1966. You couldn’t not be aware of how hopelessly bad the Saints were, year in and year out. I always root for underdogs–a particularly American trait, I might add, which is another good essay topic (how we always root for underdogs, especially in our entertainment–film, television, books–but in the real world we either look the other way or actually pile-on. We all feel bad for poor bullied Carrie White in Stephen King’s Carrie and hate the cruel kids…but how many of us ever stood up for some kid being bullied in school? My experience as the bullied is NONE.)–and so I always wanted to see the Saints somehow turn their program around. Paul and I always watched the games–or had them on–when they aired; there were many times the games were blacked out locally because they didn’t sell out the Superdome.

Three things were inevitable in New Orleans: hot summers, termites in the spring, and the Saints would suck in the fall. When we first moved to Louisiana LSU was also in a downturn slump; some seasons they’d win, some they’d lose, but they were rarely, if ever, in contention for the conference title. I had a Saints ball cap and a Saints T-shirt, of course, but I was an idle fan of theirs for a very long time.

As with so many other things, my attitude towards the Saints was completely changed by Hurricane Katrina.

It was the best of times.

It was the craziest of times.

Well, what it really had to be was the end times, which was the only logical explanation for what was going on in the city of New Orleans.

Pigs grew wings and nested in the branches of the beautiful love oaks everywhere in the city. Some thought the pilot light in hell had gone out, so that icicles hung from the noses of shivering demons in the realm of the dark lord. Others started watching the horizon for the arrival of the Four Horsemen, for surely the Apocalypse must be coming. Surely the earth was tilting on its axis. Maybe aliens would land in Audubon Park, or the Mississippi River would start flowing backward.

Anything and everything was possible, because the Saints were winning.

GEAUX SAINTS!

People who don’t live in the South don’t really understand how important football is down here. Football is more than a religion in the Deep South. I’m not sure what it is–my mom claims it’s because the South lost the Civil War–but it’s true. On Saturdays, when the colleges play their games, the entire region comes to a complete halt. People live and die by their teams–whether it’s LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia or Tennessee–and how they face on Saturday. I myself grew up cheering for the LSU Tigers–even though attending Vanderbilt was a family tradition on my mother’s side. Whenever Papa Fontenot gives me crap for dropping (well, flunking is probably a more accurate word) out after my sophomore year, I give him a withering look and reply, “Maybe I’d have done better at LSU.

That always shuts him up.

I don’t think even the Saints organization knew how much the team actually meant to New Orleans until they tried to move the team after Katrina.

Everyone knows the Superdome was damaged by Katrina and the aftermath. I’ll never forget driving back into the city in either late September or early October and seeing it as I came around that curve in I-10 just past Metairie Road and the cemeteries; I wrote in Murder in the Rue Chartres that it resembled a half-peeled hard-boiled egg. One of the saddest things for me about seeing the wreckage of the Lost Apartment was finding my beloved Saints ball-cap lying on the rug in the living room and consumed by black mold. It seemed so symbolic of everything that had happened to us and our city.

Obviously, the Saints had nowhere to play home games and arrangements had to be made. Some games were played at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, others in San Antonio–and San Antonio made it very clear they would be more than happy to give them a permanent home.

It felt like the Saints organization was not only stabbing New Orleans in the back, but the entire state. I know I took it very personally; the city had supported and loved that team through decades of mediocrity if not outright suckage, and now when the city is at its lowest point, they’re going to move to San Antonio? But the NFL wasn’t having it–Tom Benson always made it seem like it was his decision, but the NFL was committed to New Orleans and wouldn’t let the Saints leave. The Dome was renovated and fixed in record time; the season tickets for 2006 sold out for the first time in years, and the new Saints–with our new coach and quarterback–debuted on Monday night football against the hated Atlanta Falcons. I wasn’t even aware of it, I was paying so little attention to everything going on around the country and world, to be honest. I ran my errands that day and noticed Saints flags were everywhere and people were wearing Saints jerseys and there was this strange sense of excitement in the air. Paul and I were living in the carriage house and we only had this tiny little black-and-white television, but we watched that night. And when Steve Gleason blocked that punt and the Saints recovered in the end zone–we both cried as we jumped up and down and screamed. (Everyone remembers the punt, but the entire game was amazing from beginning to end.) People call the blocked punt “the moment Louisiana healed,” and maybe they were right about that…but all I knew was for the first time in over a year we had something to be excited about, cheer about, and be proud of–and the Saints made it all the way to the NFC title game, so close to making it to the promised land of the Super Bowl.

I’ve been a rabid Who Dat ever since (2005 I also switched my first college allegiance from Auburn to LSU, but that’s a story for another time.).

And that magical season when the Saints not only went to, but won the Super Bowl? I had to write about it. I had never lived in a city that won a championship before, and let me tell you–it was insane in New Orleans that season, insane–as were the play-offs and the Super Bowl. I cried when Tracy Porter picked off Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter and ran it back for a touchdown to ice the game, and I cried again when the clock ticked to zero and the impossible had finally happened: the Saints had won the Super Bowl. It was so noisy that night; cars were honking their horns all night long, the streetcars rang their bells non-stop, and people were just chanting and cheering all over the city. We could hear the crowd at the bar on the corner, we could hear our neighbors, it was just insane and celebratory. Paul and I to this day have regretted not getting dressed and heading down to the Quarter to see it all; when will that ever happen again? The Saint may win a Super Bowl again, but it will never be the first time ever again.

I remember later that spring a friend asked if I thought the Saints would be good again the next year, and I just smiled. “I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is we finally won the Super Bowl and I can die happy, and I think a lot of us feel that way.”

The Saints are New Orleans, and New Orleans is the Saints. (I also am a little disappointed in myself for forgetting that A Streetcar Named Murder is actually set during football season; I didn’t mention it once and that’s a significant flaw in the book, honestly.)

So I decided to write another Scotty book, set it in that period between the Saints winning the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl so I could document that time, and I also decided to bring the other side of his family–the Bradleys–into the mix and give him a cousin who actually was on the Saints team and kind of a dick.

It was around this time, when I was planning or writing the book, that same-sex marriage was in the news a lot. Several suits were winding their way through the courts, and public opinion–thoroughly anti-queer in 2004 when it was on the ballot on a lot of states–was starting to swing back the other way. There was an incident at a beauty pageant when Miss California (her name escapes me now) was asked by Perez Hilton (who shouldn’t be judging anything, frankly) about same-sex marriage. She had to say she was against it, and even apologized, saying “I’m sorry, it’s how I was raised!” as the crowd began booing and jeering. She didn’t win, and I actually felt like it was kind of a shitty question to ask, but on the other hand, California had passed Prop 8 in 2008 (which was kind of the catalyst for the public opinion change, I believe). I also have always believed the old “it’s how I was raised” is a copout for bad or unpopular opinions–most white people are raised racist, after all–and questioning and reevaluating values and beliefs you were raised with is part of the maturation process of becoming your own person. But I was willing to cut her a break–she was young, it was a “gotcha’ kind of question, and kind of unfair–until she doubled down and decided to became the Patron Saint of Homophobia, following in the pumps of another runner-up pageant queen who became the face of hate and bigotry, wrapping it all up in religion and “concern for children”: yep, the hateful old bitch Anita Bryant herself, may she burn in hell for all eternity. She didn’t last long–its hard to paint yourself as a martyr for family values when you’ve been caught sexting (and recording yourself masturbating to send your man–and that was the end of that. I decided to make the reigning Miss Louisiana a homophobe who got that question at Nationals and is now dating Scotty’s cousin the Saints player–and he brings her to Christmas, with the end result that she gets slugged by Scotty’s mother and their family storms out.

And the night the Saints win the NFC championship, she’s murdered.

It was fun because I got to involve a megachurch in Jefferson Parish (there actually is one), and a sordid history of her own that the beauty queen was keeping secret for her own reasons–(coughs LESBIAN coughs) and even got to bring some more past characters back into the mix, like Emily who worked at the Devil’s Weed, and I had a lot of fun with this look into the other side of Scotty’s family (the one I am working on now also deals with another branch of relatives).

And I got to write about the Saints winning the Super Bowl, which was even more awesome. This was the book where I really thought I was done with Scotty. The year after it came out, at the next Saints and Sinners, was when I was asked if I would do another Scotty book; this was when I made my famous reply, “if I can figure out a way to include Mike the LSU Tiger, Huey Long, and his deduct box into a book, I will write another Scotty book.”

Of course, later that night it hit me like a 2 by 4 across the forehead, and I made some notes that eventually became Baton Rouge Bingo.

Brown Eyes

Sunday morning and another lovely night’s sleep. I feel rested and relaxed this morning–yesterday I still felt like I wasn’t completely recharged yet–so I think today will be a good day of getting things done for me. One can hope, at any rate. Once I finish this I have to start getting ready for my podcast discussion on My Cousin Rachel this morning, which I am not certain I am prepared for. I also need to order that Costco delivery I never got around to yesterday–I felt tired after running my errands yesterday, and my brain wasn’t really functioning the way it needed to be to write, so I just sat in my chair and watched Tennessee beat Florida (the one time per year I root for Tennessee) and then LSU dismantle New Mexico 38-0 last night. I’ve not checked other scores, but I don’t think there were a lot of surprises other than Oklahoma’s almost-predictable almost-annual loss to Kansas State. I’ve not been giving college football much attention this season, but there were an awful lot of almost-upsets yesterday, which should make for an interesting season the further along we get into it.

Tropical Storm Ian continues to slightly move his track ever-so-slightly more west, so the Cone of Uncertainty keeps drawing nearer and nearer to New Orleans, but it looks as though landfall is going to be Wednesday–and ironically, being on the western side of the storm means we will get some lovely cooler weather as a result. I hate that about hurricane season, and obviously I worry about people in Florida (although if I were a right-winger, I’d say God isn’t clearly happy with the way Florida is being run) while at the same time being relieved we don’t have to worry about doing without power or having to leave for this one….but just because we’re getting closer to October doesn’t mean we’re done with the season just yet–it runs through December, after all. Hurray.

I got my contributor’s copy of Magic is Murder, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley yesterday, and what a lovely book it is, too. It’s always lovely to get a copy of your work in print, and as I am sure you’re been made aware by my endless self-promotion on this score, my story here is “The Snow Globe.” It’s another one of my New Orleans paranormal stories–I think there will be three of them seeing print this year (“The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “The Snow Globe” are already out; “A Whisper from the Graveyard” will be out soon) and I am in the process of writing yet another (“Parlor Tricks”) and developing still another (“When I Die”). It’s been a decent year for me and short stories, it appears, and I am hoping once I get this Scotty out of the way and finish the promo for Streetcar’s release that maybe I can focus on writing short stories again for awhile. I’d like to get those novellas finished and out of the way; there are three that are close to being finished and I think I can get them all published into one volume (those would be “Never Kiss a Stranger”, “Fireflies,” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu”–although sometimes I think the first and third might actually work as full-length novels ) and there are a couple of others I’d like to get finished in the new year (and how weird is it that I am already thinking about 2023?). I will probably also try to write another Scotty in the New Year (French Quarter Flambeaux is next up in that series) and I am thinking about maybe another Alabama book. And there’s also that romance I want to write, and the Leonardo mystery, and…

Yeah, I will never run out of ideas, I feel pretty confident in saying that.

We also finished Dahmer last night, which means we can move on to the new Star Wars show, Andor, which is cool because I absolutely loved the character in Rogue One and even though I know how he dies, I am glad they are giving him his own pre-Rogue One series. (I should watch Rogue One again at some point.) And a new episode of The Serpent Queen should drop tonight as well; so many riches to enjoy! And there are some other shows dropping soon that I can’t wait to see–both new shows and new seasons of old favorites (when will Ted Lasso be back? Anyone?)–and I’d also like to finish reading my Donna Andrews, so I can focus on reading horror for the month of October. October is also the month where A Streetcar Named Murder is set, so I should probably be doing some more promo this month to get ready for the release date in early December.

And of course, I need to get some writing done today around the Saints game.

On that note, I need to head into the spice mines so I can get the kitchen ready for the podcast. I am assuming that the podcast is merely an oral recording and not a visual broadcast, so I am not going to shave this morning…I may regret that decision in about an hour and a half. Have a terrific Sunday, y’all, and GEAUX SAINTS!!!

What Makes You Think You’re The One

And now it’s Saturday.

LSU is playing New Mexico this evening (GEAUX TIGERS!) in Tiger Stadium–it should be an easy win but when it’s LSU you can never take anything for granted–and I have a lot I want to try to get done today before the games get started. I have errands to run, Costco to order for delivery; it just never ends for one Gregalicious, does it? It would appear that way.

I did feel a little tired most of the day yesterday; not sure what that was about, to be honest, but there you have it and there it is. But I also got this lovely review in Publisher’s Weekly; another industry journal I’ve not been reviewed in for quite some time now. I am getting more excited AND nervous as time ticks down to the official release date…but it’s really lovely getting all this pre-publication love from industry journals, early readers, and bloggers. I’m quite sure I don’t know how to act anymore! I’m very happy that everyone seems to be embracing the book, which I thought may be a big departure from what I usually do, but maybe it’s not? I don’t know, I’m not the best judge of my own work. It really never occurred to me that my Scotty series was technically a cozy series–despite the weed, swearing, violence and sex–but Scotty, despite being licensed, never actually had a client (the guy up on the fourth floor in Vieux Carré Voodoo does actually hire him before he is murdered) but usually, he’s just going about his day to day existence when he stumbles over a body or some kind of criminal conspiracy. But when I got home from work yesterday I puzzled over that bad bad chapter, and so this morning I am going to try to get it fixed up once and for all before diving headfirst into Chapter Four. I have some errands that must be run today–and I am going to order a Costco delivery–and I also have some cleaning around here that simply must be done; but I am hoping to avoid the allure and pull of college football as much as I can today to try to get as much done as I can on the Scotty today.

I also did the laundry once I was home, and finished clearing the dishes piled up in the sink–which even now are awaiting me to unload them from the dishwasher and put them away once and for all–and once Paul was home we settled in for Dahmer, which continues to be disturbing and hard-to-watch and almost documentary-like in style, tone, look, and story. Evan Peters and Niecy Nash should each take home Emmys for their work here; Niecy is absolutely stealing every scene she is in, and Peters looks so much like Dahmer…it’s also disturbing to watch as a gay man who went home with a lot of people he had just met for the first time. It really is a wonder there aren’t more serial killers in the gay community, and they certainly wouldn’t have much difficulty in finding potential victims thanks to the casual hook-up culture always so prevalent in gay male communities (which has always been something I want to write about; either in essay or fiction form); a sort of Looking for Mr. Goodbar sort of thing only with gay men. (I should reread that book; I haven’t in years–not since it was a thing anyway. I was thinking lately I should reread all the “thing” books from the 1970’s–Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Coma, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Jaws, Love Story, etc.–to see how they hold up and what, if anything, they have to say or can be said about the culture and society of the time and why those books, all so disparate, were so successful and popular at the time.)

I slept wonderfully last night, which is always a delight and a plus, and my coffee is tasting rather marvelous this morning. It is most definitely hitting the spot, that’s for sure. I feel rested and good this morning, which makes it a great day for getting things done. I am also thinking about taking my car to the coin-operated self-wash while I am out and about today (reminder: check projected path for Tropical Storm Ian; the one off the Cape Verde Islands formed first and took the name Hermine), and I also want to do some cleaning around the writing. We should be able to watch the LSU game tonight, even though it is on a lesser ESPN/SEC Network sub-channel, which is annoying–but I get it; LSU-New Mexico is a “who cares?” game outside of Louisiana.

I also spent some time last night with Every Frat Boy Wants It, my first erotic novel under the name Todd Gregory, and it’s not that bad. I realized that the three “fratboy” books I wrote are of a type, really, and rereading that long-ago written story (I would swear to God it’s been almost since I bought the new car, which was 2017, so it’s been about five years or more since I wrote it in the first place) made me realize that the concordance I want to put together for Scotty needs to be a part of an even larger concordance of all my work; all the different Louisianas I’ve written about and fictionalized over the years, which is even more important now that this Scotty is going to be driven so much by action outside of New Orleans.

I also need to revisit My Cousin Rachel at some point today before tomorrow morning’s podcast taping; I don’t want to rely on my ever-decreasing memory and should at least be somewhat refreshed in my recollections of what is one of my favorite Daphne du Maurier novels, possibly even more favorite than Rebecca. Big words, I know; but while I am certainly more familiar with the text of Rebecca, having read it so many times, I’ve only read My Cousin Rachel once–and came to it within the last decade or so, on the recommendation of Megan Abbott. I’ve seen neither film adaptation, tempting as the original (starring Olivia de Havilland and marking the screen debut of a young Richard Burton) may be; simply because while I know both films are very well-regarded, it’s hard to imagine a du Maurier adaptation finer than either the Hitchcock Rebecca or Nicholas Roeg’s adaptation of Don’t Look Now; with the bar set so high on du Maurier adaptations, how could either version of My Cousin Rachel stand up to them? I recently read a new-to-me du Maurier long story or short novella called “A Border-line Case,” and like all things du Maurier, it is rather marvelously well-written and twists the knife with something obvious that was there in front of you all the time but du Maurier pulls her usual authorial sleight-of-hand that makes the reveal startling and shocking despite being right there in front of the reader the entire time.

I also had wanted to spend some time with my Donna Andrews novel Round Up the Usual Peacocks, but not sure that I’ll have the time necessary. Ah, well. And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. I need to brew a second cup of coffee, and there are odds and ends around here that need attention. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again either later today or tomorrow morning.

Gold Dust Woman

Rock on, gold dust woman, take your silver spoon and dig your grave…

It’s FRIDAY, FRIDAY, got to get down it’s Friday! I love getting to sleep a bit later–I still wake up originally at the usual ungodly hour, but it’s nice to feel comfortable and then relax some more into the bed and the blankets. It looks like tropical depression nine is on its way to becoming Hermine, and has Florida in its path. I hate the feeling of relief that comes when you see the storm track models don’t come near Louisiana because you’re essentially wishing disaster, misery and grief on other people–nothing like hurricane season to realize how selfish you really are–but horrible as it is, it’s also understandable.

I really do need to address that in a book at some point. I know I’ve done hurricane novels and stories before (it amuses me to no end that, as per my entry the other morning, my first Katrina writing was a porn story, “Disaster Relief,” in which the main character has sex with his FEMA inspector), but I still want to do one that takes place in town after everyone has evacuated and the city is practically empty. I’ve had that idea for a long time (it was going to be the fourth Scotty, shelved after Katrina for obvious reasons) and I think that eerie sense of waiting and calm with the city practically empty would make or an interesting setting and backdrop for a crime novel. I could be wrong, but I definitely want to try it sometime.

We watched some more of Dahmer last night, and the show is probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. I appreciate the lack of romanticization of our lead character the monstrous cannibal serial killer, and it almost feels like a documentary. Evan Peters is absolutely stunning in the lead role (I see another Emmy in his future) and it’s compulsively watchable even as it is difficult to watch. The actor playing his father is also fantastic. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be raised in the environment Dahmer was raised in, with his mentally unbalanced mother and the fraught marriage between them, as well as how cold, self-absorbed, and monstrous his mother was. It’s no wonder he turned out the way he did–and clearly, not everyone is cut out to be a good parent (something that is always left out of the pro-life arguments, I might add; they gloss over the truth that so many people aren’t fit to be parents and just how many children are warped, abused and even murdered by parents who shouldn’t be parents).

I also started rereading some of my erotica last night, the Todd Gregory novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, and was highly amused to discover/remember how well I did my assignment in the writing of my first erotic novel: it’s pretty graphic and sexual right down to the very opening of the book. The book opens with the main character, Jeff Morgan, having a very intense and explicit sexual daydream about his high school crush…only to find out he was in a summer school class in college. He then meets a classmate, Blair Blanchard, who belongs to the fraternity and they become friends. Blair is also gay (Jeff is still kind of closeted) and gets Jeff to join the same fraternity. It’s a sexual coming of age story, set in a fraternity house at the fictional California State University-Polk (Polk being my stand-in for Fresno) and Blair shows Jeff the ropes of being gay–and since Blair’s parents are movie stars, he can provide entrée for Jeff into the glittering worlds of West Hollywood and Palm Springs and the entertainment industry. There’s a lot of sex in the book–a lot–but I only got about a third of the way into it before setting it aside for the moment as my brain tired out a bit (yesterday wasn’t a tiring day, but it was also one where I felt like my rest of the night before only recharged the batteries to the amount they’d been used the day before, so I wasn’t tired but also wasn’t motivated much) and dove into some Youtube videos about history and war.

I’m hoping today to get back to work on the book. Chapter Three is a hideous mess, which makes the first two chapters also questionable, so I am going to spend some time today trying to repair the mess as well as try to restructure the first three chapters so they flow better. I’d like to get a couple more chapters written this weekend, but it’s also going to depend heavily on whether I can get this chapter pulled back together–along with the earlier chapters–to flow the way a Scotty book should flow. I am also going to try to reread Who Dat Whodunnit this weekend as I work my way back through the series (it is enormously helpful) and I may even try to get started on writing that Scotty lexicon (which isn’t the word I want, but it’s the only one I can think of right now) but it has, even if I don’t get that done or started, been very educational rereading the series, of recapturing that mentality of anything goes/anything can happen and Scotty will always remain unflappable in the face of whatever insane story I throw him into the middle of, which makes him so much fun to write. I also want to get back to reading my Donna Andrews novel, so I may spend some time after work today in Caerphilly and then will most likely spend some time there the next two mornings over my coffee; there really is nothing like reading something over your morning coffee–which reminds me, I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel this weekend too. So, kind of a busy weekend for one Gregalicious as always–and of course, I need to run errands and so forth as well. Woo-hoo!

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Friday be as lovely as you are, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again either later today or tomorrow morning.

Vieux Carré Voodoo

Ah, the fourth Scotty.

I know I’ve told this story about a hundred times, but I think it matters to the entire Scotty canon review thing that I’m doing now, and it kind of does shape the rest of the series. One afternoon when I was heading to work at the old CAN office on Frenchmen Street, I always parked on Kerlerec Street, which was one of the few places in the Marigny neighborhood that wasn’t restricted to two-hour parking and a potential ticket (I didn’t get a parking spot until I went full time). I got out of the car, locked it, and saw some people riding towards me on bicycles. I said good morning and they said good morning back and smiled and kept going. I took a few more steps before realizing that was Brad and Angelina and a couple of the kids! I smiled to myself–one of the things I love most about New Orleans is the regular celebrity sightings–and of course, they lived not far from my office at the time. As I kept walking, some thoughts started riffing in my brain: Brad is blond and not all that tall; Scotty is also blond and not all that tall. Brad and Angelina live essentially right around the corner from Scotty. What if Scotty was walking home one night and when he’s in front of their house someone takes a shot at him, mistaking him for a Brad type actor living in the Quarter? Someone is trying to kill him and since Scotty looks like him, they hire him to get to the bottom of it as well as to run interference?

I really liked the idea–Hollywood South Hustle (keeping the “H” alliteration I was going for when the book was going to be Hurricane Party Hustle)–and when I got home that night I wrote the proposal and first three chapters in a fever…spent a few days refining and polishing it, and submitted it to my Scotty publisher–and they turned it down.

Womp womp.

Around the same time, my Chanse publisher–who had yet to make an offer on the next book in the series–suddenly made an offer but gave me a two month turn around on the book. It was do-able, of course, but I thought I deserved something in return for that insane turnaround and so asked for a two book contract and more money; they were clearly desperate since they agreed to both. And I thought, Hmm, I can just turn that Scotty book into a Chanse book and thus it became Murder in the Rue Ursulines (and it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be but that’s a story for another time).

And then one day, I was walking from the parking lot at my old office to where the Gay Easter parade was lining up (my office had a carriage and I rode) and as I walked underneath a balcony I barely avoided getting drenched (those who turn their balconies into lush gardens have to water them, after all, and the excess water has to go somewhere; it’s one of those Quarter hazards we’ve accepted) and in a flash, I thought that very thing–walking under balconies in the Quarter can be hazardous–and then imagined Scotty on his way to the Gay Easter parade to ride on his parents’ business’ float when he gets drenched by someone watering their balcony garden. And just as quickly as I had that thought, I thought of course Scotty would be dressed as a slutty Easter bunny in a white speedo and rabbit ears and tail and then it just got really funny to me. The next morning I wrote that scene, which grew into the first chapter, and since I needed to wrap up the personal story left hanging in the previous book, I ended the chapter with him seeing someone in the crowd he thought was Colin–a thought he quickly dismisses as impossible, and we were off to the races.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even pigeons and palmetto bugs are supposed, by some, to dream. New Orleans, not sane, stood by itself inside its levees, holding darkness within; it had stood there for almost three hundred years and might stand for three hundred more. Within, walls continued to tilt, bricks crumbled sloppily, floors were termite-chewed and doors sometimes shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of New Orleans, and whoever drank there there, drank alone.

Yeah, right. People only drink alone in New Orleans by choice.

My name is Scotty Bradley, and I’m a private dick who works the mean streets of New Orleans. I right wrongs. I help the downtrodden find justice. I punish the guilty. I ferret out crime, and protect the innocent while punishing the guilty. Criminals tremble when they hear my name, and get out of town if they know what’s good for them. Dame Justice may be blind, but I see all too clearly. The helpless come to me when everyone else has failed, when hope is gone, and the night seems darkest. I’ve got a mean right hook and never back down from a fight. I drink my martinis shaken, not stirred—because I like my gin like miscreants who cross my path, bruised and a little battered. I am on a never-ending quest for truth, justice, and preserving the American way of life. I rescue dreams and bring nightmares to an end. Don’t call me a hero, because any one of you would do the same if given the chance. There is no case too small for me to handle, and there is no case so large that it is intimidating. I’ve taken down a corrupt political machine, and would gladly do it again tomorrow. I’ve found lost treasures and stared down the Russian mob. I’ve stared evil in the face until evil blinked and backed away in mortal terror. I have—

Yeah, right. And I have a bridge across the Mississippi for sale, if you’re interested.

My name is really Milton Bradley, like the board game company—my parents have a slightly twisted sense of humor. Scotty is my middle name, but it’s what everyone calls me. I really am a private eye—bonded, and licensed by the state of Louisiana. I was born and raised in New Orleans and have lived here my entire life except for two misspent years at Vanderbilt University up in Nashville. I live on Decatur Street with my partner, Frank Sobieski. We’re business partners, and life partners. We met on a case a couple of years back, and it was pretty much love at first sight. Frank is one of the most gorgeous men I’ve ever seen outside of a porn movie. He’s in his early forties, about six foot two, and when he had hair, it was blond. Now that he’s balding, he shaves it down to a little buzz. He has the most hypnotic blue eyes, a strong chin, and a scar on the right side of his face. He also started lifting weights in his twenties—and there’s not an ounce of fat on his hugely muscled, amazingly defined body.

He also has one of the most amazing butts I’ve ever laid eyes on. Woof!

Well, okay—it was lust at first sight. Love came later.

I love treasure hunts, always have, and have always wanted to write one. One of my favorite series when I was a kid (they’re still actually quite fun to read now) are the Three Investigators series; which was originally called the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series as he introduced each case and sometimes even referred potential clients to the boys. Many of those books were treasure hunts, and those were always my favorite books. One of their adventures, which was also a favorite, was called The Mystery of the Fiery Eye and was loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, which I read as a teenager and have always remembered fondly. I decided I wanted to do an homage to both books; the treasure everyone is looking for is a stolen, notorious jewel that is very important to a south Asian religious cult, and it’s name was Kali’s Eye, because it was mounted in an enormous statue of her in a temple in a very small, remote south Asian country.

And it was stolen during the Vietnam War, and they’ve been looking for it ever since.

After Scotty gets soaked in his slutty Easter bunny attire, he swears very loudly and the person on the balcony hears him. Turns out to be an old family friend–Scotty wasn’t really paying attention to where he was; his mind was elsewhere as he walked–and gets invited up, so the friend, Doc–he was a professor at University of New Orleans when Scotty’s parents went there–can give him a towel and run his outfit through the dryer quickly. While Scotty is there, Doc gives him an old stuffed toy Scotty had left there years ago, when he was a small child. This strikes Scotty as odd, but he humors Doc and takes the stuffed bunny. When he gets to the parade, his mother is thrilled to see Mr. Bunny, so he gives it to her.

And later, when he is walking home, there are cops at Doc’s. He fell to his death from his balcony, and his apartment was ransacked. Then the new tenant on the top floor of Scotty’s building (he and Colin gave up that apartment after Colin disappeared) wants to hire Scotty and Frank to solve a mystery for him–but soon he, too, is murdered–and also turns out to not be who he had claimed to be. Are these two murders connected, and if so, how?

My absolute favorite part of the book to write was the treasure hunt itself; when Scotty and Frank realize that Doc left clues behind for Scotty to solve and find the missing jewel; which takes them on a trail from the apartment on Decatur Street uptown in the rain. That was so much fun, and of course, when I was polishing the manuscript before turning it in, I had to actually go and follow the trail I’d set out for them to make sure it was accurate and worked and was something someone could actually follow…and of course, it was pouring that day so I did it, like they did, in the pouring rain.

I dedicated the book to my friend Poppy Z. Brite, a writer I’ve long admired and whose friendship I have always cherished. He was always a big fan of the Scotty books, and his support meant the world to me. He was actually the person who convinced me–one drunken night at the House of Blues for a Banned Books Night reading–that I could indeed write another Scotty book, and the boost of confidence was just what I needed to get back to work on this series. (And the Vietnam stuff was a nod to a private joke between us.) And it was, indeed, fun to get back to work on Scotty and produce another book.

And here I am, all these years later, writing another one. Go figure.

Think About Me

Wednesday morning and all is sort of well in the Lost Apartment. It’s dark outside still, but the sun should be rising soon over the West Bank (don’t ask) and my coffee should start kicking in soon. I’ve continued testing negative for COVID, so I think I escaped Bouchercon and the trip unscathed, which is actually kind of lovely. I don’t think I could handle yet another week of being knocked out and unable to do anything. Although the enforced rest–first with the COVID and then with my back more recently–was also kind of nice.

I was very exhausted when I got home from work yesterday, so kind of just headed right to the sweats and the easy chair. The kitchen is still a mess from Monday night’s dinner, and I really need to get that cleaned up tonight after work, if I have the energy. I have adjusted to these early mornings in some ways–it’s not painful to get up anymore, and I am not groggy and half-asleep most of the mornings anymore–but I do get tired a lot earlier, and sleepy too. I dozed off a couple of times in the chair last night while watching Making it Big, which is a lengthy video on Youtube about the growth and development of the gay porn industry, from its humble beginnings with Bob Mizer and physique magazines/videos to what it is today–free and almost everywhere you look on the Internet. I started in this industry writing gay porn–my first two published short stories were gay porn, and they paid rather well, thank you very much–and I had a very nice sideline until around 2009 editing and writing it. It was around 2009 that the bottom started falling out of gay porn writing and editing–and within a few years that sub-genre of the industry was gone for good. I miss the money, although I don’t miss doing the writing or editing. I produced some terrific anthologies along the way, and some really terrific short stories as well as erotic novels.

I’m not in the least bit ashamed of my past writing and editing gay erotica–writing is writing, and there’s an entire gamut of quality in gay erotica, as there is in every sub-genre in publishing; some was terrific, some was great, some was competent, and some was garbage. I am also often been told, throughout my career, that admitting to, and talking about, writing gay erotica was an error, that I shouldn’t talk about it or write about it ever or should put up a firewall between it and my “serious” writing. My response to that was always puzzlement; I take all of my writing seriously so why would the gay erotica be any different than that? But there is a stigma, still to this very day, about pornography and erotica (although it’s always been around; archaeologists have been finding erotic art in ruins going back thousands and thousands of years), which probably has a lot to do with the bizarre and deeply-rooted American societal and cultural bias about sexuality in general. It’s dirty, it’s private, it’s something you shouldn’t talk about openly with other people and you should be embarrassed if it comes up and therefore need to change the subject immediately.

This puritanical societal mentality is the root cause of a lot of our problems, in my opinion. A society and culture where sexuality is no big deal, where no one is judged for their sexual needs and desires and activities, and where the topic can be discussed openly and honestly, would be a much healthier one. But talking about sex and desire and need embarrasses most Americans and makes them uncomfortable; I believe that writing about eroticism and passion and desire and sex was maybe the best preparation for my day job as a sexual health counselor that I could have asked for.

The first time I wrote an erotic short story I was embarrassed almost the entire time I was writing it. I embarrassed myself, because in order to write an erotic short story I had to write about a desire of my own, a kink, if you will; something I had always been interested in, had experienced a few times, and wanted to explore much further than I had already. It’s hard to get younger people, who grew up with the Internet and smart phones and hook-up apps how difficult it was to find other gay men who were into the same secret fetishes and desires–now all you have to do is a Google search, really–but there was serious isolation back in the day, and with all the shame we learn through society about sex and desire, it was very easy to believe that you were the only person who was into whatever it was you were into. But once I had written one, I found that the more of these type stories that I wrote, the more free I felt; the more open, the more accepting of kinks and other people’s desires and what they were into. One of the great gay erotica writers said in the introduction to a collection of his own work you can’t write great sex unless you’ve had great sex, which I didn’t think was true at the time–creativity and imagination being what they are–and while I don’t necessarily think that’s true any more than I did then, I will say having great sex makes it easier to write about great sex…and when you can look at sexual experimentation as research…

Write what you know, indeed.

But early on in my career I was both naïve and stubborn. Don’t use your own name for writing erotica, I was told, over and over again, because it will damage your non-erotica work and people won’t take you seriously. That really wasn’t the threat that my well-meaning friends and colleagues thought it was; at that point in my life no one had ever taken me seriously about anything; and especially when it came to my ambitions with writing. So, my first short stories were published under my own name, and I edited two erotica anthologies under my real name, as well. The great irony was under my own name I became known for writing a certain kind of a gay erotica, rooted in one of my own fantasies and desires, but it also wasn’t the only thing I wanted to write about–but I had become typecast as an erotica writer and those were the only stories editors wanted from me; so I started using Todd Gregory so I could write erotica about other fetishes and desires and needs, other than what everyone wanted Greg Herren to write about. Which was actually, in retrospect, kind of funny.

It was also around this time that my traditional short story-writing problems–which I still have; I am never really certain if there’s an actual story in my stories, if you know what I mean–were sort of solved, because I realized that erotica is the perfect illustration of beginning, middle, end: two people meet, have sex, and then there’s an ending bit. I was having trouble publishing short stories–genre wasn’t ready for openly gay characters and themes, I didn’t write literary fiction–and so I decided, you know, you have this idea for a story–add a sex scene to it and see what happens. The story was published, and I became more experimental with my own erotica–one of my favorite stories I wrote was about a merman who was also an empath, “The Sea Where It’s Shallow”–and I became more and more known for erotica writing as Todd Gregory started editing anthologies and writing more and more stories.

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything erotic–and who knows if I ever will again? I have an idea for a gay romance novel I would like to write, but I also know that the kind of sex scenes I write–grunting, sweating, messy, and loud–aren’t the kind of sex scenes romance readers tend to like, but on the other hand, I may be making assumptions and who knows what they like? It’s one of the things I want to write over the next two years because I think it’s a fun challenge (yes, yes, I still manage to fool myself into thinking writing challenges are fun; I never learn), but we’ll see how everything goes.

I also kind of want to reread my erotica to see how it holds up, and I also kind of need to (heavy sigh) start making a list of characters and places and so forth that I have already used, so I won’t have Chris Moore or Eric Matthews showing up in yet another book (although it’s not impossible in the real world for different people to have the same name, either) and besides, maybe by doing so I can see the way to connect the books all together even more closely.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

The Ledge

And here it is, Tuesday morning and dark outside my windows as I have my morning coffee preparatory to getting ready for work. It’s getting to be that time of year where I drive to and from work in the dark, which is always a bit debilitating; you feel like you’ve spent the entire day at work when you don’t get to spend any time outside–even if just going to and from work–in the sunshine. The weather has cooled here a bit over the last week, which has been lovely (and early in the season for coolness). My back is much better–there’s still some tightness and slight pain involved–but I think i can actually head to work today and not be in the kind of pain I was in last week, which is kind of nice. It’s still there, but I am learning how to not trigger it–the irony of which is that I am having to use good posture at all times so as not to inflame the pain, which means had I been using good posture most of my life I might not have this problem right now.

But it’s something I can live with today; something I wasn’t so sure about as recently as Sunday. So taking the days of rest, with the alternating hot and cold, was probably a very smart thing to do. I will be taking the generic Ben-Gay with me to work today, too–just in case. But I can sit comfortably without it, which is something I can honestly say was not the case as recently as Sunday. And now of course I have to start digging myself out from under–which is a lot of catching up I need to get done. I also have to do some digging around and figure out what is missing from some projects that I need to get finished, and I also need to get back to writing. There’s an anthology deadline next month–more like three weeks from now–that I wanted to submit something to, but I seriously doubt I am going to be able to have the time or the energy to revise anything the way I want it to be revised to submit to this anthology, so I am probably going to have to let it go once and for all.

We watched Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders last night, a documentary series about the In Cold Blood murders and of course Truman Capote’s famous book that was written about the case (which remains, to this day, one of my favorites) as well as the film made from the book (which I’ve never seen, but Paul’s friend the actress Brenda Curran was in, playing Nancy Clutter). I’ve been to both Holcomb and Garden City, back when I lived in Kansas and when I also had no idea Holcomb was where the crimes happened (I didn’t read In Cold Blood until I lived in California). One of the things I’ve always found interesting about these old rural crimes is how they always talk about how the “community changed” after it happened and how people never used to lock their doors…and everyone could just knock and enter other people’s homes. I wasn’t raised that way; my mother was very obsessive about always making sure everything was locked up–cars, homes, wherever–and used to get mad at me when, as a lazy not really paying much attention teenager used to sometimes leave the car unlocked. Paul is much the same as my mom; sometimes I forget to lock the car, and when I am home by myself I forget sometimes to lock the front door–someone would have to scale the fence, which isn’t easy, to get back to our apartment door–but that’s also a part and parcel of the false sense of security we all have about being safe in our homes. Once I am inside I am safe.

Which really isn’t true.

I spent some more time with Donna Andrews’ delightful new Meg Langslow novel last night while I waited for Paul to finish working so I could make dinner, and it’s delightful. I don’t know how she manages to do this with a series that has lasted as long as hers has; I think there may be more than twenty volumes in the series now? But each one is a delight. I love the town of Caerphilly, I love her family, and most of all I really enjoy Meg. I love highly accomplished, confident, efficient women like her; she’s yet another drily humorous main character in the vein of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell (I really am overdue for reading another book in that series) and while my own poor Valerie is hardly in the same vein as these remarkable women characters, I’d kind of like to keep developing her into a series because, well, I kind of grew attached to Valerie and her friends while writing A Streetcar Named Murder, and I’d kind of like to revisit them again in another book. I have a title and an idea for the next book in the series, should Crooked Lane want another, and while I felt fairly confident they’d hate the title, I just this weekend came up with a potentially better title for it…and now that I am writing this, i cannot for the life of me remember what that title was, nor do I think I made a note of it (which is why you should always make a note of it).

Ah, well, perhaps it will come back to me at some point.

I also woke up to proofs of an anthology I contributed a story to that has been in the works for many years now, which means the book is finally going to be released which is great news. My story is called “A Whisper from the Graveyard” and I really don’t remember much, if anything, about the story because it’s frankly been so long. But I will need to proof it–check for typos and missing words and such–which will be a nice way to get reacquainted with the story, at the very least. I vaguely have some idea about the story–I know it’s a private eye story, with a gay detective who has just tested HIV positive and it’s set in the early 1990’s, so it’s a death sentence as far as he knows–and is hired by someone to find someone else? I don’t remember–it really has been a long time since I wrote this story.

But I am also completely overwhelmed with work and being behind on everything and I really need to start making a to-do list so I can sort all this shit out and get things done that need to be done. I know I need to go back to work on Scotty and my other project; there’s any number of other things I need to get done, and I also need to start figuring out promo for A Streetcar Named Murder else no one will buy it and that will be the end of that.

The great joy of being a writer.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Tuesday everyone (except Buccaneer fans)!

Over & Over

Monday morning and I slept really well again. I feel rested this morning; but then a weekend of pain killers and muscle relaxers will do that for you. But I do feel better than I have since getting home from Minneapolis this morning, so that’s a start. My back still hurts but it’s bearable–this morning it feels like I simply slept on it wrong rather than making my wince and my eyes water every time I move. I also realized yesterday that if I did everything with proper posture, my back didn’t hurt…you know, doing things the way you’re supposed to–i.e. not bending at the waist to pick something up but rather using my legs, keeping my head erect instead of leaning forward, sitting back in chairs etc. I also did, in addition to the drugs, the alternating heat/cold thing with it, and so I think as long as I don’t do anything particularly stupid in the meantime it’ll keep getting better.

And I should always use good posture and do things properly anyway. Lesson learned.

I did manage to get all the dishes done and put away yesterday, which is lovely. I have a couple of errands to run today–mail, minor groceries, a prescription–but I think the right plan is to do my data entry while doing my heat/cold with my back, and at some point try to do some stretching. I believe my hips and quadriceps have been taking pressure off my back when I walk and do things, which is why they’ve been exhausted for the last few days as well. I don’t know how to avoid this happening again when I travel, but I think it does have more to do with all the standing and laughing–a laughing injury!–than anything else, as I didn’t have the same issues other times I’ve traveled. We did watch the Saints lose yesterday, and then, in my drug-addled state I rewatched the LSU game when it was rebroadcast on SEC Network yesterday, before we watched American Gigolo, House of the Dragon and The Serpent Queen. I wasn’t sure about American Gigolo, because no matter how much I love John Bernthal I just couldn’t see him taking over from Richard Gere, but he did a great job and the second episode really takes the show off–the first is merely set-up and back story, which is why you should always give a show two episodes before deciding to stop watching unless the first episode is so incredibly bad you can’t put yourself through a second (although I will confess to being wrong about Outer Banks, which I found out thanks to the Holmses). Of the three, I believe The Serpent Queen is the best (because you really can’t go wrong with Catherine de Medici; her story alone is dramatic enough for a series), even though they aren’t capturing Diane de Poitiers correctly (Diane was a lot smarter then they are making her out to be, and she was never Catherine’s enemy for the simple reason she preferred Henri to be married to someone he could tolerate but was no threat to her); but I believe the audience wouldn’t get the nuance and sophistication of the game Diane played in reality.

I did start reading Donna Andrews’ Round Up the Usual Peacocks yesterday before I had to start taking meds for my back, and it’s as charming as her books always are. I didn’t get as far as I would have liked because my back’s need for attention by the time the Saints game started could no longer be ignored; and I started reading Daphne du Maurier’s novella “A Border-Line Case” during my brief lucid moments (because it was shorter). It’s an interesting story and one that I will most likely have to start over again in order to get a real reading of it accomplished, but du Maurier is such a genius with mood and her language usage that reading her is akin to getting drunk on the words.

Reading du Maurier is, of course, one of those things that make me wonder why I bother, or what I am trying to do with my work–and she used a typewriter. I can never get past that with writers of the past–that they wrote either first in long-hand or all along on the typewriter–but regardless, it always had to be typed. (Even using Word I make typos on a regular basis and they are far easier to correct on a computer document than they are on onion-skin or bond paper….which makes me think about how Misery couldn’t work today, because Paul would have to be a crank who still used a typewriter instead of a laptop and…you get the picture.)

So, today I hope to start digging out from under. I had never really caught up on everything after Bouchercon (primarily because I’ve been in so much pain since I got home) and so now today I must assess the damage and try to figure out how to get back on the horse I’ve fallen from. I didn’t intend to lose two weeks to Bouchercon but here we are, almost to the end of September and another month of 2022 gone before I knew it and a deadline taking aim at the bull’s eye squarely affixed to the center of my forehead. The house is a mess (as always) and I have a lot of data entry to get done today before venturing out to run the afore-mentioned errands; I also don’t know where I am at financially and need to figure out what bills are left to be paid and so forth. I also need to get this messy house under some sort of control, and I only have so much time every day to deal with these things. Once my back is better, I’m going to start easing back into the gym as well–what better way to get in shape for conferences than being in better physical condition and perhaps dropping some of this extra weight? My blood sugar was surprisingly high the last time I fasted for blood work, which isn’t great–so perhaps the exercise and shift in diet I’ve been avoiding for quite some time has finally reached the point where it’s unavoidable anymore. My natural inclination to laziness doesn’t help matters much in this regard either, but I just have to remember how much I enjoy how I feel after I’ve worked out to help motivate me to get started again. This back shit is a motivator too; if I can keep my back stretched and strengthen my core, I’ll never lose a week to back pain again.

And so, that is the state of the Gregalicious this morning: hopeful, rested, and hoping the sheer amount of work I am behind on won’t send me into a corner whimpering. I am heading into the spice mines, and I shall see you on the other side, Constant Reader.

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Storms

So this morning my back still hurts, but it’s more of an ache than an agonizing pain the way it has been for since this whole mess started the other day. I am resisting the urge and need and desires to actually go ahead and operate today like normal–I should keep resting it, alternating heat and cold, for at least another day–and also have to remember that yesterday morning it felt better, too–but by noon I was taking muscle relaxers and pain pills and camped out in the easy chair, my brain too wasted by the meds to do much of anything other than watch television all day. No reading, no writing, no nothing.

On the other hand, at least it was College Football Saturday, so I had some good entertainment to watch on it. LSU played Mississippi State last night at the very odd starting time of five pm, and I can see that the Saints and LSU are both back to normal–making you think they’re going to lose the game badly until the second half, and even at that sometimes not until the fourth quarter. LSU trailed 13-0 at one point last night before putting together a beautiful drive in the waning minutes of the first half to pull within 6 points at 13-7 before ultimately dominating the fourth quarter impressively to win 31-16. It was Coach Kelly’s first SEC game, and obviously, his first conference win. Mississippi State usually gives LSU some trouble whenever they play, except for the years when LSU is having A Really Great Year and blows them out; LSU has also lost some incredibly disappointing games to the Bulldogs over the years. (It always seems like other teams in the SEC West always rise up to play their best against us; not sure why that is, but it’s a fact) It was also a very weird day all over the country in sports–with Florida, Arkansas, and Notre Dame squeaking out wins over opponents that should have been overmatched; Texas A&M struggled to beat Miami–yes, it is going to be an interesting year in college football.

Maybe not as interesting and fun as 2007–an EPIC year for college football, and not just saying that because LSU won a national title that year–but still fun and interesting.

I just applied store brand Ben-Gay to my back and the heat feels nice. I do think I should probably spend yet another day in the chair. I think once I post this and do some minor picking up around here I may retire to my easy chair with Donna Andrews’ marvelous Round Up the Usual Peacocks. I also am not sure when the Saints game is today, either. Ah, noon. That should give me a few hours to read before the game comes on. I may even try to use the laptop during the game to do some writing, but it’s going to depend on how much my back stiffens up today as I continue to try to function.

And yes, I am well aware I am obsessing about my back and the pain, but seriously, back pain is one of those things you cannot escape; your back is essential for movement and so forth, and while I am not consciously trying to find out what movements hurt and which don’t…I am slowly figuring it out. Someone suggested to me the other day that this could actually be a laughter injury, and I do think that’s entirely possible, as I can remember laughing so hard my abs and ribs began hurting, and I would bend over sometimes laughing so hard….and that is the most painful position for me to assume since the injury made itself known.

A laughing injury. Only a Gregalicious could injure and incapacitate himself by laughing too hard.

What can I say? I am out of shape for laughing like that any more. THANKS PANDEMIC.

I also have to sometime write up Back to the Garden and The Devil Takes You Home, two of this year’s best novels that I’ve read thus far.

I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel before next weekend’s podcast ZOOM call. Yikes! I also cannot get over how messy and sloppy the apartment has become since my injury made itself known–which is really the thing that is driving me the most crazy of everything here, you know. I had hoped to be able to spend this weekend getting the apartment cleaned up and getting caught up on everything but instead I’ve had to nurse my back and get even more behind on everything.

And on that note, I am going to take Donna and my coffee and retire to my chair for a few hours. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow…hopefully with the news that my back is better.