Not Fade Away

And here it is, Sunday morning already, and where did my weekend go? I am not sure, but somehow yesterday managed to get away from me somehow, and I didn’t get nearly what I had hoped done–or at least looked at, at any rate. I allowed myself to sleep in yesterday–today too–and it felt really nice. I got some things done around the house and then ran my errands. When I returned, I realized I had something to do that I’d forgotten about–I remembered right when I was leaving to run the errands (okay, I saw the reminder email before I left to run those errands)–and so I had to prepare something to eat. A friend had offered to let me guest blog at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, where you promote yourself and your new book by sharing a recipe. No problem, I thought, forgetting that I don’t really use recipes after the first or second time I make something, and then I never ever make it the same way twice again. I love cooking, I really do, and I think I’m good at it. I’m not a chef by any means–I cannot identify flavors by taste, and I am not familiar enough with tastes and textures to think of combinations that would work together into something delicious without a reference or a starting place. And truth be told, I subscribe very heavily to the notion that if you base your cooking in the basics of Louisiana-style food, it’s always going to be delicious. You can never go wrong with anything that starts with a roux as the base, let’s be honest. Many years ago I had a recipe in the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, which was way fun; it was a recipe I’d been making for years and years and years and tinkered with a lot, going through many delicious and delightful variations–so I knew I had it written down somewhere. But after I got the reminder email I looked at what was required–and saw to my horror that I also needed pictures. I am not one of those people who regularly documents their food preparation, so I realized that I was going to have to actually make it so I could take the needed pictures; and there were things I would need from the market as I didn’t have them on hand. I also found the recipe and realized I’d improved on it quite a bit since I wrote it down for the cookbook, and I had to rewrite and revise it.

Constant Reader, those meatballs were goddamned delicious.

And I documented their making, as well as took a photo of the plated end product.

LSU got beaten yesterday, 50-30, in the SEC championship game. Georgia was better, as I expected, and none of the breaks really went LSU’s way; and for them to win, they needed all the breaks they could get, Georgia to not play well, and the Tigers needed to play out of their ass. Back-up quarterback Garrett Nussmeier looked amazing, frankly–the future of LSU football clearly on display; a little more control and better chemistry with his receivers and he could become Joey Burrow 2.0. Am I disappointed? Sure, a little, but mostly I am proud of this team and have far they have come since last January and that bowl game, or how far they’ve come since the start of the season. But they won the toughest division in college football, and did some things no one could have predicted. The future looks bright, and LSU is going to be elite again, very soon. (And a shout out to Tulane for winning their conference and winning a trip to the Cotton Bowl. No one saw that coming, either.) TCU lost, which, along with USC’s loss, will cause enough of the chaos I was hoping to see this weekend…although I do think Georgia and Michigan are without question the two best teams in the country, and there’s really no need for a third or fourth place seed. Now we just have to see which bowl game LSU ends up in, and the season is over–far better than anything I had any reason to expect back in August, so thanks again, Tigers. It was an interesting, up and down and exciting season, with some amazing games.

Today I have to go pick up the groceries I ordered; I think the meatballs will get me through the week for lunches, and so I don’t think I need to cook anything else today. I’ll probably have to stop at the market on the way home from work on Monday, after I get a better sense of what we need after putting everything away today (don’t ask, it makes sense in my fevered brain)–I may want to get a salad, or the produce necessary to make one.

As I have been writing my Blatant Self-Promotion posts for A Streetcar Named Murder I have also been realizing that a feeling I’ve been having for quite some time isn’t actually accurate. I have posted a few times over the last few years about feeling disconnected from New Orleans in some weird way, that something had changed and I wasn’t sure what it was, if it was the city itself–which has changed–or something in me or some combination of the two. But in writing these posts about New Orleans, I find myself smiling as I write them–I certainly was smiling when I was writing that guest post the other day for the Wickeds blog, “The Orange Cone” (which could also be the seeds of a longer comic essay about life in New Orleans)–that what has actually shifted is that I’ve kind of gone native. For years, I wrote about the wackiness and silliness and delicious little ironies of life in New Orleans, the eccentricities and oddities, because they stood out to me. They no longer do. I take that stuff for granted now, and it doesn’t even register with me anymore because I’ve become so accustomed to it. Writing about potholes and orange cones, and how they are easily not only in the Top 5 for conversation material between total strangers in the city made me laugh, made me shake my head at the wackiness and strangeness, and well–the whole New Orleans of it. That’s the thing. I never thought I would get to the point where the oddities of New Orleans life would become so commonplace as for me to pay it no mind, but here I proverbially am.

And I kind of love that for me. I love this city. I am by no means an expert on New Orleans; what I do not know about this city, its people, its history and its legends and lore could fill the Great Library at Alexandria. I continue to learn more every day, and with the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know and that I will never become expert, no matter how much I learn and read and absorb and experience. I always kind of smile to myself when people say that I am an expert on all things New Orleans because I am all too aware of how little I actually do know. I don’t know that I will ever stop writing about New Orleans. Writing that historical Sherlock Holmes story set here was so much fun to write and research–and I’ve also discovered an enormous flaw in my research and writing for that story since writing it, which serves as yet another example of the limits of my knowledge and how much deeper you have to go when researching a period of history here (one of the biggest hurricanes to ever hit New Orleans came through the year before the story’s setting; no commentary on rebuilding or about the disaster is a glaring omission). I want to write about Madame La Laurie; I want to write about the Sultan’s Palace and the trunk murders and the kidnapping of that little boy back in the late nineteenth century. I want to write about Storyville and musicians and Prohibition and bootleggers. I want to write about the Axeman, and the grinch, and other legends and lore; every time I find something new in a history or an a New Orleans history website, I immediately start thinking of ways to write about it. I will never run out of material to write about here, never.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. I am going to read for a little while as I drink coffee and wake up, and then I am going to write until it’s time to go get the groceries…and then come home to write some more. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.

I Wanna Be Your Man

Apparently Utah stomped USC last night in the Pac-12 championship game, which throws the college football playoffs into a bit of chaos. At this point I am rooting for chaos, frankly. Since LSU is out of it, I want everyone in the Top 4 to lose today (with apologies to all of their fans) simply because I do want this to be as insane as the entire season has been so far. This has been easily the craziest college football season since 2007, which has made it a lot less predictable and a lot more fun to watch. Do I think LSU has a chance to beat Georgia today? Probably not, but…the last time LSU went to the championship game with three or more losses, they played a one-loss Tennessee team that was ranked second in the country and heading to the national championship game. No one gave LSU a chance–but somehow they won, 31-20, without their starting quarterback or their star running back, going on to trounce Big 10 champion Illinois in the Sugar Bowl. So there’s precedent for it happening again, but as I said, I find it highly unlikely.

I slept late this morning–all the way until eight thirty, a miracle–and it was sound. I got up once during the night to go to the bathroom and immediately went right back to a deep, restful sleep that felt absolutely marvelous. I feel very rested this morning, and feel like if all goes well this could be a highly productive day. I do have to get the mail and probably stop at Fresh Market for a few things, and I also need to order groceries for pick-up tomorrow morning, but other than that I plan on being here, parked in front of my computer, for most of the day. I don’t care much about today’s football games other than who wins, and I can follow that on Twitter (as I did the USC-Utah game last night), so I should be able to get writing work done today as well as some necessary and needed cleaning and filing and organizing.

Last night, Paul and I watched Bros, and I feel like I kind of owe Billy Eichner an apology for not going to see it in the theater. I’ve never much cared for Eichner, in all honesty–the mean-spirited bitchy persona he’s always personified as his schtick is one that I’ve never connected with, and so my reaction to the trailers and press about the movie was always, why would I pay this much money to go see him be an asshole for two hours? And yes, the character he plays is very similar to the comic persona he’s developed over his career–the difference is Bros fleshes him out as the character Bobby (Bobby/Billy; see what I mean?) and makes him three-dimensional and yes, dare I say it? Relatable and likable. Luke McFarlane is also incredibly likable as Aaron, his love interest–and of course the fact that he’s beautiful makes him, I suppose, that much more relatable. Both are emotionally unavailable and have no desire to deal with the drama dating entails, but as they spend more time with each other and keep challenging each other to be better versions of themselves, it actually is a charming, sometimes funny, and all too human romantic comedy–the kind we gays have been begging Hollywood to make for decades. I don’t know if publicly admonishing the audience for not turning up to the theater opening weekend was perhaps the smartest public relations move or not, but I really enjoyed the movie. A lot. It was very smart, had a lot of things to say about being gay or queer in this modern age of hookup apps and computer dating, and I actually felt like I was watching two real gay men fumbling their way towards an actual relationship–and rooting for them to get there. It was a very pleasant surprise, and is one of the best gay romance movies I’ve ever seen.

So, I’ll say it again: I’m sorry, Billy, for not seeing it in the theater on opening weekend. I don’t see many movies in the theater–I think the last one I did see was either Aquaman or Wonder Woman 84, and I probably should have supported Bros. My apologies. There are also some incredibly real moments in the movie that I could actually relate to–the soliloquy on the beach on Provincetown about how being so unmistakably gay as Bobby was altered and changed the trajectory of his life, going so far as to destroy his dreams and force him to reevaluate and come up with new ones. That resonated with me–my experience with the college writing professor is never far from my mind–and it also made me think about how many other gays or queers have had that same experience with an authority figure?

It’s a good movie when it makes you think and reevaluate your own life, you know? So well done, Mr. Eichner, and again, I’m sorry. I enjoyed your movie, think it’s one of the best gay films I’ve ever seen, and you were right to chastise us for not supporting it during it’s theatrical run.

Interestingly enough, I’ve been thinking over this past year that I actually may want to write a gay romance. I’ve been toying with the idea for at least that long, and I know writing a cozy has something to do with that. I also have an idea, I just am not sure how to execute it–but I am going to put it on the list for potential 2023 projects.

And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up and get my day started. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Silver Girl

And now it’s Thursday, my last in the office day of this week and I surprisingly have made it through without much complaint. I am awake again this morning, not feeling particularly tired (I don’t think I slept that well last night, to be honest) but I feel better than I usually do on Thursday mornings, so I will take it.

Yesterday was a marvelous one when it comes to work. I managed to get some more work done on Mississippi River Mischief, and not looking at it for almost a week was the smart thing to do. I removed myself from the agony of forcing myself to write it and thinking it was completely crap, and was able to see it for what it is, while also realizing what I was trying to do with the story. I regained my confidence by stepping away from it and asking for an extension, and now I feel like not only will I get it done but it will be what I actually want it to be.

And then this morning, what do I see on my social media but this marvelous review from Oline Cogdill. Talk about a confidence boost!

Ironically, as I was writing another Blatantly Self-Promotional post last night after finishing working on my new book and I thought, you know, you should do what you never do and reread the book–which could help you come up with other blatant self-promotional post ideas. So, since Paul had a meeting last night, I curled up in my chair and opened one of my author copies of A Streetcar Named Murder, and I’m really glad I did. It may surprise you, Constant Reader, to know that one of the hardest parts of being a writer for me is promoting myself–there are many reasons for this, but the one I want to talk about right now is one in particular; I may circle back around to examining my discomfort with self-promotion later or save it for another post because it may take a lot on unpacking.

But for now, one of the reasons I find promoting myself to be difficult is usually I’ve almost completely forgotten almost everything about the book by the time it’s released. As I have said ad nauseum, I rarely go back and read something I’ve written once it is in print. And usually by the time the book has come out, I have written at least one more or am in the weeds writing another–for example, I am very deep inside of a new Scotty book (which is another New Orleans book, of course) which makes it even harder for me to remember details about the book being released. (I’ve also had to dig into some of the old Scottys for this one I am writing as well–and have been very pleasantly surprised rather than embarrassed and/or disappointed, which is always my fear about reading old work)

And…I liked it. I actually reread my book and liked it. I never cringed, I didn’t slip into editorial/critical mode (“why didn’t you word that better? What is up with this paragraph?” etc etc etc.), and I found myself actually enjoying the ride. Rather than being critical and self-deprecating and all of that shit I usually fall into when rereading my own work, I had a breakthrough of sorts. It’s only taken over forty books and over fifty short stories–even typing the first part of the sentence out makes me feel ridiculous, but it’s how my brain works–but I may have finally broken down the wall and achieved confidence in myself as a writer. It’s been a whirl, really. Last night after I finished reading I thought, “you know, you were really proud of Royal Street Reveillon, and over the last eighteen months you released Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit and you were proud of them, too. And now you’re proud of this one already! Well done, you!”

ANd yes, pride goeth before a fall and I always find myself waiting for the next shoe to drop, but for now, I am going to relish and enjoy this feeling. I may wake up tomorrow and hate everything I’ve ever written again, who knows? But it feels good to take pride in my work, to finally be able to feel proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last twenty years instead of just shrugging it off.

I’ve written over forty books.

I absolutely should be proud of myself.

And on that high note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow morning before my work-at-home duties.

Friends and Neighbors

Ah, community.

What is a cozy mystery without one? I don’t know because I’ve never read one that didn’t have a strong sense of community in it, but for me, the depictions of community is one of the primary draws of cozies.

As I have mentioned before, the vast majority of cozies are generally set in small towns, small communities where everyone always seems to come together, everyone knows everyone, and there’s an undercurrent of caring about others that makes them cozy and comfortable to read. I was worried at first about setting one in New Orleans, to be honest; New Orleans is many things to many different people, but I’ve kind of always seen New Orleans as a darker city than most, and that darkness that is always out there on the periphery of the bright sunshine, no matter how cheerful you might be or how lovely of a day it is. Part of it is the history here–New Orleans was a center of the slave trade, after all, and you don’t get much darker than human trafficking–and of course, the city has always been a major port…and ports aren’t exactly known as sedate places. There has always been a lot of crime here, and you really can’t go anywhere in New Orleans without overhearing people talking about the “crime problem” and shaking their heads at the decline of Western civilization as we know it down here by the riverside.

So, how can I write a light, breezy novel about a city that is so dark?

The key was community, of course. New Orleans is a city, but it’s also a city of neighborhoods, and always has been. Generations of families passed homes and property down to their children and their children and so on. “Where’d you go to high school?” was a question asked because the answer told the asker lots of things. Private school or public? What neighborhood did you grow up in? And as I thought more about it, I realized my lonely block in the lower Garden District has that sense of community to it. Neighbors look out for neighbors. We’ve lived in the same place since either 2002 or 2003; I’m never really sure I can remember when we moved onto the property; those years between moving back here in 2001 and Katrina are kind of blurry for me. But we’ve gotten to know our landlady pretty well as well as some of our neighbors; others have come and gone over the years but we always all end up down at the corner for parades during Carnival, catching throws and hanging out and having a good time.

And I realized I could do the same for Valerie.

In A Streetcar Named Murder I only introduced the reader to a few members of Valerie’s community in the Irish Channel: her best friend and neighbor Lorna; the gay couple next door in one side of a double and one’s mother, Mrs. Domenico, on the other side; and her friend Stacia who lives further down the street. I also mentioned there were a couple of houses being used as Air BnB’s, which may play a part in a book should the series get picked up. I had learned my lesson from the failed Paige spin-off series years ago; the mouthy, brash and snarky best friend cannot be the main character, but the book/community needed someone like that in the book. The main character has to be kind–but there’s always a more colorful secondary character necessary to say the funny and borderline mean things in place of the main character.

This is where Lorna comes in.

Lorna is very colorful indeed, and was a lot of fun to create. She’s married to an airline pilot who is often gone for long stretches of time (his name is Jack Farrow; since he’s a pilot she calls him Captain Jack Farrow). She’s British, speaks multiple languages, is fiercely intelligent and doggedly loyal. She also writes lusty romance novels that are huge bestsellers under the name Felicity Deveraux. Lorna is a great best friend who is also always up for anything, and naturally, she has a huge imagination and a big personality. Interesting and fun as Lorna is, I don’t think I would ever write about her as the main character because, like Paige, she would need to be toned down and I don’t really want to do that to her.

It is Lorna’s ambition to join a Mardi Gras krewe that actually puts Valerie at the scene of the crime in the book. See how that works?

But her neighborhood isn’t her only community, either; there’s a community around Rare Things, the antiques store she inherits–Randall Charpentier, her new boss; Dee, her co-worker; and of course the people who are in and out of the shop–the hot guy from an outer parish who repairs and refinishes furniture, for one–on a regular basis. If it becomes a series, I can flit the cases back and forth from her neighborhood to the store and vice versa; there are all kinds of plots and stories I can tell that could come from both.

And there’s still another community that Valerie belongs to that was only touched on in the first book–the parents’ group at Loyola High (it doesn’t exist in real life, folks, but it’s based on Jesuit), the Cardirents. This is how Valerie knew the victim in this book; they were both in the group, with a fraught history (which is more fraught than Valerie ever knew).

So, yes, it is possible to create the sense of community a cozy mystery requires in New Orleans; New Orleans, in fact, is ripe for it.

And on that note, I will sign off here. More blatant self-promotion to come, no worries on that score!

Come

I woke up this morning to a marvelous thunderstorm, complete with pyrotechnics and thunder so close and loud that the house shakes a little bit. These are the kinds of mornings where you want to turn off the alarm, curl back up and go back to sleep again, but alas and alack, I had to get up for work this morning. I think I slept pretty decently last night; I don’t feel tired this morning and I did wake up at five as has been my wont lately. I was a bit tired when I got home from work yesterday; Paul didn’t get home until later and so I worked on the book for a little while until my mind gave out. I tried to read but was tired, so I just watched some history documentaries about the French royal family until I decided to go to bed and be done with it all. It was a pretty decent day yesterday overall; I managed to get through the day and get all caught up on my day job duties without any issues. Which was nice, of course.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the concept that today is the last day of November already and December is practically here. Christmas already? I’m not ready for it in the least. We don’t decorate anymore since Scooter came to live with us–he sees the tree and decorations as Disneyworld and Epcot–so it never really feels like Christmas completely to me. Maybe this year I should watch A Charlie Brown Christmas? That always used to put me in the Christmas feels. I need to do my Christmas cards this weekend, and I need to ship a box out, as well as try to figure out what to get my parents for the holiday. Paul and I have already discussed and decided our Christmas present will be a major appliance purchase, if our landlady signs off on it; we’ve needed a new refrigerator for quite some time now and I really want to get one with the freezer on the bottom; it makes more sense to have to bend down for the freezer–something you don’t do very often–rather than to get things from the bottom shelves of the refrigerator. Getting old is kind of a bitch. you know? My parents have two refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom, and it really is so much easier on my back and knees….

I did ask for and receive a month’s extension on the book, which is a huge relief and took away a lot of my stress. I still have a lot to do, but at least the pressure valve was turned on and the internal pressure in my brain sort of released a bit. Huzzah? Huzzah. I still want to finish reading Wanda Morris’ book–it’s so good and so well done that whenever I am sort of tired I put the book back down because I want to give it my full and not-tired attention so I can appreciate the writing the way it deserves (check her books out, if you haven’t already. Wanda is fantastic.); maybe this weekend, after errands and editing work on the book, I can curl up in my easy chair and while away a few hours with Wanda.

I was a bit amused to see some reactions to my questioning yesterday about whether I should continue to use pictures of men with amazing bodies or just pictures in general–no one said to stop using the hot men pictures, so I am going to continue to use them. I may start mixing in some other type pictures, of New Orleans or Louisiana; there are some fantastic local photographers who do amazing work that I would like to promote here, with buy links to websites and so forth, to help support local artists, but at the same time I am not certain if that would be a copyright violation or not? I think it’s okay as long as credit is given and I am not using the images to sell something? Of course, I have a gazillion pictures I’ve taken that I own the rights to, so maybe I could just use those. I don’t know. I’m not entirely certain why I am even worrying about the hot guy pictures now when it never bothered me or even occurred to me that I should change my ways before. I also don’t want to keep doing the same thing simply because it’s what I have always done, either; that kind of thinking has always annoyed me. Change isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes its necessary for growth. As someone who would like to keep growing in every way (except for weight) rather than atrophying in my sixties, I like to keep my options open at any rate. But at least for now, I will commit to using the hot-guy images through the end of the year; I do need to find my archive of Christmas themed hot men, though. Tis the season and all that. I also need to gather a list of Christmas song titles to use for the holiday posts. Heavy sigh, my work here in never done.

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

Goodbye Baby

Tuesday morning and all is quiet at this ungodly hour.

I’m up earlier than usual because I made the decision, whilst I was out of town, that the smart thing to do was get up when I actually wake up, rather than just continuing to lie in the bed awake. It’s comfortable, to be sure, and getting out from under my pile of blankets is never an easy thing to do….but it’s also wasteful of time and staying in bed doesn’t make getting up with the alarm any easier, nor does it make me less tired later in the day. All in all, it’s not going to kill me to get up earlier, so today is my first day trying it (not really, I woke up an hour earlier than necessary yesterday and just went ahead and got up then, so this is my second day of trying this to see how it all works for me). I had errands to run after work last night and I had to write a promotional piece for another blog for A Streetcar Named Murder–there really is no worse timing than having a book coming out as you are trying to meet the deadline on another.

It’s also weird because at the same time I have to try to remember things from Streetcar, which was finished months ago, and of course I’ve moved on to something new that I need to focus on. Heavy sigh. But I think the post I wrote last night is fun and interesting, and hopefully will spark some interest in the book. I’ve also been asked to sign at an event here in New Orleans in January–I want to say ALA, but I could be wrong–and I’ve also agreed to return to the dual Murder event weekend in Alabama yet again. I think this is the fourth time I’ve been invited? I love Margaret and Tammy, and I always have a lovely time at the event.

WE started watching that Hulu series about Chippendales last night, Welcome to Chippendales, starring Kumail Nanjiani as Steve Batterjee. I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about Chippendales and the resultant murder of one of the partners, but I’d forgotten about Dorothy Stratten’s connection to the club before she was murdered (someone really needs to do another series or movie about her life and death; Star 80 was good but…). It’s entertaining enough, and Chippendales also has something to do with the societal change in the sexualization and objectification of the male body that began in the 1970’s (along with the explosion of gay porn and Playgirl, followed by Calvin Klein ads in the 1980s), as well as the beauty standard for men. I recently (it may have been longer ago than what counts as recent, but time has lost all meaning to me now) commented to one of my younger gay male co-workers that “you used to be able to tell if someone was gay or not by how well built they were; if they clearly spent time on their bodies at the gym and ate right to improve the way they looked, they were gay because straight men didn’t give a shit.” Tribal tattoos also used to be a tell that a hot guy was gay. NOT ANYMORE. And the guys today–whatever their sexual orientation–have even more amazing bodies than we used to have back in the day; the definition and the focus on ab development and the absence of any body fat is far more pronounced amongst hot young men these days than it used to be. And they are everywhere. My Instagram and Twitter feeds are often filled with beautiful shots of incredibly handsome young men with unbelievable bodies; some of which I’ve sometimes shared here on the blog. I’ve also been seriously considering going to something else with the blog images, to be honest–I know some people would miss the sexy men images, but it also might be keeping other people away at the same time. I don’t know. But I started using pictures of hot men years ago because when the blog cross-posted to social media it would always show up as with a pale blue square box with a pencil in it, which I hated. When I talked about books, the book cover would come over, so I decided to use images of very hot men that essentially pop up somewhere on the Internet throughout the course of the day and it kind of became an ingrained habit, a default if you will, perhaps even a brand–I hate thinking of myself or anything I do as a writer as a ‘brand,’ and yes, I do recognize that my writing is a product for sale, but it’s not a pack of T-shirts or underwear or a pair of pants hanging on a sales rack. So, do I really want my ‘brand’ for my blog to be sexy shirtless men?

Probably a little late to worry about that now.

The Chippendales calendar–how many years did I buy that? I can remember being deathly afraid to take it to the cash register at the bookstore…but now that I am thinking about it, I don’t remember which bookstores I used to patronize in Fresno. Perhaps a Barnes and Noble at the mall? A Waldenbooks, maybe? But yes, I used to feel my face burning with embarrassment as I tried to nonchalantly buy a Chippendales calendar, all the while thinking the cashier knows I am gay because why else would I be buying this calendar? Now I laugh at the memory of the shame I used to feel. The cashier couldn’t have given two shits about what I was buying, and even if they did, who cares? I had always been attracted more to athletes than any other type of male; I always had a thing for muscles and worked out bodies. Why, I don’t know; whether I was simply wired that way for physical attraction, or if it’s because the first naked bodies of men that I saw were those of athletes in school. Junior high was the first time I ever had to change into gym clothes, shower and be around other naked boys, and I was never comfortable doing so. The locker room before and after gym in junior high was a nightmare, but once I was in high school and on sports teams…the boys I was attracted to were usually athletes. That never really changed over the years as I got older and grew more comfortable with my sexuality–what changed were the bodies. Whereas only athletes and dancers, gay men, and narcissistic straight men used to regularly go to the gym and work out their bodies to build muscle, gradually it became a thing for all men across the board, regardless of orientation. On the rare occasions when I go to the gym now, I see incredibly well-built and well-muscled young men all the time–and while thirty years ago I would have assumed they were gay or bisexual, now I can’t assume anything. I just marvel at the shift in societal attitudes towards men no longer in school who continue to exercise and work out–whether to be healthier or for something to show off and attract women, who knows?

But aesthetically, I appreciate them.

So, the quandary remains. Do I try to rebrand the blog by using other types of pictures, and if so, what kind should I start using? Would people miss the hot guys? Would more people be drawn to the blog rather than closing the browser window as soon as the hot guy loads?

Or do I just not worry about it–as I have never worried about people coming here to read the entries–and keep on as I have been? Decisions, decisions.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Bleed to Love Her

Monday morning and all is well in the Lost Apartment as I swill coffee and brace myself for the day (and week) ahead.

I returned from Kentucky on Friday. Both the voyage up and back–despite their great length and the brittle stiffness of my aging body–didn’t seem quite so bad or to take as long as they usually do. I did make great time in both directions, while listening to two audiobooks (Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 on the way up, Carol Goodman’s The Disinvited Guest on the way back; both are superb and highly recommended) but of course once I got home on Friday night I was quite exhausted. I spent Saturday trying to get caught up on the apartment itself while football games played in the background (more on that later). I did a lot of laundry, a lot of dishes, ran errands and made groceries, before finally settling in to watch the LSU/Texas A&M game, which was disappointing (more on that later). Yesterday I got up early (I’ve been getting up early a lot lately) and chose to stay off-line for the most part. I did clean out the junk out of my inbox, wrote up the books I read while on my trip for blog entries, and wrote another blatant self-promotion post for A Streetcar Named Murder while also trying to get a handle on everything I need to get done for this coming week. I felt very well-rested yesterday at long last. I didn’t have as much trouble sleeping while I was away as I usually do, which was cool–I found another sleep-aid that seems to be working very nicely–but Friday night I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I would, given how worn out I was from the drive. Saturday night’s sleep, however, was quite marvelous.

Ah, the Insomnia Chronicles. How I long for the day when my sleep isn’t of concern (or at least as not as much interest) to me.

The weather was also kind of terrible when I got back–raining and humid, but cool; the kind where you aren’t sure if you need to turn on the heat or the air, and yesterday there were tornadoes and high winds in the river and bayou parishes outside of New Orleans. Yesterday however was beautiful; sunny with blue skies with the low in the mid-sixties and the high in the mid-seventies. Not bad for Christmas season, is it? It’s also hard to wrap my mind around the idea that it’s Christmas already, to be honest. I got a great Kindle deal on a collection of Christmas crime short stories, which I am really looking forward to digging into–perhaps a story a day for the season? The Christmas Murder Mystery project? (You know I love me some projects to work on.) It’s also weird that it’s the holiday season again, which means Carnival is also right around the block. YIKES. This also means I need to start planning around the parade schedule and when I need to leave work and so forth. Ugh, much as I love Carnival, it’s always stressful and exhausting, if fun and delightful.

It was an interesting weekend of college football. The Mississippi-Mississippi State game on Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, right up to its crazy end; South Carolina somehow managed to beat Clemson; and of course, Michigan blew out Ohio State in Columbus. This kind of set the stage for the LSU game on Saturday night–I had a very queasy feeling about the game, partly because it seemed as though everyone was looking ahead to next week’s SEC title game with Georgia and the possibility of a play-off berth for the Tigers; but Texas A&M always plays LSU hard, no matter how bad their record is, and for some reason they’ve decided LSU is their big rivalry in the conference. The game looked awful; LSU was playing very sloppy on both sides of the ball and my heart and spirit continued to flag with each missed tackle and each missed opportunity. It was disappointing, to be sure, but on the other hand, I am thrilled to death with how the season went. No one gave LSU a shot at having a winning record, let alone beating Alabama and winning the West division, so I am choosing to be grateful for a wonderful winning season after two seasons of mediocrity and looking forward to an even better, more glittering future for the Tigers. I have faith in Coach Kelly, I have faith in what he is building there, and who knows? In a year or two we may win it all again. GEAUX TIGERS!

In other blatant self-promotional news, I also appeared recently on Alexia Gordon’s The Cozy Corner, which was a lot of fun, and I also appeared on Dru’s Book Musing, and how lovely that she gave me such a wonderful view. Thanks to both Dru and Alexia, both being lovely people who have gone out of their way to be kind to me and A Streetcar Named Murder, for which I will always be eternally grateful. It’s hard to believe the book is going to be published soon! And don’t worry, there will be plenty more blatant self-promotion to come.

PLENTY.

I also spent some good time with the book yesterday and it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, as I feared it would be. Yes, the first half needs some work, but not nearly as much as I had thought and I also went through and made a character list as well as outlined the first half. Tomorrow I am going to work on the edits and finishing the outline for the rest of the book; and I am also going to write in and ask for more time. I never finish on time, do I? But the book is good, there’s lots of material for the second half, and I am kind of excited about getting this one completely under control at long last. Huzzah!

We also binged 1899 yesterday; it’s from the same people who did the superlative German series Dark, and had the added bonus of having one of our favorite actors from Elité, Miguel Bernardeau, in the cast as well. It’s delightfully creepy and strange, and you never have a very good sense of what is going on (like Dark), so of course we were glued to the set the entire time. It’s quite good, actually; I’m not sure how I feel yet about the final episode other than curiosity about how that is going to lead into a second season–because the finale raised more questions than it answered (like a good finale), but I’ll be happy to continue watching.

I feel rested this morning, though, which is lovely. I am sure by the middle of the week I’ll be tired and short of temper again, but for now, for this morning, I am going to just enjoy myself feeling rested and relaxed in the meantime. I have, as always, an insane amount of work to get done this week, but right now I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet of this morning before I have to start getting ready to leave for work; I even got up earlier than I usually do on Mondays.

And on that note, I am heading headfirst into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday morning, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat at you again tomorrow morning.

For All We Know

The world shut down in March of 2020, in the face of a deadly new virus that was spreading around the world, and spreading quickly. It was a major paradigm shift; everything changed and the world would never be the same as it was before. As everyone locked down and adapted (or decided it was all a hoax and chafed against the intrusion), the question began being asked of writers: how will you handle the pandemic in your work, or will you address it at all? A lot of authors said that they wouldn’t address it, because they couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about it, or revisit it again after it was over. I came down firmly on the side of “we have to address it”; pointing out that Hurricane Katrina was a paradigm shift for New Orleans and Louisiana authors, and we all had faced the same issue and question. Some writers chose not to deal with it at all, some stopped writing entirely, and others–like me–addressed it. I found it incredibly cathartic to write about the disaster by viewing it through someone else’s eyes, and of course, much of what Chanse saw and dealt with was taken directly from my own experience. Writing the book in some ways helped me to heal from the emotional trauma and deep depression I was experiencing, and I don’t think I would have possibly gotten over it had I not written it out of my system. I will undoubtedly deal with the pandemic in a Scotty book at some point–I already have the title for it picked out and a folder created to keep my notes and ideas in–but I am not quite there as yet.

Leave it to Carol Goodman to not only do it, but do it incredibly well.

“We’re here.”

Reed’s voice wakes me from the fitful sleep I’d fallen into somewhere north of Portland, the slap of wipers and the sluice of tires accomplishing what bourbon and sleeping pills had failed to do for the past two weeks. I open my eyes to a wall of sodden gray the color of wet cement. I can feel it pressing down my throat–

I cough.

Reed swivels his head toward me, blue eyes feverish in the gloom above his white surgical mask.

“I’m fine.” I reach for the water bottle and swig lukewarm water that tastes like copper. “The others–“

“Behind us. Crosby’s driving like an old woman, trying to protect his precious Volvo’s paint job. Honestly, for a supposed socialist he likes the trappings of the bourgeoisie.” He grins, his bones sharpening under sallow skin. With all the stress of the recent news and preparations to come to the island, neither of us has been eating much for the past few weeks.

“They could have gotten lost.”

I’ve been a huge fan of Carol Goodman’s since my first dip into her canon, The Sea of Lost Girls. I have since been dipping back into at times as a reward to myself; she’s easily moved into my top ten list of current writers and won’t be dislodged anytime soon. She’s won numerous awards–deservedly–and is, to me at least, the modern incarnation of the great Mary Stewart. Goodman’s novels are decidedly Gothic and extremely smart and literate, with strong characters that are sharply defined and well rounded that the reader can easily identify with as well as like or dislike.

The premise of The Disinvited Guest is that another pandemic has descended upon the world after the 2020 COVID-19 one. Wealthy Reed Harper has decided to quarantine on an island his family owns–Fever Island, off the coast of Maine and near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River–since his wife Lucy has residual health problems since the first pandemic. Invited along are his lesbian sister Liz, a painter; Nico, Liz’ partner, a photographer; Ada, an old college friend of both Reed and Lucy who works now as an ER nurse; and her husband, also a medical professional in hospital administration, Crosby–who’s a bit of a dick. The remaining character is Mac, whose mother was a housekeeper for the Harper family working on the island. Mac knew Reed and Liz as children, and now he lives on the island as a caretaker. Reed, who also suffers from OCD, has carefully planned out every last aspect of this quarantine adventure–and while the quarantine and safety is the primary issue at stake here, any reader of crime or suspense knows that having seven people living together on a remote, isolated island is the perfect set-up for personality clashes and battles and intrigues and, of course, for murder. How many horror films or murder mysteries are set in such locales? (Goodman of course is wise enough to make an Agatha Christie/And Then There Were None reference in the text; the geographic elements of the island–the Dead Pool, the bog, Dead Man’s Cove, etc.–also sound like something out of the Hardy Boys, and she acknowledges that several times as well.)

There’s also some excellent backstory. Fever Island is named this because during the Irish immigration period of the late 1840’s–the potato famine and typhus epidemic–the ships with ill passengers were sent to Fever Island to quarantine before being admitted into Canada. A makeshift hospital is set up on the island, nuns come out to operate it along with several doctors–including a Harper ancestor–and so there is also a makeshift cemetery on the island. There’s also another legend, going back even further than the quarantine days; the earliest settlers believed a woman was a witch and essentially buried her alive on the island. The story claims she placed a curse on the island and summoned the devil. This is enough of a horrible backstory to make easily the possibility of supernatural forces at work on the island completely believable, which only adds to the suspense. There’s also the backstory of Reed and Liz’s own experiences spending their summers on the island with their horrible father and alcoholic mother; Reed’s dead former girlfriend, who died on the island during the first pandemic, along with his parents; and of course the diary of Dr. Nathaniel Reed Harper, who details life on the quarantine island and the growing suspicion amongst the superstitious fever victims and a group of sailors stranded their by a shipwreck that the witch’s curse is haunting them and that maybe even one of their party has been possessed by the witch and has summoned the devil.

Ada and Lucy were best friends and roommates in college, with Reed as the third side of their triangle. Lucy has also written one well-received novel, but hasn’t written anything since…and her discovery of the diary begins to inspire her to write about the island. Goodman is quite excellent at weaving the multiple storylines and multiple time-lines–Lucy is flashing back to the original pandemic, which is what brought her and Reed together as a couple; the incidents from the 1840’s as revealed in Dr. Harper’s journal; and of course, what happened on the island during the original pandemic.

Strange things start happening once they are all safely ensconced on Fever Island, and of course there are the inevitable personality clashes, which amp up the tension and then, of course, the deaths begin. At first Lucy can’t help but wonder if the island is indeed cursed–but slowly begins to realize that there is a very clever murderer on the island pursuing a definite agenda, but who?

And I love how Goodman chose to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than setting the book during that shutdown, she instead chose to write about a future quarantine/shutdown, with the COVID-19 one in the distant past (ten years or so) but having a lot of impact on what is happening in the present.

I loved every minute and every word of The Disinvited Guest, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Destiny Rules

Sunday, Sunday. It feels cold again outside this morning–you can tell, even inside; the downstairs floor is always the giveaway–but I slept really well last night and feel very rested this morning. I have so much to get done today it’s almost daunting, but I think with the good night’s sleep and feeling rested I should be able to plow through everything I need to do today before leaving tomorrow. And there is a lot. I did make great progress yesterday and did get a lot done, not enough, but progress was made. I avoided the television for the most part–it was one, so I could sit in the living room and see what was going on, but I managed to never allow myself to settle in and get sucked into the games. It was a crazy college football day in which the top four all barely managed to win their games, and then of course Number 5 Tennessee got blown out of the stadium by South Carolina last night. Paul went to the office yesterday and when I knocked off for the day I started watching that game because the LSU game started later, and wow, who saw that coming? Or Arkansas blowing out Mississippi? LSU played well despite poor weather conditions and managed to beat UAB 41-10 for their ninth win of the season, with Texas A&M all that is left in the regular season. LSU could have a rare ten win regular season for the first time since 2019, which nobody saw coming, with an extremely outside shot at the play-offs–which would require beating Georgia for the SEC title, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. But what a marvelous turnaround season for my Tigers. Who knew?

I have groceries to pick up, writing to do, need to pack, need to air up the car tires, and have all kinds of things on the list to do today. Yikes. I cannot let Paul distract me or suck me into a Saints game or anything either before six pm this evening; I have to get everything done in that time frame because that’s when I am calling it a day and taking the rest of the evening off. I don’t want to have to get up super-early tomorrow, but the good news is I don’t think I need to get up at six unless I do so organically, which is, of course, entirely possible. I have to make sure the books I am listening to in the car are downloaded and ready to go when I pull away from the curb tomorrow morning, and I need to pay a bill or two today as well.

I also managed to get better organized yesterday–still not completely there, or as organized as I should be, going forward–but it helped to have the book research and my notes and everything all pulled together into one place for review. I am most likely going to close my browser when I finish posting this for the duration of the day; although I am going to want to spend some time later composing emails to send tomorrow morning before I leave for the trip. It’s never ending being a Gregalicious, I have to say. But this was a good weekend; I feel like I’m getting my head back together and back into the game, and it feels functional again, which is saying something. Maybe it’s just because I feel rested this morning, I don’t know and can’t really say for sure, but it is very nice to wake up and feel rested and relaxed and have my mind working completely.

I hate feeling tired more than anything, really.

But my coffee tastes marvelous this morning and I feel terrific. There’s still some serious cleaning to do as well–isn’t there always? There’s a load of dishes needing to be put away and another load ready to go inside of the dishwasher, too–the endless cycle of use and clean, use and clean, ad nauseum ad infinitum. Will this last and will I get everything off my to-do list before six this evening? It remains to be seen, but I do know that right now I feel great and hope this will last through the day. We’ll see how it all goes, but I am optimistic right now and that’s always a plus, really.

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

Everybody Finds Out

Saturday!

I allowed myself to sleep in later than usual this morning–despite waking at seven as I inevitably do–but it felt warm and comfortable and cozy in the bed, and I knew it was a cold morning. It’s temperate inside the apartment–I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to being comfortable inside during cold weather, but the floor is cold beneath my socks here in the kitchen, so I need to put my house shoes on. I can also feel a bit of cold from the windows, and it’s not sunny outside but kind of overcast and gray. LSU plays its final home game of the season tonight against UAB, which will be a nice way to cap off the evening before bed tonight. Yesterday was yet another exhausting day, but last night we finished the season of American Horror Story: NYC–not entirely sure how I feel about it, to be honest–and then started the new season of our favorite show, Elité, on Netflix. Not entirely sure where the season is going, but I am here for it. There are, I think, too many new characters (kind of like how uneven season four felt, with the change in cast for over half the show; again, the rest of the original cast departed after last season so again, there were new characters to add and new cast members) but it might work. I like they’ve added a transman to the cast, with an actual storyline–I am curious as to how transpeople feel about the story they’ve given Nico, but I will say this–I’ve never seen the transmasc experience depicted in this much depth. And of course, everyone is stunningly beautiful.

And of course, I am completely vested in the Iván/Patrick relationship as I was last season.

Today is going to be a work day. This morning as I wake up and drink my coffee, I will finish the kitchen and the filing before diving headfirst into my book. I am behind as always, but am hoping that I can make some decent progress this weekend. The story is whirling around in my head and starting to come together, but a strong push this weekend, some work over the week while in Kentucky, and another strong push next weekend means I could possibly actually make the December 1 deadline–or at least take yet another weekend to finish it off that first weekend of December. But I am much more hopeful and confident about it than I was to begin with–just last weekend, in fact–and so today I am going to start pushing my way through to the next part of the book.

I also want to do another BSP post for Streetcar, since I probably won’t have the opportunity to post much from Kentucky. So, so much to do.

And I think I am going to treat myself to a cappuccino this morning. I love my new electric Moka pot–I liked my old espresso machine, but it was too much work, frankly, and it takes up a lot of space in my cupboard, so I decided to get a different style espresso maker, and seeing that Moka pots (which so many people swear by) now come in electric versions (so you don’t have to use the stove, which always made me nervous) kind of made up my mind, so I ordered one and now can have a relatively easily made cappuccino whenever I so choose. I definitely will be taking one in the car with me Monday morning as I set out for the Great Cold North.

I also need to order groceries this morning for pick-up tomorrow. Like I said, soooo much to do before I head out on Monday morning. I just hope that I have time to get to everything, because my preference would be to leave relatively early on Monday morning, but it will also depend on when I feel like waking up. Leaving at seven makes the most sense, despite having to get up so fucking early, but that would get me there around eight pm their time, which would get me through Chattanooga and Knoxville outside of rush hour–both are nightmares when it comes to rush hour–but do I want to get up at six on what is sure to be a very cold Monday morning? Decisions, decisions.

And on that note, I am going to make my cappuccino and head into my day. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in again tomorrow morning.