The Last Time

Saturday I was interviewed for Brad Shreve’s Gay Mystery podcast (links to come when it’s available), and some of the questions he asked have hung around in my brain for quite a while now. We talked for a while before the taping commenced, and then continued chatting once we’d wrapped up what would actually air, which was also kind of lovely. (I’ve come to realize that one of the many original reasons I stopped using the phone was because I talk too much; phone calls involving me tend to last far too long because I never shut up, as so many unfortunates have discovered at some point.)

I had been remembering the long-gone queer independent bookstores lately, because Facebook memories had brought up a photo I’d posed for in front of the old A Different Light on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, where I was doing a signing/reading for Mardi Gras Mambo in either April or May of 2006. I really do miss visiting those stores–Outwrite in Atlanta was another particular favorite of mine–and it was also interesting to look at the books in the window display I was standing beside; titles by Christopher Rice, Edmund White, Andy Zeffer, John Morgan Wilson, and Joe Keenan, among others. I think that tour was my first time ever signing there; I think I signed there at least once more–on the Love, Bourbon Street tour, and by the time I was touring again–or ready to do appearances again after that–A Different Light in West Hollywood would close; I would eventually do two appearances at the one in San Francisco as well before it closed.

Then again, my memory is sketchy, as I have pointed out quite a bit lately.

But I do miss the queer bookstores–the queer newspapers, too. It was always fun to go into a queer bookstore and look through the new arrivals table, the bestseller racks, and so on. I used to always spend about a hundred bucks every time I signed in a queer bookstore–primarily to thank them for letting me appear in their store, and I have always overspent every time I’ve set foot in a bookstore. I used to always draw decent audiences, too–for me, decent is eight and up–and I remember one time at ADL in WeHo there were about fifty or so people there to see me; that was kind of a trip. (I also hyperventilated before I went out to read to that audience, as well; one thing that has never changed about me, from beginning of my career to now, is that speaking in public to an audience is excruciating torture for me–at least before hand, when I go through every level of stage fright.)

I also managed to get started on working on Chapter 11 of Bury Me in Shadows last evening, and whew–what a piece of shit THAT chapter is. As I went through the file, changing verbs and tenses from present to past, it took all of my self-control not to start erasing and deleting and rewriting. I literally said out loud at one point, “Jesus fucking Christ, this is badly written” just as Paul walked into the kitchen to get something to drink (a diet Coke, for those who pay attention to those sort of details) and he asked, “Who are you reading?” and I laughed before replying “Me. I really suck sometimes.” It’s really true; for someone who has published as much as I have and been short-listed for as many awards as I have (and yes, I know how that sounds, but I’m making a point here, do you mind?) my first and second drafts can be pretty horrible–astonishingly horrible, as I found out last night rereading this chapter. Jesus, it’s terrible. But that’s fine; the manuscript itself is probably too long anyway, and so I should be able to cut quite a lot out of this one during the revision process; there’s a bunch of filler, really, and not particularly good filler, in this chapter that can just be stricken from the record and as such, the chapter can be made much stronger.

Low bar at this point, but there it is.

We’re still in a flash flood watch through tomorrow morning, but a quick glance through social media has shown me that Beta has come ashore in Texas already, but we are still dealing with those break away storm bands, at least through today. Yesterday it actually felt chilly; I put on a sweat jacket at the office, and probably should’ve worn pants. Today it’s not even going to get into the eighties; it’s practically fall.

We did watch the enormously disappointing Saints game last night on Monday Night Football, and of course, this Saturday the LSU season starts with a home game against Mississippi State. It’s very weird; I am not sure how comfortable I am following college football this year. I love college football but this year already is so off and weird, and I’m not sure I should support it or not this year. Should they playing, given how the pandemic has played out thus far? Is watching the games and following how the season plays out actually showing support for young athletes having their health put at risk? Doesn’t playing put their bodies at risk even in a non-pandemic time?

Deep thoughts on a Tuesday morning with the dark pressing against my windows.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Squeeze Box

I didn’t write a goddamned thing yesterday.

I did a podcast interview yesterday; Eric Beetner and S. W. Lauden very graciously invited me to be on their Writer Types broadcast, which I had been on briefly before–they’d gone around on Saturday afternoon at St. Petersburg Bouchercon to talk to people, and they caught up to me in the bar where I was drinking with Chris Holm, his lovely wife Katrina Niidas Holm, Stephanie Gayle and I don’t remember who else was around at the time (read: drinking in the bar). I was impressed with the questions they asked me; usually interviews tend to be rather softball and don’t require me to actually think a whole lot. But the questions they asked me put me into a reflective mood, and I kind of spent the rest of yesterday thinking, and remembering. My career as a published author of fiction (I don’t say writer because I started in publishing as a journalist in 1996; and while I continued to write for newspapers and magazines until around 2003 or so, I never really considered myself–and still don’t, to this day–a journalist).

When I started out all those years ago, it was possible to be a gay writer of gay mysteries and stay cloistered away from the mainstream mystery community. There were gay bookstores, newspapers, and magazines; those no longer exist and the publications that do aren’t really interested in books–at least ones that aren’t written by celebrities. I got some local press in the Times-Picayune, thanks to the divine (and still missed) Diana Pinckley and Susan Larson, but I was able to build my career entirely within the gay community. I don’t think that career path is possible for anyone today; I have no idea what to tell young gay writers just starting out nowadays because they can’t do what I did, back in the day–the bookstores I used to always do appearances at (Outwrite in Atlanta, A Different Light in West Hollywood and San Francisco, Lambda Rising in DC and Baltimore, Oscar Wilde in New York, and I forget the names of others) no longer exist. Talking to Eric and Steve, I remembered those days when I used to show up to signings in a baseball cap and shorts and a tank top; and I kind of missed it. I’ve not done a book signing in an actual bricks-and-mortar bookstore since Rebecca Chance and I both appeared at Murder by the Book in Houston, which was either 2012 or 2013? But book signings aren’t as effective a promotional tool for a writer like me, in a niche market–but going to conferences and appearing on panels gets me more bang for my buck and exposes me to a lot more potential readers than appearing in a store ever would. I would love to do another signing at Murder by the Book; John McDougall and McKenna Jordan are two of my favorite people in this business and I have friends in Houston as well…but then I worry about all the trouble a signing would be for the store and worry no one would show up to make it worth their while to have me in the store.

Plus, I have a new car so the drive over wouldn’t be terrifying the way it always used to be.

Well, newer car. I guess now that I’ve had it for two years it’s not really a new car anymore.

Ah, well. As you can tell, Eric and Steve sent me down memory lane. Who knows what blog entries that might lead to?

And now back to the spice mines.

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