Who Could Ever Doubt My Love

Wednesday and sort of Hump Day. Ordinarily this would be my last day of work in the office for the week, but I have to go in tomorrow; next week my in-office days will be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and that’s what they will be going forward. This will be enormously helpful during Parade Season, which means I only need to leave early on a couple of days during Carnival, which is much easier to handle.

Yesterday was not a good day. I could tell when I woke up yesterday morning that the day was going to be off–the energy didn’t feel right. I wasn’t tired, but it was, as noted, the second day of insomnia/not sleeping well–but I never felt tired or worn out all day, but even when I got to the office yesterday morning I could tell the energy was off and it wasn’t going to be a great day. Everything felt just a little off, if you know what I mean? And since everything felt off I was on edge, and so when the day took a turn towards the darker side, I thought, ah, yes, I KNEW it was going to be this kind of day. I did manage to get through the day, though–felt overwhelmed only a couple of times–and managed to get another chapter done on the book last night (I was emotionally drained and exhausted and was very happy to get that much done, frankly, and was also proud I fought through the negativity and didn’t give in to it, thinking I am going to get a chapter finished no matter how shitty the day was and I did. Once that was done and I did some chores around the Lost Apartment, I got some clarity and realized everything will be fine and everything will get done: stress is the mindkiller.

I slept a little better last night than the previous two, even though I woke up around four thirty this morning and had some trouble getting back to sleep–I dozed on and off for the last hour and a half before getting up–and already I have a sense that today is better; the chemicals in my brain settled or something …or all that stress simply built up to a point that would have eventually boiled over into a breakdown of sorts (usually a meltdown, in the privacy of my own home) had I not worked on the book last night; stepping into that world was almost like washing the day off in a way; by the time I was finished with the chapter I was revising my mood had dramatically improved and I felt better about everything that had been making me crazy yesterday. I hate that “on edge” feeling, and that’s pretty much what yesterday was–like I was waiting for a shoe to drop, and when the shoes did drop (I don’t know how I sensed that it would be yesterday), at least I hadn’t been already having a good day so it didn’t feel like the day was ruined, if that makes sense in any way?

But I feel in a good place this morning–doesn’t mean the day won’t go south at some point, that’s part of the beauty and terror of each new day–and feel like I can get a handle on everything and make some clear-eyed unemotional decisions about how to move forward with everything and get everything under control again. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all–staying the same and not evolving, there’s the bad thing, and who wants everything to just stay the same as it ever was? Everything changes eventually in order to survive, right? And I think that my focus this year has to remain clear-eyed and I need to keep my eye on the prize going forward. This year I am going to make a conscious, concerted effort to find an agent to represent me for Chlorine. This year I am going to write Chlorine. Those are the two most important goals for 2022 on my list–the rest of the writing I’ll figure out as I go; I know I want to finish the novellas and maybe write another Scotty while I try to get an agent with Chlorine. I also know that I have to be very strict and tunnel-focused on it to get the first draft–the all important first draft–finished. I think I have four or five chapters done already; it needs to come in at a very lean and tight eighty thousand words for the voice and tone to work properly, and with any luck and some strong focus I can get that first draft in place by the end of March, methinks. I have a ton of Bouchercon anthology work to get done once the current manuscript is finished, but I also can’t not be writing at the same time.

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.

Yesterday Once More

I’ve always believed that it is smarter to set goals every year rather than resolutions; resolutions have almost become kind of a joke in that no one ever really keeps them past the first few weeks of the new year. Years ago, I decided to change that up and set goals to achieve rather than resolutions to change behavior, and that has worked out much better for me. Sure, there have been some of the same goals set every year that have never been achieved (I’m looking at you, find an agent) but I find that it all seems to work out in the end, and the goals I never achieve and carry over just maybe need some more of my energy and focus applied to them

Before, however, I get into the goals for one Gregalicious in 2022, I’d like to go over some of the things that stood out for me in 2021, both good and bad.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021: I was able to visit New York in November and then head up to Boston by train for Crime Bake, and it was a marvelous experience; I learned a lot more family history; made the list of
“other distinguished work” in Best Mystery and Suspense; finished writing and published Bury Me in Shadows at long last; finished the Kansas book finally; I read some great books and watched some great movies and television shows; signing a book contract with Crooked Lane; sold some short stories (“The Snow Globe”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and “Night Follows Night”, among possible others I cannot recall at the moment); a visit to the Gardner Museum whilst in Boston; I bought a new computer with which I am still rather pleased; and I did some more deep diving into New Orleans history, which has been incredibly fun.

LOW LIGHTS: Hurricane Ida and the ensuing horrific power loss at precisely the worst time of the year to be without climate control in New Orleans (will never ride out another storm of that size again, ever); the on-going pandemic canceling the Edgars and conferences and limiting/prohibiting travel; no Williams Fest/S&S again; the horrible polar vortex that brought record low temperatures to New Orleans during Carnival and we had no heat, so I spent Fat Tuesday freezing under many layers of clothes, layers of blankets, and with a space heater on and still was shivering and cold and miserable; my inability to finish writing the first draft of Chlorine; and of course, not finishing any of the novellas I really wanted to get finished this past year–and any number of short stories as well.

I think the biggest goal I want to set for 2022 has to do with Chlorine. I want to get a viable first draft finished as soon as I can, because the second part of the goal with Chlorine is to finally get representation, or at least try again. I think once I get this current manuscript finished and some of the stories and novellas I have in progress out of the way, I can focus on getting Chlorine finished and out on spec. My goal is to make that my March project, giving me January and February to finish all the other stuff and get it out of the way.

My second goal, also to do with writing, is to get the next short story collection pulled together as well as the novella collections. I think I have enough completed work to get the story collection turned in this year–some of the stories I have in mind for it are still in progress, of course, and of course I have three completed drafts of novellas that need to be redone, revised, and two others that need to be written (or do I? I am now remembering that there’s a third that needs a revision but has a completed draft, so that’s four–and now that I think about it more deeply there are three in some sort of progress that I should be able to get finished in the new year). There’s also the essay collection, which is going to take some serious focus and concentration to pull together. I also want to write a Scotty book this year…which is a LOT to have on one’s plate in one year. (This could, of course, all change should Crooked Lane want a follow-up to the book I am currently writing; this is the sort of thing that makes someone like me–a planner–crazy because I cannot control what requests are going to be made for work from me.)

Next goal is, naturally, work out related. I need to make it to the gym three times per week, going forward into this new year. My fitness regimen has been all over the place since the pandemic started, but it’s been a lot more consistent since the pandemic started than it was in the (many) years prior when I just stopped going entirely and allowed my body to not only go to seed but to start breaking down. I feel better when I lift weights and stretch, and I should also add a cardio day to my workout schedule. I want my goal weight to remain 200–I’m not sure what I weigh now, frankly, but I know it’s not 225, which was where I’d allowed myself to get–and I’d like to get into 32 waist pants (comfortably) again in the new year. (I can get into 32’s in stretchy jeans, but 33’s in regular jeans, while I can fit into them, aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be, and right now comfort above all else.) I don’t think I’ll ever get my Gumby-like flexibility back again, but the stretching does feel incredibly good when I do it (I also want to add stretching daily to the regimen; I can stretch at home just as easily as I can at the gym) so it needs to become more of a routine thing for me.

My next goal is to break my lifelong habit of falling into procrastination at every opportunity. While I will be the first to admit that it’s best to listen to your brain and your body and to not try to push them into things when they are exhausted or tired or fried, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and I own that completely: oh, there’s plenty of time to do this or oh I will just get this done tomorrow is too easy a habit to fall into; even as I write this I am thinking Oh I can go to the store tomorrow and I can also write tomorrow and there’s no need for me to do any of this today despite the fact I feel rested and relaxed and creative. So I am going to finish this and then I am going to get cleaned up and get back to my writing (the groceries, on the other hand, can 100% wait until tomorrow).

Another goal is to keep on top of the housework and the filing–and by that, I am also including the storage attic and the storage facility. I want to get the attic cleared out, and I want to clear out the storage as well so i can stop spending that money every month. This isn’t as easy as one might expect, but I figure if I can get rid of a box in the attic every week–again, not as easy as one might think–I should be able to get a handle on this all by the middle of the year. One box a week doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? And yet…

All right, on that note I need to get back to the writing. I think I can push through quite a bit today, even if I don’t want to–which I don’t–but I also have no choice. The book is due exactly two weeks from today, and I don’t want to turn in something as sloppy as what I have on my hands right now.

Have a wonderful New Year, Constant Reader!

New Year’s Day

Ah, the annual setting of goals.

1. Getting in better shape. Self-care is important, and there are fewer, easier ways to take care of one’s self than taking regular exercise. But self-care isn’t just the physical; it’s also the mental. So, I need to focus on taking care of myself mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I want to try to get a massage at least every other month, to help with that; and I also think I’m going to start practicing meditation and yoga. I’ve always liked doing yoga, and I need to stretch more regularly. The yoga-toes have already helped with my feet and leg-joint issues, and I need to use techniques to keep myself from feeling pressured. One of the reasons I stopped signing book contracts without having written the book already is because of the pressure deadlines put me under; I still don’t deal with those too well and I simply need to work on my own patience.

2. Finding an agent. This is still incredibly important; I cannot move to the next level of being a professional writer without an agent negotiating for me. I should have done this long ago, and I need to take this all very seriously going forward. I’ve been collecting names of agents and agencies over the last couple of years, but I still don’t have anything to show them. I sent the first fifty pages of the Kansas book out to some agents last year, and got no interest. Which is fine, it was more of a if you don’t ever start doing this you never will thing. But now that I’ve taken the Kansas book back to the drawing board, I think it’s time to accept that trying to make the Kansas book work is like trying to make fetch happen; it’s probably not going to ever be a thing. Which, while sad, is okay. I can always reuse what I’ve done for something else. But it’s also kind of freeing to let it go and think, okay, what else have I got up my sleeve? It’s only failure if I choose to view it that way, and I’m choosing not to; I did some good work on that manuscript and it may work out in some other way.

3. The Diversity Project. I had a lot of success with the Short Story Project, so I’ve decided to add a new reading project to my 2019: reading diverse books by diverse writers. First off, it’s a shame that I am having to make this a project in the first place; I should already be reading diverse authors. I’ve been buying books by minority writers for quite some time now and adding them to the TBR pile…and yet somehow those books never seem to manage to make it up to the top of the pile. What is that about, I wonder? But it’s definitely a thing, and I need to do something about it. I live for the day when I don’t even have to think about my choices because diversity has become commonplace; but I can’t talk the talk if I don’t walk the walk. How can I expect non-gay people to read my gay books if I don’t make an effort to make diverse reading choices myself? And I have a lot of these books on hand already. So why buy more books (always the question) when I have so many to read, so many to choose from? I will blog about these books as well, and I am going to do my part to try to diversify the crime genre and my own reading.

4. The Short Story Project. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t have read nearly as many short stories in 2018 had I not made a point out of doing so, and I have not come anywhere near reading all the anthologies and single-author collections I have on hand, so I am going to renew this project for 2019. I think it’s made me a better short story writer, and I’ve certainly enjoyed all the stories I read (with a few exceptions, of course; there are always exceptions, aren’t there?). I am, however, going to try to loosen the pressure on myself and limit myself to reading at least three per month as a goal, which would be thirty-six stories for the year. I think that’s do-able without creating any added pressure for me….because everything creates pressure for me, even things I start out doing as fun, if I’m not careful.

5. Writing more short stories. This is part of the Short Story Project, of course, but it also (without adding more pressure) was part of the point of the entire project in the first place; reading more short stories was meant to be a master class in short story writing, and therefore teaching me how to be better about writing them. I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my issue with revisions and rewriting and editing my own short stories has everything to do with my own stubbornness and my own refusal to admit a story isn’t working while still trying to force it to work. I have several of those; great concepts that I simply can’t pull off the way they currently sit, and I need to figure out some way to make them work as stories. My goal is to finish two collections within the next two years (Once a Tiger and Other Stories and Monsters of New Orleans),  as well as continue trying to get stories published as the year pass. I am very excited for the release of Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories this coming April 1. I definitely also want to get “Never Kiss a Stranger” finished and up as a Kindle single sometime this year.

6. Writing more personal essays. Yes, yes, I know the blog sort of counts as writing personal essays on a daily basis, but I’d like to start seeing them published in other places, and there are some blog entries that are more abstracts of what could be more in-depth, more introspective, and much longer. The goal is to ultimately come up with a collection of said essays called Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life, and again, this is a long-term goal; I’d like to have this collection ready in about three years.

7. More research on New Orleans history. This is also necessary for, of course, the writing of Monsters of New Orleans, which is a terrific project I am terribly excited about, plus I am kind of excited about reading up on New Orleans history, lore and legends, which will only make my writing about the city stronger and better. I am also looking forward on teaching myself how to do research, and making use of all the amazing local resources, such as the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Tennessee Williams Research Center, the public library resources, and of course, the Louisiana Historic Research Collection at Tulane University. (The Tulane library alone!) I am still reading Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter whenever I get a minute, and there are so many others to read–currently in my research pile on my desk I have that and three Robert Tallant books (Voodoo in New Orleans, Ready to Hang, and The Voodoo Queen) along with Alecia Long’s The Great Southern Babylon and the ever classic Gumbo Ya-Ya.

8. Clearing out the TBR pile. I wasn’t able to read as much for pleasure this past year as I have in other years; primarily because I was judging a book award again (I think this will be the last time I actively participate in judging a book award; it’s just too time-consuming, not to mention all the books piling up in the house), and of course, all the research. I’ve also decided that books I want to keep to reread no longer need to be kept; if I need to read again or use it for research for another project (I still want to write about the romantic suspense writers who dominated the bestseller lists from mid-century through the 1980’s) I can always simply get an ebook version of it, which I can access and make notes easily on with the iPad. I also want to declutter the Lost Apartment, and let’s face it, the books are the primary problem.

9. Keeping a positive attitude. This is the hardest of all goals; because my mind is already trained to default to the negative. But negativity derails everything; and keeping belief in myself, no matter whatever career disappointments might lie around the corner for me, is necessary in order for me to do the work I need to do, not only on my writing but on myself, to be the best Gregalicious I can be. And ultimately, that’s the bottom line of all the goals, isn’t it? To be the best me I can be?

And now, back to the spice mines. I am taking a self-imposed exile from the Internet for the rest of the day, to get things done around the house, to write some more, to do some reading, and just get ready for the return to work this week. Happy New Year, one and all!

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The First Noel

We made it, Constant Reader!

The end of the wretched 2018 is on the horizon; mayhap 2019 will be a better year for everyone and the world.

One can hope, at any rate.

I actually slept for almost eleven hours last night; I cannot recall the last time I ever slept so late. I feel good, but also kind of like I’ve lost my morning. But it’s a four day weekend so who cares? 

And see, that’s how it starts–the downward slippery slope into getting nothing accomplished. It is amazing how quickly and easily my mind will come up with reasons not to write, not to edit, not to get anything done–pretty much anything will do. But this is how it goes….and it’s also very easy to fall into the mindset of nothing matters, you’re terrible at this, you slave away and for what, everyone else gets time off….and on and on and on it goes.

But you have to make sacrifices if you’re going to be a writer. And sometimes, your lazy time (which you love because you are at heart incredibly lazy) is what you do have to give up. And I need to view this long, deep, wonderful sleep as ‘well, you clearly needed the rest, but that has to count as your lazy time for the day.’

I wrote another fifteen hundred words or so on Bury Me in Satin, whose title, going forward, is going to be changed. “Bury me in satin” is a lyric from a song I love, “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry, and while technically I don’t need their permission to use the title, I kind of should ask–it’s the done thing, and since I neither want to bother (lazy!) nor does the title really fit the book (it kind of  only does in the mood I am trying to set, and I’ve already gotten the mood down) I’ve been thinking I want to change it. As we all know, I am very reluctant to make changes–I resist and resent change with all of my being–last night the new title came to me. Part of the resistance was I liked having Bury Me in the title, and last night I figured out a way to retain those words but change the rest of the title from the song lyric. I like the new title, but I think I’m going to keep it under wraps for a while. I usually don’t refer to works-in-progress by their titles; but I’ve called the “one for agent search” the WIP for so long I now think of it that way in my head; I can’t call anything else the WIP anymore. But–and this is an important but–it’s really what I called “the Kansas book” forever; I am going to rebrand it in my head and call it “the Kansas book” again, and the one I am currently working on will be the WIP. I also thought of some new ways to deepen the main character and iron out some plot issues I was having with the WIP. (see what I just did there?) So, my decision to stop writing new chapters after finishing Chapter Eight while I go back and clean up those already written was clearly the right decision to make.

Hopefully, that will also be the case with the final polish of the Scotty book. One can hope, at any rate.

And…the kitchen and entire house is a disaster area yet again, so there’s cleaning and organizing to be done as well.

And on that note, I need to get back to the spice mines.

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Hot Girls in Love

Friday!

What a day I had yesterday. I sent queries out to four agents, and then thought what the hell and sent two short stories out for submission. One has already been rejected; they were, alas, closed for submissions. But that’s fine; onward and upward.

I am starting to get excited about next week’s trip to Bouchercon, and Toronto. I am going to query a few more agents today, and then give it a rest for a few days while I focus on doing some manuscript tweaking and writing as well as getting the Lost Apartment prepared for our departure. We’re apparently going to be visited by a hurricane this weekend as well–hurray!–which is going to make some things a little tricky. (Must remember to gas up the car tomorrow just in case.) I also need to make a packing list for the trip; I’ve printed out my panel schedule; bought our train tickets for the trip into the city from the airport and back; fetched the suitcase from storage…and now I have to make sure that we eat everything perishable in the house before Wednesday; which is always tricky. But I’m really looking forward to seeing friends I don’t see frequently, and lots of laughter and maybe….just a little bit of snark.

It happens.

So, as we hunker down and await the arrival of Nate, I am going to be submitting more stories and sending out more queries. It’s kind of addictive, now that I’ve gotten past the hump and have started doing it. I mean, it is what it is, right? Either they want me, or they don’t. And really, it’s not about the quality of the writing and it’s certainly not about anything personal; it’s about whether they think they can make money with me…which is the same thing with publishers. Honestly, I’m so good about giving advice to others about this sort of thing rather than taking it myself.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines. In honor of Nate’s imminent arrival, here’s a beefcake shot of Jim Cantore.

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