The Nightwatchers

I never really thought much about writing vampire fiction.

I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I read a battered paperback copy of Carrie when I was fourteen, and ‘salem’s Lot continues to be a top 5 King novel for me, if not my favorite (it’s always a toss-up between this and The Stand, frankly) and despite my attempts to turn myself into a King clone in the 1980’s, I’ve never been very good at writing horror. I love to read it–there are some truly terrific horror writers publishing now (if you’ve not read Paul Tremblay, you really need to start), and they are, if you’ll pardon the incredibly cheap pun, killing it. I can do creepy. I can do Gothic. I can do atmosphere and all those marvelous things I love in horror fiction. But I cannot, for the life of me, scare people. I don’t know why I can’t write anything that gets under your skin and into your nervous system; the kind of thing that makes you leave a light burning after you go to bed. I wish I could write like that. I’ve certainly tried a few times…I still have an idea for a horror novel sitting in the back of my brain that I am really going to have to try to get around to writing at some point, because I really should give it a real try sometime.

I have always enjoyed reading vampire stories. “salem’s Lot has always been one of my top five Stephen King novels; I loved Dracula (oh to write an epistolary novel!) and numerous other such tales. It took me awhile to come around on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles (a tale for another time), but I did eventually. Twilight never struck any chords with me. But the one thing I never thought I would do was write about vampires, despite loving them the way I do–going all the way back to my childhood and Dark Shadows. I don’t think I ever would have written about vampires, but my editor at Kensington thought I could; thought I would do a good job at it, and encouraged it, beginning with an offer to write an erotic vampire novella for a collection to be called Midnight Thirsts.

Go home, old man, Rachel thought, tapping her black fingernails on the counter.

It was a quarter till nine, fifteen minutes before she could lock the doors. Everything was clean and the cash register was already counted down. All she had really left to do was dump the remains of the day’s coffee down the sink, lock the cash drawer in the safe, and turn everything o. She’d be gone by ten minutes after at the latest.

She glanced out the big windows fronting the coffee shop. The streetlight just outside cast a yellowish glow in the thick mist pressing against the glass. She shivered and looked back at the old man. He was sitting at one of the tables in the far corner, with the same cup of coffee he’d ordered when he came in around seven thirty. He hadn’t touched it. It was still as full as when she’d filled the cup, only no steam was coming off the black surface now. He didn’t seem to be watching for anyone, or waiting. He never glanced at this watch, which she’d spotted as a platinum Tag Heuer, nor did he ever look out the window. Every once in a while. he would look up from his newspaper and catch her staring. He’d smile and nod, then go back to his reading.

Apparently, he was determined to read every word.

She stood up, bending backward so her back cracked. The night had been really slow. The Jazz Café, even on weeknights, usually was good for at least thirty to forty dollars in tips. Tonight, when she counted out the tip jar, it yielded less than seven dollars. Just enough to get her a pack a cigarettes and a twenty-ounce Diet Coke at Quartermaster Deli on her way back to her apartment. It wasn’t, she thought, wiping down the counter yet again, even worth coming in for.

Usually, on this kind of night, cold and damp and wet, Rachel was kept busy with orders for triple lattés. The tables would be full of people who would coming in shivering, bundled against the cold wetness in the air, which seemed to penetrate even the thickest coat. They’d hold their steaming cups of coffee with both reddened hands, talking and laughing. SOme would be doing their homework on laptops.

She liked busy nights, when the orders kept coming and the tip jar filled. Then, the time seemed to fly by, her closing shift passing in the blink of an eye. She hated the slow nights, when every passing minute seemed to take an eternity. She glanced back at the clock on the wall, then back at the old man. If you would just leave, she thought, I could go ahead and close early.

He’s kind of good-looking, she thought as she sipped her tepid cup of green tea, for an older guy.

At that moment he look up, and their eyes met. His were blue, a deep blue with some green in it. Once again, he nodded his head to her and smiled, but this time he didn’t go back to his newspaper. He held her eyes.

Not to worry, my child, I’ll be gone soon enough.

She turned away, shaking her head, the hair on the back of her neck standing up…

As is frequently the case with my work, The Nightwatchers began as a short story. Within a year of moving here, Paul had struck up a friendship with the director of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival (which is where he now works), and as such he volunteered us both to help out with the 1997 Festival. I worked at the sign-in desk, where people picked up their badges and so forth, and it was in the lobby of Le Petite Theatre de Vieux Carre, a marvelous old theater on the corner of Chartres and St. Peter, right across the street from the Cabildo, and kitty-corner to Jackson Square. It was very old, and the main stage was named for Helen Hayes, who’d actually played there before. It was haunted, too–every building in New Orleans is–and I heard some of the stories. Being a volunteer, I had access to back stage, upstairs to the balcony, the prop attic; everywhere. (I eventually used some of this knowledge in Jackson Square Jazz.) At some point during the weekend I had an idea for a story–a horror story–about a theater company rehearsing in an old haunted theater in the French Quarter, where the person always cast in the lead female roles is also sleeping with the director. The young actress who deserved the part doesn’t listen to company gossip, but she does eventually find out that the rumors are true, and at some point made a deal with a devil who appeared to her in her dressing room, on and on and on. I called the story The Nightwatchers, because to me, that was what the devils/demons were called–they watch at night for souls to prey on. When I was asked to write this novella, I dug out the story and reread it, deciding it was perfect to adapt into something new.

I played with it a while, and couldn’t quite get it right in my head until I decided to abandon the theater idea; I’d tried turning the girl into a gay guy but it didn’t really work. I also couldn’t seem to get the atmosphere right, either, and I was convinced–still am, in fact–that the atmosphere had to be just right or the story wouldn’t work. Then one night I was walking through the lower Quarter in December–meeting Paul somewhere, I think–and it was one of those evenings when the fog is so insanely thick that you literally can’t see more than a foot or so in front of you at any time. As I walked along the sidewalk, with the old buildings pushing up against the sidewalk, when I heard the sound of hooves on the street–and realized, bemusedly, that in the fog and the only light from a gaslight–that I could have traveled back in time. Only in New Orleans can you feel like you’ve traveled back in time when it’s foggy, I thought, and wrote an entire scene around that feeling when I got back home. It was the perfect mood/atmosphere for the story, and it worked very well.

And as I wrote the novella, I got more and more into the characters and started imagining my own supernatural world, with vampires and witches and werewolves and everything else, including a ruling council over the paranormal world, the Council of Thirteen, and the old man Rachel sees in the coffee shop is a representative of the Council, in New Orleans to hunt a rogue vampire…a vampire who believes her young friend Philip Rutledge (now the center of the story) is the reincarnation of someone he loved hundreds of years earlier when he was human (shades of Dark Shadows!) and so wants to turn Philip into his eternal companion, and it’s up to Nigel and Rachel to rescue Philip.

It was a lot of fun to write, and I left the ending a bit open so I could write more about the characters if I ever chose to do so; I actually slotted a continuation novel into my writing schedule; it was supposed to be what I wrote next after finishing Mardi Gras Mambo…needless to say, life conspired to keep me from ever getting around to this book. I am still a bit disappointed I never carried on with the story; I used this same mythology when I returned to writing about vampires again several years later with Blood on the Moon.

So, that’s how The Nightwatchers came to be a story. Writing this now I see the parallels between what I wrote and some things I read and enjoyed (or watched, a la Dark Shadows); and is my “Nightwatcher” group that different from Anne Rice’s Talamasca? Probably not.

I did read and enjoy the other novellas back in the day; I’ve been meaning to revisit Michael Thomas Ford’s because it was particularly memorable.

Beautiful Child

GEAUX TIGERS!

It is insanely early to have a kickoff in Tiger Stadium at eleven in the morning–I think I actually went to a game that started this early; I remember we had to get up at eight to get ready and barely managed to get into the stadium and into our seats as the band took the field for Pre-game (always one of the highlights of a game there; if you don’t know what LSU’s Pregame is, it’s that song the band plays that has those four notes–bah, BAH bah bah! (to me it always sounds like Hold That Ti-ger!)–and the entire stadium erupts. I mean, it really does. If you ever have a moment to kill, go to Youtube and search for LSU Marching Band Pre-game–you should immediately recognize the music. But having the game so early for me means I’ll most likely be emotionally and physically drained after it ends, and I’ll probably get sucked into the chair watching games all day (I mean, I should watch the Georgia-Auburn game, even if it is going to be a bloodbath), but hopefully I’ll find some time to make notes and do some reading as well.

I slept very well last night (again), which was really super nice, and we finished Your Honor last night–didn’t see that ending coming, apparently it’s been renewed for a second season–and also started watched this past week’s episode of Bad Sisters–God, how I hate John-Paul–and also caught this weeks Queer for Fear, which focused primarily on James Whale and Alfred Hitchcock, with a lovely section on Anthony Perkins (my God, what a beautiful man he was) and how Psycho essentially ended his career–to this day his failure to even be nominated for an Oscar for that performance is a crime; he should have won; it’s one of the best screen performances of all time–which both Paul and I enjoyed tremendously; I’m also looking forward to more of this documentary series. Yesterday I got my work done and ordered groceries to pick up tomorrow morning; I’m beginning to see this as a marvelous convenience rather than as simple laziness now and I kind of like this because it also keeps me from making impulse buys, which always drives the price up. I did pick up the mail and make a quick stop for a few things at the Fresh Market (they carry Clearly Canadian, which I used to love back in the day, but they never have strawberry, just cherry and blackberry–I always get blackberry), and I made Shrimp Creole for the first time in a very long time; I’d forgotten how marvelous that is. There’s plenty left over for me to take to work this week as well, which is even nicer. Huzzah!

I’m hoping for a lovely, restful, relaxing day today. I’ll probably do some cleaning and organizing during the games–have to do something with all that nervous energy, after all–and tomorrow is going to be a massive work day. I am going to finish Chapter Five tomorrow if it kills me, and possibly do Chapter Six; I have some other things to do as well that I need to add to the list so I don’t forget and wind up fucked. I’m also getting my booster shot on Monday; hope that doesn’t make me feel unwell. If it does, or is anything like the last one, I should just feeling mildly unwell for a day and be over it at that time.

I also picked up Interview with the Vampire to reread again, since it’s Halloween season and all, and the show is airing. I’ve not read Mrs. Rice’s work in a long time–I kind of want to go back and finish reading The Feast of All Saints, although I am sure it’s problematic now, as it is about the Free People of Color before the Civil War–and I’d forgotten how lushly stylized her writing is; I am also probably going to want to revisit The Witching Hour as well before it’s television adaptation starts airing in January. I rather famously didn’t care for this novel the first two times I read it; I finally was enthralled with it upon my third reading, in Hawaii. I read all of her work after that until she switched to Jesus and angels; I never really came back to her when she turned to werewolves before finally coming back to Lestat and vampires. At some point I intend to read the final Lestat novels, and I should probably read The Mummy sequels she co-authored with her son.

I’ve not been feeling terribly creative this past week, despite the need to work on the book as well as the little work I have done on the book, and I am hoping that changing my work schedule will help me to feel somewhat less off-kilter in my life than I’ve been feeling since I started coming in on Fridays and staying home on Mondays. I’ve never really adjusted to it, honestly, and this feels so right, you know? I feel like my life has sort of gotten back on track since this switch was made again. I could be completely wrong; who knows? By Tuesday it’s entirely possible that I might be so tired and exhausted I won’t be able to function the way I should be able to when I get home from the office. But I am hoping that won’t indeed be the case, obviously, and thus far it has made a significant difference in how rested I feel.

Which is a good thing, really.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader–I may be back later, you never know; if not, I’ll chat with you tomorrow.

Tusk

Monday and a work-at-home day, for data entry and other things. I also have a meeting at one (yay) and I am hoping to get some things delivered today so I don’t have to leave the house. Yesterday started out well; I wrote my entry and did some writing planning and then repaired to my easy chair to read; but then Paul got up and came downstairs and I decided that as long as I kept my notebook/journal handy, I could make notes while thinking and watching television. We missed the Saints game; I’d forgotten it was in London and by the time I checked what time it was starting it was already over so I can’t even blame the Saints for my complete (well, pointed, at any rate) failure to get as much done yesterday as I had wanted to–which means it’s entirely my fault.

I did watch the first two episodes of the new Interview with the Vampire series, and it put a lot of thoughts into my head. I thought it was remarkably well done and well-cast–I would have gone for a Skargaard for Lestat, but that could be True Blood’s fault as well–and it was beautifully filmed. The changes made to the original book (I liked that it’s structured as a follow-up interview to the original interview) and story were barely noticeable. It’s also amazing how different Jacob Anderson looks as Louis as opposed to Greyworm from Game of Thrones. It also made me start thinking about vampires and how/why they are so popular with queers–this show has no gay subtext, it’s right there in your face–and also remembered how incredibly disappointed I’d been when I first read the book, as a teenager. At that point in time, I’d forgotten that Dark Shadows had turned a vampire into a romantic leading man–my thoughts about vampires were entirely shaped at that time by Dracula and ‘salem’s Lot, and that was what I was expecting from Interview…and that is most definitely not what the book was. I read it again about ten years or so later, and still didn’t care for it much; I didn’t come into an appreciation of Anne Rice’s work until the 1990’s–a friend told me to read The Mummy so I did and enjoyed it, and then I read and loved The Witching Hour, so I took the first three volumes of The Vampire Chronicles with me to Hawaii on a vacation and that time…well, that time I got into the books and enjoyed them. Mrs. Rice soon became a “buy in hardcover on release” author for me, and remained that way for a very long time. I do think there’s a line from Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows to Lestat/Louis to True Blood/the Sookie Stackhouse books; I once described True Blood as “Dark Shadows with sex, violence, nudity and blood.”

We then watched the first episode of Queer for Fear, a documentary series on Shudder about queer themes and subtexts in horror films, which was fun and certainly fit the theme of the day, but then we moved on to Your Honor starring Bryan Cranston, filmed and set in New Orleans (again, we marveled a lot about the geography–“oh, look, they’re transporting him from the courthouse to OPP but for some reason are coming in from I-10 which means they somehow detoured through Metairie”–and we can’t quite figure out where Cranston and his son live; they are always taking the bridge across the river, but Cranston can go jogging from his front door down St. Charles Avenue down to the lower 9th ward (clearly, training for a marathon of some sort) and back, so I am not sure why they have the need to go back and forth to the West Bank (Paul: this would only make sense if they lived in Algiers, but why would he cross the river to go jogging?). I know, I know, it’s fiction and make-believe and has everything to do with shots and visuals that remind the viewer it’s New Orleans; both the Crescent City Connection and the Huey P. Long bridges will do that, as will the drawbridge over the Industrial Canal, and nothing says New Orleans quite like the streetcar. I also know it’s being nit-picky and “more New Orleanian than thou”, but I can’t help it when I watch something filmed here (I was also identifying where scenes were shot in Interview with the Vampire as well). I’m sure New Yorkers do this a lot, too. We also watched this week’s House of the Dragon, which I am enjoying–there’s really no good characters to root for in this one; they are essentially all terrible people; at least in Game of Thrones we could root for the Starks as the only decent people in Westeros. We also watched the new episode of The Serpent Queen, as Catherine is now slowly coming into her own. I really am enjoying this series; I hope it doesn’t go off the rails at some point.

But now it’s October already–yikes; it seems as though this year has sped past but on the other hand January also seems like it was a million years ago already–and I’ve really got to start getting things done.

As I’ve been doing my entries about writing my books, it’s been a fun journey down memory lane, as I remember things I wanted to do and plans I had that somehow were either forgotten or pushed aside as other things crowded them out of my brain. Watching Interview and Queer for Fear reminded me of my own world of the supernatural I was trying to create with some of my horror writing (I don’t really consider my vampire writing as horror; yes, vampires, but the primary focus of them was the eroticism), and somehow I’ve managed to stick to the rules of that weird world of the supernatural I was creating through short fiction that spilled over into the erotica; so far I’ve done vampires and witches, rougaroux and le feu follet, all tied around parishes on the other side of the river and west/south of New Orleans. I have a couple of short stories to write still, and a book to get done–and I want to read more. I want to finish reading my current book and I think the first book for Horror Month will be a reread of Interview with the Vampire, perhaps followed by a reread of ‘salem’s Lot; why not explore the vampires?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely first Monday in October, Constant Reader, and I will be checking in with you again tomorrow morning before the sun comes up. Yay.

Never Make Me Cry

I slept really well last night, which I inevitably usually do on Thursday nights because I can sleep an hour later those mornings, which naturally makes for a better evening of sleep. I also stay up an hour later (I really have this thing about going to be before eleven that always feels wrong and like I am being cheated out of the evening or something). I was very tired after work last evening, but I did get a load of dishes finished and another started (which I will have to finish this evening). I didn’t write, but I did reread the chapters already in place and think (hope) that tonight I will get that revision finished and can finally, at long last, move on to the next.

And today is the last day of September, October Eve, if you will, which of course leaves me shaking me head in bewilderment about where September could have gone, and why did it go so quickly? Why did I get so little done? I don’t know those answers, of course, but I do know we have been having some lovely weather this week–and it’s not because of the hurricane so we can enjoy it in peace (the cold front we are having, however, is what pushed Ian east and kept him there). It was sixty-three degrees yesterday morning when I went in to the office, so chilly that it even startled me a bit as I went outside. It was still cool when I got off work as well–there was a lot of wind, too, as there has been most of the week–but I am sure we’re going to have at least another couple of really warm weeks yet before the summer finally releases its chokehold on New Orleans.

My plan is only to read horror in the month of October, but since I’ve not had the bandwidth to finish reading my Donna Andrews novel that is one of the things I am going to work on getting through this weekend. It’s not a chore, mind you–Donna’s books are always entertaining and always great reads, and I love the world she’s created in these books–but I also want to be able to focus on the book and actually, you know, read it when my mind is not so worn out and tired, so it can really enjoy the book for the volume of sheer entertainment it inevitably will turn out to be. And then I am going to move on to horror. I have some more Paul Tremblay and Christopher Golden novels on hand to read, and of course I am years behind on Stephen King–might not be a bad idea to revisit some of the classics as well as start reading through the newer works, and of course I should reread ‘salem’s Lot, and I haven’t done a reread of The Stand in quite a while, or Christine or The Dead Zone for that matter. I also need to get back to reading short stories, and I have some lovely volumes of horror short stories on hand I can read as well.

LSU plays Auburn Saturday night at Auburn, so I have most of tomorrow free to clean and read and so forth. Paul is also planning a trip to visit his mother, probably around Halloween, so I am going to have a long and lonely week to look ahead to–thinking that I’ll be able to get a lot done while he’s gone which of course will end up not being the case–and right now I don’t know what other games are on this weekend, so I am hoping I won’t actually blow all of Saturday sitting in my chair, reclined, with a purring cat in my lap while I mindlessly watch teams play games I don’t care about. I need to get back on top of all of my projects and snap out of this weird blasé place I’ve been in since Bouchercon where I just can’t seem to have the energy or strength or will to work through being tired. But the weekend looms, and if I can manage to get a good night’s sleep tonight hopefully tomorrow morning I will wake up with lots of motivation and energy–and the strength of will to ignore Scooter’s plaintive cries to provide a lap for him to sleep in.

We started watching Reboot last night on Hulu, and it’s hilarious. The core of the story is actually kind of genius; an old family-friendly comedy from twenty or thirty years ago, similar to the kind of show Diff’rent Strokes and Full House were (heartwarming fare with cute kids with corny jokes and broad humor and–ugh, you know what I mean) is being rebooted…with the original cast…only as a more modern, darker, and more realistic show. It’s hilarious, and the entire cast is terrific (Johnny Knoxville being a surprising standout). We loved it, and can’t wait to watch more. I am also getting kind of excited to watch the new adaptations of Anne Rice’s series, The Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches (although I think the vampire series may be called Interview with the Vampire? I’ve not followed stories about either show closely, figuring I’d watch once they started airing and then would check into what the plans for the shows are). Elité is also coming back, as are some other favorites. Huzzah!

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely, lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope everyone in Florida is doing okay this morning. Check in with you again tomorrow!

New Orleans

Twenty-eight years ago I came to New Orleans for my birthday weekend, and my life changed completely. Earlier that month I had already taken a cold, hard, long look at my life and I didn’t like what I saw. I had been wrapped in misery for years, wallowing in it, and diving so deep into the misery that I allowed it to erase my dreams and any hopes I had for the future. It was, after all, very easy to blame outside forces for my miserable life, and when you dig deep down into the misery, well, it’s a lot easier to just wrap yourself up in self-pity than take any responsibility for your own happiness; making excuses not to try rather than reasons to better myself. I worked for Continental Airlines at the Tampa airport–most times not a bad job for the most part, but the bad days were horrible–and didn’t make much money. I was broke all the time and yes, I wasted a lot of money treating myself to things–like buying lots and lots of books every payday–in an effort to make me feel better about myself and my miserable life. I was horribly lonely.

A bad experience with someone I was romantically interested in was the impetus for the changes I made to my life, because for whatever reason that night everything just bubbled up to the surface; I hated everything about my life, I hated where I was at, I felt trapped and like nothing good was ever going to happen to me. I stayed up the entire night, feeling sorry for myself and unable to sleep, tossing and turning and occasionally crying. At seven o’clock the next morning (it was a day off) I went into my bathroom and took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror. I never want to feel this way ever again, I thought as I looked at red swollen eyes, the unshaved face. the dark purplish circles under my eyes. I then repeated it out loud. I went back to my desk, sat down and opened my latest journal and wrote the words: I hate my life. I stared at the words for a few moments, and then added, I have no one to blame for this but myself. I am the only person who can change things for me. I want to be a writer. I want to be published, and I don’t want to work for Continental for the rest of my life in this job that makes me miserable. I am lonely and it’s probably too late for me to find a life partner. But I have to stop being afraid of everything, and I can’t go the rest of my life NOT living because I am afraid of dying. Other men are not attracted to me because I am overweight–no one ever looks at me twice when I go to bars. I cannot change my face but I can change my body. I will eat healthy. I will drop some of this extra weight. I will do crunches and push-ups every day from now on, and if by January I have been consistent with the workouts and the diet, I will join a gym. I need to start figuring out who I am and how to get what I want because no one is going to knock on my door and just give it to me. The only person who can change the things in my life is me, and I am going to work on being the best possible me that I can. And that means taking the steps necessary to change who I am and what my life is so I can become a writer.

Three weeks later, my birthday weekend rolled around and I flew to New Orleans with a friend for the weekend. We were staying with his on-again off-again boyfriend–who turned out to be one of the nicest gay men I’ve ever known. I really liked him. thought he was a good person–but once they broke up for good that was the end of that; I guess he associated me with his ex and so couldn’t be bothered anymore (or he did a great job of acting the part of the generous host; I am not sure how the invitation to stay with him came about; all I knew was we were going to New Orleans for my birthday and staying with this guy), which was always a shame. I was always grateful to him–have been for twenty-eight years–because coming to New Orleans that weekend was yet another key piece to the puzzle of Greg’s future, a piece I didn’t even now I needed.

I think at that point I may have lost five pounds or so. My friend was gorgeous; one of those perfect gay men with golden skin and very little–if any–body fat; his boyfriend was his counterpart, only with much bigger muscles, bluish-black hair, and that gorgeous gorgeous olive toned skin darker Italians have. They looked beautiful together, too, and I was in some sense a third wheel that weekend, but it was okay with me. They were totally into each other which left me with time on my own to think and reflect. He picked us up at the airport and took us to his apartment (which was in a complex on Sophie Wright Place that Paul and I eventually moved into when we returned from DC in August 2001), we showered and cleaned up, and headed to the Quarter.

I had been to New Orleans before that particular trip, and while I had always felt drawn in some ways to this city since I was a child, I’d never before felt the sense of belonging I felt that weekend. When we stepped out of the cab that night at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann, I felt this enormous emotional release, as though tension I didn’t know I. had in my shoulders and brain were suddenly gone and a big burden had been lifted from my shoulders. It was as though my soul was saying at last you’ve come home, and I knew then, before we paid the cover charge to go into the bars there at the corner–Oz and the Pub/Parade–that I was going to someday live in New Orleans…and all of my dreams would come true once I did.

I have never been sure what was different about that trip than previous ones. On my brief, previouos visits to the city before, I’d never gotten a real sense of the city before–we stayed in motels by the airport or on the West Bank–and so it wasn’t really possible to get a sense of New Orleans. Waking up in the spare bedroom in the morning, walking out onto the balcony and looking around at the roofs and unique architecture of the lower Garden District, I felt like I was at home. It was also the first time I’d ever come to New Orleans to hang out with other gay people and in the gay section of the Quarter, and maybe that was the difference? I don’t know for certain, but I do know that was the magical trip when everything coalesced in my head on that trip here. I knew New Orleans was my home, and I needed to live there, and my dreams would finally all come true once I’d moved there.

My friend’s boyfriend was a great host. He made sure to take me to see Anne Rice’s home at First and Chestnut (which was also the home of the Mayfair witches in The Witching Hour, a book I’d loved that had only heightened my sense of need to come to New Orleans), and showed me (us) around the entire weekend; we went to Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District, ate amazing food, and then at night we’d head down to the Quarter to the bars and danced the night away.

That was also the weekend I did Ecstasy for the first time, but that’s a story for a different time.

The entire weekend was a whirl; I have pictures somewhere (or lost many years ago during the course of a move or something) of all the places we went and things we did; the amazing food, dancing all night and going to the Clover Grill in the morning (or La Peniche, over in the Marigny) and then sleeping before going roaming again throughout the city. I fell for New Orleans hard that weekend, and have never really fallen out of love for the city, really, since. We broke up once (that dreadful year Paul and I spent in DC), but we came back and New Orleans forgave us for our desertion and welcomed us back home.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard about New Orleans, but I do remember Nancy Drew came to Carnival (called “the Mardi Gras” in the book, eye roll to infinity) in The Haunted Showboat (she also visited briefly during The Ghost of Blackwood Hall), but I don’t really remember much else. I think everyone in the country has a sense of Carnival/Mardi Gras, and always associates that with New Orleans–but New Orleans, obviously, is so much more than that. I was a kid when I watched the James Bond movie Live and Let Die–which whetted my interest in New Orleans and Louisiana–later movies like The Big Easy and Angel Heart and Tightrope expanded that interest, as did Anne Rice’s novels and the Skip Langdon series by Julie Smith. Whenever I had been to New Orleans previously I hadn’t felt anything but a sense that the city was different than everywhere else, and that difference felt alien to me.

But that entire weekend was different. That weekend in the city changed me and changed my life. I’d never felt like I’d belonged anywhere before–I always had felt out of place wherever I lived; part of it was being gay, part of it was being a creative, and the rest had everything to do with being raised by Southern parents with a Southern mentality but not living in the South (not a complaint, I am very grateful to have not been raised down here)–so New Orleans felt special to me; I’d finally found my place or, to quote Pippin, I’d finally found my corner of the sky.

Within a year I’d met the love of my life–who also was in love with New Orleans and wanted to live there–and on August 1, 1996, I drove the U-haul truck with all of our stuff and towing my old car into the city to start the rest of my life. I had already started dipping into the waters of writing–I got a gig with a gay paper in Minneapolis that actually paid me, and had started writing the book that would eventually become Murder in the Rue Dauphine. Within three years of moving to New Orleans I had a book contract and had sold my first ever short stories. Twenty-eight years to the day of that most important visit to New Orleans, and look at me now.

I live in the city I love with the man I love doing the work I love. I’m glad that I didn’t know at the time how important that weekend was going to prove to be; that it was, indeed, really the first day of the rest of my real life, when I finally stopped just enduring my life and actively started living it. It’s not always been easy to live here and love the city; New Orleans can be a hard place a lot of the time. We’ve endured hurricanes and floods, disease and injury, poverty and horror. But even the bad things are made bearable because we live in New Orleans.

I’ve written millions of words about New Orleans. One of the best compliments I can receive is being told that I’ve depicted the city so vividly and lovingly that it’s a character. I do laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert”–I am anything but an expert; you could fill the Great Library of Alexandria with what I don’t know about New Orleans; every day I discover something new about this wondrous and bizarre place, the only place on earth I’ve ever felt at home. I will never run out of material to write about this magical city, and every day, more ideas and thoughts for stories and characters and essays about New Orleans comes to me.

So, my favorite part of my birthday is the fact that it is also the anniversary of me finding, at long last, where I belong.

And thank you, New Orleans, for always, no matter what, being New Orleans.

I’ve always rather blasphemously called this statue “Drag Queen Jesus”, for reasons that should be fairly apparent.

Shadows in the Moonlight

When Anne Rice died back in the winter, I posted a memoriam to her here in which I talked about a very generous thing she did for me and Paul back in the days after he was attacked. It was something deep and personal–one of the reasons why I won’t abide criticism of Mrs. Rice in my presence–and while I did tell some people about it, I kept it quiet for the most part. It was an odd little personal connection I had with one of the most successful writers of my lifetime, and as it had to do with Paul and what happened to him, I also thought it was kind of untoward to write or talk about it publicly. But when she passed, I wanted to let people know a human side of a public figure who could be divisive; I never listened to criticisms of her after the spring of 2004 or could be bothered to read them. There was little, if anything, she could have ever done to change my opinion of her or to forget the grace and kindness she showed to me when I was in a very low place in my life, so I wasn’t interested in listening to or reading anything negative about her. The Witching Hour was also one of the reasons I was drawn to New Orleans in the first place; so overall I would say she had a very positive influence on me and my life, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

Last year, an editor reached out to me (maybe it was two years ago; I really have no concept or sense of time anymore) to write a story an anthology called Unburied; the editor was Rebecca Rowland. I gave her one of the stories I’d written but never found a home for–“Night Follows Night”–which she liked and used and that was very cool. In the wake of Mrs. Rice’s death, she contacted me again to see if I would write a story for a tribute anthology to Mrs. Rice that would also be a fundraiser for a charity she supported.

It was, I thought, the least I could do, so I pulled out “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and finished the first draft before revising umpteen times and turning in.

“Someone was murdered in this house.” Susan Norris said.

Her tone was idle and matter of fact, like she was making small talk at a cocktail party with women she didn’t know and what she was saying didn’t matter in the long run. She was already redecorating the place in her head, picking out color combinations to paint the walls and trim, what furniture she already had could be used or discarded and where it would go. For this front upstairs bedroom, for example, she pictured long curtains of shimmering bright colors in gauze, which would look dramatic billowing out into the room when the windows were open. This would be the room, she decided, where she would have readings or hold seances for her clientele. Those long billowing curtains on nights when thunderstorms raged would be the perfect setting to make even the most cynical skeptic into a true believer. She ran a hand along the beige wall slightly yellowed from nicotine. She could feel layers of paint under her fingertips. The walls hadn’t been stripped in years, which she would need to rectify. It would be a crime to slake another layer on top of what was already there.

The realtor—whatever her name was, Collette or Colleen or Doreen or something like that—paused in her sales patter when Susan’s words finally penetrated her professional façade, a frown furrowing creases into her forehead as she stumbled over a few words and finally stopped speaking. She was a beautiful woman in her late forties, maybe early fifties; one benefit of the Botox she clearly used was a blurring of her actual age. Her long red hair cascaded down over the shoulder pads inside her blouse, which also showed a lot of decolletage. A golden cross with a diamond set in the center glittered against her white bosom. An expensive watch decorated her wrist, her freckled hands were bare other than a wedding band and a diamond engagement ring. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” the realtor asked, surprise giving way to concern that what she hoped would be an easy sale—this place was exactly what Susan had described as wanting to her, when they first spoke—might actually be turning into something else.

Inwardly, Susan cursed at herself. She’d done it again, said something to a stranger that she should have not said aloud. She didn’t want to explain herself to Collette/Colleen/Doreen any more than she wanted to stick a fork into an outlet, so she turned back to the redheaded realtor with a charming smile and said, “I said someone was murdered in this house.” She exhaled. “I did some research on-line when you gave me the addresses of the places you suggested I look at. It was a long time ago, and I shouldn’t have said it out loud, my apologies. I do think this house is perfect for me.”

I was originally using this title for a different story (which has since been renamed “Solace in a Dying Hour”), and so when I started writing this story it was called “The Oracle of Orange Street” (the house she is buying is on Orange Street, one of those mysterious hidden streets in New Orleans whose blocks have slowly vanished over the years until all that is left is a single block between Coliseum and Prytania; it’s very near where I live so I see the Orange Street sign all the time…I think there may be a continuation of it on the other side of Magazine Street; a quick look at a map indicates that it does, indeed, continue on the other side of Magazine to Tchoupitoulas–but if you asked most New Orleanians were Orange Street is, they’d give you a blank look); I’d even already started another story with the character of Susan Norris in it (“Parlor Tricks,” which I tried to finish again recently for yet another last minute submission and wasn’t able to). I like the character of Susan Norris, psychic detective; her mother is actually Madame Xena, who Scotty aficionados might recognize as the woman who originally told Scotty’s family that he “has the Gift!”

So yes, all of my work is connected in some way besides just being by me.

I’ve always loved the idea of a psychic detective (and yes, I watched Psych for years before tiring of it), which is part of the reason why I made Scotty one, but my inspiration for this kind of character goes back to my teens, when I was enjoying Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series so much that one day at the bookstore I picked up two of her non-Pollifax books, A Nun in the Closet and The Clairvoyant Countess…the latter of whom was, indeed, a psychic and an amateur detective. The book was really a series of connected short stories, each detailing a case that the Countess became involved in helping to solve; gradually the police detective began actually consulting her. I don’t remember how limited her powers were, but to work in a crime story the psychic cannot be all-knowing and all-seeing, obviously; otherwise there would be no mystery to solve. But I enjoyed the book and reread it many times, and always wanted to write about a psychic detective. Scotty’s powers have always been incredibly vague; he usually can channel it through reading tarot cards (which doesn’t always work) and sometimes he goes into a fugue state while he actually talks to the Divine Feminine (She comes in many forms to him) and she gives him hints and clues to the future and what is going on–but he has to figure it out for himself.

One day when I was walking home from the gym I took a different route home than I usually do–I do this to mix things up a bit when I have the time to leisurely stroll, and it’s been helping me reconnect with my neighborhood as well as find many secrets and hidden treasures–and one day the different route took me up Felicity Street from Camp. One of the houses I passed–a lovely old Victorian–actually had an orange tree in the front yard and oranges were littering the ground and sidewalk; some of them rotting (there’s nothing quite like the smell of oranges rotting in the sun) and it reminded me that, oh, yes, indeed, Orange Street was originally named that because there was an orange grove here–whether it was indigenous and imported I cannot say, but I suspect imported–and then I thought, oh, that story you’re writing about the psychic (at that time, it was “Parlor Tricks”) could easily be titled “The Oracle of Orange Street” and I quite liked that title…so when I couldn’t get that story to work for this anthology, I decided to write another story about Susan Norris, reluctant psychic detective, and the opening line just kind of jumped out at me the day I picked the house on Orange Street which would be hers–and it also just happened to be for sale when I picked it; and as I stood there snapping pictures of the house with my phone I thought, yes, what would it be like for a psychic to buy a home in New Orleans? And I quite liked the idea of her just absent-mindedly blurting out to the realtor, “Someone was murdered in this house” and then I was off and running.

You can preorder the ebook here!

If You Really Love Me

Wednesday morning and I forgot to set my alarm. No worries, because my body went ahead and woke me up before the alarm would have gone off, so that I could see that the alarm hadn’t been set–which isn’t, frankly, very like me, but yesterday was a weird transitional day where I went to the office and had to deal with the jarring reentry into my normal everyday life after the high of the Edgar banquet last week. I think I slept well last night; I certainly feel awake and alert this morning, more so than I did yesterday, which is great. I have some errands to run on my way home from the office tonight–mail, groceries–and then I am in and settled for the evening. We finished watching Minx (I do have some thoughts on this show) last night and started Under the Banner of Heaven, starring Andrew Garfield and based on the Jon Krakauer book (I am a fan of Krakauer, but I never got around to reading this one), so am not really sure what true crime the book was based on, so the entire thing is new to both of us, and we are definitely enjoying it. I didn’t get to spend any time reading or writing last evening because I had a long overdue phone call with a friend (it was marvelous) when I got home from the office and by the time we were finished talking Paul was home and it was time to watch some of our shows.

Scooter has also readjusted to being back home, and it’s not he was never boarded now and has completely forgiven us (or forgotten it happened, more likely) and is back to normal again. He spent most of the evening moving from my lap to Paul’s and back again; moving whenever one of us got up and/or shifted how we were sitting (or lying down, in Paul’s case), so he’s happy again, which is nice. I always feel guilty about boarding him, especially since the kitty spa he boards at is also where we acquired him; so I always worry he thinks he’s being abandoned again whenever we take him there. I know animals may not think in those kinds of terms, but I always imagine they do, and it kind of breaks my heart for them.

My own reentry/readjustment period actually comes to fruition today, I think. Yesterday was difficult in some ways adjusting back to the work schedule and routine of the every day; today feels more in line with how things were before I left for New York. I’m not traveling again until June (I also am traveling in July; again in September, and then hopefully not again until the holidays; I may be heading up to New England again in November but we’ll just have to see how that works out, with vacation times and all but I don’t really want to think that far ahead of things, either), if then–the jury remains out on that one–and time is really slipping away through my fingers. I need to get back to writing, and soon–I am glad that I have that story draft finished–and I also need to get the Bouchercon anthology finished as well. I think if I can get these fragments of things finished and crossed off the list that will make getting back to actually writing something much much easier as I move forward through this swimming pool we call life.

“The swimming pool we call life.” Jesus fricking Christ, I can get full of myself and write some garbage, can’t I? This is yet another example of why no one sees early drafts of anything I write.

The Anne Rice tribute anthology I was asked to write a story for–which wound up being “The Rosary of Broken Promises”–is going to be released later this month; it’s called Dancing in the Shadows: A Tribute to Anne Rice and it’s a fundraiser for a charity Mrs. Rice supported during her lifetime–although I cannot for the life of me remember what that is right now (no worries, Constant Reader, at some point I will post the cover art and the name of the charity along with buy links and the opening of my story, as I always do with anthologies that I am in).

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

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

I woke up this morning to the news that Anne Rice died last night.

She was an enormous influence on me and my life, for any number of reasons. It was her book The Witching Hour that made me realize that I needed to come to New Orleans, that awakened my connection to the city that was maybe always there in my head yet was dormant; I cannot precisely place what it was about that book that opened the connection necessary in my head to know that New Orleans was where I belonged. There was just something about that book, the way she wrote about the city and its magic, that drew me here. The weekend of my thirty-third birthday I came to New Orleans, and it was the first time I ever felt connected to a place, that I had finally found the place where I belonged, where–if and when I were to move there–all of my dreams would come true. Her love of the city where she was born and grew up comes through so powerfully in The Witching Hour, and the book remains one of my favorites to this day. The friend I stayed with that weekend–knowing how much I loved the book–took me on a drive around the city and through the Garden District, and pulled up the house at the corner of First and Chestnut. “This,” he said with a big smile, “is where she lives. Do you recognize the house?”

I got out of the car, dumbfounded. The home of the Mayfair witches was real. It was on the corner of First and Chestnut, just as she wrote in the book. There was the massive live oak in the front yard. There was Dierdre’s porch, just off to the side of the front gallery of the house. There was the pool in the side yard. There was the window from which Antha fell to her death.

I did what any number of fans and tourists did, of course; posed for a picture by the front gate. That picture–all of the pictures from that weekend–were lost over the years and many moves, from apartment to apartment in Tampa, from Tampa to Minneapolis, from Minneapolis to New Orleans, when I finally, at long last, was able to move home to the city I loved…where, as I suspected when I read The Witching Hour, all of my dreams came true.

Eight years after we moved here, I lived through a horrible nightmare. One night on Memorial Day weekend, Paul and I had gone to the Quarter for a book launch party and then went out for a few drinks. We ran into another friend at one bar but I wanted to go dancing. Paul stayed behind with the friend, said he’d catch a cab home, and off I went. I came home and he wasn’t there. I went to bed…and woke up later that morning to a phone call that no one ever wants to get. Paul had been attacked by a group of homophobic thugs and beaten, badly. Had it not happened directly across the street from the Verti Marte, the two college students who had stopped there to get something to eat on their way home from work wouldn’t have seen it happen, and run out screaming at them. The monsters escaped, but had those girls not taken action, he most likely would have beaten far worse, perhaps (probably)killed.

I don’t remember much, really, of that day or the next few weeks. I do remember how kind people were, and how much support I received.

But what I really remember is how the crime was mishandled by the homophobic cops who were called to the scene–the girls told me all about when they called (and to this day, I regret never getting their names)–and as a result, the possibility that the attackers would be caught and punished evaporated. It didn’t make the Times-Picayune for several days–the timing is very unclear to me to this day; those days are jumbled and unclear in my mind–but I will never forget that Mrs. Rice made a public statement about what happened, and she also went on all the news channels in New Orleans to talk about what happened, and offered a reward.

And one night, after I got home from the hospital, I decided to tackle the monumental task of thanking people, who had reached out, who’d offered help, who were holding fundraisers, etc. etc. etc. I knew Mrs. Rice’s address, but figured she would probably never see a thank you card given the amount of mail she probably received; I had always heard stories that she actually had a phone number listed in the phone book (yes, I am “look it up in the phone book” years old) and sure enough, there was a number listed. I also figured, as I dialed, that it was probably just a message line, but I had also heard that she listened to all the messages, so I thought when the recorder picked up, I would talk really fast to get everything out that I wanted to say before the beep cut me off.

But a human being answered the phone, a woman.

“Hi, I was wondering if I could leave a message for Mrs. Rice?” I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking.

“Yes, of course.”

The words started tumbling out of me. I said who I was and who Paul was, and that I wanted to say thank you to her for offering a reward, for her public statement, and how much it meant to me, to both of us, that probably the most famous person in New Orleans would do that for total strangers. My voice broke a couple of times, my eyes filled with tears a couple of times, and I had to stop to take a breath every once in a while. When I finally finished, the woman on the other end of the line said, very kindly, “Well, of course. It was the least I could do.”

I was stunned. I was talking to Anne Rice herself. I had read all the books. She was one of the reasons I had finally found home; the place where I felt I belonged–and was now, of course, questioning that; I had read all the books and enjoyed them all; she lived and wrote about one of the most beautiful houses I had ever seen and was kind of a personal touchstone for me in the city; and now, she was reminding me why New Orleans was home.

We talked for a while, actually; I know she asked about me, she asked about how he was doing, she wanted to be certain I was okay–this total stranger who had looked up her phone number and reached out just to say thank you. I don’t know how long we were on the phone, but I do know, when I finally apologized for bothering her and taking up so much of her time, she replied, “You didn’t waste my time. I’m so glad you called because I was so worried about you. And if you need anything–anything at all, please don’t hesitate to call. Hospitals and medical expenses can add up very quickly. You just let me know what hospital and I’ll take care of everything. Please take care of yourself. And please, call at any time.”

I never called again. But I’ve never forgotten that Mrs. Rice, one of the bestselling authors of the last fifty years, one of the biggest celebrities to live in New Orleans, took a personal interest in two total strangers, and did whatever she could to try to bring attention to what happened as well as try to catch the perpetrators, and how incredibly kind and gracious and caring she was to someone she’d never met, and would never meet.

I had always wanted to attend one of her signings, to thank her in person not only for everything she did in that aftermath of what happened to Paul, but for how incredibly kind and generous she was to a shaky, barely holding it together total stranger who called her out of the blue one weeknight. But it never worked out for me to do so, and now she’s gone.

RIP, Mrs. Rice, and thank you again. You were truly a great lady.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Saturday morning in New Orleans and all is right–for now–in the world. I slept in this morning, which felt great, and while I have some errands to run–mail, drop off a return, make groceries, take books to the library sale–overall I pretty much have the day free. The LSU-Kentucky game isn’t until six thirty, and I don’t have any need to actually watch any of the other games today–although I will undoubtedly have the television on and tuned into said games–but I want to work on cleaning today, getting organized, and potentially doing some writing. I started writing another Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) post for Bury Me in Shadows the other night, and I really would like to get that finished and posted (I had hoped to write a post a day to try to sway you, Constant Reader, into opening your wallet and buying the book, but there’s only so much time in a day and I do need to rest and refresh both body and brain) at some point either today or tomorrow. But the book–and therefore the self-promotion–walk a line that I have to be very careful with, which always makes me nervous. It’s never my intent to ever offend or upset anyone, but my books are my books and my personal politics, values, and beliefs do affect what I choose to write about–and if you’re looking for a conservative point of view (or a white supremacist one) you are definitely buying the wrong books should you buy one of mine.

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I did some work, I made some condom packs, and I rewatched a film from the 1970’s that fits both into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival as well as the Halloween Horror Film Festival: Brian de Palma’s The Fury, based on a book by John Farris, which I read at the time (I eventually originally saw the film on HBO; I never rented it nor saw it in the theater). Horror fiction and films made an enormous comeback in the 1970’s; one could see the genre actually achieved never before see heights in that decade. Part of this, naturally, was the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, and the enormously successful, Oscar-nominated film adaptation of it a few years later (still one of the best King adaptations of all time). Both publishing and film responded accordingly, and also in the late 1970’s the one-two punch of Halloween and Friday the 13th took the slasher film to new heights, taking the horror genre along with them. The 1970’s also saw the debut of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which wound up spawning an enormously successful series of books that completely changed the vampire dynamic in fiction–following the lead of Dark Shadows and making vampires into deeply flawed, romantic heroes. But horror was everywhere in the latter part of the decade (you should really check out Grady Hendrix’ marvelous Paperbacks from Hell, which examines the proliferation of horror titles in the 1970’s and 1980’s, through the window of their cover art), and so, naturally, The Fury–with the same director as Carrie, Brian de Palma–was primarily viewed as a rip-off trying to cash in on the success of Carrie.

But if The Fury is similar to Carrie in some ways, it is much more like Firestarter than any other King work; as I rewatched I kept being reminded of Firestarter and thinking about it (and thinking it, too, was due for a reread). The premise of the film/book is that there is a secret government agency (1970’s paranoia again) tasked with exploring and examining the potential of young people with some psychic gifts, whether it’s ESP, telekinesis, etc., with an eye to weaponizing them as well as advancing science (the government will turn anything into a weapon of war; this moral debate is mentioned very briefly during the film but to no great degree). Kirk Douglas plays the father of an extremely gifted young man, played by Andrew Stevens (which may or may not have been my first exposure to the handsome son of Stella Stevens; he also appeared in a two-part television adaptation of John Jakes’ The Bastard, and I don’t remember which came first. Nevertheless, he was quite handsome and had a terrific, sexy body). The very first scene of the film shows them on the beach somewhere in the Middle East; there’s a terrorist attack and Douglas is the target, but Stevens is kidnapped by the bad guys and Douglas manages to escape, embarking on a lifelong quest to find and rescue his son from these bad guys operating under the aegis of the government (I cannot emphasize how deeply distrust of the government ran in this time, in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, there was a definite shift in public perception). The movie then switches over to Amy Irving, daughter of wealthy parents attending an extremely exclusive girls’ school in Chicago. Amy (another tie to Carrie) also has powers she doesn’t understand and can’t control; a bully starts harassing her in the cafeteria, and Amy blurts out the girl is pregnant–and the girl starts bleeding from her nose profusely, causing a panic, etc. Amy is then recruited to a school to test her talents–the same people who kidnapped Andrew Stevens, but their end game is never really explained; they’re all just bad guys who work amorphously for the government. Amy and Andrew are somehow connected; being able to see each other’s thoughts and so forth, so Douglas helps her escape from the school and they go looking for Stevens. SPOILERS: Stevens and Douglas finally end up dead, basically killed by the government people–not really, but they are definitely the reason they do–and in the final scene Amy uses her powers to punish the bad guys (again, very similar to Firestarter, which The Fury predates by several years). It’s not a bad movie, per se, but it’s also not a great one; it’s certainly not as engaging as Carrie–and I remember thinking that about the book as well; that it was just a quickly written attempt to cash in on King’s success.

What was interesting–what is always interesting–about watching these old movies is seeing actors who have not yet made it big in bit roles. There were three I picked out in this one: Melody Thomas, yet to become Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless for decades; Daryl Hannah as one of the bitchy mean girls at the private school Irving attends; and Dennis Franz, playing a cop years before NYPD Blue.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso (oh, Nate, you poor broken man) which made us both laugh and cry, as it always does; the show really is a joy and I am rather distraught we have to wait now for the next season, and then a new show on Apple TV called Acapulco. This show is interesting; a wealthy older Latino man is explaining to his nephew his life story; how he came up from nothing to become wealthy, and how it all began with him getting his first job at a ritzy resort hotel in Acapulco called Las Casinas when he was a teenager. The parts with the older man talking to his young nephew are not engaging at all; there’s a mimicry of The Princess Bride with just a hint of the story-telling structure of How I Met Your Mother as well; it didn’t work for me in this instance. But the teenagers working at Las Casinas back in the 1980’s? Very charming, engaging, and likable. We’ll keep watching, but I want to see less of the present and more of the past, which is the show’s true strength.

That’s about it here from the spice mines. I think I’ll have some more coffee and try to get that BSP post finished. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader!

I Think about You

Friday finally, and so much to do, as always.

Yesterday was an interesting day on social media. I was working at home and so not paying nearly as much attention as I would ordinarily–just checking in here and there when I was bleary-eyed from working, plus tired from the insomnia the night before–and was more than a little amused to see some weird stuff going on around that short story for The New Yorker that went viral a while back–“Cat Person”, which didn’t impress me much–but apparently the author had based the story on her own experience with some guy, after which someone had told her about another woman’s experience with the same guy so she based the female main character on THAT woman, and THAT woman wrote an essay about having her life appropriated for someone else’s fiction?

It’s been my experience that people will see themselves in characters you create that they like and identify with, even if there’s nothing further from that truth. People I know have always seen themselves in characters that I’ve written about–and I can only think of one instance where I actually DID base someone on a friend–Scotty’s best friend David, who disappeared from the series after the first three books (mainly because I could never figure out a way to bring him into the stories; although I do think about bringing him back every now and then because I really liked the character). David was based on my friend and workout partner Mark, who always wanted to be killed off in a really brutal fashion. I never obliged, of course, but as I said, when I picked up the series again after several years away from it, I could never figure out a way to involve him in the story so he kind of became an absent character.

Now that I’ve said that, I am determined to involve him in the next Scotty book. It might be kind of fun, actually.

I slept better last night than I did the night before, so I am better rested today. Yesterday I was so tired I actually felt unwell, which of course had me thinking about COVID variants and so forth, and made me also think I should be more diligent about wearing masks everywhere. I did make groceries last night after work, despite being tired, and i did wear a mask, and I think that’s going to be my standard practice going forward. Why risk getting sick, and I sure as hell don’t care what people I don’t know think about me. (I have gone into a few places unmasked over the past few weeks; like a very bad Gregalicious.) I also had a nightmare last night that when I got up and came downstairs this morning, there would be another pile of forms for me to enter into the CDC database–which was a most unpleasant dream, frankly.

I also got my copy of S. A. Cosby’s new book, Razorblade Tears, in the mail yesterday. I will move on to it once I finish reading Bath Haus, which should be this weekend. I’m very excited to read Shaun’s new book–I’ve heard such wonderful things about it already, and frankly, I am a huge fan. Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite books of last year. I am also excited that the next part of the Fear Street trilogy is dropping on Netflix today.

I also haven’t written in several days, which is not good–but the tired thing is for real. Since I am feeling rested today, I am hoping to tear through the next part of “Never Kiss a Stranger,” with an end goal of finishing the first draft this weekend. I am going to also start writing the next chapter of Chlorine this weekend, provided I stay rested and motivated. My phô restaurant is reopening today as well, so I am going to be able to get some phô at some point this weekend as well. Maybe tomorrow? And I will be going to the gym later today as well. On the walk home from the gym today I intend to swing by another street into the Garden District–First–and will be taking pictures of Anne Rice’s former home, which was the house she made the longtime home of the Mayfair witches, beginning with The Witching Hour, which is one of my favorite New Orleans novels. Despite the heat and the gallons of sweat these picture taking walks home creates, I am enjoying them because I feel like I am reconnecting with the city in some ways. I certainly don’t feel as disconnected as I have over the past year or so.

And on that note, it’s time to go make condom packs. Have a glorious Friday, COnstant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.