Talk to Me

And now it’s Wednesday. I have to go to bed super-early tonight so I can get up for my flight tomorrow morning at the obscene departure time of 7:50. I need to rehearse my reading tonight, make sure that I have everything packed that needs to be packed, and perhaps even put everything in the car tonight–the suitcase in the hatch, at any rate; I don’t think I want my laptop in the car overnight in this heat and humidity. Probably not the wisest course to chart, no doubt. Yesterday was a weird one; the strangeness of the three day weekend morphing into a Tuesday that felt like a Monday (since Monday is usually my work-at-home day of the week, I felt like a holiday Monday shouldn’t have affected my perception of the start of the week, but nevertheless it did and there we were). The weather was also bad–gloomy and gray and thunderstorms all morning–it would have been an absolutely lovely day to stay in bed under the blankets with a good book, but alas, that was not to be.

Why couldn’t the thunderstorm have been MONDAY morning? When I could stay in bed all morning if I so chose? Heavy heaving sigh. Mother Nature clearly has it in for me, and I don’t like it one bit. DO BETTER.

Ugh, so much to do before I leave tomorrow morning. Heavy heaving sigh.

It doesn’t look like we’re going to get much rain today; if any at all. I have to run errands after work today, then come home and pack before going to bed early; I don’t feel as groggy this morning as I usually do on these mornings, which means maybe I slept well last night; I do feel like I did–I feel much more rested this morning than I did yesterday morning (low bar, to be fair) and that’s good. I was feeling tired most of yesterday, which is a feeling I really do not like much; it impairs my ability to get things done and I also feel like I don’t work as well with my clients when I am tired. That’s probably just me being hard on myself, but who would i be if I wasn’t hard on myself? Certainly not one Gregalicious, that’s for sure.

I sold my story “Solace in a Dying Hour” to that anthology that asked me to submit, which is, of course, absolutely a lovely thing. The story needs some more revision, which I am fine with–I trust editors, and I’ve always been lucky for the most part with the ones I’ve dealt with (I have had some horror stories, of course–who hasn’t?–but overall I cannot complain for the most part); I know this editor’s input made the last story I sold to her far better than what I originally sent in for the anthology. And this is a story of which I am inordinately proud; I really liked the idea behind it and what I did with it once I started writing it. (I am particularly pleased with the ending, he typed modestly.)

And it’s also Pay-the-Bills Day. But as I always rationalize to myself, at least I can pay the bills and buy groceries without worry, no matter how painful it is to pay the fucking bills. So, tonight when I get off work I get to run errands, do some laundry, clean up the kitchen, and pack so I am ready for the five AM alarm to go off in the morning so I can head to the airport. Heavy heaving sigh. I always have this dread of traveling before the whole thing gets underway. Here’s hoping that I will be able to sleep once I get there.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow–possibly from the airport itself.

Here Comes the Sun

Wednesday and yet another edition of Pay-the-Bills Day (woo-hoo?). Another fairly restful night of sleep, one more day to get up this early this week, and before I know it, it’s the weekend. Huzzah!

Yesterday wasn’t a bad day. I wasn’t tired until late in the afternoon, and I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from the office (Christ, the price of everything has so dramatically increased!) and then came home to do a load of dishes and finish the laundry I’d started the night before. Paul was home late from the office–we watched an episode of Why Are We Like This, which is a very weird show about three young people that are friends and kind of awful, but it had some funny moments. I think it’s an Australian show? It was short, and that was really the point–Paul got home too late for us to watch a show that lasted an hour, and I think we’re all caught up on hour-length shows anyway–and then it was off to bed with me. I did work on “Never Kiss a Stranger” again last night–I got the sinking suspicion I was making the story too long again, but I don’t care; the whole point of a novella is you have more room than you do in a short story. I also spent some time cleaning up my CV–it’s still not entirely up to date, but I really don’t want to get that box down from the attic with all my newspaper and magazine articles stored inside, so I can make it up to date–but at least now the short story section is accurate and in date order (I may still be missing some; you never know, and there are so many! I also discovered that I have at least two stories in print that I do not have electronic copies of; that’s not great).

I also got my schedule for Sleuthfest next month in Fort Lauderdale; which is great. I am looking forward to attending–even if it’s going to be ridiculously hot in Lauderdale when I am there–and there are going to be some great people there for me to see. I am hoping, as always, to get inspired while there by listening to great writers and fun people talking about books and writing.

It did occur to me last night that spending this week (and this week only!) working on “Never Kiss a Stranger” might not be the best use of this “in-between books” week, but I don’t really care. The fact that I finished significant edits on a book–edits that had me apparently so stressed that I felt tired all the time as well as defeated (more writer insanity, really)–and was able to write any fiction almost immediately thereafter is a miracle in and of itself; but I do know I need to get my shit together with short story submissions and writing for anthology calls. A task, perhaps, for this weekend. I am actually looking forward, though, to not having anything to work on or do–oh, crap, I forgot about my workshop on Saturday morning, so much for having a weekend free…but at least that doesn’t mean having to write anything much. And it won’t kill me to get up early on Saturday and drive out there.

Or will it?

According to my Fitbit, my sleep hasn’t been great the last two nights, yet I have felt rested and relaxed every morning when I get up. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, of course, but as long as I don’t feel fatigue–mentally, physically, emotionally–I call that a big win. I’m also waiting for the final approval (or more edits) for “Solace in a Dying Hour”–fingers crossed that it’s an acceptance; as a general rule anthology editors don’t ask for a revision unless they are planning on using the story (not always true; one anthology editor made me rewrite a story three times only to end up not using it–and I will never, under any circumstance, submit to that editor again; she also lied to me about the reason for not using the story–apparently she thought I was a rank amateur who has never published much; imagine telling someone who has won awards for editing anthologies–and certainly more awards for editing that this particular fucking editor–a bald-faced lie to excuse their thoroughly unprofessional conduct, and if it wasn’t a lie…well, you are a fucking shitty unprofessional editor. Then again, we’ve already ascertained that she’s an unprofessional piece of shit, haven’t we? Not even a ‘sorry I made you work so hard on this story I’m not going to use, here’s a token payment as an appreciation for what I put you through.’)

I guess my segment on Great Day Louisiana aired yesterday? It was supposed to at any rate; I never heard one way or the other; I just did a search of my name on their website and nothing came up, which is also fine. I always hate seeing and/or listening to recordings of me–I’ve always wanted to transcribe the character workshop I did for Sleuthfest ten or so years ago but it would also require me to listen to my voice as I transcribed–transcription also takes forever–for hours on repeat and I think I would rather drink bleach to wash down a salad of broken glass than listen to my own voice over and over again.

All right, that’s enough tedium for today. Sorry to be such a bore! And I am off to the spice mines.

Spanish Harlem

Friday morning at last, and I am a more than a little happy to see this reentry week put to rest in the archives, if I am being completely honest. Reentry weeks are always a bit of a disruption, and the older I get the weird transition from one side of my life to the other inevitably becomes more difficult. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the different sides so much–I always feel that the day-to-day life, so disparate and different from the “writer” public life–is good for keeping me grounded as well as keeping my ego in check. After all, you could get whiplash going from being on-stage at the Edgars as the executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America back to lower-level clinic employee (although that’s really not a fair statement about my day job; my day job–while not in management or supervision–is actually important and I do help every one of my clients in a positive way every day; it’s just a vastly different enterprise than my life as a writer and/or everything that is involved, even peripherally, with that).

We finished watching Harry Wild, the new Jane Seymour crime series on Acorn and highly recommend it. Seymour is terrific in the leading role, and everyone in the supporting cast is also good. The young Black teenager who originally mugs her in the first episode eventually becomes her Watson, and they are great together. Paul and I, like so many Americans, are absolute suckers for British crime series, and now that we’ve (alas) finished Harry Wild, we’ll probably go ahead and finish Severance this weekend–we’re very close to the end of the first season, and I do find the show to be both interesting and disturbing at the same time; while I can see why the “severance” would be appealing to people–the utter and complete separation of day-job from personal life–at the same time it would seem incredibly weird and unsettling to me; not knowing what I did the rest of the time? It is interesting, and obviously there are deeper questions about morality and bodily autonomy here as well–and given what’s going on in this country at the current moment, it’s very timely.

I have big plans for this weekend. I have some self-care scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I am also doing an interview/event for Spirit of Ink on Saturday afternoon. I want to finish reading my Carol Goodman novel (it really is quite delicious); I need to do some writing; and of course, there’s always cleaning and organizing that needs to be done. We also had some horrific thunderstorms over night–I don’t remember if I woke up during the storms or not; the same thing happened Wednesday night and I do remember waking up to thunder; I think it was Wednesday night rather than last, honestly. I’ve really been sleeping great lately, and it’s marvelous. I still get terribly tired on the days I have to get up early–I don’t think that will ever change, frankly–but I am adjusting. I actually am planning on returning to the gym this weekend as well; I am hopeful that getting my act together and working out again will also help make me feel better, sleep better, and get more done. I’m really tired of carrying around this extra weight and not being in tip-top shape, but also have to recognize that it will take far longer than it used to now that I am older. It would probably go faster also if I started eating healthier…but I think we know how that is going to go, don’t we?

Yeah, not going to happen. I can try, but make no promises. I like fat and grease and breading and so forth too much to put my vanity (and it’s really not about vanity anymore, really) ahead of what pleasures I get from eating, to be honest. My relationship with food has always been skewed–so has my relationship with my body and my appearance, which I really need to write about sometime–and I always have to worry about my tendency to fall into compulsive/obsessive behavior (I really need to try to continue channeling those quirks of my personality into my writing and promotion of my career) when it comes to exercise and eating and so forth.

Ah, Greg’s personality problems and issues.

I turned my story into the anthology yesterday, and also found another (very short) call for submissions for another anthology I’d like to work on something for. I think my story turned out okay; it needs some tweaking and so forth, perhaps, but I am hoping the editors do like it. I also want to get a couple of other stories I’d also like to starting sending out to various markets to see if anyone wants them; it’s been a hot minute since I’ve sent anything out to other markets rather than the occasional anthology submission call. I wrote a story to submit to Land of 10000 Crimes, the Bouchercon anthology I am currently co-editing, but finally decided to not send in anything for the blind read; I made it past the blind reads in the last two anthologies I edited for Bouchercon, but I kind of got the impression (and it could be wrong; I tend to expect people to be critical and snarky of me and my work) that the fact that I made it past the blind reads on the anthologies I personally edited might look weird and/or suspicious to people on the outside–suuuuuuuure you made it through the blind read–but at the same time, I didn’t help myself by never submitting stories to the Bouchercon anthologies I wasn’t editing. But my story in Blood on the Bayou was a Macavity Award finalist, and my story in Florida Happens was an Anthony finalist, so that sort of makes it seem like my stories were worthy of being published?

But I can certainly get why it’s for the best that I didn’t submit anything to the anthology. But I also really like my story, “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I’d like to get that out for submission; it’s pretty close to being finished and perhaps maybe one more go-round with it could be in order. There are a few others I’d also like to get out for submission as well–“Death and the Handmaidens” is certainly one of those–and so I am going to add that to my weekend to-do list; look at the some of the almost-completed stories I have on hand, and see which ones can be sent out next week. It’s never a bad idea to keep my hand in, you know.

And now that I am sort of feeling like myself again. I might as well ride this train as far as it will take me before it goes off the rails again.

Have a happy Friday, Constant Reader..

I’m So Glad (I Got Somebody Like You Around)

And now it is Wednesday, aka Pay-the-Bill day, and I actually had already started paying the bills yesterday. Yay? But at least I can pay them without any stress about buying the groceries or missing a payment or anything. There are few things worse, really, than financial stress–I can’t think of a single situation that financial stress has ever made better, for example.

I did sleep pretty well again last night, and I think maybe my body is beginning to get used to the getting up at six a.m. thing at long last. I certainly am not sleepy or tired this morning (I’d still rather be in bed under my blankets, though) and my mind feels pretty awake thus far. I got tired yesterday afternoon, but I get tired every afternoon at the office, frankly; I didn’t think too much of it. I also managed to do another load of dishes and laundry last night when I got home before collapsing into my easy chair with the Chlorine folder. I thought I’d been reading the wrong versions the other day, and I was correct; there were more recent versions of those first three chapters, and I reread them last evening. They were much better than the sloppy mess I originally read the other night, which was an enormous relief (after reading them Sunday or Monday I was actually thinking well, I need to revise these or this project is completely not worth even trying). The voice and tone need to be cleaned up a bit, and there are contradictions and continuity errors to be sure, but over all I think it’s going in a better direction than I had thought based on the last reading. I am actually kind of excited to be getting back to it as well.

I did some more work on the anthology yesterday as well, and am hopeful that I’ll continue making progress on it until it is actually finished and out of my hair once and for all. It’s always a lovely feeling to be making progress–yesterday I really felt like I wasn’t just spinning my wheels but was actually getting somewhere, the tires were actually getting traction on the road, and that’s a lovely feeling. I also went through my to-do list yesterday, crossed off a bunch of things, and realized that hey, it’s time for a new to-do list and felt very accomplished, to be honest. It felt really good. I stopped and got the mail on the way home, too–my copies of Cupid Shot Me were there, as was the new Robyn Gigl, Survivor’s Guilt (a great title, he typed with an eyebrow raised and an amused smile)–and I decided that I really need to get back to reading. Tonight is my night to get back to the gym after work for my second workout of the week (muscles still feel good this morning from Monday night), knowing it will probably be half-assed and so forth because it will probably be very crowded by the time I get there; but a half-assed workout is better than no workout, and then I can come home and relax, maybe read for a while. I want to get some more work done on “Condos for Sale or Rent” this week, and I am also playing around with the ideas for the sequel for A Streetcar Named Murder, should they want one…I think the title I am going to use is The House of the Seven Grables, and I think I know how to make that title work as well (publisher will probably hate it, so the back-up title will have to be something like Death on a Hot Tin Roof or The Hound and the Fury or something along those lines). So I am feeling creative again–those batteries have clearly recharged completely and finally, thank you baby Jesus–and am sleeping well and am feeling content these days, which is lovely. It’s still parade season–they start on Friday and run all weekend–which is going to take some adapting to and is inevitably going to make me feel even more tired (but hey, Fat Tuesday is a paid holiday, so that week will be a disrupted and shorter work week, which is always pleasant and a nice surprise), but that’s the price of living inside the parade route.

I have to say it’s really nice feeling creative again, even if it’s all over the place. The return of the creative ADHD is always a pleasant surprise; I just need to remember to stop riffing and brainstorming and actually laser-focus my attention on something to write, which for now is going to be that short story that is due by March 1 and the other due on April 1; both have been started but are nowhere near finished in even a first draft form. I think both have potential, really; and I also am thinking about trying my luck with Ellery Queen again, if I can get a story I have almost nearly ready polished and revised. I had been writing a story for the Bouchercon anthology, but am not really sure now if I should send it to the blind readers or not. (My last two stories for Bouchercon anthologies made it through the blind read process; but I also only wrote stories for the ones I was editing. Even though it was fairly done–the readers didn’t know either story was mine–it looked untoward. I do think the fact both stories went on to be nominated for awards undermined any controversy or smack talk done behind my back…but I think this time around I am going to take the story and sell it elsewhere. It’s a good story, and I am betting I can sell it somewhere else. And I think we got a lot of really good stories submitted for this anthology; it’s not like it needs a story by me; not that any anthology ever does, of course.) There are some other stories, too, that I’d like to get finished at some point…

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

My World Is Empty Without You

So, the HVAC guys came yesterday to fix our heat. We got a new system last year after the old one finally died just before the Fat Tuesday Freeze (the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, and I lived in Minneapolis for a winter), but we’d never needed to ever use the heating aspect of it once it was installed; the weather changed in mid-February and it wasn’t needed again. When it got cold last week, I turned it on, it ran for a bit, then kind of coughed and stopped working. Within an hour of them getting it running yesterday, the house was not only bearable but temperate. The old system never warmed the downstairs and inevitably turned the upstairs into a sauna; this one actually moderates the temperature based on the floors so that doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t even need to wear my slippers because the floor isn’t too cold for stockinged feet. This morning it is thirty-seven degrees outside but I am not wearing layers or slippers inside the Lost Apartment this morning and it’s kind of lovely.

As I said to Paul last night as we started watching the final season of Ozark, “clearly, we’ve needed a new system since we moved in here, and this is how everyone survives the cold spells in New Orleans.”

I had often wondered, frankly. I’ve even written about it, convinced that heating these old houses in New Orleans wasn’t truly possible…and now I know I was wrong, all along.

Which is kind of embarrassing, really.

It’s weird to be sitting here at my desk, shivering and cold. It’s also nice.

As always, this is a Saturday where I must get lots done. I am behind still on the book, and of course the place is a disaster area and I have to run errands out in the cold at some point–which I am really not looking forward to. Tomorrow I have a goal of going to the gym and working out again for the first time in months; this should be interesting but I also know it’s going to feel amazing to be going to the gym fairly regularly again; fingers crossed, right? And now that it’s no longer cold in the apartment, I have no excuse for not getting anything done; when it’s cold I am too cold to function and all I want to do is huddle in my easy chair under a blanket. Well, don’t have that excuse anymore in a temperate indoor climate, do I? Which is a good thing. I didn’t have any it’s warm here in the bed and cold out there thoughts about getting up this morning–I still stayed in bed longer than I probably should have, but what can you do? Lazy’s going to lazy, I am afraid, but the fewer excuses I can give myself, the better.

I heard about a new anthology I am excited to submit a story for, particularly because I already have a story ready for it. I don’t remember what I originally wrote the story for, but it was for a submission call but I cannot remember which anthology it was for; it wasn’t taken, and I’ve played with the story off and on over the years. Now that I know it’s got a potential home, once this book is finished and turned in, I can get back to it and put the kind of detail into it that will make it sing and stand out; it’s a bit ghoulish, really; but I really liked the story and its potential; I had always intended to get back to it, maybe for my next short story collection (This Town and Other Stories; not sure when that will eventually see the light of day, but I am getting a lot of stories into print and once this current book is finished will be sending out more to other markets and hopefully getting some more traction with the stories, as well as writing others to fill it out. I am actually very excited about getting this collection together this year, frankly).

I also saw the final draft of the cover for A Streetcar Named Murder, which had a mistake on it, which is why I am not sharing it with you, Constant Reader; I should have the final cover design early next week and I cannot wait to share it. It’s gorgeous and perfect and I love it. Now I just have to finish writing it…

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Will check in with you tomorrow and let you know how the day went, Constant Reader. Have a great Saturday yourself, okay?

Looking for a New Love

Hey there, Tuesday! How you doin’?

I’m a bit on the sleepy side; I finally got a good night’s sleep for the first time in a few days, and as such I’m still  a big groggy and loopy this morning. Yesterday was an oddly out of sorts kind of day, during which I didn’t get a lot done but did manage to get some work done on the short story I have due by the end of the month. Kickstarting my writing really needs to become a priority as we wind up this seemingly endless volunteer project–but the end is so nigh it’s almost palpable, as thought I can actually taste the end as it draws near. I feel like this project has sort of sucked the life out of me and the marrow out of my bones, but it’s almost finished and perhaps now everything can sort of go back to some semblance of normalcy around here.

Like that ever happens.

We got caught up on The Righteous Gemstones last night, and I have to say, this show–which is also kind of weird and almost creepy in many ways–is quite enjoyable to watch. I’m not really sure where it’s going, which makes it even more fun, but it’s funny and sad and crazy all at the same time. John Goodman as the family patriarch and head preacher Eli Gemstone is perfect in the role, and pretty much everyone else in the cast is also perfect for their role. I am a little surprised there hasn’t been any nastiness from the evangelical community, but then again, how many  of them watch HBO?

I think tonight we’re going to start Succession, which comes highly recommended by any number of our friends, and one of the previews I saw last night made it look fantastic.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I continue to read Lords of Misrule, and the dark bloody history of this city continues to amaze and enthrall me. I’m shaking my head at myself–my ignorance of New Orleans history certainly gives the lie to the oft-stated notion that I am some sort of expert on New Orleans; I am anything but an expert on this city, particularly of its history. But I am learning, and studying, and I have to tell you, the more I read of New Orleans history the more inspired I am to write about the city.

I will say that I have been invited to contribute a story to an anthology, being done by a publisher in a foreign (yet English speaking) country. I am always excited to be invited to write for an anthology, and usually I see these tasks as challenges–there’s simply nothing more guaranteed to stretch and push your writing as writing to a theme. This one in particular is a strange one for me; it’s a collection of pastiches, where one is to take a particularly famous fictional character and make him a native of another place. You can make any changes to the character–gender, sexuality, age, time period, etc.–as long as, in this case, he isn’t British and the story isn’t set there. I have chosen to make him a New Orleanian during the time around World War I, and the crime he’s to become involved in solving has to do with the secrets of Storyville. I never considered myself to be anything more than a casual fan of this character, and had never considered doing pastiches about him, despite their increasing popularity. SO, I have the idea and I’ve already written the opening paragraph, and I am really looking forward to this challenge.

And I am very well aware that the Short Story Project has primarily taken a backseat to the Diversity Project, which I am taking a respite from in order to read Rob Hart’s novel, before getting back to it.

I do really want to get these other two short story collections finished at some point. But I also need to get some work done on the Kansas book; September is slipping through my fingers and there’s another all consuming project lying in wait for me for October and November–which means December will be spent on the Kansas book, with a goal to turning it into my publisher on January 1.

But we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

And now back to the spice mines.

16-1-683x1024

Loves Me Like a Rock

Saturday.

So, yeah, yesterday was something. I slept relatively well on Thursday night, woke up at eight, and while doing my usual morning blogging over my coffee as I woke up, I kind of casually mentioned an idea for a book I had several years ago–and now that I think about it, talking about James Ellroy, which then morphed into talking about Megan Abbott’s staggeringly brilliant period noir novels was what brought it back to the front of my mind–and some friends on Twitter fell in love with the idea for the book and began pressing me to go ahead and write it, which was really unexpected and lovely and overwhelming and nice. I posted the blog entry, went and did the dishes, and when I came back to the computer my Twitter mentions had blown up (I think that’s the way to say that, hopeless Luddite that I am).  Then I walked away again, started laundering the bed lines and then cleaned the staircase only to come back to even more mentions, and some lovely new followers.

But like I always say, I never ever will have enough time to write everything that I want to write. I had already kind of decided that next year’s plan was to write three gay noirs I’d been wanting to write for quite some time (Chlorine was one of these, the others being Muscles and Heatstroke), and then a couple of weeks ago I sat down and wrote the first chapter of yet another Chanse book, despite the fact I’d officially retired the series with Murder in the Arts District several years ago. The Chanse story is already burning in my mind, aching to be written, and I’d kind of figured I’d try to get it written by the end of the year…and all the while these thoughts and ideas and creativity are running through my fevered little brain, I am also not working on the WIP or the revision of the Kansas book, which I kind of need to get done at some point….and there’s yet another unfinished manuscript (it needs another two drafts, at least) languishing in my CURRENT PROJECTS folder.

This is why writers drink.

I also spent some more time with Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek, which is simply extraordinary. I’m not even a fifth of the way through and it’s a marvel I cannot recommend to you highly enough, Constant Reader; it makes me wish I was a judge reading for a Best First Novel award so I could pick it, it’s really that good.

But I did manage to get the proofing done, or at least a first pass at them (I’ll most likely do it again this weekend since I got a bit ahead on things with it). They aren’t due back until Monday, so I think I’ll probably give them another going over tomorrow, with fresher eyes again, just to make sure nothing gets missed. Huzzah!

I have to venture out into the heat today–we are in a heat warning, I think, and an air quality warning as well–to get the mail and make groceries. Usually going out into the heat drains me of all energy, but I think what I’m going to do when I get home is self-care–use the back roller/self massage thing, exfoliate my skin, shave my head and face, so a psoriasis treatment, take a long hot shower, and perhaps then recline for a moment or two in my easy chair with Angie Kim’s novel.

I’ve not written a word this entire vacation, but I am going to get my proofs finished, which is lovely, and I’ve gotten a lot of cleaning done, too. I’ve wasted more time than I’ve spent doing things, but I don’t care. I’m allowed to have some down time, and I feel very rested, which is cool. I also seem to have trained myself to go to bed every night around ten…and get up around eight. Ten hours of sleep per night has been lovely; no wonder I’m rested, right? Also, I’ve managed to stay off social media for most of the time, other than yesterday’s Chlorine-fueled blowing up of my Twitter mentions. I also have discovered these amazing, short videos on Youtube that look at some moment in history–the Wars of the Roses, the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the Hundred Years’ War, Charlemagne’s empire–with animation, humor and all in under ten minutes. They’re terribly clever, and are also informative in a very macro way; there was a lot, for example, that I didn’t know about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that was filled in by the video explaining it in ten minutes, which also explained how the British came to be in charge of Palestine and Egypt, as well as how the French wound up with Algeria–which I’d never really known before. This also led me to researching the history of the Franco-Spanish kingdom of Navarre; I never really quite understood how Henri IV, King of France, managed to be the son of a regnant queen of Navarre–particularly since Navarre is barely ever mentioned throughout European history (Richard the Lion-Hearted’s wife was from Navarre); I now understand it.

I love how, despite knowing more history than most people, there are so many gaps in what I do actually know.

I also need to figure out what I have agreed to write. I think there are at least three anthologies I want to write for, or have been asked to write for, so I need to figure out the deadlines and what I want to write for them. I am going to try for the Mystery Writers of America anthology again–I have a story already written that fits; it just needs some serious tweaking and revising before submission–and I think there are three others I’ve been asked to contribute something to? I really have been scattered this spring/early summer, which is disconcerting. I also, because of all the Chlorine stuff on Twitter yesterday, sat down and wrote down all the manuscripts I have started and have some version of finished, as well as the others I want to do, and some others I’ve been asked to pitch, and I am sure it will come as no surprise that Greg, the underachieving overachiever, has ten books on said list; and I want to do them all.

And of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t have more ideas in the meantime, either.

This is also why writers drink.

Correction: I just remembered two more, so it’s a list of twelve.

Yup, I am certifiably insane, in case there was ever any doubt.

And on that note, the bathtub isn’t going to scrub itself, the bastard.

Off to the spice mines, have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

IMG_1682

Fooled Around and Fell in Love

It’s Sunday morning in New Orleans and I am already awake and swilling coffee. It looks kind of gray outside my windows this morning. The sun is trying to come out from behind the cloud cover so I don’t think today is going to be one of those rainy days like yesterday, but it’s kind of nice. The humidity has returned–Friday was miserable–and it’s only May. The true dog days are yet to be upon us. Heavy heaving sigh.

Yesterday I was moving stuff around, trying to lessen the appearance of clutter as well as to figure out where to put all the extra paper towels (thank you, Costco!) and put the things I was moving into places that I would remember when I discovered a copy of the first anthology I ever published a short story in, released way back in August of 2000: Men for All Seasons, edited by Jesse Grant, and from Alyson Books. It’s an erotic story, of course; my first two published short stories were erotica an d I don’t think I published a story that wasn’t erotica until “Smalltown Boy” in Rebel Yell 2, several years later. It was also interesting to look at the table of contents and see that my original by-line for fiction was Gregory Herren, not Greg; I do think I switched to Greg for the second story that was published that same month in Men magazine. Going through the list of contributors, I was struck by how many of those writers are no longer writing–or if they are, they aren’t using their “erotica” pen names anymore.

Back in the day, if you worked really hard you could make a lovely little income writing gay erotica. I was paid $300 for the story in Men; I published a second story there a few years later for the same pay. I think I got $75 for the story in Men for All Seasons. I started writing erotica primarily as a lark; Alyson’s publicist advised me to start writing short fiction for their anthologies, primarily for the publication credits and the money, as well as to make my name better known and more familiar to the Alyson editorial staff. He was right; Alyson wound up buying my first novel Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and I stayed with Alyson for the first five Chanse books, as well as several erotica anthologies I edited for them. I always called myself “an accidental pornographer” because it wasn’t anything I’d ever wanted to do, but the money was nice and the books actually did very well. But now…now there’s no market for actual gay erotica. Anthologies don’t sell and so no one is doing them anymore; the only market for erotica is novels, and reality is most of those are written now by straight women for other straight women, and that’s not the kind of erotica I write. (This is not to say straight women cannot write gay erotica geared toward gay men; in my editing days I worked with a lot of straight women who wrote horny, nasty, raunchy men on men erotica and you’d never know the author was a woman.) But the women who like to read the m/m stuff don’t like the erotica I write, and so I don’t really write it anymore.  I don’t miss it, to be honest–there are only so many ways to write about male on male sex originally, only so many words–and I even at one time wrote a column for the Erotica Writers Association on how to write good porn. I think my favorite column title was “Sometimes A Cock Is Just A Cock.”

I didn’t do much writing yesterday–actual physical writing–but I did do a lot of thinking and rehashing and going over my notes for the WIP. I doubt very seriously I will get as caught up as I had wanted to get this weekend, but you know, that’s just how it goes sometimes. Today is May the 5th, and I am going to dig into Chapter Six again in just a moment, with the hopes that Chapters 7, 8 and 9 will fall into place as I go…and then maybe I can start with Chapter Ten. I got so far off track with this WIP that I don’t really remember the story I was trying to tell in the first place, which is terrible–my memory, once so incredibly dependable I didn’t really need to take notes, in now completely unreliable. Part of the reason I decided to go back and redo the chapters I’d already written was to get myself immersed back into the story, get a feel for the characters, and maybe find the flaws and mistakes and holes in the plot. I’ve managed some of that, of course, which makes it all worthwhile, and I did find the outline for Chapter Ten in my journal (which I’d completely forgotten I’d written down), so yes, not actually spending time at the keyboard yesterday while actually simply reviewing notes and rereading things was a pretty smart thing to do.

Going through the current and previous journal also reminded me of some short story ideas I’d had that had somehow slipped, unbidden, from my memory. I also managed to page through The Gulf by Jack E. Davis yesterday, and I believe it will be a rich source of ideas and materials for me to write another book–my spring break murders novel, Where the Boys Die–and many others. Nonfiction is a great source of material for fiction, in case you were wondering.

And now I am going to sign off with this entry as I have another, Game of Thrones specific one I started yesterday that I would like to finish this morning.

170856_177996562235912_122584814443754_340422_5816097_o

Should’ve Never Let You Go

And my first morning of vacation looms bright, with a stunningly blue sky and the sun blinding me through my windows. The clouds will roll in later this afternoon, per the weather forecast, and the thunderstorms aren’t supposed to arrive until around eleven; well after the second parade has passed. Tonight’s parades are Druids and (Stevie) Nyx; so only two, to prep us for the madness of Thursday, which includes Muses.

So much to get done today, should I choose to do any of it; I need to get caught back up on Scotty revising, and there’s always cleaning to do around the Lost Apartment. I also have to make groceries and collect the mail, and I’d like to go to the gym at some point this afternoon as well to begin my reconnection with taking better care of my body. There’s also reading to do; I need to read the next story in the Murder-a-Go-Go’s anthology, and I need to finish the ghost story I’m reading in Norah Lofts’ Hauntings, and of course, the delicious pleasure that is Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long also awaits on the end table next to my reclining chair. I need to set aside some time to finish that because I need to read my homework for the panel I’m moderating at the Tennessee Williams Festival–Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife, and Kristien Hemmerechts’ The Woman Who Fed the Dogs. I am also falling very far behind on the Diversity Project, which is enormously disappointing to me.

I’m sort of in a malaise in which I keep putting things off because I don’t want to do them, which isn’t really like me–or at least, the me I’ve been for the last half of my life. The first half of my life was when I just avoided things I didn’t want to deal with, which never ended well. I’m not entirely sure what’s causing it, and the Great Data Disaster of 2018 was so long ago now (three months, almost four!) that I can’t keep blaming things on it; but I can really trace this back to losing that weekend’s worth of work and getting derailed…because I was also on a roll at that point, and I’ve never quite gotten that momentum back.

Something innocuous I posted on social media blew up in a way I certainly never intended, and no, I don’t mean the post that someone needs to do a noir reboot of The Partridge Family, which I still think is a brilliant idea–after all, we never really know what happened to Shirley’s husband, who is rarely, if ever mentioned; and let’s face it, none of those kids looked even remotely related to each other. I envision Shirley as a not only a black widow going through numerous husbands and baby-daddies, but also being a horrific stage mother, forcing her children into musical careers, while having an affair with their sleazy manager, Reuben.

No, I idly posted that someone needs to do one of those music-inspired crime anthologies based on the music of Pat Benatar…and then came up with the title, Crimes of Passion: Crimes Stories Inspired by the Music of Pat Benatar.

Well, it kind of took off, with people replying to my tweet that they’d write to it, or responding on Facebook that they wanted to, even going so far as to pick the songs they wanted. At first–I was at work–I wanted to say, yo, everyone, it was just a thought, I’m not actually doing this but as the day went on I began to think, more and more, that hey, maybe you should think about doing this. More than enough people have offered to write for it, so many so that if anyone drops out there would still be more than enough stories to fill out a volume and for it to be really good.

So…I’m considering it, and considering publishers to approach. So maybe, just maybe, that will be my next anthology.

MAYBE.

And now, back to the spice mines.

22366703_10159458317505290_8781974010612680120_n

Tender Love

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed this year about this year’s Bouchercon anthology (Florida Happens) is that three of this year’s contributors (Hilary Davidson, Barb Goffman, and Susanna Calkins) are also finalists for the Anthony in the Short Story category. (I am hoping to find the time to read the stories and talk about them on here as well; along with my on-going talking about the nominees for Best Original Paperback and the stories in Florida Happens.) Not a bad pedigree for my anthology, wouldn’t you say?

Next up in terms of our short stories in Florida Happens is Hilary Davidson’s “Mr. Bones.”

34535827_10215894075241894_7172627381826355200_o

Hilary’s bio reads:

Award-winning novelist and travel writer Hilary Davidson got her start in journalism in 1995, when she moved to New York for five months to intern at Harper’s Magazine. Afterwards, Hilary joined the staff of Canadian Living magazine in Toronto as a copy editor. Her first freelance article, “Death Takes a Holiday” — about a New Orleans cemetery — was published by The Globe & Mail. She left her day job to write full-time in June 1998. She went on to write 18 nonfiction books (17 of them for Frommer’s Travel Guides) and articles for wide array of publications including Discover, Martha Stewart Weddings, American Archaeology, Chatelaine, and CNN Travel.

Hilary’s debut novel, The Damage Done, won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, and the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel. The book was also a finalist for a Macavity Award and an Arthur Ellis Award. The novel’s main character, Lily Moore, is, like Hilary, a travel writer. While their personal lives have little in common, they do share a few things, such as a love of vintage clothing, classic Hollywood movies, and Art Deco design. The second book in the series is The Next One to Fall and the third is Evil in All Its Disguises. Hilary’s first standalone novel, Blood Always Tells, was published by Tor/Forge in April 2014 and released as a trade paperback in March 2015. Her next novel is One Small Sacrifice, which will be published by Thomas & Mercer in spring 2019.

Her short fiction has won the Derringer Award, the Spinetingler Award, and two Readers’ Choice Awards from Ellery Queen. Hilary’s story “The Siege” was a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Short Story. Her stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, Crimespree, All Due Respect, Crime Factory, Spinetingler, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. Her work is featured in many anthologies, including Beat to a Pulp: Round One and Round TwoCrimefactory: First ShiftThuglit Presents: Blood Guts, & WhiskeyPulp InkD*CKED; and Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen

Hilary has served as an At-Large Director on the National Board of the Mystery Writers of America from January 2012 to January 2016. She has previously served on the Mystery Writers of America’s New York Board as well.

Pretty impressive, eh? Not mentioned in the above is her collection of short stories, The Black Widows Club, which you can buy here. I have it, and I need to get back to it; the stories I’ve read are pretty awesome.

You can visit her website here.

And so, without further ado, is the opening of her contribution to Florida Happens, “Mr. Bones.”

I’d be the first to admit that Mr. Bones wasn’t going to win any prizes for Pet of the Year. He was a pugnacious alley cat with mouse breath and an anger-management problem, but I loved him. So when I got home from a three-day dermatology conference in New York and discovered he was missing, I was devastated.

“Tell me exactly what happened,” I pleaded with my boyfriend.

“Nothing happened. Your cat just hasn’t come home,” Andrew said.

We were standing in the kitchen, and I couldn’t help but turn and look at the door to the backyard. Mr. Bones’ three bowls were there — dry food, wet food, and water — and they were all full.

“He didn’t eat anything today?” I asked. “Was he sick?”

 “Come on, Monica. There’s always something wrong with that cat.”

“What time did he go out this morning?”

 “I don’t know. It was early. He woke me with his screaming to get outside.”

“Are you okay?” I asked him.

“What do you mean?”

 “Your hand is bandaged up.”

 “Oh, that’s nothing,” he said. “I was cutting an avocado. Should’ve known not to try that without you around.” He gave me a sweet smile, which made him look even more like Tom Hiddleston than usual. “I picked up takeout from Moe’s for dinner. I know you love their Southwest Salad with tofu.”

Andrew and I had been living together for almost six months, and it was going well. But I was too wound up about Mr. Bones to think about eating. “Thanks, but I need to look for Mr. Bones. He’s probably sulking right now.”

I stepped outside onto the patio behind the house. “Honey, I’m home!” I called out. Something rustled in the warm stillness of the night, but my cat didn’t come running. If he heard me, he would have, because he was more like a dog in that way. I called for him and waited.

Andrew rapped on the storm door. “Come on, Monica. He’ll be back when he’s ready.”

Oh, pets.

We love our little furry buddies, don’t we? And losing them is always heartbreaking; something you never get over but just learn to live with. (I still get sad remembering my childhood dog, or our previous cat, Skittle, whom we lost eight years ago.)  The bond between pet and owner is always powerful. I’ve never written a story about a pet–not sure why that is; I just never have. (I gave Scotty and the boys a cat in Garden District Gothic, though.) There are also some great pet short stories by crime writers–“Ming’s Biggest Prey” by Patricia Highsmith and “Less Than a Dog” by Agatha Christie are two particular favorites of mine–and Hilary Davidson’s “Mr. Bones” certainly belongs with those two classic tales. Monica a dermatologist, returns from a convention to find that her cat has gone missing in her absence, and her live-in boyfriend’s antipathy to the situation as she searches the neighborhood for her missing pet is notable–as is the nastiness of the old cat-hating woman who tears down her fliers. So, what happened to Mr. Bones?

And now, back to the spice mines.