The Ledge

And here it is, Tuesday morning and dark outside my windows as I have my morning coffee preparatory to getting ready for work. It’s getting to be that time of year where I drive to and from work in the dark, which is always a bit debilitating; you feel like you’ve spent the entire day at work when you don’t get to spend any time outside–even if just going to and from work–in the sunshine. The weather has cooled here a bit over the last week, which has been lovely (and early in the season for coolness). My back is much better–there’s still some tightness and slight pain involved–but I think i can actually head to work today and not be in the kind of pain I was in last week, which is kind of nice. It’s still there, but I am learning how to not trigger it–the irony of which is that I am having to use good posture at all times so as not to inflame the pain, which means had I been using good posture most of my life I might not have this problem right now.

But it’s something I can live with today; something I wasn’t so sure about as recently as Sunday. So taking the days of rest, with the alternating hot and cold, was probably a very smart thing to do. I will be taking the generic Ben-Gay with me to work today, too–just in case. But I can sit comfortably without it, which is something I can honestly say was not the case as recently as Sunday. And now of course I have to start digging myself out from under–which is a lot of catching up I need to get done. I also have to do some digging around and figure out what is missing from some projects that I need to get finished, and I also need to get back to writing. There’s an anthology deadline next month–more like three weeks from now–that I wanted to submit something to, but I seriously doubt I am going to be able to have the time or the energy to revise anything the way I want it to be revised to submit to this anthology, so I am probably going to have to let it go once and for all.

We watched Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders last night, a documentary series about the In Cold Blood murders and of course Truman Capote’s famous book that was written about the case (which remains, to this day, one of my favorites) as well as the film made from the book (which I’ve never seen, but Paul’s friend the actress Brenda Curran was in, playing Nancy Clutter). I’ve been to both Holcomb and Garden City, back when I lived in Kansas and when I also had no idea Holcomb was where the crimes happened (I didn’t read In Cold Blood until I lived in California). One of the things I’ve always found interesting about these old rural crimes is how they always talk about how the “community changed” after it happened and how people never used to lock their doors…and everyone could just knock and enter other people’s homes. I wasn’t raised that way; my mother was very obsessive about always making sure everything was locked up–cars, homes, wherever–and used to get mad at me when, as a lazy not really paying much attention teenager used to sometimes leave the car unlocked. Paul is much the same as my mom; sometimes I forget to lock the car, and when I am home by myself I forget sometimes to lock the front door–someone would have to scale the fence, which isn’t easy, to get back to our apartment door–but that’s also a part and parcel of the false sense of security we all have about being safe in our homes. Once I am inside I am safe.

Which really isn’t true.

I spent some more time with Donna Andrews’ delightful new Meg Langslow novel last night while I waited for Paul to finish working so I could make dinner, and it’s delightful. I don’t know how she manages to do this with a series that has lasted as long as hers has; I think there may be more than twenty volumes in the series now? But each one is a delight. I love the town of Caerphilly, I love her family, and most of all I really enjoy Meg. I love highly accomplished, confident, efficient women like her; she’s yet another drily humorous main character in the vein of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell (I really am overdue for reading another book in that series) and while my own poor Valerie is hardly in the same vein as these remarkable women characters, I’d kind of like to keep developing her into a series because, well, I kind of grew attached to Valerie and her friends while writing A Streetcar Named Murder, and I’d kind of like to revisit them again in another book. I have a title and an idea for the next book in the series, should Crooked Lane want another, and while I felt fairly confident they’d hate the title, I just this weekend came up with a potentially better title for it…and now that I am writing this, i cannot for the life of me remember what that title was, nor do I think I made a note of it (which is why you should always make a note of it).

Ah, well, perhaps it will come back to me at some point.

I also woke up to proofs of an anthology I contributed a story to that has been in the works for many years now, which means the book is finally going to be released which is great news. My story is called “A Whisper from the Graveyard” and I really don’t remember much, if anything, about the story because it’s frankly been so long. But I will need to proof it–check for typos and missing words and such–which will be a nice way to get reacquainted with the story, at the very least. I vaguely have some idea about the story–I know it’s a private eye story, with a gay detective who has just tested HIV positive and it’s set in the early 1990’s, so it’s a death sentence as far as he knows–and is hired by someone to find someone else? I don’t remember–it really has been a long time since I wrote this story.

But I am also completely overwhelmed with work and being behind on everything and I really need to start making a to-do list so I can sort all this shit out and get things done that need to be done. I know I need to go back to work on Scotty and my other project; there’s any number of other things I need to get done, and I also need to start figuring out promo for A Streetcar Named Murder else no one will buy it and that will be the end of that.

The great joy of being a writer.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Tuesday everyone (except Buccaneer fans)!

World Turning

It’s interesting how stories come to fruition; everything I write has an origin story, and my story in Chesapeake Crimes: Magic is Murder is no exception.

Ironically, “The Snow Globe” began as a Halloween story, believe it or not, rather than the Christmas story it actually turned out to be. The inspiration came to me on a Halloween night–actual Halloween, not gay Halloween–I think in either 2003 or 2004. I was out in the French Quarter by myself for some reason–that reason is lost in the mists of time, but it must have been 2004; Paul wasn’t quite comfortable yet being out and about in crowds just yet, so I wound up spending Decadence and Halloween and pretty much any time I went out back then by myself, meeting up with friends (the real life inspiration for Scotty’s friend David, for you Scotty readers out there). Anyway, this particular Halloween I wore a wrestler’s singlet that I’d borrowed from my friend Not-David. He was smaller than me but back then I was also pretty small; I weighed somewhere between 170 and 180 and wore 30 waist pants; everything I wore was a small (my shirts were mediums) but I’d forgotten how tight singlets actually are; a small male singlet fit me like second skin, and of course, I wasn’t wearing anything underneath (I got a lot of attention that night in the bars). Anyway, I was waiting for my friends and was standing on the balcony of the Pub/Parade, nursing a bottle of Bud Lite and watching the street–seriously, actual Halloween is primarily for locals, everyone wears a costume, and it’s a lot of fun–when someone walked out the door of Oz, across the street, wearing a devil costume.

He had on a mask, had the horns and tail–but all he was wearing was a skimpy red bikini and a lot of red body paints. He was wearing stiletto boots that looked like hooves (except for the stiletto part) and his body was amazing, and I literally thought, Satan has a great six-pack. This made me laugh, and I thought, that’s a great opening for a Halloween story.

I did make a note of the line in a journal, and never forgot it.

Flash forward a decade or so and HWA was doing a Halloween-themed horror anthology, and I thought my Satan has a great six-pack story would work perfectly for it. I worked on it–was also writing a book at the same time–and sadly, never finished it. Flash forward another two years and there was a hilarious thread on Facebook–I do not recall what it was about or how it started, but it eventually devolved into someone suggesting an anthology called War on Christmas in which every story took a kind of Hallmark Christmas movie trope and tweaked into something dark. Someone mentioned a magical snow globe in one of the films, I replied “Oh I want to do the story about Satan’s snow globe!”

And I realized that just changing one letter in Satan turned it into Santa, and I could use that opening sentence yet again. I love when that happens.

Santa, Dylan thought, certainly has a great six-pack.

He smiled as he leaned against the bar, watching the so-called Santa with a slight smile. He definitely wasn’t your average department store Santa, that was for sure.

The guy’s body was thickly–almost impossibly– muscled and perfectly proportioned. His biceps and shoulders were thick, every muscle cord and fiber etched and carved beneath his smooth, tanned skin. The cleavage between his big chest was deep, his nipples like purplish quarters. It didn’t seem possible for his waist to be so small, and the crevices between his abdominal muscles were deep enough for a finger to fit between up to the first knuckle.  His legs were powerful and strong, ropy bulging veins pushing against the silky skin.

Like a traditional Santa his face was hidden behind the obligatory long white wig and the thick white beard and mustache—but that was his only bow to tradition. Rather than a red suit with white trim and a big black belt, he simply wore a very small bikini of crushed red velvet with glittery red sequins trimmed around the waist and legs with green faux fur.  Large brass rings exposing pale skin connected the front to the back. His red boots sparkled with red sequins and glitter, trimmed at the top with green velvet. Slung over his right shoulder was a red velvet bag, also trimmed with green faux fur.  Every movement he made as he talked to a group of young twinks with poufy hair and obscenely slim hips caused muscles to bulge and flex somewhere.

He knew he was staring but didn’t care.

Dylan wasn’t drunk. Well, maybe just a wee bit tipsy.  He was nursing his third beer since getting to the party a little after eight, but  about an hour ago the bartenders had poured free shots of some sort of tequila about an hour earlier. It had burned and made his eyes water—definitely not the best tequila.

The idea of a cursed snow globe really appealed to me, and since I’d only gotten about two paragraphs into the Halloween story, changing it to Christmas was easy; it actually even made more sense as a Christmas story as opposed to a Halloween story (and, truth be told, I had always hated the title I was using for it as a Halloween story; “The Snow Globe” is a much better title). The War on Christmas anthology chose to not use the story, but the editor gave me incredible feedback–primarily, I had played down the magic/voodoo aspects of the story, which were actually it’s strongest and most interesting point–in all honesty, I was hesitant to use voodoo as a dark force in the story; it’s clichéd, at the very least, and the last thing I wanted to do was add to the confusion of what voodoo actually is–but the ‘curse’ in the story is about vengeance, and every religion has both a light or “good” side and a dark or “bad” side.

Plus, I had always wanted to write about Baron Samedi, and here was a chance.

So, when I got the call for submissions for Magic is Murder, I thought, hey, here’s a place you send “The Snow Globe” too after you revise it per the editor’s notes! Needless to say, I was enormously flattered and pleased when the story was chosen.

I do like the story a lot; it’s always fun to write about snow in New Orleans (yes, it starts snowing in the story) and it was also kind of fun to write about an older gay man for a change; a single guy in his fifties who has started feeling his age and is. well, lonely.

And really, can you ever go wrong with a stripper Santa?

You can order the book here if you like, or you can order it from your local independent (always your best choice, really).

You May Be The One

Tuesday and the week seems to be settling into a sort of groove that I can not only handle but isn’t too horrific, to be perfectly honest. The week has started off pretty okay, really; I was notified that Mystery Scene magazine had given an anthology I have a story in a glowing review which included a lovely shout out to my story, “The Snow Globe,” which is absolutely lovely. And I quote: “The Snow Globe,” by Greg Herren, is a dark and humorous Christmas tale–“Santa, Dylan thought, certainly has a great six-pack”–about loneliness, voodoo, and reconnecting with family.

Isn’t that lovely? Usually anthologies I am in get reviewed and my story doesn’t get mentioned; there was a review of one anthology in particular I recall where every single story was individually reviewed…except for mine, which wasn’t even mentioned. Since my story had gay content and characters, I can’t help but think that was due to the reviewer’s homophobia; why would you namecheck every story in the book with a few sentences about each and then not even mention mine, even to dog it? I know, I know, it’s not always homophobia, but one always has to wonder–especially when you have the only gay tale in the book and it is the ONE story that doesn’t even get mentioned. So how lovely was this?

I don’t even mind that the story was called “dark and humorous” even though it wasn’t supposed to be funny (this has happened so many times in my career….)

But, you see, this is yet another one of the problems of being a queer writer of queer work. When things happen like the aforementioned review (where my story was the only one unworthy of review or commentary), as a queer writer of queer work you always have to wonder: was my story that bad, or is this just your average, garden variety homophobia at work? This is always an issue for queer writers; is this a place that will publish a story about a gay man or will they just reject it out of hand? I wonder about this, particularly with the bigger markets for crime short fiction that are out there. I know I’ve sold a gay tale or two to some of the paying markets for crime short fiction; I also know there are some that have rejected every story with a gay character but have taken the ones that centered a straight character. I shouldn’t have to even wonder about this, to be perfectly honest; I should never hesitate about sending a story somewhere as long as it meets their guidelines. And yet, every time I submit something, anything, somewhere anywhere, I always wonder.

I ran my errands after work yesterday, came home and Paul and I relaxed in front of the television, watching the last episode of The Anarchists (weird and sad), and then got ourselves caught up on Becoming Elizabeth, which is quite well done for a Starz English royalty dramatization (earlier series, based on the Philippa Gregory books, were also well done, but not necessarily always historically accurate. Becoming Elizabeth follows the period between the death of Henry VIII and Elizabeth being crowned queen–the eleven year period of the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, which were quite turbulent and Elizabeth often found herself imprisoned, if not her life in jeopardy. It was in navigating those times that her character was formed, and she learned–often the hard way–how to play both sides as well as how to never ever cross the line into treason.

I slept decently, not great, last night, and this morning I am not feeling either tired or groggy, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hit the wall this afternoon, either. I have so much to do it’s not even funny, and I suppose, as always, that the key to getting everything done is to just go down the list and check things off once and for all. I did get some work done on the new Scotty yesterday–not much but any progress at this point is progress–but I was mostly tired when I got home last night, to be honest. I am hoping for a better day today than yesterday was–not that it was a bad day, but it was a very low energy, low motivation day (which probably had a lot to do with me going in on a Monday, which isn’t the usual and at some point I am going to have to get used to again, which I kind of don’t want to do, frankly) so hopefully today won’t be like that. They set up a work station in my testing room yesterday, which means I don’t have to commute back and forth from my desk all day anymore, so today will be me trying to get used to that and trying to figure out how best to utilize the space in the my room and how to make it easier for me to do my job with the new set-up; I don’t know how I am going to get it set up to be functional quite yet, which means work arounds in the meantime until I can get it all figured out.

If it isn’t one thing, it certainly is another.

I also had ordered a new pair of glasses from Zenni.com that arrived yesterday, and I really do like them–I especially like that they were about one fifth the cost of my last pair, which I bought from the optometrist. (I may order another pair or two today; I didn’t want to go crazy until I got the first pair and could see that they worked just fine, which they do.) I had never thought of glasses as being fashionable; they were too expensive, for one thing, to think about in terms of oh I should get different pairs in different styles to coordinate with outfits; which of course meant that, as with everything, I saw glasses as utilitarian rather than fashionable–function over form, if you will. But this pair of glasses was inexpensive enough that I can actually start thinking of my glasses as form and function, rather than as one. So, maybe on my lunch hour I will look around on their website and see if I can find some others that work for my round face and slight wattle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader! And I will see you tomorrow!

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.

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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!

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