(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

And here we are, on the final day of the year 2022. Happy New Year, I guess? It doesn’t feel like the year is turning, but everything has felt so totally out of whack since the 2020 Shutdown that it’s not a surprise, really. As I sit here bleary-eyed with my coffee trying to wake up for another thrilling day of writing and cleaning, it seems very weird to look back to a year ago at this time. I was on deadline then, too–and was way behind on that book, too (A Streetcar Named Murder, for the record), but other than that I don’t remember what my mood was like or what I was thinking about going into the new year. We were still in the midst of the pandemic (that hasn’t changed–what’s changed is it isn’t news anymore and everyone seems to be pretending it’s all over), and I know I wasn’t exactly going into 2022 thinking oh this is the year I’ll get the coronavirus! That did happen, and my ten-day experience with COVID-19 was bearable for the most part. I just had intense and severe exhaustion as well as the brain fog, which hasn’t entirely lifted. I still have no short term memory, and am struggling to remember things every day–which has made writing this book more difficult because I can’t remember small details and things that are kind of important. I also think being so scattered isn’t much help in that regard; I’ve never been able to handle getting a grip on things and have felt like I’ve been behind the eight-ball for the last three years, floundering and struggling to keep my head above water, and never confident that I had a handle on everything. It’s been unpleasant, really; I prefer to be better organized and to have things under some sort of manageable control, and this constant feeling that I am behind and will never catch up on everything has been overwhelming, depressing, and damaging.

I read a lot of great books this year–I was going to try to make a “favorite reads of the year” list, but as I went back through the blog for the last year looking at all the books I talked about on here, there’s no real way for me to quantify what were my avorite reads of the year. I managed to read both of Wanda M. Morris’ marvelous novels, All Her Little Secrets and Anywhere You Run; Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout; John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind; Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa, The Lake of Dead Languages, and The Disinvited Guest; Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Woman in Cabin Ten; Raquel V. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo and Murder; Ellen Byron’s Bayou Book Thief; Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy; Mia P. Manansala’s Arsenic and Adobo; Kellye Garrett’s Like a Sister; Alex Segura Jr’s Secret Identity; Laurie R. King’s Back to the Garden; Tara Laskowski’s marvelous The Mother Next Door; James Kestrel’s Five Decembers (which would be a contender for favorite read of the year, if I did such things); and of course several Donna Andrews novels as well. I am forgetting some great reads I truly enjoyed this past year, I am sure–I will kick myself later for not remembering I Play One on TV by Alan Orloff, for one example–but it was a year of great reads for me. I know 2023 will also be a great year for reading.

I also watched a lot of great television this past year as well, and again, I won’t be remembering everything and will kick myself later. If nothing else, it was a year of some amazing queer representation on television; this was, after all, the year Netflix not only gave us the wonderful, amazing, adorable Heartstopper but the equally charming and adorable Smiley (which you should watch, absolutely). It was also the year where Elité continued, but the shine is starting to go off the show a bit. I was very vested in their Patrick/Ivan romance, which they ended in this last season with Manu Rios, who plays Patrick, leaving the show at the end of the season along with his two sisters (spoiler, sorry), which was dissatisfying. I am looking forward to seeing what else Manu Rios gets up to in the future…we also enjoyed 1899, Andor, Ted Lasso, Sex Lives of College Girls, Peacemaker, The Sandman, House of the Dragon, Ozark, and so many other shows I can’t possibly begin to remember them all this morning. But I have no problem saying that without question my favorite show of the year was Heartstopper. Even just looking at clips on Youtube, or those “Ten Cutest Moments on Heartstopper” videos, always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I view them. The soundtrack for the show was also terrific, with some songs so firmly engrained in my head with scenes from the show (one in particular, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” always makes me think of that scene where Charlie comes running after Nick in the rain to give him another kiss, which is what was playing in the background). Wednesday was another highlight, a surprising delight when I was prepared to have my hopes dashed, and The Serpent Queen was also a lot of fun. We also enjoyed The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, but it was cancelled after its first season, which was disappointing.

Professionally, it was a pretty good year in which I had three book releases: #shedeservedit in January and A Streetcar Named Murder in December, with the anthology Land of 10000 Thrills, thrown in for good measure in the fall. I sold some short stories that haven’t come out yet, as well as some that did this last year: “The Rosary of Broken Promises,” “A Whisper from the Graveyard,””The Snow Globe,” and “This Thing of Darkness” all came out in anthologies this year, with “Solace in a Dying Hour” sold and probably coming out sometime in the spring. I also sold another story to another anthology that will probably come out in the new year as well, and I still have one out on submission. In what was probably the biggest surprise of the year, last year’s Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for not one, but TWO Anthony Awards (Best Paperback Original and Best Children’s/Young Adult) which was one of the biggest shocks of maybe not just the year, but definitely one of the highlights of my career thus far. I lost both to friends and enormously talented writers Jess Lourey and Alan Orloff respectively, which was kind of lovely. I had been nominated for Anthonys before (winning Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou and “Cold Beer No Flies” was nominated for Best Short Story), but being nominated for one of my queer novels was such a thrill–and to have it nominated in two different categories was fucking lit, as the kids would say. The response to A Streetcar Named Murder was an incredibly pleasant surprise; people seemed to genuinely love the book, which was very exciting and cool.

I traveled quite a bit this year as well–going to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu, Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon. I went to Kentucky twice to see my family, which further fueled my love of audiobooks for long drives–on both trips I listened to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way back–and also did some wonderful podcasts and panels on-line, which was nice. We didn’t go to any games this season in Baton Rouge, but in all honesty I don’t know if I can hang with a game day anymore–the drive there and back, the walk to and from the stadium, the game itself–I would probably need a week’s vacation afterwards!

College football was interesting this season, too. This season saw the reemergence of Tennessee, USC, and UCLA to some kind of relevance again; the slides of the programs at Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas continued; and LSU turned out to be the biggest surprise (for me) of the year. Going into the season I had hopes, as one always does, but after two years of consistent mediocrity (with some surprise wins both years) they weren’t very high. The opening loss to Florida State was a surprise and disappointment, but at least the Tigers came back and almost made it all the way to a win. The blowout loss to Tennessee at home was unpleasant, certainly, as was the loss at Texas A&M. But LSU beat Alabama this season! We also beat Mississippi, so LSU was 2-2 against Top Ten teams this season–and I would have thought it would be 0-4. And 9-4 is not a bad record for a transitional year, with a new coach rebuilding the program. And LSU beat Alabama. The Alabama game will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. It was incredibly exciting, and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around it or how it happened. It certainly shouldn’t have; LSU was simply not an elite-level team this past season, but what a job Brian Kelly did coaching in his first season in Baton Rouge. Did I mention that LSU beat Alabama this year? (And one really has to feel for Alabama, in a way; they lost two games by a total of four points on the last play of each game. Four. Points. That would probably be what I would call this season for Alabama: Four Points from Greatness. The LSU-Alabama game this year is definitely one of those that gets a nickname from the fan base, I am just not sure what it would be. The Double Earthquake Game? (The cheers when LSU scored in overtime and then made the two point conversion registered on the campus Richter scale) The Conversion Game? I don’t know what it will be named for all eternity, but it was an amazing game. I do think it also bodes well for the future for LSU. Will both LSU and Tennessee (which also beat Alabama for the first time in like fifteen years) be able to consistently compete with Alabama now? Has Georgia taken over as the SEC behemoth? Has the Alabama run ended? I don’t think so–they have an off year where they lose two or three games periodically (2010, 2019, 2022)–and they could bounce right back. next year and win it all again. You can never count them out, even in their off years.

As for the Saints, they swept Atlanta again this year, and that is enough for me.

I did write a lot this year, even though it didn’t seem like I actually did while the year was passing. I also worked on Chlorine and another project I am working on throughout the year, as well as the novellas, and of course, I was writing short stories and essays for much of the year. I also read a lot more New Orleans and Louisiana history, and I had tons of ideas for things to write all year long. I did make it to the gym on a fairly regular basis at the beginning of the year, but then it became more and more sporadic and after my COVID-19 experience, never again. I also injured my arm a few weeks ago–when I flex the bicep it feels like I have a Charley horse, so not good, but it doesn’t impact my day to day activities. I also had my colonoscopy at last this past year–the prep was horrific, and I am really dreading doing it again at sixty-five, should I make it that far.

Yesterday was a nice day. I was exhausted, and after my work-at-home duties were completed I did some chores–laundry, dishes–and I also spent some time both reading (A Walk on the Wild Side) and writing. I also watched the Clemson-Tennessee Orange Bowl last night before Paul got home from his dinner engagement and we watched a few more episodes of Sex Lives of College Girls. Today I am going to read a bit this morning with my coffee before getting cleaned up and diving headfirst back into the book. Paul has his trainer today and usually either goes to the gym to ride the bike or to his office to work for the rest of the afternoon, so I should be able to have some uninterrupted writing time, which will be lovely. And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you later.

Callin’ Baton Rouge

I have decided, at long last, to throw away my ratty old LSU sweatshirt.

This sweatshirt, for the record, predates Paul, that’s how old it is. It’s either thirty or twenty-nine; I cannot really remember one way or the other. It was, however, my very first LSU sweatshirt–the first of many–and I bought it at the bookstore on the LSU campus. I don’t remember which drive from Houston to Tampa it was when I stopped on campus and bought it–it was either a time when I was driving my new car from Houston back to Tampa, or when I was riding with a friend who was driving from Phoenix to Tampa–I flew into Houston, he met me at the airport and we drove on to Tampa from there, but for a very long time it was my only LSU sweatshirt, and I’ve always had a deep fondness for it. It’s been worn and washed so many times that it’s incredibly thin and threadbare; the neckline is fraying and so are the sleeves at the wrist. It’s stained and ratty and messy, so much so that I won’t even wear it to run errands. I only wear it around the house and usually only when all the other sweatshirts are dirty (I live in sweats when I am at home), and the other day as I was putting it on I realized not only how old it was but how bad of shape it was in. Why are you holding on to this sweatshirt? I asked myself, and then Saturday morning as I was folding it out of the dryer I thought throw it away, why are you keeping this? Sentiment? You pride yourself on your lack of that emotion, so I decided to take a photo of it, write a farewell blog entry to it, and put it in the trash–which I should have done years ago, really.

I don’t even remember why I decided to stop on campus and buy it, to be honest. I have no memory of that at all. Even now, when we are on campus for games and go by the store, it doesn’t look familiar at all from back then. Maybe they’ve built or redesigned the campus store, I don’t know; it’s certainly possible. But I don’t remember it being right by the stadium, either; it’s possible there are two stores on campus. I couldn’t say for sure.

Despite growing up as an Auburn and Alabama fan (in that order; the rule was you always rooted for Alabama unless they were playing Auburn), I’ve always kind of been partial to LSU, even though I had no connection to either the school or the state until much later in life. I’ve tried to remember why I always liked LSU, even as a kid–I think it was two things: purple has always been a favorite color of mine, especially when paired with gold, and the live tiger on campus (which I am now on the fence about–I see the arguments both for and against keeping a live tiger on campus as a mascot, but I love that tiger). My cousin actually was on the Auburn team that lost the Earthquake Game back in 1988–my family is still bitter about that 7-6 last minute loss–and when we moved to Louisiana, I got Paul into college football and he became an LSU fan because we lived here. I still rooted for Auburn and Alabama and LSU, in that order. I was still rooting for Auburn and Alabama when they played LSU, though; even in 2003 when LSU won its first national championship since 1958. It was 2005 when everything shifted for me on the college football landscape; that horrible 2005 season after Katrina, when LSU’s football team was about the only positive thing Louisiana had going for it that season, that was when I went full-on bleed purple-and-gold LSU fan, and have never looked back since. Paul of course had already gone full tilt LSU fan, and his enthusiasm was catching. I used to only care about college football; now I pay attention to almost every sport, from basketball to gymnastics to baseball to track so I can root for the Tigers.

Even before LSU moved to the front of the list, I was writing about LSU. Chanse played scholarship football for LSU, and would have possibly played pro had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury in the Sugar Bowl his last season of eligibility. Chanse was a tight end; and I had always intended for Chanse to go back to LSU and solve a murder on the campus, at his fraternity house. That story, “Once a Tiger,” is about four thousand words in; I’ve debated turning it into both a novel or a novella rather than a short story. Scotty is an LSU fan–I wrote about Mike the Tiger in Baton Rouge Bingo–and of course, in A Streetcar Named Murder Valerie’s twin sons are in their first semester up there.

Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? It served me well for nearly three four decades!

Paul and I went to our first LSU game in Tiger Stadium in November of 2010. It was the Mississippi game, the Magnolia Bowl; there’s not much love lost between LSU and Mississippi–their fans still can’t get over Billy Cannon’s Run back in 1959. LSU has ruined many a season for the Rebels, and vice versa, but I do think they hate us more than we hate them. The game was amazing, and we had a great time. We went to several games in 2011, and it wasn’t until the COVID year of 2020 that we went the entire season without going to a game; the only game we went to in 2021 was the first time the Tigers ever lost when we were at the game (Auburn, ironically; it was also Auburn’s first win in Baton Rouge this century). We didn’t go to any games this year, either; not sure if we will be going to any more in the future, either; but one never knows, and I would like to go to at least one more Saturday night game in Death Valley. We’ve been to some great games over the years, and I am very happy to say that we got to see that great 2019 team play twice–and we were at the Florida game, which was amazing and exciting and I couldn’t talk for at least three days afterwards.

And of course, this season was all over the place, but the team did something never done before in LSU football history: won at both Florida and Auburn…so obviously, the team has never won in Gainesville and Auburn and beat Alabama in Baton Rouge. Not even Joe Burrow could do that; in his first year as a Tiger he was 1-2 in those three games. So, if nothing else, Jayden Daniels has won a place in LSU history for that, and Brian Kelly did something in his first year in Baton Rouge that no LSU coach had ever done before–including Nick Saban (even the year Saban led LSU to a national title, that team lost to Florida in Tiger Stadium).

And so it’s goodbye to my old sweatshirt at long last. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away sooner–it’s been ratty and stained and threadbare for years–unless it was an unconscious kind of sentimentality. I haven’t preserved much of my pre-Paul life–I’ve always viewed those years as a prologue to the rest of my life–but this was one of the few things left from that time.

But its time has passed, so farewell to you, old LSU sweatshirt. You served me well…and now I get to buy a new one to replace it. YES!

And here’s my Christmas gift from Paul this year:

Miranda

Monday morning and it’s very bright this morning. The time change–I’d forgotten that it means getting up in the light and coming home from work in the dark. It’s also interesting how much that changes in one day. It was already getting dark before four yesterday, and was completely night by five. I don’t like the change, to be honest; it doesn’t help me get up in the morning and it makes me feel like the day’s been wasted by the time I get home because there’s no more daylight. It’s another one of the reasons I don’t like winter, to be honest, but at least down here in New Orleans it never gets super cold or snows, which does make it somewhat more bearable. I still don’t like coming home after dark, though.

Yesterday wasn’t a great day for me. I was very tired all day, despite sleeping really well, and never really felt like I had any energy. I tried to write for a while yesterday morning but got nowhere with it, which is causing me more than a little bit of stress today, and so I ended up watching a lot of television. We finished off the first season of Interview with the Vampire (more on that later), the first season of The Serpent Queen, watched the most recent Andor, and got caught up on American Horror Story. We also watched a movie called Nobody with Bob Odenkirk, which was interesting and a bit of a different approach to the usual “Dad gets vengeance” movie before finally toddling off to bed. I didn’t sleep especially well last night either–I kept waking up and had trouble falling back asleep, but it was a better night’s sleep than Saturday’s, so I will take it.

I think I had trouble sleeping Saturday night because I was so emotionally caught up in the LSU-Alabama game; I was a bundle of nerves and raw energy and anxiety the entirety of the game (which I still can’t believe we won; who would have ever thought we’d beat Alabama this year; everyone is very high, obviously, on Coach Kelly now). And now, of course, that we’ve actually beaten Alabama (first time in Baton Rouge since 2010) people are talking about LSU running the table this year and making it to the play-offs as the first-ever two loss team to get that far. One thing for sure is that LSU could certainly mess things up for the play-offs this year; who do they take if LSU does the improbable and hands Georgia its first loss of the season and wins the SEC? One loss Tennessee, who lost to Georgia and didn’t win their division? Georgia, defending national champion with one loss but didn’t win the SEC and lost to LSU? A two loss SEC champion LSU that lost to Tennessee? How do you decide between the three of them? And if you take two, as has been done occasionally in recent years, which two? This year is very reminiscent of the chaos of 2007–when a two-loss LSU team won the BCS title over Ohio State; the only two loss team since 1960 to be crowned national champions, and the only one of the championship game era (Georgia also only had two losses that year, and were highly ranked; they had a good argument but losing their division and not playing for the conference championship ruled them out–although both Alabama and Georgia have both won the national title without being SEC champions). It will be interesting. I am that Doubting Thomas still; certain we can win out the regular season by staying focused and disciplined, but I don’t know if LSU could match up with Georgia. I still think it likely that both Tennessee and Georgia are the most likely two to go to the play-offs, if the SEC winds up with two; but I also didn’t think LSU would beat Alabama this year, either.

Which shows how much I actually know, you know?

I wasn’t able to finish this before leaving the house for work this morning–I told you, the time change, combined with some insomnia and low energy days, have really messed with my mind; I was so tired this morning I even considered hitting the snooze button a third time–so here I am on my lunch break, trying to get it finished and posted so I don’t miss a day. (Being a completer can sometimes be a real problem, you know?) After I get off work today I have to run uptown and get the mail as well as pick up some groceries from the store–nothing much, just a couple of things, but might as well stop and get it over with, you know? I also hope to get some serious work on the book done tonight as well. I hate having lost the weekend, but low energy is low energy.

I did manage to read some of Wanda Morris’ new book this weekend (at the rate I’m going I won’t finish it until probably my trip to Kentucky), but also managed to read a new-to-me Daphne du Maurier short story, included in the collection Not After Midnight and Other Stories (it also includes, as every du Maurier collection does, “Don’t Look Now” and “Not After Midnight”). I’d gotten the book from eBay after finding out that it included “A Border-line Case”–which I enjoyed–as well as two other stories I’d not read, “The Way of the Cross” and “The Breakthrough.” This weekend during Georgia’s mauling of Tennessee I read “The Way of the Cross”, and really liked it. It’s long, as all du Maurier stories often tend to be, and it’s actually quite a nasty little story that spins out over the course of a twenty-four period with a small group of British tourists visiting Jerusalem and the Holy Land, most of them from a small village. Their vicar was supposed to be their tour guide for this visit; but he was taken ill and another available minister-type, who doesn’t know any of them and isn’t really completely comfortable taking over, has been asked to fill in. It’s one of du Maurier’s nastier little stories, but the reason it is so nasty is because of its brutal, unflinching honest view of the characters, none of whom really come out of the story well. What is particularly interesting is how illustrative this story is of du Maurier’s own cynical view of humanity, but her gifts make the characters so absolutely real it feels like the reader is literally looking inside their souls. The characters all have definite opinions of who and what they are; as well as their own histories. What happens throughout the course of this story is everyone is gradually humbled and made to take off their own rose-colored glasses and inevitably are forced to look at themselves and their lives very clearly–usually by overhearing two of the other characters talking about them. It’s a terrific story, and one I will definitely be revisiting at some point. (I also like they are visiting the Holy Land but definitely are not very Christian…)

And now it’s time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–and oh yes, for the record: the reaction to Jayden Daniels’ overtime touchdown and later, the two point conversion did, indeed, register on the seismograph on campus. So, it, like the 1988 Auburn game, qualifies not just as an “earthquake” game but a double earthquake game.

GEAUX TIGERS!

When the Sun Goes Down

Work-at-home Friday has rolled around again, and today I get to do data entry and quality-assurance on forms until my eyes cross. I have a couple of errands to run this afternoon–but other than that, I am looking forward to a nice, peaceful day at home doing my work-at-home duties and my chores. Later on, I hope to get some good work done on the book before I repair to my easy chair with the latest Wanda Morris novel. It was a tough choice between that and the new Donna Andrews, but I am thinking since Dashing Through The Snowbirds is a Christmas tale, I may save that for Christmas reading this year–it makes the most sense, and since I generally don’t watch any Christmas movies or specials anymore (I do sometimes watch A Charlie Brown Christmas–it’s my favorite), maybe I could read Christmas-themed books and stories this year in December; maybe call it “The Twelve Reads of Christmas” or something like that. Hmmm, it’s a thought.

It really is amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you after a few days of insomnia and exhaustion/fatigue.

Last night I didn’t sleep as deeply or as well as I did on Wednesday night. I kept waking up, partly due to Scooter’s restlessness and sometime need to let me know his outrage about something, but was always able to fall back asleep. I had to have bloodwork done this morning; I got an email from the lab telling me I had lab orders waiting for me, so I scheduled it. I got there this morning and checked in–mind you, I needed to fast, so I didn’t eat last night or have anything to drink or eat this morning before leaving the house–only to find out they didn’t, in fact, have lab orders for me. Hilariously, I am terrible about remembering to do the labs after my doctor appointments, so this last time in July I made the appointment for Labs the same week as my doctor appointment and had them done. Once they told me I didn’t have orders in, I looked in the app and saw that I had, indeed, had them done back in August. So, no need to fast overnight, no need to not have coffee before leaving, no need to leave, in fact. Heavy sigh. But I did start reading Wanda Morris’ new book while waiting to be told I didn’t really need to be there, and it’s quite marvelous already. I knew it would be–her debut novel was superb–and it’s such a delight, as always, to see exciting new voices grow and become even stronger as their career progresses.

Last evening as I relaxed before heading to bed I watched another documentary about the history of gay pornography–I’ll probably watch another one later today–which of course put me in mind of writing about that history. I really do need to focus on getting this Scotty book and the next thing I have to write finished so I can get back to Chlorine; my goal for the rest of this year and 2023 is to get these two books finished, finish two other in-progress projects, and wrap up some other things that are unfinished but need to be finished so I can cross them off the list. I may do another short story collection; I’m not sure but I think I have enough sold and/or published for another collection to actually be possible. This one, when it materialized, will be called This Town and Other Stories, because the strongest story I’ve done since the last collection was “This Town”, which was in Holly West’s anthology Murder-a-Go-Go’s. At least in my opinion, although The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy and Other Stories would probably sell better…

And of course, tomorrow is a big day for the Southeastern Conference, with division championships on the line. LSU can actually get a leg up in the West by accomplishing the gargantuan task of beating Alabama in Baton Rouge for the first time since 2010–but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sure, it’s possible–anything is possible in college football on any given Saturday; I am sure no one would have thought Kansas State would shellack Oklahoma State the way they did last weekend–but despite all the hype chatter, I’m not getting my hopes up terribly high. Yes, I want the Tigers to win–but I don’t have any expectations, just as I really haven’t all season. I’m just delighted the program seems to be on the rise again after the last two horrible years. I certainly would have never thought LSU would be coming into the game with Alabama tied with them and Mississippi for first place in the division. And earlier in the day Georgia and Tennessee will play for the leg up in the East–which again, no one would have seen coming before the season started; no one really give Tennessee much thought as the program has been moribund since at least 2007, the last time they won their division (which also happened to be the year a two-loss LSU team won the national championship–see how you can see omens and portents in everything?). I am not a Tennessee fan by any means–I rooted for them during the Peyton Manning years because I thought he was a phenomenal athlete plus I despise Florida with every fiber of my being, but that was about it. I only root for them in non-conference games and bowls, but I am happy for their fans–just as I was happy for Georgia fans last year as they finally beat Alabama and won the national title; I always think back to what a glorious ride 2019 was for LSU fans, so it’s always nice to see a long-starved fan base finally get something they can be excited about. Pundits and fans are already comparing 2019 LSU and 2022 Tennessee…but it’s really not even the same. Sure, no one thought LSU would be as great as they were in 2019, but they were also coming off a 10-3 season. Tennessee was 7-6 last year, so it’s an even bigger turnaround for them on that level. I plan to get my writing and my errands and chores finished tomorrow morning well before the 2:30 Georgia-Tennessee kick-off, so I can spend the rest of the day nervously cleaning with the games on in the background. Paul also comes home tomorrow (yay!) so I am going to need groceries, too.

And my kitchen, as always, is a disaster area on a Friday morning, so it’s perhaps time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you later or tomorrow.

When I See You Again

It’s a work at home Friday and Paul is getting ready to head out to the airport. Heavy heaving sigh. While alone time is something I can always appreciate, it doesn’t take more than a day or two before I start missing him. But I have a lot to keep me busy, so if I just focus and work my way down the to-do list, I should be able to keep busy enough to not miss him while at the same time getting a lot of things done–always a plus, especially given how behind I am on this book–but a Gregalicious at rest tends to stay at rest, so the big thing for me is going to be staying motivated.

Ugh, I hate when Paul goes away.

I was tired again yesterday when I got off work and came home, so spent some time organizing and doing mindless chores once I got home until Paul got home from work. By the time he’d gotten home I’d already finished the chores and given in to Scooter’s demands for a lap to sleep in, and was watching the latest iteration of ESPN’s show Saturdays Down South, which of course is a history of the Southeastern Conference. This episode was for the decade 2010-2019, and while it naturally focused on the Alabama supremacy, it was fun revisiting some of that football history from that decade: Auburn’s runs in 2010 and 2013 (the “Kick Six” win against Alabama included); the runs for both Mississippi and Mississippi State in 2014 that ended disappointingly but had them both ranked in the Top Three at the same time (until they lost to LSU and Alabama, respectively, on the same day), and of course ending with the incredible LSU season in 2019. Much as I would love to climb on board this year’s LSU hype train, I’m reserving that excitement until a week from tomorrow. Alabama is the stumbling block as it always is (only one national champion since 2006 was able to claim the title without having to beat Alabama–hence The Alabama Supremacy), and even the game being in Tiger Stadium means nothing. LSU has beaten Nick Saban exactly four times (2007, 2010, 2011, 2019) with three of those games being in Tuscaloosa. LSU hasn’t beaten Alabama in Baton Rouge since 2010–twelve years.

So, yes, I am a huge LSU fan but I am also realistic. I’ll be cheering for the Tigers, you bet, and I want them to win…but I am not expecting them to win. I am hoping for it to be a great game.

After Paul got home we caught up on American Horror Story: NYC, which weren’t as interesting to me as the first two episodes. In other words, as we get deeper into the season the plot is beginning to derail a little as so often happened with seasons of the show. However, since the story is set so strongly in the gay community of the early 1980’s, I’ll keep watching. I somehow always manage to keep watching this show (Double Feature we bailed out of during the aliens second feature; we also gave up on Hotel but somehow managed to watch both Roanoke and Apocalypse all the way to the bitter end) despite how far off the rails some of these seasons inevitably wind up going–it’s the completist in me, I think–although I feel pretty confident we’ve also given up on A Friend of the Family as well. (Paul: “This could have been a two-hour movie; it didn’t need to be an ongoing series.”) I am now at a loss for what to watch with Paul gone–I can’t watch anything we’re watching together, or something we’d watch together–but I think I am going to revisit the latest Nancy Drew series; I watched the debut episode and kind of was intrigued by it, but Paul wasn’t interested so never went back to it. I checked yesterday and was stunned to see three seasons have aired, which is cool. I hope The Hardy Boys also gets another season, in all honesty; I enjoyed the show. Having grown up on the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I am always interested to see how the characters/stories get adapted for a modern audience (and belonging to several fan groups on social media for the books is equally interesting, particularly in how imprisoning and limiting so many people can make of nostalgia for something from their childhoods), just as I was interested in seeing Riverdale’s approach to the Archie characters.

I wound up going to be relatively early as I started falling asleep in my chair while watching AHS: NYC last night (I will probably have to rewatch the latest one because I kept dozing off; I also rewatched Andor last night for the same reason before Paul got home). I also got a new espresso maker yesterday which I am dying to try out this morning. I also want to finish my reread of The Haunting of Hill House before moving on to something by Paul Tremblay. I didn’t do well with my “October horror reading month”–I didn’t read very much this month at all, which is shameful, especially since I got Wanda Morris’ new book this week as well–can’t wait to dig into that.

Sigh. Am I being overly ambitious with my plans to get things caught up while Paul is out of town? It’s entirely possible, and I could possibly be setting myself up for a terrible disappointment, but there it is.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Skies the Limit

I finished my reread of ‘salem’s Lot (entry to follow at some point) and really enjoyed it, as much as I have every time I’ve reread it. It’s a marvel that the book was King’s second published novel, and while yes, it was, like Carrie, horror–but it was a completely different kind of book, in style, tone, voice and structure. How can anyone have read King’s first two books and not seen the rise of a major new force in publishing? The pacing is stunning as well; the first act is kind of charming and meanders here and there, introducing us to the characters and the town as well as letting us know something bad is coming, and it just keeps picking up steam, faster and faster, until the last hundred pages or so just fly. The ending was left open to a sequel–I remember reading once that King had written the opening of a sequel, or had the idea or something–but it never happened.

Probably just as well.

I also started my reread of The Haunting of Hill House and as ever, am completely captivated by the power of that first chapter and Shirley Jackson’s writing style.

Yesterday’s LSU game was quite fun, if stressful. As always, they got off to a relatively slow start by playing a little loose and sloppy at first; early in the second quarter LSU fell behind 17-3 because of miscues and mistakes–it easily could have been 17-14–but then the team found it’s rhythm and went on a 42-3 tear against a 7-0 6th ranked Mississippi team (who, to be fair, really hadn’t played the meat of the schedule so far; their biggest win had been Auburn, who is floundering this season) to win the game handily 45-20, and to look pretty impressive while doing so. The last time Mississippi came to Baton Rouge 7-0 and in the top ten (#3, actually) was in 2014 when an underachieving LSU beat them 10-7 (apparently, LSU is 1-5 against Mississippi when they are ranked in the Top 10–is it any wonder they hate us so? Add in to that the fact that LSU’s most legendary and iconic play of all time–Billy Cannon’s Run–was against them, and you see where their antipathy comes from. I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t a fan of Brian Kelly’s or his fire, but he is 100% turning this program around from the depths of the last two seasons and it’s entirely possible LSU could go 9-3 this season–maybe even 10-2 (I daren’t to dream yet; a win over Alabama this year seems almost too much to hope for; but if it happens Brian Kelly will immediately be crowned King of Louisiana) but hearing people talking about SEC titles and play-off games this year seems to be a bit premature–but watch out for LSU next year. Jayden Daniels is really quite a player–I wasn’t completely sold on him, either, to be honest, but he’s really turned out to be quite the player; fun to watch, and getting better and more seasoned and acclimated as the season goes on. Seriously, next year LSU will be a contender for sure.

And yes, it’s petty, but I also kind of enjoyed that Texas A&M lost to South Carolina last night, and good for USC, really (I started to write “good for the Cocks” because I am ten years old; but in fairness they call themselves the Cocks). Petty because they wanted Jimbo Fisher at LSU, and now having seen what he can do with all the money and resources behind him at A&M? Yeah, glad you chose College Station instead of Baton Rouge, Jimbo. Have fun with the Aggie alumni, and let us know how that goes. I can’t believe they wanted him so bad that his buy-out had no restrictions…they are either going to be stuck with him for a very long or getting him out is going to be extremely costly. Again, oh, well, too bad so sad. You had some success at Florida State, but they were already circling the drain before you bailed on them, Jimbo…and this is yet another year A&M won’t be in the SEC title game. Oh, well.

Another rather interesting football season. Tulane also won, so they are 7-1 now, too. Good on you, Wave!

I feel very rested and relaxed this morning. I was stressed during that first quarter of the LSU game, so rather than sitting in my chair stewing in my worry and letting myself get worked up (I literally sometimes get so into games that I have to remind myself, Dude, it’s a sporting event, not the end of the world) so I decided to use that nervous energy to clean the house and work on the book while I watched the game. I planned some of the next act of the book, so I can get some chapters written in the meantime, and I also pruned the books; did some more laundry; did the dishes; and cleaned the floors. I also did some filing that needed doing. Paul had some errands to run in the afternoon–he didn’t check the game time when he made appointments–so he didn’t get home until the fourth quarter, and then we watched the short programs from Skate America, which I’d recorded. The young American “quadgod” Ilia Malinin is definitely a rising star, as is Isabeau Levito, the young American woman who looks like she’ll be our best and most successful since at least Sasha Cohen, if not Michelle Kwan (although achieving more than Kwan is unlikely for any other skater). Today there’s not a Saints game, and I am going to finish this and do some things before diving deep into my book to get it going again. Paul will be gone next weekend, and LSU is on a bye week, so I have literally no excuse next weekend for not being highly productive and getting caught up on things–I still have to empty the dishwasher and fold clothes; and I want to make white bean chicken chili today as well–it’s getting to be soup and chili season in New Orleans, and I do love this time of year and would even more if it didn’t get dark so early.

I’m glad I feel rested this morning, to be sure. Hopefully I will be able to motivate myself to work my way down and through my to-do list. But I am not getting there by doing this, so I am going to bid you farewell now, Constant Reader, and head back into the spice mines.

Everywhere

Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all is well this morning. I slept in a bit (I also went to bed later than I usually do, so I slept about the same amount, really) and feel rested and relaxed this morning, which is always a nice, pleasant thing to feel. I didn’t get much work done on the book yesterday (355 words, all of them bad except maybe “Scotty” and “Frank” and “Colin”) but that’s okay; I feel a lot less stressed and a lot less pressured this morning about everything that needs to be done now. The stuff all needs to get done, of course; that hasn’t changed, but I am not feeling as much stress about it as I was feeling yesterday.

I read more of ‘salem’s Lot last night while I was waiting for my friend Ellen Byron (buy her books! Bayou Book Thief is amazing!) to text me to meet her for a drink. I picked her up at the Sazerac House (Canal and Magazine) and it had been quite a while since I drove down that way in the evening, and yikes. SO much traffic, so many people everywhere. I’m still not used to pedestrians in the CBD at night, even though the area hasn’t been a ghost town at night in years, but then we swung around and came up to have drinks at St. Vincent’s, which has been renovated and redone and remade and turned into a boutique luxury hotel right here in the heart of my neighborhood. I’ve posted some pictures of the place when I was doing my walks through the neighborhood last year; it’s even more beautiful inside than I imagined. These weekend is Tulane Homecoming, so there are a shit ton of people in town (that’s actually what brought Ellen to New Orleans, in fact; she is an alum) for that, and of course the people from Mississippi here for today’s LSU game in Baton Rouge (Geaux Tigers!). It was lovely to sit and have a drink and talk about writing and books and this crazy business we are in; she’s an absolute delight (buy her books!) and I look forward to the next time I get to see her.

But this morning I realized how utterly I am failing at reading. October is winding down; Halloween is a week from Monday, and I still haven’t finished my reread of ‘salem’s Lot, let alone done my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House or getting caught up on the horror novels in my TBR pile. I’ll spend some more time with Mr. King this morning before I run my errands–I have to go get the mail and I have to stop at the grocery store because I want to make white bean chicken chili tomorrow, and have nothing I need for that–and I am debating whether I want to grill burgers today or not. The LSU game is on today at 2:30, and of course Skate America is airing this weekend (yay for figure skating!) so I’ll have to write around those times.

The reread of ‘salem’s Lot is a lot of fun, actually; I am really enjoying this revisit of the book and seeing why I enjoyed it so much the first time around. King wasn’t STEPHEN KING yet when he wrote and published it, so I am sure it didn’t get the kindest reception from critics of the time; particularly when you take into consideration what they considered to be great writing back then. I don’t remember when it was that the Literati changed their mind on Stephen King, but I do remember how he wasn’t taken seriously as a writer by them for a very long time (he writes horror! He’s too prolific to be a real writer!), and some of his best work was already behind him by the time he got the anointing he deserved for a very long time. I mean, he had quite a run, and quite a varied one at that, before he finally published a book I didn’t like (The Tommyknockers, for the record) and it seemed an aberration as he seemed to climb back on the horse and right the saddle in the next one after that. I love how many points of view he uses in ‘salem’s Lot, giving us little glimpses of fully realized characters and their lives to show us human beings so that when they actually wind up becoming vampires, you do feel a sense of loss. Many of these minor characters are objects of sympathy, while others you just kind of shrug when the vampires come for them and think, well, you were a shitty person anyway, oh well, this is justice of a sort. The scene where Mike Ryerson has to finish burying the coffin of Danny Glick is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever read, and it still holds up today. I like how King gets into the point of view character’s head and gives them a voice–which is still King’s, but different from the other voices he uses–and that sort of structured stream of consciousness is something I really like and enjoy reading; I sometimes use that style in my own writing.

(I started to write something self-deprecating, but am proud of myself for catching it and not doing it. Progress.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the manuscript and do some cleaning before the errands are run. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later or tomorrow.

Only Over You

I do love researching Louisiana, even if and when it leads me down a rabbit hole as it always does. I’ve been trying–and it really isn’t necessary–to find out of you can actually leave the New Orleans metropolitan area without crossing a bridge; I-10 east and west require bridges (west is the wetlands/swamp alongside Lake Pontchartrain, going east you cross the lake) and of course the Causeway to the North Shore is also a bridge across the lake. Obviously you need a bridge to cross the river (there are two, the Crescent City Connection and the Huey P. Long Bridge), which leaves the old River Road, which for years was the only way into or out of New Orleans without crossing a bridge as it follows the levees up the river to Baton Rouge. I’ve never actually taken the River Road so I can’t swear that there are no bridges on its path alongside the river going north; I’ve been trying to get the answer by using Google Maps and Earth rather than taking the time to drive all the way out there and see for myself. The trick is, of course, the Bonne Carré Spillway; according to the maps the road is inside the spillway, so if the spillway is opened I believe New Orleans would have no dry land exits in any direction. I want to include this in my book, but…I also don’t want to have to take the drive to find out for sure, either.

And if I get it wrong, of course I’ll hear about it.

I am back into the office on a Monday for the first time in a very long time; I feel good this morning. I woke up long before the alarm and stayed in bed until the alarm went off, but I do feel remarkably rested all the same. We’ll see how this shift in work days feels later in the week, won’t we? But so far it feels good.

The Saints did win yesterday; for some reason I thought the game was last night instead of in the afternoon so I was reading in my chair when Paul came downstairs and mentioned that the game was on and it seemed like an exciting one–so I tuned in just in time to see the closing two minutes of the Saints’ second win on the season. I’m glad, though, I didn’t watch–from all reports it sounded like the kind of exciting and thrilling game that is inevitably an emotional rollercoaster, and after the disastrous LSU game on Saturday I don’t think I could have handled a close, exciting Saints game on top of it anyway, so it was just as well. I did get some writing done yesterday–nowhere near as much as was necessary and needed, so yay, still behind! Woo-hoo!–and then we watched our shows last evening. I enjoyed the new episodes of The Serpent Queen (now deviating from the actual historical story), House of the Dragon, Interview with the Vampire, and an episode of The Midnight Club (which, interestingly enough, is turning the stories the terminally ill teens tell each other into adaptations of other Christopher Pike stories, which is really clever) before retiring to bed relatively early last evening.

Ugh, just looking at my inbox is giving me the vapors. Hopefully I’ll make some good progress on that as well as my to-do list; which I made last week and nothing is crossed off of it, which doesn’t bode well for me or anyone or anything for that matter. But here’s hoping I can start making progress tonight or tomorrow.

Watching Interview with the Vampire, as well as rereading the book, has sent me down some mental wormholes as well. I actually wound up digging up copies of my vampire writings from the past (for teh record: the novellas “The Nightwatchers” and “Blood on the Moon,” and my novel Need), which aren’t terrible (I really need to stop defaulting to all my old work is terrible because it’s not); I had in fact forgotten a lot about them, to be honest. I just read the beginnings of all three to get some sort of idea of what I had done and was like, oh, wow, I didn’t remember this character or I’d forgotten this was set during Carnival and so on. So I am hoping that rereading them won’t be painful and will remind me of some other things that I wanted to work on; I was always disappointed that I never got to do a follow-up to Need–I’d created what I thought was an interesting paranormal mythology that I really wanted to explore more, but never got the chance.

Maybe when I retire?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Baton Rouge Bingo

Ah, Scotty–the series that will never die.

It never ceases to amaze me the way this series has been embraced by readers, or that twenty years after turning in the first one here I am writing the ninth (or it is the eighth?) volume. It just goes to show that trying to come up with a plan for your writing career (at least in my case) is a fool’s game. Revisiting my work the way I have been recently–in part because I am writing another book in this seemingly endless series–has also reminded me of plans that have gone awry over the years; things I was trying to do with my writing and the series and the stand-alones that somehow got lost in the shuffle of trying to make a living while trying to be a writer at the same time as well as balance volunteer work, editing, and my relationship and my responsibilities around the house; and sometimes wondering if maybe I shouldn’t revisit and/or revive those plans. I’d like to get a lot of projects I’ve been thinking about for years or have in some sort of progress finished at long last before I come up with anything new–the problem, of course, being that there’s always something new poking its way out from the deep dark corners and recesses of my creative mind.

I famously said on a panel at Saints and Sinners, when asked about the potentiality of another book in the Scotty series, that if I could “think of a way to include Mike the Tiger from LSU along with Huey Long and his deduct box, I would” and of course, a few days later it struck me across the face like a bitch slap from Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce, and so I started making notes as the story started forming in my head.

I’d been wanting to write about Huey Long ever since I’d read the T. Harry Williams oral biography, Huey Long, which won every award on the planet back in the early 1950’s when it was originally published. I’d been trying to sort out fact from fiction when it came to Long for quite some time by the time someone recommended the Williams volume to me; I was very interested to find out what the actual truth about Long was, separated out from all the noise. I knew about the Kingfish from my US History text book, which devoted an entire paragraph to the “most dangerous politician in American history, the demagogue from Louisiana” without getting into much depth about his rise, what he did, and why he was so reviled.

The GPS in our brand new Explorer announced that it was about ninety miles to Baton Rouge from New Orleans when Frank punched in the coordinates into it before pulling away from the curb at the airport.

I stifled a laugh. It might only be ninety miles, but to a New Orleanian it’s like being sucked into a wormhole and winding up in another dimension.

Of course, New Orleanians are horrible snobs about the city’s suburbs, always making snarky jokes about needing shots and a passport to head over to the West Bank or out to Metairie, so it should be no surprise that we also look down our noses at the rest of Louisiana. We act like there’s no intelligent life outside of Orleans Parish; nowhere decent to eat, no art or culture to speak of, and certainly no one we’d want to associate with could possibly live out there. It’s not true, of course—but we like to pretend it is.

As my Louisiana History teacher at Jesuit High School once sniffed contemptuously, “President Jefferson offered Napoleon $10 million dollars for New Orleans, and for an extra five million he threw in the rest of the continent west of the Mississippi.”

Needless to say, this snobbish disdain for the rest of Louisiana was hardly endearing—which quite frequently means New Orleans gets screwed over by the state legislature.

So, when Frank first mentioned this trip to Baton Rouge, I reacted the way any true New Orleanian would. I scrunched up my face like I’d smelled something really awful and said, “Ew. Do we have to?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, we do, and we need to buy a new car.”

This was even more horrifying to me than going to Baton Rouge, to be honest. I hate to drive—I always have. I don’t even like riding in cars. Given the way people drive in New Orleans, it’s understandable. Most drivers in New Orleans don’t use their signals, ignore street signs and traffic laws if inconvenient, and no one here knows how to make a left turn properly at an intersection. It always amazes me that there aren’t more traffic fatalities.

As I had mentioned in my entry on Who Dat Whodunnit, I had always liked LSU; how can you not love a team that actually has a LIVE TIGER mascot? But of course I was always Auburn first then Alabama; LSU was my third favorite SEC team, and after we moved here it kept creeping closer and closer until I only rooted against LSU when they were playing Auburn, which then became I’m happy whoever wins but after Katrina? I went all in on LSU. Paul and I went to our first game in 2010, the Mississippi game, and it was incredibly exciting and I became an even bigger fan; there literally is nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley, and remember–I’d gone to plenty of college games in my life before that experience, and I thought the Auburn-Florida game in 1993 was the biggest and most exciting game day experience I’d ever had…

…and then I went to an LSU rivalry game at night in Tiger Stadium, and no, there’s absolutely nothing like that experience, anywhere, any time. And I love Mike the Tiger. (every time I go to a game I stop by the habitat to see if he’s out in the yard so I can say hello; he’s such a beautiful animal.) Constant Reader is undoubtedly very tired of listen to me about my LSU fandom and how much I love going to games in Tiger Stadium, but there probably wouldn’t be LSU football as we know it if not for Huey Long. Huey Long turned LSU from a small-enrollment C level state university into what is today, or at least got it started. He’s the reason the stadium is shaped the way it is (he wanted to expand the stadium but there was no money in the budget for it–but there was money to build a new dorm…so he built the dormitory into the stadium. The stadium only stopped being a functioning dorm in the 1980’s or 90’s I believe, and I think there’s a plan to refurbish and reopen the dorm…so yes, Tiger Stadium is the only football stadium in the world that can also serve as a dorm…and the football stadium was used as a staging center for the evacuation of New Orleans after the Katrina flood), and he encouraged the students to raise the money to get a live tiger mascot.

When I was puzzling over how to work all of these elements into a modern-day crime novel, there was a bomb threat on the LSU campus which resulted in an evacuation of the campus. The administration made sure Mike the Tiger was secured and evacuated safely before the general evacuation call, and of course, the students who think football is over-emphasized and prioritized over the university’s primary role as an institute of higher learning (they aren’t wrong, for the record) were furious and outraged that the tiger was giving a priority over the students. I don’t blame them in the least for those horrible optics, but I also understood where Admin was coming from; it was all a part of their safety strategy, and I am sorry, when you have a live tiger habitat on your campus, you kind of have to take that into consideration. Would you want to try to evacuate a tiger during the chaos of a general campus evacuation? How many things could go wrong in that situation? (And the question of whether there should be a live tiger habitat on a college campus is certainly one that should be discussed–traditions aren’t always a good thing–but not in the midst of a chaotic situation and a threat to campus safety. And as I understand it, his team of vets and veterinary students moved very quickly and it resulted in perhaps a fifteen minute delay in the general evacuation call? And leaving him on an abandoned campus was just not an option. So I decided to start my book with Scotty and Frank heading to Baton Rouge, getting caught in the evacuation panic traffic, while Mom is currently being arrested for slapping the state Attorney General. Mike gets kidnapped during the evacuation by a rabid animal rights’ movement, and the leader of the group turns out to not only be from New Orleans but also connected to Huey Long–her grandfather worked for him, and was killed in a car accident shortly after Huey was assassinated.

And at the root of everything is the deduct box. the big strongbox of cash Huey always kept on hand to pay for “unexpected expenses” no one wanted a record of–and I even brought back a villain from the past. I also introduced a new character to the family dynamic: Taylor Rutledge, Frank’s nephew from Corinth County, Alabama (see? all of my books are connected), disowned by his religious rural Southern parents after he came out to them and comes to New Orleans to live with them (I had an eye to spinning Taylor off into his own y/a crime series, but it hasn’t happened yet).

And this book has, perhaps, one of my favorite scenes ever in a Scotty book–when he realizes the bad guys have set he and Taylor adrift at sea…and Mike the Tiger is also on the boat with them (hat tip to Life of Pi).

And having now introduced a new character to the family dynamic, I could hardly call it quits on the series after that–so I knew there was going to be yet another.

Because Scotty will never. ever go away.

Bourbon Street Blues

It’s Southern Decadence weekend in New Orleans.

It’s probably hard to imagine what Southern Decadence is like unless you’ve actually been to it; even the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken and shared on social media over the years can’t even remotely begin to get the concept of what it’s like across–the same as Carnival, really; it has to be seen and experienced to be truly understood. My first Southern Decadence was in 1995, which was around the twenty-second or third time it was held; my knowledge of Decadence, primarily from urban legend and tales told from one gay to another and passed down over the years, is sketchy and probably untrustworthy (if you’d like the unvarnished truth and read about the history, I highly recommend Southern Decadence in New Orleans from LSU Press, co-written by Frank Perez and Howard Philips Smith; I have a copy and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be, but the story is it began as a bar crawl for a friend who was moving away, and grew from those humble beginnings into a massive event that draws queers from all over the world).

That first Decadence I came to was also one of the hottest, temperature wise, or perhaps it was simply because I wasn’t used to the summers in New Orleans yet since I didn’t live here. I just remember being in Oz one afternoon and just soaked in my own sweat, and going down the back staircase from the second floor–the staircase that opens out onto the dance floor–and having to hold onto the railing because the steps were slick and wet. The railing was also wet, and when I touched the walls so were they–all the humidity and body heat and sweat–but at the same time it was so much fun. Gorgeous, flirty and friendly men everywhere, everyone scantily dressed and getting wasted and just having a good time. This was during the height of the circuit parties, most of which have died off over the years–there’s no longer a Hotlanta weekend in Atlanta in mid-August anymore, for example–but back then, it seemed like every month if you had the time and the money there was a circuit party somewhere you could fly off to and be yourself and have fun being in an entirely gay environment for a few days. That was, for me, one of the primary appeals of circuit parties and gay bars–they were safe havens for everyone to be out and proud and loud…and after a few weeks navigating the straight world for work and play and life in general…it was lovely to let loose in, for want of a better word, a safe space.

Circuit parties also had their downsides, don’t get me wrong–Michelangelo Signorile detailed some of those in his book Life Outside, which got taken out of context an awful lot–drug use and rampant sex and bad choices also led to other problems, not to mention the spread of HIV and other STI’s; the very first time I ever went to a circuit party–Halloween in New Orleans, 1995–there was a very Masque of the Red Death feel to it; here were all these gay men crowded into a riverfront warehouse, doing drugs and dancing and having a great time while the plague raged outside the doors. I even wrote about that in my diary on the flight back to Tampa a few days later.

But Decadence was always my favorite, out of all of them, and it was something I looked forward to every year. My workouts were always planned so I would hit peak physical condition for Decadence and maintain through Halloween, before starting to work on the Carnival body. It feels weird to talk about it that way, but that was my mentality and my schedule for years. Bulk up for a couple of months, then lean down leading into the event.

I had always wanted to write about Southern Decadence, and I know I’ve written about how I came up with the idea for the book numerous times; standing on the balcony at the Pub watching one of the strippers fight his way through the mob of gay men to get to the Pub so he could work, Paul saying you really should write a book about Southern Decadence and seeing a scene vividly in my head as I looked down at the sea of sweating gay men. I’ve also written about where the idea for the character and his family came from. So what is there left for me to say about Bourbon Street Blues?

The new cover for the ebook edition.

The name’s Dansoir. Dick Dansoir.

Okay, so that really isn’t my name. It’s my stage name from the days when I was on the go-go boy circuit. I started when I was in college, at Vanderbilt up in Nashville. As with almost everything that goes on in my life, I became a go-go boy on a fluke. The Goddess brings interesting experiences into my life all the time. Sometimes I don’t think it’s all that great, to tell the truth, but she always seems to be watching out for me.

I was working out at my gym one day when this guy came up to me and asked me if I wanted to make some easy money.

Like I hadn’t heard that one before.  

I was twenty-one at the time, just turned, but I wasn’t some wide-eyed dopey innocent. I was raised in the French Quarter, after all, and by the time I went off to college at age eighteen I had pretty much seen everything. French Quarter kids have a lot more life experience than other kids their age. You can’t really help it. The French Quarter is like Disneyland for adults, and growing up there, you get used to seeing things that other people can only imagine.

Anyway, this guy said he was a booking agent and scout for this agency that booked dancers in gay bars throughout the deep South. The troupe was called Southern Knights.

“You can make a lot of money this way,” he said to me above the sounds of people grunting and weights clanging. “You’ve got the look we like.”

I looked at myself in one of the mirrors that are everywhere in gyms. I was wearing a white tank top and a pair of black nylon jogging shorts. I was pumped up from lifting, and if I did say so myself, I looked pretty good. I’m only about five-eight—nine if I have thick-soled shoes on. I have curly blond hair that’s darker underneath. The sun does lighten it, but that darkness underneath always makes people think I dye it. I don’t. I have big, round brown eyes. I am also one of those blonds lucky enough to be able to tan. I’d gotten a good tan that summer and it hadn’t faded yet. The white tank top showed the tan off nicely. I also have a high metabolism and can stay lean rather easily.

But scam artists are everywhere. I wasn’t about to fall for a line from some stranger in the gym. For all I knew, it was a trick to get my phone number, or an escort service, or something else I didn’t want to be involved in.

Not that I have anything against escorting. People go to escorts for all kinds of reasons—loneliness, fear of commitment, whatever—but they do fulfill a need in the gay community, and more power to them. I just never saw myself taking money from someone for having sex. I like sex. I enjoy it. So, it just never seemed right for me to tale money for doing something I like.

Besides, taking money for it would make it work. I prefer to keep my status amateur.

I got a copy of the book out yesterday and skimmed/read it again, to get another look and remind myself of Scotty’s roots and beginning. I realized yesterday, as I turned the pages of an ARC (yes, I still have ARC copies of Bourbon Street Blues available), several things: one, that the reason I always hate reading my own work is because my brain is trained to read my work editorially, to fix and edit and correct and look for things needing to be fixed (and I can always find something) and that second, it’s really been so long since the last time I looked at this book–or any of the earlier Scottys–was four years ago, when I was writing Royal Street Reveillon. So, by making the obvious effort to flip the editorial switch off, and having so much distance from the book that it almost seemed like something new to me, I was able to skim/read the entire thing without wincing in horror or pain or embarrassment.

The original cover, which always makes me smile.

Bourbon Street Blues was also the last novel I wrote that didn’t have an epigram of any kind, let alone Tennessee Williams: I started that practice with Jackson Square Jazz with a line from Orpheus Descending: “A good-looking boy like you is always wanted.”

Reading the book took me back to the days when I was writing it. The Greg who wrote Bourbon Street Blues is still here, I’ve just been through quite a bit since then and have changed because of my experiences. There were some sentences in the book I would change now to make better, but there are still some jewels in there, and well, I can kind of understand now why the character is so well-liked. He’s charming and humble and kind; sure he talks about “being irresistible” a lot, but that’s part of the charm. Guys find him attractive. He doesn’t necessarily see it, but is more than willing to accept it and not question it. He enjoys his sexuality and he enjoys having sex. I wanted Scotty to be unabashedly sexual and to have no hang-ups, carrying no stress or issues about being a very sexual gay man.

As I read the book again, I also started seeing something that had been pointed out to me over the years a lot–and began to understand why this was pointed out to me so much; an old dog can learn new tricks, apparently–but I still think other people are wrong. The book isn’t “all about sex,’ as some have said. Rather, Scotty sexualizes men; he sees them as potential partners and appreciates beauty in men. His friend David also loves to get laid, so they cruise a lot–whether they are at the gym (either the weight room or the locker room), a bar, wherever they are–and so people get the idea that the book itself is incredibly sexual, even though there is literally only one sex scene in the entire book and it’s not graphic; Scotty’s weird mish-mash of spirituality and beliefs and values make the act itself a sacred ritual, and that was how I wrote the scene; from a spiritual, commune-with-the-Goddess perspective. It’s also funny in that people are so not used to seeing world through the Gay Male Gaze that it’s jarring, and puts sex and sexuality into the minds of the reader.

The question is, would people think the same if this was done through the Straight Male Gaze, in which women are sexualized? Since this is the default of our society–literature, film, television–is flipping the script to show the Gay Male Gaze so uncommon and so unheard of that it triggers such a reaction from some of the readers?

There’s also so much innocence in the book, and it’s also interesting to see it as a kind of time-capsule: Scotty doesn’t have a computer; his rent (on Decatur Street in the Quarter, with a balcony) is $450 a month (ha ha ha ha, that’s what the condo fee would be now monthly); and he also doesn’t have a cell phone. The whole point of the book was to do a Hitchcockian wrong place/wrong time now you’re in danger kind of story; and that is precisely what Bourbon Street Blues is. I’d forgotten that one of the running gags in the book is that he never gets a chance to sleep much throughout the story so he’s tired all the time and just wants it all to be over so he can go to bed.

Another thing that’s dated: even in 2002, in my naïveté and innocence, the evil politician running for governor–when described by Scotty’s brother Storm as problematic–even he doesn’t support an outright ban on abortion–he wants to ban it but with the rape, incest and health exceptions.

Even in 2002 I couldn’t conceive of anyone running for statewide office calling for an outright ban on abortion.

How things change.

It was also interesting that I got two things very wrong in the book, too: for one, I was thinking for some reason the swamp on the edges of Lake Pontchartrain on the way to Baton Rouge on I-10 was the Atchafalaya (it’s the Manchac/Maurepas), and while I had always remembered I’d given Scotty’s mom a name in this book but forgotten it later when I needed a name for her in a different book–I had the name wrong. I thought I’d called her Marguerite in Bourbon Street Blues then named her Cecile in a later book; I had actually called her Isabelle. (I’ve even told that story–about the names–before on panels and been WRONG ALL THIS TIME!)

It was also interesting and fun to remember–as I read–that Scotty was also not looking for a boyfriend. He was perfectly happy and content being single (which was also something important I wanted to write about–a gay man who didn’t care about finding a life-partner, figuring if it was meant to be it would happen). I also presented him with two potential love interests–Colin the cat burglar and Frank the hot daddy–with that actually being resolved without him having to make a choice between them. I also had the book end with Scotty being slowly persuaded into becoming a private eye.

Originally I had conceived it as a stand alone novel, but the publisher offered me a two-book contract, so when I was writing Bourbon Street Blues I knew there was going to be a sequel. This freed me to leave some personal things open for him; I knew I was going to bring Colin back in the next book so he was going to have to choose between them, and I also knew the personal story needed to be wrapped up by the end of the third book, which was going to be the end of the series with everything resolved. That changed when I wrote Mardi Gras Mambo, but that’s a story for another time.

Bottom line: it’s a good book and I am proud of it. It’s only available now as an ebook from Amazon, but I hope to eventually make it available through every service as well as get a print-on-demand version for those who might want one.