Breathe

Good morning, Friday. How are you today? I am feeling good, thank you for asking.

I got a very good night’ sleep last night, and I have, as always, a lot to get done over the weekend (and today) before I head to Kentucky for the holiday on Monday. I want to drop off more books for the library sale tomorrow, have tons of writing to do (as always), and I would like to be able to finish reading Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, which I am deeply enjoying. I have a stack of cozy mysteries to take with me on this trip–Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews; Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry; Better off Wed by Laura Durham, and A Disguise to Die For by Diana Vallere, plus any number of them on my iPad as ebooks (I’m taking the iPad with me on the chance that I run out of books, which is a horrible fate to contemplate)–and I also need to figure out how to work the check out audiobooks from the library for the phone thing so I can listen to a book both coming and going. (Eleven hours in the car both directions)

And now that some things have settled and been settled, I can now go ahead and officially announce that I have signed a one-book contract for a potential new series set here in New Orleans with Crooked Lane Books; that is the book I am currently working on, having had to put Chlorine aside yet again to make room to write a new book. This is a series with a straight woman main character–a widow with twin sons who’ve just left for LSU, leaving her with a bit of empty nest syndrome and a beautiful old Victorian house in the Irish Channel that now is much too big for her, who gets an unexpected inheritance from a great-uncle of her late husband’s whom she didn’t know even existed. The book will be published under the name T. G. Herren, to differentiate it from my queer books and series. I just got the sketch art for the book cover, and I love it. The book is called A Streetcar Named Murder, and will be released in the fall of 2022. I will be talking about this book a lot over the course of the next year, so prepare thyself, Constant Reader. (T. G. for those who may be wondering, are my initials only reversed; longtime reader know that I reversed my names for my erotica pseudonym Todd Gregory, hence the initials T. G.) My editor is the exceptional Terri Bischoff, whom I have always wanted to work with, and now I am not only working with her on this but also on the Bouchercon anthology for Minneapolis 2022 (we are co-editors), Land of 10000 Crimes.

Life is pretty good for one Gregalicious at the moment, seriously. And I am really looking forward to my January release, #shedeservedit, while being incredibly nervous at the same time. I also got an invitation to contribute to another anthology that pays well in my inbox this morning, so I am feeling kind of good about myself…I give it a day or two. (Bury Me in Shadows has a great review in the next issue of Mystery Scene magazine, which thrilled me to no end when I saw it last night. More on that later.)

I also booked another trip to New York for January yesterday, which is exciting as well. I also made my hotel arrangements for a return engagement to Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu–the Birmingham/Wetumpka one-two punch I did in consecutive years a while back, so you can see why I feel like my career no longer feels stagnant or in stasis at the moment. And yes, the goal for 2022 is to finally land an agent once and for all. I think Chlorine is the book that will do that for me; we shall see.

I got caught up on Foundation yesterday, and I am really impressed with how well the show turned out, considering how much it has veered away from the books. I’d like to read the books again, frankly–oooh, audiobooks for the car!–and I also watched another episode of The Lost Symbol, which frankly I don’t pay as much attention to as I perhaps should while I am watching. It’s very well done, but the plot is far-fetched (which is about the only thing I do remember from reading the book), but watching the show has made me curious about seeing the Tom Hanks films based on the other Dan Brown novels, which I didn’t really care about before. That’s something, I suppose.

And on that note it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check back in with you again tomorrow.

Maybe Someday

Well, we managed to survive Monday, did we not, Constant Reader?

Always a plus, don’t you think?

Yesterday morning I got up without much of a problem—but I really need to stop checking my Fitbit every morning to see how well I slept; it’s rather silly, actually, and doesn’t change whether I feel rested or not when I do get up. I went to the gym Sunday afternoon (why do I always forget how good it feels to stretch and work out?) and am hoping to have the energy to go for Leg Day after work tonight. This month—looking ahead—is going to be a bit on the crazy side: I have an on-line training for work; I’m doing a library event in the evening this coming Monday; my book drops officially next week; I’m doing an event with David Slayton (author of White Trash Warlock) with Murder by the Book on the 13th; and I am having a colonoscopy on the 21st. Woo-hoo! That’s me, living large everywhere I turn around. And then it’s Halloween, and then it’s November, and I am taking two trips: one to New York/Boston (for Crime Bake), and to visit my family for Thanksgiving (note to self: buy plane tickets and make arrangements for New York/Boston trip). After that, it’s pretty much just Christmas and New Year’s, and suddenly it’s Carnival again—not sure what it’s going to look like, to be completely honest, or how much I plan to be involved or participate with it. I will also be doing some traveling in the new year—New York again in January, Birmingham in February, Albuquerque for Left Coast, whenever that is—and here’s hoping the pandemic has calmed down and/or finally ended by then. PLEASE? Is it too much to ask?

There really is something to be said for doing things that were normal before the pandemic again. I do think going to the football game Saturday night, which I was so concerned about—and I wasn’t entirely comfortable around all those people—helped reset my brain a bit; I felt so much better about the world and life and everything in general when I woke up Sunday morning—after the first cup of coffee cleared some of the bleariness away—and Sunday night, after watching two more episodes of Midnight Mass (which is extraordinary, by the way; you should watch, Constant Reader—the writing and acting and production values are truly stellar—I had no problem going to bed and sleep. I did hit snooze a few times yesterday morning, as always—the alarm is set fifteen minutes ahead; which may seem kind of dumb to me at times (what good does it do you if you always remember its fifteen minutes fast?) but I do like to gradually wake up and acclimate a bit before I throw aside the covers and put on my morning pre-shower attire of LSU sweats, socks and house slippers. (Note to self: need a new pair of LSU moccasins to wear around the house)

I was also fairly productive yesterday, which was most pleasing to me. I did start getting sleepy and tired in the afternoon while at work, but powered through. I got a lot of emails taken care of, paid some bills, and spent a lot more time than I probably should have on Twitter being amused about the Facebook crash. (although I did find myself more than slightly amused at how often I would automatically start to go to the Facebook tab on my browser before thinking sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that right now)

Old habits die hard, and it does kind of bother me that it’s become so habitual for me to check Facebook. (We pause briefly now to look back and remember the days of MySpace, with a bit of nostalgic fondness)

Honestly.

But I am getting better organized, and working more efficiently these days than I have for, oh, say about the last two years, give or take? I am also—now that I no longer feel the need to spend all day Saturday glued to the television watching college football—going to start cleaning projects, weekend by weekend, until I have gradually cleaned the entire apartment. Ambitious plans, to be sure, but it’s not like I haven’t done it before. And included in this is cleaning out the crawlspace above the laundry room; there’s a lot of stuff up there that can probably be donated—boxes and boxes and boxes of books that I most likely will never look at again because they are in boxes in the crawlspace. The ultimate goal for me would be to not only clean out the crawlspace but clean out the storage unit—there’s room in there now, but there could be a lot more. (There’s also a chance that things in there got ruined during Ida as well—I know at some point since I rented the unit some water got in there somehow, because a couple of boxes had gotten wet and were thus ruined and needed to be thrown out.) I was also thinking about the whole “keeping my papers to have them archived somewhere”—which I really need to either do, or throw them in the garbage because they take up so much space—because what really is going to be interesting is the electronic files; those may not show the notes I’ve made on manuscripts themselves for edits and so forth, but you can trace the progression of the writing and rewriting through each different version of the story/book/file. (And of course, I am rolling my eyes at myself for thinking any future scholar of queer mysteries from this time period would be interested in me and my work. Ten years after I am dead, cremated and my ashes scattered in the various places I want them scattered, I won’t be remembered, and I am perfectly fine with that.) I mean, it’s interesting to me to look through because it triggers memories long dormant in a corner of my brain, but I honestly cannot imagine being the subject of anyone’s dissertation or thesis; unless someone wants to look at my stuff as a reference to gay white male life in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina.

Ah, well.

I also realized I’ve been writing this for quite some time and haven’t mentioned Bury Me in Shadows yet, and I was going to try to talk about this book a bit every day as a bit of a tease to encourage people to buy it. It really is a wonder I have a career, isn’t it?

So, if you’ve stuck with this entry so far, let me promise you this: tomorrow I will talk about Bury Me in Shadows. You’ve been warned.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Rhythm is Gonna Get You

Thanksgiving Eve is here, and I am about to make my famous mac’n’cheese for the office potluck. Yes, I am going into the office on one of my vacation days, but there are worse things I could do. I have some errands to run today anyway, so after I leave the office I shall run them. It’s also payday, so I get to spend a moment or two or three paying the bills this morning. Yay? I guess I should just be grateful I can pay the bills, right? I have a book to pick up at the library and the mail, and I should also stop and get some groceries while I am out; not a major shopping expedition–perhaps enough to get us through until Saturday, as I am not going anywhere near any place to shop on Friday.

That would be madness.

And while that will make a dent in my day, it’s fine. I’ll just do some cleaning and organizing–my electronic files, particularly in the cloud, where I just throw things with a flippant I’ll worry about organizing them later mentality on an almost daily basis, with the end result that the files are a complete and utter mess. I also want to get some more work done on reimagining the current book. I’m now torn as to whether the first chapter is necessary or not; or if I should simply start the book with his arrival at Birmingham airport. There’s something a bit cliche about starting a book with your main character arriving at an airport, and that also would mean a shit ton of back story to shoehorn in, so that it all makes sense–so there, I’ve just worked that out in real time, see how a writer works? I struggled with revising the first chapter yesterday, so naturally my mind went to, this is hard maybe I can just cut the chapter. 

Always, always, always looking for the easiest, laziest way to do something. Shameful, really.

I also managed to waste some time yesterday trying to track down George Washington Cable’s stories about Madame LaLaurie. A post by the Preservation Resource Center here about the LaLaurie house on Facebook yesterday led me down into that wormhole; I shared the post along with the comment I am going to write about the LaLaurie house of horrors someday (see: Monsters of New Orleans) and someone commented that Cable had written short stories about Madame LaLaurie (who is probably most famous outside of New Orleans due to her being a character on American Horror Story: Coven, played by Kathy Bates), and so then I went for a deep dive, trying to see if I could find copies of the stories on-line. I got sidetracked into Project Gutenberg for a while, where I found his novella Madame Delphine, which was NOT about Delphine LaLaurie. I did eventually find the stories I was looking for, and will read them at some point.

Cable is not the only writer from the past to write about New Orleans and Louisiana history that I’ve not read; I’ve also not read much of Arnett Kane or Robert Tallant or Lafcadio Hearn or Lyle Saxon; some, but not much. I’m not entirely sure they are completely trustworthy as sources, but I am going to read them for ideas at the very least. I also need to spend some time at the Williams Research Center and the Historic New Orleans Collection, as well as the Louisiana Research Center at Tulane. I’m greatly enjoying these little journeys into New Orleans’ past that I’ve been taking over the last year; I am still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is giving me a definite feel for colonial New Orleans, which is going to be enormously helpful.

Especially for this Sherlock Holmes in New Orleans short story I’ve agreed to write; which will also entail reading some Holmes stories, to get a feel for the vibe and the tone and the voice. I’m enormously fortunate that I have two dear friends who are Sherlockians, and have agreed to read my story before I turn it in for pointers and notes and so forth.

And on that note, perhaps it’s time for me to head into the spice mines. I have a lot of cheese to grate for the mac’n’cheese….have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Everytime You Go Away

There really is nothing like your own bed.

My inability to sleep in a hotel bed is becoming increasingly problematic the older I get; it’s hard for me to do public speaking events when I have trouble sleeping. I can rest; I just don’t fall deeply asleep and instead wind up in that half-sleep all night. In the morning I feel rested physically but not mentally, and I start getting tired. I also wind up drinking a lot more caffeine than I need to stay alert and focused, which then further complicates the inability to fall asleep. Heavy heaving sigh.

But the two events I did in Alabama this weekend–Murder in the Magic City on Saturday in Birmingham at the Homewood Library; Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka Sunday at the Civic Center–are wonderful events. They draw lovely crowds, all of whom love to read and also buy books, and are incredibly well organized. A special shout out to Margaret Fenton, who organizes Murder in the Magic City, and to Tammy Lynn Rushing and Fran Holland, who put together the Wetumpka event. If you ever get invited to speak, or have the chance to attend, you really should. Despite my inability to sleep, I always feel creatively invigorated as well as personally rewarded. I also really love the little town of Wetumpka; as weird as it sounds, I would like to go back there and spend a weekend exploring. I’ve always wanted to write about a small town in Alabama; and there’s lots of material, I suspect, there. I love that there’s a casino and a meteor crater there; one of the only concrete suspension bridges in the country; and two rivers. Driving from Birmingham to Wetumpka is always interesting; as at least a third of the trip is on state highways and not interstates, and as I drove, listening to my music and observing my surroundings, again I had many flashbacks to my own childhood and my own memories of Alabama. I also got re-inspired on a short story idea I had a couple of months back, and serendipitously an anthology it would be perfect for just popped up on my radar. Huzzah!

I took today off from work–a wise move–so I can get caught up on everything that slid while I was away this weekend. I have errands to run, some cleaning to do, some writing and editing, and a lot of organizing. *Whew*. Just thinking about it makes me feel very very tired. But I slept really well last night–there’s really nothing like your own bed, as I mentioned before–and I also need to get to the gym. I missed both Friday and Sunday workouts this weekend; I can make up the Sunday workout today but Friday’s, alas, is gone. I do miss it, and my body is all, what the hell man? And with Carnival getting back into full swing on Wednesday; it’s not going to be easy. I am going to skip cardio these next few workouts; I have to walk to and from work every day from Wednesday thru Friday, so those cardio workouts aren’t as necessary. I can go lift weights today, Wednesday, and Friday; I have Lundi Gras off so can replace the Sunday workout with one on Monday, and then get back to my regular schedule after Fat Tuesday. Huzzah!

And maybe I should start looking into eating healthier, too….sob.

I did manage to keep going on the short story project while I was in Alabama; I took Laura Lippman’s Hardly Knew Her collection with me and read the stories “Femme Fatale,” “Honor Bar, ” and  “A Good Fuck Spoiled.” (There were other stories there, like “Pony Girl” and “ARM and the Woman”, which I’d already read in their original publications; I even reprinted “ARM and the Woman” in my co-edited –with J. M. Redmann–anthology Women of the Mean Streets.) I loved these stories, and one of the things I love the most about Lippman’s short stories is how dark they are; they are most definitely hard-boiled and noir. I also love that the stories are about women who aren’t what would typically be called ‘nice girls;’ these are women with shady pasts who aren’t sorry about their pasts and will do what they need to do.

“A Good Fuck Spoiled” though, isn’t about a woman, although in some ways it is; it actually spins the tired trope of the older man/younger woman adulterous affair on its head. This is one of those stories where someone who is basically your average, every day husband and father is pushed over the edge into doing something dark in order to get out of a bad situation his own apathy kind of allowed him to drift into. It’s also exceptionally clever by playing with the entire concept of ‘betrayed wife’ against ‘golf widow,’ and of course, the husband, once he does what he needs to do–sees it exactly that way; I love how Lippman shows how someone can do something amoral and then completely justify it. God, this collection is amazing. Laura Lippman is definitely respected as one of our best crime writers today–but I don’t think she gets near enough credit as a short story writer.

And on that note, I need to make a list and start checking things off it.

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The Name of the Game

Yesterday we had some heavy weather in New Orleans; the part of the city known as New Orleans East (which was decimated in the post-Katrina flood) was hit by tornadoes. It was, to say the least, kind of eerie. We of course got the severe weather alert texts at the office, and all moved downstairs and away from the glass. I spent five years or so living in Kansas, so I am well acquainted with tornadoes and what to do in case one is coming, but New Orleans East and the North Shore were pretty torn up. There are any number of places on-line to donate; and of course, if you’re local, there are some places where you can drop off supplies or volunteer to help out listed on both NOLA.com and TheAdvocate.com.

Wow, such a weird day. And it was my first day back at work, which required re-orienting myself back to the day job reality from a book weekend. The switch from one life to the other is always a bit disorienting, but I came away from the weekend with some great books to read (Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day; Peaches and Scream by Susan Furlong; Digging Up the Dirt by Miranda James; Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker; Run by Andrew Grant; and The Contractors by Harry Hunsicker. The authors who were there whose books I didn’t buy copies of are on my wish list).

I started reading Lori Rader-Day’s Little Pretty Things last night, and it’s quite good so far; I was sucked in almost immediately. I think she won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for this one; I know she was also nominated for an Anthony Award. I got to hang out with Lori a lot over the weekend, and she really made me laugh quite hard. She, Harry, Shannon, and I also made a field trip after the Homewood Library event on Saturday over to the Vulcan statue.

Lori was quick to note he wasn’t wearing pants.

I also came away from the weekend with more of a resolve about writing, the way I always do when I go to a book weekend or a writer’s conference or whatever you want to call those weekends when writers gather to speak to people who love books. I also figured out (finally) how to do the cozy series I’ve always been interested in writing (or trying to write; cozies are a lot harder than people think they are), and I also have some ideas about some other things I want to do. So, it was a big win, over all.

And now, back to the spice mines.