It Don’t Come Easy

The future’s so bright, we have to wear shades.

I’m referring to the crime fiction world. I’ve been having a marvelous time reading debut authors lately–Mia P. Manansala, Wanda M. Morris, just to name two–and I have to say, the debut authors are simply killing it lately. I am glad I’ve not been asked to sit on any judging panels for best firsts lately, because while it would be amazing to read all of these exceptional debuts for an entire year, having to winnow them down first to five and then to pick a winner would be incredibly difficult. It’s hard enough participating in fan-voted awards, like the Leftys and the Anthonys.

That is also particularly true when it comes to queer crime. Some of the queer crime novels I’ve been reading over the last year or so have been exceptional–and Marco Carocari’s Blackout fits right in with the premise of this post: an exceptional debut novel, and with gay characters, issues and themes front and center; and written by a gay man. Blackout was a Lefty finalist for Best First Novel (a truly packed category, seriously) and I couldn’t have been prouder of Marco–especially once I finished reading the book.

Franco couldn’t deny it any longer. This had been a mistake. “I’m sorry…hold on a second,” he said, gripping the rooftop’s metal railing to keep his balance, his blue gym shorts around his ankles. All around him low hanging pinkish clouds held back SoHo’s city lights, dousing the neighborhood in a muted glow.

The half-naked man behind him grunted and stepped back. “Dude, this isn’t working for me.”

Franco detected frustration in his voice, but found it hard to care. Wiping sweat from his forehead, he scratched the blond stubble on his cheek, his naked skin damp from from the sultry air. “Sorry, I…need a moment. I don’t feel so hot,” he said over his shoulder, straightening up. He spat on the ground, but the strange metallic taste lingered in his dry mouth. He swayed and saw double. “What the hell was in that thing?”

He got no answer and glanced at his bare chested hunk of a date standing there, zipping up.

Okay, considering this had barely taken ten minutes, date was probably grossly overstated. Franco eyed the ripped, olive-skinned stud who went by Pitcher9 on the MeatUp app, but whose real name he’d already forgotten. Pressed, he’d go with Hey since that was an intimate an introduction the situation warranted. A fading, crudely drawn mermaid tattoo on the man’s left oblique, possibly a blast from his youthful past, only increased his bad boy vibe.

Well, that’s an opening, isn’t it?

When I discovered that not only was queer fiction a thing, but that queer crime fiction was a strong and vital force in the genre, I was in heaven. I devoured queer fiction, and especially queer crime fiction of any kind. I discovered the rich history of queer fiction by reading writers like Joseph Hanson, Barbara Wilson, Richard Stevenson, Michael Nava, Ellen Hart, and Katherine Forrest–and any number of others. I was a queer book reviewer for years. I was editor of Lambda Book Report and served as a Lambda judge any number of times. I kind of burned out on it, to be honest…but I kept reading it and I certainly was paying attention. There has been any number of ups and downs in queer crime over the decades, but the flourishing we’re seeing now is pretty amazing for me to witness.

First of all, Marco’s book begins with the above scene (there’s a set-up introduction chapter, that dates back to the New York blackout of 1977), and it’s from a crime fiction small press. Not a small press that is queer owned and operated, but a crime fiction small press. That’s some serious in-your-face gay sexuality going on in those opening paragraphs; a hook-up gone bad on a rooftop in Manhattan. It is both blunt and frank and right there, in your face–and I cannot even begin to express how exciting it is for me, not just as a gay author but as a gay man of a certain age, to see gay sexuality expressed so bluntly and openly from a small crime press. Just as it amazed me that PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus was published (and promoted heavily) by one of the big presses in New York, it’s also lovely to see that small crime fiction publishers are embracing this kind of content.

It’s lovely, frankly.

The book itself is a strong debut novel from someone who will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with in the years to come. Franco smokes a joint with his trick, but the joint is laced with something so Franco becomes what we call an unreliable narrator/unreliable witness. He thinks he sees a murder happen in the window across the street–but the police find nothing to corroborate or back up his story. Did he really see something? Was it the drugs? And slowly, as Franco and his friends try to figure out what is going on and what is happening to Franco, it all seems to lead back in time to that night when the lights went out in New York…

Franco is a terrific character–likable if frustrating from time to time–but how would anyone react in this kind of situation? The trope of “I think I saw a murder but I may not have” isn’t original–Agatha Christie’s brilliant What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw is one of the best of these types of stories, but Carocari giving it a gay twist–and what a gay twist it was, indeed!–made it fresh and original and new. I don’t know if Carocari plans on writing more books with Franco as his protagonist–or if what he writes next will be a crime thriller or gay at all; but whatever it is, I am looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

I am a fan. Well done, Marco, and welcome to the queer crime fiction club!

Another Day

Sunday morning and I slept really well again. I woke up, as always, at just before seven, but stayed in bed lazily until nearly eight–when nature’s call became too much to be ignored for longer. But I have a nice fresh hot cup of coffee, a long Sunday with a lot to do and/or get done today (I also need to run to the grocery store this morning, which is always so exhausting) but I suspect that i can get everything I need to get done, done. Yesterday morning I spent some time with the Carol Goodman novel (which is really and truly spectacularly well done), went to do my self-care (which was lovely) and then picked up the mail and headed home to spend some time doing things. I did the bed linens, emptied the dishwasher and did another load (that needs to be emptied this morning) and also got some things organized for my next writing project. I did the Spirit of Ink interview at 2, as scheduled, and then when I was finished with that I was drained, as I knew I would be, so I did some more file organizing before retiring to my easy chair with my journal to make notes for Mississippi River Mischief, which I am also starting to get excited about writing (which is a lovely change from the usual, where I dread writing any and every thing).

So, overall, I was quite pleased with my Friday. Since we’d finished or gotten caught up on everything else we had started watching, we decided to binge through season two of The Hardy Boys on Hulu, which I am enjoying. Is it the Hardy Boys of my childhood? No, but neither was the 1970’s show with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy. I belong to several kids’ series groups on Facebook (they are very interesting people; I’ve always wanted to write a book about kids’ series fandom) and they were, of course, quite unhappy with this adaptation (but not NEARLY as up-in-arms as they were about the Nancy Drew television series, in which Nancy actually has sex with Ned–who’s Black in the show–in the very first episode). Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I don’t expect adaptations to match us precisely to the source material, and whether people in their fifties and sixties want to admit to it or not, both series in their original forms are horribly dated today. I did enjoy the show’s nods to the canon series throughout–one of the villains was named McFarlane (Leslie McFarlane ghost-wrote many of the original books) and the bad company is Stratemeyer Global (the Stratemeyer Syndicate created and owned both series, among many others), and there was also a single throwaway line at one point about “what happened at midnight” (which is one of the titles of the original canonical series); so that was all a bit fun for me. Even as I watched, I kept remembering all the dog-whistles of the fan group–disguised as “dedication to the original canon” of course–but when you use words like woke and so forth, your bigotry and personal biases are kind of put right out there on display.

And I can only imagine how upset they are that Aunt Gertrude (Trudy on the show) is a lesbian…which actually makes canonical sense, to be honest.

But it was a very pleasant way to waste the rest of the day, frankly, and I felt pretty marvelous when I went to bed last evening. I am really enjoying my sleep lately, which is marvelous, and lately I am feeling very–I don’t know, optimistic?–about my career and my future as a writer, which is always a plus. I am still waiting for my edits on A Streetcar Named Murder, and to hear back about my short story, but I am feeling pretty good about myself this morning (let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?) and tomorrow evening i am going to make a semi-triumphant return to the gym. This morning I am going to spend some time with The Lake of Dead Languages, and then I am going to head out to the grocery store, probably around elevenish, so I can come home and do some more writing and organizing and so forth. I am going to try to bang out a draft of a new manuscript by mid-June, and then I want to spend until August 1 finishing a first draft of Chlorine, at which point I will most likely have to start really working on Mississippi River Mischief. That’s a pretty good schedule, if I can stick to it–and then of course there are any number of short stories I want to get written in the meantime. There are two submission calls I saw recently (with very tight deadlines) I’d like to get something submitted to–but then it always comes down to time and motivation–both of which I am good at failing at–so it’s all going to depend, I suppose. But I am going to get organized here in my office space before retiring to read for the rest of the morning, which hopefully will mean productivity. We also need something new to watch, since we’ve binged our way through everything already–but there are any number of shows that dropped since the beginning of the year that we’d like to see that we never got around to, and more are coming out all the time.

I also want to rewatch Heartstopper at some point, so I can finish my post about it at some point. I really need to get those old unfinished posts finished and posted at some point, don’t I? I also have a bad review of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not to finish as well as a review of Marco Carocari’s marvelous Blackout, as well as some ruminations about the resurgence of anti-queer political homophobia which hs reared its ugly head again.

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

Sweet and Innocent

Well, that was a morning, was it not?

I took today off for appointments, and as is my usual wont, tried to cram in as many as possible on the same day to save paid time off. So far today I’ve been to the West Bank, the North Shore, and Metairie, but am now safely home and ready to kick it back and get to work on this massive to-do list I somehow have managed to avoid for most of the weekend. (I justified my utter and complete laziness this weekend on being home for the weekend and it being my first weekend at home after a trip; justification can always be found, frankly. I have a PhD in it, methinks, or at least should) But I feel relatively good, despite having to get up so early this morning for the trip to the West Bank (oil change at my dealership, before a trip out to the North Shore and…well, you already know the rest). I took along Eli Cranor’s stunning debut novel, Don’t Know Tough, to read in various waiting rooms, and it is actually a most marvelous read. I finished Marco Carocari’s Blackout over the weekend, which was also a lovely read, and we did a lot of binge-watching. We finished watching Why Didn’t They Ask Evans, which we rather enjoyed, and then moved on to get caught up on Servant, which is actually rather disturbing yet compulsively watchable.

I did manage to get some writing done this weekend–I really don’t know why it is like pulling teeth these days, but it is, and I guess I just have to learn how to live with that, really. I did have an easier time with the first draft of a first chapter that was more of a “let me try this, I’ve been thinking about this project for a really long time and since nothing else seems to be flowing, it can’t hurt…” but that’s not what I need to be worrying about at the moment, is it? I really need to get this short story finished, and I don’t know why I am having so much trouble with it here, to be honest. It’s got a great title, it’s an interesting idea, and I just have to get the tone and voice perfectly right for it to work…but I don’t know if I am having imposter syndrome symptoms or what, but this story has really been a struggle for me.

Who knows? Maybe now that I’ve admitted it publicly, maybe the story will start flowing when I get back to it today. One can certainly hope, at any rate…I’ve also been trying to write an entry about the fifth season of Elité, with little success. It is probably one of my favorite shows of all time–and after a disappointing fourth season, it was great seeing the writers and producers kick the show back into that high gear it operated under its first three seasons. Season 4, to give credit where it’s due, was not going to be an easy one to pull off; replacing the characters that left the show in the wake of Season 3 (Polo, Lu, Carla, and Nadia) wasn’t going to be easy, and the new characters were basically made the focal point of the show in season 4 when we didn’t really know much about them. I did give them a break–it’s hard to introduce so many new characters into a cast and integrate them into existing storylines while giving them their own–but it was still a bit disappointing. Season 5 spring-boarded off season 4, though, and much of the drama in the new season had its roots in the past season…but they did a much better job integrating the new characters–Ivan, Isadora, Cruz, and Balil–then they did the new characters in Season 4. (Okay, well, they kind of forgot about Balil in the final episodes–I don’t think we even saw him again after the body turned up in Episode 4, and Omar didn’t really have much of a story; so I am thinking he is one of those not returning for season 6)

But I will say this: episode 5 of season 5 of Elité has one of the most erotic and authentic gay sex scenes I’ve ever seen on television or in film; it’s almost borderline porn. It was so lovingly and beautifully shot; the soundtrack music was perfect; and it brought tears to my eyes. (Similar to the scene in It’s a Sin when the main character is about to bottom for the first time and his partner tells him he needs to wash up first–I laughed and got teary-eyed; both scenes will certainly be talked about should I ever teach another erotica writing class or workshop) I know, I know, I’ve been screaming to the clouds about Elité since we first started watching it way back in the Before Times.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And now I am going to head back into the spice mines and see if I can’t get a draft of that story finished today. Wish me luck, Constant Reader–I’ll let you know tomorrow how it went.

Put Your Hand in the Hand

And now it’s Easter! Happy Easter to those who celebrate, to those who don’t, well, Happy Sunday.

I bought a flat of fresh Ponchatoula strawberries yesterday. It was an impulse buy, of course; I was heading down Tchoupitoulas Street in the midst of my errands when I saw a little stand set up, and impulsively I pulled over, got out, and forked over twenty bucks for some beautiful and delicious fresh strawberries. I made myself a protein shake with some of them (along with two bananas) once I’d gotten home and put everything away; for the rest of the day whenever I walked into the kitchen for anything I grabbed some strawberries and ate them quite happily. There really is nothing like Ponchatoula strawberries freshly picked from the fields. Today I will have to freeze some, naturally; I am now really excited for Creole tomato season, which should be here at any moment (I’ve started looking for them every time I set foot in a grocery store). It’s very odd how delighted I am about having these strawberries; I only wish I could eat even more of them…but I am only one person and there are only so many I can eat…and the frozen ones will be perfect for slushing up my protein shakes a bit, giving them more of a daiquiri style consistency.

I really do need to write about Ponchatoula strawberry season at some point–and Creole tomatoes.

As usual, I was very tired once I got home from the errands. I was also startled at how hot and humid it was outside yesterday; despite being only mid-April it felt like early June already. This does not bode well for the unholy hell that is the usual New Orleans summer. They’re predicting a slightly less active hurricane season this year–slightly being the operative adjective doing the heavy lifting in that sentence. I can’t imagine that the Gulf water temperature isn’t going to be significantly elevated this year, which means that the hurricanes that come into the Gulf of Mexico will intensify dramatically once they reach the hot water of the Gulf before they head ashore. Yay? Heavy heaving sigh. But it is what it is, and God knows you cannot control the weather, so it looks like it’s going to be another one of those insanely intense years of storm-watching for six months. But once I was home in the cool and out of the muggy nastiness that was yesterday’s climate, I felt a bit better. Paul came home from his trainer–which was weird, I’d gotten used to him going to the office directly from the trainer and having the rest of the day to myself. We watched The Truth About Pam on Hulu, which was creepy and weird and bizarre–although at the end of the final episode they actually showed footage of the real-life Pam, and you can see how Renee Zellweger actually underplayed the role. We then moved on to BritBox and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, an adaptation of one of my favorite Christies–one I feel doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves–and then had to look up the American title (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is the British title, which was better than the American title, which I had to look up because I couldn’t remember it, and it was The Boomerang Clue, which is clearly inferior. Why did her American publisher do this to her books when the British title was always superior? Murder on the Orient Express was actually originally published in the US as Murder in the Calais Coach, which is clearly inferior). It’s very well done, and I always liked the characters of Bobby Jones and Lady Frankie Derwent. WIll Poulter is a very good choice for Bobby Jones; he’s becoming one of my favorite working actors.

So I kind of didn’t really do a whole lot yesterday. But it was a good battery-recharging kind of day, which was necessary and needed, methinks, and so today I can dig into all the things I need to get moving on and make some forward progress. Paul will be heading out today to one of the many Easter parades around town to hang out with an old friend who is in town, and I need to get going on my lists and things. I got my tax refund already–I literally scanned the signature sheets and emailed them back to my accountant on Monday and yesterday morning it had already hit my bank–which means I also need to strategize bill payments. I had also meant to spend some time with Marco Carocari’s Blackout yesterday, but I think this morning, once I have finished this and made myself a second cup of coffee, I will head to my easy chair with said coffee to read a few chapters and get a feel for his writing style and the story. Tomorrow I am taking a sick day; I need to take the car in for an overdue oil change at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and as such I made appointments for the afternoon in which to get some things taken care of with my routine bi-annual servicing to make sure things aren’t breaking down somewhere; so tomorrow I’ll be out running around most of the day in the heat. Huzzah? Fucking hardly.

I also need to get a lot of other work done today as well–writing, editing, organizing, and so forth. I’d like to get that working first draft of my story done today, and maybe even the first chapter of the book I started working on this week to get my writing kick-started again; I also need to cut up these strawberries and start putting them into freezer bags for future protein shakes. The glamour around here truly never ends, does it? And there’s cleaning to do, as always, and organizing, and so forth–all that lovely stuff that I absolutely love to do.

And on that note, probably should head into the spice mines and get my day underway.

Treat Her Like a Lady

Tuesday morning and I clearly should never go into the office the day after I travel. Lord, was I tired yesterday! But I was good Sunday night when I got home and unloaded the suitcase directly into the washing machine and even remembered to move them to the dryer. I stopped on my way home from work yesterday to get the mail and to make some groceries, and then had another load of laundry to do, and dishes to wash and put away…ah, the mundane that comes after the glamour. But there could be worse things. I was a little too tired to focus on finishing Catriona McPherson’s marvelous A Gingerbread House, which I really want to get to the end of because I am dying to know how it all turns out; but that will have to wait, I suppose. I think I am going to tackle Marco Carocari’s Blackout next; I should have already gotten to it, really. (Bad Greg, bad Greg!)

It’s very exciting that we have so many up-and-coming queer writers in the mystery genre, I have to say.

I slept really well last night; this morning I don’t feel tired at all (and yes, I woke up before the alarm went off this morning). I feel like I am actually settling back in to my life and rest and reality; we’ll see how it goes the rest of the day, won’t we?

We watched the first three episodes of the latest season of Elite on Netflix, and I think it is safe to say that it is clearly one of the gayest shows ever to air; and this season more so than any of the prior ones (or maybe it has been all along, and it just caught me off guard last night?). The show is centering gay Patrick more this season than last, and he’s falling for an absolutely beautiful young straight boy (I think we’ve all been there at least once in our lives) and their “friendship” is kind of nice to see; it’s one of the few times I’ve seen this dynamic played out on television. It could easily go the wrong way, so I am curious to see how this continues to play out. But as always, everyone on the show is gorgeous, the drama is way over the top, and we don’t know who this season’s murder victim is yet. There are some new characters (a wealthy Paris Hilton type who calls herself the “queen of Ibiza” and deejays; the handsome son of a soccer player I’ve already mentioned) and of course, no one is left from the original core cast except the characters of Samuel and Omar–and their friendship is already on the ropes. Sigh. I love this show so much.

I’m also feeling more hydrated than I have since I left for Alburquerque Thursday, and yes, that’s entirely on me; it never even crossed my mind that the higher altitude (five thousand feet!) and drier climate would have an effect on me. It did. I had a glass of wine Thursday afternoon when I ran into a friend in the bar and literally got tipsy from it, and my God, were my lips constantly getting dry and chapping? I also can’t remember the last time my mouth was so consistently dry, and drinking water didn’t help at all; maybe some blessed relief for a moment or two before my mouth went completely dry again. I guess desert climates are something you get used to when you live in one, but ugh, my skin was also so dry and of course, the dryness also triggered my psoriasis again (which has cleared up since I arrived back into the dampness of New Orleans.

So, overall, I feel much better this morning than I have in a few days; rested, rehydrated, and relaxed. Which is nice, since yesterday all I did was spin my wheels and keep everything level, rather than moving in a forward direction to get everything taken care of that is on my to-do list (hello, short story that needs writing!). I did make a stop on the way home to make a bit of groceries, but a more in-depth trip will be necessary once the weekend rolls around. Heavy heaving sigh. But…I should probably do an in-depth reorganization of the kitchen cabinets (yes, I have a deadline looming, can you tell?) but there’s undoubtedly some expired things in there that could be cleaned out, and yes, the other cabinets could stand a good reorganization as well. Maybe I should move the pots and pans from over the stove to over the sink? Decisions, decisions.

But tomorrow I get to work from home and it’s not a full eight hour day, either. I’m thinking about watching some movies while I make condom packs and break down some biohazard stuff (expired tests; they need to go into biohazard but aren’t dangerous to handle without gloves), and of course, there’s always data to enter as well. Huzzah! We now have to come into the office four days a week, so I guess this week that will be Friday since I am working at home tomorrow. I can’t decide which day would be best for me to come in next week–it will alternate between either Fridays or Mondays until we go back to five days in the office again–and as tempting as it is to stay home again on Monday, on the other hand I’ve never really gotten used to Tuesdays being my Mondays. So….we’ll see.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Why Can’t This Be Love

Wednesday and I am very tired this morning; not sure what that’s all about, but there you have it.

I had yet another breakthrough this week on something I’m working on–which brings the breakthroughs in recent weeks to an almost ridiculous level. I finally recognized, through my own stubbornness, that the story I was trying to tell in the WIP is the wrong story; I kept trying to  make it fit the story I wanted to tell, ignoring the little voice I would hear every once in a while telling me no, this is the real story, why won’t you listen to me? Finally, on Monday night, it hit me upside the head with a two-by-four; and when I finally stopped fighting it and  listened to the voice, the entire plot fell into place and all the problems I couldn’t seem to iron out completely magically answered themselves. And you know what? Once again it all comes down to me being ridiculously stubborn when I didn’t need to be, and not listening to  my inner voices.

Seriously, you’d think I’d know better by this point. But I never seem to learn. And of course, rereading the previous paragraph now I realize it sort of makes me look sort of insane. But you know, I don’t know any other way to say it than a voice in my head. I kept trying to make this manuscript, characters and town fit this story I was trying to tell, with the end result that I wasn’t seeing their real story.

And now I can’t wait to fix it and make it better.

I am so behind on so many things I need to get done–I need to get the Scotty revisions done; I need to get to work on this; I have a short story I need to write….madness. And I have so much reading to do! I need to get back on the Short Story Project, and I want to read Lou Berney’s November Road and Sarah Weinman’s The Real Lolita and Alex Segura’s Blackout and…heavy heaving sigh.

We watched a really good Australian show this weekend, Secret City, which starred Anna Torv (been a fan since Fringe, and she was also terrific in Mindhunter), which had a lot going for it–the cutthroat world of domestic and foreign politics is at the core of the story, which opens with a young man being murdered and a reporter (Torv) happening upon the crime scene and starting to investigate. I do recommend this show highly, and there’s also a wonderful subplot where it turns out that Torv’s ex-husband is a transwoman, and I thought the show handled it beautifully, with one slight quibble.

We also started watching HBO’s Sharp Objects, which I thought was spectacular. I actually preferred this Gillian Flynn novel to Gone Girl, the book that made her famous and a publishing superstar, and I still need to read her other novel, Dark Places.

And now, back to the spice mines.

columbo

Mad About You

Summer has returned, and while expected always, it’s return always, somehow, catches me off-guard; I forget what it’s like to always have damp socks, to have that slick feeling of sticky dried sweat on your skin, the way the sweat affects the corners of your eyes and your eyelids, the way the heavy wet heat drains all of your energy from you. Even after twenty-two years here, every summer there’s an adjustment period of getting used to it. The heat index is in the high nineties now every day, regardless, and life comes about making it from one air conditioned place to another as quickly as possible.

Thursday night Paul stayed at the office late working on a grant that was due yesterday, so I was at home with Scooter and at loose ends. I wasn’t able to get much writing done that day–one of those days–and as I sat in my easy chair with my journal and a cat asleep in my lap, I decided to watch the documentary Tab Hunter Confidential on Prime. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tab Hunter film (other than Polyester and Lust in the Dust), but I knew he’d been around since the 1950’s. I knew he was a teen idol/heart throb. I also knew he’d been involved with Tony Perkins, and that he’d come out in a memoir also titled Tab Hunter Confidential. As the documentary started, I realized with a start, I’ve met Tab Hunter–several times, in fact and so as the documentary played I kept thinking, wow, I’m one or two degrees of separation from everyone in this, including everyone he co-starred with.

And, I knew how handsome he was because I’d met him in person.

I was completely blown away by how beautiful he was when  he was young.

I mean, wow.

m3 Tab Hunter 3 11 18

I mean, don’t get me wrong–he’s still an incredibly handsome man, which should have given me some idea of just how breathtakingly beautiful he was when he was young.

It’s also very weird to be watching a documentary and realize, oh, yeah, I’ve met Tab Hunter a couple of times.

My life is so weird.

It’s an interesting documentary, about being a closeted star in the Hollywood system and having the studio “fixers” cleaning up messes and keeping you out of the papers and so forth. There’s a terrific gay noir novel just waiting to be written about 1950’s gay Hollywood, and I am almost there coming up with the story in my mind.

I already have the two books I am writing though, and once they are finished, I know what the next two are going to be…so Hollywood gay noir will have to be after that, I guess.

I have to work today; I am doing testing all day at Gay Pride, but have Monday off. So, I am going to hopefully finish reading the Roth today between clients, and maybe, maybe, finally get to start reading Alex Segura’s Blackout.

And now, back to the spice mines.

 

Rock Me Amadeus

PRIDE MONTH!

Yesterday was a late day for me; I didn’t have to be at the office until four–I had a late night of bar testing last night—so I spent the day paying bills and doing odds-and-ends around the apartment. Today is my short day, and then I am easing into the weekend; I will probably come home and clean tonight, plus prepare for moving some things over to the storage place tomorrow. I did some writing yesterday–not nearly enough–but I am terribly pleased with the progress I am making on not only the Scotty novel but the WIP. I’ll see how I feel when I get home this evening, but I am hopeful I’ll be in the mood to do some writing. The kitchen also needs to be sorted out a bit; I’ll be damned if I can understand how it keeps getting so out of control all the time–it’s not like I’ve been cooking or anything.

I continue to read the Philip Roth in dribs and drabs; I’m just past page 100. It’s taking me, as you can tell, a long time to read; longer than usual. It’s the story, I suppose; the writing is really good and I can savor the way he uses and puts together words, and even how he develops the characters, but not a whole lot happens. For someone who reads mostly crime and horror, as you can imagine, I kind of need stuff to happen. I am hoping to finish this book at some point this weekend because I really want to read Alex Segura’s Blackout.

I watched Streets of Fire again this week; it’s streaming on Starz, and while this was a movie I loved when I saw it in the theater–I even saw it twice, and owned the soundtrack–I was curious to see if, thirty-odd years later, it still  held up. It does, in a way; I see the flaws in the film now, which I didn’t see back then, but at the same time, there’s an aesthetic about it that I like; it’s a “rock and roll fable” set “another place, another time”–so it’s amorphous in its time period, which allowed the set and costume designers to have some fun with creating their own aesthetic look; it’s a combination of 50’s and 80’s style that oddly works; plus there’s so many bright colors in costumes and neon, but at the same time there’s a sense of drabness; the characters all live in a very drab, working class world, almost a slum-like neighborhood. The soundtrack–which includes a Marilyn Martin cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Sorcerer”–doesn’t really hold up; the big numbers, performed by Diane Lane as rock star Ellen Aim, are very operatic to the point of being over the top–think Meatloaf/Jim Steinman. The one hit to come off the soundtrack was “I Can Dream About You,” which still holds up. The movie could have been a lot better; the primary problem is the lack of chemistry between the two leads, Michael Pare and Diane Lane…Michael Pare, who was quite beautiful, just kind of sleepwalks through his role, reading his lines in an almost complete deadpan, unemotional way that you can’t help but wonder what someone equally pretty who could act could have done with the role. Diane Lane does a good job, but Amy Madigan steals the movie out from under everyone in the sidekick role; as a butch former soldier at loose ends who signs on to help Tom Cody (Pare) rescue Ellen (Diane Lane), his ex, from the motorcycle gang (led by a very young Willem Dafoe) who’ve kidnapped her. It’s an almost Western-style movie in its sensibility/plot; the characters are all archetypes–the Tough Guy hero, the Damsel in Distress, her Money-grubbing Manager (a young pre-Ghostbusters Rick Moranis), etc. etc.

I enjoyed it still, but not as much as I did when I was in my early twenties.

So pretty:

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He was also in the cult hit Eddie and the Cruisers, albeit briefly, as Eddie (which is another film I should revisit).

And now, back to the spice mines.

 

Glory of Love

Saturday morning and it’s chilly in the Lost Apartment; the sun is out and there’s condensation on the windows. Scooter is perched next to my keyboard, staring out the window, watching Kitty TV; I’m not sure what’s on, but he’s fascinated. It rained brutally yesterday with flash floods and so forth throughout the city. It had been a few weeks since it had rained, but there it was; a long overdue downpour. I managed to get home before it got too terribly bad, and spent the evening organizing and cleaning out files, rather than actually writing. I just didn’t feel like I was in a writing place, and so I decided to go with that but demanded of myself to complete this tedious chore that I hate doing so much.

Essentially, it meant cleaning out old files that no longer need accessibility–old book contracts, royalty statements, and even file folders of old short stories now published, etc.–out of the file cabinet and boxing them up to put in storage. This, naturally, has freed up space in the file cabinet for files to be moved into from the ACTIVE files. (Yes, I am aware how insane this all sounds; but I have two small file holders on the small bookcase next to  my desk, where I file new ideas, articles that might lead somewhere, and new stories that I have started or are not immediately working on; on my desk itself I have a metal file rack that contains the folders of what I am immediately working on. I know, I know, but it makes sense to me, and it works for me.) I also gathered all my non-fiction research on being queer in America, as well as my journal (materials for my memoirs, should I ever write them, or at least personal essays about being gay)  to collect in one place: a lovely box that is currently sitting on my kitchen counter, preparatory to going into the storage space. While doing all of this I ran across several of my old journals.

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These are some of my journals–I suspect some of them have been lost to time, through moves and so forth–but the oldest is from 1994; the most recent of these is from 2003. I started my blog in late 2004, and I suspect that’s approximately also when I stopped writing in these. It was an interesting experience, idly paging through these before placing them in the box; some of the earlier ones are from, of course, when I worked at the airport. That’s when I started carrying one with me at all times; I always had a pen, my journal, and whatever book I was reading at the time with me when I was at the airport, on an airplane traveling, etc. The ones from my time at the airport are all written in green ink; because we used green pens at the airport for everything. I wrote on my breaks, I wrote when I was in between flights at the gates, I wrote while I was waiting to board an airplane, I wrote while on airplanes. Later, I wrote between clients at the gym, or while waiting for it to be time for an aerobics class I was teaching; I wrote in coffee shops. There are scenes in these journals, that eventually made it into Murder in the Rue Dauphine or Bourbon Street Blues; there are the openings of short stories I’ve written, scrawled in long hand on these pages. I’ve even found things like when I first had the idea for the book that became Dark Tide many years later; places where I worked on developing characters or plots of themes for the book or story I was currently trying to work on and/or finish; there are also personal moments, moments of frustration or joy or happiness, all recorded in my neat, broadly looping handwriting. Starting to keep another one of these this year has been enormously helpful for me in many ways; it was lovely to reconnect with the bound journal format. (I actually need to buy a new one; I am hoping they have some at Tubby and Coo’s, where I am going this afternoon for Bryan Camp’s book-signing for his brilliant debut novel The City of Lost Fortunes)

This morning I need to finish packing up these boxes, and perhaps work on getting some of the other files moved; it is literally astonishing how much paper I have. One entire file cabinet drawer is filled with short stories and novels-in-progress that I stopped working on at some point, folders with ideas jotted down, characters and names and ideas for stories and books. All this effort, besides keeping me from actually writing anything, is an attempt to declutter my workspace as well as to make it more organized; I had an idea for a story for an anthology call I saw recently, and I knew I’d written a draft of an appropriate story (possibly) years ago–which meant it was probably in the file cabinet and I should probably drag it out to see if there was anything written in it that was usable. The need for this file made me see how desperately flawed and out of control my filing system had actually been allowed to become so as it thundered and lightning lit up the sky and the yard filled with rushing water I started working grimly on fixing this mess.

I did find the file, by the way.

I need to go to the grocery store at some point this morning as well; I could wait to do it tomorrow,  but between the cleaning and the filing and the going to the book signing I don’t see any window for actually writing, so rather than putting it off till the morrow I should probably do it today, since today is going to be shot on that score. Or maybe it won’t be; I may be able to get some things done today on the writing. My writing/editing goal for the weekend is to read “Burning Crosses” aloud and be finished with it; to finish revising Chapter Two of the WIP, and possibly read all fourteen chapters of the Scotty book and see where things sit with it, preparatory to getting back to work on it as well.

I also want to dive into Alex Segura’s Blackout, which is getting rave reviews everywhere.

We started watching the second season of Thirteen Reasons Why last night, and I have to say, I am not overly impressed with it. The first two episodes were terribly uneven–the third began to pick up steam again–but the device of having Hannah appearing as a sort of ghost to Clay isn’t working for me and is something that I hope is used either sparingly as the show moves on, or is eradicated completely. We don’t need Hannah appearing as Clay’s conscience, nor do we need her at all. It derails the show, frankly; them having conversations is, to quote youth culture of some time ago, kinda whack.

So far, we’re disappointed with it. but not so much so that we will stop watching.

That, however, could change.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Sentimental Street

It’s Saturday morning! Lots to do today; Chapter Fifteen, read “My Brother’s Keeper” aloud, work on “Don’t Look Down,” revise “Burning Crosses,”–the list goes on and on. It’s supposed to rain today as well; not sure if that’s going to actually be a thing today, but it does look sort of gloomy-esque outside my windows this morning.

And the Apartment is, of course, a complete and total mess.

I was thinking last night, as I started reading Megan Abbott’s extraordinary Give Me Your Hand, about my own writing (reading amazing writers always makes me contemplative) and putting into some perspective. Megan is one of our best writers, and the crime genre is very lucky to have her writing within our boundaries. Reading her work is always very humbling for me, whether it’s a novel or one of her jewels of a short story (hello, publishers! A Megan Abbott short story collection is way overdue! Get! On! It!), as I find myself wondering how does she think of putting these words together? Her sentences are never overly complicated and yet she manages to put them together in such a way as to create a very vivid and complex image, not to mention how she uses her sentence structure to create these characters that are so nuanced and real and complicated…she really is a master of the written word. I will dive back into her novel today, when I am finished with all of the things I must, I have to, do today; it’s always lovely when there’s a wonderful reward waiting for you at the end of tedious writing and editing and cleaning. (I also have ARC’s of Lori Roy’s The Disappearing and Alex Segura’s Blackout; I cannot wait to dive into those as well.)

And while I should be thinking, of course, about where the Scotty novel needs to go in Chapter Fifteen and going forward from there, I was thinking last night about short stories. I always abhorred writing short stories before, thought them incredibly difficult to write, and a discipline of writing that I was not particularly good at (I am also horrible at writing horror fiction, for example). I always believed that whenever I was actually successful at writing a short story, it was purely by accident; not anything conscious that I managed because I wasn’t good at the form. But in writing these reams of short stories this year, I am finding that not to be true; I am having to revise my thinking about so many things I once believed true about me as a writer. Yes, a short story might fail; everyone makes false starts. The Archer Files, with its final section of short story fragments that Ross Macdonald had started yet never finished, taught me that. My own files are filled with fragments of short stories that I began yet never finished; first drafts of stories I never finished because I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t convinced, that I knew how to fix and repair, how to edit and revise to make right. But that doesn’t mean I am a failure at writing short stories. It simply means those stories are ready to be finished; that Ifor whatever reason, am simply not ready to finish them. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course.

This is, and has always been, just another way my lack of self-confidence in my ability to write manifests itself.

I started writing another story last night, currently untitled; I’m not sure what its title will be but I do have a vague idea of what it’s about. There’s a great little place to eat in my neighborhood, in the same block as my gym, called simply Tacos and Beer; I am meeting someone in town for an early dinner there on Sunday. That, of course, got me thinking about that great simple name for the place, and what a wonderful opening that would make for a story; someone going there to meet someone for dinner and choosing that place because it’s simple, straightforward name pleases them so much. The story is still amorphous, of course. But perhaps I’ll be able to work on it today. I’m also thinking I might even get to work on Muscles  a little bit today.

Who knows? The day is fraught with possibilities still. I may wind up being lazy and not doing a fucking thing.

Here’s the raw opening of “Burning Crosses”:

“Population four thousand four hundred and thirty two,” Leon said as they passed the Welcome to Corinth sign. There were a couple of bullet holes in it, as there had been in every official green sign they’d passed since crossing into Corinth County. “I guess it’s not hard to imagine lynching here.”

“I can come back with someone else,” Chelsea Thorne replied. Her head ached. She needed coffee. Her Starbucks to go cup was long empty. “Can you check on your phone and see if there’s a Starbucks in town?”

Leon laughed. “I don’t have to look to know the answer is no,” he shook his head. “There’s not even five thousand people in this town, girl. There ain’t no Starbucks. I’ll bet there’s a McDonalds, though.”

“It’ll have to do.” The throbbing behind her temple was getting worse. It didn’t help they’d gotten lost trying to find this little town, the county seat of a county she’d never heard of, let alone knew where to find. It wasn’t even near a highway. They’d had to take a state highway out of Tuscaloosa and drive about an hour or so, depending on the roads and depending on traffic. It took longer to get out of Tuscaloosa than they’d planned, thanks to some road work and then another delay because of Alabama Power cutting down some tree limbs, but they’d finally gotten out of town when she was halfway through her latte. Leon had dozed off, snoring slightly with his head against the window as they got out of town on the state road, passing through fields of cotton and corn and orange-red dirt. The state road was stained orange on the edges, the white lines looking like her fingertips after eating a bag of Cheese Puffs. It was supposed to be an easy drive; she didn’t need to make any turns, just keep following the state road that would take them straight to Corinth. But a bridge over a stream was being worked on and there was a detour, taking them down an unpaved road with cotton fields on either side, barely room for her Cooper Mini, and God help them if they met a truck or something coming the other way. Ten minutes down that dirt road and her latte was gone, finished, nothing left. Then she’d turned the wrong way when she’d reached the other state road—but it wasn’t her fault. She’d thought the sign was wrong—how could a right turn take her back to Tuscaloosa? But then she’d figured there must have been more twists and turns on the back road than she’d thought, and turned left. She’d gone almost seven miles before she say the TUSCALOOSA 7 miles sign, and had to make a U-turn in someone’s driveway.

She knew it was wrong, she knew it was stereotyping, but she hated driving on country roads in rural parts of the South.

You can see how rough the story is in its initial stage; it definitely needs work. There are also things missing from it in this draft; things I need to add in to make it stronger, to add nuance, to make the sense of dread and discomfort the characters feel more clear; I want the reader to feel that same sense of unease.

And I do think writing all these short stories this year has been enormously helpful to me, not only as a short story writer but as a writer in general; short stories give you the opportunity to stretch and try things you can’t try in a novel; different themes and voices and styles.

And now back to the spice mines.

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