Oh L’Amour

Well, we made it to Wednesday again, Constant Reader, and it’s Pay-the-Bills Day. Huzzah!

Yesterday was a very good day, overall–maybe a little too low energy for what all I need to get done, but I really cannot complain. I was a little distracted for most of the day–the inability to focus was almost Olympic level, seriously–but I’ve certainly had worse days. Paul was late last night–board meeting–so I sat in my chair with the purr-kitty in my lap and watched Youtube documentaries about a historical woman who has always fascinated me since I read about her in a biography of Charlemagne: Irene of Athens, the only woman to rule as Roman Emperor (she took the title of Emperor rather than Empress) in Constantinople. She was ruthless and cruel–she had her own son blinded for daring to challenge her for power (it was his throne)–and she was later sainted by the church for her belief in and promotion of icons; after several emperors, including her late husband, violently opposed as idol worship. (Icons are images of holy figures, whether paintings, statues, etc.; despite the 1054 schism, both Orthodox Christians and Catholics continued to worship them. The Eastern Roman Empire (forever branded as Byzantine by western Europeans, to deny them the Roman title which they felt they inherited rather than the actual, continuing Roman empire based in Constantinople) is fascinating to me; the court intrigues and palace revolutions; the murders and conspiracies and plots would make the basis for great historical novels. It’s very strange to me that we don’t have more of those, really; an indication of how the West has very determinedly erased and forgotten the East.

We watched the latest episode of Only Murders in the Building, which we are continuing to greatly enjoy; and it’s also nice to see Steve Martin and Martin Short both working on something high quality. I’m sorry there’s only one more episode; but I am sure it’s successful enough that they’ll try to do a second season–which is rife with the possibility of enormous disappointment, but could also have a lot of potential. (Obviously, there can’t be another murder in the same building.)

I slept really well last night–at any rate, without checking the Fitbit (which, seriously–if I feel rested, is there any need to actual check the sleep statistics? Probably not) I think I had a really good night’s sleep; I certainly feel more rested and a-rarin’-to-go than I did yesterday–which, granted, was a pretty low bar. But feeling rested rather than tired really makes a difference; my fuse is much shorter when I am tired, and it’s also much easier for me to give in to meh I don’t want to deal with this now…which is definitely not a good thing. But tomorrow is a work-at-home day and I can sleep later, there’s also a lot less stress when I am working at home, and I have a lot of trainings to get done tomorrow while I am at home, which will certainly make the time pass a lot easier. I didn’t go to the gym last night because I felt so drained; I cannot go tonight because of my event tonight at Murder by the Book, click here to register!

So, I will go after work tomorrow. It’s Leg Day anyway. Sigh.

Bury Me in Shadows had a lovely release day yesterday, which wasn’t easy because a shit ton of new books by terrific authors dropped either yesterday or on Monday: The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver; Death at Greenaway by Lori Rader-Day; Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door; and of course, the newly launched Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021, edited by Steph Cha and guest editor Alafair Burke (yours truly made the “other works of distinction” list in the back of the book; cannot wait to get a copy–the stories included sound fucking fantastic). Yeah, that’s a lot of noise at the same time–it’s easy to see how my book could get lost in all the noise and thunder there. It’s going to be a lot of fun talking to John at Murder by the Book tonight, along with David Slayton (whose Trailer Park Trickster also dropped yesterday; so much goodness out there in such a short period of time!); I just hope I don’t, as always, talk too much and babble like a moron.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you again tomorrow.

Victim of Love

More Blatant Self-Promotion!

Here’s an excerpt from chapter one of Bury Me in Shadows:

Chapter One

“Was this an accident, or did you do it on purpose?”

I opened my eyes to see my mother standing at the foot of my hospital bed, her heart-shaped face unreadable as always. The strap of her Louis Vuitton limited edition purse was hooked into the crook of her left arm. Her right hand was fidgeting, meaning she was craving one of the cigarettes she allowed herself from time to time—never more than two in a single day. Her dove gray skirt suit, complete with matching jacket over a coral silk blouse, looked more rumpled than usual. Her shoulder length bob, recently touched up as there were no discernible gray roots in her rigid part, was also a bit disheveled. She wasn’t tall, just a few inches over five feet, and always wore low heels because she preferred being underestimated. Regular yoga and Pilates classes kept her figure slim. She never wore a lot of makeup, just highlights here and there to make her cheekbones seem more prominent or to make her eyes pop. No one would ever guess by just looking at her that she was one of the top criminal attorneys in the country, whose criminal law classes at the University of Chicago were in high demand.

I could tell she was unnerved because I could hear her Alabama accent, and it was strong. She’d worked long and hard to get rid of that accent while in law school. “No one would take me seriously after they heard me speak,” she’d explained to me once, “or they thought I was stupid.” Now she used it only when she wanted someone to feel superior to her.

It also came out when she’d been drinking or was upset.

And worked like a charm getting her out of speeding tickets.

I’d been neither asleep nor awake, hovering in that weird in-between state where I’d been living for the last three or four or however many days it had been since I woke up here.

“It wasn’t on purpose.” I croaked out the words. My throat was still raw and sore from the stomach pumping. My lips were chapped, and my eyes still burned from the aftermath of the insane drug-and-alcohol binge I’d gone on after the big breakup with fucking Tradd Chisholm. “It was an accident.” I shifted in the hospital bed, trying to sit up more, the IV swinging wildly. That last and final fight with Tradd flashed through my head.

Why are you so fucking needy? He’d screamed at me. I can’t fucking breathe!

Fucking Tradd, anyway. Why had I let him get under my skin the way I did?

Why had I let him isolate me from my friends?

Why, why, why.

He wasn’t worth this–that was for sure.

And you can order it right here if you like!

Who Needs Love Like That

One final blast of Blatant Self-Promotion for Bury Me in Shadows. (Or is it?)

And I thank you, Constant Reader, for your patience while I do this. Soon we’ll be back to our normal daily programming only; and there will be no more of those navel-gazing posts about writing this book; just navel-gazing posts about whatever strikes my fancy at the moment, I guess.

(Warning: I will be having to do more Blatant Self-Promotion in and around January when #shedeservedit drops. You’ve been warned!)

The first line of the first draft of Bury Me in Shadows was “My mother ruined my life the summer before my senior year of high school.” I liked this opening line, as it seemed a good place to start; for me, it should have struck the interest of the reader: who is this speaking? Surely this is an exaggeration? What did she do?

The problem was—and I can be horribly stubborn when it comes to these sorts of things—that I loved that opening line and tried to keep it even after I realized it wouldn’t work, and didn’t on several levels; it implies, very strongly, that this story is being told in flashback—the entire sentence makes it sound like he’s looking back and remembering that summer from a vantage point in the future—and that wasn’t what I wanted with the story. It even set the wrong tone. In my original vision of the story, my Jake had gotten a summer job at a fast food place in his suburb of Chicago, mainly because he has a huge crush on a guy who works there. His mother sending him away for the summer ruins his plans to get close to Hunter (who still appears in the book, but very briefly), and then he meets a love interest in Alabama while he’s dealing with all the family secrets and what may or not be a haunting of some sort. Originally, Jake was very well-balanced and smart; his mother has always treated him like an adult so he’s more mature than most seventeen-year-old’s, but still has that strong narcissistic streak that so many teenagers share (I’ll never forget Nancy Garden—angel that she was—telling me, when asked for advice, “Just remember that for teenagers everything is the end of the world.”). But…would she send a seventeen-year-old down there? And once I realized that the moonshiners in the holler over the ridge would probably now also have a meth lab (or replaced the still with one), I thought, there’s no way this intelligent, capable, and successful woman would send a teenager down there on his own for the summer and I realized I needed to shift his age, make him older; it also eliminated the need for him to be picked up at the Birmingham airport or borrow a car from his uncle. I also realized if Jake were older, he could be in college in New Orleans—where he would, of course, have a car—and could just drive up there.  And as the story continued to flesh out in my head as I conceptualized it and started writing, I began to understand how dangerous it was at the Donelson place; and given the reasons why Glynis has kept her son away from where she grew up, she would have to be completely reassured that she wasn’t putting her son in any danger.

Which led me into a deep dive into who Jake was a character—and he was not the confident, borderline-cocky openly gay high school senior whom I’d envisioned originally. I also needed a reason why Glynis would decide to send her son there for the summer, when she’s clearly kept him away for most of his life. That meant he would have to do something—I wasn’t sure what it was yet, but there had to be something—and I already had her working in Los Angeles for the summer so she couldn’t take him with her or keep an eye on him at their home in Chicago. I debated: a car accident, or an accident of some sort? And then it hit me right between the eyes: he’s the son of a very successful, kind of cold mother; he’s openly gay and went to a private Catholic school in Chicago; and his mother has been married multiple times. He doesn’t feel at home with his father’s second family in the suburbs, so he always feels out of place, with the inherent insecurities and self-doubt and self-loathing that comes with that. Shy and nervous and not sure of himself, he would be easy prey for a narcissistic gay, who would see in him a ‘project’: “let’s teach Jake how to be a gay man!’ And, of course Jake falls for the guy, who is completely the wrong person for him, and the more the guy pulls away the harder he clings, until the guy finally has enough and pulls away. This causes Jake to spiral, badly, mixing drugs and alcohol and who knows what else as he goes on a three day binge, most of which he doesn’t remember, and he ends up in the hospital after collapsing on the dance floor of a gay bar at four in the morning. The hospital contacts his mother, she tells them he tried to kill himself in high school, and he gets put on a 72 psychiatric hold. It is then she comes up with the great idea of what to do with him for the summer: her mother is dying, and the house is full of junk. Someone from the family should be there, and since he is there, he can start doing an inventory of everything in the house, getting it ready to be cleared out once the old woman does finally die. Jake doesn’t really like the idea but Glynis gives him no choice; and he is off to summer in glorious Corinth County, Alabama.

Of course, once he arrives there, he starts having strange memories, weird feelings, and seeing things he shouldn’t be seeing. Having just overdosed, naturally he isn’t certain he can completely trust his own brain; has he somehow fucked up his brain function? But the longer he stays there, the more certain he becomes that what he is experiencing is actually real; and that’s even more disturbing than thinking his brain has rewired. There are a LOT of family secrets and dysfunction to uncover, and of course, there’s that family of criminals with a meth lab just over the ridge, and those archaeologists digging out at the ruins of the old Blackwood Hall; and all those terrible family secrets start coming out…which puts his own life at risk.

If you do decide to take a chance and read Bury Me in Shadows, I hope you enjoy it. It was fun to write–once I figured out how to fix all the problems–and I hope it’s fun for you to read.

Sometimes

Tuesday morning and so far so good. Yesterday was a relatively easy day at the office, really; a lovely way to start off the week, actually. I felt rested for most of the day, and had a relatively easy time getting home as well, which I wasn’t expecting; traffic lights in the Central Business District are still out or blinking, including the one at Poydras, which is the main artery of the district–which makes the drive a bit challenging. There wasn’t much traffic yesterday on my way home, so that intersection where I cross Poydras (Loyola) wasn’t as horrific as it has been in the past.

And tomorrow is payday; I had quite literally forgotten! Paying off the car has changed my life so dramatically for the better, Constant Reader, you have no idea. Before paying off the car, I would have been counting down the days to pay day, wondering how much I’d have left to buy food with, wondering if I would have enough to pay for everything. Not having that kind of extreme financial stress, like I’ve been experiencing for the last four years plus, has been literally absolutely lovely for me. I don’t know how people do it–and then buy another car right on top of paying off the old one, or trading one in before its completely paid for and…yeah, I will never understand the joys of having all that extra debt hanging over my head. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to buy a house or a condo or anything; the thought of being saddled with debt for the rest of my life like that absolutely curdles my blood.

And yes, I am quite aware that I still have to pay for housing anyway, that I am essentially throwing the rent money away every month that I could be “investing” in property, and all the rest of those financial security memes I’ve been told since I was a child. But I am not a fan of debt of any kind, quite frankly. I hate debt, hate it hate it hate it, and my next financial goal is to pay off the rest of the debt I am still carrying, which has become a bit easier since the car has been paid for. I don’t regret buying the car–I still love the car, and will for a long time, no doubt–but I am not sorry the debt is gone.

I didn’t think I slept very well last night–it seemed to take forever for me to fall asleep–and yet I still feel rested this morning. My Fitbit tells me that the majority of my sleep last night was “light” sleep, and I didn’t get the correct percentages of “REM sleep” or “deep sleep”. I imagine what this means is this afternoon I will run out of steam and get tired; that seems to be the case once the caffeine wears off. Ah, caffeine; such a harsh mistress you are.

Today is the official release day for Bury Me in Shadows (or it was yesterday; I’m really not sure how I still have a career, honestly) so there’s one more Blatant Self-Promotion post to come; I’ve been working on it since the weekend, and I hope to get it right and posted today. Tomorrow night I have the launch event at Murder by the Book in Houston (virtual), and I am doing a diversity panel for a library through Sisters in Crime (chessie chapter) this coming Monday. I know, two virtual events in less than a week, who am I? I also realized yesterday I had never posted the BSP post I’d written Sunday morning, so it went up yesterday instead.

I’m really not very good at this blatant self-promotion thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a mental thing; defeating myself before I have a chance to be defeated by the rest of the world. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?

I rewatched Scream 2 last night while I was waiting for Paul to finish working and come downstairs, and rather than switching to something else when he came down about halfway through the movie he was fine with just watching it through to the end–we’re both big Scream fans–and oddly enough, no matter how many times I’ve seen these movies they still work and are enjoyable. Greater horror minds than mine have dissected these films, how meta they are, and so forth to death; nothing I could say could possibly lend anything to the discourse already. But I do enjoy them more than most slasher/horror movies, it seemed fairly appropriate for Halloween, and since I have Peacock, which has all the Halloween movies streaming available, I may spend the rest of the month watching every Halloween movie; there are actually some I’ve not seen. And what better films for the Halloween Horror Film Festival than the Halloween series? (And if I can squeeze in a Scream or two, why not?) I didn’t write very much of anything yesterday and am not terribly happy about that, to be honest. I felt a bit tired when I came home from work yesterday–I stopped to pick up a few things on the way home–and tonight I have to go to the gym, since I can’t tomorrow. I did pull up Never Kiss a Stranger and started revising and re-ordering the story somewhat–beginning with the removal of about 2000 words at the beginning that might not be as necessary as I had originally thought; they can go further back in the manuscript than where they were originally placed, if used at all–so that was something, but I was tired and Scooter really wanted to nap in my lap in the easy chair and it was all so much easier to just give into the tired and relax with a purring kitty in my lap…yeah, it’s a wonder I get anything done around here at all.

And yesterday the current Superman–Jonathon Kent, son of Clark and Lois–came OUT. Superman is gay! * (That sound you just heard was any number of homophobes screaming about their childhoods being ruined.) I didn’t see it yesterday–I just saw the piece in the New York Times shared on Twitter–and will read it later this morning between clients. But this is quite thrilling, and that they timed the announcement for National Coming Out Day? Thank you thank you thank you, DC Comics.

Yesterday I also got a PDF file from an anthology I contributed a reprint story to; I had literally completely forgotten about it (my memory is completely worthless these days) and I never recorded it on my “out for submission” spreadsheet either; so my system completely failed. It happens, of course, and more regularly than I would prefer, to be completely honest. Anyway, it’s a gay erotic vampire anthology from Lethe Press called Blood on His Hands, and the story I gave them to reprint is my old “Bloodletting” story; which was originally written as a sequel story to my novella Blood on the Moon, and eventually became the first chapter of my Todd Gregory novel Need. I’ve not reread any of my vampire stuff over the years, and so last night, while I was trying to figure out to watch before settling on Scream 2 I spent some time revisiting this story. It isn’t bad, actually; I was very pleasantly surprised. (I often am pleasantly surprised to read something old of mine and see that it’s not terrible, or a steaming pile of shit…I really do need to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to writing; even as I started moving bits and pieces of Never Kiss a Stranger around last night I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good” or “this needs to be punched up some”–but “this is good” thoughts far outnumbered “fix this”, which was most pleasing to me. I have another story in another anthology coming out later this year–the story is “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” but I cannot think of the name of the anthology; I think it’s Pink Triangle Rhapsody? It really is a wonder I have a career of any kind in this business….

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow on Pay-the-Bills-Day.

*Well, bisexual anyway, but he has sex with men and that’s more than enough for me. It’s a huge step for DC Comics and super-heroes in general; it’s fucking Superman, not some supporting cast super-hero most people have never heard of who only appears in some team-up books; it’s SUPERMAN!

Moonlight Feels Right

It really is a wonder I have a career.

Yes, I missed the official launch of my short story collection, which was officially published on April 10….five days ago.

Seriously. How do I have a career?

Who fucking forgets their release day?

Apparently, this fool.

The jacket copy:

A Katrina survivor waits for rescue on his roof in the brutal heat, reflecting on the life choices that brought him to this moment. A young woman discovers there’s more to her perfect man than she thought. A gay journalist travels to Italy to interview his teen idol, only to discover a darkness in the Tuscan hills. A gay man cleans his home, reflecting on his sociopathic criminal mother. Chanse MacLeod returns to his hometown to help his younger brother, accused of murder. A daughter keeps her father’s legacy alive while hiding his darkest secrets.

Including five new stories written for this collection (along with the first-ever Chanse MacLeod short story), Greg Herren’s tales of murder, crime, and the darkness that lives inside all of us are evocative of the proud Southern Gothic tradition of writers and are now available, for the first time, in a single collection.

Table of contents:

Survivor’s Guilt

The Email Always Pings Twice

Keeper of the Flame

A Streetcar Named Death

An Arrow for Sebastian

Housecleaning

Acts of Contrition

Lightning Bugs in a Jar

Spin Cycle

Cold Beer No Flies

Annunciation Shotgun

Quiet Desperation

The Weight of a Feather

My Brother’s Keeper

Don’t Look Down

You can order it from Amazon right here. Or from Barnes and Noble here.  You can also get it directly from my publisher here. You can also support your local independent by ordering from here!

I also encourage you to walk into your local independent and if they don’t have it, request it.

Thanks all!

Survivors Guilt