Love Machine

Ah, Monday of the week that ends with the tenting and the Weekend o’Festivals. Just thinking about getting through this week and this weekend makes me tired. Very tired.

We started moving perishables and other things that could be poisoned by the termite gas over to the carriage house yesterday; even as we did so, I kept remembering and finding more things that need to go over there. I’ve never experienced termite genocide before, that oh-so-uniquely New Orleans experience that so many others have before multiple times. It’s got me thinking about the possibility of murder by termite tent, of course–although I am pretty certain I’ve read a book where that happened, I think it was by Elaine Viets.

Murder-a-Go-Go’s officially releases today as well, so those who preordered it should be getting it delivered to your electronic reading devices and those who ordered hard-copies should be getting them soon. Huzzah! I love book birthdays; my own for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is soon to come; April 10th, officially. Order, order, order! And don’t forget, the first ever Chanse MacLeod short story is in this book!

I reread my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s again yesterday, primarily because another idea came to me yesterday, which I shared on social media: Someone really needs to write a spring break noir called WHERE THE BOYS DIE and I would read the hell out of that. I do think that’s a terrific idea; is there any better setting for a noir than a small beach town taken over by tens of thousands of partying college students? (I also had another idea for a book, based on an actual brutal murder that took place over spring break several decades ago; hat tip to Scott Heim for reminding me of that murder) I had always wanted to do one over the course of Southern Decadence weekend as well; I still might do that one. Anyway, I’m digressing. So, on my post about Where the Boys Die some suggested I write it, others that it sounded like an anthology, and then Jessica Laine said, you already wrote this story for MURDER-A-GO-GO’S, and I loved your story. 

The thing about being a writer is that all-too-often you don’t remember things about your work once it’s finished. “This Town,” my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is one of my favorite stories that I’ve ever written, to be honest; I think it’s also one of my best. But, when I read Kristopher Zgorski’s lovely review and he singled out my story as one of many for individual praise, and then seeing Jessica’s lovely comment, I decided I should probably reread the story since my recollection of what I actually wrote was so vague…and there it was. Constant Reader, it’s good. I then pulled up my story “Neighborhood Alert,” which is going to be published in Mystery Tribune, and it, too, is good. This was revelatory for me; as I may have mentioned, another story of mine was recently rejected by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and that had, of course, put me into a bit of a tailspin as far as my writing of short stories was concerned…astonishing at how easy it is to have one’s confidence in one’s own work shattered, isn’t it?

And that also got me to thinking about the second Chanse short story, “Once a Tiger,” that has tragically been stalled for so long. Short stories are actually more intimate than novels; in that you have much less space to develop a story and less room for characters so it has to be scaled back some. “Once a Tiger” is struggling because, quite simply, there are too many characters in it; how does one investigate a death at a fraternity house on a college campus when there would have to be well over a hundred brothers and pledges? That was where I struggled with the story; even the police would have trouble sorting all of this out, so imagine the trouble Chanse would have with it, working alone as he does. I still want to write a murder mystery set at Chanse’s LSU fraternity, where Chanse has to come back and solve the crime, but I just don’t–at the moment–see how that can be done as a short story. Maybe now that I’ve said that it will come to me–just like the other day, how to weave the two plots for the next Scotty book came to me from out of nowhere.

I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Life in a Northern Town

Today is our twenty-third anniversary.

It sometimes seems hard to believe we’ve been together that long, but there it is, you know? When I think back to what my life was like back then, and how much things have changed, not just for me personally but for the culture and country, it seems like a million years ago.

Bill Clinton was president. Same-sex marriage was something we didn’t even dare dream about. I was getting to the stage of my life where I was sort of settled emotionally; figuring out what I wanted from life and realizing I wanted a lot more than working at a ticket counter for an airline in Tampa. I was starting to think about making a serious run at pursuing writing, and boy did I ever weigh a lot less than I do now! It’s been an amazing twenty-three years so far, and it just gets better all the time. We’ve certainly weathered some hard times (levee failure, anyone?), but we are still happy, still together, and every day I wake up grateful that I was lucky enough to find him. Or he found me. Our mutual friend Lisa was the one who thought we’d make a good couple, and I have to hand it to her–she was right. “I know someone who would be perfect for you,” I remember her saying to me, and of course, I took it with the proverbial grain of salt.

Boy, was she right.

I also woke up this morning to discover I am the BOLO Books composite sketch! How fun is that?

What a lovely anniversary!

But I should get started making our anniversary dinner and cleaning this messy apartment. Sigh.

Today’s short story is “The Book Thing” by Laura Lippman,  which is one of the Bibliomysteries published by Mysterious Press:

Tess Monaghan wanted to love the funky little children’s bookshop that had opened almost two years ago among the used bookstores that lined Twenty-Fifth Street in North Baltimore. There was so much to admire about it–the brightly painted miniature rockers and chairs on the converted sun porch, the mynah bird who said “Hi, hon!” and “Hark, who goes there!” and–best of all–“Nevermore!”

She coveted the huge Arnold Lobel poster opposite the front door, the one that showed the bearded man-beast happily ensconced in a tiny cottage that was being overtaken by ramshackle towers of books. She appreciated the fact that ancillary merchandise was truly a sideline here; this shop’s business was books, with only a few stuffed animals and Fancy Nancy boas thrown into the mix. Tess was grateful that gift-wrapping was free year-round and that the store did out-of-print searches. She couldn’t wait until her own two-year-old daughter, Carla Scout, was old enough to sit quietly through the Saturday story hour, although Tess was beginning to feat that might not be until Carla Scout was a freshman in college. Most of all, she admired the counterintuitive decision to open a bookstore when so many people seemed to assume that books were doomed. She just thought it would be nice if the owner of The Children’s Bookstore actually liked children.

Lippman is one of my favorite writers, and has been for quite some time now. Her short stories are also amazing–this one, which is about a book thief, manages to be both smart and clever and touching at the same time. Highly recommended.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Steppin’ Out

Home. Sunday night–early evening, really–and I am exhausted. Bouchercon just sucks the life right out of me every year, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I have the best time every year: reconnecting with friends I don’t see nearly enough; making new friends; drinking waaaaaaaaaaay too much; and laughing until my abdominal muscles hurt and hurt and hurt. Right now I think if I started laughing I’d also start weeping in agony–that’s how much I laughed this weekend. (And let’s not talk about the ten hours of non-stop drinking that was Friday evening. Oooooooohhhhhh.) I often have trouble sleeping when I’m home; this is exacerbated when I travel, so I’ve not had a good night’s sleep since I left on Wednesday. I am now very close to running out of steam, but am struggling to stay awake so I can hopefully get a good night’s sleep tonight.

And I won the Anthony Award for Best Anthology; rather, Blood on the Bayou: New Orleans Bouchercon Anthology 2016 won. I just edited it. It’s kind of thrilling; it was an incredibly difficult category and I was seriously just honored to be in the company of the other nominees. Art Taylor deservedly won the Macavity Award for Best Short Story; again, I’m just so thrilled that I was even on the shortlist that I really didn’t care about winning, and Art’s story was simply phenomenal.

Okay, I am too tired to think clearly. I’ve been trying to write this for hours now, and I think I should just go to bed and finish in the morning.

Monday morning. I slept so good last night. I woke up several times during the night, and I did wake up much earlier than I thought I would, but I feel rested; it was good sleep, and that’s always a plus. It’s also weird because it’s not light in the mornings anymore; it’s fine, and I’m going to love the extra hour whenever we get it–but I always hate giving it back.

Wow, what a weekend. As I said before, I laughed so hard all weekend; it was almost non-stop. I can’t believe how much I drank…but every year Friday turns into an epic drinking marathon. (This year broke Raleigh’s record.) So many great friends, so many highlights…the only low light was the “not able to sleep in hotels so am always running on accessory” thing, and that’s my low-light of every year and every conference. I met some amazing new people and made some amazing new friends; I was on two glorious panels with fantastic people and fantastic moderators and fantastic audiences; my biggest regret is the same as it is every year–that I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would like with everyone I would like. Toronto was absolutely lovely, and so was the hotel. (The hotel bar was just okay, but the private lounge on the 43rd floor was fantastic.) I read two books on the trip–Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco and The Vines by Christopher Rice, and started reading Oh, Florida! by Craig Pittman on my way home–which is also fantastic. I got some new books that I’m looking forward to reading: The Blinds by Adam Sternburgh; Sunburn by Laura Lippman; and the new Ivy Pochoda, Wonder Valley. (I finally met Ivy this year, and she told Paul and I a story about visiting Louisiana with her mother that had us both sobbing with laughter.) I had some awesome meals–but I think my favorite was the noodles I had for lunch on Friday, with the fish and chips on Sunday night at Braddock (not sure if that was the place) a close second. I drank wine instead of martinis–the martinis in Toronto were somewhat less than what I would have hoped for–and I got to laugh with so many wonderful friends. Paul, of course, was with me for this entire trip, and he fit in like I knew he would–I swear I think some of my friends like him better than they do me (I’m looking at you, Wendy) and oh, how I could go on.

I even ran into the ChiZine crew–Michael Rowe, Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi–on Saturday night as two of my writing worlds converged!

And that LSU game on Saturday! That and the books are getting their own posts.

But probably the best–and this is simply because it was bigger than just being a good time for me–part of the weekend was being on the Writing the Rainbow panel. Moderated by Kristopher Zgorski of BOLObooks.com, the other panelists were Owen Laukkanen/Owen Matthews (seriously, buy his books!), John Copenhaver (whose debut novel I can’t wait to get my hands on), Stephanie Gayle (read her books–and she looks like Laura Dern with dark hair), and Jessie Chandler (seriously, read her books). When I was assigned the panel, my first thought was great, three people will show up for this. 

I was wrong, The room was packed. Kristopher had great questions for us, and the answers were all fantastic and thought-provoking. We talked about great queer books and great queer writers, talked about our own experiences writing about queer characters, and the audience was so receptive and amazing. I almost got teary and emotional, honestly; it was the first time I’ve ever be on such a panel at a mainstream event to have such a  great audience and such a great crowd. We’ve come such a long way. I just wish some of the great writers who were publishing when I first was getting started were still publishing so they could have enjoyed this moment as well. It was an honor to talk about Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson and R. D. Zimmerman and Mary Wings and Katherine V. Forrest and there were so many others we didn’t  get to mention…and there certainly wasn’t enough time to mention all the great people doing the work now–although we were definitely able to plug the two great lesbian writers, Ellen Hart and J. M. Redmann.

And now, I have some things to get done around here while my other blog posts take form in my head, so I will leave you with a picture of me and my partner in crime for the weekend, the always amazing and hilarious Wendy Corsi Staub:

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Little Red Corvette

Finally, it’s Friday and this bizarre, crazy, insane week comes to an end. I am really looking forward to the weekend; although this hurricane heading for Texas has me concerned for friends there. We’ll get some heavy rain here at some point, most likely Monday, but since it’s pretty much rained here every day since May…nothing new there, right?

I finished the second quarter of the line edit yesterday; I have one quarter, the first, of the manuscript left to do. I really am pleased with the work I am doing with this line edit; I am very curious to see how much, when it’s finally all input, has been removed from the manuscript. Again, I am absolutely amazed at how repetitive I can be when I write; I am even further amazed that in various, previous edits I didn’t catch any of this stuff. This is precisely why one needs to–or at least, need to–deconstruct my manuscripts and take it apart, editing it line by line, sentence by sentence, and not in order. Had I started this from Chapter One on, I’m betting I wouldn’t have caught all of this yet again.

Food for thought, at any rate.

Chapter Four still is stagnant, alas; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: I hate transitional chapters. But I intend to plug my way forward through it, as it must be done before I can move on to the rest of the story. It is, alas, what it is. But this weekend–given the scary weather reports for Texas and the possibility of torrential downpours for us–I am planning on leaving the house as little as possible. I’ll have to get groceries, of course, at some point–always, it’s never ending–but other than that, I don’t think so. I intend to curl up inside my little nest, my oasis of Gregworld here in the Lost Apartment, and clean and edit and read, and maybe watch Guardians of the Galaxy Part 2.

 I love me some Groot.

And the Lost Apartment is definitely in need of some cleaning.

Bouchercon also released the schedule; I have two panels this year–the Anthony nominees for Best Anthology panel, and Reading the Rainbow; LGBTQ Crime Fiction. I will be sharing the stage with Jessie Chandler, Owen Laukkanen, Stephanie Gayle, John Copenhaver, and our moderator, Kristopher Zgorski, of BOLO Books blog. It should be an interesting discussion, methinks. I’ve never paneled with any of these folks before, so they might want to beware.  Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Here’s the poster that was made for our panel:

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Pretty cool, eh?

And now I’d best get back to the spice mines.