O Holy Night

The last day of 2018. I can hear the garbage trucks outside getting the trash, which means I’ve actually woken up at a relatively decent hour. Today is our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace with Jean and Gillian, which means very inexpensive martinis and all that entails. I also registered for Dallas Bouchercon yesterday and booked my hotel room. So much getting things done! I also worked on my technology issues yesterday–yes, they continue, Mojave is the stupidest thing Apple has ever done as an operating system–and have also been trying to update my phone, which doesn’t seem to be working. I really don’t want to have to get a new phone, but it seems as though this is what Apple is pushing me to do, which is infuriating.

But the desktop seems to be working the way it’s supposed to. Hmmm.

I read a lot of books last year, but I also judged for an award so I really can’t talk much  about any books that were actually released in 2018; which is unfortunate. I really enjoyed The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young (for a book not published in 2018). I also read a lot of short stories. The Short Story Project was originally inspired, and intended, for me to read a lot of short stories and work as kind of a master class for me as far as writing short stories are concerned. As a project, I originally began it in 2017, but didn’t get very far with it. As a result, I decided to give it another try in 2018 and was much more successful with the project. Not only was I reading short stories, I wrote a lot of them. Some of those stories were actually sold; “This Town” to Murder-a-Go-Go’s, “The Silky Veils of Ardor” to The Beating of Black Wings, “Neighborhood Alert” to Mystery Tribune, “Cold Beer No Flies” to Florida Happens, and “A Whisper from the Graveyard” to another anthology whose name is escaping me at the moment. I also pulled together a collection of previously published and new stories, which will be released in April of 2019 but will be available for Saints and Sinners/Tennessee Williams Festival, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I also wrote another Scotty (I really need to finish revising it), which will also be out in the new year I think but I don’t have a release date yet. That was pretty productive, and I also managed eight chapters of a young adult novel, the current WIP.

Not bad, coming from someone who wrote practically nothing in 2017. So, on that score, I am taking 2018 as a writing win.

I also edited the Bouchercon anthology for the second time, Florida Happens, and read a shit ton of short stories for that as well. I was very pleased with how that book turned out, in all honesty, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

I also published my first ever Kindle Single, “Quiet Desperation,” and also finally got the ebook for Bourbon Street Blues up for Kindle. At some point I do hope to have a print edition for sale as well, but I am happy to have the ebook available. I also have to finish proofing Jackson Square Jazz so I can get that ebook up as well.

So, writing and publishing wise, 2018 was a good comeback of sorts; I managed to get back into the swing of writing again, and started producing publishable work, which was absolutely lovely. I started to say I got my confidence back, but that wouldn’t be true; I’ve never had much self-confidence when it comes to  my writing. I also started writing in journals again in 2017, which was enormously helpful in 2018. (I actually went through my most recent one last night–the one I am currently using–and found a lot of stuff that I thought I’d lost in the Great Data Disaster of 2018; things I shall simply need to retype and of course will back-up immediately.

Yesterday, while electronic equipment repaired itself and made itself usable again–we’ll see how usable it is as the days go by–I watched two movies–The Omega Man and Cabaret on Prime, as well as the documentary Gods of Football (I highly recommend this one for eye candy potential; it’s about the shooting of a calendar in Australia to raise money for breast cancer charities, starring professional rugby players in the nude, and yes, the eye candy is delectable). I watched a lot of good movies and television shows over the course of the year–The Haunting of Hill House and Schitt’s Creek probably the best television shows–so it was a very good year for that. (I have some thoughts on both The Omega Man and Cabaret, but will save those for another post at another time.)

I also got my first New Orleans Public Library card this past year, and began reading New Orleans histories, which were endlessly fascinating, which led me into another project, Monsters of New Orleans, which is another short story collection about what the title says, crime stories based on real cases in New Orleans but fictionalized. And there are an incredible amount of them. I read the introduction to Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang: Seven Famous Murder Cases in New Orleans, and while I am aware that Tallant’s scholarship is questionable (I figured that out reading Voodoo in New Orleans), his books are always gossipy, which makes them perfect for New Orleans reading. What is real, what is true, and what is not is always something one has to wonder when reading anything about New Orleans history; some of it is legend, which is to be expected, and unprovable; some of it is very real and can be verified. Some of the stories in this collection, which I am going to work on, off and on, around other projects, will inevitably be complete fictions; but others will be based on true stories and/or legends of the city, like the Sultan’s Palace and Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau. It’s an exciting project, and the more I read of New Orleans history the more inspiration I get, not only for this project but for other Scotty books as well…which is a good thing, I was leaning towards ending the series with Royal Street Reveillon, but now that I’m finding stories that will work and keep the series fresh…there just may be a few more Scotty novels left in me yet.

My goal of losing weight and getting into better physical condition lasted for only a few months, and didn’t survive Carnival season–it was too hard to get to the gym during the parades, and between all the walking, passing out condoms, and standing at the corner, I was simply too exhausted to make it to the gym, and thus never made it back to the gym. I began 2018 weighing 228 pounds, the heaviest I’ve ever been, and have managed, through diet and portion control, to slim down to a consistent plateau of 213. This is actually pretty decent progress; not what I would have wanted to report at the end of 2018, but I am going to take it and put it into the win column, and we’ll see how 2019 turns out.

The day job also had some enormous changes; we moved out of the Frenchmen Street office, after being there since 2000 (I started working there in 2005) and into a new building on Elysian Fields. This also caused some upheaval and change in my life–I’m not fond of change–and it wasn’t perhaps the smoothest transition. But I’m getting used to it, and making the necessary adjustments in my life.

Now we are on the cusp to a new year. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about new goals for the new year. It is, of course, silly; it’s just another day and in the overall scheme of things, a new year really doesn’t mean anything is actually new; but we use this as a measure of marking time, and new beginnings. I’ve always thought that was rather silly; any day is a new day and a new beginning; why be controlled by the tyranny of the calendar and the societally created fiction of the new year?

But it is also convenient. If you set new goals every new year, you then have a way of measuring success and failure as it pertains to those goals. I am not as black-and-white as I used to be with goals–which is why I use goals instead of resolutions, as there is also a societal expectation that resolutions are made in order to not succeed–and a goal is merely that, a goal, and not something that is fixed in stone. The endgame we all are playing with these goals and resolutions is to effect change in our lives and make them, in theory at least, better. So, any progress on a goal is a way of making your life better.

I didn’t get an agent this year; that was on my list of goals yet again. I am not certain what my own endgame with the agent hunt is; I need to come up with a book idea that is commercially viable for an agent to want to represent, and that isn’t easy. Most of my book-writing decisions were made, not with an eye toward the commercial, but with an eye toward I want to see if I can write this story. Was that the smartest path to take as a writer? Perhaps not. I don’t know what’s commercial. The manuscript I was using to try to get an agent never worked as a cohesive story for me, and in this past year I finally realized why; I was trying to make a story into something it wasn’t. If I ever write what I was calling the WIP but is in reality ‘the Kansas book’, I have to write it as I originally intended it, not as what I am trying to make it into. And that’s something that is going to have to go onto the goal list for 2019.

On that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy New Year, everyone.

29dff057eaa0f35628338c6e0678c79f--book-boyfriends-new-years-eve

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

I fell into an Internet wormhole the other day–history, of course, was involved–and now, with my scattered ADHD mind, I can’t stop thinking about the unintended research I was doing. An ad popped up on the evil Facebook (or the even more evil Twitter) about the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453; and yes, that triggered me going into a search about the fall of the city, why it happened, who was the last patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church at the time of the fall, what was the last Byzantine Emperor’s story, and so forth.

I’ve always had a Colin stand-alone adventure novel in the back of my head, going all the way back to Bourbon Street Blues when I first introduced the character. My original plan, as you know, Constant Reader, was to make Bourbon Street Blues a stand-alone as well; when I introduced Colin and came up with his backstory, I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to write a series about a gay undercover op for hire? I had always had this idea for a treasure hunt novel–yes, inspired by Indiana Jones, if you must know, go ahead and judge me–but it had to do with something smuggled out of Hagia Sophia before Constantinople fell to the Venetians and the Crusaders in 1204; but having researched that actual event, it doesn’t really work for the story. But the final fall of the city–turning it from the Christian capital of the East to the capital of an Islamic empire, and also ending the Roman Empire once and for all–actually would work for this story, based on what I read yesterday. The thing that was smuggled out was a document, or an original manuscript, of a secret book of the new Testament that challenged the very nature of Christianity as it was known then; Catholicism and Orthodoxy–which means the stakes in the current day would also be pretty high.

Will I ever write a Colin stand-alone novel? Probably not, but you never know. I have so many other things to write. I’ll never be able to write everything I want to write before i die, I fear.

Such is life. There’s never enough time, and of course, I am horrifically lazy, which doesn’t help on any level.

And of course, now that it’s around four in the afternoon I am getting tired. I woke up at six this morning, stayed in bed until seven, and then got started on my day. I drank coffee and cleared out my email inbox; I wrote a bunch of emails and saved them in the drafts folder to send first thing in the morning; and then I went to the grocery store. After putting the groceries away, I started making a birthday cake for a co-worked–a new red velvet cheesecake recipe I’d been wanting to try–and of course, while I was working on the cheesecake layer my hand mixer burned out. Complete with burning electrical smell and smoke coming out of the motor (three hours later the kitchen still smells like an electrical fire) and so, not wanting to go to Walmart on a Sunday, I walked over to the Walgreens on the corner, vaguely having seen that they sell kitchen appliances. I rarely go there–and usually only in case of an emergency, which this certainly was–and of course, they’ve rearranged the entire store since the last time I was there. And of course there are aisles of Christmas stuff where other things ought to be. But I persisted, because I really didn’t want to go to Wal-mart on a Sunday afternoon just to buy a hand mixer, and I found one. It seemed a bit pricey, but then I figured you bought the last one twelve years ago so prices may have gone up since then besides you’re paying a premium for convenience. 

So I bought it.

Constant Reader, that was the best money I could have spent on a hand mixer. It’s so much better than my old one it’s not even funny; on the slowest setting it mixes with more power than the old one–a BLACK AND DECKER–did on it’s highest setting. In other words, that cheesecake was beaten and ready to go in the oven in no time. And who knew whipped cream was so easy to make?

Well, it is with my new mixer, at any rate.

So the red velvet cheesecake is now chilling in my refrigerator. I tried working on the book but I am tired and my brain is tired too. I am even too tired to read, methinks. So, I am going to go try to find something to watch on the television while I relax in my easy chair.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll have the energy to write later.

IMG_4427

Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven

Thursday, and the first day of a four-day weekend that just kind of dropped into my lap. The office move and so forth has had some complications; I’d planned on taking today off anyway, and then it occurred to me yesterday that I should just go ahead and take Friday as well; what was, after all, the point in taking Thursday off, working on Friday, and then having the weekend off? I’ve been very tired lately, badly in need of recharging the batteries, and the two-day weekends just haven’t been cutting it; so why not take a mini-vacation?

So, here I sit at my desk, looking outside at a gray day. Shadow is watching birds atop the stone fence outside my windows, there’s no sign of the sun anywhere, and it rained pretty heavily at some point in the early morning as everything is wet and shiny and dripping out there. I have a load of dishes and a load of laundry to put away; another load is running in the dishwasher, and the kitchen/office is completely out of control. Yes, indeed, there are plenty of things for me to do today, when the spirit so moves me.

We finished packing up the office Tuesday, and the movers came yesterday. I worked at the main office yesterday; a long ten hour day mostly doing paperwork, making condom packs, and then doing testing last night.  Apparently we’re waiting for some final clearances from the city before the new office building is up and operational. It was a little poignant saying good night and good luck to the office on Frenchmen Street when I left Tuesday night, and there were a couple of times  during that day when I felt a wave of sadness coming…but I made it. Yay, me.

Also Tuesday morning, the ebook of Bourbon Street Blues, aka Scotty I, went up for sale at long last. I’m very excited about this; it’s been unavailable for far, far too long, and people have been asking about it for years. But it’s finally a thing, and eventually a print version will also be available. If  you’re interested in getting the first Scotty ebook, you can get it right here. This makes me really happy; you’ve got no idea, Constant Reader. Especially since I am in such a Scotty state of mind with my writing these days.

Hopefully, Jackson Square Jazz (aka Scotty II) will be up by the end of the year as well, and all Scotty books will thus be available for anyone who wants to buy and read them.

I also finished writing Royal Street Reveillon  (aka Scotty VIII) Monday night. I am going to go ahead and get that turned in this week. I just need to add the chapter headings, which is always a fun part of the wrap-up process. I also have to do the afterward, but that’s going to have to be short–the book is clocked in at 101,000 (and some change) words. This is the longest book I’ve written in years. I guess I am writing longer these days. Not sure what that’s about, but there you have it. I feel relatively confident I can get these finishing touches on the book done today.

The rest of this week I am going to focus on replacing “Don’t Look Down” with two other stories for the collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I’ll probably start working on Bury Me in Satin, my Nanowrimo project, on November 1 and hopefully will have a healthy first draft finished by the end of the month, after which I will spend December revising it and tearing apart/restructuring the WIP, which is what I plan on doing in the first two months of the new year; I’ll then have to spend another month or so writing a new ending for it, and then another month or so revising and polishing. Hopefully, come April, it’ll be in good enough shape to try to lure in an agent. One can hope, at any rate. And then I want to spend the summer writing Muscles, and then I am going to spend the fall trying to write something historical about New Orleans; I am just not quite sure yet what that project will be.

I didn’t sleep well Sunday night, so Monday I was tired all day. Monday night I slept deeply, but had to get up earlier than I wanted to; I felt rested but still slightly sleepy. Sleepy is better than tired; there’s a difference, and that distinction is important–kind of like the difference, from working out, between sore and tired. Since this is the week of the office move, my work schedule was disrupted; I had to get up early every day until today, which made me cranky and tired every night. I’m not really sure what my schedule is going to be next week. Alas, uncertainty is not one of my stronger suits. But I did sleep very well last night, getting up just around nine this morning and I feel rested and alert. This is a very good sign for the rest of the day, and the potential for productivity.

I also started gathering my essays over the last couple of evenings, which was interesting and fun, yet weird at the same time. There were essays I’d published that I’d forgotten about writing and publishing–seriously, who else forgets work they’ve done and been paid for? This mook, that’s who. (MOOK? This is what comes from following David Simon on Twitter.) So yes, that is definitely going to take a while to get in order. It’s always interesting–at least to me–to come across old things I’ve written, whether I remember them or not. If I do remember writing them or what they’re about, I almost always discover my memory is wrong when I start rereading them. I don’t mind it; it’s just odd. That’s kind of where The Fictions of My Life comes from; my memories aren’t correct so frequently because of the interpretive personal filter I view everything through that I often suspect my memories differ so much from the reality that they are closer to lies than truth.

And on that note, I think I shall head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely day, everyone.

IMG_4287

Rhythm is a Dancer

Christ, it’s the Friday before Halloween. The Quarter is going to be full of gays from all over the country all weekend, most of them costumed for at least part of the time.

And 90% of them will have costumes that include either sexy or slutty in the official name: “Sexy Sailor,” “Slutty Nurse,” etc etc.

Boy, do I feel old–because even as recently as ten years ago I would be chomping at the bit to get down there, have a good time, ogle some pretty boys, and have a good time. Instead, I’ll be hunkered down here in the Lost Apartment all weekend, proofing and editing and revising and copy-editing. I also have some reading to do, and there’s this week’s Riverdale–I seriously don’t know why I still watch, other than the really attractive and charismatic cast, because the plots do not make any sense–so yeah, I probably won’t be setting foot outside the house until Monday.

Ah, my first New Orleans Halloween.

It was 1994, and I hadn’t met Paul yet. I had just started my new exercise and diet regimen in late August, and I had never been to anything like the New Orleans Halloween weekend before. I have always had a contentious relationship with my body, and this Halloween was going to be the first time I ever dared to wear a slutty Halloween costume; granted, I was simply going as an ancient Egyptian, which meant, of course, being shirtless. This was a big step for me–I was going to go out in public without a shirt on; and it was a big gay Halloween costume ball. I even bought a headdress to go with the little skirt I had made for the event, and did my eyes with mascara and drew a thick line around my eyes and out to the side with eyeliner. My eyes looked huge. 

I also stupidly wore gold glitter. I never made the glitter mistake again.

I had such a lovely time that weekend. It was, I think, one of the first and best times I ever had as an out gay man–how sad that it took to age thirty-three for that to happen; but it did take me a very long time to deprogram myself from everything I learned growing up. (I’m still finding, from time to time, that I’ve not made as much progress as I would have liked, or hoped, to have made by now) But it was one of the first times that I felt like I was actually a part of the gay community; and I’ve tried, over the years, to write about the sense of belonging one gets when one in is in a sea of gay men dancing to great music and everyone just wants to have a good time; a blessed respite from the dangers and horrors of the every day world. I also distinctly remember being out on the dance floor in the midst of all these happy men dancing (the song was “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys) and thinking, we are finding joy behind locked doors, forgetting everything that goes on outside and creating an oasis, kind of like in “The Masque of the Red Death.”

I wrote a story in my journal the next morning–while recovering over coffee–that was basically that; a gay adaptation of the Poe story. I’ve never revisited that story, but I just might, now that I am thinking about pulling together a collection of personal essays called Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life. So, yes, that’s yet another book I am currently working on. I have Bourbon Street Blues to proof, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories to go over, Royal Street Reveillon to finish, and my second short story collection, Once a Tiger and Other Stories, also in progress.

And I am also planning yet another collection, Monsters of New Orleans.

And there’s also the WIP.

This. Is. Fucking. INSANE.

Nothing like some creative ADHD, is there?

I have so much writing work to get done this weekend. And once again, I am having an attack of the lazies this morning. I even did laundry and some cleaning last night to free myself up for today’s work…and yet here I sit, lingering over coffee and social media and not really feeling particularly interested in getting to work.

And on that note, I should probably return to the spice mines.

Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

IMG_4288

Missing You Now

Friday! Friday! Friday!

I have a very busy weekend looming in front of me. I need to proof the new edition of Bourbon Street Blues, copy edit Royal Street Reveillon (assuming I finish revising it today), and also need to do some editing work on Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I’m frankly trying to decide whether to pull a longer story (“Don’t Look Down”, which I may do as a Kindle single) and add some others in its place. I am leaning that way, quite frankly; I’d like to get these other stories out there, and “Don’t Look Down” could easily wind up being five to ten thousand words longer than it is; I feel that I kind of rushed it, and there are other things that I need to put into it to make the story more cohesive and work better.

Royal Street Reveillon is being revised apace; I only have three chapters left to revise, and an afterward to write. There is no conceivable way this won’t be finished by the end of the weekend, even given my enormous talent for procrastination. So, I can end October by turning this book in, taking a few days to myself to recuperate, and then dive directly into Bury Me In Satin. My goal is to have that particular first draft finished by the end of November–my first ever Nanowrimo (I am not signing up for anything, just planning on using that as my go-to for motivation) and then I intend to spend December tearing apart the WIP. The restructuring is going to require me to probably write another 40 to 50 thousand words; the 98 thousand or so I already have will have to be pared down to about 40. That means a shit ton of writing I will have to store away and hopefully use again for something else. I can always find a way of using that material.

Recycle, recycle, recycle.

But at the same time, despite the wearying thought of all this work in front of me, I am also very excited. I am excited to be finishing yet another Scotty, for the first time in over two years; I am excited to be finishing another novel; I am excited to start writing another; and I am excited to have solved the mystery of the WIP, which has been languishing in my head now for nearly three years.

The most important thing, though, is to not rush; I suspect I was rushing with the last few chapters, so this weekend I am going to go over the ones I finished last night as well as work on the remaining ones.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines.

IMG_4289

Wishing on a Star

I prefer not to speak in anger, and always try not to do so. I am not always successful, to my great shame, and I am still tortured by memories of times when I let my anger get the best of me and yelled at a stranger. I will never have the opportunity to apologize to those people, and I know I ruined their day for them; they may also remember being made to feel anger of their own, or shame, or whatever bad emotion my anger caused them. I don’t like it when I lose my temper with Paul, or with friends, or with co-workers. Nothing positive ever comes of it, and I always, always feel bad afterwards; even if it was satisfying at the time.

But anger is also different from outrage, and I will speak out when I am outraged. Outrage and anger are similar but not the same; I will say things in anger I would never say when I am not angry, and will often try to contain those angry sentences to my brain. Outrage comes from a different place, a place that doesn’t burn hot, but is icy; the freezing coldness that comes from utter moral contempt. What I call my Julia Sugarbaker moments come from a place as cold as outer space; my words may be strong, my voice might even quiver with emotion, but make no mistake about it: there is no heat in my outrage.

Injustice outrages me more than anything else; the notion that fairness and decency should only be allowed to the select and denied the rest is one of my many triggers. Over the course of my life I’ve been cold in outrage far more times than I would like, far more times than I wish were necessary, far more times that I ever wanted. There were many points in my life that I thought, ah, this is it. This is the place where fairness and decency is going to kick in, and going forward things are going to be better.

Instead…on and on and on it goes, world without end, amen.

I’m tired from fighting. It seems like I’ve been fighting my entire life. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve paid for them, I’ve done stupid things and embarrassing things and things I wish I hadn’t.

But I never regret being wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but I never regret it completely.  You learn from being wrong. You grow and you change and you see life, the world, people, in a different way when you realize you’re wrong. I’ve grown and changed, I continue to grow and change, and I hope I never stop growing and changing.

But you have to want to grow and change, and one of the sadder things I’ve seen and had to grow accustomed to is seeing how many people have no desire to grow, to learn, to change. I don’t understand it. I try to wrap my mind around it but I can’t. I can’t imagine not questioning, not wondering, not researching, not learning.

I don’t ever want to stop growing and evolving. I can’t imagine wanting to stop, and resisting it stubbornly.

As a writer I tell stories. To tell stories I have to have characters, setting, place and plot  and dialogue. To write about them honestly I have to understand them, and writing sometimes is my way to try to come to understanding. I sometimes funnel my outrage and my anger into my writing as ways of divesting myself of that energy; writing is always where I go when I want to make sense of an insensible situation, a problem, something I can’t quite understand. In my stories I know my characters intimately, who they are and what they like and what they don’t like and whether they are ticklish or not and whether they know how to swim or not and why and if they can cook and if they have a clean house and do they enjoy grocery shopping. You can never know another human being as completely as you know the characters you write about.

I have always thought that my Chanse series was the darker toned one and more political by nature. I’ve tackled hate crimes and murder and homophobia and self-loathing and politics in the Chanse series. I’ve always thought of the Scotty series as fluffy and fun and entertaining; the books enjoyable entertainments for an afternoon or two at the beach and nothing more. But as I address some issues in this current Scotty manuscript, I found myself wondering is this more of a Chanse book than a Scotty? Scotty books aren’t supposed to be dark and heavy.

And then…I start remembering the previous Scotty books. The neo-Nazis allied with the far right politician in Bourbon Street Blues, and what their plan for the Southern Decadence weekend in the French Quarter was. The difficulty of being a world class athlete who has to stay in the closet and having a homophobic mother in Jackson Square Jazz. The inhumanity of the Russian mob in Mardi Gras Mambo. Religious fanaticism and the corruption of the Vietnam War in Vieux Carre Voodoo. The homophobic hysteria of the religious right over same-sex marriage in Who Dat Whodunnit. The corruption of Louisiana state politics in Baton Rouge Bingo. The horror of being tried in the court of public opinion in Garden District Gothic.

I’ve been doing it all along.

Even now, I laugh at my naivete. The Scotty series is about a gay male ex-stripper in the French Quarter whose parents are far-left progressives and is in a three way relationship with a former FBI agent and an international gun-for-hire. They took in the ex-Fed’s gay college-aged nephew after he came out to his parents and they disowned him in Baton Rouge Bingo.

When you write gay characters, tell gay stories, focus on gay themes and ideas, when you show the world what it looks like through the prism of the gay gaze, it absolutely is an act of politics, of defiance, of seeing the society mainstream heterosexual has been building since Romulus and Remus founded Rome from an outside glance.

This makes the work political. It’s very existence is political.

My existence is political. People who don’t know me hate me for simply existing, for not fitting into the world the way they want it to be. My existence challenges core beliefs for some people: those who think we should all be drones living a cookie-cutter existence in the suburbs with 2.5 children, a dog, and a white picket fence.

But got some bad news for you folks: I ain’t going back in the closet. I’m not done fighting. I may be old and tired now, but I’m not finished.

I’ll still be fighting as they shove my body into the crematorium.

And now, back to the spice mines.

IMG_2454

I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On

I’ve been traveling down memory lane a lot lately, it seems. I am also beginning, for the first time in my life, beginning to understand the pull of nostalgia. It’s something I’ve never quite gotten before–the past is the past and it basically is what it is, has always been my mentality, and I have always been quite happy in the present. But rereading Bourbon Street Blues again as I did the proofing/copy editing took me back in time, and I kind of liked revisiting that time again mentally. Setting “Never Kiss a Stranger” in the summer of 1994 also has me revisiting that time, and remembering it quite fondly. Also posting my daily “Pride Books” on Facebook has also had me spending time in my past, as I remember books and what they meant to me at the time I read them.

I also saw a call for submissions for crime short stories set in the past, which also has me wondering about something I could write. I have an idea–don’t I always have an idea?–but it’s still too amorphous. And I still have these other two short stories to write, and need to get six more chapters of the first draft of the Scotty done and then I can let it sit for a couple of months.

I did work on my short story “Children of the Stone Circle” a bit yesterday, and also managed to write a really shitty chapter of the Scotty book. I mean, a really shitty chapter. I now have six chapters left in which to solve two murders, find a kidnapping victim, and wrap up all the other stuff I’ve thrown at the boys in this book. Heavy heaving sigh.

It should be interesting, to say the least.

So, I made my first ever red velvet cheesecake this past weekend; it was a co-worker’s birthday and another co-worker suggested I make one. I used the Cheesecake Factory recipe, but adapted it a bit–I didn’t, for example, cut the cheesecake in half so there would be four layers instead of three–and it turned out pretty well. (I think the red velvet layers were a bit dry, but everyone else seemed to think it was fine. The cheesecake and cream cheese frosting, though, made the dryness not so noticeable. If I had only made red velvet cake, I think it would be too dry.)

I actually love to cook; I love trying new recipes and changing them up a bit to make them my own. I just wish I had a bigger kitchen, or at least more counter space. I have a galley style kitchen, long and narrow, and my workspace for writing is at one end, in the bay windows which would ordinarily be used, I think, as a breakfast nook. I always think, whenever I am cooking and feeling confined in my kitchen, that there would be plenty of room if I didn’t have to use the kitchen as a makeshift office as well. I suspect that is actually untrue; it wouldn’t really change the counter space much, although I suppose I could have a table where my desk is and use it for the microwave and coffee maker, which would free up a lot of counter space.

Yeah, right.

I really just want an entire room for my office, so I could have bookcases lined along the walls and filled with books.

Perchance to dream.

IMG_4132

Let’s Go All The Way

So, yesterday I didn’t write much, but I did get something very very important done: I finished the copy-edit/proofing of Bourbon Street Blues, which is now one step closer to becoming an ebook (and a print-on-demand hard copy, if someone so desires), and that really is exciting for me. Bourbon Street Blues is, out of all my books, special to me for so very many reasons. I always thought, for one thing, that it was a much better book than my first (with apologies to Murder in the Rue Dauphine), and for another it was the book where I created Scotty Bradley and his friends and family and world, and Scotty is, well, I’ve always been terribly fond of Scotty.

It’s sometimes hard to believe I’m currently writing the eighth Scotty book. I would have never dreamed there would be three Scotty books, let alone eight, all those years ago when I first dreamed him up. I was determined to create a character that I’d never seen before in gay fiction, or at least in any of the gay fiction I’d read at that time, and my reading at that time was pretty extensive. The late 90’s/early aughts was a strange time to be a gay writer, or to be a gay reader of gay fictions. We were just finding ourselves again after the development of the initial drug cocktails, which meant HIV/AIDS was no longer necessarily the death sentence it was known to be for so lo those many years. Most gay literature, from almost the very beginning of the plague, had been the art of the epidemic: about death, about loss, about hatred but also about love and compassion.

It was a strange time, frankly. All of us gay writers were faced with the conundrum: do we still write about HIV/AIDS? Do we pretend it doesn’t exist? Can we write about it and try to de-stigmatize it in our work? Do we mention condoms, condom use, safer sex? What responsibility do we, as gay writers, have to our community?

Scotty was, in some ways, a reaction to the work that had gone before mine, and to HIV/AIDS. At the time I was creating him, and writing his first book, the equality movement for the community was moving away from the focus on HIV/AIDS and looking at other issues of equality: overturning the sodomy laws; same sex marriage; and overturning ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, so that we could openly serve in the military.

Gay sexuality had become something dark since the early days of the plague, and even with the drug cocktails prolonging life and all the other medical advances that were taking the definition of the disease from fatal to chronic (i.e. something that could be managed with a drug regimen), there was a lot of sturm and drang about gay promiscuity; and while the sexually liberated days of the 1970’s certainly had a part in the spread of the disease, it wasn’t a punishment for gay promiscuity any more than the bubonic plague was a punishment for the schism of the church in the fourteenth century. 

So, when I created Scotty, I wanted to create a character that I hadn’t seen before; someone who not only embraced his sexuality but reveled in it. Scotty was highly promiscuous; wasn’t interested in a boyfriend or monogamy; and had absolutely no hang-ups or judgments about sexuality or promiscuity. He was a personal trainer and taught aerobics, was a former member of a male-stripper troupe who sometimes got back into his thong and moonlighted as a dancer now and then for extra cash. He smoked pot, drank, and celebrated the Gay High Holy Days of New Orleans (Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras) with Ecstasy. He was good-looking and sexy and he knew it, but wasn’t arrogant about it in the least; he was, if anything, amused by the fact that people found him, in his own words, “irresistible.”

Above all else, though, Scotty was, at heart, a nice guy who cared about other people.

I was surprised by the way people reacted, and related, to him. I was expecting to get bashed in the reviews–after all, hadn’t some reviewers dismissed my first series creation, Chanse MacLeod, as ‘just another gay stereotype’?–but the reviews were all incredibly positive, for the most part, other than the occasional one-star on Amazon.

I also wanted the book–and the series, as it turned out–to be light-hearted and funny, even as it took on social issues.

And you know else? Proofing Bourbon Street Blues was the first time in many years that I read the book again. And it ain’t bad. Ain’t bad at all.

And by the way, here’s the new cover for when it’s released again, courtesy of amazing cover designer J. T. Lindroos:

GregHerren-BourbonStreetBluesx2700

I absolutely love it.

And now, back to the spice mines.

 

What Have You Done For Me Lately

I managed to tear through Chapter 18 Thursday, so now I am on Chapter 19. I cannot reiterate enough times how sloppy and messy this manuscript is, but I am getting a first draft done and I don’t care how bad it looks now; revisions and rewrites will clean that the fuck up.

I also decided it was time to get my agent-search organized; which meant creating a spreadsheet and entering all the names of agents, their agencies, etc. that I’ve been collecting on scraps of paper or scribbling down in my journal into it. This weekend I am going to go over and revise the first four chapters of the WIP–this time for cohesion and to copy edit, revise, make the language prettier–and see where that’s at. I also retitled “The Feast of St. Expedite”–it is now called “A Whisper from the Graveyard”–and worked on it a little bit before bed. But the one I really need to focus on is “Children of the Stone Circle,” which is the story I am hoping to edit and revise and have ready to submit to Cemetery Dance. It’s a longshot–they are probably going to get thousands of stories–but it’s also a bucket-list item, so I am going to go for it.

I have a lot of errands to do today–pick up prescriptions, post office, make groceries–and I’ve promised to make a co-worker a red velvet cheesecake for his birthday (today, but I’ll bring it into the office on Tuesday); I’ll probably make the cheesecake tomorrow but still need to get all the things for it today. I most likely won’t get much written today–all that running around in the obnoxious New Orleans heat and humidity will wear me out, as it always does–and so the rest of today will most likely be spent cleaning and organizing and getting ready to do some writing tomorrow; although I will most likely continue to work on the Bourbon Street Blues copy edit.

I started reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is the book Love Simon was based on. I’m very curious about it–having not seen the movie, which we’ll probably rent sometime–and since I write gay y/a, I kind of feel like I need to see what all the fuss is about (I also want to work on the WIP this weekend; we’ll see. I am well aware that time is limited and I am trying to cram too much into a single weekend. I also am taking a long weekend around the 4th of July; another mental health break, which I think I need to do every couple of months or so just to maintain my sanity, stay on top of things in the apartment, and get back in touch with my writing.

And on that note, I have to make a grocery list as well as figure out what else needs to get done this weekend, so perhaps it’s best if I return to the spice mines.

IMG_4130

 

Dancing on the Ceiling

So, yesterday I managed to finish the afterward to the short story collection; worked on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit (also figured out the rest of the story, crucial!); decided on the story I am going to revise/rewrite to submit to Cemetery Dance; did some thinking about the Scotty book and where to go with it next; and continued the copy editing of Bourbon Street Blues.  I am about a quarter of the way through with this; hoping to have it finished by the end of the month so I can get the ebook/print-on-demand up before the end of summer. The book has been too long out of print, and by the way, I fucking love the new cover I got for it and the new one for Jackson Square Jazz.

I’m having some seriously terrific luck with covers this year, methinks.

So, I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked this weekend but again, progress, which is everything. As long as I am moving forward, I celebrate the win because staying in place is a loss.

Last night, I started watching the new Ryan Murphy series, Pose, and was most impressed with it. I still have not watched the Versace season of American Crime Story, but that’s on my ‘to-watch’ list. The thing with Murphy is that his series are so frequently hit-and-miss. Often they start out fantastic (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and then go south; the uneven quality of pretty much every season of American Horror Story is legendary. So, I am not holding out much hope that Pose won’t derail; but at the moment it’s high-quality, riveting television; taking us back to those awful days of the late 1980’s and shining a spotlight on queers of color, which doesn’t happen very often–and especially, the transwomen and drag queens, who rarely get to see themselves on television or in the movies. Having the show set during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis was also a brilliant move; there was, I think, a tendency in the late 90’s and ever since, for queer publishing to shy away from HIV/AIDS; it enveloped so much of queer writing for so long…and I’m thinking that it might be time for us to start addressing it again.

HIV/AIDS plays a part in “Never Kiss a Stranger” and in “The Feast of St. Expedite” (the story I started writing last week); both are set in New Orleans in 1994 and you simply can’t write about gay men and the gay male community in that time and not have it be a part of the story in some way. The question of whether I am handling it properly or not remains to be seen…but I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past lately, and it’s been kind of fun.

I had gotten tired of most of my iTunes playlists last week and then remembered, duh, the new car has an actual CD player in it; you can listen to some of your CD’s. This thought led me to browsing through our CD tower–yes, we still have one, and yes, it’s covered in dust–and discovering a lot of great music that I don’t have in digital form and haven’t listened to in a long time. I found a lot of dance music mix CD’s, including Deborah Cox: The Remixes and so every time I get in my car I’ve been listening to old gay dance music. I even was playing some of them while I was cleaning the house on Sunday (the only CD players in the house are in the computers), and yes, I’d forgotten how much easier dance music makes cleaning (note to self: always play dance CD’s in the computer when cleaning).

In the car this morning I was listening to a Pride 2001 CD, and a song come on called “Movin’ Up” (I think) and without even realizing it I was singing along with it and this lyric popped up: I take my problems to the dance floor. and I was flooded with memories. I remember someone in the bars back then had a T-shirt that said this, and although I don’t remember his name, he was around a lot back in those days and he always had a great time on the dance floor; and I enjoyed watching the joy and sheer abandon with which he danced.

I do kind of miss dancing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

IMG_4118