It Never Rains in Southern California

Less than a week until Royal Street Reveillon is officially out in the world!

And so far, no current labor pains!

But, in fairness, it took me a good long while to write this book. My memory is so bad, and I’m so constantly and regularly busy, that I don’t even remember when I actually wrote it and turned it in to my publisher. I think it was earlier this year? I don’t remember–and that’s kind of sad. This is but one of the many reasons I don’t think I’ll ever write a memoir; my memory lies to me all the time and I never know what I remember correctly, let alone times and timelines and so forth. For example, when I was writing my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” for Love, Bourbon Street, I went into it thinking I spent weeks in Kentucky at my parents’ after the evacuation, when it was actually less than three before I returned to Louisiana. That was a shock, believe me…but it’s true: we evacuated on August 28th, and I returned to New Orleans for good in early October after several weeks on the North Shore at my friend Michael’s. Stress and age and everything else combines to make things seem different in memory; and I’ve also noted, many times, how often people look back through a rosy glow of nostalgia. (I’ve always thought people view the past nostalgically because they aren’t happy, for one reason or another, in the present; they think oh, everything was so much simpler and easier back then. It’s usually not that true.)

So, Gregalicious, why did you decide to write a murder mystery built around a reality television show filming in New Orleans?

I didn’t watch An American Family, the first true reality show, back in the 1970’s on PBS, as the Loud family allowed their lives to be filmed for the entertainment of the masses. The show, which was the baseline for everything that came later, was quite controversial–I remember reading in the newspaper that one of the sons came out as gay on camera, which was kind of a big deal in the 1970’s–but in the 1990’s, I was a big fan of MTV’s sociological experiment, The Real World, and it’s sister-show that came later, Road Rules. But as the shows went on, they went from being a sociological experiment (hey, let’s take a group of seven kids from completely different backgrounds, make them live together and work on a project, and see what, if anything, they learn from each other) to being exploitative (hey, if all of them are young and beautiful and damaged, and we encourage them to drink and hook up, drama will ensue!), which was when I lost interest in watching them anymore. I also watched the game show version–The Challenges–primarily because the young men were always hot, often shirtless, and sometimes even less clad than that, plus watching the competitions was interesting. But it, too, eventually paled in interest to me–they were so repetitive, and the producers never intervened when violence broke out, and that was more often than not–and so I stopped watching.

The Real Housewives was different for me. Back in the day, we used to watch Bravo a lot–Inside the Actor’s Studio, Project Runway, reruns of Law and Order and The West Wing–and when they started promoting a new show they were doing called The Real Housewives of Orange County, I sniffed disdainfully at it. At that time, one of the hottest shows on network television was Desperate Housewives, and this seemed to be a rip-off, an attempt to cash in on the success of another network’s show by copying the title and so forth: “oh, if you like that show, here’s the real women of the area who are housewives, and what there lives are like.” The previews I’d see didn’t really encourage me to watch–the women seemed, for the most part, like horrible people, particularly Vicki Gunvalson–but as the show spawned spin-off shows in other cities and regions, I became more than passingly acquainted with them. They usually ran marathons on Sundays, and when it’s not football season Sunday television was pretty much a wasteland. I’d flip on the marathon for background noise while I read a book and Paul napped on the couch–but I also began to absorb the shows through a kind of osmosis. I knew who the women were and what their lives were like–but still didn’t watch regularly until around 2010, or 2011 or so.

And once I started giving Real Housewives of New York and Beverly Hills my full attention–yeah, I was hooked.

Paul would even watch with me from time to time…and we played a game: if they did a New Orleans version, who would they cast? It was fun, because we also were relatively certain none of the women we thought would kill it on such a show would ever remotely consider doing such a show (Southern Charm New Orleans proved us right), and then I began to think…but such a show here would be absolutely the perfect background for a murder mystery, because of the way everyone here is so connected to everyone else and there would be backstory and history galore.

I always saw it as a Scotty book, but when I turned it into the Paige novella, that changed things. I still wanted to do a Scotty book about a reality show, and I started making notes for one called Reality Show Rhumba. And, if you’re wondering, that’s where the character of Frank’s nephew Taylor Wheeler came from; when I added him to the regular cast of characters for the Scotty series, my intent was to have him eventually be case in a Real World-type show here in New Orleans, and anchor a murder mystery. But then…the Paige novella series went nowhere, and I hated losing such a great idea..so as I went into Garden District Gothic I introduced Serena Castlemaine to the boys, thus planting the seeds for Royal Street Reveillon, knowing I could keep some parts of the story but would have to change others–which was cool, because I always felt that the original novella was kind of rushed, and I didn’t have either the time–or the space (since novellas are by nature shorter)–to make the story what I wanted it to be.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Space Oddity

So, the eighth Scotty book drops in exactly one week. Those of you who preordered (and thank you!) might even already have Royal Street Reveillon in your hot little hands. Yay, for preorders, and thank you again if you did preorder.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time, or follow me on social media, or do any of those lovely things that make me feel better about myself, are probably aware of one of my primary mantras of writing: never throw anything away because nothing you write is waste. It can, after all, always come in handy later. I’ve repurposed work before; Murder in the Rue Ursulines, the fourth Chanse novel, began life as the fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle. My short story “Survivor’s Guilt,” nominated for a Macavity Award, began life as a short story called “Blues in the Night,” and so on, and so on, and so on. Fragments removed from a novel have ended up in a short story; short story pieces have wound up inside novels. That’s why I always save everything, including drafts and partials–I never know when that writing might come in handy for something later, and it inevitably always does.

Many years ago, the publishing of fiction as ebooks only exploded with the development, and sales, of Amazon’s Kindle device, as well as those from competitors–I chose to go the iPad route, and use the apps for book reading; Kobo and Kindle and iBooks. A friend had started her own e-publishing company, and was encouraging me to develop a long-dormant idea for a series–the idea I had, almost from the earliest days of the Chanse series, of spinning off his reporter best bud, Paige Tourneur, into her own series. I am always willing to give new things, and new technology, a spin, and so I produced two lengthy novellas with Paige as a main character, out of a proposed five: Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans. The former was originally a short story I sat on for years; the latter an idea born of my interest/borderline obsession with reality television, primarily Bravo’s Real Housewives franchises. It was born of a joke between Paul and I, while he suffered in silence through my watching of these shows (mostly the New York and Beverly Hills editions; I never got into the others quite as much, although Atlanta and now Potomac I”m more hit and miss with) in which we picked women we thought would make interesting choices for a New Orleans franchise, and then would simply laugh and laugh, saying “Can you imagine?” The novellas, however, were on a very tight turn around time, and I was writing them between other novels I had contracted. They were good, but I was never completely satisfied with them, and Paige was, frankly, not as popular with readers as I thought she might be. People either loved the character or hated her; and of course, some Amazon reviewers disliked Paige’s feminist politics and her habit of using foul language.

Also, as it turned out, ebook marketing is a lot of work–work I didn’t have the time or knowledge to put in, and ultimately the return on the investment was simply not worth it. My friend and I agreed to cancel the series and the contracts, and shortly thereafter both novellas were pulled from Amazon.

And that, I thought, was the end of the great Paige experiment of mainstream crime fiction writing for me.

But I still believed, and still do, that the Dead Housewives idea was a good one, and deserved better than it got as an e-novella for Paige.

So…I decided to reboot and repurpose the idea, and develop it into a Scotty novel; and so a forty thousand word novella turned into a Scotty novel of closer to a hundred thousand words; it’s the longest Scotty book since Jackson Square Jazz. If you are an avid Greg reader, and you read Dead Housewives (thank you for that, by the way), some of Royal Street Reveillon might seem familiar; the opening party for the show, some of the characters and their relationships to each other, and so on. But the outcome of the story is different, and there’s a lot more going on in this book than in the original. Royal Street Reveillon is much closer to what I always wanted the story to be, and really, it works much better as a Scotty story than it ever would did as a Paige story. The “Grande Dames of New Orleans” are all the same women; I introduced Serena Castlemaine in Garden District Gothic, and also previewed the filming of the reality show in that book. Margery, Megan, Rebecca, Fidelis, and Chloe are the same women from the original, but their stories and relationships to each other (and in some cases, to their spouses and the men in their lives) are dramatically different. The first murder is different, and there are several more story threads in this final version of the story than there were before. And there is a lot more of Scotty’s personal story, and that of those he loves, in this book than in the original (obviously, as Scotty wasn’t in the original story).

And, for the record, the resolution of the mysteries (yes, plural) are markedly different than what it originally was.

Also for the record;  I am much more pleased with this book than I was with the original story. I hope you’ll like it, too.

I spent my entire Labor Day, well, laboring over a volunteer project; it’s still not quite finished despite the eight or so hours I dedicated to it yesterday, but I feel very confident that it will be finished tonight. So, while I didn’t really get to spend my long weekend relaxing as much as I would have liked, I was able to get some things done, including the draft of Bury Me in Shadows, this volunteer project, and I did sign the contract for that short story, which was lovely.

And so now on to a short week. I don’t have a short day this week until Friday, as I am covering for someone tomorrow evening, but that’s fine. I seem to have my sleep back under control again as well, which is a major plus and very satisfying.

So it’s off to the spice mines with me for the day. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

That baton was ON FIRE!

I do miss (original cast) Designing Women from time to time.

Today is National HIV Testing Day, so I will be working in the Carevan, parking in the Walgreens a block or so from my house, for nine hours today. We were also incredibly busy at the office yesterday, which was exhausting, but it was also nice; we’ve not been busy like that during testing hours at the new building since we moved into it.

I also managed, like a doofus, to forget to save the word document I was working on yesterday morning before I left for the office, and apparently the power here blinked on and off–long enough to make all the digital clocks blink, but not long enough to take them all back to 12:00. So, yes, the thirteen hundred words I’d done before work yesterday were gone when I got home (for some reason Word also didn’t save them as a temporary file I could recover, thanks Microsoft!) but I wasn’t irritated or overly annoyed; the words were bad bad bad, and whenever this happens and I have to reconstruct stuff from memory, it always winds up being better than what I did originally and lost.

And the stuff I lost, let’s be honest, was absolute garbage.

I was so tired when i got home last night I didn’t have the energy to reconstruct anything or do anything; the dishes remain in the dishwasher, loads of clothes remained in the washer and dryer, the mess in the kitchen remains a mess. Instead, I repaired to my easy chair, allowed Scooter to nap in my lap, and turned on the television. There really wasn’t anything I wanted to watch, so, with some trepidation, I went to Hulu and cued up the second season of Southern Charm New Orleans.

I have already confessed to my reality television addiction; it’s primarily Real Housewives franchises. I did watch the original, Charleston version of Southern Charm (always wondering how they actually managed to get actual members of the city’s upper class, with some actually old society money people, to agree to being on the show; but it got too dark for me with bad parenting, custody struggles, and drug addiction–I guess the reality was a little too real and noir for me), and it was with no little trepidation that I began watching the first episode of the first season when it originally aired a while back–but I either didn’t make it all the way through the first episode, or made it to the second before giving up.

I just absolutely loathed it.

But a friend who lives her part-time (we both tried the original season and gave up in despair and disgust) alerted me that she’d gotten sucked into season two; and I should give it another try. So, last night, to exhausted to do anything other than sit in my easy chair with a purring cat in my lap, and with Paul not home and nothing else to watch, I started.

After I got past the initial laughter at the fact the show is called Southern Charm New Orleans and the majority of the cast actually doesn’t live in New Orleans (Mandeville and Covington are on the north shore, in St. Tammany Parish, and twenty six miles across the lake from Metairie–also not New Orleans), and I kind of thought it was kind of funny the way the show simply flashed the names of their towns across the bottom of the screen when showing their homes, as though they were New Orleans neighborhoods, like Gentilly and Lakeview, but the more I watched, the more I began to get sucked into it. By the end of the second episode I had so many questions, had already taken sides in some of the oh-so-heavily-handed-manufactured-drama on the show, and had committed to watching the next two available episodes when I can.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but I think I was absolutely, positively pulled in when Bravo and the producers did this amazing, amazing thing–part of the story is that a married couple from season one–Jeff, the retired Saints player, and his horrible wife, Reagan, gave up on their failed marriage and got divorced between seasons, while she has moved on to an old-flame from her college days, Reece, whom we do not see or hear about other than “Reagan’s new boyfriend” in the first episode, other than a scene of him showering from behind—and yes, we see his wet, soapy, not particularly attractive bare ass (which was when Paul, who’d come home about halfway through the episode and sat down and watched with me, bailed). In the second episode we see this again, as well as Jeff fully unclothed from behind also in the shower (for comparison sake?), and I was all, well, okay then, if you’re not going to show the two incredibly hot men of color bare-assed, why must we suffer through these white boy butts?

The big drama was, of course, her introducing the new boyfriend to her ex-husband and her friends, which she did at a party for launching her new “jewelry store” at One Canal Place; the hilarious thing was how the meeting was shown on television–the two men walk away from the party to talk (which makes everyone else freak out, of course, wondering why “they had to walk away and talk”, honestly, come up with better unscripted scripts, producers), and what was absolutely hilarious (other than hot artist Jon Moody describing the new boyfriend as “cool ranch Doritos,” which is instantly iconic Bravo shade) was that Reece, the new boyfriend, is, as so many New Orleanians, a huge Saints fan, so of course he was excited to meet Jeff, the ex-husband. What was even more hilarious was they kept cutting from the two of them having a remarkably adult conversation to first a talking head from Jeff, clearly unimpressed and quoting things Reagan had said to him about Reece, then cutting to Reece in a talking head saying what Reagan had told Jeff. 

It was, frankly, one of Bravo’s finest reality show scenes, ever.

JEFF: “Well, Reagan told me he was a huge Saints fan, so she said he’s going to have a man crush on me.”

REECE: “I’m a huge Saints fan, so I’m really excited to meet him. I already have kind of a man crush on him.”

JEFF: “And I was on the Super Bowl team. He got a Saints tattoo on his side after we won the Super Bowl, so he probably wants to date ME.”

RRECE: “He was on the Super Bowl team! Hell, I’d like to date HIM.”

And so forth.

It was amazing.

And just like that, I was sucked into Southern Charm New Orleans, damn you to hell, Bravo. I was ready to bail on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and even starting to tire somewhat of The Real Housewives of New York (still the gold standard, but still not as good as it was), and so I was almost free of my Bravo addiction….and then, of all things, Southern Charm New Orleans pulled me back in.

Sigh. And now back to the spice mines.

Know your status, peeps.

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Young Hearts Run Free

I continue to watch Chernobyl, which is mesmerizing as it is horrible. I am now up to episode four, and can’t look away. It’s horrifying and amazing and terrifying and so bleak, and perhaps the thing I can’t get out of my head is you were alive when this happened and was being reported in the news and I don’t ever recall knowing it was this bad–it was bad, but I never knew it was THIS bad.

And that is terrifying, so terrifying that it upsets my stomach and makes my blood run cold.

It is also a very cold, analytical look at what happens during a major disaster in a country where the news is under government control, and when a government is not only authoritarian, but where everyone is afraid to tell the next person higher up in the chain the truth when it’s bad news. It’s heartbreaking, and done in an almost documentary style. There was a point last night when watching that I thought, why are they all outside around the facility without any kind of shielding from the radiation? 

And then realized at that time, it no longer mattered; they were already so badly exposed their lives were essentially over. “Within five years,” is what they were told, and what they tell each other.

Absolutely horrific.

I didn’t get much writing done yesterday because I am at the point in the book where social issues come into play, and I am struggling because I don’t know how to make the points I want to make without sounding preachy or too “ABC After School Special”; I suppose the thing to do is not worry about any of that stuff because I can tighten and clean it up later, but when I am in the midst of writing I never think that way until the following morning, as I gaze bleary-eyed outside my windows into the grayness of the early dawn–you know, after I squandered my writing time the day before struggling.

Heavy sigh.

But in other good news, I have now slept well for two successive nights, which is lovely, and I woke up this morning without a problem when the alarm went off. Hopefully, that means not only will I make it through this long, long day, but won’t be bone-tired and exhausted when I get home. Of course, it’s Tuesday which means it’s a Real Housewives night, but frankly I find the Beverly Hills franchise to be rather boring this season. Perhaps some day I’ll write an entry about these shows and why I watch them, and what entertainment I get from them–but as Camille Paglia (whom I utterly detest, she is completely vile) once said, these shows replaced soaps, and the viewers are the same people who watched soaps; there is something camp and over-the-top about these shows, and the line between entertainment and reality has become so blurred with them that it is, actually, very soap-like; soap characters were like real people to their viewers, who talked about them like they were the people down the street. I don’t think Paglia’s analysis–it was part of a longer interview about culture in general–was particularly deep; it was kind of off-the-cuff and she hadn’t put much thought into the analysis, but she did strike a vein of truth with this, one that bears deeper thought and analysis and comparison (although I really disliked her comparing Tamra from Orange County to Donna Mills’ Abby from Knots Landing), and maybe someday I will do that.

When I have time. Because I have so much free time these days.

I also fell down into a rabbit hole yesterday–which, while a lot of fun, was also an enormous time-waster. This morning, the curiosity I had about the rabbit hole which was so intense and couldn’t be ignored, somehow doesn’t seem quite as intense as it did yesterday in the heat of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am still quite curious…but I don’t need to be refreshing social media to see new theories or discoveries.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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