Thursday! I survived Pay-the-Bills Day with little incident–by some mysterious quirk of the calendar and pay periods, I only had two bills to pay this time around (which means almost everything will fall due after the next Pay-the-Bills Day) and I also managed to get three thousand words written yesterday–yep, I got back on the horse and was able to dive headfirst into the writing of my next book again. I know it’s silly, but I always manage to do so despite all my worrying to the contrary yet that doesn’t ever stop me from worrying the next time around. I’ve also reached a point where I am no longer dreading having to do it; once I get started I just dig down into it and go for it, you know?
Which is kind of lovely, really.
I was exhausted after I finished writing yesterday, and even dozed off in my chair for a little while (having Scooter sleeping in my lap and purring in his sleep had a lot to do with it). Paul worked late again last night and wasn’t home before I went to bed so of course Scooter was super-needy and wanted to just be in my lap all night–even staying in the chair and waiting for me to come back every time I got up. I slept great again last night, too–I’ve been sleeping marvelously ever since my return home on Sunday (other than Sunday night which is odd), and hope the streak will continue again tonight for my work-at-home day tomorrow. It’s kind of weird that it’s the weekend again (almost) already; this week has kind of flown past, and that’s fine, I suppose. It’ll be February and Carnival before we know it again, which is wild. I’m not in good enough shape for standing at the corner this year, either, but we’ll see how it all goes, won’t we?
I’m still listening to the Hadestown cast recording and I am really enjoying it still. It’s perfect for the car on the ride to work–especially the song “Way Down Hadestown”, which seems particularly appropriate for the drive to work, you know? I also was reminded yesterday that I am appearing at the ALA event here in New Orleans a week from Saturday, and then the next weekend its off to Alabama for my twofer weekend, at the library in Birmingham and then again on Sunday in Wetumpka, which is becoming my favorite town in Alabama (I keep thinking it would be fun to write a cozy series based on Wetumpka), and then after that, of course, we’re in the midst of Carnival madness. Next thing you know it’s March and the Festivals are here…which is how time flies when you’re my age. Next thing you know it’s summer again, and then I’ll be sixty-two and then it’s football season again and so the cycle of time goes. My life generally is measured in terms of deadlines, which makes the time fly even faster. Heavy sigh.
I do think I am going to take a week vacation at some point this spring and not really go anywhere or do anything much other than clean and organize, maybe go see the World War II museum and the Chalmette battleground, or even just take a day to go exploring the river and bayou parishes. The only trips after Alabama at the end of this month I have planned currently are Bouchercon in San Diego and later Kentucky for the holidays again. I am thinking I may go to Boston to visit some friends I’ve not seen in a very long while–way overdue–and I am not sure how my vacation time got so whacked and out of control this last year, but I also traveled a hell of a lot more than I had in the two previous years.
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a happy Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check back in with you again later.
I have to say, it’s really difficult sometimes to be a pro-New Orleans person the way I am, but it’s not New Orleans that is the general problem, it’s some people. After the massive debacle around the Krewe of Nyx and it’s problematic and racist leadership (they defiantly paraded last year to non-existent crowds; maybe some tourists who didn’t know better were out there, but after the parade before theirs, everyone left the parade route), I thought it would be hard for any krewe to do a worse job of public relations or, for wont of a better word choice, reading the goddamned room. However, this past weekend the leadership of the Krewe of Endymion basically said to Nyx, “hold our beer” and named noted anti-Semite, misogynist, and homophobic racist Mel Gibson as celebrity monarch (co-monarch, to be precise).
I don’t go to Endymion–it doesn’t go past our corner; we’d have to walk to Harmony Circle (I keep calling it Liberty Circle since it was renamed, anything is better than Lee Circle) to see it–and I’ve only ever seen it on the rare occasions when it does come down St. Charles Avenue (rained out on Saturday; abbreviated route after Katrina), or when we used to go out that Saturday night, walking to the Quarter up the route (and getting buried with beads on the way)–so it’s not like I would be boycotting it anyway; but they did rescind the invitation but rather than admitting they made a HUGE mistake, decided to blame the outrage and cite concerns for their safety as the reason.
Fuck all the way off, Endymion, seriously. Yes, blame the outrage instead of your incredibly poor decision-making skills.
Nyx, by the way. went from 3500 members and riders to less than 200. And yes, that will wind up in a book someday–it’s too good to not use it, you know? Also of note: that last pre-pandemic Mardi Gras, back in 2020? Two people were killed by floats during parades that season–at Nyx and Endymion. Perhaps the gods of Carnival were letting us know in advance?
Then again, Carnival has a horrifically exclusionary and racist past we tend to gloss over a lot here (read Lords of Misrule sometime).
It’s dark out this morning and I didn’t sleep as great last night as I would have liked, which is fine. This is my last day in the office this week, and of course tomorrow morning I’m off to New York, so if I’m tired, I’m tired. I did manage another three thousand words on the book yesterday–it really is going well, and I am actually enjoying writing it, to be completely honest–and I managed to get some chores done yesterday when I got home from work–the dishes, mostly. Tonight I’ll need to pack; the flight isn’t until 12:15 tomorrow, so I don’t have to leave for the airport until almost ten, so I can sleep a little later than usual on a Wednesday; which will prepare me for the insomnia of the hotel…which I honestly am hoping won’t be the case this time. After doing the chores last night and writing, I watched a documentary about the Eastern Roman Empire for a while before switching over to the national title game–which was kind of boring and not much fun to watch; I mean, what the hell, TCU? And how on earth did they beat Michigan? Ohio State was a missed field goal in the closing seconds away from playing in the title game; and they lost to Michigan at home. I know it’s pointless to do comparative scoring and so forth because every game day is different, but I can guarantee you neither Alabama nor Tennessee would have gotten rolled 65-7. Hell, even LSU played Georgia better in the conference championship game and they played terribly. I guess the only teams capable of stopping Georgia from doing what no one else has ever done–three in a row–are from our conference.
But it will be fun watching Georgia fans become even more hated than Alabama’s this coming year. And they play in Knoxville this next season. The 2023 season, I think, is going to be even more interesting to watch than this year’s.
You heard it here first.
I need to make a packing list today, too. I already checked the weather for the weekend and it won’t be much worse than it is here when it gets wintery, so that’s bearable for me. Hat, jacket and gloves are all I need, and I think I can manage without getting super cold and whiny, so we’ll see how all that goes. I’m actually more than a little excited about the trip, to be honest. This may be my last trip to New York for quite some time and I am not going to be there for very long; That Bitch Ford has done an absolutely marvelous job of Julie McCoy-ing our weekend up there; we’re going to see a play (Hadestown), to Chinatown, and we’re going to a noodle place, too–I love noodles–and I am meeting others for drinks and so forth–it’s quite marvelous, really. I just hate the drudgery and getting to and from the airport, and the flights themselves–although usually once I am on the plane and have my book open in my lap, I don’t mind the flights quite as much–and I have no plans for tomorrow evening, so hopefully once I am checked into the hotel and unpacked, I can write for a while and then read myself to sleep…or watch a movie on my laptop, or something. It should be a great trip, and I even have the Monday holiday off so I can recover as well as do things to get ready for the week without having to do it around going to the office.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.
It’s always amused me that Santa is an anagram for Satan.
They may even be the only anagrams possible for each word, too.
We’re in a severe weather alert, but mostly the fear is flooding and torrential rain–the massive area under tornado watch is north of here–and it’s dark outside this morning as I sip my coffee and write this. My sleep was spotty again last night–waking up occasionally before falling back asleep again–but I do feel rested, and that’s the most important thing. Progress was made on the book yesterday, which is terrific and ever-so-pleasing to me. I did my errands yesterday after work without issue, but of course once I was home and had worked on the book for awhile, was terribly tired. I cannot allow that to happen when I get home this evening, as there are dishes to be put away and another load to be put into the washer. I’d like to spend some more time with A Walk on the Wild Side this evening as well; I need to finish it if I want to read the new Donna Andrews on Christmas day.
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is next weekend already. It doesn’t seem like it, but what would be really lovely–if it’s not a downpour when I get home from work tonight–would be to take a walk around the neighborhood and through the Garden District documenting decorations. I should make a point of this every year during Christmas and Carnival, frankly. I’ve never seen a city before that loved to decorate as much as New Orleans does–or does it even remotely as well.
But the coffee is good this morning and it’s getting light outside–grayish, really–and hopefully I won’t get rained on while driving to work. (Note to self: if it isn’t raining, bring umbrella inside from the car in case it’s raining when I leave.) I think we’re going to buy our new refrigerator this weekend, which is good since the one we currently have is absolutely on its last legs. I wanted to gt one with the freezer on the bottom, but for some reason those are a lot more expensive–by an absurd amount. So, it looks like we’ll probably get the normal kind with the freezer on the top–or maybe we can spring for a bit more and get one with side by side doors, which would be almost as effective (it’s the bending down that’s starting to get to me), but we’ll see. I think we’re just going to go to Costco and see what they have.
Yesterday a friend posted a list of all the things she accomplished in 2022–which she compiled after feeling like she really hadn’t done much during the year, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much she had, in fact, managed to do. I was thinking about this myself the other night–not that I hadn’t done much throughout the year, but rather that I’d had a rather bad year, but once I sat down and started thinking about it, it’s actually been a good year for me; actually a very good year indeed when all is said and done. Oddly enough, when I sit and look back emotionally, without going into much more depth, it was a year in which my primary memories are tired and miserable. And yet…productivity wise it may not have been my strongest year, but it was still a good year. Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for two Anthony Awards at Bouchercon this year; it’s not the first time one person was nominated multiple times in the same year (hell, S. A. Cosby was nominated for three awards, and I think Tracy Clark was also up for two this year alone) but it’s a select group to be sure and one to which I am proud to belong. I have no way of verifying it either, but I am pretty certain it was the first time the same book was nominated in two different categories. Those were also my third and fourth Anthony nominations, which I think may also make me the most nominated queer author? It’s hard to say because they don’t have full lists of the finalists from every year anywhere, so you can’t really look it up and verify anything, so I hate to make claims that may not be true. But I think they’re true, and even if they aren’t, I am certainly one of the most nominated queer authors. The positive reception Bury Me in Shadows got on its release continued into the early part of this year as well, just as #shedeservedit came out. That one didn’t get near the attention as its predecessor, but it’s a book I am really proud of and am happy to have not only finished but published. I also finished writing A Streetcar Named Murder earlier this year, and I couldn’t be more pleased with its reception, either. I worked on other things throughout the year–short stories, some novellas, and two other novels (Chlorine and Muscles, to be precise)–and while I didn’t get a lot of stories out there and sold this year, I did sell a couple of which I am proud–one I can’t mention as it isn’t public yet, and the other being “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which I sold to an Austalian anthology and it’s a pretty damned good story. I also sold “The Rosary of Broken Promises” to an Anne Rice tribute anthology, and I still have one out on submission. “This Thing of Darkness” was in Cupid Shot Me, an anthology that was released on Valentine’s Day last year–so yeah, that’s at least four stories, and there’s another anthology that’s supposed to come out sometime this month which has my story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” in it.
I also edited the Bouchercon anthology, which took up a lot of my time between January and June. Land of 10000 Thrills is a great anthology, with some absolutely amazing contributors and great stories, and the contributors themselves were not only amazing talents but delights to work with. The anthology caused me a lot more stress than editing an anthology used to–primarily because there were so many demands on my time this past year, which I think is part of the reason I felt miserable for most of the year; my massive to-do list never seemed to get finished and always seemed to keep growing. It satisfies my OCD and need for completion to finish to-do lists, and it also subconsciously makes me think I’ve accomplished things. When tasks don’t get done because I simply don’t have the time or the energy to get to them, that makes me feel like I am failing. I also have to adjust my expectations downward, because I am older and don’t have the energy I used to have–and I really don’t want or need to start taking any kind of stimulant. I probably should cut back on the coffee, frankly.
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.
It’s probably hard to imagine what Southern Decadence is like unless you’ve actually been to it; even the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken and shared on social media over the years can’t even remotely begin to get the concept of what it’s like across–the same as Carnival, really; it has to be seen and experienced to be truly understood. My first Southern Decadence was in 1995, which was around the twenty-second or third time it was held; my knowledge of Decadence, primarily from urban legend and tales told from one gay to another and passed down over the years, is sketchy and probably untrustworthy (if you’d like the unvarnished truth and read about the history, I highly recommendSouthern Decadence in New Orleans from LSU Press, co-written by Frank Perez and Howard Philips Smith; I have a copy and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be, but the story is it began as a bar crawl for a friend who was moving away, and grew from those humble beginnings into a massive event that draws queers from all over the world).
That first Decadence I came to was also one of the hottest, temperature wise, or perhaps it was simply because I wasn’t used to the summers in New Orleans yet since I didn’t live here. I just remember being in Oz one afternoon and just soaked in my own sweat, and going down the back staircase from the second floor–the staircase that opens out onto the dance floor–and having to hold onto the railing because the steps were slick and wet. The railing was also wet, and when I touched the walls so were they–all the humidity and body heat and sweat–but at the same time it was so much fun. Gorgeous, flirty and friendly men everywhere, everyone scantily dressed and getting wasted and just having a good time. This was during the height of the circuit parties, most of which have died off over the years–there’s no longer a Hotlanta weekend in Atlanta in mid-August anymore, for example–but back then, it seemed like every month if you had the time and the money there was a circuit party somewhere you could fly off to and be yourself and have fun being in an entirely gay environment for a few days. That was, for me, one of the primary appeals of circuit parties and gay bars–they were safe havens for everyone to be out and proud and loud…and after a few weeks navigating the straight world for work and play and life in general…it was lovely to let loose in, for want of a better word, a safe space.
Circuit parties also had their downsides, don’t get me wrong–Michelangelo Signorile detailed some of those in his book Life Outside, which got taken out of context an awful lot–drug use and rampant sex and bad choices also led to other problems, not to mention the spread of HIV and other STI’s; the very first time I ever went to a circuit party–Halloween in New Orleans, 1995–there was a very Masque of the Red Death feel to it; here were all these gay men crowded into a riverfront warehouse, doing drugs and dancing and having a great time while the plague raged outside the doors. I even wrote about that in my diary on the flight back to Tampa a few days later.
But Decadence was always my favorite, out of all of them, and it was something I looked forward to every year. My workouts were always planned so I would hit peak physical condition for Decadence and maintain through Halloween, before starting to work on the Carnival body. It feels weird to talk about it that way, but that was my mentality and my schedule for years. Bulk up for a couple of months, then lean down leading into the event.
I had always wanted to write about Southern Decadence, and I know I’ve written about how I came up with the idea for the book numerous times; standing on the balcony at the Pub watching one of the strippers fight his way through the mob of gay men to get to the Pub so he could work, Paul saying you really should write a book about Southern Decadence and seeing a scene vividly in my head as I looked down at the sea of sweating gay men. I’ve also written about where the idea for the character and his family came from. So what is there left for me to say about Bourbon Street Blues?
The name’s Dansoir. Dick Dansoir.
Okay, so that really isn’t my name. It’s my stage name from the days when I was on the go-go boy circuit. I started when I was in college, at Vanderbilt up in Nashville. As with almost everything that goes on in my life, I became a go-go boy on a fluke. The Goddess brings interesting experiences into my life all the time. Sometimes I don’t think it’s all that great, to tell the truth, but she always seems to be watching out for me.
I was working out at my gym one day when this guy came up to me and asked me if I wanted to make some easy money.
Like I hadn’t heard that one before.
I was twenty-one at the time, just turned, but I wasn’t some wide-eyed dopey innocent. I was raised in the French Quarter, after all, and by the time I went off to college at age eighteen I had pretty much seen everything. French Quarter kids have a lot more life experience than other kids their age. You can’t really help it. The French Quarter is like Disneyland for adults, and growing up there, you get used to seeing things that other people can only imagine.
Anyway, this guy said he was a booking agent and scout for this agency that booked dancers in gay bars throughout the deep South. The troupe was called Southern Knights.
“You can make a lot of money this way,” he said to me above the sounds of people grunting and weights clanging. “You’ve got the look we like.”
I looked at myself in one of the mirrors that are everywhere in gyms. I was wearing a white tank top and a pair of black nylon jogging shorts. I was pumped up from lifting, and if I did say so myself, I looked pretty good. I’m only about five-eight—nine if I have thick-soled shoes on. I have curly blond hair that’s darker underneath. The sun does lighten it, but that darkness underneath always makes people think I dye it. I don’t. I have big, round brown eyes. I am also one of those blonds lucky enough to be able to tan. I’d gotten a good tan that summer and it hadn’t faded yet. The white tank top showed the tan off nicely. I also have a high metabolism and can stay lean rather easily.
But scam artists are everywhere. I wasn’t about to fall for a line from some stranger in the gym. For all I knew, it was a trick to get my phone number, or an escort service, or something else I didn’t want to be involved in.
Not that I have anything against escorting. People go to escorts for all kinds of reasons—loneliness, fear of commitment, whatever—but they do fulfill a need in the gay community, and more power to them. I just never saw myself taking money from someone for having sex. I like sex. I enjoy it. So, it just never seemed right for me to tale money for doing something I like.
Besides, taking money for it would make it work. I prefer to keep my status amateur.
I got a copy of the book out yesterday and skimmed/read it again, to get another look and remind myself of Scotty’s roots and beginning. I realized yesterday, as I turned the pages of an ARC (yes, I still have ARC copies of Bourbon Street Blues available), several things: one, that the reason I always hate reading my own work is because my brain is trained to read my work editorially, to fix and edit and correct and look for things needing to be fixed (and I can always find something) and that second, it’s really been so long since the last time I looked at this book–or any of the earlier Scottys–was four years ago, when I was writing Royal Street Reveillon. So, by making the obvious effort to flip the editorial switch off, and having so much distance from the book that it almost seemed like something new to me, I was able to skim/read the entire thing without wincing in horror or pain or embarrassment.
Bourbon Street Blues was also the last novel I wrote that didn’t have an epigram of any kind, let alone Tennessee Williams: I started that practice with Jackson Square Jazz with a line from Orpheus Descending: “A good-looking boy like you is always wanted.”
Reading the book took me back to the days when I was writing it. The Greg who wrote Bourbon Street Blues is still here, I’ve just been through quite a bit since then and have changed because of my experiences. There were some sentences in the book I would change now to make better, but there are still some jewels in there, and well, I can kind of understand now why the character is so well-liked. He’s charming and humble and kind; sure he talks about “being irresistible” a lot, but that’s part of the charm. Guys find him attractive. He doesn’t necessarily see it, but is more than willing to accept it and not question it. He enjoys his sexuality and he enjoys having sex. I wanted Scotty to be unabashedly sexual and to have no hang-ups, carrying no stress or issues about being a very sexual gay man.
As I read the book again, I also started seeing something that had been pointed out to me over the years a lot–and began to understand why this was pointed out to me so much; an old dog can learn new tricks, apparently–but I still think other people are wrong. The book isn’t “all about sex,’ as some have said. Rather, Scotty sexualizes men; he sees them as potential partners and appreciates beauty in men. His friend David also loves to get laid, so they cruise a lot–whether they are at the gym (either the weight room or the locker room), a bar, wherever they are–and so people get the idea that the book itself is incredibly sexual, even though there is literally only one sex scene in the entire book and it’s not graphic; Scotty’s weird mish-mash of spirituality and beliefs and values make the act itself a sacred ritual, and that was how I wrote the scene; from a spiritual, commune-with-the-Goddess perspective. It’s also funny in that people are so not used to seeing world through the Gay Male Gaze that it’s jarring, and puts sex and sexuality into the minds of the reader.
The question is, would people think the same if this was done through the Straight Male Gaze, in which women are sexualized? Since this is the default of our society–literature, film, television–is flipping the script to show the Gay Male Gaze so uncommon and so unheard of that it triggers such a reaction from some of the readers?
There’s also so much innocence in the book, and it’s also interesting to see it as a kind of time-capsule: Scotty doesn’t have a computer; his rent (on Decatur Street in the Quarter, with a balcony) is $450 a month (ha ha ha ha, that’s what the condo fee would be now monthly); and he also doesn’t have a cell phone. The whole point of the book was to do a Hitchcockian wrong place/wrong time now you’re in danger kind of story; and that is precisely what Bourbon Street Blues is. I’d forgotten that one of the running gags in the book is that he never gets a chance to sleep much throughout the story so he’s tired all the time and just wants it all to be over so he can go to bed.
Another thing that’s dated: even in 2002, in my naïveté and innocence, the evil politician running for governor–when described by Scotty’s brother Storm as problematic–even he doesn’t support an outright ban on abortion–he wants to ban it but with the rape, incest and health exceptions.
Even in 2002 I couldn’t conceive of anyone running for statewide office calling for an outright ban on abortion.
How things change.
It was also interesting that I got two things very wrong in the book, too: for one, I was thinking for some reason the swamp on the edges of Lake Pontchartrain on the way to Baton Rouge on I-10 was the Atchafalaya (it’s the Manchac/Maurepas), and while I had always remembered I’d given Scotty’s mom a name in this book but forgotten it later when I needed a name for her in a different book–I had the name wrong. I thought I’d called her Marguerite in Bourbon Street Blues then named her Cecile in a later book; I had actually called her Isabelle. (I’ve even told that story–about the names–before on panels and been WRONG ALL THIS TIME!)
It was also interesting and fun to remember–as I read–that Scotty was also not looking for a boyfriend. He was perfectly happy and content being single (which was also something important I wanted to write about–a gay man who didn’t care about finding a life-partner, figuring if it was meant to be it would happen). I also presented him with two potential love interests–Colin the cat burglar and Frank the hot daddy–with that actually being resolved without him having to make a choice between them. I also had the book end with Scotty being slowly persuaded into becoming a private eye.
Originally I had conceived it as a stand alone novel, but the publisher offered me a two-book contract, so when I was writing Bourbon Street Blues I knew there was going to be a sequel. This freed me to leave some personal things open for him; I knew I was going to bring Colin back in the next book so he was going to have to choose between them, and I also knew the personal story needed to be wrapped up by the end of the third book, which was going to be the end of the series with everything resolved. That changed when I wrote Mardi Gras Mambo, but that’s a story for another time.
Bottom line: it’s a good book and I am proud of it. It’s only available now as an ebook from Amazon, but I hope to eventually make it available through every service as well as get a print-on-demand version for those who might want one.
Friday morning after the Edgars and I feel very drained emotionally and intellectually. Physically I am fine; I cannot believe how well I’ve been sleeping in a hotel up here in New York. I slept for about ten hours again last night–I’d forgotten how that actually feels, and it’s marvelous, really–so I am simply not going to question it, you know? We fly home tomorrow and today is one of those busy days where I am meeting people for coffee and drinks and trying to get all kinds of other stuff taken care of while I am here, and of course tomorrow we fly home. Sunday is going to be a regrouping kind of day, and I do get to work at home on Monday, so that will help me ease back into the regularity of what is my regular day-to-day life. I think I am already ahead of the game in that I am physically rested rather than exhausted, which is my usual when I travel. I have fallen behind on a great many things–April was simply a terrible month for one Gregalicious, and I think a lot of that had to do with being so tired most of the month. I still can’t wrap my mind around the way the Left Coast Crime trip just blasted me with both barrels; I was literally afraid that I couldn’t handle traveling anymore. But this trip has been marvelous; I’ve slept a lot on this trip (more than I do at home, which is even stranger) than I usually do at home, and the lovely thing is that when I feel rested, I feel like I can get anything and everything done, including taking over the world.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that, too. I’d almost forgotten how amazing it feels.
I feel like me this morning, and I haven’t felt like me in a long time.
I didn’t take a single picture last night, either. I tried to keep my anxiety under control before I had to get up and speak, and I honestly don’t remember what I said when I was up there on stage–I always just kind of go into some weird dissociative state (probably not that extreme, but that’s how it feels) when I have to do things like that (panels and moderating are different; at least those I can remember some things I said and can remember being up there) and afterwards I have to really focus on breathing and so forth to come back into myself. I didn’t do a very good job of managing the anxiety, obviously; certainly not as well as I controlled the travel anxiety the other day when we flew here. (That experience gave me the false hope that I could possibly start being able to control my anxiety in other situations..obviously, I was wrong. But hope will always spring eternal.)
I still can’t get over how late I’ve been sleeping in here. And it’s not that weird half-sleep thing, either; I actually am sleeping. Obviously it something remarkable since I can’t stop writing about it, right?
But now that this is out of the way–I also think the anxiety was subconsciously building all month which helped make April a much worse month than it needed to be–and my mind is clear again, it’s time to start making lists and figuring out where everything stands and clean out the email inbox and start ticking things on the list and making progress again. I feel like, in some ways, I’ve been in this weird holding pattern for a long time without the energy or the drive or the desire to actually accomplish things. I don’t know what caused it; there was an awful lot of burnout I think for some reason. Probably all the juggling and plate-spinning I’ve been doing, and of course the first few months of the year are inevitably overwhelming on many different levels for me. I mean, I was on-boarding a new board of directors for Mystery Writers of America; coordinating and organizing the Bouchercon anthology; writing my own book; and writing several promised short stories (the one due tomorrow the editors graciously gave me another week so I am going to really have to buckle down and do a great job on the story–no pressure there, and of course the festivals and Carnival as well as other transitions at the day job. So yeah, the first third of the year were kind of rough, but I am–at least this morning–feeling like I can get everything done.
There’s nothing worse than that overwhelmed feeling of defeat.
I really don’t like it, because it also starts a spiral into hopelessness and I hate that most of all. That’s the why bother phase, the “why do I try because nothing matters and it doesn’t make any difference anyway” and I absolutely despise that; I call it the Pit of Despair (thanks, The Princess Bride). I seem to have spent a lot more time in the Pit of Despair lately than I have in years, and I don’t like feeling that way.
Or maybe I’m just on a high from the awards last night. It was a bit overwhelming being in such a big crowd, as well as seeing people I’ve not seen in years thanks to the goddamned pandemic; I wanted to see and talk to everyone and chat and laugh and get caught up, but it’s also kind of impossible in that kind of situation and yeah, it can be a bit much, particularly when you’re socially awkward and much more of an introvert than you should be when your job requires you to speak publicly and be social and circulate and all of those things. There are so many weird contradictions and oppositions built in my psyche and personality that are constantly at war with each other…for one example, obviously I would love to be more successful than I am, but success also comes at a price. The more successful you are, the more public events you have to do as well as public speaking (things I am terrible at, cause me stress and anxiety, and drain me completely) not to mention the small talk. One thing I’ve never been good at is receiving compliments. I don’t know what to say to people when they’re complimenting me and my work…I just stammer and blush and say “thanks you’ve very kind” but somehow can’t engage any further than that because I get awkward and feel stupid.
And on that note, I am going to post this and get some work done. Have a great post-Edgar Friday, Constant Reader.
Here we are on a Tuesday morning with the time change coming and the weather shifting into big-time fall. Yesterday was simply beautiful outside; the sky that magnificent shade of cerulean I’ve never seen anywhere else (Italy has the most beautiful skies) and you can go for a walk without getting drenched in sweat. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner, with Christmas and New Year’s hot on its tail; and whatever Carnival is going to be is right behind.
Yes, it is that time of year again. HOLIDAYS.
I loved the holidays when I was a kid. Christmas meant presents and a tree and turkey and dressing and decorations and candy and no school for at least two weeks. Thanksgiving didn’t mean presents, but I always always loved that meal (we always had turkey and dressing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and got to eat the leftovers for days after). As I got older the thrill of the holidays slowly began to wane. By the time I moved in with Paul I was almost completely over them. Almost six years with an airline–which meant working on the holidays if they fell on your scheduled day to work; the airport never closes and neither do the airlines–had kind of robbed the joy from them for me; I could only see family sometime around the holidays, depending on open seats on flights, which were scarce, and spending them with friends wasn’t quite the same thing. We stopped putting up Christmas decorations when we got Scooter–Skittle wasn’t an issue; he’d go knock a ball off the tree, lose interest and go away; Scooter saw Christmas tree and decorations and thought amusement park! And since he loves nothing more than chewing plastic–the first time I caught him trying to chew on a string of lights, that was it for the Christmas decorations. And every time I go up into the attic, I see the box of decorations and think, should I throw them away? We don’t use them, and even–God forbid, knock on wood–when the day comes that we no longer have Scooter with us, will we use them again?
Given our history, it’s very unlikely. And while the Lost Apartment isn’t as festive around the holidays as it could be, as we’ve gotten older it’s just not as important to either of us as it once was. Sure, we enjoy buying each other gifts, and sharing them–Paul always wins Christmas, no matter how hard I try to get him something absolutely perfect, he always gets me something that is so incredibly thoughtful I get teary-eyed–and we enjoy the new traditions that we have come up with together.
And really, the true gift of the holiday is spending it together, unplugging from the world, and just enjoying each other’s company.
But it’s after Halloween now, so the Christmas stuff is coming out in the stores, and the music will start playing everywhere (thank God I don’t listen to the radio anymore). The Christmas specials and movies will start airing again, every television series will have a Christmas episode of some kind (thank you, Ted Lasso, for doing it in the summer time), and advertising will have a distinctive green and red flavor to it. I will inevitably start grumping about the serious overkill–and I am also not looking forward to this year’s noxious and untrue revisitation of the right-wing “war on Christmas” narrative.
My latest Scotty book, Royal Street Reveillon, was an actual Christmas book, set in New Orleans during the Christmas season. One part of Christmas I never get tired of is the way New Orleans dresses herself up for the holiday–and seriously, if you are in town and can get a chance to go look at the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, it’s breathtakingly beautiful; which is why I had the book start with Scotty getting Taylor his first sazerac in the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel. I wanted to talk about how beautifully the hotel is decorated, how gorgeous the city is in its Christmas finery, and of course–I got to talk about a particularly New Orleans Christmas tradition–reveillon dinner. It’s funny, because I have tried to write about Christmas before–I do, at heart, love Christmas and everything it is supposed to stand for, even if I get Scrooge-like about the overkill in mid-December–but I’ve never really had much success with writing an actual Christmas story. I tried writing Christmas short stories before, but coming up with something original that is also sweet and about love and kindness is incredibly difficult; it’s like every possible idea has already had every bit of juice squeezed out of it already (how many versions of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life do we really need, anyway?). I wrote three first drafts of Christmas stories–“Silver Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “Reindeer on the Rooftop”–but the first two turned out incredibly sad and depressing and the latter so saccharine sweet it made my teeth ache. I’d always thought of doing a Scotty Christmas book, once I decided to keep the series going past the original three; the original idea of the first trilogy was the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, Carnival–and then I thought I would tie all future Scottys around holidays; when I revived the series with Book 4, Vieux CarréVoodoo, opened on Easter Sunday and the end of Lent–which seemed appropriate since the previous book was set during Carnival (I’d actually forgotten about that). Of course, I moved away from that with Who Dat Whodunnit (which was around the Saints Super Bowl win, but also included a Christmas scene with the other side of Scotty’s family, the Bradleys, now that I think about it) and Baton Rouge Bingo…so maybe actually doing a Halloween Scotty book might be in order (I have mentioned this before, of course) since Jackson Square Jazz was set the week before Halloween.
And thinking of the kind of trouble Scotty could get into over Halloween puts a little smile on my face.
I need to buckle down and get to work on my book. It’s due in January and time is slipping into the future…so on that note, dear Constant Reader, I am going to finish this and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday!
I can’t even begin to tell you, Constant Reader, how unsettling it is has been for me–and I know this is an entirely a mental disorder of some sort–having that full laundry basket sitting on top of my unusable washing machine these last few days–to the point where I am seriously considering going to the laundromat on Magazine Street this morning an just getting it over with, you know? Annoying as it could possibly–and probably will–be, it’s really bothering me that I have that basket full and knowing that, even though the new washer is coming this Friday, the laundry will just continue piling up. It’s also unsettling because I usually launder the bed linens on Friday and obviously, I was unable to do that this past week as well. I am such a creature of habit–and such a completist–that it is unsettling to me that I started to do laundry and never got very far with it; I think that’s the real reason it is bothering me. So last night before I went to bed–we did finish the Gacy docuseries, and someone has recommended another one, that connects Gacy with Dean Corll, the Houston mass murderer who also targeted young men and boys–that I may have to check out.
It’s horrible, isn’t it, that watching these true crime serial killer documentaries gives me story ideas? I was scribbling away in my journal last night as we watched (we also watched LSU in the regional college gymnastics preliminaries; despite having an incredibly bad night, riddled with falls and mistakes, they qualified for the regional final–which tells you how good they really are. They have the potential, if everyone hits, to win the national title) and making notes; particularly for a short story idea I had a while ago for a deeply disturbing story about a young man being held by a psychotic, called “Oubliette.” I actually wrote the opening paragraphs while watching the docuseries last night, and I also realized that one of the primary reasons that the images of Gacy–those videotaped interviews are fucking chilling–bothered me so much was because Brian Dennehy was so brilliant playing Gacy in a TV movie back in the day that I always picture Dennehy whenever I think of Gacy, so adjusting my brain to register no, that really is Gacy and the reality is so much creepier than the Dennehy performance it was kind of hard to wrap my mind around it.
I wrote yesterday, and if I stick to my plan the book will be able to be turned in on Monday, which is lovely and also an enormous release of pressure for me. These final chapters are turning into something I think is kind of wonderful, but I am not entirely sure I’m going to stick the landing–I so rarely do, let’s be honest–and I am also worried about the length of the book; it’s right now already over ninety thousand words, and I don’t know that I want it to go over a hundred thousand–and at the pace I am going that is going to happen. I suppose during the editorial process I can trim ten to twenty thousand words from the book; Bury Me in Shadows also came in long (as did, now that I think about, Royal Street Reveillon) and will probably need some judicious pruning; I have until the end of this month to revise and edit it, with my editorial notes. I’m not sure why I started writing long again–but it’s also kind of nice; the last really long book I wrote was Mardi Gras Mambo and I was also beginning to think I couldn’t write long anymore.
Apparently not a problem. Although Chlorine really needs to be tight, lean and nasty.
So, this morning I am going to go to the laundromat (taking The Russia House along with me; I read some more of it yesterday), dropping off a library book, getting the mail, and making groceries. I also have a prescription to pick up, and a friend is in town and we’re going to have (socially distanced) drinks later, after I get my work done. I haven’t ha an actual drink–Paul and I were talking about this last night–since I went to New York for the MWA board meeting last year in January–Paul hasn’t had one since last year’s Carnival. How weird, right?
I can’t remember the last time I went for over a year without a drink–but it’s not like I actually missed it, either.
I am actually looking forward to being finished with this book, but am also glad my creativity is kicking into gear again.
And on that note, I need to get ready to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow.
Yesterday was simply a dreadful day, weather-wise; I imagine today isn’t going to be very much better, in all honesty. It’s 26 degrees in New Orleans right now, give or take. I am sitting at my desk in layers, the space heater going full blast, water is dripping out of every faucet to protect the pipes, and I’m about to go look for my fingerless gloves. FOUND THEM! I am glad Carnival has essentially be canceled for the most part–it’s too fucking cold, seriously. The high for today is predicted to be 36…which would usually be some kind of record low. But looking outside the windows I don’t see snow anywhere—at least we don’t have that to deal with. I am kind of dreading getting up at six tomorrow morning to go to the office. It’s going to be incredibly miserable, but at least then I have two work-at-home days. This cold snap is only supposed to last through the weekend, but during the ays it will get up to the 50’s and finally, by Sunday we’ll be back to the normal winter weather for New Orleans. It won’t be easy, but we’ll make it through somehow.
Our heat doesn’t work, by the way, so if it’s 26 outside it’s about that inside, give or take a few degrees. If I didn’t have to do a ZOOM thing later this morning I’d repair back to the bed with iPad and laptop and a book to read; I still may do that after the class ZOOM thing is finished.
My goal for yesterday was to get caught up some on my emails–I managed to get that accomplished, although even more have shown up this morning–and to print out the manuscript preparatory for the big edit/revise. This last one, while I may have called it the last draft, is actually a part of preparing the final draft; I wanted to get through the entire thing changing it from past tense to present tense, while also reading and getting an idea of what all needs to be added or deleted. This next pass through the printed pages will be where I make the notes to revise the language used, and then figure out where the new pieces I need to write need to go. The last and final pass will be a line edit, basically, where I try to catch all the mistakes and things that got missed when I changed things before. I am on track to be finished by the end of the month, or at least by the end of the first weekend of March, with any luck.
We got deeper into season two of Mr. Mercedes last night, and are still enjoying it; we only intended to watch one episode, and wound up getting through four, with only four left, which at some point today–it’s Fat Tuesday, after all–we will most likely finish the show off. After a slow start the season has really picked up; I didn’t really want to stop watching last night, but it was already past eleven and I needed to get to bed–getting up at six tomorrow is going to be hard enough, given the cold, and sleeping in really late today would not have helped that situation in the least–but it’s nice to know that it’s there waiting for us when we finally are ready today. I’m not sure if Paul is going to work today–well, he’s not going to the office for sure, but whether he is going to make phone calls or send emails remains to be seen. It’s so weird to be up at this hour on Fat Tuesday and not hear a crowd at the corner or the drums of the marching bands. I really do miss the high school marching bands; especially the public school ones and the Marching 100 of St. Augustine’s; “St. Aug’s”, as we call them down here.
While I was printing out the manuscript yesterday morning I did a deep dive into the Internet about the Three Investigators, which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best (if not the best) of the kids’ mystery series. One of the other things I was doing yesterday involved contracts for MWA’s upcoming mystery writing handbook, How to Write a Mystery, edited by the amazing Lee Child and Laurie R. King; so as I was reading an interview with the ghost writer for several of the Three Investigators books–including several of my favorites–and the name seemed familiar, as did that of his wife–so I made notes on the notepad that always sits next to my mouse to look them up and see why the names seemed familiar. Imagine my surprise when someone responded to the emailed contracts with an issue, and it turned out to be the ghost writer’s wife! That was why the name was familiar; I had seen it very recently. One of those weird, synchronistic elements of my life, I suppose, but it was still kind of cool to be corresponding with the wife of a Three Investigators ghost writer. The original author of the series, who created it and wrote ten of the first eleven volumes, Robert Arthur, also deeply interests me.
I also realized that, in some ways, I had mimicked The Three Investigators with the Scotty series: while the series is written in the first person, there are three of them; Scotty, Frank, and Colin. My original plans when I was a child for my own series initially began with a single character to hang the series on; it eventually evolved into three friends solving mysteries–and yes, the concept of there being three was not unique to, or originated by, the Three Investigators–the Hardy Boys and their pal, Chet; Nancy Drew with Bess and George; Judy Bolton and two separate groups of three (either with Irene and Honey, or with Lorraine and Lois); etc. (I’ve also always wondered, in the back of my mind, if having three precluded any notions of homoeroticism; it certainly existed in the Ken Holt series with his best bud Sandy, or in the Rick Brant with his buddy Scotty–which has also made me wonder lately if that’s where the name for my Scotty came from… since having three meant including a chaperone).
So, I intend to spend the rest of the morning straightening up the kitchen to serve as the backdrop for my ZOOM session, swilling coffee and trying to stay warm. So, on that note I am heading back into the spice mines, and will catch you on Ash Wednesday. Have a great day, Constant Reader, as always.
It is Saturday and I am also on vacation for a week. Huzzah!
I have a lot to do, of course, as always, and of course, LSU is playing Arkansas today at eleven–how far the mighty have fallen, to be playing a Western division conference game at eleven in the morning on the SEC Network–so I will undoubtedly watch the game while reading, making notes on things I am working on, and trying to get caught up while not getting terribly saddened by the game and how it turns out.
But of course, as always, the intent behind this vacation is to get caught up on everything, which is no easy chore, believe you me. I need to whip the book into shape and get it rolling again; I need to finish a short story that has to be submitted by January 15th; the Lost Apartment is a disgusting pigsty that desperately needs to be deep-cleaned; and I’d love to be able to finish reading The Hot Rock as well as some other short stories. I also have a goal to relax and get rested, which will also be lovely.
I am sort of looking at the vacation as a kind of reboot, quite frankly; a time to snap out of the writing malaise I’ve been experiencing for the last few months and get back into my writing again. Getting caught up would be absolutely lovely, but as I always tend to be behind on everything…it doesn’t help that Louisiana and New Orleans history is so colorful and fascinating that I will often go down a major wormhole triggered by something I come across looking for something else–I spent several days in the wormhole created by having my curiosity aroused by the Mississippi River forts, for example, and came away from it with no story ideas other than an amorphous Sherlock Holmes story and perhaps something more recent, but again, amorphous and not much else. I spent a couple of days immersed in Cajun and Louisiana folklore, looking for something I could use for the Christmas horror story, only to come up relatively empty-handed. I have the opening for the story, still don’t know what the rest of the plot is, and am not convinced I chose the correct Cajun folk story/monster to use–which is part of the reason I decided to give up on trying to get the story finished by December 1st.
I also have a sink full of dishes and papers and files and books stacked everywhere. Not good, not good at all.
Yesterday Rex–the main krewe that still parades on Fat Tuesday, and whose “king” (Rex) is traditionally considered the King of Carnival, cancelled their ball and also announced that, with no ball and no parade this season, they will not be naming a King and Queen this year. This came as a surprise to me–let’s face it, few krewes are as conservative politically as either Rex or Comus (who chose not to parade once the city passed an ordnance not allowing krewes to discriminate in their memberships) so having Rex cancel its festivities is indicative of the seriousness of the pandemic, really. I know a lot of New Orleanian traditionalists were still holding out hope that parade season would happen, but with Rex making this stand you can be pretty certain that the party’s over for 2021. While this is obviously sad–who isn’t sad that Carnival isn’t going to happen?–it also means that 2022 Carnival will be epic and balls-to-the-wall; I also hate that the last Carnival was the cursed Carnival of 2020. The Historic New Orleans Collection has a great article about the thirteen times parades were cancelled over the 150 years or so we’ve been having Carnival here in New Orleans; naturally, now I am thinking about writing something during a cancelled Carnival of the past.
It’s weird when norms vanish, isn’t it? I would have never dreamed Carnival would ever be cancelled, and yet, here we are.
But will people still turn out in costume on Fat Tuesday? It’s still a holiday, after all, and I can, sadly, see people turning out to drink all day and celebrate.
I meant to read some short stories yesterday, even got started on reading one or two, but after I got home from the gym I wasn’t in the mood and so none of them took with me; I hope to do better with that today. I did make it to the gym last evening, and it was lovely. There’s still some tightness and muscle soreness in my back, but it’s not nearly as bad it was originally, and going to the gym actually made it seem better, to be honest. We watched an episode of The Mandalorian last night–this week’s not being one of the stronger episodes, although the story of the Child progressed a little bit (note to producers: more Giancarlo Esposito, please) and then I fell into a wormhole of Ten Minute History videos on Youtube before retiring for the evening. I do feel very well rested this morning, and not especially groggy; which should bode fairly well for the rest of my day. The lovely thing about this abbreviated and bizarre football season is I am not vested in it other than in watching LSU play; and with the game on early today I should be able to get plenty of things done today (in theory, at least); but seriously, if nothing else, I should be able to make progress on my reading.
And on that note, those dishes aren’t going to clean themselves, alas, so it’s time to mine spice. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.
I finished reading “Death in Venice” last night, and it occurs to me that I might have been better served rereading “The Masque of the Red Death,” actually. I’ve not read it since high school, and yet it is always there, somehow, in a corner of my mind. There have been several instances, for example, in my life where the story has come to me as the perfect analogy for whatever was going on or whatever situation I found myself in; and its underlying theme–there is no escape from death–is one I’ve always wanted to write about, but whether to do it in fiction or non-fiction form; that is, as ever, the question.
Don’t get me wrong, “Death in Venice” was perfectly fine, and I can see why it is so acclaimed. It didn’t really connect with me as much as I would have liked to engage with it, but Mann’s style is so formal and distant that the characters are kept from the reader as a sort of arm’s length; it’s a very distinct picture of a particular character and I got a very strong sense of who he is from it–but he isn’t someone who particularly interests me very much, nor is the strange obsession with the beautiful young Polish boy Tadzio–absolutely pure, of course, and entirely intellectual; nor sordid thoughts of lust or physical desire to be found on that particular beach on the Lido in Venice, interesting. The extraordinary passivity of the man as he is subconsciously aware that his inability to leave Venice because he must continue to look at, follow, and stalk this teenager will inevitably lead to his death was something I never really quite grasped or understood; perhaps, as ever, I am too stupid to understand the big underlying point of the story, with my low peasant tastes and faulty, not classically educated intellect. It was sort of a Lolita-esque type story, and I think my tastes are too honed to favor writers like du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, and Patricia Highsmith to not expect there to be some dark noir twist to it at the end, and to be disappointed to not find it there. (I also thought the whole part of him having his hair dyed and his face painted wasn’t really anything to do with trying to look younger or because Tadzio made him care about his appearance more, so much as it was like getting the corpse ready for the viewing; but your mileage, as always, might vary.)
It has been a long, trying week, and like everyone, I am trying to muddle through the best I can using a combination of judicious amounts of alcohol and prescription medication. I love my day job (although I will now and forever always reserve the right to be highly annoyed by it from time to time), but even under the best of circumstances, it can be emotionally and mentally exhausting–and when you’re both emotionally and mentally exhausted, you feel that way physically as well. I find myself having to force myself to do normal, every day routine things; putting the dishes away seems like an unconquerable chore and when it’s finished, I need to sit for a bit. I watch the clock every night dreading the inevitable time I have to go to bed–because then I have to wake up to what has been almost consistently worse news every morning since before Carnival started, and somehow pull myself together to go to work. I also know that I’m lucky to have a job to go to every day, and I am hopeful I’ll remain lucky. But…my primary whine now is that I have to get up at six to be at work every day–yesterday, today, and Friday, at any rate–and that just is too early for me to be completely functional. But it beats the twelve hours days I usually put in when I get up this early, I suppose.
Today my goal is to get through most of my emails and try to get some things settled; as much as I can, at any rate, and make some decisions about things I have to make decisions on. Maybe tonight I can get some writing done; if not, I am going to finish reading du Maurier’s “Ganymede,” and reflect on the influence/effect of Venice on not only her two stories (including “Don’t Look Now”, which i reread this past weekend) but on “Death in Venice,” as well as whether I can see influences of the Mann story on her two stories on death in Venice. It’s an intellectual challenge of the sort I used to rather enjoy; the kind of essay and/or article I love to write that no one wants to publish or see from me. (And maybe I can find a copy of the “The Masque of the Red Death” somewhere on line free to download; all of Poe’s work is in the public domain, so it shouldn’t be difficult to locate, frankly.)
At some point I also need to get to work on some of these short stories and the Secret Project again, but who knows when that time will present itself again? I find myself so tired when I get home from the office–at least yesterday, and certainly those days of last week when I went in rather than working from home–and this getting up so goddamned early is also a challenge for me, to not be tired when I get home; although it is rather lovely to get home so quickly, regardless of the time of day.
Last night we continued with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is truly so much better than I ever dared to hope. It did occur to me last night, as we watched two episodes back-to-back, that the show is following the same trajectory as both Dark Shadows and True Blood–a small town with all the typical dysfunction any soap viewer knows to expect from a show centered in a small town; and how the supernatural aspects begin to amp up in an accelerated fashion once the show actually begins. Dark Shadows brought forth first ghosts and then a phoenix; after that came the vampire and the flood gates opened. Likewise, on True Blood, once Bill the vampire showed up, the little Louisiana town of Bon Temps began the epicenter of all kinds of crazy and bizarre supernatural events and creatures. I understand the necessity of it all, but once you go so far, there’s really no dialing it back. I’m glad they decided to send Sabrina to the witch school and leave her traditional school; by embracing the witch half of DNA and signing her name to the Book of the Beast it defied the way these types of shows usually go, with the mortal half always holding sway over the witch half, and not using her powers, etc. etc. etc.–which has always felt…contrived to me; after all, if Darren had no problem with Samantha being a witch and using her powers, 90% of the plots of Bewitched wouldn’t have been possible. (More on that later–and the implicit sexism of that show, which really needs to be explored.) But we’re enjoying Sabrina, and hoping that it doesn’t eventually–as these shows always, inevitably do–“jump the shark”–which is why we finally stopped watching Supernatural a few years ago (although we still love the show and remember it fondly; we have no desire to go back and watch the last few seasons).
And on that note I now have to go get ready for another day in the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, as much as you can.