Santa Baby

A gazillion years ago I edited a queer Christmas anthology, Upon A Midnight Clear. Back when I was new to the business and wanted to change the world (oh, how I miss that youthful naivete and optimism–even though I was in my early forties), one of the things I had noticed–in my limited experience and knowledge of all things publishing, including the queer side of things–that there weren’t many Christmas stories from a queer perspective or with a gay man as the center of the story. (A major exception to this was Jim Grimsley’s beautiful novel Comfort and Joy, which is still one of my favorite gay novels; he also published a short story excerpted from the book that was published in one of the Men on Men anthologies–the story was also called “Comfort and Joy”. When I signed the contract for the Christmas anthology, you can best be sure I immediately emailed Jim and asked for reprint rights, which he very graciously granted.) So I decided to combat this by doing a Christmas-themed anthology for gay men, by and about and for gay men. I later found out that there had been a previous one (edited by Lawrence Schimel, if I am remembering correctly), and there have been some books and stories and novellas since then.

As is my wont, I tend to forget about Upon a Midnight Clear–it was, after all, pre-Katrina and pre-Incident–but every once in a while I remember it and think about it….and it’s usually because I opened the introduction by quoting Bette Davis as Margo in All About Eve: “I detest cheap sentimentality”–it’s a favorite quote of mine, and it pops into my head all the time, and I used it in this instance to express how annoyingly sappy most fiction–be it short stories, novels, television shows, or films–can be when it centers Christmas. It was a labor of love in some ways–for me especially, trying to reinvent my own feelings about the season–and it might be time for me (or preferably, someone else) to take another run at another gay Christmas anthology; Upon a Midnight Clear has been out of print since 2007, and while i know there have been others in the years since, I kind of would love to do another one…or perhaps one of Christmas noir.

Ooooh, I really like the sound of that.

I made some good progress on Chapter 18 yesterday, and fully intend to finally wrap that chapter up tonight and perhaps begin Chapter 19. It’s very cold again this morning in the Lost Apartment, but I have solved that issue–someone suggested to me on Facebook (I believe it was Carolyn Haines) that I buy electric blankets, and it was literally one of those moments when you think duh, how fucking stupid am I, really? In my own defense, I’ve never owned an electric blanket and we never had any when i was growing up, so I have no experience with them and it probably would have never occurred to me to get one. I ordered two from Macy’s, they arrived last week, and Paul and I broke them out last night while we were watching The Hardy Boys (which I am really enjoying much more than I ever thought I would), and yes, game changer. I am sitting at my desk right now wearing sweats, a ski cap (purple and gold LSU of course) and my electric blanket is covering my lap and it is MARVELOUS, just as it was last night.

And Scooter was absolutely in heaven last night with the electric blankets.

Today I am working from home and slept amazingly well last night; I also stayed up longer than I had intended to, which also had something to do with it. I had some writing to complete for a website–due yesterday-but the materials I needed to write about never arrived so yesterday I spent some time coming up with a work around, which I think wound up working splendidly. The writing I did yesterday also went swimmingly well; I believe my main character is really taking shape and so is the story, and I am very excited about getting this book out there for everyone to read. I am nervous about it, of course, just like always; but I am taking some risks with this book and I am pushing myself creatively. The more I work on this book, though, the further away another Scotty book seems. I had an interesting conversation on Twitter the other day (other week? who the hell knows? Time literally has no meaning anymore) about private eye novels, and I expressed that while there are certainly still good ones being written, the subgenre feels a little on the stale side to me these days; and I also confessed that this could have everything to do with my already having written fifteen of them. The stand alones I started writing and publishing in 2009 (or 2010; see earlier comment about time having no meaning) gave me enough of a break from writing the private eye novels so that I always came back to them feeling fresh and invigorated, much as how alternating between Chanse (serious) and Scotty (more silly) used to help me stay fresh with both series. I feel like Royal Street Reveillon was probably the best Scotty I’ve written in a long time; I was very pleased with how the book turned out, and from time to time I think well, that one turned out so well that might be a good place to stop–and then I remember I left Scotty’s personal story on a cliffhanger, and I probably need to get that wrapped up at some point. But once I finish these two contracted novels, I want to work on Chlorine, and there’s another paranormal New Orleans novel bouncing around in my head–Voices in an Empty Room–but I might be able to put that aside to work on another Scotty–although I have to admit there’s also a Colin stand alone bouncing around inside my head as well.

But then maybe my brain is just overloaded at the moment.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Go Rest High on that Mountain

Saturday morning in New Orleans, and all is well. I slept really well last night–the deep dead sleep I love so much, because it’s so revitalizing–and can’t help but notice that I’ve been enjoying that kind of sleep a lot more since I started back to the gym. Coincidence? I think not.

Yesterday, I’m not going to lie, started out pretty fucking shitty. I got up feeling terrific. Well rested, ready to get out and kick some ass this weekend; as evidenced by yesterday morning’s blog entry. I went to the gym, had a tough workout–the motivation was there, but missing Wednesday had put my body out of sync with the weight-lifting, which made it more of a struggle than it should have been–then I came home. I started doing the laundry (I do the bed linens every Friday), made myself a protein shake, started getting the dishes taken care of, and then sat down at my desk to check my emails and social media. My twitter feed was filled with homophobic micro-aggressions from people who should, actually know better; as I read through I felt my anger and gorge rise. I was just about to send a PM to a friend (who definitely should know better) when Scooter jumped up onto my desk and knocked over my protein shake….all over my desk, my keyboard, my checkbook, my wallet, the research books I’ve been using for a writing project, my lap, and various file folders.

I was not pleased.

That took about half an hour to get cleaned up (thanks again, Scooter) and by the time I was finished I was already behind schedule for getting to work and running errands. I have a tire with low air, so I stopped at a convenient gas station (there is literally only one that’s convenient, and even it is out of the way) and of course, it was filled with morons. WHY WOULD YOU TAKE THE BACK PUMP INSTEAD OF PULLING TO THE FORWARD ONE?

I suspect her name was Karen.

The gas station turned out to be an exercise in aggravation and frustration, so I decided to say fuck it and do it over the weekend sometime. Then I got stuck behind a garbage truck, and when finally–after driving all the way uptown behind this idiot going 14 miles per hour–I got stuck behind a street cleaner on Jefferson on my way to Claiborne. We’ll just pretend there were no idiots on their cell phones on I-10 because I just can’t with people who think a phone call is more important than their life and the lives of everyone else on the highway.

Seriously, days like yesterday make me long for the next meteor and extinction event.

By the time I finally got home from work,  I was essentially done-in and exhausted. I later attributed it to the lack of a protein shake–I mean, the protein shakes I generally have after working out are enormous and have a lot of protein in them; because it spilled I had to have one of those prepackaged ones, which only had about half the protein in it that I usually rebuild with after a good workout–so note to self: should there ever be a repeat of the Protein Shake Incident, drink two of the pre-packaged ones, or you will suffer later.

So, it’s a gorgeous and sunny day outside; it’s a bit chilly here in the Lost Apartment, but that probably means it’s warmer outside. I have to walk over to the Home Depot (I need to get file folders and a new little notebook to replace my check register; yes, I still balance my checkbook, and yes, I still write everything I spend down), and the Lost Apartment  needs cleaning. I am way behind on my emails again (what else is new) and I have some things I need to get taken care of today; I want to finish reading my Ali Brandon novel this weekend, and I also want to pick out my next Reread Project read. I decided that since it’s Leap Day I shall also spend the day working on the numerous in-progress short stories I have; I am also going to try to get the Secret Project planned out and back on track again today, so I can launch myself full force into it again tomorrow. I also want to try to use today (and my new file folders) to get better organized. One of the worst things about Carnival is you literally just try to tread water with everything and you inevitably get scattered, disorganized and behind…and then it’s so hard to get everything back under control yet again once it’s over. I may not get much writing done today–certainly I know I won’t get as much done as I would like to get done–but the most important thing is to ensure that I am organized, know what I need to get done, and that way I can start organizing tasks and start getting them done.

I also got a shit ton of books in the mail this week; some definite treasures, some from authors I’m not familiar with, and once again, I weep at the idea of all the books I will never have the time to read. I am perhaps most excited about Alabama Noir, from the Akashic noir series; edited by Don Noble, it has stories from some of my favorite writers (Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, and Suzanne Hudson, among others) and of course, it’s ALABAMA, which I still feel such a strong pull towards, despite having never lived there and knowing deep in my bones and my soul that New Orleans is my home. Do other people feel that way about the states where they were born, where their parents and family are from? Or is it just a Southern thing? One of the reasons I started writing Bury Me in Shadows was because I wanted to write about Alabama, and the complexity of my feelings for the state. I’ve done some Alabama short stories, and I’ve set one book in Alabama–Dark Tide, which was mostly set down in the Gulf beach area–but I’ve always wanted to write more about Alabama. I think the reason Bury Me in Shadows has been so difficult to write for me is because I’m really not sure what the state is like now; and yes, of course it’s fiction, but I also don’t want to indulge in stereotyping and I want to be able to write honestly. I don’t have the time or the money to drive up there, look around, and get a better sense of place than my memories–plus, the part of the state I’m from isn’t the most friendly for people like me–but you never know. All it would really take is a long weekend and a cheap motel somewhere.

And on that note I just heard the dryer click off, so perhaps it’s time for me to get going on everything.

Have a lovely Saturday/Leap Day, Constant Reader!

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The Heat Is On

Ash Wednesday, and Valentine’s Day, to boot.

Another Carnival is in the books, and a good time was had by all. We didn’t do as much parading as we usually do; me being in Alabama for the first weekend had a lot to do with that, and I was a lot more tired, physically, than I usually am during parade season. I suspect I am getting to that sad place in life where I am too old to handle the walk to and from the office all of those days in a row. I am, however, going to continue with my new workout routine and hopefully that will make a difference the next time Carnival rolls around.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

Today an anthology I contributed a story to drops; The Trouble with Cupid. I was very happy and thrilled to be asked to contribute a story–I always am thrilled and happy when I’m asked to contribute to anything, frankly–but therein lay a conundrum for me: what would I write about? I still struggle to write crime short stories, and this call was for romantic suspense, or some combination of romance and crime, possibly; and I was frankly absolutely clueless what to write or how to go about writing something.

So, I decided instead to write a sequel to my story “Everyone Says I’ll Forget In Time,” which I wrote a long time for the Fool for Love anthology, edited by R. D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert. In that story, Terry, my main character, was still coming to terms with the death of his partner; his best friends have decided it’s time for him to move on and set him up with a sort-of-blind-date thing; and the blind date turns out to be a guy he had a crush on before; that he met when he and his partner had briefly separated during a rough patch. I’d always wanted to do a sequel to the story, and even had the title picked out: “Passin’ Time,” which is a phrase we here in New Orleans use to describe waiting when you have no other choice; it’s most frequently used to talk about waiting for a parade during Carnival; what we do on the street while waiting for a parade to show up is passin’ time.

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I OPENED THE front door and Trouble wasn’t there.

The food bowl I’d set out for him was empty. The water bowl was upside down next to the cement step. He had a habit of doing that, I’d noticed. I wasn’t sure why, but it was just one of his quirks. I picked it up and walked it over to the sink and refilled it. I set it down and sat down on the step, looking around. This was the first morning since he’d shown up that he wasn’t out there, waiting for me with his eager eyes and twitching black tail.

And it made me sad.

You need a pet of your own, I said to myself, looking up at the blue sky. It was a gorgeous morning, not even ten yet, and already warm. The ladies of Iris and the gentlemen of Tucks had lucked out this fine Saturday before Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday was early this year, so I’d worried my favorite parade day might be cold—or worse, rainy. There had been a downpour on Iris Saturday a few years earlier, but the parades still rolled—the floats speeding past at breakneck speed, the marching bands and dance groups sitting out the parades—and I’d stood out there, soaked through and having the best time, even if my glasses were covered with beads of water and it was also cold out there. It had taken me a while to warm up again after that, curled up on my loveseat under woolen blankets and drinking hot chocolate spiked with peppermint Schnapps while I watched Endymion roll through mid-city on television.

Endymion.

I hadn’t been to Endymion since Paul died.

Trouble is a crime-solving black cat, I should probably add; Carolyn Haines has gathered an extraordinary group of writers together to write a series of books about Trouble; I hung out with the Mad Catters in Alabama at Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu, and even agreed to try my hand at writing a Trouble book, when I have the time. Every story in the anthology had to include Trouble (hence the title The Trouble with Cupid), and all proceeds from the book are going to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; if you know Carolyn, you also know she’s all about helping the animals, and I can certainly get behind that–given that we have somehow wound up with five outdoor cats and one indoor rescue.

I hope you’ll check out the anthology, Constant Reader, and I also hope you like my story.

 

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Monday morning. The weekends never really quite seem long enough, do they? Oh, it’s fine…I do like my job ((even if I don’t like waking up in the morning so much) but I’ve been going to bed earlier to make getting up easier. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I do feel considerably more rested than I used to in the mornings. This weekend is the first weekend of parades, but I am off to a weekend of events in Alabama, which I am, oddly enough, looking forward to; lovely people will be there, which is always nice.

I do hate missing the first weekend of parades, though.

Although….it’s not like there won’t be plenty of them the next weekend, right? It’s so weird how greedy  we are when we it comes to parades. There’s probably an entire essay in that, as well.

I didn’t get as much writing done as I would have liked this weekend–I never do, of course, I always think I can get more done than I can–but I am rolling with it. I’m not sure how much–if anything–I can get done while I am in Alabama; as I recall last year, we all hung out together all evening and laughed and laughed, and one of the attendees this year is Carolyn Haines….and if you’ve never met her, she’s good energy and she is pretty damned fun and funny. I suppose I can read.

Speaking of which, I did read two short stories yesterday, and I also read a novel over the course of the weekend (I’ll save the novel for another entry).

The first story was Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person,” which was published on-line and in print by the New Yorker last month, and rather went viral; it seemed like everyone was reading it and everyone was talking about it, and Roupenian came out of it all with a healthy book contract (GOOD FOR HER! Seriously, I never understand why other writers get so snarky about the success of other writers. I always see it as a win for one is a win for all). I didn’t read the story at the time–discussions and arguments about it were everywhere, and I didn’t want to be influenced in my reading by the social media furor. But yesterday, after my workout (yes, made it to the gym again!) I curled up in my easy chair and read it.

Margot met Robert on a Wednesday night toward the end of h er fall semester. She was working behind the concession stand at the artsy movie theatre downtown when he came in and about a large popcorn and a box of Red Vines.

“That’s an…unusual choice,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually sold a box of Red Vines before.”

Flirting with her customers was a habit she’s picked up back when she worked as a barista, and it helped with tips. She didn’t earn tips at the movie theatre, but the job was boring otherwise, and she did  think that Robert was cute. Not so cute that she would have, say, gone up to him at a party, but cute enough that she could have drummed up an imaginary crush on him if he’d sat across from her during a dull class–though she was pretty sure that he was out of college, in his mid-twenties at least. He was tall, which she liked, and she could see the edge of a tattoo peeking out from beneath the rolled-up sleeve of his shirt. But he was on the heavy side, his beard was a bit too long, and his shoulders slumped forward slightly, as though he was protecting something.

I thought this story was very well done, myself–but I can certainly see why it upset men, and why women embraced it. I don’t think I’ve ever read before such an honest depiction of a bad date and bad sex in my life. God knows I’ve had bad sex before, but I’ve certainly never written about it; usually when I write about sex its erotica so it kind of has to be hot, you know what I mean? Whoever writes about bad sex? There were times, when reading it, when she encapsulates a conversation into a paragraph of prose (then he said this, and she thought well this but said that, and so forth) where I would have much rather read the actual conversation, but other than that complaint I kind of enjoyed it; although given all the discussion I’d seen on line made me know where it was going–but that ending was so incredibly perfect. Perfect.

Then I read Michael Bailey’s “I Will Be The Reflection Until the End”, from Tales from the Lake Volume 4:

My sister used to collect cherry plum pits in her napkin secretly, under the kitchen table. A strainer full of mixed yellow and red and deep-purple fruits would separate us each spring, with a small bowl next to it to collect the pits–although mine were typically the only ones in there–and a plate beneath the strainer to collect any drips from the rinsed fruit. My sister was coy like that. Her lie had become our lie, and every once in a while she’d throw a pit in the bowl to make it look like we were being honest. She knew I wouldn’t bring it up to Mom, because that meant I could have more if I kept my mouth shut. It was one of the few secrets we kept from Mom in our  youth. Call it a sibling bonding moment.

This story is on the longlist for the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Short Fiction, and it is a beautifully written, moving short story. It reminded me a little of one of my favorite Stephen King short stories, “The Last Rung on the Ladder”–it’s a gorgeously written tale about a younger brother remembering his older sister, loving childhood memories of closeness that went away as she got older, and things went wrong with her. I absolutely loved it. I met Bailey and his wife several years ago at Stokercon in Las Vegas, and they charmed me completely; this is my first time reading his work, and it certainly won’t be the last. The only reason I can’t see this story not making the short list (or winning) is because I’m not entirely certain it’s horror; it may qualify, but not the in-your-face, jump scare or gross out horror–it’s a quiet horror of the Shirley Jackson kind; the horror of the heart from what life can do to someone we love.

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