Supermodel (You Better Work, Bitch)

I think the thing I love the most about the cover of A Streetcar Named Murder is that the cat looking back over his shoulder with the bitch please look on his face was modeled on Scooter.

I’ve been putting my cat into books for a while now. Our Skittle was Paige’s cat, and I know I gave Taylor a cat in the Scotty books, but I don’t remember if it was Skittle or Scooter (and I need to find that out).

I never thought of myself as a cat person, to be honest. I think this was primarily because I never spent time with cats when I was a kid; I had a dog growing up and most people I knew also had dogs. If they had cats, well, the cats were aloof and uninterested for the most part, but every once in a while I’d be at a friend’s place who had a cat and their cat just fell in love with me for some reason–I’ve always attracted people’s pets, which is cool because by and large I do love animals–but it never occurred to me to get a cat. Paul also had dogs growing up, so he always kind of wanted us to get a dog. Much as I love dogs and much as they love me, though, I don’t have the time or the patience to have one, so I always nixed the idea of a pet. But that first winter we lived in the carriage house we had a mouse–and of course wanted to be rid of it. “It’s an old house in an old neighborhood,” our neighbors and landlady advised, “and the best way to get rid of a mouse is to get a cat.”

A cat?

But the mouse was freaking out Paul–I wasn’t thrilled to have one, but could manage a cold-war of tolerance with one if need be–and so we decided to go ahead and get a cat. It was Christmas Eve, I remember that, and we headed down to the SPCA in the Bywater. We looked at one, who seemed interesting–orange and big–but when the girl opened his cage he hissed at us all and clawed her hand. (I know now that he was probably terrified, hence the reaction, but what did I know about cats? All I saw was a mean one, and if it would claw the hand of a caretaker, I didn’t know how well he’d adapt to our house and our lives…) But there was a kitten in a nearby cage who kept sticking his paws out and chirping at Paul to get his attention, and once Paul started paying attention to him, he was purring and rubbing against the bars trying to get to us. The girl took him out of the cage and he started purring even louder. He was purring so loudly they couldn’t hear his heartbeat. We decided to take him, named him Nicky, paid the small fee and brought him home. I walked over to Walgreens to buy litter, food, a litter box, and a carrier, and thus we had our first cat. We never called him Nicky–the only person who ever did was our landlady–but he was amazing. Very loving, but at the same time a good hunter who could jump really high to take a bug out of the air, and of course he was beautiful, just beautiful. During the evacuation for Katrina Paul and the cat stayed at his mom’s–and his mom was the one who started calling him Skittle, because he “skittered around playing chasing things.) We had Skittle for almost seven years when he got the cancer, and it spread very quickly. The day we had to put him to rest was one of the hardest days of our lives–Paul was so depressed he barely got out of bed the entire weekend–and the apartment felt empty and lonely without our cat. The illness and the decision had been so hard on both of us to make that I kind of didn’t want to get another pet because I never wanted to go through that pain again, and Paul felt the same.

We lasted less than a week.

I went to the Cat Practice to pick up Skittle’s ashes on a Thursday after work. While I was waiting–I always have to wait whenever I am there–I always go around and look at the cats they have looking for forever homes (while I always hate having to leave without bringing them all home, it’s also kind of sad if there aren’t any there). In a cage behind the front desk was an orange boy, and according to the label on his cage his name was Texas and he was two years old. I walked over, and he was so friendly and loving–purring and rubbing against my hand–that I seriously thought I should bring you home with me, sweet boy,

That evening, we were watching something on television that wasn’t terribly involving–I was scrolling through the iPad and Paul dozed off on the couch. Suddenly Paul sat up with a gasp and said,”Oh my God!” and insisted he’d woken up and seen a mouse sitting on the lip of our garbage can. I saw nothing–and I’d looked over when Paul sat up, but not specifically at the can, so I could have missed it–but I also didn’t hear anything. (I will also confess to not hearing well–I’ve always been hard of hearing, and now that I am getting older it’s getting worse, so me not hearing anything isn’t as conclusive as it might be coming from someone else.) I just assumed he dreamed it, but he was insistent, and equally insistent we had to get another cat. I mentioned seeing Texas that afternoon, suggested Paul go see him in the morning on his way to work, and if he wanted him, to go ahead and get him, and I would swing by to pick him up after I got off work.

Needless to say, not only did I go pick him up after work, Paul went with me. We got him home, he immediately hid under the coffee table, so we decided to let him acclimate. It literally took about fifteen minutes before he came out from under the table, climbed up onto Paul’s chest and started purring. His coat was a little rough, but within two days he was soft as silk. Paul loves nothing more than to cuddle with the cat–Skittle tolerated it for a while before escaping–and we picked the absolute right cat: Scooter loves to cuddle and wants nothing more than a warm lap or body to curl up and sleep on. He will literally come and howl at me while I am working on my computer because he wants me to morph into a cat bed in my chair.

So, of course I gave Valerie a cat, named it Scooter, and made him a sweet orange boy, like ours. When they were designing the cover, I did tell them the cat was actually MY cat, and they asked me for a photo to give to the artist!

I am delighted that Scooter will live forever on the cover of my book.

He’s a sweet boy.

Closer to Heaven

Yesterday was Friday, and I was tired.

Really, really tired.

I slept for ten hours last night and woke up still exhausted this morning–bleary-eyed and bone-tired. It makes me a bit nervous, as the last time I was able to sleep so much, or do deeply, only to still be tired, was when I was sick this last time, and whatever that was, I sure as hell don’t want to see it return again. I just feel what we used to say down south–“bone tired”. (Hmm, that’s not a bad title.) So, while I have things to do today–we need to swing by the Cat Practice to get Scooter another bag of food, for one, and I definitely need to do some writing and cleaning and organizing around here, if I have the energy–and in a worst case scenario, I can always simply curl up with some books or short stories. I did manage to do some reorganizing/rearranging of the books last night–out Netflix app on the Apple TV is all fucked up; I’m probably going to have to delete and download it again, which is an enormous pain in the ass. Our wireless was also running ridiculously  slow the last few days, so I rebooted the cable box and the wireless router yesterday, which signed me out of everything fucking thing and I just was too tired to deal with that shit last night. We wound up watching an incredibly bad gay movie on Amazon Prime–I won’t name it out of respect for the effort, time and money that went into it, plus I don’t like dumping on gay creators–during which both Paul and I dozed off here and there, before it was over and I finally retired to bed. I was also too tired last night to focus on doing any reading–which was definitely a lost opportunity, and one that I deeply regret. I’d like to finish reading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin this weekend; it’s really quite wonderful, and I’d like to move on to his We Disappear once I finish it. I’ve also got a lot of short stories to read–not the least of which is W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Letter,” and I simply love that it’s the source material for one of my favorite Bette Davis movies, of the same name–and there’s another one, by Mark Twain, about an incident that happened at the court of Charles VI in France (I stumbled on this story somehow; the true story it’s based on is detailed in Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, which is starting to seem like a really great inspiration for me, almost Biblical in its inspiration). Plus I have, as I noticed last night as I reorganized the books, The Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor and the latest Lawrence Block anthology–Mr. Block does some seriously excellent anthologies, for the record–and so there’s all kinds of good reading on hand should I have the mental acuity to focus on some reading today.

It’s also not a bad idea to read the stories I am currently readying for submission by the end of the month. Perhaps I should spend the day in my easy chair with print outs of stories and perhaps spend some time with some of my favorite short story writers. It’s also not a bad idea to revisit Bury Me in Shadows, which I have decided to completely overhaul–the problem is the main character’s age, but because I envisioned it originally as being about a teenager, I was stubbornly clinging to that idea, and it actually works better if I advance his age to having just graduated Pre-Law from college and readying to attend law school in the fall; this having a free place to live in the summer and a paying job that is relatively easy makes more sense for the character to agree to what he’s doing; plus it eliminates the entire what is his mother thinking in letting him do this? It will also require me to do some other tweaking (not that kind of tweaking, those days are long in my past, thank you very much), but I also think it’ll be stronger and a better story for it.

Which is always a plus.

I would like to do some work this weekend on other stories that are currently hanging in stasis right now, not the least of which is my pandemic story, “The Flagellants.” I’m not certain why that story is nagging at me; I don’t know what it’s going to be or how its going to end; so I guess it’s one of those stories that will reveal itself to me as I write it, which is madness, really.

Recently someone–I think Gabino Iglesias? I could be wrong–tweeted asking writers to stop talking about how much they hate writing, and his tweets really resonated with me. I don’t hate writing, but it would be easy to assume that I do from reading what I post, tweet and blog about writing. I do love writing; I love everything about it, even the frustrations and irritations–which I usually have to express to get out of my system. Publishing is an entire different subject than writing; I reserve the right to always be able to bitch about the publishing industry and its quirks and utter seeming ridiculousness whenever I please, along with the right to complain about being frustrated with the writing process at any time. But I want to make it very clear that I love writing and that’s why I do it. I love writing what I write, even though I am well aware (and if I wasn’t, have been told enough times by my heterosexual colleagues) that there’s not really any money in writing gay crime stories. But I like writing gay crime stories; I like writing gay characters, and I also feel like the full potential for gay crime stories has yet to be tapped. But I’ve dabbled with heterosexual narratives in my short stories, and if I am ever going to write a novel about straight people–or centering the straight point of view–the short stories are an excellent way to practice.

And…every new story I finish writing puts me that much closer to a second collection of stories, which is very exciting to me. I was originally calling the second collection Once a Tiger and Other Stories, but I am thinking about changing it to This Town and Other Stories, primarily because “This Town” is a better story than “Once a Tiger” and secondly, I like the symbolism of “this town” referring to New Orleans–even though that’s not what the Go-Go’s were referring to in their song of the same title, which was the inspiration for my story. (My original collection began as Annunciation Shotgun and Other Stories before metamorphosing into Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories.)

I also started writing a blog entry about my love of The Three Investigators, which will probably go up at some point over this weekend; depends, I suppose, on when I finish it. And there’s a shit ton of emails that need my attention in my inbox as well; but I just can’t face that yet today. Maybe later on, after I get some things done, I can spend some time answering emails (as drafts to send on Monday) as well as writing some that I need to send.

But I just heard the dryer stop, which means I need to go fold some clothes and add another load to the dryer, and my coffee cup is also empty and in dire need of refilling; my stomach is growling as well, so it’s probably time for me to push away from the desk, get more coffee, fold some clothes and then have some Honey-nut Cheerios–which has been my pandemic breakfast of choice these days.

It also looks like a beautiful day outside. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!


Saturday Night

Well, it’s certainly Saturday morning. I woke up around eight, yet remained a lag-a-bed until around nine-ish, and you know what? Not sorry, not sorry in the least. I clearly needed to rest more–the work week seems to take more out of me these days than it used to, thank you, aging process–and now that I’m awake and swilling coffee, I feel more rested and relaxed than I did for most of the week. I still intend to write a lot this weekend, as well as get some serious cleaning done around here, and perhaps this is the time for me to finish reading Jamie Mason’s superb The Hidden Things, which is really fucking fantastic. She reminds me, in voice, style, and plotting, a lot of the great Patricia Highsmith. As I get deeper into the book and the stylish complexity of the plot becomes deeper and more tangled than I could have ever imagined when I read page one, I despair of the things that keep me from having more time to read so I can finish this exquisite gem of a novel. I am perhaps just over half-finished–which should give you an indication of how tired I’ve been lately; it’s taking me a really long time to finish this book–certainly longer than it should, given it’s consistent high quality.

The Anthony nomination this week (I still can’t believe it, to be honest) effectively derailed my entire week–but only because I allowed myself to bask in the glow of the enormous pat in the back from my colleagues, as well as the flood of congratulatory messages, posts, comments, and tweets. But now we’re in the afterglow stage of having to come back to earth and reality and get my life back together and on track yet again, particularly when it comes to writing. I really couldn’t afford to lose the days of writing I lost this week through my self-indulgence, and yet I did lose them. Chapter Eleven of the WIP has been a bitch to write; I started this past week and got about halfway through, and now have to go back to finish it and see if I can get on some kind of roll with writing it. I am going to try something; I am going to try finishing that chapter today and then move on to some short stories that have been languishing in my files for a while. Last night–or more properly, sometime yesterday–I finally figured out how to fix my story “And The Walls Came Down”; it’s a shift in the plot which will require some extreme changing. I also want to revise “This Thing of Darkness” one more time, and I’d like to get some done on my lengthy short story that is turning into a novella, “Never Kiss a Stranger.”

We watched Widows last night, which was good, but could have been better. The acting was topnotch, as were the relationships between the women–but the plot was so complicated and twisted I wasn’t sure I was actually following it and knew what was going on for most of the movie; that could also be entirely my fault. But Viola Davis is one of the finest actresses of our time, and I would watch her in anything, to be honest; her performances are always complex, nuanced, and brilliant.

We also need to catch up on Fosse/Verdonwhich I can’t recommend highly enough, and we have yet to start season two of Killing Eve, which I am also excited about watching; although I am very worried about sophomore slump; season one was so brilliant and fantastic that I have concerns that the second season won’t pass muster.

Today I have to go by the Cat Practice to get another bag of Scooter’s expensive food (no, his Majesty is NOT spoiled, thank you very much), and then have to swing uptown to get the mail and make some groceries (not many, thank you Baby Jesus) before returning home, where I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing and cleaning (and probably doing some preparatory cooking for next week, as well). I may get the car washed as well; it’s looking pretty dirty, and the Uptown Car Wash does a lovely job; or perhaps I can put it off until next week, what with the three day weekend and all.

Yes, there’s a three day weekend lurking on the horizon, which is exciting. Huzzah! I am obviously thinking I’ll be able to either get a lot done over its course, or get a lot of rest, or some combination of the two, which would also be incredibly lovely.

I also have to start pulling together an article for Sisters in Crime for my diversity column. I have some ideas for it,  and I know who I want to speak to for it, but at the same time I’ve not been able to come up with an over-all hook for it. Maybe some brainstorming over the course of this particular weekend will do the trick for me.

And on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday!