My My My

Thursday and just got home from the hideous experience of having bloodwork done. I am not exactly sure when precisely I turned into such a delicate goddamned flower, but every time now I have blood drawn I get a gnarly-looking bruise on the spot where the needle went into my arm. Back in the day when my veins used to roll and they had to dig to get the needle in (always a most unpleasant experience) it made sense that afterwards I looked like I’d been hooked up to a dialysis machine. Now the needle goes straight in, without any pain, and yet I still develop a particularly nasty bruise.

Sigh. The bruise from last week’s blood draw just finally went away, and now I am going to have a new one. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well, and so it goes.

But at least NOW I can have coffee. I had to fast for this, especially since my quarterly bloodwork (for my PrEP prescription) had shown high glucose levels (I always have them done after I’ve had lunch as fasting is not required SURPRISE–blood glucose is high after I eat. IMAGINE THAT) so I definitely need to have a diabetes test run (better safe than sorry, right)… and I have to confess rather shame-facedly that the last time I had fasting bloodwork done I had coffee before having it done. Yes, Bad Greg, bad Greg, bad Greg indeed.

Today is yet another exciting day of condom packing and doing some quality assurance reviews of paperwork from work. I will naturally get caught up on Superman and Lois today as well as the two franchises of Real Housewives I am still watching (New York and Beverly Hills, although it’s more of a habit to watch these than anything else, really) and maybe–just maybe–there will be time for a movie as well. Not sure what that might be, but there are so many options anymore! I am also hopeful that there will be time for me to work on Chlorine and get some time in with Razorblade Tears. Paul is going to bring home dinner with him tonight–anniversary meal, from Hoshun (I’ve been wanting lo mein lately)–and then I guess we’ll either figure out what we’re going to watch next (note to self: find out if he wants to keep watching Loki, because if not, I can watch it alone) or he’ll do some work. I also need to bag up some more beads to drop off for ARC (honestly, we literally have beads every fucking where) and I’d like to get some more books culled so I can take them to the library sale on Saturday.

I wrote about 1500 words on Chapter Two of Chlorine yesterday; it wasn’t easy and rather like pulling teeth, actually, so I kind of would like to revisit (not reread; I can just page through it at random to get a feel for tone and voice) James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, which is one of my favorite books of all time; I feel like in this chapter I am being too wordy, which is always a problem for me with my writing–I over-explain, I tend to have long long sentences connected by and, I often fuck up the rhythm of the words, which greatly affects and impacts the voice and tone of the story. The problem with Chlorine is there’s a lot of backstory–and since it’s Hollywood during the dying days of the studio system–what is artifice? What is real? What is rumor? I also have the ability to mention actual stars of the period–even if they aren’t in the book itself, but can be mentioned in passing, which is a lot of fun–I wrote something yesterday about a female star claiming she was “up there with Hepburn, Crawford, Davis, Garbo; you can say Karla and everyone knows who you mean.” (And yes, I just realized that the Garbo-based character in The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann was also named Karla; although it did not even subconsciously affect my naming of this character–Karla Weiss the half-American, half-German Jewish actress who emigrated to the US to become a star immediately was someone I created way back in 1996, inspired entirely by a black-and-white photograph of a friend; I looked at the picture and invented Karla Weiss and her backstory and it’s been in the back of my mind for the last twenty-five years; she fits in here–and while I originally had her winding up in New Orleans and becoming a recluse for a Chanse or Scotty story, it could still work, I suppose; but she would be WAY too old unless I went back and set that case years ago in the past, which could also work….see how these wormholes form for me?)

Then again, who knows? I could open up the document and next thing you know words are flowing from my fingers like water from a spigot.

This, by the way, is why writers drink.

That said, I did pick up some mixers at the grocery store on the way home–grapefruit juice and margarita mix, as well as a salt thing for the rim of the glass–and am really looking forward to getting some Patrón on the next Costco run. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to continue trying to perfect the dirty vodka martini–but the last one turned out so terribly that I am quite literally afraid to try again. Perhaps I should get some gin as well? Hmmmm. Oh, Costco and your inexpensive liquor.

And on that note, it’s about time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow!

a

Tardy for the Party

Monday after the holiday, and I am sitting at my desk feeling a little discombobulated with this day off.

I managed to finish reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow yesterday (spoiler! enjoyed it!) and started PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus at long last. I am also enjoying PJ’s book–which I was fairly certain I would–and also somehow managed to clock nearly four thousand words in on “Never Kiss a Stranger”. So much for losing momentum, right? Yes, needless to say I was inordinately pleased with yesterday’s display of productivity; as I was thinking the novella would be around twenty thousand words, I am very close to having the first draft finished, which is also kind of exciting. It’s taking me a little longer than “Festival of the Redeemer” to get finished, but I am pretty confident I’ll be able to get it done by the end of this week, if not sooner.

“Never Kiss a Stranger” is very different, both in tone and structure and feel, than “Festival of the Redeemer.” I think what I am really trying to do with these four novellas is to write four vastly different ones, using different voices and different styles, pushing myself to create stories that make me have to stretch my creativity to tell properly. The point of view character in each couldn’t be more different, and of course “Stranger” is set in 1994 New Orleans, while “Redeemer” is set in present day–or at least recent years–Venice. I had already decided that the third novella for this quadriptich is going to be one of my Alabama stories; the question is whether it should be “A Holler Full of Kudzu” or “Fireflies” (I’m leaning towards “Holler,” mainly because it is set in the 1970’s; whatever the final piece will be should be set in the 1980’s, but since I am thinking it will most likely be a Chanse story, “Once a Tiger”….that will also be a present day story.). While I was originally tempted to use both “Kudzu” and “Fireflies,” the truth is both are Alabama stories, and I don’t want two of them in the same work. Of course, I could make them all about 25k to 30k and only use three…decisions, decisions.

That, of course, would make the book a triptich.I don’t now how long these things are going to end up, of course. That’s kind of the thrill with writing novellas–more room and not as limited as a short story, and no pressure to make it longer as there would be to turn them into novels.

The scenes I wrote yesterday were kind of potent, kind of sad–I think I was stalling writing them because those kinds of things are generally emotionally difficult to write, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was tired when I was finished for the day, of course, and retiring to my easy chair to read with a purring sleeping cat in my lap almost put me to sleep…but I managed to stay awake. We watched more of High Seas–only a few episodes left in Season 3, which isn’t nearly as fun as the earlier seasons–and Paul has found an Italian crime drama, Suburra, to watch next. I am a little out of it this morning, too–I had weird dreams last night, and woke up a lot, so am not feeling terribly rested today, and it kind of feels, I don’t know, warm and/or stuffy in the house this morning. Not sure what that’s all about…but I want to get this finished, do some straightening up around here, and I have to make groceries this morning. Then I want to go to the gym, and detour through the Garden District to take pictures of the neighborhood for Instagram before coming home to get cleaned up and write this afternoon. And then of course, tomorrow I have to get up early to go back to the office.

Heavy sigh.

I didn’t get nearly as much done this weekend as I had wanted to–par for the course, and I am not going to beat myself up over it, either; it is what it is–and I’ll try to get more caught up as the week progresses. It’s a short one, after all, and it’s probably going to be miserably hot. MUST FOCUS.

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

History Has Its Eyes On You

Ah, Independence Day.

That’s really what the 4th of July commemorates–the day the Continental Congress ratified, and began signing, the Declaration of Independence, when the thirteen British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard threw off the yoke of the King of England and his Parliament and said, nah, thanks–we’re going out on our own. It was extremely radical–particularly since the British Empire was the greatest power in the world since the end of the Seven Years’ War (to the colonials, the French and Indian War) in 1763; perhaps the largest empire to date in world history.

And yet…no rights for women and there was still slavery for another ninety-odd years, give or take.

Someday I will write an essay about American mythology and how I learned it as absolute truth as a child; American history (or rather, US history) was my gateway drug to world history. I should have gone into History as my major in college; it’s entirely possible that History rather than English (or business; I switched back and forth between the two for a very long time) might have garnered an entirely different result when it came to my academic career. But I also would have had to have picked a time to specialize in, and how on earth could I have ever decided? There were so many interesting periods…although inevitably, I tend to think my metiér would have been sixteenth century Europe.

Someday–probably after I retire–I am going to write A Monstrous Regiment of Women.

Yesterday was rather lovely. I actually slept late, of all things; I cannot remember the last time that happened, and thus got a rather late start to my day. I started cleaning up around the house, and organizing things, but again–a late start kind of threw me off my game a bit, and I didn’t get near enough done that I had wanted to get done. I did read a couple of short stories for the Short Story Project, and I also read some more of Robyn Gigl’s wonderful By Way of Sorrow; that was lovely. I also listened to some Bette Midler albums on Spotify (joking on Facebook that I was doing my part to break down gay stereotypes by doing so); in particular I listened to It’s the Girls and Bette Midler, before moving on to Liza with the Cabaret soundtrack, and the little known sequel to Rocky Horror soundtrack, Shock Treatment, and then moved on to the Pet Shop Boys. I made meatballs in the slow cooker for dinner, and then we watched Fear Street 1994 (which was remarkably fun), then a few episodes of High Seas (which is really fun) and a few episodes of Happy Endings before bed.

R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike, who were hugely successful writers of young adult suspense/mystery/horror in the 1990’s, actually had an influence on me as a writer, surprisingly enough. I read most of their novels when I lived in Tampa back in the day (I actually preferred Pike, to be honest), and I actually wrote three novels–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel–for young adults during that time. I had always intended to do the Fear Street thing–where the books were all connected somehow and minor characters in one would become the lead characters in another–and spread them across the country, as opposed to one town, as Stine had done; mine would be scattered between Kansas, California, Chicago, and Alabama (one of those ideas became Dark Tide and another Bury Me in Shadows). Then I discovered, through Paul, gay mysteries and all those ideas went into a drawer, along with those manuscripts, and I started creating Chanse and his world, and what eventually became Murder in the Rue Dauphine.

Fear Street 1994 is a lot of fun, as I said, both a mystery, a slasher film, and horror–the main romantic story is a lesbian love story, which was very cool–and it also slightly involved class differentials between the town of Shadyside (often called Shittyside) and it’s wealthier, preppy neighbor, Sunnyvale. It was a fun homage to Scream as well, and it was clever, witty, and quite a fun ride. I do recommend you watch it, if you like those kinds of movies. Nothing deep, but lots of fun, and now I can’t wait for the next part of the trilogy, which drops this Friday: Fear Street 1978.

I did try writing yesterday, without much luck, logging in less than a thousand words. But rather than despairing, as I am wont to do (Oh no! I knew I was breaking my momentum!), I chose to understand and recognize that the scene I was writing needed to be set up better–which was why it wasn’t working–and it needed more than just the cursory slide over I was giving it. I am going to open the document back up later this morning–probably after getting another load of laundry finished, and emptying the dishwasher–and scroll back a bit to start revising and getting into the story again. There really is such a thing as thinking too much about what you’re writing; that’s when the door to doubt starts to open a crack and Imposter Syndrome starts saying pssst through that open crack in the door.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe 4th of July, Constant Reader!

Together Again

Oh, wow, it’s pay the bills day and I didn’t even see it coming! How weird is that?

I managed to write 1500 words or so on a short story yesterday–AND I went to the gym. I slept well again last night, which was also pretty marvelous. It’s lovely to feel rested, as well as to feel awake when I leave the house, rather than walking and driving in a fog I don’t remember later. As such, my moods have been better and I haven’t been on edge, either. While this is all quite marvelous, at the same time I find myself reluctant to deal with odious chores or tasks–simply because I worry about opening Pandora’s box and releasing the demons of stress, irritation, and insomnia into my little world again.

The short story I am working on is called “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and it was one I had thought up in order to submit to the Minneapolis Bouchercon anthology I am co-editing with the marvelous Terri Bischoff. But I have also been thinking lately that I probably shouldn’t submit anything to the blind read; I did for the other two I edited, and my stories were chosen. No one ever said anything, but after the books were released I always felt a little uncomfortable because it could be seen as improper (the New Orleans story was nominated for a Macavity Award and the St. Petersburg for an Anthony, so that helped alleviate that somewhat), but I am thinking this time around that it’s better to not mess with it at all. I like the idea behind the story, and I might try to actually go the submit it to a magazine route, but we’ll see. Right now I am just regurgitating stuff up on the page that I’ll have to whittle down later to make it work, but I love the title and I am interested in the story, so will keep going with it and see how it turns out. I am thinking this weekend I am going to edit stories–I have one that was rejected by the last MWA submissions call that needs a bit of work, and of course, the novella; hopefully I’ll have a first draft of this one finished to edit this weekend. I also would like to do some reading this weekend–but this is all dependent on how things go with the tooth extraction. If I am still on painkillers this weekend, well, it’s not very likely I’ll be writing or editing or doing much reading–if my memory of painkillers is accurate–but I am not going to worry about any of that now, and am just going to proceed with making my plans. It won’t be the first time life interfered with the plans of mice and Greg.

I am enjoying writing again, frankly, and it feels very good, to be honest. I am enjoying going to the gym again. I feel like in some weird way that I am more of myself now than I have been in a long time, and I am not really sure what that is all about, to be completely honest; like I’ve just been going through the motions for a very long time and somehow in a dark cloud that turns everything into an odious chore, one more thing I need to check off the list, one more task to accomplish on the slow descent into the grave or something. Plotting out the Scotty is also turning out to be something a lot more fun than I had thought it would be; I am enjoying thinking and plotting and creating, and also thinking of other ways to challenge myself and stimulate myself into taking bigger chances with the writing and pushing myself harder. I’ve been thinking a lot about one of Michael Nava’s questions for us all on the San Francisco Public Library panel on queer crime writing–how do you keep your series fresh? It also came up during Laura Lippman’s interview on CBS This Morning that I watched the other day; and it’s a valid question. One of the reasons I stopped writing the Chanse series was a sense that I had fallen into a repeating pattern with the stories–and now that I am thinking back on the Scotty series, I am also seeing patterns developing in the last few books. I’ve already mentioned here about someone asking how many car accidents HAS Scotty been in?–which is actually valid; I think he’s been in one at least four times out of eight books–and last night I was thinking, you know, the last two Scotty books opened at parties–or rather, with him GOING to a big party, which then set up the story for the rest of the book…

Not good, Gregalicious. But this new one–working title Mississippi River Bottom, although Mississippi River Mayhem fits the alliteration pattern of the previous books in the series better–will NOT open at a party, and there will be some changes for the boys as well–no, I am not moving them out of the Quarter, no worries on that score–but some significant changes nonetheless. For one thing, and I’d hinted at this in Royal Street Reveillon–Scotty has bought the building from Millie and Velma, who have retired to the Florida Gulf Coast (which will give me a chance to the send the boys to the panhandle at some point to solve a mystery). But I’ve also got a sticky note on my computer reading NO CAR CRASHES THIS TIME.

I also worry about repeating myself with short stories and the novellas, frankly. I was thinking about my 1994 New Orleans novella, “Never Kiss a Stranger”–and realized that the scene I originally envisioned for my main character meeting the younger man he becomes involved with I had lifted and used in another story, “A Streetcar Named Death.” I mean, there’s clearly no reason why my character can’t first see the young man on the streetcar in the early hour of the morning–it happens, and it’s definitely a way for people to meet in New Orleans, for sure–but there’s always that nagging worry about have I done this already? Is this story pattern the one I default to following all the time?

Sigh. It’s never easy being a Gregalicious,

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

Thieves Like Us

Day three of severe thunderstorm watches yet again–there was a tornado watch on the lake shore yesterday afternoon–and outside my window this morning is that eerie grayness, everything is wet, and while it isn’t raining at the moment, it only recently stopped. Oh my God, how well did I sleep last night? I took one of Paul’s sleeping pllls, and oh my God, what a difference that chemical compound made. I, alas, cannot get both my Xanax (alprazolam) prescribed by my doctor along with any kind of sleeping pill (I think Paul’s are lorazepam); and it’s probably best for the world that I continue to take Xanax to even my moods out and lessen my anxiety. But wow, after last night’s sleep–the best I’ve had in I don’t know how long–the temptation is there, seriously, to switch. I also feel level and calm this morning…so maybe, maybe, I should switch. I don’t know, but I’ll definitely talk to my doctor about it the next time I see him.

We finished watching Jupiter’s Legacy last night, which started getting much better as it headed towards the season finale. I still question the storytelling though; while I appreciate the back story of how they are got their original powers back in the 1920’s, it didn’t really tell us anything applicable about the present day characters; it was just here, you need the back story and we need the filler to get ten episodes out of this. But it was enjoyable enough, just not nearly as well done as Watchmen or The Boys–but seriously, there are so many tropes when it comes to superheroes and there are only so many names and so many powers, that in writing these you are always, inevitably, being derivative in some ways.

We then watched the first episode of the Kate Winslet HBO series Mare of Easttown, which has a great cast–you can never go wrong with Winslet or Jean Smart, who plays her mother–but the show is incredibly bleak. But really, whenever I watch something like this and it makes me squirm a bit uncomfortably, it also makes me reevaluate my own work and my own prejudices. I didn’t grow up poor the way my parents did; but we were very definitely working class when I was young–watching every penny, my mother always keeping an eagle eye out for sales to stretch her budget even further while trying to not do without anything, buying less expensive off-brands rather than the ones we’d see commercials for on television–and as an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever been financially stable–or if I ever was, it was a condition that didn’t last for long. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided writing about characters in dire financial straits; my two private eyes both are incredibly financially stable (Chanse has a gig as a security consultant for a major oil company; Scotty has a massive trust fund), which is also not very realistic (not that private eye novels are ever realistic; private eyes rarely, if ever, are involved in murder investigations where it’s their job to find the killer–if they are ever involved in such a case, they are usually working for an attorney representing someone accused, and they are employed to help find reasonable doubt for the jury–and now that I think about it, that very perspective would be a great approach for a Chanse short story or novella–I am still resisting writing another novel for him). I know I despise and hate monetary stress; which is one of the reasons I am loath to write about characters in dire financial straits.

Then again, it’s not like I am writing anything at the moment, despite my best intentions. I do want to get the outline for Chlorine started this week, and I’d like to get a short story worked on–whether it’s finishing writing one that was already started, or revising one that is already in a completed draft–and I also need to get my computer files whipped back into some sort of shape. (I have a tendency to just toss things into the files and not sort anything…which makes finding things a bit challenging.)

And on that note, tis time for the spice mines. May your Wednesday be lovely and bright, Constant Reader–and we are very close to the weekend!

Plastic

Sunday and a gray morning here in New Orleans. We’re supposed to have thunderstorms (some severe) throughout the day; of course I have to make groceries and go to the gym at some point–which means watching the weather to see when I can make a break for it. But other than that, I have the entire day relatively free; I finished the revisions of Bury Me in Shadows and turned them in yesterday to my editor. I think I caught everything; it’s a tricky manuscript. But as I revised and edited yesterday, I was pretty pleased with it, overall; which is a switch from the usual. I also realized one of my problems with reading my work once it’s finished is that I am rarely, if ever, able to turn off editor-mode; because I generally read my work with an eye to editing and fixing and making it stronger–and I use that mindset when I go back and read things after they’ve been published. I don’t know if there’s a switch in my head I can flip to make that change, but here’s hoping.

Paul went to a party last night–I could have gone, but was a little worn down from finishing the edits, so I stayed home and watched a documentary series on the Smithsonian Channel called Apocalypse: The Second World War, which was quite interesting to watch. Almost all of the footage used in the series was shot either by professional documentarians or journalists covering the war, or amateurs…I never cease to be amazed when I see how young the American military were during this conflict. World War II is endlessly fascinating to me, because it was such an enormous turning point for the world and civilization; the world was a vastly different place after the Axis surrender than it was before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. It’s been a while since I read any fiction about the war–when I was a teenager I read a lot of it, as well as a lot of post-war fiction–and I realized I’d rarely read any fiction from the point of view of soldiers actually fighting on the ground or in the air (other than The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, for the most part I read things like Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War/War and Remembrance, etc.). I’ve never read Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, for example, or any of the post-war novels that sort of glutted the market in the decades following. I got down James Jones’ From Here to Eternity–I bought a copy of the unabridged version, which was released by the estate sometime in the last decade, with all the parts the publisher originally removed restored–and I think I am going to take that with me to read when I go visit my parents later this month. It’s one of my father’s favorite books and movies–it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve seen the movie–and since my main character in Chlorine served, it’s probably not a bad idea for me to read it. I read the first couple of pages yesterday evening before I went to bed, and it’s actually quite good…so I am looking forward to reading it. After I finish the things I need to get done today, I am going to curl up and read The Butcher’s Boy with an eye to finishing it today, so I can dive into A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King.

One of the more interesting things about having all these streaming services and apps is the ability to find treasures like the Smithsonian Channel buried inside of them. As Constant Reader has undoubtedly noticed, I love documentaries, and now that we have such a glut of streaming services we pay for, I am now searching through them for documentary channels and so forth, and have been enormously pleased with what I have found thus far. (I also took advantage of a special deal for Shudder yesterday–two months at 99 cents each, before reversion to regular pricing, so am going to up my horror game for a while) There’s really never a reason to be bored, is there, with the wealth of streaming services out there? I can certainly always find something, no matter how obscure–which is also why I refuse to “rent” something to stream–although I am thinking about biting the bullet and paying to stream The Last Picture Show, which I really do want to see again.

I cleaned and organized and filed yesterday as well, which has left the kitchen looking–well, if not tidy, certainly in much better shape than it had been in–and I also started another donation box of books. I also want to start clearing out the storage attic here in the Lost Apartment, which isn’t going to be easy, and will certainly make a mess in the living room–which still looks like a storm struck it–but I really do want to start getting rid of things we don’t really need anymore, and there are a shit ton of boxes up there of unnecessary things. Progress may be incremental, but progress is progress.

And I should probably, at some point, start revising and editing the Kansas book, but I think I am going to take this week off from novels.

I started writing a short story this past week–really, just the opening sentence and a second paragraph–which also came from a novel idea. The book idea arose from a joke with some writer friends about noir fiction and noir covers, with their scantily clad sex bomb femme fatales; I joked that someone should write a noir about a strip club in the French Quarter and call it Girls! Girls! Girls! so the cover could have poll dancers and so forth on it; which then of course started the wheels in my creative brain turning and meshing the gears. A character I introduced in the later Chanse books–who eventually got her private eye license and he took her on as a partner–had worked as a stripper in the Quarter to put herself through UNO; I liked her a lot (even though her name is escaping me at the moment) and had even thought about making her the main character in a series, with Chanse as part of her supporting cast. But this was different, and called for a different character–for a while, when thinking about this, I toyed with the notion of an undercover cop or FBI agent; but then thought, in this time, could a woman be assigned to go undercover as a stripper? Maybe, but it could prove problematic. And then I remembered an intern from years ago, when I worked at the Community Center, who worked part time at the Hustler Club as a “shot girl”–her job was walking around with a tray with shots in test tubes. When someone bought one, she’d place the test tube in her cleavage and have to lean forward to dump the shot in his mouth. She hated it–she was a lesbian–but the money was so damned good she only had to work two nights a week and made enough to pay the rent and the bills and so forth. Someone could easily go undercover a shot girl–which, while still demeaning, wasn’t as demeaning as stripping. But the other day for some reason I was thinking about this again, and the thing that made the most sense was that one of the shot girls gets picked up by Vice and is forced to become an informer….which would make her walk the line between the cops and her crooked, organized crime employers, as well as with her co-workers. So, when the opening occurred to me the other day, I wrote it down and saved the file as a short story called “Shot Girl” (thereby adding yet another file to the “unfinished short story” list). I think maybe this week I’ll work on one of the unfinished stories in the drawer.

And on that note, it’s time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Mesh

Day three of heavy weather in New Orleans; there was a marvelous downpour around six this morning or so that lasted over an hour, complete with lightning and thunder. It’s still gray outside, not currently raining–but there’s a thunderstorm somewhere nearby, as there’s still lightning flashing but with a nice little break before the thunderclap, the kind that lasts for several seconds or more. I didn’t go to the gym last night because the rain was so heavy and had planned to go today–perhaps when I am done with my work-at-home duties today there will be enough of a break in storm bands for me to get over there. I could drive, of course, but that just really seems kind of silly to me since it’s so close. Why yes, I drove the four or five blocks to the gym to work out my body. Granted, rain changes everything, especially New Orleans’ kind of drenching rain, and since we are going into day three of it, the ground is already saturated and can’t absorb it so there’s more standing water than there usually is–and there’s inevitably a lot of standing water any time it rains here.

It just started raining again.

I came home last night fully intending to get a lot done, since the rain precluded the walk to the gym, and while I did do some piecework on Chlorine, I didn’t really do a lot. I was feeling tired, the way I usually do on Wednesday nights anyway, and I also didn’t even bother to unpack my backpack last night, which is not a good sign. I read some more of The Man with the Candy, which is so well-written! I’m really enjoying the book–it reminds me a lot, in how well it’s written, of my favorite true crime books of all time, Blood and Money, and not just because they are both set in Houston–it’s about how well the two different writers wrote about Houston itself, turning the city into a character in the books. This is what I always try to do when writing about New Orleans–giving the reader a strong enough sense of place that the city itself is almost a character in and of itself in my books. This is also triggering the memory that Blood and Money was part of the reason (besides living there) I wanted to set the Chanse series there originally–don’t get me wrong, I am not in the least bit regretful that the Chanse series exists in my own personal New Orleans fictional universe, but there’s always a bit of a pang for me that I have never written about Houston and probably never will, other than as an aside or something in a book. I have several ideas that begin with the character either living in, or being from, Houston; but nothing actually set there.

We also finished the second season of Very Scary People, with the two episodes on Dr. Swango, aka Dr. Death; I’d actually never heard of him before, so he was obviously new to me. We skipped the Bobby Durst episodes–after watching all six or so episodes of The Jinx I didn’t see any real need to spend another hour and a half with Bobby Durst–who, while interesting enough, doesn’t really deserve any more of my attention than he’s already had, frankly. There’s also a new limited series on Netflix, The Serpent (it may be HBO; it’s hard for me to keep track of whichever streaming service these days since there are so many), which is about Charles Sobhraj, a criminal and murderer who operated in Southeast Asia mostly. I read a book about him many years ago called Serpentine, which was also written by Thomas Thompson, who also wrote Blood and Money. It was interesting, and clearly I’ve never completely forgotten it–as soon as I saw The Serpent‘s trailer and its lead actor, I knew exactly who and what it was about–which we may be diving into tonight. There’s also a new mini-series on HBO with Kate Winslet that looks interesting, so there are a lot of options for us to choose from….maybe too many, really.

I’m not really sure why I am having so much trouble getting started on my day–although I suspect the weather has a lot to do with it. When it’s like this I really would much prefer being under a blanket and reading–there’s no better reading weather than rain, is there? It’s just so comforting to be inside and warm and dry while the house is being battered with rain and wind and the sky is rent with lightning and loud thunder….and even though it sometimes means flash flooding and so forth, one of the many things I love about living in New Orleans is the rain (Houston also has marvelous thunderstorms, as did Tampa). I lived for eight years in San Joaquin Valley in California, where it rarely, if ever rained–and we certainly never had this kind of amazing thunderstorm there.

All right, I’ve procrastinated quite long enough. Onward and upward into the spice mines, Constant Reader!

Bizarre Love Triangle

Recently I got a very lovely private message on social media from a reader; it doesn’t happen near as much as it used to (not sure what that says about me or my career, but I prefer to believe that I am so public with my social media and blog that people don’t feel they need to reach out to me…don’t judge me; it works for me. I often prefer the little fantasy world and life I make up in my head rather than reality. It keeps me sane) so now it’s a surprise on the rare occasions it happens, and that’s very pleasant.

And with this one, it just goes to show what you can do without meaning to, and how the inability to make a decision is sometimes a good thing.

The message was simply that he had recently discovered my books, and was reading and enjoying them. What drove him to reach out and send me a message wasn’t simply because he was enjoying my work but because it was the first time he’d seen anything that mirrored his real life relationship in fiction; in other words, he is in what is now referred to as a “long-time throuple” and it meant a lot to him to read a book series centered around a main character who is also in a ‘long-time throuple.’ This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten such a message–I’ve heard from other readers in throuples, or readers enthralled by the very idea of such a thing, but like I said, it’s been a while. It always catches me a little off-guard, because it never occurred to me that I was doing something revolutionary, or something that had never been done before in crime fiction or not done much outside of erotica; the truth was I couldn’t make up my mind who Scotty should wind up with finally, so I had him wind up with both of them. It never occurred to me that I was doing something never really done before–or that some nearly twenty years later, I’d still be one of the only ones writing about a throuple–there wasn’t even a term for it when Bourbon Street Blues came out all those years ago; I always had to call it a “three-way relationship”–I don’t even think I’d even heard the term polyamorous then, either. I had no idea how such a thing would work, either; but Scotty was unconventional and so it stood to reason his romantic relationship would also be such. I also wanted to make the relationship seem as normal as possible and like it wasn’t unconventional; no one ever comments on it, says that’s odd or unusual, has ever questioned Scotty about having two partners rather than one. I also never wanted to write about jealousy or any of the usual romantic melodramatic devices–they all love each other; there’s never any jealousy; and while Colin sometimes, in the course of his job, does things that seem criminal or dangerous or even endanger them, there’s never any question about expelling him from the relationship–and there’s always a sense of sadness from Scotty and Frank until everything gets cleared up.

I also like to believe that Scotty and Frank and Scotty’s family are Colin’s rock, his tether to the normal world outside of espionage and international spying. New Orleans is his safe place, where he can relax and let down his guard and just be a normal, if extremely hot and sexy, guy. Sometimes I write myself into a corner–which I kind of did with Royal Street Reveillon, and figuring out where the boys go from where I left them isn’t always easy–Twelfth Night Knavery is going to be an incredibly difficult book to write, from that perspective–but that’s part of the challenge of writing the series, and part of the reason I enjoy writing it so much. I stopped writing Chanse because the stories and the series and the character were beginning to feel stale to me…but I greatly enjoyed writing my Chanse short story “My Brother’s Keeper” for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and there’s a Change novella I am tinkering around with that may wind up being a novel–I doubt it, so don’t get your hopes up–but again, I am enjoying writing shorter pieces about Chanse; I can’t imagine doing a Scotty short story if for no other reason that backstory alone would take up the length of the short story.

Yesterday I ran errands, paid some more bills, and went to the gym. When I got back from the gym I indulged in some cleaning and organizing, and then discovered that old episodes of Moonlighting are on Youtube, so I watched the pilot yesterday around watching other Youtube videos, mostly those Queer Cruise videos about queer representation and how queers were presented in old twentieth century television shows, and how that changed over the decades. But Moonlighting–I absolutely loved that show back when it was airing, despite it being a deeply troubled show, often behind schedule with all kinds of behind the scenes drama and clashes, between producers and actors, between the actors, and with the network. It was a highly bizarre show, occasionally indulging in incredible creative choices (the black-and-white episode called “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice”, the Shakespeare episode, and probably one of the best Christmas episodes of any show ever produced), and watching young Bruce Willis in the role that made him a star–he later became a surprise movie star, which no one saw coming, with Die Hard–and of course, the chemistry between him and co-star Cybill Shepherd literally burned up the screen with their “will they/won’t they” dynamic. It was always clever, sometimes meta (often meta, before anyone even knew what meta was) and there was nothing like it on television before–or since, really. Witty and clever and uniquely self-aware, the quality was difficult to maintain in the face of all the production problems, and finally the show finally went off the rails and was eventually canceled. But I still remember it fondly, and it was actually lovely to rewatch and see that the pilot still works. One of the things I loved most about the show was that almost every episode began with David and Maddie arguing, both certain they are right–and then the case would bring them around to seeing the other’s point of view, so that by the end of the episode they understood each other better. It was inspired writing, and something I always wanted to do with my work (I’ve never done it)–but while I couldn’t mimic that with either series of my own, I always wanted my main character to learn something from the case he is working on, about himself, and grow a little bit.

At least that was the plan. Whether I’ve managed to do so or not remains to be seen–as well as it not really being up to me to decide these things…

Today I am diving back into the book headlong; yesterday’s grocery-making and gym visit sufficiently drained me of excess energy so writing/editing/etc wasn’t really in yesterday’s cards, alas. But that’s okay. The gym was marvelous and necessary, as was the cleaning and organizing I did–I need to do more, really–and while I know I need to get better organized (I really need to make a to-do list) I am not going to do anything like that before I work on the book. I know I’ll wind up not wanting to if I put it off until later, and while the organizing is terribly important, as is the to-do-list, I really need to work on the book more than anything else.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.

It’s Nice to Have a Friend

Yesterday was kind of lovely, really. As I took a vacation day to get caught up on things, get some rest, and try to get the Lost Apartment under control again (I also discovered, among other things, that vacuum cleaners have filters you are supposed to clean monthly, which explains so much), it was kind of a nice day. I did get the bed linens laundered and a load of laundry done; I did the dishes and ran the dishwasher, and I also intended to vacuum, which is when I realized my vacuum cleaner has not been sucking properly in quite some time (I’d even looked into buying a new one, several times) and then thought, why don’t you google it and see if it’s something you can fix, which of course led to the shocking discovery about the filters. I removed it and washed it thoroughly (so disgusting, really). But, embarrassing as that was, it was also lovely to realize that I do not, in fact, need to buy a new one–at least until the filter has finished air drying, I reinstall it, and see if it starts picking things up again.

I also got a lovely notice on Facebook that my former editor at Alyson, Joe Pittman, had tagged me in a post, and when I went there to see what it was, was greeted with a reminiscence of his days at Alyson, and:

Hi everyone, it’s Joseph. It’s September. I’ve got another story of my publishing life, one of the most rewarding moments from my varied career. Let’s call it Love, Alyson Books.Okay, let me go back in time. It’s 2005 and I was hired by a small publisher named Alyson. The company had just relocated from Los Angeles to New York, and they were searching for a new staff. I applied for the Executive Editor position I saw advertised, got called in that day for an interview. I wasn’t exactly dressed for a job interview, but the woman I spoke with said that was fine. “I assume you have grown up clothes.”

I got the job, and two weeks later started. Every staff member had just been hired, and we had lots of manuscripts and contracts to cull through. From the publisher, to the marketing director, an editor, a production editor, and an assistant and me. That’s it, six of us. We had a big task set before us. Alyson had a storied history in the world of LGBT publishing and had released many iconic books. There was a lot on our shoulders.Our job? To bring Alyson into the 2000s, and show how LGBT themes had hit the mainstream. We had to totally revamp the list. We published 50 books a year, we had a very small budget, and as Executive Editor, I was told by the boss that I would be “the face of the imprint.” I embraced the role until it came to an ignominious ending.But in two and a half years, I felt I did some of the most important work of my career.

It started, horribly, with Hurricane Katrina, but led to a book and a series that would help define the LGBT past, present and future. It was a series with titles that began with the word “Love.” And that’s what these books were, love stories dedicated to a certain city, to a movement, to a community.The thing about working at Alyson, it wasn’t like traditional publishing, where agents sent you a manuscript, you read it, you liked it, you acquired it. Sure, we did a bit of that, but mostly we had to come up with our own ideas, track down authors who would be ideal in crafting our idea into a book. I hit the jackpot with an existing Alyson author, mystery writer Greg Herren. Greg lived in New Orleans, and he and his partner Paul Willis went through hell that late August. Katrina ripped their lives apart, as it did to so many others in the region. My idea, let’s get a bunch of writers together to pen nonfiction stories about their city. Why they lived there, what they loved there. Greg was reticent at first. The wounds of the city too fresh. But the book happened.

LOVE, BOURBON STREET was published to great acclaim, and that next year it won the prestigious Lambda Award for Best Anthology. I remember sitting in the audience when the book was announced the winner. I couldn’t have been more proud of Greg and Paul’s dedication to the project, I couldn’t have been happier for the city New Orleans.

Love, Bourbon Street is a book I don’t really remember much about, to be perfectly honest. It happened, and came about, in that gray time after the evacuation and before we were able to move back into the Lost Apartment (which, to me, closed the circle, even though the city’s recovery would still take more time–a lot more time); I think it even came out while we were still living in the carriage house amidst the clutter and boxes and praying every day that the Lost Apartment would be suitable for living again soon. I remember I was still house sitting for my friend Michael on the North Shore in Hammond when Joe called me with the idea–the great irony was earlier that day Paul had called me, and suggested we do a fundraising anthology about New Orleans by New Orleans writers, and I had emphatically said no. Most every one of the writers we knew were still displaced, no one could come back to New Orleans even if they wanted to, and we were all, from the blogs and emails I was reading, in bad places emotionally. I didn’t even know if I could write anymore; I was grimly writing a blog post almost every day so that the creativity wouldn’t completely stagnate, but other than that–nothing was happening. I had pitched a fourth Scotty book to Kensington, but at some point while I was on the road I’d emailed my editor there to say obviously I cannot write that book now–it was, ironically, going to be called Hurricane Party Hustle and be set during a hurricane evacuation when most everyone in the city had left, only for it to turn east at the last minute and spare the city (which had happened at least three or four times since we’d moved to New Orleans in 1996)–and I certainly never thought I was going to write another Chanse book; the second one had come out the previous year while Paul and I were still getting over the Incident and I think I did one signing for it; it came and went with very little fanfare and I had pretty much figured that series was dead in the water as well. I had been rewriting the manuscript that would eventually be published as Sara because an editor at a Big 5 publisher had asked me to write a y/a for them earlier that year and I’d decided that was what I would do after I, if I, ever finished Mardi Gras Mambo.

But I wasn’t sure if I would ever write about New Orleans again, or if there would even be a New Orleans for me to write about.

Given the fact, though, that Paul wanted to do this and my publisher called me later the same day to suggest it, my superstitious lizard brain decided it was something we needed to do; I don’t remember how long it took for me to either call Joe back or email him that we would do it, but we did. It was difficult to do, primarily because recruiting people spread out all over the country wasn’t easy, nor was getting people who were terribly depressed to try to write something about why they loved New Orleans when 90% of the city lay in ruins was a bit much. Also, people would agree to write something and then change their mind right before the deadline, which kept pushing the delivery date–already a tight turn around, because Alyson wanted to release it on the one-year anniversary–back. Finally, I pulled all the essays together into a single document, saw how many words were left to reach the contracted minimum, and started pulling together my own essay, the anchor piece, “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.” I remember I worked on it over the weekend that Paul had his eye finally removed, and so he was asleep thanks to painkillers most of the time and would only wake up for me to clean the socket before going back to sleep. It ended up being almost thirty thousand words, and I really don’t remember very much about writing it, if I’m going to be honest; I don’t. I just remember pulling it into the word document of the manuscript, seeing that we now had the length requirement covered, saved the document, and hit send.

That same fall, as we were doing the whole Love Bourbon Street, Joe was also calling and emailing me, trying to convince me that I had a duty and obligation to write another Chanse novel. “You’re right there,” he kept saying, “and who better to let the world know how it felt, how it feels, and what’s it like to go through something like this?” Again, I kept resisting. I didn’t know if I could write, I didn’t know when i would write, I didn’t know anything. And then, in late September, I drove back into the city once it was reopened, to check out the damage to the house and see what all we had lost, as well as to see if anything clothes-wise was salvageable from the upstairs. As I crossed the causeway bridge and saw all the damage to Metairie, I recoiled from it all, felt sick to my stomach and a headache coming on; by the time I got onto I-10 I had gone numb again so I could handle it all. As I noticed the mud-line on the walls along the highway, the words It was six weeks before I returned to my broken city popped into my head, and as I came around the curve in the highway, right near the Carrollton exits and the Xavier campus and the Superdome came into view, the words started coming into my head and I knew that not only could I write this book, I needed to write this book.

As soon as I got back to my sanctuary in Hammond, I emailed Joe and said, I am going to do the Chanse book and it’s going to be called Murder in the Rue Chartres.

And yes, both books won Lambda Literary Awards (my only wins, out of 14 or 15 nominations in total) in back to back years.

So that’s the story of how a very kind and generous editor essentially saved my career as a writer.

It’s funny, because whenever I think about possibly doing a collection of essays, it always takes me a while to remember, well, you’ve already published one that will take up a quarter of the book.

And now, to have some serious cleaning joy with my clean-filtered vacuum cleaner.

You’re Not Sorry

There are few things I despise more than the non-apology.

These tumultuous times in which we find ourselves inhabiting now has, amongst its innumerable other crimes, introduced the world to the apology that really isn’t an apology; in which someone refuses to admit fault and isn’t sorry for what they said; they’re merely sorry you misinterpreted what they said. It generally runs along the lines of something like I’m sorry if my words offended anyone–which, to me, kind of places the blame on the people who were offended by the shitty thing said in the first place–and usually, for the record? What was originally said was pretty fucking offensive; insensitive to the point where I have to seriously question the empathy and humanity of the speaker, and generally leaves me feeling sorry for anyone related to said speaker, or who is forced to have to interact with them in any way, shape or form, because of work.

This happens constantly these days; it’s become sadly predictable: someone says something incredibly shitty, people are justifiably shocked, horrified and outraged, which inevitably leads to the person apologizing for their words, but at the same, they are also very careful not to take on any blame themselves. I don’t understand this mentality, but it’s a linguistic knot people are always very careful to tie with precision: I’m sorry what I said offended you, not I’m sorry I offended you by saying that. The difference is pretty clear; the first relieves the original speaker of any fault and places all blame on the people taking offense (really, it’s just gaslighting); while the second accepts blame and begs pardon and is actually a sincere attempt by a decent person to take responsibility and implies a promise to do better in the future.

And personally,  I don’t accept these non-apologies. I find them, frankly, to be worse than the original offense. My response? “Seriously, go fuck yourself. And yes, I fully intended to offend you and I am not sorry at all; in fact, you might to fuck off now before I really focus on hurting your feelings–because I can, and am quite good at it.”

I’m not sure when we as a people, society and culture ceased being able to admit we were wrong, admit fault, and promise to do better. What is so terrible about being wrong? We are all human, and we all make mistakes, don’t we? It’s inevitable; it’s embarrassing somewhat, but seriously–the world will not end if you ever admit you’re wrong. I’ve admitted I’m wrong and apologized even when I didn’t think I was wrong in the first place–because it isn’t about MY feelings.

I guess thinking about other people’s feelings isn’t something we do anymore? When, precisely, did that change? Or was the whole “care about others” thing just another part  of the massive gaslighting of me about everything else this life has turned out to be, from politics to history to religion?

I will admit it here, I will admit it there, I will admit it everywhere. I’ve been wrong many times in my life, and will probably be wrong quite a few more times before my ashes are sprinkled into the Mississippi (although I am beginning to think I may have some of them sprinkled there and some sprinkled into the Rigolets; I must remember to make provision for that in my will–and yes, now that I am in my sixtieth year, I need to start thinking about those things and taking them a lot more seriously than I have in the past). I see this bizarre “refusal to ever admit error” every day on social media–not as much as I used to, as I tend to unfriend and/or hide narcissistic sociopaths who have nothing better to do with their lives and their time than to troll people on the web as a way of making themselves feel superior to other people. To paraphrase  Sixteen Candles, “why do you want to be King of the Dipshits? Well, you can hold court without me, O Wise and All-Knowing One.”

I know I should be more tolerant, but I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with this kind of trash any longer, nor do I want to see it on my feeds. And as I grow more and more conscious of how little time I may have left in this world–I certainly don’t want to spend what there actually is left listening to this kind of nonsense anymore.

Enough! Life exposes me to enough toxicity that I cannot control; but I can control what I chose to see on my social media. And if you want to smugly assert that I am fooling and deluding myself by putting myself into an echo chamber–feel free to assume your moral and intellectual superiority. I, for one, am tired of being exposed to homophobia and racism and misogyny and bigotry and prejudice and ignorance; I’ve been around it my entire life and I’d really prefer not to be around it anymore.

Ugh.

I am also, in an effort to control this narrative that my life has become, trying to be more positive about things. Yes, I recognize the irony in that this entry began as a rant about awful people and their gaslighting ways; but cutting as much negativity as I can out of my life like the cancer it is will be the first step in looking at the world in a more positive light. It would be very easy to look at yesterday and think, ah, yes, started out the day terribly behind and after an enormously frustrating day where everything that could go wrong did, I am choosing to look at what I managed to get done, despite the endless frustrations, as a triumph. I did manage to get some organizing done. I got some research notes recorded for a future project. I got some chores around the Lost Apartment done, and tried to organize my computer files around a computer update that came out of nowhere and really annoyed the hell out of me at the time. It took a while–it always does after these things–for my computer to go back to functioning properly, but this morning it’s running better than it has in a while. So, I guess there’s that. I’m trying not to feel like I lost the day yesterday, and being frustrated and annoyed with the circumstances beyond my control isn’t going to help me get anything done today.

I started reading Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and as I got through the first two chapters I began remembering the show more. The book is so well-written, and I love how Ng puts these little touches of truth in to deftly set the narrative up very quickly; after a mere two chapters I know what Shaker Heights is like to live in, the kind of relationship Mia and Pearl have, and the entire family dynamic of the other family–parents with their children, the children with each other. I can’t stop wishing Id read the book along with the show, but that cannot be helped now, and I’m really enjoying the book.

I slept later than I wanted to this morning, but then again I stayed up later than I’d intended to last night as well. We watched another HBO MAX documentary show, in two parts, Who Killed Garrett Phillips? Coming hard on the heels of The Case Against Adnan Syed, Paul and I have been having good conversations about just how broken our criminal justice system is. I’ve also been seeing some great conversations on social media between crime writers about this very thing as well, and about how we, as crime writers, are also sort of complicit in the perpetuation of the mythology of the infallible police department. The enormously popular Law and Order franchises have done an excellent job of depicting criminals as scumbags and our Constitutional rights as essentially “get out of jail free” cards that keep the good, hardworking cops from putting away the dangerous criminals that prey on every day citizens. Obviously, it isn’t that black and white, and there are many more shades of gray involved; people also tend to forget the entire point of our Constitutional rights are to protect everyone against abusive conduct from the state. Is it incredibly frustrating when someone isn’t convicted of a crime? Sure, but how do we–how does anyone–ever know that someone actually is guilty if theres little to no evidence one way or the other? I am stunned, frankly, that Adnan Syed was convicted based on how little evidence there actually was against him, other than someone who was pretty much an unreliable witness who testified against him. The multiple years of the Potsdam police and district attorney’s office trying to hang the murder of Garrett Phillips on a black man when the only evidence of anything they had against him was that they were in the school parking lot at the same time was completely racist and insane; they didn’t even look at anyone else or at any other option. Within 24 hours, based on NOTHING, they became convinced that one of the few black men in the area, an ex of the child’s mother, was guilty and only looked for evidence that would put him behind bars. It was infuriating to watch, frankly.

And it does make you wonder how many people who didn’t do anything wrong are sitting in jail right now.

I’ve briefly touched on this from time to time in my books; I know for a fact that I said once–probably in a Chanse book, but I don’t remember which one–that the cops decide early on who’s guilty and stop looking for facts and information that don’t bolster the case they are building. The question I’ve seen a lot on social media lately is whether we, as crime writers, are complicit in building up a mythology of police work as opposed to the reality. It’s a difficult question, one that is very nuanced, and brings up many philosophical questions as well. J. M. Redmann always says that we as writers write about the search for justice in a world where justice is rarely found; I think about that a lot when I write. I know that I also prefer to end my books with a criminal caught and behind bars; even if the justice is Pyrrhic, at least for a time, at the end of my books, the bad guys are in jail and order of a sort has been restored to the worlds of my characters. I never talk about the trials; I’ve thought about using Chanse testifying at a trial as a framing device for one of his investigations, but it was something I never got around to doing; Chanse novels inevitably always follow the A leads to B leads to C structure Ive used since the beginning; Scotty books inevitably do that as well, even if the story skitters about a lot more in a more confused pattern than the Chanse one do.

As citizens, we don’t like to think that our justice system has become corrupted or broken, or that it operates in a way that isn’t fair to everyone; in order to maintain our semblance on sanity (or what passes for it) far too many of us are willing to look the other way or just believe what we are told. In Who Killed Garrett Phillips? so many of the people of that small town simply found it so easy to believe that the black guy must be a killer (and did so very quickly) and when the cops told the family he was the guy, they simply believed it and never questioned it–likewise, the Korean family of the victim in The Case Against Adnan Syed never questioned the police and district attorney’s viewpoint that Hae Min Lee’s ex-boyfriend was so jealous of her new relationship that he would, with no previous indication before or since that he was that kind of person, plan to kill her and then execute the plan; a grieving family will always believe what they are told by the police, and nobody ever wants to question why they are so quick and easy to believe what the police say mainly because we want to believe they are right, because if we ever stop believing that the police aren’t impartial, that their investigations aren’t carried out in a professional, unbiased, and impartial way, then what happens when we need them?

The abuses in the Garrett Phillips case carried out by the now-sanctioned former district attorney, Mary Rain, and her obvious racism and bias was appalling to see, and disheartening. We may never know who killed that boy now, and it’s partially her fault; her determination to convict an accused black man and absolute refusal to even consider for a moment that he might not have done it, to follow any of the myriad of other leads that were possible, is a horrifying abuse of justice and power. And never fool yourself that prosecutors don’t have a lot of power, or that they can abuse that power for any number of reasons, not the least of which is political power and furthering their own political careers.

I had an idea recently–time has no meaning any more, so it may have been any time during the past three years–about writing a book about Venus Casanova’s last case as a New Orleans police detective. Having put in for retirement already, in her last month she’s been assigned desk duty to ease her out of the workforce–obviously you don’t want to assign an active case to someone who might not be able to see it through–and she’s essentially catching up on all of her paperwork and interviewing suspects for other detectives’ cases in her remaining time. Her ritual has always been to go out to the neighborhood coffee shop before going to work and reading the paper over her coffee. With less than a month to go she reads about a shooting of a young Black man in a sketchy neighborhood–but soon realizes that the young man’s grandmother, who was raising him, was someone she went to high school with many years ago and lost touch with when she went away to college. She decides to check with the investigating officer, and he tells her “it’s just another random shooting.” (The book would be called that, Just Another Random Shooting.) He’s not going to look into it anymore, dismissing it as another drug related crime with no witnesses and no evidence, and so she asks if he minds if she talks to the grandmother–and it turns out to be something else entirely; and that lackadaisical response from the police–‘just another random shooting’– was something the killers planned on. It’s an interesting idea, and it worries at my brain from time to time, particularly when I see another local news report about another young Black man being killed for no apparent reason in a sketchy neighborhood. And then I wonder, am I the right person to tell this story? Who am I, as a gay white man, to write from the perspective of a straight Black woman in a city with a violent history of oppressing people of color?

I can think of any number of reasons to justify writing from Venus’ perspective; I’ve always loved the character, I’ve always wanted to write from her perspective; I’ve thought many times over the years of centering her in a book about her; I feel like I know her inside and out already.  But…on the other hand, sure, writers write and have a right to write about whatever they choose, but….

It is a good idea, though, and I also don’t see the story working from any other point of view. Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

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