Girl, You Make My Day

One of the things I’ve greatly enjoyed over the last few years has been the sea change in how publishing views works by non-white and non-straight authors; the push for more diverse voices in the publishing community has already borne wonderful fruit. I’ve been saying for years that the world of crime fiction was in danger of getting stale again, much as it did in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; particularly the private eye novel. The arrival of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller on the scene shook things up and shook things out; the private eye novel got a much-needed shot in the arm of adrenaline with these three women and the others their work inspired; I strongly believe the move toward diversity is going to bear fruit in much the same manner–and it already has, frankly; the works of diverse writers like S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Alex Segura, Tracy Clark, Cheryl Head, and so many others have joined the great pioneers like Walter Mosley and the wonderful Barbara Neely to open up new perspectives on crime and crime fiction; our society and world; and again, this was desperately needed–and is necessary every so often, for our genre to refresh and expand and become more inclusive. We’re also seeing more queer books being sent out into the world from the big houses in New York, which is also incredibly exciting (another shout out to Yes Daddy By Jonathan Parks-Ramage and A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen).

It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of crime fiction.

Noir has always been one of my favorite sub-genres of crime fiction, and I always enjoy reading modern takes on it. I want to write more noir, quite frankly; Chlorine would be the first of at least four I want to write, if not more (for now, I have ideas for four of them, with Chlorine being the most full formed). I always enjoy modern takes on noir–Laura Lippman’s Sunburn was quite marvelous, as was Christa Faust’s Money Shot and Choke Hold)–and of course, S. A. Cosby is a master of rural Southern noir; both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears are destined to be considered classics, I think.

So, I was very curious to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s take on modern noir, Velvet Was the Night. It took me a very long time to finish–which is not indicative of the quality of the book, I hasten to add–because after I read so much during the post-Ida power outage, I kind of broke my brain and thus haven’t been able to really focus as much on reading as I would like; yesterday after the LSU game I sat down and finished it with Georgia-Kentucky on as background noise.

And what a fun ride it was.

He didn’t like beating people.

El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the stupidest possible way.

Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess. That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.

No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.

He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El G√ľero had been at him again.

The recent rise of Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been meteoric, although I am sure to her it has seemed anything but. I read her terrific vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, a while back, loved it, and have been following her career ever since as she has turned out novels at a terrific rate–Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, Mexican Gothic–all of which have been critically acclaimed and sold very well; I love that she bounces from genre to genre–horror to fantasy to crime; even bouncing around in the sub-categories of the crime genre. This is only my second read of her work–I have them all, of course–and had been meaning to get around to her take on noir with a Mexican flourish for quite some time. (I am really sorry I broke my brain with all the reading I did after the power went out; I greatly enjoyed this book, but it was so hard for me to focus for some reason…but am glad I sat down yesterday with the book, determined to finish it at last.)

One of the things that strikes me about Moreno-Garcia’s work is that I am seeing Mexico, a place I greatly love, through a fresh new perspective; like all Yanquis, I always view Mexico through the prism of a tourist. I’ve always wanted to write about Mexico, and have several short stories in the files that are set there (I did write one erotica story as Todd Gregory set in Acapulco; from the perspective of a tourist, of course: “Oh, What A Friend I Have in Jesus”)…but reading Moreno-Garcia makes me aware of how scant my knowledge of our Southern neighbor is–all of the counties south of the Rio Grande, frankly–which is a stinging indictment of our education system. (Don’t even get me started on the concept of Latin America vs. “America”) I know very little of Mexican history after the Spanish conquest, other than the Mexican War and the French empire set up under a Hapsburg by Napoleon III during our civil war. I know very little history of any of the countries that make up the rest of the American continents, really–and isn’t that more than a little bit disgraceful? I also know very little about their cultures, their politics, and what goes on there; a quick glance through the news also will show very little information or news being reported about those non-United States/Canada American countries, which is really a shame.

Velvet Was the Night is set un 1971, a particularly politically rife period in Mexico. The US was terribly concerned about communism being spread by the Soviets in what has always been considered the American soft underbelly–I mean, look at our reaction to Cuba–and there’s no question that CIA operatives and money were working to subvert Communism while supporting borderline Fascist governments because that was preferable to Washington than another potential Soviet satellite state in our hemisphere. The vast paranoia of that time–which really lasted from 1945-1990, really–cannot be underestimated or understated. By rooting her story in actual events of 1971–the crackdown of the Mexican government on dissidents–Moreno-Garcia slyly gives us a taste of how American foreign policy of the time affected everyone in Mexico, as well as a history lesson. (One of the great modern deceptions of our society is this idea that we always act benevolently as a nation; we’re doing this for your own good.) The book has two point of view characters; one, depicted in the opening above, is “Elvis”, a very young man who works as a thug, basically, for an oppressive group of anti-Communists that try to infiltrate dissident groups and haunt protests in order to make them turn violent, so the military can intervene on behalf of the “people.” Elvis grew up very poor and sometimes imagines what his life would be like if he were able to pursue his primary interests–educating himself and music. He doesn’t know what his future holds but is vaguely aware the path he is on–violence and more violence–will not end well. Over the course of the book he begins to question the values he’s been taught to believe in his gang, and begins to aspire to get out of it.

The other main character is Maite, a legal secretary barely getting by on her low salary and barely able to afford food. Her car has been in the shop unclaimed because she cannot afford the mechanics’ bill. She leads a lonely and solitary life, has a very vivid imagination and fantasy world she prefers to inhabit, colored strongly by her love of romance comic books and the music she likes to listen to. Maite’s lovely neighbor, Leonora, asks her to feed her cat while she is away, and when she agreed, Maite unknowingly enters the world of political struggle and upheaval. The riot depicted in the first chapter, that Elvis helps engineer? A friend of Leonora’s has taken pictures that prove that the riot was started by government forces, and those two rolls of film are the McGuffin everyone in the book is after–except poor innocent Maite, who, like any main character in a great Hitchcock film, becomes involved in something life threatening by simply agreeing to feed a neighbor’s cat–something she resents agreeing to do. When Leonora doesn’t come back, Maite starts looking for her–primarily motivated by the fact she can’t afford to keep feeding the car, and Leonora promised her money for feeding it–money she needs to get her car back. Motivated by her own poverty, Maite finds herself getting involved more and more in this clandestine world, and her own life is in danger soon.

The true strength of the book lies in the careful characterizations of both Elvis and Maite; two desperate people trapped by poverty in lives they want to escape, and the parallel journeys they both follow that lead their paths to cross; and the richness of the reality of what life in Mexico City was like during the turbulent time when the book is set. Moreno-Garcia shows us, as she did in Certain Dark Things, what the reality of life is like in one of the world’s largest cities, the reality the tourists rarely, if ever, get a chance to see. And while the hopelessness of both their situations seem unresolvable at times, the pacing is strong and the story construction so tight, and you the readers finds yourself rooting for them both to get out safely.

I really loved this book, and am sorry my inability to focus forced me to take so long to finish reading it. It’s extraordinary, and I recommend it highly.

Take Me Home

Tuesday morning and it’s dark out there this morning. I really hated the world this morning when the alarm went off; I’ve gotten rather used to sleeping until past eight these last five mornings. But…at least this week it’s just today and tomorrow; next week it’s only Monday and Tuesday, and I believe it’s only two days a week until after the Labor Day holiday, which will be quite lovely.

And sixty inches ever closer, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I’m really leaning in on turning sixty; in many ways it’s kind of cool to be getting to this landmark birthday. Mostly, it means I’m a survivor, I suppose; somehow I muddled through everything and made it this far–no small feat for a gay man of my generation; we lost quite a few of us back in the day, after all. In some ways, I think, part of my mentality about getting to this age has a lot to do with all the losses; I should celebrate this milestone birthday for all those like me who will never get to, who never made it to thirty or forty or even fifty. Of course, heavy thoughts for this morning, but I’ve been having a lot of heavy thoughts lately.

I didn’t get everything done yesterday that I wanted to get done; partly because I was doing a ZOOM event last night for the Anne Arundel County Library; a Sisters in Crime Chessie Chapter panel on diversity in crime fiction, with Paula Mays, Kristopher Zgorski, Sherry Harris, Cheryl Head, and moderated by Cathy Wiley. It was very fun and interesting–these types of panels always are–but, as always, I was drained and exhausted when we were finished; ZOOM or in person, it doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot as far as that goes…the anxiety over the event built up pretty much all day. I also babbled a lot; I tend to unspool once I start talking, partly because my mouth never can keep up with my head, but I don’t think I was horrible this time–at least, not completely. I did get my errands finished, though, and made a lot more progress on organization–always welcome–and I got those boxes out from under my desk, which was really quite lovely. So….progress was made, if not enough.

Yesterday also brought a bit of pleasant news that caught me completely off-guard; a reviewer tweeted a recommendation that people buy and read Bury Me in Shadows!

This is the tweet:

In what should be a surprise to no one, @scottynola‘s BURY ME IN SHADOWS is *fantastic.* Fans of Southern gothic, pre-order you some twisty, atmospheric goodness! AND included a buy link! How fucking fantastic was that? Pretty fucking fantastic.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how this book will be received, or the one after, #shedeservedit. Both are me taking on social problems through the lens of a crime story and a young gay protagonist; and it is very easy for someone like me–white male–to make a huge mistake and be unintentionally offensive. These concerns go much further than my usual ones, which are inevitably related to my ongoing Imposter Syndrome issues–the last thing I ever want to do is offend people are already marginalized in society (I never care if racist homophobic misogynists are offended by my work; I hope it not only offends them but forces them to take a long hard look at themselves–but they generally aren’t intelligent enough to be self-aware enough to self-reflect in the first place; as Kathy Griffin once said, they are aggressively stupid). I also am always worried (this is part of the Imposter Syndrome, in case you needed to be made aware of the differences) that I am not a good enough writer to tackle difficult subjects, and that I will end up coming across as preachy and ABC After-school Special-like…which is tedious and boring and horrible to read, frankly. (Even as a wet-behind-the-ears callow child I despised being preached to in such a heavy-handed manner.)

Sigh. It really never ends–the self-doubt–at least for me, anyway.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow morning.

Just the Two of Us

So, “Festival of the Redeemer” is now over 10,000 words. Yup, the hole in the page opened and I fell into it (to paraphrase Stephen King’s Paul Sheldon in Misery) and the next thing I knew I’d written over four thousand words. SURPRISE! I certainly was. It’s been a really long time since the days when I used to be able to write over three thousand words at a time; I’d actually begun to think I couldn’t do it anymore, or was incapable. How lovely to know that it is still possible. The question, however, does remain–was that a fluke, or is it a return to my enormous productivity capabilities?

Also, writing about Venice and a deteriorating relationship that is going to turn very dark is a lot of fun, I have to say. Venice is considered, after all, one of the world’s most romantic cities–and setting this kind of story there is so much fun. It’s also very fun to not care how likable the main character is.

And I am enjoying writing, which is really the best part. I am not worrying about how long it is, or whether it needs to be edited down or if I have left parts out or if I am just blurting out too much or if I am just vomiting garbage up on the page. The most important thing here is that I am having a great time writing this, and I am having a great time writing, just in general. Maybe my batteries have been recharged or something, but I feel like I bursting with ideas and simply–as always–don’t have the time to write everything that I want to write. I need to take some time to sit down and sketch out what I am going to do for the next Scotty, and once I get this novella finished I am going back to Chlorine.

Plus…it’s really fun to revisit Venice. I have always been sorry we weren’t able to spend more than twenty-four hours there; I loved it there. I loved Italy and hope to return someday; Florence and Tuscany….sigh, Italy. I also reread what I have already written–all 10,167 words of it last night, and for a first draft, it’s not bad. Sure, there’s some clean-up and tightening necessary, but it’s really going the way I want it to go and the tone is right and the character’s voice is perfect…I am actually pleased with something I am writing!

*waits for earthquake or lightning strike*

Last night I stayed up past my bedtime (yay for being old and having to get up early!) to do a mystery panel for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by Michael Nava (one of my heroes) and including Cheryl Head, Dharma Kelleher, and PJ Vernon–writers whom you should all be reading–and it was really fun and interesting. I love talking about writing and books with fellow queer writers, and I always learn something from listening to other writers. It’s always nerve-wracking for me–that social anxiety thing–but after my contribution to a technical glitch (I really cannot be trusted with computers or technology), I was able to relax somewhat. It was also fun because yesterday was the launch day for PJ’s second book, which was also his first book to center queer characters. (My copy of Bath Haus arrived yesterday; great cover and great opening–I peaked–and I think I am going to bump it up on my TBR list to follow Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. But I also somehow managed to have a terrific night’s sleep–deep and wonderfully restful, AND NO DREAMS (that I can remember, at any rate), so this morning I am rested and awake an ready to go. It’s also my last day of the week to go into the office, so I don’t have to get up quite so early tomorrow–and all of our shows’ next seasons are dropping, it seems, this month and next (Elite season 4 drops on Netflix on Friday night, HUZZAH!).

I am also looking forward to the gym tonight after work; the book I requested from the library (Sarah Schulman’s ACT UP in New York history, Let the Record Show) is in; and while there is the chance of a tropical depression coming through New Orleans this weekend, I am looking forward to just being able to chill out, relax, clean, and get some writing/reading/working out accomplished.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

Angel of the Morning

Tuesday morning and we here in New Orleans are in the midst of a heat wave of sorts; I gather from my social media accounts that it’s pretty widespread nationally. It’s often difficult to tell here whether this year is hotter than previous years; it’s always, to borrow a lovely phrase from the Brits, bloody hot here in the summer (technically, it’s not even summer yet–not until June 20th–but summer always seems to arrive in New Orleans around Mother’s Day in May; which is also when the termites start swarming) and one always questions one’s self as the heat descends upon us in all its blazing fury: was it this hot last summer? Surely I would remember, wouldn’t I?

Ah, the joys of selective memory. Again, why I will never write a memoir.

I slept very well last night, but was yet again plagued with some seriously bizarre and strange dreams; which is becoming a nightly occurrence. I don’t remember said dreams this morning, which is more normal than those from the previous two nights–which I did remember; but I remember having them, which is also not ordinary for me. I o feel rested–although I would have gladly slept the rest of the day away. Last night after work I also was interviewed by Eric Beetner for his Writer Types podcast; although I guess the correct way of saying that is that I was a guest on a taping of a future podcast, along with the always delightful Dharma Kelleher. (She and I are also going a ZOOM-type panel tonight for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by my personal hero, Michael Nava, along with fellow panelists Cheryl Head and PJ Vernon, whose Bath Haus is releasing today; my copy should be delivered sometime today and YAY!) Doing those sort of things is always draining for me, and of course, with the time differential, this will be wrapping up tonight past my bedtime, which may mean I am not at my best as I will undoubtedly be drooping–but Cheryl is on EST, so it’s even later for her, so I need to fasten my seatbelt, sit up straight and participate. I just figure it means I will sleep even better tonight than I did last, frankly.

Today looks to be another hot one–but we’re getting thunderstorms later this week, so that might bring the heat down a little bit. When I went out to get into my car after work yesterday, it was literally like opening the oven door. I reached in, put the keys in the ignition and started the engine, reaching down to turn up the a./c, waiting for a bit before getting inside–but even then, the steering wheel was too hot to touch and the seat belt buckle was also pretty rough and nasty. I think I need to have my windshield tinted at some point–the direct bright sunlight can’t be good for the dashboard, and it’s certainly not good for me, personally.

I also intended to write some more on “Festival of the Redeemer” last night, but by the time the podcast was over–always a delight; I really enjoy Eric Beetner a lot, and Dharma is always lovely to talk books with–I was tired. I was already tired before signing into the podcast–spotty sleep Sunday night–and the drive home included a stop for groceries and the heat is so draining…I was worried I’d be deadly dull, and am not entirely sure I wasn’t anyway. But when we were finished, I needed to do some dishes and laundry before finally plopping down into my easy chair. I do need to get back to writing it, though–maybe tonight, since the panel is so late for me, I can do some since I won’t be able to get sucked into the television, watching something. I was going to go to the gym, and then rethought that–heat, lifting weights, losing lots of fluids; probably not the best idea and I can always go tomorrow night after work–so yeah, getting some things done and some writing under my belt is probably the best way to go with that.

We watched the first episode of Loki last night, and I wasn’t really impressed with it. Tom Hiddleston, of course, is always wonderful, and I think the premise might be interesting, but it just seemed like a lot of set-up was being done and there was a lot of backstory being recapped to set the series up, so for me, it wasn’t terribly involving. It wasn’t terrible by any means, so I will keep watching–I always try to give a show a few episodes before abandoning it entirely–but I found myself more than a little disappointed, and my mind wandered a lot.

This next scene I am writing for “Festival of the Redeemer” is also a rather hard one to write, in which a lot of complex feelings must be dealt with, as well as the deteriorating relationship between the two main characters, while they are having a lovely, romantic dinner at a restaurant on top of a hotel along the Grand Canal with a magnificent sunset view of the Serenissima; and it occurs to me that’s why I’ve been hedging about writing it, frankly–which is dumb (and I do this all the time; a scene or chapter that’s going to be difficult so I delay writing it because I forget it can always be revised, rewritten and edited BECAUSE I AM A MORON!).

And on that note– calling myself a moron is always a lovely spot to stop–I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)

Oh, Mercury in retrograde.

So, my car–not so new anymore, and nearly paid off–wouldn’t start yesterday, which was horrifying and traumatizing; like any car drama inevitably always is.. Mostly for the incredible inconvenience of having to deal with it all, really–and the inevitable unexpected expense. There are few things that can drive me to the brink of tears more quickly than car trouble; years of having old, old, OLD cars have trained me to be expect expense and heartbreak every time something goes wrong with a car. I specifically bought a brand new car so I’d never have to worry about this again, I thought sadly, feeling terribly betrayed, but..it’s almost paid for (and oh, how long I’ve been looking forward to that day)and this is the first real trouble of any kind and so I sighed, came back inside and called the dealership. I explained what was going on–the technician was looking me up in the computer from the called ID and when I finished, he said, “well, that doesn’t sound like the battery, it sounds like an electrical system issue and I am seeing you bought the extended warrantee so that’s completely covered. Have you arranged for the tow yet?”

GREG: “Well, no, I was waiting to talk to you and–”

He cut me off before I could finish saying “…can you recommend someone?”

“Mr. Herren, do you have full coverage with your car insurance?” When I answered in the affirmative, he replied, “Call them and see if they cover tows–most of them do and most people don’t know that. Regardless, they can arrange for the tow for you, and the tow company will simply bill us, so it will be included in whatever costs you may incur here; if this is completely covered by your warrantee you just pay us for the tow charges when you pick up the car. So, give them a call and we’ll take a look at your car when it arrives.”

I hung up, dumbfounded, and went to my insurance website. I called, the automated system texted me a link to their app, and within two minutes I’d arranged for a tow; it arrived exactly on the dot when the app said it would, and that was it.

The app will even arrange a ride for me to pick up the car.

I mean, wow. I don’t even know how to feel about being so bad at being an adult–if not for the tech at my dealership, I would have paid for the tow, and I might have even just decided to take it to the Firestone on Camp Street because it’s walkable from here. I mean, it’s still entirely possible I need stuff done that isn’t covered under the warrantee, but just the savings on the tow truck alone has made me really happy and joyful and now I don’t even care about the inconvenience of both not having a car momentarily and having to go to the West Bank eventually to pick it up. UPDATE: they just called and it was the battery; not covered. But it’s fine. Batteries generally last three to five years and mine made it to 4 1/2, not bad, really.

I also spent some time on-line chatting with Apple Support because the latest upgrade to Big Sur messed up Safari somehow and it kept failing. tl:dr we had to reinstall the OS, but it still didn’t work, but I had created another user account on this computer–and everything works there; in fact, it’s so fast it’s like a new computer so I figure well, what the hell, until THIS user account fucks up I’ll keep using this one instead of the other one, but none of this makes sense to me in any way, shape or form.

But whatever works, works, you know? And my computer is still working beautifully this morning, so…not complaints. I’m just going to keep doing this, and then when the opportunity presents itself–when I have time to spend hours futzing with it and Apple Support, maybe then we can get it all worked out. But I am not going to look this gift horse in the mouth, until I have too, and in the meantime I have a desktop that is highly functioning and I am very very happy about that–it’s been soooooo long since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 (or was it 2017?) that I’d almost forgotten how lovely it is to have a functioning computer.

My day job’s functionality is about to change, now that we are nearly post-pandemic; we’re going to be opening more and offering more services for our clients again. It’s going to require some serious adjustments–seriously–and of course the old dog is going to have to readjust to new scheduling and new writing times. I am a little bit concerned on that level, because of course my adaptability isn’t quite what it used to be, but this too shall pass and I am relatively certain that I can eventually evolve into whatever this new work schedule is going to be…but the main adjustment I am primarily trying to make now is getting used to the return of summer to New Orleans. I probably say this every year, but GOOD LORD, it seems so much hotter and ever so more humid this year; far earlier than usual, I would also say. Maybe it’s no different that previous years–and am far too lazy to go look anything up–but yesterday waiting outside for the tow truck I honestly felt like I was broiling. I will never understand how people lived, worked, and functioned down here before air conditioning.

Last night’s panel for Tubby and Coo’s was quite fun–I really enjoyed meeting and listening to Traci Taylor, whose debut novel And I You sounds fantastic; a Black lesbian romance set in Detroit in the 1990’s and exploring issues of sexuality and stigma. The book she is currently working on also sounds amazing. I am trying to also get ready for next week’s San Francisco Public Library panel, moderated by Michael Nava (gulp), and the other authors are Dharma Kelleher, Cheryl Head, and PJ Vernon, whose Bath Haus is getting buzz everywhere this summer (so exciting to see this for a queer writer), and of course, I need to get some writing (and cleaning, the never-ending cleaning) done this weekend as well as getting back into the gym. I also updated my to-do list yesterday, and was pleased to see that I had gotten at least half–if not more–of the things on it done. The new one, of course, isn’t quite as extensive–I didn’t really add anything new to it, just disposed of the things done–but now there is, indeed, room for more, and I am assuming that as I go through the weekend and clean up things and get stuff put away and so forth, I’ll be adding to that list.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Happy Friday, all.

I Love a Rainy Night

There’s really nothing like rain for a good night’s sleep, is there? There’s just so comforting about being under the covers, warm and snug and dry, while everything outside is getting drenched. I’m not sure why that is, but rain always helps me sleep–and I never want to get out of bed if it is still raining. I also love curling up under a blanket in my easy chair with a good book when it’s raining outside. There’s something about that constant pattering of drops against the house and the sound of the wind, the occasional brightening of the gloom with lightning, followed by the rolling thunder…one of the things I love the most about living in New Orleans is our wonderful rain, the marvelous raging thunderstorms–but I will admit, I am not thrilled about the streets filling with water and the potential risks of water damage from flooding to my car. (I got caught once in a downpour/flash flood with my old red Chevrolet Cavalier back in the say–it cost about $600 to get it running again, as well as to get the smell out of it. I can’t imagine how much it would cost now, or if the car would be totaled if the computer systems got wet…)

It’s rained off and on ever since Wednesday night, and it’s kind of gloomy outside my windows again this morning. I’ve been sleeping fairly well for over a week now–last night was the first night I woke up a few times and had some incredibly odd and vivid dreams. The house is still a mess–after my appointments and errands and so forth, I was very tired when I got home and just spent the rest of the day relaxing–at least, what was left of it. We got caught up on Hacks, which is so marvelous, finished the first season of The Sinner (it’s so weird that we watched it backwards, but it really doesn’t matter what order you watch in; as I said, the personal story of detective Harry Ambrose isn’t the point of the show, and its kind of interesting to see it unfold backwards), and then watched another episode of a Hulu show (like The Sinner, executive produced by Jessica Biel, and good for her) called The Sister, starring Russell Tovey. It’s an original crime series (not based on a book or anything) and what drew me to it was star Russell Tovey, whom I’ve enjoyed since his days as the werewolf on the original British Being Human, and he’s also an out gay actor. He’s great and the show is interesting with a clever premise, but the pace is a bit slow and the bad guy/villain is so over the top and creepy that he’s hard to watch (I keep thinking for fuck’s sake just kill him and make it look like an accident already); but we’ll probably keep watching it around other shows we are more interested in.

The rest of this morning is going to be spent organizing and cleaning and straightening up this kitchen/office, which is a disaster area, and then making my long overdue to-do list. I need to record a video somehow to promote a panel I’ m doing this month for the San Francisco Public Library on queer mysteries (moderated and arranged by Michael Nava, and including Dharma Kelleher, Cheryl Head, and PJ Vernon, whose Bath Haus I really need to get my hands on); I also have to make arrangements to record my panel for More Than Malice this month (another stellar line-up), and I am also doing something this coming Thursday for Tubby and Coo’s Bookshop here in New Orleans.

I also kind of need to get back to my writing, and to the gym–but the gym is now open at its pre-pandemic schedule, so I can go much later in the day than I had to before.

I also want to finish reading The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara Tuchman, and Robyn Gigl’s impressive debut novel, By Way of Sorrow, and next up is either Mia Manansala’s debut Arsenic and Adobo or S. A. Crosby’s Razorblade Tears–his Blacktop Wasteland was one of my best reads last year, and has been winning all of the awards for last year’s books. I’ve also realized one of the reasons my TBR pile always seems so mountainous and ever-growing is because there are so many excellent choices to read that I become paralyzed with the inability to choose and as such, never progress and wind up choosing a movie instead, or history videos on Youtube.

And of course, I really need to start writing again, and deciding what I want to work on over the course of this weekend. I think I want to rewrite the first chapter of Chlorine–which is all that is done–and maybe chapter two; an I also want to get back into the short stories and novellas I’ve been working on; you can imagine my horror when I opened the file for “Never Kiss a Stranger” and realized most of what I thought I had written was actually just written in my head…oy–and the same goes for “A Holler Full of Kudzu.” I hate when my imagination is so vivid that I actually think I wrote things when I merely wrote them in my head…

And on that note–hello spice mines! I am heading in there now.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

Californian Grass

I really didn’t want to get up this morning–the bed was incredibly comfortable and loving–but Scooter needs an insulin shot every twelve hours so I hauled myself out of bed to make sure he got his shot when he needed it, and then I was up, so I stayed up. I am feeling incredibly lazy this morning as well–never a good sign, ever–particularly as I have so much to get done today. Our HVAC system was acting strangely yesterday–it didn’t automatically turn off the way it was supposed to when it reached a set temperature; at one point it was 60 degrees downstairs, so I turned it off. This morning it doesn’t feel like it’s freezing downstairs–and that’s not the hot coffee’s effect, either–so maybe it’s working the way it should now. The electricians who installed it are coming by today, so I intend to get some more information about how it works from them–I must have been doing something wrong yesterday, I would imagine. I just looked–the current temperature is what it is set to and it’s not on–so I think maybe I didn’t have it set on fan auto but just on fan, which I think means it will just run and run and run.

Yesterday was a thrilling day of data entry and condom packing; I got the date entry done and so this morning will be reading up on things on-line about developments and so forth with the COVID-19 virus before repairing to my easy chair to make condom packs and watch movies or binge a show (I still am looking at you, Dare Me, for a rewatch all at one time to see what I missed watching weekly). Yesterday I watched Friday the 13th again, and then, as though to punish myself further, I watched Friday the 13th Part II for the first time (I grimly was considering watching the entire series, but I really don’t think I have the patience or fortitude to do so). As I watched the original again, I was struck–just as I was the first time I watched it, right around the time we got our first “smart” television–how cheaply it was made. The entire thing looked like it was filmed with a camcorder as a high school class project (but I don’t think camcorders were readily available when the film was made), the writing and dialogue is terrible, and about the only thing it has going for it is a very young Kevin Bacon (straight from his role on Guiding Light) in a bikini and having a sex scene before getting killed by an arrow coming up from below the bed through the mattress. I always forgot Bacon was in the first one of these…but I decided to watch the second because–well, I still had condom packs to make and Prime suggested it, so here we are. You can tell the first film was an unexpected hit out of nowhere, because while the acting and writing in the sequel are equally as bad as the original–you can see they had a bigger budget. Better lighting, better sets, better cinematography–all the technical aspects of making a film were greatly improved from the first film….if the acting and writing remained as bad and trite and one-dimensional. The story also left something to the imagination–how did Jason survive in the lake all those years? Is he a demon or a ghost or what? It was also interesting to see he hadn’t yet donned the hockey mask yet–apparently, this was added in the third film, which I may watch at some point but certainly don’t have the stomach for today. The cast of the second was also larger than the first, and it also never explains why Camp Crystal Lake becomes, after the last string of murders, a place for camp counselors to go get training for their jobs, and it doesn’t even look it was filmed in the same place…although the nearby town seems to be the same place, and some of the townies from the first movie carry over to the second. I never got into the got slasher movies of the time when they were popular when I was a teen–I later came to appreciate Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street–but these films were also a bridge from the almost infantile, cheesy teen-targeted movies of the 60’s and 70’s to the teen films of the 1980’s, when John Hughes basically flipped the script on what a teen movie looked like.

Saints and Sinners begins today (well, it actually launched last night) and there’s all kinds of lovely things–panels and so forth–over the course of the weekend that are completely free to watch on the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Youtube channel. Check it out! (I’d post a link to the actual page, but there doesn’t seem to be one, which is odd….here is the link to the opening video, which will take you to the page. ) I am doing a panel on Sunday at 3 CST (don’t forget we lose an hour overnight on Sunday), talking with four women mystery writers (Carrie Smith, Cheryl Head, Carsen Taite, and J. M. Redmann) about crime and romance and inspiration and why do we all write about crimes and justice–or the lack thereof. It’s weird that both it and the Tennessee Williams Festival are both virtual this year; that’s two years in a row I’ve not spent the long weekend living at the Hotel Monteleone in the Tennessee Williams Suite (I look forward to that every year). Next year, though….

I picked up a library book yesterday: Eric Arnesen’s Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics 1863-1923. Yes, it’s more research into New Orleans history, but that’s a terrific time period to cover, and if I am going to continue to take inspiration from New Orleans history as well as write historical fiction set here, I need to know more about it. My current knowledge of New Orleans and its history is but a mere drop in the Lake Pontchartrain of fact and information that exists out there–I have yet to even get down to the Quarter to use any of the archives and collections housed there–and I haven’t even read all the New Orleans histories I have here in the Lost Apartment…but I am getting there. I also saw a sign that the Friends of the Library were having a book sale, so I walked back to the carriage house of the Ladder Library, and browsed briefly, conscious of time and that I was on my half hour lunch break. I found a nice hardcover copy of John LeCarre’s The Russia House and picked it up, along with a couple of better copies of several Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries to replace worn copies in my collection (for those who like to keep track of these things, the Nancy Drews were The Clue in the Diary, The Haunted Showboat, and Mystery of Crocodile Island; the Hardy Boys were The Secret of the Old Mill, The Twisted Claw, and The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook, which I’ve never had a copy of and was delighted to pick one up in such good condition, practically mint!), and then as I was rather leaving and feeling rather self-satisfied, I glanced at the “free book giveaway” table, and saw one of the few Elizabeth Peters novels I’ve never read, The Camelot Caper, and believe you me I grabbed it and kept walking. I also learned that I can donate books to the library for their sales (intellectually I knew this in the back of my brain; but only recently have I started seriously thinking about pairing down the vast library I own, and it was good to not only get this confirmation but to learn how the process works–baby steps, Constant Reader, baby steps).

And if you’re ever In New Orleans and are a bibliophile, I do recommend the Ladder Library, housed in what used to be the Ladder estate. The library and its grounds are simply beautiful, and I kind of want to set a story of some kind there.

And on that note, I’m heading into the spice mines. Maybe your Friday be lovely and fulfilling, Constant Reader.

The Beach

Tuesday!

Yesterday was not nearly as productive as it could have been. Generally, on mornings when I have to get up at six, will invariably have a cappuccino at home while I wake up, and then make another to take with me, which I sip at all morning. This gets me through the day pretty well, and through into my evening when I go home and write or edit or read or do chores. So, Constant Reader, you can only imagine my horror when I got to the office and my travel mug was not in its side holder on my back pack. (It turned out to be in the in the car–it fell out of its pocket when I got my backpack out of the car yesterday morning when I arrived at the office…) So yes, I ran out of steam yesterday afternoon, and was very tired by the time I got home from work. In other words, last night all I managed to do was a load of dishes, and quite frankly, this morning I’m not even sure what I watched last night, other than the final episode of It’s a Sin with Paul; turned out he did want to finish watching. Oh yes, now I remember; I watched this week’s episodes of Allen v. Farrow and John Oliver’s show. Allen V. Farrow continues to be a harrowing watch; this week’s episode was about the custody battle–which ended with Allen getting a massive bitchslap by both the court and the judge; in other words, the judge believed Mia to be a fit mother and Dylan a credible witness, and Allen didn’t prove himself to be a fit parent–in fact, his visitation rights with the two other children he shared with Farrow were limited by the court and had to be supervised. If the goal was to punish Farrow, it failed massively–other than making her miserable for a period of time. Interestingly enough, one of the main takeaways from the show is being blown away by how beautiful Mia still is, today. I never understood the desire to have so many children–not, of course, that my understanding was ever needed or necessary or required; my mentality was always “I don’t get the need for so many kids, but if it makes her happy, more power to her and she is adopting kids, which is terrific.” I don’t think Farrow has worked much since the break-up with Allen; her career was mostly starring in his movies after they became a couple…the real shame is I’d like to watch some of those films now (I’ve never seen many Allen films, not being a fan) but I’m not sure if I should. It’s another one of those Roman Polanski things–ironically, one of my favorite Polanski films also stars Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby–I think, but some of those Allen/Farrow films are considered classics.

In other welcome news, I discovered yesterday that I now weigh 203 pounds; the lowest since around 2011/2012, and just three pounds away from my goal weight. I managed to get down to around 212 last year or the year before, as a process, from the 225 I had ballooned up to about a decade or so ago; I set 200 as my goal weight for the year, but I’d be stuck at 212 for so long I didn’t think I was ever going to break through. A few weeks ago I was delighted to see I’d managed to break through that plateau and had dropped to 208; someone gave me a compliment yesterday which drove me to the scale in the (unused) nurse’s office and to my delight, I discovered that I had somehow dropped another five pounds–whether it’s the working out, the change in diet (which was neither extreme nor dramatic), or the walking to the gym and back and always using the stairs at the office, I am not sure–but it has happened, and it is most pleasing to our eyes. I also made some progress on my emails yesterday, which was a very pleasant development.

This weekend is the virtual Saints and Sinners Festival; I taped a panel about mystery and romance with four amazing writers (Carrie Smith, Carsen Taite, J. M. Redmann, and Cheryl Head), which I think is scheduled to air on Sunday, March 14th, at 3 pm CDT; I am not really sure where, so I will have to find out and post it later. I know that after its original air date it will be available for viewing on the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Youtube channel. I was woefully unprepared, but I also had a group of very smart, savvy, and talented women to give me great answers to simple questions and it was a lovely experience for me–I’m not so sure it was for them, but I didn’t see any eye-rolling on screen to my inane questions so they are also incredibly professional as well.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here either, but I also have an essay in the upcoming book from Mystery Writers of America Presents, How to Write a Mystery, edited by Lee Child and Laurie R. King. I know, right? I still have to pinch myself whenever I think about it. I got an ARC recently, and the book looks simply beautiful. And how awesome to be in a collection with some of the top writers in the field? I can now cross “be in an MWA anthology” off my bucket list–but “get selected for an MWA anthology through the blind read process” remains on the list. My essay is called “Writing the Talk” and is about dialogue, and it owes a heavy debt to editor Laurie R. King, who whipped it (and me) into publishable shape after a couple of rewrites and revisions.

And yes, there will be more about that later. ūüôā

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be bright and fun and wonderful.

Restless

And now it is Friday, the end of a week that was a bit of a slog, but ultimately I am glad it’s Friday. Paul got his vaccination yesterday (I am expecting the side effects for him today), I recorded a panel for Saints and Sinners–“Crimes of the Heart”, with me moderating Carsen Taite, J. M. Redmann, Carrie Smith, and Cheryl Head, and then came home to work-at-home for the rest of the day. (I also did that in the morning; I was very drained by the time my work-at-home hours were finished.) We also got our new HVAC system yesterday–rather, the electrical guys my landlady has used since time immemorial finished installing it; and much to my surprise, it made an enormous difference. The downstairs floor vents, which barely ever had a trickle of air coming out of them on the best of times, were blowing enough air to make paper held to the refrigerator with magnets fly up, restrained only by their magnets. It was about 78 outside yesterday, and the guys had set it to about 72 downstairs, and it was cold in here, and get cold quickly. The downstairs never cools as much as the upstairs…and now we have different temperature controls upstairs and down.

Game changer, for sure.

While I was working yesterday I watched the premiere of Superman and Lois, the take on Superman from Greg Berlanti, the CW, and what they call the Arrowverse. And while I gradually tired of Arrow and stopped watching about five seasons in (The Flash didn’t last as long; I just got fed up with “Okay, I am going to go back in time and change the time-line despite the fact that I’ve already done this before twice and fucked up my life completely, but this time will be different”) and never really got into any of the other shows–I really should; until Arrow began retreading plots and all the third time of fucking with the timeline on The Flash I greatly enjoyed both shows, so I am sure there others are terrific as well, at least for a while….but this was Superman, and Superman has always been my favorite of all (Batman and Spider-Man running a close race for second favorite), and I wanted to give it a shot. Tyler Hoechlin is an actor I enjoyed on Teen Wolf, and I liked the concept behind Clark and Lois having teenaged sons. When I first started watching, it took me a minute to get used to this new Lois, and I wasn’t sure she was the right actress for the part, but Elizabeth Tulloch definitely proved me wrong during the course of the show. I highly recommend it; the CW has captured the right spirit of Superman–which the film, much as I love the cast and Henry Cavill, who is also perfect for the part, did not. Superman is about hope, and has always been; a human-like alien from another planet with extraordinary powers who rather than taking over the world and making everyone bow to him, chooses to use his powers to protect and save, for the common good. Superman is aspirational–an alien raised in the United States by good people who taught him right and wrong, and who is, at heart, a decent human being who applies that morality, that sense of “I have these gifts and I need to use them for the betterment of mankind”, to his life, both in his Clark Kent secret identity and as the most powerful being on earth. Hope is what was missing from the DCUniverse Superman films–Superman always puts everyone else ahead of his own issues, his own pain, his own suffering–because it’s the right thing to do. There is serious chemistry between the characters, the actress who plays Lois is perfect, and so are the kids playing their fraternal twin sons, Jonathan and Jordan. The first episode really focuses on the family in crisis: Clark loses his job at the Daily Planet (kudos to the show for addressing the ongoing crisis in journalism); Jordan has social anxiety disorder; Martha Kent dies; and there’s some super villain going around trying to get nuclear power plants to melt down. Clark and Lois have never told the boys their father is Superman; they find out in this episode and one of the boys begins to exhibit powers, which leads to not only a crisis within the family but between the brothers as well.

Seriously, Tyler Hoechlin is possibly the best Superman since Christopher Reeve, which is high praise indeed.

The weather in New Orleans has turned back into something more like normal; it was in the high seventies yesterday, with bright sunshine and a gorgeous clear blue sky. This morning appears to be somewhat similar, and of course, the Lost Apartment is a disaster area and I have at least four hundred new emails to read through, deleting trash but reading the ones that aren’t trash and deciding which ones need responding to. I slept extremely well last night, and am hopeful the malaise of the last few weeks might be on the way out–or at least I am getting a temporary respite from it, at any rate.

It’s been very difficult for me to get It’s a Sin out of my head, and I suspect I am going to have to watch again. My initial reaction to it was so visceral and deeply felt (the power of seeing yourself represented on a show cannot ever be underestimated) that I want to view it again–knowing what’s coming might lessen the emotional impact on me, or so I hope–so that I can evaluate it more critically and objectively. Ever since watching the first episode I have been going through these weird flashbacks to the past, MY past, and how things were for me back then…and I also think I’ve never given myself the time to properly grieve, ever, if that makes sense. Whenever I am going through something terrible I don’t allow myself to react. I tend to turn inward and go completely numb, thinking okay this is the hand I’ve been dealt so now I need to handle this and get through it–essentially, “I’ll cry tomorrow.” But tomorrow never comes, and I move on and try not to ever think about the something terrible I experienced or even look back. This mentality or ability or skill or whatever you want to call it has served me sort of well throughout my life; I have been told I am very good in a crisis…but is that good for me and my mental and emotional stability, to never stop and look back, to not sit down and have a good cry? Writing Murder in the Rue Chartres and the essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” proved to be, while incredibly difficult and painful to write, cathartic. And if that was cathartic, maybe I should have written from my experiences in the 1980’s and early 1990’s years ago rather than locking it all away in a deep recessed corner of my brain. I don’t know. I will never know, really; by the time I started writing and publishing gay fiction was already moving away from HIV/AIDS narratives; I distinctly remember wanting to write about Scotty because I wanted to write joyful stories where his sexuality was absolutely not a factor in his life; he had never had any issues about being gay and always had the love and support of parents and siblings, even if it took a little longer for him to realize his grandparents were also supportive. It’s one of the reasons, I suppose, why I continue to write about him all these years later…because I love him and have so much fun writing about him because when I write about him I get to pretend to be him.

And it’s fun being him for a little while.

And on that note, it is time to begin my work day. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

In Too Deep

Well, Constant Reader, we made it to Friday somehow, didn’t we? Huzzah, I guess?

The heat¬†finally¬†broke yesterday; it was very cool in the morning and evening. The afternoon didn’t feel nearly as bad as it has been, even though it did get up to about 87 degrees. There wasn’t any humidity, and the humidity is, after all, what is really horrible about the weather here. There’s also a tropical storm of some sort out in the Gulf–I should probably check on that, since it’s projected to pass by close to here–which undoubtedly is affecting the weather here somewhat as well.

I don’t have big plans for the weekend; I never do, really. Just the usual: make groceries, pick up the mail, clean, watch the LSU and Saints football games, cook out, and do some writing. Today is a short day at the office, and I’ve already started working on the cleaning this morning. I’ll undoubtedly do some more tonight when I get home from the office, and I’d also like to get back to work on¬†Bury Me in Shadows,¬†which has pretty much lain fallow this entire week. I have done some thinking about it, of course, and there are changes to implement into the manuscript before moving on to those later chapters, but I am way off track to get it finished by the end of the month, as I had originally hoped and planned, unless I get back to work and start kicking some serious ass as I work on it.

And maybe–just maybe–with some dedication, I can get my emails all caught up. Stranger things have happened…and may happen again. Just you wait and see.

I slept really well last night–only woke up twice that I can remember–and feel very rested this morning. My throat is still sore, but the earache seems to be gone for good (huzzah!), and maybe tonight I’ll dose it with tea and honey before going to bed. I still haven’t started reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s¬†Certain Dark Things¬†beyond that enthralling first page, but probably tonight when I get home from work I’ll make some time for it–Scooter always wants some cuddle time whenever I come home, so I find that’s the best thing to do–curl up in my easy chair with a book so he can sleep in my lap and purr. It’s weird how far behind I’ve fallen in my reading–I’d hoped to read more horror this month than I have–and I’ve also got to start preparing for my Bouchercon panels; I’m moderating two, and that requires prep work, particularly since I have so many ridiculously talented people on them. One features Cheryl Head, Alex Segura, Steph Cha, S. A. Cosby, Michael Nava, and my co-moderator, Carsen Taite; the other features Lou Berney, Wendy Corsi Staub, Alison Gaylin, Elizabeth Little, and Steph Cha (again–and if you haven’t read her brilliant new novel,¬†Your House Will Pay,¬†shame on you and get to it). Ridiculously talented and wicked smart panels…so I am really going to need to be prepared, else I will come across looking like a moron.

I am also on the Anthony Award Best Short Story panel, where I will be sharing the stage again with S. A. Cosby in addition to Art Taylor, Holly West, and the always delightful Barb Goffman. Barb and Holly have stories in¬†Florida Happens¬†(Holly and my nominated stories are from¬†Florida Happens); Shawn and I are both in the upcoming¬†Dark Yonder¬†anthology; and Art is one of the most awarded and respected short story writers in our genre–his nominated story also won the Edgar this past spring. (Holly also edited¬†Murder-a-Go-Go’s,¬†which includes my story “This Town.”)¬†I don’t hold out many hopes for an upset win and a second Anthony for my shelves; but it truly is a surprise and a delight to be nominated in the company of these other writers whom I admire and respect so deeply.

It’s nice to periodically take stock, you know? I get so caught up in the grind of editing and writing and promoting and reading and everything else I have to get done–not to mention the dispiriting slings and arrows that come along in your every day life as a writer (not the least of which is fucking Imposter Syndrome) that I never really ever take the time to sit back and reflect and enjoy what I’ve done so far, what I’ve accomplished. I think part of that is because I am always dissatisfied with where I am in my career as a writer and wanting to get more done, accomplish more, and get more work out there. It’s a grind, as I mentioned earlier, and I always forget to enjoy moments, or to even take a moment here and there to bask in the joys of accomplishment because I’m always so focused on¬†what’s next oh my God I have so much to do and so little time when will I ever get this all finished?¬†That, of course, is self-defeating. I’ve been trying to be better about blowing my own horn and taking some pride in myself, as well as working on my self-confidence.¬† I’ve written a lot–novels, novellas, short stories, essays–and I’ve won some awards, been nominated for even more. It’s a thrill to be nominated for a mainstream short story award–the second time I’ve been nominated for a mainstream short story award–and it’s really quite a thrill. It’s a thrill to be in the company of the other nominees this time; last time the other nominees included Lawrence Block and Joyce Carol Oates. (I know, right?)

So look at the positives, and ignore the negatives.

And on that note, I have some time before I have to get ready for work this morning, so I think I’ll do a bit of writing.

Have a lovely Friday!

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