Rocks Off

That’s a rather charming title for a blog post, isn’t it? As you may have noticed, I generally pick a list of songs to use as titles for the blog, and I am currently (perhaps obviously) now working my way through the Rolling Stones’ extensive discography, which will occasionally provide something a little off-color (the best was the Pet Shop Boys; every song title sounds like a great essay title about gay life), like today. Today’s title just makes me think of sex and “getting your rocks off”; I don’t think I am familiar with the actual song, in all honesty, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the gist of the song.

Whatever gets your rocks off, man.

Ah, the 1970s were such a different time, weren’t they? I’ve been going down a lot of 1970s wormholes lately, not just for the sake of the nostalgia afforded (all those lovely memories of the Top Forty AM stations in Chicago, WLS and WCFL, that I grew up with; WGN before it became a nation-wide cable channel) but because it’s also a bit of research, you see. Yes, after I finish writing the book I am writing and editing the one I turned in last month and then editing the one I am turning in at the end of this month, I plan on writing Chlorine and a different book I’ve been planning for a while, but after that I am thinking about a 1970’s book–or a romance; I can’t decide which I would prefer to do next. Romance is a whole new ball game for me, which is part of the appeal, but then I look at Romancelandia on Twitter and think, yeah, not so sure I want to go swimming with those sharks. I’m not even sure what precisely is going on in that world anymore, either; I don’t know if RWA ever recovered from the “burn it all to the ground” December of 2019, and I think Romantic Times has also gone away? It’s funny, though, every time I dip my toes into the waters of another genre something inevitably will run me screaming back to crime fiction, my publishing safe space as it were. I do feel like doing something completely different from everything I’ve done already–it’s always fun and challenging to go in another direction than you usually do, and I think it helps me with my mystery writing, frankly–but I am not sure if a romance is the way to go. I have what I think is a great idea for one, but….it’s not like I haven’t thought that before, either.

Of course, writing what would be best for my career and my “brand” (whatever that may be) never enters my head. Which is probably why I am not a New York Times bestseller and a household name–yeah, that’s why, Greg.

But I went to my doctor’s appointment and am pleased to report that the arm was just a pulled muscle and lingering tendonitis (he added that I should keep it wrapped until the swelling goes does–yes, there is some weird swelling), got my prescriptions refilled, and started the process rolling that will hopefully result in my getting hearing aids at long last. My weight was high, but my blood pressure was also fine and all vitals were good, so…yay for that at any rate. And now I find myself home earlier than usual and more time to work on my writing than I ordinarily would, so hurray! I also got Art Taylor’s new short story collection The Adventures of the Castle Thief and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions, from Crippen and Landru (order direct from them! It’s better for everyone!), which is very exciting–Art is one of our best crime short story writers, period, and has won every possible award in crime fiction for short story writing at least once, and I love his work. I started reading Abby Collette’s Body and Soul Food while I waited for my appointment and it’s off to a really good start, which is very cool.

I am really excited about the hearing aids, Constant Reader, you have no idea. I’ve always had trouble hearing conversations in crowded restaurants and whenever there’s ambient noise, and it’s gotten progressively worse as I’ve gotten older. (I smile and nod a lot…) And since I’ve long since stopped caring how I look, who cares if people can see me with my hearing aids in? (I wish I’d stopped caring about that a lot sooner than I did, frankly.) So once I get this done and a load of dishes in the dishwasher and a load of clothes going in the washing machine, I am going to dive headfirst into my book and see what I can get finished today.

So, best to head into the spice mines else I’ll never get started.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

He’s a gas, gas, gas!

Here we are on another gray weekend morning. It was supposed to rain off and on all day yesterday–it didn’t–but it turned out to be a pretty good day. I wrote about eight thousand words or so, give and take, and made groceries in the afternoon. I did take care of some chores around the Lost Apartment, too, and I spent some time yesterday morning with Other Horrors, which I should finish this morning as I only have three stories left. There have been a couple that puzzled me, but overall, I’ve enjoyed the collection for the most part. I’d be pressed to pick a favorite story, though. Reading it has again reminded me that I am not, no matter how much I wish I was, a horror writer. I just don’t have the imagination, I don’t think, to be a horror writer. I can write Gothic suspense–suspense stories with a touch of the supernatural in them, like Lake Thirteen and Bury Me in Shadows–but I just don’t have the kind of mind that goes to horror when I think about writing.

We also finished off That 90’s Show last night and started watching Mayfair Witches, an adaptation of Anne Rice’s Mayfair trilogy, beginning with my favorite of her novels, The Witching Hour. I am predisposed to like this, since I loved the book so much (the rest of the trilogy not so much), and of course I drove past the house they turned into the Mayfair house for filming on Prytania Street all the time. (They did not use the actual house at First and Chestnut; one thing I did have a problem with was the way they showed Dierdre’s porch, which was different on the actual house than how depicted on the show) There are two more episodes for us to get through tonight, which is cool. I slept extremely well last night again–it’s remarkable how well I’ve been sleeping since getting back from New York–and my psoriasis seems to be under control again for the first time in years. There are a few things I need from the grocery store, but I think I can safely put that off until tomorrow and can stop on the way home from work. This morning I did get up earlier than I wanted to–I am sleeping so well I could stay in bed all day without an issue, I think–but I eel good. My legs have finally stopped feeling sore and tired, thank God, and I think I can safely say that I have completely reacclimated to my day to day life again.

I’m still listening to the Hadestown score, but I also started listening to the Christine McVie-Lindsay Buckingham album the two recorded a few years ago, and it’s quite good. The harmonies! Although I can’t help but think two things while listening: first, I wish Lindsay Buckingham had produced one of her solo albums and second, the one thing missing is Stevie Nicks and this would have made an amazing Fleetwood Mac album, which I think was what it was originally intended to be but Stevie wasn’t available or something or another. It’s also sad to know there will never be another Fleetwood Mac album since Christine’s untimely passing last year (not with my favorite line-up, at any rate). I need to move her solo album from the 1980’s back into my rotation–it’s a great and always underrated record. It’s hard to imagine the band moving on without either Christine or Lindsay (whom they fired), and Stevie already has a band she tours with as a solo act…sigh. Fleetwood Mac was the soundtrack of my teens and twenties and it’s just very weird that it’s finally over after all these years for me. When I write about the 1970’s–which I probably will do either later this year or sometime next–it will indelibly have Fleetwood Mac music all over the score of my work.

When I finish this book, I have to spend February revising Mississippi River Mischief and should spend some time doing a massive copy edit of Jackson Square Jazz so I finally have all of the Scotty series for sale as ebooks at long last. Once I get that done, March will be spent revising the one I am writing now, and then finally come April I can get back to work on Chlorine at long last. I’d like to get a draft of it finished in April so I can write another first draft of something else in May (I already know what it is going to be) and then will probably spend the rest of the year writing short stories and novellas and revising everything to see what can happen with them. Next year I want to write yet another Scotty book and that’s when I am going to try to write my 1970’s Chicago suburb boys-are-disappearing novel, too. None of this is carved into stone tablets, either–things always come up along the way, new ideas or hey Greg want to write a book we’ll pay you xxx for it and I never ever say no to things like that. I’d also like to come up with a new short story collection at some time, or perhaps the three-in-one book novella collection; it’s hard to say. And I kind of want to try to write a romance. There’s always so much I want to write, isn’t there?

Heavy heaving sigh. I don’t think I’ll ever match the days when I used to write four or five novels per year, but I do think I am going to be able to get a lot more writing done now in the next few years. Next weekend I am doing a signing at the ALA event here in New Orleans at the Convention Center, and of course the next weekend I am off to Alabama, and then it’s Carnival. Utter madness!

And now I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will probably check in with you again later.

We Love You

I got home last night around seven, exhausted, bone-tired, and delighted to be able to sleep in my own bed after four nights of insomnia. I got some sleep while in New York, but not much–and I also exerted myself a lot more than I have in, well, years. Mt Fitbit would let me know every day that I’d reached the goal of ten thousand steps (which never happens, but I do need to start taking walks more regularly, as it’s disturbing how physically out of condition I am–my legs are achy and sore from all the walking), and of course I had cut my heel accidentally the morning I left, so it’s kind of achy and painful. But I slept deeply and well last night, the sleep of the exhausted, and I actually feel rather rested and awake as I re-acclimate to my normal reality. As I expected, I didn’t write hardly anything while I was gone, so I need to climb back up on that horse today. It’s a work holiday–there’s no way I could be functional at the office today (I always take an extra day off to recover from the trip upon my return home), and now I have to figure out what I need to get done to get back in control of my life.

First thing on the list is to get back on track with my writing–so hallelujah for a day off! I don’t even want to think about the horror that is my email inbox just yet, and I may avoid it for another day so I can get my proverbial shit together (oh, my OWN coffee that I made myself just is so much nicer than buying it somewhere). I am most likely going to have to hit the grocery store today, as well as pick up the mail and a prescription and put gas in the car. There’s some filing and sorting that needs to be done this morning, and of course I need to think about what to take for lunch to the office for the rest of the week. So much to think about, so much to do, so much to remember. I believe this may even call for a to-do list. Yay!

I did have a lovely time in New York; it’s always invigorating to spend time in the company of other writers. It was a bit cold for my liking, but I think I walked all over Manhattan, had some amazing food, got to reconnect with friends (some I hadn’t seen in years in person), and of course, the highlight was seeing Hadestown. I’ve already downloaded the cast recording to Spotify; it may be different to listen to than when watching it performed live, but I am looking forward to listening to it on walks–because I’ve decided that walks are de rigeur in my future–and maybe, just maybe, i could also start listening to audiobooks when I am taking my walks. I want my heel to heal first, of course–all that walking in New York probably wasn’t optimal for that, but one of my goals this year to become more physically active, and what better way to get that going than by taking walks? I can also, you know, take pictures with my phone, too, of my neighborhood and the Garden District or wherever I may go for a walk. It also occurs to me that one of these weekends I should spend a day exploring the World War II museum (which could help with some backstory for Chlorine).

As you can see, the trip has rather invigorated me, even as I am physically worn out as I type out these ambitious plans.

I started reading the Horror Writers Association’s latest anthology, Other Horrors (edited by Vince Liaguno and Rena Mason) on my flight home, and am quite enjoying it. The premise of the anthology is for it to be inclusive and to highlight diverse authors and voices; and so far it’s been fun. There are stories I like better than others, of course, but that’s any anthology and it’s very fun to discover new authors and voices that I wasn’t aware of–again, the point of the anthology–and there’s nothing I love more than discovering new voices, you know? Plus, reading it has me itching to write some more short stories–which of course I really can’t do because I’ve got to get this book finished–but I also want to map out the rest of my writing year and come up with a plan for my future. I think I am going to take the plunge and write that romance I was thinking about the second half of last year–just for something different to do and something to sharpen my skills; I think we should always try to write outside of our comfort zone as often as we can, which is why I dabble in horror sometimes. And why not give romance a try? I’ve always liked romance, even if I don’t read very much of it (I can’t keep up with my crime and horror reading, let alone anything else), so why not give a whirl?

And on that note, I need to go fold some laundry and start organizing my life and kitchen and office space again. Have a lovely Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Heart of Stone

Another new year. 2023. This year it will have been forty-five years since I graduated from high school. That feels weird to me, but it must be true. Forty-five years. Kids born the year I graduated from high school are full on having mid-life crises already. Not exactly a cheery thought to kick off a new year, though, is it?

I got my writing done yesterday and have a daunting day of more writing ahead of me. I managed to get it all done in a little less than three hours yesterday (what can I say? I was on a roll, and the book is really coming together here at the end), and I was thus able to watch some college football games yesterday, namely TCU-Michigan and Georgia-Ohio State. Both games were completely insane, but I am sure OSU fans are not happy with their unfortunate head coach. I imagine now, after two straight losses to Michigan and no national title wins, they are every more unhappy than they have been with their head coach; it’s almost like Ohio State and Michigan have switched their annual trajectories. I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am starting to appreciate more. I am not a fan of twentieth-century straight white male MFA writing, which is what this kind of is (look at me! my book will be taught in universities!) and I’ve never cared for (Hemingway comes to mind) but I’m starting to like it more. There’s a dark, noir undertone to it that I am appreciating, and now that the main character (Dove) is making his way to New Orleans now–well, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to me once the action moves here, which is the entire reason I am reading the book in the first place. We also finished off season two of Sex Lives of College Girls, whose second season didn’t live up to the first, but it was still enjoyable. Tonight we’ll probably go back to Three Pines and watch a movie; there was something Paul mentioned last night that he wants to watch but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

I felt remarkably rested and relaxed yesterday; the writing going so well had a lot to do with it, I am sure. I slept well again last night and feel rested again this morning–I really do like these lengthy weekends, and am going to miss them once they are over–so I feel confident I can bang out the word count i need to get done for today as well. Yay! So, I am going to do exactly the same thing I did yesterday; read this morning over my coffee, then take a shower and get cleaned up before diving into the next chapter I need to write.

As is my wont, I am setting goals for 2023 rather than making resolutions–and while this hasn’t been as successful for me as it should have been over the years (some goals remain the same, year after year after year), I still like goals better than resolutions. So, without further ado, here we go:

Get an agent

This has been at the top of my goals every year since i started setting goals rather than resolutions, which goes back to the beginnings of my blog, way back in December 2004. I have made running lists of potential agents to try for years, always adding someone new whenever I come across their information or someone being excited to be signed by one. Having an agent doesn’t mean a significant change to my writing or my earning potential or the possibilities of my career getting bigger, but none of those things are likely to happen without an agent: I am not getting signed to a major publisher like William Morrow or Random House unless and until I have an agent. I may never sign with one of those houses–I may never get an agent–but I also never really try, either. So, the goal isn’t necessarily to get an agent in 2023, but to at least make an effort.

Finish everything on deck

I have five novellas in some sort of progress, as well as two other books I am at least four or five chapters deep into. I want to finish all of these projects in 2023 and get them out of my working files. I don’t think I will ever finish every short story or essay I’ve begun over the years, but getting some sort of completion here would be really nice. I would love nothing more than to have a working first draft of both Muscles and Chlorine by the midpoint of 2023. I also would like to pull together a second short story collection, which would be incredibly cool (This Town and Other Stories). It would also be nice to get those novellas completed. It is very tempting to turn them all into novels–a couple of them might be able to be stretched out that way–but I know some of them simply do not have the depth or story potential to play out that way. The nice thing about novellas is the length is up to you; I know these stories are all too long to pare down to something readable and enjoyable for six thousand words or less; but some of them need to be longer than the twenty thousand words I was shooting for.

More short stories sent out on submission.

I really do need to finish some of these other short stories I have in progress to try to get them out on submission. I have over eighty stories in some sort of progress, with still others yet to be started and/or finished. I’ve not been doing so great with the short stories as I would have liked over the last few years. I have some really good ones to work on–there’s one I fear that’s going to end up being longer than a short story, because there’s more to the story than can fit in the confines of six thousand words or less, but then you also never know.

Clean like we are moving.

I really need to get rid of things that have accumulated over the sixteen or so years we’ve been living in this apartment. I need to clean out the storage attic and the storage unit; donate a shit ton of books to the library sale, and just in general rid the apartment of all this clutter that seems to be weighing us down and closing in on us. Part of this is my inability to rid myself of books once I’ve read them, but I’ve also become much more ruthless when it comes to pruning them–I still can’t believe I donated so many of my old Stephen King first edition hardcovers, and my Anne Rice first editions as well, but they were just collecting dust in boxes so what use were they? Paul and I set this goal–clean like we’re moving, which in other words means would you move this or trash this? The first few times I pared down the books it literally was painful, but I am getting better. And after being a lifelong book hoarder, well. you can’t just turn that off after decades of doing it.

Volunteer less of my time.

All due respect, I’ve done my time. I have volunteered relentlessly for the overall betterment of the writing community–whether it’s the mystery community or the queer writing community–for quite some time now. I write stories for free for charity anthologies all the time. I step up and judge awards because I think they’re important. I’ve served on the Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon boards. But now that I’m older, I need to scale back. I don’t have either the time or the prodigious energy that I used to have, and while I’ve enjoyed all the volunteer work, something has to give. I just can’t do all the things that I used to do because things have changed: my day job takes more out of me physically, emotionally, and intellectually than it ever has before (the switch to working early mornings didn’t help); I tire out much earlier than I used to since my COVID situation last July and I can’t write or be productive or even read when I am bone-tired exhausted the way I am when I get home from work some nights. This also includes giving blurbs, I am sad to say; blurbing means reading the entire book, and I just don’t really have the time or mind-space to do much of that anymore; same with judging. I want my reading to be for pleasure or education for the rest of my life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always say no when asked, just that I am going to be more discriminatory. I need to be more jealous of my free time, and I can honestly say few people in the mystery community have done more volunteer work than me. I’d just like to start getting paid for working.

Take better care of myself.

The one-two punch of getting older and having COVID last summer has brought home very clearly to me that I need to take better care of myself and that physical things are just going to get harder. It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few years getting into a gym/workout routine with everything else I had to do plus the exhaustion thing; but the truth is physically I need to start working my body more–and the longer I go, the weaker my body gets and the harder it will be to get back into decent physical condition again. I also need to start paying more attention to my diet now than I am in my early soon to be mid-sixties–my diet needs to be healthier and I need to eat better. I weighed myself last week at the office and I am back up to 218; which is better than 220, but I had gotten myself down to nearly 200 at one point and I’d like to get back there. I don’t like this extra weight on me, and sure, maybe I can carry it and it would surprise people to know how much I actually do weigh, but I’m aware of it. And while it would be easy to think who cares, you’re almost sixty, you’re practically in the grave so why start depriving yourself of things you love at this age? But there’s a defeatist mentality there, a laziness speaking that is far too easy for me to go ahead and give into, and I don’t think that’s perhaps the wisest decision to make? I also need to get some more work on my mouth done–I’m tired of looking like an inbred hillbilly.

Read more.

It’s incredibly easy to come home and collapse into my easy chair and flip on Youtube videos–whether its football highlights, lists, music or military or European history, or reaction videos–it’s easy to just mindlessly lay there in the chair while watching endless videos, one after the other, about whatever subject catches my fancy. But I could read instead–and there’s plenty of nonfiction lying around the apartment. Over the past few days I’ve been reading either Bad Gays or Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown by J. F. Andrews–about heirs to thrones that got supplanted by people with more spurious claims in the Middle Ages–or Holy Wars by Gary L. Rashba (about crusades and ancient wars in the Holy Land, going back to Biblical times); and there are plenty of other non-fiction books lying around here that I could get to more quickly if I read rather than watched Youtube videos. But at the same time, when I am exhausted, it’s almost therapeutic. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to read history or other nonfiction while trying to rest, relax and decompress from a day in clinic.

Be more assertive and less self-deprecating.

In general, this is a good idea. I need to break the conditioning I was raised with, in which you never praise yourself and simply wait for others to notice and do it for you. No, this just doesn’t work and it’s not a good trait for a writer to have. I need to stand up for myself, my work, and my career because let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for me.

New years can be daunting as they are not only full of potential for either good or bad but they are unknown. You can’t know what’s coming, so all you can do is be hopeful things will always work out in the end. I want to also try to be more positive, and try to enjoy the good things without fear of the inevitable bad things that will inevitably come along. I also need to get out of the mindset that enjoying good things that happen will trigger bad things to happen as punishment; I need to learn to navigate that line between self-confidence and arrogance, which isn’t an easy task.

And on that note, I am going to go read for a little while before i dive into today’s writing. Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

Route 66

Tuesday morning and back to the office. I made quota again yesterday but am still behind from missing on Friday or Saturday or whenever that was. It’s in the forties this morning–it feels chilly here in the apartment this morning, and it’s also dark outside. I’d forgotten over the three day weekend how much I hate getting up in the morning to darkness outside my windows. It really is oppressive having to wake up in the dark and get your day going while it’s still night outside.

We’ve been watching Sex Lives of College Girls and really enjoying it. It’s quite funny, occasionally sad, and very well done. I don’t even know why we started watching it–I’ve literally heard next to nothing about it, and had no idea it was a Mindy Kaling show until the credits–but it’s quite clever and enjoyable and funny. After years of seeing the male college experience, with its emphasis on drugs, alcohol, and sex, it’s fun to see it from the girls’ side of things–and a lot more interesting. It’s also laugh out loud funny at times, and at others, it’s rather poignant and sad. It focuses on four girls sharing a suite in the freshman dorms–one a rich society girl, one a scholarship student from a small town in Arizona, another a senator’s daughter and soccer athlete, and the final girl a sex-obsessed South Asian woman who wants to be a comedy writer–and watching their friendships and relationships grow organically is kind of nice. The rich girl is a deeply closeted lesbian who resists any push from sex/romance partners to come out–and those tired old excuses she trots are equally easily recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in the closet and thus living the double life. We have one more episode of season one left before we can move on to season 2–and the ongoing stories for each girl are kind of compelling and interesting to watch. It’s also fun watching the roommate bonding between them and their own friendships growing stronger over the course of the show. It’ll be even more fun seeing how it goes and grows.

It is hard to believe this is the last week of 2022, a time, one supposes, for casual and causal reflection on the past year as a new one is to be born. I do seem to recall the year as being a time of mostly being miserable and not enjoying myself much or being able to get much done, but once I start reflecting on everything that happened in the past year it was actually a good one overall; there were a lot of frustrations and miseries along the way, but somehow I managed to keep plugging along and keeping going. A lot of the misery was a feeling of disorientation, primarily driven by having to get up early several mornings per week–always a bad thing for me, it also shifts me into a misery-adjacent position–and never really feeling like I had a handle on things because there was always so much to do, which in its turn created anxiety and stress which then manifested as insomnia which then made me tired every day and often too tired to get much of anything done, which then added to the anxiety and stress which then made the insomnia more potent and so on and on it went, a vicious carousel where the brass ring was always just slightly out of reach for me. That’s kind of how everything has felt since the pandemic started back in March of 2020 (going on three years now)–I had just started adjusting to my work schedule in our new building when the bottom dropped out and I no longer felt like I had a handle on my life anymore. That is unsettling for me, being much more of a control freak than I ever thought I was; and one thing I would really prefer in 2023 is to not feel like the strands of my life are slipping uncontrollably through my hands–ad leaving rope burns.

Of course, as I am behind on my book and need to spend as much time as possible between now and this weekend finishing it, I may not have much time for careful and studied reflection on the new year and what I want from it as opposed to what I got from the previous year, or what I accomplished, or what I left unfinished. But from looking over my client schedule for the week, it looks pretty light; I think most of the doctors are out this week for the most part so no one will be added to the schedule, either. Next week we start seeing people every half hour, which is pre-pandemic level scheduling; it’ll take a while for that to start getting out of control and to the point where we actually have someone scheduled every half-hour, which we’ve not done since before the shutdown (it feels like that should become a thing, doesn’t it–Before The Shutdown, BTS for short). Which means my day-job will be busier and my every hour of my every work day up in the air. Woo-hoo! I love that for me (sarcasm font).

The book is coming along nicely, I suppose. It’s great to hit the word count every day (even though I missed a day and need to make it up at some point), and it’s nice to know that I can still sit down at the computer and bang out three thousand or so shitty words on a daily basis. I am always afraid that’s not going to happen someday when I sit down; it does sometimes, but it’s usually more from laziness of my own than anything else, really. But that doesn’t lessen the fear that the day will come when it won’t be my own laziness and desire to just sit in my chair watching whatever Youtube videos come up to watch after picking one I want to see. I also have to decide what I am going to read next, digging something out from the ever growing and teetering TBR Stack, which is about to grow again as I ordered books for my Christmas present to myself–more Ruth Ware, Carol Goodman, a few I saw recommended by other writers, Jami Attenberg’s writing memoir, and of course a Hollywood memoir of a bisexual actor (more research for Chlorine, of course). I am also finally reaching the end of my extremely long, over a thousand pages Robert Caro biography of Robert Moses, which means I’ll finally be ready to tackle another lengthy non-fiction book as well. It has taken me years to read the Moses biography, which is extremely well done (it IS Robert Caro, after all) and it’s also fascinating to see how ONE man reshaped the city of New York as well as the future of Long Island–and not necessarily for the betterment of either. I think I will probably move on to David McCullough’s history of the building of the Panama Canal, or his book on the Johnstown Flood (it’s much shorter).

I was also looking at all the blog entries I’ve started as essays about one thing or another over the past few years, and thinking one of my goals for 2023 is to finally get those entries finished and posted and out of the draft folder. Something else for the goal list to post on New Year’s Day, I suppose.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Santa Tell Me

It’s always amused me that Santa is an anagram for Satan.

They may even be the only anagrams possible for each word, too.

We’re in a severe weather alert, but mostly the fear is flooding and torrential rain–the massive area under tornado watch is north of here–and it’s dark outside this morning as I sip my coffee and write this. My sleep was spotty again last night–waking up occasionally before falling back asleep again–but I do feel rested, and that’s the most important thing. Progress was made on the book yesterday, which is terrific and ever-so-pleasing to me. I did my errands yesterday after work without issue, but of course once I was home and had worked on the book for awhile, was terribly tired. I cannot allow that to happen when I get home this evening, as there are dishes to be put away and another load to be put into the washer. I’d like to spend some more time with A Walk on the Wild Side this evening as well; I need to finish it if I want to read the new Donna Andrews on Christmas day.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is next weekend already. It doesn’t seem like it, but what would be really lovely–if it’s not a downpour when I get home from work tonight–would be to take a walk around the neighborhood and through the Garden District documenting decorations. I should make a point of this every year during Christmas and Carnival, frankly. I’ve never seen a city before that loved to decorate as much as New Orleans does–or does it even remotely as well.

But the coffee is good this morning and it’s getting light outside–grayish, really–and hopefully I won’t get rained on while driving to work. (Note to self: if it isn’t raining, bring umbrella inside from the car in case it’s raining when I leave.) I think we’re going to buy our new refrigerator this weekend, which is good since the one we currently have is absolutely on its last legs. I wanted to gt one with the freezer on the bottom, but for some reason those are a lot more expensive–by an absurd amount. So, it looks like we’ll probably get the normal kind with the freezer on the top–or maybe we can spring for a bit more and get one with side by side doors, which would be almost as effective (it’s the bending down that’s starting to get to me), but we’ll see. I think we’re just going to go to Costco and see what they have.

Yesterday a friend posted a list of all the things she accomplished in 2022–which she compiled after feeling like she really hadn’t done much during the year, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much she had, in fact, managed to do. I was thinking about this myself the other night–not that I hadn’t done much throughout the year, but rather that I’d had a rather bad year, but once I sat down and started thinking about it, it’s actually been a good year for me; actually a very good year indeed when all is said and done. Oddly enough, when I sit and look back emotionally, without going into much more depth, it was a year in which my primary memories are tired and miserable. And yet…productivity wise it may not have been my strongest year, but it was still a good year. Bury Me in Shadows was nominated for two Anthony Awards at Bouchercon this year; it’s not the first time one person was nominated multiple times in the same year (hell, S. A. Cosby was nominated for three awards, and I think Tracy Clark was also up for two this year alone) but it’s a select group to be sure and one to which I am proud to belong. I have no way of verifying it either, but I am pretty certain it was the first time the same book was nominated in two different categories. Those were also my third and fourth Anthony nominations, which I think may also make me the most nominated queer author? It’s hard to say because they don’t have full lists of the finalists from every year anywhere, so you can’t really look it up and verify anything, so I hate to make claims that may not be true. But I think they’re true, and even if they aren’t, I am certainly one of the most nominated queer authors. The positive reception Bury Me in Shadows got on its release continued into the early part of this year as well, just as #shedeservedit came out. That one didn’t get near the attention as its predecessor, but it’s a book I am really proud of and am happy to have not only finished but published. I also finished writing A Streetcar Named Murder earlier this year, and I couldn’t be more pleased with its reception, either. I worked on other things throughout the year–short stories, some novellas, and two other novels (Chlorine and Muscles, to be precise)–and while I didn’t get a lot of stories out there and sold this year, I did sell a couple of which I am proud–one I can’t mention as it isn’t public yet, and the other being “Solace in a Dying Hour,” which I sold to an Austalian anthology and it’s a pretty damned good story. I also sold “The Rosary of Broken Promises” to an Anne Rice tribute anthology, and I still have one out on submission. “This Thing of Darkness” was in Cupid Shot Me, an anthology that was released on Valentine’s Day last year–so yeah, that’s at least four stories, and there’s another anthology that’s supposed to come out sometime this month which has my story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” in it.

I also edited the Bouchercon anthology, which took up a lot of my time between January and June. Land of 10000 Thrills is a great anthology, with some absolutely amazing contributors and great stories, and the contributors themselves were not only amazing talents but delights to work with. The anthology caused me a lot more stress than editing an anthology used to–primarily because there were so many demands on my time this past year, which I think is part of the reason I felt miserable for most of the year; my massive to-do list never seemed to get finished and always seemed to keep growing. It satisfies my OCD and need for completion to finish to-do lists, and it also subconsciously makes me think I’ve accomplished things. When tasks don’t get done because I simply don’t have the time or the energy to get to them, that makes me feel like I am failing. I also have to adjust my expectations downward, because I am older and don’t have the energy I used to have–and I really don’t want or need to start taking any kind of stimulant. I probably should cut back on the coffee, frankly.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Monday morning and back to the office with me! It was a pretty good weekend, overall; I got some work done on the book, made groceries, did all kinds of chores, finished reading my Wanda Morris book and started reading another, and somehow managed to get some rest around all of that as well. I was very pleased with the work I did on the book, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even somehow manage to get it turned in by the extended deadline. #madness

And now it’s Monday morning, and I am up earlier than I need to be. I really need to focus, as a lot of things have been slipping lately as I focus on the book and getting it finished, and there’s been a kind of malaise–the feeling that usually comes along when I’ve actually finished a book, and has never before come while I was writing one. These last few years haven’t been easy for writing, to be honest, and yet–I’ve also produced some of my best work somehow during this time. I think Bury Me in Shadows is one of my best works, and while I don’t think it’s as good, #shedeservedit was also one I was terribly pleased with. And all I’ve seen anywhere for A Streetcar Named Murder has been highly positive. Land of 10000 Thrills was also one of the better anthologies I’ve done, and some of the short stories I’ve been doing during these last few years have also been really good. I also think that some of the stuff I have in progress–“Never Kiss a Stranger,” “Festival of the Redeemer,” Chlorine, Muscles, etc.–are also really good stuff. Some of the work I did this weekend is pretty damned good. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this confident in my writing before in my entire life, to be honest, but as long as I keep confidence from bleeding over into ego, I should be okay.

We watched all four episodes of Three Pines last night, and i think it’s very well done. Alfred Molina is perfect as Inspector Gamache, and while I must confess to only have read the first Louise Penny novel, Still Life, I was very impressed with it and liked it a lot (not sure why I’ve not gone back and read more of them; I do have the first three or four, but it probably has more to do with time and the massive TBR pile than anything else). I thought the show didn’t have the same feel as the books, in some ways, but it’s also a different medium and there are always changes. When I was reading the book (and again, only the first in the series so I am hardly an expert on Penny’s writing or her series) I like the town, and enjoyed my visit there. It was a nice, quirky, small town–but translating that to the screen is an entirely different ball of wax. I think the producers and writers decided that because the show is about murder, it needed to be a little darker, and Three Pines comes across as a small town full of eccentrics in the show, more like Twin Peaks, Picket Fences, and Northern Exposure than Penny’s creation….but I think it was a smart direction to go with the show. Penny’s strength is offsetting the charm of the town against the darkness of the crimes committed there, and I don’t know how well Penny’s vision could have translated to the screen any better. We both really liked it. We also watched a true crime documentary about Charlie Cullen, the killer nurse–which was creepy as fuck.

I’m hoping against hope that this good feeling will last all week. I’m going to have to stop and make groceries on the way home from the office–heavy sigh–but no need to swing around uptown for the mail until tomorrow. I have to remember to buy a shipping envelope to mail a copy of Streetcar to the winner of the drawing from Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–I should add that to my to-do list…which I need to make a new copy of it. The problem is I don’t remember everything I am supposed to be doing, and I need to get back into the habit of making a new list every weekend so things don’t get lost.

I also spent some more time with Nelson Algren’s (I was spelling it wrong in the last blog) bleak A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am enjoying but isn’t precisely a quick read by any chance. It reminds vaguely of another novel set in the same time period, A Garden of Sand by Earl Thompson, which I’ve started any number of times but have never managed to get very far into because it is also not an easy read. I am going to try to devote an hour to reading every night–an hour a day is far better than what I’ve been doing, which hasn’t been helping to budge the TBR pile at all–and I think tonight we are going to finally start watching Wednesday. I’ve been reluctant to jump into it, despite the great reviews, because the Christina Ricci version from the 90’s films was, at least for me, definitive. But we keep hearing good things about the show as well as Jenna Ortega’s performance in the lead, so I think tonight will be the night we take the plunge.

It rained all day yesterday–it was even raining when I went to pick up the groceries–and it seems a bit gray outside this morning as well. I have a lot of emails to write and a lot of emails to answer and all kinds of stuff to do today–one of the reasons I got up an hour earlier than I needed to this morning–so I am trying to be proactive and not laze in bed the way I usually do on the mornings when I don’t have to get up at six. I am getting used to getting up early for the first time ever in my life, and quite frankly, I don’t like it. But I also don’t see the clinic hours being changed any time soon, either; I fear my afternoon/early evening shifts are a thing of the remote past now.

And on that note, I have quite a bit to do today, so it’s perhaps best that I make another cup of coffee, some toast, and dive right in. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Little Red Rooster

Well, the tire cost almost three hundred dollars to replace (I also had them replace the rear window wiper blade, but I don’t think that was terribly expensive)–more, if you count the personal time I had to take in order to get the car taken care of–but as Paul said, “It could have been worse–what if it happened on the causeway, or when you were driving back from Kentucky?” A very good point, further emphasizing the fact that he is, indeed, the smart one in the Lost Apartment. I treated myself to Five Guys once the ordeal was finished and I could drive back across the river and head into the office–it’s been a very hot minute since I last was able to enjoy me some Five Guys–and that made up for the inconvenience and irritation….somewhat.

I do love me some Five Guys. Thank God the only ones in my area are a pain in the butt for me to get to, or I’d have it all the damned time and would weigh a lot more than I do now.

Bruises appeared on my arm yesterday, which makes me tend to think that I really do need to have this injury looked at because I am older and it might be something serious. Do I want to have it looked at? No, I really don’t. I also probably shouldn’t wait until my primary care appointment in January, either. But I am going to wait until this weekend and see how it goes. If it keeps getting better–yesterday it only hurt when I was trying to carry or lift something, or moved it in a particular way–I may just let it go until January. I know, I know, probably not smart and I do have health insurance, but…if it’s just a muscle pull or a strain…and I think what I must have done was turn my arm too far to one side as a result of the tire getting stuck, which strained the muscles and tendons.

And if I end up having to have my arm amputated, that’s all on me.

But I was exhausted yesterday by the time I got off work. And had a minor little drama once I was home, so even then couldn’t rest until about seven-thirty, eight o’clock. Heavy heaving sigh. But I think I slept better last night than I have all week; I may have only woken up once or twice during the night, and I do feel somewhat rested this morning. Just one more day to get through before my work-at-home Friday tomorrow, which will be delightful, I am sure. And there’s no college football this weekend–which seems weird, but it was a rather long season, after all–so I have little to no excuse to not get caught up on things this weekend. The handyman came by yesterday and fixed the garbage disposal (praise be) which I need to clean and deodorize this weekend (I may need to stop and make groceries on my way home tonight). But it’s really no surprise I am tired this week–it’s been quite a week, from the tire to my book release to trying to get my new book finished to everything else I’ve had going on this week, and so I should be exhausted. We did finish the Victoria’s Secret documentary last night, and I have to say, the “#metoo”/Harvey Weinstein/Jeffrey Epstein” reckoning was not only way overdue but it’s quite bizarre to look back at it now and think, how did they get away with this shit for so long?

It wasn’t just women, either. It happened to men, too–I’m thinking of Henry Willson’s casting couch, and how he basically pimped his beautiful male clients out to Hollywood bigwigs, hence the basis for Chlorine–and of course, famously Brendan Fraser, who is having a very lovely career comeback now. But it was mostly the women these awful things happened to, and it’s no surprise that the reckoning took down Victoria’s Secret. The documentary series is interesting–I’d love to know what Epstein had on Les Wexler, because it had to not only be seriously bad but incredibly damaging; which means it could have been underage girls but my money is on underaged boys, frankly.

But as I said I feel rested this morning somewhat, and it will be more of a regular day for me–which hasn’t really happened all week, to be honest; Monday was messed up and so was yesterday; Tuesday was normal but it didn’t feel normal because I had the tire situation hanging over my head as well as the injury to my left arm (which feels fine this morning; there’s some tightness in my forearm when I turn my arm a certain way, and we’ll see how it feels when I try to pick something up and/or carry it with the left arm today). I had kind of wanted to go back to the gym this week or weekend, but if my left arm isn’t functional…I suppose I could go do legs only and stretch some. I don’t know what to do, really.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday (!) and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Come On

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, something I didn’t mention on yesterday’s blog because well, it was early in the morning and I literally forgot about it until I got to work yesterday morning (I probably should have prepared a post ahead of time to memorialize and commemorate those we lost; next year–I will put it on my calendar so I won’t forget).

To be fair, I was also all aglow from that terrific review Oline Cogdill gave A Streetcar Named Murder (you can still preorder! Release date is 12/6!). And this morning, I am the guest blogger over at The Wickeds, talking about orange cones and a particularly vexing New Orleans problem, the perennial and pesky potholes.

I slept really well last night, not alighting from the arms of Morpheus until seven thirty this morning. I felt absolutely like a lag-a-bed, a lazy swine, for sleeping so late when my eyes opened to see the red digital numbers glowing in the morning light. I’ve been getting up at five or five thirty all week, so was kind of wondering whether or not I’d sleep late this morning. (I did wake up at three, but went back to sleep almost immediately.) Today I am working from home. I do have some errands I must do at some point, and there’s data to enter and so forth, and oddly enough I feel rested this morning. Usually on Fridays I am a bit worn down from the week, low energy and so forth (which makes the data entry perfect as a job duty for the day), but I don’t feel that way this morning. I don’t feel like I can conquer the world, but I do feel like I can get some things accomplished today. The sink is filled with dirty dishes and of course, there’s always laundry (it never ceases to amaze me how much clothing Paul and I can dirty up all week). I was also very tired when I got home from work last night. Paul didn’t come home until after I groggily climbed the stairs around ten to go to bed, so I spent much of the evening with Scooter purring in my lap while I watched some documentaries on Youtube. James Somerton has a great new one about gay body culture and its origins in Nazi Germany (!), and how the ubermensch Nazi culture of the perfect body was brought home by GI’s after the war. It was fascinating–and it’s been something that’s been on my mind a lot lately (well, over the last few years since the pandemic started) as I’ve looked into gay history and have thought about writing historical gay noirs set throughout the twentieth century (Chlorine, Peplum, Obscenity, Indecency). Watching the Somerton documentary reminded me of Michelangelo Signorile’s Life Outside, which spent some time examining gay body culture, and 2001’s The Adonis Complex, which was a look at the development of male body culture that couldn’t be taken seriously as they erased the gay male experience completely (by not mentioning or acknowledging its existence) which completely invalidated almost everything they wrote about in the book; you cannot talk about male physical perfectionism and only talk about straight men. As Somerton points out in his video–being in good physical condition as a male after your teens used to be a tell about not being straight, as I also mentioned recently on here (when I was talking about using pictures other than of shirtless men).

I don’t always agree with Somerton, but I always enjoy his videos. They make me think, even when I agree with him, and I do enjoy hearing different perspectives.

Progress on the book is being made. It’s been slow going this week, but I am hopeful to make all kinds of progress this weekend. I do have some errands that must be done this weekend, not the least of which is making groceries, and of course I’ll have to watch the SEC Championship game since LSU is playing Georgia, but the loss last week took most of the urgency out of this game, so I can just watch and not mind how it turns out. As I said the other day, finishing the regular season at 8-3 with a trip to the conference championship was something I couldn’t have imagined in August or September–so it’s wonderful to see LSU relevant again after the tragedies that were the last two seasons. Who knows what the future may hold for the Tigers? But it’s nice to be competitive again with the big boys. Like I said, last summer I would have never believed LSU would beat Auburn, Florida, and Alabama this season, yet here we are. GEAUX TIGERS!

I need to get my act together today. It’s been nice (seriously) getting up this week when I wake up; I’ve loved having that extra hour (or half hour, depending on which day it was) to get things done before heading for work. And while I was tired in the evenings when I got home, realistically I was able to get some things done in the evening as well. I need to check my to-do list and clean some, as already mentioned; I also have errands to do and I want to get some work on the book done as well as some more Blatant Self-Promotion posts. The book comes out on Tuesday officially, which is terribly exciting.

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

Behind the Mask

Saturday here in the Lost Apartment and Paul is coming home tonight. Huzzah! Also a big day in college football down here in the South, with Georgia-Tennessee this afternoon and LSU-Alabama tonight (and the good news for Florida and Texas A&M fans is one of them has to win the game, so one team’s losing slide will temporarily stop). I have things to do this morning, lots of things to do and many miles to walk before I sleep. Last night I was very tired when I finished my day’s work; and so repaired to my easy chair with Scooter in my lap and watched Low Country, a documentary series about the Murtaugh family crimes in South Carolina. Ironically, I started watching it because I vaguely remembered hearing about the story–wife and son murdered, father shot and wounded, etc.–but I did not know the back story to all of it, which this series provides a small window into; it really only covers the recent crimes, not the criminality of the family going back almost a hundred years–but as I watched, I started seeing similarities to the book I am writing now (powerful corrupt wealthy family that basically rules a rural area as their own duchy), and ideas and things to make my own book better started riffing through my mind. One thing that urban people never get about rural areas is how much of that sort of thing goes on, especially in the South. I am really going to have to go back and dig deeper with what I’ve already done, but I am confident I can get that all worked out this weekend and then get to work on the second half of the book next week.

I slept really well again last night. I started falling asleep in my chair once I finished watching Low Country–again, worth the watch, and yes, very shocking that rural counties in the twenty-first century are still so feudal, so undemocratic, so twisted that any one person or family can be so above the law that they essentially control the justice system in the region, to the point that they get away with murder–and so went to bed early. Scooter has started sleeping with me at night, purring and cuddling, and that also helps me sleep (Paul and I have agreed that Scooter’s super power is the ability to put anyone to sleep by cuddling and purring) and I woke up feeling very settled and relaxed and rested this morning, which is terrific since I have so much to get done today (as always). But I am going to do some cleaning this morning while I do some computer clean-up and so forth (ugh, my files are such a scattered and disgusting mess, it’s not even funny; I would be better about this, of course, if Macs didn’t have that search function) and don’t plan to go anywhere today. I’ve ordered groceries to pick up for tomorrow–I also have to air up one of my tires–and other than that, I don’t plan to leave the house tomorrow either. I need to get caught up and reorganized and all of that–the usual stuff I complain about on here every day. The week went by relatively quickly, too. I read some more of the new Wanda Morris novel, which I took to bed with me but I didn’t stay awake long enough to read more than a few pages–which were fantastic. I can’t begin to talk about how delighted and exciting it is to see new perspectives, new voices, and new stories from marginalized authors. I’m just sorry it took so long to get us to this point, but this was exactly what our genre needed.

My book’s official release date is rapidly approaching, and I am trying not to get over-anxious and/or nervous about it. I need to start pushing the book more, but I am not really certain how or what to do, to be honest. I’m excited about it, of course. The reviews have thus far been pretty favorable–other than that snarky Kirkus one, but even it didn’t bother me at all, and besides, they’re known for being snarky in their reviews and always have been; I guess that’s growth of a sort. Bad reviews don’t get under my skin the way they used to when I first started doing this, you know. I tend to stay away from Goodreads and Amazon reviews–therein lies the path to madness–but my skin has thickened a lot over the years and I know what my reactions will be and why put myself into a position of any kind that might emotionally unbalance me? God knows I don’t need any help in that direction, for sure.

I also watched another documentary about gay porn, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story which was very interesting. Holmes was Falcon Studios, one of the bigger and more successful brands in gay porn for a very long time, and it did give me some ideas for future projects. I will probably, most likely, keep writing Scotty books until I die (for those of you who were wondering; the next one will probably be another Carnival mystery, French Quarter Flambeaux), but I may not write anymore young adult novels. It’s not that I don’t want to or have a lot of ideas for them, but my time is limited and I want to explore other writing options and genres within crime fiction. I really am feeling the desire to work on my queer historical noirs–beginning with Chlorine–and then moving on to cover other parts of queer history from the second half of the twentieth century. Obscenity would be about gay porn; Indecency would be built around Joey Stefano’s arrest in Tampa for public indecency…and of course there would be more but that’s the original trilogy I’d want to write. They wouldn’t be connected stories–the only commonality would be the fight against oppression and repression–but I think they would be a lot of fun. I have titles for others–Beefcake, Peplum, Physique–but don’t have stories to go with those yet (although I do introduce a Bob Mizer-like character in Chlorine who could drive one of them; Peplum would be, in some ways, a sequel to Chlorine–but it wouldn’t have to be, since I’ve not really decided on the end of that book yet, but one of the possibilities does leave the path open to a sequel.

And on that note, I am going to get to work on the chores and get cleaned up and get this party started. Have a lovely Saturday, and GEAUX TIGERS!