Watching Scotty Grow

As I get ready to write another Scotty book, I am busy making his acquaintance all over again. It might seem strange, but yes, although I’ve written eight books about my ex-go-go boy/personal trainer/private eye, it remains true in this as in all other aspects of my life that my memory is not what it once was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written a Scotty book since the first three without having to go back and revisit the series again. I have made continuity errors over the years (Scotty’s mother’s name changed over the course of the series, from Cecile to Marguerite and back to Cecile again), and I may forget things about his past and things I’ve written in previous books, but the one thing I never ever forget is his voice.

No matter what else is going on in my life, Scotty’s voice is very easy for me to slip back into, like a house shoe, and it somehow always feels like coming home to me in some ways. This is odd–because I would have always thought Chanse was the series character I was more connected to rather than Chanse, but that’s not the case at all. Scotty just won’t go away; but I ended the Chanse series and only every once in a while do I regret it (although I am beginning to suspect that I am going to probably end up writing another Chanse novel at some point in my life; I have two ideas that he’d be perfect for, but it also might be better and more challenging for me to simply come up with a whole new character for those stories rather than resurrecting Chanse); Scotty just won’t ever go away.

The idea for the Scotty series famously came to me during Southern Decadence, 1998.

(Well, I don’t know about famously, but I know I’ve told this story before many, many times. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to see how I remember the birth of the character and the series now)

It was a Sunday afternoon, and Paul and I had somehow managed to get prime balcony standing spots–at the Bourbon Pub/Parade, right at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon where the railing curves at the corner to head alongside the upper floor down the St. Ann side; so we could look down directly into the roiling mass of sweaty, almost completely naked bodies of hundreds of gay men from all over the country. That was my favorite spot for Decadence sight-seeing (Halloween, too, for that matter), and as I looked down into the crowd, I saw a guy in booty shorts and a very very loose fitting tank top, carrying a bag and trying to get through. I recognized him as one of the out-of-town dancers working at the Pub/Parade that weekend (I may have tipped him the night before) and as I watched in sympathy as he tried to get through that tightly-packed crowd of gays in various stages of being wasted, I closed my eyes and an image of him–or someone like him–fighting his way through the Decadence crowd while being chased by bad guys with shaved heads popped into my head just as Paul said, next to me, “You should really write a story set during Decadence” and then it popped into my head: someone escaping the bad guys has slipped a computer disc into one of the dancers’ boots on Friday night as he danced on the downstairs bar, and the bad guys want the disc back.

I didn’t have any way to write it down, obviously–I was wearing booty shorts, socks, and half-boots that came to my ankles, with nothing underneath the shorts and I had my tank top tucked through a belt loop like a tail in the back–yet even the title popped into my head: Bourbon Street Blues. The idea clearly stuck, because when I got home the next morning at about six or seven, dehydrated, drenched in sweat and having lost the tank top at some point during the night, I remembered it and wrote it down.

At some point over the next two years, I wrote a short story called “Bourbon Street Blues” about my stripper–only instead of being from out of town, I made him a local, filling in for someone booked from out of town for the weekend who had to cancel–and wrote about seven thousand words. It felt very rushed to me–the story–and I kept thinking it’s too long for a short story, it would have to be a novel but I also wasn’t sure there was enough story there for a novel. But I liked the idea, no one (at least, to the best of my knowledge) had written anything like it, and I thought, someday I’ll get a chance to write this story and develop this character.

Flash forward to 2001. This was during the time Paul and I had moved to DC to work for the Lambda Literary Foundation, we were miserable there and wanted to move back to New Orleans but didn’t have the money to do so, and the release of Murder in the Rue Dauphine was still at least a year away. I was talking to an editor on the phone about one of his new gay releases, and out of the blue I just pitched Bourbon Street Blues to him. He loved the idea, and asked me to write a proposal and email it to him. I had never written a proposal before, but I thought what the hell, how hard can it be? and so I wrote a two page proposal for the book. Two months later they made me a two-book offer–and the money was good enough to pay for Paul and I to move back to New Orleans as well as to live on for a while. I had only seen the book as a one-off, but they wanted a series. I needed and wanted the money, so I thought I can figure this out later and signed it.

Three months later, we moved back to New Orleans and I started writing the book.

The one thing I wanted to do with Scotty was make him unabashedly, unashamedly, gay. I didn’t want him to have any hang-ups, a sad backstory, or parental issues. I wanted him to be a free spirit who embraces life with both hands, lived in the Quarter, and loved having sex, loved being found desirable, and never really said anything or thought anything mean about anyone else. I made him a personal trainer, and his poverty–he agrees to do the dancing gig for Decadence because he’s behind on his rent and other bills; he teaches aerobics and was a personal trainer–comes from his grandparents freezing his trust funds when he dropped out of college to go to work for a booking agency for male dancers. He has since stopped doing that, but fills in when needed (and when he needs the money) at the Pub/Parade. I also based the shitty politician running for governor–and trying to mount a Christofascist takeover of the state, beginning with an attack on Southern Decadence–on an actual politician who ran for the US Senate shortly after we moved here; we saw him being interviewed on the news and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke, some kind of performance art–but forget it Greg, it’s Louisiana.

I also want to let you know that while I was working on this manuscript my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, was released–and I got a “damned with faint praise” review from the Bay Area Reporter, which complained that “it would have been nice to see inside the heads of the other characters”, which took me aback as the book was a first person narrative, which made that impossible. What the reviewer I think was trying to say was that she wished the book had been told in the third person; that to her that would have made the book more interesting to her. But in my baby-author naïveté, all I could think was how can you see inside the heads of other characters in a third person narrative unless the main character was psychic?And the proverbial lightbulb came on over my head. Make Scotty a psychic. This was also an integral key to the puzzle of who Scotty was; the reviewer also yawned over my “gay stereotypes” in Rue Dauphine, so I decided to make Scotty the embodiment of all the worst stereotypes of muscular gay men who worked out and had a lot of sex. Just writing that down now, I realize how incredibly insane it was for me to use my new series book and character to respond to criticism o my debut novel; and when the book came out I braced myself for the inevitable backlash to come.

No one was more surprised than I was at how readers embraced him. The book got great reviews, even from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (Kirkus, of course, has always pretended I don’t exist). Bourbon Street Blues was even nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery of 2003 (I lost, I think to John Morgan Wilson?) shortly after the sequel, Jackson Square Jazz, was released.

Jackson Square Jazz’s story was actually a recycled idea I had for a spin-off book for Chanse’s best friend Paige. The original concept was that someone would steal the Louisiana Purchase from the Cabildo–and somehow Paige stumbled onto the theft, and knew that the one on display currently there was a copy. (I was calling it, originally enough, Louisiana Purchase.) I decided to make that the basis of the second Scotty book. (This was inspired by a documentary I’d seen about the Cabildo fire of 1989–that may be the wrong date–and how the fire department tried saving everything in the museum before fighting the fire. I remembered how in the documentary they literally were placing historical objects and paintings against the fence at Jackson Square and thinking, anyone could have walked off with something during the fire…and my imagination immediately was off to the races.) Unfortunately, when I met with the museum director–whose actual first day on the job was the day of the fire–I found out that 1) the copy of the Louisiana Purchase at the Cabildo was actually only a replica and the original was stored in the weather-protected underground archive at the Library of Congress and 2) it was more than one page long–I’d imagined it was one large document like the Declaration of Independence; it is not. However–he also suggested I make the MacGuffin the Napoleon death mask–one of the three originals made when Napoleon died–and gave me some great backstory on it as well that I don’t remember if I used in the book or not; but it was a lot of fun talking to him (his name escapes me at the moment, alas) and was a great example of why it is important to actually do research and talk to people.

I also wanted to include figure skating–the working title for the book was Death Spiral, which the publisher made me change, asking for something alliterative, like Bourbon Street Blues–and so I decided to open the book with Scotty having a horrific hangover and then realizing someone was in the bed with him (it’s to this day one of my favorite book openings; what slutty gay man hasn’t been there?)…and then I remembered I’d introduced two love interests for Scotty in book one, and here he was in bed with someone else entirely. (The young man he woke up with was a figure skater in town to compete at Skate America, being held in the Smoothie King Arena.) I loved both of his love interests, and knew I was going to have to bring both of them back somehow, and then I was going to have to figure out which one he’d end up with. (Spoiler: I couldn’t decide, so he wound up with both of them.) I also threw in a ghost, a billionaire artifact collector, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. I turned in the book, along with a proposal for Book Three, in which I finally decided I was going to resolve the threeway relationship personal story, and that would be the end of the Scotty trilogy.

Man plans and God laughs. (Jackson Square Jazz was also nominated for a Lambda; I think this was the time I lost to Anthony Bidulka.)

Mardi Gras Mambo turned out to be an entire other kettle of fish.

I’m not entirely sure I remember exactly what the original plot of Mardi Gras Mambo was going to be, but I know it had to do with the Krewe of Iris (Scotty’s sister Rain belongs) and the book opened at the Iris parade on the Saturday morning before Fat Tuesday. It was due in June of 2004, and of course, I wasn’t nearly finished by the time Memorial Day rolled around, and was planning on asking for another month on the manuscript on the Tuesday after. Of course, that was the Memorial Day weekend when Paul was attacked and everything went to hell in my personal life. My publisher was incredibly kind; they took the book off schedule, told me to take care of Paul, and get the book done whenever I got the book done.

I started writing it again in January of 2005, shortly after I began keeping a blog in order to get me writing again. That was when the Christian/Virginia nonsense happened, and everything got derailed again. When I started writing the book again, I threw out everything except that first chapter at the Iris parade–which did wind up in the final book–and I do not recall what the second plot I chose to write was at this time, other than I knew I was bringing in a Russian character, inspired by someone I’d seen around in the bars for years and had always been just awestruck by his body–and yes, that Russian turned out to eventually be Wacky Russian, my personal trainer. I actually kept this as an inspiration–Eclipse used to be the nightlife insert for IMPACT News, a queer newspaper that died out in the early aughts:

Finally, it was April 2005, and I started writing Mardi Gras Mambo again. I had the plot all figured out–it was completely insane–but I also realized I couldn’t end the personal story with Scotty the way I had hoped and wrap it all up with Book Three. There had to be a Book 4, and so when I finished the book at last and turned it in, I included a proposal for a fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle–which was going to be set during an evacuation for a hurricane that missed New Orleans…I always thought it would be interesting to write a mystery story set during such an evacuation.

Of course, I turned the book into Kensington on August 14th, 2005. Fourteen days later, Paul, Skittle and I fled from New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

I wouldn’t come back for good until October 11. Paul didn’t come home until after Thanksgiving.

Of course, I wrote to my editor a day or so after the levee failure to say, well, I don’t think I can write that book I proposed now.

I didn’t see, for a very long time afterwards, how I could write another Scotty book–light, funny, zany–in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Then one day I was walking to work from where I’d parked my car and some people on bicycles came riding toward me. They smiled and waved and I smiled and waved back…and realized oh my God, that was Brad and Anjelina. Their house wasn’t far from my office–in fact, it was quite literally around the block from where Scotty lived–and I thought, you know, Brad kind of looks the way I describe Scotty–wouldn’t it be funny if someone tried to kill Scotty because he looked like a movie star who lived in his neighborhood? The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I started writing the proposal for Hollywood South Hustle when I got home from work that night. I was so certain they would take it that I started developing the characters and writing out a detailed synopsis…and they turned it down.

I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a marketing decision. Even if they signed the book immediately, it would still be another year before it would come out, and they felt by then Scotty’s audience was long gone, if it wasn’t already. It was disappointing, but right around the same time Alyson came back to me for a fourth Chanse book but they needed it right away–like within ten weeks–so I turned the Scotty story into Murder in the Rue Ursulines. I finished the book, turned it in, and figured the Scotty series was dead, alas.

Shortly thereafter, during the Gay Easter Parade an idea for a different Scotty book occurred to me . The parade was over and I was walking back to my car to drive home when I walked underneath a balcony…just as they started watering their plants. I got soaked–you can’t get mad, it happens in the Quarter periodically and it’s just one of those New Orleans things–and I thought, you really need to write about this. As I walked to the car, dripping, I pictured Scotty hurrying to catch a ride on his parents’ business’ float for the Easter Parade–and of course, he’d wear a white bikini, rabbit ears, and have a rabbit tail–when the exact same thing happened to him, only his bikini would become see-through when wet. By the time I’d driven home, I’d figured that the person on the balcony would be an old friend of his parents’, he’d invited Scotty in to dry off, and when Scotty was on his way home from the parade, the cops would be there because the friend had been murdered. Using The Moonstone as my inspiration, I came up with another MacGuffin story, a way for Colin to come back and explain everything that happened during Mardi Gras Mambo, and I had the perfect ending to Scotty’s story. I just didn’t have a publisher.

But Bold Strokes Books, a primarily lesbian publisher, had started doing books by and about gay men. I’d taken an erotica anthology to them when it was orphaned by the death of its original publisher, and so I wrote and asked if they wanted a Scotty story. They did, and thus Scotty came back to life one more time…and I figured that was the end of it. I wrapped up the personal story about the three-way relationship in a way that was organic and made sense; and I also added a new wrinkle to Scotty’s personal life: Frank’s late-in-life decision to become a professional wrestler. (One of the things we locals learned from Hurricane Katrina was to not put off following or chasing dreams or goals; my attitude thus became go for it and I started chasing down dreams I’d pushed to the side for years.) Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo were both nominated for Lambdas, but at this point I can’t remember who I lost to in both of those cases–for the record, Lambda has never rewarded a Scotty book with an award–probably because they are inevitably funny and over-the-top, which never wins awards because funny is seen as “not serious,” despite the fact that humor/comedy is much harder than drama/tragedy.

I didn’t think I was going to write another Scotty book then, either. But then something miraculous happened: the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and I wanted to write about what it was like to live here during that incredible time. It didn’t seem like the right story for another Chanse book, so I thought, well, I can pull Scotty back out and write it from his point of view.

And of course, Who Dat Whodunnit was just sitting there for the title. How could I not write that book?

I had already established over the course of the series that the two sides of his family–the Diderots (maternal) and the Bradleys (paternal) didn’t really get along. The Diderots go back to Iberville and the 1718 settling of New Orleans; the Bradleys were Americans who came after 1803, and thus are not only parvenus to the aristocratic Diderots, but also l’Américains. Perish the thought! We’d also established that the Diderots were not nearly as conservative as their State Street living in-laws, but we’d never actually seen much of the Bradley side of the family, so I thought why not do the Bradleys and let us get to know the other side of Scotty’s family? It was around the same time I started reading about a megachurch out in Kenner (or Metairie? I don’t recall) that was rising to prominence in local politics and was, as you can imagine, homophobic. The same-sex marriage wars were also being fought at this time; and during one of those pageants (Miss America? Miss USA?) the reigning Miss California was asked about same-sex marriage during the question portion by judge Perez Hilton (why was he judging a beauty pageant for women is a mystery for the ages) and she responded that her faith had taught her that marriage was between a man and a woman (the audience started jeering) and she apologized by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s how I was raised!” She wound up as First Runner-Up, and some felt, rightly or wrongly, that her “politically incorrect” answer cost her the title. In some ways, I felt bad for her (although it’s not my fault it’s how I was raised I have always thought was an incredibly stupid thing to say; you have free will, and you should be capable of making up your own mind rather than simply parroting things without question you were raised to believe. So if your parents were racist white supremacists…) but then of course, the Right tried to turn her into a martyr and heroine, and she dove right into that headfirst, erasing any sympathy I might have felt for her (I still think the question was inappropriate for a pageant, as would be anything polarizing–and yes, well aware that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be polarizing, but here we are), and of course, Miss Upright Moral Christian had a bit of a shady past that eventually came out and that was that. I decided to base the murder victim in the book on this girl, and tried to explore the influence of this megachurch on her. I also gave Scotty a first cousin who was the darling of the Bradley grandparents because he was a jock and was on the Saints team as a player–but also a homophobic asshole. The Bradleys were like something out of Tennessee Williams–I think I even named Scotty’s uncle (the football player’s dad) Uncle Skipper as an homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

There’s a lot of story there left in the Bradley side of the family, now that I think about it–and I’ll be digging into that in the new one, rest assured!

Funny story: After I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit, I decided I was not going to write another Scotty book. This had been Book 5 of what started as a stand-alone and then became a trilogy and yet somehow, I’d kept going on top of that. I kind of felt played out a bit with Scotty, and the longer the series went on, the more problems I was having with things like character ages–Scotty was getting older, which meant his parents were getting older, which meant his grandparents were getting older, too. I didn’t want to deal with the deaths of his grandparents (or Aunt Sylvia, who was his grandmother’s age and had married Uncle Misha), and so I had two options: pretend they weren’t getting older and not talk about their ages, or let the series go. I was still writing Chanse at the time, and I kind of figured that would be the series that went on longer. But I was on a panel at Saints and Sinners and someone from the audience asked me if there would be another Scotty.

GREG: Probably not, but if I can figure out a way to include Mike the Tiger (the live tiger mascot at LSU), Huey Long, and a treasure hunt for Huey’s deduct box, I will.

(I had read T. Harry Williams’ award winning biography Huey Long and had become fascinated completely with him. All I had known about Long going into reading that biography was that he’d been a demagogue (thanks, US History textbook from high school) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men had been loosely based on his life and career. Mention Long’s name to anyone and they immediately reply with “oh, he was so corrupt”–which amused me, since every Louisiana politician is corrupt to a degree–and I knew Roosevelt and others had worried about him as a populist politician who reminded them of Hitler (and the way he crushed his opposition in Louisiana and essentially became the state’s dictator, who could blame them?), but what was the real story? And Huey Long made me start to have what was at first a grudging admiration for him which grew into a kind of fandom the more I learned. (There are some similarities–more than one would think–between Long and LBJ in the Caro biographies, as well as with Robert Moses, another Caro biography; which would make for a very interesting comparison/contract essay at some point.) But the more I read about Long, the more I wanted to write about him. He fascinated me, and the fact that his trove of cash–the deduct box–was never recovered after his murder was even more fascinating to me.)

And don’t you know, later that night, it came to me. A few months earlier there had been a bomb threat at the LSU campus, and there had been some controversy about how the administration had handled the situation–they’d evacuated Mike the Tiger off the campus before the mass evacuation call for the students. It made sense to me (but I didn’t blame the students for being upset because it absolutely looked like the administration cared more about the tiger’s safety than the students’)–in the chaos of evacuating the campus, getting the tiger out safely would have been a nightmare, and God forbid something happen and Mike got loose. Then it hit me: what if some animal rights’ activists had staged the bomb threat in order to steal the tiger in order to set him free somewhere? (Mike is a frequent target of PETA, who often calls for him to be released into the wild–not in the US, of course–, or sent to a big cat sanctuary.) So, I had the tiger kidnapped, and since Huey Long was responsible for LSU being what it is today, it only made sense for the treasure hunt to have to do with his missing “deduct box”–Huey always used cash, after his assassination the deduct box containing thousands and thousands of dollars in cash disappeared–and there we had it: a plot involving Mike the Tiger, Huey Long, and the deduct box.

This was also the book where I decided to extend Scotty’s family a bit further by adding a new, younger gay character to the mix: Taylor, Frank’s nephew, disowned by Frank’s sister and her homophobic husband after he comes out to them after a semester in Paris, and so he comes to live with Scotty and the boys in the house on Decatur Street. I wanted to bring in someone younger, and gay, with literally hardly any gay experience in the world to reflect the change between generations of gay men and how they view being gay and the rest of the world.

I also figured this would be the last one, but like I said, Scotty just won’t go away.

SIDENOTE: I had to write to the administrators of the Huey Long website for permission to use some quotes from the site in the book. Needless to say, they were very wary of me when they responded, so I emailed them the chapter where I would use the quotes–Scotty was doing some research on Long, and came across the website. Like me, Scotty had always been told Long was corrupt and a demagogue…but demagogues also don’t get things done, which Long did. Some of Long’s programs–like the Homestead Exemption–still exist as public policy in Louisiana. They wrote me back, granting permission…and that was when I found out the person I was talking to was Long’s great-granddaughter, who was rightfully suspicious of anyone writing about her great-grandfather. I sent her a copy of the book when it was finished, and she sent me a lovely thank you card, which is probably one of my favorite writing souvenirs.

The genesis of Garden District Gothic was weird, but yet serves as yet another example of my adage never throw anything you’ve written away.

I had always wanted to spin Chanse’s best friend, journalist Paige Tourneur, off into her own series. I had always intended to do so; from the first time I thought her up for Murder in the Rue Dauphine I thought, “she’s fun and witty and interesting and that weird name–there’s so much more story there than we can get to as a supporting player in a series about someone else.” I have so much written down about Paige and her origin story; how she came up with that name and why; how she wound up at LSU; and so on and so forth. A friend started an ebook publishing company, and wanted me to write Paige novellas for her; I did two–Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans–but the sales, frankly, weren’t there and I didn’t have the necessary time to put in marketing them to help drive the sales, so even though I’d started a third, The Mad Catter, we agreed to kill the series and pull the first two from availability; ultimately, I was working too hard for too little pay-off. I was disappointed, obviously; Paige was kind of a passion project for me–I’d made any number of false starts writing a series book for her, and it was sad to see that there wasn’t an audience for her after all. But I had about four chapters of The Mad Catter in place, and I didn’t want to waste the time spent on them…so I decided to turn them into a Scotty book, which became Garden District Gothic.

I also brought in a new character–a true crime writer with a shady past of his own–who actually wrote a book, a la Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the case. The name of his book? Garden District Gothic. I brought him in, thinking I would spin him off into his own book/series–I thought it might be fun to write about a writer…(I thought about using him as the main character in another book based on an actual unsolved string of murders in a rural Louisiana parish, but very quickly realized he was simply an amalgamation of Scotty and Chanse, so that book–The Bodies in the Bayou–went onto the backburner. I think I may have created the character before, in the Chanse series, but I could be remembering that wrong. I also used this book to sort of set up the next; I will explain that further when I am talking about Royal Street Reveillon. I also crossed the character of Paige Tourneur over from the Chanse series into the Scotty series (I loved the character, hated to sideline her after I ended the Chanse series and the novella series didn’t pan out); not that she will be a big part of the Scotty series, but hey, every so often I need a journalist, and why not use a character I am very fond of already and wasn’t ready to stop writing about?

The book was loosely based, obviously, on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case–a decades old notorious murder of a child in the Garden District that was never solved. I wanted to examine and explore issues of class in New Orleans, but I am not entirely sure I pulled off what I intended with the book.

Then again, I think that with every book, don’t I?

And we now come to the (so far) most recent book of the Scotty series, Royal Street Reveillon.

Originally I’d envisioned the Scotty trilogy (when it morphed from a stand-alone) as encompassing the three big gay holidays in New Orleans: Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. Jackson Square Jazz wound up taking place just before Halloween, alas; Scotty talks about their costumes in the epilogue, but I hit the other two holidays out of the park. When I added a fourth book, I tied it to the Gay Easter Parade–Scotty is on his way to ride on the Devil’s Weed’s float when the book opened–and then of course the next book was sort of Christmas/sort of Mardi Gras/sort of the Super Bowl. Baton Rouge Bingo was the first book that wasn’t tied to a holiday of some sort; neither was Garden District Gothic. But for the next Scotty book, I wanted to do a Christmas book. I’ve never really written much about Christmas, and I do love the season, especially in New Orleans. I wasn’t sure what kind of plot I was going to use, but I knew it was going to be set during Christmas season and I knew I wanted to use reveillon, the Christmas season meal you use to break your fast for Mass, in the title. I had introduced one of the characters from Dead Housewives of New Orleans in Garden District Gothic, so it only made sense to me (or so it seemed at the time) for me to take the framework of Dead Housewives–the entire Real Housewives spoof I wanted to write–and build this new story around it. I changed a lot–made the overarching story much more complicated, and especially complicating the “whodunnit” aspects of the three murders that all occurred within twenty-four hours of the premiere party for Grande Dames of New Orleans.

I also did a couple of horrible things to Scotty and his loved ones over the course of this book…which will have to be dealt with in the new one, alas. I hate when I do this to myself! But with Royal Street Reveillon and its darker themes, I wanted to show how much Scotty has grown and changed over the course of the series; he’s evolved as a person, partly because of the changes to his life and partly because of what he experiences through the murders he finds himself involved in. Do I wish, as I start writing Mississippi River Mischief, that maybe I hadn’t given so many growth opportunities over the years to Scotty and his gang of family and friends? Absolutely. But that’s part of the challenge of writing a series, and what makes it so much fun.

*Funny story about the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues. Back in the day, publishers used to meet with reps from Barnes & Noble and Borders to show them covers and get their input; covers were changed based on those meetings. The Bourbon Street Blues cover was so in-your-face it took me aback when I first saw it; and they had toned the original image down dramatically, mainly smoothing down the bulge so it wasn’t so in-your-face. The Barnes & Noble buyer told them, “he needs a bigger bulge” so they made it bigger–but were still cautious; the image’s original bulge was still bigger. I do think that story is hilarious.

Twisted

Ah, Tuesday morning and back to the office. I slept decently last night–woke up a couple of times, always able to go back to sleep–so I feel somewhat better this morning than I usually do on Tuesday mornings, but then again, we’ll just have to see how the rest of the day/week goes. I did my work at home duties yesterday, some chores and errands, and last night we started watching the new season of Stranger Things, which I think is the final season. The first episode was a bit off to me, but it certainly started picking up speed in the second and now we are all in after the third. I didn’t write or read much last night after work, but I do have some things i need to get finished today–quite a few things, actually–but I feel rested and maybe when I feel more awake than I do now, it might not be a problem getting everything done today that needs to get done. Stranger things, indeed.

I do have things I need to get ordered on-line today, too–and we need to go to Costco again at some point, perhaps this weekend. It’s always something.

I’m still, to be honest, coasting a little on the high from this past weekend in Florida, if I am being completely honest. I’m still feeling connected to my writing, which is lovely, even if I have to figure out a few things and get a few things pulled together. I also can’t believe it’s July already–and we’re almost halfway through the month, at that. Crazy, you know. But this year is already have over as well–what the hell? And then the next thing you know it’s football season. The twitter accounts for both LSU and the Saints are counting down the days until the season starts. It’s a new era for both–new coaches, essentially new teams, for that matter–so it will be interesting to see how the season goes for both. I also have a book to write during football season (as ever yet again), which will be challenging of course, as it is always is, and then it’s Christmas and New Year’s and BOOM. Carnival time again! #madness

Oh, and I have a book coming out in December right around the time my next Scotty manuscript is due, so as always, the promotion of a new book will have to occur (or start occurring) around the same time as I have to finish another. Now, there’s the workshop I would like to attend: how do you stay focused when you are finishing a book at the same time you are promoting a new release without going completely insane? That’s the part they never tell you about in creative writing classes and workshops–although I suppose those who have agents probably have the agent to walk them through that part (although sometimes I do wonder if I over-romanticize what it’s like to have an agent, since I’ve never had one? Oh if I had an agent they’d take care of this for me–I suspect that’s all too often not accurate. I also suppose that if and when I do ever land one, I will inevitably be disappointed with what they don’t do for me). Someday, I suppose, I’ll find out one way or the other.

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

Oh Be My Love

Sunday morning and oh so much to do. I slept in this morning until eight thirty (oh dear! The vapors!), and feel a bit groggy but also rested and well, which is lovely. I think the panel yesterday went well–one never knows for sure, does one?–but I think the panelists were smart and entertaining and fun and informative; I certainly enjoyed listening to their answers to my borderline puerile questions. I also didn’t stick close to the topic–I never do, another reason I am a shitty moderator–but the most important thing is to stay out of the way of the panelists as they talk about their writing. Whether I succeeded or not remains to be seen; moderating isn’t my strength by any means, I loathe doing it, and it’s also not something I enjoy doing, for that matter.

Then again, that might just be more evidence of Imposter Syndrome. Who knows?

I also woke up to a cover reveal for the Magic is Murder anthology! Edited by the wonderful Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, this lovely anthology includes my story “The Snow Globe,” which is another example of Gregalicious never letting a story idea die. This story began life as a Halloween story (original opening line: Satan had a great six-pack), was converted to a Christmas story (opening line: Santa had a great six-pack–only had to move the n!) and finally found a home. Thanks to the Terrific Trio for all their help with my story, and I am, as always, excited to see another short story of mine in print. Huzzah!

I need to add a caveat to my earlier “well-rested” sentence: my legs and hip joints ache from walking to the Monteleone and back two days in a row. My legs feel terribly tired, and my hip joints are very achy this morning–as evidenced just not when I got up to make another cup of coffee. I am sure it has something to do with the new shoes and needing new shoe inserts; it usually does–but it’s still rather annoying at the same time. I guess I am grateful it’s not my knees or ankles, but nevertheless, pretty aggravating. I have a lot to do today–I’ve already made a list of what needs to be done today–and I am probably going to spare some more wake-up time to reading Alex Segura’s marvelous Secret Identity. I spent some time with it yesterday while taking breaks from everything I need to scratch off my to-do list, and I am really enjoying it. I am enjoying the feel and vibe of the comic book world and New York in the 1970’s; it would be really fun to see a Mad Men/The Deuce type show developed by Segura set in the comics world of this time. I spent some time last night unwinding over a couple of episodes of Young Justice, which I am also enjoying, and then watched two DC animated movies: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, both of which I deeply enjoyed; the lovely thing about the animated movies is they can actually use the entire cast of DC heroes and aren’t as limited as the television shows or live-action films by casting. I love seeing the DC heroes of my comic fandom days in action–Red Tornado, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, etc.–turning up in the animation; I’ve missed them as the movies focus on the bigger names and the television shows are also slightly limited by casting as well–they aren’t using first tier, like the movies, but what I would call Tier 1A. (Although I will gladly argue that the CW’s Superman and Lois is the best take on the characters since the Christopher Reeve Superman films.)

I also spent some time watching the World Figure Skating championships, which was delightful. Two American ice dance teams medaled (a rare occurrence), and I think this may be the first time in history that the US has gotten a medal in every discipline? I know we’ve not had a pairs champion since 1979 with Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia, and it’s been a while since we had a pairs medal of any kind. And our future looks bright with two up-and-comers in Men’s.

So, I had probably best gird my loins and venture into today’s spice mines. Paul will be home tomorrow (yay!) and I need to not only get the apartment not only under control, but everything else in my life, and I am feeling better about everything, really. I don’t know why I allow myself to get so wrapped up in despair and overwhelmed by everything I have to do; everyone has things to do and everyone has their own pace, and well, it just is what it is, you know?

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Y’all have a great Sunday, okay?

Baby Love

Thursday and I have a lot of work to get done today. I was exhausted yesterday and very low energy for most of the day; the coffee never kicked into high gear (I assumed that all it managed in the face of yesterday’s exhaustion was keeping me awake, alas and alack) but it’s fine. Sometimes you need those low energy, low production days to recharge your batteries, and mine certainly feel charged this morning. I am hoping against hope that this means a highly productive day here in the Lost Apartment; one can certainly hope so at any rate. I did start some things yesterday that I never finished, so that’s up first while I am still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (which has always struck me as an odd thing to say) and then I am going to dive back into the book headfirst.

Under normal circumstances, I would have woken up at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square this morning and would be writing this on my laptop in my room while swilling coffee from the Starbucks on the eighth floor (with which I became very well acquainted during my stay there back in November). But thanks to the latest variant, the trip was cancelled and no New York for me in January for the second year in a row. It’s just as well, I suppose–I’m not certain I would have been able to finish the book while on the road, and that’s kind of important; although knowing the trip was still happening would have made me push harder last weekend and this week before leaving to try to get as much handled as possible.

I was very tired last evening after the day’s business was concluded, so I basically went down some Youtube wormholes while waiting for Paul to come home so we could get back into Stay Close, the new Harlan Coben show on Netflix, which is quite intriguing seeing how all the disparate stories are connected together as the show progresses. Ozark is coming back soon, which is exciting, and I am looking forward to seeing the new John Cena super-anti-hero show when it finally drops. Superman and Lois has also returned, and I watched the first episode of its second season last night while waiting for Paul to get home–it’s the best interpretation of the Superman mythos since Christopher Reeve; if you’re a Superman fan you really should be watching it–and it looks like the second season will be just as good as the first.

It’s chilly again this morning in New Orleans; not as bad as yesterday (I did wonder if the cold had something to do with my low energy day yesterday) but chilly enough to be noticeable. The sun is out though, which is always a plus, and the sunshine certainly helps my mood dramatically. I am just fascinating this morning, aren’t I? Heavy sigh. But this is working to warm me up and get my brain going while I swill down my coffee, and that’s always what the purpose of this has been–to get my brain and creativity going in the mornings so I can get things done. I just realized I didn’t mark the anniversary of the blog, started on Livejournal back in the day; right around Christmas 2004, to be exact, which means this blog has been going now for well over seventeen years over two different servers. That is a ridiculous amount of blogging, really; it’s something I should probably be better about archiving. (Which reminds me: I still need to find my old journals, don’t I?)

I also want to start reading the new Alafair Burke; maybe I’ll carve some time out today between the writing and the watching of television to come tonight to spend some time with it. I am choosing not to read the jacket copy; I want to be completely surprised by the story when I read it. I also want to start reading some more of Laura Lippman’s short stories in her collection Seasonal Work, and of course my TBR pile is completely out of control. Heavy sigh. But I think I can get some pruning and organizing done around the writing today; sometimes you have to get up and walk away from the computer, and that’s going to help me get some other things done over the next few days (oh, the shelves in the laundry room stress me out every time I walk in there) and of course, there’s always some laundry to do, and the floors, and the dishes…heavy sigh. It never ends, does it?

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you tomorrow morning.

Buttered Popcorn

Monday after the holidays, and while it feels a bit grim to be up this early today, there have been worse experiences and worse feelings I could be experiencing this morning.

There have also been worse mornings, in all fairness.

I slept well last night, but as always would have preferred to remain in bed rather than being woken by an alarm. I got work on the book done yesterday–it’s coming along, and if I stick to the schedule will be finished on time–and also managed to get some things done around the Lost Apartment as well. The time off was remarkably nice; this is also a short work week but it’s a three day weekend rather than a four like last week’s, which was really nice. Soon enough I’ll be back to four days per week in the office, which I am also not looking forward to–easing back into pre-pandemic work life isn’t exactly going to be easy getting used to again. I also doubt I’m the only person who is a bit concerned about readjusting to returning to spending more time in the office than I have over the past two years (two years in March, y’all. Think about that for a moment).

But this is the last week of 2021, which hasn’t been the most terrific of years. I think a record of shitty years has been set lately; I don’t remember being so happy and relieved that years were ending so much when I was younger. I know, I always talk about how arbitrary years are and how the time is measured and so forth, but the last few years have been pretty tough for everyone, methinks. I don’t know that 2022 will be any better, either, in all honesty; after all, we were all incredibly happy to see 2019 bleed into 2020, and look how that turned out in the end. (I did laugh while shuddering internally at the meme about 2022 being “2020, II.”) But in reading the blog entries from earlier this year–it really is amazing how many entries there actually are here; daily every year for years can add the fuck up pretty quick–I see resolution to keep going and not as much incessant whining as I would have thought there would be; I guess future historians won’t exactly be using my blog as a source for news at the time…although I can’t imagine most diaries and letters would be chock full of news of local and world events, either, for that matter.

It’s also interesting to see how quickly my ADHD-addled creative brain will move past an idea that has taken hold for a brief period of time before the next shiny object comes into view and the idea that was so interesting for a little while is discarded, forgotten, and lost to the mists of time and tide in my brain.

But what I really want is to find those old journals. What the hell could I have done with them? It seems unlikely I would have put them into a box and put them back into storage, but it’s also not beyond the realm of possibility, given that I cannot put my hands directly onto them. (You see how an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder can completely take over one’s brain? I will spend some time every day wondering where those damned journals are until I actually am able to put my hands directly onto them.) I’m not sure why it is so important, other than music research as my mind can no longer remember what songs were popular in the gay clubs that summer of 1994; but I also suppose that the music isn’t really as necessary as I might think to the telling of that particular story–but it also cannot hurt it, either.

We’re getting closer to being finished with Gossip Girl; season five’s conclusion is drawing near, and while the long-running soap has been quite a fun ride, I am a little glad to see it coming to its end. We spent almost the entire month of December devoted to it for the most part, and the show does seem to be running out of steam as it reaches it’s inevitable conclusion. Every conceivable combination of romantic relationships has already been explored (in some cases, several times already), which is inevitably the problem with long-running shows of this nature; you have to keep introducing new characters for the original characters to become involved with, and if the audience doesn’t connect with those new characters–off they go through the revolving door of guest actors (again, it’s interesting to see young actors who went on to become more famous on other shows make their guest appearances here; over the weekend one of the law students from How to Get Away with Murder showed up briefly), and so…the cast is continually expanding and contracting per the needs from the writing room–not to mention how hard it is to keep the star-crossed lovers the viewers want to see together apart, and coming up with new, plausible and effective ways to do so isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.

This week I hope to get much more work on the book done; the goal is to have almost the entire draft finished by this weekend, so I can spend the next week fixing the first parts of it, before writing the final three chapters and turning it in. The deadline isn’t going to be easy to make, and my inevitable tendency to stay at rest is always going to be a struggle for me, but I think as long as I can remain focused I can power through what is left to be written.

And on that note, tis time for me to head back into the spice mines on this Monday morning. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Joy To The World

The day after Christmas is always a bit on the weird side.

I decided to take yesterday off from the world, not looking at emails or social media or even trying to work. I mean, it was Christmas, and yes, I am behind on everything but sometimes recharging is necessary and needed and shouldn’t be questioned. Paul got me some lovely gifts, which was nice, and I made pulled turkey breast for dinner. We spent a lovely day basically hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company, which is all anyone can really ask for Christmas. Of course, that means I need to make up for yesterday today with the writing and the spice mines and I have to go back to work tomorrow (another short week, though, which is kind of nice); heavy heaving sigh. But the year is winding down and before you know it, it will be 2022; one week from today will be the second of the new year. Very weird, very weird indeed.

But while i may not have been typing words to put on paper, I was thinking about the book some more, and I have a very good idea of the proper direction to take it, so today when I get cracking (after getting properly caffeinated, of course) I should be able to bang out some work on it. I also was thinking about some other things–whenever I let my mind wander creatively, it’s never just about the current project; I just let it go in the directions it wants to go rather than where I want it to go, which is probably why I have so many folders filled with ideas and partials and incomplete things–but I also find that trying to rein in my creativity and focus it when it’s free-styling is inevitably a mistake because it just doesn’t work that way, alas; any attempt to control it inevitably means shutting it down completely. So while it can be tiring as my mind pinballs from bumper to bumper and flipper to flipper, sometimes it comes up with some serious gold, and therefore it’s all worthwhile.

Or at least so I think. I can never be completely sure, you know. I am rarely, if ever, the best judge of my own ideas and work.

But I am looking forward to diving back into the book this morning, and cleaning up the mess I left behind in my kitchen while preparing dinner last night. I am probably going to make sautéed shrimp tonight to serve over baked potatoes–a highly fattening dish I save for rare occasions (the recipe calls for bacon grease, butter, and heavy cream, in case you were wondering) and post-Christmas sort of sounds like the right night for that to be happening. Not sure what I will do for New Year’s next weekend–although I strongly suspect we will be finished OG Gossip Girl at long last by the end of that weekend. We are well onto season five now, with only season six’s half-season left when we finish out this one–and then we’ll have to go looking for something new to binge-watch. (We also have some shows to finish watching–The Sinner, for one, and of course there are some new shows that dropped while we were indulging ourselves in Gossip Girl) I also want to finish reading Vivien Chien’s book–I’m enjoying it a lot, but for whatever reason right now I am not in a reading phase, which is bitterly disappointing, but I am sure it also has to do with home-stretching the new manuscript–and I also found some more I need to put back in the TBR pile as I cleaned out a box of books from the storage space (I am still looking for those old journals, by the way; I want them for “Never Kiss a Stranger” research because those journals include the time period when I first began visiting New Orleans, and I’d like to remember things I’ve probably lost to the mists of time and old age that stand out from that time period; like trying to remember songs that played in the gay bars at that time since my character works in one).

It really does bother me that I have literally no idea where I stored those journals. I remember finding them, and I cannot believe I just put them back into a box and away again.

Which wasn’t really very smart of me. I know I didn’t want to go through them at the time–I really rarely enjoy revisiting old diaries and so forth because it’s more than a little embarrassing to read how immature I was, or how easily my feelings were hurt–in other words, what a drama fucking queen I used to be back in the day; but I wrote all those things down, at the very least, to try to process the feelings and why I felt the way I did without ever admitting things that I didn’t want to admit to myself were true; self-deception used to be a major factor in life, and essentially seeing how I deluded myself into thinking things isn’t exactly highly appealing to me at this time (or any time, for that matter)…but it would also be interesting to take a look at ideas I had for stories and books from back then; music I was liking and listening to; and of course my dreams that were expressed on those pages; even the books I was reading at the time.

And isn’t that always the way, really?

I also started, the other day, going through my old blog entries from earlier this year to remember what I was reading and what I was watching. I don’t really see much point in making a list of favorite reads and watches from the year; I would inevitably forget something that I really enjoyed, and it was a year of truly terrific reading for me. I read a lot of great books this past year, and we watched a lot of great television shows as well. It’s also an interesting journey is seeing what books I wanted to write this past year and never got around to doing; I never finished writing Chlorine’s first draft, or Where the Boys Die, or a new Scotty (the idea for which switched around an awful lot during the year, I might add; going from Twelfth Night Knavery to French Quarter Flambeaux to Mississippi River Mischief over the course of the second year of a pandemic) and so many short stories thought up and begun yet never finished…this, you see, is why I scoff when people say I’m prolific; there are so many pieces I’ve started writing but have never finished.

And on that note, I should probably head back into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Boxing Day or day after Christmas or Sunday or whatever meaning you might have assigned to this day.

Feliz Davidad

And so it was Christmas.

I have to say this weekend has been quite lovely thus far. I’m getting work on the book done, I am getting things done, and I am somehow remaining relatively relaxed and sane while I accomplish things, which has been quite nice. I am sleeping very well and sleeping in every day, which is going to require some adjustments when Monday rolls around again, sadly. I feel remarkably well-rested and refreshed this morning, which is also nice as I sip my coffee and think about what to have for breakfast; probably yogurt and fresh berries, before they go bad. I am going to make pulled turkey today for the holiday in the slow cooker, so dinner’s already sorted for me, which is also kind of nice. I am intending to clean out the refrigerator today as part of my chores for the day; Paul is going to work out with his trainer this morning and I am not sure what his plans for the rest of this holiday might be. I need to write a chapter of the book today, which shouldn’t be terribly hard–I’ve written some really dreadful chapters over the last few days–and should probably spend some time with Vivien Chien’s Death by Dumpling today; I had hoped to have it finished before today so I could spend the day with the most recent Donna Andrews novel; but I may just make that my New Year’s Day reading, to close out the holiday season (even though Carnival will be starting on Twelfth Night, which is even sooner than one might think).

I also found an essay I’d been looking for; I, like Paul, have an obsessive side to my personality that I try to combat and not give into when it takes hold of my brain; often to no avail, sadly: when my brain goes into obsessive mode, there’s really not much else I can do rather than either ride it out (not easy) or give in to it. This most recent obsessive conduct had to do with an essay I had written; the other day I remembered it and started looking for it, despite the fact that I couldn’t remember what the file was named. I had been asked to write a letter to myself at age sixteen the summer we went to Italy; I started writing it before we left for the trip but had never finished it. I eventually finished it, as I recalled vaguely the other day, on the trip to Venice from Florence; I wrote it on the train, saved the file, and hit send. I could not find it anywhere; and obsessed about it all day yesterday as I dug through electronic files (which are in much worse condition as far as organization than I even feared, which I will have to do something about at some point). After Paul got home, I talked to him about it and as I spoke to him it hit me: I had emailed the story in, maybe it was in my ancient sent email folder. And sure enough, there it was; and doing a second search by the title proved that it was saved nowhere in my files; I am not sure how that could have happened, but my biggest fear about my electronic files has now proven true: there are things that have disappeared from them over the years.

But this Christmas miracle is worth enjoying; a piece I’d feared had disappeared forever (the website where it was posted no longer exists; so much for the Internet is forever) has been retrieved, and it can be the opening piece in my collection of personal essays, should I ever decide how to do that and how to pull it all together.

If 2021 was the year of finishing things–Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit having been in progress for years, even decades–I think that mentality needs to continue forward in 2022: finish things. I do want to finish the novellas, the short story collection, and potentially the essay collection; I also want to finish Chlorine, and possibly something else. I’ve also spent some time going over my blog from the earlier part of 2021, to try to remember things I watched and books I read; my memory is even faultier than I remembered it being in the first place. But it’s also kind of fun seeing what I was reading and watching earlier this year–the impact of HBO MAX’s It’s a Sin combined with my sixtieth birthday this year had me revisiting and thinking about the past a lot, for example, and forced me to process a lot of things I had never processed before, which may have had something to do with a lot of my own issues: never deal with it, just keep moving forward may not have been the most mentally healthy plan for me to get through my life, but it was also necessary for survival, and I will not/shall not judge my younger self for whatever coping mechanisms and skills I may have developed in order to get through everything I had to deal with in this my life.

And on that note, I think I am going to finish this, eat my breakfast, and head into the spice mines for a little visit. Have a lovely Christmas, Constant Reader, even if it’s just another Saturday to you.

Away in a Manger

And it’s Wednesday, my last day in the office before Christmas holidays. We have the next two days off for the holiday, so we all have a lovely four day weekend. Huzzah? At least I don’t have to make condom packs, which will be kind of nice, but I do have things to do. The book is proceeding apace, if a trifle slowly, but I am happy with the work I am doing on it but the question is, as always, will I get it done in time? Heavy heaving sigh. It is definitely going to be a lot of work to get done in a very short period of time, but it will get done eventually. I will most likely take Christmas day itself off from doing anything; a recharging day, if you will, but that and New Year’s Day should be enough of a recharge to keep me going. I’ve been sleeping much better lately–the cold snap (such as it is) has been an enormous help in that regard–and so am feeling more rested than I have in quite some time. I am also trying really hard to not let my stress levels go up; stress, not fear, is the mindkiller, thank you very much, Frank Herbert.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day; huzzah? At least I don’t have to worry about being able to pay the bills, which lessens the sting somewhat. It doesn’t make paying them any more enjoyable, mind you; it just makes it hurt a little less.

I don’t think I will ever stop resenting paying the bills–but you can certainly see that the heat has broken; the power bill this month is less than half of the last one.

Silver linings, you know.

The manuscript is coming along nicely, sort of; I write about 2500-3000 really shitty words per day (a chapter a day, really) and keep going, and then I spend a day trying to clean up the mess I’ve created. It’s working so far, and at the pace I am going I should pass the midway point this weekend–if I stay focused–and might actually get it all finished by the deadline. Huzzah, indeed!

It’s cold again in New Orleans today–well, cold for New Orleans; as always, I assume everyone north of I-10 will snicker behind their hands as they do whenever I complain about it being cold here–but I am actually going to wear a sweatshirt beneath my Crescent Care T-shirt today, and the floor here in the Lost Apartment absolutely felt cold to my stockinged feet this morning so I had to put on my slippers–but I would like to remind everyone it’s not a dry cold down here but rather a damp one. Cold and damp is miserable.

It’s going to be lovely having four days off, which should–laziness, cold, and procrastination aside–enable me to get a lot of work done, as well as organizing and cleaning of the Lost Apartment. I am going to have to start taking boxes out of the attic and determining what is to be done with them; most likely I will be donating a lot of books to the library sale in the future, and I figure if I target one box per weekend minimum it won’t take more than a few months to clean out a lot of what is up there and make room for other things I need to put up there. I really do need to stop buying books for a while; the apartment is quickly becoming overtaken with them yet again, and the TBR stack was already well out of control. Tonight I am going to spend some more time with Vivien Chien’s Death by Dumpling–I want to finish it so I can read Donna Andrews’ The Twelve Jays of Christmas on Christmas itself (after getting my writing done for the day–yes, I am not going to be able to take any holidays off until the book is completed, and all the other things I am writing are done.

Progress. I must always make progress.

And I really need to make that to-do list, which means I need to see what I’ve agreed to write and when it is actually due. I know I have some tighter deadlines than perhaps I would prefer; but that’s the writer’s life and it certainly always has been mine; months with nothing really due for a really long time, then a flurry of requests and deadlines all within a ridiculously short period of time.

And I had wanted to start talking about #shedeservedit every day on here, but I am not sure I have anything to say about it today? Really, it could and should probably wait until the lead-up to the actual release date (1/12/22) but preorders are shipped early–as early as 1/1/22, in fact–and I’ve even gotten my author copies already. So, is it too early to start talking more about this book? My experiences in Kansas? Will people be heartily sick of me talking about it before the book is even released?

Tis a fine line one must walk when doing blatant self-promotion. Although my stand methodology of blog posts is no one else reads this besides you so write about what you want to write about.

It has always, after all, served me well.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines and hope to not freeze to death. 😉 Have a lovely Christmas Eve Eve Eve, everyone!

Silver Bells

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style….in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas….

“Silver Bells” is, hands down, one of my favorite Christmas songs.

I’ve always wanted to write a story built around the song; maybe that’s something I can do for next year–but then again, who knows what will happen between now and then as far as my writing and deadlines are concerned? Heavy heaving sigh.

The other night, when I did my ZOOM thing for the release of #shedeservedit, afterwards I had a horrible rush of doubt and fear about the book itself. Who am I, after all, to write about rape culture and sexual assaults and so forth? Was writing the book an attempt to assuage my own guilt for my own complicity in the systemic toxic masculinity of our society, culture and civilization?

Some of the above? None of the above? All of the above?

I started writing the fiction collectively known and referred to as “the Kansas book” when I was actually in high school in Kansas. I created a fictional version of my high school and the county, including the county seat; it went through many iterations and renamings over the years as I worked on aspects of this enormous book, with interconnected characters and stories and so forth. Some of it was pulled out of this enormous “Bible” (for wont of a better word) to become my novel Sara about ten years or so ago; bits and pieces of it have now been pulled out to use for #shedeservedit, which will be out in January and has been what I have mostly referred to as “the Kansas book” for the last six or so years. The first draft of this iteration was written over a month, in July of 2015; I wrote three thousand words per day (or tried to; I did take some time off here and there) and by the end of the month I had nineteen chapters of about five thousand words in total of what needed to be a total of twenty chapters; I’d done ninety-six thousand words in a month but still didn’t know how to end the book (this is always a problem for me, by the way; and I am always afraid I don’t stick the landing). Over the next four or five years, I revised and rewrote the book, trying to see if I could figure out how to stick the landing as well as figure out what the dismount should be. I knew how I wanted to end it, but wasn’t sure if it would work…but also never wrote it, thinking the endless revisions and rewrites and changes might point the way to the proper dismount.

But this version, that begins with the star quarterback going missing after a game one night, might use the characters I dreamed up in the late 1970’s and have adapted and changed and grown over the years, but the plot-line that runs through this book wasn’t born until about 2004, when I decided to take all the things I’d been loosely working on over the decades since high school and pull it all together into a crime novel: the final and complete edition of the Kansas book. And it has gone through many iterations before I started that massive attempt to write an entire first draft of the new story in one month; back in 2004 I saw it as a book that flashed back between the present and 1977, when the quarterback was to have gone missing. I eventually abandoned that attempt–though I have reserved the right to do another such book, flashing back and forth in time, set in this universe somehow; I’ll figure that out later–and moved on to this final version of the missing quarterback theme/story.

Ironically, even from its earliest iteration, the underlying story here was about privilege; the privilege that comes with being a football player in a small city (am never sure where the cut off between town and city is precisely; I know when I lived in Kansas Emporia was considered a large town–population 27k or so–while the town we lived in was considered small–population 952; and Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City were considered cities) with a highly successful high school football team. With athletic success comes privilege; that was even true back in the 1970’s, and was even more true when it came to college teams. Originally, the quarterback’s body was found, naked, on the fifty yard line with evidence he’d had rectal sex the morning after Homecoming. That changed–the location of the body at any rate–and I also realized the Homecoming murder was also a cliché, so I had to move it up further in the season–which also made more sense with the timing of the event that may have possibly triggered the murder in the first place…this was a huge issue with the original draft I wrote in a month; why would it have taken so long for the murder to happen if the potentially triggering event was in the summer?

These are the trials and tribulations that an author must face when writing a crime novel.

Sometimes fate intervenes, as well. When I was writing Sleeping Angel all those years ago, I kept thinking something was missing from the manuscript; there was a hole where I should have been making a point and wasn’t. I was writing this book around the time when there were a rash of queer kids committing suicide in the news–basically being bullied to death–and this was around the same time that Dan Savage started the “it gets better” campaign. Ah, I thought, there’s what’s missing from the story.

It wasn’t like I didn’t know how it felt to be bullied, after all.

I decided to pull the Kansas book back out, and write that first draft, in the wake of two news stories that happened around the same time: Steubenville, Ohio and Marysville, Missouri. As I watched those cases unfold, I knew that was the answer to the Kansas book; my ‘small city with a great football program’ (and whose name went through many changes over the years–Kahola to Greenfield to Carterville to its final name, Liberty Center) obviously had to have a rape culture problem, derived from the culture of toxic masculinity that was created in order to have a successful football program. This decision was reiterated when I read Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer–which I bought and started reading one day when I was trapped in the Newark airport by a flight cancellation for like eight hours or so. (Also: shout out to friend Gwen Florio, a reporter for the Missoula paper whose coverage of the stories there featured heavily in the book)

So, when I sat down to write that draft in a month (oh to have that kind of focus again), that was in the forefront of my mind: the triggering event that may have potentially have led to the murder was the sexual assault of a cheerleader at a party before school started.

So, yes, I have written a crime novel set in a small town with a rape culture problem. Am I the best person to write such a book? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s why I am so nervous–how are people going to react to this story? From me?

And then I think, oh, it’s not like anyone pays any attention to you or your career anyway.

And now back to the spice mines.

Christmas Won’t Be The Same Without You

I did not want to get up this morning.

A quick look at today’s temperature–it is currently forty-eight degrees–explains it. It is chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, and my heavy blankets felt all too marvelous for me to want to get out from underneath them when the alarm began it’s insistent cacophony far too early this morning for my tastes, quite frankly. The first day of winter looms nigh this week–perhaps even today or tomorrow–and then we’re in for the cold spells of winter in southeastern Louisiana, I would presume.

It’s weird–since Christmas is this weekend I only have my three days of work in the office this week, and then I have a four-day holiday. The holiday will be spent, of course, trying to get back on schedule with everything–I had a semi-productive day yesterday, and that productivity needs to continue today–but as my coffee kicks in I am also not tired, I am finding; more like I was groggy and didn’t want to come fully awake just yet. The stiff soreness in my shoulders also isn’t there this morning, so perhaps after work tomorrow I can actually return to the gym and start easing my way back into working out again. Yay? Yay.

I spent some time with Vivien Chien’s delightful Death by Dumpling yesterday, which is also an immersive experience into an Asian business center in Cleveland; which is interesting. I know we have a rather nice-sized Asian immigrant community in New Orleans–there was a section along Canal Street that was once our Chinatown–and there are a lot of Vietnamese families in New Orleans East (Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse explored the New Orleans Vietnamese community)–yet another part of New Orleans’ rich and varied culture/community/history I’ve never touched on in my work. The lovely thing about New Orleans is you can never ever run out of things to research, explore and write about here; the sad thing about New Orleans is realizing there is so much that it’s incredibly humbling; I always kind of laugh to myself when I hear myself being described as a “New Orleans expert”–please. There’s so little that I actually do know as opposed to the actuality; I am always realizing how little I do know about the city and its history and culture.

I also spent some time writing on the book yesterday, and it is beginning to really take shape nicely. If I can maintain a decent schedule on it, I should be able to finish on time–which will be just in time to head to New York next month, barring the trip getting canceled for one reason or another (please please please let that not happen again). I also managed to get the promo recordings done–I hate, as I have mentioned, hearing and seeing myself on recordings, so I can’t rewatch them to see if they are any good or not–but maybe I should start recording myself doing readings from my books and stories as promotional materials? I don’t know, it’s hard for me to imagine that succeeding, but…is that part of the self-destructive mentality that is rooted in my deeply felt Imposter Syndrome, or is that a valid critique of me, my attempts to promote myself and my career, and that very really sense that no one cares whether you do or you don’t?

Heavy thoughts this morning on my second cup of coffee, right?

But at least I got an email this morning from one of the places I recorded a video for–a brief read of “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”, from The Only One in the World–and Narrelle Harris, the very kind editor, seemed to have really liked it, so there’s that part going for me this morning. Yay, I think?

I also got the cover artwork for one of these anthologies I have a story in–Cupid Shot Me, Valentine’s Day gay crime stories, and that is the book that “This Thing of Darkness” is going to be revised/edited for (I made a note on my list of stories/manuscripts due this morning to note that this is the one due on January 10th)–and it’s pretty cool. I do love landing short stories, wherever I can. I hate that the short story market isn’t as strong as it used to be; even writing gay erotica was a nice supplemental income back in the days before everyone began truly using the internet to scratch their porn itches…remember the days of porn videos, either renting or buying for the exorbitant price of $89.95? The bargain bins of gay porn videos that had been remaindered? I’ve never pretended not to have written gay porn (or erotica, whichever makes you feel better about it), but it has been a hot minute since I’ve actually written or read any. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever again–there’s some gay noir I want to do that needs to be lusty, sweaty and erotic–but for now…it’s certainly not in my immediate future or in my plans for what I need to get done over the next two months.

And on that note, tis perhaps time for me to head into ye olde spice mines. There’s a lot I have to get done before the holidays this weekend.

Have an awesome Monday, Constant Reader!