Sunday morning rolling around like a marble in the Mousetrapgame–do they still sell that? We never had that game when we were kids–I remember having Clue, Monopoly, Life, and Chinese checkers, but never Mousetrap. We were a game family, often playing cards–Rook, Hearts, Spades, and Pinochle were enormous favorites within the family–and much later adding Uno and Trivial Pursuit (although no one will pay Trivial Pursuit anymore because I always win; and have even won on my first turn). Yesterday was kind of a lovely day, overall; I slept deeply and late, got up and did some things around the apartment; soaked my toe and slathered topical gel over it all day; read Bobby Mathews’ quite marvelous Living the Gimmick for a while, and worked. (Bobby’s book is really good, y’all) The work wasn’t easy but it also wasn’t difficult; in fact, I was kind of enjoying myself, which for me is lovely and encouraging. I do have to run out to the grocery store at some point today, but I’m not going to get terribly worked up and/or upset about it. I slept decently last night; I feel rested this morning but managed to get up early and am hoping that today will be a good, productive one.
The Lefty Awards were given out last night in Tucson: I lost Best Humorous to Ellen Byron and her delightful Bayou Book Thief; Kellye Garrett won Best Novel for Like a Sister; Wanda Morris won Best Historical for Anywhere You Run; and Ramona Emerson won Best Debut for Shutter. Congratulations to everyone! It was both a thrill and a surprise to be nominated in the first place, completely unexpected, and just a bit sad that the “race” is over. I can’t imagine being nominated another time, to be honest, but am very grateful for everyone who included A Streetcar Named Murder.
I still get to enjoy being an Agatha nominee for another month, though.
Yesterday was pretty good, over all. I did get a lot done, and I was pleased with the work I got done. I’m feeling a lot better these days about everything, really; it’s hard for me to explain but it feels like I’ve been operating on autopilot since even before the pandemic started; like there was a dark cloud inside my head that I somehow managed to get things done, but it was harder than it used to be. I don’t feel like that dark cloud is there anymore, at least not since last weekend, and it’s delightful to be free of that whatever-it-was. Depression and anxiety, most likely; I know I’ve been worrying about Mom in the back of my mind for years now, and I still kind of tense up when I get a text message alert from my phone. I guess a lot of that worry has now transferred over to Dad, but he’s healthy–or at least has been so far. The grief comes and goes still–far less frequently than before–but it still happens from time to time that I’ll get a bit overwhelmed and have to go withdraw from the world for a while.
While I was waiting for Paul to get home and after I had finished working for the day, I decided to watch a movie instead of just endless scrolling through social media and looking for things on Youtube to watch. I couldn’t remember if I had seen Uncharted or not; I like Tom Holland and still kind of enjoy Mark Wahlberg (while admitting that he’s probably not a great person–it’s complicated), so I queued it up and started watching. As I watched, I began remembering things from it, so I had seen it before, just didn’t remember it. It didn’t take long for me to start punching holes in the plot/story, and I remembered that it became so far-fetched that I didn’t enjoy it. I was about forty-three minutes into it when I gave up; the entire premise that Magellan had a fortune in gold that somehow got lost (he didn’t; he didn’t stay anywhere long enough to amass such a treasure) was simply taken for granted without explanation; that’s the legend so we just don’t question it. Props for using an actual historical figure to give it more authenticity, but…it also lost me. We watched the SEC Gymnastics championships (LSU came in third, but it really was a matter of tenths of points), then finished watching Servant, which was interesting and different and strange and very well done before catching this week’s The Mandalorian, which wasn’t a particularly good one. I’m not feeling this season, to be honest; and of course the best part–Baby Yoda–hasn’t really had much to do except just kind of be there.
Such a shame about Uncharted, really. I love treasure hunts, but they are so rarely (outside of Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone) featured in good movies that I’m always a little hesitant to watch one. I still want to do my Colin treasure hunt book sometime, but God only knows when. The Festivals are this week, so Paul will be moving into the Monteleone Hotel on Wednesday, most likely, and I’ll probably go down there on Friday. I’m going to have to commute, which isn’t going to be easy–the limping toe, for example–so we don’t have to board Scooter, and means I will probably be exhausted by the end of the weekend. So be it, seriously. I definitely need to make a to-do list today; I’ve been operating without one for quite some time and I think it’s necessary for me going forward to stay on track with everything,
And on that note, I am going to read some more Bobby Mathews while my coffee continues to warm me up. I have some chores to do around the house (as always) and I am going to run over to the Fresh Market at some point to get some things (not entirely sure what is needed, to be honest, with Paul going away on Wednesday), and so I must be busy and productive today. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all is well this morning. I slept in a bit (I also went to bed later than I usually do, so I slept about the same amount, really) and feel rested and relaxed this morning, which is always a nice, pleasant thing to feel. I didn’t get much work done on the book yesterday (355 words, all of them bad except maybe “Scotty” and “Frank” and “Colin”) but that’s okay; I feel a lot less stressed and a lot less pressured this morning about everything that needs to be done now. The stuff all needs to get done, of course; that hasn’t changed, but I am not feeling as much stress about it as I was feeling yesterday.
I read more of ‘salem’s Lot last night while I was waiting for my friend Ellen Byron (buy her books! Bayou Book Thief is amazing!) to text me to meet her for a drink. I picked her up at the Sazerac House (Canal and Magazine) and it had been quite a while since I drove down that way in the evening, and yikes. SO much traffic, so many people everywhere. I’m still not used to pedestrians in the CBD at night, even though the area hasn’t been a ghost town at night in years, but then we swung around and came up to have drinks at St. Vincent’s, which has been renovated and redone and remade and turned into a boutique luxury hotel right here in the heart of my neighborhood. I’ve posted some pictures of the place when I was doing my walks through the neighborhood last year; it’s even more beautiful inside than I imagined. These weekend is Tulane Homecoming, so there are a shit ton of people in town (that’s actually what brought Ellen to New Orleans, in fact; she is an alum) for that, and of course the people from Mississippi here for today’s LSU game in Baton Rouge (Geaux Tigers!). It was lovely to sit and have a drink and talk about writing and books and this crazy business we are in; she’s an absolute delight (buy her books!) and I look forward to the next time I get to see her.
But this morning I realized how utterly I am failing at reading. October is winding down; Halloween is a week from Monday, and I still haven’t finished my reread of ‘salem’s Lot, let alone done my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House or getting caught up on the horror novels in my TBR pile. I’ll spend some more time with Mr. King this morning before I run my errands–I have to go get the mail and I have to stop at the grocery store because I want to make white bean chicken chili tomorrow, and have nothing I need for that–and I am debating whether I want to grill burgers today or not. The LSU game is on today at 2:30, and of course Skate America is airing this weekend (yay for figure skating!) so I’ll have to write around those times.
The reread of ‘salem’s Lot is a lot of fun, actually; I am really enjoying this revisit of the book and seeing why I enjoyed it so much the first time around. King wasn’t STEPHEN KING yet when he wrote and published it, so I am sure it didn’t get the kindest reception from critics of the time; particularly when you take into consideration what they considered to be great writing back then. I don’t remember when it was that the Literati changed their mind on Stephen King, but I do remember how he wasn’t taken seriously as a writer by them for a very long time (he writes horror! He’s too prolific to be a real writer!), and some of his best work was already behind him by the time he got the anointing he deserved for a very long time. I mean, he had quite a run, and quite a varied one at that, before he finally published a book I didn’t like (The Tommyknockers, for the record) and it seemed an aberration as he seemed to climb back on the horse and right the saddle in the next one after that. I love how many points of view he uses in ‘salem’s Lot, giving us little glimpses of fully realized characters and their lives to show us human beings so that when they actually wind up becoming vampires, you do feel a sense of loss. Many of these minor characters are objects of sympathy, while others you just kind of shrug when the vampires come for them and think, well, you were a shitty person anyway, oh well, this is justice of a sort. The scene where Mike Ryerson has to finish burying the coffin of Danny Glick is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever read, and it still holds up today. I like how King gets into the point of view character’s head and gives them a voice–which is still King’s, but different from the other voices he uses–and that sort of structured stream of consciousness is something I really like and enjoy reading; I sometimes use that style in my own writing.
(I started to write something self-deprecating, but am proud of myself for catching it and not doing it. Progress.)
And on that note, I am going to head into the manuscript and do some cleaning before the errands are run. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later or tomorrow.
That’s not entirely true, you know. Yes, Bourbon Street Blues was always supposed to be a stand alone (I know you’re tired of the story) and they offered a two book series deal and I took it, thinking I would just figure it out later. Well, I did figure it out later; and when I started writing Bourbon Street Blues I already knew there would be a second book and so I had to set it up in the first as well as plant seeds for the next one after that–if there was going to be another one after that. I didn’t know for sure or not whether there would be a third, so when I was writing the first I kept the personal story as simple as I could in case there wouldn’t be a third and I could wrap it all up with the second if need be. But by the time I finished writing Jackson Square Jazz I was already pretty confident there would be a third (the first had just come out and was doing extremely well) so even if the third still ended up not being contacted, everything wrapped up as nicely as possible at the end of Jackson Square Jazz.
I decided the main mystery plot of the book would have to do with the Cabildo Fire of 1988.
When Paul and I had first moved here, sometime within that first year we saw a documentary on our local PBS station (WYES, for the record, thanks for asking, you there in the back) about the Cabildo Fire. I can only imagine how the city reacted to the news that a fire had broken out in one of our most beautiful buildings and recognizable landmarks–especially given its proximity to the landmark of the city: St. Louis Cathedral, and on its other side, the Presbytere. The documentary focused on the remarkable methods the New Orleans Fire Department went to, not only to fight the fire and prevent its spread to other historic buildings nearby, but to preserve the contents of the inside. The Cabildo is the Louisiana State Museum, and it’s filled with all kinds of artifacts and art documenting the history of New Orleans and the Louisiana territory. They brought fire-fighting boats to the levee, and borrowed more from the Coast Guard. They began hosing down the buildings around the Cabildo so they’d be too wet for the fire to spread.
And firemen were sent inside to remove as much of the contents before they turned the hoses on the Cabildo itself.
They literally lined paintings, framed historic documents, and various other historical artifacts with a variety of values along the fence surrounding Jackson Square, delaying until they had no other choice but to turn the hoses onto the Cabildo.
How easy it would have been to walk off with something priceless in its historic value, I thought, thinking of Robin Cook’s marvelous Sphinx and its opening with the tomb of Tutankhamun being robbed before flashing forward to the present day where a young female Egyptologist happens upon a magnificent statue from antiquity; a golden statue of Pharaoh Seti I. I pictured another young woman, in an antiques shop in the Quarter, happening upon something that looks like an artifact lost during the Cabildo Fire (they saved over 80% of the museum’s contents, by the way), and decided upon the Louisiana Purchase treaty. I could also call the book Louisiana Purchase (which also is the name of the state’s food assistance program; you get a Louisiana Purchase card with an amount loaded onto it every month), and possibly weave something about a food assistance program scandal of some sort woven into it as well. I viewed this as a spin-off stand alone for my character Paige Tourneur from the Chanse series (I had always wanted to write about her), and I thought, you know, the Cabildo Fire and some McGuffin gone missing from the museum would make a great plot for the second Scotty book.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.
And, being a dutiful writer, I contacted the administrative offices of the Louisiana State Museum and made an appointment to discuss my book and the fire with Executive Director Jim Sefcik.
And when I met with Jim, I discovered, to my great surprise, that not only had he been working there the day of the fire…it was his first day on the job.
“I was sitting in La Madeleine having coffee and a pastry,” he said (where Stanley is now used to be a La Madeleine; I used to get coffee there all the time during the Williams Festival), “when I heard a fire engine. I looked out the window and saw a firetruck pull up onto the pedestrian mall and stop in front of the Cabildo. As I thought that can’t be good another one pulled up from the other direction and THAT was when I saw the smoke.”
He gave all the credit to the fire chief for how everything was saved–“I just kept saying yes yes, whatever you think is best”–and I remember saying, “Well, at least you got it over with on your first day.”
He laughed, and replied, “Yes, now whenever there’s a crisis of any kind I just think well, at least the Cabildo isn’t on fire and that kind of puts things into perspective.”
He even gave me Polaroid snapshots of the aftermath of the fire; they’d scanned the originals long since to archive them. I just found them again Saturday when I was cleaning out cabinets, you can imagine my delight to stumble over them all these years later.
He also explained to me why the Louisiana Purchase treaty wouldn’t work as the MacGuffin (the original is stored in a vault at the Library of Congress; the display in the Cabildo is a copy and it is multiple pages long) and suggested the Napoleon death mask as a suitable alternative–even telling me a wonderful story about how the one in the Cabildo (there were four or five made) disappeared and then turned up in trash dump about thirty years later.
And he was right. It worked perfectly.
Danger is my middle name.
Okay, so that’s not strictly the truth. My middle name is Scott. But when you’re first name is Milton and you’re last name is Bradley, you’ve got to do something. Yes, that’s right, my name is Milton Bradley, and no, I’m not an heir to the toy empire. My parents, you see, are counter-culturalists who own a combination tobacco/coffee shop in the French Quarter. They both come from old-line New Orleans society families; my mom was a Diderot, of the Garden District Diderots. Mom and Dad fell in love when they were very young and began rebelling against the strict social strata they were born into. The Bradleys blame it all on my mom. The Diderots blame my dad. My name came about because my older brother and sister were given what both families considered to be inappropriate names: Storm and Rain. According to my older brother, Mom and Dad had planned on naming me River Delta Bradley. Both families sat my parents down in a council of war and demanded that I not be named after either a geological feature or a force of nature. After hours of arguing and fighting, Mom finally agreed to give me a family name.
Unfortunately, they weren’t specific. So she named me Milton after her father and Scott, which was her mother’s maiden name. Hence, Milton Scott Bradley.
My older brother, Storm, started calling me Scotty when I was a kid because other kids were making fun of my name. Kids really are monsters, you know. Being named Storm, he understood. My sister Rain started calling herself Rhonda when she was in high school. Our immediate family still calls her Rain, which drives her crazy. But then, that’s the kind of family we are.
So, yeah, danger really isn’t my middle name, but it might as well be. Before Labor Day weekend when I was twenty-nine, my life was pretty tame. I’m an ex-go-go boy; I used to tour with a group called Southern Knights. I retired from the troupe when I was twenty-five, and became a personal trainer/aerobics instructor. The hours were great, the pay was okay for the most part, and I really liked spending a lot of time in the gym. Every once in a while I would fill in dancing on the bar at the Pub, a gay bar on Bourbon Street, when one of their scheduled performers cancelled—if I needed the money. That Labor Day weekend, which is Southern Decadence here in New Orleans, I was looking forward to meeting some hot guys and picking up the rent money dancing on the bar. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be almost killed a couple of times or to have my apartment burn to the ground. I also didn’t expect to wind up as an undercover stripper for the FBI.
It’s a really long story.
The one good thing that came out of that weekend was I met a guy: Frank Sobieski, this mound of masculine, hard muscle with a scar on his cheek, who also happened to be a Fed. They don’t come any butcher than Frank. We hit it off pretty well, and he decided that once his twenty years with the FBI were up, he’d retire and move to New Orleans. I’ve always been a free agent. It’s not that I didn’t want to have a boyfriend, I just never thought I would find one. I enjoyed being single. I mean, young, single and gay in New Orleans is a lot of fun. It doesn’t hurt that people find me attractive, either. I’m about five nine, with wavy blondish hair that’s darker underneath. I wrestled in high school, mainly because the other kids were bullying me because they sensed I was gay. I’ve been working out ever since. Anyone who tells you being in shape doesn’t make a difference in your life is lying. It does.
But I needed a reason for the death mask-MacGuffin to come across Scotty’s path.
So, I turned back to the personal story of Scotty again.
It’s October now, been about five or six weeks since Labor Day and Halloween looms. There’s not been another word from Colin since the end of Bourbon Street Blues and Frank has put in for his retirement while he and Scotty are doing the long-distance thing; Scotty is finding it a bit restraining and having never really wanted or care about being in a relationship, is starting to have second thoughts about giving up his freedom. He has just come back from visiting Frank in DC and that visit has set his teeth on edge and made him even more nervous about Frank moving to New Orleans. David picks him up at the airport, hands him a joint, and Scotty goes on a bender…
…and wakes up with a massive hangover in bed the next morning, realizing to his horror that he is not in bed alone.
How relatable is that? I know I’ve been there more times than I care to remember.
And I realized, the trick is the key linking Scotty to said MacGuffin and the mystery, and as a big figure skating fan I decided to make him a figure skater, in town for Skate America. Scotty doesn’t know he’s a skater until he’s actually at the event and sees him warming up on the ice–and then he gets a note to meet him at his hotel room at the Hotel Aquitaine later that evening, along with the room’s key card–but Scotty shows up only to find a dead man with a knife in his chest.
This one was fun, and having Scotty’s weird ‘psychic’ power allow him to commune with the ghost of a long-dead fireman who knows the answer everyone is looking for was also a lot of fun. (I liked the concept of having Scotty and his mom go down to watch them fight the fire when he was a little boy.)
What a fun book this was to write!
I introduced a very fun Texas millionaire who collects things and doesn’t care how he acquires them (I even brought him back in Baton Rouge Bingo); was able to bring Colin back only to find out he’s not really a cat burglar but actually an international agent-for-hire working for the Blackledge Agency and thus created the “who will he wind up with” romantic triangle; and even had Scotty living in half of David’s shotgun while his home on Decatur Street was being rebuilt (which I had forgotten about until the skim-rereads and changes something with the new book). I also had Scotty get kidnapped again, and this book had the first of his many car accidents. It also contained Scotty’s first trip (in the series) to the West Bank.
One thing I forgot to mention when I was writing about Bourbon Street Blues the other day was how the series (books) were always intended to be insane and over-the-top*; always. The problem I always have with writing this series is stopping myself because something strains credulity and then I have to remind myself, “this series was always intended to be like New Orleans itself: completely unbelievable until experienced personally, and always over the top and ridiculous.”
Which is part of the fun, you know?
*For one example, Bryce Bell, the young skater, lands a quad-axel at Skate America. To put that in the proper perspective, to date no one had landed one competitively, although there’s a young American skater who can land them in practice….eighteen years later.
PS: When this book was released, I got asked a lot if I had posed for the cover; the same thing happened with Bourbon Street Blues; I was always apologizing for not being the cover model. With this book, I assumed it was the same thing…but later I realized they weren’t asking about the guy in front with this shirt open but the guy in back kissing his neck. At the time, I had a goatee and shaved head; this guy also has this and he does kind of look like me. What can I say?
It’s probably hard to imagine what Southern Decadence is like unless you’ve actually been to it; even the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken and shared on social media over the years can’t even remotely begin to get the concept of what it’s like across–the same as Carnival, really; it has to be seen and experienced to be truly understood. My first Southern Decadence was in 1995, which was around the twenty-second or third time it was held; my knowledge of Decadence, primarily from urban legend and tales told from one gay to another and passed down over the years, is sketchy and probably untrustworthy (if you’d like the unvarnished truth and read about the history, I highly recommendSouthern Decadence in New Orleans from LSU Press, co-written by Frank Perez and Howard Philips Smith; I have a copy and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be, but the story is it began as a bar crawl for a friend who was moving away, and grew from those humble beginnings into a massive event that draws queers from all over the world).
That first Decadence I came to was also one of the hottest, temperature wise, or perhaps it was simply because I wasn’t used to the summers in New Orleans yet since I didn’t live here. I just remember being in Oz one afternoon and just soaked in my own sweat, and going down the back staircase from the second floor–the staircase that opens out onto the dance floor–and having to hold onto the railing because the steps were slick and wet. The railing was also wet, and when I touched the walls so were they–all the humidity and body heat and sweat–but at the same time it was so much fun. Gorgeous, flirty and friendly men everywhere, everyone scantily dressed and getting wasted and just having a good time. This was during the height of the circuit parties, most of which have died off over the years–there’s no longer a Hotlanta weekend in Atlanta in mid-August anymore, for example–but back then, it seemed like every month if you had the time and the money there was a circuit party somewhere you could fly off to and be yourself and have fun being in an entirely gay environment for a few days. That was, for me, one of the primary appeals of circuit parties and gay bars–they were safe havens for everyone to be out and proud and loud…and after a few weeks navigating the straight world for work and play and life in general…it was lovely to let loose in, for want of a better word, a safe space.
Circuit parties also had their downsides, don’t get me wrong–Michelangelo Signorile detailed some of those in his book Life Outside, which got taken out of context an awful lot–drug use and rampant sex and bad choices also led to other problems, not to mention the spread of HIV and other STI’s; the very first time I ever went to a circuit party–Halloween in New Orleans, 1995–there was a very Masque of the Red Death feel to it; here were all these gay men crowded into a riverfront warehouse, doing drugs and dancing and having a great time while the plague raged outside the doors. I even wrote about that in my diary on the flight back to Tampa a few days later.
But Decadence was always my favorite, out of all of them, and it was something I looked forward to every year. My workouts were always planned so I would hit peak physical condition for Decadence and maintain through Halloween, before starting to work on the Carnival body. It feels weird to talk about it that way, but that was my mentality and my schedule for years. Bulk up for a couple of months, then lean down leading into the event.
I had always wanted to write about Southern Decadence, and I know I’ve written about how I came up with the idea for the book numerous times; standing on the balcony at the Pub watching one of the strippers fight his way through the mob of gay men to get to the Pub so he could work, Paul saying you really should write a book about Southern Decadence and seeing a scene vividly in my head as I looked down at the sea of sweating gay men. I’ve also written about where the idea for the character and his family came from. So what is there left for me to say about Bourbon Street Blues?
The name’s Dansoir. Dick Dansoir.
Okay, so that really isn’t my name. It’s my stage name from the days when I was on the go-go boy circuit. I started when I was in college, at Vanderbilt up in Nashville. As with almost everything that goes on in my life, I became a go-go boy on a fluke. The Goddess brings interesting experiences into my life all the time. Sometimes I don’t think it’s all that great, to tell the truth, but she always seems to be watching out for me.
I was working out at my gym one day when this guy came up to me and asked me if I wanted to make some easy money.
Like I hadn’t heard that one before.
I was twenty-one at the time, just turned, but I wasn’t some wide-eyed dopey innocent. I was raised in the French Quarter, after all, and by the time I went off to college at age eighteen I had pretty much seen everything. French Quarter kids have a lot more life experience than other kids their age. You can’t really help it. The French Quarter is like Disneyland for adults, and growing up there, you get used to seeing things that other people can only imagine.
Anyway, this guy said he was a booking agent and scout for this agency that booked dancers in gay bars throughout the deep South. The troupe was called Southern Knights.
“You can make a lot of money this way,” he said to me above the sounds of people grunting and weights clanging. “You’ve got the look we like.”
I looked at myself in one of the mirrors that are everywhere in gyms. I was wearing a white tank top and a pair of black nylon jogging shorts. I was pumped up from lifting, and if I did say so myself, I looked pretty good. I’m only about five-eight—nine if I have thick-soled shoes on. I have curly blond hair that’s darker underneath. The sun does lighten it, but that darkness underneath always makes people think I dye it. I don’t. I have big, round brown eyes. I am also one of those blonds lucky enough to be able to tan. I’d gotten a good tan that summer and it hadn’t faded yet. The white tank top showed the tan off nicely. I also have a high metabolism and can stay lean rather easily.
But scam artists are everywhere. I wasn’t about to fall for a line from some stranger in the gym. For all I knew, it was a trick to get my phone number, or an escort service, or something else I didn’t want to be involved in.
Not that I have anything against escorting. People go to escorts for all kinds of reasons—loneliness, fear of commitment, whatever—but they do fulfill a need in the gay community, and more power to them. I just never saw myself taking money from someone for having sex. I like sex. I enjoy it. So, it just never seemed right for me to tale money for doing something I like.
Besides, taking money for it would make it work. I prefer to keep my status amateur.
I got a copy of the book out yesterday and skimmed/read it again, to get another look and remind myself of Scotty’s roots and beginning. I realized yesterday, as I turned the pages of an ARC (yes, I still have ARC copies of Bourbon Street Blues available), several things: one, that the reason I always hate reading my own work is because my brain is trained to read my work editorially, to fix and edit and correct and look for things needing to be fixed (and I can always find something) and that second, it’s really been so long since the last time I looked at this book–or any of the earlier Scottys–was four years ago, when I was writing Royal Street Reveillon. So, by making the obvious effort to flip the editorial switch off, and having so much distance from the book that it almost seemed like something new to me, I was able to skim/read the entire thing without wincing in horror or pain or embarrassment.
Bourbon Street Blues was also the last novel I wrote that didn’t have an epigram of any kind, let alone Tennessee Williams: I started that practice with Jackson Square Jazz with a line from Orpheus Descending: “A good-looking boy like you is always wanted.”
Reading the book took me back to the days when I was writing it. The Greg who wrote Bourbon Street Blues is still here, I’ve just been through quite a bit since then and have changed because of my experiences. There were some sentences in the book I would change now to make better, but there are still some jewels in there, and well, I can kind of understand now why the character is so well-liked. He’s charming and humble and kind; sure he talks about “being irresistible” a lot, but that’s part of the charm. Guys find him attractive. He doesn’t necessarily see it, but is more than willing to accept it and not question it. He enjoys his sexuality and he enjoys having sex. I wanted Scotty to be unabashedly sexual and to have no hang-ups, carrying no stress or issues about being a very sexual gay man.
As I read the book again, I also started seeing something that had been pointed out to me over the years a lot–and began to understand why this was pointed out to me so much; an old dog can learn new tricks, apparently–but I still think other people are wrong. The book isn’t “all about sex,’ as some have said. Rather, Scotty sexualizes men; he sees them as potential partners and appreciates beauty in men. His friend David also loves to get laid, so they cruise a lot–whether they are at the gym (either the weight room or the locker room), a bar, wherever they are–and so people get the idea that the book itself is incredibly sexual, even though there is literally only one sex scene in the entire book and it’s not graphic; Scotty’s weird mish-mash of spirituality and beliefs and values make the act itself a sacred ritual, and that was how I wrote the scene; from a spiritual, commune-with-the-Goddess perspective. It’s also funny in that people are so not used to seeing world through the Gay Male Gaze that it’s jarring, and puts sex and sexuality into the minds of the reader.
The question is, would people think the same if this was done through the Straight Male Gaze, in which women are sexualized? Since this is the default of our society–literature, film, television–is flipping the script to show the Gay Male Gaze so uncommon and so unheard of that it triggers such a reaction from some of the readers?
There’s also so much innocence in the book, and it’s also interesting to see it as a kind of time-capsule: Scotty doesn’t have a computer; his rent (on Decatur Street in the Quarter, with a balcony) is $450 a month (ha ha ha ha, that’s what the condo fee would be now monthly); and he also doesn’t have a cell phone. The whole point of the book was to do a Hitchcockian wrong place/wrong time now you’re in danger kind of story; and that is precisely what Bourbon Street Blues is. I’d forgotten that one of the running gags in the book is that he never gets a chance to sleep much throughout the story so he’s tired all the time and just wants it all to be over so he can go to bed.
Another thing that’s dated: even in 2002, in my naïveté and innocence, the evil politician running for governor–when described by Scotty’s brother Storm as problematic–even he doesn’t support an outright ban on abortion–he wants to ban it but with the rape, incest and health exceptions.
Even in 2002 I couldn’t conceive of anyone running for statewide office calling for an outright ban on abortion.
How things change.
It was also interesting that I got two things very wrong in the book, too: for one, I was thinking for some reason the swamp on the edges of Lake Pontchartrain on the way to Baton Rouge on I-10 was the Atchafalaya (it’s the Manchac/Maurepas), and while I had always remembered I’d given Scotty’s mom a name in this book but forgotten it later when I needed a name for her in a different book–I had the name wrong. I thought I’d called her Marguerite in Bourbon Street Blues then named her Cecile in a later book; I had actually called her Isabelle. (I’ve even told that story–about the names–before on panels and been WRONG ALL THIS TIME!)
It was also interesting and fun to remember–as I read–that Scotty was also not looking for a boyfriend. He was perfectly happy and content being single (which was also something important I wanted to write about–a gay man who didn’t care about finding a life-partner, figuring if it was meant to be it would happen). I also presented him with two potential love interests–Colin the cat burglar and Frank the hot daddy–with that actually being resolved without him having to make a choice between them. I also had the book end with Scotty being slowly persuaded into becoming a private eye.
Originally I had conceived it as a stand alone novel, but the publisher offered me a two-book contract, so when I was writing Bourbon Street Blues I knew there was going to be a sequel. This freed me to leave some personal things open for him; I knew I was going to bring Colin back in the next book so he was going to have to choose between them, and I also knew the personal story needed to be wrapped up by the end of the third book, which was going to be the end of the series with everything resolved. That changed when I wrote Mardi Gras Mambo, but that’s a story for another time.
Bottom line: it’s a good book and I am proud of it. It’s only available now as an ebook from Amazon, but I hope to eventually make it available through every service as well as get a print-on-demand version for those who might want one.
Everyone has heard of Constantinople at some point in their life, I should think–at least they’ve heard that annoying song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Some may even know that it fell to the army and navy of the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453, ending the Eastern Roman Empire after a thousand years of existence. The Ottomans relocated the capital of their empire there, renaming it as Istanbul. (Christian Europe continued calling it Constantinople for centuries; it’s only over the last hundred years or so that Istanbul has come into more common usage.) But few know much more about the city and the empire it served as capital for over a millenium. Of those, some may know the basics–the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, recognizing that the enormous Roman Empire had become impossible to rule or enforce law or protect, split the empire into eastern and western halves, and founded a capital for the east on the site of the village of Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 473 when the city fell; yet the eastern empire continued until 1453. Western Europe, always trying to reclaim the heritage of the Roman Empire (and ambitiously planning to rebuild it), always referred to the still existing Roman Empire as “Greek” rather than “Roman,” although the citizens of that great city and the vestiges of its empire continued calling themselves Romans until the Turks finally ended it.
But that thousand year history? It’s not easy to find information or books with much information; even the one history of the Empire I did read–Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth, along with his City of Fortune, a history of the Venetian Empire–glossed over centuries and only hit highlights. I’ve always wanted to write something historical set in the new Rome.
The Eastern Empire out-lasted its western counterpart by nearly a thousand years. Constantinople was one of the greatest Christian cities of all time; there was certainly nothing even remotely close to it in western Europe in terms of population, art, culture, education, and trade. It’s location put it in control of access and egress from the Black Sea; it also controlled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. Its fall in 1453 meant that those trade routes were now controlled by the non-Christian Islamic Ottoman Empire–and as such, other ways to reach the far east became necessary to the western Europeans, hence the Portuguese circumnavigating Africa and the Spanish attempt to sail west to find a route, leading to the “discovery” of the Americas. The fall of Constantinople was an incredibly important and necessary piece of the interlocking puzzle that led to European colonization and the global empires that resulted from it (as well as the oppression and enslavement and genocide of native populations); but Western historians–in particular, those monastic scholars in Catholic orders–have always tried to erase and /or lessen the importance of the eastern Empire and its capital, calling them “Greeks”, renaming the Eastern Roman Empire as the “Byzantine Empire,” etc.–and in no small part, this was also because of the Christian Schism of 1054, in which the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split in two over questions of dogma. Therefore, it was in the interest of the Western Europeans to underplay the vital importance to European history of the remains of the Roman Empire because western Catholics considered their Orthodox brethren as heretics; their church was the true one, even if it was in the east that the religion originally came from, and it was in the eastern half of the empire the tenets and dogma of the “true” faith were established. The Pope in Rome always tried to assert his own authority over the Patriarch in Constantinople; the Patriarch considered himself to be the head of the faith and the Pope just another bishop. Thus, when Charlemagne conquered most of central Europe, he and the Pope created the Holy Roman Empire (which wasn’t holy, or Roman, or even really an empire in the traditional sense); the Romans in Constantinople were not pleased. (At the time, through some political machinations and drama, a woman was seated on the throne in Constantinople–the Empress Irene, one of the most interesting women in European history; she was also pretty terrible. The Pope decided there could be no such thing as a female Emperor, and so he crowned Charlemagne.)
The Holy Roman Empire also lasted over a thousand years.
Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the eastern Empire, even though it’s largely neglected in European histories. But one event in its history has always been interesting to me in particular –the fall of Constantinople to the Catholic 4th Crusade in 1204, which essentially set the stage for the second fall of the city, to the Ottomans in 1453. I also have an idea for a Colin book–which I’ve had for a very long time–that would have its beginnings in the 1204 sack of Constantinople.
It’s remarkably hard to find much information–granted, it’s not like I’ve tried very hard, but the fact that you have to try hard to find histories and/or books about the Empire and its capital, let alone the 4th Crusade–even histories of the Crusades themselves gloss over the fact that a Crusader army, blessed by the Pope, allowed itself to be diverted by the Venetians to capture and sack two Christians cities (Zara and Constantinople), and established “Latin” (western European) kingdoms and principalities out of the provinces that were once the Eastern Roman Empire. These Catholic kingdoms were so despised by their subjects that they didn’t last long, with another dynasty of the old empire arising to drive them out. The sack of the city and the pillaging and destruction that followed created such a deep hatred for the Catholic Church and the kings that followed the Pope that they preferred the Ottomans to a reconquest by the Catholic nations–which is saying something. Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople is a very thorough account of the tragedy and how it came to pass; the destruction of the mighty city–along with the destruction of priceless books and documents and art forever lost to us–was on a par with the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria.
The book itself is very interesting; the siege took nearly a year, and it’s actually kind of shocking that the Crusaders succeeded in taking the city, bearing in mind the strong defenses and so forth. A lot of things had to fit into place for it to happen, and they all did. The city came so close to holding them off successfully; it’s almost as though, as they would have said at the time, it was God’s will for it to happen. The city was also filled with all kinds of priceless Christian relics; after all, the religion was founded in the east, and as city after city fell to foreign invaders, a lot of priceless artifacts and holy relics were moved to the capital. (The great horses from the Hippodrome, for example, are proudly on display in the Piazza San Marco in Venice to this day.) A lot of the art was destroyed, jewels picked out of reliquaries, the gold or silver or bronze melted down for coin, and so forth.
As someone who has always loved history, and also has always loved treasure hunts–especially those that are involved with the history and development of Christianity, many years ago (I will freely confess to being inspired by Indiana Jones movies) I thought about writing such a treasure hunt story–where the ‘treasure’ being hunted was some important document or book or relic from the earliest days of Christianity that would revolutionize the faith as well as show how off-course it had gone since the earliest days…and wouldn’t it have made sense that whatever it was could have been kept in Constantinople, deep in the archives of the Orthodox Church? And with western, Catholic Europeans besieging the city, wouldn’t the Patriarch have wanted to keep it out of the hands of the Pope, and smuggled it out of the city to be hidden somewhere else, safe from the prying eyes of Rome?
And of course, when I created Colin–actually, when I brought him back in Jackson Square Jazz–I loved the character so much that I considered spinning him off; what about the jobs he’s on when he’s not in New Orleans? “Oh,” I thought, “my fall of Constantinople story! That could work for Colin!” And it even occurred to me the other day that I could even do them as “case files,” setting them throughout the past, both before and after he met Scotty and woven in between the Scotty stories. (It also occurred to me that I could do Scotty stories to fill in the years between books, if I wanted to…)
And reading this book–which i recommend if you want to know more about “holy wars” and how corrupt and unholy they actually were–made me think about it even more. I do want to include something about the Empress Irene, too.
Something to brainstorm at some point. Like I have the time to squeeze in another book…but it would be fun; although I don’t know how good I would be at writing action/adventure/thrillers.
Tuesday and it’s back into the office with me today. Huzzah.
Yesterday I entered data until my eyes crossed, but I got everything caught up. I also, once I was finished with my work for the day, walked over to Office Depot and got some more organizational items to try to make the kitchen workspace–and the kitchen overall–better organized and pulled together. It’s better now–looking around at the space this morning it certainly looks better than the hot mess it’s been for quite some time–so that’s something, I think. I slept fairly well last night, so as I am slowly waking up this morning over my coffee I am thinking this looks pretty good around here this morning. I also decided that since it’s still Pride Month my reading should continue to be queer books, at least for this month, so I plucked John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind out of the TBR pile (it did win the Lambda Award for Best Mystery this past weekend after all) and hope to start reading it this evening when I get home from work. I made a binder for “Never Kiss a Stranger” as well as ones for Chlorine and Mississippi River Mischief–which definitely helped getting loose piles of paper and file folders off the counter tops, and at the same time felt strangely like I actually was making some kind of progress, which is always enormously helpful with feeling like you’ve gotten some place, accomplished something.
I just feel like I’m not getting anywhere with anything these days, but my mind has really worked strangely over the past few years. My concept of time is completely altered–not that it was ever really strong to begin with, honestly–and I struggle with memory lapses; my memory doesn’t really work the way it used to, which is incredibly concerning, or used to be; it seems like everyone is having the same kind of problems, and it probably is pandemic/interesting times causing it for everyone that seems to be affected (of course, if this was a suspense thriller, some mad genius would have done something to trigger this in people around the world for their own nefarious purposes–you can tell I watched a James Bond film last night), but it still is distressing to say the least.
I am also glad I took the weekend off. I feel like it was absolutely necessary, and there’s a three day weekend coming up this weekend, which is really nice as well. I don’t think I’ll be able to take the entire weekend off again this weekend–certainly not all three days–but it’s a very pleasant thought, I must say, and I am looking forward to getting through the rest of this week so I can rest up this weekend.
Whine, whine, whine.
And yes, we did watch the final Daniel Craig as James Bond thriller No Time to Die last night. It was gorgeously shot, and Craig is much closer to the Bond Ian Fleming wrote about in the books so many decades ago (I was very young when Fleming died), and while watching last night I thought about the original thirteen Bond books that Fleming wrote all those years ago and how badly those stories have aged–and how little the movies based on them resemble the books. The book Live and Let Die was horrifically racist (I read it again a few years ago, since it’s been decades since I read them) and then watched the movie again, which is also bad in that respect. Live and Let Die was also the first Bond movie I saw in the theater–and parts of it were filmed/set in and around New Orleans, so that part of it has always been sentimental for me in some ways…but yikes. The stereotypes! And the Bond books themselves celebrated imperialistic colonialism–many of the books are set in Jamaica or other possessions of the British empire, and that oh-so-British sense of superiority is very present in the books. But No Time to Die was a perfectly adequate Bond thriller film; Daniel Craig is a commanding presence on the screen, even if the villain, played by Oscar winner Rami Malek (which prompted me to say, “Freddie Mercury would have made a great Bond villain”) wasn’t really developed enough to really hit hard as the bad guy.
Then again, are any of the Bond villains ever really developed?
But watching a James Bond movie, coupled with me reading The Great Betrayal about the 4th Crusade, has me in mind of writing a Colin thriller again–I could of course set it at any time, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be current; the lovely thing about a Colin series is I could literally go back and set them in and around Scotty books, which would/could be very fun to do–but I am just not so great about writing action, I suppose–and thrillers are a lot of action, from beginning to end. I also don’t know enough about guns, really–how can I write about a gunfight or being shot at, or shooting back–but it could be fun….I already know the opening scene (set in 1204, as the city is on the brink of falling; the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church calls in a couple of warrior priests to smuggle something to safety, and that something is the MacGuffin the entire story turns on: the Pope/Rome wants whatever it is, and the Patriarch would rather burn in hell than let what he considers the Roman heretics have it) and I also know what the first chapter would be–Colin rescuing a politician’s daughter from the terrorists who kidnapped her–and then we would get into the MacGuffin/treasure hunt, with of course the Vatican being the bad guys (seriously, only Nazis make better bad guys than the Vatican) and all kinds of fun stuff.
And on that note, tis time for me to get back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.
Yes, that’s right–I didn’t get out of bed until the sinfully late hour of eight thirty. (It’s kind of sad that I now consider that to be late, isn’t it?) But I have eaten two pieces of chocolate-marble swirl coffee cake (my GOD, it’s good) and am about to have the first of my morning coffee. Yum, marvelous. There really isn’t anything quite like the first cup of coffee in the morning, is there?
Yesterday morning’s workshop went okay–there was a light turnout, which I had kind of worried about–so rather than going with the whole presentation I’d prepared (I remembered the correct notes to take this time) I tailored it down to fit a smaller audience and made it more intimate conversation. I don’t know if it was any good or the attendees got anything out of it, but I guess it went well. They did have questions, and there were answers I didn’t have for them–but I also didn’t pretend to know them, either, which I think is worse than not having an answer. I did stop at That’s Amore on the way back home and got us a deep-dish Chicago style pizza, which was absolutely lovely, but other than that I really didn’t do a whole lot yesterday. We finished watching Queer as Folk, which I have thoughts about–am curious to see what other people think about it–but regardless of anything else, the show certainly made New Orleans look beautiful, or rather, really did a great job of capturing how beautiful New Orleans actually is. (One of the only reasons I kept watched Real World New Orleans: Homecoming beyond the first episode was specifically to see my city and how beautiful it looks on television…I am not entirely sure I am going to continue watching it because I don’t really care about any of these people.) We also watched the new episode of The Boys, which we enjoyed, and then I toddled off to bed for the evening. I am going to spend this morning swilling coffee and reading Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door, and then maybe this afternoon I’ll do some cleaning and writing on “Never Kiss a Stranger.” I realized that last week at this time I was scrambling to finish the edits, so this is really my first free weekend in quite a while…and so I think, after taking yesterday off after getting home, I may just take all of today off as well.
How fun is that?
And yes, the kitchen is a mess, but I’ll get around to it at some point today–there’s also a load of laundry that needs folding–but for right now, the entire concept of being lazy and slothful for the rest of the day, to completely recharge my batteries (or finish recharging them) sounds entirely too good to pass up, and so I don’t think I will. AND NO GUILT ABOUT IT EITHER IF THAT IS THE PATH I CHOOSE.
I did spend some time yesterday reading some history in the form of Ernie Bradford’s The Great Betrayal: The Great Siege of Constantinople, which has to do with the Fourth Crusade–and if Constant Reader has been around long enough, they would know that I am fascinated by this historical event, which was of a far greater import than Western historians ever give it–there are reasons for that, too–and has always seemed to me to be the starting point for a great treasure hunt/adventure story, and one that I have always wanted to spin Colin off into. (I’ve always wanted to spin Colin off into his own Indiana Jones/Clive Cussler/Steve Berry type series, where he goes around the world in his role as an operative for the Blackwood Agency…but I’m not really great at writing action/adventure, and of course whenever you write something like what I see as the first Colin adventure, you kind of have to be good at it–I also don’t see how you can tell a story like that making it up as you go along, either.) So, in some ways it’s research that may prove useful someday–which is how I always read non-fiction; with an eye to it being useful to me in some way in the future–and I am learning about the crusade and the fall of the city, which is always a good thing, at least in my mind–I always think learning new things at any age is crucial and vitally important.
it’s also Father’s Day and I forgot to mail my dad his card–which I will put in tomorrow’s mail–as usual. I really am a terrible child.
The one thing I am going to do today is figure out what all I have to get done and make appropriate lists.
And on that note, I am heading to the easy chair with my morning coffee and The Mother Next Door. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader, and have a great Father’s Day.
Muses Thursday! Will our streak of getting at least one shoe per year continue? Watch this space!
I signed a contract for Scotty IX yesterday; Mississippi River Mischief, to be due on December 1st. Within two minutes of signing said contract I began doubting myself and the Imposter Syndrome kicked in–not really a big surprise, it always happens and is lurking in the back of my mind somewhere. What will I write this about? Another homophobe who is a closet case? AGAIN? But the story I want to write is based on something that actually did happen here; only I am moving it from the New Orleans suburbs to my stand-by fictional parish, Redemption Parish, out on the bayou lower river area. I do need to come up with some other plots–there’s some Colin stuff left over from the last one that I kind of need to delve into this time around–and no, this is not a pandemic book. There will be a pandemic book at some point–I think the shutdown/home quarantining times makes for an interesting situation for a murder mystery; kind of a locked room kind of thing–but I am not there yet. There are at least two more books for Scotty I want to write before Quarter Quarantine Quadrille–and of course, the story of the death of the Krewe of Nyx is simply too good of one to pass up. (Their “parade” was last night.)
Naturally, I didn’t attend the White Supremacy Lady Klan parade last night, and apparently neither did many other people. It was fun following NOLA Twitter as the entire city dragged the racist skanks and their joke of a parade for filth last night. When I got home from work last night, there were hardly any people out on the route–which was unusual, and I was able to find a parking place right in front of my house–a half block off the parade route, without a problem less than two hours before the streets closed. (Tonight is Muses, and I will probably be able to park no closer to my house than Coliseum Square if I am lucky) If you are unaware of the KKKrewe of Nyx, two years ago after George Floyd’s murder their captain posted “All Lives Matter” bullshit on their social media. (She’s also a grifter, and the creation of the krewe–which was created because the waiting list to get into Muses is years–was really a way for her to make money; there are any number of lawsuits and embezzlement investigations going on too) Some of their riders proudly threw Confederate flag beads in 2020; and there was a push for them to throw “Forever Lee Circle” beads with medallions featuring the image of the Traitor Lee on them this year to protest the removal of the statue that never should have been put up in the first place, and despite the fact that the only people supporting them (“the majority,” as they regularly claimed) were racist garbage, refused to apologize, refused to back down, and then screwed over the women who left the KKKrewe in droves after the racism scandal, literally going from 3400 members to 240; a loss of over 90%.
Yes, you fucking bitches, you also suck at math because if over 90% of your krewe quits then you can be relatively certain your opinion isn’t the majority. Imagine, in this day and time, being that unrepentantly racist and thinking you can parade in New Orleans and people will turn out. (Not that there isn’t racism here–there is–but the city is also majority progressive, and majority Black.)
Just the thought of them polluting St. Charles Avenue with their presence makes me angry.
But that shit is over, and we can go back to enjoying Carnival while hopefully, those bitches are spending today thinking about how an entire city turned their backs on them and their hateful messages. I rather doubt it, but I’d love to hear how they rationalize an abandoned parade route somehow meant they represent the majority opinion. And for the record, that statue is gone for fucking good and is never fucking coming back, bitches–because it’s our city and we don’t want to keep honoring treason. Especially after 1/6/21.
So, yes, lots of material there for French Quarter Flambeaux, isn’t there?
And on that note, probably time for me to go into the spice mines. Fingers crossed we get a shoe tonight!
I was a little bleary when I got up yesterday morning (my Fitbit advises me I only slept deeply for 3 hours, 48 minutes; the rest was “light sleep” and I woke up three times), but for whatever reason, I decided to start getting to work on things. I started answering emails (I am very careful with email. I refuse to let it control my life, which it easily can; so I answer emails over the weekends and in the mornings, save my responses as drafts, and send them all after lunch. I do not send emails after five pm CST; I do not read them, either. Email at one point took over my life, which made getting anything done impossible and raised my stress levels to unbelievable heights. I realized anyone who absolutely, positively needs to reach me has my cell phone number…and if I don’t trust you with my cell phone number…you don’t really need an answer right away. And guess what? The world didn’t end, I didn’t miss out on anything, and nothing became harder) while reading coverage of the LSU debacle from Saturday night (one thing I did mean to mention and didn’t yesterday; I try not to be overly critical of college athletes because they are basically kids. It’s easy to forget that when you’re watching on television, but when you see them on the sidelines with their helmets off, or while walking down Victory Hill to the stadium in their suits and ties…you see a bunch of teenagers and young men in their early twenties. They are kids—and those baby faces on those big muscular bodies is a very strange juxtaposition sometimes). I decided on the way home from Baton Rouge that while I do, indeed, love football, I really shouldn’t give up my weekends to it all fall. Now that LSU is definitely out of the running for anything, I’ll probably not watch as much football as I would if they were still in contention for anything. I’ll still watch LSU, and occasionally I may spend an afternoon watching a big game—the SEC title game, the play-offs—I am not going to spend every Saturday pretty much glued to the television all day, flipping between games all day. And I also rarely enjoy watching the Saints—I love them, they’re my guys, my team, my heart—but their games are so damned stressful it’s hard to enjoy them, and when the games is over I am always, win or lose, emotionally and physically and mentally exhausted. So, I decided it made more sense to get things done, check in on the score periodically, and not sweat it too much. (Good thing. Like LSU, the Saints led the entire game, folded like a newspaper in the fourth quarter and wound up losing.) I made groceries, filled the car’s gas tank, and before going, I started weeding shit out of my iCloud and saving it all to my back-up hard drive. I wound up freeing up over four hundred and seven gigabytes in my flash storage, and suddenly my computer was running very quickly again.
And yes, it’s my fault.* I have a gazillion pictures files, going back to digital camera days. I used to back up my hard drive and my flash drives regularly to the cloud—and those folders are enormous. I don’t probably need all of it—I was weeding through bits here and there as I moved the files over to the back-up hard drive (eventually planning on copying them up to Dropbox), and started finding all kinds of interesting things. Story fragments I’d forgotten, book ideas and anthology ideas and essays I’d started; some of these things are in very rough, first draft form—and got left behind as my addled, AHDH-like brain moved on to the next thirty or forty ideas for all of the above. I also was kind of amused to see how I often I plagiarize myself; I had a completely different idea for the book I wanted to call A Streetcar Named Murder fifteen years ago—which I can still use at some point, just have to come up with a new title. I’d forgotten that all the way through the process Need was called A Vampire’s Heart; my editor suggested changing it after I turned the book it. It was a wise choice; my title was very romance sounding and Need was hardly that. It was also interesting seeing, over the years, how many different ideas I’ve had for a gay noir set in the world of ballet (damn you, Megan Abbott!). I discovered that Murder in the Garden District actually began as Murder on the Avenue (a title I can repurpose for an idea I had last week); I found the original files for Hollywood South Hustle, the Scotty book that turned into a Chanse MacLeod, Murder in the Rue Ursulines; I found the files for the Colin book that tells us what he was doing and where he was between Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo; I found the original Paige novel I started writing in 2004, in which an Ann Coulter-like pundit from New Orleans is murdered; I found the first three chapters of the Scotty Katrina book, Hurricane Party High, in which they don’t evacuate during a fictional hurricane, and the chapters where I rewrote it, had the, evacuate to Frank’s sister’s in rural Alabama (and we meet Frank’s nephew Taylor for the first time—and I also remembered that they belonged to some weird kind of religious cult and that Taylor was going to come to New Orleans in the future to visit during their version of rumspringa, but eventually abandoned the idea completely and never did a Scotty/Katrina book; was reminded that Dark Tide began as Mermaid Inn; that I wrote the first chapter of Timothy during the summer of 2003; and if I even tried to list all the iterations that wound up being #shedeservedit, we would be here all day (Sins of Omission, I think, was my favorite earlier title; again, a completely different book with some slight similarities…I may have to take a longer look at some of those iterations because being reminded of them all, I also remembered that I really liked all the versions).
I also found many, many nonfiction pieces I’ve written over the years—many of which I’d long since forgotten about—so maybe that essay collection won’t take quite as long to pull together as I had originally thought. Huzzah!
And I also discovered something else that I knew but had slipped out of my consciousness: that Bury Me in Shadows was called, for the first and second drafts, Bury Me in Satin—which gives off an entirely different vibe, doesn’t it? I wrote a very early version of it as a short story while in college, called it “Ruins,” but never wrote a second draft because I knew it wasn’t a short story; it needed to be a book, and one day I would write it. I was never completely comfortable with the story, to be honest; I wasn’t sure how I could write a modern novel built around a Civil War legend in rural Alabama. I absolutely didn’t want to write a fucking Lost Cause narrative—which is what this easily could have become, and people might come to it thinking it is, and are going to be very angry when they find out it is not that—but I really wasn’t sure how to tell the story…and in my mind, I thought of it as Ruins—which I freely admit is not a great title, and has been over-used.
As luck would have it, I was watching some awards show—I can’t begin to try to remember what year—and one of the nominated groups performed. I’d never heard of The Band Perry before; and the song they performed, “If I Die Young,” absolutely blew me away. (I just remembered, I kind of used the title as guidance when writing Need—always trying to remember he became undead very young) The first two lines of the chorus are this:
If I die young,
Bury me in satin
And I thought to myself, Bury Me in Satin is a perfect title for the Civil War ghost story! Melancholy and sort of romantic; I’ve always thought of hauntings as more about loss than being terrifying (you do not have to go full out jump scare, use gore or blood or violence to scare the reader, and if you doubt me, read Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home), which is why I’ve always loved the Barbara Michaels novels that were ghost stories. That was the feeling I wanted to convey, that sad creepiness, and longing—I wanted a Gothic feel to the book, and I felt that line captured what I wanted perfectly. But as I wrote it, it didn’t quite feel as right as it did in that moment (I still love the song—and the video is interesting and kind of Gothic, doing a Tennyson Lady of Shalott thing), and then one day it hit me: changed ‘satin’ to ‘shadows’, and there’s your perfect title.
And so it was.
Oh dear, look at the time. Till tomorrow, Constant Reader! I am off to the spice mines! Have a lovely Monday!
*I will add the caveat to this that anything stored in the Cloud should not affect the flash storage in the actual computer and its operating system, and yes, I am prepared and more than willing to die on that hill.
Saturday, and it’s lovely to have it be the weekend again. Huzzah!
I finished “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night after the gym, which made me extremely happy. It’s slightly less than twenty thousand words, and it needs a lot of work before anyone else will ever be allowed to see it, but that’s two novellas down, and as they sit right now that means the collection sits at around forty thousand words; halfway done. Huzzah! This makes me quite happy, frankly. I had thought I’d finish it over the course of this weekend, and having it finished already means I have the weekend free to do some other things, other writing. Reading and cleaning, definitely.
So, the first part of the final line edit of Bury Me in Shadows dropped into my inbox last night, and so I skim-read it last night in my easy chair while we watched a few episodes of Happy Endings–which was quite funny, although some episodes missed the mark; I am really surprised it only lasted three seasons–and having NOT read it in months, I was relatively pleased with it. It’s much better than I remembered, to be honest, and it flows really well, and it feels like I nailed the main character’s voice. The mood seems right, too. This is quite a relief, frankly. One of the hardest parts of writing anything, for me at least, is the contempt that familiarity brings in its wake. I am so roundly sick of everything I write by the time I turn it in I literally have no concept as to whether it’s any good or not, if I got the mood and the characters right, if it flows…so inevitably there’s always that moment when I hit send on the email with the manuscript attached where I have that fleeting thought this could be the last nail in the coffin of your career. So, it was quite a relief last night to read the first third of it, post line edit clean-up, and realize, hey, this is really pretty good. I am kind of proud of this book, and hope my readers like it, too.
I’m also pretty pleased with myself for finishing “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night. As opposed to “Festival of the Redeemer”, I knew what the ending for this one was going to be–the question was how to get there. (“Festival” I only had a vague idea of what the end would be, but the proper ending revealed itself to me as I got closer to the end, and I am pretty happy with its ending as well.) Both stories are going to need significant edits and revisions–I suspect there are a ridiculous amount of run-on sentences to break up; paragraphs that need to be moved; scenes to be strengthened; and maybe even a scene or two that need to be added. I also want to revise “The Sound of Snow Falling” this weekend; possibly write a chapter of Chlorine, and get to work on either the next novella, or another story (for some reason, “Parlor Tricks” has been hanging out in my frontal lobe this past week); I definitely want to finish reading Bath Haus so I can move on to Razorblade Tears.
I also slept rather well last night–I even slept in a little later than usual this morning, which was not only a surprise but a very pleasant one. We watched Fear Street 1978 last night, which was a lot of fun (the first was better, but it also set a pretty high bar), and next week the final episode, Fear Street 1666, drops, which should also be a lot of fun. I read a lot of the Fear Street books back in the day–they were fun–and R. L. Stine, whom I finally got to meet a few years back, was quite a lovely man; very gracious and kind (which was really nice; it’s awful when you meet someone whose work you admire and they turn out to be horrible).
Looking around the apartment this morning as I sit here, slurping coffee and scarfing down coffee cake, there’s also a lot of cleaning that needs to be done around here, too. I have errands to run later–getting the mail; picking up a book at the library; possibly stopping around Uptown to take pictures; possibly stopping to get a few things at the grocery store–but for now, I am content to just sit here and write this and drink my morning coffee, and bask in the glow of being well-rested as the caffeine slowly clears the cobwebs inside my head. Paul is going to the office this afternoon, which is a prime opportunity for me to get some more writing done rather than wasting time watching videos on Youtube (which has become my go-to when I am too tired to focus on anything or don’t want to commit to watching a movie or something)–I love the Kings and Generals channel; I watched some great videos of theirs on the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, which is the starting point for a stand-alone Colin book I’ve always wanted to write (I know, I know–but I’ve always wanted to do a Colin stand alone which is an action-adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or Dirk Pitt; I’ve had this idea since the late 1980’s, and after creating the character of Colin I realized he was the perfect lead for this story, should I ever get around to it…and then I think, wouldn’t it be fun to do a series of books about Colin’s capers while he’s away? And then think, but part of what makes him so fun is that he is kind of an international. man of mystery and then but he still would be that to Scotty, just not to the readers…and yeah, you see how this goes)–so who knows what will happen today? Tomorrow I definitely have to go to the gym and have a good workout; I enjoyed last night’s work out but the problem with those week night workouts is there’s always too many other people there, which I have never liked…so Sunday’s workout is inevitably the best one of the week.
And on that note, I should probably get to work else I will wind up wasting the day. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader!