The Ledge

And here it is, Tuesday morning and dark outside my windows as I have my morning coffee preparatory to getting ready for work. It’s getting to be that time of year where I drive to and from work in the dark, which is always a bit debilitating; you feel like you’ve spent the entire day at work when you don’t get to spend any time outside–even if just going to and from work–in the sunshine. The weather has cooled here a bit over the last week, which has been lovely (and early in the season for coolness). My back is much better–there’s still some tightness and slight pain involved–but I think i can actually head to work today and not be in the kind of pain I was in last week, which is kind of nice. It’s still there, but I am learning how to not trigger it–the irony of which is that I am having to use good posture at all times so as not to inflame the pain, which means had I been using good posture most of my life I might not have this problem right now.

But it’s something I can live with today; something I wasn’t so sure about as recently as Sunday. So taking the days of rest, with the alternating hot and cold, was probably a very smart thing to do. I will be taking the generic Ben-Gay with me to work today, too–just in case. But I can sit comfortably without it, which is something I can honestly say was not the case as recently as Sunday. And now of course I have to start digging myself out from under–which is a lot of catching up I need to get done. I also have to do some digging around and figure out what is missing from some projects that I need to get finished, and I also need to get back to writing. There’s an anthology deadline next month–more like three weeks from now–that I wanted to submit something to, but I seriously doubt I am going to be able to have the time or the energy to revise anything the way I want it to be revised to submit to this anthology, so I am probably going to have to let it go once and for all.

We watched Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders last night, a documentary series about the In Cold Blood murders and of course Truman Capote’s famous book that was written about the case (which remains, to this day, one of my favorites) as well as the film made from the book (which I’ve never seen, but Paul’s friend the actress Brenda Curran was in, playing Nancy Clutter). I’ve been to both Holcomb and Garden City, back when I lived in Kansas and when I also had no idea Holcomb was where the crimes happened (I didn’t read In Cold Blood until I lived in California). One of the things I’ve always found interesting about these old rural crimes is how they always talk about how the “community changed” after it happened and how people never used to lock their doors…and everyone could just knock and enter other people’s homes. I wasn’t raised that way; my mother was very obsessive about always making sure everything was locked up–cars, homes, wherever–and used to get mad at me when, as a lazy not really paying much attention teenager used to sometimes leave the car unlocked. Paul is much the same as my mom; sometimes I forget to lock the car, and when I am home by myself I forget sometimes to lock the front door–someone would have to scale the fence, which isn’t easy, to get back to our apartment door–but that’s also a part and parcel of the false sense of security we all have about being safe in our homes. Once I am inside I am safe.

Which really isn’t true.

I spent some more time with Donna Andrews’ delightful new Meg Langslow novel last night while I waited for Paul to finish working so I could make dinner, and it’s delightful. I don’t know how she manages to do this with a series that has lasted as long as hers has; I think there may be more than twenty volumes in the series now? But each one is a delight. I love the town of Caerphilly, I love her family, and most of all I really enjoy Meg. I love highly accomplished, confident, efficient women like her; she’s yet another drily humorous main character in the vein of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell (I really am overdue for reading another book in that series) and while my own poor Valerie is hardly in the same vein as these remarkable women characters, I’d kind of like to keep developing her into a series because, well, I kind of grew attached to Valerie and her friends while writing A Streetcar Named Murder, and I’d kind of like to revisit them again in another book. I have a title and an idea for the next book in the series, should Crooked Lane want another, and while I felt fairly confident they’d hate the title, I just this weekend came up with a potentially better title for it…and now that I am writing this, i cannot for the life of me remember what that title was, nor do I think I made a note of it (which is why you should always make a note of it).

Ah, well, perhaps it will come back to me at some point.

I also woke up to proofs of an anthology I contributed a story to that has been in the works for many years now, which means the book is finally going to be released which is great news. My story is called “A Whisper from the Graveyard” and I really don’t remember much, if anything, about the story because it’s frankly been so long. But I will need to proof it–check for typos and missing words and such–which will be a nice way to get reacquainted with the story, at the very least. I vaguely have some idea about the story–I know it’s a private eye story, with a gay detective who has just tested HIV positive and it’s set in the early 1990’s, so it’s a death sentence as far as he knows–and is hired by someone to find someone else? I don’t remember–it really has been a long time since I wrote this story.

But I am also completely overwhelmed with work and being behind on everything and I really need to start making a to-do list so I can sort all this shit out and get things done that need to be done. I know I need to go back to work on Scotty and my other project; there’s any number of other things I need to get done, and I also need to start figuring out promo for A Streetcar Named Murder else no one will buy it and that will be the end of that.

The great joy of being a writer.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Tuesday everyone (except Buccaneer fans)!

Free Fallin’

When I was being interviewed for the Sisters in Crime podcast the other night, Julie Hennrikus (their marvelous executive director) asked me, through a series of interesting questions, to basically start tracing back my writing career and how it came to pass–in particular, the young adult fiction I write (for that part of the interview, at any rate) and so I was recounting how I had decided, in the early 1990’s, to try writing y/a horror/paranormal/crime novels, inspired by Christopher Pike and, to a lesser degree, R. L. Stine. This was the period when I wrote the first drafts for Sorceress, Sara, and Sleeping Angel…and when asked why I put them in a drawer and switched back to writing crime novels for adults (or trying to, at any rate) I remembered that it was because I had suddenly discovered that there was, in fact, such a thing as queer mysteries: mysteries written by gays and lesbians with gay and lesbian characters and gay and lesbian themes (there wasn’t much trans or bisexual or any other kind of queer crime fiction at that time–at least, not to my knowledge). I had known that queer fiction and non-fiction was a thing, but it was Paul who actually introduced me to writers like Michael Nava, Steve Johnson, and Richard Stevenson. When I lived in Minneapolis that bitterly cold winter of 1996, the Borders in Uptown Square (just around the block from our apartment) had an enormous gay/lesbian section that I visited every week, immersing myself in queer fiction and its history as well as exploring the new-to-me world of queer crime novels.

In the years since, I’ve watched the ups-and-downs of queer publishing, all while writing and publishing my own books. Queer crime is currently having a renaissance of sorts; new talents coming up with wonderful new titles and themes and stories that is very exciting to watch.

A good example of this would be Devil’s Chew Toy, by Rob Osler.

Half opening my good eye, I squinted up at the fluorescent tube hanging from the stained popcorn ceiling. The club’s manager had suggested the storeroom as a place for me to chill until my nose stopped bleeding. I appreciated the gesture. The idea was a win-win. It saved me from the pointing and whispers of the crowd, and getting me off the dance floor restored the party atmosphere typical of a weekend night at Hunters.

Despite the damage done to my face, the worst of the experience had been me being the center of attention for all the wrong reasons–embarrassing for most, excruciating for yours truly. Everyone who knew me would say I was quiet and reserved–perhaps to a fault. My latest ex has joked that my tolerance for thrill-seeking maxed out on the teacups ride at Disneyland. I’d brushed off the comment with a laugh, but in truth, the remark had stung. Being five foote four (rounding up) and weighing 125 (again, rounding up) makes one sensitive to such jabs. Add in the fact that I’m freckled and possess a shock of red-orange hair that that same ex had pegged as being the color of a Cheetos bag, and you understand why I make take offense.

“Damn, dude, you’re going to have a nasty shiner. Does it hurt?”

First of all, can I just say how lovely it is to read a queer novel that opens in a gay bar? It’s been a while since I’ve read one, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I read one that wasn’t published by a strictly queer publisher–which Crooked Lane, the publisher of Devil’s Chew Toy, most definitely is not. It was also nice to have the book open with such a bizarre and out of the ordinary experience–our main character, Hayden, was kicked in the face in a weird accident while trying to tip a really hot stripper, Camilo, who slipped and fell, ending with Hayden looking like he’s been in a fistfight. Hayden, who is a self-described “pocket gay” (from “oh you’re so small I could put you in my pocket and take you home”) and has low self-esteem, is more than a little surprised when the apologetic and gorgeous stripper offers to take Hayden home with him. Camilo is a very sweet guy and only wants to cuddle, and Hayden drifts off to sleep cuddled up with him.

But when he wakes up, Camilo is gone. Camilo also has a dog who needs to be taken care of, and then the police show up at the door looking for Camilo–whose pick-up truck was found, running, with the keys in it and the doors open, in a parking lot. There’s also the possibility that Camilo may have been involved in something shady–which Hayden, despite not really knowing the stripper, doesn’t believe for a minute. He also can’t just abandon Camilo’s dog–despite the fact his own apartment complex has a “no-pet” rule. So Hayden decides he needs to find Camilo, if for no other reason than to return his dog–and the story is off to the races. Hayden encounters all kinds of interesting queer folk while on his hunt for Camilo, makes some new friends, and we the reader get to know him a lot better (he’s very likable) as the story goes on, taking some surprising twists and turns along the way.

I greatly enjoyed this book. It’s very well written, flows nicely, and the plot makes sense–which isn’t always the case–but that comes as no surprise. Rob Osler not only debuted with this novel earlier this year, but his first publisher short story won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award from Mystery Writers of America this past spring for Outstanding Debut Short Story.

I’m really looking forward to visiting with Hayden again, and am excited to read more of Rob’s work.

Gold and Braid

Positive again this morning, despite waking up and feeling pretty good–and then I remembered the last few mornings were the same and it started kicking in about an hour after getting up. So, I am sitting here drinking my first cup of coffee, staring glumly at the two lines on my test strip, and waiting for this stupid virus to wake up inside my body and start fucking with me again. Ah, well, I should make use of this hour, shouldn’t I?

Yesterday was glum, really. I started experiencing fever for the first time since I tested positive last Friday or whenever it was, and that was particularly unpleasant. I did, however, realize hey one of the things you’ve never done is have things delivered rather than going to the store, and since I needed to be isolated from the world during this period, I thought why not go check and see if, say, Costco will deliver? So I went to their website, saw that yes, indeed, I could have an order delivered to my front door, and so I did. When Ashanti (my shopper/driver/delivery person) arrived, I put on rubber gloves and a N95 mask to go meet her at the gate–she saw the mask and gloves and wisely kept her distance (I have never before in my life understood how lepers must have felt back in the day the way I did when I saw the look on her face)–and then wore myself out lugging everything back to the Lost Apartment…but still, I got the stuff I needed. I couldn’t focus long enough to read anything–I had started Sandra SG Wong’s marvelous In the Dark We Forget at some point over the weekend, but I wasn’t really able to get far into it or focus on it yesterday, either–so I mostly spent the day under blankets in the easy chair trying to brainstorm and so forth on the things I am working on–without much luck. I also had a marketing meeting yesterday afternoon over the phone with Crooked Lane, which was daunting–reminding me again how far behind on everything I am, but it was nice for them to do and to give advice and tips on what to do, which was very cool. I also spent a good amount of time writing two emails–which ordinarily wouldn’t have taken long at all, but yesterday it took hours because of the inability to focus I mentioned–and after writing each, had to go sit and rest for a while as they wore me out. Dragging the Costco order back to the apartment in the heat also exhausted me.

Ah, there’s the muscle fatigue and joint aches I was missing when I woke up this morning.

Paul is feeling much better, which makes me tend to think he had it first and gave it to me (there’s no way of knowing, really, since it’s different with everyone) but I’m glad he’s feeling better, to be honest. If one of us has to be ill, I would prefer it to be me because I don’t worry about me the way I worry about him when he gets sick, if that makes sense at all? I hate that helpless feeling when someone you love isn’t feeling good and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. That’s the absolute worst.

We’re watching Becoming Elizabeth, and I have to say–while I am certainly not an expert by any means on Tudor England or on Queen Elizabeth (I do have some knowledge–for example, at one point last night a new character was introduced and I thought, “I bet that’s Amy Robsart” and I was right) I have to say this is one of the most accurate fictional series based on history I’ve seen. There aren’t many books about the period when young Edward VI reigned–obviously, it’s talked about in other books from a sideways view, like Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots–and the only one I can actually think of is Mary M. Luke’s A Crown for Elizabeth, which detailed the Tudor period from the deaths of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn through Elizabeth’s succession to the throne in 1558, and of course Carrolly Erickson’s marvelous Bloody Mary also covers this territory, but from Mary’s point of view. Sigh, I do love history, and watching this is making me want to reread not only Anya Seton’s Green Darkness but Philippa Carr’s The Miracle at St. Bruno’s.

And now I am feeling tired again, so am going to go sit for a spell. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

Yesterday Once More

I’ve always believed that it is smarter to set goals every year rather than resolutions; resolutions have almost become kind of a joke in that no one ever really keeps them past the first few weeks of the new year. Years ago, I decided to change that up and set goals to achieve rather than resolutions to change behavior, and that has worked out much better for me. Sure, there have been some of the same goals set every year that have never been achieved (I’m looking at you, find an agent) but I find that it all seems to work out in the end, and the goals I never achieve and carry over just maybe need some more of my energy and focus applied to them

Before, however, I get into the goals for one Gregalicious in 2022, I’d like to go over some of the things that stood out for me in 2021, both good and bad.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021: I was able to visit New York in November and then head up to Boston by train for Crime Bake, and it was a marvelous experience; I learned a lot more family history; made the list of
“other distinguished work” in Best Mystery and Suspense; finished writing and published Bury Me in Shadows at long last; finished the Kansas book finally; I read some great books and watched some great movies and television shows; signing a book contract with Crooked Lane; sold some short stories (“The Snow Globe”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and “Night Follows Night”, among possible others I cannot recall at the moment); a visit to the Gardner Museum whilst in Boston; I bought a new computer with which I am still rather pleased; and I did some more deep diving into New Orleans history, which has been incredibly fun.

LOW LIGHTS: Hurricane Ida and the ensuing horrific power loss at precisely the worst time of the year to be without climate control in New Orleans (will never ride out another storm of that size again, ever); the on-going pandemic canceling the Edgars and conferences and limiting/prohibiting travel; no Williams Fest/S&S again; the horrible polar vortex that brought record low temperatures to New Orleans during Carnival and we had no heat, so I spent Fat Tuesday freezing under many layers of clothes, layers of blankets, and with a space heater on and still was shivering and cold and miserable; my inability to finish writing the first draft of Chlorine; and of course, not finishing any of the novellas I really wanted to get finished this past year–and any number of short stories as well.

I think the biggest goal I want to set for 2022 has to do with Chlorine. I want to get a viable first draft finished as soon as I can, because the second part of the goal with Chlorine is to finally get representation, or at least try again. I think once I get this current manuscript finished and some of the stories and novellas I have in progress out of the way, I can focus on getting Chlorine finished and out on spec. My goal is to make that my March project, giving me January and February to finish all the other stuff and get it out of the way.

My second goal, also to do with writing, is to get the next short story collection pulled together as well as the novella collections. I think I have enough completed work to get the story collection turned in this year–some of the stories I have in mind for it are still in progress, of course, and of course I have three completed drafts of novellas that need to be redone, revised, and two others that need to be written (or do I? I am now remembering that there’s a third that needs a revision but has a completed draft, so that’s four–and now that I think about it more deeply there are three in some sort of progress that I should be able to get finished in the new year). There’s also the essay collection, which is going to take some serious focus and concentration to pull together. I also want to write a Scotty book this year…which is a LOT to have on one’s plate in one year. (This could, of course, all change should Crooked Lane want a follow-up to the book I am currently writing; this is the sort of thing that makes someone like me–a planner–crazy because I cannot control what requests are going to be made for work from me.)

Next goal is, naturally, work out related. I need to make it to the gym three times per week, going forward into this new year. My fitness regimen has been all over the place since the pandemic started, but it’s been a lot more consistent since the pandemic started than it was in the (many) years prior when I just stopped going entirely and allowed my body to not only go to seed but to start breaking down. I feel better when I lift weights and stretch, and I should also add a cardio day to my workout schedule. I want my goal weight to remain 200–I’m not sure what I weigh now, frankly, but I know it’s not 225, which was where I’d allowed myself to get–and I’d like to get into 32 waist pants (comfortably) again in the new year. (I can get into 32’s in stretchy jeans, but 33’s in regular jeans, while I can fit into them, aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be, and right now comfort above all else.) I don’t think I’ll ever get my Gumby-like flexibility back again, but the stretching does feel incredibly good when I do it (I also want to add stretching daily to the regimen; I can stretch at home just as easily as I can at the gym) so it needs to become more of a routine thing for me.

My next goal is to break my lifelong habit of falling into procrastination at every opportunity. While I will be the first to admit that it’s best to listen to your brain and your body and to not try to push them into things when they are exhausted or tired or fried, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and I own that completely: oh, there’s plenty of time to do this or oh I will just get this done tomorrow is too easy a habit to fall into; even as I write this I am thinking Oh I can go to the store tomorrow and I can also write tomorrow and there’s no need for me to do any of this today despite the fact I feel rested and relaxed and creative. So I am going to finish this and then I am going to get cleaned up and get back to my writing (the groceries, on the other hand, can 100% wait until tomorrow).

Another goal is to keep on top of the housework and the filing–and by that, I am also including the storage attic and the storage facility. I want to get the attic cleared out, and I want to clear out the storage as well so i can stop spending that money every month. This isn’t as easy as one might expect, but I figure if I can get rid of a box in the attic every week–again, not as easy as one might think–I should be able to get a handle on this all by the middle of the year. One box a week doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? And yet…

All right, on that note I need to get back to the writing. I think I can push through quite a bit today, even if I don’t want to–which I don’t–but I also have no choice. The book is due exactly two weeks from today, and I don’t want to turn in something as sloppy as what I have on my hands right now.

Have a wonderful New Year, Constant Reader!