Can’t We Try

And just like that, this is the last day of my combination of illness/vacation. The good news is that I think I’m over everything that prevented the trip to Bouchercon in Dallas; the other good news is that I feel remarkably rested, centered, and ready to get back into the world again. I slept deeply and well again last night–and for those of you who can sleep well every night, I hope you appreciate it! I certainly never did back in the days when I could fall asleep simply by putting my head on the pillow and closing my eyes.

That seems so very long ago now.

These little vacations, I think, are very important for me. I need to recharge more frequently than I used to, and the weekends, while helpful, simply aren’t enough anymore. I have another little week-long vacation coming at the end of this month; I always try to take them around office holidays–so I am taking the first three days of Thanksgiving week off. As I said, I do need to take these little vacations every now and then in order to continue functioning; I wear out a lot easier now that I am older.

Paul and I got caught up on Catherine the Great last night, which is quite enjoyable (although as I said to Paul, “Catherine’s life when she was younger, and how she came to power, is a lot more interesting than this part of her life; but since you have Helen Mirren, it has to be about her when she’s older.” And Helen Mirren is absolutely killing it.

We also watched the first three episodes of Watchmen last night, and we are all in on this one, too. Regina King is just a goddess, and one of our best actresses working today. The story is all too apt for this time, as well–it’s themes of racism and white supremacy and fighting it, while exposing all the ugly nastiness of white supremacy, is all too too timely for our present day–and the third episode, which brings the remarkably talented and vastly under-appreciated Jean Smart into the cast, was one of the best. As a federal agent who hates vigilantes, and has come to Tulsa to help fight not only the white supremacy but to also bust “vigilantes”–which would be, in her own words, “some rich asshole with too many toys”–Smart is the anchor the show needed–the first two episodes didn’t seem as cohesive or to make as much sense as they all do now; the addition of her and her character pulled the entire show together and has essentially set up the conflict for the rest of the season. I never read the graphic novel on which the show is based; but it’s another take at superheroes (vigilantes) like Amazon’s The Boys, and it veers away from the path that DC and Marvel set up with their own hero universes.

I started reading another book yesterday, but am not sure I’m going to finish it–too much misogyny and homophobia in it already–it was originally published in 1962–but I might go ahead and finish it; it would tie directly into the essay about toxic masculinity that reading I the Jury inspired, and let’s face it, that essay needs other examples rather than just Spillane. I know I want to reread James Ellroy’s Clandestine because of its remembered homophobia; it’s one of the reasons I never read more Ellroy, despite always wanting to. He’s an MWA Grand Master; deeply respected in the field, and considered one of the giants in the genre, plus LA Confidential alone sounds terrific. And reading Ellroy to get a sense of 1950’s Los Angeles is probably the best way to get a sense for the time, for Chlorine.

I’m also still thinking about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things. It’s just that good, Constant Reader. I also saw she has signed to do a novel for Agora, the Polis Books diversity imprint; I seriously can’t wait to read that.

I’ve done very little writing since I went on vacation; I’ve been primarily focusing on resting, doing some cleaning and filing, and getting over being sick. I’ve felt really good the last few days, and I think I can face returning to the office again tomorrow. I’d like to get some writing done today–I also want to get my email inbox emptied out–but I am not going to pressure myself; I am simply going to take the day as it comes and try to get whatever needs to be done finished as it comes along. I kind of need to reread where I am with Bury Me in Shadows anyway; I’ve not even really looked at it much over the last two weeks as I was not feeling myself. Today I feel rested and relaxed and healthy enough to possibly get some work done; and even if I don’t–if I save my energy because I am going back to work again tomorrow–I should be able to get some reading done. I may go ahead and finish reading that book I started to read this weekend; it’s kind of short, and so it shouldn’t take terribly long to read, right?

And then I can move on to something else.

I’m still enjoying Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, although I always find the early Colonial period of New Orleans a bit dull and uninteresting…although I am curious to see how the street–and the city itself–eventually became such a rough place. People in Louisiana outside of New Orleans–the ones who comment on newspaper articles and television station websites–always trash New Orleans as being “dangerous” and “full of crime” and “unsafe”; which, to me, I have always considered codewords  for racists, who can’t stand the idea of all the people of color who live and work here. They often will talk, in their little comment/rants, about how New Orleans “didn’t used to be like that” and bemoan the wonderful, lily-white days before desegregation. But my reading of New Orleans history definitely gives the lie to those comments; historically, the city has always been a hotbed of crime and murder. Always. Those lovely “white flight emigrants” are like those people who seem to think the 1950’s was this idyllic period of American history, when it was anything but that; the ones who think Happy Days was a documentary, and Leave It to Beaver was reality television. Frankly, it wasn’t particularly a great time to be white, either–McCarthyism, the widespread fear of communism and the Soviets, the shadow of the mushroom cloud, the rise of the suburbs–it was not the wonderful time we are so often told it was. What was wonderful about the 1950’s? The economy was booming in the post-war period.

Which should tell you all you need to know about white American priorities.

Over this past weekend I got an idea about what to do with a failed short story I’ve done many drafts on and has been rejected everywhere. I do think I can now do something with it, and maybe even get it published somewhere. Stranger things have happened, after all.

And now, I think I’m going to get some more coffee, work on my emails for a bit, and then repair to my chair to read for a little bit while I figure out how to best spend my last day of vacation. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Bad

I should be getting ready to go to the airport.

Instead, I am glumly sitting at my desk in the Lost Apartment, feeling horribly sorry for myself and staring out the windows. It’s gray out there this morning, and this is the worst I’ve felt in quite some time. It’s bad enough to miss out on something you were looking forward to for most of the year–even worse is to miss it because you’re sick. I hate being sick, hate it hate it hate it. Im going back in to see the doctor tomorrow, so hopefully this will all be over soon. I don’t know why it’s rebounded again so terribly, but last night I definitely was feeling like crap and that’s what I woke up to this morning. Heavy heaving sigh. I suspect today–which I’d hoped would be somewhat productive–is going to be spent in my easy chair under blankets, eating chicken noodle soup and reading. Yay.

But I should be able to finish reading Certain Dark Things, so that’s definitely something to be pleased about. Little victories are important when you feel like you’re at death’s door, and maybe when I’m finished with it, I may just go ahead and treat myself to reading a Stephen King; there are any number of Kings in my bookshelves that I’ve not read. I’ve also got some terrific ARCs I should read as well. I really do have a plethora of riches in my TBR pile, and there’s also all kinds of things to watch on my streaming services. So, I should probably be sort of productive, right? Rather than moping around feeling like shit and feeling sorry for myself, right? I bet after I have some chicken noodle soup I’m going to feel a lot better. I wonder what it is about chicken soup that makes you feel better always? Is it an actual thing, or have we been socialized and trained to believe in its healing powers, so it’s a psychosomatic response?

And I may not be going to Dallas, but I still am on vacation, right? So this should be about getting caught up, rested, and treating this as a vacation–despite the fact that everyone on my social media timelines (well, a high percentage of them anyway) will be at Bouchercon without me, and I will have an enormous sense of ‘fear of missing out’ come to fruition. I’ve gotten a lot better about dealing with my lifelong FOMO, but it still pops up. I love going to events like Bouchercon because it helps me reconnect with my writing, and helps remind me that I actually am one. I’ve talked on here before endlessly about the Imposter Syndrome I experience almost every day when it comes to being a writer; going to Bouchercon and talking with other writers, sitting on panels talking about writing and books–all that stuff reaffirms me and reminds me that yes, Greg, you actually are a writer, and you’re actually pretty good at it. That kind of reassurance is quite lovely, and it’s necessary sometimes. It helps keep me going. Bouchercon and the combined Tennessee Williams Festival/Saints & Sinners are usually spaced apart enough to give me the needed jolt of creative energy I need every six months; it’s going to be terrible missing Bouchercon this year just for this very reason.

But in other exciting news, this author roundtable I participated in has gone live right here. Crime Reads is one of my favorite websites, and it was quite lovely being asked, as an Anthony Award nominee, to participate in a roundtable discussion about crime fiction. Sigh. I really hate not being in Dallas this weekend.

Isn’t this picture interesting?

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I’m not really sure where I found it, but all my pictures of hot men that I share generally pop up on the Internet somewhere. I save the ones I like, or that pique my curiosity, and then I share them here so my blog crossposts onto social media with an image.

This picture particularly intrigues me not just because the model is attractive with a nice, leanly muscled body; while I am not an expert on the subject of male bikinis, the one he’s wearing looks too modern to have been around as long as it would have had to have been if the picture is as old as it looks–to me, it looks like it was taken in the 1940’s or 50’s. I don’t know why it does, but it does. When I first saw it, I thought, ah, this is some sailor or Marine from during the Second World War in the South Pacific…but as I look at it more, I could be wrong. It’s the tone of the black and white colors that make it look like it is decades old, but that could have been achieved in other ways, including modern day digital filters. I also don’t think, upon further reflection, that this bikini is actually his–or if it is, this is the first time he’s worn it out in the sun, based on the tan lines exposed. I’m also not sure what he has in his mouth, although it is most likely a cigar of some sort.

I guess my perception of the picture is because it looks like other beefcake black and white photography from the time period where I placed the picture originally; there are a lot of beefcake images from the WW2 era and just after where gorgeous young men in the military either posed nude or next-to-nude, most likely for money. As this is also the time period that Chlorine is going to be set, these images speak to me more than just as the ordinary isn’t this a great picture of a hot guy reaction the more recent ones I use on this blog generally get. I wonder about this guy…was he gay or bisexual? The cigar he might or might not be chomping on is yet another symbol of masculinity from that era; so he’s a strong, healthy sexy body, and while the bikini might cast some aspersions on his perceived masculinity in that era, the cigar counteracts that. So, who is this guy? What is his story?

A google image search turns up nothing.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I still feel pretty shitty, so I think I’m going to go lay down and make some soup in a bit. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Free Ride

So, where were we?

I managed to finish that enormous volunteer project, with lots of thanks due to the others who worked on it with me; it’s so lovely to not have to worry about being organized because you are working with the “ur organizer” of all time, frankly.

Whew. I do know some pretty amazing people, you know?

I need to get started revising the Kansas book, but have just been so worn out and tired lately…it’s a big deal to finish a draft, a short story, and an enormous volunteer project all at the same time, you know? I now have to write an essay, a short story, and get to revising this manuscript but at the same time…it’s kind of lovely knowing I got all that other shit done.

I also managed to do something to my back yesterday at work–sitting in my chair wrong–and it’s been aching ever since. I used the heating pad last night (using it again this morning) and it’s horrible, of course–I can’t imagine what I did to make it hurt, but then…this is just another one of those lovely surprises about getting older: new aches and pains every day and you don’t know where they came from or why or what caused it.

But my book comes out in less than a week, so I should probably talk about it some more, right?

As I mentioned yesterday, I pretty much only regularly watch The Real Housewives of New York and Beverly Hills. I do keep up with Atlanta, and will check in on Orange County every now and then. I tried both Dallas and Potomac (I never watched DC or Miami), but didn’t get through the first seasons–but I’ve heard they’ve become more entertaining, so might check them out. I’ve not watched New Jersey in a long time; I really gave up on it after Caroline left the show; I know she was problematic to a lot of viewers and she did get on my nerves from time to time–but when she left and the show centered Teresa, I was down with it. While watching these shows, and having my loyalties and allegiances shift over the seasons, as the producers manipulate story-lines and decide what the audience will and won’t see, has been interesting. I’ve also been interested in watching the cultural phenomena around the Real Housewives, and while I rarely (if ever) agree with Camille Paglia, she is also a Housewives fan, and in an interview, when the shows came up, she compared them to soaps, and in particular, the popular prime time soaps of the 1980’s: Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, etc. It was an interesting comparison, and not one I agreed with immediately, but the more I think about–and the way people talk about the shows–the more I think she was right. The prime time soaps were addictive, considered guilty pleasures no serious viewer would ever watch, and while several of them were driven by strong male leads, the women were centered and usually more interesting. There were never any male characters as interesting as the women on Knots Landing, and Blake might have been the main character on Dynasty, but the real driving force behind the show were the two women main characters, Krystle and Alexis. The housewives appeal to, like the prime time soaps, primarily women and gay male viewers. When I wrote my thesis on daytime soaps in college, one of the cultural impacts I wrote about the shows having was the decline of what was called “women’s pictures”–movies centering women characters and female stars. Whereas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and many other women were big stars of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, it was the 1950’s and the rise of television that not only killed the studio system, but also killed off the popular genre of women’s pictures…and I do think that was not only due to television, but because all of daytime television centered, and was focused on, women. Women no longer had to pay money to go lose themselves in a fantasy world focused on strong women facing difficult situations heroically; they could spend all day watching heroic women facing difficult situations–and situations they could relate to more–Monday through Friday. The decline of soaps–both prime time and daytime–created another vacuum, and Bravo and these shows stepped up to fill that void.

There have been already some terrific books centering reality television; Jessica Knoll’s The Favorite Sister was, like her debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, absolutely fantastic. But as I said, I thought it would be interesting to write my own version of a murder mystery centered on a reality show filmed in New Orleans. I’m fascinated by these people, who are willing to have their lives and interactions be filmed for the entertainment of the masses, be judged for it on social media and in recap columns, and ripped to shreds on message boards and Facebook groups. Some of them use their reality show to promote not only themselves but their businesses–the most famous of these is Bethenny Frankel, who became rich through her various Skinnygirl enterprises, all of which were boosted by her popularity on reality television, and Lisa Vanderpump, who used her reality fame to promote her restaurants in Los Angeles, even getting a spin-off show centered around the staff at one of her restaurants, Vanderpump Rules, which is even more popular than the housewives (I abandoned that show somewhere after season two). I think the Frankel/Vanderpump model is the golden ticket these women are looking for when they agree to be cast; but not everyone is as smart about controlling their image as those two are–nor have the kind of influence on production as they enjoy.

My fascination with these women, and their shows, and who they are and why they would do such a show, gave birth to the idea that eventually became Royal Street Reveillon. I liked the idea of Scotty being a fan, and interacting with the women on the New Orleans show while trying to get to the bottom of a murder…or two, or three. It was also kind of fun to write, frankly, and the older i get and the more I do this, the more important it is to me to enjoy myself while I am doing it.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

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Slow Ride

Well, I finally finished that fucking Chapter Fourteen, and yes, it’s rough, but it’s not nearly as bad as I feared it would turn out, nor as it was heading last week when I tried to work on it. Today I figured out a way to plough through it, and now I have to figure out how the fuck I am going to get another eleven chapters out of this story–but truth be told, the elements of the plot are pretty much all in place now and now it’s a matter of playing them out. I also recognized that there’s not an emotional stability at the core of the story–there is, I just haven’t been putting it in, so that’s the next thing I need to do in the next draft, or as this one progresses along I can start putting it in.

I keep saying to myself that someday this will get easier, but thirty-odd books later and here I still am, plodding through a manuscript and ready to throw in the goddamned towel.

Sunday morning and I’m on my second cup of coffee. My kitchen is a mess, and I have to figure out how to use a new app on my computer because I’m being interviewed by Eric Beetner and S. W. Lauden for their Writer Types podcast, which is very cool. I was briefly on it when they were interviewing people in the bar at St. Petersburg Bouchercon, but that was also the now notorious Low ‘n’ Slow afternoon, so I only vaguely remember it and still to this day have no idea what I actually said to them. Not good, really, when it’s going to be broadcast. I think I listened to it, and I didn’t embarrass myself too badly; but I’ve been told any number of times that people can’t tell when I’m wasted.

I’ve always thought they were being kind to lessen my own embarrassment. Maybe they were, who knows?

My relationship with alcohol has always been a tricky one. I only had liquor once before I graduated from high school and I got very drunk at a friend’s birthday party my junior year. I didn’t drink again until the night I graduated, and after I recovered from that horrible hangover I pretty much was drunk every night until we moved to California, where the drinking age was 21 and I was still only nineteen. California was also a lot stricter about checking ID’s than Kansas had ever been, so I was totally sober for two years before I came of legal age to drink again….and then was drunk every night for the next six or seven years again, followed by another few years of utter sobriety, and then when I started going out to gay bars, I still remained sober most of the time, drinking only water and finally, gradually, progressing back to beer again. I don’t drink much anymore–there were many years of New Orleans life where Paul and I went out every weekend night, including Sunday Tea Dance–but since I hung up my dancing shoes, I don’t really drink hardly at all anymore. I’ll have a drink or two when I’m out for dinner, or at a party, or during a conference–I am usually wasted every night at Bouchercon–but once the conference is over, I come back home to sobriety. We generally don’t drink at home–I still have a bottle of wine I bought on the notorious Target expedition with Wendy Corsi Staub in St. Petersburg–and we still have bottles of vodka and gin and tequila left over from the Iris parties of old; and we haven’t had an Iris party in about five years or so.

Although I am sure this October in Dallas there will be drunken, sloppy tales of Gregalicious to tell.

I’m probably going to try to get some writing done after the interview, and some cleaning, and I’d like to read more of Black Diamond Fall. I’m not reading as quickly as I used to, and I am sure it has something to do with social media and they need to constantly be checking it–which is a need that absolutely positively has to be reined in because it’s such a waste of time.

And that sounds like the perfect segue back into the spice mines this morning. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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I’ll Be Good To You

Well, wasn’t yesterday an amazing day for one Gregalicious? Not only was it payday, but I stopped and got the mail on my way to the office (there was a check!), and then right around the time I got to the office my phone (which was in my pocket) made the sound of breaking glass, indicating I’d gotten a notification from Facebook; I pulled it out of my pocket on my way up the stairs and lo! The Anthony Award short-lists had been announced, and I’d been tagged in the post. This usually means one thing and one thing only–a nomination–but I thought, no, that can’t be. But sure enough I clicked on the notification, scrolled down the list, and there I was, nominated for Best Short Story for “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens…along with four other amazing writers–Art Taylor, S. A. Crosby, Barb Goffman, and Holly West!

Wow.

It’s really lovely to be nominated for awards, and I know I’m luckier than so many others–who can go their entire careers without ever getting any award recognition. This is my second time up for an Anthony (I won, in Toronto, for Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou), and came as an incredibly pleasant surprise; the decision to not have a Best Anthology Anthony for Dallas Bouchercon was, I thought, the death knell of any shot I might ever have at possibly getting another Anthony nomination. I certainly never dreamed I’d somehow make the short-list for Best Short Story for my contribution to Florida Happens, “Cold Beer No Flies,” a story that’s been hanging out in my files in various different forms since the late 1980’s. But I am also pleased that it’s a story about a young gay man trapped in a small, conservative Florida panhandle town who has big dreams to get out of there–and isn’t afraid to break the law in order to make those dreams come true. This is also my second time nominated for a Short Story award from the mainstream mystery community–the first was the Macavity in Toronto, and the nod was for “Survivor’s Guilt” from Blood on the Bayou–and I also can’t even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be nominated for a short story in the mainstream; but “Cold Beer No Flies” is, as I said before, a story with gay character/themes…and it might be the first time such a story has been nominated. (John Copenhaver is also nominated for Best First Novel, for Dodging and Burning–still in the TBR pile–and he’s also an openly gay writer of a book with gay characters and themes; I think it’s possible the two of us may have made history with our nominations as the first time this has happened; I could be wrong.)

This is especially thrilling when I take into consideration the fact that my writing self-esteem (never high in any discipline) is particularly low when it comes to short stories, as Constant Reader is undoubtedly aware. I love them, and I love the challenge of writing them, but…I’ve never had much luck with selling or placing them in places, but sometimes I do catch lightning in a bottle and the story works.

I spent most of yesterday trying to keep up with the congratulatory posts, comments, tweets and emails yesterday but failing miserably; I woke up this morning to a lot more of them and I suspect a lot of my free time today will be spent making sure I thank everyone.

Which is, frankly, kind of a lovely problem to have, amirite? I mean, I’d certainly rather spend a day basking in the glow of warm congratulatory messages/posts/tweets/comments than pretty much anything else, to be honest. Who woudn’t?

And to be on a short-list with talented writers like Art, Barb, Holly, and Shawn? Very very cool, quite frankly, and just the kind of flattering ego-stroke I needed at this moment as I struggle with the WIP (which I didn’t touch yesterday, for obvious reasons) but I am hoping to get back to today because things will, I am sure, be settling down somewhat. What’s interesting is that Holly is also nominated for her Florida Happens story; Barb also has a story in Florida Happens but is nominated for another work; and Art was the person who got me involved in working on Bouchercon anthologies in the first place. I met Shawn briefly in St. Petersburg at this last Bouchercon, and I am certain at some point in the future we’ll have a professional connection of some sort like these others–I certainly hope that’s the case, at any rate.

And now it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone, and thank you!

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