I Think We’re Alone Now

As you are undoubtedly aware, Constant Reader, I have issues with self-confidence when it comes to writing–it’s kind of a bipolar thing, where I can run the gamut from oh wow I’m pretty good at this writing thing to oh my god, I’m a complete fraud why do I persist in this delusion that I can actually do this thing?

So, I tend to embrace moments when I get reassurances that those negative emotions aren’t based in any sort of reality other than the self-destructive corner of my mind.

I’m not sure how I wound up on the editorial radar for the Dark Yonder anthology, but somehow I did and was asked to write a story for it. The anthology celebrates noir writer Eryk Pruitt and his new bar, Yonder, in North Carolina, and all proceeds benefit the North Texas Food Bank. I said yes when I was asked to write a story–because I never say no, or very rarely do; the opportunity to get a short story published is so rare and hard to come by these days I always jump on them–with absolutely no idea what I was going to write  about. But in one of those serendipitous moments, there was a conversation going on over at Twitter about, of all things, stripper cash. I commented on the thread that when I worked for a bank, we were located near some strip clubs, and we “always took the moist money.” Bill Loefhelm, a very fine New Orleans writer, replied that “Moist Money  needs to be the sequel to Chlorine” and the proverbial light bulb flashed on for me.

Moist money IS an excellent title…and then I was off to the races.

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The United States military trained my father to be a ruthless killing machine in Vietnam, then turned him loose on his hometown of Leicester, North Carolina.

Me? Yeah, no fucking thanks. Dad was enough military for me, thank you very much—waking me up every morning at 6 a.m., inspecting my room and testing the tightness of the made bed with a quarter. He was a drunk by then, and a mean one…but he was always up at six, always smelling like last night’s liquor, cigarettes and whore.

I’m paying for college by taking my clothes off for money. A male stripper—a go-go boy, if you prefer. It means I watch what I eat, spend a minimum of an hour in the gym almost every day, and get to write off bikinis, underwear, jockstraps, and thongs as business expenses.

It’s a fucking living, okay?

My preference is booking gay bars. I like gay bars. Gay men are friendlier, nicer, and tip better. I make bank when I dance in a gay bar, and it doesn’t really require a whole lot of work. Eye contact, some minor flirting, the occasional touch here and there—always good for a couple of bucks. The older ones are a lot more handsy than the younger ones, but they also have more cash in their wallets.

Bachelorette parties, like the one we’re doing tonight, are the fucking worst.

The worst.

The story was a lot of fun to write, and it took me a couple of days of intense concentration and focus to get it done. The book is being released later this month, and I of course will be posting links and so forth when they are available.

And here is the TOC:

Introduction, by Eryk Pruitt

Hey Barkeep! By Eryk Pruitt

A True Yonder Tale, by Dan Barbour

Them’s Fighting Words, by Travis Richardson

Run Its Course, by Frank Zafiro

Popcorn, by Gabriel Valjan

Living Proof, by Will Viharo

Yonder Off-Label, by Terri Lynn Coop

Yonder Margarita, by Matt Phillips

The Regular, by Eric Beetner

Slappy Sacramento, by Todd Morr

Huey and the Burrito of Doom, by Nick Kolakowski

The Door in the Floor, by Allison Davis

Close Your Laptop, by Judy Wilkinson

They Have Drinks Named After Famous Writers, by S.A. Cosby

Legs Diamond, by Liam Sweeny

The Proposition, by Philip Kimbrough

Llama Juice, by Stacie A. Leininger

Moist Money, by Greg Herren

The Big Splash, by Renato Bratkovič

Noir at the Bar Fight, by Dana King

Two Clowns Walk into a Bar, by James Shaffer

Retribution, by David Nemeth

Not Enough to Drink, by Rob Pierce

Here I Go Again

Facing down yet another Monday like a beast.

I went to bed early last night–just watching the Nadal-Medvedev final in the US Open was exhausting, in addition to the emotional rollercoaster of the LSU-Texas game the previous night, and putting finishing touches on the volunteer project (we’ll be tying up loose ends all week, I suspect), and around nine-ish last night I was just worn out, and went to bed. I slept off and on all night–not sure how that’s going to play out today–but I guess we’ll see. I have two long days in a row for the first time in a few weeks, and I fear my body is no longer used to that abuse…but I guess we’ll see. Now that I have a half-day on Wednesday instead, it might make things easier for me in the middle of the week.

Here’s hoping, at any rate.

I printed out the first four chapters of the final rewrite of the Kansas book last night, and it’s better than I thought it would be–the chapters I’ve already done need some work, and I need to seed the rest of the story a bit more. I’m trying something different with it–just as I did in Bury Me in Shadows, which is first person present tense–I am trying to do this in a remote third person point of view in the present tense. I noticed that despite my attempts to keep it in present tense, I slipped into the past tense a number of times out of force of habit, which is one of the reasons why I am writing this in the present tense; I want to not only shake things up for me as a writer, but break the habits of doing things the same way every time. I want to continually push myself as a writer and as a story-teller, and the best way to do that is to expand and try different things, different styles, different methods of storytelling, different ways of presenting the narrative and writing different kinds of crime novels. Laura Lippman is a master of this; her last few novels have all been dramatically different in style, voice, tone, and presentation–After I’m Gone, Wilde Lake, Sunburn, and Lady in the Lake–there’s definitely a Lippman sensibility to them, but the stories and storytelling and construction of the books are all dramatically different. That’s kind of what I want to do with my own stand-alone novels; I’ll probably always come back to Scotty, and as I’ve said recently, there’s another Chanse novel I’m probably going to try to write sometime next year–but the entire point of the stand alones was to do different things and experiment with style as well as story and writing.

But now that all that’s left is wrap-up on the volunteer project–thank the Lord, you have no idea what an enormous venture this was–I can start getting caught up this week on everything else that has slid while I focused all of my prodigious energy on getting it finished. I love doing volunteer work; I often take things on that I shouldn’t, as they interfere with my writing and staying on top of everything else in my life, but I like helping out. One of the primary reasons I love my day job so much is because I feel like I’m helping people make positive changes in their life, and at the very least I am helping people get STI’s cleared up, if nothing else. I need to finish an essay by this weekend, and I have to finish a first draft of a short story that’s due by the end of the month. I’d also like to get some work on the Kansas book done–it may not be finished when I want it to be finished, but that’s also life, and I am certain I can get it finished, at the latest, in December. I also remembered I have a novella a publisher is interested in that I need to get to work on; it’s a long short story but there are any number of places where it can be expanded easily, and so I should be looking at that as well.

This has been, all in all, a pretty good year for me–I had a short story collection come out in the spring and a novel this month–and while I’d like to get both of these novels that are in progress finished and out by next year as well, I don’t think that’s going to happen, which is perfectly okay. Bury Me in Shadows took me a lot longer than I intended to get finished, and that’s perfectly okay; it happens. But I also think I can get a strong revision of it finished this December, and then I can get it turned in for January; a strong push and the Kansas book can be turned in at the end of January, and hopefully by then, doing a chapter a week,  I can also have a strong first draft of Chlorine finished as well. I also want to get more short stories written, as I would love nothing more than to have another collection out sooner rather than later. I’m also nominated for an Anthony Award for my short story “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens, which is pretty awesome; I sold my short story “This Town” to Murder-a-Go-Go’s (and the story was received pretty well by most reviewers; probably the most, and best, feedback after publication I’ve ever had on a short story) and I also sold my story “Moist Money” to Dark Yonder, which I’m pretty pleased about.

I’m still reading both Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, which I hope to have more time to read now that the volunteer project is under some sort of control, and  James Gill’s Lords of Misrule, which is giving me a rather pointed history of racism in New Orleans, and it’s not pretty. We New Orleanians know there’s still systemic racism here in the city, as well as individual racism, but the history of slavery and racism in New Orleans is unique to this place and different than everywhere else; we had an entire middle-class of free people of color before the war, who weren’t obviously slaves but had to show deference to white people and were segregated out of places frequented by whites; Barbara Hambly’s brilliant Benjamin January series, beginning with A Free Man of Color, and Anne Rice’s The Feast of All Saints, are excellent fictional representations of that weird second-class citizenship the free people of color of New Orleans and Louisiana experienced. It’s still appalling, though, to read about lynch mobs and murderers never brought to proper justice for their crimes. Stained in blood as it is, New Orleans has a fascinating history, and has always been one of the more interesting places in this country.

And tomorrow is officially my new book’s birthday! Huzzah!

And now back to the spice mines.

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