Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Monday morning and back to the office with me! It was a pretty good weekend, overall; I got some work done on the book, made groceries, did all kinds of chores, finished reading my Wanda Morris book and started reading another, and somehow managed to get some rest around all of that as well. I was very pleased with the work I did on the book, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even somehow manage to get it turned in by the extended deadline. #madness

And now it’s Monday morning, and I am up earlier than I need to be. I really need to focus, as a lot of things have been slipping lately as I focus on the book and getting it finished, and there’s been a kind of malaise–the feeling that usually comes along when I’ve actually finished a book, and has never before come while I was writing one. These last few years haven’t been easy for writing, to be honest, and yet–I’ve also produced some of my best work somehow during this time. I think Bury Me in Shadows is one of my best works, and while I don’t think it’s as good, #shedeservedit was also one I was terribly pleased with. And all I’ve seen anywhere for A Streetcar Named Murder has been highly positive. Land of 10000 Thrills was also one of the better anthologies I’ve done, and some of the short stories I’ve been doing during these last few years have also been really good. I also think that some of the stuff I have in progress–“Never Kiss a Stranger,” “Festival of the Redeemer,” Chlorine, Muscles, etc.–are also really good stuff. Some of the work I did this weekend is pretty damned good. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this confident in my writing before in my entire life, to be honest, but as long as I keep confidence from bleeding over into ego, I should be okay.

We watched all four episodes of Three Pines last night, and i think it’s very well done. Alfred Molina is perfect as Inspector Gamache, and while I must confess to only have read the first Louise Penny novel, Still Life, I was very impressed with it and liked it a lot (not sure why I’ve not gone back and read more of them; I do have the first three or four, but it probably has more to do with time and the massive TBR pile than anything else). I thought the show didn’t have the same feel as the books, in some ways, but it’s also a different medium and there are always changes. When I was reading the book (and again, only the first in the series so I am hardly an expert on Penny’s writing or her series) I like the town, and enjoyed my visit there. It was a nice, quirky, small town–but translating that to the screen is an entirely different ball of wax. I think the producers and writers decided that because the show is about murder, it needed to be a little darker, and Three Pines comes across as a small town full of eccentrics in the show, more like Twin Peaks, Picket Fences, and Northern Exposure than Penny’s creation….but I think it was a smart direction to go with the show. Penny’s strength is offsetting the charm of the town against the darkness of the crimes committed there, and I don’t know how well Penny’s vision could have translated to the screen any better. We both really liked it. We also watched a true crime documentary about Charlie Cullen, the killer nurse–which was creepy as fuck.

I’m hoping against hope that this good feeling will last all week. I’m going to have to stop and make groceries on the way home from the office–heavy sigh–but no need to swing around uptown for the mail until tomorrow. I have to remember to buy a shipping envelope to mail a copy of Streetcar to the winner of the drawing from Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–I should add that to my to-do list…which I need to make a new copy of it. The problem is I don’t remember everything I am supposed to be doing, and I need to get back into the habit of making a new list every weekend so things don’t get lost.

I also spent some more time with Nelson Algren’s (I was spelling it wrong in the last blog) bleak A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am enjoying but isn’t precisely a quick read by any chance. It reminds vaguely of another novel set in the same time period, A Garden of Sand by Earl Thompson, which I’ve started any number of times but have never managed to get very far into because it is also not an easy read. I am going to try to devote an hour to reading every night–an hour a day is far better than what I’ve been doing, which hasn’t been helping to budge the TBR pile at all–and I think tonight we are going to finally start watching Wednesday. I’ve been reluctant to jump into it, despite the great reviews, because the Christina Ricci version from the 90’s films was, at least for me, definitive. But we keep hearing good things about the show as well as Jenna Ortega’s performance in the lead, so I think tonight will be the night we take the plunge.

It rained all day yesterday–it was even raining when I went to pick up the groceries–and it seems a bit gray outside this morning as well. I have a lot of emails to write and a lot of emails to answer and all kinds of stuff to do today–one of the reasons I got up an hour earlier than I needed to this morning–so I am trying to be proactive and not laze in bed the way I usually do on the mornings when I don’t have to get up at six. I am getting used to getting up early for the first time ever in my life, and quite frankly, I don’t like it. But I also don’t see the clinic hours being changed any time soon, either; I fear my afternoon/early evening shifts are a thing of the remote past now.

And on that note, I have quite a bit to do today, so it’s perhaps best that I make another cup of coffee, some toast, and dive right in. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Italian Summer

Eight or so years ago at this time Paul and I were in Italy. Sigh, Italy. God, how I love that country. I would love to live there in a village in Tuscany–well, really, anywhere in Italy would work just fine, really. I do so hope we’ll be able to go back someday. I’d love to see Pompeii, Milan, and Rome. And both Corfu and Capri–especially after reading (listening) to Carol Goodman’s wonderful The Night Villa. (One of the real life incidents she mentioned in the book from Capri’s history fascinated me, and took me down a wormhole and now I want to write about that historical incident, of course.) I have since written a short novella (or long short story) set in Italy called “Don’t Look Down,” which was included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and I have another novella-in-progress set in Venice called “Festival of the Redeemer,” which I hope to polish and edit at some point before the end of the year. Sigh, Italy. What a beautiful country, with lovely friendly people and the most amazing food and….so beautiful. You can see why the Renaissance flourished there.

I got the final edits on “Solace in a Dying Hour”–two questions (one in which I had made a mistake) and the rest was copy edits and the deletion of a paragraph. So that’s a wrap, methinks, and I am really fond of the story, too. It was my first venture into Louisiana urban legends and myth; well, really the second, because I did write “Rougarou” about a decade ago, but it’s been a while since I’ve turned to Louisiana legend and folklore to write a story, and writing about le feu follet was a lot of fun. I want to do more of these, of course; as Constant Reader may remember, I’ve become fascinated by the story of Julia Brown and the Great Hurricane of 1915, when her town, Freniere, was wiped off the map. Freniere was located on that narrow strip of land running between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain; if you’re driving west out of New Orleans on I-10, and then take the Hammond exit north on I-55, that’s the land the bridge is built on (when you’re actually driving over dry land, that is). I’ve always called that swamp the Manchac Swamp, but I don’t think that’s it’s real name (and I’ve called it that in books, too. Yikes!). You cannot get to the location where either Freniere or Ruddock (the other town in that area that was wiped away by the Great Hurricane of 1915) any way except by boat; apparently some of the swamp tours will swing by the old location where the graveyards still are, but the wreckage and remains of the towns are long gone. Both towns were only reachable by train or boat when they actually existed; there were no roads in or out of town, which always makes me think why would anyone want to live in such a remote and isolated place? But yes, you can bet the witch Julia Brown will appear someday in something I write.

I also got a rejection for a story yesterday, but it was one that I expected so it didn’t sting. I knew it was a long shot to begin with, so that’s fine, and I can certainly send it to another market, which I will most likely do after reading it again to make sure it’s actually quite terrible and I was in a complete state of denial about it being publishable in the first place. Rejection is just part of the game, of course, and there are any number of reasons your story doesn’t get accepted that have nothing to do with the story’s quality itself. I like my story and I think it’s clever, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be looked over another time, you know?

I feel rested this morning. I was very tired when I got off work yesterday afternoon, which is fine; I’d rather be tired after work then during it, you know? I didn’t get much of anything done once I got home, either–I had to pick up the mail and a prescription on my way home; today I can just come straight home–and I have some things I need to get taken care of when I get home from work tonight. Which is cool, I think I can spend a bit of time preparing (I have to make a promotional video–which clearly I’ve been putting off as it is due to be turned in tomorrow) and of course, I have to make the kitchen in the background behind me look–well, not embarrassing for me, at the very least. (Although I don’t know how much more embarrassed I can get filming myself. I hate the sound of my voice and I hate the way I look on video recordings–mainly because the actuality of how I look does not come close to the way I see myself in my head–pictures, recordings and the mirror often provide deeply disturbing shocks for me.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines this morning. Y’all have a marvelous day, and I’ll be back tomorrow for another entry. See you then!

I Feel the Earth Move

I indulged myself by staying in bed until almost nine this morning–I know, right? I woke up at three and again at five (like every other night this week; this is a trend in my sleep that I am not liking all that much), but stayed in bed. Now that I am up, it’s gray and wet and gloomy outside; maybe it was rain that kept me in bed. What is it about rain and being safe and dry and warm that feels so comforting? I wish I knew. I am also trying to decide this morning over my coffee whether I want to leave the house today. I should swing by the mail and maybe make some groceries and get gas for the car; I also need to get my taxes together, work on my short story, and some other things. I also want to spend some time with Chris Holm’s Child Zero today (and this weekend). I should also brainstorm some more plot ideas for the two books I’ll be working on this year, and once I get this story in some sort of shape I want to go back to “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Festival of the Redeemer” and some other stories. I had pretty much decided to use April to do clean-up on some things–finishing stories etc–and now it is April; how delightful is that? I can hear thunder, which makes leaving the house seem even more undesirable; I’ve not checked today’s weather. Paul is seeing his trainer today, and instead of going to the office immediately after he’ll be coming home. I think we might (I might) rent Spiderman No Way Home today; we started watching Death on the Nile last night on Hulu but bailed on it when the first ads popped up in mid-scene; at least on a broadcast network, they plan where the commercials will go so a character won’t get cut off in mid-sentence. I am really starting to dislike Hulu’s services for streaming; I remember trying Youtube TV and hating it because it’s interface was useless and difficult to navigate. I really would prefer not to go back to cable under any circumstance; I despise Cox with every fiber of my being. The great irony was the reason I chose Hulu in the first place for a streaming service was because their interface was intuitive and incredibly easy; so naturally they keep changing it and making it less user friendly. (Although to be honest, I was only interested in watching Death on the Nile in order to see Egypt; there’s no way this newer version can possibly top the original with Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, and Maggie Smith.) Instead we turned over to Netflix and dove into the second season of Dark Desire, which got us caught up in the story immediately.

We wound up going to Costco last night after Paul got home from work to get it out of the way. I also had to take Scooter to the vet for his biannual senior kitty workup–dropping him off and picking him back up later–and I think the Costco trip wore me out. Why is Costco so tiring for me? I hope someday to have a better understanding of that. And we spent a lot of money but it didn’t seem to me like we got as much stuff as we usually do? I don’t understand–will probably never understand that, but I suppose it’s prices going up everywhere that is to blame.

Ooh, it just got darker, which means storm a coming. Ah, there’s the thunder. And it lasted quite a while, too….I suppose I should check the weather.

Ah, rain all morning and then sunny the rest of the day. That I can live with. It also solves the problem of what to do about the errands–run them today or wait? The mail can wait until Monday; there’s no rush to getting it, after all, and I could always just run to the Rouse’s in the CBD to pick up the few things I do actually need. Decisions, decisions.

Ah, there’s the lightning and the rain and even more thunder. I may have to turn on a light, it’s gotten so dark.

I do love New Orleans rain; I’ve never lived any place where it rains the way it does here. I mean, it fucking pours down here, coming down so hard and fast that the drains (and pumps) take a good while to catch up with it. I own about twenty umbrellas as a result of being caught in the rain unexpectedly; it can also go from hot, humid and not a cloud in the sky to a torrential downpour with street flooding in a matter of minutes. Although this doesn’t seem like one of those street-flooding monster storms; this seems more like a oh the greenery needs watering kind of rains. Doesn’t mean it can’t turn even uglier as I sit here typing, but hey. It’s still one of those chill damp mornings where curling up under a blanket with my coffee sounds vastly more appealing than any of the other dreadful things I need to do today–dreadful might be a bit harsh, but unpleasant certainly doesn’t miss the mark nearly as much.

So on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and head over to my easy chair to spend an hour with Child Zero–I’ll figure out the rest of the day when that hour is up.

Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

My Favorite Things

And so we have reached the last day of 2021 at last (it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has been 2021 for a year; 2022 is going to seem even stranger, methinks). I’m on a holiday, so there’s no work for the day-job to be done today, but there’s plenty of other things that need to be done. I need to work on the book some more, I need to clean, I need to run some errands, and I’d also like to do some reading. It’s a lot, I know, and who knows how much I can or will actually get done around here? Yesterday I did data entry, made condom packs and rewatched the original Clash of the Titans (starring a very young Harry Hamlin and his nipples; seeing this in the theater made me a Harry Hamlin fan for life) while I did so. I also was able to pick up two boxes of home COVID-19 tests (the day-job procured you them for the staff as a preventive measure, which are apparently like gold these days.

It was a very challenging year in many ways. I suspect that if I looked back at a list of my goals for the year, two of the most key things–getting an agent and finishing Chlorine–would not be able to be checked off the list. My faulty memory–I keep, for one thing, conflating the last two years as one and the same mentally–has something to do with it. I know I wanted to write more short stories in 2021, and I don’t know that I succeeded at that. I know I had a couple of stories of which I am very proud come out this past year (my first ever attempt at writing a Sherlock Holmes story for one), and of course I finished writing two books while trying to finish yet a third under contract, and trying to get Chlorine done.

I always feel sort of weird at the end of the year when I compile my favorite things (books, movies, television) because I never limit myself to things that were new to the year, but rather new to me during the year; I am always so woefully behind on everything I read and watch that it doesn’t seem fair to leave off things that didn’t debut in 2021. Besides, it’s always kind of fun, I think, to remind people of things they themselves might have missed and forgotten about. But when I started thinking about all the books I read this past year, I would have sworn that I hadn’t read this much, or that I couldn’t have possibly read this many books–and I know I am also forgetting some, and these are the ones that stand out enough to be remembered. My favorite reads of the year were, in no particular order, The Turnout by Megan Abbott; The Collective by Alison Gaylin; Dream Girl by Laura Lippman; The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews (I read three or four Andrews novels this past year, and loved them all, frankly); Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby; A Beautiful Crime by Christopher YBollen; Yes Daddy by Jonathan Page-Ramage; The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris; These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall; Invisible City by Julia Dahl; and By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl. I also read a lot more cozies than I generally do, which were quite fun–I highly recommend checking out Leslie Budewitz, Vivien Chien, Sherry Harris, Ali Brandon, Miranda Harris, and Carolyn Haines, among many others–my TBR pile is nothing if not a treasure trove of terrific reading–and I am hoping to get even more reading done in the new year as well.

As for movies, I also watched a lot of movies. I saw a lot of classic cinema of the past I’d never seen before–my Cynical 70’s Film Festival had some marvelous entries this past year–as well as revisited some favorites. I greatly enjoyed Dune, which I thought was incredibly well done, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a great super-hero film, with just the right amount of spectacle, humor, and humanity to ground it in enough reality that an audience could relate to it. I don’t remember any other new films that we saw in this past year, but I am sure there were some–the direct-to-streaming/limited theatrical release model for the pandemic ensured that I saw some things much sooner than I probably would have otherwise–but give me a break, I am still on my first cup of coffee after a lovely and deep night’s sleep.

Television again is something a bit blurry for me; the lines between 2020 and 2021 also blurring a bit here. I know we loved Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso (a true gem of a show), The Mandalorian, Elité, Superman and Lois (probably the best version of Superman since the first two Christopher Reeve films), the original Gossip Girl (which is winding down now with a last season that is rather disappointing, alas), Hacks, One of Us is Lying, Cruel Summer, and Only Murders in the Building, which was also a jewel. But maybe my favorite show of the year was HBO’s It’s a Sin, which was not only well done, but powerful and thought-provoking. I had debated whether I wanted to see it or not; entertainment about HIV/AIDS, particularly about the height of the plague, has never sat well with me–either pandering nonsense or heavy-handed. The gold standard for me has always been Longtime Companion, but after watching I had to say It’s a Sin belongs up there. It was hard to watch at times–and I realized that the reason was the characters were all the same age that I was when it all started, which was a big part of it–but it also made me acknowledge and understand any number of things about myself and my past; namely that I had never grieved, just going numb at one point and deciding to keep moving forward and not think about anything. Watching the show brought back a lot of memories which, while painful at times, was necessary and needed.

I also spent time writing and working on two novellas, “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger”; one thing I really want to be able to do in the new year is get the novella collection together as well as another collection of short stories. Lots of plans for the new year, including a new Scotty novel I’ve been itching to get to, and another stand alone, in addition to Chlorine. I was able to visit my parents twice this past year, and I was also about to make it to New York and then Boston for Crime Bake, which was simply marvelous. I have lots of travel plans for the new year that I am hoping new pandemic variants aren’t going to jettison–I really do want to be around writers again, seriously–and over all, the year wasn’t as terrible as it easily could have been (2022, do not take this as a challenge). I got a new computer, paid off a lot of debt, and over all, I have to say, all things considered, 2021 wasn’t altogether terrible. I wish I had been more productive, but I also wish that every year.

And on that note, this next chapter isn’t going to write itself, is it? Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you next year!

Storybook Love

Sunday morning and I slept incredibly well last night. I haven’t checked the Fitbit, but I would think–it certainly feels–like I slept deeply and got a lot of rest. I think the way I feel is more important than what the Fitbit will show as the actuality, but it’s always nice to know, and I also think I need to start looking into what is a good night’s sleep, per Fitbit and sleep experts, to see if I need to adapt or change or do anything to get better sleep.

Yes, the saga of Greg and sleep–never-ending yet always fascinating, right?

I wasn’t glued to the television all day yesterday, but I did have it on so I could check in periodically, or watch whatever game was on at the moment I chose to take a rest from what I was doing. Could I have gotten more done yesterday? Highly likely, but I don’t play those games of “coulda-shoulda-woulda” anymore. I managed to make groceries, return something I’d ordered, get the mail, and drop off three boxes of books at the Latter Library Sale. I also did a load of laundry, a load of dishes, cleaned places that I usually don’t, and redid the rugs on the kitchen floor (a long story, but now I have all matching rugs and the floor is almost completely covered). There’s still some cleaning and organizing work to get done this weekend–hello, today’s chores and to-do list–and I need to head to the gym at some point today as well (there’s also another sink full of dishes to get done), and perhaps some writing to do and some reading as well.

I reread several things yesterday that are in progress–the first four chapters of Chlorine, which desperately need work–as well as the finished first drafts of both “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Festival of the Redeemer.” I also took voluminous notes on all of the three–Chlorine is a much bigger mess than I thought it would be, so yikes and yeah–and the linear nature of “Stranger” needs to be redone; I believe the opening of the story is when he finds the apartment to rent in the Irish Channel and everything in the rest of the opening three or four pages can be scattered through the rest of the story, as flashbacks, conversation, or memories. I also made some notes for the revisions of all of them, too.

College football is a mess this year–2021 is going to be one of those weird years of college football, like 2007 and 2014 were–but that makes it interesting to watch rather than the other way around. I certainly didn’t have Alabama losing to a twice-beaten Texas A&M on my scorecard for the season; nor did I have Georgia moving into the Number One spot, either. I just assumed Alabama and Georgia would roll over everyone on their way to the SEC title game, with the loser of that angling for an invitation to the play-offs; but Alabama’s loss makes that game now a must-win for them to have a shot into the play-offs at all. The Arkansas-Mississippi game was simply insane; props to the winners, but my hat is off to the Razorbacks for going for two and the win after they scored on the final play of the game; going for the win rather than overtime is something I will always respect. The Oklahoma-Texas and Penn State-Iowa games were also insanely fun to watch; that loss has got to sting for the Longhorn fans. As for LSU, well, good for you, Kentucky. Your make-or-break game is this coming weekend at Georgia, and while i don’t hold out a lot of hope for you, I kind of want the ‘cats to make a run for the East title this year. I wound up switching over to A&M-Alabama at half-time of the LSU game, and it was so much more fun to watch I kind of got sucked into it and never went back to the LSU game other than to check the score to see how bad it was. Much as love and respect Coach O, I suspect this will be his last season as LSU head coach. Still, he will go down in history as coach of the best LSU team of all time and possibly one of the greatest of all time in general, and as one of our four national championship coaches.

Not the way I wanted to see him go out, but 8-8 over two seasons isn’t going to cut it in Baton Rouge. (Jimbo Fisher definitely saved his own job last night by beating Alabama.)

The Saints game is at noon today–so I’ll probably go to the gym during it.

This morning i am going to try to get the cleaning and organizing and filing of the office space finished so I can go into the serious stretch of writing A Streetcar Named Murder with a productive workspace and a clear conscience of sorts. I feel good about writing again–even if I am not doing it as much as I would have liked–and I am getting excited about this book project. I am going to try to get some editing done today around cleaning and everything else and the Saints game; I think tonight we may watch Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, which I’ve been looking forward to watching for quite some time, and there are some of our shows we need to get caught up on. The weather has been simply stunning lately, and part of what I am going to try to do today is get the outside sitting area cleaned up and functional (it never has been, other than for brief spurts of time, the entire time we’ve lived here) so that I can sit outside and read if I’d like, or take the laptop out there and actually work in the outside fresh air. How lovely would that be? Quite, I’d think.

I also have some more BSP posts to finish writing. Heavy heaving sigh. It never ends.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and peaceful Sunday, Constant Reader.

If I Can’t Have You

Friday!

I feel very rested this morning; I’ve been sleeping well (thank you, medication) ever since last week, and am probably jinxing myself this morning for tonight’s sleep, but it is astonishing what not having insomnia feels like, and how literally marvelous that actually is. Yesterday was nice and relaxing; I made condom packs and other day-job related things around here all day, while doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen (sort of); today I will be making more condom packs as well as doing various other day-job related things while watching some thing on television. I am now caught up on Superman and Lois (seriously, the best Superman adaptation since Christopher Reeve; if you’re a Superman fan, you really need to watch this show) and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills–which isn’t quite as absorbing as it has been before; it’s difficult to watch the Erica Girardi performances as “victim” without wanting to slap the smug smirk off her criminal face–and am not entirely sure what to watch today–I forgot to check with Paul about Loki–but I am sure I can find something.

I also neither read nor wrote yesterday; the desktop computer isn’t working as great as it could/should and I suspect I am going to eventually need to replace this bitch once and for all, which is galling, but it’s also, now that I think about it, fairly old. It was at least two or three at the time of the Great Data Disaster of 2018, and that’s almost three years ago as is. I hate spending the money–would actually prefer not to, in all honesty–but it is something I really need for my work and it is a complete tax write-off. I ordered a wireless mouse to use for the laptop–I lost the old one, and have looked for it everywhere–which should also arrive today, so working in my easy chair should be a lot easier as far as that is concerned going forward as well. I am also looking forward to paying off the car and some of these outstanding bills–which has also helped with my sleep, quite honestly–and so maybe, just maybe, I should get a new computer as a birthday gift to myself. I can’t really decide, to be honest. I mean, I could take this one back in and have them install more memory into it, but I am also not entirely certain that is the wisest course to take. Heavy heaving sigh.

But as my coffee continues to warm and wake up my brain from the deepest recesses of sleep, I see all kinds of things I really need to get done around here–I am going to bag up some more beads to donate, for example–and maybe I can start working on clearing things out of the attic. That’s a great, if problematic, project–I hate that little ladder that folds down and it attached to the trap door to the attic, and when I’m standing on it that creates an issue getting things up and down from there–but I can handle getting over my ladder phobia for a little while, and of course there’s no need for me to be going up and down; it can be done bit by bit.

And let’s be completely honest here–I’m not going to read anything that’s stored in the attic, am I?

So that can all go. And while I have been saving my papers almost from the very first–I don’t know, maybe I should try to see if there’s an archive still interested in them. I don’t think there will be much interest in them, or me, once I’ve left this mortal coil–I can’t imagine MFA or PhD candidates ever needing or wanting access to them, nor can I imagine I would be the subject of future biographies and/or scholarly research. And that isn’t me being self-deprecating, either–I am trying to watch out for that stuff, to be honest–and I have to wonder if I am, in fact, hoarding the paper. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Heavy sigh.

But it’s a lovely morning, and I need to make a to-do list for the weekend. One thing for sure I need to do is take boxes of condom packs back to the office (thus clearing out the living room) and pick up the mail; I also need to pick up a prescription. This should all be relatively easy to accomplish; the question is how do I want to do this all, and in what order to maximize my efficiency as I am out and about in the world. I feel pretty good, and that bodes well for my visit to the gym after I get my work done. I want to focus mostly on reading and writing this weekend–often a challenge–and trying to get caught up on everything.

Some day, methinks–or me-dreams–I will be finally caught up on everything. Ha ha ha ha, I still can crack myself up when I put my mind to it, can’t I?

I was also thinking, yesterday, as I made my condom packs and listened to the accessory-after-the-fact nonsense on Real Housewives, about my twisted view on gay relationships when it comes to writing about them; one of the things I’ve always been interested in is relationships gone bad, turned sour, and how to adapt common criminality tropes used for heterosexual couples for gay ones. One of the things I found so interesting about PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus was the power imbalance between Nathan and Oliver, and how that dynamic deeply affected not only how they saw each other but how they interacted with each other. The tired cliché love is blind isn’t really quite so tired when your couple is no longer opposite-sex; those dynamics really haven’t been as explored in queer relationships in crime novels so much as its been done to death for straight ones. When I wrote Timothy, I wasn’t playing with the romantic suspense trope (as Rebecca is so frequently and commonly mistaken considered) as I was writing a gay noir with a completely untrustworthy narrator–how innocent is Mrs. deWinter, after all? I have other ideas, of course (as always) for other explorations of noir and gay characters who aren’t on the up-and-up; there used to be a sense that gay characters in gay fiction had to be heroic in some one–no matter how flawed they were in service to the story they might be–because we needed to create them since history and most literature erased our existence. But things have changed, and I don’t feel that tiresome burden anymore–which I didn’t take terribly seriously in the first place if we’re being completely honest; the villain in Murder in the Rue Dauphine was a gay man, after all–but I no longer feel, when I am creating a character or starting to write something that I need my characters to be role models; that is a subconscious thought I am not sorry to have to consider anymore. Certainly my short story characters are not heroic people; they are damaged and flawed and often driven to their breaking point by circumstances beyond their control. My main character in “Festival of the Redeemer” is certainly incredibly flawed and more than a little unreliable; his mental instability and horrific, almost emotionally crippling insecurities are fun to write if emotionally exhausting.

And on that note, I am starting my day. May yours be a fabulous and amazing Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you later.

Moving on Up

Wednesday, the halfway point of the week and now it’s all downhill into the weekend. Huzzah? Huzzah!

Edwin Edwards, elected governor of Louisiana four times AND also spent eight years in jail for corruption while in office, died this week,. Governor Edwards was the candidate whose campaign slogan was vote for the crook–it’s important (he was running against David Duke), and was the last of an old breed of Louisiana politicians (which may or may not be a good thing); incredibly charismatic and beloved, yet also a bit of a crook.

Now, most Louisiana politicians are not charismatic, just crooks or incompetents.

Last night I didn’t go to the gym. I was tired for one, and for another all of my workout clothes–I have exactly two sets–were in the laundry. SO I finished the laundry last night, but not in time for me to make it to the gym, so I will have to go tonight after work, which is fine. I also managed to get started on Chapter Two of Chlorine–I wrote exactly three sentences–and then sat down to reread “Festival of the Redeemer,” to figure out what needs to be done with it. I was actually pleased with it, honestly–for something that was written without being planned, just pouring it out as it came to me, often in batches of three thousand words or so, it’s really not bad. There were some inconsistencies that need to be cleaned up, and some restructuring is going to be terribly necessary–the start needs to be revised and reordered, as it begins too slow–and some things will need to be added, some things edited out, etc etc etc; but over all I am very happy with it. Hopefully, the same will be true of “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is up for a reread next.

If I am not too worn out from the gym, that is.

I’ve been sleeping well this week, which has been marvelous–so well that I don’t want to get up in the mornings and feel a bit groggy for most of the morning hours at the office. I’ve managed to function, but I am also kind of looking forward to sleeping in a bit tomorrow as well. I don’t much care for my early morning days, frankly; there’s nothing I hate more than waking up to an alarm trilling in my ears. It always makes you feel like you’ve been cheated out of some sleep–from your bed untimely ripp’d, to paraphrase Shakespeare–and I always spend the day feeling like, well, like I could have slept more.

Honestly; do I really think you’re all that fascinated by my thoughts on sleep, Constant Reader?

I was thinking the other day about what I am trying to accomplish with these novellas; is there a point to them? Thematically, I suppose they both are about, basically, being broken human beings and trying to find love in a crazy world that doesn’t encourage nor support queer people in trying to find love and companionship and building relationships; they are also about how little we actually know other people–even those we think we already know very well. “Redeemer” is really about a relationship that has never really been defined between the two deeply damaged men involved with each other; both are afraid to tell the other how they really feel, or what they are actually thinking, because they are afraid they will scare the other off, or will find out it’s not reciprocal. It’s an interesting dance Grant and Dane are embarking on throughout this story; it probably will wind up being closer to 25k, if not 30k, when it is finally finished–I did notice places where I just kind of skimmed over some thing or a scene that actually kind of belongs there. I also need to get deeper inside Grant’s history and his past–and he and Dane need to know more about each other than they do. I had originally written this with them having been together a weird six months only at the opening; I have slowly come to realize–and it was further emphasized in last night’s reread–that they need to have been together at least a year at this point when they arrive in Venice; and there also has to be something else going on–another explanation for them staying at the extremely expensive palace turned hotel on the Grand Canal–and I also have to figure out where exactly this palace/hotel is located. I originally had them staying in the actual Gritti Palace (now a hotel); but decided to use a fictional one instead of risking getting all kinds of things wrong. It’s bad enough I am trying to use seven year old memories of Venice to write about it!

Ah, the joys of writing.

My goal and plan for today is to get caught up on some things–minutiae, really, the kind of shit you have to do but never want to–and write the second chapter of Chlorine; stop at the grocery store on the way home; and make it to the gym tonight for a workout. I also intend on sleeping until at least eight tomorrow–oooh, crazy, right?

And on that note, I guess I should get started on my day. Have a happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Opposites Attract

Tuesday morning and all is well here on the western front, Or is this the eastern front? It is, after all the East Bank of the river. I’m a little confused here–what else is new? Only one Gregalicious can write an opening sentence for a blog post and immediately confuse himself.

Could be that I am also a little on the groggy side this morning. I slept very well again last night, and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning…not that I ever do, just that this morning I could have quite easily gone back to sleep for several hours. This doesn’t bode well for tonight’s workout for after work, does it? It will probably turn out to be terribly easy for me to talk myself out of going, which isn’t a good thing at all. But I do feel rested this morning–much more rested than I have in a while, frankly–so that’s got to be a good thing, even if I am not feeling particularly motivated this morning.

I started working on deep dives into the two novellas last night, rather than starting Chapter Two of Chlorine, which, while not completely disgraceful, isn’t necessarily good. I also wrote about twenty thousands words, average, on the two novellas without knowing an awful lot about the characters in either or who they are/were; kind of letting the writing fall where it may as it went. I do think both turned out well, and I like the endings of both of them–both seem inevitably perfect for each story–and I do like the characters a lot. It’s fun exploring the back stories of the characters and what led them to the points they each were in at the time the stories take place; it’s also fun getting inside their heads and seeing how their behaviors were being interpreted and seen in ways they didn’t completely understand–it would have never occurred to them that they were being seen the way they actually were; this is clearly more important in “Festival” than in “Stranger.” But having this will be helpful when I started revising the stories, and editing.

So, tonight when I get off work I have to run some errands, go to the gym, and try to get some writing/editing/etc done. Yay! I do feel as though as I can start getting back on top of everything, though–hard as that may be to comprehend–primarily because I am sleeping again. That lengthy bout of insomnia I had in May was the absolute worst it’s ever been; I can deal with it here and there, but not when it’s every fucking night for several weeks in a row.

Sleep–I will never take it for granted ever again.

Ever.

It looks like my work schedule is likely going to change again in August; I think it’s going to involve coming in later on Tuesdays and Thursdays but still coming in early on Mondays and Wednesdays, which is fine. It’ll take me a bit to get used to the different wake-up times, but I can handle staggered getting up early mornings easier than I can consecutive ones, if that makes any sense (probably not to anyone besides me; I have gotten accustomed to things that make perfect sense to me not making sense to anyone else). August is going to be an interesting month, especially since I am turning sixty during the course of it.

Which reminds me, our 26th anniversary is next week!

My, has time marched on, right?

One of the interesting things for me about writing “Stranger” has been setting it in the summer of 1994 in New Orleans; trying to remember what music was popular that summer, where people shopped, what New Orleans was like in that hot broody summer–there was still a Maison Blanche on Canal Street where the Ritz Carlton is now; K&B Drugstores still dotted the city; there were video stores still; the Riverwalk Mall wasn’t an outlet mall yet; the Camp Street on-ramp to nowhere was still there on the neutral ground in front of the Coliseum Theater, which was also still ther; and the Lower Garden District’s gentrification was still at least three to four years in the future. It’s also weird going back to a time before protease inhibitors and the drug cocktail for HIV; the shadow of death still hung weirdly suspended over the gay community of the city at the time. That was kind of the point of writing about that year, weirdly enough–it really wasn’t that long ago. I hope the point I am trying to get across in the story actually comes across, as well…but then again, one never knows, does one?

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow morning.

It’s Raining Men

Sunday morning the Gregalicious slept late.

I know, right? I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my alarm this morning and say 9:34 glowing back at me in red. And it was a really great night’s sleep, too–I was out like the dead, and could have easily stayed in bed for the rest of the morning. But it was not to be. Scooter needed his insulin shot, I needed coffee, and there are things that need to be done today….but if they don’t get done, it’s not the end of the world, either. I am going to finish swilling coffee, adjourn to my easy chair, and hopefully finish Bath Haus today; I also want to do some writing after I got to the gym this afternoon; and need to finish the cleaning I started yesterday.

I took yesterday off. I had planned to all along, really, but had to swing by friends to pick up something yesterday, and wound up hanging out with them, unplanned, for most of the afternoon. It was delightful; a social outing after a year where social outings are few and far between–and then I was thinking, I really DO miss hanging out with friends as I drove home. I have a tendency to become housebound, without really planning on it; I don’t like going out and dealing with the general public as a rule…and so I tend to stay in the house more than I should, which helps me become more stagnant. I’ve really been enjoying my walks around the neighborhood taking pictures and posting them; particularly showing people places I’ve used in my books about New Orleans, which is kind of cool. Anyway, after I got home yesterday I just started organizing and cleaning, which was desperately needed, and the Lost Apartment looks a bit more presentable today than it did yesterday morning. When I finish this, though, I am going to read until I finish the book–it’s really taken me a lot longer to finish than it should have–and then I will organize and clean before I head to the gym.

I also want to do some writing today. I want to reread the things I’ve written lately-the novellas and the short story–to get a better idea of what needs to be fixed within them; I also kind of need to synopsize the novellas, which will help me get an idea of how things within them need to be moved or expanded upon or cut a bit short. I think both might begin a little more slowly than I would like; the starting place might be somewhere within them with the backstory littered more casually throughout the story rather than telling it in such a linear fashion. I do like the opening of “Festival of the Redeemer,” but rather than giving all of the backstory as I do in the opening pages I might have to skip ahead to them arriving in Venice and then start putting the backstory in. I also need to figure out more about my main characters, who they are, and I do know the main character in “Never Kiss a Stranger” needs more development; I want the reader to identify and feel along with him as much as possible–same with “Festival”–and I also need to make notes in both to verify things and make sure I have things done correctly (for example, in “Festival of the Redeemer” I assumed that the actual, real life Festival was always on the same date every year; however, it’s like Thanksgiving; it’s always the third Saturday in July, which I found out as I was writing the story. Rather than making the correction to the story then, I simply made note of it, knowing I would have to go back to it and change it in the next draft).

Today, though–while it would be lovely to reread them, do the synopsizing, and make notes/corrections, the primary focus for me this lovely Sunday in July should, and will be, writing Chapter Two of Chlorine. I also have to prepare for the coming work week (ugh), but it’s lovely to not be tired or groggy from lack of sleep on this day. I hope this means insomnia has been banished, at least for a little while. I am seeing my doctor on Thursday (check-up) and will be discussing options so that i won’t have to end up going weeks without sleep again like I did before my trip to Kentucky, which was horrible.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and retire to my easy chair with Bath Haus. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

All for You

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!