Maybe Someday

Well, we managed to survive Monday, did we not, Constant Reader?

Always a plus, don’t you think?

Yesterday morning I got up without much of a problem—but I really need to stop checking my Fitbit every morning to see how well I slept; it’s rather silly, actually, and doesn’t change whether I feel rested or not when I do get up. I went to the gym Sunday afternoon (why do I always forget how good it feels to stretch and work out?) and am hoping to have the energy to go for Leg Day after work tonight. This month—looking ahead—is going to be a bit on the crazy side: I have an on-line training for work; I’m doing a library event in the evening this coming Monday; my book drops officially next week; I’m doing an event with David Slayton (author of White Trash Warlock) with Murder by the Book on the 13th; and I am having a colonoscopy on the 21st. Woo-hoo! That’s me, living large everywhere I turn around. And then it’s Halloween, and then it’s November, and I am taking two trips: one to New York/Boston (for Crime Bake), and to visit my family for Thanksgiving (note to self: buy plane tickets and make arrangements for New York/Boston trip). After that, it’s pretty much just Christmas and New Year’s, and suddenly it’s Carnival again—not sure what it’s going to look like, to be completely honest, or how much I plan to be involved or participate with it. I will also be doing some traveling in the new year—New York again in January, Birmingham in February, Albuquerque for Left Coast, whenever that is—and here’s hoping the pandemic has calmed down and/or finally ended by then. PLEASE? Is it too much to ask?

There really is something to be said for doing things that were normal before the pandemic again. I do think going to the football game Saturday night, which I was so concerned about—and I wasn’t entirely comfortable around all those people—helped reset my brain a bit; I felt so much better about the world and life and everything in general when I woke up Sunday morning—after the first cup of coffee cleared some of the bleariness away—and Sunday night, after watching two more episodes of Midnight Mass (which is extraordinary, by the way; you should watch, Constant Reader—the writing and acting and production values are truly stellar—I had no problem going to bed and sleep. I did hit snooze a few times yesterday morning, as always—the alarm is set fifteen minutes ahead; which may seem kind of dumb to me at times (what good does it do you if you always remember its fifteen minutes fast?) but I do like to gradually wake up and acclimate a bit before I throw aside the covers and put on my morning pre-shower attire of LSU sweats, socks and house slippers. (Note to self: need a new pair of LSU moccasins to wear around the house)

I was also fairly productive yesterday, which was most pleasing to me. I did start getting sleepy and tired in the afternoon while at work, but powered through. I got a lot of emails taken care of, paid some bills, and spent a lot more time than I probably should have on Twitter being amused about the Facebook crash. (although I did find myself more than slightly amused at how often I would automatically start to go to the Facebook tab on my browser before thinking sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that right now)

Old habits die hard, and it does kind of bother me that it’s become so habitual for me to check Facebook. (We pause briefly now to look back and remember the days of MySpace, with a bit of nostalgic fondness)

Honestly.

But I am getting better organized, and working more efficiently these days than I have for, oh, say about the last two years, give or take? I am also—now that I no longer feel the need to spend all day Saturday glued to the television watching college football—going to start cleaning projects, weekend by weekend, until I have gradually cleaned the entire apartment. Ambitious plans, to be sure, but it’s not like I haven’t done it before. And included in this is cleaning out the crawlspace above the laundry room; there’s a lot of stuff up there that can probably be donated—boxes and boxes and boxes of books that I most likely will never look at again because they are in boxes in the crawlspace. The ultimate goal for me would be to not only clean out the crawlspace but clean out the storage unit—there’s room in there now, but there could be a lot more. (There’s also a chance that things in there got ruined during Ida as well—I know at some point since I rented the unit some water got in there somehow, because a couple of boxes had gotten wet and were thus ruined and needed to be thrown out.) I was also thinking about the whole “keeping my papers to have them archived somewhere”—which I really need to either do, or throw them in the garbage because they take up so much space—because what really is going to be interesting is the electronic files; those may not show the notes I’ve made on manuscripts themselves for edits and so forth, but you can trace the progression of the writing and rewriting through each different version of the story/book/file. (And of course, I am rolling my eyes at myself for thinking any future scholar of queer mysteries from this time period would be interested in me and my work. Ten years after I am dead, cremated and my ashes scattered in the various places I want them scattered, I won’t be remembered, and I am perfectly fine with that.) I mean, it’s interesting to me to look through because it triggers memories long dormant in a corner of my brain, but I honestly cannot imagine being the subject of anyone’s dissertation or thesis; unless someone wants to look at my stuff as a reference to gay white male life in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina.

Ah, well.

I also realized I’ve been writing this for quite some time and haven’t mentioned Bury Me in Shadows yet, and I was going to try to talk about this book a bit every day as a bit of a tease to encourage people to buy it. It really is a wonder I have a career, isn’t it?

So, if you’ve stuck with this entry so far, let me promise you this: tomorrow I will talk about Bury Me in Shadows. You’ve been warned.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Together We’re Better

Yesterday actually turned out to be quite lovely.

I was a little bleary when I got up yesterday morning (my Fitbit advises me I only slept deeply for 3 hours, 48 minutes; the rest was “light sleep” and I woke up three times), but for whatever reason, I decided to start getting to work on things. I started answering emails (I am very careful with email. I refuse to let it control my life, which it easily can; so I answer emails over the weekends and in the mornings, save my responses as drafts, and send them all after lunch. I do not send emails after five pm CST; I do not read them, either. Email at one point took over my life, which made getting anything done impossible and raised my stress levels to unbelievable heights. I realized anyone who absolutely, positively needs to reach me has my cell phone number…and if I don’t trust you with my cell phone number…you don’t really need an answer right away. And guess what? The world didn’t end, I didn’t miss out on anything, and nothing became harder) while reading coverage of the LSU debacle from Saturday night (one thing I did mean to mention and didn’t yesterday; I try not to be overly critical of college athletes because they are basically kids. It’s easy to forget that when you’re watching on television, but when you see them on the sidelines with their helmets off, or while walking down Victory Hill to the stadium in their suits and ties…you see a bunch of teenagers and young men in their early twenties. They are kids—and those baby faces on those big muscular bodies is a very strange juxtaposition sometimes). I decided on the way home from Baton Rouge that while I do, indeed, love football, I really shouldn’t give up my weekends to it all fall. Now that LSU is definitely out of the running for anything, I’ll probably not watch as much football as I would if they were still in contention for anything. I’ll still watch LSU, and occasionally I may spend an afternoon watching a big game—the SEC title game, the play-offs—I am not going to spend every Saturday pretty much glued to the television all day, flipping between games all day. And I also rarely enjoy watching the Saints—I love them, they’re my guys, my team, my heart—but their games are so damned stressful it’s hard to enjoy them, and when the games is over I am always, win or lose, emotionally and physically and mentally exhausted. So, I decided it made more sense to get things done, check in on the score periodically, and not sweat it too much. (Good thing. Like LSU, the Saints led the entire game, folded like a newspaper in the fourth quarter and wound up losing.) I made groceries, filled the car’s gas tank, and before going, I started weeding shit out of my iCloud and saving it all to my back-up hard drive.  I wound up freeing up over four hundred and seven gigabytes in my flash storage, and suddenly my computer was running very quickly again.

And yes, it’s my fault.* I have a gazillion pictures files, going back to digital camera days. I used to back up my hard drive and my flash drives regularly to the cloud—and those folders are enormous. I don’t probably need all of it—I was weeding through bits here and there as I moved the files over to the back-up hard drive (eventually planning on copying them up to Dropbox), and started finding all kinds of interesting things. Story fragments I’d forgotten, book ideas and anthology ideas and essays I’d started; some of these things are in very rough, first draft form—and got left behind as my addled, AHDH-like brain moved on to the next thirty or forty ideas for all of the above. I also was kind of amused to see how I often I plagiarize myself; I had a completely different idea for the book I wanted to call A Streetcar Named Murder fifteen years ago—which I can still use at some point, just have to come up with a new title. I’d forgotten that all the way through the process Need was called A Vampire’s Heart; my editor suggested changing it after I turned the book it. It was a wise choice; my title was very romance sounding and Need was hardly that. It was also interesting seeing, over the years, how many different ideas I’ve had for a gay noir set in the world of ballet (damn you, Megan Abbott!). I discovered that Murder in the Garden District actually began as Murder on the Avenue (a title I can repurpose for an idea I had last week); I found the original files for Hollywood South Hustle, the Scotty book that turned into a Chanse MacLeod, Murder in the Rue Ursulines; I found the files for the Colin book that tells us what he was doing and where he was between Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo; I found the original Paige novel I started writing in 2004, in which an Ann Coulter-like pundit from New Orleans is murdered; I found the first three chapters of the Scotty Katrina book, Hurricane Party High,  in which they don’t evacuate during a fictional hurricane, and the chapters where I rewrote it, had the, evacuate to Frank’s sister’s in rural Alabama (and we meet Frank’s nephew Taylor for the first time—and I also remembered that they belonged to some weird kind of religious cult and that Taylor was going to come to New Orleans in the future to visit during their version of rumspringa, but eventually abandoned the idea completely and never did a Scotty/Katrina book; was reminded that Dark Tide began as Mermaid Inn; that I wrote the first chapter of Timothy during the summer of 2003; and if I even tried to list all the iterations that wound up being #shedeservedit, we would be here all day (Sins of Omission, I think, was my favorite earlier title; again, a completely different book with some slight similarities…I may have to take a longer look at some of those iterations because being reminded of them all, I also remembered that I really liked all the versions).

I also found many, many nonfiction pieces I’ve written over the years—many of which I’d long since forgotten about—so maybe that essay collection won’t take quite as long to pull together as I had originally thought. Huzzah!

And I also discovered something else that I knew but had slipped out of my consciousness: that Bury Me in Shadows was called, for the first and second drafts, Bury Me in Satin—which gives off an entirely different vibe, doesn’t it? I wrote a very early version of it as a short story while in college, called it “Ruins,” but never wrote a second draft because I knew it wasn’t a short story; it needed to be a book, and one day I would write it. I was never completely comfortable with the story, to be honest; I wasn’t sure how I could write a modern novel built around a Civil War legend in rural Alabama. I absolutely didn’t want to write a fucking Lost Cause narrative—which is what this easily could have become, and people might come to it thinking it is, and are going to be very angry when they find out it is not that—but I really wasn’t sure how to tell the story…and in my mind, I thought of it as Ruins—which I freely admit is not a great title, and has been over-used.

As luck would have it, I was watching some awards show—I can’t begin to try to remember what year—and one of the nominated groups performed. I’d never heard of The Band Perry before; and the song they performed, “If I Die Young,” absolutely blew me away. (I just remembered, I kind of used the title as guidance when writing Need—always trying to remember he became undead very young) The first two lines of the chorus are this:

If I die young,

Bury me in satin

And I thought to myself, Bury Me in Satin is a perfect title for the Civil War ghost story! Melancholy and sort of romantic; I’ve always thought of hauntings as more about loss than being terrifying (you do not have to go full out jump scare, use gore or blood or violence to scare the reader, and if you doubt me, read Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home), which is why I’ve always loved the Barbara Michaels novels that were ghost stories. That was the feeling I wanted to convey, that sad creepiness, and longing—I wanted a Gothic feel to the book, and I felt that line captured what I wanted perfectly. But as I wrote it, it didn’t quite feel as right as it did in that moment (I still love the song—and the video is interesting and kind of Gothic, doing a Tennyson Lady of Shalott thing), and then one day it hit me: changed ‘satin’ to ‘shadows’, and there’s your perfect title.

And so it was.

Oh dear, look at the time. Till tomorrow, Constant Reader! I am off to the spice mines! Have a lovely Monday!

*I will add the caveat to this that anything stored in the Cloud should not affect the flash storage in the actual computer and its operating system, and yes, I am prepared and more than willing to die on that hill.

Summer Days

So summer is officially over for the year, and now it’s fall, with the onset of bipolar weather here in New Orleans. It’s still hurricane season–and we’ve had late season ones before, never forget–but we sort of are able to breathe a little bit easier now than through the horrors of July and August. Doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet–Rita and Zeta and others, oh my!–but there’s something about getting past Labor Day that makes it seem slightly less worrisome. (Almost all the bad hits New Orleans has taken since we’ve lived here are around Labor Day…I can’t remember the names of them all, but Katrina, Ike, Isaac and now Ida?) The city is still kind of a mess; they picked up our trash but not the bags of debris from the yard and the sidewalk (those fucking crepe myrtles!), and of course there are still branches and browning leaves piled up everywhere throughout the city.

When I got home from work yesterday it was quite a beautiful day, and I decided you know, it’s a beautiful day and the doctor’s office is at Touro, which isn’t really a huge walk, so why not? If you get tired or can’t face walking home, go up to the corner at St. Charles and take the streetcar home, and so, I walked. It was an absolutely beautiful day, so I walked up Prytania to get there and walked home down St. Charles, taking pictures for Instagram all the way there and all the way home. I didn’t get tired, really, until I got to my own corner on St. Charles; going to the gym was definitely out of the cards–but now that the weather has changed/turned/ whatever you want to call it, I should probably go take long walks more often. It’s good for my legs, it’s good for my overall health, and it’s another step to getting myself back into physical condition. The good news is none of my leg joints are achy or sore this morning, which I am taking as a very good sign, and whether I will actually go take a walk anywhere besides the gym after work today remains to be seen…but I really enjoyed the walk yesterday. It was an absolutely stellar day; in the mid-seventies and no humidity; the sun shining but not terribly hot (I never broke a sweat the entire time, thanks to the coolness of the day), and it enabled me to feel a bit more….connected to the city again. I was having all kinds of creative thoughts and ideas were flashing through my head the entire time I was walking–about this new series, about other stories I am working on or want to work on, for the next Scotty, for another stand alone mystery–so I am going to say it was a definitely smart thing to do, something I should do fairly regularly, and I am kind of excited about this new phase of exercise being added to the program. What’s really amazing to me is my ankles and feet do not hurt today at all–which was always the issue when I had to take long walks, like to the office on Frenchmen Street or the St. Ann/Bourbon Street corner for outreach during Carnival–so I am taking that as a win.

And I also got all my steps in for the first time since I started tracking them again.

The readjustment to normal again this week seems to be going well. I’m not getting as much done as I would like (and yes, am aware that not worrying about that and laying it at the door of “return to normal” may be a cop out or an excuse–I think there’s probably still some depression going on, but I am not feeling overwhelmed for once, which is a very lovely change, frankly) but this is the first “normal” week I’ve had Since The Power Went Out (I really like that), which has been almost an entire month now, and so I refuse to punish myself for still feeling a bit disoriented and off-balance still. Things are getting done, if slowly; and part of the goal for this year was to not be so hard on myself about everything, wasn’t it? Not being hard on myself certainly doesn’t mean I am not going to get anything done going forward; it just means I need to be more gentle with myself and stop beating myself up over shit.

It looks like it’s another gorgeous day outside; seriously, I always forget how fucking beautiful it is here in the fall and spring–which is why we live here and put up with the summers, which aren’t that bad (as I always say, “hey, I don’t have to scrape humidity off my windshield nor do I have to shovel it off my sidewalk”) and of course, the new book series I am writing–hopefully, a series and not a one-off–takes place in the fall; late September/early October–so I can also riff on the beautiful sunny days and cooler evenings/nights; the shortening of the days and how it gets so dark around five every day; you know, all the stuff I love to write about because I get to talk, really, about how much I love it here.

And I really, really, REALLY need to get back to writing (and reading). That’s what it is going to take to make me feel centered and recovered from all of this from the past month; nothing else works like writing–and I am always unsettled and unhappy when I am not writing. So, after work tonight and after i get home from the gym, I am going to write. And then I am going to read for a while.

That should firmly hit the reset Gregalicious button, methinks.

We finished watching Sex Education last night, which is really quite good and charming, and we also got caught up on The Other Two, which also has some excellent queer characters and representation on it and isn’t nearly getting the press other, lesser shows are; it’s very good, well acted and written, and clever as all hell–although the character of the younger brother, whose Youtube singing stardom is what triggered the opening of the show to begin with, isn’t being utilized nearly enough, I think; there is still a lot of hay and humor to be mined in social media/influencer stardom. We also probably have some other episodes of shows we are watching to get caught up on–Titans, Nine Perfect Strangers–and certainly others to begin and watch; there really are an insane amount of options now. We also want to watch that movie about the young kid who wants to grow up to be a drag queen (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) which looks absolutely charming, and there are other things. I think I may finally watch The Postman Always Rings Twice (the Lana Turner version) today while I am doing my work from home, because I have never actually seen it, much as it shames me to admit. (As I have always said, my education in both reading novel classics as well as watching cinema classics is sadly lacking.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will let you know how today turned out.

Got to Be Real

Sixty Eve!

Tis the last day of my fifties and it’s also a work-at-home day. I may go to the gym later–the jury remains out on that one for now–but I have data to enter and condom packs to stuff and television shows to catch up on while I stuff the condom packs and so…yeah. A full day for the last of my fifties, methinks. Tomorrow I mostly want to just hang out around the house and be a slug and read all day–I’ll probably straighten and organize too, it’s a compulsion–but I really want to just finish reading my book and start the next one. Over the course of the weekend, I’ll get other things done, of course–but tomorrow–other than the dash out to Metairie to get my deep dish pizza–I intend to literally be nothing more than a slug of the worst kind around here.

I may even allow myself a second Coke.

That’s me, living large on my sixtieth birthday.

I was actually looking at my submissions spreadsheet yesterday (mainly to make sure my list of published stories for the next collection was correct), and imagine my surprise to see I haven’t submitted much this year–one short story in January that was rejected–and prior to that, it’s been well over a year since I sent out any short stories for submissions. I have written–and started–any number of short stories in the mean time; but my, how time does fly when you really aren’t paying attention. I would have sworn those stories were sold this past year, but they came OUT this year; big difference, really.

But–it looks like I have about ten or so stories published that weren’t included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, so I am about half-way there for my second collection–and there are some unpublished ones I can also include in the new collection, which is pretty awesome.

Our gym is doing renovations, and is also asking for proof of vaccination for entry–which I deeply appreciate–but the renovations make working out a bit of a challenge. They’re putting in, among other things, a new floor and getting new equipment for the weight room, so all the current equipment is shoved into the room on the first floor where the spin classes are….and it’s a very tight fit. Every open space that is not the weight room floor on the first floor has equipment crammed into it; I appreciate them staying open for the renovation but at the same time…it definitely makes it more difficult to get the workout in, and you are crammed into much tighter space with strangers. I walked over there last night after work (Christ, the humidity was intense) and just dashed through my upper body workout–no stretching–and got out as quickly as humanly possible. I feel good for going–it would have been easy to decide not to–and this morning I feel a bit tight in places, so the workout worked, which was incredibly cool.

But my God, was I overheated and drenched in sweat when I got home!

I also got a new Fitbit; this isn’t out of some insane desire to track my fitness and my steps and my day-to-day activity; having something that monitors this for our health insurance is in my best interests, and after my last Fotbit gave up the ghost, I just started using the Apple Heart program on my phone…but it doesn’t sync with my health insurance website, etc etc etc., and a Fitbit worked remarkably well back when I had one a gazillion years ago–so, hello sixtieth birthday present! (I told you I was leaning into this sixty thing.) So, my sixtieth birthday gifts to myself thus far include a new computer, a new phone, a new Fitbit, a new aromatherapy atomizer for the kitchen, new shoes, and (of course) a shit ton of new books. Today I have a lot of things to do around the house in addition to working-at-home duties (the dishwasher is leaking, so I have to do them all by hand; and of course, the bed linens are done every Thursday), and I also have to box up my old computer so I can ship it back to Apple for recycling. Tomorrow, being the birthday itself, I plan on just hanging out around the house and reading. I don’t think I will leave the house other than going out to Metairie to get my deep-dish Chicago style pizza (and the mail, and Costco to pick up Paul’s new glasses), but no gym, no work, no being on-line (other than trying to keep up with birthday wishes on Facebook, a time consuming, if delightful, exercise)…and no concerns about getting any writing or editing done. I had thought about making it a completely free weekend, frankly–but i know myself too well to think I won’t be antsy and checking my emails and social media accounts and so forth. I think I’ll most likely simply structure my days so that I handle all of the stuff I want to do by a certain time in the afternoon before adjourning to my easy chair for reading. I want to finish The Other Black Girl so I can move on to The Turnout–after which I will most likely dive into either A Beautiful Crime or Yes Daddy; to be determined….and again I need to start pruning the books. I am going to likely take at least one day of next weeks Boucher-vacation to work on cleaning out the attic…and at some point I’m going to have to start working on the storage unit…but I’ll cross that terrifying bridge when I come to it.

And while I pack condoms today I will watch the season finale of Superman and Lois, as well as getting caught up on my Real Housewives shows, which I am not really enjoying this season as much as past ones…not sure what that’s about, but it might be worthy of its own post once I get that figured out.

And on that note, I have condoms to pack and data to enter. Tomorrow I will check in for the Big (?) Day. Have a lovely Sixty Eve, Constant Reader!