Sweet Mary

Preparing for a workshop on writing sex scenes is not as easy as one might think. And of course, I have to do it today since the workshop is tomorrow morning, but I am going to have to do it around appointments and driving all over the metropolitan area of the city and it looks like we’re going to be having a shitty weather day on top of it all. Huzzah. I did sleep in this morning–I suspect my Fitbit, which I am not so sure I trust anymore is going to tell me that I didn’t sleep well (oh, there was some thunder!) and in just now checking the weather I see we are going to be having thunderstorms during the entire time I will be out dashing around the city. Huzzah.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Last night after Paul and I got home, I finished (I’d started the night before while I was waiting for Paul to come home) watching the first episode of The Real World New Orleans: Homecoming, or whatever it’s called. We used to watch The Real World religiously; I think we stopped watching during the Austin season, and never went back. But we were very excited back in the day when the New Orleans show was announced, and of course, even in those pre-Internet days stories about the cast and the filming used to break in the newspaper. They also were living in the Belfort mansion, which isn’t far from where we lived then (and now), but in the years since it’s turned into a boutique hotel. (The owner–mentioned but not by name–used to work out at my gym.) I am not sure where the house they are living in for this taping is, but I think it’s on Esplanade Avenue; I don’t recognize it from the exteriors. I never really had put a lot of thought into the shows before it filmed here–but once it started, I started to understand that “reality television” wasn’t really reality. They weren’t on camera 24/7, like the show claimed, and they also set up shots and maybe there wasn’t a script, per se, but it wasn’t “real”–we used to see the cast walking around the neighborhood, followed by a film crew that wasn’t filming them. They also filmed in places we knew; Danny the gay one worked as a bartender in one of the gay bars (I want to say Oz? I could be wrong, it’s been over twenty-odd years), and of course we used to see them and the signs on the doors of businesses announcing that the show would be filming there, the time they would be filming, and being present inside during those times meant consent to being filmed unless you advised the crew otherwise (those people who are pixilated out in background scenes didn’t give consent). The “job” the cast did while here was to produce a talk-type television show on local public access which began airing while they were still filming; Paul and I actually caught it by mistake flipping through the channels, and as we watched it, we both said, “Oh, this isn’t going to go over well here”–they were being hypercritical of the city, and yes, as you can imagine, it didn’t go over well. Places began denying them the right to film there, they were criticized everywhere–from all the local newspapers to all the local media–and they eventually had to apologize in order to get places to let them film. (I actually kind of felt sorry for them–they were kids, for Christ’s sake.) The reunion show is weird to watch–again, they were going to places I recognized (the drag show was at the Bourbon Parade, the dance club above the Pub), but it’s also weird to see how they look now, who they’ve become, and hear their stories about the impact being on the show had on their lives.

Then Paul came back downstairs and we watched the first two episodes of the new Queer as Folk, which was filmed here and is also set here. New Orleans is a beautiful city, and that’s one thing the producers and editors decided to play off; the show is beautifully filmed, and they made sure they showed off the city’s beauty at every opportunity they had. It was kind of choppy at the start–uneven, but first episodes when you’re launching a new series often are; it is the rare show that pulls off the first episode perfectly, especially when there’s a large ensemble cast. I love the cast, by the way; it’s mixed and diverse and displays a broad spectrum of the community, as opposed to the original (with its focus on white cisgender men, with the token lesbian couple thrown in just for fun). Paul and I watched the original primarily to be supportive; we knew it was a groundbreaking show and we needed to support it so networks would see there was value in queer programming, but neither of us were really fans of the show itself. It was very earnest, very ABC Afterschool Special and preachy when it came to important topics; and then would veer off into the ridiculous. For me, it was this weird mix of a Very Special Episode and silliness, and it is virtually impossible to do both. Daytime soaps make it look easy, but it’s not that easy to do–we always kept saying, “they need to either decide if they want to be a serious drama or gay Melrose Place” (obviously, we were hoping they’d go the Melrose Place route), but it seems like this reboot–despite the shaky opening–is off to a good start. We will continue watching, and hoping for the best (my supervisor at my day job filmed with the show; he does drag as Debbie with a “D”–his outfits and lewks are fucking amazing, so I am also hoping to see Debbie on the show)–and as Paul said, (and is why I’ll keep watching that awful Homecoming show) “at the very least, the city looks beautiful.” Babylon, the queer bar in the show, was actually in the neighborhood of my old office; it sits on the corner of Frenchmen Street and Chartres, and that neighborhood you see in the show isn’t the Quarter but the Marigny (I miss my old office on Frenchmen Street). We will probably continue watching it tonight, and I am kind of oddly looking forward to it. I am definitely here for all the queer rep on television lately, even as the trash continues to come for us and our rights.

Yes, I said trash, even though the word hardly expresses my deep, abiding, and utter contempt for those who hate me and my community and wish us dead.

And there’s the rain.

AND the obligatory flash flood warning came right after it started, of course.

Heavy sigh.

I did work on “Never Kiss a Stranger” yesterday some; it’s now about twenty-four thousand words, for those who are keeping track. I am really liking the story and I am really enjoying working on it, for those who were wondering. It’s nice to be writing again and enjoying it–it’s been weird this past year how that has gone; but I’ve also come to recognize that I have had periods of my life where I was going through depression and didn’t realize its extent until it had passed. I feel like I’ve been experiencing at the very least low-key depression since March 2020–the kind where I am tired all the time, not sleeping well, and even when I look back at that period, I’ve either forgotten everything and what I actually can remember…it’s through a bit of fog, with darkness around the edges…and I’ve not really been enjoying writing since March 2020, if I’m going to be honest. I am enjoying it again–good thing, since it’s compulsive for me and I always will do it, regardless of how I feel about it–but my writing has always been a source of joy for me, and having that not be the case has been very unpleasant. I’ve really not been finding much joy in anything since March 2020, but I also feel like I’ve kind of turned a corner, somehow–my brain snapped or something and it snapped back into the place where it should have been all along.

And on that note, best get ready to head out to Metairie in a thunderstorm in flash flood conditions. Woo-hoo!

Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader.

The Wedding Song (There Is Love)

Thursday morning and my last day in the office of the week–tomorrow I took the day off for miscellaneous appointments and things (and yes, a trip to Metairie is required, sigh) which will be nice. I don’t have to get up super-early to go, for one thing, so I can allow myself to sleep in a bit, and then I can leisurely enjoy my coffee throughout the morning before it’s time to head out there. I am also going to stop at Costco on the way back home, so it’ll be a big day for one Gregalicious. I imagine by the time I get home I will be hot, sweaty, crabby and ready to spend the evening inside with the air conditioning.

Such an exciting life I lead!

I slept really well last night–an enormously pleasant surprise, given the questionable sleep I got the previous two nights–but according to my Fitbit, it was yet another bad nights’ sleep. I am beginning to think my Fitbit doesn’t know what it’s talking about when it comes to my sleep, you know? I feel rested and a bit groggy this morning, which hopefully the coffee will take care of (fingers crossed) but I will say yesterday I felt a bit out of it for most of the day. I didn’t get nearly us much accomplished as I’d intended when I got home from the office last night–I didn’t really do much of anything, to be honest. I wrote for a little while before retiring to the easy chair, where I fell into a spiral of videos about French history, which is always fun for me. When Paul got home we watched Obi-wan Kenobi, which I am really enjoying, on-line haters be damned, and the little girl who plays Princess Leia is fantastic–it’s completely believable she would grow up into Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, and props to Disney Plus for pitch-perfect casting. The show is also doing a really great job of filling in some gaps in the story of Star Wars, too.

Today hopefully will be a good one. I want to get some more writing done–for whatever reason, “Never Kiss a Stranger” is finally taking shape the way I want it to, although now I am worried that its going to wind up being far too long, and far too melancholy, than I want it to be. Its a melancholy story, really, so that’s probably a really good thing, but…I don’t suppose melancholy is the right mood; I am thinking I want to go for a Daphne du Maurier tone (which I love); I don’t want to call it gothic either, but if you’ve read du Maurier you know what I mean. Hmmm, perhaps I should dip into her collection Echoes from the Macabre again, to get a better sense of what I am talking about here…that is actually a really good plan, now that I think about it.

You can never go wrong rereading du Maurier.

One thing that is interesting/kind of fun about writing this novella is that it is set in a place that no longer exists–New Orleans in 1994. I was talking to some of my younger co-workers (ha ha ha, they’re all younger now, I am the old man of the department by a LOT now) about how different New Orleans was when I moved here in 1996 than it is now; and I was thinking about that some more last night. Gentrification hadn’t really gotten started in the city yet; it was a crumbling, dying city whose glory days were in the past. The Lower Garden District was considered a bad neighborhood back in those days; we moved in just as it was started to regenerate…but there was still a crack house next door, and of course the Camp Street on-ramp to the Crescent City Connection was still there, about fifty yards of concrete climbing into the sky and just ending (if you ever watch the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise version of Interview with the Vampire, there’s a scene when Louis–Pitt–leaves a movie theater in New Orleans that is showing Tequila Sunrise. That was the Coliseum Theatre, which was closed but still there when we moved into the neighborhood. It burned to the ground a few years later. Anyway, as Louis/Pitt walks out, the camera pans back and shows a highway on-ramp with cars going up–that was the old Camp Street on-ramp, still in use when the movie was filmed but not when we moved here two or three years after the movie’s release). I also imagine that on-ramp, when it was still connected to Highway 90, was a bitch for traffic in the neighborhood, since the bridge backs up all day now; I imagine there were times when that ramp backed up all the way down Camp to probably the Garden District. Where it was now is a lovely neutral ground that separates Camp and Coliseum Streets, beautifully designed and landscaped so it seems like a perfect extension of Coliseum Square. That’s why I want to write about that time period, when gay bars still occasionally got raided by the cops, when there were still two bathhouses in New Orleans, when many of us could only be openly gay when we went to the bars in the Quarter on the weekend, and how frenetic and wild and crazy those weekends were; all the gay bars in the Quarter were packed every weekend, and of course, deeply closeted gays from the surrounding areas–the rural parishes and Mississippi–would come into the city so they could let go and be free.

But even that wasn’t a guarantee of anything, either. Death stalked the gay bars back in those days–another reason I want to write about that time–and you couldn’t really trust the cops and sometimes it was dangerous to walk back to the lower Quarter or Marigny where you’d parked your car. There was this weird sense of being an outlaw; despite the Lawrence v. Texas decision there’s still a sodomy law on the books here in Louisiana, and once this Supreme Court gets to decide Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decided (because make no mistake, this Supreme Court is definitely going to dial us back to 1900, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they decided to take the right to vote away from women, too), once again my sex life will become an enforceable crime in Louisiana yet again.

Sigh.

Well, writing that last paragraph certainly made me melancholy. Too bad I don’t have time to work on the novella before heading into the office. Have a great Thursday, Constant Reader! I will chat with you again tomorrow morning.

Easy Loving

Monday morning and I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I have so much to get done this week it’s kind of overwhelming, to be honest; and the temptation to just stay in bed for the rest of my life and avoid the world was kind of really powerful this morning. Yet the world stops turning for no man, let alone a Gregalicious, so there was naught for me to do other than arise, do my morning ablutions, and start drinking coffee. I did sleep fairly well, despite the enormous stress of a to-do list with incredibly lengthy chores and projects to work on, and feel pretty well rested this morning–if not quite up to dealing with the world at large.

Ellen Byron’s book launch last night was marvelous. I was delighted to see she had a very good turnout and sold a lot of books–and she is the QUEEN of swag. I for once didn’t have stage fright–I knew Ellen would be warm and witty and wise and funny; all I had to do was lob some questions at her and she was off and running (she did try to deflect attention back to me a couple of times, but I was ready to turn the spotlight right back on her after a brief answer and succeeded each time). The book itself is lovely, too; you want to get a copy of Bayou Book Thief, especially if you’re a fan of traditional mysteries. The cover is gorgeous, and it’s a fun story with a likable main character and a likable supporting cast, and Ellen’s adoration of New Orleans spills over on every page–and what more can a New Orleanophile ask for? I also picked up a copy of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (I saw it and remembered someone recommending it to me a while back, so I grabbed it immediately) and a copy of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, which I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time now (since Camus was inspired by The Postman Always Rings Twice for his own novel, I thought it only made sense for me to finally read the Camus)–I can never walk into a bookstore and not walk out with more than I intended to buy when I walked in (I had only intended to get a copy of Ellen’s finished book; I read a pdf) but that was fine–I wanted both books and let’s face it, I am always going to buy books at every opportunity, but it is time for me to start donating books to the library again.

I am not familiar with the part of New Orleans where the bookstore is located; Blue Cypress Books is on Oak Street past Carrollton, not far from where Carrollton and Claiborne intersect (and yes, the two streets actually run parallel to each other in my neighborhood; welcome to the wonderful and terribly confusing world of New Orleans’ bizarre geography). I would have, as per my usual, simply driven all the way to Riverbend on St. Charles then turned left on Carrollton…but I decided not to do my usual “this is how I know to get there” thing and used Google maps. Interestingly enough, Google maps took me on to Highway 90 then I-10 before getting off at the Carrollton exit in front of Costco and going that way…and it was faster–a lot faster, which I still kind of can’t wrap my mind around, but then again that’s New Orleans geography for you; my mind always thinks in terms of grids where everything runs north and south or east and west, and that isn’t New Orleans. The only actual grid design to anywhere in this city is the French Quarter–and only the French Quarter, at that. I have lived here twenty-six years and still get confused and mystified by how geography works here…which is one of the reasons I think people believe New Orleans is magical and mystical. Where else does geography make no sense other than here?

After I got home, we finished watching The Outlaws, which we really enjoyed, and started watching Gaslit. Julia Roberts is killing it as Martha Mitchell–I’d really forgotten a lot about her, but she was kind of a celebrity at the time, more so than the wife of Attorney General could ever hope to be, frankly–and she was enormously popular; everyone liked Martha Mitchell, because you never really knew what she was going to say next, which naturally didn’t sit well with the president of the time, Richard Nixon. (And again with a show set in the 1970s; sensing a theme–Minx, Candy, Gaslit–all set in the 1970s as a reminder to us all just how awful the 1970s actually were…pay attention, everyone. There’s a reason you never want to turn the clock back, or bring an era back.) I’d actually forgotten about Martha Mitchell–she’s often left out of books I’ve read about Watergate–and she was actually kind of an important cultural figure of the time. If the Nixon idea was to erase her from history, it kind of worked. The 1970s was definitely an odd decade.

As I was lying in bed dreading getting up and facing the world today, I thought, I would really love to have a vacation, you know. A week where I didn’t have a deadline to meet, or go into the office, or really do anything at all other than relax and read and watch movies or television shows I’ve not had a chance to see. It’s been a hot minute, and most of the traveling I actually do tends to be writing related in some way, which means it’s not really a vacation but a work trip. I don’t think I’ve actually had a vacation-vacation since we went to Italy, and that was eight long years ago. We’re talking about possibly going to Puerto Rico or some place in Central America (Costa Rica, if anywhere), but I think it’s past time…although I could also use some time off to stay home and get the Lost Apartment into some semblance of order, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one.

I didn’t finish my short story–the deadline was today and I know there’s no way I can get it finished in time to email off by midnight tonight, particularly since there would be little to no time to revise and/or edit it. It’s a shame, but at least the story is further along at about just over a thousand words than it was at less than two hundred; it’s a great idea but I’m basically stuck in the middle. I know how it ends, I just don’t know how to get it there, so letting it sit for a while is definitely in order. I did start writing the new Scotty yesterday–don’t get excited, I literally wrote maybe 175 words of the prologue; I found the book opening I wanted to spoof (Pride and Prejudice) and since I didn’t want to forget, I started writing it and it flowed along for another hundred words or so before I ran out of steam. The Scotty prologues are always the hardest part of the book for me to write; they are basically a recap of Scotty’s life thus far to get a new reader caught up without having to go back and read the first eight (!) books in the series as well as not spoiling the first eight books in the series should the reader decide to go back and actually read the first eight books in the series. (Something I actually need to do before I really dig in and start writing this thing…I really need to do the Scotty Series Bible and get that done so I have an easy reference without having to page through the books or do a search in the ebooks) I also did some research over the weekend for the book, which entailed rereading two Nancy Drew mysteries, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall and The Haunted Showboat (both books bring Nancy and her friends to New Orleans/Louisiana) and oh, yes, that bit of research definitely triggered a blog post which I started writing yesterday after I got ready for the event and was waiting for it to be the right time to leave. I kind of slam Nancy Drew in the post–but the truth is, despite my obsessive collecting of Nancy Drew books (trying to get the entire original series, with the yellow spines) I never actually liked the books all that much. (Same with the Hardy Boys.) While I appreciate the two series for their popularity and for getting kids to read (and to read mysteries) neither series was ever my favorite–but once I started reading and collecting, I had to keep reading and collecting because I am obsessive–and that obsession with collecting the books, while slightly tempered as I’ve gotten much older (and don’t have a place to display the collection), still exists. (Periodically I do think about emptying a bookcase and refilling it with my kids’ series books; it’s always satisfying for me to see them on the shelves. And yes, I know how weird that sounds.)

And now back into the spice mines with me. Y’all have a lovely Monday, okay?

A Reason to Believe

Work at home Friday, and I actually slept in till seven! A whole extra hour! (Don’t think I didn’t wake up right at six in the morning, though…) It looks like a sunny April first out there–cannot believe it’s actually April already. It’s very strange to wake up on Friday morning and look at a normal weekend for the first time in a long time–one where there’s not a looming deadline hanging over my head, the Festivals are done for a year, and I can actually relax and try to get those odds-and-ends that have been hanging around that I never seem to be able to get around to taken care of–if I am lucky. We need to make a Costco run, and Scooter has to go in for bi-annual “senior kitty” check-up. I need to get my story worked on a bit too this weekend, and maybe I can shoehorn in some other writing as well. I also want to spend some time with that Chris Holm novel, knowing I will most likely be sucked into it and won’t get anything else done over the course of the weekend.

It happens.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was in a good mood and had energy most of the day–petering out as the day come to a close, as always–and left the office later than I usually do, resulting in the horror and frustration of being caught in rush hour CBD traffic on the way home. My office really is in probably one of the most inconvenient places in the city for me to get to; the old office on Frenchmen Street was only slightly easier to get to–but it still involved driving through both the CBD and the Quarter. Now that we’re further downtown, you’d think it would be easier–I live near an on-ramp to the highway system, and the office is right off the Claiborne exit on I-10 East; it can take me as little as five minutes to get there in the mornings (if I hit the lights properly, which never happens). But I can’t take the highway on the way home–because I have to use the I-10 interchange with Highway 90 to the West Bank (the twin spans) and the traffic is usually backed up almost all the way to the on-ramp at Claiborne Avenue), which is a nightmare all day every day, but is especially horrible in the later afternoon when everyone is getting off work. So I either take Claiborne Avenue all the way uptown to get the mail and make groceries on my way home, or I just take Claiborne to Orleans, head through Treme to the CBD on Loyola, turn onto Howard Avenue and that leads me to Tivoli Circle and St. Charles and BOOM I am home. Unfortunately, yesterday Loyola had a lane blocked by three streetcars that were just parked at the Poydras intersection (the absolute worst place, traffic wise) and as such, it was after five when I got home. I did some laundry, unpacked my backpack, and sank into my easy chair. Scooter climbed into my lap, cuddled and purred and fell asleep, and that was the end of that for all intents and purposes. I watched this week’s Superman and Lois–it really is a good show–and then switched over to Young Justice, which is incredibly well done; with each new episode I not only marvel at the storylines they’ve devised but the strong character building the writers manage, eventually going to bed around ten.

I am also hoping to return to the gym for the first time in a while. Yes, I will be heading out to Albuquerque next week, but I also can make it to the gym a few times before I do. I need to remember that I enjoy working out and that it feels good when I do. Plus, it’s lighter out later now, so I don’t have to walk there and back in the dark anymore. It’s not that I feel unsafe or anything, but walking around back streets in the neighborhood can sometimes be a bit on the creepy side; the problem of having a vivid imagination is that you can never really turn it off. Which is why I have files and files and files of book and novella and short story ideas…and keep having more every damned day. I had another great idea yesterday, in fact–well, I do like to believe all my ideas are brilliant, let’s be completely honest–which I dutifully made note of in my journal at work and expanded on it a bit for a couple of pages, but even as I closed the journal I thought, well, when precisely are you going to write this book, Gregalicious? Heavy heaving sigh. I do want to get a lot of writing done this year….and I need to stop beating myself up because my writing “muscles” are tired and need to rest for a bit.

It happens.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

We’re supposed to get hurricane strength wind tomorrow and potential tornadoes. Southeastern Louisiana won’t be getting the worst of this storm–that will be further north, but New Orleans and Baton Rouge will still get some shit flung at us. Hurray. The high today is going to be eighty-one; it’s currently sixty-six degrees. I guess it’s sweatshirt under a T-shirt weather for the office again? Most likely.

Paul returned home yesterday morning, and again, it never ceases to amaze me how different it is when he’s home as opposed to when he’s not; it’s not like he’s this enormous person or anything, but the apartment always feels empty and quiet when he’s not home. Scooter, of course, was absolutely delighted to have both daddies home last night, going back and forth between my lap and Paul on the couch–and he was also a lot more quiet than he’s been in quite some time. Of course, Paul’s been missing a lot over the last few months anyway; me only seeing him when he got home and I woke up, groggily, for a moment before going back to sleep and then seeing him sleeping while I dressed for work the next morning. I regret not being able to spend more time down in the Quarter at Saints and Sinners; maybe next year I can plan my life events better so it won’t be a problem for me to spend time seeing people and going to panels. It is a pain in the ass to get down there and come back home every day, of course, but for fuck’s sake–these are my people: queer writers. And the opportunities to see them are rare and we are all getting older and yes, I definitely need to plan better for next year.

I did finish reading Alex Segura’s Secret Identity last evening, and it’s quite wonderful. I enjoyed and savored every page. There will be more to come on that score later. I think now I am going to move on next to Chris Holm’s Child Zero. I also got some older books yesterday in the mail that I ordered on eBay; The Lute Player and The Claw by Norah Lofts (an unjustly forgotten writer of the mid-twentieth century) and one of those Literature Classics leather bound editions of Daphne du Maurier’s Echoes from the Macabre, which is probably my all-time favorite short story collection. It’s a lovely edition in pristine condition, and I am very happy to have a very good copy of it on my bookshelves. The Lute Player is Lofts’ novel about Richard the Lion-hearted, his sad queen Berengaria, and Blondel the minstrel–and was also the first time I realized (when I read it as a freshman in high school) that the great Richard, hero of legend and fiction, was actually….for wont of a better term, not into the ladies so much. I’ve always wanted, since then, to write my own story of Blondel–but then Gore Vidal beat me to it with his A Search for the King, which I read and enjoyed twenty or so years ago. I don’t remember anything about it other than that I enjoyed it; I do like Vidal, and the older I get the more I appreciate his work. I just got a wild hair and thought it would be fun to revisit The Lute Player, and The Claw is her attempt at writing a novel about a serial rapist; heady stuff for 1981. (I’d never read it, but it sounded interesting. I also enjoyed her collection of ghost stories that I read a few years ago; Lofts is terribly underrated and underappreciated as a novelist.)

I do feel a bit disoriented this morning; like I’ve not been into the office in weeks. Literary event over the weekend, sandwiched around work at home hours, undoubtedly has something to do with that. I don’t feel like I know what I am doing or what I need to get done. I do need to make a new to-do list; when I checked the list yesterday morning I had done a terrific job of getting things crossed off (the things I hadn’t crossed off had to do with writing, natch).

I was also thinking last night, after finishing Alex’ superb novel, that I need to figure out my writing schedule for the rest of the year. I had originally planned to try to get a working first draft of Chlorine finished in April, and then get a working first draft of Mississippi River Mischief done in May, then alternate revisions for the rest of the summer while also writing short stories and finishing novellas. I don’t know if that is going to work; I do have a story to write already for April (and haven’t really gotten far into the physical writing of it; I already know how the story is going to work–it’s mapped out in my head) so that’s why I was thinking April–since it also includes trips to Albuquerque and New York–might be better to do short stories and novellas while pushing everything back a month.

Decisions, decisions.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in again tomorrow.

I Guess I’ll Miss The Man

Thursday morning and the last in-the-office day of the week; next month we are going back to four days required in the office; not sure when that is, but I’ve already chatted with my supervisor about it and what I’ll be doing in the office that extra day and frankly, am fine with it. Obviously, it will be an adjustment, but I’ve never really gotten used to not coming in on Mondays and I am glad that will be over with before I actually get used to it. Tuesday-Thursday in the office has actually been a bit disorienting since it started, and that fourth day I won’t have to get up at six to come in, either. I am thinking nine to five thirty, or some variation of that, actually.

Paul is staying at the Monteleone, so I am on my own with a needy kitty here in the Lost Apartment for the next few days. I must confess that when I got home from work last night, I was a bit tired and kind of felt like Tom Cruise in Risky Business: I had the house to myself, and knew Paul wasn’t coming home, so didn’t have to worry about making anything to eat or you know, anything. Instead of reading or doing anything truly productive, I’m afraid all I did was watch episodes of Young Justice while playing around on social media and eventually went to bed early. I did do the dishes and a load of laundry and worked on inputting the edits into the manuscript I am working on, but for the most part, I totally blew off last night. I do need to figure out the structure of my workshop tomorrow; I already have a lot of amorphous ideas about what to talk about, but I need to order them into something coherent and cohesive by tomorrow afternoon. Of course I am going to be terribly stressed and in a mode of high anxiety at the same time, which means I will probably walk home from the Quarter afterwards and collapse in mental and emotional and physical exhaustion immediately afterward….all so I can moderate a panel on Saturday. This is a lot for someone whose natural tendency is toward introversion and agoraphobia, especially after two years of no public appearances and no crowds. Will he survive? It remains to be seen. But I am also kind of looking forward to it. My plan is to just go do my stuff and head home, but…we’ll see how that plays out. I know I don’t want to go to any of the opening receptions or anything tomorrow afternoon…my, how things change! I used to love getting over-served at those receptions…but of course now I need recovery time from drinking alcohol and I just don’t have a whole lot of that to spare these days.

Plus, there’s no joy in feeling like shit for a day or two, either.

Obviously, I used to drink regularly but I also never used to get hangovers, either. Hangovers were quite literally the deal breaker for me. I would have stopped drinking years ago if I’d suffered through hangovers at a younger age, seriously.

So, tonight I hope to finish inputting the edits to get back to the author, do some more laundry, read some more of Alex Segura’s marvelous Secret Identity, and prepare for my workshop. Scooter will be needy–my God, he was like my shadow last night, following me around and jumping into my lap and going to sleep every time I turned around. He’d also started going to bed with me lately–or getting into bed and cuddling with me after I’ve already gone to bed; there’s nothing like almost dropping off completely to sleep only to be awakened by purrs and claws kneading your bare skin–but as soon as I got under the covers last night there he was–and he was still there this morning when the alarm went off (I wish my phone had been handy, because the side-eye Scooter gave that alarm was EPIC).

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

Your Wonderful, Sweet Sweet Love

Well, last night was a bit intense there for a while.

Yes, we had really horrific weather events down here last evening. I was sitting in my easy chair, relaxing and watching episodes of Young Justice when my phone started blaring the emergency alert. I knew there was a chance of tornadoes because we were having high winds all day (another emergency alert) and thunderstorms would be moving in during the early night. Sure enough, the wind was howling and the rain was coming down in torrents and lightning was flashing–and then my phone emergency alert started going off. I immediately paused the show and switched over to Margaret Orr on WDSU (since Nash Roberts retired, Ms. Orr has been my go-to local weatherperson, and saw that the “tornadic” (a new word to me) storm was on the West Bank–and there was another, separate one entirely, on the North Shore. The location of this tornadic storm placed it pretty much directly across the river from my neighborhood–needless to say, a bit terrifying knowing it was literally that close–but the path the storm was following indicated it would probably jump the river just below the French Quarter, into either the Marigny, Bywater or lower 9th ward neighborhoods. (Even more scary–I know a lot of people in those neighborhoods, so of course I was scrolling through social media rapidly making sure my friends were all okay and worrying.) Then came the visual confirmation there was actually a tornado on the ground over there–and yes, know and love people over on the West Bank as well–and then it jumped the river into the lower 9th.

I grew up with tornadoes–they weren’t common but did happen in Chicago; but of course, five years in Kansas. My first thought was great there are no basements in southeastern Louisiana and second was fuck there’s really not even an interior place for me to huddle in this apartment if it comes here and third was acceptance: oh well, if it comes this way hope for the best.

Seriously, y’all. Major major yikes.

I know at least one person died in St. Bernard Parish (Chalmette/Arabi), and I’m not seeing any estimates on damage yet (haven’t done a deep dive) but I do remember I drove through the East on a trip out of town after the tornado there a few years ago and being horrified by what I was seeing (not on the level of the ‘disaster drives’ I took around the city when I returned after Katrina, but still pretty fucking horrible; Katrina’s a very high bar, after all). I know thousands are still without power this morning, and I’m not sure how this is going to affect my work day–I don’t know if there’s power at the building, for example, but I think I would have heard something by now–but I wouldn’t be surprised if my appointments have a rather high percentage of no-shows today.

The new book’s cover reveal was graciously hosted by none other than Dru Ann Love this morning; you can find it right here! I love this cover–the look on the cat’s face, based on Scooter, is absolutely perfect–and I am very excited about the new book. I am hopeful it will become a series–it was a one-book only deal, so hopefully it will continue. Huzzah!

I did manage to get quite a bit done yesterday, and was tired a bit when I got home last night so wasn’t able to get any reading or much else of anything done other than watching Live Justice and the second episode of Minx (I have some thoughts on this show, which I am enjoying but not sure if I should be, if that makes sense? But I will discuss that more at another time, and feel like I need to give the show a few more episodes before making up my mind one way or another; I will say that the thing I found problematic in the first episode was that the main character–whom I liked–was very much a 70’s feminist stereotype: humorless, strident, angry–not that they didn’t have every right to be, mind you, but I often find that this lazy stereotype inevitably leads to lazy character development: let’s watch as the uptight opinionated humorless feminist learns how to relax and shed the systemic misogyny training she received as a woman growing up when she did, and of course, being around a porn publisher and porn models…you see what I mean? I like the positive representation of porn and the people who work in it, but…maybe I am making more of this than I should. I don’t know) before of course the tornado alarm went off on my phone, which shifted everything for the rest of the evening.

Paul’s moving into the hotel today so I will also be home alone for until Sunday night or Monday morning. Sigh, Festival widowhood staring me in the face again.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely and safe day, Constant Reader!

Shine on Me

Sunday morning.

I got up again before seven this morning–despite staying up an hour or so later last night than I usually do; I was waiting, hoping Paul would be coming home, but he didn’t get home again until after I went to bed. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday as I would have liked because I got distracted by reading Kellye Garrett’s marvelous Like a Sister, and by the time I finished the book it was late afternoon and the tiredness I was feeling yesterday morning–I mentioned it, remember? I wasn’t as awake and alert as I had been the day before–I decided to just kick back and relax for the rest of the day. I watched a lot of history documentaries on Youtube; watched a lot of news worried about Ukraine; and then last night I decided to watch The Drowning Pool, a 1970’s film version of Ross Macdonald’s book–with significant changes made to the book–moving it to Louisiana for one (more on this later). When the movie was finished I went to bed, and woke up early again this morning (body clock has reset, for good or ill). I have to make groceries this morning, as well as gas up the car (can’t wait to see how much gas costs today; but I am more than willing to pay more to save Ukrainian lives, frankly) and head home for some more editing work. I am going to work on my manuscript today; and I have a manuscript from Bold Strokes I need to get edited this week as well. Lots of heavy lifting to get done this week, but I think I can manage.

I also need to select my next book to read. I’ve narrowed it down some; the leading contenders include Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, The Twelve Jays of Christmas by Donna Andrews, The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr., and All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris. A plethora of treasures in my TBR pile, no? There’s also some short story collections and anthologies I want to start working my way through–not to mention a short story I need to write by the end of the month (see why I need lists?)–so I think once I get home from the grocery store I will most likely have to make this week’s to-do list. I also have some emails to write for sending tomorrow. But I don’t feel as paralyzed this morning as I usually am by a daunting pile of work that needs doing. We’ll see how I feel when I get home from the grocery store, though, I suppose. Usually dealing with the groceries wears me out and I am pretty much useless afterwards; I don’t know if that is actual physical or mental exhaustion or laziness settling in. I know that my energy levels have significantly decreased over the past pandemic years, and sometimes I do wonder if it’s maybe Long COVID; exhaustion and loss of energy seems to be one of its leading symptoms, and of course, both tend to trigger depression, which creates a massive downward spiral. But I keep testing negative for it, so what do I know?

So, The Drowning Pool starring Paul Newman as Lew Archer, renamed Lew Harper in the movie, and the location was moved from southern California to Louisiana for some reason. The movie is very cynical, so it definitely fits into my Cynical 70’s Film Festival, but it’s not a very good movie. (I’ve read the book, and while the family structure of the film seemed familiar, there’s a lot of significant diversion from the book.) One of my favorite parts of the movie is one of those things Louisiana/New Orleans people always point out in movies and television shows: the geography makes no sense. Harper is summoned to New Orleans by an old flame, whom he meets in a Royal Street antique shop for some reason. She doesn’t anyone to know she’s hired him, so why would you meet in the Quarter? The airport is in Kenner; why would you make him drive all the way into the heart of the city when you could have simply met him at a lounge or bar out near the airport, where they would be a lot more anonymity? Anyway, the old flame (Joanne Woodward, wasted in a role far beneath her talents) has gotten him a room at a motel in the small town she lives in, and she runs off, promising to be in touch…and here is the weird Louisiana geography part. He leaves the Quarter, takes the causeway across Lake Pontchartrain, eventually crossed the river in Baton Rouge, and then winds up somewhere in swampy Acadiana. That’s all fine…but why would you take the causeway to the north shore to get to Baton Rouge when I-10 heads directly there from New Orleans? He added at least another hour to his trip by crossing the lake. There’s another scene where he’s tracking someone down, following his girlfriend as she gets off the St. Charles streetcar, crosses the street, and enters a home. Harper later refers to the man’s “apartment in the French Quarter”–um, the streetcar doesn’t run through the Quarter, it didn’t in 1975, and it was clearly St. Charles Avenue (there are several more of these, in fact; the bayou area near the town was clearly filmed in the Manchac Swamp). The plot is convoluted and didn’t make a lot of sense–blackmail, Joanne Woodward’s husband is a closet case, someone has stolen an account book from a local oil baron’s company that exposes their pay-offs and bribes and other illegal activities–and Newman, while handsome and charming, doesn’t really put a lot of effort in the role. Your mileage might vary, of course, but I found it to be disappointing. The only thing about the film of note was very young Melanie Griffith playing Woodward’s nymphet teenage daughter…and I kept wondering how old IS she to be so sexualized in a film? But it was also the 1970’s…in catching up on the 1970’s films I’m constantly amazed at how much unnecessary nude scenes for women there are, or gratuitous sex scenes that add nothing to the plots in these films. But I also appreciate the grittier, more realistic if cynical point of view of the films; there’s nothing pretty or noble about humanity in these movies…which also kind of explains how “hopeful” movies like Rocky and Star Wars were so enormously successful during the latter part of the decade.

And on that note, i think I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

I’m Glad About It

I was very lucky with my career, in many ways. Having a partner who got a job working for a literary festival–the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival–meant years of volunteering at the event itself: writing panel descriptions, working the check-in desk on-site, and giving authors rides to and from the airport and to various events for the Festival that didn’t take place at any of the French Quarter venues. I was able to meet authors who were personal heroes of mine; some became friends, and all were open to giving advice and tips to a personal trainer in his late thirties with aspirations of being a published writer. (I also met a lot of celebrities who came to the Festival; from Kim Hunter to Alec Baldwin to Patricia Neal to Shirley Knight to Dick Cavett to Rex Reed to Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen and ZoĆ« Caldwell–a personal favorite.) One of the biggest thrills was Sue Grafton, who was was more charming and witty and kind than I could have ever hoped. Sue Grafton, of course, was the dream career for a mystery writer: enormous success, both critical and financial; an incredibly original character that became iconic; and crowds of fans eager to meet her. But after meeting her, it was her gracious kindness that I aspired to–I might get books published but that kind of enormous success was an enormous longshot (we all aspire to have a career like that), but being gracious and kind was something I could–with a lot of self-evaluation and work on myself–actually replicate.

But one thing she said to me, with her self-awareness and trademark sense of humor, has always stuck with me. I asked her some innocuous beginner’s question about writing a series character–something she had probably been asked a gazillion times–and she took some time to think before she answered.

“Well,” she said, “One problem with having a popular series is you become a one-trick pony. All anyone ever wants from me is Kinsey–a new book, or a short story, anything, really–and that can be a bit stifling.” Then she grinned, winked, and leaned in close to add, “But you know what? I’m still grateful people want Kinsey from me, and that there are an awful lot of those people.”

The series used to be the thing for mystery writers; very few people had long term careers in the genre without having a series. But over the last twenty years, I’ve watched as series writers began straying away from their series and focusing more on stand-alones; which has not only resulted in some amazing books but extraordinary career growth. Laura Lippman, Harlan Coben, and Dennis Lehane, among many others, switched from enormously popular series to writing stand alone novels that give them more room to breathe and be creative with plot and character and voice.

And now, Kellye Garrett has joined their ranks.

I found out my sister was back in New York from Instagram. I found she’d died from the New York Daily News.

Her post was just as attention seeking as their headline. Hers came at midnight. Look back at it. #birthday #25 #grownfolksbusiness #home #nyc–all over a behind-the-back shot of her in nothing more than a black silk dress and no bra.

The article came less than twelve hours later. FORMER REALITY STAR DESIREE PIERCE FOUND DEAD IN LINGERIE IN BRONX WITH COCAINE AND NO SHOES.

I’d come straight here–to where they found her–as soon as I’d seen it.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe to confirm it was real. Maybe to hope it was not. Maybe to get one last glimpse of her even though I knew her body was long gone. Whatever the reason, I’d arrived at this particular playground in the Bronx on autopilot. The place my sister had come to just hours before. It looked how I felt–all reds and blues and worn down. It would never be accused of being the happiest place on Earth.

FORMER REALITY STAR DESIREE PIERCE FOUND DEAD IN LINGERIE IN BRONX WITH COCAINE AND NO SHOES.

I hated it. For what it said. For what it represented. For what it really meant.

Despite a lot of communication over the years, I don’t recall if I have ever actually met Kellye in person. We’ve been at many of the same events–but I don’t think we’ve ever actually met in person; if we did, it was one of those nights/afternoons in the bar at Bouchercon where alcohol has killed memory cells in my brain. But I read her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, which was the first in a series about Dayna, a struggling actress in Los Angeles who stumbles into a murder investigation. I enjoyed it tremendously; I loved the voice and the character of Dayna as well as her friends; I somehow managed to land an ARC of the sequel, Hollywood Ending, and in my inimitable Greg way, I was saving it for when her next book came out, so I would always have another Kellye Garrett book to read. Then, disaster. Midnight Ink, the publishers of the Dayna series, was sold and shuttered. I knew Kellye was still writing, so I kept holding on to Hollywood Ending, waiting for the new book. Her agent generously sent me a print ARC of her new book, Like A Sister, which I had already pre-ordered; (I entered a Goodreads giveaway Kellye tweeted; I replied “Done! (I never win anything.)” It arrived during a very busy Greg period–finishing my own book, Christmas, MWA board changeover–and so it sat on top of the TBR stacks in the living room, glaring at me when I was too tired in the evening after work to read anything. Then, last week, my preordered copy arrived–and what a gorgeous looking book it is. (Look at that cover up there!)

And yes, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

I started reading it this past week after work on Wednesday. Thursday night I was too tired to read; Friday was another busy work-at-home day for me, and so yesterday morning, after finishing my on-line duties for the day, I decided to treat myself to a few hours of the book before moving on to other chores and things that needed doing.

Five hours later I finished the book. It literally was one of those “oh, another half-hour won’t hurt” over and over again until “Well, I might as well finish; there’s only a hundred pages left.”

Wow. What a fun ride this book is, from start to finish. Garrett grabs your attention with that opening above, and never lets go.

The plot focuses on Lena Scott, who lives in the Bronx and is attending Columbia while living in the house she inherited from her grandmother. (Her grandmother’s long time partner also lives there in one of the two apartments inside–more on her later, and yes, I said her.) Her own mother is dead; she is estranged from her music mogul father and his wife; and she has also been estranged from Desiree, her half-sister, for two years. The guilt that she never made up with Desiree before she died eats at Lena, who doesn’t believe for one moment that Desiree overdosed on heroin–she was always afraid of needles–and of course, no one really listens to her, so she starts investigating on her own. There are a lot of twists and turns here, as well as the mystery serving as an self-realization journey for Lena–who begins finding out that a lot of the truths about her family she has always believed aren’t necessarily the truth. Along the way she meets a reporter who may or may not be a love interest; becomes close to one of Desiree’s best friends (the Instagram hashtag #likeasister is where the title of the book comes from); and the incredibly dysfunctional family pieces begin coming back together along the way. I particularly loved the relationship between Lena and her father; Garrett is wonderful at depicting these family relationships and how delicate they can be, and how easy it is for family to fall out and stay apart over misunderstandings.

The pacing of the book is remarkable; you become so deeply vested in the story and the characters you want to keep reading to find out what happens to them. Lena’s voice alone is reason enough to read the book; it’s powerful, vulnerable yet strong at the same time. We understand her, root for her, feel for her, want everything to work out for her, and we also feel her pain–pain born from years of fraught family relationships in a dynamic so complicated and delicate that it’s no wonder it went off the rails. But the writing is also strong and witty; some lines were so clever I shared them on social media, and would have shared even more had I been willing to take the time to put the book down to type on my phone. Character, story, and dialogue are all there at the highest level as well.

And being familiar with her former work, I am even more amazed at how easily Garrett was able to shift from a cozy mystery series into something else; a stand alone crime novel that also explores questions of privilege, celebrity, stardom, and family.

I also loved loved loved that Lena’s closest family attachment is to her grandmother’s widow, Aunt E. I loved that a long-term lesbian relationship was Lena’s only real role model for a successful romantic relationship. I loved that the fact her grandmother had a female partner was portrayed as not a big deal and normal (thank you thank you thank you for this) and that no one had a problem with it within the family. I love that an older lesbian character is the moral compass for the family. This, folks, is a master class on how to include queer characters into your work–and inclusion matters.

I was bummed to see the Dayna series end–but delighted this incredible growth as a writer was the result. I cannot wait to see what Garrett does next, and watching her career grow and develop further is going to be incredibly exciting for me as a reader and a fan.

Highly recommended, everyone. Jump on this one and thank me later.

Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart

Saturday!

I slept very well last night. I got my day job work done during the day, I got two more chapters revised and edited last night, and Paul and I watched the latest episode of Servant last night (which is very bizarre and we are no longer sure we are following it, but it’s well produced and well acted, so it’s always interesting to watch), and then I watched a short National Geographic documentary about the Renaissance Popes (an episode from their series Pope), which was interesting–but it didn’t cover much more ground than Barbara Tuchman covered in her section on them in March of Folly.

Today dawns bright and sunny with a gorgeous, cloudless pigeon’s egg sky out there. I have some emails I have to do this morning, and I have to run some errands (prescriptions, mail) this morning (I am saving groceries for tomorrow). I also have to buy a new all-in-one printer as my latest one lost wifi capabilities yesterday for some reason, ergo rendering it utterly useless for my needs (just as well, I had just run out of ink and needed to buy more; money saved by the death of the printer) so when I go run my errands, the last thing I will do is swing by Office Depot on St. Charles to purchase a new one. I think they have a decent one at a reasonable price in stock; if they don’t, I’ll have to check either Best Buy or Target, neither of which is an option I particularly want to indulge myself in at the moment. Although a trip to the West Bank would also mean I could get lunch at Sonic, so…decisions, decisions. (Paul and I were, in fact, just last night talking about how we don’t really eat fast food at all anymore–he stopped at McDonalds on his way home from getting his hair cut in the Quarter yesterday) I’ve gained back some of the weight I lost last year, alas; not sure how that happened, precisely, but have no doubt that there’s a connection to me not going to the gym in months, for sure. Once this book is done….or at least under more control, at any rate…maybe on Monday afternoon when I am finished with my work-at-home duties. I am hoping to get three chapters of the book done today, which means I have to write/revise and polish the final two chapters over the next few days as well as go through and polish and tweak (hence the need for a printer) before finally turning it in and diving into the Bouchercon anthology work, which needs to be concluded by the end of February. I also have a short story due in early February–and next weekend I am going to Alabama for the Murder in the Magic City/Murder on the Menu weekend in Birmingham and Wetumpka. (Note to self: get an audiobook for the drive.)

So much to do, so little time, so little opportunity for procrastination, laziness and pushing things off until tomorrow, right?

Heavy heaving sigh.

But there’s also cleaning to do around here, filing as always, and some book organization is also needed. I am not feeling particularly overwhelmed in any sense this morning, which is always a really good thing, and I feel confident that I can get everything finished that I need to get finished as well as get a jump on future things that need to get finished. I am really looking forward to spending some time every week getting rid of paper files, too–you have no idea how much I am looking forward to that; realistically, there’s no reason for me to keep paper files on anything unless it’s something I am currently working on; otherwise it can remain electronic; and realistically, I can donate a back-up hard drive to an archive mush easier than I can sort and organized paper files…and if they don’t want that, well, then that’s the end of that, you know.

And I still will have gotten rid of all the fucking paper files.

So, win-win?

And on that note tis time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!