True Faith

Saturday morning and I am about to head back out to Metairie; I just got an email that my computer is repaired and ready for pick-up! This is very exciting, obviously–I am terribly relieved to not have to buy a new one–and I am excited to have a desktop computer again. Hurray for a big screen to make up for my failing eyes! I am also going to be dropping off books later today at the library sale, and donating beads to ARC of New Orleans; the living room is slowly being dragged back from hoarder’s hell and starting to look functional and bearable and usable again, which is incredibly lovely. I managed to hang one of the laundry room doors by myself yesterday; this morning I’ll also be rehanging the other door, clearing up more space and opening up the living room even further.

We finished watching The Crime of the Century last night–quelle surprise, disgusting piece of shit Marsha Blackburn helped pass a bill gutting the DEA’s ability to investigate and punish drug companies for lying to the public, reminding viewers again she’s always been trash and a cosplay Christian without a soul–and the documentary is further evidence that our country and our system has been corrupted and is broken. It’s more than a little infuriating to know that so many people have died and/or become addicted thanks to the complicity of our elected officials, and there is never any accountability for corporations or the rich. Back in the 1990’s I used to simply shake my head and thin we are becoming very similar, as a nation, to 1780′ France and the last days of Czarist Russia and when it comes the second American revolution will be far worse than either of those revolutions, which were widespread and incredibly bloody…I hope I don’t live long enough to see it or experience it, quite frankly. I had an idea–when don’t I have one?–back then for a book about a dystopian future after the collapse of our government and society; dystopias aren’t so much in vogue anymore, but it’s still a valid idea and concept, but it’s been foremost in my brain lately.

We also started watching Halston on Netflix last night, and it’s quite fun; definitely worth watching for the acting, and Ewan MacGregor is fantastic in the title role. I’ve actually been thinking about the 1970’s a lot lately; not sure why I’ve been going down this nostalgic trip down memory lane, but I have been and so Halston kind of plays into that for me. It has everything to do, no doubt, with my idea to write a book about a suburban serial killer, a la the Candyman/Gacy, called Where the Boys Die; I’ve been looking up things (classmates.com has copies of my high school yearbooks even; mine were lost years ago) all over the place when I get bored and when I don’t feel like reading or writing. What will eventually happen with that, I don’t know–if anything–but I realize this morning that I haven’t been writing much this month–I’ve definitely been off, if not my rocker, but my game. I kind of have been ever since my desktop computer ceased functioning properly; I don’t think getting my computer back is going to be some kind of magic cure-all, but it should be a start.

After I dropped off the computer at the Apple Store and while I was waiting for my next appointment, I stopped at the Barnes and Noble on Veterans’ to kill time. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a B&N; obviously it was pre-pandemic, but it was much longer ago than that, obviously. It was a bit strange to be in such a public space (the Apple Store opens two hours before the rest of the mall, so walking through the almost-deserted halls and past all the closed stores had a sort of Night of the Living Dead feel to it–I know that’s probably not the right zombie/Romero film, but I’ve actually never seen any of those so sue me) but B&N was more confined and had more people–it was still pretty empty, but it was a strange experience. But it was lovely being in a bookstore–I resisted the urge to spend hundreds of dollars and limited myself to a lovely, inexpensive B&N edition of The Iliad and The Odyssey–and it was also interesting to walk around looking at books and seeing so many friends on the shelves, tables, and end-caps. The MWA handbook, How to Write a Mystery, was prominently displayed on the NEW RELEASES shelves, and I found myself examining books and just enjoying being around books.

Speaking of which, I started reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow, and am enjoying it. I need to get it finished, though, so I can read From Here to Eternity on my trip next week (yikes, I leave on Thursday).

So, my plan for today is to get my computer set up again, rehang the other door, run those errands and swing by the grocery store as well. With all of these other things taken care of, I also intend to clean today so tomorrow I will have the day free to answer emails, do some writing, and go to the gym….then it’s three days of work and the trip to Kentucky, and then before I know it, May will be ending and it will be June. #madness.

And on that note, I need to get cleaned up so I can head out to the Lakeside mall. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

Picture to Burn

Good morning, Constant Reader! It’s my official release day for my latest Todd Gregory tome, Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which I am kind of excited about. For one thing, I love the cover. For another, I am kind of proud of this book. I did something completely different than anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s also an homage to one of my favorite stories of all time: Les Liaisons Dangereuses. (I’ve also discovered that young people will just look at me blankly when I mention that; or even say Dangerous Liaisons, the award winning film with Glenn Close and John Malkovich from the late 1980’s; however, mention Cruel Intentions with Ryan Phillippe and Sara Michelle Gellar, and their eyes will light up.) It’s a wonderful story; after all, to date, there are four film versions thus far, and a stage version. The Glenn Close movie inspired Madonna’s MTV Video Awards performance of “Vogue”–which I absolutely loved. I am a sucker for the costumes of that era; Bourbon France (1589-1792) is one of my favorite periods of history; the French Revolution is endlessly fascinating to me (Les Liaisons Dangereuses was set in the early 1780’s, and there are those who call the at-the-time scandalous novel as one of the flagstones in the pathway to the French Revolution, by pointing out the corruption and evil behavior that boredom amongst the wealthy and spoiled aristocracy in France to a wider audience); and so my personal favorite film version of the story are the Glenn Close with the Annette Bening/Colin Firth Valmont coming in second. But Cruel Intentions is also very well done, and both Phillippe and Gellar inhabit the evil characters absolutely perfectly. I’ve always wanted to do my own version of the story; but I wanted to follow the novel (which I absolutely loved, and have reread several times) more so than the film.

I’ve played with the idea a lot over the years; the trick is that the novel is epistolary. The epistolary novel was very popular in previous centuries (Dracula is also epistolary for the most part; a mix of letters and diary entries), although it has fallen out of favor in modern times. I’ve always thought they were great; it was a way to get inside character heads much more so than just alternating third-person point of views, and it’s even harder to do alternating first person point of views–which I also didn’t know how to do, and was afraid to try (Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is perhaps the best example of this ever published). I thought about doing it in the form of emails years ago, and then. after Bold Strokes agreed to publish it, tried to figure out how to do it with modern technology–a combination of texts messages, emails, Facebook posts, etc. But that would also be a formatting nightmare for the technical side of publishing;  I even asked the formatter how it could be done, and the response wasn’t encouraging.

And then I reread one of my favorite books, The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, and I saw how it could be done–alternating first person point of view, present tense; in other words, tell the story in the present from the point of view of characters as it is happening to them, so you can also see, as in the letters, how their perspectives change and how the manipulations happen, and how they really feel. Yes, it was similar to how Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying, but at the same time, it was a challenge I wanted to take on: an erotic novel with a strong plot, told in the present tense, in alternating first person point of view.

Instead of using the same Beta Kappa chapter at CSU-Polk, I moved it to another campus; one that is more rich and more elite: the University of California at San Felice (a shout out to Margaret Millar, who used San Felice in some of her novels as a stand-in for Santa Barbara), on the California coast a few hours north of Los Angeles. I had the character of Brandon Benson, from Games Frat Boys Play, transfer and now he’s a senior, friends with Phil Connors, chapter president. Phil and Brandon are the primary characters in the story; the others the chess pieces they move around the board; Ricky Monterro is the nephew of a very wealthy self-made lawyer who is president of the alumni association, and a recent drop out from the seminary at Notre Dame who’s just realized he doesn’t want to be a priest, preferring to live openly and honestly as a gay man; Dylan, an incoming transfer from UCLA who is engaged to a soldier on a tour in the Middle East; and Kenny, a shy young gay virgin with no self-esteem who falls head over heels for Ricky at first sight.

Jordy from Games Frat Boys Play even makes an appearance, having rented a house on Fire Island for the summer, which is where Brandon and Dylan first run into each other.

Damn, this book was fun to write. Hope it’s as fun to read!

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