Cool Change

Saturday morning and I slept late, which felt positively marvelous. I feel rested and ready to kick some ass and take some names–at least for now, at any rate. Paul is going to be out of the house most of the day–appointments and going to the office–and therefore I have the Lost Apartment to myself for most of the day and no excuse not to get a lot of things done. I am still planning on walking over to the AT&T store to replace my phone–who knows how that is going to go?–but other than that, my day is pretty much set for cleaning, revising, and reading.

Last night, we started watching the new Netflix show The Umbrella Academy, based on the Dark Horse comic series–and while I didn’t madly love it, I am curious enough to continue watching. For one thing, it has both Ellen Page and Tom Hopper (who I’ve been crushing madly on since his days as Billy Bones on Black Sails), and it has an interesting premise. We will be continuing with it tonight, I think. I had just started reading Lori Roy’s Gone Too Long when Paul got home last night, and then was distracted by getting caught up on How to Get Away with Murder and then The Umbrella Academy.

And I’ve been dealing with yet another Apple upgrade issue that has fucked with my desktop, laptop, phone and iPad since last night. Now the cloud drive is missing from both my desktop and my laptop (I managed to resolve the handheld device issues last night) and so am trying to get that resolved this morning. Seriously, Apple–when you update/upgrade your systems, is it absolutely necessary to fuck up everything for your customers? 

Seriously, Apple. Do better.

So I am trying to resolve all this before scheduling a call from Apple Support…which I also don’t understand; you used to be able to do this in an on-line chat, but now of course they make you take a phone call. Why, precisely? And how able-ist is this? What about those of us who are hard of hearing, or those who are deaf? Seriously, fuck you in the ass without lubrication, Apple. HARD.

Thank you for allowing me to vent about these issues, Constant Reader. It’s helping me reduce the future body count.

This week I got a copy of Kyle Onstott’s bestselling Mandingo from the 1950’s. As Constant Reader is aware, I’ve been trying to diversify not only my fiction reading but to learn more about the horrible history of race in North America. Part of this has taking an amorphous shape in my head around a lengthy essay, tracing revisionism of slavery and the Old South and civil rights from such novels as The Clansman (which was filmed as Birth of a Nation) to Gone with the Wind to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Klansman, which I recently reread. As I was scrolling through Amazon Prime looking for something to watch the other night, I came across the late 1970’s film Mandingo, and remembered that it was also a novel. I bought a copy from eBay which arrived this week (I wasn’t able to get far in the movie because it was just incredibly bad; not even campy bad, like Showgirls, just bad.) The book arrived this week and….just looking at the note from the publisher in the beginning was horrifying. Yet Mandingo might just be the only novel about slavery and the Old South that actually tears the veneer of respectability and gentility away and exposes the true horror of what the “peculiar institution” was actually like. (Even John Jakes’ dreadful North and South series never delved deeply into the actual horrors; Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad was one of the first novels to truly explore this that I’ve read.) Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series, set in New Orleans before the Civil War, also does a terrific job of exploring how deeply entrenched and horrible racism/slavery were.

This essay I am thinking about would probably wind up, should I ever have the time to read the books and write it (it would, for example, require a reread of Gone with the Wind and it’s over eleven hundred pages, as well as some in depth reading of actual history) would probably be a part of Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life…which is a project I really do want to work on someday.  Mandingo takes on an aspect of slavery and the South that is rarely, if ever, touched on in fictions: the sexual abuse of the female slaves by their masters (come on, like it never happened. Really?) as well as the breeding of actual slaves for better, more valuable stock, as well as raising them for fighting–kind of a human version of cock-fighting or dog-fighting. Is it more likely that never happened, or that it did? Slavery, as Harriet Beecher Stowe repeatedly explained in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, debases both slave and master; are we really supposed to believe that slave-owners didn’t abuse their ‘property’?

Given how people of color–theoretically free and equal in the eyes of the law in the twenty-first century–are treated in the present day, I’m not buying the notion of the kind, gracious slave owner.

Take, for example, this passage from the Publisher’s Note to the movie tie-in paperback edition which I just received in the mail:

From today’s vantage point,, almost a hundred years after the cataclysm, the developing situation may be viewed objectively. Actually, the finger of blame should be pointed at no one geographical group of people. Although the factions that promoted the abolition of slavery were ethically in the right (emphasis: mine), Southern planters in general are shown to have been victims of circumstance rather than diabolical tyrants as they have sometimes been painted. (again, emphasis mine.)

Doesn’t get more apologetic than that, does it? Those poor planters. (massive eye roll)

And is it any wonder that we still have so many societal problems of racial injustice today?

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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New Year’s Day

Ah, the annual setting of goals.

1. Getting in better shape. Self-care is important, and there are fewer, easier ways to take care of one’s self than taking regular exercise. But self-care isn’t just the physical; it’s also the mental. So, I need to focus on taking care of myself mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I want to try to get a massage at least every other month, to help with that; and I also think I’m going to start practicing meditation and yoga. I’ve always liked doing yoga, and I need to stretch more regularly. The yoga-toes have already helped with my feet and leg-joint issues, and I need to use techniques to keep myself from feeling pressured. One of the reasons I stopped signing book contracts without having written the book already is because of the pressure deadlines put me under; I still don’t deal with those too well and I simply need to work on my own patience.

2. Finding an agent. This is still incredibly important; I cannot move to the next level of being a professional writer without an agent negotiating for me. I should have done this long ago, and I need to take this all very seriously going forward. I’ve been collecting names of agents and agencies over the last couple of years, but I still don’t have anything to show them. I sent the first fifty pages of the Kansas book out to some agents last year, and got no interest. Which is fine, it was more of a if you don’t ever start doing this you never will thing. But now that I’ve taken the Kansas book back to the drawing board, I think it’s time to accept that trying to make the Kansas book work is like trying to make fetch happen; it’s probably not going to ever be a thing. Which, while sad, is okay. I can always reuse what I’ve done for something else. But it’s also kind of freeing to let it go and think, okay, what else have I got up my sleeve? It’s only failure if I choose to view it that way, and I’m choosing not to; I did some good work on that manuscript and it may work out in some other way.

3. The Diversity Project. I had a lot of success with the Short Story Project, so I’ve decided to add a new reading project to my 2019: reading diverse books by diverse writers. First off, it’s a shame that I am having to make this a project in the first place; I should already be reading diverse authors. I’ve been buying books by minority writers for quite some time now and adding them to the TBR pile…and yet somehow those books never seem to manage to make it up to the top of the pile. What is that about, I wonder? But it’s definitely a thing, and I need to do something about it. I live for the day when I don’t even have to think about my choices because diversity has become commonplace; but I can’t talk the talk if I don’t walk the walk. How can I expect non-gay people to read my gay books if I don’t make an effort to make diverse reading choices myself? And I have a lot of these books on hand already. So why buy more books (always the question) when I have so many to read, so many to choose from? I will blog about these books as well, and I am going to do my part to try to diversify the crime genre and my own reading.

4. The Short Story Project. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t have read nearly as many short stories in 2018 had I not made a point out of doing so, and I have not come anywhere near reading all the anthologies and single-author collections I have on hand, so I am going to renew this project for 2019. I think it’s made me a better short story writer, and I’ve certainly enjoyed all the stories I read (with a few exceptions, of course; there are always exceptions, aren’t there?). I am, however, going to try to loosen the pressure on myself and limit myself to reading at least three per month as a goal, which would be thirty-six stories for the year. I think that’s do-able without creating any added pressure for me….because everything creates pressure for me, even things I start out doing as fun, if I’m not careful.

5. Writing more short stories. This is part of the Short Story Project, of course, but it also (without adding more pressure) was part of the point of the entire project in the first place; reading more short stories was meant to be a master class in short story writing, and therefore teaching me how to be better about writing them. I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my issue with revisions and rewriting and editing my own short stories has everything to do with my own stubbornness and my own refusal to admit a story isn’t working while still trying to force it to work. I have several of those; great concepts that I simply can’t pull off the way they currently sit, and I need to figure out some way to make them work as stories. My goal is to finish two collections within the next two years (Once a Tiger and Other Stories and Monsters of New Orleans),  as well as continue trying to get stories published as the year pass. I am very excited for the release of Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories this coming April 1. I definitely also want to get “Never Kiss a Stranger” finished and up as a Kindle single sometime this year.

6. Writing more personal essays. Yes, yes, I know the blog sort of counts as writing personal essays on a daily basis, but I’d like to start seeing them published in other places, and there are some blog entries that are more abstracts of what could be more in-depth, more introspective, and much longer. The goal is to ultimately come up with a collection of said essays called Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life, and again, this is a long-term goal; I’d like to have this collection ready in about three years.

7. More research on New Orleans history. This is also necessary for, of course, the writing of Monsters of New Orleans, which is a terrific project I am terribly excited about, plus I am kind of excited about reading up on New Orleans history, lore and legends, which will only make my writing about the city stronger and better. I am also looking forward on teaching myself how to do research, and making use of all the amazing local resources, such as the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Tennessee Williams Research Center, the public library resources, and of course, the Louisiana Historic Research Collection at Tulane University. (The Tulane library alone!) I am still reading Herbert Asbury’s The French Quarter whenever I get a minute, and there are so many others to read–currently in my research pile on my desk I have that and three Robert Tallant books (Voodoo in New Orleans, Ready to Hang, and The Voodoo Queen) along with Alecia Long’s The Great Southern Babylon and the ever classic Gumbo Ya-Ya.

8. Clearing out the TBR pile. I wasn’t able to read as much for pleasure this past year as I have in other years; primarily because I was judging a book award again (I think this will be the last time I actively participate in judging a book award; it’s just too time-consuming, not to mention all the books piling up in the house), and of course, all the research. I’ve also decided that books I want to keep to reread no longer need to be kept; if I need to read again or use it for research for another project (I still want to write about the romantic suspense writers who dominated the bestseller lists from mid-century through the 1980’s) I can always simply get an ebook version of it, which I can access and make notes easily on with the iPad. I also want to declutter the Lost Apartment, and let’s face it, the books are the primary problem.

9. Keeping a positive attitude. This is the hardest of all goals; because my mind is already trained to default to the negative. But negativity derails everything; and keeping belief in myself, no matter whatever career disappointments might lie around the corner for me, is necessary in order for me to do the work I need to do, not only on my writing but on myself, to be the best Gregalicious I can be. And ultimately, that’s the bottom line of all the goals, isn’t it? To be the best me I can be?

And now, back to the spice mines. I am taking a self-imposed exile from the Internet for the rest of the day, to get things done around the house, to write some more, to do some reading, and just get ready for the return to work this week. Happy New Year, one and all!

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Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven

Thursday, and the first day of a four-day weekend that just kind of dropped into my lap. The office move and so forth has had some complications; I’d planned on taking today off anyway, and then it occurred to me yesterday that I should just go ahead and take Friday as well; what was, after all, the point in taking Thursday off, working on Friday, and then having the weekend off? I’ve been very tired lately, badly in need of recharging the batteries, and the two-day weekends just haven’t been cutting it; so why not take a mini-vacation?

So, here I sit at my desk, looking outside at a gray day. Shadow is watching birds atop the stone fence outside my windows, there’s no sign of the sun anywhere, and it rained pretty heavily at some point in the early morning as everything is wet and shiny and dripping out there. I have a load of dishes and a load of laundry to put away; another load is running in the dishwasher, and the kitchen/office is completely out of control. Yes, indeed, there are plenty of things for me to do today, when the spirit so moves me.

We finished packing up the office Tuesday, and the movers came yesterday. I worked at the main office yesterday; a long ten hour day mostly doing paperwork, making condom packs, and then doing testing last night.  Apparently we’re waiting for some final clearances from the city before the new office building is up and operational. It was a little poignant saying good night and good luck to the office on Frenchmen Street when I left Tuesday night, and there were a couple of times  during that day when I felt a wave of sadness coming…but I made it. Yay, me.

Also Tuesday morning, the ebook of Bourbon Street Blues, aka Scotty I, went up for sale at long last. I’m very excited about this; it’s been unavailable for far, far too long, and people have been asking about it for years. But it’s finally a thing, and eventually a print version will also be available. If  you’re interested in getting the first Scotty ebook, you can get it right here. This makes me really happy; you’ve got no idea, Constant Reader. Especially since I am in such a Scotty state of mind with my writing these days.

Hopefully, Jackson Square Jazz (aka Scotty II) will be up by the end of the year as well, and all Scotty books will thus be available for anyone who wants to buy and read them.

I also finished writing Royal Street Reveillon  (aka Scotty VIII) Monday night. I am going to go ahead and get that turned in this week. I just need to add the chapter headings, which is always a fun part of the wrap-up process. I also have to do the afterward, but that’s going to have to be short–the book is clocked in at 101,000 (and some change) words. This is the longest book I’ve written in years. I guess I am writing longer these days. Not sure what that’s about, but there you have it. I feel relatively confident I can get these finishing touches on the book done today.

The rest of this week I am going to focus on replacing “Don’t Look Down” with two other stories for the collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I’ll probably start working on Bury Me in Satin, my Nanowrimo project, on November 1 and hopefully will have a healthy first draft finished by the end of the month, after which I will spend December revising it and tearing apart/restructuring the WIP, which is what I plan on doing in the first two months of the new year; I’ll then have to spend another month or so writing a new ending for it, and then another month or so revising and polishing. Hopefully, come April, it’ll be in good enough shape to try to lure in an agent. One can hope, at any rate. And then I want to spend the summer writing Muscles, and then I am going to spend the fall trying to write something historical about New Orleans; I am just not quite sure yet what that project will be.

I didn’t sleep well Sunday night, so Monday I was tired all day. Monday night I slept deeply, but had to get up earlier than I wanted to; I felt rested but still slightly sleepy. Sleepy is better than tired; there’s a difference, and that distinction is important–kind of like the difference, from working out, between sore and tired. Since this is the week of the office move, my work schedule was disrupted; I had to get up early every day until today, which made me cranky and tired every night. I’m not really sure what my schedule is going to be next week. Alas, uncertainty is not one of my stronger suits. But I did sleep very well last night, getting up just around nine this morning and I feel rested and alert. This is a very good sign for the rest of the day, and the potential for productivity.

I also started gathering my essays over the last couple of evenings, which was interesting and fun, yet weird at the same time. There were essays I’d published that I’d forgotten about writing and publishing–seriously, who else forgets work they’ve done and been paid for? This mook, that’s who. (MOOK? This is what comes from following David Simon on Twitter.) So yes, that is definitely going to take a while to get in order. It’s always interesting–at least to me–to come across old things I’ve written, whether I remember them or not. If I do remember writing them or what they’re about, I almost always discover my memory is wrong when I start rereading them. I don’t mind it; it’s just odd. That’s kind of where The Fictions of My Life comes from; my memories aren’t correct so frequently because of the interpretive personal filter I view everything through that I often suspect my memories differ so much from the reality that they are closer to lies than truth.

And on that note, I think I shall head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely day, everyone.

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Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?

Well, it’s Sunday morning and there’s a Saints game today; I will probably ignore it, as my blood pressure and heart can’t really take it, and spend the day continuing to keep my head down and try to plough through all this work I have to get done today.

I got very little done yesterday. I had, despite the good night’s sleep and the good rest I got Friday night, it turned out my batteries were still too low for me to get anything requiring a great deal of thinking and thought done. It’s a shame, and I may not have been wise to spend the day resting and watching television and reading, but it was what my brain and my soul needed. I also refuse to beat myself up for taking me time anymore; I am too old and no longer have the energy and/or wherewithal to work constantly without taking time to refresh and recharge and revisit.

The news of course doesn’t help; the constant sense of outrage and anger at events transpiring in the world every day drains me of a lot of energy. Social media, which used to be a fun way of recharging and seeing what people are up to, has turned into a cesspool of lies, ignorance and weaponized hatred. I refuse to engage with trolls or trollish behavior; my rule of social media has always been if I won’t say it to your face I won’t say it on-line. This, of course, can be intensely problematic because I will say it right to your face. But my energies are best spent elsewhere; hearts and minds cannot be changed or altered through nasty social media battling, and I have neither the patience or energy to waste on lost souls with no capacity for reason or logic or compassion for other human beings.

So, today I am going to get cleaned up, do some chores, and I am going to focus on getting some writing/revising/editing done. I had hoped to be finished with the Scotty revision today, but the end goal of being able to turn it in by November 1 is still a distinct possibility, even by not doing any work on it yesterday. One of my primary concerns, as I may have mentioned, was the fear that I am rushing the revisions on these final chapters in an attempt to get it finished on my self-imposed deadline, and yesterday I also realized that I still have an additional three to four days to get this done by the 1st. There’s no need, absolutely no none, to revise three chapters today when I can actually manage one per day and still finish on time. Stop adding stress and pressure to your life, Gregalicious–it will be done when it is time for it to be done.

I got a copy of Joan Didion’s essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and dived into it some yesterday while football games played in the background (I have to admit I enjoyed watching Georgia do to Florida what LSU did to them; and that untimed play touchdown for the win by Kentucky over Missouri was amazing–definitely going down in Kentucky lore, which is usually about near-misses and coming close. As it happened, I thought to myself, you know, these are situations where Kentucky used to always lose. Maybe there has been a sea-change in the Bluegrass State; we will see what happens when they host Georgia next weekend). Didion is a great stylist; the way she uses words and creates sentences and paragraphs with an eye for a very telling detail is extraordinary. (I have some issues with Didion and the lens through which she sees things, but despite that lens the way she writes is exceptional. If I ever sit down and write about Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls, I will probably address them at that time.) And as with any writer who is truly terrific, reading her words made me think about my own, and gave me some thoughts.

As I said at the time, reading Bolin’s Dead Girls made me start thinking about my own essays; I’ve written quite a few over the years, and of course, as my friend Laura points out to me, my blog is essentially me writing a daily personal essay. I don’t know if I ever say anything truly earth-shattering or profound; I don’t think of myself as a great thinker, or being particularly perceptive and incisive in my points of view on many subjects. My intellect–and my ability to write essays–are still things I don’t have a lot of confidence in; thank you, public education and land grant colleges for making me insecure about these things. One of the myriad of reasons I started writing this blog back in December of 2004 on Livejournal was because I wanted to write about things no one would pay me to write about; to share my observations of the world, society, politics, and culture through the lens of a gay man in a highly homophobic world; it was also why I wrote about gay characters and themes in my fiction. My writing, by virtue of my lavender lens, is always going to be somewhat political; despite my privilege as a white man I still didn’t hit the privilege trifecta of straight white male, and while the privilege of being white male is still much better than any other variation of that, gay also negates a great deal of that.

I had originally, and always thought, that if I ever wrote about the Virginia experience, it would be an entire book, which I always jokingly called, to myself, Gay Porn Writer, because that was the way I amused myself throughout the entire banning experience–laughing about me being described in so many newspapers and angry emails and complaints as “gay porn writer Greg Herren.” Over the years since all that nonsense, and over the last few years in particular, I realized that isn’t enough material to write an entire book around, and realized I needed, if I was ever going to write about that experience, another hook. I thought about extrapolating that happening to me in 2004 with the changes in publishing and society since then; but it was always kind of amorphous. I thought maybe using that experience as a jumping off spot to talking about race, gender, and sex might be a great idea. Realizing that the Virginia experience was the basis for a personal essay, a long one, to be added to a collection of other essays I’ve written as well as others I could write, that I could write about my life and my experience and call the collection Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life was probably the best way to do this, and more workable than simply trying to piece together a non-fiction narrative about how gay work is seen as porn by so many homophobic people because the very word gay makes them think about sucking cock or butt fucking.

And I’ve written so much! I had no idea how much non-fiction I’ve actually done in my career; how many author interviews, how many book reviews and fitness columns and whatever else may have you I’ve written and published over the years.

One of the things I did do yesterday around the laziness was start writing down essay titles I remember having written in my journal, in order to start searching through files and computer drives for them, to put them all into one easily accessible folder for me in the future…which also startled me; I remembered so many, and there are probably many more that I don’t remember. But that’s one of the chores I’ve assigned myself today; start pulling those together. I know my essay from Love, Bourbon Street, about Katrina and the evacuation, is rather lengthy and would have to be the anchor to the book.

And now, back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Rhythm is a Dancer

Christ, it’s the Friday before Halloween. The Quarter is going to be full of gays from all over the country all weekend, most of them costumed for at least part of the time.

And 90% of them will have costumes that include either sexy or slutty in the official name: “Sexy Sailor,” “Slutty Nurse,” etc etc.

Boy, do I feel old–because even as recently as ten years ago I would be chomping at the bit to get down there, have a good time, ogle some pretty boys, and have a good time. Instead, I’ll be hunkered down here in the Lost Apartment all weekend, proofing and editing and revising and copy-editing. I also have some reading to do, and there’s this week’s Riverdale–I seriously don’t know why I still watch, other than the really attractive and charismatic cast, because the plots do not make any sense–so yeah, I probably won’t be setting foot outside the house until Monday.

Ah, my first New Orleans Halloween.

It was 1994, and I hadn’t met Paul yet. I had just started my new exercise and diet regimen in late August, and I had never been to anything like the New Orleans Halloween weekend before. I have always had a contentious relationship with my body, and this Halloween was going to be the first time I ever dared to wear a slutty Halloween costume; granted, I was simply going as an ancient Egyptian, which meant, of course, being shirtless. This was a big step for me–I was going to go out in public without a shirt on; and it was a big gay Halloween costume ball. I even bought a headdress to go with the little skirt I had made for the event, and did my eyes with mascara and drew a thick line around my eyes and out to the side with eyeliner. My eyes looked huge. 

I also stupidly wore gold glitter. I never made the glitter mistake again.

I had such a lovely time that weekend. It was, I think, one of the first and best times I ever had as an out gay man–how sad that it took to age thirty-three for that to happen; but it did take me a very long time to deprogram myself from everything I learned growing up. (I’m still finding, from time to time, that I’ve not made as much progress as I would have liked, or hoped, to have made by now) But it was one of the first times that I felt like I was actually a part of the gay community; and I’ve tried, over the years, to write about the sense of belonging one gets when one in is in a sea of gay men dancing to great music and everyone just wants to have a good time; a blessed respite from the dangers and horrors of the every day world. I also distinctly remember being out on the dance floor in the midst of all these happy men dancing (the song was “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys) and thinking, we are finding joy behind locked doors, forgetting everything that goes on outside and creating an oasis, kind of like in “The Masque of the Red Death.”

I wrote a story in my journal the next morning–while recovering over coffee–that was basically that; a gay adaptation of the Poe story. I’ve never revisited that story, but I just might, now that I am thinking about pulling together a collection of personal essays called Gay Porn Writer: The Fictions of My Life. So, yes, that’s yet another book I am currently working on. I have Bourbon Street Blues to proof, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories to go over, Royal Street Reveillon to finish, and my second short story collection, Once a Tiger and Other Stories, also in progress.

And I am also planning yet another collection, Monsters of New Orleans.

And there’s also the WIP.

This. Is. Fucking. INSANE.

Nothing like some creative ADHD, is there?

I have so much writing work to get done this weekend. And once again, I am having an attack of the lazies this morning. I even did laundry and some cleaning last night to free myself up for today’s work…and yet here I sit, lingering over coffee and social media and not really feeling particularly interested in getting to work.

And on that note, I should probably return to the spice mines.

Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

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