Watching Scotty Grow

As I get ready to write another Scotty book, I am busy making his acquaintance all over again. It might seem strange, but yes, although I’ve written eight books about my ex-go-go boy/personal trainer/private eye, it remains true in this as in all other aspects of my life that my memory is not what it once was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written a Scotty book since the first three without having to go back and revisit the series again. I have made continuity errors over the years (Scotty’s mother’s name changed over the course of the series, from Cecile to Marguerite and back to Cecile again), and I may forget things about his past and things I’ve written in previous books, but the one thing I never ever forget is his voice.

No matter what else is going on in my life, Scotty’s voice is very easy for me to slip back into, like a house shoe, and it somehow always feels like coming home to me in some ways. This is odd–because I would have always thought Chanse was the series character I was more connected to rather than Chanse, but that’s not the case at all. Scotty just won’t go away; but I ended the Chanse series and only every once in a while do I regret it (although I am beginning to suspect that I am going to probably end up writing another Chanse novel at some point in my life; I have two ideas that he’d be perfect for, but it also might be better and more challenging for me to simply come up with a whole new character for those stories rather than resurrecting Chanse); Scotty just won’t ever go away.

The idea for the Scotty series famously came to me during Southern Decadence, 1998.

(Well, I don’t know about famously, but I know I’ve told this story before many, many times. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to see how I remember the birth of the character and the series now)

It was a Sunday afternoon, and Paul and I had somehow managed to get prime balcony standing spots–at the Bourbon Pub/Parade, right at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon where the railing curves at the corner to head alongside the upper floor down the St. Ann side; so we could look down directly into the roiling mass of sweaty, almost completely naked bodies of hundreds of gay men from all over the country. That was my favorite spot for Decadence sight-seeing (Halloween, too, for that matter), and as I looked down into the crowd, I saw a guy in booty shorts and a very very loose fitting tank top, carrying a bag and trying to get through. I recognized him as one of the out-of-town dancers working at the Pub/Parade that weekend (I may have tipped him the night before) and as I watched in sympathy as he tried to get through that tightly-packed crowd of gays in various stages of being wasted, I closed my eyes and an image of him–or someone like him–fighting his way through the Decadence crowd while being chased by bad guys with shaved heads popped into my head just as Paul said, next to me, “You should really write a story set during Decadence” and then it popped into my head: someone escaping the bad guys has slipped a computer disc into one of the dancers’ boots on Friday night as he danced on the downstairs bar, and the bad guys want the disc back.

I didn’t have any way to write it down, obviously–I was wearing booty shorts, socks, and half-boots that came to my ankles, with nothing underneath the shorts and I had my tank top tucked through a belt loop like a tail in the back–yet even the title popped into my head: Bourbon Street Blues. The idea clearly stuck, because when I got home the next morning at about six or seven, dehydrated, drenched in sweat and having lost the tank top at some point during the night, I remembered it and wrote it down.

At some point over the next two years, I wrote a short story called “Bourbon Street Blues” about my stripper–only instead of being from out of town, I made him a local, filling in for someone booked from out of town for the weekend who had to cancel–and wrote about seven thousand words. It felt very rushed to me–the story–and I kept thinking it’s too long for a short story, it would have to be a novel but I also wasn’t sure there was enough story there for a novel. But I liked the idea, no one (at least, to the best of my knowledge) had written anything like it, and I thought, someday I’ll get a chance to write this story and develop this character.

Flash forward to 2001. This was during the time Paul and I had moved to DC to work for the Lambda Literary Foundation, we were miserable there and wanted to move back to New Orleans but didn’t have the money to do so, and the release of Murder in the Rue Dauphine was still at least a year away. I was talking to an editor on the phone about one of his new gay releases, and out of the blue I just pitched Bourbon Street Blues to him. He loved the idea, and asked me to write a proposal and email it to him. I had never written a proposal before, but I thought what the hell, how hard can it be? and so I wrote a two page proposal for the book. Two months later they made me a two-book offer–and the money was good enough to pay for Paul and I to move back to New Orleans as well as to live on for a while. I had only seen the book as a one-off, but they wanted a series. I needed and wanted the money, so I thought I can figure this out later and signed it.

Three months later, we moved back to New Orleans and I started writing the book.

The one thing I wanted to do with Scotty was make him unabashedly, unashamedly, gay. I didn’t want him to have any hang-ups, a sad backstory, or parental issues. I wanted him to be a free spirit who embraces life with both hands, lived in the Quarter, and loved having sex, loved being found desirable, and never really said anything or thought anything mean about anyone else. I made him a personal trainer, and his poverty–he agrees to do the dancing gig for Decadence because he’s behind on his rent and other bills; he teaches aerobics and was a personal trainer–comes from his grandparents freezing his trust funds when he dropped out of college to go to work for a booking agency for male dancers. He has since stopped doing that, but fills in when needed (and when he needs the money) at the Pub/Parade. I also based the shitty politician running for governor–and trying to mount a Christofascist takeover of the state, beginning with an attack on Southern Decadence–on an actual politician who ran for the US Senate shortly after we moved here; we saw him being interviewed on the news and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke, some kind of performance art–but forget it Greg, it’s Louisiana.

I also want to let you know that while I was working on this manuscript my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, was released–and I got a “damned with faint praise” review from the Bay Area Reporter, which complained that “it would have been nice to see inside the heads of the other characters”, which took me aback as the book was a first person narrative, which made that impossible. What the reviewer I think was trying to say was that she wished the book had been told in the third person; that to her that would have made the book more interesting to her. But in my baby-author naïveté, all I could think was how can you see inside the heads of other characters in a third person narrative unless the main character was psychic?And the proverbial lightbulb came on over my head. Make Scotty a psychic. This was also an integral key to the puzzle of who Scotty was; the reviewer also yawned over my “gay stereotypes” in Rue Dauphine, so I decided to make Scotty the embodiment of all the worst stereotypes of muscular gay men who worked out and had a lot of sex. Just writing that down now, I realize how incredibly insane it was for me to use my new series book and character to respond to criticism o my debut novel; and when the book came out I braced myself for the inevitable backlash to come.

No one was more surprised than I was at how readers embraced him. The book got great reviews, even from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (Kirkus, of course, has always pretended I don’t exist). Bourbon Street Blues was even nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery of 2003 (I lost, I think to John Morgan Wilson?) shortly after the sequel, Jackson Square Jazz, was released.

Jackson Square Jazz’s story was actually a recycled idea I had for a spin-off book for Chanse’s best friend Paige. The original concept was that someone would steal the Louisiana Purchase from the Cabildo–and somehow Paige stumbled onto the theft, and knew that the one on display currently there was a copy. (I was calling it, originally enough, Louisiana Purchase.) I decided to make that the basis of the second Scotty book. (This was inspired by a documentary I’d seen about the Cabildo fire of 1989–that may be the wrong date–and how the fire department tried saving everything in the museum before fighting the fire. I remembered how in the documentary they literally were placing historical objects and paintings against the fence at Jackson Square and thinking, anyone could have walked off with something during the fire…and my imagination immediately was off to the races.) Unfortunately, when I met with the museum director–whose actual first day on the job was the day of the fire–I found out that 1) the copy of the Louisiana Purchase at the Cabildo was actually only a replica and the original was stored in the weather-protected underground archive at the Library of Congress and 2) it was more than one page long–I’d imagined it was one large document like the Declaration of Independence; it is not. However–he also suggested I make the MacGuffin the Napoleon death mask–one of the three originals made when Napoleon died–and gave me some great backstory on it as well that I don’t remember if I used in the book or not; but it was a lot of fun talking to him (his name escapes me at the moment, alas) and was a great example of why it is important to actually do research and talk to people.

I also wanted to include figure skating–the working title for the book was Death Spiral, which the publisher made me change, asking for something alliterative, like Bourbon Street Blues–and so I decided to open the book with Scotty having a horrific hangover and then realizing someone was in the bed with him (it’s to this day one of my favorite book openings; what slutty gay man hasn’t been there?)…and then I remembered I’d introduced two love interests for Scotty in book one, and here he was in bed with someone else entirely. (The young man he woke up with was a figure skater in town to compete at Skate America, being held in the Smoothie King Arena.) I loved both of his love interests, and knew I was going to have to bring both of them back somehow, and then I was going to have to figure out which one he’d end up with. (Spoiler: I couldn’t decide, so he wound up with both of them.) I also threw in a ghost, a billionaire artifact collector, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. I turned in the book, along with a proposal for Book Three, in which I finally decided I was going to resolve the threeway relationship personal story, and that would be the end of the Scotty trilogy.

Man plans and God laughs. (Jackson Square Jazz was also nominated for a Lambda; I think this was the time I lost to Anthony Bidulka.)

Mardi Gras Mambo turned out to be an entire other kettle of fish.

I’m not entirely sure I remember exactly what the original plot of Mardi Gras Mambo was going to be, but I know it had to do with the Krewe of Iris (Scotty’s sister Rain belongs) and the book opened at the Iris parade on the Saturday morning before Fat Tuesday. It was due in June of 2004, and of course, I wasn’t nearly finished by the time Memorial Day rolled around, and was planning on asking for another month on the manuscript on the Tuesday after. Of course, that was the Memorial Day weekend when Paul was attacked and everything went to hell in my personal life. My publisher was incredibly kind; they took the book off schedule, told me to take care of Paul, and get the book done whenever I got the book done.

I started writing it again in January of 2005, shortly after I began keeping a blog in order to get me writing again. That was when the Christian/Virginia nonsense happened, and everything got derailed again. When I started writing the book again, I threw out everything except that first chapter at the Iris parade–which did wind up in the final book–and I do not recall what the second plot I chose to write was at this time, other than I knew I was bringing in a Russian character, inspired by someone I’d seen around in the bars for years and had always been just awestruck by his body–and yes, that Russian turned out to eventually be Wacky Russian, my personal trainer. I actually kept this as an inspiration–Eclipse used to be the nightlife insert for IMPACT News, a queer newspaper that died out in the early aughts:

Finally, it was April 2005, and I started writing Mardi Gras Mambo again. I had the plot all figured out–it was completely insane–but I also realized I couldn’t end the personal story with Scotty the way I had hoped and wrap it all up with Book Three. There had to be a Book 4, and so when I finished the book at last and turned it in, I included a proposal for a fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle–which was going to be set during an evacuation for a hurricane that missed New Orleans…I always thought it would be interesting to write a mystery story set during such an evacuation.

Of course, I turned the book into Kensington on August 14th, 2005. Fourteen days later, Paul, Skittle and I fled from New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

I wouldn’t come back for good until October 11. Paul didn’t come home until after Thanksgiving.

Of course, I wrote to my editor a day or so after the levee failure to say, well, I don’t think I can write that book I proposed now.

I didn’t see, for a very long time afterwards, how I could write another Scotty book–light, funny, zany–in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Then one day I was walking to work from where I’d parked my car and some people on bicycles came riding toward me. They smiled and waved and I smiled and waved back…and realized oh my God, that was Brad and Anjelina. Their house wasn’t far from my office–in fact, it was quite literally around the block from where Scotty lived–and I thought, you know, Brad kind of looks the way I describe Scotty–wouldn’t it be funny if someone tried to kill Scotty because he looked like a movie star who lived in his neighborhood? The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I started writing the proposal for Hollywood South Hustle when I got home from work that night. I was so certain they would take it that I started developing the characters and writing out a detailed synopsis…and they turned it down.

I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a marketing decision. Even if they signed the book immediately, it would still be another year before it would come out, and they felt by then Scotty’s audience was long gone, if it wasn’t already. It was disappointing, but right around the same time Alyson came back to me for a fourth Chanse book but they needed it right away–like within ten weeks–so I turned the Scotty story into Murder in the Rue Ursulines. I finished the book, turned it in, and figured the Scotty series was dead, alas.

Shortly thereafter, during the Gay Easter Parade an idea for a different Scotty book occurred to me . The parade was over and I was walking back to my car to drive home when I walked underneath a balcony…just as they started watering their plants. I got soaked–you can’t get mad, it happens in the Quarter periodically and it’s just one of those New Orleans things–and I thought, you really need to write about this. As I walked to the car, dripping, I pictured Scotty hurrying to catch a ride on his parents’ business’ float for the Easter Parade–and of course, he’d wear a white bikini, rabbit ears, and have a rabbit tail–when the exact same thing happened to him, only his bikini would become see-through when wet. By the time I’d driven home, I’d figured that the person on the balcony would be an old friend of his parents’, he’d invited Scotty in to dry off, and when Scotty was on his way home from the parade, the cops would be there because the friend had been murdered. Using The Moonstone as my inspiration, I came up with another MacGuffin story, a way for Colin to come back and explain everything that happened during Mardi Gras Mambo, and I had the perfect ending to Scotty’s story. I just didn’t have a publisher.

But Bold Strokes Books, a primarily lesbian publisher, had started doing books by and about gay men. I’d taken an erotica anthology to them when it was orphaned by the death of its original publisher, and so I wrote and asked if they wanted a Scotty story. They did, and thus Scotty came back to life one more time…and I figured that was the end of it. I wrapped up the personal story about the three-way relationship in a way that was organic and made sense; and I also added a new wrinkle to Scotty’s personal life: Frank’s late-in-life decision to become a professional wrestler. (One of the things we locals learned from Hurricane Katrina was to not put off following or chasing dreams or goals; my attitude thus became go for it and I started chasing down dreams I’d pushed to the side for years.) Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo were both nominated for Lambdas, but at this point I can’t remember who I lost to in both of those cases–for the record, Lambda has never rewarded a Scotty book with an award–probably because they are inevitably funny and over-the-top, which never wins awards because funny is seen as “not serious,” despite the fact that humor/comedy is much harder than drama/tragedy.

I didn’t think I was going to write another Scotty book then, either. But then something miraculous happened: the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and I wanted to write about what it was like to live here during that incredible time. It didn’t seem like the right story for another Chanse book, so I thought, well, I can pull Scotty back out and write it from his point of view.

And of course, Who Dat Whodunnit was just sitting there for the title. How could I not write that book?

I had already established over the course of the series that the two sides of his family–the Diderots (maternal) and the Bradleys (paternal) didn’t really get along. The Diderots go back to Iberville and the 1718 settling of New Orleans; the Bradleys were Americans who came after 1803, and thus are not only parvenus to the aristocratic Diderots, but also l’Américains. Perish the thought! We’d also established that the Diderots were not nearly as conservative as their State Street living in-laws, but we’d never actually seen much of the Bradley side of the family, so I thought why not do the Bradleys and let us get to know the other side of Scotty’s family? It was around the same time I started reading about a megachurch out in Kenner (or Metairie? I don’t recall) that was rising to prominence in local politics and was, as you can imagine, homophobic. The same-sex marriage wars were also being fought at this time; and during one of those pageants (Miss America? Miss USA?) the reigning Miss California was asked about same-sex marriage during the question portion by judge Perez Hilton (why was he judging a beauty pageant for women is a mystery for the ages) and she responded that her faith had taught her that marriage was between a man and a woman (the audience started jeering) and she apologized by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s how I was raised!” She wound up as First Runner-Up, and some felt, rightly or wrongly, that her “politically incorrect” answer cost her the title. In some ways, I felt bad for her (although it’s not my fault it’s how I was raised I have always thought was an incredibly stupid thing to say; you have free will, and you should be capable of making up your own mind rather than simply parroting things without question you were raised to believe. So if your parents were racist white supremacists…) but then of course, the Right tried to turn her into a martyr and heroine, and she dove right into that headfirst, erasing any sympathy I might have felt for her (I still think the question was inappropriate for a pageant, as would be anything polarizing–and yes, well aware that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be polarizing, but here we are), and of course, Miss Upright Moral Christian had a bit of a shady past that eventually came out and that was that. I decided to base the murder victim in the book on this girl, and tried to explore the influence of this megachurch on her. I also gave Scotty a first cousin who was the darling of the Bradley grandparents because he was a jock and was on the Saints team as a player–but also a homophobic asshole. The Bradleys were like something out of Tennessee Williams–I think I even named Scotty’s uncle (the football player’s dad) Uncle Skipper as an homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

There’s a lot of story there left in the Bradley side of the family, now that I think about it–and I’ll be digging into that in the new one, rest assured!

Funny story: After I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit, I decided I was not going to write another Scotty book. This had been Book 5 of what started as a stand-alone and then became a trilogy and yet somehow, I’d kept going on top of that. I kind of felt played out a bit with Scotty, and the longer the series went on, the more problems I was having with things like character ages–Scotty was getting older, which meant his parents were getting older, which meant his grandparents were getting older, too. I didn’t want to deal with the deaths of his grandparents (or Aunt Sylvia, who was his grandmother’s age and had married Uncle Misha), and so I had two options: pretend they weren’t getting older and not talk about their ages, or let the series go. I was still writing Chanse at the time, and I kind of figured that would be the series that went on longer. But I was on a panel at Saints and Sinners and someone from the audience asked me if there would be another Scotty.

GREG: Probably not, but if I can figure out a way to include Mike the Tiger (the live tiger mascot at LSU), Huey Long, and a treasure hunt for Huey’s deduct box, I will.

(I had read T. Harry Williams’ award winning biography Huey Long and had become fascinated completely with him. All I had known about Long going into reading that biography was that he’d been a demagogue (thanks, US History textbook from high school) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men had been loosely based on his life and career. Mention Long’s name to anyone and they immediately reply with “oh, he was so corrupt”–which amused me, since every Louisiana politician is corrupt to a degree–and I knew Roosevelt and others had worried about him as a populist politician who reminded them of Hitler (and the way he crushed his opposition in Louisiana and essentially became the state’s dictator, who could blame them?), but what was the real story? And Huey Long made me start to have what was at first a grudging admiration for him which grew into a kind of fandom the more I learned. (There are some similarities–more than one would think–between Long and LBJ in the Caro biographies, as well as with Robert Moses, another Caro biography; which would make for a very interesting comparison/contract essay at some point.) But the more I read about Long, the more I wanted to write about him. He fascinated me, and the fact that his trove of cash–the deduct box–was never recovered after his murder was even more fascinating to me.)

And don’t you know, later that night, it came to me. A few months earlier there had been a bomb threat at the LSU campus, and there had been some controversy about how the administration had handled the situation–they’d evacuated Mike the Tiger off the campus before the mass evacuation call for the students. It made sense to me (but I didn’t blame the students for being upset because it absolutely looked like the administration cared more about the tiger’s safety than the students’)–in the chaos of evacuating the campus, getting the tiger out safely would have been a nightmare, and God forbid something happen and Mike got loose. Then it hit me: what if some animal rights’ activists had staged the bomb threat in order to steal the tiger in order to set him free somewhere? (Mike is a frequent target of PETA, who often calls for him to be released into the wild–not in the US, of course–, or sent to a big cat sanctuary.) So, I had the tiger kidnapped, and since Huey Long was responsible for LSU being what it is today, it only made sense for the treasure hunt to have to do with his missing “deduct box”–Huey always used cash, after his assassination the deduct box containing thousands and thousands of dollars in cash disappeared–and there we had it: a plot involving Mike the Tiger, Huey Long, and the deduct box.

This was also the book where I decided to extend Scotty’s family a bit further by adding a new, younger gay character to the mix: Taylor, Frank’s nephew, disowned by Frank’s sister and her homophobic husband after he comes out to them after a semester in Paris, and so he comes to live with Scotty and the boys in the house on Decatur Street. I wanted to bring in someone younger, and gay, with literally hardly any gay experience in the world to reflect the change between generations of gay men and how they view being gay and the rest of the world.

I also figured this would be the last one, but like I said, Scotty just won’t go away.

SIDENOTE: I had to write to the administrators of the Huey Long website for permission to use some quotes from the site in the book. Needless to say, they were very wary of me when they responded, so I emailed them the chapter where I would use the quotes–Scotty was doing some research on Long, and came across the website. Like me, Scotty had always been told Long was corrupt and a demagogue…but demagogues also don’t get things done, which Long did. Some of Long’s programs–like the Homestead Exemption–still exist as public policy in Louisiana. They wrote me back, granting permission…and that was when I found out the person I was talking to was Long’s great-granddaughter, who was rightfully suspicious of anyone writing about her great-grandfather. I sent her a copy of the book when it was finished, and she sent me a lovely thank you card, which is probably one of my favorite writing souvenirs.

The genesis of Garden District Gothic was weird, but yet serves as yet another example of my adage never throw anything you’ve written away.

I had always wanted to spin Chanse’s best friend, journalist Paige Tourneur, off into her own series. I had always intended to do so; from the first time I thought her up for Murder in the Rue Dauphine I thought, “she’s fun and witty and interesting and that weird name–there’s so much more story there than we can get to as a supporting player in a series about someone else.” I have so much written down about Paige and her origin story; how she came up with that name and why; how she wound up at LSU; and so on and so forth. A friend started an ebook publishing company, and wanted me to write Paige novellas for her; I did two–Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans–but the sales, frankly, weren’t there and I didn’t have the necessary time to put in marketing them to help drive the sales, so even though I’d started a third, The Mad Catter, we agreed to kill the series and pull the first two from availability; ultimately, I was working too hard for too little pay-off. I was disappointed, obviously; Paige was kind of a passion project for me–I’d made any number of false starts writing a series book for her, and it was sad to see that there wasn’t an audience for her after all. But I had about four chapters of The Mad Catter in place, and I didn’t want to waste the time spent on them…so I decided to turn them into a Scotty book, which became Garden District Gothic.

I also brought in a new character–a true crime writer with a shady past of his own–who actually wrote a book, a la Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the case. The name of his book? Garden District Gothic. I brought him in, thinking I would spin him off into his own book/series–I thought it might be fun to write about a writer…(I thought about using him as the main character in another book based on an actual unsolved string of murders in a rural Louisiana parish, but very quickly realized he was simply an amalgamation of Scotty and Chanse, so that book–The Bodies in the Bayou–went onto the backburner. I think I may have created the character before, in the Chanse series, but I could be remembering that wrong. I also used this book to sort of set up the next; I will explain that further when I am talking about Royal Street Reveillon. I also crossed the character of Paige Tourneur over from the Chanse series into the Scotty series (I loved the character, hated to sideline her after I ended the Chanse series and the novella series didn’t pan out); not that she will be a big part of the Scotty series, but hey, every so often I need a journalist, and why not use a character I am very fond of already and wasn’t ready to stop writing about?

The book was loosely based, obviously, on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case–a decades old notorious murder of a child in the Garden District that was never solved. I wanted to examine and explore issues of class in New Orleans, but I am not entirely sure I pulled off what I intended with the book.

Then again, I think that with every book, don’t I?

And we now come to the (so far) most recent book of the Scotty series, Royal Street Reveillon.

Originally I’d envisioned the Scotty trilogy (when it morphed from a stand-alone) as encompassing the three big gay holidays in New Orleans: Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. Jackson Square Jazz wound up taking place just before Halloween, alas; Scotty talks about their costumes in the epilogue, but I hit the other two holidays out of the park. When I added a fourth book, I tied it to the Gay Easter Parade–Scotty is on his way to ride on the Devil’s Weed’s float when the book opened–and then of course the next book was sort of Christmas/sort of Mardi Gras/sort of the Super Bowl. Baton Rouge Bingo was the first book that wasn’t tied to a holiday of some sort; neither was Garden District Gothic. But for the next Scotty book, I wanted to do a Christmas book. I’ve never really written much about Christmas, and I do love the season, especially in New Orleans. I wasn’t sure what kind of plot I was going to use, but I knew it was going to be set during Christmas season and I knew I wanted to use reveillon, the Christmas season meal you use to break your fast for Mass, in the title. I had introduced one of the characters from Dead Housewives of New Orleans in Garden District Gothic, so it only made sense to me (or so it seemed at the time) for me to take the framework of Dead Housewives–the entire Real Housewives spoof I wanted to write–and build this new story around it. I changed a lot–made the overarching story much more complicated, and especially complicating the “whodunnit” aspects of the three murders that all occurred within twenty-four hours of the premiere party for Grande Dames of New Orleans.

I also did a couple of horrible things to Scotty and his loved ones over the course of this book…which will have to be dealt with in the new one, alas. I hate when I do this to myself! But with Royal Street Reveillon and its darker themes, I wanted to show how much Scotty has grown and changed over the course of the series; he’s evolved as a person, partly because of the changes to his life and partly because of what he experiences through the murders he finds himself involved in. Do I wish, as I start writing Mississippi River Mischief, that maybe I hadn’t given so many growth opportunities over the years to Scotty and his gang of family and friends? Absolutely. But that’s part of the challenge of writing a series, and what makes it so much fun.

*Funny story about the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues. Back in the day, publishers used to meet with reps from Barnes & Noble and Borders to show them covers and get their input; covers were changed based on those meetings. The Bourbon Street Blues cover was so in-your-face it took me aback when I first saw it; and they had toned the original image down dramatically, mainly smoothing down the bulge so it wasn’t so in-your-face. The Barnes & Noble buyer told them, “he needs a bigger bulge” so they made it bigger–but were still cautious; the image’s original bulge was still bigger. I do think that story is hilarious.

Oh Be My Love

Sunday morning and oh so much to do. I slept in this morning until eight thirty (oh dear! The vapors!), and feel a bit groggy but also rested and well, which is lovely. I think the panel yesterday went well–one never knows for sure, does one?–but I think the panelists were smart and entertaining and fun and informative; I certainly enjoyed listening to their answers to my borderline puerile questions. I also didn’t stick close to the topic–I never do, another reason I am a shitty moderator–but the most important thing is to stay out of the way of the panelists as they talk about their writing. Whether I succeeded or not remains to be seen; moderating isn’t my strength by any means, I loathe doing it, and it’s also not something I enjoy doing, for that matter.

Then again, that might just be more evidence of Imposter Syndrome. Who knows?

I also woke up to a cover reveal for the Magic is Murder anthology! Edited by the wonderful Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, this lovely anthology includes my story “The Snow Globe,” which is another example of Gregalicious never letting a story idea die. This story began life as a Halloween story (original opening line: Satan had a great six-pack), was converted to a Christmas story (opening line: Santa had a great six-pack–only had to move the n!) and finally found a home. Thanks to the Terrific Trio for all their help with my story, and I am, as always, excited to see another short story of mine in print. Huzzah!

I need to add a caveat to my earlier “well-rested” sentence: my legs and hip joints ache from walking to the Monteleone and back two days in a row. My legs feel terribly tired, and my hip joints are very achy this morning–as evidenced just not when I got up to make another cup of coffee. I am sure it has something to do with the new shoes and needing new shoe inserts; it usually does–but it’s still rather annoying at the same time. I guess I am grateful it’s not my knees or ankles, but nevertheless, pretty aggravating. I have a lot to do today–I’ve already made a list of what needs to be done today–and I am probably going to spare some more wake-up time to reading Alex Segura’s marvelous Secret Identity. I spent some time with it yesterday while taking breaks from everything I need to scratch off my to-do list, and I am really enjoying it. I am enjoying the feel and vibe of the comic book world and New York in the 1970’s; it would be really fun to see a Mad Men/The Deuce type show developed by Segura set in the comics world of this time. I spent some time last night unwinding over a couple of episodes of Young Justice, which I am also enjoying, and then watched two DC animated movies: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, both of which I deeply enjoyed; the lovely thing about the animated movies is they can actually use the entire cast of DC heroes and aren’t as limited as the television shows or live-action films by casting. I love seeing the DC heroes of my comic fandom days in action–Red Tornado, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, etc.–turning up in the animation; I’ve missed them as the movies focus on the bigger names and the television shows are also slightly limited by casting as well–they aren’t using first tier, like the movies, but what I would call Tier 1A. (Although I will gladly argue that the CW’s Superman and Lois is the best take on the characters since the Christopher Reeve Superman films.)

I also spent some time watching the World Figure Skating championships, which was delightful. Two American ice dance teams medaled (a rare occurrence), and I think this may be the first time in history that the US has gotten a medal in every discipline? I know we’ve not had a pairs champion since 1979 with Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia, and it’s been a while since we had a pairs medal of any kind. And our future looks bright with two up-and-comers in Men’s.

So, I had probably best gird my loins and venture into today’s spice mines. Paul will be home tomorrow (yay!) and I need to not only get the apartment not only under control, but everything else in my life, and I am feeling better about everything, really. I don’t know why I allow myself to get so wrapped up in despair and overwhelmed by everything I have to do; everyone has things to do and everyone has their own pace, and well, it just is what it is, you know?

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Y’all have a great Sunday, okay?

One for One

FRIDAY!!!!

Yesterday was a good day. I slept extremely well, got up, answered some emails and printed some things out that I needed to sign and scan and send back, data entered, and then made condom packs. Once I was finished with my work-at-home duties for the day, I went to the gym. Yes, that’s right–one more time for those in the back: I went to the gym again. It was a lovely late afternoon–early December is so lovely here, Constant Reader, you have no idea–and so the walk was nice. People out walking their dogs, dogs running around having a good time in Coliseum Square, a nice coolness…it’s so lovely here once the blast furnace of the summer is over.

I also wrote for a bit–not one of my better writing days, alas–and so took a break and read Donna Andrews’ Murder Most Fowl for a while until it was time for us to watch last night’s batch of episodes of Gossip Girl. The last three episodes of the reboot–although I suppose it’s really more of a sequel series than a reboot–have dropped, but last night’s was rather lame; the season is sputtering its way to the finish line, which is a shame, since it started so well with guns blazing–and we’ve come to the conclusion that we much prefer the OG. We saw the first two episodes of Season 2, and are all in once again; despite the fact that the season one finale was such a disappointment. New characters, new romances for the characters, and lots of new drama, which is wonderful. I still can’t believe we didn’t ever tune in when it was originally airing.

Today is another work-at-home day, mostly data entry but with some condom-packing perhaps later. Yesterday’s condom-packing movie was another entry in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and I decided to check out Shaft, the original from 1971 starring Richard Roundtree–who was sexy as fuck. I’ve never seen the original Shaft movies; there were three of them in total (Shaft’s Big Score, Shaft in Africa) released in the 1970’s, and while it’s terribly dated now, it still holds up as entertainment. And one cannot really dismiss its importance as a film, given the time in which it was produced. Here we have, in 1971, six years after the Voting Rights Act and other important civil rights legislation, a complex Black private eye as the hero of a crime film; it is a mere four years after the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night, with Sidney Poitier as a Philadelphia police detective solving a strange murder in rural Mississippi and having to deal with the horrific racism of the region. The film was a huge hit at the time, and it’s famous “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes won the Oscar and was a huge hit record; I believe the entire soundtrack also sold extremely well. The character of John Shaft was created by a white writer named Ernest Tidyman–no #ownvoices there–who also co-wrote the screenplay (he also wrote the screenplay for that same year’s The French Connection–he was definitely having a good year); and published a number of novels featuring the character. Just as Virgil Tibbs and In the Heat of the Night were created by a white writer named John Ball–the novel the film was based on in that particular case was problematic–so was John Shaft; but in looking up Tidyman, I also saw that he received an Image Award from the NAACP. The plot of the movie is pretty straightforward; the Mafia is trying to muscle in on a Black mobster in Harlem, so they kidnap his daughter, so he hires Shaft to find and rescue her. The NYPD is concerned about a possible mob war between to the two rival syndicates, and also is pressuring Shaft to give up what he knows and get involved. It was very much a film of its time; I always love seeing movies film on location in New York during that time, when the city was much grimier than it is now, and its success may have been integral in the development of what came to be known as the “Blaxploitation” film in the 1970’s–when studios realized there was a big audience for films about the Black experience in America, with strong Black lead characters, giving rise to the careers of Black stars like Pam Grier, for one–and some of Chester Himes’ novels were given the Hollywood treatment. Are there any books, I wonder, about this period? Why did they stop making these movies? (They must have stopped making money, which is usually the reason Hollywood stops making any kind of film) I must make a note to do some research.

I also worked on cleaning and organizing last night, so there’s some finishing up to do here in the kitchen/office. I also had to answer some questions regarding the proofs of my story “The Snow Globe” (which will be in the upcoming anthology Murder is Magic, co-edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley), which was nice; I was very glad that story finally found a home somewhere. It was originally, of all things, a Halloween story that morphed into a Christmas story–I’ll write more about it when the book comes out–but the opening line came to me one Halloween night as I stood on the balcony of the Parade watching all the costumes down below on Bourbon Street, when someone dressed as Satan came out of Oz. The costume was totally slutty-gay; a guy with a phenomenal body wearing red boots, a red bikini covered in sequins, horns, and red body paint. Wow, I thought, Satan has a great six-pack, and laughed, because I realized it was a terrific opening line for something–short story or a book or something–and pulled out my phone and texted it to myself so I wouldn’t forget. It sat in a folder called Satan costume for many years…until I realized I could turn it into “Santa” and turn it into a Christmas horror story. And the rest, as they say, is history.

All right, it’s time for me to get back to data entry. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow.

Fingers & Thumbs

Here we are on a Tuesday morning with the time change coming and the weather shifting into big-time fall. Yesterday was simply beautiful outside; the sky that magnificent shade of cerulean I’ve never seen anywhere else (Italy has the most beautiful skies) and you can go for a walk without getting drenched in sweat. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner, with Christmas and New Year’s hot on its tail; and whatever Carnival is going to be is right behind.

Yes, it is that time of year again. HOLIDAYS.

Sigh.

I loved the holidays when I was a kid. Christmas meant presents and a tree and turkey and dressing and decorations and candy and no school for at least two weeks. Thanksgiving didn’t mean presents, but I always always loved that meal (we always had turkey and dressing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and got to eat the leftovers for days after). As I got older the thrill of the holidays slowly began to wane. By the time I moved in with Paul I was almost completely over them. Almost six years with an airline–which meant working on the holidays if they fell on your scheduled day to work; the airport never closes and neither do the airlines–had kind of robbed the joy from them for me; I could only see family sometime around the holidays, depending on open seats on flights, which were scarce, and spending them with friends wasn’t quite the same thing. We stopped putting up Christmas decorations when we got Scooter–Skittle wasn’t an issue; he’d go knock a ball off the tree, lose interest and go away; Scooter saw Christmas tree and decorations and thought amusement park! And since he loves nothing more than chewing plastic–the first time I caught him trying to chew on a string of lights, that was it for the Christmas decorations. And every time I go up into the attic, I see the box of decorations and think, should I throw them away? We don’t use them, and even–God forbid, knock on wood–when the day comes that we no longer have Scooter with us, will we use them again?

Given our history, it’s very unlikely. And while the Lost Apartment isn’t as festive around the holidays as it could be, as we’ve gotten older it’s just not as important to either of us as it once was. Sure, we enjoy buying each other gifts, and sharing them–Paul always wins Christmas, no matter how hard I try to get him something absolutely perfect, he always gets me something that is so incredibly thoughtful I get teary-eyed–and we enjoy the new traditions that we have come up with together.

And really, the true gift of the holiday is spending it together, unplugging from the world, and just enjoying each other’s company.

But it’s after Halloween now, so the Christmas stuff is coming out in the stores, and the music will start playing everywhere (thank God I don’t listen to the radio anymore). The Christmas specials and movies will start airing again, every television series will have a Christmas episode of some kind (thank you, Ted Lasso, for doing it in the summer time), and advertising will have a distinctive green and red flavor to it. I will inevitably start grumping about the serious overkill–and I am also not looking forward to this year’s noxious and untrue revisitation of the right-wing “war on Christmas” narrative.

My latest Scotty book, Royal Street Reveillon, was an actual Christmas book, set in New Orleans during the Christmas season. One part of Christmas I never get tired of is the way New Orleans dresses herself up for the holiday–and seriously, if you are in town and can get a chance to go look at the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, it’s breathtakingly beautiful; which is why I had the book start with Scotty getting Taylor his first sazerac in the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel. I wanted to talk about how beautifully the hotel is decorated, how gorgeous the city is in its Christmas finery, and of course–I got to talk about a particularly New Orleans Christmas tradition–reveillon dinner. It’s funny, because I have tried to write about Christmas before–I do, at heart, love Christmas and everything it is supposed to stand for, even if I get Scrooge-like about the overkill in mid-December–but I’ve never really had much success with writing an actual Christmas story. I tried writing Christmas short stories before, but coming up with something original that is also sweet and about love and kindness is incredibly difficult; it’s like every possible idea has already had every bit of juice squeezed out of it already (how many versions of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life do we really need, anyway?). I wrote three first drafts of Christmas stories–“Silver Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “Reindeer on the Rooftop”–but the first two turned out incredibly sad and depressing and the latter so saccharine sweet it made my teeth ache. I’d always thought of doing a Scotty Christmas book, once I decided to keep the series going past the original three; the original idea of the first trilogy was the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, Carnival–and then I thought I would tie all future Scottys around holidays; when I revived the series with Book 4, Vieux Carré Voodoo, opened on Easter Sunday and the end of Lent–which seemed appropriate since the previous book was set during Carnival (I’d actually forgotten about that). Of course, I moved away from that with Who Dat Whodunnit (which was around the Saints Super Bowl win, but also included a Christmas scene with the other side of Scotty’s family, the Bradleys, now that I think about it) and Baton Rouge Bingo…so maybe actually doing a Halloween Scotty book might be in order (I have mentioned this before, of course) since Jackson Square Jazz was set the week before Halloween.

And thinking of the kind of trouble Scotty could get into over Halloween puts a little smile on my face.

I need to buckle down and get to work on my book. It’s due in January and time is slipping into the future…so on that note, dear Constant Reader, I am going to finish this and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday!

Star

Well, I survived my first ever colonoscopy, with an endoscopy thrown in for good measure (my gastroenterologist was concerned about the heartburn medication I take daily, so he wanted to take a look around in there). It was a thing, really. The colonoscopy was originally supposed to be in 2018, but there was a problem with my insurance (insurance companies are really of Satan) so it was rescheduled for last April…and then pandemic. Men really should get their first at fifty; so of course I got mine at sixty.

But ugh, what an unpleasant experience prepping for the procedure was. I didn’t sleep at all Wednesday night because I was getting up all the time to run to the bathroom; the final dose of the purge medication was supposed to be taken at 1 a.m. (!!!!), along with another 42 ounces of water–following the first dose and 42 ounces of water five hours earlier. Oh, and you’re supposed to drink all the water over an hour. So I went to bed finally at two in the morning, and then UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN all night, plus the stress of worrying about sleeping through the alarm because I was up so late…yeah, it was pretty ugly around the Lost Apartment yesterday morning before we summoned the Lyft to whisk us off to Touro Infirmary. They had also originally told me I needed to stop in and get a COVID test the day before “around four”; you can imagine my horror to get the confirmation call Wednesday afternoon at two-forty-five, which was when I was informed that they cut off testing if you aren’t there by two-thirty.

Womp womp.

So then I had the added stress of oh my God what if I am doing all this prep and my test comes back positive? (It didn’t.) But they couldn’t do anything with me as far as anything actually medical is concerned, until the results came back (negative, around nine thirty). I got wheeled in and anesthetized around eleven thirty, and we were home before one. Exhausted, hungry, and still wonky from the anesthetic, I decided to take their advice and just relax and chill at home and not worry about anything pending; my body, after all, had two invasive procedures (and any procedure is traumatic to the body), so I figured–and still think–that I was allowed to have the day free from any worries or constraints about anything else. I was very tired–no coffee, no sleep, anesthetic–to the point that my joints ached from exhaustion, which also was rather unpleasant. I was too tired to do much of anything, really, and actually dozed off in my chair for a while (I did, however, stream the first half hour of Dune; and it looks incredible.) I did go to bed early and I think I slept deeply all night; at some point will have to download the Fitbit data to get an idea of just how much sleep I did or didn’t get over the last few days.

I wound up working from home needlessly on Wednesday (I read the prep instructions wrong; I thought I was supposed to start at eight a.m.–but it was actually eight pm); but I was very low energy all day anyway so it was probably best that I not see clients when I am in a low-energy place; undoubtedly it was stress about the procedure sapping my energy. I made condom packs and did some data entry and other work-at-home things while bingeing the non-Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween movies. As I have said before, I came to the Halloween (and most other non-Freddy Krueger slasher fare) late in life; in fact, it was Paul who got me to start watching. Anyway, I had realized that I’d never seen any of the other ones from the original series that don’t have Jamie Lee Curtis in them….so for my Halloween Horror Film Festival what could be more apt than finally watching the rest of those movies?

Maybe apt, but seriously–if Jamie Lee Curtis isn’t in it, why bother making it? I mean, seriously. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was just terrible. I’d heard at the time it was released that it wasn’t good, but I thought I had seen that people had revisited it and it was becoming a cult classic, under-appreciated at the time and now coming into its own? It had lesser production quality than any old made-for-television movie from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The plot made no sense whatsoever; the acting, editing and production quality was horrific–I kept watching all the way to the bitter end, waiting for something, anything, that would make me think I was correct in seeing that it had been rediscovered as better than originally thought? Stonehenge, some weird plan to turn children and people into androids…fucking weird. I did research it, though, and apparently John Carpenter wanted to do the films as an anthology series built around Halloween; kind of like American Horror Story, only with films. The film tanked, so they brought back Michael Myers with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which had Sasha Jenson, my crush fromDazed and Confused, as a supporting character. I went on to watch Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers–but again, no Jamie Lee Curtis. Instead, these two movies focused on Laurie Strode’s DAUGHTER (!!!!) who was a child; Laurie and her husband died in a car accident or something, and so the little girl was staying with a foster family, and Michael came for her.

As far as slasher movies go, these last two weren’t bad; they just didn’t feel like Halloween movies. It was also unsettling because he was psycho-stalking a child, and that just didn’t feel right or fun to watch. I mean, it’s one thing when the victims are relatively attracted and slightly talented twenty-somethings pretending (badly) to be teenagers…but a little girl? Too may squick factors there for me to enjoy the movies as much. But…now I can say I’ve seen practically all of them, so that’s something, I guess?

And now it’s Friday morning, and I need to, once again, reconnect to my life and everything that’s going on and everything I need to get done. The Lost Apartment is again a disaster area, I haven’t been to the gym all week, and…ugh. All I really want to do is go back to bed and sleep for the rest of the weekend, frankly. But I am way behind (my constant refrain) and need to get caught up. The Saints are on Monday night football (note to self: alternate route home from work Monday night) so I have all day Sunday to get stuff done, and of course the LSU-Mississippi game isn’t until two-thirty on CBS Saturday, so I have most of Saturday morning as well to get things done. I think we’re going to watch Dune tonight; I just wanted to get a feel for the movie last night, which is why I started watching and it looks amazing in scope and style and visuals.

I first read Dune when I was in high school, and loved it. At that point there were only three books–the original trilogy; the other two being Dune Messiah (which I didn’t like near as much) and Children of Dune (which I did enjoy very much) and was very excited when Mr. Herbert continued the series; I think I only read the next three (God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune) and loved them all. (I stopped reading the books when Mr. Herbert died and his son took over; no offense to his son, but…it just didn’t feel right to me. And while I appreciate series being continued by new authors after the original passes, I’m not interested in reading them because the original mind behind them isn’t controlling the direction anymore, if that makes sense? This is entirely different to me than authors who become brands and new authors come in as “co-writers”; I don’t expect those books to be the same as those by the original, brand name author–like James Patterson and Robert Ludlum) Dune was my first forage into science fiction, actually; I’d never read any before, and that’s another reason why I am so partial to the book/series: it was my gateway drug. The next summer Star Wars came out, and by the end of the decade I was reading Azimov* and other science fiction writers, like Heinlein and Bradbury and an entire new world had opened for me in fiction. (I feel like this might be the proper place to mention how much I admire science fiction/fantasy authors; the world building alone requires so much work and so much attention to detail that I cannot wrap my mind around it, let alone attempt doing it.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and deepest apologies for not checking in with you yesterday.

*I have also started watching Foundation on Apple Plus; but more on that in a later post.

A Little Respect

Well, hello, Wednesday morning, how are you doing? I am at home today because I am doing the prep work necessary for tomorrow morning’s procedure (it’s a colonoscopy; I am not sure why I am being so coy about it. I am over sixty now and this is long overdue; the hurdles I had to clear and hoops I had to jump through to get this thing scheduled….oy. I don’t understand the mentality of the people who defend our health care/insurance system…and sadly, it’s better now than it was when I first got health insurance back in 2006), and the doctor recommended being in close reach of a bathroom for most of the day. I have to get up at midnight to begin Stage II, then I have to get up and be at Touro for the procedure by seven tomorrow morning. I also have to go to Touro later today to get a rapid COVID test to get clearance.

Seriously, with my luck I’ll test positive and then not only have to reschedule the entire thing but have to quarantine for fourteen more days.

That sure took a turn, didn’t it?That should give an indication of my late October mood, though, shouldn’t it? I don’t know, maybe it’s the procedure and having to go underneath anesthetic for the first time in a really long time; or perhaps it’s the whole Halloween thing? Who knows? Halloween is certainly a time for darkness and the macabre; which is interesting, since the name is a contraction of all hallows eve, which means, really, the eve of All Saints Day, which you’d think would be more celebratory? It also occurs to me that I’ve never actually written about Halloween, and given what a popular holiday it is in New Orleans, that’s kind of odd. Jackson Square Jazz is set just before Halloween; I think in the afterward Scotty mentions the costumes he and the boys were to the Halloween Ball? It’s been a hot minute, so I can’t remember…but I know there’s not a Scotty Halloween book, and I know I never did one with Chanse–who couldn’t be bothered to wear a costume; he’d find the whole thing tiresome. But not even a short story! (“The Snow Globe,” in fairness, began as a Halloween story and was originally titled “All Hallows Eve”; obviously I changed that.)

Unfortunately, given the timeline I’ve got going with the Scotty books now, I don’t know that the next one can be a Halloween book. Although I could play with the timeline a little more, I suppose. Royal Street Reveillon was set during the Christmas season, and I’ve always thought of it as Christmas 2019 (which means it became cemented into my brain as set in that year; and my stubborn subconscious never lets it go until my conscious mind realizes how stupid I am actually being)….with a pandemic just around the corner. But the book itself came out in October 2019, so I finished writing it earlier that year so there’s no reason it can’t be 2018…or 2017 for that matter, and I can also go back and put books in between the ones I’ve already published, if I so desire…ah, the Godlike power of being an author! What, though, would be a good Scotty Halloween title? Hmmmm…Halloween Season Hijinks? Halloween Party Horror?

Sigh. This will be in the back of my head now for awhile, which is how this always goes, doesn’t it?

I did sleep very well last night, which was lovely. (I set the alarm of course, reflexively, as I slipped into bed last night) We finished the first season of Only Murders in the Building, which resolved the first season but ended with a cliffhanger setting up Season 2–something I was wondering about–and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also started watching Dopesick, a fictionalized version of how the Sackler family single-handedly created the opioid crisis in this country so they can make billions. It’s very well done–I’d watched the documentary version of this already, whose name I cannot recall–and the acting is stellar. It’s powerful, too; I love that they are showing how this all happened through the eyes of a doctor in Appalachia (played by Michael Keaton), as well as showing the lives of some of his patients and how they got sucked into oxycontin addiction. I don’t know how anyone can watch this (or the original documentary) without burning with rage at the Sackler family and the politicians they fucking bought off so they could exploit the pain of the working class for profit, and what a classic example this is of how an unmonitored and unregulated capitalism–the ideal of the conservatives (let the market decide!)–can not only be damaging but lethal. We are still cleaning up the mess this created, while they sip expensive wine and eat caviar and fly to glamorous places on private jets. (I think the next time someone pulls some of that Ayn Rand libertarian “no regulation” bullshit on me I’m just going to smile and say “Oxycontin and the Sackler family disprove her theories on everything.”)

I also got Dr. Alecia P. Long’s latest book yesterday, Cruising for Conspirators: How a New Orleans DA Prosecuted the Kennedy Assassination as a Sex Crime, which I am really looking forward to reading. This is, of course, about the Clay Shaw trials here in New Orleans, and how Jim Garrison abused his power as district attorney; Oliver Stone based JFK on this, treating Garrison as an unsung American hero when he was anything but that–I’ve not seen the film, nor any other Oliver Stone film since this piece of propaganda and packet of lies was filmed. I also don’t trust anything Stone did, or does, anymore to be honest and truthful and factual. He basically ignored all the evidence–and there was plenty of it–and turned Garrison into some kind of folk-hero when he truly was a corrupt monster who tainted everything he touched and made the Puritans look like sex maniacs. And this country being what it is, the completely fictional film JFK and its conclusions and accusations are now seen by people as being factual. I’ve always been interested in writing about this case fictionally–seriously, the history of New Orleans and Louisiana is so rich and deep and rife with potential for writing, I could never run out of material here–and have done some loose reading up on it…and I’ve never come across anything backing up Garrison or his claims that didn’t originate in some insane right-wing crackpot conspiracy generator. I could be wrong, but I feel Dr. Long–whose The Great Southern Babylon is also a must-read for people interested in New Orleans and her history–is not a Garrison sympathizer; certainly the book’s title implies that; but I also trust Dr. Long, her scholarship, and her dedication to research. This will inevitably prove to be the definitive book on the subject.

I’m also still reading Robert A. Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Bob Moses and the Fall of New York, which, like all of Caro’s work, is exceptional. I’m perhaps about a quarter of the way through the book, but it’s also fascinating; a history of the New York parks and recreational facilities and the building of highways and parkways and roads so that New Yorkers could escape the city and enjoy the outside recreationally on the weekends. The power struggle over making Long Island more accessible to the city dwellers is deeply fascinating, as is watching how another idealistic young man slowly realizes that politics is more about reality and power than ideals, and learns to use politics and power to get what he wants–even if doing so might not be exactly legal. (This was my primary takeaway from Huey Long by Harry Williams.) I hope to read more of Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock with an eye to finishing it, over the course of the next few days and the weekend. Tremblay is becoming one of my favorite horror writers; I’ve certainly loved everything he’s written thus far, and would like to get some more horror read this month before Halloween and we move into the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holiday cycle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow after the procedure. (Depending on how it goes and how drugged I am and how quickly the drugs wear off.)

Ship of Fools

G’morning, Sunday. How’s everyone doing today?

Yesterday was a weird one, beginning with the stunning LSU 49-42 upset of Florida. For the second year in a row, an underachieving LSU team riddled and depleted by injuries, somehow managed to outscore and upset Florida (a third consecutive win over the Gators, no less) that will quiet the complaints about the coaching staff and the team for at least a week–until the Mississippi game on the road this week, followed by a trip to Alabama two weeks later. The game was also ridiculously early–11 am start time–so the game was well over by two thirty, but I was too worn down from the rollercoaster of the game to have much energy to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. Being an LSU fan is a rollercoaster, and sometimes it’s not very fun; but no matter how bad of a season the Tigers might be having, they always manage to somehow beat someone they shouldn’t–for the last two seasons, that has been Florida. As I said to Paul as time ran out yesterday and the Tigers managed to wreck yet another season for the Gators, “No wonder they hate us so much.” That’s three losses for a Gator team that everyone thought would challenge Georgia for the East title, and might even have a shot at beating Alabama during the regular season (they lost by two points)…and they still have yet to play Georgia, who remained undefeated by shellacking an also undefeated Kentucky team yesterday.

I finished reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night at long last (I cannot reiterate how much that has to do with my inability to focus rather than the quality of the book; the book is quite marvelous; a modern take on a historical noir built around events that actually happened) and then moved on to finish watching the rest of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, (I skipped the episodes on body horror and torture porn–no thanks!) before tuning in to see the ridiculous and insane end of the Tennessee-Mississippi game–which people are still talking about today. There were some extremely questionable calls in the LSU game; while there’s no excuse for the way the fans in Neyland Stadium reacted, they were also reacting to an incredibly bad call that was upheld under review (!) that essentially took their chance to win the game away from them. After the incident was over and they were able to finish the final 54 seconds of the game, Tennessee managed to get the ball back with another shot at winning, only to fail in the end.

Today is one of those days where I get to play catch-up. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday–once I am ensconced in my easy chair, with the cat in my lap and college football on the television, it’s hard for me to get back up out of it to do anything. I did get the dishes done–still have some to put away–and I didn’t get around to the floors or anything else that I wanted to get done yesterday, which means I have to get to it today. I also need to get some serious writing done today–I am much too far behind, and the clock is ticking on everything–so I also need, once I am finished here and after I write my entry about Velvet Was the Night, to make a to-do list. I still have a lot of filing and organizing to get done as well; which I am hoping to do while I wake up and drink my coffee this morning. I need to make it to the gym at some point today, and I should see what time the Saints game is; oh, look at that, it’s the BYE WEEK, so there’s no reason to turn on the television at all; they also don’t play next Sunday–the next game is on Monday Night Football. So that’s two free Sundays I have ahead of me on the agenda, and this is a lovely, very lovely, thing. In fact, that weekend of the Saints on Monday night is also LSU’s bye week, so again–no need to turn on the television at all that weekend….so I should make that my most productive weekend of the month.

This week is also going to be weird because I have a procedure scheduled for Thursday morning; a way overdue colonoscopy. The saga of the colonoscopy is a long messy one, having to do with insurance issues, out of network charges, and so on. I finally had everything finally sorted and it scheduled last spring…only to have it canceled because of COVID-19 and then the endless attempts to get it rescheduled and out of the way. In a way, my colonoscopy feels almost like a quest for the Holy Grail–alway unattainable, so close sometimes you can almost touch it, but then it skitters away again, out of reach. I’m nervous about it, of course; any kind of medical testing can lead to bad news; any procedure can take am unexpected left turn at any time–not pleasant to consider or think about, really. But it’s always better to know something’s wrong than to go on like nothing is…until you can’t pretend anymore because your health takes a particularly nasty turn. But I am sixty, and I have to stop playing groundhog with my health. My body isn’t young anymore, and while I still feel good and go to the gym on a (fairly) regular basis, I’ve also eaten crap most of my life and have really beaten and battered my body during my younger years. (Teaching aerobics 7-21 hours a week wreaks havoc on your leg joints–and mine weren’t so great to begin with.)

The weather also turned cooler this weekend; dropping into the high sixties over night. The time change is coming soon, as well…autumn is here, clearly, and soon I’ll be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, which I hate because it feels like your day has been completely used up and is over by the time you get home. I also have to pick out my next book to read; since my reading has been so off lately I am going to pick out one of my unread Stephen Kings (if someone would have told me thirty years ago that I would have King novels on my shelves I hadn’t read, I would have laughed hysterically in their face) to read in honor of Halloween season; I try to read horror every October. There’s also a Paul Tremblay or two I’ve not gotten to yet as well; if I can get through whichever King I choose before the end of the month (and with a football free weekend coming up shortly, it’s possible) then I will move on to another Tremblay, who’s becoming my current favorite contemporary horror writer very rapidly; the books of his I’ve read still haunt me.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. You have a great Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in with you again later with my thoughts on the Moreno-Garcia novel, and then will check in again on the morrow.

The Circus

GEAUX TIGERS!

Today–actually later this morning–is the LSU-Florida game in Baton Rouge. It’s a rivalry game, and generally is kind of exciting most of the time, but I suspect this year that will not be the case. Both teams always seem to play a level higher than usual when they play each other; who can forget 3-5 LSU going into Gainesville last year, Florida’s shot at the play-offs on the line, and LSU pulling off a major upset, thanks to the notorious shoe throwing incident? I have to admit I only watched the game last year as a courtesy, with every intention of turning it off once it got out of hand…only it never did. Somehow LSU kept plugging away in the fog, and in the end, the Florida kicker missed the last second, tying field goal and their play-off chances circled the drain. I’m sure they have vengeance on their minds, particularly since this season has them already out of play-off contention and struggling to stay relevant in the East division of the SEC; they’ve already lost to both Alabama and Kentucky, so even if they manage to run the table the rest of the season, they have to hope not only to beat Georgia, but that someone else beats them AND Kentucky as well. (Kentucky-Georgia is also today; the winner will be in control of the division; a Kentucky win almost guarantees them a spot in the conference championship as they have already beaten Florida.) This was supposed to be a big year for Florida, so they already have ashes in their mouths. LSU has lost a number of players to injury and academic ineligibility, just like last year…but I doubt this year will go like last. Paul and I have been to the Florida game twice–2015 and 2019–and both times both teams were unbeaten and ranked in the Top Ten. LSU won both games–both were very exciting; the 2019 probably the most fun I’ve ever had in Tiger Stadium–but again, I don’t hold out much hope for my Tigers this year.

Stranger things, however, have happened, and have been known to happen in this game (we can never, ever forget the shoe-throw last year).

Yesterday I rewatched the original Halloween, and marveled at how vastly superior–despite the low budget–it was to anything Friday the 13th related. It was weird to think this was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first movie, and the one that really kicked off the slasher film craze of the late 1970s/early 1980’s. They literally were everywhere, and with my youthful distaste for gore and blood and horrific and violent death, I avoided them like the plague (Paul, in fact, was the person who got me to start watching the Halloween films; last year I moved on to the other slasher movies in October for my first Halloween Horror Film Festival–and in most cases, I didn’t really miss anything). But I have come to appreciate the Halloween movies–primarily due to Jamie Lee Curtis, who single-handedly makes the films worth watching. (I’ve also never understood why P. J. Soles, so terrific in this, in Carrie, and Rock and Rock High School, never became a bigger star.) Donald Pleasance is also wonderful in this original movie, which is very basic. We never know why Michael Myers is a homicidal maniac–we don’t really need to–and what Carpenter does, with the use of the score (which he wrote), camera angles, tracking shots and so forth, is ratchet up the menace and suspense until it’s almost unbearable. After it was over, my Apple TV moved on–the remote had fallen off the table and under my chair, out of reach–to Eli Roth’s History of Horror series, and believe you me, I was glued to the television. I sat through the first season, and even through the first episode of the second season before Paul got home from the gym and we switched over to Halloween Kills, which….was disappointing, to say the least. It wasn’t anything new, really…and if you have nothing new to say or add to the franchise, well, it just comes across to the audience as “cash grab” and…it didn’t even work on a camp aspect. Over the years the franchise has been rebooted and there are lots of sequels; (confession: I’ve not seen any of the originals past part 2; I did watch the Halloween H2O and its follow up (I will never not watch a Michael Myers movie with Jamie Lee Curtis) but the original reboot and sequel from the aughts? Not so much.

I do highly recommend Eli Roth’s History of Horror. It’s not very deep or scholarly, but it’s a very good overview for people who are interested in horror film and television. Roth also interviews a lot of directors, horror writers, and stars for the series; I greatly enjoyed it and look forward to getting back to it this week, if not this weekend.

I slept deeply and well last night and feel fairly rested this morning. One of the things I really want to do this morning (before turning on the LSU game at eleven) is get some more cleaning and organizing do. There’s a load of dishes that needs to be put away and another sinkful that needs washing. I need to vacuum and clean around the living room, too…and as always, there’s a shit ton of filing that needs to be done. I also need to make a new to-do list for next week; I have this sense that things are getting away from me again, and that’s not a feeling I particularly enjoy. (Especially hits home when I look at the date and think what the fuck happened to October? Where did it go already?) In fact, the feeling is quite unpleasant.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

It Doesn’t Have To Be

Friday, Friday, gotta get down it’s Friday.

I find myself now in the post-launch haze; it’s been awhile since I’ve actually promoted a book–and usually so much else is going on the launch date might get some social media posts from me and not much else (it really is a wonder I still have any career to speak of)–but I actually feel a bit hungover from what little I did. (I admire other writers who hit it so hard; how do they do it? I sure as hell can’t.) I have nothing but the utmost respect for authors who can do the public appearance/promotion stuff and make it look easy and make it seem like they’re enjoying themselves; because that is not my experience with such things. I am always incredibly self-conscious, and inevitably my fallback response to being nervous and feeling uncomfortable is to try to be funny–which is, of course, completely subjective, and amps up the anxiety: what if no one thinks you’re funny? And with these on-line appearance (as opposed to in-person ones) I do not know if anyone laughs and that makes me even more anxious to the point that when it’s over I am a completely nervous wreck, emotionally, physically and emotionally exhausted; and the hangover from that carries over into the next day. I felt very drained and hollowed out yesterday. Today I feel better–I don’t think I slept that great, to be honest, but this morning I feel fairly well rested. Not I can conquer the world rested, but rested. This is a good thing. I don’t have to do anything outside of the apartment today other than go to the gym after I am finished working at home, and I am going to relish that. I have some data entry to do, condom packs to make, and there are also some other on-line trainings for the day job coming due–annual things we are required as a health clinic to take, like HIPAA, blood borne pathogens, biohazard, etc. (In all honesty, my favorite is the emergency training one–what do you do if there’s an electrical fire? What do you do if there’s a regular fire? What do you do if a patient collapses? I don’t know why that’s my favorite, but for some reason it is.)

Yesterday was spent mostly with on-line trainings for the day job; there was time, however, for some condom packing duties before LEG DAY at the gym (and yes, my legs are tired today. But good tired, not bad sore). I decided to keep going with my attempts at a Halloween Horror Film Festival, moving on to Friday the 13th, Part III. (turned out I must have watched the second part last October and completely forgot; my memory has now moved from sieve to a garbage disposal that clearly eats and grinds up each memory before spitting it out, forgotten) What. A. Shitty. Movie. The first one had a kind of “so-cheaply-made-it’s-kind-of-charming” feel to it, but each film cost more money…but the quality didn’t improve. The acting and writing is so incredibly bad, it’s easy to see why audiences started rooting for Jason as a kind of anti-hero; those who are about to die are such shitty, one-dimensional characters, played by actors who’d be lucky to get a supporting role in a bad dinner theater in Sarasota, Florida, you kind of enjoy watching them die horribly. I don’t know that I have the stomach to handle yet another entry in that endless series of sequels; maybe I’ll switch to the Halloween movies. Those, while equally small budget at first, are at least better acted, written, produced, and directed than their counterparts about Jason Voorhees. Paul came home rather late and had some work to do, so we watched the latest episode of Titans, which I really enjoy but this season, while interesting, is dragging a bit.

It also makes me terribly sad that this is a Friday without a new Ted Lasso.

I also need to get back to work on my writing; I got distracted with all the book promo stuff and so forth and well, now I am behind yet again. What else is new, right? When am I not behind on everything? Yes, it makes me crazy, which is partly why I am alway teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown, without question. I’ve been feeling very good about myself lately–which always makes me suspicious. My piece on Gothics for Crime Reads was well received, so was my piece on Superman posted here the other day, and Bury Me in Shadows also appears to be getting a good reception. My royalty statement came the other day and was significantly higher than I was expecting, which is always welcome news…and of course, I need to make a new to-do list. I also have some filing that needs to be done, and the apartment always needs cleaning. I do think our mouse is gone, though. Last week he was very noisy one night–Paul thought it sounded like death throes–and we haven’t heard him since. Scooter also doesn’t stare at the cabinet under the sink and the dishwasher anymore, either, which is the more likely sign that the mouse is gone at last. It’ll take me a while before I am comfortable turning the dishwasher on without putting a towel across the floor in front of it, though–the little bastard chewing through the hose is going to take me a while to get past.

I may also prune the books a little bit this weekend; the books can always be pruned, and I may even get a box of them down from the storage crawlspace today to go through–I really do need to clean out the crawlspace–and the night time lows this weekend may even dip in the high fifties; it’s definitely October in New Orleans. I think next weekend I may drive around taking pictures of Halloween decorations. One of the many things I love about this city is how so many people go all out decorating for holidays–I love the mansion on St. Charles with the annual skeleton theme–plus, A Streetcar Named Murder is set in early October. LSU plays Florida tomorrow at eleven in the morning (!), and I’ll have the game on but I doubt I will watch it from beginning to end. This has been a horribly disappointing season for LSU football–people are calling for the coach to be fired, as it looks like they’ll have their first losing season this century (!)–the last time that happened was 1999, which led to the firing of then coach DiNardo and the hiring of Nick Saban, which rescued and turned the program around to the point they won the SEC in his second season and a national title in his fourth. LSU fans have become very spoiled this century, but it’s been a very good run these last twenty or so years: four SEC titles and three national championships; only Alabama has done better during this run, and that’s a pretty high standard.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Data ain’t gonna enter itself and the condoms won’t pack themselves, either. Have a lovely Friday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Sometimes

Tuesday morning and so far so good. Yesterday was a relatively easy day at the office, really; a lovely way to start off the week, actually. I felt rested for most of the day, and had a relatively easy time getting home as well, which I wasn’t expecting; traffic lights in the Central Business District are still out or blinking, including the one at Poydras, which is the main artery of the district–which makes the drive a bit challenging. There wasn’t much traffic yesterday on my way home, so that intersection where I cross Poydras (Loyola) wasn’t as horrific as it has been in the past.

And tomorrow is payday; I had quite literally forgotten! Paying off the car has changed my life so dramatically for the better, Constant Reader, you have no idea. Before paying off the car, I would have been counting down the days to pay day, wondering how much I’d have left to buy food with, wondering if I would have enough to pay for everything. Not having that kind of extreme financial stress, like I’ve been experiencing for the last four years plus, has been literally absolutely lovely for me. I don’t know how people do it–and then buy another car right on top of paying off the old one, or trading one in before its completely paid for and…yeah, I will never understand the joys of having all that extra debt hanging over my head. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to buy a house or a condo or anything; the thought of being saddled with debt for the rest of my life like that absolutely curdles my blood.

And yes, I am quite aware that I still have to pay for housing anyway, that I am essentially throwing the rent money away every month that I could be “investing” in property, and all the rest of those financial security memes I’ve been told since I was a child. But I am not a fan of debt of any kind, quite frankly. I hate debt, hate it hate it hate it, and my next financial goal is to pay off the rest of the debt I am still carrying, which has become a bit easier since the car has been paid for. I don’t regret buying the car–I still love the car, and will for a long time, no doubt–but I am not sorry the debt is gone.

I didn’t think I slept very well last night–it seemed to take forever for me to fall asleep–and yet I still feel rested this morning. My Fitbit tells me that the majority of my sleep last night was “light” sleep, and I didn’t get the correct percentages of “REM sleep” or “deep sleep”. I imagine what this means is this afternoon I will run out of steam and get tired; that seems to be the case once the caffeine wears off. Ah, caffeine; such a harsh mistress you are.

Today is the official release day for Bury Me in Shadows (or it was yesterday; I’m really not sure how I still have a career, honestly) so there’s one more Blatant Self-Promotion post to come; I’ve been working on it since the weekend, and I hope to get it right and posted today. Tomorrow night I have the launch event at Murder by the Book in Houston (virtual), and I am doing a diversity panel for a library through Sisters in Crime (chessie chapter) this coming Monday. I know, two virtual events in less than a week, who am I? I also realized yesterday I had never posted the BSP post I’d written Sunday morning, so it went up yesterday instead.

I’m really not very good at this blatant self-promotion thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a mental thing; defeating myself before I have a chance to be defeated by the rest of the world. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?

I rewatched Scream 2 last night while I was waiting for Paul to finish working and come downstairs, and rather than switching to something else when he came down about halfway through the movie he was fine with just watching it through to the end–we’re both big Scream fans–and oddly enough, no matter how many times I’ve seen these movies they still work and are enjoyable. Greater horror minds than mine have dissected these films, how meta they are, and so forth to death; nothing I could say could possibly lend anything to the discourse already. But I do enjoy them more than most slasher/horror movies, it seemed fairly appropriate for Halloween, and since I have Peacock, which has all the Halloween movies streaming available, I may spend the rest of the month watching every Halloween movie; there are actually some I’ve not seen. And what better films for the Halloween Horror Film Festival than the Halloween series? (And if I can squeeze in a Scream or two, why not?) I didn’t write very much of anything yesterday and am not terribly happy about that, to be honest. I felt a bit tired when I came home from work yesterday–I stopped to pick up a few things on the way home–and tonight I have to go to the gym, since I can’t tomorrow. I did pull up Never Kiss a Stranger and started revising and re-ordering the story somewhat–beginning with the removal of about 2000 words at the beginning that might not be as necessary as I had originally thought; they can go further back in the manuscript than where they were originally placed, if used at all–so that was something, but I was tired and Scooter really wanted to nap in my lap in the easy chair and it was all so much easier to just give into the tired and relax with a purring kitty in my lap…yeah, it’s a wonder I get anything done around here at all.

And yesterday the current Superman–Jonathon Kent, son of Clark and Lois–came OUT. Superman is gay! * (That sound you just heard was any number of homophobes screaming about their childhoods being ruined.) I didn’t see it yesterday–I just saw the piece in the New York Times shared on Twitter–and will read it later this morning between clients. But this is quite thrilling, and that they timed the announcement for National Coming Out Day? Thank you thank you thank you, DC Comics.

Yesterday I also got a PDF file from an anthology I contributed a reprint story to; I had literally completely forgotten about it (my memory is completely worthless these days) and I never recorded it on my “out for submission” spreadsheet either; so my system completely failed. It happens, of course, and more regularly than I would prefer, to be completely honest. Anyway, it’s a gay erotic vampire anthology from Lethe Press called Blood on His Hands, and the story I gave them to reprint is my old “Bloodletting” story; which was originally written as a sequel story to my novella Blood on the Moon, and eventually became the first chapter of my Todd Gregory novel Need. I’ve not reread any of my vampire stuff over the years, and so last night, while I was trying to figure out to watch before settling on Scream 2 I spent some time revisiting this story. It isn’t bad, actually; I was very pleasantly surprised. (I often am pleasantly surprised to read something old of mine and see that it’s not terrible, or a steaming pile of shit…I really do need to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to writing; even as I started moving bits and pieces of Never Kiss a Stranger around last night I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good” or “this needs to be punched up some”–but “this is good” thoughts far outnumbered “fix this”, which was most pleasing to me. I have another story in another anthology coming out later this year–the story is “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” but I cannot think of the name of the anthology; I think it’s Pink Triangle Rhapsody? It really is a wonder I have a career of any kind in this business….

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow on Pay-the-Bills-Day.

*Well, bisexual anyway, but he has sex with men and that’s more than enough for me. It’s a huge step for DC Comics and super-heroes in general; it’s fucking Superman, not some supporting cast super-hero most people have never heard of who only appears in some team-up books; it’s SUPERMAN!