With or Without You

Well, today is going to be one of those days.

I had to take the day off from work to take care of some dental issues for Paul, which means driving uptown this morning and then out to Harahan. The good news about all of this is I can read Rob Hart’s The Warehouse while I sit around waiting most of the day–there’s nothing I loathe more than sitting around and waiting all day–but the book should make an enormous difference. It’s starting to pick up steam, as I knew it would, and I can already see why Rob Hart is getting all the starred reviews and a movie option deal with Ron Howard; this book is cleverly written and the premise is absolutely genius, dystopian and all-too-realistic.

Clearly, there’s more upside than down to today, am I right?

We started watching American Horror Story: 1984, but for some reason Hulu cut out on the last five minutes or so, and I couldn’t get the show to reload on the television app again so we could see the end. That was disappointing and more than a little irritating, but hopefully whatever the issue was will clear up today so we can find out how the episode ended. As many others have noted, this season is playing with 80’s slasher movie tropes; the way it is filmed is clearly an homage to the heyday of the slasher horror film, with references and character archetypes and of course, the ever-popular trope of the summer camp. (I’ve thought about taking on that trope myself; while Lake Thirteen was kind of like that it wasn’t a slasher novel  but rather a ghost story. I really want to take the trope of a group of people going off somewhere remote and secluded to party and have a good time and then encounter something horrifying; I still might do it sometime) I never really got into slasher movies at the time they were popular; I assumed they were bloody and gory and yes, I was right about that. I think I started watching the Nightmare on Elm Street movies on videotape rental, and enjoyed them thoroughly, but eventually abandoned the series after maybe the third or fourth. Paul is a huge fan of the Halloween movies, so he got me to watch the original two, and many of the reboots/sequels of the last twenty years or so. And of course, I loved the Scream movies. I only recently watched the original Friday the 13th recently on Prime–Prime has a lot of the movies of the golden age of the slasher film available to stream, if you’re interested. I do have high hopes for this season–I love that there’s a trans actress in the cast, and Gus Kenworthy might not be talented–he hasn’t really had much of a chance to do anything other than look really hot and sexy so far, and he can actually do that quite well–but he is, as I said, great eye candy.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get home from all this running around today, but I hope to get home early enough to get some writing done, and to get the house cleaned. I made pho yesterday, which of course always creates an enormous mess, and I have to get that cleaned up at some point today. I’m still a little disoriented and emotionally hung over from the energy it took to complete the volunteer project, but I’m going to have to power through that because I just can’t keep letting things slide. I have deadlines, I have responsibilities, I have things that have to get done. And seriously, so much has slid over the last few weeks–my email inbox is a complete and utter nightmare–that I literally cannot have another slide day.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Yes We Can Can

It’s Friday and we survived another week, Constant Reader!`

I switched my schedule today to work in the afternoon–we’re short-staffed–and thus was able to get a nice, relaxing night’s sleep (to make up for Wednesday night’s restless night) and hopefully allow my back to get some rest and heal up whatever the hell I did to it on Wednesday. I got a lovely night’s sleep last night, and so today I am going to get caught up on a lot of stuff that had slid while I was working on the massive volunteer project–my email inbox in particular, has raged out of control for quite some time now–and finish paying my bills before heading into the office this afternoon. I did get some work done on a short story last night, and managed to get to bed fairly early.

Royal Street Reveillon officially is released in about four more days, and yes, I am going to talk about the book pretty much every day until it is officially born into the world. The cover is completely fantastic; it might be my favorite Scotty cover ever, and I’ve pretty much loved them all.

When I first wrote about Scotty, obviously the first book was set during Southern Decadence. When I got a two book contract, essentially turning a stand alone novel into the nascent beginnings of a series, I thought well, the personal story can work through a trilogy; and I’ll set the three books during the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. And when the series continued beyond the original trilogy, the next one, Vieux Carre Voodoo, opened with the Gay Easter Parade. Eventually, the holiday theme was discarded as the series continued–Who Dat Whodunnit was built around the Saints’ trip to the Super Bowl; Baton Rouge Bingo was built around Louisiana history and the legacy of Huey Long; and Garden District Gothic not only set up the new book, but was built around an unsolved crime in the past that was affecting the present day negatively. With Royal Street Reveillon, I decided to go back to the holiday thing; it’s set during the Christmas season, as the title implies, and the gorgeous cover reflects that (one of the things I love the most about the cover is that one of the lanterns at the entrance to Jackson Square isn’t lit; nothing is more New Orleans than only three of the four lanterns actually working).

It’s funny that it took me so long to write about New Orleans at Christmas time; I wrote and published a Christmas story over a decade ago, “The Snow Queen,” which was included in my anthology Upon a Midnight Clear, which has been out of print since around 2008, and will probably be included in my short story collection Monsters of new Orleans, should I ever get around to finishing writing the stories for that. I love New Orleans at Christmas time; the city always likes decorating for the holidays, and people go all for Christmas. The French Quarter almost becomes like a little Christmas village, with the fronts of houses decorated and bushes and trees and balconies festooned with decor. The massive live oaks that line our streets are often filled with lights; the enormous facades of the houses on St. Charles are also decorated with lights and the yards are filled with reindeer and Santas and snowmen. Celebration in the Oaks is something we try to go see every year–the trees in City Park along the drives are all decorated and holiday decor everywhere–and is simply breathtakingly beautiful.

As I’ve gotten older, I care less and less about Christmas; Paul and I have always been astonishingly not sentimental, and the older we get the less sentimental we are. I generally view Christmas as little more than a paid two days off from work (we also get Christmas Eve as a paid holiday). Scooter’s inability to resist attacking the decorations has resulted in us not decorating the Lost Apartment since he destroyed the Christmas tree that first year he spent the holiday with us; he also tries to chew the wires for lights, so we no longer string lights along the railing for the staircase (Skittle would knock a low-hanging ornament off the tree and then get bored). We still get each other gifts, of course, and I try to remember to send cards every year but don’t always succeed. I don’t watch Christmas movies anymore, or Christmas specials, and we certainly don’t play Christmas music in the apartment–it’s so incessant everywhere else in the world during the season that there’s no need–and other than going to Pat Brady’s annual Christmas party, we don’t really do much for Christmas anymore.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s sad, but then remember it doesn’t bother me in the least, and cease worrying about it.

Writing about Scotty during the Christmas season did raise an interesting question: how would Scotty and his immediate family celebrate the holiday, given his parents aren’t Christians, nor was he or his siblings raised that way? But Christmas, originally a Christian usurpation of a pagan holiday, has really lost its religious meaning here in the United States over crass commercialization (A Charlie Brown Christmas actually explored the true meaning of Christmas versus the growing commercialization of the holiday, seeing it as a huge problem, back in the early 1960’s, and the lesson was clearly lost on its audience as the commercialization has only gotten worse in the decades since, despite the show airing every year)m and it’s actually become a secular holiday; everyone gets the day off from work, pretty much, and much of the symbolism of the holiday as we know it today has no basis in faith. (This is why “merry Christmas” doesn’t bother me–I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, and haven’t for decades, but to me, saying “merry Christmas” is no different than “Happy New Year” or “enjoy your 4th of July” or “happy Thanksgiving”; but that could also be the unconscious privilege of being raised Christian, besides, saying “happy holidays” instead doesn’t hurt anyone other than those whose faith is so shallow it needs to be reinforced by others every time they turn around.)

But one of the great joys in writing Scotty, and why I still write about him, and enjoy almost every minute of it, is that Scotty finds such great joy in life, no matter what’s happening or how bad it may be; his eternal optimism and belief that the world is actually full of good people, and is actually a good place, and bad people are outliers makes writing about him one of the great pleasures of my life as a writer. As I wrote in Mardi Gras Mambo, Scotty loves Carnival and doesn’t understand people who don’t; even saying “You don’t get sick of Christmas, do you?” And there’s really the key; of course Scotty would love Christmas, would love decorating and buying presents and all the things that come with Christmas; he has an almost child-like love of the holiday, and another one of his appeals is that no matter what has happened to him–and bad things have–he never loses that child-like sense of love and wonder and awe for the world at large. Of course he would love Christmas.

Of course he would.

And despite all the crazy shit dropping in his lap this particular Christmas season, never once does Scotty ever think the holiday is ruined. Because of course it isn’t.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Baby Face

Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and I am feeling well rested and lively and energetic and all of that. I always forget how important it is for me to take these mini-breaks, to keep my sanity and recharge my batteries. I woke up just before eight this morning–I stayed up later than I’d planned, but the latest version of Halloween was available to stream on HBO and we didn’t discover it until after nine last night, so my plans of going to bed regularly between ten-thirty and eleven were all for naught. There’s condensation on my windows this morning, which means it’s humid as fuck outside; I’d planned on lugging the ladder outside and cleaning the windows this morning–which I still may do, mind you, I haven’t ruled it out–in addition to some other cleaning.

Yesterday was quite lovely, and I realized, yet again, how my ideal life would be that of a stay-at-home writer; it’s lovely to get up, check emails, bounce around social media a bit, then clean and organize around writing. I finished the laundry room yesterday, with the baseboards and everything in there, and progressed into the kitchen/office area. I did the lower windows on the inside, moved the file cabinet to clean behind it, and reorganized things around my desk. There’s still some debris piled up on the counter that needs to be sorted and filed away properly; that’s a chore for this morning with my coffee, methinks, along with the dirty dishes in the sink. I’m also taking the pictures down and wiping the dust off them; New Orleans is the dustiest place I’ve ever lived, and it’s a constant battle. I was going to be a feather-duster yesterday but they didn’t have any at Rouse’s, which was, as you can imagine, a horrible disappointment to me. I also couldn’t believe I didn’t have one to begin with; I searched high and low for it yesterday morning, certain there was one somewhere….and then I remembered…you have a cat. Skittle destroyed your feather duster years ago, and you saw no point in buying another as long as you still have a cat.

Fortunately, Scooter is not nearly as vicious a hunter/destroyer of worlds the way Satan’s Kitty was, so I think I might be able to get away with having one again.

It’s the little things, you know, that truly make me happy.

I also worked yesterday, shocking as it may seem; little as I wanted to, of course, I still managed to sit down and work. I read the rest of “The Snow Globe” all the way through, and realized I needed to add another scene to it–it ends too abruptly for the new end I have in mind, and so I have to reread the entire thing from beginning to end. I always aim for my short stories to come in around five thousand words as an ideal length (which I also realize is quite silly; it comes from editing anthologies and thinking “twenty stories of five thousand words each is a hundred thousand words and voila, anthology is finished!) and it’s subconscious. The story is now at about just over 4800 words, and there’s no way to add this sequence in only 200 or so words and so I pulled back from the story. This morning, in the cold harsh bright light of a new day, I realized so fucking what if it winds up over five thousand? You can actually make it SIX thousand if you fucking want to. So, I’ll probably be revisiting that as well.

I took a look at Chapter Eleven of the WIP as well; realizing that starting it one week and finishing it the next without rereading what was already done resulted in some repetition of things; yesterday I chose not to deal with it, and instead did some background work. I pulled up the outline, that only went through Chapter Five, and added the next six chapters to the outline, intending to outline the next five as well so as to have something to fall back on without having to create it out of thin air. But I sincerely (not lazily) couldn’t figure out what to do in the next five chapters and so I put it aside as well and worked on something else–something else that I’ve been asked to do and has been hovering in the back of my subconscious creative brain while I struggle to finish this first draft. I am not ready to talk about it completely and openly just yet–still far too nascent for any public commentary/discussion–but I started doing the background work necessary, and realized what I’d been thinking of doing was probably the wrong place to start, and I actually thought of the proper place to start, so I was busily making notes and writing things down and actually creating, which is always kind of fun. I’m probably–we’ll see–going to try to get Chapter Eleven straightened out today, and will work on this new thing for a bit, and I’d also like to work on another story I’ve got hanging around unfinished. If I can get all this writing–and cleaning–done today, tomorrow I may reward myself just a little bit by allowing myself some down time to read–in fact, this morning, I am going to read for a little while before tackling the dishes; I find reading is also a lovely way to wake up the mind, and I really do want to get deeper into Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which is quite superbly written.

We did watch the newest Halloween last night, and it was quite enjoyable. I love the concept that Carpenter basically threw away everything already filmed as canonical sequels to the original, and simply pretended none of those films had ever happened; instead making a straight-up sequel/reboot of the series; I’m not really sure what you would call this film in terms of the rest of the Michael Myers canon. But it was clear Halloween H20 or whatever it was called never happened; in this world Laurie had a daughter, not a son, and we find Laurie Strode in straight-up Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 mode; someone who has spent her entire life preparing herself for when he comes back to  kill her–and there’s no doubt in her mind that he’s going to, eventually. The trauma of the murders when she was a teenager has damaged her, certainly, and has definitely affected the relationship with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, and she lives in a secure fortress (think Sydney in Scream 3), which also makes sense. I couldn’t help but think as I watched how much better this all would work as a novel; as we could actually get inside the heads of certain point-of-view characters, and how Laurie’s residual trauma has affected/damaged them–wouldn’t that novel, from the point of view of all three women, each a different generation with a different outlook and experience with the trauma, be absolutely fascinating?

I’ve become a lot more interested, I think, as a reader and as a writer, in the aftermath of trauma–how precisely does one deal with that kind of trauma, and what does it do to you as a person, how does it affect the rest of your life and your relationships, etc.  As a writer, I’m becoming less interested in the solving of a crime rather than the actual aftershocks created by the crime; as well as the motivations behind the crime–what drives the criminal to commit the crime in the first place? I think the reason Murder in the Rue Chartres is often considered my best work is because it deals with trauma; the trauma of a  damaged and destroyed city after a major natural disaster, as well as the trauma of getting past the murder of someone you loved.

So, that’s the plan for today, at any rate. Tomorrow I hope to spend the day doing a deep clean of the living room and the staircase, done around the writing and reading I need to get done, and then hopefully we’ll start getting caught up on Killing Eve.

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

08

Rhythm is a Dancer

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

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

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

Ah, my first New Orleans Halloween.

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

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

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

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

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

And there’s also the WIP.

This. Is. Fucking. INSANE.

Nothing like some creative ADHD, is there?

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

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

Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

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Lawyers in Love

The cold spell we brought with us back from Toronto continues, and it’s lovely, if I am going to be honest. I had yet another good night of sleep after bar testing last night, and of course, walking back to the office through the Quarter was wonderful. It was a beautiful October night, and the Quarter is putting on its Halloween finery. There was a house completely done up with killer clowns, which was fantastic.

See what I mean?

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I’m going to have to do bar testing again before Halloween so I have an excuse to walk around and look a the decorations. There’s a pair of houses on Royal Street between St. Philip and Ursulines that goes all out for every holiday; I can’t wait to see what they’ve done for Halloween this year.

I have this Friday off because I am working Sunday, doing condom outreach at the Tea Dance party along the river…which means I should have some great pictures.

I am slowly crawling out from under the backlog that piled up while I was in Toronto, which is lovely. I made a list and started working my way through it; and I am pretty jazzed. Scooter will be pleased, no doubt, because my plans for my days off this weekend entail mostly sitting in the easy chair and editing. I also have some news to announce relatively soon, which is also pretty cool.

I had decided not to re-edit Bourbon Street Blues and Jackson Square Jazz because, you know, I wanted the new editions to be like the originals…but then I realized the files I have are unedited; no copy edits or anything, so I am going to go ahead and try to do some mild revisions. I also think doing this will help me with the new Scotty as well.

All right, back to the spice mines.

Don’t Give Up On Us Baby

So, with Halloween, All Hallows Eve, October and Horror Month comes to a close. It feels weird that the time didn’t change over the weekend; as annoying as Daylight Savings Time is (and I do think it should be done away with at this point), it’s even more annoying that they’ve started changing when it goes into effect, or when it stops. ENOUGH ALREADY.

I’ve enjoyed talking about horror this month, and didn’t even get to write about all the things I wanted to. I didn’t talk about R. L. Stine and the Fear Street books, or the Scream movies, or the Halloween ones. I didn’t talk about Peter Straub, or vampires. I only talked about one Stephen King novel, didn’t even get into Daphne du Maurier, or any number of truly scary movies and books I’ve enjoyed over the years. I did manage to not talk about Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which is a mainstay, and I was going to write about Peter Straub’s Floating Dragon, until I realized that I talked about it already last year. (I did repeat Rosemary’s Baby, alas, but turned it into an entry more about Ira Levin.)

Halloween puts me in mind, again, of my unfinished story “The Weeping Nun,” and I’ve promised myself if I can get some good work on the book done today I can work on the story some more. I started thinking about Halloween this morning–duh, it is Halloween, after all–and I started thinking some more about what Halloween means, traditionally, and as I made my lunch this morning and washed dishes and put the turkey in the crock pot (I am making pulled turkey for dinner and for lunch sandwiches all week) I was remembering being a little kid in Chicago. My sister and I were only allowed to trick-or-treat on our block and the one across the street–that was as far as we were permitted to go. I don’t remember my costumes when I was a kid, and I don’t really remember much about going around and collecting candy on Halloween; I do remember being warned about unpackaged things, and the urban legends about razor blades in apples and poison injected into oranges were pretty much already well in place in the 1960’s. My parents–particularly my mother–was always afraid we were going to be taken; I never really thought about it much until this morning.

Of course she was afraid; she was from rural Alabama and moved to the Big Bad City with two small children when she was twenty. She was afraid of us being taken, she was afraid of us being run down by cars, she was afraid of us wandering off and getting lost and not being able to find our way home. I have very early memories of memorizing our phone number and our address; I can still recite them without even having to stop to think some fifty years later.

Fear.

That’s what horror is really about, bottom line. Fear.

I’ve realized that is the problem I have with writing horror short stories; I don’t tap into fear enough. This was why I was having so many problems with writing “The Weeping Nun,” frankly; that, and another realization I had over the course of the weekend; that part of the problem with so much of the horror I try to write comes from not really knowing what the story really is, because I am so busy trying to create an atmosphere of creepy dread that I don’t focus on the characters and don’t figure out what the story is….and even after I write the story, I still don’t know what the story is.

Duh. And d’oh.

Sometimes I wonder how I have a career.

Anyway, here’s a hottie in his Halloween costume as I go back to the spice mines.
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