We’re An American Band

Wednesday, Hump Day, and the slow slide into another weekend. It’s also pay day, which is really Pay the Bills Day–never a pleasant task, no matter how much I try to make it into one (“Oh, isn’t it satisfying to get this done?” Um, no, not really.)

I woke up after a lovely night’s sleep to a horrendous thunderstorm; we are now in a tornado warning, which I think means one has been spotted; I’m not really sure where precisely–I can never remember the difference between watch and warning. 

Okay, I looked it up and I was right: warning means one has been spotted. Looking at the radar map, it’s not in our area, but it’s rather close to where the office is.

Which should make for an exciting day at work, no?

I had planned on running some errands this morning before heading in, and now I am not so sure I want to do that, understandably, unless this all lightens up before it’s time to go in. We’re also in a flash flood warning (through Sunday on one, JULY 23RD on another, because the river is already high and this tropical thing out in the gulf could send a storm surge up the river. (Aside: it is raining so hard I keep thinking the sink is running and start to get up to go turn off the spigot before catching myself.)

I haven’t written much this week so far; I’ve primarily focused on rereading things I’ve already read and editing them and making notes for revisions as I go. I know I should reread everything I’ve written for the WIP–in order to possibly trigger where to go with the next chapter, which I’ve been stuck on for quite some time–but I am feeling particularly writing-lazy, and I also know I am going to regret that should we have to evacuate in the face of the coming storm this weekend. But an evacuation would sort of change everything anyway–all bets are off!–so there’s also that.

I watched the season finale of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills last night when I got home from work–I wasn’t so tired Monday night after work, but for some reason last night I was exhausted–and it entertained. It’s very strange, and more than a little unsettling, to see it without Lisa Vanderpump; if any of the original cast still left was going to go, my money and preferences would have been Kyle Richards, whom I have never been able to stand or bear for very long. This season was really not very good, and there were more than a few times when I considered, seriously, stopping watching. The only thing I liked about this season was the addition of Denise Richards.  I didn’t have high hopes for her as an addition–Paul and I actually tried to watch her reality show years ago, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, and didn’t last beyond the premiere episode. (We usually will give any new show we try a couple of episodes, unless it is so beyond redemption in the premiere we assume it isn’t going to get better; alas, Denise’s original foray into reality television fell into that category–and we wanted to like it. We loved her in Drop Dead Gorgeous, which is a vastly under-appreciated comic classic.) Paul came home in the middle of the episode–he doesn’t really watch my reality shows with me, he has more discerning tastes–and as I explained things to him, I stopped at one point and said, “And it is truly frightening that I know this much, not only about the show, but about their lives outside of the show.

But as Laura Lippman says, one should never apologize for anything in this world that one enjoys, as there are so many things and experiences we don’t enjoy–we should definitely allow ourselves to enjoy things that might earn us scorn from others. She’s right, of course; I don’t give a shit if someone looks down on me for enjoying reality television; hell, I’ve written a book around reality television (Royal Street Reveillon, coming this September, from Bold Strokes Books! Preorder now!). I’ve watched reality television going back to the very first season of The Real World on MTV, which, while not the first reality show, was certainly the precursor to the reality show boom of this century.

It’s also payday, and I have to pay the bills this morning. My favorite chore, but it must be done.

Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader. I look forward to giving you another Gregalicious update tomorrow.

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Right Place Wrong Time

Well, I survived Monday’s return to the office–and there wasn’t a body count.

It is, however, still early in the week.

Yesterday’s heat was simply insane. The heat index was about 115, I think, and it felt every one of those degrees every time I had to go outside. It was 95 last night when I drove home from work at eight o’clock, which is also just completely insane.

I did a little bit of writing yesterday, not much, trying to get going on the WIP again. I’m a little bit at sea with the WIP right now; not touching it over the course of my vacation wasn’t exactly much of a help, and the heat and everything  yesterday, as well as adjusting to getting back to the office, kind of made that a bit on the difficult side. I will, of course, try again tonight.

Paul also got home really late last night, so Scooter and I are no longer on our own here in the Lost Apartment anymore. I’m glad he’s home–he’s always gone just long enough for me to get over the “home alone” thing; I enjoy the solitude at first, and then it gets a bit lonely by the end of his trip. And now we can get caught up on everything we’re watching, which is also another one of those win-win things. Huzzah!

I’ve been watching Netflix’ The Last Czars, which I am enjoying–it’s very well done, and the actors cast playing Nicholas and Alexandra are perfectly cast; but it’s a little bit different watching a show about doomed royalty than it used to be. There’s been a kind of tectonic shift in my mind and my way of thinking, and while the story of the last Romanovs is certainly tragic on a human scale, on a national scale I don’t really have that much sympathy for them as I might have in the past. He was an ineffectual ruler, and they were both religious bigots; they actually believed they had a divine mission from God to be autocrats and sole authority in Russia; and therefore they were always in the right–as their people starved and his bad decisions and policies brought the country to the brink of ruin, while they lived and dined in luxury and spent, spent, spent. It’s really not hard to think they sort of deserved the basement in Ekaterinburg–and the way history is taught, I’ve come to realize, with its emphasis on royalty and nobility with no interest on the lives of the people whose bodies, taxes, and lives were exploited by the ruling class–all with the blessings of their religion–isn’t necessarily the right way to teach history. I’m not saying the lives of the rulers aren’t important to the histories, just that the emphasis on them is misplaced. History should be taught as the history of the people, and the development of law and modern government–which the people have had to fight for, every step of the way…one thing I’m enjoying about this show–an odd combination of documentary, reenactment, and actual footage from the time–is that it doesn’t shy away from the crimes or the arrogance of the Romanovs, especially when it comes to their people. There’s one particularly brilliant scene where Alexandra scolds Nicholas for even considering giving in and creating a duma (the Russian version of parliament), while the nation is on the brink of revolution. “They’ll want more,” she scoffs, convinced of their divine right to power, “they’ll always want more, and then what?” She wasn’t wrong about that, but she was most definitely wrong about their divine right, and she was almost always wrong about the people.

I have agreed to write a forward to a new edition of an almost forgotten gay classic back from the plague years; the book was published posthumously after the author died from AIDS in the early 1990’s. The author, Jay B. Laws, had only managed to write two gay horror novels before died; the first, Steam, is better known than the second, and is one of my favorite horror novels as well as one of my favorite gay novels. I had read the second, The Unfinished, years ago but it’s quite odd; I don’t remember anything about it, so rereading it is like reading it for the first time. It’s quite good, and I don’t think I’ll have any trouble writing the forward–and I am also glad this has kind of forced me into rereading the book, which is practically like a new book to me. And, as a gay novel, it fits into the Diversity Project quite nicely.

There’s a low-pressure zone drifting from mid-Georgia into the Gulf, which will most likely turn into either a tropical depression or a tropical storm; forecast to dump a shit ton of rain on wherever it comes to shore, either Thursday or Friday, possibly this entire weekend. Hurray. The water in the Gulf is also ridiculously warm–89 degrees off the coast of Louisiana, near the mouth of the river and New Orleans–which isn’t really going to help matters much. (This heat wave has me already dreading my next power bill.)

Oh, yes, I also spent some time rereading the opening chapters of the Kansas book, which I’d started revising one last time last summer before being pulled away into other projects, and it’s in much better shape than I had remembered–I was still marking up the pages with a highlighter and my pen–but it also has me thinking that perhaps this final rewrite isn’t going to be nearly as painful as I first thought, or had been thinking since I got pulled away from it to work on something else. Huzzah!

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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Sledgehammer

We have rain forecast again for today, but right now it’s gorgeous and sunny and blue skies as far as the eye can see outside my windows. Alberto has sped up and shifted east; we are no longer in the Cone of Uncertainty, but Monday evening could be rather unpleasant; the whole day in fact could be rather unpleasant.

Yesterday I broke down and read the first fourteen chapters of the Scotty book. I’d been putting it off–avoidance  having always been one of my top methods of dealing with something I’d rather not–and am pleased to report that while the draft is, in fact and as I’d suspected–terribly rough. But while the writing itself needs to be improved on, and the scenes made better and the dialogue strengthened and the characters deepened; the bare bones of the story are there and they are working precisely the way I wanted them to. Chapter Fourteen is, indeed, terrible and off-track; which means I shall simply have to correct it before moving on to Chapter Fifteen. This was such an enormous relief to me, you have no idea, Constant Reader! I also finally figured out the plot as well, which was equally lovely. Now, I have eleven or so chapters more to do and the first draft is finished; and then it’s just clean-up work.

Huzz-fucking-ah!

I also continued making notes on both “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” as well as notes for the y/a I want to write later this year, Bury Me in Satin. I have to say, having this stay-cation has been absolutely necessary and needed; I should probably take these lengthy weekends every few months or so, just to get caught up and reconnect with my writing, rather than just trying to get it done.

I’ve also continued reading Roth’s When She Was Good. Roth is a spectacularly good writer, and he definitely understands character and what to do with it; which is, of course, another way of saying that I am really enjoying reading this book, which I didn’t expect. There is, of course, some casual homophobia in the book, but unfortunately it also fits into the time period and therefore kind of works with the characters…but still kind of jarring to read, while kind of important to remember it wasn’t that long ago that blatant homophobia was so deeply and systemically woven into the fabric of our society that it’s a wonder we’ve made it this far already.

I continue to watch The Shannara Chronicles, and was saddened to see a main character killed off in Episode 8 of Season 2 last night. Shannara is similar to Game of Thrones in that regard; everyone’s life is on the table. I only read the first novel in the series, but it might be interesting to go back and reread the first one and the next two in the series at some point (because I have so much free time).

I also watched the season finale of Krypton, which was terrific. Krypton, which started out kind of ‘meh,’ really hit its stride as the season got going. I rewatched the 1940’s version of And Then There Were None last night, which is terrific other than changing the end of the novel, and the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, which was not as good as I remembered.

I am currently reading two non-fiction books: The Republic of Pirates and The Golden Age of Murder. As my watching of Black Sails no doubt tipped you off, Constant Reader, I am fascinated by pirates and one day hope to write about pirates; whether actually about pirates during their heyday, or about pirate treasure in the present (there’s a Scotty idea in my head somewhere about Jean Lafitte’s treasure I just can’t get my hands on, but someday!), so I am reading The Republic of Pirates as sort of research/for pleasure. Likewise, The Golden Age of Murder is about the Detection Club, and the rise of the British writers who made up the “golden age”: Christie, Sayers, Chesterton, etc. It’s interesting and informative; while I’ve read many of these writers–many of them when I was a teenager–it’s kind of fun finding out what they were like as people; what they thought of their own writing and each other; how they came up with their ideas, and what they did for marketing purposes (Sayers was apparently a tireless self-promoter).

I’ve decided that I have to do more promotion going forward; I am not exactly sure how to do that, but it’s something I need to be more pro-active about. Facebook and Twitter certainly can’t be the be-all end-all of my marketing efforts; however, the gay bookstores are gone as are the gay newspapers, and the mystery bookstores seem to be closing at an equally alarming rate as well. I’ve also come to the conclusion this year, as I’ve mentioned so many times before in past entries this year already, that I need to stop being so self-deprecating and take pride in my work. This is very against my nature; my default is to self-deprecate so I don’t have to worry about other people being deprecating. I’ve always feared that if I say something like I’m really proud of this story someone else will say, well, being proud of THIS isn’t difficult given what you’ve written before; you see how defeating this all can be? Reprogramming my mind isn’t easy, but it is definitely something I need to work on for this year. At the same time I detest arrogance…so it’s a tightrope I have to walk, proud but not arrogant. And I’m not sure I can navigate either properly.

But I am enjoying creating again; enjoying working with my characters and coming up with plots and dialogue and images. Hopefully I’ll do some actually writing–last night I was writing scenes in my journal in long-hand while the television blared in the background; fortunately with the Christie films I’d seen them before and read the novels, so I didn’t miss anything; I may not have been paying as close attention to The Shannara Chronicles as I may have needed to.

Today, I am going to reread the first four chapters of the revision of the WIP (which I have already started revising yet again). I may do some computer-writing today, but then again we’ll see where the day goes, shall we?

I also have been reading some short stories. I’d forgotten that The New Yorker was doing these decades books; showing the decade through collected pieces published in the magazine during that decade. I had purchased the volume for the 1940’s, and forgotten about it. I started paging through it the other day, and came across some great essays as well as some short stories…

The first inThe New Yorker’s The 40’s: The Story of a Decade is”The Second Tree from the Corner” by E. B. White.

\”Ever have any bizarre thoughts?” asked the doctor.

Mr. Trexler failed to catch the word. “What kind?” he asked.

“Bizarre,” repeated the doctor, his voice steady. He watched his patient for any slight change of expression, any wince. It seemed to Trexler that the doctor was not only watching him closely but creeping slowly toward him, like a lizard toward a bug. Trexler shoved his back an inch and gathered himself for a reply. He was about to say “Yes” when he realized that if he said yes the next question would be unanswerable. Bizarre thoughts, bizarre thoughts? Ever have any bizarre thoughts? What kind of thoughts except bizarre had he had since the age of two?

It’s interesting, for one thing, to switch from the crime/horror stories I usually read to read something that’s more along the literary fiction lines; I’ve heard of E. B. White before but never read him other than his collaboration with William Strunk, The Elements of Style, which has become a Bible of sorts, if not to writers then definitely to writing students. So, it was kind of nice to read some of his fiction.

The story itself is rather clever; it’s about the relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient, primarily drawn from the patient’s–Mr. Trexler’s–point of view, and how he sees his own neuroses and if his doctor is actually helping him or not. Mr. Trexler begins to slowly question his therapist during their sessions, which inevitably shifts the dynamic between the two, and Mr. Trexler also has some keen insights into his doctor’s personality. Ironically, this ‘reverse-therapy’ seems to have the most positive effect on Mr. Trexler, and after a session–which may or may not be his final session with this doctor–he’s kind of helped himself; on his walk home from the therapist he is quite buoyant and happy and seeing the world with almost new eyes, seeing everything in a new way.

So, the therapy worked…but just not how it’s intended to work, but does it matter when the final end is the desired outcome?

Interesting.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Holding Back the Years

Yesterday was rather dreary, weather-wise, and I feel fairly confident we are still under a flash-flood warning; but this morning all I see is blue sky and sunshine. Things still look a little damp out there, but over all, much better than one could have hoped. And in checking the project path for Alberto, the cone of uncertainty has narrowed to New Orleans in the west to Panama City in the east; much, much smaller cone; but we are on the outside of the western edge. As storms also tend to turn to the east–even Katrina did before landfall–I’ve breathed a slight sigh of relief this morning.

It is, I suspect, going to be a long hurricane season–particularly since it doesn’t officially start until June 1.

I slept deeply and well last night, and my back–which was aching–no longer hurts, which is a good thing. I wish I could figure out what the hell I am doing to it to make it hurt in the first place, so I can be more careful, but I am more than happy to take the pain being gone as a win this morning. Huzzah!

Yesterday I was scribbling away in my journal as I continued to read Philip Roth’s When She Was Good. The writing is very good, and the characterizations are also quite good; all that remains is the plot/story, and I am intrigued enough with it to continue reading it. Maybe I should dial it back for a while on the crime fiction and read outside my genre for a little while; not just for a break but to come up with better ideas for my own writing, which can never hurt.

I wrote all kinds of notes in my journal yesterday; notes for the WIP, notes for the short stories “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” and “The Brady Kid” (I’ve not even thought about the latter for months now), so I am feeling all kinds of productive here in the Lost Apartment this morning. I am going to actually write today for a while; I also intend to do some reading–not just the Roth, but I am going to read everything I’ve written on the Scotty thus far and make notes. I also don’t know my characters in the Scotty book as much as I should, and I need to get the plot figured out so I can get the goddamned draft done. I also have a few other things I need to get done as well.

And there’s always cleaning, of course. I am currently working on washing the bed linens, and the living room of course needs to be vacuumed. I also need to clean out my car a bit; and Armor-all the inside of my car now that summer is looming. I also need to put the recycling out. But I have to say, this well-rested thing is actually working out quite beautifully. I could easily get very used to it, I must say. I must also say that I’m greatly enjoying this creative phase I am currently experiencing. I am thinking about character, and why I write the things I write, and how to broaden my reading audience. I’ve been thinking about moving forward with the agent search, how best to approach an agent, how to put my best foot forward, not only with industry professionals but also with the readers of my genre.

I’ve also come to realize that, over the last few days, as I’ve put my finger precisely on why I wasn’t getting anywhere with “A Holler Full of Kudzu” is because I was trying to not be subversive; the write from the gay male point of view without rubbing people’s faces in the sexuality. But WHY? Why would I do that? The point of the story, the theme, if you will, has everything to do with the point of view character’s sexuality; of beginning to understand what your sexuality is and that is partly why you feel different from everyone else, and also, learning how people feel about people who are like you, and how dangerous those feelings are, can push you deeper into the closet. I think the theme may be larger than the story itself, to be completely honest with you; which is why I am tending to think this story may actually be a novel a-borning in my mind rather than the lengthy short story I was thinking it would be. As I plug in some of the story pieces today that I brainstormed in my journal last night, I will come to a better understanding of the story and how long it is going to be.

Likewise, “Never Kiss a Stranger” is becoming much longer than I originally thought it would turn out to be; it’s going to come in far longer than the six or seven thousand words I originally had planned. That will make it harder to place, of course–not that it’s not already hard to place stories with gay characters and themes; it’s almost impossible–but I’ve also decided that I simply have to stop writing things that are specifically intended for markets. I have to write the story the best I can and then try to find a market for it. And I can always, always, always, simply do another collection of stories.

I also like that “The Brady Kid” is starting to shape in my mind; mainly, who the point-o-view character is. Part of the issue with some of my stories is that maybe I don’t define the characters enough; it’s hard to write a good story when you don’t know who your characters are.

I’m also finding that experimenting with voice and style and tone and place is much easier to do in a short story rather than in a novel. I think writing these stories is making me a much better writer, to be honest, which is ultimately going to be more helpful to me in the long run than I’d possibly thought. During my brainstorming last night I also figured out some of the problems I am having with the Scotty novel; not solutions, per se, but actually diagnosing the problems, which is key to figuring out how to solve those problems.

Which is fun, actually, and I have to say, it’s so awesome that writing is fun again.

I also read some short stories. Here’s one: “Crazy Margaret” by Jack Fredrickson, from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2017 issue.

The gravestone had room for only the first name, but it was the largest he could carry up the hill. He set in on ground covered now, as then, with curled brown leaves.

He’d meant to slip into town quietly, place the stone, and slip out again. There was no one from his old life he wanted to see. But a voice had called his name when he was gassing up the rental, a guy he’d known in high school. They’d chatted for a moment before Dave, acting casual, asked about her.

The old classmate had scratched his head, surprised. Crazy Margaret, he said; that’s what the kids sneaking out there called her after she dropped out of school. But new kids came along, kids who didn’t know her, and soon enough, nobody gave her any mind at all. “Hell, it’s been at least twenty years,” he said. “She could be dead.”

I enjoyed this story; which is told from the perspective of someone coming home to their small town and remembering something that happened years earlier, something criminal; this is something I often do in my own stories–in fact, “This Thing of Darkness” is sort of one of these stories. The Margaret of the title is a beautiful young woman who sunbathes out at the lake where she lives in skimpy bikinis; luring young boys out there to watch her and possibly, just possibly, killing some of them. It’s sort of a retelling of the siren myth, from the Greeks: the beautiful woman who lures men to their deaths. Although…really, should the boys be out there spying on her in the first place? Isn’t that a form of harassment?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story; it’s very well done and how Margaret gets her own punishment for what she’s doing is very Tales from the Crypt or House of Mystery; crime is always punished in a macabre, ironic way and so it is for the Crazy Margaret of the title.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Hot Girls in Love

Friday!

What a day I had yesterday. I sent queries out to four agents, and then thought what the hell and sent two short stories out for submission. One has already been rejected; they were, alas, closed for submissions. But that’s fine; onward and upward.

I am starting to get excited about next week’s trip to Bouchercon, and Toronto. I am going to query a few more agents today, and then give it a rest for a few days while I focus on doing some manuscript tweaking and writing as well as getting the Lost Apartment prepared for our departure. We’re apparently going to be visited by a hurricane this weekend as well–hurray!–which is going to make some things a little tricky. (Must remember to gas up the car tomorrow just in case.) I also need to make a packing list for the trip; I’ve printed out my panel schedule; bought our train tickets for the trip into the city from the airport and back; fetched the suitcase from storage…and now I have to make sure that we eat everything perishable in the house before Wednesday; which is always tricky. But I’m really looking forward to seeing friends I don’t see frequently, and lots of laughter and maybe….just a little bit of snark.

It happens.

So, as we hunker down and await the arrival of Nate, I am going to be submitting more stories and sending out more queries. It’s kind of addictive, now that I’ve gotten past the hump and have started doing it. I mean, it is what it is, right? Either they want me, or they don’t. And really, it’s not about the quality of the writing and it’s certainly not about anything personal; it’s about whether they think they can make money with me…which is the same thing with publishers. Honestly, I’m so good about giving advice to others about this sort of thing rather than taking it myself.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines. In honor of Nate’s imminent arrival, here’s a beefcake shot of Jim Cantore.

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Roll With The Changes

Ah, Tuesday.

There’s a potential hurricane out there in the Gulf; yesterday the Gulf parishes and those adjacent went into hurricane watch status, with flash flood warnings and all that entails. Hurray! Only nineteen days into hurricane season…and we’re off to a good start. But I am very happy that this hurricane season I have a new car; which I still am in love with, I might add. I am still not used to the easy maneuverability; it catches me off guard sometimes with how easy it is to turn, or park, or get out of  parking spaces. All of which, of course, is lovely, as is the smooth ride.

Anyway, tropical storm conditions should be here sometimes this afternoon, which should make the drive home from work pleasant. It’s already gloomy and gray out there this morning; they’re saying this one might be named Cindy, and while I haven’t read everything on Weather.com thus far, it looks like Bret’s coming into the Caribbean Sea as well; although he looks to be more of a danger to South and Central America, Heavy heaving sigh. Looks like we’re going to have a highly active hurricane season this year.

Yay.

It looks like we might be giving up on Between; the third episode, which we watched last night, passed the campy enjoyability of overacting and bad writing to just bad. We may give it another episode–primarily because we don’t have anything else to watch as of yet, although we might go back to Turn, which we lost interest in during its second season (primarily because of a bad storyline that they seemed determined to drag out as much as possible) but was otherwise quite enjoyable; plus Jamie Bell, who plays the lead, was Billy in Billy Elliott when he was younger, so I am rather partial to him. I also love the time period, having a lifelong fascination with the Revolutionary War/colonial period (well, I love American history, and all history, really) but it was my fascination with the colonial period/Revolutionary War that initially triggered my interest in history.

I managed to rip through two chapters of the revision yesterday, and if I keep this pace going, I should be able to get the revision completely finished going into my long weekend of the 4th of July, which is when I intend to do all the polishing I need to get done. Paul will be off seeing his mother, which means I will get a lot of cleaning and reading done, and will probably be looking for old movies to watch–I’ll probably watch the live-action Beauty and the Beast while he’s gone, and of course there are a couple of shows we started watching that I can go back and finish–like MTV’s Scream–in order to keep myself entertained while he’s gone.

I also started writing a short story yesterday for a romance anthology I want to submit to; “Passin’ Time.” This is a story I’ve wanted to write for a long time; it’s kind of a sequel to “Everyone Says I’ll Forget in Time”, which was, I think, in the Foolish Hearts anthology (or was it Fool for Love?) about ten years or so ago. I’ve always wanted to write the sequel story, revisiting the burgeoning romance set up in the original story. (I very rarely want to revisit short story characters, so actually thinking about a sequel to a story I’ve written is in and of itself a curious enough occasion to make me want to do it.)

It’s now dark and raining outside; so I guess the outer, initial bands of  this storm i are starting to come ashore, or a storm front coming in ahead of the storm is here. (The bands weren’t supposed to be here until later this afternoon.)

So, I should probably head back into the spice mines before work.

Here’s your Tuesday morning hunk:

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