Primitive Notion

Another good night’s sleep, only to wake up to a frigid forty degree morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have my cappuccino prepared, the space heater is blowing warm air in my general direction, and the ceiling fans are most definitely turned off. The kitchen is clean this morning, which is lovely–there’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher needing to be put away, but that can wait till after work–but it was marvelous to come down to a cleaned up and organized kitchen this morning.

Paul was working last evening, so I did the same. I got another two chapters of the book polished and revised; and hopefully will keep that momentum going this evening. I also started reading Jess Lourey’s Edgar finalist Unspeakable Things, and that voice! It’s quite good thus far, and I am really looking forward to getting further into it this evening after going to the gym. Yes, I have to go workout this evening; my shoulder is finally no longer sore from last week’s inoculation (hallelujah) and it has been nearly a week since I last went to the gym. My muscles and joints will no doubt protest and creak a bit as I put them through their rusty paces this evening, but I really have to get back into the swing of the regular workouts…and I also have been missing them. This is a good thing, and I am very pleased that my natural inclination of blowing off the gym has become, at least currently, a thing of the past; a former behavior, if you will.

I’ve also concluded that there are so many wonderful notes in my journals that when I am not actually writing on the book, I should start going through the journals yet again and pull ideas out of there, actually creating electronic files and folders to track the stories. I have written at least six or seven hundred words in my journal on “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I need to convert that into a Word document as soon as I can so I can really start writing the story. I also can’t believe I allowed myself to go so long without keeping a journal; I believe it was 2017 when I started keeping them again, and it’s really been rather nice. While I no longer write for the most part by long hand–primarily to spare myself the ordeal of transcribing–I do find that brainstorming while scribbling has a restorative, creative effect; the journals were enormously helpful when writing both Royal Street Reveillon and Bury Me in Shadows–and there are an awful lot of helpful notes and brainstorming in them about the Kansas book, which are certainly coming in handy as I write the book. It has evolved so much over the decades since I started writing it all those years ago, and so much that I wrote in it originally has come in helpful over the years, being pirated and plundered for other books and stories. I am very deeply ensconced inside this manuscript now–to the point where I haven’t been thought about Chlorine since I started this deep dive into this final edit. This is unusual; earlier in my career I would become immersed in a manuscript the way I am now; but over the years it inevitably got to the point where I would always be thinking about–and wanting to work on–the next one while rushing to get through the current. I also think having this razor sharp focus is making the book better than it might have been.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?

I also was thinking about “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday for some reason, as well as “To Sacrifice a Pawn”–two other stories I think I started writing in December; yes, December, because the idea was to write something for a last minute Christmas anthology Gabino Iglesias was pulling together (it’s always interesting to me how I will write a story for a submission call of some sort, but the story rarely ever gets published by the market I wrote it for; take “The Snow Globe” for instance. That started out being written for a Halloween anthology HWA was doing; I never finished it and the deadline passed. I turned it into a Christmas story for another anthology call; it was rejected, but now I have sold it somewhere else entirely), but of course I was in the weeds with Bury Me in Shadows and never finished it; I think the most likely thing that’s going to happen is I will spend March planning out Chlorine while finishing some of these other stories and getting them out for submission. I think I still have two or three stories in anthologies that will be coming out this year at some point; I am really looking forward to seeing the finished books. And at some point soon, I will have enough stories for another single-author collection of my own, which is very exciting.

But the sun is rising over the West Bank with pinks and reds and pale blues staining the sky; and I must start putting together today’s lunch, packing my backpack, and getting into the shower to face down yet another day of clients and work at the office. I’m also going to need to start pulling together my tax information (yay); which I’m also kind of dreading…but I can do that after I finish the book, really. No rush there at all–which is a good thing; there are few things I hate more than prepping my taxes for the accountant.

And so I shall go ahead and bid you adieu for yet another morning, Constant Reader, and hope your Tuesday is as marvelous as you deserve.

Tied Together with a Smile

Monday morning and facing down the three clinic days, which makes me tired to even just think about, honestly. I love working with my clients, though; that’s always a plus, and while my program coordinator is out quarantining (her roommate tested positive for COVID-19 last week), I think I can handle my job without her being there. (This is why I was so concerned about the stomach issues on Saturday; the last thing in the world I need right now it to have to go out on quarantine myself.)

There actually wasn’t a Saints game yesterday; I didn’t realize it was a bye week for the Saints–it was just weird that neither LSU nor the Saints had a game on the same weekend (I looked up the time for the game earlier in the week and didn’t realize it brought up next week’s game instead), and it’s been quite a while since that happened. In fact, I cannot remember the last time bye weeks fell on the same weekend–although to be fair, LSU wasn’t supposed to have a bye.

But still.

We watched the season finale of The Vow last night, and it seemed to wrap up pretty quickly; Paul was very quick to assert, “there’s going to be a second season, clearly” and after looking around on-line this morning a bit, I see that the show has been renewed for a second season. We enjoyed watching the show, despite its deeply uneven story-telling and a sense that it was longer than it needed to be; I also didn’t think compressing everything–from the arrests, etc. to the present day–into the final fifteen minutes of the finale was the best methodology; it really felt rushed, particularly since some previous episodes were obviously dragged out; it could have been six episodes, I think.

We also watched the first episode of the Jude Law mini-series The Third Day, and decided not to continue. It was very well done–some of the images were exceptional–but it was all just very murky and strange and really, you should watch one part of a three-part show and have literally no idea what’s going on, or have no sense of the characters, or why you should give a shit about their story. We won’t be watching more, I think, which is a shame; the previews looked wonderfully creepy and spooky; and while the first episode contributed greatly to the mood of creepy dread, that was about all we came away from it with, other than little to no desire to watch any more of it.

I started going through old journals yesterday–I found the one in which I started keeping the journal again (2017! It’s been three years!)–mainly because I am trying to get back into Bury Me in Shadows again; it’s been weeks since I worked on it, and I was thinking I needed to go through my notes and so forth to make sure everything is going into the story that needs to be in the story. The old journals are fascinating; there’s also the plans and notes for Royal Street Reveillon in them, as well as the birth of short stories that have since been written and even, in some cases, published; there are other story ideas and titles that never were followed up on–some of them are quite good, upon a review with fresh eyes–as well as sketches and ideas for stories that were written but wound up not really working after several drafts were completed (“The Problem with Autofill” is one of those; it’s a great concept but it doesn’t work because the central conceit winds up triggering how can you be so stupid as a reader reaction, which kills the story, frankly). It’s also interesting to see that this particular novel began being titled Bury Me in Satin, which I discarded early on, changing “satin” for “shadows”, which works ever so much better.

I also managed to do some filing and organizing, and I do feel much better about everything I now need to get done–and feel confident I can do it all.

I also read some short stories yesterday.

“Love & Other Crimes” is the title story from Sara Paretsky’s short story collection, and yes, it’s a V. I. Warshawski story. One of the problems I’ve always had with writing crime fiction short stories is the compression of the investigation aspect. I am used to spreading the story out from anywhere from sixty five thousands words to just over a hundred thousand; Royal Street Reveillon was slightly more than a hundred thousand, and is probably my longest novel. I wrote my first ever Chanse short story, “My Brother’s Keeper”, for my own collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and I’ve started yet another, “Once a Tiger,” that has stalled, along with a couple of other investigation short stories that have never reached a complete first draft–some Venus stories (“A Little More Jazz for the Axeman,” “Falling Bullets,” and “Stations of the Cross”), and there’s a Jerry Channing story (he has appeared in the Scotty books; he’s a true crime writer) whose title I cannot recall at this moment. I struggle with these stories, obviously; reading Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer short stories (The Archer Files) helped somewhat, as did reading Sue Grafton’s Kinsey short stories (Kinsey and Me); and it’s really no surprise that Paretsky–MWA Grand Master and crime fiction legend–can also pull off the private eye short story. A kid from the old neighborhood is being framed for murder; his sister rather snottily hired Vic to prove his innocence. She manages to do so–ironically, he was really implicated in another crime, just not the murder–and the success of the story makes me think that I should change the way I write these kinds of stories. I am not much of an outliner anymore–somewhere around Murder in the Rue St. Ann I realized that I never really stuck to the outline so wasn’t really sure I should keep doing them; instead, I either come up with a very loose synopsis–or just know where I am going to end it and start writing in that general direction and see where it goes. But…maybe I should outline the short stories that are investigations rather than just starting to write and seeing where they go; I always stop writing when I get stuck, and who knows if or when I will ever get back to it? But I am also digressing from the point of what a great story Paretsky opens her collection with! I don’t think all of the stories are necessarily Warshawski stories–the next, “Miss Bianca,” doesn’t appear to be–but I am really looking forward to seeing what other magic she hath wrought with her writing.

After reading the Paretsky story, I moved on to the Lawrence Block anthology The Darkling Halls of Ivy–whose theme is crime stories set in academia. The very first story is David Morrell’s “Requiem for a Homecoming,’ and it’s an interesting take on a crime story. A successful screenwriter returns to his alma mater for Homecoming as a special guest, and the story opens with him having a drink in a campus-area pub with an old friend from his college days…and then bringing up a twenty-year old murder that occurred when they were both undergrads. They talk a bit about the murder, and some things that never came out in the investigation all those years ago–including the pov character having gone out on a date with her once, but didn’t come forward because he supplemented his income by dealing drugs–the drug dealer would be an obvious suspect and this could have jeopardized his scholarship to USC for grad work in screenwriting–but there’s also a lot more to this fiendishly clever story. But Lawrence Block’s anthologies never disappoint; my bucket list includes getting to write a story for one of these.

And on that note, it’s off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Paper Rings

And now it’s Tuesday again, huzzah! One day down, four to go.

Don’t mind me–I’m just over here wishing my life away.

The Saints managed to eke out a win last night, and it wasn’t pretty, frankly; 30-27 in overtime over the Chargers. I actually went to bed when the game went into overtime; I had to get up early and I really couldn’t justify staying up any later and risking being tired all day today, with so much that needs to get done. I was very tired and drained when I got home from work last night, to be honest; but after sitting in my easy chair for a little while and cuddling with Scooter, I put the dishes away and did another load; took a shower to wash the day off me and did a load of laundry, and basically took some time to clean and organize the kitchen with the end result that I came downstairs this morning to a clean kitchen, a dishwasher filled with newly washed and clean dishes, and feeling pretty awake and not tired. I also set out my clothes for today last night, and packed today’s lunch last night as well. I may have been too mentally tired to read or write anything last night, but overall, it was a much smarter way to spend the evening than i usually do on a day when I had to get up at six.

We’ll see if I can continue to be that smart tonight, shall we?

Highly unlikely, given my past history, but we shall see.

One never knows.

I emailed the essay off for another round of edits yesterday, and hopefully today will have time to start working on the edits for my story “The Snow Globe.” I have a shit ton of other things I need to get to–odds and ends, here and there, now and then–I am very behind on everything, as always, and trying to get caught up. But my email inbox is getting emptied, slowly but surely, and that’s always a good thing.

Over this past weekend, I was paging through my journal from two years or so ago or whenever St. Petersburg Bouchercon was; there are notes in there from St. Petersburg, so I know that’s when the journal was from (Dana Cameron and I stood around in the lobby near the hospitality suite, talking about a Nancy Drew spoof that someone needs to write called Escape from Canyon Ranch, and we literally laughed until we were in tears; I wrote some of it down in my journal, and rereading those notes reminded me of the good times I used to have when I could travel and go to conferences), and it was quite illuminating. I realized, while looking through it, that I really need to go back through old journals; there may be notes and ideas scribbled down that have completely escaped my mind, and some of it might be good, usable stuff. (My last two have pages with notes on Bury Me in Shadows marked by post-it notes; but there were also notes in this particular journal as well.) One of the lovely things about journals is the memories they can spark, and of course, there’s also the notes on works in progress or ideas that can spark even more inspiration…which is also lovely.

I’ve been reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, bit by bit; Vidal’s work is very well written but it’s not compulsive reading–it’s rather easy to put it down and walk away from it for a few days or so–but for some reason on Sunday I picked up my copy of Edna Ferber’s A Peculiar Treasure, which is a kind of memoir about her writing life (do people even remember Ferber today? She was kind of a big deal in her time, was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, and wrote a lot of successful novels and plays, including Giant, Show Boat, Cimarron, So Big, and many others), and it’s interesting to view her style of memoir-writing; slightly whimsical and self-deprecating while somehow at the same time kind of boastful? I was interested to see that she had a connection to Emporia, Kansas; she began as a journalist and was friends with Emporia’s most famous son, William Allen White, and visited there often; he was, in fact, the person who gave her the idea to write Cimarron. Ferber has always interested me–she never married, for example, which of course always made me wonder about her sexuality (as one always does with historical figures who died unwed) but I’ve never really been able to find out much about her, which is why I bought this used copy of her memoir, to see if there were any hints in it. She’s very good at deflection, and from the bits and pieces I’ve been able to read over the years since getting the book, she never really talks much about her personal life at all, other than in a whimsical, almost magic realism way, and mostly focuses on her professional life once you get past her childhood–but there are no stories about dates or crushes or teen heartbreaks or anything like that, alas.

And now, on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.

Out of My Head and Back in My Bed

We are all unreliable narrators of our own lives.

Probably one of the most interesting things–to me–about getting older is discovering for myself how differently I remember things in my past than other people do.  I used to think about writing personal essays–“I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” is probably the best one I’ve ever done, and one of the few that have ever been published–because I love them, and the way some of my favorite writers can produce the most insightful and touching ones. But then I always have that doubtful voice in the back of my head–who cares about your personal experiences? Why do you think your insights are more valuable than anyone else’s? Who would be the audience for these?–and you know, FUCK that voice. I fucking hate that voice, and it’s always there, whispering, not sweet nothings, but vicious you’re nothing’s in my head.

And for the record, I’m pretty damned proud of “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.”

But perhaps the worst part of that snide, hateful voice is that it’s always there, you know? When I think to myself, hey, you should write a personal essay about this and then…yeah. My friend Laura, whose amazing personal essay collection My Life as a Villainess will drop soon–buy it buy it buy it–and I were talking about this very thing once over drinks (always over drinks) several years ago; I was telling her how much I loved her essays and that I wished I could write personal essays, with my usual “I can’t do anything” default, and she replied, “You write one every day. What do you think your blog is?”

Touche, as it were.

But….I can never seem to silence that voice.

Another reason why I back away from writing personal essays or the occasional thought that I might want to write a memoir–or a lengthy series of personal essays about my life which can then be stitched together into a memoir–is because my memory is so faulty, and the older I get, I find–when checking actual facts against my memory–inevitably I remembered wrong. For years, I believed we left the city of Chicago for the suburbs in the winter of 1969; why that winter, I don’t know–even though intellectually, after thinking about it some more, I realized my memories were lying to me. I was ten when we moved, I turned ten in 1971, so we moved in the winter of 1971–and we only lived there for four and a half years–which seemed so much longer than it actually was! Just as how I thought, after Katrina, I’d sheltered at my parents’ for months, when it was actually just a little over two weeks. I was only gone from New Orleans for about six weeks in total, actually; it seemed like I was gone for an eternity. My memory lies to me, all the time.

And how I remember things is different from how other people remember the same things. I think we tend to make ourselves the heroes in the story of our own lives, and so we rewrite our histories a little, so we look better than we actually were. Our memories are also seen through the haze of our collective other experiences, emotions, and perceptions; I might remember someone as being distant and cold, why they remember the encounter as two strangers being polite to one another. I used to think my first impressions of people were always the correct ones and evidence of my remarkable perception; but that is also demonstrably false. After all, once you’ve closed your mind to someone it’s terribly easy to interpret their behavior and the things they say through the filter of that initial observation, thereby turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve taken to not entirely trusting my first impressions of people the older I’ve gotten, and people who put me off when we first met have turned out to be lovely; and lovely people I instantly liked have turned out to be horrible.

So, how could I trust my memories enough to write them down?  Joan Didion said we tell ourselves stories in order to live, but I think we tell ourselves lies in order to live with ourselves is actually a more accurate statement.

So, what is real and true in our pasts? How does one examine the truth of your own memories?

I am regularly amazed at the lies I tell myself about my past, and how I’ve told myself those lies so many times that I’ve become convinced they are truth. How can I ever write any kind of memoir when I already don’t trust my memories–all of which I would have been willing to swear at some point were honest-to-God truths?

This blog is, in some ways, a remembrance project for me; to remember events in my life, and career, and how things actually were. I kept a diary for years–I still carry a journal around with me, but I don’t record my thoughts and feelings in it; it’s mostly for ideas about books I’m reading or movies I’m watching or for working through issues with things I’m writing or for writing down ideas for stories or books or essays; hoarder Greg has kept most of those journals from the days before blogging, when I used to record things down in a book so I could process emotions and anger and other things I was going to do; to talk about my dreams and my ambitions; as a way to escape whatever misery was going on in my life. I rarely revisit them; perhaps some weekend when I am bored and don’t want to write I should start going through them again–but in all honesty, the self-absorption can be a bit much to take.

I also don’t like to revisit my past that much, which is yet another reason for me not to write a memoir. I wasn’t a person I liked very much until I was in my mid-thirties, and even then I was still a work in progress. My friend Jeffrey Ricker said to me the other day on Twitter: “I always forget you weren’t born full formed in New Orleans, like Athena from Zeus’ forehead.” A lot of it had to do with being miserably unhappy with my life, of just kind of drifting, of having no self-confidence (I may have issues with that still–particularly when it comes to my writing–but it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, so I have made progress; I don’t let it ruin my life anymore, which is a good way to go), and not having the slightest idea of how to go about making my dreams come true. I always wrote–I wrote short stories in high school, I wrote a novel while in college, and then wrote three more, and of course was writing short stories the entire time–but it was very easy to give up after getting some rejections; to assume that becoming a publisher writer was something outside of my particular skillset, and to just give up and go back to being miserable. There’s really nothing from that period of my life I think would even be interesting enough to write about.

So, I generally shy away from the idea of writing a memoir, despite the enormous temptation. I don’t remember things the way they actually happened, but rather, how they happened through the prism and fun-house mirrors of my own mind. Whenever we tell stories about ourselves, we inevitably make ourselves sound better than we may have actually beenLook at the carefully curated lives we see of friends and acquaintances and relatives on social media.

My blog served me well for remembering things during the Time of Troubles; it actually began as a way to start writing again, of making myself sit down and write something every day. It has evolved over the years into something else, something different; I’m not even really sure how to classify it. I talk about television shows and movies and books I enjoy; I talk about my day to day life and experiences; the way I view things and my hopes and dreams, and my struggles with my writing. It is, of course, much more carefully curated now than it was in the beginning–more lies of omission, I suppose, is how it would best be described. It’s now a habit; on those rare days when I don’t have the time, or can’t find the time, to write an entry it bothers me all day–in fact, it’s been awhile since I have missed a day, and usually it’s because I’m out of town.

I guess this entry counts as a personal essay, doesn’t it?

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

So, this came this week:

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Pretty cool, right? I really like the cover.

This, on the inside, is also kind of cool.

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Yes, that’s the two page illustrated title page for my short story, “Neighborhood Alert,” which is in the spring issue of Mystery Tribune magazine.

I know, right? Gregalicious is breathing some rarified air these days!

Wonder of wonders, Trish found a parking space in front of her townhouse on Euterpe Street, which hardly ever happened. A good omen, she thought as she grabbed her purse and the reusable cloth grocery bag from the passenger seat. It was cold for New Orleans, down in the thirties. An overnight rain with a cold front right behind it had dropped the temperature thirty degrees. The city was in a hard freeze warning overnight. She wasn’t sure if her pipes were in danger, but always ran the water to be on the safe side. She couldn’t imagine the hell of busted pipes. She lived in constant fear of something going wrong with her townhouse—termites, ants, broken pipes, the ground shifting. She had some money put aside, but not enough for any of those catastrophes.

She clicked the key fob to lock her car and frowned. Her gate was ajar. She would have sworn she’d closed and locked it, but it was such an automatic habit she couldn’t be sure. She’d been having trouble sleeping, which made her foggy in the mornings. She wasn’t sure what was causing it; her doctor said to cut back on caffeine, but if she didn’t sleep well at night and was groggy in the morning, how was she supposed to do her job without drinking some coffee? She’d compromised, giving up on extra shots of espresso and just having regular coffee…but was still restless at night, tossing and turning and waking up to stare at the ceiling. She shut the gate and locked it with the key. The wrought iron fence was tall, spikes on the top, and since she started living alone, she made sure the gate was locked whenever she was home. Anyone wanting in had to ring the buzzer, and she could check from the safety of the house to see whether she wanted to let them in. She grabbed the catalogues and junk mail from the mailbox, wondering who still used catalogues and slipped it all into her grocery bag. She tried to reduce her carbon footprint by recycling and not using the disposable grocery bags, but she still felt guilty driving to and from work every day. It wasn’t even a mile, but she rationalized that her company paid for her parking space whether she used it or not, and the St. Charles streetcar was two blocks from her front door and four blocks from her office—not bearable in heels or the heat of the summer.

And at least, she reasoned, she did feel guilty about it. Most people didn’t even think about it.

As she unlocked the front door, a sheet of paper sailed out and came to rest on the third step of the hanging staircase. She frowned, shutting the door and turning the deadbolt. There was a mail slot on the front door that wasn’t used anymore; not since she’d installed the big fence, buzzer and gate lock after the divorce. She’d left the gate unlocked and someone had slipped something—a sales notice, probably, or a lost pet flyer—through the mail slot.

I wrote “Neighborhood Alert” last year, during that period of time when I was focusing on writing short stories, early in 2018, and I’d originally intended for it to be included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. I honestly don’t recall why I decided to submit it to Mystery Tribune, but I did one day and then kind of forgot about it. (I do have a spreadsheet where I keep track of submission dates and markets, but I wasn’t making notes on the calendar yet–which I now do, so I can check on the submissions and so forth; I am trying to get better organized, Constant Reader, I AM!) As I was pulling everything together for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, I always included “Neighborhood Alert,” so you can imagine my surprise when I got the email from Mystery Tribune that they wanted to publish my story! Huzzah, indeed! I then had to put a different story in the collection, but I got a rejection from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine  and I swapped that story in for the this one, and problem solved.

“Neighborhood Alert” first came to me as an idea years ago, when someone put one of those ‘registered sex offender in the neighborhood’ flyers through our mail slot when we lived on Camp Street. On the one hand, I certainly understood the neighborhood’s right to know there was a convicted predator moving in; on the other hand, he’d served his time and how can you move forward with your life when everyone in the neighborhood knows about your crimes? I wrote the idea down in a journal, and when I was going through my journals last year during that manic short story writing period, it occurred to me, what if you’d lost your only child to a predator, and then a few years later you get a one of these alerts?

This was the story that resulted from that thought. And I am very proud that it’s my first publication in Mystery Tribune.

And it will be in my next collection.

And now back to the spice mines. Happy Friday, everyone.

Misty Blue

Happy Saturday everyone! I just got home from doing an event at the Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional library, where I talked with Jean (J. M.) Redmann about characters and writing crime. It was quite fun–the Jean and Greg Traveling Dog and Pony Show always is–and the audience was quite lovely and engaged, which is always lovely. One never knows how those things are going to go, so it’s always lovely when things turn out nice.

I did some brainstorming and note-taking both yesterday and this morning, as a new series (HA! I am not telling you more than that) is starting to form in my mind. When the idea first came to me, I wasn’t sure if it was something I could tackle, or even if it was something I wanted to write…or even if I wanted to write it, if it was something I could write. But yesterday afternoon I decided to start writing some ideas down, and it suddenly started to come together in my head. I knew who my main character was and some of her back story; I began to build her world a little inside my head and in my journal, and I wrote some more about it today before the library event, which was also kind of lovely–I am so glad I started carrying journals around with me again last year! They really do come in handy, and I find just having one with me all the time is most helpful. I’ve done a lot of brainstorming in those journals since January 2018…I may spend some time today going back through them and retrieving stuff and ideas from them.

If you want to be a writer I highly recommend carrying a journal of some sort around with you.

I also read more of Steph Cha’s delightful Follow Her Home yesterday, and when I finish writing this I am going to repair to my easy chair and read some more of it–with my journal and a pen handily nearby. I should do some cleaning–the floors are revolting yet again, and the sink is full of dishes–but on the other hand I am also thinking having a day off is kind of a nice thing. Tomorrow is a free day–and the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones–and so I have all day tomorrow to clean and write and do things. I need to get back to work on the WIP, and I also want to keep not only making notes for this new series but there’s a stand alone idea I also want to work on. I’ve not yet written any stand-alone novels that weren’t classified as either young adult or “new adult”, this would be something for the “adult” audience, with no adjectives out in front. I am excited about both projects, but also recognize I need to get the first draft of this WIP finished this month so I can move on to revising a final draft of the other WIP. (There’s another WIP out there, as well…languishing in the drawer it’s been in for about five years now; someday.)

And on that note, I am heading over to my chair. Have a lovely Saturday everyone!

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Perfect Way

I submitted a story to Cemetery Dance yesterday, and felt very accomplished after having done so. As I have said before, getting a story published in Cemetery Dance is a bucket list item for me, and I am reasonably proud of the story; we’ll see what happens. But I’m glad I did it; glad I spent the morning and early afternoon revising and polishing it. And hopefully,  if they don’t use the story I’ll get a chance to submit to them again at some point.

To celebrate, I went to the gym and did cardio, continuing my iPad screening of Troy: Fall of a City–which is starting to, sadly get a little boring. I’ll keep watching, though–I want to see how they play the story out, plus it’s helping me with my pronunciation of all their names; most of which I’ve been saying wrong my entire life, since I was a kid and read The Windy Walls of Troy.

I also spent some time last night with my journals; basically going through them and marking the pages where I wrote notes on the Scotty book, which should make the next revision much easier. Huzzah! I am also glad that I did this because not only did I find some ideas for short stories I’d forgotten, as well as how some of the short stories I have written since the first of the year were born, but I also discovered that I had roughly sketched out a couple of scenes for Bury Me in Satin, which I typed up last night–remember, I’d started writing the opening on the 4th, but was incredibly pleased to see that I’d actually handwritten not only the opening but some other scenes from the first and second chapter that needed to be transcribed. So, I am pretty far ahead on this one already, which is kind of awesome. I’m having lunch today with a friend, which will be lovely, and then I am going to run a couple of errands before coming home and doing some more writing.

I may even (gasp) return to the gym for the third consecutive day: madness.

I also spent part of the day reading about the Dreyfus Affair in Barbara Tuchman’s book The Proud Tower, which takes a look at life and the issues confronting the great powers from 1895-1914; basically, the set-up for World War I. I’d heard of the Dreyfus Affair, of course, and Emile Zola’s participation; but I didn’t know the entire story, and, well, you really can’t go wrong with reading Barbara Tuchman on a subject you want to know about.  I love reading history, and I always make a point of trying to read some around the 4th of July (I also took down Catherine Drinker Bowen’s history of the Constitutional Convention Miracle at Philadelphia, which should be required reading for all Americans); Tuchman is the kind of historian I would have liked to have been, writing the kinds of things I would have liked to have written had my career path gone in that direction (I still toy with The Monstrous Regiment of Women, a history of the sixteenth century, built around all the women who held power–more women held power in that century than any before or since). The Dreyfus Affair was really something, and even more horrific, in many ways that time in France is reflected in modern day American society as well.

The next story in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “The Porn King and I”:

He is beautiful.

He is everything I want in a lover.

Thick curly black hair.

Blue eyes.

Muscles rippling under tan skin.

A hard, round, beautiful ass.

The cock of Apollo.

I first saw him in a poster in the adult book store on Decatur Street. The poster was black with just a picture of him, hands on hips, wearing a jock strap. His face was smiling, a warm, inviting smile that would melt anyone’s heart and stir their groin. His tanned skin gleamed. At the bottom of the poster in red capital letters it said: CODY DALLAS IN THE SEX SENSE. I stood, staring for a few moments, my glance going from that pretty face down the neck to the beautifully shaped chest, smooth and silky, down the abs that looked carved out of stone, to the top of the jock. His hard-on was unmistakable beneath the white cloth. I walked over to the counter. “Do you have that film?” I pointed back over my shoulder with my thumb.

The counter boy was just that; a boy. He didn’t look old enough to be working in a sex shop. Hell, he didn’t look old enough to have hair on his balls. Bleached blonde hair standing up spikily over black roots. A straggle of hair on his chin that was supposed to be a goatee. He weighed maybe 130 pounds. His baggy jeans hung off his hips. A black Marilyn Manson t-shirt. Pierced nose and eyebrow. Tattoos on both arms. He grinned at me. Braces.

“Yeah. Only $59.95 or did you want to rent?”

“I’ll buy.”

I walked home to my apartment on Chartres Street. Opened the door. Switched on the television with the remote. Opened the box and popped the video in. Hit play as I pull off my shirt, kick off shoes, strip naked. Reach underneath the couch for the fresh bottle of poppers and the lube. Fast forward through the opening credits. First scene.

It’s him. He is wearing Daisy Dukes and work boots. No shirt. The sun glistens on the muscles in his back. He is trimming a bush with garden clippers. Every movement he makes causes muscles to ripple. Someone is watching from the house. Behind the curtains a face appears. Cut away to from behind the curtains. He looks beautiful, oh so beautiful. Camera pulls back. The man at the window is naked. Thinner. Not as muscled as Cody. Lean wiry muscle.

Cody looks up at the window and smiles. The man in the window beckons. Cody puts the clippers down and walks to the door. It opens.

I open the bottle of poppers. My eyes are glued to the screen. I lift it up to my right nostril. I close off the left and start inhaling. Deeply. The scent fills my nose, my sinuses, my lungs. I shift it to the other nostril. Inhale.

“The Porn King and I” was, ironically, inspired by something that actually happened; I was walking into the Quarter on a warm early summer evening. I walked past a house right on the sidewalk with its enormous windows open–anyone could have climbed into the house; something that has always amazed me about the Quarter and those that live there–and on the wall was a framed and mounted poster of a porn star (I do not recall, all these years later, precisely which porn star it was; I am thinking Kris Lord but that might be wrong). It inspired a story about a lonely man who talks to the poster, like it’s real, and eventually there’s a scene where a young man catches him talking to the poster, climbs in through the window, and they have nasty hot passionate sex. When I was asked to write this story for one of the Best Gay Erotica volumes, I stripped out the poster and the guy walking by on the street, leaving the main character’s obsession with a porn star, and renting the video from Tower Videos on Decatur Street (which is, sadly, no longer there); the sex scene thus became three-sided: there’s the main character watching the video and masturbating; what he’s imagining in his head as he masturbates; and, of course, what is actually happening on the television screen. I thought it was a clever take.

And the stuff I stripped out? I eventually used in a story about a lonely guy who lives in the Quarter and how a gorgeous young man talks to him through the window, and what transpires then. The story was called “Mr. Lonely” and was published in the original Saints and Sinners anthology.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Kiss

Thursday morning, and the first full day of my mini-stay-cation. Hip hip hurray! Yesterday I got a new journal, which is always a lovely thing; I’d forgotten how much I loved getting new journals once I’d filled the last one. When I started using them again by buying one on New Year’s Eve this year, I was excited to be starting up again with them; I’d forgotten how getting a new one felt–how wonderful and full of possibilities and potential the new journal is; all those blank pages to be filled with thoughts and ideas and titles and characters and sentence fragments and snippets of dialogue. Do I get too excited about the new journals? Maybe; but they also, for my OCD/anal retentive self, symbolize new beginnings as well as completion; even if finishing a journal doesn’t mean completing an actual manuscript or short story, there’s something about filling those pages that is enormously satisfying. When I first started writing when I was in high school, I always wrote on notebook paper long hand; usually in black ink with a fine point (I’ve always been partial to fine point black ink pens; and this new brand I’ve recently discovered, Tul, is amazing. I love these pens), and I think that’s why I get that satisfaction from writing by hand in a journal. Opening a Word document and starting to type isn’t quite the same feeling, and I always have a sense that everything I write that way is somehow incomplete.

I don’t know why that is, but it’s true, and probably is at the root of my deep sense of dissatisfaction with almost everything I write.

Or I’m simply neurotic.

My back is incredibly sore this morning; it was sore yesterday, but the pain is so bad I fear that I am going to be on a heating pad pretty much for the entire day. This is, while enormously disappointing, not the end of the world; I had hoped to be really productive today. I still can be, of course; it simply means not doing what I’d planned to do–which was organize stuff and deal with storage, but that will also include lifting boxes and I am in no place to do that–so maybe today means some light cleaning, writing, and reading. As long as I am productive, that’s all that really matters. And there’s quite a bit of mess that needs tidying up. I am taking the car to the West Bank tomorrow to have the oil changed at the dealership; I am going to treat myself to lunch over there and possibly do a little shopping whilst over there as well. And then I still have the three day weekend, which is lovely, of course.

I’d hoped to go to the gym today, but that’s simply not an option at this point. There’s no way I’m risking weight-bearing exercise with my back like this.

Sigh. I’m turning into that Grumpy Old Man, aren’t I?

I did get some more work done on “Never Kiss a Stranger” yesterday, and I have to say, setting it in the past (1994) was a pretty smart thing for me to do. Thinking about the past, of course, isn’t something I tend to do very often and when I do, it’s rare that I dwell on anything. But trying to remember that time period for a gay man has been kind of interesting; ever since that Twitter kerfuffle about HIV/AIDS the other week and my post the other day about writing about the subject has got me thinking about that time more. Yesterday on Twitter there was a thing–based on I guess something Suze Orman said, about people needing to have twice their salary saved by age thirty-five–and all I could think was how, at age thirty-five, I was just so happy to be still alive that the future wasn’t something I didn’t really think that much about. A few years ago, at work I sat down with a retirement financial planner and as she went over my finances and so forth she very sweetly and gently scolded me for not planning better for my future. Without thinking I replied, I didn’t think I would live this long, to be honest, and watching the implications of what I’d said play on her face and her embarrassment was an interesting experience. She was a younger woman, of course, and as I quickly reassured her that I wasn’t offended by anything she’d said I also marveled that the mentality most of us gay men had back in the early to mid 1990’s is forgotten largely today, not thought about, that fatalistic resignation that infection and death was inevitable.

This heating pad feels fantastic, I must say.

I am also watching The Shannara Chronicles on Netflix, based on the series by Terry Brooks. I read the first, The Sword of Shannara, when I was a teenager and it was new; I never continued with the series despite enjoying that first book. The Shannara Chronicles is/was MTV’s attempt at a Game of Thrones style high-fantasy series. It’s very well done; visually it’s stunning, and apparently the show covers the series beginning with the second book, The Elfstones of Shannara. The primary difference between HBO’s series and MTV’s is that, of course, Game of Thrones is gritty and dark and unafraid to be ugly; the entire cast is an interesting mix from stunningly beautiful young people to older people–an entire range of bodies and faces on the spectrum of looks, just like real life. Shannara is glossy and everyone on the show is quite spectacularly beautiful; and mostly young. I was interested in the show because I remembered the first book fondly and thought I’d give it a chance; it also has Manu Bennett as Allanon the druid, and I’ve been “stanning” (isn’t that what the kids call it?) him since his days on Spartacus: Blood and Sand. 

Austin Butler, who plays lead hero Wil Ohmsford, is quite pretty:

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As is the primary villain in season 2, Bandon, played by James Trevena.

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And who doesn’t enjoy looking at pretty people on their television? One of the things I find interesting is that in Season 1, when Wil was finding himself as a hero he had long hair; which he has cut off in Season 2. Bandon, in season 1, finding himself he had short hair; now in Season 2 as the primary antagonist, he’s grown out his hair.  I’m sure there’s symbolism there; but the longer hair has made the character of Bandon look older and more mature, and likewise, the shorter hair for Wil makes him look more adult.

Strange.

And on that note, I’m heading back into the spice mines. The heat has made me back hurt a lot less, so I am going to take advantage of that until it starts hurting again.

 

Glory of Love

Saturday morning and it’s chilly in the Lost Apartment; the sun is out and there’s condensation on the windows. Scooter is perched next to my keyboard, staring out the window, watching Kitty TV; I’m not sure what’s on, but he’s fascinated. It rained brutally yesterday with flash floods and so forth throughout the city. It had been a few weeks since it had rained, but there it was; a long overdue downpour. I managed to get home before it got too terribly bad, and spent the evening organizing and cleaning out files, rather than actually writing. I just didn’t feel like I was in a writing place, and so I decided to go with that but demanded of myself to complete this tedious chore that I hate doing so much.

Essentially, it meant cleaning out old files that no longer need accessibility–old book contracts, royalty statements, and even file folders of old short stories now published, etc.–out of the file cabinet and boxing them up to put in storage. This, naturally, has freed up space in the file cabinet for files to be moved into from the ACTIVE files. (Yes, I am aware how insane this all sounds; but I have two small file holders on the small bookcase next to  my desk, where I file new ideas, articles that might lead somewhere, and new stories that I have started or are not immediately working on; on my desk itself I have a metal file rack that contains the folders of what I am immediately working on. I know, I know, but it makes sense to me, and it works for me.) I also gathered all my non-fiction research on being queer in America, as well as my journal (materials for my memoirs, should I ever write them, or at least personal essays about being gay)  to collect in one place: a lovely box that is currently sitting on my kitchen counter, preparatory to going into the storage space. While doing all of this I ran across several of my old journals.

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These are some of my journals–I suspect some of them have been lost to time, through moves and so forth–but the oldest is from 1994; the most recent of these is from 2003. I started my blog in late 2004, and I suspect that’s approximately also when I stopped writing in these. It was an interesting experience, idly paging through these before placing them in the box; some of the earlier ones are from, of course, when I worked at the airport. That’s when I started carrying one with me at all times; I always had a pen, my journal, and whatever book I was reading at the time with me when I was at the airport, on an airplane traveling, etc. The ones from my time at the airport are all written in green ink; because we used green pens at the airport for everything. I wrote on my breaks, I wrote when I was in between flights at the gates, I wrote while I was waiting to board an airplane, I wrote while on airplanes. Later, I wrote between clients at the gym, or while waiting for it to be time for an aerobics class I was teaching; I wrote in coffee shops. There are scenes in these journals, that eventually made it into Murder in the Rue Dauphine or Bourbon Street Blues; there are the openings of short stories I’ve written, scrawled in long hand on these pages. I’ve even found things like when I first had the idea for the book that became Dark Tide many years later; places where I worked on developing characters or plots of themes for the book or story I was currently trying to work on and/or finish; there are also personal moments, moments of frustration or joy or happiness, all recorded in my neat, broadly looping handwriting. Starting to keep another one of these this year has been enormously helpful for me in many ways; it was lovely to reconnect with the bound journal format. (I actually need to buy a new one; I am hoping they have some at Tubby and Coo’s, where I am going this afternoon for Bryan Camp’s book-signing for his brilliant debut novel The City of Lost Fortunes)

This morning I need to finish packing up these boxes, and perhaps work on getting some of the other files moved; it is literally astonishing how much paper I have. One entire file cabinet drawer is filled with short stories and novels-in-progress that I stopped working on at some point, folders with ideas jotted down, characters and names and ideas for stories and books. All this effort, besides keeping me from actually writing anything, is an attempt to declutter my workspace as well as to make it more organized; I had an idea for a story for an anthology call I saw recently, and I knew I’d written a draft of an appropriate story (possibly) years ago–which meant it was probably in the file cabinet and I should probably drag it out to see if there was anything written in it that was usable. The need for this file made me see how desperately flawed and out of control my filing system had actually been allowed to become so as it thundered and lightning lit up the sky and the yard filled with rushing water I started working grimly on fixing this mess.

I did find the file, by the way.

I need to go to the grocery store at some point this morning as well; I could wait to do it tomorrow,  but between the cleaning and the filing and the going to the book signing I don’t see any window for actually writing, so rather than putting it off till the morrow I should probably do it today, since today is going to be shot on that score. Or maybe it won’t be; I may be able to get some things done today on the writing. My writing/editing goal for the weekend is to read “Burning Crosses” aloud and be finished with it; to finish revising Chapter Two of the WIP, and possibly read all fourteen chapters of the Scotty book and see where things sit with it, preparatory to getting back to work on it as well.

I also want to dive into Alex Segura’s Blackout, which is getting rave reviews everywhere.

We started watching the second season of Thirteen Reasons Why last night, and I have to say, I am not overly impressed with it. The first two episodes were terribly uneven–the third began to pick up steam again–but the device of having Hannah appearing as a sort of ghost to Clay isn’t working for me and is something that I hope is used either sparingly as the show moves on, or is eradicated completely. We don’t need Hannah appearing as Clay’s conscience, nor do we need her at all. It derails the show, frankly; them having conversations is, to quote youth culture of some time ago, kinda whack.

So far, we’re disappointed with it. but not so much so that we will stop watching.

That, however, could change.

And now, back to the spice mines.

The Glamorous Life

So… I spent three hours in the storage unit yesterday.

The case of Mardi Gras Mambo is still missing.

I did find a few copies, and a stack of ARC’s, but where the hell could the rest of them be? They aren’t in the attic, they aren’t in any of the boxes I use for tables (don’t judge me) in the living room…mysteries abound. Maybe I need to hire Scotty to find them?

And the storage unit is totally organized now.

So…that box is probably stored somewhere in the Lost Apartment. Paul is leaving to visit his family for a week on Thursday, so it looks like I will spend part of that time he is gone turning the Lost Apartment inside out looking for the box o’books.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But I did some other fun things in the storage unit.

I certainly didn’t think I had any copies remaining of FRATSEX or Full Body Contact, so those were nice to find, and so were some of the other copies of my books. I also have a couple of boxes filled with anthologies I contributed stories to–who knew there were so many? I also found the Spanish translation of my porn, and the German as well. I also found copies of Men for All Seasons, the anthology that I sold my first ever short story to.

And I found the rest of my journals!

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I used to buy those blank books and fill them up with journal entries, as well as writing down ideas, books I wanted to buy, notes to myself, my work schedules, important phone numbers; they literally were my personal assistant as well as my journals. I stopped using blank books right around the time my first novel was published; and of course now I blog instead. Just opening them at random, I am amazed at how many of my entries start with I am so fucking tired.

Apparently, I’ve always been really tired.

Ah, well. It’s weird having my work week start on a Tuesday; I have a long day at the office today which enables me to have a half-day on Thursday, and I always work half-days on Fridays, so I can really ease into the weekend in a lovely, easy way. Yay, weekend!

And on that note, that spice ain’t gonna mine itself.