Unlearn This Hatred

Tuesday morning and it seems quiet outside; rain is still in our forecast (every day for two weeks, with the exception of this Saturday) with thunderstorms predicted to roll in around this very time that I sit here writing this–but as I said, at the moment there’s nothing but stillness and quiet outside my windows. How long that will continue to hold remains to be seen, however; although the old adage about our weather forecasts from May thru October certainly holds true all too often: every day’s forecast is hot , humid, chance of rain.

I slept pretty decently again last night, which is remarkable and lovely; I was very tired last evening and as such, was fairly confident that a good night’s sleep could be had, and I was correct. I forgot to set the alarm last night, but woke up five minutes before it would have gone off had I turned it on, so rather than risking it, just went ahead and got out of the bed. Yesterday was a fairly good day, all things considered; I got my inbox under control (thanks primarily to all the work I did on it Sunday afternoon; now it’s a matter of keeping up with it so it doesn’t get so out of control again) but I can also look at it now and not feel defeated before I even get started with it this morning, which is an enormous plus. I do have some things to take care of today; the kind of odious chore I inevitably always put off–I have to make phone calls. Yesterday I made two of the odious calls I hate making; scheduling an appointment to take my desktop computer into the Apple store to see if they can install an OS into it (scheduled for this Friday morning) and I also scheduled an eye appointment in Metairie that same morning (the Apple Store is actually in Metairie, at Lakeside Mall); today I have to schedule the dentist and I have to call my doctor’s office regarding prescriptions. I am not certain why I hate doing these sorts of things and put them off always; they inevitably are never painful to experience and yet somehow…I just can’t make myself do them, ever; I just don’t like doing things that other people describe as adulting.

I suppose it has something to do with my innate refusal to accept the fact that I am, in fact, not only an adult but an older one, at that.

We watched some more episodes of Jupiter’s Legacy last night, which is entertaining in and of itself, but there are some issues with it–we really don’t like the character of Chloe, and they seem determined to shove her down our throats all the time–although I imagine had we read the graphic novels the show is based on (as were Watchmen and The Boys) that might have made a difference in our perceptions. I would go so far as to say of the three shows about alternative superheros (non-DC and non-Marvel, which have become cultural touchstones for us all), this is probably the weakest entry; it clearly didn’t have the money behind it that the other two shows did, and sometimes the cost-cutting measures are fairly obvious. It’s also incredibly difficult to structure a limited series with two different timelines (I frankly admire the attempt to do so), one which is set in a distant past and intended to show how the original superheroes on the show got their powers in the first place, as well as a modern timeline in which the question of adapting the heroes’ code of honor and behavior must needs be changed and adapted to fit threats which are becoming more and more dangerous and lethal; with some heroes dying as a result. That, to me, is the heart of the show’s present-day story, and much more interesting than the one set in the past; if the story of how they originally got their powers doesn’t somehow tie in conclusively to the current time story, then the origin story (not really explored in either Watchmen or The Boys) will seem as though it was merely filler, padding the show out to more episodes than perhaps necessary.

On the other hand, maybe I should just kick back and enjoy the show for what it is and not think about it too hard: sometimes a show is, in fact, merely intended as an entertainment with no deeper meaning.

Although sometimes I wonder if that is part of the problem with my writing; I never think about a “bigger picture” when I come up with an idea for a book or a short story; I just want to tell the story I am thinking about, rather than trying to place it into the context of our modern day world or culture and just try to tell it. It’s definitely harder when you do try to make a bigger point, and incredibly disappointing when people consistently don’t see it–which is, of course, the writer’s issue, not the reader’s; which also leads to the beginning of the spiral into Imposter Syndrome, which I usually don’t need any help to reach–but I do remember that I used to take those things–themes, points, underlying messages–into consideration when I used to write my books. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I have continued to do so, and simply don’t remember anymore; it is truly terrifying how bad my memory has become over the years.

Ah, there’s the thunder–which means today’s storm is arriving just in time for me to leave for the office! Hurray. Can the flash flood watch be far behind? I think not.

And on that note, best to head into the shower so I can go to work. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Exit

Thursday morning and errands and things to get done this morning. I am giddy this morning because I actually slept deeply and well last night, and finally feel rested in every way–physically, emotionally, and mentally–and Christ, if I could only start every day well-rested like this I could conquer the world. This morning I have to take Paul to Metairie for some medical things–nothing serious, y’all, calm down–and so I scheduled my work hours so I could have the morning off today. It’s also a gorgeous day outside, looks like, so huzzah for that–last week I reached the point where I thought it was never going to stop raining, seriously. Much as I love the heavy rains of New Orleans and our marvelous thunderstorms–five consecutive days can be a bit much.

I was very tired after work yesterday, but I managed to force myself to do things that don’t require much brain power–laundry, two loads of dishes, straightening up, cleaning counters and filing and so forth–to get it out of the way so I don’t have to waste any free time on the weekend doing it. I never am entirely sure how my kitchen gets so out of control between Monday and Wednesday, really, but it does and then I wind up spending time on the weekends getting the house under control, which is irritating. But with me feeling rested today, there’s absolutely no reason I can’t get some reading and writing finished this weekend; when I finish my work-at-home duties today and tomorrow, I can read and work on the apartment–hopefully finishing that all off tonight, so tomorrow night I can just write when I finish with the condom packing–and be nice and rested and ready to go when the weekend rolls around.

We finished watching The Capture last night, and while it didn’t have the ending I wanted it to have, the ending was absolutely and completely believable and realistic; anything else would have felt forced; tacked-on as an audience-pleaser. And while the ending really was cynical…it felt real. The show really dealt incredibly well with the dichotomy of how difficult it can be to keep the population safe from threats–which can sometimes come into conflict with the individual rights and freedoms individuals have from state intrusion. It’s murky; is it okay to trample of individual rights to protect the many? And once you start down that road, isn’t it easy to abuse that power, especially when there is no oversight from the other branches of government? We really enjoyed the show, and I was incredibly glad they didn’t cheat the ending. It also examined these morally complex issues really well, and I also liked that the characters were capable of compromising their own ethics and values when necessary to get the end result they desired. It was a much more complex and cerebral thriller show than most of its contemporaries. I do recommend this highly.

Of course, now that we’ve finished it, now begins the search for something new to watch. Yay.

Well, I never finished writing this yesterday or posted it; something that happens rarely but does sometimes happen. I had to stop to run the errands, and when I got home I had to start working, and since I’d taken the morning off I had to work later last evening than I usually do, so I never got back around to finishing this. Sorry about that, Constant Reader. But it was a good day, overall, and I also got another good night’s sleep last night, which was also quite marvelous. I am working at home al day today–condom packing and some data entry–and on my lunch break I need to run to the bank to deposit a royalty check (huzzah for royalties!) and pick up some things at the grocery. Sleep makes such a difference to my quality of life, seriously. We also got new pillows at Costco yesterday (one of the errands) and they are wonderful, absolutely wonderful. After work today I am going to the gym, and then settling in to continue watching the show we discovered last night on Acorn: Line of Duty, which is a look at the internal operations of a British police station. It’s quite good, and the plot is incredibly interesting; Anti-corruption is looking at a multiple Officer of the Year winner because his case-closing record is a bit too good to not have been manipulated in some way; we see things from the perspective of the award-winning officer (who is, indeed, too good to be true) and the investigator looking into him–who’d recently been sent down from anti-terrorism because of a heinous mistake in which an innocent man was killed–and it’s indeed very well done. There are also four seasons, so we’re set for a few nights, at any rate.

While Paul was seeing his doctors and so forth yesterday I started reading Laurie R. King’s second Mary Russell novel, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and I cannot even begin to tell you, Constant Reader, how much you should be reading this series. It’s so well done, so well written, and the way King brings Mary and Sherlock Holmes and their post World War I world to life is so beautifully done and compelling…give her all the awards, seriously. These novels remind me so much of my beloved Amelia Peabody novels by the deeply missed Elizabeth Peters that I wish I had discovered them earlier. But the lovely news is King has an enormous backlist, and I am looking forward to catching up on the entire series at leisure. I’ve also been appreciating Holmes more these days–mainly because I wrote my own Holmes story last year for the first time, and kind of want to do it again; there really is a book idea in Sherlock Holmes and the Axeman (but the Axeman was never caught, alas), and the case lasted over a year….and since the period I’ve dropped Holmes into is that same period…it would be weird if Holmes wouldn’t insert himself into the Axeman case. It’s such an interesting story, and so New Orleans….but fictionalizing it is the puzzle, isn’t it?

This weekend, I have to get really moving on the revision/final edit of Bury Me in Shadows–it’s due next Saturday, and while I can certainly take next Saturday all day to work on it (I tend to turn things in very very late on the day they are due), I should think I need to get the majority of the work out of the way already. It’s going to be a big week anyway–the Edgars are being awarded on Thursday–but constant juggling and multi-tasking seems to be my stock in trade these days (well, it has been for a long time; sometimes it feels like I am juggling chainsaws), so it’s little wonder I am always worn out and tired.Bury

Plus, my neuroses always wear me out–and there are plenty of them.

I also, while making condom packs yesterday, fell into a new Youtube wormhole, in which this rather cute young straight guy was listening to Taylor Swift for the first time, and it was quite entertaining to see him growing from someone who was vaguely aware of her into a massive fan by the time he’d listened to about six of her songs–by the last video he was a full-fledged Swiftie (to the point where he actually said “I’m not straight or bi or gay or pan, I am a Taylor-sexual” which made me laugh). I must admit I was much the same–someone who was vaguely aware of her, knew she was heavily criticized and her love life was tabloid fodder, and pretty much knew her primarily for her dating life and the Kanye incident(s) ore than anything else. I do remember driving somewhere–I think it was for the Murder in the Magic City event in Birmingham; I’m not entirely sure, but I know I was driving in Alabama–with my iTunes on shuffle when a song started playing that immediately hooked me. I glanced over at the screen on my dashboard and was a little surprised: it was Taylor Swift’s “Red,” which to this day I don’t know why I had down-loaded. I replayed it three times, loving it a little more every time–it’s still one of my favorites of hers–and when I stopped for gas I checked the library on my phone and saw four more songs of hers: “Love Story, “You Belong with Me”, “Mean,” and “Shake It Off.” I recognized the last two, but had no idea what the first two were. I do remember seeing her perform “Mean” on an awards show and downloading it–it’s from the Red album, so I have to assume it was around the same time I downloaded “Red”–but I literally don’t remember those first two. (I do remember one of my co-workers at the Frenchmen Street office had been a fan, and that was how I heard “Shake It Off”).

For the record, her recent releases–including her rerecording of her Fearless album–are really good.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

The B-Side

So, my maintenance all went well yesterday–my blood pressure was on the high end of okay, but I also had forgotten to take my pills and things yesterday morning, which was probably why. I am being assigned to yet another new doctor (my previous two left the practice as did the wonderful nurse practitioner I saw last summer), and I saw yet again someone different yesterday–another nurse practitioner whom I also liked–so I have my prescriptions all set and hopefully will get a call from the specialist for the routine exam I’ve been needing for quite some time but have yet to get, for one reason or another. Taking better control of my health was one of the goals for last year, which I vaguely remember in those foggy, long distant Before Times. It didn’t happen since this fucking pandemic has made everything so difficult on top of killing far too many others, and I worry all the time that I am an asymptomatic carrier.

Because apparently, despite the many accusations over the years, I am not in fact a sociopath. Who knew?

I also spent some time trying to fix the desktop. I fucked up–I had it in the right mode and in the right place to fix it–I erased the hard drive and was all ready to download the operating system again when I stupidly misread the instructions and restarted the computer before downloading the iOS; and now I can’t seem to get the thing to a place where I can download the iOS again. I think I got there once–and of course, fucked up yet again, and now have to remember what I did to get it to that place again. Ah, well, I am most likely going to keep futzing with it around the working at home today and making condom packs.

I also managed to finish a terribly rough draft of my story, due today, and once it was finished I immediately knew how I could fix it and make it stronger and better, which is always a good thing; I wasn’t really sure how to pull off the ending (stick the landing, as it were) and once I had actually written that ending–I knew I had to go back and tweak the story some more to make it better. I’ll do that this evening in the wake of the condom packing/movie watching.

I also started reading, at last, Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and I am loving it so far. The authorial voice of Mary Russell is superb, and reminds me of one of my other favorite characters in crime series fiction, the unflappable Amelia Peabody. The voices and characters are very similar–fiercely independent and intelligent, no patience with nonsense–and I quite love the way King has developed her character and her version of Holmes and his world; I also love the running digs at Conan Doyle’s version. King has always been one of my favorite authors–her Kate Martinelli series is quite superb–and I admit I’ve been holding off on reading this series primarily because I was never overly interested in Holmes. My mindset regarding Holmes has changed since I wrote my own version of him last year (I cannot wait to see the finished anthology with “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” in it; there are several anthologies I have stories in coming out this year that I am very excited about)–and I know that I am going to probably revisit ny Holmes-in-New-Orleans world again at some point. I already had a period story in progress called “The Blue Before Dawn” which seems like the perfect thing to adapt into a Holmes story; but for now I have to focus on getting this story finished and submitted, and diving into the Kansas book headfirst this weekend. Forcing myself to finish that story yesterday was probably the smartest thing I could have done–forcing myself to write when I don’t want to inevitably is always the smartest thing I could do, which I need to remember since I always seem to forget about it.

I also keep forgetting Monday is a holiday. Huzzah!

I also stopped at the Fresh Market on St. Charles on my way home from the final maintenance appointment, to scope it out as a potential new source for making groceries. It’s nice–I can never get past that it’s in what used to be the Bultman Funeral Parlor–and I picked up a nice California roll for lunch as well as some sliced turkey meat for sandwiches, but yeah, they don’t carry a lot of name brands and it seems very similar to Whole Foods–but easier to access. This weekend I’ll probably scope out the Winn-Dixie on Tchoupitoulas, and maybe, since it’s a long weekend, I can make an exploratory expedition to Trader Joe’s in Metairie.

I also started watching the US Figure Skating Championships on Peacock yesterday, availing myself of the seven day free trial for extra access–and there are some movies on there I want to watch as well that could work with several of the film festivals I have in process. Paul, of course, is very excited that skating is going on and college gymnastics–we of course are big LSU Gymnastics fans–and so his weekend is pretty much set. The second season of Mr. Mercedes is also on there, among some other things that would be fun to watch–I am back to talking about Peacock–and a lot of the Hitchcock movies (I really want to do a Hitchcock Film Festival; while I have seen some of his more famous films, there are even more that I’ve not seen). I wish Rebecca and Suspicion were on there, but one can’t have everything I suppose. I really want to watch Shadow of a Doubt…and any number of the others I’ve not seen. It’s really a shame Hitchcock never directed a version of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I also realized yesterday that my second vaccine is coming up quickly, which is also pretty exciting. It also appears like the car will be paid off this year–thank the Lord–which will alleviate a lot of my financial hardships–or the occasional ones, I should say, and then I can start paying down the rest of the debt with a goal of being debt free by the end of 2022. I think it’s a realistic goal right now; and one that is very pleasing to me. Being burdened with debt is absolutely the worst, frankly–and it’s a burden far too many of us have to carry for far too long.

And on that note, the spice mines are a-calling me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Ours

And here we are on the second day of the new year. I didn’t not finish polishing the book yesterday; I am doing it old school–editing on paper–because of course there are endless issues with my MacBook Air still; the very problem I tried to get resolved the other day has returned, which means I am going to have to go to the fucking Apple Store in Metairie (because, you know, I have nothing but fucking free time) to get this piece of shit’s problems resolved once and for all. It’s a fucking iCloud issue (of course, the worst and stupidest fucking thing Apple ever came up with–hey, you don’t need any storage in your computer! You can just save everything in the Cloud! Oh, but if you do, it’s going to also somehow eat up the miniscule amount of storage we gave you in a laptop that cost WELL over a thousand dollars.

I will probably be arrested when I do go to the Apple Store.

So I was kicking it old school yesterday–sitting in my easy chair and going through it, line by line, page by page, catching discrepancies and contradictions and mistakes and repetitions. I only have about 100 pages left to go, so I am hoping I can get that done quickly and then start pulling the entire manuscript together so I can get it sent in. I had originally planned on writing a short story for 1/15 deadline this weekend and getting caught up on everything else I am doing (and am woefully behind on) but around eight o’clock last night my eyes started blurring and crossing and I knew better than to keep going with this. The work would just shoddy and sloppy–and the whole point of this polish was to get rid of the shoddy and sloppy writing (of which there is a ridiculous amount). But I should get it finished and turned in this weekend, and then I can move on to the next thing–the short story, and the manuscript due on 3/1.

After I finished last night I also had a bit of a crisis in conscience and confidence about the book–I’m not really sure why, to be honest. I am writing about race in the south, but I am also writing it from the perspective of a gay white college student whose been unexpectedly thrust into the midst of it by spending the summer in Alabama, and his dysfunctional family’s many dark secrets from the past start having an impact on the future. So, of course, last night as I sat in my chair watching the final episode of A Teacher (horrible right to the end; leaving us to question what the entire point of the show was in the first place) and the latest episode of The Stand (also not very good, but as a huge fan of the book I will watch to the bitter end), my mind started racing: am I depicting the people of color in the book properly and inoffensively? Should I be writing about Southern racism while centering a white character? Is the story itself offensive? Is this going to be another one of those “well he meant well but” things? I approached the whole thing respectfully, I think, and while having a main character who was raised not to be racist having to confront the racist past of his own family might come across as preachy–another fear–I think about all the young people I’ve worked with over the years and how open-minded they are; and they give me hope for the future–and that is what I drew from for this character and this book.

And ultimately, if I wind up getting called out for insensitivity, well, all I can do is apologize and try to do better.

But–sloppy and shoddy parts aside–as I read to revise I kept thinking this is actually much better and more cohesive than I thought it was, and things I was thinking I needed to add–about the family history, etc .–I already had, which was kind of lovely; I just need to make sure what’s in the early part of the book matches what’s in the later, and of course, hopefully whatever I may miss will be caught by my editor.

SO, it’s Alabama and Ohio State for the national championship. I watched the games–well, had them on in the background as I edited and read–occasionally looking up and being startled by the scores. They didn’t just win; they pummeled Notre Dame and Clemson, respectively. After the ACC championship game, I kept saying it didn’t make sense nor was it fair to put both Notre Dame and Clemson in the play-offs, giving them a chance to possibly play for the third fucking time, while shutting USC, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M out of the play-offs entirely. (Well, Cincinnati lost to Georgia in a nail-biter–I also had that one on in the background, and watched the closing two minutes or so as Georgia rallied to win) But I think it is safe to say, yet again, that the four-team play-off just doesn’t work, and it’s maybe time to again look at and consider going to a six or eight team play-off.

I am skipping the gym again today because my shoulder is still sore from the inoculation Thursday.

And on that note, it is back to the spice mines for me. Y’all have a great day, okay?

It’s Nice to Have a Friend

Yesterday was kind of lovely, really. As I took a vacation day to get caught up on things, get some rest, and try to get the Lost Apartment under control again (I also discovered, among other things, that vacuum cleaners have filters you are supposed to clean monthly, which explains so much), it was kind of a nice day. I did get the bed linens laundered and a load of laundry done; I did the dishes and ran the dishwasher, and I also intended to vacuum, which is when I realized my vacuum cleaner has not been sucking properly in quite some time (I’d even looked into buying a new one, several times) and then thought, why don’t you google it and see if it’s something you can fix, which of course led to the shocking discovery about the filters. I removed it and washed it thoroughly (so disgusting, really). But, embarrassing as that was, it was also lovely to realize that I do not, in fact, need to buy a new one–at least until the filter has finished air drying, I reinstall it, and see if it starts picking things up again.

I also got a lovely notice on Facebook that my former editor at Alyson, Joe Pittman, had tagged me in a post, and when I went there to see what it was, was greeted with a reminiscence of his days at Alyson, and:

Hi everyone, it’s Joseph. It’s September. I’ve got another story of my publishing life, one of the most rewarding moments from my varied career. Let’s call it Love, Alyson Books.Okay, let me go back in time. It’s 2005 and I was hired by a small publisher named Alyson. The company had just relocated from Los Angeles to New York, and they were searching for a new staff. I applied for the Executive Editor position I saw advertised, got called in that day for an interview. I wasn’t exactly dressed for a job interview, but the woman I spoke with said that was fine. “I assume you have grown up clothes.”

I got the job, and two weeks later started. Every staff member had just been hired, and we had lots of manuscripts and contracts to cull through. From the publisher, to the marketing director, an editor, a production editor, and an assistant and me. That’s it, six of us. We had a big task set before us. Alyson had a storied history in the world of LGBT publishing and had released many iconic books. There was a lot on our shoulders.Our job? To bring Alyson into the 2000s, and show how LGBT themes had hit the mainstream. We had to totally revamp the list. We published 50 books a year, we had a very small budget, and as Executive Editor, I was told by the boss that I would be “the face of the imprint.” I embraced the role until it came to an ignominious ending.But in two and a half years, I felt I did some of the most important work of my career.

It started, horribly, with Hurricane Katrina, but led to a book and a series that would help define the LGBT past, present and future. It was a series with titles that began with the word “Love.” And that’s what these books were, love stories dedicated to a certain city, to a movement, to a community.The thing about working at Alyson, it wasn’t like traditional publishing, where agents sent you a manuscript, you read it, you liked it, you acquired it. Sure, we did a bit of that, but mostly we had to come up with our own ideas, track down authors who would be ideal in crafting our idea into a book. I hit the jackpot with an existing Alyson author, mystery writer Greg Herren. Greg lived in New Orleans, and he and his partner Paul Willis went through hell that late August. Katrina ripped their lives apart, as it did to so many others in the region. My idea, let’s get a bunch of writers together to pen nonfiction stories about their city. Why they lived there, what they loved there. Greg was reticent at first. The wounds of the city too fresh. But the book happened.

LOVE, BOURBON STREET was published to great acclaim, and that next year it won the prestigious Lambda Award for Best Anthology. I remember sitting in the audience when the book was announced the winner. I couldn’t have been more proud of Greg and Paul’s dedication to the project, I couldn’t have been happier for the city New Orleans.

Love, Bourbon Street is a book I don’t really remember much about, to be perfectly honest. It happened, and came about, in that gray time after the evacuation and before we were able to move back into the Lost Apartment (which, to me, closed the circle, even though the city’s recovery would still take more time–a lot more time); I think it even came out while we were still living in the carriage house amidst the clutter and boxes and praying every day that the Lost Apartment would be suitable for living again soon. I remember I was still house sitting for my friend Michael on the North Shore in Hammond when Joe called me with the idea–the great irony was earlier that day Paul had called me, and suggested we do a fundraising anthology about New Orleans by New Orleans writers, and I had emphatically said no. Most every one of the writers we knew were still displaced, no one could come back to New Orleans even if they wanted to, and we were all, from the blogs and emails I was reading, in bad places emotionally. I didn’t even know if I could write anymore; I was grimly writing a blog post almost every day so that the creativity wouldn’t completely stagnate, but other than that–nothing was happening. I had pitched a fourth Scotty book to Kensington, but at some point while I was on the road I’d emailed my editor there to say obviously I cannot write that book now–it was, ironically, going to be called Hurricane Party Hustle and be set during a hurricane evacuation when most everyone in the city had left, only for it to turn east at the last minute and spare the city (which had happened at least three or four times since we’d moved to New Orleans in 1996)–and I certainly never thought I was going to write another Chanse book; the second one had come out the previous year while Paul and I were still getting over the Incident and I think I did one signing for it; it came and went with very little fanfare and I had pretty much figured that series was dead in the water as well. I had been rewriting the manuscript that would eventually be published as Sara because an editor at a Big 5 publisher had asked me to write a y/a for them earlier that year and I’d decided that was what I would do after I, if I, ever finished Mardi Gras Mambo.

But I wasn’t sure if I would ever write about New Orleans again, or if there would even be a New Orleans for me to write about.

Given the fact, though, that Paul wanted to do this and my publisher called me later the same day to suggest it, my superstitious lizard brain decided it was something we needed to do; I don’t remember how long it took for me to either call Joe back or email him that we would do it, but we did. It was difficult to do, primarily because recruiting people spread out all over the country wasn’t easy, nor was getting people who were terribly depressed to try to write something about why they loved New Orleans when 90% of the city lay in ruins was a bit much. Also, people would agree to write something and then change their mind right before the deadline, which kept pushing the delivery date–already a tight turn around, because Alyson wanted to release it on the one-year anniversary–back. Finally, I pulled all the essays together into a single document, saw how many words were left to reach the contracted minimum, and started pulling together my own essay, the anchor piece, “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.” I remember I worked on it over the weekend that Paul had his eye finally removed, and so he was asleep thanks to painkillers most of the time and would only wake up for me to clean the socket before going back to sleep. It ended up being almost thirty thousand words, and I really don’t remember very much about writing it, if I’m going to be honest; I don’t. I just remember pulling it into the word document of the manuscript, seeing that we now had the length requirement covered, saved the document, and hit send.

That same fall, as we were doing the whole Love Bourbon Street, Joe was also calling and emailing me, trying to convince me that I had a duty and obligation to write another Chanse novel. “You’re right there,” he kept saying, “and who better to let the world know how it felt, how it feels, and what’s it like to go through something like this?” Again, I kept resisting. I didn’t know if I could write, I didn’t know when i would write, I didn’t know anything. And then, in late September, I drove back into the city once it was reopened, to check out the damage to the house and see what all we had lost, as well as to see if anything clothes-wise was salvageable from the upstairs. As I crossed the causeway bridge and saw all the damage to Metairie, I recoiled from it all, felt sick to my stomach and a headache coming on; by the time I got onto I-10 I had gone numb again so I could handle it all. As I noticed the mud-line on the walls along the highway, the words It was six weeks before I returned to my broken city popped into my head, and as I came around the curve in the highway, right near the Carrollton exits and the Xavier campus and the Superdome came into view, the words started coming into my head and I knew that not only could I write this book, I needed to write this book.

As soon as I got back to my sanctuary in Hammond, I emailed Joe and said, I am going to do the Chanse book and it’s going to be called Murder in the Rue Chartres.

And yes, both books won Lambda Literary Awards (my only wins, out of 14 or 15 nominations in total) in back to back years.

So that’s the story of how a very kind and generous editor essentially saved my career as a writer.

It’s funny, because whenever I think about possibly doing a collection of essays, it always takes me a while to remember, well, you’ve already published one that will take up a quarter of the book.

And now, to have some serious cleaning joy with my clean-filtered vacuum cleaner.

Please Remember Me

I am often, incorrectly, referred to as a “New Orleans expert.”

Nothing, as I inferred in that sentence, could be further than the truth.

Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely, positively love New Orleans, for many and varied reasons. The short, elevator-pitch answer is always Because I’m not the weird one here. And it’s true; New Orleans is an eccentric city filled with eccentrics. No other city in North America is like it, even remotely; New Orleans is a city that doesn’t abhor strangeness, but rather embraces it. When I came here for my thirty-third birthday in 1994, when I got out of the cab at the intersection of St. Ann and Bourbon that first night, my actual birthday, to go out to the gay bars of the Quarter, I knew I was home. There was no doubt in my mind, no question; just an immediate and instant connection with the city and I knew, not only that I would eventually live here, but that if and when I did all my  dreams would come true.

And that feeling was right. I fell in love with New Orleans, I fell in love in New Orleans, and after I moved here, all of my dreams did, in fact, come true.

So, when I write about New Orleans my deep and abiding love and passion for the city inevitably comes through. But I always kind of smile inwardly to myself when people call me an expert on the city; I am hardly that, and libraries could be filled with what I don’t know about the city. Sure, I do know some things, but an expert? Not even remotely close.

A perfect case in point is Milneburg. What, you may every well ask, is Milneburg? Milneburg was a resort village on the lake shore that many New Orleanians would escape to during the wretched heat of the summer (and I am vastly oversimplifying this); I’ve read about it in history books and so forth. I even thought Murder in Milneburg might make for an interesting historical mystery. I always saw it, though, in my mind’s eye, as close to the parish line between Orleans and Jefferson parishes; closer to Metairie and the causeway. So, you can imagine my shock when I saw a map of Milneburg posted on one of the New Orleans historical Facebook pages I belong to, and realized that I was completely wrong: there was a railroad line from New Orleans to Milneburg (which I knew) that ran along what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. 

So, Milneburg was actually where the University of New Orleans is now located; and the train line continued along east, crossing at the Rigolets.

Some New Orleans expert I am, which is why I decided to start reading more histories of the city over the last few years. It’s been quite an education, and there are still some things I don’t quite grasp–like when the Basin Canal was filled in to become Basin Street, and what relation that had to Storyville and Treme, because the train station also used to be located near Storyville (this was part of the reason why the drive to clean up Storyville and end legal prostitution in New Orleans was successful; the other part was because New Orleans was an embarkation point for the military during World War I and the Pentagon frowned on delivering green military recruits to whorehouses).

So, yeah, some expert I am.

But I really enjoyed Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street.

bourbon street

There are no straight lines in nature. Nor are there any right angles. Rather, intricate arcs and fractures merge and bifurcate recurrently, like capillaries in a plant leaf or veins in an arm. Nowhere is this sinuous geometry more evident than in deltas, like that of the Mississippi River. Starting eighteen thousand years ago, warming global temperatures melted immense ice sheets across North America. The runoff aggregated to form the lower Mississippi River and flowed southward bearing vast quantities of sediment. The bluffs and terraces that confined the channel to a broad alluvial valley petered out roughly between present-day Lafayette and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, south of which lay the Gulf of Mexico.

Into that sea disembogued the Mississippi, its innumerable tons of alluvium smothering the soft marshes of the Gulf Coast and accumulating upon the hard clays of the sea floor. So voluminous was the Mississippi’s muddy water column that it overpowered the (relatively weak tides and currents of) Gulf of Mexico, thus prograding the deposition farther into the sea. Occasional crevasses in the river’s banks diverted waters to the left or right, creating multiple river mouths and thus multiple depositions. High springtime flow also overtopped the river’s banks and released a think sheet of sediment-laden water sideways, further raising the delta’s elevation.

In this manner, southeastern Louisiana rose from the sea. The process took about 7,200 years, making the Mississippi Delta, as Mark Twain put it, “the youthfulest batch of country that lies around there anywhere.” Young, dynamic, fluid, warm, humid: flora and fauna flourish in such conditions, as evidenced by the verdant vegetation and high productivity of the delta’s ecosystem. Humans, on the other other, view these same conditons as inhospitable, dangerous, even evil, and endeavor to impose rigidity and rectitude upon them, so as to better exploit the delta’s resources.

If New Orleans is known for anything, it’s Bourbon Street. Everyone has heard about Bourbon Street, it seems; just as they’ve heard about Carnival/Mardi Gras, beads, and show us your tits (which locals do NOT do–either yell it or bare them). Campanella’s book traces the history of the famous street, and by extension, the French Quarter itself, from its very beginnings when the French arrived and designed the streets, to its modern day incarnation as a street of endless partying and no little debauchery. It’s very well researched, and Campanella, who I believe teaches at Tulane, is the true expert on the city; I follow his pages on Facebook, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much inspiration and information Bourbon Street  has given me. I’ve put so many page markers in my copy that I’m worried about breaking the spine!

One thing that my reading of New Orleans history has further emphasized to me–and it also really comes through strongly in Campanella’s book–is how New Orleans has always been a city of neighborhoods, and how each neighborhood of the city had (has?) its own unique  sense of itself, and how those who lived in those neighborhoods so strongly identified with them. The evolution of the French Quarter from the original city and seat of its government, to the original French leaving and being replaced by immigrants (as late as the 1960’s the lower quarter was known as ‘little Sicily’ because of all the Italian immigrants and their descendants who lived there), and then evolved again into a different type of neighborhood, with mixed incomes and everything from inexpensive apartments to gradiose condos; and a variety of ethnicities, races, sexualities, and gender identities.

One of the primary concerns modern-day New Orleanians have is the fear of the loss of those neighborhoods; because those neighborhoods were the incubators for all the things that makes New Orleans so special and unique: the music, the art, the literature, and the characters. Short-term rentals are carving up neighborhoods and the rents/property values are currently climbing, with no peak in sight, and people are rightfully concerned about these things.

But one thing I’ve learned from reading these histories, and Campanella’s in particular, is that New Orleans has always changed and evolved, yet has also always managed to keep that unique strangeness that make it New Orleans somehow intact.

If you love New Orleans or find it at all interesting, I cannot recommend Bourbon Street enough to you.

Everybody Have Fun Tonight

Well, we made it to Wednesday and survived, did we not? It’s payday, aka pay-the-bills day (yay) and I also only have to work a half-day, which is lovely.

I didn’t want to get up this morning; the big project I was working on was officially finished yesterday and turned in; and I was amazed at how much it had taken out of me. I was exhausted when I went to bed last night; emotionally and physically. Today I get to start digging out from under; my email inbox is completely out of control, and I’ve been trying to keep up with it as much as I can lately, but also haven’t really wanted to face some of them while I was so vested in something else, frankly. Today I have my half-day, and tomorrow I have the day off because I have to deal with some personal issues that will involve me driving all over New Orleans and Metairie–and no, none of it is anything that will resolve any issues I’ve been having with other things; I still need to figure out when to get to the dentist and to the Apple Store with my laptop and get the oil changed in my car. But as most of tomorrow will be spent driving somewhere and then waiting, I can hopefully get a lot closer to finished with Rob Hart’s wonderful The Warehouse, which I am greatly enjoying but have been too tired to read.

The goal for the rest of this week is to get some good work on writing done, get the email inbox cleaned out from top to bottom, and figure out what I can get done the rest of this month before I have to work on another project. I started some prep work for the Kansas book yesterday, which is basically being completely overhauled, just brainstorming name changes as I realized I used many of these character names in Sara (which is also a Kansas book), and therefore really can’t use them a second time. There’s definitely a couple of short stories that need to be finished, and of course, the Lost Apartment really needs to be cleaned thoroughly from ceiling fans down to the floor.

Something to do while college football games are on Saturday, I guess. LSU is playing Vanderbilt, but I don’t know if it’s a day or evening game–haven’t had the time to look it up, but definitely will, obviously, before Saturday–and other than that, I don’t know what other games are on tap for this weekend. But it’s lovely to know that I can have my usual Saturday again–writing in the morning before errands, then cleaning while watching football games the rest of the day, and reading as well–after several weeks of not having normal weekends.

I do rather think that once my brain has rested, it’s going to probably explode into another episode of mass creativity; which is daunting to think about, quite frankly, but always winds up being fun of some sort, and who knows what creative efforts might come forth. I’m still so discombobulated from all this work that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going to be honest; it’s kind of like that time after the Great Data Disaster of 2018, when I was literally on fire with creativity and balancing multiple projects and having a great time with everything…until the betrayal of my electronics.

I am now up to the lynching massacre of Italians in New Orleans that took place after the chief of police was murdered in the 1890’s in Lords of Misrule; another disgraceful period of history but at least one that wasn’t memorialized like the Battle of Liberty Place. I’ve read about this mob violence against Italians before, in Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin (which I highly recommend), and I know there’s a story in there somewhere for Monsters of New Orleans, but I can’t quite figure out what it is.  But I will get there someday.

And oop–there it is. I just figured it out. See what I mean? This is how my mind works. It’s seriously crazy. But it also solved a problem for me with one of the short stories I have in development; ah, if I just tweak this and add this bit, now the story works much better and maybe I can now sell it. How cool is that?

Pretty fucking cool, methinks.

Okay, time to get to the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone.

430682_402615193145069_518244966_n

Rock and Roll All Nite

So, I got my new glasses yesterday.

The trip to Metairie and back was relatively pain-free, other than idiot drivers on the interstate (but that’s anytime you get on the interstate here), and I have to say I like my new glasses. I’ve always chosen glasses more based on functionality than as a “fashion accessory” (I actually only discovered that was a thing about twelve years ago, and it still amazes me on both ends–one, that it’s a thing, and two, that it never dawned on me in almost forty years of wearing glasses to pick them out based on how they look on me), and I have very little patience for trying on glasses or shopping for them. I like big lenses, because it always bothers/distracts me when I can things out of focus around them. It’s also hard to find glasses that are wide enough across the face, because the distance from ear to ear that the glasses have to reach across is not proportional to the distance between my eyes.

So my glasses seem to always have the legs jutting off to the side, rather than backwards, which looks odd.

But not these new ones. The lenses are so big I can’t blurry things around them unless I look hard left or right, and the frames are so wide that the legs go straight back to my ears. I also hadn’t realized how out-of-date my old glasses were (just two years, really; maybe three?) because now I see so much better with my new ones, and they do feel comfortable on my ears and to my eyes, which is quite nice, frankly.

And of course, I primarily selected these not for how they look but for their function. The lenses are big, and so are the frames. Whether they are flattering, I don’t know. The entire concept of glasses as an accessory to enhance my appearance is an utterly foreign concept to me. I guess it goes back to being a kid and wearing glasses being considered being a strike against the way you look? (Glasses and braces–hello, Jan Brady!–being the original dipso duo) The whole men don’t make passes are girls who wear glasses thing. I know that when I wear glasses rather than my contact lenses any concern I might have about my appearance goes away; I’m wearing glasses, you see, so it doesn’t matter; I couldn’t possibly look good.

And then I begin to wonder–was it when I started having to wear progressive lenses, which fucked up the ability to wear contacts, that I started not caring about how I looked? I do remember thinking, once I had to go to progressives (no longer called bi-focals, because that’s a stigmatizing term that indicates GETTING OLD) that I could never wear contacts again; it was around this same time that I hurt my back at the gym and had to stop working out for nearly a year–a year away from the gym from which my body never truly has recovered. (And this was also, oddly enough, around the time that I decided to teach myself how to cook and bake….so my caloric intake went up around the same time that my caloric output dramatically decreased. I often wonder if the reason I feel so old and  tired so often is because I don’t work out regularly anymore)

But I like my new glasses, and I don’t know whether they are flattering or not–but i also got new progressive contact lenses as well, and I am trying very hard to adapt to wearing contacts again. When I do wear my contacts I feel differently than I do when I wear glasses; and I know damned well that it’s a completely mental thing that has nothing to do with reality. I am conditioned to think I look better without my glasses, whether I actually do or not. It’s all part and parcel of the cultural and societal conditioning I grew up with.

I started wearing glasses quite young; I was either seven or eight when I got my first pair of glasses, and to this day I remember the first time I wore them outside the house, to school. As I walked the block and half to my grade school, I remember looking at the trees and the houses and everything and being astonished at how clearly I could see everything; I also remember thinking this is how everyone else sees all the time. My entire life up until that point I’d seen everything as blurry, indistinct shapes of color the further away from them I was, and it was wondrous to be able to see the world clearly for the first time.

The fact that I wore glasses–and this is another one of those ridiculous societal things we were all brainwashed with back when I was a child–also made people think I was smart, because there was some strange correlation made between wearing glasses and being intelligent. I was intelligent, of course, but the glasses had nothing to do with it; it was, I suppose, one of those strange things where the stereotype had built up that people who wore glasses strained their eyes studying and because of the glasses they couldn’t play sports and therefore couldn’t be dumb jocks. Glasses did make it difficult for me to play sports, but my primary problem wasn’t my glasses but the problem I had (and still have, to this day) with depth perception.

My grandmother, for the record, always believed I needed glasses because I read too much in the car, which is completely insane, but she absolutely believed this and convinced my parents of it as well–so they didn’t let me read in the car for years. I guess that’s one of those “old-wives’-tales-from-back-in-the-holler” that my parents took with them to Chicago when we moved up there when I was two years old.

Rural Southern wisdom, for what it’s worth.

All right, I’ve got a lot to do today and I need to get going on it. Tis off to the spice mines with me, and have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

48422509_2405926709436118_4965599909257412608_o

Junk Food Junkie

Well, Constant Reader, we made it through another week successfully, and the weekend is nigh. I slept pretty well again last night, which was lovely. It’s my half-day today at the office (the second of two in a row) and after I get off work I have to travel out to Metairie to pick up my new glasses, and then its back home to clean and organize and maybe–just maybe–do some writing today. I’ve not written a thing all week, which is pretty shameful. I was tired most of the week from not sleeping deeply, and then yesterday–the first day where I’d slept well–I was busy trying to get caught up on the things I was too tired to do on the long work days when I was feeling tired. I have to make a birthday cake for a co-worker this weekend (red velvet cheesecake, thank you very much) and so while I am at Target today I’m going to buy one of those cake carrier things. I will have to make a grocery run tomorrow as well, but other than that I am going to mostly hang around the house this weekend and get writing/editing done. The editing is the most important thing; that manuscript is coming up due soon, so I really need to get it finished.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But next weekend i have a three day weekend. I have Friday off because the following Thursday (our pay weeks, oddly enough, run from Friday thru Thursday) I am working an eight hour day on National HIV Testing Day in the Carevan at the Walgreens in my neighborhood. So I can literally roll out of bed, shower and get dressed and walk over two blocks to work, and walk two blocks back home when the day is done. I love me some three day weekends, Constant Reader, as you are undoubtedly already aware, and then two weeks later I am taking a mini-vacation around the 4th of July. (I will most likely take another one around my birthday in August as well; then there’s Labor Day, and the end of October is Bouchercon.)

The Lost Apartment isn’t nearly the mess it was before I got home from work yesterday. I did some laundry and a load of dishes–there’s another load that needs to be done as well, and then of course the bed linens, which I do every Friday–and I really need to do the floors as well. I’m not certain about what to do about dinner this evening–well, I suppose nothing, as i just remembered Paul won’t be home this evening as he has made plans with some friends–so I’ll be home pretty much alone most of the day once I get home from Metairie.

Sigh, Metairie. I think I’ll stop at Atomic Burger on my way home. I love their food. I don’t eat fast food that much anymore–living in New Orleans definitely broke both Paul and I of the bad fast food habits we have before we lived here. I think from my graduation from high school through going on my get-healthy kick in 1995 I probably ate most, if not all, meals at fast food places. Which explains the ballooning weight during those eighteen years, and my general not-good health during that period. Now, I so rarely eat fast food that it generally doesn’t agree with my system and it reminds me why I don’t eat it anymore–but there are some exceptions. Five Guys, Sonic and Whataburger remain favorites, but I don’t eat at any of them very often–and they also don’t make me feel sick in the aftermath, either. I do like Atomic Burger in Metairie, though–I’ve only eaten there twice over the last two years or so–but it might make a nice treat for me today to reward myself for the trip to Metairie. But it should be at a time going and coming back that shouldn’t be too terrible, traffic-wise.

I hope, anyway. Even the day I had my eye appointment and had to come back into the city during rush hour wasn’t that terrible, really.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

26229764_588528228160213_6819974797983064442_n

Getaway

Friday morning, and I survived not only going out to Metairie yesterday for my eye exam, but driving back into New Orleans from Metairie during rush hour. It wasn’t that bad, actually, but if I had to do that every day–well, let’s just say there would be a body count and leave it there, shall we?

Yesterday I also managed to finish Chapter Thirteen; only got slightly over 900 words done, but it’s hard for me to start a new chapter when I know I’m not going to finish it in one sitting, you know? That’s how I  generally like to mark my daily progress; a chapter a day, and it unsettles me when I leave a chapter unfinished overnight. I think so far this has been about a 7000 word week (maybe more, I don’t remember when I wrote Chapter 11; but if it was this week I passed the 10k mark. Huzzah!); and today when I leave the office I am going to get the mail and stop to make groceries–just a few things–before heading home to clean and hopefully get some writing done. I’d also like to get some more reading done; I am enjoying Black Diamond Fall so am hoping to have some more time to read it this weekend.

And whoa, boy, is this season of Killing Eve amazing! Seriously, binge it, people.

Well, here it is five o’clock this afternoon and I never finished this entry this morning before work, did I? I actually even forgot I was writing it until I just now saw the tab open. Not sure what that says about either my attention span or my short term memory, but there you have it.

The weather has turned hot here in New Orleans, so much so that I am seriously considering getting my car windows tinted. Is it just me, or has the sun gotten brighter and hotter; or am I simply more sensitive to it now that I am older? These and other questions plague me constantly these days. The air is also humid, so heavy you can almost feel yourself moving through it. The river is also really high, and there’s still more flooding up the river basin that has to make its way down here. As we enter hurricane season, these things are always in the back of my head.

But I got the mail and made groceries on my way home, and I’ve been doing the bed linens and cleaning odds and ends while my mind roams and wanders. I need a nice day of cleaning to clear my head of noise and refocus on the WIP. Chapter Thirteen ended with a lovely twist, but now I have to figure out how to deal with the fall out from that twist; a way that makes sense for my characters without coming off as either preachy or contrived or unearned or melodramatic–it’s a very fine line.

But I am glad I came across this; so that I can finish and post.

Back to the spice mines for me, and I’ll check in with you tomorrow, Constant Reader.

425909_10151377493020467_1490176587_n