The Irish Channel

Writing a cozy set in New Orleans seemed, at first, to be a little daunting.

One of the key tenets of a cozy is the sense of community one gets while reading it (see Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series for the perfect example; I love Caerphilly, Virginia, and enjoy revisiting twice a year to see how everyone is doing), and it took me a moment to readjust my thinking from “community means a small town” to “no, you moron, anything can be a community; and you can certainly find community in New Orleans.” And then I remembered Leslie Budewitz’ superlative Spice Shop series, which is set in Pike’s Market in Seattle. Seattle is a city, just as New Orleans is; and sure, it might be easier to just invent an entire new fictional small town to set a cozy series in, but if anything, there’s more sense of community in New Orleans than I’ve ever felt in other cities…and it was really about creating a community around my character, Valerie, and picking a neighborhood for her in which to live took me a while as I weighed pros and cons; the only thing that was definite was she was NOT going to live in the French Quarter (there’s a throwaway line where she thinks about how long it’s been since she’s been to the Quarter, and maybe she and her two best friends should arrange to have dinner at Galatoire’s or Antoine’s–yes, I used two of the better known restaurants in the city and the Quarter for the examples, but I also knew I could mention them without needing to explain them to the reader). I did go back and forth about the Marigny or Bywater, but finally decided to put her into a neighborhood that did not flood during Katrina, which narrowed the choices dramatically.

New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods used to be so distinct that knowing what part of the city someone lived would automatically create some assumptions–just as how the ever-popular question of where’d you go to high school used to be another way to connect with someone you’ve just met–there are any number of differences between those who went to Newman or Jesuit or Holy Cross or Ursulines or Ben Franklin or Warren Easton or McMain Magnet. New Orleans is a small enough city that chances were, you’d also know (or ar related to )someone else who’d gone to that high school at the same time, or you also knew other people who lived in their neighborhood. Obviously, the French Quarter is perhaps the most famous neighborhood in New Orleans, followed by the Garden District, working down through the Marigny, the Bywater, Mid-city, Gentilly, Lakeview, Broadmoor, etc. (With the gentrification of the city over the past sixteen or so years, realtors have also started creating new neighborhoods–which can be confusing. For example, they are trying to rebrand the Central Business District–the CBD–into SoMa, South of Market, which makes no fucking sense whatsoever as there is no market for the area to be south of; I often will have someone mention one of these new neighborhoods by name to me and I have no idea what they are talking about. They are also trying to rebrand the 7th Ward as the “new Marigny”…good luck with that.)

Scotty lives in the Quarter, and Chanse lives in the Lower Garden District–I’ve also written a lot of stories set in that neighborhood, which is also where I’ve always lived, and is quite distinct from the actual Garden District–I used to joke that we lived four blocks and three decimal points from the Garden District. So having done those neighborhoods already extensively, I wanted to pick a new place for Valerie to live and for me to write about.

I’ve always kind of been partial to the Irish Channel, although we’ve always lived in the Lower Garden District (distinct from the Garden District). I wrote one book about the Irish Channel already (aptly titled Murder in the Irish Channel), and of course, when I needed a place for Valerie to live, I decided the Channel would be the perfect place for her. Twenty years or so ago there will still blighted and crumbling houses in that neighborhood just waiting to be purchased, renovated and gentrified. The stretch of Magazine she lives near used to be one of my favorite parts of the city–I met any number of people for coffee at the Rue de la Course that used to be there, I used to really enjoy the Semolina’s restaurant as well as the Middle Eastern place whose name I can’t remember now (Byblos? it was the last restaurant meal in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina), and of course I sometimes shopped at the A&P or the Walgreens–before I realized Prytania and Tchoupitoulas were the easiest and quickest ways to get uptown; I wasted a lot of time stuck in Magazine Street traffic back in the day. Our friends Carrie and Lisa used to rent half of an enormous Victorian house near Third and Constance; I loved that enormous, drafty and dusty old house (it’s actually where my main character in my in-progress novella Never Kiss a Stranger lives), and was very sorry when they moved further uptown. Paul and I used to have a lot of fun looking for costumes and other home decor in the numerous thrift shops on Magazine; the one for St. Vincent de Paul (at the corner of Robert and Magazine, which eventually closed and became a Vitamin Shoppe; I don’t think the space is currently in use) was amazing. They used to sell handmade wooden tables and bookcases, made by monks in a monastery somewhere in northern Louisiana, and this furniture was not only solid, but it was inexpensive. We still have the bookcases and tables–one of them is my desk, the other is Paul’s–and I don’t think we spent much more than a hundred dollars on the two tables and the four bookcases. We must have bought that all after we moved back here after the year that should be forgotten; we didn’t move much furniture there or back.

But oh, how I would love to get some more of those bookcases. They are sooooo solid…

Plus, putting Valerie in the Irish Channel gives me the opportunity to write about St. Patrick’s Day–which I’ve never done with either of my other series–at some point in the future.

The Irish Channel obviously takes its name from the fact that many Irish immigrants settled there when they came to New Orleans. The Historic Landmarks Commission defines its boundaries as Jackson Avenue to Delachaise Street and Magazine Street to Tchoupitoulas. However, the New Orleans City Planning Commission defines the boundaries of the Irish Channel as these streets: Tchoupitoulas Street, Toledano Street, Magazine Street, First Street, the Mississippi River and Napoleon Avenue.

See what I mean about how confusing the city can be? We can even properly define the boundaries of our neighborhoods. I’ve always considered the Channel to start at Jackson (as does the Garden District proper) and end at Louisiana; with the other boundaries Magazine and Tchoupitoulas.

But I did think having her live so close to Louisiana Avenue–between Seventh and Harmony–would put her right smack dab into the heart of that neighborhood and in walking distance of practically anything she might need. I wanted her to be able to be able to do her errands most of the time on foot, because that also (in my mind) cemented the sense that it was a neighborhood and a community, if that makes sense? And once I’d picked where she lived, I was able to start building her community around her.

But that is a tale for another time.

I love these kinds of double houses!

Brown Eyes

Sunday morning and another lovely night’s sleep. I feel rested and relaxed this morning–yesterday I still felt like I wasn’t completely recharged yet–so I think today will be a good day of getting things done for me. One can hope, at any rate. Once I finish this I have to start getting ready for my podcast discussion on My Cousin Rachel this morning, which I am not certain I am prepared for. I also need to order that Costco delivery I never got around to yesterday–I felt tired after running my errands yesterday, and my brain wasn’t really functioning the way it needed to be to write, so I just sat in my chair and watched Tennessee beat Florida (the one time per year I root for Tennessee) and then LSU dismantle New Mexico 38-0 last night. I’ve not checked other scores, but I don’t think there were a lot of surprises other than Oklahoma’s almost-predictable almost-annual loss to Kansas State. I’ve not been giving college football much attention this season, but there were an awful lot of almost-upsets yesterday, which should make for an interesting season the further along we get into it.

Tropical Storm Ian continues to slightly move his track ever-so-slightly more west, so the Cone of Uncertainty keeps drawing nearer and nearer to New Orleans, but it looks as though landfall is going to be Wednesday–and ironically, being on the western side of the storm means we will get some lovely cooler weather as a result. I hate that about hurricane season, and obviously I worry about people in Florida (although if I were a right-winger, I’d say God isn’t clearly happy with the way Florida is being run) while at the same time being relieved we don’t have to worry about doing without power or having to leave for this one….but just because we’re getting closer to October doesn’t mean we’re done with the season just yet–it runs through December, after all. Hurray.

I got my contributor’s copy of Magic is Murder, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley yesterday, and what a lovely book it is, too. It’s always lovely to get a copy of your work in print, and as I am sure you’re been made aware by my endless self-promotion on this score, my story here is “The Snow Globe.” It’s another one of my New Orleans paranormal stories–I think there will be three of them seeing print this year (“The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “The Snow Globe” are already out; “A Whisper from the Graveyard” will be out soon) and I am in the process of writing yet another (“Parlor Tricks”) and developing still another (“When I Die”). It’s been a decent year for me and short stories, it appears, and I am hoping once I get this Scotty out of the way and finish the promo for Streetcar’s release that maybe I can focus on writing short stories again for awhile. I’d like to get those novellas finished and out of the way; there are three that are close to being finished and I think I can get them all published into one volume (those would be “Never Kiss a Stranger”, “Fireflies,” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu”–although sometimes I think the first and third might actually work as full-length novels ) and there are a couple of others I’d like to get finished in the new year (and how weird is it that I am already thinking about 2023?). I will probably also try to write another Scotty in the New Year (French Quarter Flambeaux is next up in that series) and I am thinking about maybe another Alabama book. And there’s also that romance I want to write, and the Leonardo mystery, and…

Yeah, I will never run out of ideas, I feel pretty confident in saying that.

We also finished Dahmer last night, which means we can move on to the new Star Wars show, Andor, which is cool because I absolutely loved the character in Rogue One and even though I know how he dies, I am glad they are giving him his own pre-Rogue One series. (I should watch Rogue One again at some point.) And a new episode of The Serpent Queen should drop tonight as well; so many riches to enjoy! And there are some other shows dropping soon that I can’t wait to see–both new shows and new seasons of old favorites (when will Ted Lasso be back? Anyone?)–and I’d also like to finish reading my Donna Andrews, so I can focus on reading horror for the month of October. October is also the month where A Streetcar Named Murder is set, so I should probably be doing some more promo this month to get ready for the release date in early December.

And of course, I need to get some writing done today around the Saints game.

On that note, I need to head into the spice mines so I can get the kitchen ready for the podcast. I am assuming that the podcast is merely an oral recording and not a visual broadcast, so I am not going to shave this morning…I may regret that decision in about an hour and a half. Have a terrific Sunday, y’all, and GEAUX SAINTS!!!

That’s All For Everyone

Yesterday I made a to-do list, and this odd sense of calm came down over all of my neuroses. Sure there’s a lot to be done and not much time to do it, but at least yesterday I felt like I could get it all done…now that I had made a list. I have a lot of writing to do, a lot of promotion to plan, and endless endless emails to send and reply to–and of course it’s football season and the heat is beginning to break a bit. I do like the fall, even though I don’t like it getting dark earlier.

I had to proof the galleys of an anthology I am in (just my story, fortunately) and it was quite an odd experience. I barely remembered anything about the story itself; I know how it came to be and how much money they offered me (seriously, y’all, I am very easy. Make me an offer) and I had a vague sense of what it was about, but I’d forgotten most of it, and I don’t really remember much of writing it, either. I know the anthology took a long time to come out, but the cover is lovely and they’ve done a really nice job of art on the interior of the book as well. It was interesting rereading the story, and weird–it’s very weird to not remember something you’ve written, but I guess I have finally reached that point in my life where I can’t remember everything I’ve written or said or done, for that matter–but it’s not bad. It was supposed to be a pulpy sort of story with a horror bent to it, and “A Whisper from the Graveyard” is what I came up with. They also had instructed us to “write something only a gay man can,” so I went back to 1994 or 1995 and had my big gay private eye hired to find a dead man the same day he finds out he is HIV positive. I’ve never written anything like that before; I’ve never written about HIV/AIDS, which is probably another one of those “I should write an essay about this so I can sort out all of my unresolved and long-buried traumas and fears and potential PTSD from those years” things–especially since I’ve worked as a sexual health counselor for the last fourteen years (my first four years I worked on research projects for NO/AIDS before becoming a counselor). I am also trying to address this in my novella “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which I hope to finish in the next year sometime.

I wasn’t terribly tired when I got home last night, and so I did the dishes and cooked dinner (so I would have something for lunch the rest of this week) before Paul and I settled in to watch Dahmer on Netflix (Paul came home all excited because “the new Star Wars show dropped!” and became even more excited when I replied, “And Dahmer dropped on Netflix”–Paul has long been fascinated by serial killers), which was really good and horribly disturbing; Evan Peters is fantastic as Dahmer, and Niecy Nash is golden in anything she does, but yeah–bleak and disturbing, and of course addicting. (When I get home tonight it’s this week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills before Paul gets home.) I slept well again last night, and since I had a productive day yesterday (finished pulling on some loose ends, even started working on the book again–Chapter Three is a mess, and I need to fix it before I can move on to Chapter Four and the rest of the story) and made some progress on my to-do list as well. Tonight I can come straight home from the office, and tomorrow of course is “I don’t have to get up at six Friday”, which is marvelous; one good thing about these “get-up-at-six” mornings is that it makes getting up at seven or eight seem almost vacation-like.

Yesterday’s post about erotica writing and my “sordid” past as a gay porn writer also set me to thinking about a lot of things about my past and my career and the direction it has gone. There’s probably a lot more to be said about it, definitely more to unpack, but I also really need to think some more about it and also, reread some of my earlier erotica writing. Revisiting my past works, as I have done a bit over the past few months, has been much more reassuring than worrisome; I had been concerned that the writing wouldn’t hold up or I would be appalled by its amateurishness or something, I don’t know (I don’t need a logical reason to be concerned about my work, really, especially when it’s old, published long ago work) but was pleasantly surprised to see it’s nowhere near as bad as I had convinced myself it was (it’s really a twisted and strange place here inside my head) and there’s always the possibility that I may have written something that could be seen as problematic by today’s standards…and, for the record, I do not think that is a bad thing; it simply means that culture and society continue to evolve to a place where past prejudices and bigotries are being overcome, albeit slowly, and hopefully we’ll gradually get to a place where no one is ever made to feel less than or that they are not welcomed or embraced in society. If that means periodic corrections, and acknowledging mistakes made in the not-so-distant past so be it. We are all learning more and more every day, and I certainly hope that neither my heart nor my compassion will ever become ossified and stop learning, growing and trying to be better.

So, on this glorious and unusual Thursday morning (because I am not walking around in a coma this morning waiting for the coffee to kick in, and I can also tell it’s humid outside this morning, yay), I am looking at the positives and looking forward to getting things stricken from that to-do list I made yesterday afternoon. I am looking forward to getting some writing done this evening, and some reading this weekend–I need to reread My Cousin Rachel so I don’t sound like a fricking moron on that podcast recording on Sunday morning–and maybe, just maybe, I can get my email inbox down to something that doesn’t make my heart sink and my soul diminish just by looking at it.

Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again probably tomorrow morning.

Annabel Lee

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all seems to be well. I slept late as I had planned–maybe a bit too late, but I also stayed up late to finish doing the laundry (it’s such an exciting and always oh-so-glamorous life I live here in the Lost Apartment. I have to run some errands a little later on–mail, make groceries, prescriptions, library–and some things to do around here to touch up and clean a bit. I want to do some writing and reading today as well as just relax and enjoy the day a bit. We finished watching The Sandman this week, which was incredible–I think everyone can enjoy it, frankly, and it’s so creative and smart and visually breathtaking; a sweep of technical Emmys would be incredibly well-deserved; but it’s also a fantasy show built upon a mythology that originated in the DC Comics super-hero world, so it probably won’t be taken as seriously by the Emmy voters as it should…but then again they were also all about Watchmen (which was, frankly, superb), so you never know. Game of Thrones didn’t do too badly with the Emmys, either. Regardless, The Sandman is brilliant and I highly recommend it.

We also started watching the new show on Apple+ by Dennis Lehane, Black Bird, starring Taron Edgerton, which is also really good and Edgerton really is enjoying the role he plays. (Paul and I decided that he and Tom Holland need to make a movie together where they play brothers; Edgerton is what Holland would look like were he not so baby-faced boyish looking…or they could easily pass for brothers.) Edgerton, who is very handsome and has an amazing body, also looks like he’s been buffing up his body, too. (I think we first noticed him in Kingsman…I also think he’d make a terrific Nightwing if they ever make a Nightwing movie, which they really need to–I was distressed to see the latest HBO MAX news that Titans will probably be cancelled, which means DIck and Kori need to get together this final season soon to be airing.) We blew through the first three episodes quickly; I am also thinking we need to watch Five Days At Memorial–it’s getting to be Katrina anniversary time, woo-hoo–which will undoubtedly be difficult to watch (that period is a very dark time, obviously, and reliving it, even through the guise of entertainment, is always difficult) but probably necessary.

Since watching It’s a Sin last year (or whenever it was it was released) opened a floodgate of sorts in my mind. I know I’ve mentioned here before that I had always, since about age thirty-three, chosen to focus on the present and the future and never look back. It always seemed counter-productive, and I had finally come around to the acceptance point of realizing that everything that has happened in my life–whether macro or micro–inevitably set me on the path that led me to where I am today, and as long as I am happy, did the past really matter? What was the point to having regrets, to wishing I had something differently? Doing anything differently would have changed my path, and direction, with absolutely no guarantee that I would either be happy–or have survived this long. I am sure there are many many alternative timelines for me that had me dying in the 1980’s or 1990’s, which is always a sobering reflection and one I always have to keep in mind. I am alive because of every decision I’ve made and every heartbreak and crisis and problem and bad thing that has ever happened to me, and I kind of like my life and who I am. I am aware of my flaws (probably not as aware as I could be) and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are as a general rule; my biggest worry is that I delude myself periodically about anything or everything or something, and I really don’t like the possibility that I have blinders on when it comes to anything to do with me, my life or my career, while knowing it’s a strong one. I also know sometimes I probably take on blame for wrong that isn’t my fault (another reason Charlie in Heartstopper resonated so strongly with me was him constantly thinking everything was his fault and always saying “sorry”; I could absolutely relate to that as I’ve done the same most of my life and it is generally always my default on everything).

But as I have said, watching It’s a Sin, and being reminded so viscerally and realistically of what that period of my life was like–oh, they were so heartbreakingly young–did make me start looking back, remembering and reevaluating and, while perhaps not actually having regret, actually mourning everyone and the world and the life perhaps we all could have had if the homophobes hadn’t been in charge of everything back then. By not looking back I don’t think I ever allowed myself to heal, even though so much time has passed it’s all scar tissue now. But scar tissue is generally tighter than the skin it repairs; one is never quite as flexible as one used to be before the wounds became scabs and finally scars. Writing, as always, has been an enormously helpful tool for me to process experiences and feelings without tearing the webbing of the scar tissue again. That’s why I think writing “Never Kiss a Stranger” is important to me, and why the story haunts me so. Both Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit both were enormously helpful to me, forcing me to deconstruct and evaluate and look at harsh bitter truths I’ve tried to avoid most of my life. So I think it may be helpful to watch Five Days at Memorial, because perhaps enough time has passed for me to look back without the full range of painful emotion the memories brought before.

Hilariously, after all that bitching yesterday morning about the health fair, it turned out much differently than I was expecting. For one thing, their scale clearly was wrong; it clocked me at 196 pounds. If that was accurate, then I have lost sixteen pounds since I last visited my doctor–two weeks ago (I weighed 212 at his office). As that is most likely not possible–especially since I’d moaned in disbelief when putting on my pants yesterday morning only to find them snugger than they were the last time I’d put them, so the notion I’ve lost that much weight in such a short period of time without trying is utterly ludicrous on its face, preposterous. But it did kind of make me smile a little bit and shake my head.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and hope it’s everything you hoped it will be.

Long Distance Winner

Wednesday and I got the copy edits done! Woo-hoo!

I honestly don’t know why I am so weird about edits and so forth. Both my editorial letter and the copy edits this time around were practically nothing–incredibly easy fixes that literally required very little thought or effort– yet in each and every instance I put off doing them because I was just so goddamned sure that navigating them would be a nightmare. But now I can finally put A Streetcar Named Murder into the “finished” folder (I will still have to proof pages, of course, but for all intents and purposes this manuscript is pretty much finished; I won’t be working in Microsoft Word on it anymore and so I can close the file) and give all my attention to the things I am working on now. I need to get through the copy edits on the Bouchercon anthology and I need to edit/polish a short story this week before submitting it for an anthology call that is due this coming Friday.

I had to run an errand last night–which required me going into Mid-city during rush hour (the horror of it all!) before coming home. It actually didn’t turn out too badly; I took the highway and got there in no time at all, and it was shockingly easy to get home as well. There was some massive rain in uptown yesterday–it sprinkled at the office–and I could tell there had been flooding in my neighborhood. I suspect our street–which has only flooded once in the nineteen years we’ve lived there–is going to flood more in the future since the hideous condo building went up over two empty lots (where the water used to spread out; something I think is going to continue to be problematic for the entire city as our green spaces and empty lots disappear because there’s money to be made in real estate why should anyone be concerned about flooding in a city below sea level?) on my block…I really need to finish that story about killing a greedy real estate contractor, don’t I?

But in the wake of finishing the copy edits of my book (huzzah!) I am now trying to figure out what I need to get done next and how to best utilize my time. My new glasses have arrived, so I can go pick those up on Friday (I am taking the day off to do that and some other things that need doing) and I get to pick out a new, more current author photo. Sleuthfest gave us the option to pay to have new headshots done, and as little as I wanted to do this…I also recognized my black-and-white author photo is from 2008 and the one of me with the stacks of books is from 2014 or so. I mean, I look the same as I did then–if not as thin, at any rate–but some of these photos are good. and I’m also getting to the point in life where I just don’t care that much anymore. I spent so much of my life worrying about how I looked–the curse of vanity coupled with insecurity–and how my body appeared that it’s rather freeing to not really be so concerned about it anymore as I used to be. I don’t know if the insecurity was put to rest by getting older, or whether the vanity fell by the wayside, or some combination of the two, but now I want to get back to the gym not because of the cosmetic effect but to make my muscles and body feel better; I definitely need to get stretched out at some point. I just wish I had a dedicated open space in the Lost Apartment where I can sit on the floor and stretch everything.

Someday.

We continued watching Stranger Things last night, which we are really enjoying–but I could do without the Russian subplot, quite frankly. It’s weird seeing how much older the kids have gotten since that first season, but time waits for no one. I do enjoy my 1980’s nostalgia, even if it was a hellish decade and one that on a personal level I would love to completely forget like it never happened, but I still like a lot of the cultural stuff from that decade–music, books, movies, television shows, etc–but I don’t know that I would ever write anything set during that time period. I have lots of ideas for stuff set in the 1970’s–I gravitate toward that decade, methinks, because it was so formative and it was my adolescence for the most part–and “Never Kiss a Stranger” is even a 1990’s story…but it never crosses my mind to write anything about the 1980’s. The decade simply doesn’t inspire me, and I am sure a lot of that is me not wanting to revisit the personal angst I went through then. (I have been thinking a lot about my novella “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” which is a Corinth County story and is set in the 1970’s lately, as well as my 1970’s Chicago suburbs story Where the Boys Die, which is a great title but I don’t think I want to use it for this particular story, to be honest; but it’ll do as a working title because, as we all know, I cannot write anything if it’s not titled.)

But I am looking forward now to getting back in the saddle and writing again. Mississippi River Mischief is developing nicely in my head; another project I am working on is also starting to coalesce, and I need to plan out the next few chapters of Chlorine. Feeling pretty good about things–I assume that will last about another hour.

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

One More Big Time Rock and Roll Star

And now it’s Friday, Three Day Weekend Eve.

It rained again yesterday, so it wasn’t terribly awful while running my errands after work last night. I came home, put away dishes and did some laundry, provided a lap for Scooter–who stayed there all night, and even when I would get up he would just jump back into my chair and go back to sleep (Paul didn’t get home from work until after I’d gone to bed, so he was feeling abandoned the way he always does when there’s only one of us at home), and did some more brainstorming and plotting for the stuff I am working on. I feel good and rested again this morning (I did get a bit tired yesterday afternoon), and hope springs eternal for another productive long weekend at home. The theme for the weekend is clearly editing, since i have copy edits for two manuscripts to start working through, and two short stories to edit–I also need to go through my “call for submissions” folder and see what is possible and what is not ( as well as tossing the ones that have already passed).

It seems weird to be celebrating Independence Day this year, since the radical, highly politicized “supreme” court continues to demolish every right and protection anyone non-white and not male have fought for and earned since the second World War–even going back as far as JOHN FUCKING MARSHALL to overturn decisions–as they work to establish a Fascist state once and for all. I was thinking about this last night while watching Real Housewives Ultimate Girls’ Trip 2 and remembering why I didn’t miss seeing Jill Zarin on my television, and I was also thinking about memoirs and memories and writing about my life. One of the primary reasons I’ve always backed away from it (and yes, I am aware that I am talking about being reluctant to write personal essays about my past and life in MY FUCKING BLOG) is not only because I know my memory to be faulty, but also because I know that–like most other people–I also have a tendency to rewrite my memories to make me look better or to justify bad behavior on my own part, and that isn’t fair to the other people in said memories who don’t have a platform (no matter how small) to tell their side of the story (which has also been undoubtedly rewritten in their own minds to make themselves look better). No two people ever see the same situation exactly the same; our interpretations and reactions to things are often predicated and formed by our life experience, our education, our opinions, and our beliefs and values that have also developed over a lifetime. An event that may have seemed completely throwaway and inconsequential to one person can be life-changing to another.

I’ve also begun recognizing and finding holes in my memory. For some reason I had always believed we’d moved, for example, from the south side of Chicago to the suburbs in the winter of 1969. That was firmly cemented in my brain as fact…until a year or so ago when I realized I was ten when we moved to the suburbs, which means we didn’t move out there until the winter of 1971. That’s a significant difference, which has skewed the order of memories in my head.

Some friends have been encouraging me to write personal essays, but I’m not really sure I should or not. For a long time I shut the door on my past as much as I could; it was painful to remember and it was simply easier for me to shove everything into a corner of my brain and lock the door behind them. When I started rebooting my life at age thirty-three, I still looked back a lot with sadness and heartbreak and bitterness–but I also began trying to put it all behind me at the same time because it was sad and heartbreaking and I didn’t want to be trapped into that quagmire of negativity. After Paul and I had met and we’d moved to New Orleans and my new life was beginning to take shape–the life I’d always wanted and had dreamed of for years; those dreams sustaining me through even the darkest of times–I decided to put it all behind me once and for all, deciding that I loved my life and was very happy with it, which meant that everything that had happened–no matter how terrible–was necessary to put my feet firmly on the path that led to my happiness and so therefore I should have no regrets about anything. It was helpful to distance myself from my past and never look back, so I tried never to do so. But now that I’ve reached sixty–I’ve started reflecting about the past a lot more over these past few years, plus writing my last two books (Bury Me in Shadows and #shedeservedit, respectively) required me to start digging around in those inner rings of the giant redwood of my life, as did watching It’s a Sin, which, despite being set in London, took me back to the 1980’s and brought a lot of painful memories back. It made me realize that while that coping mechanism of “no regret, not looking back” was necessary for my growth into who I am now, and for me to build a writing career, it wasn’t long-term healthy because a lot of unprocessed pain, anger and grief (and joy and laugher, as well) had never been recognized, processed, dealt with, and moved on from. I think part of the reason I decided to finish those two in-progress-for-years books was precisely so i could start processing and dealing with my past…and sometimes that means revisiting painful memories. It’s also part of the reason I moved “Never Kiss a Stranger” up on the lengthy list of things I want to write and finish and get out there; I want to remember the mentality of what it was like to be a gay man in New Orleans in 1994, just really coming to terms with your sexuality after being closeted at least most of the time for most of your life, and beginning to explore what it means to be gay while the specter of AIDS hung over your head like a death sentence just waiting to be pronounced. As prevention and treatment options continue to lower the risk of infection as well as the threat of death over the last decade or so, people are slowly beginning to forget what it was like back then–and the literature of the period is going out of print and disappearing. I now have clients who don’t remember what it was like because they weren’t alive then, and while it is so wonderful and lovely that they didn’t come out and experience life with that shadow hanging over their heads, periodically I feel a bit of pang remembering all those wonderful bright lights that were extinguished so cruelly, and the old embers of white-hot anger at the societal and governmental neglect, often deliberate and intentionally cruel, that allowed them all to die returns.

Which is why unveiling a commemorative stamp honoring Grendel’s mother, aka Nancy Reagan, during Pride Month was tone-deaf as well as a slap in the face to those of us who survived in spite of that miserable bitch and the raw sewage she married.

I also think this most recent pandemic and the memories it stirred up, timed with watching It’s a Sin and some other things, is why I am so exhausted all the time (well, that plus being sixty); it’s a sign of depression from all of the unprocessed emotions and feelings from locking away my past and turning away from it. It may have been necessary in 1995 to move forward, but it wasn’t healthy, and the longer I kept those memories locked away without dealing with them the worse it became. So I am going to set a goal of trying to write an essay every two weeks about something from my past, unlocking a memory and trying to find the meaning in it, how it impacted and affected my life–and not with regret, but with the cold, unflinching eye of the non-fiction writer. I also feel like something snapped inside my head this past week–I know how weird that sounds–but Wednesday I was really down. Memories flashing through my head, triggered by the reversal of Roe (I remember a pre-Roe United States, and also remember when the decision came down) and what that meant for other decisions revolving around personal privacy/freedom and government overreach. The four or five days following the Dobbs decision were dark ones for me (I cannot imagine what they were like for women), and yet, somehow, in writing something Wednesday afternoon something snapped in my head and I got past it all–and I realized I’d been dealing with a lot more anxiety and depression than I thought I was (and I thought I was dealing with a lot as it was). I have felt much better since getting over that hump on Wednesday, but I am also not foolish enough to think I am past it all, either–it will come back.

If I learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it’s that trauma and depression come in waves. There will be good days, and there will be bad days. I usually deal with darkness by writing–not writing makes the darkness even darker–which is something I also need to remember: writing always makes things better for me.

And on that introspective note, I am heading into the spice mines.

Blue Denim

Thursday morning and i had insomnia last night. I am not going to complain about it–it’s been a while since that’s happened, so I should just kind of suck it up and go from there. I was tired when I got home from work yesterday–it was a bit of a draining day; we were busy at the clinic and I was dealing with some things in between that essentially took up the rest of whatever little free time I had yesterday, so by the time I got home I was exhausted, so no reading again last night. I did have something to do when I got home–of course–that was due yesterday, so I did sit down and spend about an hour and a half getting that finished and sent off, before giving into Scooter’s demands that I provide a comfy lap for him to sleep in. I watched this week’s Superman and Lois season finale–most excellent–and then The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which has me entertained enough to keep watching, despite the potential criminality of one of the cast members, and then Paul came home and it was time for bed. I didn’t sleep well–I woke up numerous times during the night and don’t think I ever went into a fully deep sleep at any time during the night, which means I will undoubtedly be very tired this evening when I get home also–yay? Maybe it will help me sleep.

But I have even more work to do now on this coming holiday weekend–yes, that’s right, copy edits have landed in my inbox for both A Streetcar Named Murder and Land of 10000 Crimes, so there’s my holiday weekend taken up–and I hope to finish reading my book this weekend as well. I am writing again, albeit slowly; I’ve got two chapters of a project I am working on just for fun and to see where it goes done, and I’ve started the new Scotty (cover art coming soon!), and of course, I’d like to do some work on “Never Kiss a Stranger.” Yes, I am juggling probably too many things at the same time, but you know, it happens. (I also peeked inside and the copy editor’s first note was to let me know how much she enjoyed reading it, which is also very cool!)

So yes, I will be spending most of my weekend going over copy edits, which is actually kind of a nice way to pass time on a long, lazy holiday weekend. I would like to get some more cleaning done–specifically, getting things down from the storage attic and start emptying it out–I can rebox copies of my own books that I have stored in a kitchen cabinet and move those up there, which frees up more space for me to use in the kitchen (having my work station in the kitchen’s bay window–while a lovely idea and I do love my windows–does cut back on available kitchen space and sometimes makes it seem cluttered in the kitchen, which drives me insane because I run out of counter space). I also need to edit a couple of short stories–one may need a significant rewrite, but I think I can handle it and can get it done this weekend–and I also need to sort through other submission calls. Despite the insomnia last night, I feel very energetic today so I am hoping I can ride this wave through the rest of the day. One can hope, at any rate.

And of course there are errands to be run on the way home tonight–there are always errands to be run on the way home–but despite my exhaustion every night when I get home from work I have managed to sort of keep up with the laundry and the kitchen stuff so I don’t have to spend an entire weekend day getting that shit caught up, thank you baby Jesus, so that’s a plus. Which kind of gives me hope for making progress of a sort.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Rock a Little

Well, here we are on Saturday after a rage-infested Friday during which my anger burned with the white hot heat of a dozen burning suns. I somehow managed to get things done–the world keeps turning, no matter how shitty whatever is going on that day might be–and yet succumbed to the need to rage-tweet and retweet; Twitter is such a horrible place and it just feeds on itself.

The other day I was talking about #shedeservedit and why I wasn’t entirely comfortable promoting the book–but the abomination of the ‘supreme court’ and its rulings of this past week have completely changed my position about that entirely. I am very glad that I wrote that book, because part of its story also addresses the need for legal abortion. YES I AM PRO-CHOICE AND I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, even when I was a child. I remember when the Roe decision originally came down; I was twelve years old, and everyone was talking about it. My sister wrote an anti-abortion piece for our high school newspaper, so I knew where she came down on the issue; my parents never really talked about it but I felt pretty safe in assuming, based on their upbringing and their faith, where they came down on the issue. It seemed kind of wrong to me, but the more I read about it and the more I understood the position of those who argued in favor of it, the more I came around to the pro-choice side. No one should have to carry a child to term against their will, period. I don’t know why that is so difficult for so many men to understand or grasp; if men could get pregnant Planned Parenthood would have drive-thru service. And the right to privacy these judicial activists just struck down? The ripples of government intervention into personal life choices that are none of the government’s or anybody else’s decisions is the epitome of government intervention and overreach that conservatives are always screaming about. The abominable sexual predator Clarence Thomas* even specifically named other decisions regarding privacy and government overreach he felt were ‘wrongly decided.’ Hey, if I was married to one of the biggest traitors in American history this side of Benedict Arnold I’d probably have all the seats and keep my mouth shut, but you do you, predator.

Sigh. I’ll probably never stop being angry about this.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday. I did my day job duties. I also took a short break to go wash and vacuum out my car (I finally found a do-it-yourself car wash that is easy to get to); I also got my brake tag renewed, which was marvelous. (It expired during the shutdown of 2020, and there were no places open to have it done. Naturally, I forgot all about it until a conversation at the office the other day.) I don’t have to worry about that again until 2024. I also picked up the mail and came back home to do more work. After my work duties were finished, I made three binders for working projects–yes, this is something that I do. I print out every draft, three hole punch it, and put into a three-ring binder used specifically for that purpose. I had recently emptied out the binder for A Streetcar Named Murder, and so I am reusing that one of Mississippi River Mischief. I also made a new one for Chlorine, one for “Never Kiss a Stranger ” (and the other novellas), and one for another project I am slowly but surely working on for some reason that doesn’t really make sense to me; someone has shown an interest in it and so I am writing it when I can’t make any progress on what I am currently focused on working on. Today I have an eye appointment in Metairie at noon; I’m debating as to whether to donate books to the library today to get the boxes out of the living room before heading out there. I am probably going to treat myself to Atomic Burger on the way home–I was thinking Sonic, but I’ve not had Atomic Burger since pre-pandemic times so that sounds like more of a treat for me than going to Sonic. (it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve had Five Guys…)

We watched this week’s episode of The Boys last night (thoroughly enjoyed the season finale of Obi-wan Kenobi the night before) before catching another episode of Loot (seriously, Maya Rudolph is killing it on this show; one of the best female comedy performances since Veep–she and Jean Smart will be definitely fighting it out for the Emmy this year, and the entire cast is actually quite good. Very sharp comedic writing, as well, and then once we were caught with that we moved on to First Kill, which we are still enjoying, weird as it is. I also want to spend some time today with The Savage Kind by John Copenhaver–it’s quite wonderful–before I head out to the burbs. (I also laundered the bed linens and got caught up on the dishes as well.) I do want to finish reading it this weekend, so I can find out where it’s going and enjoy every page as well as to move on to my next read before Pride Month runs out. I have all these marvelous books just collecting dust here in the Lost Apartment, and just begging to be read.

On that note, I am going to make myself another cup of coffee and head over to the easy chair with my book before I have to start getting ready to head out to the eye appointment. Have a great Saturday, and remember–channel your rage into action. To quote Game of Thrones, “there is no justice in this world unless we make it.” I intend to spend the rest of my life, as I have spent so much of it already, fighting for justice. I’d kind of hoped that I wouldn’t have to anymore, but letting your guard down just gives the Fascists an opportunity to regroup.

“Henceforth I shall only refer to him in this manner, just as Kavanaugh will always be “the rapist Brett Kavanaugh.”

Kind of Woman

Sunday morning and to celebrate the holiday weekend, I decided to not only sleep in–almost till nine!–and then made myself a cappuccino when I finally rolled out of my bed. I feel marvelously rested, which is lovely, and the cappuccino is amazing. (I was only going to have one, but I may have a second…but then I worry about sleep tonight and sigh.) I hope to have a marvelously productive day–yesterday wasn’t that productive–and I think I can power through everything I want, or would like, to get done today.

Or I may not.

I didn’t do much writing yesterday, alas, but I did get some done. I did my self-care errand (Ugh, such modesty; I don’t know why I am being so coy. I got my back waxed, but don’t come for me. I don’t care if other people are into body hair, I don’t care if other people like having hair on their backs. I am not one of those people. If I am not saying too much, I am very hairy and since I can’t see it, in my head I always imagine it’s much worse than it probably is, and I don’t like it. I feel better when my back is smooth, okay?) After that I went to the post office and picked up the mail (which included such marvelous books as The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames; The Hacienda by Isabel CaƱas–which I want to read back-to-back with Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; and It Dies with You by Scott Blackburn, a debut) and then did the making groceries thing. By the time I had done all that the heat and humidity had sapped my strength, so I decided to take a break once the groceries were done and watch the rest of Slow Burn, that Watergate documentary series I mentioned the other day. Scooter, of course, seized that opportunity to turn my lap into his bed, and that lulled me into a sense of relaxation that also turned into my rewatching Tootsie on HBO MAX rather the reading–Paul got home while I wasn’t very far into it, but I was already not enjoying it. (I’d forgotten that Michael Dorsey doesn’t decide to pretend to be Dorothy Michaels until at least twenty to thirty minutes into the film, while the time before that is spent showing us what a horrible, difficult, narcissist he was before he got in touch with his feminine side…which isn’t fun at all.) I’d seen the film in the theater–in those halcyon days of the early 1980’s before we truly discovered how horrible Ronald Reagan really was and what he was going to to do to the country; Tootsie was the latest in what could be considered an attempt to “queer” the movies; it came out in the same year Victor/Victoria did (we rewatched that recently to see if it had aged well or had become problematic; it actually does) but I suspected that Tootsie–the year’s other “gender bender” comedy, probably did not. When I mentioned how unlikable the Michael character was and how hard the opening of the movie was to watch again, Paul smirked, “Oh, you mean when Dustin Hoffman was playing Dustin Hoffman?” I laughed–but he wasn’t wrong.

Paul and I then watched a four hour documentary series about fundamentalist Mormons–you may remember the ones with the compound in the early aughts, whose children were taken away because they not only subscribed to plural marriage but also to child marriage and conception? (Girls under the age of consent were being given to men sometimes three or four times their age as wives and had children; yet another example of who the real fucking groomers are.) It’s called Keep Sweet–the credo of the fundamentalist Mormons for how women should behave, which is horrifying in and of itself–and it was terribly interesting. We then caught this week’s episode of The Boys (huzzah for adding Jensen Ackles to the cast!), and then of course, retired to bed. I also did some cleaning and organizing yesterday, which was nice–and I did get a few chapters into John Copenhaver’s marvelous The Savage Kind, which is really compelling. I did do some writing–not much, but some, and the character in that project is starting to come to life, and this is really my favorite part of writing. Yes, it’s daunting to start writing a new book project–knowing there’s so much more work to come–but this is the part where all the possibilities are swirling and other characters are trying to take shape and I am also trying to figure out how to shape the story. I also thought about how to develop and carry the chapter I was working on forward, so hopefully today I can get that done as well as some other structuring and planning for the rest of it. I also want to work a bit on “Never Kiss a Stranger” today; I am feeling like my creative mojo is back in some ways and I really want to take advantage of that while it lasts. And of course, I need to get some things done for Scotty, too.

I am also going to spend some more time with John Copenhaver’s book this morning as my mind and body continue to wake up. I am almost finished with this cappuccino, but I am afraid I’ll probably have to switch to regular coffee rather than having another one; far, far too much caffeine that I will most likely never wear out of my system today. But….that doesn’t mean I can’t have one tomorrow; maybe I can have one a day before switching to regular coffee? I guess we’ll see how it affects my sleep tonight. Fingers crossed that it will be not at all. I’ve been sleeping well for quite some time now; let’s hope the cappuccino doesn’t fuck that all up.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee, take Copenhaver with me to the easy chair, and read for about an hour or so. Have a lovely Sunday/Father’s Day, everyone.

Enchanted

Thursday and I am really looking forward to the three day weekend.

And yes, I am well aware of how lazy that makes me sound but I don’t care.

I slept relatively well last night. Paul got home late, so we watched an episode of Why Are You Like This? which is funny and interesting at the same time–I’m also not entirely comfortable with finding it funny, to be honest; the characters are all so blatantly awful in so many different ways that I am sure I would not be amused by them in reality–but there you have it. Guilty as charged. It was also incredibly hot yesterday; the heat index was well over a hundred for most of the day, and when I got in the car after work, it was 100 degrees, according to the temperature gauge in the car. I went to get the mail (my copy of the Fire Island book arrived) and stopped at the bank before heading home. I was, as expected, rather tired when I got home and Scooter demanded a lap to sleep in, so I collapsed into my easy chair and took the evening off for most of the night. I did write for a little bit on “Never Kiss a Stranger”–which I am starting to develop imposter syndrome about (how I’ve missed that!)–and I am actually hoping to get it finished this weekend over the course of those lovely three days off, and maybe even get started on Scotty #8.

Number Eight. Wow. Who knew?

I really need to focus.

The heat hasn’t really helped much in that regard, and yes, I know New Orleans is always hot and humid, but this year it’s much hotter and more humid earlier than it usually is–or else my memory is completely shot. I don’t ever remember having heat advisories in June before, or it getting to be 100 degrees this early–remember, summer doesn’t even start until June 21st, so yeah, it’s still spring with the heat index hitting over 100 daily for the past week.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I was thinking last night (always dangerous) while Scooter slept in my lap about how much queer rep there has been on my streaming services lately, and it has definitely been a mixed bag. I kind of want to watch Fire Island again, to see what I missed the first time (a second viewing of anything like this is practically de rigeur for me, especially if I want to write about it) and that led me to thinking about Elite and Heartstopper again, as well as Young Royals, Sex Education, and Bonding, to name just a few. I was thinking about Heartstopper last night–which is how this entire line of thought began–and how adorable the show was; and part of that was because the actors were actually age-appropriate for the roles; and that changed how I perceived the show–I kept thinking oh these kids are so cute, whereas in shows where the teenagers are played by actors in their early to late twenties–which always seems to be the case, so that the drinking and drugs and sex in shows like Elite or Gossip Girl doesn’t seem as distasteful or wrong as it would be if they were actually using kids (one of the few times in television/film history where an actual teenager played a teenager who was having sex and getting into all kinds of trouble was Genie Francis as teenaged Laura Webber on General Hospital back in the 1970s) who were age appropriate; there’s an entire essay about older young adults playing sexualized teenagers and “who’s grooming who” in our culture that it struggling to take form in my mind…which is yet another reason I want to rewatch some of these shows.

I’ve also been thinking about Queer as Folk’s reboot since we binged it last weekend, and I am still not decided on what I think about the show; it might bear a rewatch as well so I can be certain that I am remembering things correctly and/or didn’t miss things that were relevant to the characters and the story being told…but I will say again–New Orleans looks beautiful on the show.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Thursday, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.