My Favorite Things

And so we have reached the last day of 2021 at last (it’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it has been 2021 for a year; 2022 is going to seem even stranger, methinks). I’m on a holiday, so there’s no work for the day-job to be done today, but there’s plenty of other things that need to be done. I need to work on the book some more, I need to clean, I need to run some errands, and I’d also like to do some reading. It’s a lot, I know, and who knows how much I can or will actually get done around here? Yesterday I did data entry, made condom packs and rewatched the original Clash of the Titans (starring a very young Harry Hamlin and his nipples; seeing this in the theater made me a Harry Hamlin fan for life) while I did so. I also was able to pick up two boxes of home COVID-19 tests (the day-job procured you them for the staff as a preventive measure, which are apparently like gold these days.

It was a very challenging year in many ways. I suspect that if I looked back at a list of my goals for the year, two of the most key things–getting an agent and finishing Chlorine–would not be able to be checked off the list. My faulty memory–I keep, for one thing, conflating the last two years as one and the same mentally–has something to do with it. I know I wanted to write more short stories in 2021, and I don’t know that I succeeded at that. I know I had a couple of stories of which I am very proud come out this past year (my first ever attempt at writing a Sherlock Holmes story for one), and of course I finished writing two books while trying to finish yet a third under contract, and trying to get Chlorine done.

I always feel sort of weird at the end of the year when I compile my favorite things (books, movies, television) because I never limit myself to things that were new to the year, but rather new to me during the year; I am always so woefully behind on everything I read and watch that it doesn’t seem fair to leave off things that didn’t debut in 2021. Besides, it’s always kind of fun, I think, to remind people of things they themselves might have missed and forgotten about. But when I started thinking about all the books I read this past year, I would have sworn that I hadn’t read this much, or that I couldn’t have possibly read this many books–and I know I am also forgetting some, and these are the ones that stand out enough to be remembered. My favorite reads of the year were, in no particular order, The Turnout by Megan Abbott; The Collective by Alison Gaylin; Dream Girl by Laura Lippman; The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews (I read three or four Andrews novels this past year, and loved them all, frankly); Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier; Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby; A Beautiful Crime by Christopher YBollen; Yes Daddy by Jonathan Page-Ramage; The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris; These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall; Invisible City by Julia Dahl; and By Way of Sorrow by Robyn Gigl. I also read a lot more cozies than I generally do, which were quite fun–I highly recommend checking out Leslie Budewitz, Vivien Chien, Sherry Harris, Ali Brandon, Miranda Harris, and Carolyn Haines, among many others–my TBR pile is nothing if not a treasure trove of terrific reading–and I am hoping to get even more reading done in the new year as well.

As for movies, I also watched a lot of movies. I saw a lot of classic cinema of the past I’d never seen before–my Cynical 70’s Film Festival had some marvelous entries this past year–as well as revisited some favorites. I greatly enjoyed Dune, which I thought was incredibly well done, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a great super-hero film, with just the right amount of spectacle, humor, and humanity to ground it in enough reality that an audience could relate to it. I don’t remember any other new films that we saw in this past year, but I am sure there were some–the direct-to-streaming/limited theatrical release model for the pandemic ensured that I saw some things much sooner than I probably would have otherwise–but give me a break, I am still on my first cup of coffee after a lovely and deep night’s sleep.

Television again is something a bit blurry for me; the lines between 2020 and 2021 also blurring a bit here. I know we loved Mare of Easttown, Ted Lasso (a true gem of a show), The Mandalorian, Elité, Superman and Lois (probably the best version of Superman since the first two Christopher Reeve films), the original Gossip Girl (which is winding down now with a last season that is rather disappointing, alas), Hacks, One of Us is Lying, Cruel Summer, and Only Murders in the Building, which was also a jewel. But maybe my favorite show of the year was HBO’s It’s a Sin, which was not only well done, but powerful and thought-provoking. I had debated whether I wanted to see it or not; entertainment about HIV/AIDS, particularly about the height of the plague, has never sat well with me–either pandering nonsense or heavy-handed. The gold standard for me has always been Longtime Companion, but after watching I had to say It’s a Sin belongs up there. It was hard to watch at times–and I realized that the reason was the characters were all the same age that I was when it all started, which was a big part of it–but it also made me acknowledge and understand any number of things about myself and my past; namely that I had never grieved, just going numb at one point and deciding to keep moving forward and not think about anything. Watching the show brought back a lot of memories which, while painful at times, was necessary and needed.

I also spent time writing and working on two novellas, “Festival of the Redeemer” and “Never Kiss a Stranger”; one thing I really want to be able to do in the new year is get the novella collection together as well as another collection of short stories. Lots of plans for the new year, including a new Scotty novel I’ve been itching to get to, and another stand alone, in addition to Chlorine. I was able to visit my parents twice this past year, and I was also about to make it to New York and then Boston for Crime Bake, which was simply marvelous. I have lots of travel plans for the new year that I am hoping new pandemic variants aren’t going to jettison–I really do want to be around writers again, seriously–and over all, the year wasn’t as terrible as it easily could have been (2022, do not take this as a challenge). I got a new computer, paid off a lot of debt, and over all, I have to say, all things considered, 2021 wasn’t altogether terrible. I wish I had been more productive, but I also wish that every year.

And on that note, this next chapter isn’t going to write itself, is it? Have a lovely New Year’s Eve, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you next year!

Joy To The World

The day after Christmas is always a bit on the weird side.

I decided to take yesterday off from the world, not looking at emails or social media or even trying to work. I mean, it was Christmas, and yes, I am behind on everything but sometimes recharging is necessary and needed and shouldn’t be questioned. Paul got me some lovely gifts, which was nice, and I made pulled turkey breast for dinner. We spent a lovely day basically hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company, which is all anyone can really ask for Christmas. Of course, that means I need to make up for yesterday today with the writing and the spice mines and I have to go back to work tomorrow (another short week, though, which is kind of nice); heavy heaving sigh. But the year is winding down and before you know it, it will be 2022; one week from today will be the second of the new year. Very weird, very weird indeed.

But while i may not have been typing words to put on paper, I was thinking about the book some more, and I have a very good idea of the proper direction to take it, so today when I get cracking (after getting properly caffeinated, of course) I should be able to bang out some work on it. I also was thinking about some other things–whenever I let my mind wander creatively, it’s never just about the current project; I just let it go in the directions it wants to go rather than where I want it to go, which is probably why I have so many folders filled with ideas and partials and incomplete things–but I also find that trying to rein in my creativity and focus it when it’s free-styling is inevitably a mistake because it just doesn’t work that way, alas; any attempt to control it inevitably means shutting it down completely. So while it can be tiring as my mind pinballs from bumper to bumper and flipper to flipper, sometimes it comes up with some serious gold, and therefore it’s all worthwhile.

Or at least so I think. I can never be completely sure, you know. I am rarely, if ever, the best judge of my own ideas and work.

But I am looking forward to diving back into the book this morning, and cleaning up the mess I left behind in my kitchen while preparing dinner last night. I am probably going to make sautéed shrimp tonight to serve over baked potatoes–a highly fattening dish I save for rare occasions (the recipe calls for bacon grease, butter, and heavy cream, in case you were wondering) and post-Christmas sort of sounds like the right night for that to be happening. Not sure what I will do for New Year’s next weekend–although I strongly suspect we will be finished OG Gossip Girl at long last by the end of that weekend. We are well onto season five now, with only season six’s half-season left when we finish out this one–and then we’ll have to go looking for something new to binge-watch. (We also have some shows to finish watching–The Sinner, for one, and of course there are some new shows that dropped while we were indulging ourselves in Gossip Girl) I also want to finish reading Vivien Chien’s book–I’m enjoying it a lot, but for whatever reason right now I am not in a reading phase, which is bitterly disappointing, but I am sure it also has to do with home-stretching the new manuscript–and I also found some more I need to put back in the TBR pile as I cleaned out a box of books from the storage space (I am still looking for those old journals, by the way; I want them for “Never Kiss a Stranger” research because those journals include the time period when I first began visiting New Orleans, and I’d like to remember things I’ve probably lost to the mists of time and old age that stand out from that time period; like trying to remember songs that played in the gay bars at that time since my character works in one).

It really does bother me that I have literally no idea where I stored those journals. I remember finding them, and I cannot believe I just put them back into a box and away again.

Which wasn’t really very smart of me. I know I didn’t want to go through them at the time–I really rarely enjoy revisiting old diaries and so forth because it’s more than a little embarrassing to read how immature I was, or how easily my feelings were hurt–in other words, what a drama fucking queen I used to be back in the day; but I wrote all those things down, at the very least, to try to process the feelings and why I felt the way I did without ever admitting things that I didn’t want to admit to myself were true; self-deception used to be a major factor in life, and essentially seeing how I deluded myself into thinking things isn’t exactly highly appealing to me at this time (or any time, for that matter)…but it would also be interesting to take a look at ideas I had for stories and books from back then; music I was liking and listening to; and of course my dreams that were expressed on those pages; even the books I was reading at the time.

And isn’t that always the way, really?

I also started, the other day, going through my old blog entries from earlier this year to remember what I was reading and what I was watching. I don’t really see much point in making a list of favorite reads and watches from the year; I would inevitably forget something that I really enjoyed, and it was a year of truly terrific reading for me. I read a lot of great books this past year, and we watched a lot of great television shows as well. It’s also an interesting journey is seeing what books I wanted to write this past year and never got around to doing; I never finished writing Chlorine’s first draft, or Where the Boys Die, or a new Scotty (the idea for which switched around an awful lot during the year, I might add; going from Twelfth Night Knavery to French Quarter Flambeaux to Mississippi River Mischief over the course of the second year of a pandemic) and so many short stories thought up and begun yet never finished…this, you see, is why I scoff when people say I’m prolific; there are so many pieces I’ve started writing but have never finished.

And on that note, I should probably head back into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Boxing Day or day after Christmas or Sunday or whatever meaning you might have assigned to this day.

In My Arms

Thursday and working at home today. Data to enter and condoms to pack; but at least I don’t have to go out in public today, which is a blessing both for me and the public when it happens. I decided to stop and make groceries on the way home from work last night, to make this possible, and it’s an absolutely lovely thing to contemplate that I was smart enough to think ahead so I can just work from home and not go anywhere today, other than to the gym later on. My body isn’t happy that I’ve not been to the gym in weeks, and it is most definitely letting me know of its deep disapproval of this conduct. I may not even lift weights–but stretching is definitely on the agenda. I need to really stretch every day, to keep my muscles from tightening and knotting, and all the knots and tightness and tension I am feeling this morning is yet another example of why self-care, particularly in trying times, is so absolutely necessary.

I also really need to get back to writing more regularly. I always feel better when I’m working, writing, than when I am not. You’d think after over twenty years of writing, this would be firmly imprinted on my brain: writing and creating are imprinted into your DNA and when you aren’t doing it, you’re making yourself miserable. I’ve always believed the the so-called trope of “writer’s block” is actually a symptom of depression; there’s something else going on in your brain that is preventing you from creating. (I cannot, as always, speak for writers other than myself; this is my belief and my experience. I’ve also come to recognize that I don’t want to do it mentality when it comes to writing for me is my own personal version of writer’s block–the depression and the imposter syndrome insidiously doing its work on my brain: why do something you love to do when you can not do it and feel bad about yourself and question your ability to do it?) There have been a lot of distractions lately–really, since The Power Went Out–and I need to stop allowing shit to take me out of the mindset that the most important thing to do in my free time from now until January is to write the fucking book.

The book is the most important thing right now.

I did spend some time revising the first chapter last night, despite having the usual “third day in a row up at six” tiredness last night. It felt good, as I knew it would, and spending some doing something I truly love really gave me a rush of sorts; I was able to sleep deeply and well last night, I feel very even and stress-free this morning, and some of the knots in my shoulders, neck and back seem to have relaxed this morning, and I feel rested, more rested than I have felt in quite some time. Untangling the thorny knots of problems in a manuscript–while forcing me to think and use logic and reason while being creative–is perhaps the best cure for anything I have going on at the time. Escaping into writing has always been my solace, going back to the days when I was that lone queer kid in Kansas, and it still works to this day.

It’s actually an interesting challenge for me–writing a book set in New Orleans that doesn’t center a gay man or any gay issues. (There will be queer characters–I can’t write anything without including some; sue me.) The book is also centered in a neighborhood with which I have some familiarity, but I obviously don’t know it as well as the Lower Garden District (where Chanse lives, and where Paul and I have always lived) or the Quarter (where Scotty lives); it’s the same neighborhood where my main character in Never Kiss a Stranger also lives, so I need to get more familiar with how it is NOW…I tend to always think of neighborhoods as they were not as they currently are; which means I need to go walk around and take some pictures and get a sense/feel for who lives there, what it’s like now, etc. This neighborhood used to be considered sketchy when I first started coming here/when we first moved here; the price ranges for rentals and properties now (well, every-fucking-where in New Orleans now) are hard for me to wrap my mind around. (When I was writing my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, I made a reference to “million dollar homes in the Garden District; this was in the late 1990’s. My first reader–beta reader, they’d call it now–highlighted the sentence with the note there are no million dollar homes in New Orleans. The Internet then was not what it is now, of course, so I was surprised to look in the real estate listings in the Times-Picayune to see she was correct. Now, homes in neighborhoods that used to be considered ‘dangerous’ go for over $400k; I just looked at “houses for sale” on Zillow in the neighborhood I am using and was not in the least bit surprised to see that a house like the one my character lives in is listed for 1.15 million…which is actually a plot point I am going to use in the book. And while verifying this just now didn’t surprise me, per se, it did make me shake my head and wonder, who is paying this for a house in New Orleans?)

I don’t see how any working class people can actually afford to live here anymore, really. Sure, there are still neighborhoods that “affordable” when compared to the neighborhoods adjacent to the levees, but the fact that our original apartment, that we paid $495 per month for, now goes for $2100. And that’s something I think I should address in an upcoming book–whether in this new series, or in a Scotty.

I’ve also found myself going down wormholes about Louisiana and New Orleans history a lot lately; I’ve never been conversant in either other than the basics–Bienville arrived and set up camp; why English Turn is called English Turn; Spain takes over from France, and so on. Both city and state have a deep, rich and sometimes horrifying history; it’s little wonder the city is so haunted. So much ugliness, so much violence, so much criminal activity! (Which kind of thematically what I was exploring in Bury Me in Shadows–how the history of violence and ugliness in a particular area can poison it) It’s why I am always amused that the white-supremacists-who-don’t-want-people-to-think-they-are will always cry and whine about crime in New Orleans–when they haven’t lived here in decades and were part of the white flight when the schools were desegregated–they left because of crime, not because they didn’t want their kids to go to school with black kids, oh no! It was the crime! (But if you give them enough rope, they will always bring race into it eventually). New Orleans has always had a dark past, has always had high crime rates, has always had corrupt politicians…but the crime here is why they left…even though the white politicians were also always criminals, and there has always been a lot of violent crime here.

Anyway, I went into a wormhole the other day about the possible murder of Louisiana’s first Black lieutenant governor, Oscar Dunn–who may or may not have been murdered in 1871. What a great historical true crime book that would make, wouldn’t it? Post war, the racial tensions in the city, Reconstruction going on…and on the other hand, it could also make a great historical mystery novel as well! Yet another idea, yet another folder, yet another possibility for the future.

It never ends.

And on that note, tis time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Drama!

Monday morning never gives me a warning, you know what I mean?

But that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? Weekends are never quite long enough to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone get in the rest and relaxation necessary to get through another week. I don’t have to go into the office every day this week, because of the procedure on Thursday; I get to work at home on Wednesday my procedure prep day, yet have to get up insanely and ridiculously early for the procedure, so that’s not exactly a win. But I am glad to get this needed and necessary part of getting older out of the way once and for all; and here’s hoping the scope finds nothing untoward inside of me.

Ugh, how…icky that last sentence sounds!

Yesterday LSU announced that Coach Orgeron (Coach O) will be finished at the end of this season. This saddened me–it still does–because I love Coach O and was all about the Coach O train when he stepped in as interim coach after Les Miles was fired in 2016. I thought he deserved a shot at the job, I love that he so perfectly embodies Louisiana Cajun country, and he loves LSU as much as anyone. There have been times I’ve not been pleased with him–just as there were times when I wasn’t pleased with Coach Miles–but the news didn’t make me happy. I wanted him to continue to succeed. He gave us the best season of LSU football in over sixty years, possibly one of the greatest football seasons of all time, and to see him ousted a mere two years later doesn’t make me happy. I know it was necessary–after the shock of the UCLA game, followed by the embarrassing losses to Auburn and Kentucky, it was clear some shake-up was needed, but I don’t know. Maybe give him and his new assistants another season to right the ship? I can see why the big donors and the administration didn’t want to wait–the rest of the SEC West alone is catching up, if not already passing us, and the longer it dragged out the more painful it could become (let’s be honest, Miles should have really been let go after the enormously disappointing 2014 season; but he’d succeeded and there was loyalty there–clearly misplaced, given everything that’s come out recently–but LSU is too big of a brand and a marquee name to allow anyone more than one season of mediocrity. Coach O will always be a beloved legend in Louisiana, and that, while small consolation for what he and his family must be feeling this morning, is more than many coaches get when they are let go.

I started reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock yesterday rather than a Stephen King; I started to reach for The Institute, but pulled back when I realized just how thick the book is. I mean, it took me over six weeks to read a 240 page noir novel; how long would it take for me to get through something that enormous? It was disheartening to turn down a book to read simply because of its length–I used to love long books, and the longer the better; poor James Michener could never get published today, let alone an agent, because I can’t imagine anyone looking at the length of Hawaii and thinking, yeah, can’t wait to get through THIS! But Tremblay is a terrific writer, and soon I was very much sucked into the book. I picked it up to spend a little time with while i was taking a break from my chores and working on a revision of Never Kiss a Stranger–which of course is the last thing I should be working on right now, but it’s in my head and I can’t stop until I get through this revision, which has already made it a lot better than it was in the first draft–and had to force myself to put the book down and get back to revising and cleaning, which inevitably makes me always feel better anyway. It was very strange to break the routine of a Saints game on a Sunday–which made the entire day open with possibility, and of course then made me feel as though the entire day was being wasted because I was unfocused for most of it.

We watched a Polish film last night on Netflix, Operation Hyacinth, based on a true story about a police investigation/crackdown on gay men in the 1980’s, including murders covered up by the police, which was deeply sad and tragic and somewhat hard to watch–also bearing in mind this happened during my lifetime, which is constantly sobering (an issue for writing Never Kiss a Stranger–having to remember how much more homophobic American society was in the 1990’s than it is now; also a sobering thought, and the chilling reminder that there are a lot of people want us to go back even further to the time where homosexuality was considered a mental illness as well as a crime). It was good and thought provoking, and then we got caught up on The Morning Show before turning in for the night so I can get up this early.

Of course I am behind–I didn’t get nearly as caught up as I would have liked to this past weekend, as always–and now am trying to get my to-do list for the week caught up. I have an event tonight for Sisters in Crime for a library–a diversity discussion–which is going to wear me out (I’ll already be tired from my work day) and make it much easier for me to go to bed this evening and fall asleep. I feel relatively well rested this morning; we’ll see how the day goes, shan’t we?

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for work. I didn’t even pack my backpack last night! Tis off to the mines of spice for me now, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Sometimes

Tuesday morning and so far so good. Yesterday was a relatively easy day at the office, really; a lovely way to start off the week, actually. I felt rested for most of the day, and had a relatively easy time getting home as well, which I wasn’t expecting; traffic lights in the Central Business District are still out or blinking, including the one at Poydras, which is the main artery of the district–which makes the drive a bit challenging. There wasn’t much traffic yesterday on my way home, so that intersection where I cross Poydras (Loyola) wasn’t as horrific as it has been in the past.

And tomorrow is payday; I had quite literally forgotten! Paying off the car has changed my life so dramatically for the better, Constant Reader, you have no idea. Before paying off the car, I would have been counting down the days to pay day, wondering how much I’d have left to buy food with, wondering if I would have enough to pay for everything. Not having that kind of extreme financial stress, like I’ve been experiencing for the last four years plus, has been literally absolutely lovely for me. I don’t know how people do it–and then buy another car right on top of paying off the old one, or trading one in before its completely paid for and…yeah, I will never understand the joys of having all that extra debt hanging over my head. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to buy a house or a condo or anything; the thought of being saddled with debt for the rest of my life like that absolutely curdles my blood.

And yes, I am quite aware that I still have to pay for housing anyway, that I am essentially throwing the rent money away every month that I could be “investing” in property, and all the rest of those financial security memes I’ve been told since I was a child. But I am not a fan of debt of any kind, quite frankly. I hate debt, hate it hate it hate it, and my next financial goal is to pay off the rest of the debt I am still carrying, which has become a bit easier since the car has been paid for. I don’t regret buying the car–I still love the car, and will for a long time, no doubt–but I am not sorry the debt is gone.

I didn’t think I slept very well last night–it seemed to take forever for me to fall asleep–and yet I still feel rested this morning. My Fitbit tells me that the majority of my sleep last night was “light” sleep, and I didn’t get the correct percentages of “REM sleep” or “deep sleep”. I imagine what this means is this afternoon I will run out of steam and get tired; that seems to be the case once the caffeine wears off. Ah, caffeine; such a harsh mistress you are.

Today is the official release day for Bury Me in Shadows (or it was yesterday; I’m really not sure how I still have a career, honestly) so there’s one more Blatant Self-Promotion post to come; I’ve been working on it since the weekend, and I hope to get it right and posted today. Tomorrow night I have the launch event at Murder by the Book in Houston (virtual), and I am doing a diversity panel for a library through Sisters in Crime (chessie chapter) this coming Monday. I know, two virtual events in less than a week, who am I? I also realized yesterday I had never posted the BSP post I’d written Sunday morning, so it went up yesterday instead.

I’m really not very good at this blatant self-promotion thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a mental thing; defeating myself before I have a chance to be defeated by the rest of the world. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?

I rewatched Scream 2 last night while I was waiting for Paul to finish working and come downstairs, and rather than switching to something else when he came down about halfway through the movie he was fine with just watching it through to the end–we’re both big Scream fans–and oddly enough, no matter how many times I’ve seen these movies they still work and are enjoyable. Greater horror minds than mine have dissected these films, how meta they are, and so forth to death; nothing I could say could possibly lend anything to the discourse already. But I do enjoy them more than most slasher/horror movies, it seemed fairly appropriate for Halloween, and since I have Peacock, which has all the Halloween movies streaming available, I may spend the rest of the month watching every Halloween movie; there are actually some I’ve not seen. And what better films for the Halloween Horror Film Festival than the Halloween series? (And if I can squeeze in a Scream or two, why not?) I didn’t write very much of anything yesterday and am not terribly happy about that, to be honest. I felt a bit tired when I came home from work yesterday–I stopped to pick up a few things on the way home–and tonight I have to go to the gym, since I can’t tomorrow. I did pull up Never Kiss a Stranger and started revising and re-ordering the story somewhat–beginning with the removal of about 2000 words at the beginning that might not be as necessary as I had originally thought; they can go further back in the manuscript than where they were originally placed, if used at all–so that was something, but I was tired and Scooter really wanted to nap in my lap in the easy chair and it was all so much easier to just give into the tired and relax with a purring kitty in my lap…yeah, it’s a wonder I get anything done around here at all.

And yesterday the current Superman–Jonathon Kent, son of Clark and Lois–came OUT. Superman is gay! * (That sound you just heard was any number of homophobes screaming about their childhoods being ruined.) I didn’t see it yesterday–I just saw the piece in the New York Times shared on Twitter–and will read it later this morning between clients. But this is quite thrilling, and that they timed the announcement for National Coming Out Day? Thank you thank you thank you, DC Comics.

Yesterday I also got a PDF file from an anthology I contributed a reprint story to; I had literally completely forgotten about it (my memory is completely worthless these days) and I never recorded it on my “out for submission” spreadsheet either; so my system completely failed. It happens, of course, and more regularly than I would prefer, to be completely honest. Anyway, it’s a gay erotic vampire anthology from Lethe Press called Blood on His Hands, and the story I gave them to reprint is my old “Bloodletting” story; which was originally written as a sequel story to my novella Blood on the Moon, and eventually became the first chapter of my Todd Gregory novel Need. I’ve not reread any of my vampire stuff over the years, and so last night, while I was trying to figure out to watch before settling on Scream 2 I spent some time revisiting this story. It isn’t bad, actually; I was very pleasantly surprised. (I often am pleasantly surprised to read something old of mine and see that it’s not terrible, or a steaming pile of shit…I really do need to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to writing; even as I started moving bits and pieces of Never Kiss a Stranger around last night I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good” or “this needs to be punched up some”–but “this is good” thoughts far outnumbered “fix this”, which was most pleasing to me. I have another story in another anthology coming out later this year–the story is “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” but I cannot think of the name of the anthology; I think it’s Pink Triangle Rhapsody? It really is a wonder I have a career of any kind in this business….

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow on Pay-the-Bills-Day.

*Well, bisexual anyway, but he has sex with men and that’s more than enough for me. It’s a huge step for DC Comics and super-heroes in general; it’s fucking Superman, not some supporting cast super-hero most people have never heard of who only appears in some team-up books; it’s SUPERMAN!

Storybook Love

Sunday morning and I slept incredibly well last night. I haven’t checked the Fitbit, but I would think–it certainly feels–like I slept deeply and got a lot of rest. I think the way I feel is more important than what the Fitbit will show as the actuality, but it’s always nice to know, and I also think I need to start looking into what is a good night’s sleep, per Fitbit and sleep experts, to see if I need to adapt or change or do anything to get better sleep.

Yes, the saga of Greg and sleep–never-ending yet always fascinating, right?

I wasn’t glued to the television all day yesterday, but I did have it on so I could check in periodically, or watch whatever game was on at the moment I chose to take a rest from what I was doing. Could I have gotten more done yesterday? Highly likely, but I don’t play those games of “coulda-shoulda-woulda” anymore. I managed to make groceries, return something I’d ordered, get the mail, and drop off three boxes of books at the Latter Library Sale. I also did a load of laundry, a load of dishes, cleaned places that I usually don’t, and redid the rugs on the kitchen floor (a long story, but now I have all matching rugs and the floor is almost completely covered). There’s still some cleaning and organizing work to get done this weekend–hello, today’s chores and to-do list–and I need to head to the gym at some point today as well (there’s also another sink full of dishes to get done), and perhaps some writing to do and some reading as well.

I reread several things yesterday that are in progress–the first four chapters of Chlorine, which desperately need work–as well as the finished first drafts of both “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Festival of the Redeemer.” I also took voluminous notes on all of the three–Chlorine is a much bigger mess than I thought it would be, so yikes and yeah–and the linear nature of “Stranger” needs to be redone; I believe the opening of the story is when he finds the apartment to rent in the Irish Channel and everything in the rest of the opening three or four pages can be scattered through the rest of the story, as flashbacks, conversation, or memories. I also made some notes for the revisions of all of them, too.

College football is a mess this year–2021 is going to be one of those weird years of college football, like 2007 and 2014 were–but that makes it interesting to watch rather than the other way around. I certainly didn’t have Alabama losing to a twice-beaten Texas A&M on my scorecard for the season; nor did I have Georgia moving into the Number One spot, either. I just assumed Alabama and Georgia would roll over everyone on their way to the SEC title game, with the loser of that angling for an invitation to the play-offs; but Alabama’s loss makes that game now a must-win for them to have a shot into the play-offs at all. The Arkansas-Mississippi game was simply insane; props to the winners, but my hat is off to the Razorbacks for going for two and the win after they scored on the final play of the game; going for the win rather than overtime is something I will always respect. The Oklahoma-Texas and Penn State-Iowa games were also insanely fun to watch; that loss has got to sting for the Longhorn fans. As for LSU, well, good for you, Kentucky. Your make-or-break game is this coming weekend at Georgia, and while i don’t hold out a lot of hope for you, I kind of want the ‘cats to make a run for the East title this year. I wound up switching over to A&M-Alabama at half-time of the LSU game, and it was so much more fun to watch I kind of got sucked into it and never went back to the LSU game other than to check the score to see how bad it was. Much as love and respect Coach O, I suspect this will be his last season as LSU head coach. Still, he will go down in history as coach of the best LSU team of all time and possibly one of the greatest of all time in general, and as one of our four national championship coaches.

Not the way I wanted to see him go out, but 8-8 over two seasons isn’t going to cut it in Baton Rouge. (Jimbo Fisher definitely saved his own job last night by beating Alabama.)

The Saints game is at noon today–so I’ll probably go to the gym during it.

This morning i am going to try to get the cleaning and organizing and filing of the office space finished so I can go into the serious stretch of writing A Streetcar Named Murder with a productive workspace and a clear conscience of sorts. I feel good about writing again–even if I am not doing it as much as I would have liked–and I am getting excited about this book project. I am going to try to get some editing done today around cleaning and everything else and the Saints game; I think tonight we may watch Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, which I’ve been looking forward to watching for quite some time, and there are some of our shows we need to get caught up on. The weather has been simply stunning lately, and part of what I am going to try to do today is get the outside sitting area cleaned up and functional (it never has been, other than for brief spurts of time, the entire time we’ve lived here) so that I can sit outside and read if I’d like, or take the laptop out there and actually work in the outside fresh air. How lovely would that be? Quite, I’d think.

I also have some more BSP posts to finish writing. Heavy heaving sigh. It never ends.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and peaceful Sunday, Constant Reader.

Moving on Up

Wednesday, the halfway point of the week and now it’s all downhill into the weekend. Huzzah? Huzzah!

Edwin Edwards, elected governor of Louisiana four times AND also spent eight years in jail for corruption while in office, died this week,. Governor Edwards was the candidate whose campaign slogan was vote for the crook–it’s important (he was running against David Duke), and was the last of an old breed of Louisiana politicians (which may or may not be a good thing); incredibly charismatic and beloved, yet also a bit of a crook.

Now, most Louisiana politicians are not charismatic, just crooks or incompetents.

Last night I didn’t go to the gym. I was tired for one, and for another all of my workout clothes–I have exactly two sets–were in the laundry. SO I finished the laundry last night, but not in time for me to make it to the gym, so I will have to go tonight after work, which is fine. I also managed to get started on Chapter Two of Chlorine–I wrote exactly three sentences–and then sat down to reread “Festival of the Redeemer,” to figure out what needs to be done with it. I was actually pleased with it, honestly–for something that was written without being planned, just pouring it out as it came to me, often in batches of three thousand words or so, it’s really not bad. There were some inconsistencies that need to be cleaned up, and some restructuring is going to be terribly necessary–the start needs to be revised and reordered, as it begins too slow–and some things will need to be added, some things edited out, etc etc etc; but over all I am very happy with it. Hopefully, the same will be true of “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is up for a reread next.

If I am not too worn out from the gym, that is.

I’ve been sleeping well this week, which has been marvelous–so well that I don’t want to get up in the mornings and feel a bit groggy for most of the morning hours at the office. I’ve managed to function, but I am also kind of looking forward to sleeping in a bit tomorrow as well. I don’t much care for my early morning days, frankly; there’s nothing I hate more than waking up to an alarm trilling in my ears. It always makes you feel like you’ve been cheated out of some sleep–from your bed untimely ripp’d, to paraphrase Shakespeare–and I always spend the day feeling like, well, like I could have slept more.

Honestly; do I really think you’re all that fascinated by my thoughts on sleep, Constant Reader?

I was thinking the other day about what I am trying to accomplish with these novellas; is there a point to them? Thematically, I suppose they both are about, basically, being broken human beings and trying to find love in a crazy world that doesn’t encourage nor support queer people in trying to find love and companionship and building relationships; they are also about how little we actually know other people–even those we think we already know very well. “Redeemer” is really about a relationship that has never really been defined between the two deeply damaged men involved with each other; both are afraid to tell the other how they really feel, or what they are actually thinking, because they are afraid they will scare the other off, or will find out it’s not reciprocal. It’s an interesting dance Grant and Dane are embarking on throughout this story; it probably will wind up being closer to 25k, if not 30k, when it is finally finished–I did notice places where I just kind of skimmed over some thing or a scene that actually kind of belongs there. I also need to get deeper inside Grant’s history and his past–and he and Dane need to know more about each other than they do. I had originally written this with them having been together a weird six months only at the opening; I have slowly come to realize–and it was further emphasized in last night’s reread–that they need to have been together at least a year at this point when they arrive in Venice; and there also has to be something else going on–another explanation for them staying at the extremely expensive palace turned hotel on the Grand Canal–and I also have to figure out where exactly this palace/hotel is located. I originally had them staying in the actual Gritti Palace (now a hotel); but decided to use a fictional one instead of risking getting all kinds of things wrong. It’s bad enough I am trying to use seven year old memories of Venice to write about it!

Ah, the joys of writing.

My goal and plan for today is to get caught up on some things–minutiae, really, the kind of shit you have to do but never want to–and write the second chapter of Chlorine; stop at the grocery store on the way home; and make it to the gym tonight for a workout. I also intend on sleeping until at least eight tomorrow–oooh, crazy, right?

And on that note, I guess I should get started on my day. Have a happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Opposites Attract

Tuesday morning and all is well here on the western front, Or is this the eastern front? It is, after all the East Bank of the river. I’m a little confused here–what else is new? Only one Gregalicious can write an opening sentence for a blog post and immediately confuse himself.

Could be that I am also a little on the groggy side this morning. I slept very well again last night, and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning…not that I ever do, just that this morning I could have quite easily gone back to sleep for several hours. This doesn’t bode well for tonight’s workout for after work, does it? It will probably turn out to be terribly easy for me to talk myself out of going, which isn’t a good thing at all. But I do feel rested this morning–much more rested than I have in a while, frankly–so that’s got to be a good thing, even if I am not feeling particularly motivated this morning.

I started working on deep dives into the two novellas last night, rather than starting Chapter Two of Chlorine, which, while not completely disgraceful, isn’t necessarily good. I also wrote about twenty thousands words, average, on the two novellas without knowing an awful lot about the characters in either or who they are/were; kind of letting the writing fall where it may as it went. I do think both turned out well, and I like the endings of both of them–both seem inevitably perfect for each story–and I do like the characters a lot. It’s fun exploring the back stories of the characters and what led them to the points they each were in at the time the stories take place; it’s also fun getting inside their heads and seeing how their behaviors were being interpreted and seen in ways they didn’t completely understand–it would have never occurred to them that they were being seen the way they actually were; this is clearly more important in “Festival” than in “Stranger.” But having this will be helpful when I started revising the stories, and editing.

So, tonight when I get off work I have to run some errands, go to the gym, and try to get some writing/editing/etc done. Yay! I do feel as though as I can start getting back on top of everything, though–hard as that may be to comprehend–primarily because I am sleeping again. That lengthy bout of insomnia I had in May was the absolute worst it’s ever been; I can deal with it here and there, but not when it’s every fucking night for several weeks in a row.

Sleep–I will never take it for granted ever again.

Ever.

It looks like my work schedule is likely going to change again in August; I think it’s going to involve coming in later on Tuesdays and Thursdays but still coming in early on Mondays and Wednesdays, which is fine. It’ll take me a bit to get used to the different wake-up times, but I can handle staggered getting up early mornings easier than I can consecutive ones, if that makes any sense (probably not to anyone besides me; I have gotten accustomed to things that make perfect sense to me not making sense to anyone else). August is going to be an interesting month, especially since I am turning sixty during the course of it.

Which reminds me, our 26th anniversary is next week!

My, has time marched on, right?

One of the interesting things for me about writing “Stranger” has been setting it in the summer of 1994 in New Orleans; trying to remember what music was popular that summer, where people shopped, what New Orleans was like in that hot broody summer–there was still a Maison Blanche on Canal Street where the Ritz Carlton is now; K&B Drugstores still dotted the city; there were video stores still; the Riverwalk Mall wasn’t an outlet mall yet; the Camp Street on-ramp to nowhere was still there on the neutral ground in front of the Coliseum Theater, which was also still ther; and the Lower Garden District’s gentrification was still at least three to four years in the future. It’s also weird going back to a time before protease inhibitors and the drug cocktail for HIV; the shadow of death still hung weirdly suspended over the gay community of the city at the time. That was kind of the point of writing about that year, weirdly enough–it really wasn’t that long ago. I hope the point I am trying to get across in the story actually comes across, as well…but then again, one never knows, does one?

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

It’s Raining Men

Sunday morning the Gregalicious slept late.

I know, right? I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my alarm this morning and say 9:34 glowing back at me in red. And it was a really great night’s sleep, too–I was out like the dead, and could have easily stayed in bed for the rest of the morning. But it was not to be. Scooter needed his insulin shot, I needed coffee, and there are things that need to be done today….but if they don’t get done, it’s not the end of the world, either. I am going to finish swilling coffee, adjourn to my easy chair, and hopefully finish Bath Haus today; I also want to do some writing after I got to the gym this afternoon; and need to finish the cleaning I started yesterday.

I took yesterday off. I had planned to all along, really, but had to swing by friends to pick up something yesterday, and wound up hanging out with them, unplanned, for most of the afternoon. It was delightful; a social outing after a year where social outings are few and far between–and then I was thinking, I really DO miss hanging out with friends as I drove home. I have a tendency to become housebound, without really planning on it; I don’t like going out and dealing with the general public as a rule…and so I tend to stay in the house more than I should, which helps me become more stagnant. I’ve really been enjoying my walks around the neighborhood taking pictures and posting them; particularly showing people places I’ve used in my books about New Orleans, which is kind of cool. Anyway, after I got home yesterday I just started organizing and cleaning, which was desperately needed, and the Lost Apartment looks a bit more presentable today than it did yesterday morning. When I finish this, though, I am going to read until I finish the book–it’s really taken me a lot longer to finish than it should have–and then I will organize and clean before I head to the gym.

I also want to do some writing today. I want to reread the things I’ve written lately-the novellas and the short story–to get a better idea of what needs to be fixed within them; I also kind of need to synopsize the novellas, which will help me get an idea of how things within them need to be moved or expanded upon or cut a bit short. I think both might begin a little more slowly than I would like; the starting place might be somewhere within them with the backstory littered more casually throughout the story rather than telling it in such a linear fashion. I do like the opening of “Festival of the Redeemer,” but rather than giving all of the backstory as I do in the opening pages I might have to skip ahead to them arriving in Venice and then start putting the backstory in. I also need to figure out more about my main characters, who they are, and I do know the main character in “Never Kiss a Stranger” needs more development; I want the reader to identify and feel along with him as much as possible–same with “Festival”–and I also need to make notes in both to verify things and make sure I have things done correctly (for example, in “Festival of the Redeemer” I assumed that the actual, real life Festival was always on the same date every year; however, it’s like Thanksgiving; it’s always the third Saturday in July, which I found out as I was writing the story. Rather than making the correction to the story then, I simply made note of it, knowing I would have to go back to it and change it in the next draft).

Today, though–while it would be lovely to reread them, do the synopsizing, and make notes/corrections, the primary focus for me this lovely Sunday in July should, and will be, writing Chapter Two of Chlorine. I also have to prepare for the coming work week (ugh), but it’s lovely to not be tired or groggy from lack of sleep on this day. I hope this means insomnia has been banished, at least for a little while. I am seeing my doctor on Thursday (check-up) and will be discussing options so that i won’t have to end up going weeks without sleep again like I did before my trip to Kentucky, which was horrible.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and retire to my easy chair with Bath Haus. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

All for You

Saturday, and it’s lovely to have it be the weekend again. Huzzah!

I finished “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night after the gym, which made me extremely happy. It’s slightly less than twenty thousand words, and it needs a lot of work before anyone else will ever be allowed to see it, but that’s two novellas down, and as they sit right now that means the collection sits at around forty thousand words; halfway done. Huzzah! This makes me quite happy, frankly. I had thought I’d finish it over the course of this weekend, and having it finished already means I have the weekend free to do some other things, other writing. Reading and cleaning, definitely.

So, the first part of the final line edit of Bury Me in Shadows dropped into my inbox last night, and so I skim-read it last night in my easy chair while we watched a few episodes of Happy Endings–which was quite funny, although some episodes missed the mark; I am really surprised it only lasted three seasons–and having NOT read it in months, I was relatively pleased with it. It’s much better than I remembered, to be honest, and it flows really well, and it feels like I nailed the main character’s voice. The mood seems right, too. This is quite a relief, frankly. One of the hardest parts of writing anything, for me at least, is the contempt that familiarity brings in its wake. I am so roundly sick of everything I write by the time I turn it in I literally have no concept as to whether it’s any good or not, if I got the mood and the characters right, if it flows…so inevitably there’s always that moment when I hit send on the email with the manuscript attached where I have that fleeting thought this could be the last nail in the coffin of your career. So, it was quite a relief last night to read the first third of it, post line edit clean-up, and realize, hey, this is really pretty good. I am kind of proud of this book, and hope my readers like it, too.

I’m also pretty pleased with myself for finishing “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night. As opposed to “Festival of the Redeemer”, I knew what the ending for this one was going to be–the question was how to get there. (“Festival” I only had a vague idea of what the end would be, but the proper ending revealed itself to me as I got closer to the end, and I am pretty happy with its ending as well.) Both stories are going to need significant edits and revisions–I suspect there are a ridiculous amount of run-on sentences to break up; paragraphs that need to be moved; scenes to be strengthened; and maybe even a scene or two that need to be added. I also want to revise “The Sound of Snow Falling” this weekend; possibly write a chapter of Chlorine, and get to work on either the next novella, or another story (for some reason, “Parlor Tricks” has been hanging out in my frontal lobe this past week); I definitely want to finish reading Bath Haus so I can move on to Razorblade Tears.

I also slept rather well last night–I even slept in a little later than usual this morning, which was not only a surprise but a very pleasant one. We watched Fear Street 1978 last night, which was a lot of fun (the first was better, but it also set a pretty high bar), and next week the final episode, Fear Street 1666, drops, which should also be a lot of fun. I read a lot of the Fear Street books back in the day–they were fun–and R. L. Stine, whom I finally got to meet a few years back, was quite a lovely man; very gracious and kind (which was really nice; it’s awful when you meet someone whose work you admire and they turn out to be horrible).

Looking around the apartment this morning as I sit here, slurping coffee and scarfing down coffee cake, there’s also a lot of cleaning that needs to be done around here, too. I have errands to run later–getting the mail; picking up a book at the library; possibly stopping around Uptown to take pictures; possibly stopping to get a few things at the grocery store–but for now, I am content to just sit here and write this and drink my morning coffee, and bask in the glow of being well-rested as the caffeine slowly clears the cobwebs inside my head. Paul is going to the office this afternoon, which is a prime opportunity for me to get some more writing done rather than wasting time watching videos on Youtube (which has become my go-to when I am too tired to focus on anything or don’t want to commit to watching a movie or something)–I love the Kings and Generals channel; I watched some great videos of theirs on the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, which is the starting point for a stand-alone Colin book I’ve always wanted to write (I know, I know–but I’ve always wanted to do a Colin stand alone which is an action-adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or Dirk Pitt; I’ve had this idea since the late 1980’s, and after creating the character of Colin I realized he was the perfect lead for this story, should I ever get around to it…and then I think, wouldn’t it be fun to do a series of books about Colin’s capers while he’s away? And then think, but part of what makes him so fun is that he is kind of an international. man of mystery and then but he still would be that to Scotty, just not to the readers…and yeah, you see how this goes)–so who knows what will happen today? Tomorrow I definitely have to go to the gym and have a good workout; I enjoyed last night’s work out but the problem with those week night workouts is there’s always too many other people there, which I have never liked…so Sunday’s workout is inevitably the best one of the week.

And on that note, I should probably get to work else I will wind up wasting the day. Have a happy Saturday, Constant Reader!