The Highwayman

And he is home in the Lost Apartment, swilling coffee after having a good night’s sleep for the first time since, well, last Tuesday night, really; I had to get up at five on Thursday, after all. I got home around nine last night; I got a ride to the airport many hours before my flight–which I don’t mind, as long as I have something to read and an Internet connection, I am more than capable of entertaining myself. The flight home was uneventful, I retrieved the car and there wasn’t any traffic to speak of on I-10 so the drive home was practically nothing. Now I have to adjust back to my normal reality, which is also fine–it can be very tiring and exhausting being at a conference for the weekend, but as I mentioned yesterday, I had a marvelous time. Sleuthfest is a lovely event (kudos to the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, with an especial shout out to president Alan Orloff and chairs Michael Joy and Raquel Reyes) I’ve always enjoyed when I’ve had the opportunity to attend; I certainly hope it works out for me to go again next year. I met some new people and reconnected with others I’ve not seen since pre-pandemic (some of course I’ve met and seen since the pandemic started), and over all, it was truly a lovely weekend. I also managed to get some writing done over the course of the weekend, which is always a pleasant surprise when it happens.

But there’s also something quite lovely about being home, in my own desk chair drinking my own coffee and looking at my big desktop screen instead of the laptop. I have a million emails to get through and try to answer; data to enter for my day job; and at some point later today I have to run errands and finish re-acclimating to New Orleans and my usual, ordinary, day to day existence. I did manage to finish reading my friend’s manuscript (which I greatly enjoyed), as well as The Great Betrayal, and got about half-way through Rob Osler’s debut Devil’s Chew Toy, which I hope to finish this week. I have some stories to finish polishing to get out into the world this month, and I need to get back to the writing, of course. I’m also still a little reeling from how well my reading from Chlorine went at Noir at the Bar; yesterday people were still coming up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how much they were looking forward to reading it when it’s finished. I suspect Chlorine might be the breakout book I’ve been waiting to write most of my career…it certainly seems like it, doesn’t it?

I am feeling a bit better about where I am at with everything and my writing, I have to say. That’s the lovely thing about events like Sleuthfest–writers with careers like mine often are operating in a vacuum. Sure, people say nice things to us about our work on social media or in Amazon or Goodreads reviews, but for the most part we don’t get many opportunities to engage with readers or other authors in person. I doubt, for example, that I will ever be so popular that my signings or readings or appearances will be ticketed events. It’s always possible, of course, but at this point hardly likely. having in person interactions with other writers and readers. Writing is different from other jobs; you mostly do it by yourself and it’s not like you have an office filled with other co-worker authors to go to every day. I never am overly concerned about how good of a job I am doing at my day job; I know my job inside out and I provide good care and education to my clients every day. But writing is an entirely different animal. You work on something by yourself for quite some time and polish it and edit it and rewrite it and you have no idea what’s going on with it–if it’s any good or not, because you’re not a good judge of your own work, and then you send it out and wait and wait and wait to find out if it’s any good or remotely publishable. And even then, you don’t get any feedback outside of your editor for months and months and months after you wrote it–and in some cases, by the time the book or story comes out, you’ve completely forgotten what it was about and who the characters were and so on.

Heavy sigh.

That’s why, at least for me as an author, going to events like Sleuthfest are so important. I need that reinvigoration every once in a while; it inspires me and pushes me and gets me back to feeling like an author again. It’s really nice.

But now I have to get back to reality–balancing day job with writing and volunteer work and keeping the house–and I know my next event will be Bouchercon in September, at the end of the dog days of summer and as football season once again kicks into gear. So for now, I am going to make another cup of coffee, put some things away and start doing some chores around here before I dive back into the duties of my day job. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?

I really hate working on my MacBook Air. I mean, I guess it’s okay but it’s really difficult for me to get used to, you know? I really love the bigger screen of my desktop computer–but then, maybe that will change when my new glasses come in–if they ever come in; they were due to come in this week, in fact. Heavy heaving sigh. I’ll end up having to go out to Metairie to pick them up next Saturday, most likely. Yay. It’s always such a joy for me to head to Metairie for any reason.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Well, it’s Friday and I’m in Florida (not as lyrically magical as “Friday I’m in Love,” but this is why I am not a songwriter). I did my reading at Noir at the Bar last night, and yes, I did read from Chlorine, and it went over very well, I think. People seemed to be appreciative of it, or at least very kind, at any rate. The other readers were all fantastic–JD Allen, Tracy Clark, John Copenhaver, Jeffrey Deaver (!!!!), Tori Eldridge, and Alan Orloff. I was quite intimidated when. I got up there as everyone was killing it, but I surprisingly didn’t have my usual stage fright and nerves beforehand, and much to my surprise as I was reading, my hands weren’t shaking and I couldn’t hear my voice shaking either. I did have the big adrenaline crash afterwards, of course–that will never change, methinks–but it was kind of lovely not having my usual stage fright jitters before hand; I think that may have been because I was sitting and chatting with friends before hand? Anyway, it turned out to be a much more pleasant experience than usual, and I can check “Noir at the Bar” off my bucket list.

I have a panel later on today, which should be fun, about point of view; and then I have two back to back tomorrow afternoon. I slept okay last night–more restful physically than actual deep rest, which was odd, given how long I had been up but then again, strange bed and a lot of stimulation during the day. It happens, I suppose. I just figured I would zonk out after getting up so damned early yesterday and flying and everything. Ah, well. Maybe tonight? One can hope.

So I am going to just take it easy this morning, methinks. I will have to go foraging for coffee at some point–they have some in the room, but…yeah, not the greatest and only one cup so a-foraging I will go. I know they had free coffee in the bookshop this morning but I missed that by lounging in bed much too long and now writing this, but I want to be able to be chill and witty on my panel later this afternoon. It’s really nice to come to these kinds of things; it’s always lovely being around people who love books as well as people who also write; we all have that struggle in common–that weird love/hate thing, not to mention the total insanity of publishing and how the business works which we are all trying to figure out somehow even though there really is no way to figure it all out. It’s also nice being inside a conference bubble for a weekend, where I can pretend that nothing is going on in the world outside and everything else is great and hunky dory and I can put off dealing with reality until I go home Sunday.

Ugh, reality. Not my favorite.

Okay, Constant Reader, it’s time for me to go forage for coffee. I’ll probably come back up here and write for a while before it’s time for my panel. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader–I’ll be back to annoy you again tomorrow.

Rose Garden

Ye Gods, why am I awake this early? A six AM alarm is enough of a hate crime, but one at five should be prohibited by the Geneva Protocols. And yes, I know people get up this early every day for work, if not earlier–but I am not one of those people. I was talking about this with a co-worker yesterday–how that even on the days when I don’t have to come in so early now I wake up at six, and if I don’t stay in bed and just get up, I am not as tired as I am on the mornings when the alarm goes off at six (and on those mornings when I have to come in early, I actually start waking up around five. I stay in bed until the alarm goes off). I think it’s Pavlovian response, in all honesty, and has more to do with the alarm more than the getting up.

I really do miss the days when the earliest I had to be at work was eleven.

The trip was actually uneventful, honestly (I have since arrived; I didn’t have time to finish this before it was time to head to the airport this morning); I couldn’t have asked for a smoother trip. Getting to the airport was easy, I parked, got to the terminal, checked my bag, and then made it to Security without any issue or hassle or aggravation. The flight was on time, and was smooth and incredibly pleasant–I also got one of those exit row seats without a seat in front of it so I could stree-e-e-e-e-etch my legs all the way out. I got my bag without any incident, and then a friend picked me up and whisked me off to the Yacht Club for lunch, which was also lovely (yet I also can’t help but feel that yachts are incredible waste of money. I guess it’s a status thing for the ridiculously rich who, you know, don’t want to feed the hungry or educate the poor or heal the sick or anything). I also used technology to my advantage; I checked in early yesterday on the Hilton Honors app, my room was ready by one, and I can use my phone as my key, which is incredibly cool (although it will definitely increase my stress about making sure my phone is charged all the time). I’m going to head down in a moment to check into the conference (woo-hoo, Sleuthfest!) and get a Coke before coming back up here, finishing this, and rehearsing for my reading before tonight.

All right, I am all registered. I am starting to get cooled off here in my room–it’s quite lovely–and at some point I am going to have to rehearse for tonight’s Noir at the Bar reading (a rather impressive line-up of talent; not sure what I am doing in there but in these situations I have found that it is often best to never ask questions and just roll with it–I will no doubt geek out at some point about being in a reading with Jeffrey Deaver–closeted gay teenager in Kansas with big dreams has come a long way, has he not, from the little ranch house in a small town with a population of less than a thousand? It still trips me out from time to time when it kind of hits me.

I have decided to read tonight from the first chapter of Chlorine. Yes, just another example of how bad I am at this–I should read from Bury Me in Shadows or #shedeservedit, since I should be trying to sell more copies of them, but why should I start doing the smart thing twenty years into my career? And why not test run something new that I am working on?

I should write a piece called “Flop Sweat” to use for readings.

All right, I am going to lie down for a moment before it’s time to get ready. Have a lovely evening, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Two Kinds of Love

I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked this past weekend, which is really not much of a surprise; I always go into weekends thinking I have lots of time to do things and so forth and wind up getting caught up in other things and well, then I don’t get things done that I need to get done and now I am all panicking because I leave for Florida really early Thursday morning and I then get worked up into a state and then…well, I find myself on Tuesday morning without as much done as I needed to get done and trying to keep the panic under control.

I did, however, to read the first chapter of Chlorine at Noir at the Bar Thursday night, so that’s one thing checked off the list. It’ll be nice, I think. It’s uploaded on the iPad and thus ready to go. I have so much to do…I am being interviewed for a podcast when I get home from work tonight, so I hope my client is on time so I can get home in time for it at five.

I slept very well last night–we’re still watching Condor on Epix, and are enjoying it; not sure why it hasn’t gotten more attention; but probably has to do with the plot and timing of the show’s release–hard for a show about the potential weaponizing of a lethal disease during a pandemic to really get a lot of attention or viewers; I would imagine this isn’t the kind of plot your average thriller-viewer would be interested in watching about during an actual global pandemic which had all kinds of horrific conspiracy theories swirling around it during the first few panicky weeks and months after it all started. It’s also kind of interesting how everything about it has just disappeared from the news almost completely, like it’s all over and no one is catching it anymore and the hospitals are doing fine now. No one seems to care about mask mandates or proof of vaccination anymore, either. I didn’t hear a lot of fireworks last night–although at one point I did wryly joke to Paul after a series of them went off, “Fireworks or gunshots?”

Always a valid question in New Orleans.

I did do some writing yesterday–not a lot, a small bit; a revision of a story I had already written several drafts of and yesterday I changed it from present to past tense, and the main character from a young college girl to a young college gay; I think it does work better in this form. I am going to submit it to a an anthology about the South; I doubt they will take it, but hey–it’s the first place I’ve come across where I could actually send it in to try for publication. I wasn’t super high energy at all over the long weekend; I’m not sure what that was about, but it’s definitely a fact–and of course, the trip this weekend is going to exhaust me completely. I have several things to do over the course of the weekend–panels and so forth–and I absolutely must read my essay in How to Write a Mystery again before my panel about it. I really need to make a thorough and exact to-do list so I can start working my way through it. Heavy heaving sigh. I guess I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, on the other hand, were I not always behind on everything.

I have decided to only take two books with me on the trip, since I have to read a friend’s in-progress manuscript while I am there. It’s also on my iPad, but since I have to read off the iPad Thursday night, I need to be careful to make sure it’s charged, so I don’t know if I should read the manuscript while traveling on Thursday or wait and read while resting in my room. Decisions, decisions.

I think after my podcast tonight I will probably go ahead and pack for the trip and get it out of the way. I have to get up at five (!!!) on Thursday for the flight, and I have errands to run and things to do on the way home tomorrow, and then I will get stressed about trying to get ready and GAH. It just makes more sense to get it done tonight.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely post 4th Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Rooms on Fire

Saturday morning and I slept late, and it was indeed marvelous. I have to make groceries and gas up the car (will probably need a bank loan for that), but my primary focus today is going to be reading and writing. I will also probably start going over the edits for one of the two manuscripts sitting in my inbox right now, but that’s also going to depend pretty heavily on how nasty it is outside. It rained off and on most of yesterday–I do love the New Orleans rain, especially if I don’t have to go out into it, of course–but it’s very bright and sunny outside my windows this morning. My morning coffee feels marvelous and tastes even better, and as I glance around the workspace and the rest of the kitchen I see some odds and ends that need straightening and putting away. There’s also some dirty dishes in the sink that need being taken care of at some point. The rugs needs to be straightened, and the entire downstairs needs vacuuming. I would also like to get a box of books down from the attic and start cleaning that out a little bit this weekend as well. An ambitious program to be sure, but one that isn’t impossible…if i stay focused.

Which is always the big if, isn’t it?

We did get caught up on The Boys last night–this third season is the best so far, and there was a great twist in last night’s episode, which doesn’t bode well for the future but I also can’t wait to see how it plays out (although that will probably come in season four). I wasn’t tired when I got home from the office yesterday the way I usually and ordinarily am, but there were things to do, and I immediately set out to get them done once I had reached the safety and respite of the Lost Apartment. But it all got done for the most part, and Scooter got his lap for a goodly portion of the evening while I doom-scrolled social media waiting for Paul to get finished with his work (he worked at home yesterday) so we could watch The Boys. I even fell asleep in my chair a few times while waiting–Scooter’s super-power is the ability to get both of us to fall asleep when he cuddles with us. I did spend a lot of the evening thinking about writing and things I want to write–there’s never enough time for me to write as much as I want to, really, even though I have to force myself to do it.

I also realized last night that I need to get ready for Sleuthfest. I am doing a reading on THursday night and haven’t picked out something to actually, um, you know, read, let alone rehearse. It’s my first-ever Noir at the Bar, and will be in the hotel bar. I’ve published so much stuff that I’ve never gotten the chance to read from, you know? Should I read from one of my recent books? Should I read a short story? Should I perhaps read something in progress–Chlorine, for example? I also am on a panel about MWA’s How to Write a Mystery, in which the other panelists and I are going to talk about our essays…and I really don’t remember much about mine other than it’s about dialogue, so perhaps I should go ahead and reread it at some point before the panel so I don’t sound like an utter blithering idiot.

Then again, maybe people enjoy me being a blithering idiot. I don’t know.

I can’t help but think that is not the case, though. I prefer to believe audiences laugh with me and not at me, but one can never be entirely sure.

Ah, well, there’s plenty of time to get petrified with fear about standing up in front of an audience. But I do have to decide what I am going to read on Thursday. Heavy heaving sigh. I was thinking “Moist Money,” from the Down Yonder anthology–mainly because it’s shorter, but it’s also one of the nastier things I’ve ever written; my short stories tend to be nastier than my actual books (by “nastier” I mean darker, not pornographic, FYI) but there are so many choices…and I need to make up my mind because I am going to need to rehearse before I get there…I can’t just get up and read the way I used to, completely unprepared and stumbling over words and…heavy sigh. There I go again, working myself up into a lather of anxiety about something happening in five days, which will end up being fine in the long run.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head to my easy chair to read some more of The Savage Kind, which I hope to finish today. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Take This Job and Shove It

My very first job was at a McDonalds.

I was sixteen, a senior in high school, and I actually wanted to work; make my own money to buy things for myself. I was a very good employee; I wasn’t to begin with, but an honest conversation with an encouraging manager turned me into one. I knew how to do everything by the time I quit; I could open or close; work the grill, a cash register, or the drive through; I could clean grills and take apart the ice cream and shake machines and put them back together again; I knew how to slake french fries and how to package hamburgers; how to dress them and toast the buns; how to clean the floors and drain the grease vats; to tube tartar and special sauce. I knew how to make pancakes and scrambled eggs; Egg McMuffins and sausage patties. My uniform was brown polyester and a paper hat. I could take your order, tray it, ring you up and give you your correct change within ninety seconds. Thank you and come again with a smile to every person I worked with; you were given orders with a please and you acknowledged with a thank you. We weren’t allowed to stand around–if I heard if there’s time to lean then there’s time to clean once, I heard it so many times it felt like I heard it in my sleep. I was paid $2.25 an hour; minimum wage increased after a year and I also got a nickel raise per hour, bringing me up to a whopping $2.60 per hour.

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the course of my life, and no matter how crappy a job it was, I always tried to make the best out of it and do the best I could at it. I usually would get bored once I’d mastered an aspect of my job; I needed to learn new tasks and do different things in order for me to not eventually quit–or get so bored on the job I’d make a heinous and stupid mistake that got me fired. I always took getting fired as a sign that yeah, I should have moved on already, thanks for the kick in the pants. All I ever really wanted to do was write–and for so much of my life I was convinced that it was just a pipe dream that would never ever come true, for so many varied and different and just plain sad reasons, with the end result that I was always trying to find a career, something that could hold my interest, and to no avail, with the end result that I was completely miserable.

Every once in a while, whenever I get frustrated or angry with the publishing business–whether it’s a late payment, or another rejection, or another publisher that isn’t paying their authors, or systemic oppression of some kind or another–and I start to think fuck this business, it’s brutal and it sucks and why on earth do I keep doing this to myself…I do something to remind me how grateful I am for this career, this crazy, infuriating, never really quite what I want it to be career: I like to  think about the path that it took to get here, some of the jobs I’ve had;  all the missed opportunities and how easy it was to get discouraged and for self-doubt to insinuate itself into my consciousness and get me to give up again for a period of time…

But I always somehow came back to the wanting to write.

This was a good year for me, although I don’t seem to remember ever thinking that over the course of the year as it passed. I published the eighth Scotty Bradley novel this past October, Royal Street Reveillon, and I am, for once, actually rather pleased with a book that I’ve published (which is a step in the right direction, right?). I also published a collection of short crime fiction stories; some originals, others previously published: Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories. Two of the stories were nominated for awards; the eponymous title story was a Macavity finalist and “Cold Beer No Flies” (originally published in Florida Happens, the St. Petersburg Bouchercon anthology) was an Anthony Award finalist. Pretty cool, right? There was also that Anthony nomination, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to have lost to Shawn Cosby. My story “This Town” was included in Holly West’s Murder-a-Go-Go’s anthology, a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, a cause near-and-dear to me. The story is one of my personal favorites of my own, and got some really nice feedback from people. I also got my story “Moist Money” in the Dark Yonder anthology, which is also a fundraiser for a food bank.

I managed to write several drafts of a new novel manuscript, but it remains incomplete at this time; I also have two other novels in some sort of progress just sitting around waiting for me to get them done. I do not see this as a failure (I used to do just that; something unfinished? You failed) but as symptomatic of me taking my time and trying to do better work. I felt like I was getting stale, and so I decided to take some time away from writing as well as try to rejigger the way I work on fiction. And if it means that it takes longer to write a book I’m completely satisfied with, so be it.

I also came up with a great idea for a new noir novel, set in the ambiguous early 1950’s–Chlorine–and even took a few hours to bang out a first chapter. Likewise, I also came up with ideas for another Scotty book and another Chanse book, as well as a stand alone crime novel built around Venus Casanova, at least in conception; I may not be able to  use the “world of New Orleans” I’ve built in my two series and several short stories, which are all kind of interconnected. I wrote several short stories this year, but still have any number of unfinished ones and others than need additional drafts. I started planning out another short story collection, and an essay collection.

So, in retrospect, it was kind of a good year for me as a writer. I also made several recommendation lists, for people to check out my work–both as a gay writer and as a New Orleans writer. I still have some things on my bucket list to check off, like getting a story into Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and an MWA anthology, doing a Noir at the Bar, among many other things.

So, while I may have spent most of the year feeling miserable about my writing career, a look back shows just how negative I actually was being–which is something I really need to work on. I’m trying to not be so self-deprecating as I have been my entire life, belittling my own accomplishments, because it’s kind of self-defeating. Sure I could have probably written more, and done more, and gotten further along in my career–but everything happens the way it does for a reason, and I have to believe always works out in the best way possible for me–I have to believe that because it has proven true, over and over and over again.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. LSU plays Oklahoma this afternoon in the play-offs, and while obviously I want LSU to keep winning and keep this magical season going….the disappointment won’t be too great if they do lose; because we do have this magical season to look back on.

Have a lovely last Saturday of 2020, Constant Reader.

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