Hate That I Love You

Tuesday and we survived Monday, Constant Reader–that has to count for something, doesn’t it? Actually, it wasn’t that bad, to be honest. I slept decently and woke up without problem with the alarm, and didn’t feel tired for most of the day. I had a highly productive day at the office, and then I came home and worked some more on the manuscript, which I am really starting to feel good about, believe it or not. I like my characters and I like the story, and I like that it isn’t set in either Uptown or the French Quarter or–where I always go–the Lower Garden District is always the default for me. This time out I set the book in the 7th Ward, on what we used to say was the “wrong side” of St. Claude (this is also the neighborhood where my office building is now, on Elysian Fields); even now people say this neighborhood is “unsafe”; and yes, we’ve had some instances where there was gunfire outside and we went into a code and locked down the office. Maybe I just have a false sense of security–which won’t change until something bad happens to me, as usual–but I never feel all that unsafe either going to or from my car before and after work. (I also love that realtors are trying to rebrand the neighborhood as ‘the new Marigny.” Um, no, it’s not and there’s no such thing as the ‘new Marigny.’)

I also slept well last night, which is great. I feel rested and relaxed this morning, but I also have to see clients today. I’ll probably be a bit tired when I get home tonight; seeing clients can drain you a bit, which is why I don’t see clients four days a week instead of three. I got some more work on the book done yesterday, and hope to get further along today as well–no relaxing until I get my work done tonight. I had a ZOOM meeting last night so I wasn’t able to get as much work done as i would have liked–still behind, of course, as always–but I am pretty happy with the work I am doing and how the manuscript is coming together, which is always lovely. I’m not hating the manuscript as I work on it, which is kind of a nice change, overall. Maybe I have finally gotten less self-loathing about my own work, after twenty-odd years? Nah, that can’t be it! Maybe I just feel centered for the first time in a long time? That is more likely.

It’s been a time, there’s no question about that. Mom’s health had been declining for years, so that was always weighing on the back of my mind, no matter how hard I tried to not think about it or even consider the possibilities inherent in recognizing that her health was failing; there was a pandemic and a dramatic shift/change in my day job; and of course I was doing a lot of volunteering around writing and trying to keep my authorial career going at the same time. I’m surprised I didn’t have more mental breakdowns over the last few years, in all honesty. It’s no wonder I was low energy, depressed, and tired all the time. There were paradigm shifts happening everywhere in my life, and I was completely unprepared for any of them, either physically or emotionally or intellectually. I don’t remember writing the books I wrote since the shutdown three years ago; Bury Me in Shadows, A Streetcar Named Murder, #shedeservedit–I remember the young adults because I’ve been working on them for years before I sold them; but the revision process? The editing? I don’t remember a fucking thing. I do worry some about how my brain works now; one thing that has definitely happened over the last three years is a complete loss of remembering how to deal with the ADHD, so focusing is a lot harder than it used to be. I don’t know if that’s related to the ten-day COVID I had last summer, or if it’s because of all the changes and shifts, or maybe it’s even a combination of all those things. I don’t know, but I know I haven’t been functioning at full brain capacity for quite some time now, and I am starting to feel normal (or what passes for that around here) for the first time in a long time. More like myself, I should say, rather than normal; I’ve always taken great pride in not being normal–once I accepted it.

But I also don’t remember much of my life post-Katrina, either; there are years after Katrina that are foggy memories, if that. It shouldn’t come as a surprise (or a shock) that things that occur during times of trauma and stress don’t go into the permanent memory bank (which isn’t as big and powerful as it used to be). I should be used to it by now, right? But I don’t think you ever get used to traumatic events, and your brain just figures out the easiest way to get through it all without causing more trauma, and if that means not remembering things that happen, well, who am I to question how my twisted brain works and functions?

I’m just glad it’s still functioning, really, even if it is all over the place.

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

Fading Fast

Today’s title is an insanely accurate description of my memory; which has been fading faster and faster the older I get, which is endlessly annoying. I mean, it’s bad enough that my body has been endlessly betraying me more and more the older I get, but does my brain have to do it as well? Heavy heaving sigh. Granted, it’s not like I haven’t had reasons for my brain to stop functioning properly in the case of memory; we did have the trauma of a global pandemic on top of everything else that has been going on in the last few years, and of course, I’ve been stressed about Mom for the last three or four or five years or whenever all of her health issues began. I am slowly coming out of the funk, I think–I do think this every morning and then some time in the afternoon it hits me like a 2 x 4 between the eyes–and I need to reenter the world. I am going back to the office tomorrow for the first time in like well over a week, which has also been incredibly disorienting. I think getting back into my usual routine will make a huge and significant difference in my mental well-being; being off routine for someone as OCD as me is always an issue of sorts.

My toe is much better this morning, thanks for asking. It still hurts somewhat, but I spent most of yesterday elevating it or icing it, and I am not limping this morning. I think another day of icing and elevation may just do the trick…which makes me tend to think it’s not broken or bruised or sprained. Tomorrow morning I’ll take a picture of it and send it to my doctor through the app along with a note; I should have done this last week but…it’s been hard getting motivated lately. While I was icing and elevating yesterday I made some significant progress on Abby Collette’s marvelous Body and Soul Food, and I have to share something sort of funny with you at some point about that; I just realized yesterday that Abby Collette is a pseudonym of Abby L. Vandiver; and all along I kept wanting to say Body and Soul Food was written by Abby Vandiver; even correcting myself a couple of times here on the blog when I mentioned the author–and then would chastise myself for confusing two women of color (which happens a lot, sadly; I heard someone call Kellye Garrett Rachel once at a conference–Rachel Howzell Hall–and vowed I would never do that). Turns out the author is actually who I thought she was, just using a different name! This was kind of a relief, because the constant confusing Vandiver for Collette was making feel like I needed to work more on my own subconscious racism. But the book is engaging and entertaining–Abby and I were both in The Faking of the President anthology back in 2020–and I am looking forward to finishing it during this morning’s icing and elevating.

I didn’t leave the house yesterday other than taking out the recycling and a bag of garbage. Paul was gone most of the day–he came home from the office after I went to bed early–and I meant to get a lot more done yesterday than I eventually did get done. The kitchen looks much better than it did before all the stuff with Mom started, and while I still have some things that need to get done today before I return to the office tomorrow, but it’s progress and I will take it. As long as I can stay motivated today, I think I should be able to get a lot of things done today–things that need to be done. I need to make groceries today–I made the list yesterday when they canceled my pick-up order–and I need to get gas on the way home from that. Grocery shopping, lugging everything in from the car, and then putting it all away inevitably makes me tired and exhausted, so the key is to get everything set up before I head out so that I have no excuses and everything is out and ready for me with little to no effort.

I also decided to write something private, merely for me, about my mother. I think it’s necessary for me to sort out my complicated and complex feelings about my relationship with her and my family; there’s a lot of baggage and I am starting to see things now with the kind of clarity that wasn’t possible when she was still with us, if that makes any sense at all. It’s odd how that kind of clarity isn’t possible when they are still alive, you know? And the slow, subtle changes to my life that result from the loss of Mom I’m only now starting to realize. What does this mean about the holidays, going forward? I don’t feel guilty about anything–I thought I might when I lost a parent–but I really don’t. I didn’t write very much to begin with yesterday–a couple of hundred words, maybe, at best–but it was writing and it did help me somewhat…and let’s be honest, how do I deal with everything, really? By losing myself in my writing, that’s how.

My coffee tastes rather marvelous this morning, too. I slept in until eight thirty–I woke up at five thirty, as I do usually every morning–and feel very rested. If it weren’t for my toe, I’d say physically I feel about as good as I can for someone who hasn’t set foot in the gym for over a year. I can tell my muscles need to be worked and stretched and pushed to their limits again, and I think I am going to tell Paul to take my membership off-pause at the end of March; I’d say for March but I’m not sure that’s wise given the toe situation. I feel good this morning–probably best to say “at peace”, really–for the first time in a while. Acceptance has finally come–although I am sure the waves of grief will come back at some point, triggered by something–but I am not going to beat myself up for not getting a lot done this past week, or being pushed off track with everything by Mom dying. I am very behind on everything, and I need to start digging out from under.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and start the elevating/icing process for today. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Route 66

Tuesday morning and back to the office. I made quota again yesterday but am still behind from missing on Friday or Saturday or whenever that was. It’s in the forties this morning–it feels chilly here in the apartment this morning, and it’s also dark outside. I’d forgotten over the three day weekend how much I hate getting up in the morning to darkness outside my windows. It really is oppressive having to wake up in the dark and get your day going while it’s still night outside.

We’ve been watching Sex Lives of College Girls and really enjoying it. It’s quite funny, occasionally sad, and very well done. I don’t even know why we started watching it–I’ve literally heard next to nothing about it, and had no idea it was a Mindy Kaling show until the credits–but it’s quite clever and enjoyable and funny. After years of seeing the male college experience, with its emphasis on drugs, alcohol, and sex, it’s fun to see it from the girls’ side of things–and a lot more interesting. It’s also laugh out loud funny at times, and at others, it’s rather poignant and sad. It focuses on four girls sharing a suite in the freshman dorms–one a rich society girl, one a scholarship student from a small town in Arizona, another a senator’s daughter and soccer athlete, and the final girl a sex-obsessed South Asian woman who wants to be a comedy writer–and watching their friendships and relationships grow organically is kind of nice. The rich girl is a deeply closeted lesbian who resists any push from sex/romance partners to come out–and those tired old excuses she trots are equally easily recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in the closet and thus living the double life. We have one more episode of season one left before we can move on to season 2–and the ongoing stories for each girl are kind of compelling and interesting to watch. It’s also fun watching the roommate bonding between them and their own friendships growing stronger over the course of the show. It’ll be even more fun seeing how it goes and grows.

It is hard to believe this is the last week of 2022, a time, one supposes, for casual and causal reflection on the past year as a new one is to be born. I do seem to recall the year as being a time of mostly being miserable and not enjoying myself much or being able to get much done, but once I start reflecting on everything that happened in the past year it was actually a good one overall; there were a lot of frustrations and miseries along the way, but somehow I managed to keep plugging along and keeping going. A lot of the misery was a feeling of disorientation, primarily driven by having to get up early several mornings per week–always a bad thing for me, it also shifts me into a misery-adjacent position–and never really feeling like I had a handle on things because there was always so much to do, which in its turn created anxiety and stress which then manifested as insomnia which then made me tired every day and often too tired to get much of anything done, which then added to the anxiety and stress which then made the insomnia more potent and so on and on it went, a vicious carousel where the brass ring was always just slightly out of reach for me. That’s kind of how everything has felt since the pandemic started back in March of 2020 (going on three years now)–I had just started adjusting to my work schedule in our new building when the bottom dropped out and I no longer felt like I had a handle on my life anymore. That is unsettling for me, being much more of a control freak than I ever thought I was; and one thing I would really prefer in 2023 is to not feel like the strands of my life are slipping uncontrollably through my hands–ad leaving rope burns.

Of course, as I am behind on my book and need to spend as much time as possible between now and this weekend finishing it, I may not have much time for careful and studied reflection on the new year and what I want from it as opposed to what I got from the previous year, or what I accomplished, or what I left unfinished. But from looking over my client schedule for the week, it looks pretty light; I think most of the doctors are out this week for the most part so no one will be added to the schedule, either. Next week we start seeing people every half hour, which is pre-pandemic level scheduling; it’ll take a while for that to start getting out of control and to the point where we actually have someone scheduled every half-hour, which we’ve not done since before the shutdown (it feels like that should become a thing, doesn’t it–Before The Shutdown, BTS for short). Which means my day-job will be busier and my every hour of my every work day up in the air. Woo-hoo! I love that for me (sarcasm font).

The book is coming along nicely, I suppose. It’s great to hit the word count every day (even though I missed a day and need to make it up at some point), and it’s nice to know that I can still sit down at the computer and bang out three thousand or so shitty words on a daily basis. I am always afraid that’s not going to happen someday when I sit down; it does sometimes, but it’s usually more from laziness of my own than anything else, really. But that doesn’t lessen the fear that the day will come when it won’t be my own laziness and desire to just sit in my chair watching whatever Youtube videos come up to watch after picking one I want to see. I also have to decide what I am going to read next, digging something out from the ever growing and teetering TBR Stack, which is about to grow again as I ordered books for my Christmas present to myself–more Ruth Ware, Carol Goodman, a few I saw recommended by other writers, Jami Attenberg’s writing memoir, and of course a Hollywood memoir of a bisexual actor (more research for Chlorine, of course). I am also finally reaching the end of my extremely long, over a thousand pages Robert Caro biography of Robert Moses, which means I’ll finally be ready to tackle another lengthy non-fiction book as well. It has taken me years to read the Moses biography, which is extremely well done (it IS Robert Caro, after all) and it’s also fascinating to see how ONE man reshaped the city of New York as well as the future of Long Island–and not necessarily for the betterment of either. I think I will probably move on to David McCullough’s history of the building of the Panama Canal, or his book on the Johnstown Flood (it’s much shorter).

I was also looking at all the blog entries I’ve started as essays about one thing or another over the past few years, and thinking one of my goals for 2023 is to finally get those entries finished and posted and out of the draft folder. Something else for the goal list to post on New Year’s Day, I suppose.

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

Underneath the Tree

Ah, Sunday. Sundae would be better, of course–who doesn’t love a sundae?

It’s below fifty this morning in New Orleans, so the predictions of colder weather coming our way in the forecast were clearly correct. It’s so nice having a heater that actually works. We didn’t turn it on upstairs, so when I got out of bed I felt a bit cold, but then I came downstairs where it is nice and comfortable. Maybe I can handle the cold weather with a working heater in the house. Who knew?

I worked a lot on the book yesterday and made a lot of progress with chores and things around the house. I’m hoping to get a big push today as well, and the only other thing I have to really do is go make groceries–I am debating as to whether or not that can wait until tomorrow on the way home from work but I am leaning towards going today and getting it over with. I also did some more refrigerator research–trying to find what I want in the price range we want that will also fit into the refrigerator space in the kitchen is proving to be more of a challenge than one would have expected. I think I found one that will barely fit into the space–it’s a matter of fractions of an inch–but we are also wondering if we can simply have the cabinet above the refrigerator removed to allow more room. Decisions, decisions–but there’s no rush, I suppose, other than my obsession now that we’ve decided to make the plunge and get a new one.

We started watching Smiley on Netflix last night, another Spanish language show with queer characters–it’s kind of a romantic comedy; there’s a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and a straight couple, all loosely connected (the pretty young gay bartender works with one of the lesbian couple at her bar; the older gay guy works with the straight guy at an architectural firm) and kind of charming. The premise is that both Alex (the bartender) and Bruno are single and about ready to give up on romance and love. Alex has a string of one night stands with guys who ghost him; Bruno has no luck with dating apps–getting some really nasty responses when he reaches out. For some reason, Alex decides to use the bar phone to call his last ghosting date, all furious and hurt and angry–but misdials and leaves the message on Bruno’s phone instead. Bruno finally decides to call back–just to let Alex know the person he meant the message for never got it–and they start talking and decide to meet. It doesn’t go well, and they end up arguing–and end up back at Alex’s having the best sex either of them have ever had, but misunderstandings continue to get in the way. The lesbians are also at a crossroads in their relationship, and decide to work through the issues rather than breaking up, and the straight couple is also having some trouble. It’s cute, it’s funny, and the actors are all pretty appealing–and of course, it’s nice seeing an “opposites-attract” gay rom-com happening on my television screen. And the young man who plays Alex is really pretty. He was also in Merli, another Spanish show we started watching but gave up on; his name is Carlos Cuevas. The guy who plays Bruno is also far too handsome to be the troll we’re supposed to believe these gay boys think he is–he’s handsome, he’s successful, he’s intelligent–Miki EsparbĂ©; or maybe it’s because he’s older, I don’t know. But I’m interested to see how this plays out.

Christmas is next weekend, which doesn’t seem quite real to me yet. Part of this is because I am so focused on trying to get the book finished as well as trying to stay on top of everything else I am doing that days seems to slip through my fingers and the next thing you know, Christmas is next weekend. This whole year has been like this, frankly–the last few, if I am being completely honest, and in that same spirit, really everything from March 2020 on has been a confusing blur and I don’t remember when or where things happened. It’s also hard for me to grasp that 2010 was almost thirteen years ago, and trying to remember that entire decade isn’t easy. I guess this is what happens when you get older? Ah, well, it’s something I may never get used to but simply have to accept as reality, you know?

This week at work should also be interesting–the week before Christmas, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a weird time around the office. We never have a lot of appointments, and we also have a lot of no-shows, which can be a pain. Paul and I haven’t watched anything even remotely Christmassy; although the Ted Lasso Christmas Special might be a fun thing to revisit.

It’s also weird as the year comes to a close as I start reflecting back on the year, and what is different going into this new year as opposed to going into the last new year. The fact that I have trouble remembering what happened throughout the year is also not any help to me at all, frankly, and neither is the fact that I always have to stop and think was that 2020 or 2021? There are also a lot of draft posts accumulated here; things I wanted to write about when I was more awake and not caffeine-deprived, so that I didn’t misspeak or say something that out of proper context could be problematic. I never talked about my reread of Interview with the Vampire or my thoughts about the new show, which I greatly enjoyed and thought was very well done, for example. (And Mayfair Witches will be debuting in the new year, which I am really looking forward to watching.)

The blog has always been my way of waking up and warming up my brain and my writing muscles, which is why it is always so scattershot and all over the place. I’m not exactly sure when it went from a daily writing exercise to a “daily writing exercise while I wake up in the morning”, but that happened at some point in the last eighteen years; my livejournal began in December of 2004, and I’ve been plugging away either there or here ever since. How much has changed since then? It snowed that December, I remember that, and we were living in the carriage house with Skittle. I know we’d put up a tree, and we were kind of looking forward to 2005 being an easier year after everything that happened in 2004. Little did I realize the evangelical Christians of Virginia were waiting in the wings, as well as a little hurricane that would be named Katrina. I had only published four novels, and only two short stories that weren’t erotica. (I just remembered that when we lived in the carriage house I had to do the laundry at a laundromat–I don’t miss that at all, even if it did get it all over with much more quickly than here at home.)

But the blog was also supposed to be a place where I could write personal essays about subjects that matter a lot to me; things I want to write about but no one will pay me to write about, you know? I started getting more cautious about writing about touchy subjects around 2008, when I went full-time at NO/AIDS (I no longer work for NO/AIDS either; as much as I appreciate the way HIV/AIDS treatment and so forth has changed, I do kind of miss the days when we were a struggling queer health non-profit), despite being reassured by NO/AIDS management that I didn’t need to worry about anything I did or said as long as I wasn’t on the clock–I still didn’t want to do or say anything here that some hater could latch onto and make trouble for the agency with. So, I started censoring myself a little bit, and the more I became involved with other non-profit volunteer work the less I felt comfortable writing about sensitive or touchy subjects, especially as the country became more and more polarized. I’m very careful never to talk about my volunteer work or my day job on here as anything other than my volunteer work or my day job. I’ve compartmentalized my life–the way I always have, back to when I was closeted to one large segment of my life and not to a much smaller part–so much so, in fact, that I’m not certain that I can stop doing it. I think one of my goals for 2023 will be to not compartmentalize as much, and to maybe spend more time finishing those personal essays that I’ve started here and never finished.

But of course, there’s also a time issue. Isn’t there always?

And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines and try to get going on everything I need to get done today. Have a lovely and comfortable Sunday wherever you are, Constant Reader. I will chat with you again soon, promise.

Tell Me

Friday and a work-at-home day, except for the morning department meeting I have to attend in person, which means I didn’t get to just roll out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, throw on some sweats, and get a cup of coffee just before nine…no, I have to be there at nine. I’ll run a couple of errands on my way home, which spares me from having to leave the house on Saturday; I may order groceries for pick-up on Sunday, but I don’t need to decide that right now.

This week wore me down and wore me out. I didn’t sleep terrific all week long to begin with, then of course it was one thing after another to have to deal with. But it’s Friday and I am relatively unscathed, methinks; I slept really well last night and think that could again be the case tonight. I was completely worn out when I got home from work last night, so I collapsed into my easy chair and watched a lengthy James Somerton video on Youtube called “What Ever Happened to Good Taste?”, which was about camp classic films, beginning with All About Eve before cycling through Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Mommie Dearest, and the drag queen road movies of the early 90s, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. (I must confess to being enormously disappointed that Showgirls didn’t make the documentary; it is, after all, an all-time classic.) Paul got home shortly after I finished watching (it was two hours long) and we watched another episode of Welcome to Chippendales, which could have been just a movie and not a series I think; there’s a lot of padding out of the story to stretch it out into a mini-series. I have a lot to do this weekend; one of my tasks for today is of course a to-do list for the weekend. I need to get caught up on the book, I need to get caught up on a lot of things, and I want to finish reading Wanda Morris’ marvelous latest work. Perhaps after I get home from the meeting at the office this morning and get through my work-at-home chores today, I can spend some time with Wanda’s book and finish it. I am going to run some errands on my way home from work today, too–hoping that I won’t have to leave the house much this weekend so I can get things done.

My arm continues to get better every day, so I think it is something that didn’t necessarily require the emergency room costs or a forced-onto-the-schedule doctor’s appointment. It means I won’t be able to start back to the gym this weekend as I’d planned–I like to start going again before the new year when everyone’s resolutions crowd the place to within an inch of its life come January–but I cannot lift weights with this arm, which pretty much eliminates every upper body exercise. I could, I suppose, go a couple of times a week and simply focus on legs–but the weight plates would be a problem, too, you see. So, that’s going to have to go back on hold until my arm feels better.

I was very surprised and pleased yesterday to see that a couple of Instagram users did “reels” talking about A Streetcar Named Murder, and I have to confess this week–shitty as it was personally–has been a really terrific week for me professionally. It certainly was a good one for my writer’s ego, for sure. The outpouring of support and appreciation for my book from the cozy reading and writing community has been quite nice, rather unexpected, and I am enormously appreciative and grateful for it all. In some ways, it’s kind of validating; over the past few months I’ve really come to understand that I have an enormous chip on my shoulder when it comes to my own writing, and have tried unpacking that a bit. (I’ve spent quite a bit of time since turning sixty in the wake of a global pandemic unpacking my behaviors and the events that occurred that shaped those behaviors.) How different would my life have been had I gotten support and encouragement when I was younger? Had people taken my ambitions and desire to write seriously rather than dismissively? I honestly don’t know, can never know, will never know–the great pleasure of human life is you can never do anything more than speculate about how differently a shift in something, even a very small minor one, can alter the course of a life and a career.

The other night, before my Murder by the Book event with the marvelous John McDougall and my very dear Ellen Byron, John asked me “Now that I’ve read your book, Greg, I have to ask–why did it take you so long to write a cozy? Why haven’t you been doing this all along?” and my answer was “I really don’t know.” It absolutely gave me pause, and has lived rent-free in my brain ever since Tuesday. Why did it take me so long to write a cozy? I still don’t have an answer that makes any kind of sense. Let me see, I’ve always read them, always appreciated them, and have always done my best to fight the stigma attached to them by some elitists who need to feel better about themselves by looking down on a subset of other writers. I hate that, particularly because I know how it feels to not be taken seriously or be respected by your peers (there’s that enormous chip on my shoulder again).

But despite all the difficulties encountered during the time of its writing, I really enjoyed writing A Streetcar Named Murder. Sure, it was hard, and sure, I had to make myself do it (like always), but when I finally held the finished copies in my hands, I was incredibly proud of it. I have always said that I want to always be challenged by what I am writing, that I don’t ever want to fall into a familiar pattern of writing that feels like painting by the numbers (which is why I ended the Chanse series), which is incredibly easy to do. Writing a cozy presented me with a challenge, and yes, it was hard and yes, it was outside of my comfort zone. But I created likable, believable characters and an interesting story, with new situations and paradigm/life shifts that all played out throughout the course of the story. Now that it’s out in the world, it is an interesting question as to why I never tried to write one before, or even why I believed that I couldn’t write one in the first place.

And in some ways, it’s almost like starting my career over again. I am finding a new audience. I didn’t center queer characters and stories. I just wrote about New Orleans again but from an entirely different perspective, and it was enjoyable.

And I am proud of the book, and of myself. It feels weird to say that, but at the same time it also feels good to say it.

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

Don’t Stop

Back to life, back to reality…

I am sooooo tired.

But what an incredible trip that was.

Someone–I wish I could remember who, so I could give them credit–said that Bouchercon was like going to Crime Writer’s Camp, and it was actually so spot on that I decided to go ahead and say it without being able to give the proper credit where it’s due (whomever that was, my apologies). I slept extremely well last night (there’s nothing like your own bed), yet despite that I feel achy, sore and exhausted still this morning. My voice has recovered somewhat–it still is raspy and hoarse, but nevertheless yesterday it hurt to talk–and my ribs and abs still hurt from laughing so much and so long and so hard (in some ways, it felt like I’d forgotten how to enjoy myself and only started remembering this past weekend). I had some great meals, some great drinks, reconnected and tightened bonds with old friends; got to know acquaintances better; and met some marvelous new people! All of my books that the bookseller had in stock on Thursday (and quite a few copies of each of my last three books–usually I count myself lucky if they have more than one copy of one book) were gone by noon on Friday, which was an incredible shock.

A pleasant one, to be sure, but still a shock.

My panels went really well, too. The only real hiccup was my bag got lost on the way up there. Our connecting flight out of Midway was a half hour delayed, yet…my bag didn’t get on the plane in New Orleans and didn’t arrive at the airport until after one. It was delivered the following morning…right at the end of my panel. Yes, I had to borrow clothes from Paul. Yes, he is smaller than me. No, it wasn’t the first time I went out in public in clothes that were two sizes too small. Yes, I talked about it on the panel. And yes, people asked me about whether my bag arrived or not all weekend, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and nice…and then yesterday on the way home Paul reminded me that–to save myself time–I’d packed five identical black T-shirts and of course, three pairs of jeans that all look the same. I wore the pants I wore on the flight to the panel that morning, and Paul had loaned me–yes, you guessed it–a dark T-shirt.

PAUL: People didn’t think your bag arrived all weekend because you were always wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans! They didn’t know it was your Bouchercon Uniform and thought you had to keep wearing the same clothes!

It still makes me laugh to think about it.

I also read Gabino Iglesias’ extraordinary The Devil Takes You Home on the way up (more on that later) and read most of Laurie R. King’s new, stellar novel Back to the Garden, which is just marvelous. Our flight coming back was also delayed out Midway–two hours rather than a half this time–but reading Laurie’s book made the time fly. We also arrived at Midway just in time to see the final minute of the Saints-Falcons game (marvelous). (I have to say, I am a little bummed I wasn’t home to watch college football on Saturday, and now am REALLY looking forward to seeing how this college football season goes!)

AND SO MANY QUEER WRITERS!

But, oh, if nothing else, the one thing I learned from this trip is I am waaaaaaaaay out of shape and far too old not to be going to the gym regularly. All the walking, all the standing, not sleeping in my own bed–my back hurts, my hips and ankles are sore, my shoulders are tight, and my quads are tighter than piano wire. I need to start going back to the gym even if not to lift weights so much as to get a good stretch every now and again. That was actually the best parts of my all-too-brief patches of regular gym attendance since the start of the pandemic–how great it felt to stretch two to three times a week. I am literally running on accessory today, and am dreading tomorrow morning’s alarm going off at six to drag me out of the clutches of Morpheus. I will undoubtedly be tired all week (and oh dear God my emails) but as long as I can limp along till Friday, I should be okay.

Should.

I don’t even want to think about how behind I am.

But for now, I am going to sit in my easy chair and finish Laurie’s brilliant book while Scooter purrs in my lap and just have a nice relaxing evening at home. Until tomorrow, Constant Reader!

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.

No Matter What Sign You Are

Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.

It’s a beautiful day and I feel rested this morning. Granted, I’ve felt rested every morning for the last six or seven days upon arising only to run out of proverbial steam and become exhausted by the late afternoon–yesterday was another one of those; once I ran my errands and did my work I was burned out and worn out by five pm; there was no Orpheus for us last night–so we’ll see how things go today. Ukraine still seems to be standing this morning, which has been on my mind non-stop these last few days since the invasion started, and I really need to block that out. I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about the other places in the world being visited by the horrors of war and oppression (the Uyghurs in China, Yemen) and how those stories aren’t (or weren’t) being covered with the same kind of blanket 24/7 reporting. That saddens me, as it does send the signal that Americans don’t care about Uyghurs or Yemenis, but do care about white Ukrainians.

Even when it comes to foreign policy, we can’t escape racism, can we?

Today is a day off, obviously and I am going to take full advantage of that. I am going to try to finish writing that story this morning–it’s been a struggle–and I am going to be productive and effective today; which means closing social media completely and only checking in periodically when I take a break from working. The house is a mess, filing needs to be done, and I am going to use today as an organizing/writing/get caught up day. I am going to not bother with emails this day because that is exhausting and I don’t want to get off track. I don’t hear either Zulu or Rex down at the corner–I’ll probably wander down there at some point–probably when I am barbecuing lunch–to get an idea of crowds and so forth.

Paul and I watched Toy Boy last night after he got home from work–I was actually half-dozing in my easy chair when he got home–and we have only two episodes left. It’s very strange and different this season from the last; there’s a new villain (and he is sexy as fuck) and the restructuring of the corrupt wealthy people who run the city in order to deal with this new threat has been interesting. Lots of sex and nudity, lots of male strippers in bikinis, but some also seriously strange side subplots that indicate that the producers and writers may not have a real idea of what they are doing. The gay couple from season one is hardly in this at all, and their relationship doesn’t make any sense this season at all; them meeting and falling in love while dealing with rejection and mental illness and disability was quite powerful in season one; this season they aren’t doing much of anything and are hardly in the show at all, which is disappointing.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and while I am always sad to see Carnival end, this year was a bit bittersweet. I only went out to King Arthur to see friends; we went to Muses to get Paul’s shoe (mission accomplished) and I went to Iris on Saturday; a significant difference from our usual “out there every night” type parade season. But I never felt entirely comfortable out there in the crowds–it’s going to take a while before I stop thinking everyone is contagious–and of course, this year was a more difficult one for Paul with his events at the end of this new month; people having to cancel because of nervousness about traveling, etc. I always look forward every year for the festivals to be over–I worry about Paul’s long hours and stress levels–but I think this year more than any other year I really want to get to April intact. I tested myself for COVID this morning and I am not infected; I will test myself again tomorrow before I go into the office just to be certain, and probably will again this coming weekend. I always wear masks in public anyway, so even if I am contagious the odds of giving it to anyone else are decreased; and I wash my hands (or use hand sanitizer) a lot. But I will be really glad and happy once the threat has finally passed, you know? I don’t know if this is how we are going to be living from now on, or if work is going to continue to change or evolve or go back to what it was before the pandemic (which I rather doubt); everything is still uncertain, and uncertainty isn’t something humans–especially this one–cope with very well.

And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up and get to work. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

He’s My Sunny Boy

Friday and working at home. I don’t have to return to the office until Wednesday. I don’t know if I am going to attend any of the parades tonight, but I will most definitely attend Iris tomorrow, and Orpheus on Monday. Sunday is a madhouse out on the corner, with four parades running and the last two (Thoth and Bacchus), so Paul and I will sometimes go out for the earlier ones–but it’s so crowded by the time Thoth comes down the avenue we can’t stand it so we come inside. It’s weird. I intellectually know that it’s probably not a good idea to go out there–no one masked, everyone drinking and in close proximity to each other–and if I get sick I have no one to blame but myself. I still go back and forth on it–there’s a pandemic! But it’s Carnival!–so I may end up not attending rather then severely curtailing my parade attendance (I certainly don’t ever want to get Bad Carnival Karma); we’ll see how it goes.

I did spend some time last night filing, cleaning and organizing so I don’t have to do any of that this weekend. I have a short story to finish by Tuesday, a thousand emails to answer, another thousand tp generate (you think I’m kidding; I quite literally am not) and I’d like to get the floors done. I also have to run some errands at some point today–mail and make groceries (not much, just to get through the rest of the weekend)–and I also don’t have to go back into the office until Ash Wednesday (thank you, Fat Tuesday paid holiday), so I am hoping to get caught up on all kinds of things that will help ease off the pressure I feel like I am constantly under. One of today’s chores is to make that updated to-do list I’ve been meaning to get written all week, and to try to gather all my scribbled notes and idea scattered over various notebooks and legal pads compiled into one place. Once I get this short story finished, I am going to start working on Chlorine again–the goal is to have a workable first draft by the end of March, fingers crossed–but it’s going to be a shorter book, fast-paced with machine-gun like word rhythms. I am also becoming more and more fond of my main character–a not particularly talented but incredibly hot and sexy closeted film actor, cynical about using his face and body to get ahead because he is really only out for himself…understandable, given the climate of the times and his backstory–and creating him is probably the most fun I’ve had creating a character since, well, Scotty.

But he ain’t nothing like my Scotty. At all.

I also need to start pulling together the various threads of Mississippi River Mischief together; figuring out the various subplots to gel around the main story of the book, and I also have to map out Redemption Parish a bit more than the amorphous bounds I’ve already given it. I think it first appeared in Murder in the Arts District–no, not entirely correct; it was where my story “Rougarou” was set, and I think that was my first time writing about Redemption Parish and the town of Bayou Shadows–and I know The Orion Mask was also set there. I should probably go through everything and make notes for the sake of continuity–ha ha ha, just checking to see if you’re asleep–but yes, I think I originally envisioned Redemption Parish as being further upriver than where I want it to be for this book; I’ll definitely have to recheck Arts District and The Orion Mask to get a better idea of what I wrote and where I placed it so I can figure out how to finagle moving it and how to justify it…but….this is a different series than Arts District, and Orion was a stand alone, so…I definitely can get away with moving the parish if I need to. (As much as I want my books to all be connected together in some amorphous way–a la Stephen King’s Maine–I can also look at Scotty and Chanse and every other New Orleans thing I’ve written as different universes, like a multi-verse; so I can use characters from across all the books as well as places, but it’s a different world.

I also tend to worry about things no one else notices in my work, so there’s that.

But it wouldn’t hurt me to start a reread of the Scotty series. I am having trouble focusing on reading these days–it comes and goes–and so why not reread the Scotty books? Why not spend some time putting together the ultimate Scotty Bible, so I have an easy reference to check things? This actually sounds like a good idea, and it’s been so damned long since I wrote the first books I probably wouldn’t even remember who the killer was…so it would almost be like reading something new? And it could help put me back into the Scotty mindset. (Also, for the record, Mississippi River Mischief is set in the spring after the Christmas of Royal Street Reveillon, which will make it spring 2019. The next Scotty will be Twelfth Night Knavery, set just after Christmas 2019–January 2020–followed by French Quarter Flambeaux (Mardi Gras 2020) and finally Quarter Quarantine Quadrille, April 2020. So, the plan is for there to be at least four more books in the series, if I live that long. But I also reserve the right to change my mind and discard any of these books along the way–but this is what I am currently thinking.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Yesterday Once More

I’ve always believed that it is smarter to set goals every year rather than resolutions; resolutions have almost become kind of a joke in that no one ever really keeps them past the first few weeks of the new year. Years ago, I decided to change that up and set goals to achieve rather than resolutions to change behavior, and that has worked out much better for me. Sure, there have been some of the same goals set every year that have never been achieved (I’m looking at you, find an agent) but I find that it all seems to work out in the end, and the goals I never achieve and carry over just maybe need some more of my energy and focus applied to them

Before, however, I get into the goals for one Gregalicious in 2022, I’d like to go over some of the things that stood out for me in 2021, both good and bad.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2021: I was able to visit New York in November and then head up to Boston by train for Crime Bake, and it was a marvelous experience; I learned a lot more family history; made the list of
“other distinguished work” in Best Mystery and Suspense; finished writing and published Bury Me in Shadows at long last; finished the Kansas book finally; I read some great books and watched some great movies and television shows; signing a book contract with Crooked Lane; sold some short stories (“The Snow Globe”, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and “Night Follows Night”, among possible others I cannot recall at the moment); a visit to the Gardner Museum whilst in Boston; I bought a new computer with which I am still rather pleased; and I did some more deep diving into New Orleans history, which has been incredibly fun.

LOW LIGHTS: Hurricane Ida and the ensuing horrific power loss at precisely the worst time of the year to be without climate control in New Orleans (will never ride out another storm of that size again, ever); the on-going pandemic canceling the Edgars and conferences and limiting/prohibiting travel; no Williams Fest/S&S again; the horrible polar vortex that brought record low temperatures to New Orleans during Carnival and we had no heat, so I spent Fat Tuesday freezing under many layers of clothes, layers of blankets, and with a space heater on and still was shivering and cold and miserable; my inability to finish writing the first draft of Chlorine; and of course, not finishing any of the novellas I really wanted to get finished this past year–and any number of short stories as well.

I think the biggest goal I want to set for 2022 has to do with Chlorine. I want to get a viable first draft finished as soon as I can, because the second part of the goal with Chlorine is to finally get representation, or at least try again. I think once I get this current manuscript finished and some of the stories and novellas I have in progress out of the way, I can focus on getting Chlorine finished and out on spec. My goal is to make that my March project, giving me January and February to finish all the other stuff and get it out of the way.

My second goal, also to do with writing, is to get the next short story collection pulled together as well as the novella collections. I think I have enough completed work to get the story collection turned in this year–some of the stories I have in mind for it are still in progress, of course, and of course I have three completed drafts of novellas that need to be redone, revised, and two others that need to be written (or do I? I am now remembering that there’s a third that needs a revision but has a completed draft, so that’s four–and now that I think about it more deeply there are three in some sort of progress that I should be able to get finished in the new year). There’s also the essay collection, which is going to take some serious focus and concentration to pull together. I also want to write a Scotty book this year…which is a LOT to have on one’s plate in one year. (This could, of course, all change should Crooked Lane want a follow-up to the book I am currently writing; this is the sort of thing that makes someone like me–a planner–crazy because I cannot control what requests are going to be made for work from me.)

Next goal is, naturally, work out related. I need to make it to the gym three times per week, going forward into this new year. My fitness regimen has been all over the place since the pandemic started, but it’s been a lot more consistent since the pandemic started than it was in the (many) years prior when I just stopped going entirely and allowed my body to not only go to seed but to start breaking down. I feel better when I lift weights and stretch, and I should also add a cardio day to my workout schedule. I want my goal weight to remain 200–I’m not sure what I weigh now, frankly, but I know it’s not 225, which was where I’d allowed myself to get–and I’d like to get into 32 waist pants (comfortably) again in the new year. (I can get into 32’s in stretchy jeans, but 33’s in regular jeans, while I can fit into them, aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be, and right now comfort above all else.) I don’t think I’ll ever get my Gumby-like flexibility back again, but the stretching does feel incredibly good when I do it (I also want to add stretching daily to the regimen; I can stretch at home just as easily as I can at the gym) so it needs to become more of a routine thing for me.

My next goal is to break my lifelong habit of falling into procrastination at every opportunity. While I will be the first to admit that it’s best to listen to your brain and your body and to not try to push them into things when they are exhausted or tired or fried, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s just laziness, and I own that completely: oh, there’s plenty of time to do this or oh I will just get this done tomorrow is too easy a habit to fall into; even as I write this I am thinking Oh I can go to the store tomorrow and I can also write tomorrow and there’s no need for me to do any of this today despite the fact I feel rested and relaxed and creative. So I am going to finish this and then I am going to get cleaned up and get back to my writing (the groceries, on the other hand, can 100% wait until tomorrow).

Another goal is to keep on top of the housework and the filing–and by that, I am also including the storage attic and the storage facility. I want to get the attic cleared out, and I want to clear out the storage as well so i can stop spending that money every month. This isn’t as easy as one might expect, but I figure if I can get rid of a box in the attic every week–again, not as easy as one might think–I should be able to get a handle on this all by the middle of the year. One box a week doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? And yet…

All right, on that note I need to get back to the writing. I think I can push through quite a bit today, even if I don’t want to–which I don’t–but I also have no choice. The book is due exactly two weeks from today, and I don’t want to turn in something as sloppy as what I have on my hands right now.

Have a wonderful New Year, Constant Reader!