Live With Me

Wednesday and Pay the Bills Day has rolled around yet again. Woo-hoo!

Yesterday I was working on cleaning out my inbox–an ongoing struggle, but it’s suddenly gotten easier lately–and around noonish an email from Left Coast Crime dropped in letting me know that A Streetcar Named Murder had been selected as a finalist for the Lefty Awards! I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like that to ever happen, so thanks to everyone who listed me on their ballot. It’s a tough category–the other nominees are Ellen Byron for Bayou Book Thief, Catriona McPherson for Scot in a Trap, Jennifer Chow for Death by Bubble Tea, and A. J. Devlin for Five Moves of Doom. Such a thrill, really, and to be nominated against authors for whom I have so much respect and admiration for their talents and achievements already? And so many other amazing nominees in the other categories as well–including lots of friends! Kellye Garrett, Alex Segura, James L’Etoile, Karen Odden, Laurie R. King, Gigi Pandian, Rob Osler, Eli Cranor, Wanda Morris, and Catriona again (nominated TWICE!!!!). I’m really sorry I won’t be going to Left Coast this year. I had a marvelous time last year, but it’s also the week before TWFest and Saints & Sinners, and there’s no way I could take that much time off so close together–let alone leave the week before the festivals. I’d come home to find the locks changed, seriously. So many amazing reads this past year on this list, and there I am, right there with some of my favorite people.

It’s always lovely to get recognized, of course. Award nominations are always a lovely pat on the back, and yes, while I often joke about always losing everything I am ever nominated for (I love pretending to be bitter and cynical about losing awards), it is indeed a great honor and a thrill and all those things they’re supposed to make you feel like. Being nominated for mainstream awards, like this and the Anthonys, was never in my thoughts or calculations (to be fair, I never think about awards when I’m writing something)–so yes, for the kid who used to give acceptances speeches to the mirror holding a shampoo bottle as a stand-in for an Oscar, it’s an honor and a thrill and a privilege. I mean, winning isn’t really in my control–anyone who’s ever nominated’s control–so I just look at it as a lovely nice job thumbs-up from the community and add it to my author bio.

I slept really well again last night and this morning I don’t feel tired or sore and my mind is completely alert–yesterday there was some residual fog from my trip still, and leftover exhaustion–but today feels absolutely great. I ran errands after I got off work yesterday–some books and other things came in the mail yesterday, including my Rainbow candles (a client gave me one for Christmas; I loved the smell, and then had to go searching on line to find more of them) and the leather-bound copies of Rebecca and Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier as produced by the International Collectors’ Library (about time I got two really nice editions of two of my favorite books). I was terribly tired when I got home from work yesterday so I pretty much melted into my easy chair with Scooter asleep in my lap and just watched videos on Youtube (I went down a Rihanna wormhole for a good while–I’d forgotten how amazing her music was–while also looking up videos from Hadestown, whose score I’ve been listening to every since I got home; I cannot tell you how much I loved this show). I need to pay the bills today and get back to work on the book–I’m behind again and am really going to have to work my ass off to get it done by the end of the month now, no time for goofing off or anything other than a major push; I also have a short story to finish that I’ve promised to a friend for an anthology; that will be a nice creative and intellectual challenge to try to get finished around the book, too.

So, yes, Constant Reader, as you can probably tell I’m in a really good place this morning. My coffee is marvelous, I got a lovely pat on the back from the mystery community yesterday (“they like me! they really like me!”), and I am feeling great about my writing and my future. We’ll see how long this happy feeling and inspiration lasts, won’t we? I also think the cold or sinus thing that’s been going on with me since I flew to New York has finally been given the boot by my immune system, which is really nice. (I always feel terrible when I travel–part of it is the lack of sleep and the dehydration caused by the pressure changes required for flying; one of these days I’ll learn to drink water and replenish electrolytes when I travel instead of just drinking Cokes and coffee and alcohol; you’d think I’d know better by now but I clearly do not) But I feel like me again for the first time in what seems like a really long time, and it’s going to take some getting used to and adjusting again. (This weekend especially is going to feel weird as fuck, to be honest.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.

Book of Love

Wednesday and another edition of the biweekly Pay The Bills Day! Woo-hoo! But this is also my last paycheck at my old rate of pay; I am curious to see what my paychecks will look like when they reflect my raise–check back, Constant Reader, in precisely two weeks to find out.

Can you stand the suspense? I barely can.

I was very tired yesterday, and I slept about the same last night so I can also plan on hitting the wall today around three. I took a long lunch yesterday to record Susan Larson’s marvelous radio show The Reading Life, which will air on December 6th, and that was naturally delightful as every moment spent with Susan is. But by the time I got back to the office and got settled back into the seeing clients routine, I was very tired. I had a ZOOM meeting when I got back home last night, which was interesting and fun–it’s always lovely seeing that group of people (queer crime writers! Woo-hoo!)–and then I settled into my chair to watch Reboot and another episode of Diary of a Gigolo, which is just so much fun. I did get some writing done yesterday–terrible writing, I might add–but am hopeful that tonight I’ll get back on track. I feel like I slept about the same last night, waking up several times and never really falling deep asleep again, but this morning so far I feel good. I managed to somehow get quite a bit finished yesterday, which I didn’t think would actually be the case, given how sleepy and tired I was yesterday afternoon, but looking back over the day I can see that yes, indeed, I did get a lot done despite the exhaustion. I am adjusting to the new work week schedule, methinks; tomorrow is my last day in the office and usually I am worn down the day before my last day in the office for the week, so this is a major plus.

And now to consult the to-do list…sigh. It can wait until later, surely?

I don’t know why this morning I feel like I’ve turned some kind of corner, which makes absolutely zero sense, but that’s kind of how I feel; like I’m shaking off some kind of malaise or stupor and my mind is functioning correctly again. It’s entirely possible the booster shot I got on Monday fogged my brain for a few days–I’m blaming the insomnia issues on it for fucking sure–and now this morning that fog has cleared. I don’t know, I really can’t explain it other than that, but this is one of those mornings where I feel like I am mentally rolling up my sleeves and taking a look at all and everything I need to get done and diving in headfirst. LOL, we’ll see how long this feeling lasts, won’t we? But I feel good–and that is reflected in my mood, I guess; I’m in a pretty good mood this morning (at least thus far) but it’s probably too much to hope for that it will last the rest of the day.

Probably not, but you never know.

I was thinking last night–after talking to Susan about the next book (should there be one) in the new series, and of course my copy of Raquel V. Reyes’ second novel arrived yesterday–about how important the second book in a series is, and how much different the second books in both of my series are from the first book in each series. In the first book you have to introduce the characters and their backstories and how they relate to each other (the kind of relationships they have with each other) as well as who your main character is and try to get the reader to relate to them and like them enough to buy into the series as a whole. In the second book, you’ve already done all of this work so all you need is little sound bytes here and there to recap those backstories and so forth and you can spend a lot more time developing your plot and story. Murder in the Rue St. Ann was very different than Murder in the Rue Dauphine; revisiting the Scotty series I can see how much more complicated and layered the story of Jackson Square Jazz was in comparison to Bourbon Street Blues, which had a much simpler plot. Likewise, A Streetcar Named Murder is the launching place for this series, and hopefully it will continue (my second one is tentatively titled The House of the Seven Grables, which will probably be changed by the publisher if there is a second book in the series), and the plot I have in mind for this second Valerie book is a lot more all over the place and complicated–especially as we dig deeper into the Cooper family mystery that was brought to light in the first book.

My favorite part of writing a book is the planning stage, really.

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.

Funky Nassau

Ah, I’ve always wanted to visit the Bahamas; today’s title reminds me of Black Sails and Nassau in the islands. (I wonder if I should revisit/rewatch that show? Yes, Greg, because you have so much free time.) Heavy heaving sigh. Tomorrow is the day I drive north, so today will be a frantic day of packing and getting ready for tomorrow’s journey. I’ll have to stop at the store on the way home to pick up a few things (today is also Pay the Bills Day) and then make a list of what to pack and try to get that all taken care of as quickly as possible so I can relax before going to bed. I am still making progress on the edits–Lord, it’s taking forever–so I want to be able to work on that some more tonight too, so I have less to work on while I am up there. The more I get done, the less I have to do.

And the less I have to do, the better.

I feel rested this morning but somewhat tired–kind of a drained feeling, really–but I am hoping the coffee and this morning’s shower will take care of that. It might not–you never know–but I am ever hopeful. I am sure I have a busy schedule of clients this morning and all day, which helps the day go by faster, frankly, and I am trying to get things taken care of before I leave, since I have no idea how much time I’ll be able to spend doing anything. It’s shitty to go visit my parents and then hole up in my room working the whole time I am there, especially since it’s only two full days before I have to drive back home again. I am also glad Monday is a holiday so I can spend the day getting ready for the work-week; getting groceries and so forth to prepare, etc.–and of course, I can spend Monday finishing the edits if need be (hopefully that won’t be the case, but….). My preference would be to spend Monday getting groceries and relaxing around the apartment, while getting things done–like laundry and so forth–while I rest and relax and read in my easy chair. I am also going to have to go to WWL’s studio on TUesday morning to tape an interview for Great Day Louisiana–this came about because I am teaching a workshop on writing sex scenes at the West Jefferson Parish Library next month and they got in touch with the library to see if I wanted to go on their show. As I hate the way I look on film and really hate the sound of my own voice, I doubt I’ll watch once it airs (I’d probably be at work anyway when it airs) but this is kind of a good promotional opportunity for me and it’s kind of cool. I’m enormously flattered to be asked.

I also had to spend some time yesterday answering interview questions to be the featured author on the Three Rooms Press website for June (Pride month); of course I went on at great length about everything and will inevitably not be surprised to see it edited it down because my answers were so damned long–please, ask me to talk about myself and my career and my writing! It’s very weird because I feel like for some reason I am in demand lately, after months of feeling like a loser here at my desk in the Lost Apartment that no one cared about, LOL. I did also get some editorial suggestions for my story “Solace in a Dying Hour” that will make the story stronger and better, so I of course am going to agree to them so they will accept the story, which is also kind of cool–I really liked that story, so am glad the editors did as well. Who knows, maybe I will actually start to develop some confidence in my writing–ha ha ha, just kidding, but I think you all knew that already. I will never have confidence in my writing–not so long as that little voice is there in the back of my head whispering poison.

I hate that little voice. I probably should get back into therapy.

The world continues to go insane a bit more every day. Yesterday’s massacre of children in Texas–along with the hypocritical “oh my heart breaks thoughts and prayers” tweets from the trash who make this sort of thing possible is, quite frankly, enraging. Gotta keep that Russian oligarch cash flowing through the NRA to our politicians, don’t we? I am so glad I chose never to be a parent. I don’t think I could face sending my kids to school every day knowing there was a possibility they’d got shot in their classroom. The true religion in this country isn’t Christianity–it’s the worship of guns and ammunition. There is nothing more holy in this country than the 11th Commandment, aka as the Second Amendment. Every other right enshrined in the Constitution has been defined, limited, questioned, you name it–but not the holiest of holies–which wasn’t important enough to be included in the first amendment, was it?

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

Working My Way Back to You

Wednesday! Pay the Bills Day! Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I know, right? Pay Day is generally depressing, as I pay the bills and slowly but surely watch the balance in my checking account gradually deplete, and then try to figure out how to stretch what is left for another two weeks. While this is rarely–if ever–fun, there’s something weirdly satisfying about doing it, though; part of the slight OCD problem I’ve suffered from most of my life. Tomorrow morning I also have to get up early–I have to have blood work done, which means fasting, so I basically scheduled it at eight in the morning so I can literally roll out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, throw on some clothes and go out the door. (I will, of course, take some coffee with me which I will immediately start guzzling as soon as the blood draw is finished and I can head home to condom packing and lab form quality/assurance–a very big Thursday at the Lost Apartment for one Gregalicious.)

I started working on Chapter Two of Chlorine last night, and I really think I have the voice right–we’ll see as it goes along–but I am in a groove with the book at the moment and I am going to ride this wave as long as I can. I hope to get Chapter Two finished tonight and Chapter Three started; then I am going to work on revising one of the short stories this weekend–probably not a novella (that will require more than a few hours work, I fear)–but I’d like to end July with some stories being submitted, decent progress made on Chlorine, and then to spend August finishing the first draft of Chlorine and possibly revising some the novellas. I’d like to spend October thru December writing another Scotty book, so this time between now and October 1 is going to have to be highly productive if I want to stay on my schedule. I also did some minor tweaking on Chapter 1; I always find that (tweaking/editing an earlier chapter) helpful in finding my way back into my main character’s voice. (I guess that can go under Helpful Writing Hints, can’t it?)

It can, of course, be horribly overwhelming when I sit and think about the projects I currently have in progress; as I got organized over the weekend I did find myself a little taken aback to see that I have nine projects in progress (short story collection, essay collection, three novellas, three novels, an anthology) and that is most definitely going to require some serious focusing in order to get everything finished. I will, of course, continue to have other ideas come along while I am working on all of these things–the more my creativity seems to flourish, the more ideas and thoughts I have ; which is why “Wash Away Sins” popped into my head over the last weekend. But as long as I can stay focused and don’t allow myself too many distractions, I should be able to get everything finished and somehow stay on top of everything.

Stranger things, of course, have happened.

Last night we finished watching Young Royals, which was exceptionally good. It’s a Swedish show, which kicks off when the Queen of Sweden’s second son, Willhelm, gets involved in a viral video while partying at a bar and getting in a fight, so the royal family packs him off to an elite boarding school where he won’t get in trouble. Ha ha ha, famous last words, right? Wille soon becomes attracted to a talented young local kid, Simon, who is also attending the school–and it goes from there. Simon also has an autistic sister with ADHD, Sarah, who is also kind of adopted by the richer, more socially prominent students–which was actually a lovely break with tradition; I assumed they’d bully her mercilessly–and while there are other story-lines, the Wille-Simon romance is the primary driving story of the show, and it’s so beautifully handled and done. (Watching this made me realize how deeply sanitized American queer y/a is; I mean, for generations the primary driver of young adult storylines in books and movies and television shows is “will they have sex? Will they lose their virginity?” And while my experience with the majority of queer y/a is limited to a few things written by straight people that I absolutely detested–the whole “losing one’s virginity” seems to never come up. I guess queer teenaged sexuality is the third rail? There’s an essay in this, methinks) Anyway, it’s a great show and it handles the gay young love storyline really well–tenderly and beautifully and sweetly–and it also doesn’t hurt that the young actors in the leads are very appealing. There are, for example, many sweet scenes where they just sit next to each and cuddle a bit–which I realized was far more intimate than the actual “take off our clothes and get to it” scenes. Highly recommended! I do hope there’s a second season, as the first was quite marvelous.

And now of course we have to find something new to watch. Outer Banks‘ second season, which looks INSANE, doesn’t come out until the end of the month, so we might have to give Gossip Girl on HBO MAX a look-see (we never watched the original).

And now I am boring myself, so I will bring this to a close. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Rapture

Wednesday and pay the bills day; which hasn’t been depressing in a while but I suspect will be by the time I am finished with this always odious chore. After a sleepless night on Monday, last night’s sleep was much better. I was horribly tired all day yesterday–the combo of no sleep and the workout Monday night; tonight I will be heading back to the gym again after work–and as such did no writing last night. I did write yesterday–in my head; I finally came up with the perfect concept for a story idea I’ve been toying with for quite some time, “Murder on the Acela Express”, with an assist from a very good friend, so I did scribble that down and made some notes in my journal. I also had to proof the final draft of this year’s Edgar annual, which also took up some time Monday evening and on breaks at work, so it’s not like I have been slacking this week. But I really want to get back to “Festival of the Redeemer,” and at some point I want to look over “The Sound of Snow Falling” and see what to make of it; I have figured out the story at last–I knew who the characters were, the set-up, and the setting; I just didn’t now how to write the crime and end it, which I do know now.

So, progress of a sort, right?

There was also exciting news at the day job this week–my position has been funded again by the CDC for another five years, which will actually take me all the way to retirement. While it was always unlikely that the funding would ever be pulled with the concomitant loss of my job, every time the grant is up for renewal it always rather hovers in the back of my mind like a slightly sore tooth you can’t help but worry with your tongue even though it hurts. I also got a raise (the entire staff did), which was a pleasant surprise, and we were also given two extra vacation days, with the agency closing down on a Friday and Monday in August to give us all a long weekend–and it’s the weekend before I turn sixty; my birthday will also be on a Friday this year, which is generally a work-at-home day for me (if that still holds after we go back to full operations again) so I can stay home, watch movies, and make condom packs all day, which will be kind of nice. And then Bouchercon is the very next weekend, and then the next weekend is Labor Day and Southern Decadence–which I am not entirely sure is going to happen, or what is going to go on with that at all. And my car will be paid off come January, which will be even more lovely. So there are things to look forward to, certainly; and I am getting a little bit excited. I generally don’t look too far ahead–there’s always so much to do to keep me occupied I don’t think about the future much–but maybe I need to start doing that a bit more; although there is something to the idea/notion that looking ahead is sort of wishing your life away, which is why I try not to do that unless of course a deadline of some sort is involved.

Although I seem to tend to do that a lot every week by looking forward to the weekend and wishing it would arrive faster.

The summer humidity has returned after all the rain of May; this morning my windows are covered in condensation as the sun is rising, and I feel very rested and alert this morning, which is lovely. I did a load of laundry last night, which I need to fold before getting ready to head into the office this morning; I suspect I will be very tired tonight simply from working, stopping at the grocery on the way home, and then going to the gym–plus we have the last episode of season one of Blood on Acorn to watch, and another episode of Cruel Summer should be loaded on Hulu–the show is surprisingly compelling, and watching it unfold over three different timelines, each one a year apart but on the same day–is a story device I’m really liking a lot more than I thought I would. I know it can be done in a novel–Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me did a dual timeline, and Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone bounced around in time like that, and I think it did have three time periods–and it’s something I think I would like to try at some point in the future. I think part of the reason I’ve been in the doldrums about my writing is because I’ve not been pushing myself to try new things, to experiment and play with the form of story-telling, and I’ve been feeling stale….which isn’t a good place to be when you fancy yourself a writer.

And I think that has been a lot of the malaise I’ve been feeling lately–the last few years with my writing, really–that sense of writing by rote, on automatic; and not pushing myself and trying new things. I will say that the short story writing has been really terrific in that regard, getting to explore themes and ideas and form in a shorter medium (I have published several short stories recently that, ironically, have been reviewed with the note: should have been longer, like a novella–which is always the problem with writing short stories for me; I always feel like there’s more to the story, and apparently that is indeed the case with some of them; but I am trying not to turn short story ideas into longer forms of fiction anymore…which is also kind of why i am experimenting with the novella form). I will say I enjoyed the hell out of Royal Street Reveillon because I was really pushing myself by juggling plots and subplots; it also felt more like a Scotty book than the ones previous–mainly because the plots were more simple and linear. I was having a lot of fun writing it–I do remember that–despite the headaches of juggling so much plot and story-lines.

Aaaaaannnnnndddddd….I think I know what the next Scotty is going to be. I am going to start making notes on it today…we’ll see how it goes.

Kiss of Death

Wednesday, also pay the bills day. Heavy heaving sigh. I always despair when this time of the month rolls around; while it is always lovely to get paid again, almost everything is also due in the first half of the month, so watching my balance dwindle is never really much fun, to be perfectly honest. Oh, well, and so it goes, you know what I mean? Perhaps some extra cash will drop out of the sky or something, who knows what? Stranger things have happened, after all, and it isn’t every month that pay day falls so unfortunately the way this one has, alas.

Yesterday was kind of cool, as the first-ever openly gay person was confirmed by the Senate to sit in the President’s cabinet. The usual right-wing trash opposed his candidacy, of course–the Homophobic Confederate Caucus (HCC for short), as I prefer to call them–and voted against his confirmation; womp fucking womp, traitors.

It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day today; the sun is rising in the distance over the West Bank in a riot of colors that are quite spectacular to see, and it looks as though the sky is relatively clear. It’s cold and I have the space heater going, but that’s pretty much par for the course in early February….what’s disheartening is that this would ordinarily be the first weekend of our parades…and while I am glad I don’t have to plan my work schedule around the parade schedule this year–one less stressor, thank you, baby Jesus–it’s very weird and strange to not be having parades this year. Last year’s Carnival wasn’t a good one–when floats kill people, it’s not a good Carnival season–and it kind of sucks that is the most recent one in memory; but at the same time, because of the pandemic and the passage of time being so fucked with, it also seems like last year’s parade season was a million years ago.

I did make it to the gym last night, which felt terrific–it had been a week, and I am very happy my arm is no longer sore from the vaccination. I was, naturally, exhausted when I got home, but managed to get some work done on the book. As I get further into this revision, I am also realizing that the chapters I kept revising whenever I would go back to work on this were the first ones…so Chapter Five, which I worked on last night, was the first that hasn’t been completely revised in several drafts. While this made it a bit trickier to revise–it also was somewhat easier? I still think transitions within the chapter aren’t as smooth now as they need to be, but my plan is to get a chapter per day (minimum) done between now and the weekend; and then spending the weekend working ahead on print copies as well as going back and copy-editing what I have done–which should be the first ten chapters or so by the weekend. I also slept very well last night–wearing one’s self out at the gym is always an excellent way to ensure that you get good sleep, and of course, tomorrow and Friday are my work-at-home days….so I get to sleep a little more than I do on Monday thru Wednesday. I am getting used to this, though–I find myself having no trouble going to bed at ten (if not earlier) on these nights, and the extra hour or so on my work-at-home days is also rather marvelous. Paul was late getting home last night, so after I finished working on the book I went into a wormhole on Youtube and the Internet, looking up same-sex relationships in Greek mythology, and being bemused by how I learned none of this studying Greek mythology when I was a kid. I do enjoy Greek mythology–and I definitely enjoy modern novels based on and/or in Greek mythology–Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles and Circe come to mind; there’s another one I’ve come across about the Trojan War I am interested in as well. I’ve also always wanted to write a book about Troy–it’s been languishing in my files for years now, about a gay prince of Troy during the War and called The Trojan Boy; I have this image of an opening scene in which my gay prince (not a son of Queen Hecuba, but rather a concubine from the harem) is standing on the walls of Troy and watching the fires of the Greek camp as the sun sets, thinking about how he has so few memories of the time before the Greeks came; all he knows is the war and the endless longing for it to be over.

But, then the Imposter Syndrome comes in and says things like yes, but Madeline Miller has a PhD in classic mythology and you couldn’t possibly know enough to write such a thing and so forth; I can always count on my Imposter Syndrome to curb whatever writing ambitions I may have, or aspire to. There are some historical thrillers I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time, too–and then comes the inevitable yeah, who do you think you are with your limited knowledge and laziness to do the proper research in order to write about another time correctly? I have written precisely two stories set in the past–one set during the gay government purges of the 1950’s (which is yet another reason Pete Buttigieg’s appointment to the cabinet is so important and historic) and of course, my Sherlock story in the 1910’s. But an entire book? I don’t know, I just don’t know…I wish I had more confidence and belief in myself and my abilities. But I am desperately hoping that Chlorine will give me the confidence to write other stories and books set in the past…

Ah, for the self-assurance of a mediocre straight white man!

I feel pretty good this morning; well-rested and all that, and of course my cappuccinos this morning taste fantastic. I am looking forward to getting home tonight and getting back into the writing of the book–so important–and figuring it all out. Rewriting and revising and editing can be a drag–it’s always disheartening to read something you’ve written only to see, in horror, how bad it actually is, and that you have to figure out a way to fix it; much as I had to fix Chapter Five last evening…and yet it is SO satisfying to figure it out, make it work, and sit back, warmed by the glow of succeeding, that I have once again put to rest that horrible fear that always lurks in my subconscious that someday the time will come when I not only no longer can think of anything to write but won’t be able to fix the things that I already have.

And on that note, tis time to head into the office for yet another day of STI testing. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader!