I’m So Glad (I Got Somebody Like You Around)

And now it is Wednesday, aka Pay-the-Bill day, and I actually had already started paying the bills yesterday. Yay? But at least I can pay them without any stress about buying the groceries or missing a payment or anything. There are few things worse, really, than financial stress–I can’t think of a single situation that financial stress has ever made better, for example.

I did sleep pretty well again last night, and I think maybe my body is beginning to get used to the getting up at six a.m. thing at long last. I certainly am not sleepy or tired this morning (I’d still rather be in bed under my blankets, though) and my mind feels pretty awake thus far. I got tired yesterday afternoon, but I get tired every afternoon at the office, frankly; I didn’t think too much of it. I also managed to do another load of dishes and laundry last night when I got home before collapsing into my easy chair with the Chlorine folder. I thought I’d been reading the wrong versions the other day, and I was correct; there were more recent versions of those first three chapters, and I reread them last evening. They were much better than the sloppy mess I originally read the other night, which was an enormous relief (after reading them Sunday or Monday I was actually thinking well, I need to revise these or this project is completely not worth even trying). The voice and tone need to be cleaned up a bit, and there are contradictions and continuity errors to be sure, but over all I think it’s going in a better direction than I had thought based on the last reading. I am actually kind of excited to be getting back to it as well.

I did some more work on the anthology yesterday as well, and am hopeful that I’ll continue making progress on it until it is actually finished and out of my hair once and for all. It’s always a lovely feeling to be making progress–yesterday I really felt like I wasn’t just spinning my wheels but was actually getting somewhere, the tires were actually getting traction on the road, and that’s a lovely feeling. I also went through my to-do list yesterday, crossed off a bunch of things, and realized that hey, it’s time for a new to-do list and felt very accomplished, to be honest. It felt really good. I stopped and got the mail on the way home, too–my copies of Cupid Shot Me were there, as was the new Robyn Gigl, Survivor’s Guilt (a great title, he typed with an eyebrow raised and an amused smile)–and I decided that I really need to get back to reading. Tonight is my night to get back to the gym after work for my second workout of the week (muscles still feel good this morning from Monday night), knowing it will probably be half-assed and so forth because it will probably be very crowded by the time I get there; but a half-assed workout is better than no workout, and then I can come home and relax, maybe read for a while. I want to get some more work done on “Condos for Sale or Rent” this week, and I am also playing around with the ideas for the sequel for A Streetcar Named Murder, should they want one…I think the title I am going to use is The House of the Seven Grables, and I think I know how to make that title work as well (publisher will probably hate it, so the back-up title will have to be something like Death on a Hot Tin Roof or The Hound and the Fury or something along those lines). So I am feeling creative again–those batteries have clearly recharged completely and finally, thank you baby Jesus–and am sleeping well and am feeling content these days, which is lovely. It’s still parade season–they start on Friday and run all weekend–which is going to take some adapting to and is inevitably going to make me feel even more tired (but hey, Fat Tuesday is a paid holiday, so that week will be a disrupted and shorter work week, which is always pleasant and a nice surprise), but that’s the price of living inside the parade route.

I have to say it’s really nice feeling creative again, even if it’s all over the place. The return of the creative ADHD is always a pleasant surprise; I just need to remember to stop riffing and brainstorming and actually laser-focus my attention on something to write, which for now is going to be that short story that is due by March 1 and the other due on April 1; both have been started but are nowhere near finished in even a first draft form. I think both have potential, really; and I also am thinking about trying my luck with Ellery Queen again, if I can get a story I have almost nearly ready polished and revised. I had been writing a story for the Bouchercon anthology, but am not really sure now if I should send it to the blind readers or not. (My last two stories for Bouchercon anthologies made it through the blind read process; but I also only wrote stories for the ones I was editing. Even though it was fairly done–the readers didn’t know either story was mine–it looked untoward. I do think the fact both stories went on to be nominated for awards undermined any controversy or smack talk done behind my back…but I think this time around I am going to take the story and sell it elsewhere. It’s a good story, and I am betting I can sell it somewhere else. And I think we got a lot of really good stories submitted for this anthology; it’s not like it needs a story by me; not that any anthology ever does, of course.) There are some other stories, too, that I’d like to get finished at some point…

And on that note, I think I should head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

My Favorite Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Your Heart

Back in the 1990’s, I was lucky enough to get to write book reviews–in addition to my fitness column–for a long departed and still missed local queer paper here in New Orleans, IMPACT News. A lot of really good things came out of being the queer paper book reviewer–friendships with queer writers I still cherish to this day, like Michael Thomas Ford, Felice Picano, Jean Redmann, and Sarah Schulman, to name just four; and of course, it also played a part in helping get my first fiction published with Alyson Books. But for the first few years I reviewed queer books for IMPACT, I only reviewed books by gay men, with the occasional lesbian title thrown in. When a new editor, Melinda Shelton, came in after a few years, she insisted that I start reviewing more books by lesbians. I was a bit resistant, but also understood there was a parity issue; lesbian books weren’t getting coverage in New Orleans, and there was a strong, vibrant reading community of lesbians in the city. So, I started, and before long, through reading fiction by, about, and for lesbians, I began to come to a deeper understanding of my lesbian sisters; it helped me shed the toxic masculinity I’d been raised to believe in, for one thing, and helped me become more of a feminist ally. The more I read about feminist issues, the more educated I became–and the better of an ally I could be to women. This was an enormous help when I went to work for Lambda Book Report, and knowledge of women’s fiction, and women’s issues, was also enormously helpful back when Paul, Jean and I started Saints and Sinners way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

For me, the best way to learn has always been through reading. I was blessed with an insatiable appetite for reading as a child, and I always had a fairly good memory for what I read. A lot of what I read about other cultures as a child and as a teenager were filtered through the prism of white supremacy, of course–but I did learn. I eventually began to recognize that those filters were there and had to rethink and relearn a lot of things. Yes, this is work–but it’s also worthwhile; I’d prefer to continue learning and thinking and growing as a person and as a writer until the day I die; I cannot imagine anything so terrible as to have your heart and mind calcified, ossified, and preserved in amber.

And while I had some issues with the “#ownvoices” movement on social media, it did effect some important change in publishing; a long overdue paradigm shift that made voices that were once considered “other” welcome at the table, and has given publishing–and fiction–a much needed shot in the arm that has reinvigorated everything.

This is particularly true in crime fiction.

His brown eyes were open, the shock of being stabbed still reflected in his dilated pupils. Sharise pushed his naked, lifeless body off of her, and he tumbled heavily from the bed to the floor, landing on his back.

Fuck, she thought, breathing heavily, I got to get out of here. No. Take your time, don’t panic. It’s two in the morning, no one will miss him for a while.

She leaned up on one arm so she could look over the side of the bed at his body, the blood pooling beneath him on the cheap mustard-colored motel carpet. Fucking bastard. You got what you deserved, you piece of shit. Turning away from him, she looked at her own blood-soaked body, and the wave of nausea came without warning. She retched over the side of the bed, adding a final indignity to his corpse.

By Way of Sorrow is an impressive debut by a writer named Robyn Gigl. I had the great good fortune to do a panel of some sort during the pandemic with her–I don’t remember what it was for, or who arranged it, or any of the particulars–but I remember being very impressed with her intelligence and wit. I made a point of making note of her name and the title of her debut novel so that I could read it when it was released. It was finally released earlier this year, and while it took me a lot longer to read it than it should have, this was through no fault of the author; but more a result of COVID brain on my part and my scattered focus.

The book is about a transwoman named Erin McCabe, who is an attorney in New Jersey. Erin has transitioned and has been living as a woman for the last two or three years. The transition wasn’t easy–they never are, really–and she lost her relationship with her brother and her father; she also lost her marriage to a woman she deeply loved. Her law partner is okay with the transition, but constantly is making mistakes using improper language, which she constantly is having to correct; her patience with almost everyone who is uncomfortable with who she is or simply doesn’t understand–and it happens a lot–is done so indelibly well that the reader begins to experience just how exhausting it must be to try to navigate the world as a transperson. The rupture of her relationships with members of her family, dealing with the knowledge that her ex-wife has remarried and moved on, and constantly having to deal with being misgendered is rendered so well that you cannot help but empathize, not only with Erin, but with transpeople in general.

But the book is more than just a “experience what it’s like to be trans”novel–it’s also a compelling crime story. Erin is hired to defend a young transwoman of color, thrown out by her family at fifteen, who has been working as a prostitute in Atlantic City. She is picked up by a dangerous john who tries to kill her, and she winds up killing him in self-defense–but who will believe her? Especially since the victim is the son of a prominent and powerful south Jersey politician? The odds are definitely against Erin and her client–and the story is a real page turner.

And if the end isn’t perhaps as satisfying as one would have hoped, it was also based in a sad reality–there often is no justice for young transwomen of color who have to turn tricks to survive.

A terrific debut all in all, I am really looking forward to more work by Ms. Gigl.

Tardy for the Party

Monday after the holiday, and I am sitting at my desk feeling a little discombobulated with this day off.

I managed to finish reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow yesterday (spoiler! enjoyed it!) and started PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus at long last. I am also enjoying PJ’s book–which I was fairly certain I would–and also somehow managed to clock nearly four thousand words in on “Never Kiss a Stranger”. So much for losing momentum, right? Yes, needless to say I was inordinately pleased with yesterday’s display of productivity; as I was thinking the novella would be around twenty thousand words, I am very close to having the first draft finished, which is also kind of exciting. It’s taking me a little longer than “Festival of the Redeemer” to get finished, but I am pretty confident I’ll be able to get it done by the end of this week, if not sooner.

“Never Kiss a Stranger” is very different, both in tone and structure and feel, than “Festival of the Redeemer.” I think what I am really trying to do with these four novellas is to write four vastly different ones, using different voices and different styles, pushing myself to create stories that make me have to stretch my creativity to tell properly. The point of view character in each couldn’t be more different, and of course “Stranger” is set in 1994 New Orleans, while “Redeemer” is set in present day–or at least recent years–Venice. I had already decided that the third novella for this quadriptich is going to be one of my Alabama stories; the question is whether it should be “A Holler Full of Kudzu” or “Fireflies” (I’m leaning towards “Holler,” mainly because it is set in the 1970’s; whatever the final piece will be should be set in the 1980’s, but since I am thinking it will most likely be a Chanse story, “Once a Tiger”….that will also be a present day story.). While I was originally tempted to use both “Kudzu” and “Fireflies,” the truth is both are Alabama stories, and I don’t want two of them in the same work. Of course, I could make them all about 25k to 30k and only use three…decisions, decisions.

That, of course, would make the book a triptich.I don’t now how long these things are going to end up, of course. That’s kind of the thrill with writing novellas–more room and not as limited as a short story, and no pressure to make it longer as there would be to turn them into novels.

The scenes I wrote yesterday were kind of potent, kind of sad–I think I was stalling writing them because those kinds of things are generally emotionally difficult to write, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was tired when I was finished for the day, of course, and retiring to my easy chair to read with a purring sleeping cat in my lap almost put me to sleep…but I managed to stay awake. We watched more of High Seas–only a few episodes left in Season 3, which isn’t nearly as fun as the earlier seasons–and Paul has found an Italian crime drama, Suburra, to watch next. I am a little out of it this morning, too–I had weird dreams last night, and woke up a lot, so am not feeling terribly rested today, and it kind of feels, I don’t know, warm and/or stuffy in the house this morning. Not sure what that’s all about…but I want to get this finished, do some straightening up around here, and I have to make groceries this morning. Then I want to go to the gym, and detour through the Garden District to take pictures of the neighborhood for Instagram before coming home to get cleaned up and write this afternoon. And then of course, tomorrow I have to get up early to go back to the office.

Heavy sigh.

I didn’t get nearly as much done this weekend as I had wanted to–par for the course, and I am not going to beat myself up over it, either; it is what it is–and I’ll try to get more caught up as the week progresses. It’s a short one, after all, and it’s probably going to be miserably hot. MUST FOCUS.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

History Has Its Eyes On You

Ah, Independence Day.

That’s really what the 4th of July commemorates–the day the Continental Congress ratified, and began signing, the Declaration of Independence, when the thirteen British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard threw off the yoke of the King of England and his Parliament and said, nah, thanks–we’re going out on our own. It was extremely radical–particularly since the British Empire was the greatest power in the world since the end of the Seven Years’ War (to the colonials, the French and Indian War) in 1763; perhaps the largest empire to date in world history.

And yet…no rights for women and there was still slavery for another ninety-odd years, give or take.

Someday I will write an essay about American mythology and how I learned it as absolute truth as a child; American history (or rather, US history) was my gateway drug to world history. I should have gone into History as my major in college; it’s entirely possible that History rather than English (or business; I switched back and forth between the two for a very long time) might have garnered an entirely different result when it came to my academic career. But I also would have had to have picked a time to specialize in, and how on earth could I have ever decided? There were so many interesting periods…although inevitably, I tend to think my metiér would have been sixteenth century Europe.

Someday–probably after I retire–I am going to write A Monstrous Regiment of Women.

Yesterday was rather lovely. I actually slept late, of all things; I cannot remember the last time that happened, and thus got a rather late start to my day. I started cleaning up around the house, and organizing things, but again–a late start kind of threw me off my game a bit, and I didn’t get near enough done that I had wanted to get done. I did read a couple of short stories for the Short Story Project, and I also read some more of Robyn Gigl’s wonderful By Way of Sorrow; that was lovely. I also listened to some Bette Midler albums on Spotify (joking on Facebook that I was doing my part to break down gay stereotypes by doing so); in particular I listened to It’s the Girls and Bette Midler, before moving on to Liza with the Cabaret soundtrack, and the little known sequel to Rocky Horror soundtrack, Shock Treatment, and then moved on to the Pet Shop Boys. I made meatballs in the slow cooker for dinner, and then we watched Fear Street 1994 (which was remarkably fun), then a few episodes of High Seas (which is really fun) and a few episodes of Happy Endings before bed.

R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike, who were hugely successful writers of young adult suspense/mystery/horror in the 1990’s, actually had an influence on me as a writer, surprisingly enough. I read most of their novels when I lived in Tampa back in the day (I actually preferred Pike, to be honest), and I actually wrote three novels–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel–for young adults during that time. I had always intended to do the Fear Street thing–where the books were all connected somehow and minor characters in one would become the lead characters in another–and spread them across the country, as opposed to one town, as Stine had done; mine would be scattered between Kansas, California, Chicago, and Alabama (one of those ideas became Dark Tide and another Bury Me in Shadows). Then I discovered, through Paul, gay mysteries and all those ideas went into a drawer, along with those manuscripts, and I started creating Chanse and his world, and what eventually became Murder in the Rue Dauphine.

Fear Street 1994 is a lot of fun, as I said, both a mystery, a slasher film, and horror–the main romantic story is a lesbian love story, which was very cool–and it also slightly involved class differentials between the town of Shadyside (often called Shittyside) and it’s wealthier, preppy neighbor, Sunnyvale. It was a fun homage to Scream as well, and it was clever, witty, and quite a fun ride. I do recommend you watch it, if you like those kinds of movies. Nothing deep, but lots of fun, and now I can’t wait for the next part of the trilogy, which drops this Friday: Fear Street 1978.

I did try writing yesterday, without much luck, logging in less than a thousand words. But rather than despairing, as I am wont to do (Oh no! I knew I was breaking my momentum!), I chose to understand and recognize that the scene I was writing needed to be set up better–which was why it wasn’t working–and it needed more than just the cursory slide over I was giving it. I am going to open the document back up later this morning–probably after getting another load of laundry finished, and emptying the dishwasher–and scroll back a bit to start revising and getting into the story again. There really is such a thing as thinking too much about what you’re writing; that’s when the door to doubt starts to open a crack and Imposter Syndrome starts saying pssst through that open crack in the door.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a happy and safe 4th of July, Constant Reader!

Money Can’t Buy You Class

Saturday and the start of a three day weekend. Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I slept well last night–despite some odd dreams–and even slept later than usual this morning, which was strange. (Never fear, alarm clock Scooter finally woke me up because it was past his feeding time.) I am still a bit groggy this morning, but I am certain my coffee will wake me up and make me lucid eventually. Yesterday was an exciting day of data entry and condom-packing, after which I went to the gym (HUZZAH), and then came home to read Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. I am really enjoying this book, I want to be clear–but Scooter of course climbed into my lap and went to sleep while I was reading, and of course–it being his superpower–I dozed off as well. I do not want to give the impression that I am not enjoying this book, because I really am–but between being tired and all the writing I’ve been doing lately, I just haven’t been able to carve out the time to read like I would like. I do plan on finishing it today, though–as well as writing.

I didn’t write again yesterday, which has all my alarm bells going off (YOU BROKE THE CYCLE NOW YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO WRITE ANYMORE OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU), but I am also aware it’s kind of like going to the gym; once I sit down and start seriously writing again, I’ll get back into it and enjoy myself and next thing you know I will have written multiple thousands of words and all will be right in the world again. Honestly, I am not sure why I go through this kind of thing all the time–whether it’s writing or going to the gym, anything I actually enjoy doing, really; I always have to make myself do it and then find myself enjoying the hell out of it once I do. I am easing myself into working out again after a lengthy break of just over a week–but I realized, as I lifted yesterday, that I don’t have to be so easy on myself after missing a couple of workouts; my body has adjusted to working out again and thus I am not only going to not be sore, it’s not going to be a strain. Yesterday was a return to three sets of everything and guess what? It was easy. Moving up in weights as I intend to do on Monday (the gym is open normal hours on Monday; it’s a holiday for me, and is only open from 9-12 tomorrow, and I can’t see myself getting my act together and to the gym in that narrow window of time tomorrow morning) is what I probably should have done this week, despite the lay off due to the tooth…and so yes, it’s time to start actually pushing myself. I am going to keep adding weight this month every week, with a goal to changing the work out into separate body parts beginning in August, and possibly adding a day or two of cardio in September. I am excited about this–and it’s only a few months later than when I had planned to do so this year already.

I also need to finish a load of laundry this morning and finish the cleaning of the downstairs that is dramatically overdue. I have the entire weekend to get the cleaning done, but step by step and piece by piece is always a greay way to get things started. I also think it’s time to clean the vacuum cleaner filter–I am trying to take care of this one better so it will last longer and continue working longer. I also want to figure out what to do with these boxes under my desk–I have four boxes of folders under my desk (filled, of course) that i want to move out of here. I probably should put them in the attic, but that would mean taking things out of the attic to make room for them, and that would mean going through boxes of books–again, not a bad thing and something that needs to be done, but just thinking about doing it makes me feel tired.

Sigh. And that right there is the classic example of how things never wind up getting done around here.

After I went to the gym yesterday, I detoured on my way home and walked back on the uptown side of Jackson Avenue, which is the Garden District. (Jackson Avenue is the border between my neighborhood, the Lower Garden District, and the enclaves of the wealthy, the actual Garden District.) I took numerous photographs with my phone as I did, posting some of them to Instagram/Facebook, but there are of course any number of others in my phone that I didn’t actually post. Taking these pictures is of a two-fold purpose; one, to have things to post on my social media, and two, to give me the opportunity to look around at the beauty of my city and drink it in, actually making me notice and pay attention to how beautiful this city, particularly the part of it in which I live, is–and by doing so, reconnect with it and appreciate it again. Despite the heat, I am thinking that I need to be doing this more frequently, and expanding into other neighborhoods as well. Oh, I have to pick up the mail? Let me detour on a street in Uptown and take some pictures. The heat and humidity, of course, are always oppressive, but at the same time I need to be out in it and experience that, if I intend to continue writing about New Orleans, noting the weather and thinking of other, new ways to describe how the weather feels here, its peculiarities and how it feels on the skin, on the body, and so forth.

Or, I will let laziness win as I so frequently do.

And on that note, I am going to read an Art Taylor short story while enjoying my coffee, and then get my day actually started. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

I Am What I Am

Wednesday morning and I am I ever glad to be getting closer to a holiday weekend, Constant Reader–you have NO idea. The last two days weren’t easy–while not really having insomnia all night, I did for at least half the night both Sunday and Monday nights–and as such wasn’t able to remain centered as much as I would have liked. I did sleep deeply, restfully and well last night–I think making it to the gym was a huge help in that regard–and I certainly feel much better this morning than I have since the break I’ve had to take because of the tooth extraction. Heavy sigh.

I did, however, manage to write just under three thousand words last night on “Never Kiss a Stranger,” more or less (slightly less, I actually think). While it feels good to be writing so much, and doing so much on first drafts, I am very well aware that all of these things I am working on will require editing and revision before they are fit for human consumption, or to be seen by anyone else outside of me. But I am being productive again in the old way–the way I used to be–and it’s a lovely lovely feeling to be able to produce so much work in a few hours again. “Stranger” is going to need more work than “Festival of the Redeemer,” I believe; it’s out of order and I am bunching things together that need to be spread out more across the story, but that’s what edits and revisions are for. I’m also not breaking my novellas up into separate scenes, or chapters, the way so many writers of novellas do; but that’s a decision for me to make later, during the editorial process.

This, by the way, is why I hate editing myself. Inevitably I will come to a problem section and think, fuck, I don’t want to fix this it’s going to be a huge pain in the ass why did I leave this for my later self to deal with, you asshole?

It’s also why, I think, I’ve not been as productive in the last few years as I used to be; I have a tendency to self-edit as I go and try not to spend any time writing something that I am going to have to fix later, which is stupid–don’t get it right get it written. This inevitably leads me to not wanting to do what always works–start writing and eventually, as I keep quoting Mr. King, the hole in the page will open and the next thing I know I’ve written a lot. And as much of a pain in the ass as it can be to have to fix things, it’s easier to fix things than to write something completely new. Although…maybe that isn’t the case? Since all I have to do is focus and start writing?

Heavy sigh. But I want to get this finished because I want to spend the weekend editing.

Tonight when I get off work I am going to put the dishes away and finish the load of laundry I started last night–it’s been sitting in the dryer since I went to bed last night, and so it will need to be fluffed and folded–and then I am going to try to do some straightening up around the Lost Apartment so it won’t be a complete disaster when I get up tomorrow for the first of my work-at-home days (condom packs and data entry! woo-hoo!). I also have to make a Costco list for this weekend, and I want to finish reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow so I can start PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus…I also want to get back to the Short Story Project; I want to reread some of Daphne du Maurier’s short storie–“Don’t Look Now” in particular, and I also want to start some organizing of this essay collection I am thinking of doing…sigh. This is, you see, why I think I am lazy. I always want to get so much more done than I am actually capable of doing, and as a result when I cannot get it all done I think it’s because I am lazy and took some time off or goofed off for a while, and never can recognize or accept that DOWN TIME IS NECESSARY.

I really need to stop beating myself up over taking down time. It is self-defeating, and leads to other mental health issues, always.

And one of my goals for the year was to be kinder to myself, so I need to stop beating myself up over this kind of stuff and always remember: it is what it is.

It is what it is.

And on that note, back to the spice mines with me!

Million Dollar Bill

STOP THE PRESSES!

I have named the next Scotty book, so now it seems real to me.

Rather than the working sort-of title I had given it, it is now Mississippi River Mischief, rather than Mississippi River Bottom. I still giggle at the latter, but the former actually fits the series alliteration I have always gone for. I will probably work on it this fall, with a goal towards finishing it by the end of the year. We’ll see how that goes, though, won’t we?

And of course, this picture of Joe Jonas doing the splits would have made an amazing cover image for Mississippi River Bottom, wouldn’t it?

Ha! Yes, I always manage to somehow always amuse myself.

I knew when I was talking about sleeping well yesterday I was talking too soon–as I was talking about it, that little voice in my head was saying you’re going to jinx this, and of course, I dismissed it–so of course last night I had insomnia again. My bod relaxed but my brain never turned off–I am chalking this up to two things: not writing as much yesterday as I had wanted to, and I fell asleep in my chair yesterday afternoon. I slept really well Saturday night, and could have slept all morning yesterday had I chosen to, but I wanted to get up and get things done. I did get some things done–I revised the first chapter of Chlorine, like I wanted to, and I also read some more of By Way of Sorrow, which I am really enjoying–but while I was reading I started getting sleepy, and of course Scooter got into my lap and fell asleep. His superpower is putting us to sleep by cuddling, and it worked again yesterday afternoon. I think I went out for nearly two hours…and then of course, I wasn’t tired anymore. So, because of the nap I didn’t get done all I wanted to get done–and then we watched our television shows, I made dinner, and we watched the gymnastics Olympic trials.

And yesterday morning I did some things, too. I found a copy of my old essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet,” which appeared in Love, Bourbon Street, as a first step towards putting together an essay collection. My friend Mike told me that my blog post from the other day about the first openly gay guy I ever knew was a lovely essay, and I should expend it a bit. I mentioned I wanted to do an essay collection, and he was encouraging–he always is, we commiserate about this insane business together all the time–and so I thought I’d look to see if I had an electronic copy of the essay. Considering its length, it would account for a third or a quarter of a collection, and I was definitely not in the mood to retype it from the book, as the case may be. Now I am going to see what else I have on hand–I’ve written a lot of essays over the years, being published here and there, and maybe start getting that all pulled together. There are also several others I’ve started but never finished because–well, because there wasn’t a place to publish them. I also want to start pulling together the material for my next short story collection–what can I say? I am feeling rather ambitious–which would also mean editing some of the unpublished ones I have on hand and maybe writing some more. While all this work I am thinking about is daunting, it’s not overwhelming–which is a positive step in the right direction, I think.

Not to mention having the Scotty title worked out means the book finally feels real to me, which means I will probably begin working on it in earnest.

This week, I want to do the above as well as work some more on “Never Kiss a Stranger,” get the second chapter of Chlorine finished, and of course the edits for Bury Me in Shadows are going to drop at any moment. This coming weekend is a holiday; so I have two work-at-home days before a three day weekend and then another short week next wee, which is always a lovely combination–so there’s no reason I cannot get a lot of this done. I want to finish reading By Way of Sorrow so I can get into PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus…which I am really looking forward to…and we need to find some things to watch this week because we’re all caught up on everything.

I am hoping the holiday weekend will be highly productive.

I also need to do one more pass at #shedeservedit; I’m being lazy about it, which is to be expected, of course–I am always lazy when I think I can get away with it, which is most of the time which then creates anxiety, stress and pressure when I need to buckle down and get caught up–but for now, at least, the plan is to finish “Never Kiss a Stranger” in a first draft this week, spend the rest of July on the first draft of Chlorine, and then spend August revising novellas and the final pass at #shedeservedit; then doing a heavy edit/revise of Chlorine in September before spending the final third of the year writing Mississippi River Mischief. The end goal for the year would be to have, next year, #shedeservedit released in January, and turn in three books–the short story collection, the essay collection, and the new Scotty–at the end of the year so they could possibly be staggered into release throughout the fall.

We’ll see if I can meet those goals, shan’t we?

And now off to the spice mines. Have a happy Monday, everyone.

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

So we had a major thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, complete with street flooding and thunder and lightning and all the fixin’s. This naturally led me to wonder, as the lights flickered at the office and Elysian Fields (the street, not the Greek afterlife) filled with water, whether or not to wait until the advisory was lifted (in theory at 5:45 pm), or head home when my work day was complete? One can never be certain where and when parts of the city are going to flood; and the last thing in the world I need–being this close to having the car paid off–is to risk flooding it out and possibly ruining it.

Sigh. It’s never easy living in New Orleans.

Getting home was a challenge; Claiborne Avenue’s low-lying areas were filled with water, water was pouring down not just from the clouds but from the I-1o high-rise, and I decided to risk going through the CBD, never the best option, but potentially even worse than usual since the Plaza Tower started falling apart and

And now for some blatant self-promotion, The Queer Crime Fiction roundtable I participated in for Crime Reads can be found here. And my brief appearance on Writer Types recommending queer crime writers can be found at this link right here.

Thanks again to Lisa Levy for the roundtable, and to Eric Beetner for inviting me onto his podcast. Both were a lot of fun, frankly, and it’s always fun for me to have the chance to talk about books and writers and make recommendations of books and writers I admire and enjoyed. I really missed that during the pandemic.

We got caught up on Lisey’s Story last night–we were both dismayed to see that it hasn’t all aired yet, and so no new episode until Friday–and then went on to the second chapter of The Underground Railroad, which was equally as disturbing as the first, but in a completely different way; I do remember, reading the novel and thinking, my God, so many different ways white people have found to punish and hurt black bodies and souls throughout our history. The show, being a visual medium, is even more disturbing than the book, because my imagination wasn’t quite strong enough to erase the imagery from my head I had grown accustomed to throughout a lifetime of privilege, that kept elbowing the stark realities Colson Whitehead so poignantly and beautifully wrote about in his book, out of the way; the show does not allow this, and the beautifully way it is filmed so poetically reflects the beauty of Whitehead’s language, even as the subject matter in truly an abomination.

Laura Lippman’s Dream Girl drops today, and so those of you not fortunate enough to get an advance copy can now indulge yourselves in reading a truly marvelous book by a great thinker and a terrific writer. I need to get back to reading; Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow needs to be finished, and on deck I have Bath Haus by PJ Vernon, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala, and several others. So much reading; I really need to focus on getting my reading done and caught up. Now that I’ve finished the novella I can take a look at duMaurier’s “Don’t Look Now” again, as well as her “Ganymede”; I already know, from doing some post-writing research today that there are some major adjustments that need to be made to my novella, and it may wind up being longer than than 20, 430 words it sits at now–not the least of them the days of the week, and so forth. I also have to figure out some way to make the story work a little better, more suspenseful, than it sits right now; but that has a lot to do with figuring out the story as it went. I also want to start pulling together the next short story collection–madness, I know–but I do love when I am basically overwhelmed with projects; so I always have something to be working on if something stalls out or I just don’t want to work on something in particular.

I also took some time and started plotting out another Scotty; yes, I know–I really need to dive into Chlorine again, but I had also decided that I was going to do that in July; it doesn’t hurt to have the Scotty’s various intertwining plots planned and mapped out. I generally don’t do this with Scotty books, primarily because the writing inevitably takes me in much different directions than I had planned, and thus inevitably all the planning turns out to be waste time. Also ironically, despite having any number of possible and potential titles on hand, none of them seems to fit this story–and since I can’t ever really work on anything without a title, and knowing that the title can be eventually changed–I am calling this one, for now, Mississippi River Bottom, which was actually the working title for Jackson Square Jazz. My editor didn’t like Mississippi River Bottom (which I rather thought was a clever play on words) and asked me to change it. I also know that this working title doesn’t really fit the alliteration patterns of the rest of the series, and thus will inevitably have to be changed. Perhaps while I am actually writing it, the title will come to me; stranger things have, indeed, happened before.

Last night’s sleep was terrific–there were strange dreams, of which I’ve been having a plethora of lately; last night was me working at Target for some reason–but I again feel terrific and rested this morning; everything looks wet outside, so I am assuming the rain continued over night. It must not have been terrible or dangerous, as we never got one of those horrible WARNING alerts during the night on our phones. Tonight when I get off work I’ll go uptown and get the mail before heading home and to the gym. The Tuesday night workout is somehow always rushed, with me skipping things–more to do with too many people being there than me being lazy, really; the free weight area is always so crowded I inevitably skip the two exercises I used free weights for–and then it’s back home to watch some television and possibly do some writing. This weekend is going to see weird; I have a broken tooth that needs to be extracted, and I scheduled that for Friday afternoon. That inevitably will mean a strange diet of soft food over the weekend and pain killers; but better that than the dull throb and swollen gums I’ve been dealing with since the molar broke. Ah, the endless saga of Greg and his bad, bad teeth. One thing I definitely envy in other people is good teeth…I also want to get to work on “The Sound of Snow Falling.” I am assuming I’ll be incapacitated this weekend after the tooth extraction, but I am hoping I can at least sit in my easy chair and edit.

And yesterday, the first active roster NFL pro football player to come out came out! Yay, and welcome to the team, as it were. I’m old enough to remember when David Kopay came out in the 1970’s; the first former NFL player to do so.

And on that note–writing ADHD, my bad teeth, NFL player out of the closet–I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely and winning Tuesday, everyone.

Just the Two of Us

So, “Festival of the Redeemer” is now over 10,000 words. Yup, the hole in the page opened and I fell into it (to paraphrase Stephen King’s Paul Sheldon in Misery) and the next thing I knew I’d written over four thousand words. SURPRISE! I certainly was. It’s been a really long time since the days when I used to be able to write over three thousand words at a time; I’d actually begun to think I couldn’t do it anymore, or was incapable. How lovely to know that it is still possible. The question, however, does remain–was that a fluke, or is it a return to my enormous productivity capabilities?

Also, writing about Venice and a deteriorating relationship that is going to turn very dark is a lot of fun, I have to say. Venice is considered, after all, one of the world’s most romantic cities–and setting this kind of story there is so much fun. It’s also very fun to not care how likable the main character is.

And I am enjoying writing, which is really the best part. I am not worrying about how long it is, or whether it needs to be edited down or if I have left parts out or if I am just blurting out too much or if I am just vomiting garbage up on the page. The most important thing here is that I am having a great time writing this, and I am having a great time writing, just in general. Maybe my batteries have been recharged or something, but I feel like I bursting with ideas and simply–as always–don’t have the time to write everything that I want to write. I need to take some time to sit down and sketch out what I am going to do for the next Scotty, and once I get this novella finished I am going back to Chlorine.

Plus…it’s really fun to revisit Venice. I have always been sorry we weren’t able to spend more than twenty-four hours there; I loved it there. I loved Italy and hope to return someday; Florence and Tuscany….sigh, Italy. I also reread what I have already written–all 10,167 words of it last night, and for a first draft, it’s not bad. Sure, there’s some clean-up and tightening necessary, but it’s really going the way I want it to go and the tone is right and the character’s voice is perfect…I am actually pleased with something I am writing!

*waits for earthquake or lightning strike*

Last night I stayed up past my bedtime (yay for being old and having to get up early!) to do a mystery panel for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by Michael Nava (one of my heroes) and including Cheryl Head, Dharma Kelleher, and PJ Vernon–writers whom you should all be reading–and it was really fun and interesting. I love talking about writing and books with fellow queer writers, and I always learn something from listening to other writers. It’s always nerve-wracking for me–that social anxiety thing–but after my contribution to a technical glitch (I really cannot be trusted with computers or technology), I was able to relax somewhat. It was also fun because yesterday was the launch day for PJ’s second book, which was also his first book to center queer characters. (My copy of Bath Haus arrived yesterday; great cover and great opening–I peaked–and I think I am going to bump it up on my TBR list to follow Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. But I also somehow managed to have a terrific night’s sleep–deep and wonderfully restful, AND NO DREAMS (that I can remember, at any rate), so this morning I am rested and awake an ready to go. It’s also my last day of the week to go into the office, so I don’t have to get up quite so early tomorrow–and all of our shows’ next seasons are dropping, it seems, this month and next (Elite season 4 drops on Netflix on Friday night, HUZZAH!).

I am also looking forward to the gym tonight after work; the book I requested from the library (Sarah Schulman’s ACT UP in New York history, Let the Record Show) is in; and while there is the chance of a tropical depression coming through New Orleans this weekend, I am looking forward to just being able to chill out, relax, clean, and get some writing/reading/working out accomplished.

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