Baton Rouge Bingo

Ah, Scotty–the series that will never die.

It never ceases to amaze me the way this series has been embraced by readers, or that twenty years after turning in the first one here I am writing the ninth (or it is the eighth?) volume. It just goes to show that trying to come up with a plan for your writing career (at least in my case) is a fool’s game. Revisiting my work the way I have been recently–in part because I am writing another book in this seemingly endless series–has also reminded me of plans that have gone awry over the years; things I was trying to do with my writing and the series and the stand-alones that somehow got lost in the shuffle of trying to make a living while trying to be a writer at the same time as well as balance volunteer work, editing, and my relationship and my responsibilities around the house; and sometimes wondering if maybe I shouldn’t revisit and/or revive those plans. I’d like to get a lot of projects I’ve been thinking about for years or have in some sort of progress finished at long last before I come up with anything new–the problem, of course, being that there’s always something new poking its way out from the deep dark corners and recesses of my creative mind.

I famously said on a panel at Saints and Sinners, when asked about the potentiality of another book in the Scotty series, that if I could “think of a way to include Mike the Tiger from LSU along with Huey Long and his deduct box, I would” and of course, a few days later it struck me across the face like a bitch slap from Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce, and so I started making notes as the story started forming in my head.

I’d been wanting to write about Huey Long ever since I’d read the T. Harry Williams oral biography, Huey Long, which won every award on the planet back in the early 1950’s when it was originally published. I’d been trying to sort out fact from fiction when it came to Long for quite some time by the time someone recommended the Williams volume to me; I was very interested to find out what the actual truth about Long was, separated out from all the noise. I knew about the Kingfish from my US History text book, which devoted an entire paragraph to the “most dangerous politician in American history, the demagogue from Louisiana” without getting into much depth about his rise, what he did, and why he was so reviled.

The GPS in our brand new Explorer announced that it was about ninety miles to Baton Rouge from New Orleans when Frank punched in the coordinates into it before pulling away from the curb at the airport.

I stifled a laugh. It might only be ninety miles, but to a New Orleanian it’s like being sucked into a wormhole and winding up in another dimension.

Of course, New Orleanians are horrible snobs about the city’s suburbs, always making snarky jokes about needing shots and a passport to head over to the West Bank or out to Metairie, so it should be no surprise that we also look down our noses at the rest of Louisiana. We act like there’s no intelligent life outside of Orleans Parish; nowhere decent to eat, no art or culture to speak of, and certainly no one we’d want to associate with could possibly live out there. It’s not true, of course—but we like to pretend it is.

As my Louisiana History teacher at Jesuit High School once sniffed contemptuously, “President Jefferson offered Napoleon $10 million dollars for New Orleans, and for an extra five million he threw in the rest of the continent west of the Mississippi.”

Needless to say, this snobbish disdain for the rest of Louisiana was hardly endearing—which quite frequently means New Orleans gets screwed over by the state legislature.

So, when Frank first mentioned this trip to Baton Rouge, I reacted the way any true New Orleanian would. I scrunched up my face like I’d smelled something really awful and said, “Ew. Do we have to?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, we do, and we need to buy a new car.”

This was even more horrifying to me than going to Baton Rouge, to be honest. I hate to drive—I always have. I don’t even like riding in cars. Given the way people drive in New Orleans, it’s understandable. Most drivers in New Orleans don’t use their signals, ignore street signs and traffic laws if inconvenient, and no one here knows how to make a left turn properly at an intersection. It always amazes me that there aren’t more traffic fatalities.

As I had mentioned in my entry on Who Dat Whodunnit, I had always liked LSU; how can you not love a team that actually has a LIVE TIGER mascot? But of course I was always Auburn first then Alabama; LSU was my third favorite SEC team, and after we moved here it kept creeping closer and closer until I only rooted against LSU when they were playing Auburn, which then became I’m happy whoever wins but after Katrina? I went all in on LSU. Paul and I went to our first game in 2010, the Mississippi game, and it was incredibly exciting and I became an even bigger fan; there literally is nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley, and remember–I’d gone to plenty of college games in my life before that experience, and I thought the Auburn-Florida game in 1993 was the biggest and most exciting game day experience I’d ever had…

…and then I went to an LSU rivalry game at night in Tiger Stadium, and no, there’s absolutely nothing like that experience, anywhere, any time. And I love Mike the Tiger. (every time I go to a game I stop by the habitat to see if he’s out in the yard so I can say hello; he’s such a beautiful animal.) Constant Reader is undoubtedly very tired of listen to me about my LSU fandom and how much I love going to games in Tiger Stadium, but there probably wouldn’t be LSU football as we know it if not for Huey Long. Huey Long turned LSU from a small-enrollment C level state university into what is today, or at least got it started. He’s the reason the stadium is shaped the way it is (he wanted to expand the stadium but there was no money in the budget for it–but there was money to build a new dorm…so he built the dormitory into the stadium. The stadium only stopped being a functioning dorm in the 1980’s or 90’s I believe, and I think there’s a plan to refurbish and reopen the dorm…so yes, Tiger Stadium is the only football stadium in the world that can also serve as a dorm…and the football stadium was used as a staging center for the evacuation of New Orleans after the Katrina flood), and he encouraged the students to raise the money to get a live tiger mascot.

When I was puzzling over how to work all of these elements into a modern-day crime novel, there was a bomb threat on the LSU campus which resulted in an evacuation of the campus. The administration made sure Mike the Tiger was secured and evacuated safely before the general evacuation call, and of course, the students who think football is over-emphasized and prioritized over the university’s primary role as an institute of higher learning (they aren’t wrong, for the record) were furious and outraged that the tiger was giving a priority over the students. I don’t blame them in the least for those horrible optics, but I also understood where Admin was coming from; it was all a part of their safety strategy, and I am sorry, when you have a live tiger habitat on your campus, you kind of have to take that into consideration. Would you want to try to evacuate a tiger during the chaos of a general campus evacuation? How many things could go wrong in that situation? (And the question of whether there should be a live tiger habitat on a college campus is certainly one that should be discussed–traditions aren’t always a good thing–but not in the midst of a chaotic situation and a threat to campus safety. And as I understand it, his team of vets and veterinary students moved very quickly and it resulted in perhaps a fifteen minute delay in the general evacuation call? And leaving him on an abandoned campus was just not an option. So I decided to start my book with Scotty and Frank heading to Baton Rouge, getting caught in the evacuation panic traffic, while Mom is currently being arrested for slapping the state Attorney General. Mike gets kidnapped during the evacuation by a rabid animal rights’ movement, and the leader of the group turns out to not only be from New Orleans but also connected to Huey Long–her grandfather worked for him, and was killed in a car accident shortly after Huey was assassinated.

And at the root of everything is the deduct box. the big strongbox of cash Huey always kept on hand to pay for “unexpected expenses” no one wanted a record of–and I even brought back a villain from the past. I also introduced a new character to the family dynamic: Taylor Rutledge, Frank’s nephew from Corinth County, Alabama (see? all of my books are connected), disowned by his religious rural Southern parents after he came out to them and comes to New Orleans to live with them (I had an eye to spinning Taylor off into his own y/a crime series, but it hasn’t happened yet).

And this book has, perhaps, one of my favorite scenes ever in a Scotty book–when he realizes the bad guys have set he and Taylor adrift at sea…and Mike the Tiger is also on the boat with them (hat tip to Life of Pi).

And having now introduced a new character to the family dynamic, I could hardly call it quits on the series after that–so I knew there was going to be yet another.

Because Scotty will never. ever go away.

I Am…I Said

Monday morning and I am working at home today; hurray! Data entry to be done, emails to check and answer, amongst various other things that must be done today. Later on, I am going to go over my manuscript one more time to make sure I caught everything and made every change that needed to be made, and then sending it off to my editor. Whew. I spent most of the weekend working on it, and I am pretty pleased with the work I’ve done. Is any of that work any good? Remains to be seen, but I think I managed to do what was asked of me. At least, I hope so.

I slept really well last night–I am definitely on a “good sleep” roll now–and actually woke up before six this morning, but stayed in bed until seven. I feel rested–this entire past week, once I got over the exhaustion from the trip, has been a miracle of feeling rested and good sleep–which is a lovely change from the norm around here. We watched the latest episode of Gaslit last night–I am not sure what the point of all the “Liddy being insane in prison” was about other than just filler; but the tragedy of Martha Mitchell is hard to watch play out fictionally, since I watched it play out in real life. I was an early teen at the time of Watergate; I turned thirteen in 1974, and even though I was apolitical at the time and paid very little attention to politics, just going along with what my parents believed until I got a little bit older and started paying more attention, Watergate was ubiquitous; it was everywhere. The hearings aired on every network every day, preempting everything I usually watched when I was home from school on vacation; it was on the news, in the was in the newspapers, Mad and Cracked magazines talked about it endlessly…I can only imagine how viral Watergate would be in today’s world, but on the other hand, it would have been a lot uglier in this current political climate.

And whatever else can be said about Nixon, when it was obvious how bad it was going to get for him, he did what was best for the country and stepped down–even if it was really what was best for him.

We also watched another episode of Merlí, but while it was very well done, it’s beginning to drag a little bit. The cast is very appealing, but there’s really no melodrama (or much of it, anyway); it’s really about a bunch of college kids learning about themselves and learning about the world, and there’s not even a lot of relationship drama. We’ll probably finish it off–they are all appealing, after all–but it’s not a must-watch must-finish kind of thing for us. We also started watching the new season of The Boys last night, which is interesting–I am really waiting for the arrival of Jensen Ackles, whose character has been teased since almost the opening of the season–and so we’ll probably stick with that. We also watched the first episode of Obi-wan Kenobi, which was better than I would have thought, and we’ll definitely go on watching that. I’m really in the mood for a good crime show, to be honest, and will probably go digging around on Acorn and Britbox to find something.

I was too burned out from the book yesterday to read anything last night, so The Mother Next Door continues to rest on my side table next to my easy chair. Maybe tonight, maybe tonight.

The kitchen is also in a bit of a mess this morning. I still have things that need to be filed and things that need to be put away–there’s also stuff in the refrigerator that needs to be tossed–but that’s cool. I can take care of that when my eyes get bleary from entering data and I need to take a break away from the computer. And my eyes will definitely get bleary; they always do when I’m doing this kind of work, which is why I am glad I don’t have to do it every day.

I also have to start preparing for my class this Saturday. I do have my notes I was going to use for the Saints and Sinners workshop (that I wound up not bringing with me when I went to the Monteleone to teach it, so had to wing it) but this is also going to be slightly longer than the S&S workshop, so I need to be better prepared, and I definitely don’t want to try to wing it at nine thirty in the morning. So, that’s the next big thing when I get this manuscript sent off later today. As I was also saying the other day, I am thinking it might be smart to go ahead and try to write a first draft of Mississippi River Mischief before trying to do anything else, so it can sit for awhile before I get back to it with fresh eyes–it really does help to divorce yourself from the work for a period of time. I think that really worked well with Royal Street Reveillon, and it’s probably the best and smartest way for me to get going on this new Scotty. I also am thinking I should go back and reread the entire series–not thoroughly, just a skimming–so I can get a handle on his voice again, maybe figure out some things, find some things from his past that might need to be circled around back to again. I’m thinking maybe a villain from the past might need to come back into his life at this time again…and of course, there’s the personal story that was left hanging at the end of RSR…I really need to stop doing that, don’t I?

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

Trapped By A Thing Called Love

Yesterday wound up being a complete waste.

I had such high hopes yesterday morning as I swilled coffee and planned my day out. But after I finished the chores I had left to do (not many) I was exhausted, completely exhausted. I had no energy at all, I was physically tired, mentally fatigued and emotionally drained; I felt much like my batteries were almost dead. I don’t know, maybe I am getting to the point where these lengthy all-in-one-day drives a mere two days apart are no longer feasible for me. Hopefully, yesterday’s lack of anything productive (I did finish reading The Borgias, though, and I did do some research on-line with the iPad in my easy chair) enabled my batteries to recharge and I’ll be able to get through the rest of this week, playing catch-up every day.

I do feel more rested this morning–my legs don’t feel tired the way they did yesterday morning–and I think I slept much better last night than I did the night before, which is a good sign. I have to go to WWL this morning to tape a segment of Great Day Louisiana–which is weird, as I’ve never really done many television appearances before (I did a spot to promote Saints and Sinners a long time ago, and of course, I did a news spot after Paul was attacked, which was a weird experience)–and then I am going into the office, with errands to run on my way home (note to self: do not forget to make a grocery list) and then my life is back to (what passes for) normal again. I also have to assess where I am at with everything I am working on and need to dive back into everything. The trip was necessary, and I am not sorry I went in the least, but I really couldn’t afford to lose the time working. Ah, well, when am I not behind on everything and dashing about trying to keep all the plates spinning?

But right now I am just focusing on the fact that I am not exhausted and feel much better than I did yesterday–at one point I was just so exhausted I felt sick–but that’s okay. I guess when I make these trips henceforth that I shall always have to remind myself that I need a recovery day–which is the case when I fly anywhere also–and I just have to accept that as a part of getting older and having to adapt to that. I hope to start getting back to the gym now–I’d hoped to go yesterday, but there was no way I could walk there, let alone do any weightlifting and then walking back home–and would like to focus on getting into better physical condition by Bouchercon.

I did finish listening to Carol Goodman’s marvelous The Night Villa yesterday morning while I did dishes and folded clothes and did some general clean-up around here–more on that later; Goodman is a marvelous writer and I am very excited to start digging into her backlist; I have several more of her novels in the TBR pile–and so I am now ready to pluck something new to read from the stack, although I am leaning towards Tara Laskowski’s The Mother Next Door, which I am in “competition” against for an Anthony. (I don’t think I’ll win either award I am nominated for, but it is so lovely to have the nominations, really. Anything more than that is too much to hope for, really.) Ah, this coffee is quite good this morning, which is delightful.

And on that note, I am going to finish this and head into the spice mines and start figuring out what I need to get done and where I am at with everything before I head to the television studio. (That sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?) Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

We’re supposed to get hurricane strength wind tomorrow and potential tornadoes. Southeastern Louisiana won’t be getting the worst of this storm–that will be further north, but New Orleans and Baton Rouge will still get some shit flung at us. Hurray. The high today is going to be eighty-one; it’s currently sixty-six degrees. I guess it’s sweatshirt under a T-shirt weather for the office again? Most likely.

Paul returned home yesterday morning, and again, it never ceases to amaze me how different it is when he’s home as opposed to when he’s not; it’s not like he’s this enormous person or anything, but the apartment always feels empty and quiet when he’s not home. Scooter, of course, was absolutely delighted to have both daddies home last night, going back and forth between my lap and Paul on the couch–and he was also a lot more quiet than he’s been in quite some time. Of course, Paul’s been missing a lot over the last few months anyway; me only seeing him when he got home and I woke up, groggily, for a moment before going back to sleep and then seeing him sleeping while I dressed for work the next morning. I regret not being able to spend more time down in the Quarter at Saints and Sinners; maybe next year I can plan my life events better so it won’t be a problem for me to spend time seeing people and going to panels. It is a pain in the ass to get down there and come back home every day, of course, but for fuck’s sake–these are my people: queer writers. And the opportunities to see them are rare and we are all getting older and yes, I definitely need to plan better for next year.

I did finish reading Alex Segura’s Secret Identity last evening, and it’s quite wonderful. I enjoyed and savored every page. There will be more to come on that score later. I think now I am going to move on next to Chris Holm’s Child Zero. I also got some older books yesterday in the mail that I ordered on eBay; The Lute Player and The Claw by Norah Lofts (an unjustly forgotten writer of the mid-twentieth century) and one of those Literature Classics leather bound editions of Daphne du Maurier’s Echoes from the Macabre, which is probably my all-time favorite short story collection. It’s a lovely edition in pristine condition, and I am very happy to have a very good copy of it on my bookshelves. The Lute Player is Lofts’ novel about Richard the Lion-hearted, his sad queen Berengaria, and Blondel the minstrel–and was also the first time I realized (when I read it as a freshman in high school) that the great Richard, hero of legend and fiction, was actually….for wont of a better term, not into the ladies so much. I’ve always wanted, since then, to write my own story of Blondel–but then Gore Vidal beat me to it with his A Search for the King, which I read and enjoyed twenty or so years ago. I don’t remember anything about it other than that I enjoyed it; I do like Vidal, and the older I get the more I appreciate his work. I just got a wild hair and thought it would be fun to revisit The Lute Player, and The Claw is her attempt at writing a novel about a serial rapist; heady stuff for 1981. (I’d never read it, but it sounded interesting. I also enjoyed her collection of ghost stories that I read a few years ago; Lofts is terribly underrated and underappreciated as a novelist.)

I do feel a bit disoriented this morning; like I’ve not been into the office in weeks. Literary event over the weekend, sandwiched around work at home hours, undoubtedly has something to do with that. I don’t feel like I know what I am doing or what I need to get done. I do need to make a new to-do list; when I checked the list yesterday morning I had done a terrific job of getting things crossed off (the things I hadn’t crossed off had to do with writing, natch).

I was also thinking last night, after finishing Alex’ superb novel, that I need to figure out my writing schedule for the rest of the year. I had originally planned to try to get a working first draft of Chlorine finished in April, and then get a working first draft of Mississippi River Mischief done in May, then alternate revisions for the rest of the summer while also writing short stories and finishing novellas. I don’t know if that is going to work; I do have a story to write already for April (and haven’t really gotten far into the physical writing of it; I already know how the story is going to work–it’s mapped out in my head) so that’s why I was thinking April–since it also includes trips to Albuquerque and New York–might be better to do short stories and novellas while pushing everything back a month.

Decisions, decisions.

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

Oh Be My Love

Sunday morning and oh so much to do. I slept in this morning until eight thirty (oh dear! The vapors!), and feel a bit groggy but also rested and well, which is lovely. I think the panel yesterday went well–one never knows for sure, does one?–but I think the panelists were smart and entertaining and fun and informative; I certainly enjoyed listening to their answers to my borderline puerile questions. I also didn’t stick close to the topic–I never do, another reason I am a shitty moderator–but the most important thing is to stay out of the way of the panelists as they talk about their writing. Whether I succeeded or not remains to be seen; moderating isn’t my strength by any means, I loathe doing it, and it’s also not something I enjoy doing, for that matter.

Then again, that might just be more evidence of Imposter Syndrome. Who knows?

I also woke up to a cover reveal for the Magic is Murder anthology! Edited by the wonderful Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, this lovely anthology includes my story “The Snow Globe,” which is another example of Gregalicious never letting a story idea die. This story began life as a Halloween story (original opening line: Satan had a great six-pack), was converted to a Christmas story (opening line: Santa had a great six-pack–only had to move the n!) and finally found a home. Thanks to the Terrific Trio for all their help with my story, and I am, as always, excited to see another short story of mine in print. Huzzah!

I need to add a caveat to my earlier “well-rested” sentence: my legs and hip joints ache from walking to the Monteleone and back two days in a row. My legs feel terribly tired, and my hip joints are very achy this morning–as evidenced just not when I got up to make another cup of coffee. I am sure it has something to do with the new shoes and needing new shoe inserts; it usually does–but it’s still rather annoying at the same time. I guess I am grateful it’s not my knees or ankles, but nevertheless, pretty aggravating. I have a lot to do today–I’ve already made a list of what needs to be done today–and I am probably going to spare some more wake-up time to reading Alex Segura’s marvelous Secret Identity. I spent some time with it yesterday while taking breaks from everything I need to scratch off my to-do list, and I am really enjoying it. I am enjoying the feel and vibe of the comic book world and New York in the 1970’s; it would be really fun to see a Mad Men/The Deuce type show developed by Segura set in the comics world of this time. I spent some time last night unwinding over a couple of episodes of Young Justice, which I am also enjoying, and then watched two DC animated movies: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, both of which I deeply enjoyed; the lovely thing about the animated movies is they can actually use the entire cast of DC heroes and aren’t as limited as the television shows or live-action films by casting. I love seeing the DC heroes of my comic fandom days in action–Red Tornado, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, etc.–turning up in the animation; I’ve missed them as the movies focus on the bigger names and the television shows are also slightly limited by casting as well–they aren’t using first tier, like the movies, but what I would call Tier 1A. (Although I will gladly argue that the CW’s Superman and Lois is the best take on the characters since the Christopher Reeve Superman films.)

I also spent some time watching the World Figure Skating championships, which was delightful. Two American ice dance teams medaled (a rare occurrence), and I think this may be the first time in history that the US has gotten a medal in every discipline? I know we’ve not had a pairs champion since 1979 with Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia, and it’s been a while since we had a pairs medal of any kind. And our future looks bright with two up-and-comers in Men’s.

So, I had probably best gird my loins and venture into today’s spice mines. Paul will be home tomorrow (yay!) and I need to not only get the apartment not only under control, but everything else in my life, and I am feeling better about everything, really. I don’t know why I allow myself to get so wrapped up in despair and overwhelmed by everything I have to do; everyone has things to do and everyone has their own pace, and well, it just is what it is, you know?

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Y’all have a great Sunday, okay?

Give Out, But Don’t Give Up

Saturday morning. I slept really well last night, which was lovely. I was on a big emotional/adrenaline meltdown from teaching a workshop (more like lecturing) about sex writing. There was a nice sized crowd; I don’t think I’ve ever done a Saints and Sinners workshop with that many people there before and so naturally, had a massive case of Imposter Syndrome and then started talking. Nerves took over and I forgot a lot of things I wanted to say but somehow managed to stay on topic. Everyone listened politely and took notes–which was enormously flattering–so I hope I didn’t waste everyone’s time for an hour and fifteen minutes. But everyone was really lovely and kind and nice, some good questions were asked, and I may have snarked about some highly successful authors (cough E. L. James cough), but I think it went well overall. Afterwards, I walked home–it was a lovely sunny warm spring day, chilly in the shade but lovely in the sun–and will probably walk down there and back today for the panel I am moderating. Moderating panels, while also stressful, aren’t as bad as a workshop for me because there are other people there, and once I start asking writers questions about writing and books, well, the conversation tends to take flight from there which is all one can ask for, really.

I was very tired when I got home. I did some chores around here, settled in to input more edits (which I will hopefully finish once I get this done and posted), and then watched the World Championships for figure skating on Peacock, since you can replay broadcasts there. (I already knew the results, checking them on my phone, but it’s still nice to watch even though you know who’s going to win; the Internet destroyed spoiler-free figure skating broadcasts, alas) I then went to bed relatively early, and as I said, slept very well, which was nice. I’m a bit spacy and foggy still this morning, but that probably has more to do with me not eating much yesterday–adrenaline, public speaking, etc. tend to take away my appetite. (I often forget to eat at conferences and festivals, which is always a problem inevitably.) So I need to make sure I eat something this morning before I walk down because who knows if I’ll remember to eat later? I ate something yesterday morning, but when I got home I wasn’t hungry and thus didn’t eat anything the rest of the day…and I think all I had yesterday morning was a bagel with cream cheese.

Hopefully, when I am done with the panel today, I can walk back home and work on that short story (assuming I finish inputting edits this morning) that I need to get written and spend some more time with Alex Segura’s Secret Identity. I’m really enjoying the book, and several others have been added to my TBR pile that I really would like to sink my teeth into–and that’s not even taking into consideration the rest of the massive TBR pile. Heavy heaving sigh. And of course, going to Left Coast in a few weeks in Albuquerque will result in the accumulation of even more books for the TBR pile. Heavy heaving sigh. Maybe I’ll spend some time tomorrow pruning more books out of the apartment.

I also ran into Paul yesterday, and he didn’t seem to be the bundle of stress he usually is; but then again he’s always more relaxed once everything has started. I think he’s going to need about a week’s worth of sleep to recover from everything, but the suite they gave him at the Monteleone this year (usually it’s the Tennesee Williams Suite; this year he got the J. W. Monteleone Suite, which is even better than the usual) is amazing. An enormous living room, an enormous flat screen television, one and a half bathrooms (with a Jacuzzi tub in the full) and an enormous bedroom. It even has an office workspace. It also has a fantastic view of the river (I took some pictures). I kind of regretted not going down there to stay this year after seeing the room, but Scooter has been so lonely and needy with Paul gone that I’m kind of glad I come home so he’s not lonely. I do love my kitty.

So, on that note, I have about another three hours before I have to head down there for my panel, so I am going to sign out of here, get cleaned up, and dive headlong back into the edits. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music

Tuesday morning and ready to start my three days in the office for the week. Or am I?

Hard to say, really.

Yesterday wasn’t a bad day per se; I did my working-at-home stuff, went to the gym, and came home to edit my manuscript–the deeper into it I go, the more I regret turning this mess in as it was, but to be fair, I was fried–and the edits I am making are making the story better, deepening the characters and cleaning up some sloppy-ass writing. I mean, seriously sloppy ass writing. Heavy heaving sigh. But I am actually enjoying editing it, slow as it is going, and at least I am not feeling sleepy tired this morning. I woke up before the alarm, and as always, have about a million miles to go before I can rest.

But that’s fine; better a busy Gregalicious than a bored one with nothing to do.

It’s also hard to believe all the festivals are in just a few weeks–Tennessee Williams and Saints and Sinners; which is why I’ve seen so little of Paul lately. Someone dropped out yesterday and so now I have to fill in teaching a workshop about writing erotica–which of course I’ve done before, but I think this is slightly different:

Friday, March 25

2:30 – 3:45 PM—SAS Master Class

GREG HERREN: WRITING THE EROTIC

Writing about sex is more challenging than it appears. This master class will help writers produce erotic writing grounded in character, setting, and voice, with an eye on how erotica can contribute to, build, and/or resolve story conflict. We’ll explore how the implicit is often more effective than the explicit, and how to make explicit scenes compelling and authentic. With a focus on finding fresh imagery and an original approach, we’ll also look at how humor, bad sex, or even problematic sex lend themselves to a fuller—and more erotic—interaction between two characters. Questions addressed include: How can we make use of the erotic to create more exciting fiction that better reflects the real life and aspects of a character? How can the erotic be the center of a story without being explicitly so? What do we do about hyperbole and how do we grapple with the often hyperbolic feelings around the erotic? How is erotica different from sex writing or porn? And, how can we ultimately make the erotic fit naturally, as an integral part, into the flow of a good story. This workshop will encourage participants to take chances and experiment with building eroticism into their work mindfully and seamlessly, and/or give them the tools for creating a story that is primarily driven by the erotic, but that has a freshness and originality often lacking in the genre.

Hotel Monteleone, Lobby Level, Royal C

Which, of course, means I am going to have to prepare and sound like I know what I am talking about. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written anything explicit, you know–I cannot even remember the last time I put together an anthology of erotica, it’s been at least ten years, minimum, and I also cannot remember the last time I wrote an erotic short story; probably at least not since Promises in Every Star and Other Stories. I used to have a nice sideline in erotica, writing stories and editing anthologies….oh! Wait! I wrote that erotic Todd Gregory novel Games Frat Boys Play, too…I wonder if that was before Promises? I don’t remember. But I think this workshop isn’t necessarily intended to be about writing erotic fiction but rather how to include erotica in your writing and integrate it so it’s not gratuitous….and of course, there’s always the joy of writing about bad sex….or bad writing about sex; always fun (note to self: visit the Twitter account “men writing women”).

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again tomorrow morning.

Homage

Gore Vidal was one of three rather important gay male writers who emerged from the wreckage of World War II (the others being Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote), and I have always enjoyed reading his work–even if it’s not page turning material; I like the way he writes and I like the way he tells his stories.

He wrote six or seven major works of fiction based in American history that tell, in their own way, a more clear-eyed vision of what American history was and how the nation developed; called the Narratives of Empire, they certainly weren’t published in order but rather, I gather, in the order that struck his fancy; he was also busy writing other things and feuding with other writers–notably Capote, Norman Mailer, and William F. Buckley–and he obviously had a flair for the outrageous and controversial; The City and the Pillar, a very frank and daring and sympathetic look at the experiences of one young man navigating the world as a gay man, made him so controversial he was unpublishable for a number of years; he spent the time writing mysteries under the name Edgar Box and writing screenplays. Myra Breckinridge, which undoubtedly does not hold up to modern scrutiny and eyes; the book was clearly intended as satire, examining societal gender constructs and views on sexuality as well as the role of women. I read it for the first time maybe ten years ago, and it struck me as quaint; an artifact of a time certainly less enlightened, but trying to head for the light. (It may be worth a reread.) He also wrote Julian the Apostate, which I greatly enjoyed and read one year beside the pool during Saints & Sinners, back when it was in May and we used to always spend the weekend at the Olivier House on Toulouse Street.

But the Narratives of Empire began with, I think, Washington DC, followed by 1876 and later Burr; he also wrote about the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and the growth of the American empire in Empire, which I have also read and greatly enjoyed. I’ve not read all the titles yet; but reading Lincoln next after Empire made the most sense to me as some of the real-life characters depicted in that book are also in Lincoln, and it’s been a very long time since I read anything about Lincoln.

Elihu B. Washburne opened his gold watch. The spidery hands shows five minutes to six.

“Wait here,” he said to the driver, who said, “How do I know you’re coming back, sir?”

At the best of times Congressman Washburne’s temper was a most unstable affair, and his sudden outbursts of rage–he could roar like a preacher anticipating hell–were much admired in his adopted state of Illinois, where constituents proudly claimed that he was the only militant teetotaller who behaved exactly like a normal person at five minutes to six, say, in the early morning of an icy winter day–of the twenty-third of February, 1861, to be exact.

“Why, you black—!” As the cry in Washburne’s throat began to go to its terrible maximum, caution, the politican’s ever-present angel, cut short the statesman’s breath. A puff of unresonated cold steam filled the space between the congressman and the Negro driver on his high seat.

Heart beating rapidly with unslaked fury, Washburne gave the driver some coins. “You are to stay here until I return, you hear me?”

Growing up with Southern parents and the so-called “Southern heritage”, Lincoln’s place in history was, to say the least, still resented. The lionization of Lincoln after his death was, in some part, made possible by his murder; there’s not telling what the judgment of history would be on him had he lived to serve out his second term. Would we revile Lincoln for the reconstruction policies he would have followed? How different would the face of our present day nation be had he lived? An enormous mythology has sprung up around Lincoln since his death; “Honest Abe the rail-splitter” is a tale told to school children to this day, or how a young girl told him to grow a beard, and so on and so forth. The Civil War has been analyzed and written about endlessly; no one person could ever hope to read and digest all the documentation that exists of the conflict, let alone all the books published centering the war. I was always interested in Lincoln–even as a child I couldn’t wrap my mind around the mentality that people claiming to be “patriotic Americans” reviled Lincoln and glorified the Confederacy; I still am unable to consider such without triggering a massive amount of cognitive dissonance in my brain–and read lots of children’s books about him, but by the time I was an adult I was no longer interested in reading further biographies of the man. I am relatively uninterested in the possibility that he may have had relationships with men; without definitive proof that will always be a theory, and let’s face it, there is more evidence (although nothing conclusive) about his predecessor James Buchanan’s sexuality than there ever will be about Lincoln’s–hence my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision” I wrote for The Faking of the President.

Lincoln’s task was to preserve the Union in the face of its collapse, and that is what he strove to do. Was secession constitutional? Lincoln didn’t think so; the Constitution did not provide for the dissolution of the Union but at the same time it stated that any rights or restrictions not granted to the federal government in the document thereby fell to the individual states. So, does that mean the states held the right to leave the union? Andrew Jackson certainly didn’t think so, since he threatened to send federal troops into South Carolina during the nullification crisis. Part of the reason I actually wanted to read this book at this time was because of the stark reminder that Lincoln’s presidency, and the Civil War, serve as proof that mollifying white supremacy and continually compromising with an angry volatile minority, never ends well. (We are seeing it again now with the old Confederate states allied with their rural midwestern states…and of course as always, the ones threatening insurrection or secession claim to be “true patriots.”

Whatever, Mary.

Lincoln serves to humanize the man, and is also equally frank about Lincoln’s own white supremacist beliefs. Is Vidal’s assertion that Lincoln wanted to take the freed slaves and colonize them into Central America or somewhere back in Africa while reimbursing the slave owners for the loss of “property” accurate? It’s not the first time I’ve heard this (never heard it in school, though) and it seems likely to me. I also liked how Vidal got the panic of what it was like to live in Washington during there war so spot on; we never think about that, or how Maryland was a slave state surrounding the district, or that slavery existed and was legal in the district itself; slaves built the White House and the Capital. We never see into Lincoln’s head or from his point of view in this book–a masterful trick of Vidal’s, who thus leaves Lincoln a mystery to the reader.

It’s a compelling narrative, and it also shows us the point of view throughout of one of the conspirators who were hanged for plotting to kill him–David Suratt–and this jumping around from points of view–either of those who admired Lincoln, hated him, or thought him incompetent–gives a more three-dimensional view of the man we have deified for the last 156 years. He was definitely smart, a master politician, and, as Vidal says in the closing paragraphs of the book–if Washington was the father of our country, Lincoln was the father of our modern country.

Highly recommended.

Angel Dust

Remember angel dust? At some point in my life–70’s, 80’s, 90’s–it became a thing: a dangerous new illegal drug that was addictive and occasionally ended up with those partaking in it dying. You never hear about it anymore–or at least, I don’t–but it was fairly ubiquitous there for a while. I guess crack, and possibly heroin’s comeback, have pushed it out of the public consciousness or the zeitgeist, as it were.

Yesterday was rather lovely. I slept late, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, which felt great, and then I spent some time getting caught up on things that have slid a bit over the last few weeks–always–and then finished rereading #shedeservedit, making notes and so forth. There’s a lot of work left to be done on this before April 1, and I really need to get focused so it will be finished by (extended) deadline–which means focus and not being distracted (easier said than done, of course, as always) and then I actually started working on pruning the books. I filled two boxes of books I will never get the time to either read or reread or write about, and then started condensing the shelves down again…at some point I will also start going through the boxes in the crawlspace over the laundry room–it’s going to be a process, Constant Reader, and one that will not be finished in one little spurt of activity; I see this as a probably year-long project. I also walked to Office Depot to buy another box of file folders and a package of the little notepads I have become addicted to over the past few years (I use them for grocery lists and daily to-do lists)–it was so gorgeous outside, and there was a lot of male eye candy to view on the walk there and the walk back. The bar on the corner is open again, and so are the various eateries along the Avenue. (Sadly, both the BBQ place at the corner of MLK and St. Charles is now closed, probably for good, as is the St. Charles Tavern, which has been there forever and survived Katrina but not a pandemic.) There were people at the streetcar stops, and I have also begun to realize that getting off work at five is probably not going to be ideal now that people are coming back to work and the tourists are coming back as well; heavy heaving sigh. But I will adapt, much as I did when the people started returning after Katrina.

Today of course we lost an hour to Daylight Savings Time–although I guess today is the reverse; the removal of the hour gained when we went into it in the first place. I really despise losing the hour–it throws me off every year and inevitably takes a ay or two to get used to again; but of course the gain of an hour doesn’t really do much other than get me an extra hour of sleep when it happens. But this means it will be light outside when I come home from work and it will stay lighter out for longer–the days are starting to get longer again–but I slept well again last night (lots of trouble getting out of bed this morning, as again it was feeling mighty comfy under my blankets) and my coffee is really hitting the spot. I had to get up, no matter how much I wanted to stay there, because Scooter needed his shot–twelve hours apart, with an hour on either side leeway–and giving it to him at nine this morning means I have to give it at eight this evening so he can get at seven tomorrow morning when I leave for work. See how I work that hour of leeway, and almost fucked it up thanks to daylight savings going away? Timed medication is always an issue for these time changes, really.

We started watching Mr. Mercedes’ third season last night, which is based on the second book of King’s Hodges trilogy, Finders Keepers. While the switching of the story order makes sense for the television production of the show–this was a bridge book connecting the first and third books, which had the same villain, and in the course of this book the events of season 2/book 3 were set in motion. Another change is that the story of the robbery of the great reclusive American author and his murder took place long before the events of the book–several years passed in the book between the robbery and the discovery of the loot from the robbery by a young kid, who grew into a teenager and used the money–and the manuscripts–to provide for his family (another connection is that his father was injured in the Mercedes attack that opened the first book…in the show he’s already in his late teens when the car crash happens and he discovers the suitcase filled with treasure within 24 hours of it happening. This storytelling change to the book also makes sense–the first few chapters, detailing the kid’s story, takes over four or five years to play out on the page; and that is harder to do on a show or film. I’m curious to see how this is all plays out–the second season went off the rails a bit in the final episodes–but since there’s not a supernatural element to this season it may stay safely on the rails this time out.

I also spent some time pruning the books yesterday, and now have five boxes (and a paper grocery bag)filled with them to donate to the library sale; tonight after dark I will load the five boxes of condom packs I’ve made over the last few days into the car, and then tomorrow night after I get home from work I will move the books to the hatch of the car, getting the clutter and mess out of the living room. This is just the beginning of clearing out the house, for the record; Paul is going to also be spending the next few months getting rid of things in the bedroom and the closet. “Clean like we’re moving” is our motto–so, the question isn’t “do I want to keep this?” but rather “would I pack and move this?” And while the piles and stacks of books have been substantially reduced, and the clutter equally, a stranger would probably still look at the living room (or the shelves in the bathroom) and think, wow, they’ve got so many books…that’s a lot of clutter. But I’ve made significant progress, and I am most pleased with what I’ve managed thus far.

I also managed to work on my desk area, significantly reducing the amount of loose paper and other scraps and bits with things scribbled on them, filed stuff away, and over all made things roomier and less cluttered around my desk. I also need to start clearing out and cleaning out kitchen things I never use–like my muffin pans, which I don’t think have been used in years (although now I am thinking cornbread muffins with jalapeños in them would be nice; it’s been a hot minute so maybe I need to hold onto those for a bit longer…it’s also strawberry season so I could make strawberry cupcakes again…NO I HAVE LOST WEIGHT AND I AM NOT GOING TO START BAKING AGAIN) but there’s definitely things that can be thrown away that are inside my cabinets.

I was also creative yesterday, and not just with the final read through of the manuscript. Today I have to go to the gym and I also have to do some brief writing for a website, and after that I think I am going to pull all of the chapters of #shedeservedit into one document, which I will use to make all the corrections and changes I’ve indicated on the pages of the manuscript I worked on; this is antiquated of course–most people simply correct the computer document and edit it, rather than printing it out and doing it by hand–but I have found that when I do it by hand on a hard copy I am more thorough and I catch more, so that is what works for me and what I have to do. This old dog tried the new trick, but it just doesn’t work for him, sorry.

My Saints and Sinners panel, moderating four great women writers (Cheryl Head, Carrie Smith, J. M. Redmann, and Carsen Taite) is today at 3:00 central time on the Tennessee Williams Festival YouTube channel; you can either watch it as it airs (prerecorded) and then it will be permanently available there. Do check it out, if you can; I’d watch but I hate seeing myself and listening to my voice. Always have, quite frankly, and seriously doubt that is going to change now–my spots are too permanently affixed in place for me to try to change them. It’s probably some deep old scar from childhood that would take years of therapy to unpack, and I ain’t got time for that–nor am I particularly interested in spending thousands of dollars to get to the bottom of something that I can live with, frankly.

And on that note, I should get cracking on my Sunday. Have a terrific day, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Age of Consent

I slept late this morning–I didn’t even, as I inevitably do, wake up at five and fall back asleep, instead sleeping until almost eight thirty and then taking another fifteen minutes or so to acclimate myself to the idea of getting up. It wasn’t easy, as my entire body was still relaxed and the bed so accommodating and comfortable, but there was simply no way I could stay in be any longer. I have, as always, too much to do and get one today and as lovely as the thought of staying in bed for another couple of hours may have been, it was simply not to be. But the sleep felt marvelous; I don’t think I’ve slept so deeply in quite some time, to be honest, and while you may not be as fascinated as I am by my sleeping, I did feel it necessary to comment on such a good night’s sleep for a change.

I was talking to a friend recently about Lolita–I can’t remember how or why the subject even came up in the first place–butthat conversation put me in mind about how we as a society have changed when it comes to the sexualization of teenagers by adults. I recently watched a terrible show called A Teacher, about a woman in her twenties who teaches high school and ends up having an affair with one of her students, and how this basically ruins their lives on both sides. There has been a lot of that in Louisiana over the past decade–there were two teachers in Destrehan having affairs with male students, occasionally have three-ways with them a while back–and it seems like these kinds of scandals break down here all the time. Teenaged boys and older women have long been looked at societally as not the same thing as the reverse–inevitably triggering responses from adult men things like I wish I’d had some older woman to teach me a few things and so forth, that whole “boys will be boys” mentality that still pervades the culture and society to some degree. This is something I may write about at some point, because it interests and intrigues me–even if it is a bit of a third rail, a dangerous path to follow with lots of potential pitfalls along the way. Teenagers often confuse hormonal responses as love–the whole conflation of sex and love that usually most grow out of it at some point–and of course, teenage boys are easy to manipulate because of their hormones. I think the primary problem I had with A Teacher was I never understood the woman’s motivations; it never made sense to me that she would be so self-destructive; they tried tacking on some back story after the affair was exposed which involved a difficult relationship with her own father, but it didn’t work for me. I also think back to all of the “coming of age” fiction I read when I was a kid, and how inevitably such romances/relationships were always seen as positive things, or depicted that way; there was always some inexperienced teenaged boy falling for some beautiful older woman who inevitably will take his virginity–going back as far as Tea and Sympathy, where the woman did it to “cure” the boy of suspected homosexuality, through Summer of ’42 (I also read the book of this, which impacted me with its tale of loss and longing, and how thirty years after that summer the now adult man still remembers her with love and longing; it would not be depicted that way now) to Class, which really does not hold up well AT ALL. There was a few of these in the early 1980’s–I remember another one called My Tutor, where a wealthy man hires a beautiful woman to tutor his son, they have sex eventually and then the boy (played by Olivia Newton-John’s then husband, Matt Lattanzi, who was stunningly beautiful) finds out his father not only hired her to tutor him but to seduce him (“make a man out of him” is how it was put, how it was always put)–but for a very long time adult/teenager relationships like this were seen as no big deal, at least in films; but I also think it’s pretty safe to say that this was also true societally as well; a father would tend to be proud of his teenaged son for fucking a teacher, rather than being horrified and pressing charges….I think A Teacher missed a beat there, frankly; by having the main male character being raised by a single mom instead of a single dad or at least both parents (or one being even a step-parent) they miss the chance to really address this aspect of toxic masculinity; naturally a mother would think of her child as being molested, whereas a father….that would have been interesting.

It is something I am considering for a Scotty story; it’s all amorphous up there in my brain right now, but it’s slowly forming.

And of course, if the teenaged son was having an affair with an adult male, the father’s reaction would be vastly different than if the affair was with an adult woman.

Yesterday I watched the film version of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, which wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. The film came across as very cold, and also got off to a very slow start. It was enjoyable for the acting, which was top notch–and one can never go wrong casting Charlotte Rampling–and it was a beautifully done film; a very quiet British style ghost story (I really have been enjoying British ghost stories over the past few years, and now I want to read The Little Stranger, of which I have a copy somewhere), and the film has a very dream-like sense to it that is rather marvelous…but that same sensibility also keeps the viewer at a slight distance, which results in the viewer not getting emotionally invested in the characters or the story. (At least, that’s my takeaway from it.) It also put me in mind of Sarah Waters, who is an enormously talented, award-winning British lesbian writer. I reviewed her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, years ago when I still a reviewer, and was blown away by it completely. At some point since then I stopped reading her–not sure why, and I don’t think it was a conscious choice, to be completely honest; I think she somehow just fell off my radar–but watching this film reminded me of what great writer she is, and perhaps I should go back and read her entire canon, including rereads of the first couple of books–I believe her second novel was Affinity–but…as always, time stands in my way.

I also was thinking of revisiting some Agatha Christie; Catriona McPherson posted on Facebook the other day about a talk she is giving for a public library (I believe in South Carolina?) about Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, which put me in mind of Christie again–sending me own a rabbit hole of memories of her novels–in particular my personal favorite of hers, Endless Night–and how I came to read Agatha Christie in the first place. (I picked up a copy of Witness for the Prosecution off the wire paperback racks at Zayre’s; I knew it had been a movie and I knew who Christie was, but had never read her and was beginning to transition from kids’ mysteries to adults. I also didn’t catch the smaller font words beneath the title reading and other stories; I thought it was a novel and was most startled to discover it wasn’t. So the first adult mysteries I read were Christie short stories, which blew me away. The first actual Christie novel I read was The Clocks–after which I was hooked. Remembering this made me also remember the great mass market paperback publishers of the day: Dell, Pocket Books, and Fawcett Crest. Almost every paperback I read as a teenager was from one of them, and I do remember those publishers very fondly.) I have some Christies here in the Lost Apartment,–I was thinking of rereading either A Caribbean Mystery or Nemesis. I always, for some reason, preferred Miss Marple to Poirot; still do, to this very day. I read the first few paragraphs of Nemesis last night, and was, as always, entranced. So perhaps for this weekend I shall reread Nemesis and some short stories, around working on the book.

Because I absolutely, positively, must work on the book.

And on that note tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and don’t forget there are panel discussions for Saints and Sinners up on the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Youtube channel.