Fingers & Thumbs

Here we are on a Tuesday morning with the time change coming and the weather shifting into big-time fall. Yesterday was simply beautiful outside; the sky that magnificent shade of cerulean I’ve never seen anywhere else (Italy has the most beautiful skies) and you can go for a walk without getting drenched in sweat. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner, with Christmas and New Year’s hot on its tail; and whatever Carnival is going to be is right behind.

Yes, it is that time of year again. HOLIDAYS.

Sigh.

I loved the holidays when I was a kid. Christmas meant presents and a tree and turkey and dressing and decorations and candy and no school for at least two weeks. Thanksgiving didn’t mean presents, but I always always loved that meal (we always had turkey and dressing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and got to eat the leftovers for days after). As I got older the thrill of the holidays slowly began to wane. By the time I moved in with Paul I was almost completely over them. Almost six years with an airline–which meant working on the holidays if they fell on your scheduled day to work; the airport never closes and neither do the airlines–had kind of robbed the joy from them for me; I could only see family sometime around the holidays, depending on open seats on flights, which were scarce, and spending them with friends wasn’t quite the same thing. We stopped putting up Christmas decorations when we got Scooter–Skittle wasn’t an issue; he’d go knock a ball off the tree, lose interest and go away; Scooter saw Christmas tree and decorations and thought amusement park! And since he loves nothing more than chewing plastic–the first time I caught him trying to chew on a string of lights, that was it for the Christmas decorations. And every time I go up into the attic, I see the box of decorations and think, should I throw them away? We don’t use them, and even–God forbid, knock on wood–when the day comes that we no longer have Scooter with us, will we use them again?

Given our history, it’s very unlikely. And while the Lost Apartment isn’t as festive around the holidays as it could be, as we’ve gotten older it’s just not as important to either of us as it once was. Sure, we enjoy buying each other gifts, and sharing them–Paul always wins Christmas, no matter how hard I try to get him something absolutely perfect, he always gets me something that is so incredibly thoughtful I get teary-eyed–and we enjoy the new traditions that we have come up with together.

And really, the true gift of the holiday is spending it together, unplugging from the world, and just enjoying each other’s company.

But it’s after Halloween now, so the Christmas stuff is coming out in the stores, and the music will start playing everywhere (thank God I don’t listen to the radio anymore). The Christmas specials and movies will start airing again, every television series will have a Christmas episode of some kind (thank you, Ted Lasso, for doing it in the summer time), and advertising will have a distinctive green and red flavor to it. I will inevitably start grumping about the serious overkill–and I am also not looking forward to this year’s noxious and untrue revisitation of the right-wing “war on Christmas” narrative.

My latest Scotty book, Royal Street Reveillon, was an actual Christmas book, set in New Orleans during the Christmas season. One part of Christmas I never get tired of is the way New Orleans dresses herself up for the holiday–and seriously, if you are in town and can get a chance to go look at the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, it’s breathtakingly beautiful; which is why I had the book start with Scotty getting Taylor his first sazerac in the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel. I wanted to talk about how beautifully the hotel is decorated, how gorgeous the city is in its Christmas finery, and of course–I got to talk about a particularly New Orleans Christmas tradition–reveillon dinner. It’s funny, because I have tried to write about Christmas before–I do, at heart, love Christmas and everything it is supposed to stand for, even if I get Scrooge-like about the overkill in mid-December–but I’ve never really had much success with writing an actual Christmas story. I tried writing Christmas short stories before, but coming up with something original that is also sweet and about love and kindness is incredibly difficult; it’s like every possible idea has already had every bit of juice squeezed out of it already (how many versions of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life do we really need, anyway?). I wrote three first drafts of Christmas stories–“Silver Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “Reindeer on the Rooftop”–but the first two turned out incredibly sad and depressing and the latter so saccharine sweet it made my teeth ache. I’d always thought of doing a Scotty Christmas book, once I decided to keep the series going past the original three; the original idea of the first trilogy was the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, Carnival–and then I thought I would tie all future Scottys around holidays; when I revived the series with Book 4, Vieux Carré Voodoo, opened on Easter Sunday and the end of Lent–which seemed appropriate since the previous book was set during Carnival (I’d actually forgotten about that). Of course, I moved away from that with Who Dat Whodunnit (which was around the Saints Super Bowl win, but also included a Christmas scene with the other side of Scotty’s family, the Bradleys, now that I think about it) and Baton Rouge Bingo…so maybe actually doing a Halloween Scotty book might be in order (I have mentioned this before, of course) since Jackson Square Jazz was set the week before Halloween.

And thinking of the kind of trouble Scotty could get into over Halloween puts a little smile on my face.

I need to buckle down and get to work on my book. It’s due in January and time is slipping into the future…so on that note, dear Constant Reader, I am going to finish this and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Today’s title is my favorite Christmas song, probably because the kids sing it at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Whatever the reason, it and “Silver Bells” are the two I never tire of hearing, no matter how much I do hear them during the season.

I just think they’re pretty.

It was a glorious weekend of rest and relaxation in the Lost Apartment. I spent yesterday finishing getting caught up on The Mandalorian, doing some writing, and reading Watchmen. I only have one chapter of it left; and of course, we watched the season finale last night. I love the Watchmen series (and the graphic novel), and do have some regrets about waiting so long to read the graphic novel; then again, had I read it before, I wouldn’t have the great pleasure of reading it now, so there’s that. The graphic novel is probably the most extraordinary comic I’ve read since Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and there is no higher praise I can give than that. I can also see the influence this has had on the comics industry overall since it was first published. It’s smart, it’s mature, it’s layered, and the story itself is a cautionary tale on many levels. I also love how excerpts from diaries, newspaper stories, and memoirs are interwoven in to provide even more context to the illustrated pages.

In other words, as a friend said to me on Twitter the other day, “it’s nice when something exceeds the hype” to which I replied, “it deserves all the hype and more; it should get all the hype.”

I also got some work, as I alluded to earlier, finished on the book. I feel better about things–about the book, my career, life in general–than I have in quite some time. I feel as thought Ive turned a corner of some sort–not truly sure what that corner was, or what it means, or even if this feeling is going to last–but I woke up with my alarm this morning and rather than grousing about getting up, I just got up, made my coffee, and started working on getting on top of the day already. The only person who can affect positive change in my life is me, and only me, and therefore it’s time to start being a spectator in my life and hoping for the best…it’s time to start working to make things better. Things can always get better; things can always get worse, but we can at least have some say in how they develop…and a lack of participation in one’s life rarely ever makes it better, if you know what I mean.

I haven’t felt like I could make change in my life for quite some time–and the truth is, there are some things that are immutable; I cannot change my salary at my day job; I cannot stop the aging process; I cannot control how many copies of my books get sold. But I can control my attitude and my approach; I can get motivated and make plans; I can write the best books and stories that I can; I can start actively looking for literary representation. It’s a shame that I allowed the malaise to take over, and take over for so long, frankly; I’ve been depressed for quite some time, and the lack of sleep back then didn’t help. But there was also a medical issue involved and now that’s been resolved; I’m sleeping well and getting rest and am not tired all the time–and really, there’s fewer things worse than feeling tired and knowing you aren’t going to be able to get rest when you need it.

I can’t blame the “not writing” on any of that, of course; I could, but the truth was I also saw no point in writing–the depression speaking again–and yes, while it does feel sometimes like I am beating my head against the wall, and perhaps not getting anywhere with my writing career, the truth is I’ve never written for the money or the fame–if I had, I would have taken my career in a much different direction. But I allow those immutable things over which I have no control–sales, reviews, etc.–to color and affect my motivation to write, and I can’t do that; one should never allow things over which you have no control to defeat you. There may be roadblocks or speed bumps you can’t control, but you certainly shouldn’t stop driving because there’s a roadblock or a speed bump. That’s just silly.

I also don’t take the time to ever sit back and revel in what success I have enjoyed thus far in my career. Over thirty novels, over twenty anthologies, and over fifty short stories thus far is nothing to sneeze at; I may not win regularly, but I’ve been short-listed for a lot of awards over the course of this career. (And it makes me appreciate the times I do win much more than I would if I won every time.)

And I do have readers, for whom I’m eternally grateful. One of my co-workers has been working their way through the Scotty series–I gifted her with a copy of Royal Street Reveillon, in gratitude for her buying all seven of the earlier books–and I’ve also enjoyed answering her questions about the books. It’s very weird when my two worlds cross and intersect–the day job and the writing, which I manage to keep segregated almost completely–but sometimes there’s overlap; like weird moments when a client will rather timidly ask me if I am Greg Herren the writer. It’s always a little strange and it inevitably catches me off-guard; I don’t, I think, handle those weird little moments of being recognized for my other career well, as a general rule.

But I do like being called Greg Herren the writer.

I have to say, the teens have been an overall wretched decade–I am hoping the twenties will roar. It’s weird to think we are coming to yet another decade in just a few weeks; that it will be 2020.

Let’s all shoot for the brass ring in 2020, shall we?

And now, back to the spice mines.

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