Sleeping Angel

I originally started writing Sleeping Angel in 1994.

That seems like such a long time ago, too. I hadn’t met Paul yet, was still working for that wretched airline at the airport, was broke broke broke and often ran out of money long before payday, and any kind of decent life for me seemed impossible. It was the next year I decided to snap out of the constant feeling sorry for myself, and instead of waiting for the world to come knocking on my door to make my dreams come true, that the only person who could make my dreams a reality was me, and that I needed to make the changes necessary to my life if I were going to become a writer for real–like stop dreaming about it and writing now and then, and start taking it seriously and writing all the fucking time, and trying to make it happen–which meant sending things out to try to get them published.

It’s weird how you forget things about books you’ve written until something out of left field reminds you of something. Julie Hennrikus, during our Sisters in Crime podcast interview, asked me about writing young adult fiction, and how I came to do that. The story is very simple, really; after discovering Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine and other young adult authors who wrote young adult novels that were either crime or horror or a cross of the two, I decided to take the book I was writing at the time–Sara–and write it as a young adult novel instead of as one for adults. It really didn’t take a lot, to be honest–I removed the framing device that firmly set the book back in the 1970’s–and turned it into a modern day story about teenagers (which it always was). After I finished Sara, I wrote another called Sorceress–and when I finished it, I began writing Sleeping Angel. I still didn’t have a strong grasp of how writing actually worked (which is kind of embarrassing when I remember how naive and stupid I actually was back then, but what did I know. seriously? Very little.) and so I never rewrote anything; I just printed them (I had bought a very inexpensive word processor that I loved, and wrote on) out and saved the originals. I was about half-way through Sleeping Angel when I discovered there was such a thing as queer crime novels…so I abandoned writing young adult fiction and started thinking more in terms of writing a gay private eye series…which eventually became the Chanse MacLeod series and Murder in the Rue Dauphine.

Flash forward another decade or so, and in the spring of 2005 I attended BEA and the Lambda Awards in New York. I lost twice that year (Best Gay Mystery for Jackson Square Jazz and Best Scifi/Fantasy/Horror for Shadows of the Night) and then on Saturday night I attended a cocktail party for the Publishing Triangle. (It was at this party that I met both Tab Hunter and Joyce Dewitt.) I also met a very nice man who was familiar with my work, and asked me if I had ever considered writing young adult fiction with gay characters and themes? I laughed and replied that I had two completed first drafts and a partial for another in a drawer back home; he then gave me a business card and told me he would love to take a look at them with an eye to publishing. I lost the card years ago, probably in the Katrina aftermath, but he was an editor for Simon and Schuster Teen, which was very exciting. I told him I would revise one and send it to him as soon as I finished Mardi Gras Mambo, which was at that point over a year overdue (I didn’t mention that part). This was exciting for me, as one can imagine; another opportunity gained by simply being in the right place at the right time, which has been the story of my career pretty much every step of its way. Once I finished Mardi Gras Mambo that August, I started revising Sara.

And then came Hurricane Katrina, and everything went insane for a few years, and I abandoned the attempt to rewrite Sara. There was just too much going on, I was displaced and finding it hard to get back into writing, and I just wasn’t in the right place emotionally to revise or rewrite a book. I’ve always regretted that last opportunity.

Flash forward another year or so and I casually mentioned to a friend this missed opportunity. What I didn’t know when I mentioned it (bemoaned it, really; I still regret this lost chance) was that she had been working for another publisher as an acquiring editor for young adult/children’s work. “Would you rewrite one of these for me? I’d love to pitch this to the company.” So….rather than Sara, I went with a rewrite of Sorceress, which had a teenaged girl lead character and I didn’t see any place to add queer content (I’d been adding that to the revision of Sara ) and sent it to her. Alas, before she had the opportunity to pitch it the line she acquired for was closed down and that was the end of that….until a few years later when she decided to start her own small press for juvenile/young adult fiction, and wanted Sorceress. I sent it to her, we signed a contract…and then I realized I needed to let Bold Strokes Books know I was doing this. I emailed them, and they replied, “You know we do young adult?”

Well.

I wrote back and mentioned I had two others collecting dust, and so I contracted both Sara and Sleeping Angel with them. I decided to do Sleeping Angel first–which is odd, as I didn’t even have a completed first draft; I don’t remember why I decided to do this, frankly–and so I started writing and revising.

The really funny thing–just looking at the cover for the book–is that the character name “Eric Matthews” was one I came up with when I was in college; I had an idea for a book set in my fraternity, and came up with three names for characters that were pledge brothers and friends: Eric Matthews, Chris Moore, and Blair Blanchard. I used Eric and Chris for Sleeping Angel (completely forgetting that I had already used those names in Every Frat Boy Wants It a few years earlier), so yes, even though the fraternity books I used were by “Todd Gregory”, I accidentally re-used the character names.

Whoops.

The original intent with my young adult fiction was to connect it all together, the way R. L. Stine did with Fear Street, and sort of how all of Stephen King’s work is as well. The three books I started with–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel–were connected, and were the springboard from which the others would come–or were supposed to come, from. Sara was set in rural Kansas. The main character of Sorceress moved from rural Kansas to a small town in the mountains in California, Woodbridge, which was also where Sleeping Angel was set. The main character of Sara moved to Kansas from the Chicago suburb where the main character of Lake Thirteen was from, and so on. (Likewise, the main character from Dark Tide was also from the same county in Alabama where Bury Me in Shadows took place, and #shedeservedit was set in the town that was the county seat for that rural Kansas area where Sara was set.) I’d consciously forgotten that, but fortunately my subconscious still holds on to things the forefront of my brain doesn’t.

When I originally envisioned Sleeping Angel back in 1993 (or 1994, I don’t remember which), the concept I wanted to explore was something, a concept, that Dean Koontz had used in his book Hideaway–that someone was in a car accident and died, only to be resuscitated by the EMT’s. But when he came back to life, he brought back something with him from the other side that gave him a psychic connection with a serial killer. It was an interesting idea–I wasn’t using the serial killer thing–but I loved the entire concept of someone being brought back with something extra (which, now that I think about it, is also the entire conceit Stephen King built The Dead Zone around). I decided to keep the car accident to open the book in the new version, but the opening I originally wrote had to be tossed. I also came up with an entirely new concept for the book: what if you were in a bad car accident, but there was a dead body in the car who was NOT killed in the accident but had been shot and was already dead when the car crashed? And if the main character has amnesia….who killed the kid in the back seat?

And away we went.

He was driving too fast, and knew he should ease his foot off the gas pedal, bringing the car down to a safer, more manageable speed.

But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“Hang in there, buddy,” he muttered grimly under his breath, taking his eyes off the road for just a moment to glance in the rearview mirror into the backseat. What he saw wasn’t encouraging. Sean’s eyes were closed, and he couldn’t tell if Sean was still breathing.

The blood–there was so much of it, and it was everywhere.

He swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to hold down the panic. He had to stay calm. He couldn’t let the fear take over, he just couldn’t. He had to hold himself together. He had to get to town, to get Sean to the hospital before it was too late–if it wasn’t already too late.

Not a bad beginning, right? Pulls you right into the story.

I don’t remember what–if anything–I was expecting when Sleeping Angel was finally released (it actually wound up coming out before Sorceress, ironically); it had not even been six years since the right-wing homophobes had come for me for daring to accept an invitation to speak to high school students in a Gay-Straight Alliance. And now I’d actually dared to write a book about teenagers, for teenagers. The horror! But the book come out and there wasn’t even the slightest whisper of controversy about the “gay pornographer” writing a y/a book. It got really good reviews for the most part, people really seemed to enjoy it, and it eventually won a gold medal for Outstanding Young Adult Mystery/Horror from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, which I’d never heard of but was kind of a big deal, or so I’m told. The gold medal was nice, too–very pretty (but it’s not the rock from the Shirley Jackson Awards–the smooth polished stone I got for being a finalist may be my favorite thing I ever received as recognition for my writing).

I’m still pretty proud of Sleeping Angel.

Reconsider Me

Well, this morning’s test was positive yet again; apparently with the new variants you can test positive for up to ten days. Yay? Jesus. I woke up feeling pretty good this morning–the fatigue and brain fog weren’t as bad yesterday as they had been on previous days, which I thought was a good sign that maybe this was going to be over very soon. And like I said, while I didn’t exactly spring out of bed this morning with a song on my lips and music in my heart, I felt better on rising then I have since this whole thing started. But if things stay true to form–at least how they’ve been since I first tested positive last Friday–in about an hour I’m going to hit the Wall of Fatigue and Fog. I’m trying not to think about how far behind I am getting on everything. Then again, maybe the worst of it is over and I’m sliding down the other side of Recovery Mountain. Who knows?

I managed to make it through a podcast interview with Julie Hennrikus, executive director of Sisters in Crime, last evening, and I don’t think I made too big of a fool of myself. I’m not sure when it’s going to be available to listen to–I won’t listen to it as I despise the sound of my own voice–but when it is, I will certainly be sharing the link everywhere. It was very kind of Julie and Sisters to have me on, and I always love the opportunity to talk about my favorite subjects–ME and writing and books. I babbled on inanely for quite some time–and I think she very kindly let me ramble on for longer than was scheduled–but as I said, ask me about me and I’ll never shut up.

Which is probably why most people never ask, right?

I started reading Sandra SG Wong’s In the Dark We Forget, and I am already hooked, just a few chapters in. The writing is very strong, and the concept of the story, at least as I understand it thus far, is quite intriguing. I did manage to read about fifty pages or so yesterday before nodding off for nearly two hours–the fatigue was strong yesterday–but the fog was lifting a little and not nearly as bad as it has been. We watched some more episodes of Condor last night, and I have to admit I was having trouble following the story–which is, to be fair, quite convoluted, intricate, and complicated–which might have been the fog. I also managed to get some chores done around here, but seriously I am very happy that my head managed to clear for the interview.

Ah, there’s the fog. No fatigue yet, though. I think I can handle the fog without the fatigue–at least the fog doesn’t make me feel like I need to take a nap every half an hour, which is a definite plus.

And there’s the fatigue. I knew it was too good to be true, and I also just realized–how funny–that I started writing this over an hour ago. So I guess I’m not as back to normal as I had thought when I first woke up, am I? LOL. I do often amuse myself with my lack of self-awareness and my ability for self-delusion. I guess I want to get over this quickly and so am ready to grasp any improvement as a sign that it’s finally past. But today I do feel somewhat better than I have since the first positive test last Friday. While I do feel some fatigue, it’s not as extreme as it has been, and the brain fog isn’t nearly as paralyzing as it was before. I guess the real test will be the ability to focus, won’t it?

I was also informed this morning that the new variants will result in positive test results for up to ten days. I guess I have one of the new variants, because we are on day six of this, and tomorrow will be the first full week of it. But I do think the worst has passed now, and it should be all downhill from here. And again–so lucky; this could have been so much worse, thank God for inoculations and so forth. The fatigue is starting to spread now–it’s almost weird how it starts in one place (usually, it starts with the brain fog) and then works its way through the rest of my body.

Christ, I have so much to do. I hope I can keep my focus together to get all of this stuff finished. I guess I can always just do the old “work on a bit until I am tired and then when I am not tired go back to it” system, which has worked before. I’ve also not ever been sick this long in quite some time, if ever. Ugh, stop whining, already and remember how lucky you are: you didn’t need to be hospitalized, fevers were mild and not long-lasting, no stomach upset of any kind, and best of all, no intubation. It’s been, for me, mostly unpleasant and time-consuming, neither of which are ideal. But also cannot be helped–but that resignation always feels like defeat to me for some reason, and I hate that about myself.

I don’t think I’ll ever live long enough to properly self-examine all of my neuroses, hang-ups, and issues. Probably for the best, and on that note, I’ll bring this to a close. Sorry for all the illness updating; hopefully soon we’ll be back to normal around here, Constant Reader–or whatever passes for it. Have a great Thursday!

Solsbury Hill

Thursday and working at home today. Huzzah!

Yesterday was yet another day when I woke up feeling rested and invigorated. I had thought, oddly enough, that I hadn’t slept particularly well the night before–I woke up several times throughout the night, and the last time was five thirty, so I just kind of laid there in a half-sleep until the alarm went off. But oddly enough, I never hit the wall yesterday afternoon and I was also full of energy and highly functioning and got a lot of stuff taken care of, which was absolutely lovely. I hope to match that productivity today. I only have to work a partial day because I had to stay late the other day, so I am hoping to get some writing and editing done today as well, and make it to the gym once I complete my work-at-home duties. Fingers crossed!

I went to sleep later than I’d planned last night. We finished watching Dopesick, which is an amazing production with exceptional acting and writing, and then I went into a wormhole on Youtube and wound up staying up until midnight. I woke up early this morning–earlier than I’d wanted to, but hey, more time to get things done–and I think I slept relatively well last night. I am awake, after all, and not tired physically or mentally; I call that a win, really. I also finished reading Shucked Apart by Barbara Ross–more on that later–and started reading Guilty as Cinnamon by Leslie Budewitz, who is a favorite writer of mine and one I should read more of–I loved Assault and Pepper, the first in her Seattle Spice Shop series, this is the second.

I’ve also been reflecting a lot on my trip to Boston. I made a mistake the other day when I was talking about visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; I referred to reading about Mrs. Gardner in a book called The Grande Dames by Stephen Buckingham; his name was actually Birmingham. I think I can be forgiven for that error, primarily because Buckingham seems like a more likely last name for an American than Birmingham–and buck instead of birm is a very easy mistake to make, and therefore forgivable, despite my incredibly high standards for getting these facts correct. But I always loved the story of Mrs. Gardner, the ultimate diva and grande dame of Boston, and now that I’ve seen the Italian palazzo she built as a home for herself and her extraordinary art collection…I need to reread Mr. Birmingham’s book again. The museum was spectacular, just spectacular.

The day began with me looking out the window of my room at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square to see it was drizzling a bit outside; and I had to decide: lug my suitcase through the subway, or summon a Lyft, or walk ten blocks to the new train station, Moyhihan Hall? Being a hardy New Orleanian, I decided I’d just walk the ten blocks–my Fitbit would love all the steps–and as long as I could keep my glasses dry, I should be fine. It was just a drizzle, after all. So, I rode the elevator down and walked out the front door and walked over to 8th Avenue and headed downtown. It was, despite the slight drizzle, a lovely walk. I debated stopping for coffee along the way–I’d not had any (and it was actually rather delightful to not be so dependent on caffeine this trip as usual, and perhaps that’s why I had no issues sleeping?), but decided to wait till I got to Moynihan before getting coffee–what were the odds there wouldn’t be at least a Starbucks, if not a Dunkin’ Donuts, inside? I made good time, and was actually enjoying people watching as I made my way down 8th.

So, of course, about a block and a half from my final destination, the sky opened with a deluge worthy of a New Orleans street-flooding strength downpour. By the time I reached the train station I was completely soaked, but was also highly amused by it all. I had a three and a half hour train ride to Boston ahead of me, and I was really looking forward to getting back into the book I was reading–These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall, see the blog entry where I discussed how terrific the book was–and the Amtrak ride from New York to Boston is one of my favorite train trips–Connecticut is so scenic and beautiful, and the train hugs the coast most of the way, with spectacular views of bays and inlets and estuaries and boats and lovely homes. So I got my coffee, wiped off my head and glasses with napkins, and debated battling with my suitcase in the bathroom to get dry clothing–I decided against it eventually–and finally boarded my train and headed for one of my favorite cities that I never get to spend enough time in, Boston (I’ve always had an affinity for the city because I love history, and of course, Boston was pivotal in the American Revolution, and Johnny Tremain is set there, and I love that book). Alas, the scenery was perhaps not as spectacular along the route as it usually is; it rained and was gray and cloudy and overcast the entire way, and whenever I tried to take a picture by aiming my phone at the window, all I got was a gray photo of water beaded up on glass and nothing beyond, which was terribly disappointing. But this lack of ability to take great scenic photos enabled me to focus on the book, which I was absolutely loving (see blog entry from several days ago where I discuss the phenomenal novel at great length). It was raining in Boston when the train pulled into the station, and my wonderful friends were there to pick me up, and we headed for the Gardner Museum.

I could spend days in that museum, seriously. The building itself is breathtakingly beautiful–as are the Sargent portraits of Mrs. Gardner on display–and so much other amazing art: paintings and sculptures and tapestries; the Velazquez painting of Philip IV of Spain that is perhaps the most famous image of that sad Hapsburg king; everywhere you look there is a spectacularly beautiful piece of art. It’s overwhelming, and even more awe-inspiring perhaps than even the Uffizi in Florence–you expect the palaces and collections of European nobility and royalty to be spectacular; and to be sure, Mrs. Gardner’s home and collection pales in comparison to that of the Medici, but she was an American heiress…and even though she was fabulously wealthy, to me even the wealthiest of the robber barons pale in comparison to the sumptuous palazzos of the Renaissance Italians. But it’s still an impressive collection, if not a Medici one, and that’s why I think it’s more impressive. Mrs. Gardner was simply a wealthy woman, not a Renaissance lady or princess or queen. She couldn’t be expected to compete, and yet…the collection is exceptional and extraordinary, as was the woman herself.

And of course, as a crime writer, the robbery–the empty frames that once held Rembrandts brazenly stolen and yet to be recovered still on display–is also fascinating to me, particularly since I love treasure hunts.

I am forever grateful to my friends Stuart and Robbie for taking me there–and I plan to visit again sometime.

Crime Bake, the event put on jointly sponsored by the New England chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, was why I went to Boston in the first place, so Stuart and Robbie dropped me off in Dedham at my hotel (which was where the event was) and I got a lovely night’s sleep–again, a complete shock, but is it a mere coincidence that the coffee I had at the train station was the only cup I had that day?–and I got up early the next morning for the breakfast buffet and to start attending panels. When I said earlier that I’d forgotten how much I love listening to writers speak about writing, and books, and everything to do with being a writer, I was not kidding. I haven’t been to anything like Crime Bake since the Williams Festival in March 2019; I missed that year’s Bouchercon because I developed an inner ear infection and couldn’t fly. It was so inspirational. I listened to writers I admired and writers I wasn’t aware of, and was scribbling notes in my journal the entire day. It was marvelous! And inspiring. I’ve talked on here a lot about feeling disconnected from writing and publishing; part of it was not being around writers and listening to them talk about craft, what inspires them, how they work, how they develop and flesh out their ideas–the joys and heartaches and the Imposter Syndrome–because writing can be a very lonely business (it’s just you, the keyboard and the computer screen much of the time), and it’s nice to connect with others and realize we all go through the same thing, the same frustrations, the same heartaches and aggravations and joys.

Today I have a lot of catching up to do–what else is new?–and I am hoping to get some writing done around my work-at-home duties. Wish me luck, Constant Reader, and have a lovely Thursday!

Blue Savannah

Tuesday morning, with the dark pressed against my windows and the overhead light necessary in order to see; it’s also very chilly this morning and I didn’t want to get out of the bed. I slept extremely well last night–much deeper than Sunday night (without checking the Fitbit to see)–but it was a very deep restful sleep the alarm jarred me out of this morning; the bed and blankets were marvelously comfortable and welcoming, and I deeply resented the alarm going off. I think today will be a better day than yesterday–the sleep alone is a vast improvement over yesterday already–and I also don’t have an event tonight after work. Last night I did an event on diversity via ZOOM for the Chessies chapter of Sisters in Crime; I believe it was for a library in Alexandria, Virginia. These things always cause me stress, and I think with it hanging over me all day yesterday that put me into a stressful mood; like the sword of Damocles was hanging over my head all day. But it was lovely–and informative. Moderated by Cathy Wiley, my co-panelists included the wonderful Sherry Harris, Kristopher Zgorski, and Smita Harish Jain (I hope I spelled that correctly), and it was a very pleasant hour talking about writers and diversity and how to increase diversity in your work.

And yes, sure, it gets old sometimes always being asked to diversity stuff, but it needs to be done. Maybe in my lifetime we’ll reach the point where diversity conversations and panels will be no longer necessary; wouldn’t that be lovely? A lot has changed in our country and society during the course of my many years on this planet; that one would be more than welcome, certainly.

Paul was working last night as I finished the ZOOM panel, and I was literally exhausted. I sat in my easy chair and watched some videos on Youtube. I tried to read for a bit to see if I wasn’t too tired to focus–I was–and wound up going to bed very early. On the way home from work tonight I need to stop and get the mail as well as make groceries; tomorrow is procedure prep day, so I am working at home as my system cleans itself out (such a revolting thought, really) and I can stay close enough to a bathroom so it’s not going to be an issue. That means I can sleep a little later than usual tomorrow (although I need to stay up late that night and get up ridiculously early the morning of the procedure) and relax around the house, making condom packs and doing data entry.

I am also starting to feel like I am caught up a bit, and this is always a dangerous thing. Getting caught up inevitably winds up with me thinking about other things oh now I have plenty of time so it can wait which inevitably leads to me getting behind again. I will never, I think, learn the lesson to stop taking down time until everything is finished so I can do it relatively guilt-free, and when other things need my attention again I don’t have to worry about feeling overwhelmed or buried…however, this is how I’ve been my entire life, and I don’t think sixty is when I am going to effect sincere and successful behavior change.

Stranger things, however, have happened.

And always seem to, for one reason or another.

I did manage to spend some time revising the first chapter of A Streetcar Named Murder, the latest thing I am terribly behind on. I was trying to do this while I waited for the ZOOM panel time; while also moving everything off my kitchen counters and hiding them so no one can see the condition the Lost Apartment is in during the early part of the week. (For the record, my washer and dryer currently have a shit ton of stuff sitting on top of them; I’ll have to do something about that tonight) I am hoping to work on the book some more tonight after work–before or around watching the season (series?) finale of Only Murders in the Building, which we are enjoying tremendously. I’d like to get the first four chapters revised by the weekend, so I can focus on writing the next two or three this weekend. (Note to self: check what time the LSU game is on Saturday; the Saints play Monday night) Ah–the game is at 2:30; so I have the morning to go run errands, go to the gym, and write. That will make for a busy morning, methinks. Maybe if I run the errands on Friday after work I won’t have to go out on Saturday other than the gym?

We’ll see how it all goes.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get ready for work. Check in with you again tomorrow morning, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Tuesday!

Drama!

Monday morning never gives me a warning, you know what I mean?

But that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? Weekends are never quite long enough to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone get in the rest and relaxation necessary to get through another week. I don’t have to go into the office every day this week, because of the procedure on Thursday; I get to work at home on Wednesday my procedure prep day, yet have to get up insanely and ridiculously early for the procedure, so that’s not exactly a win. But I am glad to get this needed and necessary part of getting older out of the way once and for all; and here’s hoping the scope finds nothing untoward inside of me.

Ugh, how…icky that last sentence sounds!

Yesterday LSU announced that Coach Orgeron (Coach O) will be finished at the end of this season. This saddened me–it still does–because I love Coach O and was all about the Coach O train when he stepped in as interim coach after Les Miles was fired in 2016. I thought he deserved a shot at the job, I love that he so perfectly embodies Louisiana Cajun country, and he loves LSU as much as anyone. There have been times I’ve not been pleased with him–just as there were times when I wasn’t pleased with Coach Miles–but the news didn’t make me happy. I wanted him to continue to succeed. He gave us the best season of LSU football in over sixty years, possibly one of the greatest football seasons of all time, and to see him ousted a mere two years later doesn’t make me happy. I know it was necessary–after the shock of the UCLA game, followed by the embarrassing losses to Auburn and Kentucky, it was clear some shake-up was needed, but I don’t know. Maybe give him and his new assistants another season to right the ship? I can see why the big donors and the administration didn’t want to wait–the rest of the SEC West alone is catching up, if not already passing us, and the longer it dragged out the more painful it could become (let’s be honest, Miles should have really been let go after the enormously disappointing 2014 season; but he’d succeeded and there was loyalty there–clearly misplaced, given everything that’s come out recently–but LSU is too big of a brand and a marquee name to allow anyone more than one season of mediocrity. Coach O will always be a beloved legend in Louisiana, and that, while small consolation for what he and his family must be feeling this morning, is more than many coaches get when they are let go.

I started reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock yesterday rather than a Stephen King; I started to reach for The Institute, but pulled back when I realized just how thick the book is. I mean, it took me over six weeks to read a 240 page noir novel; how long would it take for me to get through something that enormous? It was disheartening to turn down a book to read simply because of its length–I used to love long books, and the longer the better; poor James Michener could never get published today, let alone an agent, because I can’t imagine anyone looking at the length of Hawaii and thinking, yeah, can’t wait to get through THIS! But Tremblay is a terrific writer, and soon I was very much sucked into the book. I picked it up to spend a little time with while i was taking a break from my chores and working on a revision of Never Kiss a Stranger–which of course is the last thing I should be working on right now, but it’s in my head and I can’t stop until I get through this revision, which has already made it a lot better than it was in the first draft–and had to force myself to put the book down and get back to revising and cleaning, which inevitably makes me always feel better anyway. It was very strange to break the routine of a Saints game on a Sunday–which made the entire day open with possibility, and of course then made me feel as though the entire day was being wasted because I was unfocused for most of it.

We watched a Polish film last night on Netflix, Operation Hyacinth, based on a true story about a police investigation/crackdown on gay men in the 1980’s, including murders covered up by the police, which was deeply sad and tragic and somewhat hard to watch–also bearing in mind this happened during my lifetime, which is constantly sobering (an issue for writing Never Kiss a Stranger–having to remember how much more homophobic American society was in the 1990’s than it is now; also a sobering thought, and the chilling reminder that there are a lot of people want us to go back even further to the time where homosexuality was considered a mental illness as well as a crime). It was good and thought provoking, and then we got caught up on The Morning Show before turning in for the night so I can get up this early.

Of course I am behind–I didn’t get nearly as caught up as I would have liked to this past weekend, as always–and now am trying to get my to-do list for the week caught up. I have an event tonight for Sisters in Crime for a library–a diversity discussion–which is going to wear me out (I’ll already be tired from my work day) and make it much easier for me to go to bed this evening and fall asleep. I feel relatively well rested this morning; we’ll see how the day goes, shan’t we?

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for work. I didn’t even pack my backpack last night! Tis off to the mines of spice for me now, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Sometimes

Tuesday morning and so far so good. Yesterday was a relatively easy day at the office, really; a lovely way to start off the week, actually. I felt rested for most of the day, and had a relatively easy time getting home as well, which I wasn’t expecting; traffic lights in the Central Business District are still out or blinking, including the one at Poydras, which is the main artery of the district–which makes the drive a bit challenging. There wasn’t much traffic yesterday on my way home, so that intersection where I cross Poydras (Loyola) wasn’t as horrific as it has been in the past.

And tomorrow is payday; I had quite literally forgotten! Paying off the car has changed my life so dramatically for the better, Constant Reader, you have no idea. Before paying off the car, I would have been counting down the days to pay day, wondering how much I’d have left to buy food with, wondering if I would have enough to pay for everything. Not having that kind of extreme financial stress, like I’ve been experiencing for the last four years plus, has been literally absolutely lovely for me. I don’t know how people do it–and then buy another car right on top of paying off the old one, or trading one in before its completely paid for and…yeah, I will never understand the joys of having all that extra debt hanging over my head. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to buy a house or a condo or anything; the thought of being saddled with debt for the rest of my life like that absolutely curdles my blood.

And yes, I am quite aware that I still have to pay for housing anyway, that I am essentially throwing the rent money away every month that I could be “investing” in property, and all the rest of those financial security memes I’ve been told since I was a child. But I am not a fan of debt of any kind, quite frankly. I hate debt, hate it hate it hate it, and my next financial goal is to pay off the rest of the debt I am still carrying, which has become a bit easier since the car has been paid for. I don’t regret buying the car–I still love the car, and will for a long time, no doubt–but I am not sorry the debt is gone.

I didn’t think I slept very well last night–it seemed to take forever for me to fall asleep–and yet I still feel rested this morning. My Fitbit tells me that the majority of my sleep last night was “light” sleep, and I didn’t get the correct percentages of “REM sleep” or “deep sleep”. I imagine what this means is this afternoon I will run out of steam and get tired; that seems to be the case once the caffeine wears off. Ah, caffeine; such a harsh mistress you are.

Today is the official release day for Bury Me in Shadows (or it was yesterday; I’m really not sure how I still have a career, honestly) so there’s one more Blatant Self-Promotion post to come; I’ve been working on it since the weekend, and I hope to get it right and posted today. Tomorrow night I have the launch event at Murder by the Book in Houston (virtual), and I am doing a diversity panel for a library through Sisters in Crime (chessie chapter) this coming Monday. I know, two virtual events in less than a week, who am I? I also realized yesterday I had never posted the BSP post I’d written Sunday morning, so it went up yesterday instead.

I’m really not very good at this blatant self-promotion thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a mental thing; defeating myself before I have a chance to be defeated by the rest of the world. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?

I rewatched Scream 2 last night while I was waiting for Paul to finish working and come downstairs, and rather than switching to something else when he came down about halfway through the movie he was fine with just watching it through to the end–we’re both big Scream fans–and oddly enough, no matter how many times I’ve seen these movies they still work and are enjoyable. Greater horror minds than mine have dissected these films, how meta they are, and so forth to death; nothing I could say could possibly lend anything to the discourse already. But I do enjoy them more than most slasher/horror movies, it seemed fairly appropriate for Halloween, and since I have Peacock, which has all the Halloween movies streaming available, I may spend the rest of the month watching every Halloween movie; there are actually some I’ve not seen. And what better films for the Halloween Horror Film Festival than the Halloween series? (And if I can squeeze in a Scream or two, why not?) I didn’t write very much of anything yesterday and am not terribly happy about that, to be honest. I felt a bit tired when I came home from work yesterday–I stopped to pick up a few things on the way home–and tonight I have to go to the gym, since I can’t tomorrow. I did pull up Never Kiss a Stranger and started revising and re-ordering the story somewhat–beginning with the removal of about 2000 words at the beginning that might not be as necessary as I had originally thought; they can go further back in the manuscript than where they were originally placed, if used at all–so that was something, but I was tired and Scooter really wanted to nap in my lap in the easy chair and it was all so much easier to just give into the tired and relax with a purring kitty in my lap…yeah, it’s a wonder I get anything done around here at all.

And yesterday the current Superman–Jonathon Kent, son of Clark and Lois–came OUT. Superman is gay! * (That sound you just heard was any number of homophobes screaming about their childhoods being ruined.) I didn’t see it yesterday–I just saw the piece in the New York Times shared on Twitter–and will read it later this morning between clients. But this is quite thrilling, and that they timed the announcement for National Coming Out Day? Thank you thank you thank you, DC Comics.

Yesterday I also got a PDF file from an anthology I contributed a reprint story to; I had literally completely forgotten about it (my memory is completely worthless these days) and I never recorded it on my “out for submission” spreadsheet either; so my system completely failed. It happens, of course, and more regularly than I would prefer, to be completely honest. Anyway, it’s a gay erotic vampire anthology from Lethe Press called Blood on His Hands, and the story I gave them to reprint is my old “Bloodletting” story; which was originally written as a sequel story to my novella Blood on the Moon, and eventually became the first chapter of my Todd Gregory novel Need. I’ve not reread any of my vampire stuff over the years, and so last night, while I was trying to figure out to watch before settling on Scream 2 I spent some time revisiting this story. It isn’t bad, actually; I was very pleasantly surprised. (I often am pleasantly surprised to read something old of mine and see that it’s not terrible, or a steaming pile of shit…I really do need to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to writing; even as I started moving bits and pieces of Never Kiss a Stranger around last night I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good” or “this needs to be punched up some”–but “this is good” thoughts far outnumbered “fix this”, which was most pleasing to me. I have another story in another anthology coming out later this year–the story is “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” but I cannot think of the name of the anthology; I think it’s Pink Triangle Rhapsody? It really is a wonder I have a career of any kind in this business….

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow on Pay-the-Bills-Day.

*Well, bisexual anyway, but he has sex with men and that’s more than enough for me. It’s a huge step for DC Comics and super-heroes in general; it’s fucking Superman, not some supporting cast super-hero most people have never heard of who only appears in some team-up books; it’s SUPERMAN!

Love Must Be The Answer

And here we are on Monday again. It was overall a pleasant weekend, really; I love being able to get up without an alarm, whenever I simply decide I’ve had enough of being lazy and lolling about beneath the covers and so forth. I was deeply asleep when the alarm woke up–I was charging the Fitbit, so have on report on how the sleep actually was, but I think it was deep for most of the night. The alarm was definitely invasive and jarring this morning. But I do feel very well rested and awake–even though I do think I could very easily fall right back asleep if I got back into my bed–and that’s a very good sign for a day in which I have a lot of things to get done.

(Incidentally, I did look up what the normal stages of sleep are at night for a good sleep, and I am hitting the percentages properly every night per my Fitbit–who knew you only needed about two hours of DEEP SLEEP and ninety minutes of REM to be and feel perfectly rested the next day, and that those hours of light sleep aren’t, in fact, a bad thing at all? The more you know…)

I went to the gym during the Saints game–it really is much easier on my stress levels and blood pressure to just periodically check in on the score, or to have the game on while I do other things. AND THEY WON! YAY! GEAUX SAINTS! I’m also following Joey Burrow and Cincinnati–I will always be a fan of Joey B–and they lost in overtime, but they don’t seem like the Bengals of old anymore. I think they will be in the Super Bowl within a very few years.

The gym felt marvelous, as it always does once you get past that deeply painful “back-to-the-gym-after-a-break” workout. For the first time in a while yesterday, I noticed in the gym mirrors that my muscles were responding to the working out and were getting pumped up, which was a shock and a pleasant surprise at the same time; as always an extremist, I think my muscles shrink and fade away if I don’t work them out regularly and I forget sometimes that I am actually fairly big in muscle mass…but all I see, of course, is spaghetti arms, drooping moobs, love handles a gang can grasp, and a big belly. I also am enjoying seeing my flexibility slowly coming back from the abyss; I was able to stretch more deeply yesterday than I have in a very long time. Once I get going again and am doing three sets with added weights for several weeks in a row, I am going to add some more exercises and increase the difficulty of the workouts. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, frankly–although I am going to be missing two weeks in November (two trips planned!).

And yes, I am very excited to be traveling again. I am going to New York for MWA business for a few days, then taking the train to Boston for Crime Bake, a joint event sponsored by MWA’s New England chapter and the local Sisters in Crime chapter. I’ll be going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, so that will be quite the lengthy drive to and fro; I believe I will listen to books on tape that I will get from the library; and who better to while a lengthy drive away with than Stephen King? I think I’ll listen to Black House on the way up and Dr. Sleep on the way home. That definitely sounds like a plan, does it not?

I’m also going to have to be very careful and keep an eye on my schedule so my writing schedule doesn’t get fucked up by these trips. Deadline is 1/15 for A Streetcar Named Murder; definitely need to keep my eyes on that prize; I am going to start revising the first four chapters this week and hopefully will get the ball going again on that.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate for Nate the Great from Ted Lasso recently on Twitter, and while I can certainly understand the turn of the audience–what a terrific job they did on this villain origin story–I also kind of understand where Nate is coming from, if that makes sense? Yes, his behavior is shocking, but it’s not unearned and it didn’t come from left field, and kudos of all kinds to the writers for not taking the easy way out with this character. It would have been very easy for Nate, who was so shy and reticent and cowed by being bullied by everyone on the team and his father, to slowly bloom under Ted and Beard’s belief in him, and how the team has not only stopped bullying him but come to accept him as one of them….as I said, that story was easy; all that was left for the icing on the cake was for Nate’s confidence to keep growing and for him to fall in love and so on and so forth; a nice easy audience-pleasing character arc for the poor bullied boy everyone felt sorry for in the beginning. But the underdog we always want to root for isn’t always this nice person being held down by others. Bullying, and being bullied, isn’t really that simple, nor are all the bullied kids lonely and desperate for just a chance, any chance, and once given that chance, blossom into great people and achieve the potential they’ve always had. Being bullied–and I am speaking as someone here who has been bullied, for most of my childhood and some of my early adulthood–has a very toxic effect on the victim. You often wind up hating yourself intensely; after all, they have a reason for bullying you, don’t they? You must deserve what’s happening to you. And when people cut you down and insult you, you always respond in your head, hating them, wishing you had the courage to say something nasty right back to them. You spend your alone time reliving the humiliations and embarrassments, practicing the vicious and nasty things you should have said in response. There’s a lot of anger there, and often, in the narratives we are used to seeing in fiction, that anger never gets resolved; it just magically dissolves away once the bullying ends. I think that the show writers are doing an excellent job of showing how Nate’s character development/arc has run; remember, he has always lashed out angrily when he felt safe enough to do so; and people who are bullied often become bullies themselves; it’s really the only interpersonal interaction they are most familiar with. Nate began coming out of his shell with the encouragement of Ted and Beard and the acceptance from the team; the promotion to coach; and actually being good at soccer. When he began to see Ted and the others no longer applauding him, giving him the attention he believes he has earned and now deserved, that anger that was always there began to curdle within him. The final episode turn didn’t come as a terrible surprise to me; I saw it building all season, really. I applaud them for taking Nate–obviously a fan favorite–and turning him into the antagonist for Season Three.

Although it must be a strange ride for actor Nick Mohammed, who went from being beloved to reviled over the course of twelve episodes.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.

Take Me Home

Tuesday morning and it’s dark out there this morning. I really hated the world this morning when the alarm went off; I’ve gotten rather used to sleeping until past eight these last five mornings. But…at least this week it’s just today and tomorrow; next week it’s only Monday and Tuesday, and I believe it’s only two days a week until after the Labor Day holiday, which will be quite lovely.

And sixty inches ever closer, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I’m really leaning in on turning sixty; in many ways it’s kind of cool to be getting to this landmark birthday. Mostly, it means I’m a survivor, I suppose; somehow I muddled through everything and made it this far–no small feat for a gay man of my generation; we lost quite a few of us back in the day, after all. In some ways, I think, part of my mentality about getting to this age has a lot to do with all the losses; I should celebrate this milestone birthday for all those like me who will never get to, who never made it to thirty or forty or even fifty. Of course, heavy thoughts for this morning, but I’ve been having a lot of heavy thoughts lately.

I didn’t get everything done yesterday that I wanted to get done; partly because I was doing a ZOOM event last night for the Anne Arundel County Library; a Sisters in Crime Chessie Chapter panel on diversity in crime fiction, with Paula Mays, Kristopher Zgorski, Sherry Harris, Cheryl Head, and moderated by Cathy Wiley. It was very fun and interesting–these types of panels always are–but, as always, I was drained and exhausted when we were finished; ZOOM or in person, it doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot as far as that goes…the anxiety over the event built up pretty much all day. I also babbled a lot; I tend to unspool once I start talking, partly because my mouth never can keep up with my head, but I don’t think I was horrible this time–at least, not completely. I did get my errands finished, though, and made a lot more progress on organization–always welcome–and I got those boxes out from under my desk, which was really quite lovely. So….progress was made, if not enough.

Yesterday also brought a bit of pleasant news that caught me completely off-guard; a reviewer tweeted a recommendation that people buy and read Bury Me in Shadows!

This is the tweet:

In what should be a surprise to no one, @scottynola‘s BURY ME IN SHADOWS is *fantastic.* Fans of Southern gothic, pre-order you some twisty, atmospheric goodness! AND included a buy link! How fucking fantastic was that? Pretty fucking fantastic.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how this book will be received, or the one after, #shedeservedit. Both are me taking on social problems through the lens of a crime story and a young gay protagonist; and it is very easy for someone like me–white male–to make a huge mistake and be unintentionally offensive. These concerns go much further than my usual ones, which are inevitably related to my ongoing Imposter Syndrome issues–the last thing I ever want to do is offend people are already marginalized in society (I never care if racist homophobic misogynists are offended by my work; I hope it not only offends them but forces them to take a long hard look at themselves–but they generally aren’t intelligent enough to be self-aware enough to self-reflect in the first place; as Kathy Griffin once said, they are aggressively stupid). I also am always worried (this is part of the Imposter Syndrome, in case you needed to be made aware of the differences) that I am not a good enough writer to tackle difficult subjects, and that I will end up coming across as preachy and ABC After-school Special-like…which is tedious and boring and horrible to read, frankly. (Even as a wet-behind-the-ears callow child I despised being preached to in such a heavy-handed manner.)

Sigh. It really never ends–the self-doubt–at least for me, anyway.

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

Baby I’m Burnin’

Monday and a lovely vacation day, which meant not getting up at six and dragging for the earlier portion of my day. Instead, I stayed in bed until nine again–a streak that’s been going for several days now–and I suspect tomorrow morning’s alarm is going to be an incredibly rude return to reality. But I only have to get up early two days this week, and I only have one work-at-home day on Thursday because I decided to take the splurge and take my birthday off as well. Next week I only have to work two days before the Bouchercon vacation week kicks in, and then I don’t have to return to work until the following Tuesday.

I am rather glad I decided to keep that vacation week, in all honesty.

I am doing an event this evening on Zoom for the Anne Arundel County library; it’s a Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter panel on writing diversity, or diversity in your writing, or something like that. It seems like it will be a great and interesting time–I’ve been wrong before, but I have no worries on that score here–and if you have any interest in watching/listening, you can register here. They are obviously cutting off registration at the starting time of 7pm EDT. Join us! It’s an interesting group: Cathy Wiley, Sherry Harris, Cheryl Head, Paula Mays and Kristopher Zgorski–me, too, of course. I am looking forward to it.

I finished watching Loki last night, which was great fun–cannot wait for the second season–although I do wish they’d allow Tom Hiddleston to let him use his real hair and get rid of the wig. That long dark wig detracts from how pretty he is–at least in my opinion–and he has such gorgeous eyes. But I am digressing, and I do think it was a great fun show–very clever and interesting–with a great season-ending cliffhanger it will be interesting to see them write their way out of, in all honesty; I always am interested in major cliffhangers from a writer’s point of view; I always like to see how they write their way out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into. We then watched the most recent Titans episode, and then binged our way through the latest Harlan Coben Netflix show, Gone for Good, which was chock full of twists and turns and surprises–and the main story, as is often the case with Harlan’s work, isn’t what it appears to be in the very beginning, or even through the first episode or two. It was. French production, which meant listening in French and reading the English subtitles; it’s hard for me to imagine that there was a time when I wouldn’t watch shows because they were in foreign languages and subtitled. Ah well, we do continue to learn as we get older.

I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I would have liked; I did finish a revision of “The Sound of Snow Falling,” but not much beyond that–other than some note-taking in my journal, as well as going through the last four or five of them and marking the pages containing notes on the Kansas book AND Chlorine; today I have errands to run, and I do have to go to the gym at some point, but I plan on getting the kitchen finished (ZOOM tonight, after all) and those notes on the Kansas Book typed up; the final revision of that book has to get started this week so I can buckle down next week whilst on vacation and get it completely redone the way it needs to be redone, so its readable. I am looking forward to this challenge, if not the actual work that has to be done.

So, was this long weekend a waste for me? Old Gregalicious would certainly think so; Chapter Four of Chlorine remains unwritten; just as the notes for the revision of #shedeservedit remain scribbles on several sheets of notebook paper and three boxes still repose under my desk. I haven’t gone anywhere near the attic to try to prune down the boxes up there; and I have yet to clean out the vacuum cleaner and run it over the floors of the downstairs. But I feel rested, relaxed, and remarkably stress-free; perhaps the bromide be kinder to yourself is actually working its magic on my psyche and my soul and my fevered brain.

Or I’ve simply gotten too old to care about that stuff anymore. It could be either, really.

My errands should be relatively simple and easy to get through (the post office, the bank, groceries, gas for the car) and then of course I need to walk to the gym in the middle of the heat-soaked humidity-laden afternoon. And of course then it’s time to get some stuff done around the house and maybe do some writing and reading before getting ready for tonight’s event. I am over half-way finished with The Other Black Girl, and it’s pretty amazing, really–more on it, of course, when I am ready to discuss the book on its completion. I think the next book I’m going to read is either Yes Daddy or A Beautiful Crime; it’s fun to be reading gay books again, and maybe I should stop shying away from them. I really don’t care anymore if people think I’m jealous of other people’s careers–I’m not, and I can’t control what other people think of me even if I was, and I’ve long since stopped caring what other people think of me at any rate; just as they can’t control what I think about anything or anyone.

So, I probably should get a-move on for this morning. I generally run errands around noon; which gives me about an hour of email answering and cleaning up to do around here before i leave the house. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader!

These Boots Are Made for Walkin’

Up early to head to the airport and fly up to visit my parents. I never did get the damned prescription refill situation resolved (who knew that something as simple as a prescription refill–which simply needs to be called in or sent to a pharmacy–is beyond the capabilities of a nurse practitioner? I think it’s time for me to find a new doctor, frankly), so that will have to wait till I get back from the trip–and trust me, I am going to go all Julia Sugarbaker on that bitch’s ass when I get back; I may not even do it over the phone and might just go to the doctor’s office in person…I have not slept now since Saturday. A co-worked suggested a cannabis tincture, so last night on the way home from work I stopped at a CBD store and bought some. It really really relaxed me, but it didn’t turn my brain off, so while I was incredibly relaxed and comfortable in bed all night, I never really slept.

I am actually beginning to think this is some kind of insane endurance contest at this point.

Anyway since I’ll be gone, I may not be posting here as much. I did get all packed last night, checked in for my flight, and all of that day-before-you-leave stuff was handled, and then I went to bed early (for all the good it did) and now am up swilling coffee; I’ve got From Here to Eternity and a short story collection by James Purdy in my carry-on bag, as well as my iPad and the MacBook Air…but again, don’t know how much I’ll be on-line, if at all, while I am there. I’ve not seen my family in well over a year and a half–I didn’t go home to visit during the 2019 football season, so it was definitely before that–but my memory is so shot I can’t remember when exactly I did go up there. I’m hoping to do some writing and reading and relaxing, but even WITH my helpful prescription I have trouble sleeping while I am there, so…I don’t imagine it’s going to get any easier. (I may have to up the CBD dosage; I’ll try that tonight.)

I did order martini glasses yesterday; they should be here by the time I get back on Monday…so next up is learning how to make dirty vodka martinis. Maybe a martini and some CBD before bed will do the trick. Who knows? It’s certainly worth a try, and I was certainly relaxed the other night after I had two, even if I didn’t sleep that night.

I got the final edits on a short story I wrote for an anthology being done by the Chessies chapter of Sisters in Crime (that’s the chapter I elected to join; I have an insane amount of friends in that chapter–writers and editors I admire deeply and am so thrilled to call friends). I don’t remember the name of the anthology at the moment, nor do I remember the theme, but I finally found a home for the story “The Snow Globe”, and I have to say, after the input from the editors, it really is a story I am proud of, and am proud to have in a Sisters chapter anthology. Naturally, I will be posting more about the story when the anthology is closer to being released, which is next spring.

I hope the thrill of selling a short story is something I never lose.

I have been feeling disconnected from writing again lately–and need to get my shit together and start writing again. I have lots of short stories to finish, I need to get back to Chlorine, and I am going to get edits on other manuscripts at some point soon–so I need to get back into my good writing habits. It’s hard, though, to be creative when your brain isn’t centered or rested and you haven’t been sleeping…although I always can find an excuse not to write, can’t I?

The weather looks pretty nasty out there this morning–I hope my flight isn’t delayed. I don’t have much time at my change of planes destination (Dallas Love)…but I also don’t have any texts from Southwest, so I am assuming all systems are still go. I do worry that if I misconnect in Dallas it could turn into an all-day ordeal trying to get up there.

But I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

So, have a great day, and I’ll check in again when I have the chance or time.