I finished my reread of ‘salem’s Lot (entry to follow at some point) and really enjoyed it, as much as I have every time I’ve reread it. It’s a marvel that the book was King’s second published novel, and while yes, it was, like Carrie, horror–but it was a completely different kind of book, in style, tone, voice and structure. How can anyone have read King’s first two books and not seen the rise of a major new force in publishing? The pacing is stunning as well; the first act is kind of charming and meanders here and there, introducing us to the characters and the town as well as letting us know something bad is coming, and it just keeps picking up steam, faster and faster, until the last hundred pages or so just fly. The ending was left open to a sequel–I remember reading once that King had written the opening of a sequel, or had the idea or something–but it never happened.
Probably just as well.
I also started my reread of The Haunting of Hill House and as ever, am completely captivated by the power of that first chapter and Shirley Jackson’s writing style.
Yesterday’s LSU game was quite fun, if stressful. As always, they got off to a relatively slow start by playing a little loose and sloppy at first; early in the second quarter LSU fell behind 17-3 because of miscues and mistakes–it easily could have been 17-14–but then the team found it’s rhythm and went on a 42-3 tear against a 7-0 6th ranked Mississippi team (who, to be fair, really hadn’t played the meat of the schedule so far; their biggest win had been Auburn, who is floundering this season) to win the game handily 45-20, and to look pretty impressive while doing so. The last time Mississippi came to Baton Rouge 7-0 and in the top ten (#3, actually) was in 2014 when an underachieving LSU beat them 10-7 (apparently, LSU is 1-5 against Mississippi when they are ranked in the Top 10–is it any wonder they hate us so? Add in to that the fact that LSU’s most legendary and iconic play of all time–Billy Cannon’s Run–was against them, and you see where their antipathy comes from. I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t a fan of Brian Kelly’s or his fire, but he is 100% turning this program around from the depths of the last two seasons and it’s entirely possible LSU could go 9-3 this season–maybe even 10-2 (I daren’t to dream yet; a win over Alabama this year seems almost too much to hope for; but if it happens Brian Kelly will immediately be crowned King of Louisiana) but hearing people talking about SEC titles and play-off games this year seems to be a bit premature–but watch out for LSU next year. Jayden Daniels is really quite a player–I wasn’t completely sold on him, either, to be honest, but he’s really turned out to be quite the player; fun to watch, and getting better and more seasoned and acclimated as the season goes on. Seriously, next year LSU will be a contender for sure.
And yes, it’s petty, but I also kind of enjoyed that Texas A&M lost to South Carolina last night, and good for USC, really (I started to write “good for the Cocks” because I am ten years old; but in fairness they call themselves the Cocks). Petty because they wanted Jimbo Fisher at LSU, and now having seen what he can do with all the money and resources behind him at A&M? Yeah, glad you chose College Station instead of Baton Rouge, Jimbo. Have fun with the Aggie alumni, and let us know how that goes. I can’t believe they wanted him so bad that his buy-out had no restrictions…they are either going to be stuck with him for a very long or getting him out is going to be extremely costly. Again, oh, well, too bad so sad. You had some success at Florida State, but they were already circling the drain before you bailed on them, Jimbo…and this is yet another year A&M won’t be in the SEC title game. Oh, well.
Another rather interesting football season. Tulane also won, so they are 7-1 now, too. Good on you, Wave!
I feel very rested and relaxed this morning. I was stressed during that first quarter of the LSU game, so rather than sitting in my chair stewing in my worry and letting myself get worked up (I literally sometimes get so into games that I have to remind myself, Dude, it’s a sporting event, not the end of the world) so I decided to use that nervous energy to clean the house and work on the book while I watched the game. I planned some of the next act of the book, so I can get some chapters written in the meantime, and I also pruned the books; did some more laundry; did the dishes; and cleaned the floors. I also did some filing that needed doing. Paul had some errands to run in the afternoon–he didn’t check the game time when he made appointments–so he didn’t get home until the fourth quarter, and then we watched the short programs from Skate America, which I’d recorded. The young American “quadgod” Ilia Malinin is definitely a rising star, as is Isabeau Levito, the young American woman who looks like she’ll be our best and most successful since at least Sasha Cohen, if not Michelle Kwan (although achieving more than Kwan is unlikely for any other skater). Today there’s not a Saints game, and I am going to finish this and do some things before diving deep into my book to get it going again. Paul will be gone next weekend, and LSU is on a bye week, so I have literally no excuse next weekend for not being highly productive and getting caught up on things–I still have to empty the dishwasher and fold clothes; and I want to make white bean chicken chili today as well–it’s getting to be soup and chili season in New Orleans, and I do love this time of year and would even more if it didn’t get dark so early.
I’m glad I feel rested this morning, to be sure. Hopefully I will be able to motivate myself to work my way down and through my to-do list. But I am not getting there by doing this, so I am going to bid you farewell now, Constant Reader, and head back into the spice mines.
Saturday morning in the Lost Apartment and all is well this morning. I slept in a bit (I also went to bed later than I usually do, so I slept about the same amount, really) and feel rested and relaxed this morning, which is always a nice, pleasant thing to feel. I didn’t get much work done on the book yesterday (355 words, all of them bad except maybe “Scotty” and “Frank” and “Colin”) but that’s okay; I feel a lot less stressed and a lot less pressured this morning about everything that needs to be done now. The stuff all needs to get done, of course; that hasn’t changed, but I am not feeling as much stress about it as I was feeling yesterday.
I read more of ‘salem’s Lot last night while I was waiting for my friend Ellen Byron (buy her books! Bayou Book Thief is amazing!) to text me to meet her for a drink. I picked her up at the Sazerac House (Canal and Magazine) and it had been quite a while since I drove down that way in the evening, and yikes. SO much traffic, so many people everywhere. I’m still not used to pedestrians in the CBD at night, even though the area hasn’t been a ghost town at night in years, but then we swung around and came up to have drinks at St. Vincent’s, which has been renovated and redone and remade and turned into a boutique luxury hotel right here in the heart of my neighborhood. I’ve posted some pictures of the place when I was doing my walks through the neighborhood last year; it’s even more beautiful inside than I imagined. These weekend is Tulane Homecoming, so there are a shit ton of people in town (that’s actually what brought Ellen to New Orleans, in fact; she is an alum) for that, and of course the people from Mississippi here for today’s LSU game in Baton Rouge (Geaux Tigers!). It was lovely to sit and have a drink and talk about writing and books and this crazy business we are in; she’s an absolute delight (buy her books!) and I look forward to the next time I get to see her.
But this morning I realized how utterly I am failing at reading. October is winding down; Halloween is a week from Monday, and I still haven’t finished my reread of ‘salem’s Lot, let alone done my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House or getting caught up on the horror novels in my TBR pile. I’ll spend some more time with Mr. King this morning before I run my errands–I have to go get the mail and I have to stop at the grocery store because I want to make white bean chicken chili tomorrow, and have nothing I need for that–and I am debating whether I want to grill burgers today or not. The LSU game is on today at 2:30, and of course Skate America is airing this weekend (yay for figure skating!) so I’ll have to write around those times.
The reread of ‘salem’s Lot is a lot of fun, actually; I am really enjoying this revisit of the book and seeing why I enjoyed it so much the first time around. King wasn’t STEPHEN KING yet when he wrote and published it, so I am sure it didn’t get the kindest reception from critics of the time; particularly when you take into consideration what they considered to be great writing back then. I don’t remember when it was that the Literati changed their mind on Stephen King, but I do remember how he wasn’t taken seriously as a writer by them for a very long time (he writes horror! He’s too prolific to be a real writer!), and some of his best work was already behind him by the time he got the anointing he deserved for a very long time. I mean, he had quite a run, and quite a varied one at that, before he finally published a book I didn’t like (The Tommyknockers, for the record) and it seemed an aberration as he seemed to climb back on the horse and right the saddle in the next one after that. I love how many points of view he uses in ‘salem’s Lot, giving us little glimpses of fully realized characters and their lives to show us human beings so that when they actually wind up becoming vampires, you do feel a sense of loss. Many of these minor characters are objects of sympathy, while others you just kind of shrug when the vampires come for them and think, well, you were a shitty person anyway, oh well, this is justice of a sort. The scene where Mike Ryerson has to finish burying the coffin of Danny Glick is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever read, and it still holds up today. I like how King gets into the point of view character’s head and gives them a voice–which is still King’s, but different from the other voices he uses–and that sort of structured stream of consciousness is something I really like and enjoy reading; I sometimes use that style in my own writing.
(I started to write something self-deprecating, but am proud of myself for catching it and not doing it. Progress.)
And on that note, I am going to head into the manuscript and do some cleaning before the errands are run. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later or tomorrow.
That’s not entirely true, you know. Yes, Bourbon Street Blues was always supposed to be a stand alone (I know you’re tired of the story) and they offered a two book series deal and I took it, thinking I would just figure it out later. Well, I did figure it out later; and when I started writing Bourbon Street Blues I already knew there would be a second book and so I had to set it up in the first as well as plant seeds for the next one after that–if there was going to be another one after that. I didn’t know for sure or not whether there would be a third, so when I was writing the first I kept the personal story as simple as I could in case there wouldn’t be a third and I could wrap it all up with the second if need be. But by the time I finished writing Jackson Square Jazz I was already pretty confident there would be a third (the first had just come out and was doing extremely well) so even if the third still ended up not being contacted, everything wrapped up as nicely as possible at the end of Jackson Square Jazz.
I decided the main mystery plot of the book would have to do with the Cabildo Fire of 1988.
When Paul and I had first moved here, sometime within that first year we saw a documentary on our local PBS station (WYES, for the record, thanks for asking, you there in the back) about the Cabildo Fire. I can only imagine how the city reacted to the news that a fire had broken out in one of our most beautiful buildings and recognizable landmarks–especially given its proximity to the landmark of the city: St. Louis Cathedral, and on its other side, the Presbytere. The documentary focused on the remarkable methods the New Orleans Fire Department went to, not only to fight the fire and prevent its spread to other historic buildings nearby, but to preserve the contents of the inside. The Cabildo is the Louisiana State Museum, and it’s filled with all kinds of artifacts and art documenting the history of New Orleans and the Louisiana territory. They brought fire-fighting boats to the levee, and borrowed more from the Coast Guard. They began hosing down the buildings around the Cabildo so they’d be too wet for the fire to spread.
And firemen were sent inside to remove as much of the contents before they turned the hoses on the Cabildo itself.
They literally lined paintings, framed historic documents, and various other historical artifacts with a variety of values along the fence surrounding Jackson Square, delaying until they had no other choice but to turn the hoses onto the Cabildo.
How easy it would have been to walk off with something priceless in its historic value, I thought, thinking of Robin Cook’s marvelous Sphinx and its opening with the tomb of Tutankhamun being robbed before flashing forward to the present day where a young female Egyptologist happens upon a magnificent statue from antiquity; a golden statue of Pharaoh Seti I. I pictured another young woman, in an antiques shop in the Quarter, happening upon something that looks like an artifact lost during the Cabildo Fire (they saved over 80% of the museum’s contents, by the way), and decided upon the Louisiana Purchase treaty. I could also call the book Louisiana Purchase (which also is the name of the state’s food assistance program; you get a Louisiana Purchase card with an amount loaded onto it every month), and possibly weave something about a food assistance program scandal of some sort woven into it as well. I viewed this as a spin-off stand alone for my character Paige Tourneur from the Chanse series (I had always wanted to write about her), and I thought, you know, the Cabildo Fire and some McGuffin gone missing from the museum would make a great plot for the second Scotty book.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.
And, being a dutiful writer, I contacted the administrative offices of the Louisiana State Museum and made an appointment to discuss my book and the fire with Executive Director Jim Sefcik.
And when I met with Jim, I discovered, to my great surprise, that not only had he been working there the day of the fire…it was his first day on the job.
“I was sitting in La Madeleine having coffee and a pastry,” he said (where Stanley is now used to be a La Madeleine; I used to get coffee there all the time during the Williams Festival), “when I heard a fire engine. I looked out the window and saw a firetruck pull up onto the pedestrian mall and stop in front of the Cabildo. As I thought that can’t be good another one pulled up from the other direction and THAT was when I saw the smoke.”
He gave all the credit to the fire chief for how everything was saved–“I just kept saying yes yes, whatever you think is best”–and I remember saying, “Well, at least you got it over with on your first day.”
He laughed, and replied, “Yes, now whenever there’s a crisis of any kind I just think well, at least the Cabildo isn’t on fire and that kind of puts things into perspective.”
He even gave me Polaroid snapshots of the aftermath of the fire; they’d scanned the originals long since to archive them. I just found them again Saturday when I was cleaning out cabinets, you can imagine my delight to stumble over them all these years later.
He also explained to me why the Louisiana Purchase treaty wouldn’t work as the MacGuffin (the original is stored in a vault at the Library of Congress; the display in the Cabildo is a copy and it is multiple pages long) and suggested the Napoleon death mask as a suitable alternative–even telling me a wonderful story about how the one in the Cabildo (there were four or five made) disappeared and then turned up in trash dump about thirty years later.
And he was right. It worked perfectly.
Danger is my middle name.
Okay, so that’s not strictly the truth. My middle name is Scott. But when you’re first name is Milton and you’re last name is Bradley, you’ve got to do something. Yes, that’s right, my name is Milton Bradley, and no, I’m not an heir to the toy empire. My parents, you see, are counter-culturalists who own a combination tobacco/coffee shop in the French Quarter. They both come from old-line New Orleans society families; my mom was a Diderot, of the Garden District Diderots. Mom and Dad fell in love when they were very young and began rebelling against the strict social strata they were born into. The Bradleys blame it all on my mom. The Diderots blame my dad. My name came about because my older brother and sister were given what both families considered to be inappropriate names: Storm and Rain. According to my older brother, Mom and Dad had planned on naming me River Delta Bradley. Both families sat my parents down in a council of war and demanded that I not be named after either a geological feature or a force of nature. After hours of arguing and fighting, Mom finally agreed to give me a family name.
Unfortunately, they weren’t specific. So she named me Milton after her father and Scott, which was her mother’s maiden name. Hence, Milton Scott Bradley.
My older brother, Storm, started calling me Scotty when I was a kid because other kids were making fun of my name. Kids really are monsters, you know. Being named Storm, he understood. My sister Rain started calling herself Rhonda when she was in high school. Our immediate family still calls her Rain, which drives her crazy. But then, that’s the kind of family we are.
So, yeah, danger really isn’t my middle name, but it might as well be. Before Labor Day weekend when I was twenty-nine, my life was pretty tame. I’m an ex-go-go boy; I used to tour with a group called Southern Knights. I retired from the troupe when I was twenty-five, and became a personal trainer/aerobics instructor. The hours were great, the pay was okay for the most part, and I really liked spending a lot of time in the gym. Every once in a while I would fill in dancing on the bar at the Pub, a gay bar on Bourbon Street, when one of their scheduled performers cancelled—if I needed the money. That Labor Day weekend, which is Southern Decadence here in New Orleans, I was looking forward to meeting some hot guys and picking up the rent money dancing on the bar. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be almost killed a couple of times or to have my apartment burn to the ground. I also didn’t expect to wind up as an undercover stripper for the FBI.
It’s a really long story.
The one good thing that came out of that weekend was I met a guy: Frank Sobieski, this mound of masculine, hard muscle with a scar on his cheek, who also happened to be a Fed. They don’t come any butcher than Frank. We hit it off pretty well, and he decided that once his twenty years with the FBI were up, he’d retire and move to New Orleans. I’ve always been a free agent. It’s not that I didn’t want to have a boyfriend, I just never thought I would find one. I enjoyed being single. I mean, young, single and gay in New Orleans is a lot of fun. It doesn’t hurt that people find me attractive, either. I’m about five nine, with wavy blondish hair that’s darker underneath. I wrestled in high school, mainly because the other kids were bullying me because they sensed I was gay. I’ve been working out ever since. Anyone who tells you being in shape doesn’t make a difference in your life is lying. It does.
But I needed a reason for the death mask-MacGuffin to come across Scotty’s path.
So, I turned back to the personal story of Scotty again.
It’s October now, been about five or six weeks since Labor Day and Halloween looms. There’s not been another word from Colin since the end of Bourbon Street Blues and Frank has put in for his retirement while he and Scotty are doing the long-distance thing; Scotty is finding it a bit restraining and having never really wanted or care about being in a relationship, is starting to have second thoughts about giving up his freedom. He has just come back from visiting Frank in DC and that visit has set his teeth on edge and made him even more nervous about Frank moving to New Orleans. David picks him up at the airport, hands him a joint, and Scotty goes on a bender…
…and wakes up with a massive hangover in bed the next morning, realizing to his horror that he is not in bed alone.
How relatable is that? I know I’ve been there more times than I care to remember.
And I realized, the trick is the key linking Scotty to said MacGuffin and the mystery, and as a big figure skating fan I decided to make him a figure skater, in town for Skate America. Scotty doesn’t know he’s a skater until he’s actually at the event and sees him warming up on the ice–and then he gets a note to meet him at his hotel room at the Hotel Aquitaine later that evening, along with the room’s key card–but Scotty shows up only to find a dead man with a knife in his chest.
This one was fun, and having Scotty’s weird ‘psychic’ power allow him to commune with the ghost of a long-dead fireman who knows the answer everyone is looking for was also a lot of fun. (I liked the concept of having Scotty and his mom go down to watch them fight the fire when he was a little boy.)
What a fun book this was to write!
I introduced a very fun Texas millionaire who collects things and doesn’t care how he acquires them (I even brought him back in Baton Rouge Bingo); was able to bring Colin back only to find out he’s not really a cat burglar but actually an international agent-for-hire working for the Blackledge Agency and thus created the “who will he wind up with” romantic triangle; and even had Scotty living in half of David’s shotgun while his home on Decatur Street was being rebuilt (which I had forgotten about until the skim-rereads and changes something with the new book). I also had Scotty get kidnapped again, and this book had the first of his many car accidents. It also contained Scotty’s first trip (in the series) to the West Bank.
One thing I forgot to mention when I was writing about Bourbon Street Blues the other day was how the series (books) were always intended to be insane and over-the-top*; always. The problem I always have with writing this series is stopping myself because something strains credulity and then I have to remind myself, “this series was always intended to be like New Orleans itself: completely unbelievable until experienced personally, and always over the top and ridiculous.”
Which is part of the fun, you know?
*For one example, Bryce Bell, the young skater, lands a quad-axel at Skate America. To put that in the proper perspective, to date no one had landed one competitively, although there’s a young American skater who can land them in practice….eighteen years later.
PS: When this book was released, I got asked a lot if I had posed for the cover; the same thing happened with Bourbon Street Blues; I was always apologizing for not being the cover model. With this book, I assumed it was the same thing…but later I realized they weren’t asking about the guy in front with this shirt open but the guy in back kissing his neck. At the time, I had a goatee and shaved head; this guy also has this and he does kind of look like me. What can I say?
As I get ready to write another Scotty book, I am busy making his acquaintance all over again. It might seem strange, but yes, although I’ve written eight books about my ex-go-go boy/personal trainer/private eye, it remains true in this as in all other aspects of my life that my memory is not what it once was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written a Scotty book since the first three without having to go back and revisit the series again. I have made continuity errors over the years (Scotty’s mother’s name changed over the course of the series, from Cecile to Marguerite and back to Cecile again), and I may forget things about his past and things I’ve written in previous books, but the one thing I never ever forget is his voice.
No matter what else is going on in my life, Scotty’s voice is very easy for me to slip back into, like a house shoe, and it somehow always feels like coming home to me in some ways. This is odd–because I would have always thought Chanse was the series character I was more connected to rather than Chanse, but that’s not the case at all. Scotty just won’t go away; but I ended the Chanse series and only every once in a while do I regret it (although I am beginning to suspect that I am going to probably end up writing another Chanse novel at some point in my life; I have two ideas that he’d be perfect for, but it also might be better and more challenging for me to simply come up with a whole new character for those stories rather than resurrecting Chanse); Scotty just won’t ever go away.
The idea for the Scotty series famously came to me during Southern Decadence, 1998.
(Well, I don’t know about famously, but I know I’ve told this story before many, many times. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to see how I remember the birth of the character and the series now)
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Paul and I had somehow managed to get prime balcony standing spots–at the Bourbon Pub/Parade, right at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon where the railing curves at the corner to head alongside the upper floor down the St. Ann side; so we could look down directly into the roiling mass of sweaty, almost completely naked bodies of hundreds of gay men from all over the country. That was my favorite spot for Decadence sight-seeing (Halloween, too, for that matter), and as I looked down into the crowd, I saw a guy in booty shorts and a very very loose fitting tank top, carrying a bag and trying to get through. I recognized him as one of the out-of-town dancers working at the Pub/Parade that weekend (I may have tipped him the night before) and as I watched in sympathy as he tried to get through that tightly-packed crowd of gays in various stages of being wasted, I closed my eyes and an image of him–or someone like him–fighting his way through the Decadence crowd while being chased by bad guys with shaved heads popped into my head just as Paul said, next to me, “You should really write a story set during Decadence” and then it popped into my head: someone escaping the bad guys has slipped a computer disc into one of the dancers’ boots on Friday night as he danced on the downstairs bar, and the bad guys want the disc back.
I didn’t have any way to write it down, obviously–I was wearing booty shorts, socks, and half-boots that came to my ankles, with nothing underneath the shorts and I had my tank top tucked through a belt loop like a tail in the back–yet even the title popped into my head: Bourbon Street Blues. The idea clearly stuck, because when I got home the next morning at about six or seven, dehydrated, drenched in sweat and having lost the tank top at some point during the night, I remembered it and wrote it down.
At some point over the next two years, I wrote a short story called “Bourbon Street Blues” about my stripper–only instead of being from out of town, I made him a local, filling in for someone booked from out of town for the weekend who had to cancel–and wrote about seven thousand words. It felt very rushed to me–the story–and I kept thinking it’s too long for a short story, it would have to be a novel but I also wasn’t sure there was enough story there for a novel. But I liked the idea, no one (at least, to the best of my knowledge) had written anything like it, and I thought, someday I’ll get a chance to write this story and develop this character.
Flash forward to 2001. This was during the time Paul and I had moved to DC to work for the Lambda Literary Foundation, we were miserable there and wanted to move back to New Orleans but didn’t have the money to do so, and the release of Murder in the Rue Dauphine was still at least a year away. I was talking to an editor on the phone about one of his new gay releases, and out of the blue I just pitched Bourbon Street Blues to him. He loved the idea, and asked me to write a proposal and email it to him. I had never written a proposal before, but I thought what the hell, how hard can it be? and so I wrote a two page proposal for the book. Two months later they made me a two-book offer–and the money was good enough to pay for Paul and I to move back to New Orleans as well as to live on for a while. I had only seen the book as a one-off, but they wanted a series. I needed and wanted the money, so I thought I can figure this out later and signed it.
Three months later, we moved back to New Orleans and I started writing the book.
The one thing I wanted to do with Scotty was make him unabashedly, unashamedly, gay. I didn’t want him to have any hang-ups, a sad backstory, or parental issues. I wanted him to be a free spirit who embraces life with both hands, lived in the Quarter, and loved having sex, loved being found desirable, and never really said anything or thought anything mean about anyone else. I made him a personal trainer, and his poverty–he agrees to do the dancing gig for Decadence because he’s behind on his rent and other bills; he teaches aerobics and was a personal trainer–comes from his grandparents freezing his trust funds when he dropped out of college to go to work for a booking agency for male dancers. He has since stopped doing that, but fills in when needed (and when he needs the money) at the Pub/Parade. I also based the shitty politician running for governor–and trying to mount a Christofascist takeover of the state, beginning with an attack on Southern Decadence–on an actual politician who ran for the US Senate shortly after we moved here; we saw him being interviewed on the news and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke, some kind of performance art–but forget it Greg, it’s Louisiana.
I also want to let you know that while I was working on this manuscript my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, was released–and I got a “damned with faint praise” review from the Bay Area Reporter, which complained that “it would have been nice to see inside the heads of the other characters”, which took me aback as the book was a first person narrative, which made that impossible. What the reviewer I think was trying to say was that she wished the book had been told in the third person; that to her that would have made the book more interesting to her. But in my baby-author naïveté, all I could think was how can you see inside the heads of other characters in a third person narrative unless the main character was psychic?And the proverbial lightbulb came on over my head. Make Scotty a psychic. This was also an integral key to the puzzle of who Scotty was; the reviewer also yawned over my “gay stereotypes” in Rue Dauphine, so I decided to make Scotty the embodiment of all the worst stereotypes of muscular gay men who worked out and had a lot of sex. Just writing that down now, I realize how incredibly insane it was for me to use my new series book and character to respond to criticism o my debut novel; and when the book came out I braced myself for the inevitable backlash to come.
No one was more surprised than I was at how readers embraced him. The book got great reviews, even from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal (Kirkus, of course, has always pretended I don’t exist). Bourbon Street Blues was even nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery of 2003 (I lost, I think to John Morgan Wilson?) shortly after the sequel, Jackson Square Jazz, was released.
Jackson Square Jazz’s story was actually a recycled idea I had for a spin-off book for Chanse’s best friend Paige. The original concept was that someone would steal the Louisiana Purchase from the Cabildo–and somehow Paige stumbled onto the theft, and knew that the one on display currently there was a copy. (I was calling it, originally enough, Louisiana Purchase.) I decided to make that the basis of the second Scotty book. (This was inspired by a documentary I’d seen about the Cabildo fire of 1989–that may be the wrong date–and how the fire department tried saving everything in the museum before fighting the fire. I remembered how in the documentary they literally were placing historical objects and paintings against the fence at Jackson Square and thinking, anyone could have walked off with something during the fire…and my imagination immediately was off to the races.) Unfortunately, when I met with the museum director–whose actual first day on the job was the day of the fire–I found out that 1) the copy of the Louisiana Purchase at the Cabildo was actually only a replica and the original was stored in the weather-protected underground archive at the Library of Congress and 2) it was more than one page long–I’d imagined it was one large document like the Declaration of Independence; it is not. However–he also suggested I make the MacGuffin the Napoleon death mask–one of the three originals made when Napoleon died–and gave me some great backstory on it as well that I don’t remember if I used in the book or not; but it was a lot of fun talking to him (his name escapes me at the moment, alas) and was a great example of why it is important to actually do research and talk to people.
I also wanted to include figure skating–the working title for the book was Death Spiral, which the publisher made me change, asking for something alliterative, like Bourbon Street Blues–and so I decided to open the book with Scotty having a horrific hangover and then realizing someone was in the bed with him (it’s to this day one of my favorite book openings; what slutty gay man hasn’t been there?)…and then I remembered I’d introduced two love interests for Scotty in book one, and here he was in bed with someone else entirely. (The young man he woke up with was a figure skater in town to compete at Skate America, being held in the Smoothie King Arena.) I loved both of his love interests, and knew I was going to have to bring both of them back somehow, and then I was going to have to figure out which one he’d end up with. (Spoiler: I couldn’t decide, so he wound up with both of them.) I also threw in a ghost, a billionaire artifact collector, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. I turned in the book, along with a proposal for Book Three, in which I finally decided I was going to resolve the threeway relationship personal story, and that would be the end of the Scotty trilogy.
Man plans and God laughs. (Jackson Square Jazz was also nominated for a Lambda; I think this was the time I lost to Anthony Bidulka.)
Mardi Gras Mambo turned out to be an entire other kettle of fish.
I’m not entirely sure I remember exactly what the original plot of Mardi Gras Mambo was going to be, but I know it had to do with the Krewe of Iris (Scotty’s sister Rain belongs) and the book opened at the Iris parade on the Saturday morning before Fat Tuesday. It was due in June of 2004, and of course, I wasn’t nearly finished by the time Memorial Day rolled around, and was planning on asking for another month on the manuscript on the Tuesday after. Of course, that was the Memorial Day weekend when Paul was attacked and everything went to hell in my personal life. My publisher was incredibly kind; they took the book off schedule, told me to take care of Paul, and get the book done whenever I got the book done.
I started writing it again in January of 2005, shortly after I began keeping a blog in order to get me writing again. That was when the Christian/Virginia nonsense happened, and everything got derailed again. When I started writing the book again, I threw out everything except that first chapter at the Iris parade–which did wind up in the final book–and I do not recall what the second plot I chose to write was at this time, other than I knew I was bringing in a Russian character, inspired by someone I’d seen around in the bars for years and had always been just awestruck by his body–and yes, that Russian turned out to eventually be Wacky Russian, my personal trainer. I actually kept this as an inspiration–Eclipse used to be the nightlife insert for IMPACT News, a queer newspaper that died out in the early aughts:
Finally, it was April 2005, and I started writing Mardi Gras Mambo again. I had the plot all figured out–it was completely insane–but I also realized I couldn’t end the personal story with Scotty the way I had hoped and wrap it all up with Book Three. There had to be a Book 4, and so when I finished the book at last and turned it in, I included a proposal for a fourth Scotty, Hurricane Party Hustle–which was going to be set during an evacuation for a hurricane that missed New Orleans…I always thought it would be interesting to write a mystery story set during such an evacuation.
Of course, I turned the book into Kensington on August 14th, 2005. Fourteen days later, Paul, Skittle and I fled from New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina.
I wouldn’t come back for good until October 11. Paul didn’t come home until after Thanksgiving.
Of course, I wrote to my editor a day or so after the levee failure to say, well, I don’t think I can write that book I proposed now.
I didn’t see, for a very long time afterwards, how I could write another Scotty book–light, funny, zany–in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Then one day I was walking to work from where I’d parked my car and some people on bicycles came riding toward me. They smiled and waved and I smiled and waved back…and realized oh my God, that was Brad and Anjelina. Their house wasn’t far from my office–in fact, it was quite literally around the block from where Scotty lived–and I thought, you know, Brad kind of looks the way I describe Scotty–wouldn’t it be funny if someone tried to kill Scotty because he looked like a movie star who lived in his neighborhood? The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I started writing the proposal for Hollywood South Hustle when I got home from work that night. I was so certain they would take it that I started developing the characters and writing out a detailed synopsis…and they turned it down.
I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a marketing decision. Even if they signed the book immediately, it would still be another year before it would come out, and they felt by then Scotty’s audience was long gone, if it wasn’t already. It was disappointing, but right around the same time Alyson came back to me for a fourth Chanse book but they needed it right away–like within ten weeks–so I turned the Scotty story into Murder in the Rue Ursulines. I finished the book, turned it in, and figured the Scotty series was dead, alas.
Shortly thereafter, during the Gay Easter Parade an idea for a different Scotty book occurred to me . The parade was over and I was walking back to my car to drive home when I walked underneath a balcony…just as they started watering their plants. I got soaked–you can’t get mad, it happens in the Quarter periodically and it’s just one of those New Orleans things–and I thought, you really need to write about this. As I walked to the car, dripping, I pictured Scotty hurrying to catch a ride on his parents’ business’ float for the Easter Parade–and of course, he’d wear a white bikini, rabbit ears, and have a rabbit tail–when the exact same thing happened to him, only his bikini would become see-through when wet. By the time I’d driven home, I’d figured that the person on the balcony would be an old friend of his parents’, he’d invited Scotty in to dry off, and when Scotty was on his way home from the parade, the cops would be there because the friend had been murdered. Using The Moonstone as my inspiration, I came up with another MacGuffin story, a way for Colin to come back and explain everything that happened during Mardi Gras Mambo, and I had the perfect ending to Scotty’s story. I just didn’t have a publisher.
But Bold Strokes Books, a primarily lesbian publisher, had started doing books by and about gay men. I’d taken an erotica anthology to them when it was orphaned by the death of its original publisher, and so I wrote and asked if they wanted a Scotty story. They did, and thus Scotty came back to life one more time…and I figured that was the end of it. I wrapped up the personal story about the three-way relationship in a way that was organic and made sense; and I also added a new wrinkle to Scotty’s personal life: Frank’s late-in-life decision to become a professional wrestler. (One of the things we locals learned from Hurricane Katrina was to not put off following or chasing dreams or goals; my attitude thus became go for it and I started chasing down dreams I’d pushed to the side for years.) Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carré Voodoo were both nominated for Lambdas, but at this point I can’t remember who I lost to in both of those cases–for the record, Lambda has never rewarded a Scotty book with an award–probably because they are inevitably funny and over-the-top, which never wins awards because funny is seen as “not serious,” despite the fact that humor/comedy is much harder than drama/tragedy.
I didn’t think I was going to write another Scotty book then, either. But then something miraculous happened: the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and I wanted to write about what it was like to live here during that incredible time. It didn’t seem like the right story for another Chanse book, so I thought, well, I can pull Scotty back out and write it from his point of view.
And of course, Who Dat Whodunnit was just sitting there for the title. How could I not write that book?
I had already established over the course of the series that the two sides of his family–the Diderots (maternal) and the Bradleys (paternal) didn’t really get along. The Diderots go back to Iberville and the 1718 settling of New Orleans; the Bradleys were Americans who came after 1803, and thus are not only parvenus to the aristocratic Diderots, but also l’Américains. Perish the thought! We’d also established that the Diderots were not nearly as conservative as their State Street living in-laws, but we’d never actually seen much of the Bradley side of the family, so I thought why not do the Bradleys and let us get to know the other side of Scotty’s family? It was around the same time I started reading about a megachurch out in Kenner (or Metairie? I don’t recall) that was rising to prominence in local politics and was, as you can imagine, homophobic. The same-sex marriage wars were also being fought at this time; and during one of those pageants (Miss America? Miss USA?) the reigning Miss California was asked about same-sex marriage during the question portion by judge Perez Hilton (why was he judging a beauty pageant for women is a mystery for the ages) and she responded that her faith had taught her that marriage was between a man and a woman (the audience started jeering) and she apologized by saying “I’m sorry, but that’s how I was raised!” She wound up as First Runner-Up, and some felt, rightly or wrongly, that her “politically incorrect” answer cost her the title. In some ways, I felt bad for her (although it’s not my fault it’s how I was raised I have always thought was an incredibly stupid thing to say; you have free will, and you should be capable of making up your own mind rather than simply parroting things without question you were raised to believe. So if your parents were racist white supremacists…) but then of course, the Right tried to turn her into a martyr and heroine, and she dove right into that headfirst, erasing any sympathy I might have felt for her (I still think the question was inappropriate for a pageant, as would be anything polarizing–and yes, well aware that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be polarizing, but here we are), and of course, Miss Upright Moral Christian had a bit of a shady past that eventually came out and that was that. I decided to base the murder victim in the book on this girl, and tried to explore the influence of this megachurch on her. I also gave Scotty a first cousin who was the darling of the Bradley grandparents because he was a jock and was on the Saints team as a player–but also a homophobic asshole. The Bradleys were like something out of Tennessee Williams–I think I even named Scotty’s uncle (the football player’s dad) Uncle Skipper as an homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
There’s a lot of story there left in the Bradley side of the family, now that I think about it–and I’ll be digging into that in the new one, rest assured!
Funny story: After I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit, I decided I was not going to write another Scotty book. This had been Book 5 of what started as a stand-alone and then became a trilogy and yet somehow, I’d kept going on top of that. I kind of felt played out a bit with Scotty, and the longer the series went on, the more problems I was having with things like character ages–Scotty was getting older, which meant his parents were getting older, which meant his grandparents were getting older, too. I didn’t want to deal with the deaths of his grandparents (or Aunt Sylvia, who was his grandmother’s age and had married Uncle Misha), and so I had two options: pretend they weren’t getting older and not talk about their ages, or let the series go. I was still writing Chanse at the time, and I kind of figured that would be the series that went on longer. But I was on a panel at Saints and Sinners and someone from the audience asked me if there would be another Scotty.
GREG: Probably not, but if I can figure out a way to include Mike the Tiger (the live tiger mascot at LSU), Huey Long, and a treasure hunt for Huey’s deduct box, I will.
(I had read T. Harry Williams’ award winning biography Huey Long and had become fascinated completely with him. All I had known about Long going into reading that biography was that he’d been a demagogue (thanks, US History textbook from high school) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men had been loosely based on his life and career. Mention Long’s name to anyone and they immediately reply with “oh, he was so corrupt”–which amused me, since every Louisiana politician is corrupt to a degree–and I knew Roosevelt and others had worried about him as a populist politician who reminded them of Hitler (and the way he crushed his opposition in Louisiana and essentially became the state’s dictator, who could blame them?), but what was the real story? And Huey Long made me start to have what was at first a grudging admiration for him which grew into a kind of fandom the more I learned. (There are some similarities–more than one would think–between Long and LBJ in the Caro biographies, as well as with Robert Moses, another Caro biography; which would make for a very interesting comparison/contract essay at some point.) But the more I read about Long, the more I wanted to write about him. He fascinated me, and the fact that his trove of cash–the deduct box–was never recovered after his murder was even more fascinating to me.)
And don’t you know, later that night, it came to me. A few months earlier there had been a bomb threat at the LSU campus, and there had been some controversy about how the administration had handled the situation–they’d evacuated Mike the Tiger off the campus before the mass evacuation call for the students. It made sense to me (but I didn’t blame the students for being upset because it absolutely looked like the administration cared more about the tiger’s safety than the students’)–in the chaos of evacuating the campus, getting the tiger out safely would have been a nightmare, and God forbid something happen and Mike got loose. Then it hit me: what if some animal rights’ activists had staged the bomb threat in order to steal the tiger in order to set him free somewhere? (Mike is a frequent target of PETA, who often calls for him to be released into the wild–not in the US, of course–, or sent to a big cat sanctuary.) So, I had the tiger kidnapped, and since Huey Long was responsible for LSU being what it is today, it only made sense for the treasure hunt to have to do with his missing “deduct box”–Huey always used cash, after his assassination the deduct box containing thousands and thousands of dollars in cash disappeared–and there we had it: a plot involving Mike the Tiger, Huey Long, and the deduct box.
This was also the book where I decided to extend Scotty’s family a bit further by adding a new, younger gay character to the mix: Taylor, Frank’s nephew, disowned by Frank’s sister and her homophobic husband after he comes out to them after a semester in Paris, and so he comes to live with Scotty and the boys in the house on Decatur Street. I wanted to bring in someone younger, and gay, with literally hardly any gay experience in the world to reflect the change between generations of gay men and how they view being gay and the rest of the world.
I also figured this would be the last one, but like I said, Scotty just won’t go away.
SIDENOTE: I had to write to the administrators of the Huey Long website for permission to use some quotes from the site in the book. Needless to say, they were very wary of me when they responded, so I emailed them the chapter where I would use the quotes–Scotty was doing some research on Long, and came across the website. Like me, Scotty had always been told Long was corrupt and a demagogue…but demagogues also don’t get things done, which Long did. Some of Long’s programs–like the Homestead Exemption–still exist as public policy in Louisiana. They wrote me back, granting permission…and that was when I found out the person I was talking to was Long’s great-granddaughter, who was rightfully suspicious of anyone writing about her great-grandfather. I sent her a copy of the book when it was finished, and she sent me a lovely thank you card, which is probably one of my favorite writing souvenirs.
The genesis of Garden District Gothic was weird, but yet serves as yet another example of my adage never throw anything you’ve written away.
I had always wanted to spin Chanse’s best friend, journalist Paige Tourneur, off into her own series. I had always intended to do so; from the first time I thought her up for Murder in the Rue Dauphine I thought, “she’s fun and witty and interesting and that weird name–there’s so much more story there than we can get to as a supporting player in a series about someone else.” I have so much written down about Paige and her origin story; how she came up with that name and why; how she wound up at LSU; and so on and so forth. A friend started an ebook publishing company, and wanted me to write Paige novellas for her; I did two–Fashion Victim and Dead Housewives of New Orleans–but the sales, frankly, weren’t there and I didn’t have the necessary time to put in marketing them to help drive the sales, so even though I’d started a third, The Mad Catter, we agreed to kill the series and pull the first two from availability; ultimately, I was working too hard for too little pay-off. I was disappointed, obviously; Paige was kind of a passion project for me–I’d made any number of false starts writing a series book for her, and it was sad to see that there wasn’t an audience for her after all. But I had about four chapters of The Mad Catter in place, and I didn’t want to waste the time spent on them…so I decided to turn them into a Scotty book, which became Garden District Gothic.
I also brought in a new character–a true crime writer with a shady past of his own–who actually wrote a book, a la Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about the case. The name of his book? Garden District Gothic. I brought him in, thinking I would spin him off into his own book/series–I thought it might be fun to write about a writer…(I thought about using him as the main character in another book based on an actual unsolved string of murders in a rural Louisiana parish, but very quickly realized he was simply an amalgamation of Scotty and Chanse, so that book–The Bodies in the Bayou–went onto the backburner. I think I may have created the character before, in the Chanse series, but I could be remembering that wrong. I also used this book to sort of set up the next; I will explain that further when I am talking about Royal Street Reveillon. I also crossed the character of Paige Tourneur over from the Chanse series into the Scotty series (I loved the character, hated to sideline her after I ended the Chanse series and the novella series didn’t pan out); not that she will be a big part of the Scotty series, but hey, every so often I need a journalist, and why not use a character I am very fond of already and wasn’t ready to stop writing about?
The book was loosely based, obviously, on the Jon-Benet Ramsey case–a decades old notorious murder of a child in the Garden District that was never solved. I wanted to examine and explore issues of class in New Orleans, but I am not entirely sure I pulled off what I intended with the book.
Then again, I think that with every book, don’t I?
And we now come to the (so far) most recent book of the Scotty series, Royal Street Reveillon.
Originally I’d envisioned the Scotty trilogy (when it morphed from a stand-alone) as encompassing the three big gay holidays in New Orleans: Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. Jackson Square Jazz wound up taking place just before Halloween, alas; Scotty talks about their costumes in the epilogue, but I hit the other two holidays out of the park. When I added a fourth book, I tied it to the Gay Easter Parade–Scotty is on his way to ride on the Devil’s Weed’s float when the book opened–and then of course the next book was sort of Christmas/sort of Mardi Gras/sort of the Super Bowl. Baton Rouge Bingo was the first book that wasn’t tied to a holiday of some sort; neither was Garden District Gothic. But for the next Scotty book, I wanted to do a Christmas book. I’ve never really written much about Christmas, and I do love the season, especially in New Orleans. I wasn’t sure what kind of plot I was going to use, but I knew it was going to be set during Christmas season and I knew I wanted to use reveillon, the Christmas season meal you use to break your fast for Mass, in the title. I had introduced one of the characters from Dead Housewives of New Orleans in Garden District Gothic, so it only made sense to me (or so it seemed at the time) for me to take the framework of Dead Housewives–the entire Real Housewives spoof I wanted to write–and build this new story around it. I changed a lot–made the overarching story much more complicated, and especially complicating the “whodunnit” aspects of the three murders that all occurred within twenty-four hours of the premiere party for Grande Dames of New Orleans.
I also did a couple of horrible things to Scotty and his loved ones over the course of this book…which will have to be dealt with in the new one, alas. I hate when I do this to myself! But with Royal Street Reveillon and its darker themes, I wanted to show how much Scotty has grown and changed over the course of the series; he’s evolved as a person, partly because of the changes to his life and partly because of what he experiences through the murders he finds himself involved in. Do I wish, as I start writing Mississippi River Mischief, that maybe I hadn’t given so many growth opportunities over the years to Scotty and his gang of family and friends? Absolutely. But that’s part of the challenge of writing a series, and what makes it so much fun.
*Funny story about the original cover of Bourbon Street Blues. Back in the day, publishers used to meet with reps from Barnes & Noble and Borders to show them covers and get their input; covers were changed based on those meetings. The Bourbon Street Blues cover was so in-your-face it took me aback when I first saw it; and they had toned the original image down dramatically, mainly smoothing down the bulge so it wasn’t so in-your-face. The Barnes & Noble buyer told them, “he needs a bigger bulge” so they made it bigger–but were still cautious; the image’s original bulge was still bigger. I do think that story is hilarious.
It was a good weekend, really, overall; I’m just inevitably always sad when Monday morning rolls around and that horrible six am alarm goes off, ripping me out of the comfortably deep sleep I generally finally achieve shortly before it’s time to get up. I don’t think I will ever live long enough to reach the point where the alarm won’t annoy the fuck out of me every morning, or that I won’t resent having to get up to one. Alarms are my bête noire, I suppose, and always will be.
I did manage to get through the edits of the first two-thirds of #shedeservedit this weekend; I’m still waiting for the final third to look over, and then next step will be the page proofs. As I reread the book, it’s much better than I remembered it being–in all honesty, I know I am my own harshest critic, and all I see whenever I go over something I’ve written is all the flaws rather than what is good about it; I really wish I hadn’t been trained from earliest childhood to be so hyper-critical of myself and everything I do because it is incredibly difficult to shake that training as an adult, you know? But Bury Me in Shadows is getting a pretty decent reception, as best I can tell, and that makes me really happy. I think both books actually might be my best work to date, which isn’t (ah, the joys of self-loathing!) saying an awful lot. But it’s nice to have a book out in the world that I am actually proud of, and another one coming along shortly thereafter that, when I am going over the edits, I think to myself this is actually really good.
We spent most of yesterday watching Skate America, followed up by the world men’s gymnastics finals for the all around and then event finals; we eventually gave up to watch the most recent episode of The Morning Show, whose story this season has really taken a turn we didn’t see coming. I also like how they chose to time this season–in the time leading up to the pandemic, so even watching as the pandemic begins and starts spreading throughout the world slowly (and isn’t really seen as anything to be concerned about) as well as everything else that was going on at that time…my God, 2020 was a chaotic year, wasn’t it? 2021 doesn’t seem to be a whole lot better, in all honesty; it’s kind of been a shit show of a year, too, really; every year of the last decade was kind of a shit show, to be honest, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to turn around any time soon (Paul and I often grimly joke to each other after watching the news, “well, at least we’re old and don’t have children”–grim to be sure, but also 100% accurate.
I finished reading Paul Tremblay’s marvelous Disappearance at Devil’s Rock yesterday; after a slow start, it took off like a train afire and I couldn’t really put it down. I do think Mr. Tremblay (this is the third novel of his I’ve read) may be one of our best writers currently publishing; I’ve loved everything I’ve read that he’s written. I think I only have one more of his books, and it’s an ebook edition at that, of Survivor Song; and I think before he switched over into paranormal stuff he wrote crime fiction; I could be wrong, but I am definitely going to be going back and rereading his back list when I can. I am going to read Scott Carson’s The Chill next, for one last shot at Halloween Horror; I cannot believe Halloween is this coming Sunday, and suddenly it’s November, you know? Crazy ass shit, the way this year has flown by (2020 seemed to last decades; this year seems to be flying past…but then again, January seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? So it looks like I will only have two horror novels read for the Halloween season, which is enormously disappointing, but seriously, isn’t almost everything these days? Anyway, the book was fantastic and will get its own entry at some point this week.
I have a lot to get done this week, as always, but at least I am not feeling tired this morning. I also think the procedure last week might have actually lost some more weight for me? It’s not surprising, really, giving the “purging” aspects of the preparatory stuff I had to do. (I just checked and yes, I lost about seven pounds–not a recommendation for that as a weight-loss option, however) I’ve not been to the gym in over a week now–I didn’t go the weekend before the procedure, and I certainly didn’t go this past week or weekend–so I need to be getting my ass back in there. I’ll be traveling a bit in November–the New York/Boston trip, with a later drive to Kentucky for Thanksgiving)–which is going to make keeping up with the training harder, but I will get back on track, goddamnit. I am not going to go months without working out again, unless something terrible happens to prevent me from doing so.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader.
It’s Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and slept relatively well again, if a bit late; my body clock is now all messed up and tomorrow morning’s waking up at the crack of dawn is going to be harder than usual.
Not that it’s ever easy, frankly.
LSU played terribly yesterday and lost, as expected, to Mississippi 31-17 (first loss to them after five straight wins) but I managed to finish reading Not All Diamonds and Rosé while it was on, and also read some more in Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, which is, as all books by Paul Tremblay, very well done–but I am not deep enough into it to have an idea of what’s going on. It focuses on the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old from a state park outside of Boston; it opens with his family–along with everyone else in the community–finding out he is missing and dealing with the emotions and fears that come along with a kid gone missing; but something out of the ordinary has already happened (no spoilers, sorry) which means there’s more to this than just your average child gone missing story.
Which, given it’s written by Paul Tremblay, was always going to be the case in the first place.
After the LSU game, we spent the rest of the evening watching Skate America; we used to be (still are) big figure skating fans, but the Internet and so forth has kind of ruined figure skating, really–when you know what the results are before the competition airs, it’s not nearly as exciting or suspenseful; so the only way to recapture the way it used to feel to watch something pre-recorded is now to watch live, which Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) does now provide. (I also think the new scoring system has a lot to do with it as well. Sure, the old 6.0 system had serious flaws and corruption in its judging, but I am not convinced that corruption still isn’t there and now the scoring system is so mysterious and complicated that it’s almost impossible to tell anymore if anything untoward is going on. The great irony is the scoring change, claiming to be more fair and to rule out bias, simply made it harder for viewers to see it for themselves.) There’s also tension brewing in the ISU this year as well, as a Russian judge and coach has made horrifically homophobic comments about French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron (who came out last year) and his partner Gabrielle Papadakis. They have a silver Olympic medal (it would have been gold had Papadakis not suffered a costume malfunction in the original dance) and are three time world champions. It was an obvious attempt to smear them in an Olympic year and potentially influence future judging pools at upcoming events, only making it all the more disgusting….particularly since Russia couldn’t even officially compete at the last summer Olympics because of widespread doping and cheating. This piece of shit Russian essentially said that since Cizeron is gay they cannot “convincingly portray romance” the way the top Russian team can; to that I say, “hey, you homophobic needle-dicked piece of shit, if you want to see a gay man convincingly play a romantic lead, watch Pillow Talk some time and tell me Rock Hudson didn’t deserve an Oscar. And by the way, go fuck yourself and drink bleach.”
I am so fucking sick of this shit. Seriously.
I did manage to get some things done yesterday, but I am still looking for my old journals. I cannot for the life of me remember where I stored them; I know sometime over the past few years I found them in a box, but now I don’t remember what I did with them. It seems unlikely I would have simply shoved them into another box and stored them somewhere; but I can’t seem to locate them anywhere inside the apartment, which makes it appear that must be what I did with them. Generally I don’t go back and read my old journals very often–I don’t really like to see how much of a mess I used to be, written down plainly in ink on paper–but I kind of need to because I am writing a novella set in the summer of 1994 and I kind of need to go back and see what I recorded back then about music and pop culture and so forth. One of the hardest things about doing research on gay life in the past is so much of it is hidden, or wasn’t recorded anywhere, really–like there’s no listings anywhere on the Internet of “what dance songs were popular in gay dance clubs in 1994?” and my memory banks simply are not substantial enough anymore for me to summon those answers up out of the muck and mush my brain is slowly turning into as I age. That summer I went out dancing a lot, but I honestly don’t remember anything much about the music other than there were a couple of Pet Shop Boys songs that were really popular that summer–“Go West” and “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing”, and Erasure had a great remix of their song “Always”, but beyond that I have no memory of much.
Today I am debating as to whether I actually want to go run errands; making groceries is kind of necessary but I really have no desire to leave the house and go out in public. There’s not a Saints game today–they’re on Monday Night Football this week–and next weekend is LSU’s bye week, so I don’t really need to spend Saturday watching football (despite it being the weekend of Georgia-Florida and Auburn-Mississippi), so here’s hoping I can get some serious writing done today and this coming weekend. Stranger things have happened..and I am definitely running out of time to get this book written, which is incredibly stressful for me, as always. Heavy heaving sigh.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.
Sunday morning coming down–as if; although there have been any number of Sunday mornings when I was doing precisely that; often sleeping late or stumbling home in the early morning hours to sleep until around noon or so. I’m not quite sure how I managed to do all of that–and for years would go out again around six or seven on Sunday for Tea Dance, to come home around ten or eleven sloppy drunk yet again. It’s been a good hot minute since I’ve gone out in the evening to gay bars, visiting my old haunts and so forth; yet the pandemic has certainly made any nostalgic trips to the Fruit Loop impossible and impractical.
We joined a gym yesterday at long last; another one in our neighborhood and within walking distance, and while it’s a bit more of a slog than going to the old gym was–maybe a ten to fifteen minute walk rather than a five–it’s nice to belong to a gym again; it’s nice that it’s still in the neighborhood; and there are many different ways of walking there–so I can explore the neighborhood even more each time I walk to and fro. It’s nice, if small, and I am very excited to walk over there this morning and start putting my body through its paces yet again. The main thing for me is to remember that I need to be cautious, start slowly with lower weights, and build up reps and sets gradually. But it feels very terrific to be going to the gym again, working out again, and while i may not be as fanatical about it as I was in the wake of Katrina–I am hopeful I’ll be able to get going and gradually work myself back into better shape again.
LSU won last night–and while the defense didn’t look terrific, they didn’t look as terrible as they did in the two previous losses. At first, it kind of looked like the same-old, same-old; LSU took the opening kick-off and drove the length of the field behind a true freshman, starting in place of an injured Myles Brennan, in about eight minutes. South Carolina took two or three plays to tie the score on their next possession, but the defense started clamping down. South Carolina continued to have big plays, but that was it–scoring 17 more points in the game while LSU went on to win 52-24. The team is starting to pull together and play better–and considering how many true freshman are starting–LSU is going to be dangerously good in the future. This may be an off year for the Tigers–there’s no telling how many of the remaining games they’ll win, but I certainly am feeling better about our chances to do well this year. I mean, I didn’t go into the season thinking it would be a repeat of last year’s amazing result, but I didn’t expect LSU to lose to two teams they should have beaten.
We also wound up staying up later than we probably should have watching the pairs and ice dance finals from Skate America, but i also slept very well–I almost dozed off a couple of times in my easy chair–and slept later than I wanted to this morning but that’s okay; the combination of going to the gym this morning and getting a lot of work done today should work to enable to sleep really well tonight. I’m not sure what time the Saints game is today–just checked, it’s at noon–but I need to get deeper into the weeds with my book, and I also realized part of my issue with writing lately is getting used to my new computer set-up here in my office; writing on a significantly smaller screen on a MacBook Air is the primary difference here, and one that I shouldn’t be having such an issue adapting to. It could, of course, simply be my innate laziness, but there you go.
It’s cool this morning–it’s in the sixties, and the high is only going to be 75–so it’ll be a nice brisk walk over to the gym–they are only open on Sundays from 9-1; they close early on Sundays to clean everything thoroughly due to the pandemic–and then a brisk walk home to a protein shake and a shower and a plan for the rest of the day. I started rereading the first ten chapters of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday–it’s better than I thought it was, but it still needs tweaking and work–and hope to spend today reading through the last fifteen and making revision notes and so forth. I still have to finish the revision of “The Snow Globe” again, but I honestly think that getting off my ass and exercising again will be the catalyst or impetus to get me off my fat ass and writing again, too. It’s all connected, in some ways, in my mind–working out, writing, etc.–and hopefully I’ll also be able to get my mind and my writing in better shape as I go to the gym more and more.
I know I am probably too hard on myself about everything I do–whether it’s the day job, writing, editing, my body, etc.–but that drive to improve myself and be better is what helps me accomplish things. As I was remembering the other day, so much of my life is out of my control that when the world becomes too overwhelming in its harsh realities, I try to focus on the things I can control. I can control my body and how it looks; whether people read my books and like them is beyond my control but the books themselves are not. I do tend to be lazy–a Greg at rest tends to stay at rest–which is a constant struggle for me; I have trouble between distinguishing when I need to actually rest and recharge vs. when I just am feeling lazy. There’s a difference there, and one I need to be better about recognizing–kind of like having to identify the difference between bad pain (injury) vs. good pain (muscle exhaustion) at the gym when working out. My goal isn’t to get back to the kind of shape I was in post-Katrina–I will never be that lean and small-waisted again; then again, do I need to fit into size 30-31 pants again at my age? No, I really don’t, but I also don’t need to be carrying this extra weight I am, and I’d kind of like to have toned muscles again rather than simply the size that goes with having them. This week is going to be a gradual thing–I am going to stretch thoroughly before working out, the longer walk to and fro will serve as a nice warm-up/cool down, and once I get through this first week of primary focus on weights, I will start adding in the treadmill or stationary bike or some kind of cardiovascular exercise, which is probably what I need more than anything else. The aerobics studio in the gym is always open and available for use when it’s not being used for a class, and i may start doing my own step class again, trying to remember the programs I used to teach twenty years ago–I always preferred doing step than using the cardio machines, but there may be times at the gym when I have no choice–like when there’s a class going on.
As you can no doubt ascertain, I am very excited about going back to the gym. In fact, I shall have precisely one more cup of coffee before I head over there this morning to put my aged body through its paces for the first time since May. Since May.
And so, on that note, I think I am going to finish my morning coffee, get my ass in gear, and head over to the gym. May your Sunday be as warm and delightful and amazing as you are, Constant Reader.