It Never Rains in Southern California

Less than a week until Royal Street Reveillon is officially out in the world!

And so far, no current labor pains!

But, in fairness, it took me a good long while to write this book. My memory is so bad, and I’m so constantly and regularly busy, that I don’t even remember when I actually wrote it and turned it in to my publisher. I think it was earlier this year? I don’t remember–and that’s kind of sad. This is but one of the many reasons I don’t think I’ll ever write a memoir; my memory lies to me all the time and I never know what I remember correctly, let alone times and timelines and so forth. For example, when I was writing my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” for Love, Bourbon Street, I went into it thinking I spent weeks in Kentucky at my parents’ after the evacuation, when it was actually less than three before I returned to Louisiana. That was a shock, believe me…but it’s true: we evacuated on August 28th, and I returned to New Orleans for good in early October after several weeks on the North Shore at my friend Michael’s. Stress and age and everything else combines to make things seem different in memory; and I’ve also noted, many times, how often people look back through a rosy glow of nostalgia. (I’ve always thought people view the past nostalgically because they aren’t happy, for one reason or another, in the present; they think oh, everything was so much simpler and easier back then. It’s usually not that true.)

So, Gregalicious, why did you decide to write a murder mystery built around a reality television show filming in New Orleans?

I didn’t watch An American Family, the first true reality show, back in the 1970’s on PBS, as the Loud family allowed their lives to be filmed for the entertainment of the masses. The show, which was the baseline for everything that came later, was quite controversial–I remember reading in the newspaper that one of the sons came out as gay on camera, which was kind of a big deal in the 1970’s–but in the 1990’s, I was a big fan of MTV’s sociological experiment, The Real World, and it’s sister-show that came later, Road Rules. But as the shows went on, they went from being a sociological experiment (hey, let’s take a group of seven kids from completely different backgrounds, make them live together and work on a project, and see what, if anything, they learn from each other) to being exploitative (hey, if all of them are young and beautiful and damaged, and we encourage them to drink and hook up, drama will ensue!), which was when I lost interest in watching them anymore. I also watched the game show version–The Challenges–primarily because the young men were always hot, often shirtless, and sometimes even less clad than that, plus watching the competitions was interesting. But it, too, eventually paled in interest to me–they were so repetitive, and the producers never intervened when violence broke out, and that was more often than not–and so I stopped watching.

The Real Housewives was different for me. Back in the day, we used to watch Bravo a lot–Inside the Actor’s Studio, Project Runway, reruns of Law and Order and The West Wing–and when they started promoting a new show they were doing called The Real Housewives of Orange County, I sniffed disdainfully at it. At that time, one of the hottest shows on network television was Desperate Housewives, and this seemed to be a rip-off, an attempt to cash in on the success of another network’s show by copying the title and so forth: “oh, if you like that show, here’s the real women of the area who are housewives, and what there lives are like.” The previews I’d see didn’t really encourage me to watch–the women seemed, for the most part, like horrible people, particularly Vicki Gunvalson–but as the show spawned spin-off shows in other cities and regions, I became more than passingly acquainted with them. They usually ran marathons on Sundays, and when it’s not football season Sunday television was pretty much a wasteland. I’d flip on the marathon for background noise while I read a book and Paul napped on the couch–but I also began to absorb the shows through a kind of osmosis. I knew who the women were and what their lives were like–but still didn’t watch regularly until around 2010, or 2011 or so.

And once I started giving Real Housewives of New York and Beverly Hills my full attention–yeah, I was hooked.

Paul would even watch with me from time to time…and we played a game: if they did a New Orleans version, who would they cast? It was fun, because we also were relatively certain none of the women we thought would kill it on such a show would ever remotely consider doing such a show (Southern Charm New Orleans proved us right), and then I began to think…but such a show here would be absolutely the perfect background for a murder mystery, because of the way everyone here is so connected to everyone else and there would be backstory and history galore.

I always saw it as a Scotty book, but when I turned it into the Paige novella, that changed things. I still wanted to do a Scotty book about a reality show, and I started making notes for one called Reality Show Rhumba. And, if you’re wondering, that’s where the character of Frank’s nephew Taylor Wheeler came from; when I added him to the regular cast of characters for the Scotty series, my intent was to have him eventually be case in a Real World-type show here in New Orleans, and anchor a murder mystery. But then…the Paige novella series went nowhere, and I hated losing such a great idea..so as I went into Garden District Gothic I introduced Serena Castlemaine to the boys, thus planting the seeds for Royal Street Reveillon, knowing I could keep some parts of the story but would have to change others–which was cool, because I always felt that the original novella was kind of rushed, and I didn’t have either the time–or the space (since novellas are by nature shorter)–to make the story what I wanted it to be.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Drift Away

Good morning, Tuesday; the last day before a long and glorious fourth of July celebratory vacation weekend for the Gregalicious.

I managed almost two thousand words on the WIP last night when I got home from work last night, before Scooter’s lonely neediness kicked into full gear. I also managed to get the rest of the dishes done and loaded into the dishwasher, so all in all, the evening was a win on every level. Huzzah!

I also slept well somehow Sunday night and was totally rested and fine all day yesterday’; no being tired, no being brain dead, none of the usual nonsense on one of my long days, and I suspect that was primarily adrenaline from knowing I don’t have to work all week (HUZZAH!). I also got the final version of the manuscript i was editing into the publisher (check that off the list) and then also got started reading a short story I am reading for a friend–it’s quite a good story, in fact, I’m sure you will all get to read it someday.

So, it was quite a Monday for one Gregalicious. Let’s see how long I can keep this roll going.

I slept well again last night; I went to bed around ten and slept beautifully and restfully the entire night; not even waking up once, which was quite lovely. So this morning I am feeling extremely rested and able to get going, which is again quite lovely. Tonight I will come home and watch the season finale of what is one of the worst seasons ever of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; so bad, in fact, that I may not continue watching when the next season rolls around. I have, however, apparently replaced it in my affections with Southern Charm New Orleans, which has sucked me in completely and I am not certain why; it’s first season was so atrocious, and the only explanation I can think of is that it’s the bromance between Jon Moody and Jeff Charleston; we’ll see how long they can hold my attention before i get bored and move on. Although I am hearing things about this season of Real Housewives of Potomac that might bear investigating.

Tomorrow I can sleep late and do whatever it is that I want to do, because I am on vacation and Paul is out of town. I want to finish reading I the Jury, which I will probably also work on today between clients–I did come up with an interesting idea for an essay, using Mike Hammer to extrapolate out further to toxic masculinity and the American male, and can even tie in Ayn Rand, who I’ve been wanting to write about for quite some time–I even wrote the intro to the essay last night. I have no market for essays, of course; but I am doing a collection, which is slowly but surely coming together. Will my collection of essays find an audience? Highly unlikely, but it’s something I’d like to do. I’ve done so much essay writing and journalism over the years, it would be kind of nice to collect it all in one place, and an essay collection is certainly more easy than writing a memoir no one would want to read.

And after I conclude reading the Spillane, I am either going to move on to Kristin Lepionka’s first novel, or to Angie Kim’s debut; I’ve heard terrific things about both, and I was on a panel with Kristin in St. Petersburg and she impressed me with her intelligence and wit. She also has picked up the baton on promoting queer writers, which I appreciate.

I have to say that working on the Diversity Project this year has been incredibly enjoyable for me; I am only disappointed that it took me so long to diversify my reading list.

I will do better.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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Touch Me in the Morning

Friday morning, and a little under the weather. I’ll spare you the gory details, but my suspicion is it’s a bit of food poisoning, perhaps? Regardless, it’s terribly unpleasant, and hopefully temporary.

I really feel terrible.

Last night after testing all day in the Carevan, I walked back home and started feeling bad; so I just took something to try to settle my stomach and curled up under my blanket to watch the season finale of The Real Housewives of New York and then streamed another episode of Southern Charm New Orleans, which, despite all of its offenses and basic trashiness (what reality show isn’t trashy?), has turned out to be highly addictive. And Jon Moody is rapidly becoming my favorite reality star of all time–he’s extremely good-looking, enormously talented, surprisingly down-to-earth, has an incredible sense of style, and just really comes across as a decent human being and a good friend to his friends. Obviously, this is all a part of the infamous reality show bait-and-switch; in which the producers build someone up to be likable by giving them a great edit, and then in a future season try to make the audience turn by giving them a bad edit–showing the shitty things they do and say rather than leaving them on the cutting room floor as they did when giving them the good edit.

He is also responsible for what be my favorite reality show character appraisal of all time: “Cool ranch doritos.” That alone should earn him a spot in the reality television hall of fame.

I managed to recover the words I lost Wednesday by redoing them yesterday morning before heading out to work. It was lovely; they aren’t the same words, and they aren’t good words, but as always happens after such a work catastrophe, the reconstructed words are better than the ones I originally wrote. Maybe I can get some work done today on it as well, since I am unwell. Trying to keep focused isn’t always easy in these instances, but I think I am going to retire to the easy chair under a blanket when I finish this and read/nap for a little while. I am also exhausted this morning; my bones and joints are achy, in addition to the stomach issues, and I am not entirely certain what that’s about, either. My entire body feels achingly tired. I slept deeply last night, too–I don’t know what could be causing this.

I hate being sick, and I hate that is seems to be more commonplace in my life than it ever used to be–I used to go years without even catching a cold, and now it seems like every month or so something goes haywire. Other things no one tells you about getting old, either. I don’t mind being old; I never ever think to myself, oh how I wish I was young again. I don’t. I don’t miss being young at all–other than the energy, the ability to bounce back quickly, and not aching all the time. That I miss, and the energy and drive to go to the gym multiple times per week.

But I am going to bring this to a close and go lay back down now. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

 

 

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The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

That baton was ON FIRE!

I do miss (original cast) Designing Women from time to time.

Today is National HIV Testing Day, so I will be working in the Carevan, parking in the Walgreens a block or so from my house, for nine hours today. We were also incredibly busy at the office yesterday, which was exhausting, but it was also nice; we’ve not been busy like that during testing hours at the new building since we moved into it.

I also managed, like a doofus, to forget to save the word document I was working on yesterday morning before I left for the office, and apparently the power here blinked on and off–long enough to make all the digital clocks blink, but not long enough to take them all back to 12:00. So, yes, the thirteen hundred words I’d done before work yesterday were gone when I got home (for some reason Word also didn’t save them as a temporary file I could recover, thanks Microsoft!) but I wasn’t irritated or overly annoyed; the words were bad bad bad, and whenever this happens and I have to reconstruct stuff from memory, it always winds up being better than what I did originally and lost.

And the stuff I lost, let’s be honest, was absolute garbage.

I was so tired when i got home last night I didn’t have the energy to reconstruct anything or do anything; the dishes remain in the dishwasher, loads of clothes remained in the washer and dryer, the mess in the kitchen remains a mess. Instead, I repaired to my easy chair, allowed Scooter to nap in my lap, and turned on the television. There really wasn’t anything I wanted to watch, so, with some trepidation, I went to Hulu and cued up the second season of Southern Charm New Orleans.

I have already confessed to my reality television addiction; it’s primarily Real Housewives franchises. I did watch the original, Charleston version of Southern Charm (always wondering how they actually managed to get actual members of the city’s upper class, with some actually old society money people, to agree to being on the show; but it got too dark for me with bad parenting, custody struggles, and drug addiction–I guess the reality was a little too real and noir for me), and it was with no little trepidation that I began watching the first episode of the first season when it originally aired a while back–but I either didn’t make it all the way through the first episode, or made it to the second before giving up.

I just absolutely loathed it.

But a friend who lives her part-time (we both tried the original season and gave up in despair and disgust) alerted me that she’d gotten sucked into season two; and I should give it another try. So, last night, to exhausted to do anything other than sit in my easy chair with a purring cat in my lap, and with Paul not home and nothing else to watch, I started.

After I got past the initial laughter at the fact the show is called Southern Charm New Orleans and the majority of the cast actually doesn’t live in New Orleans (Mandeville and Covington are on the north shore, in St. Tammany Parish, and twenty six miles across the lake from Metairie–also not New Orleans), and I kind of thought it was kind of funny the way the show simply flashed the names of their towns across the bottom of the screen when showing their homes, as though they were New Orleans neighborhoods, like Gentilly and Lakeview, but the more I watched, the more I began to get sucked into it. By the end of the second episode I had so many questions, had already taken sides in some of the oh-so-heavily-handed-manufactured-drama on the show, and had committed to watching the next two available episodes when I can.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but I think I was absolutely, positively pulled in when Bravo and the producers did this amazing, amazing thing–part of the story is that a married couple from season one–Jeff, the retired Saints player, and his horrible wife, Reagan, gave up on their failed marriage and got divorced between seasons, while she has moved on to an old-flame from her college days, Reece, whom we do not see or hear about other than “Reagan’s new boyfriend” in the first episode, other than a scene of him showering from behind—and yes, we see his wet, soapy, not particularly attractive bare ass (which was when Paul, who’d come home about halfway through the episode and sat down and watched with me, bailed). In the second episode we see this again, as well as Jeff fully unclothed from behind also in the shower (for comparison sake?), and I was all, well, okay then, if you’re not going to show the two incredibly hot men of color bare-assed, why must we suffer through these white boy butts?

The big drama was, of course, her introducing the new boyfriend to her ex-husband and her friends, which she did at a party for launching her new “jewelry store” at One Canal Place; the hilarious thing was how the meeting was shown on television–the two men walk away from the party to talk (which makes everyone else freak out, of course, wondering why “they had to walk away and talk”, honestly, come up with better unscripted scripts, producers), and what was absolutely hilarious (other than hot artist Jon Moody describing the new boyfriend as “cool ranch Doritos,” which is instantly iconic Bravo shade) was that Reece, the new boyfriend, is, as so many New Orleanians, a huge Saints fan, so of course he was excited to meet Jeff, the ex-husband. What was even more hilarious was they kept cutting from the two of them having a remarkably adult conversation to first a talking head from Jeff, clearly unimpressed and quoting things Reagan had said to him about Reece, then cutting to Reece in a talking head saying what Reagan had told Jeff. 

It was, frankly, one of Bravo’s finest reality show scenes, ever.

JEFF: “Well, Reagan told me he was a huge Saints fan, so she said he’s going to have a man crush on me.”

REECE: “I’m a huge Saints fan, so I’m really excited to meet him. I already have kind of a man crush on him.”

JEFF: “And I was on the Super Bowl team. He got a Saints tattoo on his side after we won the Super Bowl, so he probably wants to date ME.”

RRECE: “He was on the Super Bowl team! Hell, I’d like to date HIM.”

And so forth.

It was amazing.

And just like that, I was sucked into Southern Charm New Orleans, damn you to hell, Bravo. I was ready to bail on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and even starting to tire somewhat of The Real Housewives of New York (still the gold standard, but still not as good as it was), and so I was almost free of my Bravo addiction….and then, of all things, Southern Charm New Orleans pulled me back in.

Sigh. And now back to the spice mines.

Know your status, peeps.

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Valotte

Tuesday!

It’s supposed to get up to a high of eighty-one degrees today, which would be lovely, considering how cold it was when I woke this morning. Shiver.  Of course, it didn’t snow here and all things considered, I should be grateful that I live somewhere that snow is an anomaly rather than the norm.

We’re still enjoying The Alienist, and I am now rather curious about the book. I’m not going to have time to read it anytime soon, of course, and it’s not like my TBR pile isn’t higher than Mount Everest, but I am curious about it. I know it was extremely popular, and as I said, we are greatly enjoying the show.

I also watched Southern Charm New Orleans last night. I watch reality television; always have, beginning with The Real World back in the early 1990’s. It was…interesting. I will say this; New Orleans looked absolutely beautiful on the show, but…I will probably continue to watch; and I will say this for it: it’s not as bad as the execrable show The Big Easy was. If you have Amazon Prime and want to watch a truly awful show about New Orleans, The Big Easy is just sitting there, free, on Prime.

Yesterday I managed to work on both “Burning Crosses” and “My Brother’s Keeper”; the latter is getting very close to being finished. I also worked a little bit on “Don’t Look Down,” but I think I am going to focus on working on Chapter Eleven of the Scotty next. I am terribly unhappy with it, and while there’s a big part of me urging me to keep moving forward on the book, I am so eminently dissatisfied with this chapter that I don’t know that I’ll be able to. So, I may just give it a light going over before moving on to Chapter Twelve. Plus, the light going over might help me with Chapter Twelve.

Ah, rationalization.

First up today in the Short Story Project is “The Great Wave” by S. J. Rozan, from Lawrence Block’s Alive in Shape and Color:

The water’s cool silk slipped past her shoulders, her breasts, her hips. Terence permitted her to swim whenever and for however long she wanted, in the tiled pool in the basement just outside her suite. He required her to swim nude, as she had done at the beginning, when she was here by choice and the smooth sluicing delight of her swims always brought her out joyful, aroused, and aching for him. Arousal, ache, certainly joy, were no more, but she was she grateful for the sensation, however temporary, of fluid, enveloping protection.

She drew breath and dove. Powerful kicks and strong strokes propelled her through this underground underwater world, and though she still, always, felt a stab of despair when her fingers found the slick hard wall where the water ended, once she kicked off and turned she was again alone and almost free. Terence couldn’t swim. Her life, her body, the place she now lived, he had and would continue to invade; but in the water she could be without him. She knew he was sitting forward in his rattan chair, watching her, and so when she resurfaced to swim laps she alternated the side of her breathing as she changed direction. The whole time she was in the pool she never saw him.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: S. J. Rozan is one of my favorite crime writers–writers in general, really. This is a terrific story; like the Oates from yesterday, it’s about a woman who is being held prisoner by a man, but while it explores the same themes as the Oates story from yesterday, it tackles them in a completely different way, and the story ends perfectly. Two definite thumbs up here, but I have to say I am getting a little weary of “women being held captive” stories–nothing to do with this story, it just seems like I’ve read a lot of them lately. Or perhaps because the Oates and Rozan stories resonated so strongly, I don’t see how another writer could possibly do a better job? The bar definitely has been set pretty high for this theme.

And then there’s “Like Mother Used to Make” by Shirley Jackson, from The Lottery and Other Stories:

David Turner, who did everything in small quick movements, hurried from the bus stop down the avenue to his street. He reached the grocery on the corner and hesitated; there had been something. Butter, he remembered with relief; this morning, all the way up the avenue to his bus stop, he had been telling himself butter, don’t forget butter coming home tonight, when you pass the grocery remember butter. He went into the grocery and waited his turn, examining the cans on the shelves. Canned pork sausage was back, and corned-beef hash. A tray full of rolls caught his eye, and then the woman ahead of him went out ans the clerk turned to him.

“How much is butter?” David asked cautiously.

No one mastered the small short story quite like Shirley Jackson; and what I mean by small is the poignant sadness of a quiet life. David Turner is one of those Milquetoast-y people, but at the same time he is incredibly happy with the quiet, peaceful little life he has made for himself. He is overly fond of a female neighbor, thinks there’s more to the relationship than there really is–and as it turns out, she is actually quite awful–but David is one of those people whose interaction with other people is so limited, so timid, so shy, that he doesn’t even recognize how horrible she really is; and maybe the fact that she treats him so contemptuously when we are seeing everything from his point of view makes her seem much more monstrous. It’s a sad, melancholy little tale, and I couldn’t stop thinking about for quite a while after I finished reading it; wondering about David and where this was going to go from here. Jackson was such a genius.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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