Slow Ride

Well, I finally finished that fucking Chapter Fourteen, and yes, it’s rough, but it’s not nearly as bad as I feared it would turn out, nor as it was heading last week when I tried to work on it. Today I figured out a way to plough through it, and now I have to figure out how the fuck I am going to get another eleven chapters out of this story–but truth be told, the elements of the plot are pretty much all in place now and now it’s a matter of playing them out. I also recognized that there’s not an emotional stability at the core of the story–there is, I just haven’t been putting it in, so that’s the next thing I need to do in the next draft, or as this one progresses along I can start putting it in.

I keep saying to myself that someday this will get easier, but thirty-odd books later and here I still am, plodding through a manuscript and ready to throw in the goddamned towel.

Sunday morning and I’m on my second cup of coffee. My kitchen is a mess, and I have to figure out how to use a new app on my computer because I’m being interviewed by Eric Beetner and S. W. Lauden for their Writer Types podcast, which is very cool. I was briefly on it when they were interviewing people in the bar at St. Petersburg Bouchercon, but that was also the now notorious Low ‘n’ Slow afternoon, so I only vaguely remember it and still to this day have no idea what I actually said to them. Not good, really, when it’s going to be broadcast. I think I listened to it, and I didn’t embarrass myself too badly; but I’ve been told any number of times that people can’t tell when I’m wasted.

I’ve always thought they were being kind to lessen my own embarrassment. Maybe they were, who knows?

My relationship with alcohol has always been a tricky one. I only had liquor once before I graduated from high school and I got very drunk at a friend’s birthday party my junior year. I didn’t drink again until the night I graduated, and after I recovered from that horrible hangover I pretty much was drunk every night until we moved to California, where the drinking age was 21 and I was still only nineteen. California was also a lot stricter about checking ID’s than Kansas had ever been, so I was totally sober for two years before I came of legal age to drink again….and then was drunk every night for the next six or seven years again, followed by another few years of utter sobriety, and then when I started going out to gay bars, I still remained sober most of the time, drinking only water and finally, gradually, progressing back to beer again. I don’t drink much anymore–there were many years of New Orleans life where Paul and I went out every weekend night, including Sunday Tea Dance–but since I hung up my dancing shoes, I don’t really drink hardly at all anymore. I’ll have a drink or two when I’m out for dinner, or at a party, or during a conference–I am usually wasted every night at Bouchercon–but once the conference is over, I come back home to sobriety. We generally don’t drink at home–I still have a bottle of wine I bought on the notorious Target expedition with Wendy Corsi Staub in St. Petersburg–and we still have bottles of vodka and gin and tequila left over from the Iris parties of old; and we haven’t had an Iris party in about five years or so.

Although I am sure this October in Dallas there will be drunken, sloppy tales of Gregalicious to tell.

I’m probably going to try to get some writing done after the interview, and some cleaning, and I’d like to read more of Black Diamond Fall. I’m not reading as quickly as I used to, and I am sure it has something to do with social media and they need to constantly be checking it–which is a need that absolutely positively has to be reined in because it’s such a waste of time.

And that sounds like the perfect segue back into the spice mines this morning. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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I’ll Be Good To You

Well, wasn’t yesterday an amazing day for one Gregalicious? Not only was it payday, but I stopped and got the mail on my way to the office (there was a check!), and then right around the time I got to the office my phone (which was in my pocket) made the sound of breaking glass, indicating I’d gotten a notification from Facebook; I pulled it out of my pocket on my way up the stairs and lo! The Anthony Award short-lists had been announced, and I’d been tagged in the post. This usually means one thing and one thing only–a nomination–but I thought, no, that can’t be. But sure enough I clicked on the notification, scrolled down the list, and there I was, nominated for Best Short Story for “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens…along with four other amazing writers–Art Taylor, S. A. Crosby, Barb Goffman, and Holly West!

Wow.

It’s really lovely to be nominated for awards, and I know I’m luckier than so many others–who can go their entire careers without ever getting any award recognition. This is my second time up for an Anthony (I won, in Toronto, for Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou), and came as an incredibly pleasant surprise; the decision to not have a Best Anthology Anthony for Dallas Bouchercon was, I thought, the death knell of any shot I might ever have at possibly getting another Anthony nomination. I certainly never dreamed I’d somehow make the short-list for Best Short Story for my contribution to Florida Happens, “Cold Beer No Flies,” a story that’s been hanging out in my files in various different forms since the late 1980’s. But I am also pleased that it’s a story about a young gay man trapped in a small, conservative Florida panhandle town who has big dreams to get out of there–and isn’t afraid to break the law in order to make those dreams come true. This is also my second time nominated for a Short Story award from the mainstream mystery community–the first was the Macavity in Toronto, and the nod was for “Survivor’s Guilt” from Blood on the Bayou–and I also can’t even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be nominated for a short story in the mainstream; but “Cold Beer No Flies” is, as I said before, a story with gay character/themes…and it might be the first time such a story has been nominated. (John Copenhaver is also nominated for Best First Novel, for Dodging and Burning–still in the TBR pile–and he’s also an openly gay writer of a book with gay characters and themes; I think it’s possible the two of us may have made history with our nominations as the first time this has happened; I could be wrong.)

This is especially thrilling when I take into consideration the fact that my writing self-esteem (never high in any discipline) is particularly low when it comes to short stories, as Constant Reader is undoubtedly aware. I love them, and I love the challenge of writing them, but…I’ve never had much luck with selling or placing them in places, but sometimes I do catch lightning in a bottle and the story works.

I spent most of yesterday trying to keep up with the congratulatory posts, comments, tweets and emails yesterday but failing miserably; I woke up this morning to a lot more of them and I suspect a lot of my free time today will be spent making sure I thank everyone.

Which is, frankly, kind of a lovely problem to have, amirite? I mean, I’d certainly rather spend a day basking in the glow of warm congratulatory messages/posts/tweets/comments than pretty much anything else, to be honest. Who woudn’t?

And to be on a short-list with talented writers like Art, Barb, Holly, and Shawn? Very very cool, quite frankly, and just the kind of flattering ego-stroke I needed at this moment as I struggle with the WIP (which I didn’t touch yesterday, for obvious reasons) but I am hoping to get back to today because things will, I am sure, be settling down somewhat. What’s interesting is that Holly is also nominated for her Florida Happens story; Barb also has a story in Florida Happens but is nominated for another work; and Art was the person who got me involved in working on Bouchercon anthologies in the first place. I met Shawn briefly in St. Petersburg at this last Bouchercon, and I am certain at some point in the future we’ll have a professional connection of some sort like these others–I certainly hope that’s the case, at any rate.

And now it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone, and thank you!

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Vacation

Vacation was the name of the Go-Go’s second album, and also the first single from the record. The video was instantly iconic; even despite the really bad attempt to convince the viewer that the Go-Go’s were actually doing the water-skiing as the chorus played. But the cheesiness of the blue screen effect actually helped make the video even more fun; and the song was definitely impossible to not sing along to, or dance to, whenever the deejay played it. I always cranked it when it came on the radio.

Vacation was my least favorite of the three original albums, though; outside of the title song, I don’t even remember any of the other songs from the album without having to look them up. My tastes were also kind of evolving at the time; MTV was changing the music industry and exposing Americans to new kinds of music.  The Go-Go’s went on hiatus after this record, due to Gina Schock’s heart condition and a health issue for Charlotte Caffey…and I thought they were kind of done…until they came roaring back with Talk Show a few years later.

Anyway, the next story up in Murder-a-Go-Go’s is S. W. Lauden’s take on “Vacation.”

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The alarm is wailing again, just like every other morning. I was already awake when it started, flipping through this notebook to remember what I wrote last night. I must have been exhausted because I only filled three pages. My handwriting looks like the work of a lunatic toddler, so messy in some places that I can’t figure out what it says. Safe to say the pills they force down my throat are screwing with me. But I have to admit the voices are quieter—not gone, but not screaming, either. Not like that goddamned alarm. That beep-beep-beeping makes me want to murder somebody.

My roomie just hit the snooze button, delaying the inevitable. It’s amazing how some people can go right back to sleep, even when they know the attendants are coming to herd us off. I don’t think we’ve said more than a few words to each other since I came in, which is fine. Nobody talks to me much in this place, not unless it’s their job. I’d be surprised if half the bullshit I spew to my doctor is true.

These pages are the only place where I can be totally honest because I’m the only one who knows they exist for now. Those fuckers wish they could bore their way into my private thoughts, but I’m too smart for them. The words I write in here are for our eyes only. I can’t wait to share them with you, but that has to wait until I earn my mail privileges back.

Speaking of the fuckers, here they are now. Time to hide you away until after lunch. Right now, I have to go see a specialist they brought in just for me. Should I feel special? I already met with him yesterday, one of the worst hours of my life. My regular doctor was there too, but she didn’t say a word to me after “hello.” Just leaned over to whisper in the specialist’s ear every once in a while. He’s an asshole, but it’s nice to have somebody else I can lie to for a change.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met S. W. Lauden in person; it’s entirely possible, given how many drunken nights at Bouchercons I’ve experienced over the last six years. I have a sinking suspicion I may have met him on the now notorious Low-and-Slow Saturday in St. Petersburg, but I cannot be held responsible for any gaps in my memory that occurred that day.

But this story is terrific; it subverts itself over and over again, and while the trope of the unreliable narrator might be getting a bit overdone in crime fiction, the way Lauden toys with the trope to keep his readers on the edge of their seat, reading on and on with an eyebrow raised as they try to grasp what is real and what isn’t, is quite masterful.

Adding Lauden to my must-read-more list!

Diamonds and Pearls

Monday after Bouchercon.

It’s always lovely to sleep in my own bed; I have trouble sleeping when I travel so usually I am completely exhausted when I get home, and this trip was no exception. The Vinoy Renaissance Hotel in St. Petersburg is absolutely stunning; as Paul and I said to each other as we walked into our room, “This place is too nice for the likes of us.”

Our room had two balconies.

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The reason the image is a little blurry and not as sharp is because my camera lens kept fogging up every time I walked out there.

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Seriously, stunningly beautiful hotel. Paul was out at the pool every day and now has a tan on a par with the one we came back from Acapulco with twelve years ago. And oh, what fun was Bouchercon this year! I was a busy little bee making honey almost from the get go. And for someone who, no matter what, will always  be a fanboy…the first night we went to the Guest of Honor dinner, where I sat with Lawrence Block and Ian Rankin at my table–too starstruck to speak to either, frankly–but a lovely meal was had and I listened to some great conversation.

The next day, Thursday, I did the Coat of Many Colors event at nine in the morning with a Bloody Mary, and it was an absolutely lovely event, and a lot of fun. It’s rather fun always, methinks, to celebrate diversity in our genre as well as reminding people of terrific writers and books that may not have gotten the attention they should have. That day was also the anthology launch for Florida Happens, which entailed all the contributors present signing. I sat next to Debra Lattanzi Shutika, who was utterly and completely charming (you’ll love her story “Frozen Iguana,” people), and then came the big adventure.

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My friend Wendy had shattered her iPhone screen, and Paul and I had rented a car….so I offered to take her to the Apple Store.

In Tampa.

On the other side of the bay.

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So something simple–oh, let’s go get your phone fixed and have noodles for lunch–turned into a four hour adventure that probably should have ended with us being banned from Tampa, malls, healthy smoothy shops, and Targets for the rest of our lives. That night we ended up going out for dinner and having a lot of laughs and a lot of drinks (why did nobody ever tell me about the wonder that is a bleu-cheese stuffed olive in a dirty martini before?) we staggered back to the hotel to have more drinks and then I poured myself into bed. The beds at the Vinoy, by the way, just might be the most comfortable beds of all time.

Friday was my big day. Yes, not only did I have to be on three panels but I also ran for the Bouchercon board. The first panel was the sex panel, called “Nooner”, moderated by the divine Helen Smith, and my other panelists were the amazing Catriona McPherson, Heather Graham, Hilary Davidson, and the always hilarious and entertaining Christa Faust. The panel was smart, funny, fun….and I learned a few things.

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After that was the Bouchercon general election, and yes, I did win a three-year term on the Bouchercon board (although I am not certain “win” is the right word, KIDDING), which was absolutely lovely, and then I had to dash off to my next panel. I was moderating the Best Paperback Original Anthony award finalists panel, with the amazing James Ziskin, Eryk Pruitt, Thomas Pluck, Lori Rader-Day (who won the award on Saturday night), and the always amazing Nadine Nettman. This was so much fun, even though the entire time I was up there I had flop sweat and kept checking my phone to see how much time was left, and didn’t relax until I knew there was only fifteen minutes to go. (I always feel like I fail as a moderator; always.)

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(Thanks to Catriona McPherson for not only keeping time, but for taking this terrific picture of us afterwords.)

Then came to the Rainbow Connection panel, moderated by Terri Bischoff, where I got to meet some new-to-me writers and it was a really great discussion. Absolutely great.

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Immediately after this, I ran and changed so Paul and I could be the plus-ones of our friends Wendy and Alison at the Harper Collins cocktail party. (And yes, we started drinking wine in Wendy and Alison’s room.) After ensuring I’ll never publish at Harper (but I got to meet Carol Goodman, a writer whose work I’ve been wanting to read for quite some time, and NOW I REALLY WANT TO BECAUSE SHE IS ABSOLUTELY LOVELY) I somehow invited myself along to a dinner, where I drank more wine, and then I went to a rooftop cocktail party I was invited to where I was surrounded by enormously talented and incredibly smart people whom I admire. I stumbled back into my room around three in the morning after drinking almost all the wine in Florida.

Saturday….I made a lot of bad decisions, thanks to the encouragement of some dear friends.

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Although…now I am questioning the use of the word friends.

I remember going to dinner, and drinking more there. (The dinner was terrific, and again, surrounded by incredibly smart and successful and talented people.) Then we returned to the hotel and things are kind of fuzzy after that.

But the trip home went incredibly smoothly so smoothly that I almost didn’t trust it. But a lovely time indeed it was, and I already miss it.

Next year in DALLAS.

(Apologies to whoever I stole these pictures from; I wind up never taking pictures at Bouchercon and having to lift them from Facebook and Twitter.)

Can’t Let Go

We took Scooter to Kitty Camp yesterday morning, and I spent the rest of the day packing and cleaning, around treating every available surface for fleas and watching the US Open (GO SERENA! GO RAFA!). But I managed to get everything that might have fleas or flea eggs in it treated with the death-to-flea spray we got at the Cat Practice, and to be honest, I’ve never seen any fleas anywhere except for occasionally finding a sluggish one on Scooter. It’s possible–they said this at the Cat Practice–there are so many fleas outside that we track them in with us, and when they get on him his flea treatment kills them. I don’t know. I just know that when Skittle had fleas they were fucking everywhere, once we took him out of the house.

Heavy sigh.

It is awfully lonely around here without Scooter, I have to say.

I am, as I said yesterday morning, greatly enjoying Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline. This is, at least so far, what Southern Gothic should be; elegant, dusty, slightly decayed and morally askew; the writing is absolutely stellar and the main character is incredibly compelling: a single mother who works as managing editor at a Cosmo type magazine whose child has died, suddenly, of a rare brain aneurysm, and trying to put her life back together again. She also is a touch psychic, but is never really sure if she is seeing things, dreaming, or it’s grief and drug-induced. Absolutely loving it; trying to decide if I should save it for the airport/airplane or if I should dive back into it some tonight…but worried if I did I wouldn’t be able to set it aside to sleep; I really needed to go to bed early last night; so I put it aside for today’s flight/sitting in the airport. I got up before the alarm this morning, as well–it was set for six and I got up at five thirty.

Heavy heaving sigh. Which means I’ll be exhausted tonight; which I hope means a good night’s sleep.

I am also packing Madeline Miller’s Circe with me to St. Petersburg, and I am sure I will pick up some books once there (there are a lot of giveaways, always, which for a book hoarding nerd like me is heavenly) so I don’t think I’ll run out of things to read. I’ll also have the iPad with me, so I can read any of the number of books on there that I’ve downloaded over the years. And I’d really like to get back to the Short Story Project; although it was fun reading the books for my panel, and talking about the wonderful stories in Florida Happens–I’m thinking there will be some award nominations for the contributors coming in the next year, which is awesome. I’m very proud to have helped in organizing and putting the book together, which was a lot of work and a lot of fun, even though a lot of people wound up being disappointed. But I acknowledged every submission when it was received, and I let everyone know who submitted and wasn’t selected as well.

It’s called being professional, people.

I am very glad travel day is finally here though–much as I have traveling, that’s primarily because I hate the actual traveling. Once I am in St. Petersburg and all checked in and comfy in my fabulous room at the Vinoy Renaissance, I am sure I will be more than fine.

But ugh, airport and so forth.

And now to start getting ready to leave.

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Finally

Saturday morning, and my ten day vacation from work began last night at around eight thirty, when I got in my car to drive home from passing out condoms all evening. It was a rather long day– I had to work at the main office first for several hours before heading down to the Quarter–and I was physically sore and exhausted and sweaty and crabby as fuck when I got in the car to come home. Once home I took a shower, relaxed, had some wine, and watched the US Open until it was time to go to sleep. I slept deeply and well; clearly, the shower made a significant difference in how this all played out for this morning. I have some errands to run today–groceries, mail, getting the big suitcase out of storage for the trip to St. Petersburg–and I have to do some writing for a website. I want to clean the house–make some progress, at any rate; I like to leave the house very clean when I go on a trip so I don’t have to come home to a dirty house–and I think I am going to try to just read the Scotty manuscript and make notes while the US Open is on. The second season of Ozark also became available last night on Netflix, and I’m really looking forward to seeing if the show can maintain its high level of quality for a second season. I also want to finish reading James Ziskin’s Cast the First Stone so I can start reading Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie, and then my Bouchercon homework is done.

Huzzah!

And the LSU game isn’t until tomorrow night, so I may watch some college football–toggling back and forth between college football and the US Open (I still can’t believe it’s football season) while reading in my easy chair. I probably won’t be posting much, if at all, while I am in St. Petersburg at Bouchercon. I do have the WordPress app on my iPad (I don’t bother with my MacBook Air anymore; while I do love my Apple products as a general rule,  I regret buying the Air. I really need to take it into the Apple Store and have them fix some nonsensical things that I don’t understand are wrong with it) but I am not a huge fan of writing on the iPad. Maybe that will change. I did buy the keyboard for it, but I’ve never really had to write on it very much. Who knows–maybe in St. Pete I’ll discover that I love writing on it. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Maybe I could try practicing on it here this weekend before I leave on Wednesday? You never know. It’s really about getting used to it because it’s very different from writing on a desktop.

And when I get back I can get back to the Short Story Project! HUZZAH!

I still would like to get the Scotty revision finished by the end of September; and I think if I can focus and buckle down and really stick to it, it’s a definite possibility. And then I can finally get back to the WIP to make the changes it needs before heading back out into the world in search of an agent. I also want to at least get started on Bury Me in Satin by the end of the year; I’d hoped to be finished with it at the end of the year but I really don’t think that’s going to be happening any time soon, either. It’s a great idea, and I think I can do some great things with it, and while I am doing all of this I am going to start researching New Orleans history as I continue to think about writing another, different series. (And once Bury Me in Satin is finished, I hope to start working on Muscles, my long-planned noir.)

And on that note, it’s time to get going on my day. Have a lovely Saturday, everybody

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Remember the Time

Friday morning! I get to go into work late because I am, as always, passing out condom packs tonight in the Quarter for Southern Decadence; when we finish, I am officially on vacation all I ever wanted until I return to the office on September 11 (gulp). Huzzah! Huzzah! Part of that time will be, of course, spent in St. Petersburg at Bouchercon. (huzzah! huzzah!) I am still trying to get my Bouchercon homework finished; I am nearly finished with James Ziskin’s delightful Cast the First Stone, and hopefully will be able to finish Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie before our panel next Friday. (If I can’t, I really need to turn in my book nerd card.) I am also hoping to take Madeline Miller’s Circe with me on the trip to read.

I don’t want to give the impression that Cast the First Stone isn’t as good as it is by taking so long to read it; I’ve been in a late summer/dog days of August malaise that has had me having a lot of trouble getting anything done; the house is a mess (worse than usual) and I’ve gotten nowhere on the Scotty book and I’ve done very little writing of consequence at all this month. I’m trying very hard not to beat myself up over this; it is what it is, and it’s not a reflection on anything I do or my career. August, particularly late August, is always hideous when it comes to trying to get anything done; the heat and humidity this particular year has been particularly hideous, and it really sucks the life and energy right out of you. I am taking the manuscript for the Scotty with me to St. Pete; and I am hoping I’ll be able to carve out time to reread and make notes and so forth over the course of the weekend.

I’m also trying to figure out the rest of the story for “The Blues before Dawn.” I am also wondering whether or not this is more of a novel rather than a short story. I can’t make up my mind about my main character, or a time period to set the story in. I fucking hate when that happens. But it also means I need to think about the story some more, which is also not such a bad thing; as it’s a historical I’ll need to do some more research–I’ve been realizing lately how skimpy my knowledge of New Orleans and Louisiana history (with a few exceptions) actually is.

Another mental challenge for this is my decision, made over the course of the summer, to think about creating a new series. The Chanse series is pretty much over; after I decided to stop with Murder in the Arts District I wasn’t sure I was, in fact, finished with the character and series, but as more time passes the less I am interested in writing another novel about him. That might change, but I am now more convinced than ever that ending the series was the right thing to do. I have, however, written a Chanse short story and started another (I’ve still not finished “Once a Tiger”), and feel relatively certain Chanse will live on in short stories from time to time. The endless struggle and utter lack of motivation I have in finishing this Scotty book is also kind of a tell that maybe it’s time to wind this series down as well–a much harder decision, as I love Scotty much more than I ever cared about Chanse. But in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about writing yet another series. I had thought about spinning Jerry Channing, the writer, who first appeared in The Orion Mask and then again in Garden District Gothic his own series; as a true crime writer who often follows and writes about true crime for magazines, and is always looking for a subject for his next book, he seemed perfect as the center of another series. But the character’s back story was problematic, and I realized his background, in some ways, might be far too similar (and thus derivative) to Scotty’s. Then again, so what if Scotty and Jerry are both formerly personal trainers? if that and being gay is all they have in common…I do have an idea for a Jerry novel that might work; maybe I should write that and see if a series might work.

But “The Blues Before Dawn” also has grown in my mind as a possible start for a series, and maybe it should be a novel rather than a story (this, by the way, happens to me all the time). I think writing a historical crime series set in New Orleans might be an interesting idea; there are only two in existence that I am aware of–Barbara Hambly’s brilliant Benjamin January series (which is antebellum and opens with A Free Man of Color), and David Fulmer’s Valentin St. Cyr Storyville series, which opens with Chasing the Devil’s Tail. (Don’t @ me; I am sure there are others I can’t think of, even now I am thinking James Sallis’ Lew Griffin series, the first of which is called The Long-Legged Fly, is historical.) But the other day I came across an interesting article about Algernon Badger, who was chief of police in New Orleans from about 1870-1876, as well as Jean Baptiste Jourdain, who was the highest ranking mixed race police detective in 1870, and in charge of the Mollie Digby kidnapping investigation.  There is so much rich history in New Orleans that I don’t know, have barely scratched the surface of; one of the many reasons I roll my eyes when people refer to me as “a New Orleans expert.” The concept of a high ranking police detective after the Civil War and during Reconstruction in New Orleans fascinates me; and I kind of like the idea of writing about the Prohibition era here as well.

I think I need to have a long chat with my friend, historian Pat Brady.

I also got a rejection yesterday for a short story; and was enormously pleased that it didn’t spend me into the usual downward spiral of depression. Obviously, I am disappointed my story won’t be used, but it was just so lovely to actually get a notification that they aren’t using my story that it just rolled off my back. (It was also a lovely note, which included some thoughts on the story; ironically, what they thought would have made the story better was something that I had personally thought when reviewing and revising; but I didn’t trust my judgment and didn’t make those crucial changes. You’d think after all this time I would have learned to trust my judgment!)

And now, I am going to go curl up in my easy chair and try to finish James Ziskin’s delightful Cast the First Stone.

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