Lean on Me

GEAUX TIGERS!

I still can’t believe we have tickets for tonight’s game. We try to make it to at least one game every season, if we can; we’ve managed to go to at least one game per season since our first trip to Tiger Stadium, when we went to the Ole Miss game in 2010. We’ve seen some exciting games there; we’ve seen some blowouts, and we’ve seen some games that were closer than they should have been. One of the things I love about being an LSU fan is that they are never boring to watch. That 2007 national championship year was probably, overall, the most interesting and fun season of college football that I can remember. It’s also LSU’s Homecoming, and of course, we’re playing hated rival Florida; both teams undefeated, both ranked in the Top Ten. And while a loss for either team doesn’t necessarily mean being taken out of the conference championship race, or out of national hopes, it would mean an uphill battle the rest of the season–and another loss will spell the end of all hopes for the season.

Not looking forward to driving to and from Baton Rouge, though.

But Death Valley is going to be rocking–after all, it’s Saturday night in Death Valley!

It’a also going to be in the 60’s–perfect stadium weather tonight.

Very exciting.

I’m going to try to get some writing done, as well as some cleaning around the Lost Apartment, before we head out this afternoon. I also have to walk over to the International School to vote in the Louisiana primaries.

I’m not really sure what to do with Bury Me in Shadows. On the one hand, I’d really love to get it finished and turned in soon; on the other, I’m worried that I’m rushing to get it out of my hair. Of course, I can always turn it in and do a final revision before the official deadline it will be given, but…I don’t really like doing that. I did it with Royal Street Reveillon, though, and that seemed to work really well. So, maybe? I don’t know; I am very torn. I do think this might be one of the better books I’ve written, and more attention to it could make it my best. But again, I am terribly worried about turning it in, getting it on the schedule and then trying to get another finished draft finished before it’s due for production–because I absolutely have no idea what my life will be like at that time.

Last night I watched, of all things, the E! True Hollywood Story: Dynasty on Youtube. It occurred to me, really, how correct they were when they said Dynasty encapsulated the 1980’s more than any other television show; Dallas might have averaged higher ratings throughout its lengthy run, and there were certainly other successful night time soaps in the 1980’s, but Dynasty really captured the era more so than anything else–and let’s not forget, Dynasty had the first openly gay character in a television drama series (Jody on SOAP was probably the first; but it was a comedy), and then of course, Rock Hudson’s appearance on the show when he was dying from HIV/AIDS–not revealed until after he’d left the show–made the epidemic world-wide news and shone a bright light on an epidemic that was actually being largely ignored by the world at the time and when it was talked about, well–as said by a horrific bigot on Designing Women a few years later, “it’s killing all the right people.”

I also watched the final episode of Showtime’s Murder in the Bayou last night, and cannot help but feel sorry for the families of the victims. The mystery of who murdered the Jeff Davis 8 will most likely never be solved, which is an absolute shame, but it is such amazing fodder for a novel. Every time I watch an episode, I think to myself how to structure such a book, and start populating it with characters. It’s definitely a Chanse novel more so than a Scotty; obviously I could do it as a stand alone–which is still a possibility–but almost from the very beginning I’ve seen it as a Chanse novel; primarily because Chanse is from a small town in east Texas, which would give him good insight into the class differentials in a small town, as well as some insight into police corruption. I’ve never done a Louisiana corruption novel yet; this is almost too perfect a case to hang such a story upon.

I know I said Murder in the Arts District was probably going to be the last Chanse novel, but I always add the caveat “unless I get a good idea.” I was burned out on writing Chanse when I finished that book, and I felt like it was probably past time to retire the character from my canon. I’ve written one short story with him as the main character, “My Brother’s Keeper,” which was included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and I’ve started writing another one, “Once a Tiger,” which started off strong but then petered out as I wrote it. It’s still unfinished, and I think it’s going to have to be overhauled completely. It’s a great idea–Chanse comes back to LSU to solve a murder at his old fraternity–but it doesn’t really get traction in the way I started writing it. As I was thinking about the story for the new Chanse novel last night, I also recognized that some things that I was thinking about, as far as Chanse was concerned, would have to change; I really do need to go back and read the last few books in the series again. I am probably going to cross over a character from the Scotty series into this Chanse, should I write it–Jerry Channing, the true crime writer. I may not, it just seemed like he would be the perfect person to bring the murders in a western Louisiana parish to Chanse’s attention.

Anyway, we’ll see. I need to finish Bury Me in Shadows, the Kansas book, write some more short stories, finish “Never Kiss a Stranger,” and, of course, Chlorine.

I also found myself thinking about some other stories I have in progress, in particular “Please Die Soon,” which I think is going to be pretty good–if I ever finish it.

And on that note, I’m going to get cleaned up and go vote. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

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I Want Your Sex

Here it is, Friday morning, and we’ve survived another work week, haven’t we? I can tell that the seasons are changing, as the light isn’t quite so bright in the early morning and it’s getting darker earlier.

The day job has been challenging this week. We’ve been  busier than usual–which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong–but being as busy as we’ve been wears me out. By the time I get home I’m drained and exhausted, which isn’t helpful when it comes to getting things done when I get home. I was already behind on things because of the massive volunteer project, and this doesn’t help. The next project, due to begin on October 1, has been pushed back so I have the month of October suddenly free to focus on my writing again, which is lovely. I am trying to decide if I want to revise the Kansas book, or work my way through Bury Me in Shadows for a second draft. Maybe this weekend as I work on the short stories I need to get finished I’ll be able to figure out, by reading through the manuscripts, which one I should get back to work on. I am more leaning toward the Kansas book; I’ve been dickering around with it in one form or another for nearly three decades and it’s probably time to finish it off, once and for all. It does, after all, make the most sense.

It would be lovely to spend all this time getting caught up on other things as well. I think getting those two short stories finished this weekend would be lovely, and perhaps some work on “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Fireflies.” I’d submitted “Fireflies”–an ancient story I originally wrote in or around 1987–to an anthology that later commissioned me to write a story for them; they liked “Fireflies” but felt it would work better in longer form, perhaps as a novella. I never think about fiction in terms of novellas; novellas are even harder to place than short stories, and so for me it’s always about short story vs. novel when I come up with an idea. Last year I wrote “Quiet Desperation” as a short novella and self-published it on Amazon before adding it into Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, and while it didn’t exactly set the e-novella market on fire, it was kind of nice having it out there. That’s why I decided to do “Never Kiss a Stranger” as a longer form story, so I could make it more layered and explore the complexities of the characters more–I knew I could self-publish it as a novella in a worst case scenario, and then later add it to another short story collection. I’d never considered “Fireflies” as a longer form novella; part of the problem with the story has always been it’s much too short for everything that is happening and going on in the story. (Rereading it recently I saw this very clearly, and another one of its problems is how it jumps around in time; you can tell I had just read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury when I originally wrote it.) As I reread it recently, I realized just how richer and better the story would be if I expanded on it, so that’s also something I look forward to working on as well.

We started watching Succession last night, and wow. What a bunch of horrifically terrible human beings. We’re going to continue to watch–we also want to watch Unbelievable on Netflix–and of course, other shows we watch are back, like How to Get Away with Murder, and I also want to finish watching Murder on the Bayou, and the second season of Titans, which might call for a rewatch of season one, because I think Paul would enjoy it.

And on that note, I think I need to attempt to clean out my emails again. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

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Moonlight Feels Right

It really is a wonder I have a career.

Yes, I missed the official launch of my short story collection, which was officially published on April 10….five days ago.

Seriously. How do I have a career?

Who fucking forgets their release day?

Apparently, this fool.

The jacket copy:

A Katrina survivor waits for rescue on his roof in the brutal heat, reflecting on the life choices that brought him to this moment. A young woman discovers there’s more to her perfect man than she thought. A gay journalist travels to Italy to interview his teen idol, only to discover a darkness in the Tuscan hills. A gay man cleans his home, reflecting on his sociopathic criminal mother. Chanse MacLeod returns to his hometown to help his younger brother, accused of murder. A daughter keeps her father’s legacy alive while hiding his darkest secrets.

Including five new stories written for this collection (along with the first-ever Chanse MacLeod short story), Greg Herren’s tales of murder, crime, and the darkness that lives inside all of us are evocative of the proud Southern Gothic tradition of writers and are now available, for the first time, in a single collection.

Table of contents:

Survivor’s Guilt

The Email Always Pings Twice

Keeper of the Flame

A Streetcar Named Death

An Arrow for Sebastian

Housecleaning

Acts of Contrition

Lightning Bugs in a Jar

Spin Cycle

Cold Beer No Flies

Annunciation Shotgun

Quiet Desperation

The Weight of a Feather

My Brother’s Keeper

Don’t Look Down

You can order it from Amazon right here. Or from Barnes and Noble here.  You can also get it directly from my publisher here. You can also support your local independent by ordering from here!

I also encourage you to walk into your local independent and if they don’t have it, request it.

Thanks all!

Survivors Guilt

Sara Smile

Well, I slept much later than I usually do; I did wake up at seven but through nah, too early and went back to sleep, not awakening again until nine-thirty-ish. And yes, that is late for me, but I also stayed up later than I usually do because Paul and I got sucked into a marathon binge of season three of Santa Clarita Diet, which dropped this week. We have three episodes left to go–which will probably be watched this evening–and then we have to decide which of the shows we’d already started we want to finish–either Umbrella Academy or You. There are also some other shows we need to finish, others that look like possibilities, and Netflix also added some great classic films I’ve been wanting to watch again; namely Bonnie and Clyde, All the President’s Men, Deliverance, the reboot of Friday the 13th, and the Will Smith version of I Am Legend. I also intend to start reading Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home, kicking the Diversity Project back into gear, and I also want to finish reading Murder-a-Go-Go’s for the Short Story Project.

I also need to start doing some sort of promotion for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, but I’m not exactly sure what and how and…you get the picture; again, I don’t really know how I have a career.

I was thinking about the Diversity Project the other day, and I want to make it abundantly clear that I don’t think it’s right that I have to turn reading diverse authors into a “project” to make diversifying my reading happen. Even saying The Diversity Project makes it sound effortful, as though if I didn’t make a point of it I wouldn’t do it. And that’s clearly wrong on every level. And I’ve been failing miserably at it thus far this year, no matter how many excuses I want to make for it. This of course has me examining my own prejudices. I’ve bought the books, of course, which is an important first step and every sale helps, but I also need to not only read the books but talk about them. Here it is April and the only one I’ve talked about is Walter Mosley; what kind of an ally am I to minority writers, of which I am one?

Apparently, not a very good one.

I had already softened the project’s goal from focusing on only reading minority writers to interspersing them with others; so if I read a book by a non-minority writer the next one I have to read must be by a minority writer. That hasn’t worked overly well, either; part of it has been due to my own, I don’t know, weird ambivalence to this year–something that’s been going on since around the Great Data Disaster of 2018. I’ve also realized, just this past week, that the Great Data Disaster wasn’t really where it all started. My life has been in an almost constant state of upheaval of some sort or another since late October, just before Halloween. My day job moved from the office where we’d been located since I was hired back in 2005 (the office actually opened in 2000) into a new location, which required all sorts of adaptation. For almost the entire first month of the existence in the new office we didn’t do a lot of testing, which is what my job is, which meant I was working a weird (to me) early morning to late afternoon shift–say, 8-430ish. This freed my evenings and I was going to town on writing and revising Scotty in those free evenings, because the Festivals were also kicking into high gear and Paul was coming home late. Then came December with a readjustment to working a new schedule all over again, followed by the Great Data Disaster, the Christmas holidays, and then Carnival. During that time period I was also working on finishing up my job as a book award judge and diving into a new task for this year, also involving award judging but not actually having to read anything (I really can’t say more than that about it; but it’s a big endeavor and I will leave it at that)I don’t think I ever really got a handle on anything, which is why I felt like my life was happening and I was not actively participating in it.

And softening the goal also makes me question myself and my internal, subconscious prejudices and biases. Yes, I had to read three books to moderate my panel at the Tennessee Williams Festival, which wasn’t easy and really involved a lot of cramming at the end. Why do I automatically reach for a book by a straight white writer when it’s time to chose another book to read? Why will I justify taking that book out of the stack rather than reaching for a book by a minority writer? It is these unconscious biases and prejudices that need to be ripped out by the root and plowed under with salt so they won’t take root again; and  not just in reading, but in life. 

I think I do a better job with my life than I do with my reading, quite frankly.

I also had thought, when I started on this, that I would expand the project outside the bounds of crime fiction and include other genres as well. I’ve always believed that reading more widely outside of one’s genre will make one a better author by exposing you to different styles of writing, different stories and different characters. Horror is always my immediate go-to when it comes to reading outside of mystery, but I also need to read more fantasy, science fiction, romance, and literary fiction. I also don’t want to stop reading women crime writers, either.

The exposure to other voices, other thoughts, other mindsets, will not only make me a better writer but a better person. What better key to understanding experiences outside my own is there than actually reading books outside my own experience, and to see the common humanity?

My first thought on rising so late this morning was well, you’ve shot your day to hell. But that isn’t true. I can still get things done today as long as I don’t allow myself to bog down on generalities or give up on the day. It would be ridiculously easy, you know, to simply write the entire day off and do nothing, but I really don’t want to waste the day. I’d like to get another chapter of the WIP finished, for one thing, and I’d like to work on this proposal I’m putting together. The kitchen needs work and there’s always filing that needs to be done, and there’s a lot of mess around. I also need to make a quick run to the grocery store as well.

So, on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Play that Funky Music

SO, so much to do tonight and this morning. The termite tenters arrive at eight tomorrow morning, so basically all I will have time to do tomorrow morning is get up and have some coffee before I have to take Scooter to the spa and head down to the hotel. I also have to head uptown in the afternoon for my doctor’s appointment at one thirty; I’ll probably just take the streetcar back to the Quarter from there. I am feeling more than a little pressed for time, as I have some other things I have to get done as well, but it will all, I am sure, work out. And since I have to get up so early tomorrow, I need to go to bed relatively early this evening. But it’s also a short day at the office for me, so that will be most helpful as well. I have to stop on the way to work (or on the way home) at the post office so I can mail my tax documents to my accountant–something else I have to do is calculate my expenses for 2018 for her, but I’m not too terribly concerned about that; it shouldn’t take me very long to do.

I really am feeling more than a bit frustrated here because I really want to be working on my book–the revisions of the earlier chapters is starting to get easier, and naturally, I have to stop and do other things, which is enormously irritating and makes me more than a little crabby. But it cannot be helped; these things must get done, and I think–once I finish reading my book for my panel I am moderating on Saturday, and get the other thing done that I need to get done–I can get back to work on the WIP. I also have to go make groceries at some point on Monday, in the middle of washing the bed linens and washing all the dishes, pots and pans just to make sure we won’t poison ourselves by eating from them…but perhaps at some time on Monday while all that chaos is going on around me, I can manage to get some rewriting time in.

I did sleep rather well last night, which was also lovely; again I could  have slept much later than I was able to, but as I said, I have things to get done this morning and time’s a-wasting. I also have to pack this evening, and remember to leave stuff out that I can use for showering and shaving and brushing my teeth in the morning. Ideally, I would like to just go ahead and put the suitcases in the car tonight, so tomorrow all I have to do is drink some coffee, take a quick shower, and corral Scooter into his carrier before dashing out of here at eight a.m. precisely. I figure I can be at the Monteleone by nine, if everything goes well, which will give me another three precious hours of reading time before heading uptown to the doctor. (I will, of course, bring the book with me so I can continue reading as I get there and back.) I think Saturday morning will give me enough time to get up and get ready for the panel; and then since I don’t have any plans for Saturday evening I can perhaps spend that time in the suite writing.

One can hope.

I am basically trying really hard not to get panicked this morning over everything that must be done–panicking won’t help or solve any problems, it never does–before I head into the office this morning. I also have to get ready to participate in the reading series on Sunday at Saints and Sinners; I’ve pretty much decided to read from “This Town,” my story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, even though it would probably be smarter to read from Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories…but I don’t get the chance to read very often, and I really do want to read this story publicly at some point.

I’ve already made my suitcase packing list, so all I need to really do is pack up grocery bags with the refrigerated goods so I can store them in the fridge at the office today, and maybe go ahead and pack the small rolling suitcase with the stuff I need to work on while I am at the hotel. Tonight I am going to be moving things over to the carriage house and making sure everything in the Lost Apartment is prepped for the termite genocide, and try to get to bed relatively early.

Monday is going to be, frankly, quite insane. I am hoping we’ll be able to get back into the house on Sunday–if so, I will probably duck out of the hotel, skip the closing, and come back home early so I can start washing things, in order to make Monday less stressful. If we can’t come back on Sunday evening, well, it’ll have to be Monday morning madness.

And then I get to go back to work on Tuesday! Hurray!

Heavy heaving sigh. That which doesn’t kill us, and all that.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Kiss and Say Goodbye

Wednesday morning, and I could have slept until tomorrow. Paul moves into the hotel today for the Weekend o’Festivals, and I get to come home to an empty house and Needy Kitty ™. Tomorrow I get to finish packing things up and moving them out before the Termite Tent arrives sometime on Friday, which is when I get to somehow finagle Scooter into his carrier and get him to the spa for the weekend, move into the hotel, and somehow find the time (and a way) to get to my doctor’s appointment uptown later that same day.

Heavy sigh.

But that’s okay. I can manage it. I also have to start preparing for my panel, so I am going to try to finish reading Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife before Saturday. I am enjoying it–it’s quite good, and getting quite a bit of buzz this week–and I also have to decide what I am going to read on Sunday. I should probably read something from Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories–promote promote promote–but I am leaning toward reading “This Town” from Murder-a-Go-Go’s. I feel terribly unprepared for this coming weekend, to be completely honest, primarily because I haven’t had a chance to actually focus on it. I still need to pack, too.

Heavier sigh.

But…that’s okay. I have a half-day on Thursday, as I said before, and all I really have to do before and after work that day is actually get ready for the weekend. I’ve already made my packing list for my suitcase, and sometime today I’ll make a list of the things I have to get done tomorrow. I also need to figure out what I am going to need to get done on Monday–besides go get groceries, restock the house, wash the bed linens and the clothes and all the dishes (hurray!)–while also trying to readjust back to normality while feeling exceptionally tired, as I never sleep well in hotels. I also have a bit of freelance writing that’s due on Monday, and I have to fit getting that done in there somewhere. I’ve also got  to send my tax stuff to my accountant, which I should probably mail today since I am going to the post office.

But I don’t have a lot to do this weekend–I have my panel at TWFest on Saturday, then my reading and a panel at Saints and Sinners on Sunday–and other than that, and dinner with some friends on Friday evening, I can pretty much hang out in the suite for the weekend and relax, maybe get some reading and writing done most of the time. I am not the best at getting things done while staying in a hotel room, but stranger things have happened and so one never knows. Usually we have someone staying with us in the suite, but it’s just us this year.

So, without Paul being home tonight or tomorrow, I should be able to get things done that I need to get done–around dealing with Needy Kitty ™. Some cleaning and organizing, packing…and then I am ready for the weekend.

I did work some on the WIP yesterday–not much; it took me a while to get back into the story–but something is better than nothing.

I’ll just be glad when this weekend has passed and everything has returned to that semblance of normal that passes for normal around here.

And then I can focus on getting the WIP and some short stories finished in April, so I can move on to rewrite the other in May, and maybe–just maybe–start something new in June or July, depending on where things fall. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even stay on schedule.

Stranger things have happened.

And now back to mining spice.

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Love Machine

Ah, Monday of the week that ends with the tenting and the Weekend o’Festivals. Just thinking about getting through this week and this weekend makes me tired. Very tired.

We started moving perishables and other things that could be poisoned by the termite gas over to the carriage house yesterday; even as we did so, I kept remembering and finding more things that need to go over there. I’ve never experienced termite genocide before, that oh-so-uniquely New Orleans experience that so many others have before multiple times. It’s got me thinking about the possibility of murder by termite tent, of course–although I am pretty certain I’ve read a book where that happened, I think it was by Elaine Viets.

Murder-a-Go-Go’s officially releases today as well, so those who preordered it should be getting it delivered to your electronic reading devices and those who ordered hard-copies should be getting them soon. Huzzah! I love book birthdays; my own for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is soon to come; April 10th, officially. Order, order, order! And don’t forget, the first ever Chanse MacLeod short story is in this book!

I reread my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s again yesterday, primarily because another idea came to me yesterday, which I shared on social media: Someone really needs to write a spring break noir called WHERE THE BOYS DIE and I would read the hell out of that. I do think that’s a terrific idea; is there any better setting for a noir than a small beach town taken over by tens of thousands of partying college students? (I also had another idea for a book, based on an actual brutal murder that took place over spring break several decades ago; hat tip to Scott Heim for reminding me of that murder) I had always wanted to do one over the course of Southern Decadence weekend as well; I still might do that one. Anyway, I’m digressing. So, on my post about Where the Boys Die some suggested I write it, others that it sounded like an anthology, and then Jessica Laine said, you already wrote this story for MURDER-A-GO-GO’S, and I loved your story. 

The thing about being a writer is that all-too-often you don’t remember things about your work once it’s finished. “This Town,” my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is one of my favorite stories that I’ve ever written, to be honest; I think it’s also one of my best. But, when I read Kristopher Zgorski’s lovely review and he singled out my story as one of many for individual praise, and then seeing Jessica’s lovely comment, I decided I should probably reread the story since my recollection of what I actually wrote was so vague…and there it was. Constant Reader, it’s good. I then pulled up my story “Neighborhood Alert,” which is going to be published in Mystery Tribune, and it, too, is good. This was revelatory for me; as I may have mentioned, another story of mine was recently rejected by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and that had, of course, put me into a bit of a tailspin as far as my writing of short stories was concerned…astonishing at how easy it is to have one’s confidence in one’s own work shattered, isn’t it?

And that also got me to thinking about the second Chanse short story, “Once a Tiger,” that has tragically been stalled for so long. Short stories are actually more intimate than novels; in that you have much less space to develop a story and less room for characters so it has to be scaled back some. “Once a Tiger” is struggling because, quite simply, there are too many characters in it; how does one investigate a death at a fraternity house on a college campus when there would have to be well over a hundred brothers and pledges? That was where I struggled with the story; even the police would have trouble sorting all of this out, so imagine the trouble Chanse would have with it, working alone as he does. I still want to write a murder mystery set at Chanse’s LSU fraternity, where Chanse has to come back and solve the crime, but I just don’t–at the moment–see how that can be done as a short story. Maybe now that I’ve said that it will come to me–just like the other day, how to weave the two plots for the next Scotty book came to me from out of nowhere.

I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.

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