The Happening

So today I am off to Birmingham, once I’ve woken up completely and swilled down enough coffee to face the highway. It’s going to be horrible weather the entire way, of course–cold and rainy, potential thunderstorms–which will be ever so pleasant. But it’s a lovely serene drive, I’ll have a good audiobook playing, and it’s only about six hours or so to drive (sad that I now think only six hours? Piece o’ cake. Those twelve hour drives to Kentucky have certainly changed my perspective on what is or isn’t a long drive). It’s going to be fun to be around writers and readers and people who enjoy books for the weekend; it’s also an interesting switch to go back into author mode from my usual, every day Gregalicious mode.

My interview with Susan Larson for her show “The Reading Life” on our local NPR airs today (and again on Sunday); you can, if you are so inclined, you can listen to it here after 12:30 central time. Susan is hella smart, and incredibly well-read, and all of her shows are available to listen to at the link (check out the Laura Lippman episode, if you are so inclined), and has always been incredibly gracious to me about my writing and my career, and always so supportive. It’s lovely when you have the Duchess of the New Orleans literary scene on your side!

The weather last night was frightful, frankly. I managed to get home from work before it started in earnest, but poor Paul got stuck walking home in the torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning, and of course–it was 72 degrees yesterday morning when I went to work and by seven pm yesterday we’d have a thirty degree temperature swing. It’s going to stay in the thirties today (thank goodness for Paul’s sake we got the heat operational again), and it’s going to be cold up in Birmingham, too. I packed last night–there’s a few things left that need to be put in the suitcase, but really, all I have to do this morning is drink enough coffee to be functional, get cleaned up, and put the stuff in the car, and head out on the highway due northeasterly. It’s about six hours, give or take, as I mentioned before, not including the time out for bathroom breaks, lunch, and gassing up the car.

I slept very well last night–even though I woke up at five and six, the way I always seem to do every day now; and now that I am sitting here and the first cup of coffee is blazing through my veins, I can’t help but think if you are waking up that early organically, mightn’t it be easier on you to just go ahead and get up, so you don’t have to adjust again on the days you go into the office? But the bed is so comfy and warm–this morning I kept waking up but the warm comfort of my blankets couldn’t be denied, and I stayed there much longer than perhaps I should have; but again, there’s no rush to get on the road and therefore no need to get stressed or worked up about anything (who am I, and what have I done with Gregalicious?), right? Take it easy, take it slow, and take my time and don’t get worked up or freaked out about anything when it comes to traveling. At least I’m not flying and tied to times, you know?

I’m still a bit in the “post-turned-in-the-book” malaise aftershock; I tried to work on the short story that’s due on Monday a bit last night to no avail, which is worrying. I’m sure I can get it done this weekend, but last night I was just a bit too bleary to deal with it. I don’t feel exhausted this morning–that will undoubtedly change after hours in the car–which is a relief; I think a good night’s sleep last night was enormously helpful for me, and I’ll probably be flooded with ideas and thoughts for books and stories and essays while in the car, the way I always am; at least I certainly hope so. I hate the period after a project is completed when my creative batteries have been drained and are running on accessory rather than recharging–mainly because I always worry that this time the drain will be permanent and the creativity won’t come back. But I also have to take into consideration I wrote three books in the last year or so; which in and of themselves consisted of approximately 250,000 words.

When you look at it that way, I’m a little surprised that I’m not more exhausted than I already am. It’s probably not the smartest thing in the world for me to do a public appearance while I am so drained; the idea is to sound witty and clever and intelligent and get people to buy your books; I am always afraid that I am not going to be witty or clever or intelligent. Public appearances always make me nervous; I am always in great distress while I am on stage, with flop sweat running down my back and terror seizing up my stomach. People are always very gracious about how I do on these things, but then again, most people aren’t big enough assholes to say “wow, you were terrible up there!” (They save that for on-line.)

And on that cheery note, I am going to finish packing, get cleaned up, and do the little things I need to do to get on the road. Happy Friday, Constant Reader! Not sure if I will be able to post over the weekend or not, but stranger things have happened!

When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes

As I mentioned yesterday–these blog post titles taken from the Supremes discography sometimes feel a bit off as I do some Blatant Self-Promotion about my new soon-to-be-released novel #shedeservedit.

I got my first ignorant comment on one of those blog posts yesterday; someone posted a link to a video about “toxic femininity” and how it’s “as bad if not worse” than “toxic masculinity.” Needless to say, I not only didn’t approve the comment but marked it as spam and blocked the user from commenting/reading my blog. For those of you who are new here–I don’t engage with trolls, not do I permit them the energy or the oxygen of allowing their ignorance to be seen by anyone here. This is my blog and I pay for it; therefore I will curate the content here and if you want to troll me, well, it’s just going to earn you a comment marked as spam and get you blocked, so don’t waste your time or energy on me. You may, of course–I cannot stop you, but I won’t engage with you nor will I allow Constant Reader to see your ignorance, so there you have it.

I wrote yesterday, and it felt good to get another chapter down. I only have two more to go and the revisions, and I have to say, pantsing this thing on a tight deadline hasn’t been the easiest way to write this book, but it’s working. I’ve got the plot all worked out now, who the killer is and why, and now all I have to do is cram the resolution into the last two chapters and we are finished, done, ready to go off to the editor with prayers that she likes what I’ve done and doesn’t require a complete overhaul, which is also entirely possible and within the realm of probability–one of the reasons, frankly, that I’ve not signed. a contract to dive straight away into another book when this one is finished; I thought it best to leave my time free just in case. (I am going to start working on Chlorine and Mississsippi River Mischief while waiting for my edits; there’s always something to write, after all–I can also work on the revisions of the novellas in the meantime as well.)

There’s always something…

Today’s BSP is going to focus on writing about small towns, rather than what I’ve been covering (toxic masculinity). The first book I remember reading about a small town that really stands out to me–as an examination of small town dynamics, rather than merely a setting for the story–was Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town, which was, if you are an Ellery Queen fan, the first Wrightsville story. There were several of these novels–the second, I believe, was The Murderer is a Fox–and I enjoyed them all; Queen clearly loved writing about Wrightsville, since he kept returning to the scene of the crimes, as it were, but the best, the true standout for me, was the first: Calamity Town. This book–published well over a decade before Grace Metalious scandalized the world with Peyton Place–also covers the same territory as Peyton Place: scandal and hypocrisy and the paralyzing power of gossip in small town America. Calamity Town remains a favorite mystery novel of mine to this day; I should reread it. It’s plot is ingenious and entirely rooted in human psychology, and it also contains one of the best and most clever misdirections in crime fiction history. It was Calamity Town that made me first start thinking about how small town society is actually a microcosm of American society as a whole, all encapsulated in a small package, and also that made me realize, for the first time, how claustrophobic small towns can be; where everyone knows everyone and you can’t really do anything without someone knowing; and how secrets kept can become very damaging over time. Queen is, at first, struck by the apple-pie Americana of Wrightville…and then he begins peeling back the layers.

Peyton Place, which I found to be far less scandalous than either General Hospital or All My Children by the time I got a copy at a secondhand bookstore in Emporia when I was seventeen or eighteen, also showed me again how claustrophobic small town life could be. Sure, there’s some bad to the point of laughable writing in the book (“your nipples are hard as diamonds”, anyone?) but other than those brief moments, overall it’s a very well-constructed book and a damning indictment on the hypocrisy of American small towns. I also read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street around the same time for an American Literature class (I still think we should have read Elmer Gantry instead, or It Can’t Happen Here, but I was not in charge of the syllabus), which is also about the falseness of keeping up appearances and worrying what the neighbors think. I find it interesting that “small town American values” are frequently–particularly by conservatives–pointed out as what is the backbone of our country and so on and so forth (part of the entire “cities are BAD” thing we have had going on culturally for decades, if not centuries), but when that veil is peeled back, there is just as much rot and decay as in any “wicked” city. As I pointed out on Susan Larson’s radio show the other day, the vast majority of the soaps were originally set in very small towns, rather than urban centers.

Nobody does small towns quite like Stephen King, and the first time he really addressed small town life was in ‘salem’s Lot–although it can be argued he did a masterwork on small town life with Needful Things–and it was in his tale of small town Maine being overrun by vampires, he also did an incredible job of painting the town, it’s working class citizens and the minutiae of their lives; how circumstances trapped some of them and killed their dreams–and how others never had any dreams to be killed in the first place. The way he interweaves the lives of his small town characters, their relationships and histories and how everything is interconnected is masterful; has anyone ever done a critical analysis of King’s work with small towns? It also falls into this group; what King does with Derry is just as exceptional as his work on Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot in the other works.

I based Liberty Center on Emporia, Kansas, geographically; my town is loosely laid out the same way Emporia is; there’s a small college there, as in Emporia, and there’s a meat packing plant on one side of town that reeks of death and stale blood on the south side of town, and of course, the waterfall on the river on the way out of town heading south and the park that goes with it. Other than that, it’s memory and invention; I’ve not set foot in Emporia in nearly forty years and have no plans to ever do so again. (Likewise, when I write about my fictionalized county in Alabama–it’s loosely based on where my family is from, but I haven’t been there in thirty years and will most likely never go visit again, so it’s all memory and invention for me.) I don’t know if I will write another novel about Kansas–I have some other ideas, of course, don’t I always–but it seems weird to create another fictional small city so similar to Liberty Center, but at the same time it seems even weirder to set another book there after having already done so (although i should probably revisit Sara sometime and see how I did it–and what I called the towns in Kahola County–before deciding one way or the other).

Heavy sigh.

Today I need to write another chapter, and I also need to work on revising a short story as well as writing a promotional article–and of course, there’s the horror that is my email inbox which needs to be dealt with this week once and for all (it’s all relative; answering everything and emptying it out inevitably means generating more emails there; my email responses will trigger emails in response which turns it into a Sisyphean task without end), and today is the men’s US figure skating championships, which naturally I plan to watch so I need to get my writing done before then, don’t I?

So on that note, I head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Run, Run, Run

Wednesday morning and it’s not as cold as it has been, but it’s still (of course) cold in the Lost Apartment, same as it ever was when it is cold outside. I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed this morning yet again, but there’s no choice, obviously, as I have to leave for the office shortly. It’s my last day in the office of the week; I had actually taken tomorrow off because we were going to have our new year’s lunch at Commander’s tomorrow, but with the recent uptick of cases and changes in safety protocols and so forth, we all decided it was probably for the best to cancel it. This gives me another day off at home to work on the book and do some cleaning; not the worst possible outcome, but I would rather be having lunch at Commander’s if I have to be honest about it. Friday will thus be another work-at-home day for me, and then I will have the weekend to work some more on the book.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst potential outcome here.

I did tape “The Reading Life” with the always delightful Susan Larson for WWNO yesterday, which is always a pleasure. I also am going to be interviewed for a newspaper over the phone on Friday; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those, and so it should be interesting. I am also not feeling quite as tired or sleepy this morning as I did yesterday; perhaps it’s the coffee, perhaps it’s a better night’s sleep, I am not sure which is true, frankly, I just know this morning I feel more awake than I did yesterday (not as awake and energetic as Monday, to be sure, but still, this is better than yesterday when I felt like something Scooter had dragged in). We watched the LSU bowl game for a while before finally, regretfully, giving up on the game and watching another episode of Yellowjackets, which continues to enthrall; I am really looking forward to getting back to it again tonight, to be honest. It’s so very well done, well written and acted, and such a spectacular cast, too! I do recommend it, even though it’s early in the season and things can still easily go off the rails.

It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day (huzzah?), so I will be spending some of my lunch hour doing exactly that, and determining if a Costco run this weekend is in order. I don’t know, to be honest; there’s only a few things that I actually need from there, and there’s a very real sense that I can probably do without those things for another week or so, right? It always ends up costing so much to go there…because I can always find more things I “need” than are on my grocery list–defeating the purpose of the list entirely.

My mind is all over the place this morning, which is to be expected, I suppose. It’s really a wonder my ADHD-addled brain allows me to get anything finished or accomplished at all. I have managed to get coping mechanisms in place to help me with my fevered all-over-the-place brain; the one good thing about having an ADHD-addled mind is that when you are able to focus it, you can focus it with laser-like precision. I am having some trouble focusing my brain this morning, but I am hoping that the causes of that will fade as the morning progresses and I’ll be able to get focused the later in the day it gets. I need to do some writing today and I need to empty out my email inbox once and for all. I need to make a list of things I need to get done this week. I need to clean the house and stop to make a little groceries on the way home from the office tonight.

I also need to stop being overwhelmed by how much I have to get done and just start fucking doing it.

And so, on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I am going to be productive today if it kills me. Have a lovely Wednesday!

Where Did Our Love Go?

It is cold again this morning–37 degrees to be exact–and while I was prepared for it yesterday, I was not this morning. I was under the impression that yesterday morning’s frigid clime was an aberration; a cold spell that was going to be experienced overnight and then it would be over, with the lows for the rest of this week hovering in the low fifties. That was incorrect, and it clearly changed at some point since I checked it yesterday morning. It is bitterly cold this morning; and not only am I cold, I am bitter.

I got another chapter of the book finished yesterday–huzzah!–and now have three to go plus the revisions, which are going to be difficult but not impossible; definitely wearying. I ran some errands on the way home last night, and then we watched the first two episodes of Yellowjackets on Showtime, and are completely all-in on the show. It’s incredibly well done, and you can never go wrong with Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci–ever.

Today of course I have a lot to do as always; I need to get another chapter written tonight, some more emails cleaned out of the inbox, and work on that article–which I should have finished yesterday. It’s hard because I am trying to make sure I get the intro to the list of books (Kansas crime) absolutely correct; I am trying to talk about the strange dichotomy of how we always are taught this myth that rural, small town life is the American ideal, the ‘true America’–yet that myth completely ignores the level and degree of true crime and nastiness that is there once you pull back the patriotic “real America” sheen we paint that lifestyle with…yet I also have to be careful not to offend anyone, which isn’t easy to do. Yet that dichotomy remains, and is as true today as it ever has been: urban areas don’t have a monopoly on crime, sin, or scandal. (Ever notice how the majority of soap operas back in the day were actually set in small towns?) I hope I can be as motivated today as I was yesterday, when I managed to get a lot finished during the course of the evening while I waited for Paul to get home from the gym so we could start watching Yellowjackets. The kitchen is still a mess, alas, and there are dishes still in the dishwasher to put away, but I have to admit that the cold doesn’t exactly motivate me to do much besides sit under a blanket and read/edit/write, you know? But I at least managed to get the throw rugs put back in place and ran the vacuum cleaner over them–no small feat, especially when it’s cold.

This morning, obviously, I didn’t want to leave the warm comfort of the bed and the covers to venture out into the cold of the Lost Apartment, but I did. The coffee hit the spot this morning, and I remembered there was a load of laundry in the washer (a small one) that I put into the dryer this morning. I am still a bit cold, but the coffee is warming me from the inside and that’s always a good thing, really. On my lunch break today I get to drive out to UNO to record Susan Larson’s “The Reading Life” radio show, which is kind of exciting, and I’ve also been asked for another phone interview for this Friday, which I can do while I make condom packs since it’s on the phone, obviously. I’d like to make a Costco run at some point this weekend, but we’ll have to see. I’m supposed to go to New York next week, but the jury’s still out on whether travel should be something I consider. If it weren’t for my day job, I’d say I’ll take the risk but…the day job. It’s really not a good idea to take those kinds of risks when it’s entirely possible I could become an asymptomatic carrier, and that’s really not a good look for a public health worker in a public health clinic. Decisions, decisions…

But I am hoping that this weekend will be a nice one, with lovely warm sunshine and a slight chill in the air. I have yet to return to the gym–my shoulder is starting to feel normal again, so I think maybe this weekend a walk over to the gym might be in order both days, really–and it’s time to get used to no football on the weekends again, which will be nice and will allow me to get more things done on Saturdays than I have been used to getting done lately, or since the hurricane. I always try to remember what Saturdays are like when it isn’t football season and it’s always hard for me to remember what those Saturdays are like the rest of the year. Do I spend them cleaning, or do I waste them, do I write or edit or do any number of things? I honestly can never recall from one year to the next. I suppose I will watch part of the LSU game tonight until it’s time for me to go to bed (the game has a ridiculously late start time, and there’s no way it will be over before it’s time for me to go to bed, and I am not going to stay up to watch so I can be exhausted and sleepy all day tomorrow, no thanks). Plus the team is depleted with opt-outs, transfers, and who knows what all. I don’t even think they have a scholarship quarterback on the roster, so there won’t be much of a passing game, that’s for sure. (May not even be able to watch an entire quarter, now that I think about it.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Who’s Lovin’ You

Monday morning and winter has arrived in New Orleans. It’s currently 37 degrees, with the high looking to be around 49 for the day; obviously, this is horrible and I am not sure how to manage getting through the day, as it is obviously going to require layers–but I am also not sure how the heat situation will be at the office, either. I didn’t want to escape the warmth of the bed this morning–I never want to get up to begin with; having it be nice and toasty under the covers while it is very cold outside of that makes it even worse.

God, how I hate cold weather.

I didn’t get nearly as much done over the weekend as I had needed to; so I am still somewhat behind and trying not to get overly stressed out about it. Stress is the mindkiller, to paraphrase Frank Herbert, and stress will paralyze me and not help me get everything done that needs to be done this week. The deadlines are all real, the deadlines all loom, the deadlines must be met, even if it means a lot of work, some mental exhaustion, and having to laser focus on getting everything done. There’s also a lot to get done, which means multi-tasking on top of everything else as well, which isn’t exactly one of my strongest skillsets these days–neither, for that matter, is focus–and I am going to have to muddle through it all on top of the weather being cold.

Huzzah?

I did check the weather and it’s going to get warmer later in the week; tomorrow won’t be nearly as harsh as today, thank you, Lord. That doesn’t make today any easier, of course, but still a vast improvement. My coffee is hitting me perfectly this morning; obviously I slept really well last night since I feel awake and rested this morning (if cold), and as the coffee warms and wakes me up, I am starting to feel better about getting things done. I can do it–distractions and everything–as long as I have the energy to do so. And as long as I am not too busy freezing to death to deal with anything and everything. I also have a bit of ‘holiday hangover’–in which I am now used to having extra time off every weekend and have to adjust to reality again in which I do not have extra time off every week. Heavy heaving sigh. But it’s all about adaptability, which is becoming harder and harder the older I get; I don’t want to have to keep adapting. It’s bad enough I have to relearn how to use my electronics every time there’s an operating system update.

Yesterday I was very tired most of the day; again, not sure what that was about but there seem to have been a lot more low-energy recovery days necessary than there used to be. I could be incorrect; my memory is nothing if it not spotty these days, and I am finding more and more that things I would have been willing to testify to under oath are not, in fact, actually what happened. The Saints did win, in a thriller, keeping play-off hopes alive–but this entire football season has been relatively disappointing for all of us football fans here in southeastern Louisiana, so I don’t have a lot of high hopes for the Saints the rest of this season, nor for the LSU game against Kansas State tomorrow night. We finished watching the second season of Control Z, which is a quite fun Mexican high school crime drama–which now, of course, means we have to find something else to watch tonight. I am sure there’s something, and Paul will undoubtedly be off to the gym this evening, so I’ll have some time to look for something after I get today’s allotment of writing taken care of, I hope.

And launch day also looms. Heavy sigh. I am having to take a long lunch from work tomorrow so I can go be interviewed on the radio by the the divine Susan Larson for her “The Reading Life” show on WWOZ, so that will be fun–I love Susan–and I should probably finish writing this promotional piece on Kansas crime fiction I am writing–should already be finished writing, in actuality; but you know how that goes around here. January 2022 is already off to a bang of overlapping deadlines and exhaustion and stress, so I am thinking it’s not going to be a whole lot different than 2021, from the looks of things. But once I get this book finished and turned in, and these other stories done…pretty much off the hook for deadlines. I just need to make sure I’m not forgetting any others….never an easy chore.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Happy Monday, everyone, and may your 2022 ease in much easier than mine is thus far.

What a Difference You’ve Made In My Life

Tis the last Friday of 2019 and while I only have to work a short day today, I still have to work today. I also have to work Monday, and then again have Tuesday and Wednesday off. Tuesday is the annual New Year’s Eve luncheon at Commander’s with Jean and Gillian, with special guest star Susan Larson this year–which makes it even more lovely. Huzzah! Tomorrow is LSU’s playoff game against Oklahoma, which I am trying not to get overly stressed about. Yes, it would be WONDERFUL for the Tigers to win the national championship; but this past season has been such a terrific ride that anything additional at this point is just gravy, really.

I’ve not written a word since last week, and most likely won’t again until after the holidays are past. I’m not beating myself up over it–there’s no point, and I spend way too much of my time beating myself up over shit as it is–but if the opportunity or window presents itself, I’ll try to get some writing done when I can. I will most likely be too tense to write or do much of anything Saturday before the game, so I’ll most likely run errands, maybe even brave the horror of Costco on a Saturday. It’s been too long since I’ve been, and I have a reward certificate somewhere I can use to reduce the final horrifying bill at checkout. (I miss having a supply of Pellegrino in the house.)

I did start my reread of The Talented Mr. Ripley again this week, and one of the things that really is striking me on this read is Highsmith very subtly slips in references to Tom not being on the up-and-up from almost the start; I think the Minghella film missed a serious beat in how it opened; in the film Tom is part of a hired musical act at a party for wealthy people and is wearing a Yale jacket he borrowed–which is why Mr. Greenleaf approaches him about going to Italy to retrieve Dickie from his decadent, lazy life in Italy. That never really quite rang true to me, which started the film off on a strange note–hard to believe someone quite that wealthy could be so naive. In the book, Tom is leaving his job when he notices someone following him and he is paranoid, as he is running several scams that violate the law–including one where he calls people he’s picked out and tells them their taxes were filed incorrectly and they owe more money. He is doing this just for fun–the checks they send in are generally made out to the government and are completely useless to him; but again, he’s doing this primarily to see if he can get away with it. That missing piece from the film undermines Tom’s character for the audience, but in fairness I don’t see how that could have been conveyed on film. There are also off-hand references to Tom getting help from wealthy men and so forth–sly references to Tom’s ambiguous sexuality that most readers–especially of the time–wouldn’t catch.

I am also trying to decide what my reading project for 2020 should be. 2018 was the Short Story Project; 2019 the Diversity Project, and I thoroughly enjoyed both. I didn’t read as much this past year as I would have liked; but I read for an award all year in 2018 and that, I think, fried my reading brain a bit. I think 2020 might just be the year of rereads; obviously I will read new books too, but there are some titles I’ve been wanting to revisit and simply haven’t had the time to get to–and another goal is to continue working my way through the TBR pile. There’s some Ira Levin novels I’d like to revisit, and of course I want to reread Stephen King’s  Firestarter for a while now; and of course, the joy that is Highsmith…I also haven’t done my annual reread of Rebecca for two years now. SHAMEFUL–and I also should reread We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Perhaps I should make a list of the rereads I plan for the new year….hmmm.

I also have to write that Sherlock Holmes story.

And I need to get ready for work. Have a lovely last Friday of 2019, Constant Reader!

 

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Big Time

LSU won again last night, blasting Arkansas 56-20 to win the West division for the first time since 2011, and a date in the SEC title game with Georgia. The Tigers are now 10-0, and pretty much all the entire college football world can talk about; upstaging defending national champion Clemson and even Ohio State, the power of the Big Ten this year. It has been quite a ride for us Tiger fans this year, and of course the whole state is abuzz with excitement; I can’t remember a time when both the Saints and LSU had the chance to go all the way in the same season.

It’s chilly this morning in the Lost Apartment, but sunny and lovely outside. I’m not sure if this means it’s also cold outside–when I take the recycling out later I imagine I will find out–but my morning coffee is doing an absolutely lovely job of warming up my insides this morning, which is also lovely. I’m still on vacation–one week from today is the last day of it–and so far I’ve not really accomplished much of anything, really. I’ve done some cleaning and organizing, but for the most part have enmeshed myself in laziness and making excuses for not doing anything–primarily from watching television. After the LSU game ended last night, we watched the final three episodes of Unbelievable, which didn’t disappoint. Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette deserve Emmy nominations at the very least; but with all the A-list names that are coming to television and doing great work, the Emmys are becoming more competitive than the Oscars.

I am also still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is only deepening my knowledge of just how wild and rowdy and sinful New Orleans has always been, even back in the beginning–which makes all the complaints we currently deal with from people about our crime rate a bit…I don’t know, seem a little ignorant? New Orleans has always been a city of sin, with all kinds of crime and criminal activity and licentiousness and prostitution and drinking and pretty much every kind of “vice” you can think of flourishing here–as it always has in port cities, like San Francisco and Havana and Miami and Cartagena. Reading Campanella’s book makes me even more fascinated with the history of New Orleans, and considering, seriously considering, the possibility of writing more historical crime fiction about the city. As I may have mentioned before, I’d already started writing a historical short story about the city; I’ve also been asked to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set in New Orleans, which I’ve been thinking about a lot lately; being asked to do so seemed almost serendipitous, given the deep dive I’ve been making into New Orleans history over the course of the last year.

There are, of course, any number of crime novels/series set in the past in New Orleans; I’ve not read David Fulmer’s jazz age/Storyville crime novels, but I loved Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series, which opened with A Free Man of Color. I know James Sallis also wrote a detective series set in the early twentieth century; I read one of them but never finished the series (he is perhaps best known for his novel Driver, which was made into a film with Ryan Gosling). I’m sure there are others–time to consult Susan Larson’s Book Lover’s Guide to New Orleans–and at some point, I need to go back to read classics from New Orleans’ past. (My education in New Orleans Literature is sorely lacking; just as my education in classic literature and crime fiction wind up being sorely lacking as well.)

There’s simply never enough time, is there?

I’m going to try to get some writing done today, as well as some progress on reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, and hopefully today I’ll also be able to get those blog entries about the books I’ve read lately finished as well.

One of my (attainable) goals for this week is to get all of my email answered; I am tired of things just sitting there, nagging at me and gnawing at my subconscious. But I am going to just ignore it again today–several years ago I decided to release myself from the tyrannical bonds of my email by not answering emails on the weekend; I can still read them, but I won’t answer before Monday; because emails beget emails, and responding to one means you might get another one to respond to, and so on, and so on, and suddenly all your valuable writing and/or goofing off time has magically vanished, circling around the drain of the endless cycle of email.

And on that note, tis time to return to the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Cross My Broken Heart

I slept well again last night, so here’s hoping that Monday night’s shitty night of sleep was an aberration. I feel very rested and well this morning, which is a lovely change from yesterday morning’s horror.

Paul was home late last evening, so I was able to finish watching Greatest Events of World War II in Colour, which I highly recommend. It’s incredibly well done, and powerfully moving. The final two episodes, “Liberation of Buchenwald” and “Hiroshima”, are the perfect pair to end the series with; in my last post I talked about how the “Dresden Firestorm” episode brought up questions of morality, both national and that of war; how absolutely fitting that “Liberation of Buchenwald” was the very next episode; so that any sympathy one might have felt for the German citizens killed during bombing raids and so forth, evaporates almost immediately. The documentary is also one of the first times I’ve ever seen anything about World War II and the Holocaust that absolutely puts the lie to the German everyday citizen’s claim, afterwards, that they didn’t know anything about the death camps. They knew, and at best, just didn’t care. At worst, cheered the mass slaughter of “undesirables”. Thank God Eisenhower brought in the press to document the horrors of the camps.

Even more horrifying is knowing that the threat of Soviet Communism was deemed so terrible that the Western nations chose not to pursue a lot of war crimes trials against horrible Nazis, and instead helped rehabilitate them into German society, deciding it was simply better to move on–the past was the past, the Nazis were defeated, and Communism was apparently worse–to our everlasting shame.

“Hiroshima” naturally deals with the development of atomic weapons and the lead-up to the decision to use them on the Japanese. The reason given at the time was that Japan would never surrender, and the conquest of the home islands would have cost many American lives; so President Truman–also wanting to finish off Japan as quickly as possible, before the Soviet juggernaut could turn east–made the decision to wipe two cities off the map–and the xenophobic racism that allowed the Americans to be more brutal with the Japanese then they ever were with the Germans; had the Germans won the Battle of the Bulge and taken Belgium back, would the Americans have dropped atomic bombs on say, Frankfurt and Munich? Highly unlikely.

I highly recommend this series. World War II changed the face of the world, and politics, forever; and almost everything that has gone on in the world ever since the war ended has been affected and colored by the war. It was the war that made minorities in the United States–who fought, bled and died for this country in a brutal and bloody war–no longer willing to accept second class status. For many closeted queers, it gave them the opportunity to meet others like themselves, and planted the seeds for the gay neighborhoods in places like San Francisco and New Orleans and New York–gay men and lesbians no longer felt isolated and alone, knew there were others like them, and tried to make community, eventually leading to the queer rights movement. Women participated in the war and stepped up to replace the fighting men in their jobs, and soon realized they could be more than wives and mothers, chafing against their once-again restricted roles after the end of the war–which of course led to the Women’s Movement…and that’s not even taking into consideration the changes wrought in the world in geopolitical terms.

Even if you aren’t interested in watching all ten episodes, I strongly encourage everyone to watch “The Liberation of Buchenwald.” The Holocaust was real, it happened, the Western nations allowed it to happen, and it must never happen again. And if you have the capacity to even consider, for one moment, the notion that it was a hoax–fuck all the way off, and I hope your death is slow, painful, and horrific.

I kind of want to revisit Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War/War and Remembrance series; such a well done fictionalization of the war, as seen through the eyes of the Henrys, a naval family. Of course the two volumes total something like three thousand pages–I’ll never in a million years ever have the time for a deep reread–but they were amazing, and I read them as a teenager.

Yesterday I taped Susan Larson’s “My Reading Life” with Jean (J. M.) Redmann, which is always a delight. Susan is smart and fun, as is Jean, and it’s all I can do to keep up with them and not come across as a drooling idiot. But it’s always lovely to talk to Susan and Jean about books and writing, and even more delightful, Susan told me she’d enjoyed Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, which was of course the crowning jewel of my month. As you know, Constant Reader, I have constant doubts about my short story writing ability, and so getting Susan’s stamp of approval meant a lot. I’ll post a link for the show when it airs.

Today is a half-day, and after tomorrow my vacation for Thanksgiving begins. I’m hoping to get a lot done–like always–and maybe I won’t; but at least I feel confident I can get a lot of reading done. I also have my blog entries about The Hunter by Richard Stark and The Ferguson Affair by Ross MacDonald to write. I also would like to catch up on all the things–little things, nothing major–that I always seem to let slide since I don’t have much time.

LSU has also managed to maintain its number one ranking, despite the abysmal showing of the defense last Saturday against Mississippi. I saw an interview with Joe Burrow after the game in which he simply shrugged and said, “You know things have changed at LSU when we score 58 points and get over 700 yards of total offense and the locker room mood is disappointment at how badly we played.” YIKES. But I tend to agree–I was enormously disappointed by the defense in both the Vanderbilt and Mississippi games; but the offense was spectacular in both games and ordinarily I’d be aglow by those high-scoring offensive performances. Maybe it’s true; maybe we do get spoiled quickly–God knows I get annoyed when the Saints don’t play well and they’ve consistently been one of the best teams in the NFL since 2006. Sigh.

But the last two games of LSU’s season are at home, against Arkansas and Texas A&M, and if they win either of those games they clinch the West division and are going to Atlanta to play Georgia for a shot at LSU’s first SEC title since 2011. Woo-hoo!

I hope to start reading Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys today; today is my half-day and so I can get home earlier, possibly do some writing, and then curl up in my easy chair while I wait for Paul to get home. I still haven’t written a damned thing recently, and I really need to get back on that.

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

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C’est la Vie

Wednesday morning and I’ve made it thru the long days of my week. Today is a short day; I am free after three thirty, and then it’s back home to the spice mines and getting the house cleaned, organized and so forth, all around me not only writing at my desk but preparing a new taste treat for dinner–shrimp and baked potatoes–which is the same as my shrimp-and-grits, only substituting a baked potato for the grits. I saw this somewhere on social media recently, looked at the recipe, and realized it simply meant making baked potatoes instead of the grits…and realized that with a baked potato, timing the meal isn’t quite as important as it is when you’re making grits at the same time as the shrimp.

I managed another good night’s sleep last night, which was incredibly lovely; it’s amazing what a difference that makes to your quality of life–and productivity. I’m still behind on everything this morning, just as I was last night when I went to bed, but this morning I feel like I can do anything and everything. We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?

But as I face my computer with my first cup of coffee this morning, I do feel almost as though I can do anything and everything.  I had a slight minor panic attack last night about everything I need to get done this week, but it passed quickly, as I remembered my favorite mantra: sometimes, it just is what it is. Simple, but helpful and rather wise; there’s only so much one can do, there’s only so many people one can please, and sometimes you just have to let the worry go–because it just is what it is.

I sat down with Royal Street Reveillon last night, and opened the book up. When Paul got home he told me that someone whose opinion I deeply value had told him to  let me know she’d read and loved the book, and invited me to be on her radio show. Yes, it was Susan Larson, the long-time books editor of what was once the Times-Picayune and now has her own show on WGNO, “My Reading Life.” This naturally made my day, if not the week or month; Susan has read practically everything and everyone, has been a Pulitzer Prize judge (!!!!!), and is one of the most respected reviewers in the country. Her opinion means, obviously, a lot to me. As I sat in my chair last night holding a copy of the book–and it’s a beautiful looking book, probably my favorite cover of all time–I thought about how it never gets easier, no matter how many books you write; at least for me, it’s like the first one every single time. Will people like it? Will people hate it? Is it any good? Writing the books never gets easier over time, either. If anything, the only thing that’s changed with the actual writing is efficiency; I am more efficient in the use of time when I write now. But the self-doubt, the insecurity, the imposter syndrome–all of that still plagues me, even after all this time and all these books and all these short stories.

So, I opened the book and started skimming through it. My goal when I wrote it was to make it the best Scotty book thus far; I don’t know if I achieved that goal, but I am pretty pleased with the book. I think it turned out well. I also realized, as I was reading through it last night, that the reason I don’t like to reread my work–why I never go back once its published and look at it again, isn’t because I always wind up dissatisfied and disappointed with it (although that’s some of it), but primarily because I only reread my work to correct, edit and fix it. So, I am so trained from revising and editing my work that when actually reading it in a print format my mind automatically switches into editorial mode and I want to fix things and oh this sentence could have been better or look at this, you used the same word twice in the same paragraph and so on and so forth; it’s impossible for me to read it as a reader coming to it for the first time. And with Royal Street Reveillon, I don’t feel like I rushed the ending the way I inevitably feel about most of my books–which is a direct result of deadlines. So, I’m kind of glad I don’t write on deadline anymore; it’s relieved that bit of stress from my life, thank the Lord.

I also got out a copy of Bourbon Street Blues last night, because one of my co-workers wants to read it. She was reading the latest Janet Evanovich, and we got into a bit of a discussion about Evanovich, mystery novels, and so forth. SHe eventually said, “I really need to read one of your books”, and me being me, I said, “I’ll bring you a copy” and then realized, hey, I can give her a copy of Bourbon Street Blues,  my first Scotty!

So, I actually looked through it as well. I remember so little of the story now; I barely remember writing the book now. It was all so long ago; I turned the book in to Kensington on May 15th, 2002. Christ, we were so broke then, cobbling together an income from Paul working part time and teaching aerobics, me writing, doing some part time work for a friend as their assistant, and eventually getting a part time job at the LGBT Community Center to supplement the writing income, as well as doing some freelance editorial work. I was mostly working for Bella Books then–yes, I got my start as an editor working for a lesbian publisher–before moving on to Harrington Park Press and then Bold Strokes Books. Bourbon Street Blues is, of course, the Southern Decadence book I’d been wanting to write ever since I first came to Decadence as a tourist back in the early 90’s. I was also writing the book, ironically, on 9/11–I didn’t actually work on it that day, but I always associate 9/11 with Bourbon Street Blues because I can remember being glued to the television in horror all day, and glancing over at the pile of pages on my desk and wondering if I could distract myself by working on the book. I never tried…I didn’t get back to working on the book for a few days. As I looked through Bourbon Street Blues last night, thinking about how Southern Decadence had just passed and how much the world, the event, the city, everything had changed since the days when I was writing this book.

My career as a published writer of fiction dates back to 2000, with the publication of two short stories in the month of August, one in an anthology and the other in a magazine. It’ll turn twenty the month I turn fifty-nine; but I of course started getting paid to write (journalism) in 1996. I moved in with Paul and within a month had published my first column in a local queer newspaper in Minneapolis; as I used to say, Paul was my lucky charm for my writing career; it truly started when we moved in together.

So yes, he never has to worry about me going anywhere, since I do emotionally consider him entirely responsible for my career–and all of it tied up in a nice New Orleans bow. New Orleans inspired me, and I knew I would become a writer if I moved to New Orleans. I met Paul here, and while I was already writing before we moved here, New Orleans made it possible for me to meet the love of my life and create the career I’ve always dreamed of and wanted.

And you know what? As I paged through Bourbon Street Blues, reacquainting myself with the original story I came up with for Scotty all those years ago, I thought, this is a pretty decent book, really. There’s never really been a character like Scotty in crime fiction–and certainly not one like him in gay crime fiction. I also never dreamed that people would connect with him the way they did–I may not sell books in Harlan Coben or Stephen King numbers, but the people who read the Scotty books love him, and that means I did my job well.

I also realized, looking through both books last night, that the occasional charges of “political agenda” I get on Goodreads and/or Amazon are accurate. I never really think of the Scotty books as having an agenda or being political, but I forget that any book centering a queer character is still radical and political; let alone a book centering a queer character who is perfectly happy and loves his life and has some terrific adventures, finding love to go along with the wonderful loving family he already has. This is still, sadly, for some a radical concept; as is the idea of having Scotty never change the core of who he is,  no matter what happens or how awful a situation he’s in might become. The Scotty books were never intended to be, nor ever will be, torture porn. Bourbon Street Blues was all about homophobia and the religious right. Jackson Square Jazz, long before Johnny Weir and Adam Rippon, looked at homophobia in figure skating and Olympic sports…and on and on it goes. Royal Street Reveillon actually goes into several things–familial homophobia, for one, and date rape/sexual assault for another–and ultimately, I am pretty pleased with it.

And yes, for those of you worried I may never write another Scotty book–there will be at least one more. Hollywood South Hustle is already taking shape in my head; I have several disparate threads of plot to weave together for it, but never fear, they are most definitely there. I don’t know when I’ll get around to writing it–I have several books to write before I can even think about starting work on it officially, and yes, that includes a new Chanse–and so it goes, on and on forever and ever without end, amen.

And now I should perhaps return to the spice mines. This shit ain’t gonna do itself.

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