Blow

Good morning, Sunday, how are YOU doing?

I overslept (for me) again this morning; which felt nice; I’ll take oversleeping over insomnia any day of the week, frankly, and this morning I am going to swill coffee, read some more of S. A. Cosby marvelous Razorblade Tears, and then will write for a while before going to the gym later on in the early afternoon. I still haven’t gotten phô yet–maybe next weekend I can make to the Lilly Cafe and finally get some.

Yesterday saw me relaxing and organizing and cleaning for most of the day, at an incredibly casual pace–so casual, of course, that I didn’t get everything finished that I wanted to get finished (natch); but progress was made and I will always take some progress over not making any. I finished writing Chapter 2 of Chlorine yesterday, also setting up Chapter 3 to be written for today (after some reviewing of Chapters 1 and 2 before getting started on that today). I like that I am starting to feel connected to this manuscript; it’s finally taken root in my head and all the other considerations about it no longer matter to me other than the two most important: that I finish writing it, and that i write the best book I possibly can.

The whole Chlorine thing is remarkably improbable about how it came to be in the first place. I’ve always wanted to write about 1950’s Hollywood and the gay closet/underground that existed there; it was an incredibly turbulent time, with television stealing film audiences, HUAC investigating Communists, and J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI going after gay men and lesbians. It was also during this time that the biggest closeted movie star perhaps in Hollywood history, Rock Hudson, came to success–and there were plenty of other closet cases on the headlining pictures with their names above the title: Montgomery Clift and Tab Hunter–and plenty who may have been bisexual but definitely had experiences with men, like Marlon Brando, Anthony Perkins, James Dean, and so on. I idly wrote about this notion I had for a noir set during that time, with the main character a hustler with no talent but a lot of good looks and charm, that opens with another closeted actor’s nude, dead body being found in the morning on Santa Monica beach–only the drowning victim also had chlorine in his lungs, so he clearly drowned in a swimming pool and his body was moved. I riffed on this concept here on the blog for a little bit, and then thought nothing of it.

Yet Chlorine landed with my peers in the crime writing community for some reason–I got a lot of tweets and DM’s about what a great idea it was, and that I needed to write it. Some people continued pestering me about it, enough time and enough people, for me to go ahead and slot it into my writing schedule….but even then I kept putting it off and not taking it or myself seriously; was I the right person to write such a book? Is this interest in such a book even something that could turn into sales or whatever? You know, the usual self-doubt that plagues me on a daily basis. I sat down and wrote a very rough first chapter several years ago, just to see if I could get the tone right, and the voice properly done; I was rather pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, and so I put aside any thought of imposter syndrome and figured, okay, I CAN do this.

But the syndrome came again when the calendar time to write the book rolled around; I spent the last month or so writing anything but this manuscript…and finally sat down to revise and reshape that first chapter so that it set up the second even better, and I also had an idea of how to do the second as I worked on the first. It took me a few days, but I now have a very nice 3700 word second chapter written; and today I am going to work on writing the third. I wanted to wait until August and spend that entire month writing it, but finally decided that I was being decidedly un-confident, so while I still want to have the first draft finished by the end of August, I decided to go ahead and get started on it in the meantime. I still want to work on Scotty for the rest of the year, from September on, but there’s also a lot of other things I need to get done, so I need to stop being lazy and get my ass into my chair and writing.

We watched the Olympics some yesterday–I am amazed at the sports I couldn’t care less about most of the time but will watch avidly during an Olympics–but it again seems weird that there’s no audience or crowd…and this whole weird vibe these Olympics are giving off–no you smoked weed so you’re banned; you’re a serial sexual assaulter so we’ll make accommodations for you–has kind of tarnished the whole thing for me in some ways. There has always been cheating and stupidity at the Olympics (another example of how media has brainwashed us all into the mythology of the Olympics), but for some reason this year it seems more intolerable than usual. But I love watching the US swimmers–it’s weird without Michael Phelps in the pool–and I will undoubtedly watch more, especially the gymnastics.

But…..still.

I also figured out last night how to change a story I started writing at some point during the last decade and make it actually work–“The Brady Kid”–and while the new idea I have for it may not work after all, it’s an interesting idea for a story and something I definitely want to try writing.

And on that note, Razorblade Tears is calling me, and so it’s off to the spice mines for a bit to read, swill coffee, and prepare to start writing.

Touched by the Hand of God

Sunday morning, and I am swilling coffee and eating coffee cake and trying to wake up. I slept very well again last night, and am starting to feel more…normal, whatever that means for me, since I am anything but normal. I have things to get done today, but the apartment is starting to feel like home again for the first time in a while (since everything went haywire week before last). The laundry room is mostly reassembled, and the book shelves in there look neat and tidy and organized, which rather pleases me. The living room is….well, the living room. I am always going to have too many books in my house (even typing that a voice inside my head was shrieking you can never have too many books what are you talking about?); but I am developing a certain heartlessness as I continue to fill boxes with books for the library sale. At some point, I am going to have to start going through the boxes of books on top of the kitchen cabinets and the ones in the storage attic, and my goal is to have cleaned out not only the attic but the storage unit I’ve rented for far too long.

We finished the first season of Very Scary People on HBO last night, concluding with the two-parter on Jim Jones (we skipped Gacy–have seen enough of him lately already–and Aileen Wuornos, because we watched one on her already recently) and will be moving on to season two probably this evening. I am way behind on Superman and Lois–mainly because it’s something I started watching without Paul and so, rather than trying to get him caught up, I am just going to continue watching without him (I always, inevitably, have to fill him in on super-hero backstory and so forth anyway in most cases, though I think he knows enough Superman lore–doesn’t everyone, really–that he wouldn’t need explanations in this case).

I’ve started–sort of–working on Chlorine this weekend, mostly free hand and mostly in my journal, mapping out backstory and so forth for the main character, and I’ve also started working on the backstory for the body in the surf, and the plot–which was kind of amorphously planned in my head, but yesterday I started nailing down specifics in the plot. It’s going to be kind of fun to write, I think–I always think that going into a manuscript; ever the optimist–and while it’s very tempting to use real people as characters, I think I will make the ones who actually are on the page and participating in the story fictional, but mention others–Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, etc.–in passing. I know the studio is going to be fictional–tempted as I am to use Fox or MGM–and I also know I need to sprinkle in some of the conservatism that reigned then, as everyone was afraid of Communists and having to testify in front of HUAC in Washington; it was the time of ‘the lavender scare” (also the title of a terrific history of the period and this very thing, by David Johnson; I highly recommend it) and so homosexuality was also driven even further underground because we were seen as security risks, particularly if we worked in government since it put us at risk for blackmail by Communists (I touched on this briefly in my story “The Weight of a Feather”, collected in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories).

I also worked on getting organized yesterday. I did a lot of filing, and took a lot of books off my desk and replaced them with ones I’ll be using for research and background for this book. I kind of feel like I already know my main character (even though I couldn’t remember his name yesterday as I wrote notes in my journal); he grew up in Kansas, was caught by his father in a “compromising position” with his high school basketball coach in the tiny little town he grew up in and was forced to enter the military at age 17–going into the Navy and serving in the South Pacific, where he found other men like himself, and thus became familiar with the underground gay community within the military, as well as in Honolulu and Los Angeles (on leaves). After mustering out in 1946 he comes to LA to become a movie star, is discovered by a Henry Willson type agent, and at the start of the story his seven year control with Pacific Pictures is coming to an end, they aren’t going to renew his contract, and he is in fact being sacrificed to a tabloid in order to protect another client, a rising star the tabloid was going to out–loosely based on how Henry Willson sold out Rory Calhoun and Tab Hunter to Confidential to save Rock Hudson; but unlike them, my character’s agent has a plan for him: a long-term contract to work with an Italian film company making sword-and-sandal epics.

It’s a great set-up, and one that I hope to not let down…right now I am feeling confident that I can write this and it will be amazing; of course, once I start the doubts and imposter syndrome will start creeping in and I will spend most of my time wondering what the hell I was thinking to try to write such a thing in the first place.

I couldn’t have picked a better career path for a neurotic, could I?

I also lined up all the potential short story calls I am interested in submitting to, matched them up with an in-progress story that fits their call (or at least what does in my mind; I am really not that great a judge of these things, in all honesty) and need to plan out when to reread and when to rewrite. It’s very strange; now that I am coming out of the exhaustion from the writing of the two books back to back I am amazed at how light I feel; I don’t feel that oppressive burden nor the stress that comes from carrying it. I know both manuscripts need work and I need to revise and rework and edit one last time with each, and there’s a deadline for the first for sure–but I am going to put that off until next weekend, when I have the time to sit and go through Bury Me in Shadows from beginning to end, making notes, making corrections, and so on and so forth to get it polished into a diamond…or as close to one as I can get one of my books.

So, I am going to spend the rest of this morning swilling coffee and trying to finish reading The Russia House. I love LeCarré; he is such a terrific writer I can get lost in his sentences and paragraphs forever–but I find myself not loving the plot or the characters in this one, which is why it’s taking me so long to get through this one, I think. He also does an excellent job of taking me back into that 1980’s world/mentality of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union–that halcyon time when the fear of nuclear annihilation began to fade somewhat but at the same time the worry of what would fill the vacuum created by that collapse was almost nearly as intense (it didn’t take long for conservatives to replace Communists with Muslims as the scary other from another part of the world determined to destroy us); not to mention the wondering if glasnost and perestroika weren’t real or sincerely meant; LeCarré does an absolutely amazing job with that cold intelligence paranoia.

And then, for something similar yet completely different, I am going to reread Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I also would like to get back to the gym today; it looks absolutely lovely outside, and the walk will be lovely.

Until tomorrow, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Sunday!

Miss Americana and The Heartbreak Prince

One question that always exasperates authors is the old standard, where do you get your ideas from?

I get why it annoys writers to be asked this; who wants to be psycho-analyzed on a panel or at a reading? It’s a process, of course, and one that cannot be distilled into a quick, witty, quotable sound bite–and the ultimate truth is, it’s almost always different in every case–whether it’s a novel, an essay or a short story; I certainly have not gotten inspiration the same way every time. A lot of the Alabama fiction, for example, that I have written/am writing/have thought about writing, comes from stories my grandmother told me when I was a child about the past–mostly her family’s past, and certainly those stories were self-aggrandizing and self-serving, and still others were apocryphal: the ancestress, for example, who killed a Yankee soldier come to rob her during the Civil War? Yeah, that one was almost certainly lifted from Gone with the Wind–but I have since come to find out that Mitchell probably took the story from legends as well–that story seems to exist everywhere in local legend throughout the former Confederacy (I mention this in passing in Bury Me in Shadows, which also originated in one of my grandmother’s stories).

A while back, I started thinking about doing period novels centering gay male characters and telling their stories about the times when prim-and-proper society swept all things gay under the rug and homophobia was king (or Queen, I suppose). I had already come up with a great idea for a gay noir centered around a health club that operated as a money-laundering front for the local mob in a city in Florida called Muscles, which I hope to write at some point…I cannot recall exactly how or why Muscles led into thinking about other one-word titled gay noir novels set in different periods of the twentieth century; but there you have it. I think Muscles led me to think about setting one in a gay bar in the early 1990’s, built around the time gay porn star Joey Stefano was arrested while performing at a Tampa gay bar for public indecency; Indecency was such a great title that I couldn’t forget it–and I also figured I could link the two books, the way I always link my books together in an Easter eggy kind of way that the majority of people don’t notice but pleases me immensely. Right round that same time a gay man who was very active as a fundraiser and a donor for political causes died; he had started out owning a company that published gay-interest magazines with nude models and had been arrested, and served time, for using the mail to deliver pornography; I wanted to write about him and the rise of gay porn films in Southern California and call it Obscenity. So there it was: a trilogy of loosely connected gay noirs I hoped to write someday…and then one day, as I was blogging–I think maybe two years ago? I don’t recall–my mind was wandering (as it is wont to do) and I started riffing about an idea that was forming in my head as I wrote the entry for a book set in 1950’s Hollywood, dealing with the underground gay community, McCarthyism, and scandal-mongering that would open with a gay movie star’s body being found naked in the surf at the beach…only the autopsy found that the water in his lungs actually contained chlorine…so he hadn’t drowned, he’d been murdered and the body moved. I called it Chlorine; and that was, for me, kind of the end of it–I wrote the idea down, created a folder for it, and posted the entry.

So, I am sure you can imagine my surprise when I checked Twitter a few hours later and had a ridiculously high amount of–what do they call them? Mentions? Anyway, I had no idea what had triggered this–I rarely get much interaction there–and so when I went to check…some people had read my blog and were all about Chlorine–and the more they tweeted about it, the more people had gotten drawn into this conversation. I was thrilled, to say the least, to see so much attention on-line for something that was really just an amorphous idea…and then a great first line occurred to me: The earthquake woke me up at nine in the morning. So I opened a new Word document, typed in that line, and next thing you know, I had an over 3000 word first chapter written, and the entire plot was forming in my mind already. I took voluminous notes, and decided that, once I got finished with everything I was in the midst of writing already, I would give Chlorine a shot.

And in the meantime, I could start reading up on the period, gay Hollywood, and root myself firmly in the period.

Which is how I came across Robert Hofler’s The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson.

On November 29, 1954, The Hollywood Reporter’s gossip columnist Mike Connolly wrote about the proud, happiest day of Rock Hudson’s life. The movie star had just been cast in George Stevens’ cattle-and-oil epic Giant, and Connolly’s one-line blurb commemorating Rock’s celebration party was as cryptic as it was pumped with news ready to break: “Saturday Mo-somes: Phyllis Gates & Rock Hudson, Margaret Truman & Henry Willson.”

In one of his rare acts of discretion, newshound Connolly dispensed with the ampersand that should have wedded the names Rock Hudson and Henry Willson. Fifty years into the future, “Mo-somes” could be read as slang for the two men’s sexual orientation. But not in 1954. Back then, “Mo” meant something far less provocative but nearly as colorful

“Mo” was short for the Mocambo, the Mount Olympus of Sunset Strip nightclubs. Pure tinseltown fantasy, the Mocambo was an over-heated study in contrasts where oversized tin flowers and humongous velvet balls with fringe festooned flaming candy-cane columns that framed a dance floor designed to induce claustrophobia when more than two couples got up to fox-trot. The tables were equally miniscule, making it possible for the establishment to charge lots of money for not much food, which nobody could see. Overhead, rococo candelabras gave off so little illumination that revelers kept bumping into each other by mistake, and sometimes now, as they tried to check themselves out in the flecked mirrors that recast everybody’s reflection in tones of warm, flattering, fake gold.

I had a vague idea of who Henry Willson was before I read this book–he appeared in the Rock Hudson bio I read a few months ago as well as in Tab Hunter’s memoirs–and of course, Jim Parsons played him in the Ryan Murphy alternate-history Hollywood. I was also vaguely aware–my memory is a lot dimmer than it used to be–of the gay Hollywood underground; the Sunday afternoon pool parties at George Cukor’s, for example–and I had read some gay Hollywood histories (the ones by William J. Mann are particularly good), but I knew my main character in Chlorine needed a Henry Willson-like agent, and so I needed to research Henry Willson. Willson was, of course, notorious in his time and the passage of time since his heyday has done nothing to soften that image. He was the definitive “casting couch” agent–and per this book, which is very well written and very entertaining–men who wanted to be movie stars (whether gay, straight or bi) were more than willing to service Henry if it meant a leg up in the business. And Henry did work very hard for his clients, polishing rough material into diamonds for the camera. He taught them how to speak, how to walk, the proper silverware, how to behave in public; manners and etiquette. Henry believed that talent wasn’t as important to being a movie star as having star quality–the indescribable something that all major stars have, that is impossible to describe–and he knew what he was doing. He also frequently renamed them–hence the proliferation of the one syllable first names with the two or three syllable last names: Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Chad Everett, Guy Madison, etc.

This book provided a wealth of information as well as inspiration for me, as did the Rock Hudson biography I read several months ago. This period of Hollywood history is fascinating, and I love that writing this book–or rather, planning and researching, since I haven’t really started writing it–is giving me an amazing excuse to study gay Hollywood history and the post-war film industry.

Make no mistake about it–Henry Willson was good at what he did, but he was also a terrible person; trying to make it in a homophobic culture, society and industry at the time in which he lived would definitely twist a person. He was an arch-conservative; a Log Cabin Republican of his time, friends with the horrific Roy Cohn. Was it camouflage to help protect him and his clients from the Red Scare days of McCarthyism, when being queer was also just as suspect? Or was he really that terrible of a person? The author makes no judgments; rather leaving it to the reader to. make up their own minds about who Henry was as a person. As terrible as he was–and some of the things he did, like the casting couch, were pretty unforgivable–I did feel sorry for him in some ways, and in basing a character on him I kind of have to find the humanity in the monster. He was not attractive in a business that revolved around beauty; while the straight male pigs who ran the business used their power to force women to sleep with them, Henry used and abused his own power to get beautiful men to sleep with him.

My own main character–a second-tier movie star who slept his way into parts and a career–is also not entirely likable; but I think I’ve gotten deep enough inside of his head to at least make him identifiable and relatable to the reader…but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

I do recommend this book, if you’re interested in Hollywood history in general or gay Hollywood history specifically.

Christmas Tree Farm

And now it’s Christmas. I woke up this chilly morning to a barrage of well wishes in my inbox; thanks, companies who have my email address; I appreciate your concerns about my holiday and how it is going to go. It’s cold this morning, but the sky is blue and the sun is shining and there are no clouds to be seen anywhere in the sky; it was also cold yesterday but much more dreary outside. This morning appears to be one of those mornings where it feels colder inside than it does outside.

I was a slug yesterday, admittedly so. I just didn’t have the energy or the inspiration or the drive to do a whole lot of anything all day–i feared this would be the case, and was proven, rather early on, to be correct. I spent the morning finishing reading The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, and yes, this was magnificent research for Chlorine, but at the same time is was a fascinating journey into what it was like to be gay in the entertainment industry in the post-war period, and needless to say, it was a fascinating read. And while it was completely impossible to feel deep sympathy for Henry Willson–he did terrible things, and used his power to force beautiful young men with Hollywood aspirations and dreams into having sex with him, among many other terrible things; and although it was also the era when beautiful young women also had to have sex with producers, directors and studio executives to get ahead, that doesn’t lessen, or in any way mitigate, what he was doing to those young men. Willson was gay but was also homophobic, and serves as an interesting case study into the mentality that drives and draws gay men into sociopolitical conservatism–and the cognitive dissonance that must exist in order to embrace a self-loathing world view. Willson was a friend of Roy Cohn, probably the most horrible gay man to ever exist in this country, but that friendship really came as no surprise. Reading the book was a fascinating, if horrifying, reminder that it wasn’t all that long ago that the closet was the only option and going to a club or being involved with another man or even going to a private party, was putting everything in your life–career, family, whatever–in jeopardy.

And needless to say, I have a lot of great ideas now to work into Chlorine; I’d say this book was probably the single most important resource I’ve come across in my research for the book–more so than even Tab Hunter’s memoir or the biographies of Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift; yesterday afternoon as I digested what I’d read, plot twists and story kept coming to me–scenes, character development–and I am, as always, looking forward to that day in the now not so distant future when I’ll be able to write this book…although I am also thinking reading a biography of Anthony Perkins also might not be such a bad idea.

We finished watching Tiny Pretty Things yesterday, and I have to say it was quite delightful fun–but the dialogue! OMG, the dialogue was sometimes so jarringly bad it took me right out of the show. I don’t blame the cast at all–some of the dialogue was so fucking bad not even Streep or Lange or DeNiro or Pacino could have made it work–but everything else about the show was marvelous. It was well plotted and planned very well; apparently there are two novels set in that ballet school, and the first season ended with an amazing cliff-hanger as well to set up the second season, even if the crime from the first was still unresolved–at least, thus far. I’ve always thought ballet was the perfect setting for noir–the sacrifices it requires, the commitment necessary, and the willingness and desire to push your body through incredible pain to achieve great beauty…it’s amazing to me. Do I wish I had some ballet training? Kind of, although I don’t think as a child I would have had the drive to push myself through the pain…but you also never know. I’ve always been able to commit fully to things I’m interested in or enjoy; the question would be whether or not I would have enjoyed it enough to commit to it. Hard to say, really.

I do know if and when I start writing about ballet, I’ll need to immerse myself in it. I do think the young men who commit so fully to dance–particular in our culture and society, which still sees such things as “unmanly” and “gay”–are fascinating, and most books about ballet–shows, etc–inevitably default to the female point of view and perspective; no one has, to the best of my knowledge, ever really delved into the world of ballet from that masculine perspective.

We also watched the second episode of The Stand, which isn’t really generating a lot of buzz as it airs; which is kind of curious to me. Someone mentioned it on Twitter last night, something along the lines of “How bad must this version of The Stand be if there’s no on-line discussion of how hot Alexander Skarsgard is in it?” I hadn’t really thought about it–I’m kind of enjoying the non-linear story-telling technique they are using, even if it does kind of lesson the impact of the apocalyptic end of the world from the flu story King told in the first part of the book–which is one of my favorite parts of the book, honestly. (I do love the book, even if it’s been years since I reread it–it used to be one of my comfort reads) There were some responses to the tweet about how bad the show is, and I don’t know that I would go that far–I’m enjoying it thus far, even if the non-linear story-telling is kind of jarring–but the lack of conversation about the show is pretty telling, I guess.

I didn’t do any physical writing or editing yesterday, but I did spend some time thinking about it, and i hadn’t planned on doing any writing or anything today, either, what with it being holidays and all (remember, I suspected this would happen yesterday morning), but that’s okay, really–not going to beat myself up over it too terribly; it is what it is–and today I will most likely try to get some of this mess cleaned up; my office area is a disgrace as always, and I have paper and folders and books stacked everywhere. And we are definitely watching Wonder Woman 1984 today.

And that, Constant Reader, is as good a segue as any into my return to the spice mines. Have a lovely holiday, everyone/

Highway Don’t Care

I could get used to this sleeping late thing quite easily.

So yesterday, Facebook decided I could no longer crosspost this blog to my personal Facebook page because it’s “spam”; I don’t know if it was reported as such, or whether it’s just a new thing with their shitty new design, which they also forced me to start using yesterday (it really is garbage, and a complete rip-off of how Twitter looks if you use it through a web browser–but why would Facebook care about integrity of design? Why wouldn’t they rip-off another social media’s design even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with their original design in the first place?); in either case, it’s infuriating and frustrating.

It does allow it to go to my author page–in fact, I didn’t even try to post yesterday’s blog to my author page and yet there it was–but I can’t see some of the pictures on previous blogs. They also removed my birthday post (the one titled “August”) from my timeline. It’s still on the author page; how it’s not SPAM there but it is on my timeline is just one of those unsolvable, eternal mysteries of Facebook, its garbage staff, management, and design thieves.

Sigh.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need to even use Facebook, and I often wonder about the advisability of social media in general. But I love communicating, and staying in touch, with friends I rarely see other than at writers’ conferences and so forth, which aren’t going to be happening for the foreseeable future either; as well as former co-workers, friends from long-ago times, and just people who either read my books or I’ve discovered through other actual friends who amuse me endlessly with their wit and snark. That’s what keeps me there–and while it saddens me that my blog may no longer be able to go onto my timeline, at least it still will go up on the author page and on Twitter; so maybe I am going to have to ask those who like it and want to read it occasionally to either like my author page or follow me on Twitter. I hate asking, because it makes me feel like I’m begging people to like me, but there it is. It’s one of the parts of being a professional writer I despise the most: self-promotion and marketing.

One of the loveliest things about getting older and gaining a better perspective on life is the determination of what is important and what is not; I’m not sure when it was that I decided I no longer cared if people like me or not, but it was enormously freeing. There are still vestiges in my psyche of what I have derisively termed “Homecoming Queen Syndrome”: the desperate need to be liked by everyone. Sure, I would prefer for people to like me rather than not, but it doesn’t bother me when someone doesn’t anymore. I am not to everyone’s tastes, certainly my sense of humor isn’t,  and my writing is definitely not. It was one of those great moments, you know–what Oprah calls the aha moment–when I realized that, after all, I don’t love everything I read and I don’t like everyone I meet, so what kind of narcissistic egomaniac thinks everyone should love them and their work?

Not I, I decided, and that was the end of that. I am still a work in progress, however, and so I still sometimes lapse into that mentality from time to time before I snap back to my senses and think, better people than you don’t like me.

Which has kind of become my mantra, really: Better people than you don’t like me.

So, yesterday–my do nothing be a slug day–was lovely. I didn’t really do the Internet much, and I realized, at one point, as I was reading through All That Heaven Allows,  a biography of Rock Hudson that I am reading as research for Chlorine (I checked it out from the library) that, since it’s actually research I should have been marking pertinent pages with post-it notes; because it’s actually a gold mine–not just about being a gay actor in the period I am going to be writing about, but about gay history in general (I found an interesting bit about a gay sex scandal involving the University of Kentucky football team in the early 1960’s! And a bit about a FUCKING GAY BAR IN LEXINGTON KENTUCKY DURING THAT PERIOD!!!), and so I started flipping back through the book and finding passages I remembered, marking them with post-it’s so I can make notes and so forth on paper or in a word document…and then the book mentioned Tab Hunter, and I thought, oh yes, I have his memoir Tab Hunter Confidential, and being the anal/OCD person I am, I immediately had to find my copy, and then got swept into it–I’d never read it, and then, of all things, came across a bit about Tab doing a theater production of Chapter Two with Joyce DeWitt in the early 1980’s and how he didn’t know who she was because he didn’t watch television and again, I thought to myself, wait a minute–you’ve not only met Tab Hunter, JOYCE DEWITT WAS WITH HIM WHEN YOU MET HIM. He came to the TWFest BECAUSE you met him at a Publishing Triangle party with Joyce DeWitt!

In fact, when I–several sheets to the wind at the time–got up the nerve to introduce myself to Mr. Hunter, and asked him if he would ever do the Festival because I knew he’d done a production of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore with Tallulah Bankhead (how I remembered that given how wasted I was, I have no idea) and he was quite enthusiastic–not only about the Festival but that I knew that obscure detail of his long career. The last thing I remember about the conversation was Joyce DeWitt writing down his contact information for me on a fucking cocktail napkin that has undoubtedly been lost at some point over the years.

How the hell did I lose a cocktail napkin with Tab Hunter’s contact information on it, written down by Joyce DeWitt? 

And as I went through his book, and I got to the part about that particular stage production–darling Marian Seldes was also in that cast! Marian set the standard high for graciousness and loveliness. I also really liked Frances Sternhagen, Zoe Caldwell, and Shirley Knight a lot.

Huh. Maybe I should write a memoir, after all. I’ve certainly got a lot of funny stories about meeting famous, or rather sort of famous, people.

I suspect the biggest problem with writing Chlorine will be dragging out the research for as long as possible because I am enjoying it so much…I mean, reading these two nonfiction books have really amped up my creativity and inspiration!

There are two hurricanes this morning out there heading for the Gulf Coast; Laura and Marco. Yesterday New Orleans was in the direct center of Laura’s Cone of Uncertainty; this morning that has shifted west some–but we’re still in the cone. Marco was on track yesterday to come ashore anywhere from Corpus Christi to Grand Isle, which meant we were also in THAT Cone of Uncertainty as well; and the forecast of timing meant both were going to come ashore around the same time. It also meant that the extremely rare weather phenomenon known as the Fujiwhara effect could happen (why not? The Midwest already had a rare derecho storm last week); it’s only happened twice on this side of the continent (it’s more common in the Pacific). Essentially, when two hurricanes form and come within 800 miles of each other, they can begin to rotate counter-clockwise around a centralized point between them. If they are within 680 miles of each other, they can merge into a bigger storm.

I wonder how the evangelicals are going to blame this on the gays?

So, this morning I am going to go back to work–I am going to start digging through my emails, going to run an errand I’d rather not run, and dig into Bury Me in Shadows. I’ll probably also spend some time with my Rock Hudson biography as well.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Your Mama Don’t Dance

Well, Monday has rolled around again after a lovely, restful weekend, and I am hopeful that this week–the tail end of July and the beginning of August–will be lovely and productive.

Yesterday I managed to have the hole in the page open and finished off Chapter Nineteen–which, once I started, was much easier than I’d thought it would be, and I was also able to get Chapter Twenty set up at the end of that chapter. I’m also, as I go into the final act, aware of things that I need to set up earlier in the manuscript; which is lovely, even though this is wrong way around; I should have known all this when I was writing it, which is my usual way of doing things. (Although, if I am being completely honest, the Kansas book wasn’t written this way, and I only figured out how to end Royal Street Reveillon while I was writing it; this is a trend I don’t like and needs to end now. Perhaps when I start writing Chlorine, things will follow the more traditional Greg writing path.)

Speaking of Chlorine, I did manage to find my copy of Tab Hunter’s memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. I met Tab Hunter years ago, at a Publishing Triangle party in New York (he was with Joyce Dewitt–yes, the one from Three’s Company, and she was absolutely charming), and he was still incredibly handsome and a very nice man. He eventually came to the Tennessee Williams Festival (yes, I played Good Husband and asked him if he would do it, got his manager’s card, and passed that along to Paul), and was again, just as handsome and charming as ever. We have a signed copy of the book, but I’ve never read it–it’s been in the TBR pile for over a decade–and I am delighted now to have a work-related excuse to read it, along with any number of other Hollywood histories and books about show business and celebrities from the 1950’s. (Must find biographies of Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, and Anthony Perkins…and George Cukor, for that matter.) It’s going to be ever so much fun to submerge myself in post-war Hollywood and Los Angeles.

Steph Cha’s novel Your House Will Pay also continues to fascinate, entertain, and enthrall. It’s quite excellent, and I am savoring the pages, the chapters, the development of the parallel stories of the two families tied together by a trauma in the past. It’s also incredibly immersive; the characters are so very terribly real, as is the world they inhabit. It’s turning out to be so much more than I thought it was going to be–and I was excited for what I thought it would be–so it’s even more of a gift than I originally thought it was going to be.

We are also getting drawn in more to the Prime series The Boys, which is also, like the Cha novel, turning out to be so much more than I’d anticipated. It’s darker, for one thing, and kind of exceptional in showing how powerful a single, average human being actually can be, without the assistance of extra-special powers of some kind. It’s also a much more complex examination of how extraordinarily gifted humans would be monetized, branded, and image controlled–very similar to the Hollywood period I am going to be immersing myself in shortly. Yay! It’s a fascinating period, and definitely one I want to know a lot more about.

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

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Something About You

Sunday and it’s my Saturday, which is going to really mess up my body clock, don’t you think? Today is going to be my errands-and-cleaning day; the Lost Apartment is, once again, a disaster area, and the bed linens need a-laundering, and I have to get groceries, and…and…and…

At least I have tomorrow off. Today is going to be one of those days where if I get some writing done, terrific, if I don’t, well, it’s a cleaning-and-errands day and it’s miserably hot. I am going to barbecue later on today–I’m also going to cook things for the week—and so am not really sure how much time I would have for writing today anyway.

I watched another documentary the other night–after the Tab Hunter–which also gave me the answer to the noir novel dilemma I hadn’t been able to figure out for quite some time. It was so obvious I don’t know why it never occurred to me before but whatever the reason, I’m glad I know the answer now. Now that another part of the puzzle has been fitted into place, it’s simply now a matter of figuring out the ending, and I can dive headfirst into writing it, once I’m caught up on everything else I am writing. When I get finished with the Scotty and the WIP, that’s when I’ll decide whether I am going to write the noir next or Bury Me In Satin, the y/a I want to do this year.

So little time! The fact that I lazily waste so much time makes me crazy, yet doesn’t somehow motivate me to not waste time somehow.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to do a classic noir-style novel with a homme fatale instead of a femme fatale, and this particular story has always really worked for me in terms of something I want to write; I have my main character and some of my supporting characters already in place. The enigma I couldn’t solve was the homme fatale; I can see him in my  head; I know what he looks like an d what his body looks like and the charm and charisma–but the motivation was something I couldn’t quite grasp; and that missing puzzle piece was key to who he is as a character, and now I have that piece. Huzzah!

I suppose I need to get back to the spice mines. Sigh. Now that I’m thinking about these projects, I’m feeling motivated to do some writing.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Anyway, here’s the opening of one of my new short stories from my collection Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, “The Weight of a Feather”:

It was one of those buildings that went up right after the war, slapped together in a hurry because the city needed more living space.  The soldiers were coming home with their grim memories and the city was booming. People needed places to live if they were going to work in the city and there was money to be had. It was an ugly building, yellow brick and cement and uniform windows, with no charm, nothing that made it any different than any of the other apartment buildings that had gone up, that were still being built.

 The Christmas lights winking in some of the windows didn’t make them look any cheerier.

It was starting to snow, big wet flakes swirling around his head and sticking to his dark coat. There was no sign of life from Rock Creek Park at the end of the street. Max had walked past a small diner on the corner, a few lone customers behind windows frosted from cold. He’d thought about going in, getting coffee, but it was too risky.

Best to get it over with.

He buzzed the apartment, and the door buzzed open. There was a big Christmas tree in the lobby, empty boxes wrapped underneath. The white linoleum floor was already showing signs of wear and tear. He ignored the elevators and headed for the stairs. It was hot inside, steam heat through radiators making him sweat under his layers.

The third-floor hallway smelled like boiled cabbage and garlic and onions. He raised a gloved hand to knock on 3-L.

The man who answered the door smiled. Special Agent Frank Clinton was in his early thirties at most, cold gray eyes, his face battered from boxing Golden Gloves as a teen. He was wearing twill pants held up by suspenders over a white ribbed tank top. He looked up and down the hall. “Get inside, Sonnier.” he said in his thick Boston accent.

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Mad About You

Summer has returned, and while expected always, it’s return always, somehow, catches me off-guard; I forget what it’s like to always have damp socks, to have that slick feeling of sticky dried sweat on your skin, the way the sweat affects the corners of your eyes and your eyelids, the way the heavy wet heat drains all of your energy from you. Even after twenty-two years here, every summer there’s an adjustment period of getting used to it. The heat index is in the high nineties now every day, regardless, and life comes about making it from one air conditioned place to another as quickly as possible.

Thursday night Paul stayed at the office late working on a grant that was due yesterday, so I was at home with Scooter and at loose ends. I wasn’t able to get much writing done that day–one of those days–and as I sat in my easy chair with my journal and a cat asleep in my lap, I decided to watch the documentary Tab Hunter Confidential on Prime. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tab Hunter film (other than Polyester and Lust in the Dust), but I knew he’d been around since the 1950’s. I knew he was a teen idol/heart throb. I also knew he’d been involved with Tony Perkins, and that he’d come out in a memoir also titled Tab Hunter Confidential. As the documentary started, I realized with a start, I’ve met Tab Hunter–several times, in fact and so as the documentary played I kept thinking, wow, I’m one or two degrees of separation from everyone in this, including everyone he co-starred with.

And, I knew how handsome he was because I’d met him in person.

I was completely blown away by how beautiful he was when  he was young.

I mean, wow.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong–he’s still an incredibly handsome man, which should have given me some idea of just how breathtakingly beautiful he was when he was young.

It’s also very weird to be watching a documentary and realize, oh, yeah, I’ve met Tab Hunter a couple of times.

My life is so weird.

It’s an interesting documentary, about being a closeted star in the Hollywood system and having the studio “fixers” cleaning up messes and keeping you out of the papers and so forth. There’s a terrific gay noir novel just waiting to be written about 1950’s gay Hollywood, and I am almost there coming up with the story in my mind.

I already have the two books I am writing though, and once they are finished, I know what the next two are going to be…so Hollywood gay noir will have to be after that, I guess.

I have to work today; I am doing testing all day at Gay Pride, but have Monday off. So, I am going to hopefully finish reading the Roth today between clients, and maybe, maybe, finally get to start reading Alex Segura’s Blackout.

And now, back to the spice mines.