Behind the Mask

Saturday here in the Lost Apartment and Paul is coming home tonight. Huzzah! Also a big day in college football down here in the South, with Georgia-Tennessee this afternoon and LSU-Alabama tonight (and the good news for Florida and Texas A&M fans is one of them has to win the game, so one team’s losing slide will temporarily stop). I have things to do this morning, lots of things to do and many miles to walk before I sleep. Last night I was very tired when I finished my day’s work; and so repaired to my easy chair with Scooter in my lap and watched Low Country, a documentary series about the Murtaugh family crimes in South Carolina. Ironically, I started watching it because I vaguely remembered hearing about the story–wife and son murdered, father shot and wounded, etc.–but I did not know the back story to all of it, which this series provides a small window into; it really only covers the recent crimes, not the criminality of the family going back almost a hundred years–but as I watched, I started seeing similarities to the book I am writing now (powerful corrupt wealthy family that basically rules a rural area as their own duchy), and ideas and things to make my own book better started riffing through my mind. One thing that urban people never get about rural areas is how much of that sort of thing goes on, especially in the South. I am really going to have to go back and dig deeper with what I’ve already done, but I am confident I can get that all worked out this weekend and then get to work on the second half of the book next week.

I slept really well again last night. I started falling asleep in my chair once I finished watching Low Country–again, worth the watch, and yes, very shocking that rural counties in the twenty-first century are still so feudal, so undemocratic, so twisted that any one person or family can be so above the law that they essentially control the justice system in the region, to the point that they get away with murder–and so went to bed early. Scooter has started sleeping with me at night, purring and cuddling, and that also helps me sleep (Paul and I have agreed that Scooter’s super power is the ability to put anyone to sleep by cuddling and purring) and I woke up feeling very settled and relaxed and rested this morning, which is terrific since I have so much to get done today (as always). But I am going to do some cleaning this morning while I do some computer clean-up and so forth (ugh, my files are such a scattered and disgusting mess, it’s not even funny; I would be better about this, of course, if Macs didn’t have that search function) and don’t plan to go anywhere today. I’ve ordered groceries to pick up for tomorrow–I also have to air up one of my tires–and other than that, I don’t plan to leave the house tomorrow either. I need to get caught up and reorganized and all of that–the usual stuff I complain about on here every day. The week went by relatively quickly, too. I read some more of the new Wanda Morris novel, which I took to bed with me but I didn’t stay awake long enough to read more than a few pages–which were fantastic. I can’t begin to talk about how delighted and exciting it is to see new perspectives, new voices, and new stories from marginalized authors. I’m just sorry it took so long to get us to this point, but this was exactly what our genre needed.

My book’s official release date is rapidly approaching, and I am trying not to get over-anxious and/or nervous about it. I need to start pushing the book more, but I am not really certain how or what to do, to be honest. I’m excited about it, of course. The reviews have thus far been pretty favorable–other than that snarky Kirkus one, but even it didn’t bother me at all, and besides, they’re known for being snarky in their reviews and always have been; I guess that’s growth of a sort. Bad reviews don’t get under my skin the way they used to when I first started doing this, you know. I tend to stay away from Goodreads and Amazon reviews–therein lies the path to madness–but my skin has thickened a lot over the years and I know what my reactions will be and why put myself into a position of any kind that might emotionally unbalance me? God knows I don’t need any help in that direction, for sure.

I also watched another documentary about gay porn, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story which was very interesting. Holmes was Falcon Studios, one of the bigger and more successful brands in gay porn for a very long time, and it did give me some ideas for future projects. I will probably, most likely, keep writing Scotty books until I die (for those of you who were wondering; the next one will probably be another Carnival mystery, French Quarter Flambeaux), but I may not write anymore young adult novels. It’s not that I don’t want to or have a lot of ideas for them, but my time is limited and I want to explore other writing options and genres within crime fiction. I really am feeling the desire to work on my queer historical noirs–beginning with Chlorine–and then moving on to cover other parts of queer history from the second half of the twentieth century. Obscenity would be about gay porn; Indecency would be built around Joey Stefano’s arrest in Tampa for public indecency…and of course there would be more but that’s the original trilogy I’d want to write. They wouldn’t be connected stories–the only commonality would be the fight against oppression and repression–but I think they would be a lot of fun. I have titles for others–Beefcake, Peplum, Physique–but don’t have stories to go with those yet (although I do introduce a Bob Mizer-like character in Chlorine who could drive one of them; Peplum would be, in some ways, a sequel to Chlorine–but it wouldn’t have to be, since I’ve not really decided on the end of that book yet, but one of the possibilities does leave the path open to a sequel.

And on that note, I am going to get to work on the chores and get cleaned up and get this party started. Have a lovely Saturday, and GEAUX TIGERS!

Sisters of the Moon

Thursday morning and the last day I have to get up this early this week. Huzzah! I slept well again last night–after the weird sleep of the previous night–and feel rested this morning. Not sure how that will play out through the rest of the day, but we’ll see, I guess. I know I have a full schedule at work today, so I am hoping to have the energy this evening after work to get home and do some writing. I started doing the dishes last night but didn’t finish; Paul was home early last night so I spent the evening hanging with him and Scooter and watching television. We started watching this new high school show on Netflix–Heartbreak High–but it was just okay (no Elite or Sex Education, that’s for sure); we’ll probably give it another episode or so before abandoning it, since shows sometimes need an episode or two to hit their grove and become more fun to watch.

Ugh.

I really don’t want to look at the news about the hurricane; as someone with some firsthand experience to hurricane aftermaths, I also know that no matter how bad it looks on television or on the newspaper, the reality is about a thousand times worse because pictures and video–no matter how well done–can never quite capture the scope of disaster in a way your brain can process the same way bearing eyewitness can. I saw a lot of awful posts on social media–people seeking help for family and/or friends trapped; trapped people looking for help–and I had to put my phone down because at some point it feels like it almost becomes a kind of macabre fascination, like you’re not doing out of empathy but out of some far darker, almost primordial need to see destruction you can enjoy because it doesn’t affect you. Human misery always bothers me on a very deep level, at the core of my being; there are very few people whose misery I can actually revel in (looking at you, Putin!).

But a hurricane threatening the Tampa Bay area has sent me down a rabbit hole into my own history, and memories of living in that area–which is when I worked for Continental Airlines–and my word, how my life has changed since I lived there. I was still pretty immature and under-developed socially and emotionally; I was originally transferred there from Houston in 1991, after I’d been with the company for about a year or so; I think my hire date was April 1990? (You can tell it’s been a long time; your hire date/seniority is everything when you work at an airline.) I’d originally moved to Houston after blowing up my life in California–lost my job, drug problem, drinking too much–but that was also probably the self-destruction brought on by the horror that was my life in the 1980’s, and after living there for two years was ready to start over again somewhere new; Houston was a nice way station but I’d never intended to stay there for very long–I do like Houston but I really don’t want to live in a place where you literally have to get on at least one highway every day and it seemed kind of exciting to start over in Florida.

Tampa turned out to be another transitional location for me; it was where I was able to come into myself, work on myself, and figure out who I am, what I wanted from life–and how to make a plan to get what I wanted from life. I was hardly perfect (still am quite a distance from being the ideal Greg I would like to be), but I was on well on my way to becoming the Greg I wanted to be when I loaded up my car with everything that could fit and left for Minneapolis shortly before Christmas of 1995. When I moved to Tampa I didn’t really have any idea of what I wanted or who I was or the life I wanted to lead; when I left I had those answers figured out and was well on my way to becoming who I wanted to be as a person. Obviously, I am still a work in progress, and while my memories of Tampa may not all be terrific ones, I am very happy I made the decision to transfer there–because I probably would have never become an active participant in my life rather than a passive one to whom things happened; I wanted to make things happen.

Obviously, you only can ever have so much control over your life; a lot depends on other people, of course, and things that are beyond your control (hello, natural disasters!), but it really feels good to have a purpose; I had always wanted to be a writer but it was while I was living in Tampa that I finally realized I needed to get past my fears of failure and really put the effort into making it happen, and it eventually did…who knows how my life would have turned out had I never made the decision to transfer to Tampa and reboot my life once more?

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a marvelous Thursday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Angel

The eerie thing about Hurricane Ian is it has given us gorgeous weather in New Orleans–no humidity, warm but with a cool breeze; as though this monstrous storm is blessing those of us not under threat with this amazing fall-like weather (well, for New Orleans; this probably feels like summer to most People Not From Here). It was gorgeous yesterday morning when I left for the office; stunning, in fact. I was a little taken aback when I opened the front door to leave yesterday morning and didn’t get slapped in the face with a wall of wet hot heavy air, and as I walked out to the car couldn’t help but think well this weather is simply gorgeous. And when I came home from work–gorgeous, if a little too windy or my preferences. It’s a Category 4 this morning, looking to come ashore somewhere between Tampa and Fort Myers; the storm surge is worrisome and you can’t help but Youtubewonder if the three main causeway bridges from Tampa to the Clearwater/St. Petersburg peninsula will get damaged. I’ll keep monitoring the storm during the day, and hoping for the best possible outcomes for everyone in the path.

After getting stuck having to ride out Ida last year, I really wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

And our house is sheltered on three sides.

Today is Pay the Bills Day, and I’ll dive into that later on this morning. It’s always disappointing to watch your bank balance dwindle, but at the same time–as I remind myself every other Wednesday–at least I can pay them without worry; something that was frequently not true throughout my life. But still, it would be nice to have an entire paycheck that could just sit there in my bank account, wouldn’t it? Indeed, it would.

I was tired when I got home from work yesterday, and last night’s sleep wasn’t nearly as deep as I would have preferred; I had trouble actually falling asleep (thank goodness for Scooter’s Magical Put You To Sleep powers; he climbed up into the bed, curled up next to me, and went to sleep with his purr engine fully activated; and as it always does in my easy chair, it put me to sleep in no time) and kept waking up throughout the night; I woke up at three and four and five, thank you very much, and was awake before the alarm went off. I think I have a much busier work schedule today at the office than I’ve had in a few days, which means I will most likely be very tired when I get off work tonight; fortunately I don’t have any errands to run after work this evening and can come straight home. Hopefully I will have the energy to not only sit at my computer and write for a while, but also the inner strength of character to ignore Scooter’s wailing demands that I sit in my chair and provide a lap for him to sleep in, which inevitably leads to me dozing off in the chair and going down a lot of Youtube wormholes.

I found a lovely video last night, for example, about Catherine de Medici’s Flying Squadron; beautiful women trained in the seductive arts that she used as spies. I have always wanted to write a book based in this historical truth; just as I have always wanted to write about Catherine herself. The French wars of Religion, and the regency of “that Italian woman” is a fascinating period of history (let’s face it, I just love the sixteenth century), with all kinds of Games of Thrones-like conspiracies, betrayals, spying, murder, and so on and so forth as the Catholics and the Huguenots and the nobility jockeyed back and forth for power and control of the kingdom, with Catherine grimly hanging on to the crown for her sons and doing what she had to do. (When I have my flights of fancy of writing historical suspense novels, this is one of the four I think about wanting to do, the others being a retelling of The Three Musketeers; the murder of AMy Robsart; and the Babington Plot which resulted in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. And of course, I always want to write a Barbara Tuchman-like history of the century focusing on the women who held power, The Monstrous Regiment of Women, in that most unusual century.)

Not to mention how much fun I would have reading all that history…

But I am behind on everything current and need to start getting caught up. I’ve not been able to adjust to this schedule of work and having to get up so damned early every morning; you’d think by now I would have and would have energy when I get home at night, but I don’t. I’m also older (less that four years to go before retirement!) than I was and my energy reserves aren’t quite what they used to be…but it’s always a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Determining what they are and what they should be, and then working my way down the list, and trying not to get distracted by shiny objects along the path.

And on that note, i am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, and y’all who are in the Ian path, stay safe.

I Know I’m Not Wrong

I posted a list of things–a thread, if you will–on Twitter yesterday of helpful hints to get prepared for a hurricane-related power loss; simple things I’ve picked up from other people over the years, and was more than a little surprised by the response that received from other users in the Twitter-world. But it’s all common-sense things you might not think about when you’re panicking and battening down the hatches, as it were. The refrigerator and food spoiling without electricity is one I will always wish I knew before Hurricane Katrina, frankly. It also looks as though Tampa is going to get a direct hit, and I don’t think it’s gotten one of those in a very long time–since the 1960’s, at least, if I am not incorrect, and that area is particularly vulnerable to storm surges and so forth. I’ve not lived there since 1995, but there are still people I care about who live there, and obviously, I’m sending them good thoughts and positive energy and hope everything will turn out okay for them and the power will be back soon and the storm will do little damage. (UPDATE: Tampa has not had a direct hit of this strength since 1921! Over a hundred years ago!)

It’s also kind of interesting because one of my in-progress projects (one of too many) involves my Tampa stand-in city while under hurricane threat. YIKES. (In that self-absorbed reflex I suspect all of us have but manage to successfully filter before those thoughts come out of our mouths, there’s a part of me that thinks maybe if your idea for Scotty IV hadn’t been about a hurricane…and so of course in the back of my head I can’t help but wonder if writing about such a thing didn’t wish it into being…because of course that’s how things work and my mind has that kind of power mwa-ha ha ha ha! I mean, come on.)

I feel rested this morning but felt like a burnt out husk for most of the weekend. I got all of my day job duties completed yesterday and yes, my eyes were crossing from the data entry by the time it was finished right around quitting time for the day, which was helpful; I don’t think I could have faced another form yesterday but now I am all caught up, which is great and puts me in great shape ahead for the coming weekend. Last night we got caught up on Bad Sisters and watched two stand-up comedy shows, the new one from Patton Oswalt and one from a non-binary comedian from Australia, Rhys Nicholson, and both were highly entertaining and quite funny. After that I repaired to the bed for my night’s rest, which seems to have gone well. Today I need to start working my way through my to-do list, and need to add some things to it. I need to work on the book this evening after work, so here’s hoping today won’t be a emotionally and physically taxing one at the office. I am trying not to get worked up or stressed out about how far behind on this damned thing I actually am–if I get back to work, albeit slowly, I’ll be able to get the damned thing finished on time and one great stressor will be lifted out off my shoulders.

One fun thing I got to do this past weekend was listen to voices–not the ones inside my head, of course–but rather voice actors auditioning to do the audiobook for A Streetcar Named Murder, which also triggered me to do the pronunciation key for whoever the final voice actor is. All four were fine, but there was something about the way this one of them spoke that just seemed right to me, and so I picked her (I think the fact that she was also the only one to say New Orleans correctly played a part in it as well as the fact that she didn’t try to do an accent of some sort; people never really get that the natives here don’t have Southern accents–one of the biggest mistakes made in movies and television shows set here; the actual New Orleans accent, if the area could be said to have one, is very similar to the Brooklyn one–“dese” and “dose” and “the kitchen zink” and so forth; it’s a working class accent known as yat, and it gets its name from saying “where yat?”), and I am actually looking forward to listening to my book at some point. How exciting is that?

It’s also kind of hard to fathom that September is ending and October is nigh; 2022 has gone by very quickly–although January also at this point seems like it was a million years ago in the past. It’s been quite a year and I’ve traveled more this year than I have in many years prior to the pandemic, frankly. I started off the year with the Birmingham/Wetumpka weekend, moved on to Left Coast Crime, the Edgars, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon, with a trip to Boston for Crime Bake coming up too, and I also went to Kentucky for a long weekend, and will be heading back up for Thanksgiving this year (which means listening to Ruth Ware on the way up and Carol Goodman on the way home, woo-hoo!) but next year my traveling will be severely curtailed; probably Bouchercon in San Diego will be my only travel in 2023 other than Kentucky. I am getting too old to travel well, alas–Bouchercon knocked me out for an entire week, but that was also partly due to the back injury I sustained while I was there–and it also put me into a hole of being behind that I don’t really want to think about too much, you know? I despair of ever clearing out my email inbox, and as for all the writing I need to get done…well, somehow it will happen or it won’t. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be all you hope it can be, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

Save Me a Place

Oddly enough, as I sat in my easy chair the other day watching college football games and letting my body and mind and creativity rest, I had an idea for either a stand alone book or a new series, one way or the other, and it’s something I find interesting enough that I might even consider it. It would be a difficult proposition, to be sure–given the decline in retail sales and everything going to an on-line and electronic model–but I was looking at a map of New Orleans on my iPad because it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Tulane’s not-so-new-anymore on-campus football stadium was; so I pulled up a map to look because I was thinking that was a great line for a Scotty book–I always forget there’s a football stadium in Uptown-so of course I had to go looking for it. The map also brought up businesses in the area and lo and behold, there’s a comic book shop uptown on the lake side of Claiborne and it hit me: no one has ever done a cozy series about a comic book shop and that opened up an entire world of possibilities for me: the main character is an aspiring comic book artist who works in the shop, and of course, you can get into the whole thing about who actually is into comics and the history of comic books and it would give me an excuse to actually learn more about comics and their history and…

You see how this ends up going, don’t you?

I know any number of comics geeks–Alex Segura Jr, author of this year’s brilliant Secret Identity, about the business side of producing comics, is one–and one of my best friends from college owns a comic book shop in central California, or did at some point–and of course my neighbor Michael is also heavily into comics, having gone to Comic Con in San Diego, even. And of course I’d get to make up shit, which is always a huge plus for me. I love making up shit! And of course, it would be fun to write from the point of view of a struggling artist.

I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t know anything about that…

The Saints played terribly yesterday and logged another “L” in the record book (how bad are the Falcons?) yesterday; I didn’t watch but rather followed on Twitter while I did things around the house. The Saints games sometimes cause me too much stress and then I am emotionally exhausted afterwards–too drained to be of much use, so sometimes I just follow it on Twitter or it’ll be on in the living room while I work in the kitchen. I did get the Costco delivery yesterday, and should probably run some errands at some point today, but it is Work-at-Home Monday and I have work I have to get done. I am behind still from the Bouchercon trip and the ensuing back injury, but am hopeful I will start getting caught up somewhat soon. Emails beget emails, though, and therefore that is a sisyphean task indeed.

We watched the new Star Wars show Andor last night, and I am so happy Deigo Luna’s character is getting an origin story. So far, the only show they’ve done I didn’t buy into completely was The Book of Boba Fett, and am thinking maybe we should give that another try at some point. After those three episodes we moved on to The Serpent Queen and American Gigolo, which I think we’re going to give up on. I love Jon Bernthal, but I’m just not buying this story for the character. It’s an interesting idea–and full props to them for turning it into a sequel series in which Julian actually goes to jail for the murder he was accused of committing in the film, but I’m just not really getting vested into the show, either, no matter how much I want to. The Serpent Queen remains fantastic, and gets better with each episode as Catherine explains to her new maid her philosophy of survival, illustrated with scenes from her past. Samantha Morton is fantastic as the older queen and the actress who plays her as a young woman is also equally good. But it’s a period of history I particularly love, and of course, Catherine de Medici is one of the most fascinatingly complex women to hold power in history. The reality of her life was dramatic enough to drive a series, and they’ve done a pretty decent job of following the actual history, with some adjustments here and there.

Also keeping an eye out for Hurricane Ian, which seems to have Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly in its sights. We are just outside the Cone of Uncertainty, which doesn’t mean we’re safe–there could always be another westward shift to the potential path–but I do concern myself with Florida and friends there. I don’t remember the last time Tampa took a direct hit; I don’t think they have in quite some time, and I can imagine a storm surge into the bay and into the rivers that drain into it would be enormously problematic for the city–as well as for Clearwater and St. Petersburg on the peninsula on the other side of the bay. Stay safe, people.

My podcast interview about Daphne du Maurier, with a particular emphasis on My Cousin Rachel, went really well. It was for my friend Ricky Grove, whom I know from my days in the Horror Writers Association and when I put on World Horror Con back in the day here in New Orleans (he is the author Lisa Morton’s partner–have you read Lisa? You should read Lisa). I can talk about du Maurier all day, and we did continue talking for at least another hour after we stopped recording; I do love to talk books and writing, after all, with the end result that I felt horribly drained when it was over. Ah, yes, the age-old problem of the introvert having to be an extrovert on a day when he usually doesn’t have to do anything of the kind. I retired to my easy chair, but found the draining of my energy to have been far too effective for me to focus clearly on anything. I did do another blog entry about my work–this time my Todd Gregory erotic novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, while starting others about Baton Rouge Bingo and the second Todd Gregory book (Games Frat Boys Play)–but when I tried to work on the book or anything else (including trying to read) I couldn’t get anything done so finally gave up and made myself useful around the house. Hopefully after an eyes-crossing day of data entry and quality assurance on testing logs, I’ll be able to dive back into the Scotty book. I know I am procrastinating with Chapter Three and should probably just stop worrying about it and move on, but that’s just not how my creativity works. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay, the stress of being behind will come in handy as December 1 draws ever more near.

Or so I tell myself.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Hope you have a marvelous and lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Bourbon Street Blues

It’s Southern Decadence weekend in New Orleans.

It’s probably hard to imagine what Southern Decadence is like unless you’ve actually been to it; even the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken and shared on social media over the years can’t even remotely begin to get the concept of what it’s like across–the same as Carnival, really; it has to be seen and experienced to be truly understood. My first Southern Decadence was in 1995, which was around the twenty-second or third time it was held; my knowledge of Decadence, primarily from urban legend and tales told from one gay to another and passed down over the years, is sketchy and probably untrustworthy (if you’d like the unvarnished truth and read about the history, I highly recommend Southern Decadence in New Orleans from LSU Press, co-written by Frank Perez and Howard Philips Smith; I have a copy and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be, but the story is it began as a bar crawl for a friend who was moving away, and grew from those humble beginnings into a massive event that draws queers from all over the world).

That first Decadence I came to was also one of the hottest, temperature wise, or perhaps it was simply because I wasn’t used to the summers in New Orleans yet since I didn’t live here. I just remember being in Oz one afternoon and just soaked in my own sweat, and going down the back staircase from the second floor–the staircase that opens out onto the dance floor–and having to hold onto the railing because the steps were slick and wet. The railing was also wet, and when I touched the walls so were they–all the humidity and body heat and sweat–but at the same time it was so much fun. Gorgeous, flirty and friendly men everywhere, everyone scantily dressed and getting wasted and just having a good time. This was during the height of the circuit parties, most of which have died off over the years–there’s no longer a Hotlanta weekend in Atlanta in mid-August anymore, for example–but back then, it seemed like every month if you had the time and the money there was a circuit party somewhere you could fly off to and be yourself and have fun being in an entirely gay environment for a few days. That was, for me, one of the primary appeals of circuit parties and gay bars–they were safe havens for everyone to be out and proud and loud…and after a few weeks navigating the straight world for work and play and life in general…it was lovely to let loose in, for want of a better word, a safe space.

Circuit parties also had their downsides, don’t get me wrong–Michelangelo Signorile detailed some of those in his book Life Outside, which got taken out of context an awful lot–drug use and rampant sex and bad choices also led to other problems, not to mention the spread of HIV and other STI’s; the very first time I ever went to a circuit party–Halloween in New Orleans, 1995–there was a very Masque of the Red Death feel to it; here were all these gay men crowded into a riverfront warehouse, doing drugs and dancing and having a great time while the plague raged outside the doors. I even wrote about that in my diary on the flight back to Tampa a few days later.

But Decadence was always my favorite, out of all of them, and it was something I looked forward to every year. My workouts were always planned so I would hit peak physical condition for Decadence and maintain through Halloween, before starting to work on the Carnival body. It feels weird to talk about it that way, but that was my mentality and my schedule for years. Bulk up for a couple of months, then lean down leading into the event.

I had always wanted to write about Southern Decadence, and I know I’ve written about how I came up with the idea for the book numerous times; standing on the balcony at the Pub watching one of the strippers fight his way through the mob of gay men to get to the Pub so he could work, Paul saying you really should write a book about Southern Decadence and seeing a scene vividly in my head as I looked down at the sea of sweating gay men. I’ve also written about where the idea for the character and his family came from. So what is there left for me to say about Bourbon Street Blues?

The new cover for the ebook edition.

The name’s Dansoir. Dick Dansoir.

Okay, so that really isn’t my name. It’s my stage name from the days when I was on the go-go boy circuit. I started when I was in college, at Vanderbilt up in Nashville. As with almost everything that goes on in my life, I became a go-go boy on a fluke. The Goddess brings interesting experiences into my life all the time. Sometimes I don’t think it’s all that great, to tell the truth, but she always seems to be watching out for me.

I was working out at my gym one day when this guy came up to me and asked me if I wanted to make some easy money.

Like I hadn’t heard that one before.  

I was twenty-one at the time, just turned, but I wasn’t some wide-eyed dopey innocent. I was raised in the French Quarter, after all, and by the time I went off to college at age eighteen I had pretty much seen everything. French Quarter kids have a lot more life experience than other kids their age. You can’t really help it. The French Quarter is like Disneyland for adults, and growing up there, you get used to seeing things that other people can only imagine.

Anyway, this guy said he was a booking agent and scout for this agency that booked dancers in gay bars throughout the deep South. The troupe was called Southern Knights.

“You can make a lot of money this way,” he said to me above the sounds of people grunting and weights clanging. “You’ve got the look we like.”

I looked at myself in one of the mirrors that are everywhere in gyms. I was wearing a white tank top and a pair of black nylon jogging shorts. I was pumped up from lifting, and if I did say so myself, I looked pretty good. I’m only about five-eight—nine if I have thick-soled shoes on. I have curly blond hair that’s darker underneath. The sun does lighten it, but that darkness underneath always makes people think I dye it. I don’t. I have big, round brown eyes. I am also one of those blonds lucky enough to be able to tan. I’d gotten a good tan that summer and it hadn’t faded yet. The white tank top showed the tan off nicely. I also have a high metabolism and can stay lean rather easily.

But scam artists are everywhere. I wasn’t about to fall for a line from some stranger in the gym. For all I knew, it was a trick to get my phone number, or an escort service, or something else I didn’t want to be involved in.

Not that I have anything against escorting. People go to escorts for all kinds of reasons—loneliness, fear of commitment, whatever—but they do fulfill a need in the gay community, and more power to them. I just never saw myself taking money from someone for having sex. I like sex. I enjoy it. So, it just never seemed right for me to tale money for doing something I like.

Besides, taking money for it would make it work. I prefer to keep my status amateur.

I got a copy of the book out yesterday and skimmed/read it again, to get another look and remind myself of Scotty’s roots and beginning. I realized yesterday, as I turned the pages of an ARC (yes, I still have ARC copies of Bourbon Street Blues available), several things: one, that the reason I always hate reading my own work is because my brain is trained to read my work editorially, to fix and edit and correct and look for things needing to be fixed (and I can always find something) and that second, it’s really been so long since the last time I looked at this book–or any of the earlier Scottys–was four years ago, when I was writing Royal Street Reveillon. So, by making the obvious effort to flip the editorial switch off, and having so much distance from the book that it almost seemed like something new to me, I was able to skim/read the entire thing without wincing in horror or pain or embarrassment.

The original cover, which always makes me smile.

Bourbon Street Blues was also the last novel I wrote that didn’t have an epigram of any kind, let alone Tennessee Williams: I started that practice with Jackson Square Jazz with a line from Orpheus Descending: “A good-looking boy like you is always wanted.”

Reading the book took me back to the days when I was writing it. The Greg who wrote Bourbon Street Blues is still here, I’ve just been through quite a bit since then and have changed because of my experiences. There were some sentences in the book I would change now to make better, but there are still some jewels in there, and well, I can kind of understand now why the character is so well-liked. He’s charming and humble and kind; sure he talks about “being irresistible” a lot, but that’s part of the charm. Guys find him attractive. He doesn’t necessarily see it, but is more than willing to accept it and not question it. He enjoys his sexuality and he enjoys having sex. I wanted Scotty to be unabashedly sexual and to have no hang-ups, carrying no stress or issues about being a very sexual gay man.

As I read the book again, I also started seeing something that had been pointed out to me over the years a lot–and began to understand why this was pointed out to me so much; an old dog can learn new tricks, apparently–but I still think other people are wrong. The book isn’t “all about sex,’ as some have said. Rather, Scotty sexualizes men; he sees them as potential partners and appreciates beauty in men. His friend David also loves to get laid, so they cruise a lot–whether they are at the gym (either the weight room or the locker room), a bar, wherever they are–and so people get the idea that the book itself is incredibly sexual, even though there is literally only one sex scene in the entire book and it’s not graphic; Scotty’s weird mish-mash of spirituality and beliefs and values make the act itself a sacred ritual, and that was how I wrote the scene; from a spiritual, commune-with-the-Goddess perspective. It’s also funny in that people are so not used to seeing world through the Gay Male Gaze that it’s jarring, and puts sex and sexuality into the minds of the reader.

The question is, would people think the same if this was done through the Straight Male Gaze, in which women are sexualized? Since this is the default of our society–literature, film, television–is flipping the script to show the Gay Male Gaze so uncommon and so unheard of that it triggers such a reaction from some of the readers?

There’s also so much innocence in the book, and it’s also interesting to see it as a kind of time-capsule: Scotty doesn’t have a computer; his rent (on Decatur Street in the Quarter, with a balcony) is $450 a month (ha ha ha ha, that’s what the condo fee would be now monthly); and he also doesn’t have a cell phone. The whole point of the book was to do a Hitchcockian wrong place/wrong time now you’re in danger kind of story; and that is precisely what Bourbon Street Blues is. I’d forgotten that one of the running gags in the book is that he never gets a chance to sleep much throughout the story so he’s tired all the time and just wants it all to be over so he can go to bed.

Another thing that’s dated: even in 2002, in my naïveté and innocence, the evil politician running for governor–when described by Scotty’s brother Storm as problematic–even he doesn’t support an outright ban on abortion–he wants to ban it but with the rape, incest and health exceptions.

Even in 2002 I couldn’t conceive of anyone running for statewide office calling for an outright ban on abortion.

How things change.

It was also interesting that I got two things very wrong in the book, too: for one, I was thinking for some reason the swamp on the edges of Lake Pontchartrain on the way to Baton Rouge on I-10 was the Atchafalaya (it’s the Manchac/Maurepas), and while I had always remembered I’d given Scotty’s mom a name in this book but forgotten it later when I needed a name for her in a different book–I had the name wrong. I thought I’d called her Marguerite in Bourbon Street Blues then named her Cecile in a later book; I had actually called her Isabelle. (I’ve even told that story–about the names–before on panels and been WRONG ALL THIS TIME!)

It was also interesting and fun to remember–as I read–that Scotty was also not looking for a boyfriend. He was perfectly happy and content being single (which was also something important I wanted to write about–a gay man who didn’t care about finding a life-partner, figuring if it was meant to be it would happen). I also presented him with two potential love interests–Colin the cat burglar and Frank the hot daddy–with that actually being resolved without him having to make a choice between them. I also had the book end with Scotty being slowly persuaded into becoming a private eye.

Originally I had conceived it as a stand alone novel, but the publisher offered me a two-book contract, so when I was writing Bourbon Street Blues I knew there was going to be a sequel. This freed me to leave some personal things open for him; I knew I was going to bring Colin back in the next book so he was going to have to choose between them, and I also knew the personal story needed to be wrapped up by the end of the third book, which was going to be the end of the series with everything resolved. That changed when I wrote Mardi Gras Mambo, but that’s a story for another time.

Bottom line: it’s a good book and I am proud of it. It’s only available now as an ebook from Amazon, but I hope to eventually make it available through every service as well as get a print-on-demand version for those who might want one.

New Orleans

Twenty-eight years ago I came to New Orleans for my birthday weekend, and my life changed completely. Earlier that month I had already taken a cold, hard, long look at my life and I didn’t like what I saw. I had been wrapped in misery for years, wallowing in it, and diving so deep into the misery that I allowed it to erase my dreams and any hopes I had for the future. It was, after all, very easy to blame outside forces for my miserable life, and when you dig deep down into the misery, well, it’s a lot easier to just wrap yourself up in self-pity than take any responsibility for your own happiness; making excuses not to try rather than reasons to better myself. I worked for Continental Airlines at the Tampa airport–most times not a bad job for the most part, but the bad days were horrible–and didn’t make much money. I was broke all the time and yes, I wasted a lot of money treating myself to things–like buying lots and lots of books every payday–in an effort to make me feel better about myself and my miserable life. I was horribly lonely.

A bad experience with someone I was romantically interested in was the impetus for the changes I made to my life, because for whatever reason that night everything just bubbled up to the surface; I hated everything about my life, I hated where I was at, I felt trapped and like nothing good was ever going to happen to me. I stayed up the entire night, feeling sorry for myself and unable to sleep, tossing and turning and occasionally crying. At seven o’clock the next morning (it was a day off) I went into my bathroom and took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror. I never want to feel this way ever again, I thought as I looked at red swollen eyes, the unshaved face. the dark purplish circles under my eyes. I then repeated it out loud. I went back to my desk, sat down and opened my latest journal and wrote the words: I hate my life. I stared at the words for a few moments, and then added, I have no one to blame for this but myself. I am the only person who can change things for me. I want to be a writer. I want to be published, and I don’t want to work for Continental for the rest of my life in this job that makes me miserable. I am lonely and it’s probably too late for me to find a life partner. But I have to stop being afraid of everything, and I can’t go the rest of my life NOT living because I am afraid of dying. Other men are not attracted to me because I am overweight–no one ever looks at me twice when I go to bars. I cannot change my face but I can change my body. I will eat healthy. I will drop some of this extra weight. I will do crunches and push-ups every day from now on, and if by January I have been consistent with the workouts and the diet, I will join a gym. I need to start figuring out who I am and how to get what I want because no one is going to knock on my door and just give it to me. The only person who can change the things in my life is me, and I am going to work on being the best possible me that I can. And that means taking the steps necessary to change who I am and what my life is so I can become a writer.

Three weeks later, my birthday weekend rolled around and I flew to New Orleans with a friend for the weekend. We were staying with his on-again off-again boyfriend–who turned out to be one of the nicest gay men I’ve ever known. I really liked him. thought he was a good person–but once they broke up for good that was the end of that; I guess he associated me with his ex and so couldn’t be bothered anymore (or he did a great job of acting the part of the generous host; I am not sure how the invitation to stay with him came about; all I knew was we were going to New Orleans for my birthday and staying with this guy), which was always a shame. I was always grateful to him–have been for twenty-eight years–because coming to New Orleans that weekend was yet another key piece to the puzzle of Greg’s future, a piece I didn’t even now I needed.

I think at that point I may have lost five pounds or so. My friend was gorgeous; one of those perfect gay men with golden skin and very little–if any–body fat; his boyfriend was his counterpart, only with much bigger muscles, bluish-black hair, and that gorgeous gorgeous olive toned skin darker Italians have. They looked beautiful together, too, and I was in some sense a third wheel that weekend, but it was okay with me. They were totally into each other which left me with time on my own to think and reflect. He picked us up at the airport and took us to his apartment (which was in a complex on Sophie Wright Place that Paul and I eventually moved into when we returned from DC in August 2001), we showered and cleaned up, and headed to the Quarter.

I had been to New Orleans before that particular trip, and while I had always felt drawn in some ways to this city since I was a child, I’d never before felt the sense of belonging I felt that weekend. When we stepped out of the cab that night at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann, I felt this enormous emotional release, as though tension I didn’t know I. had in my shoulders and brain were suddenly gone and a big burden had been lifted from my shoulders. It was as though my soul was saying at last you’ve come home, and I knew then, before we paid the cover charge to go into the bars there at the corner–Oz and the Pub/Parade–that I was going to someday live in New Orleans…and all of my dreams would come true once I did.

I have never been sure what was different about that trip than previous ones. On my brief, previouos visits to the city before, I’d never gotten a real sense of the city before–we stayed in motels by the airport or on the West Bank–and so it wasn’t really possible to get a sense of New Orleans. Waking up in the spare bedroom in the morning, walking out onto the balcony and looking around at the roofs and unique architecture of the lower Garden District, I felt like I was at home. It was also the first time I’d ever come to New Orleans to hang out with other gay people and in the gay section of the Quarter, and maybe that was the difference? I don’t know for certain, but I do know that was the magical trip when everything coalesced in my head on that trip here. I knew New Orleans was my home, and I needed to live there, and my dreams would finally all come true once I’d moved there.

My friend’s boyfriend was a great host. He made sure to take me to see Anne Rice’s home at First and Chestnut (which was also the home of the Mayfair witches in The Witching Hour, a book I’d loved that had only heightened my sense of need to come to New Orleans), and showed me (us) around the entire weekend; we went to Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District, ate amazing food, and then at night we’d head down to the Quarter to the bars and danced the night away.

That was also the weekend I did Ecstasy for the first time, but that’s a story for a different time.

The entire weekend was a whirl; I have pictures somewhere (or lost many years ago during the course of a move or something) of all the places we went and things we did; the amazing food, dancing all night and going to the Clover Grill in the morning (or La Peniche, over in the Marigny) and then sleeping before going roaming again throughout the city. I fell for New Orleans hard that weekend, and have never really fallen out of love for the city, really, since. We broke up once (that dreadful year Paul and I spent in DC), but we came back and New Orleans forgave us for our desertion and welcomed us back home.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard about New Orleans, but I do remember Nancy Drew came to Carnival (called “the Mardi Gras” in the book, eye roll to infinity) in The Haunted Showboat (she also visited briefly during The Ghost of Blackwood Hall), but I don’t really remember much else. I think everyone in the country has a sense of Carnival/Mardi Gras, and always associates that with New Orleans–but New Orleans, obviously, is so much more than that. I was a kid when I watched the James Bond movie Live and Let Die–which whetted my interest in New Orleans and Louisiana–later movies like The Big Easy and Angel Heart and Tightrope expanded that interest, as did Anne Rice’s novels and the Skip Langdon series by Julie Smith. Whenever I had been to New Orleans previously I hadn’t felt anything but a sense that the city was different than everywhere else, and that difference felt alien to me.

But that entire weekend was different. That weekend in the city changed me and changed my life. I’d never felt like I’d belonged anywhere before–I always had felt out of place wherever I lived; part of it was being gay, part of it was being a creative, and the rest had everything to do with being raised by Southern parents with a Southern mentality but not living in the South (not a complaint, I am very grateful to have not been raised down here)–so New Orleans felt special to me; I’d finally found my place or, to quote Pippin, I’d finally found my corner of the sky.

Within a year I’d met the love of my life–who also was in love with New Orleans and wanted to live there–and on August 1, 1996, I drove the U-haul truck with all of our stuff and towing my old car into the city to start the rest of my life. I had already started dipping into the waters of writing–I got a gig with a gay paper in Minneapolis that actually paid me, and had started writing the book that would eventually become Murder in the Rue Dauphine. Within three years of moving to New Orleans I had a book contract and had sold my first ever short stories. Twenty-eight years to the day of that most important visit to New Orleans, and look at me now.

I live in the city I love with the man I love doing the work I love. I’m glad that I didn’t know at the time how important that weekend was going to prove to be; that it was, indeed, really the first day of the rest of my real life, when I finally stopped just enduring my life and actively started living it. It’s not always been easy to live here and love the city; New Orleans can be a hard place a lot of the time. We’ve endured hurricanes and floods, disease and injury, poverty and horror. But even the bad things are made bearable because we live in New Orleans.

I’ve written millions of words about New Orleans. One of the best compliments I can receive is being told that I’ve depicted the city so vividly and lovingly that it’s a character. I do laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert”–I am anything but an expert; you could fill the Great Library of Alexandria with what I don’t know about New Orleans; every day I discover something new about this wondrous and bizarre place, the only place on earth I’ve ever felt at home. I will never run out of material to write about this magical city, and every day, more ideas and thoughts for stories and characters and essays about New Orleans comes to me.

So, my favorite part of my birthday is the fact that it is also the anniversary of me finding, at long last, where I belong.

And thank you, New Orleans, for always, no matter what, being New Orleans.

I’ve always rather blasphemously called this statue “Drag Queen Jesus”, for reasons that should be fairly apparent.

Groove Me

And now it’s Sunday in the Lost Apartment, and I didn’t even go outside yesterday. Seriously, and it was lovely. I spent yesterday morning doing some organizing and planning and chores, and then dove into my edits. I emerged from the edits, bleary-eyed and more than a little bit tired, about five or six hours later and adjourned to my easy chair for some “be Scooter’s nap lap for a while” time and watched some videos on European royalty and some who were royalty-adjacent (Ivan VI of Russia, Diane de Poitiers, Elisabeth-Charlotte d’Orleans, duchess of Lorraine, and so forth) until Paul came home, and we streamed for the rest of the evening, which was nice and relaxing. Today I am going to finish the edits so it can be polished tomorrow before turning it in once and for all–huzzah!–and then the rest of the week I will undoubtedly have the “just finished a book for good” hangover and won’t get much else done. But I am already starting to feel that release of having a book finished; and my stress/anxiety levels have gone down significantly. I slept very well last night, which was also very nice and lovely, and I hope to do so again tonight–it’s been really nice getting all this sleep lately.

We watched Fire Island last night on Hulu, and I wasn’t horribly disappointed by it. I’ve seen few gay films–written, directed, produced and starring gay men– that weren’t disappointments; even the ones that come from traditional Hollywood inevitably I don’t care for very much. I never made it through Call Me by Your Name, for one example, and do not get me started on Philadelphia, In and Out, and To Wong Foo. But I enjoyed Fire Island, despite thinking I wouldn’t. I’ve actually never been to Fire Island–although I was invited to go for my birthday one year; their big Morning Party was actually on my birthday–but I was timid and shy and didn’t know how to get there from Tampa, because it involved trains and ferries and things, and I was also always broke in those days, and so I ended up not going. I’ve regretted it ever since…especially when I was writing Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which had a segment actually set on Fire Island. Anyway, I am digressing. I went into Fire Island kind of expecting it to be the same old gay story about Fire Island–I’ve read enough gay literary fiction either written or set in the 1970’s to have formed a strong impression about Fire Island–but the movie wasn’t what I was expecting. I was kind of expecting…I don’t know, another movie about beautiful and rich gay men with ripped bodies that didn’t go very deep, even if it was billed as a rom-com (I mean, a rom-com set on Fire Island?). But it was a lot more than what I was expecting; the characters the movie followed (a group of friends who all bonded and became kind of a family when they all worked at a horrible restaurant in Manhattan with “bottomless Mimosas”–that flashback scene might only be hilarious to former waiters, but it made both Paul and I laugh knowingly) were not rich for sure; the only reason they can afford to be there is they have a friend–a lesbian who won a lawsuit and got a shit ton of money and bought a house on the island, played by Margaret Cho–and there’s definitely some class issues played out in the movie, as well as issues of race. It was also nice to see some frankness about gay male sexuality. I won’t spoil the movie, but it wound up being deeply satisfying, had some really funny moments, and Bowen Yang is the emotional center of the movie–and he kills it. Fire Island may not be for everyone, but Paul and I really enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we would, and the island itself looks beautiful. I am far too old now to “do” Fire Island…but you can’t always do everything you want.

My, how philosophical I am after one cup of coffee this morning.

We also started watching a Spanish language show called Merli: Sapere Audi (Dare to Know), which is a sequel to a show called Merli about a philosophy teacher and ran for three seasons. This show focuses on one of the teacher’s best students, Pol, who is now studying at the University of Barcelona and is played by a really beautiful young actor named Carlos Cuervas, Pol is still in a relationship with Bruno, the son of his old teacher, and is still struggling to come to terms with his bisexuality (or homosexuality; I am not sure which it is), while developing a new relationship with his philosophy professor, who is played by Maria Pujalte, whom we have seen in numerous other shows; she is always great. It’s entertaining enough, and we’ll probably go ahead and finish it tonight. (I laughed because the opening shot of the show has Pol in the shower, with that shot being a close-up of his lovely ass. “Spain understands the gay market,” I laughed as we watched.) I’m not sure what we’ll watch when we finish this, but there are five more episodes so that will be a question for later this week, no doubt…I think the new, New Orleans based and filmed Queer as Folk will be dropping soon on HBO MAX, and we’ll probably watch that and Obi-wan Kenobi on Disney.

And we still haven’t watched all those Marvel shows, either.

I’ve been thinking–always a dangerous thing–lately about trying my hand at writing a gay romance. I’ve always avoided the genre because of it’s commitment to heteronormativity (which actually came up during Fire Island, which was kind of a knowing wink at the audience), but even before watching Heartstopper (I actually think Patrick/Ivan on Elité was when I first started thinking about it.). I even (of course) have a title for it, and was thinking it might be kind of fun to bring Jake from Bury Me in Shadows back and toss him a romance sequel. (I think my next Alabama may focus on his boyfriend Beau from Bury Me in Shadows….if I write another Alabama book. One never really knows.) But writing another book about Jake, or one about Beau would be kind of lazy since I already created them….but I also couldn’t write another book set in Corinth County and not acknowledge Beau…who was a cousin of the main character from Dark Tide, which did get mentioned. I don’t know. But as I put the finishing edits on my cozy mystery, I am thinking it might be fun and interesting to try something–a romance novel–that is completely outside of my wheelhouse. Sure I have to write Mississippi River Mischief, Chlorine and another project first; there’s all those novellas I have to finish as well as all those short stories; and of course, the essays.

Christ.

No wonder I am so tired all the time…

My goal has been to write a first draft of Chlorine in May, and then a first draft of another project (Muscles) in June, spend July writing the short stories and novellas, and then move on to Mississippi River Mischief in August. I’m now thinking–inspired by these edits–that what I really need to do is spend the rest of this month working on the short stories and novellas as well as getting MRM started; it would be great to have a first draft of MRM completed by August 1, and then spend the next two months writing first drafts of the other projects before returning to MRM to finish by December 1. I think that’s not only workable but doable, but I also have to stay focused on the goal and not allow myself to either get lazy or distracted. I really also want to get back down to 200 pounds before Bouchercon; that may not be entirely realistic, but I can at least change the way the weight is distributed on my body somewhat by then–although back in the day, I generally started working on my Decadence body (ah, the days when it mattered so much to me to be in shape for certain weekends of the year!) around June…but my body has aged and changed since those days, and the metabolism has completely slowed down. But my body also craves exercise and stretching–I may do some stretching when I finish writing this, and before I start putting stuff away and cleaning prior to diving into the edits–and it certainly cannot hurt for me to start trying to make it to the gym three times per week again.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.

Whisper You Love Me Boy

I am so messed up this week. I literally had no idea what day of the week it was for most of the day and had to keep reminding myself it was Tuesday and not Monday. It was very annoying and terribly irritating, as I am sure you can imagine. And it kept messing with me the entire day. I kept thinking oh two more days in the office despite the fact that there was actually only one (I have a doctor’s appointment on Thursday so have taken the day off) and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion of it being Tuesday all day. I certainly hope today isn’t going to another disorienting don’t know what day it is kind of day.

So far so good this morning, really. I feel more awake and a lot less discombobulated than I did yesterday, which is definitely a plus. It also doesn’t feel as cold today as it did yesterday, which I am also taking as a win; Friday is supposed to be miserably cold, but I’ll deal with that when that comes around (note to self: look for other space heaters this evening when you get home from work); hopefully it won’t cause the “cold paralysis” I sometimes experience–when it’s so cold I can’t do anything but huddle for warmth under blankets. Our heat isn’t working again; I turned it on last week and it came on…but then it turned off and hasn’t come back on again since. I really hate our new system because I cannot grasp how it works, and it seems to be so incredibly sensitive to everything that anything even just the tiniest bit incorrect will shut it down completely and we have to call the guys out again. I don’t even know if Paul has bothered mentioning it to our landlady this time, to be honest. It seems like having a working HVAC system is simply not in the cards for us.

Yesterday I got some lovely new editions of Joseph Hansen’s first four Dave Brandstetter mysteries in the mail, which is very exciting. It’s been decades since I read Hansen; and frankly, I am not entirely certain I read the entire series–but that’s lost in the murk of the past; I cannot imagine I didn’t if they were in print, and I do distinctly remember some lovely paperback editions I picked up at Tomes and Treasures in Tampa…but I don’t recall reading them all. So I have decided that I am going to reread Hansen’s novels again–it’ll be interesting to see what my take on them is now that I am also twenty years into a mystery-writing career as opposed to the mystery-writer-wannabe I was when I originally read them (I also seem to recall picking some up at the Borders in Minneapolis at the corner of Lake and Hennepin). Hansen isn’t nearly as remembered as he should be, frankly; I think it’s a disgrace he was never an Edgar finalist or named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America.

I got the cover art and the proofs for an anthology I contributed a story over the last few days: Cupid Shot Me: Valentine Tales of Love, Mystery and Suspense, edited by Frank W. Butterfield. This is the place where I finally found a home for my nasty little story “This Thing of Darkness”, which was inspired by a visit to New Orleans a few years ago from someone I went to high school with–I met him at Tacos and Beer, which is just around the corner from my house, and of course while I waited for him and watched the crowd there, I started writing a nasty little story in my head that began precisely that way: the protagonist meeting a friend from high school he hasn’t seen in forty years for dinner in New Orleans at Tacos and Beer (which just goes to show–a writer will take inspiration from pretty much any-fucking-where), and as I wrote the story in my head while I waited it took a much darker turn. I was working on the Kansas book at the time (yet another draft of it) and here I was seeing someone from high school back in Kansas…so it really took a dark, nasty turn. I had been doing some research on, of all things, the nuclear missile bases scattered across Kansas (there was one near our high school) which led me into another Youtube wormhole about the TV movie The Day After…and also made me think about an entire book that could be built around one of the abandoned missile bases…anyway, after dinner I went home and started writing this story. It wasn’t originally called “This Thing of Darkness” (which is from Macbeth, by the way); I don’t remember what I originally called the story, but “This Thing of Darkness” was originally the title for the story in Unburied, “Night Follows Night”, but was too good of a title to not use, so I switched whatever the title of this was out for it.

I do like the story, twisted as it is, but it also got me to thinking about patterns in my short stories and how I write them–which I would talk about it here but the thought is still completely unformed, which has never stopped me before, of course, but it is so unformed that I would embarrass myself writing my way through exploring it, and I am not entirely sure that I actually regularly do what I think I do–following the same story structure in all of my stories–so I would need to reread more of them at once to determine whether that is something I actually do with my work…

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.

Endless Love

It’s so lovely to be home again. There’s just something about your own bed, isn’t there? I mean, I still have insomnia, but my own bed just feels so better and more relaxing and so forth.

My flight home, with the change of planes in Tampa, went completely smoothly, which was nice. I didn’t think I could handle delays and changes in schedule on the scale of what happened on my trip up there. I’ve pretty much decided not to fly up there anymore; it’s always a weird routing, it’s rarely inexpensive, and most of the times I’ve flown it’s not gone well, either coming or going and sometimes both. Yes, it sucks to spend almost eleven hours on the road driving, but at least then I have control over the trip and if I need to stop, I can. There’s something about that powerlessness when you fly somewhere…and it’s a lovely, if long, drive. I can also listen to books on tape, which is what I did the last time I drove there and back, and that, much more so than music, makes the time go by much more easily and faster, or seem to, at any rate.

I did read some more Purdy short stories on the flights back, and I also read ebooks on my iPad: I had galleys of both Laura Lippman’s Dream Girl (dropping this summer) and Alison Gaylin’s The Collective (dropping this fall) and wow, both are incredible works. I’ve not finished the Gaylin yet–will probably dive back into it this evening after work and writing duties–but I was rather resentful when my flight landed and I had to put the iPad away. The drive home wasn’t bad, and of course the new airport here in New Orleans is pretty amazing; the old one was fine, but it really pales in comparison to the new one. Of course, it’s weird getting there and all–they haven’t done all the off-ramps and on-ramps and so forth for I-10 yet, so there’s congestion and so forth…but the trip home was so much easier than the trip out, and if one had to be fucked up, I would rather it be the trip up.

I feel completely disconnected from my life now–I’ve got to pick up the strands of what I was doing last week before i left and remember what I need to get done in the meantime. The house is in disarray, and that needs to be handled. I’ve also got other things to get taken care of that I need to remember, and I need to decide what I am going to be writing/working on for the moment. (I was thinking while traveling yesterday about several stories in progress I want to get back to, as well as one of the novellas that is stalled for the moment; there were some tweaks that could be made to “Festival of the Redeemer” that came to me yesterday on the plane, as well as some more thoughts about my story “Please Die Soon” that would make finishing it a little easier; this is what happens when I read great writers like Lippman and Gaylin–it inspires me and also unlocks creativity in my own brain, and since the door has been rather firmly shut on my creativity for a while, it’s nice to have the door opened again)

We also got caught up on Mare of Easttown last night–Jesus, what a great show; give Kate WInslet all the Emmys already–and then Hacks (Jean Smart is heading for potentially winning Emmys for each show) which we are also enjoying. Tonight we’ll get to season two of Who Killed Sara? and I also have errands to run after work tonight. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get back to the gym and get back into the swing of my workouts.

Baby steps back into my life…

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.