Who Do You Think You Are

Wednesday and hump day; it’s the Wednesday between bi-weekly Pay the Bills Days and all the bills are paid and thus all is right in a Gregalicious world. Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I didn’t want to get up this morning–definitely didn’t want to get out of bed–which is a lovely contrast to a few weeks ago when I was getting up earlier than usual because I couldn’t sleep. The caffeine experiment also seems to continue to work–I wasn’t tired from less caffeine yesterday, didn’t crash from caffeine drop in the middle of the afternoon, and felt fine when I got home from work (other than exhaustion from being out in a heat advisory, which convinced me to skip the gym last night and try again tonight). I worked on Chlorine a little before being sucked into the Olympic vortex last night, but tonight I am going to try to get more work on Chlorine done and maybe do some editing etc. rather than staring at the television for most of the evening. I am really enjoying working on Chlorine–it hit me yesterday that I am having a lot of fun with the character voice, and another key to his character, who he is, came to me last night–more than anything, he’s a survivor, a queer man in a horribly homophobic society doing what he has to do in order to survive and work and keep going without being destroyed in the process–and as such, he has to make some moral compromises…but he truly sees those compromises as endemic to Hollywood and the system; everyone has to make compromises in Hollywood.

I am really, really liking the character, and really really liking writing it. I mean, yesterday I got to write the line “I’ve never cared much about dames.” That inordinately pleased me to no end, and is emblematic of the voice and the tone I am striving for in this book. And I’m actually believing this will be a really good one–which is a feeling I rarely get when I am in the midst of writing something, if ever.

So, I am just kind of basking in the glow of writing something I am enjoying and am proud of at the same time, since it’s such a unique experience for me.

I’m also speaking to my editor tomorrow about #shedeservedit, which she apparently thinks, in her own words, is “amazing”, which nevertheless means I’ll be taking a break from other writing relatively soon in order to do the revisions and edits on it for its January release. At long last, “the Kansas book” will be out there for people to read. I’ve kind of worked on this book, in one form or another, since 1977, really; it’s been a long time a-bornin’, as they used to say in the olden days in the rural midwest. There are some other Kansas book ideas in my head, but unless something really jumps out and grabs me by the throat, this may very well be my last Kansas book. Alabama, on the other hand…one of the things I need to do (which I forgot to add to the to-do list I created yesterday) is go through the Alabama stuff I’ve already written and clear up discrepancies and so forth, as well as make a list of who’s who in the county and the county’s history and so forth. I will be revisiting Corinth County again–for some reason, I’m thinking that one of the supporting characters from Bury Me in Shadows (namely, Beau Hackworth) may even get his own book at some point, and there are numerous other Corinth County stories I want to tell. I may even do some more California books, for that matter…and there’s definitely a book with a Houston tie-in I want to write eventually.

I guess we’ll see how it all turns out.

But I am pretty jazzed I’ve somehow made it to Wednesday relatively unscathed.

This bodes well for the future, methinks. And in a few more weeks I get a four day weekend; they are closing the agency on the 13th and the 16th as a thank you to the staff for working through the pandemic (which isn’t over yet, but I appreciate the long weekend) and we also all got a raise for the year, which was also rather nice. Bouchercon in New Orleans is also happening in a few weeks–at least, so far it is still happening–and while it’s going to involve social distancing and masking, I am still looking forward to seeing my friends whom I’ve not seen in years now. Years.

But if Louisiana’s numbers keep worsening…sigh.

And on that note, I am going to get my day started. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Gorgeous

So, as Constant Reader is aware, I’ve been working, off and on, since 2015 on something that I referred to for years as “the Kansas book”, whose actual title is #shedeservedit.

It will be released on 1/11/22 officially; if you pre-order it from the Bold Strokes website, it will ship actually on January 1 (well, probably the 2nd since the 1st is a holiday).

Here’s the cover copy:

Liberty Center High School’s football team has a long history of success, and the dying small town has nothing else to cling to. But when Lance, the star quarterback, is found dead, Alex Wheeler becomes the prime suspect in his best friend’s murder. Alex thought he knew Lance’s secrets–but Lance was keeping his sexuality private and someone else found out. How well did Alex really know Lance, and what else did he keep hidden? 

To prove his innocence and figure out what really happened to Lance that last night, Alex starts connecting the dots and finds that everything leads back to the recent suicide of a cheerleader who may have been sexually assaulted at a team party. Did online bullying and photos of her from the party drive her to suicide? Or was she murdered? Alex and his girlfriend India soon find their own lives are in danger as they get closer and closer to the horrifying truth about how far Liberty Center will go to protect their own.

I’ve been writing what I had taken to calling “the Kansas book” since I was in high school, really. While I was in high school I wrote several stories about a group of kids at a fictional high school, completely based on my own, and while it was certainly melodrama…we also didn’t have shows for teens like Beverly Hills 90210 and movies for teens like Sixteen Candles, Fast Times at Ridgement High, or Risky Business yet; all “teen fare” at the time was mostly from Disney, G-rated, and farcical; likewise, television programs targeted toward younger viewers were mostly for really young kids or what we now call “tweens.” And while I had crushes on both Kurt Russell and Jan-Michael Vincent (who didn’t?), those Disney films were little better than The Brady Bunch. I think it was in 1980 when I decided to take those stories and extrapolate them into a longer story, thinking it would be my first novel–and it expanded from the kids to include their older siblings and parents and teachers as well. I moved the story from the rural county to the county seat, and over the course of three years I painstakingly wrote about three thousand notebook pages. It was a sloppy mess, to be honest; I was thinking in terms of writing something along the lines of Peyton Place–the story of a town over the course of five years–but as I wrote I dropped characters and storylines; changed character names when a better name occurred to me; as I said, it was a total mess…and when I completed it, in the days before computers, I realized that I needed to type the entire thing up, and alas, I didn’t know how to touch type and whenever I typed anything I consistently made errors. So, I simply set it aside and went back to writing short stories before starting, in 1991, to try my hand at novels again.

In the years since, I cheerfully pulled elements from that ancient manuscript out to use for other books and other stories–there was a murder mystery at the heart of the book, and I actually used that as the basis for the plot of Murder in the Garden District; apparently I have always had crime in mind when it came to my writing–and I also pulled character names and other stories from it to use elsewhere. I reverted back to the rural county aspect of the original short stories to write Sara; one of the things I had to do recently was go through Sara and anything else I’ve written and published already having to do with Kansas to record the character names to make sure I wasn’t using them again in this book. I also originally began the basics of this book sometime before Katrina–the star quarterback’s dead body being found on the fifty yard line of the football field, and originally the primary POV character was the only detective on the small town’s police force. What I wrote was really good–I believe I got up to about five chapters–and it was also a flashback story with parallel time-lines; one in 1977, when the quarterback was murdered, and the present day, with someone who was in high school at the time becoming convinced that the person convicted of the crime was actually innocent and railroaded as a cover-up. I could never get the whole plot worked out, and it went through several changes and stages as I worked on it, still being called “the Kansas book.”

Two real life crimes–the rapes in Steubenville, Ohio and the other in Marysville, Missouri, in which girls were either drugged or pressured into over drinking and then when too wasted to even speak were sexually assaulted by athletes–inspired me to drag the framework of this story out and use it to tell a similar style story. I was, like anyone with a conscience or a soul, horrified by these rapes, and even more horrified by the aftermath; the way the girls were humiliated and shamed publicly and on social media, and I couldn’t get a hashtag that the kids in one of the towns used while shaming the victim: #shedeservedit.

That, I felt, was my title, and I could build the story from there. I could still have the dead quarterback; I could still have the town reeling from the one-two punch of the rape and the murder, only now I could layer in the victim-blaming and shaming. (I will never forget female newscasters talking about how sad it was that the boys convicted for the Steubenville case’s lives were ruined; I saved my sympathy for the poor girl they victimized; how on earth would she get past this?) I wrote the entire first draft in one month in the summer of 2015, and have tinkered with it, off and on, ever since. It was early last year, I think, pre-pandemic, when. I finally decided that two books I’d been working on between others over the last few years needed to be done and out of my hair; and the best way to force myself to finish them both once and for all was to offer them to my publisher. I did that, was given deadlines, and now, as I am finishing the final version of #shedeservedit, I also have a release date (1/11/22) and a cover to share with you all, so here it is (obviously, see above).

Writing this has been a journey, as writing any book can be; the Imposter Syndrome reared its ugly head numerous times during the writing of this book–should a man be writing a book about this subject? Is telling such a story from the point of view of a young man, friend to both the rape victim and the rapists, the right way to tell it? Am I centering a young man in a story about sexual assault and the toxic rape culture that has grown up around a small town’s athletic success?

I guess time will tell.

Kiss of Death

Wednesday, also pay the bills day. Heavy heaving sigh. I always despair when this time of the month rolls around; while it is always lovely to get paid again, almost everything is also due in the first half of the month, so watching my balance dwindle is never really much fun, to be perfectly honest. Oh, well, and so it goes, you know what I mean? Perhaps some extra cash will drop out of the sky or something, who knows what? Stranger things have happened, after all, and it isn’t every month that pay day falls so unfortunately the way this one has, alas.

Yesterday was kind of cool, as the first-ever openly gay person was confirmed by the Senate to sit in the President’s cabinet. The usual right-wing trash opposed his candidacy, of course–the Homophobic Confederate Caucus (HCC for short), as I prefer to call them–and voted against his confirmation; womp fucking womp, traitors.

It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day today; the sun is rising in the distance over the West Bank in a riot of colors that are quite spectacular to see, and it looks as though the sky is relatively clear. It’s cold and I have the space heater going, but that’s pretty much par for the course in early February….what’s disheartening is that this would ordinarily be the first weekend of our parades…and while I am glad I don’t have to plan my work schedule around the parade schedule this year–one less stressor, thank you, baby Jesus–it’s very weird and strange to not be having parades this year. Last year’s Carnival wasn’t a good one–when floats kill people, it’s not a good Carnival season–and it kind of sucks that is the most recent one in memory; but at the same time, because of the pandemic and the passage of time being so fucked with, it also seems like last year’s parade season was a million years ago.

I did make it to the gym last night, which felt terrific–it had been a week, and I am very happy my arm is no longer sore from the vaccination. I was, naturally, exhausted when I got home, but managed to get some work done on the book. As I get further into this revision, I am also realizing that the chapters I kept revising whenever I would go back to work on this were the first ones…so Chapter Five, which I worked on last night, was the first that hasn’t been completely revised in several drafts. While this made it a bit trickier to revise–it also was somewhat easier? I still think transitions within the chapter aren’t as smooth now as they need to be, but my plan is to get a chapter per day (minimum) done between now and the weekend; and then spending the weekend working ahead on print copies as well as going back and copy-editing what I have done–which should be the first ten chapters or so by the weekend. I also slept very well last night–wearing one’s self out at the gym is always an excellent way to ensure that you get good sleep, and of course, tomorrow and Friday are my work-at-home days….so I get to sleep a little more than I do on Monday thru Wednesday. I am getting used to this, though–I find myself having no trouble going to bed at ten (if not earlier) on these nights, and the extra hour or so on my work-at-home days is also rather marvelous. Paul was late getting home last night, so after I finished working on the book I went into a wormhole on Youtube and the Internet, looking up same-sex relationships in Greek mythology, and being bemused by how I learned none of this studying Greek mythology when I was a kid. I do enjoy Greek mythology–and I definitely enjoy modern novels based on and/or in Greek mythology–Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles and Circe come to mind; there’s another one I’ve come across about the Trojan War I am interested in as well. I’ve also always wanted to write a book about Troy–it’s been languishing in my files for years now, about a gay prince of Troy during the War and called The Trojan Boy; I have this image of an opening scene in which my gay prince (not a son of Queen Hecuba, but rather a concubine from the harem) is standing on the walls of Troy and watching the fires of the Greek camp as the sun sets, thinking about how he has so few memories of the time before the Greeks came; all he knows is the war and the endless longing for it to be over.

But, then the Imposter Syndrome comes in and says things like yes, but Madeline Miller has a PhD in classic mythology and you couldn’t possibly know enough to write such a thing and so forth; I can always count on my Imposter Syndrome to curb whatever writing ambitions I may have, or aspire to. There are some historical thrillers I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time, too–and then comes the inevitable yeah, who do you think you are with your limited knowledge and laziness to do the proper research in order to write about another time correctly? I have written precisely two stories set in the past–one set during the gay government purges of the 1950’s (which is yet another reason Pete Buttigieg’s appointment to the cabinet is so important and historic) and of course, my Sherlock story in the 1910’s. But an entire book? I don’t know, I just don’t know…I wish I had more confidence and belief in myself and my abilities. But I am desperately hoping that Chlorine will give me the confidence to write other stories and books set in the past…

Ah, for the self-assurance of a mediocre straight white man!

I feel pretty good this morning; well-rested and all that, and of course my cappuccinos this morning taste fantastic. I am looking forward to getting home tonight and getting back into the writing of the book–so important–and figuring it all out. Rewriting and revising and editing can be a drag–it’s always disheartening to read something you’ve written only to see, in horror, how bad it actually is, and that you have to figure out a way to fix it; much as I had to fix Chapter Five last evening…and yet it is SO satisfying to figure it out, make it work, and sit back, warmed by the glow of succeeding, that I have once again put to rest that horrible fear that always lurks in my subconscious that someday the time will come when I not only no longer can think of anything to write but won’t be able to fix the things that I already have.

And on that note, tis time to head into the office for yet another day of STI testing. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader!

Primitive Notion

Another good night’s sleep, only to wake up to a frigid forty degree morning here in the Lost Apartment. I have my cappuccino prepared, the space heater is blowing warm air in my general direction, and the ceiling fans are most definitely turned off. The kitchen is clean this morning, which is lovely–there’s a load of dishes in the dishwasher needing to be put away, but that can wait till after work–but it was marvelous to come down to a cleaned up and organized kitchen this morning.

Paul was working last evening, so I did the same. I got another two chapters of the book polished and revised; and hopefully will keep that momentum going this evening. I also started reading Jess Lourey’s Edgar finalist Unspeakable Things, and that voice! It’s quite good thus far, and I am really looking forward to getting further into it this evening after going to the gym. Yes, I have to go workout this evening; my shoulder is finally no longer sore from last week’s inoculation (hallelujah) and it has been nearly a week since I last went to the gym. My muscles and joints will no doubt protest and creak a bit as I put them through their rusty paces this evening, but I really have to get back into the swing of the regular workouts…and I also have been missing them. This is a good thing, and I am very pleased that my natural inclination of blowing off the gym has become, at least currently, a thing of the past; a former behavior, if you will.

I’ve also concluded that there are so many wonderful notes in my journals that when I am not actually writing on the book, I should start going through the journals yet again and pull ideas out of there, actually creating electronic files and folders to track the stories. I have written at least six or seven hundred words in my journal on “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I need to convert that into a Word document as soon as I can so I can really start writing the story. I also can’t believe I allowed myself to go so long without keeping a journal; I believe it was 2017 when I started keeping them again, and it’s really been rather nice. While I no longer write for the most part by long hand–primarily to spare myself the ordeal of transcribing–I do find that brainstorming while scribbling has a restorative, creative effect; the journals were enormously helpful when writing both Royal Street Reveillon and Bury Me in Shadows–and there are an awful lot of helpful notes and brainstorming in them about the Kansas book, which are certainly coming in handy as I write the book. It has evolved so much over the decades since I started writing it all those years ago, and so much that I wrote in it originally has come in helpful over the years, being pirated and plundered for other books and stories. I am very deeply ensconced inside this manuscript now–to the point where I haven’t been thought about Chlorine since I started this deep dive into this final edit. This is unusual; earlier in my career I would become immersed in a manuscript the way I am now; but over the years it inevitably got to the point where I would always be thinking about–and wanting to work on–the next one while rushing to get through the current. I also think having this razor sharp focus is making the book better than it might have been.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?

I also was thinking about “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday for some reason, as well as “To Sacrifice a Pawn”–two other stories I think I started writing in December; yes, December, because the idea was to write something for a last minute Christmas anthology Gabino Iglesias was pulling together (it’s always interesting to me how I will write a story for a submission call of some sort, but the story rarely ever gets published by the market I wrote it for; take “The Snow Globe” for instance. That started out being written for a Halloween anthology HWA was doing; I never finished it and the deadline passed. I turned it into a Christmas story for another anthology call; it was rejected, but now I have sold it somewhere else entirely), but of course I was in the weeds with Bury Me in Shadows and never finished it; I think the most likely thing that’s going to happen is I will spend March planning out Chlorine while finishing some of these other stories and getting them out for submission. I think I still have two or three stories in anthologies that will be coming out this year at some point; I am really looking forward to seeing the finished books. And at some point soon, I will have enough stories for another single-author collection of my own, which is very exciting.

But the sun is rising over the West Bank with pinks and reds and pale blues staining the sky; and I must start putting together today’s lunch, packing my backpack, and getting into the shower to face down yet another day of clients and work at the office. I’m also going to need to start pulling together my tax information (yay); which I’m also kind of dreading…but I can do that after I finish the book, really. No rush there at all–which is a good thing; there are few things I hate more than prepping my taxes for the accountant.

And so I shall go ahead and bid you adieu for yet another morning, Constant Reader, and hope your Tuesday is as marvelous as you deserve.

As It Is When It Was

And another Monday has rolled around and here I am yet again awake before the sunrise and trying to get it together for yet another work week.

I got some terrific work done on the book yesterday, which quite naturally was most pleasing to me. I made it through the intro pieces and the first two chapters, which were very messy–I was, frankly, a little taken aback by just how sloppily written those two chapters were. Especially since they were around the seventh or so drafts of those chapters–I have been working on this book, off and on, since the summer of 2015–but I never really had quite grasped how to write the book in any of those earlier drafts, nor did I know what the plot and story were missing; which I do now. I got up rather early yesterday, feeling refreshed and well-rested (which was quite lovely) and spent the morning cleaning the kitchen and doing some more organizing. I also spent some time in the morning getting further into Alyssa Cole’s marvelous Edgar finalist, When No One Is Watching, which I went back to and finished after getting my own work done. I absolutely loved this book, and it will definitely be getting its own entry at some point. I cannot recommend it enough Anyway, around finishing reading this book I managed to get a couple of chapters revised and rewritten, and hope to get a few more done this evening after work. The deadline looms, of course–and now I am going to have to buckle down and focus for the month of February in order to get it finished. I also worked a little bit on my short story “The Sound of Snow Falling”– also handwriting the story in my journal rather than typing on the computer. I think it’s going to be a good story; here’s hoping at any rate.

We also got caught up on the The Stand last night–we were two weeks behind, and somehow one or both of us always manages to forget we are watching it–and…I am enjoying it, and it is telling the story Stephen King wrote forty years ago, and I do admire the changes in how the story is being told…but I am also emotionally resistant to those changes at the same time, simply because I am so devoted to the book. The original mini-series from the early 1990’s followed the book’s narrative pretty closely; this new version chose to skip over a lot of the end of the world and everyone’s journey to Boulder. I do think that cutting all that backstory was perhaps a mistake; without it, we don’t really understand why everyone is so devoted to Mother Abagail, or the relationship between Larry and Harold, which I also thought was an integral key to the story. So I am enjoying it at the same time I am a little disappointed by it? I am not dismissing it straight out of hand, like some King purists, but I am not overly thrilled by the choices they are making as show-runners and writers. But it’s different, and whether that difference is good or bad remains to be seen. I suspect there is only one episode left, perhaps two–I will be curious to see how it all ends and what differences there are between the original story and the finished product of this adaptation.

It’s cold this morning in New Orleans, and even with the sun rising in the east over the West Bank (that will never cease to amuse me, really) it’s very cold and gray looking outside. I can see one of the few remaining trees next door moving in the wind, and the sky is covered with a layer of gray-looking clouds. It’s less than fifty degrees out there right now, which is a bit chilly, and I would imagine, from the looks of the cloud cover, that it’s likely to rain for most of the day, or at least the morning. I have my space heater going–the warm air blowing against my sweat-panted legs feels quite lovely–and I am drinking my first cappuccino of two for the morning. I don’t feel tired this morning, but rather well-rested, which is nice…not to mention I only have about another week or so before my vaccine kicks into gear. My left shoulder is still a bit sore this morning–now it just feels like a bruise–so I am going to most likely sip the gym one more time and go tomorrow evening. (I’ll see how the shoulder feels tonight when I get home from the office, to be honest–but I also don’t want to get out of the routine again. I’ve been doing so well, and as I have noted, my boy’s shape and size is shifting, which is quite nice)

I also have a lot of work to get done this week. Oh, so much work to get done this week! But there’s naught to do but to get it done–it’s not going away, and the longer before I get to it, the harder it will be to go ahead and do it.

And on that note, as the gray light becomes steadily a little gray outside my windows (but remains, nevertheless, gray) I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader–and if you’re in the path of the massive blizzard up north, stay inside and stay warm and safe!

Every Little Counts

Sunday funday, and how are you, Constant Reader?

Yesterday was lovely because the fatigue was gone, which was so lovely you really have no idea, Constant Reader. My arm was still sore so I didn’t go to the gym (going today), but feeling alert and not being bone tired exhausted, to the point that climbing the stairs to the second floor was an actual ordeal? It was actually quite marvelous. I got up in the morning and had my coffee, and then started working. I cleaned and organized the laundry room and the bookshelves in there; cleaned up the kitchen and did a shit ton of filing; reorganized even more books; put some things up in the storage space over the laundry room; and then started going through my old journals. There were a couple of reasons for this, actually–first off, to remove the sticky notes marking the pages where ideas and thoughts and so forth for Bury Me in Shadows had been scribbled, and secondly, to mark the places where I’d scribbled thoughts and notes for the Kansas book. Revisiting the journals is always an interesting experience for me, to be honest. It’s always interesting (at least to me) to see evidence of how my mind works and how I follow the path my creativity lays out for me, from step to step to step. It was fun seeing how I worked out issues with Bury Me in Shadows–Royal Street Reveillon as well, since the journals bridged the last few years and the course of writing several books and numerous short stories. It was fun seeing the notes I took while watching a movie for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, or on books I was reading. And the short story ideas! During the filing, I came across numerous folders for short stories I couldn’t remember anything about; yet there was the genesis for many of them, in my big looping scrawl on the pages of my journal (and yes, the original, older posts called it Bury Me in Satin still). I was also pleased to see some valuable notes and insights into the Kansas book, the characters, and the plot.

I really should revisit my journals with a greater degree of regularity.

I also spent some time with Alyssa Cole’s marvelous When No One Is Watching–although I have to confess I made an enormous mistake in assumption that made me go back and recheck something from earlier. It was actually rather funny, but I will not humiliate myself further by telling you exactly what that mistaken assumption was–I have some pride; not much, but some. But it’s really a terrific book, and I am savoring it slowly, to make it last. (I am probably going to spend some more time with it this morning.)

Overall, I am very pleased with myself for all the work I got one yesterday; I am ready to start diving into the book. I went through the entire thing yesterday, catching a lot of things that will either need to be deleted and reworked,–there’s a lot to be added as well–and also made a cast list, to determine what names need to be changed and so forth. This was productive and am very glad that I did it to be completely honest. I feel like I know my characters and my story and my setting again, which is great, and I also worked for a while on a short story last night–“The Sound of Snow Falling”–which, of course, isn’t one of the stories I am considering sending out for submission anywhere, but for some reason the story was in my head last night and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I started scribbling in my journal.

We started watching season two of Servant last night, which is extraordinary. It’s very weird, very creepy, and the acting is so fucking stellar it’s hard to believe the show hasn’t caught more buzz. Lauren Ambrose is killing it, as is Rupert Grint in as huge a departure from Ron Weasley as you can get. It’s about tragedy, handling tragedy, and dealing with the fallout from a horrific tragedy. No one on the show is truly mentally well-balanced, and they are making all kinds of really bad decisions…but I can’t wait to see where it goes, because I have no clue where it’s going or what’s going to happen. We also finished off season two of Bonding, which wasn’t nearly as much fun or as witty as the first season, but it looks like season two is going to be the end of it. It’s an interesting look into the world of Dom/subs, though; particularly when it comes to consent. I do recommend it, despite the second season not being as interesting and well done as the first. But definitely check out Servant–it’s worth it for the performances alone.

My arm still is a bit sore this morning, so I am going to skip the gym again today; perhaps I will try to go tomorrow night after work, or will wait til Tuesday; not really sure and will probably play it by ear. But I slept very well again last night–even slept in a bit this morning–so at least my sleep is back under control for now. It really does make an enormous difference in my energy levels and in getting things done. The area around my desk still looks pretty messy and sloppy and cluttered, so I am going to work on that for a bit this morning as well.

Recently there was one of those things on Twitter–the kind that gets people a bit up in arms. Some author of whom I had never heard before tweeted something along the lines of “harsh truths”, claiming that for writers, other writers are not our friends but rather our competition, which made me rear back from my computer screen (it may have been my phone’s screen, I don’t honestly remember)…but my initial reaction was that is really way off base followed by what other writers do you know, dude to finally feeling kind of bad for the guy if that was his experience. Sure, writing can be considered a competitive thing; agents can only have so many clients, publishers so many slots for books, award nominations are limited, and so are reviews–no reviewer, after all, can cover every book published even under the best of circumstances–so yes, that is sort of true in a very very base, simplistic way of looking at the publishing industry. I have long made the point that writers should always be supportive of other writers, and that any success enjoyed by any writer is generally a win for all writers. How can that be, you may well ask, Constant Reader, so let me explain it a little further.

People love to take swipes at writers who have become so successful they actually are brands–James Patterson is a really good example of this–but the truth about Mr, Patterson is this: he gives back in many ways to the community. He has grants to support bookstores. He hires co-writers to do books with him and pays them extremely well–which also leads his vast legions of readers to check out that author’s solo works, and moves copies of those as well. His enormous success also gives his publisher a cushion to work with authors whose works might not be as hugely successful as Patterson’s, and this gives them a safety net–“this book is really creative and interesting and deserves to be published even though it might not have a big market, but we’re going to make a shit ton of money from this Patterson book in the same catalogue so we can take that risk.” This is one of the many reasons I never trash other writers here or on panels; no matter whether I enjoy their work or not, I have to respect the effort that went into creating the book (which is never easy, no matter what anyone may think).

I do, however, reserve the right to be snarky about the Twilight series.

But one of the things I’ve loved most about being a writer is that most writers are terrific people and a lot of fun to spend time with. I have a lot of friends who are also writers, but I don’t see any of them as “competition”, which is absurd on its face. How can I possible consider Harlan Coben or Laura Lippman or Michael Connelly as competition? Megan Abbott? Jeff Abbott? Michael Nava? We have completely different writing styles, we don’t write about the same characters, we don’t write the same stories. Sure we are all crime writers, but the notion of any of those people, all of whom I admire greatly, being competitors? If that is truly the case, I would have to give up. Period. I also don’t resent the success of other writers, either–I think any writer achieving success is a win for all writers, because it’s rare and hard to do. I personally love seeing an author break out–particularly if it’s someone who has been slogging along for a while with some small success. Sure, I would much prefer that I be the one to have that success, but that author’s success wouldn’t have been mine had they not come along with whatever book it was that broke them out..and resenting someone else’s success has always felt like bad energy to put into the universe to me.

The original tweet blew up, of course, and was eventually deleted due to backlash–I don’t think that was the kind of success the guy had in mind when he tweeted it–but one of the reasons I enjoy going to conferences so much isn’t speaking on panels or doing signings or readings…sure, I enjoy interacting with readers who’ve enjoyed my books or want to check them out, but for me, it’s about hanging around other writers…we inevitably have a great time, and it’s fun to be around other people who love books and writing and–no matter what their level of success may be–understand exactly how hard the process of writing and creating actually is for everyone who does it. And it is hard…but would it be worth doing if it wasn’t a challenge?

And on that note, tis back to Alyssa Cole and then the spice mines.

Are You Ready for This?

Tuesday and back to the day job for a shortened week of work, in which I will only have to get up at six twice, praise be to the baby Jesus.

I am still basking a bit in the afterglow of reading Laurie R. King’s remarkable The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (and there are VOLUMES of Mary Russell cases! VOLUMES!). Wow, what an achievement that was, and one that I certainly envy. It’s very daunting, too–as a writer, I am never more aware of my failings as when I am reading the words of a far more gifted author–and am still feeling a little daunted as I move deeper into the prep work for the final draft of the Kansas book and its ultimate completion. But I got a lot of rest over the long weekend, football is over so my weekends are completely free going forward, and I have a lot of writing that I want to get done this year–hell, I want to get a lot of things done this year, and full steam ahead, I say. As the dark presses up against my windows and I sip my cappuccino, I don’t feel worried or stressed or upset about anything; my mantra it is what it is should help keep me moving forward. I need to stop stressing and worrying about finding the time to do things because the reality is all the stressing and worrying does is kill time and prevent me from doing things, so I need to just try to let go of worry and strife and hunker down and get shit done.

I always feel like I can conquer the world when I am properly rested, don’t I?

But the restful weekend was nice, and nourishing, and lovely. Last week–well, every moment since our nation’s Capitol came under attack–has been insanity, utter insanity, and I was doing the old doom-scroll and watching the news at every opportunity lately as well (it’s been years since I turned on either MSNBC or CNN) and while I am still deeply concerned about the country, the inauguration, and our imminent near-future, I get all tensed up inside and stressed again, so I am, for my own mental health and creativity, going to have to. back away from it and just check in randomly and periodically and resist the urge to keep scrolling or watching. American politics and history–always of such interest to me–have become so toxic that even observing history occurring sends my blood pressure sky-rocketing and twists my stomach into knots.

But it does seem as though the majority of people not lost to Q-Anon conspiracy has finally awakened to what I’ve been screaming about for about thirty years–the depth of these people’s hatred for anyone who disagrees with them on anything. They do not and have not seen as Americans; they do not see us as equals. They only see us as an enemy who must be destroyed at all costs, and woe be to they who do not goose-step in line with their authoritarian values and beliefs. Maybe it was easier to see for me because as a gay man I have been in their rifle-sights for as long as I can remember, I don’t know–but I can remember being dismissed in 2008 and 2009 when I said that they weren’t interested in working together or bridging the divide; they just wanted to obstruct and undermine and paralyze. The Q-Anon traitorous mob that sacked the Capitol on January 6 had its roots in the Tea Party and their racist hatred of Barack Obama, and this was their inevitable path–just as their seditious ancestors refused to compromise on any level about slavery to the point they were willing to destroy the country. Their descendants are no different–and believe you me, part of the Lost Cause mythology holds that the Confederacy was the true American democracy, and those who believe in the Lost Cause still believe it today.

The cognitive dissonance inside their brains must be staggering, absolutely staggering.

We watched two more episodes of Bridgerton last night, which is strangely addicting–but one can always expect that from a Shondaland show, can’t one? Who would have ever thought the highly restrictive societal expectations of the upper, privileged class when it came to marriage for women would make for such riveting television? Part of the American fascination with the aristocracy, I suppose–the same mentality that made Dallas and Dynasty ratings champions back in the day and drove the careers of Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Jacqueline Susann, and Jackie Collins into the bestselling stratosphere: we like to see rich people suffering. But Bridgerton is an absolute delight, from its writing to its excellent diverse casting choices to every bit of its high production values, from costumes to sets. (There’s an absolutely lovely scene in which Daphne and her brother–the fourth episode, perhaps, or the third?–decide to not wake the servants to make them warm milk in the middle of the night, realize they don’t know how to work the stove, and end up drinking it cold, which tells us all about the class divide–imagine not being able to work a stove! But I daresay there are wealthy people in the country today who wouldn’t know how to light a pilot light or how to work their kitchen appliances)

Tonight, after work, I have to dive headfirst into the revision of the book, which, while daunting, needs to be done. February is a short month which means I don’t have as many days before March 1 to get the book finished; there is the Fat Tuesday holiday coming up as well–I may take off Lundi Gras for a longer weekend–so I can focus on the book writing during that time as well, which should help dramatically. I am not as stressed about this book as I perhaps might (or should) be; I am also relatively certain that can be chalked up to pure denial. I am also trying to decide what to read next–I am still all aflutter from the brilliance of the Laurie R. King novel I read over the weekend; and I have so many options to choose from (the advantage and curse of a deep TBR pile, I suppose) that it’s going to be a difficult decision. I may resort to short stories for the week and wait until the weekend, when I have more time, to get involved in a wondrous read, whatever that may prove to be.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader! I certainly intend to do so.

Everything’s Gone Green

My memory has truly become amazingly awful and limited as I grow older. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me just how bad it’s become–and how rarely I follow through on plans I make.

I started writing about Kansas when I was a teenager living in Kansas, and I wrote a long, messy manuscript by hand that was essentially a kind of Peyton Place tip-off, with tons of characters and plots and subplots that meandered about and never really had one cohesive central story. Over the years since that handwritten, almost a thousand page first draft was finished, I came to the realization that as a single novel itself I would need to cut out a minimum of fifty percent of the characters and even more of the subplots while tightening it into one cohesive story. The name of the town changed multiple times, as did the names of the some of the characters, while others remained the same from beginning to end. I had no idea at the time of how to write a novel, or how to structure one…but since it already existed, I began mining it for other novels and short stories, pilfering names and subplots and so forth (the murder story in Murder in the Garden District, and the Sheehan family in the book, were directly lifted from this old manuscript; I changed the family name from Craddock to Sheehan). My young adult novel, Sara, also had a lot of story lifted from this same old manuscript–even characters’ names–so when I started building this iteration of what I’ve taken to calling “the Kansas book” over the years, I knew it was possible I was repeating names from the old original, and at some point I would have to check Sara at some point to get the character names from it, to not repeat them. The Kansas book was also intended to be set in the same world as Sara–Sara being primarily set in the county and the small grouping of three small towns consolidated into one high school; with this book set in the county seat, the small city/large town I called Kahola. Kahola never really sat well with me for the town name; it’s perfectly fine for the name of the county as well as the lake (there actually is a Lake Kahola; it’s where we went when I lived there and “went to the lake”), so I decided to change it to Liberty Center (which I got from Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, so it’s also an homage) and Sara geography be damned. So, yesterday while the Saints played terribly and ended their season (and possibly Drew Brees’ career), I was scanning though the ebook of Sara and pulling out character names–even minor ones– as well as place names and so forth.

I am very pleased to report that there is only one character name that traveled from the original manuscript to Sara and finally into this new iteration of the Kansas book, and obviously that needs to be changed. I am not willing to change the name of the county seat back to Kahola; it never really seemed to fit, and Liberty Center works much better on every level, but I can change the name of the character in #shedeservedit to avoid confusion…not that there would be much, since Sara is my lowest selling book for some reason I certainly don’t get, but it would unsettle me, so it cannot be. As I was pulling names out of the ebook, and place names and places of interest, I also began remembering other things.

I had originally intended for all of my young adult novels to be connected in some way, kind of how R. L. Stine had done his Fear Street series, where all of the books take place in the same town and high school, and a minor character in one would become the hero of another. I was reminded of this because Laura Pryce is mentioned by name in Sara; she was the protagonist of Sorceress, and she was from the same rural part of Kahola County and went to the same consolidated high school. Sorceress tells the story of how Laura goes to live with her aunt in a huge house outside the California mountain town of Woodbridge; Woodbridge is also the setting for Sleeping Angel, and characters overlapped from Sorceress to Sleeping Angel. The Chicago suburb in Sara where Glenn is from is the same suburb that the main character in Lake Thirteen was from; it is the same suburb where Jake’s father, stepmother, and half-siblings live in Bury Me in Shadows; and of course, this latter is set in Corinth County, Alabama–which is where my main character in Dark Tide was also from. As I was picking out the character and place names from Sara, I was also reminded of other books I’d wanted to write, and I had introduced some of these characters in this book intending to revisit them again at another time in another book or story–books and stories I have since forgotten about completely, and yet there are the characters, crying out to me from my Kindle app for me to write about them.

Having triggered my brain into the creative mode yesterday by doing this chore during the Saints game (I started during the men’s finals at the US Figure Skating Championships; congratulations to our world team o Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Jason Brown) I also began remembering other things I was working on–like “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “To Sacrifice a Pawn,” two stories I started for a submissions call I didn’t manage to make; or some of my pandemic story ideas (inspired by the pandemic or during it) like “The Flagellants”, “The Arrow in the Cardinal’s Cap”, and “The Pestilence Maiden”; amongst so many, many others. This is why I despair of ever writing everything I want to write during the limited time I have on this earth; I could spend the rest of my life trying to write every story and novel idea I already have and would never be able to finish them all.–and I have new ideas, all of the time; it’s almost ridiculous.

I already know I am most likely going to revisit Corinth County in Alabama again–it’s basically where my already-in-progress novellas “Fireflies” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” are set, amongst many other ideas for short stories, novellas, and novels. I will undoubtedly return to Liberty Center at some point as well; I have ideas for other Kansas books and stories, too; I’ve revisited Kahola County, Kansas in my short stories numerous times already as well. I’ve also got my own parish in Louisiana–Redemption Parish, which I wrote about in Murder in the Arts District, The Orion Mask, and some other short stories. I’ve also already invented a fictional town on the north shore–similar to Hammond–that showed up in Baton Rouge Bingo and will undoubtedly turn up again in my work, although perhaps not under my own name.

I spent some more time with Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and am thoroughly enjoying the ride. King’s authorial voice is so strong (and reminiscent of the late great Elizabeth Peters) that I cannot wait to read more of the Mary Russell series–it’s so different from her Kate Martinelli series, which I also love–and intend to spend some more time with it this morning with my coffee as well; I see a new tradition for non-working days developing; reading with my coffee in the mornings, which is simply wonderful. I recently acquired Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching, which I am also looking forward to, and I have added both Stephen King’s The Stand and Faulkner’s Sanctuary to the reread pile…and I’d also like to get back to the Short Story Project at some point….and of course there are all those ebooks piled up in my Kindle as well.

We also spent last evening after the Saints’ loss getting caught up on The Stand, which I am enjoying, although it’s made some choices I find questionable. I’m okay with everything having to do with the plague and the characters making their way to either Boulder or Las Vegas being done entirely in flashback, but the focus on the character of Harold Lauder–whom, while important to the story, was at best a supporting character in the novel and the original mini-series–is an interesting choice. They’ve certainly spent more time with him than they have with any of the people who were the novel’s protagonists–Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie–so the focus of the mini-series seems a bit off to me….but props to them for casting the delightful Alexander Skarsgard as Flagg; his beauty and charisma–so evident as Eric on True Blood–playing perfectly into the role of the dark leader of the other side. Over all, the series is well done and well cast (Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail doesn’t quite work for me; in the book she was old and frail and Whoopi is many things but frail is not one of them; I’d have gone with Cicely Tyson or any of the other gifted Black actresses who are older now) and I am a bit more forgiving than most when it comes to adaptations, I think–especially since the key part of the word is adapt. (I saw some more Hardy Boys enthusiasts bitching about the Hulu series somewhere again yesterday; honestly–I really have to center a book and a mystery around a kids’ series’ overly enthusiastic fans) We still have the rest of the first season of Bridgerton to watch, and season two of Servant has dropped on Apple Plus–do NOT sleep on this creepy-as-fuck show; you will not regret it–and I am also anticipating the release of Apple Plus’ adaptation of Foundation, starring Jared Harris, and we’ve also got a second season of The Terror somewhere to watch, and the second season of Mr. Mercedes on Peacock as well…so we seem to be set for things to watch for a good while.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Today is going to be mostly spent reading Laurie King this morning, and then the rest of the day spent with my manuscript as I try to work out the kinks and figure out what else needs to go into it. Have a happy holiday Monday, and do try to remember Dr. King’s message of equality, unity, and freedom for all.

Shake It Off

Believe it or not, we have finally reached the last Monday of 2020.

As always, I have a lot of work to do, but I slept exceptionally well for a change and the bed was comfortable and felt so lovely I stayed in bed for another hour after I woke up initially; sue me. I have a gazillion things to do today, including going to the bank and making groceries as well as going to the gym at some point; I also have to work on the book today. The work went very well yesterday and I was enormously pleased with what I managed to get done yesterday. I have a mere five chapters left to revise and a final chapter yet to be written; all of which needs to be done by Friday, and I do feel like it can be done–especially since I don’t even need to leave the house on either Tuesday or Thursday. I am not certain if the gym is going to be open on Friday–I guess I can ask when I go there today; I do find it strange that they don’t post their holiday hours anywhere around the front desk or on the front door, but it’s also not “my” gym, so I guess they can run it however they please. I also have a gazillion emails to answer, which doesn’t sound in the least bit fun or interesting, but it has to be done.

I did, as I mentioned earlier, manage to get a lot done yesterday–and not just on the book. More cleaning and organizing was required–still have some more to do today at some point–as well as making new folders, both physical and virtual, and of course, this meant more filing. While it was busywork, it needed to be done, and I actually did the floors in the kitchen–well, the rugs anyway–which always makes the kitchen look ever-so-much better. I am going to do the rugs in the living room today at some point, and then over the rest of the week do the actual floors themselves–and yes, I am going to do the windows as well.

I intended to start reading the new Alison Gaylin–I am lucky to have a very advance copy of The Colleciive, available from your local independents and on-line this coming summer of 2021–but I got caught up in Czity of Nets, which is, of course, Chlorine research, and after reading through it (I went ahead and bought the ebook; I do believe I must have donated the hardcover after I finished reading it, as Chlorine had yet to occur to me at the time I read it) I thought about it some more and was like, dude, you’re going to be writing the Kansas book next–maybe you should do some more background on it…because truth be told, most of it is being written based on almost forty year old memories of Kansas, and that really won’t do, will it? So, I went into a Kansas internet wormhole for quite some time and actually got pretty far afield from what I was originally looking up–you know how one thing inevitably leads to another on-line–and soon I was looking up rivers and lakes and the small rural towns scattered around the nucleus of Emporia, which was the county seat of where I lived as a teenager–towns with names like Admire and Allen, Bushong and Cottonwood Falls, Council Grove and Neosho Rapids, Olpe and Hamilton and Reading and Hartford. I’ll probably also take another read of In Cold Blood while I work on this revision as well; few writers have captured Kansas quite the way Capote did in that book. I also started looking at history as well–the history of Bleeding Kansas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, both of which were preludes to the Civil War. And as much as I am basing my fictional city of “Liberty Center” (shout out to Philip Roth and his When She Was Good) on Emporia, I also have to remember–just as how Bury Me in Shadows is a fictionalized version of the part of Alabama I come from–that I am fictionalizing the town; so I can make changes as needed and the fictionalization doesn’t have to be exact.

It’s so wild that the Kansas book is going to finally be finished and published–and all the different iterations it’s gone through over the course of my life. I actually started writing this book originally in high school–which is when I came up with the character names and places–and it was actually the very first manuscript I completed, by hand, in 1983 after writing it for about four years, continuing the stories I started writing about these characters in high school. This book will bear very little resemblance to any of those earlier iterations; over the years I’ve used the character names in other works, primarily my only other Kansas book, Sara–which I really need to reread to make sure I don’t re-use names I’ve already used. I think the ones I’ve used since high school were used in Sara, which I thought would be my one book about Kansas, so I threw all the character names and place names into it. I had wanted to connect this book in a way to Sara as well; since they are about the same part of Kansas, and I try to connect all of my work in some way, but I’ve never ever liked the name I came up with for the county seat, and now I’ve settled on Liberty Center….but I also tell myself that the two differently named counties can actually be next door neighbors, Liberty County can be right next to Kahola County, and thus Kahola High can be Liberty Center’s arch rival.

Looking into those small towns, some of them considered to be ghost towns now, also piqued my interest. I have several ideas about writing about Kansas–the Bloody Benders, of course, and I have a great title for a prairie noir called Kansas Lonesome I really want to write–and as I said, this book has been through many iterations. The great irony of finally publishing this–and finishing it, let’s be honest–still doesn’t mean I am writing the Kansas book I’ve always wanted to write; this book does focus on the murder of a high school football player, as the Kansas book I’ve been wanting to write since around 2002 did; but this is a vastly different story from what I originally wanted to write–and I still may write that book, centered around Kahola rather than Liberty Center; I’m not sure–and there’s also the cult college thing–the Way International and their Way College of Emporia, which isn’t there anymore; they closed the campus and sold the property to Emporia State University–and the Way has declined over the decades since they were large and wealthy enough to buy a bankrupt Presbyterian college in a small city in Kansas–but that’s a whole other story. There’s also the megachurch story I want to write about Kansas….which is also sort of tied into my original story of the quarterback’s murder. Who knew Kansas could be so inspirational?

But you see how I wind up wasting days….

And on that note, tis time to return to the spice mines. Those emails will not answer themselves, after all, and I’ve got a lot to get done today before the sun sets. Have a happy final Monday of 2020, Constant Reader!

Beautiful Eyes

So here we are on Thursday and how is everyone?

I’m doing okay, myself. I got home from work last night and headed to the gym for a nice workout, before repairing back to the Lost Apartment and the ongoing struggle to maintain order and neatness to the Greg-sty. I slept extremely well, and am waking up gradually this morning. It’s a work-at-home day, so soon I will be entering data and making condom packs. I also discovered that a lot of the Hitchcock movies I wanted to watch that were on Prime and then disappeared are now on Peacock–some require paying for a membership, which I am resisting currently as I already pay way too much for way too many premium services–but there were also some terrific films on there for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival that Id’d been looking for, so I started adding things to the watch list while I waited for Paul to come home from the gym. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll watch today while I make condom packs, but there are a plethora of options for me now. …and no matter how much I am paying for streaming, it still is far far less than the Cox Cable bill used to be.

We watched another two episodes of A Teacher on Hulu last night, and while it’s interesting enough, last night as we watched (the trigger warnings! My God) I commented, “isn’t it interesting how female teacher/male student stories get so much attention? What about all the male teachers who get into inappropriate relationships with female students? Is it so commonplace that films and television shows depicting them are considered cliche? I’d almost rather see a show about a gay teacher having an inappropriate relationship with a student–although that would play into that wretched ‘all gays are pedophiles’ trope.” Paul also pointed out–props to him–that the true-life stories about female teachers/male students inevitably reveal a relationship; the women don’t see themselves as predators and fall in love with the boys; the male teachers who prey on their students do not and are serial predators, quickly moving on to the next student while leaving the girl feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and abused–and generally don’t report it (as we saw as the #metoo movement swept the country a few years back).

I also believe the male teacher/female student dynamic is more common–but that also could be my cynical gay man coming out yet again.

I also did something last evening that I’ve not done in years–I put my contacts in to wear to the gym. I’ve not put contacts in for quite some time–probably well over a year. I like contacts and would prefer not to wear my glasses, but the prescription is too weak for my eyes now (so are my glasses) so I can’t really function with them in. But I was also tired of my glasses fogging up from wearing a mask to work out in and breathing hard; so I thought I’d try to wear my contacts again. It wasn’t the worst experience, and henceforth I will most likely continue to do so in the future. I don’t object to wearing contacts–I used to wear them all the time–the reason I stopped is because my eyes have gotten so bad I need progressive lenses, and I don’t really like how they work; I’m sure they work fine for others, but they don’t progress as quickly as I would like, which gets weird for me. On the other hand, maybe wearing them more regularly will get me used to them. Who knows?

I also need to get better focused and get back to writing. I’ve figured out the Kansas book, and I’ve also figured out Bury Me in Shadows (about fucking time on both) and once I get this short story edited and revised, I can dive back into them. I have to work on “The Snow Globe,” and will probably do so today after I finish the condom packs and before Paul gets home. That will free up the weekend to deep dive back into Bury Me in Shadows. I’m also taking the week of Thanksgiving off, so I can get deeper into my “clean like you’re moving” project as well as working on the book and trying to get it all caught up. I’m really excited about getting back to work on the Kansas book (aka #shedeservedit) because I have finally figured out how to write it properly, and what the proper framing device (I always knew it needed one, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it) would be.

I also want to write a story for the next MWA anthology submission process, and the deadline for that is January 15th. I have three stories in progress that would work for its theme; and I’ve pretty much decided which one I want to finish and submit for that; I just need to get a first draft finished so I can work the whole thing out. This is great news for one Gregalicious, and I am quite pleased.

And on that note, I’m going to get another cup of coffee and get started on my day. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!