Mardi Gras Mambo

Or, my own personal Vietnam.

I’ve told this story any number of times; how the writing of the book was derailed by two awful things that happened in my life, and how I finally got back to writing again in the spring of 2005, managing to finish this and turn it into literally two or three weeks before Hurricane Katrina came barreling ashore and changed everything in my life, and the long recovery time from that paradigm shift, trying to adjust to the new reality I was facing every day. It felt weird going over the copy edits, weirder still doing the page proofs (I actually had the incredibly sharp-eyed Becky Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert do it for me while I was visiting the Compound, thanks again, guys!), and even stranger having to tour and promote a book about New Orleans set before Katrina while still dealing with the recovery.

I’ve told those stories before, and that isn’t really what these entries are about; these entries are about the books themselves and how I came up with the stories and so forth, and the writing of the books. The primary problem, of course, is that I wrote this book between and around tragedies; the two year period I call the Time of Troubles that began on Memorial Day weekend in 2004 and ran through about 2008, really; because that’s about how long it took after all those issues for me to feel like my feet were beneath me again and I once again had a grasp on my life. I don’t remember what the original story was about, other than it centered on the Krewe of Iris, Scotty’s Diderot grandmother’s best friend who’d married a much younger muscle-stud Russian, and that’s really about it. The Russian would have something to do with a Colin case–and it would turn out actually be the case that brought him undercover to New Orleans in the first place during Southern Decadence; in Jackson Square Jazz we find out what Colin’s real job is, and that he was in town originally about the Napoleon death mask–but he was also in town to keep an eye on the young muscle-stud Russian who’d married Scotty’s grandmother’s best friend. It wasn’t really working, and I didn’t much care for the story, to be honest; I’d already asked for an extension before Memorial Day weekend in 2004 when all the shit started happening; after Paul was attacked they took it off the schedule and told me not to worry about it. (I appreciated the courtesy greatly at the time, but at the same time had this sinking feeling in the back of my head uh oh, they may not want another one after this–which turned out to be correct. But I dismissed the fear as part of my on-going struggle with Imposter Syndrome. It took me about six months, more or less, to get back to writing. I started my blog right after Christmas that year, and there I was writing every day again, and by January of 2005 I was ready to get going on this book again. I remember rereading everything I’d already done, not liking it, and deciding to scrap it and start over with the same essential premise: rich older society woman in New Orleans has married a much younger Russian boy-toy; Colin is investigating the boy-toy; and it’s Carnival season. Shortly after getting about halfway into a new first draft, the Virginia thing happened and I was derailed again. After that was over and I went back to the book…once again I didn’t like what was happening in the story and I threw it all out and started over again.

But this time, I hit my stride and four months later I turned the book in at long last, along with a proposal for a fourth, Hurricane Party Hustle, which was going to be set during an evacuation and would wrap up the loose ends left at the end of Mardi Gras Mambo.

And of course, three weeks later Katrina changed everything, and Hurricane Party Hustle went into the drawer.

Last night I dreamed it was Mardi Gras again. It seemed to me I was standing inside an iron gate, watching one of the night parades go by. The sidewalks in front of the gate were crowded with people, all shouting, with their grasping eager hands up in the air. Out beyond the edge of the curb, I could see people sitting in lawn chairs. Still others were up on ladders, with coolers and plastic bags of booty piled around them on the ground. Fathers and mothers were holding up babies, while black kids with the crotches of their pants down around their knees walked behind the crowd, weighted down by the ropes of beads around their necks. Beads were flying through the air, some getting caught and tangled in the branches of the towering gnarled oaks lining the avenue.  The heavy upper branches of those oaks also blocked out the glow of the ancient street lamps so the night seemed even darker than it should. I could hear a marching band, playing a recent hip-hop hit, and the strange clicking sound of the baton girls’ tap shoes on the pavement. The air was heavy with the heavy fragrance of hot grease, corn dogs and the strange melted yellowish-orangey substance the vendors put on nachos that purports to be cheese—but no one is really sure what it is. A group of flambeaux carriers were passing by, dancing that odd little circular dance they do, their propane tanks popping and hissing, throwing long and twisted shadows that also danced inside the iron fence I was behind. Right behind them a huge float pulled by a tractor was coming and the crowd’s shouts became louder, more desperate, more pleading. On the float’s front was a huge white clown face, its bright red lips parted in what passed for a smile but seemed to me to be a frightening leer. The masks on the float riders glowed supernaturally at the hordes begging them for generosity in the strange light cast by the moon when it cleared the thick clouds in the cold night sky.   I stood inside the black iron fence, my arms wrapped around me against the cold as an increased sense of menace and dread built inside me. Something bad was going to happen—

Oh, get real, Scotty!

If I do have bad dreams, I don’t remember them when I wake up. I’ve certainly never been troubled in my sleep, even though crazy things always seem to happen to me. I’m just one of those people, I guess. For whatever reason, the Goddess has decided to throw some wild stuff at me—she always has, even when I was a kid—and what can you do? I just don’t think I am one of those people who were destined to have a nice, normal, quiet life. Maybe it’s because I was named Milton Bradley at birth. Yes, that’s right. Milton Bradley. My older brother started calling me by my middle name, Scotty, before I started school and thank the Goddess, it stuck. Can you imagine how cruel the kids would have been to someone named Milton, let alone Milton Bradley? And then of course there’s the gay thing. I was lucky—my parents are pretty liberal and were delighted to have a gay son—like it somehow proved how truly cool they really are or something. They are pretty cool, actually.

By now, I’d taken to starting all of my New Orleans novels with a Tennessee Williams quote; for this one I chose a line from Vieux Carré: “You’ve got a lot to learn about life in the Quarter.”

I had opened Bourbon Street Blues with a parody of “The name’s Bond, James Bond” and I’d done something similar with Jackson Square Jazz–“Danger is my middle name”, riffing on Trouble is My Business. I decided to open this book with a parody of the opening line of Rebecca: “Last night I dreamed I went to Mardi Gras again.” But that entire opening paragraph of du Maurier’s is so fucking brilliant, I couldn’t help myself and made my entire first paragraph a parody of that opening. I then decided that from then forward, every Scotty book would have a Williams quote and each prologue–where Scotty introduces himself and his cast of characters and gives backstory so I don’t have to do it in the text of the story itself–would parody the opening paragraph of a famous novel, rather than just the first line (I am actually struggling to find the proper opening to parody to start the prologue for this one. I’ve used Rebecca, Peyton Place, The Haunting of Hill House, and Lolita, among others so far already; I’ve tried with this one to use An American Tragedy, Atlas Shrugged and The Great Gatsby thus far, with no luck. I’ve tried Valley of the Dolls several times for other books in the series already, but I can’t ever get it to work for me).

I do remember that the one thing that didn’t come across in those earlier drafts that I had abandoned was the sense of insanity that Carnival always brings with it; that feeling of “controlled anarchy” we experience those two weeks of parades, of knowing you have to schedule your entire life around a parade schedule–true even for those who do not live inside the box, as we say here; the box being the Uptown parade route–I always have to schedule my job, my trips to run errands uptown, everything, predicated around having to get home at least two hours before the parades start, and am incredibly lucky if I can get a parking spot within three blocks of the Lost Apartment. The thing I kept forgetting in those earlier versions was the books are meant to be fun. Granted, I was hardly in a mental space to write something fun…and of course the decision to really take it completely over the top the way I did was something I still think about to this day and wonder, where on earth did you get the idea for identical triplets?

Which, while crazy, made more sense than the cloning story I tried to write the second time.

Maybe those bad things happened for a reason? Because I couldn’t be more pleased with how the story and the book turned out. I also ran out of room to finish the personal story…but I also was operating on the assumption I’d get a contract for a fourth book. If not for Katrina, Kensington might have made another offer and Hurricane Party Hustle might have been the fourth Scotty than something just sitting in the files.

The book was released on Fat Tuesday, 2006. Paul and I had been out of town–the truncated Carnival/parade season seemed almost too sad to handle, so we’d accepted a gig to speak at the South Carolina Book Festival. We flew back to New Orleans the Sunday morning before Fat Tuesday. I’d checked my email that morning before boarding the flight to Atlanta (we changed planes) and then our cab driver couldn’t get closer to St. Charles than Baronne Street. A parade was going as we got out of the car, and we had to cross the parade (it was in the high seventies and sunny) with our luggage–I’ll never forget looking up as we got ready to cross and catching a bag of beads with my hand just before it connected with my face–and got home. I checked my emails and my word! SO MANY EMAILS.

You see, that day’s edition of the Times-Picayune carried Susan Larson’s review of the book, and it was a rave! Everyone emailed me as soon as they saw it–I still bask in the glory of that review–and I was about to embark on probably the most ambitious book tour of my career.

I just didn’t see, though, how I could write another funny, light book about a city still in ruins whose recovery was still questionable.

The series was, for the moment, over–with the personal story not resolved the way I would have wanted, but it could stand as it was, should there never be another Scotty story.

Rereading it, I couldn’t but laugh at some of the outrageous twists and turns the plot took.

I guess you could say I’m proud of it.

Rooms on Fire

Saturday morning and I slept late, and it was indeed marvelous. I have to make groceries and gas up the car (will probably need a bank loan for that), but my primary focus today is going to be reading and writing. I will also probably start going over the edits for one of the two manuscripts sitting in my inbox right now, but that’s also going to depend pretty heavily on how nasty it is outside. It rained off and on most of yesterday–I do love the New Orleans rain, especially if I don’t have to go out into it, of course–but it’s very bright and sunny outside my windows this morning. My morning coffee feels marvelous and tastes even better, and as I glance around the workspace and the rest of the kitchen I see some odds and ends that need straightening and putting away. There’s also some dirty dishes in the sink that need being taken care of at some point. The rugs needs to be straightened, and the entire downstairs needs vacuuming. I would also like to get a box of books down from the attic and start cleaning that out a little bit this weekend as well. An ambitious program to be sure, but one that isn’t impossible…if i stay focused.

Which is always the big if, isn’t it?

We did get caught up on The Boys last night–this third season is the best so far, and there was a great twist in last night’s episode, which doesn’t bode well for the future but I also can’t wait to see how it plays out (although that will probably come in season four). I wasn’t tired when I got home from the office yesterday the way I usually and ordinarily am, but there were things to do, and I immediately set out to get them done once I had reached the safety and respite of the Lost Apartment. But it all got done for the most part, and Scooter got his lap for a goodly portion of the evening while I doom-scrolled social media waiting for Paul to get finished with his work (he worked at home yesterday) so we could watch The Boys. I even fell asleep in my chair a few times while waiting–Scooter’s super-power is the ability to get both of us to fall asleep when he cuddles with us. I did spend a lot of the evening thinking about writing and things I want to write–there’s never enough time for me to write as much as I want to, really, even though I have to force myself to do it.

I also realized last night that I need to get ready for Sleuthfest. I am doing a reading on THursday night and haven’t picked out something to actually, um, you know, read, let alone rehearse. It’s my first-ever Noir at the Bar, and will be in the hotel bar. I’ve published so much stuff that I’ve never gotten the chance to read from, you know? Should I read from one of my recent books? Should I read a short story? Should I perhaps read something in progress–Chlorine, for example? I also am on a panel about MWA’s How to Write a Mystery, in which the other panelists and I are going to talk about our essays…and I really don’t remember much about mine other than it’s about dialogue, so perhaps I should go ahead and reread it at some point before the panel so I don’t sound like an utter blithering idiot.

Then again, maybe people enjoy me being a blithering idiot. I don’t know.

I can’t help but think that is not the case, though. I prefer to believe audiences laugh with me and not at me, but one can never be entirely sure.

Ah, well, there’s plenty of time to get petrified with fear about standing up in front of an audience. But I do have to decide what I am going to read on Thursday. Heavy heaving sigh. I was thinking “Moist Money,” from the Down Yonder anthology–mainly because it’s shorter, but it’s also one of the nastier things I’ve ever written; my short stories tend to be nastier than my actual books (by “nastier” I mean darker, not pornographic, FYI) but there are so many choices…and I need to make up my mind because I am going to need to rehearse before I get there…I can’t just get up and read the way I used to, completely unprepared and stumbling over words and…heavy sigh. There I go again, working myself up into a lather of anxiety about something happening in five days, which will end up being fine in the long run.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and head to my easy chair to read some more of The Savage Kind, which I hope to finish today. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Some Things You Never Get Used To

I had intended to get up early and take the car in–oil change and tire repair–but of course I overslept and now it’s too late–I would be at the dealership all day and that’s simply not an option for me today. Sure, it can be put off easily for another week–I just need to re-air the tire at some point this weekend and it should be fine–but it’s annoying because I really wanted to get it over and done with this morning. Instead, I’ll do chores around here until it’s time for my work-at-home duties. At some point tomorrow I’ll need to run to make groceries–which is fine, I’ll need to get the mail tomorrow and I can drop off a box of books at the library sale while I am out and about; and I can also make a grocery list as well as take some time to select some more books to dispose of as well. It’ll be fine, ultimately; I just don’t like when my plans get disrupted by oversleeping and having to recalibrate as a result. I’ll live, really–am just a trifle annoyed, and ultimately, truth be told I must have needed the sleep, right?

I did work pretty hard this week–the last two weeks, really–and I still have things to get done, of course. But the pressure isn’t quite as extreme as it was before, and I just have a lot of tedious housekeeping to do on one project that needs to be finished by the end of the month–and time, as always, is slipping through my fingers the way it always seems to do. But that’s okay; since I cannot get the things done that I had scheduled for this morning I’ll utilize the time productively around here at the Lost Apartment. I think this weekend I am going to begin the “tossing of paper” project in order to clear out the filing cabinets so the filing can start getting under control (a long term goal of the year); every little bit helps, of course, and gets me closer to the end goal of getting rid of significant amounts of clutter.

At least, that’s the theory, at any rate. (I just looked into a file cabinet drawer and wondered if all those files could, in fact, be as easily tossed as I’d like to think; I suspect that won’t be the case because my default instinct to hoard paper will kick into gear–but this file was created over thirty years ago–I am going to have to be absolutely heartless while I do this, I am aware.)

Everything sounds good in theory, right?

But it’s weird to not have a writing deadline looming over my head–oh, there are still some out there, of course, I’m never completely free from deadline-stress–but there’s plenty of time left before any of them become critical and stressful. (I am very happy that I made that to-do list this week, Constant Reader! It’s amazing what a difference such a little thing can make in one’s life and productivity; but as I have always said, getting and staying organized is my goal for this year and every little bit helps.) Another goal is not to wait till the last minute on short story deadlines, to relieve stressors (the over-arching goal of the year is to relieve my own stress levels so I can make it to retirement in five years) so that my psoriasis doesn’t keep making a return (love seeing a patch of crusty, scaly red skin appear somewhere on my body with a smirk and saying I’m baaaaaaaaaack, bitch) and so that the insomnia remains at bay. This week has seen an amazing string of deep restful sleeps for me every night, which has been absolutely lovely, as Constant Reader can probably imagine. I also think my body clock is starting to adjust to getting up early so many days of the week (this morning’s oversleep being an exception to that rule) and I’ve also kind of decided that I should just go ahead and get up when my body wakes me up from a deep sleep rather than lazing in the bed for another couple of hours (I still can’t get over the oversleep this morning), but so far on my work-at-home days and days off that hasn’t really happened…I just manage to stay in the warm comfort of the bed and fall back asleep with the greatest of ease.

But I am hoping to change that and add more hours of productivity to my days. I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.

I also intend to return to the gym (!!!!) this weekend; there will be updates of this momentous occasion to come, of course.

And on that note, time to clean out some files, do some filing and organizing and cleaning; my work at home duties do not officially begin until noon. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader, but for now–it’s off to the spice mines with me.

Forever Came Today

Thursday, and the last day this week I have to get up so damned early. I was, however, delighted to wake up and find out that Nathan Chen had won the men’s gold in figure skating (YAY!)–I was watching, fell asleep in my chair, and couldn’t stay up to watch it all. (I’ll watch Nathan on Youtube sometime today–probably when I get home from work this afternoon.) Naturally, I am delighted for Nathan after his disappointment at Pyeongchang four years ago.

I am starting the recovery (or rather, further along in the process) from last weekend’s trip and the deadline crunches that nearly wiped me out; I am still trying to get caught up on my emails that have, well, festered in my inbox now for the last month or so–the deadly crunch of trying to get the book done–and I still have some other things that I left pending for quite some time that need to be handled as well. But I think I can get all that finished (or caught up) over the course of the next few days as well as the weekend, and I am looking forward to coming out of the weekend on Monday (four days in the office next week, sob) with a fairly clean slate and ready to get going on everything else. The weekend, with no writing that needs to be done, looms large; I am sure part of my chores this weekend will also include cleaning the Lost Apartment and doing some filing, since that’s also gotten completely out of control over the last few months as well. My primary goal is to get organized again–I’ve felt unorganized and unable to get caught up for several years now–and I feel like once that miracle occurs, I should be able to stay that way, or at least let it slide for a bit before getting back on track on the weekends.

That’s the plan, at any rate.

But I had another great night’s sleep last night, which felt marvelous. I do feel more rested and more together today than I have all week, which is odd–given that usually on my third early morning I am usually more tired than I have been all week–but I’ve been sleeping really well since I got home, and sleeping late on Saturday (I may have some car things to do tomorrow morning, which I am not terribly thrilled about, frankly, but I don’t ever want to buy another car and so I have to make this one last forever, even if it means getting up early on a day when I usually don’t have to) is going to be very appealing. Ah, well, nothing to do but bite the bullet and get up and go and get it over with (oil change, nail in tire). I can, at least, take a book with me tomorrow morning and utilize the time to read–and since I will be on the West Bank, I can make groceries over there and get lunch at Sonic before heading home to make condom packs and data entry. Yay for an exciting Friday!

And it wouldn’t hurt for me to start looking through my Chlorine file, to get a sense of what’s been written and what needs to be written and some of the inspirations–I’ve been snagging photos from old Physique-style magazines, as well as beefcake shots of hunky movie stars from the olden days of Paull Wilson and so forth from that same time period to use for help in creating my own world of marginally talented beautiful men who allowed gay men in positions of power in Hollywood to use their bodies to get ahead in the business–and am actually kind of looking forward to digging into it again, frankly. Writing a historical is, by its very nature, problematic–you have to research things, you have to remember or find out how things worked (could you direct dial a local number in Los Angeles in 1952?)–but I am going to push through the first draft, methinks, and then do the research painstakingly as I edit my way through the bitch once it’s finished. I have another story request for the end of this month (time is running out here) and another one that is due in early April; but both should be easier to put together than this one I just had to desperately finish at the last minute to get in on time. I think this year might be a good short story year for one Gregalicious; I think I have several stories in the pipeline that will be coming out this year–all of them remarkably different in subject matter, voice, and tone–which makes them all the more fun, don’t you think?

I also just got another book idea–seriously, it never ends in my head–and on that note, I think I will head into the spice mines.

Singing My Song

And HOME.

HUZZAH!

I am very exhausted, but very grateful that my air is back and we have power. The Internet is down, but my phone’s hotspot is working–that won’t help with the cable, so no television till Cox restores service again–but that’s okay; I can use the time more productively writing or reading and trying to clean up the utter disastrous condition we left the Lost Apartment in. The refrigerator, while emptied of anything that would rot or spoil, needs a thorough cleaning, and of course there’s still debris outside that needs to be picked up. But I am home, and that’s really all that matters to me at the moment.

And we have power–glorious, glorious electricity.

And my next power bill should be significantly lower, right? It was out for almost a week.

I am running all the clothes we wore on the trip and the towels and clothes we wore during the hellish no-electricity phase of this process; after that, the sheets and bed linens definitely need to be cleaned, and like I said, this whole place is a mess–a thorough thorough mess. But I think I can be forgiven for sitting just a moment and relaxing at my desk, by my windows, and just having a moment to breathe, right? I am exhausted, seriously; I didn’t realize how much so until I got home. We bought some groceries in Greenville just to be on the safe side–nothing much; bread and cheese and so on–and I will probably make an exploratory trip to Rouse’s just to see what they have tomorrow–I don’t really want to get back into the car again, to be honest.

But home again, home again. I really do know what it means to miss New Orleans.

It’s been a while since we’ve evacuated; not quite so long since the last time a tropical storm of one kind or another knocked out power out in the heat of summer for several days. The disruption is inevitably unwelcome–I love New Orleans, but without air conditioning I could not live here, period–and now I have to try to remember where I was at and what I was doing and what I was working on before the Great Derángement (yes, I know, probably inappropriate to call having to leave because of a natural disaster the same name the Cajuns called their expulsion from Acadia by the British after the French and Indian War); and I also have to figure out how to function with my day job duties and how to get work hours in so I don’t have to burn off what’s left of my vacation time. The office still didn’t have power the last time I checked; tomorrow is Labor Day, and sorry–I am not going to worry about any of this until Tuesday, which is a work day. (I have data entry to do, and as long as my hotspot is working, I can work on that at home. I also have to throw away all the condoms I have here at the house; and strip them out of the condom packs here that I’ve made….if the office had power I could go there and start throwing away spoiled test kits and condoms and break down condom packs…but I can only access the building with my badge, which requires electricity to let me in…)

So, I am just kind of going to settle in here at the Lost Apartment today. I am going to get things cleaned and organized, have a few well-earned cocktails later (hello, big bottle of tequila!), and just chill out. The cable might be out, but we can also revisit some old DVD’s for entertainment purposes, if needed; good thing I didn’t throw them away on a purge (or did I?).

But most of all, it’s going to be absolutely marvelous to sleep in my own bed, drink my own coffee, and really…just be grateful this entire situation wasn’t worse. Ida was stronger than Katrina–thank God the levees held–and it’s going to be a hot minute before New Orleans is back to a semblance of normal. But this things, this unforeseen catastrophes, are really good about resetting priorities and recognizing what is important….and as I sip my margarita later this eve, I am going to put some more thought into that.

And thanks, everyone–for the encouragement and support over the last week. It was only a week ago Ida came ashore. Seems like it’s been an eternity, at least to me.

Holding Out for a Hero

Wednesday and sixty has crept yet another day closer. In fact, today is Sixty Eve Eve! All About Sixty Eve Eve?

Honestly, I can barely stand myself sometimes!

Yesterday I started the long process of the revisions/edits/tweaks the Kansas book needs; God, I am so heartily sick of those opening chapters I don’t even know how to begin to describe just HOW sick I am of those chapters. This book has had more drafts than any other one I’ve written since maybe Murder in the Rue Dauphine–which I’ve always thought had an excessive amount of draft versions–but in fairness, I’ve told and retold and made up my mind how to tell this story and then changed my mind yet again and so…draft after draft after draft after draft. So many changes, so many corrections, so many characters had their names changed, and then whole thing is really just a big old mess. The manuscript I sent my editor was probably so bad it counted as creating an abusive workplace environment. But as I started going through it all again last night–I couldn’t help but feel the excitement I did have about this project at one time; and I look forward to its release when I can share everything with you, Constant Reader.

But oy–cleaning up this manuscript mess is going to be a challenge and a half. But I CAN DO IT. I know I can.

I also want to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” one more time. I think it needs yet another tweak I missed the last time around–I was actually rather pleasantly surprised by how well it played out in the original draft–my original drafts are inevitably messy, sloppy, and too embarrassing for me to let anyone else see. (Another issue with donating my papers somewhere–the last thing I want to do is have people reading my horribly patchy and sketchy initial drafts of anything–although for someone who finds that sort of thing interesting, I suppose the journey from horrifyingly sloppy first draft to final, polished draft might be their cup of tea.

I mean, as an intellectual exercise to see how a book or story might come together, sure. But I would tend to think it would get tedious rather quickly.

Then again, maybe that’s just me.

I was tired yesterday when I got off work; I was definitely out of the habit of waking up early over the last few days–not that I ever really get used to getting up early. I could have this schedule for the rest of my life, five days per week, and I would still grumble and be sleepy and tired and slightly crabby all day every single time I have to get up early. I had planned on going to the gym after work, but I was so tired by the time I was done for the day I didn’t really feel like I had much of a choice; just the thought of the walk in the heavy humidity-it rained off and on all afternoon–also would have curled up my hair if I had any. Instead, when I got home I took a quick shower to wash the day off me and curled up in my easy chair with purr-kitty and The Other Black Girl. (I am going to read Megan Abbott’s latest, The Turnout, next; I’ve been itching to get it started) Yesterday was a definite low-energy day; hopefully I’ll have a bit more energy today to get things done. It also started pouring down rain when I got home, which wasn’t exactly encouraging me to go outside and walk for ten minutes to get there, either. I read about another fifty or sixty pages of the book, enjoying it tremendously still–perhaps I can finish it tonight–and then watched the A&E bio of MTV before going to bed last night. I slept really well again last night–it goes without saying that I really didn’t want to get up this morning, but I am not as sleepy/still tired the way I was yesterday, which is also fine; perhaps I won’t be too tired to get things done today the way I was yesterday. It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day (hurray for pay day?), so I will definitely be having to spend some time doing exactly that this morning.

Huzzah?

At least I can pay them; that’s probably the best way to look at the situation.

I still haven’t made that crucial to-do list, either. Maybe today? But at least tomorrow is the work-at-home day this week, and then of course Friday is the big birthday. What am I going to do for turning sixty? Going to drive out to Metairie and get a deep-dish pizza from That’s Amore, for one thing; which is most likely going to be all I do for the day. I’m not a big let’s do something major for my birthday person; haven’t been that in quite some time, and frankly, just being able to laze around the house without guilt–a day off where I don’t feel like I am wasting the day, or like I should be doing something other than being lazy–is actually sufficient. If I don’t have The Other Black Girl finished by then, I will most likely get it finished on Friday, and then will curl up with Megan Abbott. I really need to dig into my reading more–I am getting further and further behind in my reading, as the TBR Pile continues to grow larger at an increasingly terrifying rate–and I am most likely going to go back to placing a moratorium on buying books for a little while again; at least until I make some more progress on the reading.

The dishwasher started leaking last night–it’s always something around the Lost Apartment, seriously–and so I am going to have to start doing the dishes by hand again. At least this time I have the dishwasher to load them into to dry, which is something I didn’t have the last time the dishwasher conked on for a while–so they’ll be, at the very least, out of the way until they dry–but it’s still a pain in the ass. I don’t recall how old this dishwasher is–my sense of time is so fucked up and skewed I don’t remember how old anything is; I still can’t get over how old my old desktop was by the time I finally replaced it–but it should have definitely lasted a while longer, methinks; the failure of appliances to last for decades is something that still catches me off guard and by surprise.

Obviously, in some ways I am still stuck in my childhood, remembering things like how my mother’s first washer and dryer lasted for over twenty years….

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

Finally

Friday and the cusp of the weekend, which is always nice. I am working at home again today, slept really well last night, and am waiting for my caffeine to kick in, which will be most lovely. I have a lot to do today (besides the condom packing and so forth); I am slowly digging back out from under with most things at long last and recognizing how best to move forward with everything I have to do, how to get it all done without making myself stressed and crazy in the meantime, and trying to keep my moods and everything level in the future.

Although last night I got to write the line I signed an autograph for Big Dick Barney and left, which was fun. I must say, I am enjoying myself with Chlorine–I am loving the main character’s voice, and diving into the mentality of someone who knows the rules and system are stacked against him through no fault of his own, so he has no issues using and twisting the rules and the system to his advantage. He’s an anti-hero, sure, and a bit amoral, but the whole point of telling this story is to show how people like him in his time period had two choices: either be a victim, or do what you have to in order to survive.

My character chooses not to be a victim, which in some ways makes him heroic. I guess we’ll see how it all turns out.

I have some writing to do for my friends’ website this weekend–which I should be able to knock out tomorrow morning–and the proofs for Bury Me in Shadows are due on Monday as well. So, around going to the gym, cleaning and organizing the Lost Apartment, and reading The Other Black Girl, I should be able to get a lot of this all done. I also want to revise my short story “The Sound of Snow Falling” over the weekend as well. Last night I came up with another story idea (I’ve had two new ones this week, actually), inspired by coming across Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” on a playlist yesterday–the lyric she took a midnight train going anywhere has always been one I enjoy, thinking it very evocative; it hit me yesterday that it could make for a great title for a short story (“The Midnight Train Going Anywhere”) and the story began to slowly form in my head–someone escaping a whistle stop, sitting next to to someone on that train, and telling them their story–but I am not sure if it will work or not, but the title! Oh, what a wonderful title. The other story idea I had this week is “Jerry’s Problem”, in which a newly retired gay man is drinking a Margarita in his back yard, hanging out in his hammock and reading a thriller, when a car speeding past his back yard fence tossed a gym bag over the fence–just as he hears the sounds of a pursuing police siren coming. The gym bag is filled with money and cocaine…and now Jerry has a problem: will the crooks come looking for their drugs and money? Should he turn it into the cops? Or….could he keep the money and sell the drugs, without attracting the attention of either the cops or the drug dealers?

It’s one of my stories, so I think the answer to the questions is fairly obvious–the recurrent theme to my short stories is bad decisions.

Write what you know, indeed.

Of course, all I really want to do is curl up with a good book under a blanket and spend the day reading. Ah, well, my new vacation–I’m not canceling the time off I took for Bouchercon–will hopefully give me that kind of relaxing day or two in a few weeks. And of course next weekend we have four days off from the office, which is rather lovely. So perhaps I can also reserve one of those days for just reading…

One can dream, at any rate, can’t one?

And on that note, heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, everyone!

Rock With You

Thursday and we have reached the “work-at-home” portion of my week. Yay! I don’t have to leave my house! (crowd goes wild)

I am feeling good this morning, partly because I overslept (this is becoming a thing with me; how lovely to go from chronic insomnia to oversleeping in a just a month) but regardless of whatever the reason was–the switch from cappuccinos to regular coffee, perhaps–but nevertheless, this morning Gregalicious slept late, and it felt marvelous.

I worked a little bit on Chlorine last night, but it stalled out a bit; not so much from a lack of desire to write or not knowing what to write, but primarily distractions around the Lost Apartment, which were annoying and also unavoidable, alas.

And speaking of anomalies in Gregalicious land, I didn’t finish this entry this morning before it was time for me to start working–which hasn’t happen in so long I cannot remember the last time it happened; usually I’m able to push right through the entry before leaving the house. I didn’t have to leave the house this morning, but I did oversleep, after all–definitely a problem. And now I have spent a lovely day making condom packs while catching up on Real Housewives of New York and watching some history videos on Youtube; I also had a lovely call with my editor about both Bury Me in Shadows but also a highly productive conversation about what I need to do on #shedeservedit to get it ready for publication–edits, sloppy transitions, bad bad Greg writer stuff, really–and some serious tweaks that may actually be easier than I think they’ll be; we’ll just have to see, won’t we? (And now I understand the Chlorine inertia this week; I knew I had this call scheduled and I knew I was going to probably have to put it aside for a while…breaking the chain, as it were. I think I will go ahead and finish Chapter Three and maybe Chapter Four before I dive back into my edits.)

I also had some other interesting developments occur this week, career-wise, but nothing that can be reported just yet; sorry to be so vague, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out. I am feeling better about everything these days–sleep really makes so an extraordinary difference in my life, it really is amazing–and while I am not in Greg can conquer the world mode again just yet, I have a feeling that it’s just around the corner. I am starting to feel energetic again, creative and ambitious, and more like the old Gregalicious than I have in years. Not sure what caused it, to be honest–pandemic, perhaps? I don’t know but I also don’t remember when I last felt this good about myself and everything in my life, to be honest, and it’s a lovely feeling. Now I need to get better organized; I think that is what this weekend is going to be about; me getting my shit together and getting back on top of everything again. I am going to finish reading Razorblade Tears and pick out my next read; I am going to get those chapters written and some short story edits done, and this fucking apartment and my fucking life are going to be organized and ready for the future.

And on THAT note, it’s time to get to work on everything.

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, Constant Reader! I’m going to make mine count.

Working My Way Back to You

Wednesday! Pay the Bills Day! Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I know, right? Pay Day is generally depressing, as I pay the bills and slowly but surely watch the balance in my checking account gradually deplete, and then try to figure out how to stretch what is left for another two weeks. While this is rarely–if ever–fun, there’s something weirdly satisfying about doing it, though; part of the slight OCD problem I’ve suffered from most of my life. Tomorrow morning I also have to get up early–I have to have blood work done, which means fasting, so I basically scheduled it at eight in the morning so I can literally roll out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, throw on some clothes and go out the door. (I will, of course, take some coffee with me which I will immediately start guzzling as soon as the blood draw is finished and I can head home to condom packing and lab form quality/assurance–a very big Thursday at the Lost Apartment for one Gregalicious.)

I started working on Chapter Two of Chlorine last night, and I really think I have the voice right–we’ll see as it goes along–but I am in a groove with the book at the moment and I am going to ride this wave as long as I can. I hope to get Chapter Two finished tonight and Chapter Three started; then I am going to work on revising one of the short stories this weekend–probably not a novella (that will require more than a few hours work, I fear)–but I’d like to end July with some stories being submitted, decent progress made on Chlorine, and then to spend August finishing the first draft of Chlorine and possibly revising some the novellas. I’d like to spend October thru December writing another Scotty book, so this time between now and October 1 is going to have to be highly productive if I want to stay on my schedule. I also did some minor tweaking on Chapter 1; I always find that (tweaking/editing an earlier chapter) helpful in finding my way back into my main character’s voice. (I guess that can go under Helpful Writing Hints, can’t it?)

It can, of course, be horribly overwhelming when I sit and think about the projects I currently have in progress; as I got organized over the weekend I did find myself a little taken aback to see that I have nine projects in progress (short story collection, essay collection, three novellas, three novels, an anthology) and that is most definitely going to require some serious focusing in order to get everything finished. I will, of course, continue to have other ideas come along while I am working on all of these things–the more my creativity seems to flourish, the more ideas and thoughts I have ; which is why “Wash Away Sins” popped into my head over the last weekend. But as long as I can stay focused and don’t allow myself too many distractions, I should be able to get everything finished and somehow stay on top of everything.

Stranger things, of course, have happened.

Last night we finished watching Young Royals, which was exceptionally good. It’s a Swedish show, which kicks off when the Queen of Sweden’s second son, Willhelm, gets involved in a viral video while partying at a bar and getting in a fight, so the royal family packs him off to an elite boarding school where he won’t get in trouble. Ha ha ha, famous last words, right? Wille soon becomes attracted to a talented young local kid, Simon, who is also attending the school–and it goes from there. Simon also has an autistic sister with ADHD, Sarah, who is also kind of adopted by the richer, more socially prominent students–which was actually a lovely break with tradition; I assumed they’d bully her mercilessly–and while there are other story-lines, the Wille-Simon romance is the primary driving story of the show, and it’s so beautifully handled and done. (Watching this made me realize how deeply sanitized American queer y/a is; I mean, for generations the primary driver of young adult storylines in books and movies and television shows is “will they have sex? Will they lose their virginity?” And while my experience with the majority of queer y/a is limited to a few things written by straight people that I absolutely detested–the whole “losing one’s virginity” seems to never come up. I guess queer teenaged sexuality is the third rail? There’s an essay in this, methinks) Anyway, it’s a great show and it handles the gay young love storyline really well–tenderly and beautifully and sweetly–and it also doesn’t hurt that the young actors in the leads are very appealing. There are, for example, many sweet scenes where they just sit next to each and cuddle a bit–which I realized was far more intimate than the actual “take off our clothes and get to it” scenes. Highly recommended! I do hope there’s a second season, as the first was quite marvelous.

And now of course we have to find something new to watch. Outer Banks‘ second season, which looks INSANE, doesn’t come out until the end of the month, so we might have to give Gossip Girl on HBO MAX a look-see (we never watched the original).

And now I am boring myself, so I will bring this to a close. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Groove is in the Heart

I had a marvelous workout yesterday afternoon. I finished reading PJ Vernon’s delightful Bath Haus, and then went to the gym. There was no one there when I arrived around two–delightful in and of itself–and so I started working out, trying to maintain a good pace to keep my heart rate up to get a cardiovascular benefit (I’ve always hated cardio, so have always relied on pacing during weights to get in a cardio workout, with varied success throughout my life). I added weights, worked hard, and then strolled back to the Lost Apartment with a slight detour to take more pictures for Instagram, and then came home, made a protein shake, and wrote a blog entry talking about PJ’s book. And then I just kind of kicked back and goofed off. I was a bit tired from the gym, and still feeling a bit lethargic from the amazing night’s sleep from Saturday night, so I just kind of played around with Youtube video wormholes and did a load of laundry and made dinner and just kind of let myself have a night off, to relax and recharge. I am having to navigate the spice mines again this week, and facing the week with a lot of things to do nd get done relaxed, recharged and rested wasn’t necessarily the worst idea, after all… so yes, thus I rationalized not writing this next chapter of the book, or rereading the works in progress, or even thinking about everything I need to get done this week, and I am nothing if not an OIympic caliber rationalizer.

And so it went.

AND I AM NOT SORRY!

I also managed to somehow not get phô this weekend. Perhaps tomorrow after work it might work out. We shall have to see, one supposes. Phô has become my great white whale, hasn’t it?

I slept very well again last night–in fact didn’t really want to get out of bed this morning, quite frankly–but as the caffeine begins flowing through my veins and my mind begins to clear and focus, I do feel very rested, which was my goal heading into this week, if not completely awake yet. But I do feel prepared to face the work week, which I don’t always on Monday mornings, and that’s quite lovely. Tonight after work I’ll be swinging by to pick up my library book–about pirates and sodomy–and hopefully, I’ll have some time this evening to start reading Razorblade Tears, the new S. A. Cosby novel, which is getting rave reviews everywhere. I am curious to read it for two reasons–one, Shawn is one of our better writers publishing today, and two, the subject matter of the book intrigues me, and i am curious to see what I will think about it once I am reading about it. Essentially, it’s the story of two ex-con fathers who are looking for the killer of their gay sons–and having to deal with their own guilt over their own homophobia in the wake of their sons’ murders. This is kind of a new approach, and not one I can really recall having been tackled before in crime fiction; which in and of itself is a rarity. Shawn is also a terrific writer–his Blacktop Wasteland being one of my favorite books of last year–and am very interested to see how he handles this subject matter.