I Wish You Would

Hurricane Delta is moving ever closer by the moment to our shores. This is one of the worst parts–the inevitable waiting, the need to be completely flexible, and the need to be ready to pack up and get out of Dodge in a hurry if need be. In that regard we are luckier than most when it comes to natural disasters; we have warning so we can get out while there is still time. Tornadoes and earthquakes don’t give you those options; with tornadoes sometimes it’s merely a matter of minutes (those years in Kansas…); earthquakes give you no warning whatsoever. Hurricanes clearly trigger PTSD in me–and have, ever since Katrina–but I would still rather deal with them than tornadoes or earthquakes (been through those during my years in California).

Ugh, natural disasters. Earth’s way of reminding us how unimportant and insignificant we really are.

There was a thing going around Twitter the other day, reading something along the lines of : Fellow authors, creatives… do you think it’s wise to tweet your policital opinions using your author/creative twitter account, or should you keep politics out of your creative timeline? Do you think it might lose you followers, readers, even work, or hurt your cause?

It did make me think a little bit at first. I generally don’t talk about politics much about my social media, or here on my blog; but it’s not about worrying that I might offend and lose readers, for fuck’s sake. The funniest thing to me about that tweet was precisely how privileged it was, and how the person tweeting it didn’t even have the slightest clue about the place of privilege she was coming from.

Simply stated, any writers that are not cishet white heterosexuals has had their very existence politicized, over and over and over again. Two Supreme Court justices, just this very week, very nastily announced that they don’t think queer people are entitled to equality in the eyes of the law; no surprise it was dumpster fires Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. I would love to have the privilege of not having my existence, and my status as an American citizen, politicized and reviled and attacked by bigots and monsters masking their demonic tactics are “religious liberty”; and a little louder for those of you in the back: if your religion is teaching you to treat any other human being with anything less than empathy, understanding, and compassion, you are doing religion wrong.

Period.

Frankly, I don’t exactly see how I could possibly lose any readers who are homophobes or racists or transphobes or fire-breathing conservatives because they would never buy books by a gay man centering gay men and themes in the first place. These are the ones who don’t buy your books but will waste their lives away going on Amazon and looking for queer writers to one-star, with a sentence about “not wanting a political agenda shoved down (their) throat.”

Books by and about queer people are political by nature of their very existence–and this is something which we, like writers of color and any other underprivileged minority in this country do not get to have a choice. The personal is the political for us; it is very interesting to me to see how much privilege is on display in tweets like the one above; while assuredly the intentions of the tweeter were good and she was genuinely curious what other people thought on the subject–other straight white people, obviously. It is an interesting subject, after all; moral stances don’t pay the bills, obviously, and at what point does your survival outweigh your principles?

Some authors are big enough, and successful enough, to not have to worry about offending or losing readers–which is another kind of privilege; recently seen on display with J. K. Rowling, and previously seen with writers like Orson Scott Card, among others–while those writers who aren’t marginalized for something beyond their control and are barely scraping by, hoping their sales will warrant yet another book contract, trying to figure out how to get the word out about their books and sell more copies while balancing a day job and family and everything else, possibly cannot afford to alienate any portion of their reader base if they want to keep writing. I get that, I really do; part of the reason I am so productive (per other people) is a definite fear that at some point my writing career will end–although I have also come to realize that while my career as Greg Herren might end, I could always create a new name and start over again–but it would be really nice to have the kind of reality that makes asking that question even possible to consider. As a gay male writer who writes about gay men and their experiences navigating this country and this world, obviously my books make a political statement; just my existence makes such a statement.

I refuse to closet myself or my work for the convenience of making homophobes more comfortable.

Suck on that, bitches.

Honestly.

Anyway, a friend reminded me of a short story the other day, and it had been quite the hot minute since I’d read Ray Bradbury’s “The Whole Town’s Sleeping,” and so I thought, why not reread it for the Short Story Project?

So I did.

The courthouse clock chimed seven times. The echoes of the chines faded.

Warm summer twilight here in upper Illinois country in this little town deep and far away from everything, kept to itself by.a river and a forest and a meadow and a lake. The sidewalks still scorched. The stores closing and the streets shadowed. And there were two moons; the clock moon with four faces in four night directions above the solemn black courthouse, and the real moon rising in vanilla whiteness from the dark east.

In the drugstore fans whispered in the high ceilings. In the rococo shade of porches, a few invisible people sat. Cigars glowed pink, on occasion. Screen doors whined their springs and slammed. ON the purple bricks of the summer-night streets, Douglas Spaulding ran; dogs an boys followed after.

“Hi, Miss Lavinia!”

Isn’t that a lovely start? I have to confess, I’ve not read much Bradbury–I’m not even sure how I read this story in the first place, but I remembered it; there must have been a short-story collection I picked up somewhere and read that I don’t recall. I know that I read it sometime after I had read Night Shift by Stephen King; because when I originally read this story it made me think of his story, “Strawberry Spring,” both in its style, voice and content SPOILER: both are serial killer stories, and both are written in that same Norman Rockwell Americana type voice; look at this sweet, picturesque American community, isn’t it lovely and aspirational and oh, by the way, there’s a serial killer on the loose. Before rereading the story, all I could remember was that weird Rockwellian voice, the Americana of the depiction of the town, and the ending. I also remembered the suspense of the scene where Miss Lavinia, after walking her companions home after seeing the Chaplin movie, thinks someone is following her as she hurries home alone. I’d forgotten that she and one of her friends found the body of the latest victim on the way to the movie, and yet continue on; that was extremely weird, and I also remembered the wonderful twist of the final sentence of the story, once she has safely gotten home. The serial killer, The Lonely One, kills a woman every month–and yet, in this pristine little slice of Americana small town life, no one in the town seems to take the killer all that seriously, or worry all that much about becoming his next victim. The voice vs the content is a masterstroke of writing, frankly; and I must admit, I’m not really sure why I haven’t read more Bradbury. I remember reading Something Wicked This Way Comes–I also remember thinking recently that I should reread it–and Dandelion Wine, and there must have been a short story collection I read as well; but I never read any of the science fiction–my education in Heinlein and other science fiction greats is also sorely lacking (although I have read quite a bit of Azimov and of course, Dune). I think I’ve avoided the great science fiction writers of back in the day because the advances in technology in reality have made some of those stories probably obsolete–watching 2001 recently, along with Blade Runner, was interesting in seeing what major corporations of the time they were made are no longer around (Pan Am and Howard Johnson’s, for a few) that people of the time couldn’t possibly imagine wouldn’t be around in the future. Perhaps I’ll move Something Wicked This Way Comes closer to the top of the reread pile. I didn’t enjoy it all that much at the time–I was expecting something a little more Stephen King-ish–and with more of an adult, better read mentality, I might enjoy and appreciate it more. I am certainly intrigued by that voice, which is very similar to the one he used in the short story.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and safe Thursday, Constant Reader!

Highway Don’t Care

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Hello Walls

Well, hello Thursday morning and a beautiful looking morning outside of my windows.

I’m not really sure what to make of what is going on in the world today. One of the reasons I always loved Stephen King’s The Stand so much was because it seemed so brutally realistic; I was amazed at how it played out and thinking wow this is exactly how it would happen, right down to the government lying and covering it up to suppression of the news and people spreading it despite containment policies, procedures and protocols. How on earth did he ever think this up?

Which is one of the biggest parts of why I love Stephen King’s writing. For one, the imagination to think up the stories–and the scale! I don’t know that I could ever create something like The Stand and do that kind of world-building, let alone keep track of all the individual characters and their story arcs, both their individual personal arcs as well as the over-arching arc of the main story. I’ve considered writing post-apocalyptic fiction–I have a really good idea for one, but I can’t make up my mind how to precisely do it, to be honest, and so it has always languished in the back of my mind. I had several different ideas for stories, actually; primarily triggered by the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, and then I realized how I could weave them all into the same story. But…it’s an epic story and a massive undertaking, and I simply don’t have the confidence in my own writing abilities to actually try writing it.

And that’s the bottom line for the vast majority of the ideas and stories I have that would probably make amazing books–I just don’t have the confidence to write them.

Okay, here I am later in the evening, and I am still not sure what to think or how to process everything. Twitter and social media and the news are determined to terrify me; I don’t know what I should be thinking or worrying about or doing. I know I should use this time creatively; I should block everything out and just write and check in on the world later this evening. And yet…

I’m not sure what the deep root of the insecurity I was talking about earlier comes from. I feel confident that I’m good at what I do, but when you send a manuscript to twenty agents and only even bothers to write back to say, “Thank you but no thank you; I’m not taking on more clients at this time” it tends to wear on you. Manuscripts editors passed on were later published. Needless to say, I am very wary of agents, and still am to this day. I know I need one, should have kept trying years ago until I got one, but now…I go back and forth between your career isn’t the greatest but at least you have one, be happy with what you have and an agent will help me get better deals and better sales and my books more attention. This week I got my fifteenth Lambda Literary Award nomination; and I sold a gay-themed short story to a mainstream market (well, I haven’t heard back from them, but it’s been a bit of a week, hasn’t it?) so one would think I write well enough to draw even a little bit of interest from an agent. I’ve been nominated for numerous other, mainstream awards; I’ve even won some of them.

And yet…

AH, well. I think I need to spend some time with Scooter. Til tomorrow.

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Coat of Many Colors

And just like that, we’ve made it to Friday. How lovely!

I slept extremely well, which was lovely. I feel rested today and I also feel as though I can actually handle whatever blows the world and life decide to throw at me today. Yesterday wasn’t an easy one; I felt tired most of the day and the lethargic lack of energy wasn’t, frankly, very much fun. I got home and rewarded myself with a quick view of Spider-man Into the Spider-verse, which is my favorite super-hero movie of all time (not that I am dogging on Tom Holland, whom I adore as Peter Parker) and that eased me into going to bed last night. I had already decided to go to the gym after work today rather than before; so I have this morning to regroup and get on top of everything again.

I did write a little bit yesterday. I had decided to revise a story I’d written for an anthology, which was rejected (rightly so, he typed grimly, after starting to reread it last night), and submit it to yet another anthology (I have three stories to submit by the end of the month), and I found myself wondering–I can’t say the name of the story, since the anthology is a blind/submission read–if I needed to tone it down a little bit? It’s a gay story, from a gay man’s point of view and there’s a lot of sexualizing and a lot of the gay male gaze; and I began wondering, as I revised and removed sentences from passive past tense to the active past tense (it is amazing how easily I default to passive voice; a problem I never seem to be able to kick; and it’s really not that difficult to avoid, really) and changed some things and made sentences stronger, how often do my stories get rejected for fear of offending a reader or a reviewer, rather than the quality of the story? That’s one of the issues one consistently faces as a gay writer trying to publish in a homophobic society and culture; you’re never sure if your story just wasn’t up to par, or if the gay point-of-view made the editors uncomfortable–or made them worry about offending readers and getting one-starred on Goodreads and Amazon as a direct result.

It’s shitty, but it’s my reality, and that of every gay writer. I’d like to think that a good story that is well-written would rise above that kind of bullshit, but every time I think we’re making progress, either in the culture and society and publishing–we get shoved back hard and shown our place.

And for the record, I’ve only published one short story in a mainstream market with a gay male character and theme. ONE. Everything else I’ve published in a mainstream market was about a straight character without any of the gay in it.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been sickened by the levels of overt and covert homophobia I’ve seen on Twitter. Yes, I know, I know; Twitter is a cesspool roiling with trolls and incels and every other kind of monster imaginable. But I don’t follow a lot of people over there; mostly other writers and maybe some journalists and reporters and reviewers and magazines, etc. Every so often I seem something appalling being tweeted at someone I know and like in the real world, not just cyberspace; I often report problematic tweets I see as harassment against someone else, and it may take a couple of days, but that account eventually gets suspended. It may be like trying to drain the ocean with a teaspoon, but I figure it’s the least I can do. And it has to be something egregious–like the use of a slur and an outright slander–for me to do something; my litmus test generally is if I start typing out an angry response I should just report it and not engage.

Typing out the tweet before deleting it always makes me feel better, and then I delete and report the person instead. This works for me.

Anyway, many years ago I stopped talking about politics publicly, either here, or on my blog or Facebook, because I have no desire to debate anyone or argue with anyone on my social media accounts. Part of it was, indeed, joining the national board of Mystery Writers of America; the realization that not everyone in the crime fiction world would agree with me on everything and I didn’t want to get into pissing contests on social media, particularly as a board member whose conduct might be held against the organization. Obviously, I still talk about queer equality and homophobia, but anyone who follows me on social media knows I’m a gay man (the pictures in every blog post alone is a tell, hello?) and as such, I feel I’m entitled to talk about that; I also feel like I have every right to speak out against racism when I see it, as well as misogyny and transphobia. These are, in my opinion, societal ills and I cannot just sit idly by and not speak my piece on these things from time to time.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the last week–I’ve actually noticed it before, but not to this extreme–is homophobia, particularly from people who actually should know better. That’s the true evil, to me, in our society; that all the hatreds–racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia–are so deeply engrained and systemic that people who should know better sometimes fall back into them quite easily, without thinking twice about what they are saying or how it can be perceived. Do I think these people are actually and actively homophobic? Probably not, but it’s really easy, as I said, to fall back into it.

Pete Buttigieg did something no openly gay man had ever done before; he ran for president as a prospective candidate in one of the two major parties. I don’t know Pete; I’ve never met him or his husband, Chasten, and what I do know is from reading about them in the press (I also follow Chasten on Twitter) and from seeing them speak on television. I’ve been impressed from the very first with Pete; he’s smart, articulate, and passionate about wanting to help other people. If Chasten’s name was Christine, I honestly think Pete would have been mopping the floor with the other candidates; he’s young, he’s attractive, a Rhodes scholar, a great public speaker, and a military veteran. He has flaws, obviously; there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, no matter what anyone might think. But when he announced, I braced myself for the homophobic onslaught to come.

I just didn’t expect the majority of it to come from the left.

Campaigns always tend to be ugly, and this year’s presidential election will be no different from any previous one’s. Primaries can also be ugly–I remember the ugliness of the Democratic primaries of 1968, 1980, and 2016 very vividly, thank you very much (an aside: please note that ugly Democratic primaries inevitably lead to Republican presidents being elected–Nixon, Reagan, and Trump)–and so there are going to be slurs and insults and snide questions thrown around; I get it. Politics and power are an ugly business. But as I observed without commenting…I couldn’t help but notice that people who should know better, either consciously or subconsciously, were falling back on their internalized homophobia.

I never saw derisive nicknames, for example, for any of the Democratic candidates…except for Buttigieg. Think I’m wrong? How is Pete Buttigieg so much whiter than any of the other candidates, so much more so that an appellation of “Mayo Pete” was appropriate? No one was calling Amy Klobuchar “Wonder Bread Amy.” And sure, the ‘Mayor Pete’ branding might have had something to do with that–but as a gay man of a certain age, I couldn’t help notice that he was the only one with such a nickname. Were the other white candidates that much better than him on issues of race?

As for the leftists slyly shortening his name to “Pete Butt”–do you really think you’re fooling anyone? Yes, yes, I’m sure you were only calling him that because, of course, you were saving characters on social media where you have limited characters; but you could have saved three more by calling him “”Pete B”; people would have known who you were talking about. I daresay you could have even just said “Pete” since you were talking about the primaries.

So, why Pete Butt? Unless you’re using it as a dogwhistle; you know you can’t call him “Pete Buttsex” or “Pete the Fag” so instead you say “Pete Butt”–knowing full fucking well how that would be read. Congratulations on your wokeness, and go fuck yourself. By disrespecting Pete Buttigieg, who accomplished something I never thought I’d see happen in my goddamned lifetime, you are exposing your own inner homophobia. Oh, sure, you  can criticize him for his conduct as mayor, you can criticize his positions, you can oppose his candidacy all you like without being homophobic…but the glee I saw in basically calling him a faggot by using a dog-whistle?

Yeah, thanks for dropping the mask.

I’m not hurt by this behavior–I’m mostly disappointed. Disappointed in the left, disappointed in Democratic voters, disappointed in people I thought knew better and were allies. Disappointed in myself for once again thinking cishet straight people actually gave a shit about me and people like me.

Kind of like “woke” people who have no friends that are people of color. Why is that, precisely?

I mean, how very dare he run for president! Queers need to know their place, and certainly the halls of Congress and the White House aren’t, apparently, it.

And for the record, he won Iowa.

Nothing will ever change that. You may not like him, you may have dipped into your soul and the dark recesses of your lizard primordial brain to come up with a way to dismiss him and get away without being outright homophobic, but I see you.

And I’ll never forget–nor will I ever look at you the same way again. And don’t bother trying to explain how you’re not homophobic to me.

I SAW for myself.

Bravo.

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Smoke on the Water

Why, Gregalicious, do you always include a picture of a hot, shirtless guy in every one of your blog posts?

AH, Constant Reader, you’ve asked me this several times, but I don’t mind explaining yet again.

Back in the olden days when social media was still quite young and hope was still alive, I had a blog on Livejournal. I started the blog in December 2004, after a long period of personal issues and not really writing anything in months. I had a book that was long since overdue, but the stuff going on in my personal life was too overwhelming for me to do anything other than handle my day-to-day life and get through every day. A friend, Poppy Z. Brite, suggested to me that I should start blogging; I’d been a fan of his blog for quite some time (“Dispatches from Tanganyika”, I think, was what he called his blog at the time) and I’d never really thought about it much. So, Poppy was on Livejournal, so I opened a Livejournal account and started my blog–“Queer and Loathing in America” around Christmas of 2004. The idea was primarily to get myself writing every day again, and hopefully, use that as a springboard to get back to writing fiction. I was excited about starting a blog for several reasons–not the least of which was I had so many thoughts and opinions on so many things; things I wanted to write about but no one would ever let me write about them. So, I saw the blog as a tool to get me writing again, and as a way to improve my negligible essay writing skills.

It also gave me the opportunity to write about things no one else would let me write about–like sports I enjoy watching, television and movies and books I’ve enjoyed, politics, gay activism, etc. I didn’t care if anyone read what I was writing–I was writing again, and I was doing it every day, and I was sticking to it, and I was happy with it. People did, as a matter of course and over time, start reading it and it was fun to interact with the people who read my blog–and in many cases, they also read my books, so it was a nice way to interact with my readers. I have never changed my mentality about my blog; I still write it and think no one’s reading it, of course; I write it first and foremost for myself, more than anything else, but once the other social media sites–Twitter and Facebook and so forth, started up and I joined, it only made sense to share my blog with the few folks who I was friends with on Facebook and who followed me on Twitter…and that is where the problem started.

Originally, when I posted my blog, it would cross-post to both Facebook and Twitter, in a really nice way that indicated to everyone it was a  link to a blog, what the name of the blog entry was, and the first few sentences, as a teaser. I liked this a lot, and was content with it.

And then, as is their wont, both Facebook and Twitter changed their interfaces with Livejournal, so if there was no image in the blog for them to put up along with the blog link–on Facebook it was a big blue box with a pencil in it, the generic Twitter image that got thrown up was equally awful. I hated it, and was ready to stop cross-posting when I noticed that whenever there was an image in the blog–a book cover, say–that image got put up instead of the generic image they usually used.

But I don’t write about a book every day. So what images to use? I finally decided to use pictures of hot sexy men without shirts. Sue me.

I’ve been doing this now for years, and even after I moved from Livejournal to WordPress (I held out for a long time, but the fact that Livejournal was sold to some Russian company meant I started getting spam responses to the blog in Russian…plus Russia has become the motherland for homophobia, so I finally bit the bullet and moved), I have continued doing this. More of a habit than anything else, and I don’t know if the hideous generic images get thrown up on the two sites when I cross-post anymore–both sites have been redesigned and have been through numerous changes, but now it’s kind of my brand for my blog, and no one really seems to mind, and if they do….I don’t care.

And that, Constant Reader, is why I post pictures of hot guys in my blog.

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Keep on Truckin’

Sitting here in the Lost Apartment waiting for Barry’s rain to arrive. It’s eerily quiet outside right now–very little wind, and that weird pre-storm light that indicates something big is coming; I don’t think what’s going to happen here is nearly as bad as anyone predicted or warned about. Even as I type these words I just got the notification that Barry had reached the coastline of central Louisiana; it’s still calm and peaceful here.

Here’s hoping it stays that way.

Thursday night Paul didn’t get home until late; he was working on a grant due Friday–which they proceeded to extend the deadline because of the storm for a week, but didn’t send the email out until almost nine pm, but as I said, hey, at least it’s done and you don’t have to worry about it anymore–so I found myself watching things Paul won’t watch, to pass the time. I watched another episode of The Last Czars, which only served to lessen my sympathy for the last Romanovs even further (I also hate the third part of the story, which is the whole Anna Anderson/Anastasia nonsense, discredited at long last when DNA proved she wasn’t a Romanov), and then I started watching HBO’s Band of Brothers, which I’ve always wanted to watch on some levels–World War II has always been an interesting, if heavily mythologized, time in American history to me–and I really enjoyed it. It’s hard for me, even now, to imagine what that must have been like for the rank-and-file soldiery: the farm boys and the accountants, the garage mechanics and the shepherds, the fishermen and factory workers, many of whom had never traveled far from where they grew up, being sent to faraway and exotic (to them) locales, and having to go through the horror of full scale war. World War II was many things, but the world completely changed through the course of the war, and it was, indeed, the war that also exposed the inequities and inequalities of our own country and its systems. The military was segregated; any question of equality for people of color were shunted to the side or ignored for the “common good”, this despite the fact that they were all working just as hard for an American victory as the white people.

I’ve always felt the experience of the war was what eventually led to the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation/feminism movement, and the slow rise of the gay rights movement; which all came to a head in the 1960’s. Band of Brothers, well written, well cast, and well acted, depicts the segregation of the military in a way that is kind of sly–the entire cast is white people. That, of course, wasn’t the intent of the show in any way, shape or form; it was made at a time when all-white casts were pretty much the norm–and it’s sad how recent that time still is. But it is historically accurate; the military was segregated, and the perpetuation of this systemic racism came from high up in the command because there was a fear of how racist white people would react.

As always, the feelings of white people were paramount. I mean, how very dare the Pentagon force white people to serve with non-white people? 

Ugh.

I watched another episode yesterday, and then switched to another Hanks-Spielberg HBO series, The Pacific, which, obviously, is about the Pacific theater of the war, focusing on the Marine Corp First Division, which won the Battle of Guadalcanal against overwhelming odds. The Pacific is better, I think, than Band of Brothers, but there’s also a weirdly compelling plot line about two best friends from Alabama that I am reading as gay but probably isn’t. One of the best takeaways I am getting from both these series is, interestingly enough, again about the toxic American ideology of masculinity; seeing these men bonding through hellish circumstances and what they go through, and then being completely unable to express their love for one another–even if its just the love from friendship, not romantic–physically or verbally is heartbreaking.

There are times whenI just want them to embrace and hold each other…or to allow themselves to cry…but they always catch themselves and just give each other a firm handshake. This makes me think more about writing some essays about the American masculine ideal…but then think, Oh I am sure other people, more qualified than me, surely, have already explored all of this.

I’ve been having a lovely time on Twitter lately. Twitter is so associated in my mind with toxicity and trolling that it always comes as a pleasant surprise when I actually enjoy myself on there. But it’s a pleasant reminder of the social part of social media; remember when it used to be fun to go on social media? When the biggest complaints were joking about cat videos or dog memes or people’s meal pictures? So, going forward, I am going to try to make my Twitter feed as fun as possible, and encourage fun interactions.

And on that note, I think I best finish this off and do some chores around here while we still have power. I hope hope hope we don’t lose power…but it’s also rather lovely that losing power is right now the worst thing that I think may happen to us here in the Lost Apartment. I moved my car yesterday to an elevated parking garage to get it off the street in case of a repeat of Wednesday; will definitely check in later.

Happy Saturday, all.

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Dancing in the Moonlight

Friday morning, Barry eve. Paul and I, for those who are curious, are electing to stay rather than go. We may end up regretting that decision, but it’s not like it would be the first time we made a decision we wound up regretting deeply (hello, year in Washington).

It’s sunny yet cloudy outside this morning, giving the morning a weird, yellow-grayish tint to everything (sepia!). I am most likely going to venture out this morning at some point; I still need to fill the car with gasoline, and later I am also going to decide whether to take the precaution of parking in a garage somewhere in the CBD, to get the car above whatever possible floodwaters might be coming. There’s also some things I should pick up at the grocery store–although I imagine the candle and bread aisles have already been decimated. Paul and I both don’t have to go to work today, so we will undoubtedly end up watching a lot of television and getting caught up on our shows–we fell behind while he was at his mother’s. Moving the car to a garage might not be necessary, but I’d rather pay a daily parking rate somewhere than over a thousand dollars making my car operational again–or losing it entirely to water. If experience has taught me anything, getting a car operational after it gets flooded also means it never quite runs right again, and why risk it as I am getting so close to owning it outright?

It’s supposed to rain off and on all day today as Barry gets closer to shore. It’s getting darker even as I type this right now, and so I guess that means it’s getting ready to rain at any moment.

Yesterday was probably the most beautiful day of the summer; low eighties with little to no humidity, and a cool breeze. Wednesday I was pretty tired all day, and that kind of carried over into yesterday. I got nothing done–this entire week has been a bust for the most part, other than reading to edit some things I’ve already written–but maybe I can correct that a bit today. I don’t know, we shall see, won’t we? Right now I am feeling pretty good and well-rested and like I can get some stuff done–but where that will wind up, nobody knows.

Yesterday was also a lovely day for me on Twitter; that’s twice in the last week or so I’ve had an absolutely lovely day on social media. Twitter, and social media, can be lovely places to connect and reconnect and speak (albeit electronically) with friends; I’ve tried for a very long time to keep my social media upbeat and positive, rather than allowing myself to get sucked into the toxicity rampant on all social media sites. I have no desire to argue with anyone, about anything; no one has ever been convinced to change their minds by a social media argument. If anything, it seems to harden people against opposing views, so why even bother? My time and my patience and my emotional investments are limited, as is my energy, and I’d rather use all of them productively and positively, rather than trying to score points on people with opposing views that I find repugnant.

Yesterday, though, was lovely; what social media can be if we avoid toxicity. Alex Segura had been doing some gratitude posts there, thanking people who have helped, encouraged, and supported him on his journey as a crime writer (if you haven’t checked out his Pete Fernandez series, you simply MUST); I thought to myself, self, you really need to do the same thing, and so I started a tweet-thread in which I did the same; thanked people for their support and help and encouragement over the now near-twenty years of my writing career. I naturally forgot some people–there have been so many–and I was trying to do it as I went, but the responses turned out to be a lot of fun and people are still responding to that thread this morning. But the tweets and responses were a lot of fun, and almost every new notification brought yet another smile to my face, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (as opposed to the usual, in which I’m dead inside…KIDDING), and made me feel quite grateful; grateful for my career, grateful for the terrific people I’ve met along the way, grateful for all the help and encouragement and support. Writing can often feel like an incredibly lonely business; most of the time it’s just you and your computer screen and your imagination, typing away while going deep inside your own head. Social media has made it much easier for us to connect outside of the conferences, your Bouchercons and Malice Domestics and Left Coast Crimes and Tennessee Williams Festivals–and helps deepen the bonds formed at those events, and makes you look forward to seeing everyone at the next one. I am already looking forward to seeing everyone in Dallas at this year’s Bouchercon…which will be here sooner than I expect and will also wind up being over much sooner than it should be.

So, I am going to spend this morning trying to sort my kitchen again–it’s astonishing how quickly it gets out of order–and probably reading this book I need to write an introduction for soon. I also have some terrific new books: Clandestine by James Ellroy (which I want to read again); Paper Son by S. J. Rozan; Life After Life by Kate Atkinson; and The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein. I may also reread some short stories that need to be edited; I may even try to write on the WIP–but let’s not get too crazy or ahead of ourselves here.

So, I guess it’s time to start getting my act together this morning. Have a great day, Constant Reader; hopefully we’ll still have power at this time tomorrow.

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Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

Hello, Tuesday! How you doing?

I managed another not-quite-a-thousand words yesterday on the WIP; which was lovely. I am still not writing as quickly as I used to–I think I am still a bit on the rusty side, naturally–but I am getting back into the swing of it. Today is the last day of April, and I’d intended to have the entire first draft finished by tomorrow. Instead, I am halfway through a rewrite of the first ten chapters, with fifteen more to write. Epic fail, perhaps? Or just the usual Greg can’t make a deadline to save his life nonsense?

TBF, I was sick twice in this last month, and that certainly didn’t help in the least.

I did finish reading Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide, and today I am moving on to Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things. Such a plethora of riches in my TBR pile, y’all. And I still have two Donna Andrews novels in there, too! I was also tired most of yesterday; not so much physically as mentally. I managed to get through the entire workday without feeling either sleepy or exhausted, and while I slept fairly decently last night, I did wake up a lot–usually an indication that I am going to be somewhat tired today. It’s another long day, but stranger things have happened, you know?

We got caught up on Veep as well last night, which is killing it in its final season. The show has always been funny, but this season is a bit more topical than usual…to the point I said, several times during the episode, “I can’t believe they’re doing this.”

Tomorrow is payday, and i really should start working on getting the bills paid. Yay. These are a few of my favorite things. *snark*

Okay, I paid some of the bills but also got a pleasant surprise: an electronic payment for the talk I did with Jean Redmann at the Jefferson Parish library a few Saturdays ago. I’d forgotten we were getting paid for that, so that was an incredibly pleasant surprise. Another pleasant surprise was checking Twitter (I know, right? A PLEASANT SURPRISE ON TWITTER are words I never thought I’d type.) and seeing, in a longer discussion about an article in The Writer about men writing strong women (don’t get me started) some love for my story “This Town” in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, and some love for me personally.

Aw. That’s always nice.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Talk to Me

I slept well last night, yet am still tired this morning; it’s the summer malaise, no doubt. It’s weird for me to drive around the city and still see hordes of tourists gamboling around; at this time of year New Orleans used to become a ghost town, locals fleeing the heat and humidity to beach houses (if they had them) and those who could not leave staying inside in the air conditioning as much as possible. It still concerns me, more than a little bit, that just going out into the heat on two separate occasions this weekend and then going to a dinner party on Monday had done such a thorough job of draining and depleting my energy, not to mention made it so difficult for the batteries to recharge. But I only have two days in the office next week before my 4th  of July based vacation; here’s hoping that somehow I’ll be able to get rested and manage to get things done in the meantime.

I spent nine hours yesterday testing in the CareVan; it was National HIV Testing Day and as usual, the day job partnered with Walgreens stores all over New Orleans for us to reach out and test people who might not otherwise get tested. I wasn’t, frankly, too thrilled about doing anything Walgreens-related, after the scandalous behavior of the Walgreens pharmacist in Arizona this past week, but as always in this life, one has to compromise one’s principles, and choose the battles one wants to fight. Identifying new HIV positives is my job and my calling; to help them get treatment and medical care so they don’t infect other people as well as so they remain healthy. I’ve seen too much death from HIV in my lifetime to choose moral principles over assisting those who may be in need.

It’s been, frankly, an incredibly tiresome week. First the Walgreens pharmacy nonsense, where a pharmacist was somehow allowed, by the company and the law, to put a person’s life at risk because of his “sincerely held religious beliefs”, to the Kennedy announcement and the other horrific Supreme Court decisions of this past week. I think the combination of spending so much time out in the heat did the physical damage while the other things did the emotional and intellectual draining. I slept well but still feel drained and tired, tired of having to fight, tired of having to stand up and be counted. It sometimes feels like I’ve been fighting–for my right to exist, to be who I am, to be heard–for most of my life.

It’s exhausting.

This blog began during the Bush administration after a truly terrible year that I didn’t know was simply the beginning of a run of a terrible few years; it was a way to get me to start writing again over on Livejournal and was never meant to be anything other than me being able to have a place to record my feelings, my thoughts, my observations. It was therapeutic, and it also helped to vent out a lot of anger about the injustice in the world that I saw every day; whether those injustices directly affected me or whether they did not. As I’ve gotten older I’ve stayed away from politics and policy; either from mellowing with time or just not wanting to waste the energy on arguing about things with, frankly, human garbage. I stay off Twitter most of the time because I already have to take medicine for high blood pressure; the horrible things I see on there often make my blood boil.

But while I continue to refuse to engage with the sewage, that neither makes it go away nor does it put a stop to it, and what I see going on in this country, as filtered through my marginalized gay eyes, is terrifying.

So, going forward, I will still talk about writing and books I love; about New Orleans and writers I admire. I will continue, I will go on. But I am also going to have what used to be called “Julia Sugarbaker moments”–and if that is going to offend your delicate little sensibilities, stop reading my blog and feel free to abandon me on social media.

My next story in Promises in Every Star and Other Stories was called “Son of a Preacher Man”:

The air was sticky, damp and hot as I carefully slid the screen out of my window. The only sounds in the night was the electrical humming from the street light out in front of my house and the every-present chirping of crickets. Before I climbed through the window, I stuck my head out to see if the light in my parents’ window was still out. They’d gone to bed about an hour before, but better safe than sorry. I’d been sneaking out all summer and they hadn’t caught me once. 

I jumped down into the damp grass and ran as quietly as I could down to the line of trees at the back of our property. I ducked into the trees and walked along the dry creek bed to the little dilapidated wood bridge behind the Burleson house, and sat down with my legs dangling over the side. It wasn’t midnight yet, and Andy was always late. My parents were strict, but his made mine look like—well, I didn’t know what, but something. His daddy was the preacher, and he thought his kids had to set an example for the rest of the Youth for Christ. Andy always had to help serve the Lord’s Supper at least once a week, and instead of playing summer baseball like the rest of us, he spent his summer days working on his grandpa’s farm out in the county. Preacher Burleson was a hard man whose eyes blazed with the power of the Lord who didn’t let his wife or daughters wear make-up or curl their hair.

Andy hated his daddy.

Nobody knew, except me. In front of everyone else, Andy was a good son, never contradicting his daddy, doing what he was told, minding. He studied and got good grades, knew his Bible inside and out, and had never been any trouble. But I was the only one who knew he cribbed cigarettes whenever he had the chance,  could swear like a sailor,  and hated every last adult in Corinth—probably in the whole state of Alabama, for that matter. All he ever talked about was running away, getting the hell out of Corinth, Alabama, the south. He never said where he wanted to go, but I was pretty sure anywhere else would do.

I sat there on the bridge, swatting at mosquitoes and listening to the sounds of the night. August in Alabama was like living in hell, I heard my mama say once, and she was right. The air was like a big hot wet towel pressing down on my moist skin. My armpits were already damp. I dangled my legs over the edge, swinging them like a little kid. My whole summer had revolved around sneaking out at night and meeting Andy. School was going to start in another month, football practice in two more weeks, and then these nights were going to end. I didn’t like to think about that. I wanted to believe that the summer would go on forever, and every night I’d be sneaking out to meet Andy again—

As you can tell, this was also written during that period of time when I was at war with the evangelical right. And what better way to tell them to fuck off than to write a gay erotica story about having sex with the preacher’s son? IN THE FUCKING CHURCH (literally)?

It’s another one of my Corinth stories, like “Smalltown Boy” and so many others I’ve written; even my main character in Dark Tide was from Corinth. But I love the voice of this character; the same voice I’ve used whenever I’ve written a first person short story about teens in that town, and I really think I should write an entire book using that voice.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Smooth Operator

April Fool’s Eve!

I slept in this morning, after staying up much later than I intended last night. I’d read somewhere that you should stop looking at a screen of any kind–television, computer, phone, iPad–at least half an hour before going to bed to help with sleep, and frankly, I’ll try just about anything that will help in that regard; so I’ve started keeping a non-fiction book on my nightstand, to read for about half an hour every night before attempting sleep. The last two I read were The Black Prince of Florence and Joan Didion’s After Henry; last night I started onJon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. I couldn’t stop reading it, of course, and before I knew it, I’d read through the first two people he’d interviewed about their public shamings–Jonah Lehrer and Justine Sacco–and wanted to keep going; but I forced myself to put the book down because it was much later than I wanted to stay up and I was worried about not getting up this morning.

I was right.

It’s kind of interesting to be reading the Ronson book about how public shaming destroyed the lives of two people–one who did something terrible (Lerner) and the other who made a really dumb joke on Twitter that went viral–and Ronson is really a good writer; I actually have some sympathy for the people he is writing about. But this is another, perfect example of why Twitter terrifies and fascinates me at the same time. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to go viral in such a way on social media, but then again, I try to be very careful with social media. Is that cowardly? Perhaps it is, but i also don’t have time for arguing with people on social media, nor do I have an inclination to do so. I am frequently exposed to different viewpoints on my own social media–but as long as it is couched respectfully and is not in any way nasty or vicious, I like seeing points of view that are different than my own. (Homophobia, misogyny, and racism, however, are always deal-breakers. I never have any sympathy or interest in seeing that point of view.)

As you can tell, I am finding the book to be very interesting.

We also finished watching Season 2 of Santa Clarita Diet, which is hilarious. I highly recommend it. I also got caught up on Krypton and Riverdale yesterday, and did some more writing–not very good writing, mind you; for some reason “Don’t Look Down” is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to write, but I am determined to get that first fucking draft done this weekend. I also want to get some revisions done today. I am going to run some errands and go to the gym in a little bit, and then I am hoping to be able to get home and sit down and just write for the rest of the afternoon, which is going to require me shutting down all social media and closing my web browsers. I think I’ll clean the windows today as well, and maybe do some cleaning…which is the best way to deal with getting stuck on writing.

As I said, I finished reading Joan Didion’s After Henry this week.

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It’s a collections of essays she wrote that were published in various places, and tackle various subjects in that amazing style of writing she had; the way she constructs sentences, and puts words and paragraphs together, is so amazing that it’s hard sometimes to drink in what she is actually saying. These essays, about politics in Los Angeles; natural disasters in southern California; the Central Park jogger case in New York; the political conventions in 1988; the Reagan administration and the face it presented to the world; and several others, are pretty amazing and also serve as a kind of time capsule of recent history. I am really looking forward to reading another non-fiction Didion book, and possibly another of her novels.

I had finished reading The Black Prince of Florence before I took up the Didion.

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As Constant Reader is aware, I am fascinated by the Medici family of Florence, who rose from being merchant class to one of the wealthiest banking families in Europe to popes and queens to royalty in their own right. Alessandro de Medici, the little known subject of this biography, was the first Medici to attain royalty on his own; due to the machinations of his uncle, Pope Clement VII (better known to history as the pope who refused Henry VIII’s request for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon), he became Duke of Florence and the republic came to an end. Alessandro was illegitimate, and there is no proof of whom his mother was; his legitimate sister, Catherine, became queen of France. Fletcher does an excellent job of explaining the tumult of the times; how Italy had been riven by a series of wars between different city-states as well as between France and the Holy Roman Empire, both with extensive claims to various places on the peninsula, along with all the machinations in Rome for the papacy. The question of whether Alessandro’s mother was an African slave, or that was simply a slander to discredit him during his lifetime by his enemies, is one that Fletcher takes up; she also explains the differences between modern day views of race as opposed to those of the sixteenth century. I found the book to be endlessly fascinating, and really helped me get a better grasp of just how the Medici family became royalty. Alessandro’s sister Catherine is probably the most famous (notorious?) member of the family; I have numerous biographies of her on my shelves I look forward to reading.

I’ve also read some more short stories for the Short Story Project. First up is”A Poison That Leaves No Trace” by Sue Grafton, from Kinsey and Me:

The woman was waiting for me outside my office when I arrived that morning. She was short and quite plump, wearing jeans in a size I’ve never seen on the rack. Her blouse was tunic length, ostensibly to disguise her considerable rear end. Someone must have told her never to wear horizontal stripes, so the bold red-and-blue bands ran diagonally across her torso with a dizzying effect. Big red canvas tote, matching canvas wedgies. Her face was round, seamless, and smooth, her hair a uniformly dark shade that suggested a rinse. She might have been any age between forty and sixty. “You’re not Kinsey Millhone,” she said as I approached.

“Actually, I am. Would you like to come in?” I unlocked the door and stepped back so she could pass in front of me. She was giving me the once-over, as if my appearance was as remarkable to her as hers was to me.

This story is kind of clever, with a surprise twist at the end that caught me off guard; a woman hires Kinsey to prove that her niece murdered the woman’s sister for the insurance money. It’s fraud, all right, but not what Kinsey was originally led to believe, and the twists and turns are spooled out very cleverly.

The next up was another Sue Grafton tale from Kinsey and Me, “Full Circle.”

The accident seemed to happen in slow motion–one of those stop-action sequences that seem to go on forever though in tryth no mare than a few seconds have elapsed. It was Friday afternoon, rush hour, Santa Teresa traffic moving at a lively pace, my little VW holding its own despite the fact it’s fifteen years out of date. I was feeling good. I’d just wrapped up a case and I had a check in my handbag for four thousand bucks, not bad considering the fact that I’m a female private eye, self-employed, and subject to the feast-or-famine vagaries of any other freelance work.

I glanced to my left as a young woman, driving a white compact, appeared in my driver’s-side mirror. A bright red Porsche was bearing down on her in the fast lane. I adjust my speed, making room for her, sensing that she meant to cut right in front of me. A navy blue pick-up truck was coming up on my right, each of us jockeying for position as the late afternoon sun washed down out of a cloudless California spring sky. I had glanced in my rearview mirror, checking traffic behind me, when I heard a loud popping noise. I snapped my attention back to the road in front of me. The white compact veered abruptly back into the fast lane, clipped the rear of the red Porsche, then hit the center divider and careened directly into my path. I slammed on my brakes, adrenaline shooting through me as I fought to control the VW’s fishtailing rear end.

This story opens with one of the best descriptions of the slow-motion horror of an accident on the highway; how it happens right before your eyes and how you basically have to rely on instinct and automatic reaction to try to avoid the accident because your brain is so busy processing what it’s seeing. The story is worth reading for that alone, but it turns into a case when the mother of the girl driving the compact, Caroline Spurrier, hires Kinsey because it turns out the accident didn’t kill Caroline; she’d been shot. The man driving the truck also has disappeared. From that point on, it’s a great example of a private eye story.

Sigh. I’m going to miss Sue Grafton.