Songbird

Thursday!

My back, while still a little tight, is more irritating than painful; it’s at that stage where it is so close to not hurting at all anymore that it’s annoying that it hasn’t stopped, if that makes sense at all? I ran errands on my way home from work yesterday–mail and a prescription–and then came home, did a load of dishes, and then collapsed into my chair with the heating pad. I am taking it to work again with me this morning–more heat can’t hurt, after all, and the office is cold–and hopefully will wake up tomorrow morning feeling ever so much better. We got caught up on House of the Dragon last night–it’s getting better, but man was it ever getting off to a slow start–and it’s not as big and epic as Game of Thrones was; it’s more contained, with fewer characters and fewer story-lines, for one thing–and then we watched Archer (it really misses Jessica Walter; Mallory Archer was too great of a character for the show to do without) before calling it a night and heading for bed. I slept well again last night–only woke up a few times–and my back felt better when I got up…but it is slowly starting to make itself known, so yes, definitely bringing the heating pad to the office with me this morning.

I was thinking, last night as I waited for Paul to finish working (whenever he comes home earlier than usual, he inevitably spends a few hours making calls and sending emails once he’s home), about something that has been sticking in my mind for quite a while–and last night it hit me between the eyes.

People talk a lot about crime in New Orleans–it’s usually code for people to be racist without being outright racist; I always laugh at people in the comments section of the local news stations or newspapers, talking about crime in New Orleans and ‘that’s why they left New Orleans’ for the suburbs/West Bank/North Shore, etc. I laugh at this because they will always claim to other people Not From Here that they are, indeed, from New Orleans (bitch, you’re from Metairie) and I always want to ask them, “was it really crime in New Orleans that drove you out of the city, or was it the desegregation of the schools, hmmm?” Every neighborhood in New Orleans, you see, is mixed; the Garden District neighborhood at one time also included the St. Thomas Housing Projects. And sure, crime has been on the rise here lately. But I have lived in New Orleans since 1996, and white people are always talking about crime here and shaking their heads about how the city “has gone downhill.” Um, if you study the history of New Orleans, the city has always been filled with crime; IT’S A GODDAMNED PORT CITY.

Anyway, as I was standing in line waiting to board my flight out of Minneapolis, the woman in front of me turned out to also be from New Orleans (River Ridge). She was absolutely lovely, and we chatted the entire time we waited and as we went down the jetway to the plane–which, for someone whose default is always social awkwardness, was something–and ironically, she was the person in front of me in line for the flight from Chicago to New Orleans. She began talking to me about the crime and I did my usual shrug “there’s always been crime in New Orleans” and when she asked me if I wasn’t afraid, I just shook my head and said “no–no more than usual.”

That, of course, started a thread in my head about why are you not afraid of the rising crime in New Orleans and I realized, as I had also said to the nice lady, “I’m just always hyper-aware of my surroundings and what’s going on around me.” And then last night it hit me: as opposed to the nice straight white people of New Orleans, the rising crime rate doesn’t really bother me because I have never felt completely safe anywhere or anytime in my life–that’s what life is like for queers in this country.

I had to train myself as a kid to always keep my eyes moving and always be aware of what’s going on around me–I look ahead, I look behind, I always am looking from one side to the other and am always on hyper-alert because you never know when the gay bashers are going to come for you. I’m no more afraid now than I have ever been throughout the course of my life, and I had decided a long time ago that I would not live my life in fear anymore–but to always be vigilant.

Straight white people aren’t used to not feeling safe and they don’t like it when they don’t.

Welcome to what it feels like to be a minority in this country–and let’s face it, I still have white male privilege; I can’t imagine what it’s like to navigate this world as a black lesbian or transwoman.

But straight white people? This is their world and it is the world they made. While straight white women are oppressed terribly by straight white men, many of them have been gaslit into thinking they are less than straight white men and it is simply their lot in life, and they accept that in exchange for protection by the patriarchy. So while it is true that for women, car-jackings and muggings are just one more thing to add to their backpack of oppressive fears–usually sexual assaults (physical or verbal) or harassment. Interesting, right?

But for those Stockholm Syndrome suffering straight white women, crime is outrageous and horrifying to them because the system is theoretically set up to protect them from crime.

And what’s a little sexual harassment if it means you won’t get mugged or carjacked by that scary Black man? Boys will be boys, after all; they’re just wired that way.

I’ve always wanted to write from the perspective of someone like Brock Turner, the Stanford swimming rapist–but I don’t think I can. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so blind about your own child, especially since I don’t (and never wanted) any of my own.

And yes, this is yet another subject for an essay.

But the fog of exhaustion seems to finally be lifting from my head–hallelujah–and so I think–if I am not too tired when I get home tonight, that is–I am going to be able to get back to work on my writing either today or tomorrow. I also want to start reading my new Donna Andrews novel, and I want to read Nelson Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side before October, when I have to turn my attention to the horror genre again for Halloween.

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

Jackson Square Jazz

The unplanned sequel!

That’s not entirely true, you know. Yes, Bourbon Street Blues was always supposed to be a stand alone (I know you’re tired of the story) and they offered a two book series deal and I took it, thinking I would just figure it out later. Well, I did figure it out later; and when I started writing Bourbon Street Blues I already knew there would be a second book and so I had to set it up in the first as well as plant seeds for the next one after that–if there was going to be another one after that. I didn’t know for sure or not whether there would be a third, so when I was writing the first I kept the personal story as simple as I could in case there wouldn’t be a third and I could wrap it all up with the second if need be. But by the time I finished writing Jackson Square Jazz I was already pretty confident there would be a third (the first had just come out and was doing extremely well) so even if the third still ended up not being contacted, everything wrapped up as nicely as possible at the end of Jackson Square Jazz.

I decided the main mystery plot of the book would have to do with the Cabildo Fire of 1988.

When Paul and I had first moved here, sometime within that first year we saw a documentary on our local PBS station (WYES, for the record, thanks for asking, you there in the back) about the Cabildo Fire. I can only imagine how the city reacted to the news that a fire had broken out in one of our most beautiful buildings and recognizable landmarks–especially given its proximity to the landmark of the city: St. Louis Cathedral, and on its other side, the Presbytere. The documentary focused on the remarkable methods the New Orleans Fire Department went to, not only to fight the fire and prevent its spread to other historic buildings nearby, but to preserve the contents of the inside. The Cabildo is the Louisiana State Museum, and it’s filled with all kinds of artifacts and art documenting the history of New Orleans and the Louisiana territory. They brought fire-fighting boats to the levee, and borrowed more from the Coast Guard. They began hosing down the buildings around the Cabildo so they’d be too wet for the fire to spread.

And firemen were sent inside to remove as much of the contents before they turned the hoses on the Cabildo itself.

They literally lined paintings, framed historic documents, and various other historical artifacts with a variety of values along the fence surrounding Jackson Square, delaying until they had no other choice but to turn the hoses onto the Cabildo.

How easy it would have been to walk off with something priceless in its historic value, I thought, thinking of Robin Cook’s marvelous Sphinx and its opening with the tomb of Tutankhamun being robbed before flashing forward to the present day where a young female Egyptologist happens upon a magnificent statue from antiquity; a golden statue of Pharaoh Seti I. I pictured another young woman, in an antiques shop in the Quarter, happening upon something that looks like an artifact lost during the Cabildo Fire (they saved over 80% of the museum’s contents, by the way), and decided upon the Louisiana Purchase treaty. I could also call the book Louisiana Purchase (which also is the name of the state’s food assistance program; you get a Louisiana Purchase card with an amount loaded onto it every month), and possibly weave something about a food assistance program scandal of some sort woven into it as well. I viewed this as a spin-off stand alone for my character Paige Tourneur from the Chanse series (I had always wanted to write about her), and I thought, you know, the Cabildo Fire and some McGuffin gone missing from the museum would make a great plot for the second Scotty book.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

And, being a dutiful writer, I contacted the administrative offices of the Louisiana State Museum and made an appointment to discuss my book and the fire with Executive Director Jim Sefcik.

And when I met with Jim, I discovered, to my great surprise, that not only had he been working there the day of the fire…it was his first day on the job.

“I was sitting in La Madeleine having coffee and a pastry,” he said (where Stanley is now used to be a La Madeleine; I used to get coffee there all the time during the Williams Festival), “when I heard a fire engine. I looked out the window and saw a firetruck pull up onto the pedestrian mall and stop in front of the Cabildo. As I thought that can’t be good another one pulled up from the other direction and THAT was when I saw the smoke.”

He gave all the credit to the fire chief for how everything was saved–“I just kept saying yes yes, whatever you think is best”–and I remember saying, “Well, at least you got it over with on your first day.”

He laughed, and replied, “Yes, now whenever there’s a crisis of any kind I just think well, at least the Cabildo isn’t on fire and that kind of puts things into perspective.”

He even gave me Polaroid snapshots of the aftermath of the fire; they’d scanned the originals long since to archive them. I just found them again Saturday when I was cleaning out cabinets, you can imagine my delight to stumble over them all these years later.

He also explained to me why the Louisiana Purchase treaty wouldn’t work as the MacGuffin (the original is stored in a vault at the Library of Congress; the display in the Cabildo is a copy and it is multiple pages long) and suggested the Napoleon death mask as a suitable alternative–even telling me a wonderful story about how the one in the Cabildo (there were four or five made) disappeared and then turned up in trash dump about thirty years later.

And he was right. It worked perfectly.

Danger is my middle name.

Okay, so that’s not strictly the truth. My middle name is Scott. But when you’re first name is Milton and you’re last name is Bradley, you’ve got to do something. Yes, that’s right, my name is Milton Bradley, and no, I’m not an heir to the toy empire. My parents, you see, are counter-culturalists who own a combination tobacco/coffee shop in the French Quarter.  They both come from old-line New Orleans society families; my mom was a Diderot, of the Garden District Diderots.  Mom and Dad fell in love when they were very young and began rebelling against the strict social strata they were born into. The Bradleys blame it all on my mom. The Diderots blame my dad.  My name came about because my older brother and sister were given what both families considered to be inappropriate names: Storm and Rain. According to my older brother, Mom and Dad had planned on naming me River Delta Bradley. Both families sat my parents down in a council of war and demanded that I not be named after either a geological feature or a force of nature. After hours of arguing and fighting, Mom finally agreed to give me a family name.

Unfortunately, they weren’t specific. So she named me Milton after her father and Scott, which was her mother’s maiden name. Hence, Milton Scott Bradley.

My older brother, Storm, started calling me Scotty when I was a kid because other kids were making fun of my name. Kids really are monsters, you know.  Being named Storm, he understood. My sister Rain started calling herself Rhonda when she was in high school. Our immediate family still calls her Rain, which drives her crazy. But then, that’s the kind of family we are.

So, yeah, danger really isn’t my middle name, but it might as well be. Before Labor Day weekend when I was twenty-nine, my life was pretty tame. I’m an ex-go-go boy; I used to tour with a group called Southern Knights. I retired from the troupe when I was twenty-five, and became a personal trainer/aerobics instructor. The hours were great, the pay was okay for the most part, and I really liked spending a lot of time in the gym. Every once in a while I would fill in dancing on the bar at the Pub, a gay bar on Bourbon Street, when one of their scheduled performers cancelled—if I needed the money. That Labor Day weekend, which is Southern Decadence here in New Orleans, I was looking forward to meeting some hot guys and picking up the rent money dancing on the bar. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be almost killed a couple of times or to have my apartment burn to the ground. I also didn’t expect to wind up as an undercover stripper for the FBI.

It’s a really long story.

The one good thing that came out of that weekend was I met a guy: Frank Sobieski, this mound of masculine, hard muscle with a scar on his cheek, who also happened to be a Fed. They don’t come any butcher than Frank. We hit it off pretty well, and he decided that once his twenty years with the FBI were up, he’d retire and move to New Orleans. I’ve always been a free agent. It’s not that I didn’t want to have a boyfriend, I just never thought I would find one. I enjoyed being single. I mean, young, single and gay in New Orleans is a lot of fun. It doesn’t hurt that people find me attractive, either. I’m about five nine, with wavy blondish hair that’s darker underneath. I wrestled in high school, mainly because the other kids were bullying me because they sensed I was gay. I’ve been working out ever since. Anyone who tells you being in shape doesn’t make a difference in your life is lying. It does.

But I needed a reason for the death mask-MacGuffin to come across Scotty’s path.

So, I turned back to the personal story of Scotty again.

It’s October now, been about five or six weeks since Labor Day and Halloween looms. There’s not been another word from Colin since the end of Bourbon Street Blues and Frank has put in for his retirement while he and Scotty are doing the long-distance thing; Scotty is finding it a bit restraining and having never really wanted or care about being in a relationship, is starting to have second thoughts about giving up his freedom. He has just come back from visiting Frank in DC and that visit has set his teeth on edge and made him even more nervous about Frank moving to New Orleans. David picks him up at the airport, hands him a joint, and Scotty goes on a bender…

…and wakes up with a massive hangover in bed the next morning, realizing to his horror that he is not in bed alone.

How relatable is that? I know I’ve been there more times than I care to remember.

And I realized, the trick is the key linking Scotty to said MacGuffin and the mystery, and as a big figure skating fan I decided to make him a figure skater, in town for Skate America. Scotty doesn’t know he’s a skater until he’s actually at the event and sees him warming up on the ice–and then he gets a note to meet him at his hotel room at the Hotel Aquitaine later that evening, along with the room’s key card–but Scotty shows up only to find a dead man with a knife in his chest.

This one was fun, and having Scotty’s weird ‘psychic’ power allow him to commune with the ghost of a long-dead fireman who knows the answer everyone is looking for was also a lot of fun. (I liked the concept of having Scotty and his mom go down to watch them fight the fire when he was a little boy.)

What a fun book this was to write!

I introduced a very fun Texas millionaire who collects things and doesn’t care how he acquires them (I even brought him back in Baton Rouge Bingo); was able to bring Colin back only to find out he’s not really a cat burglar but actually an international agent-for-hire working for the Blackledge Agency and thus created the “who will he wind up with” romantic triangle; and even had Scotty living in half of David’s shotgun while his home on Decatur Street was being rebuilt (which I had forgotten about until the skim-rereads and changes something with the new book). I also had Scotty get kidnapped again, and this book had the first of his many car accidents. It also contained Scotty’s first trip (in the series) to the West Bank.

One thing I forgot to mention when I was writing about Bourbon Street Blues the other day was how the series (books) were always intended to be insane and over-the-top*; always. The problem I always have with writing this series is stopping myself because something strains credulity and then I have to remind myself, “this series was always intended to be like New Orleans itself: completely unbelievable until experienced personally, and always over the top and ridiculous.”

Which is part of the fun, you know?

*For one example, Bryce Bell, the young skater, lands a quad-axel at Skate America. To put that in the proper perspective, to date no one had landed one competitively, although there’s a young American skater who can land them in practice….eighteen years later.

PS: When this book was released, I got asked a lot if I had posed for the cover; the same thing happened with Bourbon Street Blues; I was always apologizing for not being the cover model. With this book, I assumed it was the same thing…but later I realized they weren’t asking about the guy in front with this shirt open but the guy in back kissing his neck. At the time, I had a goatee and shaved head; this guy also has this and he does kind of look like me. What can I say?

Fall from Grace

Thursday, and one more day before the weekend. The weeks just seem to flit past these days–my birthday and Bouchercon will be upon us before we know it–and August is definitely here in New Orleans. It’s so weird, as though the weather somehow knows and thinks hey, it’s August–bet you thought it was ALREADY humid, didn’t you, New Orleans? WELL HOLD MY FUCKING BEER I WILL SHOW YOU HUMIDITY. My windshield kept fogging up all the way into work yesterday morning, and for some reason when I turned on the defroster to get rid of it, it never blew warm air, which is a concern. Sigh, that means another day off and another trip to the dealer on the West Bank (but the plus to that is either Sonic or Five Guys!), but I’ll figure all that out after Bouchercon in September. And who knows? It may have just been a quirk this morning or something, who knows? I really do wish my parents had let me take Auto Shop in high school.

I also wish I had a driveway so I could wash my car at home. But if wishes were horses….that would be a good title, methinks: If Wishes Were Horses.

Yesterday wasn’t so bad, really. I slept well on Tuesday night–at least far better than I had on Monday night, for sure–and so yesterday morning wasn’t the loss that Tuesday morning was. I hate those days after insomnia takes its inevitable toll on me physically and mentally; it’s the worst, frankly. I’ve also agreed to write another short story by the end of the year–if not two, but I am not sure about either, to be honest–and I think I probably already have things on hand that I can use for both, if I so chose. There’s also a submission call for stories based on Alice Cooper songs that sounds interesting–“Welcome to My Nightmare” is such an obvious choice for me, but I would imagine a lot of people would choose that one so if I am going to write something for this I want to be a bit more obscure with my song choice….although “School’s Out” could be really fun. Hmmmm.

I also finished the revision of “Solace in a Dying Hour.” I hope they like the changes I made, else I will soon find out otherwise. I am very pleased with the story–the editorial suggestions were absolutely 100% perfect; there’s nothing like editors who are worth their weight in gold, seriously–and now…I think I am all caught up and can focus solely on Mississippi River Mischief for the next few months. I do have some other stories to write over the course of writing the Scotty, as I mentioned above, but it’s always lovely when the things that are causing you stress–even if it’s only a small bit of stressful discomfort–are taken care of and out of the way. I really loved writing this story, though, and I hope people like it when the anthology is released. It’s my second-ever story about a Louisiana “urban legend”–the first was “Rougarou,” which was about a, well, a rougarou, aka a Cajun werewolf (“rougarou” is a Cajun bastardization of the French loup-garou)–and this time I wrote about le feu follet. Maybe someday that collection Monsters of Louisiana will actually come to fruition…

I did come straight home from work yesterday, and did a load of laundry and cleaned out the sink and ran the dishwasher. I also did some filing, but by the time I retired to my easy chair to relax, I was too tired to read and so I started watching things on Youtube before remembering there was a new episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I tuned into for awhile until Paul got home, and we switched over to Only Murders in the Building and Control Z before going to bed. I was dozing off in the chair during Control Z, which I am not really following–the plot has become incredibly insane, over the top, and hard to follow, let alone make sense of–before retiring for the evening. I think we have a fairly light clinic schedule today as well, which is always a lovely way to finish off my time in the clinic. Tomorrow morning I have a department meeting followed by the monkeypox training, which I am actually looking forward to–I did discover that I won’t be vaccinating anyone, but I am going to be trained on the virus and how it spreads and how to reduce risk for exposure and infection. (It was kind of a relief, frankly; I loathe needles and shots, and while I had come to accept that I needed to learn and it could help me get over my phobia of needles–like how doing finger-sticks every day got me over my squeamishness with blood–I am really glad, Constant Reader, that I won’t be doing it.)

I also seem to have slept really well last night, too, which is nice. I did wake up at three again–I’ve woken up at three every morning this week, which is peculiar–but was able to fall back asleep with ease and I feel pretty good this morning. Maybe not quite “I can conquer the world!” but something akin to that, methinks. I feel rested and alert, which is always a plus. I have a couple of errands to run today on the way home from work, and then I am hopefully going to be able to settle in for some Scotty writing.

One can hope, at any rate.

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

Nightbird

Tuesday and back to the office. Huzzah?

I guess. It doesn’t feel like I accomplished much this weekend, but that’s nothing new. I always feel like I should have done more when the weekend–especially a long one–has ended; but I am trying not to beat myself up as much over stuff like this as I used to. It’s not good for my mental health, for one–always a shaky thing at the best of times–and it’s counter-productive. I feel very strongly that one should never regret things–no regrets is kind of a mantra of mine–because regret is really a waste of time and energy. You can’t change it, after all. (I am not saying this rule should apply to everything–murder, for example–but for anything that isn’t a crime, you should have no regrets. All you can do is change the behavior and not repeat it if you feel regret but wallowing in the regret is counter-productive and kind of self-defeating. I think you get the point. I’ve not had enough coffee to be certain I am making the point properly.) I didn’t finish reading my book, I didn’t write nearly as much as I could have, and I certainly didn’t get the apartment as clean and organized as I would have preferred. But it’s also a short work week, we have a regular weekend coming up and then another three day holiday after that; and then I am off to Florida for Sleuthfest–which makes that an even shorter week than usual. And since yesterday was a holiday, I actually get to use my Friday as my work-at-home day of the week. Huzzah! That will be nice, and I have all kinds of things I can take home and do this Friday.

We finished watching The Defeated last night and it’s really quite good. It was originally released in 2020 and approved for a second season, but the pandemic interfered and it looks like they went into production sometime last year, but where is the second (and final) season? It’s really good–if you enjoy Babylon Berlin or have any interest in the second world war and it’s aftermath, you’ll really like this show.

Well, yesterday I ran my errands–Metairie and the North Shore–and after I was finished and heading back home, I realized something: you can actually tell where an area falls on the political landscape based on the length of the drive-thru line at a Chik-Fil-A. The one in Metairie on Veteran’s Boulevard yesterday, for example–was so long it backed out onto Veterans and was blocking a lane of traffic. No offense to right-wingers, but there’s really no fast food in the world good enough for me to sit in a drive-thru line that would take that long (although now it occurs to me that it could also be an indication of how slow the line moves, which again–no fast food is so fucking good that it’s worth waiting in line for a minimum of twenty minutes for).

It was exhausting, of course–the heat index was well over a hundred yesterday–but it was also a beautiful day for a drive across the lake. I used to loathe driving over the causeway bridge, and it’s still not a favorite thing for me to do (the five dollar toll to come back to the south shore doesn’t help; yes, it’s free to go to the north shore but you have to pay to come to the south; just like when the Crescent City Connection was a toll bridge going to the West Bank was free but you had to pay to come back to New Orleans), but I’ve adapted and can now relax (depending on the idiot drivers, of course; there are always a few) as I drive across and enjoy looking at the beautiful expanse of water. The bridge is twenty-four miles long, so you can reach a point where you can’t see land in any direction, like you’re out there in the middle of the water with no end to it in sight–I think that was what always used to bother me about driving across the bridge. The north shore is also actually quite beautiful, too–you really feel like you’re in the South on the North Shore, more so than on the south shore, where it feels like Louisiana, if that makes sense? (although it would make for an interesting thing to write about in a Scotty book, hmmm) I do wish I had more free time, because I would like to go exploring around the city a bit more–the north shore, the river and bayou parishes–but the cost of gas is also making such explorations prohibitive. Maybe over the 4th of July weekend I can head down to the river parishes….I kind of need to for this new Scotty book. Then again, I am inventing a parish out of my imagination, but it also doesn’t hurt to ground a fictional parish in reality, either.

And on that note, I need to head into the spice mines. Happy Tuesday and will chat at you again tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Sweet and Innocent

Well, that was a morning, was it not?

I took today off for appointments, and as is my usual wont, tried to cram in as many as possible on the same day to save paid time off. So far today I’ve been to the West Bank, the North Shore, and Metairie, but am now safely home and ready to kick it back and get to work on this massive to-do list I somehow have managed to avoid for most of the weekend. (I justified my utter and complete laziness this weekend on being home for the weekend and it being my first weekend at home after a trip; justification can always be found, frankly. I have a PhD in it, methinks, or at least should) But I feel relatively good, despite having to get up so early this morning for the trip to the West Bank (oil change at my dealership, before a trip out to the North Shore and…well, you already know the rest). I took along Eli Cranor’s stunning debut novel, Don’t Know Tough, to read in various waiting rooms, and it is actually a most marvelous read. I finished Marco Carocari’s Blackout over the weekend, which was also a lovely read, and we did a lot of binge-watching. We finished watching Why Didn’t They Ask Evans, which we rather enjoyed, and then moved on to get caught up on Servant, which is actually rather disturbing yet compulsively watchable.

I did manage to get some writing done this weekend–I really don’t know why it is like pulling teeth these days, but it is, and I guess I just have to learn how to live with that, really. I did have an easier time with the first draft of a first chapter that was more of a “let me try this, I’ve been thinking about this project for a really long time and since nothing else seems to be flowing, it can’t hurt…” but that’s not what I need to be worrying about at the moment, is it? I really need to get this short story finished, and I don’t know why I am having so much trouble with it here, to be honest. It’s got a great title, it’s an interesting idea, and I just have to get the tone and voice perfectly right for it to work…but I don’t know if I am having imposter syndrome symptoms or what, but this story has really been a struggle for me.

Who knows? Maybe now that I’ve admitted it publicly, maybe the story will start flowing when I get back to it today. One can certainly hope, at any rate…I’ve also been trying to write an entry about the fifth season of Elité, with little success. It is probably one of my favorite shows of all time–and after a disappointing fourth season, it was great seeing the writers and producers kick the show back into that high gear it operated under its first three seasons. Season 4, to give credit where it’s due, was not going to be an easy one to pull off; replacing the characters that left the show in the wake of Season 3 (Polo, Lu, Carla, and Nadia) wasn’t going to be easy, and the new characters were basically made the focal point of the show in season 4 when we didn’t really know much about them. I did give them a break–it’s hard to introduce so many new characters into a cast and integrate them into existing storylines while giving them their own–but it was still a bit disappointing. Season 5 spring-boarded off season 4, though, and much of the drama in the new season had its roots in the past season…but they did a much better job integrating the new characters–Ivan, Isadora, Cruz, and Balil–then they did the new characters in Season 4. (Okay, well, they kind of forgot about Balil in the final episodes–I don’t think we even saw him again after the body turned up in Episode 4, and Omar didn’t really have much of a story; so I am thinking he is one of those not returning for season 6)

But I will say this: episode 5 of season 5 of Elité has one of the most erotic and authentic gay sex scenes I’ve ever seen on television or in film; it’s almost borderline porn. It was so lovingly and beautifully shot; the soundtrack music was perfect; and it brought tears to my eyes. (Similar to the scene in It’s a Sin when the main character is about to bottom for the first time and his partner tells him he needs to wash up first–I laughed and got teary-eyed; both scenes will certainly be talked about should I ever teach another erotica writing class or workshop) I know, I know, I’ve been screaming to the clouds about Elité since we first started watching it way back in the Before Times.

Heavy heaving sigh.

And now I am going to head back into the spice mines and see if I can’t get a draft of that story finished today. Wish me luck, Constant Reader–I’ll let you know tomorrow how it went.

A Reason to Believe

Work at home Friday, and I actually slept in till seven! A whole extra hour! (Don’t think I didn’t wake up right at six in the morning, though…) It looks like a sunny April first out there–cannot believe it’s actually April already. It’s very strange to wake up on Friday morning and look at a normal weekend for the first time in a long time–one where there’s not a looming deadline hanging over my head, the Festivals are done for a year, and I can actually relax and try to get those odds-and-ends that have been hanging around that I never seem to be able to get around to taken care of–if I am lucky. We need to make a Costco run, and Scooter has to go in for bi-annual “senior kitty” check-up. I need to get my story worked on a bit too this weekend, and maybe I can shoehorn in some other writing as well. I also want to spend some time with that Chris Holm novel, knowing I will most likely be sucked into it and won’t get anything else done over the course of the weekend.

It happens.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was in a good mood and had energy most of the day–petering out as the day come to a close, as always–and left the office later than I usually do, resulting in the horror and frustration of being caught in rush hour CBD traffic on the way home. My office really is in probably one of the most inconvenient places in the city for me to get to; the old office on Frenchmen Street was only slightly easier to get to–but it still involved driving through both the CBD and the Quarter. Now that we’re further downtown, you’d think it would be easier–I live near an on-ramp to the highway system, and the office is right off the Claiborne exit on I-10 East; it can take me as little as five minutes to get there in the mornings (if I hit the lights properly, which never happens). But I can’t take the highway on the way home–because I have to use the I-10 interchange with Highway 90 to the West Bank (the twin spans) and the traffic is usually backed up almost all the way to the on-ramp at Claiborne Avenue), which is a nightmare all day every day, but is especially horrible in the later afternoon when everyone is getting off work. So I either take Claiborne Avenue all the way uptown to get the mail and make groceries on my way home, or I just take Claiborne to Orleans, head through Treme to the CBD on Loyola, turn onto Howard Avenue and that leads me to Tivoli Circle and St. Charles and BOOM I am home. Unfortunately, yesterday Loyola had a lane blocked by three streetcars that were just parked at the Poydras intersection (the absolute worst place, traffic wise) and as such, it was after five when I got home. I did some laundry, unpacked my backpack, and sank into my easy chair. Scooter climbed into my lap, cuddled and purred and fell asleep, and that was the end of that for all intents and purposes. I watched this week’s Superman and Lois–it really is a good show–and then switched over to Young Justice, which is incredibly well done; with each new episode I not only marvel at the storylines they’ve devised but the strong character building the writers manage, eventually going to bed around ten.

I am also hoping to return to the gym for the first time in a while. Yes, I will be heading out to Albuquerque next week, but I also can make it to the gym a few times before I do. I need to remember that I enjoy working out and that it feels good when I do. Plus, it’s lighter out later now, so I don’t have to walk there and back in the dark anymore. It’s not that I feel unsafe or anything, but walking around back streets in the neighborhood can sometimes be a bit on the creepy side; the problem of having a vivid imagination is that you can never really turn it off. Which is why I have files and files and files of book and novella and short story ideas…and keep having more every damned day. I had another great idea yesterday, in fact–well, I do like to believe all my ideas are brilliant, let’s be completely honest–which I dutifully made note of in my journal at work and expanded on it a bit for a couple of pages, but even as I closed the journal I thought, well, when precisely are you going to write this book, Gregalicious? Heavy heaving sigh. I do want to get a lot of writing done this year….and I need to stop beating myself up because my writing “muscles” are tired and need to rest for a bit.

It happens.

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

It’s Too Late

Thursday!

Fortunately last night’s horrible weather seemed to miss our neighborhood for the most part; I’m not seeing any news about storm damage or power outages in the metro area, so we must have dodged another bullet. It was supposed to come through the city around four; they closed the office and sent us to work from home remotely for the rest of the day. I think the thunderstorm got here around eight pm last night? That was when I heard the first thunder and the rain started. Better safe than sorry, of course, but weather scares that turn out to be nothing inevitably make people take future storm threats not as seriously, which becomes problematic over time–it’s why people don’t evacuate for hurricanes, for one thing–but it’s also a no-win situation for the weather forecasters. It’s their job to warn us and keep us safe from inclement weather, so they have to take potentially dangerous storms seriously. But when they’re wrong…people stop listening…and inevitably the time will come when they are right. After last week’s tornado on the West Bank/lower 9th/New Orleans East–and it was a big bad one–well, the possibility of a repeat is pretty fucking scary. And we don’t have basements or interior rooms in most of our houses–I don’t think there’s a basement anywhere in Orleans Parish–and all of the old houses here were built to stay cool in our miserably hot summers, so most don’t have a room anywhere inside that doesn’t have windows because that room would be unbearable pre-air conditioning.

Today is my last day in the office for the week, which is nice. I woke up super-early again this morning yet somehow feel incredibly well-rested; go figure. I was tense about the storm yesterday afternoon when I got home from the office, so I spent my work-at-home time making condom packs while watching the weather reports in my easy chair. I really need to get back to working on my story that I have due at the end of April; I am hoping the malaise will lift somewhat so I can get some writing done. After my work-at-home duties were completed, Paul and I watched the rest of season two of The Righteous Gemstones, which was quite enjoyable; this show doesn’t get near the attention it deserves. As I said yesterday, the corrupt televangelist has almost become a stereotype–like the closeted homophobic politician–but the show handles it very well; that weird line between having faith while at the same time a lot of human frailty.

I will have a lot to focus on this weekend to get done in preparation for my trip to Albuquerque next week; it’s my first ever trip to Left Coast Crime, which I am extremely excited about–this is my first really big event in years; it would have been the combined festivals of last weekend had I been able to actually go down, hang out and spend some time enjoying them. (I am still a little bitter about not having the time to actually enjoy the weekend, but the truth is it’s my own fault because I could have planned better and gotten the work I needed to get done finished long before the weekend; this is what happens when you procrastinate, Greg so remember this the next time you start convincing yourself you can push something to do back another day or so.) But I do think I can get some things done this weekend; the entire weekend looms before me with nothing really do or that must get done…so I should be able to have a nice relaxing weekend at home to get things done, to read, to write and clean and get my house in order so I can safely leave town next Thursday.

It’s so nice having Paul home at night again.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone.

Your Wonderful, Sweet Sweet Love

Well, last night was a bit intense there for a while.

Yes, we had really horrific weather events down here last evening. I was sitting in my easy chair, relaxing and watching episodes of Young Justice when my phone started blaring the emergency alert. I knew there was a chance of tornadoes because we were having high winds all day (another emergency alert) and thunderstorms would be moving in during the early night. Sure enough, the wind was howling and the rain was coming down in torrents and lightning was flashing–and then my phone emergency alert started going off. I immediately paused the show and switched over to Margaret Orr on WDSU (since Nash Roberts retired, Ms. Orr has been my go-to local weatherperson, and saw that the “tornadic” (a new word to me) storm was on the West Bank–and there was another, separate one entirely, on the North Shore. The location of this tornadic storm placed it pretty much directly across the river from my neighborhood–needless to say, a bit terrifying knowing it was literally that close–but the path the storm was following indicated it would probably jump the river just below the French Quarter, into either the Marigny, Bywater or lower 9th ward neighborhoods. (Even more scary–I know a lot of people in those neighborhoods, so of course I was scrolling through social media rapidly making sure my friends were all okay and worrying.) Then came the visual confirmation there was actually a tornado on the ground over there–and yes, know and love people over on the West Bank as well–and then it jumped the river into the lower 9th.

I grew up with tornadoes–they weren’t common but did happen in Chicago; but of course, five years in Kansas. My first thought was great there are no basements in southeastern Louisiana and second was fuck there’s really not even an interior place for me to huddle in this apartment if it comes here and third was acceptance: oh well, if it comes this way hope for the best.

Seriously, y’all. Major major yikes.

I know at least one person died in St. Bernard Parish (Chalmette/Arabi), and I’m not seeing any estimates on damage yet (haven’t done a deep dive) but I do remember I drove through the East on a trip out of town after the tornado there a few years ago and being horrified by what I was seeing (not on the level of the ‘disaster drives’ I took around the city when I returned after Katrina, but still pretty fucking horrible; Katrina’s a very high bar, after all). I know thousands are still without power this morning, and I’m not sure how this is going to affect my work day–I don’t know if there’s power at the building, for example, but I think I would have heard something by now–but I wouldn’t be surprised if my appointments have a rather high percentage of no-shows today.

The new book’s cover reveal was graciously hosted by none other than Dru Ann Love this morning; you can find it right here! I love this cover–the look on the cat’s face, based on Scooter, is absolutely perfect–and I am very excited about the new book. I am hopeful it will become a series–it was a one-book only deal, so hopefully it will continue. Huzzah!

I did manage to get quite a bit done yesterday, and was tired a bit when I got home last night so wasn’t able to get any reading or much else of anything done other than watching Live Justice and the second episode of Minx (I have some thoughts on this show, which I am enjoying but not sure if I should be, if that makes sense? But I will discuss that more at another time, and feel like I need to give the show a few more episodes before making up my mind one way or another; I will say that the thing I found problematic in the first episode was that the main character–whom I liked–was very much a 70’s feminist stereotype: humorless, strident, angry–not that they didn’t have every right to be, mind you, but I often find that this lazy stereotype inevitably leads to lazy character development: let’s watch as the uptight opinionated humorless feminist learns how to relax and shed the systemic misogyny training she received as a woman growing up when she did, and of course, being around a porn publisher and porn models…you see what I mean? I like the positive representation of porn and the people who work in it, but…maybe I am making more of this than I should. I don’t know) before of course the tornado alarm went off on my phone, which shifted everything for the rest of the evening.

Paul’s moving into the hotel today so I will also be home alone for until Sunday night or Monday morning. Sigh, Festival widowhood staring me in the face again.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely and safe day, Constant Reader!

You’ve Been So Wonderful To Me

Wednesday morning and hope today is better and there is more energy to be had for me today. Yesterday was a drag, in a lot of ways; I was mentally awake but also physically and intellectually drained, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. The one-two punch of turning in a book one week and a short story less than a week later bracketed around a out of town trip combined to kick my ass. I didn’t want to get up again this morning–I don’t think I will ever hear an alarm and cheerfully sit up, stretch and get up, fully awake and ready to go, once in my life. Which is fine, of course; some of us simply aren’t meant to be wrenched from sleep every morning before we are ready to get up. But I don’t feel as drained this morning as I did yesterday–which is a good sign as the sun rises over the West Bank (don’t ask. tl;dr: “West Bank” means west bank of the river, which doesn’t flow perfectly north and south). I was exhausted when I got off work last night; so exhausted that I couldn’t do much of anything other than watch Youtube documentaries about the Hapsburgs while Scooter purred in my lap. I am hoping (hopeful) that I will not be so tired today, and will be able to get some things done tonight when I get home.

I am very tired of being too tired to read, too.

I do have another story (!) to finish by the end of the month, but I think perhaps the best thing to do this week is let my creative batteries recharge so next week I can dive back into my writing. And yes, I am well aware that this could simply be my deeply engrained subconscious desire to be lazy justifying and excusing not doing any writing this week–but like I said, I am very tired and drained; and I don’t think this is subconscious so much as it is conscious. Parade season looms, and while I know we’ve been planning on skipping what will, for the most part, be a super-spreader event (crowds of people catching things thrown from strangers? No one masked? ) I cannot help but feel that it will be hard to NOT heed the siren song of the marching bands and walk to the corner “just to see.” I really did miss Parade Season last year; I love Carnival every year even as it exasperates and aggravates me at the same time. And I want to write more about Carnival…there’s another Scotty Carnival book in my head somewhere, and there’s the potential new series, too. And short stories! So many potential short stories…I think my creative batteries may be getting some charge stored up in them again, after all.

Huzzah!

It’s nice to start feeling like myself again–whenever the exhaustive malaise sets in, I always worry that this time it might be permanent which, of course, is an absolutely terrifying thought. I wonder if I will ever stop worrying about the ability or desire or need to write going away; I suppose once it finally does, if it ever does, that will be when I can be fairly certain that the end is drawing near. Well, there’s a cheery thought for a Wednesday morning, wasn’t it?

So, I have some clean-up stuff to do with another project this week–I should be finished with that part already, but what can I say? I’ve gotten far behind on everything while I was in “finish the book” mode; as I inevitably do, and of course playing catch-up is not my favorite thing to do–my emails alone are a Sisyphean task–but I am hoping if I can get everything on track this week and over this weekend, next week I can get back to possibly writing and getting organized for what I want to get done for the rest of this year. It’s kind of a surprise that it’s so late in the month already (Valentine’s Day is Monday!) and March is already looming, so I’ve really got to get my act together and start getting things in order. A Greg at rest can no longer stay at rest, no matter how much I want that to happen…and on that note, perhaps it is time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Hump Day, Constant Reader! Talk to you again tomorrow.

Something New Got Old

Saturday and tonight we will be in Death Valley, watching the LSU-Auburn game. Huzzah!

But that means a really long day ahead. The game isn’t until eight pm, which means we may not get out of the stadium and into the car before midnight, which will get me home around one thirty in the morning at the earliest. That is way past my bedtime, and could also prove incredibly problematic when it comes to having a productive day tomorrow, which is absolutely necessary. I slept deeply and well last night–Scooter woke me up for water around three, and for food again around six (and yes, I should have filled the food bowl at three but I was barely conscious; I’m surprised I even remember getting up to get him water at three)–and feel pretty rested this morning. I am debating as to whether I should make a grocery run today–I doubt I will feel up to it tomorrow–but looking at my grocery list, there’s really nothing that makes such a trip necessary, really; but I should probably go looking through my cabinets to be thorough before making any decision. For some reason lately running errands makes me tired; but that could be a combination of any number of other things, not just being sixty. It’s also not like the month of September (with the end of August added in for good measure) was an easy one, after all.

I had to get up really early yesterday to take my car to the West Bank for servicing–new air filters, and the tire with a slow, steady leak became the tire with a regular pretty quick leak–and it got all patched up and everything. I had ordered a new lap desk so I can use the laptop in my easy chair–the old one I bought while we were still living in the carriage house the first time; so it was pretty old–and the new one is pretty fancy–pockets and so forth, as well as a built in mousepad on the surface. Whether or not that means I will actually start using the laptop in my easy chair remains to be seen. I also want to move the ratty old one upstairs for use in bed; we do have a television in the bedroom we never use, and maybe having the lap desk will encourage me to work from the comfort of said bed. Anyway, I love my new lap desk, and can’t wait to try it out this morning (once I post this I am planning on moving to the easy chair).

I think I am going to have to make that grocery run today; might as well, and then I can get the mail and I also need to fill the tank with gas for the drive to Baton Rouge. And since I have to go out into the world today anyway…might as well get that odious chore out of the way.

I also made that “Mississippi roast” in the slow cooker yesterday; that recipe that keeps popping up everywhere you turn around, with people raving about it–the one that calls for a packet of au jus and a packet of ranch, with a stick of butter added to the top of the roast and no liquids added. I will fully confess I assumed it would be terribly bland (living in New Orleans and learning to cook Louisiana style has certainly spoiled me when it comes to flavor and spices and so forth–everywhere else’s food always seems terribly bland to me now) but I always follow the recipe the first time I make anything so I can see how it turns out, before starting to experiment every time after (I generally never make the same recipe the same way twice; I am always tweaking recipes but ironically never track the changes and adaptations, which means I can never repeat it if I find a perfect way to make something by experimenting). I am pleased to report that it actually tasted quite good as written; the only thing I might change the next time is to add mushrooms or perhaps small potatoes (although there really isn’t a lot of gravy; I think the potatoes would have to be added about half-way through, and the mushrooms with an hour left to go), and maybe–maybe–some white pepper and basil.

I really do love to cook.

I did read some more Velvet Was the Night while I was waiting at the dealership for the work on my car to be finished. I hope I’m not giving the impression that the book isn’t good, given how long it is taking me to finish it. That has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with an inability to focus. Yesterday at the dealership, I was really getting caught up in the story when they came to let me know the car was ready. I meant to get back to it last night after work, but Paul was home early and so we started watching our shows–getting caught up on Only Murders in the Building, Titans, Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and American Horror Story: Double Feature–and since there’s game all day today, we probably won’t get to Midnight Mass again until tomorrow. AHS wrapped up it’s odd story about the talent vampires in Provincetown, and so the second half of this season is the second feature, which apparently has to do with aliens in the Southern California desert, near Joshua Tree/Palm Springs area (I guess the Salton Sea was too much to hope for). It’s strange–with all four of the college student leads (including the guys, who are a young gay couple) winding up pregnant after an alien experience none of them remember; they just remember a bright light and all of them waking up in the car in different seats–but intriguing. I will be interested to see how this plays out, and if it goes off the rails as so many plots on this show tend to do.

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