Christmases When You Were Mine

And while technically Christmas season doesn’t really end until Twelfth Night (aka the twelfth day of Christmas), for most everyone it’s ended; the shredded wrapping paper trashed, ribbons and bows perhaps stashed aside for another use; boxes either broken down and recycled, or saved for use for the next time Christmas rolls around. Taking down decorations is something everyone seems to have their own traditions for; Paul and I left ours up our first year in New Orleans until the following July. I spent yesterday morning filing and organizing–discovering all kinds of treasures and ideas I’d allowed to fall by the wayside; a few months ago I counted how many short stories I had in progress and the truth is, I’d vastly undercounted, as I found ever so much more on hand yesterday morning. I found other research (some of it necessary, some of it interesting) that will come in enormously handy in the future. Perhaps people are correct when they talk about me being prolific; discovery of these stories and research certainly gives proof to that. (I must say, it was delightful to find myself looking at the files for “The Blues Before Dawn” and “One Night at Brandy’s Lounge” and “Waking the Saints” and “Malevolence” and “Getting Rid of Roger”–stories with great openings and potential that I had set aside and forgotten about as my nimble mind continued to leap around like a child’s that is in desperate need of Adderall. I also discovered folders for book ideas like Kansas Lonesome and Where the Boys Die and The Kissing Bridge…and that’s not even scratching the surface of the research that I found.)

I also discovered folders for Scotty books to come–Congo Square Conga and River Parish Rhumba and Hollywood South Hustle…and that’s on top of the three in the front of my mind, French Quarter Flambeaux and Lake Shore Limbo and Redneck Riviera Rhumba (oops, looks like I’ve got two rhumbas, and that just won’t do, will it?). I also found an idea for a Colin book that is completely different than the one i’ve been thinking about over the last year or so, and several other ideas. My word, I really need to harness my creativity, don’t I, and I really do need to go through the files every quarter or so, just so I can remember some of these fairly decent-and workable, usable–ideas.

So, we watched Wonder Woman 1984, and no, it wasn’t as good or as enjoyable as the original. I did think, a few times, “this would look amazing on a big screen”, but about twenty minutes or so into the film, I told myself, stop expecting it to make sense and just enjoy it without thinking, which is what they apparently want all of us to do, and so by shutting off my mind, I was able to enjoy it maybe a bit more than other people did. Was there problems with it? Absolutely: “of course i can fly a 1984 era fighter jet! So what if all my experience is with circa-1917 era prop planes?” And since when has a 1984 era fighter jet had the fuel capacity to fly to Cairo and back from Washington–and didn’t they steal the plane? And flying the jet through the fireworks? I actually said out loud, “is it safe to fly a jet through things that are exploding? And wouldn’t the jet have fucked up the fireworks?” Visually, that scene was quite beautiful–one of those “on a big screen” things–but…and while I also get the desire to have Chris Pine/Steve Trevor return, the way they did it made little to no sense, and I may have literally rolled my eyes when I realized what the central plot was going to be: an ancient stone that grants wishes? Really? I mean…if they were looking for a plot to symbolize that this was a super-hero movie from the 1980’s, putting the entire world in jeopardy is the kind of thing they used to do in those rare super-hero movies from the time–I’m looking at the Christopher Reeve Superman movies–but other than that, there really was very little that made this a “1984” movie–music, costumes, etc. It was a mess of a movie–I got bored from time to time–but it was a mildly entertaining diversion….afterward, inspired by seeing Lynda Carter, we watched the original pilot for her Wonder Woman series from the 1970’s, which completely leaned into the idea that it was a comic book television show, and went the old Batman route. I was also rather surprised to see what a star-studded cast they came up with for the pilot as well–Red Buttons, Carl Reiner, Stella Stevens, and Cloris Leachman, among others–and they even went with little caption boxes, like the comic books had–“Secret Nazi base”, “top secret US base”, etc. Never once in this movie is there a moment like the No Man’s Land scene in the original, which literally brought up goosebumps and tears to my eyes when I was sitting in the theater watching….it’s like they forgot all the things that made the first film so special and that the audience connected to, and kept the stuff people had problems with and then amplified them. About the most 1984 thing about the movie was the threat of nuclear annihilation–something that was very much on our minds back in the 1980’s, not to mention the Cold War, which was only glancingly mentioned and probably should have been the driving force of the movie. The heart of the first movie was the clearly delineated line between the evil of the Germans and the “goodness” of the Allies; the key to this movie–and had it actually been made in 1984–the villains should have been Soviets. By skating around the what was truly the most important ideological divide in the world at the time the film was set, they undermined the film itself.

After the Wonder Woman double feature, we watched Let Them All Talk, the Netflix movie starring Meryl Streep as an author and Dianne Weist and Candace Bergen as her two best friends from college, reuniting on an Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 so the Streep character can accept a distinguished literary award in England. While it had some very interesting things to say about writers and writing, it never really took off because the cast really never did anything more than sit around and talk about things, and there were no real emotional pay-offs. How can you have these three powerhouse actresses in the same film and then give them so very little to work with? They were all fine, but maybe a little flat–which has a lot to do with the direction and the script.

Needless to say, I did no writing over the last two days, and of course now realize I have fucked up completely the working time-line I had created in my head to see me through to the end of the book. Today I have to run errands, and I should go to the gym, but I also need to focus and get back to writing the book. In fact, probably once I’m finished here, I will take the laptop with me to my easy chair, grab my lap desk, and then start revising away. I’ve been waking up early these last couple of days, and while I am most pleased with the organizing and filing I managed to get done yesterday–all those stories in progress I’d forgotten, all those ideas moldering in the back of my mind–I do regret the laziness of not writing anything yesterday. But by the time I was finished with everything it was already mid-afternoon, and there really wasn’t much choice at that time. That also needed to be done, so I shouldn’t regret the loss of writing time, but I also am not going to be berating myself over.

I also forgot the Saints played yesterday, just assuming the game would be Sunday. Oops.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines while leaving you with one last, past the actual day Christmas hunk. Have a lovely 26th, everyone.

Fooled Around and Fell in Love

It’s Sunday morning in New Orleans and I am already awake and swilling coffee. It looks kind of gray outside my windows this morning. The sun is trying to come out from behind the cloud cover so I don’t think today is going to be one of those rainy days like yesterday, but it’s kind of nice. The humidity has returned–Friday was miserable–and it’s only May. The true dog days are yet to be upon us. Heavy heaving sigh.

Yesterday I was moving stuff around, trying to lessen the appearance of clutter as well as to figure out where to put all the extra paper towels (thank you, Costco!) and put the things I was moving into places that I would remember when I discovered a copy of the first anthology I ever published a short story in, released way back in August of 2000: Men for All Seasons, edited by Jesse Grant, and from Alyson Books. It’s an erotic story, of course; my first two published short stories were erotica an d I don’t think I published a story that wasn’t erotica until “Smalltown Boy” in Rebel Yell 2, several years later. It was also interesting to look at the table of contents and see that my original by-line for fiction was Gregory Herren, not Greg; I do think I switched to Greg for the second story that was published that same month in Men magazine. Going through the list of contributors, I was struck by how many of those writers are no longer writing–or if they are, they aren’t using their “erotica” pen names anymore.

Back in the day, if you worked really hard you could make a lovely little income writing gay erotica. I was paid $300 for the story in Men; I published a second story there a few years later for the same pay. I think I got $75 for the story in Men for All Seasons. I started writing erotica primarily as a lark; Alyson’s publicist advised me to start writing short fiction for their anthologies, primarily for the publication credits and the money, as well as to make my name better known and more familiar to the Alyson editorial staff. He was right; Alyson wound up buying my first novel Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and I stayed with Alyson for the first five Chanse books, as well as several erotica anthologies I edited for them. I always called myself “an accidental pornographer” because it wasn’t anything I’d ever wanted to do, but the money was nice and the books actually did very well. But now…now there’s no market for actual gay erotica. Anthologies don’t sell and so no one is doing them anymore; the only market for erotica is novels, and reality is most of those are written now by straight women for other straight women, and that’s not the kind of erotica I write. (This is not to say straight women cannot write gay erotica geared toward gay men; in my editing days I worked with a lot of straight women who wrote horny, nasty, raunchy men on men erotica and you’d never know the author was a woman.) But the women who like to read the m/m stuff don’t like the erotica I write, and so I don’t really write it anymore.  I don’t miss it, to be honest–there are only so many ways to write about male on male sex originally, only so many words–and I even at one time wrote a column for the Erotica Writers Association on how to write good porn. I think my favorite column title was “Sometimes A Cock Is Just A Cock.”

I didn’t do much writing yesterday–actual physical writing–but I did do a lot of thinking and rehashing and going over my notes for the WIP. I doubt very seriously I will get as caught up as I had wanted to get this weekend, but you know, that’s just how it goes sometimes. Today is May the 5th, and I am going to dig into Chapter Six again in just a moment, with the hopes that Chapters 7, 8 and 9 will fall into place as I go…and then maybe I can start with Chapter Ten. I got so far off track with this WIP that I don’t really remember the story I was trying to tell in the first place, which is terrible–my memory, once so incredibly dependable I didn’t really need to take notes, in now completely unreliable. Part of the reason I decided to go back and redo the chapters I’d already written was to get myself immersed back into the story, get a feel for the characters, and maybe find the flaws and mistakes and holes in the plot. I’ve managed some of that, of course, which makes it all worthwhile, and I did find the outline for Chapter Ten in my journal (which I’d completely forgotten I’d written down), so yes, not actually spending time at the keyboard yesterday while actually simply reviewing notes and rereading things was a pretty smart thing to do.

Going through the current and previous journal also reminded me of some short story ideas I’d had that had somehow slipped, unbidden, from my memory. I also managed to page through The Gulf by Jack E. Davis yesterday, and I believe it will be a rich source of ideas and materials for me to write another book–my spring break murders novel, Where the Boys Die–and many others. Nonfiction is a great source of material for fiction, in case you were wondering.

And now I am going to sign off with this entry as I have another, Game of Thrones specific one I started yesterday that I would like to finish this morning.

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Love Machine

Ah, Monday of the week that ends with the tenting and the Weekend o’Festivals. Just thinking about getting through this week and this weekend makes me tired. Very tired.

We started moving perishables and other things that could be poisoned by the termite gas over to the carriage house yesterday; even as we did so, I kept remembering and finding more things that need to go over there. I’ve never experienced termite genocide before, that oh-so-uniquely New Orleans experience that so many others have before multiple times. It’s got me thinking about the possibility of murder by termite tent, of course–although I am pretty certain I’ve read a book where that happened, I think it was by Elaine Viets.

Murder-a-Go-Go’s officially releases today as well, so those who preordered it should be getting it delivered to your electronic reading devices and those who ordered hard-copies should be getting them soon. Huzzah! I love book birthdays; my own for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is soon to come; April 10th, officially. Order, order, order! And don’t forget, the first ever Chanse MacLeod short story is in this book!

I reread my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s again yesterday, primarily because another idea came to me yesterday, which I shared on social media: Someone really needs to write a spring break noir called WHERE THE BOYS DIE and I would read the hell out of that. I do think that’s a terrific idea; is there any better setting for a noir than a small beach town taken over by tens of thousands of partying college students? (I also had another idea for a book, based on an actual brutal murder that took place over spring break several decades ago; hat tip to Scott Heim for reminding me of that murder) I had always wanted to do one over the course of Southern Decadence weekend as well; I still might do that one. Anyway, I’m digressing. So, on my post about Where the Boys Die some suggested I write it, others that it sounded like an anthology, and then Jessica Laine said, you already wrote this story for MURDER-A-GO-GO’S, and I loved your story. 

The thing about being a writer is that all-too-often you don’t remember things about your work once it’s finished. “This Town,” my story for Murder-a-Go-Go’s, is one of my favorite stories that I’ve ever written, to be honest; I think it’s also one of my best. But, when I read Kristopher Zgorski’s lovely review and he singled out my story as one of many for individual praise, and then seeing Jessica’s lovely comment, I decided I should probably reread the story since my recollection of what I actually wrote was so vague…and there it was. Constant Reader, it’s good. I then pulled up my story “Neighborhood Alert,” which is going to be published in Mystery Tribune, and it, too, is good. This was revelatory for me; as I may have mentioned, another story of mine was recently rejected by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and that had, of course, put me into a bit of a tailspin as far as my writing of short stories was concerned…astonishing at how easy it is to have one’s confidence in one’s own work shattered, isn’t it?

And that also got me to thinking about the second Chanse short story, “Once a Tiger,” that has tragically been stalled for so long. Short stories are actually more intimate than novels; in that you have much less space to develop a story and less room for characters so it has to be scaled back some. “Once a Tiger” is struggling because, quite simply, there are too many characters in it; how does one investigate a death at a fraternity house on a college campus when there would have to be well over a hundred brothers and pledges? That was where I struggled with the story; even the police would have trouble sorting all of this out, so imagine the trouble Chanse would have with it, working alone as he does. I still want to write a murder mystery set at Chanse’s LSU fraternity, where Chanse has to come back and solve the crime, but I just don’t–at the moment–see how that can be done as a short story. Maybe now that I’ve said that it will come to me–just like the other day, how to weave the two plots for the next Scotty book came to me from out of nowhere.

I love when that happens.

And now back to the spice mines.

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