Long Distance Winner

Wednesday and I got the copy edits done! Woo-hoo!

I honestly don’t know why I am so weird about edits and so forth. Both my editorial letter and the copy edits this time around were practically nothing–incredibly easy fixes that literally required very little thought or effort– yet in each and every instance I put off doing them because I was just so goddamned sure that navigating them would be a nightmare. But now I can finally put A Streetcar Named Murder into the “finished” folder (I will still have to proof pages, of course, but for all intents and purposes this manuscript is pretty much finished; I won’t be working in Microsoft Word on it anymore and so I can close the file) and give all my attention to the things I am working on now. I need to get through the copy edits on the Bouchercon anthology and I need to edit/polish a short story this week before submitting it for an anthology call that is due this coming Friday.

I had to run an errand last night–which required me going into Mid-city during rush hour (the horror of it all!) before coming home. It actually didn’t turn out too badly; I took the highway and got there in no time at all, and it was shockingly easy to get home as well. There was some massive rain in uptown yesterday–it sprinkled at the office–and I could tell there had been flooding in my neighborhood. I suspect our street–which has only flooded once in the nineteen years we’ve lived there–is going to flood more in the future since the hideous condo building went up over two empty lots (where the water used to spread out; something I think is going to continue to be problematic for the entire city as our green spaces and empty lots disappear because there’s money to be made in real estate why should anyone be concerned about flooding in a city below sea level?) on my block…I really need to finish that story about killing a greedy real estate contractor, don’t I?

But in the wake of finishing the copy edits of my book (huzzah!) I am now trying to figure out what I need to get done next and how to best utilize my time. My new glasses have arrived, so I can go pick those up on Friday (I am taking the day off to do that and some other things that need doing) and I get to pick out a new, more current author photo. Sleuthfest gave us the option to pay to have new headshots done, and as little as I wanted to do this…I also recognized my black-and-white author photo is from 2008 and the one of me with the stacks of books is from 2014 or so. I mean, I look the same as I did then–if not as thin, at any rate–but some of these photos are good. and I’m also getting to the point in life where I just don’t care that much anymore. I spent so much of my life worrying about how I looked–the curse of vanity coupled with insecurity–and how my body appeared that it’s rather freeing to not really be so concerned about it anymore as I used to be. I don’t know if the insecurity was put to rest by getting older, or whether the vanity fell by the wayside, or some combination of the two, but now I want to get back to the gym not because of the cosmetic effect but to make my muscles and body feel better; I definitely need to get stretched out at some point. I just wish I had a dedicated open space in the Lost Apartment where I can sit on the floor and stretch everything.

Someday.

We continued watching Stranger Things last night, which we are really enjoying–but I could do without the Russian subplot, quite frankly. It’s weird seeing how much older the kids have gotten since that first season, but time waits for no one. I do enjoy my 1980’s nostalgia, even if it was a hellish decade and one that on a personal level I would love to completely forget like it never happened, but I still like a lot of the cultural stuff from that decade–music, books, movies, television shows, etc–but I don’t know that I would ever write anything set during that time period. I have lots of ideas for stuff set in the 1970’s–I gravitate toward that decade, methinks, because it was so formative and it was my adolescence for the most part–and “Never Kiss a Stranger” is even a 1990’s story…but it never crosses my mind to write anything about the 1980’s. The decade simply doesn’t inspire me, and I am sure a lot of that is me not wanting to revisit the personal angst I went through then. (I have been thinking a lot about my novella “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” which is a Corinth County story and is set in the 1970’s lately, as well as my 1970’s Chicago suburbs story Where the Boys Die, which is a great title but I don’t think I want to use it for this particular story, to be honest; but it’ll do as a working title because, as we all know, I cannot write anything if it’s not titled.)

But I am looking forward now to getting back in the saddle and writing again. Mississippi River Mischief is developing nicely in my head; another project I am working on is also starting to coalesce, and I need to plan out the next few chapters of Chlorine. Feeling pretty good about things–I assume that will last about another hour.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Wild Heart

I can’t remember where or when I had this conversation, but I do remember once asking Megan Abbott that “is there anything more noir than the suburbs?” I know it had to do with her brilliant novel The End of Everything, but I don’t remember if it was a bar conversation or if we were on a panel or what. I spent four and a half years living in an actual suburb when I was growing up–grades six through sophomore in high school–and while my family has always been loners (not getting involved in neighborhood groups, barely knowing the neighbors, keeping mostly to ourselves), so we didn’t get the full experience of the cattiness, the bitchiness, or the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that are such a rich mine for crime fiction.

On the other hand, we really couldn’t keep up with the Joneses. In our suburb, we were on the lower end of the economic scale than most of the kids my sister and I went to school with, and the longer we lived there, the higher that economic scale continued to go. And there was a lot of strangeness in our suburb–I really do need to write Where the Boys Die and You’re No Good, the two books based on the suburb in which we lived–murders and drugs and undoubtedly affairs and so forth. A famous wife-killer was from our suburb, Drew Peterson. When I was a freshman in high school a junior boy and his girlfriend–a senior–murdered someone over drugs.

And that doesn’t take into consideration all the crimes that were probably going on at the time that no one thought anything about–date rapes and sexual assaults, child abuse, etc.–because nobody talked about them (I found out, for example, that one of my classmates–someone I knew and liked an awful lot–was being sexually and emotionally abused by her father; I never knew until about twenty years later).

Yikes.

Tara Laskowski’s second novel (and Anthony Award finalist!) The Mother Next Door is more evidence that I was right about suburbs being a dark place.

The moms were having a party. I watched from across the street, through my living room window, as aI ate my dinner of chicken piccata on the couch, sipping a hefty glass of merlot.

At dusk, they arrived one by one from the houses around the cul-de-sac, the glow of their phones like fireflies in the dying light. Dressed stylish but casual, ponytails and makeup, jeans and heels.

Viciously, effortlessly powerful.

The blonde mom was hosting. The one I’d noticed walking an oversize dog around the cul-de-sac, cell phone to her ear. She seemed to know everyone, always paused by one porch or another while her dog sniffed in the grass. Yes, my new neighbors were social butterflies. I observed their fluttering hugs as they converged in front of the house. My view inside was limited–a hallway beyond the screen door, painted red, like the inside of a mouth, and at the end, the corner of a giant island in the center of the kitchen where I imagined they set their Tupperware trays and booze.

The Mother Next Door is set in a toney, elite suburb of the Washington DC metro area known as Ivy Woods. Our primary point-of-view character, Theresa, has just moved into a lovely cul-de-sac with her daughter and her husband of a year, who has been hired as principal at Woodard High School–a very top level school, which makes Theresa an appealing target for friendship by the highly competitive moms at the school. Theresa went to college locally, and is now returning, using her connection to one of her professors–they had an affair when she was a student–whose father is school superintendent, to land her husband his job. Theresa has a secret–as do the other four moms who live around the same cul-de-sac–known as the Ivy Five (although there were only four until Theresa moved in and became one of them). Theresa trying to negotiate this strange new world for herself–as well as keeping her secrets, always afraid someone else in the group is going to stumble over one of them.

But the other moms also are hiding a terrible secret–one alluded to in emails and private messages from a mysterious account called “Ivy Woods”–making threats to expose them all and “what they did.” Halloween is approaching, and the Ivy Five are very well known for their massive Halloween block party…so as they try to figure out costumes and decorations, they are also trying to figure out who they can trust, who they can’t, and who could possibly know all their secrets. Our other point of view character is Kendra, the alpha of the group (think Madeline from Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, which this reminded me of a lot), with her great job, her ruthless efficiency, and her mad organizing skills.

There’s also an urban legend about the woods behind their houses–Ghost Girl, who fell to her death from a bridge over a railroad track and who now haunts the woods at Halloween, the night she died.

It’s quite the concoction Laskowski has pulled off here, and the way she manages to humanize all of her characters–despite their weaknesses and their really (in some cases) deep flaws–makes the reader engage with and care about them, and the deeper you get into the book, the harder it is to put it down for even just a moment to get something to drink or to go to the bathroom.

Highly recommended.

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me

I’ve always considered myself to be a child of the seventies.

Sure, I was a child for during the sixties, but I turned nine in 1970. While I am sure that turbulent decade provided some (a lot of) influences on me, my personality, my likes/dislikes, and my future, I am equally confident that my values and thoughts and beliefs probably weren’t as shaped from that turbulent decade as they were by the 1970’s. The seventies are really the first decade for which I have a lot of recall (recently, a friend was amazed that I remembered those horrible Rag City Blues jeans for women that were, for some reason beyond my thought processes, popular in the latter part of the decade; what can I say–I do remember the decade fairly well for the most part–or at least as far as my memory can be trusted). I’ve always wanted to write books either set in the seventies completely or even partly; Where the Boys Die, my 70’s suburban Chicago novel, keeps pushing its way to the forefront of my increasingly crowded (and clouded) mind. (NO I AM WRITING CHLORINE NEXT WAIT YOUR TURN)

I remember Watergate and how the scandal grew. I remember the 1972 landslide reelection of Nixon, and the country’s negative reaction to the Ford pardon of the man who brought him to power; I also remember Jimmy Carter running for president out of seemingly nowhere and getting elected. There was The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family and Archie Bunker and Mary Richards; Sonny and Cher and Carol Burnett and Donny and Marie and the Jackson 5 and Grand Funk Railroad. Top Forty radio ruled the AM airwaves; not every car came equipped with FM capabilities, and the only way you could play your own music in your car was with an eight-track player. I started the decade reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators; by the end of the decade I was reading John D. MacDonald and Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins. It was a very weird decade…of odd color and fashion choices; avocado greens and browns and American cheese orange were ridiculously popular, as was shag carpeting, velour, clingy polyester shirts, corduroys, bell bottoms and slogan T-shirts. Baseball shirts and rugby sweaters also became popular later in the decade. People had feathered hair parted in the center, and there was this weird sense of, I don’t know, missing out? Movies were grittier, harsher, more realistic; actors went from the polished shine of the old Hollywood system glamour to warts-and-all realism. Television was also beginning to change but was still heavily censored. Boogie and truckin’ and shake your booty became part of the vernacular; the decade began with the break-up of the Beatles and ended with disco’s last gasps while new wave and punk and rap started their rise.

It was the decade I went through puberty and realized that I was attracted to other boys instead of girls; I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but definitely found out in the seventh grade it meant I was a faggot, fairy, queer, cocksucker, and all those other lovely words that were burned into my brain that year. It was the decade where I read Harold Robbins’ Dreams Die First (a truly execrable novel) over and over again because the main character had sex with both men and women, and if I am not mistaken, contained the first male-on-male sex scene I’d ever read (oral); it was also the decade where we moved from Chicago to the suburbs to the cornfields of Kansas and I graduated from high school. (Ironically, it was in Kansas that I discovered gay books with explicit gay sex scenes in them–the News Depot on Commercial Street not only carried The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren and her other novels, but also Gordon Merrick; and their magazine racks also had gay porn magazines–which, now that I think about it, meant there were others there in Lyon County and environs; I didn’t realize it at the time, of course.) It was when Norah Lofts’ The Lute Player made me aware that Richard the Lion-Hearted was like me, too; and Susan Howatch’s Cashelmara and Penmarric also had gay characters and plots involving them…

I’ve always thought the seventies was a much more important decade than ever given credit for; usually it is merely considered a connecting time from the 60’s to the 80’s…but almost everything that came after–socially, politically, culturally–got started in the seventies. So I was glad to see this book about that frequently dismissed time.

As I mentioned previously, the Seventies were turbulent; they were the decade that also saw the beginning of the end of the post-war economic/prosperity bubble. Gas shortages, skyrocketing inflation, and the insidious use of racism to break the Democratic coalition began–everything we find ourselves dealing with today had its roots in the Seventies–and it did seem, to those of us growing up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, that the world had lost its mind and our country (or rather, its mythology) had lost its way. Schulman’s study of the decade, breaking down how the shifts in culture, politics, and our society began, were exploited for divisive purposes, and permanently changed attitudes moving forward was a fascinating, if chilling, read. I remember the terrorist attacks. I remember watching the Munich Olympics that ended in bloodshed on an airport runway and murdered Israeli athletes. The book brought back a lot of memories; I am not so sure I agree with all of Schulman’s assertions about the decade–there certainly wasn’t very much about the burgeoning gay rights movement, other than how it chased lesbians off into the Women’s Movement–but it was interesting to read the book and relive the decade a bit, as well as the memories it triggered.

I do highly recommend this book for people who weren’t around for the Seventies and might be wondering how the fuck did we end up in this current mess?

Joy To The World

The day after Christmas is always a bit on the weird side.

I decided to take yesterday off from the world, not looking at emails or social media or even trying to work. I mean, it was Christmas, and yes, I am behind on everything but sometimes recharging is necessary and needed and shouldn’t be questioned. Paul got me some lovely gifts, which was nice, and I made pulled turkey breast for dinner. We spent a lovely day basically hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company, which is all anyone can really ask for Christmas. Of course, that means I need to make up for yesterday today with the writing and the spice mines and I have to go back to work tomorrow (another short week, though, which is kind of nice); heavy heaving sigh. But the year is winding down and before you know it, it will be 2022; one week from today will be the second of the new year. Very weird, very weird indeed.

But while i may not have been typing words to put on paper, I was thinking about the book some more, and I have a very good idea of the proper direction to take it, so today when I get cracking (after getting properly caffeinated, of course) I should be able to bang out some work on it. I also was thinking about some other things–whenever I let my mind wander creatively, it’s never just about the current project; I just let it go in the directions it wants to go rather than where I want it to go, which is probably why I have so many folders filled with ideas and partials and incomplete things–but I also find that trying to rein in my creativity and focus it when it’s free-styling is inevitably a mistake because it just doesn’t work that way, alas; any attempt to control it inevitably means shutting it down completely. So while it can be tiring as my mind pinballs from bumper to bumper and flipper to flipper, sometimes it comes up with some serious gold, and therefore it’s all worthwhile.

Or at least so I think. I can never be completely sure, you know. I am rarely, if ever, the best judge of my own ideas and work.

But I am looking forward to diving back into the book this morning, and cleaning up the mess I left behind in my kitchen while preparing dinner last night. I am probably going to make sautéed shrimp tonight to serve over baked potatoes–a highly fattening dish I save for rare occasions (the recipe calls for bacon grease, butter, and heavy cream, in case you were wondering) and post-Christmas sort of sounds like the right night for that to be happening. Not sure what I will do for New Year’s next weekend–although I strongly suspect we will be finished OG Gossip Girl at long last by the end of that weekend. We are well onto season five now, with only season six’s half-season left when we finish out this one–and then we’ll have to go looking for something new to binge-watch. (We also have some shows to finish watching–The Sinner, for one, and of course there are some new shows that dropped while we were indulging ourselves in Gossip Girl) I also want to finish reading Vivien Chien’s book–I’m enjoying it a lot, but for whatever reason right now I am not in a reading phase, which is bitterly disappointing, but I am sure it also has to do with home-stretching the new manuscript–and I also found some more I need to put back in the TBR pile as I cleaned out a box of books from the storage space (I am still looking for those old journals, by the way; I want them for “Never Kiss a Stranger” research because those journals include the time period when I first began visiting New Orleans, and I’d like to remember things I’ve probably lost to the mists of time and old age that stand out from that time period; like trying to remember songs that played in the gay bars at that time since my character works in one).

It really does bother me that I have literally no idea where I stored those journals. I remember finding them, and I cannot believe I just put them back into a box and away again.

Which wasn’t really very smart of me. I know I didn’t want to go through them at the time–I really rarely enjoy revisiting old diaries and so forth because it’s more than a little embarrassing to read how immature I was, or how easily my feelings were hurt–in other words, what a drama fucking queen I used to be back in the day; but I wrote all those things down, at the very least, to try to process the feelings and why I felt the way I did without ever admitting things that I didn’t want to admit to myself were true; self-deception used to be a major factor in life, and essentially seeing how I deluded myself into thinking things isn’t exactly highly appealing to me at this time (or any time, for that matter)…but it would also be interesting to take a look at ideas I had for stories and books from back then; music I was liking and listening to; and of course my dreams that were expressed on those pages; even the books I was reading at the time.

And isn’t that always the way, really?

I also started, the other day, going through my old blog entries from earlier this year to remember what I was reading and what I was watching. I don’t really see much point in making a list of favorite reads and watches from the year; I would inevitably forget something that I really enjoyed, and it was a year of truly terrific reading for me. I read a lot of great books this past year, and we watched a lot of great television shows as well. It’s also an interesting journey is seeing what books I wanted to write this past year and never got around to doing; I never finished writing Chlorine’s first draft, or Where the Boys Die, or a new Scotty (the idea for which switched around an awful lot during the year, I might add; going from Twelfth Night Knavery to French Quarter Flambeaux to Mississippi River Mischief over the course of the second year of a pandemic) and so many short stories thought up and begun yet never finished…this, you see, is why I scoff when people say I’m prolific; there are so many pieces I’ve started writing but have never finished.

And on that note, I should probably head back into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Boxing Day or day after Christmas or Sunday or whatever meaning you might have assigned to this day.

Sunday Girl

Sunday morning and feeling somewhat fine. I need to pack today–I can even go ahead and load up the car once I finish, so tomorrow I can just walk out there, put the keys in the ignition, start playing Foundation on my phone, and hit the road–and I also need to get a lot done today so I can not worry so much about being out of pocket for most of the day tomorrow. I downloaded Donna Andrews’ The Falcon Always Wings Twice for the drive home, and have created a shorter playlist for Spotify to listen to once the books have finished–I should have about an hour or two left on the road once both books are finished each way.

Yesterday was a very strange day in college football. LSU–after almost pulling off upsets of Alabama and Arkansas in back to back weeks–struggled against UL-Monroe; Auburn lost to South Carolina; Florida lost to Missouri; Ohio State humiliated Michigan State; Utah not only handed Oregon a loss but a decisive, embarrassing one; and on and on. This has been a truly weird season (I ain’t going to lie, watching Florida circle the drain helps take some of the sting out of LSU’s terrible season), and it’s not over yet. I’ve kind of dissociated myself from this season–I did watch the Alabama-Arkansas game for a while yesterday, and bits and pieces of the Florida-South Carolina–but man, what a fucking weird season. Two of the better teams in the conference are Mississippi and Mississippi State? When was the last time that happened? (2014, to be pedantic.)

Yeesh.

Paul went to the office yesterday and didn’t get home until late, so I spent the day editing what I’ve written on A Streetcar Named Murder and took voluminous notes on the story, where it’s going, who the suspects are going to be, why they are suspects, and so forth. I also started playing around with future titles for the series (should it take off) and came up with some that I think are funny and clever–but then, I thought the original title for the book was funny and clever, and wound up changing it at publisher request–so we’ll see. (I also can’t wait for the cover design to be finished so I can share it with everyone.) Today I am going to input those changes, write another chapter or two, and try to puzzle out the rest of the cast and a skimpy outline that I can follow to try to keep myself on course with the book. I am excited to be writing a new book for the first time in a long time–the last two have been in the works for years–and was thinking about what I am going to write next year. Hopefully Chlorine and Mississippi River Mischief, and maybe another book in this series–should they want one; I also have two others simmering on the back burner: Voices in an Empty Room and Where the Boys Die (going to need to change that title, though–it’s a working title for something I really want to write, but it fits another book idea I have much better and I just don’t have a better title for this one yet), and of course the novellas and other short stories and…sigh. You see why I feel like I never get anything done? Because I always have so much to do!

When Paul got home we finally watching Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. We had wanted to go see it in the theater, but then Ida happened and there was a paradigm shift and we never got around to getting to the cinema. I’ve been a fan of Simu Liu since his days as Jung on Kim’s Convenience (a very sweet Canadian television comedy that’s a comfort watch), and of course, I love Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung; all of whom were terrific in this, as was Meng’er Zhang as Shang’s younger sister Xialing. The action was incredible, the film was epic in scope, and we both frankly loved it a lot more than some of the other, more cookie cutter variety MCU films.

And Florian Munteanu as Razorfist was an excellent lesser villain. If you haven’t see it, you really should–if you like these types of movies. Then again, I may have been swayed by his impressive physique.

We had talked about watching HBO MAX’s reboot of Gossip Girl (we’d never watched the original), so with some time to kill after Shang Chi and bedtime, I flipped us over there and started watching, and we were almost immediately sucked in. It’s a glossy soap about rich kids at a private school–Elité in English–and it’s actually highly entertaining. I’m looking forward to watching more of it, and we may even go back and watch the seven(!) seasons of the original. We (well, I’m not, I don’t know about Paul) aren’t enjoying the second season of The Great, and I wasn’t really in the mood to watch another episode of it last night, hence the switch to Gossip Girl. Wasn’t it also a popular series of books, like Pretty Little Liars? I doubt that I’ll ever go back and seek out the books, but one never knows.

I also got very deep into Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, which I am also enjoying; Pepper is a terrific heroine and I enjoy her supporting cast of characters. I’ve only been to Seattle once, many years ago, but I really liked the city a lot, and I visited Pike’s Market, which is where Pepper’s spice shop is located. But since it’s very likely I will finish reading the book today, I had to select another book for the trip, and I have chosen Mary Feliz’ Address to Die For.

I also have to pack and get ready for the trip today. AIEEEE.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Every Woman in the World

Our power went out for nearly two hours last night–we were watching The Housewife and the Hustler, the damning ABC News documentary focusing on the crimes of celebrity lawyer Tom Girardi and his spouse, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Erica Girardi (whose alter-ego is entertainer Erika Jayne, who has had some hits on the dance charts)–and while it was out, I fell asleep in my chair and when it came back on, I was too drowsy and tired to write last night. I had done about two or three hundred words before we started watching the documentary, and was really looking forward to making some more progress on the novella last night. Alas, it was not to be–and I have yet to check the progress of the tropical depression in the Bay of Campeche, which is aiming directly for us and would arrive at some point over the weekend. (note to self: fill car’s gas tank TODAY)

UPDATE: I just checked. Strong possibility it will form into Hurricane Claudette, but the primary threat appears to be heavy rainfall over the weekend as it comes ashore. Sort of relief, not really. What it does mean is errands must be run and completed before the weekend; we could lose power at some point; and probably at least being housebound with the car at risk of being flooded (and ruined) if the street floods.

Oh, well, I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

I had weird restless dreams last night–nightmares, actually–so I am not as well rested as I could be this morning. I also made it to the gym last night, so my muscles are a bit achy and tired this morning. But I am not sorry I went to the gym–and believe me, I had to make myself go–but I could do without the groggy tiredness this morning. I have a lot to get done today and very little desire to do any of it; but am also up way earlier than I usually am on a Thursday so hopefully that will translate into a lovely night’s sleep tonight.

I can dream, at any rate.

Any way, as I walked home last night from the gym, sweating sweating sweating, I continued the Instagram experiment, which is actually going fairly well. I did worry about it a bit last night–thinking to myself you don’t want to get addicted to likes and so forth, and allow your obsessive personality to take over here–but at the same time, if I can subversively slip some promo in, why not? I also love taking pictures–I have literally tens of thousands of picture files saved in various digital storage locations, and since I am never going to ever be a professional photographer, why not share the with the world? At least the good ones? And I do live in a very picturesque area in an incredibly beautiful city. Last night, for example, I took a picture of a house that I used in The Orion Mask; the house in New Orleans my main character, Heath, inherited from his mother the painter–who died from a gunshot wound when he was a toddler; the story being it was self-inflicted–and the actual house was merely a starting place. I loved this house in my neighborhood; still do, it’s one of my favorite houses in the city, actually, but I changed and made alterations to it. I needed the gallery to run all the way around the house, on each side, rather than just in the front (like the original’s); and I have no idea what the house’s floor plan was. In the book I made the entire downstairs one big room, with the amazing ten foot windows and shutters on each side; so that when the shutters were all opened the downstairs would be flooded with light–and her studio was a corner of that room, figuring a painter would want lots of light and lots of windows for views and inspiration from the gorgeous colors of the vegetation in the city.

New Orleans really is a breathtakingly beautiful city.

It occurred to me though, as I was posting the picture of Heath’s inheritance, that I don’t ever really write about working class or poor people, at least in my books (and of course, now that I’ve written that, Heath was from a middle-class background and worked for an airline; the hero of Dark Tide was definitely working class/poor, and the main character in Timothy wasn’t exactly rolling in money either–before marrying the master of Spindrift, at any rate. Likewise, Tony in Sara wasn’t even middle class, either. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be so rough on myself about issues of class) and I can’t help but think I should do that some more. I know that if I ever write Where the Boys Die (and I will; it’s really just a matter of time and when I will get to it; MUST FOCUS ON WRITING) it’s going to be set in a white-flight suburb and focus on families at various levels of the class system in this country; as would You’re No Good, should I ever get to that one as well.

So many ideas to write. Honest to God, I will never have the time to write them all, especially since my work ethic isn’t what it used to be–which is mainly from not having the energy I used to, in all honesty. I keep hoping that going to the gym regularly (if and when I ever get to the point where I have developed a routine that I can stick to) that there will be an increase in stamina and energy for me as I get back into better physical condition. I can dream, I guess.

All right, it’s nearly time for me to head back into the spice mines. Y’all have a great Thursday, okay?

True Faith

Saturday morning and I am about to head back out to Metairie; I just got an email that my computer is repaired and ready for pick-up! This is very exciting, obviously–I am terribly relieved to not have to buy a new one–and I am excited to have a desktop computer again. Hurray for a big screen to make up for my failing eyes! I am also going to be dropping off books later today at the library sale, and donating beads to ARC of New Orleans; the living room is slowly being dragged back from hoarder’s hell and starting to look functional and bearable and usable again, which is incredibly lovely. I managed to hang one of the laundry room doors by myself yesterday; this morning I’ll also be rehanging the other door, clearing up more space and opening up the living room even further.

We finished watching The Crime of the Century last night–quelle surprise, disgusting piece of shit Marsha Blackburn helped pass a bill gutting the DEA’s ability to investigate and punish drug companies for lying to the public, reminding viewers again she’s always been trash and a cosplay Christian without a soul–and the documentary is further evidence that our country and our system has been corrupted and is broken. It’s more than a little infuriating to know that so many people have died and/or become addicted thanks to the complicity of our elected officials, and there is never any accountability for corporations or the rich. Back in the 1990’s I used to simply shake my head and thin we are becoming very similar, as a nation, to 1780′ France and the last days of Czarist Russia and when it comes the second American revolution will be far worse than either of those revolutions, which were widespread and incredibly bloody…I hope I don’t live long enough to see it or experience it, quite frankly. I had an idea–when don’t I have one?–back then for a book about a dystopian future after the collapse of our government and society; dystopias aren’t so much in vogue anymore, but it’s still a valid idea and concept, but it’s been foremost in my brain lately.

We also started watching Halston on Netflix last night, and it’s quite fun; definitely worth watching for the acting, and Ewan MacGregor is fantastic in the title role. I’ve actually been thinking about the 1970’s a lot lately; not sure why I’ve been going down this nostalgic trip down memory lane, but I have been and so Halston kind of plays into that for me. It has everything to do, no doubt, with my idea to write a book about a suburban serial killer, a la the Candyman/Gacy, called Where the Boys Die; I’ve been looking up things (classmates.com has copies of my high school yearbooks even; mine were lost years ago) all over the place when I get bored and when I don’t feel like reading or writing. What will eventually happen with that, I don’t know–if anything–but I realize this morning that I haven’t been writing much this month–I’ve definitely been off, if not my rocker, but my game. I kind of have been ever since my desktop computer ceased functioning properly; I don’t think getting my computer back is going to be some kind of magic cure-all, but it should be a start.

After I dropped off the computer at the Apple Store and while I was waiting for my next appointment, I stopped at the Barnes and Noble on Veterans’ to kill time. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a B&N; obviously it was pre-pandemic, but it was much longer ago than that, obviously. It was a bit strange to be in such a public space (the Apple Store opens two hours before the rest of the mall, so walking through the almost-deserted halls and past all the closed stores had a sort of Night of the Living Dead feel to it–I know that’s probably not the right zombie/Romero film, but I’ve actually never seen any of those so sue me) but B&N was more confined and had more people–it was still pretty empty, but it was a strange experience. But it was lovely being in a bookstore–I resisted the urge to spend hundreds of dollars and limited myself to a lovely, inexpensive B&N edition of The Iliad and The Odyssey–and it was also interesting to walk around looking at books and seeing so many friends on the shelves, tables, and end-caps. The MWA handbook, How to Write a Mystery, was prominently displayed on the NEW RELEASES shelves, and I found myself examining books and just enjoying being around books.

Speaking of which, I started reading Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow, and am enjoying it. I need to get it finished, though, so I can read From Here to Eternity on my trip next week (yikes, I leave on Thursday).

So, my plan for today is to get my computer set up again, rehang the other door, run those errands and swing by the grocery store as well. With all of these other things taken care of, I also intend to clean today so tomorrow I will have the day free to answer emails, do some writing, and go to the gym….then it’s three days of work and the trip to Kentucky, and then before I know it, May will be ending and it will be June. #madness.

And on that note, I need to get cleaned up so I can head out to the Lakeside mall. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

Academic

Friday morning, and I slept well again last night. The washing machine arrives this morning (between 9:15 and 11:15) so I am up earlier than I would be ordinarily, but despite using an alarm to get up (I need to be sufficiently caffeinated when they get here to remove the old one and install the new one) and then it will be “catch up on the laundry day” while I do my home data entry today–which means the new one will be getting quite a workout today. I also had to remove the doors to the laundry room last night–it’s going to take some serious maneuvering to get the old one out and the new one in, and I figured the doors would be in the way–which made me feel quite butch and masculine. The feeling didn’t last.

The electricians came and replaced the fuse yesterday as well–so now I can use my dishwasher and the coffee maker can be on the proper counter where it belongs again. Slowly returning to a sense of normality here at long last, and starting to not feel quite so fried and exhausted, which is actually lovely.

I also have to do a conference tomorrow, which I need to prepare for, and honestly–my brain is so fried I keep forgetting that it’s happening and that I agreed to do it. I cannot remember being this discombobulated and fried before when I finished writing a book–but then again, it’s also been quite a while since the last time I finished two books in such quick succession without a break in between. Having everything around the apartment go on the fritz almost immediately thereafter was also not much of a help in that regard, and of course, that created more stress and insomnia…I’m really surprised I was able to sleep so well the last two nights, to be completely honest; but that was probably a result of exhaustion from the stress of things.

And of course, I also had to take down one of the laundry room shelves, just in case, and will have to put that back together once the washing machine is installed again.

So yeah, pretty big day around the lost apartment this morning….hopefully I can get going on my data entry before they come, and it’s probably what I am going to be doing for most of the day today. I make condom packs for hours yesterday–and ran out of condoms, so I don’t have that to do today, unless I run by the office to take these others and drop them off, and pick up some more…but I don’t really see that happening today…although….hmmm. Something to ponder before the washing machine gets here. (Of course, it would also depend on when the washing machine gets here as well…if they get here early I could run over to pick up my prescription, then head to the office, drop off the finished condom packs and pick up at least one more box….never mind, I shouldn’t think out loud on here. Suffice to say I have options.)

I actually don’t remember what all I watched yesterday while I was making the condom packs, but I am proud and happy to say that I broke the streak of serial killer documentaries at long last. I know I watched some interesting documentaries about queer horror movies, or why horror appeals to gay men (I honestly have no memory of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which apparently is the gayest non-gay horror movie ever made?) as well as some documentaries about apocryphal books on the Bible, including Enoch–which led me down a rabbit hole into videos about the nephilim and pre-Flood Biblical history, as well as some interesting discussion about how things get mis-translated from the original archaic Hebrew into other languages over the years and then became stuc–like how “Lucifer” wasn’t really a reference to the devil (or Satan, or whatever) but a literal mistranslation of a verse probably referring to the recent fall of the Assyrian kind and his empire, rather than a reference to angels being cast own from heaven and sent to Hell to have dominion. I’ve always found that sort of thing to be interesting–potentially lost books of the Bible and prophecy, etc.–have always wanted to write a book about a missing or secret book of the Bible that was smuggled out of Constantinople before it fell to the Crusaders in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, to keep it out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, only to disappear for centuries; a lost book that would revolutionize and change Christianity forever (not really an original thought–this sort of thing has been done before, most notably–for me, anyway–in Irving Wallace’s The Word); I’ve always seen it–since 2001, anyway, as a Colin novel (yes, the Colin stand alone novel I’ve been thinking about for twenty years; I’ve always kind of wanted to spin him off into his own espionage thriller series–think gay Dirk Pitt/Indiana Jones/James Bond hybrid), but again–when will I ever have the time to write such a book?

So, in a moment I am going to start doing my data entry for the day; while I wait for the washer to arrive and be installed. When I am done working for the day I intend to get down my Henry Willson biography and start mapping out Chlorine–yes, world, I am finally ready to start writing Chlorine, or at least work on it, anyway–and I also am going to start figuring out what to do with these short stories and so forth that I want to get out for submission. So, the goals for this weekend–after getting my work done and the laundry room reassembled–is to finish reading The Russia House, get some work on short stories done, and fill up another box to donate to the library sale (maybe two), and get the outline/character bios for Chlorine started. (I’m very excited about this….although I am getting a little more excited about the next book I want to write, Where the Boys Die.)

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the day. Have yourself a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

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.

170856_177996562235912_122584814443754_340422_5816097_o