What Have I Done to Deserve This?

It’s Saturday, and how lovely that feeling is. I am going to try to avoid social media as well as email interactions this weekend, as I want to be productive and I really don’t need any help with getting distracted. I was a condom packing machine yesterday, and Scooter was happily cuddled up to my feet as I had my lap desk and was working. I finally came up with the working system for maximum efficiency, and ultimately I was able to double my productivity in the same amount of time, which was quite impressive. It had been bothering me that I wasn’t as fast at home as I was at the office–or rather, in my old office on Frenchmen Street–but I also didn’t have the proper set-up until yesterday. I also had taken some time on Thursday to fold inserts, which also sped up my time yesterday. I also watched this week’s Real Housewives episodes, rewatched “The Bells” episode of Game of Thrones season eight (it’s quite a spectacle; more on that later) and then Dangerous Liaisons and The Maltese Falcon on the TCM menu on HBO MAX (which I love; there’s so much excellent film on that menu–things I want to rewatch and things I’ve always wanted to see). After dinner we finished off watching Into the Night, which had a lovely cliffhanger, and then started a Mexican Netflix drama, Control Z, which is quite intense. I do have to run an errand today, and I do have to spend some time cleaning out my email inbox–it’s ridiculously out of control again (doesn’t take long!)–and then I am going to reread Bury Me in Shadows and make notes on what to keep and what has to change. I’d also like to spend some time with “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” but there’s only so much time in one day and I only have so much attention span, really.

It’s gloomy and overcast out there this morning; we’re expecting rain off and on for most of the weekend because of now-Hurricane Hannah. I slept fairly decently most of the night, but still woke up feeling a little tired this morning. As much as I would like to be lazy for the day–and really, rereading a manuscript is the epitome of lazy, since I’ll be doing it in my easy chair–but it’s quite interesting and sort of amazing how much of a difference a good night’s sleep makes in my productivity when it comes to writing. The more tired I am, the more snappish I become–so it’s always a good idea to not be on social media or answer emails, as little things really get under my skin when I’m in that condition–but hopefully that won’t be an issue this evening. We shall see, I suppose.

I’m not really sure why I got the bug in my ear to rewatch that episode of Game of Thrones–it’s really amazing, given what a cultural phenomenon the show was while it was airing, how little anyone talks about it anymore. I think this is primarily due to the enormous disappointment the majority of viewers felt with its conclusion, and I certainly can’t disagree with those disappointed feelings. I, too, wasn’t terribly pleased with how the show ended, but at the same time, I wasn’t expected this world–which mirrored actual history with all its gore and good-doesn’t-always-win and evil-sometimes-goes-unpunished reality–to come to a happy ending; although Sansa did wind up as Queen of the North, so at least there’s some sense of justice in that, after everything she went through. And with her red hair, and all the suffering she endured, an argument could be made that she was sort of based on Queen Elizabeth I–who against incredible odds and twenty-five years of living in the shadow of the executioner–finally climbed to the throne. But I want to talk more about “The Bells” and the sack of King’s Landing–which was another episode that had fans disappointed and outraged. I was one of the few fans who was all about the city being destroyed; and I was also really pleased that they showed it from the ground for the most part–with Daenarys and Drogon only seen from below as the city burns and people die. It was exactly how I imagined the sacking of cities throughout history to look–rape and murder, blood in the streets, pillaging, hysterical terrified crowds running for their lives and praying for sanctuary as their world collapses around them. Conquerers never showed mercy; the concept everyone was hoping for that to happen once the bells were rung is very modern. Cities have historically been subject to such sackings throughout history; maybe not with a dragon involved, but read accounts of the many times Rome fell, or the fall of Constantinople–this wasn’t a modern world by any means, and modern concepts of justice and mercy weren’t in play. Cersei herself said it in Season One: “when you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.” She played, she died, and she took her capital city with her. Power politics in medieval history–the closest proximation to the world of Game of Thrones–were bloody and cruel and merciless, and the Popes and the Church were just as involved and as ruthless as any king or emperor. Arya even alluded to this when she was wearing the face of Walder Frey and wiping out his entire house: “You didn’t kill all of the Starks. You should have ripped them out, root and stem. Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.” Ergo–if you don’t kill all of your enemies, you have no one but yourself to blame when they kill you.

Dangerous Liaisons is a great movie, and a great story as well. When the film came out, I bought a copy of the novel and was enthralled by the petty games of seduction and revenge that played out in its pages. (I didn’t see the film until years later, when I rented the video; I’ve seen both the Glenn Close version and the Annette Bening, Valmont; and of course the modern day remake with Ryan Philippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions. There was an earlier, modern day version made in the 1960’s I’ve not seen; it’s in French and I’ve always wanted to see it.) The novel is exceptional; originally published (and banned) in France in 1782, it was quite a cause celebre at the time; depicting the immorality and debauchery of the aristocratic class, it has sometimes been described as being one of the initial steps on the road to revolution in 1789. It’s an epistolary novel; you are reading the letters the characters all write to one another, so you see how the Marquise and the Vicomte are playing with their innocent, naive friends and relatives quite well. They are only honest with each other–although, of course, in this modern age the lesson I took from it was never put anything in writing, which is just as true today as it was then–and I had always wanted to do a modern, gay version. I eventually did, with Wicked Frat Boy Ways, but while I am proud of the book I also wish I could redo it some, revise and add to it more.

The film is extraordinary, and Glenn Close was certainly robbed–as she has been many times–of the Oscar for Best Actress.

As for The Maltese Falcon, it’s still a great movie, but I didn’t finish watching–and would prefer to rewatch when I can give it my full attention. It really is marvelously written, acted, directed, and filmed. I should probably reread the novel someday.

And on that note, I am going to dive back into the spice mines. The kitchen and living room are both a mess; I have errands to run, and of course, that manuscript to read. Have a lovely, safe Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow.

Skies the Limit

Well, this has been a pretty good week for one Gregalicious. Tuesday my new Todd Gregory book was released officially, and yesterday I found out that Blood on the Bayou made the Anthony short list for Best Anthology. Needless to say, that was pretty cool. I spent most of my free time yesterday making sure I was thanking everyone for their kind congratulatory posts and messages, since I didn’t want to miss anyone. (Today I’ll have to make a blanket thank you post on Facebook and Twitter, just to be on the safe side.) It’s also kind of cool to be in the same category as people like Lawrence Block, Eric Beetner, Jen Conley, and Jay Stringer. I mean, whoa. Not bad for the teen-aged kid from Kansas with big dreams, right? I don’t expect to win–I mean, seriously, look at the competition–but I’ve ordered copies of the other finalists; it should be great fun to read them.

I am still reading About the Author, just haven’t had a chance to get back into it this week yet. I am hoping I’ll be able to get into it tonight. I also need to get back to work on the WIP. There never seems to be enough time in the day, does there? Heavy heaving sigh. Well, I am hopeful I’ll be able to get things done this weekend. I have to get to the gym more, too. *eye roll* I’ve been saying that for months now, haven’t I? But hey, I’ve gone down a pants size! That counts for something, doesn’t it? Hush, you in the back!

Honestly. Some people.

But I’ve been having a good week, clearly; and it was sorely needed. The rollercoaster of emotions also known as my writing career has been kind of extreme lately; I’ve taken some blows, sadly, but I’ve also rediscovered how much I actually love writing, and have even managed to figure out how to enjoy editing/revising my own work–which is a serious breakthrough for me. I am also finding that leaving my work to simmer for a while before getting back to the revising/editing is an enormous help as well; I can see things that I didn’t notice before, and I am not quite as tied to the story as I was originally, or how it is structured, and so on. My ridiculous stubbornness along with my natural inclination towards laziness can also prove to be problematic.

Onward and upward!

And here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you: Jan-Michael Vincent in the flower of his beauty and youth. I had a huge crush on him as a teenager.

jan michael

 

Picture to Burn

Good morning, Constant Reader! It’s my official release day for my latest Todd Gregory tome, Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which I am kind of excited about. For one thing, I love the cover. For another, I am kind of proud of this book. I did something completely different than anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s also an homage to one of my favorite stories of all time: Les Liaisons Dangereuses. (I’ve also discovered that young people will just look at me blankly when I mention that; or even say Dangerous Liaisons, the award winning film with Glenn Close and John Malkovich from the late 1980’s; however, mention Cruel Intentions with Ryan Phillippe and Sara Michelle Gellar, and their eyes will light up.) It’s a wonderful story; after all, to date, there are four film versions thus far, and a stage version. The Glenn Close movie inspired Madonna’s MTV Video Awards performance of “Vogue”–which I absolutely loved. I am a sucker for the costumes of that era; Bourbon France (1589-1792) is one of my favorite periods of history; the French Revolution is endlessly fascinating to me (Les Liaisons Dangereuses was set in the early 1780’s, and there are those who call the at-the-time scandalous novel as one of the flagstones in the pathway to the French Revolution, by pointing out the corruption and evil behavior that boredom amongst the wealthy and spoiled aristocracy in France to a wider audience); and so my personal favorite film version of the story are the Glenn Close with the Annette Bening/Colin Firth Valmont coming in second. But Cruel Intentions is also very well done, and both Phillippe and Gellar inhabit the evil characters absolutely perfectly. I’ve always wanted to do my own version of the story; but I wanted to follow the novel (which I absolutely loved, and have reread several times) more so than the film.

I’ve played with the idea a lot over the years; the trick is that the novel is epistolary. The epistolary novel was very popular in previous centuries (Dracula is also epistolary for the most part; a mix of letters and diary entries), although it has fallen out of favor in modern times. I’ve always thought they were great; it was a way to get inside character heads much more so than just alternating third-person point of views, and it’s even harder to do alternating first person point of views–which I also didn’t know how to do, and was afraid to try (Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is perhaps the best example of this ever published). I thought about doing it in the form of emails years ago, and then. after Bold Strokes agreed to publish it, tried to figure out how to do it with modern technology–a combination of texts messages, emails, Facebook posts, etc. But that would also be a formatting nightmare for the technical side of publishing;  I even asked the formatter how it could be done, and the response wasn’t encouraging.

And then I reread one of my favorite books, The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, and I saw how it could be done–alternating first person point of view, present tense; in other words, tell the story in the present from the point of view of characters as it is happening to them, so you can also see, as in the letters, how their perspectives change and how the manipulations happen, and how they really feel. Yes, it was similar to how Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying, but at the same time, it was a challenge I wanted to take on: an erotic novel with a strong plot, told in the present tense, in alternating first person point of view.

Instead of using the same Beta Kappa chapter at CSU-Polk, I moved it to another campus; one that is more rich and more elite: the University of California at San Felice (a shout out to Margaret Millar, who used San Felice in some of her novels as a stand-in for Santa Barbara), on the California coast a few hours north of Los Angeles. I had the character of Brandon Benson, from Games Frat Boys Play, transfer and now he’s a senior, friends with Phil Connors, chapter president. Phil and Brandon are the primary characters in the story; the others the chess pieces they move around the board; Ricky Monterro is the nephew of a very wealthy self-made lawyer who is president of the alumni association, and a recent drop out from the seminary at Notre Dame who’s just realized he doesn’t want to be a priest, preferring to live openly and honestly as a gay man; Dylan, an incoming transfer from UCLA who is engaged to a soldier on a tour in the Middle East; and Kenny, a shy young gay virgin with no self-esteem who falls head over heels for Ricky at first sight.

Jordy from Games Frat Boys Play even makes an appearance, having rented a house on Fire Island for the summer, which is where Brandon and Dylan first run into each other.

Damn, this book was fun to write. Hope it’s as fun to read!

Wicked Frat Boy Ways_final

 

I Can’t Get Next To You

Ugh, Tuesday morning of the first normal week since Carnival. It always takes a while to re-acclimate to normal life again; the time before the parades started already seems a distant memory. For that matter, so do the parades. It’s hard to believe Fat Tuesday was one week ago. Maybe after this weekend I’ll get back to normal.

As if.

So, I spent the last couple of evenings proofing the pages of Wicked Frat Boy Ways, and as I said the other day when I was going over the copy edits, the book is actually much better than I thought it was when I turned it in. I mean, I am my own worst critic (although there are some amazon and Goodreads reviewers giving me a run for my money), and this book was very tricky for me; something I’d never tried before, and a real challenge. I think I was a bit worried that because it was so foreign to me, and so different from anything I’d ever tried to do before, that I had no confidence in my ability to make it work; but it actually did.

PHIL I stopped listening to him a couple of minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. He just wants someone to listen to him drivel on and on.

He won’t notice, either, that all I do is smile and nod, my eyes as wide open as I can make them without worrying about them popping out, and all I am saying is “oh” or “really” with the right, interested inflection when I can tell by his tone that some noise from me is required for him to keep talking. He’s probably the most conceited and self-absorbed alumnus I’ve met, and that is saying something, since I’ve never met any alumnus who isn’t a boring drone who stays involved with the house because they think it was the best time of their life, and being active in the alumni association somehow makes them still a part of the brotherhood. I prefer the ones who just write a check when they get a fundraising letter and never come around.

I mean, I get it. When you’re putting in sixty hours a week at some high-stress job and then come home to a bunch of spoiled kids and a trophy wife who spends all your money faster than you can make it and your own mortality is staring you in the eye, you miss your days in college living at the Beta Kappa house when you didn’t have an asshole boss and your phone wasn’t blowing up all the time with needy asshole clients who act like you’re their own personal slave and all you had to do was show up for class and study every once in a while and spent most of the rest of your time drinking and smoking pot and snorting coke and fucking every girl you could get so wasted she couldn’t say no or stop you from taking their clothes off and doing what you wanted. How many times have I had to listen to some alumnus whose body has gone to seed, who’s gone bald and whose best days were long behind him relive the debaucheries of his youth, getting that sad faraway look in his eyes as he thinks back fondly to that time before he had to be at the office all day only to come home to some bitch of a wife and deal with assholes all the fucking time, remembering when they didn’t have to deal with all the horseshit they have to put up with to get the damned paycheck to keep up the front that they’re living the American fucking dream?

It’s pathetic, really.

It’s just another reason I am glad I am gay.

It’s told in alternating first person point of view present tense; which means everything is happening as you read it. And if you think that isn’t hard to do, well, it sure as hell was for me. It was a risk, a stretch, and a challenge–and I was absolutely certain I was messing it up the entire time I was working on it.

So, it’s kind of a relief to not only have my editor love it, but to reread it and see that I was, as always, expecting the worst of myself. Maybe someday (HA!) I’ll stop doing that.

I also come to a realization about Crescent City Charade over the last few days, and as such, I was able to get started on it yesterday. It was only 517 words, but I will take it!

And now, back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hunk for today:

I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

Ah, the weekend. Today I am going to run some errands–including taking the car for a car wash, it’s first ever–and then I am going to spend part of the day, at least, reading the page proofs for Wicked Frat Boy Ways, the latest (and possibly last) Todd Gregory erotic fraternity novel. When I was going through the edits last week, I wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to anything story or character wise, just ploughing through the edits. Yesterday I started reading through the page proofs, just to familiarize myself with the story–hey, I’ve written another book since then, and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be–and was surprised to see that it’s actually much better than I thought it was when I turned it in. I often loathe the book I am working on while I am working on it, and am much too close to it to actually evaluate it properly (sometimes that loathing never goes away, even years later), but I was very pleasantly surprised with this one as I skimmed my way through it.

And I do love the cover.

The book’s official release date is May 16th. How exciting! It’s been awhile (September) since I had a book come out, and it feels like it’s been an eternity, frankly. I know, I know, it’s weird, but that crazy writing schedule I’ve been on since about 2008–which was hardly normal–got me accustomed to having a new book out every few weeks. And this one is different from the other Todd Gregorys; I’m not sure how people are going to react to it. My editor loved it, so it has that going for it.

We shall see. The earlier frat boy books are still selling–which is kind of a shock, really; erotica generally doesn’t have much of a shelf life. Then again, FRATSEX, the anthology that kind of started it all, was still earning royalties and selling when Alyson folded; the book came out in 2004 and was still selling strong five years later. I can’t hope this one will do as well as those earlier efforts; it would be, of course, lovely if it did but in this business you really can’t count on anything. And like I said, it’s vastly different from the earlier novels. It’s not set on the same campus–Cal State-Polk; it’s set at UC-San Felice, a new coastal city I invented, even if it is the same fraternity, and one of the primary supporting characters in the previous one, Brandon Benson, is one of the main characters in this one, having transferred. Jordy, the main character from the last one, also appears briefly, as do Jeff and Blair, the focal characters from the original.

I don’t know that I will do another one, to be honest. But I am very pleased with how this one turned out. I hope the readers will be, too.

And now, off to the spice mines.

That’s All For Everyone

Good morning. I finished Wicked Frat Boy Ways yesterday and turned it in. I am now in that weird afterglow of it’s done! it’s done! and oh my God it’s probably the worst piece of crap ever turned in to an editor.

Such is life as a writer.

I have decided that January is going to be yet another attempt at Short Story Month for me, in which I try to read, and blog about, a short story every day. I have tried this before, and have failed, but yesterday’s mail brought copies of Harlan Ellison’s The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, Strange Wine, Stalking the Nighmare, and Approaching Oblivion, so there is THAT, and I have lots of anthologies and single author collections haunting my shelves and my iPad.

I am also looking forward to reacquainting myself with some of Ellison’s short stories, and discovering new ones.

I am going to spend this weekend getting ready to dive headlong into finishing the next book, due on January 1, getting caught up and varied sundries that have fallen through the cracks, perhaps outlining the new book I started writing this past week, writing an essay that’s due soon, and maybe crafting/editing some other short stories that have been lying around unfinished or in need of a second go-round. My plans for the weekend are obviously rather ambitious, and I won’t get everything done I need to, but I also don’t think it’s a bad idea to have lots of plans; even if I feel like a complete and utter loser when I don’t accomplish everything I set out to. I also want to finish reading A Head Full of Ghosts as well as start reading something new; and there’s lots of organizing and cleaning in the kitchen/office that definitely needs to be taken care of.

It truly never ends.

The weather here has also finally turned; it’s chilly and I have to wear sleeves and head covering–probably what most people would call fall or autumn; what we consider the start our brief winter. It’s kind of gray out there today; but it is Friday which is lovely.

All right, I need to get my day started.

Here’s a hunk from the French Farmers calendar.

Oh Daddy

work work work work work.

Can’t complain, though. I love my work, I really do–although I can always complain. Work on Wicked Frat Boy Ways is coming along swimmingly, if I do say so myself (and I do) and I project that I may be able to get it done by the (extended) deadline if things keep going as swimmingly as they are now. Of course, now that I’ve said that I will undoubtedly hit a snag. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ain’t that the way it always seems to go?

But I am very pleased with it so far; I am not having any of my usual doubts/fears/terrors about this one the way I usually do. I’m not sure if that’s progress on my part as far as confidence is concerned, or blithe unawareness. Perhaps both; we shall see.

After writing a significant chunk of the book yesterday–and cleaning–I settled in to watch some documentaries while waiting for Paul to come home; first I watched Trojan War, the ESPN documentary about the USC football program while Pete Carroll was coach, and then moved on to a three episode BBC documentary called Empire of the Tsars, about the Romanov dynasty of Russia. (It was also the first time I’d ever heard it pronounced ro-MAHN-off, which is probably correct.) As I had just finished watching the series Versailles earlier in the week and marveling at the magnificent beauty of that palace, I was also struck in this series about how incredibly beautiful and ornate St. Petersburg and the imperial palaces must be; both Moscow and St. Petersburg have always been places I wanted to visit–but it’s not like it’s particularly safe for a gay to go there. One never knows, of course–it may happen someday.

After Paul got home we also watched the most recent episode of Eyewitness, which is SUCH a good show.

I also finally started reading a book that’s been languishing in my TBR pile for far too long; Elizabeth Little’s Dear Daughter, and while I am only a couple of chapters in, it’s pretty terrific thus far.

Today, for Thanksgiving, I am probably not going to get as much writing done as I would like (I am not ruling it out, of course) but our friend Lisa is coming over and we are having our traditional That’s Amore Chicago-style deep-dish pizza meal while watching the Absolutely Fabulous movie and Neighbors 2.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

Watching Scotty Grow

As I work to revise Bourbon Street Blues for its ebook debut, and plan out yet another Scotty book (tentatively titled Reality Show Rumba, but that may change to St. Charles Second Line or something else, I’m not completely sold on that as a title), yes, I’ve got Scotty on the brain, what can I say? I’m in that weird mode where ideas are bouncing around inside of my head, and can’t seem to focus enough to get any one thing worked on and finished.

It ain’t easy being a Gregalicious.

As I said when I rode the streetcar to and from the NO/AIDS Walk last weekend, the ride felt wonderful because I felt reconnected to New Orleans. I’ve felt some disconnect over the past few years; partly because I was so damned busy doing so damned much, and partly because the city has changed somewhat over the years as well that have followed Katrina. It was inevitable; the city was going to change even had Katrina not happened, and the question remains, were these good changes for the city? The so-called ‘sharing economy,’ with the coming of AirBNB and Uber and Lyft, are good things but can also be bad things; AirBNB had resulted in private homes being turned into rental properties–but is that what has driven up property costs and rentals in New Orleans, or was that a result of the rising property costs? I signed up for a realtor’s daily emails about properties for sale–mainly because I saw a sign on a house I’ve always loved and wanted to set a book in, so I wanted to be able to see the inside and the yard–and I am daily astounded at the costs of the properties she has listed. I have yet to see one for less than 1.2 million; when I was writing Murder in the Rue Dauphine, I mentioned in passing ‘the million dollar homes in the Garden District’ only to be corrected by my first reader: “There are no homes in New Orleans that cost a million dollars or more, not even in the Garden District.” As I said, every featured property in the daily emails I get from this realtor are a minimum of 1.2 million; then again, I am certain people from other cities would think them bargains, as they also are a minimum of 4000 square feet or more.

The only way Paul and I could ever own property here would be to hit the Powerball.

One of the things I know I am going to do with the next Scotty book–one of the many things I am going to do with the next Scotty book–is determine whether or not Scotty and the boys are going to stay in the Quarter. GASP, right? But one penultimate New Orleans thing that I’ve never written about–although I’ve endured it numerous times–is the joy of renovation. The house the boys all live in on Decatur Street was, of course, rebuilt after the fire in Bourbon Street Blues–I did write about Scotty having to live in the Marigny while the house was being rebuilt in Jackson Square Jazz–but about eleven years have passed since then; the house survived Katrina and everything that followed, but eleven years of heat and humidity, of wood swelling and shrinking, of termites…well, it’s about time the house on Decatur Street got renovated again–and of course, treated for termites and so forth to begin with. And so the boys have to go live elsewhere while the place is gutted and rebuilt yet again…and now, the question is whether or not they want to move back into the Quarter or not, or maybe buy a place. Scotty has come into his trust funds, after all, and so there is plenty of money…but it should also make for an interesting subplot. And the plot of this one…I think this could possibly be the best Scotty of them all.

At least, I certainly hope so.

I’m very excited about it. Now I just have to write two other books first.

Here’s the cover for the work-in-progress I am primarily focusing on:

wicked-frat-boy-ways_final