Well, I finished an incredibly difficult chapter of the Scotty book last night, and can now move on to the rest of the story. I despise transitional chapters, and this one was particularly painfully hard; it’s why I initially set the manuscript aside to begin with all those weeks ago. But now I am full on into the investigation, and things can really start happening now; the red herrings and the incredible confusion. This book is going to probably wind up having a plot as convulated and confusing as Mardi Gras Mambo was, and I do consider that to be, in fact, a very good thing. I am feeling very ambitious as I return to tackling this manuscript, and it’s been quite a while since I have felt that way.
And, now that I reflect on it, to not feel ambitious as one embarks on a search for a possible agent is quite possibly the stupidest mentality one can have for such a thing; if for no other reason that one is already defeated in spirit. It is so easy to give up, it is so incredibly easy to be defeated in spirit as one pursues a career in writing, that one has to grasp onto ambition with both hands and squeeze the very life out of it. I’m not sure when or where or why I allowed my ambition to fall to the wayside, but not only was it gone but I didn’t miss it. Which is a very strange thing to admit to; but ultimately not surprising. Ambition is one of those traits I was raised to believe was unseemly, unpleasant, and unattractive. I still struggle, to this day, with taking pride in achievements; to accepting compliments without prevaricating or being self-deprecatory in response. Sometimes I hear myself responding to a compliment and hear a tiny, desperate voice wailing from deep within the recesses of my own mind, just accept the fucking compliment.
And how many times has this self-doubt, this insecurity, this self-defeating mentality stopped me from reaching for something I wanted? Stopped me from attempting to write something outside of my comfort zone, something I want desperately to try? Far too many times, I have to admit, much as it pains me to do so.
Confidence is such a funny thing, isn’t it? Even the word–which I use to mean belief in yourself–had another meaning; con comes from confidence… a con man is a confidence man; likewise, a con artist is a confidence artist.
So is confidence, self-confidence, the art of deluding yourself, conning yourself into a belief that you have more value than you actually do, perhaps?
Although I must say, wrestling that chapter into submission–no matter how bad the writing may be, no matter how bad the chapter might be–has certainly made me feel a lot more confidence in myself; because of course there was the fear that I’d never be able to get this chapter done, that the book would stall out, that I would fail.
But I did it. I worked through it, and I already know how the next chapter is going to go.
And that’s a good thing.
I also read some short stories. First up is “Serial Benefactor” by Jon L. Breen, from Manhattan Mayhem, a Mystery Writers of America anthology edited by Mary Higgins Clark.
To start with, I’m a centenarian, Sebastian Grady by name, and still fully marbled. My current address is Plantain Point, a retirement home on the California coast with a lot of residents from the entertainment world. To give you an idea, the president of our association is called the Top Banana, though most of the vaudevillians have died off.
As you can imagine, I’ve seen many younger generations come of age, and the current lot don’t seem too anxious to make the transition to adulthood. Don’t ask me if I blame them.
Evan is my favorite great-granddaughter.
This story is very clever, and I enjoyed it very much. It concerns a series of murders back in the post-war era; with all the victims being associated with the theater in some way, and all being pains in the ass to everyone who’s ever had to deal with them. There is a conversation at a cocktail/dinner party, and shortly thereafter people start dying. Clues are planted in the newspaper–lines from songs from musicals–and the killer is never caught. Sebastian poses the story to his great-granddaughter Evan to see if she can figure out the clues and how they relate to the murder victims. Sebastian has his own theory about the murders…and while we never are certain who the killer is, we do get a pretty good idea. And there’s a LOVELY twist at the end.
Next up was “The Blackbird” by Peter Robinson, from Crime Plus Music, edited by Jim Fusilli:
It ended with a head floating down the river. Or is that where it began? You could never be certain with the Blackbird. I should know. I’ve known him for years, and I was with him until the end. Well, almost.
His real name was Tony Foster, and once, quite early in our relationship, I asked him how he had acquired his nickname. Tony drew on his cigarette in that way of his, cupping it in his palm like a soldier in the trenches, as if he believed it would be bad luck to let anyone see the glow. He turned his blue eyes towards me, a hint of a smile lighting them for a moment, then he looked away and told me it came about when he was a teenager growing up in a rundown council estate in the mid-sixties.
This isn’t necessarily a crime story, although there is a crime in it; the crime is how the story ends, but the story isn’t about the commission of the crime or the solving of the crime, but I suppose it is sort of about how the crime effects the narrator of the story. It’s really a sad, bleak tale that leaves the reader full of melancholy when it’s finished; it’s beautifully written and terribly sad. Well done, Mr. Robinson, well done.