Heart of Stone

Another new year. 2023. This year it will have been forty-five years since I graduated from high school. That feels weird to me, but it must be true. Forty-five years. Kids born the year I graduated from high school are full on having mid-life crises already. Not exactly a cheery thought to kick off a new year, though, is it?

I got my writing done yesterday and have a daunting day of more writing ahead of me. I managed to get it all done in a little less than three hours yesterday (what can I say? I was on a roll, and the book is really coming together here at the end), and I was thus able to watch some college football games yesterday, namely TCU-Michigan and Georgia-Ohio State. Both games were completely insane, but I am sure OSU fans are not happy with their unfortunate head coach. I imagine now, after two straight losses to Michigan and no national title wins, they are every more unhappy than they have been with their head coach; it’s almost like Ohio State and Michigan have switched their annual trajectories. I also spent some time reading A Walk on the Wild Side, which I am starting to appreciate more. I am not a fan of twentieth-century straight white male MFA writing, which is what this kind of is (look at me! my book will be taught in universities!) and I’ve never cared for (Hemingway comes to mind) but I’m starting to like it more. There’s a dark, noir undertone to it that I am appreciating, and now that the main character (Dove) is making his way to New Orleans now–well, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to me once the action moves here, which is the entire reason I am reading the book in the first place. We also finished off season two of Sex Lives of College Girls, whose second season didn’t live up to the first, but it was still enjoyable. Tonight we’ll probably go back to Three Pines and watch a movie; there was something Paul mentioned last night that he wants to watch but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

I felt remarkably rested and relaxed yesterday; the writing going so well had a lot to do with it, I am sure. I slept well again last night and feel rested again this morning–I really do like these lengthy weekends, and am going to miss them once they are over–so I feel confident I can bang out the word count i need to get done for today as well. Yay! So, I am going to do exactly the same thing I did yesterday; read this morning over my coffee, then take a shower and get cleaned up before diving into the next chapter I need to write.

As is my wont, I am setting goals for 2023 rather than making resolutions–and while this hasn’t been as successful for me as it should have been over the years (some goals remain the same, year after year after year), I still like goals better than resolutions. So, without further ado, here we go:

Get an agent

This has been at the top of my goals every year since i started setting goals rather than resolutions, which goes back to the beginnings of my blog, way back in December 2004. I have made running lists of potential agents to try for years, always adding someone new whenever I come across their information or someone being excited to be signed by one. Having an agent doesn’t mean a significant change to my writing or my earning potential or the possibilities of my career getting bigger, but none of those things are likely to happen without an agent: I am not getting signed to a major publisher like William Morrow or Random House unless and until I have an agent. I may never sign with one of those houses–I may never get an agent–but I also never really try, either. So, the goal isn’t necessarily to get an agent in 2023, but to at least make an effort.

Finish everything on deck

I have five novellas in some sort of progress, as well as two other books I am at least four or five chapters deep into. I want to finish all of these projects in 2023 and get them out of my working files. I don’t think I will ever finish every short story or essay I’ve begun over the years, but getting some sort of completion here would be really nice. I would love nothing more than to have a working first draft of both Muscles and Chlorine by the midpoint of 2023. I also would like to pull together a second short story collection, which would be incredibly cool (This Town and Other Stories). It would also be nice to get those novellas completed. It is very tempting to turn them all into novels–a couple of them might be able to be stretched out that way–but I know some of them simply do not have the depth or story potential to play out that way. The nice thing about novellas is the length is up to you; I know these stories are all too long to pare down to something readable and enjoyable for six thousand words or less; but some of them need to be longer than the twenty thousand words I was shooting for.

More short stories sent out on submission.

I really do need to finish some of these other short stories I have in progress to try to get them out on submission. I have over eighty stories in some sort of progress, with still others yet to be started and/or finished. I’ve not been doing so great with the short stories as I would have liked over the last few years. I have some really good ones to work on–there’s one I fear that’s going to end up being longer than a short story, because there’s more to the story than can fit in the confines of six thousand words or less, but then you also never know.

Clean like we are moving.

I really need to get rid of things that have accumulated over the sixteen or so years we’ve been living in this apartment. I need to clean out the storage attic and the storage unit; donate a shit ton of books to the library sale, and just in general rid the apartment of all this clutter that seems to be weighing us down and closing in on us. Part of this is my inability to rid myself of books once I’ve read them, but I’ve also become much more ruthless when it comes to pruning them–I still can’t believe I donated so many of my old Stephen King first edition hardcovers, and my Anne Rice first editions as well, but they were just collecting dust in boxes so what use were they? Paul and I set this goal–clean like we’re moving, which in other words means would you move this or trash this? The first few times I pared down the books it literally was painful, but I am getting better. And after being a lifelong book hoarder, well. you can’t just turn that off after decades of doing it.

Volunteer less of my time.

All due respect, I’ve done my time. I have volunteered relentlessly for the overall betterment of the writing community–whether it’s the mystery community or the queer writing community–for quite some time now. I write stories for free for charity anthologies all the time. I step up and judge awards because I think they’re important. I’ve served on the Mystery Writers of America and Bouchercon boards. But now that I’m older, I need to scale back. I don’t have either the time or the prodigious energy that I used to have, and while I’ve enjoyed all the volunteer work, something has to give. I just can’t do all the things that I used to do because things have changed: my day job takes more out of me physically, emotionally, and intellectually than it ever has before (the switch to working early mornings didn’t help); I tire out much earlier than I used to since my COVID situation last July and I can’t write or be productive or even read when I am bone-tired exhausted the way I am when I get home from work some nights. This also includes giving blurbs, I am sad to say; blurbing means reading the entire book, and I just don’t really have the time or mind-space to do much of that anymore; same with judging. I want my reading to be for pleasure or education for the rest of my life. This doesn’t mean I’ll always say no when asked, just that I am going to be more discriminatory. I need to be more jealous of my free time, and I can honestly say few people in the mystery community have done more volunteer work than me. I’d just like to start getting paid for working.

Take better care of myself.

The one-two punch of getting older and having COVID last summer has brought home very clearly to me that I need to take better care of myself and that physical things are just going to get harder. It’s been incredibly difficult over the last few years getting into a gym/workout routine with everything else I had to do plus the exhaustion thing; but the truth is physically I need to start working my body more–and the longer I go, the weaker my body gets and the harder it will be to get back into decent physical condition again. I also need to start paying more attention to my diet now than I am in my early soon to be mid-sixties–my diet needs to be healthier and I need to eat better. I weighed myself last week at the office and I am back up to 218; which is better than 220, but I had gotten myself down to nearly 200 at one point and I’d like to get back there. I don’t like this extra weight on me, and sure, maybe I can carry it and it would surprise people to know how much I actually do weigh, but I’m aware of it. And while it would be easy to think who cares, you’re almost sixty, you’re practically in the grave so why start depriving yourself of things you love at this age? But there’s a defeatist mentality there, a laziness speaking that is far too easy for me to go ahead and give into, and I don’t think that’s perhaps the wisest decision to make? I also need to get some more work on my mouth done–I’m tired of looking like an inbred hillbilly.

Read more.

It’s incredibly easy to come home and collapse into my easy chair and flip on Youtube videos–whether its football highlights, lists, music or military or European history, or reaction videos–it’s easy to just mindlessly lay there in the chair while watching endless videos, one after the other, about whatever subject catches my fancy. But I could read instead–and there’s plenty of nonfiction lying around the apartment. Over the past few days I’ve been reading either Bad Gays or Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown by J. F. Andrews–about heirs to thrones that got supplanted by people with more spurious claims in the Middle Ages–or Holy Wars by Gary L. Rashba (about crusades and ancient wars in the Holy Land, going back to Biblical times); and there are plenty of other non-fiction books lying around here that I could get to more quickly if I read rather than watched Youtube videos. But at the same time, when I am exhausted, it’s almost therapeutic. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to read history or other nonfiction while trying to rest, relax and decompress from a day in clinic.

Be more assertive and less self-deprecating.

In general, this is a good idea. I need to break the conditioning I was raised with, in which you never praise yourself and simply wait for others to notice and do it for you. No, this just doesn’t work and it’s not a good trait for a writer to have. I need to stand up for myself, my work, and my career because let’s face it, nobody else is going to do it for me.

New years can be daunting as they are not only full of potential for either good or bad but they are unknown. You can’t know what’s coming, so all you can do is be hopeful things will always work out in the end. I want to also try to be more positive, and try to enjoy the good things without fear of the inevitable bad things that will inevitably come along. I also need to get out of the mindset that enjoying good things that happen will trigger bad things to happen as punishment; I need to learn to navigate that line between self-confidence and arrogance, which isn’t an easy task.

And on that note, I am going to go read for a little while before i dive into today’s writing. Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s