Playground in My Mind

Wednesday morning, and the week is now on its downward slope into the weekend. Paul is going to visit his mother on Monday for a week; I am going on vacation myself starting a week from today through the following Monday–basically a long weekend around the 4th of July. With Paul absent, I am hoping to get a lot–as always–done.

We’ll see how that goes. My track record isn’t the best, after all. But in fairness to myself, I do–frequently–overestimate what I can get done when I am home by myself. But last night I managed another three thousand (terrible) words on the WIP–even though I’ve recognized that this is a story draft, I still wince at how awkward the scenes are and so forth, but the plot is moving forward and I think once I have it all down on paper and it holds together, I can actually make this into something truly terrific. Of course I’m absolutely terrified I am going to put a foot down wrong or something along those lines; it’s a very tight rope one walks when writing about race and homophobia in the South, particularly when one is white–it’s very easy to go wrong, and when one had always benefited from the systemic racism of our society and culture, when one has to retrain and unlearn so much…I’m always worried something will slip through, unnoticed and unrecognized…but I’m also not certain that my work gets enough attention from the world at large to merit a call-out Twitter-storm of fury, either.

There was an interesting discussion on Facebook the other day about sensitivity readers, and whether they are necessary; and what, if any, compensation is due them for reading the work in question. Should it be a professional courtesy, done as a favor and for the greater good, or is not compensating the sensitivity reader for their time and expertise another form of exploitation and devaluing not only their personhood but their experience? I’m hesitant to ask anyone to read my work as a sensitivity reader because I do believe people should be paid for expertise; the biggest mistake made on this issue was branding them as sensitivity readers–the term should be sensitivity editors. Editors, you see, get paid to read manuscripts and find problems, mistakes, errors, things to be corrected; the sense is that readers do it for free, because who gets paid to read? Readers are fans, editors are professionals; the terminology here has been wrong from the get-go (words matter, people!) and this is why the question has arisen in the first place. I can’t afford to pay someone to be a sensitivity editor for me; and I am not the kind of person who likes asking others for favors (the only thing worse than asking for a favor is asking for money), and I certainly would never ask someone to read an entire manuscript for free to give me advice and input. (I have, however, done this before; but I didn’t ask, I merely accepted when other authors have offered to read something for me–and yes, full disclosure, I probably hinted a lot until they offered. Yes, I am a capital H Hypocrite. I will come right out and ask someone to read a short story to get their input; I do this for others as well, so it’s kind of a circle-of-life kind of thing.)  I personally am not terribly comfortable being a sensitivity editor for other writers, to be completely honest; I cannot speak for the entire LGBTQ+ community and say with authority “no one will find this offensive” because my own level of offense is pretty low, and remember, I have been accused of writing gay stereotypes more than once.

So, how could I possibly be a sensitivity editor?

I am also reluctant to ask people for blurbs because I am aware that I am asking for an enormous favor; reading a manuscript takes time–time that could be spent doing something more beneficial to the person being asked–and usually, it’s an electronic file and I, for one, hate reading electronic files….I’m not big on reading print outs, either, to be honest. I don’t want to spend any more time staring at a screen–be it a monitor, a reading device, or a phone–than I already do, which is quite a lot.

Heavy heaving sigh.

This entry sure wound up all over the place, didn’t it?

It’s very strange, because as a gay man, I often get included in discussions about institutional diversity; I served on the board of Mystery Writers of America for four years (which I did specifically to try to make the organization more open to diversity–it was more open than I thought it was when I joined, frankly, and I’m not certain I had much of an impact there but it certainly was an enormous boon to me, personally and professionally); I currently serve on the Bouchercon board (which I joined for that reason and also to assist with the production of the anthologies); and of course, I write the diversity column for the Sisters in Crime quarterly. So, diversity is on my mind a lot; it’s also why I chose to start the Diversity Project this year–alas, I am not reading as much this year as I have in previous years, burn out from being an Edgar judge last year I suspect–but I also cannot escape the fact I am white, with all the privilege that entails; if I were straight I’d have hit the American jackpot, you know: white straight cisgender male. (Which, of course, is infuriating to hear the  you chose to be gay bleatings of homophobes; why would anyone deliberately choose a more difficult path in life, particularly a more difficult path to being a published writer, which is fucking hard enough already as it is?)

I like to think my status as outside-the-status-quo, oh-so-close-but-not-quite-hitting-the-privilege-grand-slam, has made me more empathetic and sympathetic than I would be had I hit the grand slam; but I also believe in the butterfly effect; me being straight would have changed, certainly my life, but would have also dramatically altered the lives of everyone around me, and the ripples would have continued to flow outward from there.

I like my life, thank you very much, and I am most grateful for it.

And today’s three thousand words aren’t going to write themselves, so I’d best get back to it.

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Will It Go Round in Circles

  Well, I wrote over two thousand words on the WIP yesterday, so whatever the fuck that was is hopefully over. The words aren’t good, of course; in fact, I suspect they are really quite embarrassingly awful. Not nearly as magical and wondrous as those words I wrote on Sunday, of course, on the project that has to be pushed to the side even though I already know what the second chapter is, and yes, it’s perfectly shaped in my head. Complete, even. I could probably bang it out in an hour or two.

But I must not. I can not. I must go back to the wretched WIP and write some more awful words on it tomorrow. But what was holding me back–the knowing how badly I was botching it, and not wanting to continue moving forward…but also finally understanding that of course this is going to be the case.  This draft isn’t about any of that; it’s about getting the story down and correct, a very complicated and twisty plot, more so than anything I’ve tried before, fixed and correct and down,  before I go back and make everything else right–the dialogue and the characters and the scene and so forth. I hate when I have to write what I call a story draft–a draft where I am working the story out as I go because I am not entirely certain where it’s going to end, so I have to focus solely on that–because I hate not focusing on the things I like the most about reading and writing.

I also resent the time I spend wrestling with story drafts.

But the story is taking shape, and I set the stage with this transitional chapter (I also think I hate writing transitional chapters more than I hate writing anything else; they always seem so forced and tedious to me) for the rest of the book here. Now comes the tricky part; the final act where all the various threads of the book and the subplots have to all start coming together.

Heavy sigh. And you KNOW I am itching to write the next chapter of this Chanse book that I shouldn’t even be thinking about yet. Such is my life.

I finally slept fairly decently again last night after two bad nights; I was on a roll last week, sleeping great every night and even slid into the weekend feeling incredibly well-rested. I do feel somewhat rested this morning, but also feel like another two hours in bed would be the bee’s knees, to throw out another silly cliche.

We watched the third episode of season two of Big Little Lies, and while it seems like the show isn’t getting as much buzz in the second season as the first did, I think the second season is even better than the first. The women are all dealing with the aftermaths of their personal traumas, as well as the big lie they are all concealing–that Bonnie pushed Perry down the stairs, and in their shock and horror after it happens they all agreed to lie to the police and claim he just fell–and the reverberations from that lie, while forming a deeper bond between the women, is also wrecking their marriages and their lives. Meryl Streep is just absolutely stunning as Perry’s mother, come to town and very suspicious about all the lies being told–she also, as a loving mother, cannot wrap her mind around the idea that her son is this monster–and while she reads as terrible (her insensitivity in her own grief is wince-inducing but also understandable as she tries to wrap her mind around the truths of her son’s life, while wading through the lies her love for her son refuses to allow her to believe), her addition to the show was simply genius on the part of the writers and showrunners. I highly recommend this, if you aren’t already watching, and the performances themselves–Nicole Kidman, Streep, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and Reese Witherspoon–are all award-worthy.

Just stunning television.

And now back to the spice mines. Pray for me as I start to sort out the third act of the book.

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Rock and Roll All Nite

So, I got my new glasses yesterday.

The trip to Metairie and back was relatively pain-free, other than idiot drivers on the interstate (but that’s anytime you get on the interstate here), and I have to say I like my new glasses. I’ve always chosen glasses more based on functionality than as a “fashion accessory” (I actually only discovered that was a thing about twelve years ago, and it still amazes me on both ends–one, that it’s a thing, and two, that it never dawned on me in almost forty years of wearing glasses to pick them out based on how they look on me), and I have very little patience for trying on glasses or shopping for them. I like big lenses, because it always bothers/distracts me when I can things out of focus around them. It’s also hard to find glasses that are wide enough across the face, because the distance from ear to ear that the glasses have to reach across is not proportional to the distance between my eyes.

So my glasses seem to always have the legs jutting off to the side, rather than backwards, which looks odd.

But not these new ones. The lenses are so big I can’t blurry things around them unless I look hard left or right, and the frames are so wide that the legs go straight back to my ears. I also hadn’t realized how out-of-date my old glasses were (just two years, really; maybe three?) because now I see so much better with my new ones, and they do feel comfortable on my ears and to my eyes, which is quite nice, frankly.

And of course, I primarily selected these not for how they look but for their function. The lenses are big, and so are the frames. Whether they are flattering, I don’t know. The entire concept of glasses as an accessory to enhance my appearance is an utterly foreign concept to me. I guess it goes back to being a kid and wearing glasses being considered being a strike against the way you look? (Glasses and braces–hello, Jan Brady!–being the original dipso duo) The whole men don’t make passes are girls who wear glasses thing. I know that when I wear glasses rather than my contact lenses any concern I might have about my appearance goes away; I’m wearing glasses, you see, so it doesn’t matter; I couldn’t possibly look good.

And then I begin to wonder–was it when I started having to wear progressive lenses, which fucked up the ability to wear contacts, that I started not caring about how I looked? I do remember thinking, once I had to go to progressives (no longer called bi-focals, because that’s a stigmatizing term that indicates GETTING OLD) that I could never wear contacts again; it was around this same time that I hurt my back at the gym and had to stop working out for nearly a year–a year away from the gym from which my body never truly has recovered. (And this was also, oddly enough, around the time that I decided to teach myself how to cook and bake….so my caloric intake went up around the same time that my caloric output dramatically decreased. I often wonder if the reason I feel so old and  tired so often is because I don’t work out regularly anymore)

But I like my new glasses, and I don’t know whether they are flattering or not–but i also got new progressive contact lenses as well, and I am trying very hard to adapt to wearing contacts again. When I do wear my contacts I feel differently than I do when I wear glasses; and I know damned well that it’s a completely mental thing that has nothing to do with reality. I am conditioned to think I look better without my glasses, whether I actually do or not. It’s all part and parcel of the cultural and societal conditioning I grew up with.

I started wearing glasses quite young; I was either seven or eight when I got my first pair of glasses, and to this day I remember the first time I wore them outside the house, to school. As I walked the block and half to my grade school, I remember looking at the trees and the houses and everything and being astonished at how clearly I could see everything; I also remember thinking this is how everyone else sees all the time. My entire life up until that point I’d seen everything as blurry, indistinct shapes of color the further away from them I was, and it was wondrous to be able to see the world clearly for the first time.

The fact that I wore glasses–and this is another one of those ridiculous societal things we were all brainwashed with back when I was a child–also made people think I was smart, because there was some strange correlation made between wearing glasses and being intelligent. I was intelligent, of course, but the glasses had nothing to do with it; it was, I suppose, one of those strange things where the stereotype had built up that people who wore glasses strained their eyes studying and because of the glasses they couldn’t play sports and therefore couldn’t be dumb jocks. Glasses did make it difficult for me to play sports, but my primary problem wasn’t my glasses but the problem I had (and still have, to this day) with depth perception.

My grandmother, for the record, always believed I needed glasses because I read too much in the car, which is completely insane, but she absolutely believed this and convinced my parents of it as well–so they didn’t let me read in the car for years. I guess that’s one of those “old-wives’-tales-from-back-in-the-holler” that my parents took with them to Chicago when we moved up there when I was two years old.

Rural Southern wisdom, for what it’s worth.

All right, I’ve got a lot to do today and I need to get going on it. Tis off to the spice mines with me, and have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again

It isn’t very often that I look back at the past. While memories and nostalgia can be quite lovely, they can also be a trap; it is far too easy to start second-guessing your life and thinking things like oh if only I’d done this or maybe if this hadn’t happened and so forth. Many years ago, shortly after I moved to Minneapolis to live with Paul, I gave up on looking back. The truth was, no matter how many bad decisions or wrong turns I’d made in my life, no matter how many shitty things I endured, no matter how many times a friend betrayed me or whatever…the truth was everything in my past was part and parcel of who I am today and my life would be different now if any of those things had changed; so having regrets about the past and playing the if only game indicated that I was, in fact, not happy with my life at the present time because why else would I want to change something in my past if not to change the present?

And I’m pretty fucking happy with my life and my career(s). I do love my day job, where I get to  help people every day, and I love my writing career. I marvel from time to time that I have one at all; it’s been my dream for as long as I can remember–I remember being a little boy and getting my weekly Scholastic book club books, sitting on the back porch of our little apartment in Chicago and reading them, and thinking that what I wanted to do when I grew up was write books for people to read and enjoy, the way I read and enjoyed books. Are there times when I wish I was more successful? Of course there are; I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have some ambition. And really, while some of that ambition is about making more money, it’s mostly about writing more complex stories and exploring complicated themes and characters.

Right now I have three unpublished manuscripts here in the Lost Apartment; one has been languishing in a drawer after two drafts for nearly seven years, another has gone through five drafts and needs one more to correct everything then another to polish; and the partial I am currently working on (which is like pulling teeth for me, for some reason. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to write this book…). I want to spend probably the rest of this year getting those manuscripts ready for publication before I start writing yet another; I am also working on a proposal for a potential new series, and I have another idea for a stand alone thriller….there’s also an amorphous Scotty book swirling around in the mists in the creative part of my brain. I also would like to do another short story collection, but I need to get those stories written and sent out. I also want to do an essay collection.

Yesterday was a lost day for me, because I was tired all day. I didn’t sleep particularly well either night of the weekend; I was asleep and resting, but not a deep sleep that rests up everything; more of a I’m sort of asleep and wake up every few hours. This made my twelve hour shift yesterday more of a survival thing rather than a participatory day–I was present, and I gave my clients excellent service yesterday (I am, he typed modestly, extremely good at my day job), but I was too tired to really function mentally and creatively. When I got home last night, I was too tired to do much of anything other than stream the first two episodes of the new season of Archer, which I love–even though it’s not quite as good as the earlier seasons were. I’m also considering buying the first season of The Other Two, which isn’t available to stream for free anywhere, I’ve heard good things, and it’s only ten bucks…I hate paying for anything television, but since getting rid of the cable service and using Hulu’s streaming service, even with subscriptions to certain services (HBO, Showtime, ESPN) I still am paying less than I  used when I had cable, so paying to watch a TV show isn’t that bad of a thing. Animal Kingdom has also returned, and we’re watching it as well–and in just over two months college football and the Saints will be back, taking over my weekends. I’m taking a long weekend around the 4th of July–five days; it falls on a Thursday so I am taking Wednesday and Friday to go with it.

Anyway, to bring this back around to the first paragraph, as I said yesterday being interviewed for the Writer Types podcast put me into a reflective mood, looking back at my past–and part of that is also the current WIP, which requires me to probe memories of my childhood summers in Alabama to make the book come to life–and that, in turn, brings back other memories and reflections. At first, I resisted the rabbit holes of memories that were flooding through my brain, determined to never look back–but I also think part of that was not wanting to remember mistakes made and revisiting bad decisions. But embracing the memories hasn’t made them rosier and glossier; but I am able now, with the proper time and distance, to examine them dispassionately and deconstruct how and why, and the lessons learned from them.

And that isn’t a bad thing, really.

I was talking to my co-workers last night about how much change I’ve seen throughout my life–not just for the queer community, but for women and people of color–and even though none of us in those groupings have achieved true equality yet, we’re closer than ever and getting closer every day.

It’s also amazing how patchy my memory is–as I told Eric and Steve during the podcast, the years from 2005-2009 are mostly blanks, which I have learned is a result of the PTSD created by everything from Paul’s gaybashing through the Christian attacks to Katrina and it’s aftermath; it’s not unusual for people to have memory gaps after that kind of emotional trauma.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Island Girl

And it’s Wednesday, just like that.

Time slips through my hands like mercury these days. It’s already the fifteenth of May, so this month is passing by rapidly and it’ll be June before I know it. Today is also payday, and I have bills to pay this morning before I venture off to errands and the office. I am not quite awake yet this morning; I slept deeply and well, waking maybe once or twice throughout the course of the night, and also didn’t really particularly want to get up this morning. As I lagged in bed longer than I should have this morning, time sped past, which of course has resulted in me needing to get a move on and not take my time this morning before I leave.

I managed to write about fifteen hundred words of a brand spanking new chapter last night; which is progress with which I am mostly pleased–a little disappointed I didn’t finish writing the chapter but pleased that it’s new and the story is starting to move along. This section of the book is the tricky part, the part I always have trouble with; as the backstory begins to be revealed and cross currents and cross-purposes begin to have an effect on the story. So, I have to be careful and focus on plot in this section, and plot is something I’ve never really believed myself to be particularly good with, so yeah, I hate writing the middle. Absolutely hate it, and this is where I always wind up thinking what I’m writing sucks and why did I ever think I could be a writer and so on and so on and so on…

And so goes the downward spiral.

I also feel terribly behind this morning; as though there are things I need to be doing and getting done but somehow am not. Sigh. I suppose what I really need to do is make a list and work my way through it…which is usually the answer; I’ve just been terrible about making lists and reviewing them throughout the week lately–which should tell you how off-kilter I’ve been lately…I live for making lists and checking off things. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, you know? And while I am not quite sure why that is so important to me, it is, and it helps, and it works, and I don’t know why I so consistently abandon things that work for me and help me get things done. It’s a kind of self-sabotage that I don’t quite understand, and probably should spend some time unpacking.

Writing the book I am currently working on–as well as the one I intend to go back and finish once this first draft is done–has opened some doors in my mind; both are attempts to deal with some things from my own life and my own past and make some kind of emotional/mental peace with things, if that makes any sense? Revisiting my past to draw from for the stories in both of these works is kind of a therapy of sorts…or at the worst, self-indulgence of the worst kind.

Yeah, back to the spice mines on that note.

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Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

It started raining last night as I retired to bed. Lovely, I thought, the sound of rain always helps me sleep better. There’s just something about being warm and dry underneath blankets while it’s pouring rain outside that, I don’t know, that makes me feel comfortable and relax, which is, quite naturally, rather lovely. It rained pretty heavily all night, actually; thunder woke me a couple of times, but I was able to easily go back to sleep, which was quite marvelous. I woke up this morning a little later than usual, and after seeing articles like this one, popping up on my notifications when I sat down at my computer, I might not have known how bad the raining–and subsequent flooding–actually was. My street generally doesn’t flood–it might take on an inch or so or water, but the entire neighborhood basically drains to Coliseum Square–but I did go out and check. I didn’t see any telltale leaves or dirt on the sides of any of the cars parked out there, so I am going to assume my car is okay this morning.

One can hope, at any rate.

So, yesterday I managed to write quite a bit in a very short period of time; over three thousand words on chapters nine and ten, finishing them off and bringing me back to the point where I have to start writing new chapters. Revising these first ten chapters has, as intended, brought me back into the story again, so today I am going to try to write Chapter Eleven as well as map out the rest of the middle of the book. This pleases me inordinately; I should be able to get the rest of this first draft finished by the end of the month; there’s also a three day weekend to look forward to, which is also kind of awesome. It felt great doing all that writing yesterday, and when I was finished for the day I was amazed at how great I felt. It was also a bit of a relief; whenever writing becomes hard, you always begin to question whether or not the well has run dry and your glory days are behind you.

I think that becomes worse the older you get, too–because things you’ve become used to over the course of your life begin to go away the older you get, you know? Things like teeth and hair and firm skin…the ability to write.

I watched the first episode of Fosse Verdon last night, and greatly enjoyed it. I was sort of familiar already with the story–I watched All That Jazz a very long time ago, and that film sort of spelled out the Fosse story, while of course centering Fosse and shoving Verdon’s importance to his career to the side (as always); I’m glad to see this series making this very clear. Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell are incredible; I don’t know who the actress playing young Liza Minnelli is, but she also knocked it out of the part, turning what could very easily have been your standard caricature into an actual performance. It also didn’t hurt that the first episode primarily focused on the filming of Cabaret, a film I first saw when I was very young and didn’t much care for, but as an older adult have grown to appreciate all the more–and watching this episode actually made me want to see it yet again. It’s a very good show; I hope people are watching.

I am also still thinking about Dead to Me, which is absolutely superb. Seriously, Constant Reader, you need to watch this show.

So, yesterday, as you can tell, was a good day for the most part–the overnight street flooding aside–and I also managed to get some filing and organizing and cleaning done, which was also pretty marvelous. The Lost Apartment looks better than it has in quite some time–I was managing the cleaning/writing balance pretty well–and when I was finished (quite early, actually) with the writing I was able to focus on the cleaning/filing/organizing, and it all went well. I did some backing up of computer files–the computer is getting wonky again–and did all the dishes and so forth, which was also quite lovely. I also did some note-taking in my journal.

Go, Gregalicious!

I am also really loving my Spotify subscription; I am truly sorry I didn’t discover it and its magic long ago. I’m listening to a lot of albums I used to love and reacquainting myself with how much I love them–the Cars, the Go-Go’s, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar, the Pointer Sisters, Josie Cotton, Tina Turner, ’til Tuesday–the list goes on forever, really. I’ve saved tons of albums to my library, and have been having the best time listening to them and–as music always does–being swept back in time to when I used to listen to them originally; I guess revisiting my youth?

It’s also daunting to realize how old some of these records actually are; I mean, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is about forty-two years old now…which again adds to the horror of how old I am. AIEEEEE! But so many of them still hold up today, you know, and don’t sound dated at all, and I’m really enjoying rediscovering how great some of the records I owned in the past were and had just forgotten about. I mean, I’d absolutely forgotten how amazing the Cars were, or how terrific the Pointer Sisters’ Break Out album actually was–and still is.

So, today, I intend to write Chapter Eleven, map out some future chapters, and get some other things done before Game of Thrones tonight.

And then the entire week starts all over again, lather, rinse, repeat.

But I do have high hopes for getting things done today. Fingers crossed, Constant Reader, fingers crossed!

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Dream On

Maybe there is something to this say it out loud and name it thing. Yesterday I managed 1600 words–wasn’t expecting that–and it was a lot easier than the 1400 from Sunday. I think printing the chapter out and rereading it, and thinking about it, before I went back to work on it made it a lot easier, frankly; I have this bad habit of just going into the file and starting from the beginning and revising as I go–and sometimes I don’t remember how the chapter ends. Sometimes I will add a paragraph that I think belongs in the chapter…only to come across the same paragraph, slightly differently written, a little while later…which also can be filed under wasting time and not an effective use of time and yeah that’s a step you should cut out.

But one thing about being a writer is that you never stop learning, I guess. And, sometimes if things aren’t going as well as you’d like, it’s not a step backwards to stop for a minute, decide you have to go back in time to try to remember things you used to do, tricks that used to work well for you in the past that somehow you’ve completely forgotten about now.

You know, like keeping a journal. Reading my pages out loud to hear how the words sound together, if there’s a steady rhythm of some kind  or catch where it stumbles a bit here and there, to smooth it out to the right pace and rhythm for the reader, for the words to and syllables to flow correctly so the reader isn’t taken out of the moment by a badly selected word or phrase. I love writing, but the whole process is still a mystery to me, all these years and columns and articles and reviews and essays and blog entries and short stories and novellas and novels later, it somehow still is a mystery to me, and every time I sit down to write a new manuscript, no matter what it is or what it’s about or who it’s for, I seem to have to solve the mystery of how to do this, how to get it done, and how to satisfy myself that I’ve done my best–or even try to figure out how to do my best.

And sometimes it feels like I’ve never completely figured it out, but somehow it just happened.

One of the reasons I loathe being asked where my ideas come from isn’t just that it’s not a question where any answer I might give would shed light into how I write or how I choose what I write; it’s just that ideas are quite literally everywhere. I can have a conversation with someone and during the chat, in my head whatever we’re talking about has triggered several thoughts of oh that would make an interesting starting point for a story or that would be interesting subject to look into and read about and perhaps write an essay about or that would be an interesting character to write about. Headlines give me ideas, and stories on the news, and snippets of conversations overheard; there’s absolutely nothing out there in the world that comes into contact with me that also won’t trigger some kind idea for something, some bit of writing or some piece of fiction or a paragraph or something, you know? Sometimes a paragraph which has absolutely nothing to do with anything I am currently writing will pop into my head, and I will dutifully write it down in my journal, where it will sit until I run across it one day and think I should really write something around this paragraph, it’s quite good, and if I am the right frame of mind the characters and the title will come to me and then the story will start to spin out from there. The short stories I have on hand that aren’t finished, are in some stage of construction, whether it’s an unfinished first draft, a first draft or a second or even a third; there’s something still missing from those that I can’t quite put my finger on; some missing piece that, if clicked into place, will finish the story and it will be done, complete, ready for public consumption. There’s a short story, for example, that I wrote as a first draft for a writing class back in the 1980’s; my professor told me to send it out for publication back in the days of carbon paper and typewriters. I sent it to a couple of places over the years, but it never was accepted anywhere, and I know something is missing from the story to make it complete but I simply cannot put my finger on what precisely that is; I’ve had editors look at it and try to solve the puzzle of “Whim of the Wind” (which is a title I absolutely love), but no one’s ever quite been able to tell me what it needs–they also recognize it needs something, but they don’t know what that something is; I always think to myself welcome to the club and put the story back away. But the voice is charming, and the story has some of the most lovely sentences and paragraphs I’ve ever written; the imagery is beautiful, as is the mood and tone, and it’s actually the first story set in my fictional county in Alabama I’ve revisited in other work over the years, notably “Smalltown Boy” and the book I’m currently writing. But every few years I will pull that story out and read it again, wondering what I can do to complete it, to finally finish it, some twenty-five or more years later, and never can quite get the answer I need.

Maybe there is no answer to that question. Who knows?

I also started writing an article that is due relatively soon that I was asked to write; the trick with the article is I have to be careful not to turn it into a polemic. But it’s slowly starting to come together in my head…we’ll see how that turns out. Which means hopefully soon; I think I need to get it turned in by the end of the week.

Yeah, nothing like pressure.

In other exciting news, I’ve had to start wearing a belt. My weight is now fluctuating between 211 and 207; which is fan-fucking-tastic, and now my pants are all too big. Over the last few months I’d noticed that I was constantly having to pull my pants up; now they are so big they will slide all the way down to my knees after taking three or four steps. This, needless to say, is kind of annoying to have to deal with–especially if your hands are full–so this morning I put on a belt and my pants are staying up just fine…I stopped wearing belts years ago, unless I was dressing up; in which case it served as a unnecessary accessory, but you can’t wear dressy pants without a belt. So I own maybe two belts, total; which is a good thing because now they are necessary.

I still don’t like wearing belts, but like the idea that I need one.

I was also very pleased, by the way, with the writing I’ve been doing lately. Yes, I know I had a bout of impostor syndrome on Sunday, but the reread of the chapter and what I wrote for Chapter Seven pleased me immensely. I probably could have written more, but as I said, I want to read Chapter Eight again before rewriting it–I think this is a chapter where I could make it a lot more creepy than it is already written; it’s a drive through the Alabama countryside late at night in the dark, and for someone who is primarily used to living in a city the size of Chicago–imagine how terrifying it would be to drive down country roads in the dark that you aren’t that familiar with. Over all, the book still needs more atmosphere and needs to be more Gothic, and chilling; that is, I imagine, what the next draft will be for.

I also think I know what I  need to do to make “And The Walls Came Down” creepier, and more ready for submission.

I think this week I am going to send out a couple of stories to markets, and see what happens.

After all, the worst thing they can do to me is say no.

And on that note it’s back to the spice mines.

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