Hey, Western Union Man

We continue to watch Thirteen Reasons Why, and last night we got through Episode 10, which was heartbreaking. Tonight when I get home from work we’ll watch Episode 11–spoiler! It’s when Clay listens to his own tape, and while I am absolutely riveted, I am also dreading the episode. I also am getting further in the book, which is different in some ways from the show.  At one point watching last night, I said to Paul, “I’m so glad I’m not a teenager now,” even though I feel relatively certain that the things that happen in the book/show probably happened when I was a teenager–I, like Clay, was probably unaware/oblivious to it all–which is a horrifying thought. I find that I am often unpacking a lot of things from my past, recognizing behaviors that were no big deal back then but now are horrifying.

I’ve been processing a lot of that lately, to be honest, and in no small part because of the manuscript. I didn’t do any reading/outlining yesterday, nor did I touch “Quiet Desperation,” primarily because I felt kind of tired and out of it yesterday (another wretched night’s sleep  Tuesday, followed by Wacky Russian on Wednesday morning), and while I certainly slept better last night, Paul’s alarm and his constant smacking of the snooze button this morning got me up earlier than I would have preferred. Tonight is yet another late night of bar testing, and tomorrow is the drive to Montgomery and the Author Welcome Party. Heavy heaving sigh. But I’ve pretty much decided not to spend the extra Saturday night in Montgomery; Saturday morning I’ll check out and head over to the Book Festival, spend the day there, and then drive back to New Orleans. That way I have Sunday here to run errands and do things, before driving up to Oxford on Monday. After all this travel I am going to get into a regular workout schedule upon my return, as well.

That’s the plan, at any rate.

So, this morning I am going to pack for the trip, clean the kitchen and get some laundry done, do some writing, and maybe read a bit. I am having lunch with a former intern of mine from a million years and several jobs ago–she’s now a lawyer, how bad-ass is that?–before I head to work. We are lunching at the Irish House, a pub-style restaurant whose chef won Chopped  many years ago, and they have pretty awesome fish-and-chips, and it’s a short walk from the Lost Apartment (I’ll take the car, though, so I can take my time and then drive to work from there). So the dryer is spinning, the washer is agitating, and I am sitting here with my second cup of coffee listening to a playlist on my iHome stereo waiting for the clouds to clear out of my head completely before I get up and unload the dishwasher and get the day going.

This morning I also picked out the story I’m going to revise/rewrite for an anthology I want to submit to–getting into it (it’s annual) is on my bucket list and I will keep trying until I do get in. I’ve submitted three or four times so far–failing every time–but two of the rejected stories ended up somewhere else, so that’s always a good thing. I am really taking my short story writing a lot more seriously than I used to; I am no longer allowing myself to think I am not good at it because that is self-defeating (another one of my daily affirmations, which really, as weird as it seems and as ‘new agey/touchy-feely/mumbo-jumbo’ as it feels and I’ve always dismissed it as, actually is seeming to work. 

I just wish I had thought this way twenty years ago. Ah, well, no regrets.

Live and learn.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you, Grant Aleksander, who played Philip Spaulding on Guiding Light:

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Magic Carpet Ride

I got up early this morning to take a friend to a doctor’s appointment, and so, having finished Finders Keepers, dug out my copy of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why to take along to read while I waited for her.  We watched another three episodes last night–it really is compulsively watchable, if more than slightly annoying (Paul and I have a tendency to yell at the television periodically “JUST LISTEN TO THE REST OF THE TAPES DUMBASS!” but other than that, we are really enjoying it, despite some plot holes). I managed to read almost 100 pages during the hour or so I waited–it’s a quick read, the book isn’t as long as it looks–double spaced, big font, lots of short, one sentence paragraphs–and again, despite some plot holes, it’s compulsively readable; I want to know all the reasons. The book is also different than the show, in that Clay apparently does what Paul and I want him to do in the show–he listens to the tapes all in one night. I can see why that isn’t possible in the show; you probably couldn’t get thirteen one hour episodes out of the story if it all took place in one night, but on the other hand…does it really need to be thirteen hours? But the young actors are all incredibly appealing and are quite good in their roles, as I said before, and it’s compulsively watchable.

The show also pushes buttons from time to time for me; “wow, are they really showing the kids getting high? Drinking beer? Getting drunk? How incredibly irresponsible!” and then I have to snap out of it. Teenagers deal with these things, they did when I was in high school, and one of the things that annoyed me about entertainment aimed at teens when I was one is that it was so unrealistic.

Then again, Judy Blume was just getting published and writing frankly about teens, and scandalizing the country and getting banned everywhere, when I was a teen–and I always see Judy Blume as the person who changed the world of young adult fiction, and for the better.

Ironically, I just checked the schedule for the Alabama Book Festival this weekend and see that Jay Asher is speaking there. Synchronicity, or serendipity, or both?

I think one of the reasons I’m enjoying Riverdale as much as I am (the young actor who plays Reggie on that show is also on 13 Reasons Why; the first time he turned up on screen I said out loud, “Reggie!” He and the character are being under-utilized on Riverdale, which I hope changes) is seeing the squeaky clean, highly sanitized comic books I read when I was very young made more realistic. Riverdale is a dark teen soap, owing debts not only to Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills 90210, but also a big one to Pretty Little Liars–which in turn owes a debt to The Edge of Night, the long running daytime soap whose story-lines were based not only in romance but in crime and suspense. 13 Reasons Why is another teen soap built around a mystery; while Riverdale‘s main driving story is”who killed Jason Blossom, and why” this one’s is “why did Hannah kill herself, and why the tapes?”

I’ve also been thinking about my own young adult fiction a lot lately, probably because of what I am currently working on. I’ve put the Scotty book aside for the time being, because I just wasn’t feeling it, to be honest, and writing it felt like I was forcing it and the story itself didn’t work for me. So, I am going to take a break from it for a bit, work on some short stories, and forge forward with this manuscript I am intent on revising. I’m actually enjoying myself doing all this editing and revising because there is no pressure of a deadline. I can take my time, think things through, rather than trusting my instincts and hoping for the best while the clock inexorably continues to tick as time slips through my fingers. (There really is something to be said for no deadlines.)

Sorceress began as a short story of slightly less than ten thousand words, and I originally wrote it in 1989, long hand, on notebook paper. I remember paying someone to type it for me, and as a lengthy short story it didn’t work–it was too rushed, too much happened in too short a period of time on the page. When I reread the story, it occurred to me that it was really just a lengthy synopsis, and might make a book. It was the third novel I completed a first draft of (in 1993!), and it eventually made it to publication in 2010. I know I wrote it originally as an homage to Jane Eyre, Victoria Holt, and other gothic writers I had long admired; I gave it more of a supernatural edge, though, but it was really the same premise that even Dark Shadows began with: a young orphaned girl comes to live in a big, spooky house where mysterious things happen. (I wonder why so many books/stories of this type start this way? Is it because it’s a voyage to the unknown, or a fresh start in a new place? 13 Reasons Why kind of fits into this as well, since part of Hannah’s problems begin with her being the new girl in town.)

Hmmmm.

All right, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

 

Paparazzi

Memories lie.

There are things and moments from my childhood I remember completely differently from my parents and my sister, for example, or moments from early on in Paul’s and my relationship. My memories differ from those of kids I went to high school with, and those of my fraternity brothers. Memory and experience are always, of course, colored by our own internal beliefs, values, fears, and opinions; which is what makes being a crime writer interesting.

I remembered, for example, that we moved from the city out to the suburbs in the winter of 1969. I’ve always thought that was the truth; we moved to our house in Bolingbrook that winter and would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that was the truth. Imagine my surprise, during my recent visit to my parents, to hear both of them insist that wasn’t true and we moved out there in either the winter of 1971 or 1972; and I sat there, confused, and then a key piece of my history snapped into place in the jigsaw puzzle that is my memory: you were ten when you moved; your eleventh birthday was your first birthday in the new house so it had to be 1971. I’d always remembered that we’d lived out there for much longer than we had. We only lived in Bolingbrook for four and a half years; I was in the sixth grade when we moved and we moved to Kansas after my sophomore year ended.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I was rather startled the other day to hear that David Cassidy is in early stage dementia; David Cassidy was a part of my childhood, and it’s hard to remember the years when The Partridge Family aired without hearing their music in the echo chambers of my brain. The Partridge Family Album was, in fact, the first album my sister owned. She had one of those little portable record players that either ran on six enormous batteries or could be plugged into the wall, and she played the album over and over and over again. I didn’t mind because I kind of liked the music myself; and we watched the show religiously every week. My sister, of course, was madly in love with David Cassidy, who did nothing for me. (Even as a nascent gay child, my crush was Kurt Russell.)

Before buying that album my sister primarily bought 45’s; it amazes me that there are any number of people who don’t know what those are, or how you used to stack them on the record player, so the next one would drop when the previous one finished playing and the needle cleared out of the way, or the scratchy sounds from collected dust and/or scratches on the record that you could always hear in the background. David Cassidy replaced Bobby Sherman in my sister and her friends’ affections; Bobby Sherman replaced Davey Jones of the Monkees.

The show itself was pretty dreadful, really. The idea was derived from the Cowsills, an actual family musical group, and it was designed to appeal to young girls and hopefully sell some records; another prefabricated music group along the lines of the Monkees and the Archies. They’d never intended for “Keith” to sing lead vocals on the music, but David Cassidy auditioned and got the part and to their surprise, he could sing and had musical ambitions. (Alas for him, he became a huge teen idol but never got the rock stardom he always dreamed of.) His stepmother in real life, Shirley Jones, was cast as his mother, widowed Shirley who worked in a bank to support her five kids. (Jones was actually an accomplished singer herself, and had an Oscar for playing a prostitute in Elmer Gantry.) Even at the time, I didn’t think the show was funny, but it wasn’t as bad and corny and hokey as The Brady Bunch, which was admittedly a low bar. But I was delighted several years ago to discover that the Partridge Family’s music was on iTunes, and I downloaded some, out of a sense of nostalgia.

And it wasn’t bad. I downloaded more, and still listen to it from time to time. It’s glossy, well produced, and slick pop music, but it’s not terrible. It certainly holds up better than Shaun Cassidy’s hits or New Kids on the Block.

And am I ever glad I didn’t have to go into the office today. I am worn out, frankly, not sure how I am going to survive tonight’s parades.

Heavy sigh