Hold Me Now

Happy Thanksgiving! We have our deep dish pizza in the refrigerator, which we will be heating up later when our friend Lisa comes over to watch some movies; which is what we do every year for Thanksgiving. (Lisa is the one who introduced us to each other.) Today I am going to take a day off from writing and stressing; no news, no worries. Paul is going in to the office tomorrow, so I’ll have tomorrow to do some writing and editing and so forth and I also have Monday off as well. He’s departing to visit his mom for a week one week from today as well. So, yes, today is the day where I am not going to be stressed about anything and just relax and enjoy the day. I’ll probably spend Saturday doing copy edits and working on the Scotty Bible (which means, going through the books with post-it notes to mark pages with references to regular characters so I can check for continuity).

I finished reading Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds last night, and it is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year; it’s a remarkable concept, and Sternbergh delivers on it completely. It’s just exceptional. I’m going to review it here, but I am going to let my thoughts on it brew for another couple of days or so. I also started reading Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley last night, and while I am only a few chapters in, it’s already blowing me away. This is some extraordinary writing and character development, people. I have Ivy’s earlier books in my enormous TBR pile, but I wanted to read this one and review it since it’s more current; her books will be moving up in the TBR pile now. I’ve now read some amazing books back to back; If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin, Sunburn by Laura Lippman, The Wife by Alafair Burke, and now The Blinds, and as I said, the Pochoda is also exceptional; I’ll be reviewing the others here closer to their release dates.

Glad I am not judging any awards this year or next. Whoa.

After abandoning the other short story I started working on another one. I wrote its first draft about thirty years ago, and of course, it’s terrible, but I liked the main character and I liked the setting, which are about the only things I am keeping for the story. I have, over the years, realized that the story is actually a great noir set up, so I am revising it accordingly, and while the story was originally about unrequited gay desire…I am changing it to something darker. The gay desire will still be there, but it’s just going to be a lot darker. This draft is just to get the story down; after which I will do another draft to deepen the characters, and then another to make the story itself stronger and more horrific/shocking, and then once more for language. This was the problem with the other story; I couldn’t get the story down and it was taking forever. (Although I am now itching to take another run at it, if you can believe that. Lord.)

And on that note I am going back to the spice mines. I need to get this place looking more ship-shape before Lisa arrives, and I have a shit ton of filing and organizing to do.

Here’s something I have always been thankful for: Calvin Klein underwear ads.

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Say It Isn’t So

Yesterday I gave up on a short story that was so fucking painful to write. I’ve literally been working on this story stubbornly for over a week, crested three thousand words yesterday, was nowhere near finished, and it took me about five hours to get about five hundred words done–and I questioned every single one of them. Do I still think it’s potentially a great story? Yes, I do. Am I going to waste any more time trying to write it right now? Hell no. I had wanted to submit it for the MWA anthology, which has a deadline of December 1, but if I am having this much trouble trying to get a first draft finished…there just ain’t no way I would have a polished and pristine version to submit that would have a chance of getting published against the hundreds of other amazing stories being sent in. Getting into one of the MWA anthologies is on my bucket list, but this year apparently isn’t going to be the year. It’s enormously disappointing, to say the least, but I should have given up on this story before now. I have too many other things to do before December 1 to justify having wasted so much time trying to get this story written. It just rings so false.

And it had so much potential. Oh, well. Sometimes that’s just the way the ball bounces, you know?

Slogging through writing that stupid fucking story has also fucked with my self-confidence, seriously. Not that I have a lot to begin with, but when you’re a writer you are in a constant state of questioning yourself: can I still do this? What if I’m burned out? What if I’ve suddenly lost the ability to do this? WHat if I can’t write anything decent anymore?

I mean, not being able to bang out the first draft of a short story? I used to be able to do that in about three hours, if I focused. And now I am wondering if I no longer have the ability to focus. See how that works?

Ah, well. So, now I am going to try to go work on another short story; a completely different one, a more noir-esque tale of lust and desire turned to murder in a damp Florida panhandle town, reeking of the sea and Spanish moss and towering pine trees and white sand. And I need to get back to work on the Scotty book, and I’ve got some editing to do.

Whatever.

Here’s another Calvin Klein underwear ad.

 

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Dancing in the Dark

Well, I finished Alafair Burke’s The Wife last night, and wow. Just….wow.

That is three, count ’em, three, amazing novels by women I’ve read recently; all of whom–Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke–were already writing fantastic novels, and yet somehow manage to get better with each new one.  As a writer myself, reading these fantastic novels is a bit daunting–it puts me in mind of why do I bother I will never be this good–but as a reader who loves books, they make me want to send off fireworks.

I also started reading Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds last night, and it’s also exceptional. I’d read his Edgar Award nominated debut, Shovel Ready, which was amazing, but somehow had missed his second novel; but got a free copy of The Blinds at Bouchercon (thank you, Harper Collins author signing party!) and have heard raves about it, so I decided to tackle it next. And yes, wow. I am also still processing The Wife, and Lippman’s Sunburn, and Gaylin’s If I Die Tonight. I will of course discuss all of these books closer to their release dates, in great detail, on here. But if you love great books, Constant Reader, you need to go pre-order these right the fuck now. You will not be sorry.

You’ll only be sorry if you don’t.

I don’t have to go into the office until late; which is lovely as I have about a gazillion things to do around the house this morning. I also have several errands to run: I have to stop at Garden District Books to pick up a book about the New Orleans Jewish community (more on that later); CVS to pick up a prescription; and of course, as always, I have to get the mail. I need to spend the morning outlining some short stories–one is due at the end of the month, and I am going to have to really get moving if I intend to get it finished–and I also seriously need to get some Scotty stuff finished. I also need, this week, to tear apart the WIP so I can figure out how to restructure it and add in the things that need to be added. I’d like to get that finished by the end of the year, and I think going about doing all of this in an organized fashion makes the most sense. It’s weird how disorganized I am about writing, when I try–almost to the point of being obsessive–I am about everything else in my life. I also need to start restricting my access to social media; that doesn’t help me with my attention span, which seems to be getting shorter and shorter as I get older. I’ve always had trouble focussing and maintaining that focus; I’ve got to be more laser-like in my focus if I’m going to get all of this stuff done by the end of the year.

I know I can do it, and I am actually feeling a lot more confident than I should be. But the busier I am, the more I have to do–the more likely I am to get things done.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines.

Here’s a Tuesday hunk for you, Constant Reader. Enjoy.

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All Night Long (All Night)

Well, it’s Sunday. I made it through another week and it’s grim and gray out there again this morning, with a grocery run staring me down and some serious cleaning, organizing, writing and editing to do ahead of me for the rest of the day. Heavy heaving sigh. But that’s okay; I have a lot on my plate. Some exciting things dropped into my lap recently–pretty much all in the second half of last week–which means I have a lot of things to work on but very little time in which to do them. This also, of course, means all the damned procrastinating I’ve been doing pretty much this entire year needs to come to an end, and I’m already regretting the whatever it was that was allowing me to be lazy all year.

Bad Gregalicious! Bad Gregalicious!

I had wanted to get some more reading done this weekend–Alafair Burke’s The Wife is truly extraordinary and it’s killing me having to read it in bits and pieces–but it doesn’t seem likely. I’ll probably get to finish it this week, as I am doing a lot of testing events this week and can read between clients. We also finished watching Mindhunter last night, which was absolutely amazing, and started watching American Vandal, which is a clever idea…we’ll give it another episode because we’re a bit on the fence about it. Watching Mindhunter also put us behind on our other shows that are currently airing, so we’ll need to get caught up on those tonight.

I do feel extremely motivated today; I slept really well last night so am feeling all I can conquer the world today, which is an absolutely lovely feeling. It’s certainly been awhile since I’ve felt that way, and I really do love the feeling. I have to work late nights tomorrow and Tuesday; the rest of the week is normal, and of course next week is Thanksgiving! Where oh where did this year go?

And I have SUCH a plethora of riches in my TBR pile; the new Donna Andrews, the new Ivy Pochoda, the new Adam Sternburgh…not to mention everything else that’s in my pile and has been for YEARS.

And speaking of which, I need to get back to the spice mines or nothing’s going to get done.

Here’s a Sunday hunk for you, Constant Reader:

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Missing You

So, this came in the mail yesterday.

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Yup, it’s the Anthony Award I received for Best Anthology for editing Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016. I was at the airport boarding my flight home when my name was called; my phone immediately began blowing up and I was more than a little stunned, surprised, thrilled and I don’t know what all.

So cool. It’s gorgeous, and a lot heavier than it looks.

So, since I wasn’t there to accept in person, I am going to give an acceptance speech. (I didn’t have one prepared; I was so certain I wasn’t going to win we booked our flights home for Sunday.)

The first time I signed a contract to edit an anthology I didn’t know the first thing about doing an anthology. So I asked an editor whom I had long admired for some advice. All he said was “only work with good writers.” With Blood on the Bayou, that was certainly the case. I didn’t know what we were going to get when I put the call for submissions out; we wound up with so much good material we could have done two anthologies. So, let me thank everyone who submitted for doing such exceptional work, for giving me such an embarrassment of riches to work with. I want to thank the people whose stories did wind up being used–you were all amazing, a joy to work with, and I wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for you. I need to thank Eric Campbell and everyone at Down and Out Books; again, you had no problem whatsoever with my moods and my oddities and my quirks and I greatly appreciate that. I owe Heather Graham and Connie Perry, the New Orleans co-chairs, a big thank you as well for letting me do this anthology, and I also need to thank Art Taylor, who put the whole thing in motion for me–none of this would have happened without Art. I also want to thank everyone I’ve ever known in my entire life.

One of the great ironies of editing this anthology–I think it was the twentieth I’ve done–was that when I finished editing the last one I said, “this is the last time I’m doing this. This is my last anthology.” And yet…here I am.

But this is just so lovely. I never dreamed I’d ever actually win an Anthony Award. I mean, I hoped, of course–who doesn’t hope they’ll win an award in their field? I hope for all kinds of things, but I don’t expect to get most of them.

And it didn’t seem quite real until now–that’s it here and I can look at it.

Wow.

And it’s Friday, just like that. I have so much to do this weekend. Sigh.

 

Karma Chameleon

I had some seriously strange dreams last night. The first was a nightmare involving reptile and snakes–that’s all I remember of it–but Paul had to wake me up because I was crying out in terror in my sleep. (Thanks for the rescue.) In the second, more benign but also scary dream that I remember, I was teaching a creative writing class, focusing on short stories. I suppose the subliminal message my mind is telling me is how terrified I am of writing short stories, and I have any number of them on deck that need to be written, and time is rapidly running out before they are due. Heavy heaving sigh. Maybe in the first dream the snakes and reptiles symbolized the deadlines.

Stupid short stories anyway.

We’ve finished watching season 2 of Freakish, and alas, it’s not as good as Season 1. We’ll probably watch the third season, if there is was, to see if it recovers its lost promise; but yeah, jumped the shark and went off the rails in the second season. Plus, it has The Walking Dead problem; to up the ante they have to  keep killing off characters and introducing new ones. The problem (spoiler!)is they keep killing off ones we like and keeping the unlikable, stupid ones…and adding more unlikable, stupid ones. In the first season, part of its charm was that Breakfast Club thing of kids who have nothing in common and are from completely different social circles, for the most part, having to work together and come together and bond to survive. That was lost in the second season; which is a shame as it was one of the show’s strengths; the developing relationships and bonds between the characters.

We’ve also started watching Mindhunter on Netflix, which is fucking amazing. The first episode was a trifle slow, but still interesting; episode 2 really gets the ball moving and when it was finished, I was really disappointed we didn’t have time to stay up and watch another episode. It really is terrific–and the guy who plays the Co-ed Killer should win an Emmy for Best Guest Star. He was absolutely riveting. They also have done a remarkably good job of capturing the late 1970’s; as I said to Paul last night, ‘wow, I had no idea or memory that the late 1970’s were so aesthetically ugly; colors and designs and so forth. Blech.’ Can’t wait to get home tonight and watch another.

I read another chapter of Alafair Burke’s marvelous The Wife last night, and that story is also really starting to pick up. One of the great things about Burke’s writing is her attention to little details that make the story and characters seem absolutely real and authentic.

I also–speaking of short stories and so forth–got some revising of early Scotty chapters in the new book done, and realized that a scene in Chapter Three is eerily reminiscent of one in a short story I am writing. Ah, well, I guess there’s no harm in slightly plagiarizing yourself, is there?

The weather was weird yesterday; it appears to be more of the same out there outside my windows this morning. Heavy heaving sigh. At least today I know to take a Claritin before i leave the house.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you, Constant Reader, actor/model Gordon Scott:

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Ghostbusters

Wednesday and a gray morning here in the Lost Apartment. For a brief moment I thought it was Thursday; I don’t know where the hell that came from, but it’s indeed Wednesday, and as I sip my second cup of coffee and look at cats sleeping on the scaffolding outside my window, I am girding my loins for an incredibly busy day at the office.

I’m enjoying thoroughly Alafair Burke’s The Wife, which I am reading about five to ten pages at a time at night before I turn off the light and go to sleep; I look forward to being able to dive into it a lot more thoroughly. I also managed another 1500 words or so on Scotty yesterday, and finished that darned essay. I don’t have to turn the essay in until this weekend, so I am going to let it sit for a few days before I reread it and tweak it. It’s about censorship, banning and sensitivity readers; my big fear is the points I make are going to be offensive.,.but maybe the fact that I’m worried about unintentionally giving offense is a good sign? I dunno.

We will have to see. It’s a very charged topic.

My kitchen is a mess this morning; and I have yet to decide what to take with me for lunch. Heavy sigh. I should clean up this mess so I don’t have to deal with it tonight; I should have dealt with it all last night. I hate when I do that.

I’m feeling good about my work again; which is something. Getting writing done is always the key to this; there’s an anthology I want to submit a story to whose deadline is the end of this month and I’ve only written a small part of the story. I’d hate to not submit, but the story also has to be really good. I could focus on it over the Thanksgiving break, of course, but I’d like to have a rough draft figured out and written before then. I hate when I do this to myself; and I have another that I’ve agreed to write by the end of December that I haven’t really started yet.

And on that note, this kitchen isn’t going to clean itself. For your Hump Day Hunk, here’s professional wrestler Ashton Vuitton:

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