She Works Hard for the Money

Tuesday.

I had yesterday off, which was most lovely, and I spent the day relaxing, making lists, writing, editing, reading, and cleaning. I made shrimp creole for dinner, which was fabulous, and then we watched the series finale for Orphan Black. I am going to miss the sestras; it was quite a thrill ride for five seasons, and Tatiana Maslany’s talent is truly amazing.

I didn’t get as much writing done as I would have liked, but sometimes just being able to reflect and think is just as effective as actually writing. Plus, I kind of needed a rest. I am going to get some more writing done today, and I am going to finish the second half of the WIP line edit, and then tomorrow (a twelve hour day) I am going to hopefully get started on the first half of the manuscript’s line edit. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get this done; and then I am going to have to story edit one more time just to make sure. I want to be able to start sending it to agents after Labor Day. I want to get the first draft of this Scotty finished by mid-September as well, then let it sit for a month or so while I write this noir I’ve been wanting to write for a while. I think the working on something different between drafts is working for me. It doesn’t make sense in any sort of writing universe to write this way, but it’s working for me and as I always tell beginning writers–find whatever system works for you, even if it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense to anyone else.

I am also way behind–and off the rails–for short stories. I need to get back to “For All Tomorrow’s Lies” soon; it’s due for an edit/revision, and I never did finish that draft of “Quiet Desperation.” Heavy heaving sigh. I think there’s another one I was working on–oh, yes, “This Thing of Darkness,” and some others, too, that never quite got finished. This creative ADD needs to stop.

I need to make a list, is what I need to do.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I’m really enjoying Journey Into Fear. The action has now moved from Istanbul to on board a ship, sailing to Genoa with Our Hero, whose life is in danger. I love these kinds of stories; and miss them. The change from trains and ships as means of transportation has kind of eliminated them as settings for crime novels and thrillers; there will be no more books like this or Murder on the Orient Express, which is really unfortunate. The whole air of being away from everyone else in the world, isolated on a journey with only your fellow passengers, any one of which might be the murderer/spy/assassin,  that whole claustrophobic feeling–an author has to really push themselves and their creativity to come up with a way to isolate the characters and seal them off from the rest of the world these days. Rebecca Chance did this beautifully in her novel Mile High, set on a luxury airliner on a flight from London to Los Angeles; Nick Cutter’s The Deep set his novel on a sealab at the bottom of the Marianas Trench (and that sense of claustrophobia was so beautifully portrayed in that novel that just remembering it makes me shudder). It is still possible, of course, to do something along the lines of And Then There Were None, where the characters are stranded on an island and cut off from the rest of the world; the single season suspense show Harper’s Island did this nicely…I’ve always wanted to do one of those types of novels, and Scotty would be the perfect character for such a book, I think, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make it work. I guess I’ll just let it sit in the back of my head until I get one of those a-ha moments that I am always afraid I’ll stop having.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s today’s hunk for you:

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Come on Eileen

Saturday! I managed to finish Chapter One last night and started Chapter Two; huzzah! They are crap, of course, but I’ll worry about that later. I finally got a good night’s sleep today; I have Wacky Russian this morning, have to go to the office to work for a bit, and am going to make a Costco run on the way home. (Just a minor one.) It’s so nice to feel rested; I am hoping that tonight I’ll be so worn out I won’t have any choice but to sleep deeply and well.

I can dream, at any rate.

My weekend this weekend is actually, therefore, Sunday and Monday; it’s going to be strange to have Monday off–next weekend is my birthday, so I am taking a three day weekend to celebrate–so I am, of course, hoping to get some more Scotty written, some more of the line edit finished, and maybe revise a short story or two. Ambitious plans, to be sure, but I am nothing if not overly ambitious. We’re also trying to find a new show to watch; Orphan Black ends this weekend, Game of Thrones only has a few more episodes to run, and  I suspect Animal Kingdom is also approaching its season finale. We never did finish the final season of Bates Motel, though, and there have to be some other shows out there that we just haven’t discovered yet, or forgot we watched.

I want to finish reading Journey Into Fear this weekend so I can get started on my annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House. I think I might read something more noirish after that; not sure what, but there are plenty of things for me to read around the house, believe you me. Maybe I’ll do something I’ve really grown to love over the last year or so–a short story challenge, where I read a short story every day and then blog about it. I do love short stories, and I really would like to write more of them. I’d love to do a collection of my crime and horror short stories…perhaps by the end of the year I would have enough of them on hand to actually put a collection together. (I may already have enough; I’m not sure, but I’d love to have some new, unpublished material.) Maybe I’ll wait and do short-story September, which would be way fun.

And on that note, I think I shall head off to the spice mines. Here’s a Saturday hunk for you viewing pleasure, Constant Reader:

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Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Tuesday morning, and my windows are covered in condensation. Nothing new there, of course, but at least I can see blue sky and sunshine through the beads of water. Perhaps today will be our first day this summer without rain? Stranger things have, of course, happened.

I got quite a bit done on the line edit yesterday; at some point I am going to have to input all of this work into the e-document, and I will be very curious to see how much I wind up cutting. As I go through the manuscript, line by line, I am amazed at how often I repeat myself, or how often an entire paragraph is simply a series of sentences saying the same thing only in different words. A very strong push this week, and I might actually have the entire line edit finished by the end of the weekend. It’s not very likely to happen, but there’s always a possibility. My friend Lisa will be in town later this week, and I am going to try to see her for at least a drink and perhaps dinner. I don’t see her enough as it is.

I also got some work done on the Scotty book yesterday as well. The story is starting to take shape in my mind, and I need to get a strong first chapter together before I can get going on the rest. I am trying to take what I can from the several different versions of a first chapter I’ve already started; I think I can make the whole thing come together–at any rate, that’s my goal for today. I hope to get at least two more chapters finished this week, if not more. I also want to revise a short story. It will, I suppose, depend on how much energy and how much time I have.

I am still processing Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War,” and I also can’t stop thinking about Owen Matthews’ The Fixes. There’s an essay I’d like to write, about straight people writing gay characters that reading this book put into my mind, but it’s not really taking form and I am not really sure if it will–the curse of a creative imagination; too many ideas. But The Fixes is so incredibly well written and well done you’d never know that Owen Matthews himself isn’t gay; but really, if you have any experience whatsoever with alienation, you should be able to write believable gay characters; alienation is the key, now that I think about more deeply, and I wish I had thought of that before I taught my character building workshop at SinC Into Good Writing last September here in New Orleans.

Alienation, in fact, is a constant theme in Harlan Ellison’s oh-so-brilliant work.

Paul and I are thinking about going to see Dunkirk this weekend; whether we actually do or not remains to be seen. I have to work on Saturday, and as such my weekend shall be Sunday and Monday; having a Monday off will actually be rather lovely.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines before I head into the office.

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

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Fading Fast

Good morning, Saturday! I have Wacky Russian this morning, and we are meeting friends for dinner later on, so I’ll probably spend the day reading, cleaning and doing laundry before that. I’m probably going to try to finish the revision of “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”, and maybe make some progress on the line edit as well. I am putting off making a grocery run until tomorrow; not sure if that’s wise or if I should just get it over with today, so I don’t have to leave the house tomorrow at all…decisions, decisions.

It seems a bit gray out there this morning; Paul is leaving shortly to go play tennis, which might (and most likely will be) rained out at some point. I don’t think it rained yesterday, which might be the first day since May it hasn’t rained here. I just hope it doesn’t rain on me on the way to the gym; that always sucks.

I could also spend some time organizing computer files, which always seems to get out of hand very quickly. I hate that. It comes from being lazy and stashing things quickly, always thinking I’ll straighten this up later. So, in the meantime, it drives me crazy and it builds up and builds up until it takes hours for me to reorganize everything.

Then again, it also helps me procrastinate and not write, so there’s that explained.

And as I glance around the kitchen this morning, it’s such  a mess. Heavy heaving sigh. Stacks of paper, stacks of books, the floor needs cleaning…ad my knives need sharpening, too. It never ends.

As I said yesterday, one of the things I find myself most interested in exploring in my writing now is damage, how people became damaged and how they cope with it, while contrasting their damage with mundanities of life. We all have our own damage; carry the signs of it with us internally all the time. My story “Housecleaning” was inspired by the smell of bleach, which reminded me one day of my mother–and that became the opening line: The scent of bleach always reminded him of his mother. Part of the genius of shows like Weeds and Ozark was the impact of their parents’ criminal behavior on their children; how do kids have a normal life when their parents are criminals and have thus lost their moral compass, as well as the morality of being a parent? “Housecleaning” was about such a kid, who grew up under the thumb of a con artist mother, who as he got older was required to assist in the cons. And when you’re assisting your mother in conning marks as a child, what kind of adult do you become?

I am also very far behind on my schedule for the summer. I’d hoped to have the noir novel’s first draft finished by the first of September, so I could spend the fall writing the next Scotty book while the noir rested. I’ve not even started the noir yet, still am not sure what the true plot is–it’s amorphous and keeps shifting in my head–but if I can get this line edit finished, and start sending that manuscript out to agents, I can buckle down and get the noir written, and still maybe get the Scotty finished by the end of the year.  Depending on how the scheduling works, I may end up having to put the noir aside until the Scotty is finished. And I am fairly certain of what I want to write after the Scotty and the noir are done. I just need to get them done.

Heavy heaving sigh.

All right, I am going to clean the kitchen before the gym.

Here’s a Saturday stud for you, Constant Reader.

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This Town

It’s Friday morning in New Orleans, and I slept fitfully; but when I did sleep, it was terrific. I only have to work a half-day today, which is lovely, and tonight I am hoping to not only get a chance to read some more of Rebecca Chance’s lovely Killer Affair, but to get further in the line edit as well. This weekend my plan is to work on the line edit and clean, alternating between the two, which hopefully will do the trick. I’ve not gotten as far along this week on anything that I’d hoped; the weekly to-do list is a complete and utter disaster. The good news this week was that our renewed passports arrived (hurray!), I got some great books–everything from the new Michael Connelly to Eric Ambler to Chester Himes–to add to the TBR pile, and the latest short story is really taking a good shape, one with which I am really and truly pleased.

My short stories are much darker than my novels. The WIP, currently being line edited, has little to no humor in it; at least none that I’m aware of–but then again I am not the best judge of that. I love to tell the story of my New Orleans Noir story, “Annunciation Shotgun,” which I thought  was this dark, unsettling tale, and continued thinking so until at a reading for the anthology, Chris Wiltz, one of the other contributors (her story, “Night Taxi,” is quite chilling) said to me, “Oh, I loved your story! It’s so funny!”

I was a little taken aback, as I’d thought it was a dark story…and then when it was my turn to read to the gathered audience, there were times when I got laughs.

Okay, I remember thinking, I guess I can be funny even when I’m not trying to be.

This story I’m working on now is also grim and dark; but I think the primary reason I’m drawn to the genre I work in primarily is my interest in damaged people. The Great Gatsby  was about damaged people, and the damage people can leave in their wake; it didn’t try, however, to explain or get into how the people got damaged and why,  and that was its greatest disappointment to me. This current story was inspired by watching a documentary while Paul was at his mother’s; I always have to find things to watch when he’s gone that we wouldn’t want to watch together (in other words, things want to watch that he doesn’t. He tired of the TV series Scream; so I finished watching it while he was gone. Likewise, you can never go wrong with documentaries). I watched one on either Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon–I don’t remember which–about a young man and his brothers, who’d escaped a religious cult. As I watched these damaged young men trying to make sense of their childhood and fit into a world and society they were woefully underprepared for, while the main point-of-view character was also trying to reestablish a relationship with his mother, still in the cult and distant to him–I couldn’t help but wonder about the young women refugees from the cult he interviewed, and the stories they shared about their sexual abuse and, basically, being brainwashed into thinking that was normal. (The boys were also apparently sexually abused as well as physically abused, but their sexual abuse was skipped over; mentioned but not gotten into in depth.) I had my notebook in my lap, and I scribbled down notes…and eventually started writing the story I thought up while watching the documentary. The story is dark–I am revising it now, making it even darker than the first draft–which also limits its saleability quotient, but hey, I am definitely going to put it out there.

Christ, I have so many works in progress. Nothing like creative ADD without a deadline to anchor you down.

I’ve also not decided what book to write next once this WIP is finished. I am thinking about getting back to Scotty with Crescent City Charade, but there’s another noir I’d love to tackle, and my “A Holler Full of Kudzu” could easily be explored as a novel.  Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me! Here’s a Friday hunk for you, to get your weekend started properly.

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Cool Jerk

Our twenty-second anniversary was Thursday this week–where DID the time go? It was a lovely evening, spent getting caught up on Animal Kingdom and Orphan Black. We’ll probably get a pizza from That’s Amore tonight, and there you have it; living large in the lower Garden District. Woo-hoo!

I came to the painful decision to set aside “A Holler Full of Kudzu” last night while streaming Ozark (which is truly amazing; can’t wait to watch more) because there’s too much story there for it to be a short story; it might be a novella or a even a novel. I worried about that when I started writing it; and part of the reason I am having so much trouble with it is because I can’t figure out how to condense all the story there into a short story. If there’s a way to do it, putting the story aside and letting it percolate in the back of my mind is the right answer; today I am going to try to finish reading A Feast of Snakes before rereading the WIP and making the final polish before being officially finished with it and (gulp) starting to target agents for it. This is rather worrying for me, obviously; it’s not like I am obsessive or something. Ah, well.

Paul is heading into the office today, so after I get home from Wacky Russian I should have the house to myself to read and clean. I may work on revising one of the stories I’ve written recently; I reread one of them the other day and made voluminous notes on how to fix the story; still not sure I’d be able to sell it anywhere, but those are the risks when you write short stories. I think I have a handle on the story I want to submit to the MWA anthology this year, and I think I have figured out how to fix an old story that’s been collecting dust in the archives as well. So, my ambitious plan for this weekend is to finish reading a book; start revising the WIP, and rewrite two short stories. It’s very ambitious, I know, and I probably won’t even come remotely close to getting all of that done, but you know there’s always hope. And I let setting a high bar for myself, you know?

Christ, the house is a mess.

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

Here’s a hunk to get your Saturday off to a nice start.

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Turn to You

Very tired this morning; a late night of bar testing concluded my twelve hour day yesterday and there is nothing like walking ten blocks on a sultry, steamy New Orleans night to stand in the upstairs of a bar whose a/c is set to “Econo”, and then walking ten blocks back.

I changed my socks three times yesterday.

But I have a short day today; only four hours to put in today, and I don’t have to be at the office until four. Huzzah! I also get to go in a little later tomorrow, and don’t have to work a full eight hour shift then, either. So, I get to sort of ease my way in to the weekend, which is lovely. I am making a Costco run this morning, making a grocery run tomorrow, and then I get to only leave the house to go see Wacky Russian Saturday morning. I do rather have to get motivated, though, which isn’t easy when you’re already tired. But if I have another cup of coffee, do my morning stretching, and then hop in the shower, I will be good.

One can hope, anyway.

My short story continues to putter along, and man, is it all over the place. I am trying very hard not to stop myself and correct the narrative–I’m just trying to get the story down, do the polishing and reorganizing on the next go round, but it’s kind of slow going. I kind of have a vague idea of what the story is and how it’s going to end, and I am writing a lot of chaff that will have to be separated out later, and the voice is all over the place as well. Ah, well, the great joys of being a writer; this constant internal struggle between confidence, over-confidence, and NO confidence. The Three Faces of Greg, as it were.

I’m still reading A Feast of Snakes; it’s very short, and I should be able to finish it soon. But I am going to absolutely reward myself with the latest Rebecca Chance, Killer Affair, when I am finished with this one. (I need a break from the Southern Gothic, frankly, but I’ll be jumping back in right after.) My copies of Barry Hannah’s Airships and Raymond Carver’s Will You Please Be Quiet Please arrived, so I also have more short stories to read, and of course, there are more stories in Faulkner’s Knight’s Gambit to read as well.

I think it’s very important for a writer to read as widely as possible. I read scifi, fantasy, horror, romance, ‘literary’, ‘popular’, and historicals, in addition to social history and commentary, literary criticism, and biographies, as well as history. I also love comic books. But I’ve been reading almost exclusively crime novels for a very long time, and as such, there’s been such a narrow focus in my reading that I need to expand out a bit; I am enjoying the Southern Gothic reading I’ve been doing–some of which could be defined as crime fiction, which makes it all the more fun–and it also makes me realize that reading all these different types and styles of fiction should be helping make me into a better writer.

I am hoping to get back to the serious chore of the final edit of the WIP this weekend; one of the reasons I want to get all this errand running finished over today and tomorrow is so that I won’t be too tired on the weekend to get this accomplished.

And on that note, I need to get the day going.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday hunk for you, Constant Reader:

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Robert Kelker-Kelly, from Another World and Days of Our Lives