Wake Up Everybody

Well, I finished reading Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things yesterday (spoiler: it’s terrific and you should pre-order it, like right now; more on it later) and then started Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which is also off to a terrific start.

You really can never go wrong with a crime novel written by a woman, frankly.

So, of course last night Game of Thrones ended, and I have to say I was satisfied, if not thrilled, by how it ended. Some of it was inevitable, and to be honest, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how it would all end; I absolutely hated the idea of Jon as king–he’s not the type, quite frankly, but will admit I was also all in for Sansa. So, in a way, I got what I wanted with Sansa being Queen in the North–but having a separate kingdom to the north will inevitably lead to problems with the Six Kingdoms; and what exactly ever happened to the cities Dany conquered in Essos? I was more sad to see the show end than I could ever be disappointed in how it ended; as I said to Paul, “You know, when we first started watching this show, we still had cable, didn’t stream anything, and we watched this on DVD’s that came in the mail from Netflix before giving in and paying for HBO again. We didn’t have Scooter yet, and we still  had our old television with a DVD player.”  Game of Thrones, no matter what you thought of it to begin with, whether you watched it or you didn’t, was a cultural event in this country (I am reluctant to say world, as that reeks of American exceptionalism, but I do believe the show was a world-wide phenomenon) that had everyone talking about it almost from the very beginning, and maybe was the last show of its kind–the kind where everyone waits patiently to watch, week after week, and everyone talks about and discusses and argues about. I don’t think we’ll see its like again; I doubt another show will ever take up as much room in the public discourse as Game of Thrones did.

And while everything was sort of tied up nicely with a ribbon last evening, as the credits rolled I turned to Paul and said, “What happened to the Dothraki? We know what happened to the Unsullied…but they never said what happened to the Dothraki.”

I guess they are just loose in Westeros?

I started working on one of my short stories yesterday; I couldn’t find the motivation to do much else of anything, to be honest. I did clean some and get some things organized, and of course, I was also busy reading, as I mentioned above, and I am kind of excited to be reading They All Fall Down, which is off to a really good start. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed this past weekend, if I am going to be completely honest, and while I am not feeling as overwhelmed this morning as I’ve been feeling, I am still in one of those “how am I going to get all of this done?” places this morning. But you know, it will all get done and I will handle everything that needs handling because I somehow always manage to do so.

As you might recall, I sold my story “Neighborhood Alert” to Mystery Tribune magazine; I am proud to say it appears in the quarterly issue that is now available as e-magazine or print editions; you can order it right here.

I like the story, and I hope you will like it, too.

I really need to get more stories out.

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

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Fox on the Run

It is Sunday morning. I slept like the dead last night, which was quite marvelous, and now am awake and feeling rested (if slightly groggy; not mentally but I feel like my body hasn’t woken up completely yet, which is weird, I know) and sitting here at my desk swilling coffee. The day looks kind of dark outside–I just got a weather alert that Orleans Parish is in a tornado watch (along with about nine other parishes in the area) until eleven; which explains the gloom. I am going to do some things this morning–like write this blog, try to answer emails to send tomorrow morning, straighten up the kitchen a bit–and then I am going to get cleaned up and write for a while. I have a board call this afternoon as well; I assume after that is over I’ll get some reading done and start preparing for the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones tonight.

I figured out, as I mentioned yesterday, the perfect way to finally make my story “And The Walls Came Down” work, which is rather exciting, and something I definitely want to get to work on; I also figured out how to make “The Snow Globe” work; and I’d like to add some words to “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is turning into a novella, but that’s fine; I don’t mind overwriting the story in order to trim it down to size at some point later. I also want to get Chapter Eleven finished; a rather ambitious morning I have planned here, but it should still work. I was also thinking about stopping at the grocery today to get some more Creole tomatoes, but that can really wait until tomorrow; if the weather is going to be shitty today I certainly don’t want to go out into it under any circumstances. I also need to make chicken salad for Paul’s lunches this week at some point, and I am going to make meatballs in the crockpot today for dinner, in order to have some things for lunch for the week myself (and making a crockpot meal makes it so much easier to clean up; I can get everything clean other than the crockpot itself long before the meal is done).

And of course this week ends in a three-day weekend, which is beyond lovely. I love me some three-day weekends, particularly since I will be sliding into it with two half-days before hand. Huzzah!

It’s going to be bittersweet seeing Game of Thrones come to a conclusion tonight. I’ve actually rewatched last weeks episode, “The Bells”, a couple of times–skipping over the parts I don’t care about (the so-called Clegane Bowl and the Euron-Jaime duel don’t need to be seen more than once, quite frankly) and I have to say, the more I watch the more impressed with the episode I am. I’ve also seen a lot of the fan reactions and read a lot of think-pieces about the episode–more so than I have about anything I watch on television or in a movie, other than my favorite Real Housewives franchises; and I do this a lot with Game of Thrones–and I’ve not really understood so much of the criticism. Game of Thrones has always been a show about the shades of gray rather than black-and-white; no one is truly good, no one is all bad. Good people can do bad things; bad people can do heroic things. Episode 4  (“The Last of the Starks”) is the episode everyone should have been angry with; that was the episode that ended with me shaking my head and thinking what the fuck just happened? People are disappointed that Jaime went back to Cersei, because that essentially ruined his redemption arc; but Martin has given us few redemption arcs that were seen all the way through. Maybe it’s because the redemption stories that actually were fulfilled were so powerful (Theon redeeming himself for his betrayal of the Starks and later his sister; Ser Jorah redeeming himself for the sin of slaving in his youth; etc) that we were bound to be disappointed with the ones that didn’t finish. But Jaime realizing that a happy ending with Brienne or whomever wasn’t simply in the cards for him and that he had to go back to Cersei in the end because they were bound together made total sense to me–and the payoff scene of their mutual deaths was powerful enough for me.

Did I want to see Cersei suffer more? Sure I did–I’ve been wanting to see her suffer since she demanded Jaime shove Bran out the window and Sansa’s direwolf killed–but there were also moments when I was rooting for her–the shame walk through the streets of King’s Landing, her victory over her enemies by destroying the Sept of Baelor, for two examples–and her death resulted in what I call “Darth Vader syndrome”; no villain ever dies in a way I find satisfactorily awful enough. (I waited three movies, six years, and almost seven hours to see Darth Vader finally get his; only to see him redeem himself before dying so I was cheated out of the grisly, painful death I’d been wanting to see for him for all that time.)

As for Daenarys turning Drogon loose on the city and destroying it while Cersei watched it all unfold in front of her (which was brilliant, and some brilliant, non-vocal acting by Lena Headey), I thought that was a brilliant way to torture Cersei and get some payback, and for the record, Dany has always been a bit of a ruthless tyrant. Her story has also been about her suffering and growing into the Queen she was mean to be; it is always her friends and advisors who held her back from unleashing the dragons of war on her foes. The show also did an excellent job of making us think that anything could happen with the siege/sack of King’s Landing; but the very points I made about the episode two weeks ago–why doesn’t she fly up high and come in behind the Iron Fleet–was the actual strategy she used last week to destroy the Iron Fleet and the defenses of King’s Landing–with the end result she and Drogon basically defeated Cersei and conquered the city almost entirely on their own.

As Paul said as Arya rode the horse through the ruins and the credits rolled, “Now imagine if she had all three dragons and her entire army.” She certainly wouldn’t have needed the Northern Army.

And as the bells rang and she sat on Drogon, both Paul and I were rooting for her to burn it all to the ground, frankly.

And really, the sleight-of-hand the writers have played with the viewers over the years has been quite expertly done: if Dany is indeed the villain, we have seen her go from a wide-eyed, meek and innocent girl who was merely a pawn in the great game to a great conquerer; we have seen the creation of a tyrannical Queen from the very beginning while we have also seen the development of Sansa into the smartest woman in the Seven Kingdoms playing the game better than anyone, the development of Arya from a young tomboy into the best assassin in the realm, and the growth of Jon Snow from belittled bastard of Winterfell into the true heir to the Iron Throne.

It’s truly been an enjoyable ride.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones. I am going to miss the pop culture the show has spawned, and I am going to miss the shared experience. I don’t know that I could handle watching the show from beginning to end ever again, as I did with The West Wing a few years ago–part of the fun of Game of Thrones was the constant surprises the writers kept throwing at us. Love it, hate it, be indifferent to it–but there’s no question Game of Thrones was event television in a way few other shows have ever been, and I don’t know what will replace the hole it’s going to leave in the Zeitgeist.

Will I be disappointed with the finale? I don’t know, but I am going into it expecting nothing and with absolutely NO fucking idea what’s going to happen–and that was always the appeal of the show for me; nothing was too extreme or brutal for the show, and it always, always surprised me….and there were so many great moments over the years–the Red Wedding; the Purple Wedding; the battles of Meereen, Blackwater Bay, Winterfell, Hardhome, the Loot Train, the Bastards; the horrible but well-deserved death of Ramsey Bolton; the eradication of House Frey; Lady Olenna’s last moments (“Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me” may well be the best final words ever); the execution of Ned Stark; the execution of Littlefinger; the death of the Khals; Dany emerging from the funeral pyre with her baby dragons–the list goes on and on and on.

It is incredible how much time I’ve spent thinking about this show–which says something about it, doesn’t it? I do look forward to finishing my read of the books, as well.

So, I should bring this to a close and get started on my own day; there is a lot of spice to mine, and I actually feel as though I have the energy to actually get it done today.

Happy Sunday, Constant Reader!

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Saturday Night

Well, it’s certainly Saturday morning. I woke up around eight, yet remained a lag-a-bed until around nine-ish, and you know what? Not sorry, not sorry in the least. I clearly needed to rest more–the work week seems to take more out of me these days than it used to, thank you, aging process–and now that I’m awake and swilling coffee, I feel more rested and relaxed than I did for most of the week. I still intend to write a lot this weekend, as well as get some serious cleaning done around here, and perhaps this is the time for me to finish reading Jamie Mason’s superb The Hidden Things, which is really fucking fantastic. She reminds me, in voice, style, and plotting, a lot of the great Patricia Highsmith. As I get deeper into the book and the stylish complexity of the plot becomes deeper and more tangled than I could have ever imagined when I read page one, I despair of the things that keep me from having more time to read so I can finish this exquisite gem of a novel. I am perhaps just over half-finished–which should give you an indication of how tired I’ve been lately; it’s taking me a really long time to finish this book–certainly longer than it should, given it’s consistent high quality.

The Anthony nomination this week (I still can’t believe it, to be honest) effectively derailed my entire week–but only because I allowed myself to bask in the glow of the enormous pat in the back from my colleagues, as well as the flood of congratulatory messages, posts, comments, and tweets. But now we’re in the afterglow stage of having to come back to earth and reality and get my life back together and on track yet again, particularly when it comes to writing. I really couldn’t afford to lose the days of writing I lost this week through my self-indulgence, and yet I did lose them. Chapter Eleven of the WIP has been a bitch to write; I started this past week and got about halfway through, and now have to go back to finish it and see if I can get on some kind of roll with writing it. I am going to try something; I am going to try finishing that chapter today and then move on to some short stories that have been languishing in my files for a while. Last night–or more properly, sometime yesterday–I finally figured out how to fix my story “And The Walls Came Down”; it’s a shift in the plot which will require some extreme changing. I also want to revise “This Thing of Darkness” one more time, and I’d like to get some done on my lengthy short story that is turning into a novella, “Never Kiss a Stranger.”

We watched Widows last night, which was good, but could have been better. The acting was topnotch, as were the relationships between the women–but the plot was so complicated and twisted I wasn’t sure I was actually following it and knew what was going on for most of the movie; that could also be entirely my fault. But Viola Davis is one of the finest actresses of our time, and I would watch her in anything, to be honest; her performances are always complex, nuanced, and brilliant.

We also need to catch up on Fosse/Verdonwhich I can’t recommend highly enough, and we have yet to start season two of Killing Eve, which I am also excited about watching; although I am very worried about sophomore slump; season one was so brilliant and fantastic that I have concerns that the second season won’t pass muster.

Today I have to go by the Cat Practice to get another bag of Scooter’s expensive food (no, his Majesty is NOT spoiled, thank you very much), and then have to swing uptown to get the mail and make some groceries (not many, thank you Baby Jesus) before returning home, where I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing and cleaning (and probably doing some preparatory cooking for next week, as well). I may get the car washed as well; it’s looking pretty dirty, and the Uptown Car Wash does a lovely job; or perhaps I can put it off until next week, what with the three day weekend and all.

Yes, there’s a three day weekend lurking on the horizon, which is exciting. Huzzah! I am obviously thinking I’ll be able to either get a lot done over its course, or get a lot of rest, or some combination of the two, which would also be incredibly lovely.

I also have to start pulling together an article for Sisters in Crime for my diversity column. I have some ideas for it,  and I know who I want to speak to for it, but at the same time I’ve not been able to come up with an over-all hook for it. Maybe some brainstorming over the course of this particular weekend will do the trick for me.

And on that note, Constant Reader, it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday!

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I’ll Be Good To You

Well, wasn’t yesterday an amazing day for one Gregalicious? Not only was it payday, but I stopped and got the mail on my way to the office (there was a check!), and then right around the time I got to the office my phone (which was in my pocket) made the sound of breaking glass, indicating I’d gotten a notification from Facebook; I pulled it out of my pocket on my way up the stairs and lo! The Anthony Award short-lists had been announced, and I’d been tagged in the post. This usually means one thing and one thing only–a nomination–but I thought, no, that can’t be. But sure enough I clicked on the notification, scrolled down the list, and there I was, nominated for Best Short Story for “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens…along with four other amazing writers–Art Taylor, S. A. Crosby, Barb Goffman, and Holly West!

Wow.

It’s really lovely to be nominated for awards, and I know I’m luckier than so many others–who can go their entire careers without ever getting any award recognition. This is my second time up for an Anthony (I won, in Toronto, for Best Anthology for Blood on the Bayou), and came as an incredibly pleasant surprise; the decision to not have a Best Anthology Anthony for Dallas Bouchercon was, I thought, the death knell of any shot I might ever have at possibly getting another Anthony nomination. I certainly never dreamed I’d somehow make the short-list for Best Short Story for my contribution to Florida Happens, “Cold Beer No Flies,” a story that’s been hanging out in my files in various different forms since the late 1980’s. But I am also pleased that it’s a story about a young gay man trapped in a small, conservative Florida panhandle town who has big dreams to get out of there–and isn’t afraid to break the law in order to make those dreams come true. This is also my second time nominated for a Short Story award from the mainstream mystery community–the first was the Macavity in Toronto, and the nod was for “Survivor’s Guilt” from Blood on the Bayou–and I also can’t even begin to tell you how thrilling it is to be nominated for a short story in the mainstream; but “Cold Beer No Flies” is, as I said before, a story with gay character/themes…and it might be the first time such a story has been nominated. (John Copenhaver is also nominated for Best First Novel, for Dodging and Burning–still in the TBR pile–and he’s also an openly gay writer of a book with gay characters and themes; I think it’s possible the two of us may have made history with our nominations as the first time this has happened; I could be wrong.)

This is especially thrilling when I take into consideration the fact that my writing self-esteem (never high in any discipline) is particularly low when it comes to short stories, as Constant Reader is undoubtedly aware. I love them, and I love the challenge of writing them, but…I’ve never had much luck with selling or placing them in places, but sometimes I do catch lightning in a bottle and the story works.

I spent most of yesterday trying to keep up with the congratulatory posts, comments, tweets and emails yesterday but failing miserably; I woke up this morning to a lot more of them and I suspect a lot of my free time today will be spent making sure I thank everyone.

Which is, frankly, kind of a lovely problem to have, amirite? I mean, I’d certainly rather spend a day basking in the glow of warm congratulatory messages/posts/tweets/comments than pretty much anything else, to be honest. Who woudn’t?

And to be on a short-list with talented writers like Art, Barb, Holly, and Shawn? Very very cool, quite frankly, and just the kind of flattering ego-stroke I needed at this moment as I struggle with the WIP (which I didn’t touch yesterday, for obvious reasons) but I am hoping to get back to today because things will, I am sure, be settling down somewhat. What’s interesting is that Holly is also nominated for her Florida Happens story; Barb also has a story in Florida Happens but is nominated for another work; and Art was the person who got me involved in working on Bouchercon anthologies in the first place. I met Shawn briefly in St. Petersburg at this last Bouchercon, and I am certain at some point in the future we’ll have a professional connection of some sort like these others–I certainly hope that’s the case, at any rate.

And now it’s back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone, and thank you!

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Shop Around

Ugh. Yesterday I was sooo tired my brain was barely functional. There’s nothing worse than being tired on one of your long days and counting down the hours until you get off work…and thinking, oh, yay, only SEVEN hours left to my shift. I drank my usual coffee, but it just gave me that “oh you’re tired but you’re wired” feeling that makes your eyes ache a little bit and leaves that nasty taste in your mouth.

I fucking hate that.

I am choosing to believe that’s why I wasn’t able to get anything written yesterday; brain was too tired and so was my body in order to be functional, which is irritating. I slept much better last night–don’t even feel tired or sleepy this morning, HUZZAH–so hopefully today I’ll be able to get things done. AT least the thought of my long day doesn’t make me want to curl up into a ball and sob…which is a vast improvement over yesterday. Thank you, baby Jesus.

But while I was too brain-tired/dead/numb to be creative, I wasn’t too tired to spend some time lost in the stunning new novel by Jamie Mason, The Hidden Things. I can’t believe, for one thing, that it’s taking me so long to read this book, which is fantastic. I have been doling out chapters to myself as a reward for getting things done, but obviously, I am not getting enough done and have decided to abandon the entire “use reading chapters as a reward” thing since it’s not working out so well for me after all. Also, the story has started to pick up steam–one of the truly fun things about Jamie’s work is how she peels away the onion to reveal the darkness within her interconnected characters–but it seems organic rather than staged, if that makes any sense? I’m afraid to try this method of telling a story because I am not confident enough in my abilities to do it and make it seem organic, the way Jamie Mason manages (in the same way that Lori Roy does as well) to make look so damned easy–she reminds me a lot of Patricia Highsmith. I am hoping to get this book finished within the next couple of days. I am also excited about my next book in the pile, They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.

I did write the opening sentence of a short story yesterday that’s been brewing in my head for quite some time now, so I did get something of note done…I take my victories, no matter how small, as worth celebrating.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Show Me the Way

Saturday morning and I slept in, as I always seem to do on Saturday mornings. But really, things have truly come to a sorry pass when getting out of bed at nine is considered sleeping in. But that’s when I got up and I feel good and rested this morning, which bodes well for the things I’d like to get done today.

I spent yesterday afternoon getting caught up on laundry (there’s a load going in the dryer now), and doing a surface clean of the apartment. After Paul got home last evening we finished watching Dead to Me, which is really fantastic–if Christina Applegate doesn’t at LEAST get an Emmy nomination, it’s a travesty. The show is fantastically written, has two amazingly great roles for the two lead actresses (Linda Cardellini, of Freaks and Geeks/Mad Men fame, is the secondary female lead and is heartbreakingly terrific as well; I’d be hard pressed as an Emmy voter to chose one over the other), and the writing is also award-worthy; the premise is in and of itself exceptional, thematically exploring the grief of two women who’ve suffered recent great losses; but it is ever so much more than that. It’s smart, angry, funny, and oh-so-twisted, oh-so-clever. Bravo to Netflix; this is up there with Ozark for dark comedy with a crime twist. I cannot recommend Dead to Me highly enough, Constant Reader.

I also, before Paul came home, rather than falling into a Youtube vortex of LSU or Saints highlights or Game of Thrones fan theory videos or whatever might strike my fancy at the moment (music videos or Dynasty clips or whatever), switched on Starz and started watching The Spanish Princess, which is the latest Starz mini-series based on a Philippa Gregory book. We’d watched and liked The White Queen, but gave up on The White Princess relatively quickly. I’ve not read Gregory, and I’ve seen all sorts of mockery of her on-line as to her changing history to fit the needs of her narrative, but that isn’t why I’ve not read her work; I’m just not that interested in fictional biographies of royalty anymore, certainly not the way I was as a teenager. As a teenager I would have read everything Gregory wrote, anxiously awaiting the next. But I’ve read Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts, and of course others like Maurice Druon and Thomas B. Costain, so Gregory’s work has never held much appeal for me; I am more apt to read an actual biography now rather than fictionalized versions (although I do want to read Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books). The Spanish Princess is, of course, about Catherine of Aragon, who has gotten mostly favorable press throughout history as Henry VIII’s poor, abandoned first wife; I’ve always viewed that with an arched eyebrow, primarily because she had a great PR machine in the Spanish ambassador, Chapuys, and of course she had the entire PR machine of the Hapsburg empire behind her as well–whereas Anne Boleyn, her replacement and the cause of her misery, soon enough had Henry’s PR machine blackening her name. At least this production had the wisdom and sense to ignore modern sensibilities; this is the first time I’ve ever seen Catherine portrayed on film (since the 1970s BBC The Six Wives of Henry VIII) to have the actual coloring she had in real life; she is usually shown as dark when she was actually fair; like her husband, she had reddish-gold hair; and she also had Plantagenet blood as a descendant of Edward III–her grandmother was Blanche of Lancaster, a daughter of John of Gaunt, and as such had her own legitimate but unrecognized claim to the English crown herself (since no illegitimacy was involved, she actually had a better claim than her own husband–his claim was based on his grandmother’s descent from John of Gaunt, but she was descended from his liaison with long-time mistress Katherine Swynford–whom he later married and legitimized their offspring–but Catherine’s descent was not marred by the bar sinister).

However, they did depict Catherine’s mother, Isabella, as being dark–which she wasn’t, either. Isabella of Castile was blonde and blue-eyed, but she’s a minor character we’ll never see again, so I will overlook it. (Isabella is one of my favorite historical queens; she was kind of a bad-ass but at the same time her bigotry planted the seeds for the eventual downfall of Spain from the great power she turned it into; but more on her at another time.) Anyway, I enjoyed the first episode; which also has laid the groundwork for Catherine as stubborn, proud, and arrogant–qualities that eventually led to the upheaval that changed world history forever. I’ll keep watching, of course–but at the same time, it’s not “must watch”; it was okay and can serve as a time-filler when I need to relax and when Paul’s not home and I don’t feel like actually wasting my time on Youtube.

I also want to watch the Zac Efron as Ted Bundy movie on Netflix.

So many riches, so many choices! It’s kind of like my TBR pile.

The plan for today and tomorrow is to work on the WIP and work on the article a bit, maybe even work on a short story. Given I have the attention span of a squirrel lately, I am not sure how much work I am actually going to get done today, but I have good intentions. I also have a Bouchercon subcommittee conference call later on this afternoon as well, so I should be able to bounce back and forth between cleaning, writing and reading until such time as the conference call; after which time I can call it a day and relax for the rest of the evening.

Ah, to have the energy and ambition I have in the morning after a good night’s sleep and two cups of coffee, right?

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

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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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