Open Your Heart

Well, the Saints managed to win again yesterday. I had the game on while I went through the Bury Me in Shadows manuscript, making notes; I have to concur with the assessment I made of the manuscript initially Saturday–it’s not going to require a lot of work before I turn it in. It might even be ready to go as early as next weekend, if I stay focused, pay no attention to shiny objects, and stay on course. During the Saints game, I went over the manuscript more carefully; making notes on what to add and what to take away, and the whole thing is actually more cohesive than I originally thought. It’s not going to be easy–it never is–but getting this manuscript ready for my publisher isn’t going to be as rough a slog as it could have been.

I was very proud of myself this weekend as I got a lot done. I cleaned and organized and got so much done that was on my list of things to do–and I even got a great night’s sleep and so felt pretty rested…until the alarm went off at six this morning. I’d actually woken up at 5:52, and just stayed in bed until the alarm went off, hitting snooze twice because the bed felt nice and comfortable and warm. I’d rather not venture out into the world today–I’d much rather stay here in the comfort of my own home, and definitely would have preferred to stay in the warmth of my comfortable bed, but I have to get up and go to work and prepare myself for my two long days.

Heavy heaving sigh.

We watched more episodes of Bigmouth last night, and I can’t decide if the show is actually really uproariously funny, or if the shock of the things the show covers–all the joys of junior high school puberty, with all that entails–is what makes it funny; the whole oh my God are they really talking about that? thing that I also always wondered about South Park.

I finished my reread of The Haunting of Hill House also yesterday–it’s a very short book–and am still in awe of the genius of Shirley Jackson. The way she created a mood, and tension, with beautifully crafted sentences and paragraphs is simply amazing. I couldn’t help but think how much stronger her book is than the nearest thing to it that I can think of–Richard Matheson’s Hell House, which was excellent and used the same basic structure–a notorious haunted house, and some ghost hunters arrive to see if they can figure out what is going on there–in a completely different way. The books’ titles are even similar. But I love both books, enjoy them both tremendously, but one always makes me think of the other. Again, I’m not really sure Jackson should be classified as a horror writer–her work kind of defies classification–but she was definitely one of the best American writers of the twentieth century.

I was trying to remember how I first came across the Jackson novel; I knew of her through her short story “The Lottery,” which I read in high school. I’d seen the 1963 film version, The Haunting, which was one of the most terrifying movies I’d ever seen at that point in my life–I’ll never forget Julie Harris as Nell–but at that time I didn’t know it was a novel. I think I first became aware of the novel because Stephen King used that famous opening paragraph as an epigram for salem’s Lot; and shortly thereafter came across a copy in a used book store–so naturally I had to buy it, and read it in one afternoon, completely enthralled…and I’ve never been without a copy of the book since. I started rereading it every year about ten years or so ago–the other book I reread every year is Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca–and I think both books have influenced me as a writer, even if that isn’t apparent in my actual work. (I’ve never finished reading the entire canon of either Jackson or du Maurier; they are both dead and therefore the established canon is all there is…and I never want to be finished with either author. I know, it’s crazy, but it’s also just the way I am.)

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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You Keep Me Hanging On

LSU won big yesterday, beating Utah State 42-6 with their lowest point total of the year thus far–and it’s probably an indication of how quickly Joe Burrow and this offense is spoiling LSU fans this year that at one point in the game, I said aloud, they are really playing sloppy this game. The score was 28-6 in the third quarter–and even as the words came out of my mouth I thought, wow, Greg–they have a 22 point lead in the third quarter and you’re complaining that they are playing sloppy. Next week is the first big SEC test of many–Florida, fresh off a 24-13 win at home over Auburn (another future opponent)–and that will probably be a good read on how the rest of the season is going to go.

I was tired yesterday, very tired. I stayed in bed longer than I usually do and my sleep wasn’t that much more restless than usual, but by ten o’clock last night I was dragging. I finally went to be around ten thirty, and got up this morning just before nine. I feel very rested and refreshed this morning, which is lovely–because there’s a lot for me to do today on the agenda. It wasn’t that bad, all told–rather than writing as much as I wanted to do, I instead made some serious progress on cleaning around the Lost Apartment–reorganizing books and so forth. I also started rereading Bury Me in Shadows, which is actually a lot more complete than I thought it was; it’s also a lot more creepy than I thought–see what a different putting something away for a while can make? It still needs revising, though, and there’s more things that need to be added to it along the way, but I am overall pretty pleased with what I’ve gotten down on the page so far. I also did a little bit of work on “Never Kiss a Stranger”–now that I’ve decided it’s a novella more than a short story, it works a lot better because I’m not worried about keeping it to less than six thousand words. I was also thinking yesterday that maybe I could do a collection of novellas. Novellas are hard to place anywhere, after all, and while it’s not a bad idea to self-publish them on Amazon, maybe it does make more sense to put them together into a collection of four, like Stephen King does periodically.

I also started my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson yesterday, and even as I marveled at her wonderful grasp of word usage, sentence structure, mood, and character, I couldn’t help but wonder, really, how one would classify Shirley Jackson’s work? It’s not really horror,  although the book is absolutely terrifying; and she didn’t really do much other work that could fall into the horror category. Her short stories are quite marvelous; and while We Have Always Lived in the Castle is also terrific, I don’t know that it could be called horror, either. Eleanor, our main character in The Haunting of Hill House, is probably one of the most fascinating and complex characters I’ve ever encountered in horror; the book is also an amazing character study. I would kill to be able to create the kind of mood Jackson created in this book…I am trying to create a mood in Bury Me in Shadows, and am not entirely certain I’ve succeeded. But just glancing through the pages yesterday, I definitely got the sense that the book is, as I said earlier, in much better shape than I originally thought; there’s definitely some revisions that need to be made and changes, but I am very pleased with it so far.

I am also glad I decided to try to get the revision of this squeezed into October rather than trying the Kansas book, which needs a lot more structured revision and needs to have a new ending. One of the things I’ve realized about the Kansas book is that I have crammed every conceivable stereotype into the book about high school you can imagine. Football players and cheerleaders? Check. Homecoming? Check. Mean girls and jock assholes? Check. Poor kids who see sports as their only way out of the stifling, dying small town they live in? Check. The primary problem with the book is that in trying to upend and subvert those stereotypes I unfortunately played into them, which is lazy writing. There were so many other things I wanted to examine in this book and somehow didn’t manage to do; class and poverty, the haves and the have nots, and so forth. I’ve also worked harder and longer on this fucking book than I have any other that was published, so there’s also that. But it’s that kind of authorial myopia that made me unable to see, all along, what I was doing, and of course there’s the innate stubbornness I always have about trying to make it work when it would be ever so much easier to scrap the shit and start over. There’s a short story I’ve been working on for a while–I’ve sent it out for submission and it’s been rejected every time. It’s called “The Problem with Autofill,” which I think is a genius title, but it’s also the problem with the story. I’ve been trying to make that story fit the title, and the only way to do so is to create a situation that literally makes no logical sense–even I have thought to myself why would anyone do anything so fucking stupid? The answer is obviously to change the title, eliminate the need to make it fit said title, and then turn it into something more creepy and dark and wicked….and yet why am I only now deciding/accepting/realizing this?

Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Heart and Soul

Friday morning and here we are at the end of the week! HUZZAH!

LSU plays tomorrow morning at the ungodly hour of eleven a.m., which is usually when I run to the grocery store and do my errands, which means they’ll either have to wait until Sunday or until after the game–and I think we all know that means they’ll be waiting until Sunday, don’t we?

As always I have a lot to get done this weekend, and an early game time for LSU means probably the entire day will wind up being wasted–there’s also the Auburn-Florida game following directly after–and so I’ll probably wind up sitting in my easy chair for most of the day with Deliverance near at hand for me to read. I need to reread Bury Me in Shadows this weekend as well, but I have to pay very close attention to that one as it’s a revision reread, so watching between plays and during commercial breaks doesn’t exactly loan itself to a thorough, line by line reread. I will undoubtedly be horrified by some of the bad paragraphs and sentences as I do reread it. I think when i get home from work tonight I’ll try to get my cleaning done, and once the laundry is going and the kitchen is free of clutter and dirty dishes, I might be able to sit down with it for a bit before I start making dinner (Swedish meatballs tonight). I’d like to finish reading Deliverance so I can reread The Haunting of Hill House, which I do every October–it will also help me with the rewrite of Bury Me in Shadows to be rereading something so Gothic and scary.

I’m still on the first chapter of Ready to Hang–“Murder in Basin Street”–and enjoying it immensely. I really do like the idea of me writing some period pieces set in New Orleans; the more I read of this city’s dark and morbid history, the more I love the city.

I’m also realizing how much the volunteer project wore me out, and that I’m still recovering from all the fatigue resultant from that work. It’s cool, though, as I said; I’m glad to have done it despite the fact it threw me behind on everything and wore me out so completely. I did some really good work there, and I’m pretty pleased with it all. I started writing again this week, seriously writing, and that felt really good. I always forget how much I actually enjoy writing when I’m not. I always dread it, and try to push it off, but I’m that way about everything that requires effort (see: not setting foot in the gym for months) and am always glad I did it once I have.

Tonight we’re going to get caught up on the shows we’re watching–American Horror Story: 1984, etc.–and there should also be a new episode of Murder in the Bayou and Saturdays in the South, which is always fun to watch. I also want to get some writing done this weekend in addition to the revise reread of Bury Me in Shadows. 

We’ll see. Happy Friday, Constant Reader!

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Only in My Dreams

Sliding into Wednesday and pay day–or as it’s known around the Lost Apartment, Pay the Bills Day. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I sent in two stories for submission yesterday, which is always a lovely accomplishment. One is for a blind read so I can’t talk about that one, but the other is “The Dreadful Scott Decision,” for an anthology I was asked to write a story for. I’m never quite sure if that means we’re taking your story or what, but I tend to never take anything for granted when it comes to this literally insane industry I find myself a part of these days. And even more exciting, I woke up to a very pleased editor and a congratulatory email re: “The Dreadful Scott Decision.” Always lovely, particularly when one has little to no self-confidence when it comes to writing short stories.

I won’t find out about the other one for months. As it is a blind read, I can’t really talk about the story, but it’s for the next Mystery Writers of America anthology, this time being edited by one of my writing heroes, Michael Koryta. Getting into an MWA anthology is one of my bucket list items, and while I’ve submitted numerous stories to them over the years, I have yet to get into one. The competition is fierce, of course; there are only so many slots and lots of entries, which is what makes getting into one a major accomplishment. It probably won’t help in the self-confidence area for more than a day or two, of course, but one also never knows.

I also started revising another short story last night, which I’m probably going to try to get submitted somewhere today. I think this week’s focus is going to be on revising short stories, to cleanse my palette before I dive back into the manuscript of one of the books I’ve got in progress. Since the LSU game is so early on Saturday, I can spend the rest of the day rereading Bury Me in Shadows and making notes while flipping back and forth between other college games–I only have to give LSU my full attention, after all. I think Auburn and Florida are playing Saturday as well; both are in the top ten, and both are on LSU’s upcoming schedule. Auburn looked really good spanking Mississippi State last weekend–their offense looked very much like LSU’s, frankly, scoring at will–which means Auburn-LSU is going to be another one of those heart-stopping shootouts.

Then again, Auburn-LSU has always been a heart attack game, pretty much coming down to the last minute of every game most of the time.

I started reading Deliverance yesterday, but it’s not really grabbing me yet–but then, they haven’t gone into the wilderness so far.

We finished watching The Politician last night, which took a really surprising–and highly entertaining–turn last night, with the additions of Judith Light and Bette Midler to the cast to set up season two, which I wasn’t so sure about going into last night’s episode. but they did a truly terrific job of jumping ahead a few years, and letting us see what was going on with the kids from the high school now that they’re in college…and, like I said, they did an amazing job setting up the second season.

I’m also finished reading Lords of Misrule as well, which takes the history of Carnival (and it’s racial politics) up to the year before I came to my first Carnival, and two years before I finally moved here and got my life started. Since that’s also the approximate time period for my story “Never Kiss a Stranger,” reading this has been enormously helpful. It catches me off guard a little that the 1990’s is now so far away; kids born in the 1990’s are in college now, after all–are old enough to marry and have their own kids.

I also realized, last night as I was reading after we finished watching The Politician, that it’s October, which is when I usually read horror fiction–and since starting the Diversity Project, I was waiting for October to read some diverse horror. So, I will try to get Deliverance finished this week, do my annual reread of The Haunting of Hill House, probably over this weekend, and then next week I am going to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, or her more recent Gods of Jade and Shadow.

And since today is Pay Day, I should probably go pay the bills. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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The Lady in Red

Tuesday morning.

I started reading Deliverance yesterday between clients, and while it’s not the sort of thing I typically read, an argument can be made that it is, in fact, a very dark crime novel; even noir, if you will. I’ll undoubtedly write more about that once I finish reading it, but it’s interesting thus far, and Dickey also proves the maxim I’ve held for quite some time–that poets make amazing fiction writers because they understand the music in language. I am not a poet–I don’t have the ear for it, and have never grasped the basic concepts of it, and my mind just doesn’t think that way.

We’re almost finished with The Politician. There’s only one episode left in this first season, which we will watch tonight, and then we’ll go back to Succession or watching one of the network shows we watch that have since returned. I was very tired last night when I got home from work–I hit a wall at one point yesterday afternoon–and wasn’t really able to get too much done before hitting the bed. I did revise the short story again yesterday. It’s due today, so before I head into the office today I’ll go over it one more time before sending it in to the editors. I don’t know if it’s any good–as I have repeatedly said, I am not the best judge of my own work–so I won’t be terribly disappointed if they decide against using it. I have another story I need to get revised–well, make that two stories I need to revise–and of course, now that it’s October, I need to start revising a manuscript for a novel. The question is, which one? Heavy heaving sigh. Tomorrow is a half-day for me, so I’ll probably hit the grocery store on the way home from the office and then will retire to my easy chair to reread Bury Me in Shadows. 

Although the Kansas book is also kind of calling to me. Hmmmm.

LSU plays Utah State with a very early start time on Saturday; the next weekend is Florida at night in Death Valley. The Saints continue to chug along, even without Drew Brees, so this could wind up being a terrific football season for Louisiana football fans.

I can also tell that the seasons are beginning to change somewhat. It gets light much later than it used to when I wake up on my early mornings, and it’s now dark when I come home from work. This makes my two lengthy days seem much worse than they did when I was going to work and coming home in the sunlight. There’s something soul-destroying about going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, like you’ve missed the entire day. And while on Mondays and Tuesdays I have indeed missed the entire day while being inside at work, it seems so much worse when it’s been dark for hours by the time I get off work. I know it’s a mental thing, and part of the reason I dislike the winter season so much–I dislike the shorter sunlight hours. It’s also starting to be cooler–there was hardly any humidity yesterday, and it was so cold in the office I was actually looking forward to going outside to move my car yesterday afternoon. It was certainly warmer outside, but the humidity was gone, and so going outside wasn’t like getting slapped in the face with a wet woolen blanket the way it has been since April or May.

I am also hopeful today I am going to get my inbox finally cleaned out so I can be finished with my emails once and for all.

An old man can dream, can’t he? Let me have this one.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Monday morning. I don’t feel tired this morning; we’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we? The Saints won a squeaker last night, 12-10, but they did end up winning the game despite scoring no touchdowns–when was the last time that happened?–and I went to bed shortly thereafter. We continued watching The Politician, and predictably, it’s plot has became more scattered the deeper into the season we get, like so many other shows from Ryan Murphy. We’ re still watching because it’s entertaining enough, and the acting is top-notch, and we only have a few more episodes to go before it’s finished.

I also am almost finished reading James Gill’s Lords of Misrule, which will probably be finished tomorrow. I haven’t decided what my next fiction read will be just yet–I started pulling James Dickey’s Deliverance down from the shelves last night, but couldn’t make myself start reading it. I was quite young when I saw the movie–we saw it at the drive-in, and I don’t remember what the earlier feature was, but I do remember I fell asleep while it was playing and only woke up near the end, not knowing what had happened. Deliverance was one of those movies whose plot became a part of the zeitgeist; people today may not completely know where the reference comes from, but any time someone mentions being somewhere so rural “you can almost hear the banjoes”–it’s a reference to Deliverance. It also may be James Dickey the poet’s only work of fiction; I don’t know how true that is or isn’t, but it certainly used to be true.

I also finished watching episode three of Murder in the Bayou yesterday, which has also given me some ideas (along with the thinking about Deliverance) for my own book, Bury Me in Shadows, which is what I actually think I’m going to work on for the month of October. The Kansas book is still messing with my head. I can’t figure out what to do with the plot and there are so many different ways I could revise that story that I think it might be best to leave that mess alone for now. I still want to get it finished and out of my hair, but if I can’t decide precisely how to move forward with it, well, that makes it a little more difficult to get it finished.

I need to revise my short story today, and then give it some polish tomorrow before turning it in. It’s kind of a mess right now, but I am confident once I reread it today and make some notes, it’ll all fall into place for me. The pieces are all there, but they aren’t in the right place as of yet, and that’ll have to result in some moving of shit around to make the story more cohesive. I also need to work on that other story; I think I need to change its ending in order to make it more powerful.

And now it’s off to the shower to get ready for my day. It’s a long one, alas; but I am confident I can make it through to the other side.

Like there’s a choice or something. 😉

Happy Monday, Constant Reader!

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At This Moment

All right, so I may have solved the problems with the MacBook Air. Will that also translate in solving the desktop problems? We’ll see. The desktop continues to have issues whenever it seems to feel like it should, so those frustrations continue to exist.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I did write yesterday, despite the incredible exhaustion I felt for most of the day. The writing was bad, partly I think because I was so tired, and after awhile I gave up and retired to my easy chair and college football. The games were, for the most part, relatively unexciting and I found myself dozing off far more than you would think I would have–again, the exhaustion from the week of work, the never-ending volunteer project, and the inability to sleep deeply made me exhausted all the way down to my bones. As the Auburn score continued to mount in their game with Mississippi State last night, I finally gave up and watched another episode of Murder in the Bayou. I started watching episode three but as I kept dozing off, I decided to just go to bed. I slept fairly well–I did keep waking up every few hours, which is highly annoying, and then got up this morning to the seemingly endless computer problems. I finished writing a story I need to finish, then contacted Apple support. This time, I wound up talking to a higher-level support person, who walked me (over the course of an hour) through the process of a final fix for the problem–which mainly entailed taking the computer back to factory settings and basically starting like it was a new computer. It works brilliantly now, but I now am back to the original problem I had with the Air when I bought it–it won’t connect to my iCloud. Which is fine, ultimately I don’t need it to, but it’s still fucking annoying. Now I think I’ll just go ahead and pick a day and head out to Metairie with the fucking thing.

So, yeah, I am hardly in the mood right now to be civil to anyone or anything. I’m also doing what I can remember of the process with the desktop–I actually managed to get through the disk utility start-up, and am currently trying to run first aid on the hard drive…but it seems to have locked up. I’m not really sure if that is what’s going on–but it’s been stuck on checking snapshot 1 of 19 for quite some time now…and I think I may have bit off more than I can chew here. In a worst case scenario, I’ll see if it does anything over the course of some time–I’ll go shower and do some cleaning–and if it’s still doing the same thing I’ll restart the fucking thing.

It’s so annoying to have to deal with this shit constantly, you have no idea.

So, I am about to go get cleaned up and do some chores around here before I reread what I wrote of the story; make some notes on how best to clean it up and make it stronger, and call it a day for writing. I do keep hoping that some weekend soon I’ll have a lovely time writing without any computer issues–particularly since we are now coming up on the one year anniversary of the Mojave nightmare mess beginning.

One can dream, at any rate.

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