Still

It’s dark outside.

I slept really well last night–even woke up before the alarm this morning–and feel rested, despite the early hour. Yesterday was a kind of lovely day, despite the incredible tension of the Saints’ win over the Eagles 20-14. I managed to get a lot cleaned and organized, and while those five chapters of Scotty are still waiting to be looked over–I did realize how to revise and redo the opening of the book last night. So, that’s progress of a sort; today I am going to try to organize my notes on the book as well as read those five chapters so I can move on to the next five. This coming weekend I am planning on not doing anything other than the usual errands as well as watch the Saints game on Sunday; I may have to take my car into the dealership to have the oil changed and the tires rotated–I am going to try to do that either on Friday or, if need be, on Saturday. But if I go to the West Bank on Saturday, I can also include my other errands that day…and if I go to work early on Friday I can make the Costco run after I get off work, so there’s that as well.

And this weekend is when I am going to start back at the gym, methinks.

Always good to have a plan.

And of course, no sooner do I make plans than I have to change them. I need to take my car in for an oil change and tire rotation; so of course there’s nothing at the dealership on Saturday. So I had to make the appointment for Friday morning, which means going to the West Bank Saturday morning and negates the possibility of an after-work Costco trip Friday–which means I’ll just have to go on Saturday morning, which means if I get the groceries I need on the West Bank after my car is finished, I can be done with it. But I think taking care of the car on Friday morning before work makes the most sense on every level…particularly since one of my tires seems to be losing air with a higher degree of frequency than I would like.

See how that works? The best laid plans, and all of that.

But today seems to be going well; as long as I stay motivated and focused there’s no doubt I can get everything I need to get done, done.

The Saints game yesterday was perhaps a little more exciting and stressful than I would have liked, but they did prevail, and now the Rams are coming to town next Sunday. Should be a great game–it certainly was the last time the Rams came to town–and so should the Kansas City-New England game be a good one. It would be very exciting to go to the Super Bowl again; although nothing will ever be better than that first experience. (I went back and reread my blog entries around the Saints winning the Super Bowl and those memories are wonderful ones I will always cherish–and I always forget I wrote Who Dat Whodunnit partly to make sure it was recorded.)

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

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Please Don’t Go

GEAUX SAINTS!

Later this afternoon the Saints play the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in a play-off game in the Superdome. It’s going to be loud in there, and it’s going to be extremely tense here in the Lost Apartment. I may keep Pet Sematary in my lap so I can distract myself from the nail-biting tension of watching the Saints play.

Yesterday wound up being my day off of the weekend; I didn’t write anything or edit anything, so I am going to have to do that this morning before the game. It’s fine; the game is later today so I should be able to get all the things done this morning/early afternoon that I need to get done. I managed to run the errands yesterday, which was incredibly lovely to get out of the way, and so now today I don’t have to leave the house. Depending on how much I get done this morning, I might actually go to the gym to do some stretching and cardio before the game starts; we’ll see how I feel. I am very happy about the recent weight loss, and am hopeful that will become the stepping stone to a return to being fit that I had hoped to make the case last year…although I am very well aware of the fact that my body dysmorphia will kick in and I’ll never think I’m lean enough or in good enough shape.

Heavy heaving sigh.

So, we went to see The Favourite yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. Visually it was quite stunning; although the wigs and powder of that period really leave something to be desired. It was really an enjoyable film; I never felt like it was going on too long, and those performances! I’ve been a fan of Olivia Colman since the first time I became aware of her–I think in The Night Manager, and then again in Broadchurch–and as Queen Anne she is simply phenomenal. Her performance is so strong it could easily overshadow those of her two co-stars, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, but it doesn’t; they are equally strong performances. I’ve always liked Emma Stone, and was really surprised by how strong her performance is in this film. The film is by turn funny and poignant; amusing and sad. It’s hard not to pity Queen Anne–those seventeen pregnancies!–and there are some anachronisms and historical inaccuracies in the movie, as there always are (one really can’t enjoy these films if one allows one’s self to be irritated or annoyed by those; I’ve managed to put those aside as these films are truly fictions based on actual events), but over all, I truly enjoyed it.

We also finished watching Homecoming last night; it’s a good show, and Julia Roberts is really terrific in it–and I am not a big fan of la Roberts. The final episode was kind of disappointing; we shouldn’t have put off watching it for so long. But there really wasn’t a good way that I can think of to end the show, but over all I give it high marks and would recommend it. I also started watching Titans on DC Universe after Paul went to bed (we also started watching season two of Futureman on Hulu; it doesn’t appear to be as good or as entertaining as the first; it also doesn’t help that I really don’t remember much of what happened in season one), and it’s premiere episode was a good one; the show is off to a good start. The young actor playing Dick Grayson is very attractive, and quite good in the role; more as I watch this first season play out.

So, I am going to spend the rest of this morning cleaning out my inbox, straightening up the kitchen a bit, and reading those fucking five chapters of Scotty I’ve been putting off all week. (I may even do the next five; depends on motivation and how quickly it goes.) I think Swedish meatballs are in the offing for dinner tonight; and I may even make teriyaki meatballs over night in the slow cooker.

And so, dear Constant Reader, I am about to put on my mining helmet and head back into the spice mines. Do wish me luck, won’t you?

Have a lovely Sunday.

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Lost in Love

Good morning, weekend.

I worked my usual half-day Friday yesterday and came home full of energy and ready to clean and straighten. I got the living room done and did a bit of a book purge. I did numerous loads of laundry, put clothes away, and worked on the kitchen a little bit, but didn’t finish. I’ll do that this morning before reading those pesky five chapters I’ve been avoiding all fucking week. Later on I am going to run errands, and then we’re going to go see The Favourite at the AMC Palace in Elmwood. I am looking forward to it; I love Olivia Colman, and I do like Emma Stone. I also enjoy seeing the sets and costumes and make-up from other periods, and this is a period I am not as familiar with as others in British history. I know about Queen Anne, of course; she was dull and lazy and indolent, the last Stuart to reign over the burgeoning British empire, and had seventeen pregnancies. She was never supposed to be queen; she was the second daughter of the second son of Charles I, and her mother was a commoner, Anne Hyde. But as the years passed and her uncle Charles II continued to have no legitimate heir, her importance–and that of her older sister, Mary, rose. After her mother died, her father the Duke of York married a Catholic princess, Mary-Beatrice of Modena, and converted himself. This, naturally, was not well-received by the very anti-Catholic English, and when his second wife gave him a son three years into his reign, Parliament said bitch please and invited his eldest daughter, Mary, and her husband to take the throne. James II went into exile, and William III and Mary II took the crown. Mary died about six years later, but William remained king until he died in 1702, when Anne took the throne. Anne actually wanted her half-brother to succeed her as James III; instead Parliament invited a very distant cousin to reign as George I. The current royals are his direct descendants, tracing their Stuart heritage back to James I. Anne was queen during the War of the Spanish Succession, pitting all Europe against France and Spain; it was called Queen Anne’s War in North America.

I’ve read no biographies of Queen Anne, and fiction about her is also relatively scarce. I know Jean Plaidy wrote a novel about her, but it’s one of the few Plaidy novels I’ve not read. So, I doubt I’ll know enough of the story to spot glaring historical inaccuracies, but those are to be expected in films of this sort. Her reign was pretty unremarkable other than the war; and her longest-running “favourite”, Sarah Churchill, was married to one of her most able generals and became Duke of Marlborough–Winston Churchill is one of their descendants.

Oh, that went on for quite a bit, did it not? My apologies, Constant Reader! But my initial awareness of Queen Anne was, of course, because of Queen Anne’s War.

I feel pretty good this morning; well-rested and all that. I’ve been sleeping pretty well these last few days, which gives me hope. Tomorrow of course is the Saints’ first play-off game, which will make things pretty tense around here; I am going to have to run to the grocery store in the morning, methinks, in order to get what I need for the week and be done with things. I was hoping to go to the gym to start over with exercise this year. I’ve lost another few pounds–the other morning I was shaving and noticed in the mirror that, without flexing, I could see the faint outline of my abs again–and when flexed they were very apparent. So another eleven pounds to my goal weight of 200 should do the trick, and regular exercise focused on weight-loss should do the trick. I also want to start stretching regularly; I did the other day and it felt so good…I also would like to get a massage at some point as well. I want the theme of this year to be self-care. This is more important the older I get, and let’s face it, exercise–while always a challenge and sometimes quite tedious–is the best way for me to stay strong and healthy and feel good.

I read some more of Pet Sematary yesterday, and will probably read more of it tonight after the movie. I am greatly enjoying this book this time around; I suppose maybe because I know what’s going to happen so it isn’t quite as disturbing this time around as it was the first. Now, I can instead focus on the marriage and the family dynamic/relationships, how well this is all crafted and constructed…it really is quite a marvelous gem of a novel.

And maybe, just maybe, if I get what I want to get done on the Scotty I can work on the WIP a little bit this weekend, too. Maybe.

And I am thinking it’s time to get back to the Short Story Project. I also think I am going to probably start the Diversity Project when I finish the King. I am most likely going to alternate–a diverse book, then a crime novel, etc. I also want to read outside the crime genre this year–more nonfiction, more of other genres–and in some cases they will overlap. I also want to reread some other Stephen Kings I’ve not reread in a while–The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, The Eyes of the Dragon–as well as read the Kings I have on hand that I’ve not read. As I said before, I can’t just push for diversity in books and publishing and so forth if I myself aren’t diversifying my reading. I have always read and been supportive of women writers, and I am going to keep going with that as well this year–I really do think women are writing some of the best crime fiction of our time–but I need to read outside of my own experience and outside of my own genre more….and I need to expand my horror reading to include more authors than Stephen King. I’d like to reread Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (there’s actually a really good essay to write about frozen horror, since The Shining and Ghost Story were of a time) and Floating Dragon; maybe give some of my favorite Dean Koontz’ another twirl to see if they still hold up, and of course there are any number of horror novels in my TBR pile. I also need to read the next book in A Song of Fire and Ice, and there are any number of others books I would like to read and get out of the TBR pile.

Heavy heaving sigh. There’s so much to read, and so little time to read.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Cruisin

FRIDAY.

It was an interesting week, as I try to readjust to the new realities of my life. The older I get the longer it seems to take to make those necessary adjustments, but I eventually do make them. Change is good, for the most part; I often find myself in a comfortable rut that makes things seem easier–but ultimately hinders creativity and adaptability. And for a writer, things that hinder creativity and adaptability are not good things.

It’s funny,  my career has gone on so long now that I can barely remember the time before I was a published author, and my memories of those pre-Katrina years as a new author are hazy and scant. For some reason, last night I was thinking about those days for some reason–I think it had to do with the Saints being the number one seed in the play-offs, and the first game coming up this weekend; I started reading old blog entries from the season the Saints won the Super Bowl, and I started remembering back then…like how we watched the Return to the Dome Game on Monday night football while we were living back in the carriage house on a tiny little black and white television while the Lost Apartment was under construction, and how I used to always say Life is material for your writing.

It’s kind of crazy. This month–January 20th, to be exact–is the anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and it’s been sixteen years since it came out. It is no longer in physical print, but sixteen years later the ebook still sells. It was a completely different world back then…my first book will be eligible for a driver’s license in nine days! Madness.

I am hoping to somehow be productive this weekend, around going to see a movie tomorrow and the Saints game on Sunday. Regardless of whether the Saints win or not, it’s been a great football season for us here in the Lost Apartment; LSU was only projected to win six games at most yet wound up 10-3 and in a New Year’s 6 Bowl game, and ended up ranked Number 6 in the final polls. The Saints are currently 13-3 and had some absolutely amazing, heart-stopping wins (kind of like the season when they won the Super Bowl); and, as I said, hold the Number One seed so all their play-off games will be in the Dome. We also need to finish watching Homecoming, and I want to start watching Titans on DC Universe.

The reread of Pet Sematary is coming along nicely; it’s really a well-written book, and there are some amazingly keen insights into relationships and marriage in these first 100 pages. I remember hazily that the book’s primary theme is about death and how to face it, how to deal with it; one of the reasons it bothered me on so many levels. I know, I know, I always hold that mystery and horror fiction are two sides of the same coin; that both genres are about death, but Pet Sematary deals with it on such a micro-level, worming its way into the reader’s thoughts and memories. The death of a pet, the death of a sibling, the death of a child; King takes on all of these horribly human experiences, confronts them, and puts an all-too-very-human face on all of them. I am glad to reread it, because I am really appreciating the genius of it this time through.

And now, back to the spice mines. Today is only a half-day for me, as was yesterday, and while yesterday I’d intended to get a lot done last night, I procrastinated and didn’t get anything done; I cannot allow that to be the story of this day.

Have a great Friday!

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Working My Way Back to You

So now it’s Thursday and I have a mere half-day to work today and tomorrow before I slide into the weekend. This is quite lovely, even if I am wishing my life away.

I started the reread of Pet Sematary this week; and I am enjoying it. I know how it ends, of course, so I can read it and look at the writing and structure, rather than reading to find out what happens. It’s been over thirty years since I read it, way back in 1983 when it first came out, and as I said before, it’s one of my least favorite King works, and one of the few from this period I never reread. It’s my least favorite because it disturbed me so much, to be honest; I was only twenty-two at the time I read it and…yeah, I never had any desire to go back and reread it. It disturbed me on some seriously deep levels…so I am rereading it now, of course, to see if I can get to the bottom of why it disturbed me so deeply. Analyzing it as I go, I am certain no small part of it was because of the dead pet thing…I still get teary-eyed remembering my dog when I was a kid, or having to put Skittle to sleep seven years ago (and Scooter, just so you know, is going to live forever and I don’t want to hear anything else!). The book is quite good thus far; even though I’m not very far into it. The Creed family is your normal, every day American nuclear family (mom, dad, daughter, son and a cat) moving to Maine from Chicago because Louis, the dad, has gotten a job being running a college campus student infirmary. They are all realistic and eminently likable; soon they meet the aged man who lives on the other side of the road, Jud Crandall, and they take to him immediately.

I hope to get another five chapters of the Scotty read, edited, and notes taken today; hopefully at this pace I’ll be ready to start putting corrections and edits into the manuscript text next week, and by the next weekend be finished with it totally, other than the copy edits, proofing, and so forth. I’ve been a little bit off this week, do to sleep issues, but I feel fairly rested this morning. I slept deeply last night for about four hours, waking up around three and then drifting in and out of sleep the rest of the night. I woke up again before seven, but napped until the alarm went off at eight. I can handle this; I don’t feel like I was awake for the entire night the way I usually do on the mornings after nights like that, but who knows? I do have, as I said, an early day today; so hopefully I can get home and get some things done before Paul gets home from work tonight–there’s dishes and laundry, and the kitchen of course is in significant disarray. But as long as I remain focused thus afternoon when I get home, I should be able to get everything I want to get done today done today. (That was some awkward phrasing, wasn’t it?)

I still feel a little unsettled and discombobulated; I am such a creature of routine and relentless sameness that any variation throws me off. Working in a new building with a new work schedule is taking some getting used to; rearranging and rescheduling my writing and reading time is taking even more time to get used to–and of course, once I get into a routine, parade season will be here and it’ll all go to shit again.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. I need to get back to the spice mines now, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Thursday!

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Little Jeannie

We made it to Wednesday, Constant Reader! Huzzah!  Today is my eight hour day (after two twelves) and the rest of the week is half-days. I am always so grateful when Wednesday morning rolls around, because I survived the two long days at the beginning of the week yet again. Both nights–Sunday and Monday–were bad sleep nights; that awful half-sleep where the entire time you know if you open your eyes you’ll be awake–but last night’s sleep was absolutely lovely. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but alas, there is no rest for the wicked.

I didn’t get as much done on the book yesterday as I would have liked; I was, as I said, very tired by the time I got home from work and as such, was too tired to critically read my own work (trust me, there are days when I’d rather drink bleach than read something I’ve written). So, instead we watched an episode of Homecoming, around which I scrolled through social media, waiting for bedtime. (I did go to bed early, too.)

So, The Shining.

I liked it, as I said the other day, a great deal more than I did the first time I read it; I’m not sure if I’ve read it more than once in the past as my memory is shot, but I don’t think I did read it more than once, unlike other Kings of the era (other than Pet Sematary). While I was rereading it, I was also recognizing and ticking off the boxes of why it bothered me on the first read–child in danger? Check. Abusive marriage/parenting? Check. Alcoholic? Check. Snow and cold? Check. There’s also a very strong sense at the end of the book, once they’ve escaped and are in warm climates and trying to recover from what happened there, to them and to Jack, that the hotel was to blame for everything; that also bothered me on the first read. But on second read, with more perspective on life and characters and how people cope, I realize that this coping mechanism is essential for Wendy and Danny’s recovery from their experiences at the Overlook; putting the blame for the disintegration of Jack into madness and murder on the hotel was an essential coping mechanism for them both, to try to recover from the horrible trauma of husband/father they loved trying to brutally kill them while in the grips of utter madness. But having been through my own traumas over the course of my own fifty-seven years, I can now recognize and understand the necessity for coping mechanisms. The sad truth that neither of them can face is the hotel simply ferreted out what was already inside of Jack, and brought it out; it was always there, and Jack was forever resisting it. Had they not gone to the hotel, he would have undoubtedly hurt one or both of them again, and their story would have eventually ended in tragedy, one way or another; the Overlook simply sped up the process.

As I said the other day, The Shining also is an extraordinary work in that it’s a highly claustrophobic novel, despite the fact that the hotel itself, along with its grounds, are actually quite large spaces. But the tight point of views on the three main characters, and being able to show everything that’s going on from everyone’s point of view, is an incredibly smart choice; the book wouldn’t have worked without this shifting point of view and perspective, and each of the three characters are so superbly delineated by King that the authorial voice changes enough to make each point of view clear and distinct. The character of Jack was fascinating for me to read, to watch his slow disintegration into madness and the rise of his baser self–a self King was very careful and deliberate to show was always there, but kept down by force of will and societal mores learned over time. King dives so deep into Jack and who he is–this is also a trademark of King’s characters, across all his work–that his loathing and anger and contempt and provocations to violence are understandable  even as they are horrific; Jack isn’t, of course, the villain of his own story. But there’s another layer to him that knows better, makes him question himself…and King even gives him a moment of redemption in the finale that makes it seem as though he is entirely, against his will, a tool the hotel is using to kill them all.

The finale is also a magnificent example of building suspense. It is impossible to put the book down as you zip through those last hundred pages.

As a writer myself, it’s hard not to sympathize with a wannabe writer who’s failing to live up to the early promise of a publication in Esquire magazine; of not being able to write, who experiences the self-doubt and self-questioning that I am always struggling with myself. Ben Mears in ‘salem’s Lot is also a novelist, with a little more success to his credit than Jack, but Ben’s self-confidence and lack of concern about the lack of success makes him a vastly different–and not as relatable to another writer–character.

An interesting essay, or piece of literary criticism that someone should write, would be about King’s depictions of writers in his work–there are a lot of them. Just off the top of my head, there are writers in It, ‘salem’s Lot, The Shining, Insomnia, Misery, and The Dark Half; I am sure there are even more–I think Lisey’s Story also?

And now back to the spice mines.

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It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me

Hello, Tuesday! We survived Monday, didn’t we? And that counts as an accomplishment. Don’t be a hater, dear. Considering how little sleep I’d had, making it through the first day of the week in one piece was in question. I slept better last night, so this morning I’m not quite as tired as I was yesterday, so there’s hope for this, my second long day of the week.

I made some progress yesterday with Scotty; I’m not sure why I am always so resistant to working on this book–oh, wait, yes I am: I am such a harsh critic of my own work that I think it’s not very good and the revising is going to take a lot of hard work to make it readable. Well, in reading the last five chapters last night and making notes on what needs to be fixed, I realized it’s not that bad. Yes, there’s some things that need to be added and some things that need to be removed, and there are sentences and paragraphs that are a little rough, but over all, it’s not as bad as I was thinking; it never is, and I never learn. So, I am very hopeful about getting it done now, which is also always a relief.

I also finished my reread of The Shining, and have some thoughts on it percolating in my head. I am looking forward to my reread of Pet Sematary, which will lead into my Diversity Project as well as a revival of the Short Story Project. Overall, The Shining is an enjoyable and terrifying read–the last one hundred pages are particularly spectacular; a veritable master class in how to build suspense, tension, and fear in the reader–but I have some problems with the book overall. Structurally, it’s very sound, and perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how internal the book is; how incredibly claustrophobic within the context of an enormous space King made it. I also have identified why I didn’t like it as much during that first read all those years ago; I do not, will not, and probably never will enjoy reading about small children in jeopardy. Given my general apathy towards children, this is a surprise; but it truly was a terrific book. Particularly insidious is the way King makes it seem perfectly understandable and normal as to why a wife would stay with an abuser, which actually makes the book very far ahead of its time. It’s hard to imagine but in the 1970’s, spousal/child abuse in families was just beginning to be seen as problematic; King wrote about this dysfunction long before the societal shift truly began, and made this complex psychological issue abundantly understandable–imagine how few options an abused wife had then as opposed to now (when there still aren’t many options and resources available). Both Jack and Wendy were damaged in their own ways by their parents–King also understood the cycle of abuse and how it works long before anyone else was talking about it in the public sphere. The Shining not only works as a novel of supernatural terror, but as one of domestic terror as well; the Overlook Hotel may be a bad place, but it only sped up the disintegration of the Torrance marriage–which was already on the ropes.

My kitchen is a disaster area at the moment; I was too tired yesterday to do anything about it, and I suppose I should take care of it this morning before I head into the office so I can come home to a clean home. Today I hope to get another five chapters of the Scotty read and notes taken and outlined; this weekend we are planning to go see The Favourite on Saturday before settling in for the Saints game on Sunday (GeAUX SAINTS!!!). I am curious to see the film; as I have said, I am not terribly knowledgeable about Queen Anne beyond the basics, but I am a huge fan of Olivia Colman, and I do like Emma Stone.

So, on that note ’tis back to the spice mines. Have a terrific Tuesday, Constant Reader, because I certainly plan to!

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