Yes or No

Good morning, Sunday people! I slept deeply and well last night, so this morning I feel rested. My muscles don’t feel tight, either–but I am still going to stretch this morning. I gave up on two things yesterday–reading A Feast of Snakes and writing “A Holler Full of Kudzu.” The first because it’s, quite frankly, stupid; I didn’t believe the characters, nor did I believe the story, nor did I care about any of it. Harry Crews did, however, write some terrific paragraphs and create some amazing sentences, but about halfway through–and mind you, the entire novel is less than 200 pages, and it’s taken me over a week to get halfway through it–I just wasn’t buying into it or believing it. The second I gave up on because, while I do think there’s a short story in there, there’s also more than enough story to become a novel; and I am not sure at this point what exactly the short story should be. It was also taking me a really long time to write it; I think in slightly more than a week I’d only managed slightly more than two thousand words. So, I decided to put it to the side, let it percolate for a while, and then I can come back to it. This morning, this day, I am going to try to finish “Quiet Desperation” (which I’d forgotten I was in the process of writing, because I got so caught up in the my recent interest in Southern Gothic), revise “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”, and then start the revision of my WIP. I am going to do something dramatically different with that, as well; I am going to revise the last five chapters first, and then work my way backward through the book. It’s odd, but I always am worried that working in a linear way, which is what I usually do, the first half gets more attention than the second, and the second half of the book always is like a neglected stepchild, when it is really the most important part of the book.

I also started a reread last night of one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, and one of her lesser-known ones: Endless Night. Some of my favorite Agatha Christie novels are her less-known ones (A Murder is Announced, Death Comes as the End, The Body in the Library, The Mirror Crack’d, N or M, The Man in the Brown Suit, They Came to Baghdad, Cat Among the Pigeons,  and The Secret of Chimneys, among many others), which isn’t to say the more famous ones–The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and Death on the Nile–weren’t enjoyable. I am actually curious to see the new film version of Murder on the Orient Express, but seriously; is there anyone who doesn’t know the ending of that famous novel at this point?

Endless Night is one of my favorite Christies because it is vastly different than any of her other novels; one of the things that is the most amazing about Christie is she basically did everything first. Endless Night is more Gothic in style and tone; bordering on the noir side. I didn’t get very far into reading it yesterday before it was time to go get our weekend treat (a deep dish pizza from That’s Amore) and then we watched an Andy Samberg mock-documentary, Never Stop Never Stopping, which was really funny, and then it was time for a few episodes of Ozark, which continues to amaze and enthrall us. The way it’s shot is superb, the cinematography Oscar level, and both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are killing it in their performances; they should be frontrunners for next year’s Emmys. And the Lake of the Ozarks is almost as much a character as the actors themselves, as well as the stunning beauty of the area. And, of course, tonight is Game of Thrones.

I didn’t get as much cleaning done as I would have liked yesterday, but I did reread some stories that need revision, and I think I may have figured out how to revise them and make them stronger; we shall see when I start working on them again, no? I’ve also still be digesting my reread of The Great Gatsby, and that’s a whole other entry in and of itself.

And on that note, I should get back to the spice mines. Here’s a Sunday hunk for you.

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Cool Jerk

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

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

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

Christ, the house is a mess.

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

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

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Turn to You

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

I changed my socks three times yesterday.

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

One can hope, anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Lips Are Sealed

Tuesday morning, and a good night’s sleep was had by all, and really, what a difference that makes! We got caught up on CNN’s The Nineties and The History of Comedy last night; retired earlier than usual, and I woke up on my own before the alarm this morning and I feel rested. I stretched yesterday as well; so my muscles are feeling better. I have some tightness in my back that was causing some pain–it has decreased since I started stretching. Paul gave me a massage for Christmas; I really need to find that gift certificate and make an appointment. I know that will also make a significant difference.

I started reading Harry Crews’ A Feast of Snakes yesterday; it was on a list of “Southern Gothics you must read” and I am…intrigued by it. It’s interesting…in some ways; borderline offensive in others. I’m going to wait until I finish reading it, of course, to make any definitive statements; the problems I am having with it have nothing to do with the actual writing. Crews is a very good writer, and has an excellent grasp of language, which keeps me reading…but he also has fallen into the trap so many people fall into when writing about rural Southern people–sumbitch. I fucking hate that colloquialism, in no small part because I’ve never heard anyone in real life actually say ‘son of a bitch’ that way. But it pops up in novels/fiction about the rural South all the time; even as writers don’t try to match the rhythm of the Southern accent, or how Southern people say certain words; you can always be sure they will say sumbitch.

It annoys the crap out of me.

I managed to get some work done on “A Holler Full of Kudzu” yesterday. It’s not coming along as easily as one might have hoped; I’ve worked on it a couple of days now, here and there, and have only about 1037 words. It’s also a mess; I realized yesterday that it’ll have to be reworked extensively on the next draft–but acknowledging that the story is kind of all over the place and messy was enormously helpful; for some reason, when I write short stories I am always trying to get it right the first time, taking more time than is probably necessary so I won’t have to revise extensively. Again, look at it as a messy house you need to clean and organize. So, today I am going to work on it some more without listening to that annoying voice in the back of my head trying to get it right the first time. I think it’s actually kind of a good story, buried in there amongst the dreck, and the key is to trim it down to the polished diamond from the rough.

I also reread “For All Tomorrow’s Lies” yesterday, and I know how to fix it for the second draft. It’s a much better story than I might have thought (I am really not the best judge of my own work, seriously); the difference between this draft and “Kudzu” is that “Lies” is more of an outline than overwritten and too long; I need to further explore the emotions and the character’s past and why she is so panicked in the grocery store in much greater depth (and with greater sympathy) than what I did already; the tension that will keep the story moving for the reader isn’t quite there yet. So strange that the same writer can approach writing two stories in such completely different ways, isn’t it? I’d like to get the draft of “Kudzu” finished this morning; there’s a couple of other stories I’d like to get initial drafts of done this week. I am going to most likely go through the WIP for the final coat of polish this weekend–there’s still some things that need to be added into it, I think, to make the conclusion work better, and then next week I can start working on a list of agents to send it to…heavy sigh.

I also read another one of Faulkner’s crime stories yesterday–“Monk”, which was so much more Faulkner-like than “Smoke” was; that macabre, grim Southern sense of humor and the gothic was running through this story; it sort of reminded me of Sanctuary, which I really need to read again (I say that a lot, don’t I? I can’t even keep up with my TBR pile, let alone all the re-reading I have to do. Heavy sigh.)

Okay, I need to get back to the story and straighten up this messy kitchen before I go to the office.

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

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