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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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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Lowdown

I woke up to a major thunderstorm around seven this morning, and quite frankly, curled up under my blankets even more and went back to sleep. I didn’t wind up getting out of bed until after nine, which felt lovely and now I feel wide awake while well rested at the same time, which is actually quite nice. I need to run to the UPS Store today, pick up the mail and a prescription, stop by the bank, and make groceries at some point, but ugh, how horrible to do this in the rain. It’s supposed to rain here all day, alas. But that will certainly encourage me to get them done as quickly as possible so I can get home.

Today I need to also do some more cleaning around the house, and at some point I am going to close the browsers so I can focus on writing. I want to push through these revisions of these chapters of the WIP, and I’d also like to push through and get a strong revision of “And the Walls Came Down” done, so I can submit it to some markets this week. My short story for next week will be the “The Problem with Autofill,” which is a strong story but the ending needs to be altered and changed somewhat. I still like the concept of the story–it’s kind of a Sorry Wrong Number thing, only with email–but I’m still not sure how to make it work completely.  But I still persist in trying to make it work. I also would like to work some more on “Please Die Soon,” which I think is a terrific idea for a story, and I’ve done the requisite research to make it work, methinks. I really want to stick to this goal of either revising a short story or finishing an incomplete first draft of one every week.

Goals. Must stick to goals.

I survived Costco yesterday, my checking account less scathed than usual–although it easily could have become Sherman’s March to the Sea. Yet I was able to resist, and came very close to staying within the budget I set for the trip–and had I not bought two books off the book table (Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis; the Owens was nominated for an Edgar while the Davis won the Pulitzer Prize) I would have stayed under budget.

The book table is always my downfall.

And while I didn’t accomplish near as much as I probably should have yesterday, I did manage to get some chores done, some of them loathsome, so that’s a win for the end of the week, methinks. The key is what I can get done today and tomorrow…and my primary focus has to be on writing. Once I get the writing gears dusted off and oiled, I am hoping I will be able to get the first draft of the WIP finished by the end of May (there’s a three day holiday this month as well, which I am really looking forward to enjoying).

The Gulf itself looks interesting. Most American histories, of course, focus on the Atlantic colonies and the spread westward from there; there really isn’t anything taught about the history of the Gulf of Mexico–which, once Florida, Louisiana and Texas passed into American hands, basically became an enormous American lake–and I am very interested in becoming better acquainted with this history. It can, after all, only help, since most of my fiction work is focused on the Gulf states. The more Louisiana history I know, and read, the better I feel my fiction will become.

I think once I finish Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things my next book will be either Rachel Howzell Hall’s All the Way Down or Joseph Olshan’s Lambda nominated mystery, Black Diamond Fall. I’m greatly enjoying the Mason novel, and perhaps at some point today, once I’ve run the errands and done the cleaning and written all I need to write today, I might curl up in the easy chair with The Hidden Things and make some serious headway on it. I also have an article to write and another column to start planning for. And yes, it does all seem a bit overwhelming, but what I need to do is make a list and just start checking off boxes.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer

Wednesday morning. I was very tired last night, and after watching the Australian Open (Greg: well, 2019 is starting off as a really shitty sports year, isn’t it?), I read for a little while before going to bed. I slept well last night, but this morning am feeling a little bit less lively than I should, all things considered. I also don’t have a short day tomorrow–eight hours, hurray–but that’s fine. Friday is back to normal and next week is a normal work week, for what that’s worth. Routine? Back into the groove? Let’s hope it’s all of those things.

I still feel slightly discombobulated. Adjusting to a new routine is difficult, particularly when that routine is regularly disrupted again once you start to settle into it. Ironically, I think once I get used to it again and get into a groove it’ll be Carnival parade time and it’ll get disrupted all over again. I guess that’s the trouble with being someone who likes routine and yet lives in New Orleans, where routine is routinely disrupted.

It’s kind of gray and misty outside the windows and everything is dripping. It’s rained over night and is still raining a bit this morning; which will make the drive uptown to get the mail and then to work all the more fun. It is a source of constant amazement to me that people in New Orleans can’t drive in the rain–you’d think, by the way they drive, that it never rained here.

And you’d be incorrect in that assumption.

Heavy sigh.

I tried to work on the Scotty a bit yesterday to no avail; I think I added an entire sentence to the revision/reboot of Chapter One. My mind was scrambled and tired last night when I got home, and of course watching Serena lose wasn’t uplifting or motivating. This weekend is the US National Figure Skating Championships, so a lot of time will be spent this weekend watching that event, which will be kind of nice–I do love to watch figure skating–and that leads me back to my story “Moves in the Field,” which I’d like to get revised and edited and rewritten this month–it and “The Snow Globe” and “And the Walls Came Down” and “The Problem with Autofill.” The last one needs a serious rethink; I like the basic idea of it, but as written the story doesn’t work. The conceit of the story is something I also like, but again is problematic because there’s no way anyone would ever be that stupid, I think; that’s the hole in the story that needs to be fixed. I have a better idea, a glimmer of a thought, on how to fix this problem (the problem with “The Problem with Autofill”, ha ha ha ha), and I am hoping to get that attempt out of the way this weekend. I know I am biting off more than I’m going to want to chew this weekend, but if I don’t make a massive to-do list I always feel like I am doing nothing.

Which of course is part of the insanity.

I’ve also been toying with an idea I like, for a novel–something to write after I finish the WIP. I do like the idea, but it’s very malformed and ethereal at the moment; it would need to be more solid before I start actually doing any writing on it. I think maybe if I spend an hour on it, just brainstorming and figuring out the plot and characters and how to structure the book, I’d be able and be more ready to sit down and write it when the time comes.

Ideas aren’t my problem; my problem is too many ideas.

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

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Sara

Memorial Day Monday, and I haven’t gotten near as much done as I intended, according to the “long weekend stay-cation to-do list”, but I got so much more else done that I cannot feel defeated or disappointed in myself.

Which, of course, is a step in the right direction. I’ve also gotten used to waking up in the morning between nine-thirty and ten; tomorrow’s alarm is going to be a very rude awakening, I fear. But it is what it is, I suppose, and at least this is only a four day work week, so that’s something, right?

Always find the upside, you know?

I took a lot more notes in the journal yesterday, figuring out how some other stories are going to play out, and even started brainstorming on Muscles. I know this doesn’t seem like I’m getting very much done as far as actual writing is concerned, and that may be true; but what I’ve done this entire weekend is make the actual writing possible. Today I am going to try to get some of that actual writing done–I know, right? SCARED OF THAT. And I also have some reading to do; I’m participating in a panel of readers to choose some short stories for an anthology. I also have some other busy-work to take care of today as well; so I am going to try to get that done before I start writing.

I am still reading that Roth novel; it’s not very quick going, despite being so well-written and the characters aren’t really quite as awful as the ones I recall from Letting Go, but it’s kind of slow going; there’s not really a reason to keep turning the page, which is always the problem, at least for me, with literary fiction. On my shelves, TBR, are two big literary fiction books that are massively long, Hanya Yanaghara’s A Little Life and Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire, and while there are  gay characters and themes in both…they’re so long. Since they have gay characters, I kind of feel, as a gay author, some responsibility to the community to read them, dissect the gay characters, etc. It is representation, after all, and that representation should be critiqued by someone within the community.

I am sure that was handled by Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, which is a lovely magazine, and yet…I feel like it’s sort of my job somehow; a need or feeling which I definitely need to get past and over as quickly as possible. I am sure I will finish reading the Roth this week and I can get back to reading crime novels. (Yay!)

So, yesterday’s journal entries included work on my short stories “The White Knuckler” and “Never Kiss a Stranger” and “Hold on to the Night” and “This Thing of Darkness” and “And the Walls Came Down”; and the novels Muscles and Bury Me in Satin. I am writing a lot in my journal, which is convenient and easy, of course; I love having my journal, and I love having it handy, so whenever something occurs to me I can write it down and riff on it for a little while. This has been working tremendously; I solved the problems with the Scotty novel this way, made progress on the WIP; and at the rate I am going when it’s time to work on Bury Me in Satin the entire thing will have already been written or planned out in my journal.

Which will certainly make the process easier.

I’m all about it being easier, in case you’d never noticed.

As I page through my journal I also see notes I made for two essays; one about the evolution of teen movies from the 1950’s to the present (triggered by watching the original Friday the 13th last night, with a very young, dewy and beautiful Kevin Bacon), and another about Robert Downey Jr.’s career trajectory, and yet another about whether Carrie White from Carrie was a villain or a victim (this popped up on Facebook this week, and the question was very strange; I always considered Carrie a victim and certainly never as a victim; I also made the connecting thought that varied interpretations of what role she played in the novel/film has everything to do with the reader/viewer’s life experience as well as how they see themselves; which is an interesting direction to take, essay-wise; I was also thinking it might not be a bad idea to include Christine’s Arnie in the discussion. I consider both novels to be excellent depictions of teenage life and high school; no one really does childhood or high school quite the way King does).

So, that’s it for today, the end of my stay-cation. I got a lot of brainstorming and problem-solving finished for my writing; the Lost Apartment is in some sort of order at long last, and I am of course making myself all kinds of promises I won’t keep; about staying on top of the household chores and staying on top of the writing and the reading and using my journal to get myself out of sticky situations with both. I am very glad I took the stay-cation, even if I didn’t get close to getting all the things finished that I needed to get finished. My visit to the storage facility had to be postponed because of the recurring back pain; hopefully I can get that handled one day this week; either Thursday or Friday.

Always keep moving forward.

Next up in the Short Story Project is “The Jockey” by Carson McCullers, also from The New Yorker’s The 40’s: The Story of a Decade:

The jockey came to the doorway of the dining room, then after a moment stepped to one side and stood motionless, with his back to the wall. The room was crowded, as this was the third day of the season and all the hotels in the town were full. In the dining room bouquets of August roses scattered their petals on the white table linen and from the adjoining bar came a warm, drunken wash of voices. The jockey waited with his back to the wall and scrutinized the room with pinched, crepy eyes. He examined the room until at last his eyes reached a table in the corner diagonally across him him, at which three men were sitting. As he watched, the jockey raised his chin and tilted his head back to one side, his dwarfed body grew rigid, and his hands stiffened so that the fingers curled inward like gray claws. Tense against the wall of the dining room, he watched and waited in this way.

I’ve never been ashamed to admit that often I don’t get McCullers’ work; but I like the way she writes and the insights into her characters that she shares. This short story, about a damaged jockey who enters a crowded dining room during the season at Saratoga and confronts three people, dining together, who’ve had some impact/will have some impact on his life, and their complete disinterest in him as anything other than an object to be pitied, eventually to be scorned, is well drawn and depicted; and very telling about human nature; how we are with people who are of use to us and who we, as a society, generally are to those who cease to be of use to us. I have to confess, my revisitation of McCullers, between this and Reflections in a Golden Eye, has made me a lot more interested in her and her work; just as reading some of Flannery O’Connor’s stories recently has raised my interest in her work as well.

As I have said before, I often find my failure to get certain writers, seen as masters or geniuses, or in other ways celebrated by the so-called Academy, as a failure not only as a reader or a writer but as an intellectual and even, possibly a moral failure; but my recent reread of The Great Gatsby went a long way towards curing me of that mentality; likewise, the recent re-approaches to the works of McCullers and O’Connor have also made me realize that in some cases, I may not have been intellectually and morally ready to read these works. I am going to give Hemingway another chance at some point  as well, and I do want to read more of Faulkner. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser a great deal more as an adult than I did in college courses. I didn’t enjoy reading Jonathan Franzen, and I’ve come to believe that David Foster Wallace is a cruel joke played on unsuspecting readers and students of literature by bitter professors. I also found Styron’s Set This House On Fire more readable, more enjoyable, and more of an achievement than Sophie’s Choice or The Confessions of Nat Turner; but I also read the latter when I was in my early twenties, so it may be possible for me to appreciate them more greatly now; I do consider myself to be a more sophisticated reader now than I was in my callow youth.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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