I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby

I wrote twenty-three hundred and sixty-six words yesterday; a rather precise amount, I admit, but I am rather proud of them, as I’ve not written anything new in nearly two weeks, I think.

It was also new, nothing do with any of the many works in progress I am in the midst of; it was one of those things where the idea came to me, and I knew how to write the chapter, so I sat down and I did lest I forget it. I also wanted to see if I could get the voice right, the tone, and all of that. I think it kind of works, but I am going to let it sit for a moment or two (or weeks) and see what I think of it then.

It’s the first chapter of Chlorine, which is a start. Probably not what I needed to be writing or working on, but

I do want to get back to the WIP–and I’m not really sure why I keep calling it that. Why am I superstitious about sharing the title of this book? I like the title, and I believe I have even mentioned it before. I originally had the idea a million years ago, when I was a little boy. My grandmother–the not sane one–used to love to tell me stories about the past; she always swore on the Bible the stories were true, but I’ve long suspected that most of them were invented or stories she read somewhere–she did like to read, and encouraged both my sister and I to also read. I never wrote the stories she told me down, but I do remember bits and pieces of them, and one of those bits and pieces became a short story I wrote in college called “Ruins.” I wrote it as a ghost story, weaving what I remembered from my grandmother’s story into a modern-day story in a fictional county based on the one my family is from (I also planned to do a lot of writing about this fictional county when I was in college…I have published some work about the county; it’s where Scotty’s sorta-nephew Taylor is from and where Frank’s sister lives. It’s where my main character from Dark Tide  was from, and also where “Smalltown Boy” was set, along with various other short stories, like “Son of a Preacher Man”…so I’m using some of those old ideas today. There are also any number of short stories in some form of completion set there, and the current WIP is, of course, set there). I always thought “Ruins” (still unpublished) could be expanded into a pretty decent novel, and that’s what I am currently working on, have been for the last few months. I no longer call it “Ruins”–that title has already been used multiple times for a novel, and why invite comparison–but when I needed a new title, I wanted something more poetic. I started looking through poems (can you imagine? I know so little about poetry it’s staggering) and wanted something Barbara Michaels-ish. I decided to riff on her title Be Buried in the Rain, which is from a poem, and then a lyric from The Band Perry’s song “If I Die Young” stuck in my head, and I started using that as the title, Bury Me in Satin. But that didn’t really work or fit, and it evolved into Bury Me in Shadows, which had the right creepy, spooky, Gothic feel to it that I wanted, that I am trying to get in the book. It’s a ghost story of sorts, it’s set in the woods of rural central-western Alabama, and there’s a ruin of a plantation back in the woods, which an archaeological team from the University of Alabama has started excavating. There’s a legend about the “lost boys” around the ruins; two boys who disappeared during the Civil War. I’m also working rural drug addiction into it, as well as the Klan, and racism and homophobia. It’s a lot, and it has to been done correctly, in order to get the points across that I want to make in the book. This is why it’s been such a slog, really. I am trying to make points about important topics without sounding too preachy-teachy, while trying to weave in an interesting story, all told from the point of view of a rather intelligent gay teenager from Chicago, who has to spend the summer in Alabama being the point person for the family while his grandmother, who has had several strokes, dies in her own crumbling Victorian style home from the late nineteenth century, and then the archaeologists discover the skeleton of a young man. Is he one of the lost boys from the Civil War, or is there something more sinister going on back in the woods?

I’m trying to write about race sensitively, without giving offense. I am trying to be conscious of my own internalized prejudices and bigotries, which is sadly a life-long process of deprogramming. (But that’s a subject for another time.) But I am hopeful that my own keen editorial eye will catch things in the editing process, and there’s also going to be my editor’s eyes on it. So, hopefully it won’t turn out to be yet another sad white person’s attempt to deal with race that turns out to be problematic.

I am also writing it in a style different than what I usually use–first person present tense, and it’s obvious when I reread chapters I’ve written that it’s not my default; I slip into the past tense very easily and naturally and because I’m so used to writing that way it’s easy for me to miss things in the wrong tense.

I’m up early because today returns normality to my life; this is my first work week that won’t be disrupted this month. First it was a brief vacation, and of course last week was disrupted by Barry. I got very little accomplished over the last few days–storm disruptions make it very hard to focus or get anything done, frankly; as you wait for the storm you don’t want to start anything in case you lose power suddenly, plus there’s the weird tension of waiting for the unexpected. When I walked to Touro to get my car yesterday and run by the grocery store, it was strange; the city was still deserted and lifeless. There were a few cars out driving but not the usual amount of people out and about on a Sunday, even in the rain. I actually think we got more rain yesterday than we did from the storm on Saturday, frankly. I was soaked by the time I got to the car–$21 is a very low price to pay to keep your car safe, to be honest–and of course, everything at the grocery store was on sale because it was old and ripe; I got a great deal on two enormous smooth avocados, and there were still some Creole tomatoes out, but the grocery store was still depleted from people stocking up for the storm. I came home, we got caught up on Animal Kingdom, and last night we watched The Spy Who Dumped Me, a cute comedy starring Mila Kunis and Kate MacKinnon. I love both women, and they worked very well together, and the plot was clever and funny enough to hold my attention, but it could have been better–but it was mostly the charisma of the two women, and their chemistry together, that made the film enjoyable.

So, wish me well on my first full week of work this month. It’s gray and drizzly outside my windows this fair morning; I’m hoping my shoes have dried out from yesterday as well. (note to self: order new shoes, you’re due.)

And now back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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The First Noel

We made it, Constant Reader!

The end of the wretched 2018 is on the horizon; mayhap 2019 will be a better year for everyone and the world.

One can hope, at any rate.

I actually slept for almost eleven hours last night; I cannot recall the last time I ever slept so late. I feel good, but also kind of like I’ve lost my morning. But it’s a four day weekend so who cares? 

And see, that’s how it starts–the downward slippery slope into getting nothing accomplished. It is amazing how quickly and easily my mind will come up with reasons not to write, not to edit, not to get anything done–pretty much anything will do. But this is how it goes….and it’s also very easy to fall into the mindset of nothing matters, you’re terrible at this, you slave away and for what, everyone else gets time off….and on and on and on it goes.

But you have to make sacrifices if you’re going to be a writer. And sometimes, your lazy time (which you love because you are at heart incredibly lazy) is what you do have to give up. And I need to view this long, deep, wonderful sleep as ‘well, you clearly needed the rest, but that has to count as your lazy time for the day.’

I wrote another fifteen hundred words or so on Bury Me in Satin, whose title, going forward, is going to be changed. “Bury me in satin” is a lyric from a song I love, “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry, and while technically I don’t need their permission to use the title, I kind of should ask–it’s the done thing, and since I neither want to bother (lazy!) nor does the title really fit the book (it kind of  only does in the mood I am trying to set, and I’ve already gotten the mood down) I’ve been thinking I want to change it. As we all know, I am very reluctant to make changes–I resist and resent change with all of my being–last night the new title came to me. Part of the resistance was I liked having Bury Me in the title, and last night I figured out a way to retain those words but change the rest of the title from the song lyric. I like the new title, but I think I’m going to keep it under wraps for a while. I usually don’t refer to works-in-progress by their titles; but I’ve called the “one for agent search” the WIP for so long I now think of it that way in my head; I can’t call anything else the WIP anymore. But–and this is an important but–it’s really what I called “the Kansas book” forever; I am going to rebrand it in my head and call it “the Kansas book” again, and the one I am currently working on will be the WIP. I also thought of some new ways to deepen the main character and iron out some plot issues I was having with the WIP. (see what I just did there?) So, my decision to stop writing new chapters after finishing Chapter Eight while I go back and clean up those already written was clearly the right decision to make.

Hopefully, that will also be the case with the final polish of the Scotty book. One can hope, at any rate.

And…the kitchen and entire house is a disaster area yet again, so there’s cleaning and organizing to be done as well.

And on that note, I need to get back to the spice mines.

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Silent Night

Friday and we are somehow getting through this infernal time between Christmas and New Year’s. Every year I think to myself self, next year you need to take this time off, and every year I forget. Like an idiot.

I’m putting this on my 2019 calendar right the fuck now.

Seriously.

But we’ve made it to Friday, haven’t we, Constant Reader? I’ve managed to get back to work writing–although I should be working on polishing the Scotty, I’ve been bogged down with Bury Me in Satin so keep trying to work my way through it. But I need to get back to the Scotty and cleaning it up; the problem being I am so heartily sick of the opening chapters I don’t even want to look at them anymore. I am going to try to revise and polish the last six chapters, and then work my way back through the entire manuscript, and I still have to write the epilogue. I need to snap out of this malaise/funk I’ve been in ever since the Great Data Disaster, and seriously climb back into the writing and editing, else it will never be done. NEVER. I also need to start reading again. I’d like to finish my reread of The Shining, so I can move on to my reread of Pet Sematary, and then I am going to work my way through the TBR pile….as I’ve said before, I’m going to try to read more minority and diverse writers this next year. I’ve been buying their books all this time, of course, but the books have been languishing in my TBR pile–along with a lot of other books and authors–and I also need to read outside of the crime genre for a while, as well.

I’ve always believed reading is a crucial part of writing; you can’t be a good writer if you don’t love to read, and reading is also an excellent education in writing. The best writers should inspire you to want to equal or better them, or at least to do better with your own writing. I think not publishing anything for quite some time has also done a number on my confidence as a writer; I think we all tend to be our own harshest critics. I need to stop listening to those horrible voices in my head with their nasty whispers that undermine my confidence and make me worry about my writing; that give me Imposter Syndrome and encourage me to not bother writing anything.

Which is also self-defeating, and self-annihilation, and self-destructive.

So I am going to try to use this long weekend to reboot my life and reboot my brain and get back on track with everything. I need to read some more New Orleans history, and I need to figure out what short stories need to be finished or reworked; I realized the other day what is wrong with my story “The Problem with Autofill” and I don’t know if I can rework it properly; I don’t think the premise actually works. I probably need to free-associate the story and the root problem at its core, and figure out how to fix it. The title is probably going to have to go–perhaps I can use it for another story with a different plot–but I think there’s something there with the story and I can make something work with it.

Heavy heaving sigh.

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

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Jingle Bells

Getting used to being back at work is always a chore at the best of times.

Having to go in early two of the only three days I have to work is simply insult to injury, quite frankly. I only hit the snooze button three times this morning, though, and while I am not completely awake as of yet, I don’t feel sleepy or groggy. I am hoping this is a good sign.

I managed to eke out another thousand or so words on the book yesterday; which I am taking as a triumph. I am not certain why this is moving so slow, or why it is so hard for me to get used to working on it; I don’t think my writing muscles are rusty or as tired as I would like to think they must be–any excuse in a storm, really–but if I can get through today and tomorrow it’s another four day weekend and hopefully this discombobulated feeling will pass soon enough.

One can hope, any way.

I watched a great documentary on Youtube after work last night about Versailles, and personal hygiene at the court of Louis XIV. It was very interesting; one of the things that is almost always missing from biographies, historical novels, and histories are the personal touches from daily life–dentistry, breath, body odors, cleanliness, etc.–and how it has changed over the years. We would consider Versailles and the courtiers disgustingly filthy and revolting; they thought they were at the pinnacle of personal cleanliness. The documentary–you should watch, if this sort of thing interests you–is called Versailles’ Dirty Secrets.

Speaking of Versailles, I am hoping the third and final season will be free to streaming soon.

I do feel sort of adrift, I have to say; I realized it last night as I worked on the book. Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 I no longer trust my computer or its back-ups; nor do I remember exactly what I was working on or what was going on in my head with my writing before it happened. I know I had a lot of momentum and quite a head of steam, and was forging ahead full speed and damn the torpedoes…and I hate that I am kind of lost and floundering now.

Thanks for that, Apple.

So if last weekend had a “catch up on your rest, do some deep cleaning, and clear out electronic files” theme, this weekend will have a get back to work and remember what you were doing and GET BACK ON TOP OF THINGS theme.

And I have luncheon at Commander’s Palace on Monday to look forward to.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

So it’s Christmas Eve. May you all who celebrate have a lovely day, and those of you who don’t, may you also have a lovely day! I’m not really sure what’s on the agenda for today around the Lost Apartment, to be honest. I know I want to do some writing and reading and possibly some editing–I don’t think the old but it’s a holiday is going to kick in for me today after all. I had a terrific day yesterday; I cleaned and organized, the Saints won (although why they always want me to have a heart attack before the conclusion of every game is beyond me) and now have clinched the Number One seed and home games throughout the play-offs thru the Super Bowl, and I actually wrote yesterday. I wrote about another thousand words of Bury Me in Satin, finishing that bear of a Chapter Eight finally, and now I think I can move forward. I think, though, I need to go back and do some revising on the earlier chapters while writing Chapter Nine.

I also discovered something incredibly convenient–yes, I know, I am nothing if not mostly oblivious most of the time and it’s insane when something so obvious smacks in the side of the head. My computer is still acting wonky–mostly when I have Word open–and so yesterday, incredibly irritated with the Apple Spinning Wheel of Death and the concurrent Microsoft Word Not Responding message, I closed my Internet browser and Word continued to operate–still not as fast as I would prefer, but faster, at any rate–and not having the distraction of getting push alerts from Twitter and Facebook and every time I got a new email enabled me to tear right through that chapter yesterday. I had my phone with me at my desk, and so whenever I was bored or needed to look something up on-line I was able to use that. I left the browser closed, in fact, for the rest of the day, just checking in on things periodically with the phone or my iPad. This was smart, and I am probably going to do the same thing today.

I started rereading The Shining yesterday, and while I am only a few chapters in, I have to say those initial chapters are remarkable, as King sets up the Torrance family–Jack, Wendy, Danny–as initial point-of-view characters, and we get to know the three of them very well. I remember when The Shining first came out in paperback–remember, this when I was living in Kansas and there was no place to buy hardcover books because the only local bookstore (the News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia) only carried paperbacks, so I always had to wait for the paperback editions of everything–I started reading it after I bought it and didn’t care for Jack Torrance at all, so I stopped reading before I got to the chapters from Wendy and Danny’s points of view, and put it aside. It was about a year or so before I picked it back up again–it was the shiny all silver cover, with the faceless head of the boy blending into the silver–and then read it all the way through. I didn’t reread it as much as other King novels of the period, and it’s never really been a favorite of mine, preferring ‘salem’s Lot, The Dead Zone, The Stand, and Christine by far and away; but it’s considered by many to be one of his best books and certainly one of the most terrifying books of the late twentieth century. This was also the second consecutive novel of King’s to have a writer as the main character; but Jack is a failed writer, and maybe that was one of the reasons the book never quite found a place in my heart the way other Kings of the same period did; perhaps I could relate to Jack’s failure far too much for me? I will continue reporting back as the reread progresses further.

I also managed to get some cleaning done.

Paul went out last evening after the Saints game (GEAUX SAINTS!), and so I stayed home, reading The Shining and watching A Clockwork Orange on Amazon Prime for the first time. I’ve always wanted to see the movie; I have the book somewhere in my TBR pile or on one of the TBR shelves, and when I saw yesterday that it was free for streaming on Amazon I thought what the hell and decided to watch it. It is…interesting, for wont of a better word. Kubrick was a great director; there’s no question about that, but I also felt, from the few films of his that I’ve seen, he was very cold as a director; his movies always come across as kind of emotionless and cold. That style works incredibly well with the subject matter of this film and its theme. It’s also visually stunning, and despite the cold distance afforded by the camera lens, it’s portrait of a future desensitized to all kinds of violence–both sexual and physical–and the equally horrific answer the government comes up with to it, cannot help but keep your attention but also will make one think. I suspect I will be thinking about A Clockwork Orange for some time…and now I really would like to read Anthony Burgess’ novel.

So many books I need to read. Heavy heaving sigh.

But as I said earlier, I think I am going to continue with the Short Story Project going into the new year, and I am going to also have my own Diversity Project, where I am going to try to read everything in my TBR piles that were written by minority writers of some sort. It’s called leading by example, people, and I hope some of you will join me.

And on that note, this work isn’t going to do itself, unfortunately, so yes, even on Christmas Eve, I must spend some time mining spice.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

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Sleigh Ride

Today we’re going to see Aquaman. I am very excited for this, if you couldn’t tell by me pretty much mentioning it every day for the last week. I didn’t discover Jason Momoa until Game of Thrones (I know, I know, bad gay), but have been a huge fan ever since. And while my initial reaction to the news of his casting was problematic (but Aquaman is blond!) I got over it pretty quick. I’ve always been a fan of Aquaman–yes, I love Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but have always had a place in my heart for the ‘lesser’ heroes–Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, etc. So I am excited to see Aquaman get his own movie, and I do hope someday they give Green Lantern another shot.

I slept in this morning, later than usual–last night I even fell asleep in my easy chair, showing how tired I was (although that’s happened twice this week), and I feel very rested this morning. I have to run to the post office this morning, and I have some things to get at the grocery store (the Saturday before Christmas! Hurray!) before we head out for the movie. I did work a little on Bury Me in Satin a little bit last night, but I also had dinner with some friends in from out of town, which was lovely, and then we also watched the Schitt’s Creek Christmas special. I do want to talk some more about this show, but I am going to give it, I think, it’s own entry because it deserves it. Seriously, people, if you aren’t watching this show you need to. It’s hilarious, but incredibly warm and sweet at the same time.

It definitely deserves an entry of its own.

My kitchen is a mess; and I have loads of chores to do this morning. I’d like to, obviously, get as much done today as possible, so tomorrow I can focus on the Saints game and editing the Scotty book, maybe log some time in on Bury Me in Satin, do some reading, etc., and then have both Christmas Eve and Christmas to not only do some writing/editing in the morning, but spend the rest of each day relaxing, which will be lovely. I get a three day work week this week and next (huzzah!) and so here’s hoping that some of that free time will be spent productively.

Or not. We’ll see. Oh! I have to stop at the library today, too. They’re holding a book for me. Yay! I love having a library card, and being able to reserve books on-line. I do think one of these days I need to just go spend a day in the library, though; try to remember what it was like when I was a kid and used to spend whole afternoons in the Tomen Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Pulaski Boulevard. And the Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue here in New Orleans is so, so beautiful.

I am also, by the way, in total denial that Carnival is just around the corner.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I may have to rethink this two-twelve-hour-days-to-start-the-week thing.

Or maybe it’s just this week that’s the problem. I know there’s a four day weekend lurking just over the horizon, and all I really need to do is just get through this week and then I can rest and relax and enjoy the holiday and spend a lot of time thinking oh, it’s a four day weekend I can get things done tomorrow until suddenly it’s Tuesday night and I have to go back to work the next morning.

I also felt like crap all day; that certainly didn’t help. I don’t know if it was low blood sugar, or what, but I just didn’t feel good, and that’s always unpleasant when you’re at work. I soldiered through though. This morning, I feel somewhat better–there’s still an itchy feeling in my throat which I don’t much care for–but at least I feel better rested ths morning than I did yesterday.

I also cleaned the apartment. The Saints game was giving me extreme levels of stress, so rather than sitting there and allowing it to make me crazy, I got up and started cleaning. Dishes, laundry, vacuuming…yes, I managed to get that all done during the Saints victory last night–which was in doubt until the fucking very end. I’m not sure what is up with the Saints exactly lately–whether it is some kind of late-season “we’ve made the play-offs already” malaise…but it’s painful to watch, even as they manage to eke out the win.

I don’t understand why they want us to  have cardiac arrest and hypertension, but there you have it.

I do feel better this morning; more tired than anything else, but I’ve also already taken my morning dosage of DayQuil. The DayQuil didn’t seem to help a whole lot yesterday, but on the other hand, it may have been worse had I not taken it. My nose is raw (again) after having to repeatedly blow/wipe it, and that is also highly annoying.

But…tomorrow I get to sleep later, and run pick up the mail before I come into the office. I am so not an early morning person. I can handle getting up at seven, but these two mornings of rising at six are horrific. I did drink some of that “help you sleep” tea last night, and so I slept deeply and well…but that also could have come from being so worn out and tired. But today and tonight I am hoping to get some chapters of Scotty reread and revised between clients, and maybe take some notes on Bury Me in Satin. I also am thinking about getting back to doing some work on short stories that are in progress; “Never Kiss a Stranger” has literally been languishing for weeks, and there are several others that I’ve started and not gotten very far on. I also want to get back to reading my New Orleans histories, as well.

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

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