The Right Stuff

And Monday has rolled around again in this rollercoaster we call life; the question is whether this week will be a slow climb, or the rapid and insane downhill race leading into a loop-de-loop or a circular spin, both at ridiculous speeds.

The good news is that it was definitely a lovely weekend here at the Lost Apartment. I went to the gym yesterday and had a great workout and I worked on Chlorine. Not a lot, mind you–some revisions and corrections to the first chapter, before getting started on the second; i got about 1200 words down on it–but enough for me to be happy about it, you know? While allowing my creativity ADHD to have full run over my brain throughout most of June and July thus far was a good idea–man, I produced a lot of work–I worried a bit seeing how much was now in progress. I posted a picture of all the works currently in progress, gathered and separated by binder clips, only to realize those five WIP’s weren’t in fact, all of them; I was missing at least four more and possibly five, bringing the grand total to ten.

And even I can admit readily that ten WIP’s is too fucking much for anyone to sanely work on at the same time.

And that’s not even taking into consideration the short stories, of which there are many–and that particular list continues to grow and grow and grow and grow (although I did realize that “Vivit Dominus” is actually the perfect start for a story already in progress called “Gossip,” which is probably the right title for the story). I mean, I just started another one called “Wash Away Sins” over the course of the weekend, and had the for another essay at some point this weekend as well…because, of course, there are never too many things I can be writing on at the same time.

This, of course, is partly why I am never completely mentally stable.

Being so scattered creatively can often be a problem, and often is–which is why I try not to give my creativity free rein and control over what I am doing most of the time. I am very fortunate in that most of the time I can reign it in and keep it under control–pushing aside pesky new thoughts regularly, or taking a brief break to scribble something down in a journal–and now I am wondering if Spelllcaster needs to be expanded into a novel or not….it’s nearly 40k already; and yes, adding another 20-35 k might not be all that hard to do (as I mentioned yesterday, I do have an idea about how to continue the story, rather than simply padding out what I already have in place) but when, precisely, am I going to do this? This is the real problem with trying to reel it all in now–there are already so many things in progress that trying to schedule finishing them all becomes problematic, especially now that I am able to zero in on Chlorine.

Heavy heaving sigh.

But I do feel well rested this morning, and almost like I might be able to get things done and get back on track–the brief bit of organizing I did over the weekend (of the writing stuff, along with the filing) certainly helped tremendously’; now I need to get the filing a bit more under control. (I have four file boxes shoved under my desk, which is claustrophobic; they need to go elsewhere but I am not really sure where to put them in the meantime; if I put them in the attic they’re gone forever–let’s be honest–but I suppose I could put them on top of the kitchen cabinets–so accessible if not easily accessible.) But alphabetizing and cleaning out files I no longer need to have around isn’t a bad idea, and might help clear things out. (I also need to clean out the attic and donate a shit ton more books, don’t I? And maybe the Christmas stuff which we never use? I don’t know about that. Scooter isn’t going to live forever, and maybe our next cat won’t try to topple the tree all the time)

I also need to carve out some time this week to read Razorblade Tears, which I am enjoying.

And on that note, the spice mines are calling and I must follow their siren song. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Did You See Me Coming?

And somehow, just like that, we made it to Wednesday again. Well done, Constant Reader; sometimes it feels like we’re just not going to get there.

So, yesterday morning between screenings, I checked out my iCloud drive to just see what precisely I have in progress at the moment (not counting everything else that has been unfinished for years) and the count is: four novels, four novellas, and at least nineteen short stories. (And y’all wonder why I talk about having creative ADHD. Barbara, please.) Then again, should I get all of these things finished by the end of the year, I would absolutely have another short story collection completed (there are already several unpublished, finished stories I have in my “to submit” folders as well, and three that have been sold–two of which are out now–in The Beat of Black Wings and The Faking of the President; so at some point that second collection will be ready to go within the next year or so*) and so it looks as though the dearth of Gregalicious publications will be solved once he gets off his ass and starts finishing things.

Heavy heaving sigh.

One thing I noticed yesterday as I drove to my essential job (yes, my job is considered essential) is that there was a lot more traffic then usual at that time; and then I remembered driving home Friday night after work in heavier traffic than usual as well. Oh no, I thought, I wondered how long it would be before New Orleanians couldn’t stand the isolation anymore and despaired; but there was so little traffic on my way home from work last night that I managed to play one song on my phone through the car speakers as I pulled onto the highway and it was just finishing as I pulled into a parking space across the street from my house (yes, I managed to hit every light as green once I got off the highway too; I LOVE when that happens), so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

These are such strange and new times, and I’m never really certain what to think about them, you know? Or to try to think ahead; this week is about all I can handle right now, thank you very much and good night.  But I’m also a planner, even if the plans and their timing remains somewhat amorphous all the time; it’s just kind of who I am. I’m also aware that if you don’t plan ahead a bit, you tend to get very surprised along the way and that is never, ever a good thing.

Yesterday I discovered, entirely by accident, that one of my favorite old movies–The Letter, starring Bette Davis, had actually been a short story by W. Somerset Maugham first, before he himself adapted it into a play which then became the basis for the two film versions (the more famous Bette Davis version was actually a remake of the Jeanne Engels version from the previous decade), and it was in the public domain, so I downloaded a copy of it to read for the Short Story Project; it’s a long story, clocking in at over 13,000 words, which in today’s world I suppose would make it a novella. I am, of course, rather excited to read the original source material, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read Maugham before–just another one of those great old white male writers I’ve never read; and it occurs to me just now that one of the things I should reread for the Reread Project is Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. I’ve never really gotten Hemingway, and certainly didn’t when I was forced to read him in high school–hating the experience so much I never went back to him–but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to give Papa another turn. Perhaps as a more mature adult and reader I can appreciate him more (although my recent reread of The Great Gatsby made me hate the book even more than I already did); but I certainly didn’t mind reading some other Old White Men over the years, like Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser (I should tackle the massive An American Tragedy sometime; I really liked Sister Carrie when I read it), and I should probably make up one of the greatest gaps in my reading history–The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I’ve never read–but I’ve read a lot of Twain over the years.

It is absolutely insane how many works I have in progress! (I just reread the opening of this entry again) But I do believe that perfectly illustrates my point about my creative ADHD….and there are even more short stories than that, really; those are the ones I’ve worked on at some point over the last few months. And of course, more ideas come to me all the time. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I need to get ready to face my day. Have a good Wednesday, Constant Reader!

*the third, “The Carriage House”, has been sold to Mystery Tribune, and I’m not sure when it will be released; so stay tuned!

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A Different Point of View

Several nasty storm systems passed through last evening–loud and long claps of thunder, high winds, and a downpour. It was lovely–as was the drop in temperature–and there’s few things I love more than being safe and cozy inside while there’s a downpour outside.  It’s still kind of gray and hazy outside this morning, which is nice, and I am sure the weather helped me sleep better last night. I didn’t sleep well on Friday, and wound up sleeping later than I’d wanted (the same thing happened this morning as well but I slept better last night) and the day wound up a wash. I was tired and suffering from burn out, I think, and having to go deal with the grocery store was a bit much. The grocery store is an odious chore under the best of circumstances, and under quarantine it’s even worse. For one thing, I feel guilty for being out in a public space, and for another, I feel so bad for the underpaid staff who are out there risking their lives and their health so that we can buy groceries. I try to be as helpful and as polite as I possibly can, but I don’t blame them in the least for resenting their customers. My job is also deemed essential, so outside of the shifts in how everything from grocery shopping and so forth have been altered, my life hasn’t really changed that much. I still get up every day and go to work. I may not be able to go to the gym anymore (for the duration), and I may go to the grocery store less…but my life has only changed in the times I work, more than anything else, and what I do at work. I don’t resent our clients–but I would imagine, if I were a grocery store employee, I’d resent the hell out of the customers.

Yesterday was, as I said, a wash. I woke up feeling tired and out of sorts, with very low energy, and making groceries is even more draining and exhausting than it usually is. I had very little creative energy yesterday morning, and after making groceries, I did some cleaning and retired to my easy chair. Paul got us lunch from the Please U Cafe–shrimp po’boys and homemade onion rings–as a treat, and of course, I couldn’t finish the onion rings and was stuffed, not needing dinner. I was going to do some reading, but Paul and I wound up watching the rest of the first season of My Life is Murder, which I greatly enjoyed, and then we moved on to the Netflix continuation of Tales of the City, which is very well done; much better than the originals, to be honest. We only have two episodes left, and we stayed up later than we should have watching. I’m hoping to start rereading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin today, if I have time. Since I took yesterday off to recharge my batteries, I have to get a lot done today. I need to get that first draft of the Sherlock story finished; I need to get another story edited; and I am doing a live ZOOM panel discussion tonight for Bold Strokes Books weekend book-a-thon, which is going to be interesting. I’m not really a fan of the whole ZOOM thing, to be honest–I hate seeing myself on screen, and I really hate the sound of my own voice–so these things are like Kryptonite for me. But in this brave  new world, I need to start doing these things…which also kind of terrify me. I’m always afraid, like book signings, that no one will click to watch or no one will show up if I do a live reading on-line or anything like that. And I am so highly critical of myself…yeah, I’m not sure I want to open that door or not.

But how does one sell books in the time of quarantine? Post-quarantine? Who knows?

I am going to make chili in the slow cooker today; it’s been awhile and it will help clear my head to get writing this afternoon–there’s nothing like doing something that doesn’t require full concentration (like chopping peppers and rinsing beans and dicing up a chicken) that opens the floodgates to my creativity. I just have to make sure that I channel that creativity properly; the last thing in the world I need to do is come up with ideas for new stories–because I’ll never write all the ideas I already have as there will never be enough time in my life for me to write everything I want to write. So, once I finish this I am going to try to get the kitchen organized and cleaned up while I get the chili started, and then I’m going to get cleaned up before sitting down to do some serious writing this afternoon, and then hopefully I’ll have some time to read before it’s time for the panel.

I’m also very conscious of the way time is slipping through my fingers. I had hoped to write several books this year, and here it is past mid-April already without a single novel manuscript finished. A lot of it has to do with my usual procrastination and laziness, plus the emotional unbalance triggered by a global pandemic, creative ADHD, and the occasional bout with PTSD. I honestly don’t want to think about how many short stories I’ve started writing since the year (and haven’t finished); that goes along with the other story fragments I have started over the last two years or so. Some of them are great ideas, and I think could really turn into something; others I am not so sure about. But my goal for the rest of April is to get these stories due by the end of the month finished, and then try to get some of the others done as well by May 1st. I intend to spend May whipping Bury Me in Shadows into place so i can get it turned in; spend June doing the same to the Kansas book, and then spend July writing the first draft of Chlorine, before moving on to the next Scotty book. This is, needless to say, a very ambitious writing schedule; one that I most likely will be unable to keep. But it’s always good to plan ahead, and be more ambitious than you think you’ll be able to go with (although I am very well aware that an overly ambitious schedule presents the potentiality of setting one’s self up to fail, which can trigger another downward spiral in addition to awakening that horrible voice in my head) because even if you can’t keep up with it, you should still be able to get a lot finished. And there are other distractions along the way–can never forget that I’m the Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, and that inevitably cuts into my writing time as well.

But on that note, tis time to get back to the spice mines and start getting some things done around here–and to that end, I am going to do my stretching, and get cleaned up.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Stuck With You

Well, it’s been a day.

I took my car into the dealer this morning to have the oil changed–which only has to be done either once a year, or every 6000 miles, whichever comes first; I’ve now had the car 16 months and hit 8000 miles today–and while I was there, I made notes in my journal, read some of Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, while The Young and the Restless played in the background on the television. I was there considerably longer than I expected to be, given I had an appointment and all, but there was no fee and I had more than enough to keep me entertained. Just around the time the car was ready, of course, the brooding skies opened up and there was a torrential downpour. We are in a flash flood warning until tomorrow evening around 6–and there’s also now Tropical Storm Alberto out there just off the Yucatan, probably heading this way with us in the Cone of Uncertainty. I debated not running my errands because of the downpour. I was on the West Bank, and I’m not familiar with whether or not areas and/or aspects of the West Bank streets flood or not during this kind of constant, steady downpour, with 4 to 6 inches of rain expected. But it lightened up some, and so I ran the errands and got home.

All told, I was gone for nearly four hours; but a higher percentage of that time was spent dealing with the bridge traffic coming back to the east bank than was necessary, in my humble opinion.

Sigh.

But now I am home, there’s some sunlight outside, but everything is dripping, and my windows are covered in condensation. I’ve put the groceries away and sorted the mail. I tossed a load of laundry into the washing machine and fed the attention-starved, incredibly whiny in his neediness cat. There’s still some straightening up to do in the kitchen–as always; everything I’ve done yesterday needs to be redone, but it won’t take as long so I can add another layer to the cleaning; perhaps vacuuming–and I’ve got some books to reorganize. I’d like to get some actual writing done today; but I’ve been doing a lot of the mental prep and making a lot of notes; while I was having lunch I came up with an entire scene for the WIP and came up with an absolutely brilliant (he typed modestly) bit of character development which will save me a lot of space in words by nailing down this character in what looks like a mere throwaway sentence. There’s certainly more Shannara Chronicles to watch, and I also can go back and finish both Lost in Space and Troy: The Fall of a City. I have more short stories to write and edit and polish; Scotty chapters to read and the WIP.

Yup, not lacking for things to do around here this weekend.

And yet I am feeling so relaxed, it’s lovely.

It’s truly lovely feeling creative again; after the barren desert that was last year. It’s so awful when you worry if you’ve lost your creativity and your drive to write; my primary identity, the way I see myself, is so clearly writer that it makes me so much happier when I am actually able to do it; when my mind is filled with ideas and scenes and characters and sentences and titles and stories. I always say I have creative ADHD; my mind just bounces around in such a strange way from idea to idea and when I free associate like that, I come up with all kinds of things that sound good at the time.

 And now, back to the spice mines.

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