Sail Away

So I went ahead and sent out three stories on submission yesterday; “This Thing of Darkness,” “Night Follows Night”, and the Sherlock story. Will any of them actually be accepted? Who knows, but that’s all part and parcel of the joy of being a writer who likes to write short stories despite being rarely asked to write them. I have like 86 short stories in some form of progress now, but it felt really good to write finis on these and sent them out. If they are rejected, oh well; I’ll just save them for my next short story collection.

See how that works? Staying positive is always a plus, you know?

And last night before I went to bed I checked the Pandora’s Box known more commonly as my email inbox to discover a delightful email from the editor of the Sherlock anthology that she loves the new edition of the story and is sending me a contract! How absolutely delightful. I am glad “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” will see print, and as always, it’s lovely to get that kind of affirmation. It’s also a period piece, which was just as daunting as writing a Holmes story set in New Orleans–the only rule for the anthology was that it couldn’t be set in London, and Holmes and Watson couldn’t be English. So I made Holmes a Louisianan–and we never are quite sure where Watson is from. But it was great fun, challenging, and very, as I said, daunting. While I’ve read the Holmes stories–and the Nicholas Meyer novels, and other stories written by modern day Sherlockians (notably, Lyndsay Faye and Laurie King), I don’t think of myself as an avid Sherlockian. Even now, I cannot think of the plot of either A Scandal in Bohemia or The Red-headed League.

So, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain I could write such a story that would be worthy of publication, but it was a challenge–and I do enjoy challenges. I like pushing myself as a writer, trying something different, seeing if I can continue to grow as a writer. (But just between you and me, the only reason I even thought I could possibly do this was because it was specified not to be canon–no London, not the late nineteenth century, no need for continuity. No, this was a way I could write a Sherlock story and make it entirely my own as well. And of course, setting it in 1916 was also a bit of a challenge for me as well; I’ve never done much period/historical writing, and since I knew, once the title came to me, that Storyville had to be involved (how else could one write “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” and not involve Storyville?), which presented a host of other issues. Fortunately, I’ve been reading lots of New Orleans history lately, and one of the books was about Storyville: Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin (highly recommended, by the way), and in a short story I wouldn’t have to have the ongoing detail a novel would require, so I thought, fuck it, let’s give it a shot.

I was also able to use one of the locations I often use in Scotty books, the Hotel Aquitaine, which made it even more fun for me.

So, apparently, the thinking positive thing might actually work. How lovely!

Also, yesterday I (the ever-present resident Luddite) managed to figure out how to go back and read the chat from the Queer Noir at the Bar reading on Friday night–I kept accidentally closing it, and when I was reading I never looked at it–and wow. Everyone was so gracious and kind about my reading! I’m glad, though, that I wasn’t reading the chat while I was reading because it would have freaked me out. Thank you all for being so kind.

I also started reading Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, and as I read, I began to remember why I hesitated to read it. Being from the South, and from a particularly poor part of the South, I sometimes have trouble reading about that world; because of the memories it brings back, and while Ford’s prose is magnificently beautiful, she also brought me right into a world I know so well–a world I’ve been trying to shake off my entire life. There’s probably something to be said, or perhaps written, about my struggle with where I am from; the deep pride instilled in me my entire childhood about being Southern and the defensiveness that automatically arises whenever someone else is critical of (what I still think of) as home; and how that pride also runs concurrent with a river of shame–two rivers, running parallel, a kind of Tigris and Euphrates within my soul, my psyche, my being. I’ve started and never finished any number of stories and novels set in Alabama; my files run over with them. Bury Me in Shadows is the first manuscript set in Alabama I’ve ever finished a full draft of (there are a couple of short stories I’ve finished; Dark Tide is also set in Alabama but down in a little town on Mobile Bay–which isn’t quite the same thing), and I have yet to complete it enough to turn it into my publisher. Reading Kelly’s book takes me to the same places Daniel Woodrell’s work takes me, or Ace Atkins’ The Ranger series…that inner conflict, that inability to decide, that pride of place and where I come from coupled with shame. I could see it all so clearly in my head as I read that first chapter…she may have been writing about rural Arkansas but it could have been rural Alabama. It’s real, it’s vivid, and it’s beautiful.

The rural south is savage in its beauty.

My whole life has really been about dualities; being Southern but not growing up there; closeted self v. authentic self; being a writer but also always having some other job for whatever reason. My identity has always been sort of splintered; it’s probably why I am so constantly down on myself because I never really feel whole, or like I fit in somewhere–because I’ve been outside my entire life.

And, I have found few things trigger me to dark emotion–anger or depression–than being reminded that I am an outsider.

We started watching Perry Mason, and we’re enjoying it–but it’s really not Perry Mason. It’s something entirely else, with the characters given the same names as the ones Erle Stanley Gardner used. The cast is fantastic, and it’s a terrific noir series (if a bit reminiscent of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels–which we stopped watching, for reasons that are not pertinent here), so we will keep watching–but, it’s not really the same show or characters.

And it makes me want to reread one of the originals again.

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

Hero Takes a Fall

Well, there’s a thunderstorm brewing outside and it’s dark as night out there. I am drinking a protein shake (trying to get back on the fat-loss regimen again; I kind of fell off somehow, and now have less than eight weeks to get down to 200 pounds before Labor Day) and listening to the thunder rumbling out there and watching the trees and crepe myrtles dancing in the wind. I am fluffing a load of laundry in the dryer, need to unload the dishwasher, and straighten up some odds and ends here in the kitchen. I’d like to get to work on my short stories in a moment, but I also just finished reading Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red and it was pretty amazing, I have to say.

It’s quite extraordinary, actually.

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I knew it would be; many writers I admire and like love Daniel Woodrell’s work, so I knew I would like it, even if I was a bit hesitant about reading it. You see, being from the South–and the rural South, at that–I am always a bit reluctant to read books about the rural South. I know there are people who absolutely adore Eudora Welty, but I tried to read her Losing Battles and found the entire thing distasteful and condescending. My parents are from deeply rural Alabama, a part of the state that is so backward and remote that my grandmother didn’t get indoor plumbing until 1968 and I don’t think she had electricity when I was born; she was unable to get a phone until 1983. I spent every summer of my childhood in that part of the state; so I have lots of memories.

And the deeply rural South I knew? Nothing like that abysmal book. Nothing.

Faulkner, on the other hand–his rural South I could relate to, recognize and believe. Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series is also spot on, to name another. As I said, I know this world, I know its mindset, I know its people, and I know how they think–so the recent surge in think-pieces in major city newspapers about ‘how to reach blue collar voters’ and so forth–always miss key components; these are pieces by people who don’t know the people they are writing about. I am hesitant to read books like Hillbilly Elegy or Deerhunting for Jesus. 

But that–and how the left needs to think about rural voters–is a topic for another time.

Back to Tomato Red.

You’re no angel, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat and there’s two girls millin’ about that can probably be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it’s three or four Sunday mornin’ and you ain’t slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain’t had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they’d taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, ’cause with crank you want something, anything, to odo, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin’ to waste since an article in The Stroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.

Wow, how’s that for an opening paragraph?

The rest of the book keeps up that insane pace; that mesmerizing voice; and eventually introduces Sammy Barlach (and the reader) to a white trash family called Merridew: Bev, the mom who lives in a shack in the holler where she entertains her paying male visitors, and her two teenaged kids, Jamalee (she whose hair is that shade of tomato red the book takes it title from) and her brother, Jason: He’s the kind of fella that if he was to make it to the top based only on his looks you’d still have to say he deserved it. Hoodoo sculptors and horny witches knitted that boy, put his bone and sinew in the most fabulous order. Dark-haired, green-eyed, with face bones delicate and dramatic both. If your ex had his lips you’d still be married. His size was somewhat smallish, but he was otherwise for certain the most beautiful boy I ever had seen. I’m afraid “beautiful” is the only word I can make work here, and I’m not bent or nothin’, but beautiful is the truth.

Sammy is drawn into their tangled world, of beer and cigarettes and stray cats and mutt dogs; of whiskey and wine and violence, a world where the system doesn’t work because the system is for rich people only, to make them richer and make them feel safe about keeping what they have. Jason is gay; a hairdresser with big dreams of getting out of the holler; of helping Tamalee make her dreams come true in Palm Beach. But the world is ugly for the poor, and about to get a whole lot uglier–and there’s also no justice for the poor, either.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, I can’t wait to read more Daniel Woodrell.

If She Knew What She Wants

Paul got home last night, later than expected, as there were delays in Dallas due to inclement weather–which I kind of figured would happen. I went to bed shortly after he got home as I was falling asleep in my easy chair–I’d rewatched Batman v. Superman, and was watching a really bad documentary called Aliens in Egypt, which was one of those wonderfully tacky documentaries about how the Egyptians didn’t build the pyramids, the Sphinx is actually much older than anyone thinks it is, etc. etc. etc. A tell in these things is that no one is ever attributed to anything; “some archaeologists believe” or “according to a prominent Egyptologist”. Don’t get me wrong–the theory of ancient aliens influencing the rise of Egypt is fascinating to me; when I was a kid I read all of Erich von Daniken’s books, from Chariots of the Gods on, and there are always points made that seem consistent with the theory; but there are also other points where it is obvious some stretching was made to have facts fit the theory. I’ve also read some of Graham Hancock’s books–I have a copy of his book about the age of the Sphinx somewhere, but I read the one that theorizes that the Ark of the Covenant is actually in Ethiopia and has been for millennia, and greatly enjoyed it.

I also greatly enjoyed Holy Grail Holy Blood, the book that attempted to prove that Jesus married Mary Magdalen and their bloodline still exists in France–even though I saw many holes in their logic and many logical leaps to make the whole thing hang together. (This theory was the basis, of course, for Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, so I wasn’t surprised the way so many of its readers were.)

I wound up not reading Tomato Red yesterday as I had originally planned, I did some light cleaning after I got home, and was, for some reason, really tired. I repaired to my easy chair and, feeling a little mentally fatigued, watched some television before deciding to look for something to watch, finally settling on a rewatch of Batman v. Superman. I enjoyed the movie the first time I saw it, in the theater, but I also liked Man of Steel, which seems to be a minority position. While I grew up a fan of comic books, and have gone back to them at various times in my adulthood, I am also not a fanatic, and I am always interested in seeing the characters I grew up with taken in new directions. I also love Henry Cavill; have since The Tudors, and enjoy seeing him. I also like Amy Adams’ take on Lois Lane, and found Ben Affleck to be less offensive as Batman as I feared he would be. The movie is grim, of course, a bit grim for a Superman movie; Superman the character was always about hope, and there was little to none of that in this film (Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is all about heroism and hope; which is why it resonated so much more than this one did–and I am hoping that DC Films take the hint and go more in this direction in the future).

So, what am I up to today? Well, in a moment I am going to take the recycling out, and then I am going to make another cup of coffee and repair to my easy chair so I can finish reading Tomato Red and a Faulkner short story I started reading yesterday (Faulkner wrote some mystery short stories; collected in a book called Knight’s Gambit, that I’ve always meant to read; Tomato Red has inspired me to dip back into the Southern Gothic well). Once I am finished with these, I am going to come back to my desk and finish writing the first draft of “For All Tomorrow’s Lies” and (maybe) another rewrite of “Death and the Handmaidens,” which I’ve actually renamed “This Thing of Darkness.” This, by the way, is a complete rewrite; I am retaining some of the characters, but changing everything about the story outside of the shell–a hotel bar, a gathering of people who don’t see each other frequently, and a murder victim that everyone would like to see dead. I think the reason the story never worked was the details I filled into that framework didn’t work, and I know I didn’t delve deeply enough into the main character and who she was. The revision idea I have is pretty good, I think, so I am going to try that. I also have another story I’d like to revise, called “Cold Beer No Flies”, that I think could be really good.

And so, Constant Reader, it is time for me to depart. Here is a lovely shot of one Henry Cavill, to get your day off to a nice start.

 

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Hazy Shade of Winter

Saturday!

I drove over to the West Bank this morning to get the car serviced (its very first oil change!) and then made groceries on the way home.  Paul gets home this evening, and there’s some light cleaning that needs to be done. Once that’s finished I intend to spend the day finishing Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red; I got further into it at the Honda dealership while I waited for the car, and it really is something. I mentioned the other day that I thought of it as Southern Gothic more than anything else; but truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything quite like it before. It makes me think of Megan Abbott (not just because she wrote the intro to this edition), and Faulkner, and James M. Cain’s The Butterfly, and even a little bit of Harper Lee. It’s truly extraordinary.

 I think I’ll reread The Great Gatsby next; then I am going to take a stab at some Hemingway, just to see. I’m also going to read some short fiction–I’ve got Bracken MacLeod’s collection Thirteen Views from the Suicide Woods, and Laura Lippman’s Hardly Knew Her, and some anthologies lying around that I really should read more of; short stories are always a pleasant respite, I find, and since I am planning on working on short stories for the next week or so while the WIP rests, reading some great short stories seems to be in order, doesn’t it? I had a great idea for another story last night while watching clips of old LSU games on Youtube last night; kind of inspired by Tomato Red, if I am going to be completely honest. I really do think I should start writing about Alabama some more…and my old ghost story y/a that’s been brewing in my mind since I wrote the short story in 1989 might just be the ticket.

I also got some new books: Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven, Mary Stewart’s Rose Cottage (one of hers I’ve not read), Phyllis A. Whitney’s Amethyst Dreams (one of her later novels; I stopped reading her around The Singing Stones),  James Ziskin’s Styx and Stones, and Tim Blanning’s Frederick the Great King of Prussia. I’ve been wanting to read a bio of the most successful gay European monarch in history for quite some time; this biography is rather acclaimed and also openly explores the Great King’s homosexuality in great depth, apparently–previous biographies glossed over his relationships with men, and other ‘interesting’ bits like banning women from his court, making his Queen live elsewhere, never having children, etc etc etc. I first read of Frederick when I was a kid, in Genevieve Foster’s George Washington and His World, and deeply empathized with the young Prussian prince who just wanted to read and study music and art and philosophy, but was forced by his father to be ‘more manly’, and was miserable as a result.

I could relate, even at eight years old.

But I am really looking forward to reading this; I may make it my non-fiction read once I finish The Affair of the Poisons. Frederick was fascinating in many ways; he was considered one of the three ‘enlightened despots’ of the late eighteenth century (the others being Joseph II of Austria and Catherine II of Russia), and he made Prussia into the preeminent military power of Europe–yet was still cultured, loved music and reading and poetry and philosophy and art.

And now, I suppose I should get that cleaning done.

Here’s a hunk for you for Saturday:

 

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In Your Room

I woke this morning with a headache that I can’t seem to shake; not sure what that’s all about, but am assuming it’s sinus-related; the heat and humidity this week in New Orleans (duh, it’s July) has been truly obnoxious. But it’s Friday, Paul comes home tomorrow, and all will be right with the world. I have to take the car in for it’s first-ever servicing (an oil change) tomorrow morning, which means a trip to the West Bank.

And lunch at Sonic.

Yesterday I picked up Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red again at long last, and got about 1/ of the way through it before I had to stop reading for the evening. It’s truly an amazing work, and that authorial voice! It is amazing. It also got me thinking about a sub-genre of fiction known as Southern Gothic; Faulkner, McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor are usually classified as Southern Gothic writers, and it made me start thinking about who the modern-day proponents of the Southern Gothic style of writing might be. Daniel Woodrell, of course, would be one of those; I’d even put Ace Atkins in that category based solely on his Quinn Colson series, which is quite extraordinary. But as I sit here this morning, I honestly can’t think of anyone else. (It will, of course, come to me later.) Probably Tom Franklin, and definitely Suzanne Hudson. Pat Conroy, too, can be shoe-horned into Southern Gothic; The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, and The Prince of Tides certainly can fall into that category.

I wonder if there’s any scholarly work on Southern Gothic writers?

I really need to reread Flannery O’Connor, and more McCullers.

I would also include, I think, Larry McMurtry; The Last Picture Show  and Comes a Horseman are definitely Texas/Southern Gothics. (I need to reread The Last Picture Show; it was one of my favorite novels as a teenager, and I’m curious as to whether it holds up after all this time; I can’t imagine it doesn’t.)

I’ve been working on “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”, and it’s not easy going; I am sure that has everything to do with the hangover of completing yet another draft of the WIP. It generally takes me a week or so to reset after completing a big project; plus I feel kind of out of sorts because my personal life isn’t normal with Paul gone. I am also certain that once this headache goes away I’ll be more motivated this morning. After I get the car serviced tomorrow and go to Sonic, I’ll stop for groceries on the way back to the Lost Apartment and will also have some cleaning up to do around here–last touches on the apartment before Paul gets home. His flight arrives around 8 pm, so he should be home between 8:30 and 9, hopefully.

And now, it’s back to the spice mines.

Here’s a Friday hunk for you, to start your weekend off properly.

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Could I Have This Dance

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I’m going to listen to Hamilton today, maybe relax with some American history later this afternoon, and try to avoid social media as much as I possibly can.

Yesterday was kind of the pits, writing wise; at least it seemed to be that way. As you know, Constant Reader, the revisions have been going swimmingly, I needed to add some things here and there, correct some language that was egregious, delete repetitive stuff, but overall, when I made myself open up the document and start working through it, it was all easy and simple and I was starting to feel really good about myself: this is a really good draft already, isn’t it?

Yes, well.

Yesterday I reached the chapters where the serious revision was needed. I opened up Chapter 16 (of nineteen, see how close to being done I am?), humming happily along to Taylor Swift on the iHome (don’t judge me) and crashed up against the realization that the very first paragraph of Chapter 16 was, in fact, an entire scene rather than a paragraph where I summed up what happened in that scene. Then I realized that the next paragraph was, again, a summary of action that needed to be turned into a scene–none of which I wanted to do yesterday. I’ve been binge-watching the MTV series Scream (which Paul and I had abandoned about five episodes into season one) and have been enjoying it tremendously (it’s apparently better as a binge rather than watching from week to week); I’m reading both Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red and a couple of chapters of The Secret of Terror Castle as I drift off to sleep every night; and I started writing another short story yesterday morning (currently titled “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”). I also cleaned the bedroom, reorganized and filed in the kitchen–it’s absolutely amazing the lengths I will go to not work on these revisions. I even scrubbed out the bathtub and cleaned the upstairs bathroom. But I did eventually force myself to sit down and work on Chapter Sixteen–constantly going back to check Facebook and Twitter (I sometimes wonder how much social media has affected people’s writing habits), and seriously, expanding these paragraphs into scenes was like pulling teeth…until I realized at one point I’d written 1500 new words in between half an hour and forty-five minutes; in addition to the 700 or so I’d written on the new story. I wrote another 500 words, and thought, you know, two thousand new words is a lot in slightly more than an hour, maybe tomorrow it’ll flow easier so I, despite that nagging voice in the back of my head (“What if you don’t want to do this tomorrow, either?”), I saved the document and decided to go back to cleaning for a while before watching Scream. I checked my email…

..and discovered that a story I’d submitted to Mystery Week magazine a few weeks ago, “Keeper of the Flame,” had been accepted for publication, and the contract was already there!

There really is nothing like having one of those bad writing days where every word is like passing a kidney stone, where you begin to wonder whether or not the well has finally run dry and you’re finished as a writer, only to get this lovely kind of affirmation. It’s really just timing, more than anything else, and I try not to be superstitious and see things as ‘signs’, but you can see, can’t you, how easy it is to fall into that mentality?

“Keeper of the Flame” is a story I am very proud of, and it’s really dark. I originally wrote it to submit to a conference anthology–many conferences do these every year, and I thought I should maybe start writing stories to send in for more of them; this was my first or second attempt. After it wasn’t accepted (I found out when the anthology was released, which is incredibly poor form–you should always let people know whether their stories are being used or not; I decided not to submit to that particular conference anthology ever again. There was another one where I was asked, two years in a row, to submit; ironically the first time my story wasn’t used and I wasn’t told. They wrote me again the next year and wanted to use that story THAT year–I’d already sold the story elsewhere, as one does, so I wrote another and yes, once again, wasn’t notified they weren’t using it. The third time they asked me, I was rather curt with them. But I digress.), I revised it a little bit and submitted it to a magazine, which ultimately rejected the story–they did send me a lovely note, telling me it was a great story but not right for them–and I’ve been sitting on it ever since. About a month ago, Mystery Week came to my attention–I don’t remember how; someone I know either sold a story to them, or it was mentioned in a newsletter from one of the writing organizations I belong to, or something like that; my mind is frankly a sieve these days–and I thought, hey, nothing to lose, might as well try here.

And hey, I sold it to them. Huzzah!

I’ve been getting lots of lovely news lately, lovely affirmations that have been coming along at just about the right time, to be honest. I’ve gotten some lovely emails and Facebook messages and tweets from readers over the last few weeks as well.

Today, I feel like I can not only stare down those damned revisions but get them, if not finished, pretty damned close to being finished. And that’s a good thing.

I’m going to also share with you the first paragraph of the new story, which I figured out what the rest of the story was last night before falling asleep:

Lori first noticed the man watching her in the fresh section of the Rouse’s on Tchoupitoulas Street. She was busy thumping melons and feeling foolish, like she always did when thumping melons with her index finger. She’d never really learned how to tell the difference in sound denoting ripe versus non-ripe, but she was too self-conscious to simply pick up a melon and put in her cart without going through the time-honored ritual. It was a cantaloupe she was holding when she noticed the man, over by the bins for varieties of onions and potatoes, looking at her.

And revisions? Kiss my American ass. I will DEFEAT you today.

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I’m a Believer

Thursday!

Paul leaves this afternoon, so I will come home from work tonight to an empty house, a herd of hungry cats outside, and an incredibly needy one inside. Which is, of course, fine; I can handle Scooter’s neediness, and of course the herd outside just wants to be fed and petted on the head every now and then. But I am always somewhat amazed by how much space Paul takes up; the apartment always seems enormous, silent and empty when he’s gone. Ah, well. I can get started on the Cleaning Project tonight, while watching documentaries or movies on the upstairs television; the upstairs is Paul’s responsibility–so whenever he’s out of town I, of course, give it a thorough cleaning/organizing. After I get off work tomorrow I don’t have to be back at work until 3 pm on Wednesday next week; four-and-a-half glorious days of cleaning and organizing and writing and revising and reading and–let’s face it–being incredibly lazy and just sitting in the easy chair watching shit on television with Scooter sleeping in my lap.

There are worse ways to spend an evening.

I’ve been, alas, too tired when I get home the last few evenings–after making dinner and doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen. etc–to do anything other than sit in my easy chair and watch television, so I’ve not been able to get back to Daniel Woodrell’s amazing Tomato Red; hopefully I can spend some quality time with it this weekend and get it read. I think after that I am going to read a book by a woman; my reading has been overly male lately (other than that wonderful Lisa Unger Ink and Bone, which is going to be on my Top Ten list for the year, along with Dan Chaon’s Ill Will), but I am also thinking I might read The Great Gatsby next.

My Fitzgerald set arrived this week:

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Aren’t they lovely? I can’t wait for the Steinbeck set to arrive.

To be honest, I was stunned to pick it up and see how short The Great Gatsby actually is; it’s less than 200 pages. I should be able to read that relatively quickly.

So, anyway. Back to the spice mines with me.

Last Train to Clarksville

Tuesday morning! It’s gloomy and a bit gray out there outside my windows; the sun is shining but its behind a haze of some sort. I would think it’s humid, but my windows are completely dry–no condensation, so that makes me tend to think it’s not as humid as it probably could be. I’ll find out in a little while when I head to the office. Today, tomorrow and Thursday I am ending my shifts working in the CareVan doing testing in the parking lot of the Walgreens at Felicity and St. Charles; part of our annual partnership with Walgreens for National HIV Testing Day. This is incredibly convenient, as I can walk home in a matter of minutes once we are finished in the van. Paul, of course, is leaving town on Thursday (nine days of a needy cat with abandonment issues!), so there’s that. I took Monday the 3rd as a paid day off, so I have a four day weekend and with bar testing that following Wednesday night, it’s actually more like four and a half days off. Huzzah!

I made up for not working on the revisions yesterday by getting three chapters finished; if I can stay on track to do the same again today, I will be finished with the revisions by Thursday, which will allow me to take Friday away from revising, maybe even Saturday and Sunday off as well, and then spend Monday doing the last minute polishing. I want to get a lot done around the Lost Apartment over the weekend, and I also want to get not only the WIP finally polished like a diamond and ready to be seen by people but I want to dive into the next book too; ideally, I’d like to get the first draft of the next book finished by August 1 ( a bit of a reach, if I do say so myself), and the next finished by September 1, but we’ll see how that all turns out. Stranger things have happened.

I also realized yesterday that the story revision I was working on won’t work for the anthology call I was planning on sending it to–a quick reread of the guidelines made me realize it wouldn’t work, didn’t fit, and was beyond a big stretch to fit (several times before I’ve submitted stories to anthologies that was a stretch to fit the theme; every time the story was turned down. It’s entirely possible the stories weren’t good, but at the same time, they wound up being placed somewhere else, so there’s that…anyway) so I decided that there was another one that did fit, so I dug it out, printed it, and am going to read it sometime this week to get a better idea of how much revision it will need. Considering the only draft of it was written in about 1989 or 1990, I’m assuming that would be a LOT of revision required. It’s kind of a stretch as well, but it could work.

I wasn’t able to get near Woodrell’s Tomato Red yesterday, but I’m taking it with me to the CareVan for testing; I can read it between clients. Last night, we got caught up on both Orphan Black and Veep; tonight it’s back to Animal Kingdom.

Such an exciting life, eh?

So, here’s a hunk for you on a Tuesday to get you through till Hump Day tomorrow:

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Daydream Believer

Monday morning, and this is an odd week. Paul leaves to visit his mom for a week on Thursday, and then it’s a four-day holiday weekend for me after I get off work on Friday, not having to return to the office until the following Wednesday. I have, of course, big plans for the weekend–plans which involve cleaning, organizing, and writing/revising, of course, as I always seem to, and most likely, I won’t get everything done that I want to get done. This always seems to be the case.

I started reading Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red yesterday, and while I  didn’t get very far into it, it’s extraordinary, and I can see why Megan Abbott is not only a fan of his (she wrote an introduction to this edition of the book) but why she also recommended his work to me so highly. The voice! The language choice! And the action starts almost immediately within the first sentence. I am really looking forward to getting further into the book.

I also couldn’t stop thinking about Reflections in a Golden Eye yesterday, which makes me tend to think that perhaps I should have blogged about it so soon after reading it; McCullers’ genius is kind of a slow burn. The seemingly cold, emotional remove she took from her characters–which I initially understood as not caring about them–was actually kind of necessary for the reader to be exposed to the lives of these damaged people who lived near a Southern military base, and McCullers also didn’t offer up their lives for authorial judgment; instead, she presented the entire story and the characters  as “here are some people and here is what really goes on behind closed doors, past the facades that everyone puts up to fool everyone else into thinking they’re normal, although what really is normal anymore?”

We also started binge watching Animal Kingdom yesterday; I finally found Season One on Amazon Prime, and whoa, what a show. Hot guys, a crime family headed by Ellen Barkin in a sizzling performance, a gay subplot, lots of gratuitous male skin, and a story that twists and turns in ways the viewer can’t anticipate; I don’t understand why this show isn’t generating more buzz or more interest, and Ellen Barkin’s failure to get an Emmy nomination for Season One (maybe it wasn’t eligible until the next Emmys, I don’t know) is a mystery to me. I don’t get why more people aren’t talking about this show; I think I only heard of it because we were watching something else on TNT or TBS (Samantha Bee, most likely) and I saw a preview for Season 2, which is currently airing. Anyway, I’m glad I found it. We have three more episodes to go in Season 1 before we can move on to Season 2, so between this, The Mist, and Orphan Black, we’re kind of set on things to watch now. While Paul’s gone I am going to watch shows/movies I wouldn’t be able to see if he were home–stuff he doesn’t want to want or has no interest in–and I’m also hoping to get a lot of reading and writing done.

We’ll see how that plays out, won’t we?

So, here’s a hunk to start your week off properly.

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Keep On Loving You

Sunday and I have a lot of work to get done today. My kitchen is an absolute mess; I have a load of laundry in the washing machine; and I have to get back to writing and revising. I was terrible yesterday; I took the day off from doing anything and everything. I was tired, and so thought relaxing was okay for me. I did wake up early this morning and feel somewhat refreshed and relaxed, which is quite nice, actually. I intend to get a lot done. Yesterday I intended to get a lot done, but got sidetracked by the LSU baseball game (GEAUX TIGERS!), and the Tigers defeated number one ranked Oregon State for the second day in a row to make it to the finals this week; a best of three series starting Monday night. It’s an all SEC final; the Tigers are taking on the Florida Gators, whom they defeated in the SEC tournament finals and will have vengeance on their minds. Should be a fun series, and of course we’ll have an SEC team as national champion again, regardless of who wins. Woo-hoo!

I read Carson McCullers’ Reflections in a Golden Eye yesterday. I enjoyed reading it, and McCullers has a really unique grasp of language. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s a really short novel, and I would have liked to see it go a little deeper. The book felt very emotionless and cold to me–not something I recall taking away from The Member of the Wedding all those years ago–and given the twisted personal dynamics of the characters and their interactions with each other; the adultery, the deeply closeted self-loathing,  the mental illness of Alison  and her strange relationship with her Filipino houseboy, the odd single-mindedness of the young private with whom the self-loathing closet case becomes attached to; there were just so many ways to tell this story more deeply rather than skimming over the surface the way McCullers chose to tell her story. And it’s such a fascinating story, too. I’d like to watch the film again–I saw it on television years ago and so much had been cut out it was barely understandable, but a great cast including Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, and Julie Harris.

My next read will be Daniel Woodrell’s Tomato Red.

We started watching Spike TV’s The Mist last night–I finally found the Spike app for my Apple TV, duh–and while the dialogue isn’t great and the acting is not good, the premise is great, and I’m hoping the show finds its voice and the actors find their characters; it’s great when a show starts out of the gate on fire, but some are more of a slow burn before they get their legs. Supernatural, for example, really got going in its second season. The Mist is one of my favorite King novellas, and I actually really enjoyed the film that was already made of it. I’m not sure why they decided to make a series out of it–there are so many great King stories and novels that haven’t been adapted, and some of the others seem much more series-friendly than The Mist…I would personally love to see The Talisman made into a series, for example, and The Eyes of the Dragon–hell, even Insomnia would make a great TV series. Or The Regulators/Desperation…oh, maybe someday when I am a television producer.

As if.

All right, I guess I should head back into the spice mines. Here’s a Sunday hunk to get your week off to a pleasant start.

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