Breath of Life

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a parent.

I’ve never wanted kids; even when I was a kid I never wanted to have any. I grew up kind of thinking that at some point I was going to have to have some–my parents still are enormously disappointed that I chose not to parent; just another note at the end of the long list of disappointments I’ve provided for them. It’s not that I don’t like kids; I generally do, and kids like me. It’s the enormous responsibility that always terrified me–the loss of sleep, the endless worrying about money, and so forth. As I’ve gotten older, and have been looking at life from the perspective more of the older parent rather than that of a child…if anything, I’ve become even more certain I shouldn’t be a parent. I am not the best parent in the world to the cats we’ve had, and there’s the matter of that temper I try to keep under control but frustration and irritation–particularly when I am tired–tend to always bring it out in me.

I would be a terrible parent, and have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who takes on that incredible journey and all of its responsibility.

The weird thing is that I get very emotionally invested in books where parents have a child in danger.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is a child-in-danger narrative, and it’s a really good one.

Elizabeth is not dreaming. There’s a ringing sound coming from far away, from somewhere else in the house, not the ringing of actual bells but the digital trill of the landline phone. The phone is cordless, cheap, neglected, often left uncharged and to be found, more times than not, wedged beneath the couch cushions alongside pistachio shells, pens, and hair elastics. Elizabeth actively despises the landline;s inefficiency in regard to their everyday lives. The only calls the phone receives are credit card offers, scam vacation prizes, charities and fringe political groups looking for money, and the occasional mass recorded message from the town of Ames broadcasting the closing of school during snowstorms.

When the kids were little, Elizabeth wanted to keep the landline so that they’d be able to dial 911 should “anything bad happen.” That was the phrase she used with her moon-eyed munchkins as she flailed at describing the nebulous and exciting emergency protocol of the Sanderson household. Fast-forward past those early years, which were harder than she would ever admit, and all three Sandersons have smartphones. There’s really no need for the landline anymore. It survives because it is inexplicably cheaper for her to keep hthe phone bundled with her cable and Internet. It’s maddening.

There’s a ringing sound coming from far away, from elsewhere in the house, and not from the cell phone under her pillow. Elizabeth fell asleep waiting for the Star Trek phaser tone that announces a text from her thirteen-going-on-fourteen-year-old son Tommy. A simple text is a nonnegotiable part of the deal when sleeping over at someone else’s house, even Josh’s. She has already seen an evolution, or devolution, of communication from Tommy over the course of the summer reflected in his sleepover texts: In mid-June ut was I’m going to bed now mom, which a few weeks later became night mom, then became night, and then gn, and if Tommy could’ve texted an irritated grunt (his subverbal communication method of the moment, particularly whenever Elizabeth or his eleven-going-on-twelve-year-old sister, Kate, asked him to do something), he would’ve. And now in mid-August, the exact date having changed to August 16 only a collection of minutes ago, there’s no text at all.

(She’s not wrong. We have the same situation with the landline–it’s cheaper to have it bundled with Internet, which makes no sense to me, but I solved the issue by simply throwing the cheap phone away. I may have to have it to get cheaper Internet, but a phone hasn’t been plugged into the landline jack since, oh, around 2014.)

It’s not a spoiler, for the record, to let you know Tommy is missing.

Spending the night over at his best friend Josh’s with the third part of their trio, Luis, the boys sneak some beer and slip into the state park that abuts their town. While hanging out at Split Rock (which the boys call Devil’s Rock), Tommy runs off into the woods and disappears. Josh and Luis frantically search for him, finally give up, and come home….which is when Elizabeth’s nightmare begins.

Later, when she goes to her bedroom, Elizabeth sees a shadow between her armchair and the side table in her bedroom–a shadow that looks like Tommy, but not quite just like Tommy. She then gets a sense that Tommy won’t be coming home, that he is actually dead; much as she doesn’t want to believe it…but strange things are happening all over the town. People are reporting weird shadows peeping into their windows or sneaking through their yards late at night; a satanic panic is starting, and through it all Elizabeth has to hold it together, not just for her own sake, but for her daughter Kate’s….

…and then pages from Tommy’s diary mysteriously start appearing on the carpet in their living room overnight.

The suspense in the book is almost unbearable; I couldn’t put it down once the engine started chugging, but the true strength of the book lies in Tremblay’s gift for creating fully realized characters; all of them, even those who only appear in a scene or two, are completely believable, like people you actually know, and his gift for language usage, sentence and paragraph construction, is exceptional. And as the diary pages slowly begin to reveal the truth about what happened to Tommy…it’s impossible to stop reading, Impossible.

I cannot wait to read another one of his books. I’ve loved the three I’ve read, and now need to read the entire backlist.

Run to the Sun

Monday morning, huzzah.

It was a good weekend, really, overall; I’m just inevitably always sad when Monday morning rolls around and that horrible six am alarm goes off, ripping me out of the comfortably deep sleep I generally finally achieve shortly before it’s time to get up. I don’t think I will ever live long enough to reach the point where the alarm won’t annoy the fuck out of me every morning, or that I won’t resent having to get up to one. Alarms are my bĂȘte noire, I suppose, and always will be.

I did manage to get through the edits of the first two-thirds of #shedeservedit this weekend; I’m still waiting for the final third to look over, and then next step will be the page proofs. As I reread the book, it’s much better than I remembered it being–in all honesty, I know I am my own harshest critic, and all I see whenever I go over something I’ve written is all the flaws rather than what is good about it; I really wish I hadn’t been trained from earliest childhood to be so hyper-critical of myself and everything I do because it is incredibly difficult to shake that training as an adult, you know? But Bury Me in Shadows is getting a pretty decent reception, as best I can tell, and that makes me really happy. I think both books actually might be my best work to date, which isn’t (ah, the joys of self-loathing!) saying an awful lot. But it’s nice to have a book out in the world that I am actually proud of, and another one coming along shortly thereafter that, when I am going over the edits, I think to myself this is actually really good.

We spent most of yesterday watching Skate America, followed up by the world men’s gymnastics finals for the all around and then event finals; we eventually gave up to watch the most recent episode of The Morning Show, whose story this season has really taken a turn we didn’t see coming. I also like how they chose to time this season–in the time leading up to the pandemic, so even watching as the pandemic begins and starts spreading throughout the world slowly (and isn’t really seen as anything to be concerned about) as well as everything else that was going on at that time…my God, 2020 was a chaotic year, wasn’t it? 2021 doesn’t seem to be a whole lot better, in all honesty; it’s kind of been a shit show of a year, too, really; every year of the last decade was kind of a shit show, to be honest, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to turn around any time soon (Paul and I often grimly joke to each other after watching the news, “well, at least we’re old and don’t have children”–grim to be sure, but also 100% accurate.

I finished reading Paul Tremblay’s marvelous Disappearance at Devil’s Rock yesterday; after a slow start, it took off like a train afire and I couldn’t really put it down. I do think Mr. Tremblay (this is the third novel of his I’ve read) may be one of our best writers currently publishing; I’ve loved everything I’ve read that he’s written. I think I only have one more of his books, and it’s an ebook edition at that, of Survivor Song; and I think before he switched over into paranormal stuff he wrote crime fiction; I could be wrong, but I am definitely going to be going back and rereading his back list when I can. I am going to read Scott Carson’s The Chill next, for one last shot at Halloween Horror; I cannot believe Halloween is this coming Sunday, and suddenly it’s November, you know? Crazy ass shit, the way this year has flown by (2020 seemed to last decades; this year seems to be flying past…but then again, January seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? So it looks like I will only have two horror novels read for the Halloween season, which is enormously disappointing, but seriously, isn’t almost everything these days? Anyway, the book was fantastic and will get its own entry at some point this week.

I have a lot to get done this week, as always, but at least I am not feeling tired this morning. I also think the procedure last week might have actually lost some more weight for me? It’s not surprising, really, giving the “purging” aspects of the preparatory stuff I had to do. (I just checked and yes, I lost about seven pounds–not a recommendation for that as a weight-loss option, however) I’ve not been to the gym in over a week now–I didn’t go the weekend before the procedure, and I certainly didn’t go this past week or weekend–so I need to be getting my ass back in there. I’ll be traveling a bit in November–the New York/Boston trip, with a later drive to Kentucky for Thanksgiving)–which is going to make keeping up with the training harder, but I will get back on track, goddamnit. I am not going to go months without working out again, unless something terrible happens to prevent me from doing so.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. I will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Stop!

It’s Sunday morning in the Lost Apartment and slept relatively well again, if a bit late; my body clock is now all messed up and tomorrow morning’s waking up at the crack of dawn is going to be harder than usual.

Not that it’s ever easy, frankly.

LSU played terribly yesterday and lost, as expected, to Mississippi 31-17 (first loss to them after five straight wins) but I managed to finish reading Not All Diamonds and RosĂ© while it was on, and also read some more in Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, which is, as all books by Paul Tremblay, very well done–but I am not deep enough into it to have an idea of what’s going on. It focuses on the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old from a state park outside of Boston; it opens with his family–along with everyone else in the community–finding out he is missing and dealing with the emotions and fears that come along with a kid gone missing; but something out of the ordinary has already happened (no spoilers, sorry) which means there’s more to this than just your average child gone missing story.

Which, given it’s written by Paul Tremblay, was always going to be the case in the first place.

After the LSU game, we spent the rest of the evening watching Skate America; we used to be (still are) big figure skating fans, but the Internet and so forth has kind of ruined figure skating, really–when you know what the results are before the competition airs, it’s not nearly as exciting or suspenseful; so the only way to recapture the way it used to feel to watch something pre-recorded is now to watch live, which Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) does now provide. (I also think the new scoring system has a lot to do with it as well. Sure, the old 6.0 system had serious flaws and corruption in its judging, but I am not convinced that corruption still isn’t there and now the scoring system is so mysterious and complicated that it’s almost impossible to tell anymore if anything untoward is going on. The great irony is the scoring change, claiming to be more fair and to rule out bias, simply made it harder for viewers to see it for themselves.) There’s also tension brewing in the ISU this year as well, as a Russian judge and coach has made horrifically homophobic comments about French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron (who came out last year) and his partner Gabrielle Papadakis. They have a silver Olympic medal (it would have been gold had Papadakis not suffered a costume malfunction in the original dance) and are three time world champions. It was an obvious attempt to smear them in an Olympic year and potentially influence future judging pools at upcoming events, only making it all the more disgusting….particularly since Russia couldn’t even officially compete at the last summer Olympics because of widespread doping and cheating. This piece of shit Russian essentially said that since Cizeron is gay they cannot “convincingly portray romance” the way the top Russian team can; to that I say, “hey, you homophobic needle-dicked piece of shit, if you want to see a gay man convincingly play a romantic lead, watch Pillow Talk some time and tell me Rock Hudson didn’t deserve an Oscar. And by the way, go fuck yourself and drink bleach.”

I am so fucking sick of this shit. Seriously.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, but I am still looking for my old journals. I cannot for the life of me remember where I stored them; I know sometime over the past few years I found them in a box, but now I don’t remember what I did with them. It seems unlikely I would have simply shoved them into another box and stored them somewhere; but I can’t seem to locate them anywhere inside the apartment, which makes it appear that must be what I did with them. Generally I don’t go back and read my old journals very often–I don’t really like to see how much of a mess I used to be, written down plainly in ink on paper–but I kind of need to because I am writing a novella set in the summer of 1994 and I kind of need to go back and see what I recorded back then about music and pop culture and so forth. One of the hardest things about doing research on gay life in the past is so much of it is hidden, or wasn’t recorded anywhere, really–like there’s no listings anywhere on the Internet of “what dance songs were popular in gay dance clubs in 1994?” and my memory banks simply are not substantial enough anymore for me to summon those answers up out of the muck and mush my brain is slowly turning into as I age. That summer I went out dancing a lot, but I honestly don’t remember anything much about the music other than there were a couple of Pet Shop Boys songs that were really popular that summer–“Go West” and “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing”, and Erasure had a great remix of their song “Always”, but beyond that I have no memory of much.

Today I am debating as to whether I actually want to go run errands; making groceries is kind of necessary but I really have no desire to leave the house and go out in public. There’s not a Saints game today–they’re on Monday Night Football this week–and next weekend is LSU’s bye week, so I don’t really need to spend Saturday watching football (despite it being the weekend of Georgia-Florida and Auburn-Mississippi), so here’s hoping I can get some serious writing done today and this coming weekend. Stranger things have happened..and I am definitely running out of time to get this book written, which is incredibly stressful for me, as always. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Sad Beautiful Tragic

And here we are, Tuesday morning before the sun comes up. Huzzah?

I’m very pleased that I did manage to read three terrific books over the course of the Labor Day weekend, even if it meant not getting as much writing done as I would have liked. But sometimes, as I rationalize to myself fairly regularly, one has to allow the creative mind and batteries to rest and recharge, and it never hurts to read works by really gifted writers while allowing the creativity to recharge. I do, however, pity the author of the next book I read, as Celeste Ng, Steven Wright, and Paul Tremblay have truly set the bar ridiculously high.

Ergo, I must choose wisely.

But I do believe I have chosen wisely: next up is Babylon Berlin. I loved the show, and from a glance over the first page it looks to be really well written (or should I say translated? I’m never really sure about these things), and I love the idea of going back in time with my reading.

I did work on a chapter yesterday, adding some important things to it, including a scene where my main character goes to the grocery store in town and is recognized by someone he doesn’t know; this happens to me every time I go back to where we are from in Alabama, without fail, and I was realizing, as I looked at the chapter yesterday, that several things were missing from the story thus far: him running into someone who recognizes him because of the family resemblance (including the unsettling “I changed your diapers!” which always bothers me, and I am only sorry I never said what I always think when someone says that to me, “Why do you want me to know you’ve seen my dick?”), any mention of guns or church; and more information about what the town is like. The book is already too long; the next draft/version will be about trimming the fat and making it more lean, but I am still pretty pleased with it and how it’s coming, even if it is coming more slowly than I would like.

When I get through this version, I think I am going to have to take some time off from work and spend like five concentrated days with it.

I am also still thinking about Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World, which is really saying something; and I keep thinking about things I could have said in my review yet somehow didn’t. I am really looking forward to my next venture into reading Mr. Tremblay, which will most likely be Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. He also has another one coming out soon, Survivor Song, which sounds absolutely terrifying.

I am treating myself to cappuccinos this morning, as a reward for having to get up so early. I do love my cappuccinos, even if they are made with a rather cheap machine I got somewhere as a kind of back-handed gift to myself, but I now have a really terrific milk frother that I love and does a truly terrific job on making my milk nice and warm and frothy. (Plus I need the extra kick from the concentrated caffeine to help me get underway with my day.) I had insomnia again last night–which seems to always inevitably happen the night before I have to get up early; I wonder if stress about oversleeping or sleeping through the alarm is part of the problem? If so, it’s not something I am consciously aware of, and perhaps something I should take some kind of initial steps to take care of–less caffeine the day before, etc.

We started watching a new crime show last night on Showtime, We Hunt Together, which seems to be rather clever; particularly in depicting the police team investigating the crimes as a mirror image of the couple committing the crimes; white woman, Black male immigrant. So far their victims have been pretty awful men who kind of had it coming, so there’s that, and it’s cast very well. We also watched the older Netflix film The Babysitter, which was interesting and funny in parts; we primarily watched because a sequel is being released soon that is highly recommended. You also can never go wrong with Robbie Amell shirtless–he is absolutely beautiful, and he must have a Netflix contract because he shows up in a lot of their movies/shows…as do any number of other young actors and actresses; makes you wonder if the studio system is sort of coming back.

But this is a short week–feels like Monday, even though it’s really Tuesday–and so that’s also a win.

I’ve also decided not to stress too much about what I get done this week; I always have extremely high hopes going into the week every week, only to suffer crushing disappointment at my inability to get things done. Maybe it’s not the best thing to lower expectations, but it’s better to feel good about getting things finished rather than bashing yourself for not getting more things done, isn’t it?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone.