We don’t really hear that word used much anymore, do we–honky tonk? It was used a lot when I was a kid, mostly in country music songs, but it was also one of those words/phrases that for whatever reason grated on my when I was younger. Even now I think honky tonk just sounds silly phonetically; why this bugs me so much I will probably never know. (I think it was because it seemed coy to me when I was a kid; like it was a phrase that stood in for something you couldn’t say on television or in the movies or in a song, like making whoopie or making love when what you mean to say is fuck; I always hated that, even as a kid. Just say what you fucking mean. Seriously, y’all, the days of censorship was just incredibly stupid, and don’t even get me started on that staple of soap operas–making love. Gah.)
I am going to have to use “honky tonk” in a title sometime.
Well, last night was probably the best night of sleep of all time, bar none. I feel like I could have stayed in bed easily all day and just kept sleeping, and that was marvelous. I may not be completely awake yet–hello, coffee!–but I feel marvelously rested and relaxed this morning, and so I feel like I am going to be able to get a lot done today. I didn’t get quota yesterday–fell a thousand or so short, alas–which will have to be made up for over the course of the weekend if I am to get back on schedule. I am, oddly enough, not as stressed about this as I ordinarily would be, to be honest–I am feeling confident these days, which is a strange but lovely feeling, and one I don’t ever remember having before when it comes to writing.
No worries, I am sure it will pass soon.
I had a nice day yesterday. After work I had to run a couple of errands, and found Jordan Harper’s UK release The Last King of California, waiting for me at the post office from Book Depository (my go-to for UK publications), which I am kind of excited about. I want to finish reading the stories in Other Horrors this weekend, and then I think I’m going to read another cozy–I have some really terrific ones lying around here in the TBR stacks just waiting for me to pick up, and of course with the Lefty and Edgar nominations released this week my list of books to buy just continues to grow and grow and grow. I still haven’t read Harper’s Edgar winning debut, She Rides Shotgun, which everyone raves about; but it’s always so hard not only to keep up with what’s current because more and more are released every month and once you’re behind there’s no catching up. After getting home from my errands yesterday I did research for my current project (I love that watching Youtube videos counts as research for this, and I am having the best time with the research, and that is part of why I am enjoying writing this so much (I also love my main character).
It looks gray outside this morning, and I do have an errand that must be run today. Heavy sigh. It’s why I got up, after all–I was perfectly willing to stay in bed for even more time this morning–and my kitchen is a disaster and as always, there is laundry. Heavy heaving sigh. So I am going to go ahead and head into the spice mines this morning, Constant Reader. I may check in again later–but one never knows, does one? Have a lovely Friday, though, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Friday and a work-at-home day that is going to be taking up mostly by meetings, alas. I actually have to go into the office for the first one, but the rest I can do remotely from home, which is nice. I slept really well last night–odd how going to bed and getting up one hour later makes such a difference in feeling rested. I have a lot to work on this weekend–so much to work on this weekend–but that’s okay. The Saints played last night apparently–I watched for a while but got too tense so turned it off; getting stressed and tense before bed is never a good idea, really–but then we watched the first two episodes of American Horror Story: NYC, which so far is one of the best and most interesting they’ve done in a long time.
It’s also the gayest season I’ve ever seen–with elements of Cruising and hints of the coming HIV/AIDS crisis as a serial killer is apparently stalking the gay community of New York. I wasn’t out at that time and had never been to New York before 1991, so I can’t say if the show is accurately capturing the time and feel of what it was like to be gay in those times in the big city; I’ve certainly read enough books to feel like the show is capturing the same vibe as the books I’ve read either written or set in that time period. I also like the idea of the serial killer stalking the gay community in a time when not only would no one give a shit, especially the cops; there’s a closeted at work gay cop character played by Russell Tovey who, at least so far, has done an excellent job of capturing that duality, that horror of living/leading two completely separate lives and having to really, split in two. I know that’s been explored exhaustively in fiction; but it’s something I’d like to explore a little bit more deeply in something. (I am now thinking about crime fiction about doubles, like Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree and Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat; and somehow factoring in that kind of duality into such a story) The show has been a pleasant surprise so far–and the cast is actually quite good (Murphy’s primary strength lies in casting): Russell Tovey, Charlie Carver, Zachary Quinto, among others, and the best is Patti LuPone as the bath house singer. bedecked like a proud drag queen in flowing gowns and tiaras singing for the towel-clad gay men between their hook-ups. (Note: I’ve been told this may be based on the same case Elon Green wrote about in Last Call, which won the true crime Edgar Award earlier this year–so now I really want to read my copy of that soon!)
See what I mean? Here it is late afternoon and I am done for the day at last, worn out and a bit tired, but glad to have made it through another day. I am meeting a friend for drinks later this evening, which will be lovely–it’s nice to get out of the house periodically for something besides work or errands–but yes, I am tired. I want to work on the book a bit before I have to leave this evening; I am trying so hard not to freak out or get stressed out about everything I have to get done, but I am hopeful that I’ll be able to get somewhere with everything this evening, and make even more progress this weekend. Paul is also going away to visit his mom for over a week, leaving a week from today–and there’s not an LSU game that weekend, either so I have no excuse for not getting a lot of shit done next weekend, do I?
But there’s naught to do but put my head down and head into the to-do list and the spice mines, is there? I find that while it is often easy to get discouraged and depressed and overwhelmed when thinking of everything I have to do and get done and how behind I am on it all (I am often singing that same old song, am I not?), the best way to deal with it is the ever popular, almost always works magical to-do list. That organizes everything into one neat and tidy place, and even when it is lengthy there’s something about having everything numbered, sub-categorized, and written down in one place to fool my mind into thinking oh, sure I can get all of this done in no time at all. Email, of course, being the worst chore and the one that has the most variables involved so it can never ever be finished or completed–which is one reason why I stopped putting “empty inbox”on my to-do list. I am looking forward to the day when my email becomes manageable again…
I also weighed myself the other day and was delighted to discover that I actually only weigh 214, so give or take a pound here and there, I still weigh the same as I have since I put weight back on after getting down to 202 for that all-too-brief period of time when I thought 190 was a possibility again…I’d like to get back down to 200 and then decide if I want to try for 190 again…I’m not even sure that it’s possible anymore, given the energy limits I now operate under and how tired I am most of the time these days; although maybe recalibrating and resetting the way I eat again might help–I usually eat the same when I am working out than when I am not; i don’t change up that much other than adding protein shakes to the mix after workouts. But ugh, going back to eating ground turkey instead of hamburger and subsisting on salads and greens and chicken and brown rice….just makes me think you’re too old to be that vain and if you drop dead tomorrow…defeatist thinking, I know, but welcome to my brain.
It’s been a week, for sure, and I am really glad–despite the loss of time to get everything done–that this one is in the books now. I am going to work on the book now for a while and clean the kitchen and do some other things that I can do when I need to get up from the computer, and will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Friday.
Friday has arrived, Constant Reader, and it’s glorious (although I keep thinking it’s Saturday because I’d gotten used to going into the office on Fridays). After all the week’s insomnia, I slept gloriously last night–when I first went to bed Scooter joined me, cuddled up to me and started the purr machine, which draws sleep like a moth to a flame. Paul got home later than expected, so we watched Andor and an episode of Chucky, which we are about to give up on. It’s campy and funny, but it literally makes so little sense–which is admittedly also a part of its charm, and I do love that two of the three main characters are a young teen gay couple–we might be giving it up fairly soon. I also have some errands to run today–I have to get my flu shot and pick up a prescription–and I am also debating whether to make a Five Guys run while I’m out there. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced the glory that is Five Guys…but on the other hand, I could look at it as look how well I’ve done not eating any fast food for so long and not go, too. Decisions, decisions.
Then again it is Halloween season–we’ll probably stream Halloween Ends tonight–so it doesn’t seem right to not be watching horror, you know? I hope to finish my revisit of Interview with the Vampire today and move on to a reread of salem’s Lot; I also have Paul Tremblay’s short story collection and Joe Hill’s so perhaps I should consider diving into some short stories for a while as well. I think I only got one story into each–and I also want to read Shirley Jackson’s Edgar Award-winning short story at some point as well as part of another long term project I am working on (because how many things can I be working on at the same time? Let’s find out!), and I also got both the new Donna Andrews and the new Raquel V. Reyes novels (Dashing Through the Snowbirds and Calypso, Cooking and Corpses, respectively). Lots of good reading in my future, really–but there always is; my TBR stack is a who’s who of brilliant writers, really.
And when I am finished with my work for the day, I think I am going to start planning out the rest of the Scotty book (after finishing the chapter I am currently struggling with). It certainly can’t make writing it any harder, right?
A few weekends ago I talked to Ricky Grove, the host of The Paperback Show podcast about Daphne du Maurier and My Cousin Rachel (you can listen here if you’d like), which was a lot of fun–any excuse, really, to talk about Daphne du Maurier will be leapt at here in the Lost Apartment, for future reference–and Ricky is always fun to talk to; I can’t believe how long I’ve known Ricky now, where does the goddamned time go, anyway?
It has been quite a long time since I got into this business–as I said the other day, I’ve been doing this a third of my life now, which is simply insane, really, to think about–and it’s been quite a ride, to be certain. I’m a totally different person than I was twenty years ago, and there’s no way in hell twenty years ago I could have foreseen what those two decades held in store, just waiting for the time to be right to pounce on me. But it’s cool, you know; I’m pretty happy with the life I have and the direction it’s heading, even if I am more aware of the ticking down of the clock than I was before, to be sure. I’m behind on everything as always but progress was made this past week, and now that I have the schedule back that I prefer for the day job, I am hoping I will adapt to it rather quickly again and so I won’t have the insomnia or the “tired all day” feel that brings with it. There’s a short story deadline tomorrow that I wanted to make, so I thought last night about potential stories I have on hand that I could possibly polish tomorrow and try to get turned in–if they say no, they say no, and you can’t be accepted if you don’t turn anything in at all–so that’s a potential thing for me to do tomorrow. I also want to drop some books off at the library sale, and maybe wash and clean out the car. LSU plays a night game tomorrow, so I have the entire day free (I’ll probably have the Alabama-Tennessee game on in the background, ROLL TIDE!) to get things done and write and read and clean and…I guess we’ll just have to see how it all goes, won’t we?
And on that note, I am. heading into the spice mines before i head over to the office to get my flu shot. Have a happy and productive day, Constant Reader.
Thursday and my last day in the office this week. Huzzah! Which means I do not have to get up at six tomorrow morning, which is lovely, and next week my work at home day is Monday, so I don’t have to be back in the office until Tuesday, which is kind of nice. I need to do a couple of errands tomorrow–brake tag and wash the car–but I am also kind of hoping against hope that I can make it to the gym tomorrow in the early evening as well. I hate that the first thing to go out the window whenever I am overwhelmed with work are the two things I enjoy most in life and are, really, things that are just for me: working out and writing.
I entered #shedeservedit for the Thriller Award for Best Children’s/Young Adult this week; I am not sure if there’s any point, really, but you cannot complain about queer books not making award shortlists if you don’t enter your own and encourage every other queer writer to do so as well. I am also entering it for the Edgars. Dream big, Gregalicious.
I have to admit I’ve not really been promoting #shedeservedit the way I should be, and I am not entirely sure why that is. Every step of the way of writing that book I was worried about whether I was the right person to tell that story or not…something I would have never even thought about ten years ago. I still don’t think I would have been the right person to tell the story had the main pov character been a girl; making it a guy, seeing everything that was going on in Liberty Center from a male teenager who is also on the football team, for me, made it more palatable–and it’s not just the story of the toxic masculinity and the rape culture permeating the town of Liberty Center: there’s a whole lot of just plain wrong going on in that town, and my main character, Alex, was affected and damaged by all of it, even as (sometimes) merely a witness to the shenanigans. Everything has a ripple effect, after all. But at the same time, the book has a content warning–which, I am ashamed to admit, never crossed my mind that it would need when I was writing it. How would a young woman who has experienced this, or knows someone who has, react to reading this story? That thought also kind of made me pull back a bit from the promotional stuff. Even with a content warning, is what happens in the book–even though it’s all already happened, and is seen only through flashbacks–going to be too difficult for a young woman (or a young man, for that matter) who has experienced something similar to read? The book has been out in the world now for over five months, it has a four and a half star rating on Amazon (I will not look at Goodreads, and no one can make me go to that barren hellscape for authors)…but at the same time there hasn’t been any pushback thus far on the book–which also doesn’t mean it won’t eventually happen, either.
But this week, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed (I honestly don’t know why I do this. Sometimes I have fun joking around with my friends there, and I’ve seen posts about books that I went on to read and enjoy, but for far too large a percentage of the time I have to step away from it in revulsion when I see how truly terrible so many people are willing to be behind the anonymity of a computer screen, a cartoon avatar, and a fake name…and how many more are unashamed to reveal their monstrous true selves with their actual names and images proudly on display for everyone to see) and I came across a piece from The Cut, which is a part of New York magazine and Vulture and I am not sure what all other websites and so forth are involved in that tangled mess of on-line and print publications. It purported to be about a high school teenager who “made a mistake” and “got canceled by his school.”
Ah, another story about the evils of cancel culture, I thought to myself, should I bother?
What makes the entire thing worse, in my opinion, is of course they assigned this piece to a woman. There’s a reason why men accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault will inevitably hire a female defense attorney–it subliminally communicates to the jury would a woman defend this person if he were a rapist? No woman would take on such a case! But when I was doing my research for #shedeservedit, one of the things I noted was how many women didn’t believe the girls, how many of their peers didn’t believe the girls, and that the nastiest and most vicious critics of the victims were other women/girls. I remember reading about Brock Turner’s mother, weeping and sobbing about how her son’s life was being ruined (implied: by that drunk slut!); the former girlfriend who wrote a character reference letter for him to the judge, and on and on. (I always wonder–as I did with Brock Turner–does he have any sisters or female first cousins? What do they think about this?)
Anyway, the author of this piece–whose sympathies are entirely with this boy whose only regret for sharing nude pictures of his girlfriend with his friends (when he was “drunk,” because I guess that makes it okay) is that he was shunned by his entire high school–misses the lede in this article so many times. She is so desperate to make us all feel bad for this kid for being made to feel the absolute least amount of consequence possible for his actions that she misses that the girls at this school felt so betrayed and dismissed by the system–which is supposed to protect them–that they took action on their own. That is the story here–what the students had to step up to do because THE ADULTS and the SCHOOL SYSTEM failed them.
But no, we get another “oh this poor boy”. (Who went to four proms and is leaving for college in the fall, where none of this will follow him.) By a woman writer who, per Wikipedia, has teenaged daughters of their own. How must THEY feel when reading their mother’s latest work?
Not even ten years ago the victims in Steubenville and Marysville were the ones shunned; not the guys who got them wasted and took advantage of them. (At least the Steubenville victim got some justice, as two of the boys were convicted; the poor girl in Marysville got nothing but slut-shamed and eventually she committed suicide.)
My original inspiration for writing this book honestly came back in the early 1990’s. Remember the Spur Posse at Lakewood High School? (No less an august literary figure than Joan Didion herself wrote about the Spur Posse, in her New Yorker piece “Trouble in Lakewood.”) I thought I had read about the Spur Posse in Rolling Stone–which, let’s face it, I was more likely to read at the time than the New Yorker–and was completely appalled…I sat down and started writing an idea for a book based on it, where the girls of the school, getting nowhere with the police and the school administration and so forth, become ‘avenging angels’ to publicly shame and embarrass the boys…and then they start dying. I wrote a couple of chapters, created some characters, and titled it When Stallions Die (stallions, obviously, a stand-in for Spur Posse); I always meant to swing back around to it at some point because it was an interesting idea (if you agree, you should read Lisa Lutz’ brilliant The Swallows from a few years’ back) and I still might–one never knows. But it was the Spur Posse situation that made me start thinking–long and hard–about sexual assault and sexual misconduct, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and the weird need that some women have to protect men at any cost: “boys will be boys,” “any red-blooded American boy”…”locker room talk.”
And since I had been wanting to write a Kansas book, and had been playing around with a story for a small city in Kansas, its teens, and its high school football team, #shedeservedit kind of evolved from there.
I don’t know why I am so reluctant and/or nervous to promote the book. It was a deeply personal book for me to write (as was Bury Me in Shadows), and yes, I put a lot of my teenaged self into that book–not the surface Greg everyone saw and knew, but the interior Greg, the one who was so deeply miserable and unhappy and alone on the inside.
Wow, this rambled on for a lot longer than I expected it to! That article clearly pissed me off, did it not?
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.
I am classified as a baby boomer because of the year I was born (1961) but I kind of think I am an exception to that rule, or should be, at any rate. My parents just missed being boomers, being born in 1942, but they don’t remember the war, and I think the war is the real defining generational moment. But I grew up around older people (they seemed ancient!) who had served. Our neighborhood in Chicago was a melting pot of various eastern/middle European refugees who came after the war, and for me that made the war seem very real as opposed to a historical event. We saw all the films in elementary school about the war–along with some extraordinary pro-American anti-Communist patriotic propaganda–and as very young children we were exposed to the films of the camps. The Holocaust was real, it was recent, and it was still absolutely horrifying. (We were also taught why using atomic weapons on Japan was the right, moral decision and hey, they started it after all–but that’s a topic for another day.) I remember watching a documentary series on PBS called The World at War, and of course, old war films were being shown on television all the time. (And somehow, Hogan’s Heroes was also on the air when I was a child–and then rerun in syndication for quite a while.) I read a lot of war fiction growing up–From Here to Eternity to The Caine Mutiny to War and Remembrance to The Young Lions to Tales of the South Pacific. I read a lot of World War II books–and there were even more books where it was a major part of the plot but it did affect the story and the characters in some way. (You can even stretch and include The Godfather–both book and movie–because Michael Corleone was a war hero at the beginning.)
I also fell in love with Hawaii the first time I went in 1991; I went every year after that until 1995 (thank you, flight benefits!) and I miss it. I would love to go back again, and I would imagine it’s very different there now than it was the last time I was there. But on one of those trips to Hawaii–I don’t remember which one–I came up with a very basic idea for a book, that would open on December 8, 1941. The wrecks in Pearl Harbor were still smoking and the entire island chain was on high alert. My idea was to then have an Army brass’ wife call the local police station to report a murder: she found the young Japanese man who worked for her doing yard work and odd jobs with his throat cut in her rose bushes. That was as far as the idea ever progressed, and I never have had the time to sit and think it through. But I love that opening idea, and that set-up; even as I type these words now characters are taking shape in my head (KNOCK IT OFF, CREATIVITY)…anyway, so it was a no-brainer that I wanted to to read Five Decembers by James Kestrel the first time I learned of its existence.
Joe McGrady was looking at a whiskey. It was so new the ice hadn’t begun to melt, even in this heat. A cacophony surrounded him. Sailors were ordering beers ten at a go, reaching past each other to light the girls’ cigarettes. Someone dropped a nickel in the Wurlitzer, and then there was Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra. The men compensated for the new noise. They raised their voices. They were shouting at the girls now, and they outnumbered them. The night was just getting started, and so far they weren’t drinking anything harder than beer. They wouldn’t get to fistfights for another few hours. By the time they did, it would be some other cop’s problem. So he picked up his drink, and sniffed it. Forty-five cents per liquid ounce. Worth every penny, even if a three-finger pour took more than an hour to earn.
Before he had a taste of it, the barman was back. Shaved head, swollen eyes. Straight razor scars on both his cheeks. A face that made you want to hurry up and drink. But McGrady set his glass down.
“Joe,” Tip said.
“Telephone–Captain Beamer, I guess, You can take it upstairs.
He knew the way. So he grabbed the drink again, and knocked it back. The whole thing, one gulp. Smooth and smoky. He might as well have it. If Beamer was calling him now, then he was going to be pulling overtime. Which meant tomorrow–Thursday–was going to be a bust. Molly was going to be disappointed. On the other hand, he’d be drawing extra pay. So he could afford to make it up to her later. He put three half-dollars on the bar, wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve, and went upstairs.
I had heard great things about this book–it literally won the Edgar for Best Novel last month–and of course, it’s time and setting (a murder mystery set in Honolulu just before, during and after December 7? Oh hell yeah) made it a must-get. I didn’t read it as soon as I got a copy of course; it went into the TBR stack and moved up quite a few places after it won the Edgar. On the one hand, I’d heard nothing but great things about the book (and it won the Edgar)…but on the other hand, I also was worried about how this Pearl Harbor noir might affect my potential write-sometime-in-the-future-but-before-I-die Pearl Harbor murder mystery; namely, would I simply think oh this is so fucking good I can’t bear to write something that would be compared (unfavorably) to it because mine would inevitably be the weaker of the two? (I know how unhinged this sounds, but I’ve never pretended that anything that goes on inside of my brain is anything other than that.)
Yes, the book is that good, and no, it didn’t leave me thinking that I could never write my own book idea. If anything, it made me think, oh, I should try mine at some point but I am going to have to do a shit ton of research–which was something I already was aware of, to be fair–but its a good idea and could be interesting and fun to work on.
So, yeah, there was clearly no need to wait to read this outside my own neuroses.
Joe McGrady is the hero of this tale, which does indeed open in late November/December 1941 and finally wraps up the case in December 1945–the “five Decembers” of the title. Joe is ex-military and wound up in Honolulu on the police force, where he is neither liked nor trusted because he didn’t come up through the ranks; the thin blue line in Honolulu considers him to be an outsider. The case he catches while having a drink in the bar involves two bodies found butchered in a hut on a pineapple plantation; a young white male and a young Japanese female, stripped nude and essentially gutted. The case has wider implications other than the apparent (“my god, someone butchered two people in an extremely violent and gory way!”) as the young man is the nephew of Admiral Kimmel, the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Naval Fleet. As tensions between the United States and Japan are heating up to the inevitability of war, the murder of someone related to a person so high up in the chain of command could be espionage, could be any number of things that could have an effect on the security of the country and the Pacific fleet–and we, as readers, are also very aware of what’s around the corner in just a few days. Joe does note that his boss seems a bit weird about the investigation, and he’s paired with a bruiser detective who likes to beat information out of people and confessions out of possibly innocent people. He’s dating a young woman who attends the University, and may even be falling in love with her. We don’t get a lot of backstory on Joe, but the strength of the authorial voice makes unemotional, mostly internal Joe a hero you can root for. The trail of the murders eventually leads to Hong Kong, and Joe sets off on the transoceanic flight, which includes stops at Guam and Wake Island, where he picks up more clues and the trail of the possible killer–and there’s a murder victim on Wake kind of similar to the ones in Hawaii. But once he arrives in Hong Kong he decides not to immediately go to the police department there and ask assistance; rather he decides to follow the trail himself at first…a mistake, as he winds up getting arrested and framed for a rape. He is in the Hong Kong jail hoping that the US Embassy will get him out when the bombs start falling. He is taken to Japan as a prisoner of war, and the case–and the book, take a completely surprising twist and turn once he is there.
Anything else would be a spoiler, so I can’t really talk about the story anymore–but it’s compelling, convincing, beautiful and tragic and sad all at the same time. We see a lot of things through Joe’s eyes–both inhumanity and humanity; the absolute horrors of war (there’s a horrifyingly grim account of the fire bombing of Tokyo), and finally, the war ends, he returns to Hawaii, and is able to at long last close the case in a way that is enormously satisfying.
I really really enjoyed this immersive book which used a hardboiled crime story to talk about the horrors of war and the inhumanity that xenophobic and racist values and beliefs can create. It was riveting and very hard to put down once I started.
I am deep in the weeds of my edits/revision (make no mistake: editors and copy editors are worth their weight in gold and are treasures, seriously) and I think it’s going well; it’s hard to say when you are not the best judge of your own work. I slept really well last night–I did wake up a few times because I have so much to do and feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time–but I do feel rested, which bodes well for the rest of my day (we’ll see how I feel this afternoon) and I am awake this morning, so that’s a good thing. Tomorrow is my work-at-home day (I switched days with a co-worker) and so I don’t have to get up as early then; I suspect I will, though–that always seems to be the case these days. I woke up early yesterday rather than allowing myself to sleep in with the end result that I got a lot done. I would like to keep the ball rolling today; we’ll see how it goes and how I feel when I get home tonight.
There’s really nothing to bring you down to earth after the high of getting an award nomination (or two) like diving into your edits. Yikes. But I do think it was smart to give up on getting that short story turned in for tomorrow; the story doesn’t even have a completed first draft and so it probably would have been rushed had I tried to get it finished in time, and then in a few months, after the rejection and so forth I would have reread the story and been mortified that I turned it in at that stage of its development. This happens a lot more frequently than I would like to admit, frankly; it happens with the MWA anthologies all the fucking time. (This, of course, explains why I never get accepted into one of the MWA anthologies…)
Heavy heaving sigh.
I leave for Kentucky on Thursday; which means I have a rather lot to get done before I leave. I’d like to get these edits finished by then and turned in (which might be overly ambitious, let’s be honest) so I don’t have to worry about any of it while I am away–I would much rather be able to just rest and relax and read while I am up there, which would be lovely. I started reading James Kestrel’s Best Novel Edgar winning Five Decembers yesterday, and it’s quite good thus far. I like the setting in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor (I’ve always wanted to write a murder mystery set in Honolulu and opening on December 8th, 1941, while the battleships are still smoking in Pearl Harbor), and I am curious to see how it’s going to go as I get deeper into the book. It did the Edgar, so I have to assume that it’s really well done and a good story–I’ve yet to read a Best Novel winner than disappointed, frankly–and of course, there’s some marvelous audiobooks loaded into my phone to listen to in the car that I am really excited about. I cleared out some more books yesterday–an on-going, never-ending process, apparently–but I won’t be able to drop anything off at the library sale for at least another week (since I will be gone this weekend), so I have the chance to clear out even more books. I am trying to resist sentimentality–and of course, if I have acquired the ebook edition I don’t need the hardcover anymore–and have been doing quite well with that, I think–there are some I have not succeeded in untying myself from, but think the desire for no clutter will eventually overrule everything else.
One would hope, at any rate–although it doesn’t seem to have done much good up to this point in my life.
I am trying very hard this morning to keep and maintain low stress levels; just keeping my head down and moving forward slowly but surely, ticking things off the to-do list one by one. It’s not easy when things are pressing in on every side–sometimes I really feel like I am in one of those episodes of Scooby Doo where the bad guys have them trapped in a room and the walls start moving in to crush them–but I just need to remember to stay relaxed, not get irritated (DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER NO MATTER HOW FRUSTRATING SOMEONE MIGHT BE), and keep calm. Nothing is worth getting upset or angry over; the priorities have to be set and stuck to, and everyone else just needs to wait their turn. If people get pissed off at me, it isn’t my problem. No one, after all, ever seems to take my needs and concerns and feelings into consideration.
I really do need a vacation, and not one that involves going to a conference or visiting my parents. I need to go someplace where I can just unplug, not worry about emails or anything else, and just relax and be by myself (or with Paul) and rest and get my head together and unplug from all the stressors and irritations of my every day life. A beach someplace would be absolutely lovely; I remember the lovely balcony of the condo we rented in Acapulco, where we could hear the waves coming into shore and there was that lovely cool salty breeze regularly blowing in off the bay. I’d settle for Dauphin Island, really; or any place along the Gulf Coast as long as there’s a breeze and waves and all the associated noises that go with being by the sea. I need to recharge, and my weekends off are just not enough. And given this weekend is going to involve twenty-four hours of driving, this is probably not going to be it, either.
After working yesterday, I spent some more time with Five Decembers and also reread the last two books of Heartstopper again, since the show has been renewed for another two seasons, I wanted to refresh my memory about what goes on the last two books to prepare mentally for when the show drops. The books do take a dark turn–I can’t lie about that, they do–and it was one that I didn’t see coming, but at the same time that dark turn is kind of important because it’s handled so remarkably well? It’s just difficult, because through watching the show and reading the books I’ve become rather attached to Charlie and Nick and don’t want anything bad to ever happen to them–which isn’t realistic, and I especially know that as an author myself; how many horrible things have I had happen to Scotty and the boys in that series? And in all fairness, I was far worse to Chanse than I ever have been to Scotty and the boys….Chanse seriously went through some shit, and part of the reason I stopped writing about him was because I was tired of torturing him…just let him live happily ever after already and be done with it. (I’ve had a couple of ideas about bringing him back–I have some story ideas he would be perfect for–but then I think, maybe I should just leave him be and create someone new for those stories–using a character you’ve already established and know very well is kind of lazy writing, isn’t it?)
And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader. I am going to sure as hell try myself.
Friday morning at last, and I am a more than a little happy to see this reentry week put to rest in the archives, if I am being completely honest. Reentry weeks are always a bit of a disruption, and the older I get the weird transition from one side of my life to the other inevitably becomes more difficult. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the different sides so much–I always feel that the day-to-day life, so disparate and different from the “writer” public life–is good for keeping me grounded as well as keeping my ego in check. After all, you could get whiplash going from being on-stage at the Edgars as the executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America back to lower-level clinic employee (although that’s really not a fair statement about my day job; my day job–while not in management or supervision–is actually important and I do help every one of my clients in a positive way every day; it’s just a vastly different enterprise than my life as a writer and/or everything that is involved, even peripherally, with that).
We finished watching Harry Wild, the new Jane Seymour crime series on Acorn and highly recommend it. Seymour is terrific in the leading role, and everyone in the supporting cast is also good. The young Black teenager who originally mugs her in the first episode eventually becomes her Watson, and they are great together. Paul and I, like so many Americans, are absolute suckers for British crime series, and now that we’ve (alas) finished Harry Wild, we’ll probably go ahead and finish Severance this weekend–we’re very close to the end of the first season, and I do find the show to be both interesting and disturbing at the same time; while I can see why the “severance” would be appealing to people–the utter and complete separation of day-job from personal life–at the same time it would seem incredibly weird and unsettling to me; not knowing what I did the rest of the time? It is interesting, and obviously there are deeper questions about morality and bodily autonomy here as well–and given what’s going on in this country at the current moment, it’s very timely.
I have big plans for this weekend. I have some self-care scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I am also doing an interview/event for Spirit of Ink on Saturday afternoon. I want to finish reading my Carol Goodman novel (it really is quite delicious); I need to do some writing; and of course, there’s always cleaning and organizing that needs to be done. We also had some horrific thunderstorms over night–I don’t remember if I woke up during the storms or not; the same thing happened Wednesday night and I do remember waking up to thunder; I think it was Wednesday night rather than last, honestly. I’ve really been sleeping great lately, and it’s marvelous. I still get terribly tired on the days I have to get up early–I don’t think that will ever change, frankly–but I am adjusting. I actually am planning on returning to the gym this weekend as well; I am hopeful that getting my act together and working out again will also help make me feel better, sleep better, and get more done. I’m really tired of carrying around this extra weight and not being in tip-top shape, but also have to recognize that it will take far longer than it used to now that I am older. It would probably go faster also if I started eating healthier…but I think we know how that is going to go, don’t we?
Yeah, not going to happen. I can try, but make no promises. I like fat and grease and breading and so forth too much to put my vanity (and it’s really not about vanity anymore, really) ahead of what pleasures I get from eating, to be honest. My relationship with food has always been skewed–so has my relationship with my body and my appearance, which I really need to write about sometime–and I always have to worry about my tendency to fall into compulsive/obsessive behavior (I really need to try to continue channeling those quirks of my personality into my writing and promotion of my career) when it comes to exercise and eating and so forth.
Ah, Greg’s personality problems and issues.
I turned my story into the anthology yesterday, and also found another (very short) call for submissions for another anthology I’d like to work on something for. I think my story turned out okay; it needs some tweaking and so forth, perhaps, but I am hoping the editors do like it. I also want to get a couple of other stories I’d also like to starting sending out to various markets to see if anyone wants them; it’s been a hot minute since I’ve sent anything out to other markets rather than the occasional anthology submission call. I wrote a story to submit to Land of 10000 Crimes, the Bouchercon anthology I am currently co-editing, but finally decided to not send in anything for the blind read; I made it past the blind reads in the last two anthologies I edited for Bouchercon, but I kind of got the impression (and it could be wrong; I tend to expect people to be critical and snarky of me and my work) that the fact that I made it past the blind reads on the anthologies I personally edited might look weird and/or suspicious to people on the outside–suuuuuuuure you made it through the blind read–but at the same time, I didn’t help myself by never submitting stories to the Bouchercon anthologies I wasn’t editing. But my story in Blood on the Bayou was a Macavity Award finalist, and my story in Florida Happens was an Anthony finalist, so that sort of makes it seem like my stories were worthy of being published?
But I can certainly get why it’s for the best that I didn’t submit anything to the anthology. But I also really like my story, “The Sound of Snow Falling,” and I’d like to get that out for submission; it’s pretty close to being finished and perhaps maybe one more go-round with it could be in order. There are a few others I’d also like to get out for submission as well–“Death and the Handmaidens” is certainly one of those–and so I am going to add that to my weekend to-do list; look at the some of the almost-completed stories I have on hand, and see which ones can be sent out next week. It’s never a bad idea to keep my hand in, you know.
And now that I am sort of feeling like myself again. I might as well ride this train as far as it will take me before it goes off the rails again.
Friday morning after the Edgars and I feel very drained emotionally and intellectually. Physically I am fine; I cannot believe how well I’ve been sleeping in a hotel up here in New York. I slept for about ten hours again last night–I’d forgotten how that actually feels, and it’s marvelous, really–so I am simply not going to question it, you know? We fly home tomorrow and today is one of those busy days where I am meeting people for coffee and drinks and trying to get all kinds of other stuff taken care of while I am here, and of course tomorrow we fly home. Sunday is going to be a regrouping kind of day, and I do get to work at home on Monday, so that will help me ease back into the regularity of what is my regular day-to-day life. I think I am already ahead of the game in that I am physically rested rather than exhausted, which is my usual when I travel. I have fallen behind on a great many things–April was simply a terrible month for one Gregalicious, and I think a lot of that had to do with being so tired most of the month. I still can’t wrap my mind around the way the Left Coast Crime trip just blasted me with both barrels; I was literally afraid that I couldn’t handle traveling anymore. But this trip has been marvelous; I’ve slept a lot on this trip (more than I do at home, which is even stranger) than I usually do at home, and the lovely thing is that when I feel rested, I feel like I can get anything and everything done, including taking over the world.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that, too. I’d almost forgotten how amazing it feels.
I feel like me this morning, and I haven’t felt like me in a long time.
I didn’t take a single picture last night, either. I tried to keep my anxiety under control before I had to get up and speak, and I honestly don’t remember what I said when I was up there on stage–I always just kind of go into some weird dissociative state (probably not that extreme, but that’s how it feels) when I have to do things like that (panels and moderating are different; at least those I can remember some things I said and can remember being up there) and afterwards I have to really focus on breathing and so forth to come back into myself. I didn’t do a very good job of managing the anxiety, obviously; certainly not as well as I controlled the travel anxiety the other day when we flew here. (That experience gave me the false hope that I could possibly start being able to control my anxiety in other situations..obviously, I was wrong. But hope will always spring eternal.)
I still can’t get over how late I’ve been sleeping in here. And it’s not that weird half-sleep thing, either; I actually am sleeping. Obviously it something remarkable since I can’t stop writing about it, right?
But now that this is out of the way–I also think the anxiety was subconsciously building all month which helped make April a much worse month than it needed to be–and my mind is clear again, it’s time to start making lists and figuring out where everything stands and clean out the email inbox and start ticking things on the list and making progress again. I feel like, in some ways, I’ve been in this weird holding pattern for a long time without the energy or the drive or the desire to actually accomplish things. I don’t know what caused it; there was an awful lot of burnout I think for some reason. Probably all the juggling and plate-spinning I’ve been doing, and of course the first few months of the year are inevitably overwhelming on many different levels for me. I mean, I was on-boarding a new board of directors for Mystery Writers of America; coordinating and organizing the Bouchercon anthology; writing my own book; and writing several promised short stories (the one due tomorrow the editors graciously gave me another week so I am going to really have to buckle down and do a great job on the story–no pressure there, and of course the festivals and Carnival as well as other transitions at the day job. So yeah, the first third of the year were kind of rough, but I am–at least this morning–feeling like I can get everything done.
There’s nothing worse than that overwhelmed feeling of defeat.
I really don’t like it, because it also starts a spiral into hopelessness and I hate that most of all. That’s the why bother phase, the “why do I try because nothing matters and it doesn’t make any difference anyway” and I absolutely despise that; I call it the Pit of Despair (thanks, The Princess Bride). I seem to have spent a lot more time in the Pit of Despair lately than I have in years, and I don’t like feeling that way.
Or maybe I’m just on a high from the awards last night. It was a bit overwhelming being in such a big crowd, as well as seeing people I’ve not seen in years thanks to the goddamned pandemic; I wanted to see and talk to everyone and chat and laugh and get caught up, but it’s also kind of impossible in that kind of situation and yeah, it can be a bit much, particularly when you’re socially awkward and much more of an introvert than you should be when your job requires you to speak publicly and be social and circulate and all of those things. There are so many weird contradictions and oppositions built in my psyche and personality that are constantly at war with each other…for one example, obviously I would love to be more successful than I am, but success also comes at a price. The more successful you are, the more public events you have to do as well as public speaking (things I am terrible at, cause me stress and anxiety, and drain me completely) not to mention the small talk. One thing I’ve never been good at is receiving compliments. I don’t know what to say to people when they’re complimenting me and my work…I just stammer and blush and say “thanks you’ve very kind” but somehow can’t engage any further than that because I get awkward and feel stupid.
And on that note, I am going to post this and get some work done. Have a great post-Edgar Friday, Constant Reader.
I actually slept last night here at my hotel, and slept late this morning, both of which are so unusual it does bear remarking on. I also walked a lot yesterday here in Manhattan; it’s about fourteen blocks from the hotel to the MWA office; a straight shot up Broadway. That’s a lot more walking than my tired old fat-ass is used to, so perhaps that had something to do with the deep sleep. I also met a friend for drinks with Paul last evening (here in the hotel bar), and then we came back up to the room and I read for a bit before I got cross-eyed with sleep (I am really enjoying this Raquel V. Reyes novel tremendously; although I probably won’t get much chance to finish it before the flight home Saturday, which should give me plenty of time to not only finish reading Mango Mambo and Murder but to read (or make good headway on reading) one of the other books I brought along for the ride. (There will also be giveaway books at the banquet tonight…)
It really is remarkable how much I dislike working on a laptop, thought. Mostly it’s because the screen is too small for my aging eyes (note to self: make an eye appointment stat, maybe new glasses will take care of this for me) but I have my wireless keyboard (I hate typing on a laptop most of all) and my wireless mouse with me, which makes it a bit easier for me to deal with.
I was also surprised that I slept so well last night mainly because, well, the banquet is tonight and I have to be up on stage to begin with to welcome everyone and do some thank you’s and introductions, which I have to be stone cold sober to do–which, given there’s an hour of cocktail reception before hand, isn’t going to be easy for one Gregalicious, who never likes passing up free wine or champagne–and of course being stone cold sober is going to make it a bit more stressful, although the days when I used to drink heavily to deal with the stage fright anxiety are long in the past and let’s face it, was never a particularly smart thing to do (ah, the wisdom that comes with age). The awards are going to be broadcast live on our Youtube channel (if I were better at my job as EVP I’d share a link, but I am not better at the job so oh well) which means it will also be recorded and always be up there for all eternity (the Internet is forever, after all) so the possibilities of me doing something stupid and going viral, therefore burning MWA to the ground, are much higher than say, my speaking for a few moments at the Lefty Banquet. But I am trying very hard to manage my anxiety and stress–I handled the travel here very well, after all–and so this new calm centering thing I am doing seems to be working. I feel remarkably relaxed and rested this morning, in fact, which is highly unusual.
After I finish this and do some more emails, I will probably work on my short story a bit more.
Oh! I also did a ZOOM thing yesterday for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society (JPAS) for their upcoming production of Deathtrap; which of course was a huge Broadway hit comedy/thriller written by one of my literary heroes, Ira Levin (who also wrote A Kiss Before Dying, This Perfect Day, Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, and The Boys from Brazil, for a few highlights). It was actually quite fun–I love the opportunity to talk about other writers; talking myself up is an entirely different subject–and I am not sure when or where it will be available to view on-line, but I don’t think I made a fool of myself.
I’ve been wrong before.
And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines and get to work on that story some more. You have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will recap the banquet for you tomorrow.