Let My Love Open the Door

76 degrees already this morning, with the mercury forecast to continue to rise throughout the day, with heavy rains in the forecast for tonight’s parades. I think I’m going to spark up the barbecue this afternoon–get that true Carnival experience but barbecuing burgers and hot dogs–and probably try to get some work done around the parades.

I only worked two hours yesterday morning, so I went in early and did all the things, departed and went to the grocery store on the way home–there’s no way I can move my car again before Sunday evening–and then came home to do odious chores. But I got all of it done, reorganized some cabinets and the refrigerator, and then relaxed in my easy chair while I waited for Paul to come home so we could have dinner and go to the parades. Alas, he didn’t get home until too late, so we missed Oshun and Cleopatra. I guess I could have gone by myself, but that’s not as much fun, plus getting up early and doing the running around and cleaning and so forth had left me rather tired. I watched some television, including another episode of Versailles, and retired to bed relatively early. I slept well, which was lovely, and am up and at ’em this morning. I intend to get some revising done before the parades arrive, and there’s some tidying required for the living room.

But this morning I feel rested and like I can conquer the world, which is a lovely feeling.

We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?

Hilariously, part of my work on the kitchen yesterday including moving small appliances–I moved the microwave from next to the refrigerator back to the other counter, so it’s next to the stove now, and the coffee maker from there to the counter next to the refrigerator. As small a change as that was, it opened up the kitchen and makes that area look bigger. (I used to have it set up this way for years and changed it about two years ago; yesterday it dawned on me that was why the kitchen looked so much more crowded, so I switched it back.) I also put two boxes of books up in the attic, which was also a satisfying feeling, and at some point today I am going to combine some small boxes of books into a bigger box, and put that in the attic.

I’d also like to finish Lori Roy’s superb novel Gone Too Long this weekend, if i can. I am a little behind on the revising (as always) but am hopeful focusing can get more done before and after and around the parades today–as long as I don’t get too tired out there on the parade route…there are five today.

FIVE: Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret, Sparta, and Pygmalion.

Sigh. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I am also kind of looking forward to finishing this revision because I really want to get back to work on the WIP, which I think has a lot of potential…and there’s some stories I want to revise. It occurred to me the other day how to solve the problems with “The Problem with Autofill,” which is actually also going to need a new title; whereas I like the original title, it doesn’t really fit the story, and trying to make the story fit that title doesn’t work, either. So I will file the title away (like I had to do with “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”) and hope that a story will eventually come to me that will fit the title.

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

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This Town

It’s Friday morning in New Orleans, and I slept fitfully; but when I did sleep, it was terrific. I only have to work a half-day today, which is lovely, and tonight I am hoping to not only get a chance to read some more of Rebecca Chance’s lovely Killer Affair, but to get further in the line edit as well. This weekend my plan is to work on the line edit and clean, alternating between the two, which hopefully will do the trick. I’ve not gotten as far along this week on anything that I’d hoped; the weekly to-do list is a complete and utter disaster. The good news this week was that our renewed passports arrived (hurray!), I got some great books–everything from the new Michael Connelly to Eric Ambler to Chester Himes–to add to the TBR pile, and the latest short story is really taking a good shape, one with which I am really and truly pleased.

My short stories are much darker than my novels. The WIP, currently being line edited, has little to no humor in it; at least none that I’m aware of–but then again I am not the best judge of that. I love to tell the story of my New Orleans Noir story, “Annunciation Shotgun,” which I thought  was this dark, unsettling tale, and continued thinking so until at a reading for the anthology, Chris Wiltz, one of the other contributors (her story, “Night Taxi,” is quite chilling) said to me, “Oh, I loved your story! It’s so funny!”

I was a little taken aback, as I’d thought it was a dark story…and then when it was my turn to read to the gathered audience, there were times when I got laughs.

Okay, I remember thinking, I guess I can be funny even when I’m not trying to be.

This story I’m working on now is also grim and dark; but I think the primary reason I’m drawn to the genre I work in primarily is my interest in damaged people. The Great Gatsby  was about damaged people, and the damage people can leave in their wake; it didn’t try, however, to explain or get into how the people got damaged and why,  and that was its greatest disappointment to me. This current story was inspired by watching a documentary while Paul was at his mother’s; I always have to find things to watch when he’s gone that we wouldn’t want to watch together (in other words, things want to watch that he doesn’t. He tired of the TV series Scream; so I finished watching it while he was gone. Likewise, you can never go wrong with documentaries). I watched one on either Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon–I don’t remember which–about a young man and his brothers, who’d escaped a religious cult. As I watched these damaged young men trying to make sense of their childhood and fit into a world and society they were woefully underprepared for, while the main point-of-view character was also trying to reestablish a relationship with his mother, still in the cult and distant to him–I couldn’t help but wonder about the young women refugees from the cult he interviewed, and the stories they shared about their sexual abuse and, basically, being brainwashed into thinking that was normal. (The boys were also apparently sexually abused as well as physically abused, but their sexual abuse was skipped over; mentioned but not gotten into in depth.) I had my notebook in my lap, and I scribbled down notes…and eventually started writing the story I thought up while watching the documentary. The story is dark–I am revising it now, making it even darker than the first draft–which also limits its saleability quotient, but hey, I am definitely going to put it out there.

Christ, I have so many works in progress. Nothing like creative ADD without a deadline to anchor you down.

I’ve also not decided what book to write next once this WIP is finished. I am thinking about getting back to Scotty with Crescent City Charade, but there’s another noir I’d love to tackle, and my “A Holler Full of Kudzu” could easily be explored as a novel.  Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me! Here’s a Friday hunk for you, to get your weekend started properly.

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Yes or No

Good morning, Sunday people! I slept deeply and well last night, so this morning I feel rested. My muscles don’t feel tight, either–but I am still going to stretch this morning. I gave up on two things yesterday–reading A Feast of Snakes and writing “A Holler Full of Kudzu.” The first because it’s, quite frankly, stupid; I didn’t believe the characters, nor did I believe the story, nor did I care about any of it. Harry Crews did, however, write some terrific paragraphs and create some amazing sentences, but about halfway through–and mind you, the entire novel is less than 200 pages, and it’s taken me over a week to get halfway through it–I just wasn’t buying into it or believing it. The second I gave up on because, while I do think there’s a short story in there, there’s also more than enough story to become a novel; and I am not sure at this point what exactly the short story should be. It was also taking me a really long time to write it; I think in slightly more than a week I’d only managed slightly more than two thousand words. So, I decided to put it to the side, let it percolate for a while, and then I can come back to it. This morning, this day, I am going to try to finish “Quiet Desperation” (which I’d forgotten I was in the process of writing, because I got so caught up in the my recent interest in Southern Gothic), revise “For All Tomorrow’s Lies”, and then start the revision of my WIP. I am going to do something dramatically different with that, as well; I am going to revise the last five chapters first, and then work my way backward through the book. It’s odd, but I always am worried that working in a linear way, which is what I usually do, the first half gets more attention than the second, and the second half of the book always is like a neglected stepchild, when it is really the most important part of the book.

I also started a reread last night of one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, and one of her lesser-known ones: Endless Night. Some of my favorite Agatha Christie novels are her less-known ones (A Murder is Announced, Death Comes as the End, The Body in the Library, The Mirror Crack’d, N or M, The Man in the Brown Suit, They Came to Baghdad, Cat Among the Pigeons,  and The Secret of Chimneys, among many others), which isn’t to say the more famous ones–The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and Death on the Nile–weren’t enjoyable. I am actually curious to see the new film version of Murder on the Orient Express, but seriously; is there anyone who doesn’t know the ending of that famous novel at this point?

Endless Night is one of my favorite Christies because it is vastly different than any of her other novels; one of the things that is the most amazing about Christie is she basically did everything first. Endless Night is more Gothic in style and tone; bordering on the noir side. I didn’t get very far into reading it yesterday before it was time to go get our weekend treat (a deep dish pizza from That’s Amore) and then we watched an Andy Samberg mock-documentary, Never Stop Never Stopping, which was really funny, and then it was time for a few episodes of Ozark, which continues to amaze and enthrall us. The way it’s shot is superb, the cinematography Oscar level, and both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are killing it in their performances; they should be frontrunners for next year’s Emmys. And the Lake of the Ozarks is almost as much a character as the actors themselves, as well as the stunning beauty of the area. And, of course, tonight is Game of Thrones.

I didn’t get as much cleaning done as I would have liked yesterday, but I did reread some stories that need revision, and I think I may have figured out how to revise them and make them stronger; we shall see when I start working on them again, no? I’ve also still be digesting my reread of The Great Gatsby, and that’s a whole other entry in and of itself.

And on that note, I should get back to the spice mines. Here’s a Sunday hunk for you.

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Our Lips Are Sealed

Tuesday morning, and a good night’s sleep was had by all, and really, what a difference that makes! We got caught up on CNN’s The Nineties and The History of Comedy last night; retired earlier than usual, and I woke up on my own before the alarm this morning and I feel rested. I stretched yesterday as well; so my muscles are feeling better. I have some tightness in my back that was causing some pain–it has decreased since I started stretching. Paul gave me a massage for Christmas; I really need to find that gift certificate and make an appointment. I know that will also make a significant difference.

I started reading Harry Crews’ A Feast of Snakes yesterday; it was on a list of “Southern Gothics you must read” and I am…intrigued by it. It’s interesting…in some ways; borderline offensive in others. I’m going to wait until I finish reading it, of course, to make any definitive statements; the problems I am having with it have nothing to do with the actual writing. Crews is a very good writer, and has an excellent grasp of language, which keeps me reading…but he also has fallen into the trap so many people fall into when writing about rural Southern people–sumbitch. I fucking hate that colloquialism, in no small part because I’ve never heard anyone in real life actually say ‘son of a bitch’ that way. But it pops up in novels/fiction about the rural South all the time; even as writers don’t try to match the rhythm of the Southern accent, or how Southern people say certain words; you can always be sure they will say sumbitch.

It annoys the crap out of me.

I managed to get some work done on “A Holler Full of Kudzu” yesterday. It’s not coming along as easily as one might have hoped; I’ve worked on it a couple of days now, here and there, and have only about 1037 words. It’s also a mess; I realized yesterday that it’ll have to be reworked extensively on the next draft–but acknowledging that the story is kind of all over the place and messy was enormously helpful; for some reason, when I write short stories I am always trying to get it right the first time, taking more time than is probably necessary so I won’t have to revise extensively. Again, look at it as a messy house you need to clean and organize. So, today I am going to work on it some more without listening to that annoying voice in the back of my head trying to get it right the first time. I think it’s actually kind of a good story, buried in there amongst the dreck, and the key is to trim it down to the polished diamond from the rough.

I also reread “For All Tomorrow’s Lies” yesterday, and I know how to fix it for the second draft. It’s a much better story than I might have thought (I am really not the best judge of my own work, seriously); the difference between this draft and “Kudzu” is that “Lies” is more of an outline than overwritten and too long; I need to further explore the emotions and the character’s past and why she is so panicked in the grocery store in much greater depth (and with greater sympathy) than what I did already; the tension that will keep the story moving for the reader isn’t quite there yet. So strange that the same writer can approach writing two stories in such completely different ways, isn’t it? I’d like to get the draft of “Kudzu” finished this morning; there’s a couple of other stories I’d like to get initial drafts of done this week. I am going to most likely go through the WIP for the final coat of polish this weekend–there’s still some things that need to be added into it, I think, to make the conclusion work better, and then next week I can start working on a list of agents to send it to…heavy sigh.

I also read another one of Faulkner’s crime stories yesterday–“Monk”, which was so much more Faulkner-like than “Smoke” was; that macabre, grim Southern sense of humor and the gothic was running through this story; it sort of reminded me of Sanctuary, which I really need to read again (I say that a lot, don’t I? I can’t even keep up with my TBR pile, let alone all the re-reading I have to do. Heavy sigh.)

Okay, I need to get back to the story and straighten up this messy kitchen before I go to the office.

Here’s a Tuesday morning hunk for you, Constant Reader:

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Be With You

Tuesday morning, and I am not fully awake. I didn’t want to get up this morning–not that I ever do–but this morning was one of those whining, complaining and I just want to keep sleeping mornings. I never spring from the bed fully awake and revved up and ready to go; those days are long past, alas, but this morning was a bit harder than usual. Even coffee doesn’t seem to taste right this morning. It’s going to be, I fear, one of those days.

It was like pulling teeth, but I did finish my first (really bad) draft of “For All Tomorrow’s Lies” yesterday. That’s something, I think. It’s a mess, frankly, scattershot and all over the place, and clocked in at slightly less than four thousand words. Ideally, I think it needs to be between five and six, with me leaning more towards the longer end; but now I have a framework down to fix, so that’s something. I have another idea that I started working on over the weekend–the opening came to me out of nowhere; it’s one of those Alabama stories I like to write from time to time, and I suspect reading Tomato Red and the Faulkner short story “Smoke” had something to do with getting my mind into that particular gear. Unusually enough, it doesn’t have a title; I rarely write anything that doesn’t start with the title, and I haven’t the slightest idea of what the title would be, which puts me way outside of my comfort zone. The story itself is amorphous, a fog in my mind I need to take form, but I am going to start working on the rest of the story this morning. It’s grim–so much of what I’ve been doing lately has been grim–and I have to figure out what I am trying to say with the story. I think I know; it’s a tired old theme, but the beauty of writing is you can make tired old themes new and fresh again. We shall see. I probably have a title somewhere scribbled down that would be perfect for the story.

Uncharted territory! Writing something that has no title! Madness.

We got caught up on Season 2 of Animal Kingdom last night, and this show is very addictive. I don’t understand why it’s not better known, or generating more buzz. Ellen Barkin is fantastic, the young men who play her sons are terrific (and hot) as well, and the writing is pretty crisp. I think we’ll get caught up on Claws next, and then Orphan Black. We can’t decide if we want to give Will  a shot or not. We may be going to see Spiderman Homecoming this weekend, as well.

All right, I think it’s time to get back to my story. Here’s a hunk for your Tuesday:

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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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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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