I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby

I wrote twenty-three hundred and sixty-six words yesterday; a rather precise amount, I admit, but I am rather proud of them, as I’ve not written anything new in nearly two weeks, I think.

It was also new, nothing do with any of the many works in progress I am in the midst of; it was one of those things where the idea came to me, and I knew how to write the chapter, so I sat down and I did lest I forget it. I also wanted to see if I could get the voice right, the tone, and all of that. I think it kind of works, but I am going to let it sit for a moment or two (or weeks) and see what I think of it then.

It’s the first chapter of Chlorine, which is a start. Probably not what I needed to be writing or working on, but

I do want to get back to the WIP–and I’m not really sure why I keep calling it that. Why am I superstitious about sharing the title of this book? I like the title, and I believe I have even mentioned it before. I originally had the idea a million years ago, when I was a little boy. My grandmother–the not sane one–used to love to tell me stories about the past; she always swore on the Bible the stories were true, but I’ve long suspected that most of them were invented or stories she read somewhere–she did like to read, and encouraged both my sister and I to also read. I never wrote the stories she told me down, but I do remember bits and pieces of them, and one of those bits and pieces became a short story I wrote in college called “Ruins.” I wrote it as a ghost story, weaving what I remembered from my grandmother’s story into a modern-day story in a fictional county based on the one my family is from (I also planned to do a lot of writing about this fictional county when I was in college…I have published some work about the county; it’s where Scotty’s sorta-nephew Taylor is from and where Frank’s sister lives. It’s where my main character from Dark Tide  was from, and also where “Smalltown Boy” was set, along with various other short stories, like “Son of a Preacher Man”…so I’m using some of those old ideas today. There are also any number of short stories in some form of completion set there, and the current WIP is, of course, set there). I always thought “Ruins” (still unpublished) could be expanded into a pretty decent novel, and that’s what I am currently working on, have been for the last few months. I no longer call it “Ruins”–that title has already been used multiple times for a novel, and why invite comparison–but when I needed a new title, I wanted something more poetic. I started looking through poems (can you imagine? I know so little about poetry it’s staggering) and wanted something Barbara Michaels-ish. I decided to riff on her title Be Buried in the Rain, which is from a poem, and then a lyric from The Band Perry’s song “If I Die Young” stuck in my head, and I started using that as the title, Bury Me in Satin. But that didn’t really work or fit, and it evolved into Bury Me in Shadows, which had the right creepy, spooky, Gothic feel to it that I wanted, that I am trying to get in the book. It’s a ghost story of sorts, it’s set in the woods of rural central-western Alabama, and there’s a ruin of a plantation back in the woods, which an archaeological team from the University of Alabama has started excavating. There’s a legend about the “lost boys” around the ruins; two boys who disappeared during the Civil War. I’m also working rural drug addiction into it, as well as the Klan, and racism and homophobia. It’s a lot, and it has to been done correctly, in order to get the points across that I want to make in the book. This is why it’s been such a slog, really. I am trying to make points about important topics without sounding too preachy-teachy, while trying to weave in an interesting story, all told from the point of view of a rather intelligent gay teenager from Chicago, who has to spend the summer in Alabama being the point person for the family while his grandmother, who has had several strokes, dies in her own crumbling Victorian style home from the late nineteenth century, and then the archaeologists discover the skeleton of a young man. Is he one of the lost boys from the Civil War, or is there something more sinister going on back in the woods?

I’m trying to write about race sensitively, without giving offense. I am trying to be conscious of my own internalized prejudices and bigotries, which is sadly a life-long process of deprogramming. (But that’s a subject for another time.) But I am hopeful that my own keen editorial eye will catch things in the editing process, and there’s also going to be my editor’s eyes on it. So, hopefully it won’t turn out to be yet another sad white person’s attempt to deal with race that turns out to be problematic.

I am also writing it in a style different than what I usually use–first person present tense, and it’s obvious when I reread chapters I’ve written that it’s not my default; I slip into the past tense very easily and naturally and because I’m so used to writing that way it’s easy for me to miss things in the wrong tense.

I’m up early because today returns normality to my life; this is my first work week that won’t be disrupted this month. First it was a brief vacation, and of course last week was disrupted by Barry. I got very little accomplished over the last few days–storm disruptions make it very hard to focus or get anything done, frankly; as you wait for the storm you don’t want to start anything in case you lose power suddenly, plus there’s the weird tension of waiting for the unexpected. When I walked to Touro to get my car yesterday and run by the grocery store, it was strange; the city was still deserted and lifeless. There were a few cars out driving but not the usual amount of people out and about on a Sunday, even in the rain. I actually think we got more rain yesterday than we did from the storm on Saturday, frankly. I was soaked by the time I got to the car–$21 is a very low price to pay to keep your car safe, to be honest–and of course, everything at the grocery store was on sale because it was old and ripe; I got a great deal on two enormous smooth avocados, and there were still some Creole tomatoes out, but the grocery store was still depleted from people stocking up for the storm. I came home, we got caught up on Animal Kingdom, and last night we watched The Spy Who Dumped Me, a cute comedy starring Mila Kunis and Kate MacKinnon. I love both women, and they worked very well together, and the plot was clever and funny enough to hold my attention, but it could have been better–but it was mostly the charisma of the two women, and their chemistry together, that made the film enjoyable.

So, wish me well on my first full week of work this month. It’s gray and drizzly outside my windows this fair morning; I’m hoping my shoes have dried out from yesterday as well. (note to self: order new shoes, you’re due.)

And now back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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Moonlight Feels Right

And just like that, it’s now Tuesday.

Yesterday, rather than my long day, I only had to put in seven hours rather than eleven. (I work half-days on Friday, but it was a holiday so got paid for eight, which meant four hours had to go from somewhere; Monday was the easiest choice for the testing schedule) I worked on the WIP and faced up to the fact that the reason I didn’t work on it Sunday was because the next chapter to revise (Chapter Four, to be exact) really needs to begin with a nightmare and the main character being woken up from it by a thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Heavy sigh. I was resistant to writing the nightmare scene  because it felt lazy to me; I’ve done the woken-from-a-nightmare-by-a-thunderstorm in several books now, and it’s kind of become a trope in my works that have a touch of the paranormal to them–I think I even did this in The Orion Mask, which didn’t have anything of the paranormal to it.

I hate being aware of tropes in my own work…my own personal tropes?

I am sure this has something to do with getting a D on a story for that wretched writing instructor (the one who told me I’d never be published) that included a dream; take that, asshole professor who has never published anything; another novel by me in print with a dream sequence.

But in this case, the nightmare is necessary foreshadowing, not just lazy writing (or so I am convincing myself, at any rate). I need to create a mood in the book, and the nightmare plays into this feeling that something just isn’t right at my main character’s grandmother’s house. I’ve also worried that the story is too similar to Lake Thirteen, that I might be repeating myself, but I think that is also part of writing another ghost story. I’ve already written one, and so there’s always going to be the fear that I am just retelling the same story again. It isn’t quite the same story, but there are enough similarities that I delayed writing this book for a very long time because I simply assumed they were too much alike. But that’s also the challenge of writing this one, and why I decided to go ahead and write it: for the challenge of writing another ghost story without repeating the same story and scenes.

I suppose once I finish writing this draft I should probably reread Lake Thirteen just to be on the safe side. It’s been years since I wrote and published that particular book and so it’s entirely possible my creative mind could be taking shortcuts. But this is a more complicated and complex book than Lake Thirteen; it’s also a lot more ambitious. I am trying something with the voice I’ve never done before–first person present tense–and that is, in and of itself, hard to keep track of and it’s very easy to slip into past tense, which is my usual go-to. Again, trying to challenge myself with this voice and character and tense; we shall see how it works out, I suppose.

Thirty-odd books and a ridiculous amount of short stories later, and it never gets any easier. Oh, the self-doubt and constant evaluation of my abilities as a writer…it never goes away, and it’s something I’m trying really hard to work around and ignore. I think part of the reason I am so bad about self-promotion is tied not only into the entire concept of modesty that I was raised to believe in but the self-doubt and self-deprecation that comes along with who I am as a person.

It’s a wonder I’m not in a strait-jacket.

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

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