Livin’ on a Prayer

Good morning, and a happy Sunday to you all.

LSU pummeled Northwestern State 65-14 last night; they were sluggish in the first half on both offense and defense, allowing the score to be 24-14 at halftime and me wondering if this was some kind of terrible, awful, no-good let down after last weekend’s big game. Never fear–Joe Burrow came out on fire in the second half. LSU scored on it’s four possessions of the third quarter to go up 44-14, adding three more scores in the final period with back-up quarterback Myles Brennan (who also looked fantastic, which is good news for the next two years of LSU football as well), and had the game well in hand. Northwestern State maybe got three first downs total in the second half? But it was amazing to see LSU score 41 points in a half. I never thought I’d ever see the day when that happened, and yet…here we are.

I managed to get the Lost Apartment relatively cleaned up yesterday, and worked on some writing that’s due soon, but have a lot more writing to do today. I am having coffee with my friend Lisa this morning before she leaves town heading home for Atlanta, but after that I need to come home, strap my ass into my desk chair, and finish writing everything that needs to get done today. The essay is the most important thing for me to get done as it is due today; I struggled with it yesterday but I know what I want to say in it but have to figure out how to order the points I am trying to make with it. That is a lot harder than it sounds, and I really want this to be a good essay. I have remarkably little confidence in my ability to write anything, but the scars from college about essays run even deeper than the ones for short stories. But, as my friend Laura always reminds me, my blog is a short daily personal essay, and I have been writing these almost every day for the last fifteen years–which is a terrifying thought, really. I don’t write one of these every day–although I do try–but even if I only do 200 per year….that’s 3000 of these.

Three thousand.

So, yeah, I’m not precisely sure why I still get imposter syndrome about anything to do with writing, other than basic insecurity. The insecurity is something I am trying to work on; it’s an on-going process, obviously. I mean, if I still get imposter syndrome about writing fiction–after all the books and short stories and awards and nominations–obviously it runs very deep in me. I’m not sure why that is–most likely because of the never feeling like I fit in that developed as a gay child–but there you have it. It’s not comforting that other writers experience it as well, although it does help somewhat to know I’m not alone in this.

Okay, sorry to be so brief, but I’ve really got to get to work. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

386346_440434689341653_1980206424_n

Superstition

And today is the last day of THIS vacation.

Heavy heaving sigh. Tomorrow is back to reality; to getting up at six in the morning and two twelve-hour days to kick off my return to work. Hurray. Huzzah. Meh, it’s a good thing i have a day job, frankly, no matter how much I whine about having one. If it weren’t for that, I’d only leave the house for the grocery store and other errands or to go to the gym, and the human contact is kind of necessary, not only for my sanity but for my writing. How can you write about people if you never encounter or interact with any?

Plus, I love my day job, so there’s that, too.

I had a horrible bout of Imposter Syndrome over the last two days and I am not sure what triggered it, to be honest. I did have that lovely time on social media on Friday, which helped a lot, but it came roaring back yesterday even uglier than it had been on Friday; so I finished reading Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek, which is still resonating in my mind today, it’s that good. There was so much there, so much to unpack, so many things I find myself wishing I’d talked about when I talked about the book yesterday. Seriously, people, you need to read this book and see for yourself what an accomplishment it was.

I did write a little bit yesterday morning before the Imposter Syndrome kicked in; and no, it wasn’t on the WIP or any other in-progress manuscript (novel or short story) I have on hand; I wrote the opening for Chlorine, and then my mind went into a spiral about who my main character was, why he was the main character, and what his story was…and while my mind was in that creative loop, it became time to run the errands. It was when I returned from the errands and put everything away and sat back down that it started. Who knows? I’ve tried figuring it out over the years, and think it’s a combination of things.

I didn’t, as expected, accomplish remotely nearly enough as I’d planned over the course of this five day vacation, but at the same time I think the rest–both physically and mentally (creatively and emotionally) was absolutely necessary in order for me to move ahead and get things done. Unstructured days, such as these have been, aren’t good for me–I need to stick to rules and scheduling and routine; when I fall out of structure I don’t seem to get nearly as much done as I do when I have loads to do. Funny how that works, isn’t it? And when I have unstructured time, I tend to look at all the things I have to do and get overwhelmed by them, to the point of paralysis at first, shortly thereafter followed by well there’s no way I can get this all done so why trying? 

And that, my friends, is how the spiral starts. It’s often followed by if you don’t want to write how can you call yourself a writer? 

Self-destructive, isn’t it?

So, on this the last day of my vacation, I am going to try to get as much done as I can before I go to bed. I need to do some cleaning upstairs, I need to do some writing and filing and organizing downstairs, and I need to finish cleaning out my email inbox. I also need to spend the rest of the day focusing in, laser sharp, on what I need to get done. I think part of the problem I”m having (besides the inability to stick to a schedule) is the lack of list and long/short term goals; I’m not entirely sure what I’ve promised to do when, and I really need to write all of that down and get it on the calendar so I can start getting shit done, you know?

I did remember yesterday I’d promised to write an introduction to the rerelease of an old Jay B. Laws novel, The Unfinished, but I don’t remember what it’s about or anything about it; I’m not entirely certain I ever read it in the first place. I know I read his debut novel, Steam, which is one of my favorite queer novels, and favorite horror novels, of all time, and I really should reread it at some point.  But my copy of The Unfinished is on the end table near my easy chair, along with other things I need to read, and so perhaps, once I’ve accomplished all that I need to get done today, I can repair to the chair and read for a bit. I know I can’t write about the book until I’ve reread it.

I also have to get the proof corrections written up and turned in today as well.

And on that note, perhaps it’s time to head back into the spice mines. Wish me luck, Constant Reader! I may check in again later on.

IMG_1678

Miracles

I thought I was finished with the downward spiral into Imposter Syndrome I experienced yesterday, but I wasn’t.

So I walked away from my computer, ran errands, and came home to finish reading Angie Kim’s exceptional debut novel, Miracle Creek,

miracle creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie. He probably didn’t even consider it a lie, and neither did I, at first. It was just a small thing, what he wanted. The police had just released the protestors, and while he stepped out to make sure they weren’t coming back, I was to sit in his chair. Cover for him, the way coworkers do as a matter of course, the way we ourselves used to at the grocery store, while I ate or he smoked. But as I took his seat, I bumped against the desk, and the certificate above it went slightly crooked as if to remind me that this wasn’t a regular business, that there was a reason he’d never left me in charge before.

Pak reached over me to straighten the frame, his eyes on the English lettering: Pak Yoo, Miracle Submarine LLC, Certified Hyberbaric Technician. He said–eyes still on the certificate, as if talking to it, not to me–“Everything’s done. The patients are sealed in, the oxygen’s on. You just have to sit here.” He looked at me. “That’s it.”

I looked over the controls, the unfamiliar knobs and switches for the chamber we’d painted baby blue and placed in this barn just last month. “What if the patients buzz me?” I said. “I’ll say you’ll be right back, but–“

“No, they can’t know I’m gone. If anyone asks, I’m here. I’ve been here the whole time.”

And that lie, that simple little lie, opens Angie Kim’s amazing debut, Miracle Creek, which is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, if not one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years.

Miracle Creek is and isn’t a legal thriller. The present-day setting of the book is a trial; but it’s also more than that, if that makes sense. A woman is on trial for setting a fire that results in two deaths and several bad injuries–it’s a lot more complicated than that, technically; it has to do with an alternative therapy in which people with chronic issues, such as autism or cerebral palsy or, in one case, low sperm count, are put into a submarine like contraption and gradually subjected to the same kind of pressure you’d get several fathoms down while breathing pure oxygen. The pressurization and the pure oxygen theoretically will help with these “incurable” conditions. The owner of the business, Miracle Submarine in Miracle Creek, Virginia, is a Korean immigrant named Pak Yoo; his wife and daughter help with the business. Someone starts a fire that ignites one of the oxygen tanks and sends flames through the tubes which supply the “submarine” passengers with air to breath, and there’s ultimately an explosion.

Elizabeth, the divorced mother of an autistic son, Henry, chose not to go into the tank with her son that night; her son is one of the victims. She also chose that night to rearrange the way everyone is seated inside, guaranteeing that her son was one of those attached to the tank that goes up and is killed. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to point to her guilt, and she is arrested and put on trial.

Mary Yoo, the daughter, is also blown up and scarred; she also goes into a coma for two months.

The book also bounces around from multiple points of view; all in the first person, and juggling these points of view, different voices and different experiences, is not an easy thing to do; Kim, in her debut novel, manages this with extraordinary skill.

This method of telling the story also allows Kim to share the true story of what happened that night, how one lie can lead to another, and how circumstances can all come together in a horrifying instant–if this hadn’t happened or she hadn’t done this or he had decided to do this, all of this could have been avoided–this randomness that can lead to tragedy, is horrific to contemplate but all too horrifyingly realistic and true.

Going inside the heads of different characters also allows Kim to explore multitudes of themes, all grouped together under the heading of parenting.

One of Stephen King’s greatest gifts as a writer, I have always felt, is how he is completely unafraid to take risks with who his characters are; he isn’t afraid to expose those horrible thoughts his characters have and the guilt that comes with those thoughts and feelings; it makes his characters come to life in a way less skilled writers can only dream about; Kim does the same, making her characters so real in their ugliness and their guilt, unafraid to show that parenting is an ugly job that sometimes has wonderful benefits but  showing how the day-to-day grind can sometimes wear a person down into saying or thinking things that are only too human but too horrible to contemplate or share with anyone else, that sense of resentment that is only too human but also too horrible to let anyone else know.

Her portrayal of the Korean immigrants, the racism they encounter, the fragile bonds of family that connect them yet also fray in a different world and culture than what they are used to, is overwhelmingly compelling.

On every level, the characters and their relationships–whether its husband and wife, mother and child, father and child–areas  layered and complex and complicated as the truth of the night of the tragedy.

All of the characters are flawed, all of them heartbreaking in their humanity, but perhaps the best, the strongest, the one who I will always remember, the one I keep coming back to is Elizabeth, single mother of an autistic only child, the defendant, whose humanity and heartbreak and guilt and suffering is almost too painful to contemplate, to read, and as the truth comes rushing out at the end…wow.

You’re only as sick as your secrets.

This book is amazing. I cannot recommend it enough.

Say You Love Me

Good morning, Monday, and a happy start of the work week to you, Constant Reader. I am awake this morning and not groggy; not sure how that bodes for the rest of the day thus far; that remains to be seen. But I survived another weekend, managed to get some writing done, and feel better than I seem to recall feeling on a Monday morning. We’ll see how this all plays out in the end, won’t we?

I do feel better about the WIP this morning; I suspect all the Imposter Syndrome feelings of the weekend had to do with how much trouble I seem to be having getting going on it and working on it every day. Which, to be fair to myself, isn’t really all that surprising–anytime something is more difficult than it should be, one tends to question one’s self–but I am not sure if I have gotten to the root of the entire problem; why is it so difficult for me to get to work on this book? Why is it taking me so long to get it written? Does that mean I shouldn’t be writing it, and should be working on something else? Mayhap, but that also doesn’t help in any way. I don’t feel like I should abandon this book until at least I have a first draft finished, and I was planning on abandoning it for a while after getting the first draft done in the first place, in order to do a final draft of another manuscript that has been languishing in a drawer for several years now (there’s another, even older, one in the same drawer). But if I devote May to getting this finished, then I can spend June and July working on the other and hopefully–hopefully–will get to start my next one before I have to take two months off for another project.

There are also some other things I am working on; half-heartedly and when I have the time and am not in the mood to do anything else–which means they aren’t getting done.

C’est la vie, and all of that.

I’ve got to stop procrastinating, and using my long days at work every week as an excuse to not do anything at all. Everyone is tired, everyone works, everyone has an excuse not to do anything, and not doing my writing isn’t helping make things better, you know? I have goals that I set that I want to accomplish this year, and not doing anything isn’t getting me any closer to achieving those goals. I may not be as driven as I was when I had more energy, but that doesn’t mean I want to just keep spinning my wheels. Taking the time away from writing was lovely, as is not having that horrible pressure of deadlines. But deadlines also kind of drive me, and setting personal ones doesn’t seem to be doing the trick…not sure, I guess I am going to need to see where the rest of this year goes to see if the experiment in pressure-release has actually worked or is actually working.

As for Game of Thrones last night…I am reserving judgment on this season until it’s over. I’ve been disappointed by the show before only to be proven wrong before, but yeah, last night’s episode…it’s hard to continue rooting for people who behave so stupidly, over and over again. At one point, as Dany and Jon were professing their (incestuous) love for each other and she was pleading with him to keep his true identity a secret…it was all very General Hospital, frankly, and when the scene was over Paul and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and said at the same time, “Team Cersei.”

They have two episodes left now, in which they have to bring what has been an incredibly thrilling ride to a close. The inevitability of disappointment with the ending has been with us since the very beginning, of course, and people are bound to be disappointed. But I was also disappointed with “The Long Night” episode slightly, until I rewatched it again on Friday night. Maybe this last episode will work better on a rewatch; I don’t know.

And on that note, I have to get ready for work.

168422_156539761064029_100001240186267_320184_4390891_n

Welcome Back

I managed fourteen hundred words today, and then came up blank. I hate when that happens, but I just can’t force the creativity, you know? And those fourteen hundred words were hard to do, frankly. But I printed out the next chapter (Chapter Seven, to be exact) and will reread that at some point before getting to work on it, perhaps later, before Game of Thrones airs. I am planning on making this weird combination Swedish meatball/beef stroganoff dish for dinner (I’ve made both, and then one time when I was making Swedish meatballs later I realized I’d used the stroganoff recipe, but you know what? I also liked it. A lot. And I’ve made it that way ever since) later, and the kitchen is relatively clean already (and my goal is to leave it clean when I finish cooking; the worst thing is to go into my two long days at work with a messy kitchen, knowing it will most likely stay that way, getting worse, until Thursday–unless I somehow have more energy during the week than I usually do). I’ve filed stuff, cleaned the floors, paid the bills, made groceries, mailed things that needed to be mailed, and I wrote fourteen hundred words on the WIP today before running out of steam. Perhaps someday I’ll work my way back up to those halcyon days of three thousand or more I used to do routinely, but having a nice, relaxing weekend where I am actually able to get started writing and get caught up on things and have a clean home is a lovely way to start, don’t you think?

I certainly do.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones when it ends, and I doubt very seriously I will ever go back and watch the entire series again. It’s a tempting thought, to be honest, to devote several months to rewatching it in full, from episode one to its conclusion, in one massive binge and think about what I am watching, in terms of what I know is going to happen and watching for possible foreshadowing. I’ve always loved history, and that’s part of why I love Game of Thrones so much; it’s kind of like history where you don’t know how it all ends. When I was a kid I used to redraw maps of Europe and create countries and change the way wars ended and try to create my own Eurocentric history of the world; who knew that what I was actually doing wasn’t simply a waste of time but rather an incredibly creative experiment in world building via alternative history. Every so often, when I’ve been caught up in a science fiction or fantasy epic series, I wonder at the world building/universe building creativity of the author and think I could never do that. I’ve always wanted to, but never have; but perhaps that was simply a failing of my own. Of course I could do it, but whether I could do it well would be an entirely different thing.

I don’t read as much science fiction and fantasy as I would like–I’ve always geared more towards crime and horror–but I’ve certainly read and enjoyed the Dune series, The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Shannara Chronicles, and Azimov’s science fiction novels about the robots and the empire and the Foundation, which wound up in the end all being one great big long series. There are writers out there now that I am looking forward to reading–I am not only diversifying the types of stories I read by race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, and sexuality, but I am also trying to read more broadly across genres. Reading science fiction, fantasy, romance, even what is condescendingly called “chick lit”, and even some literary fiction will influence me and help make me a better writer in the long run. I read primarily for enjoyment, yes, but I also want to be a better writer, and reading different stories and different perspectives can only serve to make me a better writer.

I guess in reality when the show ends I won’t be saying goodbye completely to Game of Thrones; I still have the books to finish reading, and there will undoubtedly be spin-off shows–but seriously, is anyone at HBO listening? Your next big series should be Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern. Her dragon books would be fantastic television, and for that matter so would Naomi Norvik’s (which I need to read; I started reading one a long time ago and was completely enthralled; something came up and I never finished and I never got back to it, and I’ve always regretted that).

I am also, in case you haven’t noticed, not only in that stage of writing where I never want to do it, have to force myself to do it, but when I finally do I am not happy with what I have done. I am completely convinced this book isn’t going to be what I want it to be, what I envisioned it to be, and its entirely due to my own various shortcomings as an author. It’s all part and parcel of the same neurosis, really; the endless cycle of Imposter Syndome, where you think you’ve somehow managed to con people for years that you can write but eventually the gig will be up and the marks you’ve been conning all along will finally wise up. This all too frequently translates I need to work today into what’s the point of writing? This book is shit, anyway, and no one is going to want to read it which very easily becomes let me get watch Youtube videos of Game of Thrones fan theories and listicles or highlights of exciting LSU football games or really hot well built muscular professional wrestlers or old music videos or clips from old episodes of All My Children–yes, those downward Youtube spirals can be quite frightening sometimes.

But I did make myself get those fourteen hundred words done today, even though I didn’t want to do it, even though I thought I should do three thousand, even though I currently think the words I wrote are crap and the chapter is crap and the character is two dimensional and I don’t know what I am doing, I FUCKING WROTE THOSE GODDAMNED WORDS TODAY.

And that’s fourteen hundred more words than I did yesterday, or Friday, or Thursday.

And I bet tomorrow I can do more than fourteen hundred.

Watch closely now.

What do I say to the God of Imposter Syndrome? NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT TODAY.

156114_144283128956359_100001240186267_247771_2024581_n

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.

25432_378857561357_104531801357_3657524_2686597_n

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Last night when I got home from work I was so tired I literally repaired to the easy chair almost immediately, while a purring cat in my lap. I kept dozing off while I waited for Paul to get home, and finally, once he did make it through the front door, I gave up any pretense of being awake still and went directly to bed. I didn’t want to get up this morning (no different than any morning, really, other than it’s dark and rudely early), and would be more than happy to go straight back to bed for another few hours.

I did manage to revise the first chapter of the WIP yesterday; first chapters are always the hardest to do, quite frankly, and so I always end up spending the most time on them. The trick is to introduce your main character without a lot of explanation and back story–the temptation to write an entire chapter of back story is always, always present, and must be resisted; there’s no easier way to lose a reader than explaining back story….but there has to be enough for the chapter to make logical sense to the reader as well. It’s a balancing act; one that I’m not quite sure I’ve managed, but at least today I get to move on to Chapter Two.

Tonight I have to not only pack for the weekend but also continue to move perishable things over to the carriage house. I think the last thing I’m going to do is move things to the back of the car–the cat food, etc.–and since I’m not taking the car to the Quarter for the weekend (the cost of parking down there is absolutely insane) that should work. It’s also going to be a struggle getting Scooter into his travel kennel to take him to the Kitty Spa Friday morning; it’s usually a two-person job, and since he’s a Daddy’s kitty, not having Daddy to help me is going to make it a battle royale, I fear. I also have a doctor’s appointment Friday afternoon that I couldn’t reschedule before July (!), so it looks like the most likely progression here will be drop off the cat, drive back over here, and call a Lyft to take me to the Quarter, then grab another Lyft to the doctor, and take the streetcar back from there.

Madness; a weekend’s worth of utter and complete madness.

But I am feeling better about things; the lovely comments from people about my story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s plus getting some good revision done yesterday has me feeling better about my career and my ability to write again; it’s been a hot minute since I felt good about anything having to do with my writing, so it’s kind of lovely to have some confidence again. Or rather, restore the low confidence I’ve had most of my career. Writing is insane in that way; maybe the big names like Harlan Coben and Jeff Abbott and Lisa Scottoline and Karin Slaughter don’t ever suffer from Imposter Syndrome, but it’s really an integral part of my personality. I’ve had it about everything–not just writing. I constantly question, and have my entire life, whether I am good at my job (whatever it may have been at the time) or whether I am a hard worker or how clean my house is or whether I actually can write or if I am just somehow managing to cost by somehow, being read by non-discerning readers who can’t tell that I’m not a good writer.

And around and around and around it goes.

I started reading Samantha Downing’s wonderful My Lovely Wife yesterday on my lunch break, and it’s really really good. I am looking forward to moderating our “whodunit” panel this Saturday; hope to see you there.

And now back to the spice mines–because if I know anything, it’s that spice won’t mine itself.

38783121_10150999771059997_8562736763137687552_n