You Keep Me Hanging On

LSU won big yesterday, beating Utah State 42-6 with their lowest point total of the year thus far–and it’s probably an indication of how quickly Joe Burrow and this offense is spoiling LSU fans this year that at one point in the game, I said aloud, they are really playing sloppy this game. The score was 28-6 in the third quarter–and even as the words came out of my mouth I thought, wow, Greg–they have a 22 point lead in the third quarter and you’re complaining that they are playing sloppy. Next week is the first big SEC test of many–Florida, fresh off a 24-13 win at home over Auburn (another future opponent)–and that will probably be a good read on how the rest of the season is going to go.

I was tired yesterday, very tired. I stayed in bed longer than I usually do and my sleep wasn’t that much more restless than usual, but by ten o’clock last night I was dragging. I finally went to be around ten thirty, and got up this morning just before nine. I feel very rested and refreshed this morning, which is lovely–because there’s a lot for me to do today on the agenda. It wasn’t that bad, all told–rather than writing as much as I wanted to do, I instead made some serious progress on cleaning around the Lost Apartment–reorganizing books and so forth. I also started rereading Bury Me in Shadows, which is actually a lot more complete than I thought it was; it’s also a lot more creepy than I thought–see what a different putting something away for a while can make? It still needs revising, though, and there’s more things that need to be added to it along the way, but I am overall pretty pleased with what I’ve gotten down on the page so far. I also did a little bit of work on “Never Kiss a Stranger”–now that I’ve decided it’s a novella more than a short story, it works a lot better because I’m not worried about keeping it to less than six thousand words. I was also thinking yesterday that maybe I could do a collection of novellas. Novellas are hard to place anywhere, after all, and while it’s not a bad idea to self-publish them on Amazon, maybe it does make more sense to put them together into a collection of four, like Stephen King does periodically.

I also started my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson yesterday, and even as I marveled at her wonderful grasp of word usage, sentence structure, mood, and character, I couldn’t help but wonder, really, how one would classify Shirley Jackson’s work? It’s not really horror,  although the book is absolutely terrifying; and she didn’t really do much other work that could fall into the horror category. Her short stories are quite marvelous; and while We Have Always Lived in the Castle is also terrific, I don’t know that it could be called horror, either. Eleanor, our main character in The Haunting of Hill House, is probably one of the most fascinating and complex characters I’ve ever encountered in horror; the book is also an amazing character study. I would kill to be able to create the kind of mood Jackson created in this book…I am trying to create a mood in Bury Me in Shadows, and am not entirely certain I’ve succeeded. But just glancing through the pages yesterday, I definitely got the sense that the book is, as I said earlier, in much better shape than I originally thought; there’s definitely some revisions that need to be made and changes, but I am very pleased with it so far.

I am also glad I decided to try to get the revision of this squeezed into October rather than trying the Kansas book, which needs a lot more structured revision and needs to have a new ending. One of the things I’ve realized about the Kansas book is that I have crammed every conceivable stereotype into the book about high school you can imagine. Football players and cheerleaders? Check. Homecoming? Check. Mean girls and jock assholes? Check. Poor kids who see sports as their only way out of the stifling, dying small town they live in? Check. The primary problem with the book is that in trying to upend and subvert those stereotypes I unfortunately played into them, which is lazy writing. There were so many other things I wanted to examine in this book and somehow didn’t manage to do; class and poverty, the haves and the have nots, and so forth. I’ve also worked harder and longer on this fucking book than I have any other that was published, so there’s also that. But it’s that kind of authorial myopia that made me unable to see, all along, what I was doing, and of course there’s the innate stubbornness I always have about trying to make it work when it would be ever so much easier to scrap the shit and start over. There’s a short story I’ve been working on for a while–I’ve sent it out for submission and it’s been rejected every time. It’s called “The Problem with Autofill,” which I think is a genius title, but it’s also the problem with the story. I’ve been trying to make that story fit the title, and the only way to do so is to create a situation that literally makes no logical sense–even I have thought to myself why would anyone do anything so fucking stupid? The answer is obviously to change the title, eliminate the need to make it fit said title, and then turn it into something more creepy and dark and wicked….and yet why am I only now deciding/accepting/realizing this?

Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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Lost in Emotion

And somehow we’ve managed to make it to Thursday again, which is a lovely thing to contemplate.

I have to say, it was lovely to get back into writing and editing mode this week, having not had the time or energy for the last few weeks; much as I always seem to loathe writing while i’m actually doing it, it’s always enormously satisfying when I do it. I also tend to be more on the side of depression and so forth when I am not writing, or don’t have the time to; writing, much as I always seem to be loathe to do it, always somehow evens out my personality and blunts the edges somewhat.

I should put that on a sticky note and glue it to the wall above my computer, really.

Much as I want to get back to the Kansas book, I think I’m going to start revising Bury Me in Shadows instead. There are simply too many versions and too many changes that need to be made on the Kansas book–so many that I don’t think there’s any way I could get the draft finished by the end of this month, whereas Bury Me in Shadows is more solid. It needs some language correction, obviously, and more character development and there are more things that need to be woven into the text of the story, but I think that’s far easier than the massive overhaul the Kansas book needs–which means probably a draft to overhaul it and then another draft to correct it, and there’s simply no way I’d be able to get that done this month. I probably–because of my laziness and my tendency to be distracted by shiny objects–won’t get it finished this month, either, but a good strong push might just do the trick. One never knows.

I also want to work on “Fireflies” and “Never Kiss a Stranger” this month, and I’d like to get some other short stories polished and out to markets as well.

I finished reading James Gill’s Lords of Misrule yesterday (more on that later) and have started reading Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, which is interesting–but at the same time, since it’s an old book it’s filled with questionable language and attitudes towards people of color–always an issue when you’re reading an old book about New Orleans (Voodoo in New Orleans, also by Robert Tallant, is another one of those)–which also made me think about the problems of doing historical research. Newspapers, the go-to in the archives, have not always been the bastions of truth and integrity we assume them to be today (although…), which of course means the only actual reporting on things is probably heavily biased (Lords of Misrule in particular pointed out how horribly biased the newspapers of the times could be, particularly in regards to trumpeting the values of white supremacy), which blurs and muddies the truth. But I am really enjoying my trip into my favorite city’s often horrific and terribly bloody history; there are times when I wonder if there’s some kind of weird curse of some sort on this city–similar to the town of Derry in Stephen King’s It, where horrible things happen….and then everyone just moves on like it never happened. I’d never realized how brilliant that aspect of It was; King tried to explain that away as part of the power of Pennywise…but it’s actually a terrible honest truth about humanity: we tend to move on from bad things and eventually lock them away into the darkest parts of our minds.

I slept pretty well last night, only waking up once or twice, and feel pretty rested this morning, which is lovely. I have to put in eight hours at the office today, but we aren’t doing clinic, just walk-in testing, which means it won’t be as busy as it usually is. I’m still trying to get adjusted to switching my eight hour shift from Wednesday to Thursday; I keep thinking it’s Thursday on Wednesday, and then today I’ll keep thinking it’s Wednesday. *eye roll to infinity* It’s really strange how much routine in my life I have, and how much comfort I actually draw from said routine.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but hey, there you go.

All right, time to get ready to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Monday morning. I don’t feel tired this morning; we’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we? The Saints won a squeaker last night, 12-10, but they did end up winning the game despite scoring no touchdowns–when was the last time that happened?–and I went to bed shortly thereafter. We continued watching The Politician, and predictably, it’s plot has became more scattered the deeper into the season we get, like so many other shows from Ryan Murphy. We’ re still watching because it’s entertaining enough, and the acting is top-notch, and we only have a few more episodes to go before it’s finished.

I also am almost finished reading James Gill’s Lords of Misrule, which will probably be finished tomorrow. I haven’t decided what my next fiction read will be just yet–I started pulling James Dickey’s Deliverance down from the shelves last night, but couldn’t make myself start reading it. I was quite young when I saw the movie–we saw it at the drive-in, and I don’t remember what the earlier feature was, but I do remember I fell asleep while it was playing and only woke up near the end, not knowing what had happened. Deliverance was one of those movies whose plot became a part of the zeitgeist; people today may not completely know where the reference comes from, but any time someone mentions being somewhere so rural “you can almost hear the banjoes”–it’s a reference to Deliverance. It also may be James Dickey the poet’s only work of fiction; I don’t know how true that is or isn’t, but it certainly used to be true.

I also finished watching episode three of Murder in the Bayou yesterday, which has also given me some ideas (along with the thinking about Deliverance) for my own book, Bury Me in Shadows, which is what I actually think I’m going to work on for the month of October. The Kansas book is still messing with my head. I can’t figure out what to do with the plot and there are so many different ways I could revise that story that I think it might be best to leave that mess alone for now. I still want to get it finished and out of my hair, but if I can’t decide precisely how to move forward with it, well, that makes it a little more difficult to get it finished.

I need to revise my short story today, and then give it some polish tomorrow before turning it in. It’s kind of a mess right now, but I am confident once I reread it today and make some notes, it’ll all fall into place for me. The pieces are all there, but they aren’t in the right place as of yet, and that’ll have to result in some moving of shit around to make the story more cohesive. I also need to work on that other story; I think I need to change its ending in order to make it more powerful.

And now it’s off to the shower to get ready for my day. It’s a long one, alas; but I am confident I can make it through to the other side.

Like there’s a choice or something. 😉

Happy Monday, Constant Reader!

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Didn’t We Almost Have It All?

Saturday dawns, and I have so much to do I feel like I should just stick my head in an oven and be done with it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) I have an electric oven so all that would do I burn my skin and melt my hair and–well, you get the point. But I must persevere; it all must get done, and I have no choice but to chomp down hard on the bullet and get to work.

One of my co-workers started reading the Scotty series this week, which is a weird confluence of my two vastly different worlds. On the one hand, it’s kind of lovely to talk to someone who is reading and enjoying my old work; on the other, it’s very strange because I have done a really good job of keeping my two worlds separate and independent of each other. I’ve always felt that doing this–as well as living in New Orleans–has kept my authorial ego in check; I’ve also always been more than a little amused at the dichotomy of going back to the day job from writer’s conferences or events–yes, last night you might have been eating in a really nice restaurant and drinking high end liquor, but today you are back to sticking people’s fingers and testing them for STI’s and talking to them about ways of protecting themselves in the future from getting any STI’s. It’s humbling, for one thing, and for another, it reminds me of what really matters when I need to be reminded every once in a while.

It looks like the massive volunteer project has finally, indeed, reached its inevitable and long-awaited end. I woke up to that news this morning, which means perhaps now I can get back to work on my writing in my free time. I need to finish two stories by Tuesday, and I also want to work on some other things, as I mentioned yesterday. Another project is being delayed at least a month, so I have October free now to finish up other things. I didn’t sleep very well last night, and I do have to run to make groceries at some point today–nothing major, just a quick run to pick up a few things–and I need to get some writing and cleaning done as well. I also want to sit down and reread Bury Me in Shadows at some point. I am thinking I need to decide which to work on this month–whether it’s the Kansas book or Bury Me in Shadows, and I also need to get a lot of reading done this coming month as well.

Time keeps slipping through my fingers.

Last night, Paul and I started watching The Politician on Netflix, and it really is something. It’s the first show of the Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk Netflix deal, and it is quite excellent–dark and campy and funny, with stunning performances out of everyone in the cast. I’ve never really been much of a Ben Platt fan–I do admire his singing voice–but he is killing it in the lead role on this show, as are Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange. The rest of the young cast, playing the high school students of St. Sebastian’s in Santa Barbara, are also perfectly cast and appealing in their roles. There’s also a lot of incredible eye candy for gay men and women; one of the things I do enjoy about Murphy/Falchuk shows is how they subvert the typical male gaze of most televisions shows and films; by hiring hot gorgeous actors and objectifying them rather than the women in the cast (see the shower scene in Episode 2 of American Horror Story: 1984). The young actor who plays River, David Corenswet, is one of the most beautiful young men I’ve ever seen; as are Trey and Trevor Eason, who play Platt’s brothers–twins who are basically soulless sociopaths but so incredibly beautiful. The show is full of surprising twists and turns, and goes into directions you’d never imagine; Paul and I were enthralled and binged through three episodes. Hopefully, the quality will continue. And Jessica Lange is probably heading for another Emmy win.

And we still haven’t watched Unbelievable yet, either.

It truly is a golden age of television, isn’t it?

There’s no LSU game today; so I am not so sure I’ll waste much time watching college football today. I did check the schedule to see who else is playing today, and may tune into the Ole Miss/Alabama game this afternoon while i clean around the living room; or I might not. We’ll see how the day progresses. But I definitely need to get some work done today–even though my mind is already switching to you can always do it tomorrow and you’re allowed a day off mindset that often results in me getting nothing done–and no small part of it has to do with the lack of deep sleep last night. I’ve not really had a good night’s sleep in over a week at this point, and I am beginning to despair that I ever will again.

All right, it’s time for me to get cleaned up and head down into the spice mines. Happy Saturday to all.

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Here I Go Again

Facing down yet another Monday like a beast.

I went to bed early last night–just watching the Nadal-Medvedev final in the US Open was exhausting, in addition to the emotional rollercoaster of the LSU-Texas game the previous night, and putting finishing touches on the volunteer project (we’ll be tying up loose ends all week, I suspect), and around nine-ish last night I was just worn out, and went to bed. I slept off and on all night–not sure how that’s going to play out today–but I guess we’ll see. I have two long days in a row for the first time in a few weeks, and I fear my body is no longer used to that abuse…but I guess we’ll see. Now that I have a half-day on Wednesday instead, it might make things easier for me in the middle of the week.

Here’s hoping, at any rate.

I printed out the first four chapters of the final rewrite of the Kansas book last night, and it’s better than I thought it would be–the chapters I’ve already done need some work, and I need to seed the rest of the story a bit more. I’m trying something different with it–just as I did in Bury Me in Shadows, which is first person present tense–I am trying to do this in a remote third person point of view in the present tense. I noticed that despite my attempts to keep it in present tense, I slipped into the past tense a number of times out of force of habit, which is one of the reasons why I am writing this in the present tense; I want to not only shake things up for me as a writer, but break the habits of doing things the same way every time. I want to continually push myself as a writer and as a story-teller, and the best way to do that is to expand and try different things, different styles, different methods of storytelling, different ways of presenting the narrative and writing different kinds of crime novels. Laura Lippman is a master of this; her last few novels have all been dramatically different in style, voice, tone, and presentation–After I’m Gone, Wilde Lake, Sunburn, and Lady in the Lake–there’s definitely a Lippman sensibility to them, but the stories and storytelling and construction of the books are all dramatically different. That’s kind of what I want to do with my own stand-alone novels; I’ll probably always come back to Scotty, and as I’ve said recently, there’s another Chanse novel I’m probably going to try to write sometime next year–but the entire point of the stand alones was to do different things and experiment with style as well as story and writing.

But now that all that’s left is wrap-up on the volunteer project–thank the Lord, you have no idea what an enormous venture this was–I can start getting caught up this week on everything else that has slid while I focused all of my prodigious energy on getting it finished. I love doing volunteer work; I often take things on that I shouldn’t, as they interfere with my writing and staying on top of everything else in my life, but I like helping out. One of the primary reasons I love my day job so much is because I feel like I’m helping people make positive changes in their life, and at the very least I am helping people get STI’s cleared up, if nothing else. I need to finish an essay by this weekend, and I have to finish a first draft of a short story that’s due by the end of the month. I’d also like to get some work on the Kansas book done–it may not be finished when I want it to be finished, but that’s also life, and I am certain I can get it finished, at the latest, in December. I also remembered I have a novella a publisher is interested in that I need to get to work on; it’s a long short story but there are any number of places where it can be expanded easily, and so I should be looking at that as well.

This has been, all in all, a pretty good year for me–I had a short story collection come out in the spring and a novel this month–and while I’d like to get both of these novels that are in progress finished and out by next year as well, I don’t think that’s going to happen, which is perfectly okay. Bury Me in Shadows took me a lot longer than I intended to get finished, and that’s perfectly okay; it happens. But I also think I can get a strong revision of it finished this December, and then I can get it turned in for January; a strong push and the Kansas book can be turned in at the end of January, and hopefully by then, doing a chapter a week,  I can also have a strong first draft of Chlorine finished as well. I also want to get more short stories written, as I would love nothing more than to have another collection out sooner rather than later. I’m also nominated for an Anthony Award for my short story “Cold Beer No Flies” from Florida Happens, which is pretty awesome; I sold my short story “This Town” to Murder-a-Go-Go’s (and the story was received pretty well by most reviewers; probably the most, and best, feedback after publication I’ve ever had on a short story) and I also sold my story “Moist Money” to Dark Yonder, which I’m pretty pleased about.

I’m still reading both Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, which I hope to have more time to read now that the volunteer project is under some sort of control, and  James Gill’s Lords of Misrule, which is giving me a rather pointed history of racism in New Orleans, and it’s not pretty. We New Orleanians know there’s still systemic racism here in the city, as well as individual racism, but the history of slavery and racism in New Orleans is unique to this place and different than everywhere else; we had an entire middle-class of free people of color before the war, who weren’t obviously slaves but had to show deference to white people and were segregated out of places frequented by whites; Barbara Hambly’s brilliant Benjamin January series, beginning with A Free Man of Color, and Anne Rice’s The Feast of All Saints, are excellent fictional representations of that weird second-class citizenship the free people of color of New Orleans and Louisiana experienced. It’s still appalling, though, to read about lynch mobs and murderers never brought to proper justice for their crimes. Stained in blood as it is, New Orleans has a fascinating history, and has always been one of the more interesting places in this country.

And tomorrow is officially my new book’s birthday! Huzzah!

And now back to the spice mines.

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Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose

Paul and I both stayed up way past our bedtimes last night, finishing the third season of Stranger Things. I had spent the afternoon finishing The Pacific on HBO streaming service (it’s really quite brilliant and moving and heartbreaking and horrifying; probably one of the best things about the horror of war I’ve ever seen, and how it wrecks the young men who fight them–if not physically, than psychologically). As such I slept later than I usually do this morning–much later than usual, which is obviously a problem as I have to go back to work tomorrow morning which means getting up extremely early. I’m not terribly concerned, however; it is what it is.

We never lost cable or power yesterday; and it didn’t even rain in our neighborhood until later in the evening; I think it was around eight-thirty that I got a tornado warning alert on my phone. I checked it out on my computer–it wasn’t for our area, but further downtown and in the lower river parishes, who also had overtopped levees and flooding. That was when I noticed it was raining outside. There wasn’t thunder or lightning, just rain. We’re still in a flash flood alert, but I think I’m going to go take a long walk in the rain and retrieve my car from the Touro parking lot, where I took it Friday afternoon just to be on the safe side. I need to stop at the grocery store, but I suppose it will also depend on if one’s open. I suspect the city is fairly operating normally again today, but I’ve also just woken up and am still on my first cup of coffee, so I could be wrong.

I managed to get absolutely nothing done over the course of the last four or five days; the city flooding and that aftermath, while trying to prepare for the arrival of a tropical storm/hurricane kind of drains you of most energy and your ability to focus. The waiting is also horrible, I might add, the wondering endlessly if you made the right decision or not, whether you should have fled when you had the chance, and so on. This is how it ever was, and how it ever will be. Paul and I were talking about this very thing on Friday, as we adopted our usual wait-and-see mentality. We have actually only evacuated twice; once for Katrina, and for Isaac (or was it called Ike?) in 2008. The other I storm left us without power for the week leading up to Labor Day in 2013, I think it was–I just remember we had tickets for the LSU game that Saturday, and the irony of sitting in the heat all day that Saturday after complaining all week that we didn’t have a/c or power, only to have it come on the night before was kind of the most Louisianan thing we’ve ever done.

I also feel that all of my friends and family deserve an apology for the horror that was the storm coverage all week, culminating in emails, texts, and posts/PM on social media. And admittedly, the arrival of hurricane sex symbol Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel here on Friday was not a good sign. New Orleans and tropical weather has been major news, alas, ever since the levees failed, and nothing gets clicks and views like apocalyptic headlines and news coverage. I’m sorry all the 24 hour channels and even some reputable news organizations decided to go down the terror route for everyone; I’m sorry you all had to be put through that kind of stress and worry on our behalf.  Don’t get me wrong, it makes my heart feel full that so many people nationwide care, not only about New Orleans, but about Paul and me and our friends and our lives here. Thank you for that. I just wish the media wouldn’t put you all through it…as we always say down here, this kind of coverage is what makes the really dangerous storms get not taken as seriously as they should be.

Paul and I are also very prudent, and cautious. In our twenty-odd years here, we’ve learned what to listen for and who to listen to; which local stations are dependable, which models of storm tracking to pay attention to, and we also aren’t ever locked into a decision–we make a decision based on the information available at the time, continue to check, and adjust decisions accordingly based on new information. We’re not meteorologists by any means, of course, and there’s always the possibility we’ll make a wrong decision–and your concerns and worries mean so much to us. Don’t ever think that’s not the case.

And once New Orleans is out of danger, it’s truly awful and sad to see how quickly the story dies…despite the damage that actually was wrought, and continues to be, from this storm system. New Orleans isn’t the only part of Louisiana that is below sea level, and protected from flooding by an at best iffy levee structure system. This system is going to continue to dump lots of water everywhere on its path, and it has the upper Mississippi valley, already in flood stage, square in its sights. Even as I type, the north shore is in tornado warnings, and there are also flood warnings for rivers on the north shore. The North Shore and the I-10 corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge were horribly, unexpectedly flooded several years ago–places that generally never flood, or at least, not often–and they are still recovering from that horror. (I think that was August 2016?) So, do keep those areas in your thoughts.

Storm days, as we call them down here–the free days off from work because of weather, the tropical version of Snow Days–aren’t conducive for getting anything done, at least not for me. Even though I ignore the doom-and-gloom news, and pay attention to the reports I’ve found reliable over the years (I still miss Nash Roberts!), there’s always that nagging sense in the back of your head, that horrible little voice whispering are you so sure? Are you so sure that not leaving is the right thing to do? That is, as you can imagine, emotionally draining and exhausting, and also makes it hard to focus on anything. I can never write or edit during these times; reading is often difficult as well. So I wind up watching a lot of television: this time, Band of Brothers (still unfinished), The Pacific, and Stranger Things. I did enjoy this third season of Stranger Things, even if there are enormous holes in the plot and things that didn’t make a lot of sense; but as entertainment it really did a great job–and it also introduced new characters to the cast seamlessly; not an easy task.

But I do think this enforced period of inactivity–in addition to my vacation the week prior–may have done some wonders are far as kicking my creativity back into gear, which is lovely. I think today–after getting the car and doing a minor grocery gathering–I may sit down with the first seventeen chapters of the WIP and reread them, making notes and figuring out the final act of the book so maybe, just maybe, I can get a strong, workable first draft finished by the end of this month. That puts me behind schedule, of course, but I think I should be able to work on my next project alongside a revision of the Kansas book for the next two months. Maybe that’s an overestimation of what I can do, and get done–it is, after all, going to be the dog days here–but we’ll see.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines and getting back on track. The house is a mess and needs straightening–and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we could still lose power.

Thanks for all the good thoughts, y’all. Greatly appreciated.

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