Sunday morning after a fabulous night’s sleep, and I feel great! I actually stayed in bed until past eight–I got up at six and again at seven, but felt so relaxed and rested and the bed felt so comfortable I chose to remain there and keep resting. I don’t remember any dreams from last night, either–which is also delightful.
Yesterday was a very good day in Gregalicious-town. I managed to write somewhere around 3500 words, finishing the first draft of “The Sound of Snow Falling”, got some serious cleaning done around here (there’s more to do today, as there always is more to do), and then last evening we went to see our friends Pat and Michael in Riverbend, and got to hang out on their terrace (it’s too high up, really, to be considered a balcony) for several hours getting caught up. We hadn’t seen them for quite some time–even before COVID started–and I’ve missed them terribly. It was lovely talking to them and hanging out–I haven’t laughed that hard and often in I don’t know how long–and came home feeling quite good about anything and everything.
There’s really nothing like good friends, is there?
And I have so many of them. #trulyblessed #Ilovemylife
There’s still some slight pain from the empty tooth socket, but I am not too terribly concerned about it. I know it’s not dry-socket, which is always the big fear with tooth removal, and I have my mellow prescription pain pills if it becomes too much to deal with–which I doubt–and am really looking forward to getting back to solid food sooner than later. I probably should make a grocery run today–it’s not completely necessary, but it never hurts to stay ahead on things–and since I am out of the gym until Tuesday evening, it won’t hurt to get out of the house for a little while.
Today I want to revise the first chapter of Chlorine and perhaps start working on another novella–I can’t decide if I want to work on “A Holler Full of Kudzu” or “Never Kiss a Stranger”; I’ll probably decide once I actually start getting to it. I also want to reread duMaurier’s “Don’t Look Now'” this week, as well as get back into my reading–I don’t feel quite as stressed out about writing as I was a while back, so taking time out to read every Sunday doesn’t seem like too much of a distraction from writing any more.. This probably also has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been getting so much writing done lately…I’m not as worried about the hole in the page opening and me falling in as I used to be (thank you, Stephen King, for that analogy, from Misery). I also want to do some more cleaning and organizing at some point during the day as well…and maybe, just maybe, get some editing done this week. I definitely need to make a to-do list this morning for this week, which also includes ye olde email inbox, which is truly daunting.
Mmmmmmm, my coffee is good this morning.
So, overall, a lovely Sunday morning for one Gregalicious; since I can’t go to the gym today, perhaps I’ll go for a walk later this afternoon. We shall see how it all plays out, shan’t we?
It’s lovely to be feeling so good these days, frankly. I don’t know if it’s the COVID-potentially-be-over thing, or what, but I’ve been feeling good for quite some time and hope that I can keep a positive outlook going forward. I know a lot of that has to do with me being able to sleep every night; the insomnia is such the first domino to fall in the misery sweepstakes, but again, it’s lovely to be able to sleep, to be writing again, to have energy again, and to be able to look at things in a positive light again. I always forget how important it is to stay focused on being positive; at finding the good inside the bad–which isn’t always easy–which was part of the life change I went through at thirty-three back in the day in 1994 when I started righting the ship of my life and starting to go for the things I wanted out of life. One can choose misery or joy; I try to always choose joy.
And yes, I am aware of how that may sound; how goody-goody two shoes it can come across. But as Scotty always says, life doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle–it’s how you handle it that matters.
I am really looking forward to getting back into writing about Scotty again, to be honest. It’s always fun to spend time in his world.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines.
One of the challenges of being a writer is keeping your work fresh and new and interesting; it becomes easy -for want of a better phrase–to just phone it in and repeat yourself. This is particularly true for crime writers/writers of series; how do you continue writing about the same base foundation of characters without recycling plots or falling into formulaic structure?
One of the primary reasons I stopped writing my Chanse MacLeod series was precisely because of this; as I was writing the last book (thus far) in the series, Murder in the Arts District, I found myself thinking things like okay now it’s chapter five, I need some action here or I need to have a twist in the story before I get to chapter ten…and so on. I didn’t even think about it as I was writing the story–but when I was doing the revisions and edits, I remembered having those thoughts (I generally don’t have them while writing Scotty, but that’s a story for another time…and of course, as a reader pointed out, how many car accidents has Scotty been in, anyway?), and when I turned the book in, I went back and speed-read the entire series over again, and after about the fourth book, the writing pattern became rather obvious to me; and if it was apparent to me, I would imagine it was also fairly obvious to the readers. So, I decided to either end or take a lengthy break from the series unless another great idea for him jumped out at me; I have had several ideas since then, but the longer I go without writing about Chanse the less likely it becomes that I will write about him again. (Caveat: I have written a Chanse short story and have a novella in progress with him as the main character; I guess it is more accurate to say that I am not done with the character completely, yet I cannot see myself writing another novel with him as the point of view character–and will have to go another step forward with that as well to say at least not one set in New Orleans, as I am toying with an idea for a Chanse case in Louisiana but not New Orleans. Yes, that’s me–definitely not definite.)
I have nothing but the utmost admiration for series writers who manage to keep their series going for decades and dozens of books without writing the same book and structure over and over and over again; Ross Macdonald, Ellery Queen, Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, and Sara Parestky are just a few of them I can name, and their achievements have made them legends in the field. But other legends who wrote series took a different approach to their careers. Agatha Christie wrote several series–Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence–but also wrote a lot of stand-alones over the course of the years. (Seriously, when it comes to crime fiction, Christie did everything first) Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben started out writing series and moved on to stand-alones; as have numerous other authors.
And then there’s Laura Lippman.
Gerry Andersen‘s new apartment is a topsy-turvy affair–living area on the second floor, bedrooms below. The brochure–it is the kind of apartment that had its own brochure when it went on the market in 2018–boasted of 360-degree views, but that was pure hype. PH 2502 is the middle unit between two other duplex penthouses, one owned by a sheikh, the other by an Olympic swimmer. The three two-story apartments share a common area, a most uncommon common area to be sure, a hallway with a distressed concrete floor, available only to those who have the key that allows one to press PH on the elevator. But not even the sheik and the swimmer have 360-degree views. Nothing means anything anymore, Gerry has decided. No one uses words correctly and if you call them on it, they claim that words are fungible, that it’s oppressive and prissy not to let words mean whatever the speaker wishes them to mean.
Take the name of this building, the Vue at Locust Point. What is a vue? And isn’t the view what one sees from the building, not the building itself? The Vue is the view for people on the other side of the harbor, where, Gerry is told, there is a $12 million apartment on top of the residences connected to the Four Seasons Hotel. A $12 million apartment in Baltimore.
Nothing makes sense anymore.
The apartment cost $1.75 million, which Is about what Gerry cleared when he sold his place in New York City, a two-bedroom he bought in the fall of 2001. How real estate agents had shaken their sleek blond heads over his old-fashioned kitchen, his bidet-less bathrooms, as if his decision not to update them was indicative of a great moral failing. Yet his apartment sold for almost $3 million last fall and, as he understood the current was laws, he needed to put the capital gains, less $250,000, in a new residence. Money goes a long way in Baltimore, and it was a struggle to find a place that could eat up all that capital without being nightmarishly large. So here he is at the Vue, where money seems to be equated with cold, hard things–marble in the kitchen, distressed concrete floors, enormous light fixtures.
I’ve been a fan of Lippman’s since I read her debut, Baltimore Blues, mumbledy-mumble years ago. I absolutely loved it; I loved the character of Tess Monaghan, former reporter turned private eye, and the cast of regular characters who she interacted with on a regular basis throughout her amazing series run. Tess remains one of my all -time favorite series characters; the books were always compelling, interesting, and very hard to put down. Lippman is also that writer who can write short stories that are just as powerful as her novels, and over the last few years she has taken up writing personal essays that are also rather exceptional (her collection, My Life as a Villainess, was a bestseller during the pandemic). Her writing is always whip-smart and intelligent; following her on social media one can see how widely and perceptively she reads. About seven years into her career she took the risk to move from her series to stand-alones; a calculated risk, to be sure–but she then spent the next few years alternating between the series and stand-alones (alas, it’s been a while since the last Tess book, Hush Hush, although she has occasionally made guest appearances in her stand-alones when a character needs assistance from a private eye). Her books have explored themes of motherhood, what it means to be a good girl, and have also paid homage to time-honored sub-genres (Sunburn is one of the best noir novels of this century) and classic novels by either flipping the script (for example. Wilde Lake owes an enormous debt to To Kill a Mockingbird, imagining, really, where the characters and story would be decades later). She has also played with form, tense, and character–Lady in the Lake is almost Faulknerian in its use of point-of-view; I lost track of how many different point of view characters were in this book, and every last one of them rang completely true–and she has become, over the years, a true artist.
In my often-benighted first writing class in college (whose scars I still carry to this day),my incredibly pompous professor once berated one of the students for writing a story about a writer. “It’s the laziest form of writing, and character,” he proclaimed from his lectern at the front of the classroom, “and it tells you more about who the writer is more than the character ever will. If you ever start reading anything where the main character is a writer, you should run from it as fast as you can.”
I guess he wasn’t a fan of Philip Roth. (To be completely fair, neither am I. I’ve tried, but have never really got the magic there, but have always accepted that as my failing as a discerning reader rather than his.)
Stephen King often writes about writers; ‘Salem’s Lot has Ben Mears; The Shining has Jack Torrance (and the most deadly and horrifying case of writer’s block in literary history), It has Bill Denbrough, and on and on–but of course the most famous, and best, example would be Paul Sheldon in Misery. While I always have enjoyed King’s writing, and have gleaned things from his writer characters, Sheldon and Misery, for me, has always been the best. Sheldon was perhaps one of the most realistic and compelling writer characters I’ve ever read about–the man with aspirations to becoming a critically acclaimed literary writer, who yet makes a living by writing a bestselling romance series about a character named Misery Chastain whom he has come to hate and despise even as she makes him enough money to live well and focus on simply being a writer (the dream of all of us, really). He has killed her off finally in his most recent book, ending the series at last and finally taking the leap to write what he thinks will be the game changer for his career–until he has a horrific car accident and is rescued by Misery’s biggest fan.
The parallels between Misery and Dream Girl are there, of course, and easy to spot; Lippman’s character Gerry Andersen is an enormously successful literary writer (a la Updike or Roth) who is also kind of a dick in how he has treated the many women who have come through his life, and of course, his ego justifies all of his bad behavior until he, too, has an accident in his home that winds up with him trapped in a hospital bed in his secluded apartment (despite it being in Baltimore; the appeal of the place is its privacy and seclusion). But while Sheldon is being victimized by his sociopathic fan/caregiver in Misery, what is happening to Gerry is very different; he has his original fall that causes his injury because he receives a weird letter from someone claiming to be the real person whom he based the title character in his biggest success, Dream Girl, on, and she wants financial compensation. In his shock and surprise–people have always wondered, and have always asked him, if she was a real person and he has always said no–he falls down his stairs and busts up his leg. Once he is housebound, he has a night nurse AND his personal assistant there–rarely being ever alone in the apartment–but he starts getting strange phone calls from the woman claiming to be the real ‘dream girl’–but there’s never any record of the calls on his called ID, and the original letter disappeared as well. Is his medication playing tricks on his mind, or is there something more sinister at work in his cold, sterile, remote apartment?
As with so many other things, that writing professor was wrong about writing about writers. I’ve stayed away from it myself for most of my career–as I said, the scars are still very much there–but I have started dabbling into it a bit (my Amazon single, “Quiet Desperation,” is one attempt, and I may go even further; I’ve created a character who’s appeared as a minor character in some of my Scotty books who is a writer). The mystery here is quite compelling, and more than enough to keep me turning the pages to see what happens next. But I was also enjoying the insights into another writer’s life, albeit he was a fictional character; I find it incredibly easy to identify with characters who are writers because despite the fact that all writers have different methods and different careers and different mental processes, there are always those little nuggets of oh yes I know that feeling or I thought I was the only person who experienced this or ah yes this is exactly what it’s like.
Dream Girl is an excellent edition to the Lippman canon.
So, “Festival of the Redeemer” is now over 10,000 words. Yup, the hole in the page opened and I fell into it (to paraphrase Stephen King’s Paul Sheldon in Misery) and the next thing I knew I’d written over four thousand words. SURPRISE! I certainly was. It’s been a really long time since the days when I used to be able to write over three thousand words at a time; I’d actually begun to think I couldn’t do it anymore, or was incapable. How lovely to know that it is still possible. The question, however, does remain–was that a fluke, or is it a return to my enormous productivity capabilities?
Also, writing about Venice and a deteriorating relationship that is going to turn very dark is a lot of fun, I have to say. Venice is considered, after all, one of the world’s most romantic cities–and setting this kind of story there is so much fun. It’s also very fun to not care how likable the main character is.
And I am enjoying writing, which is really the best part. I am not worrying about how long it is, or whether it needs to be edited down or if I have left parts out or if I am just blurting out too much or if I am just vomiting garbage up on the page. The most important thing here is that I am having a great time writing this, and I am having a great time writing, just in general. Maybe my batteries have been recharged or something, but I feel like I bursting with ideas and simply–as always–don’t have the time to write everything that I want to write. I need to take some time to sit down and sketch out what I am going to do for the next Scotty, and once I get this novella finished I am going back to Chlorine.
Plus…it’s really fun to revisit Venice. I have always been sorry we weren’t able to spend more than twenty-four hours there; I loved it there. I loved Italy and hope to return someday; Florence and Tuscany….sigh, Italy. I also reread what I have already written–all 10,167 words of it last night, and for a first draft, it’s not bad. Sure, there’s some clean-up and tightening necessary, but it’s really going the way I want it to go and the tone is right and the character’s voice is perfect…I am actually pleased with something I am writing!
*waits for earthquake or lightning strike*
Last night I stayed up past my bedtime (yay for being old and having to get up early!) to do a mystery panel for the San Francisco Public Library, moderated by Michael Nava (one of my heroes) and including Cheryl Head, Dharma Kelleher, and PJ Vernon–writers whom you should all be reading–and it was really fun and interesting. I love talking about writing and books with fellow queer writers, and I always learn something from listening to other writers. It’s always nerve-wracking for me–that social anxiety thing–but after my contribution to a technical glitch (I really cannot be trusted with computers or technology), I was able to relax somewhat. It was also fun because yesterday was the launch day for PJ’s second book, which was also his first book to center queer characters. (My copy of Bath Haus arrived yesterday; great cover and great opening–I peaked–and I think I am going to bump it up on my TBR list to follow Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. But I also somehow managed to have a terrific night’s sleep–deep and wonderfully restful, AND NO DREAMS (that I can remember, at any rate), so this morning I am rested and awake an ready to go. It’s also my last day of the week to go into the office, so I don’t have to get up quite so early tomorrow–and all of our shows’ next seasons are dropping, it seems, this month and next (Elite season 4 drops on Netflix on Friday night, HUZZAH!).
I am also looking forward to the gym tonight after work; the book I requested from the library (Sarah Schulman’s ACT UP in New York history, Let the Record Show) is in; and while there is the chance of a tropical depression coming through New Orleans this weekend, I am looking forward to just being able to chill out, relax, clean, and get some writing/reading/working out accomplished.
And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.
I’ve already posted (finally) my blog about LSU and Joe Burrow this season (GEAUX TIGERS), so this is not another GEAUX JEAUX post–just so you know.
Yesterday was a pretty good day. The weather has been lovely here in New Orleans this weekend, and I slept incredibly well both nights. We went and visited a friend who’d recently had surgery yesterday afternoon, and it was nice. I also feel good about things. One of the loveliest things about my life is having a partner who loves and supports me–even when I’m not particularly lovable or supportable. I’m so used to dealing with things by myself for most of my life that I still default to that (stupidly) when I’m not in the best place with my life, and that I don’t have to shoulder my burdens alone anymore–even after twenty-four years I still forget sometimes–and I also forget how good it feels to just let all of that out to someone who listens.
It’s lovely to unburden yourself–and I need to remember that.
We started watching The Mandalorian last night, and yes, it’s completely and totally worth the money I am paying Disney Plus–particularly when you consider I bundled it with my existing Hulu and ESPN+ accounts, so it’s only costing me $2.01 per month. $24.12 per year to have access to every Star Wars movie and series, as well as everything from Marvel, and all those classic Disney films? Oh fuck yes. And yes, I am completely and totally loving The Mandalorian, and yes, baby Yoda was a fucking genius move by show-runner Jon Favreau. If I were indeed younger, or had more disposable income, or was more of a hoarder (I’m trying to get rid of stuff at this point in my life) I’d definitely be wanting a baby Yoda plush toy.
We also finished off Castle Rock this past week–and while this second season did seem to go completely off the rails from time to time, the final episode pulled it all back together beautifully. No spoilers, but it was definitely a Misery pay-off. I should probably reread Misery again; it’s definitely one of my favorite Kings, and it’s been far too long since I’ve read it. I also would like to reread Christine and Carrie, the two novels I consider the closest things to y/a King has written.
I’m going to spend some time this morning reading more of Watchmen (which is extraordinary) as well as a few more chapters of Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, which so far as I can is a worthy successor to such classic suspense tales centering women as those of Charlotte Armstrong and the great Gothic writers of the mid-to-late twentieth century. I am quickly becoming a Laura Benedict fan–and I suspect you will, too, if you start reading her. I also hope to get some writing done today.
Thursday, aka Friday Eve, has arrived and I have a purring kitty interfering with my computer usage this morning before I go to the office. Which is fine; he usually doesn’t want to sit in my lap when I’m at the computer and he seems to be okay with that this morning, which is lovely.
It’s been a week for the publishing world, let me tell you, Constant Reader. I am not going to talk about any of that here; I have another blog entry I am working on, where I talk about reading The Hunter by Richard Stark, which correlates with the crazy publishing week, so it’s best left to there.
Last night we watched perhaps the best episode of Castle Rock that has aired, either season, to date; as we learned about Annie Wilkes’ childhood and her relationship with her parents–and the two actors who played her mother and father were astonishingly good. It was riveting television, and I was truly sorry to see the episode end. It also seriously paid homage to Misery, and a lot of the things we are familiar with Annie saying were all learned from her parents. I know Castle Rock is theoretically set in an alternate universe to King’s novels, which enables them to use his characters, settings, and stories to create new versions–which is genius, really–and doing an entire season with Annie Wilkes as a younger woman was incredibly smart. Lizzy Kaplan is giving an Emmy worthy performance as young Annie, and watching this is making me want to reread Misery, which I still consider one of the best books of the last century.
Ironically, I wasn’t able to finish this entry yesterday; it’s the first blog day I’ve missed in quite a while. There’s been a lot of drama in two writing communities I belong to this week, and I’ve not been able to look away from either–one in particular I described to Paul as a slow-motion train wreck, and just when you think the last car has finally come off the tracks, here comes another train on the same line. Today, however, I am determined to ignore the train wreck as much as possible because I have too much to get done. I’ve not even been able to catch up on my emails, and the inbox just keeps filling up every damned day. So, today I am going to finish paying the bills, clean out my inbox, and do some goddamned writing. I’ll never finish this fucking book if I don’t focus, and I have some short stories that need to be reworked and revised and so forth as well.
Last night we watched the second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: 1984, and have just about decided that the only way one can watch a season of anything produced by Ryan Murphy is to simply not think about it, because once you start thinking about it you see all the holes in the plot and all the contrived behavior that makes no sense in terms of character–because the characters are only there to service the plot, which is the penultimate story-telling sin. But I can’t stop myself from watching–and somewhat enjoying–these shows. Some of the kids at work were streaming the Hotel season, which I’d stopped watching as it aired and never finished; and it seemed a bit more cohesive in a binge. I may go back and rewatch it, just to see if it works better as a binge show where you don’t have time to think about these things.
It certainly worked with The Politician.
I also want to finish reading The Ferguson Affair, which is making me think about some other issues with old works being read through the present-day lens (which also occurred with me reading The Hunter and, a few months back, I the Jury)–and the age-old question of separating the artist from the art (not in Macdonald’s case; as far as I know he was never problematic, but the attitudes of the time, translated into fiction, are what I am talking about in this case–in particular, women and minorities and how they are represented on the pages of the book).
I am also slowly but surely making my way through Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and enjoying the trip immensely. New Orleans history–dark and bloody as it is–is endlessly fascinating, and I am always finding inspiration for more stories and books the more of it I read.
I’m not really sure how much I am going to get done this weekend–the emotional drains of the LSU-Alabama game on Saturday, followed by the Saints-Falcons game on Sunday–is probably going to be prohibitive of doing any writing–unless I do it in the mornings–all weekend. So, mostly reading will be on the agenda this weekend, methinks.
And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I don’t have to head into the office until around noonish, so I have this morning free to write and answer emails and put away dishes and…sigh. I’m getting tired just thinking about it, so I better just do it.
It wasn’t a pretty win by any means, but a win is a win–and LSU is now the only team to have beaten four teams that were ranked at the time of the game. With Ohio State’s stunning blow-out loss to Purdue, the Tigers should be ranked in the top four (probably number four) when the rankings come out..and also setting up a huge game against Number One ranked Alabama… look completely unbeatable. Regardless, this has been a wonderful dream season so far–particularly when you take into consideration everyone had LSU dead and buried before the season started. The defense looked amazing against Mississippi State last night; the offense moved the ball decently at times, but for the most part looked sluggish and off. But on a night when the offense wasn’t clicking, we still managed to beat a top 25 team 19-3.
Yes, this season has been joyous, for the most part.
I did all my chores and ran all my errands yesterday. I was too nervous about the game to get much else of anything done, other than random tasks that don’t require much thinking; filing, organizing, cleaning, dishes, putting groceries away, and so forth. I did some thinking about writing while my hands were busy, which sort of counts, and I did look over the Scotty book. I do like getting organized and preparing my thoughts. I am going to try to get my revisions done this morning before the Saints game; knowing I will become completely useless afterwards. But at least I don’t spend as much time as I used to parked in front of the television, flipping back and forth between games I don’t care very much about.
That’s something, at any rate, isn’t it?
The Saints game isn’t until two this afternoon, so I have plenty of time to answer emails and do some editing/revising/cleaning in the meantime. This is actually kind of nice; I slept later than I’d intended this morning but again I feel amazingly rested, which is kind of nice; and I remain hopeful that I’ll be able to get everything done that I need to get done today. It would be lovely to get three chapters finished; but I’ll have to see how that goes as I start writing. I’d also like to get my floors done today, and maybe some more reading of Empire of Sin; I also need to mark up my old journal with sticky notes for ideas on works in progress so I don’t forget about those notes. I used to have such an amazing memory; it’s almost tragic how much my brain has slowed and how overloaded it has become in my late fifties. Tragedy, truly.
Yesterday, in the afternoon lull before the LSU game, rather than reading something new I took down my hardcover copy of Stephen King’s ‘salem’s Lot, which is one of my favorite novels of all time, and dipped into it again from the beginning. If The Stand is my favorite King novel–of several to choose from; if pressed I name it as my favorite but it’s on a pretty equal par with several others, including Christine, Carrie, The Dead Zone, It, Misery, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, and Firestarter, to name just a few–‘salem’s Lot also holds a special place in my heart for any number of reasons. For one, it’s a book I bought solely because of the name of the author–the first time I did this with King, and from this one on I anxiously awaited the new King novel every year–because I’d never read anything remotely like Carrie before, and I was curious to see what he would do in this new book. I was living in Kansas when it was released in paperback; I actually saw in the grocery store line at Safeway with my mother and I asked if I could have it. She said yes in this instance–I always was asking for a book whenever we were anywhere shopping; whenever we went to malls she would send me into a bookstore while she shopped; the most exciting thing my mother could ever say to me was You can have a book–and I started reading it in the car on the way home. I remember it was a Saturday; I remember retiring to my room with a bag of taco-flavored Doritos (also a treat; my mom would either get me a bag of those or barbecue Fritos whenever she went to the grocery store and I would spend the afternoon methodically eating the entire bag while reading in my bed), and starting to read. Living in Kansas I had no idea what books were about–there were no book reviews in the Emporia Gazette, the only paper we had access to–and so I could only go by the blurb on the back of the book or on the first page inside the front cover. I had no idea what was going on in this little town in Maine until King revealed it halfway through the book. Also, when you bear in mind that Jerusalem’s Lot’s population at the beginning of the book was just over a thousand and I was living in a small town with a population just under a thousand; it was raining that day and as I read, the rain turned into a thunderstorm that seemed to last for hours; and right at the time King revealed that the secret supernatural thing going on was vampires the wind blew a tree branch against the screen of the window directly next to my bed–well, you can see why I may have uttered a half-scream and dropped the book. I remember my heart was racing and I was breathing hard; I had to go wash my face and take some deep breaths before I could pick up the book, find my lost page, and finish reading it. I stayed up until three in the morning finishing the book. ‘salem’s Lot has always had a place in my heart as the first book I ever read that truly terrified me; I’d read horror fiction before but I’d never had such a major physical reaction of sheer terror and shock as I had in that book. (I had also barreled through Carrie in one day, but it didn’t terrify me so much as suck me into a fast-moving train of a story about a horrible tragedy; I’d never read anything like it before–and this would prove to be the case with so many of King’s novels for me.) Reading ‘salem’s Lot made me a King fan for life; a Constant Reader, if you will. Eventually, other distractions and changes in my life also changed my King fandom; I don’t always necessarily buy his new novel the day it is released and put everything else on hold as I read it in a day or two, shutting everything else in the world out. (I just, for example, bought The Outsider yesterday; I still don’t have a copy of Sleeping Beauties, and I’ve never finished reading The Dark Tower series, haven’t read Bronco Billy or The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon or Black House or Doctor Sleep or 11/22/63 or End of Watch yet; I know, I am a terrible King fan.)
But one of the things I loved the best about King–one of the reasons I always felt, back in the days when he was dismissed as simply another hack genre writer–was the way he depicted small towns and the people who populate them; Jerusalem’s Lot was the first of his great small towns, to be followed by Castle Rock and later, Derry. King’s small town, and the people who populate them, are so realistic, so real, so these are my next door neighbors, that I’ve always loved his work and characters and their reality, their realness. This is why his horror works so well–the reader is invested emotionally with his characters–which is also one of the reasons why my least-favorite King novel, The Tommyknockers, is my least favorite. (I also want to revisit that novel at some point; just as I want to reread Pet Sematary again. Both are amongst the few earlier King novels that I’ve only read once and never went back to; I used to reread King all the time.) This is also, I think, why Netflix’ adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House was so powerful, and why I enjoyed it so much: so much was done with character and their relationships with each other that I became vested; I cared what happened to the Crains.
And isn’t that, ultimately, what makes any work resonate with the reader? The ability to identify with, and care about, the characters?
I am really looking forward to continuing my return visit to Jerusalem’s Lot.
Well, yesterday was a complete wash as far writing is concerned. I did write about 200 words on the Scotty book, but it was one of those things where once I started trying I could tell I wasn’t going to get very far with it. I was not feeling it, as some might say, and there’s simply no point to forcing it on those days unless I particularly want to feel incredibly frustrated.
And I didn’t want to feel that way. So, I didn’t try to force it. Sometimes I can force it and, as Stephen King so aptly put it in Misery, the page will open and I will fall into it. Other days, not so much. Yesterday was definitely one of those days.
Not being able to, apparently, write yesterday led me to trying to be productive in some manner, so I started going through old stories and partial drafts of work-in-progress to see if there was anything that could provide a base for this short story I want to write for a market on my bucket-list (I don’t know why I’m being coy; it’s Cemetery Dance). I always forget that I hand-wrote and then manually typed about twenty or thirty short stories (or fragments of short stories) in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s; I paid someone to type them up as Word documents about ten years ago in case any of them might be usable, reworkable, etc. (They are all terrible…there’s nothing quite so humbling as going back and reading things you wrote years before you knew how to really write.) I printed out about five or six that had potential–based on my memory of them–and I intend to read them over this weekend and see if, indeed, there is anything worth salvaging in them.
I do need to say that one of these longer stories became my novel Sorceress, and some of the others were salvaged and turned into something else, so this is not without precedent….hell, I wrote three chapters of a horror novel back then called The Enchantress that eventually became the foundation of my novel Dark Tide. (In fact, I had turned one of those chapters into a short story, which is one of those I printed out last night.) I don’t think the short story adaptation works, but just remembering the story again made me remember that failed attempt at a novel, and also it was actually a pretty good idea, maybe now you should revisit it?
And this is how, Constant Reader, my creative ADD gets out of control. Last night I was watching documentaries–one was for curiosity; but it triggered a reminder of a book I wanted to write, so the entire time I was sitting there watching it I was also scribbling notes for the book idea. When that documentary finished, I started watching another one, and again, this documentary–I only got about twenty minutes into it–solved an issue with another book idea I had, and made that particular book idea–one I hope to write later this year–even better than it was originally.
This is, of course, kind of exciting…if you don’t take into consideration the fact that I am already writing two novels and have the next one planned as well.
Heavy heaving sigh.
I also want to finish reading this damned Roth novel. There are so many other things I want to read, but I am stubbornly determined to finish reading this damned book.
Well, I finished the tragic mess that is currently known as Chapter Seven’s first draft yesterday. And it is a mess; this is easily one of the sloppiest first drafts of a novel I’ve ever written. In fact, I feel so bad about how shitty it is I may even go back and rewrite the entire first half once I finish Chapter Ten. This book is so bad, I can’t even believe how badly I can write a Scotty novel. Oh, well, that’s what rewrites and revisions and future drafts are for.
I also finished rereading It yesterday. Wow, you are undoubtedly saying, that’s a lot of reading. But truth be told, much like the Losers Club when they return to Derry twenty-seven years later, the more I read the more I remembered. And yes, I skimmed some sections, and skipped some entirely. It’s a perfectly fine novel, and I would recommend it..but there are problematic sections, and yes, I do feel like I’m committing treason by saying anything negative about Stephen King and his work, because he is my writing idol, and he has been since I was a teenager. What works in this book works extremely well; no one writes about the lives of children, how they relate to other children, and what it’s like to be a loser as a child (or feel like one) the way he does. I identify with every one of those kids, I feel for them, I desperately want them to succeed and have great lives and live happily ever after. Their return as adults doesn’t work quite as well as the parts that are set in the past; the characters are still richly defined, and their relationships still work–but I still didn’t like the resolution of the story, either when they were kids or when they were adults; I didn’t like the way the book ended (but for the life of me, I couldn’t write such a book nor could I think of a way to end such a book), and it reminded me a lot of Floating Dragon by Peter Straub in many ways (or vice versa; I think I read the King first and then the Straub originally and was struck by the similarities; I do love both books and think of them fondly). I’m not sorry I took the time to reread It and reacquaint myself with Derry and the Losers Club; there are some genuinely good scares in the book, and it’s one of the best books about a small city I’ve read–King really does a great job of depicting life in these smallish towns/cities and how the social dynamics work in them, whether it’s Derry, Castle Rock, or Jerusalem’s Lot. (That was one of the best parts of Needful Things for me; how the town dynamics worked and how the characters and their lives and their petty foibles and feuds all were entwined so intricately together.)
One of the other interesting things I found in rereading It was there was an LSU connection in it; in the town Ben has moved to and currently lives in there was a local kid who was a star athlete and went to LSU, only to party too hard and flunk out, and wound up coming back to the small town as an alcoholic. The town is Hemingford Home, where of course Miss Abigail lived in The Stand; also in that same book when Nick Andros is jumped, one of the assailants was wearing his fraternity ring from LSU–he was the sheriff’s brother-in-law, and he partied too hard and flunked out of LSU as well. Methinks Mr. King knows someone who went to LSU and flunked out for partying too hard. Those are the only two references to LSU in King’s work that I know of; would that Rocky Wood was alive so I could email and ask him.
Maybe someday I’ll get to ask Mr. King.
And of course, It is very reminiscent of the novella “The Body.” which is probably my favorite work of King’s, if pressed to name a favorite–the Losers Club, like the smaller group of friends in “The Body”, has the fat kid, the kid whose brother died and parents haven’t gotten over it, the poor kid (only switched from male to female in It), and the kid who gets beaten up a lot because of his smart mouth.
And there’s also the writer character–King often throws a writer in his work (Ben in ‘salem’s Lot, Jack in The Shining), but this was the first book where he really went all-in on writer character with Bill Denbrough–and of course, his next novel was Misery, which of course took the writer character, and the dangers of fame, to a whole new level.
But yeah, the gang bang scene has a whole different vibe about in 2017. It didn’t phase me thirty-one years ago, but now it’s just kind of…icky.
As I said, I’m not sorry I reread it; most of it still stands up, and I still think it’s a terrific, if flawed, novel.
Today I need to get this kitchen in order, and I want to work some more on both the WIP and the new Scotty, maybe even a short story. Next up for my reading is Michael MacDowell’s The Elementals.
And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk to get your week off to a nice start.
Tuesday! I made it through Monday. I also managed to get a big hunk of edits input into the manuscript, which means I am on the downward slope to getting that finished. I am most likely going to put aside working on Scotty until the edits are finished, now that I’m in a groove, and am very pleased, I must say. I would love to have this done by the weekend, so I can let it sit for another week while I work on Scotty; but I don’t know; that’s going to depend on two things: motivation and energy.
We’ll see how that turns out, won’t we?
I am debating on whether I want to reread It. I bought it the day it was released, back in 1986 (as I have done with everything Stephen King has published since Different Seasons, and I read it over the course of two days. (I binge-read King’s novels back then; each as they came out, on the day they were released; a habit I have sadly fallen out of.) I also used to reread King novels many times; I can’t count how many times I’ve reread, for example, The Stand, The Dead Zone, ‘salem’s Lot, etc. I still will reread one of those earlier novels on occasion; but I’ve never reread It, though, and I’m not sure why. I think I got out of the habit of rereading King sometime in the mid-1990’s; and what I wouldn’t give for the time to sit down and reread them all, beginning with Carrie and working my way through the most recent. But now that a new film version of It is out, and breaking records, and getting much critical acclaim; it may be time to reread the Big Novel. I loved It the first time, cherishing the characters more so than the story, which did terrify me; but I vaguely remember not liking the ending; which was a first for me with King.
I do love Stephen King, both as a person and as a writer; granted, what I know of him as a person is confined to news reports of things he does, and his Twitter account; plus, I did get to meet him at the Edgars several years ago, which was one of the biggest thrills of my life. It’s hard to describe what King’s work has meant to me; how it’s inspired me as a writer, and pushed me to not only find my own voice as a writer but made me want to figure out how to create characters that, no matter how bad they might be or how awful the things they do, the reader can find some sympathy for. His On Writing is the book I always recommend to beginning writers as a place to start learning to write, and ‘salem’s Lot (with Needful Things running right behind it) is one of the best novels about a small town, and small town life, I’ve ever read. “The Body” is one of my favorite novellas, if not the favorite; and of course the film version, Stand by Me, is one of my favorite films. His uncanny eye for human behavior, his insights into character that are so honest and real and true, are what make the books so damned brilliant for me.
We watched the first episode of American Horror Story: Cult last night as well; it was an excellent start to the season. But that doesn’t mean the show won’t go off the rails as it continues to unfold; it seems like it almost always does. And without the anchor of Jessica Lange giving a balls-out performance at the center, the post-Jessica seasons tend to lose my interest along the way. We never finished watching Hotel, but we did finish the mess that was Roanoke. As Halloween approaches–it’s certainly has felt more like fall around here since Labor Day, with temperatures in the low seventies and no humidity–my mind is turning more and more to reading horror; it’s almost time for my annual Halloween reread of The Haunting of Hill House, and I do have some other horror in my TBR pile I’d like to get through. I promised Katrina Holm I’d read Michael MacDowell’s The Elementals before Bouchercon so we could drink martinis and discuss it; I’ve got some unread Nick Cutter on my shelves, as well as some other things from ChiZine Press (which never disappoints), and there are some Stephen King novels in my collection I’ve yet to read. I also want to reread Peter Straub’s Ghost Story and Floating Dragon; as I said the other day, a horror novel I’ve been thinking about for about thirty years has been percolating in my frontal lobes the last week or so–I finally realized where I could set it, where it would make sense, as opposed to where I’d stubbornly been wanting to set it, where it wouldn’t work so I’ve never been able to write it–and I may start sketching some ideas for it.
And on that note, these edits aren’t going to input themselves.
Here’s a hunk for you, Constant Reader, Eddie Cibrian, in his underwear: