Superfly

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Thursday.

I slept rather well last night, which was lovely, and today is one of my short days, which is equally lovely. I made some terrific progress yesterday on Major Project, not so much on the WIP but it’s okay. I’ve made peace with the fact I can’t work as hard in as short a period of time as I used to, and I feel confident that once Major Project is out of the way, I can make some more progress on everything else I need to get done.

I still have short stories I need to write, as well as an essay, and am hopeful that between today and tomorrow and this weekend–plus the long birthday weekend i am treating myself to next week–will give me the time to get all the things done that I want to get done. I haven’t had time to do much reading this week, but I need to get moving on S. A. Cosby’s My Darkest Prayer so I can dive into Laura Lippman’s new Lady in the Lake, which is getting raves everywhere. Again, hopefully, that will come to pass this weekend, and what a lovely birthday gift for myself to spend my birthday long weekend curled up with the new Lippman?

Life rarely gets better than that, seriously.

We finished watching Years and Years last night, and it remained interesting all the way until the end–even if the death of my favorite character kind of cost me some of my emotional investment in the show. I was quite critical of this character death yesterday, yet still held out some hope that the death wasn’t really exploitative and would make sense in the over-all story, once it was finished; you know, the sense that it wasn’t done simply to advance the story and motivate characters to the actions that would move the story to its inevitable end. I think it could have gotten to that inevitable end without this character’s death, frankly, and so it remains another sad example of show business’ favorite gay trope, bury your gays.

Overall, despite this disappointment, I did enjoy the show…although not as much as I did before bury your gays reared its ugly head.

But I am now in the short part of my work week, the two half-days that help me ease my way into my weekend. When I get home from the office late this afternoon, I can do some straightening and cleaning and I can also get back to work on Major Project, or the WIP. Tomorrow I also get off relatively early–one in the afternoon–and it has occurred to me that I could just run to make groceries then and get the mail, negating the need to leave the house over the weekend (running those errands always seems to throw me off every weekend but I need to be more disciplined anyway; soon enough Saturdays will be all about college football and Sunday will be Saints games, so my weekend productivity is about to go into a severe decline (I often read and/or edit while I am watching football games that are neither LSU nor the Saints, so there’s that), so it’s crucial that I start getting things done throughout the rest of this month. I’d like to get all these little things done this month so I can focus in September more clearly on JUST ONE THING for a change.

I’ve slowly been coming to a conclusion about my career, and I actually said it out loud to my friend Laura at lunch on Tuesday, which made it more real, and having said it out loud, it resonated inside my head and the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Simply put, I don’t think I’m going to write much more young adult fiction, or novels that could be classified that way. Watching y/a Twitter has been horrifying, and that entire world just–yeah, no thank you. I had always wanted to write books for teenagers, going back to discovering Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine and Jay Bennett back in the early 1990’s (Jay Bennett was amazing, absolutely amazing), and it was never about trying to make a lot of money or anything (despite being accused of that any number of times), but simply stories about teens that I wanted to tell. Currently, I have three novels in some sort of progress centering teenagers; I am going to get them finished and then I am going to leave y/a behind (I still have two good ideas for y/a books; I may eventually write them, or I may not).

I’ve been reassessing my career a lot lately–I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me I should write something more mainstream, so I could make more money….because I would then have so much money I wouldn’t need to write anything at all. There are stories I want to tell–I have ideas coming to me all the time–but I am never going to stop writing stories centering gay men. I’m just not wired that way. I may write things that are more mainstream–a lot of my short fiction isn’t about gay men–but i am never going to stop writing gay stories. I’m just not going to, nor should I have to, and while I understand the good intentions behind people telling me to write something more commercial, I can’t help but wonder if people say that to other minority writers?

I kind of doubt it.

But now I need to get ready to face my day, so it’s off to the spice mines with me. Have an absolutely lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow.

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Seasons in the Sun

SO lovely to be home. I drove a positively obscene amount of miles this week, and it’s lovely to be home.

The Saints won Thursday (GEAUX SAINTS!) and tonight is LSU/Texas A&M (GEAUX TIGERS!).

And I am completely and utterly exhausted.

This trip, rather than playing and listening to music in the car, I decided to try listening to audiobooks. I was a complete and utter Luddite when it came to audiobooks; I was warily aware of them (like podcasts) but wasn’t really quite sure how they worked or when you would listen to them. But I figured driving for twelve hours twice within a five day period would give me time to listen to an entire book (I was very incorrect in that assumption) and also thought I could use my library card to borrow one or two. I wound up with A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin for the ride up and End of Watch by Stephen King for the ride back. I wasn’t sure how this would work out; I generally don’t like being read to, and I was worried I’d either be too busy paying attention to driving to listen or listening would distract me from driving. I was also more than a little taken aback to see it was over thirty-three hours long; far too long to be completed on this trip, and I wasn’t sure I’d want togo three days between listening and still not being done. I decided to take my copy of the novel with me, figuring it would be easy to find my place in the book and just finish reading it while there. Likewise with End of Watch, which is slightly more than thirteen hours. I’d find my place in the hard copy and finish it when I got home.

I was very pleasantly surprised with the experience, frankly.

I did finish A Game of Thrones as planned, and I have about 100 pages of End of Watch to go before I am finished with it as well, which will hopefully happen today.

I also have about a million emails to wade through and answer.

Just thinking about it makes me tired.

I also read “The Sequel” by R. L. Stine, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Witness one Zachary Gold, 33. Youthful, tanned, long and lean, tensed over his laptop in the back corner of the coffee shop, one hand motionless over the keyboard.

Casual in a white Polo shirt to emphasize his tan, khaki cargo shorts, white Converse All-Stars. He grips the  empty cardboard Latte cup, starts to raise it, then sets it down. Should he order a third, maybe a Grande this time?

Zachary Gold, an author in search of a plot, begs the gods of caffeine to bring him inspiration. He is an author in the hold of that boring cliche, the Sophomore Slump. And his days of no progress on the second novel have taught him only that cliches are always true.

R. L. Stine hardly needs an introduction from me; people call me profilings, but my output is nothing compared to Mr. Stine’s. I particularly enjoyed reading his Fear Street books (not even I, voracious reader that I am, could actually read them all), and they helped inspire me (along with Stephen King) to try to connect all of my young adult novels in some way; which I not only did but wound up connecting all my novels. I’ve met him several times and have corresponded with him briefly; he’s very gracious and kind.

This story is terrific; and definitely not for kids. The main character is a young author, with a wife and baby, whose first novel was enormously successful and yet…he is undergoing what is often referred to as a “sophomore slump”; he cannot figure out what he wants to write next–but he definitely doesn’t want to write a sequel to the first, as his agent wants him to. He often writes in coffee shops, needing the background noise to help him focus (similarly, music or the television in another room much works the same way for me), and then one morning in his usual coffee shop, struggling to write, or come up with any idea, he is approached by a very large and belligerent man who claims he wrote the manuscript Zachary stole and published…and then the tale is off and running. But there are many twists and different directions the story takes, and I can assure you–you won’t see the final one.

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Blowing Kisses in the Wind

Rereading ‘salem’s Lot again, after many years, has proven to be quite a treat: there was clearly a reason why I loved this book so much and why I’ve reread it about a gazillion times. It has always been my favorite vampire novel, and certainly one of my favorite horror novels. It scared the shit out of me when I first read it back when I was a teenager, and it has always entertained me, every single I’ve read it, even though I know what’s going on in the town, what’s going to happen, who lives, who dies. I remember there’s been talk over the years–I think even Stephen King may have aided and abetted this at times–that there might be a sequel; I’ve long since given up on that hope–despite always wanting to know whatever became of Ben Mears and Mark Petrie…and did they ever return to that awful town in Maine?

In the 1980’s, I decided that I wanted to be a writer like Stephen King. I started writing horror short stories, and even came up with an idea for a full-length horror novel called The Enchantress; I still have those four chapters I wrote in my files before I finally put it away for good. The book itself, while influenced most strongly by King, was also influenced by Peter Straub’s Floating Dragon, which I had also recently read–I’d loved Ghost Story and If You Could See Me Now–and wanted to write about, the way King did so often, a small town where something supernatural–and terrifying–happens. I blatantly copied the narrative structure of Floating Dragon (oh look! Four different point of view characters! One an old man, one a child, one a man in his early thirties, and the other a woman with psychic abilities that have basically cursed her life!) but I was also trying to weave some other elements into the story that might not have ultimately worked; it was set in the panhandle of Florida, for one thing, and it had to do with the curse of a witch on four different families (a la Floating Dragon, only he didn’t have a witch), and I don’t think that would have ultimately worked. The idea was also built around a concept I had, an idea, about evil, killer mermaids. I eventually used some of the story and the concepts for Dark Tide, whose original working title was Mermaid Inn.

It’s funny that rereading ‘salem’s Lot brings back such weird memories, isn’t it? I may get around to writing The Enchantress someday–it just can’t be set in Florida, because it needs cliffs–so maybe I’ll move it to a fictional town on the California coast.

Like King–another thing I stole from him–almost all of my books are connected to each other in some way. For years, the connection between the Chanse and Scotty series were my cops–Venus Casanova and Blaine Tujague–appeared in both series; why have different homicide cops in the same city? I had originally intended to connect everything; Woodbridge in California, from Sleeping Angel and Sorceress are connected to the small town in Kansas from Sara; I don’t recall off the top of my head how Lake Thirteen plays into my world-building; but I think the Chicago suburb where the main character in that book is from was the same suburb that the kid from Sara was from, and so on. I always wanted to go back and write some more about Woodbridge; I kind of saw my teen/young adult fiction as being similar in type and style as the Fear Street series by R. L. Stine; which were all in the same town and often minor characters in one book was the main character in another. (Woodbridge was loosely based on Sonora, where some of my college friends were from; I visited them several times up there in the mountains and it was stunningly beautiful up there. One of the few great things about spending the 1980’s in Fresno was accessibility to Yosemite, Sierra National Forest, and Kings Canyon.)

I may get back to this at some point; Bury Me in Satin is connected in that it returns to the part of Alabama where the main character in Dark Tide is from, and more connections might develop as I write the book. I’ve pretty much decided to try to get the first draft of Bury Me in Satin written for Nanowrimo, which is something I’ve never done before; but why not? I am not going to officially participate, but why not use it as a goal to get the first draft of the story done?

I am on chapter nineteen of the revision of Royal Street Reveillon; one big strong last push is all it will take for me to get that finished by the end of the month, and I am enormously pleased at the prospect. It’s shaping up nicely; I think there are still a few holes in the story I am going to have to figure out how to plug later, but that’s perfectly fine.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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It’s a Mistake

Tropical Storm soon to be Hurricane Nate is out there, drawing nearer by the minute and moving pretty fast across an incredibly warm Gulf Of Mexico. I slept very well last night–woke up a few times, one of course being the daily five a.m. purr kitty lying on me and kneading my chest with his paws, but was able to fall back into a restful sleep every time. It’s gray out there this morning, and the storm seems to continue shifting eastward (sorry, Biloxi!), and they’re now saying we’re going to get tropical storm strength winds. The west side of a hurricane is usually the dry side, too, so we won’t get as much rain. I have to stop by the grocery store today to get a few things, but I imagine it won’t be quite the madhouse it would have been yesterday when STORM PANIC mode was gripping the city. I also don’t need water or bread, so am not too worried about the few things I need to get. I can’t imagine there was a run on cat food, for example.

Paul had some late afternoon/early evening meetings last night, so while I waited for him to come home I read R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl and started reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. It’s a zombie apocalypse novel, so I figured it fit with my Halloween Horror reading for this month. It’s also remarkably good, and while it is not my first zombie apocalypse novel (I’ve only read Michael Thomas Ford’s Z, which is really good and vastly under-appreciated), it’s not like how I imagined any zombie apocalypse novel to be (I still have one of Joe McKinney’s in my TBR pile, but I don’t think I’ll get to it this month).

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What I remember most about that afternoon was the shimmering scarlet and yellow of the sky, as if the heavens were lighting up to join our family’s celebration. The sunlight sparkled off the two-day-old snow at teh curb, as if someone had piled diamonds in the street.

I think I remember everything about that day.

Running all the way home on the slushy sidewalks from my weekend job at the Clean Bee Laundry. The smell of the dry cleaning and the starch still on my clothes and my skin. I remember the blood thrumming at my temples as I ran and the feeling that, if I raised my arms high, I could take off, lift off from the crowded sidewalks of the Old Village, and glide easily into the pulsating colors of the sky.

The Lost Girl is a Fear Street novel, one of many R. L. Stine has published, set in the small city of Shadyside where Fear Street is located, where the ruins of the old Fear mansion, which had burned to the ground decades earlier, remained…only now, in this relaunched Fear Street series, the ruins have been cleared away and it’s a vacant lot. Stine built quite an empire with the Fear Street books, but his scary books for children, Goosebumps, were what really made him an industry. They were adapted into a TV show, and movies, and as the Goosebumps took off, the Fear Street books became less and less important and disappeared eventually. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page shows that there are, to date, 166 young adult novels written by Stine; the majority of them having something to do with Fear Street. I read a lot of those books in the early 1990’s–he and Christopher Pike and Jay Bennett, and those are the books that gave me the idea to write young adult novels in the first place–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel were written in first drafts during that time. The Fear Street books were also what gave me the idea to link all of my y/a novels in some way; not all being set in the same town because that didn’t seem realistic, but linked in some way. I did manage to do that.

The Lost Girl is an entertaining enough read–it took me about two hours to get through it before I moved on to the Whitehead–and it’s very much what I remembered of the Fear Street books; very likable protagonist caught up in something terrible and awful through no fault of his own…loses some friends to the supernatural force, but eventually figures out how to bring it all to an end. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening while I waited for Paul to come home, and that was kind of how I read Stine back in the day; I always kept a few of them around on hand to read when I had some time to kill but didn’t want to get into anything truly heavy.

Stine is also a very nice man; I met him at the Edgars several years ago, and he was a Guest of Honor at Stokercon in Vegas, so I got to arrange his travel and email back and forth with him a few times. He’s very gracious, very kind, and it was kind of a thrill for me. Since I was representing Stokercon and the Horror Writers Association, I couldn’t gush and make a fool of myself the way I probably would have otherwise–which is probably a good thing.

And now, back to the spice mines. I want to find some more markets to submit my short stories to, and get some of this mess cleaned up.

Have a great day, Constant Reader!

Heart to Heart

Gah, it’s Wednesday and the week is half over and I’ve not scratched many items off my to-do list. Heavy heaving sigh. Although the weather seems to have turned here and it’s been lovely the last few days. I worked in the storage unit for about an hour yesterday; got a few more book donation boxes together and threw some things away, which was progress of a sort. The primary problem, however, is discovering that almost everything in there appears to be cases of copies of my own books, or my kids’ series–the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc.–that I will never get rid of; so I think my next move is to swap out boxes of books in the attic (or decoratively hidden around the apartment), books that I want to keep (copies of books written by friends, etc.) for the cases of my own books; it only makes sense to have easier access to them in order to donate for charity auctions or for book events where they don’t have copies of my books or aren’t able to get copies of my books. Or to sell myself. I do think from time to time I should resell my used books and make some money off them, but it also seems like an incredible pain in the ass and I barely have time to keep up with everything I need to get done, let alone adding another chore.

We’ll see.

I am one step closer to sending out the query letters. With the assistance of some amazing friends, I think I had a damned good query letter put together that just needs a tweak here and there, and has also helped me figure out what tweaking, oddly enough, needs to be done in the manuscript itself. So, the goal is to send out a wave of query emails by the end of the week, work on Scotty, finish the final revision of a short story to get sent out there, and make those manuscript tweaks.

I also put another book in the donation pile this week that didn’t pass the fifty page test, and am about to start reading R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl. I read a lot of Stein and Christopher Pike novels in the early 1990’s–which helped inspire me to write the drafts that became Sorceress, Sara, and Sleeping Angel–so I am interested to see some of his newer work. I met him, not only at the Edgars one year, but at Stokercon in Vegas, and he is a lovely, very nice man. My original thought with those y/a’s was to link them all together at some point, the way he’d linked the Fear Street novels together, and in a way, all of my young adult novels are sort of linked together–Sara is set in a small town in Kansas; that town is where Laura, the main character in Sorceress is from; the town in California Laura moves to is where Sleeping Angel is set; and Scotty’s parents in Lake Thirteen are from the small town in Alabama where my main character in Dark Tide is from…and the town where Scotty lives now, in the suburbs of Chicago, was where Glenn in Sara moved to Kansas from. All connected. I sometimes forget that my young adult books all are in the same world and are all connected…

And on that note, I’m not going to finish my to-do list by sitting here thinking about getting things done.

Today’s Hump Day Hunk is actor Aaron-Taylor Johnson.

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At Seventeen

The spice mines have not been kind to me lately; I’ve been in one of those awful malaises that I hate so much. I am behind on the book (of course) and I’ve been struggling with some short stories I needed to write. However, yesterday I made some progress on the book (huzzah!) and I think I am snapping out of it. The first thing I saw this morning on social media was this, from Anne Rice:

“To be a writer one thing is required. Write. That’s the big secret. It’s one word. Get the words down on paper, one way or another, and save them. Believe in your own voice, too, and your own way of doing it. Don’t listen to people who say negative things. They’re common. Writers are precious.”

That helped some, and I am hopeful that I am not coming out of the malaise.

Today’s horror topic is Christopher Pike.

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I’ve often talked about how discovering the works of Christopher Pike in the early 1990’s was a revelation to me about young adult fiction, which I had dismissed most of my life; I’d gone almost directly from the kids’ mystery series to Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie and Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt and so forth; adult mystery and suspense. It was finding Pike–and later, R. L. Stine’s Fear Street books–that got me started writing the y/a books in the 1990’s, and even planned on connecting them all together, like the way Stine did.

Christopher Pike’s novels were seriously twisted. The first ones I bought copies of were Whisper of Death, Witch, Die Softly, and Remember Me. I was startled at how ‘adult’ the themes in the books were; when I was a teen the few books about teens I remembered were about “should I or shouldn’t I have sex?” or “drugs are bad for you” or “this is what happens if you DRINK”–that tiresome moralizing shit I couldn’t be bothered with–and in almost every instance it was about white kids in the suburbs, safely middle class. Pike’s characters were all mostly white still, but there wasn’t any overt, hit-you-in-the-head-with-a-baseball-bat type nonsense. Some of the kids were poor, from broken families, having sex, drinking, doing drugs…in other words, these were teenagers dealing with adult problems, and doing the best they could.

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Whisper of Death was the first one that I read, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading, from page one. The point of view character, Roxanne, and her boyfriend, Pepper, were driving home to their small town from an abortion clinic in a nearby, larger city. Roxanne is the product of a single parent home; her mother ran away when she was a little girl, her father is blue collar and drinks too much, and Pepper, her boyfriend, is higher up on the economic scale and made it clear from the moment she realized she was pregnant that abortion was the only option. Pepper’s cavalier attitude about the situation–the palpable relief he feels now that it’s over–also has her questioning whether he is the right guy for her. So, Roxanne’s nerves and feelings are already on edge and raw as the true terror starts…every town they pass through on the drive home is abandoned. Even in their home town, there’s no one around but find three other teenagers they slightly know, and soon discover the only thing they have in common, really, is a connection through a girl named Mary Sue, who recently committed suicide, and who also apparently wrote short stories about the five of them dying in horrible ways.

As they look for other people, one by one they begin dying the way their deaths were described in Mary Sue’s stories.

I went back and read all of Pike’s books, enjoyed them all–and again, all of them were really dark and twisted. Remember Me, which turned into a trilogy, was about a dead girl whose spirit was trying to figure out who pushed her off a balcony at a party and killed her, for example. He also got me to discover Stine and Jay Bennett–who wrote amazing hard-boiled y/a thrillers. Pike also showed me that you could really push the boundaries in y/a fiction.

And now, the spice mines are calling me again.