It’s Thursday, a work-at-home day before the holiday weekend. I know, it’s weird to take a vacation and then work a day before another holiday weekend, but there you have it. It’s also the last day of 2020, I am getting my COVID-19 vaccine (part one) today, and my book is due tomorrow. Heavy heaving sigh. I only have two chapters left to do and a final polish, so after I am done with day job duties, I should be able to power through those last two chapters this evening, and then I have all day tomorrow to reread, revise, and polish before turning it in.
It’s also New Year’s Eve, a holiday I’ve never quite understood but am more than happy to enjoy–I am always happy to get an extra day off with pay, any time anyone wants to provide me with one–but I’ve never really understood the point of celebrating the end of a calendar year and the beginning of another. I mean, it’s an excuse for a holiday and for people to get wasted, I suppose, but other than being a party for symbolism, I don’t understand it. I suppose it’s seen as a demarcation point, but it’s really not a new beginning; I’ve also never been one for resolutions, either. I prefer to set goals for the year, and then see how well I did after twelve months have passed. One of the major things of this past year for me has been memory loss–I can’t remember anything anymore–so I don’t remember the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. I do remember that 2019 was a shitshow of a year, and I was very happy to see it end, as was most everyone, only to discover that 2020 would be so awful that I cannot remember precisely why 2019 was so dreadful, just that it was.
I am getting the COVID-19 vaccine because of my day job, which a lot of people don’t know much about because it’s not something I talk about publicly very much. I am always very careful to compartmentalize my life, keeping my writing career and public life very separated from my day job and my private life. I work at a public health clinic here in New Orleans that used to be the NO/AIDS Task Force, which evolved into Crescent Care Health sometime (my memory is completely shot) over the course of the last decade. I work at the Elysian Fields campus, and basically, what I do is test clients, by appointment, for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C; do all the necessary paperwork required by our funders; and basically interview and assess my clients for risk reduction messaging and what other services we provide that they might require. Once that is finished, I take them to a nurse who will draw blood for their PrEP labs (if they are taking PrEP) as well as testing them for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Over the course of the pandemic our services were initially shut down, and then we became a testing site for COVID-19. For several months I worked in the garage of our building, screening people for COVID symptoms before we let them into the building (we were on very limited services; some blood draws were still being done, the food pantry was still open, and so was the pharmacy on the second floor) or sending people who needed to be tested over to the COVID testing area. So, yes, I am in a public contact job that is health care related, and see clients three days a week, putting myself at risk of exposure. I follow our safety protocols stringently–which includes mask wearing, regular hand-washing or sanitizing, and cleaning the room where I see clients with virucidal wipes–their chair, the side of the table they sit at, the pen they handle, and their side of the plexiglass screen they stick their hand through in order for me to stick their finger and draw enough blood to run the tests I run. The clients also have to wear a mask the entire time they are in our building. So, that’s why I am getting the vaccination so early; I’d posted about it on social media and got some weird comments, like so lucky and so forth…which I understand; sure, I’m lucky to get it early, but at the same time I’ve been at a high daily risk of infection since late spring–and while I don’t think the age thing matters as much as they thought it did at the beginning of the pandemic, I am not that young–my next birthday will be my sixtieth.
So, that’s why I am getting the vaccine earlier than many. I am a front-line employee of a public health clinic–and while I may not be a doctor or a nurse, I provide essential health services–or serve as a gateway to accessing those services….and the Office of Public Health provided enough vaccines to our clinic so that all of our employees can be get one, so that our clinic can get back up and be fully operational (rather than on a limited basis) sooner rather than later.
And that’s probably the last time I will ever talk about my day job and what I do there publicly.
Yesterday was a very good work day–I am still behind, of course; I’d hoped to be finished with the entire thing on Tuesday so it could sit for a day or two before the final polish. Bury Me in Shadows has had an interesting journey to completion. It began as a short story I wrote sometime in the 1980’s called “Ruins”–and when I finished writing the story, I knew it wasn’t a short story but a novel. I filed the story away, dragging out the folder and rereading it occasionally over the last thirty or so years (it’s really difficult for me to grasp that 1980–and soon 1981–was forty years ago), and I’m not sure when exactly I decided to turn it into a novel or when I started working on it. The original title, once I started pulling the book together as a novel, was Bury Me in Satin, which is a line from the song “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry; I love the song, and when I heard that lyric the first time, I immediately thought, ah, that’s the title for the book built on “Ruins”, but at some point during the writing I changed it to the more Gothic Bury Me in Shadows. I had always, since the 1980’s, wanted to write about my fictional Corinth County, Alabama–which is where this book is set–and over the decades since have done some serious world-building. I have any number of short stories written, in some form or another, that are set there…and tried to weave some of those story strands into this book. I’ve already published one book with a character from Corinth County, even if the book wasn’t set there: Dark Tide. The book has also evolved in other ways from the original story; the main character was thirteen in the original story, and then evolved into a sixteen year old when I started writing the book. At some point in the process, I recognized that the character’s age didn’t work, and so I aged him into a college student, which actually works much better. This required completely overhauling and reworking the opening two chapters; but I do think the new versions are better than the originals, and I think the book works better this way.
I suppose I will always think of this book as my pandemic book, since that’s when it was written. Ironically, once this one is turned in I have to start working immediately on the next, which is due on March 1. The next has already been through a ridiculous amount of drafts–I started writing it in 2015, and have worked on it off and on since then (I wrote the entire first draft in July 2015; a chapter a day, basically), and so I guess this is all about finishing projects that have been lingering around for a while. (Even this Kansas book began being formulated when I was in high school, and has followed an interesting–to me–evolutionary pattern since then.)
Perhaps 2021 will be the year where I clear out all the projects that have been hanging around my office for years–decades, in some cases–so I can move on.
It would be so lovely if I could write a first draft of Chlorine in a month…
And on that note, I’m heading for the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!