It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me

Hello, Tuesday! We survived Monday, didn’t we? And that counts as an accomplishment. Don’t be a hater, dear. Considering how little sleep I’d had, making it through the first day of the week in one piece was in question. I slept better last night, so this morning I’m not quite as tired as I was yesterday, so there’s hope for this, my second long day of the week.

I made some progress yesterday with Scotty; I’m not sure why I am always so resistant to working on this book–oh, wait, yes I am: I am such a harsh critic of my own work that I think it’s not very good and the revising is going to take a lot of hard work to make it readable. Well, in reading the last five chapters last night and making notes on what needs to be fixed, I realized it’s not that bad. Yes, there’s some things that need to be added and some things that need to be removed, and there are sentences and paragraphs that are a little rough, but over all, it’s not as bad as I was thinking; it never is, and I never learn. So, I am very hopeful about getting it done now, which is also always a relief.

I also finished my reread of The Shining, and have some thoughts on it percolating in my head. I am looking forward to my reread of Pet Sematary, which will lead into my Diversity Project as well as a revival of the Short Story Project. Overall, The Shining is an enjoyable and terrifying read–the last one hundred pages are particularly spectacular; a veritable master class in how to build suspense, tension, and fear in the reader–but I have some problems with the book overall. Structurally, it’s very sound, and perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how internal the book is; how incredibly claustrophobic within the context of an enormous space King made it. I also have identified why I didn’t like it as much during that first read all those years ago; I do not, will not, and probably never will enjoy reading about small children in jeopardy. Given my general apathy towards children, this is a surprise; but it truly was a terrific book. Particularly insidious is the way King makes it seem perfectly understandable and normal as to why a wife would stay with an abuser, which actually makes the book very far ahead of its time. It’s hard to imagine but in the 1970’s, spousal/child abuse in families was just beginning to be seen as problematic; King wrote about this dysfunction long before the societal shift truly began, and made this complex psychological issue abundantly understandable–imagine how few options an abused wife had then as opposed to now (when there still aren’t many options and resources available). Both Jack and Wendy were damaged in their own ways by their parents–King also understood the cycle of abuse and how it works long before anyone else was talking about it in the public sphere. The Shining not only works as a novel of supernatural terror, but as one of domestic terror as well; the Overlook Hotel may be a bad place, but it only sped up the disintegration of the Torrance marriage–which was already on the ropes.

My kitchen is a disaster area at the moment; I was too tired yesterday to do anything about it, and I suppose I should take care of it this morning before I head into the office so I can come home to a clean home. Today I hope to get another five chapters of the Scotty read and notes taken and outlined; this weekend we are planning to go see The Favourite on Saturday before settling in for the Saints game on Sunday (GeAUX SAINTS!!!). I am curious to see the film; as I have said, I am not terribly knowledgeable about Queen Anne beyond the basics, but I am a huge fan of Olivia Colman, and I do like Emma Stone.

So, on that note ’tis back to the spice mines. Have a terrific Tuesday, Constant Reader, because I certainly plan to!

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Ride Like the Wind

Yesterday I felt fantastic. Yes, I overslept, not getting out of bed until a disgraceful almost ten am, had a couple of cups of coffee while checking social media and writing yesterday’s blog entry, and then buckled down to clean, organize and write. I got about 2400 words down on Chapter Ten of the WIP–which I originally thought was Chapter Nine but I had already written that chapter so this was ten, which means the first draft is over halfway done. How marvelous is that?

Pretty mother-fucking marvelous, if I do say so myself.

I slept well again last night, but set the alarm so I wouldn’t stay in bed as late. As it is, I set it for eight and hit snooze repeatedly, not to sleep more, but rather because I felt so relaxed and comfortable in the bed I didn’t want to get up. But I still have some laundry to do, a grocery store run to make (KING CAKE!), and I want to spend the day cleaning and editing a hard copy of the Scotty book. (Yes, I do my original edits on a paper copy. SUE ME.) I also want to finish rereading The Shining so I can move on to Pet Sematary. I am not reading as quickly as I used to, which is aggravating. Once I finish these two rereads, I am going to dive into reading for the Diversity Project, and I also want to get back into the Short Story Project. I also need to clean the apartment more thoroughly–I spent most of the day yesterday organizing and filing, as well as purging books. But I need to get the floors done today, and finish the laundry. This is my first full week of work since before Christmas, and I am hoping if I can focus on getting to bed at a decent hour on the nights before I have to get up early, I can get things done and not wear myself out too terribly along the way. I am not going to try the gym this week, as I need to get a handle on my work schedule and see how I can make that work, with plans to make it back to the gym this coming Friday or Saturday. There’s also no Saints game today, which makes today easier. One of the things that was amazing to me yesterday was how much time I had…it’s amazing how that works. No LSU or college football, and the day is suddenly wild and free. Go figure.

And yesterday was Twelfth Night, so it’s now officially Carnival. Hurray! The city will soon be festooned in purple, gold and green; the bleachers will be going up on Lee Circle and St. Charles Avenue on the downtown side of the circle; King cakes will have their own enormous display table at the grocery store; and that sense of anticipation of the coming madness can be felt in the air. It’s going to be weird not going to work on Parade Days, but it will also make life a little bit more interesting. I’m obviously hoping to get a lot done on those days, but we shall see how that all works out, shan’t we?

I also need to do some cooking today; trying to get food for the week ready and for our lunches. Which means making a mess in the kitchen and something else to do for the day; cleaning the mess. But I don’t like going into the week with a messy apartment; it gets messy enough during the work week when I don’t have the time or energy to keep up with it (or the filing, for that matter). So, there’s some touching up I need to do on my office space, and I can vacuum and so forth while I am editing.

Last night we started watching Homecoming on Prime. What an amazing cast–Julia Roberts, Bobby Canavale, Sissy Spacek, and Dermot Mulroney, just for starters. The plot is also interesting–we’re about half-way through. and will probably finish this evening. We may go see The Favourite  next weekend, which is kind of exciting. I can’t remember the last time we saw a non-popcorn movie in the theater. I’m sure the film is rife with historical inaccuracies–what historical films aren’t–but my knowledge of Queen Anne is fairly limited; I’ve not even read the Jean Plaidy historical fiction about her, so perhaps that won’t be too much of issue to keep me from enjoying it (I’ll watch the new Mary Queen of Scots movie when I can stream it for free; every film biography of Mary Stuart is rife with license and inaccuracy; but it’s always a great opportunity for two great actresses to chew the scenery. The 1971 version with Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson is probably, in my opinion, the best; I always picture Glenda Jackson whenever I think of Queen Elizabeth). I did know that Queen Anne had seventeen children that all died; she didn’t particularly want to be queen, and she had female ‘favorites’–it wasn’t common, but several English kings and queens had same-sex favorites, including Edward II, James I, and Queen Anne. Histories and biographies and encyclopedia entries would mention this, but gloss it over….it wasn’t until my late teens that I began putting together the coding and realized these monarchs were queer.

Yup, queers have been systematically erased from history, glossed over and forgotten, for centuries. Yay.

Part of the research/reading I am doing into New Orleans history is precisely to try to uncover the city’s queer past; trying to find the clues and coded language in books as we are glossed over and hidden from incurious minds. Every once in a while I’d find a glimmer of a hint in Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin, for example, that there were gay male prostitutes working in Storyville, and I kind of want to write about that. As I’ve said a million times before, New Orleans history is rife with terrific stories that would make for great fictions. One of the reasons I am so bitter about the Great Data Disaster of 2018 is not only because of the time spent reconstructing things but because it so completely broke my momentum and totally derailed me. I’m not sure how to get back on that streetcar (see what I did there?) but I’m going to have to relatively soon. But i’ve also been so focused on the Scotty and the new WIP that I’ve gotten away from it. I think diving back into The French Quarter by Herbert Asbury will help.

I also bought some cheap ebooks on sale yesterday, including Sophie’s Choice by Williamt Styron and Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. When I was checking the Kindle app on my iPad to make sure they downloaded properly, much to my horror I discovered that I have almost 400 books in that app–which doesn’t include the ones I have in iBooks or the Barnes & Noble app. YIKES. Clearly, I don’t need to take any books with me when I travel, because there are plenty in my iPad. I also have a ridiculous amount of anthologies and single author short story collections loaded in there…so yes, the Short Story Project will be continuing for quite some time, I suspect. There are also some terrific books in there I’d like to read, or reread, as the case may be…I have almost all of Mary Stewart’s novels on Kindle, for example, and a lot of Phyllis Whitney’s. I also have a Charlotte Armstrong I’ve not read, The Seventeen Widows of San Souci, and on and on and on….I really am a book hoarder, aren’t I?

Ah, well, life does go on.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

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The Coventry Carol

New Year’s Eve Eve, and all is quiet in the Lost Apartment this morning. Scooter has been fed and given treats, so  he’s gone back to bed; Paul is curled up with him upstairs. I overslept again this morning, not as late as yesterday but still–I woke up just before ten. Obviously, I need the rest, but at the same time it becomes a little frustrating because I generally do my best work in the mornings.

I did some work yesterday but not much. I got sucked into the college football vortex after going to the grocery store and picking up the mail, and wound up mostly just reading The Shining most of the time. I finished reading the first part, which is all set-up; we meet the Torrances (Jack, Wendy, Danny) who are point-of-view characters and learn about their background–Jack’s drinking and violent temper; how he broke Danny’s arm in a rage and almost destroyed the marriage; Wendy, who still loves him but isn’t sure she should be staying with him, and young Danny, with his unusual talent and desperate love for both his parents and wanting them to stay married. This is also the tale of how they came to stay at the Overlook Hotel over the long, remote, brutal winter; one of the things that has always been a flaw to me with this book is the idea of a luxury hotel in the Rocky Mountains that is so high up in the mountains that it has to close for winter sports season. But King presents it as a fact; it is a necessary one for the story to work–the Torrances have to be completely cut off from civilization, and that again makes The Shining a novel of its time; even today there would be wi-fi service all winter up there; Jack would be able, undoubtedly, to look up all kinds of information about the hotel on-line (probably would have before taking the job) rather than having to dig through the stuff in the basement. But I am enjoying this reread, and I am also enjoying recognizing why some of the issues and problems I had with this book come from a personal place; I don’t like, for example, stories where children are in danger–whether from supernatural forces or from their parents or from anyone or anything, really. And that is also an interesting thing to unpack: why do these stories bother me so much, get under my skin, make me recoil from them?

I am really looking forward to my reread of Pet Sematary.

So this morning I need to finish cleaning and organizing. I may write today after the Saints game–none of the main players will be in the game, as they’ve already clinched the Number One seed and home-field advantage during the play-offs, so why risk your stars getting injured in a game that doesn’t matter (and games that don’t matter is another thing I dislike about the NFL; all games should matter) so I don’t know how intense the game will be or how wound-up in it I will get. But probably not very; since the game doesn’t matter.

We had a deep-dish Chicago style pizza from That’s Amore last night and it was everything. Everything. It is seriously my favorite pizza in New Orleans, but it’s so thick and heavy you can’t have it regularly; it’s perfect as an occasional treat. We hadn’t had one in months, so having one for dinner (and the second half of it today for today’s dinner) is probably the smart way to go. We are having our annual lunch at Commander’s Palace tomorrow–which will be wonderful–and I am going to simply make baked potatoes for our evening meal tomorrow night; Tuesday I’m going to make Shrimp Creole in the slow-cooker for dinner, and we’ll probably cook out for lunch for the LSU game (GEAUX TIGERS!).

Tomorrow morning’s blog will be my year recap; it’ll be curious to go back to my New Year’s Day blog from last year and see what the 2018 goals were, and if I made any progress on any of them (unlikely). It was an interesting year, to say the least, and one that I’m not in the least bit sorry to see ending. One of my year-end goals is to clean out my various email inboxes, as well, and to henceforth try to stay on top of these things.

We shall see how that plays out, won’t we?

I took some awesome pictures with my phone last night on the walk to pick up the pizza at That’s Amore. I’ll post them on Facebook at some time today.

And now, I am going to dive headlong back into the spice mines. I want to revise another chapter of the WIP and I am going to reread those last five chapters of the Scotty during the Saints game.

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Do You Hear What I Hear

Wednesday. Paul made it home late last night, and is sleeping away this chilly morning in the Lost Apartment. I started feeling a bit under the weather yesterday–scratchy throat, usually not a good sign–but am hoping I can power through today and hopefully will feel better tomorrow. I hate to call in sick, but at the same time I don’t particularly want to get any of our clients sick, either.

I finished editing “Don’t Look Down” and “This Thing of Darkness” last night; I am hoping to get through “The Snow Globe” and “Moves in the Field” this morning, and have my fingers crossed that I can get back to work on Bury Me in Satin tonight. One can hope, at any rate. I also want to get some work done on the revision of Royal Street Reveillon, and I also have to get the afterward to that one written as well. So, I am hopeful by the end of the weekend I’ll have Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories completely banged out and ready for the copy edit, so I can get RSR finished over the Christmas weekend, and maybe–just maybe–get Bury Me in Satin finished by the end of December–a reach, but something I am going to still try to accomplish.

I’d also like to have a strong first draft of “Never Kiss a Stranger” done, but let’s not get crazy.

I can’t believe Christmas is less than two weeks away. I think I’ve done all my shopping for Paul; all I need to do now is buy something for my parents and it’s over. (I know what to get them, so not an issue.) This has been a kind of weird holiday season. Thanksgiving was early, and that built up a false sense of security that there was plenty of time before Christmas…then BLAM, it snuck up on me.

But…I have four day weekends for Christmas and New Year’s, and our annual trip to Commander’s Palace for lunch on New Year’s Eve with Jean and Gillian to look forward to, which is lovely, and LSU is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl, so there’s that. The Saints won their division and are going to the play-offs, hopefully with a bye the first week and maybe even home field advantage the whole series…so maybe, just maybe, we could end up in the Super Bowl again this year. (I probably shouldn’t have said that…because I truly believe that my fandom has enough power to jinx the teams I root for, because it’s all about me.)

But I am thrilled to have made it through the roughest part of the week. Monday and Tuesday’s twelve hour days are rough; yesterday it felt like I was coming down with something–I had a scratch at the base of my throat–and I wondered if I was really getting sick or if it was just from being tired. I slept really well last night–even slept in later than I wanted or planned–and this morning I still feel a bit off…but much better than yesterday. I don”t feel quite the same way today–the little tickle is still there, but not as bad as yesterday–and I may have to stop and buy some teabags so I can just drink tea with honey and lemon all day. I’ve also been really dehydrated lately, so have been drinking Gatorade a lot.

I hate being sick, so here’s hoping it can be warded off.

Last night before I retired to bed early, I also managed to revive the next and final draft of Royal Street Reveillon. I work by chapters, which I know is probably weird to most other writers; they write usually in terms of pages, i.e. “I wrote ten pages today”. I don’t. I go by word counts and chapters; I always try to write a chapter every day, and in early draft form those are anywhere from 2200-3000 words; sometimes less, sometimes more. The Great Data Loss of 2018 took all the final chapter drafts of the manuscript as it was turned in, including the version where I pulled it all together and sent it in to Bold Strokes as one document. This, as you can imagine, was a disaster almost unimaginable; trying to recreate to copy edit and tweak a manuscript you no longer have the final version of is the worst nightmare any writer could have (at least in my opinion). However, the manuscript was in my “sent mail” file; so I was able to download that copy and last night I started breaking it down into chapters again for me to work on. I am also trying something different this time–I am going to work backwards. So I created new draft chapters for the last five chapters, and hopefully will be able to get to work on them this weekend as the end draws near.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Keep Coming Back

It dropped into the forties overnight, and this morning, it’s struggling to get up into the low fifties. This is utter and complete madness; we even are looking at a possible freeze alert by Tuesday–a freeze alert in November. Utter, total, unquestionable madness.

The LSU game…well, they won and let’s just leave it at that.

The Saints play Cincinnati today at noon; I intend to write all morning and then take a break to watch them play, after which I will try to get some more writing done. I wound up spending most of yesterday relaxing and reading. I dove back into ‘salem’s Lot, my Halloween reread for this year (you see how well that went), intending to only read a chapter, but promptly got sucked into the narrative. I finished reading part one, and chose to stop with Part II, “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” The essay about ‘salem’s Lot that is currently brewing in my head–“Peyton Place, But With Vampires”–is slowly taking shape within my head, which is lovely. Whether or not I am ever going to have the time to write it is an entirely different question, of course.

One of the interesting things about rereading ‘salem’s Lot is also seeing how carefully King structured his novel; the book isn’t–which is the point of my essay–so much about the vampires and the fearless vampire killers (well, they are hardly fearless), as it is about the town. I love that King shows how the other people in the town react to what’s going on; they of course aren’t privy to what the main, core characters (Ben, Mark, Susan, Matt, and the doctor–whose name is escaping me now) are; one of the other things King does so remarkably well in this, only his second novel, is depicting how small towns really work–hence the comparison to Peyton Place. His depictions of small towns only got better and more realistic as his career progressed; I think the secret strength of Needful Things is the honesty and truth in how he depicted Castle Rock; with all the resentments and anger and feuds all simmering just beneath the surface (I also need to revisit Needful Things).

I plan to get back to Bury Me in Satin today. I wrote less than three hundred words yesterday, and this shall not stand; I also need to get back on track with this manuscript. I am a little torn about how to proceed–I am also having questions about the time line and so forth–but these things should sort themselves out as I write and move the story forward. We’ll see how it goes today. I also need to work on these short stories. Heavy heaving sigh.

I also managed to read something yesterday for the Short Story Project: “Remaindered” by Peter Lovesey, from Bibliomysteries Volume 2, edited by Otto Penzler:

Agatha Christie did it. The evidence was plain to see, but no one did see for more than a day. Robert Ripple’s corpse was cold on the bookshop floor. It must have been there right through Monday, the day Precious Finds was always closed. Poor guy, he was discovered early Tuesday in the section he called his office, in a position no bookseller would choose for his last transaction, face down, feet down and butt up, jack-knifed over a carton of books. The side of the carton had burst and some of the books had slipped out and fanned across the carpet, every one a Christie.

Last Sunday Robert had taken delivery of the Christie novels. They came from a house on Park Avenue, one of the best streets in Poketown, Pennsylvania, and they had a curious history. They were brought over from Europe before World War II by an immigrant whose first job had been as a London publisher’s rep. He’d kept the books as a souvenir of those tough times trying to interest bookshop owners in whodunits when the only novels most British people wanted to read were by Jeffrey Farnol and Ethel M. Dell. After his arrival in America, he’d switched to selling Model T Fords instead and made a sizable fortune. The Christies has been forgotten about, stored in the attic of the fine old weatherboard house he’d bought after making his first million. And now his playboy grandson planned to demolish the building and replace it with a space-age dwelling of glass and concrete. He’d cleared the attic and wanted to dispose of the books. Robert had taken one look and offered five hundred dollars for the lot. The grandson had pocketed the check and gone away pleased with the deal.

Hardly believing his luck, Robert must have waited until the shop closed and then stopped to lift the carton onto his desk and check the content more carefully. Mistake.

This is actually my first experience with reading Peter Lovesey.  I mean, I know who he is and that he is in the upper stratosphere of crime writers, but I’ve not read him before. Reading “Remaindered” certainly has made me want to change that. The story is multi-layered, and exceptionally cleverly structured. It begins with the sad and sudden death of a second hand bookstore owner; due to a crate of Agatha Christie novels he’s just purchased, as indicated in the excerpt above. And that is where the story starts to twist and turn, changing shapes and throwing out the occasional surprise, twist after twist after twist; all of them organic and foreshadowed, and the story itself does an excellent, highly honest job of depicting the characters, their needs, their wants, and their incredibly surprising histories. I do highly recommend it.

The entire point of The Short Story Project was intended to be a sort of graduate course in short story writing for me. At the beginning of this year, the intent was for me to write a lot of short stories and to work on my craft with them, to improve as a writer. I’ve not had that much success with any of the new stories I’ve written this year; the rejections continue to stack up. But I shall continue to try writing them. I also realized last night that two stories I have coming out in anthologies next year are similarly themed, and I have like two or three more following not only a similar theme but a similar pattern in the works. Ruh roh.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Justified and Ancient

GEAUX SAINTS!

Well, that  was certainly fun. Although I did get a bit concerned as the Saints blew their 21 point lead and the Rams tied everything up at 35-35; but the boys got it together and scored ten more points to seal the win in the Dome.

GEAUX SAINTS!

My Italian lessons continue, five minutes at a time every day, and while I am not certain I am actually learning how to speak Italian, I am learning something. (When I think about it, I don’t think I know any Italian words or phrases; but boy, once I start one of the lessons it’s almost automatic how quickly it comes out: oh, yes, this means water and read and book and newspaper and woman and man and girl…you get the idea. So maybe it is indeed working.)

I turned in Royal Street Reveillon yesterday, and hopefully my publisher will want it. I like it, but am heartily sick of it and desperately need a break from it. I do look forward to editorial notes and the inevitable clean-up process it will need, but I think it’s pretty good and I am pleased with it. It’s always lovely to dip back into Scotty’s world a little, and now I can move forward with Bury Me in Satin. I somehow managed to get almost three thousand words done on Chapter One’s first draft, which is a BIG WIN. And so I am moving on to Chapter Two.

And I actually feel pretty good about Bury Me in Satin, frankly; I think this might come along rather nicely, if I do say so myself. There’s somet

I got quite a bit done yesterday, didn’t I? That extra hour of sleep really came in handy. I actually woke before six, but stayed in bed until just past seven, and woke up feeling rested and refreshed; the four day weekend really came in handy, methinks. I need to remember that every now and again; I need to occasionally take these mini-vacations, otherwise it is very easy to get sidetracked, easily distracted, and lose my focus. Yesterday I feel like I can conquer the world, which is a feeling I’ve not had in like, forever. I also didn’t spend the afternoon during the Saints game fighting off the feeling that I needed a nap and trying to stay awake, which was incredibly lovely; I’d kind of dozed off in my easy chair the previous three afternoons.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Do I Have to Say the Words?

GEAUX TIGERS!

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.

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