Jealousy

Jealousy is an interesting emotion, or feeling, or whatever the hell it actually is; certainly one of the deadly sins. I’ve been accused of being jealous of other people plenty of times in my life, which is kind of funny. Maybe when I was a kid I experienced jealousy of other people and their accomplishments, but not so much the older I got. I’ve never been jealous of other writers; I’ve never envied them their successes or big contracts or movie rights sales. I may want those things, but I certainly am not jealous of those who have them or are getting them or will get them in the future. I’m usually happy to see writers succeed, or win awards, or get nominated for awards, or get selected to best of lists, and so forth.

It’s not for me to decide who deserves what, nor is it for me to question anyone’s success. It’s counterproductive, and I’d rather not spend my time seething because someone else got a bigger piece of cake than I did. I just write what I write and hope people think it’s interesting or intriguing enough to read, and that those who do, enjoy themselves.

SIDEBAR: I do, however, reserve the right to say what the actual living fuck when I see things like I saw yesterday on Twitter; tweets and links to articles about how straight white male debut authors got ridiculous amounts of money upfront, after which the book proceeded to tank, and the writer disappeared into some sort of oblivion afterward. I have seen that happen quite a bit during my years in this business, and it’s almost always, inevitably, some straight white dude with a few short story sales to prestigious literary magazines and the right educational pedigree, inevitably writing something not particularly new. I’m not jealous; I just don’t understand the mentality behind those business decisions. I also feel sorry for the writer; I cannot imagine how horrible it would feel to have all these expectations placed on you (soothed, undoubtedly, by that insane amount of filthy lucre) only to have your career come to a screeching halt suddenly. Oh, I’m sure they’ll publish another book sometime for a more modest advance, or write reviews for important newspapers and magazines, the occasional short story; but for me, it would have been hellish to write one book and then never publish another.

So, sometimes there are times when I think oh you should push to get an agent much harder–keep trying or I would really like to land a nice two-book deal with one of the Big 5–and then I think, I don’t like like stress and pressure; writing and publishing the books I do, on the smaller end of the publishing scale causes me enough stress and the pressure is horrific and I cannot imagine being able to handle it on a much grander scale.

I mean, I’m already crazy; do I need to add things to make me crazier?

I purchased these two lovely little portable desktop air conditioners of a sort; they’re from Arctic Air and you put water in them and turn them on and they somehow blow very cold air on you. They are small, of course; one is currently sitting on my desk and keeping me very cool (my office/kitchen is probably the most miserably hot place in the Lost Apartment; the upstairs bathroom running a close second), and I have the other on the counter next to the stove, and the two are creating a lovely cool area at my desk, with the ceiling fan turning overhead that is actually rather delightful; I haven’t really felt comfortable at my desk in quite some time–and that hasn’t helped me with either focus or dedication to stay with the writing. Hopefully this will help me, going forward.

Now I want to get one of the floor units.

We continue to watch 13 Reasons Why, but I am not quite sure why. This season is all over the map, story-wise; and show anchor Clay, who has to basically carry the show, has become very uninteresting to watch. I can’t decide if it’s because the young actor (Dylan Minnette, whom I’ve enjoyed the previous three seasons) is so very good at playing the out of control teenager whose mind and life has spun so wildly off course, and whose mental stability is crumbling. The others young actors are performing quite well, despite the awkwardness and forced story sometimes; I think that’s why we continue to watch–the cast is quite good, and we do end up caring about them and their massively fucked-up lives. If you would call the show a soap, I’d say it’s more in the Edge of Night vein, because it’s about crime and trauma.

It also makes me think of the two manuscripts I have sitting in limbo, waiting for me to finish the Secret Project so I can get back to them.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is June; that less than six months ago on a snowy night I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant much too nice for the likes of me (and there was lots of wine) with a lot of mystery writers and much fun was had. I didn’t know that was the last time I would participate in such a gathering for I don’t know how long. I assumed there would be the Williams Festival and the Edgars and Malice Domestic as there always was in the months to come after January. I remember walking across the street with Meg Gardiner as the snow fell, and everyone being amazed that I wasn’t freaking out about the snow; it’s really not the snow, as I sometimes forget to point out, that I mind so much as the weather conditions–the cold and damp–that create it that I actually mind. And that night wasn’t cold but it was damp; and the flakes were big and fat and wet and beautiful and hadn’t turned yet into slush on the sidewalks and the gutters. The city lights were lit, some Christmas decorations were still up, and there were cars and taxis crowding in the streets and lots of people in their winter clothes going about their business on a snowy January Saturday night in Manhattan. I miss those nights, and the company I sometimes am lucky enough to get to keep; connecting and spending time with other writers, in the company of other writers, always inspires me when I listen to them talk. I’m never bored around other writers, and sometimes, when I get the nerve up to actually talk and interact, they don’t look at me like I’ve a third eye or I am quite literally the stupidest person they’ve ever met. I miss that. I miss the company of other writers, because other writers remind me how much I love doing this, remind me that it’s central to who I am, and that I am never happy if I’m not writing.

Sometimes you need to be reminded of the things you love, and how much you love them.

It’s not a bad thing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Harper Valley PTA

Hey, hey, Saturday, what have you got to say?

I feel very good this morning, after another deep and restful night’s sleep. I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed longer than usual–figuring if I have a mild case of the virus, as I suspect I do–that more rest certainly can’t hurt and might even help. It looks overcast this morning in New Orleans, and one of the things I did last night with the buzz I got from the Chardonnay was start the organization process in my kitchen. It was lovely, actually, to wake up and come downstairs to an organized and neat desk. My next thing to do is get my MWA stuff organized, and this morning I am going to get through everything in my email inbox, if it kills me.

I honestly don’t think it will.

And I want to get some writing done today as well. As I said, I feel terrific this morning; I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the morning and felt great, rather than however it was I was feeling when I got up. I think I’ve turned a corner, and here’s hoping that I can start whipping everything back into shape and getting my life back under control–which is something I’ve not really been feeling lately. That’s the problem with crises like the pandemic; they are so big and enormous and overwhelming that you can’t really grasp them, with the end result you’re almost paralyzed and unable to get anything accomplished. The truth is you can’t worry about it too much, you can’t worry about the future, and you have to let go–which is incredibly difficult, not as easy or as incredibly simplistic as it sounds–and simply focus on what you can do to keep yourself going and get your mind off it. Stress and worry isn’t going to solve anything, and in fact might make things worse by draining your energy and making you feel everything is so hopeless that it can easily turn into depression and lethargy. (I’m genuinely concerned about the suicide rate and mental health issues over the next few months; I remember that Katrina aftermath far too well.

Simply put, the entire country kind of needs a Xanax prescription.

Paul is going into his office today. He assumes the building is going to be completely closed down soon, and is assembling everything he needs to continue working from home. It looks as though I will be able to start going back into the office, if to do nothing else than helping out with the screenings to let people into the building, so that’s going to get me out of the house. I was very tired yesterday after all the interaction and five hours of screening in the very warm garage of our building, but I’ll also be able to retreat into the air conditioning of the building and head up to my desk where I can do some work up there as well. I do like the idea of having to leave the house every day, even as the city continues to shut down more and more; the lack of traffic and the ease of getting around the city certainly makes a difference.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with–and perhaps other writers have been as well–is what do we do with our writing? It is, at best, an enormous national trauma we’re dealing with; do we pretend in our fictional worlds that the pandemic never happened? As with Katrina, it was difficult to do while it was ongoing because you didn’t know how it was all going to play out; so since the end wasn’t in sight there was no happy ending with the Katrina story and we also don’t know how this is going to play out. How can I start writing another Scotty book, other than setting in the past before the pandemic, without knowing how this is going to play out? It was easy to never talk about 9/11 in the Scotty or Chanse books, but obviously I couldn’t ignore Katrina, and I suspect this pandemic is going to be roughly the same. It also occurs to me this morning as I type this–this is how my mind works; as I type I start thinking who in Scotty’s world would die from this? and immediately I went to the grandparents. When I think about ages and so forth I realize how old Scotty’s grandparents–and his parents–have to be now that he’s in his forties and the youngest of three; and I realize I’ve always alluded to their being more relatives on the Diderot side but have never really explored it any further than that. I touched on the Bradley side of the family a little bit more than usual in Who Dat Whodunnit, but for the most part, at least for Scotty, his family primarily consists of his siblings, his parents, his Diderot grandparents, and the boys. Maybe this is the time to explore the extended family a bit more?

I don’t know, I was kind of torn about whatever the next Scotty may be; I have a list of titles to chose from and some amorphous ideas about what the next one will be, ranging from Hollywood South Hustle to Bywater Bohemia Bourgie to Congo Square Conga–I have so many of these titles already thought up, you can rest assured that I will never run out of Scotty titles–and the plots to go with them. Scotty plots are always amorphous and ambiguous when I start writing them; I don’t feel like I did the entertainment industry and movie stars the proper treatment in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, which, if you will recall, was originally intended to be a Scotty book, and then was adapted into a Chanse instead. The original idea behind Hollywood South Hustle was that Scotty would be minding his own business as he walked home from his parents (or the bars) when someone shoots at him in front of a walled-in house on one of the side streets in the lower Quarter, because it turns out from behind he can pass for a Brad Pitt-like movie star who has moved to New Orleans and is being targeted for some reason–and this draws him into the weird world of Hollywood celebrity. I don’t know that I would use that same opening and methodology of drawing Scotty into the case–particularly now that he and the boys have sort of adopted Frank’s college student nephew–but there’s also a good local scandal from the last ten year about the film industry I could use; and perhaps graft that onto another abandoned idea for a Scotty–the book I was going to write next when Katrina happened; Hurricane Party Hoedown, because I was interested in exploring the corruption of wealth and power, in which the young scion of a wealthy Louisiana family becomes obsessed with a a handsome young gay man and ends up throwing acid in his face, only to escape to Europe to avoid prosecution and now, ten years later, the runaway heir is returning to New Orleans to face the music and his victim is obviously worried. (One night as I sat in my easy chair wishing I was finished with Royal Street Reveillon and thinking about the next Scotty and going through all the story ideas I have for him, it occurred to me how I could graft that particular story onto the movie scandal and tie the two separate storylines into one book; I may go ahead and do that.)

But once I get everything unfinished here in the Lost Apartment under control I am going to start writing Chlorine. That is the next and most important thing for me to get done, and in order to get to that I have to get this other stuff finished. As I was organizing my files and filing last night I realized that over the last month or so I have started a ridiculous amount of short stories without finishing a first draft of any of them: “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop”, “Festival of the Redeemer”, “You Won’t See Me”, the Sherlock story, “He Didn’t Kill Her”, and “Gossip”–in addition to all the unfinished ones I already have on hand, which is frankly insane. But today I am going to work on the Sherlock story, get back to the Secret Project, and start writing down ideas for the next Scotty.

And while I am doing that, I am going to clean my apartment and maybe even do a little bit of pruning with the books–which are slowly but surely starting to take over the apartment again.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe.

augDaniel-McCarroll2