Stay Beautiful

I really do miss the gym.

All those years of inactivity, and of not going to the gym, and now of course I am becoming more acutely aware of how soft, saggy, and squishy my body has become. Heavy sigh. But, per my new mentality and outlook on life that I am trying to implement, I am not going to allow myself to regret said last time or anything of that nature, and simply will try to find time in each week to not only get a nice stretch done, but to do some crunches and possibly push-ups; based on the theory that some exercise is better than none. And I also know it helps make me feel better; I have one of those round ridged things that you can roll your back over to self-massage (I am describing this badly, well aware) and I used it yesterday, and felt exponentially better; I am going to try to use it as many days I can remember to do so. Self-care is always crucial, and during these difficult and strange times in which we find ourselves, even more so.

Yesterday morning I got up an hour earlier than I usually do on Mondays; something I was resisting doing because I am not now, nor have ever been, much of a morning person, and the thought of getting up at or around six in the morning was anathema to me. But I did it, and had coffee and breakfast and woke myself up a great deal more than usual, and I even managed to get to work early and have a jump on the day–and that was actually lovely. When I got home from work I was tired; very tired–partly from getting up so early and partly because there was some minor stress involved at work in the afternoon; I  was required to do some problem-solving, and while (he typed modestly) it’s something I am actually quite good at, it’s still draining and stressful and tiring while I am in the midst of it, and particularly when the adrenaline from the stress finally drains away. I came home and tucked myself up in my easy chair with Little Fires Everywhere (I cannot emphasize enough how much I am enjoying this book) and then did some organizing and cleaning in my office while the LSU-Texas A&M game from last season played on Youtube as delightful background noise while I waited for Paul to come home.

After Paul got home–and I read some more–we settled in to watch this week’s episode of The Vow, during which I kept dozing off, which I thought meant I had a lovely night’s sleep ahead of me. Alas, my old friend insomnia came back for a visit last evening, and so while I was enormously relaxed and comfortable in the bed, my mind never completely shut down, so I was partially awake for the majority, if not all, of the night, I’m not tired per se this morning as I drink my coffee, nor am I groggy; but I don’t have high hopes for a productive day other than seeing my clients. It’s definitely fine; I suppose–what other choice do I have, really–but a good night’s sleep would obviously have been more preferable. Ah, well, perhaps tonight that will happen–Lord knows I should be tired and sleepy tonight.

I also started working on a new short story for some reason last night instead of working on the book; reading Little Fires Everywhere started making me think of a new story–as good writing always does inspire me–and I wanted to write the opening down before I forgot it; it didn’t quite go the way I’d planned, as these things never really do, and it is definitely veering off the track I’d originally intended for it to go, but it’s called “Noblesse Oblige”–the relationship between Mrs. Richardson and Mia in the book made me start thinking about a certain kind of wealthy, or upper middle class, woman; whom I generally tend to refer to as “limousine liberals”–the kind who are all about the right causes and doing what they can to help those who aren’t as privileged as they are, but don’t want to get too close to those underprivileged people and are inevitably surprised and shocked when their “generosity” isn’t met with the worshipful adoration and gratitude they feel it should be–and become resentful. You know, the ones who say things like “after everything I’ve done for you”–which, to me, has become an incredibly loaded statement.

While the show Friends hasn’t aged terribly well, every so often there was an episode that was absolutely (and probably accidentally) insightful about the human condition; this was one in which Joey and Phoebe had an argument about doing charity work or doing things for other people; Joey’s position (which, ironically, was the same as Ayn Rand’s) was that there was no such thing as a selfless act, because even the most noble person gets a sense of satisfaction after doing something charitable. Phoebe, who “didn’t want to live in a world where Joey was right, desperately spent the entire episode trying, and failing, to prove Joey wrong. It was so strange to me, and jarring, to see a philosophy of Ayn Rand’s being illustrated so perfectly on a situation comedy on my television screen that I never forgot the episode (yes, I’ve read Ayn Rand; but unlike many who profess to be her devotees and acolytes I have read beyond Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead; I also read her other novels–Anthem, We the Living–and most of her non-fiction as well–which is why I find the modern day political posturing of those who profess to be her followers revolting and a bastardization of her philosophy; because they clearly haven’t read anything beyond the two novels that she used to illustrate her beliefs and values. For the record, I believe her philosophy and theories were interesting, but ultimately would never truly work because they weren’t based in any sort of reality–however, the purpose of this entry is not to point out the fallacies in Randian philosophy and this is merely a sidebar); and I think about it every now and again whenever I am presented with someone’s “good works”.  One is never supposed to question someone’s motives for doing something charitable; it is always to be assumed they are doing it because they are a good, generous, kind and giving person; and it is cynical to question the motives behind charity: that the reason and motives behind the act aren’t important and shouldn’t be questions because the act is, in and of itself, such a good thing that it should be above reproach.

And while there is some truth to that, I always question motives, and if that makes me a cynic, so be it. I do a lot of volunteer work, and I’ve donated writing to charity anthologies over the years, and have edited, for free, others. Inevitably, though, I do gain something from all of this: self-satisfaction in helping others because I enjoy it, my name on the spine of a book is promotional even if I did the editing for free, and the same with the donated short stories–if someone who has never read my work before reads one of the donated stories and likes it, there’s always the possibility they will buy my other work–so inevitably the donation works as promotional material for my career. And I do get some satisfaction from helping people–it makes me feel good about myself, makes me feel like I am a better person than I probably am, and there’s also a sense of paying a cosmic, karmic debt in advance–the idea that doing something to help other people either repays people who’ve helped me, or will be banked so that someone will help me out in the future.

Which probably isn’t how that works, is it?

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

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Heat of the Night

Monday morning and I am up before dawn, ready to go back to work (yay?) and get back into the groove of my normal existence again. I slept relatively well last night, but of course am a little out of sorts from having to get up to an alarm. At least I had the brains to go to bed early last night.

Both Dublin Murders and Watchmen continue to be terrific entertainment, and I highly recommend both series to anyone looking for something to watch. I think what Watchmen is doing is exceptionally clever; an alternate time-line United States, with super heroes, and as an alternate timeline, the writers are able to tackle white supremacy and racism in ways that are not only eye-opening for some, but a lot more honest than most fictional entertainments I’ve seen. I’m surprised it hasn’t come under fire from the white supremacists, frankly; how could they not be aware of this? Jean Smart and Regina King are also killing it, in their roles of Laurie Blake and Angela Abar. There are only two more episodes left in this season (four in Dublin Murders), and I am curious to see where both shows go in order to finish off this impressive debut seasons.

One nice thing about the lengthy vacation of doing little–and I don’t regret the lost free time, not even a little bit–has been the ability for me to get a grip on my life and where it’s going. One of the worst feelings, I’ve always felt, about life is when you let it happen to you, rather than being actively involved in it. That’s probably not as clear as I would like it to be; I am still waking up and haven’t had enough coffee. But when I was thirty-three, I realized that my life was just happening; I’d get up and go to work, do the things I had to do–laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.–and then would go to be and get up the next morning and do it all over again. By letting life happen to me, rather than being actively involved in it, my life was passing me by and I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. So, I decided then and there to make changes, and to become more active in steering the direction of my life. For the most part, I’ve managed to continue this; not always successful at it, frankly; it’s very easy to get caught up in the routine of your days and getting through them, getting by, making it through to the weekend, and just being adrift. That’s kind of where I’ve been lately, these last few years, maybe even longer; just doing what I need to in order to make it through the day, and as such, I don’t feel as in control of my life as I should be, as I want to be, as I need to be. I don’t think I would have realized that I’ve become so passive about my life had I not taken the week off.

Sure, it’s very easy to get beaten down in this life. Jobs, bills, money doesn’t stretch nearly as far as it did even a few years ago; health care is in a shambles; and every day it seems the world is getting crazier and crazier. I’ve not written much of anything in quite some time; I’ve also been incredibly passive about my writing. I’ve been allowing the general state of the world, and the  general state of the society, color my opinions and allow myself to go to the darker side. I don’t know how to find new readers anymore; I don’t even know how to connect with the ones that I already had, and that’s self-defeating to worry about those things. I never worried about marketing or publicity before; I always just did what I always did before, without recognizing that the world, and publishing, have changed since I first started–and dramatically so. But I don’t see–as I have been told so many times in this past decade–how social media sells books. Maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t, and maybe I do spend more time on it than I should. (I don’t really think that’s a maybe, it’s clearly more of a definite.) For me, social media has become more about social interaction, while my actual social interactions have declined to the point where I am almost, practically, a hermit; and I kind of prefer that hermit-like existence and state. I also have a tendency to not face things that are unpleasant–and the end result of that is always worse than if I just faced up to it early. But lately…ever since the illness thing started, whenever that was, I have turned away from things that were unpleasant with the old I’ll deal with it later I can’t handle this right now–which is ultimately self-defeating, since the stress still weighs on my mind and affects my sleep and moods and everything.

So yes, terribly self-defeating.

Equally self-defeating is the self-doubt I allow to creep into my mind when I am writing; the entire why bother you’re not going to make much money from this so why even bother wasting your time? And on and on it goes. All of these thoughts went through my mind over the last week; when you’re home alone it’s easy for your mind to go places you really don’t want it to go, and that had a lot to do with my not really doing a whole lot this past week, But I think it’s better to sit down, take stock, and realize what you’re dealing with–recognizing those self-defeating patterns and mindsets and thoughts–when you have the time to actually pay attention; and the usual day-to-day get-through-this-day mentality when I am working enables me to put it aside, deal with it later, etc etc etc.

So, we’ll see how the rest of this year goes. I am determined to do better, to keep my mind on positivity, and stay focused.

And on that note, I need to get ready for work.

Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

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Steal Away

Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve noticed while proofing the galley pages for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is how often I use the same names over and over again: Phillip, Billy, Joey, etc. That is definitely something I need to watch out for in the future.

Also, while I was printing out the page proofs, much to my surprise I discovered that my printer actually has a way of catching the pages as they spit out from the printer…in the three years I’ve had my printer I’ve always hated that it just spits the paper out and they go flying for me to pick up and organize. So you can imagine my surprise and embarrassment on noticing that the little pull out thing that catches the paper has a piece that flips up–so the paper doesn’t go flying into the air. Heavy sigh. Yes, I have had my printer for just over three years, why do you ask?

I didn’t get a lot done yesterday, mainly because 1) I was feeling lazy 2) it was still cold and 3) I was still bitter about the corrupt abomination that was the Saints game. I also found out that a project was pushed back a few months; my page proofs aren’t due until February 5th; and my tentative pub date for the Scotty is this coming September which means the revision isn’t due for a while yet–part of my stress was not knowing precisely when that was due so I was forcing myself to get it done. Knowing when it’s due means I can take my time with it and not rush and make sure that it’s as good as it possibly can be; if I feel like it’s not I have no one to blame but myself. So, I am going to distance myself both from it and the WIP this week and focus on some short stories before returning to both projects this coming weekend. I am also thinking–too soon, I know–about what I am going to write next. I had a really good idea Sunday night while watching Dirty John that I’m seriously contemplating, but it’s going to need some research first.

We’ll see, I suppose.

A short work week this week because of the three day weekend, so that’s also quite nice. I am hoping to make some progress on my reading this week as well. It’s really about staying rested–which means good sleep, and enough of it every night–and the mantra for this year: self-care. And this also means this weekend I need to go to the gym and get back into that routine. Stretching, cardio, weights, the occasional massage to work the kinks in my back out.

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

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Lost in Love

Good morning, weekend.

I worked my usual half-day Friday yesterday and came home full of energy and ready to clean and straighten. I got the living room done and did a bit of a book purge. I did numerous loads of laundry, put clothes away, and worked on the kitchen a little bit, but didn’t finish. I’ll do that this morning before reading those pesky five chapters I’ve been avoiding all fucking week. Later on I am going to run errands, and then we’re going to go see The Favourite at the AMC Palace in Elmwood. I am looking forward to it; I love Olivia Colman, and I do like Emma Stone. I also enjoy seeing the sets and costumes and make-up from other periods, and this is a period I am not as familiar with as others in British history. I know about Queen Anne, of course; she was dull and lazy and indolent, the last Stuart to reign over the burgeoning British empire, and had seventeen pregnancies. She was never supposed to be queen; she was the second daughter of the second son of Charles I, and her mother was a commoner, Anne Hyde. But as the years passed and her uncle Charles II continued to have no legitimate heir, her importance–and that of her older sister, Mary, rose. After her mother died, her father the Duke of York married a Catholic princess, Mary-Beatrice of Modena, and converted himself. This, naturally, was not well-received by the very anti-Catholic English, and when his second wife gave him a son three years into his reign, Parliament said bitch please and invited his eldest daughter, Mary, and her husband to take the throne. James II went into exile, and William III and Mary II took the crown. Mary died about six years later, but William remained king until he died in 1702, when Anne took the throne. Anne actually wanted her half-brother to succeed her as James III; instead Parliament invited a very distant cousin to reign as George I. The current royals are his direct descendants, tracing their Stuart heritage back to James I. Anne was queen during the War of the Spanish Succession, pitting all Europe against France and Spain; it was called Queen Anne’s War in North America.

I’ve read no biographies of Queen Anne, and fiction about her is also relatively scarce. I know Jean Plaidy wrote a novel about her, but it’s one of the few Plaidy novels I’ve not read. So, I doubt I’ll know enough of the story to spot glaring historical inaccuracies, but those are to be expected in films of this sort. Her reign was pretty unremarkable other than the war; and her longest-running “favourite”, Sarah Churchill, was married to one of her most able generals and became Duke of Marlborough–Winston Churchill is one of their descendants.

Oh, that went on for quite a bit, did it not? My apologies, Constant Reader! But my initial awareness of Queen Anne was, of course, because of Queen Anne’s War.

I feel pretty good this morning; well-rested and all that. I’ve been sleeping pretty well these last few days, which gives me hope. Tomorrow of course is the Saints’ first play-off game, which will make things pretty tense around here; I am going to have to run to the grocery store in the morning, methinks, in order to get what I need for the week and be done with things. I was hoping to go to the gym to start over with exercise this year. I’ve lost another few pounds–the other morning I was shaving and noticed in the mirror that, without flexing, I could see the faint outline of my abs again–and when flexed they were very apparent. So another eleven pounds to my goal weight of 200 should do the trick, and regular exercise focused on weight-loss should do the trick. I also want to start stretching regularly; I did the other day and it felt so good…I also would like to get a massage at some point as well. I want the theme of this year to be self-care. This is more important the older I get, and let’s face it, exercise–while always a challenge and sometimes quite tedious–is the best way for me to stay strong and healthy and feel good.

I read some more of Pet Sematary yesterday, and will probably read more of it tonight after the movie. I am greatly enjoying this book this time around; I suppose maybe because I know what’s going to happen so it isn’t quite as disturbing this time around as it was the first. Now, I can instead focus on the marriage and the family dynamic/relationships, how well this is all crafted and constructed…it really is quite a marvelous gem of a novel.

And maybe, just maybe, if I get what I want to get done on the Scotty I can work on the WIP a little bit this weekend, too. Maybe.

And I am thinking it’s time to get back to the Short Story Project. I also think I am going to probably start the Diversity Project when I finish the King. I am most likely going to alternate–a diverse book, then a crime novel, etc. I also want to read outside the crime genre this year–more nonfiction, more of other genres–and in some cases they will overlap. I also want to reread some other Stephen Kings I’ve not reread in a while–The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, The Eyes of the Dragon–as well as read the Kings I have on hand that I’ve not read. As I said before, I can’t just push for diversity in books and publishing and so forth if I myself aren’t diversifying my reading. I have always read and been supportive of women writers, and I am going to keep going with that as well this year–I really do think women are writing some of the best crime fiction of our time–but I need to read outside of my own experience and outside of my own genre more….and I need to expand my horror reading to include more authors than Stephen King. I’d like to reread Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (there’s actually a really good essay to write about frozen horror, since The Shining and Ghost Story were of a time) and Floating Dragon; maybe give some of my favorite Dean Koontz’ another twirl to see if they still hold up, and of course there are any number of horror novels in my TBR pile. I also need to read the next book in A Song of Fire and Ice, and there are any number of others books I would like to read and get out of the TBR pile.

Heavy heaving sigh. There’s so much to read, and so little time to read.

And on that note, back to the spice mines.

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