When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes

As I mentioned yesterday–these blog post titles taken from the Supremes discography sometimes feel a bit off as I do some Blatant Self-Promotion about my new soon-to-be-released novel #shedeservedit.

I got my first ignorant comment on one of those blog posts yesterday; someone posted a link to a video about “toxic femininity” and how it’s “as bad if not worse” than “toxic masculinity.” Needless to say, I not only didn’t approve the comment but marked it as spam and blocked the user from commenting/reading my blog. For those of you who are new here–I don’t engage with trolls, not do I permit them the energy or the oxygen of allowing their ignorance to be seen by anyone here. This is my blog and I pay for it; therefore I will curate the content here and if you want to troll me, well, it’s just going to earn you a comment marked as spam and get you blocked, so don’t waste your time or energy on me. You may, of course–I cannot stop you, but I won’t engage with you nor will I allow Constant Reader to see your ignorance, so there you have it.

I wrote yesterday, and it felt good to get another chapter down. I only have two more to go and the revisions, and I have to say, pantsing this thing on a tight deadline hasn’t been the easiest way to write this book, but it’s working. I’ve got the plot all worked out now, who the killer is and why, and now all I have to do is cram the resolution into the last two chapters and we are finished, done, ready to go off to the editor with prayers that she likes what I’ve done and doesn’t require a complete overhaul, which is also entirely possible and within the realm of probability–one of the reasons, frankly, that I’ve not signed. a contract to dive straight away into another book when this one is finished; I thought it best to leave my time free just in case. (I am going to start working on Chlorine and Mississsippi River Mischief while waiting for my edits; there’s always something to write, after all–I can also work on the revisions of the novellas in the meantime as well.)

There’s always something…

Today’s BSP is going to focus on writing about small towns, rather than what I’ve been covering (toxic masculinity). The first book I remember reading about a small town that really stands out to me–as an examination of small town dynamics, rather than merely a setting for the story–was Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town, which was, if you are an Ellery Queen fan, the first Wrightsville story. There were several of these novels–the second, I believe, was The Murderer is a Fox–and I enjoyed them all; Queen clearly loved writing about Wrightsville, since he kept returning to the scene of the crimes, as it were, but the best, the true standout for me, was the first: Calamity Town. This book–published well over a decade before Grace Metalious scandalized the world with Peyton Place–also covers the same territory as Peyton Place: scandal and hypocrisy and the paralyzing power of gossip in small town America. Calamity Town remains a favorite mystery novel of mine to this day; I should reread it. It’s plot is ingenious and entirely rooted in human psychology, and it also contains one of the best and most clever misdirections in crime fiction history. It was Calamity Town that made me first start thinking about how small town society is actually a microcosm of American society as a whole, all encapsulated in a small package, and also that made me realize, for the first time, how claustrophobic small towns can be; where everyone knows everyone and you can’t really do anything without someone knowing; and how secrets kept can become very damaging over time. Queen is, at first, struck by the apple-pie Americana of Wrightville…and then he begins peeling back the layers.

Peyton Place, which I found to be far less scandalous than either General Hospital or All My Children by the time I got a copy at a secondhand bookstore in Emporia when I was seventeen or eighteen, also showed me again how claustrophobic small town life could be. Sure, there’s some bad to the point of laughable writing in the book (“your nipples are hard as diamonds”, anyone?) but other than those brief moments, overall it’s a very well-constructed book and a damning indictment on the hypocrisy of American small towns. I also read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street around the same time for an American Literature class (I still think we should have read Elmer Gantry instead, or It Can’t Happen Here, but I was not in charge of the syllabus), which is also about the falseness of keeping up appearances and worrying what the neighbors think. I find it interesting that “small town American values” are frequently–particularly by conservatives–pointed out as what is the backbone of our country and so on and so forth (part of the entire “cities are BAD” thing we have had going on culturally for decades, if not centuries), but when that veil is peeled back, there is just as much rot and decay as in any “wicked” city. As I pointed out on Susan Larson’s radio show the other day, the vast majority of the soaps were originally set in very small towns, rather than urban centers.

Nobody does small towns quite like Stephen King, and the first time he really addressed small town life was in ‘salem’s Lot–although it can be argued he did a masterwork on small town life with Needful Things–and it was in his tale of small town Maine being overrun by vampires, he also did an incredible job of painting the town, it’s working class citizens and the minutiae of their lives; how circumstances trapped some of them and killed their dreams–and how others never had any dreams to be killed in the first place. The way he interweaves the lives of his small town characters, their relationships and histories and how everything is interconnected is masterful; has anyone ever done a critical analysis of King’s work with small towns? It also falls into this group; what King does with Derry is just as exceptional as his work on Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot in the other works.

I based Liberty Center on Emporia, Kansas, geographically; my town is loosely laid out the same way Emporia is; there’s a small college there, as in Emporia, and there’s a meat packing plant on one side of town that reeks of death and stale blood on the south side of town, and of course, the waterfall on the river on the way out of town heading south and the park that goes with it. Other than that, it’s memory and invention; I’ve not set foot in Emporia in nearly forty years and have no plans to ever do so again. (Likewise, when I write about my fictionalized county in Alabama–it’s loosely based on where my family is from, but I haven’t been there in thirty years and will most likely never go visit again, so it’s all memory and invention for me.) I don’t know if I will write another novel about Kansas–I have some other ideas, of course, don’t I always–but it seems weird to create another fictional small city so similar to Liberty Center, but at the same time it seems even weirder to set another book there after having already done so (although i should probably revisit Sara sometime and see how I did it–and what I called the towns in Kahola County–before deciding one way or the other).

Heavy sigh.

Today I need to write another chapter, and I also need to work on revising a short story as well as writing a promotional article–and of course, there’s the horror that is my email inbox which needs to be dealt with this week once and for all (it’s all relative; answering everything and emptying it out inevitably means generating more emails there; my email responses will trigger emails in response which turns it into a Sisyphean task without end), and today is the men’s US figure skating championships, which naturally I plan to watch so I need to get my writing done before then, don’t I?

So on that note, I head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

So, over the weekend I finished watching Chapelwaite.

What a terrific series this is!

When I started watching, I must admit I wasn’t compelled to continue watching past episode one. The story it’s based on (“Jerusalem’s Lot,” the only original story written for Stephen King’s collection Night Shift) was never one of my favorites, and I remembered it primarily as an epistolary story that never really got anywhere, if that makes sense–it really was just the letters of a man who was losing his mind, trying to get to the bottom of the weirdness going on in his inherited home, Chapelwaite, and there was something about “the worm” and so on. King described it as “Lovecraftian” in his seminal work on horror, Danse Macabre; and I had never gotten into Lovecraft, so I always figured I was missing something in the story because of that, and never revisited it. The first episode moved kind of slowly, as first episodes are often wont to do, and it did inspire me to reread the story–which I liked a lot more on a reread. But the episode started too slowly for Paul, and so we abandoned the show. A friend recommended it highly–“stick with it, it really picks up” so during my condom packing duties last week I started again with episode 2.

Very glad I did; and I really need to remember the truism that one should always give a show at least two episodes before abandoning it–unless that first episode is really and truly terrible (I’m looking at you, I Know What You Did Last Summer). Chapelwaite’s first episode was not terrible; but it was a very slow burn to set up the story. One thing I did greatly appreciate with how this show was done and cast was how the main character, Charles Boone (played perfectly by Adrien Brody), was more fleshed out and developed than he was in the short story. In the story, no mention was made of any spouse or children for him; his only family was the cousins who lived at Chapelwaite. The show gave him a Pacific Islander wife–who was already dead when the show opened, and three children, Honor, Loa, and Tane. In the show Boone was a whaler who lived at sea with his wife and children; the much-loved wife died of tuberculosis, and the younger daughter has rickets, so one of her legs is in a brace. The children are quickly seen as outsiders because of their mixed race heritage in the small town of Preacher’s Corners, the nearest town to the house; it isn’t just the mixed race children that are the source of the animus of the townspeople toward the Boone family. The Boones are blamed for a mysterious “illness” that infects and gradually kills the villagers; no one really knows what causes the illness or how to combat it effectively.

Charles is soon having weird visions, and hearing rats–or something–scratching within the walls of the house. An exterminator finds nothing in the walls, no signs of rats or mice or anything, which makes Charles think he might be going insane. He also engages Rebecca–who is not your run-of-the-mill nineteenth century young woman in small village in Maine. Rebecca has ambitions and desires of her own–to escape Preacher’s Corners, to become a writer, and she has been educated; so she comes to Chapelwaite to tutor the children and get them up to speed. Of course, the other children at the school are horrific to the Boone children, just as most of the adults are horrible to Charles. (Rebecca is played perfectly by Emily Hampshire, better known as Stevie on Schitt’s Creek, and the range she has is clear in this role; which is as far from Stevie as she could possibly get.)

But once the show starts rolling–as Charles and Rebecca and the children begin to find out what is really going on at Chapelwaite, and in the nearby abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot–it just keeps picking up speed. It is also truly Gothic in tone and feel; beautifully filmed and shot and the cast is perfect in their roles.

Highly recommended; one of the best King adaptations I’ve seen.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Friday morning and I have a dear friend’s retirement party to attend in the Bywater this evening. I have to run some errands–including stopping by the office–at some point during the day, and it looks like I shall have to postpone working on the book until tomorrow as there isn’t any way to make time for it today. But these things happen; sometimes life doesn’t allow an author an opportunity to write. It’s not the best possible outcome of a day, of course, but there it is.

I also further aggravated a muscle strain in my left shoulder (usually it’s my right one that becomes an issue, from an old wrestling injury) at the gym last night. I noticed the ache the last time I went to the gym–and thought I could push through it at the gym again last night. I noticed it when I was doing the chest exercise–I had to significantly lower the weight in order to do the exercise–but ironically, the only other time it was an issue was doing tricep pushdowns, when the shoulder merely works as a stabilizer for the working of the triceps. I had to abandon that entirely, and it did make me wonder as I walked home how I strained the muscle in the first place? It’s also worrying, now that I am back into the swing of actually working out again, that I now have a ready-made excuse to talk myself out of going every other day. On the other hand, it’s just a strain of some sort–not even a pull–so it can undoubtedly be worked around. The gym was also very crowded last night, which was irritating; I really need to get used to going into businesses that are more full than I’ve gotten used to over the past year or two. And especially since it’s now Christmas time; everything and everywhere is going to be more crowded.

Sigh.

While I was making condom packs yesterday I started watching Chapelwaite on Epix. I originally started watching it with Paul, but he thought it was too slow and didn’t care to continue watching it. I knew almost from the get-go that it was most likely a slow-burn; it was very Gothic in feel, which inevitably means a slow-burn (a friend asked me if I was watching, and when I said we’d stopped, told me to go back and finish–and she was right). The show is exceptional–it did take me a while to get used to Emily Hampshire playing someone not Stevie on Schitt’s Creek–and if you’re into Gothic horror and suspense, it’s right up your alley. It also handles issues of class, race, prejudice and provincialism extremely well; and the steady sense of dread and building suspense is quite remarkably done. I am really looking forward to finishing watching, to be honest. The afternoon flew past as I watched. It’s based on the story “Jerusalem’s Lot,” by Stephen King, from his Night Shift collection, and yes, it does sort of fit into the mythology of his terrific novel ‘salem’s Lot. I’m not sure if that was his intent when he wrote the story–Chapelwaite, the house in the story, is in some ways similar to the Marsden House in ‘salem’s Lot–which is yet another reason I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

It also gave ma a good idea for another Alabama book, a sort of sequel to Bury Me in Shadows. So huzzah indeed!

But as Friday looms, there’s a lot I have to get done this weekend–I really need to get caught up on the book; I want to finish reading A Caribbean Mystery, and as always, there are endless chores to be done, and don’t even get me started on my email inbox–but I have faith that I shall persevere, and will come out on the other side of the weekend with much ado and accomplishment. (Yes, I do crack myself up from time to time, thanks for asking.) I slept really well last night–we got through the second season of OG Gossip Girl and are now into season three; it really is fun to watch, especially seeing bigger name stars of the present in early roles–Armie Hammer (although one can argue he no longer has a career of which to speak) was in the second season, for example, and yes, shame that he turned out to be what he turned out to be, as he was very good looking and reasonably talented–and our addiction to this show is allowing other shows we watch, or ones we want to watch, pile up so we’ll have plenty to watch in coming weeks and months, which is lovely.

I also think I am finished with Paul’s Christmas presents, but am not entirely sure. I’ll assess once they are in my hot little hands and wrapped (and hidden). And I do need to do my Christmas cards at some point–tick tock, said the clock.

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will speak with you again tomorrow.

Sweet Summer Blue and Gold

WEDNESDAY!

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that I only have another two work days left before I am on vacation yet again; maybe that’s why I was so rested and full of energy yesterday as opposed to tired, worn, and old the way I usually feel on Tuesdays. I guess how this day will play out remains to be seen. I also managed to get caught up with reviewing the books I read whilst on my trip–I would have done this sooner, but my wireless keyboard stopped functioning (writing on a laptop is difficult for me; I’ve always used a separate keyboard) and so I ordered another one yesterday that will hopefully arrive before it’s time to go to Kentucky so I can take it with me so I can actually get work done while I am there.

And I am behind, as always, on everything.

But I am making progress, which is always pleasant and a relief of sorts. My book-buying compulsion is getting out of hand again, so I am going to have to do some more serious pruning of the books-on-hand this weekend and over the next few evenings, so I can drop off some boxes to the library sale this weekend. Yay! And I have some of my stuff-to-do more under control now than I did before, so again, it’s always lovely to make some progress as each day passes. It’s hard to believe next week is Thanksgiving; it kind of shook me up when I realized it on Monday that I only have a week between trips–and will be traveling again in mid-January (New York again) and will most likely be heading to Left Coast Crime in April as well (I think it’s in Albuquerque?)–barring another variant and another spike or wave of COVID infections. We got caught up on The Morning Show last night, just as the pandemic is beginning to break in the US–yay for reliving that horror, but they are doing a really good job with it, and I am not sure how I feel about their take on “cancel culture”–as someone who the right tried to cancel, back before it was called cancel culture, and yes, I do need to write about that at some point–but there is something to what they are saying, I think; I’m not sure. I don’t consider myself a moral authority on anything; I just think about things and try to learn and try to be better myself than the person I used to be. Life is about nothing if it’s not a constant learning and growing process, and we can always do better, be better, and grow, right? The people I feel bad for are those who actually stop growing and learning, stagnate and fossilize their beliefs and values, and think they don’t have anything else to learn, no need to grow. To me, that’s just sad and tragic.

I didn’t make it to the gym last night after I got off work because I wound up staying later than I usually do–I didn’t leave the office until after five, and thus got stuck in rush hour traffic going through the CBD on the way home (although they finally fixed the lights at Poydras and Loyola, so it wasn’t the nightmare getting through there that it has been since Ida, thank you Lord) and then I did some things around the house when I got home–things that needed doing–before Paul got home. I’ve also been listening to Red (Taylor’s Version), which is I think my favorite Taylor Swift record (yes, I am a sixty-year-old Swiftie, don’t you dare try to shame me for it), which is also quite good. I was a little brain-fried when I got home, but I am hoping to get back to reading Barbara Ross’ Shucked Away, so I can move on to Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon. I think I am going to simply take cozies with me to Kentucky; I really enjoy reading them and I also should spend more time reading them–it’s so hard to decide what to read all the time, and there are so many different books and styles of books that I want to read, and it’s not a bad idea to get away from the darker stuff for a while…

I also noted that there are new episodes of both Foundation and The Lost Symbol for me to catch up while condom packing on my work-at-home days, and I also have some data entry to do (almost caught up at last, huzzah!). I also have to figure out what audio books I want to take for the ride both ways–eleven hours; I listened to A Game of Thrones on the way up last time and End of Watch by Stephen King on the way home; perhaps this would be a good time to listen to one of the Stephen King novels I haven’t gotten to–The Outsider or 11/22/63 or Dr. Sleep or Black House–so many choices! Or perhaps it would be fun to listen to cozies on the way up? I get too much pleasure from actually reading Donna Andrews to give that up to listen to one; but maybe there’s another one of my favorite cozy series I can listen to; who knows? But I have all weekend to figure that out since I am not leaving until Monday morning.

I am going to try to not spend all day Saturday in my chair watching college football all day–at least not until I get the writing done that I need to get done–and hopefully will be able to read while the games are one when I finally do sit in my chair and relax.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader.

Moon & The Sky

The first Monday morning after Daylight Savings Time kicks in–or kicks out? I never can remember if we borrow an hour or return it–and it’s an exciting day ahead for one Gregalicious. (Isn’t every day an exciting day for one Gregalicious, really?) It is rather nice that it isn’t dark outside this morning for once, but at the same time it means it will be full dark when I leave the office every day now, which always feels oppressive for me. I think I am not a fan of the winter primarily because of the shortened days (the colder weather isn’t, despite my frequent harsh reactions to it, the worst thing; as long as there is no snow and ice I can live with it, frankly). I don’t like the darkness, never have; still feel uncomfortable in the dark, if I am not entirely afraid of the dark still.

The terrors of childhood are never truly outgrown, are they?

The Saints game was eminently disappointing–never fun to lose to Atlanta, especially the way the Saints did yesterday–but I did get the sense the team is getting there, starting to gel after losing the starting quarterback, Jameis Winston–so I don’t think the rest of the season is going to be a total wash. We may not make the play-offs this year (!!!) but you know, it’s the beginning of a new era for the Saints, the post-Drew Brees era, and there’s no telling what that’s going to be like. LSU is also going to be getting a new coaching staff for next season…and again, no telling where LSU is going to end up next year either.

I wound up getting a lot more organized yesterday than I was before this weekend, which is lovely. I got folders put away, counter surfaces and inboxes are emptied for the most part, and I am traveling tomorrow. I am going to New York for a few days and then Boston for the weekend; as I have already mentioned, this is my first non-family related travel since the pandemic started, and after everything I’ve seen on-line about airports and flights being disrupted by people who think rules don’t apply to them (a personal pet peeve of mine; the rules apply to everyone else why have rules in the first place?), but at least I have a non-stop flight so the chances of misconnections and lost luggage and all of those other things that make traveling an utter nightmare have been lowered substantially.

We started watching the new season of Big Mouth last night on Netflix–this show is so funny and honest and out-and-out blunt about puberty (clearly, it couldn’t be live action) and burgeoning sexuality (and masturbation) that it still amazes me that it gets made; it would have never aired on basic cable or the original networks. I feel rested after this weekend–perhaps it’s the extra hour and my body hasn’t adjusted yet–more rested than I’ve felt in a very long time. I didn’t get as much accomplished this weekend as I would have ultimately preferred, but that’s life and beyond my control. It’s not easy to either write or edit when traveling, but I am going to give it the old college try and see what I can done while on the road. Obviously, that is something I need to get better about going forward.

But I feel good, am excited about the trip, and just have to get through today. My flight tomorrow is later in the day, so I don’t have to deal with any of the crazed “last minute” packing and so forth; I can leisurely check the weather in both places, figure out what I need to pack, make a list (the crazed list-maker never stops, apparently), and then carefully pack so as to be certain that nothing is left behind (a bigger and bigger fear the older I get, sadly) and then get up tomorrow and slowly get ready for the departure. I have an errand I must run tomorrow before heading for the airport, and there are some things around the house I need to get done before finally heading on my way out. It’s going to be weird traveling again–I did fly up to Kentucky earlier this year, but that now seems like it was an eternity ago–but I will have my phone and a book; I am taking These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall, Invisible City by Julia Dahl, Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier, and a Donna Andrews with me (not sure which Andrews; I am several books behind and desperately need to get caught up on them), which definitely should take care of my reading at the airport, on the trains, and on the planes. It will also help me fall asleep at night as well in strange hotels–I never sleep well in hotels, not sure what that’s about, but it has everything to do with it not being my own bed because I experience this everywhere–and I am looking forward to engaging with these books; it’s been a while since I’ve read a book through.

I reread Stephen King’s short story “One for the Road” from Night Shift yesterday, which, like “Jerusalem’s Lot,” is about the town from ‘salem’s Lot; this story clearly takes place after the events of the novel, so the two stories are book-ends for it–the former story being set over a hundred years in the past and explains how the town became basically cursed; the other being here we are a few years later when the town has become abandoned again. I’ve always wanted King to write a sequel to this book–it’s actually one of the few that kind of cries out for a sequel, as opposed to The Talisman and The Shining, which are the books he wrote sequels to; I know I read somewhere that he had the idea already of how to open such a sequel, and in all honesty it really whetted my appetite to read it. (‘salem’s Lot will always be one of my favorite Kings, if not my absolute favorite)

And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check with you later.

Rain

Daylight Savings Time is one of those things, you know? I enjoy the gift of another hour’s sleep when it comes in the fall, but I deeply resent giving it up in the spring. But this morning it was lovely to wake up, look at the clock, and know I could continue to relax in bed for a little while longer; it was most comfortable and my body was completely relaxed, so it felt simply marvelous to stay there for a bit more.

Yesterday was kind of a lovely day. I finished my page proofs for #shedeservedit, and of course, reading through it again made me incredibly nervous, anxious, and insecure about its looming publication. This is nothing new, of course, and I often go through this with every book I write and publish–there’s nothing like page proofs to reawaken the imposter syndrome firmly implanted into my brain–and while I know it’s coming and I know it’s possible and I know it’s going to happen, it hits me like a 2 x 4 between the eyes every. Single. Time. I hate that for me. I also revised a short story for an anthology I was asked to contribute to–incredibly short turn around time, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to write something new; so I looked for something I had on hand I could adapt for it. The editor seemed to like it, with some notes to come–but I will probably revise the story again myself; I mean, I just grafted the concept of the anthology onto an existing story to see if it would work, and I guess it did since he liked it, but I really should go over it again myself with my editorial pen uncapped and my editorial eyes wide open. But it was, overall, a very productive day, and I was most pleased with how it all turned out. I had football games on while I was looking over the proofs–Auburn-Texas A&M, to be specific–which was nice; all the real pressure has been taken off watching games this season because I don’t really care that much if LSU is out of the running, so I can just watch and appreciate. Yesterday was a wacky day of upsets and near-upsets; and in all honesty, I assumed I would stop watching the LSU-Alabama bloodbath at the end of the first quarter.

Instead, plucky third team players on defense rose up and almost successfully smote the mighty Tide in their home stadium, 20-14; and a play here, a play there, and Alabama would have lost to a 4-4 29 point underdog team that all week long sports journalists (and I have to admit, I bought into it myself) didn’t have a chance. Coming within a whisker of an upset win, that really came down to the last play? Never saw it coming, and it was, frankly, one of the best LSU-Alabama games I’ve ever seen. I don’t think the way Alabama played last night–or the way they played in their loss to Texas A&M–is indicative that they are going to get trounced by Georgia in the SEC title game, or that they won’t do well in the play-offs should they make it that far; it’s Alabama, and they always seem to play better when something is on the line for them. Let’s face it, nothing was really on the line for them last night, but with no disrespect intended, you generally don’t see Alabama play that badly against a team they are supposed to run all over. Did they play badly, or did LSU play above their own level? Perhaps both? I hope LSU uses this to motivate them for the rest of the season, but who knows? They could easily lose to both Arkansas and Texas A&M to close out the first losing season since 1999. But I will always give the 2021 team props for giving us fans an unexpected great game against one of the greatest programs in the history of college football.

I honestly believed this year’s game would be a repeat of last year’s rout, and for that, I owe the program an apology. Sorry, guys, for not believing in you.

Today I have to make groceries. I am going on a trip this week–New York during the week, Boston over the weekend–which I’ve not really talked about much because I wasn’t sure the trip would happen. I mean, sure–I have the air and hotels booked, even the Acela Express from New York to Boston–but with pandemic times and so forth, let’s be serious; any trip can be canceled at any time because everything can change overnight. I am flying up on Tuesday, returning to New Orleans on Sunday; it’s my first trip anywhere other than to visit family since the world shut down, and I am actually very excited about it–despite all the nightmarish posts I see from other people experiencing horrors when they travel, primarily from the anti-mask morons for whom I have absolutely no patience whatsoever anymore. I’m also driving up to visit my family later this month–now you see where the stress and pressure about getting to work on the book is coming from, don’t you? Hopefully I’ll be able to get some writing done on these trips–and some reading, too; I definitely am going to check out an audiobook or two to listen to on the drive. Maybe one of my lengthier Stephen Kings?

Project Organize is working pretty well, too–I can’t complain about it (although I always can complain about something, it’s my super-power); the area around my desk is looking pretty good this morning, if I do say so myself. I still need to buy a day planner for next year–I definitely want one, I think it may help in some ways to have things actually written down as well as the digital calendar–and I am also going to try to figure out a writing schedule for next year. I think I may spend next year finishing things that are already started; Chlorine for one, and I have actually started another Scotty, even if it’s only one page–but I really want to get these novellas finished as well as getting some more short stories out there.

The Saints play the hated Falcons today at noon; which of course cuts right into the heart of the day but that’s also fine; my plan for today was to finish editing and correcting the first four chapters of A Streetcar Named Murder as well as map out the next four chapters, and delve into my characters a bit more. I generally don’t watch the Saints games anyway because it’s too emotionally stressful for me; and when they are over I am emotionally depleted and exhausted and unable to get anything done anyway. I only have to work one day this week–tomorrow–since I am leaving on Tuesday; and so I do have quite a bit to get under control today.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader–and GEAUX SAINTS!

Storm in a Teacup

I first discovered Stephen King when I was a sophomore in high school. A friend was carrying a paperback copy of Carrie around with her, and I neither recognized the title nor the author. The cover was interesting looking, in that weird kind of alternate reality type way that speculative fiction covers so often got at that time. “What is this about?” I asked when I picked it up and examined the book.

“It’s about a bullied girl with psychic powers,” she replied. “My mom was worried about letting me read it because she’s afraid I’m like her.”

It rather broke my heart a little to hear my friend, who was overweight and had very bad skin but also incredibly kind and intelligent, say this; but I could also relate a bit because I, too, was picked on and bullied. I, too, knew what it was like to walk past a gaggle of kids both pretty and “cool”, notice that they stopped talking as I approached only to whisper and laugh once I walked by…while simultaneously feeling grateful that they had the decency to whisper so I couldn’t hear what was said (and typing that really made me sad).

I opened the book to the first page and there it was, about halfway down the first page, in italics: Carrie White eats shit.

The preceding sentence, not italicized, read: “Graffiti scratched on a desk of the Barker Street Grammar School in Chamberlain:”

The realism of this, its brutal reality and recognition of the horrors bullied kids face, was like a 2 x 4 across my forehead. I started reading, and kept reading, until the bell rang and I was about thirty pages in, completely drawn into the story. I’d never read anything like it before; it was so real, so honest, so like what high school was actually like as opposed to the cutesy stories I was accustomed to reading about teenagers, where the concerns were “who will take me to Prom?” or “should I go ahead and have sex now or do I wait till I get married?” This was visceral, and I regretfully passed the book back to my friend, thinking, “I’ll look for it at Zayre’s when we go there next.”

My friend, who shared my love of reading, just smiled and said, “I haven’t started it yet–why don’t you go ahead and finish it and then give it back?”

I read it instead of paying attention in my next class–it was Drama, the little play we were rehearsing for class had me assigned stage managing duties, so I really had nothing to do since I wasn’t rehearsing–so I sat in a seat in our school theater, reading. I read it on the bus ride home. I read it when I got home, sitting on my bed with my back propped up by cushions. And I finished it that night–establishing a pattern with King’s fiction that lasted for decades: I would read the book as soon as I got a copy from start to finish, usually in one sitting (It kept my up all night because I couldn’t put it down).

When I saw Night Shift on the wire racks of the News Depot several years later in Kansas, I was terribly excited. A new Stephen King! I bought it immediately and took it home…slightly disappointed to discover it was merely a short story collection, and I wasn’t a big fan of reading short stories; I only read the ones I was required to read for a class assignment.

I read the first story, “Jerusalem’s Lot,” and didn’t like it at all; I put the book aside and didn’t return to it until months later…the next story, however, was “Graveyard Shift” and it was amazing…suffice it to say, I read the rest of the book through in one sitting–and it’s also been my go-to for rereads and so far when I don’t have a lot of time, or I want to simply relax and enjoy reading…one of the reasons for years I would often reread a favorite book.

But last night we started watching Chapelwaite, which I knew was an adaptation of that first story I didn’t care for–and have never reread as a result–and so I decided to go ahead and revisit the story.

I am really glad that I did.

Oct. 2, 1850

Dear Bones,

How good it was to step into the cold, draughty hall here at Chapelwaite, every bone in an ache from that abominable coach, in need of relief from my distended bladder–and to see a letter addressed in your own inimitable scrawl propped on the obscene little cherry-wood table beside the door! Be assured that I set to deciphering it as soon as the needs of the body were attended to (in a coldly ornate downstairs bathroom where I could see my breath rising before my eyes).

I’m glad to hear that you recovered from the miasma that has so long set in your lungs, although I assure you that I do sympathize with the moral dilemma the cure has affected you with. An ailing abolitionist healed by the sunny climes of slave-struck Florida! Still and all, Bones, I ask you as a friend who has also walked in the valley of the shadow, to take all care of yourself and venture not back to Massachusetts until your body gives you leave. Your fine mind and incisive pen cannot serve us if you are clay, and if the Southern zone is a healing one, is there not poetic justice in that?

Yes, the house is quite as fine as I had been led to believe by my cousin’s executors, but rather more sinister. It sits atop a huge and jutting point of land perhaps three miles north of Falmouth and nine miles north of Portland. Behind it are some four acres of grounds, gone back to the wild in the most formidable manner imaginable–junipers, scrub vines, bushes, and various forms of creeper climb wildly over the picturesque stone walls that separate the estate from the town domain. Awful imitations of Greek statuary peer blindly through the wrack from atop various hillocks–they seem, in most cases, about to lunge at the passer-by. My cousin Stephen’s tastes seem to have run the gamut from the unacceptable to the downright horrific. There is an odd little summer house which has been nearly buried in scarlet sumac and a grotesque sundial in the midst of what must once have been a garden. It adds the final lunatic touch.

But the view from the parlour more than excuses this; I command a dizzying view of the rocks at the foot of Chapelwaite Head and the Atlantic itself. A huge, bellied bay window looks out on this, and huge, toadlike secretary stands beside it. It will do nicely for the start of that novel which I have talked of so long (and no doubt tiresomely).

When I first read this story (and disliked it so intensely) I was a teenager completely turned off by the archaic style of writing, as well as the concept of a story told in letters and diary entries (I wasn’t aware of the concept of epistolary fiction at the time; it was also why I stopped reading Dracula when I first tried as a teenager), and the story itself was just kind of…weird–with all its references to things inside the walls and “great worms” and “horrors from beyond the cosmos”…it wasn’t until I read King’s study Danse Macabre that I became aware of Lovecraft’s work and eldritch horrors; but remembering how much I disliked this story, it didn’t exactly inspire me to go on to read Lovecraft or works in a similar vein (the cultural war over Lovecraft in the speculative fiction community over the last decade–not sure of the time line, frankly, and don’t care enough to go look; I am loosely affiliated with that community and have many friends in it, so can’t not be aware but simply observed).

But watching Chapelwaite put me in mind of this source material for the show again, and I decided to reread it this morning, since I’ve never reread the story since its initial read back in the 1970’s. I’ve since read Dracula; Les Liaisons Dangereuses was the book that cured me of my disdain for epistolary fiction–the book is extraordinary–but yet, never gave “Jerusalem’s Lot” another try.

I’m glad I did.

This second read made me appreciation the story a lot more than I did over forty years ago. A quick glance at the copyright page for Night Shift shows that the story was an unpublished work included in this collection and seeing print for the first time; a shame, because it not only shows King’s incredible versatility as a writer but also it’s chilling and creepy; it’s almost Gothic in tone, certainly using a writing style from the past (although I don’t know that a man in 1850 would mention needing to relieve his bladder in a letter to a friend); one that is very formal and I didn’t care for much as a teenager but have come to greatly appreciate in the years since. The story is simple: Charles Boone, after some ill health after the loss of his beloved wife, has inherited a family estate on the coast of Maine. There was a family rift between his grandfather and great-uncle; the death of the former master of Chapelwaite has left Charles as the lone survivor of the family. Once he and his man-servant arrive, they begin to experience strange phenomena that they originally tribute to rats in the walls; but rats don’t explain when no one in the nearby town of Preacher’s Corners will come near the place, or will have anything to do with Charles. A few miles from the house is a pristine yet abandoned village: Jerusalem’s Lot (yes, the same name of the town from King’s classic vampire novel ‘salem’s Lot), and Charles–despite being warned (do people in horror stories ever listen to warnings?) investigate the little town, and…yeah.

GREAT story, and the end is *chef’s kiss*.

Very glad I decided to revisit the story, so thank you, Chapelwaite, for getting me to do so.

And I will add there’s another Jerusalem’s Lot story in Night Shift, “One for the Road”–which I deeply love.

And now back to the spice mines.

I Love Saturday

It’s true. I do love a Saturday.

Yesterday was gloomy in New Orleans–clouds everywhere; white and fluffy, but too thick for the sun to get through, so there was kind of a weird dullness to the light. I spent most of the day doing data entry for my work-at-home chores, and then starting proofing the pages of #shedeservedit, which are due on Monday. I hope to get a lot done this weekend; I have writing to do and edits to make and everything else; I am leaving on a trip on Tuesday to the northeast so writing is probably not going to be much of an option while I am traveling. I will try, however; just as I will try to write here every day so you won’t miss me terribly. (I crack myself up, seriously; no one would notice if I didn’t post! I am not that arrogant.)

But today is bright and sunshiney; I woke up feeling really good after a very lovely night’s sleep–long and deep and restful–and I feel like this morning is the start of a great new time for me. (It’s really amazing what a great sleep will do for one’s outlook, isn’t it?)

Yesterday was a work-at-home day, and by the end I was bleary-eyed from staring at a computer screen entering data for the most part. I was very glad to finish–it’s tedious, and while it does appeal to my obsessive-compulsive side as well as the completist aspects of my persona, any kind of simple data entry work can become tedious and make your eyes cross after awhile. After Paul got home last night we caught up on this week’s episode of The Morning Show and started watching Chapelwaite, with Adrien Brody from EPIX, which is, of course, based on Stephen King’s short story “Jerusalem’s Lot” from the Night Shift collection (which I now want to go back and reread, at least this particular story). “Jerusalem’s Lot” was never a favorite of mine of King’s, and I never revisited it; it was written a very old Gothic style, like Dracula–mostly epistolary, in the form of letters and journal entries–and King himself has said it was very Lovecraftian in influence and style (I’ve never read Lovecraft; something I should perhaps remedy at some point. I’ve always admitted my education in classics is sorely lacking.) and I didn’t much care for it as a callow youth. But as an adult I’ve become more enamored both of epistolary tales (I love the concept of people writing incredibly lengthy letters to each other; and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, one of my favorite books and stories of all time, is completely epistolary), and I suspect a quick reread of the story will actually give me a better appreciation for it. Plus, I think to get back into the habit of reading again, I may need to revive the Short Story Project. I’ve been struggling with my reading again lately, not sure why, but maybe reading short stories will help me work my way around it.

Today I have writing to do, as always. I am going to finish writing this and continue to swill coffee while finishing some odds and ends here in the kitchen; I’ve made some impressive (to me) progress with the organizational project I’ve undertaken (goal: to be completely organized by the end of the year), and I might even sit outside and read for a bit this morning. It’s definitely fall here now–yesterday it was in the 60’s–and quite lovely. I do want to go for a walk in the neighborhood where my book is set, to get another feel for it–so that will probably be on the agenda for either today or tomorrow.

In other exciting news, I may have found a home for one of my own short stories, a particularly dark and twisted tale no one I’ve submitted it to wants to touch. An editor compiling an anthology of gay-themed and written crime stories reached out to me this week; I spent a couple of days thinking about it, and realized that this story actually, with a few tweaks, could easily be made into something that fits this theme. So, add that to the list of things to do. I didn’t really do anything in the world of short stories this past year–something I hoped wouldn’t turn out to be the case; I’d been hoping to write and sell a few every year going forward, but this crazy year has just slipped through my fingers and as such, don’t really have much in the way of short stories to show for myself, which is terribly disappointing. Then again I rarely cease to find myself disappointing….

And on that note, I am going to grab my iPad and read that Stephen King short story. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you yet again tomorrow.

Drama!

Monday morning never gives me a warning, you know what I mean?

But that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? Weekends are never quite long enough to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone get in the rest and relaxation necessary to get through another week. I don’t have to go into the office every day this week, because of the procedure on Thursday; I get to work at home on Wednesday my procedure prep day, yet have to get up insanely and ridiculously early for the procedure, so that’s not exactly a win. But I am glad to get this needed and necessary part of getting older out of the way once and for all; and here’s hoping the scope finds nothing untoward inside of me.

Ugh, how…icky that last sentence sounds!

Yesterday LSU announced that Coach Orgeron (Coach O) will be finished at the end of this season. This saddened me–it still does–because I love Coach O and was all about the Coach O train when he stepped in as interim coach after Les Miles was fired in 2016. I thought he deserved a shot at the job, I love that he so perfectly embodies Louisiana Cajun country, and he loves LSU as much as anyone. There have been times I’ve not been pleased with him–just as there were times when I wasn’t pleased with Coach Miles–but the news didn’t make me happy. I wanted him to continue to succeed. He gave us the best season of LSU football in over sixty years, possibly one of the greatest football seasons of all time, and to see him ousted a mere two years later doesn’t make me happy. I know it was necessary–after the shock of the UCLA game, followed by the embarrassing losses to Auburn and Kentucky, it was clear some shake-up was needed, but I don’t know. Maybe give him and his new assistants another season to right the ship? I can see why the big donors and the administration didn’t want to wait–the rest of the SEC West alone is catching up, if not already passing us, and the longer it dragged out the more painful it could become (let’s be honest, Miles should have really been let go after the enormously disappointing 2014 season; but he’d succeeded and there was loyalty there–clearly misplaced, given everything that’s come out recently–but LSU is too big of a brand and a marquee name to allow anyone more than one season of mediocrity. Coach O will always be a beloved legend in Louisiana, and that, while small consolation for what he and his family must be feeling this morning, is more than many coaches get when they are let go.

I started reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock yesterday rather than a Stephen King; I started to reach for The Institute, but pulled back when I realized just how thick the book is. I mean, it took me over six weeks to read a 240 page noir novel; how long would it take for me to get through something that enormous? It was disheartening to turn down a book to read simply because of its length–I used to love long books, and the longer the better; poor James Michener could never get published today, let alone an agent, because I can’t imagine anyone looking at the length of Hawaii and thinking, yeah, can’t wait to get through THIS! But Tremblay is a terrific writer, and soon I was very much sucked into the book. I picked it up to spend a little time with while i was taking a break from my chores and working on a revision of Never Kiss a Stranger–which of course is the last thing I should be working on right now, but it’s in my head and I can’t stop until I get through this revision, which has already made it a lot better than it was in the first draft–and had to force myself to put the book down and get back to revising and cleaning, which inevitably makes me always feel better anyway. It was very strange to break the routine of a Saints game on a Sunday–which made the entire day open with possibility, and of course then made me feel as though the entire day was being wasted because I was unfocused for most of it.

We watched a Polish film last night on Netflix, Operation Hyacinth, based on a true story about a police investigation/crackdown on gay men in the 1980’s, including murders covered up by the police, which was deeply sad and tragic and somewhat hard to watch–also bearing in mind this happened during my lifetime, which is constantly sobering (an issue for writing Never Kiss a Stranger–having to remember how much more homophobic American society was in the 1990’s than it is now; also a sobering thought, and the chilling reminder that there are a lot of people want us to go back even further to the time where homosexuality was considered a mental illness as well as a crime). It was good and thought provoking, and then we got caught up on The Morning Show before turning in for the night so I can get up this early.

Of course I am behind–I didn’t get nearly as caught up as I would have liked to this past weekend, as always–and now am trying to get my to-do list for the week caught up. I have an event tonight for Sisters in Crime for a library–a diversity discussion–which is going to wear me out (I’ll already be tired from my work day) and make it much easier for me to go to bed this evening and fall asleep. I feel relatively well rested this morning; we’ll see how the day goes, shan’t we?

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for work. I didn’t even pack my backpack last night! Tis off to the mines of spice for me now, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Ship of Fools

G’morning, Sunday. How’s everyone doing today?

Yesterday was a weird one, beginning with the stunning LSU 49-42 upset of Florida. For the second year in a row, an underachieving LSU team riddled and depleted by injuries, somehow managed to outscore and upset Florida (a third consecutive win over the Gators, no less) that will quiet the complaints about the coaching staff and the team for at least a week–until the Mississippi game on the road this week, followed by a trip to Alabama two weeks later. The game was also ridiculously early–11 am start time–so the game was well over by two thirty, but I was too worn down from the rollercoaster of the game to have much energy to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. Being an LSU fan is a rollercoaster, and sometimes it’s not very fun; but no matter how bad of a season the Tigers might be having, they always manage to somehow beat someone they shouldn’t–for the last two seasons, that has been Florida. As I said to Paul as time ran out yesterday and the Tigers managed to wreck yet another season for the Gators, “No wonder they hate us so much.” That’s three losses for a Gator team that everyone thought would challenge Georgia for the East title, and might even have a shot at beating Alabama during the regular season (they lost by two points)…and they still have yet to play Georgia, who remained undefeated by shellacking an also undefeated Kentucky team yesterday.

I finished reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night at long last (I cannot reiterate how much that has to do with my inability to focus rather than the quality of the book; the book is quite marvelous; a modern take on a historical noir built around events that actually happened) and then moved on to finish watching the rest of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, (I skipped the episodes on body horror and torture porn–no thanks!) before tuning in to see the ridiculous and insane end of the Tennessee-Mississippi game–which people are still talking about today. There were some extremely questionable calls in the LSU game; while there’s no excuse for the way the fans in Neyland Stadium reacted, they were also reacting to an incredibly bad call that was upheld under review (!) that essentially took their chance to win the game away from them. After the incident was over and they were able to finish the final 54 seconds of the game, Tennessee managed to get the ball back with another shot at winning, only to fail in the end.

Today is one of those days where I get to play catch-up. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday–once I am ensconced in my easy chair, with the cat in my lap and college football on the television, it’s hard for me to get back up out of it to do anything. I did get the dishes done–still have some to put away–and I didn’t get around to the floors or anything else that I wanted to get done yesterday, which means I have to get to it today. I also need to get some serious writing done today–I am much too far behind, and the clock is ticking on everything–so I also need, once I am finished here and after I write my entry about Velvet Was the Night, to make a to-do list. I still have a lot of filing and organizing to get done as well; which I am hoping to do while I wake up and drink my coffee this morning. I need to make it to the gym at some point today, and I should see what time the Saints game is; oh, look at that, it’s the BYE WEEK, so there’s no reason to turn on the television at all; they also don’t play next Sunday–the next game is on Monday Night Football. So that’s two free Sundays I have ahead of me on the agenda, and this is a lovely, very lovely, thing. In fact, that weekend of the Saints on Monday night is also LSU’s bye week, so again–no need to turn on the television at all that weekend….so I should make that my most productive weekend of the month.

This week is also going to be weird because I have a procedure scheduled for Thursday morning; a way overdue colonoscopy. The saga of the colonoscopy is a long messy one, having to do with insurance issues, out of network charges, and so on. I finally had everything finally sorted and it scheduled last spring…only to have it canceled because of COVID-19 and then the endless attempts to get it rescheduled and out of the way. In a way, my colonoscopy feels almost like a quest for the Holy Grail–alway unattainable, so close sometimes you can almost touch it, but then it skitters away again, out of reach. I’m nervous about it, of course; any kind of medical testing can lead to bad news; any procedure can take am unexpected left turn at any time–not pleasant to consider or think about, really. But it’s always better to know something’s wrong than to go on like nothing is…until you can’t pretend anymore because your health takes a particularly nasty turn. But I am sixty, and I have to stop playing groundhog with my health. My body isn’t young anymore, and while I still feel good and go to the gym on a (fairly) regular basis, I’ve also eaten crap most of my life and have really beaten and battered my body during my younger years. (Teaching aerobics 7-21 hours a week wreaks havoc on your leg joints–and mine weren’t so great to begin with.)

The weather also turned cooler this weekend; dropping into the high sixties over night. The time change is coming soon, as well…autumn is here, clearly, and soon I’ll be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, which I hate because it feels like your day has been completely used up and is over by the time you get home. I also have to pick out my next book to read; since my reading has been so off lately I am going to pick out one of my unread Stephen Kings (if someone would have told me thirty years ago that I would have King novels on my shelves I hadn’t read, I would have laughed hysterically in their face) to read in honor of Halloween season; I try to read horror every October. There’s also a Paul Tremblay or two I’ve not gotten to yet as well; if I can get through whichever King I choose before the end of the month (and with a football free weekend coming up shortly, it’s possible) then I will move on to another Tremblay, who’s becoming my current favorite contemporary horror writer very rapidly; the books of his I’ve read still haunt me.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. You have a great Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in with you again later with my thoughts on the Moreno-Garcia novel, and then will check in again on the morrow.